Hyboria! H5E77: Thieves of Becharadur, Part One

Introducing an epic-level NPC into a campaign is fraught with peril. The likelihood is that players will feel that their cherished characters are being dropped into some GM wankery of a show in which they only get to play bit parts (or worse: comedy relief). If the NPC is dangerous as opposed to just annoying, it’s also likely that players will feel their characters are being bitch-slapped around by the GM. And if things start to get ugly and they find themselves on the losing end, they might suspect the NPC is an epic grudge monster.

On my side I had the following advantages: I have players who trust me; their characters know Cala is cool (and/but lethal); and at least two characters have the hots for her.

So, let’s see how it panned out!

First, and based on the Wis and Spots rolled last session, I allowed the guys to ask one question of me each, as players, starting with lowest and working to highest. Bardic, the lowest (to the point of tunnel vision), would have his first move written down by his player before the action started.

Second, with so many participants (and seven above L9) I made some non-standard adjustments to order. Each round would first feature free actions and speechifying, then normal action.

In terms of fighting I decided to adjust mook fighting rules. In this situation they could move around freely, whereas in previous mook fights that had not been the case. So now each side would roll on one BAB, adding ‘helps’ which in the case of mooks is the same as adding the number of mooks involved and in PCs case is DC10 for a +2. Characters could choose to throw in a feat which might have an added effect.


On the receiving end

Senses straining to sift the vital from the irrelevant: it seemed almost still and quiet. In reality Bardic’s startled bellow – “Cala Atenoel?!? Cala – it’s been a while!” – had perhaps only been caught by the nearest few soldiers. Razor-nerved Morath had already sorted out lines of possible retreat: a quick sprint right or left of the tavern and they only had a few spearmen to deal with, then away. But he also had the impression that this part of town was not ideal for flight: too many open spaces and pretty gardens, not enough cramped alleyways.

“Throngath – you’re being used!” Celo called.

“Off right. Knock those few down,” muttered Vorel, showing that his mind was working the same way as Morath’s. He flexed his grip on the Hyrkanian bow.

Not distracted by this, Celo’s ears picked up Throngath/Thavros’ response to Cala’s lightly mocking call:

“Lilit? Mind your own business, bitch!”

The Shemitish-robed woman they knew as Cala Atenoel responded with a coolly-delivered stream of abuse, mocking and belittling Throngath. In many languages, the mercenary’s manhood was judged and found lacking. Male pride pricked, Throngath gestured angrily to the mercenaries nearest Cala.

“Grab her! Strip her down!”

The Aquilonian swiftly changed his plan. He faked right then sprinted left: noting almost at the subconscious level that the six men nearest Cala had closed on her and the spearmen in front of him had followed that with cruel and lustful gaze. Hooves drummed from further back and behind him: but it was too late to worry about that! With a final feint [ImprFeint] he rolled under the spear-tips, drawing his twin short-swords as he did so!

The racing horse was that of Gul Surgil, Throngath’s trusted lieutenant. He would be first to down one of his leader’s enemies! Mighty tulwar on high, he kicked his fine Stygian warhorse into the open space in front of the Shemitish archers and at his prey! A notion to run down the lightly-armored one crossed his mind, then Lilit’s advice decided him: kill the big barbarian first!

With a fierce deep battle-cry Surgil launched himself up off the saddle and into his foes! [Leaping Charge] The tulwar crashed through the steel cap of the northerner clutching the great-sword and swept on to cleave the shoulder of the archer! But shockingly, neither man fell! Then as Surgil lofted his tulwar to regain his balance, the black-dressed one materialized in front of him and rammed a knife under his armpit and into his heart.

Uncertain how hard he had been hit but sick from the blow, [2 fp for Saving Grace] Bardic threw off his ruined helm, dashing the blood out of his eyes. He had a thought to seize the reins of the warhorse, now prancing just by him, then decided to wait to see if one of the lancers would charge. [Bardic had written down a free action, not an action, so was left in a defensive posture for the round.]

In one motion, Vorel grabbed the horse’s bridle with his left hand and vaulted up into the saddle, curbing the horse with an amazing show of horsemanship. [Handle animal – Vorel is a superb rider but this was an enemy warhorse!]

“Thanks for the horse fellas,” Vorel chuckled.

He gained control just in time! For though checked by Surgil’s charge, the Shemitish archers were still intent on butchery! A volley of arrows would have finished what Surgil began, but Vorel, screwing the beast’s head around ruthlessly, forced it between Bardic and the archers, dropping to a sideways lean away from the danger as he did so. [Spending a fp Vorel sacrifices the horse to interpose] The splendid warhorse screamed and fell kicking as the shafts hammered through it.

