Hello and welcome to the ongoing “Adventures of Pete (and some other guys…)”.
The group has been going every week excepting a few holidays or vacations since that first session. Yes, that is the official title of the group, and yes, they chose it themselves just the way it is written. With the the ‘other people’ besides Pete being thrown in as though they were an afterthought. Pete has a healthy dose of self-esteem.
Let’s do introductions then:
Left to right: Belphagor, Yoshim, Zanziver, Pete, and Serena
Belphagor – a tiefling warlock. Obsessed with proving his worth, he can tell tales about himself nearly as tall as Pete does, though not always as convincingly.
Yoshim – a gnome wizard. The eldest of the group, most of his time is spent doing damage control (literally and figuratively) from everyone else’s shenanigans.
Zanziver – a gnome pirate. With a scimitar as long as he is tall, an honest-to-goodness peg leg, and an eyepatch that you’d swear was over the opposite eye earlier, he’s counting the days until he can get back on a ship as a proper pirate.
Pete – a half-elf bard. His character is styled after the Pied Piper though some less-than-pleasant interactions with previous town’s mayors has caused him to try and be a little less conspicuous as of late.
Serina – a tabaxi ranger. Her feline senses lend an edge to her tracking and survival skills. She’s deadly with or without her swords as she always keeps her claws sharpened.
So our story begins…
Month of Sif’k – Day 19 1491DR
We start in the small town of Alderleaf. It sits at the edge of the large forest and a keen eye can see it was once a bustling town with a lumber logging community. The decrepit mill still manages to hold itself upright at the edge of the river. The folks who still live here rely on the random traveller trying to cut through the forest to make time to places far more important.
Two gnomes sit in a mostly empty and quiet tavern / inn. There are blueprints spread across the table, and they are taking advantage of the proximity of the large hearth to cast light on the detailed drawings. Their voices gets louder as the discussion gets more intense. The words drift over in snatches to a hooded figure seated in the corner. “Hidden functions … propel me over stuff … mechanical stress …”
If you were to look closely at this lone figure, you’d be able to tell that the hood did not drape in the typical curve of a human head. It appeared to be propped up by something. You’d also no doubt notice that their skin was a deep red. Luckily for Belphagor, no one seemed to be looking closely.
From outside, a smattering of applause is heard coming from the town square. A tall lithe man with black hair and delicately pointed ears, in gaudy red and gold clothing that fairly screams ‘bard’, stands in the middle of a crowd of children and their parents that have been dragged along to watch. The last notes of his jaunty tune fade as a burst of sparks erupts from the end of his flute.
He reaches up and flips over his double brimmed deerstalker hat, bending over in a bow. He smiles broadly at the sound of a few coppers clattering into the hat. His eyes dart past the crowd to a side street and he winks at the woman leaned against one of the shops. She stands partially in shadow, avoiding attention, not having an affinity for the socializing and schmoozing that the entertainer did.
It’s difficult to avoid attention even without him. Standing 6’4″, lean and muscular, head to toe everything about her stands out. The ginger fur, with subtle tiger-stripe markings. The leather armor with two short swords hooked at each hip and longbow across the back. The distinctive feline head – cat ears, snout, slitted irises. Tabaxi folk aren’t common around, well, anywhere outside of their forest home really.
Meanwhile, back inside the Sputtering Fireball, the barkeep, Fendrel, finally tosses the gnomes out as he’s “had enough of people causing commotion in his tavern of late” and proceeds to gesture at a “help wanted” notice tacked to the board beside the bar. He explains the local book dealer, Yannock, has been in nearly every night ranting about ghosts disturbing his peace.
With need of coin, and little better to do, the gnomes decide to see if they can’t help the beleaguered man. By the time he figures out neither of them can cast out specters and spirits they’ll be out of town.
Halfway there, they realize someone seems to be following them and they turn to confront the stranger. What follows is a very clumsy acrobatics display between Pete and Serina as they attempt to play it cool. The newcomers manage to convince, albeit begrudgingly, the two gnomes to let them join the adventure.
After some persuading of their expertise, they convince the rather cranky book dealer to take their offer of help. Yannock describes the situation. “It’s all very strange: it seems like I hear the voices for a few days, then they go away, and then come back again a few weeks later. Lately, things have gotten worse. The house is creaking in a way it never did, and things are pulled off of the bookshelves at random.” The older gentleman directs them to the basement as the source of the phenomena.
