Adventure: 3-4 Quick revision of Orient Express, and bad DMing for 4th

We played last night, but admittedly, it wasn't very good. I am going to skip over the last playing session, which turned out really well! It took place on the Orient Express, for that session was light, I just had to create a train full of NPCs, and create a few mini adventures if the PC's solved my story quickly . . . which of course they did. The PC's reclaimed the stolen gem, which was their objective. The lady who originally stole it was murdered on the train, and it was up to the PCs to find clues and determine which NPC on the train murdered the woman and took the stone for themselves. It turned out to be Fu Manchu's second in command, Karamaneh disguised as a Geisha. They fought her, and she was forced to escape empty handed. They also encountered the writer Percival Lowell and an African Hunter named Augustine Hall who are both members of "Der Watchmen"

Like I said, that adventure went off without a hitch! I was fully prepared and knew exactly what I was doing. This time around it was a terrible mess. The game was just disorganized, to my credit, I didn't know about the game until Friday, and by that point my work schedule was too crazy to do any prepwork what so ever. To make matters worse, I was under the impression that only 2 of my 3 players would show up. (I did not call my forth player as I had given her an objective to complete on the Orient, she was running an NPC and I needed this NPC to infiltrate the Players and spy on them . . . instead she chose to stay in her cabin the entire time, all the while doing nothing but disrupting the game)

My objective was to get the players up another level so that they could survive the next part of the storyline. I had no idea how I was going to do this, as if it was just the two of them, then I'd only have 7 total party HD to work around, as it turned out, my 3rd player DID show up, so all of my plans for playing with just the two of them was thrown right out the window. I HAD NOTHING!!!!

I did have some story objectives to work with. Mr. Lowell and Augustus met Abraham Van Helsing at the depot, meanwhile two members of the evil party which they will eventually have to face were also waiting at the depot to meet the lady who stole the gem from them in the first place (whom was now dead) Van Helsing quickly spirits them away with his party, as he is interested in the story that is taking place, and the PC's really need an ally in this story.

He takes them to a secluded cabin in the Romanian mountains, and we do a nice role-playing session with him. The PC's learn the facts on the cabal known as the Black Hand, and find that they fight the Red Death, but there methods are insane, to save the world they feel that they must destroy it.

Van Helsing identified the gem, it is the battery that powers an artifact that if it falls into the hands of the Six Fingered Hand, they could use it to destroy the world. Lowell was traveling to meet with Van Helsing in regards to reporting Fu Manchu to his attention, nobody is quite aware of what he wants with London, however Helsing is already too preoccupied with studying a certain vampire who he is convinced is the Prince of Darkness himself.

Through this session I did learn a few things about how my players were feeling towards the game. They are feeling severally over-whelmed, the great race has just started, and they are already feeling that they need more help then what I'm willing to give them. They were hoping to recruit Van Helsing to their cause, which is something that I DON'T want to do. I don't want an NPC to win this game, that is the Players job. I do have to rethink my methods, and outside of the game I let them know what this whole thing was about, which I have kept a secret from them. The game is a task that one would expect from an Indian Jones adventure, an ancient artifact of great power that wants to be discovered, and 3 seperate parties (two of them evil) fighting to claim this object.

I did decide that Van Helsing could become a more important part of this quest, none of the characters are experienced with monsters, and Van Helsing can give them experience with how to handle things confidently.

I had recently picked up a Ravenloft module which is consisted of 8 or 9 stories that take place with the character of Van Richton, it took very little effort on my part to turn him back to Van Helsing, whom he is based on. Unfortunately I had only gotten a chance to briefly skim through the mini story, and didn't have any grasp on it what so ever.

Players can sense this kind of stuff too, my disorganization and having to flip through books all the time really screwed up the game. The action scenes were awesome!!! But everything in between sucked big monkey balls. Players spent more time talking among themselves then playing. BAD DM!!!!

Meanwhile . . . back at the Ranch! Smoke could be seen in the distance, everyone got into the carrage and raced to the smoke to see if they could help put the fire out but it was too late. A farmer could be seen crying as his house was consumed by fire, his wifes dead body as well as his two daughters were dead and burned.

