The Black Phoenix Gang
- Walter Black – Oathborn Soldier
- Vice Black – Slothborn Soldier
- Kheign Black – Fearborn Head of Security
- Archie Black – Oathborn President of Gang
- Flinch Black – Shadowborn Dealer
- (Not Present) Violet Black – Warborn Poisoner
- Nick The Pig (Mr. Nicolas) – Boss of St. Jabber’s Mound
- Relgok – The Pig’s Chief of Security
- Sweaty Freddie with the Rusty Machete – Barkeep at the Choked Goat
- Tophin – Self-styled King of the Orphans in St. Jabber’s Mound
- Chopper – A talking feral dog
- Brickhouse – Dealer for the Black Phoenix Gang
- Tinpot – Archer. Friend of Brickhouse. Guard for Brickhouse.
- Dr. Lump – Pimp
- Tommy Tightlips – Pimp
Titheday (June 7)
The party, having been violently put down and captured after trying to whack Nick the Pig, were chained in the jakes – the shit-filled bog underneath Pig Manor’s crude toilet-system.
I had two weeks to let this percolate, and I knew that some harsh penalties were due, but that I had to let the narrative move forward. I wrote a snippet of a story once that described some of the horrors visited to the body of someone who had spent time in Galron, and one of the more memorable ideas was an iron ring fused to back of the neck on the spine, a kind of “leash ring” and that idea seemed fitting – a physical reminder of their servitude to the Pig.
I knew I was going to take all their cash and drugs, and leave them in the shitters until Titheday and watch them scramble to get up their tithes. I also knew that I had to give equal measures of the stick and the carrot.
I described them being chained in the jakes for an unknown amount of time, as they were fatigued from lack of food or water (it ended up being 4 days) and then the torture scene where the ring is affixed, and then a transition to them all regaining consciousness together in an empty room and doused with buckets of water and had new clothes given to them and told to follow.
Up, up, up they went again, to the Pig’s office, sans prisoners-in-chains-on-the-wall. There they were made to wait again, and when Mr. Nicholas appeared, he was all smiles. He had them by the neck-ring, and he knew it.
“You are well rested after your vacation, yes?” he laughs “Good! And I have to say, I would have been offended had you not tried to kill me, and that is worth more than the Shitkickers ever offered me, you see? So. This is what will be. The Black Phoenix now belongs to me. You will take over the Shitkicker’s territory and you will supply alcohol and narcotics to my patch until I’ve decided you have repaid your debt to me. You will pay me tribute, weekly, and pick up the goods here, and you will return to profits to me, here. Protection revenue is yours to keep, and any rackets you start up for yourself, I get half of the action.”
Well. This was a bitter pill to swallow, but swallow and smile they did. Mr. Nicholas grinned at them like a shark and dismissed them, adding at the last minute that their weapons would be returned and a building has been set aside as a house for the gang. The natives have been informed of the “change in middle management” and they did not need to fear walking the streets (mostly).
This did much to soothe the burn, and they were talking about tons of stuff – rackets, security for the HQ, recruiting new members, but the thing that dominated the talk was that today was Titheday and they needed to get narcotics for Vice, and cash for Flinch to fulfill their tithes. Cash was easily taken, as they simply starting taking protection money from the populace, and it took them a few hours to canvass the patch, they had around 70 sp and headed to the Choked Goat to score some drugs, and Vice bought some dreamshit and immediately dosed. Kheign (and Violet, had she been there) had to sacrifice blood, and that came in the form of a raggamuffin – part of a pack of feral kids that had been following the party and ragging on them and throwing rocks. Things got heated. This could have escalated later on, but that was solved with diplomacy, as will be discussed further down. Vice doses and stays loaded all day. He was fucking funny.
Walter and Archie, both oathborn, needed to declare a public vendetta. Walter chose a surprising one, and said Chopper (the talking dog that betrayed them to the Pig’s crew). He was seriously pissed and I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that his character wasn’t present at the last session and he felt a bit of that helpless rage. It was a good one, though, and would come to fruition this very session. Archie, however, chose a different path. Can you guess?
He declared for Nick the Pig and swore to kill him. Now the faith states that in order for a current vendetta to be able to be used next Titheday, that you have to actively advance the vow’s purpose. So this means that Archie has chosen, from the get, to prod this fuckin guy until he will be forced into another confrontation. Its a bold strategy and I totally get why the player is doing this with his character, and its going to be quite a ride, I think.
