Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Das schwarze Auge solo - part I: „Es war einmal eine kleine Hexe...“

Everyone in the whole continent of Aventuria knows that witches are terrifying creatures, blessed with awful magic by their great, dark goddess Satuaria. Their curses can destroy one's health, blight one's crops, even steal the power of speech. Their wicked spells can kill or cure, cause unwholesome obsessions, seduce the senses... even conjure demons from the realms beyond. The thought of their potent magic puts dread in the souls of the commoners, tests the courage of the most stalwart warrior, and even gives the master wizard pause. Some are so hideous as to strike a child dead with a single glance, others so beautiful as to beguile with a mere smile. These strange and legendary figures gather in weird sisterhoods to practise their eldritch craft, and are certainly never forced to live at their step-parents' inn where they must mop the floor of the common room again and this time it had better be done right, young lady... sigh.

DSA 5th edition
Mythic GME (with my own variations)
d30 Sandbox Companion

I decided to start off with a simple task/quest to get my PC out into the sandbox. Scene 1 would have begun thereat, but I rolled an Altered scene...]

Scene 1

Chaos: Normal (d10)

Setup: go to see the Widow Brinnske
chaos die 1 = Altered: Delay / Status quo

NPC list: Widow Brinnske, villagers, family

Threads: none yet

As our epic tale opens, the young witch Travjane is finishing her chores as quickly and perfunctorily as she was able. The autumn rain is coming down heavily this evening, which means the common room of the inn can expect to be deserted except for the most fervent of the town's drinkers. There were no guests staying at this time, no pilgrims for Arras de Mott nor hardy travellers bound for Lowangen, so perhaps, thought Travjane, her presence will not be required. She always makes the locals nervous, at any rate, so it would be just as well if she didn't hang round. In fact, as soon as she's slopped the rest of the water out the side door, she thinks she just might slip away now.

[She will need a Stealth check to sneak away from the inn undetected. I will be explaining how the rules work as I go. Since this is the first skill use, I'll be doing it in rather more detail than subsequent ones.

Each skill has three controlling attributes. For Stealth, these are Courage, Intuition, and Agility. 3d20 are rolled, one die against each attribute (in order), attempting to roll the at or under each attribute value. Rolling two ones or two twenties indicates a critical success or fumble respectively (regardless of the third die); three ones or three twenties denotes a spectacular success or failure.

If you haven't rolled a critical, all three die rolls must succeed for the skill check to be a success. The odds, as it stands, are not in your favour (the rulebook mentions that a normal skill roll is not an easy use of the skill). This is where skill ratings come into play. Skill ratings give you a poll of points with which to reduce a roll that is too high. If you run out of points (or had 0 to begin with) the skill attempt fails. Leftover points influence the Quality Level of your success, if necessary to know such a thing (such as in resisted tests).

Travjane has Stealth 5. Her attributes are Cou13 / Int14 / Agl14 (she's well suited to stealthy manoeuvres). She rolls 3d20 in order: 17/13/6.

17 is 4 higher than her Courage, so she needs to spend 4 points of her skill rating to commute it into a success. This leaves her with 1 point remaining. Luckily the 2nd die is lower than her Intuition, and the third lower than Agility.

Her Stealth check is a success.]

Whilst her stepmother is busy in the kitchen and her stepfather tending the fire, Travjane pads into one of the ground floor rooms, opens the shutters, and clambers outside. She runs out of the village, and down the forest path through driving rain.

Soon she has reached the Widow Brinnske's cottage. She opens the door and goes right in. The other villagers would never dare such a thing, lest they be cursed for intruding on a witch's privacy, but being the Widow's protégée affords Travjane some liberties.

"O! my little Travjinka," says the crone in her thick Bornish accent, "you're soaked through-and-through. Come sit by the hearth and dry out. You'll catch your death like that -- even you!"

"Oh, auntie, you know I don't feel a chill at all. But I shall do as  you say if it makes you feel better."

[Using UNE to see where this goes --
Conversation Mood: neutral
scheming - agenda - current scene]

With characteristic directness, the Widow Brinnske addresses Travjane the moment they've settled in by the fire. "I have a favour to ask you, dearie..."

[d30 Sandbox Companion adventure generator tables--
Trigger : manuscript
Obstacle: race against antagonists
villain goal: serves higher “boss”
Artifact: box
Key NPC: confectioner; 1d6=f
Mission objective at: d30=15, Almweide]

"Of course, Auntie dear. You know I'd do anything for you."

