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.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Das schwarze Auge solo - Sandbox

Having made my character, I then threw together a sandbox. It probably took longer to decide where to put it than it did to actually make the thing. This is the reason I rarely play in established or historical settings; I spend too much time on research. I don't even have that much source material beyond the basic books for 4th & 5th ed., but fills in a lot of gaps.

I knew I wanted mountains on one side, and forests & hills, and nothing too close to major civilised areas. Long story short... I placed it in roughly the middle of the continent of Aventurien (Aventuria) -- it's the red blob near the centre of the map (from the DSA Kartenpaket), about 250 Meilen (the aventurian Meile (mile, league) = 1 kilometre) from the capital.

The screen-sized sliver of my Dragon Warriors sandbox turned out to be really useful for playing, so I wanted to have the same sort of area. My screen made a 15x37 hex map the ideal size, so a scale of 2 Meilen per hex seemed workable. I zoomed into the area map until it was at the same scale relative to my screen, and messed about trying to find the area I wanted as a base. I couldn't quite find an area that worked, so I hit on the idea of rotating the map by 60° (i.e. one hex side).

I blew up the rotated bit of the map I needed to 575%, and used the Import Map to Trace feature in hexographer to make it into a hex map. It was a bit indistinct, so I kept the original to hand whilst I was tracing. With just terrain, a river, a minor road, and three settlements, the map was pretty empty at this point. I figured there should be some villages and farmland, and canonically there is a martial academy near Greifenberg, but to filling in the bulk of the map would require going back to the PC.

Based on her history, skills, and abilities, I knew the following things needed to exist:

Witches - she'll need to learn new spells and curses from them, and can only make more flying ointment together with them at the grand rite. The witches will probably want something from her before they let her into their circle.

Mage - witches can learn guild mage spells (though they will never master them). The mage will certainly want something in return. Also, I am constitutionally incapable of making a sandbox without a wizard's tower.

Ingredients - for alchemy & herbalism. She can't get them down the shops.

House - She'll need to live somewhere. And wherever it ends up being, she'll need room for her witch's kitchen / alchemy lab. But will she find one, have one constructed, move into town...?

With all that in mind, I started placing things around the map. For the ease of random determination, there will be 30 location icons on the map. But, to start, I'm only placing 20. These are the ones that are generally known to exist. The other 10 will be randomly generated as the game progresses. So, here is map, followed by the basic key to the numbered locations:

1. Gut Nebelstein
I can find no information on this, other than that it is a settlement in the Finsterkamm. It's out of the way enough that I will leave it a mystery for now.

2. Ruins
Details of caves and ruins will be determined as the adventure leads them there.

3. Hexengipfel (witch's peak)
The witches congregate here for the annual rite. They may or may not come here at other times on various witchy errands.

4. Shrine to Efferd (the water god)
The source of the river is sacred, and the shrine here is attended by a handful of priests.

5. Winterfels
A village along the road, boasting a good travellers inn. The population of almost 200 mostly raise goats and sheep. Cheese-making is a big industry.

6. Herberge zum ruhigen Aufenthalt (Inn of the quiet stay)
A travellers' inn in a forest clearing off the road. Poor-quality stables, as horses can make the journey from Hohendorf to Winterfels in one day. It is rumoured that a gang of bandits either work out of the inn, or else meet here to form their nefarious designs.

7. Hohendorf
A crappy little village in the hills, population ~80. Forestry is the major industry, and a few villagers raise sheep and cows in the communal pasture. There is a good travellers' inn, and a small Praios temple. Our heroine's home town.

8. Mage's Tower
The peasantry are suitably terrified of the tower, and will never go near. The Mage is never seen, but sends servants abroad for supplies.

9. cave in the hills
Rumoured to be part of a cave complex that goes very deep. Perhaps even connects with cave #10.

10. cave in the mountains

11. Birkenhain
There are only 150 full-time residents of this village, but another 200 loggers call it home when they are not in their forest camps. The mage's servants are often here on minor supply runs, and the mage not infrequently lets the loggers work near his tower in exchange for firewood. Rumours that the mage has a lover in the village are wholly unsubstantiated.

12. ruins

13. Weihenhorst

Weihenhorst is a walled town that played an important strategic role in the orc war (1012BF - 28 years ago). There's at least 800 people living within the walls, and half again that many without. A few dwarfs and goblins call Weihenhorst home.

14. Raven Cloister
A monastery dedicated to Boron, the god of death and sleep (one of the Twelve Gods), who is usually depicted as a raven. There is a grand cemetery (Boronanger, lit. Boron's meadow) and extensive crypts. Despite its ominous and terrifying aspect, this is probably the safest place on the map. Boron's servants are arch-foes of the undead.

15. Almweide
A village of shepherds and subsistence farmers. Population ~150.

16. Cadet Academy
The officers' academy for soldiers of the March. Cadets are trained in bastard- and longsword, mace, and flail, and instilled with the values of Knighthood. On days of rest, the cadets are forbidden to go carousing in Weihenhorst; however...

17. Kalmansfeld
A large farming community. Only about 50 of the population of 700 live in the town centre, which is used as a trading post and farmers' market.

18. fairy glade
Scarcely one mortal in any given century visits the glen and returns, and even then they are never the same again. The mage or a powerful witch may know how to treat with the fairies. An elf might also be a trusty guide, but there are none locally. Just imagine the wond'rous plants growing here, and the magical properties they posses.

19. ruins

20. Greifenberg
Greifenberg is the seat of the Baron of Greifenberg. The baron's castle is on a solitary hill in the midst of a large town, boasting nearly 1000 inhabitants. Greifenberg was plundered by ork hordes in 1012BF. The road heading NW out of town is little better than a dirt track, whereas the SE road (off the map) leading to Greifenfurt (capital of the Markgraviate of which the barony is a part) is properly stone-faced and well-tended; this mirrors the attitude of the inhabitants of Greifenberg towards all those living closer to the Finsterkamm then they (save, of course, the cadets and the mage).

The sandbox is situated in the Barony of Greifenberg, which is in the Margraviate of Greifenfurt, in the so-called Shield Lands of the Middenrealm.

