TI3.07: Grey Dagon Hill

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L2 Wizard (Combat magic)

Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (Townsman)

Jotunn, L5 Warrior (Hunter, Tracking talent)

Crompton, L2 Rogue (Runebearer, Roguery talent)

For those who came in late:

A treasure map has taken our heroes up the Golden River, but tales of young women being seized by hyena-headed raiders sees them purchase another map of the area and set up the Atharva Plateau to clear Grey Dagon Hill of its ghouls (and/or ghasts).

Bats clear, a ledge up leads to a door

By the time they shuck packs and maneuver long gear through the tunnel left, all stray bats seem to have fled out into the broiling heat. Jotunn pushes his torch forward into a larger space and spots a ledge above on his left.

A few easy boosts and lifts sees Crompton carefully checking around a stone door, set flush in the ledge wall, and the other three heroically cowering as far to one side as the ledge allows. Crompton decides to activate the lever he finds and the door unlatches.

A hefty push, it swings up and away. Clearly some clever counter-balancing mechanism at work here.

And that up to a ghoul-haunted tomb complex

Soon, Crompton studies a desiccated wooden door, sturdy in its time but no real barrier to sturdy dwarves. He decides to uses a throw-knife to shave some wood away from the hinges. Ooops! That’s not designed for wood-work, Crompton! [a fail Dex SR sees Crompton take a painful 12 CON damage] Blood drops freely from his hand and an eager snuffling and scrabbling comes from the other side of the door.

[Crompton is bandaged for now, and will have trouble with his right hand, limited to two-hand or left-hand use.]

Jotunn cracks the door with a hefty kick and he and Cauleigh defend the breach against four hungry undead, which tear at them with tooth and claw.

[Setting the tone for the whole session I’m using physical dimensions as part of the challenge, favouring mass attack here.]

With a LF each the pair first defend, then turn the tables and drive the ghouls back into a noxious room, slaying the last in the fourth combat round.

Sparing little time they move on to a fire-trapped vault

The ghouls quarters are too disgusting to search. The four move on within minutes, out to a large, clear-smelling, vaulted L-shaped chamber where packs can be piled clear of guano and ghoul-remains. The only real feature seems to be a chipped stone table just visible round the L. On it, a brown tankard and above it, writing on the vault arches. As Fennec decides it is Elven, he sets off a fire-trap and is badly burned!

And quite unexpectedly, a demon boss

As the wizard pats out flames [11 damage] and Jotunn knocks a few stray embers off himself [2 damage] Cauleigh notices a pair of eyes just visible over the tankard: without pausing to study the situation he hurls himself over the table – to skid to a sudden halt as he realizes that perspective has tricked him – he’s looking at a 9′ tall being much further back!

“I didn’t really expect to get into this so soon… but, oh well…” so says the demon, as flames begin racing over his form, shaking out his immense flaming whip!

[Fennec makes a difficult IQ SR and works out this is a minor demon, speaking all-tongues – he passes this on]

In the combat that follows Cauleigh focuses on dodging [L7 SPD] and Jotunn and Crompton crank up the volume on their contributions, while Fennec goes for an awesome display of wizard power. His Dispel gets the demon’s attention and he is hastily defended by the others; his L4 TTYF does not work, but the demon is tripped and Cauleigh whicks his whip-hand off!

As the demon dissolves back to hell (taking his whip with him) a costly amulet-necklace remains, and so does a silver comb of Elven design.

Ghouls! and a hasty retreat, and a gunne

The Dwarves are at first accosted by a number of ghouls, but block the arch with the stone table. [Good use of provided scenery, a bit slow on the uptake I thought] At first the ghouls are easily picked off with firearms as Fennec rests, then they get some direction from some boss-ghoul (ghast, presumably) and come through a different door. A hasty retreat!

They scramble headlong into an Octagonal chamber and Fennec yells DUCK as a large-mouthed gunne-like device goes off.

[Good reaction from Fennec, the pursuing ghouls wear 168 damage]

Up a tower – this keep is defended by gnome-ghouls!

Scrambling after the small gunner, Crompton expertly [L4 DEX] slides his throw-knife into the door-jamb in time to prevent a bar dropping.

The defenders are all small, not much larger than brownies. But definitely undeadish. But cunning!

[This is a tough nickel-and-dime style advance with plenty of damage being shared round]

Jotunn advances up to receive lead dropped on him, wriggles and is pushed through a narrow port, and he and Cauleigh begin doing real damage in a cross-corridor in what is clearly the main keep tower. Two ghoul-gnomes are slain and the others flee out a sally-port – which Crompton slams and bars. Safe – for now!

It’s been fun, time to go

The ghoul-gnomes mount a hopeless ascent, then shelter in a lesser tower. Given the lack of potable water here the Dwarves decide, once Fennec and Crompton have restored their mana, that it’s worth capturing. They’ve holed up overnight, they’ve made more bullets out of a bullet-mould and siege lead, time to make a move. A daring foray across the curtain wall and an assault down through the lesser tower puts paid to the last ghouls… maybe.

Watered up, they perceive the path away from the keep and since they have all their gear and really need a full rest-up away from ghouls, they take it.

The path to Jacob’s Spur and an onrushing horde – time to be heroes!

There’s still five hours of the new day left as they set out past the small woods below the gulch, for Jacob’s Spur. It’s closer than Ironbridge and doesn’t feature the danger of a haunted keep.

Part way along, Crompton, who happens to be walking on the right flank, catches a sound on the hot plateau wind: he calls the warning.

They drop flat (Fennec in a HH and Cauleigh in one of the very few real hollows here) and their dusty cloaks and canvas are enough to fool Gnoll eyes as a raiding band runs past, flat-out, headed straight for Jacob’s Spur!

[Cauleigh tries a ‘read’ on where the Gnols have run from but gets nowhere beyond ‘somewhere around the plateau or thereabouts’]

It’s decision time! Fennec offers the though that they can easily set up an ambush by back-trailing. But partly based on chivalry and partly on the simple fact they all need rest, the majority vote for running after the Gnolls to mess up their raid.

 

The marathon and battle at Jacob’s Spur

[I decide that since this is really a CON feat I’ll let Jotunn set the bar. Admittedly Cauleigh has a SPD bonus and Fennec is lightly clad, but I’ll adjust for that as we go. Jotunn hits L9 CON, so that’s what I ask from Crompton and Fennec. Then based on the difference I ask if they want to keep up (negative at the end) or run at their own pace (arrive late). Based on the SPD difference I ask Cauleigh for a L5 CON. I should add, packs with heavy gear are shed as this goes down.]

Jotunn is nowhere near as fast as a Gnoll but he arrives as the fighting is still going on. Two women have been dragged out, men and youngsters are being killed out of hand. Cauleigh is on his shoulder, Fennec – gasping and unable to speak at all – nearby. The pair of warriors put fire to match and let fly at reasonable range. Two hits!

[The Gnolls are unwary, I make it L3 to hit at this stage]

Jotunn’s Gnoll clambers to its feet as the others rally. A boss, wielding a rod or such like, grabs the captives and sends three Gnolls flanking wide around. The remaining six begin running for the Dwarves as they reload. The wounded Gnoll falls and does not rise. Five, and three.

Cauleigh’s caliver fires true but his Gnoll runs on. Jotunn wounds one of the three angling out around.

Well back behind them Crompton gathers that the fun has begun, unlimbers his long arquebus and sets the monopod stand under it. He sights and shoots at the wounded Gnoll. A good hit! [This is Crompton’s first use of his arquebus at farther than short range. I have previously said that it’s better than Jotunns at longer ranges and he gets a +3, enough to bring the shot to L4.]

Then there’s a tremendous crimson blast, red fire reflects off the nearby houses and the attacking Gnolls stop, shocked, as their boss disintegrates under Fennec’s L5 TTYF. Then they run!

Cauleigh and Jotunn race back and help Crompton with the remaining pair of Gnolls. Victory! And as the villagers struggle with the fire and to comprehend their rescue the session ends.

 

Props

I’m well aware the Dodecahedron 2014 map marks this as Grey Dragon Hill. But Dagon seems so much cooler I went with my first instinct. I used Wizardawn’s Area Builder for the dungeon furnishings, adapted as I felt fit. The Ghoul-Gnomes are pure personal whimsy because I wanted something smart enough to actually rig the traps my generator threw up. They are fun.

My main module, a certain classic OSR module, is successfully embedded, the lads will most likely back-trail the Gnolls next session. Look forward to it!

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TI3.06: Plans made – to the plateau!

 

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L2 Wizard (Combat magic)

Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (Townsman)

Jotunn, L5 Warrior (Hunter, Tracking talent)

Crompton, L2 Rogue (Runebearer, Roguery talent)

 

In the Rusty Rapier the Dwarf heroes gather

For some it has been a long night. Crompton (despite the massage) is a little subdued. He assures the others he’ll catch them up then puts his head down on the pillow again. The other three walk down the alley, into the market and to the Rusty Rapier where decent grub is served.

