Chapter One: The Shadow in the Sky
It is the 15th of Gozran in the year 4709 in Absalom Reckoning, and our story begins in Riddleport. The third-largest city in Varisia, this bustling port is a notorious den of lawlessness, corruption, and violence. Ruled by the former pirate captain Overlord Cromarcky, it is on the frontier of the frontier, far north on the Lost Coast of the untamed land Varisia.
Here, a strange thing has happened. A few months ago, a shadow appeared in the sky. This ill omen has hung over Riddleport since then, appearing like a strange dark cloud, never moving, and apparently never affecting anything. It has drawn interest from around Avistan, and been a subject of great interest by the Order of Cyphers, a society of wizards dedicated to studying the Cyphergate, a monumental arch in the centre of the city that predates modern civilization.
However, tonight is a night for celebration. Saul Vancaskerkin has launched "Cheat the Devil and Take his Gold", an enormous gambling tournament in his hall the Gold Goblin. Here, 10,000 silver pieces are up for whoever can win the infernally-themed gambling tournament. The residents of Riddleport, sick of the sense of doom hanging over the city, have flocked to the Goblin.
It is here our story begins.
The gala at the Gold Goblin is in full swing, and you all find yourselves having waited through the queue, taking good time to stare at larger-than-life-size statue of a goblin, apparently cast in glittering gold before passing into the casino itself.
Just inside the main doors, two sultry beauties scantily clad and wearing faux bat wings, devil horns, and tails play the part of alluring succubi. Both are employees of the Gold Goblin, and they cheerfully register contestants for the tournament and process entry fees. Armed guards stand nearby to either side of an immense treasure chest into which each patron’s entry fee is added. The guards are on hand to not only protect the money, but to prevent any overzealous admirers from trying to dare the infamous touch of a succubus.
Beyond the registration table is the hall’s game floor. Dozens of gamblers, waitresses dressed as succubi, and bouncers mill about the room, wandering amid tables offering various games while dealers shuffle cards, roll dice, and spin wheels. Moving through this throng are a dozen more of the barely clad, batwinged vixens serving drinks and batting coal-black eyelashes flirtatiously for tips. In the center of the chamber is a short podium atop which sits a massive gold chest affixed to the floor by similarly gaudy chains. On either side of it stands a barechested bouncer in the exotic garb of some foreign sultan’s court. Each stands with muscled arms crossed over his chest and with a naked scimitar of prodigious size tucked through his waistband. High above them, from the hall’s cloth-draped ceiling, hangs a brass birdcage within which crouches a small, bat-winged, pointy-tailed devilish creature that sulks as it gazes over the room and occasionally rattles the bars threateningly.
Please take a moment to situate yourselves within the Goblin, and feel free to write of anything you've looked into in the city during the previous day. Deduct 1 gold entry fee for the tournament.
Fiona's second visit to Riddleport was proving to be somewhat more fruitful than the first. Ever since she arrived, she had found the locals to be slightly more hospitable than she suspected they normally would. Perhaps it had something to do with the literal mountain of a brave with her--it would certainly explain why the looks she attracted were more of fear and caution than interest and lust.
The locals were either as ignorant of the nature of the shadow in the sky as the elders were, or they were too unnerved by her bodyguard to be of much assistance. They proved to be more receptive to questions concerning local, mundane events--the Gold Goblin gambling tournament being the most noteworthy. It sounded as good a place to start as any to look for leads on the shadow--perhaps someone more knowledgeable would be there.
It was easy enough to enter the gambling hall--a gold piece from both her and her bodyguard was enough for the two of them to be let in. The sights and sounds of the Gold Goblin were new (and somewhat overwhelming) to Fiona--the cheers of lucky gamblers, the *clinking* of glasses, and the ever-present chatter of men and women from all walks of life mingled with the sights of cards being shuffled, roulettes being spun and dice being cast every which way.
The young thundercaller sits near the wall of the Gold Goblin, at a table that gives her the best possible view of all the action. As one of the bat-winged waitresses approaches her table, she gives the woman an appraising look.
This is what tshamek have their women wear for tips here? She thinks to herself as the young lady approaches. It has a certain effectiveness, I suppose.
