Monday, 20 August 2018

Das schwarze Auge solo - Part XV: „Rings um ruhet die Stadt; still wird die erleuchtete Gasse“


My dearest Travjane,

I hope this letter finds you well. I confess I have had a presentiment of doom ever since you left. I'm sure it cannot but be my own foolishness, mingled with the sorrow of parting with a new friend, and one so instantly dear to my heart. From what you have told me of your adventures, I am sure that there be no dangers the equal of my little ogre-slayer! But do write as soon as you've returned, or I shall have more sleepless nights.

Yrs affectionately,
Baronesse Ulinai von Galgenkreuz

P.S. You must tell me your family name! I never did get it, and my sole confidante at the academy, to whom I've told every wonderful detail of our Rahjaverhältnis, is teasing me mercilessly.

[It's been a while since my last DSA session. In the interim, the English version (The Dark Eye) has been released, which I have found has some things translated differently that the original Quickstart (though not the updated one). There's also a Rules Wiki in German and English.

so I will make a conscious effort to use proper translations instead of just guessing. I beg, as always, the readers understanding if I forget to check or leave anything in Garethi (German). The biggest difference that long-time readers will notice is that the attribute Cunning has been renamed Sagacity. I've redone Travjane's character sheet, which you can find here: http://aleaiactandaest.blogspot.com/p/travjane-character-sheet.html ]



Scene 31

Chaos: Out of Control (d8)

Setup: back in Weihenhorst

NPC list: NPC list: villagers, family, Ulmia the confectioner, Decius Kleiber: knight & villain, villain henchmen, Jalosch the dwarf, wandering mage, Darian the tailor, Kamillio the rival tailor, Captain of the guards at Weihenhorst, Linnert the carpetmaker, the cobbler, Darian's apprentice, Uli the cadet

Threads: revenge, the ivory box, get the needle, revenge against Captain, explore ruins

Travjane had woken Darian at dawn on the fourth day of their miserable sojourn in Hohendorf. She'd packed their bags in the night, and even packed some rations for the journey. A very sore half elf then honoured his promise to his friend the witch, and they set out on the wintry road towards home.

The journey was uneventful, their return anything but. Linnert was still at Darian's shop when they arrived in the frosty evening, berating Darian's apprentice with imprecations that would make a Thorwalish sailor faint. After a glance at the account book, Darian saw no need to stop him. The next morning, Darian turned his apprentice out into the street with a half-week's wages, and the threat of a witch's curses should he ever be heard of in Weihenhorst again.

[The die rolls were:
Q: Is Linnert really mad about their failure? 50/50 (4+): O1 C6 - No.
Q: Has Darian's apprentice done real harm to the business? 50/50 (4+): O1 C4 - No, but... enough]


"The look on his face!" laughs Darian as Travjane is brewing a pot of herbal tea. "Do you think he actually believed me about the curses?"

"I hope so," replies Travjane. "I did."

"I suppose I'll have to take on a new apprentice soon. I can't afford not to. I'd rather hoped we'd have found some treasure in the ruins to offset our costs. I don't suppose..."

"I'm no tailor! I can do the mending, but that's all. [Clothworking 1] I can help model for you again, but I'm afraid that is the limit of my powers."

"Of course. That's all I ask. You did quite increase my sales with the gowns. But if you're going to show off my creations to the monied beldames of Weihenhorst, I'm afraid you're going to need to wear shoes."

"I suppose since I led you off into a monster-infested ruin, it's the least I can do! In fact, I'd been meaning to visit my friend the cobbler. I'll need some money for the shoes, if you don't mind. Of, and a little extra for a courier. I need to send a letter to my little cadet."


[Over the course of the previous adventure, I had two Move Towards a Thread Events for the Revenge against the Captain thread, and an additional Event putting the cobbler in gaol, so this plot is moving into the endgame.

I will use the random Scarlet Heroes Urban Adventure schema for the basic structure, but let the scenes flow as I would any others, since the 1-check-per-scene is a little too mechanistic for my tastes. Furthermore, I will not be interpreting all the Fight results as strictly combat encounters, and will of course re-roll inappropriate results on the adventure tables (there are no Watch Sorcerers in Weihenhorst, nor is there a wharf, etc.).

The plot is obviously #7: "A Target faces a calamity due to a crime committed by an untouchable Antagonist. Draw the Target and pick the Crime. If the Antagonist is not obvious, it requires a successful Investigation scenes to discover who was responsible, and the rest of the adventure to catch them, kill them, or expose them to legal consequences."

Victory points start at 0 for Travjane and the Captain. I'm starting Heat at 2 to account for the things she's already been involved in, even though most of her magic use was fairly subtle.

The outcome of this will determine whether or not the Chaos Level goes up or down for the start of the next adventure.]



Scene 32 (SH-1)
Investigation:  Hunt up an Actor whom you have reason to suspect can give you a Clue.

Travjane seals her missive with a kiss, and a great deal of wax lest anyone at the Academy has prying eyes. None would dare interfere with Her Ladyship's post, she hopes. Travjane watches the courier ride away from the city gate, then hurries over to the cobbler's shop on her second errand of the morning.

[Q: Is it boarded up? Likely (3+): O3 C4 - Yes]

But she finds the shop has been boarded up, and an official writ nailed to the door indicating the cobbler's arrest and a seizure of his assets. She goes into a nearby bookbinder's to ask what happened.

[Fast Talk (Courage/Intuition/Charisma skill 2); -2 penalty for being a peasant, additional -1 for witch's streak: 15/2/5, failure]

The bookbinder has nothing to tell her. She tries a few other merchants and tradesmen, but no one is willing to talk. But are they afraid of the captain... or her?

[For her failure, the Captain gets 1 Victory Point.

I've played a handful of SH city adventures, but for some reason I can never remember the following rule, so I'm putting it here in full as an aide-memoire: "After each Investigation or Action scene, roll 1d10; if equal or less than the total number of Investigation and Action scenes so far, the foe gains 1 Victory point."

1d10=8, so no additional VP

Totals:
T0 C1 heat 2
]



Scene 33 (SH-2)
Conflict: Outmanoeuvre a local official suborned or bribed by the foe. Roll a die; on an odd result, add 1 Heat to the community.

She'd hoped not to have to, but after a fruitless visit to Linnert's shop (he was at least happy to see her) she decides that the only way forward is to make enquiries at the Rathaus (Guildhall). She buys shoes from a market stall (the icy cobblestones were starting to hurt her feet, and Darian would be ever so cross if she failed to do her one errand for him) then proceeds to the Rathaus apace.


Once there, she is faced with a full waiting room, for many of the good folk of Weihenhorst have come today with their petitions. After a brief, somewhat flirty conversation with the young clerk...

[Fast Talk (Courage/Intuition/Charisma, skill 2) to charm her way past the clerk: -2 not local, -1 witch's streak, +2 Good Looking II for a total -1 penalty: 13/14/11... just succeeds]

...she is told that one of the Ratsherren (aldermen) will see her anon. Anon seems to have a much different definition in the city than it did in Travjane's little village, but several hours later she is summoned back into one of the chambers.

[1d6=m, Actor description: balding, proud, seeks vengeance for a slight.]

The man who receives her cuts a commanding figure in his fur-trimmed robes of state, but his velvet cap is pulled low on his head to hide his receding hairline. The creases on his forehead give him a stern and dower mien, but there is a vibrancy in his eyes which tells Travjane that she may have found the right potential ally -- or a terrible foe if this be a blunder on her part. She intends to size him up before revealing too much, but he is anxious to get right down to business, receiving her without so much as a "the Twelve bless you".

"So, Miss, you are here to make a complaint about the arrest of a local tradesman."

"I am. I believe the watch has overstepped its bounds in this matter specifically, and several others besides."

"I see. Go on."

"I've asked round, and it seems to be an open secret amongst the merchants of this fair city that the watch is seizing property at the slightest provocation. But none dare complain, lest it happen to them."

"And your concern in this matter would be what, exactly? Forgive me for saying so, Miss, but you don't sound like a citizen of Weihenhorst."

"And that is why I feel emboldened to point out this injustice. For it is unjust, you must agree."

"I see. But certainly you must have more than knowledge of this so-called 'open secret' to bring before me. Else I fear that your complaint is but a waste of time."

[She needs to make a roll against Empathy (Sagacity/Intuition/Charisma skill 5) to suss out the official; QL will be penalty for his resistance roll in the next challenge: 7/10/1, QL2]

"Alrik the cobbler has been thrown in gaol and his property seized by the Captain. His only crime is attempting to besmirch the reputation of a rival in love. Such a misdeed is worth a trifling fine, if indeed a magistrate would even deign to hear such a case. But that isn't why he's really incarcerated. The truth of the matter is that, upon being presented with evidence of his misdemeanour, he refused to pay to have it hushed up."

[Law roll (SGC/SGC/INT, skill 0): 4/10/11, success

vs.

Willpower Cou12/Int13/Cha12, skill4; -2 penalty: 19/17/12 failure]


"You are, of course right. The Captain has gone too far, and ought to be stopped before he brings down --ahem-- any one in the city government. But we need something more substantial to go on than just, er, common knowledge."

"You shall have it within the week."

"Good."

"Mightn't you have an inkling of where I should look? I'm certain I can find something, it's just I don't have your local knowledge.

The Ratsherr sighs deeply. "Very well; I have heard that the Captain has changed his drinking habits of late. He used to drink at the [d30 Sandbox tavern generator=] Three Knights, like the common soldiers. Now he spends all his time at the Purple Lion. Like he's too good for them."

"I'll start there."

[The hint was actually a reverse-engineered justification for the random Investigation Scene & Actor results in the next part.

Travjane +1 VP, Captain -1 VP (conflict scene)
1d6=odd, so +1heat (as per the scene description)

T1 C0 heat 3]



Scene 34 (SH-3)
Investigation: Tail an Actor who might have a Clue. On a check failure, face a Fight.

Darian agrees to accompany Travjane to the Purple Lion. She intends to extend the invitation to Linnert as well, but Darian politely declines on his behalf, explaining that it's not his sort of place. Travjane is intrigued, and doubly so when Darian suggests she wear one of his fancier creations to fit in.