Jotunn regales the others with his efforts to find hunters (they were all out hunting, I tried to find them, I found their traps, it took me hours to cut myself down) and they catch him up with events, broad brush of course, and then they all three lean over the two maps they now have.

They draw some tentative conclusions then pies arrive and maps are rolled away. Jotunn is still working on restoring his pre-Fingold waistline.

Cauleigh decides to talk to barge-men to see if they can add anything to his guesses about landmarks. He and three men sit to a hand of cards. They know about downriver, but a few wild ideas are offered about upriver.

Crompton arrives and joins the breakfast, still a little tired. Vern walks over and leans in and whispers in a gust of pungent breath that he has a job for the new guy.

Jotunn excuses himself, heads over to a buckskin-clad man slowly working on a jack of something that’s not house ale. On closer inspection this is an older man, affable, time-careless, and Jotunn sits down for a chat about the surrounding area.

Fennec is content to wait – lady Ezra is expecting him to make another visit and there must be some relevant books in that vast library.

 

The Uruk maiden’s father introduces himself

Then a heavy booted foot falls on the tavern threshold and a massively built Uruk squeezes in. This is Adrok, senior in Lord Fabius’ mercenary guards, well-armored, silver-haired, proud father. He picks out Crompton, sits down with them, and lays a heavy hand on the Dwarf rogue’s shoulder:

“So, you are the Dwarf who robbed my sweet daughter Jorgagu of her maidenhead!”

“I think the snake got there first, to be honest” retorts Crompton.

There’s an uneasy pause. [CHR SR, Crompton uses his BLTG charm to roll on LK] Then Adrok bellows with laughter, slaps Crompton on the back with a blow that would level a human, and roars:

“You have balls, at least! Perhaps you will make a good son in law after all! But the skulls of my ancestors would all pucker up and make pussy lips if that happened! I must think on this!”

He kisses Crompton on both cheeks, levers himself up and heads out.

At this time Fennec concocts a righteous scheme, to make Crompton go through with the match. He will push this agenda to the point of no return, over the next couple of days. But in the meantime he and Cauleigh head to Olfoot manor afoot, Crompton heads to the Grey Cowl, and Jotunn and his new acquaintance Redtooth head to Wrongside, a dingy part of town where the last of the Redtooth fortune secured a sturdy house.

 

Crompton and Jotunn

To deal with Crompton in brief: he wants to get out from under, especially once he hears the matrona are looking for him as well. Vern has scut-work for him so he turns that down, but Calla gives him good advice, packs his provisions and passes a note on to the other Dwarves. The rest of the day and night following, Crompton hides across the river and downstream a little, uncomfortable but in no danger of being married.

Jotunn has mixed fortune: Redtooth shows him various maps of the region Fort Redtooth once stood in, advises Jotunn to register at the warrior guild, and asks him to look out for any sign of Ralph, his grandson, who went upriver with visions of revving the Redtooth fortunes. [Jotunn learns enough to cancel out any disadvantage he would have from not being familiar with badlands]

As he heads away up Rust Lane Jotunn is warned by a scornful loiterer that Redtooth is gaming him.

The Forgotten Circle gives Jotunn an eye to eye view of Adrok who wants to speak to Crompton again; and a weird experience involving a sleepy pessimist Dwarf and a minor drawback. [-1 on the next LK SR] He gets a reference to the best armourer in town.

 

Scholarly investigations are complete

Fennec and Cauleigh head up Quay street in time to see the Herbals depart: Trefoil wields a businesslike broad-bladed spear; Heartsease is making a little show twirling her Demilune around as the four cross Ironbridge. Off to the mine! She turns back, scratches a scrawny Wulfan on his shaggy nape, encourages him to keep up and swings out after Trefoil. They can’t see Sage, presumably he’s out of sight below the bridge parapet.

The pair finish their journey in lady Ezra’s household wagon: it has provisioned and brings the lady of the house a fresh book delivery. Once she gets over her initial full-sensory book-lovin’ fangirling lady Ezra shares tea and advice as to which shelves to try for gazetteers. They stay some hours, skipping the noon meal in the excitement.

Towards the end of their stay lady Ezra opens a dusty tome and adds something to what she’s already recollected about a ‘destruction seed’ mentioned on one of the maps.

Then it’s time to head back in time to meet Jotunn, who brings Cauleigh with him to the smithy to buy a new shield. While they wait Cauleigh adds some useful expedition tools.

 

A few final details and a quick-fire sale

An evening meal at the Rusty Rapier brings Fay, crone of the matrona, who casts a chill on the evening buzz, then not long later (to the accompaniment of ‘I knew it – the mine is doomed! from grieving widow Tuburo) the halting steps of much-battered Herbals. They are all alive but Wolfbane is carrying Sage and Trefoil and Heartsease are supporting one another.

“I thought I was safe in the middle of the party” – Sage, shaking and limp

“Here, have a shandy” – Cauleigh, sympathetically

It seems most of the iron mine is reasonable head-height for a Gnome or Hobb, and the Herbals’ planned tactics are useless. Fennec and Cauleigh counsel Sage how to use OGA and Fennec sends a slap-up meal out to Wolfie.

As dusk brings the wind from the north, Fennec makes his way towards the Grey Cowl. Tadiko, tiny female rogue, dark-dressed, meticulously formal, stops him. She has an opal to trade for a good rogue type spell. Taking a chance Fennec accepts the opal and imprints Hidey-Hole on her.

 

They are off!

Early on the morrow Jotunn Fennec and Cauleigh are ready at the Trader Hall entry. It’s time to get heavy gear out of storage. They rent an extra week for some remaining gear (such as the Uruk Falchion). Fennec takes the chance to get a price estimate on the opal. It’s lower than Tadiko’s value but above the minimum the spell would sell for. He’s satisfied.

Heavily laden with packs and extra tools, armour protected from the fierce heat by grey canvas surcoats, the trio exchange a quip and farewell with the bridge guards and head downriver. They collect Crompton who stretches, equips himself with the gear they brought, and swings into line, long arquebus over one shoulder.

 

A danger well avoided

They push hard and though their legs are short my lord they’re sturdy. They give just enough, just enough and by nightfall are well past the ruined fort and wooded islet where a haunting was.

Fennec on first watch hears two men heading upriver, seeking mining work. One worries about the haunt, the other scoffs. Crompton on dawn watch observes their headless bodies floating downstream as he draws water.

 

Sad remnant of young homesteaders

By mid-morning they have a decision to make, walk all the way in to Jacob’s Spur for more news of hyena-headed raiders, or go with their map and explore up to the plateau. They opt for the latter and keep the plateau hard on their right shoulder, and near noon explore the fringe of a woodland below the plateau. The locals – possibly as far away as Jacob’s spur – have felled and cut lathes here. But Jotunn finds a now-disused path that leads to a wrecked homestead. The skeletal remains of a young man are all that remains of the occupants: a woman’s touch about the ruin and an empty once-hopeful crib speak of shattered dreams.

“So they’ve been taking young women for at least a year,” Cauleigh comments.

A tiny rill of fresh water springs not far from the ruined walls and they top up water and make a noon meal of iron rations.

 

The gulch and a chance way in

Pushing forward against the wind off the plateau the four Dwarves find they still have most of the afternoon before them with a gulch, invisible behind the woods, forming a natural road up.

Midday heat bakes up off stone as they ascend. Some stone is reddish, some grey, both types are hot. The gulch walls seem here and there to be man-made, and shimmer in the heat.

Cauleigh at length spots a rounded tower rising on an eminence set back a little from the left wall of the gulch. They are all good climbers, and scaling directly upward will probably cut four hours off the journey.

[Crompton rolls a fail but I remind him he can claim a boon from pillow-talk with his Troll girlfriend. It’s a +2 which I rule converts the 3 to a 5. The climb is made.]

Muttering “fists and wedges! I thought that was just dirty talk” Crompton saves himself from a nasty fall and he and Fennec are drawn up to the lead pair, joining them on a ledge.

“There’s a cave, maybe a tunnel in under” Jotunn explains and they use a piton and rope to descend off the ledge down to a small natural cave-mouth. The footing is not good.

 

Bat-ghoul!

The glare of the outside – the silty rock here is whitish-grey – means a WoW will be no use so Jotunn takes the lead with a torch held in his Sopok-shield hand. Just as he is reminded of one of his earliest exploits, the goblin caverns where bats and spiders lurked, a gigantic bat launches out at him. Its mad red eyes and foul odour mean only one thing: bat-ghoul!

Jotunn uses STR to block (meaning only his shield will be used) and Cauleigh uses himself as a living spear, ramming his kukri through the gaping maw and out the back of its skull.

