Wednesday, 25 July 2018
Other Dust solo - Part X : Ghouls
Sandra and Ewa keep getting too far ahead of the two over-burdened farmers, and are constantly stopping and waiting for them to catch up. Sandra can barely contain her irritation, and even Ewa is showing signs of annoyance.
"This is getting really rather old," huffs Sandra as the two farmers lumber up to them.
"If you guys can't k--"
Ewa doesn't finish her reproach, but suddenly raises her rifle and points off inland, at the high grass. Sandra changes her grip on her monoblade and calls out, "Who's there?"
[the journey back will be handled by a Waylay (BOLD): 2d10=easy foes
% of way back? d%=35
1d6=4 ghouls (AC 6, Move 20, HD 2, Atk 2 claws at +2, 1d6+poison*, Skill +2, Save 14+, ML 9, special: -2 to all rolls in strong light)
*A ghoul's poison is quick and nasty, soon turning the afflicted into a shivering mess. It can be fatal in 36 hours: Toxicity 8, Virulence 3, Interval 12 hours, With each failed save the sufferer gains first the Feverish, Shaking, then Delirious negative conditions, and dies if a fourth save is failed (see rulebook p.44).
Surprise: the party's Perception vs. the ghouls' Stealth: 2d6-1=9 vs. 2d6+2-2=6, no surprise; encounter range = 30m]
The four crouched shapes are barely visible, but the moving grass gives them away. They begin to spread out as they advance toward those who have strayed into their hunting grounds. They stay low in the grass [soft cover, -2 to be hit] but as they get closer their shapes are unmistakable. "Ghouls!" gasps Nev.
The ghouls are feral, humanoid mutants who will eat any meat or carrion, but seem to take a special delight in hunting down humans. They have slimy, mottled green skin and are completely hairless. Their eyes are so small as to give the impression that they haven't any; their face is mostly given over to their grinning, fanged jaw. Ghouls are not thought to have intelligence, but do possess a predatory cunning.
[Round 1 : initiative E6 S7 ghouls 8,7,4,1, Mo 8, Nev 7]
Mo and Nev start backing up, more afraid of turning their backs on the ghouls than they are walking backwards towards the cliff. The ghouls all advance [20m] to within pouncing distance, keeping low in the grass. Ewa squeezes off a shot at one of the advancing monsters, and is pretty sure her aim was off -- that, or they don't feel pain [she did, in fact, miss].
One of the ghouls leaps onto the path and straight at Ewa, and a second at Sandra. Sandra fends off its attack with her blade [they both miss], but Ewa is too slow in bringing her rifle about. A single claw leaves a bloody tear in the side of her neck, and she can feel the poison burning like acetone in the wound [1 damage puts her at 5hp]. The ghoul tries to grab her rifle, but she twists it in its grasp and fires, blowing a hole right through its torso. It falls back into the dirt, twitching [2HD damage kills it]. A second ghoul attacks [1-2 Ewa, 3-4 Sandra, 5 Mo 6 Nev] Ewa whilst she's distracted, raking claws down her arm [2 hits, 0 & 2 damage leaves her with 3hp]. The last ghoul pounces on Mo, and nearly disembowels the hapless mutant, who collapses in the long grass. [For suffering their first loss, the NPCs in the party must check Morale: 2d6=4, they fight on.]
Sandra swings her monoblade in a fierce arc, decapitating her opponent. The ghoul's headless trunk falls back, spurting a fountain of greenish ichor [4HD damage kills it twice over]. Ewa turns her rifle on the remaining ghoul facing her, and fires a round into its chest [2HD damage], killing the monster. The last ghoul turns to leap at Sandra. It's already gory claws rake down her back, but do not take her out of the fight [2 hits for 1HD each puts her at 4HD].
Ewa shoulders the rifle and readies her crowbar as Sandra and the ghoul feint back and forth. Sandra's blade draws a long, frothing cut across its torso [1 damage drops it to 1HD], whilst its claws barely break her skin [1 hit for 0 damage].
Ewa swings her crowbar, but the ghoul hops backwards out of the way. Sandra rushes forward and skewers it, and it slide off the end of her sword, expiring messily.
[Both Ewa and Sandra need to make Physical saving throws against the ghouls' toxin: E 18, ok; S 9, fail.]