And with that, hell was unleashed. With blood-mad yells the mercenaries charged across the plaza at the three before the tavern, or clustered around Celo. Dust stormed up as though devils were playing and bright steel flashes and red splashes were soon all that could be seen.

[I’ve rolled parts of two rounds into one for narrative purposes. Overall, the mooks win round one while only Celo is in action and Cala is distracting some, though they lose a man in Celo’s fight. Then as more characters join, the next round goes their way. Across the two rounds, the lads share about 80 damage not soaked by the horse.]

Ducking one spear and vaulting another, swords busy, Celo glanced around. A chill ran up his spine: mailed horsemen had cordoned off the area beyond the lane! Even now, one was riding to reinforce the spearmen, lance extended. Time to fall back and cut our way clear, he thought.

“Morning ladies,” said Morath in what he hoped was suave Shemitish. He’d tumbled nimbly over the dying horse and now slid behind one of Celo’s antagonists. With Morath helping him, Celo decided to hang on. He heard Thavros yell again:

“Never mind grabbing the bitch then! Skewer her! Cut her down!”

Right from the get-go Cala had taken almost all of Bardic’s attention. She had spun adroitly out of the grasp of the six, leaving them clutching each other or banging into the nearest house, and exiting the mass quite unperturbed, and much closer to Thavros. Now, the two cavalrymen nearest her spurred forward, scimitars flashing. Bardic expected her to tuck and roll forward: but instead, she jumped at the horses’ heads, ululating shrilly and waving her hands under their jaws. Startled, both horses shied then reared, and now Cala did roll forward, rising in the same instant to help the riders out of their stirrup. Both slid then fell backward, crashing onto their backs. The dust rose thick about them: and somehow Cala had caught one of their scimitars. She continued to taunt Thavros, her voice a pleasant low lilt at odds with the vile gutter insults she was using.

Behind her, the half-dozen mercenaries, red-faced, disentangled themselves and readied their weapons: no mercy! Then like a thunderbolt of the gods, with a roar of rage, Bardic charged their flank!

Isolated, Vorel was in trouble. Now armed with sword and dagger, he crouched behind the still-kicking horse, fighting defensively as arrows zipped through any spare space between the in-pressing swordsmen. Black eyes glittered cruelly under helms: these were tough Shemites and Stygians, well-armored and well-trained. Two lancers shouldered their mounts through the press: they would avenge Gul Surgil!

[Round two was a reverse of round one, mostly because the mooks rolled poorly but in part because Bardic had remembered to rage in free actions. It gave him a +2. But he spent another fp on reroll, and that stayed the case every subsequent round. They still shared damage but much less. By contrast the mooks had to take around 70 even after adjusting for soak.]

Realizing that they were wasting their time ducking increasing numbers of horsemen, Celo and Morath spun and raced back to aid Vorel. Holding his right-hand sword with its mate, Celo slid out a throw-knife and flung it with all his strength at one of the lancers: it caught the man in the throat and, choking in his own blood, he reeled in the saddle.

“Well boys, it’s looking bad for you,” Celo yelled gleefully, sliding gracefully in to relieve Vorel.

Vorel wasted no time: callously he wrenched the man’s boot from its stirrup and mounted, caracoling around to parry the lance of the other horseman. Behind him, Morath evaded the swordsmen in less showy fashion than Celo and cut one down.

“Die, you lousy pack of goat-molesters,” Morath coaxed.


Bardic’s huge blade severed an arm at the shoulder and he stepped through the reeling mess to try to keep Cala in sight. She appeared to be in trouble!

Purpling with fury Thavros – or Throngath as this city knew him – charged his fine warhorse at Cala. Realizing that she had the haunch of the near-side horse to duck behind he crashed his mount full into the beast! Struck side-on, it toppled, and Cala was forced to roll into clear ground or be crushed. Instantly Throngath wheeled on her, his mount’s stamping feet a blur above her rolling form. Then Throngath bellowed in a different note, and slid helplessly sideway, his saddle girths cut!

A fine rider, he dismounted safely, but lost his grip on his scimitar. Arisen from the dust, Cala gave a flip of her foot, and caught it by its hilt. She walked away a few paces as though to catch his mount.

Now weaponless, Throngath did not hesitate. No matter how spryly she could dodge, once in his grip she would be powerless. Then it would be simple to crush her bones, her strength and her will. He rushed her, fingers spread wide and hooked like talons!