[Between the two the combat total is 200+. I declare the kill without rolling]

The foul thing is an obstacle but Crompton has a nifty idea that turns it into a convenience. They shift it out past them – wincing away from the foul dead fur – and spread its wings out on the silty scarp. Now they can launch themselves back up the rope easily!

And as Jotunn flares his torch into a choice of two passages the session ends.

The “city-game” part of the session felt a bit like herding cats but then, that is part of the fun of city gaming! I think twice I said quite straight-forwardly, “I want to bring the team together now” because information was being pulled out of this or that source and there needed to be time to share it round.

Crompton was a bit cheesed off that Fennec took advantage of the Teacher spell that he has just learned off Crompton, to earn good money. But then if Crompton had spent as much time cultivating rogues in the Grey Cowl as he did following his knob round town, he would have made money as well. 

I can sympathise with both Fennec and Crompton about the philandering and the prospective marriage. On the one hand, what goes on tour stays on tour, and on the other hand, a Dwarf settles his debts. They are both worthy. The difference does have the potential to be a team-killer beef and I hope both bear this in mind.

Props: op cit for Ironbridge. Once again Wizardawn’s generators are a marvel, this session they gave me a quick-fire armourer along with goods for sale. As I noted a few session agao I’ve extensively used Dyson Logos’ Dysons Compendia 2014 and 2015, running maps together and mashing up to suit my own idea of the Golden River. The Atharva Plateau and surrounds are to be found in the 2014 edition. 

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TI3.05: Ironbridge

 

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L2 Wizard (Combat magic)

Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (Townsman)

Crompton, L2 Rogue (Runebearer, Roguery talent)

Ironbridge on arrival

The four Edoras Restorers walk their tired ponies along the well-founded road east of the river upstream towards the iron bridge itself, and get a good look at the town sprawled along the west bank opposite. Although it’s not long after dawn a hot breeze is rolling across from their left where the Atharva plateau rises. The main activity they can see is along the docks where river barges are moored. The rhythmic thumping of a big water-driven stamp-mill comes clear to them against the breeze.

Here and there among the clusters of two-storey houses charred gaps can be glimpsed – big ones that suggest numbers of houses burned down at once.

Jotunn stays out in the lead, Cauleigh draws rein and checks off with the other two what the main goals are. Crompton will trust to luck, Fennec would like to at least contact the lady necromancer at Olfoot Manor and Cauleigh himself wants to follow up the tales of hyena-headed raiders.

 

Fennec and Cauleigh and Jotunn and Crompton

Swinging west to the bridge approach they size up the guards and are quite happy with their predisposition to pay up. The guards look like veterans, perhaps mercenaries, and tucked just over the arch is a deck-sweeper swivel-gun. The older and more senior of the two the Dwarves talk to seems amiable and gives them general directions, the younger takes a cursory look at their saddlebags. No-one asks them to behave or observe any rule in particular.

They take lodgings – the quality is alright – and finding there’s no secure lockup there, take their bulky and/or expensive gear to the Merchants Guild Trade and Exchange, facing square on to the docks. Except Crompton who has noticed, crossing the little market en route, the way to the Rogue’s Guild.

 

Fennec and Cauleigh and Jotunn

There’s a queue of one: an important-looking Gnome. A polite clerk ushers them to a comfortable seat. Where there sits another Gnome. This is Sage, a member of the Herbals (or Herbal Teas), and most likely some sort of wizard. He’s here to negotiate on behalf of the Herbals about the bounty, 5gp/head, on kobolds plaguing the mine. He explains – apologetically – his group is staying at the Rusty Rapier Tavern and he invites them over, evening mealtime. He also shows them a broadsheet page from the Sarnas Tribune that is one part of ongoing serialisation of daring exploits around Fingold, starring the re-founders.

At this stage or shortly after, Jotunn excuses himself and heads further on along the docks, saying he’s heading to the hunters’ camp.

 

Fennec and Cauleigh

Master Erklen, Gnome and owner of the smelter and smithy, concludes his business and the Dwarves get their turn. They rent a strongbox, 12gp the week, and as it is 11ses and they have not eaten for many hours, pursue this idea as far as the Rusty Rapier.

The pair get a feel for the midday crowd – mine workers, barge hands and idlers – and chat to a barge bosun lodging here and get more of a feel for the issue around the mine and kobold-induced delays. He explains that barges are being held up as master Erklen does not have enough ore to process.

The food and drink are a shade on the expensive side but fair quality and sustaining. Equipped with fair directions to the wizards guild and the warriors guild the pair now split up.

 

Fennec

Somewhat conscious of his dusty gear Fennec heads to the Aether Thaumaturge Wizard’s Guild and is allowed in without any ‘prove yourself a wizard’ nonsense. Stowing cloak and boots Fennec spends a short comfortable time meeting fellow wizards Solar and Puon. He hears about the Easy Hostess Parlor (laundry extra). Then back to the inn to break out the good robe for his next call.

Back up Quay street, left onto Ironbridge – there’s no toll heading east – and right onto Boot Hill Lane brings Fennec through midday heat level with the graveyard on the slope above – no unearthed corpses or raving loonies – and a view of a pleasant stand of local-variety larches and a low-lying walled manor.

Dextrously tagging the bell-pull with his staff, Fennec alerts the gatekeeper – massive, polite – to his presence and is allowed in. A near-derelict and shaded sweep leads to the house, not much more than one storey and built in a dark-stained timber. Reflected sunlight throws shards of colour back down onto the weed-grown path.

A maid – pale, petite, perhaps once young – ushers Fennec to a waiting room then almost immediately to the library where lady Ezra Olfoot awaits.

And what a library! Shelves 15’ high fill the walls and all are crammed with books. Here the busts of long-forgotten Olfoots goggle blankly at what the young mistress spends the family money on. Fennec swims through the dense rich odour to the middle of the room where stands lady Ezra, white of skin and black of dress, and a book-lovin’ scholar.

They get on very well though the young mistress’ ways are not Fennec’s ways. She fan-girls over the demon fang but can’t afford it, estimates it could be worth 10,000 to the right collector. Promising to visit again Fennec takes his leave, and so off to the Rusty Rapier.

 

Cauleigh

Stepping out of the tavern Cauleigh accepts a visiting pasteboard card from a very pretty and very short little maid: “Easy Hostess (laundry extra).” He tucks it away, sets off for the Forgotten Circle, as the warriors guild is named.

By the time he reaches Bow Street Cauleigh is fairly sure he’s being followed. He swings left into a lane and abruptly stops, asking for directions. The tail swings in: she’s a lean-faced short-haired type, dressed for unobtrusiveness. She checks, then walks on by. Later Cauleigh learns she is one of the Rogue’s Guild, name of Adini.

The Forgotten Circle Mercenaries Guild is a ring of sparring-posts surrounding perhaps six gates set in a circle. As he heads west to the nearest Cauleigh beholds three women: a cunning crone, a strapping young uruk and a hollow-cheeked burning-eyed woman draped on the uruk. This is the matrona. They creep him out but he remains polite, and moves on without incident to the gate.

Passing through into shadow Cauleigh smells the ocean and feels braced as though a strong sea breeze has wakened him.

He sees standing before him in the strong sunlight a three-storey hall of traditional Vale design, a greybeard dozing over an axe on the steps. On waking, he proves something of an oracle:

“You have received the sea-god’s blessing. My name is Cormorant, for I spit up pearls of wisdom and I am bound to share this wisdom with you.”

Apparently he’ll learn something this evening at the Rusty Rapier. He heads on in and spends an hour or less chatting with much more normal mercenaries. They can be divided into two: those currently in the pay of Lord Fabius Orctooth and those expecting to be. They’re all similar to the bridge guards in terms of range of experience and standard of gear.

Naturally getting trail dust washed off, or something, is high on Cauleigh’s agenda and he soon finds himself at the other end of town stepping up onto the verandah of a substantial stone and wood house and presenting his card to the cigar-smoking cad or pimp there. Inside two pretty little maids introduce him to the pleasures of the port room and the reading room, and he meets Viriniana the house madam. Enquiring after her, he is reintroduced to Speck, she helps him remove his dusty gear, and she takes care of his other needs.

And so off back to the Rusty Rapier.

 

Crompton

Crompton has one romp after another! Calla, red-haired, pertly cute, quick with dice, is the Grey Cowl Rogues Guild greeter and gatekeeper. The guild can sell him spells but there’s no immediate rush to buy any from him. Vern, old, unkempt, sleazy, tempts him to an initiation rite that evening. Calla Vern and Binye win a lot of gold off him, then Calla tempts him upstairs for some other fun.

After a meal at the Rusty Rapier – at which Crompton does little more than wave across to the Herbals and recuperate – he rejoins Vern and half a dozen younger rogues and after a pub crawl at which something is slipped into Crompton’s drink he is ready for mischief.

