The Broken Land: Fire in the Fog Temple!

Chapter One of the Broken Land continues…

A DCC/Mythic solo play

Episode 4: Fire in the Fog Temple

The characters for this episode:

Elyn: STR10 AGI6 LCK13 STA8 INT12 PRS10 (SPD10)

Riba: STR6 AGI16 LCK8 STA10 INT13 PRS10 (SPD10)

Win: STR10 AGI10 LCK11 STA10 INT11 PRS11 (SPD8)

Borer: STR13 AGI11 LCK14 STA10 INT7 PRS9 (SPD9)

Dag: STR9 AGI13 LCK13 STA7 INT9 PRS9 (SPD8)

When we last left these five reluctant heroes, they had turned from the stony path through the fens, and along the makeshift path that heads left, or roughly north-west, away from their original course.

SPOILERS AHEAD!! If you think you may play the Shrouded Fen DCC adventure, read no further!

Prelude: The Wrong Path

The mist closes around them as they struggle along.

“Think we mighta chose wrong,” Borer the Dwarf comments grimly, then adds “don’t get me wrong: too late ta head back an’ scrape an apology to Z-man.”

“I got a hint he had a private scheme cooking,” Win comments. Then starts coughing.

“What’s gotten inta ya?” Borer asks, then wheezes himself. The others are convulsed with coughing as swamp gas penetrates their lungs, and only Borer is none the worse.

Swamp gas random encounter: Fort SV missed all round, except by Borer: d6 off STA for all those failing! Not hard to fail as everyone has a penalty on SV while off the true path!

They push on through the mist, barely managing to stay on the crude trail. There’s no way of knowing what dangers or possible treasure they may be missing. But after some two or three hours a swarm of fly- or ant-like things buzzes up and over them.

Borer cries in alarm: “They’re gnawing the wood!” For these are not flies nor flying ants – they are flying termites! Borer is left with a mere iron lump instead of a useful hammer, and is back to makeshift weapons.

Refl SV DC 12 to avoid termites – Borer misses. I also check that if anyone did bring Walt’s pitchfork hoping to use it, it is also rendered near-useless.

The five soon reach what seems to be a foul black river, a hut visible on the far side. But before they can probe the bank to check for means of crossing, an ancient crone appears among them!

This is Nahweeha, ancient inhabitant and keeper of secrets of the fen. She reproves them for leaving the swamp-beast’s path.

Mythic: Does Nahweeha warn them back? (Very likely) Yes!

The path clears behind them as she warns them not to return.

 

Fire in the Fog Temple!

The return of the five to the cross-trail and march in the wake of their other four comrades is without incident. They arrive at a peculiarly-designed temple or ziggurat. They can see at least one flight of stone steps up to what appears to be a flat top. Faint sounds of combat can be heard!

Mythic: Do they hurry up the steps to help? (Likely) Yes. (Chaos is 6.)

But what lies at the top is in fact 40′ square surface surrounded by 10′ parapets, pierced in the centre of each parapet by identical steps. Internal steps also descend through the flat surface at the four corners, though one corner is rubble. Perhaps even more sinister, the ochre fog seems to emanate from another corner stair.

A floating portal suggests the way the other four may have gone… but the portal also displays a very obvious large keyhole and they have no key.

That leaves a choice of two stairs inward. The team breaks up into sub-teams. At one stair, there’s still an intact gate, though in poor condition. As Elyn struggles to deal with the lock [makes a poor open locks roll] Riba calls from the other stair that it seems open. Then there’s a cry of alarm!

Mythic: I make a ’50-50′ check on whether the gated stair will be tried and a ‘likely’ on the open stair. Both are yes. So I just pick the more likely two rogues to try them.

Riba’s descent: The final stage, involving rungs, is trapped. After descending most of the way, a rung gives way and a DC16 Refl SV is required! Riba misses and falls but burns LK to reduce damage to 1 from a 15′ drop.

A note on bending the DCC rule on LK check: when I ran a DCC funnel for live players I received a complaint that damage was so lethal it was sure death. I don’t exactly ‘get’ DCC’s LK check rules but have extended them so that when a rogue receives harsh damage she can get a smaller dice reroll result if she makes a LK check. As per rules, this costs 1 LK though these rogues will easily recover it.

Mythic: Will they jump to help? (No way!) Yes!

“Riba’s fallen!”

“He has the only armour!”

Jump checks: Elyn and Dag successfully jump down and can help.

Combat!

Giant camo-geckos are lurking on the ceiling and make their attack on characters on the ground below.

Init+2 (+4 surprise), +2 bite, d5 dmge, AC12, hp 8 each.

Initiatives: 

  • Geckos 21
  • Elyn 10
  • Dag 5
  • Riba 4

Round 1: One gecko hits Riba – he is out. The other misses.

Round 2: Elyn and Dag both hit while Win manages a safe drop. Damage to the gecko is 7. The geckos pretend to flee.

Round 3: Borer makes a successful drop. Riba makes a crit LK burn and revives, on 1hp. The crit nullifies this second LK burn. 

Loot! Aside from the decaying corpses of two previous would-be heroes, the chamber contains a short sword and a pitchfork. These are gratefully swooped on by the weapon-deprived rogues! They also find a set of thieves tools, and a scroll tube. Through the bars of the cell gate that seals this chamber from a tunnel beyond, a black robe can be glimpsed hanging up on a peg. It’s not far from the bars.

Mythic: Do they search for alternative exits? (Somewhat likely) Yes! 

They all have a  go based on the exceptional yes result and on a DC14 Int check, Elyn finds one.

Mythic: Does someone try to hook the robe? (Likely) Yes.

Using the pitchfork, lifting the robe from its peg is but the work of a moment and revealed, hooked on the peg, is a set of keys!

Loot division: Riba is familiar with a shortsword and claims that as his prize. Win takes the pitchfork. (It’s a d7 weapon and will break on a fumble.) Elyn takes the thieves tools. Borer tucks the scroll away, and that leaves Dag to operate keys.

“We’re safe enough from whatever’s through the bars,” Elyn says encouragingly, “let’s explore this secret tunnel!”

Mythic: The question of the tunnel is ‘has to be’. Yes. 

As Elyn begins exploring the tunnel, the camo-geckos renew their attack!

Combat!

Initiatives: This time all the available four rogues are well ahead of the geckos.

Win’s pitchfork kills the injured camo-gecko, and Borer clocks the other one with his makeshift hammer. It retreats. Riba fumbled with the short-sword and puts some minutes in cleaning the hand-grip.

Elyn resumes her passage of the tunnel and pushes open a stone panel letting into a decayed storeroom. Thick dust partly masks detritus on the floor. There are is one exit, a door reached through an exit bay: however, the wall left of the secret tunnel is honeycombed with holes.

“Don’t worry – look – the dust is thick in those holes,” Riba reassures Elyn. “Whatever made them is long gone.”

Mythic: Is a search made of the floor? Yes! All five search.

A search among the dust on the floor reveals:

  • A vial of poison;
  • A vial of hallucinogen;
  • A whetstone that when used, upgrades an edged weapon one dice up; it can be used only once per weapon.

Checking that neither poison nor hallucinogen are drunk (they aren’t) I note that the short sword is a d8; and test whether they go back to the bars of the previous room, or move on through this one.

Dag leads the way back and uses his set of keys to open the cell. It’s a broad and dark area. Riba and Binye light a torch. Three stone tables are found, the nearest with a frayed doll on it. A number of tools and (possibly) torture devices are arrayed on pegs. They are old but usable. The rogues seize, as they search,  a crow-bar, knives, a whip and a blackjack. Now they all have d4 throw weapons. A tunnel extends south but appears caved in; another leads in the direction of the other chamber, with the dust on the floor, and past it east. Further east, there’s a broad bay left, to double-doors, then the tunnel extends to a final door right.

Mythic: Do they probe the cave-in? (Unlikely) No!

Mythic: Do they all check the double doors? (50-50) Yes.

With two torches they can see wisps of ochre fog bleeding through cracks between and under the doors. The doors themselves have been badly damaged by an axe or similar implement.

Mythic: Do they dare open the doors? (50-50) Yes.

DC12 STR check is required to force the doors.

Borer steps to the doors and makes a good flat-foot kick at the middle: something cracks and the doors sag open. They move in…

From inside light of a different kind comes from above.Black oozes down, over a dead woman. Beyond her, stone benches carry more female corpses.

A ghostly form rushes screeching from the corpse, and the next nearest corpse, leaving its head behind, begins fumbling its way off its bench!

In the frozen moment of horror the rogues spot that black ooze is getting into each corpse’s head and creating the mist. A huge stone face opposite is weeping dark tears which form glowing blue drops that evaporate before hitting the ground. Ropes and chains lie fallen in all directions.

Mythic is used to frame tactical options:

Do they flee? (Likely) No.

Do they suspect the tears are some type of antidote (Very unlikely) No!

Do they start gathering rope> (Somewhat likely) Yes.

Do they ask the ghost what she wants? (50-50) No.

Combat!

This is the ghost of Etiyane, the main cause of the curse. Init+3, Atk+6 for a ‘fogburst’ shock attack or +4 for either a ‘dominate’ attack or a ‘drain’ attack. 26hp and immune to normal weapons.

Initiatives:

  • Elyn, Riba;
  • Etiyane’s ghost (and subsequent zombies);
  • Win, Dag, Borer

Round 1: Elyn makes a DC10 Refl SV to toss Riba a rope. The two begin immobilising the headless corpse attempting to rise! Riba makes a makeshift attack and gets to 21, no problem against a barely-moving target. Zombie 1 can be tied down next round.

Mythic: Just to make sure this is legit, did Elyn actually notice that zombie moving? (50-50) Yes.

Etiyane makes a Shock attack on Win, and Win makes a LK check to avoid lethal damage. He is on 1hp and for now, is helpless from the shock.

Neither Borer nor Dag have blessed items or holy water.

Mythic: Do they retreat? (Likely) Yes.

They grab Win and move to retreat. (Dag makes a STR check to double-check this).

Round 2: Dag and Borer drag the still-helpless Win out. Elyn and Riba finish tying that zombie down.

Etiyane swoops at Riba, missing. Another zombie begins groping its way off a slab!

Round 3: The remaining pair flee, and Etiyane does not pursue out of the doors, and nor do any zombies.

There’s a ten minute delay while the rogues collect themselves, assure they are not pursued, and retrieve/relight any torch that had been dropped.

Current status:

  • Borer is the fittest on 4hp, and he has an amped-up d8 shortsword, and knife.
  • Elyn is next-fittest on 2hp, and she wields a crowbar, knives, and has thieves tools.
  • The others are on 1hp apiece and can muster a slightly naff pitchfork (d7) amped-up handax, whip and knives. Riba has leather armour.
  • Elyn and Borer are carrying the torches.

There’s only one way to explore, along the tunnel to the final door right. The next chamber looks ominous: even the doors look eroded or eaten… and sure enough the corrupted rats that nibbled honeycombs in the dusty room swarm in!

Combat!

Corrupted rat swarm: Init+2, melee+2, dmge 1+SV DC5 Fort or die. AC10, hp13, -2dmge from non-area attacks. Will not attack targets with burning torches if other targets are on offer.

Mythic: Are both torches ready and burning? (Likely) Yes.

Initiatives:

  • Rats
  • Borer, Dag, Elyn, Win, Riba

Round 1: All three possible targets are attacked. However two of those attacks result in fumbles and the other is a miss.