Except that she wasn’t there any more: and a small hand with surprising strength behind it pushed his head forward and into his mount’s backside! And naturally, his horse kicked back with all its strength! Something was pinning him there, like a heavy soft rope: even as the horse kicked him into senselessness, Throngath realized that she had coiled his horse’s tail around his neck! Her low mocking laugh was the last thing he heard.

By that time, Bardic had charged back, careless of the archers, and rejoined the fight around the tavern. He was at least half-convinced that Cala had organized the entire attack, then changed her mind once she recognized them. But regardless, all was right with the world and enemies before him fell like wheat stalks under the scythe.

“You f****ers up to surrendering?” Morath enquired politely.

“Thavros is down,” Celo pointed out, but as the mercenaries only knew the man as Throngath, this was not the diplomatic breakthrough he hoped for.

“How much do you get paid if he’s dead?” Vorel asked, more practically and in better Shemitish.

The fight ended abruptly as fights oft do where there are plenty of exits. First the light-armored spearmen detailed off to guard exits, then the archers and the winded, dismounted riders, and finally the toughest of the foot and horse around the tavern, all fled. The dust began to settle, leaving a fine white grit on their clothes and armor and hair and turning their streaming blood into a gritty black paste.

Stamping hard on Surgil’s neck and wrenching the helm off the corpse with a vindictive flourish, Bardic gingerly tried it for size, found it satisfactory, and looked around. Cala, veil lowered enough to reveal her finely-molded lips, was sauntering towards them tossing some bauble in her left hand. She looked well pleased with herself.

What’s your story?

“Call me Lilit. Or if that’s too hard for your northern tongues, Lilith.”

“How about Lili?” Celo giggled.

“Yes, I suppose you could call me Lili,” she responded in an ‘I suppose I won’t kill you just yet’ kind of tone.

She was perched up on the counter, back to the wall, goblet in left hand, right hand free. That was her favored quick-draw hand. The one she wore the bracer tied to: her left thumb still had the Hyrkanian-draw ring. Difficult to say what she wore under the Shemite robe and headdress: so far she had produced a wedge-shaped silver mina and a sealed flask of some cordial. A few more tiny scars on her brown fingers, and perhaps her eyes a trifle harder and shadows there that six years prior were not. But they still sparkled darkly and she was still the most striking, alive person they knew.

She was no raconteur. But at their urging, her story was told less laconically than was her norm.

[A Destiny point was required to get Cala to produce a satisfactory explanation that tied up a number of plot points.]

“I was seeking a thing, and left Kayan at Mitra’s Fist to follow the coast. Had some trouble in a haunted gully outside Swallowfield and there I met Alleto. I persuaded the Old Man to sail south to investigate a rumor, but the boat was forced to land here.

“Alleto, Kilp and their men volunteered to pose as swords for hire, but the meeting in the old barracks went south. El Kragen, or Krag-Khan, or Kragen-Baal if you will, sent along a sorcerer. Talgor-khan: a powerful one, by Anu! He ensorcelled the lot of us, though I shook it off quickly and escaped.

“Well, I guessed the lads were enslaved. I recruited Tae Costas, the best prize-fighter of the Old Man’s crew, to raise money, but the fight was rigged and Tae arrested. I escaped again, but this time I had to flee the city.

“Kayan had come south by then. I hid out with him, and came back in nearly a month ago disguised this way. I’m Lilit, the most exclusive whore in Before’s pleasure house. There is a real Lilit, and a passing similarity of size and look: we trade places when dealing with actual customers.”

“Who can operate a brothel in a city where you can walk up a zikkurat, pay a couple of coins and lie with a priestess of Ishtar?” Baridc wanted to know.

“You must be different to most men,” Cala replied tangentially. “Most men I’ve known want to be told they are a hell of a fellow, their prong is the biggest, or she’s never felt ecstasy like that or whatever. Any half-decent whore can do that, and the others can at least squeal like they meant it, but that’s not what the Ishtar-c**ts are about. They serve the goddess, whores service the paying customer. So sure, there’s always a market for a good whore.” Having explained, she continued her tale.

“For a while I worked on Throngath there, trying to convince him to switch sides. He was ambitious enough, but it seemed he had something going on with Laella.

“You haven’t seen Laella? Kragen’s wife. She’s an immense slug! Rides about in a bed-thingy carried by slaves, fanned by more slaves… boobs as big as your head, hips out to here… and by Ishtar, a lot of Shemites really like that! And some non-Shemites. Kragen likes them smaller: he buys slave girls in regularly.

