Saturday, 30 July 2016

Épées & sorcellerie - Deuxième partie : les pertes

The passage out of the chamber loops back and branches. Proceeding down the left hand path brings the party into a long, narrow chamber [Room 4]. They see torches at the far end of the room. A group of 6 rough-looking warriors in cuirbouilli armour bearing axes and shields is coming towards them.

[The encounter is with 1d6+2=5 brigands (HD 1+1, Att +1, AC 9, MV 3, AL Neutral/Chaotic), led by a priest of chaos (HD 1, Att +0, AC 9, MV 3, AL Chaos).

Their reaction roll is 2d6=7, neutral.]

The band of warriors look tense, but do not seem overtly hostile. The leader cautiously calls out a greeting. But Grûm sees the large, leaden symbol hanging round the priest's neck, and recognises it as a symbol of evil. "He wears the Mark of Krazhexth-Khaa!" shouts Grûm. "We must put a stop to their deviltry!"

[Round 1]
Both sides are a bit taken aback by the dwarf's outburst, but they both know that violence is necessary outcome. Nadilla recovers first from the shock, and murmurs a soft incantation, calling upon Sister Night to enfold the brigands in her Dreamy Embrace. Three of the warriors sink to the floor in deep slumber.

[She cast Sleep, which affects 1d6 HD worth of humanoid opponents per caster level. Those affected are allowed a saving throw to shake it off, but all three of the brigands fail theirs.

Nadilla has three (1+2 for INT) spells prepared for the adventure, and can cast three spells per day in any combination, so she has two left.]

The evil Priest intones a vile prayer to the wicked demon lord he serves, to aid him in his fight against these servants of Law [He casts Aid, giving him +1 to AC and saving throws].

The remaining two warriors attack Kurg and Délia, as the front ranks close upon one another.

Kurg swings his mighty sword in an even mightier arc as the brigand raises her axe to strike. Her head is severed neatly from her trunk and sails off into the darkness beyond the torchlight [He rolled 11 vs. 8; 5 damage dropped her to -3hp].

Neither Délia nor her foe can best the other. Their axes smash together and spark [6 vs. 9; no hits].

[Morale phase: As the brigands have lost half their number, they need to make a morale check: 2d6 + the level of the strongest creature in the party. 7+ is required to stand; The brigands roll 8+1, a success.]

Despite their losses to mettle and magic, the brigands fight on.

[Round 2]
The priest steps over the headless corpse of his comrade [movement phase], and raises his own axe to strike. He brings it down upon the rim of the barbarian's shield with hellish fury. The blow is so fearsome that it snaps the iron band in twain and splinters the wood, sending fragments flying, leaving Kurg with little more than a leather strap.

[Kurg and the priest roll 5 vs. 12; 1d6=6 damage. This would kill Kurg, bringing him to -3hp, but PCs (and, optionally, important NPCs) have an option to cheat death in combat by sacrificing their shield or weapon to avoid the fatal blow. He chooses to lose his shield; for, though he remains to fight rather than flee this encounter, he is of the same opinion regarding shields as Archilochus: 'ἐξαῦτις κτήσομαι οὐ κακίω' (I will get a new one, and no worse).]

The brigand and Délia square off again. Her swing is a hair's breadth too far away to connect, and she tries to fend off his counterattack with her shield. His axe strikes right next to the boss, and half the wooden shield is broken away with a crunch. It hangs at an angle from the rest of the shield, as it is still nailed to the outer covering of hide. Délia is left with an unbalanced and useless wreck, which she casts aside in frustration.

[She and the brigand both rolled a 9. When both rolls are the same, each combatant rolls their damage and compares the results. Whoever rolls lower has their weapon or shield broken (their choice).]

[Round 3]
Kurg lets out a mighty war cry, and buries his sword in the evil priest's head. The priest dies with a curse on his lips as foul as the darkness in his heart [Rolls 14 vs. 9; 3 damage dropped the priest to -1hp].

Délia and the brigand are locked in single combat, and neither notice what is going on around them. The feint at each other a few times, but with no result.

[Rolls 3 vs. 6, no hits. The brigand needed to make another Morale check, this time at -1 for having lost his leader (per the brigand description in the rulebook), but he rolled very high.]

[Round 4]
Though the fanatic fights on, he is no match for the combined might of the two warriors. His lifeblood soon stains their blades, and the cavern floor.

Délia turns round to look at the rest of her companions standing behind her in the torchlight.

"So nice of you to help us out," she snaps.

"I did my part," says Nadilla.