Riba manages a critical hit, and even with the damage penalty puts 6 dmge on the swarm! Borer uses his torch for 4 dmge.

Morale check: d20+Will-1: Fight on!

Round 2: Thanks to last round’s fumble only one character, Dag, is hit. He makes a crit LK check and survives on 1hp and also makes his DC5 Fort SV.

Riba Win and Dag all hit, for enough damage to wipe out the swarm!

Victory!

Loot: The ruin and mess includes a bent gold censer worth 10gp.

As they search and loot, they assess the room and find a door out in the same direction as the long tunnel, and a passage right. That would in effect head towards an unexplored corner.

Mythic: Do they check the door before they scout down the passage? (50-50) No.

The passage leads, with a short dogleg, to a door. With due caution, it’s opened. The broad chamber beyond is obviously another corner room, since it is lit from a hole above and rungs of a ladder descend from it. The roof away from the hole is dominated by a classic representation of the weeping goddess – a healing deity. Once-white robes hang on pegs about the walls.

As they press forward, they observe that the room extends even further, descending down steps to a triangular pool of glowing blue liquid.

Mythic: Does the roof relief and blue liquid make them thing: ‘healing’? (Somewhat likely) Yes.

“Let’s offer a prayer to the Weeper for her healing mercies,” Elyn advises. [Elyn crits a Religion check on this.]

Bathing in the pool makes them all feel much better [+2 to next roll] but no wounds are actually healed.

At this point I make Int checks for associating ghostly advice (just prior to the battle with Murderbeak) with the ‘waterfall’ of tears in the ghost chamber, and with holy water. Again Elyn rocks this.

Mythic: Do they explore further, seeking more clues? (Very likely) Yes.

Retracing their steps to the rat-swarm room, they test the unopened door and press on. The chamber beyond appears to be a guard-room controlling exits left and right: it’s a smallish square room with a table, and four chairs. Three of the chairs are drawn up facing the other opposite. Borer snuffs the air: he smells gold, faintly.

Suddenly, two featureless spectres appear and glide to two of the ‘panel’ seats. Their voices carry, in archaic dialect. [Int checks all round] Riba can get the gist of it. Apparently it’s about an ancient sorcerer-king named Segava, who broke a treaty and paid with his life. Then the figures fade again.

Mythic: Do they head in the direction that Borer can scent gold? (Somewhat likely) No!

“Let’s just check the other way first!” they all agree.

But as they exit, two faces appear in the doors and scream a warning about ‘needing tears’!

Mythic: Does this push them the other way? (Likely) No.

They head away, left of the long tunnel’s direction, and arrive at a tear-shaped, star-plan chamber laid out rather like the temple as a whole. All of the lobes or side-chambers seem deserted.

A search turns up merely rotted furnishings and a tarnished silver amulet.

Back they go, back through the ‘spectre’ room and towards the smell of gold.

The next chamber is in much better repair. It’s a bedchamber, the bed covered with colorful drops or skins. A gold chunk (gilt perhaps) can be seen under them, at the head. The room also features a cluttered desk; a chair to go with it; and a large tapestry. The tapestry shows people walking, falling to their knees, and crawling out in moonlight.

This is Riba’s time to shine: he spots the bed covers as snakeskins belonging to poison species. Having been warned, Win carefully extends the pitchfork to flip the gold headrest off.

Meanwhile, Elyn uses a torch to study the desk: it has a silver pot or bucket as well as writing gear and a book. A quill may be valuable. The single drawer contains a holy symbol.

Dag reads the book (nat 20) and advises them to take holy water containers. Borer takes the silver pot (it can carry at least some holy water) while Riba keeps the quill and holy symbol.

Mythic: Do they search behind the tapestry? (Near sure thing) Yes.

Behind the tapestry, a Dwarf-only tunnel is revealed.

Mythic: Will Borer try it? (50-50) Yes.

Equipped with a torch Borer crawls carefully along the tunnel and descends into a full size passage. He slides out, and walks along to…

A bad smell is the most obvious thing about the next area. Borer waves a torch into the small chamber and sees a rotted stinking corpse draped over a chest of loot. A sword and dagger, at least, are visible.

Gritting his teeth, Borer investigates. The chest is an illusion – he suspected as much. Beyond a certain point in the room it becomes a rune-carved statue of a kneeling baby.

Borer collects armour (yuck!) and finds a couple of items tucked into it. One is a bark scrip with instructions about crawling like a baby. He collects sword and dagger and turns to leave. Smack! He loses a hp from a forcefield! Uh-oh…

Luckily, Borer understands what the  hint – ‘be like a child’ – means. He crawls under the forcefield.

[There’s a low DC INT check to understand the runes, which hint the same thing]

Rejoining his comrades they rejoice in weapons… and stinky befouled leather armour which can be cleaned off…

“Once we have all gathered the blue waters into every flask, cup, and cap we can muster” Elyn says firmly.

 

The rogues have now searched every nook and cranny they can, aside from cave-ins, and fully prepared, ready themselves outside the zombie room. Let Etiyane’s ghost beware!

Combat!

In the “combat” that follows, characters attempt to dribble holy water onto the heads (eye-sockets really) of the zombies, while Etiyane’s ghost attempts to (a) stop them by using shock and dominate effects, and (b) activate zombies.

A ‘dribble attack’ is a DC5 Agi action. The book implies auto success but this is a pressure situation. 

Initiatives:

  • Borer
  • Dag
  • Etiyane
  • Riba
  • Win
  • Elyn

Round 1: Borer and Dag rush in, and make their DC5 checks as they pour holy liquid into zombie eyes. Those ladies cease oozing black goo and begin dissolving!

They may head back out to fetch more holy water, but:

Mythic: Do Borer and Dag realise they may be needed to tie zombies down? (Somewhat likely) Yes!

Etiyane rouses and makes a dominate attack on Riba, who has the silver bucket – this is not the big scary D&D dominate but a one-shot – and fails. Riba accordingly hurries to douse the next zombie, which is beginning to move. 

Win and Elyn are next and both make their DC5 ‘attacks’ and now 5 zombies (of 12) are out of action. One is already tied down (from the previous entry) and six have yet to be activated.

Round 2: Borer and Dag, working together, tie down the next zombie. Two tied, six not.

Etiyane makes a shock attack on Riba and misses again. 

Riba Elyn and Win all flee! They head to the blue-pool chamber again, to top up.

Round 3:

Mythic: Do Borer and Dag flee? (Likely) Yes.

Round 4-12: All top up and return.

Round 13: Borer and Dag advance to unsecured zombies, but Dag messes up the pour. Two tied, five untied.

Etiyane makes another dominate attempt on Riba and this time, fumbles. She will be distracted an extra round. Which brings up Round 14, by which time four zombies are tied and all others out.

Rounds 15-23: More holy water is fetched.

Round 24: The fog is already dispersing and Borer and Dag pour plenty of water over the last four.

Victory!

ALL PCS RECEIVE ONE LCK PERMANENT GAIN!

Etiyane, still weeping, dissolves. The huge relief-face’s tears dry up. Black ooze slowly begins to fade. Its open mouth is about as big as that Dwarf-size tunnel Borer squeezed down before… and he scents gold!

Over the next little while Borer loots a rich treasury and passes gear back out.

  • Tempered bark scale armour
  • Chainmail
  • 2xLeather armour – one Dwarf size
  • 3xPadded armour – two very petite
  • 2xshields, odd ‘frog’ shape
  • a two-hand sword
  • 2xsilver handaxes
  • longsword
  • mace
  • longbow with special features, and arrows
  • sling and stones
  • various riches
  • moon mirror of seeing places once visited
  • see-behind copper

End rewards

AP spend: to imitate dT&T and reflect their recovery from being battered, each PC gets 170AP to spend, except Borer who gets 180.

As the heroes exit with their loot, they see that the fog is already dissolving. The curse is lifted! And on the road back, they see Binye and Tadiko, supporting a young lad, waiting for them near the crossroads.

“We’ll bring this poor lad we rescued back to the village,” Binye explains, neglecting to mention the reward, “Then exchange yarns and see if we can dodge those damned Templars!”

 

 

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The Broken Land: the Temple of Issoth

 

Episode 3: The temple of Issoth

We now switch rule systems to dT&T as Adini, Binye, Tadiko and Zirin approach the central area of the fen.

“Listen – you three are the Guild members I most wanted with me. I spoke privately to a farmer from the village, and he’s offered us a reward for saving his young son, who has been kidnapped. Apparently there are cultists in this fen that actually think the Black River is a good thing and sacrifice to some god, or demon, named Issoth, to keep it that way.”

Adini, Binye and Tadiko react in completely different ways. Adini grins, her hard features softening; Binye sneers proudly as he studies Zirin to see what the astrologer is hiding; and Tadiko remains impassive but bows slightly.

dT&T rogues:

Adini: STR9 DEX4 LCK15 SPD12 = adds +3; CON12 CHR13 INT12.

Binye: STR4 DEX12 LCK15 SPD10 = adds +3; CON13 CHR9 INT17

Tadiko: STR12 DEX12 LCK15 SPD9 = adds +3; CON15 CHR12 INT12

Zirin: STR8 DEX14 LCK6 SPD9 = adds +2; CON12 CHR27 INT14

Total combat adds: +9. Weapons: Sling (2d6) and throw-blades or rocks (2d6) and knives (2d6). Because the throw-blades and rocks/slingstones are makeshift, a L1 LK SR is required on top of the usual DEX SR.

Note on healing: In episode 1 each character is noted as having healing herbs. Binye consumed his after the fight with Murderbeak. Since this episode switches to dT&T I’m ruling the others each have herbs that will restore 1d6 CON during a rest.

And with that, they skirt the weirdly-shaped ruin and approach the massive double doors of a high-built temple, virtually a stronghold.

CRGE: Will they go straight in? Yes (surge+10).

The rogues enter an impressive and well-lit chamber, dominated by a table, chairs, and hung tapestries. They have no time to savor the decor, for it is guarded!

Combat!

Under Temple of Issoth solo rules, characters that are not surprised get a first-round ‘missile then melee’.

Two guards each MR20 with 4 armour, total MR40 8 armour. They do not have missile weapons, just a spear each.

Missiles: Three of the DEX SRs are good and one LK SR of those fails, for a total of 24-8 damage on the guards.

The two sides are quite evenly matched and the guards are armored. A very long melee now ensues during which spite damage from the rogues slowly whittles down the guards, and the rogues share 11 damage.

Loot: Two spears, and 7gp. Tadiko and Zirin each take a spear.

The broad entry room they have gained is lit and tapestries at the back of the chamber show Issoth rising. A broad table contains a jug – seemingly of wine – and cups. East and west an archway leads.

This is where the Mythic emulator cuts in. Choices are no longer 50-50. With surge of +10 on the CRGE I translate this to chaos of 7 on the Mythic fate chart.

Mythic: Does someone inspect the tapestries? (somewhat likely) No.

Mythic: Does someone drink wine? (somewhat likely) Yes!

The wine is refreshing and restores CON (1d6, including moving normal CON higher temporarily). Adini’s CON is restored and temporarily 16; Binye’s CON is restored and temporarily 16; Tadiko gains an extra point to go to 16 as well; and Zirin merely recoups the damage suffered.

At this point it’s fair to spend on permanent attribute gain. They all have 10AP from the fens, and have just gained 40 from the fight.

Adini: DEX to 5! 10 remainder.

Binye: STR to 5! 10 remainder.

Mythic: Do they inspect the tapestries now? (likely) Yes.

