Monday, 1 June 2020

BFJB solo - Part 3: Welcome guests

21 Simānum (6 June)

It seems they have been following the canal since before the great flood, and could have walked to Dilmun and back by now. The blazing heat of the Šamaš has almost accomplished what the weapons of the marauding Amorites could not, and the buzzing flies and biting insects have driven the travellers half-mad with their predations (perhaps fully mad, in Damiqtum's case). Iqīš-Sîn has collected a bundle of rushes, and does his best to twitch the flies away from his master's person, but Mannum-kīma-Adad tires of being accidentally hit in the face, and bids his slave stop. Iqīš-Sîn apologises "sincerely" for his "clumsiness".

At length they the mud-brick and reed building of a farm compound come into view, and not long afterwards they meet a young boy sitting in the path, throwing stones into the canal. He looks up expectantly at the travellers. "You the taxman from Babylon?" he asks in heavily accented Akkadian.

"This is my master, Man--"

The boy does not wait for Iqīš-Sîn to finish, but leaps to his feet shouting, "I go tell the chief!" and runs off towards the farm.

Scene 5

Average (d10)

Setup: 1d10=3, Interrupt (was: arrival at the estate)
Interrupt: NPC positive - overseer - Starting / Messages

NPC List: Taqbim the emtum (=high priestess) of Ištar, Warad-Amurrum who owes grain, overseer, farmers, Ḫali-malik (whom M may owe a great deal of oil)

Threads: retrieve the missing grain, deal with M's debt

[This scene was just an off-stage Interrupt: someone sent word ahead that a tax collector was coming -- they're ready for the party's arrival. Since this is going to work against the PCs, I raised the Chaos level one step.

This was an especially welcome turn of events, as it changes the whole tenor of the arrival, adding an extra layer to the mystery and some additional challenges that did not exist in the adventure set-up as I had envisioned it.]

Scene 6

Chaos: Out-of-Control (d8)

Setup: arrival at the estate

Sumu-tibal the overseer is an Amorite, though more of the settled variety than the nomads who attacked our heroes in the countryside. He comes to greet his visitors as they arrive, meeting them some distance from the fields. He looks clean, calm and well-dressed [Coolly / Soft] but still carries a stout wooden rod under his arm. A pair of slaves accompany him silently behind.

"You are the tax collector come from the Ekitušgirzal temple, yes?"

"I am indeed," replies Mannum-kīma-Adad.

"How was your journey?"

"We were beset by savages! Fortunately my bodyguard here fought them off."

"How extraordinary! You look no worse for it, let me tell you. But regardless, you must be tired from your journey. I've had refreshments made ready. Come into the house. If you'd care to wash first, I'll have you shown to the room I've made up for you. And I can have someone make up a room for your, ah, lady-friend, should she require it."

"She is a representative of Ekitušgirzal."

"Of course! How foolish of me."

Sumu-tibal leads them towards the cluster of buildings at the edge of the fields. He barks a command in Amorite to the slaves without looking back at them. They immediately scurry on ahead into the house, a two-storey mud-brick building not at all unlike Mannum-kīma-Adad's house in town.

[With my GM hat on, I know that the PCs have a chance to notice something amiss as they arrive, so they each get to make a Mind check. None of them have the Farmer profession, so there is a -3 penalty on their rolls.

D natural 1,4 fail
I 4+4-3, fail
M natural 1,3 fail
Š 4+5-3, fail

No one notices anything.

In a very happy coincidence, a preview of the Taskmaster (waklum) profession in an upcoming supplement was posted on the Šukāmu Press site, so when it comes time to determine stats for Sumu-tibal I don't have to wing it.]

* * *

Sumu-tibal tells his guests he had a lamb slaughtered as soon as they were spotted, as they are his master's honoured gusts. He seats them at the table in courtyard of the big house, and makes polite small talk as the house slaves bring forth the repast. Their meal is a hearty affair: lamb stew, bread, cheese, and plenty of beer. His guests are almost too tired from their journey to talk, but Sumu-tibal does not seem to mind, and plays the attentive host.

Mannum-kīma-Adad begins to grow suspicious, however, and finally asks, "Just where is your master? I find it surprising that he hasn't come to greet us in person."

"He's in the fields, I expect. He's not like most. He's not afraid to put his back into it. Show the slaves and tenant farmers how it's done! You know what he's like."

[Q: Has Mannum-kīma-Adad ever met Warad-Amurrum? unlikely (5+): O4 C5 - no]

"No, in fact. I've never met him in person. I've only ever received his letters -- statements of account, with just the usual pleasantries, really."

Another slave slips in, and whispers something in the overseer's ear. Sumu-tibal excuses himself, and hurries out of the house towards the fields. He doesn't return until the empty plates are being cleared away.

"I am very sorry to have to tell you this," says Sumu-tibal, "but it seems my master must be off at his other estate. Please accept my most humble apologies on his behalf. Such bad timing! I am sure he'll return very soon."

[I'd used UNE as usual to get his initial conversation topic as they set down to table. The result was scheming—agenda—allies, which seemed better interpreted as his general demeanour and actions than his actual words. The slave who called him away was a plant.]

Scene 7

Chaos: Out-of-Control (d8)

Setup: night

NPC List: Taqbim the emtum (=high priestess) of Ištar, Warad-Amurrum who owes grain, Sumu-tibal the overseer, farmers, Ḫali-malik (whom M may owe a great deal of oil)

Threads: retrieve the missing grain, deal with M's debt

As evening falls, the slaves and tenant farmers begin to close up the compound. A new, reinforced gate pulled across opening in the compound wall, and a bonfire is kindled. Slave with torches, cudgels, and spears take up a position by the gate. From the roof of he big house, Mannum-kīma-Adad espies wisps of smoke in the fields by the farm's outbuildings. He looks quizzically at Sumu-tibal.

"Wild animals," says the overseer. "They've been trampling the crops and wreaking havoc on the livestock. We're having to keep guards posted against them."

The party are shown to their rooms. Mannum-kīma-Adad and Damiqtum are given small private chambers, whilst Iqīš-Sîn and Šerašer must share.

The night becomes very dark. Sîn shows the barest sliver of himself in the heavens [the new moon will be the next day according to]. All is quiet as the weary travellers drop off into dreamless, exhausted sleep.

But it is not to last. An unearthly howl shatters the nocturnal stillness. A chorus of shrieks and screeches rises in answer. Shadows gather at the edges of the bonfires' light, then slink away. The barley rustles with movement. Something wet and heavy thumps against the compound gate. The howling ceases, then moments later rises again, always in a different place.

The travellers are awakened by the terrible din. Mannum-kīma-Adad pulls his blanket over his head, despite the heat of his chamber. Iqīš-Sîn lies stock still, lest the creaking of his bed attract the notice of prowling night demons. Šerašer reaches for the comforting solidity of the bronze sword beneath his pillow. Damiqtum whispers a prayer to her goddess, who, naked and alone, braved the horrors of the nether realm.

[The howling counts as Soul attack against all hearers. They must each make an Avoid check or take 1 Soul damage.

Mannum-kīma-Adad rolls a natural 1, failure (but not critical failure): his current Soul drops to 5.
Iqīš-Sîn rolls  3+3, failure; his Soul drops to 2.
Šerašer also rolls 3+3; his Soul is also now 2
Damiqtum rolls 6, success (but no crit), taking no damage

Q: Does anything slip past the guards? unlikely (5+): O6 C7 - yes
Q: What does it do? Abuse / Peace
Q: Which room does it pester? 1d3=Mannum-kīma-Adad's

The effect will be a Malediction spell cast against him. It's another Soul attack. It succeeds (natural 6, no crit), but he is allowed to avoid; Current Soul 5 +1d6=9, he avoids the effect.

UNE: insane - idiocy - campaign]

Mannum-kīma-Adad has just about managed to shut out the tumult outside when a much nearer sound catches his attention. At first he thinks he's just imagining it, and strains to hear; there is nothing. He holds his breath and lies very still, and the sound comes again, just barely reaching his ears: a slow, soft scraping, as of a single nail being drawn along the wooden bedroom door. It stops, then comes again, louder now, as if more pressure were exerted. Again it stops, then comes back louder still, and faster. Some small animal is scratching to get in.

He throws a sandal against he door, hoping to frighten off the pest. The scratching ceases, and he lies back down, trying to make himself comfortable again. Then a chittering laughter meets his ears, and a grating voice whispers at him from underneath the door.

"Why did you come, Mannum-kīma-Adad? Why did you come? It was foolish to leave Babylon! Flee back to the city! Here shall you find only death."

next post: the heart of the mystery!