She is not disappointed. In all her years as the innkeepers' daughter she'd never dreamt that such a place could exist. For one, it's so clean, though she is the only one to pass through its portal who spares a though for the poor sod who must toil to keep it that way. Then there is the clientèle: over half wealthy travellers, mingling with the cream of Weihenhorst society, such as it is. And finally the entertainment: no farmer with a mouth harp upon a table nor shepherd piping by the fire, but a small stage, apparently purpose-built. Travjane watches with rapt attention as a trio of musicians take the stage. Judging by their dress and complexion, they must hail from the distant southern reaches of Aventuria, perhaps Khunchom, or Al'Anfa, or even Brabak, like poor lost Renahban. The trio strikes up a wild melody on instruments Travjane cannot name, and the crowd falls silent. A dancer [Actor: exquisite dancer; 1d6=f] glides out before them, and the crowd pulls back to give her room. She is not at all dressed for the weather, and as she whirls and spins across the floor she begins to shed what precious little she is wearing, one filmy veil at a time.


[Perception (SGC/SGC/INT skill 2: 9/6/9, success]

But it is after her show that Travjane's interest is truly piqued, for who should the foreign woman be talking to out of the whole crowd, but the Captain. He tries to give her something out of his satchel, but she puts him off with a gesture and whispered admonition. This must be why he's changed his habitual watering hole, Travjane is sure.

When the musicians disappear, Travjane tells Darian she must wait outside to see where the dancer goes. Darian is all too eager to oblige. He wants to rush home and make some sketches based on the dancer's outfit. "South Aventurian styles could be big next spring," he explains.

Travjane is more affected by the boredom than the cold, but her perseverance pays off. She finally sees the dancer, -- bundled up in a heavy cloak, of course -- leave the tavern, and follows her through the streets...

[Stealth (COU/INT/AGL, skill 6) to tail: 10/10/11, success with QL2.
vs.
Perception (12/13/13, skill 2) 19/6/17: failure.]


...to a non-descript cottage on a minor street in the merchant's quarter [random location = Hidden love nest]. Scarcely a minute later the Captain appears[his Perception roll at QL 1 does not beat Travjane's QL2]. He knocks, and the dancer opens the door to him. He produces something from his satchel, a small parcel wrapped in fine silk. The dancer unwraps it eagerly, then holds a glittering gold necklace up to admire. The two disappear inside.

[T +1 VP, +1 Clue

1d10=7 > 2 (Total Number of Investigation & Action Scenes, hereafter abbreviated TNIAS), so no additional enemy VP

T2 C0 heat 3
Clues: 1
]



Scene 35 (SH-4)
spending a Clue for an Action scene: Bring in an outside authority or useful Actor to oppose the foe.

The next day, Travjane heads into the wealthy district to track down the mage. She doesn't find her at the inn where she is staying, but contrary to all her expectations, the good Burghers of Weihenhorst are incredibly helpful, telling her just when they saw her last and in which direction she was headed. She finds the mage in a market square, buying a mug of Glühwein.


[the mage was determined to be a Guild Mage back in scene 18, so what I need to know about her is (1d6): 1-2 White, 3-4 Grey, 5-6 Black guild: 6=Schwarzmagierin
I had a portrait earmarked for her in my pics file, so I picked the first Black Guild Academy I could think of that allows red robes, according to the Codex Albyricus, the ancient book of Mage's Guild law: Halle der Erleuchtung zu Al’Anfa (in the Aventurische Magie I sourcebook).]


"Salve, O maga," calls Travjane. "Oportet me tecum loqui."

The mage turns, looks Travjane up and down, then laughs. "We read Bosporano in the Hall of Enlightenment at Al'Anfa, girl, we don't speak it."

"Sorry, but I thought, as you were a mage--"

"I assume that is why you would speak with me?"

"Yes, I--"

"And what business have you with the Black Guild, witch?"

"I've heard that the watch captain does not treat the Guild with the proper respect. Nor does he treat my Order with any either. On top of that, he's crooked, but he is about to suffer a terrible fall -- at my hand. So I hoped, when the time were right, I could count on your support."

[Etiquette (SGC/INT/CHA, skill 0) to deal with mage: 5/5/10, success]

"You've certainly made me curious. I will support you, when the time is at hand, and provided that there is no great danger to my person nor my reputation. But should you make a mess of things..."

[T +1 VP

1d10=5 > 3 TNIAS, so no additional enemy VP

T4 C0 heat 3]

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Other Dust solo - Part X : Ghouls


Sandra and Ewa keep getting too far ahead of the two over-burdened farmers, and are constantly stopping and waiting for them to catch up. Sandra can barely contain her irritation, and even Ewa is showing signs of annoyance.

"This is getting really rather old," huffs Sandra as the two farmers lumber up to them.

"If you guys can't k--"

Ewa doesn't finish her reproach, but suddenly raises her rifle and points off inland, at the high grass. Sandra changes her grip on her monoblade and calls out, "Who's there?"

[the journey back will be handled by a Waylay (BOLD): 2d10=easy foes

% of way back? d%=35

1d6=4 ghouls (AC 6, Move 20, HD 2, Atk 2 claws at +2, 1d6+poison*, Skill +2, Save 14+, ML 9, special: -2 to all rolls in strong light)
   *A ghoul's poison is quick and nasty, soon turning the afflicted into a shivering mess. It can be fatal in 36 hours: Toxicity 8, Virulence 3, Interval 12 hours, With each failed save the sufferer gains first the Feverish, Shaking, then Delirious negative conditions, and dies if a fourth save is failed (see rulebook p.44).

Surprise: the party's Perception  vs. the ghouls' Stealth: 2d6-1=9 vs. 2d6+2-2=6, no surprise; encounter range = 30m]


The four crouched shapes are barely visible, but the moving grass gives them away. They begin to spread out as they advance toward those who have strayed into their hunting grounds. They stay low in the grass [soft cover, -2 to be hit] but as they get closer their shapes are unmistakable. "Ghouls!" gasps Nev.

The ghouls are feral, humanoid mutants who will eat any meat or carrion, but seem to take a special delight in hunting down humans. They have slimy, mottled green skin and are completely hairless. Their eyes are so small as to give the impression that they haven't any; their face is mostly given over to their grinning, fanged jaw. Ghouls are not thought to have intelligence, but do possess a predatory cunning.


[Round 1 : initiative E6 S7 ghouls 8,7,4,1, Mo 8, Nev 7]
Mo and Nev start backing up, more afraid of turning their backs on the ghouls than they are walking backwards towards the cliff. The ghouls all advance [20m] to within pouncing distance, keeping low in the grass. Ewa squeezes off a shot at one of the advancing monsters, and is pretty sure her aim was off -- that, or they don't feel pain [she did, in fact, miss].

[Round 2]
One of the ghouls leaps onto the path and straight at Ewa, and a second at Sandra. Sandra fends off its attack with her blade [they both miss], but Ewa is too slow in bringing her rifle about. A single claw leaves a bloody tear in the side of her neck, and she can feel the poison burning like acetone in the wound [1 damage puts her at 5hp]. The ghoul tries to grab her rifle, but she twists it in its grasp and fires, blowing a hole right through its torso. It falls back into the dirt, twitching [2HD damage kills it]. A second ghoul attacks [1-2 Ewa, 3-4 Sandra, 5 Mo 6 Nev] Ewa whilst she's distracted, raking claws down her arm [2 hits, 0 & 2 damage leaves her with 3hp]. The last ghoul pounces on Mo, and nearly disembowels the hapless mutant, who collapses in the long grass. [For suffering their first loss, the NPCs in the party must check Morale: 2d6=4, they fight on.]

[Round 3]
Sandra swings her monoblade in a fierce arc, decapitating her opponent. The ghoul's headless trunk falls back, spurting a fountain of greenish ichor [4HD damage kills it twice over]. Ewa turns her rifle on the remaining ghoul facing her, and fires a round into its chest [2HD damage], killing the monster. The last ghoul turns to leap at Sandra. It's already gory claws rake down her back, but do not take her out of the fight [2 hits for 1HD each puts her at 4HD].

[Round 4]
Ewa shoulders the rifle and readies her crowbar as Sandra and the ghoul feint back and forth. Sandra's blade draws a long, frothing cut across its torso [1 damage drops it to 1HD], whilst its claws barely break her skin [1 hit for 0 damage].

[Round 5]
Ewa swings her crowbar, but the ghoul hops backwards out of the way. Sandra rushes forward and skewers it, and it slide off the end of her sword, expiring messily.

[Both Ewa and Sandra need to make Physical saving throws against the ghouls' toxin: E 18, ok; S 9, fail.]

Ewa runs to the fallen Mo, and finding him not past all hope, slaps a stim patch on him. He jerks back to the land of the living, then he and Ewa set about binding their wounds [Ewa regains 2hp, Mo 1HD, but he fails his Physical save against the ghoul toxin]. Sandra merely crosses her arms and glares at Nev.

"Can we still make it there before dark," asks Nev, "or should we turn back?"

"Drop some of your gear and we'll make it," says Ewa.

"But..."

"I'm not getting caught after dark with only five bullets left!"

[friendly NPC reaction=5, Bribeable]

"But this is all we own!"

"A bunch of weapons you didn't even use," growls Sandra.

"We're farmers, not warriors."

"OK, how's this for a deal?" says Ewa, "Drop the gear, and I won't tell you stole it. I'll even help retrieve it later."

[Q: Acceptable? 50/50 (4+): O4 C6 - yes]


Nev and Mo find some bushes off the path a ways to stash the bulk of their haul, then they all continue apace to the Coast Guardian Station. The Guardians usher them into a small and sterile meeting room, where the Commander soon joins them, eager to hear their report. After an hour's cross-examination (which seems to Ewa to last five times that long), the Commander finally makes a pronouncement: "We must find out where they are coming from, and put an end to this menace."

"I'd say you need to draw them out again," says Ewa. "Send a detachment to the lighthouse to wait, and have a lone tracker follow them to their lair. That's what I'd do, anyways."

"So good of you to volunteer!"

"Volun-- wait, I didn't mean... Shit. OK. But I really need some ammo off you lot this time...."