The mountains on the left side of the map belong to the Finsterkamm (Gloomy Peaks). They are home to gryphons, orks, and secretive clans of dwarfs.

The river is the Breite (meaning Wide), one of the headwaters of the Große Fluss (Great River). The Breite is only navigable as far as Greifenfurt (not on the sandbox map).

There may be occasional missions off the map. Above shows the sandbox situated in the surrounding lands (again, from the Kartenpaket). Greifenfurt is a city of 3800 inhabitants, and residence of the Marquise. Krayenhorst is a monster-infested ruined city in the midst of the Messergras Steppe. Arras de Mott is a mountaintop monastery devoted to Praios, which boasts a great library (forbidden to outsiders).

For getting round the map, I'm using movement points. According to the DSA rulebook, a human can travel 30 Meilen per day, and a horse 50. I'm translating those figures directly into movement points. Since one hex = 2 Meilen, a clear terrain hex costs 2MP. Grassy and barren hills take 3MP, forest takes 4MP, forested hills 5MP, and all mountains take 10MP, whether high, steep, and barren or lower and wooded. The snow-capped peaks will affect temperature, but not movement. The road is of low quality, and does not affect movement rates; it just obviates the need for skill checks not to get lost.


Each settlement, plus the Mage's tower and the witches, counts as a faction, and some are even subdivided. Their relationships are expressed in terms of modifiers to Social skill rolls made by a resident/representative of one towards the other. Negative numbers marked with an * indicate the relationship is based on fear, and should be converted to a positive modifier for intimidation checks. Intimidation checks for positive relationships only take effect when it makes sense (e.g. nobles intimidating peasants). I started making a table, but there were too many Neutral (+0) entries, so perhaps a summation is more in order. Individuals may, of course, vary, and the PC's reputation will be taken into account if/when her actions affect her standing towards any given community.

Merchants: stand outside the normal order of things, and count as Neutral (no modifiers) when conducting business.

Gut Nebelstein: this settlement is so far removed, that no modifers apply, unless you're a witch or mage.

Peasants: The populations of Winterfels, Hohendorf, Birkenhain, Almweide, and Kalmansfeld all have a very parochial outlook, giving them a -1 towards one another. And as they are all rustics, they have a -3 towards everyone in Weihenhorst, Greifenberg, and the Academy.

Nobles & Knights: +3 towards peasants, but only +1 against the populace of Weihenhorst.

Witches: almost everyone hates and fears the witches, so they have a -3* towards almost everyone; a suspected witch only has a -1*. The Mage respects them enough, so the penalty toward him and his servants is only -1.

Mage's Tower: almost everyone respects and fears the Mage. He has a +2 when dealing with others, except in Birkenhain where he has a +3. He prefers to be left alone, so everyone else has a -2 when dealing with him (again save Birkenhain, who have a +1). The mage's servants speak in his name, and enjoy his modifiers.

Priests at the Shrine of Efferd: +1 (mutual) for other priests of The 12 Gods, +3 (also mutual) for actual pilgrims, otherwise no modifiers.

Herberge: peasants have a -1 here, witches and the mage count as normal, all others are Neutral. The staff count as peasants if they should ever leave the inn.

Rabenkloster: uniformly neutral, as all must come into Boron's realm in the end.

Kadettenakademie: the instructors are all Knights, and many of them nobles as well (modifiers as above). The cadets are afforded less respect (+1) by the peasantry, and are positively hated in Weihenhorst for the trouble they cause there (-3, except in certain louche establishments who cater to their vices).

Weihenhorst: The people of Weihenhorst who live inside the walls look down on the provincials who surround them. Assume a -2 to deal with them, unless a worse penalty is specifically indicated. Outside the walls everyone is a Peasant, so those modifiers apply.

Greifenberg: everyone here is either a noble or peasant. The baron (only) gets a +4 almost everywhere (+3 in Weienhorst, +2 with the mage and witches).

Next post, the adventure begins...

Monday, 21 December 2015

Das schwarze Auge solo - Character Creation

Prolegomena : The newest (5th) edition of Das Schwarze Auge finally came out this summer. I of course immediately made a pair of characters (a witch and a mercenary) to see how it works, and put them through the paces by playing a handful of solo adventures (DSA may almost have more written solo adventures than T&T, both official and fan-made). All great fun, but I was starting to feel that their lives were a bit flat. Too many of their skills and  abilities just weren't of the sort that easily come up in written solo adventures (more the witch's problem than the mercenary's, but you may have picked up on my preference for spellcasters by now).

I've been playing a lot of adventures that were grand party affairs, and I am in the mood for a bit of single-hero-against-the-world action. I also prefer skill-based to class&level-based games, and as fun as Dragon Warriors was...

So I wanted to try making a sandbox for a single character to play in. Nothing very big, and nothing very urban: some tiny villages and wilderness to explore, and of course some ruins here and there. DSA characters can do lots of different things, so I wanted to make the sandbox to suit the PC.

N.B. I will do my best to explain things as I go, but if you are curious about the rules or game world, there is a free Quickstart available for download. If you don't read German, there are versions in English and Russian.

As I am blogging in English, I will be trying to use the translations as given in the quickstart, but I must beg the reader's understanding if I forget and write a more literal translation (e.g. Astral Energy Points instead of Arcane Points) or forget to translate at all (1W6 instead of 1D6). My game notes are written in a dreadful pidgin.

Right, enough with the preliminaries. Taking the steps from the rulebook in order:

Step 1: What kind of hero do I want to play?

It was a toss up between guild mage (traditional wizard) or a witch. I am going with witch as I'd never gotten to play one before; they weren't in the main rulebook for 4th edition, and I've always wanted to try one. The solo adventures really weren't written with their powers in mind, so this will be a better way to go.

I should note at this point that the title above is a direct translation from the book. In DSA your PCs are the heroes of the tale, for good or ill.

Step 2: choose experience level

This is a general description of how powerful your PC is, not a class & level sort of description. DSA used to have levels in the early editions, but by 4th ed. they only served as a relative indicator of power, with no in-game effect. The new levels are named, rather than numbered, and give you your starting allotment of points to build your PC, and set maximums for attributes, skills, spells, etc.