"We had to guard the rear, sweetie," says the elf, "in case any more of them showed up. Besides, you two put on quite the show. it wouldn't have been right to interfere with such artistry."

Not one for discussions, Lisette has been slitting the throats of the sleepers and going through their purses. She amasses a total of 14 gold coins [they had 1d6 each], which she is allowed to pocket for now. Kurg and Délia select new shields, Grûm smashes the priest's symbol of Evil with his hammer, and then the party continue with their exploration.

The northern passage extends for a little way, then abruptly ends at the lip of a chasm [Special]. Kurg and Délia are fortunate not to have tumbled into the blackness. The wizards bring the torches forward to see. The bottom of the chasm -- if it indeed has one! -- is too far down for the feeble light to reach, but there is a suggestion that the passage continues across on the other side. Kurg is about to throw a stone down into the chasm to sound out the bottom, but Zarain grabs the barbarian's hand. "You don't want to wake anything that might be down there," cautions the magician sagely. A brief moment of panic plays over the warrior's features, and he gently returns the pebble to the floor.

No one is willing to attempt a crossing of the chasm, so they go back and try the passage leading east. After only a few steps it opens up into a small squarish cave [Room 5 - empty, trap: fire] with stalactites and an uneven floor. The party make their way carefully through it, looking for possible hazards. But so focussed are they on the floor and ceiling that they fail to note the brass nozzles hidden in crevices in the walls. Suddenly three jets of flame roar forth, criss-crossing the room.

[1d3=2 random PCs affected: Zarain & Grûm. Both make saving throws modified by DEX: G 6+0, Z 8+1; both failed. Grûm takes 6 damage, dropping him to -3hp; Zarain only takes 2, leaving him with 2hp.]

Most of the party are out of the line of fire, but the flames wash over Grûm and Zarain, neither of whom is quick enough to dodge out of the way. Zarain is badly burnt (2 damage leaves him with 2hp), and the poor dwarf is charred to a cinder (6 damage puts him at -3hp). He dies instantly.

The rest are saddened by the loss of their comrade, but they must press onwards, lest his sacrifice be in vain. They decide to bring his body back to civilisation when they leave, and press onwards.

The long passageway out of the fire room also leads to another great chasm, but this time it is spanned by a narrow bridge of roughly-hewn rock [Room 6 - chasm with bridge; 50% chance of guardian]. The ceiling of the cavern rises high above the bridge, further up than the torchlight can reveal. The party decide to cross, but must walk in single file.

[surprise die=1
Anyone pushed back in mêlée (attacker's roll = AC) must make a saving throw (dex mods apply) or fall off the bridge. Anyone killed or rendered unconscious falls automatically.]

The party proceed slowly and cautiously across the bridge. Some of them, ever alert for hidden dangers, try to look up and around themselves, but their only recompense is a feeling of vertigo. Watching one's step is the only sensible course of action. A cold breeze wells up from the chasm, the exhalations of the deepest recesses of the earth, if not the very underworld whispered of by the prophets of mad gods and demons.

And then from a hidden recess in the darkness above springs a creature of nightmare, right into the middle of the stunned explorers. It is a humanoid creature whose dark blue skin is shot through with blood-red veins. Its almost featureless face has a single eye, almost totally white, whilst its hair is composed of a mass of tentacles that seem animated with a life of their own. Its hands, situated at the end of long, flexible arms, are at once talons and mouths bristling with thorny teeth.

[The creature is a Darakht (HD 3, Att +1, AC 8, MV 4, AL Chaos). I recognised the description immediately from the cover of one of my wife's John Carter novels, and it's not the only Martian monster in the bestiary; É&S makes a great Sword & Planet rule set.]

[Surprise round]
The horror lands on the bridge between Lisette and Melek. It swipes at the priest with one of its hideous, toothy paws, but he instinctively imposes his shield. Its other hand darts out to catch Lisette between her shoulders. The awful mouth bites deep, and pulls back with a bloody morsel of her flesh clamped between terrible fangs. She cries out, then tumbles over the side of the bridge, and is swallowed up by the darkness.

[Monsters (and Fighters) of level 2+ can attack multiple opponents whose total levels do not exceed theirs. A monster's level is equal to its hit dice if no other mention is made. The darakht could thus attack up to 3 PCs, were there room.

Due to surprise, the PCs only got to roll for defence.  Melek rolled (9) vs. its 8, so it missed. Poor Lisette rolled (6) vs. 10; 2 damage dropped her to exactly 0hp, unconsciousness. So she fell...]

