First split-party experience, not exactly ideal for a new DM or a group with limited time to play. I'd planned to trigger Michael Curtis' A Single, Small Cut whenever the party next entered a church, I just didn't expect it to be so soon.
A bard without an instrument, a wizard without a book
Herbert Fiddlesticks, thought to be lost at sea, washes up in the muck of the banks of the River of Sorrows, bereft of his sweet gear. He slowly regains consciousness and hears two men, thinking him dead or close enough, discussing finishing the poor sap off and selling the body to someone called Zastra who’s apparently paying a premium for fresh corpses. He takes a club to the face but responds with a psychically charged insult, the men lose nerve and back off. Wandering through the city, Herbert finds himself at one of the fanciest clubs in town
|(probably looked something like this)|
in Highmark, and smooth talks the bouncer into letting him in through the back to fix the plumbing. There, he destroys the confidence of the band’s organist (jerk) and blows them away with an inspired performance; The Haunted Dolls get booked for a regular gig thanks to Herb, and they pay him well for the help and ask him to jam with them anytime. Reading in the papers about the brewery explosion and Kerouac's (or is it Kevin?) arrest, he goes to Crystal Hall (not before grabbing that waitress’ contact info) to the scene to try and find clues of his comrades. Grabbing a few impossibly lavish custards that fell off the back of a truck headed to the palace, he follows the trail of the previous day’s chase and bribing a one of the denizens of The Scabs, makes it to the Harmless Moon and reunites with Suicidelegs and Tirias, to try and figure out how to help poor Kerouac.
Kerouac meanwhile also finds himself on the River of Sorrows, locked in a cell on a prison hulk awaiting his trial date. A new prisoner is walked in, who almost seems like he’s there by choice he’s so cavalier, and introduces himself as Miguel The Hands, an artist and dealer in art and "other interesting things.” Miguel not only knows about the Sexy Drawings:
hidden on Kerouac’s person, but is interested in them and offers to trade them in exchange for helping Kevin, err Kerouac, escape. Miguel picks the first lock, and the pair walk to what turns out to be the galley. Ignoring the chef they move forward, to the duty captain’s office. The sound of the lock being picked wakes the sleeping captain, but hardly does he open his eyes before Miguel cuts his throat (the guy seems…effective). Kerouac cleverly grabs the hourglass off the desk to enable him to cast his sleep spell if needed. Above deck Kerouac decides not to tempt fate, leaving his equipment and spell book behind and jumping to Miguel’s waiting rowboat. The alarm however is raised, and the two escapees have to row for dear life amidst a hail of crossbow fire. Channeling some heretofore unknown endurance (do you even nat20, bro?), they escape relatively unharmed. Miguel takes the drawings and agrees to bring Kerouac his 10% once he closes the deal.
Law and Order: Justice is in the Pie of the Beholder
Suicidelegs and Tirias wake to the depressing absence of their smarmy wizard companion. Going for a nooner at the HM, they have a tearful reunion with the Tabor Denizen fills them in on some of the intricacies of trial by pie, telling them they need a specialist attorney to bake the pies or else the wizard won’t stand a chance and will be sent to the fighting pits. Getting a recommendation from Tabor, they make their way to the offices of Olga Selfrin; unfortunately, they can’t afford her retainer, but they start to work out a trade for some exotic ingredients. They give her a hundred of the telepathic silver snails (the snails are inconsolably upset at being sold), and as she’s about to send them off for more ingredients, suddenly the mood changes. Herbert turns up the charm (another goddamn 20!) and works out an “alternative payment plan” while Suicidelegs and Tirias wait outside. Olga takes the case.
Not content with letting the law run its course, our heroes start to cook up a backup plan in case the trial goes south. They seek out an armorer for some simple weapons, and asking about gunpowder, are surprised to find that it exists in this world (*ahem*), but it’s very rare and only found amongst clergy of the Church of the Eminent Machine, which the gang knows little about other than their love of machinery, speed, and a bizarre notion of “progress”. The blacksmith points them to the nearest church, and they enter and are greeted by a man calling himself Father Brass. Herb puts on a good show of piety, and the father agrees to help them but requests they leave their weapons at the door (everyone successfully bluffs their way into keeping daggers concealed on their person, Suicidelegs doesn’t even give a shit about weapons). The padre walks them up the nave and everything seems great until he’s got a piano wire around Fiddlesticks' neck and crossbowmen are firing at the other guys from the gallery. Suicidelegs, with blinding monk speed, moves to engage immediately with two shooters, as Tirias tries to save his strangled friend. Some more quick persuasion and a knife to the throat leads to a classic standoff, which is duly interrupted by two more brigands busting out of the crypt and running for the door. A nightmarish roar is then heard, as a huge, shambling corpse beast makes its way out of the crypt, screaming from its many mouths and flatulently rolling its orifice laden hulk towards the assembled party.
Everybody runs for their lives.
As the monster makes itself at home within the church, the gang decides that some revenge is in order and decides to kill the supposed priest as he flees. Kerouac shows up in time to slow him down with frost, and the rest is just an old fashioned murderin’. They find a note on his body saying something about taking the red bell tomorrow. Further interrogation proves fruitless as this man is dead. Actual members of the Church of the Eminent Machine show up, and strike a deal with the heroes to give them some blackpowder and whatever they find in the crypt if they help with the giant shambling flesh monster problem.
A horrible battle ensues; the monster seems to have incredible staying power, as attack after attack fall into the corpse-flesh body, whittling away blood, meat and gristle but not killing the beast fast enough as it screamed and wailed from motley orifices. It lashes out with horrendous tentacles tipped with sphincter like mouths and mismatched teeth and bits of jawbone, rending flesh with each strike. First Suicidelegs then Tirias fall unconscious under the withering attacks, as the beleaguered mage and bard deal the killing blows they only hope they will be in time to stabilize their dying companions. The monster finally explodes in a hail of giblets, bone, fluids and flesh. And the two survivors run over to stabilize their dying friends’ wounds (George the hawk even helped, although in retrospect the hawk should not have been able to do so but rolling with it).
I had a bit of trouble converting the Corrector of Sins' stats from LotFP to DnD5e, but with some HP fudging behind the scenes made it respectably deadly; Also, the stabilization and resuscitation rules in 5e make it seem like it's quite difficult for characters to die in normal circumstances, unless of course everyone is down for the count at the same time. Two players here were within a turn of dying and were saved, although I suppose it's fortunate that the other two killed the monster at the same time so they could actually provide help bringing their comrades back.