Part 13: Session 10.5: Plunging the Depths
Session 10.5: Plunging the Depths
So where are we going?
There’s a thieves’ guild in town that’s apparently doubling as some guy’s private revenge army, so we’ve decided to go look for them in the sewers for shits and giggles or something.
I’m just glad we’ve got some sort of plot to follow for once.
Various sewer drains can be found throughout Riva (this one is in the middle of the market square), but it’s not until after speaking with Tarik that the game lets you climb down, and it’s not until you clear the graveyard that Tarik shows up. In fact, it’s not until you explore the sewers that the next event fires that finally tells you why you’re exploring the sewers at all. Plus you won’t believe how many times we’ll get sidetracked in the future.
Let’s wait until no one’s looking before we dive in. Don’t need any odd stares, after all.
Anybody got some graph paper?
I don’t get it.
What now, William?
This sounds a lot like a modern sewer. I was expecting, you know, something more like the Paris catacombs, or whatever it is they had back then.
A four-way split? Does anyone mind if I write this as a 10 foot square?
I thought the catacombs were where they buried all the dead people from the Black Death.
Yeah, they buried them in the sewer since there wasn’t any room anywhere else. Kinda funny, since the bad sewer system is why everyone caught the plague in the first place.
Sounds like you’ll appreciate a character I’ll be introducing later. Let me just say for now that there’s a good reason why Riva has a modern sewer system.
Hang on, let me get caught up here…
Riva is built on the side of a hill. this tunnel drains the upper chambers into the lower chambers. Oh yeah, and before you get any further…
Pest control aside, any job that lets you bring a flamethrower to work is a good job.
The figure takes off his helmet. “I’m the rat-catcher! Let the rats and me pass!” He puts the helmet back on, presses past you and runs after the rats. Once the ratter is gone, you hear the eerie sound carry back to you from the distance again.
Where is he taking those rats?
That was fucking metal. Can we go see him later?
No really, what would he do with all those rats?
Maybe he’s holding a head-biting contest, where the Ozziest contestant gets to use the flamethrower for a day. My dwarf would totally kick ass at that.
Anything else going on down here?
Don’t ask me how a pterodactyl got stuck underground. I don’t know.
Let me mark that down here.
The tiny T is one of the very few markers that appeared without my help. I’ve also labeled the exits out of the sewers, and as you can see, the minimap for this area is almost completely worthless. To know what the T is standing in for, you move the mouse over it to see the following:
I guess the game is as confused by that thing as I am.
After you wander some more, you come across a bridge that leads nowhere.
I search for secret doors.
Actually, with his Intuition score, William should roll this one, too.
What? Oh yeah, right. Here. *Roll*
Abruptly, William stops and checks the southern wall. He takes a good long look, and realizes that there must be something concealed there. Hal, your dwarf searches the wall systematically, and your hand eventually finds an illusory brick. You hear a small click when Hal throws a tiny switch.
Hang on, an illusionary brick? Damn, I’ll have to remember that trick next time I’m playing a wizard.
When have you ever played a wizard?
I’ll get around to it sometime. Where’s the secret passage lead, anyway?
The slum? That’s not very exciting.
It’s more of a secret exit than a secret entrance.
Boring. So, are there any other pointless bridges that mark secret doors?
Yes, actually. And it’s fairly close to where you spotted the monster earlier.
Shall we, William?
You don’t find anything.
You didn’t even let us roll!
Trust me, you don’t find anything.
Wait, is that it?! We got our ears talked off, met the guy you wanted us to, explored every inch of the sewers, and the only way forward you show us you refuse to let us use?! Come on!
The campaign book recommends showing you certain things in a certain order. It’s not my fault!
You could have changed it!
Alright, but it’s too late to do that now. So you can just, I don’t know, wander around the town some more. The next part will happen there, don’t worry.
Before you do that, can we go visit the rat-catcher?
Yeah, I still wanna hear why the sewer system is like this.
He lives in a shack over by the bridge. Conveniently, there’s a grate just outside of his house.
Sounds more grunge than metal.
Grunge douches don’t use flamethrowers as a pest-control product. “Ach, laddie, ya be a human after me stone Headshoots heart. What be yer name?”
“Um…Xebbert Dürbann, city rat-catcher. What can I do for you fellows?”
“I was thinkin’ it’d be mighty fine a’ you tae lend me that flamethruwer so me lads and I cauld cleen out tha sewers fer ya.”
“Is that really your accent?”
“A’ caurse it be me accent! How else d’ya expect a dwarf ta talk?!”
“So! Erm, what do you do, rat-catcher, aside from the obvious?”
Thank God. “Oh, I wasn’t a rat-catcher originally. Back in the day, I was more interested in alchemy than anything else. In the course of that, I discovered—by pure coincidence, but it was the only thing I ever discovered—an odiferous agent rats find irresistible. Since then, I’ve been a rat-catcher. There’s a real need for them, you know. I’ve even had callers from several other cities trying to lure me away with their offers!”
I don’t suppose he’s sharing recipes?
“Professional secrets, sorry. Who knows what sort of profit I could make from it! Anyhow, it’s hardly noticeable for humans, but rats simply can’t resist its pull!”
So what’s up with the sewers?
“You like them? For a port city, Riva is remarkably clean. Normally, rats breed extremely fast so close to water. But the city took up several of my suggestions on expanding the sewer system, and it pays.”
“Do you know anything about the secret doors we found in the sewers?”
“Mostly I know about where the rats are and where there’s hardly any left. I doubt you’d be interested in that, though.”
We should try asking him about the stuff Tarik told us about while we’re here.
