Thursday, 20 April 2017

LotFP solo hex & dungeon crawl : Part IV

25 March, A.D. 1601

The ruined monastery must have been built five or six hundred years ago. It has fallen completely into decay and has seemingly been swallowed up by the forest. Thick, nearly impassable growth of brush, weeds, and even the trees themselves hide the few remaining walls from view, and create a sort of maze through the remnants of the ancient abbey.

[I used the Scarlet Heroes dungeon tables for the ground-level, even the Type, which turned out to be Isolated Monastery.

It has 3d6=6 locations. The Goal of the dungeon is the entrance to the catacombs beneath. The Threat (for calculating trap damage and monster hit dice) roll indicated, "It’s much worse than you expected in there; the threat is equal to the PC’s level plus 1d4." The party has an average level of 2; 1d4+2= threat 4.

Since it's all overgrown and has lots of tumbled walls, the connexions between areas aren't necessarily direct, so the Locations table results could be used as-is without straining credibility (e.g. Priest's Quarters attached directly to the kitchen).]

After about 20 minutes of searching, Éliane pulls aside a dying bush that conceals a hole in the outer wall which is big enough to walk through. They draw weapons and step inside.

[Turn 1]

Once inside, they find the walls reach higher than expected, and whilst there is a canopy of green around them, the ruins are mostly open to the sky. The area they are in is a long, narrow enclosure. The flagstones of the flooring are old and cracked, and choked with weeds, and here and there raised lumps hint at where the hall's furnishings once must have been.

[location 1 - prayer hall
contents: encounter & treasure (not hidden)

encounter: Unusual foe; roll on a Bestiary chapter encounter table.

Not all the Scarlet Heroes monsters work thematically with an LotFP game set outside of Quelong, but I rolled Nagar, the Ash Basilisk (AC: 17, HD 5, Move: 120', 1 bite, Dmg:1d8, ML: 9, Special: gaze turns to ash).

Fortunately, it is surprised.]

At the end of the hall, is a raised area that was formerly a holy altar, now mere cracked stones split by the roots of a twisted and gnarled tree. Not to be outdone by Nature, Hell itself has visited a further injury on this once sacred place, for upon it rests a demon conjured up from the smoking recesses of hell. The thing has the form of a dull black lizard as large as a man. Though its eyes be closed, a baleful radiance shines forth from them, visible even in the daylight, in mockery of Him, Who is the Light of the World.

[Round 1]
The creature stirs as the party creep forward, weapons at the ready. Éliane and Lalie raise their pistols. Artuš wishes he hadn't left Horst the arquebus to guard the camp. Waldemar changes his grip on his spear. The thing raises its head, suddenly aware that it is not alone -- but in that very instant two shots ring out. It screeches and contorts as two wounds open in its scaly hide, and begin leaking the greasy yellow fluid it uses for blood [6+2=8damage, leaving it with 13hp]. Waldemar's spear falls short and clatters harmlessly over the ground.

[Round 2 - it wins the initiative]
The thing wheels about, and opens its terrible eyes. It's terrible luminous gaze rests first on [1d5=] Waldemar. A moment later he is no more, his entire body turned to ash. His empty clothes hang in the air a moment longer then fall to the ground in a heap. His helmet bounces one and rolls away.

The things jaws snap at Artuš as he gets near, and he instinctively steps back out of reach [bite missed, sword missed]. Beate flanks the beast, and the tip of her rapier opens a long but shallow gash in its side [2 damage brings it to 11p].

Éliane and Lalie draw their blades.

[Round 3]
The thing turns its attention to one who wounded it. Beate feels the terrible heat of its gaze play over her for an instant, and then it has clamped its jaws around her calf. Fortunately her heavy skirts act as padding, or she might have lost a leg [she made her Death save, but was bitten for 1 point of damage]. It throws her off balance, and she nearly drops her sword.

Artuš and Lalie get on either side of it, and plunge their blades down into its back. The creature's hiss of agony is cut short as it turns into ash itself, which flutters down to the ground in dry flakes.

[They both hit for 6 damage, which put it at -1hp; technically not quite dead, but as it has been vanquished, I allowed myself some GM's poetic licence.
The treasure table roll came up "No encounter treasure, but M2 worth of room contents".]

Something glitters beneath the tangled vines on the ruined altar. Éliane cuts it free with her dagger, and holds it up for the others to see. "This'll fetch a pretty price," she says, holding aloft a gleaming chalice, and then two more just as beatiful and ornate [100sp each].

