Introducing a road trip up the Vale, with Dwarves.
Ikkutas, legendary realm of mountain Dwarves, lives on in tales passed down from one Dwarf generation to the next. Greedy tales, gloating tales. But the exact whereabouts of Ikkutas is lost. Supposedly, it was hewn from the mountains at the far end of the Vale.
This campaign uses deluxe Tunnels & Trolls edition. T&T’s 5th or ‘classic’ edition introduced me to roleplaying and I backed the KS for a deluxe edition.
The deluxe edition includes a plethora of options that a GM can choose to include or not. I am including Talents and Specialists but they are my own mashup of the options on offer. Changing the rules to suit is a proud T&T tradition.
All characters are Dwarf. Dwarf characters hailing from Esgaroth are allowed to have and develop backgrounds as talents, which work somewhat in the manner of H+I or BoL careers, though not anywhere near as core to tests. To prevent unnecessary complication, non-Esgaroth Dwarves do not develop talents.
To assist or speed up, I pre-generated six backgrounds from Character Webs, and two were used in the event. For the other Esgaroth Dwarf we rolled from Character Webs at the table.
Because Esgaroth and the Vale are analogous to fantasy-early-Renaissance, most backgrounds match a WFRPG2e background which allowed trappings to be simply dropped in. This short-cut became a crucial pivot in what the first session’s game would be like.
The cast of characters, following a short rollup where everyone tried a couple of times and opted for the least-bad result:
Fennec, wandering hedge-wizard: Wizards get all 1st-level spells by right. Fennec’s Intelligence (IQ) is only sufficient for Level 1 spells and his Wizardry (WIZ) of 9 permits only a few of those to be cast at one time. His combat adds are 13 and he begins at Level 2 based on highest attribute, Strength (STR).
Jotunn, outcast hunter: Jotunn rolled a specialist talent on CON and had the stats to be a Wizard so it was hard to assign him a Type. By rolling on CON-based backgrounds we came up with a solution. He is an outcast of the city Dwarf community who became a Ranger. At present the exact benefits and limitations of this talent are unfixed. His combat adds are 13 and Jotunn begins at Level 5 based on his CON. Jotunn knows Fennec.
Cauleigh, impoverished Burgher’s son: Warriors are able to add their level in extra dice in melee and get double effect from armour. Cauleigh’s Charisma (CHR), 9, marks him as the party Face. His combat adds are 13 and he begins at Level 3 based on his best attribute, Constitution (CON).
Grom, ne’er-do-well scribe: Rogues have no great ability but can use both weaponry and magic. They also get a bonus talent or background, something I forgot and the player didn’t notice, and will need to cover next session. Grom is ‘challenging’ to play as he is a Level 1. His combat adds are 2. Grom and Cauleigh know one another having been schooled together.
The campaign is designed to be run with an absolute minimum of GM prep. I have a number of aids of one kind or another, especially Village Backdrops, and hope to go into each session with very little noted in advance.
Session 1: A broomstick to Tigley
Act 1 scene 1
We open our first act in a courtyard below the high walls of Clan Anvilbreast. Cauleigh, impoverished Burgher’s son, sweeps the courtyard. To eke out a living he tutors fair Goneril of Anvilbreast and his feelings, as he glances to her high window, are less than platonic.
Children are playing and throwing things nearby and this interferes with the clean state Cauleigh has just got the place to. He attempts to chivvy them away, and as they are Dwarf children uses threats such as ‘I know your mum’. But nearby, a work gang is toiling over something that smells disgusting, and the children retreat no further than that supply of ammo!
Saving Rolls (SRs) are the engine for experience. Cauleigh is required to make a Level 1 SR, so needs to add the score of 2d6 (doubles add and roll over) to CHR and total at least 20.
Grom, a ragged ne’er-do-well whose parents lost their reputation as military engineers in the late wars, slouches into the courtyard. Grom lends Cauleigh a hand, and between the two of them they convince the kids to run away and not splatter them. The two exchange commiserations about their lack of funds.
Out by the work gang, two other Dwarves hurry by. Curious that he knows neither, Grom decides to follow and Cauleigh stops to bid a fond farewell to Goneril’s high-vaulting… something – but an Anvilbreast Arbalest-brother begins cranking his arbalest so Cauleigh moves on – to destiny!