Vern explains (muffled hilarity from the others) that the initiation is a panty-raid on the matrona. Crompton’s challenge is to return to the Rusty Rapier wearing Jorgagu’s panties on his head.

Boosted up to a possible entry window Crompton is promptly seized and pinioned expertly. His ribs creak as Jorgagu, the young Uruk, sits athwart him. Creepy crone Fay and snaky matron Jody menace him but as he wriggles Crompton gets a different reaction from Jorgagu…

“You like big snake?”

“Me got big snake!”

Crompton is hauled off to share Jorgagu’s mattress with a large green snake.

As he reels back from the matrona he bears one extra piece of equipment: Jorgagu’s panties worn proudly on his head!

He meets Fennec and Cauleigh who have just become worried enough to get Vern to explain what the joke was.

 

Fennec and Cauleigh and Crompton

Vern is there in the tavern with Adini (tailed Cauleigh) and yet another titch of a woman, Takido. Crompton, panties shamelessly worn, walks straight over:

“Mission accomplished Vern! What’s next?”

The Rusty Rapier is not a major inn but has a few beds, three of which are taken by the Herbal Teas: Trefoil a straight-talking, charismatic warrior, Heartsease a giggly short-haired Elf warrior, and Sage the Gnome wizard. Their fourth member Wolfbane (a Wulfan) is left outside. Cauleigh listens to their kobold-hunting thoughts and gives them veteran advice.

Later in the busy tavern Gat the older bridge guard has a map to sell, of Atharva Plateau and a way up past ghoul-haunted Grey Dagon Hill. Cauleigh pays an even hundred for it. Will it match up with Fennec’s map? But that’s in lockup so will have to wait for the morrow.

After Sir Titus Lytera – tall, watchful, bears an Eastern sword – does the rounds the Restorers are ready for a little more restoration courtesy of Easy Hostess Parlor (laundry extra). Cauleigh expands on the facilities and Fennec scoffs at a mere two dozen books in the reading room. But getting laundry done does sound good…

Fennec literally gets his laundry done. As for Crompton, he gets laundry done, a massage and a happy ending as the session ends.

 

This session of all talk no fight is a good one for Crompton who rolls up on CON and CHR at crucial times. If only he can meet a rogue with plenty of money and not enough spells!

Props: Ironbridge is based on Summerbridge, one of Raging Swan Press’ Village Backdrop series. I’ve ‘grown’ it to more adequately represent a real frontier mining town. Features such as the three adventurer-related guilds are added from Wizardawn’s Fantasy Settlements generator. I’m proud to say the Easy Hostess comes from me: a compote of the brothel in Firefly, Miss Nesselrode’s coffee and reading parlor in Louis Lamour’s Lonesome Gods, and any generic anime Maid Cafe.

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TI3.04: Demon’s maw/The raiders are what?

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L2 Wizard (Combat magic)

Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (Townsman)

Jotunn, L5 Warrior (Hunter, Tracking talent)

Crompton, L2 Rogue (Runebearer, Roguery talent)

At leisure to travel or delve

The path back from Edoras is easy, they have traveled it once already with the same sturdy ponies. At Upper Baraloba they wave a casual farewell to the laborers and guardsmen and head away up the main branch of the Golden River.

Landings or hamlets dotted up the Golden River make for an easy routine of lodging for the night, exchanging gossip with the barge brothers who bring the iron ore down and local laborers. These hamlets are open to travelers and illkin alike, as long as they aren’t looking for trouble. Their comprehension of the lands around and beyond Ironbridge grows. Iron is mined from the Atharva plateau, it’s a wild country, badlands lie beyond it. Ironbridge is so-named for its iron bridge, possibly Dwarf-forged: it used to be named Summerford. And the area is sometimes named Atharva’s Point or just Atharva.

Investigating the odd ruin

Perhaps restless or perhaps looking to build funds, the Dwarves listen out for yarns of ruins, caverns or delves. There seem any number of choices – this area was settled, raided, conquered, reconquered, and is slowly being resettled – but at length they pick one in an easy ride of the hamlet. The locals know it’s a ruin, with caverns under it, and describe the path there fairly precisely. So a short ride later, the ponies are corralled in a makeshift bush camp and the Dwarves explore a stream leading to this supposed ruin.

The ever-reliable scout Jotunn gets them to a point where they can decide whether to explore the shabby skeleton of a large house, check out the smell of flame-grilled fish, or make their way round to the low earthen escarpment behind the ruin. They choose the latter and scale a ramp to where they can spy on the cook-fire. Two smallish wood-wise illkin, is their guess. But they also find an escape tunnel in the escarpment and decide to use this handy back door.

They are made to feel unwelcome

Two trap disarms later Crompton has them down the tunnel and below ground level and they reset party order. Jotunn (with Cateyes) takes point, Crompton rearguard. They move cautiously to where they overwhelm a couple of small grey illkin – some vague resemblance to a Brownie – then have a choice of two doors. The right door leads to a room or passage, but the puzzle-looking frame opposite the door discourages them and they choose left door. At which point some walking corpses emerge from a hidden niche, attack, and are dealt with by these veterans of zombie-fighting.

The left door leads to a passage that dog-legs around to another chamber door. Voices behind, perhaps goblinoid. Kicking the door open Cauleigh uses his glass globe as a grenade while Crompton and Jotunn fire their arquebuses. At this range the bullets chop at least one small hobgoblin down each, and the glass globe smashes to become a caustic bomb, dealing horrific damage to one unlucky victim. The survivors panic helplessly back against vertical bars.

“You have balls, I’ll grant you! To beard me in my very lair! Well… time to die!”

This is the end of session mark, from the conclusion of Bride of the Black Manse. Players have a week to feel slightly guilty about attacking Hobgoblins, I have a week to decide what the treasure is. I do no further evil planning. To tell the truth, no planning of any kind apart from deciding the combat ‘gimmick.’

Fierce fighting seems called for

The Dwarves face a lesser demon, and to make it harder, can’t easily see it – the entrance it has spoken from is part-broken and it has an odd shape, being 4’ x 4’ with no head and speaking from a stomach-mouth. There’s a variety of SRs to either see it or get the hell back, the end result of which places Fennec pretty much front and centre, Cauleigh ready with his caliver, then Jotunn and then Crompton way back in rearguard.

From whence he is attacked by silent-footed, well-disciplined Hobgoblins with polearms. The demon has used his voice to distract the Dwarves, allow the younglings to escape, and size up his opposition.

As Crompton [L1 SPD SR] manages to not be killed outright and parries off voulge blades with his arquebus, Cauleigh fires, aiming under the shimmering shield-like barrier for the demon maw. The barrier shoots his bullet down.

“Is that all you’ve got? Well, you’re in a world of trouble”

Cauleigh ducks back as Fennec debuffs with a Dispell. The shield fails.

Jotunn and Cauleigh help Crompton but the Hobgoblins smartly allow them the upper hand, all the way back into the guard chamber where any number of voulges can be brought into play. The Dwarves (having suffered from Morlock tactics) fall back into the dogleg.

The demon stalks closer, pulling a scarlet tongue-like object from its maw, and tossing it down, from where it writhes towards Fennec. Seeing this the wizard clenches his buttocks, powers up his staff and delivers a L5 TTYF into the shieldless demon! [440 damage thank you very much] There’s an intense crimson blast and as his vision clears Fennec finds the snaky thing has gone and only smoking ashes remain where the demon was standing.

Plain dealing is common sense

Negotiations ensue. Aside from relatives of the dead youngsters, the Hobgoblins are willing to compromise. Their spokesperson, Speaker, and Jotunn (who has a few words of goblin-tongue in common with him) agree that treasure (that the demon had them searching for) can be recovered and split 50-50.

[Jotunn gains a +5 CHR temporarily with these Hobgoblins, while Crompton loses 5 CHR temporarily for not accepting an offered flask. Sometimes paranoia is healthy, sometimes not.]

Later it proves that more than one Hobgoblin knows a smattering of common, of the getting-by-in-a-tavern variety.

The Hobgoblins see themselves as soldiers, the youngsters are cadets of a sort. The demon had ‘volunteers’ down a shaft into a lower dungeon, but none have come back up.

[This information is not volunteered all of a sudden, there are a couple of increasingly chummy shared meals over the day to come. Jotunn carries the load with L1 CHR SRs]

The bereaved minority faction splits and arms a trap again behind everyone’s back, but natural Dwarf paranoia averts any disaster there.

Beyond the puzzle-trap chamber, the shaft chamber reeks of dead bodies. A crude wooden mine-head and gantry-lift have been rigged up over a square-cut shaft. Volunteers are called for! Cauleigh finds himself sharing the gantry with Axl: armed for close-quarters, a gold piece under his tongue to pay the ferryman and the blessings of his tribe hummed behind him.