[round 1]
Zarain is next in line after Lisette. He does not advance, but calls upon the Ineffable Powers of Yuskiz-Vog; he is enveloped by a shimmering field of energy to protect him from the nightmare-beast [he cast Shield, which gives him AC10 -- but only for 1 round (per level; I should have read the description more carefully)].

Melek leads with his shield, and swings his heavy mace up from underneath, smashing the beast in its impassive face [9 vs. 8, 4 damage leaves it with 6 hp].

[Round 2]
The coward Zarain will not advance! Nadilla sighs and edges past him [she can move but not quite get into mêlée range]. Blue sparks once again begin to play over her hand.

The creature slams both its arms against Melek's shield. The priest staggers, losing his footing as the thing's bulk presses him back. He stops just in time, as he feels his foot come down on the lip of the bridge. [5 vs. 9 (=Melek's AC): he is pushed back. Luckily he rolls 10+0 on his saving throw, so doesn't fall off the bridge. He'll still suffer the normal penalties next round.] 

[Round 3]
Melek steps back towards the centre of the narrow bridge, and plants his feet firmly. The creature takes another few swipes at him, but cannot get past his shield [6-1 vs. 7+1; Melek's AC is 9, so both miss].

Nadilla steps swiftly forward and discharges a blast of magical energy at the monster. It tenses as the blast erupts into its back, then drops over the edge and falls writhing into the abyss [10 vs. 9; 1d6+2=7 damage, killing it].

Disheartened by the loss of yet another of their band, the party continue their cautious way across the bridge. Fortunately, no more monsters leap out to attack them.

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.]

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Épées & sorcellerie : on commence

I've had Épées & Sorcellerie (both 1st and 2nd editions) sitting on my hard drive for ages. At some point I had a look at a lot of retro-clones, mostly peeking at the magic systems to see what innovations, if any, they had to offer. I didn't spend enough time with É&S, probably because I was put off by the only-uses-six-sided-dice thing; why play a D&D clone if you can't use all your dice?

I ran across it again when trying to tidy up my gaming folders, and decided to give it another look. That convinced me to give it a try. I'm rubbish at writing reviews, so instead I'll be posting a solitaire dungeon to give an idea of how it works. But as a quick summary, let me say that this is D&D stripped of its most egregious D&Disms. I rolled up some PCs, ran them through a dungeon... then immediately went online and bought a print copy of the rules.

You can download a free PDF of the 2nd edition, which is the one I play. There's also a free English translation of the 1st edition.

To start, I rolled up 10 or so characters (no fudging, all stats in order) and picked the best 8 to form a party. I'll go through character generation with one of them -- a fighter, surprisingly -- to examine the anatomy of a PC.

Step 1 - Roll attributes.

The six classic attributes are used, but the range is 2-12 rather than 3-18. Here's the set for my PC: Str 8 Int 9 Wis 5 Dex 10 Con 8 Cha 5. A couple good scores, a couple bad ones, but a pretty well-rounded PC -- once you get used to reading them as they are and not as regular OSR attributes.

Step 2 – Attribute modifiers.

Score    Mod.
-----   ----
 2-3     -2
 4-5     -1
 6-8      0
 9-10    +1
11-12    +2

Str 8(-), Int 9(+1), Wis 5(-1), Dex 10(+1), Con 8(-), Cha 5(-1)

So the character is quite smart and agile, but not terribly perceptive, nor indeed a very nice person.

Step 3 – Choose a race, and (optionally) a Cultural Origin.

The races are a standard mix: human, elf, dwarf, halfling, orc. Humans are average, the non-humans each come with a suite of bonuses and penalties. Maximum hit dice are dependent upon choice of race, but no attributes are modified. I picked human for this PC.

The cultures each come with a pair of bonuses or special abilities, all geared towards a swords & sorcery setting. Unless the GM decides otherwise, there are no race/culture restrictions. The choices are: Barbarian, Civilised, Decadent, Enlightened, Nomad, and Primitive. Your PC can also be of unknown origin.

My PC is Civilised, which grants a +1 to all social interactions and +2 for any rolls requiring understanding, knowledge, or erudition.

Language facility is also determined at this stage. A PC can know one additional language for each point of Intelligence over 7. A character with an Intelligence of 8 or higher can also read and write. Languages can be taken at the start, or left as slots for the character to learn new tongues in the course of their travels. As I was just sending a party into a dungeon in some ill-defined world, I left this step to one side for now.

Alignment is optional, and uses the basic Law-Neutrality-Chaos schema.

Step 4 – Choose a class.