Lalie and Artuš join her in admiring their prizes for a few moments, before she stows them in her pack. Beate just stares at them in an admixture of terror and disgust. "You... your concern..." she babbles for a moment, before coming to herself. "I can't believe the three of you. What about Waldemar?"

"Right," says Artuš, "you'd best take his helmet. And maybe his buff coat, if it fits."

"What?!" responds Beate, her terror turning to indignation.

"O carissima femina," says Lalie, "who knows what other monsters lurk deeper in the ruins.... Waldemar is beyond hope; I shall light a candle for him later. Here, I'll help you brush these things off if my sweet Éliane will reload my pistol for me."

Éliane accepts the pistol with a smile. Beate scowls, but concedes to the others' evident experience. They clean off the helm and coat as best they are able, and Lalie helps Beate get into them. But Lalie stops several times and swears as she fumbles the laces in front.

"Your hands are trembling," says Beate."

"Of course they are, after what we've just seen. I'm not made of iron! And that is why you must wear these -- in hopes that your final hour may not come to-day."

[Turn 2]

A doorway in the northwest corner leads out into a very large, open space, bounded on all four sides with the remains of walls. The centre is almost entirely choked with brambles, vines, and, surprisingly, wildflowers. After a few fruitless minutes of trying to hack their way into the centre, the explorers give up and look for an easier path along the perimeter.

[Location 2 - garden - empty]

A well-trodden path leads along the eastern wall, and out through a hole in the top of the northern wall. The path winds through a maze of shrubs and fallen masonry, and ends in a low stone archway.

[Turn 3]

The room beyond is bounded by broken-faced but otherwise solid walls. Its dirt floor has been swept smooth by its inhabitants, the four of whom turn to face the explorers as they enter. They are -- or were -- human, but have changed in some gruesome and unnatural fashion. Their fingers are overlong and tipped with pointed claws, and their wildly staring eyes are featureless pools of red. All are covered in filth and dried gore, and some are still clad in the tattered remains of simple peasants' clothes. One stands nearly seven feet tall, and appears to have had his throat cut -- not that it hampers him in the slightest.

[Location 3 - Priest's quarters
contents: encounter & treasure

The encounter table result was "1d4+T hit dice worth of foes numbering several Minions or Civilians and possibly an Elite". Turning to the dungeon inhabitants table, I rolled "degenerates". I decided the Elite should be further mutated, and gave it a roll on the special powers table.

3x degenerates (AC: 14, HD 1, Move: 120', 1 attack, Dmg: 1d6, ML: 9)
1x mutated degenerate (AC: 14, HD 4, Move: 120', 1 attack, Dmg: 1d6, ML: 12, Special: Undead. Morale 12 and immune to living concerns.)

No surprise, the PCs win initiative.]

[Round 1]
Lalie and Éliane are firing their pistols into the assembled nightmares almost before they've even thought to do it. One of the creatures falls gasping as the ball punctures its lung [6 damage puts it at 0hp].

One rushes Lalie, but the pistol in her other hand makes it think twice about getting close [it missed].

Beate engages the other, and despite her new armour comes away bloodied and hurt [3 damage leaves her with 1hp].

Artuš swings his broadsword at the giant's face. The point tears off the thing's nose and upper lip, which only seems to make it angry [2 damage put it at 17hp]. Black goop slowly oozes forth from the wound. The beast tries to return the favour, but the downward sweep of its claws is deflected off the rim of the mercenary's helmet.

[Round 2]
Artuš stabs forward before it can pull back from its swing, and a stinking deliquescence slides out of its stomach [5 damage drops it to 12hp]. The smell causes Artuš to falter, and he barely wards off its riposte with his arm rather than his blade. Fortunately his armour takes the brunt of it [2 damage leaves him with 8hp].

Beate is spurred on by pain and fear both, fighting for her life with a greater ferocity than she had ever thought possible. Her sword flashes to the left, the right, the left again, and then her foe is haemorrhaging out its lifeblood at her feet [7 damage dropped it to -3hp, mortally wounded].

Lalie's foe is dancing about in front of her, and she can't get a clear shot. Suddenly it leaps forward and grabs her by both wrists. It wrenches her arm out of the way, and she hears a tendon pop in her shoulder. The pistol discharges harmlessly into the air during the struggle [her attack missed; it hit her for 1 damage; it also made its Morale check].

[Round 3]
Éliane has meanwhile been manoeuvring round behind the one that has grabbed her friend. She buries her dagger up to the hilt in its back. It spasms once and collapses [1d4x2=4 damage, dropping it to -1hp].

