Thursday, 19 November 2015
Dragon Warriors solo - Part VIII: Down and up
Chaos: Out of control (d8)
Setup: back to the ruins
NPC list: Lady Melisenda, Earl of Avincester, the Secret Enemy, Benoist the brigand, Brother Quintinus, goblins
1. get a horse
2. find out situation
3. head home
4. earl's mission
Loys and company spend another two days in Mulford, ostensibly to resupply, but but in reality they mostly divert themselves at the town festival. They never quite learn its actual purpose (historical? a good catch/harvest? the holy week of some Saint?) but most of the peasantry seem as clueless as the strangers. Not even the clergy seem overly concerned, or if any do, they hide in the empty churches. Loys decides that he and his companions should probably leave town before the Sabbath in any event, lest they be forced to spend the whole day listening to sermons about the depravity of the preceding days.
And in any event, they have spent too much and gained too little from their sojourn here. They were able to sell the polished obsidian stone from the goblins' hoard for a little money, and they bought the trail food they had intended (4 days' rations each). But they found no new weapons, no armour for the sorceress, and in the end when they counted their money (a grand total of 20F and 20p remaining between the four of them) they hadn't enough to pay for the services of even a single man-at-arms to help them brave the dangers of the Underworld -- the whole reason they had come back to civilisation.
Before leaving, Loys does call in at the church to speak with the priest who had told him of the heretic.
"Reverend father," says Loys, "my companions and I, having concluded our business in this fine town, must set out on the road again this day. On our way here, we did occasion to pass by the ruins of the Mad Comte's damnable fortress. And in so doing we did chance upon a hermit who lives in a broken tower some small distance away -- Brother Quintinus, he called himself -- who did take us in and give us shelter and sustenance. I was wondering if you knew of such a personage?"
"No, my child," says the priest thoughtfully, "I know naught of such an hermit. But I would remonstrate you against the society of any madman who lives so close to the Relics of Evil."
"We shall give the accursèd place a wide berth this time," lies Loys.
[The die rolls for the above--
Q: Can they find a buyer for the obsidian? 50/50 (4+): O4 C7, Yes
Q: Any important events? 50/50 (4+): O1 C2 - No, and... very quiet and restful.
Q: Can Loys get information about Brother Quintinus from the local clergy? 50/50 (4+): O2 C5, No.]
About an hour down the road...
[d30 Sandbox Companion road encounter - 18=hostile; hostile group reaction: 7, unfriendly - antagonise; Rank (level) -2, Number +3 = 7 normal humans
Q: Why are they antagonistic? Work hard / Home]
...a group of seven farmers blocks their path with a hay cart pulled by a pair of world-weary mules. "What 'ave we 'ere, then?" says the biggest of the lot, punctuating his question by planting the butt of his pitchfork in the dirt. "Looks like a bunch o' worthless sell-swords... and their whore."
"I'm so sick of these lordless wanderers," adds another, "a-coming through our land and acting like they're conquering heroes. Ain't all the heroes off fighting in the holy lands?"
[Q: Can they antagonise one of the PCs into doing something stupid? Doubtful (6): O1 C5, No.]
Reynaud puts his hand to his sword hilt, by Loys claps his hand on his squire's shoulder. "Pay these miscreants no mind," says he. "Their petty comments are beneath contempt." Reynaud flushes with rage, but says nothing.
Loys leads his companions around the cart. The farmers hurl a few more choice insults at their backs, but following Loys' example there is none who so much a turn round to glare at them.
The guards at the tower, however, give them a heroes' welcome. They are overjoyed to hear that the heretic has been smitten by a vengeful God and will trouble the peace no more. And as a well-deserved reward, they even waive the toll.
The rest of the march passes without incident. Five hours later they reach the ruins.
[Q: Is Brother Quintinus around? Likely (3+): O5 C8, Yes.
