Saturday, 31 May 2014

LotFP Solo - Part the Thirty-first: „Welch Schauspiel! Aber ach! ein Schauspiel nur! / Wo fass ich dich, unendliche Natur?“



Scene 34

Chaos: 7

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

day 78.

"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?"

"Of course."

"Are you really a princess?"

"I am. Are you saying that this guild is the sort of place where that will matter?"

"Absolutely."

"How disappointing."

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
MU2, male
personality: wicked, touchy
motivations:
1-process contraband
2-discover lies
3-maintain allies]

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."

Friday, 23 May 2014

Worldbuilding, and why I didn't do any

I've often heard it said that the more preparation you need for a solo game, the less likely it is you will ever get around to playing it. So when I decided to start a fantasy campaign, I wanted to do it with a minimum of set-up, lest it fail before the first session. I know a lot of people have a fantasy world they've been creating for years -- decades even -- but I'm not one of them. All the AD&D of my youth was set in Greyhawk. All I had was the boxed set, and I wasn't really interested in a level of detail beyond that. It was non-invasive, and provided ample room to tell whatever stories I could make up. After that, when campaigns gave way to more occasional one-shot adventures, the concomitant worlds had a much more ephemeral nature, seldom outlasting the session.

I was initially inspired by reading Tabletop Diversions' Ever-expanding Dungeon posts. That put me in the mood for some old-school D&D, which always conjures up visions of knights and castles in my head. I'd also been reading Fouqué's Der Zauberring; it's full of knights and castles, which always conjures up images of D&D (it's also the reason why all the post titles are lines from romantic poets). At first I figured I'd just use the genero-pseudo-medieval Europe of my youth, that nameless fantasy world we played in before setting became a real concern. But that was too high-fantasy for what I was after. I also wanted to use LotFP as the ruleset, which steadily won me over to using an early-modernish setting. I didn't want to set the game in the real world though, especially as I wanted the PCs to all be elves. But my campaign had to be set somewhere. So here's how I went about it.

I knew the rules set I would use (LotFP), the GM emulator (Mythic), the collections of charts for encounters &c (Basic & Expert set, d30 Sandbox Companion, some random monster & dungeon generators from Dragon Magazine and the 1st ed. DMG). More than enough to run a campaign with. I decided I would give the characters a starting quest, and let things develop into a sandbox (or not) on their own. So all I needed now was a world. Or at least part of one.

I wanted to try Hexographer, having just discovered it. After two or three false starts, I had tweaked the settings enough to produce a map with the right kind of terrain for what I had envisioned. It was randomly dotted with villages, castles, ruins, etc. I did clean it up a little bit: drew in some rivers and roads, put fields around the major cities, added more castles. Only about an evening's worth of work. Of course, as I did this, ideas presented themselves about what some of the locations might be, and what sort of people lived here or there, but I didn't write any of it down or worry about it overmuch. There was a big map full of unnamed features staring at me, but the more I tried to add to it, the less chance I would have of actually playing. So I left it alone. I decided that, since my PCs were all first level elves, they would never have left the Elven Forest before, and so had as vague an idea of what lay beyond as I did.

I knew there was a big human kingdom occupying the eastern half of the map. I figured out where the capital of the Kingdom was (though didn't name it until scene 18) and then named a handful of things in and around the elven forest. Nothing even got described until I was about to start the first session, when I wrote:

"Feyalldra is the great elven city in the Elven Forest (all the heavy forest west of the river/lake - Elves move through their forest as if it were clear terrain, and automatically find enough food and water). The stone circle is a meeting place for the humans and elves to conduct trade. Cheapington is (as its name suggests) a mercantile town that grew up because of the human-elf trade. The Church of St. Gelevaard is a church of the Light God, built on the very site where St. Gelevaard was martyred 1000 years ago. The climate and and pseudo-medievality is that of southern England circa 1550AD. There is a large bay 20 miles south of Cheapington, the ocean proper is 20 miles further south. This area is on the border of civilisation, so firearms are a bit rarer than in other parts (to the East). I'll make up / randomly determine the rest as I go."


And I that was it. Some things had to be added to the map along the way. E.g. Wandlebourne and some as-yet-nameless town got added in a fit of logic when I noticed there was this huge protected bay that would be the ideal base for fishing and the sea trade.

But the first little paragraph, describing a mere 21x13 hexes, set the tone for everything that followed. It fixed the climactic, technological, and social base so that I could extrapolate all the mundane aspects of the world, and stick a low-fantasy overlay on top. Elements introduced in the first few sessions were a bit more random than those that followed. By now I have a feel for what definitely does and doesn't fit, and re-roll and/or modify tables accordingly. Here's some notes on how it played out:

Non-humans

Elves are a dying race, as presented in the LotFP rules. They are creatures of faerie, and live in the Elven Forest, wherein lies their wondrous city of (fair) Feyalldra. But that's only half of the great faerie forest. Across the river (this hasn't been shown on any of the small maps yet) is the Goblin Forest, where the ugly, twisted, and malevolent faeries live. The faerie forest is actually the first thing I made up, and the goblin half has simply never come into play yet: exactly the reason I didn't go naming every location on the map.

Goblins are creatures of faerie as much as are elves. They will use halfling stats, should it come up. There are no halflings in my campaign, because I don't care for them.

Dwarves are by the book. They live underground, but I don't know where their big city is yet. There's at least a big outpost somewhere within ~20 hexes of the Ruined Monastery, since rescue missions were sent to find the dwarven expedition that never returned from there.

I'm undecided about orcs. I don't need hobgoblins. Bugbears and kobolds will be extremely rare if indeed they ever appear. There is a far-off race of cynocephaloi (gnolls), but they don't live locally. Ogres compete for space with the hill tribes.


Pseudo-medievality

Or, if you will, pseudo-early-modernity. I chose 1550 to make it still a bit medieval; to be fair I've mushed some ideas from earlier into it, but I'm aiming for that vague sort of realm where fairy tales are from, not Montaillou, village occitan, de 1294 à 1324. Also, the main kingdom is small and civilisation does not extend far beyond it. I chose southern England for the climate because it's damp and rainy and I like it that way. But it also helped with other things, such as--

Religion

To start with, all I knew was that the main religion would be a pantheistic version of the pre-reformation catholic church. Since the first mini-map had a chuch on it, I had to figure out the patron deity on the spot; thus the Light God came into being. At first it was just a shorthand notation, but it ended up setting the tone for religion: the Roman model of personified ideas rather then the Greek gods with personalities. It's not the only human pantheon, just the only one in the kingdom. I guess I'll have to decide what sort of religion the elves have if they ever make it to the elven temple.

Language

The trick for me was not over thinking this. I tried very hard to just use a nice D&D-style Common tongue for humanity, but I just couldn't leave it alone. So then, Common, which I mention several times in various adventures, is sort of middle English. It is the language of all the common folk of the Kingdom. Many of the noble families came originally as conquerors from the Continent, and so there's a second common tongue which is like old french, used more by the upper classes than the lower, though many people are likely to know both. Scholars and wizards will know an ancient language from a fallen kingdom of old (Latin), and may well know other ancient and esoteric languages besides. They are also likely to know one or more non-human languages (architects and engineers would tend to study High Dwarven, for example). Elves all speak Low Elven, which is sort of the elven version of Common and the dialect that non-elves learn. There's also High Elven, which is totally different from region to region (probably only Théscine speaks the continental tongue, as she's the only one with family ties to elves outside Feyalldra). There's also a literary language which no one speaks, as such: sort of the elf equivalent of Homeric Greek. Elves also learn the human languages of the region, and magic-using elves are taught the ancient (scholarly) tongue during their arcane studies. I don't know what the humans bordering the kingdom speak yet; maybe just different dialects of old/middle-English, or perhaps a pretend Celtic language. I'm not even sure if the kingdom to the north is even a human one yet, to be honest. Should the PCs venture that far on the map, I will figure it out based on whatever I'm in the mood for at the moment.

There I go off on a tangent. The point of all this was that I started with a very basic idea (it's sort of medieval England-y) and the details filled themselves in from there. When some -one/-where new crops up, I can either try to make up a fantasy-sounding name (Zormagax the Invoker), go for euphony (Ildmarch), or I can pick words at semi-random from a glossary, which is much simpler and sometimes more evocative. Sir Gaunet's name is old french for 'yellowish' whence we get 'gaunt' in English. His castle is from old English roots: hræfn (raven) + mor (moor). Chateau l'Oret (old french = 'wind') is in the middle of a windy plain. Sumpffort is by the swamp, Foehrenfort in the pine forest, etc. Some of it plays against type: the evil count lives in Chateau Pruduems (Prud’homme).


