SHC GM-free session 23: the Monk’s Lair

Scene: a crudely-cut stone torture chamber

The five Chicago Peers: Paul Birkby, Cliff, Dan Hewstone, Joe Hitchcock and Sandi Maclaine filter in, ready for trouble. They are heavily equipped.

“Makes sense they’d put this affair next to underground currents – no need to transport a body over to the lake if you have that handy,” Cliff comments. He’s trying to act nice. It seems to him that he is being used purely as meat shield, and it rankles.

“Take lookout Sandi; we’ll search” Hitch decides.

In the vaulting and secreted under some heavy equipment they find two intriguing items. Both magical. One is styled as a cornucopia; the other is a simple-looking robust crucifix, conveniently fist-sized.

The mages don’t have the right spells ready to read these, so they are tucked away safely and they rejoin Sandi.

“No problem?” Cliff asks.

“No – well, just a vamp. But it was alone.” She points vaguely to some dust still lingering in the tunnel.

“You could have called me!”

Sandi just pushes up her NVGs and looks at him with those clear blue eyes.

“I had it covered Cliffie.” Then as Cliff angrily barges past her she adds softly, “We are doing this the whole way, remember?”

Scene ends


I need a beginning scene for the ‘secret portal’ the Deep Ones let the Peers in on last session. The Location Crafter gives me something I translate to what you see there. Chaos check is ‘Move toward a thread: Separate Riches. So the Peers get to seize a useful source of the Monk’s wealth. The Emulator gives me arcane treasure, two items and the Location Crafter descriptions pin them down as general powers and appearance.

And now it’s time for…

The Lair Raid Draw!

Now that the Peers have the entry, I need to know what they’ll be up against and set a series of scenes ahead of time. There’s no known base CR to this lair, because it is the unprotected secret entry. However, the number of AP on the table by this stage promotes the base CR to 19. Here’s the summary:

A minor CR13 human guard of a CR9 mage and his CR9 team;

A CR16 Greater Vampire veteran;

DC32 non-magical traps;

DC34 magical traps;

And a recording device of DC16 to detect.

For scene-setting I assemble 32 cards, with plenty of ‘expecteds’ to represent dank tunnels, two Opponent cards for the opposition above; and a Special that will get reshuffled into the pack each time drawn until it becomes the final exit (if needed). I end up with a list of 35 points, which may not be all needed. Now, with Chaos at 5, we begin with:

Scene: a dining galley

Dan Hitch and Birkby take turns examining the graffiti scratched on and around the bench. They agree excitedly that the coffins are just ahead!

But some exploration later, they realize that was completely wrong.

Scene ends


Alteration: Move away from a thread. Meaning ‘excitement for lies’. I read this as a false clue.

Chaos rises to 6.

Scene: Coffin store/Bunkroom

“You know what?” Hitch muses ruefully.

“Hmm, what?”

“We’ve just sounded a warning system. This was all a set-up. Look, this earth hasn’t even been lain on. The whole thing – including the graffiti – is meant to lure snoopers  in here.”

“So we’re trapped?”

“Not necessarily. It probably just means they know we are down below now. Time to move.”

Scene ends


With the previous scene (barring some tunnels) having set up the decoy, I assume the next major scene will relate to that. I get Alteration, NPC Action, meaning ‘change fame’ so after checking:

Q: Have the enemy detected the Peers? (has to be) Yes.

Q: Is this an encounter? No.

Chaos rises to 7.

A series of tunnels drops chaos back to 6 by the time the Peers find…

Scene: Ceremonial Circle

Dan spends some time checking, but other than the dark magics coursing through the circle itself, there does not seem to be any trap. The others agree. So Dan begins his purification ritual while they keep watch.

At length, he finishes the ritual.

“It is done! The barrier will break!”

“Too easy,” Cliff comments sourly.

“Right you are, that was too easy,” Hitch agrees.

“‘Fraid so,” Birkby agrees.

“They’re coming!” Sandi calls softly.

Scene ends


This is Ceremonial Circle on the Lair cards. No chaos change.

Q: Is this the magical trap? (V Likely) No.

Q: Can Hitch hijack it? (Unlikely) No.

Q: Can Dan hijack it? (Unlikely) Yes.

Dan gets to 27 on Arcane Lore, I allow a try again, he gets 31 which with the +2 help from each of Hitch and Birkby will cross the DC34 threshold. He then gets a natural 20 on Spellcraft to deduce which spells he is interfering with/taking down.

Q: Does this break the arcane barrier? (V Unlikely) Yes.

Q: Have the Peers made an error? Yes!

Q: Is this an ambush? No.

Q: Are enemy n their way? Yes.

Chaos moves to 7 again.

Scene: The same. Combat begins.

The opposition is one CR16 Veteran Greater Vampire, and his Spawn minions. Range is Hearts (near).

Initiatives: Birkby, Hitch, Vampires, Cliff, Dan [Sandi].

Q: Can Dan see the vampires? Yes!

Round 1: Birkby uses a maxed Fireball, relying on the Hagen relic to remove any Fireball protection; then buffs again. Hitch immediately follows with a Hold spell, surges and adds another maxed Fireball. Although the vamps evade the worst of the blasts they are weakened.

The Vampire Lieutenant hammers the team with an Ice Storm (Dan spends an AP on the Mas SV) while the spawn try Dominate, which auto-fail. Seeing this, they race to close range.

Cliff blocks the charge with Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, designating Hitch as his protectee. Dan throws up Daylight and surges and Turns to get rid of all but one of the spawn. Sandi resets her init.