Ewa runs to the fallen Mo, and finding him not past all hope, slaps a stim patch on him. He jerks back to the land of the living, then he and Ewa set about binding their wounds [Ewa regains 2hp, Mo 1HD, but he fails his Physical save against the ghoul toxin]. Sandra merely crosses her arms and glares at Nev.
"Can we still make it there before dark," asks Nev, "or should we turn back?"
"Drop some of your gear and we'll make it," says Ewa.
"I'm not getting caught after dark with only five bullets left!"
[friendly NPC reaction=5, Bribeable]
"But this is all we own!"
"A bunch of weapons you didn't even use," growls Sandra.
"We're farmers, not warriors."
"OK, how's this for a deal?" says Ewa, "Drop the gear, and I won't tell you stole it. I'll even help retrieve it later."
[Q: Acceptable? 50/50 (4+): O4 C6 - yes]
Nev and Mo find some bushes off the path a ways to stash the bulk of their haul, then they all continue apace to the Coast Guardian Station. The Guardians usher them into a small and sterile meeting room, where the Commander soon joins them, eager to hear their report. After an hour's cross-examination (which seems to Ewa to last five times that long), the Commander finally makes a pronouncement: "We must find out where they are coming from, and put an end to this menace."
"I'd say you need to draw them out again," says Ewa. "Send a detachment to the lighthouse to wait, and have a lone tracker follow them to their lair. That's what I'd do, anyways."
"So good of you to volunteer!"
"Volun-- wait, I didn't mean... Shit. OK. But I really need some ammo off you lot this time...."
[friendly NPC react=8, Quick consent]
"Absolutely," smiles the Commander. "I can't have my scout disappearing before we've had our intel. And if you survive, I'll even let you keep the ammunition as a token of my esteem."
[Q: Will the Commander send additional troops? 50/50 (4+): O1 C3 - No, but... he requisitions more backup from the Castle
Q: Is there another NPC wanderer amongst them? 50/50: o6 C7 - yes. 1d2=catgirl
Q: Can/will Niamh heal Sandra's illness with her mutation? 50/50: O1 C8 - No.]
Ewa, Sandra, Nev, and Mo are given cots to sleep on in the mess hall; the coast Guardians are not used to entertaining visitors. An armed guard watches over them, to make sure they don't stray through the installation -- or eat all the stores. In the morning, Sandra and Mo have succumbed to the ghouls' toxin, and are sweating and shaking with fever. Ewa says a silent prayer of thanksgiving to the Archangel Wojtyla for sparing her from this grisly fate.
Three more 'volunteers' arrive from castle, Niamh the catgirl and two locals in scrap plate armour. Niamh is saddened to see Sandra laid low by the poison, and doubly so since her powers of healing are ineffective against the toxin.
The little band are sent out almost immediately, with Ewa leading the way.
Chaos: Out of Control (d8)
Setup: find ghouls' lair
NPC List: -
Threads: the Quest, mission
[The journey is once again handled by 1 encounter check (d6=4, no encounter), and 1 BOLD waylay: knowledge - occult - grim]
"So," says Ewa to one of the taciturn locals, practically yelling to be heard over the wind, "where's this 'entrance to hell' then?"
"Gimme them binoculars of yours when we get to the top of this hill. I'll show it you."
Ewa hands them over, and the young [d6=] man scans the cliffs ahead. "There!" he says, pointing. "That old brickwork structure. Gives me a fright just looking at it. Take a good look all you want, this is as close as we're getting."
Ewa peers at it for a time. It's a small, regular structure like the foundation of an old building, nothing more. She certainly doesn't shudder with superstitious dread like the local did when he first spied it. Ewa hands the binoculars to Niamh for a look. The catgirl shrugs.
"I really want to scout it out," says Ewa. "Maybe it's called the entrance to hell because the monsters live there. Please tell me I'm not the only one who's thought of that? Anyone else coming?"
The two locals shake their heads in furious refusal.
"Fine," says Ewa. "Be that way."
"I'd go too, but I think I'd best stay with these two," says Niamh. "Keep an eye on things back here."
Ewa clambers down the path, pausing often to look back. Somehow the catgirl watching through her binoculars makes her feel slightly less alone. For as much as she saw nothing untoward about the structure, the closer she get to it, the more she finds her mind straying back to the pictures of hell in that old book the vicar had, with the demonic mutants devouring the naked people and the atomic fires and giant skeleton floating above it all, and she wonders if she, too, is a miserable sinner, and hell is waiting to gobble her up, and she'll burn in the radioactive flames and be gnawed upon for an eternity until the horn section plays for the last judgement. Maybe, she muses, she shouldn't have been so shitty to Junemay after all.
