Monday, July 30, 2018

A Red and Pleasant Land Play Report and Discussion

I've had a Red and Pleasant Land (R&PL) for a few years but haven't gotten around to playing it until recently.  Now I'm running it for part of my group.  We have a lot of players so we decided to split the party in two, with two DMs running related but separate adventures. One party is staying on the Quiet Side to fight giants and one is heading through the Looking Glass to break the Red Queen-Giant alliance. The stories are intertwined, which is easy to do with R&PL with all the intrigue.  Some notes in no order

  • I called the Heart Queen the Red Queen by accident early and now that's what the players know her as, so we have a Red Queen (The Heart Queen) and two Red Kings (The actual Red King and the Heart Queen's husband)  so that's slightly confusing
  • The part is exploring the Card Castle and half killing/half scheming their way through it 
  • This is actually very similar to an intrigue/conspiracy adventure I ran for Mike in the ASE world, but with many improvements.  The original adventure had a decadent and masque based vibe.  However, it didn't work as well because it wasn't clear who belonged to what faction.  A lot of informational complexity in R&PL is held together by the different ranks of cards and chess pieces, and colors/heraldry which clearly indicate faction allegiance.  That's a great innovation for this type of game, allowing a colorful cast of characters that are actually sensible to the characters at a glance. 
  • The players are doing a great job tracking the various faction alliances and have picked up the vibe of senseless cruelty and fear quite nicely. 
  • This was one of the first times these players have been exposed to level drain and armor destruction.  Initially I was thinking that the level drain should be permanent but the players were quite displeased to be down a level, so I figured killing the vampire that drained you combined with a Greater Restoration (challenging to get inside the castle) would get you your level back.
  • The players have pretty free movement to jump back and forth between the campaigns, which has worked great.  When Mike needed greater restoration last week he was able to head over to the Quiet Side and get it done, helping out with that adventure while he was there.  Tom (other DM) couldn't make it this week so everyone jumped through the Looking Glass and helped track down the Red Queen's shoe. 
  • Initially I was hesitant about running two concurrent and intertwining campaigns, but so far it's worked great, with no interruptions when a DM is out and interconnected factions and scheming .   
  • I briefly introduced all the factions but have focused on the "alliance" between the Heart Queen and the Pale King.  I'm going to slowly introduce more factions and complexity starting next time. 
  • Overall, the book is really great, full of evocative art and ideas and tables that make running the game at the table a breeze.
  • One of the players largely in the other game (John) has no patience for my art-house, abstract, gravity-bending tom-foolery and watching him deal with all the insanity and stupid tax jokes was an experience. If he was staying beyond the Looking Glass longer I might try to write more with him in mind, but since he was only stopping in for a session I think it makes sense that he could come out with a sense of the R&PL as a place of idiotic and pointless excess.       

Extremely Condensed Play Report

Disclaimer: I'm probably forgetting or leaving out some stuff, and a lot isn't mentioned in the interest of time

Our Characters:
Kvothe (Mike): Level 11 Rogue, clever, cautious, winner of the "Most likely to misuse Mage Hand" Superlative and Knight of the Buttery.
Jarreth (Josh): Level 11 Fighter, cunning, perpetually drunk but otherwise quite courtly, savior of three vampire snacks (humans) that are now fighting alongside orcs against Giant dominion on the Quiet Side.
Darvin (Jacob): Level 11 Warlock, adventurous and flighty (in the sense of wanting to cast fly) , currently 24 feet tall after some mishaps with enchanted tarts.
Rhogar (John): Level 11 Bard, just in for the last session, bold and courteous, a court favorite after climbing sideways up the court and attracting bored and bemused noble attendants. 

Lord Everember of Waterdeep summoned the whole party and described the giant menace. with Hill Giants raiding from their faraway steading. However, they seem to be travelling through the Looking Glass, allowing them to step into the Red and Pleasant Land and emerge in our world miles away.  The party splits with Kvothe, Jarreth and Darvin deciding to go through the Looking Glass to convince the Red Queen to break her alliance with the Giants and the rest to go face the giant head on. The foremost expert on the land beyond the mirror, Alice (too much?) is there to consult with our group and gives them valuable information on the working of magic and the general vibe. 

