Friday, 27 November 2015

Dragon Warriors solo - Part IX: A night visitation & Into the underworld


With the hobgoblin defeated, a stillness settles over the ruins. Loys leads his companions out of the great tower and over to the hole the hobgoblin had pointed out as its secret treasury. Ysmena rekindles her lantern, which she hands over to Loys. He shines the light down into the hole, and peering into the  blackness. A faint, guttural moaning is heard emanating from the hole, and rattling of chains. This certainly bears investigation -- perhaps after a few days' recovery.

Ysmena and the three battered and bloodied knights trudge back across the green to Brother Quintinus' tower. The hermit receives them warmly, and has a nice stew simmering for them on the fire. At midnight Ysmena once again employs her healing magic to aid the injured knights.

In the morning Brother Quintinus takes up his spear and announces he must go hunting, as having guests means his food supplies are depleted much more rapidly, and their own provisions are quite sparse. Reynaud wishes to go with him, so Ailbert hands over his crossbow.

Whilst they're away. Loys tells Ysmena he must speak to her on a topic most serious. Ailbert offers to step outside the tower that they may enjoy some privacy, but Loys says that this concerns him too. Ysmena is terrified that Loys is going to bring up painful incidents from their past, and Ailbert is certain that his valour has been found wanting and they are going to take him before a magistrate to be tried for banditry, but Loys is really only concerned about Ysmena fighting with such poor weaponry. He suggests that, since Ailbert owns no shield, he give her his sword, and use the battle axe they took from the second brigand for himself. They both laugh in relief, and happily take up their new arms.

[There were a lot of dice rolled for the above, and for other matters concerning the situation. But I prefer to start with narrative, so here they all are now:

Q: Does the remaining goblin want revenge? Likely (3+): O5 C7, Yes. Adding it to NPC list
Q: Is it brave enough to sneak over to tower and spoil the PCs' remaining food with its evil power (vide DW Bestiary) before it scarpers? Doubtful (6): O3 C8, No.

At midnight, Ysmena regained and immediately spent all 4 magic points on healing; current HP totals: Loys 6, Reynaud 8, Ailbert 5.

Q: Any encounters? Unlikely (5+): O4 C4 -  No, +event: NPC action - goblin - Arrive / A representative (the goblin knows a monster on the moors who will help it take revenge)

Q: How does the Hermit primarily get his food? (1d6): 1-2 hunts, 3-4 gathers, 5-6 both: 5=hunts.
He hunts with...(1d6):  1-2 spear, 3-4 sling, 5-6 bow: 1=spear.
Reynaud goes with him carrying sword and crossbow, and wearing only the padding from his plate armour (counts as a gambeson, AF1)

Q: Decent hunting? 50/50 (4+): O5 C6, Yes. 1d6+2=back in 4 hours (no random encounter)

Q: Random encounter at the tower whilst the hunters are away? Doubtful (6): O5 C5, No + Event: Introduce a new NPC - Celebrate / Masses: a priest, then: (1d6) 1-2 capital P Priest, 3 other profession, 4-6 normal human: 6=normal

Personality: Discouraged, Thankless
Motivations (UNE):
1. complete the elite
2. shepherd resources
3. execute religion

(1-3 m, 4-6 f; 3) He has (1d8-1=) 5 attendants. Each is (1d6) 1-4 cleric, 5-6 soldier; 4 other clerics in train, 1 spearman (all normal humans).

Now, to rejoin the PCs.]

"... and so the priest goes: 'I want to know who these unchaste women are and where to find them'." says Ailbert. [adapted from Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459)'s Facetiae, #CXXIII; the original Latin is much nastier, but Ailbert won't use the f-word in mixed company]

Ysmena doubles over with laughter. Try as she might to stifle it, she only ends up snorting in a most unladylike fashion.

"I don't get it," says Loys.

Ysmena looks up. "Oh, Loys," says she, through peals of laughter, "it's like how... you know... the priest..."

"No, I still don't--- shhhh! What's that sound?"

The three fall silent, Ysmena clapping a hand over her mouth to stifle any residual chortles. They strain their ears, and a far-off sonorous chanting is heard on the wind. They take up weapons and rush from the tower to investigate. It is with no small relief that they find the chanting to be coming from a small band of priests making a procession across the grassy field before the ruins. The head priest with mitre and crosier leads a group of 4 novices, all bearing books, censers, and other holy paraphernalia. Behind them walks a single spearman in a dented helm and shabby byrnie. The spearman calls something out and the procession abruptly comes to a halt. The priests turn to see the trio crossing the green to meet them. The head priest looks them up and down and gives an audible sigh.


[UNE:
NPC Relationship: distrustful
Conversation Mood: guarded
prejudiced - belief - future action]

"We have come," says he, "to exorcise the foul spirits who have too long plagued this decrepit heap. Wherefore are you here?"

"We are simple travellers, domine," says Ysmena. "We sought shelter here for the night, and were attacked by wicked fairies. These brave knights drove them off, but were sorely wounded by the fiends." [Looks (15) roll, at a +3 penalty: 2d10+3=22, big fail]

"Wherefore would you shelter here? The foul reputation of this ancient abode, and the fearful noises that come over the moors... none come here but bandits -- or fortune seekers! Which be these so-called 'knights'?"

"I am just back from the Holy Crusade," interjects Loys. "I'll not be insulted by the likes of you!"

[For the priest's response, I rolled again on the UNE charts, with the proviso that a non-sequitur means he simply blows up at Loys: inquisitive - interest - allies]

"And this other knight," says the priest impassively, "is he too a crusader?"

"N-no, reverend father," says Ailbert. "A simple man-at-arms."

[Q: Will the priest eventually give up and leave the party alone? 50/50 (4+): O3 C2 - No, and..."

"You will all either help us or move on," says the priest. "I shouldn't want to have to inform His Lordship that there be bandits lairing in the ruins."

"Fine..." grumbles Loys.


The cleric intends to start by re-consecrating the old chapel, performing a series of rites that will last [1d8=] eight full hours, until early evening. The spearman must stand watch, so he is aided in his task by Loys and Ailbert, who take the time to sound out his opinions about the priests' endeavour. The spearman is a simple peasant from Fitston Parva, and he has absolute confidence in the awesome holy powers of his village priest.

[UNE for the spearman-
NPC Relationship: peaceful
Conversation Mood: neutral
insane - illusion - current story

Q: How does the hermit get on with the priest? Abandon / Trials

His danger sense (37%) roll about the NPCs: 15, success
Q: Are they dangerous? Unlikely (5+): O4 C4 - No, but... they will attract danger
+Event: Ambiguous event - Cruelty / Environment (storm)]

Reynaud and Brother Quintinus come back with some rabbit for the pot. He looks in on the priests to see what they are doing, then comes back to the tower, shaking his head. "Leave him to his nonsense," says Brother Quintinus. "Who knows, perhaps his faith is sufficient to banish the stain from these old stones. Or perhaps he'll see what a fool he really is! But let us be prepared ourselves to do battle with evil this night. I've a terrible feeling about this lot."

That night sees a terrible downpour.  The hermit's lean-to is not big enough to hold more than two people, nor indeed is its roof the equal of the storm. They all take refuge in the tower, up upon the first landing whose opening faces away from the driving wind.

