TI1.10: Delving the debatable

The Characters for this session:

Fennec, Level 2 wizard (no specialty)

Cauleigh, Level 2 warrior (background: literate townsman)

Jotunn, Level 5 warrior (background: hunter; talent: tracking)

Crompton, Level 2 rogue (background: Runebearer; talent: roguery)

 

Converting loot into spending cash can be fun, and Rothway is a safe environment where the lads don’t have to operate as a fighting team just to get their money. So, the bulk of the session is spent in citygaming converting the loot, and in spending it on useful stuff. I’ll summarise.

  1. Caskets of money: These two sturdy caskets endured the century or more of damp dungeon easily. Crompton makes a good L3 DEX SR (with roguery) and opens them without wrecking the locks. Total cash immediately: 1060 gold, 20 silver. Later, Cauleigh is offered 50 silver for the pair by one of his traveller friends from the Modest Goose, and accepts the deal.
  2. The book: Fennec’s book is one of the Travels through the Vale volumes but the endpapers have some notes about Ikkutas. This is the first Ikkutas ‘clue’ found in the wild. He hangs onto the book, or possibly leaves it at the Modest Goose, we didn’t discuss it.
  3. Silver plate: Most of the satchel of silverware is House Othenas plate, worth more to a collector than for intrinsic value. (Fennec’s sketched floor designs are also House Othenas.) Cauleigh invests 25 silver in taking one of Rothway’s assayers to lunch, and gets a referral to a Changer who collects that stuff. He gets an excellent price, 1000 gold. The Changer also helps identify the tankard.
  4. Dwarf Tankard: Unlike the Othenas plate, which takes a lot of polishing, a tankard of Dwarf design and bearing small Dwarf runes still gleams untarnished. It has a vague magic aura. Crompton identifies the runes as most likely Gira Dwarf origin. The Changer identifies the metal as mithril, and suggests offering it to an armorer if they don’t have a Gira Dwarf buyer. They offer it to Parsifal & Esq. and trade it for an off-the-rack Arquebus.
  5. Rings: These are run of the mill rings. Cauleigh makes a good bargaining CHR SR and the assayer gives him 15 gold.
  6. Arm-rings: More than one person identifies them as Northern Barbarian origin. The four delvers of Destone decide to hang onto them. Unluckily they do not meet Tothras or Beorn, who went home by a different route than the Troll-haunted Destone path.
  7. Eight garnets: This is an easy one, because Cauleigh’s own background allows him to spot the tiny merchant mark etched into each. Merchant-marked gems used to be common in Esgaroth and are still in use. Each garnet has a standardised value of 10 gold. The four split them evenly.
  8. Hobgoblin reward: Aside from the ten gold, which is spent getting back to Rothway, the grateful villagers of Destone hand over an heirloom, a globe-type bottle. It is magical, of communication school. Fennec makes a good CHR SR among his Wizard Guild colleagues: they recognise the item as being something that one of the Death Goddess’ commanders would have used to speak remotely to his Hobgoblin minions. They recommend Fennec sell it to an Alchemist, and he does so, for 135 gold.
  9. Silk: A mercer is recommended and buys the bolt of silk for 50 gold.

Gearing up in Rothway is complete

Rothway’s horse fair concluded before they got back, and they hear a yarn about a Hippogriff attack and the amazing actions of two Elves who turned the attack back.

Jotunn gets his breastplate completed and hands back his rented coat. He also test-fires the Arquebus, strikes up a conversation with mercenaries at the targets, and gets a nice deal on powder, shot and a monopod stand.

Fennec brings up the matter of buying spells: the others agree to chip in 200 gold apiece, if the spell is Poor Baby. And that’s what Fennec buys.

Our delver heroes are detained four days in all – because Cauleigh is paying Ponderblade to inlay that Ork-blade with silver and Fennec is learning the spell – and tensions begin to build around them. On the one hand, Sasha has goodwill towards them (or at least that’s what Crompton’s rogue acquaintance says) but they are now a tempting target. On the other hand, a merchant factor named Vasily would like to speak to them…

Cauleigh pays top price for a Parsifal journeyman to wire-wrap the sword’s hilts and Ponderblade offers to escort them out of Rothway and around to the west where they can set out on the River Way once more… for 20 gold. Ponderblade keeps a gigantic dog named Snuggles, which helps explain why he can’t afford a much better smithy. Snuggles is as big as a large pony: they leave with no problem.

And with no regrets about missing the chance to play Sasha vs Vasily factions, it’s time to move on.

 

Baron Burchardt, bastardy, and the missing taxes

It takes the Destone delvers about a week to traverse broad and rich Nan Roth using the River Way and they learn little more about the lands immediately west than they did in Rothway. There are two ancient estates, V’laskas being a minor presence and Quisinias covering the majority of the land to the Fingold border. Quisinias is riven with internal strife between up to four house septs, and it sounds as though V’laskas is much the same. “Look poor, pay the tolls, don’t get mistaken for spies” is the friendly advice. Bounty-type jobs might be on offer: there are all kinds of illkin filtering in from the north.

This is the period immediately before first shearing, and from all over western Nan Roth flocks are being gathered. The adult sheep have survived all winter and are impressively woolly. Wool-buyers’ carts roll towards Rothway.

Nan Roth’s western border is marked with vigorous patrolling by Rothway’s mounted troops and exercising by Rothway’s pike and shot bands. Bidding farewell to by far the best-regulated land they have ever known, the four trudge on in indifferent, drizzling weather, along a River Way that is no longer so well-maintained.

An unwalled hamlet offers a midday stop. A wagon wheel signals cart repair, a green frond a place to sleep, and a barley sheaf an ale-wife. It’s the ale they make for. The ale-wife tells them that they are in V’laskas lands, and gossips, slightly nervously, about the strange obsession of the local baron, Burchardt.

“He’s got a bee in his bonnet about bastards! He was born on the wrong side of the blanket, so they say. Everything’s the fault of bastards and if you are a bastard, I don’t fancy your chances. Though they do say he’s got no umm, patenty thingy and might not be a real baron!”

“But he’s got men at arms?” Cauleigh asks cynically, “So he’s real enough.”

By this time, three of the four are low in cash, especially Fennec, so are on the watch for chances to earn money. The ale-wife has more to say.

“They say the baron’s missing someone, or there are people going missing down south.”

Following her direction they walk along an inferior road south, in misty rain that cuts visibility. The lands outside the hamlet seem unpopulated, but the path rises towards a ridge-like series of hills at the peak of which stands the baron’s keep. Flags can be seen on the towers, signalling that the baron is home.

Taking wise precautions to not get mistaken for spies or attackers, the four first meet Edvard, sergeant to the baron and apparently a Horsebrother by descent, and then the household Burchardt. The baron’s features are strongly marked, one eyebrow twitches, and his eyes are dark-rimmed from lack of sleep. His wife is subdued and seems nervous of him, and his daughter may be getting slapped around.

The baron’s issue is not missing peasants, it’s a missing taxman. His riders searched the village hard by the woods just south, but found nothing. It will take people that can search the forest. He offers a ten percent bounty and estimates the taxman carried 1500 gold.

Crompton’s leer costs him coin

At the sight of the baron’s daughter Crompton’s eyebrows twitch into leer position. During the meal one of the baron’s men at arms leans in and tells Crompton he noticed that! And to prevent him passing that on to the baron, he’ll take a cut of the loot.

After dinner Crompton ‘fesses up and Cauleigh and Jotunn pooh-pooh the idea of splitting the reward.

“Take six gold to him, offer him three and let him bargain you up to six if you have to,” Cauleigh advises.

This works like a charm, the blackmailer takes three greedily, and laughs, and tells him he’ll be seeing him again.

 

The village at Ravenwood is almost hospitable

After a secure night’s rest, during which Crompton does not try to rescue nor seduce the daughter, the four delvers set out in heavier wet weather. The chill reminds them that shearing season has its risks.

A six-hour push south through land once fertile but now ill-tended, with unpolled copses and orchards turned wild, takes them to a walled village hard against a larger and deeper woods. They judge the stone wall to be higher than Palgwyth’s, but not by much. The gate-keeper, strongly eyebrowed and proudly nosed, bends to examine them and pronounces them Dwarves, with some surprise.

As to lodgings, after some thought the keeper suggests the Johns’ house, empty since the family left. He walks them no more than thirty paces down cramped lanes, kicks a leather-hinged door open, and ushers them into a bare one-room hovel. As to fire, for two silver he will bring them a bundle of wood. As to food…

“Do you object to Hobbs?”

There’s a Hobb widow, named Jennie Hobb-wife, who could do with the silver for cooking, or… other duties.

“Just cooking,” Cauleigh responds firmly, glancing at Crompton.

The four begin shedding sodden cloaks and armour, but next have to contend with a blocked chimney flue. Cauleigh manages this [L1 Dex SR] from the rooftop, using twine and a mace.

As the smoky interior clears a large cauldron, carried by a small Hobb-wife, appears at the door.

 

Jen the Hobb-wife has gossip to pass on

Fennec shows a gentler side of his nature and soon makes friends with Jenn. She uses the fresh vegetables she brought, and two waybreads, to produce a nourishing evening broth. To the smell of the delicious broth and stinking damp clothes she passes on all she knows.