[friendly NPC react=8, Quick consent]

"Absolutely," smiles the Commander. "I can't have my scout disappearing before we've had our intel. And if you survive, I'll even let you keep the ammunition as a token of my esteem."

[Q: Will the Commander send additional troops? 50/50 (4+): O1 C3 - No, but... he requisitions more backup from the Castle
Q: Is there another NPC wanderer amongst them? 50/50: o6 C7 - yes. 1d2=catgirl
Q: Can/will Niamh heal Sandra's illness with her mutation? 50/50: O1 C8 - No.]


Ewa, Sandra, Nev, and Mo are given cots to sleep on in the mess hall; the coast Guardians are not used to entertaining visitors. An armed guard watches over them, to make sure they don't stray through the installation -- or eat all the stores. In the morning, Sandra and Mo have succumbed to the ghouls' toxin, and are sweating and shaking with fever. Ewa says a silent prayer of thanksgiving to the Archangel Wojtyla for sparing her from this grisly fate.

Three more 'volunteers' arrive from castle, Niamh the catgirl and two locals in scrap plate armour. Niamh is saddened to see Sandra laid low by the poison, and doubly so since her powers of healing are ineffective against the toxin.

The little band are sent out almost immediately, with Ewa leading the way.


Scene 17

Chaos: Out of Control (d8)

Setup: find ghouls' lair

NPC List: -

Threads: the Quest, mission

[The journey is once again handled by 1 encounter check (d6=4, no encounter), and 1 BOLD waylay: knowledge - occult - grim]

"So," says Ewa to one of the taciturn locals, practically yelling to be heard over the wind, "where's this 'entrance to hell' then?"

"Gimme them binoculars of yours when we get to the top of this hill. I'll show it you."

Ewa hands them over, and the young [d6=] man scans the cliffs ahead. "There!" he says, pointing. "That old brickwork structure. Gives me a fright just looking at it. Take a good look all you want, this is as close as we're getting."


Ewa peers at it for a time. It's a small, regular structure like the foundation of an old building, nothing more. She certainly doesn't shudder with superstitious dread like the local did when he first spied it. Ewa hands the binoculars to Niamh for a look. The catgirl shrugs.

"I really want to scout it out," says Ewa. "Maybe it's called the entrance to hell because the monsters live there. Please tell me I'm not the only one who's thought of that? Anyone else coming?"

The two locals shake their heads in furious refusal.

"Fine," says Ewa. "Be that way."

"I'd go too, but I think I'd best stay with these two," says Niamh. "Keep an eye on things back here."

Ewa clambers down the path, pausing often to look back. Somehow the catgirl watching through her binoculars makes her feel slightly less alone. For as much as she saw nothing untoward about the structure, the closer she get to it, the more she finds her mind straying back to the pictures of hell in that old book the vicar had, with the demonic mutants devouring the naked people and the atomic fires and giant skeleton floating above it all, and she wonders if she, too, is a miserable sinner, and hell is waiting to gobble her up, and she'll burn in the radioactive flames and be gnawed upon for an eternity until the horn section plays for the last judgement. Maybe, she muses, she shouldn't have been so shitty to Junemay after all.

She makes a quick circuit of the structure to reconnoitre, and instead of the jaws of a hideous dragon, finds merely a green sheet metal door at the bottom of a short concrete staircase. So probably not a hellmouth.

[She needs to roll Wisdom/Perception 8+ : 10-1,success]

The door is slightly ajar. Moreover, there is an obvious track over the dirty concrete, as if many people have been back and forth, and quite recently.


All is darkness beyond, though when Ewa's eyes adjust she sees light emanating from a door at the far end of the downward-sloping entrance corridor, a few dozen metres distant. Ewa props the outside door open with a stone for a little more light, and creeps inside a few paces.

[Q: What does she find? Trick / Technology :  a trap...

I rolled one from a random Mutant Future adventure map key (generated via http://wizardawn.and-mag.com/tool_hexcrawl.php):

BUILDING TRAP: A bomb explodes that causes 1d10x2 damage to all of those close to the central spot of the area. They only take half damage if they save for energy attacks.

Wis/Perception 10+ to notice the IR "tripwire", 2d6-1=fail. She also fails her saving throw. 2d10= 1,4; 1hp damage only.]


Ewa has only gone a few metres down the long concrete corridor when she blunders through an infrared beam. Breaking the beam sets off an ancient plasma mine which has been affixed to the wall. The blast fills the corridor before her, but Ewa is fortunately spared the worst of it. The pressure knocks her back a few steps, and she steadies herself against the wall for a moment.

But then she snaps into a defensive stance, as her acute senses pick up an undercurrent of impending danger. Moments later she can hear claws clicking against the concrete floor, as [1d6=] three ghouls come scuttling out of the darkness towards her.

[Initiative: Ewa 5; ghouls 1,1,4]

Ewa fires a short burst from her combat rifle [13+1+2+6=hit; 4+2=6 damage, killed]. The bullets tear through the lead ghoul, but [Morale 2d6=7, fight] its companions continue right over the gore bespattered corpse.

The first one leaps right at Ewa, reaching out with a sinewy arm to drag its claws across her shin [one claw hits for 1d6=2, 1hp damage. She saves against the toxin]. The other ghoul cannot reach her in the narrow corridor.

[Round 2]
Ewa fires another burst as she retreats slowly towards the gleaming daylight. The lead ghoul drops. [4hd damage kills it. Morale 2d6=10, fail]. The other ghoul scurries back into the darkness.

Ewa runs 30 metres from the structure, then hurriedly bandages her wound. Luckily it isn't deep and, more luckily still, she doesn't feel the sting of poison. She goes back to rejoin the others, pausing often to cast a nervous glance back at the entrance to hell, even though her danger sense assures her no ghouls are following behind.

"They're in there," Ewa says. "They set a trap... they're smarter than they look."

"We should go back and report," says the local.

"Are you ok?" asks Niamh. "Your leg..."

"I'll live," says Ewa. "But our friend's right: we ought to go back and report."

[Q: Do they make it back without incident? Likely (3+): O5 C8 - Yes
Q: Is the mission at an end? 50/50 (4+): O2 C3 - No, but... just one more task.



But first...

XP:

So, at some point around scene 16, I realised I hadn't been doing anything about awarding XP. The Scarlet Heroes XP system is too deterministic for my tastes, but the Other Dust one doesn't quite jive with my playing style, either.  I'll be using it as a baseline in lieu of a better idea, since the combat & treasure model of most OSR games is an even worse fit for this campaign.

I am perfectly happy to give Ewa 1000xp for her adventure to Hastings (counting it a as single "session", even though it took two to play through). From her first meeting with Tansy & Shelly to her arrival at Dover -- essentially a wilderness adventure though punctuated by a couple enclave visits -- 1000xp seems a bit high.

She should probably have earned 2000xp total by the end of this scene... but I hadn't come to any real decisions about it yet. As I am writing this now, I've actually played 2 more scenes, which include some fairly momentous events. I should probably give her 2nd level retroactively between scenes 17 & 18; she hasn't had time to train any skills yet, and the extra hit points are a non-issue since (spoiler!) she doesn't die.

But it speaks well for the game that I played this far without even caring if my PC was advancing or not. If only I had gotten my notes typed up nicely before now...]

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Other Dust solo - Part IX : To the Lighthouse


Scene 16

Chaos:
Out of Control (d8)

Setup: station mission

NPC List: Sandra, Niamh, Krish

Threads: the Quest, mission

The next day, Ewa and Sandra are let out and their equipment (minus food) is returned. A warband leads them on a 45 minute trek up dusty old roads to a flat, paved area with a ruined building, not far from the edge of the white chalk cliffs. Past the building is an ancient wooden fence. "This is where we leave you," states the war leader. "Go through the stile and follow the path along the cliff top until you get to the installation. You can't miss their tower."

Once Sandra and Ewa have passed through the gate-- "Close it behind you!" shouts the war leader, pointing to the corroded, ancient sign. "Can't you lot read?"

Once Sandra and Ewa have passed through the gate and closed it behind them, they set off down the path. The war party hastens back to the safety of their castle.

After about half an hour of muddy, overgrown paths, they spot the tower, a tall, metal structure with a revolving radar dish on top. As they draw nearer to it, they come upon a herd of horses grazing on the hillside.

A unit of guards comes down the hill towards them. They are all clad in light blue, Old Terran armoured jumpsuits [equal to Harmony Armour, AC4] emblazoned with an ancient device on the chest, and carry laser weapons. The in-built helmets and large, red goggles give them a uniformly anonymous look.


"Surrender your weapons and come with us."

Ewa and Sandra have no choice but to comply with the command, but Ewa can swear she sees Sandra roll her eyes at the pronouncement. They are led under heavy guard up the hill to the installation, which presents an awesome sight to the eyes of the two wastelanders; the tower ever turns, lights blink and flash, and machinery hums. They see no signs of damage to the small complex's structure, ancient or otherwise.

"What is this place?" asks Ewa.

"It is Her Majesty's Coast Guard Station. And we are the Coast Guardians. Now wait here whilst I fetch the Officer on Watch."

The guardian disappears into a door in the side of the complex. Ewa and Sandra both crane their necks to snatch a brief glimpse inside the structure to know what wonders it may contain, but all they can really see is an exceptionally clean corridor.


The Officer comes out, wearing a similar uniform distinguished only by a braided epaulette. He wastes no time in getting down to the briefing.

"There is an ancient lighthouse a ways down the cliff top. It is used as a guard tower for the small farming enclave nearby, as it overlooks their fields. They are a part of our protectorate here. We lost radio contact with them three days ago, so we need to send out a party to see if there is a real problem. There are bands of savage, cannibalistic mutants that live in the hills round here, and we've seen an increase in attacks lately. We fear that this may be part of the problem. Can either of you operate a radio?"

"I can probably figure it out," says Ewa. [Int/Postech skill total of +1]

"Good. Get it working if you can and make your report post haste. If not, come back in person. But don't travel after dark, whatever you do. And mind the perimeter fence around the lighthouse grounds. It should be electrified."

"I, uh, noticed you have a lot of gear," says Ewa. "I don't suppose you got any ammo I could have for my combat rifle?"

[SH, Friendly NPC reaction roll=6, Persuadable

Charisma/Persuasion (-1), need 7+: 7-1, failure.]


