Wednesday, 25 June 2014

ΤΑ ΤΟΥ ΚΑΤΑΒΑΣΕΩΣ ΣΧΗΜΑΤΑ


"The armies of Ptolemy will be at our mercy..."

A Seleucid expeditionary force has been broken in battle against the Ptolemies. The survivors fled the slaughter. Eratosthenes, a low-ranking mercenary officer, managed to collect a small group of soldiers from his shattered company and lead them to safety through the heavy fighting. Some of them are now gathered in a tavern in the Syrian town of Emesa, plotting their next move.

Δικαίαρχος Δικαιοπόλιδος

Name: Dicaearchos, son of Dicaeopolis
CHR: 10  EDU: 11
STR: 10  CON:  8
DEX: 13  FATE: 15
Type: Planos
Silver: 0
Talents: δολιόφρων ('wily, crafty')
Adds: +4
Armour: medium armour (takes 4 hits, enc 2), Aspis shield (hits:6, enc2)
Speed/Encumbrance: 18-8=10
Spells: τύπτω (knock knock)
Equipment: shortsword (xiphos: 3+2, enc 1), delver's pack (enc 3: leather sack, 3 doses of pseudosilphion, 3 torches, tinderbox, 1 Ration, wineskin, 10m rope, clothing), 12 drachmas

Background: Dicaearchos grew up a farmer's son near Delphoi. The Delphic Oracle herself prophesied that he should leave his home and make for Alexandria, there to join the sect of Pythagoreans as a prophet. The Pythagorean sages have sent him on a special mission to Emesa, where his skills are needed by a small group of soldiers to recover a great treasure and defeat a great evil. Well, that's what he tells everyone. But one thing is certain: he does have an old papyrus in his possession, covered in arcane charakteres, and strange Syriac scrawlings besides.

Ἀστυάναξ

Name: Astyanax
CHR:  6  EDU: 10
STR: 13  CON: 12
DEX: 11  FATE: 11
Type: Polemistes
Silver: 0
Talents: πόδας ὠκύς ('swift-footed')
Adds: +1
Armour: light armour (takes 2 hits, enc 1), helm (takes 1 hit, enc 0/1)
Speed/Encumbrance: 21-5=16
Equipment: machaira (4+1, enc 1), delver's pack (net bag with 3x pseudosilphion, 3 torches, firemaker, 1 ration, wineskin. enc 2), 2 drachmas

Background: Born in a low brothel somewhere near the Alexandrian docks, to a porne of (probably) Libyan descent, Astyanax managed to one day convince the sailors he grew up around to take him away on the sea. After several years of sailing the Mediterranean on mercantile ventures, his ship was boarded by Phonecian pirates. He prayed to Ares for the strength to fight them off, and vowed that he would dedicate his life to the god should he survive. Dichaearchos has confided in him the secret of the strange scroll he carries, as Astyanax can actually read Syriac.

Νοσσίς Ταναγρική

Name: Nossis of Tanagra
CHR: 14  EDU: 27
STR: 26  CON:  8
DEX: 13  FATE: 10
Type: Pharmakis
Silver: 0
Talents: εὐφόρμιγξ ('playing beautifully on the lyre')
Adds: +15
Armour: none
Speed/Encumbrance: 18-1=17
Spells: ἄσκιον κατάσκιον (hocus pocus), τύπτω (knock knock), δέξαι μαστιγία ! (take that, you fiend!), εὕρηκα (oh, there it is / revelation), κάθαρσις [purification: new spell], κληδόνιος (detect magic), κλεῖθρον (lock tight), μέντωρ (teacher), ὀξύς (vorpal blade), φόβος (oh, go away / panic), φλόξ (will-o-wisp)
Equipment: Kore Amulet (60SD, 53+, Min. Fate 10, Bonus 4), iynx, dagger (2+1, enc 1), 7 drachmas

Background: Her family are rich citizens of Tanagra, in Boeotia. They have a large estate and are very important in the Polis. Nossis' brothers were jealous of their sister's talents and independence. They revealed some of her more scandalous escapades to her her father, and she was forced to flee the city in disgrace. She initially tried to set herself up as a hetaira in Thebes, but her rustic dialect found little favour amongst the upper class clients she sought. Disheartened, she struck up a love affair with a mercenary soldier and joined the army's camp followers as they headed east. Her paramour was killed in the retreat, but an acquaintance of his, a young soldier, noticed her in the company of another group that had reached Emesa. He came to her, asking her opinion abut some strange markings on a papyrus. He'd heard she was a witch.

« Τυφῶν »

Name: 'Typhon'
CHR: 10  EDU: 6
STR: 28  CON: 14
DEX:  6  FATE: 11
Type: Polemistes
Silver: 0
Talents: φοβεροωπός ('terribie of aspect')
Adds: +13
Armour: hoplite shield (aspis: takes 6 hits, enc. 2)
Speed/Encumbrance: 16-5=11
Equipment: longspear (doru: 4+0, enc 2), boxing gloves (himantes oxeis, 1+0), knucklebones (astragaloi), wineskin (enc 1), Herakles Amulet (30SD, 55+, Min. Fate 8, Bonus 4), 1 drachma, 1 obol

Background: Euthydemos hails from Baiae in southern Italy. He was sold into slavery as a child, working in the fields of a large estate. By the time he was 12 he was taller than most adults, and by the his 17th birthday he had become an absolute giant. When the master fell on hard times, he sold his slave to a friend in the polis, who trained the young man as an athlete. He picked up a reputation for brutality in the pankrateon, which earned him the nickname Typhon. His new master left Baiae under deleterious circumstances, and assassins struck on the way to Alexandria. Now (essentially) free, Typhon was persuaded by a certain Dicaeopolis to become a fellow mercenary and get a taste of some real glory -- but first they had to get out of Alexandria alive.