They wrapped up the day by going to their new home, and its a single story building. Its got a sturdy front door on the short wall, facing Crooked Jack Lane, with a drop-bar for security. There are 4 windows on the long wall, with lockable wooden shutters. The interior is divided into two spaces, one large and one small, with a door between them. In the small room is a trapdoor with a 5′ ladder that leads to a crawlspace half the size of the room above it. There were 6 beds, some cooking gear, and a few buckets. Beyond that, they would have to improve themselves. They had another chat about the next day’s activities and then set a watch and crashed for the first real sleep they had had in 6 days.
Fishday (June 8)
Hope your sitting down. This is a long fuckin day.
The party rises before dawn and heads to Pig Manor with their remaining cash and for the first time in their lives they feel like they can relax on the street, all the locals giving them nods and asking them to give The Pig their blessings. They meet Relgok, the Pig’s “guard captain”, who makes a bunch of jokes about the smell of shit still hanging on them. They gritted their teeth and picked up moonshine and bought a passel of drugs – dreamshit, verytea and whiteleaf.
The Pig was going to sell to them at 1 sp below market value. I told the party that while the market could fluctuate wildly, based on the dealers’ whims, we needed to establish a mean, so that some sort of economic stability could drive the faux economy I was cobbling together with duct tape and vague notions. Here’s the short list:
- Dreamshit: 8 sp a dose
- Verytea: 3 sp per dose
- Whiteleaf: 4 sp per dose
So they would buy from the Pig at 7,2, and 3 sp, respectively and sell for whatever the market would bear. They bought 6 verytea and 6 whiteleaf, as no dreamshit was available at the moment. They were going to sell the whiteleaf for 6 sp and the verytea for 4 or 5.
So they load up and head to the Choked Goat, the only remaining operating tavern in this patch since Tom’s was lost to arson. They had plans to raise the price of the shine and they also talked about buying up dreamshit and hoarding it for a few days to get the junkies starting to twitch and then sell the shit for quadruple the price. They also needed someone to deal for them, someone reliable, and the barkeep at the Goat, whom you might remember is named Sweaty Freddie (with the rusty machete), said he remembered a guy named Brickhouse and said he was almost 7 feet tall and 350lbs, but a smart kid and could be trusted, which meant he would only steal a little and not a lot.
Freddie didn’t know where Brick might be, but they could check his girlfriend, Slutty Jane’s house. They find her door open and the woman killed – she laid on the floor with her throat cut and her eyes gouged out. They were freaked out and left immediately, and decided they would not tell Brickhouse about this.
So the party, with Freddie in tow, goes to the kid’s place and he agrees and is thankful for the gig. They discuss backup, and Brickhouse says he has a mate named Tinpot who is a crack shot with a bow, and after some interrogation he spills the fact that Tinpot has a dreamshit habit, but he’s been steady lately and can be trusted.
The party is dubious, but they agree to a “probation” and say that they will pay Brick and Tinpot 10 sp per day, to split between them, and Brick would work from noon to midnight and then drop off the cash at the gang’s HQ every night. Brick will work the Goat’s well, just like the now-deceased Billy Shitheel used to do, and they would see how this worked.
Their first racket was set up! Celebrations!
I should mention they had spent all but a few coins of their collected protection revenue on drugs. They were basically broke again for now.
The day was just getting warmed up, though, and it wasn’t even much past 8 am. They wanted to find a hedge witch that could work with them, maybe bake the healing bread that I had introduced last session, and they learned that Dirty Mary was not the only one that was local. There was Smelly Jane as well and she had an apprentice. This sounded pretty good. They go over there and talk to Jane but she’s a crazy fucker and sells them a loaf of bread but refuses to let them speak to her apprentice, Daphne. This doesn’t go over well with this crew and they bully her and barge past anyway. Daphne is terrified but she agrees to come and bake for them 3 nights a week, which satisfies them, and they leave.
They are heading back to their HQ when another long discussion breaks out. They talk about rebuilding Tom’s and turning it into a brothel, and they start realizing that they need a lot more stuff in their lives and ask me if they can go to some of the local dumps and scavenge some furniture or other useful stuff that they could maybe repair.
At this point I stopped the narrative and we had a chat as a group about the idea of me introducing a few new character skills and some rogue skills onto their character sheets.