The typical beginning hero starts out at Experienced. Some day I want to try one of the lower levels, but not today. An Experienced character receives 1100AP (Adventure Points; these work the same for character generation as they do for XP).

Step 3: choose species

Human. This costs 0AP, and sets some modifiers for later.

Step 4: choose culture

The choice of cultures is free, and has varying effects and restrictions depending on your selection. It also sets your native language.

I chose to make my witch from Mittelreich (er, Middenrealm), the big human empire that is very much just fantasy medieval Germany. Were I actually German, I'd probably never play a PC from there, as there are lots and lots of other cool cultures to choose from. But as it's a German game, part of the appeal is the applicability to my own interest in Germanistik, so there you have it.

So, then, a Mittelreicher gets Garethi as their native language at level III (the highest fluency). Literacy is not included. They also get the Area Knowledge special ability relating to their home. The basic social class is Freeman.

There are also optional Culture Packages, which give you a few common skills. I will take the Mittelreich package, which increases Woodworking, Metalworking, Plant Lore, and Animal Lore by 1 each, at the cost of 12AP

- 12
1088 AP remaining

Step 5: Determine attributes

There are 8 attributes. An Experienced hero's attributes have a maximum total value of 100, with a range of 8-14 in each. One or two may be set at 15, depending on race. Each attribute point up to 14 costs 15AP, and a 15th point costs 30AP. For those who are less in love with maths, there are helpful charts with common distributions pre-calculated. My lone hero needs to be generally competent, so I am sticking with the more rounded (and cheaper -- only 540AP) option of attribute values 14 and under (Column F, if anyone is wondering). Arranging as desired yields:

Courage      13
Cunning      12
Intuition    14
Charisma     14
Dexterity    11
Agility      14
Constitution 12
Strength     10

She's only of average strength, and only slightly more dexterous than usual. She is, however, exceedingly graceful and charming (a witch's prime attribute is Charisma). She's quite clever, though more empathetic than calculating. She isn't quite fearless, but does not scare easily, and will brave dangers that others might not.

 548 AP remaining

Step 6: choose Profession

Profession is sort of like a character class, save that all the parts are essentially modular and you could easily modify them (and some come with pre-built lists of options) or just build your own from scratch.

The Daughters of Satuaria is an ancient cult worshipping the eponymous goddess; they are commonly known as witches. Witches are human, and predominantly female, magic users. They organise themselves into sisterhoods, and worship their goddess together in annual rites. Witches are feared for their curses, and are in many places persecuted by the church of Praios (the Sun god & head of The 12 Gods, the largest religion in Aventuria -- a pantheon of which Satuaria is not a member).

The sisterhoods are generally known by their Familiars: cats for the urbane Beauties of the Night, Ravens for the wise Seers of Today and Tomorrow, and toads for the secretive Daughters of the Earth (the three options in the main rulebook).

I am going to make a Toad Witch (Krötenhexe).

Some professions have prerequisites. A witch must have the Spellcaster advantage (25 AP) and the special ability Tradition-Witch (135 AP). The Krötenhexe profession package costs another 296 AP. So what does one get for 456 Adventure Points?

Languages: 6AP worth of languages & scripts. My witch learns Bosporano (Latin, more-or-less; used by guild mages and the church) at level II, and learns to read both the Kusliker signs (the modern alphabet used by both her native Garethi and Bosporano) and the older Imperial signs (in which older Bosporano texts are written).

Combat Techniques: Brawling 8. All combat skills start at 6, so this is not super impressive. Regular skills (and curses and spells) start at 0.

Skills: The toad witch gets a bunch of skills related to living in the wilderness, herbalism, the healing arts, and generally keeping a low profile. Witches also get the Flying skill so they can ride their brooms.  Nothing surprising, so I will spare you the enumeration, because what we are really interested in is--

Magic tricks - a witch gets a single minor spell chosen from the list. I chose Snake Hands, which allows her hand and finger bones to become pliable, to squeeze into small places.
Spells - Balsam Salabunde 6 (healing spell), Avarice 5 (makes the target desire an object or activity), Harmless Form 5 (an illusion which makes the caster appear harmless), Witch's Bile 4 (acidic spittle), Toad's Leap 6, Racket 4 (animates a broom, branch, etc. to beat the witch's enemies), Meekness 4 (charms an animal so it won't attack)

Special abilities
Flying Ointment - at the great witch festival, the witches brew the magical ointment with which they annoint their flying apparatus, be it a broom, barrel, table, etc.
Curses - 12AP worth. Do not cross my PC, lest she cause your tongue to lose the power of speech (Zunge lähmen 1) or wrack your body with terrible pains (Hexenschuss 3).
Familiar binding - of course a witch has a familiar (but see Step 7 below...)

 548 AP
-296 profession: Krötenhexe
 -25 advantage: spellcaster
-135 spec. ability: tradition (witch)
  92 AP remaining

Step 7: choose Advantages & Disadvantages

A PC can buy up to 80 AP of advantages, and gain more AP by taking up to 80 AP worth of disadvantages. The numbers need not balance.

I've already taken Spellcaster (25 AP). Since I'm playing a single hero, I might as well make her as special as possible. So I am going to make her an eigeborene Hexe -- a witch born from an egg. No one knows quite how it happens or what it means, but the egg-born witch is marked as having the especial favour of the goddess Satuaria. Egg-born witches are exceedingly beautiful (Good Looks II, 40AP) and do not age after their 30th birthday (Age Resistance, 5AP). I've also chosen Cold Resistance (5 AP).

Disadvantages: I've never really been a fan of animal companions, so I am taking No Familiar (-25AP). Being a witch without a familiar, she is looked on with suspicion by her sisters (probably balancing the respect for her egg-born status). However, it also means her profession package is 10AP cheaper. The background I envision means she's also broke (Poor II, -2AP). She is beset by Annoying Minor Spirits (-20AP) who cause poltergeist-type distractions when she uses too much magic. There's a witch's streak in her hair (Conspicuous Feature, -2AP), and she has the Bad Habit of going Barefoot (-2AP; she even does it in winter thanks to her cold resistance). Finally, she has two Bad Attributes: Curiosity and Vengefulness (-5AP each). I really wanted Bad Luck (Pechmagnet), but the actual game effects won't work with a single hero. It just would have been nice to get some points for the way I make things hard on my own PCs.

