Monday, March 30, 2015

Orc Quest: Episode 7 - An Eye for Adventure

It was a day's travel to arrive before the fortified gates of Haganna. It was late evening and the guards stood in place to block their entry. It was quickly revealed that the mayor had issued a decree that orcs were forbidden to enter the city. The party wound up improvising and with the assistance of the party bard Cunnin managed to convince the guards that they were on a mission to deliver this human girl to someone inside the town. A quick bribe changed hands, and they were shown around to a side entrance, handed robes, and given the instructions to not be seen and to be gone within 24 hours.

They snuck in quickly and made their way to the market square. I basically asked if Cunnin (being a thief) could case the area and see if anything looked shady, like they were doing dirt (a fence, a fake front, etc) i.e. Someone that would do business with illegal orcs. After a bit of RP and an intelligence roll, they located just the sort.

Some brief negotiations later, they managed to unload some trade goods and spoils in exchange for hard currency and some additional supplies. We also acquired some new information:

The town guard was nervous over elven raids on the roads. We heard further rumors of an elf-queen, and that the elves weren't just robbing the travelers but kidnapping them. Only one person had managed to return alive, and he had kind of lost his mind. "Doomsday Dave," they called him. He apparently wanders around as a homeless person now.

The merchant handed over a bag of coins, but as he was turning to leave Cunnin poured them out and counted them - and found the bag short of the promised amount. Taz and Justice moved into position behind the merchant, who quickly threw his remaining coins at Cunnin and ran off.

About this time, the guards entered the market square and it became obvious that the rest of the merchants had already left. The party made themselves scarce before they were noticed - but not before Cunnin took the opportunity to nick back an item they had traded: one golden pickaxe that he had been reluctant to sell in the first place.

From there, they managed to find an Inn in the seedy side of town: The Flail and Sail.

As it turned out, the bartender was a giant of a man named Bjorn, about the size of many of the orcish party members. From a bit of conversation, he had a mercenary past and spoke a good bit of Orcish - something that has been something of an issue in this campaign, as many of the NPCs we have encountered only spoke common. [ed: this is slowly being rectified, as Cunnin is having Tuska teach Raph and Justice common while she's learning Orcish] Some drinks were had and ultimately negotiations were made for them to stay in town and stay there for the evening.

There were some friendly jabs thrown back and forth between party members as the orcs had some drinks and decided to unwind. After butting heads with Justice, Cunnin decided to retire early and went upstairs to his room with Tuska - giving the young girl further lessons in orcish and instilling in her proper tribal ethos.

Downstairs, Justice had a bit much to drink and wound up having a long heartfelt discussion with Raph. Taz watched on, nursing his own drink, somewhat bewildered by the whole thing. As the discussion heated up downstairs, Justice was spurred to action with the realization - we need to have a group meeting!

Cunnin was roused from his slumber and stumbled down the stairs. After a brief but fruitless attempt to explain to the bartender the concept of coffee, Cunnin settled down with his pipe and the strongest "you woke me up for this shit?" face he could muster.

Justice poured forth from his weary heart all of the concerns and confusions from their journey together so far. Ultimately, the discussion boiled down to: Who are we? What are we? Cast from their previous tribe, their relations were unknown. Justice was all but cast out from the original tribe, effectively an exile. Cunnin's reasons for leaving were largely unknown and Raph was just following Cunnin. Taz? We're not sure. When we met him he was having an intimiate moment with a tree he claimed was a dryad just moment's before we showed up. We're never sure about Taz. Then we have this human child. What is she to us?

Are we a group of people who just happen to be traveling together? Are we a tribe?

After some time, Cunnin finally responded with this: That in his mind, they had been a tribe since the moment they set forth - that everything he had done thus far had been about the tribe, for the tribe. And even that he counted the tiny human as part of their tribe now. She is ours. She is part of us.

Some further debate reconciled the remaining issues. Born of the priestly caste, Justice had a need for structure and hierarchy and finally appointed Cunnin Orkis Inter Pares, Ork Among Equals and defacto warboss when they were on a raid. At other times, they would settle matters via egalitarian tribal democracy, with each member of age (sorry Tuska) having a vote, decided by majority.

With those basic agreements settled upon, Taz voiced a concern about the limits of Warboss authority within an egalitarian electoral tribal leadership. If the time came and someone had to lay their life down for the tribe, would the warboss be allowed to give that order? To decide who lives and who dies?

In response, Justice rose. "I don't think you understand what's going on here. I need you to understand how important this is, the kind of sacrifice you need to be willing to give for your tribe. Cunnin. I need you to cut my eye out."

Taz did a double-take and began to argue "No, that's not necessary. That's not necessary at all."

Cunnin already had the dagger out, as though he had been half-expecting this. He got a jug of the strongest liquor Bjorn had behind the counter -- a purplish liquid that smelled like turpentine and had so many Xs on the bottle it was unclear if they were a rating of potency, or a WWII plane-style kill count. It was labeled only as The Good Stuff™. Cunnin rubbed the dagger down with the drink and then stuck it in the fire, letting it get red hot.

Meanwhile, Taz argued for reason against this course of action. Justice argued back, consumed with both determination for his tribe and religious zeal - for he would sacrifice an eye to make himself in Gruumsh's image, sealing the founding of our tribe with the Unsleeping God's blessing.

The dagger prepared, Raph was given the order to hold Justice still. Justice was given several deep drinks of The Good Stuff™ and Cunnin offered him his belt to bite down on. Taz appealed once more, now to Cunnin as Warboss but was rebuked. "This is going to happen. If you don't move, I'll take your eye out instead." Finally, Taz backed down and the deed was done. With a sizzle of flesh and a quick, deft motion, the extraneous orb was removed from its housing and Justice immediately began to shake and foam at the mouth.

We threw him down on a table and held him in place, keeping the belt in his mouth so that he couldn't swallow his tongue. After several long moments, the seizures passed and he came to.

"I h-had a vision. I know what Gruumsh wants from me now.."

And then he turned suddenly and wretched all over the table.

With that, we decided to turn in for the evening. It was now too late into the night to find Doomsday Dave before daybreak. We made arrangements with the bartender to keep our presence in the city more or less quiet and then retired to our rooms to sleep off the excitement.

[Ed: This was such a ridiculous and amazing session. I wind up having to gloss over so much of it in the write-up because it wound up being 90% in-character dialogue. What was probably meant to be a quick pit-stop in the Inn turned into three hours or so of solid role-play as intra-party conflict was played up, brought to the surface, and ultimately resolved. This is the kind of glorious scenario in which it might seem like nothing happened and barely any dice were rolled.. but the sheer quality of the role-play was brilliant. And the best part? It is developing from a premise about orcs being murder-hobos doing murder hobo things. Half of it is just a string of inside gags and out-of-genre references..and yet, I left this session more psyched than I have been from a game in a long time. This is why I play these games.]

Until next time,

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