Hello! Welcome back to Cauldron, home of the Shackled City Adventure Path! When we left off our heroic musicians were retiring to their homes to contemplate a series of missing person cases which recently culminated in the abduction of four children from a local orphanage. Fate led to our characters taking the rescue of these people upon themselves! (If none of this sounds familiar, read this blog post first.)
Although the time between reading Part One and Part Two of our adventures is only a moment away for you, it was not so for my son. We paused here for a few days, and let me tell you, my son’s imagination went WILD! He spent two days straight CONSTANTLY working out theories and suggestions about the riddle they received from Jenya Urikas, and coming up with possible connections between the missing persons (for a full list of missing persons, click here). On the walks to school, during dinner, at bedtime… CONSTANTLY. And there were A LOT of theories. Surprisingly, some of his ideas were pretty close to accurate. Still, I said nothing aside from: “Mick will have to wait and see.” and “You think so?” He got out his detective’s notebook–a copy of Detective Murdoch’s notebook from Murdoch Mysteries that he adores–and began writing all of his ideas and theories down with a big red crayon.
Obviously, my son was insistant that the locks and keys were very important. He had a ton of theories about why, all of which were crazy, but whatever the reasoning, he settled on them being literal locks and keys. He alto took the curtain and cauldron part of the riddle literally, insisting everyone check behind their curtains at home, and at the orphanage, and that everyone look underneath every cauldron they own or come across.
He had no idea what was up with the doors with teeth, but was pretty sure he would recognize a giant mouth door when he found one, so he wasn’t too worried about that. My daughter was though, and had a few-hour-long fear of doors, worried as she was that they might grow teeth and chomp on her.
My son was very excited with the next part of the riddle: descend. He knew that meant going down, and he was very hopeful that would lead us to his character’s birthplace: Jzadirune. An underground enclave of the gnomes, Jzadirune was hit by a mysterious vanishing plague, and shut down when Mick was only a child. Many people died, and although Mick made it to the surface, he was orphaned by the experience. Nearly all of his madcap theories involved Jzadirune in one way or another. He was pretty sure that whatever was going on, Jzadirune was either a secret base for the bad guys, or a way to get to their secret base. He didn’t know what the bad guys might be, but he was hopeful it was invisible evil gnomes.
My son does understand the concept of slavery, so he was pretty sure that was involved because of the next line in the riddle. After giving it some though he decided it probably wasn’t invisible evil gnomes after all, but duergar. He’s got a decent knowledge of the races and monsters of D&D and not only does he know that duergar are evil underground dwarves, he also knows they’re slavers. With those his current suppositions, he made a TON of crazy ideas about what’s going on, why it’s going on, and how it’s going on. Magic showed up in his detective’s journal a lot. How’d they get in? Magic. How’d they stay silent? Magic. How come there were no footprints? Magic. Also, the doors with teeth? Were they a real toothy door? Or a monster’s mouth? Was it magic? He thought it might be a literal monster’s mouth we’d have to enter, which would be pretty awesome…
The next time we sat down to play the Shackled City, the PCs had breakfast together, chatted a bit, and headed out to the Lantern Street Orphanage to begin their investigation. The headmistress, a halfling by the name of Gretchyn Tashykk, was suspicious of the group–and rightly so! But Mick and Aeris managed to earn her trust. Aeris often donated money (from her occasional midnight criminal activities) to the orphanage, and Mick had grown up here. Although Gretchyn hadn’t been there to raise him, she did recognize him. Occassionally he came by to tell jokes to the children.
After explaining their purpose, the characters asked for information on the abductions, and for permission to interview the staff. Gretchen agreed. She told them everything she knew, and gave them a tour, then introduced them to each member of the staff in turn. They learned a bit from Gretchyn–which is listed below:
- The children who are missing are Deakon, Evelyn, Lucinda and Terrem. Two boys and two girls.
- The orphanage has two common bedchambers on the second floor: one for boys and one for girls. Two children were taken from each room.
- None of the children slept nearest to the windows or door. They did not sleep beside each other. No one saw or heard anything.
- The orphanage has lockable windows and doors. In addition to the orphanage locking during the night, the bedchamber rooms are locked as well.
- There were no signs of forced entry and nothing was broken.
- The PCs aren’t the only ones to investigate the children’s disappearance. The day the children were discovered missing the town guard came by, looked around and spoke with everyone. Two days ago a pair of half-elf investigators sent by the Mayor’s Office came by to look around and speak to Gretchyn. Yesterday that young priest came by offer help and speak with the children (Rufus Laro). And today the PCs arrived.
