Saturday, 31 May 2014
LotFP Solo - Part the Thirty-first: „Welch Schauspiel! Aber ach! ein Schauspiel nur! / Wo fass ich dich, unendliche Natur?“
Setup: roll of 2 = modified scene (was: Lycinia, Aldira, and Théscine are off to the great library at the mage's guild to find information about the prison of Vhisigus.)
Interrupt: Ambiguous Event - Assist / Dispute
Characters: Neldir, the Elders of the Elven Forest, Ranwitha the Pious Merchant, Siorighan MU12, Tibalt & Barnot, dwarven mercenaries, griffon, Reverend Father Gelnay de Val d'Oine, Reverend Father de Molleré, Brother Mundlo, Zuhal B'thallit, centaur lizard, Jola, Sir Gaunet, Jönnick, Baron Iehan Forzdeleu, Count Rotres d'Estancbel, Lady Delphinia, evil cult
Threads: find Neldir & the book
remove zuhal's curse
buy silver weapons & guns
acquire holy items for spiritual combat
learn the secrets of Vhisigus' prison
"Where are we going?" asks Théscine. "This doesn't look like the sort of place to find a wizards' guild."
"It isn't," says Aldira. "We're going to buy some nice clothes so we look like the sort of people they let into the wizards' guild."
"What's wrong with what I'm wearing?" asks Théscine. "The blue and green of my tunic brings out the colour of my eyes."
"Yes, my dear," concedes Aldira, "and the blood stains bring out the colour of your ruby-red lips. Look, the guild is very particular about who they will even let in the front door for a consultation. We either look the part or we get sent away. Which reminds me... Lycinia, can I ask you a question?"
"Are you really a princess?"
"I am. Are you saying that this guild is the sort of place where that will matter?"
The shopping trip takes up most of the day. Théscine soon warms up to the idea, and finds a flowing silvery gown that matches her magical sword. Aldira buys a simple, yet elegant page's outfit. Lycinia is grudgingly coaxed into a royal blue dress of crushed velvet. The three spend 150sp in total.
The rest of the afternoon is spent at the inn, waiting for nightfall. Aldira explains that, according to her master, the wizards there all wish to be seen to be the most dedicated practitioners of magic in the land, constantly burning the midnight oil as they pursue their research. As a consequence, nothing ever happens during the daytime, and it's unlikely that any of them are even awake. The elves agree to follow Adira's lead, as they do not understand human institutions, especially those that equate social status and magical competence.
The temperature has dropped to well below freezing, so they wrap themselves in their new winter cloaks, and set out through the twisting city streets by the light of a hired lantern-bearer. The city seems nearly deserted; the cold has kept the residents indoors, and there are no beggars or vagabonds permitted in the Old Town. Only an occasional lonely lantern is espied in the distance.
The wizards' guild is a truly grand affair, rising higher than the city guildhall, or indeed even the Sea God's cathedral. A magical radiance bathes the exterior, and numerous lamps shine from within. Gargoyles and grotesques glower down from the peaked rooftops, and sigils of mystical import are incised like heraldic devices. Atop the high towers a constant succession of changing colours stream out from the windows, as the alchemists busily go about their lucubrations.
The linkboy refuses to set foot past the iron gate into the grounds. Aldira gives him an extra copper and sends him on his way. She leads her elven companions slowly up the walk towards the entrance. They trio can feel many eyes upon them, and are hardly surprised when two spiky gargoyles detach themselves from the roof and climb fluidly down the walls to flank the enormous oaken doors of the entrance.
[Not all the wizards in the Kingdom belong to the guild, but all of the important ones do. They tend to look down on non-members as being either renegades or hedge-wizards; Aldira's master fell into the latter category, though he had cordial relations with at least some of the guild wizards.
Very few possess the innate ability to wield magic, so the number of wizards in the Kingdom (indeed, the world) is quite low, and as a consequence they all tend to run into one another, especially the apprentices, who get sent off on to do errands. So, there's a chance they'll have met (or more importantly, remember) Aldira.