There are four classes: fighter, priest, sorcerer, thief. Priests have three sub-classes: hermit (nature-priest; neutral), cleric (paladin; law), and anti-cleric (cultist or anti-paladin; chaos). My PC would make a decent thief (though the low Wisdom makes it hard to detect traps), but I went with fighter instead. Even though average Strength means no XP bonus, a high Dexterity has a lot of appeal for a mêlée character.

Step 5 – Hit Points.

Every hit die is modified by a character's Constitution bonus (or penalty). At first level, everyone gets a single die for hit points (1d6), except fighters, who get 1d6+1. All weapons do 1d6, or 1d6+1 damage for two-handed weapons. Monsters mostly inflict 1d6 damage as well. Mêlée weapon damage is modified by Strength, and missile weapons use the Dexterity modifier for damage (which is such an obvious rule I can't believe more OSR games haven't figured it out).

Step 6 – Choose equipment.

Starting equipment is apportioned by class. Fighters get: leather (or equivalent) armour if they desire it, a missile weapon, and the choice of a two-handed weapon or a one-handed weapon and shield.

My fighter opted for a short bow, a 1-handed axe, and a shield, but no armour.

Every character starts with a sack, some personal articles, a dagger, a blanket, a bit of food, and 3d6 gold pieces.

Step 7 – Determine Armour Class and Movement.

Armour Class is ascending. A character's AC is either determined by the armour they wear, or else is equal to their Dexterity. Leather armour is AC8, so my PC will eschew armour in favour of their innate AC of 10. A shield always adds +1 to AC, so my PC has AC11. Finally, there is a version of D&D where playing a Conan-type isn't immediately a fatal mistake.

...a Conan-type, or something more classical...

Movement is also based on armour worn, and modified by Strength. No armour is MV 4, leather is 3, etc. My PC has no Strength modifier, so 4 it is.

Here is my finished fighter, ready for adventure:

Human Fighter, 1st level, female
Culture: Civilised, Alignment: Lawful
Str 8 Int 9 Wis 5 Dex 10 Con 8 Cha 5
HP 6 AC 11 shield MV 4
axe (att +1, dmg 1d6)
shortbow (att+2, dmg 1d6+1)

For running the adventure, I printed off a blank page of Schweig's Themed Dungeon Generator and quickly filled it in. I'll be using my MCSV for any Oracular pronouncements as usual, but as it's a simple dungeon crawl I can mostly get by with the É&S2 rulebook. But I need a way to start it; perhaps with a saving throw.

Saving throws are rolled on 2d6, and succeed on a roll of 10+. A character (or monster) has a bonus to all saving throws equal to their attack bonus (at first level, +1 for fighters and +0 for other classes). Attributes, racial modifiers, and class features can all provide other modifiers.

So, to avoid a first-adventure cliché: 2d6=5 +1 class bonus cancels her -1 Wisdom penalty; 5<10, failure. C'est le vie...

~ ~ ~

Délia had [3d6=]five gold coins left, and no real prospects. She was sitting in some nameless tavern in some frontier town, wondering why she'd ever left the army of her native land to seek her fortune in this place. The border with the neighbouring kingdom had been settled for almost a generation now, and the evil hordes of monsters were content to stay on their side of the mountains. The hardest thing she'd had to do was balance her shield against the table leg to keep it from rolling away on the sagging floorboards.

She had just finished making what she felt was a frankly impressive tower out of empty clay cups when a pair of emerald green eyes suddenly appeared at the end of her table. They were attached to an elf, and a particularly lovely on at that, radiant with all the enchanting and ethereal beauty of the fair folk. She wore a simple tunic of bleached cotton, and a long, thin sabre hung at her side in a carved wooden scabbard, suspended from a silken baldric.

Elven Fighter, 1st level, female
Culture: Enlightened, Alignment: Neutral
Str 6 Int 6 Wis 6 Dex 9 Con 5 Cha 9
HP 3 AC 10 shield MV 4
sabre (att +1, dmg 1d6)
longbow (att+2, dmg 1d6+1)

"Nice work, sweetie," said the elf, "but are you a warrior or an architect? If the latter, I'm afraid we just won't have a use for you..."

"What? Archi--? I'm a warrior." Délia was shocked by the raspiness of her voice compared to the mellifluous elven speech.

"Splendid!" said the elf, eyes beaming. "My friends and I are putting together an expedition to explore some caves by the sea. The fisher folk have been reporting strange sounds in the area, and they fear the unspecified evil lurking within. We can always use an extra fighter, and when I saw you sitting there, sweetie, well... Will you join me?"

"Will I...? Yes! Gods, yes. That's why I came all this way. For adventure, I mean."