"Ammunition is in short supply, so we can't spare any. This is a reconnaissance mission, not a combat operation, so if you do your job right you won't need it. If the place is crawling with mutants, we don't expect you to go in -- just bring back an assessment of their numbers and situation."

"Right..."

"And this isn't a salvage mission. Don't stray, and don't go poking around anywhere you come across on the way. Avoid the old tunnels at Fan Bay... they lead straight down into hell."

"We'll do that, boss," says Sandra. "But you want to tell us why they sent us from the castle and didn't come themselves?"

"Because they're ruddy cowards, is why! Anyone at the castle who proves their mettle gets taken up here for training when the call comes. Only the select few have what it takes to keep this station running. We have a job to do here. It is our sacred duty." [scheming - negotiation - knowledge]

"What job is that?" asks Ewa.

"None as need concern you, outsider."

Their weapons are returned, and they are on their way.

[The journey is handled by 1 encounter check (d6=6, no encounter), and 1 BOLD waylay: party - misunderstanding - proficient]


The dirt path continues in a meandering fashion along the cliff top. There are occasional branches, but only one obvious direction of travel. The fierce wind makes progress slower than expected. Some of the bushes are bent double under its force; in fact, they appear to have grown that way.

"So," screams Sandra to be heard above the wind, "you're good with technology, I take it?" [the waylay]

"Not really," yells Ewa in reply. "I just learnt a bit about postech when I used to go scavenging."

"So you, like, couldn't help us out getting into an installation...?"

"A what?"

"An installation!"

"That really depends on what's keeping you out."

The footpath winds ever along the top of the cliff. Ewa and Sandra are careful not to get to close to the cliff edge. One good gust could send them over and into the rocky sea. After a while, the white tower of the lighthouse can be seen in the distance. Ewa and Sandra pause to look at it through Ewa's binoculars, but there is no movement, and nothing to see.


"I don't like it..." mumbles Sandra.

"If it looks bad, we can go back," says Ewa. "They said so."

[Q: Any obvious exterior signs? 50/50: O5 C3 - Yes, but...
Wisdom/Perception roll (7+): 3-1, fail]


"You see anything?"

"No. You?"

"Nothing -- and that's what worries me."

"We'll keep our eyes open then," says Ewa, "and make sure we don't miss anything."

They continue on their way, weapons held ready. They hear nothing but the roaring wind, and see no one in hills and waving fields of grass. Save for the lighthouse visible in the distance, they could be all alone in the world. At one point Ewa feels something crunch beneath her foot, but assumes it's just a branch; had she bothered to look, she would have seen that she'd just trod upon a human jawbone, with shreds of meat still attached [the failed Perception roll from above].

The perimeter fence encloses a wide area round the old lighthouse. Ewa and Sandra leave the path and clamber through the high grass to approach it. Sandra seems inordinately concerned that something is lurking in the clumps of large shrubbery situated here and there in the fields, but Ewa tells her she's just being paranoid; if there were danger about she'd know.


[Q: Is the fence still electrified? 50/50: O4 C8 - Yes.
Ewa needs to roll 8+ on Int/Postech to defeat the fence: 11+2=success]


Ewa plucks a long, green stalk and tests the electric fence. "It's still live," she says.

"Better be careful how we get in," says Sandra.

Ewa ignores the repeated admonition and starts rummaging through her gear for some tools and wires, and less than a minute later has rendered a section of the fence inoperative. Sandra looks on as she works, but doesn't let herself trust in Ewa's handiwork until Ewa has climbed the fence and leapt over onto the other side. Sandra follows quickly after.

[Q: Are there survivors inside? Unlikely (5+): O5 C6 - Yes. 1d6=3 survivors
stats as Enclave Dweller, each 50/50 M/F, 20% mutant as usual.
Q: Are the party spotted by a lookout? Unknown d6=3+: O1 C1 - No, and... the lookout is either dead or unconscious: needs to make a save or die of wounds/toxins... d20=failure.
+Event: NPC action - Procrastinate / Travel]


They walk once round the building, but see nothing out of the ordinary, save that the structure seems to have been well-maintained: a true rarity. There are a few shutters missing, and the ground floor windows have all been boarded up from within, but there is nothing unusual about either of these findings. Ewa tries the front door carefully, but it doesn't budge. She shrugs, then knocks loudly. "Hey! Anyone in there? We were send by the coast guardians to check up on you! Hello?"

[Reaction roll (SH NPC Stranger): 2d6=6, Qualified refusal]

"Who are you?" comes a hesitant voice through the door.

"We're travellers... conscripted to come check things out."

"How do I you're not raiders?"

"The coast guardian officer sent us. Said you've not contacted them on radio."

[new reaction roll=11, Helpful consent]

"OK. Guess you aren't raiders then if you know the radio's out. Go over to the tower. We'll lower a rope and you can climb up. Take too long to unbarricade the door."

The promised rope is thrown from the first floor window, and our heroines climb inside. They are greeted by a pair of men: a null-strain human of English descent and a mutant with mauve skin and a tree-trunk like head.


"It's just us who's left," says the human. "Matty up in the lookout tower didn't make it."

The mutant just looks dejectedly at the floor.

"Who're you, then?" continues the human.

"I'm Ewa. This is Sandra. We're not from round here."

"I'm Nev. Me purple friend's called Mo."

"What happened here?" says Sandra nervously.

"Our farm enclave nearby was overrun by ghouls. Usually only attack stragglers at night, but this time 'twas a whole wave of them. Fought our way here but they got in. We hid up the tower. In the morning, they were gone. Took all the bodies too. Place was well smashed up. Got the fence back online, but the radio's had it. Seen a few ghouls walking by day, checking us out maybe. But we boarded it up and they haven't broken back in. Been too afraid to go for help..."

"How many farmers were there?" asks Ewa.

"Not many. Maybe 50. Just enough to work the fields and send food to the Coast Guardians -- both here at the lighthouse and at their main facility. Sometimes they let us borrow their horses, and--"

"Ok. Great," says Sandra. "Will you come back with us?"

"To their base?"

"Yeah.  They'll want to hear your report."

"Sure we will. But we need to collect our things first." [the Event from above]

....

Nev and Mo clamber down the steps to the main building. Ewa sits back against a wall and closes her eyes, hoping to catch a little rest. Sandra looks out the window, scanning the countryside with a pair of binoculars.

About 45 minutes later, they hear heavy, plodding footsteps coming up the stairs. Nev and Mo appear half a minute later, panting and sweating beneath the heaps of gear each has collected. Ewa can barely suppress a laugh.

"Ummmm..." begins Sandra.

"We should still have time to get back," says Nev.

"With all that stuff? You're having a laugh! You can come back for it when this is settled. You'll slow us down."

The ensuing argument lasts almost 20 minutes. Ewa closes her eyes again and does her best to ignore it. In the end, Sandra cajoles them into leaving half their load behind -- though they can still barely walk at a normal pace [3/4 movement rate]. Ewa climbs halfway up the lighthouse and looks out the window, scanning the countryside with her binoculars. She can see no creatures moving about, though the wind blowing the long grass makes signs of movement rather more difficult to detect than she'd like.

Arms at the ready, they set out across the cliffs.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Other Dust solo - Part VIII : Dover


Day 12

Ewa follows the road further, walking on the hills beside it. In the distance ahead, she espies a great, ancient castle. She peers at it through her binoculars, and sees people moving along the battlements. But beyond the castle to the south she sees an expanse of open water: the sea! the sea!

[Then the GM hat had to go on...

There are several adventure locations in Dover, and a lot more up the coast. I have vague ideas about what some of them will be like, and for others I have no opinion whatsoever. I'm not fleshing any of them out until Ewa comes directly into contact with them, and even then, only so far as is required for the current adventure. Partly this keeps things mysterious for me as a player, and partly it just means that set-up time is kept to a minimum and I get to actually play more.

Dover has the following areas: Dover Castle (enclave), Fortress Redoubt (rival enclave), the Port (mysteriously functional), and the cliffs, which contain the Coast Guard Station, Fan Bay Deep Shelter, and the South Foreland Lighthouse. Beyond that there are fields, wilderness, and the ruins of most of the city (a necropolis, as far as the encounter tables are concerned).

At this point it was necessary to figure out the Castle enclave. The random enclave generation tables gave me the following:

Size: small (1d4+1=) ~400 adult inhabitants
Government: tyranny
TL: 2
Tags: expert artisans, secret masters

The castle should be able to support a much larger population (it's huge and in good repair, plus has WWII tunnels). But rather than re-rolling to get a better amount, I decided this would mean that they have recently suffered some terrible disaster.

I had given her (above) a Wisdom/Perception check at 6+ to notice signs of habitation; 9=success

Q: Can she just walk straight into town unseen? Unlikely (5+): O4 C5 - No.
Q: Has she been spotted? 50/50 (4+): O2 C2 - No, and...
+Event: Move toward a thread - Inform / News = get a rumour from random people encountered]


Ewa continues cautiously along the road. In the distance she spots some tall, wooden guard towers flanking it. She disappears back into the weeds and scraggly forest, and decides to try getting closer undetected. She goes up and around through the hills, and pauses often to survey the area with her binoculars. She's not entirely certain that the watchtowers are even manned.

She continues her roundabout approach, and before long discovers another group of travellers lying in the tall grass at the crest of a hill, peering out at the terrain below.

[They are (random encounter): 1d6+2=3 wanderers

Q: The same three as before (day 9)? Unlikely (5+): O1 C8 - No

Reaction roll, 2d6=9]



Two of the travellers are null-strain humans, a man and a woman, both in the prime of life. The third is a mutant, some sort of cat-woman with orange and black fur. All three are laden with equipment, a generous mix of recovered artefacts and post-collapse manufactured items. The cat woman turns to face Ewa, revealing her strange, metallic eyes. "Who's this, then?" she says, and the other two look over their shoulders.

"Get your head down, girl," says the human woman brusquely. "You don't want them to see you."

Ewa crouches low in the grass. "Uh, hi. I'm Ewa. I take it you're not from round here?"

"Hi, Ewa," says the woman. "I'm Sandra. This is Krish, and our feline friend is Niamh. And we most definitely aren't from round here."