As the four inspect the tapestries each feels his or her brain being engulfed by the demonic power that lurks in them!

L1 IQ SR, then L1 LK SR:

Adini, Binye and Tadiko all make both, but Zirin fails the IQ SR. Adini gains 33AP, Binye 28, and Tadiko 39.

Second round for Zirin: fails again, dies!

They tear their gaze away and gather around Zirin’s twisted corpse. Binye glances back at the double doors.

“I guess one option is to retreat…”

“But the reward is still on, and we did take the job.”

“True. Ah well, Tadiko, you can manage the spear? And there’s a gold coin more each…”

Without discussing it, Binye slip Zirin’s healing herbs into his own pouch.

Mythic: East or west? (50-50) It’s east.

The eastern archway leads to a lit rectangular chamber… where guards have been expecting them for some time!

Combat!

The guards are the same as last time, but this time the rogues have spears, not just makeshift weapons. It makes a lot of difference! In the initial missile phase one guard is killed outright, and the other is wounded. He lasts just the one round.

Loot: two more spears (they can be flung with DEX12) and 8gp.

AP track: Adini 83AP, Binye 78AP, Tadiko 129AP.

This guard chamber contains a table and a weapon rack: a door to the north leads further into the temple.

Mythic: Do they all inspect the weapon rack? (Likely) Yes.

A spear, broad-ax and broadsword stand racked. Of the three, only Tadiko is capable of wielding these types of weapons, and the axe is a little outside her capability.

Mythic: Does Tadiko try the broadsword? (Likely) Yes.

The sword is cursed and a L1 IQ SR is required to have the presence of mind to shrug off its call. She makes it.

Mythic: Does Tadiko try the spear? (Somewhat likely) Yes.

This charmed weapon is a Bleeding Spear (3+2) which drains 1 CON per round cumulative, per successful hit.

There’s nothing else to investigate in the room. Tadiko carries a spare spear for throwing, and her Bleeding Spear. Binye and Adini carry two more spears, more for show and probing things than for use in combat.

Mythic: Do they press on north? (50-50) Yes.

This wing of the temple is bright-lit. Perhaps it is a central assembly room. Beyond the two guards already loosing their crossbows, spiral stairs and doors can be glimpsed.

Combat!

These two guards wear slightly better armor than the last. MR 20 each, 6 points of armor, and more importantly they have long been ready and waiting. Each fires a crossbow and it’s time to dodge!

Each rogue needs L2 on either LK or DEX. Binye and Tadiko make it but Adini misses by 2 and takes 26 points of damage, dying instantly!

Missiles: having flung themselves aside successfully the two survivors hurl their reply. One guard is heavily wounded as both rogues strike home. The pair of defenders begin with only 13 adds. But of course, they are fighting unarmored rogues with much fewer adds!

This time, the two rogues share a lot of damage – 15 in the first three rounds – before spite damage has its effect and the fourth round is a turning point, a draw with the wounded guard dying. From there the fight is one-sided and lasts only two more rounds.

Loot: two crossbows (unwieldy so of no use) and two sabres (3+4, needs STR9 DEX10); and 19 gp. The rogues take Adini’s useful gear including her healing herbs, and a sabre each.

AP track: Binye, with the SR and victory AP, is now on 140AP. Tadiko, having needed an extra IQ SR, and not having spent any AP yet, is up to 195AP.

AP spend! Binye moves STR to 8 (30AP remaining) and can now wield those spears! While for her part, Tadiko moves DEX to 13 (75AP remaining).

They finish two of the three remaining healing herb portions, recovering a d6 each CON.

Remaining CON: Binye is on 14 CON, Tadiko on 11.

Now, they have taken thorough stock of the bright-lit chamber. Surely this must be an important junction. A spiral stair leads down to darkness and up to what seems to be a lit chamber; a door similar to the one they came through leads west.

Mythic: [various options beginning at 50-50 and moving through increasing likeliness] – they go west.

The western door leads to a dim-lit, long dormitory or barracks chamber. For once, their exploration disturbs no guards. Cots line the walls, there are some sacks piled up on the floor and a wardrobe stands on one wall. Another door leads south, probably connecting with the original entry room or a guard chamber connecting.

They check the sacks briefly, finding 100gp and choosing not to press their luck, then – again briefly – look at the carven wardrobe without exploring it or even studying the design closely! They also decide not to chance the southern door, simply returning to the bright-lit stair junction.

[These are all ’50-50′ picks on the Mythic chart except for the wardrobe which, after the tapestries experience, I rated ‘unlikely’]

The junction or exchange is still as they left it. It seems no guards have patrolled this way yet.

Mythic: Do the rogues head up to the lit room? (50-50) No. Do they head down? (Somewhat likely) Yes.

They are at the north end of a vault lined with coffins! Taking care not to disturb those (or any occupant!) the pair move silently to the south, coming in sight of an open doorway.

Mythic: Do they investigate a coffin (50-50) No. Do they head south through the doorway (Somewhat likely) No.

They return to the lit chamber above and keep moving up the spiral stair to what appeared to be a somewhat-lit room. [Also checked this with Mythic using ‘has to be’]

The room is indeed dim-lit and incense hangs in the air. Two guards with similar equipment as the others leap to their feet.

Combat!

Missiles: Tadiko hits one (9 dmge) and Binye misses.

Things look bad for the pair of rogues when they lose the first combat round, sharing 6 damage, but the next round reverses their fortune. Tadiko’s magic spear (and a L4 DEX stunt) really make a difference.  The wounded guard is brought down in round 4. The remaining guard fights on grimly for two more rounds then falls. Having shared the 6 damage, Tadiko munches the last herbs. She is on 12 CON, Binye on 11.

They recover as best they can while the quietly search the incense-scented room.

Binye is on 70 AP, Tadiko on 207.

The room is a bed-and-bath chamber. A teapot appears to still have warm tea. A dressing table has cosmetic stuff and mirrors. The exit is a door south.

Mythic: Both tea and dresser are rated Likely and result in yes, so I split them, Binye testing the tea and Tadiko the dresser. 

Tadiko finishes bundling valuable hair and skincare products into her sack and turns to find Binye has been cursed by the tea, halving DEX! (It’s now 6.)

[There’s also a check for wandering guards at this point but luckily, none checks the room.]

The door south leads to a bright-lit chamber with murals, and also two guards ready and waiting! Fortunately for Binye neither has a crossbow – instead they leap towards the intruders, swords swinging!

Combat!

Each rogue must make L2 DEX SR or be forced to drop a ready weapon. Binye fails (big surprise with 6 DEX) and loses his chance to use a missile. Tadiko makes it and hurls her ready-spear, killing a guard outright!

The remaining guard is better equipped and armoured than those below (MR25, 6 armour) but one-on-two is hopelessly outclassed. They finish him off in four rounds and loot.

Loot: They wielded broadswords: relatively valuable but not usable; and neither had coin. Binye takes a sword as a makeshift club.

Binye is on 122AP, Tadiko on 277. AP spend! Tadiko moves DEX to 15 (7AP remaining) and Binye moves STR to 9 (42AP remaining).

Now in possession of the room the pair assess it. The murals depict a robed man sacrificing. Another stair at the south end ascends again.

The stair leads up to a smoke-filled chamber, where half a dozen robed priests are grouped around a hole. Five are chanting, one is getting ready to sacrifice the boy. But the arrival of unwanted guests halts all this!

“Intruder!” shouts one, “You will witness the true power of Issoth!” Tossing some sparking objects through the hole he calls, “Rise and destroy our enemies!”

And a geyser of salty water showers up: the incense pots pop and hiss: and tentacle by tentacle a giant head-monster ascends!

Combat!

Special rule: If the tentacle beast (MR60) rolls 4 or more sixes in a round, a character has been grabbed and will take d6 damage per round.

 Missiles: Binye can barely muster the DEX to hurl a rock and misses, but Tadiko scores a superb hit, seriously injuring the beast. This early hit proves decisive and the rogues kill the beast within three rounds, sharing only three damage themselves.

In desperation three of the six priests charge with drawn daggers, while the other three flee. With MR45 combined, that would be dangerous, but Tadiko has space to move, sweeps up another spear and hurls it, killing one of the priests. The remaining two fight bravely but are no match. The rogues share out 2 damage.

AP gained from the back-to-back combats is 105. Binye has 147AP, Tadiko has 112AP.

Victory!

Searching the room recovers the boy, half a dozen poniards, and 34 small diamonds at 25gp apiece.

200AP bonus each! = Binye 347, Tadiko 312.

Ending attributes after AP spend:

Binye: STR10 DEX12 LK15 SPD11 CON13 CHR9 INT17

Tadiko STR13 DEX15 LCK15 SPD11 CON15 CHR12 INT12

 

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TI3.18: A toehold in Level Two! And loot!

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L3 wizard, combat specialist

Cauleigh, L3 warrior, novice townsman

Jotunn, L5 warrior, apprentice hunter, tracking talent

Crompton, L3 rogue, novice rune bearer, rogue talent

ably assisted by the Herbal Teas:

Sage, L3 wizard – wears 3pts armour under his robe

Trefoil, L2 warrior – 20 base points armour

Heartsease, L2 warrior – 12 base points armour

Wolfie, L2 wulfan – armour?

 

Stanza One: That final corner of Level One is a Doozy – Again!

Confident in his team’s own abilities, Cauleigh orders the Herbals back to base camp. “We just have a few rooms to clear then we’ll begin on Level Two,” he explains. Sage looks to Fennec to confirm this, and the wizard confirms.

About an hour later, the Herbals are alerted by the pass-phrase being called with cries of “raise the door!” A minute later Crompton and Jotunn drag Cauleigh in, Fennec following as rearguard. Cauleigh is conscious and grimly clutching his shield and kukri, but seems in a bad way.

“There was a smoke demon…”

Sage gets the Dwarves to spell it all out, so that those of his team that pay attention – Trefoil – can draw some lessons. Apparently, sandmen are likely to move on by if not disturbed in their own territory; servitor apes are likely to “arrest” shorties – one nearly grabbed Crompton but he slipped his torch into its hand and dodged out – and smoke-demons live in big urns and don’t like their sand-bed to be poked. Cauleigh was nearly pulled inside out, but all’s well. With lots of Poor Baby.

 

For their part the Herbals have upgraded the barracks/stables arrangement to include a partitioned area for privies, using halves of the pickle cask and other empty vessels, and tarps.

As Cauleigh rests, Sage and Crompton find time for a spell-trade. Crompton begins learning Knock-Knock, Sage easily picks up Alakascram.

 

Waving a confident farewell the Dwarves exit once more and the portcullis is lowered behind them.

 

This time, they choose not to fiddle with urns – Cauleigh’s rule is now ‘close the door again immediately’ – but do spot evidences of their first exploration from a week or so previous. Cauleigh remembers there is a secret door, they locate it and open it, then traverse a charcoal-daubed chamber. The crude daubs suggest a snake-creature. And – after trying a couple of doors – locate the very subject of the daub when something blows their torches out!

In the light of a WoW and Bic Flic two glowing yellow eyes are revealed. A tremendous battle of wits ensues: firearms are readied: the snake-creature uses a human puppet, then an urn, to draw fire, then attempts to flee while invisible! Cauleigh has rather a bad time missing the tricky OTIS-lit target but Crompton and Jotunn get good shots in with their weapons. Fennec, expecting some such thing, slaps a Glue-You on it as it flees. [Actually spends his precious boon, saved from 4 sessions ago!] With a cry of “yoiks!” Jotunn nimbly hurdles Cauleigh – as he stumbles on its tail – and yells “Temerity” smashing the mighty mace down! Crompton sinks his zapped blades in, Cauleigh leaps back to his feet and pursues, and the snake-creature dies!

