Adventure Notes #7: The Lisbon Affair

Finally, after a month, we got to sit down and play a game! I'm telling you, I was going through some serious withdraws!

I had a hard time prepping for this thing, I was thinking in such a large scale and totally pyching myself out, that is something that I'm terrible with. With prep, it has to be done in steps. There is no sense in prepping an adventure too far in advance. Doing it can burn you out quickly.

Thus, I chopped up the entire adventure arc into three separate pieces, which will lead up to a grand adventure that I'll be using a module for. Getting there is half the fun, or at least it should be. This session I took the PCs by ocean from London to Lisbon, Portugal. I prerolled random encounters and just prepped what I needed, I ended up ignoring a fight with a giant octopus because it was just too much. I also wrote up a time table of events that would take place during the days. This always seems to work, keeping track of NPC's can be a huge pain, writing down key events that will take place gives you just enough prep to improvise.

Most of my key events revolved around a monster who has yet to be exposed, or fully realized, infiltrating the crew. It attacks random people, these random people were determined during the prep stage, and, since the goal of the monster is to keep things quiet as possible, I still have to make things fair so I quickly roll up the battles to. Only one victim won Initiative, so the shots fired gave the PC's a clue that something spooky was happening. It worked out really well, and I'm not forced to railroad the game by just writing down events that are going to happen.

It is really hard to DM adventures on a ship. On land, PC's generally stay close to each other, and ignore many of the NPC's, but on the confines of a ship you've got NPC's all over the place, and all of them are known. The PC's also aren't going to hang out in the same rooms at the same times. As the adventure ran, two characters took the night shift, and two took the day shift. Plus this was the first leg of the game so folks aren't all on the same page or fully into character yet, so running combat encounters didn't run as smoothly as they could have, but ran smoothly enough. I do have to figure a way out to keep these voyage days more smooth.

Once we got to Lisbon, everything changed. Every DM knows that an adventure is always flawless and perfect until you allow PCs to enter the picture because they'll muck it all up. It's just the law of D&D physics! Normally my PC's are pretty good, they all know that as far as THEM Vs THE WORLD is concerned, they'll get the short end of the stick every time. This time, however, they screwed up from the get-go.

My actual Lisbon City prep was minimal. I drew up a rough city map and only placed the position of the hotel they'll find to rent a room, and the badguy house which was their job to destroy. Other then those two things, it was just a bunch of blobs with the districts so that I could draw buildings as I went. I fully mapped the badguys house and keyed it. I always wanted to run were-rats, so that was the monster. I rolled up my major villains, threw in a member Si-Fan (an organization that they know all about) and the rest I just sat on and thought over. I thought about little things, like "How did the rats get the building?" "What business dealings do they have with rival factions?" "What is the structure and inner workings of the gang?" Millions of questions of stuff that I didn't think that I would need, but as it turns out, I am really lucky that I did!

If this had been a published dungeon, the PC's would had blown it wide open, but because I was able to account for millions of little details I was able to react seamlessly.

Now, as written, I assumed that the PC's would break into the safehouse, scope it out before they blew it up. You know, get a feel for the place, look to see if there is any loot to be had before blasting it to hell. Well, as it turns out, something like this never even entered their minds. Not once! They just wanted to torch the place and get going.

Well, maybe I should back up. I wanted a more Cloak & Dagger feel to the game, so I introduced a MOLE inside of the PC's chief rival, The Six-Fingered Hand. He gave them personal information about everybody who is on the team which has the same goals as the PC's, that of obtaining an artifact. The MOLE requested that, as a sign of good will to him, that they destroy a building. The PC's had no idea what this building was, and they just took it from hearsay from some guy walking past the place, that the place was spooky.

The house itself was a safe-house for an global criminal organization that calls itself PRIME. The Red Death has taken over this guild and filled its ranks up with wererats. These wererats practically run the city. The fact that the MOLE wants this place destroyed begs more questions then what it answers.

Now, the PC that was a demolition expert hasn't been able to make it to the games anymore, thus I created a backup plan. The rats have rigged the place to implode at a moments notice, small reinforced holes will give them time to escape if they need to burn and destroy all of the evidence. The guild steals nothing but junk, looking for information. They make most of their money by producing drugs. Si-Fan was there on this day to secure a large shipment of Opium in exchange for a chemical that they need to manufacture a drug that they can introduce into the water supply that would make all of the humans slaves to the rats (an idea influenced by The Red Death) Because of this security system, the PC's didn't need to use any TNT what so ever! But of course, they didn't enter the place to see this, they just went out and procured 30 pounds of explosives, with a plan to blow the place up from the outside and get the heck out of Dodge.

Well, this plan would had worked . . . kind of, and aright boring as it is, however one of the PC's, for whatever reason, decides to chuck a brick through one of the windows to see what would happen. I guess that he was expecting somebody to come out and yell at him or something, but instead, it just alerted the rats that an enemy was afoot.

The MM says that ratmen can only dominate 1d6 giant rats, well this is boring. I gave them the power to dominate ALL of the rats in the city. They can't see what they see, but they work as spies for the group, millions of little spies running unnoticed through the city, and able to by pass almost any security that one can think of. The PC's weren't expecting this, and had no clue that they were constantly being watched. The PC that threw the rock quickly caught up with the other PC's, thus telling the rats who to watch. Because they insisted on buying TNT, they ended up unknowingly buying it from PRIME, they were just getting deeper and deeper into trouble and they didn't even know it until they realized that almost all of the stuff in their pockets was gone. Checkbooks, money, bullets, keys, any little item on their persons were up for grabs. It was a nightmare!!!

To top it all off, PRIME gave a bad tip to the cops which claimed that the ship that the PC's were using was smuggling opium, so the cops ceased the ship, since it was too late to really search it, they just closed it off and guarded it until the inspectors could enter it the next morning.

Finally they realized that the longer they go without doing SOMETHING, the worse off for them it is going to be. But they don't make any logical decisions, their plan was to set off a keg of gunpowder that they were able to steal off of their own ship, and use to to blow away the back wall of the house, while they entered the front. I had given them a great henchman, a 1st level midshipman who was essentially an empty slate, they could had turned him into something special, but unfortunately, they gave him the job of lighting the powder keg, and needless to say, they got more bang then what they expected. I honestly thought that at least 2 of them would be dead. It messed them up good! But surprisingly didn't kill them . . . well of course the midshipman wasn't so lucky, but Shannon and Josh took the brunt of the explosion and somehow managed to keep 3 hp, and the funniest thing was that the two healthy PC's took off running like a couple of school kids, leaving these guys to try and limp away!!!! Oh, I was laughing my butt off!

Needless to say, the Rats didn't have a hard time rounding them up to demand compensation, the leader of the rats was assassinated right there infront of the PC's, and the other rats just walked away.

Next adventure will take us from Lisbon to the Azures Islands.

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I use AD&D that has been modified over they years.


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