Friday, March 20, 2015

The Saga of Majenko Part One: Finding The Main Character In "Curse of The Crimson Throne"

Say what you will about adventure paths, they provide an adventure that any dungeon master can run. Some DMs use them because they don't want to do all the hard work of plotting (since these noble storytellers often have day jobs and real lives), and others use them because it's just reassuring to know that a team of professionals bolted this beast together for maximum player enjoyment.

One of Paizo's older adventure paths is Curse of the Crimson Throne, and for those of you who have never heard of it, the books pre-date the Pathfinder system. They were originally written for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. While my group is closing in on the end of the adventure I'd like to relate to you the story of Curse of the Crimson Throne's true protagonist.

His name is Majenko, and this is his story.

What's up, bitches?
Additionally, this story has now been posted in its entirety. If you want to hit all the chapters in order, here's an easy-to-navigate list.

Part One: Finding The Main Character of "Curse of The Crimson Throne"
Part Two: How Much Damage Could One Pseudodragon Do?
Part Three: Scourge of The Red Mantis
Part Four: Blood Pig Champion
Part Five: Brother to The Shoanti
Part Six: The Assault on Castle Scarwall
Part Seven: The Return to Korvosa
Part Eight: Re-Taking Korvosa
Part Nine: The Assault on Castle Korvosa
Part Ten: Down With The Queen

The Setup

For those of you who have never played Curse of the Crimson Throne, the adventure takes place in the Varisian capital city of Korvosa. It's a corrupt place, from the sky-bound ghettoes of the Shingles where men and women live in squalor among condemned towers to the floating warrens and gambling dens where ganglords and bully boys ply their trade. It's a city full of dark corners, shadowy intents, and where anything can be had for a price.

It's like Gotham City, but with magic.

Enter the party. We begin with three members of the town guard (a human of Shoan-ti descent named Karanthiira, and her more experienced colleagues a human paladin named Armitage Poe and his partner a tailed tiefling rogue named Egil Skinner), and their acquaintance a cleric of Shelyn named Durai. The first session they arrest a local slum lord named Gaedren Lamm. All of his associates are put in manacles, and he himself is beaten to within an inch of his life before being cuffed and brought in on charges, complete with evidence.

This gets our DM's attention. Not only are we choosing to go with the flow of being town guards (something we knew was going to happen anyway due to meta-knowledge), but we're pretty serious about not killing people. This focus on capturing people and proving they've committed offenses continues through two or three more opening side quests, until our group is given a sensitive assignment.

What's The Job?

Our party is tasked with going to an area of ill repute in Old Korvosa and meeting with a criminal figure known as The Spider. He has three barges moored offering illicit services, and we need to go there on the down-low to acquire politically salient information from him so we can then blackmail a foreign politician to ease up off the city's back.

Remember how I said Korvosa was a lot like Gotham, but with magic?

Pictured: a good neighborhood in Korvosa.
Our paladin has left the party, but in his place we've recruited a broad-shouldered barbarian by the name of Arum Eld (a fellow who went by "Spatters" down at the docks). We take the bribe money, leave our badges at home, and proceed to the ship looking like any other band of heavily armed thugs out to score something illicit and dangerous.

We find the ship without a problem, and we even manage an audience with The Spider. He says he'll agree to talk business if we play a game of knivesies with him. Karanthiira volunteers, and steps onto a table with a hapless underling tied to her wrist. She handily slams him off the table, winning the game and giving us our opening to talk with the lord of the floating ghetto.

Where Things Start To Go Sideways

Spoiler alert for anyone planning on playing this adventure path. When you first walk into The Spider's chamber you see a pseudodragon slumped in a hanging cage. Korvosa is rife with pseudodragons, so his presence isn't all that unusual. The little fellow is telepathic though, and begs members of the party to rescue him as he's being made to fight giant spiders to the death.

In case you forgot who the bad guy was in this scenario.

Egil had become party leader because with his partner's transfer he was now the guard with the most seniority, and he'd used his high intelligence to pick up levels of magus. Magically inclined and naturally skulky he was the most obvious choice for the pseudodragon's plea. He told Egil his name was Majenko, and that he needed help to escape. Egil waited until Durai (the face of the party) had completed the negotiations for the damning documents we'd been sent to get. The Spider's cohorts had lost interest and the rest of the party was getting ready to leave when Egil asked The Spider whether he'd be willing to part with the pseudodragon.

The answer was, of course, no.

Wrong answer.

Letting The (Pseudo)Dragon Off The Chain

Negotiations quickly fell apart when it was made clear the only way to get this pseudodragon away from The Spider was to fight him and all his men. So Egil, being chaotic good and not wearing his badge, pulled a smokestick out of his belt, tossed it under the cage, and then parkour-ed up the wall to open the lock.

Chaos, as you can imagine, ensued.

We were outnumbered two to one, and no one could roll high enough to take down the crew (we were only level 3 or 4, after all, and hadn't come loaded for bear). I get the cage open, but rather than fleeing Majenko decides to enact revenge on his captors. Our DM hands me the monster manual and says, "here, those are his stats, you run him for this fight."

So I did. Did you know that pseudodragons have a sleep venom that knocks out enemies for 1d4 minutes on a failed save?

We totally do.
All of the high numbers I'd been missing started showing up for Majenko, and because his stinger was lashing out from within the smoke cloud he had concealment. The first enemy takes a single point of damage, rolls a 1 on his save, and goes down. The next round his companion steps over the body, gets stung, and goes down. Rinse and repeat. The barbarian comes back in swinging, and crushes one of the villain's skulls in. The cleric, wielding a reach weapon, manages to trip some of his enemies who are handled by Karanthiira. Even Egil manages to get a few good licks in, though he came away bloodied.

The Spider ran below decks. At final count two or three of his men were dead, but all the others were sleeping. It appeared that instead of rescuing a tiny victim we had instead unleashed a flying, house cat-sized ball of pure, envenomed vengeance. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor we straightened our cloaks and walked out as if nothing had happened. Majenko flitted onto Egil's shoulder, kneading the leather and chain until he was comfortable.

That would have been so much easier if you were dragons, he said, laying his head down. But you did pretty well.

Things only got stranger from there...

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