"A mug of good ale, please." Is all that she asks before turning to Tahbet. "Will you be having anything?"
|Tahbet Earth Shaker|
The elf enters the bar and pays his fee. He chuckles as he realizes that his tight black leather pants and vest with gold colored studs make him fit in with the staff.
At the bar, he avoids the almost-certainly watered down beer and points to a cheap but sealed bottle of whiskey. Passing the barkeep another gold, he takes the bottle and several glasses, using a search for a seat as an excuse to scan the room.
A pair of shoanti have a table near the wall. He moves closer to them, and says in a rough voice, "My pale skin stands out almost as much as your dark. Perhaps if we sit together, we can balance out and blend in?"
He smiles and sets down the glasses, offering them a shot of his whiskey. He turns so that he can see the room, most importantly the small fiend in the cage.
"Come to try your luck, or just to enjoy the show?"
Variel uses his body language to appear to any observers to be simply chatting and flirting with the two Shoanti, while keeping an eye on the caged devil. (Take 10 for 15 Profession (Courtesan), 17 Bluff if needed). He attempts to identify the creature (Take 10 for 16 Knowledge (planes)).
It was bad enough he'd agreed to enter this cesspit of corruption to check out the veracity that a local gambling tournament was peddling with the lower planes. The appearances there's nothing more untoward going on at the Golden Goblin than some fool's attempt at levity. Sign my soul over to a devil, indeed. What people won't do for a chance at a few more coin. Though granted 10000 args goes a long way, even here.
Still, what better place for a real devil or demon to hide out than among dozens of locals dressed like them. He pays his entrance fee, frowns at the doorman and goes in. Already, he spots the first creature, dangling in a cage that couldn't possibly hold it if it's real. Unless the cage is enchanted somehow.
He scans the room for devilry, poorly imitating a patron. The Shoanti seem a far way from home, dressed as they are. He'd of thought they were acting as bodyguards. Certainly the one has the shape for it. He sidles up to the dice table across from them and the elf and waits for his turn.
I'll interact in an hour or so real time, but I have to run out the door.
"My pale skin stands out almost as much as your dark. Perhaps if we sit together, we can balance out and blend in?"
Fiona quirks an eyebrow at the elf as he approaches and seats himself at their table. Her demeanour lightens a bit when the newcomer trots out a few shots of whiskey.
She wordlessly takes a shot of the booze, blinking and wincing as it burns its way down her throat. "Thanks."
"Come to try your luck, or just to enjoy the show?"
Fiona sets her glass down. "A little of both, but one in a different way than the other." She shrugs and sets one of her boots on a chair next to her. "I can honestly say this is the first time I've ever come to a place like this."
The scantily clad faux-succubus gives Variel a suggestive, yellow-toothed smile after taking Fiona's order.
"Freshen yer drink guv'ner?!" Her voice is shrill and nasal, thick with the local accent. "You too dwarfy! Whatcha having? Tournament is about to start! OH! Almost forgot, ya gotta sign yer contracts!"
She slaps four documents down. "Missed ya coming in. We got yer gold, but ya need to sign the contract to play!"
|Tahbet Earth Shaker|
If he had been paid a copper piece for every weird look he had gotten since entering the city, he could pay the entry fee at the Golden Goblin with it and take a few friends in with him. But with things being as they are, the hulking Shoanti warrior reluctantly adds ten silver pieces to the growing pile.
This whole place is a bad joke, Tahbet thinks as he takes in his surroundings. The shamans would be disgusted.
With his size and the ritualistic garment of his Quah, feathers decorating his armour and weapon, Tahbet sticks out. Even with devils all around them, he won't blend into the background.
As the elf approaches them,Tahbet musters him with a stern look on his face,until the bottle of booze is on the table.
"Hm. " He greets the stranger, accepting the offered drink. The first friendly act in this city shouldn't be refused, even though Tahbet wants to keep a clear head.
He keeps watching the crowd as one of the girls working here approaches them with some sort of contract as Tahbet understands it. As they have agreed upon beforehand, he waits for his companion to decide on their reaction. Though he is suspicious of some form of trickery going on here.