"I need you to take this manuscript to Ulmia, who runs the bakery in Almweide. She is an old friend of mine. She'll give you something in return to bring back to me."

"Oh, but Almweide is so far to go. And my broom won't fly since I missed the last festival. Can I borrow yours?"

"Ach, you know it doesn't work that way."

"I shall walk then."

"It will do you good to get away from the village for a while. But you must stay here tonight to wait out the storm."

"I will leave at first light."

[Q: Can Travjane read the manuscript? 50/50 (4+): O4 C1 - Yes, and... she's read it before.]

Scene 2

Chaos: Normal (d10)

Setup: collect things and set off
chaos die 1 again = Altered: Cruelty / Dispute

NPC list: Widow Brinnske, villagers, family, Ulmia the confectioner, villain, villain henchmen

Threads: mission

Travjane slips back to the inn at dawn, but her step-parents are already up and waiting for her. She knows she cannot but endure the argument that is to come.

Conversation Mood: neutral
knowing - account - previous scene]

"You've run away to see that awful old woman again," begins her step-mother. "Always filling your head with such notions. Ach! you have chores to do; get to it before the guests wake up."

"Guests? what guests? The inn was empty when--"

"They came in the night. There's [1d4+2=] six of them. They rode hard to get here, and they're going to be hungry."

"Who are they?"

"Never you mind. Just get to work!"

[Q: Who are they? d30=peasant
Q: Why are they travelling? Ambush / Military
so they're soldiers disguised as peasants.
Which direction are they heading? 1d6: 1-3 up into the mountains, 4-6 back towards Greifenberg; 2=mountains.

Q: Can Travjane get her stuff and go before anything else happens? Unlikely (5+): O3 C7 - No.]

Travjane rushes off to her room, and starts throwing things for the journey into a sack. Her stepfather yells after her to get back out immediately.[1d6=] Three of them are already in the common room, and demanding food.

[To notice anything unusual about the disguised soldiers, Travjane needs to make an Empathy check, with a -1 penalty for being distracted (per the rulebook). Penalties and bonuses affect all three attributes in the check, so her Cunning/Intuition/Charisma for this check are reduced to 11/13/13. She has a skill rating of 5.

3d20 comes up 7/19/2. Cunning and Charisma rolls were fine, but the 19 missed her Intuition by 6: more than she can make up for with skill points. The check fail.]

Travjane is resigned to having to play serving girl yet again. The three travellers in the common room pay her no heed, nor does she notice their concealed arms and light armour as she slams plates and cutlery on the tables.

[Q: Any problems? Unlikely (5+): O3 C5, No.

She'll need another Stealth roll to get away by early afternoon. The first d20 came up 20; she'd need a skill rating of 7 to bring this down to her 13 Courage, but she only has a 5. The other two dice won't make a difference unless they are both 1s (critical success) or another 20 comes up (fumble). 12&12 makes this a normal failure.

Q: Is she caught in the act? 50/50 (4+): O6 C4 - Yes, but... can't be kept back.]

When the guests have done eating and the kitchen has been tidied, Travjane grabs her sack and slinks out the door. She tries ignoring the shouting that soon comes after her, but her step-father won't let up. "They're leaving tomorrow anyhow!" yells Travjane in return. "You can get on without me. I swore in the names of Travia and Peraine I'd do this favour. She's an old woman and can't go herself. You will hardly notice I'm gone."

Scene 3

Chaos: Normal (d10)

Setup: on the road

NPC list: Widow Brinnske, villagers, family, Ulmia the confectioner, villain, villain henchmen (not adding the mysterious travellers as they failed to become important)

Threads: mission

[Travjane lost half the day to chores round the inn, so she only has 15 movement points today. As she's on the road, I rolled a d30 sandbox Companion road encounter (Frontier density): humanoid remains - female dwarf

Q: Anything useful on/near the body? Doubtful (6): O6 C6 - Yes* +Event: Introduce a new NPC - Travel / Wounds
Q: Also a dwarf? 50/50 (4+): O5 C3 - Yes, but... culturally different.
1d6= He's been left for dead with 1d10= 2 Life Points remaining (and thus unconscious, as falling to 5LP does automatically.

* in turning my notes into something postable, I noticed that I had entirely forgotten the Yes result when the Event stole the show. Oops.]

Travelling four Meilen seems like ten on the twisting and overgrown "road" through the densely forested hills. It's nearly dusk by the time Travjane emerges from the trees onto gently rolling hills leading down to the floodplain. Once out of the forest, the road's quality is not much better. Parts are washed out, or choked with underbrush. Why, there's even a small boulder that's rolled into it from... wait a minute!