[Q: Cleric's party join them too? 50/50 (4+): O2 C8, No.]

The priests decide to make their shelter in the kitchen cellar which is proof against both wind and water. No one tries to dissuade them, or mentions that was the goblins' lair.

[Q: Quiet night? Likely (3+): O1 C6, No.
What happens? Vengeance / Pleasures]

A shrill, awful wail is heard in the distance, even above the howling wind. A second, moaning wail echoes it, seeming to come from beneath the great tower itself. The first one gets closes and closer. Inside the tower, weapons are taken up, and battle lines are formed. Even the hermit brandishes his spear. For a few agonising minutes the wailing ceases, then abruptly starts up again, much nearer. A chorus of horrible screams is raised in answer, echoing down the long passage and up into the tower staircase. None dare stir from the tower. "I shall pray for their souls," says the trembling hermit.

[Q: Does anyone escape? Unlikely (5+): O5 C3 - Yes, but...
Q: Does an attack on the tower follow? Unlikely (5+): O1 C5 No.]

The rest of the night is spent in fear and anticipation of an attack which does not come. Ysmena refrains from casting any spells at all that night; she doesn't want to use all her power on healing when some more destructive magics are required. But nothing else does happen.

By morning, the rain has stopped. The exhausted knights emerge from the tower to survey the area. They find the head of one of the priests, the eyes gouged out and a large patch of scalp missing, placed on the bottom stair, right inside the door to the tower. Other than this grisly warning, they find no trace of their mysterious nocturnal enemy. "It wasn't those little goblins that did this," says Reynaud. "The little bastard must've found help."

Loys takes up the severed head and tosses it down the steps into the long passage. "best we not mention this... trophy. Not in too much detail, I mean."

Deeming it safe, Loys calls the other two down out of the tower. Ysmena applies her healing magic to the injured knights [healing Loys 4 to 10hp, Reynaud 2 to 10hp, and Ailbert 2 to 7hp].


Searching the grounds, Brother Quintinus finds one of the novices cowering in a hole. His mind seems to have gone; he cannot but weep and prate like a child. The hermit says he shall care for the unfortunate.

Everything within the hermit's little tower has been destroyed. It is obvious that more than the storm was at work. The remaining stores of food are in a terrific state of decay, spoilt by goblin magic.

Loys announces that he and Reynaud must go down into the cellar to see if there be any survivors. Ailbert volunteers to come, but is visibly relieved when Loys refuses. They spend less than a minute for the whole expedition. Reynaud comes back bearing a spear, but neither of the knights will discuss what they saw.

Come mid day they are distressed to find that the provisions they had taken into the great tower have also been ruined by the fairy curse. Ysmena and Ailbert stay behind whilst the others go out hunting (with crossbow and 2 spears).

[Q: Decent hunting? 50/50 (4+): O4 C8, Yes. 1d6=back in 2 hours (no random encounters)
Q: Random encounter whilst they're away? Doubtful (6): O5 C2 - No, and... stop asking this question.]

The hunters soon return with some venison. Fortunately Brother Quntinus' cooking pot is still in a condition to hold water, once the dents are pounded out.
 Whilst the hermit cooks, the others bring up some heavy rocks and loose flagstones into the tower, in case they need to throw them down upon attackers. After a hearty meal they decide to look for the treasury.

[I gave the treasury entrance an effective Stealth of 20, so the PCs need to roll higher than 20-PCN on 2d10 to detect it. Reynaud had the only good roll: 20-5=15, so 16+ to detect it; 2d10=17.]

They all search around the area the hobgoblin had indicated. Reynaud feels brave and jumps down into the little hole itself. Time and the elements have filled whatever chamber once was here with soil, but between two stones of the wall (or foundation?) he feels a slight draft. The dirt comes away easily when he digs at it with his steel gauntlet, and one of the stones seems to pivot slightly. "Through here," says Reynaud, "there's a passage. It shouldn't be too much work to clear a bit so we can squeeze through."


"Not today," says Ysmena bluntly. "I won't go down without my magic."

"Dear Lady," says Loys, "none of us would would even dare it."

[Q: Mostly quiet night? Certain (2+): O3 C6, Yes.]

The night is mostly restful. From time to time a chilling moan emanates from the recently uncovered hole. Whatever lurks beneath the tower, it knows it will soon have company.


* * *

The next morning...

It takes about an hour's work to free up the pivoting stone enough so that an armoured man may enter the secret passage. It slopes downward for a few paces before emptying out into a cramped and foul-smelling circular chamber. Some worm-eaten wooden chests are strewn haphazardly about the room. One side of the room is heaped up with rubbish and bones and filth.

Loys and Reynaud cautiously edge into the room. Ysmena hold the lantern high above their heads.

[Stealth roll: 12-6 (Loys' Perception) = 6 or lower needed; 2d10=13, failure, no surprise]

There is a rattling of chains, and then a horror bursts out from under its bone and rag pile nest, sending bits of detritus flying. The hunched-over, man-sized beast has long arms and claws that scrape against the floor, and its furious face is nearly all fangs. The thick chain attached to one ankle scrapes loudly across the stone floor as it moves. It is attached to an imposing iron ring set into the wall -- but its length is more than sufficient to reach the knights. Grasping nails outstretched, it springs straight at Loys.


[The creature is an Ire Goblin (bugbear), because again I saw it in the bestiary and wanted to use it.
Special rule I made up for this fight: anyone rolling a natural 20 will trip over the chain. They must then roll their REF or lower on 1d20 or fall down. The bugbear is not exempt. Its REF score is (3d6=) 9.]

[Round 1]
Reynaud takes a swing at the advancing bugbear, but it evades his blade. Its claws reach for Loys' face, but he raises his shield just in time, and the creature merely rakes the front of it, leaving deep rents in the lacquered surface [hit deflected by shield roll]. Loys' feeble counterattack does him no credit [rolls a 19]. Ailbert rushes in to join the fight, whilst Ysmena puts the lantern carefully down on the ground, where it won't get overturned.


[Round 2 - Initiative: Y,R,B,L,A]
Ysmena pronounces syllables in some ancient and forgotten tongue. Her magic causes the bugbear's limbs to slacken and its muscles lose their vigour [casting Weaken for 1MP. It's a Direct spell, so Mag. Attack 17 - Mag. Defence 4, it will take effect on a roll of 13 or less; 2d10=12, success. The bugbear suffers -2 Attack, and inflicts -1 damage]. Reynaud lunges and sticks the point of his sword into the creature's  shaggy flank. He is surprised by the thickness of its wiry hair and taut hide [AF 2 vs. non-magical weapons], but the blade bites deep. The bugbear lets out a deep groan and black blood spurts around the blade as it is withdrawn [4 damage drops it to 4hp]. The bugbear turns and strikes out at the knight who wounded it, but it does not reach far enough [miss]. But as it turns, the chain whips round and gets caught under Loys' foot [rolled a 20 on his attack & failed his REF check 11]. He loses his balance and clatters to the floor. Ailbert has to step over him to avoid falling himself, and can't get near the creature with his axe [missed by a lot].

