Monday, 7 July 2014


εἶπέ μοι · ποῦ εὕρηκας τὸ βιβλίον ; ἔφη ὁ Ἀστυάναξ, ὁ ἐκ τῆς Αλεξανδρείας ναύτης.

Hmmmm, the T&T Katabasis PCs are speaking Greek. Make an Level 3 Saving Roll on INT to understand them. Did you succeed?


"Tell me, where did you find this papyrus?" asks Astyanax, the seafarer from Alexandria.

"It was given to me in a temple in Aleppo," responds Dicaeopolis in a convincing lie, "by a fellow initiate; I can't say any more. Can you read it?"

"Most of it," says Astyanax, "at least where there are no holes. It says to go to the temple of Baal in Emesa, and make offerings to the god at sunrise. Thence set out in the direction of the rising sun, and travel the desert for three days to the ruins of Paraisima. There look for the shrine of the cthonian Demeter, and inscribe these signs around the altar in the blood of a white sow. If this be done with proper reverence, a secret way shall be revealed, to a place filled with great treasure: gold and silver coins, bronze tripods, and a wondrous golden sceptre."

"Astyanax has shown me the papyrus," interjects Nossis, the courtesan, as she absent-mindedly plucks a melody on her lyre, "and I have seen these signs before. A simple charm of opening."

"Do we trust this witch?" growls the giant man, the boxer called Typhon by his fans and detractors alike.

"Can we afford not to?" replies Nikias, the young peltast. "We need her magic to open the secret path."

"I think we're all in agreement," states Erastophanes, the de-facto leader of the expedition. "It's either go after this treasure, or go back to fighting Ptolemy."

A chorus of agreement greets his words.

"But wait," says Astyanax, "I hadn't finished yet. Right here at the end where it breaks off there is a warning about terrible guardians..."

Three days later the intrepid little band of adventurers find themselves amidst the ruins of a small town. Not a soul stirs around the toppled columns, collapsed walls and  broken statuary that litter the sandy plains. A foul, sulphurous pool occupies the remains of the agora, bubbling up from the depths of the earth. Though they are all unsettled by the morbid stillness, only the superstitious Typhon gives voice to his fears.

"There's barely enough tinder in this accursed place to make a decent fire. And there are no animals here, no birds. I haven't seen a living creature besides us since the day we left Emesa, and that was a vulture, I'm sure of it! And that word carved above the shrine: ΙΚΕΣΙΟΝ (hikesion: "for supplicants"). Who ever heard of supplicant at a temple of the underworld?"

"That's enough out of you, Typhon," says Eratosthenes firmly. "It's just a piece of stone. There's not even a curse inscribed on it. Besides, we're not here as supplicants, we're here as grave robbers. It's too late to back out now."

The next morning Nossis rises with the rosy-fingered dawn. She leads the white sow to the remains of the Pherrephattion (Φερρεφάττιον, sanctuary of Persephone) where she offers it up to the Stygian goddess. She inscribes the magical charakteres with the steaming blood of the sacrifice, and chants a prayer to the maiden goddess (Κόρη), whose amulet she wears as a good luck charm. The sound of stone grinding against stone splits the morning stillness, as a great slab slides down to reveal a staircase descending into the darkness.

Her companions soon appear, in full panoply (well, as much of a panoply as first level characters could afford. Not exactly well-greaved Achaeans, this lot). Typhon hands Nossis a lit torch, and they proceed wordlessly down the stairs.

The wide stone steps lead down to a long landing [room 1], on which a few scattered bones lie amongst the débris that has been tracked in from outside. The underground is cold and dry. Dust covers everything, though trails of footsteps are visible on the marble floor. The party cautiously proceed further in to the first chamber.

One wall of this long chamber [room 2] is made up to look like the stage in a theatre. False doors are painted between the columns. The flickering torchlight seems to make shadows play across the wall as if there were actual players on the stage. Everyone in the party suddenly begins to laugh, as they recall a choice line from Aristophanes. Suddenly the shadows stop, and leap off the walls, flitting around in a furious assault upon the living.

There are [2d6=] 12 Emporstiegender Schatten (Risen Shadows). Each round, every character must make a SR on Speed (adjusted down for Encumbrance). They either destroy a number of shadows equal to the level of the SR made, or dodge twice that number. Every shadow that is not killed or avoided does 1d6 damage, ignoring armour. This being the first encounter, everyone is in fighting trim, so all the SRs will be rolled to attack.

1. Dicaearchos 10+10=20, makes a Level 1 SR (just)
2. Astyanax 16+11=27, L2
3. Nossis 17+8=25, L2
4. Typhon 11+8=19, flails about ineffectually (a Level 0 SR would dodge one, but can't inflict damage)
5. Nikias 17+8=25, L2
6. Eratosthenes 13+7, L1

Now to roll 12d6 to see who the shadows attack. Fortunately I just bought a set of 36 dice for T&T purposes. 1,1,2,2,2,3,5,5,6,6,6,6 The shadows seem to ignore the biggest target (Typhon), but certainly have it in for Eratosthenes. So,

Dichaearchos kills one, but another shadow rips him open with inky black claws for 6 hits off his CON. He's only got 2 CON remaining.
Astyanax kills two, but is raked by another for 3 damage (down to 9 CON).
Nossis kills the one that attacked her, and could have killed another if it came within reach.
Nikias kills both of his opponents.
Eratosthenes kills one, but three more slash him with their terrible claws, though he only takes 7 hits. He's down to 5 CON, but it could have been worse.