With the aid of torchlight they study it with some curiosity. Though not dark grey and not blind, it seems similar to the blind, grey snake-creature they slew on Level One. The thing’s long fangs drip venom.

The lads put some good thought into this prep, though they keep ‘losing’ torches (mentally speaking) and I chip in suggesting Jotunn can see a way to use rope cinched from a nearby door and tied to the snake-being’s door-handle. They do not investigate the body of the human meat-shield in detail, choosing to simply note two puncture wounds in the back.

Finally, having either looked in every chamber, they return to the grand tunnel leading direct to the double doors, featuring an ape-head in relief, leading to the stair to Level Two!

 

Stanza Two: Level Two is a whole new confusing! And GAAAH! Trapped Loot!

They descend the broad steps without incident and note the lone desperate piece of cover used in the ambush – the pedestal with pipes that may warble – and in the light of three torches assess the great t-junction formed by steps and chamber. There’s no sign of the levitating orb on the ceiling. Jotunn can see faint traffic marks west, nothing east. Fennec spots the first part of a mosaic, off to the west.

Choosing to go where no man has gone before they head away from traffic and try a door north. A series of chambers is found and while not finishing the task of mapping all tunnels, they eventually work their way back through what might be a tannery to the main chamber again, this time on the west wing of it.

The wing forms a broad ‘lazy-T’, the head west and the leg back to the stairs. The north end of the head has three doors in it including the one they emerged from; the mosaic runs along the head on the west wall: and that has at least one pair of peep holes in it. And Crompton catches a faint sound right!

It’s an attack! But these groping, gibbering, clawing manlike creatures are mere undead, and only four in number… it is but the work of a moment for these veteran delvers to remove or smash heads, unscathed.

Whatever it was that opened the door quietly, has not held it open. They move to that door. In the well-lit dust of the chamber floor, Jotunn recognises drag-marks from it, running to the middle door of the trio.

Beyond the left-hand door, a broad chamber opens out left and ahead. As they fan out Jotunn stoops and sifts through tiny scraps: hyena-man hair, the odd blood-spot, and fragments of crates.

“The hyena-men probably fell back this far… then their gear has been removed at some point.”

Looking back into the lazy-T, Fennec notices a lone servitor ape. It clutches the burned-out stub of a torch. But it is not looking his way, and he leaves it be.

The chamber extends back south more than west, and following that, they at length locate a disused and decayed dining hall – once gracious, now termite-ridden – and the secret cubby behind the peep-holes.

Finally they locate another broad lazy-T chamber, featuring tasteful furniture and torture devices, a desk with rich-looking clutter and fitted drawers, and screens south. Spotting a gold turnip-shaped object Cauleigh sweeps it up. It has a word inscribed in its base, and he reads it out…

In the ensuing attack the air elementals smash the Dwarves around but can’t prevent them fleeing!

 

Stanza Three: Herbals to Level Two! Loot the place!

A rapid retreat – which the torch-stub ape does not prevent – and a new day. Crompton has pretty much locked in KK and Sage has pretty much locked in Little Feets. Trefoil runs over the plan with Cauleigh as all eight march down the stairs.

“So we’re the front line then! Excellent! Time to earn our pay! So long as the titch gives me a bit of magic juice, I’m right behind you! I’ll brace, you strike.”

“Shall I start with the big thing, wind it up, out front?” Jotunn gestures with Temerity. Heartsease raises her hand:

“I’ve always wanted to work with a man with a big thing,” she giggles. She readies her demilune to be braced to project over Jotunn. Sage and Fennec will sit back behind the warriors, Fennec having first shot, and Wolfie will stay rearguard.

The plan makes no difference to Cauleigh’s actual combat. As Fennec’s L4 TTYF slams into an elemental he leaps forward, leaving Trefoil to defend both Fennec and Sage, while Jotunn and Heartsease stick to their part of the plan and brace against the inrushing pair of semi-transparent elementals. Crompton’s shot finishes off the wounded elemental. Fennec feels the inrush of available mana as Sage backs him up. “Temerity!” Jotunn yells and as an elemental impales itself on the demilune, smashing his mace into the creature. Cauleigh dodges in, flicks his kukri lethally across, and dodges away again. That second elemental collapses in on itself!

The third elemental is untouched: Trefoil is smashed back as it punches into the wizards. Uttering a dreadful howl Wolfie jumps atop it, to no effect – he is flicked away like a puppy. The others rush to save the wizards and while everyone is hurt, no-one is seriously injured.

Fennec yells “Fuck this!” A brilliant crimson flash near-blinds everyone and the huge concussion of a L5 TTYF slightly deafens them, and as Cauleigh leaps in ready for the next strike, he finds the elemental has evaporated.

Accompanied by Jotunn’s grumbles about 15 minute working day wizards, they search the furnished chamber in detail, assemble everything valuable-looking, and retreat to base camp to investigate it all!

 

Stanza Four: Loot! Loot! Loot!

Sage spends some time on the various items with Cauleigh assessing the street value of other goods:

Non-magical plate etc worth up to 1000gp if sold carefully. This includes the thurible that used to hold 3 elementals. ‘Death mask motif’ cutlery could be collector-item stuff but porcelain crockery is normally costly. Handle with care!

The orb of levitation: levitates constantly. Currently locked in a chest carrying other valuables.

Wooden cube of torchlight: one face beams a high-level WoW. Quite a small cube, so easy to clasp in a gauntlet hand.

Three incense sticks that will aid higher-level ritual magic preparation. They do not act as batteries but as enhancers for higher level spells. Level 6 and above effects, such as hollow vision, wind whistle, ghostly going and blow-me-to are appropriate for these.

Archaic temple scroll: After time in a suitable library or guild spent studying the archaic script, a wizard can learn Poor Baby, Magic Fangs, Curses Foiled, OTIS, and something higher-level Fennec does not immediately recognise.

A sealed ceramic flask of Fly Me potion

A sealed ceramic flask of small eyeballs that when swallowed gives Second Sight

Two sealed ceramic flasks of cursed water that could, as Crompton suggests, be used as magical grenades. Most likely curses on intellect.

A spellbook that has an ominous design on its binding and possibly a curse to go with it

 

“This robe is a pile of crap,” Cauleigh decides, tossing aside a costly-looking blue garment shot with gold thread. “It went out of fashion in Esgaroth years ago!”

“It would be ironic if it originally belonged to Alintar,” Fennec suggests randomly. It is about the size of the paladin.

“Here you go Trefoil,” suggests Crompton, flicking it up to the big man.

“Pah! I’m not that off-trend!” Trefoil scoffs, tossing the bundle to one side. The gold thread glitters. And as the wizards discuss how to tackle the spell-book and where more spell-learning comes and some of the others exercise the ponies, the session ends.

 

 

Later Cauleigh calculated that of his 12 SRs 4 were fails. So not a good night for him. Jotunn got his usual share of IQ rolls for tracking, but Crompton was prevented from doing rogue stuff around doors, with Cauleigh on door-opening.

Overall an efficient search. And treasure, which helps soothe the AP-deprived Cauleigh. And speaking of AP deprivation Fennec’s player pointed out that wizards that work in normal cautious wizard fashion are AP deprived compared to front liners, since they aren’t stunting all the time. High risk, high reward is the best way to see this.

One sightly new feature emerged, my treatment of ‘superior’ shooting. It has been present all the way through but now the characters can hit things accurately it is coming through stronger. For example when Cauleigh rolls several more levels to hit the meat-shield than he needs I say that the bullet penetrates the man’s eye and blows the top of his skull off.

Anyway, my fears about the party going out of control are put to rest, and everyone is still alive, so on to explore Level Two! Stay tuned!

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TI3.17: Re-clearing Level One

 

The characters for this session

Fennec, L3 wizard

Cauleigh, L3 warrior

Jotunn, L5 warrior

Crompton, L3 rogue

ably assisted by the Herbal Teas:

Sage, L3 wizard

Trefoil, L2 warrior

Heartsease, L2 warrior

Wolfie, L2 wulfan

 

Let go! Servitor apes have new instructions?

The Herbals are pretty much out for the count. The ponies suck up almost all the water, then feedbags are slipped over their muzzles. Trefoil wearily agrees to stand watch while the Dwarves set out for fresh water and a quick scout around.

Exactly what to carry takes more time to decide and by the time the four are ready to open the door, bearing what they consider a minimum of gear, Sage Heartsease and Wolfie are deeply asleep and even the ponies are at rest.

They plan to work deeper in, locate the great chamber, and check that its guard-rooms are still handy for standing watch. But their scouting stillborn: as they turn right out of the inner (southern) door the lead pair, Jotunn and Cauleigh, realise a group of apes is shuffling up the tunnel out of the southern arch.

As they pause, the apes too shuffle to an uncertain halt. Fennec blows his neutral G chord whistle, and that seems to decide the apes. A pair eye the Dwarves closely – which is quite unsettling, because their faces are quite blank of expression – then head purposefully past, as though to pass them by and move into the base camp. The Dwarves, as usual, let them be. One opens the door and the pair head in.

There’s an outraged cry from base camp! and in the tunnel outside it, where the Dwarves are, another pair of apes shuffle closer.

“Blow the whistle! Don’t attack them!” Crompton cries, and Cauleigh races back past the rogue and into the base camp.

Inside the base camp Trefoil is desperately fending the apes away from Sage, who, it seems, they want to pick up. “Put me down!” the Gnome shrills “I’m not one of your band!” The ponies are severe obstacles to anyone else helping, or Sage wriggling away. Cauleigh lends his strength to Trefoil and the pair keep the apes from grabbing Sage – for now!

Outside, Jotunn falls back, and joins Crompton where the rogue has his back against the door so no more apes can get in. Fennec stands back and to their left, away from apes. The next pair of apes head towards Jotunn!

Inside, Cauleigh tries speaking slowly and firmly, pointing to the outer door.

“For goodness sake! Doooo something!!” Sage shrills.

“Trying my best, Sage!” Trefoil protests, fumbling out the whistle and dropping it – then Heartsease makes a splendid diving catch and blows it!

[Trefoil has made three DAROs in a row to block the grappling ape. He rolls a fail on the L1 DEX to get the whistle out!]

Between Cauleigh and Trefoil one ape is physically lifted over Sage and to face the outer door. Wolfie scrambles the door open and one by one the pair of apes shamble out.

A moment’s silence falls and the base camp can hear the sounds of Fennec alternatively cursing and blowing an open G chord.

For in the meantime, Fennec has decided to investigate more closely: and the second ape trying to detach Jotunn from his post decides to collar Fennec!

Oh Go Away! Fennec yells then Oh f*&^! he shrieks as the ape immediately attacks!

Jotunn hurls himself over the ape he’s trying to fend off, while Crompton activates tempus fugit, whips the bladed chain around the leg of Fennec’s ape, and hauls on it. It’s a remarkably accurate cast and the ape is toppled away from Fennec before it can do more than a few scratches: then Jotunn flattens the ape, and Crompton jumps on as well, quickly whipping out some twine.

Cauleigh now steps out into the tunnel. An ape is almost directly in front of him: it eyes him up and down, then swings towards the struggle. Cauleigh clonks it on the back of the head with his silver-headed mace of stunting. It falls, stunned.

Crompton finishes tying the other ape’s hands. It shrugs its massive shoulders and the twine parts. Immediate re-tackle! Having had its head banged on the stone tunnel floor a number of times, the ape loses consciousness.