[Round 3]
The bugbear's weird groaning gets louder and more grating, and it begins to swell, its head and torso increasing in size at an alarming rate, its arms seeming to lengthen and stretch beyond its feet [a wounded Bugbear swells up over 3 rounds, gaining +3HP, +2 Attack, and +1 ABR & damage per round. It will reach its maximum on round 5, and revert quickly to normal on the 6th round]. Ysmena draws her sword, preparing to join the fray. Reynaud slashes down the thing's front, but the blade seems to slide over the stiff fur and leave it unscathed [failed ABR]. The bugbear swipes its claws down Reynaud's torso, and is similarly defeated by the stout breastplate [also failed ABR]. Loys clambers to his feet. Ailbert hefts the battle axe over his head and rains it down in a mighty blow -- which also bounces off wiry hair as if it were polished steel [he too failed his ABR].


[Round 4]
The bugbear continues to grow, becoming a misshapen and distorted lump of rage. Ysmena brings her sword down upon its head with both hands. There is a loud crack and spray of blood as the steel glances over the thick skull of the fiend [4 damage drops it to 6hp]. Reynaud takes advantage of its momentary distraction, and burys his sword in the groaning thing's side. This time it finds purchase, and cuts a deep gurgling wound [4 damage leaves it with 2hp]. The bugbear throws itself at Reynaud, but he parries every strike with sword and shield. Avoiding the rattling chain and each other, neither Loys nor Ailbert get close enough to strike [miss].

[Round 5]
And now it is twice its original size, and attacking more furiously than ever. Ysmena swings at it, but it merely backhands her sword with its terrible paw [she failed her ABR]. Reynaud continues his own furious assault, and opens another gash in the beast's flank [4 damage drops it to 1hp]. It yowls in pain, but cannot get its claws round the throat of this most persistent knight. Loys can barely swing his sword in the direction of the creature, so fast does it move now [and so poorly does he roll], but Ailbert swings his battleaxe down hard upon its shoulder, removing its left arm entirely [6 damage drops it to -4hp].

The creature falls to the ground, deflating like a burst wineskin, with black blood squirting from its various wounds.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Dragon Warriors solo - Part VIII: Down and up


Scene 13

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

Threads:
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.]

[Round 1]
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.]

[Round 2]
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].


[Round 3]
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.]

[Round 4]

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.

[Round 5]
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.

[Round 6]
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].

[Round 7]
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."

"Mrph."

"And we make no promise, do we?"

"Mrph!"

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?"

"Nice view."

"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.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Dragon Warriors solo - Part VII: The comforts of religion


Ailbert means to stand watch the rest of the day and into the night, so that Ysmena may recover her magic and rescue Loys and Reynaud from death's door. But his own wounds have taken too great a toll on the young knight, and he drifts off as the sun is setting. Ysmena forces herself to remain vigilant, but she too is suffering from her wounds and the evening's chill.

Ysmena hears a rustling in the bushes nearby. She creeps over to investigate, her hand clutching the dagger at her belt. She sees no one through the dense foliage. She stands still to listen, but only sound is the wind blowing through the leaves, and her own heart pounding. But hark! footsteps are getting closer, slow and measured, but certainly human.

Then an imposing form in a dark, heavy cowl bursts into the clearing beside her. She wheels about, drawing her dagger in a flash. The form pauses for a moment, and Ysmena hisses, "Come no closer! I am armed, and with but a word I can summon my knightly protectors!"

A kindly voice comes from under the cowl. "Dear lady, you are injured, as are your poor protectors. This forest at night is not safe. Not safe 'tall"

[It's still scene 9, with a d10 chaos die. I asked Mythic:
Q: Do the PCs have a peaceful evening/night? 50/50 (4+): O1 C0, No.

So I rolled a random encounter (from the DW Bestiary charts), with the proviso that a weird result would instead be (1d6) either the Key NPC (1-3) or Goblins (4-6).
encounter time (1d12)=just after dusk

A roll of 07 was Peasants... they certainly wouldn't come near the ruins, so 1d6=3; the Key NPC (Hermit, from the d30 Sandbox Companion table).

What are the hermit's motivations? (via UNE)
-accompany distress
-aid the world
-surpress narcissism

Q: Is he of the Priest profession? Unlikely (5+): O2 C3 - No, but... other random profession: 1st level mystic]


"Who are you?" asks Ysmena, still interposing the dagger between herself and the stranger.

"I am called Brother Quintinus. I am a simple monk, come here to live in solitude and contemplation away from the worldliness of the city and the distractions of the cloister."

"I see."

"Come, let us get the wounded to my tower. The night is full of dangers outside."

Brother Quintinus lives in the shell of an old tower across the field from the castle proper. He has constructed a lean-to inside as shelter from the elements, and has made a simple shrine on one wall and a fire pit in the centre. Loys and Reynaud are put under some blankets in the lean-to, and Ysmena and Ailbert join the good friar around his fire as he cooks them something from his meagre stores.

"Is this a holy place?" asks Ysmena.

"Oh, no," says Brother Quintinus, "just a place for my simple needs and solitude. But it's safe here. The little bogeys are afraid of me, I think,and won't come close. Sometimes they leave me little presents: a pigeon, some pretty stones, a pile of leaves. But they fear my prayers and the rude images of the True Religion I've put up."

Ysmena lets him lead the conversation, and is relieved that he doesn't seem interested in prying too deeply into their reasons for coming here. He does have a few questions for Ailbert about his panoply, and admits that as a child he wanted to be a knight himself and would watch the tourneys with great interest.

[UNE: conversation mood=friendly, neutral; topic: friendly-delight-weapons

Q: Can Ysmena subtly sound him out about his attitude to magic? Unlikely (5+): O5, C2 - Yes, and...]

"I fear for our two knights," says Ysmena deliberately. "Loys is in a terrible state. And Reynaud's condition is even more desperate. I fear for their recovery from such grievous wounds. It would... it would take a miracle to make them whole again. Or..."

Brother Quintinus looks thoughtful for a moment, then speaks. "M'lady, if you know of -- if you posses -- some extra-natural means of soothing their ills, 'twould be a great kindness -- nay, a blessing! -- and more salubrious for them by far than my simple chirurgy."

At midnight, Ysmena speaks a healing charm over each of her companions.

[Everyone gets 2hp back. Loys and Reynaud regained consciousness with 1 HP at some point, so she doesn't need to cure them from 0 or -2.

Q: Do any of the PCs admit to anything stupid? Unlikely (5+): O4 C8, No.]

They stay for a day with Brother Quintinus. He is content to let them rest whilst he wanders through the woods collecting food. They find him a most affable host, who likes nothing so much as chatting about the spiritual rewards of his simple life [UNE: friendly-comfort-rewards]. Everyone is eager to travel back to civilisation for supplies (Ysmena would like some armour), but the good friar won't see them head out on the road in such a pitiable state, so they stay for yet another full day, Ysmena applying her magic on two successive midnights.

On the following morning, then, the hermit packs them some provisions for the road and finally bids them Godspeed.

[Loys & Reynaud each have 7hp, Ysmena and Ailbert are back to full (9hp).]


