Wednesday, 9 March 2016
Das schwarze Auge solo - Part XIII: „Dämon aus Höllenräumen / Aus Fegefeuer und bösen Träumen“
The travellers sit down for a convivial, if bland, meal of trail rations with the young mage, who introduces himself as Malzan. The lupine Karmanath ice-demon sits impassively behind its master. Malzan is a well-bred and affable sort, and his manner betrays his noble origin, though he never mentions it or treats his new companions as anything less than equals. Still, some habits die hard, and he is attended at all times by his valet, a reserved and proper man called Vann.
[Q: Is it difficult to find the entrance? 50/50 (4+): O3 C1 - No, and... the way is open.]
Once they are rested and their appetites sated, they begin a search of the ruins. The entrance to the underground level is surprisingly easy to find, a yawning hole with a set of sturdy stone steps leading down into darkness. Suddenly faced with the project of real and impending danger, Darian balks at exploring the under-ruins. He and Vann are allowed to stay above to watch over the camp.
Malzan speaks a short spell, and the tip of his staff glows bright with an unquenchable flame [where witches learn curses, mages learn Stabzauber (staff magic); this one lasts an hour and only costs 1AsP]. Travjane lights a more mundane torch from her pack, and they all descend the steps. Jergan takes the lead, followed by Travjane. Malzan follows, his demon ever by his side, and Renahban guards the rear.
[Room: environment only - altar/shrine; g on the map; 3x6m; they entered the map at h, on the far right hand side.]
At the bottom of the steep stair they find a smallish, empty room. The floor is covered in dirt and rocks and sticks blown in by the winds outside, and moss grows upon the walls. There is but a single narrow exit in one wall, beside which is an alcove containing some painted animal skulls, a copper plate filled with ashes, and some branches twisted together with cord and wire, and ornamented with crow's feathers.
[Travjane makes a Gods & Cults (Skill 0) check: 9/11/8, success QL1
Q: Is it an altar to one of the Twelve? Certain (2+): O1 C3 - No, but... inoffensive]
"I think goblins must have made this," says Travjane. "I wonder if we'll find any here."
The room beyond the shrine [L on the map, 1d20=empty] is full of tightly packed brick columns. None of the bold adventurers can guess at the former purpose of such an arrangement [it was originally a hypocaust].
After a fruitless search amongst the columns, they find an exit on the same wall as the entrance. The room beyond [d on the map, environment only - spikes/caltrops] is even smaller than the entrance chamber. The walls are bare, but the floor is once again covered in all manner of débris.
[Perception roll for Jergan: 7/3/7, success.]
"Watch where you step!" says Jergan. "The floor is--"
"Ouch!" shrieks Travjane. [Perception roll 20/17/7, failed. 1d6=1 damage]
Everyone stops, and watches as the witch pulls a sharp fragment of metal out of the sole of her foot.
"Travjane!" scolds Renahban. "You came into here barefoot?"
"Well I lost one of my shoes!"
"Go put something on your feet!"
"No! It's plenty warm in here. I'll be more careful. It hardly even broke the skin."
The others realise that arguing with the witch is pointless, and would probably just attract the attention of anything lurking nearby, so they proceed (carefully) to the next chamber.
They emerge into a larger, rectangular room with a high and vaulted ceiling, and an adjoining anteroom with a raised floor. The splintered and rotten remains of chests and crates are scattered about, evidence of the looting of the fort in ages past. Here and there is a piece of dented armour, a broken sword, the rim of a shield. A few shelf brackets still protrude from the stone walls like corroded spikes. Any furnishings have long since rotted away. The floor is slightly uneven, and a large puddle of water stands in one corner. A steady drip of water has formed tiny stalactites above it.
[f on the map; Room contents: Monster & Treasure
monster type 1d4: 1 undead, 2 unnatural, 3 animal, 4 demon
I rolled a 1, so skeletons it is. There are a few more types of undead in the rulebook and bestiary, but I'm going with skeletons, because skeletons! The party must face a group of (1d6+1=)5. They are armed with swords (1d6+4 damage).
NPC Morale will be determined on 1d8 when someone loses the first quarter of their LeP. The NPC flees after losing (1d8): 1-3 25%, 4-7 50%, 8 75%; none of them are foolish enough to fight to the death.]