“But where was I? Oh yes: failing to ally with Throngath. I fell in with the north-gate faction: a hedge-wizard kind of Pelishtim named Maktash, and his thug, Vistazi, or Vistakh. Do you get on well with Zuagir?”

“Us?” (Puzzled looks – what are Zuagir again?) “Uhhh, sure, I guess.”

“Good, because I think we’ve reached our time to depart. Maktash will shelter you on my word. You can probably put up at their inn, though it will be crowded with their men; or at their stables.”

“Stables will be best,” Vorel voted firmly. “I’d like to keep the four horses I rounded up.”

“And in good time, our two retainers come,” Morath observed, spotting Mushy, Square-head, a large wine-sack, and a leather jerkin of dubious dimensions.

“How now, Sir Mushy, Sir Square-head: thy looks are full of sack,” quipped Celo.

“Good timing boys!” Bardic yelled. “Grab those loot-piles: oh, and help get our spare gear from upstairs…“

“And our expensive lock,” added Celo.

“…and the lock, yes. We’re out of here.”


The best way in is from above

It was not until fully installed in one corner of the stables that the four fugitives heard more about Cala Atenoel’s real reason for being in the city and what all the deception might have been to do with. Kismet, who had they left her would have had a choice of torture and death, or death, was grilling their evening meal outside. A few choice salvages of Kismet’s stock were stacked along with the armor and weaponry looted.

“Maktash would love to get into the citadel, into Kragen-Baal’s inner circle,” Cala continued. “The Watch Captains take their roster on the inner walls, and get the choice loot from banditry and piracy. Just now Vistakh holds you in high esteem, because of Throngath’s fall.”

“So my plan up until today was to help with that, then, disguised as a Zuagir or Shemite guard, find where Alleto and the others are kept, and find the other person I’m looking for. Her name is Setta Black-whip, and she is key to what I’m planning. A valedictory adventure. Lately I’ve found myself looking around wherever I roam, thinking, that would be a good place to settle down. ”

“So one last big job before retirement?”

“This… is the ground-work before the ‘last big job’. Setta has information I need, as well as a physical key.”

“So your final job will involve a huge haul of treasure so you can settle down?” Bardic pursued alertly.

“In my final job, an ocean of blood shall flow,” she replied, a trifle more grimly than was her wont. Then she continued more lightly:

“But now, with four climbers before me, and those four the men that scaled the Sorcerer’s Heights (they had told Cala the full story of the Queen of Nothing, which had reassured her as to their real integrity) I’m thinking of a different approach. Tomorrow morning I’ll show you something, then we’ll talk more.”


Complaining mildly about the effect climbing up to the gate-tower’s top would have on their barely-scabbed cuts, the four looked about them. The sun had barely risen. At this time of year the lighthouse’s bluff did not block the dawn light from striking the western cliffs above the citadel.

“Look there: just above the inner fortress. Tell me what you see.”

Morath’s eyes were legendarily sharp. “I see dark cross-marks in the rock: three of them, the middle one the broadest.”

“Are those for artillery?”

“Yes. Remember, I mentioned that Branger, Kragen-Baal’s right-hand captain, employs artillerists? Pelishtim mostly. Those engines cover the entire citadel I suppose.”

“And maybe a fair chunk of the outer city,” Bardic guessed, having seen heavy ballistae in action.

“So now what I’m thinking, those cliffs are scalable by you four. I can climb. Long ropes will get us down to one of the slits. We rescue the lads by working from inside to out; then I get to Setta.”


The citadel

On the fourth day after Throngath’s death by horse’s ass, they began scouting the peaks. [Normal rest for three days to allow general prep and bargaining returns 54hp, enough for even Bardic.] Cala had already drawn a rough map of the citadel, but there was much more that would be useful to know. They were well-rested and dressed in light local robes so as to deceive casual eyes. The job was easy. Vistakh’s patrols left them alone, and they circled well north of the north-west gate where Shemites loyal to Kragen-Baal served. On the slopes of the low twin peak above the citadel, scrub, cypress and even stately cedar grew. None saw their progress.

Taking it in turns to watch and sketch, they built up a reasonable map of the citadel. It was fashioned in concentric defense: first the citadel wall, which ran in a half-circle around the base of the peak and inside the city walls. It might be 800’ across, Celo estimated. Patrols were regular and disciplined, though in shifts commanded by each captain of watch, not just Branger. Then the inner citadel, some 300’ across, its parapets broad and well-defended by Kragen-Baal’s cadre of Pelishtim. Then inside that, a barbican rather than donjon, presumably guarding whatever the priests of Baal-Angall had carved into the mountain’s guts over the ages. Bardic had some guesses about that.