The Farmer said that gypsies did this because he had caught a gypsy boy stealing one of his chickens and he had gave him a thrashing. Now they have burned his house to the ground, killed his wife and daughters, and to make matters worse, stole his son!

The party helped the man bury his dead, and vowed to help him get his son back. They found the gypsy caravan camped in the road at the bottom of a valley. The caravan was HUGE!!!! About 30 members all told. The players had to devise a plan to steal the child back, there were about 9 different wagons, Van Helsing suggested that the boy was probably being held in the center most wagon.

My PC's were smarter then what the module gave them credit for. They didn't attack, it would had been 30+ gypsies vs. the 7 of them (The farmer refused to attack, but sure as hell wanted them too!) They devised a plan were the gunslinger (Shannon) hid under the carrage, Van Helsings two assistence drove the wagon, and the Detective (Ricky) and the Medium (Tala) pretended to be newlyweds trying to find their way to Bucharest. Percival and August worked their way down the valley to cover the PC's with their rifles in case something happened.

It didn't, the players infiltrated the gypsies, who were suspicious and discovered that they had been double crossed, there WAS no child kidnapped by the gypsies, and now, the farmer who said such was gone. The gypsies had nothing to do with the house fire, or the death of the woman and her daughters. The female leader of the gypsy tribe told them about a darkling named Largo who means to destroy their tribe. She charged the PC's with hunting him down and killing him, as now he was no longer a gypsy, but a monster, a creature of darkness.

Darklings are pretty kick ass villains, they are gypsies who have made a deal with the devil for extra power. VERY dangerous! Thankfully, this Darkling hasn't been a darkling for long so his powers are kind of muted.

The PC's made their way to an ancient graveyard where the Gypsy lady told her that he was staying (the gypsy said that she was forbidden from hunting him down herself, as it would destroy her soul, but other then that she would say nothing as to why she refused. In fact, this Darkling is her son!)

It was during this phase of the adventure that really shocked and excited me! I had always been under the impression that these Masque Characters were really weak compared to their core rules counterparts, but this is the first time that they really proved their destructive capabilities!

I had my high level NPCs stay back, they would stop the darkling from fleeing if he got away, while the two low level NPC's followed the players as monster fodder. One got attacked by a giant spider, but surprisingly made his saving throw and survived the poison attack. They blew the spider away in one round! But that really wasn't what impressed me. The Darkling's main attack is to summon a Grave Elemental, a particularly nasty monster with 40 hit points, AC 0, and does 4d8dmg with a THACO of 15. It was suppose to be only hit by +weapons, however I waved this rule as the party didn't have any and the summoner was very new at it. It was it's first summoned creature. It got to attack first, and chose to cast SINK on one of my fodder NPC's, who sunk into the ground and was instantly lost. To the PC's credit, they rolled AWESOME!!!! When dealing with guns, if you roll a 6 on a d6, you get to add it to your dmg and reroll it again. They were able to blow that badass away in two rounds!!!!! It got only one attack which it missed, because I rolled a 2. It was aimed at Shannon's gun slinger, and it if would had pounded him, he in all likelyhood wouldn't had survived.

With that creature dead, all that was left to do was get the darkling, who blew most of his hitpoints summoning the creature, they found him with a thorn sticking out of his heart (he had a ring of regeneration, so sacrificed himself to summon the elemental) he tried to run, but he didn't get far before Shannon blew him away.

The Gypsies collected his body and took all magical items that he was carrying (certainly wasn't going to just give them. I've got a hard enough time dealing with their talents as it is) and they headed back to the cabin out in the woods, with plans to return to Bucharest soon.

And that was our adventure! It was terrible, I have been focusing too much energy on the blog, but I am going to rectify that! I won't ignore this place, as I really like it, but I have to manage my time better. DMing my games should come first.

The outlook on the game is looking good. My old lady is changing rotations at work, and I may be getting 2 new players out of the deal . . . COOL!!! We might make a full fledged gaming group yet! Currently we are sitting at 3, but 5 does sound like a good number.



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