As Travjane takes her torch over to peer into the anteroom, indistinct shapes move in the darkness at the edge of her vision. She takes them for merely the flickering shadows made by her light, and pays them no mind. But an instant later she is confronted with an awful sight, as a band of ancient, walking skeletons, animated to some sinister purpose, come forth to do battle with the living souls who dare disturb their tomb.
[She failed a Perception roll, they made their Stealth rolls, so she's surprised. 1d5=2 can attack in the surprise round, but they roll poorly and both miss. I'll say this means they didn't pick up their weapons in time to attack, so the narrative matches the nice picture, and I'm not tempted to waste 2 hours trying to photoshop in any arms.]
The grinning skeletons take up an assortment of old swords, and the battle is joined.
Initiative rolls: J 19, T 18, M 17, s1 15, R 14, s2 11, s3 12, s4&s5 9
as usual, I will narrate somewhat out of order for the sake of readability.]
Jergan's warrior instincts take over the instant he hears the clacking of bony feet against the damp stone floor. He charges at the closest skeleton, putting all the weight of his impetus behind the swing of his sword. He smashes through the skeleton's chest, sending fragments of ribs flying every direction -- yet somehow the thing keeps coming at him! [He's using his Sturmangriff (lit. 'assault', here essentially 'charge') combat ability to attack (1d5=)skeleton #5. He hits and it fails its dodge; damage is this 1d6+4 for his sword with a bonus of (1/2 Movement rate)+2, so +6: 1d6+4+6=13damage; the skeleton has but 1 LeP left.] The skeleton's blade bounds off Jergan's shield.
Travjane is unsettled by the walking dead before her. She swings the heavy branch she carries clumsily, and almost looses her footing as it swishes through the air before her foe [a natural 20 is a miss, after which she rolls a 3 (under her AT of 8) so avoids a Fumble]. Fortunately the skeleton's [#1] sword fails to find its mark as well, though unlike the witch no expletives escape its silent mouth.
Malzan does not feel at all threatened by these most minor of sorcerous creations. Rather than use up one of the precious services yet owed him by his summoned demon, he opts for a more direct approach. He thrusts the tip of his magical staff at a skeleton, and with a loud crack breaks off a chunk of its pelvis. [Rolls a 1, then a 16 -- a hit but no critical. The skeleton's defence is halved, and it thus fails to dodge. 1d6+2=6damage, dropping it to 8LeP.] The thing is too off-balance to counter-attack.
Renahban carefully puts her crossbow aside and draws her greatsword.
A second skeleton [#3] appears beside Travjane, its blade slashing towards her face. As she twists her body aside, the heavy branch flies up and knocks off the thing's jaw. [It attack would have hit, but she rolled a 1 on her dodge. A second roll of 4 (under her dodge value) makes a critical success, so she gets to roll for a free riposte [Passierschlag; attack at -4 but no other modifiers, and no Defence is allowed], which succeeds. The Passierschlag also rolled a natural 1, but alas no criticals are allowed. However, blunt weapons do double damage to skeletons, so (1d6+1=5)x2=10 damage, leaving it with 4LeP.]
The last skeleton [actually #4] lunges at Malzan, but the mage has already stepped back out of the way.
Jergan's sword makes short work of the damaged skeleton before him. He moves to defend Malzan, wondering distractedly why his beast will not attack.
Travjane and her two opponents trade blows, though none come near to hitting. Renahban appears by Travjane's side swinging her huge sword, which nearly hits the witch instead of the skeletons [natural 20, but avoided the fumble].
Malzan smashes his foe's sternum [6 damage drops it to 2LeP], but it shows no signs of slowing. He manages to avoid its counter attack, but leaves himself open to the other, which slashes a bloody gash across his shoulder with its ancient sword [7 damage drops Malzan to 16 LeP, and he gets 1 level of pain]. The other
Jergan makes a clumsy stab at one of the skeletons facing the mage -- so clumsy in fact that it manages to backhand him with the pommel of its weapon. [Jergan also rolled a 20, and whilst he avoided fumbling, the skeleton got a critical success on its dodge. The Passierschlag hit for 5-3(armour)=2damage, putting Jergan at 33LeP.]
Travjane misses her opponent again and gets in too close, earning a terrible wound across her torso as her recompense [7 damage drops her to 21 LeP].
Marzan is wincing from his injury, but stands firm [Morale 1d8=6; he'll stay until he's at half LeP]. His staff reduces the damaged skeleton to pile of bones at his feet, as he dances out of reach of the other one facing him.