Aeris set out to inspect the locks on the doors and windows, while the characters asked further questions of Gretchyn, and spoke to the children. Mick ran a ton of crazy theories past her, but Gretchyn had no insights to offer.
Shortly, Aeris had confirmed that there was no signs of a break in. The locks were of fine quality and were in working order. There was no sign they had been picked. She decided to check the other locks in the building, while the others started interviewing the staff.
They started with Jaromir Copperbeard, the dwarven gardener who seemed to genuinely love the children despite his gruff demeanour. He also informed the group that one of the children, Terrem, was a troublemaking brat. He couldn’t imagine HIM going quietly. He confirmed he had found no signs of a break-in that night, and found no prints in his flower beds or scuffs along the outer walls.
Then they visited Neva Fanister, the old human nurse. Neva was always busy tending bruises, cuts and wounds. Kids were rough and rambunctious. She knew the kids quite well and confirmed that Terrem was a handful and was often in her care for scrapes and bruises he received in fist-fights and play-wrestling. The others were very different from him. Deakon was a smart, hard-working dwarf boy who had been with them a long time (dwarves grew up slowly), Evelyn was a sullen, quiet girl, and Lucinda was a happy but superstitious child. They didn’t have much in common with one another. Although, they did have their good health!
The characters tried to visit the half-elf schoolteacher, Willow Atherfell, next, but finding her overwhelmed with trying to handle the children, they moved on to see the cook, Temar Flagonstern, instead. Temar was a relatively new addition to the orphanage, having only worked there three years–the same as Willow. He complained about the huge amount of labour he had to do, and told the characters that he barely knew the children. He spent all his time cooking for them, washing their dirty dishes and cleaning up after their messes, only to do it all over again. Clearly a grumpy fellow, Temar seemed to be telling the truth. In addition, he confirmed that one of the children, Terrem, was a hall-raiser and was constantly making huge messes in the dining hall. Temar was NOT impressed.
Then they went to speak with the janitor, Patch. Patch was a strong half-orc with an eye patch over one eye, a nervous demeanour and a stutter. It was immediately clear that Patch adored the children and knew his way around the place well. In fact, Patch had grown up here and took work as a janitor when he was too old to stay any longer. Of course, it was also clear he was stupid. My son was immediately suspicious of the poor half-orc and soon Falco, Mick and Rabbity began asking questions about the orphanage, the children, the Last Laugh and the night of the abductions. Eventually, the nervous, stuttering fellow admitted he did know something but that he couldn’t speak about it here. Falco responded by doing what any fine gentleman would do: he invited Patch for tea at his flat.
Aeris rejoined them before they left the building. She had discovered that all the locks were in fine working order and great quality. In addition, she recognized the maker’s mark. It was a competitor of hers, Keygan Ghelve. As the others headed off with Patch to Falco’s flat, Aeris decided to separate from them for a while. She took the list of missing persons and visited all the places she thought she would be able to gain access to in order to examine their locks. If the locks truly were the key to finding the missing people, as the riddle had suggested, then perhaps there was something in common between them.
After inviting Patch inside and giving him a tour of the house, Falco, Mick and Rabbity sat down for tea with the awkward fellow. Patch was wary at first, and clearly had information to share that he wasn’t sure he should. But working together, the characters diplomacy was through the roof, so Patch soon believed he could trust them. Patch told the group in his stuttering, nervous way, that the Last Laugh wasn’t responsible for the kidnappings. A few years ago, when Terrem came to the orphanage, a man approached Patch while he was drinking away his earnings at the Slippery Eel Tavern. He was a halfling who was missing both of his pinkies and introduced himself as Regis Two-fingers. Patch and Regis became pals, and soon, Regis told Patch that he had a favour to ask him–as friends. Patch accepted (having not many people who he could call friends) and learned that Regis was a member of the Last Laugh Thieve’s Guild, a group that had a very keen interest in ensuring that a young orphan named Terrem was kept safe and in the orphanage’s care. Patch was confused. How did Regis even know about that little human child? But, he agreed to watch over Terrem and keep Regis informed of his health. Patch promised, more than a little scared for his life, that Regis would be the first to know if anything happened to Terrem. The day that Terrem and the other orphans went missing, Patch had slipped out to tell Regis as soon as he could. And Regis was furious! Patch swears that the Last Laugh wants to protect Terrem, and get him back, not hurt him or take him someplace else.
