Well, the culmination of a couple of month;s hard work finally paid off in last night's Hackmaster game (the true 4th Edition!). It was an epic struggle that lasted a full 9 hours (we usually only game 4-5 hours at a stretch--Wednesday night game and all that) and could have ended "very badly" for the party. I had this feeling of trepidation because I've been reading George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, and this most assuredly had the type of Machiavellian backstabbing that brought down the ill-fated Eddard Stark. Let me explain.
One of the subplots in Little Keep on the Borderlands involves a cabal of military conspirators who have created devalued counterfeit gold coins and worked them into the economy of Frandor's Keep. Our party became aware of this several weeks ago and managed (through blind luck, as it happens) managed to bypass the conspirators in the keep and go straight to the only people in the Keep who were not part of the conspiracy. Maybe a bit of a recap and party introduction is in order.
GM: Ramsey Williams
Marcus Ironfist, Cleric of Jupiter the Mighty (NOT Zeus the Diminished!), lvl 3: Yours truly
Sir Jordan Iscariot, Paladin of Jupiter, lvl 3: Louie
Serge (Sarge, Surge...his name seems to change in my mind), Thief, lvl 3 (4?): James
Al (sort for something very long and rambling), Pixe-Fairy Evoker, lvl 2 or 3: NPC
Cliff, Dwarvan Berserker, lvl 2: NPC
Candy Applebottom, Thief-Acrobat (with COM 19!), lvl 2 (?): NPC follower
Elroy, 15 y.o. torcher bearer: hireling
and a couple of other hirelings...our party banner bearer, my 1/2-orc valet (!), animal handler, etc.
Marcus and Jordan are members of the Church of Jupiter...due to the effects of the Twilight War amongst the Gawds, Zeus lost some power and shifted to the LG alignment. Jordan is actually the first known paladin of Zeus in our campaign. Even though we're both LG, we tend to play our PCs more like Roman aristocrats and less like ascetic Christian monks. Not ~too~ epicurean, but also not too stoic either. :)
Our PCs had been sent by our Church to the Keep to check on Ledra Moss, a lvl 2 cleric and (according to the module) also a cleric of Zeus (we prefer Jupiter for obvious reasons...the Church is "restructuring" due to a "unfavorable religious climate"). We also had no clear orders rather than to perform the "work of most Holy Jupiter" and to "increase his standing in the eyes of the inhabitants of the lands to the west." So, we started adventuring in the area.
Well, anyway, about the same time the debased currency started showing up in the keep, we recovered a ledger and some gold nuggets in an abandoned mine. The ledger was a sort of paybook noting transactions and payments of some sort. We lucked out, and rather than taking the nuggets to the gem dealer for appraisal (a member of the cabal!), we asked the keep's paymaster (not in the cabal; the fellow who pays out the humanoid bounties). He told us to not flash that around and went into some detail about the gold problem and the fact that it might draw too much attention of the wrong sort (he had a favorable reaction to us due to our paladin...go figure!).
So, we headed off to Ledra who confirmed that this looked suspicious and contacted Greytar the sage and the Keep's chaplain, both not listed in the book. They assigned us the task of trying to gather more information.
I should mention that prior to this, we had solved the mystery of the "Mad Hermit" who was actually the keep's previous commander who had been driven mad by the influence of an evil magical artifact. He had been recuperating in the chapel and the whole thing had been kept quiet to avoid embarrassing Hullman (the commander/mad hermit).
We had to find more info to directly the current prefect to the conspiracy. And that's where tonight started...sorta.
The night began, as most adventures do, in a tavern where we were quietly meeting with Ledra. "Meet in the open?" you ask. Well, he is a Cleric of Jupiter, so what's more natural than us all hanging out? Hey, my cleric is gullible and misinformed!
Ledra insisted that we do something (Gm prodding!), so we decided to get Candy, our delectable NPC companion, to ingratiate herself with the prefect at a social the next evening and learn what she could from him. After looking at the list of conspirators, we decided that the dies for the coins had to be in the Keep. Of they were hidden in the Wilds, then a group of adventurers (like us!) might stumble upon them. Logic dictated that they had to be used near a forge. We decided that the Smithy was the possible best choice and decided to have our thief infiltrate and search.
Well, I won't go into the heretos and the whytofors, but, after Ledra left, we had an altercation with Corporal Nargus, one of the main conspirators, and a brawl ensued! We handed out a stunning victory, kept property damage to a minimum (one chair, courtesy of our berserker) and stayed out of the stockade. We also made the acquaintance of an "apparent" cleric of Shona (LN god of fair play) named Harkus during the fight.
At the social the next evening, some good roleplay occurred. My gullible misinformed (and toga clad--in the best Roman tradition!) cleric learned that the prefect had recently had a conniving shrew leave him for greener pastures. He had stole her from one his sub-officers one Erik, (Erig? Erag?--something like that) who he was now "buddy-buddy" with. (My cleric wrongfully inferred that the two were now "special friends"--I won't relate it all, but my PC made various inappropriate, yet funny, comments for the rest of the night about the two).
Candy insinuated herself with the commander and they disappeared together as the evening was winding down. Plan 2 immediately went into action. Short story...apparently the smith and his wife were out at the tavern for the evening and out thief was able to infiltrate and find the dies and the gold. He left half of the die set. Our thoughts were that maybe we could by with it and they might not check the stash every die. (Poor planning on our part, but what else could we do?). Plus we wanted to leave some evidence for a hopeful search.
Candy returned the next morning and was able to abscond with papers from the prefect's desk showing that he had went in debt to refurbish his rooms in the keep for his former lover. He embezzled money from the keep's treasury to pay for it and was apparently replacing it with the debased currency.
A quick meeting with Ledra and the chaplain confirmed that we would have to ride t0 the town of Arz and meet with the magistrate there. He was the only one with the authority to launch an investigation of this magnitude.
Thus it was that we made one of the most fundamental mistakes that a gaming group can ever make....we decided to SPLIT THE PARTY!!!
....continued in Pt. II....