Proskur was only a day’s ride West from Valkur’s Roar. The party arrived just after dusk, and found the town abandoned and silent. No dogs barked, no lanterns were lit, and there was no obvious evidence of a battle.
The first thought of everyone in the party was to leave immediately and rest further down the road in the forest. Better to take their chances in the wilderness than in a ghost town. However, a few crashes, like the sound of broken plates, were heard coming from the tavern in the town square so Xirric and Sanora went to investigate.
They found a little girl hiding in the kitchen. When asked what she was afraid of, she pointed behind Sanora to a pair of armored skeletons holding longswords, advancing toward them!
They made quick work of the skeletons and rejoined the party outside. Another sound was heard in the large building in the west of the square. Again, Xirric went to investigate, and found two skeletons going through a bookshelf, whispering, ”..seek…seek…” A man in a robe stepped out from a back office and saw Xirric standing in the doorway. He grapsed his amulet, pointed to Xirric and commanded, “Kill.” The skeletons turned to Xirric and whispered, ”..kill…kill…”. With the help of the party, the skeletons were destroyed and the robed man subdued.
A brutal interrogation of the man revealed he was of the Cult of the Dragon, and they were seeking something magical in the town. It was they who had run off the villagers the day before. His leader (who he declined to name) was supposedly seeking this magic in the manor house on the hill, visible a couple miles West out of town. The man was not very forthcoming with his answers, even after a beating and having his head shoved under water that Noxital urinated into, so Sanora slit his throat and Noxital cut off his head.
A flickering light and movement were seen from the East. Noxital clearly saw a man poke his head out from behind a building. Upon investigation, there were actually two men, and about 30 skeletons. The party fled out of town before engaging them.
The little girl’s name was Clara. She said she had run and hid during the attack. Her father was the town wizard, and lived in the house on the hill. Sanora took her on her own horse, and the party made the choice to check out the manor house before heading West to the next town in hopes that her parents had fled there.
A quick scouting of the area revealed no side entrances to the manor. The large double doors of the stone mansion were ajar. The party crept through the manor to a set of stairs leading up to the wizard’s study, but confronted a group of skeletons in the hall. After fighting their way through them, Noxital stepped on a bloody rune painted on the floor, and tendrils of blood held him in place…
This session was a perfect example of the players getting into things themselves. You see, nothing is a side quest. There are no supplementary quests. Whatever you’re doing is the main quest and that’s it. The players were about to leave town as soon as they figured out it was a ghost town, and I just threw in a few “you hear a crash in the building to the south” bits and they ate it right up. They totally could have hightailed it out of town and been none the wiser.
The players will do what you least expect, and as a DM, you have to be prepared for it. I was prepared in this case for them to go either way. Luckily for me, they chose the path that allowed me to use my cool pre-drawn maps. :)
This session also helped me to allow the players to make some moral decisions as a party and see where that went. It’s important to know where the people in your party stand when push comes to shove, and better to get it out of the way sooner rather than later. I think some people in the party are going to have a crisis of faith soon, what with how they’re carrying on.