DATE: July 25, 2021
ALT NAME: Can't go there either
PLAYERS: HA, AB, EC, LC, AJ, OR
Spoilers ahead for Harley Stroh's "Gang Lords of Lankhmar" (DCC-L)
Quick recap: Last week, The Snack Club, on assignment from King Korvul, murdered six Street Scuttlers outside the Dogfish. The Knife Twister's dark sorcerer, Jivisto, then casts an unholy spell on the corpses, turning half of them into women and placing owl masks on their faces. The scheme? Make it look like the Scuttlers and Forty Owlets had a deadly brawl on the streets of Lankhmar... hoping to ignite a gang war between the two factions.
Three Wasted Days
The Snack Club head back to The Grindstone after their dastardly deed. King Korvul commends them on a job well done and gives them some R&R time. What does the Snack Club do with their free time? Emma Frog (EC) invites her party to head out to the streets for a song and dance. Aust Booker (OR) and the three Weaver siblings, Lane (AJ), Patrick (HA), and Aranna (AJ) join her and wander through the streets of Lankhmar.
But the streets are tense with a foreboding silence. Citizens avert their eyes. Shopkeepers close their doors. The Snack Club have gained notoriety. Few people want any dealings with them. At one point, four Scuttlers approach, champing at the bit for a fight. Instead, they get weirded out by the Snack Club, high on a bad reputation dancing in public.
Nothing happens for three days. Each day that passes, I ask the Snack Club if they'd like to do anything. I was asking to see if they'd be proactive. Shop for items. Visit friends. Learn new spells. Upgrade their weapons. Talk to people to get leads on the Scuttlers and Owlets. But instead, each and every day that passes, they're dancing in the streets instead. Loitering. Being harmless menaces.
On the fourth day, they're approached by an Owlet. "The bosses want to meet you. Both the Scuttlers and Owlets. Meet us tonight at the Rat Shrine." Two gang bosses want a meet. Break time's over kids.
We Want A Sit-Down, See?
The Snack Club is a little skeptical of the meet. Lane suspects a trap. I take the time to describe the Rat Shrine for the kids and draw out a map. They discuss how to position themselves. Emma and Patrick go up to the rooftops. They've brought a Knife Twister along with them, Myra (LC), he stands guard at the entrance to the shrine. Aranna, Aust and Patrick head in.
It's an open courtyard with a pillar in the middle. On top of the pillar is a large golden statue of the Rat God. There's a table in front with chairs. The Abbess, head of the Owlets is there, with Captain Ildam, head of The Watch with two man-o'-wars. Yes, the po po are here. Letho, head of the Scuttlers is stalking off to the side with two canvas sacks.
As The Snack Club walk into the shrine, fifteen Scuttlers appear from the shadows. Aranna scans the rooftops and sees another eight Owlets, bow at the ready. They are completely and utterly surrounded. The Abbess invites them to sit. She pours wine for everyone. She gestures for Letho. He walks up and dumps the contents of one sack out. It's two human heads. Heads of the slain Scuttlers. And the spell that turned them into women is wavering. Their visage turns from male to female, back to male again. The Scuttlers and Owlets have figured out the ruse and are not impressed. They want blood now. Knives' blood.
The Abbess makes it clear, "We know you only joined the Knives very recently, so we're going to make it simple for you. Leave town. We'll pay you 50 gold pieces and we can all forget this happened. 25 now, 25 when you're outside the city gates. You have until we're done drinking this wine to make your decision."
The Snack Club fall into disarray. Emma and Patrick are spotted. The Owlets give them knowing looks as if saying, "we see you." The party argues about what to do. Aust wants to fight. Lane points out they're outnumbered. They're all worried about their money at the Wyrmskull. If they're kicked out of Lankhmar, they no longer have access to their vault of treasure.
Letho gets impatient. He chugs down his cup of wine and slams it on the table. "Make up your mind, you weasels. We fighting or are you leaving?" Dejected, the Snack Club agrees to the terms.
Meanwhile, Myra runs back to The Grindstone to inform The Knives what's going down. To his horror, his home is ablaze in white hot flames. Dead Knives litter the streets. Injured ones groan. A few survivors rush up to Myra to let him know the Scuttlers and Owlets laid siege to their headquarters. "They set the place on fire and as we ran out of the burning building, Owlets on the rooftop murdered more of us. King Korvul is dead!" It was a bloody massacre. Street gang violence ain't pretty, kids. Myra is now in charge of the seventeen surviving Knives.