He's brave but not foolhardy; Malzan steps back to let Jergan fight. But the warrior can't seem to get in a hit against his enemy.
Renahban's heavy sword crashes down, shattering an arm, most of the rib cage, and cracking the pelvis nearly in twain [12 damage leaves it with 2 LeP] -- yet still does the monster advance. It hits her once [9-3=6damage], then twice [8-3=5: 19LeP, 1 Pain], but she grits her teeth and keeps on fighting [ML roll=8].
Travjane brings her branch down right atop her opponent's skull, smashing the whole skeleton to pieces which skitter across the floor in all directions. [She rolled a critical hit, for double damage, combined with the modifier for her blunt weapon meant damage x4! 1d6+2=7, x4=28; it only had 4LeP...]
Only two skeletons remain. They seem to remember their lives as warriors, for Jergan's tactics are of no avail. The witch, however untrained her fighting style, manages to destroy one of them, and the mercenary from a far-off land takes her revenge upon the other.
After the battle, the party resume their search of the chamber. As they are looking through the remains of boxes and crates, and piles of broken and rusty vessels, healing magics work their spell to lessen the injuries sustained at the hands of the undead. [Malzan casts Balsam Salabunde on himself, restoring 3 LeP (up to 19) and reducing his AsP to 12. Travjane heals both herself and Renahban by 6 points (T 27 LeP, R 25 LeP), which drops her to 22 AsP. The Mindergeister, in a seeming act of charity, do not disturb her at this time.]
Most of the contents of the room are past having any worth, having been smashed by invading orks in ages past or simply having decayed with the passage of centuries. But a few pieces do still have some value...
[For the treasure I picked 3 random pictures from my latest V&A Museum folder (I spent a day there taking pictures for gaming inspiration, especially for treasure). Any picture of something inappropriate to the setting or immovable counts as No Result.]
They find an ornamental pauldron that somehow survived the ravages of time...
...a small plaque depicting an ancient hero fighting a green lion...
...and a pair of amber cruets, decorated with gilded silver.
All these they put out of way, set safely on a stone in the corner of the room, lest they become damaged by exploring and fighting. Travjane adds the least damaged of the skeletons' ancient swords to the pile, just in case they find no better.
Feeling a little cheered by the promise of more treasure, they make their way through the narrow passage to the next chamber [e on the map, environment only: wind]
The room is spacious and empty. A platform runs round 3 of the walls, about waist-height. They feel breeze through here. It smells a little like the outside, but it is mixed with uncertain smells from the dank underground. The sole exit is in the middle of the far wall, so they clamber up onto the platform and make their way to the next room [K - monster only].
This room is also filled with columns, though many of them have been reduced to piles of stone and brick littering the floor. A think, irregular wall divides the long chamber into two sections. Malzan and his demon get separated from the other three as they all wind their way through the crumbling maze.
[Since the breeze in the last room indicated some sort of opening to the outside world, I made a slightly different monster table, including the possibility that an animal could be lairing in here.
1d8: 1-3 undead, 4-5 unnatural/chimaera, 6-7 demon/id 8 animal; I rolled a 6, so picked a random demon out of all those available: a Zant.
Who will it try to attack? There are 5 invaders in its lair, but Jergan has the Bad Luck disadvantage, so counts twice in the determination. And 1d6=Jergan.
The Zant made a poor (QL1 only) stealth roll, but Jergan failed his perception check, so he gets no defence.]
In the darkness of the underground chamber -- unbeknownst to our band of heroes -- a terrible demon, a Zant, stalks amongst the columns. The stealthy padding of its feet is masked by the sounds of dripping water, and by the explorers themselves moving over the rubble-strewn flagstones. It comes closer, ever closer to its unwary prey, driven by the burning need for slaughter and terror.
Travjane and Renahban suddenly see the beast in the light of the torch as it slips out from behind a column. The demon is some twisted parody of a tiger, with an upright stance and an evil, knowing mien. They are about to call out to warn Jergan when the thing pounces!
Initiative is: Z 20, R 18, T 17, J15 (but he cannot act this round due to surprise).
Also, all three of them failed Sphere Lore checks, so they have no idea what this thing is nor how best to fight it.]
The Zant has an unnaturally long tail, which it swings at Jergan's feet, sweeping the hapless warrior to the ground. It then leaps atop him and sinks its terrible fangs into his shoulder. The awful jaws clamp tight, and the teeth pierce his thick linen gambeson and sink deep into his flesh, and burn with acidic venom. Strangely, the immense creature atop him seems light as a feather, in spite of its overwhelming strength.