“If we head into the mountain, how does that help us? We run into timeless evil, maybe evil priests and their incredibly well-armored goons, maybe a god…”

“Maybe a dragon,” Cala agreed.

“…then doesn’t that make it harder to rescue Kilp and the others, not easier?”

“The artillery slits have to connect to something,” Vorel suggested.

“Right! I think I see now,” Bardic agreed, a little irritated he hadn’t seen it straight away.

“Arsenals. Armories. Barracks. Galleys. A great dining hall that Krag-khan supposedly hosts his captains in,” Cala enumerated.

“I thought it was Kragen-Baal,” someone wanted to know.

“Yes, seems like in this place, everyone has more than one name, ‘Lilit’.”

“He’s been the moss-gathering stone while I’ve gathered none, but at least twenty years ago, I knew him as a Hyborian named Cragen or Carrigan. He drifted here and took over, it seems.”

“A Hyborian!?”

“And tough, calculating and ruthless, so I understand, though in the last year or so things have changed. He used to employ the Kushites strictly as police, as they mostly are in these Shemitish cities. About a year ago, a pirate fleet began building up out of this port, and the Kushite captain, Garband, formed some kind of alliance with the pirate chief Mogo and his lieutenant Onkoi. Now Garband has admittance to the inner citadel and his men are just another gang of thugs on the south gate.”

“And this Branger?”

“He’s another Hyborian and the more trusted because of that. I think I remember him as Brag, or Bart, or some such, back when he was not much more than a snot-nose. His men are mainly Hyborians – renegades from Koth and that ilk – though the artillerists are Pelishtim artisans.”

“But Kragen also has these Pelishtim, as an inner cadre, right?”

These were familiar to the four from Zamboula: the Asshuri: merciless, well-armored, and expert with the powerful Shemitish bow.

The functions of the dozen or so buildings in the citadel were sketched in as best they could guess. One was definitely a winery, another an inn or tavern that could be identified by gossip as the Lion’s Den, and the caravan encampment with adjacent grazing made the caravanserai easy to pick out. One was marked as a jeweler’s. Some other buildings were clearly barracks and one large shed probably slave pens. One was visibly marked with banners and had a door-guard, so was almost certainly the Seven Winds, an elite brothel and gambling saloon. But they learned nothing about Kragen-Baal’s movements, nor Talgor-Khan’s and had to rely on Cala’s information that both liked the ladies.

“A sorcerer that’s into the girls? Odd!” Bardic snorted.

“That’s what I hear. He visits the Seven Winds quite often and even has a favorite girl. Kragen though usually just buys a slave-girl or three. They say Laella gets rid of them every so often so very few get sold on.”

“So slaves get sold quite often?”

“Slave caravans are in and out of there all the time, according to Maktash. Vistakh’s raiders bring slaves in, and others come from further afield. It could even be that Alleto, Kilp and the others did get shipped off as slaves. But Kayan and I were never far from the city and I think I would have noticed.”

“You mentioned Kayan before. This is Kayan Haduk? Uses two longswords?”

“Yes, the Asuran. I ran into him a few years ago, and we ventured into the Himelians, and since then he’s been with me off and on.”


Time to move!

On the fifth day after the fight, conch-shell blasts drew their gaze to the harbor. Pirate galleys were rowed in, some in poor repair and with scorched upper works. Overall, some twenty galleys large and small were now berthed, and the harbor swarmed with corsairs. Nor was the city unaffected: knots of colorfully-dressed black corsairs swaggered in, buying, brawling, and looting.

“That means Mogo and Onkoi will be back inside the Citadel,” Cala observed.

Morath grunted. He was carefully applying poison to two throw-blades, and needed to concentrate. [Morath asked to get poison off Maktash, gaining a fp as Maktash was the ideal choice.] The others were ready. Long ropes had been readied, armor repaired or replaced, and decisions made about bulk. Vorel had even made the tough decision to leave both bows behind. Instead, he had paid a saddler a good fee to cut him a bandolier, in which he now carried a dozen daggers, most of them Morath’s. He had practiced the same type of two-handed quick draws that Cala used to snap out her heavy Corinthian throw-blades. And in a change for him, he had paid a princely fee to have a chainmail shirt made up to his measure. Celo was happy with a new leather jerkin and Bardic with his masterwork chainmail shirt and steel cap. He had his great-sword well piggined down so that it could not swing loose on a climb.

