Wednesday, 15 January 2020

AD&D2e: The Era of Transition

Amongst D&D players, fuelled by sometimes heated discussions, emerges a clear distinction between old school and modern gaming notions. Such notions are muddled and can represent all sorts of gaming habits or techniques, but loosely defined:
Old school gaming puts emphasis on events over story, strives for slow-paced dungeon delving and wilderness adventuring, demands player skill and common sense over character abilities, and presents combat as a deadly and not-so-rewarding affair. Character death rate is considerably high, given the multitude of dangers that can insta-kill one, but character generation can be quick and easy.

Modern gaming assumes that story takes precedence over events, is characterised by fast-paced action scenes with a variety of backdrops (above or under ground), requires a die roll for most actions, and embraces combat as the cornerstone of D&D, with corresponding rewards. Character death rate is significantly low, despite the endless trials and tribulations, and character creation takes some effort to be completed.
Having said that, there doesn't seem to exist a clear line between old school and modern in D&D. Sure, the '70s can be easily labelled as old school gaming and modern gaming features prominently since the '00s, but the time in-between appears to bring different styles and experiences to most gamers. The age running through the '80s and '90s is filled with experimentation, shifts in tone and theme, and blends different styles to create an amalgam that caters to a variety of players*. While the changes of old school gaming can be traced throughout the '80s, adventures that focused on story and rulebooks that codified rulings and house rules, I believe that AD&D2e's publication in 1989 cemented the co-existence of both old and new style. It is the time we see the term module and adventure used interchangeably; the emergence of a strong narrative in adventures, exemplified by excessive, sometimes, boxed texts; and the appearance of new ways to reward characters, for reaching goals and successfully overcoming encounters without resorting to violence, with the introduction of Story XP. These features ran along typical dungeon crawls (albeit with a narrative twist), random encounter tables, and deadly battles. Even the Gold-as-XP rule, while optional, was there (DMG Revised, pg. 69).

Sample from the adventure Tower, Temple, Tomb (1994),
featuring dungeon delving and rich backstory shown in long texts.

As can be discerned from DM David's post, experience points awards were a key component in determining the switch from old-school to modern gaming. As the '90s progressed, more emphasis was given to story awards (DMG clearly defines group and individual awards, the latter being optional), and hefty amounts of XP were expected to be handed out if the characters acted in accordance to the adventure's plot. And by the time 3e rolled out, experience was only given for defeating enemies and completing adventures or reaching certain story milestones. D&D in the '90s also marked a distinct departure from the notions of old-school gaming, with the publishing of the famous boxed campaign settings. Each setting relied on the world's quirks, themes, and strong narrative, which necessitated story-driven adventures, and each one was accompanied by literature novels that were influential in developing stories within the world, and in some cases (see Dark Sun) even created meta-plots that would change the whole campaign setting considerably. Still, the sensibilities of mega-dungeons were still popular, as was dungeon-crawling, and some were even published as boxed sets (see Dragon Mountain).

Dragon Mountain (1993) and Dark Sun (1991), glorious boxed sets.
So this amalgamation of styles and systems could be considered the norm for AD&D 2e's era and for the most part, it was true. Your extensive dungeon would now be backed by an equally extensive backstory, explaining all the details that your party would encounter during its expedition. If a dungeon wasn't planned, random encounters (generally combat-oriented) would fit your party's venture into urban or wilderness settings, to keep things tense and interesting. As the societies evolved in the two last decades of the previous century, to gain their modern sensibilities, so did it seems D&D, with a plethora of modules, novels, and rulebooks dominating the RPG scene and shaping the future of the game, towards a more narrative style, one supported by substantial rulesets and fiction. And as the need for sneaky treasure-looting gave way to the need for epic action/combat scenes, a far riskier but more exhilarating experience, so did subsequent editions turn their attention on how to better narrate and implement such wondrous moments.

*Also, you might want to check out this brilliant work from James Maliszewski (of Grognardia blogspot) on the Ages of D&D; he tackles TSR years specifically, as he doesn't comment on post-2000 editions.

Friday, 10 January 2020

[Challenge of the Frog Idol] Session #12: Conspiracies over Coruvon Part I

As the city commander is preparing an excursion around the city's vicinity with a sizeable army, rumours at alehouses abound with sinister plots being unfold between the members of high society. High-ranking city officials and administrators, noble houses, wealthy merchants and trading houses, all seem to be involved somehow in various conspiracies against each other, in order to gain more power in the city commander's absence. Gylain, an official of the city council, calls the party once again to inquire about any new findings concerning the smuggling den but most importantly to assign them as personal bodyguards to the city Magistrate. He believes that his life is jeopardised by his many enemies and wishes the characters to provide protection at least for as long as the city commander is away.