So there it is: my setting, or at least the apologia for its sketchy nature. The funny thing is, all the stuff I've written in this post is the stuff that developed in such an easy and natural fashion that I've never had to write it down; it's all in my head and informs every further development in the setting and every interpretation of the random idea generators. I hope that showing my work, as it were, and discussing the process of creation will be of some use to others.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

LotFP Solo - Part the Thirtieth: „Der heilsam schaffenden Gewalt / Die kalte Teufelsfaust entgegen“


Scene 32

Chaos: 7

Setup: roll of 2 = modified scene (was: Father Rochouart and Haddie are looking in on the only church of the Light God in town in order to acquire holy items with which to combat demons.)

Interrupt: Introduce a New NPC - Usurp / The innocent (an evil cult)

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

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

day 78.

Though He be superior to all other gods, the Light God's only church in Ildmarch is a small, unprepossessing affair. The gods of Chance, Wealth and the Sea are much more popular here, reflecting the mercantile concerns of the city folk. But the Light God is all-loving and all-caring, and accepts that mortals sometimes need the individual attentions of His divine children.

Father Rochouart leads a silent Haddie through the twisting streets of Old Town trying to locate the church. He gets lost once or twice, and is scandalised that the first two residents he asks for directions don't know where the church is.

When they finally arrive, they find the church is dark and cold and damp inside. A few tapers around the altar steadily push against the darkness. A single priest in long, white robes appears from behind the altar to greet them.

[1d6=1, male; 1d6=3, 3rd level cleric.

Using ÜNE to flesh him out:

personality traits: careful, devoted
motives:
1. abduct opulence (seek donations)
2. shepherd family
3. institute stories

He's basically a stereotypical rural parish priest; how he ended up in Ildmarch is anyone's guess.

His bearing is Friendly. The dialogue module indicates he will 'promise future action'.]

The priest is a soft-spoken, affable sort. He's in his late fifties, and his portly figure speaks of one used to comfortable city living. He introduces himself as Canon Prinnig.

Father Rochouart wastes no time in outlining the reason for his visit and the party's brief stopover in Ildmarch. Canon Prinnig listens patiently to the father's harrowing account,then opens his mouth to speak.

"Th--"

Suddenly a frantic woman rushes into the church, all in tears. "Madam Humberl!" exclaims the canon, "Whatever is the matter?"

"It's my Minda!" blubbers madam Humberl, "She's gone and run off with that nasty Dennerson lad! I just know he'll -- he'll lead her astray!"

"Oh, dear, this is serious," intones Canon Prinning soothingly, "that Dennerson runs with some pretty bad sorts. I'm sure this is just youth and foolishness. Tell us where they went, and I'm sure she can be brought home again safe and sound."

[Q: Does she know where her daughter was taken? Unlikely: 38, Yes.]

"He's always at the Cog and Barrel with that gang of roustabouts he runs with. Such brutes!"

"You see, Father Rochouart," says the Canon, "we don't quite have the grand adventures you're used to here in our quiet city. But still, any straying from the Path of Light is serious business, don't you agree? Perhaps if you -- and your young companion there -- could see fit to rescue young Minda Humberl from this adolescent misadventure, perhaps I could see fit to reward you from the church's treasury. Say, with a sacred relic to assist you in your quest."

"We'll do it," says Father Rochouart. "But you'd have helped our cause anyway."

"I know," replies the Canon. "But you'd have helped Madam Humberl anyway."

[This has to play out fast, otherwise Fr. Rochouart would gather the rest of the party and throw the three mini-adventure setup out the window. I'm therefore taking the opportunity to use the 5-room dungeon schema, which I've been looking for an excuse to try. So, Room One: Entrance And Guardian. Rolling randomly against the options I get «The guardian was deliberately placed to keep intruders out».]



The Cog and Barrel is a disreputable-looking tavern in New Town. It's early enough in the day that the only customers are those sleeping it off from the night before. The innkeeper is nowhere to be seen, but there's a large, unpleasant fellow with a cudgel keeping an eye on the place. Father Rochouart strides right up to him.

"I'm looking to find Dennerson," says the priest sternly. "He said to meet him here. So where is he?"

[Q: Can Father Rochouart bluff his way past the guard? No Way: 14, Yes.]

The man grunts and nods toward the back room.

In the squalid back room of the tavern there is a door standing ajar. A rickety staircase leads down far underground. Flickering torchlight is seen spilling out from a room at the bottom.

[Room Two: Since room 1 was roleplaying-oriented, I used the option to make Room Two combat-oriented, rather than come up with a puzzle (not the easiest thing to do in solitaire play)].

Two men sit at a crude wooden table in a small torchlit anteroom. There's a forgotten deck of cards between them ad an empty wine bottle. They are each dressed in a black hooded robe. When they hear Father Rochouart enter, they snap to attention. "Who the hell is this?" one of them asks. They both draw long sacrificial knives from their belts and move to intercept the cleric, who draws his broadsword in return.

[Stats:
ch cn dx in st wi hp ac
 8 15  8  6 14 13  5 11
 5 10  5 11  7 13  6 10

They're both 0-level fighters armed with daggers.

round 1]
Father Rochouart brings his blade down on the head of the first cultist, splitting the man's skull [8 damage drops him to -3]. He falls back into his chair, mortally wounded. [The other one passes a morale check.] "You'll pay for this," sneers the second cultist and slashes wildly and furiously with his dagger.

[round 2]
The cultist advances with a mad gleam in his eye, a flurry of flashing steel. He slices into Fr. Rochouart's sword arm [2 damage puts him at 7hp].

[round 3]
Father Rochouart is forced back to the stairs, and up onto them. But the extra height gives him a sudden advantage, and he lays low the second cultist [7 damage puts him at -1hp].

Father Rochouart pauses for a moment to get his bearings and consider his next move. He then retrieves his holy scroll and reads one of the spells inscribed thereon, that the Light God's blessing protect him in this pit of deviltry (he casts Magic Vestment on self for +3AC). Haddie, sensing his intention to continue, takes a torch from one of the wall brackets.

"There's more to this than anyone could have guessed," says Father Rochouart. "Come, my little light-bearer, we've work to do!"

[Room Three: Trick or Setback]

The long, low passage leading out of the anteroom seems to wind and twist in the earth for hundreds of feet, before opening up into a natural sort of cave or hollow. An altar to dark gods has been erected between two stalactites, flaking it like the fangs of some vile serpent. Great iron candelabra and a weird bronze tripod illuminate the evil chapel. Four cultists in long black robes are busily moving about the chamber, making preparations for some unspeakable ritual. The cultists, two women, a young man, and a young girl, have their hoods drawn back whilst they work. The young girl fits the description of the missing Minda Humberl exactly.

One of the women is on her hands and knees, inscribing a magic circle on the cave floor in chalk. Her back is to the passageway. Father Rochouart strides forward and plunges his sword into her back, shouting, "Servants of Darkness! I have come to rescue the Innocent from your vile clutches!"

[stats for the women cultists (a&b), Dennerson (d) and Minda (m):

  ch cn dx in st wi hp ac
a 13 11 15 11  9 16  4 13
b 12  9 13 15 11  8  4 13
d  8 12  9 15  7 15  5 12
m  9 10  9 11  9 11  3 12

Again, all 0-level fighters armed with daggers.

Father Rochouart had surprise; he hit cultist-a for 4 damage, dropping her to 0.]

The remaining three cultists -- including the "innocent" young girl, draw their long knives and advance menacingly toward the brave priest. Haddie hides in the passageway.

[round 1. Father Rochouart has the initiative]
The devil-worshippers are no warriors. They advance as far as they dare, but none manage to come within striking range with their knives [they miss]. One of the women comes too close, and is struck down by the cleric's righteous anger [b is hit for 4 damage reducing her to 0hp].


[round 2]
Dennerson, in a fit of bravado, lunges at the cleric. His thrust is nearly a foot short of Father Rochouart's neck. The priest's blade, by contrast, splits open his face [he takes 7 damage, dropping him to -2hp]. He slumps at the cleric's feet. Minda screams and swings wildly, but to no effect.

[round 3]
Father Rochouart wants to return the lost sheep to the fold. He prays to the Light God, that He turn aside the dagger of wickedness whilst his servant makes a plea for the young girl's very soul [he casts Sanctuary. Minda fails her save vs. spells, so can't attack]. The young girl sees the priest lower his sword as he invokes his deity. She raises her dagger to strike, but hesitates.

[rounds 4-5]
"Come, my child," says Fr. Rochouart calmly, "this is no place for one such as you. There's still time to cast aside these impure thoughts and deeds, and once again tread the Path of Light." Minda is transfixed by the clerics words, but does not lower her dagger. [it will take three rounds to talk Minda down. She fails her saving throw vs. spells in rounds 4&5, so doesn't attack].