Q: Still hospitable? Likely (3+): O6 C2 - Yes, and... willing to help. He's not a fighter though, so (1d4):
1. knows about traps
2. knows about as-yet-unseen monster
3. knows secret passage
4. knows about hob/goblins]
Brother Quintinus is in his tower at prayer. He hears the approach of the armoured knights, and is on the point of saying "Amen" when they appear at his threshold.
"My friends!" he says, "Back so soon? I trust your visit with the teeming masses of society was a success?"
"We've some more provisions, at least," replies Reynaud.
"I'm afraid we haven't time much time just now," says Loys. "We'd best get going before it's dark. We shall rest an hour, then we must again to the cellar."
"You mean to destroy the rest of the bogeys?" asks Brother Quintinus.
"That we do," says Loys.
"Then there is something I must tell you. There are groans and shrieks that come from below the old tower. Sometimes I hear them a'nights. There is something awful there, that even the bogeys fear."
"Have you seen them about since we left?" asks Ysmena.
"No, but I've heard them -- and it."
The hermit gives his guests some food and a bit of plum wine to fortify them for their descent into the goblins' lair. He meditates on their future [using the mystic's ESP power (37% - I forgot to mention he also did this when he met the PCs too) -- he rolls a 90, so there is no sense of any danger] but there is no presages of evil, so is silent on this count. He blesses the PCs before they set out.
They split into two groups in order to attack from both sides; Loys and Ysmena will go down the long passage, Reynaud and Ailbert will take the cellar stairs. Loys tells Reynaud to wait for one minute after his signal to head in.
"We're going in!" hollers Loys, and Reynaud begins his silent count. Loys moves slowly, crouching a bit, down into the frigid, dark passage. His sword and shield are at the ready. Ysmena follows, holding the lantern high as she can over his head. If any of the goblins appear, Loys will hold position until Ysmena has thrown a bolt of fire at their foe. Reynaud and Ailbert have a similar plan, but Ailbert's crossbow shall have to play the part of the sorceress' powerful magic.
[Q: Anything down here? 50/50 (4+): O6 C1 - Yes, and... (1d4=4) hob/goblins and a trap
Trap in which direction? 1-2 kitchen stairs, 3-4 corridor, 5-6 both: 2, kitchen stairs
Q: Any goblins in the corridor? Unlikely (5+): O6 C2 - Yes, and... the hobgoblin. 1d3=3, all 3 remaining goblins come with him.
PCs can't surprise them, 21 stealth -6 for Loys PCN = 15 or lower: 2d10=2, PCs do not detect them.]
Loys shuffles forward, hunched over a bit too awkwardly to move easily, but better that than an accidental fire bolt in the back of the head. Ysmena's lantern illuminates the clouds of breath they exhale in the cold, cramped corridor. They can see a little ways ahead, but nothing moves in the blackness. Or almost nothing; a swarm of bats suddenly appears, and swarms round the two startled heroes. None of them can harm the knight encased in his suit of armour, but Ysmena finds them tangled in her hair, vicious teeth biting her exposed neck, and even right through her dress on her shoulder. She is waving her dagger in the air to fend off the flapping, squeaking creatures, and then suddenly they are no more. Only an evil-smelling smoke remains.
"Are you hurt?" asks Loys.
"I'll live," says the sorceress, inwardly hoping that the bats carry no disease.
[3 attacked Loys, but none rolled criticals and they can't make the Armour Bypass Roll. Ysmena suffered 4 attacks, of which two hit for 1 damage each; luckily they were not diseased, but our poor sorceress will take fright at every sudden chill or unexplained ache for the next few days, worried she's coming down with the plague.]
They resume their careful advance, a bit faster as they fear the bats slowed their progress overmuch. [Another Stealth roll for the goblins: 2d10=8, PCs still don't see them.] Suddenly a hail of sharp flints comes from the darkness ahead. The stones plink off Loys' armour and shield, or glance off the walls and ceiling.
"Forward! Forward!" shouts Ysmena. "I can't see anything!"
"Nor I!" replies the knight through gritted teeth as he skitters forward.