The boulder turns out to be the form of a dwarf lying crumpled under a grey travelling cloak. She's quite dead, having received a blow which dented her helm and her skull beneath. Blood has seeped out into a brackish, crusting-over puddle.

Travjane straightens and draws her dagger. She looks all about, but there is no sign of anyone else, only a glint of metal in the tall grass nearby. The metal turns out to be the sharp, steel point of a stout spear, and lying not three paces beyond it is another dwarf. This one is clad in a similar grey cloak, with chain shirt. He is bleeding from numerous wounds, and seems to be hanging barely on to life.

Travjane has met her fair share of dwarfs, who stayed at the inn on their travels to and from their mountain homes in the Finsterkamm. She doesn't speak a word of Rogolan, but most dwarfs round here seem to know enough Garethi to get by. And since she feels generally well-disposed towards them, she decides she cannot just pass this one by. So she kneels in the grass and begins to whisper a charm of healing.

[Spells work much like skills where the dice are concerned. Balsam Salabunde is the basic healing spell. It heals 1 Life Point per Arcane Point used, to a maximum of the caster's skill rating. The spell takes 16 actions to cast (about a minute), and has no range.

Travjane has a rating of 6, and she intends to use the full 6pts allowed (she has 34 Arcane Points). She isn't altering the spell or doing anything else which would give casting modifiers. The attributes governing the spell are Cunning/Intuition/Dexterity. Travjane rolls 8/8/3, all easy successes, so the full 6 points go towards the Quality Level, giving QL 2. The dwarf will thus regain 6LP, over the course of (6-QL=) 4 minutes.

That would be the end of it, but because Travjane has the Annoying Lesser Spirits (Lästige Mindergeister) disadvantage, she needs to roll an additional d20; if it's less than or equal to the amount of Arcane Points she just spent, the spirits will cause some minor disturbances, giving -1 penalty to everything for 10 minutes. She rolls a seven, so avoids their attentions... for now.]

Travjane feels the astral energy well up inside her as she chants the melodious words of might. The energy flows from her fingertips and into the dwarf's wounds, which slowly, ever so slowly, begin to heal. She sits back in the grass to watch as her magic runs its course.

The dwarf begins to stir, and at last opens his eyes. He blinks a few times, as if to remember who he is and how he got here, then addresses the young woman sitting idly by him in the greenery.

NPC Relationship: neutral
Conversation Mood: sociable
inquisitive - curiosity - last scene

Personality: Frigid, Linear]

"Who are you?" asks the dwarf. "What are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same," replies Travjane.

"I'm not sure if I should tell you... You could be one of them, after all." [mysterious - conundrum - the character]

"Would I have wasted my healing m-- herbs on you if I were an enemy? I'm just a girl from Hohendorf, off to deliver a parcel to another village for my auntie."

The dwarf abruptly sits up and looks about. "Where's Gudelne?"

"Your companion...? I'm afraid she didn't make it."

The dwarf mumbles something under his breath. Travjane can't understand the words, but they seem to be some sort of prayer. She watches the dwarf intently as he stands, steadies himself a bit, then walks over to Gudelne lying dead in the road.

[Travjane will make an Empathy roll to see if she can get a sense of the dwarf. She rolls 2/11/4 against Cunning/Intuition/Charisma, all succeeding. She has all 5 skill points remaining, so gets QL2.

Q: Does the dwarf seem trustworthy enough? Likely (3+): O5 C1 - Yes, and... will not turn on her.]

Travjane's gut tells her that this dwarf is not a danger to her. She walks over to him, and does her best not to intrude upon any grief he might feel. "It'll be dark soon," she says at length. "We should get to the forest and under shelter."

"But what about Gudelne? We can't just leave her here."

"I have a knife and a cooking pot. I don't think we can dig a grave in this soil."

"I will carry her then."

[The dwarf will need to use his Feat of Strength skill to manage this. The controlling attributes are Con/Str/Str (some skills use an attribute twice, but never thrice). I am using the sample dwarf warrior in the rulebook for stats, so he has a skill rating of 8 and 15 in both attributes. However he has three levels of Pain from being under 75% of his LP. The -3 penalty is reduced by 1 for his Zäher Hund ("tough as nails" is a good English equivalent) Advantage, so his attributes for the roll are 13/13/13. Rolling 2/16/16 succeeds with 2 skill points left over (QL1), so he can make it as far as the forest.]