[UNE--
Conversation Mood: sociable
inquisitive - suspicion - community]


"We came to see if the rumours were true," says Niamh the catwoman. "It's a working port alright. But why? What's it used for? And who owns it?"

"Let's get a closer look, then," says Ewa.

"That's a bad idea," says Krish.

"No, with these," says Ewa, holding up her binoculars. "I've got an extra set somewhere. They're a bit knackered but they'll do."


Ewa hands over the good pair of binoculars and rummages through her pack for the spare ones she found. They take turns, and get a thorough look at port. There are many heavy trucks arranged in rows awaiting loading on one of the docked ferries, but whatever cargo they contain is locked safely within their trailers. More are off to the sides in various states of repair, with open bonnets, missing doors and wheels, and occasional signs of damage or decay. At least some of the buildings seem to have power, but it can be hard to judge in daytime. Robot sentinels are posted throughout. Only once are humans seen; a small group of people in stained coveralls are led away from one of the less-damaged wrecks and into a building by a pair of armed and armoured robots.

"I don't know what's going on down there," says Sandra, "but it gives me the creeps."

"Everything gives you the creeps," says Niamh.

"And that's why I'm still alive."

"So now what?" asks Krish.

"So, Ewa," says Sandra, "you wanna stick with us? Maybe we can help each other out. Share any spoils, that sort of thing." [UNE: friendly - aid - the character]

"And food!" adds Niamh.

"Uh, yeah, OK," says Ewa. "But maybe we should find somewhere safe to camp out for now. There's too much weirdness here."

[Ewa had made her Mental save against paranoia, so was free to agree with them. So, to flesh them out a bit--

I treated them as Wanderers off the encounter charts (random classes, level 1d4+2). Sandra is a 4th level Survivor. Both Krish and Niamh are 2nd level Scroungers.

I rolled on the NPC charts for group as a whole, so--
Big Problems for the NPC(s): Owes a powerful person a favour they can’t afford
Current Greatest Desire: Safety for themselves or an imperilled friend

Q: Are they forthcoming about their problems? 50/50 (4+): O4 C2 - Yes, and...

Who do they owe? Battered ex-adventurer
Why? Release / Animals: they let [d6=]his livestock get loose
What do they owe? 1d6x100= 300 rations
Where is he based? hex north of 9

Q: Do they make it out of town without incident? Likely (3+): O2 C2 - no, and...
+Event: PC negative - Usurp / Travel]


The four make their way back through the grassy hills towards the road out of the city. As they go, Ewa's new companions become quite talkative, explaining that they come from an inland enclave to the north, but that they accidentally crossed one of the prominent citizens by an accident that involved the loss of some of his herd animals, and they aren't allowed back until they can bring in enough salvage to compensate for the loss. Ewa responds by telling them of her Quest, and her adventures in the wilderness since leaving Eastbourne.

So engrossing is the tale that none of them notice the figures moving in the grass around them until they are completely surrounded by a war party with an assortment of well-made [TL2] firearms.

"Welcome to Dover, strangers. You had best hand over your weapons and come quietly. We don't want to hurt anybody. But you're trespassing on forbidden ground."

They hand over their arms and go quietly. The war party takes them down a twisty old road and up into the castle through the sheepoid pasture and inside the walls via one of the back gates.


They see fewer people within than one would expect to occupy such a great and fortified structure. Even the guards seem stretched thin along the battlements. A sombre pall seems cast over the settlement.

The prisoners are marched into the castle proper and down into the dungeons, where they are put in a holding cell. Eventually a null-strain human official come to see them, with guards in tow. [1d6=] He is bald, and wears strange electronic goggles. His spotless white Old Terran lab coat gleams in stark contrast to his grubby woollen trousers and worn leather shoes. The guards close him in the cell with the prisoners, and he addresses them cordially.

"Normally we just relieve trespassers of their equipment and send them packing, or shoot them if there's trouble. But today is a special day, so we're going to make an exception. The CG station is requesting supernumerary manpower -- and that always means trouble. We can't spare anyone, so we're going to send two of you. The other two stay here as hostages. You could cut and run... but I don't think I need to sully this friendly chat with the rest of that sentence. It's not a long walk from here to there. We'll hear about it if you don't show -- they've got a radio and so do we."

"What if the two you send get killed?" asks Sandra.

"I'd rather like to think that they won't. Maybe you should choose the two least likely to die."

"Um, sir," says Niamh, pointing her claw at Ewa, "we just met her today..."

"That's between you and her. Why don't you talk it over amongst yourselves whilst you enjoy the bounty of our stores. It's stew night. I can't say much for the colour -- or the smell, come to think of it -- but it tastes a treat!"

The official is let out, and a guard brings in plates of stew and bread, a decent amount of water, and a half of beer each.

"So who goes and who stays?" asks Niamh.

[roll for each: 1-2 wants go 3-4 wants stay 5-6 undecided: 4,2,2]

"Well if this is how they treat their prisoners," says Krish, "I volunteer to be a hostage."

"I wanna go," says Sandra.

"Me too," says Niamh. "What about her?"

"I want to go," says Ewa. "I got all the way here from Eastbourne by myself. I don't want to get stuck here when I'm so close to the coast. Besides, I can't really taste the food anyway..."

"Yeah, but... can we trust you?" asks Sandra. "I mean, why wouldn't you just run, since you want to see the coast?"

"Because it would be wrong. Because you wanted to help me when we just met and I can use friends like that out here. Because if I didn't just abandon a bunch of clueless podborn to their fate, I'm not going to abandon you lot."

[Scarlet Heroes reaction table (Friendly NPC) roll at -1 penalty for circumstances: 10-1=9, Pleased Consent]

"You're a bit weird," says Sandra with a sigh, "but you seem genuine. Fine. But who gets to go with her?"

"You believe her?" asks Niamh.

"Call it a gut feeling."

Niamh and Sandra play rock-paper-scissors to decide; [1d2=] Sandra gets to go.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Other Dust solo - Part VII : Back into the Wastelands


The heat of summer always makes me dig out my post apacalyptic games. So, after a long gap, it's time for more of Ewa's adventures in Other Dust. The game picks up as Ewa bids goodby to Tansy, Shelley, and the podborn mutants, and heads east from their enclave in hex 2.

(The campaign began here. The last post was here.)

Toolkit:

Scene 15


Chaos: Out of Control (d8)

Setup: back into the wastes

Threads: the Quest

[Back to the SH Wilderness Adventure tables. I reset the die thresholds for Events and Features since she stayed so long with the mutants.]

Day 1

[back to hex 1, no encounters/features/events]


Day 2

[travel to hex 3.
Feature = ethnic enclave

Random enclave--
Size: average, ~400adults
Government: technocratic
Core: small town (Robertsbridge)
TL 1
Tags: secret masters, trade hub
Complication: rival enclave seeks their ruin]


Ewa travels north east for a day. She finds a small hollow in a grove to sleep in, and the night is so warm she doesn't even need the blankets the friendly mutants sent her off with. The next day she heads off again, this time without travelling back in a circle. By early afternoon she comes upon a town with signs of life.

The town was obviously bigger before the collapse. Now a tall brick perimeter wall has been erected around the new town. An old sign from the times before is hung above the gate, but Ewa can't quite sound out the name upon it.


A pair of guards in metal armour watch over the gate. They lower their poleaxes to for a barrier as Ewa walks up to them. [Reaction=5]

"Who are you, stranger?"

"Just a traveller passing through," says Ewa.

"Uh-huh. Where from?"

"The south coast." [Wis/Perception 8+ to detect leading questions: 8-1=7...]

"South coast is pretty big," sneers the guard.

"I used to live in Eastbourne. You know it? No, can't blame you. Then I left, and I ended up staying with some podborn mutants, helping them get on their feet a little. But now I'm back travelling."

"Yeah, alright. You got summat to trade?"

"I might do. I could use some supplies."

"You can enter. But be on good behaviour! No fighting in the streets. We got a peaceful town here."

Ewa wanders round the town to have a look at the market, which is mostly an agglomeration of stalls in the village square.

[She's not planning on having a full blown Scarlet Heroes Urban Adventure, so I just grabbed the Midkemia press Cities book for random encounters; post-apocalyptic towns are close enough to fantasy ones that it works ok.

Town encounter result: d4=1 beggar/thief/urchin bumps into and tries to rob the character
d6=f, d10=null strain human, 2d4x5=~30years old

random possession=water ration

The thief's Dex/Profession:thief vs. Ewa's Wis/Perception: 3+1 vs. 10-1.]


Ewa is having trouble finding both someone with ammunition to trade and someone who might have a use for power cells. She gets distracted looking at a food stall, when she feels a sudden shiver go up her spine. She looks quickly round to see a woman trying to take the canteen off the back of her pack.

"Oi! let go of that!"

[Q: Do they get away with something? Unlikely (5+): O3 C4 - No, but... they struggle

Str vs. Str. The thief has 3d6=14 str also; contest rolls are 8 vs. 7]


Caught out or not, the woman does not intend to let go. Ewa just barely prises her fingers off the canteen. "Try that again and you'll be spitting teeth," she growls.

[reaction roll - Unfriendly NPC: 2d6=10, Qualified consent]

The thief backs away slowly, then runs off into the crowd.

[Q: Does the commotion draw any attention? 50/50 (4+): O5 C8 - yes.

UNE--
NPC Relationship: hostile
insane - confusion - the character]


An angry man comes out from behind his stall. "Damn thieves, always trying to get things that don't belong to 'em. They're the real threat to this town, if you ask me. Are you hurt? No, didn't think so. Maybe if you weren't walking round like a whole damn shop yerself these things wouldn't happen. I don't know who's worse, you lot with your salvage or them damn thieves or them damn raiders. At least the raiders is honest! And how do I know you aren't the criminal here, with your guns and your blue face... Why, when I was younger..."

Ewa backs away slowly, then runs off into the crowd.

[Q: Can find someone willing to trade for a power cell? Unlikely (5+): O3 C7 - No

One more Cities encounter: local character. This one is suppose to be defined by the GM, as all towns are different. I decided to roll randomly amongst the enclave Tags to see who it is--
50/50 for either Tag: trade hub
50/50 for Friend or Enemy: Friend
1d4 to determine which of the 4 options: Naive tribal

UNE--
NPC Relationship: peaceful
Conversation Mood: forthcoming
prejudiced - bias - equipment]


Ewa finds a long street lined with stalls that leads out of the square. Perhaps, she thinks, she'll have better luck there. As she's looking, she hears a voice call out behind her.