Sunday, 24 May 2020

BFJB solo - Part 2: danger lurking in the reeds

21 Simānum (6 June)

They all sleep very late after such long night, and over a late breakfast in the shady courtyard of Mannum-kīma-Adad's house, they go off to make preparations for the voyage.

Šerašer needs to retrieve his things from the alehouse. Iqīš-Sîn is sent with him carrying a hastily scrawled missive bearing his master's seal, mostly to make sure the mercenary is allowed back into the city with his arsenal.

Mannum-kīma-Adad wants the muḫḫūtum to look normal, so buys her a simple but elegant (and most importantly, neither tattered nor bloodstained) dress, and a takes her to a barber who forces a comb through her hair.

Afterwards Damiqtum visits her temple to show off the new gown to her colleagues. Mannum-kīma-Adad goes straight home, lest the emtum-priestess upbraid him for his behaviour towards her agent, or charge him with further duties.

Mannum-kīma-Adad feeds them all very well that evening, and they set out a bit after sunrise the next day.

[He's spent about 2 silver shekels in total -- probably more than he ought to have!]

Scene 3

Chaos: Average (d10)

Setup: setting out; d10=3, Altered
Alteration: Inquire / Balance

NPC List: emtum, Warad-Amurrum who owes grain, overseer, farmers, Ḫali-malik whom M may owe a great deal of oil

Threads: retrieve the missing grain

[Q: Does anything untoward happen as they begin? Unlikely (5+): O6 C7 - yes.
Q: What? Persecute / Friendship]

They've hardly walked 20 paces from Mannum-kīma-Adad's door when a slave rushes up to him bearing a tablet.

"Mannum-kīma-Adad! my master sends you this letter."

"I haven't time for his. I am going away on important business. Knock at my door and leave it with my slaves. I shall read it upon my return."

"I have instructions to hand it to you personally, and to see that you read it."

"Impertinent! bring it to my home, I say, or I'll have my slave thrash you right here in the street."

"I wouldn't do that. My master writes to say you owe him a goodly quantity of oil. You wouldn't want to add to the amount of your debt by mistreating me, would you?"

Mannum-kīma-Adad snatches the tablet from the slave's hand and reads it over furiously, then throws it to the ground and crushes it beneath his heel.

"There's my answer to this fatuous claim. Tell your master that if he wants to pursue this nonsense he can summon me before a judge. But remind him of the penalty for a false accusation! Now away with you, scoundrel!"

The slave turns and goes away. As soon as he's out of earshot, Mannum-kīma-Adad whispers to Iqīš-Sîn, "I don't owe Ḫali-malik anything, do I?"

Scene 4

Chaos: Average (d10)

Setup: through the countryside

NPC List: emtum (=high priestess), Warad-Amurrum who owes grain, overseer, farmers, Ḫali-malik (whom M may owe a great deal of oil)

Threads: retrieve the missing grain, deal with M's debt

Once out of the Adad gate (the southernmost of the 2 western gates) they follow the canals into the countryside, past cultivated fields, and reed-choked marshland.

[Q: Can they find transport? 50/50 (4+): O3 C2 - no, and...]

Mannum-kīma-Adad looks anxiously for boatman to take them down the canal, but there are none to be had. He curses his ill luck, for (according to a merchant friend of his), Warad-Amurrum's estate is situated 3 double-hours outside the city. At least following the canal they cannot get lost, but this is a longer distance than our poor tax collector has ever had to walk in his life!

[A bērum ("double-hour") is the twelfth part of a day, or the distance a person can travel in that time: 21600 cubits, or 10.8km (by ancient Babylonian reckoning -- 11.5km neo-Assyrian.

I rolled 1d6+2=6 hours of travel. They are traversing Cultivated Land per the RQ2 encounter tables, which gives a 75% chance of an encounter per hour. Even with 25% of the results being 'residents at work', there are probably too many combat encounters on the chart, but for a short journey it wasn't too bad.]

The first double hour passes without major incident, though not to hear Mannum-kīma-Adad tell it. Even Damiqtum, who had dreaded leaving the comforts of the city, finds his ceaseless carping about the heat and the dirt and the flies to be uncalled for. At one point she gets him to stop by pointing out a venomous serpent, which Šerašer has to shoo away using one of his javelins.

[1st encounter roll: snakes

A Mind check was needed to spot it - Damiqtum has the best in the party (6), so I just rolled for her: 6+1d6=10, success.

Šerašer made a Body check to fend it off; 1d6=6, auto success (but the second d6=5, not critical success.]

Whether or not the serpent was venomous, Damiqtum didn't rightly know; the important thing was that Mannum-kīma-Adad believed her. He is quiet and well-behaved from then on.

[2nd encounter roll: -
3rd encounter roll: Raiding trolls = pastoral Amorites 1d6+3=6 (stats as 1st level Pastoralists in the bestiary)

The Group’s Size and Condition (via Scarlet Heroes): Half of them are wounded

Each is armed with (1d6): 1 spear, 2 sling, 3 javelin, 4 club, 5 lasso, 6 throwing stick (unscathed: 1,6,4; wounded: 2,4,1)

The injured ones have each taken 1d6 damage: 3,5,6: two are in bad shape, the third has taken critical damage. 2d6 on the Body injury table gives him a broken arm.

Checking for surprise: the Amorites' stealth: Body 6+1d6=11, success. The PCs get a Mind check as an avoidance roll (Damiqtum's 6 again) 1d6=6, auto succeed, but no critical]

When they have travelled a double-hour from their run in with the dangerous serpent, Damiqtum suddenly bids them stop.

"What now?" says Mannum-kīma-Adad. "That look on your face -- don't tell me the goddess has a message for us."

"Don't be stupid. Look. About 30 cubits over that way -- something's moving in the reeds."

Šerašer gives Iqīš-Sîn one of his two javelins. "Don't throw it unless I tell you to. But make like you're going to."

[reaction roll 2d6=7, neutral. encounter range 2d6x10=50']

Three men stand upright, showing themselves above the reeds. They are clad in skins and carry rustic-looking weapons.

"Let us pass!" shouts Šerašer. "We have no quarrel with you."

[Q: Do they understand him? Unlikely (5+): O6 C9 - yes
He can make a Soul check to convince them to leave the party alone. 3+1d6=6, failure.]

The three raiders advance cautiously. They close a little over half the distance [Body x5 = 30'] before hefting their weapons: a spear, a cudgel, and a throwing stick.

[Per my usual, this first fight will be presented with way more mechanics than subsequent ones, not that this is likely to be a combat-heavy campaign. Before I start I will mention that evenly matched fights with competent fighters will tend to have a lot of parried attacks (like Runequest). The ones that do get through are pretty telling though, and damage results in a death-spiral (like T&T monsters); serious wounds are horrific.

Having played one fight, I realise that out-manoeuvring your opponents (i.e. to give them defence roll penalties) is really key. But there isn't really any of that here. Next time I'll know better.]

[Round 1]
As the spearman and club-man rush forward, the third man lets fly his throwing stick, which Šerašer easily blocks with his shield. The mercenary throws his javelin back at the man, wounding his shoulder. Iqīš-Sîn hurls his javelin as well, though it is unclear who was his target. The weapon sails off into the reeds and ends up flat on the ground.

The spearman runs straight at Šerašer. His low thrust does get under the shield, but Šerašer had let it; he slams the point downward into the earth and steps quickly onto the haft, breaking it.

The club-man takes a wild swing at Iqīš-Sîn with no effect. Damiqtum draws her dagger but hesitates, as she is a stranger to battle. Mannum-kīma-Adad does not hesitate at all -- he moves a safe distance back from the fray.

[Initiative is in descending order of Stat value used, unless anyone acts in haste. Pastoralists have Body 6.

The throwing stick attacked from 20':
-1 for range (twice the basic range of 10')
-1 for Šerašer's shield
so, effective Body of 4; Body 4 + 1d6 =6, miss.

Šerašer's javelin had no range penalty, but -1 for the opponent's hide armour.
effective body also 4; +1d6=9, a potential hit.
the Amorite made an Avoid roll, which was a natural 1. The second d6 was not also a 1, so it wasn't a critical failure.
Javelins do 2 damage, which come off the enemy's Body stat. He's thus reduced to Body 4.

Iqīš-Sîn has the same basic penalties (0 range, -1 armour) as Šerašer, but suffers a further -3 penalty for being Unskilled (the weapon tables list which Professions can use each one without penalty).
He can only hit on a natural 6, which he did not roll.

