March 2, 2015 | by Kimberly Fletcher
Rogue Ramblings: Catching Cats in Kings Landing

There are many times in a Rogue’s life when being on one’s own looks more promising then being in a group. I think that is true for most classes. While you hope the logic “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” rings true, it’s not often the case. Each player has their own agenda, personal game play and then each character has it’s own goals. This can result in conflict, misunderstandings and often uncomfortable game play.

It had been 3 days since our battle with the Diamond Queen. Our efforts in the conflict lined our pockets with 15 gold each and a little more time in the town of Dead Peak. Over the course of the 3 days  a small band of Legionnaires moved into the city walls and a much larger army of orcs encircled Dead Peak from the north. This time allowed me to take a closer look at the Keep, which held exactly what I was seeking- The Vault. The Vault was found at the center of a basement corridor with only one way in, and watched by 8 well armed guardsmen of Dead Peak. I sat back and observed the rotations of the Vault and then started to devise a plan. While I had my attentions focused on The Keep, Jack Crow, our mind wiped Ranger, explored the town and sent his crow to do recon on the orc army surrounding us. C.A.T. our gnome cleric visited the only temple in the town walls. With no cleric in the town, she took to cleaning and returning the the multidenominational temple to its former glory. In a chest in the basement, C.A.T. discovered a gem the size of her hand (remember gnome hands) that when touched she is overwhelmed by calmness. It was a Gem of Gods and Goddesses, when a cleric casts a daily divining spell on an ally that ally also heals 10 hit points. Mike, our GM took a moment and reminded us all that we can have a limited amount of magic items in the game based on our level. If we carry more then our current level, a quirk will manifest itself – in this case C.A.T. may insist on courtesy at all times, even where none is required. Her brother Garren received his “huge” book about the history of area, which he takes to studying with great fervor. Garren is also presented a gift from the High Wizard, a Spell Thread Shirt. It has a recharge effect of 11+, when he cast a spell that targets himself he also charges the shirt with this spell. When the shirt is charged he can activate it as free action to gain the benefits of the shirt for 1 round (the spell must be one that lasts for an entire battle). Interestingly enough, the shirt takes on the appearance of the charged spell – so a water spell will give your shirt scales like Aquaman. The quirk of this magic item is that Garren will be compelled to change his hairstyle and wardrobe to compliment the shirt. Which is very “gnomish”.  This leaves ASH and Arima.

OrcASH, our brazen monk decided to see what the orcs want. While they have surrounded the town, they have made no act of aggression towards those inside (and no contact either). Arima, our tiefling druid, takes this opportunity to tag along. They are met under a flag of truce by Scrag Brimclaw. While the orc leader is under the impression that ASH and Arima are there to discuss surrender terms, the duo makes it clear they are there to “see what’s going on”. It comes out that the orcs are demanding the return of a magical ax referred to as “Elf Cleaver”. Legend has it that the ax was lost during one of the last great battles between the orcs and the humans and is now housed within the Keep of Dead Peak. ASH and Arima assure Brimclaw that they are unaware of the whereabouts of the Elf Cleaver and that they will speak to the town about this, however before doing so ASH wants to know how the ax was lost. I (Mia or Kim whoever I am) attempted to point out at this time “Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers”, but was quickly reminded I was not in room to make such observations. ASH seeks to find a way to make a even trade among the two groups – the orcs give the town something they want and if Elf Cleaver is here, then they return it. It is made clear that ASH is not speaking for the town, but will be happy to try to broker a peaceful resolution. Mike, our GM asks for a wisdom role from ASH – which Barak rolls a 14, with a 6 mod. Brimclaw is being truthful with the envoy. The orcs have been told by the Emperor (not the current one, but the one from the 12th Age), that the ax was taken by the humans then lost.  ASH asks if he has any knowledge of the ax. An intelligence base roll is requested from ASH and Arima. ASH roles a 13, while Arima rolls a 1 leading to the joke of her asking “What’s an ax?” Mike takes pity on the pair and states that Elf Cleaver is fairly well know. It was used by the Orc Lord to kill the Elf King the climatic battle of the 12th age and is a magical artifact on par more with Sting than say Excalibur. 

