AvocaD&D and Tabletop Gaming Thread: Murder in Skyway, Week 3

Welcome back to the weekly D&D and Tabletop Gaming thread!  Here’s a place where we can talk about Dungeons & Dragons or any other tabletop games that you nerds might be into.  Tell us about the games you’re playing, speculate about future expansions, recruit your fellow Avocados into new groups, whatever you want.

NPCs

Discussion topic for this week: NPCs!  NPC means non-player character; any character that appears in your adventure and isn’t controlled by one of the players is an NPC and is played by the DM.  This includes all of the monsters, the main villain of the story, recurring allies and quest-givers, and every merchant, blacksmith, and innkeeper in town.  Most of the time, the DM will focus on developing the backstory and personality of only a handful of the NPCs whom the players actually interact with.  A good villain is much more important to the story than the woman who runs the local apothecary.  On the other hand,  a colorful shopkeeper can turn a between-adventure shopping session into a memorable experience for both the players and DM.  NPCs can also be used to patch up holes in the party makeup.  A group of spellcasters might need some hired muscle, or a party of soldiers might need some arcane or divine support.

How do you create an NPC?  Do you start with a name and a job and then build up from there as you play?  Or do you write out a full character sheet like for the players, even giving them class levels and abilities?  Was there ever an NPC that your party unexpectedly fell in love with? As a DM, do you have a favorite NPC or character type (eg, the shady informant, the gloating villain, or the too-eager follower) to play as? 


Cast of Characters

The AvocaD&D group is currently running through a set of Eberron adventures, DM’d by Josephus Brown. The player characters (all at Level 2) are as follows:

  • TheCleverGuy as Cybin Stoneswift, a Hill Dwarf Wizard who’s singularly obsessed with the study of various forms of mushrooms
  • Otto (our only non-Avocado party member) as Magz, a Changeling Rogue, a native of Sharn familiar with the city’s seedy underbelly
  • The Wasp Woman as NRS-K80, a Warforged Cleric who discovered a passion for healing after serving as a living weapon in the Last War
  • The Hayes Code as Cassidy Cody, a Tiefling Bard who makes a living busking in the lightning rail stations with the talent passed down to her from her Pa’s deal with the devil
  • Wafflicious as Pizzazzle, a Dragonborn Druid who just wants to clean up the planet so it’s fit for consumption by the all-powerful Nexu
  • Spiny Creature as Aina Nistor, a Half-Elf Monk who wears the red hood of the Blood of Vol, a religion that worships no deity, but rather the divinity within all mortals
  • Sister Jude the Obscure as Orana Coratash, a Kalashtar Barbarian who’s hiring herself out as muscle to local adventurers
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This week’s recap comes from none other than Cybin Stoneswift, the Dwarven Wizard.1

At the Halflings' House Party

After we’d cleared up that business with the shifter in the train station, I thought it was time I got out of this city and back to my research.  I was about to leave, when I got word from the others–that police officer… Carol?  Karen? Anyway, he wanted to talk to all of us again.  Apparently the shifter we helped capture was found dead in police custody.  Poisoned. The official story is the shifter…Yuck, I think was his name.  They say he killed himself, but Officer Karel was suspicious.  He sent a package to one of the others that contained all of Yuck’s personal belongings, and a note saying to meet him at the station to talk about something. The group met up before heading over to the police station to see what sort of belongings the shifter had.  We found an enchanted brooch, with an insignia of claws on it, which Aina claimed. And there was a handful of potions–one was a potion of growth and 2 were healing potions. Magz and Cassidy took the healing potions, and we let Orana keep the growth one. (I was curious about how that worked–I believe there’s a certain species of mushroom that’s red with white spots that would have a similar effect.  It’s in my notes somewhere…) Where as I?  Oh yes, and there was also about 100 gold pieces that we divided evenly among the 7 of us.  Incidentally, that nice robot lady wasn’t around, but I think someone kept her share to give her later.

After dividing up the loot, we made our way to the station to talk to Officer Karl.  Apparently, the shifty shifter had been singing like one of those small yellow songbirds before he died.  Said he was hired by Clan Boromar to be at a certain location and kill any courier that happened to come by and take their delivery. They must have known the specific letter they wanted would be in transit.  Officer Carrots felt sure that old Yurk was killed by the Boromar clan, so he wouldn’t spill the beans, but they were a bit too late.  The shifter had already handed the message off when we caught him, and House Orien wanted us to get it back.  They figured it was in our interests to help them, since we may be targeted by Boromar as well.  It was no secret we’d been involved with finding Yak.

HalflingOnDino

So, we were told that the Boromars were throwing a soiree at a villa out on the Plateau.  Some kind of cultural outreach thing, where they’d be showing off the food and art of the halfling tribes from the Talenta Plains.  We should talk to an informant at a bar called the Zephyr for information. So we gathered our things and set out for the Zephyr.  Turns out the bar catered almost exclusively to halflings, so our group stuck out like a sore thumb.  But we found the informant–Tybalt?  Teeball?  Something like that.  He told us the letter stashed at a villa called Far Hearth, where this soiree was going down.  The place was well guarded, but we could probably sneak in during the party.  He offered us a map of the place for 40gp, but Cassidy talked him down from 20.  mapThe map had a layout of the first and second floors, and showed a few other points of interest.  Like a certain desk upstairs that was certainly trapped, and the possibility of a secret door in first floor hallway.  Trumbull said the letter was most likely being kept in the basement, but he wasn’t sure where the basement entrance was.