Back to the rest of The Snack Club. They're led outside the city by an escort of the Watch, Scuttlers and Owlets. They're not taking any chances. Captain Ildam points to a couple of caravans down the road and tells them they can collect their other 25gp there. As they head to the caravans, 25 Mingols emerge from the forest. They're here to take their money. The Scuttlers and Owlets were never going to pay them.
On the Lam
Myra and his broken gang of Knives leave the city. There's nothing left for them. They meet up with The Snack Club outside the city gates. They're now left to debate what to do with themselves. Aust wants to sneak back into the city and fight. He wants vengeance. Lane points out how outnumbered they are (again). Aranna won't have anything to do with this. In the end, I suggest that maybe they lay low for a while. Maybe wait for things to cool down in Lankhmar.
The players pull out their map of Nehwon. And Aranna starts crossing off places where they're not welcome anymore. The list is hilariously long. They can't go back to Mlurg Nar because Errich Weaver murdered a farmer in cold blood. They can't go to Ilthmar because that's where Emma Frog staged a mass prison break. They can't hide out in the Great Forest, because that's where the Dolmenwood Drunes that Aranna pissed off are. They can't head back into Lankhmar, obviously, because they ticked off two gangs.
Finally, they decide to head West, through the grain fields of Lankhmar, towards Earth's End. A quiet seaside town. On the way there, two small encounters. One, they hear the rattling of chains and manacles in the wheat field. The Snack Club is worn down and not interested in a fight. They ignore the noise and trudge on. The next encounter is unavoidable. Three green magic missiles fire from the tall wheat stalks, smacking Aranna down. It's the Dolmenwood Drunes. They've come to hunt her down. Again. "We want Aranna Weaver," they scream.
At first, The Snack Club chant "Sacrifice Aranna" a few times. Eventually, their humanity sets in and they get five Knives to protect her while Lane, Aust, Patrick, Myra and ten Knives head into the grain fields to find the drunes. They do, and they slay them without issue. And smartly, they decide to loot the bodies. They find two parchments with strange lettering and 20gp. Both parchments are handed to Emma, the hedge wizard. One she absolutely cannot make out... but suspects Benson can. Another takes her several days to read and understand. It is the spell magic missile.
They reach Earth's End and spend a week resting, spending nearly all their money on lodging and food. They Snack Club debate some more on what to do. How long should they stay. Is one week long enough to lay low? In the end, they stick around Earth's End for a whole month before heading back to Lankhmar.
Kicked Out of Lankhmar. Again.
On their way back to the city, they graciously pay the bail for a thief who was dragged towards Lankhmar by his bailiff. A completely uncharacteristic Samaritan act. In a second encounter, they reach a blockade where The Watch are questioning travelers. The Watch's dogs pounce on Aust, sniffing him. Aust uses his animal-speak to talk to the dogs. They tell him he smells of the blood of a murdered man. The Watch Sergeant tells Aust he needs to come into the city for questioning. Lane insults the sergeant and is placed in manacles too. Lane insists he needs to take a dump first. I don't know if this is an attempt to escape, but it doesn't work.
The party goes with Aust and Lane to the Barracks where The Watch resides. I ask all of them to make a Charisma check as a replacement for DCC's luck check. Patrick fails miserably with a 3. Captain Ildam just happens to be at the Barracks at the same time. He personally escorts them out of the city. The Snack Club are kicked out of Lankhmar. Again.
Lane suggests they sneak into the city. It's quite possibly the sixth or seventh time he's said this and nobody's been listening to him. Except me, of course. I simply don't interfere and let the kids debate what to do. At this point, I print out maps of Lankhmar for all of them to explore and figure out how to sneak back into the city. Emma Frog suggests looking for a weakness in the wall somewhere. She finds one near the Marsh Gate. Emma, Aranna and Patrick squirrel through and into the city. They leave their clunky armored counterparts to wait outside.
Emma Frog has one mission here. To decipher the parchment they got off the drunes. They reach the Sorcerer's Guild to look for Benson. It's late. The lights are off. Emma decides to sneak in. Instead a magic ward throws her off balance and she falls for one point of damage. That's when she comes to her senses and does what reasonable people do. Knock. A sleepy wizard opens the door, tells them it's late and to go away. But at the mention of Benson, she invites them in to rest and tells them they can talk to Benson in the morning. They don't want to keep the other half of the party in the dark though. So Aranna tells Patrick to shapeshift into a bird, fly to them, and let them know what's going on.