The 2 remaining pastoralists attack Šerašer & Iqīš-Sîn hand-to-hand. Movement gives -1 penalty per 5' crossed: -4 total.
The spearman has a further -1 for Šerašer's shield. He rolled a natural 1 (auto fail) anyways, and the second die the thrown was also a 1: Critical Failure. This either results in a GM-determined disaster or a simply 1 stat damage. A broken weapon seemed the less prosaic option.

The club attack needed to roll a 5 or 6 to hit Iqīš-Sîn; it didn't.]

[Round 2]
The club-man makes a few more ineffectual swings at Iqīš-Sîn. The man with the broken spear is not cowed in the slightest, and rains blows with the remaining half of his weapon down on Šerašer's shield, also to no avail. Šerašer draws the sword from his belt and lashes out, opening a deep wound in the man's outer thigh.

Iqīš-Sîn has his own cudgel in hand. Try as he might, he cannot strike the canny tent-dweller facing him. Damiqtum feels a rage welling up within her, not the divine rage from the touch of her Goddess, but ne nearly as frightening (and pleasing in its own way to the Lioness of Battle). She is a spitting, shrieking flurry of wild stabs and slashes, one of which draws a neat red line down the club-man's face.

[The club-man now has initiative. He rolls a hit (Body 6 + 1d6=10), but Iqīš-Sîn rolls his Body 4 +1d6=9, successfully Avoiding the attack. Had he not been proficient in use of the club, the -3 penalty would have caused the Avoid roll to fail.

I ruled the broken spear could be used as a club, but with a -2 penalty. His attack against Šerašer was (Body 6, -2 penalty, -1 shield) 3+1d6=8, a potential hit.
Šerašer rolled 5+d6=8, Avoiding the attack.

Šerašer's counterattack was a hit, and the spearman's Avoid roll was a natural 1. He didn't roll a critical failure, but did take 3 damage from the sword, reducing his Body to 3.

Iqīš-Sîn rolled a 1 for his attack, and fortunately did not roll a critical failure. A failed attack does not provoke an Avoid Check.

Damiqtum helped Iqīš-Sîn fight. She has the Furious talent, so gets to make 2 attacks, but at -1 & -2 to hit. She's already got -3 for her lack of skill with daggers, so she only hits on a natural 6. I threw a pair of dice and hoped... and  rolled boxcars! Neither manages a crit, though.
The Amorite now must make 2 avoid checks. There is a -1 penalty for each successive Avoid check in a round, so his 1st is normal, his 2nd at -1 (had not Iqīš-Sîn missed, the penalties would have been -1/-2).
The Amorite's dice come up a 6 (d6=3, no crit) and a 1 (d6=5, also no crit). He takes 2 damage from the dagger, reducing him to Body 4.]

[Round 3]
Šerašer stabs at his foe, but the man twists aside. The bronze blade slides along his flank, but does not bite through the thick goatskin he wears.

Iqīš-Sîn and the club-man bash at each other with their cudgels, but he crack of wood against wood is he only result.

The man who threw the throwing stick has been sidling up to the battle with a dagger in hand. He launches himself at Damiqtum, but she evades his blade. She slashes wildly back at him, but cannot land a hit either.

Šerašer's foe is feeling faint from blood loss, and his weakened swings barely connect with even the Elamite's shield.

[With all the Amorites injured, Šerašer now has the highest checked stat, so wins initiative. His attack roll is 7 exactly, but applying the -1 from his opponent's armour commutes it to a miss.

Iqīš-Sîn rolls a natural 6 (but no crit). The club-man's total is 4 (current Body) + 1d6 =8, so he avoids the attack. His counter attack total is 4+5=9, a hit, but Iqīš-Sîn's 4+3=7 avoid roll succeeds, successfully warding off the strike.

The throwing stick Amorite spent round 2 closing the distance (I left this off the narrative as no one was paying attention to him). This round he moved the last 5' to engage Damiqtum. His current Body is 4, and there's a -1 penalty for movement. 4-1+5, a hit, but Damiqtum's total was 3 Body + 5, Avoided. One of her Furious attacks succeeded (she rolls an awful lot of 6s; I can only assume that she truly is blessed by her Goddess), but the Amorite rolled a 7 on his Avoid check.

The spearman is in a bad way; current Body of 3 with a -2 penalty for the broken weapon and a further -1 for Šerašer's shield means he only hits on  natural 6 now; he didn't roll anything close o that.]

[Round 4]
Damiqtum takes a step back, then shrieks a short Sumerian incantation. Her attacker succumbs to the magic at once, and holds his dagger dumbly before him, unable to do more than back away.

Šerašer makes an upward stab at his opponent. He feels a slight resistance as the point of the blade pushes through the thick goatskin, then warmth as the blood gushes forth over his hand. The Amorite collapses; now dust shall sate his hunger, and clay be his food.

Iqīš-Sîn's club thuds hard against his opponent's shoulder. The riposte goes wild.

[Damiqtum decided to cast her Stun spell. This uses Soul, so with her Soul 6 she now has initiative. Her Soul check (6+1d6=9) succeeds, so the spell is cast successfully. The Amorite gets to make an Avoid roll with his own Soul 3. 3+1d6=5, failure. The spell's duration is based on the caster's current Soul, so the Amorite can only defend for the next 6 rounds.

Šerašer rolled a hit, his opponent failed his avoid roll. 3 damage drops the spearman's Body to 0. Normally this results in a roll on the Body Injury chart, but as a soldier, Šerašer has the Deadly Force professional talent which allows him to forego the roll and take the maximum result, so the Amorite is slain instantly.

Iqīš-Sîn hits the club-man who fails to Avoid, delivering another 2 damage. This will drop the Amorite to 2 Body. However, they both are acting on the same initiative segment (both having current Body of 4), so the damage isn't applied until after the Amorite makes his attack. He rolls badly however, and misses.

Things are looking rather grim for the Amorites now, so I put the question to the oracle--
Q: Do the pastoralists flee? Likely (3+): O5 C2 - yes, and...]

The Amorites see that they cannot prevail, and run off back to their fellows. Iqīš-Sîn takes one last swing at his departing opponent, but his cudgel just swishes through empty air [4+2, miss]. The party, unscathed by the battle thanks to the blessings of warlike Ištar, pause to catch their breath and drink from a waterskin whilst they watch the Amorites limping off into the distance.

[XP total is 300 total for defeating the 3 enemies, giving 100 each to the PCs who fought. Mannum-kīma-Adad earns 0 for cowering and doing nothing.]

When the Amorites have been lost from sight, they continue on their way. They pass by farmers in the fields [hour 4 encounter: residents at work] but pay them no mind. Further into the countryside they come upon a group of local spearmen [h5 - residents, militia]. They pause to tell them of the encounter with the Amorites. Mannum-kīma-Adad is effulgent in his praise of Šerašer's martial prowess which saved them all, so he says. He finds it prudent to omit mention of the muḫḫūtum's furor, and as usual forgets to mention the long-suffering Iqīš-Sîn at all.

next post: a mystery on the estate!

Sunday, 17 May 2020

BFJB solo - Part 1: the summons

20 Simānum
The Year in Which the Destroyed Great Wall of Sippar was Rebuilt for Šamaš and Šerida
~5 June, 1767 BCE

Iqīš-Sîn is going to sweep the street before his master's home one morning when he opens the door finds an unkempt young woman standing before him. The sight of her tattered dress and wild eyes makes him grimace, and he raises his bundle of rushes menacingly.

"Be off with you, vagrant!"

The threat elicits only laughter. Then, "you don't recognise me do you? no matter: tell your master there is a fine lady to see him. Bearing this." She shows him the letter in her hands. Its clay envelope is smooth save for the impression of a cylinder seal, and appears to not be completely dried.

"I'll take it to hi--"

"I give it to him directly or not at all! Do you not see whose seal it bears?"

"I, er, don't recognise..."

"Shall I leave then? I'm sure it's nothing. And there will be no repercussions when your master fails to do his duty. And--"

"I'll get him," sighs Iqīš-Sîn. "Wait here."

"A fine lady: don't forget to tell him."

Iqīš-Sîn shrugs and disappears into the house. The woman waits a few moments then slips in after him. She hides behind some furniture in a dark corner of the entrance hall. A minute later Iqīš-Sîn returns with his master, Mannum-kīma-Adad the tax collector, who has hastily thrown on a fine linen garment. The slave opens the door, and both men look out into the empty street. Confused, they step outside.

"Why didn't you fetch me sooner?" asks Mannum-kīma-Adad.