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Just making use of Variel's "Breadth of Experience" feat for more background information and roleplay.
Variel drinks his first shot of the whiskey, then looks at the paper placed in front of him. "Give me a bit to read over it, dear. Swing back in a moment."
He reads through the document, and tries to recall any particular fiend ever being called "the devil" or "old scratch". Take 10 for 13 Knowledge (planes) and/or 17 Knowledge (religion). He also wonders just how enforceable this contract is. 15 Profession (barrister)
"I paid my entrance fee, but I'm not sure my Lady would approve of me bartering something that belongs to her ... I may have to simply observe the proceedings."
Fiona looks at the contract placed before her with suspicion before her before looking up at the waitress.
This isn't an actual contract, is it? I came here to learn of the shadow, not sell my soul away in some gambling hall.
With Tahbet looking to her to take the lead, she is about to speak when the elf voices his concerns over the contract. "I'm inclined to agree with him." She nods at the elf. "I would know more of this contract before I make a decision as to whether or not I should sign it. Would you please explain it?"
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (11) + 7 = 18
She gives the elf another glance. "I do not believe I caught your name, sir elf."
Can't exactly call him tshamek in front of everyone--turns out, some skittish outsiders consider it rude. Hmph.
"Oh, I beg your pardon, that was rather rude of me ... I am Variel Duardlon. As you might have guessed from my dress, I am a devotee of The Savored Sting, Calistria."
He rises slightly to bow, and holds out his hand.
Fiona looks down at Variel's hand briefly before shaking it. "I am known as Fiona Sun-Touched. The elders of my quah named me, for they believed I have a beauty like the sun." She smiles a little. "Or perhaps I was named for my skin."
She nods at the large man next to her. "This is Tahbet. Tahbet Earth Shaker."
Bardic Knowledge (Religion): 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (6) + 1 = 7
The mention of Variel's god doesn't ring any bells for Fiona. "A devotee of who, now?"
The succubus serving you drinks lets out a groan.
"Just sign the damn contracts will ya? No contract no play. I gotta job to do here, right? Sign whatever name you want. Just use the same name if you win."
She points out the contract.
"This is just the rules of the game. You need to understand them and a confirmation ya spent yer coin. The whole soul stuff is just for a laugh, get it?"
Fiona looks back at the contract. "Ah. Alright then."
She looks over at Variel. "Have you something to write with?"
Fiona nods at the waitress as she leaves. "Thank you."
She dips the quill in the ink and signs the name 'Iona Vesper' on the line.
As the waitress steps away, he notes Fiona's signature and chuckles. When she is done, he takes the pen and signs in Elven.
He then turns to Fiona. "Truly, you have never heard of Calistria?"
The elf pours another round from his bottle, then reaches into the pouch at the end of his sash and pulls out a small, well-worn book bound in faded black leather with golden trim. The cover is adorned with a title in Elvish.
"This is the Book of Joy, our lady's words to her people. She teaches us to enjoy life to its fullest, to savor every experience, and to abide no one who tries to prevent us from doing so."
From inside the cover, he pulls a single sheet that has been folded over several times. "Here is an excerpt translated into Taldane. I recommend you wait to open it until you are alone ... or better yet, with someone special."
He grins mischieviously and downs his shot.
|Tahbet Earth Shaker|
Knowledge(Religion): 1d20 ⇒ 8
"Kel-grish!" The large Shoanti greets Variel, loud enough for even the patrons at the next table to hear it. His voice is low and booming. Seeing the Elf is some kind of shaman or priest as the foreigners call them, Tahbet relaxes somewhat. Still, he remains standing beside Fiona, ever ready to respond to any threat.
After giving it a brief thought, he bows down to the table and signs the contract with the name Tahbet Without a Horse. You can't gamble away the soul of someone you are no more, he thinks, a somewhat smug grin on his face.
Tahbet taps Fiona on her shoulder, then gestures towards the caged creature. Waiting for a response, he takes a sip of ale.
|Saul Q. Vancaskerkin|
A waitress shrieks and almost drops a tray of drinks at Tahbet's loud pronouncement. Bofur waits in line to get a try at a dice game while patrons continue to stream in, signing contracts and grabbing drinks. The main floor of the Gold Goblin is soon filled with the rowdy, rough and tumble folk of Riddleport as the imp in the cage above cartoonishly shrieks and swipes at the people far below.
As the windows begin darkening with twilight, several gamehall employees enter, carrying torches shaped like pitchforks skewering burning heads made of straw and cloth to light several large braziers, giving the hall a more infernal hue. A hush falls over the gathered crowd as a short man climbs to the central podium, accompanied by two gorgeous “succubi,” and stands before the gold, chain-shrouded chest there with a demoness on either side. He wears a formal suit, and his thinning black hair is slicked back.
His left arm ends in a stump just above the wrist, and affixed to it is a bronze cap from which protrudes an oddly shaped key. This is Saul
Vancaskerkin, the owner of the Gold Goblin and host of the tournament. He bows before the crowd and clears his throat before speaking.
“Welcome, one and all, to the Gold Goblin Gambling Hall and your chance to cheat the Devil and win back not only your soul but all of his gold as well.” He says this last as he pats the large
chest before which he stands.
“I hope you found your reception by the Devil’s lovely temptresses suitably entertaining.”
This is met by a general murmur of laughter and catcalls.
"Let's take this moment to thank Old Scratch himself for attending this event. Not only did he loan us these lovely, dark angels, but he also emptied the deepest vaults of Hell itself to provide gold for the tournament."
With this, Saul directs the crowd’s attention up to the imp in the birdcage. At the sudden attention, Old Scratch flies into a flurry of rage, banging the cage bars, spitting, howling, and screaming vile epithets in Infernal at all assembled. His theatrics are received with guffaws and even a smattering of applause. As the crowd dies down, Vancaskerkin continues.
"Of course, he plans on replacing what he loses in gold with the souls of those of you who don’t win. The tournament rules are quite simple—as you play, you’ll earn more chips. And with those chips, you’ll be able to bribe your way out of the current Hell you’re trapped in, working your way down deeper until you get to Old Scratch’s treasury. Currently, all of you are Old Scratch’s prisoners in the first of the Hells, Avernus. If you want to work your way down to the ninth circle, you need to win games. Each time you win, you’ll be awarded a golden eye. If you come in second, you’ll get a silver tooth. And third place wins a copper heart. These bits of flesh and bone are what the devils use in Hell for currency, and they’re what you’ll need to pay in order to bribe your way into the next layer of hell. The first player to win a game after reaching Nessus not only keeps his winnings for that game, but also earns back his soul and the ten thousand silver coins that the Devil put up for this tournament. You can, of course, decide to cash out your winnings at any time you want, but if you do, or if you run out of money entirely… well, that means Old Scratch gets you.”
Vancaskerkin grins evilly and the caged imp cuts loose with another
“And that earns you the Devil’s Mark and an escort out of the game hall until the tournament is over. What, you ask, exactly is this Devil’s Mark? Well, it’s something too utterly horrible to even contemplate. The forfeiture of your very soul, it is. But I suppose I can show you what it is— gods know I more than deserve the Devil’s Mark. In fact, better make it two, girls!”
With that, the two succubi accompanying him lean over and each firmly plants a kiss on Saul’s cheek with her ruby-red lips. When they pull away, their lip rouge has left clearly visible prints in the same shocking red on his cheeks. Saul beams as he cries out, “The Devil’s Mark, everyone!” which is greeted by a flurry of shouts, catcalls, and hoots. “Now, let’s cheat the Devil and take his gold!” which prompts one more rabid flurry from the imprisoned fiend above.
With that there's a thunderous roar from the audience and dancing light spells fire off in the area, illuminating the various gambling tables. A few pipers strike up a song and those gathered rush for the tables.
All around you, the cries of the dealers call out in an attempt to lure you to the tables.
"Bounder, bounder, bounder! No doubles, NO DOUBLES!"
"The greedy golem is here! See if you can beat him!"
"Skiffs here! Step up to the lake and get your racers ready!"
"Who's one for Ghoulette? Spin the wheel and win or get cursed by the foul-mouthed ghoul!"