On their way to the Mancoor Estate, the Magistrate's home and base of operations, the party is greeted by a man with striking features and is almost run over by a young woman riding a horse, clearly upset for something. The estate's stable master, tight-lipped Kendrick, and the estate's blacksmith, the mentally-challenged Roggi, meet up with the party at the gate and soon are warmly greeted by Magistrate Jhanos Myrkeer, who is seen conversing and exchanging items with a halfling. Their meeting is brief, however, as the Magistrate is still busy, but he invites them to tonight's dinner. Roggi takes the characters to the Merchant House, warehouse of the Mireport Emporium Representatives trading guild, located at the docks, and down to the basement, which used to be barracks for the city garrison before the Emporium bought the building. It occasionally serves its old purpose, as the furnishing remains the same, with small bedrooms, lockers, and holding cells occupying most of the space, and a hobgoblin locked in one cell, whom Roggi states is an nasty criminal. The characters are left to use the basement as their quarters.

After settling down, the party heads back to the estate, when a violent storms breaks out. At the estate's dining room, an assortment of guests are sitting silently, giving concerned looks at the back door and trying to overhear the muffled argument happening at the backyard. The characters soon find out what follows is a grim scene: the Magistrate lies dead out in the backyard and a imposing figure stands next to him, claiming he didn't do anything. A brief chase ensues, in which the characters manage to capture the man, who turns out to be Uthgat, leader of a small street gang called Privateers. Examining the body shows some sort of black goo in the mouth and nose. At this point, the party suspects someone from the several guests has poisoned the Magistrate. There's Andros the estate's keeper who thinks the Magistrate's death is somehow connected to the two halflings that visited him this evening; Fenn, one of the halflings, who was still there at the time of Jhanos's death and expresses his concerns over Dr. Jubal, who may have cast a curse on him; Kendrick the stable frontman, who believes that Uthgat killed him, as he seemed threatening and out of his mind; Vonhilda the manager of a trading post, who is certain the Privateers wanted to harm the Magistrate; Bertram the estate's cook who points out that a halfling named Bitterwood served Jhanos some brandy shortly before his death; Captain Remy LeDuc, an aged captain of the guard, who insists that Uthgat and his lackeys are to be blamed; and Eve Saint Clair, a widowed noble from Mireport who also points at Dr. Jubal as the sort of person to place a curse on someone. Clearly, several plots encircle the murder that deal with many matters, which could be responsible for this vile act.

Characters involved
Rolf the Bold, fighter 1
Yudel, dwarf 1
Lolék, thief 1
Beldar the Brave, fighter 1

This session was the opening to a seemingly straightforward murder mystery. What the players are called for is not only to solve the whodunit case by figuring out the real culprit, who may or may not be one of the guests, but also unfold any machinations and sinister plots that lead to the Magistrate's murder. What the players, and subsequently the characters, don't get at the moment is the various schemes surrounding the figure of the Magistrate, that are more or less linked to his untimely demise, as well as the dire implications such a death will have in the future political scene of the city. The adventure was somewhat of a break from the party's delving into underground jobs, and was chosen over two others, one being a simple journey to find the whereabouts of an expedition (the previous party), the other being getting involved in bloody intrigues concerning the Iron Overlord, merchants and nobles, and the notorious city arena.

Monday, 6 January 2020

[Challenge of the Frog Idol] Session #11: The Iron Overlord

After returning laden with treasure from their previous adventure, the party is recuperating at the city, somewhat unwilling to get back and keep on with their investigating the smuggling hideout. Three uninterrupted days pass when the characters receive a letter from a mute street urchin, personally addressed to them. While what's written seems cryptic and intentionally vague, the letter's author nevertheless asks the party to cease any investigation regarding the smuggling operation and meet each other for a lucrative business. Intrigued by the offer, the party decides to ditch any further exploration on the "haunted house" and follow the instructions given to meet an unknown person who will take them to the author's base.