  • The taxman left the village, as far as she knows
  • The village is known as Ravensdown, and the woods are known as Ravenwood
  • In old times, the Ravenwood was guarded by two tree sprites, but in one of the last raids of the Great War, an Ogre and his warband slew one of the sprites
  • The village well-water is pure thanks to the sprites. It rises in a spring and runs under the wall back through the Ravenwood
  • People do go missing, including her own husband, but also just move away seeking a safer better life
  • Gilg Dinckel says his wife went missing but she probably ran away
  • Mayor Bolton’s word is not to be trusted.

Once Jen has departed the Dwarves strip off and the warmth dries their clothes overnight.

 

The following day is brighter but promises occasional rain. Almost immediately they are out of doors, the four delvers are accosted by a screeching weirdo, a surprisingly young crone, who asks for her palm to be crossed with silver but says she knows about the raiders. She claims to have seen huge lizard-like creatures using the water-course.

And as they make their way to the gate, Mayor Bolton greets them preceded by his stomach. His eyebrows are large and dark and his nose large and prosperous. He is a smooth talker, but has little to offer aside from bland assurances that the missing taxman could not have been waylaid near here.

 

They follow the water-course to an ambush

All this talk of streams takes the four delvers over to the water-course that marks where the village waste-water heads into the woods. The banks are steep and slick, and once in it they would have a lot of trouble getting out. Although the wet land ought to carry scent well, Jotunn smells nothing out of the ordinary. Tracks there are a-plenty, but they are of the baron’s riders searching and not dismounting.

The only other thing of note is the unusual number of ravens to be seen, perched on the wall and the trees.

The best course seems to be to simply trace where the stream goes. Once under the canopy, only the occasional drop of rainwater disturbs them, and the footing is dry but a little slippery.

 

Crack!

 

Fennec is somewhat muffled by the leafy twigs of a fallen branch [makes L1 LK SR] and he is unable to help as four Lizard-folk charge two-legged at the others.

Combat!

The three Dwarves in the fight are encumbered by cloak and gear [-5 each] and the fight goes poorly at first, though their sturdy armour absorbs the damage.

A barking command sounds from the rear and the Lizardmen brace themselves using their tails and hammer down on the Dwarf shields. Jotunn, who has no shield, has his dagger knocked out of his grasp. But they manage to divest themselves of extra gear.

WHAM! With a flash of purple, Fennec joins the fray, sending a TTYF into the nearest. Cauleigh dives around it, taking a mighty swipe to his flank and losing his helmet, and swings his axe around, cutting its leg deeply. A second TTYF puts that Lizardman down, and the fight’s outcome is secured.

In the heat of the fight, Cauleigh is just able to glance sideways as whatever gave that earlier command rushes away. He glimpses a bulky form entering the water-course.

After the remaining Lizardmen fall – they fight bravely and to the death – Jotunn tracks around where Cauleigh saw the figure and identifies hobnail bootprints. Big ones.

“My powers are low,” Fennec warns the others.

But this is not one of those situations where they can rest up in the village, so they gather their belongings and set out in pursuit.

A good session, I enjoyed both legs of it, including creating random colourful NPCs on the fly. The road trip is working as hoped. Money runs low, look for jobs. In this session the Dwarves hear about likely bounty-killer jobs, therefore are primed for the type of job the baron offers.

I nudged a little to get talk started about pooling resources for a spell but they all happily chipped in. And they all understand that at Fennec’s power, it’s just to prevent death.

Props

This was a no-prep session aside from the treasure, most of which was simply assigned by me as appropriate. The Hobgoblin globe and the Dwarf tankard (though not the specifics) come from a treasure generator.

I mixed in, virtually at random, ideas and people from my own brain, ENSider’s Hamlet of Varseldorf, TheSkyFullofDust’s Curse of Ravenmere, and Goodman Games’ War-Lock.

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TI1.09: A ruin pays for itself!

The characters for this session:

Fennec, Level 2 wizard (no specialty)

Cauleigh, Level 2 warrior (background: literate townsman)

Jotunn, Level 5 warrior (background: hunter; talent: tracking)

Fear not the Hobgoblins, just be precise

We rejoin our heroes in the small but perfectly-walled hamlet Haislithveit, as they chow down at the local. Fennec realises he hasn’t taken his powders yet, and does so. Cauleigh is making good time with Baubri the dimpled and pretty serving-wench, and just as Fennec is about to say something cutting to ruin Cauleigh’s fun, the drug kicks in and the wizard face-plants into his pie. [Rolls a 3 on CON]

This creates a three-hour pause. Cauleigh learns that the Hobgoblin village near the northern border of Nan Roth is home to the charcoal-burners who service Rothway, so there is no need to circle round it. But be precise! Hobgoblins are very literal and need exactness in speech. [This relevant piece of information allows Cauleigh to pick up his L4 CHR SR AP!]

Once Fennec is mobile again (headache aside) they hit the road in blustery and occasionally wet weather. It’s well past noon so they overnight in another village a few hours later, choosing to get to the Hobgoblins in broad daylight thanks.

Something Crompton drinks there makes him very abstracted – almost as though he’s not there. Fennec takes him under his wing and pushes him gently along the road when he slows.

Destone, where Hobgoblins are what they say they are, literally.

Destone is a tiny place, dominated by a monstrous oak tree. Its few dozen buildings favour the dome, an unusual choice for these parts. Few Hobgoblins are in evidence: just some gaffers sitting in the morning sun. Dark, broad shoulders, slant dark eyes, short and silky beards. Ponderblade is of similar size and beard, and they wonder if he is a Hobgoblin. The mighty oak tree is at the hamlet’s centre and the buildings form a rough square around it.

The only active place to be seen is a tap-room, open to the square. Once they are seated on one of the clean benches there, a pot-boy (of middle age) finishes dealing with his three customers and greets them.

Fennec recollects the need to be very precise, saving some time. (Cauleigh tends to ask open questions, which can lead off anywhere.) They decide on various bits of cooked pig and a couple of different ales. Jotunn chooses double helpings of both. (Jotunn’s player has chosen to play up to his enormous CON, which is fun.)

As they ask as to the path north, Emren the hamlet’s elder introduces himself. He is human, and they learn a little of the circumstance that brought a small community of Hobgoblins here to replace folk who fled.

More practically, they also learn a small amount about the ruin and the danger there. Hobgoblins have stopped burning charcoal for Rothway, because of the dead men seen on the trail into the King’s Forest. The only sign of what may have done the terrible damage was a footprint left on a broken charcoal mound – a footprint as long as a short sword.

They decide that the first pass at the ruin will simply be a scouting mission. They ask Emren about accommodation, and he tells them the only accommodation is with Accommodation Girl, in Rose Cottage.

Accommodation Girl is, as far as they can work out, the hamlet’s prostitute. Her name is Rose, possibly because she lives in a house completely swathed in roses. Inside, tendrils of rose sway gently over the several beds. Crompton is put to bed – he seems quite pleased – and they stow armour or packs. Rose talks softly to her roses and they descend to cover the gear. Fennec is intrigued!

Freed from packs and extra weapons the trio make good time north and then north-east, and find the main marker, known as the gallows pole. A trail leads north-west off the path, into the thickets of the King’s Forest. Jotunn takes the lead, but the trail tells him nothing.

After some quarter-hour they reach the edge of a clearing and look north to see the remains of a defensive gate. The wall on either side is so crumbled that it could be clambered over easily by any fit agile Dwarf. Trees have grown up here and there across the clearing, but a mound and ruined keep can be seen beyond the gate. There’s also a suggestion of a very ruined building half-right, above where the ground drops away.

Scouting the ruin finds a guard

The trio skirt the clearing, staying within the treeline, hearing nothing of note above the gusting wind in the trees. They get a reasonably clear picture of the ruin. There are two other ruinous buildings below the keep. The best place to infiltrate out of sight of the keep is left of the gate, where trees have grown up on either side of the crumbled wall.

Jotunn is elected for this and scouts the interior, while Fennec and Cauleigh keep him covered. Jotunn learns little more, except that there’s a foot-trail off the path that runs between gate and keep-mound.

It’s quite late, so he heads back. As he bundles himself over the wall he’s slam-tackled by a gargoyle that dislodged from the nearest gate-pillar!

Combat!

All the combats in the ‘dungeon’ can easily be won by the Dwarves fighting united. I jazz them up with specific challenges. In this case, only ‘shock-effect’ replies can count against the gargoyle’s one-on-one damage.

Fennec throws down with a L2 TTYF, which saves Jotunn, who decides not to count double armour as is his right. (He’s wearing a rental!) 31 off CON nonetheless.

Cauleigh arrives with a nimble vault and leap (first use of magic gloves!) to smash down on the gargoyle, and the fight is quickly over. Cauleigh’s nifty silver-headed mace fits so well in his grip that while using it he cannot fumble while stunting, which is very cool. The mace-head is a little bent out of shape though.

They make swift time back to Destone, and rest up. Fennec shrewdly suspects Rose has some ability beyond moving rose vines, and asks. Sure enough, she can use her roses to trade their vampiric power for healing. Jotunn has a choice of losing STR or losing WIZ and chooses WIZ. It is slower but safer for a warrior. [It is 1:1, since I’m interested in the story not in penalising characters that get hurt.]

A second pass clears the upper works

Two dawns later all four Dwarves set off for a first real attempt, fully-geared-up. Crompton will be baggage-minder. The other three drop packs and spare weapons off with him at the gallows pole and head in.