Round 2. Five shadows remain. Everyone but Dicaearchos will attack this round. He's going to dodge and hopefully stay alive. The shadows attack 2,3,4,5,6; it seems he must have really dodged well. The SRs,then:

Astyanax 16+6, L1
Nossis 17+6, L1
Typhon 11+9, L1
Nikias 17+10, L2
Eratosthenes 13+12(DARO)+5, L3

Our brave heroes destroy the rest of the shadows with dagger, sword, and spear. Dichaearchos, Astyanax, and Eratosthenes have all been injured, so in the absence of healing magic (alas, starting characters cannot yet cast θεραπεία (Poor Baby / Restoration / Souffle bobo / whatever), but they do have some of the healing herb pseudosilphion in their packs, which heals <3W-1 CONS (meaning, roll 3 dice (W for Würfel) and take the lowest result, then subtract 1).

Dichaearchos rolls 4,4,6. 4-1= 3 points of CON regained.
Astyanax rolls 2,5,1, so the cure is ineffective.
Eratosthenes rolls 2,5,6. one point of CON is restored.

Opposite the entrance the hall continues off into the darkness. Another chamber lies to the north. There are sounds coming from that direction, but down the hall everything is  stillness. The party decide to see if it is, in fact, monsters making the noise. Better to know than risk an attack from behind.

They proceed to the chamber to the north [room 3]. The room is large, and mostly empty, save for piles of bones in one corner. [Every game turn (10 minutes) requires a roll on the Ereignisse (events) table. I rolled Wandering Monster.] As they are deliberating which of the three exits to take, a trio of Höhlenharpyien (Cave Harpies) come in from the northern passageway.

Cave harpies are simple T&T monsters: MR (1d6x5)+5. The three harpies, who fancy themselves to be quite the loveliest things in the dungeon, have Monster Ratings of 35 (Aglaia), 20 (Euphrosyne), and 15 (Thaleia). The fiendish creatures take one look at the intruders and attack. No quarter shall be given, none asked.

Round 1.

The harpies attack with their gruesome claws. They roll:
Aglaia (4 dice + 18 adds) = 36
Euphrosyne (3 dice + 10 adds) = 19
Thaleia (2 dice + 8 adds) = 12

The harpies' combined Hit Point Total is thus 67. Weirdly, I rolled no 6s, so they don't inflict any Spite damage.

As her compatriots raise their weapons and charge the harpies, Nossis pronounces a most potent formula of ancient magic. "Δέχαι, μαστιγία !" (Take that, you fiend!) she shouts, as magical energies spring from her fingertips and sear the flesh and feathers of the beast nearest to her (randomly determined to be Aglaia). Aglaia takes 27 points of damage from the spell, and the shock effect adds 27 to the characters' HPT this round. As to the rest:

Dichaearchos attacks with his xiphos (shortsword 3 dice +2 adds). With his personal adds of +4, he gets a total of 18 (including one point of spite damage for rolling a single 6).
Astyanax slashes with his machaira (a machete-shaped sword -- see his character picture in the previous post: 4+1, +1 personal adds) for 15 (and 1 point of Spite).
Typhon stabs with his spear (4+0, +13 adds) for 26.
Nikias also stabs with his spear (4+0, +14 adds) for 28 and 1 Spite.
Eratosthenes also stabs with his spear (4+0, +5 adds) for 20 and 1 spite.

The PCs have a HPT of 134, exactly double the harpies'. Dividing the damage equally amongst them gives them 22 points each. Aglaia had already taken 27 damage from the spell, and neither of the other two has an MR over 20, so at the end of the round all three bird beasts lie dead at the feet of our mighty heroes.

to be continued...


  1. Well my Nikias is doing well so far . . . but it is early yet, isn't it?

    -- Jeff

    1. He's probably the best fighter in the party,to be sure. But, it is still very early...

  2. Glad I made the SR – surely with your help at the greek crash cource! Nice start and I admire your understanding of the ancient world, those details turn out really atmospheric.
    While reading the story I really feared for the group and felt pity and especially for Eratosthenes already at the first encounter. I really thought perhaps the shadows were made too difficult ;) But this was ok at the 2nd encounter.

    1. The crash course definitely lowers the SR to level 2!

      I'm glad you like the details. They're the whole reason I was attracted to Katabasis in the first place: the setting is done right so I can work with it. I'm really picky about games/films/comics/&c about the ancient world, as you might have guessed.

      I think the shadows are not too difficult. If I had been GMing for actual players, I wouldn't have let the dice dictate that one of the party had to face twice as many as everyone else. That was just really bad luck for a solitaire game; fortunately their damage roll was really low.

  3. So, when is the next episode, sir?

    -- Jeff

    1. Hopefully this weekend, but I can't make any promises. Visitors coming from out of town, and all that.