For each wizard she meets, I'll roll a die. On a 1, they'll know Aldira. On a 1-2, they'll have known her master. On a 3, they'll have heard of her master by reputation only. The die type depends on the level of the wizard in question:
Apprentice (1st-3rd) d4
Novice (4th-6th) d6
Master (7th-9th) d8
Arch-mage (10th+) d10
Note that the guild is a very loose association; indeed, the appellation 'guild' was originally a joke, just one that stuck and turned into the de facto name for the wizards that collected around the Great Library in Ildmarch. The only other 'guildhall' is the one at the Royal Library in Aylesbyrig, but it is no where near as grandiose.
Also note that 1st-3rd level Magic-Users are considered apprentices and expected to stay under the tutelage of their master. When Aldira's non-guild master died, her period of apprenticeship was cut short, and she took up the adventuring life by necessity.
Enough background, back to the game.
I rolled a 1 on a d4 for the doorman (MU2), so I'm generating two reaction rolls for the encounter. The first is when the PCs approach and he sees the beautiful elves in their splendid attire. The second is for when he recognises Aldira under her big, floppy page's hat: 10 Elves, 4 Aldira.
Cemmeret the ianitor
personality: wicked, touchy
One of the doors swings silently ajar just enough to admit a person. Out steps an emaciated, hawkish-looking man of indeterminate age, wearing heavy furs over a grey-green wizard's robe and leaning upon a smooth, black, iron-tipped staff. He stands between the hulking gargoyles and looks over the party. "Quid vultis?" he asks cautiously in the Ancient Tongue, his breath forming white clouds in the frigid night air.
Aldira steps boldly forward. "My mistress, Lycinia, a princess of Feyalldra, seeks the wisdom of the Great Library."
"A princess of Feyaldra, you say? What bring you so far from the splendours of your forest home, your highness?"
"I am come on a solemn quest," says Lycinia, repeating the words she had rehearsed at Aldira's suggestion, "to avert a great evil, and to apprehend a elvish felon who is dabbling in magics beyond his ken."
"By all means, then," says the ianitor, "enter freely and as a friend of the guild." At his words, the gargoyles throw wide the doors of the entryway, and he motions for the princess and her band to come inside.
As they enter the vestibule, the party are stuck by the grandeur of the guild's entrance hall, with its swirling columns, staircases, galleries, and generally baroque architecture. They cannot help but look round every which way at the splendours before them. But their reveries are cut short by the ianitor's sudden outburst.
"Aldira?! 'kinell, it is you! How'd a little shit like you con your way into elvish high society? Or--"
"Or, what?" snaps Lycinia. "If you have a problem with my page, you have a problem with me. Do you really wish to be the cause of a rift between the wizards of the kingdom and the elves Feyalldra, doorman?"
[Q: Can Lycinia cow the ianitor into letting it drop? 50/50: 02, Exceptional Yes.]
Cemmeret withers under Lycinia's wrothful gaze. "Forgive me, your highness. I spoke rashly." He quietly ushers them into the guild. As Aldira passes, she can't resist sticking her tongue out at him, but this time he maintains his composure.
The party see a pair of wizards walking through the entrance hall, engaged in an animated discussion. They are both dressed in fine, overly-decorated robes and carry large ornamental staves; everything about them screams Wizard. The male wizard is attired in red and gold. He has narrow features, leathery tan skin, a curly blond coiffure to his shoulders, and a scraggly van dyke. The woman favours blues and silvers. She is short, a bit stout, and has a ruddy complexion set off against dark eye make-up. A mop of wavy black hair frames her face. Neither of them seem particularly young, but their exact ages are hard to determine.
"Those two," whispers ianitor, "are master guild wizards: Itragad the Invoker, and Orezuthía the Arcane. Does your highness require a formal introduction?"
Just then the wizardly duo stops short. "Elves!" shouts the woman across the echoing hall. "Cemmeret, bring them here so we may speak with them!"
Cemmeret hastens to obey the master wizard's command. The party have to walk briskly to keep up.
