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A Wild Cat Chase

Since January of 2021 I’ve been the DM for an online campaign of Dungeons & Dragons 5e. This is the group which got me back into the hobby at the very start of the pandemic.

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What’s amazing about this run is I hadn’t set out to run an almost two year campaign. Our pandemic campaign had just come to an end and we were looking for something else to do. I’d just completed developing a one shot for my neighbors in the vein of of a Hallmark Movie adventure. In fact, it was one of the players from this group which came up with the umbrella term for these kinds of adventures, “Howlmark.” After I ran the adventure for my neighbors, I decided to take a step out and run it for this group. They agreed. When we finished the adventure I asked folks if they wanted to explore a bit more and they said, “Sure.” The journey was a lot of fun.

I had zero clue where this campaign was going to go. All I had were some basic threads, most of which were set up in the one shot.

  • The evil Copperheart Mining Consortium was still operating in and around the town of Woodbern, where the one shot took place. So the party was going to be tasked with investigating what their actual goals were.
  • The actual Copperhearts were warlocks who had Krusios, the god of conspicuous wealth, as their patron.
  • There was a ruined town south of the forest, located in a dead zone, which is where the Copperhearts had set up shop.
  • The party’s Paladin was from a different branch of the Copperheart family which had remained devoted to the old God of the Dwarves, Labbaesh.
  • The party’s wizard had been left with her Aunt while her druid parents departed the area with their order to combat some unknown evil. The parents never returned.
  • Krusios had no priests. Only warlocks.

And that was it, really. At the start I dropped some hints that the Copperhearts had discovered a mithril vein under the forest, and wanted to mine it dry even though it would be an ecological nightmare. The real purpose for this mine would have been to dig up something important to Krusios’ goal of regaining the power he’d lost when the pervious empire had collapsed. In addition, I had two of the local kingdoms sign a peace treaty, which freed up the party’s home kingdom launch an expedition bent on reclaiming territory which had been abandoned during a massive climate shift a few centuries earlier—their town would be the home base for this. I also introduced a cult of goblins who’d become life-domain clerics who worshipped “The Shiny.” My thought is they could have served as an interesting bridge between the parties bent on war.

None of these plans worked out, however, because the party fixated on another thread I put into play, that abandoned town which didn’t seem to be all the abandoned any more. Once the party went that direction all the other plans fizzled.

The party had a lot of assumptions about this town, Mithdrin, and the Copperheart’s role in it. All of which were wrong. Mithdrin was really a smuggler’s town, resettled by folks who either couldn’t, or didn’t want to, pay the port taxes levied by the local governments. It was a way-stop for ships making the long journey to the more populous regions of the continent, and was filled with raw materials. The town was not the lawless space the party assumed it would be. In it they found a both viable town watch and a functioning local government which was actually rather angry with the Copperhearts for drawing land-side attention to their little haven. This was a shock to the party, who’d gone to the local Copperheart Offices and tried to kill everyone, only to discover this was frowned upon.

The Mithdrin sequence may have been the most fun I had running this campaign. I got to make a huge sewer crawl, introduce the last original resident of the original town [1], and run the most bizarre chase scene I’ve ever witnessed. This is a story which needs to be told.

During the party’s raid on the Copperheart’s office one of the local bigwigs managed to escape the building and take off out into the streets. The rogue, heedless of danger, bound out in pursuit. To make this more viable he decided he’d get on the rooftops and pursue from there. As there was a one story building near by I said, “Sure, but it’s going to be tricky jumping the gap and climbing to the two story building next to it.”

He rolled low, and did a Wile E. Coyote off the side of the building. This move drew the attention of the town guards, who ordered him to stop.

Back in the house the party cleric heard the guards shout and bolted out of the office, running in the opposite direction. This split the guards, about half went after the rogue, another half went after the cleric. The party’s druid decided to stay in wild-shape form and also followed the cleric.

At this point the paladin and wizard strolled out of the office and headed to the market to get something to eat.

The rogue managed to follow the fleeing Copperheart for a bit, until he ducked down into a side street and disappeared. He’d ducked into the back of a local tavern and I expected the rogue to ask some questions before his pursuers caught up. And he did. “OK, so what do I see here?”

I looked at my map and said, “Well, there’s a few of those boarding houses that a lot of the dock workers and sailors live in, the back of what appears to be a tavern, and a laundry.”

I figured the rogue would head straight for the tavern but, to my delighted surprise, he said, “Awesome, I need to change, I’m going to the laundry.”

This fascinated me and I described that the laundry had a line out the front door, where people were dropping off their clothes to be washed, and a rear door from which the workers were coming in and out. The rogue declared, “Oh, I don’t have time to wait, I’m going to the back door.” After a few really good rolls for social interaction, and excellent role playing, the rogue got his bloody garments into the wash and was directed to a clothing store on the boards near the harbor, “Chauncey’s Exotic Goods.”

We then switched back to the cleric, who was running. I offered her a couple off-ramps, including a mysterious figure who called her to come hide with her [2], but the cleric said, “I ignore this and keep running!” No one had any clue what her plan was and she wasn’t sharing.

The druid then asked me, “What do I see.” And I described the scene as best I could. It was a street with buildings in various states of repair, and he could hear the sound of hammers ringing as the rebuilding work continued. People were doing various daily chores and the streets were relatively busy. But one detail I mentioned drew the druid’s attention. His voice perked up in chat as he asked, “Wait, did you say there were a lot of cats?”

Now, I forget what spell the druid cast. I think it was friendship with animals, but I’m not certain. All I know is, the druid shifted back to his firbolg form and a few seconds later had a small army of cats at his disposal. These proceeded to pursue the guards, who were in turn pursuing the cleric. In the end, the cats pulled the famous “I will charge at the stupid human’s feet at the most inopportune time” maneuver and sent the guards to the ground. The cleric got away, which was a tad bit upsetting for her because she’d intended to run until she couldn’t go any further and then surrender.

Oh well.

While this was going on the wizard and the paladin were munching on goodies at the market, though the blood stains on the paladin’s armor were making folks uncomfortable.

The rogue’s player had been surfing google images this whole time and by this point declared, “OK, so my move is to be so conspicuous people won’t pay attention to me, so I wanna look like Prince.” In our discord he shared an image of Prince wearing a purple outfit with a wide brimmed hat, all of which had leopard fur trim. Chauncey was thrilled with the order [3]

The party managed to find each other and the wizard, who’d grown tired of the stares people were directing at them, told the paladin he need to wash them off. In response the paladin decided to wade out into the harbor in his armor, which did not react well to the salt water and sand combination.

And that’s where we’ll end part 1. Things got weird from here.

  1. An elf who’d lost some social graces over the years of solitude and was living in the sewers while running the “Mithdrin Historical Society.”  ↩

  2. This would have been the introduction of a faction opposed to Krusios’ plans.  ↩

  3. I also requested these assets from the BeNeverEnding app, and they put them in. So if you see leopard print stuff there and wonder what on earth it is think of our Rogue, Biggs.  ↩

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