Once in the basement, they do hear some muffled voices at the far corner of the room. They negotiate the maze of bookcases that stretch to the ceiling, books stacked on the floor when the sagging shelves were too full, and discover a hole in the wall, two rats disappearing inside. The group investigates the opening only to find themselves sliding quickly down a sloped tunnel. Well, all but Serina, whose honed reflexes caused her to dig into the walls of the tunnel and stop her descent.
The rest are chucked out of the end of the tunnel and land with a splashing thud into a large, freshly excavated looking, flooded underground area. Serina delicately follows behind. There are multiple panels with pulleys set up here, and a low covering of water. After determining how to raise the panels, they find the water level changes as the panel lifts, and not always for the better.
Rats start attacking out of the darkness. Pete, feeling confident in his abilities to deal with rodents, immediately jumps into the fray to command the rats to do his bidding. Unfortunately, something isn’t quite right as the rats ignore his authority – and he swears they even *laugh* at him. Yoshim manages to slip in the water and faceplant, only to have the indignity of a rat attacking with a chomp to his buttcheek.
Managing to finally kill the handful of vermin, they start exploring the lightless space. Pete produces some dancing lights, but it doesn’t help much. The layout of the cavern is difficult to keep straight with all of the panels and twisting sections, and they soon realize they have circled back on themselves a few times.
At some point they find they are now directly under a corner of the house. Here the basement foundation is fully exposed, as though whoever dug out the area was intending the structure to collapse from the loss of support. This is otherwise a dead end. They turn back, still at a loss of the grand scheme. It definitely isn’t ghosts.
Finally, they locate a way out that seems to lead upwards and away from the bookseller’s. The group eventually clambers up and into an abandoned room in what appears to be an old sawmill. As they do, they can hear hushed voices indicating someone is aware of their arrival.
They quietly make their way to the door of the room, only just dodging the floorboards as they fall away to a spiked pit. Once out into the main work area of the mill, they are greeted by dozens and dozens of glinting eyes. In woodpiles, along the rafters, scurrying along the floor. One of the rats is slightly larger than the rest, and stands on his hind legs shouting orders to the myriad of brethren. The group realizes they can all understand him, the rat is yelling in broken Common. They hear something about “attacking the intruders” and “protect the moon!”.
They are soon swarmed by what appear to be higher than average intelligence rats. The ones in the rafters push boards with spikes of nails down onto them, a few others drop large rocks. The group of adventurers scatter to avoid the dangers, only to have some nearly fall through another weak section of floor.
Yoshim manages to figure out that the rats seem to have rigged a pump system to flood the area under the house via the tunnel, for some unknown reason. The team sets about disabling the mechanism permanently. The lead rat is enraged, and screams about plans to “capture the moon” and to “stop them before they ruin everything!”.
After more work than felt necessary, they slay the leader; and with him dead, the remaining rats decide to flee.
They then agree to sneak back through the tunnels to the basement to thoroughly search for possible answers to the rat’s ramblings. If they manage to locate some extra compensation as well, they couldn’t be judged too harshly. They begin to search the labyrinthine bookcases for anything interesting. Serina slyly pockets a random book. Pete manages to get attacked by a hidden poison dart in another book. Deciding the bookcases are not financially worth the trouble, they head to the corner where the most damage was done beneath.
A small room filled with tables and shelves of alchemy instruments. Bottles and jars. Burners and dried herbs. One wall of the room is oddly devoid of clutter, and after some scrutiny it is discovered there is a secret door that opens into a small room – and Yoshim is pretty confident that the majority of the excavation was centered below this hidden area. What the rats were trying to accomplish they can only guess.
Amongst some random keepsakes; a rusted dagger, some indeterminate potions, a pair of worn hiking boots; they find a shimmering opalescent pendant suspended under a glass dome upon a pedestal. The stand leans slightly, and cracks in the floor confirm it was only a matter of time before it came crashing down. Yoshim and Zanziver manage to work together and slip the necklace out from its display, barely escaping the poison gas mechanism that was set to protect it.
Uncertain how to deal with telling the man that his house was under attack by rats (and making that sound believable), they instead sneak out and plan to discuss it in the morning.
All four head back into town late in the night, stopping at the inn to request rooms, and try to recover from the ordeal.
So ends the first adventure of Pete (and some other guys).
A thank you to Brian Reeves for sharing his “Beneath the Floorboards” one shot to Reddit. It was simple enough and written well for a first-time DM to run.