"Wow, you certainly got a lot of fancy kit!"


Ewa tenses, and then turns slowly about. She is disheartened to find that her interlocutor is exactly as she'd feared: young, wide-eyed, a bit scruffy, and wearing leathers that had obviously been made for someone with a sturdier build.

"Hardly," she says.

"For this town you do. Where'd you get that rifle?"

"This one? Found it. But it's nearly empty. Know anyone who sells ammo round here?"

[Q: Does he? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - No, and...]

"That sort of thing isn't generally for sale. We're a peaceful town. There's even raiders what just come here to trade for food and supplies."

"Huh," observes Ewa.

"So you're like a great heroine of the wastes, then?" [prejudiced - assessment - the character]

"Hardly! Whatever gave you that idea?"

"You look the part."

"I look like I slept in dirt. Cuz I did. So if there isn't any ammo stall in this village, maybe there's at least a bathhouse. And a launderer."

The young man's enthusiasm for the Magnificent Heroine of the Deadly Wilderness shows no signs of abating, though her mood towards him becomes ever more curt. He does at least lead her to a lodging house where she is able to trade three flasks of lamp oil for food, a bed, and a bath. She needs to wash her clothes herself, but can dry them by the fireplace for free.

[Q: Uneventful rest of stay? Likely (3+): O4 C4 - Yes, but... can't ditch friendly tribal
+Event: PC negative - Befriend / Weapons]


Try as she might, she can't seem to ditch her would be Squire -- for she must certainly be a Knight. He could be ever so useful, especially if they found a mount. And he can fight -- he's made his own spear!

Ewa finally gives up on the silent treatment, and tells him he needs to stay in his enclave, and that she can't be stuck with a liability. To illustrate the outside world is too dangerous for him, she tells story of the  skewmen ambush, and Assia's betrayal, and ends her speech with a  graphic recounting of the  killer robots and their corpse pile.

[SH Reaction roll to get him to agree to stay home - Friendly NPC  (but -2 penalty: he really wants to go)= Pleased consent]

When Ewa is finished with her tale, she sits back and looks at him pointedly for a moment. "Well?"

"Maybe home sounds nice after all."



Day 3

[travel to hex 4

event: deadfall falls for 1d6= 1hp damage, to 7hp. I rule that this is damage beyond the 2hp you can heal after being injured, otherwise this would be a non-event.]


The next day Ewa sets out from the trading village. She makes good progress at first through the overgrown countryside and forests, but gets caught in a deadfall she was clambering over instead of going round. And this after all her lectures on the dangers of the wilderness!


Day 4

[travel to hex 5

encounter: 2d4=4 Wolfman hunters on the prowl (AC 6, Move 20’, HD 1, Atk: +1/1d6 spear, Skill +1, Save 15+, Morale 8)

reaction=4, hostile]


The next day she proceeds more cautiously. Around mid-day she starts to feel she's being watched, and unlimbers her combat rifle. Moments later, four wolfman mutants appear behind her, and throw their crude spears as she is wheeling about. She takes a minor scrape on the arm [only one hits for 1hp damage] and then fires off a quick burst at the one she hopes is the leader.

[She needs to roll 7+ on Wisdom/Perception to pick the right one: 2d6-1=7, success; her attack hits for 2HD damage]

The creature yelps once then collapses. The other three hesitate for a moment, then turn tail and lope off into the forest.

[Morale 7 (8-1 for losing their leader): 2d6=8 failure]

"Pack mentality," thinks Ewa, as she binds the cut on her arm [regaining the lost hit point]. "But still, they aren't just dumb brutes."

Ewa does her best to disguise her trail for the rest of the day, walking through as many streams as she can come across [wisdom/Survival check of 9+ is required: 8+1=success, so I won't need to consult the Oracle to see if they were following or not].

That night she sleeps with sodden feet, but for all that she sleeps soundly.


Day 5

[travel to hex 6]

The next day is just another slow journey overland. She skirts the edge of a necropolis [Ashford], even though her scavenger's instincts tell her there must still be treasure cached within.


Day 6

[travel to hex 7

1d8= a Feature

Feature: ruin-fortress
Reason built: Stronghold
Past event: Massacre of locals

Current state: Partially buried
Contents: trove type c1 Minor Hidden Treasure

The Treasure Types don't match up between Scarlet Heroes and Other Dust, so I went with G14 Ruin, Single Building (3d6 Random Loot, 1d4 Random Loot+10, 20% chance of Random Loot+20, 1d6 TL4 Parts).]


Well away from the necropolis, Ewa stumbles up on a ruined fortress of some sort. It seems to have been built before the collapse, but shows signs of more recent construction -- and more recent devastation. Most of it seems to have been buried or washed away by a flood, but there is one building still standing.

Divesting herself of her pack, Ewa is able to squeeze inside and dig through the loose soil. Amongst some bones and shreds of ballistic cloth, she finds a small treasure trove:

laser pistol (lightly damaged -1hit/dmg)
TL2 binoculars (worn)
climbing kit (worn)
power cell B (shoddy)
TL4 electronic components x5

She can't carry (or even identify) it all, but she takes the laser, binoculars, and power cell, brushes off as much dirt as she can from them, and stows them in her pack.

That night she eats the last of her rations.



Day 7


Ewa decides to spend the day foraging for sustenance before moving onwards. She collects a decent amount of probably edible food. She doesn't immediately die from eating it, so it must be fine.

[A Wisdom/Survival roll of 8+ yields 1d3+survival skill level worth of rations. Spending 8 hours allows a +1 on the roll. Her Weak Smell mutation gives her a -2. Characters who are "less fussy" are allowed two rolls, but all rations found are Dirty, and eating them gives you Toxin Points. Ewa isn't fussy (though she ought to be; her mutation doesn't help with resisting toxins form eating contaminants on purpose, as I had thought).

Her total modifier is +0 (+1 (skill), +1 (time), -2 (mutation)); she makes both rolls and finds a total of (2d3+2=) 4 dirty rations.

Eating 1 ration that day gives her 1 toxin point. As she's neither hungry nor thirsty at the end of day, she gets a Physical save  to remove one toxin point, but she fails the roll.]



Day 8

[travel to hex 8

Event: weather - Get lost; next movement is random]


The next day there is a sudden cold snap, and a dense fog moves in. Ewa eats more of her tainted food. She thinks it tastes ok, insofar as she can taste much of anything, but that heartburn can't be a good sign...

[+1 toxin point; failed Physical save, so 2 toxin points total]


Day 9

She's not sure which way she's going in the fog, but hopes it's generally the right way.

[random movement is due North]

She soon comes across an ancient road [the A2] in excellent condition, and follows it for a way. It's certainly easier going than tromping through overgrowth, but she can't seem to shake a bad feeling about it; someone or something must be maintaining the road for it to be in such a good state.

[Feature: ruined village

Great Past Event: Outside conquest
Current State:  Surface is in ruins
Contents: roll 2 encounters

Traders seek to reach their hidden stash: AC 5, Move 20’, HD 3, Atk: +3/1d8 Revolver, Skill +2, Save 14+, Morale 9

3 wanderers with PC classes of level 1d4+1 are plundering this wreckage.

Reaction roll between the two groups: 7, neutral]


After a while the road passes through the remains of a village. The surface buildings have been flattened by fire, and possibly worse. Ewa decides to have a look round; it's not such a big place, and might afford decent shelter for the night.


Before long she comes upon a trio of armed and armoured human(oid)s wearing heavy coats, facemasks, and goggles, making a careful sweep of the area. They turn towards her as she approaches them, and she finds herself at gunpoint. "You better keep moving, matey! This is our rubble, innit. Wouldn't want an accident to happen to yous." [Reaction=5, hostile; UNE: insane - accident - the character]

Ewa keeps her hands where they can see them and backs away. She ducks round the first corner she can in the ruined street, and thus it is she happens upon a second group. The five of them -- two mutants and three null-strain humans -- are much less threatening than the others.

"There's some dangerous sorts picking over the rubble," says the lead trader. "They already threatened us if we got in their way. We just want to recover some of our things and get back to civilisation. But we daren't whilst they're still here, lest they try to overpower us and take it themselves. You're more than welcome to stay with us. It'll be safer."

[Reaction=11; UNE: prejudiced - difference - antagonist]

But... Ewa's Mental save against paranoia: 1d20=1...]

The five of them look so innocent: soft faces, tattered travelling garments, only a few visible weapons. It is certainly a trap. No one is that harmless-looking unless they are trying to sucker you into their ambush. Why is the one-eyed mutant staring at Ewa like that? Could she be a psychic? Oh shit, she must know Ewa is on to them!

"I really need to be getting home soon," says Ewa, backing away again. "I strayed too far from my enclave, and I absolutely must get back before dark."

[Wisdom/Survival check 9+ to find safe (and hidden) bivouac in the ruins: 3+1, failure. Normal night-time survival check: 10, success.]

Ewa gets out of the ruined village as quickly and as quietly as she can. She makes a cursory search for a place to hole up for the night, but nothing looks remotely secure. She finds a copse of trees a little way out of the village, and clambers into a hedge to sleep.

[+1 toxin for dirty rations, another failed save puts her at 3 toxin points; she won't get sick until she hits 10.]


Day 10

Ewa decides to spend more time foraging as she has just enough food to last the day. She crosses the road and looks on the opposite side, well away from the ruins. She finds a moderate amount of food, but has eaten half of it by the time night falls.

[8 hours foraging for the +1 to her roll, but she rolled a 12 anyways. 1d3+1=2 clean rations, of which she eats one. She fails her Physical save, so doesn't lose any toxin points.]


Day 11

Ewa follows the road south east [to hex 9]. She still feels suspicious of its good condition, and takes care not to get too close to it. She almost loses sight of it once or twice, but manages not to stray too far.

That night she finishes the last of the tainted food, and, after another night of acid reflux and strange dreams, resolves to be more careful in the future.