"Of course. Now come, sweetie, let me introduce you to your fellow vagabonds meurtriers."

Délia scarcely had time to pick up her shield and axe before the elf had taken her by the hand and was leading her out of the tavern. A motley group of six was sitting at an outside table, enjoying the shade of the tavern's tattered and dusty awning. They all looked up in unison to see whom the elf had brought.

"My dear friends," she said, "I've found an eighth member for our band. Now we needn't fear the auspices, for we have made up our number in accordance with the omens. Allow me to introduce the brave... oh, sweetie, I didn't get your name."


"The brave Délia! I'm Aeyrinyllaminollanynimia, by the way. But they all call me Ayrine, and you probably should, too. Now, sitting at the end is Kurg," here Aeyrine indicated an enormous man in leather armour and a horned helmet. "As you can probably tell by his complexion and the quality of his thews, Kurg is a barbarian from far away to one of the cardinal directions."

"Enchanté," grunted the barbarian.

Human Fighter, 1st level, male
Culture: Barbarian, Alignment: Netural
Str 11 Int 7 Wis 2 Dex 5 Con 6 Cha 3
HP 5 AC 9 leather & shield MV 5
long sword (att +3, dmg 1d6+2)
light crossbow (att +0, dmg 1d6-1)

"Then we have Nadilla, from one of the great desert kingdoms. She's one of our wizards."

The young sorceress moved with meticulous grace as she extended a hand in friendship. From underneath a mass of tight curls, kohl-rimmed eyes regarded Délia intensely, almost at odds with the sorceress' broad, welcoming smile.

Human sorceress, 1st level, female
Culture: Civilised, Alignment: Chaotic
Str 6 Int 12 Wis 9 Dex 11 Con 9 Cha 8
HP 6 AC 11 (no armour) MV 4
dagger (att +0, dmg 1d6)
Spells: Sleep, Read Magic, Charm

"Next to her we have our other wizard, Zarain the Mysterious, who learnt the Art in the fabled Halls of Namash-Gur."

The small man had nervous eyes and skin like dry parchment. His silken robes were embroidered with mystical sigils, whose pattern spread upwards onto his tall, cylindrical hat, and was reflected even in the carved lapis beads he wore in his beard. The wizard made a deep bow, and muttered some words Délia couldn't understand.

Zarain le Mystérieux
Human sorcerer, 1st level, male
Culture: Decadent, Alignment: Neutral
Str 4 Int 11 Wis 2 Dex 7 Con 7 Cha 8
HP 4 AC 7 (no armour) MV 3
long sword (att -1, dmg 1d6-1)
Spells: Sleep, Shield, Protection from evil

"My esteemed dwarfen colleague is Grûm Ironbones. He's a priest of the Divine Forge."

Grûm was a more svelte dwarf than Délia had ever seen, and seemed a bit prissy for one of the Tenders of the Divine Forge. But he had a way about him that just made her instantly like him.

Grûm Os-de-fer
Dwarven Priest, 1st level, male
Culture: Civilised, Alignment: Lawful
Str 8 Int 8 Wis 10 Dex 10 Con 6 Cha 10
HP 5 AC 11 shield MV 4
warhammer (att +0, dmg 1d6)
Spells: Healing

"Next to him we have little Lisette. I can't say what brought her all the way out here away from the big city, but she's one of the best th-- er, stealth specialists I've ever met."

"Hi," said the girl of doubtful parentage, sizing up the new arrival.

Human thief, 1st level, female
Culture: Civilised, Alignment: Chaotic
Str 8 Int 4 Wis 5 Dex 9 Con 8 Cha 5
HP 4 AC 9 (no armour) MV 4
shortsword (att +0, dmg 1d6)
heavy crossbow (att +1, dmg 1d6+1)

"And finally we have Melek, a priest from the fabled City of Gold."

The black-skinned man was clad in armour fashioned from the hide of a crocodile, and carried an ornate bronze mace. He stood and made a sign of blessing, and bade Délia welcome.

Human Priest, 1st level, male
Culture: Decadent, Alignment: Neutral
Str 7 Int 8 Wis 8 Dex 6 Con 10 Cha 8
HP 5 AC 9 leather & shield MV 3
mace (att +0, dmg 1d6)

"Now, sober up, you lot! We set out on the morrow."

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Interlude - Donjon

I love random generators, and Donjon, in particular, but sometimes they are a source of unintentional comedy. I do not think my PCs will be going on Quest #6 any time soon.