Νικίας Καλλίου

Name: Nikias, son of Kallias
CHR: 10  EDU: 10
STR: 17  CON: 14
DEX: 23  FATE: 9
Type: Polemistes
Silver: 0
Talents: ἀδείμαντος ('dauntless')
Adds: +14
Armour: pelta shield with arm strap (takes 4 hits, 3 if objects held in shield hand, enc 1), light armour (takes 2 hits, enc 1)
Speed/Encumbrance: 24-7=17
Equipment: 3 javelins (akontion:2+0), longspear (doru: 4+0, enc 2), delver's pack (enc 3: leather sack, 3 doses of pseudosilphion, 3 torches, tinderbox, 1 Ration, wineskin, 10m rope, clothing), amulet (40SD, 54+, Min. Fate 9, Bonus 4), 16 drachmas

Background: Nikias' family are poor citizens of Pergamon. Nikos was brought up to be a vase painter, and seemed to be turning into a good one, as his detailed 'warriors taking a farewell drink' scenes proved popular locally. His father soon realised why his son painted that same type over and over, and spent the family savings on some arms so his son might some day win glory in battle. He went east to Antioch, and there joined a mercenary company as a peltast. In the army he befriended a giant of a man called Typhon, and even saved his life in their last, desperate battle.

Ἐρατοσθένης Εὐφιλήτου

Name: Eratosthenes, son of Euphiletos
CHR: 15  EDU: 10
STR: 16  CON: 12
DEX: 11  FATE: 13
Type: Polemistes
Silver: 0
Talents: πολύμητις ('of many counsels')
Adds: +5
Armour: Helmet (hits:1, enc0/1) & Aspis shield (hits:6,enc2). Total hits taken (6+1)x2]: 14
Speed/Encumbrance: 21-8(enc)=13
Fatigue: 0
Equipment: long spear (doru: 4+0, enc 2), shortsword (xiphos: 3+2, enc 1), delver's pack (enc 3: leather sack, 3 doses of pseudosilphion, 3 torches, tinderbox, 1 Ration, wineskin, 10m rope, clothing), amulet (3SD), 7 drachmas

Background: Eratosthenes was born in the poor polis of Lebedos in Ionia, but his family moved to Athens as economic migrants when he was very young. As he didn't fancy a following in his father's footsteps as a sausage-seller, the strong and well-liked youth ran off to become a mercenary soldier in the east. There, in Emesa, he fell in with an unsavoury lot...

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

ΚΑΤΑΒΑΣΙΣ

Lately I've been reading through Katabasis, Craulabesh's ancient fantastico-historical version of Tunnels and Trolls set in the Hellenised east ~50 years after the death of Alexander the Great. Time permitting, I'm going to test out the dungeon creation rules and run a party of hapless brave adventurers through some ruins in search of messy, painful death treasure and glory. But first I need some adventurers (or, Graverobbers, as he puts it).

I know there's been some interest in the rules, but that not everyone has enough German to get through them. For the curious, then, I present an account of creating my first character.




For my first Katabasis character, I have decided to make a Greek mercenary fighting for the Seleucids. The basic character concept is the picture above; let's see if I can manage it. The process then, taking the steps in order:

Name is first on the character sheet, but I always save it for last.

Stats are 3d6 (TARO), arrange as desired. The 6 classic Tunnels & Trolls 5th edition attributes are used, except that Intelligence is replaced by Education (Bildung), and Luck is replaced with Fate (Schicksal). I wasn't lucky enough to roll triples... So, to begin his adventuring career, we get:

type: Polemistes (warrior)
CHA: 15  EDU: 10
STR: 16  CON: 12
DEX: 11  FATE: 13

Decent charisma means he's maybe an officer. According to 5th ed. T&T, with a 15 CHA he's "[a] good choice as a leader of small groups." So he'll be a δεκάδαρχος (dekadarkhos), a leader of 10 men. Military vocabulary is not my strong point, nor is the Hellenistic period generally, but the LSJ has this word being used from Xenophon to the Septuagint and all the way to Arrian, so I don't think it's anachronistic for Katabasis' time period, 270BC.

Adds are computed as in 5th edition (+1 per point of STR, DEX, and FATE over 12, -1 per point under 9), so he has +5 combat adds.

Talent: This section of the rules is a bit sparse. I'll pick one for now, πολύμητις (polumetis, "of many counsels": an epithet of Odysseus).

Silver: 1SP=1XP, so that's what will go here. 0 to start.

Next step is equipment. Costs are in Silver Drachmas. Encumbrance values are in Choinices (χοίνικες); this will be explained in the Encumbrance step. Coins are smaller than in Trollworld; 500 silver drachmae weigh one choinix.

