Maccath’s hut was a that of a desert nomad, constructed of tapestries and thick carpets over whale ribs, all situated in the center of a frozen cavern in the middle of an iceberg floating in an arctic sea. Unsure of what they were looking at when they found it, the waladin sent in one of his familiars to scout things out.
The tiefling’s domicile was filled with books and scrolls and artifacts strewn about in stereotypical “mad genius” fashion. The mage herself was seated at the only piece of actual furniture in the room, a desk that looked like it was pillaged from a sea captain’s cabin. When the party entered, she was hard at work doing…something. Something magical, but something that fizzled in a spectacular explosion of light and ash.
“I assume you’re the ones who took care of the dragon?” she said with familiarity. “I guess that’s my cue to pack up and leave.”
Without wasting any time, Maccath started moving about the room, shoving tomes and parchments into bags, forcing them on party members as she went. She explained her situation in brief, but paused her work when asked about the draakhorn.
“Oh, the draakhorn, eh? Sorry to say that you missed it by about six months. A gang of men in purple robes had a discussion with Arauthator, and then left with the horn. I have no idea what they said or what they offered in exchange, but I have no idea where they took it.”
Once all of Maccath’s studies were collected, the group set out for the Ice Hunter village where they received as much of a heroes welcome as the northern tribe could muster. The old shaman was overwhelmed with gratitude, while the Chief begrudgingly acknowledged that they did a Good Thing. On the way out, the party demolished the effigy in ice that Arauthator had erected at the top of the stairs, and the party followed the Ice Hunters in fleeing Oyaviggaton for the last time.
Back in the trading port of Ironmaster, the party grew concerned about Maccath’s hoard of ancient magical writings. The waladin opted to disguise himself, secure a key to Maccath’s room at the inn, and absconded with her work back to his own room where the party began an investigation into the contents of the bags and boxes that were taken from Oyaviaggton. Many of the scrolls and books contained spells, and many were lost histories of ancient civilizations. But there was enough deciphered that the party began to question the sanity of allowing Maccath to return these items to the Arcane Brotherhood at the Hosttower.
Just as they reached their conclusion, a furious banging sounded. “Who’s there?” the bard casually asked.
“You know damn well who it is!” Maccath shouted, and before anyone moved to act, the door to the room burst into flames, and quickly settled into ash. The tiefling stood in the doorway with visible anger, followed closely behind by Lerustah, the captain of the Frostskimmr, and several members of his crew.
+ + +
Once the chapter’s “big bad” has been dealt with, everything else is just exposition. The party had free reign of the interior of the berg (more or less, as the creatures loyal to the dragon were already on their way out once they sensed their boss was hurtin’ for certain) and were able to quickly find Maccath. She was eager to beat cheeks, since she’d been magically limited to just two caverns for three years. During her travels with the party, she explained how she’d made a deal with the dragon: he’d allow her to study the ancient artifacts that had been taken from the Hosttower over 100 years ago during the Time of Troubles, and in exchange she would agree to serve as the companion of Arauthator’s mate Arveiaturace, who had become so attached to her former mage-companion that she refused to remove his corpse from the saddle that she still wore. Maccath figured that there was enough material to study for a few years, during which time she was confident she’d be able to figure out a means of escape. Three years and five adventurers later, she got her wish.
This was a RP heavy session, since the party was basically moving in the direction of Waterdeep. They had to make a layover at Ironmaster, the arctic trading post where Ice Hunters and travelers from the south met to do business.
The waladin in particular seemed to drive a sentiment of distrust of the tiefling, and at one point was called a racist (by the waladin player’s wife, no less!), with the rest of the party slowly opting to attempt to prevent the artifacts from being returned to the Hosttower. The ranger said that he’d go along with the plan so long as the materials were turned over to the Council, specifically the members of the Emerald Enclave whom he trusted for obvious, elvish reasons.
This is going to be a classic example of “off script”, why tabletop RPGs are awesome, and why I have a hard time running them. At first, I panicked, not because the players were going off script, but because I could suddenly foresee all manner of…let’s call them “opportunities”…that I knew they weren’t seeing. Some would be good, some would be bad, but then I realized that there’s going to be good and bad throughout the module anyway, and the whole point of playing a TRPG over a CRPG was that players have agency. It’s a collaborative story, and I know that I’ve not always done as good a job at allowing the players to stray into their own territory as I should be doing. They make decisions, I respond to those decisions in as logical a situation as I can muster, given the in-game situation. For example, the party didn’t talk about the fact that Maccath would notice her property missing from her room. Naturally, she’d be pissed that someone stole her stuff, and even more so if she found out that the people who stole it were the same people who just rescued her.
Of course, I must maintain the integrity of the mechanics of the story, even when the players decide to take actions that are unaccounted for. In this, there is no “off script”, and I’m not sure where this falls in the spectrum of DM responsibility. I’m consciously forcing myself not to activate failsafe mechanisms that will put the players back on the module track. The only reason I can think of for doing so is because I’m always worried about my ability to improv a situation — my mind doesn’t work as well or as fast as it used to — and in the end that only cheats the players, and I do NOT want to do that since they’re actually making decisions to make the story their own. However, I also have to consider how the player’s actions might have farther reaching consequences, even if and when they do not. In this case in particular, I can see a definite trajectory based on the player’s current situation. I’m not going to say if it’s good or bad for them, just that it’s something I’m already planning that is actually accounted for in the module itself.
Tropes of the game: