Play Report: Malazan Session III

At session II, which I missed, we introduced a new character: Sadddique, the rogue.

And at session III we introduced another, Timmie, using a Ranger variant i made a few days earlier, just removing spells in exchange for being able to take the fighting specialization repeatedly.

The party spent a lot of time split, and did a lot of information gathering and not a lot of murdering, more or less to their chagrin. More because they were itching for combat by the end, less because I think they’re getting pretty uncomfortable with all the morally ambiguous decisions working for the Empire is encouraging them to make.

They met another soldier named Jackal when they arrived at Darujhistan, and with them they brought some stolen trade goods and girl who’s not all there and they know to be a Soletaken. Jackal brought them to Fiddler and Quick Ben, of Bridgeburner fame, who have also snuck into Darujhistan at this time, and they handed the girl to their care. Timmie was introduced as the Empire’s contact for the Daru Thieve’s Guild, and so he was able to help the party fence the stolen goods – granting them a small source of income during their time in Darujhistan. From there they worked primarily at making contacts in the city.

First, they went among the people to get an idea of what’s going on in Darujhistan these days. The only really interesting tidbit they got in the markets was that the newest Council member was going to be holding a party that night. They set out to get into that party.

To that end, they split up and half of the party sought to make contact with a character the Thieve’s Guild knows only as “The Eel.” They were able to meet with one of The Eel’s agents at the Phoenix Inn, with a little bit of bribery, and the agent agreed to help get them into the party in exchange for doing some yet-unnamed task for The Eel. Simultaneously, the Thieve’s Guild was working on another way to get them in.

Meanwhile, the other half of the party, masquerading as a traveling merchant and part of his retinue, went to try to meet the Lord in question – Anish. They were unable to meet with Anish, but met with his senechal – Zavoz. Zavoz provided them with invitations.

The Thieve’s Guild had their names added to the list of extra contacted servants, but when they met with The Eel’s agent again, they were provided with uniforms of the regular servants, allowing them even easier access to the party. In exchange, they were given a packet of three dossiers on individuals The Eel wanted “taken care of.”

Once they were all at the party, they snuck around looking for anything incriminating they could blackmail Anush with, and stole a few things. They found evidence that Anish was personally meeting with a powerful wizard in the city, including shortly before his father died, giving him his council seat. They also were able to pick up another job from a different wizard, contracting them to “punish” a rival for “stealing” an apprentice. The “artist/art merchant” was able to secure an invitation to stay at Anish’s estate for the entire party, under the guise of them all being part of his retinue.

The next day, they set out to find a way in to the home of the apprentice-stealing wizard. They split up again. Half the party held a stakeout on the house, the other half tried to find a way through the tunnels under the city to get under the house. The half under the house encountered some armed Daru meeting with a wizard that the Claw member with them recognized as bearing the sigil of the Pannion Domin. They briefly engaged with the group and then parleyed, the wizard disappearing into the darkness during the exchange. The ones on the stakeout recognized one of their targets from the dossiers, and followed and attacked him. It turned out that he was a member of the assassin’s guild, and they revealed their other targets to him and he confirmed that they are all also assassins, and all on the same contract, but he didn’t know why The Eel would want them dead. They took him captive and hauled him off to their hideout behind Quip’s bar, hoping that The Eel’s eyes and ears would think they took him off somewhere to kill him and dump the body quietly.

I left this session really open ended, but the nature of the Empire makes it easy to make morally ambiguous decisions. The next session should have some opportunities to do Good things, which might be refreshing for us all.

Sidebar: Cleric Spells in D&D

It’s been a while since my last post. I haven’t had much bandwidth and I’ve been letting myself use the excuse of waiting for a play report from the last Malazan session, because I wasn’t there. I’m going to be running the next (third) session tomorrow, so there should be a report for that shortly thereafter.

I read a comment today lamenting that Cleric spells in 5e are “unevocative.” I do not know yet if the individual meant that as a general statement, or in relation to previous editions, but I remembered people having the same complaint about 3rd edition. I was never very familiar with 4th and I know it handled magic very differently (I was excited about that, but in my limited exposure to the system disappointed with the execution. I’ve never liked Vancian magic.) so that could well have never been a complaint by heavy 4e players, I just don’t know. But I remember the complaints about “having to play the cleric” when I played 3e a lot. Now, I have more of an affinity toward playing support roles than a lot of people I’ve gamed with, so maybe it’s that, but when I finally ended up playing the cleric I really enjoyed it. I found their spells made me get creative with how to use magic because there weren’t as many clear cut do this much damage, or add this bonus, etc spells as there are with Wizards and Sorcerers. To me, that made it more interesting. 3.0 was better at that than 3.5 (can’t cast create water inside a living creature? bah!)  and I haven’t spent a lot of time with the cleric spell list for 5e yet, so it seemed like a good exercise. I’m going to go through the spell list right now, probably up until the point that my wife wakes up, and share my thoughts on them.

0) Cantrips

The cantrips haven’t changed a whole lot from 3e. In general the spell lists look a lot like 3e. Sacred Flame is the Cleric’s damage cantrip, all the primary casters have one. It’s just a thematic swap on the same mechanic. Spare the Dying is tactically interesting, but, I’ll admit, not that exciting.

1) 1st level

Again, not much new. Some of these are interesting, though.

Command – I think it’s pretty interesting. It’s again tactically interesting with respect to combat, but also pretty cool with respect to roleplaying. I like to imagine the character using a booming, otherworldly voice. The one word bit makes it less exciting, but I think if the essence of the command is one word there’s no reason not to use more to get the same point across. It reminds me of Gandalf and the Balrog.

Create or Destroy Water – I had to know. It specifies “open container,” but doesn’t actually specify anymore that it can’t be inside a living creature. Now we just have to debate if lungs are a container. Containing is certainly one of their functions…

Healing Word – Ranged healing. Something we’ve all been asking for for a while, but not actually exciting. I mean healing is just what clerics do.

Sanctuary – Sanctuary can be pretty cool if you use it dramatically.

2) 2nd Level

Augury – Augury has the potential to be cool, but isn’t. Who has time to sit down and do a reading for what they might do for the next 30 minutes? Assuming the universe i.e. the DM doesn’t throw a wrench in their plans which s/he certainly will.

Prayer of Healing – Ranged, mass healing. Again things we want, but not actually exciting.

Warding Bond – this is pretty neat. I like the aspect of needing to stay in a certain range of the caster. I think it’s interesting tactically and roleplaying wise.

Zone of Truth – Zone of Truth can be cool. Especially if things are tense around some important story mystery.

And I’m going to stop there because life beckons. So far I’m tending to agree that cleric spells are rather dull. I’ll have to pay attention to that in my DMing. If this is interesting I can continue this exercise as I have time. Let me know!