She thus has a total of 75AP worth of advantages, and 61AP of disadvantages. Things have gotten confusing, so to redo the maths:

1100 starting AP
 -12 culture package
-540 attributes
-286 profession (adjusted)
-135 tradition - witch
 -75 advantages
 +61 disadvantages
 113 AP remaining

Step 8: Determine increases

For an Experienced PC, skills have a maximum of 10, and combat skills have a maximum of 12. Skills/spells/curses/etc. are all rated in categories from A-D, and cost 1-4 AP per point of increase (up to 14). All skills start at a default of 0, and combat skills at 6. Spells, curses, miracles etc. must be bought at level 0 before they may be increased; this Activation Cost is the same as the cost of an increase.

I looked ahead to step 10 because I knew there were a pair of Special Abilities I wanted (15+2=17AP), so in this step I will spend all the rest (96AP). I bought the following skills--

Body Control 4 (D: 4 points x 4AP each= 16AP)
Self Control 3 (D: 3x4= 12AP)
Tracking 2 (B, 4AP)
Willpower 2 (D, 8AP)
Fast Talk 2 (C, 6AP)
Seduction 2 (B, 4AP)
Intimidate 3 (B, 6AP)
Dance 6 (A, 6AP)
Perception 2 (D, 8AP)
Swim 2 (B, 4AP)

I added +4 to Dagger (B, 4AP) and +2 to Impact Weapons (C, 6AP). I also increased her Witch's Bile spell by +3 (B, 6AP), and her knowledge of Bosparano up to III (2AP).

I had 4AP remaining at this point, so I put them towards Singing 2 (A, 2AP), and increased the tongue-paralysing curse by +1 (2AP).

Step 9: Calculate combat techniques

The base Attack value is the skill level, (potentially) modified by high Courage. Parry values are half the skill level, and (potentially) modified by different controlling attributes. For example, My PC has 10 in Dagger, and her 13 Courage gives +1 Attack. The controlling attribute for dagger is Agility, so her score of 14 gives +2. Thus, with daggers, she has AT 11 / PA 7.

Step 10: Select special abilities

As I said, I already know which two I want. The first is Improved Dodge (15AP), as her best bet for defence (requires Body Control 4, as purchased above). The second is the much more interesting Gatherer (2AP). Its prerequisites are Plant Lore 4 and Survival 4, which she got in the profession package. Gatherer will help her both to forage for food and -- more importantly -- go out collecting alchemical components for her witch's brews.

Step 11: Make any necessary adjustments

Spend any leftover AP. You are allowed to keep a few if you can't quite spend them, but I never have this problem.

Schritt 12: Calculate Base Values

There are a bunch of formulae and charts, but I will spare you a detailed exegesis. In summation: Life Points = hit points; Arcane Points = spell points; Mental Strength & Toughness are passive resistance factors; Initiative, Dodge, and Movement should be obvious; Fate Points can be spent to re-roll dice, temporarily ignore negative conditions, etc.

Step 13: Buy Equipment

The Silver Taler (Silbertaler) is the basic coin of Mittelreich. 10 Silver Talers =  1 Ducat (gold). 1 Silver Taler = 10 Hellers (bronze). 1 Heller = 10 Kreutzers (iron, practically worthless individually).

Heroes get 750 Silver Talers worth of starting equipment, less 250s for every level of the Poor disadvantage (3 levels means you get one suit of shabby clothing). My PC's equipment is listed on Charater sheet at the end of the post, so need not be repeated here.

Step 14: Determine starting age

You can roll, or you can just choose. 22 seems about right.

You can also choose/roll for your hero's birthday. The common calender in the Middenrealm has 12 months, each named after one of the 12 gods of the pantheon. Each month has 30 days, and there are 5 unlucky 'Nameless days' dedicated to the evil, nameless god. The year starts with Praios (=July). The month of Phex (named after the god of merchants, thieves, and tricksters) see the most births, falling as it does nine months after the month of Rahja (the love goddess). The dice have decreed my PC was born on 30 Rahja. The current year is 1040BF, so she was born in 1018.

Step 15: Name the PC

There are some sample names listed for each culture. And somewhere in my travels across the internet I found a big list of names compiled from various sources. A brief glance at names of the Middenrealm shows that the personal names are very heavily influenced by religion, e.g. Praiowine (f) and Praioslob (m - das Lob = praise).

Family names are often rooted in occupations or places, e.g. Harnischmacher (armourer), Engstrand (narrow beach).

My witch is named Travjane Wirtstreu. Her personal name is a variant on Traviane/Traviana (Travia being the goddess of the hearth and hospitality). Wirt (gen. Wirts) means innkeeper, and Treu is good faith.

A very brief history, as a springboard for the sandbox setup:

Travjane never knew her real mother. Or her real father, if indeed she even had one. All she knows is that she was left as an infant on the steps of the village inn. She was adopted by the innkeepers, an  overly religious couple, who especially favoured Praios the Heavenly Judge as well as Travia, the Benevolent Mother. She was not well-liked growing up. The other children would tease her about her hair (Conspicuous feature - Witch's streak), and she often got in fights over it (Bad Attribute - Vengeful, Brawling 8). The old priest took pity on the child, and let her help out in the village's small Praios temple. It was here she learnt to read, and by the time she was 12 she'd read every book in the village at least twice. Even the boring ones.

When she wasn't being put to work at the inn and couldn't hide in the temple, she spent her days wandering in the woods (Survival, Orientation, Animal Lore). The old priest died, as old priests are wont to do, and it looked as if she were to be friendless and alone. But then a messenger arrived, bearing a missive from the old priest, dictated, so it said, upon his death-bed. "My child," read the note, "I must soon leave you to go join the great Lord Praios on his journey through the sky. But you shall not be forsaken. Cum primum signa muliebritatis tibi venierint ('when first the signs of womanhood shall have come upon you' -- written thus in Bosporano as befitted the old man's prudishness), you must seek out the Widow Brinnske. She will instruct you as I could not, and tell you of you future greatness."