[round 6]
The cleric's soft words and repeated exhortations are soothing, but Minda's mind is beset with confusion. [Q: Can he convince her to leave the cult? Unlikely: 77, No. +Event: PC Positive - Expose Illusions (see below). Also, Minda makes her save this round]. She seems as if his words are getting through. She lowers the knife meekly. He strides towards her, arms outstretched and welcoming. "You see, my child, this nightmare is finally over." She make as if to embrace him, then with a malicious grin stabs her cruel knife right at his throat. He does not even flinch. The point of the dagger in moved aside by an inexorable force. [She rolled a 13 on her attack, which would have hit but for the AC bonus from the Magic Vestment spell]. Praise the Light God!

[The Expose Illusions event above sounds like its grounded in the theology of the Church of the Light God; His Ever-Present Light dispels the the evil cult's illusory promises of power. so I'll let fr. Rochouart re-roll his failure on the Mythic Fate Chart.
Q: One more try... Can he convince her to leave the cult? Unlikely: 32, Yes.]

She has seen the Power of the Light God. The dagger drops to the ground with a clatter. She falls into the priests arms, sobbing with true and heartfelt penitence.


[Room Four: Climax, Big Battle or Conflict]

After several minutes, a woman in black robes with rust-coloured trim emerges from a doorway behind the altar. She takes one look at the scene before her and, hissing blasphemous imprecations, begins casting a spell. Father Rochouart feels tendrils of evil attempt to insinuate themselves into his mind, but he is stern in his resolve, and shakes off the woman's enchantment. The priest sends Minda off to hide with Haddie, and raises his bloodied sword to do battle.

[Stats:

Cult leader, MU4
ch cn dx in st wi hp ac
 6 10 13 16 11  8 15 13
1-Charm person, Summon
2-Ray of Enfeeblement, Mirror Image]

She got a surprise round when she showed up, and cast Charm Person. Fr. Rochouart saved easily, rolling a 19. They're now tied for initiative.

round 1]
Seeing her charm did not affect the priest, she speaks a short curse. A thin green ray springs from her fingertips, momentarily bathing the cleric in a sickly light. But the baleful energy dissipates harmlessly around him as he crosses the uneven ground to attack. [makes his save against her Ray of Enfeeblement, doesn't manage a decent attack roll, however].

[round 2]
As the sorceress sidesteps Father Rochouart's broadsword, her hands are tracing patterns in the air, and her lips forming the strange syllables of an incantation. Two exact doubles fade into being alongside her, mimicking her every move [Mirror Image].

[round 3]
Her store of battle magic depleted, the sorceress, draws her dagger -- as do her two copies. Father Rochouart strikes, hoping to lay low the sorceress, but his sword stroke merely dissipates an image.

[round 4-5]
The two -- or is it three? -- circle one another looking for a moment to strike. The cleric does not want to attack the image and leave himself vulnerable, the sorceress cannot close into striking range without coming inside the greater reach of his blade. She feints, and poorly, for the cleric's riposte catches her in the arm, leaving a bloody gash [4 damage puts her at 11hp]. A similar injury appears on her double.

[round 6]
The sorceress and her copy both slash at Father Rochouart. He tries to parry the strike, but chooses the wrong one, and the phantom blade passes harmlessly through his sword. Realising his mistake too late, he feels the real dagger bite into his side [2 damage drops him to 5hp]. His counter-attack dispels the image.

[round 7-8]
Arms clash. Both attackers strike true, both come away bleeding. [Father Rochouart takes 1 damage, putting him at 4hp; The sorceress takes 7, dropping her to 4hp. Since she's now below half hit points, it's time for a morale check. Since she's the leader, I will determine her ML score by taking the best 2 of 3d6; appropriately for a devil-worshipper, I roll 666. So she will fight to the death]. With a demoniacal fury, she grabs the priest by the neck and forces him against the wall of the cave, preparing to plunge her dagger into his heart. But he twists round and lashes out with his heavy sword, cutting her open like a sacrifice. She is dead before he has finished the motion [8 damage put her at -4hp].

Fearing lest more cultists lurk within, Father Rochouart calls upon the Light God's Mercy to close up his wounds [Cure Light Wounds on self restore HP to full]. He leaves the sobbing Minda in Haddie's quiet care and boldly enters the room behind the altar. In the makeshift vestry and storeroom, he finds only three frightened prisoners, beggars by the looks of them, who have been stripped, bound, gagged, and smeared with some sort of sweet-smelling unguent. Father Rochouart frees them from their bonds, and offers to take them back to the Church for sanctuary, but they are too afraid. They gather up their clothing from a heap in the corner and scurry out of the caverns.

Father Rochouart leads Haddie and Minda back up into the tavern. At the sight of him, uninjured but in bloodied clothing and clutching a huge, gory broadsword, the tavern's bouncer drops his cudgel and flees into the street.


[Room Five: Reward, Revelation, Plot Twist
The quest was a trick. By killing the dungeons bad guy the PCs have actually helped the campaign villain or a rival.]


Scene 33

Chaos: 6

Setup: roll of 3 = modified scene (was: Back to church to get reward.)

Altered: Canon Prinning intends to take over cult leadership, with the sorceress now out of the way

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

[Stats:
Canon Prinning, C3
ch cn dx in st wi hp ac
14 14 11 13  9 18 13 12
1-Cure light wounds, Cause light wounds, Cause Fear]

Canon Prinning is positively beaming when he sees Father Rochouart return. He walks across the dimly-lit nave to greet him. "So good to see you!" he calls out, "and young Minda, too. It looks like you ran into a spot of trouble. Was it those ruffians that loiter round the Cog and Barrel?"

"No," says Father Rochouart heavily, "I fear the situation was much more dire."

"Well, now," says Canon Prinning, "perhaps you'd better tell me all about it, my good man." At that he claps a friendly hand on Father Rochouart's shoulder. The weary cleric grasps the canon's arm in return. He is about to respond, when the canon suddenly spits out the words of a horrible curse. Unholy energies course through him into Father Rochouart, who gasps from the unutterable pain and shock of the betrayal [Cause Light Wounds inflicts 5 damage, leaving him with 4hp].

[round 1]
Father Rochouart staggers backward, but has the presence of mind to draw his broadsword. The wicked Canon produces a shortsword that had been concealed cleverly within his robes. The clash of steel on steel reverberates in the gloom of the empty church [-2 to hit for drawing weapons ensures that both miss their attack rolls].

[round 2]
The Canon stabs Father Rochouart in the gut. The blade does not bite deeply, but in his weakened state the wound is almost too much to bear [2 damage leaves him with 2hp]. Summoning all his strength, he strikes back with righteous might [9 damage drops the Canon to 4hp]. The Canon's mangled left arm hangs limply at his side.

[round 3 - The Canon needs to make a Morale check, which he passes despite his cowardly ML5]
The Canon invokes the powers of Hell with yet another curse [Fear], and this time the good cleric cannot shake it off [fails saving throw]. He is seized with a mortal terror like none he could ever imagine, and flees for his life out of the church. Haddie is smart enough to realise the danger, and takes off like a bolt right after him.

When Father Rochouart is once again himself, he rushes back to the church. But the Canon has fled, and Minda's bleeding corpse lies sprawled in the aisle.



Monday, 19 May 2014

LotFP Solo - Part the Twenty-Ninth: "Of fanatic rage and meaningless revenge"

day 77.

Winter is taking hold of the land. The temperature is hovering just above freezing. The rains have slackened, but it's still miserable trip down the road from Chateau l'Oret to the great city of Ildmarch. The party pass some merchants on the road driving their waggons towards Frommsport, hoping to set sail for the continent before the winter storms begin to batter the coast.

The party ride into Ildmarch in the mid-afternoon. Once again the elves marvel at the sights of the New City within the outer walls, but Géraint leads them straight through to the Inner Gate, for, he tells them, everything they seek will be found beyond.

The toll is steep -- 2 silvers apiece -- and the walls separating new and old are every bit as imposing as the curtain round Castle Hræfnmor. The guards at the gate seem more bored than the innkeeper in sleepy Casterby, as if inured to the splendours surrounding them. The elves had thought the New City must represent the pinnacle of human architectural ingenuity, with its wide cobbled streets, the tall buildings, and bustling markets. But the old city is more wondrous still. Tall, ancient buildings of stone rise on all sides, forming great canyons over the twisting, narrow passageways between. It reminds them of the tales they've heard about the dwarven cities carved in to the living rock under the high mountains. Now and then the passages open out into a marvellous square with statues and fountains, or a small park of carefully arranged greenery. Even the inn to which Géraint leads them is huge and faced with stone.



