So the plan was to get the characters paid and then get them moving on their way to the next adventure, the Dwarven Excavation site. However there were a few other things in town I wanted to seed. I wanted to use a backstory element for the Rogue that impacts the story. One of the townies is actually an agent for the biggest organized crime group in The Forgotten Realms - the Zhentarim. I figured it might be fun if the Rogue got tangled with the group and had to decide if she wanted to work with them, or work around them.
I figured between that role playing encounter and fun with Townmaster Harbin the two would get enough town antics out of the way for the first hour. Then for hour two, they would head off for the first half of the Dwarves Excavation adventure which is a mini-dungeon.
Unfortunately we ended up starting very late, as conversation took over. We ended up only playing for an hour. I focused on getting the town material completed so they could start the next session with some exploration and combat.
The characters ended the previous session at the Stonehill Inn. After enjoying their ale and quick meal the two adventurers headed over to Harbin's house to get paid for warning Adabra. Harbin still refused to open the door, even when the druid attempted to mimic Adabra's voice to convince him to come out. She failed her performance check, and so Harbin was convinced it was the dragon attempting to trick him and squish him (a running gag now, everyone in town keeps mentioning how dragons squish people and how all dragons breath fire). My rogue got clever and used her thieves tools to open the door while Harbin was ranting and raving about dragons.
|"Wot's all this then?"|
And then, I had one of those moments where the DM is caught unprepared - because I had to describe Harbin! I had no idea what he look like. I didn't plan on Harbin's reveal happening this early, because the joke is he never opens the door to his house. I did some quick thinking, and since I based his voice a bit on The Walrus, from Disney's "Alice in Wonderland", I described him as a puffed up walrus mustached man dressed in a suit. It was quite a bit of fun as the ladies attempted to explain to him what happened at Umbrage Hill.
Eventually Harbin paid them, and they decided to take the Dwarven Excavation quest next. Although they considered the visit to gnomes pretty strongly as well (and boy did I sweat it out a bit as they talked that one over, because I have nothing prepared for that). When they decided to visit the excavation site, Harbin recommended that they talk to Haylia Thornton over at the Miners Exchange, since she works with miners and may know more about the site.
The two hadn't been there yet, so they headed over. Haylia greeted them with "Oh, I was wondering when you'd stop by." Which set off alarm bells for the Rogue. They talked with Haylia about their upcoming mission and she was happy to show them a map of where the excavation site was located as well as a bit about the dwarven couple who were prospecting in the area and found the ancient village. She mentioned that she offered them protection, but they turned it down. She also said she could find them a buyer for any relics or artifacts they found.
|Haylia wants to know if you need "protection".|
It will cost you of course.
Once they wrapped that up, Haylia moved on "to another piece of personal business". She explained how she worked for the Zhentarim and how the Rogue had messed up one of their operations. It cost the group 300 gold pieces and that they wanted it back, or they wanted the Rogue. But Haylia was willing to work with them, because she liked how the Rogue handled herself (screwing over the Zhentarim isn't easy). She offered to have the Rogue work for her doing a few odds and ends, and pay off the debit. Or the two could just bring in the gold in installments and pay her off that way. The two didn't want to get tangled up with the mafia, and so agreed to pay Haylia. They also learned that the three local toughs work for Haylia as her "protection team". Nervously the left the Exchange.
The adventurers made a quick stop at Barthen's Provisions. They asked about Paellia the druid, but he couldn't tell them too much more, except that he hadn't seen her in a while. They asked if there was anything new in the treasure barrel and sure enough there was. I rolled on the trinket table in front of them, and there was the glass orb full of water and a mechanical goldfish. They thought this was pretty odd, but they paid the single gold piece for it. Barthen was flummoxed at how that ended up in his barrel, but he accepted the trade. The Druid declared the goldfish's name was Bruce in reference to Jaws and Finding Nemo.
The two returned to the shrine of luck to leave a message for the local druid. It was a fun moment as our druid came up with a message, and then noticed all the animals around. Thinking that maybe the local druid was hiding as a squirrel or bird, she also spoke out loud to the animals. They didn't respond (the local druid is actually traveling and will find the character's message in the night and leave a reply for them).
They headed back to the Stonehill Inn where Donnabella and Inverna were hanging out. The Rogue bought them both a drink and they had a conversation. Inverna told them how she's been working in the area for a while, and that the orcs were becoming a real problem. They asked if she wanted to accompany them to the Excavation site. She agreed, and would meet them in the morning for an early start (it will take about five hours to get to the site). We ended the session there.
|Sorry Strahd, no gothic horror this time.|
So it was a pretty meh session all the way around. I was hoping to get some combat in, but because we started so late, and only had an hour to play it was all town - all the time. But I think I gave them some fun moments with Harbin (who I'm just having a great time playing) and intrigue with Haylia, who I played as urbane and confident. She's all business, but I made it clear that she was playing it straight with them. I got the feeling that neither one was into playing intrigue and backstabbing in this game. They both have been enjoying the more light and breezy tone I'm taking. Real life has been a bit hectic for the players, so I'm keeping the tone of this game a bit more comedic and fun. Tension will arise, sure, but I don't want this to turn into something grim like Curse of Strahd or Tomb of Annihilation.
Besides most of my "voices" are over the top and silly. Even playing Inverna, I just leaned into the cowboy element of her portrait, and gave her a bit of a twang and calling the player characters "ma'm".
This is some of the best advice I can give to new DMs. Really see how your players are reacting to things and ask them if they are enjoying the game from time to time. Adjust the game accordingly so everyone (even you) are having a good time. While I do love darker tales of danger and intrigue - I can tell that just won't work for this group. So I'm putting a bit more humor into the townsfolk (and the adventure has some of it built in - Harbin's fear of opening the door was right from the adventure). Things will change a bit when they run into the orcs - those guys do not mess around.
Session 4: All the Glitters...