The PCs were a little confused. They asked Patch some clarifying questions and discovered that Patch was out drinking the night the kids went missing, and returned late. He slept like the dead, and felt horribly guilty that he didn’t hear anything happen at all that night!
The group pressed him further, using his guilt and his love of the children against him, until Patch had told them everything he knew (which wasn’t much more) and promised that if they found out who had taken the children, Patch would go with them to help save the children. Satisfied, they took Patch back to the orphanage, asked the overwhelmed school-teacher Willow a few questions, and bid everyone farewell.
Before heading out to regroup with Aeris, the PCs decided to pay a visit to the Mayor’s Office in the hopes of pooling their information with the half-elf investigators that had been sent to the orphanage. Upon arriving the secretary, Lucia Reynald, asked their business. When they inquired about the Lantern Street Orphanage investigation she told them that she was not privy to which guards were placed on which cases. That was up to the guard Captains. When they pressed for information about the Mayor’s special investigators she informed them they were mistaken–the Mayor’s Office employs no investigators at all. Certainly not a pair of half-elven ones!
The plot thickens!
On the way out of the Town Hall and Lord Mayor’s Office the characters ran into a chipper, young woman named Cynarra Navalant, who turned out to be the mayor’s daughter. Falco introduced himself politely, but Mick was too scared! He didn’t want to get in trouble for talking to important people like the mayor’s daughter! He ignored her completely and hurried out into the streets. The others followed him–after a polite farewell.
Regrouping with Aeris after a hard day’s investigating, the players shared information with each other. Aeris was skeptical about the Last Laugh’s ‘benevolent’ involvement, and Patch, but there were more pressing things to consider. She had checked the locks at six other sites of disappearances and discovered none of them had been tampered with. In addition, they were all crafted by the same locksmith–Keygan Ghelve. With a new suspect (or at least accomplice) in mind, the group set off straight for his shop, Ghelve’s Locks.
Arriving late-afternoon they found Ghelve’s Locks open for business and went right in. Keygan was there on a pair of stilts covered by long pants. He strutted around the place comfortably, and wandered over to ask how he could help his new customers. And then he recognized Aeris (his competition).
With a scowl, he asked her to wait while he handled his customers, but Aeris cut in and assured him they ALL had business with him. Business regarding the recent disappearances. Surely he must know something about them, right? They all used his locks!
Keygan told the group to get out, but Falco stalled, using diplomacy to try to get some answers. Keygan looked nervous, and began gesturing with his head and eyes to a curtained back-room. Mick was pretty sure that Keygan wanted to hug and kiss him or something, but Falco understood his meaning: Keygan wasn’t alone, and whoever was with him was back there…. Beyond the curtain.
Unfortunately for Keygan, the group proved less keen on playing along and pretending to leave than they did with tearing through the shop to get past the curtain. Mick seized a pile of what he hoped was stinky, smoky leaves and tossed them onto the fireplace’s flames, while Rabbity hopped on Panthy, Aeris pushed her way past the curtain, and Falco moved to follow her. Keygan had had enough! He cast a spell at the trio, just as Mick summoned his piano and began to taunt the little locksmith with his mock ability. Solely focused on Mick now because of his rude insults, the gnomes battled it out with wits, words and magic spells in the shop front while Aeris charged into the darkness of the storage room. Three steps into the room and she recoiled in pain. Looking down in shock she realized she had been shot by a crossbow bolt.
“Someone’s… here!” she grunted through the pain. Rabbity and Panthy charged into the room, Falco healed Aeris and then moved to open the window curtains, revealing their attacker was up on the landing of the stairs to the second floor. An unnatural calm came over Aeris as her goddess’ will and purpose overtook her. Replacing her fiery temper and impulsiveness with an eerie calm and righteousness, the now bloodraging Aeris stalked up the steps to engage her enemy.
Her companions soon joined the battle, and in a few short rounds it was done. The mysterious, grey skinned figure was unconscious, and the trio rejoined Mick and Keygan–who promptly surrendered.