The inn is comfortable but not ostentatious, mostly used by middle-class merchants doing business in the New Town. Most importantly, it's warm. The fire in the common room is a welcome sight for the weary travellers, who waste no time getting settled in to their rooms. They spend the afternoon and evening in the inn's common room, discussing their plans for their stay in Ildmarch.

[Q: Are there any problems getting an Inn in Old Town? Very Unlikely: 47, Yes
Q: What kind of problem? Betray / Plans. Someone at the inn overhears them planning where to go and what to do and passes it on to an enemy.

The PCs are going to split into three groups. Each group gets a separate Mythic scene (or scenes, should Mythic throw in some Alterations and interrupts). I rolled a random order to play them out in since adjustments in the Chaos Factor will effect the subsequent scene.

The three initial scene set-ups in order are as follows:

1. Miolla, Géraint, and Worland are off to visit a gunsmith and a blacksmith in order buy weapons for the party.
2. Father Rochouart and Haddie are looking in on the only church of the Light God in town in order to acquire holy items with which to combat demons.
3. Lycinia, Aldira, and Théscine are off to the great library at the mage's guild to find information about the prison of Vhisigus.]



Scene 31

Chaos: 8

Setup: roll of 9 = unmodified scene -- Miolla, Géraint, and Worland are off to visit a gunsmith and a blacksmith in order buy weapons for the party.


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

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


day 78.

The next morning the party are nearly up with the winter sun, though its light barely pierces the thick blanket of grey clouds in the sky, which is in turn barely visible from within the ravine-like streets of New Town. A bitter wind blows off Lake Ild, and howls through the winding streets.

A simple breakfast together, then the three groups set off on their various errands. Géraint has to explain to the elves that human custom dictates they shouldn't walk around in full armour and heavily armed. They reluctantly consent to leave the armour in their rooms; their weapons are a badge of honour and non-negotiable.

Miolla, Géraint and Worland set off towards the markets. They first visit several blacksmiths until they find one who can make them some silver weapons. Their order will be ready in [2d4=]8 days. That settled, it's off to the gunsmith. Miolla can barely contain her excitement. She is disappointed to hear that it will take [1d8=]3 days for the order to be ready, but Géraint assures her that they can take them outside the city for testing whilst they must wait for the smiths to finish the silvered weapons. Worland promises her they can do the rest of their chores before then, so there's more time to play with the new toys. Besides, he's always wanted one too.

The whole three days are spent resupplying for an expedition into the unknown. The trio visit markets, merchants, shops, stalls, stores, and stables. Miolla is frankly bored, but Géraint is in his element, haggling and making bargains. Worland does his best to keep Miolla in good spirits, but the gloomy city streets remind her a little too much of marching through a dungeon, except without the exciting parts.



day 81.

On the third day they finally return to the gunsmith. Miolla has been up since dawn and is bouncing with excitement. Worland is nearly as eager, but is better at hiding it. Géraint is keeping cool as always; if he's not blushing over Théscine he never betrays his emotions.

They fail to notice, however, the man lurking in the shadows who has watching their inn from a nearby alleyway. As they leave, he slips away to inform his master.

[This is a consequence of the Betray / Plans event from earlier. To start, I rolled a random city encounter from the 1st ed. DMG: a Noble (F0), with three guards (F1, F2, F4) and one servant (F0).

I've been wanting to try out the Universal NPC Emulator, so I used it to flesh out the noble. I've already figure out a few things (relative power level, Noble), and I rolled twice for personality traits (on Chart 1: NPC Modifier) as is my wont. So-

personality: affluent, superfluous (noble is the youngest [1d6=2,male] son of a prominent Ildmarch family.)
Motivations:
1. manage purity (uphold the family name)
2. prepare enlightenment (no idea, but the rest was enough for one encounter)
3. persecute success (someone got the better of his family once...)

bearing: hostile / rage
focus: the character
NPC dialogue module yields: "the hostile noble speaks of rage against the character"

For the NPC Response Module (the equivalent of the Mythic Fate Chart for affirmative/negative responses), he'll be using the intersection of the Hated row (relationship) and the Guarded column (conversation Mood).]

At the gunsmith's, Miolla is beaming, turning one of her new pistols over and over in her hands. Worland is admiring the action on one of the arquebus. Géraint is weighing out the silver to pay for it all. The front door is thrown open violently, and in strides a young noble with his retinue. They are dressed in fine silks and expensive leather boots, and glittering rapiers hang at their sides.

"Well, if it isn't Géraint Lemarchant!" says the Noble. "One of my servants told me you were in town, but I'd scarcely credited it. What brings you back to Ildmarch? Another one of your stupid schemes?"

"My scheming days were over a long time ago," Géraint replies, "and reparations have been made to your family. I am a servant of the Church now, and far removed from worldly matters. Let it rest."

[72=No.] "This isn't about the money, or what you stole. This is about my family's besmirched reputation. I shall never let this rest."

"Look, we're on a quest," implores Géraint, "and we don't want any trouble. Is there any way I can make it up to you?"

[29=No.

Q: Does this turn ugly? 50/50: 17, Exceptional Yes.]

"Oh, I think there is," says the young noble as he walks over to the counter. He removes a heavy gold ring from his finger and places it before the shopkeeper. "This should cover the cost of cleaning up your shop."

The Noble draws his sword, as do three of his associates. Miolla puts the pistol down gently and takes her mace from her belt. Worland shifts his grip on the arquebus, holding it like a club.

"En garde!" yells the young nobleman.

[The nobleman's party wins the initiative. Their stats are :

     ch cn dx in st wi HP
F4 f  9 14  8 13 11 14 26
F2 m  4 13 12 11 13  8 17
F1 m  7 13 13 10 16 11  8
F0 f  9 12 10 12 13 15  2
N  m 10 13 10  8 10 12  5

They are all unarmoured, and all carry rapiers except for the servant (F0).

round 1.]
The three fighters advance on the party, as the servant woman moves out of the way. The lead fighter takes a single swing at Géraint, her blade slashing across his torso and spraying blood on the floor [6 damage drops him to 6hp].  Géraint winces for a moment from the pain, then draws his own sword in response. The other two fighters circle Miolla and Worland, looking for an opening. Neither find one [both miss]. Miolla sighs briefly, then raises her free hand above her head and speaks the words of an elven charm [casts Sleep: 9HD are affected, being all four 0-levels (Noble, servant, shopkeeper & his assistant), two 1st levels (Worland & Ftr1), and the 2nd level fighter]. A chorus of yawns is heard as the magical slumber descends over the room.

[round 2]
Only Miolla, Géraint and the woman fighter are left standing. She hesitates for a moment [needs to check morale. Her ML will be determined by the best 3 of 4d6 on the LotFP Loyalty/Morale chart; a roll of 9 gives her ML7. But she rolls under it, so] then she lunges once again at Géraint. He parries her blade deftly with his own [+2 AC bonus, but loses his attack]. Miolla hefts her mace and gives the woman a solid whack on the left shoulder [6 damage puts her at 20hp].

[round 3 & 4]
"Afraid to fight!?" sneers the woman at Géraint, as he blocks her sword yet again. If she had hoped to goad him into opening himself up, she is disappointed [she rolls a 3 for her attack, and he isn't parrying this round]. Géraint's blade bites deeply into her side, and Miolla's mace cracks a few ribs [6 and 8 points of damage respectively reduces her to 6hp. She's well below half hit points, so needs to make another morale check, which she fails]. 

The woman throws down her sword and, clutching her injured side, hisses through gritted teeth, "I yield!"

"I think you should leave," says Miolla sternly. The woman doesn't hesitate to comply. Géraint shakes Worland awake. He looks around, confused, then slowly stands and dusts himself off.

"Elven magic, huh?" he says, regarding the sleepers. "That's a new one on me. I take it we won."

"Yup!" chirps Miolla.

"Should we wake the shopkeeper, d'ya think?" asks Worland.

"Obviously we should wake the shopkeeper," snaps Géraint. "We should pay him and go."

"You're the boss. What do we do with the rest of the sleepytime brigade?"

"Just leave them; anything else would cause more trouble."

"For once," says Miolla stoically, "I'm glad Lycinia's not here..."

[Q: Are the PCs encouraged to shop elsewhere after this incident? Unlikely: 79, No. (they are, after all, dropping a lot of money here: 1364SP!)
Q: Has the noble been chastened into letting the past lie? No way: 03, Exceptional yes.]