Even though some of the characters are at first bit hesitant, the party heads at the docks and comes into contact with an agent in disguise, a beggar who leads them to the back of a tavern and the office of the Iron Overlord, the one responsible for the slavery operation in Coruvon and the master behind the smuggling den under the dilapidated house. He awards the adventurers with an expensive red ruby for choosing their allegiance and accepting the invitation and then offers them the job of getting rid of a cartographer who seems to know too much about the business and thus went into hiding, as part of their initiation into the "family". The party immediately begins the search of the traitor, which is not difficult to locate her, as she's hiding under her house, beyond a well-hidden trapdoor that descends into the foundations of an older building and what seems to be the entrance to an ancient tomb. Before they act, the cartographer attempts to counter-offer them any treasure found in the tomb, supposedly belonging to a chieftain of some hillfolk living in the area centuries ago, as long as they let her live and help her explore the ancient site. She believes the place will be protected from tomb-robbers by special wards and traps.

Taking advantage of the woman's dire situation, the party agrees to aid the cartographer in her exploring the tomb and goes through various ancient traps, clashing with undead guards and collecting lost treasures. After all, the characters plan to never let the cartographer escape the halls of the gravesite. The battles deep in the hill-chieftain's tomb are fierce and claim Aurora's life, the party's cleric, as well as the cartographer's life, stumbling on a trap while fleeing frantically to save her skin from the cold clutches of the undead. Finishing their exploration and having fulfilled their mission, the characters head back to the Iron Overlord to bring the news, who seems pleasantly satisfied and hands over another red ruby that the characters delightfully pocket. A sinister collaboration begins between the intrepid adventurers and the head of the slavery operation.

Characters involved:
Rolf the Bold, fighter 1
Aurora, cleric 1 [KIA]
Yudel, dwarf 1
Lolék, thief 1
Li, halfling 2

Raine the Despised, cleric 1 (retainer)

This marked the first session where one of the characters gained a level. It was also a clear departure from your typical good-natured party seeking adventure; this time, their mission was to murder a person who posed a threat to an underground business, a task the characters were eager to accomplish. They even went the extra mile of helping the cartographer explore the tomb and retrieve any ancient treasures, only to betray her later. Clearly, the campaign has turned from a neutral, mercenary party looking for gain and glory to a chaotic group bent for undermining the human settlement. This gives me the chance to twist the ultimate goals of the mini campaign (we're running Challenge of the Frog Idol, after all), to better fit the theme of the game, as long as the players keep up playing Chaos-inclined characters.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

[Challenge of the Frog Idol] Session #10: The Haunted House Part II

Continuing on their exploration, the party discovers several hiding spots with small treasures in the "haunted" house, as well as plenty of living dangers - spiders and centipedes lurking in the fireplaces or in the dark, and a nest of stirges roosting at the attic. While the other party of adventurers has suddenly vanished, the characters find three corpses of what appears to be a separated party, who got killed three weeks prior. One thing is for certain though, no such thing as mythic treasure is to be found; in addition, no workshop or a lab the alchemist conducted his foul research has been so far revealed, which leads the characters towards the underground levels of the mansion. But before venturing in the dark, another "haunting" strikes fear into the hearts of the characters, just as they step at the staircase, but with determination, the party moves downwards. By this time, they are convinced that these "hauntings" are actually magical traps to scare off intruders, pretty much a work of some magic-user placed to deter anyone from messing with their job.

A seemingly ordinary wine cellar hides a well-placed secret door that takes the party to a different scenery: a big, long room, well-lit by lanterns and furnished with a table and stools, cooking utensils and cots for ten people. What purpose this chamber served has now been turned into barracks for a group of ne'er-do-wells, as the characters meet one of them carving a wooden boat, unaware of their intrusion. Striking swiftly, the man lies dead before even raising his head, however, a sneaky blow sends one of the retainers bleeding and frothing at the mouth; Ned, who previously assisted the party now looks keen on halting its advance, a poisoned dagger in his hand. As they battle him, the characters find out he was placed here to hinder and discourage them from coming across the smugglers' hideout, which means someone must have known they were to explore this house. And as they look for more clues in what appears to be the leader's private room, they come to the realisation that indeed, the place serves as a hideout for a lucrative smuggling and slavery operation.

Still, the party is determined to investigate further and soon enough, they happen on the undead guardians of the alchemist, just beyond the door with the chalked warning. The presence of undeath in the room makes the characters hesitant at first, but they steel themselves and the two clerics use their divine power to turn the skeletons away, while the rest of the party strike them down. With a little bit of searching, the secret door to the alchemist lab is finally revealed, hiding amongst rubble and ruined alchemical gear extraordinary treasure, as well as the skeletal remains of the alchemist, still seated in front of his beloved workshop. The characters loot everything and, as they don't seem able to proceed any deeper underground, they decide to head back to the city and inform the City Council of their findings, who eagerly asks them to expose the smuggling den. However, the party prefers to stay and recuperate in the city, thus giving the chance to the smugglers, after finding out their hideout was busted, to pack everything and leave at once.