I’ve gone with the dT&T rulebook a little more with this tribe. It felt right, on the south side of the river and closer to their Deathless Army roots. Harmonies are a thing.

About six fathoms down the gantry sets down on the remains of Hobgoblins the boss simply flung down. The chamber it rests in is covered with snakes. To Cauleigh, they look poisonous. They aren’t bothered by fire.

Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes!

After some thinking and experimentation and bargaining for labor the puzzle is solved with a bonfire which first clears away snakes from its immediate area, then is turned into a fire-walled path to the stone entry-slab across the chamber. (It’s not that the snakes particularly avoid the fire, but they will die if they physically wriggle through.) Rotting Hobgoblin remains scattered among the snakes make this a noxious experience, later mitigated a little with fungus nose-inserts. With sturdy boots Crompton has little fear, and studies the slab, deciding its runes look ominous and it is a tomb-seal block, not a door as such.

A leisurely meal later the fire is rebuilt and Fennec disarms the magic trap with a Dispell, and Crompton disarms the non-magic trap. Levers, anyone?

This minor puzzle is solved only after Hobgoblins return with various tools. Jotunn and Cauleigh use voulge-heads as makeshift crow-bars.

The tunnel beyond leads to another seal-door. The relief and color on this are in good order and suggest that a demon pretty similar to the boss is buried here.

After another leisurely meal and fire-rebuilding the Dispell is repeated, Crompton disarms the tunnel trap and the door, and the muscles force the door in by ramming it with pick-axes.

And the wraith attacks!

There’s a nasty little combat as the disturbed demonic wraith becomes more tangible and Crompton is part-poisoned by its vapour and Jotunn’s magic shield is crushed. Magic weapons (including Crompton’s arquebus) work though, and a Glue-You from Fennec decides the combat. After he performs an acrobatic and palm-burning rope descent! [L2 DEX SR]

[This wraith is more of a progressive damage gimmick but has a lot of undead CON so overkill is called for.]

The deal is fifty-fifty and once six burly volunteers lift the sarcophagus lid the next puzzle is: where’s the treasure?

The mummified demon remains have a silver spike right through them; its belly-mouth has a jaw that features two enormous gold-and-gem-crusted teeth; four bronze holy relics guard its remains; and a holy circlet-chain with richly inset crystal is tucked in the winding-cloth.

Negotiations decide that the silver spike is left, the Hobgoblins get the bronzes, the Dwarves get the circlet, and each side takes one fang.

Bidding farewell to their temporary comrades the Dwarves collect their corralled ponies and head on upriver. Jotunn mourns his shield. He kept the spikes, and they might be useful. The others urge him to look forward to finding a town with a master smith.

 

Props for the dungeon: Dyson’s Compendium 2015, The Ruins of Ettin Manor for the ruin+caverns, with traps marked. Wizardawn’s area generator for the population and monster generator for the boss.

 

A Hobb named Terry is town boss

Progressively the river-landings have gotten tougher and pit-fighting has become more evident. On this particular occasion, some three days from Ironbridge, the Dwarves walk their ponies into the village environs and stop to chat to guards.

It’s not their first intimation of raiders but now, there’s some shape and form to the story. Bounty-killers might get work here, because raiders have been attacking outlying homesteads. Maybe raiders off the plateau? Maybe dog-head or wolf-head raiders?

The town has a fighting pit and there’s warning that the fighting is fist to fist, body to body.

But more interested in news of the area than fighting the four tether outside the tavern and head inside. Local barkeep, town Marshall and sometime Justiciar Terry the Hobb treats them to poor grog and a little news. But for news of raiders he refers them to his Sheriff.

The Sheriff is a human, or maybe half-Elf, of middle years, salt and pepper bearded, poised and confident. His anti-magic talisman sets Fennec’s teeth on edge, but he Cauleigh and Jotunn sit down with the Sheriff. Over good wine he fills in some detail for them.

Fennec recognizes the description as a creature foreign to these parts until the Deathless Army brought them: Gnolls, brutal and blood-hungry. One eye-witness, though unreliable, describes a silvery snake coiling around one’s neck.

They hit the road to Ironbridge

But the Sheriff plays down the idea of bounties, for how would any proof be valid? He passes on a yarn of another time and place that now throws a shadow over this region. It seems the white-armored Urukun may aspire to reclaim his lost falchion with the army he reportedly raises. It’s Cauleigh’s turn to clench his buttocks as he tries to keep dead-pan (that’s the falchion he restored, he keeps it in his saddle-bags).

Crompton attempts to interest the Sheriff in learning a spell or two but he is too oblique, or the Sheriff too much of a warrior. He gathers that Ironbridge has a rogue’s guild.

With a better description of Ironbridge’s necromancer (a pleasant woman resident at the Olfoot manor) ruler (Lord Fabious Orctooth) and chief law officer (Sir Titus Lytera) the four Runaway Restorers  set their mounts noses upriver for Ironbridge. And by dint of declining to intervene at sad Jacob’s Spur and pushing on past haunted Fort Tenras they arrive at dawn the following day as the session ends.

 

Props for the area: inspired very much by Dyson’s Compendia 2014 and 2015, linking Atharva Plateau in the one and Baraloba and Environs in the other, and Village Backdrop: Summerford for the backbone of how Ironbridge affects the economy, and therefore what the local villages are like. I pulled Terry’s town out of my own head: I’ve watched a lot of Westerns.

 

 

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TI3.03: No more brides! No more paladins!

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L2 wizard, playing Sabian (wolf mask)

Cauleigh, L3 warrior, playing Kethe (crow mask) and Ursula (Lion mask)

Jotunn, L5 warrior, playing Jost (horned mask) and Demut (medusa mask)

Crompton, L2 rogue, playing Josef (3-faced mask)

Our four heroes are on the trail of the blackguard Alintar, and lady Marda of Edoras, who has foolishly taken up with the so-called paladin. Hearing that a ruined mansion in the Meadwood lures brides as sacrifices the four trek afoot through the woods in time to fall under the powerful enchantment of the Black Manse, becoming members of House Liis gathering for the bridal festivity. Investigations have garnered a mask each for Josef and Ursula, three curious crystal globes, and one large faceted dark soul-gem. And now at the eleventh hour they struggle to avoid flying heads and grappling headless maids!

And a reminder that the following yarn contains spoilers!

Gain three more masks

The combat revolves around Josef Kethe Sabian Jost and Demut, allowing Ursula to peer about the chamber. It is not, as she first assumed, a bed-chamber. As the pealing of the eleventh hour fades the room’s furbishing becomes brighter and clearer. This must be a withdrawing-room. The ‘bower’ the maids came from is a profusion of rich silk cushions. Dimly aware that only a minute ago she saw tatters and dust, Ursula makes her way to the wardrobe. Through the eye-slits of her lion-mask she can see a concealed door in the back of the wardrobe.

Meanwhile Sabian dextrously sweeps up a long-snouted mask in the coffer its head flew from; Kethe and Demut avoid flying heads: Kethe knocks her maid away and Jost and Josef put paid to the heads. The headless maids, still struggling to gain a hold, are dispatched. Kethe triumphantly dons her crow mask, Demut tucks her Medusa mask away, and Sabian watches to see no ill effect on Kethe then dons his wolf mask.

Brave the guardian spirits in the mezzanine

Jost joins Ursula, explaining that he too spotted something about the wardrobe, and with Josef crowding close behind, examine then ascend stone steps up to the next floor. They reach a ruinous hallway. None of the revelers are present: a relief: but noise through the left wall suggests that revelry is under way.

As Jost curiously investigates the festooned idols, prayer beads, and religious bric-a-crac along the walls the others are puzzled to see him suddenly fight – nothing. He replaces his mighty axe and explains that a pixie-like bug of some kind came out of an idol – don’t touch stuff!

Skirting puddles and cobwebs Josef quickly investigates the hall and meets Kethe as he comes back. The hall leads to one blank wing hall and the part-blocked collapsed mezzanine. Kethe double-checks the blank hall, and rejoins the others as they skirt the rubble that once blocked the mezzanine entry doors.

Glancing down through the ruined gap towards the entry hall as they scramble, Jost and Demut see there are still a few lords, ladies and servants making their way in. But the others… they can see these are all devils!

The mezzanine hall leads to a final wing hall, where a ghostly white-dressed figure stands before a massive door. It is Ilse!

Based on time and Ilse’s earlier departure from the party I had, prior to this session, decided to allow Ilse a LK SR to ‘clear’ the door, and the party to find her here. Otherwise the party would be hopelessly bogged down by this one obstacle.

Rob that bridal tomb

Not pausing to congratulate the old hag on not being dead, Kethe sweeps inside across the luxurious carpet, and plays her lantern over the four-poster bed. Beyond the heavy hangings lies not a bed and mattress, but a stone bier and sarcophagus!