Neither Artuš nor Beate inflict more than a scratch on the giant [miss,miss], and it almost slips and falls in the pool of its own insides when it tries to counter-attack [rolled a 1].

[Round 4]
The awful giant is soon surrounded. Lalie draws her rapier and hamstrings the giant from behind in a single fluid motion [7damage]. As it falls to its knees, Artuš raises his sword above his head, and brings it down with both hands, splitting the things skull in twain [7 more damage destroys it]. All four are splashed by something unutterably foul, but at least the hideous creature is defeated.

Beate sacrifices her outermost skirt so they can all wipe the foulness from themselves, and parts of a petticoat for bandages. Despite her injuries [1hp left], she insists she is able to press onwards. But Beate's pride cannot mask her condition, so as Lalie reloads her pistols she hands them over to her, urging her to avoid direct confrontations if at all possible.

Meanwhile Éliane has ferreted out the degenerates' treasure trove, an embroidered silk purse hidden amongst some straw bedding.

[treasure: 1/10 C4 minor ruin's wealth
1d6+4 x 100 gp, 1d6+4 Cheap Jewelry, 1d4 Costly Jewelry, 25% for 1 Precious Jewelry, 1d3 Lesser and 25% for 1 Greater Magic Item]

The purse itself is stained and worthless, but its owner must have been a lady of some means. Inside is a goodly quantity of silver Kaisergroschen [100 actual silver pieces], a fine golden chain bracelet [40sp], a single opal earring [300sp] and a plain steel flask [unlabelled potion].

Éliane opens the flask, and her nose wrinkles. "Nom de Dieu ! I think this perfume's gone off. Or else madame liked to smell of jambon cru."

She goes to pour it out, but Lalie stops her short. "Think, ma belle," she says, "have you ever known a fine lady to keep her perfume in such a common-looking object as this? That's no perfume, I'll wager, but an elixir! Give it me, and I shall tease the secrets from it later."

Éliane laughs in reply, then stoppers the flask. "And such understanding, ô mon âme, is why you're so dear to me!"

[Turn 4]

The crumbling south wall offers egress to another long, open space, this one divided into weed-choked sections by the remains of interior walls. A twisting path has been beaten through it. The explorers follow it through to another roughly-intact chamber [Location 4 - more priest's quarters]. But though it shews signs of habitation -- droppings, half-eaten rotten fruit, animal (hopefully) bones, etc. -- there is little else of interest. 

[Turn 5]

A gap in the wall separating the room from the large open space is filled by a thorny bush. They'd overlooked it on the other side, but from this angle it is evidently easy to push aside (with a blade or mailed fist) and exit back into the garden. A narrow track through the centre of it is also visible from this angle. The explorers carefully squeeze through the gap and proceed down the trail, exiting the garden through an actual doorway in the western wall.

[Turn 6]

A small corridor awaits beyond the door, which formerly led along the inside of the garden wall, but is now strewn with rubble and overgrown with greenery as to make it night impassable. It certainly seems to be untouched by the inhabitants of this forlorn place. One small anteroom is attainable, and it seems to offer some promise.

[Location 5 - relic chamber - hidden treasure, hazard]

The room's walls are mostly crumbling stone, but bits of coloured plaster still cling stubbornly to one of them. Here is a faded foot in a roman sandal, here a hand with two fingers extended, and opposite a bodiless mouth and beard are surmounted by a pale yellow halo.

Under the weeds at the very back of the room, Éliane thinks she sees the glitter of precious metal [she makes a search roll; d6=2, success]. "Look what I see!" she exclaims. "Someone's thrown some sort of nasty goo all over it, but I think I can manage to just reach in without touching it."

"Éliane, stop that right now," scolds Lalie. "There's jagged, rusting metal everywhere."

"I think it's the remains of a shelf, or maybe a chest."

"I don't give a damn what it was, Éliane dear. I just don't want you to hurt yourself."

"I'm fine. I think I've just about got it..."

"I don't see why you don't just let me use my magic..."

"You worry too much. Save it for something I can't reach..."

[Hazard=Trapped container. If Treasure, save or take Td6 damage.
Éliane needs to save vs. Device: d20=18! success.
Hoard type M2, worth 600sp]

Éliane deftly removes her prize without so much as a scratch on her arm. She examines the treasure for a moment, then holds it aloft triumphantly for the others to see. "A reliquary!" she says. "I think it's some fingers. I wonder how many fingers St. Eustace had..."

"Didn't we see one of his hands in Amiens?" asks Lalie.

"I think we saw three."

[Turn 7]
The only exit is back to garden. They walk as much of the perimeter as they are able, and find another passage in the southwest corner.

