This week's Campaign update is about almost derailing the session with a random encounter involving a pair of Hippogriffs. I had a random encounter right at the start of the session while the players were moving overland with a number of horses and mules. The random encounter involved an attack by a pair of hippogriffs. The players use some good strategy to minimize the potential targets for the attackers and drove the flying horses off easily. Then they immediately started planning how they could capture some hippogriffs for flying mounts. Once they got back to town they set the plan in motion.
If they were going to go after hippogriffs I wanted to at least have a map and some obstacles to the quest prepared. So I steered the group back onto the current plot. My Swords & Wizardry campaign is certainly not a sandbox or open but I do let the players steer the narrative of the story where I can. The format of playing weekly short adventures just does not allow for open play. At least not for my style of play and my obsession with having VTT maps for everything.
Session 23: The Emerald Cheese Co.
Players: Lakima (Magic-user), Eathwund (Fighter), Carric (Elven Thief), Domago (Human cleric NPC).
After an undisturbed night’s rest, the adventurers with their prisoner Bregor in tow set out for Edgerton. If they have no interruptions they should be able to make Edgerton late the next day. The first day traveling in the wilderness passes without incident. They do not see anything more dangerous than a few deer. They make camp for the night again and the night passes.
As they prepare the horses and mules for another day of travel Nash notices that the horses are agitated. He tells the adventurers that he suspects the horses have caught the scent of a predator. They set out and keep a careful eye on the forest.
A few hours into the day Carric spots a pair of large hunting birds in the sky headed in their direction. As the birds get closer they realize they are hippogriffs. Predators with the bodies of horses and the heads and wings of a bird of prey. The hippogriffs start to circle the group and the horses start to panic. Everyone takes cover under some trees and dismounts. Lakima tells Eathwund to give their prisoner Bregor a sword to defend himself. Nash gets the animals under control and keeps them under the trees.
One of the hippogriffs makes a swooping attack but misses everyone. Lakima casts Aztanzabar’s Acrid Finger striking the hippogriff. Eathwund and Carric fire arrows wildly into the sky. After a minute the hippogriffs break off the attack and fly away. Carric climbs a tree and notes that the hippogriffs are headed for the Northern Hills. Lakima and Carric get to discussing the possibility of capturing some hippogriffs either to sell or to use as mounts.
By midday, Carric guides the group to the road into Edgerton. As soon as they get onto the road they spot a cloud of dust headed their direction. Like a number of men on horseback. The heroes push their mounts into a gallop and quickly leave the dust cloud behind. As they enter the town they stop and tell the watch commander at the gate about the approaching men on horseback.
Back in Edgerton now, the group heads to their Chapter House and settle in with a good meal. The small amount of treasure they looted from the Valley is divided up and Lakima takes a necklace to give to his girl. The entire group then heads over to the Apothecary. On their way, they check in with the guards at the gate and learn that the cloud of dust was two men with some cattle headed to market. The guards make fun of the heroes. At the Apothecary, Humbert lets them in to speak with Malyn. The wizard listens to their story and seems unconcerned that his apprentice Cedric did not return. He tells Bregor he will be telling him everything. Bregor refuses, but Malyn notes he can use magic. Bregor tries to lunge at Malyn but the wizard uses Hold Person on him. Then he casts another spell to read the man’s thoughts. He tells the adventurers that the man knows little. Although as Bregor is a citizen of the Ghoul Lands they should take him to be incarcerated by the watch.
They leave the apothecary and Lakima tells them he is going to see Alayna. Carric decides to wander off to check on his underworld contacts. That leaves Eathwund and Domago to take Bregor Stanton to the watch. They drop off the man telling Sergeant Frans that the man is from the Ghoul Lands to the north. Over at the Alchemy shop, Lakima gives Alayna a necklace from his split of the loot and he tells Alayna about the hippogriffs that attacked them. She asks him if he got any feathers. Apparently, they can be used in potions of flying. Carric spots his snitch Ril in the market lifting a purse from a merchant and he follows the thief. He catches up with Ril in an alley and they have a brief talk. Ril has nothing interesting to report. Carric asks Ril to find him a corrupt member of the watch. Ril tells him that it is easy, he knows a man named Bron on the watch who can be paid to look the other way during heists. Carric also learns that Ril’s boss is a thief named Blod. He is a member of the Coin Street gang.