The next day, Benson is delighted to see his protege. Emma gives him the parchment. Benson asks her where she got it. Aranna tells him it's from a few druids that they didn't kill. Benson eyes her suspiciously. He tells them that it's coded directions to where the Dolmenwood Drunes lairs.... a hole in a giant Oak Tree in the Great Forest. The Snack Club, once again, chants, "sacrifice Aranna". In the end though, they realize this is where they need to go to stop the Dolmenwood Drunes from hunting down Aranna.
Benson has something else up his sleeve. He tells Emma that he's been working on something. He throws his hands down at the floor and a portal appears. He jumps in and then... appears across the room. He giggles in delight. "Want me to teach you this?" Emma says, "of course!" and learns dimension door. She quickly abuses it by sending the Snack Club outside the walls a tinderbox through a portal.
Aranna and Emma are not done in Lankhmar. They teleport to the Wrymskull. They tell Nylokk they need to close their account and take all their treasure with them. Nylokk frowns and tells them that's a dumb idea. They would need several caravans. Why would you carry the equivalent of $1.5 million with you? Are you going to travel through the forest with this much money? So he sits them down and asks them what's happened and how much trouble they're in.
He puts them at ease. The gangs? They're two smalltime gangs. They won't grow in power. The Watch? I'll take care of it. I can talk Captain Ildam out of this. And then, Nylokk hands them two gifts to help The Snack Club out. One, he's started to build out a network of trusted bankers throughout Nehwon. He hands them a list of names. It's like how the Knights Templar had a banking system in the 1300s. Two, he hands them two messenger stones. (They're basically cell phones, but magic.) Nylokk then advises them to take care of the Drunes. They can't keep getting ambushed.
With that, Emma and Aranna feel much better about their situation and leave Lankhmar to meet up with their crew.
A Dolphin, Shark and a Ship Cross the Inner Sea
The Snack Club need to get to the Great Forest. That's where the Dolmenwood Drunes are -- the guys who keep hunting down Aranna for what she did back in episode one. They're taking the fight to them. Or maybe The Snack Club will sacrifice Aranna at the Great Oak tree. Who knows? Regardless, they need to travel across the Inner Sea again.
Emma casts _dimension door_ again, this time to where they hid their treasure last session near Gnamph Nar. The spell is powerful enough to take her and one companion. She walks through the portal with Aust, leaving everyone else behind. They dig up their buried treasure, and Emma sends Aust back to the Lankhmar. (This seems really complicated to me. It's like that riddle with the fox, hen and sack of corn in a row boat... but I let them play it out).
Once Aust is back in Lankhmar, he charters a ship for the gang to cross the Inner Sea. (But why didn't they just take money out of Wyrmskull in the first place? Why would Emma cast dimension door so many times?) Anyway, they get on a ship, but Patrick has the brilliant idea of turning into a dolphin and carrying someone on his back to save 6gp in fares. Wait. What? So hold on. The Snack Club and the ten Knives are going on a boat... while Patrick and Myra are swimming across the sea? (Of course, I'm going to give them random encounters. How can I not give them random encounters?)
As Myra rides Patrick the Dolphin across the sea like some weird Saturday morning cartoon from the 90s... five mermen show up. One throws a trident at Myra, nicks his ear for four damage. Patrick decides to out-swim the merman. Outswim the people who spend their whole lives in the water? What? This doesn't work out. Three merman stabs at Patrick the Dolphin for some heavy damage. It's not looking good. Patrick considers turning into a hawk and escaping, leaving Myra to drown in the Inner Sea. Myra sees this could be the end of him. Patrick grows a pair and turns into a shark instead. Myra leaps off of Patrick, sword drawn, and slices a merman in half. Patrick makes a beeline for another merman and chomps off the fishy half of him. The other three merman panic and retreat. Myra is surprised he's alive. He says, "So we survived?"
Patrick is down to 3hp, but The Snack Club saved 6gp in fare. Worth it!
The rest of the Snack Club -- who are on a boat -- probably sipping cocktails in lounge chairs or something... unsurprisingly make it to Gnamph Nar safely.
They meet up with Patrick and Myra on the beach, then together they head to where Emma's been waiting.... for an entire day and a half? What was Emma doing this whole time? Twiddling her thumbs? She just sat there and waited?
Anyway - they're together again. And using the map Benson deciphered, they head to the Great Oak where the Dolmenwood Drunes are. It's time to kill-us-some-druids-even-though-they're-totally-justified-in-their-constant-acts-of-vengeance-but-we're-the-heroes-in-this-story-so-there.
