After a full year in the Game-Master’s chair, I finally was going to get to play. Of course, Cris was GMing and going to set his campaign in the Poisonwood capital of Tanglethorn. It was going to be an “Evil Game”, a campaign where all of the Player Characters have an evil base alignment. Everything was fine and dandy, everyone showed up to the table with their characters already done for the most part. However, as with most of Cris’ games the ending would be abrupt.
Four Evil Characters Enter a Bar
Seated around a small dagger-scarred table in the Bronze Tankard Tavern sat four villains. The place was small and cramped due to the briskness of its business. It was a repurposed ruin of strange orange stone and as dark as a cave. It was also dank but with the stench of spoiled ale and the noxious sweat of generations of drunks.
Around the small table awash in the stale smoke of scavenged pipe weed sat Suttradra (played by Jenn),Xiani Weiren (played by Isis), Vorahk (played by Gil), and Aigi (played by me). The four were contemplating on ways to make money, wet their blades, or both. Suttradra was a poisonborn human blackguard wearing studded leather armor and a demonic bronze mask. A great sword hung at her side.
Suttradra was the only Tanglenite, a native of the Poisonwood, and was essentially the de facto leader of the gang for the time being. She had been a black guard of a rather strong cult of demon-worshippers whose makeshift temple within one of the old orange ruins was raided and burned not long ago.
Xiani was an Ivoran Death Grin, an assassin/juggler dressed as a clown. She leaned back in her seat in fuchsia and yellow jester’s clothes. Her weapons were a pair of iron claws she wore on her hands. She gave some ‘tude to Suttra whom laughed at her and replied, “You’re lucky I like you’re looks and clothes”.
Vorahk was an Arborean Rune Warrior. Every inch of his ugly knotted wooden hide was covered in deeply carved runes that granted him various magical powers. He was from the Granfor Forest, an ethnic Arborean, and looking for mercenary work. He had a great club next to him and wore a bronze pectoral plate. His hollow black eyes swept the crowded tavern. He noted that only a single patron was unarmed. The man who was sitting at the bar bore a red rose and a black scorpion embroidered on his waist sash. Suttra said that the guy was a proxy champion for members of the Bottled Rose, best to avoid him.
Aigi was a young Hyvalian man from the crumbling empire’s western reaches. He had been a temple orphan and trained in the martial arts as a temple defender. He was a Sword Saint and very skilled with his paired “Lion Swords”. They were modified long swords with straight dual-edged blades and bastard grips with bunches of brightly colored ribbons and tasseled cords hanging from the pommels. He had wended his way to the Poisonwood on various ships and caravans that needed a swordsman. Across the chest of his dirty tunic was embroidered the image of a dog, the symbol of the common soldier of the imperial armies.
His sole purpose in life was to test his metal against “worthy opponents”. He was told that he would definitely find plenty of those in Tangelthorn. Suttra was sure she could make some money on him somehow. He was sure that XIani was thinking of stabbing him in the back the first chance she got just for fun.
The four villains were drinking the last of their coin except for Aigi but he wasn’t about to let them know about his small reserve of gold coins and bronze thorns (the bronze currency of Tanglethorn). Just then, the sound of a wagon sliding to a stop in the road preceded the blast of road dust that whooshed in through the entryway. A stranger in leather armor bearing the mark of a gray moth on his chest strode in after.
The stranger walked up to the bartender and began to haggle. Suttradra said that he was a member of the Moths, a street gang. One of the largest in Tanglethorn and there were a lot. XIani pranced up to the moth and said in her most charming tones, “is there a problem here sir?”
The Moth: “Who’re you foreigner?”
Xiani: “Just a simple entertainer, hee-hee.”
The Moth (tossing Xiania a small vial of yellow lotus): “Here. Take this. If you want more you can find us, the Moths, everywhere. I’m Fenik. I have no need of entertainers at the moment.”