The first thing we needed was a way into the party.  Orana thought we might be able to sneak in through the sewers and went to the city planning office to find the layout.  Magz went and met with some unsavory connections she had, and discovered the catering for this gala was being supplied by our old friend Big Monroe (or was it Menlow? You know who I mean, the halfling mob boss). Pizzazzle said she knew someone who might be able to forge some invites for us, but we’d need to get our hands on one to be sure.  Luckily this party was the talk of the town.  Cassidy and I tracked down an invitee who was only too eager to show off how rich and important she was by waving around her invitation at every opportunity.  Cassidy tricked her into showing us her invite, and I got a good long look at it.  When we met with Pizzazzle’s forger friend later, I was able to conjure up a pretty good copy of the invitation for the forger to imitate. In the meantime, Aina spent some time hanging around outside the villa, noting all the possible entrances and exits to the building, the movements of the guards and tribal warriors on the premises, and such.  There were a couple of large wooden crates filled with fireworks in the back; apparently there was a show planned.

The fake invitations looked really good, so we thought that’d be our best way in.  But we had to look the part.  Magz and Cass could both disguise themselves easily, so they both posed as wealthy human socialites.  Pizzazzle turned herself into a small lizard and hid in Cassidy’s pocket, and Orana could easily pass herself off as Magz’s bodyguard.  Aina put on some ceremonial robes from her monk order and pretended to be a foreign visitor from Karrnath, and I just bought myself a decent-looking suit.  I know enough about Talenta Plains to pass as an academic interested in the native flora and fauna. Toadstool I also let Aina hold onto Toadstool, my frog familiar, in case we got split up.

As we entered the party, the guard at the door checked our invites, but we breezed through with our excellently forged documents.  We scattered into the house.  Aina asked some pointed questions to determine that upstairs was off-limits except by special invite from the head of Clan Boromar.  Magz and I started conversing in the hall, near where we thought the secret door should be, but our cursory glances couldn’t see anything we needed a distraction to get a close look.  Cassidy provided that distraction when she pretended to be drunk and fell into a table, knocking everything over and letting Pizzazzle out to run around and cause more of a ruckus.  While that was going on, I found the secret door and Magz and I slipped inside.  We found a small elevator room, with a halfling-sized mechanical person, holding a switch.  We’d been told this was trapped, but we couldn’t find any obvious traps, though we could tell the statue was articulated so it would move.

In the meantime, Aina had wandered outside and climbed a tree to get in through a window on the upper floor.  She quietly made her way to the master bedroom and found the locked desk, but she needed to Magz to disarm the trap and open the drawer.  Since she had Toadstool, I could check in on her periodically, so when I saw she was upstairs and needed help, I started letting everyone know to find a way up.  Magz could easily become a guard as long as she could get her hands on a uniform, so I started wandering around to find a lone guard we knock out.  I thought if I found a good mark, Magz could knock him out and take his clothes, while I used one of my special mushrooms to make it look like he never left his post. But as I wandered into kitchen, I was spotted by Large Mango himself, who immediately recognized me from our prior dealings.  Though he was suspicious, I was able to convince Mango that I really was actually on the guest list, and he seemed content to let me wander after that.  I went back and found Magz and told her she could pretend to be me and walk right past the boss and up the servants’ stairs.  I found a quiet corner to hide in, stripped down and let Magz take my identity for a bit.  In the meantime, Orana had followed Aina up the tree, and Cass had bribed a couple of urchins in the alley to distract the guards for her, so she and Pizzazzle to could sneak up the back stairs as well.

When she arrived upstairs, Magz found a servant’s uniform and changed forms into a servant.  Then she returned to the main floor as a servant and found me, returning my clothes (and nearly giving me a heart attack). Then we made our way back upstairs once more. We were finally all back together, in the master bedroom where the desk was.  Cass sang a little song to inspire Magz, who expertly disarmed the trap and picked the lock at the same time.  Inside the drawer, Magz found a couple sets of books (one legal, the other not so legal), a small ring with symbol of Boromar, and a small key.  Both the ring and they key had some kind of enchantment on them, but no one knew what it was.

Meanwhile, Aina and Orana had been listening to someone having a private conversation in another room on the upper floor.  They couldn’t really make out what was being said, but once it seemed like the coast was clear we all crept into the library.  As we went in, another of those small statues, like the one Magz and I had found in the hidden elevator was there.  It woke up and started to politely ask us to leave, since our presence was unauthorized.  As Aina, Orana, Cass, and Pizzazzle all started to back slowly out of the room, Magz put on the ring from the desk and the statue immediately deactivated.  Now we figured we had a way to get past through that secret door and probably down to the basement.  But first we had to get back down to the main floor without being noticed.  Magz, still posing as a servant, escorted a “drunken” Cassidy–as if she had been found where she didn’t belong.  Pizzazzle was still in lizard form, so she could just hide with Cass.  I decided it would be safer to follow Aina and Orana back out the window and down the tree. I’m still pretty spry for a Dwarf of my age.  That tree was farther from the window than it looked though. Thank goodness that Aina was there to break my fall, or I could have gotten seriously hurt.

Now all we needed was a distraction big enough to let all six us sneak into the hidden elevator.  Aina found those urchins again and suggested that it’d be great fun to set off the fireworks early…

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