Rolling 3D6x10 for Silver Drachmas yields 110SD.  An adventurer needs arms, so he's first going to buy a δόρυ (dory: long spear 4+0, enc 2, 2SD) and a ξίφος (xiphos: shortsword 3+2, enc 1, 15SD). He'll want a nice round ἀσπίς (aspis: hoplite shield, armour value 6, enc 2, 25SD) and a κράνος (kranos: helmet, armour value 1, enc 0 worn / 1 carried, 30SD). So for 72 drachmas I've managed to get him into a state of heroic nudity.


Athena protects warriors who rolled poorly for starting money

He'll spend 28 drachmas on a Hellenised delver's pack (enc 3): a leather sack containing 3 doses of ψευδοσίλφιον (pseudosilphion: a healing herb), 3 torches, tinderbox, 1 Ration, a wineskin, 10m rope, and a change of clothing. He'll also buy a cheap faience amulet (3SD) of some Egyptian god or other as a good luck token, leaving him 7 drachmas in his purse.

Speed is determined by taking the lowest of STR, DEX, CON, adding 10, then subtracting total encumbrance. So his current speed is 11+10-8=13. Fatigue starts at 0 for everyone, but goes up with spellcasting damage, etc. The rules for Fatigue and Encumbrance remind me a bit of Runequest. This is a good thing.

So there's a whole character, basically ready to go. BBUT there's a bunch of background tables in the Namen & Herkunft (Names and origins) section at the back, so I'm going to play with those to flesh this dude out.

POLIS, BERUF & FAMILIÄRER HINTERGRUND (Polis, Occupation, and Family background)

I rolled 65 on a d66 for Polis! This makes him an "inhabitant of one of the 100,000+ population Metropoleis in the heart of Greece (1-2 Syracuse, 3-6 Athens. 4). He's Athenian.

Because he lives in a city, he gets to roll d66+EDU for occupation. 61+10=Soldier. He also needs to determine if he is a citizen by rolling 2 dice. If both come up as 4+, he is a citizen: 2,3. So he's a μέτοικος (metic, a resident alien).  Rolling again on the polis table get 53: his family is originally from a mid-sized Greek polis (one not on the map). The internet has many more detailed maps so I'll pick something small at random: Λέβεδος (Lebedos) in Ionia. Quick background: his family moved to Athens as economic migrants when he was very young (Lebedos was always poor). As he didn't fancy a following in his father's footsteps as a sausage merchant (ἀλλαντοπώλης), the strong and well-liked youth ran off to become a mercenary soldier in the east.

Finally it's time to name him: Eratosthenes, son of Euphiletos (Ἐρατοσθένης Εὐφιλήτου). Now he's ready for adventure.

There are some setting-specific rule changes, but it is essentially T&T, and once you know the differences characters take just a few minutes to make. Of course, I put in extra work to make him more than just generic Greek warrior #87 (like Makhomenos, the character I made to run through Labyrinth -- his name is a joke, being the present participle of 'to fight': 'Fighting Man', more-or-less). This is exactly why I only run/play historical games when I have time to devote to research. Though I can't help feeling I've gone overboard for a character who's probably going to get his face eaten off by shadow monsters on his first adventure.

His completed character sheet:


no one can ever read my character sheets...

Name: Eratosthenes, son of Euphiletos

CHR: 15  EDU: 10
STR: 16  CON: 12
DEX: 11  FATE: 13

Type: Polemistes
Silver: 0
Talents: "of many counsels"
Adds: +5
Armour: Helmet (hits:1, enc0/1) & Aspis shield (hits:6,enc2). Total hits taken (6+1)x2]: 14
Speed/Encumbrance: 11(dex)+10-8(enc)=13
Fatigue: 0
Equipment: long spear (doru: 4+0, enc 2), shortsword (xiphos: 3+2, enc 1, delver's pack (enc 3: leather sack, 10m rope, change of clothing, 3 doses of pseudosilphion, 3 torches, tinderbox, 1 Ration, wineskin), amulet (3SD), 7 drachmas

Next Post: The other 5 characters in the party, but not in such exhaustive detail. But I need to find a book first...

Thursday, 12 June 2014

LotFP Solo - Part the Thirty-Third: „Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?“


Outside, flurries of snow swirl through the dark city streets. Hardly a soul dares venture out on such an eve. The inn's common room, by contrast, is full of life and warmth. The innkeeper and servants are busy with cooking and serving and collecting coin, and so happy. The fire roars in the hearth. A boisterous band of traders fill the room with chatter and even music, as some of their guards improvise upon the tambour and pipes.

But in the corner, there is a group of more serious -- some might say sinister -- cast. Though their table be piled as high as any with tankards and flagons, they do not make merry. Between the wine and dinner plates are scattered scrolls and scraps of parchment, covered in strange writing and stranger symbols, which they take pains to conceal whenever anyone comes too close. They speak to each other forcefully, and just loud enough to make themselves heard.