The trio awaken and pay the shopkeeper, who is grateful they didn't kill anyone in his shop. They pack their new pistols and ammunition in some backpacks and roll the arquebuses up in a blanket so as not to attract undue attention in the city streets, and are out the door before the sleepers awaken.

They take the injured Géraint to the nearest temple, that of [1d33=22, Poseidon] the Sea God, where he is cured of his wounds --no questions asked-- for a nominal donation (the 250sp sardonyx he's carrying). The Sea God's temple is one of the major temples in Ildmarch; 80% of the shipping in Frommsport is owned by merchants living in Ildmarch.

Afterwards Géraint needs to buy a new tunic, which turns out to be more difficult than expected. He browses through the wares of several different clothiers until Miolla and Worland threaten to try the guns out on him right here and now unless he hurries up and just picks something already.

The firing squad averted, Géraint makes some enquiries with the city watch about where they could go to try out their new guns. He's told in no uncertain terms that 'the discharge of firearms or destructive magics is absolutely prohibited both within the city walls and for a mile without'. They decide to head out early the next morning and walk a mile down the shore for their shooting party. There isn't enough daylight left to set out now, especially as the first snow of the year is starting to fall.

Friday, 16 May 2014

LotFP Solo - Part the Twenty-Eighth: „Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär / Und wollten uns verschlingen“

XXVI. Bhxiug is a great and a terrible duke, and hath three names. Of some he is called Bna'ak-Othì; of the Dwarfs Hûûd; of Nigromancers Vhisigus: he commeth foorth as a fiery souldier, with red armour, and upon a wyvern of that colour, and a crowne on his head. He answereth trulie of things present, past, and to come. He is also a lier, he maketh a general to know no defeat, he adorneth a man with dignities, and confirmeth them, he speaketh with a cleare and a subtill voice, and six and twentie legions are under him. He hath been constrained but once in ages past, by Rekebath, Queene of the Vampyres, who  did banish him back to his emptie keepe in Acheron, abalienated from his dire host, and she did seale the gate with her own essence sanguine, that mortals never discouver its key.



Father Rochouart is too distressed to hear Lycinia's revelation amongst the stark evidence of their failure. Miolla finds the portcullis mechanism on the wall of the vampire's lair. The party trudge sullenly out of the dungeon. This time they are greeted on the surface by an honour guard of the commander's picked troops. They are quickly ushered back into the large mess hall by the roaring fire, and the chaplains attend to their injuries.

Divested of their equipment and having changed into dry clothes, the party convene for a hearty meal with the commander, as eight pairs of boots dry behind them on the hearth. Father Rochouart is grim and sullen, but the rest are soon recounting their adventure to the commander in increasingly excited tones. Even Haddie speaks up, shouting over the others for the privilege of telling how Lycinia fell in the hole.

But all too soon their account arrives at its disturbing end, and the laughter and ribaldry abruptly cease. Lycinia excuses herself from the table to fetch the papyrus from her quarters. When she returns, all eyes are upon her. She unrolls the scroll as far as the marker she had placed within, then intones the words of a spell which allow her to make sense of the unknown language before her.

"There's a ton of stories in here," she explains, "myths and legends and all sorts. I thought it would be just some bedtime reading until I got to this bit. Let's see, 'Bhxiug is a great and a terrible duke, and is called by three names. To some he is Bna'ak-Othì; to the Dwarfs Hûûd; to black magicians Vhisigus...'"

When she is done, everyone looks to Father Rochouart. "What?" he says peevishly, "I am a sworn undead hunter. Demonology is hardly part of my purview."

"We should write that down," says Théscine, "in a language we all know. Just in case."

"So what now?" asks Worland. "Anyone know where this gate is?"

"Ildmarch!" exclains Géraint suddenly. "No -- not the gate. But there's the Great Library in Ildmarch. The sages there must be able to help. We should go there, unless anyone has a better idea. We could use some of this treasure to get silvered weapons whilst were there too."

"Do they sell pistols in Ildmarch?" asks Miolla.

"They sell everything in Ildmarch." says Aldira.

"Yes, we should go!"

The party spend a couple more days at Foehrenfort to rest and recuperate. Lycinia makes a Low Elvish translation of the passage from the scroll, and a second one in Common for the humans.

They also decide to divide their treasure. They spend one morning laying it all out on a table, counting coins into neat piles and trying to guess the value of the gems and jewels ("For once," quips Théscine, "I wish we had a dwarf around.") They decide to draw lots for the sake of fairness, and go round the table in order, each selecting an item or pile of coins on their turn. It is agreed that anyone who accumulates more than 1000sp worth of stuff is probably finished [an even division would be 1334sp each]. It won't be an exactly even split, but no one seems really worried. Father Rochouart only reluctantly agrees to a share of the treasure at all, considering it too worldly. Géraint takes his cues from the cleric, as he wants to be as great a vampire hunter someday. Worland wants to play it cool so as not to offend his boss. Aldira and Haddie grew up so poor that they are completely dazzled by the glittering hoard before them. And the elves don't understand wealth at all. In the end,

-Haddie chooses the Gold Ring in the shape of a lion's head with garnet eyes (1800sp).
-Géraint takes the Jacinth (1000sp) and Sardonyx (250sp) which he intends to use to buy supplies.
-Théscine fastens the Platinum pin depicting winged victory (1200sp) to her tunic. Everyone admires how pretty it looks on her.
-Fr. Rochouart is content with cash: 20gp, 250sp.
-Lycinia attaches the Porphyry pendant (400sp) onto her silver necklace, and takes an Onyx (75sp) and 600sp in coin.
-Aldira really, really likes the Aventurine bead anklet (20sp). It was her first choice and she had been so afraid Théscine or Haddie would take it before it got to be her turn. She also gets a Citrine (100sp), and 600sp in coin.
-Worland wants the Small bronze statuette of an ancient bard playing a lyre (400sp). He replaces his old copper earring with the Simple golden hoop earring (80sp), and pins the Golden fleur-de-lys clasp (600sp) to his travelling cloak.
-Miolla fancies the Copper necklace with large opal pendant (400sp) and finally takes the Platnim pin shaped like a swan (1400sp) which is a bit ugly, so everyone kept passing it by. It's going in her pack as trade goods.

The remainder of the treasure (350sp, 500cp, 3 small gems) is left with the fort commander for the widows and orphans of the dead soldiers.


[Some Mythic questions that relate to the above:

Q: What's N going to do with the vampire blood? Change /  Prison
The blood is the key to releasing an imprisoned demon.

Q: How is the scroll a clue? Guide /  Enemies
It is a work on demonology.

Q: This helps PCs how? Spy / Love
It turns adventure into an Anaïs Nin novel.

Gee, thanks, Mythic. I'll re-roll that: Disrupt /  Evil
It hints at how to reseal the prison.

Q: Can Lycinia lie to Fr. Rochouart about the rest of the scroll's contents to keep him from burning it? 50/50: 03, Exceptional Yes.]



Scene 29

Chaos: 8

Setup: roll of 8 = modified scene (was: travel to Ildmarch to buy silver weapons et al.)

Interrupt: Transform / Animals (via Neldir's evil spells)

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

Threads: find Neldir & the book
remove zuhal's curse



day 75.

After two days of healing and planning their route, on the third morning the party set off towards Ildmarch. They should make Chateau l'Oret by evening.

But they do not. After [1d8=2 hexes] four miles of travel through the forest, their horses suddenly become skittish, and refuse to go forward. They become more and more agitated, then begin to buck like things possessed. Everyone is thrown from the saddle. The horses begin to transmogrify, becoming terrifying horse demons with glowing eyes, terrible fangs, serpent's tongues, hideous spiky claws, and manes made of writhing worms.

[The PCs all take 1d6 damage from being thrown, save vs. paralyzation for half. Miolla, Lycinia, Haddie and Worland save. The rest fail, but some are lucky enough to land on the soft earth. Father Rochouart fares the worst, being propelled into a tree trunk. Haddie suffers a broken arm.

Damage:
Miolla takes 3 damage, leaving her with 10hp.
Lycinia: 1 damage, 15hp left
Aldira: 1 damage / to 12hp
Théscine: 1 damage / 8hp
Fr. Rochouart: 6 damage / 3hp
Géraint: 2 damage / 10hp
Haddie: 3 damage / 1hp
Worland: 1 damage / 8hp

The party are able to get up and draw weapons whilst the horse-demons complete their transformation, so the battle starts on even footing. The initiative roll is tied, so everyone acts in segments according to their DEX modifiers, from +3 to -2.

Round 1]
Miolla screams out the words of a spell, and throws a shower of green sparks at the demon that was once her horse, causing it to bellow in rage and pain [her Magic Missile does 7 damage, reducing it to 8hp].