A variety of games beckon you, and your money. A cashier's cage is nearby where you can exchange money for chips:
- Copper heart is 1cp
- Silver tooth is 1sp
- Gold eye is 1gp
Chips get cashed in at 50% value until the tournament is over. You can buy your way up circles of hell (indicated in the handout), and if you are the first to reach Nessus and win a game, you get the prize money. However, you must successfully play a game at each level before you can buy your way into the next.
Pick a game or let me know what else you're doing. Eveyrone goes to the same table unless dictated otherwise.
When Tahbet points out the creature in the cage, Fiona gives it a look and starts thinking about whether or not she's heard of such a creature before.
Bardic Knowledge (Planes): 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (15) + 1 = 16
Fiona doesn't have time to examine the slip of paper Variel gives her in greater detail before Saul Vancaskerkin appears and starts speaking. She folds the paper up and puts it in a pocket of her clothes before giving the proprietor her full attention.
Once the tournament begins in earnest, she eyes the gambling tables, somewhat intrigued (despite herself) and at the same time bewildered by the variety of games on offer. She walks over to the cashier's cage and hands over a gold piece to be exchanged.
Only for a few games. No more.
Once she has her chip, she walks back to the table Tahbet & Variel are seated at. "So, any preference as to what game we play?"
By the way, GM, Variel took 10 on Knowledge (Planes) to ID Old Scratch. Was he successful in learning anything?
Variel looks around at the various games, and tries to determine which seems least skewed toward the house.
Profession (gambler): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17
Is there a description of what games are available?
Fiona passes over a gold piece and receives a gold eye chip in exchange from the cashier.
Variel and Fiona both recognize Old Scratch as an imp. They are lesser fiends but are used as special agents for the purpose of corrupting souls and spreading mischief.
Bounder is a dice game vs the dealer. Ghoulette is similar to roulette with a severed undead head who throws insults at you on the table. Golem is similar to 5 card draw poker against the other players. Skiff is a skill game against the other players like a competitive tic-tac-toe.
|Tahbet Earth Shaker|
It isn't wise to gamble away one's last gold coin. And it isn't wise to do so while having a job as a bodyguard. But who said Tahbet was a wise man? Also the wiskey and merry atmosphere make him relax a bit.
He follows Fiona and exchanges his last gold piece for a gold eye, planning on trying his luck at Skiff or maybe Boulder. He hasn't heard of the other games and playing something you don't know is outright stupid.
"Skiff, maybe Boulder?" he answers to Fiona. "What' you think Variel?"
Variel joins his new Shoanti companions, bringing his bottle along. He collects a gold eye for himself, and suggests, "Games of chance tend to be balanced in favor of the house, but games of skill require you to have a feel for the game. Have you ever played Golem or Skiff? If not, we might start with Bounder."
Variel will do his best to keep both Saul and the imp in view, while also watching the mood of the crowd. Take 10 on all relevant skills to keep it easy.
Fiona shakes her head. "I think I'd rather start with Bounder. I have no experience with any of the games on offer here."
The group make their way to a red felt dice table and settle around. A gnome with a particularly vicious-looking grin beckons everyone over.
"Welcome me boyos and of course the lovely lady," he blows a kiss at Fiona. "You look a little daze-eyed so we're playing bounder here. Each of you put down a stake - and that stake is a MINIMUM one silver tooth; that's both hands full of copper hearts if you're not counting types. You each roll a giant one here."
He holds up a twenty-sided die. "The number you get - that's yer point. If you want, you can double that bet if you like the result."
He holds three six-sided dice.
"If I match your number, you lose your stake. Otherwise, you roll your giant's bone again. If you get on the other side of my number - we call that a bound - you get stake. Otherwise you lose it all. So if you roll an 18, and I roll a 16, you want to get -under- that 16 to win. Gotta bound the dealer. So place your bets and roll!"
Place a bet of 1sp or more and roll 1d20. If you like the roll, you can state you're doubling the bet. After that, the dealer rolls against you. You roll one more time. Your goal is to have one number over the dealer, and one number other.
Fiona steps forward and puts her gold eye on the line. "Here's my bet. Now, let's give it a bash." Betting my 1 gold eye (1 gp).