During the night Arima’s mother (the Diabolist) requests that Arima bring her the larger of the red stones, which was taken at the battle of the Diamond Queen. She will be handsomely rewarded if this is done. ASH is also visited in the night. He is left a note from the Prince of Shadows, instructing him to aid his companion in her quest. This of course is very vague, with three female companions in the group. Not to be left out Garren also received a dream message from the Diabolist that he will be rewarded for the large red stone, if he can obtain it.

ElfThe next morning ASH and Arima meet with Bato Farlin, the town’s mayor and garrison master of the Keep, to review the terms of the meeting with the orcs. Bato does not deny the existence of  the ax, and states that it should not be public knowledge that it is within the walls of Dead Peak. Farlin is not open to trade – might be because he is an elf (that whole “elf” + “cleaver” makes him nervous). Arima feels that this trade is their only means of peace. Farlin makes it clear a trade would result in major conflict between the humans and the elves. The Emperor (of this Age) has promised the Elf Queen that it will not fall into the hands of the orcs again. During this time it is unclear if C.A.T., Garren, Jack and Mia (myself) have been brought up to speed on the findings of ASH and Arima. Still there is much discussion (among the players) of other options, possibly sneaking it out of Dead Peak, could it be destroyed in the active volcano and could the orcs be deceived with a fake ax. Nothing can be decided upon, leading ASH and Arima to return to the Orcs for more negotiations.

ASH makes a suggestion to Brimclaw, suggesting that maybe for honor the Orc Lord would be willing to kill himself  to gain the ax back for his people. This seems far-fetched to the group, but again is a possible option to get them out of this stand-off. There is no real information to report and 3 days pass. ASH beings ale out to the orcs as a gesture of good will. He then advises Bato Farlin that they will wait a week for information from the orcs, but he feels they shouldn’t do anything sneaky like trying to get the ax out of the town.

gnomeIn the week – Garren does additional research regarding the ax, but doesn’t find much more in the town except local lore. He also starts to prep ritual magic if the orcs attack. C.A.T. follows Garren’s lead and starts prepping for battle – or at least for the wounded, creating bandages and tunics for the mass casualties.  During this time Jack asks more about the ax and how the orcs know it’s here. Has ASH admitted that the ax is behind the walls? ASH is vague in his response to Jack and it is then asked by the GM if all the information is shared with the group. This again is met with a vague response from our Monk, leaving the question of how much do our characters actually know. As Mia, I feel a lot of the conversation has been kept quiet and information is not being shared, leaving the group to question the motivation of the ASH as well as Arima. It’s uncommon to have such dealings with orcs and it worries the other members of the group. Garren also approaches Mia regarding her knowledge of the vault. She explains that the vault is guarded by 8 men at a time as well as a magical lock. It would seem the only key to the magical lock hangs around the neck of our favorite elf Bato Farlin. Jack suggests that Mia might use her female wiles on Farlin (did we mention he had a goatee? – he does!) – though she isn’t sure if he is into the whole human thing (being an elf and all).

ASH returns to the orcs and we find ourselves still at a standstill. ASH still wants to prevent more bloodshed. Brimclaw talks privately with ASH, making it clear if ASH could obtain the ax for him he could take care of the Elf Queen’s wishes and the orcs would find themselves in need a of a new Orc Lord. ASH is left to convey that to Bato Farlin. While ASH has been working with Bato Farlin, he would rather discuss these matters directly with the Elf Queen herself. He speaks with Arima to see if there is a way to contact her directly. Arima rolls for a 20 – knowledge that anything coming from her (a Tiefling Druid) wouldn’t go over too well. Arima rolls an icon roll of 6 – while we debate our options the raccoon (which I don’t know if I mentioned before, we’ll call him Rocket for these purposes) from our last adventure comes out of the woods and approaches Arima. He has been looking for her – the High Druid wants the red stone destroyed, it is an affront to all things of nature. Arima starts to worry about her Crystal Cat companion, “Is she okay with me having this?” Gesturing towards Simara (and also ASH).  Mia asks, “You mean ASH or the cat thing?” – insert lots of laughter. Rocket states he can help with the Elf Queen. ASH explains for the exchange of Elf Cleaver she can have the Orc Lord’s head. Rocket is then deemed Arima’s “Back-up” companion or as I put it companion with benefits.