Alert to a second gargoyle – they paid attention to Emren’s opinion that gargoyles are often found in pairs – they set up well. Fennec’s OTIS reveals the second gargoyle but its cover, the gate pillar, prevents them hurting it. Cauleigh goes in as decoy…

Combat!

This time Cauleigh’s fine steel breastplate saves him from any damage, and with a TTYF, a successful bow-shot from Jotunn, and his own readiness, the gargoyle is neutralised then slain.

They extend their search further, and as they near the mound’s stair – an easy climb where some previous baron has decided a proper military ramp is inconvenient – are attacked again!

Combat!

This challenge is about toughness. The two Tigran are very similar to Wulfan, but bigger and stronger. Failing a CON SR allows the Tigrans to knock a character over and fight with an advantage.

Jotunn is rammed off his feet by the pouncing Tigran [rolls a 3] but Cauleigh and Fennec deal with the second then come to Jotunn’s aid before he can be hurt.

However, this has nearly tapped Fennec out, so rather than heading in further with a no-spell wizard they declare his 15-minute working day over and head back to Destone.

Hobgoblins are willing to offer gold, so let’s do it!

Emren visits them as Cauleigh polishes his scarred breastplate back up, and talks to Fennec. The Hobgoblins are concerned about the days lost, and Rothway has sent him a note as well. Destone is prepared to go as far as a 10 gold piece reward! As Fennec seems hesitant, Emren throws in an offer of something the Hobgoblins brought from their ancestral lands. Unnamed, but valuable to a Wizard. Evidence is required though – a head of something huge enough to sunder bodies for example.

Jotunn makes the acquaintance of Lizard Hunter, the only Hobgoblin that does not use established paths around the forest (and the source of a non-pig option on the pub menu!) Jotunn gets a valuable tip on a simpler way to get to the north end of the clearing.

Back once more at the ruin on the morrow, the trio bring Crompton up with the baggage. [This happens repeatedly: assume Crompton is within hailing distance from now on.] Exploring cautiously again, and down the side-path, they next meet a small community of brownies or similar illkin of that size and disposition. Cauleigh negotiates with them but is not entirely successful. One slips away towards the mound…

Wasting no time the trio hastily ascend the mound by a decayed side-ramp and are in time for Cauleigh to hark by a broken gap in the keep wall and hear the brownie’s feet tapping down a stone stair. [L4 LK SR on an open ended roll!]

Fennec bravely proposes the old OGA bait trick, and as the Troll squeezes its shoulders out of the stair, he and Jotunn scramble over the rubble, and the spell is thrown. Jotunn acts as his shield and Cauleigh vaults into action at the same time!

Combat!

The question for this combat is whether the Troll can be prevented from its single-minded attack on Fennec. It is big enough to punch a Dwarf off his feet unless thoroughly beaten.

A little spite damage is suffered but the Dwarves get into action in a coordinated defence-attack, and Fennec is unharmed. Two more rounds and the Troll lies in pieces… which begin regrowing.

Fennec uses a Bic Flic (the fire part of It’s Elemental) to scorch the neck flesh of the troll’s severed head, and all that remains is to loot the ruin!

The dungeon, in summary

Well, not quite. The ruin above-ground has nothing at all of interest, but below ground there are a number of interesting features.

Feature 1: Troll leavings

The Troll seems to have preferred a comfortable clay bed with no ornament, but in a chamber opposite lie remains of people it ate. The Dwarves pick up three arm-rings and a few rings.

Feature 2: Curiously clear font with family crest

A T-junction has at its head a font set in the wall. The water in it is clear, and a family crest can be clearly seen through it. Testing it shows it is neither flammable nor acid.

Feature 3: Runes are bait for a trap

The left passage leads to an arch through to a chamber where a plinth and pedestal’s remains can be glimpsed but large runes are set in the stone passage below the arch. None of the Dwarves recognise the runes. Suspicious minds spot chip-marks around the plinth where a heavy circular iron cage has slammed down repeatedly. With little effort the trap’s lever is located and the trap switched off, but the room holds nothing of value.

Feature 4: A second font

A very similar T-junction has a very similar or identical font at its head.

Feature 5: Pit chamber

The left passage from that T-junction opens to a chamber whence can be sensed a darkness. Fennec detects something, and his spell is enough for the Wight to attack! However all three are ready with silver weaponry and the Wight does not get to contact range.

The pit the Wight has guarded for who knows how long contains an ancient perished leather satchel. Cauleigh is lowered and raised, bringing it back up. It holds a book, and clinking silver. Fennec retrieves his backpack and stows the book and silver there.

Feature 6: Troll store

The Troll stored meat taken on the road. The chamber is not cold enough to preserve the bodies of men and half a horse, so a putrid stench hangs over it.

Feature 7: Mysterious chamber of silvered design

At the far end of the same corridor that contained the Wight’s pit, a silvered inlay can be seen in the floor of a partly-collapsed chamber. One side of the chamber is covered in a great web.

All three react as a giant spider jumps but Fennec is not quite quick enough [misses L1 DEX SR]. Luckily this spider is a smaller, weaker type than the one they fought in Dudney Chasm, and he shrugs off the poison [L2 CON SR].

Feature 8: Pool of the Hydra

Something slithers back into a large chamber. In it can be glimpsed a dark pool, as well as the other half of that horse, and though the hour grows late they make plans for what might come out of it. Fennec moves a Will-o-Wisp in to hover over the pool and Cauleigh ignites his lantern oil and successfully lobs it to float burning atop the water.

Combat!

This challenge is about delivering enough shock damage to prevent the Hydra activating its breath weaponry. The Dwarves manage to do this and Fennec sears the Hydra necks again to prevent regrowth.

Feature 9: Bombed-out summoning chamber

One side of the Hydra’s great chamber is pierced by a broad archway. Beyond is a pillared circular rostrum or plinth, but whatever was at the centre of it has been obliterated at some distant time. Fennec speculates that a Hellbomb may have caused the damage.

Feature 10: Treasure with a nasty little trap

The far end of the Hydra’s chamber is littered with ancient crates and chests. The metalware has corroded beyond value but some baled silk’s inner core has remained undamaged enough to salvage.

These chests and crates cover a small niche-entrance and two sturdy caskets can be seen beyond. Suspicious minds think that is too convenient and detect the presence of a trapdoor that has to be crawled over to get inside the chamber. The trip-latch is found and made safe, and the two casks recovered. They are heavy enough to contain plenty of coin.

And feeling extremely pleased with their first ruin, the four Dwarves retreat bearing:

  • Troll head
  • Hydra head (just one)
  • Two hefty caskets
  • Remains of a bale of silk
  • Silver, various, plus rings and garnets
  • Book

It was worth going to full-session time, the Hydra chamber was a fun challenge with real treasure. These are very experienced players who took full advantage of a passive dungeon – one where they could take a quick dab then retreat back to a safe base. It was a shame Crompton’s player wasn’t there to enjoy it, but I’m sure now the others have a taste of a ruin-style dungeon there will be many more opportunities.

Props

Destone comes from Towns and Villages III though Accommodation Girl is inspired by a random draw from the Rural Encounters deck. I used the vampiric roses creatively as a way to supply healing. The monsters of the ruin come from &Magazine’s Dungeon Builder randomiser, though the brownies are my idea. The forest, clearing and ruin itself comes from and is a remarkably close version of the Evening Session Map 1.

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TI1.08: With streets so clean, and rule so fair [not sarcasm!] Armour up! We’re out of here!

 

Welcome back! We resume the adventure the dawn of day four in Rothway.

The characters for this session:

Fennec, Level 2 wizard (no specialty)

Cauleigh, Level 2 warrior (background: literate townsman)

Crompton, Level 2 rogue (background: Runebearer; talent: roguery)

 

Fittings are taken and final smithy work booked

Day four in Rothway finds Crompton still a-bed after some sleepless hours worrying, Jotunn already off somewhere (silver arrows perhaps) and Cauleigh and Fennec breakfasting at the Modest Goose. Neither are too sure of their schedule, but a smith’s ‘prentice arrives to tell Cauleigh his first fitting is ready. They decide to saunter over to the smith’s street together, start at the armourer’s then walk up to Parsifal’s.

Their morning is enlivened with the spectacle of the local girls who took part in last night’s festival dates ritually lashing their boyfriends, using rushes.

But, the pair reach the smith’s without hindrance. The back-plate is finished save for rivets, and a close fitting of Cauleigh’s shoulders arms and neck takes place. With a ‘probably early tomorrow’ to cheer him along Cauleigh heads off.

Since they are close to Ponderblade’s alley Cauleigh proposes they stop in. Then, Crompton catches them up. He’s hoping Ponderblade will have finished up the lead part of his club. Cauleigh’s reason is less prosaic: he’s curious to know how much that orc-blade would cost for silver to be worked back onto its etching.

More than you can afford,” Fennec prognosticates.

Ponderblade eases back into his narrow smithy, brings the blade out, and lets the feeble light of the alley play on its etched surface. He strokes it lovingly. After musing on silver and difficulty he estimates at least 150 for the work, “more if you want the silver to stay there,” as he puts it. He’s referring to the options of pure silver or tin-silver allow and how much effort would be needed.

Cauleigh admits he doesn’t have that kind of money but hopes to, soon. “It’s not as though I’m getting offers on it,” Ponderblade comments and eases it back into wherever he keeps it.