6. A shady sage named Anus seeks a company of adventurers to protect him from the assassins of Zeiram the Lich. Moreover the party must complete the quest without killing anyone.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Into the Odd solo - Part XI : « Par le chemin des aventures / Ils vont haillonneux et hagards »

The tunnel ends after nearly a mile, opening up into the remains of a brick building somewhere deep in the mushroom forest. The explorers don't quite know where they are, and it's the middle of the night. They permit themselves a short rest at the tunnel's end whilst they consider what to do.

[They're in a pretty sorry state:

Randeep: str 5/11
Aurélius: str 9/13, wil 7/9
Fridoline: str 7/11, infected
Wanda: str 5/12, dex 3/10
Severin: str 6/14, infected
Gregor: str 1/6, dex 7/8

And of course (d6=1) I rolled a random encounter, so the rest is interrupted, leaving Randeep with 0hp.]

As the wretched band are taking stock of their predicament, a voice is heard singing a sweet melody. Soon a second voice joins it, and a third, producing a most ethereal harmony.

Aurélius and Severin rise and start walking towards the sound, out into the blackness of the night [the other 4 made their WIL saves]. "Come back here this instant!" cries Fridoline, but the pair are oblivious to her demand.

Weapons drawn, the other explorers rush after their mesmerised comrades. Wanda grabs the lantern. Only Gregor remains behind and hides in the tunnel; his injuries are too severe to risk getting in a fight.

Aurélius and Severin stumble forward into a sort of clearing amongst the gigantic mushroom-trees. Fridoline shines the lantern before them, and the beam of light reveals the first singer. It is a young woman, lovely and fair as the heroine of any novel. Her long, silky, blonde hair stretches out from her head to each side and seems to float in the air. Fridoline widens the beam of the lamp to reveal an unsettling sight. The two singers beside the first, lovely maidens all, seem to connected by the very hair growing out of her head and into theirs. They have no bodies, but float in space, undulating in the non-existent breeze.

forest siren
str 9, dex 17, wil 16, 12hp, armour 1, bite d4

driven to kill player characters
The siren can bite up to 3 targets within close proximity to one another.
Enchanting harmonies: WIL save or follow the siren helplessly

The singing stops abruptly when the creature(s) notice that not all the visitors to their clearing are under their spell. Aurélius and Severin stop moving, but still seem to be sleepwalking. The other explorers raise their weapons as the siren rushes them.

[Round 1 - PCs win initiative]
Randeep fires her musket at the central head. The ball puts out one of its eyes, but it mostly seems to just anger the creature [5-1=4 damage]. Fridoline discharges her pistol at the leftmost head. Her shot hits between the eyes, and erupts out the back of the skull in a spray of blood [6-1=5 damage, dropping it to 3hp]. Wanda slashes the rightmost head with her sword, but the blade just glances off its skull [1-1=0 damage].

And then the thing is upon them, biting with three strong jaws filled with small, even teeth. Randeep and Wanda fall before the hideous onslaught [reduced to 4 and 3 STR respectively, both taking Critical Damage], but Fridoline manages to evade the pert, snapping mouth [1 damage puts her at 1hp].

[Round 2]
Fridoline drops her pistol and takes her hatchet in both hands, striking at anything that dare approach her. Once, twice, thrice the weapon strikes something solid, and Fridoline is rewarded with eh sounds of crunching bone. Soon the three heads lie still and bloodied at her feet, looking like the beginnings of some revolution [6-1=5 damage, dropping it to 7str; d20=9 crit].

Aurélius and Severin suddenly come back to themselves as the siren falls. They help the injured Randeep and Wanda back to the tunnel. It is unanimously agreed that it will be best to remain there until daybreak. They sleep in shifts, with two awake at any given time.

[Q: Does the rest of the night pass without incident? Likely (3+): O5 C2 - Yes, and... the soldiers gave up hopes of pursuit]

~ Day 4 ~

The explorers get a late start, as the events of the previous night took their toll on them all. It's already mid-day by the time they set out through the mushroom forest, (hopefully) in the direction of the stone circle and friendly cultists.

[Half movement points today.

The WIL save to avoid getting lost fails (20!) but 1d6=6, they drift almost the way they wanted to go, NW to plains. In the plains hex, Randeep makes another WIL save: d20=11; so they know which way to go to get to the stone circle...

...but d6=1, another encounter]

About an hour after they leave the mushroom forest, they spot something large and moving upon the horizon. Before long it closes the space between them. It is an enormous war machine, clanking and rumbling its way across the plain.

[Q: Where's it from? (1d6)
1 Bastion, 2 Burthen, 3 local hex, 4 other City, 5 the past, 6 space

3=random location; hex 38.51 (I put a GM-only tank icon on the map as a reminder.