rocket-550x281Rocket returns later with information from the Elf Queen for Bato Farlin. She looks favorably upon the exchange, however Farlin doesn’t think this looks good for him if he just hands it over. He feels his people will look down on him for this action if Elf Cleaver is waved in their face by the orcs. It is clear to the (majority of the) group that Brimclaw plans on using the ax to his full advantage as a cultural icon of his people. To make this work Farlin wants to have no knowledge as to how the ax is removed from the vault. While ASH feels that Farlin should just hand the ax over quietly, some of us understand Farlin’s dilemma, this deal places him in a hard spot with the Emperor. ASH attempts to threaten him with the most painful thing he can imagine, – ASH’s intimidation roll didn’t go well leaving his threats blowing in the wind. Garren makes another attempt to gain the ax from Farlin and destroy it without anyone’s knowledge. Farlin is okay with the Monk’s general plan, but will not give up the ax without a spectacle. Arima tries to have one of her woodland creatures capture the key from Farlin – with a good roll, but not enough. C.A.T. inquires if she has the medical know how to knock him out – there is nothing.

What to do with the ax once we get it leaves the group fractured. ASH and Arima want to settle the conflict with the Orcs by giving Elf Cleaver to Brimclaw in exchange for the Orc Lord’s head. Garren and C.A.T. feel destroying the ax in the volcano takes the item out of the conflict. Mia and Jack, while invested in the current events both feel dealing with the Orcs seems to be a bad idea – but don’t lean to one direction or the other very strongly (this is just an observation from the conversations and possible options they have offered as a solution). While Garren and C.A.T. make plans to leave the town and keeping to their convictions, ASH turns to Mia to steal the ax.

Mia approaches Farlin in the privacy of his office with a little Elfin wine laced with a sleeping potion (courtesy of ASH). She understands he has talked with the monk and that he just needs their group to take the ax without …He sips the wine and BOOM! Out cold. Mia takes the key and makes her way to the Vault, where she is met by the rest of the group.  Mia makes no secret that she is unsure of what they should do with the ax, but she has the key to obtain it. Jack, who has been looking for some excitement, joins her in the task of taking care of the 8 guards, while the others who all have more of a vested interest in getting the ax sit silently. When Mia and Jack are about to make their attempt, ASH agrees to help with Arima’s assistance. With no way out of town (orc’s Ring around the Rosie) C.A.T. and Garren reluctantly join the assault of the vault.

img_1696Jack takes the lead in the attack on The Vault, his attack of 19 hits the first guard doing 8 damage. He takes a second attack on a second target – hitting. Mia does a tumble strike (rolling 7) and fails terribly, but is able to disengage her target. Arima takes up battle against one of the un-engaged guards (21). Mia hands ASH the key before he hits with 7 damage against a new target, and Garren casts a shield over himself. He then hits with a Color Spray hitting 4 of the un-engaged targets defeating their mental defense (7 points) and dazing them until the end of his next turn (4 penalty to attack). Arima and Simar take damage in the attack (4 points of damage each), while ASH is able to dodge a strike. C.A.T. casts  Shield of Faith on her brother Garren as a quick action (+2 bonus on AC). She moves towards the door, taking 4 points damage to get there.

The second round finds Jack taking the same two guards on (missing the first), but he rolled even and gets a 17 hitting the second target for damage of 14. This first arrow misses and as it sinks into the door behind the guard he feels a surge of energy flow into the bow and into him levitating him off the ground. He is empowered, but unclear as to its origins. Mia uses her flying blades to engage the guard winding up to hit C.A.T. The roll of 19 hits, causing 17 damage. While Simara moves and strikes with a 17, for damage of 9, and Arima goes after another guard to hit for 9 damage. ASH moves to the door through the dazed guards and unlocks the door to The Vault. Garren strikes one of the guards not engaged, taking him down. ASH is hit for 4 points of damage, while one swings at Mia missing. Jack is struck in the air with 4 damage (call him the pinata). C.A.T. makes a double move to get to the door, which is now open.