Characters involved:
Rolf the Bold, fighter 1
Aurora, cleric 1
Yudel, dwarf 1
Lolék, thief 1

Elaine, fighter 1 (retainer) KIA
Raine the Despised, cleric 1 (retainer)

This session actually marked the end of the adventure. The players didn't fancy going back to the mansion, especially now that they returned laden with treasures, so I had to devise a plan. The Iron Overlord made a recurring appearance, so I thought of him as being the mastermind behind the smuggling operation. He would write a letter to the characters to cease their investigation and co-operate with him, with the promise of handsome rewards. For now, that was the end of a slightly modified Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, a fun module in which your typical "haunt" trappings turn out to be a cover for criminal activity. Since my group runs a not-really-good party, they never felt the need to fight off the evil; instead, they enjoy messing around with the underworld and go after quests for riches and power.

Monday, 23 December 2019

What is an adventurer?

As I was sitting in my comfy living room and reading about inns and accommodation in European Middle Ages, a certain article helped spark a thought in my mind, or rather reignite something that may have been tormenting me (not really) for quite some time now, possibly since I first experienced the might and magic of D&D. The nature of this thought may comprise a significant portion of the existence of possibly all tabletop RPGs and involves the meaning of the D&D adventurer.

Hopefully, an adventurer is not that.
What exactly is an adventurer? Various gaming sources have attempted to give an explanation or two about the band of misfits who usually (and inadvertently) end up saving the world - or condemn it, and it often comes down to this:
A person who becomes rich and renowned through mighty deeds and perilous adventures
Suffice to say, I find this description lacking. The portrayal of the adventurer as the hero who fights off evil, recovers ancient treasures and builds strongholds and fiefdoms feels a bit dry. Certainly, one can have all sorts of juicy and exciting stories unfolded, but there is one critical aspect that occasionally frustrates me in D&D: the characters are often disconnected from society, as if they do not clearly belong in the social structure the fantasy communities are part of. Don't get me wrong, characters may have backgrounds and motivations that specifically engage them in social affairs and can be quite active in the matters of their region, but these don't invalidate the fact that adventurers don't quite fit any social role in a fantasy setting. Characters were given backgrounds/themes across all editions, accompanied by special traits and/or skills (5e uses artisan, knight, noble, outlander and sailor amongst others), but there's no telling what they're supposed to do besides adventuring, a meta-linguistic term used to denote a story in D&D. On the other hand, running the daily chores of a farmer, a fisherman, or a coach-rider isn't all that exciting, is it?

The closest I can liken adventurers to are mercenaries and sellswords, though it can be argued that these people weren't exactly the adventuring type, let alone them being motivated solely by wealth. And during lean times, mercenaries would often resort to banditry and other petty crimes, very unlike the mighty deeds and perilous adventures we mentioned earlier. What's more important is that mercenaries didn't possess any social rank; while having military experience, their usefulness was only situational, compared to a knight or a city guard whose position was clearly defined within the medieval social system. One can claim that adventurers are not driven just by monetary gain, but personal goals as well. I would say a prince may be also motivated by personal goals, but that doesn't make him an adventurer. An explorer, perhaps? A dungeon delver, a spelunker etc? Good call but still, historical explorers possessed other occupations. Leif Erikson was a farmer and a warrior. Pytheas of Massalia was a merchant and a scientist. Ibn Fadlan served as a member of the Abbasid embassy. Marco Polo was also a merchant. On the other hand, adventurers can be something akin to a farmer, a smith, a warrior, a merchant and for some reason they decided to take up arms; I can agree with that. A devastating raid that burnt their whole village and forced the characters into adventuring life, that's a pretty acceptable reason. If I want, however, to use this term to refer to a whole bunch of people doing whatever they know best, and not because of some random incident, I have to construct a class for them to fit in the social hierarchy.

