Tuesday, 29 July 2014


Five weary figures stand at the bottom of a stony mountain path, surveying the narrow valley before them in the twilight gloom.

"It was easier to climb down here than I thought," says Nikias, the young soldier.

"Look at that gate up ahead,"  It looks like it's standing wide open." responds Eratosthenes, the veteran officer.

"I would expect it's open night and day." says the courtesan, Nossis.

"Good," adds the fearsome, if superstitious, Typhon, "because it would be hard work getting back up!"

"I'd say few have ever done it," says the wily Dicaearchos, "without the favour of Zeus..."

[Whilst the T&T Katabasis characters are finishing their frankly anachronistic conversation*, let's do a bit of housekeeping.

Fate is rerolled every session, so:
Dichaearchos has the best luck, thanks in no small part to the Orphic amulet he carries. He also rolls a 17 on 3d6; his base score (5) with the bonus for the amulet (+6) give him a score of 28 for this session. Nikias, despite his -1 base value, manages to roll a DARO on his check, so he will have a Fate of 25. Eratosthenes rolls another 10, so he holds steady at 15 Fate (+3 normal, +2 amulet). Typhon's Fate drops to 14, and Nossis' sinks to a mere 11.

Everyone is suffering from the wounds they received in the dungeon, and the long, tiring journey through the dark caverns gave everyone a point of Fatigue; this will reduce everyone's effective STR by 1. Nossis already had 5 fatigue points from spellcasting, so she's now at 6, for a -6 STR and -3 to all other attributes (save for CON). Now, back to the adventure.]

Like this +47

The party all crouch down behind some rocks and look down the path at the gate, still some distance away. The cyclopean gate is carved of black stone, and looks the equal of any besieging host. The magnificent doors on their great hinges of adamantine yawn open, but some sort of creature can be seen pacing the ground before the opening, occasionally emitting gouts of flame.

Adeimantos (dauntless) Nikias volunteers to scout ahead. Approaching unseen will require a level 3 SR on DEX. A roll of 8+23=31, success. Nikias slinks off, darting from boulder to boulder for cover. He comes back a few minutes later, looking a bit pale and trembling. He reports that, indeed, guarding the gate he saw, "unspeakable, unmanageable Kerberos, the savage, the bronze-barking dog of Haides, fifty-headed, and powerful, and without pity.**"

"I thought he only had three heads," says Dicaearchos.

"You try painting a 50-headed dog on the side of a vase," replies Nikias.

"What do we do now?" asks Typhon.

[I'll give the party a level 2 SR on EDU for a clue. Despite her -3 from fatigue, Nossis still has the highest. She rolls 9+(27-3=)24, a success.]

"Wait a minute!" cries Nossis, "Of course! How foolish of me not to have thought of it sooner: we just go right in."

"How do you figure?" asks Eratosthenes.

Nossis recites: "A fearful hound guards the house in front, pitiless, and he has a cruel trick. On those who go in he fawns with his tail and both his ears, but suffers them not to go out back again, but keeps watch and devours whomever he catches going out of the gates of strong Hades and awful Persephone.***"

Everyone looks at her with more than a little disbelief. Perhaps they do not trust the accuracy of her memory in such an exhausted state. Or perhaps they mistrust the words of an ancient farmer, who seems to have forgotten the other 98 ears one would expect from earlier in his poem. But what choice do they have? At length, Eratosthenes decides to take action.

"Company, form up!" he shouts, and the soldiers instinctively snap to attention. "We're going to rely on Nossis' ear for poetry, and march straight through that gate! All right men... march!"

It will be a level 1 SR on Charisma to command the troops. Eratosthenes rolls 7+15=22, success. With Nossis following behind, Eratosthenes leads the soldiers bravely through the gate. The terrifying Kerberos is all sweetness to them as they pass, but Dicaearchos makes the mistake of looking back once they've passed through the gate, and fifty pairs of flaming red eyes stare back at him hungrily.

