I run Vornheim as a city sandbox and to start things up, each character begin the game with a random patron that want to hire the group. This give the characters a bit of background and a first useful contact. I also randomly place each patron on the map to favor the exploration of the city. Each patron offer up quests that point toward dungeons and adventuring location and they can also ask the group to search a random neighborhood for something or someone. Naturally, players are free to accomplish those tasks or not.
- Dominic is playing Morigan a taciturn fighter working for a war mage.
- Sylvain is playing Gaspode a specialist witch hunter contacted by the city spymaster.
- Annick is playing Madelaine a magic user hired by a scholar who study demons.
- Sébastian is playing Cobradye a cleric of the cult of the fallen stars.
The group mapped it way in the city and visited the contact of Madelaine, a scholar that was once possessed by a demon and who is now obsessed by them. The group accepted one of his task: to steal the book of Immutable Movement in the House of Snails. A book that is believed to mention the location of the Immortal Zoo of Ping Feng.
The group explored the city and ventured into the House of Snails. In the city street they made some interesting encounter but Madelaine died while trying to rescue a fellow adventurer from the city guards (but the rescued adventurer, a boyish female rogue, became their first henchmen). In the House of Snails, the group vanquished a giant snail god, but Cobradye was devoured alive by this slimy false god. After two sessions of exploration, the group was able to acquire the book of Immutable Movement and choose to leave some parts of the snail temple unexplored.
- Annick rolled sister Erzebeth a zealous cleric of Vorn devoted to the Cathedral of Iron.
- Sebastien rolled Cosimo a elf from the south that want to work for snow elves.
The group mapped more of the streets of Vornheim while selling their loot and delivering the book to the demonologist scholar. Along the way they made contact with a gang of halfling chimney sweep, a northman blackmarketer and a lizard woman outfitter. After receiving their reward for the snail book they decided to contact the city spymaster's agent.
To gain the trust of the spymaster, they have to hunt a spy that went rogue while trying to infiltrate the three witches cult. The group learned that the rogue spy was a faithful worshiper of Vorn that was cursed into the service of the witches. Erzebeth decided to try to save the rogue spy instead of killing him. To do so she asked for a scroll of remove curse from her superior at the Cathedral of Iron. Father Corgane entrusted Erzebeth with a holy scroll written long ago by Saint Mortimer. But he also asked Erzebeth to find the lost crypt of Saint Mortimer under the city sewers.
Armed with the holy scroll of Saint Mortimer, the group headed toward the rogue spy's apartment. But on their way they encountered a noble covered in human skins. The noble and his human hounds were busy skinning someone alive in a cold street. But Erzebeth charged in. The fight was tight! The group planned well they overcome his henchmen and reduced the mad noble to 1hp, but in the end the dice were with the skin collector and he triumphed. Each character were reduced exactly to zero hp (so not dead, but all at the skin collector mercy). This was a intense fight!
I rolled to see if the city guard were alerted by the fight, but it was a miss, so the characters ended up being at the mercy of the mad noble. We considered the encounter a total party kill.
Jaben Vorolax, the skin collector:
(strongly inspired from a illustration in the book European Civil and Military Clothing)
Since Dominic was absent during the total party kill session. We started up the next session with Morigan looking for rumors about the fate of her companions. Also we rolled up new characters.
- Sylvain rolled a new specialist: Lennox a rogue who had been contacted by the city guard captain.
- Annick rolled a new cleric of Vorn: sister Brigitte, a close friend of sister Erzebeth.
- Sebastian rolled Milo a halfling also contacted by the captain of the city guard.
So Brigitte asked father Corgane to let her leave the cathedral to try to find out what happened to sister Erzebeth. Father Corgane also tasked her to bring back the holy scroll of Saint Mortimer and if sister Erzebeth was dead, to bring back to corpse.
The new group eventually meet up during their respective researches. The group used the city map to make some contact and eventually moving from contacts to contacts they managed to find a bounty hunter that knew the location of the skin collecting noble: the Vorolax manor.
So I wrote up a dungeon for the skin collector manor and the following session the group ventured into the Vorolax manor. They discovered that the noble family worshiped the boar headed demon of Vornheim in the form of the punishing cursed son of Vorn. They also discovered that the family was sewing human skin leather armors to be use by assassins of the cult of the three witches.
Brigitte found the holy scroll of Mortimer on the family corrupted altar of Vorn. But taking the scroll from the altar cursed Brigitte and her tongue rusted in her mouth. Now she can't speak and can only cast spells by touching. The group killed many members of the Vorolax family but they dint encounter Jaben, the head of the family. Also they din't find out what happened to Erzebeth and her two companions. But they decided to leave the manor while they had the holy scroll.
Brigitte delivered the holy scroll to father Corgane, she asked him by writhing to remove her curse. But the father blamed her for her lack of faith and for not bringing back the remains of sister Erzebeth. He told her that she have to atone herself in the eyes of Vorn by finding the strength to cast bless herself on the corrupted altar.
Brigitte is now determined to purify the Vorolax manor by blessing or by fire...
Morigan is also starting to ear the calling of Vorn.
Exploring the House of Snail was great, but the campaign became more interesting once Annick decided that her cleric character will save the cursed spy instead of killing him. I also like how the story is emerging from one bad random encounter and how mapping the streets make the city feel real. Basic but still great stuff, I am really enjoying this campaign.