I miss playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I miss Geralt, Zoltan, Ciri, Tris, Yenn, Vesemir, Eskel and even Lambert. I really wish I could start over and visit Velen, Novigrad, Oxenfurt, Kaer Morhen, Skellige and Toussaint again for the first time. I’ve done two full play-throughs now and I suspect I’ve seen almost everything there is to see. Still, I’ve started a third play-through. How I wish there was more content for me to experience. I still have several games ready and waiting to play; Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Middle-Eart: Shadow of War, Vampyre and I’ve been flirting with Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Still, I would happily trade all of those games in for another Witcher 3 DLC.
We regularly come together to play this game in an attempt at fun, friendly and collaborative storytelling. A good story features a rich and fertile setting, the characters and their development, a central theme, a compelling conflict to overcome, and an interesting plot to uncover. We try to address each of those throughout the story.
The game master populates the world in which we play, sets up the story, guides the players and resolves player choices and character actions. The game master regularly discusses the individual characters with their respective players in order to understand their motivations and to help the player to achieve the goals they have set out for their character. The goal is the enjoyment of all players and the crafting of a compelling narrative.
The players blow life into their characters by fleshing out a fertile back story, understanding the rules of their chosen class, understanding the underlying motivations and ambitions of their characters and gifting them with an internally logical personality. They also agree to engage in collaborative play for mutual character benefit and player enjoyment.
While conflicts between the characters can add to a compelling narrative, we recognise that it should never take away from the overall enjoyment of the game. Conflicts like that can best be played out under the narrative supervision of the game master, instead of through ad hominems or passive aggressiveness between players. We are all friends at the gaming table, anything that is played out at the table is done so in friendship.
The goal is to create a story together which we will can still recall with a sense of nostalgia into our later years and that we will miss the characters we played and the npc’s they met with a sense of fondness that we usually reserve for a good book or a great film. If we can do that while still having fun, then we’re successfully engaging in a good game of role-playing.
I want to become friends with Noel Fielding. Anyone have the hookup?
Say it with me now; “The price of perfection is prohibitive.”
Second Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262
(Silvermoon is waning. Bloodmoon is waning. Darkmoon is in low sanction.)
The rat-men lay dead at the feet of the adventurers while the albino got away. The adventurers quietly discussed what to do next and the popular opinion was to go back to report to Lord Jonathan what they had found in the catacombs. The adventurers saw no way to resolve the problem on their own and thought that the next best thing would be to share their findings. The idea was raised to bring one of the corpses as proof, which was immediately refined since dragging an entire body with them would likely prove to be burdensome. And so Astrid, with all the pragmatism of a butcher, began to separate one of the rat-men’s heads from its torso, put it in a sack and slung it over her shoulder.
Meanwhile, Luca was examining the rat-men and had discovered that many of them had what appeared to be lash marks and scarring around their wrists and ankles, much like what the adventurers had seen on the body of the dwarven engineer. The conclusion was that some, if not all of them, were or had been slaves. The weapons they used seemed strange, poorly maintained and scavenged. The leathers they used for armour was of a strange source that none of the adventurers could really place.
Finally, the adventurers left the hall and tried to make their way back to the aqueduct. James took the lead, trying to stay as far ahead of the rest of the group so that he would not be bothered by the lantern they were carrying to guide their way, nor be too affected by the clumsy way in which their footsteps and movements were echoing through the catacombs. Emrys took up the rear, also making sure to stay out of range of the light and noise coming from the humans in their group.
James started to notice sounds off in the distance and waited for the rest of the group to catch up. Quietly it was decided that James and Emrys would sneak towards the sound, to make sure that it was not a threat, while Luca, Emma and Astrid would continue back to the aqueduct using the lantern to guide them.
The humans set off. At each junction Emma checked for traces of the markings she had left behind on the walls with the hammer and chisel she took from the equipment of the dwarven engineers. Luca confident in the knowledge that they took a left turn at every junction, simply took a right turn in order to get back. Astrid simply followed.
James and Emrys, guided by their elven ability to see in the darkness of the catacombs, using nothing more than the faint light coming from the bio-luminescent moss. Eventually, they start to get closer to the sounds, and what they first mistook for sounds of stone-on-stone, or metal-on-stone, they could clearly discern to be sounds of battle.