Round 2: Sandi uses 2 aimed shots to get rid of the last spawn, turns the same gun on the Lieutenant, then opens up with her second Glock, a withering blast of fire. Birkby hits him with another Fireball and the vampire explodes into a burning column (missing his SV) which turns to ash, then dust.

The only noise in the entire battle has been the screams of the undead being ripped apart. The Peers signal to one another and head out the way the Vampires entered.

Scene ends

Q: did any other monsters arrive? No.

Chaos rises to 8, since that scene was part of the Monk’s defenses, not the Peers’ plan.

Scene: A passage connecting the Circle to the Main Hall

As the Peers steal down the passage, their enemy has not awaited developments! In the Hall where the Monk holds his secret conclave, the Lieutenants have gathered with their minions. Some tote Tommy-guns. The Monk growls his underlings to silence: incants a simple invocation and smiles mockingly.

Behind the Peers, the Ceremonial Circle comes back to life.


I get Alteration, NPC Positive. I confirm that it is the Monk. Meaning is ‘return goals’ so the Circle is back in business!

Chaos rises to 9.

Scene: Main Hall, a vaulted stone cellar of surprisingly large dimension.

Combat begins.

Range is Hearts. Some mechanics as preliminary:

I use Location Crafter to set the scene in more detail. The Main Hall is fortunately important, and what’s going on is dispute anger. This leads me to conclude the Monk himself was present (above) and is ordering his lieutenants into the fray. They may be discontented at this (though the undead hierarchy prevents them actually rebelling, I believe).

Some Emulator questions confirm those present: the Monk, and five lieutenants. I also discern that the Monk will flee as the Peers attack. (I give this an ‘unlikely’ but there you are, he hasn’t survived by risking unnecessary all-out war.)

Then I generate hp for the lietenants – it’s important, because hits from the ABB ammo delivered in a full Sandi volley (either six or more shots, or a Leadstorm) can kill outright. Then I roll d4+1 spawn for each to get to 21.

Just to check if there is any ambush either way I ask:

Q: Is this an encounter? Yes.

Initiatives: Vampire Lieutenant (VL) 5; Sandi; VL2; Birkby; Cliff; Dan; VL3&4/Spawn; Hitch.

Round 1: 

VL5 opens up with Tommy-gun, strafing a wide area, forcing Refl SV from all Peers, twice. Sandi replies by racing forward to handy range and throwing shot after shot into the same vamp, dusting it, and racing back out. VL2 tries to Dominate but again it is futile. [Q: is it nerfed? Yes.] VL2 buffs and moves to close range instead. Birkby buffs Sandi with Haste, seeing her about to be attacked at close range. He surges and hits VL2 with magic missiles. VL1 also tries Dominate and lays down autofire. Sandi is hit and spends her AP on the Mas SV. Cliff levels his ‘Tankbuster’ pistol and misses with everything. Dan Prays, surges and Turns with an excellent result: VL2 is Turned.

VL 3 and 4 both open up with Tommy-guns, though one blasts twice and the other rushes to close range. The Spawn rush forward, firing pistols. Damage on the Peers is mixed: Birkby has a good chunk of his Stoneskin stripped away. Dan takes 14 damage. At the other end of the scale Sandi gets nicked for 2 points, one of which is soaked. In reply Hitch rips a tight Wall of Fire around the inner group, facing out, and surges and seals the entry with Wall of Force. VL1 and 3 will get nickel-and-dimed if they remain where they are. VL4 and all Spawn are in close. They cannot finish their charge this round. VL2 is about to flee through the Fire.

Round 2: 

Sandi, now with the Prayer helping, dances and weaves around the Spawn and VL4 with Defensive Fighting penalty, and with the added attack from Haste is able to dust VL4. She reloads in melee range.

VL2 flees through Wall of Fire and takes the damage, ending cowering at the Wall of Force.

Birkby, relying on Sandi’s ability to not be there, drops Fireball across the Spawn. 14 take full damage and burn to death, a good result. VL1 leaps to melee on Hitch but Cliff activates his Bodyguard ability and melees with him instead. VL1 is hit with the Hammer but remains on his feet, driven back. Dan Turns again, having full effect on the seven Spawn remaining.

VL3 follows VL1 leaping in, this time against Sandi, missing. The damage from the Wall of Fire did have some effect on it. All remaining Spawn flee through the Wall of Fire, incinerating. Hitch holds a counter-spell in reserve in case VL1 comes up with something.

Round 3:

Sandi has VL3 in her face and VL1 not far off. Still with the Defensive penalty she hits time and again, dusting both. (Both are already injured by the fire, that’s not as ridiculous an amount of damage as it sounds.)

Unseen by the Peers VL2 turns gaseous and escapes through a nook or cranny.

Scene ends

Chaos drops to 8 since the Peers sought this encounter and won. They have captured the Main Hall but are unaware that the Circle is back in business.

Scene: Treasure Vault

Sandi strips away the last trap and steps back to let the mages do their stuff. Within a short time they have four items sorted out, packed away and are ready to move again. Cliff signals a number of possible ways forward…

Scene ends


This scene is handled in a similar way to the Torture Chamber. In this case this room is trapped, Sandi makes a fine disable device roll. Then the Emulator and Location Crafter provide the treasures. They get one item that appears to be a useful weapon, and a possible second; and they will have to use some investigation to determine uses of the others.

Chaos drops to 7.

After two more sections of exploration the Peers have located a fresh exit. There’s no sign of the Monk. I do get an NPC action from the Academy.

Q: Has the Academy locked the area down? No.

Q: Do the Peers keep going? No.

Q: Do the Peers take a short rest? No.

So it’s back to the city hideout for a long rest, Chaos drops to 6 then 5 in these sections.

The treasure picked up can be examined during the long rest without any real loss of mage spells.

Session ends

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