“Wanna do something fun with (insert NPC here)?” one of my players messages me before the game. “Yesssss,” I respond, always eager to incorporate my players’ ideas. And that’s how this session came about, with that 30 second conversation my only real preparation for the session, because, uh, I’m me and detailed session prep is not my jam. But sometimes really fun stories can come from off-the-cuff remarks.
Alkar, elf mystic
Max, halfling bard
Zavin, human paladin
Mordora, tiefling warlock
The City of Pearlmouth, on the Coast of Splendors
The Docks and Mercantile Districts
The Story So Far:
Having arrived in the city of Pearlmouth, our adventurers promptly decided to go on a shopping spree – a new city meant new markets, and new markets meant new goods. They also looked for some promising local real estate, in which to establish their new (albeit possibly temporary) homes and businesses. Mordora set out to purchase a beachside tavern and turn it into a tiki bar, without much success. Alkar bought an abandoned farm past city limits that he could turn into his new gunpowder workshop.
Zavin, hailing from Pearlmouth, was able to guide them with regards to the neighborhoods and districts they explored, though many things had changed in the two years he’d been gone. While they were trawling the marketplaces, they heard behind them a loud, shrill, “Is that my Zavvie?!” Turning around, they came face-to-face with Zavin’s ma. The paladin turned a bright, deep red and had to explain to his friends that when he’d left Pearlmouth so long ago, he hadn’t exactly told his family that he was leaving – he hadn’t told them anything and they’d believed him dead the past two years.
Alkar eagerly accepted her dinner invitation on behalf of the entire party – free food was free food, after all, even after Zavin informed them that Ma was not exactly what you’d call a good cook. She hurried off to prepare things, stealing frequent glances back at her long lost son as she went. Passing the time until dinner, the rest of the group tried to get a grip on what was going on in Pearlmouth. An uneasy truce had been signed with the local thieves’ and smugglers’ guild, and while it was holding, neither party was especially happy with the arrangement. It was clear that the Thorn members would prefer to get back to Silverrun sooner rather than later, and the smugglers would just as soon have them out of their hair.
When dinner came around, Ma had prepared a lavish spread, with the help of her other son, Ron, and his wife – Zavin’s new sister-in-law. The meal itself was a tense affair, with Zavin refusing to reveal where he’d gone or what he’d been doing in his time away, and Ron glaring at him for leaving his responsibilities behind here. Ma seemed to be peering over Zavin’s shoulder out the window, as if checking to see if someone was at the door. When asked about it, she just said that one of Zavin’s old friends would be stopping by.
This was certainly news to Zavin, as all of his old “friends” – his former smuggling crew – had been killed at the same time as he’d been driven from Pearlmouth. Soon after, a knock was heard at the door, and they all turned to see who it was. A lovely young brunette woman walked in, and it was indeed one of Zavin’s old smuggling partners – Vanessa. The paladin refused to say much to his compatriots, exchanging terse words with Vanessa. He discreetly cast a Zone of Truth over her, but she didn’t say anything that would implicate her or indicate any misdeeds. Zavin noticed that she had not appeared to age or change at all in the intervening two years.
When dinner ended, Zavin cast Hunter’s Mark on her so that she could be tracked through the city. He made his excuses and the entire group left quickly so they could find out more about the mysterious woman. Max and Mordora pestered their stoic friend with questions, but no answers were forthcoming. They followed her most of the way across the city, meandering through unfamiliar streets. Eventually, they realized that she was making her way towards a tall stone tower of relatively recent construction – Zavin did not know it, nor had it been in the city the last time he was here.
She entered the tower and vanished somewhere inside. The party snuck up to the tower, making sure they weren’t being observed, and then checked the door she’d entered. It was unlocked. They opened the door and walked in – and found themselves in a small, plain stone room, far smaller than the size of the tower’s base. There were no other doors besides the one they’d walked in. They soon figured that there must be some kind of magic shenanigans going on here, and they exited the room.
Mordora flew up on her broom, while Max cast Fly on Zavin and Alkar. They tried to look into the windows of the tower, but they were protected by magical shielding – or, you know, curtains. Zavin attempted to break the stone at the very top of the domed roof, but only managed to shake off a little dust and stone chips. Giving up on entry at this time, they instead decided to talk to some of the obvious student wizards milling around the tower.
They discovered that this was Planar Collegium, a wizarding school reputed to rival even the esteemed Dominion Hall in Silverrun. They also recognized the name as a recipient of many donations from Suncastle Enterprise – a suspicious but possibly innocuous link with the Faith of the Seven-Faced God and the Montclair Mercenaries. These shadowy organizations had too many connections not to be working together in some way, but they had no real proof, and no one on their side.
They visited the Hall of Records in the governor’s palace, intending to confirm their suspicions. However, they found that the tower and the land it sat on were owned by Planar Collegium itself, not Suncastle, and that nothing suspicious or notable had happened during the construction of the tower. The group were left confused and concerned, and determined to keep an eye on the prestigious wizarding school. Mordora decided to keep an eye on it from within, applying to the school and intending to take a level of wizard.
They decided to head down to the docks to investigate where Vanessa had said she’d been working – doing shipping and trading with the Islands of Splendor, where a well of magic was said to exist and the most powerful magic items were crafted. Her story appeared, for all intents and purposes, to check out. When asked, people suggested that the wizards at the university were paying her and her crew to bring them magic items from the Islands, to study their properties or to enhance their own magical abilities. This made perfect sense to the group, and lead them to the conclusion that they ought to check out these Islands themselves.