Crompton is delighted with the club, or maul. The rough cherry branch has been transformed into a shiny black haft with red leather grips and as the lead head is still shiny silver, it looks amazing. [+2 to CHR when carried.] Ponderblade takes him through the signs of wear and tear to watch out for but says the cherry wood will last a good long while. Crompton tips him 10 gold bonus and tucking the crude silver ingot away heads for the silver-smith.

Meanwhile Fennec has been welcomed and hands over his staff. Since the work is booked in, he should expect to pick up the same evening.

Crompton catches them up again, having negotiated with the silver-smith and paid his fee. He is very hungry by now, having skipped breakfast, and munches two seed-cakes the ‘prentices hand guests.

Well pleased with these successes the trio think of other things to do.

 

An information broker implies what?

A stranger politely hails Cauleigh and seems interested in buying some information. This is Demūlan, dark and suave, nearing middle age, an information broker. But he gives Crompton the cold shoulder.

Uh-oh.

Agreeing that he will be at the Modest Goose that evening, Cauleigh bids him good-day and moves on.

 

Elves aloft, and diplomacy

As they turn into a main thoroughfare, a pair of Elves glide effortlessly past the trudging three Dwarves. Their Elven feet barely seem to touch the ground, their clothing is immaculate, and one lifts a haughty eyebrow at Fennec. He saw them on a previous day, at the up-market Blue Boar Inn.

Following their course with his eyes, Cauleigh notices the two northern barbarians, Tothras and Beorn. As the Elves pass the pair, one laughs a light rippling laugh. The barbarians react by grabbing their hatchets out!

“Stand easy lads, no need for blows!” Cauleigh tries, but his words seem to make things worse. One Elf whirls and a silent lance of light hammers into Fennec! He staggers, nearly out cold. [TTYF, 21 off CON]

Crompton hears rushing feet behind him: whirling round he finds two angry Horsebrothers rushing past him, yelling. A Horsebrother woman rushes to Fennec’s aid.

A melee is about to ensue when Cauleigh tries appealing to the Elves:

“Run for it! There’s no call for blood to be shed!”

Luckily these particular Elves have no chivalrous tradition. [Cauleigh makes his LR CHR SR] One takes to the air, the other dodges nimbly between the barbarians and darts away into an alley.

Once he is sure Fennec is alive, Cauleigh introduces the two sides to one another. The Horsebrothers have horses for sale, though they are here to buy in breeding stock, and the northerners aren’t fussy, so they head west.

Cauleigh and Crompton see that Fennec is under care of the woman, who will take him to ‘her camp’ so cheerfully head west after the barbarians.

 

Horse trader, and uh-oh again.

Although the horse-fair has not officially begun, deals are already being done. Cauleigh notices a horse-trader selling three mounts to an officer. The officer wears better gear than the hard-bitten riders they’ve seen outside Rothway; and carries a pistol at his waist-sash.

Cauleigh waits for the deal to conclude then admires the mounts and talks to the trader. Who again, cold-shoulders Crompton.

Privily, Cauleigh learns that word has gone around that Crompton is not to be trusted.

Well, there are ways of mending fences and Cauleigh advises Crompton to do just that.

From this point on, Crompton is on the look-out for a rogue, or at the very least an urchin who will know a rogue. His proactive attempt towards that falls flat, as he tries a crass gold-piece advance to an urchin, who simply runs away with it. [A near-miss on L1 SPD SR. As a fail-forward I offer Crompton the option of catch, but have clothing muddied. He opts to lose the gold.]

Crompton then tries the ‘sit in that place I was first approached in’ but apart from enjoying the pie, gets nowhere.

 

Rumours and cards and information-broking

With a bit of time to kill Cauleigh returns to the Modest Goose, plays cards with a few other travellers, and picks up word of the road west. He learns a little about Fingold, the next great estate, or realm, west. It sounds more medieval and draconically-run than Rothway. There are other options, such as travelling south of the river and around.

A steel-breasted soldier, not young, approaches him. This is Salk, a veteran of foot. He’d like to buy Cauleigh and Jotunn’s story about Tigley, if that’s all right. Cauleigh proposes instead that Salk introduce him to the person that really wants to know, and collect a finder’s fee. Salk says he’ll bring another soldier back with him, and conclude the deal, this evening.

 

A Horsebrother shaman, honour and shroom powders

Fennec stumbles south, out of Rothway’s walls, to the camp of the Horsebrothers. Hundreds of horses and dozens of individual campfires! The woman – who as far as Fennec has ever learned, is named Sky over rim – heads for a large, bleached, well-decorated tepee. A shaman, she explains in her terrible Vale-common, will help Fennec.

The wizened shaman has a near-colloquial grasp of Dwarf-tongue and explains the debt the Horsebrothers have to the Gira Dwarves. But all Dwarves are given honour. He breaks out some powder, tells Fennec to take some each half-day, and warns him it is powerful.

Fennec enjoys watching his fingers then passes out, waking up about three hours later with his head in Sky over rim’s lap, and her fingers stroking his forehead. And a monster headache. She brings him a Horsebrother version of a painkiller draft, and he soon feels well enough to walk back to the Modest Goose.

 

 

Meet Sasha Orc-slayer, boss of the Brotherhood

Demūlan calls in, and sells Cauleigh 6 gold coins’ worth of information about the Brotherhood – very much what he’s heard before – and 6 more about the basics of Guild power. Apparently a merchant factor named Vasily – who is foreign – has built a network of merchant houses with links to a number of cities. Vasily plans to portray Sasha as such a threat that she will lose Lord Roth’s trust. Fennec comes over all xenophobic and suggests a number of sinister reasons for Vasily plotting, but Cauleigh is more sanguine. Neither can see any immediate gain for themselves.

In good time, Salk and his younger comrade-in-arms Parro arrive. They have a deal, and escort Cauleigh and Fennec across Rothway. They chat amicably for the most part. It seems the brotherhood mercenaries are ready for any action west, though north east or south might also prove to be the trouble. If Cauleigh’s looking for work, the Roth docks, not far south, are always looking for good watchmen.

Their path has taken them to the south-west quarter, into streets that Cauleigh and Fennec can’t help noticing have more than their share of fully-armed mercenaries just chancing to lean against corners, and urchins in top stories idly dangling their legs and watching below. The streets open to a common court, and an old sturdy wood-built great-house or manor house. They are nodded through, passing outer chambers where women are cleaning and seeing to normal chores, then into a rush-strewn great hall.

Here Sasha holds court, so to speak, with her lieutenants. A great dark table, a lord’s seat beyond, and Sasha, brunette and still striking despite her forty-something years, sits on the seat’s arm and toys with her matched curved blades at the table, spinning them on their points. An old scar cuts a fine diagonal line across her brow and down her left cheekbone, but doesn’t harm her looks, and she has both her eyes.

“Orcs were my sketches… since then I have learned master-strokes. But one took from me a man I had just come to love, and though I took that Orc’s blade I can’t forgive him!”

Obviously, she wants word of the white-armoured Urukin they saw in the Deep near Tigley, and between them Fennec and Cauleigh do a good job of recalling all they can.

In return, they gain better, clearer word of Fingold the next great place, and Sarnas the key river-city where Fennec can expect to find some word of Ikkutas.

 

Crompton gets his silver-headed maul and Fennec his staff

Tiring of watching for someone who won’t appear Crompton has since returned to the Goose, and agrees to walk over to smith’s street with Fennec at his convenience.

En route, they hear a scream, just after Fennec glimpses a hooded figure gliding along rooftops and out of sight. Murder!

Ignoring that, they push on and Crompton is soon armoured again in his well-repaired lamellar, and collects his fine silver-plated maul from the silver-smith.

 

Fennec calls in on Parsifal’s again, pays the remainder, and collects his staff. They head back.

 

Rogues and apologies

The murder scene has been warded off, and a crowd has built up. Crompton watches for a pick-pocket. And spots one. He taps his shoulder politely.

“GAAH!!”

The thief jumps with shock, and runs, and those nearby check their wallets. Two are grateful for Crompton’s interference and the third wishes he’d got his wallet back before the thief fled.

Crompton has had an inspiration! He heads back to the dodgy gambeson-rental man, and asks for his help apologising to the powers that be. It works!

The rogue leads him to the manor house Fennec and Cauleigh have already visited. Crompton is admitted to see Sasha. She allows an apology as long as it is profound, so Crompton gets down and knocks head – after all none of his comrades are watching!

 

Silver arrows sorted – we’re ready to go!

Day five dawns. Fennec has had a good sleep after taking yester-eve’s powder, and is merely a tad morose.

Cauleigh picks up his back-and-breast, quality armour and ready in a shorter time than estimated. The smith tries to up-sell him on pauldrons, but he resists.

Jotunn has been about his silver-arrow testing and has a sheaf of them. Crompton reminds him that he’d like to take over the silver-head bolts, and Jotunn generously sets a very low price on them.

They make final plans for the journey north, to the ruin. Jotunn has been too busy to get armour fitted so he buys (or rents) a sturdy brigantine jack to go over his gambeson. All of them purchase a number of days’ worth of waybread, since there’s no guarantee they won’t be stuck in bad weather at some point. Speaking of that, they decide to buy a cloak each, to keep the rain off.

Boots and clothing and weapons are inspected. Crompton, with a great axe and maul and belt weapons and crossbow is feeling a little overloaded, but reassures himself that he can always ‘drop some of it’ as he gets into action.

They pass through the north gate, spotting a pair of ponies there. This is a topic they’ve discussed, but as Cauleigh reminds them, if they did buy some then travel to the ruin,

“Who’s going to mind them?”