Ilse, still feeling the mixture of dread and longing that brought her here, bends to test one of the four locks that seal the sarcophagus. The stone step turns under her foot and spears slam down from above, impaling her. She shrieks and faints, and acid oozes down the spears and eats away the surrounding flesh.

“Well, now we have a good trap-blocker” says Sabian cold-heartedly and sad to say that is the final service Ilse rends, as the four locks are smashed away.

A black wedding band burns like hellfire

The linen that wraps the dry ancient corpse is wrapped in lead bands, each stamped with holy runes. Casually sundering them, the robbers reveal the mummified corpse of a woman dressed in bridal finery, her left ring finger bearing a black ring. Kethe strips it away and howls in pain as the hoop glows with hellish heat!

[Kethe is getting quite low on CON but Sabian cares not, pointing out that Kethe murdered young Mathias]

After some experimentation during which a valued silver spoon is burned through, Sabian uses a small gust of wind to pop the ring from the floor into a magic clay flask. He can’t recall ever getting the contents identified so it’s no loss. Kethe tucks the flask away.

There are downstream effects prescribed for anyone donning the ring but the sheer scale of damage from just grabbing it makes that a non-option for these players.

The bell tolls midnight

That completes the search of the upper levels so the six lords and ladies of House Liis hurry back through the withdrawing-room along the lower hall and turn left to the unexplored hall. It passes the now merry great feasting hall, where lords (devils) and ladies (more devils) and jesters and servants (incubi and succubi) are already celebrating. At the head of the top table stands one great chair, currently empty. A fine blaze now burns in the fireplace behind that. Jost and Demut are almost swept away by other revelers who insist they must join them – but Kethe snarls:

“They’re with me!”

and by repeating this effort every few seconds [only 1 CHR SR to represent this] they gain the quieter wing that leads to a bell tower. Demut gives in to the inevitable and dons her medusa mask.

Conscious that mere minutes remain they run a hasty gaze across a pentagram, two other doorways – one leading out to the storm-racked garden – and up a thick bellcord where dangles a masked corpse. Leaping mightily and slicing with his axe Jost at last gains his horned mask!

Skeletons rise as the corpse is disturbed but indeed the bell tolls not once but 12 times – it is midnight and the groom has come to collect his bride!

As the last few bone fragments scatter under massive blows all doors open onto the great feasting hall.

Devil takes the bride? To hell with that!

Howling with frenzy devils leap and cavort. Smaller fiends are crushed underfoot and even clumsier incubi and succubi are swept in never to be seen again.

The final bell ceases and the mob parts allowing the six scions a clear view of the great chair, or throne. A great grim black horned figure sits on it now and behind him, where a roaring fire was burning, a weird-colored portal pulses.

The house Seneschal bears the stag’s bloody head and lifting it calls out:

“For the heir of the manor, maid of the ball, who claims the veil?”

The devil on the throne stirs, gestures with his gem-topped sceptre and declares:

“I have done all I was bid. I gave you a ring to rule the world with the wrath of a fallen god; none could usurp your power. Now surrender to me what you promised. Render unto me my winsome bride.”

“I think we have a winner,” Sabian declares, nodding at Josef: who pinions Kethe! Jost does likewise – but he murmurs something to Kethe unheard by the other two men. Ursula looks on approvingly – there is no need for her to manipulate things any further.

Kethe allows her self to be brought forward. Then Jost releases her and she flings both the flask containing the hellish ring and the soul stone into the portal crying:

“Khara Khang! I name you – and begone!”

[I ask for an aggregate L7 CHR SR from Kethe Jost and Josef, which is based on my call that Kethe has not ‘mastered’ the gem – she is just hurling it. And since she is not Ilse’s replacement, hurling the ring means very little. Kethe is wearing the crow mask allowing her to burn LK and much against the player’s inclination that is what happens. The three are 25 short so 5 LK is burnt. All of the characters get the 100ap the roll cleared.]

With a howl the devil hurls himself or is sucked into the portal and then:

  • the throne explodes: coins and gems fly out imperiling those with poor footing
  • the ground under the throne collapses
  • all fiends in the great hall are sucked into the portal

Was it all just a dream? But who is this?

Josef falls and slides into the growing chasm but Kethe pulls him out, Ursula scoops gems and gold as she escapes and the others all scramble out any old how as the mansion collapses around them!

As they hustle across the stone footbridge to the moat-house things seem to fade….

Jotunn rubs his eyes and sits up: the four have spent the night in this long-abandoned moat-house, he recalls.

Then he notices he has been sleeping near two dead men whose features, bearing marks of a rough life, he does not recognise; and near them sleeps a large-chinned powerful man he does recognise; and on the other side of that man is a slender young lady, clothes still of enough quality to show her noble origin.

Fennec also wakes before Alintar [this is just based on CON – Crompton might be last awake though if based on current CON Cauleigh might be] and looks across at Jotunn. Jotunn points at wounded Cauleigh, then at Alintar:

“You fix the dying problem and I’ll fix the living problem.”

Followed by some meaty thwacks and rolling bodies over to hide the axe wounds!

Cauleigh is quite cross. Now he has to pick lady Marda up carefully, carry her away from the corpses, and wake her without greatly startling her. Still, it does give him time to don the Cloak of Plausibility! He also digs out the pink favour that ‘Penny’ gave him for Marda.

[Cauleigh gets a ridiculously good CHR result]

Lady Marda has seen enough of the world to satisfy her craving for adventure. She scoffs over Penny’s concern but blushes as well, secretly flattered. And willingly accompanies the Dwarves home.

 

Final GM comments on Bride of the Black Manse

I really like this module. Easy to read through and highlight. I’ve commented where I found problems – very few. One remaining problem that I avoided is endless struggling against ‘cascading’ enemies. A couple of areas are set up so that one fight triggers another, or where more and more enemies come join. These are not time-friendly. Given the real-time-based nature of the plot, I can only imagine that the GM hand-waves the combat and declares what happens to the losers.

If you run the adventure for yourself you’ll have to decide how much devil is your devil. Harley Stroh went with one of the classic Deadly Sins. I very lightly altered things so that it fitted (sort of) into the concept of a rift between worlds that let the Death Goddess through. Khara Khang is her consort but I’ve unfairly made him take the role of chief devil here. And the reason for that is that I had to give the devil a name. If I had set it up better I could have gone with the Death Goddess herself. Still, better to have Khara Khang holding a grudge than Lerotra’hh herself!

I also layered over the bounty-killer plot, so that each player played their own character and one other made up from Alintar, lady Marda, and two trusted bandit henchmen. Players were completely unaware of this layer until the ‘awakening’ which I chose to add as a tidy way of letting them decide what happened. I am very fortunate to have players that will just launch into the weird stuff. If you run it, you can decide based on the number of characters going in how many personas are assigned. A party of five need only take one persona apiece.

 

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TI3.02: Crossplay and cavaliers

The characters for this session

Fennec, L2 wizard, as:
Sabian (wolf mask) Indecisive, lonely, cruel
Mathias (iron mask) Gullible, mean-spirited, defensive

Cauleigh, L3 warrior, as:
Kethe (crow mask) Jealous, foolish, determined
Ursula (lion mask) Friendly, manipulative, cunning

Jotunn, L5 warrior, as:
Jost (horned mask) Melancholic, absolute, grim
Demut (medusa mask) Fearful, impulsive, distractible

Crompton, L2 rogue, as:
Josef (3-faced mask) Focused, proud, disdainful
Ilse (no mask) Fiery, decisive, hopeful against odds

 

As you can see this is not a normal session! Our heroes have set out across the Mead Wood leaving ponies in the care of their host Connie the Hobb patriarch of Meadtown. They stick to their initial determination: to trek deep into the wood, and locate the haunted ruined mansion that (they guess) will certainly lure Alintar. By so doing, they hope to eliminate the gap between hunted and pursuers, a gap of at least nine days.

And now the weather becomes stormy and lightning bids them seek shelter – but not under lofty trees! In the nick of time Jotunn realises they are on the verge of a waterway, and Cauleigh catches the outline of a building. Can this be their destination?

 

SPOILERS AHEAD!

This is a full adventure module, run pretty much out of the wrapping except I’ve woven my own plot inside it, named Bride of the Black Manse, by Harley Stroh of DCC (www.goodman-games.com). If you intend to run BBM as GM, you may get some value from reading about my pacing and decisions. If you are a prospective player, you are about to ruin your fun by reading how my players coped with the module.

The GM hands around handout B, showing the mansion, and to the background mutters of ‘Dark Heresy!’ asks for two LK SRs and on the basis of those (and certain other secret stuff) assigns two personas apiece.