Meanwhile, Emma felt her heart sink when at the next junction she no longer found her markings. Luca, somewhat annoyed, said that it was a simple matter of take right turns at each junction. They continued on, but Emma’s conviction that something was wrong grew evermore.
James and Emrys finally followed the sounds to a dead end chamber with a drain in the middle of it. Drainpipes fed into the chamber from the height of a full grown man’s chest in each wall. A faint bit of light a large amount of noise was coming from one of the drain pipes and the two adventurers moved towards it and looked inside.
You follow the muffled sounds of battle, vicious screeching as well as the ringing of steel, to a room which appears to be a dead end. The room holds a central drain which is fed from several circular holes in the walls at the height of a full grown man’s chest. The battle is being waged beyond one of these holes, you’re sure of it.
After a brief moment of concentration you make your way to one of the holes. It has light coming from beyond it and the sounds seem to be clearer when you approach.
You gather around the large hole and look inside. The drain is about an arm in length, and has thick, cast iron bars set vertically in the center of it. The bottom of the drain, as well as most of the bars are covered in a slimy, green muck, collected there over long centuries.
On the other side of the drain you look out into a large room whose floor starts at the drain’s entrance. The source of light becomes immediately apparent as you see four heavily armed and armoured knights stand, defensively, in a circle of light coming from the blade of a fifth knight who is standing in the middle. They are probably at least a dozen paces away from the drain’s entrance you are peering through.
The central knight is wearing a plate armour, engraved with an intricate feather pattern, gilded in lapis lazuli. The other four are dressed in polished plate armour as well, engraved with paisley and floral designs. Two of them wearing armour which is gilded in silver and platinum, one carrying a sword, the other carrying a halberd. The remaining two are carrying swords and shields and their armour is gilded in vermilion.
They seem to have been surrounded by a large host of the rat-men, and they are listening intently at orders being barked by the central knight as the rat-men move in on them. A dozen rat-men already lay dead at their feet.
“Gloria!” the central knight bellows. “Desideratus bellum!” the other knights exclaim in unison, just before the second wave of rat-men engage.
The knights are out-numbered at least three to one, and initially they manage to fend off the attack well. Eventually, despite their tight formation, several of the rat-men manage to drive a wedge between them and slowly start to break their ranks.
One of the knights in the silver gilded armour eventually goes down under a barrage of attacks. Her screams turn into a gurgle as her lungs fill up with blood. A coordinated rush from both shield-bearers clear the rat-men from the body of their fallen comrade and the rat-men are pushed back.
The central knight in the lapis lazuli sweeps a dangerous arc with his sword, battering aside several rat-men from their exposed flank, quickly turns around and kneels at the side of their wounded comrade. A halo of light appears to surround his head as he touches his free hand on the forehead of the fallen knight.
Miraculously, the wounded knight is pulled back to her feet and she quickly picks up her halberd to rejoin the fight. Strengthened by her resurrection, the five continue to press into the rat-men and wear away at their numbers. The tide quickly turns, the rat-men find themselves fighting less favourable odds and they start to vanish back into the shadows.
The five take a moment to asses their wounds and quickly assert that they will continue.
“Decerte!” the knight in the blue gilded armour barks. “Adversa!” the other return in unison, before all running out of sight.
Before the knights departed, James caught their attention and they crowded around the drain pipe. Conversation was difficult because of the difference in height of the rooms the two parties were standing in. The knight with the radiant sword introduces himself as Ser Arman de Courtenay and explains that he and the other knights had gone into the catacombs from the Courtenay estate close to Lynnecombe. The knights had been fighting a running battle with the vermin who also seem to have been under the leadership of an albino.
They asked why James and Emrys were down there and they explained that they were working for house Sheridan. Ser Arman concluded that both estates had been attacked. When James and Emrys told about their plan to return to the estate, he warned them to burn any of the diseased bodies. He also explained that he and his fellows would continue on to find the source, which they later took to mean the source of the disease.
It was during this time that the human adventurers walked straight into an ambush. Luckily the number of ambushers was small, which they later attributed to the knights having fought a great number of them at the same time. While the adventurers made short work of the ambushers, Emma did get viciously stabbed in her side and left her wounded.