Spoilers Ahead for Gavin Norman's "The Hole in the Oak" (OSE)
Once there, they climb down the hole in the oak, into a vast underground network of tunnels and rooms. Lane and Aranna suggests burning the place down. I tell them... it's a really big place. Emma quickly realizes her cartography skills are needed and starts drawing a map.
We're in dungeon crawl mode. The party splits up in very weird ways. Myra and Lane decide to sit their butts down near the entrance choosing not to do anything. Emma, Aust, Patrick and Aranna come to a juncture, head East, cut through some roots and come upon green faces in the wall. They talk in a rumbling voice in unison together. For 5gp, they spit out a hint about this strange underground. They then backtrack and head north. A wizard hologram flickers in-and-out. They find jars of dead little people. They find a teleportation circle and Patrick decides to step into it as a fruit fly. He reappears in a completely different part of the dungeon.
Lane sees a gnome appear out of nowhere, waves, and disappears. He gets up to follow him. He wanders into a strange hallway with three nooks, each one with jackets, cloaks and hats. He takes one of each. He comes upon a desk with a bell on it. He rings it. A faun shows up and in a very proper British accent invites him to tea and crumpets in his home. Lane goes along with this. He thinks he's being careful by asking the goat-man to drink the tea and eat the crumpet first. But it's not clever, because the tea is drugged and the faun obviously has the antidote. Lane falls into a deep sleep.
Myra gets worried and goes to find Lane. Roots come up and grab his sword and drags it deep into the earth. Myra is unarmed. Meanwhile, Patrick is still in the form of a fruit fly and decides that since he has no idea where he is, to just stay put. Emma, Aranna and Aust continue up a hallway. They come across a room with a long pit of muddy water. There's a pile of gold on the other side. Emma throws her grappling hook across and the hook falls through the gold as if it wasn't there. It's an illusion.
And all this time -- strange things are happening. Hideous, gurgling laughs. Worms synchronize to spell out eerie words. And did I mention the hologram wizard yet?
The Snack Club's Portfolio
Stored in Wyrmskull Vault
(Deposited Year of the Worm, Month of the Eagle, Day of the Fox)
- 19 Ice Necklaces x 200gp = 3,800gp
- 12 Ice Jewels x 150gp = 1,800gp
- 9 Chests of Gold = 8,963
EOM Interest: (147gp)
Hidden Cache in Great Forest b/w Mlurg Nar & Gnamph Nar: 610gp
Chekhov's Ticking Time Bombs
- It looks like Nylokk will take care of Captain Ildam for The Snack Club.
- Lane Weaver was drugged by a very polite and proper faun. He's all sorted as the Brits would say.
- Patrick Weaver is stuck in the middle of a strange silent room
- Aranna Weaver has taken the fight to the Dolmenwood Drunes
- Myra lost his sword and is unarmed now
- Thork may be dead, but his wife Aranna isn't. Her inheritance? 800gp of debt to the cult of Loki.
- Emma Frog, Aust Booker, and Patrick Weaver are all fugitives?? How many prisoners did Emma free?
DM Notes to Myself
That... did not turn out the way I thought it would. Gang Lords of Lankhmar is a module where they predict the players would inevitably round up the remaining Knives and start a gang war, taking down the Scuttlers and Owlets. It's a little free-for-all in the second half of the module, where I'm just given locations, the number of gang members, and maps. Harley Stroh probably intended for the tension tracker to hit a boiling point until the Thieves Guild and The Watch step in and end it all, forcing the revenge-hungry players to escape Lankhmar.
The Snack Club simply ran. Now, to be clear here, OR did insist they go back into the city and fight. He meta-gamed a bit and was looking at me flipping through the pages of the module and knew that's where the story had to end up. But alas, he was outvoted out of a grisly bloody gang war. I suppose that's a net positive. So in a way, The Snack Club finished Gang Lords of Lankhmar in the most peaceful way possible. I would imagine the Scuttlers and Owlets took over the neighborhood after destroying the Knife Twisters wholly and completely.
Of course, now I wonder. This is a really interesting module. What would another group of players have done in their situation? Would they rally the Knives and go guerrilla on the other two gangs? Go all Batman, Bloody Valentines and VietCong on them? Set traps and kill them off one by one? Is there a parallel universe where The Snack Club become The Sopranos? I mean, a couple of months ago, EC kept asking me if I was in the mafia for some reason. She had a chance to be in one here and didn't take it.