Scrounging and Streetwise were added as core skills. Scrounging is Intelligence-based and Streetwise is Wisdom-based. These skills are proficient. I added a list of 4 rogue skills from past editions for some more depth. I said that they could choose two of the four choices of Open Lock (Int), Pickpocket (Dex), Trapsmith (Int), or Use Magic Device (Wis). These would be normal skills, used without proficiency (for now). Trapsmith was going to combine Find/Remove Trap and Disable Device and add a Trapbuilding aspect. They all chose and I had them roll 4 Scrounging checks at the dumps, each. The first die rolls of the session 🙂
They found several armfuls of boards, some ratty rugs, a few bits of furniture like footstools and chairs, as well as a few half-broken tools, a sea-chest with one broken hinge, and a catch-all term I called “scrap” or “hardware” that would include nails and bolts as well as other items that could be used to make traps or used as some other security measure. Not very well-defined, but it suited our needs. So they did pretty damn well on their rolls and they hauled all this stuff back to the house and got busy in the back room. Kheign had the great idea to put a rug over the trapdoor, and then the sea-chest on top of that and then nail the sea-chest/rug to the trapdoor and then put some minor valuables in the chest as a honeypot. This was going to try and disguise the fact that they were going to use the crawlspace to hide their stashed drugs and excess cash and other valuables (if they ever acquired any). They put 1 dose of dreamshit and a dagger in the chest and they buried the drugs and the tributes paid to the gang by the Choked Goat and both the hedge witches in the crawlspace dirt.
They head back to the Choked Goat and ask Freddie about any pimps looking for work. They explain the brothel idea and Freddie says he knows two and will send them to their HQ in two days. Dr. Lump and Tommy Tightlips (“I ain’t sayin’ nuttin'”) were hungry for work and Freddie says that their whores don’t generally have dreamshit habits, as that would make them nearly useless for their work.
On their way back they are confronted by a pack of raggamuffins. The leader, a kid named Tophin, is the King of the Orphans in this patch and he says that if the Black Phoenix will pay them tribute in food and other luxuries, they will have the raggamuffins as their eyes and ears and early-warning system. They agree and pay Tophin in food and some verytea. The kids scatter and now the Black Phoenix is feeling real safe. Getting cocky, I’d say.
Its starting towards dusk and the party decides to split up. Don’t worry. Its not a sin in my book. They totally didn’t almost die at all.
Kheign heads to the Goat to check on Brick and see if Tinpot was doing his job, or not. There had been a lot of discussion prior to hiring the archer about his reliability and devising some sort of test to see how good he was. This went on for maybe 5 minutes before I had to prompt them to make a decision. Their ideas were all pretty weird (getting someone to attack Brick to see if Tinpot would shoot??) and in the end it was Kheign’s decision and he simply made sure the dude was still awake. Kheign talks to Brick and finds out that he’s sold a bit of whiteleaf, but no verytea at all, because the prices were too high, and maybe a dozen ‘shit heads had come around looking to score, and some of them were quite angry at the lack of product.
Vice and Flinch head to Smelly Jane’s to pick up Daphne for her first shift at the HQ.
Walter and Archie stick around the HQ talking when Tophin, the Orphan King, shows up to tell them that Chopper the dog is in the area and he’s in a massive scrap with another feral mutt. The two sprint to the nearby location and sure enough there’s a crowd and people making bets. Walter grins at me and says a prayer to Umbruk, the Wrathlord, and waits for an opportune moment.
He shoulders the feral aside and runs his sword straight through Chopper’s chest as the talking dog was lunging. He holds the dog’s face looking straight at his and he watches the light die in Chopper’s eyes.
They cut his head off, spiked it, and placed it in the crossroads with a sign reading, “Snitch”.
It was a brutal, poignant moment, and I’ll miss ol’ Chopchop. I had a feeling he was going to play a large role in the narrative, but now he’s just a memorable death-story. Did he deserve to die? Debatable. He’s a servant of the Pig, same as anyone, and it was either the party, or him.
Walter, upon fulfilling his vendetta, feels a rush course through him. I decided he’d to be rewarded for honoring Umbruk, and so I said that he heard divine whispering in his mind, and then suddenly realized he could cast a single spell. I said he could pick any 1st level Cleric spell and that he could cast it once only. Its easy to keep things from spilling into magical madness in 5e – just give everything a set number of uses so it becomes a useful, if limited, reward. I said he could read up on them between sessions and get back to me with his choice.