The next day Lakima casts Detect Magic and they discover that the Staff they took from the old female wizard was a Staff of Striking. The longsword that Carric found is also magical and has the properties of an Everwatchful sword. The adventurers talk about what they might want to get up to next. Lakima suggests a trip to the Northern Hills to hunt for hippogriffs. To do it he has an idea he wants to pursue. Lakima heads out on his errand.
Lakima goes to Issac the woodworker and talks to the craftsman about building him a wheeled cart to hold wild animals. Perhaps animals as big as a bear. The man quotes him a price and tells him he will need to enlist the services of a wheelwright and an ironworker. A deal is set and Lakima pays a down payment. Once Lakima mentions that it is for the Company of the Black Dragon, Isaac becomes excited to meet him. He was paying protection to the Veiled Society and now that they have been run out of town by the adventurers his profits are up. He does mention that the Rat King has started moving into this territory. Lakima notes that the Rat King is someone they need to exterminate.
Lakima returns to the Chapter House. Domago is out at church and Carric is off somewhere but he discusses his idea for the wagon with Eathwund. Meanwhile, Carric continues his quest to drink at every tavern and inn in town, keeping an ear open for information. He talks to some ne'er-do-wells in each tavern. He learns something about the chaotic nature of the gangs in Edgerton. At a tavern called The Frozen Crow, he spots a pot boy come in bruised and bleeding as if he has been in a one-sided fight. Edging closer to the bar Carric overhears that the tavern owner, Elas Kelrona, sent the boy over to the Emerald Moon Cheesemaker to complain about some bad cheese that made some guests sick. The boy says that he had to knock forever at the door to be let in. Then a big man told him to get lost and beat him up. The man told him not to come back if he knew what was good for him. Elas loudly says that if he was younger, or his hip was not acting up he would go over to the Emerald Moon and give them a thumping. While he says that he looks meaningfully at Carric and tosses the elf a silver coin. Carric, hands him back the coin and asks a few questions. He does not indicate any interest in the squabble so the tavern keeper offers 4 silver pieces. Carric tells him to keep his money but he will look into it.
Carric heads over to the Mirdton neighborhood where he knows the Emerald Moon Cheesemakers are located. It is right next to the Brass Lock tavern that he had earlier cased. The building the cheesemakers are located in looks like it is several buildings combined. All of the doors and windows are shuttered on the ground floor but he does see light streaming from an upstairs window. He makes note of it and heads back to the Chapter House. Once back he tells his companions what he overheard and saw. He is not suggesting they get involved right away. Hearing them talking about Emerald Moon, their manservant Huntley brings out a wheel of the distinctive green cheese that Emerald Moon produces. They look at the wax paper covering the cheese and see the brand is a cheese shaped like a moon being nibbled on by a pair of rats. Several of them at once surmise this could involve the Rat King. Lakima says that they should investigate but not tonight. They should go tomorrow night. It will give them a chance to pick up a few items.
The next day, Carric heads to the Low Market and locates some of the young thieves and beggars he met a few weeks ago. He tells them he will pay them 5 silver for two of the meanest alley cats they can find and return to him. A short while later the boys return with two mean-spirited cats. Carric puts on some gloves and gingerly carries them back to the Chapter House. While Carric is away, Lakima heads over to Alayna’s shop and asks her if she can make a Potion of Enlarge. She says she can, but it will cost him. Lakima pays her and she says he can pick up two potions tomorrow. Eathwund comes back to the chapter house with a pair of cages for the cats.
The next afternoon Lakima picks up the two potions. He also asks Alayna if she will still charge him for potions when they are married. She tells him “Of course, I want to run a successful business.” The adventurers prepare and decide to head over to the Emerald Moon cheesemakers around the early evening. Since the Brass Lock tavern is located right beside the cheesemakers they decide to check there first. While the others wait outside, Carric enters and makes his way to the bar to talk to Ol’ Pete the owner (and a well-known fence). He tries to get Pete to hook him up with the big boss. Pete does not seem to know what he is talking about. Carric suggests he needs to meet someone who can move a very valuable stolen item. Ol’ Pete nods and whispers that he should meet Devon. Carric asks how he gets to meet the man. Pete tells him he can arrange a meet in a few days. Carric tells him he needs to see him now but Pete is unswayed. Suggesting he find someone else then. Carric leaves the tavern and meets up with his friends telling them what happened.