“Why are we being so careful not to kill them,” wants to know Fennec the Bloody, but he’s distracted from this philosophical dilemma as he spots more pairs of ape eyes visible in the now-dim torchlight.

“Let’s drag them away,” Cauleigh suggests and having checked east (tunnel turns south, there’s a big ape statue) returns, grabs a pair of ape ankles and starts dragging it west.

The others straggle after Cauleigh, Jotunn and Crompton easily managing the second ape between them, and they locate the refectory north. It looks as though the other apes – the ones Fennec spotted – have headed north through it. Dragging two apes with them, the Dwarves check north. Heartsease and Wolfie, obviously still exhausted, stumble around to intercept them. It seems all is clear – the other apes have headed towards the exit. From behind him, west, Jotunn catches the muffled rattle and booming noise of a portcullis dropping.

“Let’s leave them here,” Cauleigh decides: his ape is heavy. They do so and re-gather at base camp.

“Find a better base camp?” Sage hazards.

“We will, but for now, make sure you’re not obvious to apes” Fennec sternly replies.

With ponies now moved adjacent to each door the Dwarves set off once more.

 

Portcullis lifting is old stuff – but there are still dangers!

The next shift of scouting is much simpler. No ape blocks their path or even walks across it. The four follow the tunnels around to the small portcullis on the exchange’s north wall. A sand-creature sifts through it, but instead of attacking proceeds on past them. They lift the portcullis (with due precautions including a WoW through) and check the exchange. Crompton scents a rank smell east, like rotten vegetable matter.

Crompton persuades them to check store-rooms and get petrified spars to prop the portcullis up. Then a pause. There’s uncertainty about what the priority is, until dry throats prompt them to head along the west tunnel to the ape-feeder room. A pair of apes are eating, and once again as Fennec sounds his G chord decide the order of the day is ‘arrest that Dwarf wizard!’

[Jotunn has said the two tallest should do it, then Fennec has decided to follow the two tallest]

Cauleigh king-hits the nearest ape as it shuffles past him, and Crompton tangles the other’s leg. Jotunn, who has been peeping round the corner, dashes past Fennec and uses the flat of his axe on that one.

“I don’t understand why we are going easy on these f***ing apes!” Fennec growls, relaxing out of his TTYF stance.

“They could turn out to be people, turned into apes,” Crompton points out.

“So far we haven’t needed to fight apes the whole way and not having an immediate ape riot on our hands is a good thing,” Cauleigh argues.

As the water canteens are filled, Fennec, who is standing guard, dives to one side! [Makes L2 of L6 LK but makes L4 WIZ] Smoky tendrils wind out of an unexplored archway and tower over them. He casts a Glue You on the magical creature and Jotunn – and thanks to his mace of stunting Cauleigh – drop gear and protect the wizard.

As Crompton flings a zapped dagger and Cauleigh and Jotunn use their magical weapons the thing breaks up and dissipates.

[Fennec also buffs Cauleigh with a Little Feets but it’s not needed]

They retrieve gear. “Thank you, Ponderblade,” Cauleigh mutters, kissing the mace.

Checking west confirms the path through north and towards Level Two, but since it leads more immediately to ape chambers, they retreat to the exchange, full canteens clonking heavily.

 

Now, all they have to do is head straight back to the Herbals and base camp!

 

A battle with black dwarves seeking to flee

“Let’s store the water in a store room… well not our own water… so we can finish checking around here” suggests Cauleigh. He inspects the north portcullis, propped up with struts, then glancing to its right, [L3 LK SR] exclaims:

“Hang on – that door wasn’t open last time!”

Realising they should have closed it completely, a small phalanx of short-but-broad, dark-skinned, white-eyed creatures charges! They are intent on breaking through to the tunnel west.

Cauleigh and Jotunn block them while Crompton snares one’s ankle.

[Cauleigh and Jotunn both need to make a CHR SR to avoid some disadvantage. Both were near-killed by another formation of squat Morlocks. Jotunn misses by 1.]

Fennec drops to one side and hits the lead enemy with GY. The snared ‘black dwarf’ turns on Crompton with a short sword, curved at the tip: Cauleigh sweeps his other ankle with his mace of stunting. Jotunn attempts to activate Temerity as he deals with the remaining two:

“Metrity!”

Even so the two-hander mace is an awesome weapon. Jotunn is driven back, slightly injured, but as they were intent on fleeing the pair simply push past him and run.

Fennec calls “brace yourself!” and throws OGA at the pair – leaping to cover behind his warriors!

They come charging back into the light. Crompton casts VB and smashes his ancestor axe down on the sprawling black dwarf’s iron cap, shattering it and chopping into its skull. He wheels and attempts to use the chain on the incoming pair but he is hopelessly out of position to do that.

Temerity!” yells Jotunn, getting back up and intercepting. Cauleigh agains uses his mace and trips [SPD] one – the other simply nips over it. With a satisfying explosion of iron fragments, skull and brain, Temerity shatters the incoming black dwarf’s head. The corpse flops down in front of Fennec.

Cauleigh and Crompton jump on the tripped one and finish him.

Then the GY’d black dwarf attacks Fennec!

The wizard fends off as best he can, as Jotunn spins and smashes Temerity at the berserk enemy.

Fennec is again merely scratched as Jotunn’s strength and his own staff keep the berserker at bay. The others help finish him… then the black dwarf Crompton thought he’d killed begins getting back up!

“Let’s take the heads off!” yells Fennec the Bloody.

The corpses (which render no loot) are dragged back and piled up in the ape-tomb and the door closed.

 

Reclaiming the great chamber and a joyful reunion

Breathing freely once again, they return to their chosen job of scouting east through the small portcullis. All of them pick up the smell Crompton mentioned. A WoW shows reassuringly familiar territory beyond. It’s heaved up and again propped up with spars.

The source of the rank smell proves to be a large pot, left outside the kitchen. It seems the Lizardman cooks did not return. Inside the kitchen, the cooking materials are as they were abandoned. Moving through and out the opposite door, they scout around the ‘circuit’ down to guard/store rooms and around to the great chamber’s dais. Stores do not seem to have been disturbed since the last Gnolls fled.

 

They walk, solemnly, through the great chamber, noting that bodies and dropped weapons are absent, and remind one another of the barricaded area in the north-west corner.

Checking the Gnoll barracks left, they discover there are no poultry left in the hutch, but hurrah! Fennec’s ruined pack is still lying where he left it. He quickly checks that map, abacus, brain-in-a-jar, and weird magic crystal cube are there and not broken, then slings the pack on one shoulder. The only real casualty is a sack, which is now more of a burlap rag.

Cauleigh draws the attention of the others back to himself. He gestures to the two connecting barracks. “Is everyone agreed – we can bring the others back here?”

The others nod – it seems sensible. Then back to the great chamber, through the double-doors north and to the windlass room. By great good fortune a Gnoll axe is still lying there. They check briefly behind the false mirror-wall (it’s just as they left it) then retrace their steps back through the great chamber, let the east portcullis down, walk back north again, winch the portcullis up and jam it, loop up round to the base camp and wake the ponies and – let’s be honest – Trefoil, who has nodded off.

“We’ve got our base camp sorted out – all’s well!” Cauleigh says cheerily.

“That’s good…” Trefoil replies, unconvincingly.

As ponies are readied the other Herbals wake and groggily assemble, then follow around and under the open great portcullis. Jotunn steps into the windlass room and drops the portcullis. It settles with an important-sounding Booom.

The Herbals are mightily impressed with the great chamber, and – other than Trefoil – are stretching and looking more alert. Sage reminds Fennec of the matter of useful treasure.

“That reminds me,” Fennec frowns, “do you have Omni Eye?”

“Yes…?”

“Then it may be worthwhile evaluating a few,” Fennec muses, just as though Sage were his personal magical valet.

Sage rubs his hands and looks pleased.

“We’ll be pulling some sleep,” Cauleigh says wearily. And strangely enough the Herbals seem keen on that idea too. Cauleigh looks around and senses he’s on watch. He lulls the others to sleep with a ‘Cauleigh special sauce’ theory of where the black dwarves came from. “They were part of the plan,” he reiterates, without elucidating which plan.

 

Jotunn on watch – weirdness on the portcullis

Jotunn is woken a couple of hours later, and Cauleigh hands over a square of tarp with a charcoal map on it. “Pretty much done,” he brags. “I’ve even noted that other big portcullis we got through from the other side.”

[It’s nearly open-map, except for the unscouted corner leading to level two]

Jotunn sits quietly through his watch until near its end, he hears what he at first takes to be Dwarven. But if Dwarven, it’s in a dialect he finds hard to follow. There’s a faint noise of a door, then a soft curse-sound, some quiet struggling then a terrible choking cry.

The others wake groggily. Wolfie is quickly ready, slipping his chain-blade-claws on. But no-one advances, and the sound of retreat comes fairly distinct. Fennec floats a WoW down.

[L5 LK]

As Jotunn and Cauleigh gaze out along the dark tunnel, they note, in the candle-light, a soft yellow glitter associating itself with the portcullis, as though a yellow foggy cloud had been stopped by it.

Wolfie does not scent any fresh blood. Swapping jokes, they nerve themselves up and investigate with more light.

The portcullis is part-smothered in the same yellow mould Cauleigh once noted on the ape bodies in the larger tomb chamber nearby. Just visible from their angle and through the bars, the body of a black dwarf can be seen in the tomb doorway.

 

Fennec gargles yellow mould

“Those fuckers! They smeared the portcullis with yellow mould!” exclaims Cauleigh, randomly guessing.

“And one fumble-fingered himself and died!” Fennec co-guesses.

“We’ll find something to clean it off,” Jotunn says confidently.

They pour boiling water – as much as the kitchen holds – over the portcullis and brush it into crevices. Some spores roil up and Fennec breathes in at the wrong moment. [Rolls a fail on CON]

Cauleigh leaps to position behind him, grabs him by the head and pours boiling water down his throat.

“AAEEIIGHRGFHRGRRF!!” gargles Fennec. Once he’s finished crying in agony Crompton PBs him.

The portcullis (and Fennec) is clear of mould but more lies on the floor between the portcullis and the tomb-chamber.

“Can we just leave that for now? Our water supply is back down to what we’ve got left in the canteens” Jotunn suggests.

They settle down, resting again. Ponies nudging at feedbags tells Crompton his watch, the last, is over. Rations are chewed. Wolfie still has some dried meat. The Herbals are well-rested – in fact only Cauleigh has missed out on adequate sleep.

 

We can clean this, but don’t boil vinegar

They do a detailed stocktake of kegs and casks and find a good-size keg of pickled onions. And sour beer. And three small jars of brains, which may or may not also contain vinegar.

“Don’t boil the vinegar” warns Crompton. “The bad humours boil off first and kill you.”

“So you’re saying that can be made into a weapon?” Sage says, sounding immensely interested.

“Have you considered a career as a combat specialist?” asks Fennec.

“I trained as an artillerist” explains the Gnome.

The vinegar does a good job on the mould after they wind up the portcullis and splash it on a section at a time. There’s a very unpleasant mould-infested corpse in the tomb doorway. Another ranseur is fetched and used to push it fully inside and the door is shut.

 

They say exercise is good for you – now shift that barricade back

They shake out, fully equipped, into the great chamber and head to the barricaded corner. The barricade is built up of crates. Very heavy crates. Cauleigh and Jotunn heave a top crate off and shift it to one side. Then, with more heaving, they pull the bottom crate away. Now they have a sturdy-dwarf-width of clearance.