Their leader is a heavy-eyed priest, wearing clothes finer than the rest, but not ostentatiously. He towers above the table, shouting his will just a little louder than the rest. He punctuates his words by pounding his fist against the table, making the tankards to jump. A grizzled mercenary distractedly cleans his nails with a silver dagger, whilst the black-cloaked man next to him broods in silence. A young woman alternately exchanges words with the priest, and scribbles in a book on her knee. And there are three elves in the group as well, far away from their forest home. One is small and exceptionally striking, with marble skin and onyx hair; she is poring over a map of the kingdom, and struggling to make herself heard. The tall elf is wearing a sword at her belt, and her face is flushed with anger as she argues with the priest. The third elf is sittng quietly bored; she plays with an unloaded pistol like a toy.

"So it's settled, then," says the priest as the elf is rolling up her map, "tomorrow we set out for the Church of--"

As if on cue, the door of the inn bursts open as a haggard man in a travelling cloak rushes in. He wastes no time in approaching the group, and breathlessly exclaims, "I bear an urgent message for you from Baron Forzdeleu!"


Scene 36

Chaos: 7

Setup: roll of 4 = modified scene (was: trip to Church to attempt to get religious item.)

Interrupt: Move toward a thread - Neldir - Arrive / Fears (see below)

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, Orezuthía the Wise, Cemmeret

Threads: find Neldir & the book
acquire religious item to fight demon


The messenger brings news that one of the Baron's road patrols encountered Neldir leading an expedition northwest from the fork in the road towards the forest crossing. The patrol was outnumbered and slaughtered. One of the soldiers who had been left for dead managed to bring the news back to the baron.

The PCs discuss this a while, and agree that Neldir must be heading towards Vhisigus' prison. After some heated debate (largely between Lycinia and Father Rochouart), it is agreed that it is important to disrupt Neldir's plans at the prison, and that they cannot risk a potentially fruitless delay by going to the church looking for a handout.

They intend to set out on his trail at first light. The prison isn't far, and they've effectively over-supplied for the journey, but they don't intend to count on outside assistance, but may be able to connive some spiritual aid at St. Clere's Abbey.

[Time for more hexcrawling. There will only be a 1-in-6 chance per day of a random wilderness encounter due to the cold winter weather.

But, for each castle the PCs pass by (within 4 hexes / 8 miles), there will be a chance of an encounter with a patrol. The check will be made on a 1d6, using the nearest hex travelled through (or intended to be travelled through) to determine the chance of an encounter:

same hex 1-5
1 hex    1-4
2 hexes  1-3
3 hexes  1-2
4 hexes  1

Stormy conditions add +2 to the roll. The die roll will indicate how many hexes from the castle the patrol is encountered, based on the maximum distance it could count as; a 1 indicates 4 hexes distant, a 2 indicates 3 hexes, etc.

As the PCs are by this point known to be agents of the Baron, NPC reactions to them will be modified according to the chart at the bottom of part 24.

As a DM, I am also plotting the route of Neldir's party and checking to see if they have any patrol encounters. Any hostile patrol encounters will provide some sort of negative modifier to determining their numbers/strength when the PCs finally run into them. All I know for now is that they have war horses, and that Neldir would have tried to get at least one of Siorighan's trolls for the mission; I'll ask Mythic about that when it's time.

The numbers on the map correspond to the end of each day's travel. Neldir's party is in pink, the PCs in blue.]



day 88.

The party set off from Ildmarch at dawn, hoping to travel as far as they can whilst it's still daylight. The horses are moving a bit slowly under their burden, but the teamster is certain they will get up to speed once some of the food is gone [in fact, 4 days of food consumed will drop all the horses to Unencumbered].

The temperature never gets above freezing, and there is a dusting of snow, but their travel is unimpeded. They meet some merchants on the road, but do not stop to chat. The merchants seem intent on making good time to Ildmarch in any event.

At the fork in the road, they take leave of the baron's messenger, and head NW overland towards the woods. [The daily check for becoming lost (on 1d6) comes up a 1; they almost do get lost, but a successful Bushcraft roll (of 1 on 1d6; none of them have anything but the default skill) lets them find their way. I'm making this roll and the encounter check every day of travel, but won't record the results from here on in unless something happens.] Despite not finding the trail through the woods, the party should still be able to make Castle Glarn by nightfall.

[An encounter with a patrol from Castle Glarn is indicated. The die roll of 2 indicates they will meet them 3 hexes out, which would be the hex where Neldir's party made camp.

Q: Do the PCs come across Neldir's campsite? Very unlikely: 41, Yes.
Q: Does the patrol encounter happen there? 50/50: 11, Yes +Event: NPC action - Lady Delphinia - Refuse / Suffering. Lady Delphinia sends some of her troops to Yseut's Bastion to break the siege (worsens her relations with the Count in the process).]

The party comes upon the remains of a camp they assume to have been Neldir's. They can tell it was used very recently, but can't glean any useful information from it. As they are picking through the débris, a patrol of 10 heavy horsemen rides towards them, wearing the crest of Castle Glarn upon their tabards. Father Rochouart rides forth to meet them [their reaction roll is modified by +1 for Charisma, +0 for Castle Glarn's relationship with the Baron. The roll of 3+1=4, Unfriendly].

After a very short discussion, Father Rochouart rides back, and tells the rest of the party that they will find no welcome reception at Castle Glarn. They decide not to press the issue, and head north in the direction of the monument.


day 89.