Lycinia attempts to bring down slumber upon the evil herd, but they are too weird to be affected by such a charm [Sleep spell ineffective. She's never fought demons before so doesn't know better].

Théscine fires off a shower of sparks of her own, searing her former mount's hide [her Magic Missile also does 7 damage, reducing it to 8hp]. Haddie turns tail and runs like hell in to the forest. Miolla's mount attacks her with tooth and claw, but the elf's stout armour turns aside the wickedly pointed nails of the horse-thing.

Worland's horse knocks his shield aside with great force [claw does 1 damage] and sinks its fangs deep into the opposite shoulder [6 damage, leaving him with 2hp]. Father Rochouart pray that the Light God will give him the strength to persevere against these accursèd creatures of darkness [Cure Light Wounds on himself heals 6; he's back to full hp]. Its hide still smouldering from the magical sparks, Théscine's horse hisses with rage and attacks her viciously. She is able to fend off most of its strikes with her enchanted sword, but a clumsy parry sends its claws across her sword arm [2 damage drops her to 6hp]. As Aldira summons a mystical shield to protect her, Géraint fires pistol, missing despite the short range. Aldira's magic deflects most of the frenzied attacks from her former mount, though its claws still leave a deep cut across her cheek [1 damage puts her at 11hp]. Haddie's horse sees her running and gives chase. Worland is in a desperate position with the huge demon gnawing on his shoulder, but he manages to get the blade of his axe on its neck and cut its throat. It yelps and falls to the ground, bleeding out a thin oily fluid [8 damage brings it to 0hp].

The power of the Light God prevents Father Rochouart's demon-horse from getting close whilst he finishes the words of his prayer [all three attacks missed]. Géraint flings aside his pistol and draws the rapier from his belt, but alas! too slowly. He is unprepared for the flurry of teeth and claws that rip into him, and he falls, torn and bloodied, beneath its hooves [claw/claw/bite all hit; 11 damage put him at -1hp].

[round 2]
Lycinia abandons hope of hurting the things with her magic, and decides to try cold, hard steel. Her sword slashes the horse demon clawing at her across its muzzle, spraying her with oily fluid [3 damage puts it at 11hp].

If steel be that effective, the strange metal of Théscine's enchanted sword is better still. The blade sings in her hands as she plunges it into the torso of the furious beast facing her, felling it instantly. [8 damages drops it to 0hp]. Haddie is running, running, running, too scared to feel the pain in her broken arm.

Aldira backpedals under the fierce onslaught of tooth and claw, her hands weaving a spell in the air as she does. A glowing arrow is just visible for a moment as it traverses the short space between her and her foe, impacting with a white flash [Magic Missile for 11 damage; it has 2hp left]. Gore leaking from the steaming wound in its belly, the creature manages to smack Aldira in the side, though her mystical shield absorbs the worst of the blow [2 damage put her at 11hp]. Intent on devouring its former rider, Haddie's demon horse gives chase through the thick forest.

Father Rochouart draws his sword and confronts the beast before him. Its snapping jaws tear into his armour, just scraping his chest [1 damage brings him to 8hp].

Lycinia's opponent is slow, but strong. A heavy blow forces past her parry, and claws rend her hip [4 damage drops her to 11hp].


[round 3]
Miolla's attacker luges down at her. She sidesteps the horse demon and in a single fluid movement brings her mace down between its shoulders with a satisfying crack [9 damage brings it to -1hp]. It sprawls in the mud and doesn't get up.

Théscine and Worland both attack the demon horse standing over the unconscious Géraint to keep it from trampling him. She strikes at its legs, forcing it back [3 damage puts it at 11hp]. Haddie stays ahead of her pursuer, oblivious to the branches lacerating her clothes and skin.

Aldira doesn't dare risk trapping her friends in a Web spell, especially as the horse demons are so massive it might not hold them. She draws her sword, preparing to fight it out. The glint of the blade spooks her assailant a moment; it hesitates to draw near, fearing more of her painful sorcery [they both missed]. Haddie's horse cannot find her. It gives up, and rushes back to devour her friends. Worland strikes the retreating horse demon in the side [4 damage leaves it with 7hp]; Géraint is no longer in danger of being pulverised by its hooves.

Father Rochouart's adversary has left his leather armour in tatters. It bites again at his chest, tearing flesh from his ribs [4 damage drops him to 5hp].

An unexpected uppercut catches Lycinia off guard. The claws do not penetrate her mail, but snag in her hair, violently jerking her head to one side [3 damage; she has 8hp remaining].

[round 4]
Miolla leaps over the fallen demon horse to back up her friend, Lycinia.

Lycinia is hampered by her hair still being twisted around the demon's claw, but as it attempts to pull her close so it can bit she sticks her sword into its side [4 damage leaves it with 7hp].

Théscine keeps forcing her enemy to retreat, slashing its thigh [3 damage drop it to 4hp].

Father Rochouart parries his opponent's terrible claws, mangling one of them in the process [4 damage puts it at 14hp]. Aldira thrusts her rapier straight into the chest of her horse demon. It crashes down before her [3 damage put it at -1hp].


Worland strikes right after Théscine; the creature retreats further, another wound leaking foul fluid [2 damage brings it to 2hp].

Lycinia's demon wrenches its claw back to drag her closer, but comes away with a bloody handful of flaxen hair [4 damage drops her to 4hp].

[round 5]
Miolla swings her mace in a wide arc, shattering the shoulder of the horse demon attacking Lycinia [10 damage puts it at -3hp]. It falls, mortally wounded.

Théscine buries her sword between the eyes of her opponent [6 damage brings it to -4hp], killing it instantly.

Aldira spins and lays open the flank of the beast fighting Father Rochouart [7 damage reduces it to 7hp]. Haddie's horse had come up right behind her. Swiping at her at the same time as she moved, its would-be fatal ambush delivers but the merest scratch [1 damage reduces her to 10hp].

[round 6]
The two remaining horse demons fight furiously, but they are outnumbered by angry, seasoned adventurers. They soon lie dead on the forest floor. As a testament to the Glory of the Light God, it is Father Rochouart who delivers the final, fatal blow.

Father Rochouart leaves his sword sticking out of the gruesome beast as he rushes to attend to the fallen Géraint. The Light God is pleased with his servants' bravery, and His Wholesome Radiance is as medicine to the wounded man [cure light wounds brings him back to 7hp].



Scene 30

Chaos: 9

Setup: roll of 10! = unmodified scene -- travel to Ildmarch to buy silver weapons et al.

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

Threads: find Neldir & the book
remove zuhal's curse


[This scene played out in the party's favour, mostly through Mythic questions and a lack of people/creatures trying to kill them. Rather than writing out a Two Towers-esque description of travel, eating, and talking to random dudes in ways that only tangentially advance the plot, I'm going to summarise the entire next scene.

Q: Can they find Haddie in the woods? Likely: 13, Exceptional Yes.
Q: Can they travel without incident the rest of the day? 50/50: 76, Yes.

It takes them the rest of the day to trudge the 4 miles to Citadelle Tagnard, weighed down as they are with the saddlebags & miscellaneous gear they kept on the horses.

Q: Can the PCs still count on Lady Delphinia's hospitality? Likely: 94, Yes.

Q: Is there a cleric present? Very Unlikely: 34, Yes. (The Light God is not so cool with lycanthropes, so another deity is needed. I opened my copy of the Homeric Hymns (éd. Jean Humbert) to a random page to determine which: Aphrodite. So, the Goddess of Love (as the Light God's pantheon is gods in the abstract)).

The cleric: Enda C4, f, age 25, easy going, lazy; she is pleasant company for the night the characters spend at the Citadelle. Father Rochouart views her with a bit of suspicion, but as the undead are as inimical to Love as they are to Light, in the end they both respect one another.

Q: Can the PCs get horses from Lady Delphinia's stables? 50/50: 02, Exceptional yes. The PCs offer to buy them, but she won't even hear of taking their money.

Q: Have emissaries from one or both political factions been to see Lady Delphinia? 50/50: 01, Exceptional yes. One is still here (1-3 Baron, 4-6 Count, roll=2): The baron's envoy is still present. He tells them that the Count has sent an expeditionary force to Yseut's Bastion to force the commander to join his faction. The fort is now effectively besieged. The PCs are distressed to hear this news, especially as they had been so well treated there on their journey north.

Q: How's the Lady feeling about the whole business? Haggle / Competition. She's still undecided, and not sure what's in it for her. She'll hold out for a decent offer.


day 76.

Curative spells from Fr. Rochouart and Enda restore the rest of the party's hit points in the morning. They set out with their cleric having used up all his spells for the day. They travel through the forest and give Yseut's Bastion a wide berth, not wanting to attract the attention of the Count's army.

