Eli and Jun Xi entered the city, speaking briefly with a guard before seeing Anne and Susie to the other survivor of Araval. They then saw Mully’s corpse to a funeral home before settling in for the night.
At the same time, new character Gandrake met with a contact he’d made after a few weeks of harassing low ranking members of local crime organizations. He’d wanted information on the bandits that had attacked his home, and hoped that this “Ricky” could provide it to him. Unfortunately, it was a trap; he’d become enough of a nuisance to have a contract made on his life, and midway through the meeting a shadow with emerald eyes erupted from the alley, trapping him in a thick, weighted net.
Another figure emerged before the assassin could finish the job, however. Another new character by the name of Snow, her own emerald eyes mirroring that of the killer before her, confronted the assassin who seemed reluctant to take on another member of the “family”. She seemed ready for a fight as she made several threats that the other man, who identified himself as “Joseph”, seemed to take very lightly. Shrugging the whole matter off, he decided instead to leave the way he’d come with a promise that their family would cancel this contract on her behalf. After freeing Gandrake, Snow and he agreed to meet the next day to consider their next move.
The following morning Eli and Jun Xi roused themselves from their slumber, choosing to head to the market before checking back with the guard they’d spoken to previously. The area was nearly deserted though; the disappearance of the Leylines had a major effect on the industrial cities, where people used their Talents for everything from modern conveniences to their very professions. Most people seem to be staying indoors, waiting for their governments to make things right or for something worse to befall them, but the pair of PCs did manage to at least gather a few supplies from those vendors that had bothered to set up shop. There was also an awkward section about oiling up Jeung Xi’s muscles and a shameless lamp oil salesman, but that’s beside the point.
They continued to the Guardhouse, where a secretary saw them up to the Captain’s office on the third floor via an earthlift. They were greeted by both Lt. Lleywn, who was the guard from the previous day, and Captain Trenton, the head of the local militia, and they all spoke briefly about the state of the city and what had happened back in the mountains. However Eli kept the bit of information that he may have had something to do with the Disappearance of the Leylines to himself. Near the end of their discussion an urgent alert came up from the secretary; both a member of a family of highly trained assassins and a high ranking lieutenant in a local criminal organization had exposed themselves on the North end of town in a street brawl, of all things. With plenty of witnesses and a public venue, the Captain, with everyone else in tow, headed out to make the necessary arrests.
Meanwhile, Snow awoke to find a visitor in her room; Joseph, her cousin, introduced himself with a flourish and a smile before trying to idly chat about trivial matters. Snow wouldn’t have any of it, and had to threaten him to get him to the point. His message was clear; the family was still waiting for her to come back to them, and had no intention of moving against her during this “rebellious phase”. As a show of good faith, he even passed on a bit of useful information. Evard’s Dogs, the group that had tried to have Gandrake killed the previous night, had sent a Lieutenant from the Dula family knocking on his door that morning. If she hurried, she might even get there in time to help. . . taking this as a threat, Snow attacked her cousin, who was forced to flee out the window and use his whip to rappel and swing ten stories down to the street below. Hurriedly, she darted down after him and headed to Gandrake’s lodgings . . .
Gandrake’s awakening was less pleasant; a mocking comment woke him from slumber, and a sharp kick to his ribs brought him to his senses. A man stood before him, cocky and headstrong, who tossed his weapon out of the room’s nearby window before challenging him to a fight. I ran this as a skill challenge with a rock-paper-scissors element. I’d randomly choose the action of the NPC, while Gandrake could choose between Athletics, Acrobatics or Endurance. Each skill countered another, and the fight was largely based on the description of attacks rather than the simple skill used to pick it. At the end of the fight, Gandrake delivered a swift kicked to the man’s head, knocking free a tooth and sending him stumbling backwards. The stranger, no longer as confident, chose that time to call in six of his armed friends, forcing the PC to flee out the window before things got a little less fair.
Recovering his weapon, Gandrake began another quick skill challenge to escape, delivering the best laugh of the night.
“Okay, so as I dart through the mouth of the alley, there’s this large dog there in the middle of the path, growling at me. I jump forward, and ducking low, bring my fist up right under its chin!” * rolls a natural 20 *
“Um, okay. . . you deliver a quick and brutal blow, sending the dog flying off its feet and slamming into the wall behind it. It hits the ground hard, and lies still. I’ll count that as a success.”
“Okay, so then I dart out of the alley and into the street, barreling through the crowd of people there to throw off my pursuit!” * rolls ridiculously high again *
“Okay, you only see a family of four walking leisurely along the road, and you crash into them, sending the mother and two children falling down to the ground.”
“And as I run off I shout back, ‘I just killed your dog!’”
Meanwhile, the Highborn Sed was also in town, looking for information; he wanted to find his wife’s killer, and this “Ricky” seemed to be the man for the job. Shortly after the start of his meeting, however, he found it interrupted as a stranger knocked his contact over after dashing around the corner. It turned out to be Gandrake, and as Gandrake’s violent reunion with Ricky, the object of much of his aggression, went on, a big mess of an encounter built up as literally everyone appeared on the scene. Eli and Jun Xi came with the Militia, Petran Dula with his thugs, even Snow snuck around from behind. And with no one knowing who any of the others really were, the fight began.
In the end, Ricky escaped Sed and Gandrake, Petran Dula and most of his thugs escaped pretty much everyone else, Snow was nearly killed when her ambush turned sour and Eli managed to take a single captive alive. But Captain Trenton arrested not just the thug but Snow as well, and eventually took Gandrake in for questioning too when he introduced himself to the local authorities by saying, “Hi, I’m the guy that’s been causing trouble around town for the past week! * smile *”. We broke there for the night, with everyone reconvening with the Militia when we pick up the game again next.
Overall, things went pretty well, although we had to jump around a lot more than usual with so many scattered segments of the as-of-yet unformed party to address. Now everything’s been drawn into a single storyline though, thankfully, so the next few sessions should go pretty well. I really think I’m going make combat a rarity though, in the upcoming sessions. My players have been saying lately how much they love skill challenges, and frankly, I have to agree; with the core rules tweaked just a bit, skill challenges give more gratification in less time than combat.
Meanwhile, my new combat rules seem to be working as well. Half hp for human enemies and doubling all damage those enemies do makes for fast and dangerous combat, even without powers to help out. It’s working, even if it was just an experiment.