 

A Dwarf wench has dimples, not a beard

The remainder of the morning, under clear grey skies, gets them to a walled village amid the usual well-tended, well-drained Nan Roth fields. This is Haislithveit, essentially a Dwarf place. There is but one tap-house, where a bustle of wagons, carts, dray-horses and the like allows the four adventurers to find a bench without remark.

A pot-wench finds them and Cauleigh immediately strikes up a pleasant rapport. Curse you Cauleigh and your 11 CHR! Her name is Baubri, which as she points out nearly rhymes with Cauleigh. She dimples charmingly as she tells him she’s sure she can see to whatever Cauleigh needs. [Cauleigh is allowed an open CHR SR but with no AP. He gets the best roll of the session, getting to L4, so I rule that if he can parlay that into something relevant he can take AP.] But before he can move to asking Baubri for anything further, the session ends.

 

Fennec’s player is most aggrieved at being zapped with lethal magic when not even involved. Death to Elves! Or at least that Elf. The powder’s effect (apart from +5 to CON for a successful rest after taking) was handed me by Fennec’s player who on hearing it was powder said ‘magic mushrooms!’ so that’s the way we played it. He played up to the idea, good stuff.

I had a couple of ideas about how to deal with Crompton’s last-session encounter. I’m glad I went with this one, it could have gone horribly wrong but good for Crompton to solve it, 20AP well-deserved.

I’m not sure which compass-point the mercenaries claimed they were most ready for war on, but it makes no difference, except to Cauleigh’s perception of whether he was lied to or not in the event. There’s some debatable ground between Nan Roth and Fingold so I’m thinking they said west.

So far Rothway has been very much a diary-based game, in spite of my original plan to make everything episodic. But I’ve changed my mind, and here’s why: the only AP being earned is from SRs and small bonuses for quick or clever thinking. This session I handed out a couple of 20s which is exceptional. The bonus is usually 5AP. Since SRs are driving experience, it’s appropriate to let players decide how much they want to concentrate on the local, low-level scene and how much on adventure. If they are happy to keep ticking over on L1 SRs and the occasional open-ender, that’s fine.

 

Props

Cities & Towns III from Art of War Games is the source for most if not all the little hamlets and villages the Dwarves will enter. It seems to fit the Vale backdrop better than the first two in the series, so expect to see it mentioned again.

Benjamin Gerber, Encounters-plots-places (http://trollitc.com/) once again provides some NPCs. Vasily, suitably shifted to Rothway, comes from it, and I’ve mentioned Sasha already.

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TI1.07: Rothway, where horse-fair buyers come

Or: A short con, a short test, and a short job in Rothway

Welcome back!

The session is a quiet one, featuring the play bouncing around among the players as the party splits, combines, splits again, and combines again. Players that look for interesting stuff get AP, players that coast along get less. More of that later!

 

The characters for this session:

Fennec, Level 2 wizard (no specialty)

Cauleigh, Level 2 warrior (background: literate townsman)

Jotunn, Level 5 warrior (background: hunter; talent: tracking)

Crompton, Level 2 rogue (background: Runebearer; talent: roguery)

 

Let’s go back to Smith Street!

The four pranksters of Palgwyth are aware of the need to find work. But they would prefer to wait for new armour first, and silver weapons seem like a good idea too. It’s day two in Rothway, and there’s still plenty of daylight. Fennec announces that he wants to visit the Wizard’s Guild – partly to get a recommendation to a smith that can add silver shoes to his staff without ruining it. Cauleigh and Crompton decide to head straight for the smiths’ street and look for weaponsmiths who might work in silver. So Jotunn and Fennec fall in with that idea too. It won’t do any harm to find out prices.

 

Introducing a short con

Looking for silver to fashion into a mace-head? Gnomefast Hamworth is a Hobb-looking sort of fellow (though possible Brownie or Gnome might be closer to the truth) who ‘just happens’ to be able to lay his hands on three pound of silver this very afternoon.

Cauleigh is suspicious but his own background, as the son of a goldsmith, should protect him from obvious fakery so he agrees. The price will only be four gold, less some change.

Meanwhile let me introduce you to a smith that can and will do that kind of work.

 

Master Ponderblade, lugubrious, dark-skinned, a Dwarf-like man whose smithy smells to Jotunn of war-hound. Mournfully stroking his short silky beard he agrees he can make a lump of silver into an orb-like mace-head and set a haft to it. The price he quotes Cauleigh sounds reasonable.

Crompton, who really ought to know better, is delighted and asks if an even bigger lump can be found for him, on the principle of bigger is better when it comes to silver-headed maces. Why yes, though not right away, replies master Gnomefast with a cunning grin. And the price Ponderblade quotes for that seems reasonable as well.

 

Asking about silver-work such as intaglio or damascene, the hunter and wizard receive a shock. That kind of work is in the hundreds, if not well over a thou. Ponderblade eases back into the recesses of his cramped smithy and emerges with a large, cruelly-curved Uruk blade, and hands it to Jotunn for inspection. Its surface is etched: once it had silver inlay. Ponderblade wonders if one of them would like to buy it, but none do.

 

A short jest

Jotunn wants to find a bow and talk to a smith about silver-headed arrows, but kindly puts that to one side to escort Fennec to the Wizard’s Guild. Using Fennec’s instructions-cum-map the two find their way to a place not far from the southern wall, where a tall building, fashioned of similar masonry to the wall, is accessed by means of a steep flight of stone steps.

Reassuringly, there is a door, but the steps are blocked near the top by an immensely fat, rubicund and jocular fellow.

It seems this is a test!

Fennec correctly picks a modified Hidey Hole as the spell the jester uses to make his kerchief vanish and the fattie promptly deflates to become a Leprechaun.

Jotunn will not be permitted to enter. The Leprechaun challenges him to a drinking match instead. Wary of being slipped a mickey Jotunn declines. He is bespelled and jigs his way back down the stair and away down the road.

Inside the Wizard’s Guild, Fennec finds he is welcome. There’s also a ‘job board’ they keep for members looking to earn. The witch-wolf of Palgwyth is at the low-priority end, Hippogriffs are at the high-priority end, and a ruin with corpses is in the middle. What do they pay, wonders Fennec. It turns out the first two depend on convincing some authority or other to value a job, and a ruin ‘normally pays for itself.’

The wizards warm to Fennec’s company as the good wine flows and they all compare staffs, and give him plenty of advice about where to get a ring on each end.

Fennec gathers other pieces of information, thanks the members and leaves for the time being.

 

Meanwhile: Cauleigh inspects the silver Gnomefast returns with. It carries the traces of an assay mark. Reassured, he pays Gnomefast, chooses what he wants his haft to be made of and hands over half the payment for the mace. Crompton agrees to return the next day for his silver.

 

Rumours of work

The Modest Goose is as good a place as any to listen out for jobs. This is the second evening of their stay and they exchange friendly nods with other guests, and sit down with gossiping ale-drinkers.

The gossip about the centaur has escalated, now folks are saying he’s heading for Rothway at the head of a herd (of horses) to liberate other herds.

There is some talk about corpses near a ruin, but it sounds as though they will need to find some ‘northern barbarian’ by the name of Tothras, who reported the find. Being a latecomer to the city that fellow is most likely to be staying over in the north stalls, where widow-women take in extra lodgers.

Later, Fennec confirms that this story is not bogus, so they agree it is worth following up.

 

The witch-wolf, being off back east, is something they might look into some other time.

 

As to the hippogriffs – well, Cauleigh reminds them:

“We are Dwarves! We don’t fly! Picture yourself being plucked up and dropped from a great height and ask yourself is that a job we should be trying!”

 

The short con concludes

Bright and early Crompton leads Cauleigh back to the smiths’ street. Gnomefast shows up as promised and pats his jerkin where the silver ingots drag the fabric down. They head round to Ponderblade’s and Crompton buys the silver.

Gnomefast smilingly departs and Ponderblade tests the ingots: reports they are mostly lead.

“I could work the silver out…” he speculates.

Crompton seizes on this: it’s better to have gained something as a sop to his injured self-esteem. There’s a debate about what can be done, but Ponderblade is commissioned to try out the ingots.

The pair head west and north, to find the north stalls.

 

The price of a Prince Albert

The Rothway wizards have provided Fennec with the whereabouts of the smith than can be trusted to work silver onto his staff so that’s the first order of business for he and Jotunn. Outside Parsifal & Esq. young ‘prentices are busy setting up wares. Fennec’s request for an interview leads him to meet master Parsifal – an old half-Dwarf with a very long silver beard.

The consultation provides Fennec with a quote of 200 – he gulps, but declines an option of journeyman-work for half-price.

 

Lighter by 100 up-front gold, he accompanies Jotunn as that worthy seeks out the bowyer recommended by Parsifal’s. Jotunn has been admiring a gunne on display in Parsifal’s – a very fine and no doubt expensive piece.

En route, they pass a fine public fountain where a group of four clerics are chanting softly. Glancing into the water, Fennec glimpses flames.

The bowyer, of course, is ‘by appointment to the House of Roth’ so Jotunn sensibly keeps walking and not too far away they find a normal bowyer whose target market is huntsmen. Jotunn buys a good ash bow, and discusses arrows.

 

Hound and travellers’ tales

Meanwhile, Crompton helps Cauleigh navigate the crooked side-streets of Rothway over to the north stalls. They are lean-to’s leaning on shacks and shanties that are little more than lean-to’s themselves.

