As per my last session - Writing up recaps
A: We've spoken before about how we both write recaps of every session that we run, both for our players and for us so that we have handy reminders as to what's happened when. Like a personal wikipedia entry for each session.
C: Yes, this recently became very relevant in my game, when something I'd foreshadowed years ago finally came into play. I could tell players to look back at Recap 12 and there it was!
A: That was a very surreal moment. And I figured that it would be worth sharing a recap here to let people see what we mean when we talk about this. So here you go, here is the recap I wrote for the very first session I ever DM'd. Looking back at it, the plot was definitely...not the strongest, and it takes some wacky turns, but it was still fun to run, and it's cool getting to look back at it now and seeing how things have developed.
A1: Into the Spillwater
In which the party learns the danger of answering advertisements that promise fun for all.
- Maddy: human Barbarian. Impulsive and inquisitive.
- Petra: elf Rogue. Flirtatious and avaricious.
- Saoirse: half-elf Sorcerer. Sophisticated and fragile.
- Weyrholm: dwarf Druid. Cantankerous and rustic.
- (Delphi: human Cleric. Eager and currently-not-part-of-the-party.)
Everyone is currently level 3.
- Petra acquires a signet ring bearing a fleur-de-lys insignia, and a dragon scale necklace
- Saoirse gains a very fine, red travelling cloak
- Maddy & Werholm both gain small packets of marsh samphire, the use of which, if any, is currently unknown
- Maddy receives a dried fish
- Everyone loses some of the moral high ground
This story begins in the months in between winter and spring when the weather cannot decide if it wants to snow or rain so oscillates continually between both, on the southern edge of the Spillwater Marshes, in a small hamlet called Street. The hamlet may once have lived up to its name, but over the years it has shrunk from a double row of houses stretching out in either direction, to a small cluster of buildings centred around the single inn. Each year, the marsh reclaims a little bit more of the land, and in time Street will be nothing more than a name on old maps.
For now though, it is still functioning as a settlement, and the inn is open for business. This is where the intrepid heroes of this tale first meet, at The Owl in the Marsh, in its front room. There is four of them, and they are all (more or less) excited for adventure, though the half-elf Petra may not have realised exactly how nature-y the marshes were going to be. They arrive in response to an advertisement: Tristanne’s Nature Retreat. Learn about the flora and fauna of these unique wetlands; experience punting through the waterways; see historic and interesting sights; meet genuine marsh-folk; make lifelong friends. Technically, most of these things will happen. There will also be far more danger, magic, royalty, and swans than advertised.
After exchanging some brief pleasantries with each other and paying their fees, the tour organiser, the eponymous Tristanne, urges them to set out for the days are short and the weather liable to turn drizzly at the drop of a hat. Tristanne is a middle aged, nervous-looking half-elf who looks like she might share similar views to Petra on the wholesomeness of camping in wetlands in winter, but she is competent enough with a punt, which is the main requirement for those foolhardy enough to head into the Spillwater in this season. The party, who give themselves the name Street’s Jolly Walkers—henceforth known as the SJWs—follow her out of the tavern and into their first adventure.
As they go, the dwarf Weyrholm feels a small hand tug at the back of his jerkin. Turning around, he sees the small gnome girl who has been serving drinks behind the bar. She tells him that her parents are currently missing in the marsh, having ventured out the month before to the city of Blackmarsh on the northern side of the Spillwater, and implores the druid to be careful out there, as well as asking him to keep a look out for them. Faced with this incredibly disconcerting statement, Weyrholm reacts stoically, promising to take care and resolving to search for the missing gnomes on his travels, a task which will be more long-reaching that he realised.
The first part of the SJWs’ journey is calm and uneventful, the Spillwater in early spring being a bleak and unlively place. The local name for the marshes in this season, when nothing grows, and only the hardiest of fauna venture out of hibernation, is the Stillwater, and as the party travel deeper along the waterways into its heart, they understand why it is thus called: nothing moves, nothing breathes; the world is still asleep under winter’s blanket.
However, when the party stop to picnic and to investigate a picturesque ruined tower (which contains a mysterious quantity of swan feathers), they are attacked suddenly by boggards. These large frogmen sneak up on Weyrholm first, the druid having stayed outside to guard the punts. He deals with one, while the others arrive and finish of the remainder.