It is snowing when they wake up in the morning, and bitterly cold. The snow becomes heavier and heavier by the hour [movement rate is reduced to one-third]. They decide to try for the Abbey to seek shelter there. They make a forced march. After 11 miserable hours of travel through the blinding snow, they finally (by the Grace of the Light God, says the cleric) arrive at their destination. The march takes a toll on the horses; Worland's and Haddie's die from exhaustion.

[The PCs' reception at the Abbey will be determined by a reaction roll. Modifiers: +1 charisma bonus (Fr. R), +1 relationship with the Baron, -2 Orthodoxy, which Father Rochouart represents. A roll of 10+0=talkative.

Q: Can the PCs talk to the Abb(1-3= -ot, 4-6= -ess; 1)ot in person? Likely: 41, Yes.

Using UNE to flesh him out-
Abbot Tagnard (Baron Tagnard, Lady Delphinia's older brother)
neglectful, prying
motivations:
1.explain legends
2.promote freedom (devotion rather than theology, retreat rather than politics)
3.guard lust (it's a celibate order)
friendly-shelter-history
The friendly abbot speaks of the history of the abbey (the shelter).

Q: Are there horses at the Abbey? Unlikely: 23, Yes.

UNE conversation mode: neutral, sociable
Can the PCs convince the Abbot to sell them a couple horses? 24, Yes.
They pay with some gems.

The party need to wait out the storm before moving on. There is still a 1-in-6 chance of an encounter per day, though anything nonsensical will result in No Encounter.]


day 90

There is less snow falling, but the cold is still severe. The party make the best of being stuck in the monastery, which mostly involves sleeping and looking for any diverting books in the small library. The Abbot is still friendly and inquisitive, and surprised to find that the party not only have met, but got on well with his sister.


day 91

The snowfall is heavier again. The clouds are dark and the sun never seems to appear. In the afternoon there is a flurry of excitement and activity amongst the normally passive monks and nuns: more visitors.

[An encounter is indicated: 5 berserkers.] A group of 5 foreign mercenaries, large, hardy looking-humans dressed in leather armour and wearing bearskins for warmth, appear at the Abbey. They had become lost in the snow, which they admit is embarrassing given the weather in their homeland across the sea. Nevertheless, they humbly beg shelter from the Abbot, and it is happily given.

They are given food and warm wine in front of the hearth, and are glad of it. Their leader, a brawny woman named Geirny, explains that they are headed south in search of work. The kingdom to the north is, she explains, depressingly stable, but rumour is there'll soon be some fighting to do to the south.


day 92

The day is extremely cold, and snowfall still constant. There isn't much for the guests to do in the Abbey but sit and wait and try to stay out of the clerics' way.

[Q: Do the mercenaries cause any problems? 50/50 61, Yes.
Q: What? Propose / Weapons They want to fight the party out of boredom.

NB: I initially only rolled up the three that would be fighting the PCs, being the first three listed. Their names conveniently start with the same letter as the PC they will be fighting. But as the other two's stats will be needed later, I'm putting them all here in one place. The names were all taken from a list of actual viking names.

           CH CN DX IN ST WI HP
Lifstæn  m 10 14  9  9 12 12  6
Mar      m 11 13 13  6 16 10  3
White    f 17 17 11  4 10  9  9
Geirny   f 11 14  9 11 16 10  7
Nidbiorg f 10 14  9 10 12  8  9
Leather armour, battleaxe


Had I rolled them all up first, the two with the worst hit points would not have been challengers, though in the end it wouldn't have made a huge difference. The whole fight lasted 11 rounds, and would be far too tedious to relate blow-by-blow. Anyways, some narrative:]

The mercenaries are a loud and boisterous bunch, much given to wine and conversation. But a long winter's night cooped up in an Abbey is more than they can bear. One of the men, Lifstæn by name, puts forth a proposition. "Would that there were something here," he says, eyes a-gleam with wine and mischief, "to test our warrior's mettle. You there with the axe! You've a warrior's scars! And what a bout her? Tiny little raven-haired thing! Such a beauty, but those bloodstains on your breeches tell quite another tale!"

"I told you," says Aldira to Théscine, "to burn those old rags."

"After the wizards guild, I wanted something comfortable," retorts Théscine. "So, sorry, despite the outfit, I'm not a warrior."

"Always up for a bit of sparring," says Worland.

"I'm game," chirps Miolla, "Come on. Lycinia, you should play too." She adds, in elvish, "just pretend it's some of the clerics. I can tell you've been wanting to hit them all day!"

In the end, Lycinia, Miolla, and Worland agree to a sparring match. Some of the junior clerics are enthusiastic about the event; perhaps monastic life isn't for everyone. They find an out-of-the-way chamber big enough to hold participants and audience. However, they refuse to allow weapons to be used. The fighters grudgingly agree, and strip off their armour. The rules are simple: 3-on-3, last team with members standing wins.

Father Rochouart decides to watch, in case someone is severely injured and needs his ministrations. He wants Haddie to know this doesn't mean he condones the proceedings. Géraint wants to watch a bare-knuckle brawl 'for old time's sake'. Théscine would rather read by the fire. Aldira empties her purse and joins the betting pool.

