Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Épées & sorcellerie - Première partie : dans les cavernes

The journey from the dusty little frontier village down to the sea was brief and uneventful. The stalwart band made their way up the sandy coast underneath the towering cliffs, and finally they stood before the yawning cave. A wave of unease washed over them at the sight of it, at its presence. Those of a religious bent whispered a quick prayer to the gods of their ancestors. The more worldly ones made do with crossed fingers for luck. And the more philosophically inclined wondered indeed if all their memories were but an illusion, all of history a trick of some strange demi-urge, if indeed the world itself had only now just come into being, and they themselves had never existed at all before they had come to stand here at the entrance to this cave.

They formed their marching order. The wizards ignited their torches, whilst little Lisette lit her lantern, and they walked grimly into the cold blackness. When they were a few dozen paces in, each of the fortune-seekers was beset by an uncontrollable shiver. Was it the fear of being cut off from the daylit world, and entering the realm of the dead and the unnatural? or perhaps the very evil of the cave had washed over them in an invisible, yet palpable wave? or is it simply that they feel the change from the preterite to the present tense, as the narrative shifts into a more typical format for the relating of an RPG adventure?

The first decision facing the adventurers is anything but momentous: left or right?  The right-hand passage off the T-junction leads just a short distance to a dead end. At the end of the passage is an altar, carved out of the rock wall itself [Area 1]. None are daring enough to approach within a stone's throw of the ancient altar, save Grûm, who is burning with curiosity. The dwarf looks over the carved stone with the practiced eye of his people. "This must have been here," he says, "since time immemorial. Just look at the rough construction: no metal tools worked this stone. But whoever first claimed these caves, they must have worshipped the gods of [1d3=] Law."

[Should a Lawful character ever pray at this altar, they will be granted healing (1d6 hit points) or a cure of some kind (disease, poison, curse) should they need it, or else a blessing (Protection from Evil, 1hour) if they don't. But only once.]

Leaving the altar, they march back and down the second passage, which soon opens up into a long, roughly rectangular chamber [Room 2] with rough, natural stone walls. They proceed inside slowly, and the torchlight slowly reveals a passageway leading out at the far end. As the party reach the centre of the chamber, there is a stirring all about them. From small niches in the wall clamber the animated bones of warriors long dead. Each holds a long, curving scimitar, which they raise to strike as they draw near.

[The encounter is with 1d6+2=8 skeletons (HD ½, Att +0, AC 7, MV 2, AL Chaos). Either of the priests could have attempted to turn them, but as the PCs aren't outnumbered they chose to stand and fight. This being the first combat encounter, I'll be giving rather more detail about the rules than in subsequent encounters.

Surprise works like B/X: 1-2 on a d6 indicates surprise. The skeletons really couldn't be surprised, so I only rolled for my PCs; skeletons coming out of the walls didn't seem to particularly phase them.

There are no initiative rolls. A combat round has 5 steps, but there wasn't a great deal of movement (step 1) once the battle was joined. Nor did anyone cast a spell (step 2) or use a missile weapon (step 3). And neither skeletons nor PCs check Morale (step 5). So this will mostly be an excursus on mêlée combat.

As this was theatre-of-the-mind rather than miniatures-on-a-grid, I ruled that any PC who killed a skeleton could move far enough to join one of their friends in battle and still attack the next round providing that they were next to each other on the 8-PC character sheet I made (horizontally or vertically, but not diagonally), which is in the order of the initials below.


So Kurg could easily join Délia or Nadilla; it would use a full round's movement to join Zarain.]

The skeletons advance slowly [MV2], and the adventurers rush forth to meet them [MV variously 3-5], with arms and magic at the ready.

[Round 1]
Kurg steps boldly in front of one of the undead creatures, fearing not their wickedness nor the vile magic which spawned them. He knows only steel, and his steel will be the undoing of these monsters. The skeleton, however, has less on its mind, and slips right through the pensive barbarian's defences to land a solid blow on his shoulder, which bites through the hard leather armour and into his flesh.

[The basic rule of mêlée is that both combatants roll their attack dice (2d6+bonuses) simultaneously. Whoever gets higher roll hits, provided it exceeds the opponent's Armour Class. Kurg rolled a pitiful 5+1(1st level fighter)+2(STR bonus) for a total of 8. The skeleton rolled 10+0. Kurg has AC 9 (leather & shield), so he is hit. Damage is 1d6=2; Kurg has 3 hit points remaining.]

Délia is much more focussed than the barbarian. She swings her axe in a mighty arc, which the skeleton is unable to block in time. Its skull sails through the air after the blade bisects its neck. The rest of the bones hang suspended  in space for a brief moment, then clatter in a jumble to the stone floor.

[Délia rolled 12+1 vs. the skeleton's 9+0. 1d6=4 damage; it only had 1d3=1hp, so is destroyed.]

Sparks of crackling blue energy play over Nadilla's hand as she approaches her skeletal enemy (she hold a torch aloft in her other). She discharges the energy at her foe, which nearly disintegrates its weapon hand, and shatters its ribs and part of its shoulder. The rest of it falls to pieces a moment later.

Zarain wields a phantom sword, which is an almost invisible outline in the torchlight. He slashes at the skeleton facing him, and splits its skull in twain. It too falls before his eldritch power.

[Sorcerers have a power called Elemental Force, which allows them to use magic like a weapon, both mêlée and ranged (1m/level); mechanically this is equal to a mundane weapon, except that the sorcerer uses their INT modifier instead of STR or DEX.

Nadilla rolled 8+2 vs. 4+0; she hits for 1d6+2=5 damage, destroying the skeleton. Zarain  rolled 11+2 vs. 8+0; 1d6+2=3, also destroying his enemy.]