 

Throwing themselves into the spirit of the moment

As the four Dwarves stomp up to the ruinous moat-house over the mire – once perhaps a mere or moat – they feel nostalgic, as though they had seen something of the sort before…

A strange, ruinous old servant welcomes them, speaking to them as though to lords and ladies fresh returned from the hunt. And sure enough a fresh-killed stag lies wounds still a-steam just behind them.  Kethe strides decidedly towards the manor house:

“Have the servants bring it in, and fetch me mulled wine!”

Nine bells sound out: the hour is late.

The Dwarves fend off the horrid suitor

Somewhat impelled by Kethe’s sanguine impulse the others also straggle on, though Sabian hangs back at first and Demut timidly hesitates.

“URSULA! URSULA! URSULA!”

The call comes horrid on the sleeting rain as Kethe bustles over the slick stone bridge towards the main doors, Ursula Jost and Josef close behind. A blackened troll-like being hauls itself on ropy arms up over the stone parapet. Five man-size but equally befouled creatures clamber up after their master.

The fight is swift, fierce and decisive. Kethe and Ursula speed away to safety, Jost nimbly leaps around the fiend’s reach and cuts back at its tendon, Josef slices it asunder with his vorpalled rune-axe, and Ilse skewers one of the hench-things with a silver-headed arrow. As the large fiend slumps and falls back into black mere the four remaining hench-things are swiftly dealt with.

Enter the Illuminated Hall

Impatiently studying the door Kethe glances over the ill-omened relief then back to where Mathias has slipped in the slime and fallen into the mire. Ursula seems to be paying more attention to the accident, and her voice mingles with scattered others:

“Oh the gods know… someone will have to jump in… no tie a rope on first… hold the end you fool… up he comes… what have you found – Whoah! – Have a care – easy does it… a coffer?”

Jost scrambles back up as Josef hauls, and barely glancing at Mathias retching up black water sternly tells Josef not to open the coffer, especially since a humming, scratching vibration comes from it. By this time Kethe’s impatience has boiled over:

“Open for your mistress damn you! Wretches… mulled wine!”

And so saying Kethe surges in past the opening doors, and glares around for traces of the roaring fire the seneschal croaked about. Not a trace! But it all does seem familiar, somehow…

Gaze on the tapestries of House Liis

The others join Kethe and Ilse in gazing at, then fondling, ruined tapestries. The GM hands round handout C. Most find one that somehow strikes a chord. The lofty foyer presents a once-gracious double stair to the upper floor, and double doors to the two ground-level wings. The center-piece tapestry is far from ruined and suggests an infernal wedding…

Josef and Jost agree to flip the coffer upside down so its weight holds the lid safe – though it is locked, to be sure – and leaving her chosen tapestry of a black-gowned, red-haired beauty Kethe strides athletically to the right-wing doors and thrusts them open. A ruined chapel, three altars thrown down at the fair dais, greets her lantern light.

Discover secrets in the ruined Oratory

Righting an altar rewards Kethe with a curious red-globe-in-a-clear-globe, found amid other more mundane trash. Jost and Josef, clearly electing themselves the muscle, right the heavier and find two more. Ursula, scrounging near the curious shallow dry pool in the dais, seizes a broad rusty iron ring and finds it fixed. Heaving up on it more determinedly reveals damp-slick but broad stone steps descending into a moldy smelling vault.

But standing well to the rear cynical Sabian has realized that in a chapel there ought to be a choir loft, and points it out.

Loft a Hand of Glory

Brushing the tattered but concealing black wall hanging aside Kethe shines her lantern over the stair up. A curious alcove, about elbow height, includes a sharp lever-like instrument, a brazier and a bowl full of congealed wax. Kethe strides up:

“Servants! A roaring fire! And where the hell is my mulled wine?!”

The blue phantasm of a woman kneels on the loft floor: one of her arms is severed and lies beside her: with the other she is futilely trying to spark flame onto tinder with flint and steel. Grotesquely, the severed arm is coated with wax. The phantasm glares round at Kethe hopelessly:

“Help! They’re coming! Can’t you hear?”

As the others begin to join her, Kethe impulsively unlocks the lantern’s eye and exposes the naked flame towards the phantasm. As three angelic lads emerge through the wall the phantasm seizes her arm, and lights its fingers…

And the three lads, even as they open their mouths as though to sing, dissipate back into nothingness. With a look of gratitude mingled with pity the blue phantasm also fades… the Hand of Glory (as know-it-all Sabian names it) remains, though not appearing entirely real. The boyish mage Mathias sweeps it up.

Wade the flooded ossuary

The undercroft stair is broad, but at least half the gracious lords and ladies are cautious. Jost, Josef, Kethe with her lantern, then timid Demut and Mathias in the middle, then the others make their way down.

The vault is flooded and the black unwholesomeness suggests the mere or slough has penetrated here. (At this point, ten bells sound. Ilse excuses herself. She has flint, tinder and the coals from the brazier, and intends to go light a decent fire.) Sabian moves forward and reluctantly probes with his staff:

“Only about three feet”

But his staff encounters an object, and fishing around finds bones, first of horse, then of man. Then dozens of skeletons haul themselves, dripping out of the black, and rank themselves around the pillars of the vault. All point off to the party’s right.

Solve the sealed circle

Since they are sodden, there is little to be lost by wading. Sturdy boot resist the muck. But ‘three feet’ seems to come right up to Kethe’s chin, and poor Demut has to tiptoe along with nose in air. But she reaches an exit arch and higher ground and soon, she and her straggling relatives are gazing on a pit in the center of a pentagrammatical arrangement: candles that suddenly flare to life as they enter. And one of the taller men, Josef, thinks he can see a glowing gem that is the source of violet light that seems to glow up out of the pit…

The candles have formed a flexible but impenetrable shield. Old, dried blood stains are identified by Jost. The candles cannot be extinguished. As they test and probe, Mathias grows more shrill and scornful, though devilish voices can also be heard:

“We shall know our masters by their actions”

Ursula stoops her head near Kethe’s ear:

“You know dear, he is a most irritating young man…”

Before Mathias can do more than try to defend himself Kethe’s dagger slashes. Just like his tapestry Mathias dies bleeding from both wrists!

Wrest the Soul Stone from the infinite

“By their actions we know them” come the devilish voices again and Kethe is given access to the inner circle. Those outside the circle see Lady Kethe in her red-haired glory. It is an easy scramble down to a floating dark, faceted gem and she clutches it out of the air, tucks it to her (surprisingly unfeminine) bosom and emerges dictatorially triumphant, or one may say, more so.

Take up an heirloom mask

In the flooded vault the skeletons sink back, allowing exeunt but two masked phantasms remain. Sabian refrains from attempting to use the Hand and they step forward:

“Save us – Save yourselves”

And remove each their mask, revealing bloody skulls infested with worms. And fade, leaving the masks still visible in the mire. One of them appeals to Josef and wet or no he slaps it on. It is 3-faced, one laughs, one screams, one is inscrutable. Josef seems well-pleased with the result.

Behold the ghostly revelry

With nothing more to be dealt with or learned in this wing, the six remaining lords and ladies squelch back into the foyer, now a-bustle with shades of cavaliers, ladies, jesters and servants. Some call out welcome to Josef. But they are ethereal and pass clean through the flesh-and-blood visitors. Kethe has other things on her mind: a change of clothing, and that roaring fire!

“Damn this nonsense! I’m sure the master chamber is upstairs!”

There’s a horrid crash as she wrenches the master doors open and tons of rock and dirt spill out onto the balcony. Kethe avoids certain death, then possible drowning, as the balcony collapses onto the main foyer and that floor collapses into the flooded vault.

Seize the swarm-guarded mask

The attention of the others on Kethe, Ursula takes the chance to right the coffer and wrench it open. Demut stands nearby and springs back as a flood of crawling biting insects covers Ursula! Then stomping on some, spitting and snorting others, Ursula emerges from the swarm and clutches a Lion mask triumphant! Like Josef, she seems well-pleased with the result once she dons it.

Fail to resist veiled ladies in the bower

And since the mezzzanine is a wreck that leaves the left doors. This time the battered Kethe is not right at the forefront. Jost and Josef thrust – literally – through the revelry and along a broad hallway, and along left again to a richly furnished boudoir, complete with feather bed and massive wardrobe. Three temptingly-curved but veiled ladies-in-waiting rise from the immense bed and bid the lords disrobe.

Avoid the flying heads!

As Demut Kethe and Sabian enter the women cry delightedly and pick up ornate rosewood boxes, bringing them to those three. Each has a severed head, each with its unique mask. Each head flies up out of the box and attempts to strike at the neck. As the three ladies lunge forward the surprised targets realize they have no head under that veil!

Demut and Kethe adroitly smash attackers back and dodge the head, Josef aids Sabian with an Alakascram and flung dagger that splits his attacking head apart, and one of the women is down. As the lords and ladies ready their wits for the next round, eleven bells toll and the session ends.