Scene 10

Chaos: Out of control (d8) - raised since the expedition to the ruins nearly got everyone killed.

Setup: go to village to rest & resupply
chaos die=2, Altered = Will have to travel further for one or more things...

NPC list: Lady Melisenda, Earl of Avincester, the Secret Enemy, Benoist the brigand, Brother Quintinus, goblins

Threads:
1. get a horse
2. find out situation
3. head home
4. earl's mission

The uneventful walk up the road from the ruins to the nearby village takes barely an hour and a half.

[no encounters.
Q: Is there an inn or public house with rooms available? Unlikely (5+): O2 C1 - No, and...]

The villagers of Fitston Parva look upon the weary and bloodied travellers with abject suspicion. None are willing to offer them shelter, not even at a price. One brave sort suggests they follow the road to the next village. There is a travellers' inn there.

Not wanting any trouble, they take the hint and continue down the road.

[Q: Does Loys and/or Reynaud have any idea of the relationship between the Earl and the lord of castle #7? Likely (3+): O4 C0, Yes.

d12   relationship
---   ------------
1     love
2-3   allies
4-5   grudging allies
6-7   neutral
8-9   rivals
10-11 enemies
12    abject hatred


7=neutral]


They decide to bypass the castle; the lord there is neither friend nor enemy to the Earl, but they'd all rather not risk another noble's involvement in their quest. At the next village...

[Q: Inn or public house rooms available? Unlikely (5+): O2 C4 - No, but...]

...they once again are coolly received. The peasants of Fitston say there is a traveller's in at Mulford, down on the river, so perhaps they ought to go thither. Pausing only to slake their thirst at the town well, they march straightaways down the road out of the village.

The road leads out of the farmland and crosses through the hills. Between two particularly steep inclines, a tollgate blocks the road. A tall tower looks down upon it from high above on a flat-topped hills. Loys hands over 4 florins for the toll.

[Q: Any other problems? Unlikely (5+): O6 C2 - Yes, and...
Q: What? Persecute / New ideas]


As they are about to pass through, one of the officers addresses Loys. "Good sir knight! I know thou art most assuredly upon some great Quest, or in the service of some Earl or Duke, but if the problems of simple country folk be not too mean for thy notice, I would speak with thee of a matter most distressing."

"It is my duty as a knight to help all those in distress!" responds Loys. Ailbert tries to stand straight and proud as he can. Ysmena and Reynaud merely roll their eyes.

The soldier continues: "There is a heretic causing trouble for us, and especially for the good people of Mulford. Wouldst thou, O knight, put a stop to the perfidy of this churl? And with all haste, lest the flock of Mulford be led into darkness!"

"The very Fist of God shall guide my sword, as I put an end to the foul ravings of this noxious heretic! Come, my friends: Mulford awaits. We've the Lord's work to do!"

Loys leads his companions into Mulford. There is some sort of festival in full swing, and the town square if full of musicians, performers, and the drunken populace itself [d30 settlement events: popular, music].


They take rooms in a proper Inn: a private room for Loys, another for Ysmena, and a shared room for Reynaud and Ailbert (12F/night total, and another 12F (total) for food). The first night is spent in rest; they are all too tired to even take part in the festivities. Ysmena heals Loys and Reynaud some more [4HP each] in the morning.

[Q: Anything interesting happen? 50/50 (4+): O6 C7, Yes.
Q: What? Malice / Disruption
Q: Against the PCs? 50/50 (4+): O1 C2 - No, and...]

After breakfast, Ysmena goes to the market to buy a decent dress (2F), as hers is torn and covered in bloodstains. She wants to buy a gambeson (35% avail in village) too, but can't find one.

Loys goes in search of a priest who might have information on the heretic. From the steps of the church he witnesses a near-riot in the marketplace. Some bravos were attempting to shake down some of the poorer merchants for protection money. A band of the Baron's soldiers intervene, and beat the miscreants bloody, to the cheers of the crowd -- amongst which he is almost certain he makes out the face of Reynaud.

Once inside the peaceful emptiness of the grand church, Loys finds a tonsured priest. [Looks roll to get info on heretic: 7+8=barely a success]

"Holy father," says Loys, "I have heard tell of a heretic in this village, spreading poison amongst the faithful. I have pledged my sword to rooting out and destroying this evil."

"That is... laudable, my child," says the priest. "But perhaps we should temper our righteous anger with mercy, and seek to return this sad woman to the bosom of the True Faith. Rather than murdering a wayward nun in cold blood."

"I... uh... yes. I see. What is this heretical nun doing to cause such a stir?"

[Q: What is heretic's deal? I found a list of major real-world heresies, and adapted it for a 1d10 roll:

d10 heresy
--- ------
 1  Gnosticism
 2  Montanism
 3  Sabellianism
 4  Arianism
 5  Pelagianism
 6  Semi-Pelagianism
 7  Nestorianism
 8  Monophysitism
 9  Iconoclasm
 0  Catharism


8=Monophysitism]

"This benighted soul is preaching that the Saviour is a fusion of both human and divine, rather than being wholly human AND wholly divine, as all those pure of faith know to be true."

"I understand," lies Loys. "This heretic, is she in the town? Preaching in the square perhaps?"

[Location (1d6) 1-2 church, 3 inn, 4 hills, 5 moor, 6 swamp
5 = moor]

"No. We've chased her from the village. She lives alone on the moor, though there are many unfortunates who do seek her out there. They consider her a living saint. Saint Richolda, they call her."

"I would very much like a word with this heretic."

"Take care, my child, lest her evil words infect your reason. Or stir you to even greater sins of violence!"


Scene 11

Chaos: Out of control (d8)

Setup: find heretic
chaos die=4, Interrupt: Vengeance / Lies - NPC action - Earl

[noted for later]


Scene 12

Chaos: Out of control (d8)

Setup: find heretic
chaos die=2, Altered (Debase / Expectations)


NPC list: Lady Melisenda, Earl of Avincester, the Secret Enemy, Benoist the brigand, Brother Quintinus, goblins, heretic

Threads:
1. get a horse
2. find out situation
3. head home
4. earl's mission
5. deal with heretic

The next day they set out into the moors to find the heretic. Loys is certain of his purpose. Reynaud is sure it's a bad idea, but know he can say nothing. Ailbert is somewhat worried about what they might find, but does his best to emulate Loys' brave resolution. Ysmena doesn't really care, but likes walking on the moors; it reminds her of her childhood.

[Tracking roll to get there directly 1d20=19, no...

Encounter check: 9 Lazars

Q: Going to see the heretic? Likely (3+): O6 C6, Yes + Event: NPC Action - Earl - Travel / Goals (Earl will not be home when PCs get back, travels take him to 1d30 on an errand. Noted for later)]

Despite doing his best to follow the priest's directions, Loys cannot find the way to the heretic's dwelling. Then in the distance, a small group of travellers is spotted. Loys approaches them cautiously, aware that they are outnumbered, if still more than a match for simple peasants.


But as he draws near, the leader of the group raises a hand in warning, and others begin to ring bells. "Lepers!" exclaims Reynaud.

Loys halts a safe distance away, and shouts, "Whither go ye, unclean ones!"