Aeris scolded the man and began blaming him for his crimes, causing Keygan to break down in sobs. Keygan explained that a few months ago strange humanoids had come up from his basement and attacked him! They stole his rat familiar, Starbrow, and asked him tons of questions about the city. Keygan told them everything they wanted to know, and they left–but they took Starbrow with them. In addition, one of them stayed behind in his home to ensure he never spoke about them to the guard. Keygan was a prisoner in his own home and his beloved pet was their hostage! Not long afterwards they demanded Keygan make them a set of skeleton keys which could open any lock he had crafted. He did so, and worried in silence as they began rifling through his records. Every few nights since they’ve taken a few addresses from his books and headed off into the city, only to bring unconscious Caudronites back down into the tunnels below his home…
Keygan was ashamed, and regretful, but not truly sorry. He would do it again to save Starbrow. Aeris was disgusted and wanted to turn both Keygan and the gray-skinned man over to the town guards, but Falco had a different plan. Falco told Keygan that they were going to go underground and rescue the missing people (and rats!) but that Keygan would have to come with them. Seeing no other choice, Keygan agreed.
They tied up the gray-skinned man, tossed him in a trunk, and then tied up the trunk from outside with thick ropes, before sitting down to speak. They had some questions, and Keygan would have to tell them everything he knew if they were going to succeed. Luckily, Keygan had plenty of information.
- In his basement are old tunnels that were sealed up long ago and lead to Jzadirune. (At this news my son jumped for joy). This is where he assumes the kidnappers are currently lairing.
- The doors in Jzadirune are gear-shaped and designed to roll to one side or the other. Most of them had traps that only the gnomes could safely bypass. Unfortunately, Keygan was too young to remember much more than this. He knows they had keys that looked like long sticks. He also knows his father had a leather map that showed the layout of Jzadirune (though whether or not it’s accurate he has no idea).
- The kidnappers took Starbrow someplace dark within one mile. Through his empathic link with the rat, Keygan can tell he is hungry and scared.
- There are two kinds of people who come up from his basement: ‘tall ones’ and ‘short ones’. Neither of them seem to like the sunlight. The tall ones resemble naked, hairless, genderless humans with blue pupilless eyes, and grey skin that changes colour, allowing them to blend perfectly with their surroundings. They are usually encountered in pairs or threes and often leave the shop wearing cloaks. They carry repairs and light crossbows.
- The short ones are sinister gnome-like creatures with pallid skin, large noses and black hooves for feet. They wear black cloaks and cowls that help them hide in the shadows. The wield filthy looking daggers.
- The kidnappers share a common language that Keygan doesn’t recognize.
- If the kidnappers have a leader, Keygan hasn’t seen it. They seem to get along fine without one.
With this information, Rabbity, Panthy and Mick stayed behind to keep an eye on Ghelve and study the map of Jzadirune, which was old, faded and unlabelled. Aeris went home to fetch a backpack no one had seen her wear before that contained a surprisingly large number of objects useful for breaking into places and adventuring in the dark… Falco also left. First he did some shopping (he was rather ill-equipped for adventuring!) and then he went by the Lantern Street Orphanage to get Patch.
Together, this motley group of heroes, cowards, crooks and musicians are about delve beneath Cauldron to a gnomish enclave abandoned for over 75 years, braving the dark, the unknown, and the myserious disease known as the Vanishing, to find the missing citizens of Cauldron or die trying.
Wish them luck!
The other side of the screen:
Welcome to the other side of the screen, a place where you’ll find GM notes related to the recent game sessions you’ve read, and links to the adventures themselves. If there’s something different in the adventure, or things I’ve changed and added, you’ll find it here!
So what’s different in this session? Not much!
The major change came right near the end: Patch and Keygan Ghelve are not intended to join the player’s on their quest below Cauldron. However, Falco’s diplomacy checks came out absurdly high, and the characters managed to leverage the things those NPCs cared about to their advantage (Starbrow, guilt, and the fate of Terrem and the children). This coupled with the deadliness of their upcoming adventure, the PCs small group size, and the likelihood of my children making poor tactical decisions during combat, caused me to decide that instead of offering other types of aid, Keygan and Patch would join them. However, that meant that their statblocks would need to be updated. Although using their 3.5 stat blocks included in the Shackled City Adventure Path is fine for a battle or two, if they were joining the party they’d need to be proper Pathfinder characters. Patch was originally written as a commoner 1/rogue 1, while Keygan was an expert 3/wizard 1. While converting them to Pathfinder I streamlined their levels, making Patch a rogue (acrobat) 1, and Keygan an illusionist wizard 1. Despite these changes their tactics, gear and the general build and feel of the stat blocks remained true to their original intent.
The Shackled City Adventure Path is available for purchase in its entirety here. The first volume, Life’s Bazaar, is available for purchase here.
Thanks for joining us on our adventures in Cauldron! Tune if later this week for an update on an ongoing Reign of Winter campaign, and a review of Paizo’s Iron Gods Adventure Path!