Aigi shot up and walked over to Fenik with his hands in the air, “Sir, what about swords?” Fenik said that if Aigi and his companions were warriors go see Vornor at the Empty Bottle, tell him Fenik sent you. Not long after Suttra led the foul four to the Empty Bottle Tavern.
The Empty Bottle was an even smaller bar though fortunately mostly empty. Only the afternoon rays that seeped in through a long horizontal window next to the bar and the entryway lighted the place. It wasn’t long before the crew of four had their marching orders, kill a Hill-Lander Whiskey Merchant named Ba’acor. He was staying at the Long Rest Inn and had two heavily armed human bodyguards with him. The job paid 1,000 bronze thorns apiece.
The Long Rest
By evening the group found themselves in the Long Rest Inn. It was a three-story structure housed in a restored orange-stone ruin. The taproom and reception shared a large common room, which was packed with merchants and foreigners as well as the occasional inattentive city guard. Xiani was disguised as a whore (an unguilded prostitute).
It wasn’t long before they located their prey. Ba’acor, a faun, was in a far corner at a table guarded by his two very large Tanglenite bodyguards, one armed with a great club, the other a claymore. The guard with the claymore appeared to be the more experienced of the two.
Thinking quickly Aigi goes to the bar and buys their cheapest grog in a glass, a glass being somewhat expensive. The others hung back at a table and watched. The young Hyvalian swordsman walked carefully through the place and when he got in front of the great club-wielding bodyguard, he stumbled and dropped the glass.
Aigi then challenged the club-wielding guard to a duel but botched the language and thus the guard looked dumbly at him. Therefore, Aigi spat in his face and the fight was on.
Aigi swung with his swords scoring a single hit as one of his blades was parried. However, he scored another two hits on the backswings horribly wounding his opponent. As his blood gushed over the floor the bodyguard swung his only to be parried by one of Aigi’s blades and the other opened his belly spilling his intestines over the filthy floorboards.
Isis (to the GM, indicating Aigi): “Um. I’m not gonna stab that guy in the back now.”
The GM (Cris): “Why not?!”
Isis: “He’s SCARY!”
Suttra fought with the Claymore wielding bodyguard and Vorahk fought with Ba’acor who wielded a knobkirri against him. Xiani snuck in behind the whiskey merchant and managed to coup-de-graced him with her claws. After the slaying his compatriots the last bodyguard surrendered and Aigi let him flee after he dropped his coin purse and sword.
A city guard intervened shouting, “Enough! Fair fights only!” He pointed to the killers, “You clean up the bodies!”
Aigi hacked off the merchants head and left the Inn headed for the Empty Bottle. The other three assassins looted the corpses before they paid a couple of drunks to haul the bodies to the charnel house.
Not long after Aigi delivered Ba’acor’s head to Vornor in the Empty Bottle did his companions follow. They were each paid 1,000 bt as agreed and given a free bottle of Hill-Lander whiskey which was watered down by almost half. A few wagons trundled by outside each loaded with hogsheads of whiskey and each bearing the mark of Ba’acor on the side, a whiskey bottle crossed by a knobkirri.
Vornor: “You guys did good. I don’t know if anyone’s hiring right now but I’ll put the word out. Oh, there’s a city Lieutenant of the Guards named Neelom at the Bronze Tankard after dusk usually. Tell him I sent you.”
Vorahk pulls out some coin to pay for drinks, Vornor stoops him.
Vornor: “Ahh! My friends your money is no good here. Barkeep! More drinks for my friends!”
After several rounds of water-diluted Hill-Lander whiskey Vornor appears to be very drunk. Aigi had been careful to not drink too much.
Vornor: “Ah! I like foreigners, so quick with swords. The drink has loosened these lips! Ask me anything!”
So, Aigi asked him who the best match of a swordsman for his caliber was in Tanglethorn. The answer was Drox Bloodsword, a Hill-Lander Duelist. The Empty Bottle began to become very busy. Aigi noticed that a couple of guys were filling the bottles of whiskey that they were selling through the window to customers on the street with water thinning the whiskey down by half.