Before long Cauleigh chances upon Thothras’ stall: a huge hound lunges out!

[Cauleigh reacts immediately, yelling ‘dodge’ so only needs to make L1 SPD or DEX to avoid full combat with this MR50 beast.]

The hound snags Cauleigh’s gambeson sleeve, doing no harm to the warrior but ruining the new stitching and ripping some of the padding out. At length a tiny feeble old landlady totters her way down rickety steps and helps call off ‘Pebbles’ who really just wanted to play, such a good boy.

Tothras has already headed away to the markets so southward the pair go. Their course now intersects the other pair.

Before they meet though, Cauleigh and Crompton do chance upon a tall, fair-haired and -bearded barbarian, studying a cage.

This is Tothras. It seems his people favour soft leather boots, fur-side in, cloth trousers, and woven wool shirts with finely crafted patterns. At his belt he bears a hatchet and long general-purpose dagger.

Doubtfully leaving the man in the cage to eke out his punishment rather than being put to death cleanly, Tothras and the Dwarves repair themselves to an ale-house, and glimpsing them, Fennec and Jotunn join them. Tothras is joined by another traveller from the north, Beorn by name, who testifies the exactness of his witness. Adding this to Fennec’s information the Dwarves piece this together:

It seems that just shy of Nan Roth’s northern border there is a woodland named the King’s Wood, wherein lies a ruin that must date from House Odhenas’ last occupation of the area, near or just after the close of the Wizard Wars. A track would take the traveller off the main trail, just where a marker post, possibly named the Gallows Tree, stands. The travellers saw the bodies of men, recently torn apart. The wounds might have been inflicted by a fierce beast or great weapon. A village, belonging to Nan Roth, lies south within a day of the scene.

 

Crompton sits, and needs a sign reading “this is a sign” before he acts

With this under their belts the Dwarves’ day is near complete. Cauleigh and Jotunn betake themselves back – once again – to the smiths (and leather-workers), Fennec walks back to the Wizard’s Guild, and Crompton, who is hungry, stays there chowing down a pie.

A slim, confident man clad in armour of padded grey silk slides onto the form next to him, and gives him a tight smile. He checks that Crompton is the Dwarf Crompton from Esgaroth, son of the crime-lord, who travels with three Heroes of Tigley. His boss would like to chat!

Crompton clenches his buttocks and declines. You don’t get to choose, the grey man explains. But yeah, I do, Crompton grits. The grey man slides out again with a chuckle and leaves.

Buttocks still firmly clenched, Crompton cowers-in-plain-sight all the way back to the Modest Goose, sneaking from one group of armed mercenaries to the next! [He succeeds, using the roguery bonus!]

 

Fennec has a brush with death and the law

Fennec has a near-escape: he is nearly struck by the hurtling body of a woman which smacks bloodily into the street next to him. Glancing up he sees a hooded figure move nimbly from the roof to the next roof, then it is gone. He is delayed two hours explaining to the watch that being near a body doesn’t make you the murderer!

But he does eventually get back to the Wizard’s Guild, where he finishes researching the Odhenas estate. He’s also given a bit of a clue about Ikkutas information. Sarnas, which is a crossroads with the river and Aunor, is a great place to look. But he also might find odd information in editions of Travels Through the Vale, a drivelling and once-standard travelogue of a few centuries ago.

 

Cauleigh and Jotunn decide honest labour ain’t worth it

Cauleigh and Jotunn pass by a man dressed in a cheap padded jack, who asks if they are looking for work as watchmen. It’s steady work, though not great pay, he explains, providing them with an address near the municipal centre. Tell them Todd bill sent you – yeah, it does sound like two names, but I favour the bill.

Cauleigh gets his gambeson patched up, Jotunn consults a couple or so smiths, and with daylight to spare the pair decide to find out how much the watch pay. The head back to the centre.

Jotunn changes some money for a silver ingot, ready for the smith to try to make serviceable arrow-heads. The changer hall is emptying out smartly, with the younger men meeting girls dressed up nicely for a local festival.

Cauleigh, who is attuned (or thinks so) to the factional ebb and flow of a city, believes the ‘watch’ must be the city admin trying to hire men it can afford, in competition with the well-paid mercenaries supposedly paid for by the Brotherhood.

Their job interview suggests he might be right: a Cratchit-like city officer offers them 5 silver, but only if they can provide references.

 

 

And so all four end up working for free drinks

They are all back at the Modest Goose by nightfall of their third day. It is raining by this time. The local barkeep hires them to hold a canopy over he and his girl as he takes her out to the festival. Showing promise as a capitalist he convinces them to take the gold out in drinks.

 

 

A tale of Sasha Orc-slayer

This is the story Ponderblade shares about his Uruk-blade. According to him, this happened to him about 12 years ago. But his tale goes back years earlier to when young Sasha decides to be an adventurer, then gets sick of hanging out with guys bragging they are adventurers. She decides to do something about it. Around 12 years ago Sasha reappears from south of the river and trades in this weapon. It used to have silver on it. She carries the name ‘orc-slayer’ and says she took the sword from the Uruk that killed someone she cared about. She wears black armour, he wore white armour, something like that.

 

 

A quiet session as I said. City-gaming can be as dangerous as you want to make it. Some players looked for interesting stuff and jobs, some didn’t. Fennec and Crompton both experienced something interesting based on an early, failed L1 LK SR. Neither did anything with the interesting thing, but that’s their choice (and lack of AP). After the game, Cauleigh’s player asked Crompton’s player why Crompton didn’t head out with the grey man (apart from ‘he looked dodgy’ which is a given). ‘He would have given me a sign if he was a rogue like me’ Crompton’s player replied. Hence my sub-title on that section. J But in fairness to Crompton’s player he did suggest to the others that Crompton can seek the local Rogue’s Guild and ask about work. He hasn’t followed through as yet but tomorrow is another day.

At present the plan seems to be: ‘finish getting armour and head out to the ruin.’ Then there’s the ‘environment’ plot point, ‘Sasha is powerful and there is a link between Tigley’s Uruk in white armour and her back-story’. But this is a sandboxy format, they might do nothing with either and that’s fine too.

I should add, in case it’s not clear, Cauleigh has a sturdy silver-headed mace now, with a fine black-maple haft with superior grip. Crompton hasn’t finished getting his larger version, and Jotunn is going to test-shoot silver tipped arrows to give the smith an idea of what won’t fly.

 

Background Vale stuff learned:

Elves as travellers appeared in the city-wandering – acting hoity-toity as they put up at the Blue Boar Inn I think – but at present they don’t form anything like a plot-point. Elves tend to hail from the northern forests. The ‘northern barbarians’ are from a mixed people that resulted when the ice-lands folk swept through Aunor (north of the Vale, separated by forest and mountain) and were thrown back from the Vale itself, with the help of the forest Elves, back in the early days of the Wizard Wars. Most of the remnant settled in Aunor, because, not ice-bound. ‘Tothras’ is an Aunori name while ‘Beorn’ is not. They did mention their fear of the fey folk.

 

Props

I’ve cited EPPC previously;

The ‘ruin in the forest’ comes from the Evening session maps series (Forge Studios);

I’ve also pitched in with 650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds (Johnn Four, roleplayingtips.com) for some of the sights and events around Rothway

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TI1.06.5: Rothway, where sounds the fife and drum

 

This is the last third of Thursday’s game. While there wasn’t a lot to it, I enjoyed fleshing out Rothway as I see it in this age. I have a map of it, but that is set in a much earlier time.

 

Westward? Yes, westward!

The four reach a finger-post. South points to somewhere named Tiriath-embar, west is Rothway. They pause. The fortified spires of Tiriath-embar can be glimpsed to the south.

“This post is less impressive than that massive granite thing outside Palgwyth.”

“Yeah, now… which way were we going again?”

The stream of traffic reminds them that they are westward-bound, on the River Way. So west they go.

 

A new and martial note sounds in Nan Roth

They become distinctly aware they are in a different realm. While the land around Palgwyth was well-tended, Nan Roth is intensively cultivated. Its hedgerows are well-maintained, its ditches obviously scoured each year.

Not only that! They are also swiftly aware of the gaze of hard-eyed mounted soldiers: mercenaries by their blank-buff-and-canvas. The “borderland” between Balas and Nan Roth is patrolled thoroughly, it seems.

Nor does much time elapse before they witness a group of pikemen, practicing keeping to formation at the run. And they hear off in the distance the disjointed pop-pop..pop-pop-pop…pop! of a stand of gunnes at targets.

Rothway soon looms in the growing shadow like some juggernaut of the Vale. This is no wall hastily thrown up as the enemy approaches: ancient, high and well-bastioned are Rothway’s walls! At this time of day produce-sellers stream back home, and city-dwellers and travelers hasten inside the walls. Not surprisingly, the crowd bottlenecks, and pie-men and pot-men ply a brisk trade. The Dwarves tamp down their appetites with this simple fare, and make their way through the gates.

 

Excitedly, they seek the street of armour-smiths

Save for Fennec – and even he is happy to examine options – they have all been looking forward to finding quality smiths while they have money to spend. So wasting no time, still cumbered by packs and weaponry, they search out the street of armour-smiths.

The street is a-bustle with mercenaries, looking at weapons and armour. They get their first close-up look at one of the matchlocks the local mercenaries use: much like an arbalest-stock, but with no steel bow or stirrup, and a tube where the quarrel would lie. Morions and burgonets are much the fashion in helmets, and back-and-breast steel.