"Oh good knight, we do but travel to the abode of the wise woman of the moor. It is said she doth posses the touch of a Saint, and can make this affliction fly from our bodies as a show of God's infinite mercies."

Loys and his company follow the lepers at a safe distance, and are soon in the camp of the so-called saint. There is a rude hut made of branches and roofed with rushes, and a a scattering of tents, all around a central altar made of piled stones. About a dozen miserable people are lying about the altar on the ground. They are all ravaged by diseases most horrific. Some are praying, some merely staring up into the sky, and others look to have already died. The scent of carrion is on the breeze, causing our heroes to choke.

A bedraggled woman crawls out of the hut, roused by the lepers' bells. When she sees the trio of knights behind them, she calls out to them.

"Get ye back! Back! Let none come here save those already doomed! I have no holy power! I am afflicted with the mark of my heresy. Leaves us here to our penance -- and death!"

Loys and company do not need to be told a second time. They make for Mulford with all possible haste. Loys brings word to the priest that the heretic has been struck down by God Himself, and now consorts only with flies and lepers -- and shall soon entertain the worms.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Dragon Warriors solo - Part VI: Amongst the ruins


N.B. From this point on, I'm using the variations I came up with for Mythic.

Scene 9

Chaos: Average d10

Setup: explore the ruins

NPC list: Lady Melisenda, Earl of Avincester, the Secret Enemy, Benoist the brigand

Threads:
1. get a horse
2. find out situation
3. head home
4. earl's mission


The ruins of Château Fittauges are in a fragmentary state; after the Mad Comte's enemies sacked the castle, they pulled down the curtain and destroyed the keep as best they could. There is many a stone building in the village up the road, built from the shattered fortress' remains. The destruction would have been more complete, but soon the noises started, and then the accidents. Rumour spread abroad that the Mad Comte's ghost was taking his revenge on those who dared steal his castle's stones, and the evil place was shunned.

Certainly travellers and bandits alike give the ruins a wide berth. Even the birds, it is said, dare not fly over the broken remains. But there are some brave souls or mad who seek their fortune amongst the shattered pile. And it is such a band -- four stalwart knights and a courageous sorceress -- who now approach on a chill autumn morn.

They move amongst the broken walls, pass beneath the crumbling archways into the shadows of once grand chambers. Each holds a weapon at the ready, fearing at any moment the unquiet dead might rise to repulse the living from their domain. Somewhere amongst these broken walls must lie the entrance to the secret vaults. But where?


[Each character needs to roll a Perception check in order to find something important. They get a +5 bonus to their scores for broad daylight, but even with the increase only Loys makes his roll.

Q: What does he find? 1d6: 1 hermit, 2 tower stairs, 3 kitchen stairs, 4 clue, 5 tracks, 6 well
2=tower stairs]

"Look here!" calls Loys. "Under these planks, it looks like a stair."

His companions rush to tower to see his discovery. Indeed, beneath a worm-eaten section of a collapsed upper floor, a stairway leads down into a dark, damp, and very narrow passage. It takes the combined might of all four to shift the old timbers aside.


"We must descend," says Loys sternly. "I shall lead with my lantern. Reynaud, you shall follow me, then Ysmena, and Ailbert shall guard our rear." Igniting his lamp, Loys makes his cautious way down the uneven steps. A praeternatural chill strikes him at the bottom, its icy fingers clutching at him between the very plates of his armour. His breath makes billowing clouds in the lamplight.

[My PCs may be completely in the dark, but I know the layout of this area as it is a real place to which I've been. I also decided in advance what monsters live here on the basis of having looked through the DW Bestiary and thought, "oooh, my adventure so needs those". I love random tables and all, but sometimes things just cry out to be in the adventure. So...

Q: Are they attacked in the passage? 50/50 (4+): Oracle die 5, Chaos die 0 - Yes
How many assailants? 1d4=1 (out of 5 + 1 leader)
Which? 1d6=6, the leader
PCs are Surprised.]

Loys creeps down the cramped passage. He can't quite stand upright, lest his helm keep scraping across the ceiling. "If there be creatures ahead in the blackness, he thinks, they must certainly know we're coming. 'Twere bad enough that the lantern announce our coming." The others are as quiet as they can be, and follow close behind. They proceed very slowly, ten paces, twenty, thirty, and yet the narrow channel leads forward.


Then a sound comes out of the blackness ahead, the beating of leathery wings. Seven chittering bats fly into the light, and swirl around the heads of the small company to attack. But then just as suddenly they vanish in a puff of acrid smoke [each got one attack before dissipating, but none managed to cause any damage].

Loys bids his companions pause for a moment and be still. Nothing is heard but their own anxious breathing, so they proceed once more down the winding passage.

[A Stealth roll is in order: 23-6(Loys' Perception) = 17
2d10=14, surprise - hiding up against the wall behind the bend, using a special power. When the PCs approach within 3m, percentile dice are rolled (40% chance, both roll under 40) for Loys and Reynaud, who both need to make subsequent REF rolls on 1d20. Loys makes his, but...]

There is a patch of black ice coating the floor. Loys slips, but manages to catch himself. Not so Reynaud, who tumbles to the ground with a clatter of armour plate. Ysmena tests the floor carefully with her feet, and finds she stands right before the ice patch. Planting her feet firmly, she helps the fallen knight back up. He mutters a quick thanks, his voice icier than the stones beneath him.

Loys is bending over to examine the ground more carefully, when two sharp pieces of flint whistle towards him out of the darkness. One clatters off the wall beside him, the other bounces off his sturdy helm [2 sling attacks (d6,3): one missed utterly (natural 20), the other scored a hit but can't penetrate plate (AF 6) unless a critical is rolled.]

There is the sound of footsteps padding away, footsteps very close indeed. Loys holds his shield before him, and takes a few tentative steps forward. The ice has disappeared. "Come," says he, "let's press on!" And he picks up his pace.


[Q: Further attacks? Likely (3+): Oracle die 5, Chaos die 9 - Yes]

More jagged flints are hurled out of the darkness. One makes a spark against Loys' heavy greave, the other bounds off his shield. He does not pause in his advance, and again two flints fly at him, but are unable to hurt him through his solid armour.

But then his lantern is suddenly extinguished. He stops dead in his tracks. Ailbert lets out a shriek of fright. Ysmena is mumbling something, and more flints are glancing off Loys' armour, clattering along the walls and floor.

A soft glow surrounds Ysmena, like the cool radiance of of the full moon [cast Moonlight for 1MP; it will last 10 minutes].

[Q: What do the enemy do? (1d6) 1-2 reinforcement attacks 3-4 magic 5-6 retreat
1= 1d4 reinforcements; there are now 4 attackers total]

As if in answer to the magical illumination, more and more flints come winging out of the dark, but still none can hurt the brave knight, who draws his sword and surges forth.

And then Loys is caught in fairy net of fine gossamer, which checks his advance. He struggles against it, all the while sharp flints pinging off his impervious steel shell. At last he breaks free, though glistening cobweb shreds still cling to his limbs. The hail of stones abruptly ceases, and the pattering of many small feet recedes into the distance, to be suddenly silenced by the slamming of a door.