Act 1 scene 2
We are introduced to the newcomers as they are delayed by a Guild procession. Ragged Jotunn lost his parents young, and after getting his schooling in a poor outlying village became a ranger, a most unusual career for a Dwarf. He carries a bowstock [I need to return to this and assign whichever missile weapon Jotunn can use to him. I imagine it will be a crossbow] and a brace of conies. He’s assured his tatty acquaintance Fennec, a wandering hedge-wizard, that they can get a meal and something besides for the skins.
Impatient at the delay – the conies and skins might just stretch to four hungry Dwarves – Cauleigh suggests they cut through the Cloth and Leather sectors. It works, though there is a near scrape when a priest of some seagoing god runs a frigid eye over them.
This short-cut gets the quartet around the Market which is usually a good thing to avoid. Especially for Dwarves with no gelt. They cut nippily across Coast Way and into the Flesher Yards. And there, things take a nasty turn.
It’s time for our ranger to try to find a curry brother or butcher that actually wants to buy rabbits or rabbit-skin. Not so easy. Being a kindly GM I still ask for a normal Level 1 Luck Saving Roll (L1 LK SR). Jotunn fails.
Act 1 scene 3
Time draws out and as the day grows longer some butcher ‘prentices decide to confront our heroes.
Combat in a city lane
Combat in dT&T is very different to most rpgs. Each combat round is a notional two minutes. Missiles and magic can affect individual targets inside the combat and at the same time, each ‘side’ amasses its effect, usually expressed by dice+adds.
For example Cauleigh sums up the situation and as an experienced warrior, leaps into action with a casual word and a punch to the gut. He rolls 2d6 as a Dwarf plus 3d6 for his level as a warrior. 5d6 plus his combat adds of 13.
Jotunn hands Fennec his rabbits and wades in gamely with his bowstock, but Grom holds back, slipping a knife out of his belt and watching for a chance to sneak around and hamstring someone. I ask an SR on Speed (SPD) from Grom, who fails. He will not be out of range of any damage.
Foes in dT&T are often, but not always, expressed as ‘Monster Rating’ (MR). This allows some shortcuts for the GM.
The apprentices each have a MR of 15 and there are five, for a total of MR 75. In total the GM rolls 8d6 (MR/10, plus 1) and adds half the MR as adds, so 37.
Meanwhile Fennec cunningly throws an Oh Go Away at one apprentice – he turns tail and flees! But Fennec only decided on this tactic once the fight began, so all fire prentices are counted in round one.
The warrior and ranger’s effects are totalled and the Dwarves are beaten convincingly. They share 20 damage around. If they had armour, that would be nothing.
The tussle goes to a second round, and a couple of things happen:
- The fleeing prentice reduces his side’s fighting ability;
- Nearby stallholders begin to shout at the prentices
The Dwarves survive the second round, achieving a draw as Grom chips in with his own fists. Both sides share ‘spite damage’ which occurs when a 6 is rolled – a single point comes off the other side regardless of armour.
Then the prentices retreat.
Sadly Fennec has taken damage and the conies have been trampled into the muck of the Flesher Yards’ lanes.
“Bring ‘em back to my sister’s – we’ll skin them and get a meal, at least,” Cauleigh urges.
As they slog back tiredly Jotunn briefs Fennec on using magic in the city and confirms he was wise to use non-lethal magic. Fennec’s WIZ, depleted by casting the spell, will recover over the next tens of minutes. Since it was all fisticuffs the damage taken in the fight will also recover fairly quickly.
Act 2 scene 1
This scene brings out the four characters’ reason for seeking Ikkutas. It is a requirement of the campaign. I have to say some reasons are weak.
By an odd circumstance Fennec the outlander has the strongest motive. His background sets himself as an orphan who was raised by his hermit-wizard grandfather. In the dusty tomes of the retreat Fennec read about ancient Ikkutas and has arrived intent on finding it.
The others basically fall into line behind the idea. They all need money and being broke away from Esgaroth is cheaper than being broke in Esgaroth. So much for ‘inspired by takes of ancient Dwarven glory!’
But in order to mount any non-idiotic attempt, all except Fennec need some equipment.
I push an adventure hook out to Jotunn at this point. There are many options but his background as an orphan makes Raging Swan Press’s Village Backdrop: Tigley a good one.