[A Zant gets 2 actions per round. It uses its tail to attack with the Trip combat manoeuvre. The attack (at -4 to hit) succeeds, so Jergan goes down. Damage for a trip attack is only 1d3, so his armour absorbs it all. The bite hit for 2d6+3, -3 for armour=9. It also gets to roll a d6, with a result of 1-3 indicating that much additional damage from acidic secretions. 1d6=2, for a total of 11 damage, leaving Jergan at 22LeP, with 1 level of Pain. Morale check:1d8=6, so he will fight until he hits 50% LeP.
N.B. demons in DSA, despite their size and strength, have no actual mass when summoned to the earthly sphere.]
It all happens so fast that Renahban cannot bring her sword to bear [rolls a 20, then a 1, so doesn't fumble]. Travjane blurts out the words to a spell, but in her fright trips over the final syllables [tries to cast Radau quickly (-1 penalty) and fails. It costs 2AsP, but the Mindergeister do not appear].
The Zant's jaws snap at Jergan's face, but he twists aside [it missed]. It rakes a massive paw across his midsection, tearing armour and flesh [hit for 6-3=3 damage +3 acid; Jergan is down to 18LeP].
Renahban tries to slash the demon with her sword, but the columns make it hard to swing the massive weapon [-4 to hit for confined space, miss]. Travjane repeats the words to her charm, but slurs her words again [-2 more AsP].
Jergan scurries out from beneath the slavering creature, and quickly regains his feet.
[he makes a Body Control roll so the Zant does not get a free attack (Passierschlag).
Q: Does Malzan help? 50/50 (4+): O5 C3 - Yes, but... only sends his demon. It arrives in 1d3=2 rounds.]
The Zant snaps again at Jergan, but the warrior interposes his blade. The demon jerks back before it receives a mouthful of cold steel [bite would have hit, but Jergan parried]. But it only seemed to retreat. The Zant twists and lashes out with its other paw, shredding through his armour as though it were cheesecloth, and nearly disemboweling him. He falls without so much as a whimper, a torn and bloodied mess.
[The paw rolled a critical hit, which Jergan failed to parry. 8x2=16-3=13damage, +3 acid; Jergan is unconscious with 2 LeP separating him from death.]
"No!" shouts Renahban as she thrusts her blade at the terrible beast. It slaps the sword aside with its tail, and rakes its claws across Renahban's face for her impudence. [her attack would have hit, but the Zant rolled a critical parry and earned a free riposte. 11-3=8, leaving her at 17 LeP and 1 Pain].
Having failed at her spell twice in a row, rage has wells up in the witch's breast. She is so angry that the magic comes out in a very different wise, as she expectorates a glob of caustic bile directly onto the Zant. It bubbles and hisses as it strikes, but slides off the demon's fur as if it were but water. And as if that weren't enough insult, the nasty little sprites which plague her appear and begin to dance round her head, little angry faces leering and jeering at her.
[Witches get a bonus when casting spells for which they have an emotional investment. Hexengrolle (witch's bile) is a pretty nasty spell; failing two casting attempts in a row put Travjane in a foul mood, so she gets the full +2. She didn't really need it though, as she rolled 3/2/7: success at QL 3. The Zant failed to dodge. The bile does 1d6+QL damage... but it turns out that demons are immune to spells in the transformation (Verwandlung) category, so it had no effect. Travjane is out 4 more AsP (14 left), and (1d20=2) her Lästige Mindergeister disadvantage finally takes hold.]
The Karmanath creeps over behind the raging Zant. And though its movements are too quiet for the humans to hear, the tiger-demon's superior senses alert it to the presence of the unearthly hunter.
[The Karmanath rolls 25 for its Initiative total, so will be going first. It gets a QL of 3 for its Stealth roll, but the Zant manages a Perception check at QL 4!]
The icy wolf demon opens wide its gaping jaw and makes to leap at the Zant, but stumbles upon the loose bricks scattered around the floor. It then tries to slash the other demon with the icy spikes hanging from its tail, but the swing falls several paces short.
[bite attack rolls 20, and 20 again: Fumble; it stumbles, for a -2 to its next action. The tail strike would have missed anyway (it rolled a 19... sigh).]
