I got an interesting look into the minds of my players last night.
The group has been recruited by the arch-chancellor of the university they sometimes work for to investigate rumours that a salty old fisherman has dredged up an artefact from Lost Valsheim. If this is true it would be a discovery of monumental importance and of course there is much excitement. The salt has been talking about his discovery in the local tavern (the Winking Maiden) and it is imperative that the group gets to him before their rivals do.
Our magical thief goes to the tavern with his companion Carthago, a disgraced naval officer who now inhabits the body of an automaton hound (don’t ask). The bartender is a brusque woman who brooks no trouble from her patrons and the thief, Ton, suggests that maybe he knows her already. He fails his Contacts roll and I give him the option to succeed at a cost; he goes with this and so it turns out that she knows him alright, and in fact the last time he visited the bar he was banned for drunken and loutish behaviour of an unspecified nature.
She doesn’t immediately kick him out but instead begins a caustic roasting of our thief. Bravely he continues to ask for information, even offering a bribe to grease the wheels. She rejects his bribe but sets a pint of ale on the bar before him. In full view she then hawks up a massive glob of sticky phlegm and spits it into the drink.
“Drink up,” she says, “And I’ll tell yer what ye want to know.”
After initial protests he does indeed drink up. I describe how he feels a lumpy bit passing down his gullet like a raw oyster. Half the group looks green around the gills and complains of nausea.
A disproportionate response?
The thief and his mechanical hound at last find the sailors’ rooming house wherein dwells the salt with the information they require. On entering his room they find him to be dead drunk. They wake him violently and then in an effort to sober him up the mechanical hound uses his built-in mouth crossbow to shoot him through the hand!
The group doesn’t seem overly affected as I describe the bleeding and wailing and so forth. It seems this doesn’t affect them as viscerally as the snot-pint did.
This all seemed a bit excessive to me when they could probably have sobered him up and got him to talk without any violence. As it was his caterwauling meant they had to quickly leave the scene, absconding via the window even as two burly sailors shouldered down the door to try and find out what was wrong.
They manage to get the sailor back to their companion Urverk’s workshop (the Uverkshop) and interrogate him for the place where he found the relic. At that point they are interrupted by a Constable Latreen, who witnessed the sailor’s abduction and followed back to the Urverkshop.
Fortunately the Constable is willing to turn a blind eye for cash even though he’s basically a decent guy so he agrees to depart with the sailor with nothing more said in exchange for a donation to the Erindraum Constabulary Widows and Orphans Benefit Fund.
The stoic and generally genial Urverk is incensed at the violence that has been committed and the general level of attention and mayhem that has been brought to his workshop (especially since everybody thinks the hound is a pure automaton of his own creation) but the thief and the hound are happy to cavalierly discuss murdering the sailor and the constable in order to prevent their rivals from finding the location of Valsheim.
We’ll have to see next week if more compassionate minds prevail.
Anyway, I thought it was interesting that the players were viscerally affected by a relatively harmless scene involving drinking a loogie but were happy with the idea of torturing and murdering a completely innocent person in the course of getting what they want.
If they do take that route it will be interesting to play out the moral and societal consequences of their actions.
I should caveat this to say that I have myself played the ruthless assassin who kills whenever it’s convenient so I do somewhat understand the level of ruthless pragmatism at play.
It’s mainly an issue for the group in this case because the more ethical members of the group found out about it and there is likely to be a bit of a falling out.