Chapter eight of The Broken Land continues…
A DCC/Mythic solo play (with other emulators as required)
Episode Four: Secrets of Gold Hill
Strange barely begins to describe events surrounding the Ironbridge rogues Binye, Borer and Elyn. Here at the Gold Hill Trading Post, they’ve seen through the facade of ‘rough wilderness trading post’ and are wondering how far to push their luck against what seems to be a renegade rogues guild.
Enter the chaplain
Next mealtime, things change. An empty plate is set in front of each of them. Obviously, they’ve crossed someone. But who? Stedd seemed OK. Elyn doesn’t think telling the innkeeper not to serve them is his style.
So far, they haven’t paid much attention to the innkeeper, just noticing in passing she’s a striking woman and seems popular with any number of patrons.
The other three elect Elyn to speak to the innkeeper. So she does, and learns something that both makes perfect sense and is hard to believe, all at once. But for the meantime…
“We’ve just signed on to do a couple of jobs for the innkeeper – and she’s also the chaplain here.”
“How’s thet work?”
“I guess they’re not big on praying much?”
Food is duly issued and they spend the remainder of the day innocently getting the lay of the land. Their missions (as far as Elyn knows) involve finding some fungi deep in the caverns, and maybe sorting out some evil.
“She was pretty vague… do well with the first mission, then we’ll see, sort of thing.”
“Aside fr’m not havin’ ta roust out our own grub, any r’ason we sh’d he’p her?”
“She does seem ta know quite a lot about th’ area, trails and such.”
“Waal I guess that means we just b’come good l’il parishonners then.”
A good size section of the hill is occupied by constabulary, and they don’t allow normal travellers inside. Some other parts are walled off, leading to monster-riddled depths. In the inn sections, there’s a couple of well-appointed chambers for visiting swells, and at present there’s one such party. Noone that knows, is saying who they are. It’s Elyn’s understanding, or intuition, that the chaplain isn’t happy about this party.
Outside, not far away from the hill, there’s an overgrown, fenced-off Boot Hill. It’s rumoured that insane necromancers (plural) roused undead and they haunt the place to this day.
A kiss goodbye
Lucky sneaks into Elyn’s room that night.
“Elyn? I got yore signal.”
“Lucky! I can’t sleep. C’mere…”
Lucky makes her way into Elyn’s bedroll and easily grabs Elyn’s wrist as she attempts a knife-stab. Then pins the other wrist. Lucky’s eyes glint greenish yellow in the dark.
“Did ya really wanna see me go thet badly? Silly girl!”
Lucky focuses her eyes on Elyn’s and whispers some instructions. Then she stoops her neck and kisses Elyn deeply. She lifts her lips from Elyn’s and the rogue’s eyes widen with fear. Lucky shakes her head in gentle negation.
“I ain’t drunk no more of ya vitality. B’lieve what-summever that chaplain sez if ya want – I like ya, Elyn girl an’ I don’t mean ya no harm.”
“But you did drain us, right?”
“Yeah… I guess th’ boys kinda couldn’t let me be. But with you, it wuz jest thet one time in th’ cabin, fust time we met. T’ain’t thet I do it special… s’just a nat’r’l fact.
“Waal, guess this’s g’bye.”
Elyn feels her wrists released and Lucky vanishes.
How all this happens
Way back as soon as they met Lucky I started getting strong sexual readings on Mythic results. At first I assume Lucky being a girl accounts for it. But the dice are telling me all three are attracted to her.
At this point the general introduction to Gold Hill, the ex-boyfriend and so on all happens. All through this I check if Lucky is still around and it seems all three rogues are still happy with her presence (and getting jealous of each other). In fact, they see her as their property.
With the new day, things (as far as rolls go) seem to have intensified if anything. Then it strikes me:
Mythic: Is Lucky a succubus? (Likely) Yes, and cascades to trick friendship.
LOC: What are the succubus’ plans? This triple-cascades. It gives me quite a lot to work with, but I’ll let that come out later. The main point at this stage is that it’s not immediate.
The chaplain, who is described in broad strokes in Hamlet, enters as ‘Introduce a new NPC’. She, too, has her own plans. A number of rolls, Mythic and LOC, point me to gathering some fungi from the forbidden caverns, and also ridding the rogues of their succubus. She does not plan to destroy the succubus, just drive her away. Elyn takes matters into her own hands with results as seen.
Mythic: Have Binye and Borer lost 2 levels? (somewhat likely) Yes.
Did Elyn lose a level in that last scene? (50-50) No.
Does Lucky quit? (50-50) Yes.
Chaos is 7.
Careful as you go
The chaplain hands torches down to the rogues once they find firm footing in the underground stream that runs swiftly through the rearmost passages of the inn complex.