Jack rolls a 17 and hits for 14 point of damage, leaving Mia to miss her target giving 2 point of damage. Simara and Arima double team a guard – with only one of them striking damage and the other missing its target. Leaving ASH makes his way into the Vault. He makes a spot check of 23 – he sees the ax, but he is drawn to a scabbard across the room. It’s not fancy, its very plain but he can’t take his eyes off it. ASH attempts to go for both, the ax and the scabbard – his hard save FAILS. He is drawn to the scabbard – its the only thing in this room to  him. He places this sword into the scabbard and they are made for each other. His Max hit point increase by 4 and when enemies attack his mental or physical defense he gains a plus 4 bonus to that defense until an attack to that defense misses him (or the end of the battle) as long as he has the scabbard. While ASH is having a moment with his sword and scabbard, Garren hits the guard engaged with Arima with Magic Missiles taking it down. Leaving 3 to strike – one hitting Mia for 8 points of damage, the other two missing Garren and Jack. C.A.T. who enters the vault and sees the ax. She sees ASH walk right by it and grab a junky looking scabbard. He is clearly enamored  with it. C.A.T. grabs the ax and makes a break for the door and closes it behind her, leaving ASH inside.

With two guards left, Jack strikes one with 19, hitting with 12 damage. Mia hits her guard with a 20. She takes down the guard about to kill her with 15 damage. Simara and Arima both wound the last guard, but leave him standing.  ASH who is out of the vault now (unexplained to anyone else except the DM- via text message) takes out that last guard (its made clear -not killing, but incapacitating him). Garren holds his action, leaving C.A.T. to heal any of the unconscious guards. This action was misheard and we thought that our cleric went all dark killing them all. It was quickly corrected and we were back to happy cleric and not evil Willow. The GM allowed her to also bring back the ones that were dead (courtesy of Mia). The escalation die moves to 3, with Garren’s action being held. After he is assured there was no one else coming – he drops his action. Letting the rest of the group relax, as well as the GM who was worried about a little PvP action coming.

elfqueenC.A.T. holds the ax. Leaving ASH to ask why she closed the door on him. There is silence (nope seriously not a word in the actual room). C.A.T. makes it clear that ASH was stealing something – i.e. the scabbard. ASH does not see this as stealing since the sword was calling to the scabbard. While ASH negotiated with Bato Farlin for the ax he is not stating he feels that he is stealing the ax – they both agree to go back into the vault and return the ax. This completely confuses Jack and probably the rest of the group since we were trying to get the ax to resolve the conflict. We are all asked for spot checks from the GM – all failing. Jack goes into the vault and looks around, while Mia checks out an interesting chest in the corner. The others wait in the hall at  a standstill. Jack keeps his hands to himself, while Mia can’t help but touch the chest. As she is about to touch the chest, an arrow comes whizzing by the others piercing her sleeve to the chest. She looks back to see Bato Farlin at the foot of the stairs with a bow, “take what you need and move along.” Jack and Mia take a moment to think about taking out Farlin, while the others decide to leave with the ax. Before this can happen there is still a discussion to be had. Do we take favor with the Orc Lord and damage favor with The Emperor and the Elf Queen? The weapons cache we are stealing from is that of the current Emperor, though the man in charge of the cache is giving us leave with the ax and (from some reason) the scabbard – we are still stealing from the Emperor (though he doesn’t know we were given the thumbs up to do so). The group leaves the Vault to discuss the “big picture”.