The fighters enter the makeshift ring (a few bales of straw were spread over the wooden floor) and square off. A novitiate bangs on a cooking pot for the signal, and the fight begins.

The fighters circle one another for a few moments, sizing up the opposition. Miolla dashes up suddenly, and manages a fearsome uppercut right to Mar's jaw (he's about a foot taller, so that's the only way she could reach). The blow knock him back out of the ring and into the crowd, unconscious. Cheers erupt from all sides, and coins rapidly change hands. Miolla is unabashedly pleased with herself, but hangs back from the rest of the fight to keep the odds fair.

When the other two mercenaries start fighting, a change comes over them. They become wild-eyed and feral, seemingly impervious to pain. They fight furiously with little thought of defence.

Worland puts up a good fight, but halfway through the bout falls underneath White's frenzied onslaught. Miolla doesn't even need to step up to replace him, as the enraged White steps over his unconscious form and barrels right into her. In the end, despite their battle-lust, the mercenaries are no match for the two elves. The pair stand victorious amid the general applause and approbation of the crowd.

Aldira is now 10cp richer, having bet on all three of her friends to win.

Those who can, heal the injured. It seems the Light God must also have enjoyed the sport, as his Divine Radiance erases all the fighters' pains. The hierarchy of the Abbey are not so convinced, however, and once word has gotten out the visitors are expressly forbidden from a repeat performance. The novitiates involved are sent to clean the kitchens (for those who merely watched) or the stables (for gambling).

Following the contest, Mar is completely smitten (no pun intended) with Miolla, and follows her about like a puppy. No one has ever bested the great Mar so handily before; how could he otherwise but fall in love with her? In the end, she does her best to let the berserker down gently, but can barely contain her giggles when she bounds back across the common room to her friends.

"Did he just say 'do you want to making fuck'?" asks Aldira.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Tunnels & Trolls


I'm quite a recent convert to T&T. Growing up I had heard the name, but never came across it in a shop. I'd never played it until a couple years ago when I stumbled across freedungeons.com. I played the solos I found online and in Trollzine, and was won over. I like the magic system (not so much the silly spell names), the elegant simplicity, the backwards-compatibility of successive editions, and the saving roll mechanic, which is one of the cleverest bits of game design ever (and so immensely suited for solitaire dungeons).

The first rulebook I ever bought was the 8e édition (being the French translation of 7.5).

But on blogs and in the fora I kept finding people who still swear by 5/5.5th edition, singing its praises and forsaking all others, as it were.

In a fit of ineffable RPG Sehnsucht I recently sought out a copy of the UK printing of T&T 5th edition, and determined to try 5th edition out as written in order to see why, 30 years on, it's still such a favourite. I decided to make a pile of characters, run each of them through a solo or two to get some experience, or at least money enough to buy better equipment, and then form a party from the survivors and run them through The Old Dwarf Mine (which had a 50% mortality rating for the group of huitième édition delvers I ran through it ages ago). I may even make a mini-campaign out of it; survivors of the mine expedition will reconvene to face Dargon's Dungeon and then eventually Overkill.

I rolled up the characters all at once on a piece of scratch paper, using straight 3d6 in order to determine their attributes. The very first character I rolled qualified for warrior-wizard (there's only a 1-in-360 chance of this). If that's what one can expect, it's no wonder people like 5th edition!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

LotFP Solo - Part the Thirty-Second: "O aching time! O moments big as years! / All as ye pass swell out the monstrous truth"



Scene 35

Chaos: 6

Setup: roll of 3 = modified scene (was: Lycinia, Aldira, and Théscine assist Itragad's experiment in exchange for his sponsorship.)

Altered: it goes horribly wrong

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, Itragad the Invoker, Orezuthía the Wise, Cemmeret

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 79.

The following night Aldira, Théscine, and Lycinia return to the guildhall to meet Itragad. He takes them to his laboratory deep below the building through a labyrinthine network of tunnels carved from the living rock. The door is of oak, and reinforced with adamantine bars. He presents a succession of tokens over the lock, then whispers a password. The door swings silently open. Torches flare into life as he crosses the threshold. After they have all followed him in, the door swings shut behind them.

The laboratory itself is about forty feet square, but rises several storeys to a vaulted dome. A great clockwork machine occupies the whole of the far wall. It extends upwards nearly to the ceiling, a mass of cogs, gears, wheels, and pipes, all made of solid brass. The rest of the room has been swept bare.

"This," says Itragad, "is my... my machine. Sorry, I haven't given it any fanciful or grandiose name. I'm an arcane experimenter, not a poet. It was all I could do to some up with 'Itragad', let me tell you!"

"What does it do?" enquires Théscine tremulously.

"I don't know," says Itragad, "At least not yet. It's untested. There's no one I trust enough in the guild to assist me with it, and it requires magical training on the part of its operators, so..."

"So, what's it supposed to do?" Aldira asks.

"It... well, it alters the flow of... the speed -- no, the direction... of the wave-forms... or should I say the particulates... in a localised field, of course... of time itself."

Itragad looks helplessly at the three blank stares before him. "Right," he continues after collecting his thoughts, "let me try answering the question you actually asked. Put simply, if it works, it will allow the subject wizard -- that will be me, don't worry -- to step between the moments of time, to exist for a while in the empty space that separates the seconds from one another, and move about the world like... like a sort of ghost, I imagine. If it works..."