That’s right. “So, um, rat-catcher, do you know a certain Tarik?”
“The whole town knows of Tarik. He’d been active as a thief and fraud for years until someone managed to prove his crimes. Since his quite peculiar trial, he’s been working for the judge. At the same time, he still has excellent contacts with the guild. So he’s definitely a double agent; I leave it to his superiors to decide which side he’s on for real.”
“He told us the guild uses the sewers as an escape route fairly often. I don’t suppose you’ve seen them?”
“Oh yes, I know all about them. About how that Lothur fellow became a bit too successful, and his competitors banded together and conspired against him, but then he escaped the hangman by going underground. Within weeks, he’d become the lord of all the city’s lowlifes. Within half a year, all the traders involved in the plot were ruined, and not a few of them committed suicide—and word has it the trademaster gave at least some of them a hand with that as well.
“Yes, the guild members retreat into the sewers when they’re chased. I meet them every so often down there. We tend to keep apart as much as possible and not get in each other’s way. Every now and then, I have to lead a guard squadron down there, but those yokels make such a racket the guild members are long gone by the time we get anywhere, so the guards never find anything!”
“So you’re covering for the guild?”
“The city corporation knows all about my involvement, but the councilors also know I can’t afford a fallout with the guild, not if I want to keep my head. So I have to lead a guard squad through the tunnels every now and again, purely to save face.”
What about that monster we saw? How’s he avoiding them?
In response, Xebbert pulls out a sun amulet. “I haven’t met any spooky creatures yet, but I’m wearing a consecrated charm that keeps all unnatural forces away. Given how many guard patrols have disappeared down there, I’d say my ignorance is proof enough that the amulet works.”
This is fun and all, but can we get back to the plotline now?
“Before you go, I’d like to mention that I can offer delousing showers. The rat lure isn’t the only chemical I’m familiar with.”
This is the middle ages, after all. I wouldn’t be surprised if all our characters were crawling with parasites.
Ew. Ew! We’re getting one, right now.
“That’ll be one silver each!”
Can we bargain that down?
It’s one silver. Each. That’s not even an entire ducat.
Still, we should at least bargain with the man.
“I make hardly any profit as it is. I need the money to buy the necessary ingredients.”
Maybe he doesn’t need to use that many ingredients.
He—oh, fine. You manage to convince Xebbert to recalculate the number of ingredients he uses, as little sense as that makes. You get a discount of one bit each. Congratulations, you talked his price down from 7 silver to 6.3 silver.
Xebbert has built a remarkable contraption: with a small hand pump, he draws some fluid from a big cauldron above an open fire into a hose that leads to a shower head. A second, smaller cauldron contains clear water for rinsing. The shower head is set above a wooden basin with a lot of holes in the bottom. “The solution mustn’t stay on the skin for too long, so it has to be able to flow straight out,” the rat-catcher explains. He then pulls a curtain around the shower and the basin underneath. “Who’s first?”
When Belle has sat down in the basin, Xebbert calls out: “Close your eyes until I tell you to open them again!” and starts pumping. The fluid is itching and stinging on Belle’s skin, and it is also far too hot—hopefully, the vermin feel the same about it. Shortly afterwards the stinging subsides, lukewarm water flows from the shower, and the procedure ends. While Belle towels off, Dürbann asks for her clothes which he first beats out carefully and then dusts with a small atomizer. Then he beats them out again and hands them back through the curtain. Once she leaves the curtain, the rat-catcher gestures toward the basin. “Next, please!” The whole procedure is repeated until all of you are clean. You all take one point of damage from the hot water and get a temporary +1 to Charisma.
That’s it? Seems awfully involved for what we could get praying at the booze temple.
Xebbert’s bonus lasts a lot longer. Days, in fact.
You still gonna call him “grunge,” Alex?
Does he still look horribly ugly? Then yeah, he’s still grunge. He’s just the smart guy in the group who knows what good hygiene is like, but doesn’t bother with it.
Are we done here?
Yes, you’re done here. In fact, as you’re leaving,
Can I try to calm him down?
It takes you quite some time to calm the man down enough to answer your questions. Even so, he just blurts things out: “Ariana…she’s dead…murdered! But why…I mean, who’d have a reason to…who could have…” In the end, Tarsinion—that’s his name—leads you to the scene of the crime so you can draw your own conclusions.
The scene happens to be the white house just outside the side entrance.
At last, Tarsinion goes off to alert the guards. Are you going to take the opportunity to look around the place?
Why did you ask that as a question?
Gotta find out where the vampire is coming from, after all.
Elven vampire. There’s a difference.
Why would there be a…wait, why does the phrase “elven vampire” seem familiar?
I believe there was one back in the graveyard. You remember, we took those non-magical golden amulets off of it?
If it makes you feel better, the Druid was already done before you guys even showed up. So when you search the house, you can’t find any clues about the identity of the killer. Mind you William notices a small seam in the cellar wall. Without encountering the least of problems, he opens a secret door. Shortly afterwards, Tarsinion returns with a squad of guardsmen. The squad commander seems quite taken by his own importance and announces he will open an investigation. He takes down your statements, before asking you not to interfere with his work any longer. Basically, he’s kicking you out.
Should we tell him about the secret door?
Nah, let him find it on his own. Can we come back later and find out where it leads?
Yes. It goes to the sewer.
Finally, a good reason to be there.
Hate to break up the conversation, but I really need to get going. All this conversation has taken up some time, and I need to catch up on my sleep.
All right, everyone, let’s pack up. And next week, finally, we can start searching the sewers.