A sudden screech fills the air, like that of an ill-omened eššebum-bird. Iqīš-Sîn and Mannum-kīma-Adad both freeze in terror. A shrill voice comes from the shadows, "Destruction! Ruin! You are on the road of no return!"

Mannum-kīma-Adad instantly regains his composure. "Very funny," he says. "You can come out now, Damiqtum. A fine lady indeed! I should have realised it was you." Damiqtum emerges, and all three proceed into the open central courtyard of the house. She hands over the letter.

"Will there be anything else?" asks Mannum-kīma-Adad.

"Open it and read. Now."

"It's sealed..."

"I already know what it says. It concerns us both. The high priestess herself had me take dictation."

Mannum-kīma-Adad breaks open the envelope and removes the fired tablet inside. "I hope you wrote all the characters correctly, woman of Mari" he sighs, then begins to  read aloud.

To Mannum-kīma-Adad, say as follows,
Thus says Taqbim, emtum of Ištar:
"I have written to Warad-Amurrum saying, 'where is the tribute for my temple? I sent you a messenger, but you did not respond, nor did my messenger return. Where is my messenger? where is the grain you owe in tribute?' But there is still no response. I have written to the chief tax collector, and he bids you go on mission. Also, you shall take Damiqtum with you to speak on my behalf."

"Really, she said that?"

"She did," says Damiqtum. "She had a dream--"

"Of course she did. You didn't just add your own ending to the text?"

"Why should I? I hate the countryside."

"Hm. But just why, then, did she send you, and not one of the priests?"

"The goddess has spoken through me. There will be great danger ahead."

"And just how are you to protect me?"

"I? Don't be a fool! But I do know someone..."

[I like to start off adventures (& posts generally) with a bit of narrative that isn't broken up by game mechanics or notes. This little proœmium could really benefit from some further explanation, so I'm putting it all here in place of my usual introductory remarks (which were covered sufficiently in the character creation posts. Right, then...

the date
This is a good a way as any for me to learn Babylonian date formulae. I beg the reader's indulgence, but I will at least be sticking to just the short month&day forms from here out. And one should always be mindful of the 283rd law in the Code of Hammurapi: "YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT."
Simānum is the third month of the year, corresponding to May-June. 1767BCE is the date of the setting in the rulebook. Barley is harvested about the 16th of the first month, Nisānum (March-April), so I picked a start date ~60 days after that when it seemed like the tribute of grain would be late.

the seal on the envelope
Iqīš-Sîn is actually literate, so there was a chance he'd recognise the seal. However, recognising the owner of a seal on sight seems like something that only a Scribe would be able to easily do (in game terms, be a Relevant Check for their Profession), so there was a -3 penalty to his Mind check. He has Mind 4, and rolled
1d6=5 +4(stat) -3 (non-professional) = 6, failure.

a fine lady
'sinništum damiqtum' means 'a fine/good/noble/etc. woman'. Alternately the name Damiqtum is in apposition to the noun: 'the woman, Damiqtum'.
Did Mannum-kīma-Adad catch the reference? A simple Mind check with no modifiers would decide: Mind 3 + 1d6 = 5, fail.

the house
The map  made of Mannum-kīma-Adad's digs is based on House F from Nippur (18th c BCE). I guessed about where to put the stairs to the upper storey, but the oven is where one was really found.

Being stealthy requires Contested Checks. Damiqtum needed a Body check (no modifiers) to conceal herself well. Body 3 +1d6 = 6, fail. If this were an ambush, it would have actually mattered that she failed the check.
Mannum-kīma-Adad and Iqīš-Sîn resist with Mind checks, but at penalties: -2 as Damiqtum has ~50% cover, -1 for darkness: Babylonian houses have no windows.
Mannum-kīma-Adad rolled a natural 1, which is potentially a critical failure. He then rolled a second die, hoping it also did not come up a 1: 1d6=2, a normal failure.
Iqīš-Sîn rolls 1d6=5 +4 (Mind) -3 =6, failure

You are on the road of no return!
'ūmka u šīmtaka umašširūka' (lit. your day and your fate (i.e. the date of your natural death) have abandoned you)

"I hope you wrote all the characters correctly, woman of Mari"
For some cuneiform signs, the Mariotes used different phonetic values than the Babylonians. Mannum-kīma-Adad is just being a jerk about it.

the letter
The picture is of a Sumerian letter, but shows a tablet in its clay envelope.

My toolbox for the game will be:

Rather than randomly generating the adventure itself or choosing one of the myriad adventure seeds scattered throughout the BFJB rulebook, I decided to go with the germ of an idea for an adventure that I've always wanted to run but never managed to do.

Speaking of adventure, let's get to it:]

Damiqtum departs to look for her associate, and Mannum-kīma-Adad is left to worry the rest of the day. It isn't so much that he doesn't trust the madwoman -- he doesn't really, but that's beside the point -- but he's never had cause to doubt her prophetic gift. If the Foremost amongst the Goddesses is concerned enough to trouble herself with her temple's missing grain, there is probably more behind this than a wayward merchant or even raiding Ḫurrians.

The muḫḫūtum returns at sunset, as Mannum-kīma-Adad is brooding over his half-eaten meal.

"What took you so long? Where's this friend of  yours?"

"I looked all over the city, and cannot find him anywhere."

"The goddess didn't reveal his location to you?"

"Don't blaspheme!"

"Forgive me. I've had all day to worry about where this was headed."

"Just now it's headed out of the Šamaš gate. Come quickly, we must get out before they close it for the night."

"You can't be serious!"

"Oh, but I am. The one we must find is a foreigner! He daren't remain within the walls at night."

Scene 1

Chaos: Average (d10)

Setup: getting across town

NPC List: emtum, Warad-Amurrum who owes grain, overseer, farmers

Threads: retrieve the missing grain, find 4th party member

Mannum-kīma-Adad bids his slave fetch an evening cloak, for they must cross nearly the whole of the city to get to the gate, and there's no telling how late they'll be out, or if they'll even be permitted to re-enter. He has him fetch a cudgel as well; one can't be too careful amongst foreign types! The three set out into the evening streets, which are still a-bustle with the day's business.

[They must cross through 4 neighbourhoods: Kullab > Eridu > Kumar > Tuba. I rolled one encounter check per neighbourhood (1-2 on d6) :1,4,5,2 = encounters in Kullab & Tuba

For the first, I rolled d6=5 & d66=22: chatterer]

They've hardly progressed to the end of the street when someone grabs Mannum-kīma-Adad by the shoulder from behind.

[He got a Mind check to notice, but d6+3=5, fail.

NPC Relationship: peaceful
Conversation Mood: sociable
scheming - arrangement - equipment]

"Mannum-kīma-Adad! Just the man I need to see. I was just passing down the street, thinking of you, and who should appear right before me!"

"Oh. Abi-eqar. This is a surprise."

"I was hoping you'd had time to think over my, er, proposal. I understand if you haven't come to a decision yet, but then I'd not be surprised if you had. Such a decisive one you are--"

"This is hardly the proper time. Or place..."

"No, of course not! But I need an answer very soon. As soon as you possibly can, not that I think you'll take too long, you see, but it's just that the, well, the business arrangements must be concluded quickly. Before the--."

"Before the 'merchant' leaves town?"

"I was going to say, 'before the end of the month'. But you're right, too."

"Ah. Of course. But we'd really ought to discuss this later. In private."

"Certainly. But may I add, if you agree to the proposal, you'll be able to afford better, um, companionship of an evening." The man disappears into the crowd.

"Did he just--?" starts Damiqtum.

"I am afraid he did, my dear. Pay him no mind. But you do rather have the look of the gutter about you."

"I was going to say, 'offer you a bribe'. Just what sort of person have you become?"

"No! nothing like that."

[Mannum-kīma-Adad needs to pass a Check to dissemble. He rolls against Soul, his best attribute: 1d6+6=10, success. Damiqtum resists with Mind, at -3 since lie detecting is not a feature of her Profession: d6+6-3=5, fail.]

"Then I am sorry for having doubted you."

They continue on through the crowded streets, Mannum-kīma-Adad in the lead. They pass unhindered through the rest of Kullab and through the gate into the walled Eridu district. Mannum-kīma-Adad in his finery and gold jewellery looks like just the sort of person one might run across in the religious centre of the city, though the bedraggled aspect of the muḫḫūtum is less out-of-place here than most places. Iqīš-Sîn, as a slave, is as invisible as always.