Now, the Widow Brinnske was a reclusive old crone who lived in a hut in the forest outside the village. The villagers despised her as an outsider (Brinnske is a Bornlandish name) as much as they had need of her services as a herbalist and wisewoman (Kräuterweib). The children of the village all feared her as variously a cannibal, an ogress, a vampire, a demon summoner, perhaps even a witch. But, of course, she was a witch, and had been watching Travjane from afar. Now she began to teach her the ways of witchcraft and the mysteries of magic.

Travjane's friendship with the Widow Brinnske did not go unremarked, and whispering accusations soon brought her into conflict with the new priestess of Praios sent from Greifenfurt to mind the parish. No one could prove anything, but her most vocal detractors did start to suffer from unexplained illnesses. Things reached a head when Travjane disappeared for a week. Upon her return she refused to say where she had been, and several villagers swore they had seen her flying over the trees a-nights. The following year at this time her stepmother took her on a month-long pilgrimage to the Travia temple in Greifenfurt. Next year she shall not be kept back...

Below is the english character sheet, and the original Heldendokument that I overtyped.

Next post, the Sandbox...

Travjane Wirtstreu

Species: Human
Culture: Middenrealm
Social class: Freeman
Profession: Toad Witch
Experience level: Experienced
AP total: 1,100

Courage      13   Life Points    29
Cunning      12   Arcane Points  34
Intuition    14   Mental Strength 2
Charisma     14   Toughness       1
Dexterity    11   Dodge           8
Agility      14   Initiative 14+1D6
Constitution 12   Movement        8
Strength     10   Fate Points     3

Advantages: Spellcaster, Good Looks II, Age Resistance, Cold Resistance
Disadvantages: No Familiar, Annoying Minor Spirits, Conspicuous feature (Witch's streak), Bad habit (barefoot), Bad Attribute (Curiosity, Vengefulness), Poor II

Special Abilities: Flying ointment, Area Knowledge (home area), Tradition (Witch), Gatherer
Languages: Native language Garethi III, Bosporano III
Scripts: Kusliker signs, Imperial signs

Combat Techniques: Daggers 10 (AT 11 / PA 7), Impact weapons 8 (AT 9 / PA 4), Brawling 8 (AT 8 / PA 6)
Combat Abilities: Improved Dodge I

Physical: Flying 6, Body Control 4, Swimming 2, Self-Control 3, Singing 2, Perception 2, Dancing 6, Stealth 5
Social: Seduction 2, Intimidate 3, Empathy 5, Fast-Talk 2, Disguise 3, Willpower 2
Nature: Tracking 2, Orientation 3, Plant Lore 6, Animal Lore 6, Survival 4
Lore: Magical Lore 4, Myth & Legend 7
Crafts: Alchemy 4, Treat Poison 4, Treat Disease 5, Treat Wounds 4, Woodworking 1, Metalworking 1, Clothworking 1

Magic tricks: Snake Hands
Curses: Paralyse tongue 2, Witch's Shot 3
Spells: Balsam Salabunde 6, Avarice 5, Harmless Form 5, Witch's Bile 7, Toad's Leap 6, Racket 4, Meekness 4

Equipment: heavy dagger & sheath, 3 sets of clothes (common), broom, waterskin, belt pouch, sack, sleeping bag, flint & steel, 3 days rations, pan, silver jewellery [2 earrings (worth 9.5 silver talers each), bracelet (10 silver talers), 5 rings (7.5 silver talers each)]
Money: 8 Silver talers, 10 Hellers

Travjane Wirtstreu

Spezies: Mensch
Kultur: Mittlereicher
Sozialstatus: Frei
Profession: Krötenhexe
Erfahrungsgrad: Erfahren
AP gesamt: 1.100

Mut              13   Lebensenergie   29
Klugheit         12   Astralenergie   34
Intuition        14   Seelenkraft      2
Charisma         14   Zähigkeit        1
Fingerfertigkeit 11   Ausweichen       8
Gewandtheit      14   Initiative  14+1W6
Konstitution     12   Geschwindigkeit  8
Körperkraft      10   Schicksalspunkte 3

Vorteile: Zauberer, Gutaussehend II, Altersresistenz, Kälteresistenz
Nachteile: Kein Vertrauter, Lästige Mindergeister, Körperliche Auffälligkeit (Hexensträhne), Schlechte Angewohnheiten (Barfußer), Schlechte Eigenschaften (Neugier, Rachsucht), Arm II

Sonderfertigkeiten: Flugsalbe, Ortskenntnis (Heimatgebiet), Tradition (Hexe), Sammler
Sprachen: Muttersprache Garethi III, Bosporano III
Schriften: Kusliker Zeichen, Imperiale Zeichen

Kampftechniken: Dolche 10 (AT 11 / PA 7), Hiebwaffen 8 (AT 9 / PA 4), Raufen 8 (AT 8 / PA 6)
Kampfsonderfertigkeiten: Verbessertes Auswiechen I

Körper: Fliegen 6, Körperbeherrschung 4, Schwimmen 2, Selbstbeherrschung 3, Singen 2, Sinnesschärfe 2, Tanzen 6, Verbergen 5
Gesellschaft: Betören 2, Einschüchtern 3, Menschenkenntnis 5, Überreden 2, Verkleiden 3, Willenskraft 2
Natur: Fährtensuchen 2, Orientierung 3, Pflanzenkunde 6, Tierkunde 6, Wildnisleben 4
Wissen: Magiekunde 4, Sagen & Legenden 7
Handwerk: Alchimie 4, Heilkunde Gift 4, Heilkunde Krankheiten 5, Heilkunde Wunden 4, Holzbearbeitung 1, Metallbearbeitung 1, Stoffbearbeitung 1

Zaubertricks: Schlangenhände
Flüche: Zunge lähmen 2, Hexenschuss 3
Zaubersprüche: Balsam Salabunde 6, Große Gier 5, Harmlose Gestalt 5, Hexengalle 7, Krötensprung 6, Radau 4, Sanftmut 4

Ausrüstung: Schwerer Dolch mit Scheide, 3x Kleidungspaket (Frei), Besen, Wasserschlauch, Gürteltasche, Sack, Schlafsack, Feuerstein & Stahl, Proviant für 3 Tage, Pfanne, Silberschmuck [2x Ohrringe (je 9,5s), Armreife (10s), 5x Ringe (je 7,5s)]
Geld: 8 Silbertaler, 10 Heller

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Dragon Warriors solo - Part XI: Dénouement

As Loys emerges from the darkness of the underworld, his eyes are blinded by the bright, yet overcast day. When his vision clears, he is greeted by the sight of a dozen or more archers, arrows nocked and aimed right at him.