Aigi (somewhat outraged): “DO your customers know that you’re diluting their drink!?”
Vornor: “Ah my friend, you know Tanglenites cannot handle Hill-Lander whiskey at full strength!”
Aigi: “Ha! You’re right! Tanglenites are weak; I should know I’ve faced a couple in battle already!”
Vornor shot him a dirty look.
Suttra had already done a little recon the said duelist and found out that he was a member of the Blood Moths street gang, a subset of the Gray Moths. She also knew that he could be found at the Blood Moths favorite hangout, a tavern called the Broken Cask. The Blackguard offered to guide the group there; she knew the way like the back of her hand.
Hence the four criminals were traveling down a back alley headed towards the Broken Cask Tavern in search of the Hill-lander Duelist Drox Bloodsword. Just as they neared the end of the wide alleyway with the tavern within sight, a couple of cloaked thugs stepped out to block their way.
One of the Thugs: “Stop there foreigners! Drop yer coin and we might let you live!” Both had red moths painted on their chests.
Three more were suddenly behind the four adventurers. All five were armed with shortswords, dirks, and bronze bracers.
Suttra pulled her greatsword and charged the lead thug, he parried her sword slash easily with his dirk. She in turn parried his dirk. Another at the rear struck at Xian, she used her claws to parry his dirk. Aigi flew at the second thug; all his blows were either parried or missed. The last was clinched on the thug’s bracer. Xiani’s claws were parried and her attempt to kick dirt in her assailant’s face failed. Vorahk rushed to the rear and let loose a powerful swing missing his target but catching him on the backswing. Surprisingly his weapon spewed acid upon contact horribly wounding the street gangster. The street gangster replied with his dirk but it glanced harmlessly off Vorahk’s bark on a direct hit. So the gangster turned to flee and Vorahk splattered him on a wall on an attack of opportunity
The thug clinching one of Aigi’s swords stabbed the young Hyvalian wounding him but in turn took a slash to the belly nearly killing him in a single swing. Another thug stabbed Vorahk but only managed to score his pectoral plate even on a critical strike. A Darkthorn Arborean suddenly appeared out of nowhere and punched at Vorahk but missed. Suttra cut into the lead thug horribly wounding him. Xiani parried a dirk blow and struck back ripping a nasty wound in her foe. A few more thugs came out of the woodwork and made it hard on Xiani wounding her to near death but the tide had turned. Soon each adventurer was dropping an enemy at a time.
The fight was over and the street thugs that had stayed to fight were dead. Xiani was barely standing. The last one left on his feet was the Darkthorn who was smashed to bleeding splinters by Vorahk’s greatclub. The four battered adventurers had barely time enough to take a breath before they were surrounded by dozens of Blood Moth gang members to the front and rear and all along the roofs.
They begin to close the noose when Vorahk shouted that we were looking for Drox Bloodsword. A very big human pushed his way to the front of the mob, “that’s me”. He was huge, about 7 ft. tall and a over 300 lbs. some Hill Giant’s blood probably coursing through his veins. He was armed with a Claymore and a buckler. So Aigi challenged him to a personal duel come next morning. Drox was about to charge anyway until he saw the wound in the Hyvalian’s side and thus agreed to the duel after a full day’s healing.
Finally the day of the duel with Drox Bloodsword came and the group found themselves in a massive crowd of Blood Moths and various others in an unfamiliar part of town. At the center of the rowdy mob was a small clearing made by arm linked city guards to be used as the arena. The captain of the city guard was refereeing the fight. He was a fat man in bronze scale mail with an open-faced peaked bronze helmet with a white and black feather plume and a green cape thrown over his shoulders.
Bets had been made throughout the crowd with Xiani and Suttra betting 100 bt apiece on Aigi to win. Vorahk however, had bet 10,000 bt (which he didn’t have) on his companion with the only one in the crowd who could cover that kind of money. The guy was dressed in green robes with gold trim and bore the symbol of the Bottled Rose Guild on his chest, a red rose surrounded by a ring of thorns. They were one of if not the most powerful guilds in the city.
