Sunday saw a very special session of my regular Ultan's Door campaign. Not only were we taking our first steps into the marvelous and terrible city of Zyan Above, we also had two new players joining us, and everyone else was playing a new character, as the main group will still not arrive in Zyan for some time.
Here is the party roster; Gallows being the only established PC among them; prior to this week all the others were NPCs the party had encountered upon their adventures:
Gallows, sole survivor of the Wheel of Gehenna, Storm Rider, Tolerated of Ulim, Bearer of Joyeuse, Holy Flamberge of the Martyred Libertines, Deliverer of the Living Saints Aelix and Ulina from the Hinterlands
Razor, the Duelling Sabre of Jurra Surashari, Sacred Relic of the Guides, living blade and glorious treasure of the age of the Incandescent Kings.
Espi, Statue Who Dreamed Herself Human, Effigy of the Shattered Maiden, Beloved of Mitra, Wide-Eyed Explorer and Steadfast Friend
Tallamifaromay, Ghost, Gambler, Adventurer in Pale Echo, One-Time Explorer of the Guides of Zyan
Sauri, Prestige Model DK-33 Series Shan Consortium Jungle Operations Bioroid, Queen of the White Jungle, Survivor of the Deadly Alkaline Wastes, Wielder of the Scrap Spear, Mistress of the Most Fearsome DP-33 Series Saurian Support Unit
Krodofel, Cannibal Quasit, Swamp-Dweller, Window-Peerer, Gibberer and Lurker, Licker of Hands, Biter of Legs, Vile Offcast of the Infernal Regions, Crafter of Dubious Magics, Slave to the Scroll of Planar Binding
Hax, Ogre Magus, Third Apprentice to the Yellow Enchanter, Weilder of Large Axes, Caster of Unseen Servant With Moderate Reliability
It was wonderful to see my players' takes on all of these former NPCs - Krodofel's capering and mischeif, Razor's snark and dismay at the state of the city, Espi's sense of wonder and anxiety about her constructed nature, Sauri's pride and aggression, Hax as the easygoing bruiser, Talla getting his bearings after a century on Eidolon Isle. Running for seven players all with brand new characters with weird abilities and mechanics (several monsters, one magic item, and Sauri is a reskin of one of J.V.West's classes from Black Pudding) was a challenge but a lot of fun.
I'd also spent all week preparing a writeup of the city, and there was a lot that still needed to be ad-libbed by the time game day came around. Having spent so long there already made me eager to share it with the players, however.
We began with Gallows and his companions arriving through Ultan's Door to the former Inquisitor's Theatre, in Zyan Between now renamed Bar Saturn and overrun with foreigners, much to the chagrin of the Inquisitors. There they found and recruited Hax and Sauri, who was visiting to drink and share tales of her exploits amid the monochrome foliage of the White Jungle.
They rode her pterosaur and Gallows' storm crow down the vertical tunnel leading to the jungle, emerging from a great inverted mountain beneath the island, before soaring upward and taking in their first clear view of the great, fabulous, and decaying city below.
Putting down at the Stable of the Guides they met with the blind stable-master, who summoned their friend Maneeshaneru, only to have her greetings cut short by a flurry of duel challenges from the other Guides who had come to see what the fuss was about, motivated by ancient grudges, wounded pride, envy and xenophobia.
Gallows sliced this particular Gordian knot by pulling out the Demon Mask of Liishinoru's Rage and casting fear on the challengers.
Over hibiscus tea Maneeshaneru explained the plight of the city to the group. Tallamifaromay and Razor in particular were horrified to see the depths to which Immortal Zyan had sunk. Krodofel, meanwhile, was largely occupied with looking for things to eat.
Once properly masked and attired the party resolved to seek out the Sky Goose Tavern, where they hoped to secure lodgings where their rest would not be disturbed by duel invitations thrice every hour.
They promptly became lost and found themselves wandering alongside the clear, reedy waters of the Glistertwist Canal, when a group of aristocratic youths returning from archery practice took Krodofel for a monkey and decided to take some pot shots. Things escalated until two of the youths were in the canal, four had run off, and one was bleeding to death. Razor suggested that they didn't need the heat from his murder, so Espi healed his wounds while the others in true heroic fashion helped themselves to his wallet.
On their way to the Vertical Market they met a jewel merchant going the same way, and purchased various gemstones of intriguing and possibly even accurate provenance. They made their way down the great steps, purchasing weapons and stealing sausages according to temperament, until they came upon the fabulous Nimbus Barque Starlingheist, with its harnessed starlings and captain Fambilwan.
Espi begged to ride the marvelous vessel and Gallows conceded they should, noting that the captain must be worth his fee as "he is, after all, wearing a fez."
And so they soared across the rooftops and lodged at the Sky Goose on Volish Hill, and dined that night upon three whole roast cats, this extravagant act of culinary justice doing much to endear them to the regular patrons - for the men of Zyan and the cats of Zyan do not, it must be said, get along.