A terrible rain storm hits, and the temperature is only a little above freezing. They have to ride hard [forced march] to make Chateau l'Oret.

The Baron has even more bad news for them (the Event from scene 27: NPC Action - Siorighan - Oppose Friendship): Siorighan has pledged to assist Count Rotres d'Estancbel in the upcoming war. As a show of good faith, she's sent a handful of troops to bolster his army, which would be merely a token gesture had she not included in their number three trolls.

---

XP

Technically, XP for the dungeon and associated treasure should have been awarded before they left Foehrenfort, but I moved it to the end of this post so I could include the combat with the horse demons. No one gained any levels in any case, so the distinction is purely academic. This brings my accounting up-to-date before the party hits Ildmarch, where they are going to split up into smaller groups and have separate short city adventures for the week or so they need to spend there. But more of that anon.

1 antenna-pig-monster =250
1 shaggy loper =75
7 zombies =175
2 ogre-ghouls =500
8 horse demons =400
---
total combat=1400
total treasure=6250

grand total 7650/8= 956XP each

Monday, 12 May 2014

notes on notes

Sophia over at Lone Wolf Roleplaying asked "How do you actually write down your solo rpg session?" I'd been wondering how other people go about it as well.

It seems (though there's only 6 responses as I write this) that journalling is a pretty popular format. I've only ever kept one RPG character's diary, years ago, and it was more of a writing exercise than a record of play. I didn't take any notes at all during the game, and wrote it all strictly from memory afterwards.

For the (so far) two solo campaigns I'm chronicling on this blog, I've been taking sketchy notes in Notepad as an aide memoire for writing the posts up into coherent narratives (I was using paper when I started, but that just made extra work as I had to type up the notes...). It's as much about the gaming as it is the story, so I try to maintain a balance between game mechanic-y things and pure fiction writing. Oddly, it's the game mechanics that need notes the most; the imagery and scraps of dialogue I make up stay in my head much more readily.

Combat is the hardest part to make interesting. I have long since stopped recording all the die rolls, though I occasionally note the ones that seem interesting in one way or another (e.g. the attack that would have hit but for the character's shield).  I notice the combat system of the game pretty much sets the narrative style, though there are ways around it. My current LotFP game is an ensemble piece, so the combats (mostly) adhere to the sequence of actions in a round. There's a lot less combat in my Traveller game (on hiatus, but I will get back to it some day) and only one PC, so I can narrate combat as she experiences it personally.

Just for fun, here are the completely unedited notes I took for Part XXV and Part XXVI of my Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign, which includes some NPC notes that aren't in the actual post:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

LotFP Solo - Part the Twenty-Seventh: "Strange panic first, a deep and sickening dread"


Scene 28

Chaos: 7

Setup: roll 3 = modified (was: back into the dungeon to kill vampires)

Altered: are the vampires gone? 50/50: 44, Yes + event: NPC Action - Count - Harm Peace - Q: Where? Yseut's Bastion (more on this later)

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

Threads: find Neldir & the book
remove zuhal's curse
destroy vampires


day 72.
On the third day the rains have finally stopped. Rested, and indeed a bit restless, the party finally head back into dungeon.

[It's fun to randomly generate and map the dungeon, and have tiny little encounters that the PCs win handily, but it makes for poor reading. So have a quick montage sequence to bring the adventure up to the interesting part. If you have 80s synthesizer music handy, please play it now.

It takes the PCs several minutes to trudge through the waterlogged corridors from the entrance back to room A6. Along the way they have a random encounter with a nameless, antenna-headed pig thing in room A4, but it fails to injure any of the party members. Lycinia and Miolla dispatch it before the rest of the PCs are even in the room.

Exploring from A6, they find a room where the ground has subsided, and pass over a trap door in the middle of a corridor without noticing it at all.

A single shaggy loper attacks them in room A8, jumping out at Lycinia and attempting to roast her with its flame breath. She makes her saving throw vs. breath weapon, and her strange iron torch sucks in flames leaving her unsinged. She does lose a point of Wisdom to the torch, however (in addition to the point she's already lost for using it today).

The loper is slain without inflicting any damage on the party. It was guarding approximately 4000 copper pieces kept in iron trunks, but the PCs notice the trunks are covered in webs crawling with poisonous spiders, and decide to leave them alone.

Down to room A9, they fail to spot a secret door hiding an unguarded treasure, and find stairs leading down that are filled with more rubble from the ground's subsidence.

They go back to the long corridor and try the first side passage off to the south. A wandering monster is indicated. Checking to see what lies beyond (to determine where the monster(s) came from) results in another trap door and a chamber beyond that.

The montage ends here. Turn the Alan Parson's Project off now, before someone hears it.]

As they proceed south down the cramped corridor, they hear the sound of sloshing steps, as if an equal sized-party is approaching them. They pause to see who is coming. Lycinia hold her torch high, eyes straining against the darkness ahead.

[Q: Did the wandering monster come up from the trap door? Unlikely: 51, Yes.

So, (2d4=) 7 zombies, recently dead, were made buoyant from the build up of gas during decomposition, and have floated up through trap door. Stats are standard for B/X & LL.]

At length Lycinia's torch reveals a gruesome sight. A band of horrible animated corpses, bloated and mis-shapen, are lurching towards them out of the blackness. Their dripping uniforms mark them as some of the missing soldiers. Lycinia orders her comrades to retreat back into the odd-shaped room [A4] so they have some room to fight.

[rounds 1-3]
Lycinia makes a fighting withdrawal [fighting defensively for +2 AC, -4 to hit]. The lead zombie, head lolling at a grotesque angle, comes right for her, arms outstretched, grasping hands looking for her throat. She knocks it away with her sword; it seems insensible to the blade slicing through its flesh, severing its hands, tearing off its jaw. It comes ever closer to bash at the elf with mangled stumps, and at last falls beneath repeated blows to the skull.

[round 4]
The party have retreated into the room and formed a line of battle. Haddie is cowering behind the corner amongst some ruined furniture, one hand thrust beyond it so her lantern still provides light for the battle. Miolla smashes one of the zombies in the sternum [9 damage], caving in its chest and causing it to emit a sudden, awful moan as the gas built up within it is forced out. A shining arrow sails over Miolla's shoulder and pierces the zombie's shoulder before disappearing in a flash of light. [Aldira's magic missile does 5 damage, leaving it with 2hp]. Undaunted, the creature continues to grasp and flail at Miolla with its dead, colourless hands. Father Rochouart cuts into another with his heavy sword [5 damage puts it at 6hp], spilling guts and putridity out in to the water. The stench overcomes him for a moment, and as he is distracted the horrible thing swats him across the face in a clumsy assault [only 1 point of damage; the cleric has 8hp left]. One of the dead soldiers still has a mace attached to its wrist hanging from a leather thong. It flails at Théscine, and though she fends off its clutching hands the mace swings round to hit her squarely in the forehead [8 damage drops her to 1hp]. She staggers back, blood pouring into her eyes.

[round 5]
With a sharp crack heard above the din of fighting in the sloshing water, Miolla's mace crashes down on her opponent's shoulder and the force crushes the collarbone and snaps the spine, finally destroying it. Another has grabbed hold of Géraint's cloak and is pulling the hapless vampire hunter ever closer. As its teeth are about to sink into Géraint's throat, Worland's axe sends its head sailing across the room. The headless corpse collapses into the murky water, oozing putrescence. Lycinia has meanwhile been backing up to avoid the relentless advance of another. It smashes into her with its full weight, knocking her back into the wall and pinning her there for a moment. She can feel her ribs start to give [7 damage drops her to 9hp].

[round 6]
Miolla and Géraint step in at the same time to fend the zombie away from Théscine. Miolla inflicts a punishing blow with her mace, and Géraint finishes it off. Aldira fells another one with her sword. Lycinia slips away from the one that body checked her, and deals it a heavy stroke across its side as she does [6 damage leaves it
with 2hp]. Father Rochouart slips in the gore cascading from the one he is fighting, and before he can recover his balance it knocks him back with a stunning blow [7 damage puts him at 1hp].

[rounds 7 & 8]
As the two remaining zombies are bearing down on her friends further inside the room, Miolla turns about and comes up behind them. Twice she swings her heavy mace, and twice an opponent falls.

Father Rochouart and Théscine are sorely injured, and both barely hanging on to consciousness. He takes the elf's hand and intones an orison. The healing light spreads over them, illuminating the room and erasing their wounds [cure light wounds restores the cleric to full, Théscine to 7hp].