The forbidding plain stretches before them, hemmed in by impassible mountains and a forest of gnarled, twisted trees. The little band stop to consider their options. It is then that Dicaearchos suggests they refer to the text on the amulet he wears. He carefully removes the thin sheet of gold rolled up in the golden phylactery. But the glint of gold arrests the attention of other netherworld denizens.

[The random encounter table results in--

A little German goes a long way if you want to use Katabasis monsters in your own T&T games, so here is the stat block explained item by item.

Grabräuber: Graverobbers, an NPC party like the characters.
MR: MR is MR, (1d6x5)+5. W=Würfel, die.
RS: stands for Rüstungsschutz -- Armour Points; a grave robber has 1d6x5 -15 (so, 0-15)
#: number encountered is 2d6-5, minimum (mindestens) of 1.
1W6-4 Schätze: 1d6-4 treasures; a Treasure is defined as being worth 3d6x10xDungeonLevel silver drachmae.
Spitemanöver: Spite manoeuvres, special effects inflicted along with spite damage (there's a table in the combat section)
INSG. 1W ➞BES. AUSR., 2W ➞NORM. AUSR.: (Insgesamt 1W Besondere Ausrüstung, 2W Normale Ausrüstung) That is, In total (insgesamt) 1d6 rolls on the Besondere Ausrüstung (special equipment) table, 2d6 rolls on the Normal Equipment table. You can click on the ➞ in the PDF to go to the relevant charts.

Totally not the PCs

So, for the encounter I rolled a group of 6 graverobbers. They have no treasures, just some miscellaneous (Normale & Besondere) equipment, to be determined later. For the sake of argument, lets say there's five men and a woman. The first one listed will be the leader. Thus, we roll their MR & RS, yielding:

35 15 : Eurysthenes, a handsome officer
10 10 : Aristarchos, a wily ne'er-do-well
10  5 : Anaximenes, a hellenised Scythian
30  0 : Nikomachos, a sculptor
25  0 : Baucis, a porne
35  0 : «Typhoeus», a big ugly guy

As they have no treasure, I decided that they are ἄταφοι, the unburied dead, having been a group of adventurers killed fleeing in the Seleucid army's rout at the hands of the Ptolemaic forces, which battle

πολλὰς δ᾽ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν
ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
οἰωνοῖσί τε δαῖτα...
(Homer, Iliad I:3-5)

("sent forth many brave souls of heroes to Hades, and made them (i.e. their bodies) spoils for dogs and a feast for the vultures"). But, of course, this encounter is not with the souls of heroes. These graverobbers lack money to pay the ferryman, and are intent on rolling the PCs for spare change.]

Attracted by the glint of gold, a band of six mercenaries and hangers-on approach the party, spears at the ready, murder in their hollow eyes. The battle is joined.

[round 1]
In an attempt to end things without violence, Nossis casts φόβος (phobos: Oh, go away!) on the one who is obviously the leader. Her EDU(INT)+Fate+CHR is compared to his MR. Even though all three attributes are reduced by -3 for fatigue, 24+8+11 > MR35; the spectral soldier flees. Nossis acquires 4 more points of fatigue (5 for the spell, -1 for her staff).

The rest of the ataphoi are unconcerned, or perhaps just desperate. They charge to attack. Their combined MR is 110, giving them 12 dice + 55 adds. They roll 47+55=102, with 3 spite.

The PCs get 16 dice + 65 adds in their fatigued state. They roll 55+65=120, with 4 spite. The PCs win this round of combat, inflicting 120-102=18 damage, which is reduced to 3 by the  15 points of armour on the enemy side. But the 4 spite hits add 12, so a total of 15 damage comes of their MR.

Typhon, Nossis, and Eratosthenes (randomly) each get 3 damage from the trismegistos spite hits.

[round 2]
The graverobbers' MR is reduced to 95, so they get 10 dice +48. They manage a HPT this round of 85, with 1 spite.

Nossis is going to fall over if she takes much more fatigue, so she joins in with her dagger. The PCs get 18 dice +67 now, and get a total of 133, with 5 spite.

The PCs win the round again. 133-85=48 -15 for armour = 33 +15(5 spite x3)= 48 damage inflicted.