Crompton lays his lamellar coat in for repair, and avoids a roguish proposal from a journeyman to rent something light in the meantime. Cauleigh buys a peaked morion and sets money down for a breastplate. The smith tells him to send word back of his lodgings once he finds some, as he will need several fittings as the armour is shaped. Jotunn decides on much the same helmet. Fennec examines a few types of fabric and decides to stick with what he has.

 

The Modest Goose and a rumoured rivalry

They have by now gathered that the first big horse-fair of the year starts within a week. Rothway is crowded, and they are glad to take up a rear-facing room in a mid-priced inn. The Modest Goose is to be their home for as long as it takes to buy good armour and earn some more for the next leg of the road. They agree to pay for the week, therefore.

 

Cauleigh invests two gold coins, slipping them in front of the inn’s ale-puller as he tends the well-polished bar. The barkeep retails what he knows of the mercenaries. The way he hears it, their ultimate employer is a woman named Sasha Orc-slayer, said to be a dark-haired beauty, who has the confidence of Lord Roth.

Cauleigh agrees he knows of Lord Roth from processions glimpsed in Esgaroth, but little else.

Tis also said, continues the barkeep, that Sasha’s ‘brotherhood’ has only one rival power: the Guild (so called) which does not retain a mercenary army but has some power or other.

Interesting. Cauleigh passes this along.

It has been a long and busy day, and so they sleep soundly.

 

A division of tasks for the new day

Information, of course, is the order of the next day. Since this is a large and unknown town the four post-Palgwyth pranksters pair up.

Fennec, guarded by Cauleigh, will enquire about the local Wizard’s Guild, in and around the municipal buildings, in Rothway central.

Jotunn, with Crompton keeping a weather-eye out, will make his way around the stables and horse-grounds of the city west, asking about the brand he learned on Alintar’s steed.

Naturally, any one of them hearing of possible jobs will make further enquiries.

 

Mid-town and a clash of culture

The wizard and warrior find their way without any special difficulty to a monstrosity. Rothway’s municipal buildings are an accretion of styles from many periods. Find the right court is more of a challenge. But at length Fennec rounds a fine rotunda-style wall and comes upon a jarringly vertical portal, and enters the Rothway equivalent of general enquiries.

Here, all manner of business is being done. Merchants with the official seal are changing coin at regulated rates, for example. Among their customers are a trio of barbarically-garbed, tall, fair-skinned people: Horsebrothers.

Studying them, it strikes Fennec that these three: two broad-shouldered men, and behind them a woman: have deliberately ‘dressed up’ with barbaric garb and hair adornments. The tattoos and paint are real though. They are changing gold dust for local coins.

As it happens [failing yet another L1 LK SR] Fennec has a chance to take their measure. A soldier jostles him, and wheels around to snarl at him. The woman turns and speaks sternly in reprimand – something about Dwarves being honoured – though it’s by no means clear exactly what she’s saying – and the two men behind her nod emphatically. Then the woman bows deeply to Fennec and introduces herself and her companions. They seem to hold Dwarves in high regard! Not entirely sure what their names are through the broken language and thick accents, Fennec introduces he and Cauleigh and all is friendly.

At a reasonable fee Fennec then negotiates the bureaucracy and gains a document telling him where to find the Wizard’s Guild.

 

West fairs and word of Edoras

As for Jotunn and Crompton, they wander the Rothway concourse, goggling about like the newcomers they are. Crompton notices that there are the types of cutpurses about you would expect, but that there are hard-eyed mercenaries keeping the street safe as well. It’s not entirely clear whether they are city watch or some private force, but the effect is the same.

It’s a lightly wet day, but they are in no danger of slopping through mud. Unlike the Esgaroth they know, where gutters (or ‘kennels’) are archaeological in nature, the gutters here are well-maintained and run-off water is carried away from the streets.

The western half of Rothway is all ostleries and stables and horse-stalls it seems, and it’s not long before Jotunn gets some horse-sense from someone that doesn’t mind yarning.

It seems the brand on Alintar’s fine steed is of Edoras, westward along the Vale. Fine horses are bred there!

There are plenty of Horsebrothers around the west markets and the Dwarven pair get their fill of the barbaric fashion sported by these horse-rearing folk.

 

 

And so, with no further excitement or hindrance, all four reconnect at the Modest Goose and dine, and share their wisdom.

 

A bit of history and geography

Nan Roth survived what’s known as the Wizard Wars (ended about 7 generations ago, back when Annan was a young adventuress) very solidly, so I conjecture that it also endured the Great Wars (a piece of which Annan yarned about: ended about 2-3 generations ago, depending on which bit you are counting) in the same fashion. The Horsebrothers, AKA Horse Brothers, were once a powerful, widespread nation, south of the River, but fared poorly against the Death Goddess’ multi-arms armies and have a much smaller compass in this age. Although our four Dwarves don’t know it, the Horse Brothers had always a good relationship with the remnant of Mt. Gira Dwarves and were sheltered by them in their darkest time: so Dwarves are revered in their modern culture. Mt. Gira is where the Dwarf Way takes you if you leave Esgaroth by it and follow your nose.

Props

For Rothway I’m using EPPC (op. cit.) for the immediate inspiration for Brotherhood vs Guild. Regular readers will know I have a weakness for including striking brunettes in my campaigns so EPPC’s Sasha Orc-slayer is a given. Whether the characters actually meet her, we shall see.

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TI1.06: Pranksters of Palgwyth!

 

Welcome back!

As you may recall, a large-chinned paladin has tempted the four saviours of Hopespyre into falling in with the Palgwyth Lordsman’s ambition. This, instead of robbing the otherwise tempting target, the Lordsman himself, who is a stereotypical bloated lecher of a priest. While the Lordsman pictures nothing more complicated than a beating-up, the Dwarves decide that humiliation fits the crime.

The characters for this session:

Fennec, Level 2 wizard (no specialty)

Cauleigh, Level 2 warrior (background: literate townsman)

Jotunn, Level 5 warrior (background: hunter; talent: tracking)

Crompton, Level 2 rogue (background: Runebearer; talent: roguery)

 

Plans for the paladin are drawn up

We rejoin our heroes then, as they sit around a quiet nook in their inn, making plans. Skipping the blow-by-blow debate this is how their plans break down:

Base idea Step 1 Step 2 Further Cost/benefit
Slops to head Find and rent an upstairs room below which the paladin will walk Pitch nightsoil bedpan at head Get away safely (E.g. Fennec may have to make himself a target) Payment for room for at least a day; Need to be fairly lucky to hit a specific target; Relatively simple to execute
Sully credit rating Wander round likely places bad-mouthing paladin Nil Get out of town before the point where rumours are traced back May be difficult to prove this is worth any kind of reward; Depends on exerting persuasion; Extremely cheap; People usually believe worst
Stripper party Determine paladin’s base of operations Find and rent ladies of negotiable virtue to turn up at paladin’s base and make a scene Some need to supervise without revealing who is behind it; probably some gossip-mongering. Some basic snooping and negotiation; Possible loss of reputation; Relatively little danger; Relatively cheap.
Ultimate complicated set of staged events ending with paladin chasing sheep while sexually aroused Spread rumour about a local noble’s return to her estate, requiring a respectable attendance Arrange bath-house scene where paladin bathes, is mobbed by strippers, flees in a predetermined sheep-ward path Find and set up bath-house, strippers, sheep, trick towel, onlookers, etc. Requires paladin to follow script without any one of a number of steps to go wrong. A number of actual costs.

Once the other three caution Cauleigh that his idea (guess which!) is not likely to be the choice, they set down some research steps needed and split tasks up as follows:

  • Fennec will look for a bath-house
  • Crompton will find out about ladies of negotiable virtue
  • Cauleigh will both: look for the paladin’s base and
    • find out what local estate might fit his story (who and where)
  • Jotunn will find out about both Palgwyth law and governance (who and how)

 

They walk Palgwyth in search of information

Fennec [failing his L1 LK SR] spends a good deal of time sauntering the town’s main street, lloking for a bath-house, keeping one eye open for approaching paladin. He sees neither. Repairing to the Wizard’s Guild he wines and dines a couple of the fellows. They rejoice in their own club having its own bath-house and care not whether or no Palgwyth has one. Fennec returns to his inn by evening.

Crompton [making his L1 LK SR] turns back up at the Rogue’s Guild rooms, and chats to the lads over a pint. He jots down details of a local bawd named Sally who houses the type of girl he is looking for. An easy day for Crompton, he returns to the inn for a noon meal.

Jotunn looks for the types of men he is comfortable among and finds his way east, outside the wall, to a broken-down cantina run by crusty old Moss Icely. Easing his way among the strange types – be they road-wardens or bounty-hunters – Jotunn pays for enough drinks to loosen tongues. He gets the traveller view of local law. There is a chief constable of some kind, and a mayor who has to balance affairs between Lady Balas on the one hand and the guildsmen on the town council on the other. A relatively expensive [based on LK SR] and long outing for Jotunn, he returns to his inn by late afternoon.

Word arrives that his boots are ready at the cobbler’s, but wisely he decides not to go on his own [and gains 5 AP].