"You're worried?" asks Lycinia.

"No, not worried -- hopeful. But I'd be a fool if I didn't admit there is always a chance of error with magical experimentation."

Itragad spends the better part of an hour explaining the workings of the machine. In the end, Aldira and Lycinia volunteer to operate the control levers whilst Théscine monitors the readings on the various gauges, dials, and indicators. From his position beneath the 'chronal energy focussing, um... chair' (which is the best description he can think of), Itragad will direct their actions.

They take their postions: Itragad in the throne-like seat at the machine's centre, Lycinia and Aldira on opposite sides in front of large, complicated consoles, and Théscine in a recess dominated by what appearto be a complicated set of glass barometers.

Itragad gives the order. Lycina and Aldira begin to operate the machine. Gears spin, pistons pump, valves open and shut. The room is filled with the sound of buzzing and whirring, over which Théscine and Itragad shout out a rhythmical sort of call-and-response.

The cavernous room seems darker, the air grows cold and dense. Still the machine whirrs, hums and clicks. Théscine calls out the numbers. Itragad barks orders, pausing now and again to read an incantation off a parchment scroll.  There is a breeze, a wind.

The shadows in the corners begin to lengthen and divide. A single clear note is heard above the din and shouting. Colours begin to swirl and mix. There is a scent of fire on the breeze, the sound of still water, a feeling of spice and bitumen. The colours are faster, like chimes and hail or sand after a flood. Théscine's chanting takes on a rainbow hue of grey and black, Itragad begins to shout, to wail, and then he is getting up from his seat, is bleeding from terrible wounds, is running running running, pursued by hundreds of inky black ribbon-like tentacles dripping darkness.

Lycinia and Aldira abruptly stop working the machine. Reality snaps back to the chamber as the gears wind noisily down, but the tentacle creature has materialised in the machine's seat, and propels itself forward after Itragad.

[For simplicity's sake, I used the online LotFP Summon spell generator (http://summon.totalpartykill.ca/) for the demon's stats; I plugged in 10HD and hit Summon until a failure came up.

Squid Demon: AC 12, MV 120, ML 10, 10 HD (44hp), #AT 1 at 1D6, Damage Sphere (all within 15' take 1d6 damage per Round) It will remain on the material plane for 81 rounds.

I also rolled up quick stats for Itragad. His spell selection is based on the fact that he was intending to use his time-between-the-seconds to break into a rival's study. There's also a few things left on the scroll he prepared (equivalent to a random scroll from the Labyrinth Lord treasure tables).

Itragad, MU7
CH CN DX IN ST WI HP
 9  9 10 16 11  8 17
1-Faerie Fire, Message, Sleep
2-Detect Invisible, Knock, Locate Object
3-Dispel Magic, Detect Illusion
4-Extension

Magic-User Scroll
Creation, Major
Suggestion
Witchlamp Aura


The party was surprised; the demon easily hit Itragad for 6 damage in the surprise round, dropping him to 11hp.

round 1: It wins the initiative roll.]
There's nowhere for Itragad to run. The demon bears down on him, flailing its tentacles which open numerous cuts and slashes all over the mage. Worse still, as the creature draws near, an unearthly emanation of force causes his skin to take on a disturbing pallor as it disrupts his life-energy [6 damage from the attack drops him to 5hp, +2 for the Damage Field leaves him at 3hp by the end of the round]. Lycinia rushes to Itragad's side, drawing her sword as she runs, and hoping it can even affect the horrid beast. As she runs, she unconsciously whispers an elven prayer from her childhood against the terrors of the night. She just manages to get close enough to the creature to take a swing at it, and is rewarded with a shriek of pain as the tip of her sword takes a chunk out of its back. Oily smoke seems to ooze from the wound [despite a -2 to hit for drawing her weapon this round, she manages to strike for 2 points of damage]. But as she drew near the creature, its sickening emanation began to take its toll on her as well [2 damage puts her at 14hp]. Meanwhile Aldira and Théscine have been weaving spells to combat the demon. A glowing white arrow pierces the things side, followed by a shower of green sparks that tear through its ribbony tentacles, every further wound resulting in a slow smoky excrescence [it takes 7 and 6 damage from Magic Missiles, plus Lycinia's 2 for a total of 15; it has 29hp remaining]. Itragad draws a dagger in desperation. He hacks wildly at the beast but seems to cause it no harm.

[round 2]
The demon's tentacles continue to flail at Itragad, pulling flesh from his face and arms. He falls to the ground, gravely injured [4 damage drops him to to -1hp; and he takes 5 more from the damage field, so is quite dead]. Lycinia continues to slash at the demon, opening up more smoking wounds [4 damage]. Théscine draws her sword on the run, and lands a telling blow [7 damage]; her glinting sword comes away oozing with the oily smoke. Aldira also draws her blade on the run, and takes up a position where Itragad had stood. She trips over his body, and is surprised to feel it crumble beneath her foot, a distraction which impedes her attack. All three suffer from proximity with the thing, growing jaundiced and weak [the damage field drops Lycinia to 11hp, Théscine to 7hp, and Aldira to 8hp; their attacks this round have left it with 18hp].