After this incident, the SJWs quickly return to their boats and move on, leaving the boggard corpses as food for the swans who seem to nest in the tower in the hope that such an act might be repaid down the line. They also privately become suspicious of Tristanne, who had not warned them that such dangers were present in the Spillwater, though it is hard to tell if she is incredibly devious or worryingly naive, or maybe both. Whatever the answer, they have no option at present but to continue with her and head deeper into the marshes.
The SJW pause for another break when they reach the hut of a marsh-folk, and wrinkled, elderly, slightly green-skinned gnome called Sophie. Maddy and Weyrholm talk to her while Petra eavesdrops on their conversation (and Saoirse naps in the weak sunshine). Sophie is pleasant but not the fount of wisdom that her name might have implied. She hasn’t seen any missing gnomes recently, but she does give them a small packet of marsh samphire each. It may or may not be significant. As Maddy is extra courteous and friendly, the old woman also gives her a dried fish which the barbarian politely accepts.
The next day the party’s suspicions of Tristanne deepen, especially when she refuses stop at a perfect picnic spot, insisting instead that they press on deeper into the marshes. Her flustered explanations convince no one, and when she leaves them to ‘check out’ a tree in the distance, they agree that this might be a time to draw swords, prepare spells and get ready for an attack. Petra conceals herself amongst the reeds while the others wait in plain sight. Eventually a punt appears and one of its occupants—a man in a red silk cloak holding two loaded crossbows—calls out for Tristanne’s friends. Weyrholm suspecting the worst, decides to attack first, and the rest of the SJWs quickly join the fray. The bandits—it is immediately obvious that they are bandits; no normal person carries two loaded crossbows into a meeting with friends—fight back. Tristanne is part of the bandit group, and she proves to be far more competent at fighting than she was when faced with the boggards (no difficult task since on that occasion she stood frozen to the spot in apparent terror), but even with her help they are no match for the SJWs and quickly succumb to their blend of magic and force.
The group’s troubles aren’t immediately over, for the blood in the marsh water attract a party of piranha-like muckdwellers who attack, but, still full of adrenaline, the SJWs easily dispatch this new, and incredibly inconvenient, enemy. They riffle through the chief bandit’s pockets, Petra claiming his pretty (and definitely not magic) necklace and signet ring, and Saoirse his red cloak, then set about interrogating Tristanne about her part in the ambush. They commit fully to the interrogation, opting for the tough approach, immediately stringing her up by her ankles over a bear trap and intimidating her senseless. Tristanne admits to being both devious and naïve—she set up for a bandit attack, but only because she wanted their nature retreat to be extra-fun and adventurous. She is also hopelessly in love with the chief bandit, the young human with beautiful hair called Isilt. She did not intend things to become as murderous as they did and cannot understand why Isilt really tried to kill the party instead of sticking to the plan. She is terrified and more than a little broken hearted as she realises that her true love may have lied to her.
The party turn to Isilt, intending to question him too. But before they can learn anything about him (most importantly, is he the cad he currently appears to be), their evening of tea and interrogation is interrupted by the arrival of yet more people. The leader of these newcomers introduces himself as Aethelsea, king in the Spillwater and the surrounding lands. He has recently been tricked out of his castle by a witch called Irene (during the winter solstice celebrations no less). He is now hiding in the marshes while searching for a way to retake his castle, and he believes that an adventuring party such as the SJWs might be just what he needs: if they can sneak into the castle and open the gate for him, his forces will be able to get back inside. They will be justly rewarded if the assist him in this endeavour (and it probably won’t even be that difficult, probably).
After much discussion, the SJWs agree to the (former) king’s proposal, though privately they plan to see what Irene is like before deciding who to support. With the intention of going to the castle in the morning, they fall asleep in Aethelsea’s camp after an intense two days in the marshes.
Tristanne: The group’s guide on their nature retreat. She does lead them into a trap, but may ultimately have a good heart. The party let her go, fearing that she would not cope well with the king’s justice. This generosity may or may not come back to haunt them.
Isilt de Ghent: Leader of the bandits. Thus far all the group really know about him is that he favours crossbows (and has a lackey to reload them for him), probably comes from a wealthy family, and Tristanne is in love with him. An unsavoury character.
The other two bandits: Isilt’s gang is made up of two further bandits, a maniacal dwarf and an opaque marsh-folk boy. They are also probably unpleasant, though, like Isilt, the SJWs have yet to interact with them outside of battle.
Aethelsea: (Former) king of the region, he is determined both to regain his kingdom and to maintain its independence in the face of interference from the Absalom Empire. He’d like the help of the SJWs in at least the former of those tasks. He has a horse.