[Turn 8]
As evidenced by the great hearth and cooking cauldron, this room was, and still is, the kitchen. But of more immediate concern is the group of eight inhuman fiends in filthy rags occupying it. They are in two groups; half of them are by the hearth, trying with clumsy eagerness to kindle a fire, the other four are attending to a struggling young man in torn and befouled monks robes. Three hold his arms and legs to prevent his escape, the fourth is trying to stop his mouth so he can no longer scream or cry for help.

[Location 6 - encounter & treasure
encounter: 8HD minions - degenerates, as above

Also, as this is the last room (and it hasn't appeared yet), there was a 50/50 chance for the Goal of the dungeon to be here (it is). The Goal is technically a way down into the catacombs, where significant treasures should be found, but I also decided to include the Key NPC from the d30 Sandbox Companion's adventure generator results: Pilgrim (as first-level cleric). d6=m]

The degenerates like to hear their meals scream, so they ungagged the monk before throwing him in the pot. He had only been praying quietly until he heard shots nearby. The degenerate have been trying to keep him silent and still ever since. And that is why (1d6=2) they are Surprised.]

[Round 1]
Beate, Éliane, and Lalie raise their pistols and fire into the group by the hearth. Two fall dead, a third begins spraying blood from an artery but does not fall [random targets, but 3d4=1,2,4. They were reduced to -3, -5 and 1hp].

[Round 2 - PCs win initiative]
The fiends turn and rush howling to attack, but the explorers are ready to meet them. Lalie keeps one at bay with her rapier, and Éliane dissuades another from getting too close with her dagger [4x missed]. Artuš cuts one down with his sword [4 damage drops it to -1hp]. Two rush Beate. The bleeding one gets close enough to drench her with the arterial spray, and she discharges her second pistol directly into its chest [6 damage drops it to -5hp]; it will not bother her again. But the other makes a grab for her, though only manages to slap its clawed hand against her. The thick buff coat keeps the claws from her skin, but the impact of the hand upon her already injured torso results in a shock of pain that brings her to her knees [1 damage puts her at 0hp].

[Rounds 3-5]
The remaining fiends fight with inhuman ferocity, but in the end are no match for the explorers' quick reflexes and sharp steel. The things soon all lie dead or dying on the kitchen's dirt floor, and Artuš makes sure to speed them all on their way. [The degenerates never failed a Morale roll, nor succeeded in a To Hit roll for the rest of the fight.]

The monk has been cowering against the wall the whole time. Éliane manages to convince him that he has been rescued, and is safe now. Artuš and Lalie tend to Beate, who is conscious but cannot walk on her own.

Scarlet Heroes dungeon map

There is a doorway into what must have been the refectory, but most of that is impassable. There is a great yawning hole in the ground, and the suggestion of a stone room beneath, but no one is in a fit state for further exploration, so they decide to head back to camp. As they are leaving the kitchen, Lalie sees a gleam, and finds a stack of silver patens the degenerates have been using as dinner plates [Hoard M2: 600sp]. She tucks them into her pack before they go.

[I made a Loyalty check to make sure Horst was still there: 2d6=5, he is.

Q: Does the pilgrim have any spell still memorised? 50/50 (4+): O6 C3 - Yes, but... random:
purify food & drink
Q: Is he from round here? 50/50 (4+): O2 C5 - No.]

Back in the camp, Horst busies himself with cooking and tending to Beate in order not to hear the account of what happened; his companions' blood stains and injuries are enough to give him nightmares for months.

The monk, who introduces himself as Brother Paulus, is very forthright about his time at the ruins. "I had slipped by the ones on the surface, but more of those... those degenerates came up from below and captured me. They must also live in the catacombs..."

"The catacombs?" asks Éliane.

"Where they keep the cup!"

"Which cup?"

"Why, the cup of St. Uraias of Erfurt. You've not heard of him? Oh... He is a local saint -- he once, in an act of true mercy, let a leper drink from his cup -- and the leper was miraculously healed! The cup was put in a shrine before his tomb underneath this very monastery. But alas I cannot retrieve it!"

"We could help you," offers Éliane, even as she thinks, "I bet it's worth a fortune." Glancing at her friends, she can read the same thoughts in their faces.

"But... the danger..." says Brother Paulus.

"Perhaps reinforcements are in order," says Lalie. "We can handle the physical dangers, if only we had more help with the spiritual dangers to be found within."