“Come to think of it, I did hear that my old orphanage is in trouble. And there was something about hunting goblins for money, too. At the time I thought nah, not a one-Dwarf job but with four of us…”
“Where’s your orphanage then?”
“Tigley’s out south-east, in the marsh.”
It is time to gather their belongings – a very easy task since they own very little – and hit the road. Cauleigh wrenches the straws off his broom and is thus equipped with a mighty light staff, 2d6 in combat. Grom begs Cauleigh’s sister for anything heftier than a knife. She warns him it’s a girly weapon and loans him her distaff. 2d6 plus shame for using it.
It is night, a good time for attempting to leave the city without attracting attention or taxes. There are at least two options.
“Let’s try the tunnels under the ghetto first,” they decide. “If we get it right we can slip out beyond the new wall.”
Act 2 scene 2
The descent is simple enough. There are two Dwarf ghettoes in Esgaroth, and there’s no reason to think that Cauleigh lives in the oldest, more enclosed one. They head to the tunnel defenders.
And a CHR SR sends them back, unsuccessful.
“That leaves us with the Coast Way, it would be silly to head out the Dwarf Way then have to walk right round.”
“So three options. We can try the debateable land out by New Wall and that’s an unknown. We can try along Old Wall, pass above all the hovels and get straight to Coast Way near where we were earlier today; or we could just walk the same way we went today and keep heading out.”
The quartet is a democracy so far – although Cauleigh’s opinions and gabbiness tend to give his vote a bit more weight – and they vote for Wall Street.
Act 2 scene 3
Night on Wall Street (it’s an ancient wall, which is just used as an elevated street now) can be very quiet, but at this stage I draw a couple of Urban cards to see if anything really happens.
Some type of magic ceremony is heard and seen off in a grove south of Wall Street. I’m interested to see if Jotunn will explore his magical heritage. He doesn’t but complains after the game that he has no idea what his magic is.
I also draw a roadblock, literally.
“Hey – where’s the street gone?”
“Oh, I remember now – this is the new aqueduct. They cut it through here.”
“But this is a lucky break! We can just follow it south!”
And so they do. Unremarked by anyone except a work crew, who pay no attention. But the aqueduct ends at a pumping-house and they don’t have the skills to go further.
They clamber down and find themselves at the gate on Coast Way.
How lucky are they? With luck the guards will be a Uruk or a Hobb that just doesn’t care who’s leaving and why. I ask for LK SRs all round. Grom comes through, making L1.
“What kind of guard would you prefer?” I ask. Grom opts for a Hobb. Since he only made L1 there’s one Hobb, and one human.
The Dwarves roleplay successfully, the human suggests they consider a career in the city guard – “we have low standards” – and the Hobb seems to quite like the idea of helping orphans for cash. They head out with a 10 Adventure Point (AP) bonus for navigating past a potential problem.
I remind my players of my AP policy. You get AP for SRs and for avoiding trouble. No AP for combat. This campaign is not combat-oriented.
Act 3 scene 1
A marsh. The Dwarves can see Tigley’s landmark rock – it’s built on it, above the wetlands around it – but can’t see a way of getting across the stream to the village.
“Let’s try further south,” someone opines hopefully.
At this stage the ranger takes over. He lived here, and all he has to do is find a likely ford…
Dawn finds four muddy freezing Dwarves (with 5 damage off CON each) still stranded on the wrong side of the stream. But in the light of day the ranger decides on his Talent.
Tracking is one of the tight-focus talents that are possible. It’s an obvious one for a ranger too.
He immediately spots boar tracks…
“And hey, goblin tracks!”
A hard slog back north and the tired, hungry Dwarves are looking over the broad stream, where a couple of lads are fishing in coracles, to the slope leading to the village.
They bargain – leaning heavily on the ‘here to help’ angle – and the lads agree to take them across on tick and be paid later. They owe the debt to Fit Rogar’s son.
Act 3 scene 2
It has been many years since Jotunn played around the Stone’s Throw with fellow orphans. He remembers a Father Isaak visiting and Ella being Matron. But being human, both have probably passed on by now.
The four drag themselves up the steep granite slope of the Stack, as it’s known, and – haunted by the smell of bacon frying – try the biggest building. Their luck is in, and it is the village worship hall and community meeting house, and Fr. Isaak is still alive!