“I ain’t sure how hard it’ll be. Y’all seem real resourceful. Some miners once met critters that rusted their picks, so watch out for that. An’ may the Lady protect ya.”
Each rogue must make at least STR or AGI as they fight the current. Binye makes both, and leads the way upstream.
Chaos falls to 6
The tracks in the stream
It’s stiff going, especially for Borer, but his raw strength keeps him steady. A few minutes upriver, the current becomes easier to manage: the stream here is broader, and runs over a sandy bottom. Left and right, a broad passage can be seen. This then is a natural ford.
“Tracks,” Binye comments, as quietly as he can over the stream.
The others join him and try to guess what the marks in the sand might have been made by. But the stream’s swift pace has made that impossible.
Binye’s d+ is not enough to make up for his nat 1.
“I guess… other people?”
“If we turn right, that will be into the complex kind of area.”
“Sounds okeydoke. Let’s go.”
Chaos falls to 5
Harvest and a hidden message
Their guess proves inspired. A branch or two later the rogues enter a large cavern where the damp walls grow abundant fungi.
Elyn guides the other two, they all fill sacks up. Mission accomplished!
“Say…” Elyn drawls casually, “the job’s so easy I guess th’ chaplain ain’t expectin’ us back fer a whiles.”
“Whyn’t we explore a mite? Reckon I’d like ta know if there’s an escape tunnel.”
Instead of heading back downstream to safety, they ford across, set the fungi down where they can pick it up on the way back, and head deeper into the unknown.
Chaos rises to 6
That hidden door
Almost immediately, Binye spots something about the right-hand rock wall. He passes his torch close to it, then runs his hand over it.
“This hyar’s a door.”
Borer agrees and the two manipulate the rock open. A cunningly-concealed rock passage leads to an impressive set of double valves, with a massive relief of an skeletal scythe-wielding deity.
“Yeah… let’s jest leave this, OK?”
“Sounds good. Mebbe if’n th’ chaplain’s keen ta join in…”
The three head away, close the rock door and make a tiny mark to show where they can find the pressure point that opens it.
I check if they can notice this extremely well-concealed secret door with a ‘no way’ and get a yes. Binye gets to 21 on find trap. The decision to leave the temple of evil alone is a ‘has to be’ and I get a Yes!
Chaos rises to 7
Although Borer and Elyn notice signs of something rigged, and Binye leaps nimbly back out of the way of the falling net, the warning noise gadgets tied to the rope have jangled and a dozen goblins rush out ready for battle! But several of them look familiar:
“Elyn? Binye! Dwarf Borer!”
Noregz? Zab? And’s thet Gbus back theer?
It’s not exactly old home week back on the simple bedding of the goblins. For one thing, they didn’t part exactly weeping on one another’s necks and vowing to see each other again! For another thing, there are a couple more new faces, local goblins apparently, who know the waterways and tunnels between this and Ignorick’s halls.
Beareen is once more the spokes-goblin. She explains the current scheme:
Gold Hill is the obvious profitable market here – even used and looted goods are being sold off well above normal prices. But the constables deal with only two types of customer – ‘official’ customers from the uruk lord’s stronghold, and wanderers. The goblins want to set themselves up as middlemen, moving goods between here and Ignorick’s halls, making money both ways.
“So ya want us ta negotiate, on commission,” Elyn suggests.
“Aye, the best deal gets the best price. And we still have many things to sell, if the humans will buy. Some things we could offer, to get a deal agreed.”
Beareen points to a variety of loot that they patiently packed out of Ignorick’s halls. Most of it, stuff the rogues looted for the goblins.
“And if we get a straight-up no?”
“Maybe… the next in line, has a broader view of commerce? Bad things might happen to the boss.”
Goblins, and hobgoblins, are part of the Gloaming backdrop. This is a set-piece as the caves are explored. But it makes sense that goblin traders would try to get a piece of the high-priced sales here, before they go deeper into the broken land. I ask:
Mythic: Are our old goblins among these goblins? (Somewhat Likely) Yes.
LOC: What do they want? Stop legal, block masses – which I read, and confirm using Mythic, as disrupting the existing trade status quo to get their own piece of the action.
Mythic: So the goblins see the rogues as a threat? (50-50) No
As employable? (50-50) Yes
Will the goblins ask the rogues to act against the constable? (Likely) Yes
And bargain for the deal? Yes.
Chaos rises to 8
The arms dealers
The scene, the constabulary’s well-appointed assembly-cave. Although the bare rock can be glimpsed here and there, the constables have made efforts to make the chamber seem a genuine lodge-hall, with raised dais and broad assembly floor.