She scoops up the dice and rolls it.
Bound Roll 1: 1d20 ⇒ 11
Fiona watches the dice land and folds her arms.
Variel breaks his gold into silver and puts down 2sp.
"I tend to bet conservatively my first time down."
He picks up the big die and rolls ... 1d20 ⇒ 10
Seeing the middle number, he chooses not to double his bet.
When the animatrice comes over to his table, Bofur waits until she's distracted, pours a dot of ink on the 'contract' and holds it up against the back of a neighbor's knuckle as his signature. He then cashes in a gold piece for 10 silver teeth and goes back to his spot at what turns out to be the bounder table.
He tries to understand the rules of the game as the croupier explains them and lays down three teeth. He nods when he catches the attractive Shoanti woman's eye but otherwise holds his tongue.
When the funny die passes to him, he shifts it from hand to hand a couple of times to warm it up and shake off any bad mojo from other players and - at the same time - see if its weighted. He then rolls it.
bounder1: 1d20 ⇒ 20
He's unsure of the value of his result, but doubles his bet anyway and turns to the others. "Ye three seem as far 'way from home as me. Did 'Ol' Scratch' summon ye?"
|Tahbet Earth Shaker|
"Are we now, dwarf? " Tahbet asks annoyed. These lands are ours since the fall of the great empire. And still people think we don't belong here, He thinks.
He places 2 silver on the table, then rolls the die. First roll : 1d20 ⇒ 13
Satisfied with his roll he doubles his bet.
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Bofur cranes his neck upward trying to figure out where the creature's torso ends. "Unless ye were feathered on the way into town, I'd say yea, tribesman. Otherwise, yer garb mightn't stand out so much. Given yer height, though, I s'pose ye'r used to that and there ain't nothin for it. Ye seein anythin unusual about this gatherin that far up?"
Fiona arches an eyebrow at the dwarf. Quite surly, isn't he?
"Aside from the imp in the cage? Nothing really." She sighs with a bit of frustration.
|Tahbet Earth Shaker|
"Kel-grish Dwarf, " Tahbet greets him, relaxing again. At least he has some guts, He thinks.
"No, until now, nothing interesting. What brings you here, just the games? "
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"The name's Bofur juss so ye needn't keep callin me dwarf. A bit o' devilry it was that brought me here. Speakin o' which, can ye tell if that imp's a real un or not? I'd hate ta think there's some wizard scryin through im." Bofur looks at the elf with a mixture of suspicion and curiosity, as he might know something about casters.
Then he draws his attention back to the croupier. "Ye gonna roll that die this evenin or have we signed on for life here?"
Yay I have a computer again!
The dealer quickly throws out four sets of dice. Chatting incessantly as he does so.
"So we've got some elevenses from the lady and..."
Fiona: 3d6 ⇒ (4, 4, 3) = 11
"OH! Dealer match point, better luck next time sweetheart." He scoops up Fiona's gold eye.
"And a tenner from Mr. Elf here..."
Variel: 3d6 ⇒ (2, 2, 1) = 5
"And a fiver! Gotta roll under a fiver to make your bet, but maybe the gods are with you! Now for this grumpy dwarf here - and don't take it no personal. I've met many of yer kin at the gas forges and I know grumpy when I sees it. You rolled up a twenty - it's all up to what I gets here..."
Bofur: 3d6 ⇒ (2, 1, 1) = 4
"And under a four! Hard roll there. Finally my Shoanti friend here rolled a thirteen, good roll that one unless I match it."
Tahbet: 3d6 ⇒ (4, 6, 4) = 14
"Hah! Close one! Right, second roll for all of ya 'cept the missus. Sorry love, buy in next round, all right?"
Fiona: 11 Dealer: 11
Result: Match. Fiona loses her stake.
Variel: 10 Dealer: 5
Result: Variel must get below a 5 to bound the dealer.
Bofur: 20 Dealer: 4
Result: Bofur must get below a 4 to bound the dealer.
Tahbet: 13 Dealer: 14
Result: Tahbet must get above a 14 to bound the dealer.
Fiona sighs in resignation. "I'll be right back."