Their path takes them past the walls of the Esagil temple complex, and they pause to stare up in wonderment at Marduk's splendid ziggurat. Then they continue on their way, taking the bridge over the Araḫtum and heading south into Tuba.

[Encounter: d6=1, d66=65: one who constantly listens; d6=male
Q: How does the encounter go down? (1d4) 1 offers something, 2 threatens, 3 shadows out of city, 4 accuses; d4=1]

Mannum-kīma-Adad falls to talking with Damiqtum as they walk. He is relieved to hear that she does, in fact, have a rough idea of where to find her friend of an evening, though the fellow's barbarous name fills him with more than a little dread. Damiqtum is surprisingly loquacious when it comes to expressing her displeasure at going into the countryside, but Mannum-kīma-Adad is unable to tease out any elucidation of her fears, or the prophecy which spawned them.

Unbeknownst to the pair of them, their words have not gone unremarked. During a convenient pause, a man suddenly blocks their way. He wars an immaculate robe but is otherwise totally non-descript[Location Crafter: Coolly / Drab].

"Leaving for the countryside?" says the man before Mannum-kīma-Adad can demand he step aside. "Worried about bandits? Or marauding tent-dwellers? Friends, I may be able to offer you my humble services."

"And you are...?" asks Mannum-kīma-Adad.

"They call me Lulīmum." And as if in answer to their question, he points out his golden brooch in the shape of a stylised deer's head, of obvious foreign manufacture. [lulīmum=the red deer, stag (and is also the name of Saturn, a constellation, and an epithet of kings and gods)]

"And just what sort of services can you offer?"

[Q: What does he offer? (1d6) 1-2 protection, 3-4 weapons, 5 both, 6 summat else; d6=2]

"I know some sturdy fellows who could go along and discourage any savages who approach with the intention of doing you ill. Come this way and we shall talk it over."

[Q: Is this a legitimate offer? 50/50 (4+): O1 C8 - no.

Lulīmum is attempting to con them. I used the 1st level Thief stats from the Bestiary chapter, so he has the Perfect talent (automatically succeed at a check, 1/day). His Soul stat is only 4 (66% chance of success here) so he'll use it now.

The PCs get to make Avoid Checks using their Mind attribute (at -3).
M 1d6=3 + Mind 3 -3 =3, fail
I 1d6=3 + Mind 4 -3 =4, fail
D 1d6=5 + Mind 6 -3 =8, succeeds]

"We're going to see my friend," interjects Damiqtum. "A great soldier. who treats me as his little sister. I shudder when I think of what he did to the last savage who intended to do me ill."

"Yes, I see. I shan't detain you any longer."

Lulīmum melts back into the crowd.

Scene 2

Chaos: Average (d10)

Setup: searching the suburb

NPC List: emtum, Warad-Amurrum who owes grain, overseer, farmers

Threads: retrieve the missing grain, find 4th party member

[Q: Does D know where to find her friend? 50/50: O5 C5 - yes (I wrote this into the narrative above)
+Event: PC negative - Mannum-kīma-Adad - Neglect / Extravagance]

They pass though the Šamaš gate to leave the city. The crowd is thickest beneath the arched gate itself and someone jostles Mannum-kīma-Adad, stealing a gold ring (worth about 1 shekel of silver) right off his hand. He's so intent on getting away from the throng that he doesn't notice a thing (and won't until much later). They've scarcely walked 3 nindanū (~18m) down the road when soldiers start closing the great wooden gates. Mannum-kīma-Adad looks back with a grimace. "They'd better let us back in after we find this friend of  yours," he says to Damiqtum.

They travel south along the road for about 12 ašlū (.72km) to a suburb straddling the Piqūdum canal. On the outskirts is a cluster of small, shabby buildings -- shops & alehouses & miscellaneous places catering to the nighttime needs of foreigners and poor tenant farmers, alongside peasant hovels, a few farm buildings, and storehouses. crowd is thick and boisterous

"Phaugh! just what sort of place are you taking us?" asks Mannum-kīma-Adad, hoping his disgust conceals his fear.

"Let me do the talking, and we'll be fine," says Damiqtum.

She accosts a passer-by, a wretched pauper limping along [d6=2, d66=one who has club feet; d6=m]. "Where's the shop of Siyaya the alewife? My friends are thirsty from the road."

Mannum-kīma-Adad bristles at the sound of the foreign name, but does not interrupt.

[Siyaya is an Elamite name.
Q: Does the pauper tell them the way? 50/50 (4+): O2 C4 - yes, but...]

"Why should I bother telling you?" sneers the pauper. "What's in it for me?"

"Show us the way and we'll buy you a beer too."

[Damiqtum needs a Soul check to convince them: 1d6 + Soul6 = 9, success]

"Follow me."

He leads them to an open-air structure, half billowing tent, half ruined mud-brick wall. Rude benches are crowded beneath the sail, full of patrons. Others spill out in to the 'street' in small groups.

"Go with Iqīš-Sîn to get a jug of beer."

Mannum-kīma-Adad looks at her disdainfully. "I'm not about to set foot in that tangle of... foreigners."

The muḫḫūtum sighs. "Then have this good man go with him to claim his reward, and stay out here with me."

Mannum-kīma-Adad waves them away.

Damiqtum looks about until she sees a lean muscular man leaning against a tall section of wall and watching over the crowd of drunken patrons. His hair and beard betray him as a foreigner. He is clad in only a simple skirt, and a well-used mace hangs at his belt. Damiqtum runs right up and begins babbling at him. The man babbles back, then lifts her up bodily and swings her round, making two full revolutions before depositing her on the ground.

"Sister," he says (in Elamite), "what brings you out of the city at night? Not that I am ever sad to see you!"

"Oh, but I came to find you!" she replies, then switches to Akkadian, "for I must soon go even further from the city, accompanying this man here on an important mission for the temple. He's going to pay you handsomely to come with us, and keep us safe.

Mannum-kīma-Adad bristles. "Now, let us dis--"

"Starting from now!" continues Damiqtum unabated. "Else we're certain to meet with brigands on our way back to the gate."

The man smiles broadly. "But, šutu, I am beholden just now to Sayaya. I must watch over her shop and keep the troublemakers at bay. What shall I say to her?"

"The truth: you must go on an important errand for the temple of Annunitum."

"Perhaps she is letting me go, then. But I've been paid through the night. I cannot leave just yet, šutu."

"We can wait. Oh, and here's Iqīš-Sîn with our beer. Please, have some."

[Q: Are there any incidents? Unlikely (5+): O3 C8 - No.]

They drink their beer and maintain a generally low profile. Damiqtum introduces her friend as Šerašer, a mercenary who helped her travel the long way to Babylon from her native Mari. Mannum-kīma-Adad wonders why this soldier keeps referring to Damiqtum as the South Wind, but doesn't dare ask; it makes as much sense as anything else about her. [šutu is Elamite for sister; šūtu(m) is Akkadian for the south wind. Mannum-kīma-Adad assumes the short vowel is just a foreigner's mispronunciation.]

Damiqtum & Šerašer leave at one point to talk to the alewife Sayaya, and [Soul 6 + 1d6= 11, success] easily convince her to let Šerašer go after tonight.

It's late when the four of them finally walk back along the canal by torchlight and follow the road up to the Šamaš gate. Mannum-kīma-Adad is very officious towards the guards at the gate [he uses his Authority talent], and forces them to admit him and his three slaves (as he intimates they are) back inside the walls of the great city.

Next post: into the countryside

Friday, 8 May 2020

more PCs for BFJB

I've rolled up a fair few characters for BFJB, more than I can comfortably use in the same party for the first adventure (which I will write up soon, I promise!). It's good to have a stable of PCs, though, and fun to figure out their inter-relationships. Also, as this is a solo campaign, bitter intra-party conflicts will add spice to the adventure, rather than detracting from it as in group games.

But for the relationships to make sense, I should first introduce the characters. Two quick notes: 1) The first 4 PCs are the initial party for the first adventure. 2) City-state indicates where they were born, but all are currently resident in Babylon.

Mannum-kīma-Adad the tax collector and his slave, Iqīš-Sîn

Mannum-kīma-Adad you've already met. Iqīš-Sîn is his long-suffering slave, who is tasked with accompanying his master everywhere and being always at his beck and call. He is envious of the other slaves in the household, who don't have to work nearly as hard. He inwardly curses the god that made him his master's favourite. They reside in Mannum-kīma-Adad's modest home in the Kullab district.