The constable, a senior thief beholden to Lady Danforth for this lucrative position, hosts a visiting priest, intermediary for Lady Danforth. Stedd is the constable’s second, and they are served by two pretty female constables, apprentice rogues to the renegade guild.
For his part, the priest has two trusted fellow-traitors with him, one the caravan captain, the other the weapon-master.
They have approached the constable direct, because Lady Danforth needs a crisis in the principality, and her previous plan for an attack on Joseph’s Inlet has fallen through. The current proposal is for a fair deal: high-quality weapons supplied in exchange for an attack by uruk forces. The constable will have to be go-between, since he’s in position here.
“Make sure they understand that the attack on Joseph’s Inlet is a show of goodwill – then the weapons will be released,” the priest concludes. The constable shakes his head, but he’s not really in a position to decline.
“I ain’t sure I got th’ kinda bargainin’ power y’all think ah do, but I guess if’n her ladyship is willin’ ta see ever’thin’ go ta shit over some pig in a poke deal, I ain’t got no say.”
This is a scene shift, remote event, and the meaning ‘haggle weapons’ allows me to pull out more of what’s happening behind the scenes. The priests’ definition comes later in the story but I’ve added him back in here.
Chaos rises to 9
Cavern of the chaos beasts
It’s some time later. The rogues, fungi delivered and with a restoration ceremony agreed on, are heading upstream once more.
As the light from their torches illuminates a natural cavern right, two monstrous forms rise onto hind legs, screech horribly from beaks like huge owls, and lumber on bear-like bodies to the stream – and into it!
Owlbears: Init+1, Attck+6 beak or +4 claw, ACT2d20, 5HD, 23hp each.
Initiatives: Owlbears, rogues, owlbears
Round 1: Do the owlbears advance into the stream? (unlikely) yes. Both owlbears miss, one fumbling, though not in any serious way. The rogues do not panic! Borer drops his torch to use Harken, but Borer and Elyn keep their torches. Binye slips as he slices up with a silver axe, but aside from getting wetter, recovers and falls back. Borer slices one deeply with Harken and Elyn immediately stabs that one, then [crits, extra attack, crits on that] jams the sword blade right in, killing the beast outright! Then she and Borer fall back too. The remaining owlbear seems to not care [ML fine] and follows.
Round 2: Its next slicing claws also miss, and Borer and Elyn hit again. The three rogues pull back, the owlbear follows.
Round 3: Again, the owlbear cannot connect. Borer and Elyn once again strike with telling blows [Elyn burning LCK] and it dies.
Rounds 4-: the rogues guide the carcasses to float or tumble down to the goblin landing. Binye and goblins that have relevant skills skin the two carcasses.
Chaos falls to 8
Do we pretend to be owlbears?
Once regaining the owlbear cavern, the rogues search warily. It seems as though the beasts were let out through a cage door here.
There’s nothing of value to be found.
“So… I don’t see no good comin’ a’ waitin’ hyar.”
“Yeah, I cain’t think of none neither. Let’s head on upstream.”
Chaos falls to 7
Episode Five: We really gotta stop gettin’ taken prisoner – but consider the alternative
The constabulary are not amused
It all goes well until Elyn gets confused about Stedd. Binye sighs and looks at Elyn across the prison cell:
“Jest ’cause ya used ta bump pelvises, ain’t no good thinkin’ he owes ya none.”
“Yeah, whaddya thinkin’ yelling out Stedd, Stedd, whar are ya ma darlin’,” Borer growls.
“I did not!! All I did – an’ I didn’t notice you sayin’ not ta – was call softly, ta see if he was around.”
“Anyhoo, rackon we git outta hyar, report no dice ta Beareen, see if we c’n claim somethin’.”
“Well… can ya wait for a couple hours? I got me an idea, jest take one person ta creep quiet-like. Pretend I’m still here, if anyone goes by.”
A number of secret doors are navigated as the rogues make their way past the constable’s secret getaway on the stream, and into the back portion of the constabulary halls. Unluckily they miss the vital secret door, to the constable himself. They reach the same well-appointed reception/assembly hall we saw above. Since Elyn also spoke to Stedd here, I ask: does Elyn yell out for Stedd? Yes. At this point, I use UNE to generate how the constable approaches the break-in. Surprisingly he would advise harmony. So Elyn takes a d+ into her PRS check. She gets a good roll. She then takes the advantage to a negotiation, on behalf of the goblins. Possibly Lucky’s secret instruction is at work here, but Elyn rolls a total of 3. The constable scores 12. No deal!
Are the rogues imprisoned? (50-50) Yes.