After the fight, they returned back to the last junction where Emma saw the markings on the wall. Confident, they continued on to the next junction where the markings were missing. There, upon further inspection, they noticed that like a mirage, the markings suddenly reappeared. They had been tricked by illusions and foul sorcery. They continued on, now more the wiser and determined not to fall for the rat-men’s tricks again.
Astrid tried to support Emma as they walked, but instead, Emma suggested swapping weapons so that she could use Astrid’s spear as a crutch while Astrid could make use of Emma’s mace and carry Emma’s shield on her back.
James and Emrys found their way back to the aqueduct but found no traces of the other group. They decided to split up, James staying behind to scout out the catacombs and await the other group’s return, while Emrys made his way down the aqueduct and back to the well to get reinforcements. They decided it prudent to burn the body of the diseased guardsman on the way back so James handed his remaining oil to Emrys.
While Emrys makes sure to thoroughly burn the body of the Sheridan guard, James finds more places where tunnels have been dug. Some of them have been dug to reveal other catacombs, some of them have been dug and left abandoned, while some have been dug to reveal hidden chambers. It appeared to James as if the rat-men were looking for something.
Upon returning to the well, Emrys talks to Cpt. Hallis Mollen, who takes a quick account of the situation and frees up three guardsmen to come down and aid Emrys. They set off back up the aqueduct.
James, getting impatient, decides to start making a ruckus in the hopes of attracting the attention of the rest of the group. The plan works and he is once again reunited with Luca, Emma and Astrid. It is around this time that Emrys returns to the catacombs with the three guards. A decision is made to return to the estate, taking the dead guards back with them. By the time the group arrives back at the well, it is deep into the evening and the three moons are visible in the clear night’s sky.
A late night audience is arranged with the members of house Sheridan, but first the adventurers get a chance to freshen up and make themselves presentable. Astrid hands the severed rat-man’s head to Cpt. Hallis.
Third Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262
(Silvermoon is waning. Bloodmoon is waning. Darkmoon is waxing.)
Upon entering the Sheridan mansion, James decides to surreptitiously leave a mug of beer he was given as one of the refreshments behind on a shelf of books on the first floor of the mansion.
The audience with the members of house Sheridan takes place in the study on the third floor, where they were initially introduced to Lord Jonathan. The defacto head of house Sheridan is this time flanked by his brother Lord Marcus on one side, and Ser Benten the Purple on the other side. It becomes clear now that Ser Benten is even taller and more impressive in stature than the two noble brothers are. The balcony door is still open, letting in some fresh evening air. The elderly patron of the house is sitting in a wheelchair, his back turned to the open door, looking out over his estate.
In quick order the adventurers told Lord Jonathan about what they had encountered in the aqueduct and the catacombs beyond. Lord Jonathan concluded that while the adventurers had not achieved the goals he had set out for them, he did believe that they had risked themselves enough to be paid what they were owed. He did, however, want them to go back down after a good night’s rest, while Cpt. Hallis kept a close watch on the well’s entrance. The adventurers were to make sure that the infestation of vermin was brought under control and that the tunnel whose rubble blocked the aqueduct was sealed and running water was restored to the well.
When Lord Jonathan asked whether the adventurers needed anything, Emma said she required healing. When it became clear that Emma’s health was worse than her wound would suggest, it was decided to quarantine her to the stables and that Ser Benten would tend to her. Cpt. Hallis then brought the adventurers back to the servant’s quarters, where Astrid was given a room, and Luca, James and Emrys were given a room. She also brought Emma to the stables, where a cot was erected for her to sleep on.
Ser Benten did come by to see Emma, who was busy washing herself in her nightly ritual of worship. He looked at her wound and concluded that he could do little for it. He said that what she needed was the aid of a high ranking priest, like the one that could be found at the Cathedral of the Platinum Father in Kingsport. He told her that in all likelihood, the closest person to aid her was Ser Arman de Courtenay, down in the catacombs below Lynnecombe. He did give her a pendant, with a clear orange crystal and said that it would prevent the spread of her malady and aid her in fighting its creeping affliction.
Meanwhile, James, who had not been content in the quarters he’d been given, had taken to roaming the servant’s quarters in search of a better place to sleep. He tried to convince a guard but got nowhere, and ended up picking the lock on a trapdoor leading to the attic, where he nestled himself in a pile of old clothes and drapes.