[The idea to have soldiers surrounding the PCs came to me as a result of the above picture, which was sitting in my Dragon Warriors folder simply because it's the top half of the picture I used back at the end of scene 6 (though in both pictures I had to photoshop out the horse; more on this anon).

Q: So then, whose soldiers are they? (1d6) 1 the earl, 2-3 local baron, 4 the earl's enemy, 5 brigands, 6 unknown

1d6=1, the earl's troops

Q: Trouble? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - No, and... protecting the PCs as well as their liege's investment.]

"Ho, lads! Stand down!" calls the lead archer. "These be not fell beasts that emerge from the accursed hole, but men: good knights and true. And a lady!"

"Indeed we are a band of brave knights," says Loys modestly, "but who be ye?"

"Why, the Earl's men come to guard ye, and see ye safely back... if, that is, ye have his prize."

"That we do," says Loys, "and it was bought by dint of much steel."

"Well the Earl will want to pay ye with much prettier metal than that! Come! we ride for Fort Merl forthwith."

"Fort Merl?"

"His Grace is there on an errand. He gave orders to come immediately when ye'd found the book. I'll even let ye all have some of our horses for the journey. Consider it my repayment for the service ye've already done us. For had you not come out of that hole with the book, me and the lads were to go down and get it ourselves!"

Scene 14

Chaos: Out of control (d8)

Setup: return the Tractatus to the Earl

NPC list: Lady Melisenda, Earl of Avincester, the Secret Enemy, Benoist the brigand, Brother Quintinus, goblin & associate monster

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

[A random event back in Scene 8 revealed (to the GM-me) that the Earl would be away from home when the PCs took the book back. I rolled a die on my d30 area map to find his location.

Q: Is it a safe Journey? Certain (2+): O6 C5, Yes]

The journey across the moors is uneventful, and by nightfall they have reached Fort Merl. The Earl of Avincester is there there to greet them. He orders the best possible quarters prepared for the knights and their fair lady companion, and apologises profusely for the rough nature of the fort's accommodations. He does not reveal what errand has drawn him away from his own castle -- nor are his guests so importunate as to ask.

[Q: Does the Earl know of Loys & Reynaud's crusade news yet? Likely (3+): O1 C5, No. (I will increase the likelihood by one step per fortnight from now on for anyone who might hear such news).]

Once they've had a chance to rest, the earl receives them privately in the commander's private dining hall. Ysmena hands him the bejewelled tome, and as he opens it, his eyes go wide in amazement.

"You've found it! You've really found it. My search is finally at an end! Of course, you'll be wanting a reward, and one is richly deserved. Here..."

So saying, the Earl rips both of the golden, gem-encrusted covers off the book and tosses them on the table before Loys.

"These should fetch a pretty price in Ebrac," continues the Earl as if nothing out of the ordinary had taken place. "And now, as you've proven yourselves in this endeavour, there is another small matter for which I humbly beg your assistance..."

[And thus the first adventure draws to a close. so it is time to tally up the rewards.

The sale of the book covers will net enough to rest up in Ebrac for about a week and purchase normal horses for party, +7 days provisions each. This is by DM fiat, since if the PCs have horses, it will be much easier to grab pictures of knights out of my image folder. The rest of their treasure will be spent as normal.

Experience Points:
XP from combat are equal to the Rank (or Rank equivalent) of the foes defeated, and distributed by the DM amongst the PCs participating. So--

Loys gets the XP for his duel with Sir Cressin (scene 5), but since it wasn't a duel to the death, he only gets half. Sir Cressin was 3rd rank; I'll round up for Loys' noble deed: 2xp

The brigands in scene 6 were both 2nd Rank, so 4xp must be divided between 3 PCs. Reynaud seemed to fight the best, so he'll get 2xp whilst Loys and Ysmena get  each. Ailbert does not earn any XP for being defeated.

Ysmena took out the 1st Rank elementalist in scene 8 with a single spell, so she earns the 1xp from that.

Then there's the monsters defeated in the ruins:
 4 goblins (1xp each)
 1 hobgoblin (4xp)
11 wolves (1xp each)
 1 bugbear (3xp)
 1 hellion (8xp)
27xp total. I wasn't going to count the goblin that escaped, but 1 more Xp makes a number easily divisible by 4, so each PC earns 7xp from the ruins.

Finally, everyone gets 5xp for completing the adventure.

So, Loys earns 15xp, Reynaud and Ysmena earn 14xp, and Ailbert earns 12xp.]

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Dragon Warriors solo - Part X: The Mad Comte's treasure

Most of the chests in the room are broken and empty, but against one wall is a huge chest of painted hardwood reinforced with iron bands, sitting on its own small platform. Loys goes to open the chest...

[Of course it's trapped (1d6): 1-3 physical, 4-6 magic: 2; (the LL AEC trap tables produce spiked pit.

The trapdoor will affect Loys + [1d4-1=] 2 others. 1d3=Ysmena is furthest away. According to the Speed table, a trapdoor opening underfoot has a 13, so the other PCs need to roll higher than 13-Evasion on 2d10 to leap out of the way in time.