[It took Loys two attempts at a STR check to be free of the net, during which time 8 more attacks either missed or could not pierce AF6. I asked Mythic--
Q: Do the attackers retreat at this point? Likely (3+): Oracle die 3, Chaos die 5 - Yes.]

Loys walks forward more boldly now, and the door at the end of the passage is soon in view. It's a solid, heavy affair, made even heavier by the damp, swollen wood. Rusting iron bands still cling to the warped surface, and the whole is covered in a thin frost that glistens in the magical light.

Loys removes his helm and listens at the door as best he can -- without pressing his ear to the surface [rolls 2d10=6, which is exactly his Perception, so I rolled on the Labyrinth Lord AEC Random Sounds table].

An eerie giggling is just audible to the knight. The sound sends a shiver up his spine. "They're waiting for us beyond, whoever -- or whatever -- they be." He replaces his helm, then applies all his might to the door, which bursts open with a wet scraping [to force a door requires a STR check on 1d20; each attempt causes 1HP damage. Fortunately Loys' first attempt is a success. He's now at 10HP.]


Loys' momentum carries him into a long, low room of grey stone, with numerous alcoves in the uneven walls. Two hideous creatures await him. They have the stature of malformed children, with over-sized heads, grey-green skin, and sharp, evil features. They are clad in rude peasant garb, save for the blood-red floppy caps they wear. Each holds in a twisted hand a sword formed from an icicle.

The two uncouth goblins are on Loys before he can react, stabbing at him with their icy blades.

[Round 1 - REF scores for the goblins are 14 and 9]

The first lunges at him as he is regaining his balance. It strikes up and under his shield, but the ice cannot bite into the solid steel plate [Loys is splitting his Defence equally between the two goblins. 13-4=9, the goblin rolls a 4. Their icicles count as shortswords (d8,3), but 1d8=5: deflected].

Reynaud follows Loys into the room [moving more than 2.5m, so can't attack], hoping to even the odds, but the second goblin ignores him in favour of his master. But Loys has recovered, and smashed the icicle sword away with his shield [the goblin hits, but 1d6=1: shield catches the blow]. As the goblin staggers back a pace, Loys swings his sword upward, nearly cutting the horrid sprite in twain. A terrible shriek issues from its twisted mouth, and its eyes burn with hate. It shall not be bested so soon! [Loys needed 16-7=9 or less to hit, and rolled a 3. 1d8=4, penetrating the goblin's AF1, 4 damage drops it to 1HP.]


[Round 2]
Ysmena and Ailbert shuffle into the room, and try to flank the fiendish imps. The faster one turns its attentions to Reynaud, and there is a clash of icy steel against steely ice, but neither weapon finds its mark [both missed]. Loys' opponent fares no better, and after a second useless feint finds itself impaled upon the knight's sword [natural 1 hits and automatically bypasses armour. 4 damage drops it to -3, dead]. It falls back as Loys retracts the blade, black blood gurgling from its sundered midsection.

[Round 3]
The other goblin turns to flee, but Reynaud cuts it down with a most unchivalrous blow between its shoulders [dropping it to 0hp]. As he finishes it off, a faint light is seen, very briefly, at the back of the room, revealing the foot of a staircase.

[Q: Any last attack? 50/50 (4+): O3 C5, No + Event: Cruelty / Dispute - Remote event (more on this later)]

Loys and Ysmena run to the staircase, only to find it empty. A sliver of light at its top reveals a door to the outside. "There must be more of these loathly goblins," says Loys.

"Yes, but let us search this chamber first," says Ysmena, "Perhaps there is a hidden door to a lower vault."

Ysmena and Loys search the room whilst Ailbert stands guard at stairs, and Reynaud at door to the passage (which he kicks shut). Ysmena bids Reynaud to rekindle the lantern whilst they're here; her magic will not last indefinitely.

[Q: Do the goblins keep their treasure here? 50/50 (4+): O5 C3 - Yes, but... well hidden

I used the treasure generator from the Cobwebbed Forest.

I decided that each line item would require a separate search roll. Giving them an effective Stealth of 12 against the PC's best Perception of 6 (12-6=6) means each item will be found on a roll of 7+ on 2d10. The lucky searchers find all but the ivory.

Copper Pennies: 21
Silver Florins: 14
Gold Crowns: 5
A small Carved Ivory of poor quality worth 14F.
A tiny Polished Obsidian Stone of poor quality worth 16F.]

The goblins have tucked all their precious treasures in to spaces between the stones, concealed them in the darkest corners, and buried them in piles of rubbish. Or perhaps the piles of rubbish are part of the goblins' hoard; who can say? Amongst the collected sticks, dried leaves, animal bones, oddly-shaped pebbles, bent copper pins, potsherds, lengths of string, and birds' nests, Loys and Ysmena manage to find a handful of coins -- copper, some silver, even a few gold -- and a small piece of polished obsidian. It's hardly a fortune, but it doubles our heroes' collective purse.

Not a one grumbles as Loys puts all the treasure in his own purse for safekeeping; in this the knight's honour is without reproach.


Weapons are readied, and then they climb the short stair. Ailbert has some trouble with the door but after a bit of effort he manages to pull it open. They are just in time to see four more stunted goblins running off in different directions, clambering up walls and cackling as they disappear amongst the ruins. Ailbert shoots after one with his crossbow, but the bolt whizzes past the creature and embeds itself in the grass.

He is about to reload when a pack of wolves comes into view. They appear on all sides of the party, and are even visible through the archway to their right. It would seem they have them up against a wall. And there is something unholy in the way that the wolves are staring at them, as if they are spurred on by an unnatural hatred.

[Since the hobgoblin is controlling the wolves, this will be a fight to the death. There are 2d10= 11 wolves. For convenience, their REF scores are all (3d6=) 15; initiative is thus Ysmena, wolves, other PCs. Wolves do d4,5 damage so 3 out of the 4 PCs could only be hit on a natural 1. That said, the wolves rolled an awful lot of natural 1s! The fight ran 15 rounds, so I will truncate the narrative a bit; this was definitely more fun to play out than it would be to read.

I sketched out a very rough battle map, and threw 11d6 down on top of it to determine how the wolves were positioned. Only 4 were close enough to move and attack in the first round.]


[Round 1]
The wolves descend on the company form all sides, backing them into a corner. As the knights steel themselves to receive the onslaught, Ysmena shouts words of arcane potency. A gout of flame leaps from her outstretched hand, immolating one of the onrushing wolves.

One of the wolves barrels straight into Loys. It fastens its jaws around his armoured calf and begins to worry the knight, nearly wrenching his limb out of joint [the very first wolf rolled a 1. Loy's shield didn't deflect the hit, so he took 5 damage, leaving him with 5hp; this invokes the optional Shock rule (5+ damage bringing the target under 10hp). He needs to roll his current HP or less on 1d10 to avoid passing out. Fortunately he rolls a 4].

Both Reynaud and Loys manage to wound one of the snarling wolves, but neither falls under their swords. Ailbert draws his own blade and moves to defend the unarmoured sorceress.