[last of the dirty rations; +1 toxin point, but she finally made a Physical save, so still only has 3 toxin points total.]

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Experiments in Horror - Call of Cthulhu (part 4 - final)


Scene 12

Chaos: Out of control (CF7 - d8)

Setup: to Brighton
1d10=1, Altered

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

When Julia arrives at Victoria, she is surprised to find DI Mitchell waiting by the ticket counter.

"I'm coming with you," he says.

"Oh, no you aren't!" counters Julia. "One whiff of our involvement, and Molly'll turn me away for good. Or worse!"

[POW vs. POW on the Resistance Table: her 13 vs. his 11 gives her a 60% chance. d%=82...]

"I'm sorry, Miss Quigley-Ffoulkes, but I cannot allow you to go into this den of vipers alone."

"You think I don't know how to handle myself? Because I'm a woman--?"

"Because, however formidable you may be, I allow that's a great deal, there is only one of you. Against this... this whole conspiracy. Alex isn't the first to disappear from within their ranks, you know."

"Fine. Come if you must. But keep your distance, so they don't get suspicious. I wouldn't want you to, how do you say, blow my cover, Detective Inspector." [Persuade (75%) roll: d%=68, ok]

"Agreed."

"Good. Now, I'm going to do something for which I must apologise. Perhaps I can make it up to you over dinner when this is all through. But for now, in case we're being observed..."

Julia slaps DI Mitchell across the face. She turns and stalks off to collect her ticket without pausing to see the look of astonishment tinged with not a little hurt in his eyes. He rubs his jaw, then goes down the platform to wait for the train.

[Q: Is she being followed? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - No, and... ]


Scene 13

Chaos: Out of control (CF7 - d8)

Setup: 1d10=6, Interrupt (was: find Molly)
Interrupt:  NPC action - Janet Evans - inform / silence

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

The train to Brighton is uneventful. Julia tries unsuccessfully to divert herself with the book she'd borrowed from the library, Mirbeau's Journal d'une femme de chambre, but after the horrors of the past week she just can't find any solace in the accounts of a bourgeois family, even a naughty French one. She spends most of the trip with the open tome forgotten in her lap, staring out at the English countryside.

She hops a cab from the station to the Metropole. When she arrives, she sees a young woman sitting in the lobby reading a magazine with similar disinterest. Her rather arrestingly white skin cannot disguise her plain features; she looks remarkably sickly under all the heavy make-up.


Janet Evans
STR: 12  DEX:  7  INT: 12
CON:  6  APP:  9  POW: 15
SIZ: 12  EDU: 15





Julia checks in at the desk. When the young woman hears her give her name, she discards the magazine, and walks straight up to Julia once she has her key.

[UNE--
NPC Relationship: distrustful
Conversation Mood: withdrawn
inquisitive - questions - the character]


"Julia, I've been waiting for you. I'm friend of Molly's. Janet -- Janet Evans."

"Charmed, I'm sure."

"I needed to ask you about the party. Mind if I follow you up to your room? I know you've just arrived and all, but I won't keep you long."

"Of course."

Both women are quiet as they follow the bellhop up to Julia's room. Once he's been tipped and has left, Julia offers Janet a chair, and sits across from her on the corner of the bed.

"Molly wanted me to look out for you," begins Janet. "Only, our little club is a private affair, you see. Very private. We can't have loose tongues betraying our secrets. Well, you understand, the less we say about it in public, the more deliciously exclusive it is. You haven't said anything to anyone, have you? I mean, nothing major, right?"

"Oh, of course not. Wouldn't want a pack of crashers showing up! Or worse: someone from the sensationalist press!"

"No. Especially not them. I'm glad you were discreet. But, if you forgive my asking,  how did you...?"

"Hilly. I wheedled it out of him. I've known him too long for him to keep any secrets from me! And with the whole Alex thing, he was looking to confide in somebody."

"How well did you know Alex? Were you very good friends?"

[Julia's Psychology (40%) roll: 63, fails]

"Yes, I think so. I mean, as much as anyone could be very good friends with such a creature. I don't mean to speak ill of the dead -- I mean, I really loved Alex -- but, well... did you know her very well?"

[Q: Does she say so? 50/50 (4+): O2 C3 - No, and...]

"Barely. Just in passing, that is. It's just that her...  such awful circumstances... it's cast a pall over the whole soirée. At least for some."

Julia leans in close and almost whispers. "Do you think someone is out to tear the group apart? Some enemy of the club? Someone who perhaps wasn't invited, or...?"

"I... I think maybe... there are some who worry that the murderer is someone... inside the club." [mysterious - uncertainty - family]

"How scandalous! Oh, but you seem genuinely frightened. You don't say you believe the rumours have substance?"

"I don't-- I didn't credit them at first. But now I'm not so sure."

"What is it? There's something you want to tell me, isn't there? You think you know something." [Persuade (75%) roll: 53, success]

"This club... it's not new. I mean, it is new, in this incarnation. But it's a continuation of something far older. Something of unbelievable antiquity. A... a religion, I think." [mysterious - secrets - history]

"Janet, my dear, if this is true, that must mean you think Molly has some deeper purpose with all this pageantry. And that you think she had something to do with Alex's murder."

[Q: How does Janet react to these words? Enthusiastically / Ruined]

Janet slumps listlessly down into her chair. Julia takes her flask from her bag.

"Here, have a swig of this. It's good for the nerves. Or I've got something stronger in my compact, if you'd rather. Have as much as you need, there's a whole bottle in my suitcase. There's a good girl. Now, I will look after you, so you've just got to put on a brave face. If anything untoward happens at the soirée, I'll be right there with you. We'll support each other."

Janet recovers in short order, and excuses herself so Julia can unpack. As she closes the door behind her, Julia heaves a great sigh.

"She either an ally, or Molly's spy," thinks Julia, "but damned if I can decide which. This is going to be harder than I thought!"

[Because she failed the Psychology roll, Julia doesn't have any clue as to Janet's true intentions. So, since the player side of me had no information one way or the other, the DM side of me endeavoured to write Janet's conversation as ambiguously as possible. She's either telling the truth and scared of Molly, or it's all an act, sprinkled with enough truth to get Julia to tip her hand. CF +1 as the uncertainty is working against our heroine.]


Scene 14

Chaos: Madness (CF8 - d6)

Setup: 1d10=5, Interrupt (was: find Molly)
Interrupt:  NPC action - Molly Lasher - Inquire / Emotions

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

Julia starts unpacking once Janet leaves. She's half convinced she'll need to make a hasty exit, but she can afford to leave her things behind. Besides, she can't appear to be anything other than a thrill seeker and a decadent -- not that she isn't either of these things, but this time, at least, she has a higher purpose.

Then comes a knock at the door. It's Molly Lasher, carrying a box tied up with ribbon.

"A little bird told me you'd just arrived," says Molly, "so I thought I'd drop in and see how you were settling in."

"I've not much to get settled," says Julia. "I travel light."

"I see. Well, I've brought your attire for tonight."

"May I see?"

"Please do. Only, try not to laugh. It's not terribly classical."

"That's not a problem, as it happens. I look absolutely dreadful in a peplos!"

[1d3 colours=1
d12 on the Hue column of Silent Legions Word Elements for the Cult's Name table
1d12=Ivory

Q: Any identifiable marks/characters/insignia? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - No, and...]


Julia opens the box and takes out a cowled robe made from a heavy, ivory-coloured fabric. "Shall I try it on?" she asks.

"Oh, go on." laughs Molly.

[Q: Anything weird? Unlikely (5+): O4 C5 - No.]

"Not bad," says Julia, admiring herself in the mirror. "Not bad at all. I could be a monk under here. One of the old ones on a mountaintop in France where they make those deadly liqueurs, to be sure. But a monk, nonetheless."

"I hope you won't look askance at our pagan revelries, Brother Julius!"

"Ha ha! But seriously, can I ask you something?"

"Why, of course."

"Tell me -- and this is in earnest -- should I wear white shoes or black? Only the white don't go with my dress so well..."

[Psychology roll (at half skill, so 20%) to suss out Molly's true mood: 65, fail
Persuade (75%) roll to keep up appearances: 60, success.]



Scene 15

Chaos: Madness (CF8 - d6)

Setup: 1d10=8, Interrupt (was: dinner & preparations)
Interrupt:   NPC negative - Molly Lasher - Struggle / Bureaucracy

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

Then comes another knock on the door. "Expecting someone?" asks Molly.

"No. How odd. Let me see who it is. Only I'd ought to take this off first..."

Julia folds the robe and puts it in the wardrobe before answering door.

[1d6=unknown man]

"Hello?" says Julia, as she opens to door to find a stranger standing there. He is [3D6= APP 12] an average looking man, but in an expensive, tailored suit.

"Hello, Miss Quigley-Ffoulkes. Molly's not in there with you is she?"

"Yes..."

"May I speak to--"

"Timothy? Is that you?" call Molly. "Oh, damn."

Molly excuses herself, and goes out to quickly confer with him in the corridor. She comes back in a few moments later, visibly annoyed.

"Sorry, darling. There's been some problems with the caterers, and I absolutely must sort them now, personally, or we'll be having a pagan-themed temperance rally. I'll pick you up here at half ten and take you over. You oughtn't to put on the robe till we get there. But I must warn you, I am notoriously punctual. Kiss kiss, must dash."


Scene 16

Chaos: Madness (CF8 - d6)

Setup: the soirée (1d10=9: finally, no alteration!)

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

Molly Lasher collects Julia at precisely 10:30, as she had said she would. She's looking radiant in a simple white frock, as Julia knew she would. Molly's demeanour is all sweetness and laughter -- indeed Molly can barely contain her excitement -- but underneath it all Julia can sense that the young woman is in total control of herself and her surroundings [no psychology roll necessary]. Molly delightedly reveals that she's hired the basement and tunnels beneath the Royal Pavilion for her soirée, and the two set out arm-in-arm into the night. It is pleasantly cool, for October, and since the Royal Pavilion lies but a 15 minute walk from the Metropole, Molly elects to walk.