Daphne returns to HQ with Vice and Flinch and gets to work. Since the process is going to take several hours, and Kheign is elsewhere, the boys decide to take a walk.
If you look at the map, you’ll see the gang’s HQ on Crooked Jack Lane. The area across the street and to the SW is all Murderboy territory. The street is literally the border (and could be considered a kind of Neutral Zone) and their HQ faces it directly. This was all too much temptation. Its nighttime, around 10, and they leave Vice behind to watch Daphne (and he said he wanted to watch her closely so he could try and duplicate the recipe) and decide to go snoop in the Murderboy patch.
Yeah. I was thinking what you are thinking, too. Let’s see where this goes, eh?
So they roll well, and are moving with stealth, keeping to the street level, and they get only a few blocks before they see a patrol of 3 Murderboys, talking and laughing as they head somewhere. Flinch climbs a house and nocks his bow. Walter and Archie separate, each on a different side of the street, and they all get ready.
They told me they were going to take a look and come back. Ha!
I quickly made these 3 Murderboys into basic rogues – 30 HP, 14 AC, with Cunning Action and Sneak Attack. Daggers and short swords. +2 to hit.
They got ambushed and 1 drops in the first flurry from Archie and Walter. Flinch misses from the rooftop. The 2 remaining ‘boys cut and run and start shouting for help.
The party didn’t expect that!
They gave chase and Flinch suddenly wakes up, and the two runners go down in 2 rounds, but they do some damage in return as they were forced to stand and fight at the last.
The neighborhood was awake now, and there were shouts and torches getting closer. The party rabbits. In 3 directions
They all took to the rooftops and the chase was on. I had them dodging and hiding the entire way back to their patch. They were sweating and cursing and rolling a lot better than their stupidity deserved. In short, they got out with no one actually eyeballing them, and no one saw them kill the rival gang members, but they don’t know that. They were shitting themselves that the entire gang was going to come for them (I told them earlier that the Murderboys were pretty big, around 40 members), but also laughing that there were now 37 Murderboys left.
Vice gets riled up and says he’s going to see Dirty Mary, the hedge witch. If they are going to get into a war, they are going to need more healing. After a series of checks, I said that he learned 75% of Daphne’s baking process, which he seemed pretty happy with. She baked 4 loaves for them (and they yield 10 slices each, and each slice heals for 5 HP each), so I was a bit confused, but I said nothing and let him go on his merry (Mary) way.
Now I need to interject here for a minute. Remember when I said earlier that the patch was going to be relatively safe now? Well I was still rolling encounters, all that safety meant is that 95% of the local population wouldn’t fuck with them, but random outside shit or the odd inside event? Totally fair game.
But I hadn’t rolled a single encounter all night. I use an old method where I roll a d6 and if I roll a 1, then I dice on the encounter chart that I’ve made for the area. For this campaign I wrote up 10 passive and 20 active encounters for the neighborhood. They were mostly geared towards when the gang was up and running. I had rolled a few last session, but they didn’t really fit the theme of them still being upstarts, and so I didn’t feel right running them. We are still in the “building phase” of the gang’s development, and even if I had rolled something, I probably wouldn’t have used it. Normally I would just make something up on the spot if I didn’t like the roll, because its still and encounter alert after all. But for this game, I dunno. Nothing feels right. I basically left them alone to do their business. Once the engine is up and running, then I can do what I do best and that’s to throw monkey wrenches at them. It feels weird having to wait, and I think that’s what’s throwing me off. Anyway.
Vice arrives at Dirty Mary’s and finds the front door open and no lights on. He calls out. No response. He goes in. Mary is lying on the floor, her throat cut, her eyes gouged out. Sound familiar? Vice is stunned and looks around for a moment. The interior isn’t trashed or anything, so whoever did it wasn’t looking for anything. He’s not moved at this point, he’s just standing in the doorway, the dim light from the street and the moon backlighting him as he’s looking at Mary’s body laying in the pale illumination. Suddenly there is motion and he turns and sees a figure dressed all in white, in a white mask, carrying a dripping blade. I tell him this is a member of the gang known as Saint Blade, and they are from the territory South of St. Jabber’s Mound (the gang’s neighborhood) and shouldn’t be here, and are known to be brutal assassins, though their numbers are small they are to be feared.
Why did I do this? Dunno. Seemed like a good idea to introduce a stronger enemy and a mystery. I tend to just try and read the table energy and try and raise it when it starts to flag.
