I wrote an email to Alex, the player of the hapless gnome in my post from last year, telling him that things would soon be returning to the city that still haunts his nightmares. He wrote back:
So naturally I extend my deepest condolences to your campaign, I'm sorry to hear that it will soon be ending. I hope the scouting my gnome did will give your players a slight advantage, allowing them to squeeze out a few extra painful days of existence before their inevitable gruesome deaths.
Pass along these City State tips for me:
1) Don't go out at night, under any circumstances.
2) If you must travel in the city at all, stick to covered walkways
3) If someone catches you doing something illegal, shank them and run (paying attention to tip #2)
4) If you get caught, do not represent yourself at court
I wish you guys luck!
Turns out, we needn't have worried. The dice behaved themselves this time around, at least insofar as screwing people over.
The party had made for the City State to spend some ill-gotten loot. Their first adventure consisted of a d20 module I lifted from a latter-day issue of Dungeon, in which they explored a trapped pirate treasure trove (ala Goonies) while simultaneously unraveling a mystery surrounding the pirate crew's descendents and shapeshifting spider-people called aranea. That's the theory at least. Like a good group of D&D characters, the group displayed only the barest level of interest in the plight of the secret forest village and pretty much high-tailed it out of there as soon as they'd figured out a way past the traps and into the treasure room.
(Oh, and taken on a hydra. Only the fact that it was still drugged from spider venom and more interested in escaping back to the forest prevented a TPK. Nonethelss, Rumple Wumpkin was knocked down to 1 hit point. This is how we learn, I suppose. And now there's a hydra loose in that part of the forest. Ex-cellent.)
Laden down with gold, in the middle of the orc-haunted Dearthwood, the group decided to bury about a third of it in case they found themselves in need of fleeing for their lives at some point in the near future. But the dice were kind to them even in the wilderness, and the worst they had to endure was a three-day downpour and a near brush with a giant crocodile.
I can't write too much specifically about the many seeds that were to be planted once the group arrived in the City State, since at least a couple of my players have access to this blog and are known to read it. So you, gentle reader, will have to wait as long as my players to discover the fallout from Rumple Wumpkin joining a cult in a drunken haze (the only clue in the morning being a pendant of a gauntleted hand squeezing out a drop of blood), or of the elven wizard-assassin Beezlebub's romantic liaison with the dancer at the Cup and Dragon, a certain "Allura" (hint: not her real name).
(Both these incidents, by the by, arose because of Jeff Rients' awesomely fantastic "Carousing Mishaps" table; the PCs had made for the City State specifically because it offered the best odds for cashing in their gold pieces for experience points. Unfortunately, both R-W and Beezle rolled an "11" on their d12x250 roll and way overindulged.)
We ended the session with the group bravely crossing the City State diagonally from the southeast to the northwest--they were making for the Sages Guild to get some questions answered. Of course, part of the fun of the place is the fact that just stepping out for a spell can be an adventure in and of itself, and sure enough, our intrepid group found themselves subjected to an ambush courtesy of a band of goblin miscreants sniping from some eaves at the top of a ramshackle building on the aptly-named Street of Maelstroms. The group made it out with a nicely-placed sleep spell, but not before Des's character, a halfling cleric of the moon goddess, took two criticals. Ouch! The City State would not be happy until it received its blood sacrifice.
As for the next session, the group is thinking of looking into taking up a ransom being offered to clear out a basilisk problem at the Naughty Nannies bordello. The role-playing opportunities in that boggle the mind. Then there are my own secret devious schemes that will hopefully be set into motion as well...
Ah, I love the City State!