Meanwhile at the center of the roaring crowd stood Aigi stripped to the waist his swords still sheathed and looking supremely confident, his only bit of armor were the chain mail gloves on his hands. Opposite him towered his foe, Drox Bloodsword the Hill-Lander Duelist. The duelist was similarly stripped to the waist exposing his scar-matted flesh, his claymore in one hand and his steel buckler in the other. His claymore was rusty and blackened as it had never been washed.
The captain shouted, “As soon as this gauntlet hits the ground FIGHT!”
Aigi had it all figured out in the second before the gauntlet clunked onto the cobblestones. He was going to wait for his opponent to attack him and he would defend by simultaneously attacking and parrying with either sword. He maintained his middle stance. Of course, when the gauntlet hit the floor Aigi broke his stance and charged flailing wildly with his paired blades. Drox parried both in a single swipe of his claymore. Then Aigi came with the backswings and nearly fumbled the first and clinching the claymore with his second.
Meanwhile, the Captain approached the other three adventurers and warned them that if Aigi should lose the Blood Moths WILL swarm them.
Aigi kept the clinch on Drox’s claymore easily preventing his attack. He struck and then backswung with his free sword but Drox easily deflected the belly blows with his buckler. Drox used his superior strength to break his claymore free of the clinch. Aigi struck again but his third strike was parried and he fumbled his second sword throwing it 12 ft out of his reach. Consequently he made use of the bastard grip of his one remaining blade.
Drox swung with claymore and scored a nasty hit nearly killing Aigi in a single blow. The younger fighter was bleeding out and would soon drop. Meanwhile Vorahk tried to get to the thrown sword in order to throw it back to his horse but the guards stopped him. Xiani tried to bluff a guy to throw a rock at Aigi, in hopes that would stop the fight, but failed. However, Suttradra successfully cast Pain on Drox causing him some penalties.
Drox struck again but Aigi parried it. Aigi took the middle stance, struck his first blow, and then followed it up with a nasty backswing horribly wounding the Hill-Lander. Suttra cast Wound on Drox hurting him a little bit more. Drox swung again and struck the young Hyvalian hard nearly killing him. It was a miracle that Aigi was even standing (it was a very high recovery check). It was clear that the Hyvalian was going to drop soon. In anticipation of this Vorahk quietly pulled his club. That was when he noticed the subtle sounds of a legion of daggers being stealthily pulled from their sheaths. Suttra cast Wound again hurting the Hill-lander a little more. Xiani tried to bribe the Captain with a ruby, he refused.
Drox swung and very nearly fumbled his sword. Aigi swung and hit and again with the backswing almost dropping the Hill-Lander. It was down to whoever could get in the last lick would be the winner. Drox got the last hit in immediately after hacking the young swordsman in twain. Xiani flung her dagger at Drox nailing him in the back killing him.
Gil: “Well. Some dice are good guys but other dice; those dice, they’re motherf@#%ers.”
The Captain strode out into the clearing and shrugging picked up one of Aigi’s swords and dropped it on the dead Hill-Lander’s chest, “There’s his trophy”. Hence the guards quickly snatched up the bodies and began to depart. That’s when the Blood Moths descended upon the surviving three adventurers.
The first to fall under a rain of daggers was Xiani, the second was Suttra. They had at most taken out only a handful of the moths.
Isis (in response to Gil’s “why didn’t you just runaway?”): “Aww man! I couldn’t run! If I did they would’ve all taken their attacks of opportunity on me and would’ve killed me anyway. At least I took some out with me!”
In conclusion, Vorahk, the sole survivor, ran away ablaze as several alchemist fires had been hurled his way. He continued to run right through the city gates having a greater chance than a fleshy creature for survival in the Poisonwood. Besides, he couldn’t stick around now that he owed a guildsman so much money.
Isis: “Death? Screw death we have new character sheets!”
Campaign Played between July and August 2017
Afterword: Gil let us know that due to work and potential move he has to leave the group.