Q: Which way is it headed? 1d6=3, towards the castle
Q: What is its mission? Abuse / Enemies - a punitive siege
Q: Does it (seem to) notice the PCs? 50/50: O1 C1 No, and... they'd be beneath its notice
+Event: Move toward a thread - Travel / New ideas (see below)]

Whatever the war machine is, it's too large for the explorers to affect in any way. They hide in the tall grass, and it passes them by.

They resume their journey to the stone circle. And as they are walking, [1d6=] Wanda is stuck by an idea she wishes to share.

"It occurs to me," says Wanda, "that we may not have been going about this search in entirely the right way. I mean, I had some reservations even before I nearly wound up as Wanda stew to be fed to some landed fungus."

"This isn't going to be another of those mad schemes of yours," says Severin, "like the time when you hired that magician to help us capture Outpost 3-G."

"I thought he had a very impressive list of powers."

"His CV said he would do parties and special occasions!"

"If you'd seen him working his wonders at Adolphe Blanc's bar mitzvah, you'd not have doubted his power."

"Come, now," interjects Gregor, "that battle was ages ago, and we didn't survive it by bickering. Now, Wanda, do tell us all this new idea."

[Event: Move toward a thread - Travel / New ideas
two random pictures were drawn and a random hex selected]

"Well, then, my idea was this: we ought to go consult the Sea Oracle."

"The Sea Oracle!" exclaims Fridoline. "Why didn't you say earlier?"

"The rest of you seemed so intent on exploring the swamp!"

"But have we anything to trade the Oracle?" asks Aurélius.

"We need rest and shelter before we do anything," says Randeep, "but I am sure we could work out a trade."

"Why are you all looking at my stave?" asks Fridoline, nervously.

They are all too tired to answer, and continue the march to the stone circle in silence.

[Stone circle hex: 1d6=1, another encounter!]

As the stone circle is sighted off in the distance, so too is a line of people coming away from it. It is soon revealed to be a procession of cultists carrying some sacred relics on a pilgrimage.

The explorers call out a friendly greeting to the cultist at the head of the procession. She is about to return their friendly halloo, when she immediately goes wide-eyed. She raises her standard for the procession to halt.

"Blasphemer! Unholy trafficker with vile daemons! You bear the Hand. You and all you touch are profaned. Begone! No, not back that way. Tread not the path of our pilgrimage, lest you profane it with your tainted tread!"

The explorers are in no position to argue with the cultists, and do as they are bid, proceeding past and away from the circle to [1d6=6] the north west.

[As I was typing up the encounter with the Hand of Sabazios, it occurred to me that being touched by the mysterious, foreign god may have an effect when dealing with other religions in the area, especially the Order of Liberation at the stone circle. So I made a table to roll on:

Local cults' reactions to the Hand of Sabazios (1d6)
1 you are blessed by the gods! (good reaction)
2 you are cursed by the gods! (bad reaction or pity)
3 unclean! (need WIL save to avoid confrontation)
4 blasphemy/heresy! (automatic confrontation)
5 arcanum schmarcanum (no different to any other)
6 What's a 'sabazzos'? (no idea)

This time I rolled a 4. Luckily the cultists are peaceful.]

The weary explorers trudge across the plain until they can walk no more. They are forced make to camp in the middle of the plain, and draw straws to see who must take first watch.

[Quiet night? 50/50 (4+): O3 C8  - No. Random picture=]

~ Day 5 ~

After a miserable night in leaky tents, they decide that the most likely course is to find a coastal settlement, and somehow get passage to the sea oracle's abode; they can't go back to Burthen empty-handed. They set out to the north east, intending to skirt the mountains and eventually gain the coast.

[NE to plains hex 32.41; Contents: d30=ruins

d30 Sandbox Companions ruins tables--
RG3: Inhabitants & Number d30=1: chimaeras; nuisance

Suggested Ruin Inhabitants by Type and General Level:
level doesn't matter, so d12=12; sphinx
nuisance= 1 monster only]

Some ruins are spotted ahead near the foot of the mountains. They appear overgrown and uninhabited. The explorers are anxious to get to a settlement, so they decide to pass by them rather than go a long way round.

But soon a shadow passes over them, as if a great bird had flown by. They look up to see a creature circling them watchfully. It makes a few more passes then flops down before them. It is an emaciated and haggard seeming sphinx.

haggard sphinx
str 17, dex 15, wil 8, 15 hp, claws d10
driven to grill travellers

NPC Relationship: distrustful
Conversation Mood: cautious
inquisitive - demand - current story]

"Who are you that are come to my domain?" groans the sphinx.