DI Mitchell has been staking out the hotel, blending in with the people who even at this hour are strolling up and down the beachfront. [Spot Hidden (55%): d%=25, success] He sees the two women exit and begins to follow them at a respectable distance [rolling Sneak (10%) to tail: 44, fail] but he somehow manages to be rather conspicuous, hiding his face behind a copy of the Times as often as he does.

[Molly's Spot Hidden is ((2d6-2)x5 +25(base)=) 50%: d%=70, fail.] Molly, for her part, doesn't notice his clumsy attempt to follow. She's much too focussed on Julia, and is almost giddy with excitement. Julia makes no effort to see if he's there. She'd rather think that he is than think she is wholly without protection, after all. Moreover, her most pressing concern is trying to decide if miss Molly Lasher is coming on to her. Were the circumstances of their meeting less complicated, muses Julia, the good detective inspector might just have a rival for her affections.

[Q: Does DI Mitchell have a revolver? Unlikely (5+): O3 C2 - No, and...]

DI Mitchell watches them enter the pavilion, then strolls round to reconnoitre the area further, without getting too close.

Once they are inside and out of sight, they give their coats to an attendant -- a junior cult member, already dressed in ritual attire -- and put on their robes.

[Q: Are Molly's robes special? Likely (3+): O5 C3 - Yes, but...
Q: Are the other cultist's robes different than Julia's? 50/50 (4+): O2 C5 - No.]


Julia watches Molly dress with interest, expecting to see her clad in something truly magnificent, perhaps shockingly so, but in fact her robe is almost identical to the ones that Julia and the rest have been given, save for some understated bits of [d12=]black trim.

Julia estimates there must be about forty in attendance, counting the coat check attendant and three bartenders (also junior cult members, robed as the rest). [attendance: 3d20+4=43 NPCs]

There is an open bar, and a long buffet table near the back wall of the brick-floored basement chamber, opposite the almost Catholic looking altar. In the centre of the room a sort of tent has been constructed, made of long gauzy curtains hanging from the ceiling. Large candelabras provide the only light. The air is hazy with smoke, a mix of frankincense, tobacco, and marijuana, and just a little bit of opium.

[Q: Does Molly let Julia mingle? Unknown 1d6=5, Unlikely: O1 C6 - No.]

Julia quickly surveys the crowd, trying to find Hilly, but can't make him out anywhere [Spot Hidden (75%): d%=95, fail]. Molly takes her by the arm again. "Come with me, darling" she says, "let me introduce you to [1d4=3] some of my closest friends. I'm absolutely dying for them to meet you!" Molly moves at a whirl through the crowd, and Julia can barely keep up.

"Frank? Frank, darling, this is Julia. Be a dear and get us some champagne, won't you, Frank? Frank Pickman is actually related to that painter, the one who caused such a stir last season. I met him at the opening at that little gallery out in Shoreditch, of all places! They're cousins or something.... Oh, look it's Kathy! Kathy Barker, Julia Quigley-Ffoulkes. Kathy and I go back, well, darling, farther than I care to admit! We got expelled from the same boarding school in Harrow, once upon a time.... Oh, and here's Petra Theaker! She's an absolute hoot. I met her halfway up a mountain in Thibet...."

[Q: Does Molly entrust Julia to her friends whilst she prepares? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - No, and...]

Despite her excitement, Molly glances ever at her watch. "It's nearly time to begin, Julia darling. And I want you to help me. You did learn your lines, didn't you?"

"Of course!"

"Come with me, then, sweetie."

Molly leads Julia to the altar.

[Time to be the Keeper:

Q: Will there be a human sacrifice? 50/50 (4+): O4 C6 - Yes.
Q: Is Julia the victim? 50/50 (4+): O1 C3 - No, but... she will be compelled to help.
Q: Does Molly trust Julia? 50/50 (4+): O3 C4 - No, but... she hopes to.

What is the Ultimate Horror?

When I started this adventure, I hadn't yet figured out exactly how the mechanism for making the final determination would work. I actually got to this point before writing it all out.

The current points were as follows:
5 hound of tindalos
8 mi-go
6 byakhee

As this came to a total of 19, a d20 seemed the easiest way to make the determination.

 roll result
 ---- ------
 1-5  hound of tindalos
 6-13 mi-go
14-19 byakhee
  (20 reroll)


1d20=18, byakhee

Now that I know the Horror, I used this information to fill in some details, or rather, to help me decide what to put into the next random chart--

Q: What is the purpose of the ritual? (1D8): 1 longevity , 2 power, 3 open gate, 4 summon Hastur, 5 enchant item, 6 transformation, 7 brew space mead, 8 summon servitor
1d8=4, summon Hastur]


"Alex lost faith, you know," says Molly. "I offered her everything, but she wanted to throw it away. Tell me, you won't be a disappointment like Alex, will you?"

"What do you mean?" asks Julia

"Don't be naïve! You can't honestly believe this is all just a bit of fun, can you?"

"What... what did happen to Alex?"

"She's not really dead... not yet. But I sent my little pet to collect her. And leave enough for the police to think her dead, and announce her murder to the world."

"But...?"

"Oh, the tongue was hers all right! But the rest of the pieces brought to her flat were, shall we say, donated."

"Wait-- Alex is really alive?"

"Oh, yes. And will be for several more minutes, in fact. Long enough for you to decide if you're in, or out. And darling, I'll be ever so disappointed if you make the wrong choice."

A gong sounds, and silence falls at once over the crowd. They discard their drinks and sundry other delights round the perimeter of the room and hurry to take up position in rows before the altar, onto which Molly has dragged Julia. Lying on the black-veined marble altar itself is a young woman, awake but heavily drugged. Her hairless body has been inscribed all over with a myriad of mystical sigils, from the crown of her shaved head to the soles of her feet. It takes a moment for Julia to recognise her, but it is indeed Alex Bishop!

Frank, Kathy and Petra take up positions behind Molly. Each bears some sort of grotesque copper sistrum. Petra gives a curved copper dagger to Molly, who, smiling hopefully, presses it into Julia's hand. The gong sounds again. Molly turns toward the silent crowd, and begins the chant.

Julia forces herself to be brave [POWx5 (65%): d%=38, ok] as she gauges her next action. She's certain she spotted [sc. hidden] guns bulging beneath the robes of Molly's confederates. For now, Julia just participates in the barbarous call-and-response chanting.

The cultists become ever more frenzied as Molly leads the awful chant. When the fervour reaches its peak, Petra and Kathy take over Molly's role as she slinks up behind Julia, and puts her arms softly round her waist. "You know what you have to do, darling," breathes Molly Lasher into Julia's ear. Molly nudges Julia's arms gently upward, then starts speaking the words of a new chant, one Julia does not know.

The chanting cultists begin to sway and writhe, some screaming out the unearthly syllables until their voices become raw. There are tears streaming down Julia's cheeks, but she cannot resist the will of Molly Lasher, who even now is groaning and purring and hissing behind her.

[POW x4 (54%) to resist performing sacrifice: d%=84, failure
SAN 1/1d6: d%=45, lose 1 point, down to 53 SAN]


Julia is barely aware of being in her own body as her hands fall, plunging the wicked blade into Alex's chest. She coughs once and shudders, and seems even more dreamy as the life streams out of her.

Molly lets go her waist, and produces a small flute-like instrument from beneath her robe, upon which she begins piping a discordant melody. Out from the darkness lopes a nightmare form, a lumbering, winged monstrosity, neither insect nor mole nor bat nor decomposing cadaver, but an unholy amalgamation or parody of the natural order. The monstrosity grins at Julia with its corpse-mouth as it flops up beside Molly.

[SAN roll d%=61, fail. Seeing the Byakhee costs 1d6=3 SAN. Julia's down to 50 SAN now.]

As Molly pipes furiously and the grinning horror leers and the cultists cavort, the shadows seem to move within the curtained-off platform. Something stirs within, a thing called forth across an unimaginable gulf of space by Molly's incantations, whose gargantuan form is a very affront to all that is known and knowable to the insignificant beings upon the Earth. At once a slimy, grey-green tentacle darts forth from the curtains, and snatches a cultist from the midst of the throng, squeezing them to pulpy mass and discarding the oozing corpse of the unworthy. Again and again a tentacle darts forth, snaking between those whose terrible piety for He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named does not waver, and reducing the unbelieving to stains upon the floor and walls.

[Q: Does Julia catch glimpse of Hastur? 50/50 (4+): O4 C1 - Yes, and...
SAN roll 56, failure; d100=29 SAN lost, leaving her with 21.
Julia's Idea roll (65%) succeeds, so she suffers Indefinite Insanity.]


Julia can hear Molly laughing behind her, even over the screams of terror and ecstasy coming from the assembly. But then all sounds seem to ring distant in her ears, as she catches a glimpse through the parted curtain. She can find no words to describe the thing within, the utter malice spewing from its awful face as its abhorrent glassy eye catches her own. Then blessed oblivion claims her.


Epilogue


Julia comes to in a padded cell. She calls out in fear, and the nurses come running. She calms down at the sight of them, and they give in to her entreaties to fetch a doctor.

"Well, now, Miss Quigley-Ffoulkes," says the doctor, "it's good to see you've calmed down somewhat. You've been quite difficult since we brought you in."

"I-- I don't remember... I remember going to Brighton, and then this party, and then... oh, it's too horrible."

"Do you remember what happened at this party? Do you remember when the police arrived? Or what happened just before?"

"No, I... it's all confused. Just a flood of images. Will you help me remember? Is that why I'm here?"

"Partly."

"Partly?"

"I will help you piece together the incidents of that night. But then I've got to make a recommendation..."

"About my release?"

"Not quite. I need to assess your state of mind, and decide whether you are mentally fit to stand trial for the murder of Miss Alexandra Bishop."

 ~~ finis ~~



Post mortem


So this was probably the most like an actual Lovecraft story ending I've ever had in a CoC game. I fear that Julia's career as an Investigator has come to an end. If Molly Lasher and/or her cronies have any influence in the Crown Court (highly likely), then Julia will probably be hanged for her "crime". Molly may return to continue her villainy in future games, perhaps even as an ally -- or a rival -- of Eleanor from my Silent Legions adventure.

I find I have less to say about the mechanism of the experiment than I did in the first one, probably because I compiled all my thoughts into the little rules document before starting to write up my posts. But it worked out as well as I hoped it would.