The adventurers decide on the direct approach. They circle the Cheesemakers and find a large double door probably for deliveries. It is barred from the inside but Carric manages to lift the bar with a file. They enter the building and find they are in a brightly lit room filled with a mound of charcoal. Light is coming from a continual light globe mounted on the wall. A door leads to another chamber. Carric peers through the crack in the door and sees a large room with enormous brick vats. He also sees two men headed away from them. They wait until the men leave the room and then they enter what is clearly the main part of the factory. Four large vats hold milk that is dyed green and is being slowly turned into cheese. As they look about the room a nearby door opens and two more men enter. The men cry out in alarm and ready clubs and then run toward the heroes. Domago moves to intercept one of them. Lakima casts Charm Person on one man and that puts an end to the fight as the man tells his companion to wait. These are friends. As they approach, still unsure if these are wererats or just guards, Lakima notes that cats are hissing in their cages. He asks the charmed man if he can turn into a rat - and the man says, “Of course”, and then turns into a man-sized two-legged rat creature. The other guard yells out and attacks Domago. Lakima asks the charmed man where his boss is located and the man tells them to follow him up a stair to a second floor. Everyone except Domago, who is busy fighting head up the stairs. Just then, another door opens and the first two guards they spotted enter. The men yell an alarm and run toward Domago. Lakima yells for Eathwund to release the cats and feed them the Enlarge potions. Two enormous cats the size of panthers run toward the guards. One cat leaps on a guard from the staircase. The guards start screaming, “Giant cats!, Help us!” The charmed man runs to the end of the upstairs landing and begins pounding on the locked door at the end of it but whoever is inside does not let him in. Lakima casts Phantasmal Force and adds a 10-foot tall giant cat to the fight. Two of the guards put up a good fight while one runs off for help. One of the giant cats is struck repeatedly by a guards club but eventually, both guards are killed. The charmed guard flees. Domago prays and heals the injured giant cat.
Everyone heads up the stairs to investigate the door which they discover is locked. Carric moves over to examine the lock and hears a voice on the other side threatening him. He is unable to open it. Lakima casts Aztanzabar’s Acrid Finger and keeps up a steady stream of acid on the lock. He hears a scream of pain from the other side of the door as some acid streams through the keyhole. It takes a while but eventually the wood around the lock burns away and the lock falls on the floor. They kick in the door and enter a workshop. Strange, liquids, powders, and cheeses rest on workbenches. A slim man stands before a doorway at the far side of the room waving a long sword in their direction. Lakima tells the man he is outnumbered and should surrender. The giant cats hiss at the man. The man screams and runs into the other room and leaps out a second-floor window to the street below. Eathwund fires a few arrows at him but misses and the man gets away.
The adventurers note another door to the room. This one is unlocked and Carric can hear what sounds like someone sleeping on the other side of the door. They enter and find a middle-aged man with white hair apparently asleep in his bed despite all of the noise they have been making. The man is shaken awake and tells them he is the owner, Grendel Orfman. He asks if they are here to rescue him. Grendel claims that he is the victim of a takeover by King Rat. He volunteers that King Rat is an enormous rat who resides in the sewers below the factory. If the adventurers would be willing to run the rats out of his factory he would be very grateful. Eathwund brings one of the giant cats into the room and it hisses at Grendel. They confront him and accuse him of being a wererat. He admits he has the disease but that it was not voluntary. The rats slowly infected people in the shop. King Rat wanted his shop because the cheese he is making helps King Rat grow in power. Grendel has been experimenting on one batch that only goes to King Rat now. Grendel now offers to buy his freedom. He goes into a secret room behind his closet and hands over 2,000 gold coins. Lakima accepts it on the group's behalf and tells Grendel he can go free if he heads over to the Church of St. Cuthbert for a cure. Grendel eagerly agrees. The other party members are skeptical that Grendel will follow through.
They all head down to the shop floor and they ask Grendel to tell them which vats have the Rat King’s cheese in them. He tells them it is just the one. Eathwund goes over and opens the sluice on the vat and the bubbling green cheese streams across the floor and down a drain. As they point Grendel out the door, the guard who got away returns with reinforcements. They look past the wererat and see a horde of angry ratlings approaching.