There is still the dilemma of if Elf Cleaver is handed over to the orcs or thrown into the volcano. Jack doesn’t know/remember who he has iconic relations with being an amnesiac, but as a human he feels it is wrong the hand over this magical artifact to the orcs even if they have been warm and fuzzy for the week. Arima feels their behavior is somewhat un-orc-like and they should be trusted – but she understands the hesitancy of the group.  Jack calls for a party vote, but ASH states he is giving the ax to the orcs even if that means he must take the ax from C.A.T. Mia brings up the fact that we could destroy the ax, but Arima explains that she understands then both our debts to the Orc Lord and the Elf Queen go unpaid. This isn’t entirely correct. The debt with the Orc Lord would be unpaid, but if originally the Elf Queen did not want the ax to fall into his hands again she is sated. Garren again points out that we are giving a magical weapon to the orcs – to the Orc Lord directly. That even as a cultural icon it will be a symbol to drive them into a frenzy. ASH does not see it that way – they are not in a frenzy, they have been sitting and waiting for 2 plus weeks for this. Though we still don’t know their reaction once we hand it over. If it’s not the Orc Lord pissed at us, it’s the Emperor. Either action will mollify the Elf Queen when you think about it. What would you do?

It is at this point that Arima and ASH advise the group (of characters) that the Elf Queen is okay with this exchange. This was not relayed to the group previously. Though we were there as players – our characters were not clued in on this detail until it was shouted out in discussion as a counter argument. At this point it is realized we could ferment rebellion in the orc kingdom. We are told to make icon rolls – which in the end has no result on anything we are arguing about. C.A.T. makes another attempt to understand this  “big picture” – from the Emperor’s point-of-view. Again this could put the town in harm. Mike, Mr. GM looking to help us resolve our conflict gives us a world view all our icons to see where we stand on this deal:

Lich King – Could care less

Prince of Shadows – Fine with it

Crusader – Anything that weakens the orcs is good for him

Great Gold Worm – If the Elf Queen has given her blessing he’s fine with it.

Diabolist – Could care less

High Druid – If the Elf Queen okay with it, she’s okay with it.

Archmage – As long as the other items in the vault stay there he’s okay.

Priestess – Wouldn’t want bloodshed.

We in the end hand over the ax to the orcs. ASH takes the ax and presents it to Brimclaw after he blood bonds with him. C.A.T. remains behind with Garren still feeling uneasy about the exchange. While this is taking place Mia slips off to the volcano for some unfinished business. Mike asks for spot checks with an average of 23. Lucky for me I’m sneakier then them. We set off on the road together – not happy, but together. Amira receives a gift from the High Druid for services “rendered” – she no longer has the large red heart.  Ellie and Mike decide this item would be determined at a later time (Mike wanted to do a little research). Mia wakes the next morning to a gift of her own – the Belt of Illusion (recharge 16+). The belt works like the wizard spell disguise self, altering her appearance by cloaking her in a magical disguise. Unlike the spell, it disguise her as a specific person without penalty. There is a leather pouch on the belt, and the illusion is based on whatever is place in the pouch. The more personal the item the better the illusion. It lasts 10 minutes. The quirk: Insists on elaborate systems of passwords and magic words to defeat rival shapershifters and dopplegangers.

My feelings about this go round concern the difference of being in the room as a person (the player) and not being in the room as a character. The divergence can be alarming and detrimental to the tasks at hand. If players are being true to the role-playing aspect of the game and their characters (no matter how fleshed out they are) are keeping these knowledge strings separate it can make conflict when others players are playing as an omniscient character.  Melding the two playing styles can be like catching cats in Kings Landing, you need a skilled hand maybe even a dancing instructor. That is the the duty of the GM, to maintain the integrity of the strings. That said I feel that for myself this session was a learning experience. I will find myself asking what I know more often and inquiring what others have told me before my character makes the decision to act.

Kimberly spent years as an agent for MI-5, a consultant for Fringe Division and an adviser for the Torchwood Institute in London before walking away for a quieter life. A Master of the Art of Google-Fu she now spends her days being un-extraordinary in a field of cube farms creating magic with her black-box. Kimberly settled in the Northeast region of the United States with her tinfoil hat husband, Mad Dog, to raise their family of Super Villains. With a degree in film-making, a love of photography and art she fights the evil Stepford-wife urges to become an ordinary soccer mom.

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