For some reason, this session was marked by a decided increase in the number of asides, jokes, puns, and other non-game-related chatter. Not that I'm saying that's a bad thing! On the contrary-- I think it's a sign that the "core players" (who were all that were there at the game) really jell with one another and get along together on a personal level. I think we've really lucked out in that respect, although I should also point out that the newcomers we've had have fit in fine. Aside from the problem of no-shows (which is a definite problem when we have a waiting list to get in the game), meetup.com has proven to be a highly effective way of putting together a game. For all those who lament that there "aren't any players who want to play an old-school game near me", I challenge you to go to meetup.com, search for the nearest gaming group, and put up an "idea for a meetup". I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
This session began right on the heels of the last, with the party having completed a fair rout of the bandits in the surface ruins of the Castle of the Mad Archmage. Present were Ehrandar Dawngreeter, the elf mountebank, Theric the paladin of Pholtus, Nalania the cleric of Rudd, Abo Thistlestrike the human magic-user, Jh the dwarf fighter (who, we are told, will finally have a full name, having survived this long to earn one), and Mongo the half-orc fighter.
Alas, their previous adventures were not rewarded with a full night's sleep, as three of them were visited in the middle of the night by three black-cloaked visitors bearing poisoned daggers. Nalania, Jh, and Mongo each had such a visitor.
As the player characters were caught unawares and without armor or weapons, this seemed a spiffy time to break out the Adventures Dark and Deep™ weaponless combat rules to take them for a test-spin. And I am pleased to report they performed admirably! Combat went just as quickly unarmed as it would have with swords vs. swords, and there was a lot of opportunity for color in the melee as well. As an alpha playtest with actual players trying batcrap-crazy maneuvers, I think they worked very well.
Nalania, who actually woke up as he entered, knocked down her opponent, who dropped his dagger, which gave her time to pick up her own weapon. Having taken a hit or two, he jumped about eight feet straight backwards, through the door back into the hallway of the Cock and Bottle. Jh didn't fare as luckily, but managed to force his own visitor into the hallway (who retreated with a similarly impossible jump). Storming out of the room with nothing but the beard the gods gave him to cover his modesty (having been woken from a sound sleep au naturale), Jh careened into his visitor as he attempted to bound down the stairs, knocking him down the stairs and into unconsciousness out in the process: "naked dwarf bowling!". Mongo attempted to grab the dagger arm of his own opponent, and with his prodigious strength dislocated his shoulder and knocked him out. Abo took out the one remaining visitor (the one Nalania had already wounded) with a magic missile spell, the only one actually killed in the encounter.
Naturally, this woke the rest of the inn, and soon the city watch was called in. There was Captain Vordalon once more, skeptically eying the party, one corpse, and two prisoners. One thing about those prisoners and the corpse; they all had a strange look about them; nose too flat, mouth too wide and lips too small, eyes too far apart (what one player called "the Innsmouth Look"). Vordalon took statements, evidence (the poisoned daggers the intruders were using), and the prisoners and corpse. It was obvious that his suspicions about the party were not alleviated.
Once a few days were spent uneventfully recuperating, the party set out for answers. Half went to the warehouse where into which they had once seen Jondo disappear prior to his handing over of the golden frog (which the players seem to think was connected to the attack). Ehrandar, using his knowledge of Thieves' Cant, found a beggar nearby who was willing to provide information (since the Beggar's Union and "you thieves" were so closely allied). It turns out that the warehouse was known to the locals, and avoided (even so far as to put a thieves' mark on the door, rendering it hands-off), as it was known to be a haunt of the devotees of Wastri the Hopping Prophet, and not only was the place suspiciously inactive during the day, those who inquired too closely tended to disappear. Ehrandar and his companions left.
The remainder of the party paid a visit to captain Vordalon at the local city watch post. They attempted to get some information about the state of the investigation, but aside from Vordalon's confirming their assumption that the death of Jondo and the jeweler might be connected with the attempt on their lives, and that the whole scheme might pose a threat to the very city itself, he didn't provide them with much concrete information. Abo, on the other hand, volunteered that the party might have knowledge of where Jondo might have gotten the ill-starred golden frog, and led the city watch captain to the warehouse, narrowly missing their companions.
Regrouping at the Cock and Bottle, the party decided that no matter what was going on with the followers of Wastri and the murder (or more) investigation, another expedition to the ruins of the Castle of the Mad Archmage was in order. As they set out the next morning, however, the whole of the city seemed to be beset by an unusually chilly and damp fog, which had drawn a multitude of frogs from the river into the streets, to no little upset of the locals. Unnerved but undeterred, the party went on to the Castle ruins.
There, however, they met with little excitement. The bandits had seemingly abandoned the place, and further investigations discovered two more staircases leading down, but little more than eerie horse skeletons and cryptic messages written in cobwebs (above the skeleton of a pig in one of the stables; the message read "LOWED DOORWAY WAS ONCE THE HOME ... TREASU"). The day was fast losing its light, and so the party made their way back to the city, where the fog (and frogs) had retreated, but the populace was jittery over the whole affair.
On the whole, a lot less action-packed than the last, but lots of good role-playing, scene laying, plot following, clue unfolding, and as I mentioned above this session ended up being much more fun and laid-back with jokes and humorous asides. I had a blast, and I hope the players did as well. Much more to come, and threads that the players have been pulling on (in a variety of different places) are starting to become more concrete. Can't wait for next time!