Loys: 13-3=10, 7=fall
Reynaud: 13-4=9, 12=jump out of way
Ailbert: 13-3=10, 9=fall

damage: 1d4 for 3m fall -2 for armour +4 for spikes

Loys takes 4 damage, leaving him with 6hp. Ailbert takes 6 damage, dropping him to 1hp.]

...and as he does a large section of the floor opens up beneath him. Ysmena is standing far enough back, and Reynaud is deft enough to leap to safety, but Loys and Ailbert tumble into a deep pit, with long iron spikes set into the floor. Loys' armour proves sound again the spikes, but poor Ailbert finds himself impaled, and is nearly killed. Ysmena advances to the rim of the pit, and holds the lantern over it. "Are you two alive down there?"

"I live," grumbles Loys, "but Ailbert will need some help to get off this spike. They're iron, so they must have been put here before our fairy friends moved in and -- hey! a door!"

Reynaud hacks off the dead bugbear's foot with his sword in order to slip the chain off its leg. He throws the chain down into the pit, and tests his weight against it. "I think this should be a safer way down," he says.

"Before we descend," says Ysmena, "I'm going to collect the goblin's treasure from the chest."

"I hope it is worth this effort," says Reynaud.

[Is it? rolling for the hobgoblin's treasure hoard class (1d6=4) indicates another Poor treasure.
4d12=24 florins
1d10=1 crowns
1d6-1=3 gems/jewellery worth 50F each
15% chance of 1 magic item: d%=01! : a 6th level scroll (Ysmena can use it, but won't know what it is until 6th level)]

Reynaud and Ysmena clamber down the chain easily [climb difficulty of 6, anyone with REF at least 6 (like the PCs) needs no roll]. Ysmena opens the little leather sack from the chest, and their hearts all sink a little: there's just a handful of coins and three bits of old jewellery. The magical scroll seems a real treasure, but Ysmena is forced to admit that she doesn't know what it does. The only way to find out would be to read it aloud and release the magic...

Turning back to the arcane arts she does understand, Ysmena heals Ailbert with her sorcery to keep him from bleeding to death [Lesser healing twice (2MP), bringing him up to 5HP; she's again down to her last magic point].

Then all eyes turn to the door. Reynaud volunteers to open it. Ailbert and Ysmena stand in position to launch missiles and magic through the doorway should a guardian be revealed beyond, Loys readies his sword to chard in afterwards. Reynaud then reaches a gauntleted hand towards it...

[Q: Is it trapped? Certain (2+): O4 C6, Yes
The trap is (1d6): 1-3 magical, 4-5 physical, 6 both: 1

I don't have a good magical trap table, so I usually roll on the LL AEC Random Characteristics table. The result this time is Twists. So touching the door causes a magical attack against everyone in the room, and if it succeeds the victim suffers a random madness (from DW p124). I gave it an arbitrary Magical Attack value of 12, or 18 for the one actually in contact with it. Die rolls:

L (12-5) < 11, resisted
R (18-4) > 13, succumbed
A (12-4) < 10, resisted
Y (12-7) < 14, resisted

Reynaud suffers Intermittent Catatonia.]

The instant Reynaud's fingers make contact with the door, a terrible noise begins to resound throughout the room. It is felt more than heard, waves of force vibrating forth from the door as if from an enormous bell. Everyone recoils in shock, save Reynaud, who stands motionless, his hand still outstretched. When it has subsided, they find that they are shaken but unhurt, but Reynaud still does not move. He does not even react when they shout at him, nor when Loys raps him hard upside his helm.

They are on the point of dragging him bodily out of the way when he suddenly pulls the door open and as if nothing had happened. "We'd better get going," he says.

Beyond the door is a short passageway that empties out into a vast chamber of dressed stone, whose far wall is beyond the reach of their lantern light. They advance into the darkness. "Hey," says Ysmena suddenly, "look at the floor. It looks like we just crossed the boundary of a large magic circle carved into it..."

On the other side of the room, a shape stirs in the darkness, and flops forth into the light, revealing a thing spawned in the very depths of Hell. Its bloated, shapeless body has two stubby arms terminating in wicked claws. There are no legs of which to speak, just a long serpentine tail. Two small, vestigial-seeming wings sprout at odd angles from its lumpy back, and its head is at the end of a long, snaky neck. It has no mouth nor nose nor face, just a single, huge, lidless eye taking up the whole of the head.

The heroes know they must slay this abomination or perish in the attempt.

[It's a Hellion, generated with the random tables in the DW Bestiary.

Attack 20, claw (d8,4)   Armour Factor 4
Defence 12               Movement: 15m
Magical Attack 16        Evasion 5
Magical Defence 8        Stealth 10
Health Points 23         Perception 4 (panoptical)
Rank Equivalent: 8th

Evil Eye (as the spell*)
Reflexes 17

* since it only has the one eye I'm not imposing the Attack & Defence penalties for lack of binocular vision. It can still see just fine because it's a fiend from the Pit.

There's no surprise. The initiative order is Hellion, Y, R, L, A; all actions were resolved in this order when I was playing, even though the narrative swaps some of it round in order to flow better.]

[Round 1]
The horror slows its advance, and rears back. An unearthly, pale blue light begins to stream forth from the baleful eye, as waves of pure evil wash over the heroes [it activates its Evil Eye power]. Ysmena is already speaking the words of a spell. A lance of flame darts forth from her outstretched fingers, but at the last instant the thing writhes away from it and is unscathed [she spent her last magic point on Dragonbreath, which it Evaded]. Reynaud charges with his sword pointing straight at the fiend. Loys follows hard behind, an earnest prayer upon his lips. Ailbert raises his crossbow and shoots. The bolt sinks deep into the thing's blubbery midsection, and oily pus oozes from the wound [the d10 ABR easily penetrates AF4; it takes 4 damage, putting it at 17hp]. Ailbert breathes a sigh of relief to see the damage his shot has done; he had feared it would prove immune to their weapons. Reynaud makes the mistake of letting his gaze meet the creature's. He feels a fire in his brain an d a pull on his very soul, but the staunch warrior will not let it take him so easily. "The eye!" he screams, "don't look at the eye!"