"May I introduce Orezuthía the Arcane, scholar-mage of Isbar-in-the-South, Inquisitrix Mysteriorum, and Knower of the Beyond. And also Itragad the Invoker, magister of the 4th circle, Transmogrifier Peerless, junior fellow-academe, formerly of the King's own Court. Milady, milord, this is the Princess Lycinia of Feyalldra and her servants."
"We wish to discuss magic with these elves," says Orezuthía. "You may run along now, Cemmeret. And find somewhere to stash the servant girl whilst we talk."
"Dear lady," interjects Lycinia, "she is no mere servant; Aldira is a knowledgeable wizard in her own right."
[rolling 1d8 for each wizard to see if the name means anything to them. Itragard gets a 3, Orezuthía a 6.]
"Is she now?" sniffs Orezuthía, looking Aldira over disdainfully. "Not guild, though. But I suppose she can stay."
"Where did you learn magic then... Aldira, is it?" ventures Itragad.
"No milady, milord," says Aldira sheepishly, "my master wasn't affiliated with the guild anymore by the time he taught me. Gepfhardt of Wandlebourne."
"Ah...him." responds Itragad. "That explains your lack of a wizardly name. Some people..."
"Oh, pish!" say Orezuthía, "If I had a name like Aldira I'd have kept it, too. No one'd take Lula the Arcane seriously. Don't you agree, Bertie?"
At this, Itragad blushes. "And anyway," continues Orezuthía, looking at Cemmeret, "why are you still here? It's time for the grown-ups to talk."
The ianitor scurries back to his post.
"Well, then," explains Itragad, "my esteemed colleague and I were having a friendly debate on one of the finer points of magic."
[This is the Dispute with which the PCs must Assist according to the modified scene. I decided it would be about a random spell between 1st and 4th level, i.e. one the disputants could both cast. I rolled Howl of the Moon.
Q: What is the nature of the dispute? punish/joy
Interpretation: is the spell a punishment (Itragad) or a joy (Orezuthía)?]
"I am sure," explains Orezuthía, "that you are familiar with certain enchantments that unlock the primal essences within their subjects, which bring our more primitive, bestial natures to the fore? You probably know of some of the debates surrounding their operation on the mind and soul, but that is not what concerns us just this instant. You see, we are divided in opinion as to the benefits -- or indeed detriments -- of such enchantments upon their subjects. My learned colleague here is of the mind that it is a terrible curse, and dangerously unhinges those upon whom it be placed."
"But my most scholarly associate," continues Itragad, "would have you believe that unleashing the inner animal is a thing to be sought out, to be celebrated even. So we put it to you, elves of the fair forest, and to you as well, young wizard: which of us is right. And how to prove it?"
"I suppose," says Lycinia, "that we'd need to see what happens firsthand, and interview the, uh, the subject afterwards."
[Q: What do the wizards want to do now? Trick / the innocent.]
"Very well, Orezuthía. Let us go out and try it. There must be someone about nearby."
"Maybe," interjects Théscine, "we could find a volunteer attached to the guild. Someone we will be able to interview later."
[I should be using UNE to moderate the conversation. So, on chart 6, the NPCs relationship with the party is (1-3 neutral, 4-6 distrustful: 6) Distrustful. The conversation mood seems Sociable.
So, rolling d% for Théscine's suggestion: 16, Yes. They will 'recruit' (1-2 Itragad's, 3-4 Orezuthía's, 5-6 someone else's apprentice: 3) Orezuthía's poor apprentice.]
"That's a good idea," says Orezuthía, "and it means we don't have to go outside in the cold. Follow me, but keep quiet. This might not work properly if we give away the plan."
Orezuthía shouts for another servant to fetch her apprentice, and sends the lad out into the cold night with a message to deliver all the way on the other side of town. She then leads the party through the guildhall, down narrow arched passageways and up twisty, winding staircases, until at last they come to a door made of some unknown greenish metal, which Itragad obligingly unlocks with a tarnished brass key. Beyond is a large, nearly-bare chamber. Other than an ornate, golden-framed mirror, the room is devoid of furnishings. "We can watch from here," she says. She then mumbles a strange, sing-songy incantation, and the mirror's surface becomes cloudy, as if the scene were filled with mist. It slowly resolves on an image of Orezuthía's apprentice, wrapped in his winter cloak, moving apace through the dark city streets. "We'll wait until he's in about the centre of the New Town, then I'll throw the spell."