Profession: Bureaucrat (tax collector (mākisum))
Social Class: awīlum
Ethnicity: Akkadian
City-State: Babylon
Level: 1   XP: 0
Body: 2   Mind: 3   Soul: 6
Talents: Authority(P), Perfect, Fleet-footed, Tough (Mind)
Languages: Akkadian, R/W cuneiform
Equipment: stylus, clay
Assets: luxurious clothing & furnishings worth 80 shekels, jewellery worth 20 shekels

Profession: slave/ day labourer (agrum)
Social Class: wardum
Ethnicity: Akkadian
City-State: Kiš
Level: 1   XP: 0
Body: 4   Mind: 4   Soul: 3
Talents: Inconspicuous Soul(P), Everyman(P), Hidden Reserve(Body), Brutal, Fast Recovery
Languages: Akkadian, Amorite, R/W cuneiform
Equipment: tunic
Assets: -

Damiqtum the ecstatic

Damiqtum is a muḫḫūtum of Ištar-Annunitum. Originally from Mari, the goddess commanded her to go to Babylon, though did not reveal for what purpose. She now lives at the Ekitušgirzal temple in the New Town district, though wanders the city incessantly, waiting for a sign.

Profession: ecstatic (muḫḫūtum)
Social Class: awīltum
Ethnicity: Akkadian
City-State: Mari
Level: 1   XP: 0
Body: 3   Mind: 6   Soul: 6
Talents: Trance(P), Furious, Sharp Tongue
Spells: Stun
Languages: Akkadian, Sumerian, R/W cuneiform, Elamite, Elamite cuneiform
Equipment: ragged-hemmed dress, dagger
Assets: 3.6 shekels worth of cheap copper jewellery, slightly less-ragged dress

Šerašer the Elamite mercenary

Šerašer is a sellsword from Susa. He fought for Zimri-Lim of Mari for a time, but eventually found more profit to be gained in the armies of Ḫammu-rapi. He is tired of army life, and is now considering what to do next as he spends the last of his booty.

Profession:  soldier (rēdûm)
Social Class: muškēnum
Ethnicity: Elamite
City-State: Susa
Level: 1   XP: 0
Body: 5   Mind: 4   Soul: 3
Talents: Deadly Force(P), Eager, Eagle Eye, Hardy
Languages: Elamite, Akkadian, Ḫurrian, Gutian
Equipment: short sword, 5 javelins, light leather shield, mace
Assets: 16 silver rings (1/4 shekel each)

the Amorite twins
Annu-ḫaṣni the nadītum and Annu-ḫani the prostitute

The twins come from an upper-class Babylonian family. They are identical, but their personalities are polar opposites. Annu-ḫaṣni is a severe and reserved woman who favours Sumerian modes of dress, where Annu-ḫani is a bonne vivante who likes lush fabrics and glittering jewels. As a nadītum of Marduk, Annu-ḫaṣni lives in the gagum (cloister) of Esagil, the primary temple of Marduk in Babylon. Her sister still lives in their family home nearby. Despite their differences, they've never quarrelled.

Profession: nadītum
Social Class: awīltum
Ethnicity: Amorite
City-State: Babylon
Level: 1   XP: 0
Body: 3   Mind: 5   Soul: 4
Talents: Consecrated to the God(P),
Rituals: Hallow, Heal Body
Languages: Amorite, Akkadian, Sumerian, R/W cuneiform
Equipment: vestments
Assets: 5 non-ceremonial outfits, fancy cloak, good sandals, 30 shekels worth of household furnishings, 10 shekels worth of jewellery, 90 shekels in precious metals (from/for making investments)

Profession: prostitute (ḫarīmtum)
Social Class: awīltum
Ethnicity: Amorite
City-State: Babylon
Level: 1   XP: 0
Body: 3   Mind: 4   Soul: 5
Talents: Courtesan's Charm(P), Dramatic, Likable, Perfect
Languages: Amorite, Akkadian, R/W cuneiform
Equipment: dagger
Assets: luxurious clothing worth 4.7 shekels, jewellery worth 7 shekels

Nūr-libbi the exorcist

Nūr-libbi is an exorcist-priest who lives in the Eridu district, three doors down from the twins' family home. He is somewhat of an antiquary, and affects a Sumerian style of dress and (somewhat overblown) mode of living. His comical foppishness causes much laughter at his expense, but the truth is that it's is the only way he can cope with the horrors he's seen.

Profession: exorcist-priest (mašmaššum)
Social Class: awīlum
Ethnicity: Akkadian
City-State: Babylon
Level: 1   XP: 0
Body: 4   Mind: 4   Soul: 6
Talents: Exorcise(P), Precise Mind
Spells: Counterspell
Rituals: Banishment
Languages: Akkadian, Sumerian, R/W cuneiform
Assets: 3 exorcism ritual tablets, 2# writing clay, 50 shekels worth of furnishings, 10 shekels worth of fine clothing

Wari-taldu the barber

Wari-taldu's family are poor Ḫurrians who have lived in Babylon for generations. He is Nūr-libbi's personal barber, and lives at his home. He is loyal to the exorcist, but fears the toll that his work is taking on him.

Profession: barber (gallābum)
Social Class: muškēnum
Ethnicity: Ḫurrian
City-State: Babylon
Level: 1   XP: 0
Body: 5   Mind: 3   Soul: 4
Talents: Precision,
Languages: Ḫurrian, Akkadian, Amorite
Equipment: dagger, barber's kit
Assets: 40 shekels fine clothing & jewellery

Laḫun-Dagan the haruspex

Laḫun-Dagan was a diviner in the army, but after a severe injury in battle had to retire from field service. He's now attached to the palace as a (very) minor functionary. Laḫun-Dagan is a no-nonsense sort of man. He still dresses in the rough tunics he wore on campaign and keeps his beard unfashionably short. The rest of the palace staff find him something of an embarrassment.

Profession: diviner (bārûm)
Social Class: awīlum
Ethnicity: Amorite
City-State: Babylon
Level: 1   XP: 0
Body: 4   Mind: 5   Soul: 4
Talents: Omen Taking(P), Apprenticed (soldier),
Languages: Amorite, Akkadian, Sumerian, R/W cuneiform
Equipment: small surgical kit, small bronze shield
Assets: large tablet with list of omens, clay sheep's liver model from his student days, 35.5 shekels worth of household goods, one presentable outfit


Since there were 9 of them, I decided to go for two character connections each. The first would be one pure choice -- some of them seemed to fall out naturally when I rolled them up. The second would be my usual method of rolling on the PC Relationship Table in Zozer's Solo. Some all of these (marked with an *) needed or suggested further developments, which will be explained at the end.

Mannum-kīma-Adad the tax collector
1. Iqīš-Sîn is his slave
2. Shares a secret past incident with Laḫun-Dagan*

Iqīš-Sîn the slave
1. Mannum-kīma-Adad's property
2. Friendship through guilt with Annu-ḫaṣni*

Damiqtum the ecstatic
1. Laḫun-Dagan has had to verify her prophecies
2. Knows a dark secret about Mannum-kīma-Adad*

Šerašer the foreign mercenary
1. served with Laḫun-Dagan in the army
2. Lifelong friend of Damiqtum*

Annu-ḫaṣni the nadītum of Marduk
1. twin sister of Annu-ḫani
2. Old (and these days, ex-) friends with Mannum-kīma-Adad*

Annu-ḫani the prostitute
1. twin sister of Annu-ḫaṣni
2. blames Nūr-libbi for past event*

Nūr-libbi the exorcist
1. Wari-taldu is his barber / live-in employee
2. Hatred and constant arguing with Annu-ḫaṣni*

Wari-taldu the barber
1. employee of Nūr-libbi
2. Secretly jealous of Iqīš-Sîn*

Laḫun-Dagan the diviner
1. served with Šerašer in the army
2. Sexual partner of Annu-ḫani*

The big one is the secret past incident shared between Mannum-kīma-Adad and Laḫun-Dagan. It's certainly some horrendous crime; I'll decide which when it becomes important, probably by picking something off the Code of Ḫammu-rapi. This is definitely the dark secret that Damiqtum know about Mannum-kīma-Adad, but she is ignorant of the diviner's connection to it.

Iqīš-Sîn's friendship through guilt with Annu-ḫaṣni was a surprising result. I decided it meant that she always treats him like a person -- for which he is grateful -- but he finds her personally odious to be around. Sadly, he must see her all the time, as his master is charged with bringing her the dividends for many of her investments. Compounding matters is their mutual hatred, with poor Iqīš-Sîn caught in the middle.