[Each PC has a 40% chance to meet the hellion's gaze; rolls are made at the end of each round. Those meeting the gaze are subject to a 1d12 Fright attack (roll 1d12-Rank; the character needs to beat this number on 2d10 or die!). Reynaud looked like a goner when I rolled a 12, but he was very lucky (2d10=15), so there was no ill effect. Evil Eye is subject to a spell expiry roll; it will end at the end of the round (after killing everyone) if it rolls a 12 on 2d6. It didn't expire this round.

Characters may elect to reduce the chance of meeting a gaze attack. For each 10% reduction they suffer a cumulative -1 attack and -2 defence. The PCs will all be using 20% reductions, for -2/-4. The hellion will be splitting its Defence equally between all attackers (up to 3).]

[Round 2]
As Reynaud averts his eyes, the creature blindsides him with a buffeting from one of its bony wings. The sheer force of the attack staggers Reynaud back a few paces, as he feels his ribs almost fracture from the strike -- even beneath his heavy plate [4 damage drops him to 6hp]. Wincing in pain for a moment, he can barely raise his sword for a counterstrike [missed]. Loys plunges his sword deep into the horror's midsection, and pulls it free, dipping with foul slime [crit for automatic ABR; 4 damage puts it at 13hp]. Ysmena averts her eyes, and takes a small copper flask out of the pouch at her belt and unstoppers it. Ailbert casts his crossbow aside and readies his battleaxe, also looking away.
[neither knight in mêlée meets its gaze, and the spell does not expire.]

[Round 3]
The beast batters Reynaud again with its stumpy wing, but this time the knight's armour saves him from injury [failed its ABR]. Reynaud's swift riposte draws a faint line across the thing's blubbery hide, but it seems not to even notice [also failed his ABR]. Loys nearly trips over the snaky tail, and cannot bring his sword to bear as he tries to right himself [rolled an 18, miss]. But as he does his eyes meet the terrible blue gaze of the creature. But as the evil glow starts to pull at his awareness, Loys shouts back, "You have no power o'er me, vile fiend!" [the Fright attack needed a 6 or lower to kill the knight, but the 2d10 roll came up 20.] Ailbert moves up to attack, whilst Ysmena drinks her elixir. Magical energy courses through her veins, restoring her to full capacity [the Potion of Replenishment restores 2d4=4 (all) MP].
[no spell expiry]

[Round 4]
The thing is still intent on battering Reynaud, but his armour protects him from the worst of it. He in turn cannot land a blow of his own. Reynaud catches a glimpse of the terrible eye, but he is far too wrothful to succumb. Ysmena uses her magic to sap the beast's strength [her magical attack for the Weakness spell succeeds, giving it penalties: -2 Attack -1 Damage]. Loys' sword again strikes true, opening another oozing wound in the creature's pulpy side [down to 9hp]. Ailbert's axe, however, practically rebounds off its thick hide.
[Ysmena's weakness spell also needs to make Spell Expiry Rolls; neither spell dissipates during the combat...]

[Rounds 5-7]
The creature and Reynaud are intent on battering one another into a pulp, but neither is capable of piercing the other's defences [failed ABRs all round]. Ysmena hurls bolts of fire at the slithering beast, but each time it twists away from the searing flame [Dragonbreath x2, both evaded]. Ailbert lands a punishing blow; a shower of gore splashes across the flagstones as he severs the last few metres of it tail [6 damage drops it to 3hp]. Loys stares defiantly into the terrible blue eye as he stands firmly before it. His sword flashes in the blue light, which is suddenly extinguished, as neck is severed cleanly from the body. The horrible thing falls to the floor with a sickening squelch, and Loys drives his sword one last time into the creature's very heart to end it.

Before everyone's astonished eyes the creature begins to disintegrate. Every part of it, even the gore and slime on their swords, disappears like dust blown off an old book. After a few heartbeats, it is as if the thing had never existed in the mortal realm.

The chamber proves to be mostly empty. Here and there are bits of mouldering bones,  broken weapons, and rusting armour, the remains of doughty knights come in search of the Mad Comte's treasury. Other than these, there is only the magic circle incised in the floor, whose far end begins underneath a heavy wooden door.

"Finally," says Ysmena, "the treasury."

"How can you be certain?" asks Loys.

"It's written in big letters right above... oh... right. I forgot."

"Good enough for me," says Reynaud impatiently, and kicks the door inward before anyone has a chance to respond.

The treasury is only the size of a modest castle bedchamber. A wooden latticework covers all four walls, even around the door. From the lattice are suspended the Mad Comte's treasures: the severed heads of all his enemies, most now no more than grinning skulls.

The knights stand in shock at the sight before them. Ailbert's teeth begin to chatter, so loud that he fears the others might hear. But Loys' and Reynaud's shock is of altogether a different sort.

"This is the Mad Comte's treasure?" says Loys. "There's no gold!"

"Nor even silver," add Reynaud.

"He wasn't called the Mad Comte for nothing," offers Ysmena.

"Yes, but... such a guardian... all for this..." mutters Loys.

"Wait!" says Reynaud, "bring the lantern forward. What's that gleam?"

Ysmena steps forward into the grisly treasure vault, holding the lantern high. On the floor is a glitter of gold and precious stones: the richly bejewelled cover of a book, lying where it had been angrily thrown so long ago. Forgetting herself, Ysmena scurries across to the book. She sets the lamp on the floor to examine the tome. The spine is badly broken, but the vellum pages are still held fast. She turns carefully to the first page, and reads aloud: His incipit Tractatus lachrymarum elementiciarum, sive doctrina regis annui sapientissimi, vesperi anteaquam trucidatus est sacerdotibus mandata...

"This is it!" exclaims Ysmena. She closes it carefully, and puts it into her pack for safekeeping.

"At least we can finally get away from these ruins," says Reynaud.

The knights turn and trudge back through the demon's room to the bottom of the pit. One by one they ascend the chain into the bugbear's lair, then Loys leads the way up the short passage to the surface. When he emerges, blinking his eyes against the light of the overcast day, he is greeted by a dozen or more archers, arrows nocked and aimed right at him...