But the shifting of crates has caused something inside the room beyond to begin scratching at the door. It could be a rat.

“Dead” decides Wolfie.

“Sounds like a good reason to push this back again,” Sage suggests nervously, pushing with his full Gnome might at one of the removed crates. They don’t move.

Fennec uses a DetM powered up but nothing lights up, so they laboriously rebuild the barricade.

 

A break for Sage to do his stuff with Omni Eye

That just leaves the off-shape chamber (the one with the snake poo in its outer area) that has never been fully explored.

First though, Sage is curious about those magic items Fennec referred to. They vote for yes, that is important, and head back to the comfort and security of the barracks.

“This is going to take some time,” Sage warns, rubbing his hands and looking at the cube, brain-in-a-jar, and two lockets.

Soulcube: has the power to encube a being. There’s someone in it. It could be that it’s a swapsie deal: swapping out whatever is inside, for whatever is inside. Sage is keen to experiment on something small but evil.

ESP potion: the brain’s suspension liquid allows a one-shot ESP potion.

Nekasm’s locket: Eyes of the bat paste: rubbing the dark paste on your eyes blinds you but you ‘see’ perfectly in dark, like a bat.

Decyvedu’s Fire: swallowing a glassine bolus, and pronouncing the name ‘Decyvedu‘ etched on the locket’s inside lid, allows fire breath: per L3 Blasting Power spell.

 

Hurrah! Most of Level One is clear!

“Lets do the poo-room,” decides Cauleigh romantically and they set forth once again!

The denizen of the room is large and serpentine. Cauleigh dodges away from its strike, and as it slashes past him he sees that the creature is blind. With a fine arquebus shot and a L3TTYF the thing topples into death throes. Its scales are deep grey and eyes white-blind.

A short verse in archaic script on the back wall of its chamber is copied down.

Disregard the body – its many forms deceive

Follow the eyes – they unerringly shepherd the mind

And that is all. Wolfie dislikes the smell of the corpse and won’t eat it. But Trefoil, using his footman’s spear as a lever, snaps out a long fang, and he and Sage consult as to withdrawing the poison sac.

“Level one is clear enough!” Cauleigh cries, rallying them from their detail work. “Next – level two!”

And as the eight-strong party sips water, arranges light sources, and heads for the deeper corners of the dungeon, the session ends.

 

Lucky for Fennec the old-school yellow mould rules weren’t being applied! In OSR rules only fire will destroy yellow mould. And missing your CON SR would mean death.

I shudder to think how the lads will fare in Level Two, if they are completely thrown off guard by apes “arresting” them. There also seems a lack of clarity about what the Herbals are there for. It could all turn to custard. Stay tuned!

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The Broken Land: the Marsh of Horror!

In our prelude, eleven members of Ironbridge’s Rogues Guild are arrested, shackled and loaded into barges. A blood moon rises, as the barges take them upriver to the Dunn marshes!

The eleven ‘miscreants’ are led to Dunn, gateway to the fenland formed between the Golden and Black rivers.

“To retreat is to be executed!” warn the templars and leave them to be further briefed by the villagers.

CRGE: Do all the rogues wait and speak to the villagers? Yes (surge+2).

And now gentle reader you expect me to launch into the acclaimed LotFP adventure around Dunwich, but lo! this is not that game.

This begins as a zero-level funnel, using both the DCC ‘Escape from the shrouded fen’ from Purple Sorcerer Games, and the T&T solo, ‘Issoth Temple’. Surviving characters move on to Shrouded Fen’s Interlude and level one hex-crawl.

Spoilers! If you intend to play either of those adventures, be advised that this AP contains massive spoilers.

CRGE: Do the rogues know local legends about the marshes? No (surge+4).

As a funnel game, characters must follow a fog-beast into the fen under the blood moon; meet a programmed attack by Murderbeak, a giant winged beast known as a Scaleshrike; and move to the temple and its portal.

The adventure then (potentially) switches. Either or both Issoth Temple (run as the solo, but using more than one character) and Shrouded Fen’s ruined temple can be used to progress action, depending on what happens.

Because questions about ‘which door do I pick’ and ‘do I check for traps’ are best dealt with using Mythic’s likely/unlikely approach, that emulator will be used for the detail of exploration, especially inside dungeons. CRGE’s yes/no approach works well for decisions made on the trail, where one option is as good, or likely, as another.

Loc: the crafter is used here to sum up how preparations/briefings go. Briefly: most have furnished themselves with adequate d4 weapons such as knives or slings. Characters that had non-weapon, non-bulky starting gear have kept it. For example, a sack is OK but a chest is not. Characters that can believably source their rolled-up weapons from the village (hammer, pitchfork) have them.

Episode 1: The Fog Beast Breathes!

The rogues, whether they believe the villagers entirely or no, are all assembled and ready. Their features are pinched and miserable, for even in summer the fens are not hospitable. With the exception of Zirin, who has a naturally commanding presence! They can see nothing of the fens: the weird ochre fog that, the villagers say, brings death to the foolish, cloaks all. Some have listened more to villagers than others, but all have some simple supplies put by, including herbs that will restore health.

A crumbling bridge leads across the Black River: the ochre fog lies beyond. From behind the rogues, a cloud of mist forms into a mighty beast! It moves to the bridge, then across, looking back and beckoning.

“Time to be off!” Zirin exhorts them. The astrologer-rogue steps out bravely and the others follow, checking their weapons. The swamp is humid, as befits high summer. As they follow in the footsteps of the fog-beast, they notice that the ochre fog seems to be pressed back, as though some transparent shield were protecting them. Nothing can be seen of the other side now.

The fog-beast expands its chest cavity and breathes out a mighty but gentle breath. In response, the ochre fog rolls away from a narrow stony path or trail, winding into the fen. While not stony, trails of dirt and rotted wood extend left and right.

And with that, the fog-beast slowly dissipates: though the breeze continues, seeming to gently push at the rogues’ backs. A faint whisper sounds:

“The fog must die along with the curse… only then will you be free.”

Mythic: Do all the rogues follow the path? (Likely) – Yes

The rogues shake out into a loose order. Zirin, as default leader, seems to assume they are following the stone path and no-one dissents or sneaks off alone… at least for now.

About an hour of walking passes, when Zirin beholds a ghostly shape: in the form of a warrior or adventurer, dressed in archaic style.

[This Random Event is generated from Shrouded Fen, in the ‘wandering the fen’ section. It is known as Ghost Harassment! – and involves a Luck check by the unluckiest member. Zirin and Riba are equally low in LK and a 50-50 toss selects Zirin.]

“I buried a gem here,” the ghost mutters to Zirin. As Zirin stops to check the spot, a venomous swamp adder strikes at him – but [with a fine Refl SV] Zirin pulls his hand out of the way!

CRGE: Does a gem actually exist? No (surge +6).

With a regretful sigh Zirin and Walt cease poking about and catch the others, who are already ahead.

“There’s a crossroads” comes the call from the van.

 

Episode 2: Murderbeak!

Two spectral figures materialize on opposite sides of the trail. Suspicious rogues (which let’s be honest, is most of them) pull back to throwing range, clutching throw-spikes or the like. Little Tadiko, a half-elf from distant shores, has fashioned a sling.

But neither figure solidifies. It seems each, garbed as warriors of earlier epochs, has advice, though obscure.

“For wisdom, seek the Waterfall of Tears,” says one dressed in weird scale; and, “you are cursed to remain here,” says the one in chainmail, “jump from the top of Slowdown Falls to escape.” Then they book look up and chorus, “Too late!”

Combat!

Murderbeak is an oversize Scaleshrike, a mythic-looking, part bird and part reptile creature. It is easily big enough to carry away three dead adventurers! Special rule for this programmed encounter: if Murderbeak’s hp fall to half or worse it will take available kills and escape.

Initiatives: Tadiko, Murderbeak, then the others more or less in order of agility.

Round 1: Tadiko [burns LK] hits with sling, 3 dmge. Murderbeak strikes and gets max damage on Glyn, who dies. Win gets a crit and uses it to mask Murderbeak’s eyes with his large sack, confirming the grapple with a follow-up roll.

Round 2: Tadiko hits, 4 dmge. Murderbeak attempts to shake off the grapple but in a surprise low roll scores even with Win: the grapple continues, and Murderbeak suffers Blinded penalties. Everyone who is neither Win nor Tadiko divides off into either ‘help grappling’ or ‘do damage’ teams: However the grapplers also risk being hit by their own allies.

This is the case for two grappler members, Walt and Binye. Both attempt LK burns to avoid the damage but Walt fails and (hit for 4 dmge) dies! On the positive side Murderbeak is hit for 11 more dmge including a crit that Riba scores.

With Walt falling dead and Binye injured, the question is:

CRGE: will more join the grappling? No, and unexpectedly… (cross-stitch) Win can both keep the muffling sack on and stab with his knife!

Murderbeak’s hp are 39 of 57.

Round 3: Tadiko crits for a total of 8 dmge.

With a net +2 advantage on grappling Murderbeak breaks loose this time! However it still has the Blinded condition and misses both attacks.

All three attackers hit, for a total of 9 dmge and with only 22hp remaining Murderbeak’s ‘flee’ condition is activated.

Round 4: Tadiko misses, Murderbeak shakes off the sack and flees with two dead rogues.

 

The nine remaining rogues pick up fallen items (a torch and knife in particular) and congratulate each other on surviving. Binye eats nourishing herbs and recovers 1hp.

Burning LK and LK recovery: DCC rules on burning LK are useful for rogues. These are the rules I’m using to blend dT&T rogues into DCC LK rules.

To burn LK the level 0 rogue requires a LK check, ie roll under LK on a d20. If successful a d3 is rolled to alter the original fate, be it a d20 roll or damage. 

LK is recovered either when Level 1 is hit or when a natural 20 is rolled. At level 1, rogues recover 1 LK over night, like DCC thieves.

Example: Tadiko has burnt LK but scored a crit later in the fight, so has recouped that earlier point. Binye has burnt LK and has not scored a crit so is currently one down.

Despite the fight, the stony path is still visible. However, as earlier noted, this is also a crossroad of sorts. Much cruder trails run left and right. Now, a debate arises.

CRGE: Does a random event need to be generated? No (surge +8).

CRGE: Is the party still following the stony path? No but… some are.

One side, pointing out that escaping by means of Slowdown Falls or seeking wisdom from the Waterfall of Tears is what the ghosts advised, wants to explore the side-trails. The other side believes the best course is the obvious, the stony path that is still plain to follow.

Try the Falls party: Win, fresh from his glorious sack-muffling triumph, with Borer, Dag, Elyn, and Riba.

Faith in the Beast party: Zirin, with Adini Binye and Tadiko.

As they are not quarreling, merely disagreeing about priority, each keeps a torch.

 

“If we clear the mist before you, you owe us a beer!” calls Zirin cheerfully.

“I don’t mind buying the beer as long as we’re sharing loot!” Elyn calls back. And the mists swallow her team.

 

 

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The Broken Land

a DCC/dT&T/Mythic/CRGE solo play

This solo play was thrown up by events in my regular face-to-face dT&T campaign, To Ikkutas! An ‘event’ moved into play as various factions in the region were activated.

“Locate the lair of the illkin leader known as the White Uruk; as side missions, locate the Hill Giant steading and ascertain Briarwood Keep’s loyalty”

Although the main characters continue with their own adventure, the adventure has legs of its own and requires a solo mini-campaign.