With the corsairs back and Throngath’s position to be filled, Cala had urged them to be about the task.

“Maktash is only to be trusted until he gets what he wants, which will happen tomorrow night at the banquet, I’d guess. And every day there’s an added risk that Laella, Talgor-khan or Kragen-Baal hears who we really are and that we are still in town.

“Remember, my first goal is to free Alleto and Kilp and the Old Man and Tae and the others. But I also need to get Setta, and I need time to question her.”

“I can help with that,” Morath offered.

“Maybe,” Cala grunted. “She won’t easily spill her guts, by Zath’s fangs. She’s an ex-priestess of Derketa and knows all about pain.”

“Ah, Derketa. So not on my ‘could be spared’ list. How do we pick her out from any other woman?” Bardic asked reasonably.

“She carries a black whip at all times, and knows how to use it. If you go up against her, be careful you don’t lose an eye, or both.

“Her lieutenant is another Hyborian, name of Jayse. Quite often on business in the city.” Cala described him as having a dissipated appearance, regular features and being of about middle height, which didn’t really help. It would describe Morath after a typical jag, for example.

“We’re ready enough. We could stay another week and learn more but we could also be caught. Then I’d be back to picking locks and we’d have lost all our gear. The moon rises late tomorrow night: let’s saddle up,” Celo argued, and so it was.


Celo tested his footing. He was leaning back against the long rope, suspended far down its length, on the left or north end of the middle artillery aperture. They had chosen that for the good reason that the massive shoulders and chests on both Bardic and Vorel would be more likely to squeeze through there. He had an uncomfortable prickling on the back of his neck and tension between his shoulder-blades: anyone peering out of the north slit and looking right would immediately spot him, moonless night or not.

His keen ears picked up a clatter of metal and a voice speaking in Pelishtic. Something about height or reach. He paused. There was a clack, and another clack. The tension became too much, and he moved: pushed out and left, swung his feet up and tumbled through feet-first.

Behind him but on the opposite side of the slit, Morath was already doing the same. Far above, Bardic began his quiet descent.

“Ladies first,” Vorel suggested politely. “F*** your chivalry,” Cala replied in an undertone. She moved away from Vorel to wait above Bardic. With a wry grimace – he’d forgotten that would put him behind her – Vorel knelt and clambered down.

[Good old Vorel. Never learns. Last time he wanted to try her bow out. Cala has a list of paranoia-based hangups. She doesn’t share drinks though a clean goblet of new-opened wine was OK; she’s cautious around food prep; she doesn’t let people touch her gear and she doesn’t let anyone get behind her.]

The artillery embrasure was lit by working-lights, oil lamps rigged to throw light down into the work area. Three Pelishtim, working around an immense bolt-thrower, froze in astonishment. Celo continued his tumble, flung throw-knives into the throats of two and slid between the third’s leg’s, snapping a kick to the groin. As the wretch doubled over, Celo grabbed his head and twisted as he slammed it into the stone floor. By the time Morath rose to his feet, Celo was making doubly-sure the man’s neck was broken.

Bardic squeezed in with a soft chime of chainmail, and with a popping of stitching on leather Vorel did the same. [Bardic stunted-skill (1fp) for Escape Artist which was the right choice, Vorel for Tumble which doesn’t help squeeze through gaps.] His bandolier had caught and was damaged. And finally with the same soft chiming of chainmail under her robe, in rolled Cala Atenoel.

“Quickly, but quietly: check,” Celo boasted.


End of session. There are similarities here to both Palena and Zamboula (season four), though Becharadur is its own conundrum. Well-traveled gamers will spot that I am using at least the bones of Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor, the DCC version of the old Judges Guild setting. I needed a less-intimate, less-policed setting to convincingly enable high-level adventurers to figure out how to get in without directly confronting Talgorkon, or Talgor-khan as he becomes here, while still featuring the factions required. (One of the plotting issues of the original is that Talgorkon can simply tell any new arrival to leave.) I grafted the fortress into a new fantasy map product, Rite Map Pack: City by the Sea, so that it became the east-facing citadel of a Shemitish city above a southern harbor. I am quite sorry I could not use the original’s hippogriffs, but they don’t fit the campaign. Even a high-level sorcerer can’t account for the presence of a whole troop of such creatures.

Fate points rained down on me during the session though Morath still had four left, the others two or three. I think we have the right balance now: players are using them freely and the action is more exciting.

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