After catching their breath and coaxing Haddie out of her hiding spot, the party proceed once again down the southern corridor from whence the zombies came, moving as silently as possible so as to hear any more of the undead approaching. Unfortunately their caution is of the wrong sort; as they are creeping forward, Lycinia suddenly disappears with a splash. She has not seen the open trap door hidden beneath the water, and has fallen in. Forgetting their earlier caution, Lycinia's friends stand round the hole shouting, calling for Haddie to bring the lantern forward.

The darkness is thick about her, the water seems colder than ice. Lycinia sinks straight to the bottom. She is momentarily confused, unsure of what has befallen her, but as the water fills her lungs and she begins to drown, she is shocked back to her senses. She casts aside her sword and the iron torch, struggles against the straps of her pack, writhes and twists to free herself from the clutches of her mail coat. There's a dim light above her, a feeble moon illuminating the square escape from this watery grave. She swims for it desperately, weighed down still by gambeson and heavy boots.

As she reaches the top there are hands outthrust to receive her. She is pulled, coughing and choking, out of the water. She lacks the strength to stand, so Miolla holds her up whilst Géraint wraps her in his long cloak. Aldira lights a pair of spare torches off Haddie's lantern, and she and Worland hold them close to her for warmth. Lycinia leans feebly against Miolla, shivers shaking her entire frame. But the heat from the torches is comforting, and her blue lips finally regain their colour. "All my stuff..." she says, weakly.

"Leave it to me," smiles Théscine. Then her hands trace a pattern in the air, and she pronounces syllables of a charm. "Go fetch me Lycinia's equipment from down there," says Théscine, seemingly to the empty air. But moments later, one by one, all of Lycinia's things begin to float up out of the water and into Théscine's hands.

[Game notes: Lycinia got to make a Search roll to notice the open trapdoor under the water. She failed, and fell into the area below which turned out to be an oubliette -- I rolled a 20x30 chamber with no exits. I immediately asked Mythic

Q: Are there any zombies left in the oubliette? Unlikely: 66, No. +Event: NPC action - Brother Mundlo - Divide / Power. Interpretation: Complaints to his superiors have weakened de Val d'Oines's position as head of the orthodox faction.

I had a distant memory of drowning rules somewhere in LotFP, B/X or LL, but couldn't find them. So I gave her a save vs. paralysis to ditch her armour, heavy equipment, etc. without drowning.

Théscine cast Unseen Servant to retrieve all her things.]

Lycinia slowly re-equips as Théscine returns her possessions. She is still chilled, but eager to press on. Father Rochouart commends her fortitude and dedication to their cause. Pulling shut the trap door, the party continue south down the corridor.


They come to an anchor-shaped chamber [A10]. Piles of old crates and other rubbish are shoved into the corners. As the party are peering beyond the piles of rubbish in the two northern projections, a soft click is heard, followed by the sound of a great iron portcullis smashing down, barring the way back.

Immediately after, a pair of terrible ogres, one on each side, smash through the flimsy wooden débris to attack. So large are they that they could scarcely have fit through the corridors to wind up here. But these ogres are not just the typical huge, dim-witted brutes that plague the hills outside of Ullgrim, but something far, far worse. Their greying flesh is stretched tightly over their bones, their eyes burn with supernatural malice, and their nails have lengthened into long talons. The stench of the grave clings tightly about these undead horrors.

[round 1. the ogre-ghouls win the initiative]
The party are caught between the two humongous, ravening undead. One lunges at Géraint, but he dodges to one side at the last instant. The other swats at Théscine, raking its disgusting claws across her chest [4 damage leaves her with 3hp]. Théscine steps backward, to interpose Miolla and Lycinia between the beast and herself. They hear her recite a magical formula behind them as they lay into the beast. It effortlessly knocks Miolla's mace aside with a sweep of its awful hand, but Lycinia guts the thing with her sword. Still, she's not sure she has done any more than to anger it [9 damage only brings it to 18hp]. A shower of green sparks flits around her as she retracts her sword, burning the creature's sallow flesh [Théscine's Magic Missile does 5 damage, bringing it to 13hp]. Worland stands by Géraint, hoping to draw the first ogre away from his master as Aldira intones a spell to defend herself [Shield]. Father Rochouart calls upon the Light God [casts Turn Undead] to banish these foul fiends -- Alas! the darkness here is too great.

[round 2]
Despite Worland's attempts to fend off the creature, the ogre is intent on catching Géraint. Its claws leave a nasty mark across his throat [8 damage drops him to 4hp] and he stops in his tracks. His arms drop to his sides, his rapier hangs limply from his powerless fingers, his face becomes a mask of ineffable fear [he fails his save vs. the ghoul's paralyzation touch]. Father Rochouart attacks the ogre before it can devour Géraint. He starts to recite a prayer for the intercession of St. Clere as he attacks the creature, a stroke of his broadsword punctuating each verselet of the orison. Is it holy St. Clere or sheer madness that guides his blade? No matter, for the creature retreats from his would-be meal under the force of the assault [4 damage reduces it to 18hp, too]. Meanwhile, emboldened by her defencive spell, Aldira rushes forward. Her rapier flashes between her two elven friends, and the first ogre loses a hand [5 damage brings it to 8hp].


[round 3]
Father Rochouart's chanting has become almost more unnerving than the sight of the gigantic ghouls the party is facing. He and the ogre seem locked in a mortal struggle, though neither of them lands a hit. Worland chops into it with his axe, though it scarcely regards him, even though half its ribs splinter at the impact [9 damage puts it at 9hp]. Across the room, Miolla and Lycinia attack as Aldira defends. Sword and mace both find their mark, and the heinous ghoul crashes into the wall, never to rise again.

[round 4]
Father Rochouart's screams reach a crescendo as he desperately tries to fend off the ogre looming over him with his sword [Parries, but is hit even with the AC bonus] and then are suddenly cut short as he stops and stares in blank horror [he takes 5 damage from the claws and fails his saving throw; he is paralyzed with 2hp remaining]. Worland and Lycinia advance on the slavering fiend. Lycinia's sword pushes it away from the cleric as Worland's axe neatly removes its head.

As Géraint and Fr. Rochouart recover their wits, the rest of the party search the room hoping to find the mechanism for the portcullis. There is none, but each of the ogre's dens contains a sack full of treasure, probably left over from when they were still alive.

[Treasure Type B / HC XXI]
CP: 500
SP: 800
Gems (4): Moss Agate-50sp, Sardonyx-250sp, Jacinth-1000sp, Citrine-100sp. Total Value: 1400sp.
Jewelry: (4): Gold Ring in the shape of a lion's head with garnet eyes-1800 sp, Small bronze statuette of an ancient bard playing a lyre-400 sp, Prophyry pendant-400 sp, Platnim pin shaped like a swan-1400sp. Total Value: 4000sp.

Laden with spoils, the party have now no choice but to continue. Not even Miolla is strong enough to lift the portcullis. [Normally, the party would retreat to surface at this point since they're encumbered and low on hit points and spells. But the dungeon is only one level, and there's only enough paper left for the final room, and I (as the DM) already know it's not a combat encounter. Thus, the portcullises fell (as an afterthought) for the sake of Narrative.]

They proceed down the cramped passage and come out into a large room. The floor has been built up so it is above the water level. Short wooden steps lead up out of the water, and a large carpet has been spread out on which to dry ones feet. There are many wooden screens and partitions about, evidently used to subdivide the large chamber and create a sense of privacy for its inhabitants. Along with the more mundane furnishings, there is a large laboratory setup against the far wall. Four ornate coffins mark this as the vampires' lair.

But it is the state of the place which arrests their attention. A terrible battle has evidently taken place here quite recently. Furniture is smashed, coffins are overturned, the lab is a pile of broken glass and bent copper. There are scorch marks here and there about the room, and strange stains and pitting from some sort of acid. A human woman's corpse lies pinned beneath one of the upset coffins. Her head sits several feet away. Of the other three vampires, only dust and bone remain, scattered throughout the room as if they'd been torn limb from limb. Some of the bones have been partly melted or dissolved.

"NOOOOOOO!" screams Fr. Rochouart. "This can't be possible. It should have been us to destroy the vampires! It should have been US!"

"Um, does it matter?" asks Miolla, "At least if Neldir killed them they can't hurt other people any more. And they're not on his side."

Father Rochouart quickly regains his composure. "But if he's killed them," he says through gritted teeth, "that means that he's gotten what he came here to find: the vampires' blood."

"But what's he want it for?" asks Worland.

"I know not," replies the cleric, "but I fear it is for a purpose so dark that even the vampires sought to prevent it."

"Yeah, about that," says Lycinia hesitantly, "I'm afraid I might know the answer..."