[Q: Do the goblins retreat? 50/50 (4+): O1 C1 - No, and... 1d4=1 runs forward to attack.
REF(3d6)=10, so Ysmena (REF 16) has the initiative.]
There is a pause in the hail of flints as a single, sagging-faced goblin runs into the light, grating out a nasal battle-cry as it rushes to impale Loys on its icicle sword. Loys crouches behind his shield as he hears Ysmena shouting the words to her spell behind him. A brilliant gout of flame flashes over his head. The magical fire consumes the goblin in an instant, leaving nothing but a pile of smoking cinders in the midst of the passage.
[Dragonbreath has Speed 12 - Evasion 4 = 8 or less to hit, 2d10=6, hits
goblin has 1d6+4=7hp
spell does 1d6+6-AF(1)=10hp; -3HP=dead
Ysmena is down to 3MP.]
There is a sound of pattering footsteps in the darkness beyond the reach of the lantern, and then the sound of a slamming door. Loys picks up his pace again, though still wary of ambush. Ysmena follows close behind.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ruins...
Reynaud finishes his count, and he and Ailbert start creeping down the steps. Suddenly...
[There is a trap here, so: (1d6)
1 missile, 2 fire, 3 slippery, 4 caltrops, 5 poison, 6 falling object; 1d6=4
Who is the victim? 1-2 R, 3-4 A, 5-6 both; 1d6=2]
...Reynaud cries out in shock and pain, having stepped on something so sharp it pierced the thick leather sole of his boot [he takes 1 damage, and his movement is halved until it's healed. He also needs to make a REF roll to avoid falling down the steps: 2d10=12, just succeeds]. He totters for a moment and nearly topples over, but manages to steady himself against the wall. "Help me, dammit!" he cries. "Pull it out!"
Ailbert sets the lantern on a step, unwilling to drop his crossbow. As he pulls the awful spike from Reynaud's foot, the knight declaims a most unchivalrous oath. He puts his injured foot gingerly back on the ground, but can't put his full weight on it. Behind him he hears Ailbert exclaim, "What is this?"
Reynaud turns about to see what Ailbert is holding. It isn't the iron spike he'd expected, but a horrible pointy tooth, ripped from the maw of some nameless beast. Brushing aside the leaves and sticks on the stairwell with the point of his sword uncovers about a dozen more teeth, set upright and held in place with sticky mud.
The two knights descend into the underground chamber much more slowly, stepping nowhere they have not first cleared of all debris. The chamber is bare, and much as they had left it. Reynaud fancies he sees the glow of his companions lamp, far off down the narrow passage. As they are about to start towards them, three twisted goblins run into the chamber and slam the door behind them. The goblins turn to face the startled knights, and the battle is joined.
[The two goblins both have REF 13, the hobgoblin has REF 7. Initiative order is thus: goblins, Reynaud, Ailbert, hobgoblin.
This is the point where I mention that hobgoblins look exactly like goblins, and other than their magic powers are essentially the same thing, just meaner. Also, there is no Linnaean taxonomy in the world of Legend, so the fact that the PCs have been calling them by the name of the creature entry in the DW bestiary is coincidence. They could just as easily call them bogeys (like Brother Quintinus does) or imps, or elves, or pixies, &c. &c.]
As one goblin is pushing the door shut, a second rushes Reynaud with its icy sword [Att13 - Def7 = 5; roll of 8 misses] which Reynaud deftly parries. His counter-attack swings right over the goblins head [rolled a 17...]. Ailbert has the clearest shot at (1-3 goblin, 4-6 hobgoblin) the creature shutting the door. He looses a bolt [as it's a missile weapon, his Attack is not reduced by the goblin's Defence, and it isn't even moving much, so he only needs to roll under his unmodified Attack, which he does. ABR: 1d10=9], which buries itself deep in the goblin's back [4 damage drops it to 5hp]. The third [hob-]goblin is holding a puffball in its long fingers, which it tosses at Ailbert. The puffball bursts in a cloud of poison. [Ailbert needs to roll under his Reflexes (a lousy 8) or die; 1d20=5!] Fortunately he steps back in time to avoid breathing in any of the poison gas. [Hobgoblins carry 1d4 puffballs according to the DW Bestiary; <clatter clatter> fortunately for my PCs I just rolled a 1.]