Prelude

Recruitment Drive: Thanks for Volunteering!

During this prelude, I use CRGE with its yes/no matrix and increasing surge points. Should there be a need for descriptions, I use the Location Crafter which can be used for complex questions.

Thanks to my ongoing campaign I already know the protagonists and the locations.

The recruiters: Sir Titus Lytera, with mercenaries acting as town guard, backed up by Templars of the Holy Father.

The recruits: Rogues of the Rogues Guild, in cahoots with the Rusty Rapier smuggling network.

CRGE: Is this raid a surprise? Yes, surge 2.

Loc: How come? Freely ancient; Dominate possessions.

 

The guild members are taken by surprise, though their watch along the lanes is as careful as usual. From below, out of the old smugglers’ tunnels, burst the watch! And not the tame old town watch, but hardy mercenaries, and mingled among them the touch, well-armored Templars of the Holy Father!

Loc: What do the recruiters catch? Fortunately colorful.

“We have us a heap o’ miscreants, Cap’n” reports a cheerful mercenary, “an’ once we set about ‘em they gotten model citizens right quick.”

“Good! Bring each through and be sure to hold them down: we’ll get the holy shackles done now.”

“Some o’ them ain’t long fer this world, ‘less’n ya pervade some healin’.”

“That will be up to the Holy Father. If they survive, they are worthy.”

 

DCC rules, and how I have adjusted them slightly for this solo

The following cast of characters is listed in DCC order: Strength Agility Stamina Personality Intellect Luck, but with an extra attribute used in dT&T, Speed, to provide for the contingency of using a dT&T solo. Although in the dT&T universe they may be sturdy rogues, in this recruitment I am rerolling them as level 0 commoners. In other words, attribute drops are owing to injuries sustained in the arrest. As they gain experience these hurts can be erased. Naturally, after being beaten and shackled, health is not good. Level 0 hp rules apply: one d4, modified by Stamina.

The exception to this roll-up rule is that Wizardry, or WIZ, is “locked” so that the recruits cannot use any spells, initially. No spell-casting checks are permitted at all, in DCC level 0 rules.

Again because they have been forcibly recruited, the ‘starting weapon’ and ‘starting wealth’ does not apply. I’ll deal with details of this in chapter one.

 

Adini: woodcutter, brings a small mirror. STR9 AGI4 STA12 PER13 INT12 LCK15 SPD12

Binye: animal handler, brings flint and steel. STR4 AGI12 STA13 PER9 INT17 LCK15 SPD10

Borer: dwarf mason, brings a candle. STR13 AGI11 STA9 PER9 INT7 LCK13 SPD8

Dag: woodcutter, brings an oil flask. STR9 AGI13 STA6 PER9 INT8 LCK12 SPD8

Elyn: herbalist, brings a crowbar. STR10 AGI4 STA7 PER10 INT12 LCK12 SPD10

Glyn, hobb poulterer, brings flint and steel. STR5 AGI11 STA6 PER12 INT10 LCK16 SPD11

Riba: outlaw, brings a torch. STR4 AGI16 STA10 PER10 INT13 LCK6 SPD10

Tadiko: half-elf navigator. STR12 AGI12 STA15 PER12 INT12 LCK15 SPD9

Walt: farmer, brings a torch. STR10 AGI13 STA9 PER11 INT12 LCK12 SPD11

Win: costermonger, brings a large sack. STR10 AGI10 STA10 PER11 INT11 LCK9 SPD7

Zirin: astrologer, brings a crowbar. STR8 AGI14 STA12 PER18* INT14 LCK6 SPD9

*This is the only triple of the roll-ups. In dT&T, it TAROs to 27.

 

“All shackled are they? Excellent! Fine work!”

Sir Titus Lytera frowns and turns back to master Wonnram. “Fine work? And what of justice?”

In turn, the intense, dressy master of the Templars draws himself up:

“My order, the prince, and your own lord say this is justice. They’ll have their chance. If they survive the Dunn marshes, they will be deemed righteous and fit for the real mission.”

“Hmhh. I wish them fortune. And master Wonnram: I wish you and your order a safe and fast journey back to the Spire. A blood moon is rising. It bodes ill.”

“The blood moon explains much of our haste in the matter at hand. We must hasten back! Load the barges!”

 

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TI3.16: Saltlick Gulch / Tales of the Gann

The characters for this session

Fennec, L3 wizard

Cauleigh, L3 warrior

Jotunn, L5 warrior

Crompton, L3 rogue

ably assisted by the Herbal Teas:

Sage, L3 wizard

Trefoil, L2 warrior

Heartsease, L2 warrior

Wolfie, L2 wulfan

 

Making plans and laying in supplies

Last session, fleeing conscription by the Holy Father Templars, the eight-strong party decamped from the Rusty Rapier in Ironbridge and found sanctuary in Olfoot Manor, the home of lady Ezra.

When all have supped lightly Cauleigh addresses five of the eight (and unknowingly, lady Ezra, who can hear them) thus:

“Right, there are two choices – or that’s my count – some of you may be able to think of more.

“ONE: we get going now on the supplies we have and forage as best we can. That gets us right away from Wonnram and his lot and means we won’t call trouble down on lady Ezra.

“TWO: we sneak back for supplies, wait up, and use the darkness to travel more comfortably. That gives us the option of marching on when foraging isn’t an option.

“It’s a pity we didn’t quite get everything organised… but my blood is boiling even now when I think of Wonnram and that young Neghed and his ‘diplomacy’ so we’ll just have to improvise around oil.”

Sage volunteers to have a look around for combustibles, and heads to the cellar with lady Ezra. Her maid and man take her letter (of protest at the incident) to Lord Orctooth and a shopping-list from the group and drive to town.

In terms of roleplaying the NPCs I speak for them, but rotate SRs around. It gives all players some buy-in to how the Herbals do.

Fennec has – perhaps paranoically, perhaps wisely – been on watch this whole time, outside the walls. There’s been no pursuit or alarums.

The party uses the downtime to gentle the ponies to Wolfie’s presence, and discuss issues of march and dungeon-discipline. Or at least, Cauleigh and Trefoil do. Heartsease seems to be more of a go-with-the-flow kind of girl and the others are re-packing or relaxing.

The Dwarves’ ponies: Fanshaw, Barnsley, Kip, Dice, and pack pony Toto.

The Herbals’ ponies: Rorie, Mattie.

The wagon arrives back safely. Lady Ezra’s maid has bought plenty of rations: a little bulkier than adventurers would normally choose. There’s extra fodder for ponies and a simple pillion saddle for Sage. Packing proceeds apace! And by this time, Sage has emerged triumphant, with two small casks.

“One’s oil, one’s my secret ingredient to add to it when we’re ready.”

 

A dust-storm: nighting below the plateau

Although it’s still hot day, there’s an uneasy feeling among the group that their good luck can’t last. The last thing they want is to be besieged by vengeful Templars, so after a crescendo of packing – Sage’s casks are packed in separate panniers – they set forth upstream. Sage rides perched on the pillion in front of Cauleigh.

Jotunn, naturally, leads off. A Jay dances and chatters in the woods as they pass: then the party draws away and onto a barren stretch of land indeed. Dust devils rising off scree, and the sun’s glare off the trail, make for poor visibility.

Within the first three hours, Heartsease gives up riding. Not a proficient horsewoman: and although she doesn’t seem to have any vanity, perhaps she feels out of place on a pony. Her walking pace is quick, and there’s little difference in the pace.

Neither on nor over the other side of the river is any sign of pursuit. Could it be that the Templars assume the Dwarves are doing their bidding? As for the Herbals’ mission, as Sage explains it, they are more likely to attract pursuit. There was some type of fore-mission upriver at a place named Dunn, then an organised exploration of the dungeon, with Templars.

Jotunn’s call interrupts these musings.

“The wind is picking up! It’s a dust-storm! I’m going to try this ledge…”

Soon, Jotunn affirms his choice and the ponies are led up ledges formed by fractures on the plateau cliff, to a broader ledge offering some shelter for the night. Rock-paintings formed from sprayed-clay show this ledge has given shelter for an age and an age.

It’s going to be a full moon, and Jotunn predicts, a blood moon, thanks to the dust. Yes, a full moon could be a problem with Wolfie. The Herbals usually just let him run free away from towns, so that’s what happens.

 

Two wizards, two different spell approaches

For the short night, three watches are set. The ponies need reassuring at all times. Cauleigh teams up with Sage, Jotunn with Heartsease, and Crompton with Trefoil. Fennec, who is senior wizard, gets nap time. Before that, Sage draws Fennec away back down the ledge.

“I just want to  make it clear, at this stage before you teach me the second spell, how very useful having me alongside you will be.

“One of the basic things my master taught me was ‘Massa-Mana‘ as he called it. It allowed me to feed him mana. So you can use me as a battery, as it were.” [It’s CdlK, for those nerdy enough to look at L1 spells]

Fennec reinforces Sage’s knowledge of Glue-You. The Gnome says he has the spell under control, and looks forward to his next.

“What d’you mean, next” Fennec responds coldly.

“Ah. Then, we may have to re-visit our agreement with you.”

[We break off to remind Fennec he now owes Sage a second spell.]

“What you’re saying is, you’re not quite ready to teach me a second spell,” Sage concludes, and the two return.

The night is uneventful, other than silently hunting owls and a pre-dawn bat-midge battle down on the river. The moon is noticeably red. This is as Jotunn predicted – a side-effect of the dust-storm.

 

Two different warriors, two different training approaches

“We need to get back on the trail before the day heats up,” Cauleigh presses.

Heartsease is practicing her demi-lune. Trefoil joins her, but half-heartedly. He looks like he’s handled his footman’s spear for many years. Heartsease, perhaps as though she has just gained enough strength to handle it well. She really whips it around – the head screeches and whines as she spins it.

Wolfie comes loping in, up to Heartsease, gets a scratch behind the ears, and it’s time to go.

The trek begins anew, Jotunn confident that the day will be just as hot as yesterday. His immediate goal is the gullies he spotted from the barge.

“Let’s push, while we have the shade!”

 

Across the river a view of another dungeon

Cauleigh and Crompton chat about the bats – Crompton angles up to ride alongside – then uses the chance to negotiate spell-teaching with Sage. A kind of spell-for-spell trade is agreed on.

“You won’t have enormous stocks of Level One – I do – I’m a wizard” Sage proposes, then asks Cauleigh to keep this in confidence. Apparently the Wizard’s Guild has a dim view of teaching rogues.

Far beyond the river, at the limit of his vision, lit by the morning sun, Cauleigh spots an elevation in the plain. He mentions it.

“Ooh! – we were going to do that. That would be Ravenson,” Sage confidently recalls. “It’s said that the ancient people of Ravenscrag extended thus far and set up an outpost there. It’s said that relics of those times are still to be found there. And of course since then other warlords have set up strongholds over it. So yes, we were going to pick it over, on our way back to Sarnas.”

“So that way lies Sarnas,” Cauleigh broods.

“Yes, should the party decision be to go that way we’d be happy to show you the way, if we are able. And travel with you, for safety.”

“We have to head south, but after that, Sarnas. And standing still seems to mean people finding reasons to do things for them.”

The two discuss the Templars and the offers: Sage reiterates that the Herbals are satisfied with the contract.

 

A dogfight! Is this serious?

Ahead of Jotunn, Wolfie, who’s been scaling the rocks above, stiffens then springs! Then rolling down the slope, he and a similarly-shaggy creature come, snarling and growling. It sounds like two wolves murdering each other.