Having felled one human, the Zant turns its attentions to [1d8: 1-2 R, 3-4 T, 5-6 both, 7-8 K] Renahban. It tries to knock her down with its tail, and slash her with its claws, but each time she deftly steps aside [both attacks would have hit, but she miraculously dodged]. She ends up too far back to attack the beast easily [missed].
"Fall back!" yells Travjane, as she backs away. "Let the demon fight it!"
The Zant does not stay still, and the Karmanath cannot seem choose a time to strike [miss x2]. It presses its attack on Renahban, knocking her over with its tail and taking a bite out of her side as she sprawls on the ground. She tries desperately to get away from the savage demon, which grabs her about the throat, which erupts in a fountain of gore.
[she was knocked down, then the bite dropped her to 7 LeP. She failed a Body Control roll to get up, which opened her up to a free attack. The claw did 7 damage, killing her.]
Travjane is shocked to see the last moments of the stalwart mercenary. She throws the heavy branch she carries to the ground so that she might flee the spectre of death before her. To her surprise, the branch comes to life, flies at the monster and raps it soundly across its face!
[Her Radau casting roll was pants, so she spent a Fate Point to re-roll, and managed QL2. The branch thus has Ini12+1d6 (14, still going last) and an Attack value of 12. The branch hit, and fortunately counts as a magic weapon, or else it would do half damage. It does 1d6+3 -3 for armour (thick fur/hide) =2, reducing the Zant to 43LeP. Travjane's now down to 4AsP.]
The furious Zant is momentarily perturbed by the animated wood, giving the snarling Karmanath the opportunity it needs. It leaps upon the Zant, knocking it to the ground, and taking a bite out of its arm with its icy jaws. The Zant is quick to regain its feet, and it tears out icy chunks of of the cold-demon's hide in its jaw. Travjane turns and runs from the scene. She vaguely thinks she hears the crack of wood again, followed by an angry hiss from the terrible Zant.
She sees a bobbing light ahead of her, the burning flame atop Malzan's staff. She follows it at speed; neither magician stops until they have reached the surface.
[Travjane's Radau drained her very last AsP at the start of round 7. I did play out the rest of the fight, but it was no surprise that the Zant slew the Karmanath, though it was down to 11LeP by that point. Slain demons dissolve into nothingness, leaving perhaps a stain where they fell, so there will be no trace of the Karmanath, but the bodies of the two NPCs and all their equipment will be there should Travjane return. And the treasure they piled in the corner of the skeleton room will remain too.
The fight lasted about 6 more rounds, so there would be no pursuit (the Zant is bound to its room), but I did ask Mythic--
Q: Do they get out OK? Likely (3+): O6 C3 - Yes, but...
BOLD to determine the but: Party-accusations-mundane
Who? 1-2 Malzan, 3-4 Valet, 5-6 Darian: 1d6=1
Q: Did Malzan actually see the Zant: 50/50 (4+): O6 C5 - Yes. And he makes a Sphere Lore roll at QL1, so he knows what it is.]
Witch and wizard collapse against a low wall, a little ways away from the opening into the underground. They struggle to catch their breath, eyeing the opening warily, both hopeful and frightened of what might come up from beneath. By the time they can both breathe again, it is apparent that nothing will be coming out... and they both know what that means.
Finally, Malzan addresses Travjane. "What the hell is wrong with you?! What sort of person takes a stranger down into a hole like that? And with such a guardian! Do you have a death wish or are you just stupid?"
[She tries to defuse the situation, pitting her Fast Talk vs. his Willpower. The results are QL 1 vs QL 3...]
"I had no idea," says Travjane. "What even was that thing?"
"You don't know? How ignorant you are! What sort of moron goes into a place like that with no prior knowledge?"
"We know the story of--"
"That information is centuries out-of-date! You're on your own from now on. I'm getting out of here at first light."
The wizard doesn't even look at her again, just storms off into his tent and sulks.
Travjane feels like doing the same. She goes to find Darian, and tells him the whole sad story of what transpired. They confer for a little while, but decide that the only reasonable course of action is to return to Weihenhorst and start anew. Travjane insists that she will return to this place with reinforcements such as can be raised, and recover the bodies of poor Jergan and Renahban.
Neither of them feels particularly safe by the ruins, not only because of the monster lurking beneath bu t also the angry summoner a few paces distant. They quickly strike camp and descend the peak to stay the night away from this awful place.