"We are explorers," says Aurélius, "seeking shelter in the wilderness."

"And how come you to this wilderness?"

"We have suffered many travails," says Randeep, "having been sent forth from Burthen to seek a lost party of travellers. We must find them and fulfil their quest."

"What an obligation! Certainly it is not something into which ye have entered lightly... or freely?"

"Perhaps not...", admits Fridoline.

"And you've found enemies all round. Hiding on all sides of you, lurking in shadows, ready to pounce." [mysterious - shadows - enemy]

"You speak with much wisdom," says Randeep. "Perhaps you can advise us how to find our way safely." [WIL save=8, succeeds]

"Oh certainly. But I require something of you in return." [scheming - negotiation - future action]

"And that is?"

"My arch-nemesis, a certain M. Blaise Alias, has fled from our last encounter to hide on the infamous Île de la terreur, in the midst of the ocean. Kill him -- bring me his head as proof -- and I shall reveal to you my great secrets."

[This was rolled on my Mission table: 1d6=3. bring me the head of person X

Q: Where is person X? 1 Burthen 2 Morve 3-4 random hex; random hex 45.48 (on forested island)

Q: Who is person X? Oddpendium: barge pilot, interested in new career; connection=irritation (the sphinx exaggerates!)]

"If we could get to the island, we wouldn't be in need of your immediate assistance," says Fridoline.

"The offer stands. You'll need my help some day. I'll be here, waiting for you. And Blaise, or at least part of him." [friendly - support - contacts]

The explorers press on. After a time they are briefly elated to see houses in the distance, nestled in the shadow of the mountains. But as they draw near, their elation turns to dejection as the houses resolve into the dire little hovels of Frumpley's Coombe.

The explorers pass swiftly though the dismal hamlet, taking pains to avoid prolonged contact with its inhabitants. One or two try to engage with them, a slurred admixture of entreaties and hidden threats, but tired as they may be the explorers do not attempt to take shelter here. And then there's the thievery...

[1d6=Severin needs to make a WIL save to avoid thievery: 16, failure.

Severin is infected, and he has nothing to steal (one can't pickpocket a sword) so the thief gets away with a handful of fungus rot. The village will all be infected in 2d20=28 days.

Q: Any other settlement encounter? 50/50 (4+): O3 C6 - No]

Severin once feels that someone has put a greedy hand into his pocket, but muses that as he owns practically nothing -- and is skint besides -- that no harm can be done. He does not confront the thief, but trudges on purposefully.

Soon, though not soon enough, the hamlet is behind them. They press onwards, and the blue of the ocean finally reveals itself in the distance ahead.

[All the PCs must make WIL saves. Surprisingly, only two of the six fail.]

"Θάλαττα! θάλαττα!" call Aurélius and Severin in unison. The others are too exhausted to complain at the hackneyed jest, though a great sigh is heard to escape from Fridoline.

[Stronghold of the Priestess hex--
Q: Is there a patrol encounter? 50/50 (4+): O6 C7 - Yes (5 med. horsemen as before)
Q: What do they want? Befriend / Danger]

A group of five lavishly-festooned and heavily armoured horsemen ride forth from the great fortress by the seaside. The leader wears a brace of pistols.

"Who goes there?" he shouts.

"We are explorers," replies Randeep, "Seeking shelter in the wilderness." [WIL save=7, success]

"You look like you've been in the war."

"And we feel like it!"

"Come, we can offer some respite. Seems like you've earned it!"

~ ~ ~

[Reception at the priestess' fortress--

1d6=6, the Hand means nothing to them

Wil save [Randeep] to get a good reception from those in charge. d20=5, success

Q: Can the priestess heal the infection? 50/50 (4+): O6 C6 - Yes
+Event: Move toward a thread - Proceedings / Vehicle

PCs will be given passage to see the Sea Oracle. But as they are in terrible shape and need healing, they will take a Long Rest. Not only do all their attribute return to normal, but the three actual PCs get to go up a level, from Novice to Professional, having survived an expedition (the castle) & come back with a good story, an arcanum, and useful info (the location of a powerful arcanum).

Each gets +1d6 hp and can roll to increase attributes.

Randeep: +5hp, no attributes increase
Aurélius: +4hp, +1str
Fridoline: +4hp, +1str, +1dex

There is no rule for advancing 1hp-and-a-sword Companions in level, but if they survive the next bit of adventure I will advance the other three to the level of Novice.]