She walks off back to the cashier's cage and exchanges another gold piece. This time, she opts to stick with 10 Silver Teeth instead of 1 Gold Eye.
She returns to the Bounder table to wait for the others to finish their round.
Variel scowls. "Well, that's not a good start ... let's see here ..."
He gives the die a good shake, and throws:
1d20 ⇒ 5
He watches the die land, and sighs. "It would appear Calistria is having a drink with Desna, and laughing at me."
He pours a shot from his bottle of whiskey and drinks while Tahbet and Bofur take their rolls.
|Tahbet Earth Shaker|
Tahbet rolls his die while taking another sip of ale.
Winning roll: 1d20 ⇒ 3
or not :-D
When he looks at his roll he grimaces and then laughs at his own arrogance.
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Bofur smiles ruefully at Tahbet's roll. "Listra's tips I coulda used that roll!"
He picks up the odd die and warms it up between his hands before tossing it smoothly onto the table.
bounder: 1d20 ⇒ 15
"Bah! This game licks my familymakers!" He tosses his hands in the air and wanders around to look at the other tables.
Seeing as nobody at the table got lucky, Fiona opts to join her bodyguard and Bofur in looking for a different table.
As Bofur and the others wander, he checks out the layout of the place: how many doors are there besides the one he came in through? How many windows? Are they barred or even sealed? In an emergency - read: the appearance of a devil or demon! - where could he stand to get a clear shot? Where could he fire from cover without too much risk of hitting innocents? Where could people easily watch the proceedings from unobserved?
He doesn't necessarily expect such a creature to arrive, but he prefers to be safe. After all, sacrificing a whole hall full of greedy people would earn a few points in hell among those who appreciate such things.
Next he tries to identify anyone who's "anyone" present, as in receiving special treatment, others paying them homage, walking around with an entourage of fans or guards.
"I dinnae s'pose either of ye know this Saul gent? Is he a canny lad or a dobber?"
"No bounders!" cries the dealer enthusiastically as he collects your stakes. "Better luck next time!"
The group dejectedly turn away from the table. Bofur's eyes look over the massive hall. The casino floor is a wide room carpeted in rich red that has been patched in many places. Silken banners hang from floor to ceiling along the walls, and wide vertical blinds are drawn over the windows when morning light begins to peer in from the east. The chamber has a false ceiling 20 feet above, draped in layers of horizontally hung, gauzy beige curtains (in actuality there is no ceiling directly above these curtains—see area 30). Light is provided by numerous chandeliers hanging below this false ceiling as well as several large copper braziers spaced around the room with live coals to give the chamber a more hellish light for the tournament. At the back of the chamber between the kitchen doors is a small dais bearing a bust of Desna, goddess of luck.
A drunken dwarf sees Bofur and shouts back at him.
"I LOVE THIS PLACE! Ol' Saulie has turned around. I heared he was a big timer for a while afore he lost his hand and fortune. Now look at the place he has set up here! Going straight he is!"
The dwarf careens off.
The tables for the games themselves would make poor cover and are relatively rickety - a good crossbow bolt would blow right through one. The large dais in the centre of the room is a little better. There are also some pillars scattered about the place.
The other games the players have not tried are Ghoulette, a pick a spot, spin a wheel sort of game. Golem, a competitive card game. And Skiffs, a token-and-grid game popular with halflings.
I'll also accept knowledge local checks about Saul or whatever else in the area you want to know about.
"Well, seems one o me landsman's gotten into the ale a might early. Don't mind him. Let's ask that elf if he knows squat about what happened to Saul. Them elves is always gatherin info about one n all. Seems our "ol' Saulie" mighta been somethin of a skellum afore losin his hawn," Bofur adds, making a gesture as though his hand were missing like Saul's.
Kn (local): 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (7) + 3 = 10
Variel picks up his silver and follows the others, having no better companions in this place. He notices Bofur's careful study of the place and approves.
Fiona ponders Bofur's curiosity regarding the Gold Goblin's benefactor. She heard quite a few rumours ever since she arrived in Riddleport... perhaps, upon recollection, a few of them would shed some light on the man.
Knowledge (Local): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (11) + 5 = 16