Grûm brings his hammer to bear, but try as he might he just cannot get past the skeleton's whirling scimitar. Thrice their blades meet with a mighty clang.

[The dwarf rolled a 6, the skeleton a 3; the skeleton has AC 7, so there were no hits scored.]

Lisette slinks up with her smallsword, biting her lip with nervous tension. She's no warrior; why is she even trying to pretend? Best she try to hold off until one of the fighters can -- ouch! that scimitar nearly cut her open! Why did she ever leave the big city?

[Lisette rolled 5+0 vs. the skeleton's 11+0; she only took 1d6=2 damage, but that's half her hit points.]

Melek raises his heavy mace over his head, and brings it down upon the skeleton. It raises its scimitar at the last instant to parry the blow, the force of which staggers the monster, which staggers back a few paces to right itself.

[Melek rolled a 7 vs. its 5. He hits, but as the roll is equal to the monster's AC it doesn't inflict any damage. Instead, the opponent is pushed back (or down); next round, the attacker gets a +1 on their roll, and the defender gets -1.]

Ayrine lets the skeleton get near. Its curving blade rebounds once off the boss of her shield, then swishes over her head as she ducks beneath the swing. "You'll have to do better that that, sweetie," she admonishes as she slices the skeleton neatly through the spine with a flourish of her sabre. The two halves fall at her feet before the magic has quite left them.

[Ayrine rolled 9+1 vs. 8+0. 1d6+1=7 damage, destroying the skeleton]

[round 2]
Having defeated their foes, Délia, Nadilla, Ayrine, and Zarain join their friends in the fight. Délia moves to assist Kurg, Nadilla steps over to fight beside Grûm, and both Zarain and Ayrine turn to help Lisette.

[Movement phase happens first. No one moved more than their movement rate (in metres), so they can still attack. Now, back to the fighting.]

Kurg and Délia, fighting side-by-side, make short work of the skeleton that had wounded Kurg.

[Kurg rolled 9 vs. 2; Délia rolled 8 vs. (7) -- skeletons only get one attack, but dice are still rolled when defending. They can't inflict any damage, but the attacker still must roll higher to hit them. I put the roll in parentheses to indicate this in my notes.]

Nadilla joins the dwarf against his opponent, but her burst of occult energies merely plays harmlessly over the skeleton's bony frame. Grûm has to leap backwards to avoid the skeleton's scimitar flashing before his face. He stumbles and nearly falls over.

[Nadilla's attack was 3+2 vs. (8+0); she missed. Grûm's was 5 vs. 11; his AC is 11, so he is pushed back (+1/-1 next round).]

Lisette stabs desperately with her short sword. Her swift attack leaves the skeleton without a lower jaw, a blow which would have felled a living opponent. Yet does the implacable undead press its attack. Zarain attacks cautiously, and his phantom sword comes nowhere near to finding its mark. But Ayrine fights on the thief's other side. Her sabre comes down once, definitively, and the heap of bones clatters to the ground.

[Lisette rolled 10 vs. 7; she hit for a mere 1 damage, dropping the skeleton to 2hp. Zarain rolled 4 vs. (9); luckily the skeleton was attacking Lisette, or he'd have been hit (AC 7). Ayrine rolled 9 vs. (4); 1d6=5 damage, destroying the skeleton.]

Melek tries to press his advantage, but the skeleton recovers with praeternatural swiftness, and both must pause to ready a further attack.

[5+1 vs. 8-1; no hits.]

[round 3]
Grûm's foe, however, takes full advantage of his being off-balance. The scimitar sweeps across his legs, cutting him so he can barely walk, and opening a major artery. But even as it strikes the dwarf, Nadilla's magic is consuming it, causing bones to split and fall into powder. In an instant, it is no more.

[Grûm rolled 4-1 vs. 11+1; he was hit for 4 damage, leaving him with but 1hp. Nadilla rolled 10 v 7; 5 damage destroyed it utterly.]

Melek and his foe face off, then each rushes the other. The skeleton's attack is brutal, but the priest catches it on his shield as he smashes the skeleton to bits with his mace.

[He rolled 11 vs. 10; 3 damage destroyed it.]

Grûm nearly died in the fighting, so feels he has no choice but to use his sole invocation for the day upon himself. The magic knits together his torn flesh, but he's lost a lot of blood and still feels the effects of his injuries.

[I'm using the optional More Spells rule, so Priests and Sorcerers get to add their Wisdom and Intelligence bonus respectively to the number of spells of each level they may prepare and cast in a day. First level priests get 0 first level spells; for his wisdom bonus, Grûm gets 0+1. He has more spells in his spellbook, (priests and sorcerers both use them), but he can only prepare the one for now. It remains prepared until he switches it out for a different spell, so can be cast once per day.

He heals 1d6=2, putting him back up to 3hp (out of 5).]

A search of the skeleton's alcoves uncovers nothing of interest. The adventurers continue deeper into the caves. They soon come to a long chamber, which is mostly taken up by a large pool of brackish water [Room 3 : special - mare]. After 10  minutes or so of shining light over it, peering at it carefully, and even prodding it with weaponry, it is revealed that the pool is nothing more than it appears to be. Since no one is especially in the mood to go paddling, they continue deeper still into the caverns.

[I'm playing without Scenes, so I'm using a d8 Chaos die for the Oracle (with MCSV Mythic). I'd asked the oracle--

Q: Is there a monster in the pool? 50/50: no
Q: Is the pool magical? Unlikely: no

No wandering monsters showed up whilst the party were dithering, so basically all that happened is that their torches burnt down a little.]

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