[Q: Pilgrim know of local church? Likely (3+): O3 C2 - Yes, and... close by (1d4+1 hexes away = hex 08.03]

"There is a church in Rötenzell; it's not far from here. I stopped there on my pilgrimage. Perhaps, if we explain to them what we've discovered..."

[Q: peaceful night? 50/50 (4+): O6 C7 - Yes.]

Brother Paulus is greatly fatigued from his ordeal, and falls asleep the moment night falls. The others hold a quiet conference. The all are of the opinion that it will be easier to recruit help from the church if they offer up some of the recovered items as a show of good faith, wagering some of their current treasure against the promise of still richer rewards. Besides, as valuable as the reliquary may be, trying to sell it without good contacts would be more of a hassle -- and a danger -- than it is worth. Beate is Protestant, but decides to keep quiet about it in order to make recruitment easier -- she's always been more interested in temporal than spiritual affairs, anyways. Horst's opinion isn't consulted, but he's been given more silver than his promised share so far, so seems happy to go along with his employers' wishes.

26-27 March

The next morning Fr. Paulus makes manifest the true power of his faith by erasing the hurt of poor Beate [cure light wounds brings her back to full hp]. Both Artuš and Lalie are feeling a bit better after a good night's sleep [each gained back 1hp overnight].

It takes a day and a half to reach the tiny village of Rötenzell, a small bastion of Catholicism in otherwise Protestant Thüringen. The villagers are somewhat stand-offish, but Father Fredrik, the village priest -- a fiery, somewhat loutish, self-styled defender of the faith -- is more than eager to take up arms in the cause of religion. The donation of the reliquary only confirms his opinion of these God-sent crusaders of righteousness.

The priest [1st level cleric] dons his grandfather's chain byrnie and stands in the village square  waving an old broadsword about, preaching about the Holy Mission to Vanquish the very Demons of Hell and recover the Sacred Cup they have stolen. This causes most of the villagers to avoid the strangers even more, but, mush to everyone's surprise, actually recruits two stalwarts for the expedition. One is a young nun called Sister Margarita [1st level cleric], who was in the village visiting her parents whilst collecting some donations for her order. The second is a sturdy farmer named Werner [0-level fighter], who had done some fighting in his younger days.

Brother Paulus, the pilgrim
Cleric, Level 1, male
Cha 12 Con 6 Dex 12 Int 14 Str 11 Wis 17
HP 2, AC 12, AL: L, ML 9
Origin: German mercantile class
Languages: German, Latin
Religion: Catholic
Weapons: cudgel
Equipment: wooden cross, sack

Father Fredrik
Cleric, Level 1, male
Cha 9 Con 9 Dex 15 Int 6 Str 14 Wis 5
HP 3, AC 17, AL: L, ML 9
Origin: German tradesman
Languages: German
Religion: Catholic
Weapons: sword
Equipment: chain armour, lantern, tinderbox, oil x2, holy water x3, liber agendarum, wooden crucifix

Sister Margarita
Cleric, Level 1, female
Cha 11 Con 11 Dex 7 Int 12 Str 7 Wis 8
HP 4, AC 12, AL: L, ML 7
Origin: German gentry
Languages: German
Religion: Catholic
Weapons: light mace
Equipment: morion, silver crucifix

Level 0, male
Cha 11 Con 12 Dex 12 Int 8 Str 17 Wis 11
HP 5, AC 16, AL: N, ML 8
Origin: German peasant
Languages: German
Religion: Catholic
Weapons: halberd
Equipment: buff coat, pikeman's armour, morion, wooden cross

[I had asked the Oracle--
Q: Does their donation convince church to send help? Likely (3+): O6 C5 - Yes

They could recruit 1d4 NPCs, rolling a d12 for each one to determine type, class, and level.
d12: 1-2 C1, 3-4 C2, 5 C3, 6-9 F0 (priest), 10-11 F0 (militia), 12 F1 (merc)

The party still get the XP for the reliquary. And speaking of which, {maths redacted} each PC earns 596xp. Artuš is now 30xp away from 2nd level, and Lalie about 200 away from 3rd. I really hope they both make it through the dungeon alive...

The party spend 1d3=3 days in the village. They can easily buy provisions. Beate manages to buy a matchlock arquebus with powder & shot. Lalie uses a talisman to cast Identify on the unlabeled potion: Potion of Resistance (per Scarlet Heroes).

The trip back is completely uneventful. They arrive about noon on the 31st. After lunch they leave Horst to set up camp in the old prayer hall [Location 1] so they haven't far to go should they come back laden with treasure and/or the injured. They leave him with both arquebuses to defend himself, and head back to the well.

Next post, the lower dungeon...]

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