[Round 2]
There are now four wolves harrying Loys, and two on each of the others. Ysmena hurls a bolt of fire right into the jaws of the one closest to her, cooking it inside out [Dragonbreath again; she's now down to 1MP]. The wolf's fellow seems suddenly reluctant to approach the woman-who-burns-with-fire [or perhaps it just rolled a 19 on its attack...].

Loys brings the hilt of his sword down hard upon the wolf attached to his leg, crushing its skull.

[Rounds 3-4]
Ysmena squares off with a single wolf. It rushes in and sinks its teeth into her flank [5 damage drops her to 4hp; she rolls a 2 for her check against the shock]. She cries out in agony, but does not succumb. She slashes the wolf's shoulders open with her dagger, and it pulls back with a yelp.

Ailbert is beset by two wolves. One distracts him whilst the other nips at his exposed hands and face [he takes a hit: 5 damage drops him to 4hp. He makes his check vs. shock].

Reynaud is battered by the repeated lunges of a wolf, who practically rams into him. Again and again it comes, causing the knight to stagger backwards and almost fall [5 damage puts him at 8hp; makes the check vs. shock]. As it readies for another pounce, his shining sword drops the monster -- for monsters these truly be!

Loys keeps his shield between himself and two of his foes, and hacks at the third until it lies still.


[Rounds 5-7]
Her weeping wound makes Ysmena feel desperate. She calls upon her ultimate reserve of magical energies to throw one last bolt of flame. But the wolf springs aside, and it merely blackens a patch of grass.

Loys is knocked down, and moves not [5 damage drops him to 0hp, hors de combat]. His sword falls from his limp fingers. Reynaud cries out in anguish at the sight, drawing the attention of the slavering wolves above his master. They waste not a moment but spring right for him [technically I rolled a d3 for each to see who they went for next].

Reynaud finds his sword-arm nearly wrenched from its socket as a wolf clamps its maw around his wrist [5 damage leaves him with 3hp; makes his shock roll]. He just manages to shake it off, and when it lunges for him again it rushes full into his blade. Another tries to sneak in under his guard, only to break off a tooth on the rim of his shield [the wolf hit on a 1, but Reynaud's shield roll also came up one, negating it].

[Rounds 8-15]
Nor Ailbert nor his foes have made much of a showing in the battle. Even the sorceress behind him has managed to score more hits with her dirk. After she fells the wolf before her, she runs back a bit to take up Loys' shield. And it is then that Ailbert finally slays a wolf of his own.

Reynaud is hacking at wolves in every direction. But even as he lays one low another jumps upon him. He loses his balance, and is propelled backwards, landing hard against a flagstone. He does not get up [5 more damage puts him at -2hp -- one away from death].


Ailbert and Ysmena fight back to back, prepared to make a valorous last stand if the Fates today would cut their threads. But in the end they still stand. When the last of the wolves has been slain, they rush to sides of their fallen comrades, and exalt to find they yet live.

[Loys is at exactly 0hp. Reynaud is at -2, and so suffers a permanent injury: head injury, -1IN (he now has 7 Intelligence.]

Ysmena and Ailbert drag their unfortunate friends off into the nearby copse. "I am drained of magic," says Ysmena, "and must wait until midnight before I can use any more. Can you stand guard?"

[Q: Does Ailbert have the resolve? Certain (2+): O6 C2, Yes, and...]

"My lady," says Ailbert falling to his knee, "I swear upon this my sword that no harm shall befall any of us whilst I keep watch!"

Friday, 6 November 2015

Dragon Warriors solo - Part V: Terra marique


Scene 8

Chaos: 3

Setup: to the ruins

NPC list: Lady Melisenda, Earl of Avincester, the Secret Enemy, Benoist the brigand

Threads:
1. get a horse
2. find out situation
3. head home
4. earl's mission

[Since Ailbert has joined the party, I took him off the NPC list. He is still technically an NPC, but as he now owes his life (and probably his continuing freedom) to people he knows he cannot best in a fight, there's no real chance of him turning against them. And as a serf who deserted the military for a life of banditry, he's not exactly going to be part of any great kingdom-shattering conspiracies...]

Having released Ailbert from the Earl's dungeon, Loys returns all his possessions: his armour, sword, purse (59 florins), potion, and even gives him the other brigand's crossbow. Despite his dramatics the earlier day, or perhaps because of them, Loys believes whole-heartedly in Ailbert's repentance, and has bid Ysmena and Reynaud mention no more of the circumstances which led him into their fold. Indeed, Loys is overjoyed to have a new comrade-in-arms.

The journey north to Whitethorpe is agreeable. They encounter a band of four knights travelling south, but after a friendly greeting and some polite if idle discussion, both groups continue their separate ways.

[Random encounter in a hills hex: 2d4=4 adventurers, rank 1. 4xknight (3 nobles, 1 villein)
reaction=7, neutral.
Q: Do they show proper Courtesy? Likely: Yes.
Q: Do they have an interesting rumour? Unlikely: No.
blah...]

When they reach Whitethorpe, Loys heads straight for the docks, hoping to secure passage on a merchant ship travelling west.

[Q: Can they get a boat to Yeding's Mire today? 50/50: Exceptional No.]

He is told that the good people of this village are simple fisherfolk, and aren't in a position to act as ferrymen. Perhaps a merchant vessel will put in soon. They expect another in a week's time or so [1d6= 6 days].

After a short discussion, it is deemed more prudent to wait for passage than to set off overland through hill, dale, forest, and moor. They are ill-equipped for a protracted wilderness excursion, and funds are rather short (129F between the four of them).

They take cheap lodgings in the common room of the inn [1F/person/night]. Ailbert offers to pay it all himself, out of gratitude to his new comrades. They subsist on cheap fare [1f/person/day for food], and generally spend their days in relaxation. Loys does buy some provisions for their journey [21F=21 days rations (~5days each)].

[Q: Can Ysmena cure all Ailbert's wounds without the sorcery being noticed? 50/50: 01, Exceptional Yes! no one pays her any mind.
Q: Anything of interest happen in town? Somewhat Likely: Yes.
What? PC Positive - Loys - Befriend riches]

After a few days a small merchant cog does sail up to the village. The captain is intrigued by the knights staying at the inn, and strikes up a conversation with Loys. he is so impressed by Loys' tales of valorous deeds, that he offers free passage to the knight and his companions.

The next morning they sail east for Yeding's Mire, which they reach by early afternoon. They find more cheap room and board at an inn [14 more florins spent] with the intention of setting out first thing the next morning.

[Q: Anything happen whilst they're here? 50/50: Yes
Open / Dispute - PC negative - Ysmena
disputant: (random NPC) elementalist - 1st rank, female
Q: What will she say? (UNE) scheming-plot-allies]


Having been together for so many days without a break, and having recourse to no other society than each other (Loys' merchant friend wished not to talk to the great knight's subordinates!), Reynaud and Ysmena were starting to vex one another. They did not speak much, and when they did they would usually bicker. Loys and Ailbert seemed oblivious to their animosity, but there were certain eyes in the village of Yeding's Mire that took notice.

Ysmena decides to take an evening stroll to get away from Reynaud and clear her head. A village woman walks quickly up beside her.

"I see they way those two treat ye, those knights," says the woman. "I don't see how ye can tolerate being used so ill!"