Šerašer and Damiqtum were born in different city-states, so the 'lifelong friends' result needed some fudging. He's known her ever since he served in the king of Mari's army, and in fact taught her to speak Elamite (serendipitous dice roll: the language  was already on her character sheet, though where she learnt to read it is anyone's guess).

Annu-ḫani blames Nūr-libbi for a past event, the death of a favourite client, who was possessed by a demon of disease which the exorcist failed to cast out.

Wari-taldu is secretly jealous of Iqīš-Sîn (also surprising). He thinks Mannum-kīma-Adad is a much better master than the exorcist: he has elaborate hair, dresses better, and --most of all-- isn't surrounded by demons, ghosts, and disease.

Lastly, Laḫun-Dagan is one of Annu-ḫani clients. I actually rolled the connection between him and her sister, but shifted it to her since Annu-ḫaṣni is celibate (she could marry, but is forbidden by the temple from bearing children). And anyways, with this many PCs, at least one of them had to have this connection to Annu-ḫani.

Next post (soon! I swear!): the campaign begins

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Urban Encounter Tables for BFJB

As a Babylonian scribe needed to be litterate in both Akkadian and Sumerian, the scribal schools made use of lexical lists (as they are now known). These are lists of Sumerian signs with glosses to aid in reading them, or lists of Sumerian words & phrases with phonetic Akkadian translations -- in essence, bi-lingual dictionaries. These latter were arranged thematically.

I was looking at a lexical list of types of people as I drank my coffee one Saturday morning (as you do) and it suddenly struck me that it read like a random encouter table. An excerpt:

Sumerian               Akkadian
--------               --------
[...]                  mukabbûm    =tailor
[lu₂-ni₂-su]-ub-ba      zabbum      =an ecstatic
[SAL lu₂-ni₂-su-ub]-ba  zabbatum    =a female ecstatic
[...]                  sarrum      =criminal
[lu₂] ḫa-lam-ma         ša lemuttim =(person) of evil
lu₂ ḫul                 lemnu       =bad one
lu₂ ḫul                 maskum      =evil one
lu₂ ḫul gig             zērum       =hateful (person)

So I decided to make one out of it. I chose OB Lu₂-azlag₂ B-C as it was both long (~400 entries) and as an Old Babylonian list is co-terminous with the game's set timeframe. I couldn't use all the entries, as some were too broken (one who [...] to his mouth), too often repeated (evil person), too boring (right handed person), incomprehensible (one who lacks a mīru organ), or simply not descriptive enough for an encounter table (living person). Since BFJB only uses 6-sided dice, I narrowed it down to 216 -- 6 tables of 36 entries.

It's condensed to fit on 2 sides of A4. I left the Akkadian words in, but I had to cut the Sumerian both to save space and because a lot of the brackets didn't display correctly.

There's no way to format it for this blog, so grab the PDF here:

BFJB Urban Encounter Tables.pdf

I haven't had time to come up with wilderness encounter tables, but you can pretty much just crib off the ones in Runequest. Just replace trollkin with Gutians or something. You can leave scorpion men as is!

If you want to know more about lexical lists, visit the DCCLT.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

The Ecstatic, a new profession for BFJB 2nd ed.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I had some 1st edition BFJB characters I was going to convert and that it would be a simple task. In 7 out of 8 cases, this was absolutley true. The eighth took me, er, considerably longer, since I had picked a Profession that wasn't in the book and I wanted to do a proper write-up for it. So here it is, in the same format as the professions in the rulebook. It's followed by copious notes in the same order of topics as the profession entry, and a bibliography.


OB m. muḫḫûm, wr. LÚ.GUB.BA
OB f. muḫḫūtum, wr. SAL LÚ.GUB.BA

An ecstatic of Dagan
came to me and said,
"Truly, what
of Zimri-Lin's
shall I eat? Give me a lamb
so I may eat it." I gave him a lamb
and he ate it alive
before the city gate.
And I assembled
the elders
before the city gate
of Saggaratum
And he said,
"There will be a 'devouring';
tell the other cities
to give over the sacred things.
The man who does violence
let him be ejected
from the city.
And for the well-being of your lord, Zimri-Lim,
dress me in a garment."

excerpt from a letter of Yaqqim-Addu to Zimri-Lim, king of Mari (ARM 26/1 206: 5-24)

Ecstatic prophets belong to the to the temple personnel of many gods (notably Ištar, Dagan, Marduk, Addad, Šamaš, Ninhursag, and Nergal). Groups of them are involved in the performance of certain cultic rituals, and they also receive messages directly from their god, entering into a furious rapture wherein they shout out enigmatic words and display other bizarre behaviours. Despite being touched by the divine, muḫḫū have a relatively low status and their rantings are not always believed. It is common for them to submit a lock of hair and the fringe of their garment (šārtum u sissiktum) which a bārûm (diviner) may use to verify the prophecy.

Allowed Social Classes: Awīlum, Muškēnum

Relevant Checks: An ecstatic will have a good knowledge of the rites (but not dogma) of their own cult, and will understand some of the less technical aspects of divination. whilst not trained in any weapons, a raving ecstatic may make unarmed attacks without penalty.

Spells and Rituals: An ecstatic can use all manner of spells and rituals, without suffering a penalty. They must still take those spells and rituals as talents.

Professional Talent: Frenzy (Soul). On a successful check, the ecstatic may enter into a wild trance, and proclaim the words of their god. The message will often be cryptic, but should hint at the dangers of the adventure before them. On a critical success, the divine pronouncement will be accompanied by strange and perhaps even frightening actions (see above for an example).

Starting Equipment and Wealth: Clothing -- probably torn -- and 1d6+3 shekels of wealth.

So many notes


Muḫḫûm (OAkk Maḫḫûm) is related to the verb maḫû, 'to become frenzied'. The plural of f. muḫḫūtum is muḫḫātum. There is also an SB/NA adverb maḫḫūtiš, 'like a female ecstatic', which is applied equally to men and women, e.g. in RINAP 5 Ashurbanipal 003 i77-i78: 'The radiance of Aššur and Ištar overcame him [the pharaoh Taharqa] and he became like a female ecstatic' (namrīrī Aššur u Ištar / isḫupūšu-ma illika maḫḫūtiš).


The information concerning prophets and ecstatics is rather fragmentary, and mostly comes from Mari in the Old Babylonian period. The muḫḫûm/muḫḫūtum is the most well attested. Others are the qammatum (possibly referring to a special hairstyle), the zabbum/zabbatum (possibly referring to a self-mutilator), nabû (whose name appears to be related to the Hebrew word for prophet), and an assortment of individuals for whom no title is given.

In places the zabbum is mentioned alongside the muḫḫûm, but in a lexical list (LTBA 2 1 vi 41-44) is given as an equivalent term along with eššebû, parû, and uššuru. Self-injury may be a common feature of the ecstatics, or just a hazard of their wild trance. An Akkadian literary text from Ugarit (Ugaritica V 162:11) contains the phrase aḫḫūa kīma maḫḫê damīšunu ramku 'my brothers are drenched in their blood like maḫḫû-ecstatics'. The tablet dates from c. 1300BC, but the composition is thought to date from about the time of Ḫammu-rapi: "sa graphie, ses archaïsmes, son style depouillé, sa concision même (en face de Ludlul), lui assignent vraisemblablement une date de composition paléobabylonienne ou de plus haute époque « cassite »" (ibid).

At Mari is found another cultic prophet, the āpilum/āpiltum ('answerer'). The āpilum also speaks the words of their god directly, but is not associated with ecstatic frenzy; there is an obscure statement in a letter (ARM 26 207) which hints at an āpilum administering a intoxicating drink to some men and women in order to obtain an oracle, but what the sentence actually means is debated. The āpilum enjoys a higher status than the muḫḫûm, a fact underscored by the preponderance of men in this role. Their prophecies are verified by the submission of their hair and fringe about as often as those of their ecstatic counterparts, though in both cases it should be noted that the prophecy of a woman is more likely to need verification. Some āpilū even write to the king directly. In game terms, an āpilum/āpiltum can be essentially treated as a kind of Diviner, though without the knowledge of extispicy.

Allowed Social Classes

My gut reaction was simply to go with muškēnum, as they are certainly temple dependents. However, some of them could be well rewarded for their prophecies by the king -- one in the UR III period was awarded 18000 litres of grain. Lluís Feliu interprets the unnamed prophetess in a letter to Zimri-Lin (ARM 26/1 210) as a muḫḫūtum. The text describes her simply as 'a woman, the wife of an awīlum (written MUNUS DAM LÚ). The prophetic gift does seem to cut across class lines, so I decided that allowing either class is probably not an inaccurate ruling. Note that there is a recorded instance of a slave girl delivering a prophecy, but such rare occasions are best left in the realm of NPCs, and need not concern us here, as the muḫḫûm and muḫḫūtum are professional prophets (in games terms as well as in the scholarly literature).