The dwarf shoulders his dead comrade, and Travjane offers to carry the spear and his shield. He follows the witch into the woods, where she looks for a suitable campsite.

[Survival (Courage/Agility/Constitution) roll to find good campsite: 15/8/4. She has  skill 4; 2 points spent to lower the 15 to 13 yields a success (2 points left over so QL1).]

She finds a decent bower to shelter them, and gets a small fire lit for the dwarf to stay warm. They agree to share watch duties, but other than that the dwarf does not seem very talkative. It's all Travjane can do to get a name out of him: Jalosch. She soon gives up, and lets him get some sleep, and peacefully dream about whatever it is that fills the dreams of dwarfs. Probably ore, she thinks.

[No night-time encounter, so they both get Regeneration rolls. The base is 1d6, but -1 for sharing the watch. I assume Jalosch had adequate travelling supplies, so can stay warm enough (else he'd have his total halved).

Jalosch regains 4 LP
Travjane regains 5 ArP

Whilst they're sleeping, here's a few more rolls to figure out what's going on with the dwarfs.

Motivations (UNE):
1. shepherd contraband
2. depress enlightenment
3. indulge patience

Q: Does Jalosch have any sort of reward? Unlikely (5+): O2 C6, No.
Q: Was his weapon salvageable? Likely (3+): O6 C4 - Yes, but... his axe has been taken; can salvage dagger, spear, and shield

Q: Where is he headed? 1d30=Fairy glade
Q: Does he say? 50/50 (4+): O1 C9, no.]

"So," says Travjane the next morning over a dismal breakfast of trail rations, "I don't know where you're headed. But I can go with you as far as Weihenhorst."

"We're not from Weihenhorst. Nor anywhere near these parts."

"I just thought they might be able to help there. With--"

"I won't leave Gudelne in some provincial human town."

"How about the Raven Cloister then? I'm sure the priests would... would be able to prepare her for a longer journey. Or..."

"You know the way?"

"Can't miss it."

"We'll go there, then."

And so they set out down the road. As the walls of Weihenhorst are coming into view in the distance (down the road and across the Breite), a lone traveller is spotted coming towards them.

[d30 road encounter: hostile - threaten, bully
level=+2; random NPC=Magic-User

NPC Relationship: hostile
Conversation Mood: cautious
hostile - destruction - future action

Q: Does the mage know Jalosch? 50/50 (4+): O6 C9, Yes
relationship: Competitive rival]

image from the DSA-Fanpaket

The man is obviously a guild mage, as evidenced by his tall hat, robes, and staff. He raises his hand in a mock-friendly greeting. "Ingerimm bless you!" says the mage.

[Die Zwölfe zum Gruße (The Twelve bless you) is the typical Aventurian greeting formula. The Twelve can be replaced witht he name of one of the individual gods to suit the circumstance. Ingerimm is the god of earth, blacksmiths, fire, etc. The dwarfs call him Angrosch, and venerate him as the father of their race.]

"What brings you out here? Business, pleasure, or have they finally ejected you from the city?"

"Charming as always, Jalosch. But at least you're making new friends to lead into certain death. At least you're good at finding replacements!"

[Q: Does mage provoke dwarf? 50/50 (4+): O6 C3 - Yes, but... only to words]

Mage and dwarf stand in the road, trading insults for what seems an eternity. Travjane first tries to ignore it, but becomes increasingly impatient. Finally she puts on her best angry witch face, and screams at the to be silent.

[Intimidation roll. Courage/Intuition/Charisma; Skill rating 3. There is a -2 penalty since they have history fuelling the acerbity (so 13/14/14 becomes 11/12/12).
She rolls 9/16/5... 1 skill point short of a success.]

Travjane's screams go unheard. She eventually gives up and starts to wander down the road a ways, looking for a rock or a tree stump to sit on.

[Q: How does it end? Increase / Advice]

After another eternity, the mage gets the parting shot. "I don't have time for this. I'm expected... somewhere we don't all breathe through our mouths. If you knew what was good for you, you'd abandon this hopeless quest. Or it'll be you that ends up like poor Gudelne there."

The dwarf is too shocked to respond, and merely watches the mage walk away. The two travellers continue down the road in silence. They leave the road to trudge over the hills, and by late afternoon they are standing before the death god's imposing temple.


  1. Replies
    1. A quiet start. But I fear Travjane's troubles are about ot get a little less domestic.