I feel pretty good. I could go on and on about all the prep I did, but I got a bit of praise in email that made me feel really, really good:
You are handing our tangents extremely well, I must say. Awesome job
running the story and keeping the game going, even if you do have to
pause just a moment to ask for rules clarifications. You keep it
flowing pretty good, and seem completely unfazed no matter what we do.
Looking forward to your next game!
We ended up using only one of my prepared encounters. I triggered it at an awkward time, but I'm comfortable with how I managed to tie it in.
I introduced two new main characters this week, Gilbert Malevict and Lewis Westville. Gilbert Malevict is a member of the community elders, and Lewis is a personal bodyguard of his.
After accepting custody of the captured bard, Malevict inquired if the party was interested in more work. He informed them he would get in touch with them the next day. However, Lewis approached them outside the elder's offices, took them aside, and, on behalf of Malevict, asked them if they would take on a private job to deal with a "discreet matter".
Lewis made the pitch, explaining that there were a few individuals in a syndicate known as the Backbreakers* who were extorting Malevict. Malevict wanted the individuals roughed up, but not killed, such that he would no longer be their target.
* The Backbreakers are into the protection racket.
The party demanded a contract for the job, and demanded to see Malevict. Lewis left, and returned with Malevict. The party grilled Malevict, pressing him to be the one to sign the contract. Malevict hemmed and hawed, but eventually conceeded to sign the contract, under the stipulation that future private dealings with the party would be through Lewis, and the contract would be held in escrow.
After the arrangements were made, the party split up. Two of the characters left to scout the Backbreaker's territory, while the third (A new player showed up this week, and two others failed to show.) stayed behind to learn what he could of Malevict and Lewis.
The two scouting characters learned that Backbreaker members typically have an orange wristband under their right sleeve. (DC 20 spot check to confirm) Through this, they discovered and tailed Garret (The PCs don't know his name), and begain tailing him.
It was at this point that I triggered one of my planned encounters, which honestly wasn't originally intended to have anything to do with the Backbreaker, but ah well. Anyway, the characters (and Garret) hear someone shout "Stop, thief!", as a man bursts out of a nearby armor shop and races down the thoroughfare.
The PCs tailing Garret chose not to interfere, but Garret gave pursuit. One of the PCs gave chase to Garret, while the other waited.
Here's where I ran into a problem. The thief tried shaking Garret a couple times, but it wasn't working. And the PC was chasing Garret, but wasn't really improving on his position. Things got even worse when two more Backbreaker's joined Garret in chase, but were far enough behind that they were actually behind the PC. And nobody was gaining on anyone. So I had to end it somehow.
The thief tried sliding under a cart, failed his check, and smashed his face on the cart. The three Backbreakers quickly caught up, though the PC kept his distance and watched.
So I solved one problem and created another...I had a conflict between four NPCs, with an emphasis on N. At this point in the game, I was running the whole show, and the players were stuck on the sidelines. Two were standing thirty feet away (the chase circled around the block), and one was halfway across the district.
So I handed the three players the stat sheet for the three Backbreakers (prep pays off!), I took the stat sheet for the thief, and we roleplayed the encounter.
I have to say, those Backbreakers are vicious! And I don't get why these players always play good-aligned characters. The thief was let off with a warning, a broken knee, and was nearly made to smell of someone else's urine.
Anyhow, after dealing with the thief, the Backbreakers split up and and left for their usual rounds, except Garret, who returned the item that the thief stole to the armor shop.
Eventually the two scouting PCs followed Garret home. One of the PCs following Garret (I've called him Spiderman previously, for his ability to climb at his base move speed.) entered his home and, well, terrorized him. Probably wouldn't have gotten away with it if Garret's kids hadn't been in the house, though he did manage to convince Garret he could fly...The player missed a hint in the dialogue, though.
The PC who tailed Malevict and Lewis scored an incredible 34 on his Hide check, and was able to position himself comfotably in the cart that carried Malevict and Lewis home. He didn't learn anything terribly useful.
The next day, the PCs staked out Garret's home, and witnessed two scruffy(low-level commoners) men(halfing men, not Men in the Tolkien sense) and a tough-looking(Ftr3) woman enter Garret's apartment. Eavesdropping revealed Garret explaining the situation to the woman, and the woman telling him to stay home; They'd take care of it.
The three Backbreaker's left, and began questioning everyone in the neighborhood to find out if anyone knew anything about the flying man. They came up empty, of course. The three Backbreakers then split up. The three party members split up and followed the Backbreakers, with the level 3 Rogue following the tough-looking woman.
The rogue witnessed the woman meat with two more tough-looking Backbreakers, but then she started to look nervous. (Her Spot beat her tail's Hide, but the PC didn't know that, even though the player did.) She continued, and met with another tough-looking Backbreaker, and then left down an alley.
The PC followed her into the alley, where he saw her turn the corner down a narrower alley. He then saw the other tough-looking Backbreaker enter the alley behind him. The Backbreaker shouted at the PC, who hadn't yet drawn a weapon. Then we rolled initiative. The two fighters go first, followed by the rogue.
And then discovered it was 10:45PM; It was time to end the game for the night.
So, next week, we resume the encounter where the level 3 Rogue was caught in a pincer move by two level 3 fighters. The player thinks his character's going to die, but I've been telling him he can probably survive; He just has to play his cards right.
Ah, crap. It's 4:53AM. I'd like to sleep while it's still dark. :-)