Chaos rises to 8
Under a watchful eye
The warders are watchful but courteous. It’s more of a house arrest than prison cell. The rogues take advantage of this and soon, the warders are sleeping soundly.
“I got it from here,” Elyn reminds the other two. “Just snore loudly and look a lot.”
“‘Member, th’ constable come out b’hind us,” Borer reminds her as she slips away into shadow.
Some time later, she returns.
“I got some good news, an’ some bad.”
“Whut’s th’ bad news?”
“We prob’ly still gotta slip inta uruk territory an’ scout a path.”
“An’ whut’s th’ good news?”
“I overheerd a lot of what’s really goin’ on here. Seems like one of them Dolem’s Spire factions is tryin’ ta start a war – somethin’ like Gorgun found in th’ shaman’s letter. This Lady Danforth is behind it all.
“Oh,” she continues, “an’ I poisoned th’ constable’s secret door. Happ’n he falls fer it, Stedd might step in, or happ’n he don’t, we ain’t gonna be blamed.”
How this happens
Chaos check is fine, for a change. The rogues plan to slip out.
Mythic: have they kept the poison from the bandit, Brad? (50-50) Yes. This is a sleeping potion. Elyn makes her handle poison check.
She gets a great stealth check – for a change – and slips past the assembly room into the rear passage the constable had to have come from.
Mythic: Does she ready a trap? (50-50) Yes.
Mythic: Is the constable ever watchful? (V Unlikely) No.
However, he does easily make his spot trap: he’s a L10 Thief after all!
Mythic: Does he get paranoid? (Likely) Yes.
LOC: Who does he blame? Coolly powerful cascading to delay legal. He blames the Danforth cleric, and delays the uruk-weapon deal.
This is the stage I actually generate the Danforth spokesman, and find out about the conversation. The focus of the conversation is the last scene, so Elyn hears the terms of the deal rehashed.
Chaos falls to 7.
The reckless prison break
The three rogues decide to take the opportunity to exit in the confusion, taking any of their gear that they could find to hand. But the alarm is raised as they leave.
“Shit! We’re not gonna get a second pass! Let’s git th’ hell out!”
Luck is with Borer. As they frantically look about for any kind of weapon, he sees a heavy mallet.
“Foller me! I got me a ruse!”
They pound through the passage to the escape boat, and Borer levels a mighty blow at the door.
“Borer no! That’s a trap!” Elyn shrieks.
“Shuddup an’ ack like we run down it!”
The door open, Borer whips left and opens the secret door they emerged from originally.
“We go through an’ th’ deadfall on the other passage falls…”
He throws the mallet through into the false passage, the three head through the secret door and close it as a mighty thumping signals a deadfall in the false passage.
“Shall we take th’ boat?”
“Don’t be stoopid! If we leave even a trace, they gonna know we ain’t flattened and daid.”
Away they head, downstream afoot and virtually weaponless.
This escape scene starts off fine, then Binye fumbles his very first sneak roll.
LOC: What’s to hand? Aggressively dull. It’s a mallet.
LOC: What can Borer do? Deceive portals, cascading to block pain.
Mythic: Do they make the pursuers believe they are squashed in the fake escape passage? (Likely) Yes.
Mythic: Do they slip away leaving the boat? (50-50) Yes.
Mythic: Do they reach the lair safely? (50-50) Yes.
Chaos falls to 6, since they escaped.
Will the goblins help?
Within minutes they creep across, tired from the flight, to report to Beareen. They haven’t quite thought this through – but the goblins will expect a report. Elyn does her best, but even the best gloss on it is “there’s a big weapon deal going on, and we delayed it.”
The goblins aren’t specially pleased – but on the bright side, they aren’t vindictive. Perhaps they had no great expectations. Noregz suggests if the rogues do want to get out, they can use the passage back to Ignorick’s halls the goblins used to get here. He points two passages out, both useful.
But as for getting a share of treasure – that wasn’t the deal!
Lacking any brilliant scheme to turn things around, the rogues slink back to report to the chaplain, and ask about restoration.
There are no rolls required here, other than using LOC to see what Noregz (or any other sympathetic goblin) might suggest, and get: coolly lonely. I already checked the goblin attitude in the previous meeting so leave it at ‘you go your way, we go ours.’
Chaos falls to 5
All three threads are still more or less open. The rogues have reported back, in part; they’ve learned quite alarming news about the danforth plot which really is more urgent than scouting a location, and they’ve learned enough about the white urukin to rule him out as being identical to the uruk lord.
AP: Since finding their way into the wilderness, Binye and Borer dropped to level 2 (I slipped and fell into a succubus) and Elyn dropped to level 3 (I only fell into a succubus once, what was your excuse for the second time?)
But they have gained 11AP since.