The goblin at the door turns to join its fellow attacking Reynaud. The knight does his best, but as he parries one the other slips in beneath his guard. But sharp as it may be, the pointy icicle is no match for a well-forged steel corselet. [Reynaud had to split his Defence between the two attackers. Only one hit, but the ABR (1d8) was a 6, and so did not penetrate AF6]. Reynaud tries to bring his sword down upon the head of the goblin with Ailbert's bolt protruding from its back, but the fleet-footed fiend jumps back at the last second, and his blade clangs off the flagstones. Ailbert draws his sword [so cannot attack this round] as the hobgoblin advances [3m] upon him. The creature's sword is easily avoided [Att 16 - Def 7 = 9, but it rolled a 14].
During the back-and-forth of parries and thrusts, made with both steel and ice, both knights receive a blow from their faster opponents. Fortunately their thick armour turns the frigid blades aside.
[Loys and Ysmena have reached the door, so the initiative order changes to Ysmena, goblins, Reynaud, Loys Ailbert, hobgoblin.]
Whilst one of the goblins merely taunts Reynaud [missed], the other stabs him in the side. He cries out in pain as the icicle finds a weak spot in his armour and bites deep into his flesh [a critical hit automatically bypasses armour, and his shield didn't take the blow; 3 damage drops him to 10hp]. He nearly drops his sword in shock [missed his attack roll by a lot].
Out in the passage, Loys violently applies his shoulder to the heavy, swollen door [he takes 1 point of damage for the attempt. He needs to make a STR (13) check: 2d10=12, success]. It bursts inward and the knight follows a few steps into the chamber.
The fighting continues unabated. Ailbert cannot land a blow against the hobgoblin, but the horrid little creature slips his sword between the plates of his armour [also a crit; 3 damage drops Ailbert to 6hp], but brave Ailbert does not shew his distress.
Reynaud is once again out-manoeuvred by the pair of vicious goblins. As one distracts him, the other stabs him in the leg with its freezing sword [ABR(1d8)=7; 3 damage puts him at 7hp]. Loys advances to help Ailbert (believing his squire the equal of two diminutive sprites, no matter how vicious). His sword opens up the creatures back, splattering brackish goo from the wound [4 damage to puts the hobgoblin at 8hp]. The creature will not be distracted from its purpose. As it scurries away from Loys' assault, it lands a hit on poor Ailbert, but the ice glances off his breastplate.
Ysmena throws a bolt of fire at one of Reynaud's enemies, but it dances nimbly away [Dragonbreath; Speed 12 - Evasion 5 = 7or less, 2d10=12]. Both goblins strike Reynaud, but his armour remains firm; his sword cannot even find its mark. Loys distracts the hobgoblin as Ailbert pierces its side with his sword [crit; 4 damage reduces it to 5hp]. The hobgoblin wails, a shrill piercing sound which echos through the small chamber. A wave of pure cold emanates from the malicious fairy, sapping Loys' and Ailbert's strength [its Chill power does 1d4 damage to each (both rolls were 2); Loys drops to 8hp, Ailbert to 4].
Ysmena draws her dagger. Reynaud is again stabbed through a chink in his armour [3 damage leaves him with 4hp], but the goblin does not pull back in time and the pommel of his sword smashes down upon its face, leaving its long nose smashed down over its mouth in an almost comical fashion [4 damage puts it at 1hp]. Ailbert's blade traces a deep, gory line across the hobgoblin's chest [leaving it with 1hp also].
[Q: Does the hobgoblin surrender? 50/50 (4+): O4 C1 - Yes, and...]
