Behind the Screen: March of the Phantom Brigade session 10

Monday night I sat in my study preparing for Wednesday’s session of Encounters. Unfortunately, I was dwelling on the negative. I was disappointed in my ability to get the players to connect with Splintershield in the first half of the season. If I had, then his death would have been more than just a plot device; it would have inspired the players to have their characters live on the edge in defense of their home(s) instead of just going through the paces of the adventure.
This week sets up the rest of the season and is integral in getting the players to buy in to what happens (or could happen) at the climax. If I do this right, it will result in a much more satisfying conclusion to thirteen weeks of work. The challenge for this session is to make sure I role play all my ideas instead of merely turning the first part of this encounter into an info dump. Here is what I planned:

I wanted to try and put a bit of a twist on why it took Faldyra so long to unearth any useful information. I decided that she was able to find most of her information from Nezzit, the foremost scholar and historian of Vladistone’s day. Up till this point she did not realize that Nezzit was infatuated with Oldivya, and therefore chronicled Salazar’s exploits in a negative light since he had Oldivya’s heart. Nezzit’s entries fit with what Vladistone had been doing to the people of the Nentir Vale for most of this year.

Today, Faldyra discovered a secret tome hidden in Nezzit’s desk that is still in The Great Library. In the secret volume, he kept track of the things Salazar really did. The ways he acted bravely and with great honor were accurately recorded there, but they were always tainted with sarcastic digs like “goody two shoes” and how Salazar’s honor and bravery were only acts to dupe Oldivya into loving him.

He blamed Salazar for her death and continued his smear campaign against Vladistone until a few weeks before Salazar’s death. That is when Tomas Alderson of The Silver Company got wind of what Nezzit had been doing. He met with Nezzit and regaled him with tales of the couples’ love and the tragedy of Oldivya’s sacrifice to save Salazar and the others at Castle Inverness. While incredibly selfless, forfeiting her life was easy since she knew they would spend eternity together in the Raven Queen’s realm.

The story touched Nezzit, and he wished to set the records straight and even seek Vladistone’s forgiveness. Sadly, the next day the silver company headed to the monastery where Salazar met his doom. Details of his death are sketchy in both the secret and the public journals. The few remaining entries are filled with despair. Other historians noted that Nezzit left Hammerfast without warning one night and was never heard from again.

I also added in another journal found in the desk. This one is titled “Salazar Vladistone, a True Hero” but the pages are blank. I hope that Faldyra will get Niveus, the party scholar, to take the tome and record the rest of the story. I have plans for this journal in the weeks ahead, so be sure to check back and see how it goes. How the players take to the opportunity I present them will dictate how the rest of the evening unfolds. If things go great at role playing, I anticipate it taking a lot of time, so the combat portion of the night will be as written and should be quick which will balance out how time consuming the front end of the night was.

Along came Wednesday night and things at the table went well. I think the players liked the additional story details I added but I came perilously close to it turning into full info dump, so I adjusted and skimmed over some of the info about the arrow of time.

When Vladistone followed the party to the monastery most of the party fled inside, but our cavalier graciously offered to accept Vladistone’s surrender. Even though this was done for comic effect, it got the ball rolling on communication between the party and Salazar. During the exchange the party managed to get Salazar to agree to a 12 hour cease fire while they investigated the monastery with the promise of returning him the arrow. All season long most of the party has been looking for a way to appease Vladistone instead of destroy him, so I think they are happy for this chance.

One interesting note that Wizards will be glad to hear, in the previous several weeks we had an influx of high school aged players. Two or three of them have been playing on a rotating basis for a month. Most of that time they filled in the table for missing players, but I believe for the rest of the season we may have a full house since everyone seems excited to see the adventure through to the end. Although it will make the culminating battle impressive, I will be investigating ways to speed up that combat if we have eight players.

Adam Dickson

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