Poor, tired Nossis takes the spite hit for her side, suffering the loss of 3 more CON.

pictures in lieu of narrative combat

[round 3]
The desperate shades press their attack. MR 47 gives them only 5+24, for a HPT of 44. They don't roll any 6s this round, so no spite damage.

The PCs give no quarter, and roll a HPT of 132, with 2 spite. 132-44= the PCs kill them all.

The vanquished shades lose all cohesion, and melt away into the rocky soil. Their leader is nowhere to be seen.

There are, however, a few items lying on the ground where they fell. To account for the Leader escaping with his own equipment, I will reduce the number of rolls for Special and Normal equipment by 2. Rolling the dice yields (1d6-2=) 4 pieces of special and (2d6-2=) 6 pieces of normal equipment. These are determined on the Besondere Ausrüstung table with a d66 roll, the Normale Ausrüstung with d666. So,

Special Items:
31 Opobalsamon: one does heals 1d3 damage and adds twice that amount of Fate (Luck) for one day.
46 Invisible Ink (heat activated)
51 Disguise Kit
14 Burglary set (axe, small pickaxe) SD25 ENC1

Normal items:
134 Grappling hook
212 Torch, burns 40min
214 Torch, burns 40min
251 Omphacomeli (a drink of sour grapes and honey)
356 Touchstone (to identify metals)
661 Wineskin

The PCs gather up their treasure, then turn their attention back to the inscription on Dicaearchos' amulet. To be continued...


* Astute readers will have recognised a clumsy paraphrase of Vergil's Aeneid, which the PCs could not possibly know, as it won't be written for another 250 years.

                   ...facilis descensus Averno :
noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis ;
sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
hoc opus, hic labor est. pauci, quos aequus amavit
Iuppiter aut ardens evexit...
vergil, Aeneid 126-30

                                 ...ἀμήχανον, οὔ τι φατειὸν
Κέρβερον ὠμηστήν, Ἀίδεω κύνα χαλκεόφωνον,
πεντηκοντακέφαλον, ἀναιδέα τε κρατερόν τε
Hesiod, Theogeny 310-12

         ...δεινὸς δὲ κύων προπάροιθε φυλάσσει
νηλειής, τέχνην δὲ κακὴν ἔχει · ἐς μὲν ἰόντας
σαίνει ὁμῶς οὐρῇ τε καὶ οὔασιν ἀμφοτέροισιν,
ἐξελθεῖν δ᾽ οὐκ αὖτις ἐᾷ πάλιν, ἀλλὰ δοκεύων
ἐσθίει, ὅν κε λάβῃσι πυλέων ἔκτοσθεν ἰόντα
ἰφθίμου τ᾽ Ἀίδεω καὶ ἐπαινῆς Περσεφονείης.
Hesiod, Theogeny 769-74


  1. Ah a new post! Brave group to pass the gate! I imagine other grave-diggers as twisted versions of the character group who are lost in the underworld too, you can make a bargain with them, but often they are crooks. Oh go away is a very powerful spell, you can drive away a whole group with it, if they are within range (15m). I'm looking forward to your next post!

    1. I have beentoo busy to do much gaming or blogging lately. Hopefully I'll get the PCs out of the underworld some day!

  2. Just finished reading through this series. As I mentioned elsewhere, I am planning on running my next solo project using the Tunnels & Troll ruleset and I was interested in seeing what you did with it (understanding this is a slightly altered version).

    I really enjoyed the humor in this one, both in the narrative as well as in the narration. There is always that subtle bit of humor in your adventures, but this one was over the top and I laughed out loud several times. With so much time having passed, I doubt you will ever get back to this, or, if you do, that you will be in the same mindset as then, but I would love to see more from this group.

    1. I really feel bad for leaving them stuck like that. Someday I do intend to finish their adventure. At one point I even started drafting a hexmap of the underworld based on descriptions in the Orphic/Bacchic tablets. I'm sure the next time I decide to read Aristophanes it will put me in mind of this campaign.

      That said, I can't wait to see what you do with T&T.