The hobgoblin lurches backwards and throws down its sword. "We surrender!" it whines. Its companions echo the sentiment in even more plaintive terms.
The knights pause. "Please do not hurt us!" squeals the hobgoblin. "If you let us live, I... I promise to show you where I hide my treasure!"
"Very well," says Loys, "I accept your surrender. But let us keep you honest. Ailbert, reload your crossbow. Then we shall have these fiends lead us to their hoard. But should one of them break ranks..."
Ailbert does as he is bidden. The hobgoblin says, "I will show you where it lies. Come, come!" and starts up the stairs.
"Slowly!" commands Loys as the rest follow.
[Q: Do the goblins* cut and run? Unlikely (5+): O5 C3 - Yes, but... they will set an ambush for later.
* just the goblins; the hobgoblin made a promise which it must keep, though it will try to twist it in the worse possible way.]
They follow the goblins through the remains of an archway and into the grassy expanse, towards the remains of the great tower. As they are walking, one goblin starts whispering to its fellow with the broken nose.
"Treasure hoard, treasure hoard... but it's not our treasure hoard."
"And we make no promise, do we?"
Loys is about to demand their silence when the two goblins break ranks and scurry off in opposite directions. Ailbert shoots one in the back. The bolt pierces its cold, black heart and it falls face first in the grass to move no more. The other clambers up over a wall and out of sight.
"Come, come," says the Hobgoblin, pointing at a doorway, "to the top of the tower we must."
The narrow spiral stair is very steep. The hobgoblin leads the way, ever mindful of the crossbow at his back. After Ailbert come Loys and Ysmena. Reynaud halts just inside on the first landing to guard the entrance. Ysmena takes pity on Reynaud and casts her charm of healing over him [restores 2hp; he's now at 6 but she's down to her last magic point]. He begins to mumble a slightly confused thanks, but Ysmena cuts him off, saying she feels safer when their rear-guard isn't on the point of collapse from blood loss.
They climb and climb the ruined tower, once the tallest in the castle. At the top they emerge into open air, on cramped platform surrounded by weathered and moss-covered stones. The look down over the ruins and miles of countryside from the dizzying height.
"Well?" asks Loys. "Where is it?"
The hobgoblin points over side. "That way. Look straight down. In the little hole, where the tower was pulled away. Across from the stairs to the passage."
"What? I... yes, I see. But wherefore did you bring us all the way up here?"
"We're going back down now. You're going first, you little fiend."
The hobgoblin sighs, then begins hopping down the stairs, followed by Loys, Ailbert, then Ysmena. As they reach the uppermost alcove (once the entry to the top storey), the hobgoblin dashes inside and causes ice to coat the steps under its captors' feet.
[it uses the Glissade power. Each PC has a 40% chance to slip, and if so they must roll under their REF on 1d20 or fall.
Loys: 1d%=96, ok
Ailbert: 13 = a slip; REF (8) check is a 19, failure
Ysmena: 27, slips; 1d20=4, ok
So if Ailbert falls, he might take Loys with him. Looking on the Speed table, I thought a 14 was about right. Speed 14 - Evasion 3 = 11 or less; 2d10=5, Loys fails to evade. They each take 1d8-2(for armour) falling damage: Loys 6 (to 2hp), Ailbert 1 (to 3hp).]
Loys slips for a moment on the icy step, but rights himself. Ailbert is not so lucky. He not only slips forward but crashes right into Loys, and the two tumble down and around with a dreadful clatter.
Ysmena treads quickly but carefully down into the alcove where the hobgoblin is waiting, an icy sword already forming in its hand. She uses the last of her magic to throw a jet of fire at it [Dragonbreath: Speed 12 - Evasion 3 = 9 or less, 2d10=7hits for (1D6+6 -1) 8 damage]. The hobgoblin is bathed in flame for a moment, then utterly ceases to be. Only a smouldering pile of ashes remains upon the floor of the tower, to be whisked away an instant later by the fierce autumn wind.