She makes a quick circuit of the structure to reconnoitre, and instead of the jaws of a hideous dragon, finds merely a green sheet metal door at the bottom of a short concrete staircase. So probably not a hellmouth.
[She needs to roll Wisdom/Perception 8+ : 10-1,success]
The door is slightly ajar. Moreover, there is an obvious track over the dirty concrete, as if many people have been back and forth, and quite recently.
All is darkness beyond, though when Ewa's eyes adjust she sees light emanating from a door at the far end of the downward-sloping entrance corridor, a few dozen metres distant. Ewa props the outside door open with a stone for a little more light, and creeps inside a few paces.
[Q: What does she find? Trick / Technology : a trap...
I rolled one from a random Mutant Future adventure map key (generated via http://wizardawn.and-mag.com/tool_hexcrawl.php):
BUILDING TRAP: A bomb explodes that causes 1d10x2 damage to all of those close to the central spot of the area. They only take half damage if they save for energy attacks.
Wis/Perception 10+ to notice the IR "tripwire", 2d6-1=fail. She also fails her saving throw. 2d10= 1,4; 1hp damage only.]
Ewa has only gone a few metres down the long concrete corridor when she blunders through an infrared beam. Breaking the beam sets off an ancient plasma mine which has been affixed to the wall. The blast fills the corridor before her, but Ewa is fortunately spared the worst of it. The pressure knocks her back a few steps, and she steadies herself against the wall for a moment.
But then she snaps into a defensive stance, as her acute senses pick up an undercurrent of impending danger. Moments later she can hear claws clicking against the concrete floor, as [1d6=] three ghouls come scuttling out of the darkness towards her.
[Initiative: Ewa 5; ghouls 1,1,4]
Ewa fires a short burst from her combat rifle [13+1+2+6=hit; 4+2=6 damage, killed]. The bullets tear through the lead ghoul, but [Morale 2d6=7, fight] its companions continue right over the gore bespattered corpse.
The first one leaps right at Ewa, reaching out with a sinewy arm to drag its claws across her shin [one claw hits for 1d6=2, 1hp damage. She saves against the toxin]. The other ghoul cannot reach her in the narrow corridor.
Ewa fires another burst as she retreats slowly towards the gleaming daylight. The lead ghoul drops. [4hd damage kills it. Morale 2d6=10, fail]. The other ghoul scurries back into the darkness.
Ewa runs 30 metres from the structure, then hurriedly bandages her wound. Luckily it isn't deep and, more luckily still, she doesn't feel the sting of poison. She goes back to rejoin the others, pausing often to cast a nervous glance back at the entrance to hell, even though her danger sense assures her no ghouls are following behind.
"They're in there," Ewa says. "They set a trap... they're smarter than they look."
"We should go back and report," says the local.
"Are you ok?" asks Niamh. "Your leg..."
"I'll live," says Ewa. "But our friend's right: we ought to go back and report."
[Q: Do they make it back without incident? Likely (3+): O5 C8 - Yes
Q: Is the mission at an end? 50/50 (4+): O2 C3 - No, but... just one more task.
So, at some point around scene 16, I realised I hadn't been doing anything about awarding XP. The Scarlet Heroes XP system is too deterministic for my tastes, but the Other Dust one doesn't quite jive with my playing style, either. I'll be using it as a baseline in lieu of a better idea, since the combat & treasure model of most OSR games is an even worse fit for this campaign.
I am perfectly happy to give Ewa 1000xp for her adventure to Hastings (counting it a as single "session", even though it took two to play through). From her first meeting with Tansy & Shelly to her arrival at Dover -- essentially a wilderness adventure though punctuated by a couple enclave visits -- 1000xp seems a bit high.
She should probably have earned 2000xp total by the end of this scene... but I hadn't come to any real decisions about it yet. As I am writing this now, I've actually played 2 more scenes, which include some fairly momentous events. I should probably give her 2nd level retroactively between scenes 17 & 18; she hasn't had time to train any skills yet, and the extra hit points are a non-issue since (spoiler!) she doesn't die.
But it speaks well for the game that I played this far without even caring if my PC was advancing or not. If only I had gotten my notes typed up nicely before now...]