And so is Matron Ella, the priest reveals as the Dwarves chow down on sausages. [Their cold/tired damage will recover swiftly from now.] Her proper name is Matron Ella Hinge. Recently her son led an expedition against the goblins and did not return. The stress has caused Matron Hinge and her husband Silas to separate.
So, the two known problems seem to be the same. Now for some bargaining and equipping!
With a party debt of 5 silver pieces the Dwarves are now much better equipped. The 5sp also takes into account any number of crossings between the Stack and Stone’s Throw. The locals charge for using the bridge (well, they are in the greater Esgaroth area)!
Club: this 3d6 weapon is cheap and effective. Cauleigh and (after some prompting) Grom take one each.
Knife: a simple fishing knife will deal 2d6. Fennec and Jotunn have one each.
Staff: a length of timber very similar to Cauleigh’s broomstick will allow Fennec to create a focus. It will burn out after a few spells but is better than nothing.
Flax kits: the local wetland is an ample source of flax and these simple bags will do for storing food.
Chow: Dried fish, roasted beet, and a round of bacon-fat bulk out the kit but guarantee at least a day’s grub.
They also have a lead, since Jotunn spotted those goblin tracks…
[My own version of encumbrance follows the rules pretty closely but I’ll also keep an eye on unwieldy items. Cauleigh will need to drop his traveling-stick-and-kit so as not to get tangled up, if it comes to a fight.]
Act 3 Scene 3
The evening’s highlight – apart from fun roleplaying – arrives as Jotunn is asked to make an open-ended roll on IQ.
Most SRs are to a particular level, and that level is the multiplier for AP. An open-ended roll will net you the multiplier you get to. In T&T SRs, doubles add and roll over (DARO).
Jotunn’s player starts rolling and with a double-one begins a string of doubles that gets to 19, Level 3 on his IQ or 57 AP in one go!
With this I hand him an advantage.
“I remember enough of the lie of the land now – these goblins and boars are bound to be going down to Dudney Chasm.”
“We can head around to one flank of the woods and not just walk down their trail.”
Act 4 scene 1
I ask for party order since the Dwarves are now filing through woods and are not on an open trail of any kind.
Jotunn is in the lead followed by Cauleigh and then we have Fennec with the sharp-eared Grom as rearguard. A brave move since his abilities are Level 1.
However, Grom does manage to react as a twig cracks under a goblin foot!
Combat in difficult terrain
T&T combat can easily be adapted to different environments. The important question is, do the players react quickly?
Whoom!! There’s a bright purple flash and burst of sound as Fennec sends a Take That You Fiend (TTYF) into a goblin. This will both add to combat and have an effect win or lose. It’s the staple of combat wizards because it gets better with IQ and multiplies up at higher levels.
Meanwhile Grom and Cauleigh fetch their cudgels to the foe and the wounded goblin falls. The other turns to flee.
It’s SPD SR vs DEX SR as Cauleigh hurls his club at the retreating foe. Cauleigh – just – manages L2 which is enough at point blank range with no distractions. The damage is inflicted directly on the goblin, who dies.
dT&T does not use ‘missile adds’ – if you hit with a missile you just roll the weapon dice and add the adds. Much simpler all round.
The Dwarves catch their breath and realize these were only two random goblins. But they must be close to the Chasm. More importantly, there is an upgrade on offer.
No money and the goblin rags are no better than Jotunn’s rags.
Two short sabres of inferior goblin make. Cauleigh and Grom upgrade anyway, because steel is cooler than wood. They will be worth 3d6 – until they break.
Two goblin knives, slightly more suited to fighting than fishing knives and utility knives. They will be worth 2d6+1.
The cry comes from Grom, who has keen ears for danger. He has heard the grumphing of a boar and the complaining of goblins. Trouble is nigh!
And we left the session there. Normally I’d hope to complete an adventure of this nature in a session but chargen took about half the session. Everyone had fun although Jotunn’s player complained about his lack of magical ability. To be sorted out by email over the next few days hopefully!
Creighton Broadhurst and Steve Hood, Raging Swan Press’ Village Backdrops
Ste Coffey and Loz Hensel: Concept Cards’ Urban Locations
Esgaroth is mostly my creation and is archived here.