Relevant Checks

Their knowledge is situated about halfway between the priest and diviner professions, but should not eclipse either.

Spells and Rituals

This was the most tenuous thread I followed, but spell ability seemed to fit aesthetically. I did lean on the equivalence (cited in the lexical list above) of the muḫḫûm and the eššebû. The CAD defines eššebû as 'an ecstatic with evil magical powers', and notes they appear in the Maqlu amongst other practitioners of witchcraft.

Professional Talent

Not quite as effective as the diviner's, but as it doesn't require any outlay of resources (i.e. an animal for extispicy) it s slightly less restrictive.

Starting Equipment and Wealth

Administrative documents often show the bequest of ordinary or 2nd quality garments and smaller amounts of silver, so I went with a very modest sum.


Feliu , Lluís. 2003. The god Dagan in bronze age Syria. Leiden, Brill.

Fleming, Daniel E. 2004. “Prophets and Temple Personnel in the Mari Archives”. in The Priests in the Prophets: The Portrayal of Priests, Prophets and Other Religious Specialists in the Latter Prophets, edited by. Lester L. Grabbe and Alice Ogden Bellis, 44–64. London, T & T Clark.

Hamori, Esther J. 2012. " Gender and the Verification of Prophecy at Mari". in Die Welt des Orients Bd. 42, H. 1, 1-22, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (GmbH & Co. KG)

Jong, Matthijs de. 2007. Isaiah among the Ancient Near Eastern Prophets, Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

Nissinen ,Martti. 2003. Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East. Atlanta ,Society of Biblical Literature.

Roth, Martha T. ed., 1956-, The Assyrian dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (CAD). Chicago, Oriental Inst. of the Univ. of Chicago.

Schaeffer , Claude Frédéric Armand and Nougayrol, Jean. 1968. Ugaritica. 5, Bibliothèque archéologique et historique, t.80.; Mission de Ras Shamra, t.16. Paris, P. Geuthner.

Stökl, Jonathan. 2010. "Female Prophets in the Ancient Near East". in Prophecy and Prophets in Ancient Israel: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar, edited by John Day, 47-61. London, T & T Clark.

— 2007. "The Role of Women in the Prophetical Process in Mari: A Critique of Mary Keller’s Theory of Agency". in Beiträge zur Erforschung des Alten Testaments und des Antiken Judentums Bd. 55, edited by Matthias Augustin and H. Michael Niemann. 173-188. Frankfurt am Main, Bern, P. Lang.

Ancient texts were also found at

The Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Assyrian Period, The RINAP Project, 2019.


ARCHIBAB : Archives babyloniennes (XXe-XVIIe siècles av. J.C.), Collège de France - Institut du Proche-Orient Ancien.
(specifically: ARM 26/1 200,201,206,210,237 and  M.7160)

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

BFJB : character creation

So I've been meaning to get a game of Babylon on Which Fame and Jubilation Are Bestowed going since I bought the 1st edition, but as usually happens in my attempts at historical gaming, I get too caught up in research to get beyond character creation. I do have 8 PCs rolled up for first edition, and I will be converting them to the new system (a simple task, to be sure) at some point, but for the purpose of this post I wanted to start afresh with a brand new PC, or rather finish the one I started in my previous post.

I'll take the steps in order. The first thing to do is determine the Attributes, of which there are three: Body (zumrum), Mind (ṭēmum), and Soul (bāštum). Body is for all physical activities, Mind is reason, perception, memory, and learning, and Soul is charisma, intuition, and boldness. Starting characteristics range from 1-6, and there are two methods of determining them. One could either distribute 12 points amongst them, or else roll 4d6 discarding the lowest and arranging as desired.

I couldn't resist rolling for it, and got 3,6,2,1. Discarding the 1 gave me the following attributes:


I already had an idea in mind for the character I wanted to make. He's a pretty unassuming physical specimen; as I am thinking of an investigatory-type campaign (at least to start), I think a Harvey Walters-esque physique will do nicely. My PC is only of average intelligence, but  his force of personality is so great that most people he meets think him much cleverer than he truly is; in fact he's even convinced himself of this!

Next it is time to determine where the character is from, either one of the Mesopotamian city-states or a pastoral tribe, or even further afield (Egypt, the Indus Valley, Asia Minor), though much less information is provided about this last category due to the focus of the game. As I want this character in the centre of the action, he will hail from Babylon.

Now that I know where he's from, it's time to pick an ethnicity. Due to the cosmopolitan nature of the setting, there are almost no restrictions on this, and indeed players are encouraged to make interesting combinations, as the PCs are unusual individuals to begin with. I wanted a character from an established, if undistinguished, family so I just made him an ethnic Akkadian, like the majority of Babylonians.

Along with Ethnicity he needs a Social Class. There is a choice of three: awīlum (upper class), muškēnum (lower class), or wardum (slave). Choice is up to the player. Social class will influence which Profession a character may have, and how they get on in the social climate of 1767BCE.

Age, Height, and Weight are next. These can be determined or rolled. 15+1d6 seems a little young for what I have in mind, so I just went with 28; at 35 Mind starts to increase but Body declines. Height for males is 5'3"+2d6". I rolled for this and got 5'8". It seems a bit high, so I wonder if it should be +1d6. Weight can be rolled, but to keep with the Harvey Walters theme I'll just go with 5'5", 170#. None of that has any game affect.

A character's Mind score determines how many Languages they can know, giving one 'slot' per point. Spoken languages take up one slot each, writing systems take two. A PC must first select their native language, which is determined by the interplay of City State (or Tribe) and Ethnicity. As an ethnic Akkadian living in Babylon, Akkadian (specifically the Old Babylonian dialect) is my PC's native tongue (taking up the first slot). He spends the remaining 2 slots (from his Mind 3) to be literate, allowing him to read & write Cuneiform. If he later learns to speak Sumerian, Hittite, or Hurrian, he will automatically be able to read them as they share the cuneiform writing system.

Now that he has an origin, it is finally time to name him. There are substantial lists of Akkadian, Amorite, Elamite, Hurrian, and Sumerian names provided to choose from, so you'll never have to worry about running into Steve the soldier from Uruk or Gemma the Hurrian alewife. But I took a nice theophoric name out of one of my textbooks instead, Mannum-kīma-Adad (written ma-an-nu-um-ki-ma-dIŠKUR), meaning 'Who is like Adad?' (the storm god).

As Mannum-kīma-Adad is a member of the upper class, he has a choice of 16 out of the 23 Professions in the rulebook. A Profession determines the character's general skill set. There is no skill system per se; a character can do (i.e. roll for) all the things germane to their profession, but must roll at a penalty for actions outside it. The Profession also determines the character's access to magic, provides starting equipment & wealth, and grants a Professional Talent --  a special ability unique to each profession.

Mannum-kīma-Adad is a Bureaucrat, of which there are many many kinds. I chose tax-collector (mākisum) with the idea that he would be sent off to the villages surrounding Babylon to collect tribute for his first adventure. He starts play with 2d6+2 x10 = 100 shekels worth of material wealth (a shekel weighs 8.3g, about as much as a 50p coin, and represents the value of a litre of barley, a mace, or about a month's wages for a carpenter)-- Bureaucrat is one of the wealthiest Professions.

The Professional Talent of a Bureaucrat is Authority, which allows them to intimidate citizens of their polity and force them to comply (with a successful roll). A starting character gets three more Talents in addition. As a Bureaucrat, Mannum-kīma-Adad does not have access to or understanding of any magical rituals or spells; were he a Priest he could use his Talent slots for magic. So, our tax-collector is Perfect (auto success once per day), Fleet-footed (to help run away from combat), and has a Tough Mind (making it harder for others to damage his Mind attribute with attacks).

And that's character creation.

Profession: Bureaucrat (tax collector)
Social Class: awīlum
Ethnicity: Akkadian
City-State: Babylon
Level: 1   XP: 0
Body: 2   Mind: 3   Soul: 6
Talents: Authority(P), Perfect, Fleet-footed, Tough (Mind)
Languages: Akkadian, R/W cuneiform
Equipment: stylus, clay
Assets: luxurious clothing & furnishings worth 80 shekels, jewellery worth 20 shekels

My new PC is ready for adventure, just as soon as I copy his stats onto one of my fun new character sheets (grab one for yourself at the bottom of my downloads page).