Cauleigh has an eventful morning. He doesn’t even get time to tie down definite information about Lady Balas’ estate [though a L1 LK SR does point to this as the obvious choice]. He begins by calling back in on the Changer who held their reward, and asking about the paladin. The Changer is just as curious! It seems the paladin, Alintar the Just, is a recent arrival from the west, and no record of seal of nobility (or patent) is known. No-one in Rothway, the next city on, has been able to supply any information about him. The Changer provides Cauleigh with Alintar’s address, and mentions ‘a few bully-boys’ who guard Alintar’s gear. Information on either the seal or a defined noble crest on a saddle (for example) is worth 20 in gold. And since Cauleigh has taken it this far, the Changer will hold the offer exclusively for two days before opening it to general reward. Thanking his source Cauleigh hastens back to the inn to share what he has learned.

Crompton, the only other comrade there at the time, is recruited by Cauleigh to help explore the paladin’s address the same evening. And the next surprise is: it’s the town’s free hospital, a religious establishment where it looks as though Alintar is staying for free. The pair [failing L1 LK SR] bump straight into three bully-boys sitting around guarding one of the many cottages that make up the hospital. After much waiting to be examined [and an excellent CHR SR] Cauleigh confirms this information from a tired and lean friar. Meanwhile, Crompton finds a stables where a fourth guard is guarding one specific stall.

They return to the inn and sup on the remains of the evening’s fare.

 

The information is fashioned into a plan

The various pieces are coming together. No-one begrudges dropping their pet scheme. The plan involves the following steps:

  1. Negotiate with Mistress Sally and hire a pair of doxies to cat-fight just outside the hospital grounds near the three bully-boys. A third doxy shall distract the stable guard.
  2. Using these distractions, search the paladin’s cottage, and inspect his horse.
  3. Depending on what they find the Lordsman will be given a stolen seal or news of an absence of such, thus allowing him to challenge Alintar quite safely. 500 gold thank you.
  4. Not forgetting to collect the 20 for information given before leaving town.

 

And the plan is implemented

Mistress Sally suggests four girls for 16 gold and the bargain is struck. And immediately renegotiated once the girls in question drag themselves out of bed. A sharp young piece elects herself spokesperson, but her mind is quick and her arrangements well thought out, so her employers don’t begrudge the extra silver.

Jotunn guides a surly wench around to the stables. She duly distracts the guard, lures him out, and Jotunn finds a fine mount, memorises the brand, notes the lack of crests on the saddle and tack, and leaves.

Team burglar sneak around and confirm that the guards are well away from their post. With the aid of Fennec’s magic [after Crompton breaks a lockpick] they enter Alintar’s garret. It is absent of magic. They find an impressive set of lamellar armour, a pair of intimidating boots, buff-leather under-armour, and various belongings suggesting a travelling man. The pick of the finds are a sheaf of paper, ink, and a scroll-case with what appears to be a patent lineage duly sealed. Fennec’s magic reveals that it is heavily reworked – a forgery!

The sharp youngster yells the signal that Alintar is returning so, taking the precaution of re-locking the room, they flee with the scroll-case and forged seal of nobility.

 

It is still early (for the Lordsman) when the four pranksters disturb his meditations. They explain, and hand over the forged seal. Pushing aside his favourite naked muse the Lordsman hurls a sack of 500 gold casually down and warns them not to disturb his holy rituals so casually.

20 gold collected from the Changer for the excellent information, the four gear up, pick up new boots from the cobbler’s and leave Palgwyth.

 

And they bid a swift farewell to Palgwyth

A short time later they have passed out the east gate of Palgwyth – where the guards are efficient, but do not pay them any special attention – and are making their way through the usual daytime road traffic of local producers and peddlers, and longer-distance merchants. Drumming hoofbeats are heard behind.

The road-goers crowd to one side or another as Alintar flees Palgwyth, wearing parts of his armour and clutching the remaining parts over his saddle. The dust settles as he disappears to the west.

“You know, we’re going the same way – we might run into him again.”

“We might even become his nemeses – each time he sets up, we arrive!”

Cheered by this, the four break their journey and fast at the next hamlet, then set out once more westward.

 

Highlights for me were the willingness of players to work along with different ideas, and that I was reasonably successful in ‘failing forward.’ This is a modern concept that my old players would not recognise from my classic T&T or T&T7 days. Of all the characters, only Cauleigh has pushed LK up to the point where L1 is fairly likely. I try to let the story speak from success and failure, and the principle for failure is ‘make it more interesting.’ We are not up to ‘succeed but…’ yet, though I will try to find a consistent way for those principles to be applied as we go along.

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TI1.05.5: Palgwyth and paladin

The four Saviours of Hopespyre make their way safely through the overgrown woodland paths – west around Curilas then south – down to the tilth-lands of the Vale once more.

Palgwyth approached from the north reveals a curious spread west, with newer and greater houses on the west-most end, a scatter of crumbled hovels at the east-most end, and a stone-built great house with domed tower – a temple most likely – roughly at midpoint. Well-drained furlongs of ploughland lie for miles around.

A low wall bends itself around the western half. Low, but defended by a dry moat and much higher than a Dwarf might leap. There seems no need to seek out a main gate, since a postern is before them in the north wall.

Passing over the wooden plank bridge over the dry moat, they behold a solid gate door. Knocking meets with no reply. A sturdy bell-pull tantalizes, about two feet over their heads.

With one of their number boosted, the bell-pull sounded, a judas-window opens in the gate.

“Who’s there?”

“Down here.”

“Ooh – Dwarves? Whatcher doing here?”

“We are travelers from Hopespyre, here on lawful business.”

“Hopespyre? What’s that then?”

“’Tis a forest village not far from here.”

“…they say they’re from Hopespyre! …Nah, me neither.”

“Ahem! We have lately had business in Wywood and the sorceress lady Annan bade us travel here.”

“…now they say they’re from Wywood! …Nah, I ain’t heard of that neither!”

“Look… we’re from Esgaroth, alright?!? You must have heard of Esgaroth!”

“No need to come the high hat with me, ‘course I know Esgaroth. This is the city of Palgwyth! We ain’t country rubes here! Awright, hang on…”

The gate open, they behold a guard wearing some form of beer-stained livery. His swelling gut suggests his is an easy berth. Passing in they walk past a post where three more guards sloven. One makes to get up to shake them down, then waves a hand tiredly as their stumpy legs carry them briskly past.

 

Palgwyth’s wall may have been thrown up in a fever of defense but years have passed and many houses are built onto what ought to have been left open ground. This is familiar to the Esgaroth pair Cauleigh and Crompton: exactly the same thing applies there. And what might once have been broad streets are now cramped alleys. But with the landmark of the dome tower on their left they navigate to the centre of the town, around River Way.

Familiar with the ways of Arbourers they select an inn without further trouble and settle in to get clean, claim their thousand gold from the Changers, and look for work and equipment.

 

Further APs are spent here. Boots are ordered from cobblers, Fennec buys some really nice Wizard robes, and each character casts about for possible employment. I’ll gather the threads up into an exchange-of-news format.

 

Within a couple of days they were ready to meet and chat about options. Fennec began.

“I visited the Wizard’s guild, more of a club really. They’re being leaned on by someone they called the Lordsman, to do something about necromantic murders out in nearby villages.”

“I heard about the Lordsman too,” Crompton chimed in, “I visited the rogue’s guild – though yeah, more like a club-house setup – and they say the Lordsman is willing to pay coin for someone to duff up some paladin type that’s striding around town making him look bad.”

“Well, my news of the road might lead to a job as a favour for the local power, house Balas,” Cauleigh remarked. “The next big city is Rothway, and by the way if you want good quality gear I’m told it’s worth waiting until we get there, and around Rothway there’s some kind of mercenary force throwing its weight around, making people here fret about what it means.”

“My news is more about the moors than the road,” Jotunn finished, “there’s a witch-wolf said to be killing people, or at least terrorizing them, south of here. Lots of rumour, no fact, but they do say silver will harm a witch-wolf and by a remarkable coincidence I still have all my silver-headed bolts.”

“How far south?”

“Oh, just around – like Fennec says, the nearby villages.”

“Oh right then. The other thing I did hear,” added Cauleigh, “is that a ‘new power’ is rising south of the river and upstream, but apparently some place named Edoras is where to get more news of that.”

The four considered the information then Cauleigh piped up again:

“You know, the thing I get out of all this is that this ‘Lordsman’ has money. What say we pay him our respects, ask about this leg-breaking job, case the joint and rob him? We know which way we can get out easy – the north postern!”

“And I thought Crompton was the rogue!”

 

And so it is that the four take themselves east to the square of the temple-gate, and there they behold a huge-chinned, powerful man striding towards them as though he owns the town.

And lo, the paladin he stoppeth, and speaketh as though he owneth the town.

And then spake Fennec unto the paladin, in a slightly less-than-awed manner.

And lo, Fennec the paladin doth throw mightily, unto the mud of the street, whereof the mud sticketh to Fennec’s shiny new Wizard robes.

 

It is not all that long before the four Dwarves track the Lordsman down. It so happens at this time of day he is giving wise counsel to a harlot, which requires him to cavort naked with her, but no doubt she gains great spiritual benefit by this hands-on ministry.

“Yes, I am willing to pay oooh, 250 gold for a polite message to this Sir paladin. How dare he call me a whoremonger! Right my dear?”

The saviours of Hopespyre agree, for 500 gold, and depart, to think of something poetic and artistic to happen to the paladin.

 

Props:
Benjamin Gerber, Encounters – Plots – Places. Troll in the Corner

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