Whilst they watch the magic glass, the two wizards make small talk with their guests to pass the time. [The Universal NPC Emulator provided the discussion topics: friendly-delight-allies and inquisitive-curiosity-antagonist]. Itragad makes the inference that the elves before him are the same ones of whom he had heard a report regarding Castle Hræfnmor. His manner is quite friendly, and he seems delighted to talk of their finding the body of the late Vethrelcem frozen in an attitude of study, though it is unclear whether he is happier at the manner of his decease or the fact of it. Orezuthía, on the other hand, is fascinated by the reports of the wicked elven renegade, and has no end of questions concerning him.
At length the apprentice appears to be crossing the main, central square. Orezuthía chants the words of her spell, and sends it through the mirror.
[Q: what happens? fight / dispute
Q: Does the apprentice kill someone? 50/50: 06, Exceptional Yes.
Q: Does he get taken down by the city watch? 50/50: 85, No.]
As the magic takes hold, the apprentice is transformed. His bestial nature wells up within him until he bursts. In a fit of fury, he rips off all his clothing and runs howling into the night. He moves through the streets like a rabid animal, impervious to the cold.
Turning a corner, he comes upon an old merchant, jealously holding his wooden strongbox whilst struggling to carry it. A strong man-at-arms walks beside him, carrying a spear for protection and a torch to light their way. The apprentice wastes no time, but pounces on the old man and rips his throat out with his teeth. The strongbox crashes to the ground and breaks open, scattering gold and silver coins over the pavement. As the apprentice savages the merchant's corpse, the terrified mercenary takes to flight, dropping torch and spear in his haste.
"Very well, I think he's had enough," says Itragad. "End the spell before he eats the rest of that poor man's face."
Within the hour the apprentice has returned to the guild -- naked, confused, covered in blood, and suffering from hypothermia. He is given a warm cloak and some hot wine, and put in front of a fireplace whilst his mistress quizzes him about the events of his walk [UNE conversation module renders: hostile - rage - power].
"I don't know what came over me," he says through chattering teeth. "One minute I was walking through the square... then later I seemed to wake up in this state, all bloody and horrible. I don't remember anything, just flashes: fighting, and hunger, and screams. Was it an enemy of the guild that did this?"
"He's a mess," opines Théscine. "It's a curse. Definitely a curse."
"I agree with Théscine," adds Aldira. "What about the murder?"
"What's one less merchant?" asks Lycinia.
"That's cold," says Théscine. Itragad's expression seems to confirm Théscine's opinion, but Orezuthía can barely contain a smirk. The apprentice is nearly delirious, staring slack-jawed into the fire.
"Anyway," continues Lycinia, "why must it be one or other? In the wilderness this spell could save you. In the city, though, it's probably a bad idea. Unless you had the willpower and sense of self to ride it out."
"Well said, Princess," says Orezuthía, "if a bit too diplomatic. If you're sizing us up, would you care to commit to an opinion?"
"If I must: a joy, then."
"But the murder," says Itragad. "Shall it bring shame to the guild?"
"Oh, that," says Orezuthía. "I suppose I'll have to get a new apprentice now. Shame about this one, he had such potential. I'll have some gargoyles deliver him to the watch."
"Can I change my vote?" says Lycinia.
"It would appear, friend Itragad," says Orezuthía, "that you've won this debate. Unanimously even, though for a moment I thought the Princess was evincing a proper scientific detachment. Ah, well, as you are the victor, I leave you the field, and these three standing on it who have the air of being about to ask us for sponsorship. Nighty-night!" And with that, she waves, winks at Lycinia, and is off.
[The NPC relationship on the UNE chart shifts up/down one row for the PCs taking sides in the dispute, but Orezuthía's reaction roll on parting is a 10, so she hasn't become an enemy.
Q: Is there anything they still need to do to acquire Itragad's sponsorship? 50/50: 56, Yes.]
"Yes, well, about that," says Itragad, "There is in fact a favour I would ask of you."