He rabbits. There is a flash of light outside that blinds him and he hears two teleportation spells firing off, one after another. When he gets his sight back, the Blade is gone. He checks Mary’s body. Its still there. He’s baffled, but too much of a rogue to just run home. He searches her place and nets a bit of a haul – healing and poison-curing breads, 6 unknown potions and a Ring of Invisibility (3 charges, lasts 10 minutes) and then runs home.
In the meantime, back at Black Phoenix HQ, a group of totally-unrelated-to-the-prior-murders-of-their-fellow-gang-members Murderboys show up, drunk, and stand across the street and hurl insults at the gang. Totally harmless posturing. They may have thrown a few rocks.
This, of course, escalates. In the end the Black Phoenix were severely wounded and 4 Murderboys lay dead (“33 Murderboys left!”). Kheign rolls up around midnight, right at the end of the scrum. He got to roll 1 attack. Later, he said that he only rolled 1 die all night, and that was it. It was true, there wasn’t much for him to do, and while I’m fine with splits, dealing with a 3-way party split can sometimes go a bit wonky, and I was guilty of ignoring him a bit – I should have given him more to do while watching over Brickhouse. Vice also returned right at the end of the fight and the party, after arguing amongst themselves about what to do with the dead gangbangers in front of their place (“No! We aren’t taking them inside!”), retired into their HQ and everyone did an info dump about their activities.
The gang is very worried about Murderboy retaliation, and rightfully so. I didn’t think it was going to get this hairy, this fast. Still, the narrative marches on and if they get their asses kicked and lose all their gains, so be it. They talked about the drug rackets and the moonshine and the brothel plans and Vice told them about the murdered Mary and his loot. They buried the loot in the crawlspace, and rigged up a crossbow trap (the weapon taken from the earlier Murderboy patrol) that would fire when the trapdoor was lifted. I had a good time asking them how they were going to bypass the trap themselves. That caused more talk 🙂 They ended up with some derpy stick thing. It doesn’t matter. They won’t remember in the heat of the moment and someone is sure to get shot. Then I can laugh.
After this long-ass day, its time for sleep.
Slowday (June 9)
They needed to buy more drugs with the cash they looted from the dead gangbangers, and so they all headed out together to Pig Manor, and they decided, wisely, to tell the Pig about the dead Mary and the dead prostitute (Slutty Jane).
The Pig loses his mind. He drags Vice into a back room and puts him in a chair and runs a huge iron rod through the ring fused to the back of his neck and inserts it into a socket in the floor. Shoulda seen dude’s face. He was sweating. I wholesale stole the earworm thing from The Wrath of Khan and lifted this toothed slug out of a bowl and placed it on Vice’s cheek. It wriggled into his ear and starting chewing its way into his brain. This had the effect of forcing Vice to tell the 100% truth, and the Pig was satisfied and Vice was healed and the slug died (plenty more where that came from).
The party is shaken up at this point. Hearing their brother scream his head off and then he walks in, calm as Larry.
The Pig confesses that this invasion of Saint Blade is unsanctioned, and that the weird deaths of the witch and the whore bear the trademarks of people killed by the Talon – the secret police of the Owl (who rules the city as a shadow). The Talon are the boogeymen and the Pig is pacing and talking rapidly, and the party can see dude is scared. There was some back and forth roleplaying but for the most part this was a small info dump to get them more afraid of the Talon.
He dismisses them, they pick up their dope, and they head back to HQ to wait for the two pimps who are supposed to be coming by today. Tophin shows up as they arrive and says that a Murderboy is hustling down on the corner where Crooked Jack Lane meets Dagger Way. Technically this was in the “neutral zone”, but it was a clear provocation. The party shows up en masse and the dealer gets straight up murdered and robbed. I said that the dealer didn’t have any backup, and they didn’t really question that, they just went for it.
Yeah. Smells like a trap to me, too. That’ll come to fruition next session.
We were nearing the end of the session and we stopped with the party meeting the pimps and working out this elaborate contest they’ve dubbed Pimpslap 3000 – whomever hustles the most money in 1 day gets to run the brothel (when its built), and the loser has to stay at the Goat and run the usual street trade. They were going to have the contest at the Goat. The pimps agreed and we wrapped.
This was a pretty intense session. I went in with no plot, as usual, and we spent 95% of the time roleplaying. Couple of minor fights. Was damn fun all around, and they left with lots of chatter about what they wanted to do next, and my notes ended up being three pages long!