[round 3]
The horrible thing is single-mindedly attacking the same spot as before, which is unfortunately where Aldira now stands. The thing catches her left arm in its tentacles, desiccating and rending her flesh at its touch [3 damage puts her at 5hp]. Lycinia makes a massive thrust of her blade up into the centre of the shrieking thing [8 damage]. Aldira severs the tentacles holding her with a swift motion of her rapier [3 damage]. Théscine raises the sparkling elf-blade above her head and brings it down upon the demon, which utters a final noxious cry then bursts into a greasy black cloud. The three women retreat from the fumes in haste, though still feel the overwhelming grip of its presence on their souls [6, 3, and 2 points of damage].

The three catch their breath, and begin to discuss how to get out of the room. Théscine has the presence of mind to look over Itragad's crumbling corpse; he has nothing immediately useful, though she does remember to collect the scroll from the machine's seat where he had dropped it. The black cloud hangs heavily in the air, but does seem to slowly be dissipating [in fact it will take about 8 minutes]. Suddenly the heavy door explodes inward. A living iron statue in the shape of a 10' tall pankratistes bursts into the room followed by two enormous gargoyles, each bearing an over-sized iron poleaxe. They face down Aldira and the elves for a few moments, watching as they put away their weapons. At length one of the gargoyles sounds the haft of his axe against the stone floor thrice, and a group of wizards enter to appraise the situation.

[Q: Are the PCs in trouble? 50/50: 22, Yes +Event: Move toward a thread (this one, luckily) - Break / Opposition]

The wizards are incensed at the unknowably mad scheme Itragad had concocted, and as he is dead direct the bulk of their ire towards the three strangers. The party is about to be thrown out in to the street (literally, by the gargoyles) when Orezuthía intervenes and puts in good word for them (she's especially happy that Itragad is now out of the way). The other wizards were not expecting an esteemed (or is it feared?) member of the guild to become personally involved in the plight of Itragad's three dupes, and quickly back down rather than risk her wrath.

Orezuthía has the party brought to a comfortable waiting room off the guild's entrance chamber, and sends for a healer. Whilst they wait, she quizzes them incessantly, though in a casual and friendly fashion, about Itragad's experiment, and a bit more about Neldir as well.

It is nearly morning by the time the healers have left. Orezuthía sees the exhausted trio to the door, and bids them come back the next night to use the library under her sponsorship. They bid her good night, and thank her for her attentions. As they are about to cross the threshold into the grey dawn outside, Orezuthía takes Lycinia by the arm and, drawing the elf's face close to her own, speaks to her in a near whisper.

"Don't forget: you owe me, little girl. You owe me."




Some accounting:

Research

Using the wizard's guild Library costs 100sp/person/month (non pro rata). The PCs are not allowed into the stacks, and must read under the watchful eyes of gargoyle invigilators. They hear whispered rumours that the Librarian who oversees the great library is some sort of horrible monster, but no one will discuss it openly.

Their research picks up the following (1d6=) 5 rumours, which count as Library Data (+1d6) for the Truth determination step:

Location of Vhisigus' prison is (d80,d60): hex# 49.14 -- that's only about 50 miles NW of Ildmarch.

Bibliomancy for the other 4 rumours:

an sese medios moriturus in enses
inferat et pulchram properet per vulnera mortem?
Verg. Aen. IX.400-1
(Or shall he throw himself amidst their blades and hasten through wounds to a beautiful death?)
Interpretation: only through self-sacrifice can Vhisigus truly be defeated

...recalent nostro Thybrina fluenta
sanguine adhuc campique ingentes ossibus albent.
Verg. Aen. XII.36
(The Tiber's waves are warm with our blood, the great fields still white with bones)
Interpretation: Vhisigus' prison may be guarded by the undead.

At cum incerta volant caeloque examina ludunt
contemnuntque favos et frigida tecta relinquunt,
instabiles animos ludo prohibebis inani.
Verg. Georg. IV 103-5
(and when the uncertian swarms fly and play in the sky / and spurn the hive and leave the frigid enclosure / you will keep your inconstant mind from the foolish sport)
Interpretation: There are swarms of flying bee-demons surrounding the prison.

nec sum adeo informis; nuper me in litore vidi
cum placidum ventis staret mare;...
Verg. Ecl. II.25-6
(nor am I so hideous; I have recently seen myself on the shore / when the quiet sea stood still in the winds)
Interpretation: Mention of the shore (and the fields above) seems to indicate that the prison is a vast area, and that the demon may have somewhat free range within it. This gives me an idea of how to run the dungeon generally; but I will say no more of this now. Also, whilst the translation of hideous for informis is correct for the poem, the other meanings of informis (formless, shapeless) leapt readily to mind; so this rumour also states that the demon is a physical rather than just a spiritual threat.

The party


On day 86, the research is finished, and the silvered weapons are ready. Father Rochouart has been helping reconsecrate the fallen church all week. Miolla, Géraint, and Worland have had to do rather more shopping than they anticipated. The party reconvene at their inn to plan their route on the day 87. When they see how much stuff they have accumulated, they decide to hire a teamster to manage the packing and the horses. They intend to set out the morning of day 88.

Shopping