- Clark Timmins(ctimmins)United States
UtahLove is the vampire, drunk on your blood
For DMing, prep was very easy. There's a few things to note, but it's all pretty straightforward. The pre-gens are good and balanced. The digital map pack gives you everything you need.
I played one of the pre-gens through the whole scenario: Brandon Barrel-Basher. It's always good to play a half orc barbarian brewer. The simplest characters often work the best. Especially at conventions. You just can't go wrong with Rage and Relentless Endurance is handy (when you need it, you really need it). And his mash paddle maul sure comes in handy - at one point in particular.
Spoilers ahead! You've been warned!
Part 1: The Abductioning
Play starts in a big taphouse, which used to be a barn. It's packed with people who have come from all over to sample Vormestrand's amazing ales. The revelry is interrupted by an explosion outside. Joining in the general exodus, the characters evacuate the taproom to discover the adjacent brewery is in flames! Being the heroic types, the characters rush into the burning brewery to discover it's been ransacked and set alight with alchemical fire. Arson! A seemingly significant scroll case is found - but, it's empty. Too, Vormestrand is missing (don't worry, Vormestrand himself never appears - not even once - anywhere in the scenario). The brewery can't be saved and as the ceiling starts to collapse the characters step outside to mill about confused until a helpful non-player character appears and tells them he saw some suspicious people running down a trail, away from the brewery.
The characters go in hot pursuit and come upon said suspicious people down in a gully, rifling through stacks of papers. There's nothing for it but to demand an accounting, which leads immediately to combat. The confrontation is fairly easy and a couple of the mooks scamper off. The big bad is defeated. On him is found a note demanding the theft of Vormestrand's latest ale recipe and the destruction of the brewery. Thus ends Part 1.
Comments: The empty scroll case of such seeming importance (presumably, the one-time container of the titular Vormestrand's Scroll) has no significance in this scenario. The apparently kidnapped Vormestrand has no significance in this scenario. There is absolutely nothing to suggest what the characters next should do - no leads, no hints, and not even an idea. Fortunately, the next scene begins in medias res, so it's not an issue.
The characters unanimously and spontaneously (and off stage) decide the correct course of action must be to gather ingredients needed to make beer. How this becomes the next logical step is confusing, but it does become the next logical step.
Part 2A: Sweet Temptation
The characters have proceeded out toward the grain farming region where they seek out a special malt supplier (they know Vormestrand buys only from this one guy). The supplier would be happy to help, but his workers won't work because there is a monster creeping about in the vast grain fields. Characters being characters, the next step is to go and smash the monster. Duh. It's pretty easy to find (it's hungry). Once it's been converted into fertilizer, the workers are happy to return to work and the malt supplier is happy to supply a wagon full of delicious malt.
Part 2B: Bitter Revenge
The characters have proceeded out toward the hop farming region where they seek out a special hop supplier (they know Vormestrand buys only from this one guy). The supplier (a satyr) has a problem - a local harpy has a giant-size crush on him. Being a frustrated harpy, she torments his workers (in harpy logic, this will somehow compel him to return her love). The supplier would be happy to help the characters, but without his pixie helpers he can't. The characters don't have to wait long before the love-crazed harpy comes calling. A tense standoff ensues. When I played the scene, it didn't turn violent - the harpy was reasoned with (and we had the unusual convention scenario of the whole table laughing and smiling for most of the time slot). When I DMed the scene, it immediately went violent - the harpy was whomped. Either way, when the harpy is dealt with the pixies return to work, the hops are harvested, and the characters receive a full wagon of bitter hops.
Part 2C: Wet Beind the Ears
The characters have proceeded to the beach where they seek out a special hydrologist (this NPC is a highlight of the whole scenario) to obtain special water. Why the beer is made with salt (?) water is not explained. The characters are enlisted to help in a very humorous magical process of obtaining magical water. This involves the hydrologist summoning some minor elementals to manipulate the water. The characters have to keep the elementals in one place while they defeat them, rendering the sea water magically delicious. It's quite amusing to watch characters grapple steam mephits to hold them in place. This, definitely, is one of the highlights of the scenario. Once it's all sorted out according to plan, the characters receive a wagon full of barrels full of magical water.
Part 2D: The Un-Fun-Guys
The characters have proceeded to an ancient tomb to secure the ancient yeast needed for the brew. It's not exactly clear why ancient crypt yeast is needed, but... needed it is. The yeast, it develops, is contained within moss that grows on the bones of an ancient half-green-dragon/half-ogre worshipped by elves. Yeah, it's that kind of yeast. How moss grows in a pitch black tomb or why moss holds yeast is not explained. But the ancient yeast is there for the taking. When the characters take it, they piss off other tomb residents and hijinks ensue. Either way, the characters end up with precious vials of yeast loaded into padded boxes on a wagon.
Despite the awesome title, this is my least-favorite part of the scenario. It's got a trap. There's a nonsensical magical "apple" growing from a root (yes, a root) on the ceiling of the dark tomb. And it's just an obvious monster encounter. It's not "bad", but it's dull and obvious. And the method of gathering the yeast is not really... believable. If you're looking for part of the scenario to skip, this is the part to skip.
Part 3: Brew Day!
Part 3 is played just once, but it includes four parallel tracks. Each of the tracks continues the action from one of the scenes in Part 2. Characters can play whichever track they want, I suppose, but in practice the track a character gets put on is determined (more or less randomly) by which table they get put at. All of the tracks are fairly similar, however.
There are two "scenes" in Part 3. In the first scene, the characters travel back toward the brewery with their special cargo, and they are ambushed by bad guys. The bad guys first try to win the combat - when this proves impossible, the bad guys then try to ruin the cargo. This encounter is fairly easy, though I heard that one table managed to convert it into a TPK. Ha, n00bs.
In the second scene, the characters have returned to the brewery and they must do special things at specific times to get their ingredient ready for the big brew. While they are doing these things, they also are attacked by a stream of bad guys. This leads to some really funny situations and decision points - the real objective is to get the ingredients ready in the proscribed method. But, you gotta stay alive to do it. Almost every table I know about assigned one character to do the ingredient prep and every other character formed "the guard force" to keep off the bad guys. This seemed to be the winning strategy. I DMed one table where they decided to defeat the bad guys first and worry about the ingredients later. This was a losing strategy (e.g., their brew was not good). When (if) the brew process is completed, all the remaining bad guys (if any) see their efforts have been stymied and they just run away en masse.
If the convention has four simultaneous tables, Part 3 can be played as a "mini epic" where the brew process happens at the same time for all four tables. A "brewmaster" (an über-DM) calls out specific actions at specific 10 minute intervals, and the relevant table has just a couple minutes to make that action happen. If this method is used (and I highly, highly recommend it) then the fate of all four tables is shared.
When the brew is done, a simple method is used to determine if it's good, indifferent, and horrific. This depends on how the characters did in Part 3 - they can get one point from Scene 1 and one point from Scene 2. Two points? You've made a superior product (German Lager?). One point? It's drinkable (English Ale?). No points? It's piss (American Light?).
No matter how it ends up, though, the characters do walk away with (up to) seven advancement and treasure checkpoints. If you're playing it for non-AL then the experience points will have to be calculated and there is almost no treasure beyond a couple healing potions.
tl;dr - Brandon survived it all, made many friends along the way, and walked away from it all with a superior product and another experience level
- [+] Dice rolls