So the idea that stuck in my mind is this: what if the adventurer is a traveller, as expected, but one who keeps the various settlements in contact, over a world dominated by foul monsters and vicious bandits? Imagine a world where merchant capitalism has yet to replace the feudal economic system; ideally, we have a Points of Light setting, where settlements are confined between vast expanses of untamed wilderness, filled with hazards and perils to the brim. Trade within a landowner's region is particularly limited, even non-existent, and only the local ruler has means of communication through a network of spies, scouts, and the military. As in a feudal society, commoners are bound to the land they work for, so movement is not feasible. Villages and towns in a given region are isolated from each other, as there is no centralised government to provide  adequate protection and maintenance of roads. Nobody dares venture beyond the safety of their community, however efficient that is. Enter the adventurers, folk that have travelled far and wide, picking up gossip, rumours, and the occasional trinket. For commoners, adventurers are the postmen who bring news from the neighbouring settlements, such as the marriage of one's relative, the death of another's friend, the struggles or merry times of said town etc; it isn't unreasonable for a family of peasants to approach an adventurer and ask the whereabouts of a specific person in the village directly south of here, or to deliver a message to a poor man's son who got enlisted in the nearby town's militia. Monetary rewards would be typically trivial (a few silver pieces, food and shelter for the night, a cheap trinket) but their social service would be of enormous worth. For craftsmen, adventurers represent traders and merchants, able to pick their crafts and sell them to their next stop; many an adventurer on a cart full of gear has been dubbed a pedlar, for good or ill. Smart adventurers can profit from this type of commerce, even though the life of a merchant is not very appealing an affair. Still, managing and protecting trade routes between towns can result in a prosperous living for both settlements and anyone involved. For the nobility, adventurers can serve as providers of gossip, intelligence over a rival's welfare, or information of any sort. They can also tackle current issues a local ruler faces, like delving into dark dungeons, clearing an area of monsters, getting rid of brigands, defending against raiders etc. While this employment comes with its own risks, its rewards are unmatched, and nobles learn to trust and cater to folk who advance their agendas. It's no wonder most adventurers are therefore drawn around the ruling class, for their chances of gaining wealth, fame, and prestige improve proportionally.

With those in mind, we can henceforth perceive the adventurers as an integral part to the medieval society, an effective carrier of information and goods, as well as able hands (or minds) to deal with local nuisances. Instead of being portrayed as social outcasts who hoard up treasure and make a name for themselves, somewhat detached from the rest of the community, adventurers and societies form a bipartite reliance that is built on connection, transaction, communication, aggression and protection.

In the end, though, adventurers can be whatever you want them to be in your game. Do they have to fit a specific social role in a fantasy setting for them to make sense? Certainly not, as long as you want to narrate an epic story, what purpose each adventurer has is of a lesser matter. What's interesting, however, is the history of the adventurer through D&D editions. I might tackle that at some point.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Rules I don't use in B/X (or plan not to)

For all its glory as the epitome of old-school D&D, B/X still remains a product of its time, proposing rules and mechanics that today might seem frustrating, outdated, and do not bear any relevance today. This is due to the system still clinging to wargaming trappings and perception (check the combat round, for instance), coming in stark contrast with the evolving nature of D&D gaming, especially post-2000 era, that turned the game away from its wargaming roots and towards a more narrative experience. Most of my group has been gaming since the mid-90s (our youngest member started gaming about five years ago, while the oldest one used to play AD&D in the late '80s) so while we lean towards old-school sensibilities, we do bring a variety of gaming notions in our table, primarily thanks to our involvement with other genres and hobbies (board games, war games, video games, you name it games). Thus far, I've collected a few rules in B/X that I find unnecessary in my game. The party is still at low levels, so I have yet to touch on stronghold and army building, a character process that has since 3e been totally switched from being a core mechanic to a more or less situational affair.

First and foremost, the role of caller is nowadays redundant. Since we're talking groups of four or five at each sessions, there is no need for a coordinator between players, a single voice to dictate what each character does at any given time. Occasionally, a player occupies this role when we want to make haste while venturing a not so dangerous location or to briefly proceed with mundane actions. As for the role of mapper, my group is usually happy to just wander about and the few times someone sits down to draw a map is more likely to use it as reference, not tied to a certain character with mapping skills.

Second, alignment as presented in the book is in my opinion too restrictive and unimaginative. My take on the world's alignments deals with the cosmic struggle between Law and Chaos and which faction each character sides with, instead of a representation of one's morality and general behaviour. While quite distinct in theory, not much is different in function, except that now lawful characters don't switch to chaotic if they witness or participate in an "evil" act. Lawful now means that your character strives to uphold and defend the power of human civilisation and the ways of the Age of Man, whereas as a chaotic you try to undermine and eventually overthrow it in favour of wild nature and ethics of the Old World. A good analogy would be lawfuls coming from "civilised" lands whereas chaotics call the wilds home.