The party emerges from hand mirror held by a courtly lady in the midst of the croquet grounds. They observe a duel between a Rook and a Four of Hearts and learn about the dueling code. Jarreth is challenged to a duel and defeats a Duke, who reveals a secret passage into the Card Castle.

The party climbs down the passageway and emerges inside the caste at the Overlook Room.  Two competing vampire tapestry weavers are arguing about the relative merits of their styles while they attempt to capture the scene of the gardens and croquet grounds in thread.  The party adjudicates their dispute, leading to the death and staking of the losing vampire and Jarreth picking up a fine tapestry (worth weight in gold x3).

The party continues on, meeting the Pseudoturtle deep in discussion with another tapestry maker who has made a scene of every real and imaginary bird.  Cordial discussion re: relative merits of various tapestry styles ensures. The Pseudoturtle leaves impressed with the party's critical eye. 

Party raids the Buttery, seizing hordes of fine liquor and huge cubes of butter.  Party makes it to Angled Hallway (hallway that goes up 90 degrees) and is sizing it up when two Hill Giants in tight black doublets and frills burst through the door in combat with a Pale Knight known as the Ultra-Duke.  Giants are killed and the Ultra-Duke leads the party through a nearby feast before getting bored and abandoning them.  Before he goes the Ultra-Duke knights Kvothe the Knight of the Buttery and says the characters must attend tea time before going up the Angled Hallway.

Party goes east, fighting vampires and exploring rooms, Kvothe gets a level drained and they find evidence of a conspiracy by the Spades and Clubs against the House of Hearts.  They pass into the Hyper-Cube Tea Room, kill a conspiratorial Spade and free some vampire snacks.  Jarreth gets his gravity set up correctly and Kvothe goes back to the Quiet Side to get his level restored. Jarreth is arrested by House of Hearts guards and is sent to the Queen, where he meets the Pseudoturtle who fills him in on the situation and the Pale King's agents.

Running out of time, I'll see if I can ask a player to write the rest. Thank you to Josh for writing yesterday's play report!

Jarreth convinced the guards that he was in fact on the Queen’s side and had important news for her, who lead him towards the throne room rather than whatever fate they had previously had in store for the much depleted party. Outside the throne room, the Pseudo-Turtle stopped Jarreth for some much needed, yet not complete, background information on the courtly politics. Jarreth entered the court room and proceeded to fake diplomacy.

As Jarreth began his “speech” the party arrived from Faerun: Kvothe, Darvin and Rhogar. Unfortunately the party’s gravity was horribly oriented such that wall of the entrance was the floor and the Red Queen was sitting near the ceiling! Rhogar foresaw a coming disaster and tried to join Jarreth in conversation but was mostly ignored until the deal had been struck. The Red Queen would consider the party’s request if the party recovered her stolen high-heeled shoe. She also identified the location of a portal that would take the party to the outer grounds where the shoe might be found.

The party then proceeded through the courtly area, had a close run in with two different tax collectors and ventured through the portal where everyone’s gravity was restored to the same orientation and expected direction. The party scouted using a variety of methods. Darvin sampled pastries hoping to shrink to pocket size but ending up 28 feet tall. After scouting the party headed to a nearby well where they exchanged food for directional information about the shoe. They defeated some intelligent and well-spoken boar, and exchanged more food with another child in a well.

From the second well they came upon gibbets with a variety of dead creatures and live eel, they avoided the eel and found tracks that lead them to an injured man in livery. They stabilized the man and he pointed them in the direction of the missing shoe, as its thief had been the one to assault him. The party followed the path to a bridge with a fortified tower. Upon entering the tower they found the vampire with stolen shoe and a trap with a pudding! The pudding was very gossipy and also a tricky combat as it split into two and was hardened by the use of a green flame blade. After a combat in which Jarreth was charmed, but escaped level loss, the vampire defeated, and half the pudding destroyed but the other half engaged in parley, the DM called it a night.

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