"I have my reasons," says Ysmena cautiously.

"Oh, aye, reasons. I can get you away from them, if ye like."

"It amuses me to have them about. And when I'm finished... well, then they will be no more use to me."

"Do ye be needing such... thralls?"

"Wherefore do you ask? Do you wish to buy them off me?"

"Nay, not t'buy. I want my revenge."

"Revenge? On those two buffoons?"

"They are wicked men, I tell ye. Violent scofflaws, the pair of 'em. 'Twere a twelvemonth or more back, when they ride up from the fort with a gang o' soldiers, sayin' they be on the King's Business. And what they do is they round up some of our menfolk, saying they be thieves and smugglers and bandits. And they had a man read out the legal writ, and then the knights and the soldiers all fall on them with their swords, chopping them all up to a man, and laughing all the whiles. They killed my only son, and I aim to kill them for their foul deed."

[Ysmena needs to make a Looks roll to convince the woman she's on side. Modifiers: +2 wary, -1 PC has higher INT; 2d10=8, success]

"What an awful tale! Had I but known, I would not have trifled with these -- these brigands! O, unworthy of the name of knights! In fact, Loys attentions towards me were becoming more openly dishonourable of late. Perhaps it is time to divest myself of such unwholesome companions."

"Will ye help me then?"

"I shall. But how shall you have your revenge?"

"I shall call upon the spirit of Mother Earth to swallow up the villains. But I cannot do it alone, for those so-called knights 'd never follow me away from the village. So ye'll help me?"

"Tell me what I must do"

"Ye shall lure this proud knight away, down to the shore, and out of sight. There are two great trees, dead pieces of driftwood, lying upon the beach n a cross. Say to him, that ye have noticed his affections, and that ye be leading him down to this secluded spot for a tryst. Give unto him to drink this poisoned wine. When he drinks the wine he shall be helpless. And I shall have the spirits dig for him a grave, and cover it all up as he wakes."

"I shall lead him down at sunset. Follow us: not close, but swiftly. And we shall put down this cur for good."

Ysmena takes the flask of wine, and rushes off to find her 'suitor'. She apprises him of the witch's plot -- for Ysmena is sure the woman be one -- and they two devise a counter-plot. Reynaud and Ailbert go on ahead separately, hoping to find a good hiding spot near the great driftwood cross.

[None of the PCs are wearing their armour. Ailbert has the crossbow, Loys and Reynaud their swords.

Tracking rolls for both: Reynaud failed and went the wrong way, Ailbert found it.

Q: Does the elementalist bring backup? Very Likely: No.

Loys is pretending not to notice they're being followed, but the elementalist will have a chance to detect Ailbert.

Ailbert's Stealth is 13, +3 for cover=16. -5 for the elementalist's Perception* = 11 or less to stay hidden. 2d10=11; he just ducks out of sight as she is coming.
(*I just used the stats of the character I rolled up to see how they work.)

Q: Does this ruse succeed? Likely: 96, Exceptional No.]


Loys sits on one of the huge pieces of driftwood, his back ever to the way they had come, and the approaching witch. Ysmena spreads a blanket out upon the sand, and bids him sit. She pours him a cup of wine (both blanket and cup have been stolen from the inn), and he pretends to drink. Soon he pretends to be sleepy, stretches and yawns like a stage player, and lays down upon the blanket. He pretends to snore at first, but a swift kick from Ysmena put an end to that farce.

The witch comes round to see Loys lying prone upon the blanket, and Ysmena standing over him. "So ye gave him the wine?"

"I did. He is in our power."

"Ye're a bad liar, love. No way it could've put 'im out so fast."

At this, Loys eyes snap open. He sits up, looks straight at the woman, and says, "Well, then, why don't we try to settle this matter reasonably."

"I'd sooner see ye die!" screams the witch, and raises her arms above her head. Her hands seem to crackle with raw elemental fury, and then the very sand and stone beneath her feet surges towards Loys, battering the knight like a great earthen wave. Loys lets out a single sharp cry then falls back, bleeding from a thousand cuts and abrasions.

[The elementalist used Raw Power (earth). vs. Loys, spending 2MP (of her three in Earth magic) for an indirect attack with Speed 12, doing 4d6 damage (also 20m range, but she's hardly 3 paces from him).
Speed 12 - Loys' Evasion 4, so hits on 8 or less.
2d10=7, hit. 4d6=13; Loys is down to -2 Health Points -- one point away from death

That counted as a surprise round. Initiative for Round 1 goes to Ysmena]

Ysmena recovers from the shock, and without thinking spits out an incantation of her own. A bolt of white-hot fire springs fort from her outstretched hand, enveloping the witch. Her scream is as short as Loys'; she falls lifeless to the sand, her charred flesh sending forth a cloud of foul smoke.

[Ysmena cast dragonbreath, which is also an indirect attack. Speed 12 - Evasion 3 = 9 or less to hit.
2d10=6, hit. 1d6+6=12; the elementalist plummets to -6hp: very, very dead.]


Ysmena rushes to Loy's side, and finds that he yet breathes. She speaks a potent healing charm, and the more grievous of his wounds are closed as if they had never been [casts lesser healing, twice, restoring him to 2hp. But since his HP fell below zero, he must roll on permanent wound table (DW p.208). He suffers an injured joint, reducing his REF by 1 to 8; this reduction pushes him below the 9-12 threshold, so he suffers -1 to both Defence and Evasion for the low attribute.]

Loys sits up, and looks round in confusion. "What just happened?" he asks. "Did I accidentally drink the wine? Everything hurts..."

"So sorry, my lord," says Ailbert. "I wasn't fast enough. That witch used her sorcery on you and I feared you slain! The good lady Ysmena cut her down with a lance of flame, and then spoke an arcane formula that wrenched you back from the very jaws of death!"

Ysmena looks down at Loys. "I suppose we're even now, knight."

Ysmena then bids Loys rest whilst she and Ailbert collect wood to start a fire. Once it has blazed up, they throw the witch's corpse atop it. "Should anyone in the village ask," explains Ysmena, "the witch used her foul curse, which nearly killed you. I pushed her into our cooking fire, and she died. I think the villagers need know nothing of my own sorcery."

[Q: Was the elementalist a respected member of the community? 50/50: No.
Q: Do the villagers believe the PCs' version of events? Somewhat likely (since no one likes the witch): Yes.]

When they get back to the village,it is very late. A sheepish-looking Reynaud helps his master abed, and they all pass a fitful night in the common room of the inn. At midnight, Ysmena's depleted magic is restored to her. She calls upon all the occult power she is able [spends all 4 MP] to heal nearly all of Loys' wounds [Lesser Healing x4 puts Loys back up to 10hp] in hopes that it will cure his snoring.


They leave Yeding's Mire early the next morning, and begin their trek to the ruins. They walk nearly the whole of the day over grassy hills and through the moor, skirting around the tallest hills (and avoiding the fort and tower). Not a soul do they meet on the journey; indeed, save for a single stag [random encounter], they see not an animal at all.

They make camp in a copse at the bottom of a hill. The ruin's tower is visible in the distance is the late evening light. They dare not camp any closer -- it is said to be haunted, after all.