There’s nothing much the others can do, until the pair roll off the trail and right into the river. There’s a confusion of who-holds-my-reins. Adventurers to the rear attempt to jostle ponies through.

[Fennec in particular has a spell in mind, while Jotunn Cauleigh and Crompton are all inclined to intervene. Crompton generously agrees to stay back with ponies, since he is one of the pair that does handle ponies well. Sage remains on the pillion.]

“Sage, can you control the reins…?”

“Yes? Er, and yours? Fine…”

Jotunn pulls down Temerity as he scrambles up to where the creature had hidden, but slips in scree [rolls the first fail of the evening] and slides. Cauleigh runs nimbly to the water’s edge and as he identifies which is Wolfie, leaps in smashing his silver-headed Mace of Stunting onto the other. Fennec is ready with his spell but there is no need: the fight is won. Wolfie unlocks the other’s jaws from his left arm, and throws the corpse up on the bank. Dwarf and Wulfan splash and scramble out.

Up on the rocks above, Jotunn regains his footing and finds that the creature was alone.

It’s a big, tall-shouldered lobo wolf, and Wolfie cuts deep into the carcass and drags out the heart and other choice giblets and begins wolfing them down. He’s bleeding pretty freely from one arm but ignores it. Crompton encourages Heartsease to calm Wolfie down, so healing can be applied.

“Isn’t that kind of… cannibalism?” Fennec asks Sage.

“He’s… comfortable with it.”

Crompton eases the ponies round and the party sets off. Crompton heals Wolfie in part, as he passes, and Heartsease whips a bandage around the wound and heads on.

 

Wolfie runs free, kind of

“Thank you for that, Cauleigh. I’m sure Wolfie would have handled it eventually, but best not to have one of the party torn to bits just on a one-off chance. He’s very loyal. Especially to Heartsease, of course. She bought him his freedom originally.”

“Was he a slave?”

“Yes, although technically he is still a slave. We have his papers and everything.”

“Er. Can I ask…”

“It solves problems, in towns.”

“I can’t see the sense in a Wulfan slave.”

“I think the idea was, those battle-pits they have along the river. But as I say, Heartsease bought him, he’s a valued member of the team.”

 

A spot of pathfinding

The plateau wall bends away left noticeably. Jotunn peers forward and waves those following to a halt.

“There are a couple of gullies here,” he calls. “I want to see which is likely for taking ponies up.”

Trefoil volunteers to help.

“Can Wolfie smell any other wolves around?” Jotunn wonders. At the end of the party Crompton passes this back to Heartsease.

Heartsease speaks lupine, apparently. “He only scented that one wolf,” she concludes after a peculiar growfing, snuffling and gesturing kind of exchange with the Wulfan.

As Jotunn hoped, the party is able to walk the ponies down to where the gullies and gulches give onto the river. While most shelter in the first mouth, and two stand watch above it, he and Trefoil walk along the riverbank to decide on the most likely route into the interior.

His search proves a simple one. One gulch stands out.

“Horse tracks!” Trefoil exclaims, as Jotunn studies them. “What d’you make of them?”

The tracks are of at least a dozen horseback riders, about a week past, and lead up the gulch.

“This looks the way to go. Let’s head back.”

 

Salt-lick Gulch

The heat of the watch and curls of red or grey dust thrown down by dust-devils gives way to the baking heat of the gulch. It’s wide enough for three riders at a push: Jotunn opts for two abreast.

Party order:

Jotunn and Trefoil;

Cauleigh/Sage and Fennec;

Heartsease and Crompton

(Wolfie running around free, mostly behind)

“We messed up: Crompton’s riding with the hottie,” Jotunn calls back to Cauleigh.

Crompton takes the chance to ask Heartsease more about Wolfie.

“It was after I left Sarnas… reasons aren’t important… he was uh, in a cage belonging to beast-hunters, and I think… he was bound for those arenas. So I bought him. As far as I can tell his people wander. There’s things he can’t tell me or won’t tell me about them… but I do know he’s on the lookout for one in particular… family or such? ‘Pack’ is how he explains it.”

Jotunn and Trefoil call a halt: there’s the remains of a fire, and a few bones.

Cauleigh leap-frogs to point, Trefoil stands on guard, and Jotunn picks down through the layers and casts about for prints. Here, half the original horseback group camped. A few days later – in other words a few days ago – a single large creature camped and roasted mutton.

Meanwhile at the rear, Wolfie seems interested in eating something, possibly Dice, but is happy with the dried meat Heartsease tosses him. Crompton heals Wolfie the remainder of damage.

“‘rompton good,” Wolfie decides.

“There’s a salt-lick here” Jotunn announces, “maybe let the ponies have a lick or three, then let’s push on.”

Cauleigh scales the gulch wall as the ponies are led forward, then retreats as a rattle sounds. He scales to the top a safe distance from the rattler. Visibility is poor owing to heat shimmer and dust, but he can see the outline of the woods, off west. Behind him east, it’s obvious that trying to work along beside the plateau would have been hopeless: there are many slips and gullies.

Crompton sloshes water into his helmet and makes sure all the ponies get a mouthful.

 

A riderless horse foreshadows

Each hour, the heat seems to increase by half again. Their eyes seem to be broiling in their sockets. The sound of a shod horse approaching can be heard.

Whinnies are exchanged, and a riderless horse, stirrups and torn reins dangling, comes eagerly down the gulch. A deep score, dried, runs down its flank.

The Dwarves provide it some water and a small bite of fodder, but have no margin for adopting a new mount. Heartsease makes no move. It hangs about for half an hour as they push on, but seems to decide it has places to go and turns back to resume its original course.

 

The centaur

The gulch is now more of a wash – the banks can be scaled – and they can peer about to catch landmarks.

Jotunn dismounts to study a second fire. Almost certainly the other half of the original riders, perhaps eight men, probably a week ago.

Judging from the lack of visible forest, this is a good point to head due west and find that glade and stream in the woods, because the Herbals will be tiring. It’s a two-to-three hour push, and Heartsease is very tired by the time they are wihin a dash of the woods.

There, shaking out its mane, is a mighty centaur, bearing a huge polearm. Opening its mouth wide to display massive sharp teeth, it booms menacingly.

Cauleigh shakes out his cloak of plausibility, dons it and walks forward, trying to project confidence. [CHR SR nets out to -5, he still makes L3]

“Our horses need water, and shade,” Cauleigh calls. The great creature scents the air.

“Dwarves… Human! Elf! Wolf…”

Jotunn studies the centaur for signs of what it might need as Cauleigh gets close. Behind him, Cauleigh’s pony disappears as Sage is left to mind it. The centaur nickers and Lucky, the mount they abandoned at the river, walks forward.

It seems Lucky (or Hrr’hreh to give her her right name) has loose shoes and prefers to keep them. Crompton is volunteered and does his best, including some healing to a split frog. It seems all women like shoes! And the centaur is well pleased, and allows them shade and water.

 

Tales of the Gann

Cauleigh uses the opportunity to ask the centaur – “call me Chiron” – about the dungeon, snake-like monster, and illkin.

The centaur has a story of the time that the ‘rock prison’ was formed. What he names ‘a god-being’ brought some ‘terrible evil’ there. It summons forth, so they say, other demons, such as the shadow-hounds. He mentions strange twisted little Dwarfs, out on the plain, seeking meat. In recent times dog-faces spilled forth to make war on the town-people of the plain.

His tales of the ‘snake in the dungeon’ mention three snakes, according to a prophecy of the demon Gann, who called forth three snakes with the power to bite and control minions. They also have the power to mingle [their seed] with warm-bloods, taking on the nature of that mother. “That may be why the human females were pulled from that hut,” he muses. “I thought it was as a meal, but perhaps not.”

As his herd does not approach the ape colony he has no further information on that score. Cauleigh turns the talk to the illkin that follow the White Urukin.

The centaur knows of him and his followers. As long as they live in the broken lands he cares nothing. Apparently the white urukin advises the uruk-chief, or troll-chief, and has risen to this position within the last year.

They eat and drink together and having downed all of their limited wine supplies and finished all of their dried meat, the centaur seems well pleased.

Finally Cauleigh takes advantage of this bonhomie and gets some landmark-style directions around the tomb-area that hides Colairion’s treasure.

 

Survivors – a lesson learned

[LK or IQ for Trefoil and Jotunn as the riders set out in the same order. Jotunn DAROs 17 on dice with four rolls.]

Struggling towards them from their right come half a dozen men and horses. Or more precisely as they shake out and take precautions, five men, and four horses, and at least one of them is one of the bounty-hunters from the last time.

These men are desperate, but not loooking for a fight. [L1 IQ – made!]  Other than the matchlock-bearer the others bear makeshift hunting bows, and unfletched arrows. Matchlock man trades a gem-decorated native-iron dagger for a small amount of food, and advice about the stream in the centaur’s glade.

The men’s story is that they were assailed in the night by weird dark-skinned Dwarves with pale eyes, then as the survivors of that fled up the escarpments, they were set upon by something else. The last they saw of their leader, he was being hammered onto a stake.

 

A cliff-bound fight in the dark!

They set out again, across the ape-colony, using the last few hours of light. Far away on the plateau wall they can see tiny dots moving slowly up – the apes are pulling back up to their nests.

As twilight deepens, the light of twin giant ape-head eyes can be seen. Fennec and Jotunn will need to scale the cliff and get down behind the heads. The remainder of the party wait at a respectable distance.

[Jotunn rolls a fail on L1 LK SR]

SCREEE!!

Jotunn hauls out his axe desperately and clings onto the cliff with one hand, as a family of apes attempt to rid themselves  of this intruder! Below, Fennec is hard put to just stay holding on.

[Jotunn can’t use his warrior bonus, as he has no background as a cliff-scaling barbarian, but gets normal adds otherwise. In round 2 the surviving apes go berserk, which helps them but not by enough.]

Pieces of hacked-apart ape shower down and eventually Jotunn announces the all-clear. They clamber through the slimy mess. [L1 DEX SR, both make it OK] Then down behind the guardian heads, for Fennec to cast his KK.

The eyes blank dark, and the others file forward.

 

Base camp! At least for now…

Toto proves somewhat confident on steps, so leads the other ponies down. Since the doors had been shut, there are no feral apes to challenge the incomers.

From the entry chamber it’s time to re-explore the tunnels and rooms. Although it has been mere days they seem unfamiliar. But little by little the layout is recalled. The Dwarves lead the way through a rubbish-choked room and south through tunnels. Seven ponies make for noisy going.

An unexplored room with long, sac-like things strewn near the door is checked a little more carefully. The ‘sacs’ are snake-droppings. Each about four feet long!

They decide not to press further into that room and instead wind closer to the great chamber, finally unsaddling and setting up a crude manger in a connecting chamber, 20′ square, with doors that open outward so ponies can’t accidentally prevent their owners from entering.

The Herbals are all ready to sleep, especially Heartsease who has walked virtually the whole way. It’s time for the Dwarves, still fit thanks to the glade-side rest, to scout further, but the session ends before they decide which way.

 

That got us about as far as I thought. Into the dungeon but not re-clearing Level One. I achieved the main goal, to ensure the Herbals are ‘real’ and not simply expendable NPCs. The bonus information from the centaur and the bounty hunters was a nice extra.

Props

A little bit of help from Wizardawn’s generators with this one, but I took care (actually prepped!) to represent the microclimates they hex-crawled through.

A blood moon over the region signals the start of something else – stay tuned for that!

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