Third, resting after 5 turns of constantly moving in the dungeon (or other enclosed areas) seems odd. I can see that characters being stressed out for 50 minutes need to relax for a while, and I would also assume that since time is of the essence in dungeon delving, especially when wandering monsters may appear, I get the urgency of the group to make haste and rush the place. So, forcing the party to rest every 5 turns makes sense in this way, but feels weird to my players, who are used to a more narrative style of dungeon crawling. So far, we haven't run a true dungeon to test it, but I plan not to use it if it turns out more a chore than increasing tension.

Fourth, spell research severely limits magic-users and elves and, along with magic item crafting, can be quite an expensive affair for spellcasters. Judging by the amount of treasure my group recovers from adventuring, it almost feels impossible to have enough for spells or magic scrolls, essential items for the otherwise restricted spellcasters. I've borrowed Holmes' rules for magic scroll crafting, in that it requires 100 gp and one week per spell level of each spell; additionally, the spellcaster can craft magic scrolls at any level but must be able to cast the spell they want reproduced. As for spell research, magic-users and elves can use it to pick spells from the list at the cost of 100 gp and one week per spell level but must make a successful Intelligence check.

There are the evasion rules which we haven't even tried yet, stronghold, dominion and army rules which I don't think we will ever touch since we run a short-term campaign, and waterborne adventures which we might not check unless the group decides to board a ship to explore the river and its vicinity. As we test out more aspects of the game, and face the various rules and mechanics proposed, I shall update the blog accordingly.

Friday, 13 December 2019

[Challenge of the Frog Idol] Session #9: The Haunted House Part I

The demise of the party in the latest expedition leaves the sole survivor, the halfling Li, with the responsibility to recruit a band of adventurers. It isn't that difficult, after all, as a bunch just visited the city of Coruvon in hopes of exploring the nearby Haunted House. Rumours say that hauntings and phantasmal lights come out of this decrepit mansion, just four miles south of the city, and its owner, a notorious alchemist who conducted all sorts of sinister experiments, hid a treasure of mythical proportions somewhere in the bowels of the house. With the prospect of filling their pockets, primarily his own then his party, with gold, Li and his new companions gather resources and hire retainers for the trip. They are informed by an aged poacher of its mysterious happenings and perilous haunts, and approached by Gylain, a City Council member, who shows interest in letting the council know of able adventurers investigating the haunted mansion, also hinting at possible rewards.

The next day, the characters embark on their short journey and reach the dilapidated house at noon. A brief exploration of the surroundings reveals the two-storied house looming on a steep cliff over 30 metres above the river, and three different entrances, along with a shallow well. Intrigued by its crumbling state, the characters enter the building through a back door from a ruined patio, only to be greeted by a booming, ghastly voice welcoming them. Fear then strikes their heart, and they scatter in all directions, running for their lives. A few turns later, and after regaining their composure, the characters delve deeper into the house, encountering numerous run-down rooms that show the alchemist's apparent lavish life. A few spiders and centipedes emerge from hidden nests to pose a danger to the party, but they are dealt with rather quickly.

It doesn't take long for the characters to realise they're not alone in the mansion. Their very first encounter is with another party of seven supposedly adventurers, who claim they also came looking for the alchemist's treasure. They seem friendly, if a bit aloof and reserved. While exploring the second floor, the party comes upon a tied and gagged man, who claims he was attacked in the previous night by unknown assailants. His belongings are bundled in a nearby room. The man, who comes by the name Ned Shakeshaft, decides to assist the characters in their investigation, and warns them of another party who may be ambushing them. So far, no sign of hauntings, except for the ethereal voice, has been found nor any amount of treasure has been recovered, which make the party skeptical over the rumours.

Characters involved
Rolf the Bold, fighter 1
Aurora, cleric 1
Li, halfling 1
Yudel, dwarf 1

Elaine, fighter 1 (retainer)
Raine the Despised, cleric 1 (retainer)

The session was straightforward and bore the classic trappings of haunted house adventures: creaking floors, strange noises, otherworldly wails and a dark secret hiding under the house. While at first, players were prepared to face any dangers from the Shadowlands (the land were the spirits of the dead reside, according to my homebrewed setting), by the end of the session they were almost certain there were no such things as hauntings and wondered whether the rumours of the alchemist's treasure were true. They were faced with few and easy encounters, and any poison inflicted was weak enough to not kill a character outright.