 

This was a swift session, cut short because of earlier travel commitments of two of our group. I hit the ‘nine bells’ kickoff after a half-hour of earlier pre-module stuff which I felt I needed to (a) give the characters the depth of terrain they had traveled and (b) make sure they really did want to go with their original plan. Ten bells and eleven bells are supposed to sound at real-time hour intervals and I missed ten bells by a margin. If you run this, set your phone alarm.

I took quite some time to write characters on yellow stickies for the players, decided by LK SRs and two other factors which are secret. If I hadn’t been traveling I would have prepped those as ready handouts. You should definitely do that. The original handout, with all possible characters, is not optimal. I’m not clear in my mind that Harley Stroh intends players to see which mask each character is “supposed” to have but the handout names them so that’s what I went with. The three-phrase characterization for each is excellent, very DCC and very playable. My players got right into it.

As you can see if you read the detail, players really picked up on every cue and made no mistakes; though the collapsing balcony is not a given it is impossible to avoid if the door needs to be opened. I did write one prompt type note to Ursula, over the Soul Stone, though I’m sure they would have tried blood sacrifice eventually.

It was also a stellar dice-rolling evening for Jotunn’s player, with most SRs being DARO. Cauleigh’s player could only sigh in envy, but as ‘she’ (Kethe/Ursula) got a lot of screen time has no reason to complain.

My instructions were to use the stats of the player character, for both personas. Magic items were assigned on the basis of which of the two personas made first use. Spells known work for both, though since both magic users lost a persona that’s academic.

Conversion from d20 was easy as far as damage and level go – just double everything but with single die, convert to d6+n. For example a DC15 becomes 30=L3. DC23 becomes 46=L6 with -1 penalty. A d5 becomes rnd(10)=d6+4. So far, rough conversions to MR using hp have been fine. DCC is also T&T friendly since it uses personality (=CHR) and luck (=LK). Refl SV become SPD unless DEX seems more appropriate. Fort SV become CON SR. Will SV become CHR, the doom of Dwarves.

There’s one more session in the BBM adventure, including some GM explainy, and hopefully dealing with the aftermath. Stay tuned!

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TI3.01: On the trail of a blackguard

The characters for this session

Fennec, L2 Wizard (specialist combat)

Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (townsman)

Jotunn, L5 Warrior (Apprentice Hunter, Tracking talent)

Crompton, L2 Rogue (Roguery, Runebearer)

Welcome back for a third season of To Ikkutas! – A road trip along the Vale, with Dwarves, using T&T deluxe edition! Looking around the table I can see 3/4 of my players are ready to go with the right dice in front of them. So I launch in with a recap aimed at reminding them of key events and people from the first two seasons that will link to this session.

About 3/4 way through the recap I break for LK SRs. Cauleigh scores highest and I describe Bergamot, a scout for Sir Cully Lucas, greeting them in a friendly manner. This leads in easily to the first real scene, which takes place in Edoras town.

Sir Cully Lucas delegates

“I was going to send Bergamot and a couple of my younger, meaner lads but here you are, bounty-killers!” – Sir Cully Lucas, hard-drinking rough-voiced warrior

As the four re-founders of Fingold (and the rest of the tavern – Sir Cully not really having an ‘inside voice’) soon learn, Edoras needs some bounty-killer sort of help. Something to do with Earl Maradon’s daughter, but confidential. Sir Cully is bound back east – “to negotiate with Rothway over an expedition” – and takes himself off immediately, leaving a couple more silvers for the next round and some odd gossip about a bard’s tale of a randy dwarf and a Fingold wedding spoiled.

The Earl has a confidential mission for them

So having seen to bathing and tidying the four present themselves at the Earl’s court and soon gain audience with the Earl, his chamberlain and a few equally discreet lackeys.

The Earl married late in life and is much older than his daughter, lady Marda. He failed to note her interest in the dashing paladin, Sir Alintar the Just – until she left town under the paladin’s protection. Sir Alintar – if knight he truly is – has since sent word back that a bargain may be struck…

“I have no intention of paying him for my daughter’s safe return and inviting general scandal. Get rid of him – quietly – and bring Marda back safe.”

 

Leads are gathered, and reins too

Needing to finish outfitting – hastily-made Fingold gambesons suffer badly in teeming mid-summer storms – fits in well with some light fact-finding. And where would fact-finding be without at least one plot-twist or side-track?

[A number of CHR and IQ SRs are required for investigation. I’m summarising results and roleplay.]

Speaking to their urbane, observant bartender and following a few leads he puts them on reveals:

  • A nondescript journalist from the Sarnas Tribune was asking about them; he has left town
  • Periwinkle the ex-bouncer and manager of the HoofReady ostlery wants paying for Sir Alintar’s stabling; he gives them a good idea of what the paladin’s horse looks like
  • Marda’s BFF Penny, desperately devoted to her ladyship, wants to go with; she is persuaded to wait but gives them a token, in pink

And using the leverage that working for the Earl provides:

  • They exchange Jotunn’s scrip [TI2.15] for one good mount apiece and a spare for Marda, full tack and furniture and two days’ training to get them trotting without liking it
    [Jotunn confirms his good ability with horseflesh but Crompton’s pony affinity turns out to be a one-off]
  • They gain a rough map which is as good as the Chamberlain can do, indicating that Baraloba and Upper Baraloba on the golden river will be worth checking through

Edoras and environs

Largesse for little

It’s nine days since Alintar left the ferry to Baraloba, sheltering Marda protectively under his cloak. Something amuses the human ferryman but it’s over Cauleigh’s head so he accepts what the urukun ferryman has to say and Fennec tips him.

Is it cool for other players to add their voice to a one-to-one conversation because that fosters group roleplay, or is it frustrating the flow of play? I’ve seen both. When I watch Critical Role it’s one of my pet hates. I’d rather the player with an idea mutter it to the active speaker or push a note to them. 

This pattern is repeated in Upper Baraloba over a pie and ale – where Cauleigh and the Hobgoblin pieman share a rapport about human humour – and over a dusty construction site, and a town guard’s post. Silver and even gold coins flow out like water. The 2,000 promised for the kill is beginning to seem modest!

 

Large for small

Finally at Old Smoak’s tavern on the way out to the Meadwood the Dwarves deal easily with three drunken bravos and (trying not to use their noses) enter the tavern and interview Old Smoak. Except Crompton, who sees the duty barmaid is a Trollbabe

“I like everything I see” – Crompton, leering up

“Taking break early” – Barmaid, glomming hold of Crompton, slinging him over her shoulder, and retreating upstairs

I both encouraged and cracked up over this encounter. Guilty pleasure. Is it cool for the GM to stick some dialogue in to help a situation along? I feel if I didn’t sometimes do that, only one player would get all the lines.

Later, risking a trot, Crompton loses consciousness. He’s had a bruising tryst. Jotunn ties him to his saddle. They have plenty of time left for the journey to the Meadwood, so taking time enough for the ponies to munch on sweet high-summer grass, they follow the cart-trail at a walk and make Meadtown with plenty of evening left.

 

Small for largesse

Meadtown reminds them of Hopespyre, at least in the way many of the folk dress. It’s sheltered under the very eaves of the Meadwood, is heavy with the smell and business of mead, and is open to traffic.

There seem to be plenty of Hobbs here, and Connie, sturdy Hobb patriarch of a large family, invites them to stay. His kin cram into all or any old corners of a hall-like hostel. Fortunately for Crompton they are extremely hospitable, because when Jotunn cuts the binding Crompton topples off his pony onto his head!

[The ‘loses consciousness’ result is GM diktat after Crompton decides to trot the pony but the ‘lands on head’ was a fail LK SR.]

Connie offers three conflicting yarns of the Witch’s Mansion at the heart of the Meadwood, but good news as well: he deliberately misdirected Alintar towards a different crumbling ruin, one haunted by prosaic bandits.

Connie’s map of the Meadwood

Confession: I throw in a number of yarns about the ruined mansion because I don’t know how much time I want to spend there and I want to leave myself options. 

With good healing broth Crompton recovers as much as can be expected. Fed thoroughly and well rested, the four don armour and boots once more, this time for a night march so as to avoid the giant bees of the Meadwood, and the session ends.

 

The session ran to time, there were no major player problems, I introduced the key elements of the current adventure, and merriment was had. And the characters are motivated, even though the adventure to hand involves returning directly back. A good start to the season. Stay tuned!

Props

Dyson’s Dodecahedron 2014 and 2015 Compendia will feature heavily in the Golden River arc. Upper and Lower Baraloba and the adjacent Meadwood are pretty much straight out of those. Edoras, its close relationship with Lucas, and its place in the Vale was written by me decades ago and is lightly updated for the current campaign.

 

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