Saturday, 24 August 2019
AFF solo - Part IV: The glint of gold and steel
The free city of Ângu, as its many epithets attest, is one of the wealthier merchant cities of the Trenaali coast: Sea-gilded Ângu, Ângu of the joyous markets, Ângu of the fair scales, the Caravanserai of the Heavens. But even the most obsequious of sobriquets cannot mask the sinister reputation of the thriving port.
As Ksandajja approaches the gate, it seems hardly different from any of the other wealthy cities she has seen on her travels, right down to the bored guards in tatty leather jerkins leaning on their spears. Ksandajja joins the queue behind some tired-looking camels.
When it is finally her turn to enter, the craggy-faced guardswoman looks her up and down.
"Sellsword, eh?" she asks.
Ksandajja nods, seeing no reason to disabuse her of this notion, and especially not to admit her practice of the sorcerous art.
"The entry toll is ten silvers for your sort."
Smiling sweetly, Ksandajja flips the guard a gold coin. The woman grimaces for a moment as she catches it; she'd obviously asked for silver so she could skim off the top.
Chaos: Out-of-Control (d8)
Setup: City adventure
NPC List: -
Threads: Quest, travel to Ulq
[Then it was time to break out Midkemia Press' Cities for a random urban encounter: d%=already occurring, d%=Public Execution]
Ksandajja's bout of complacency ends the moment she steps through the gate and emerges into the bustling square. A man has been stripped and lashed upside-down to two great pales by the ankles and wrists. A pair of executioners are at work upon him with a long-bladed, jagged saw. His screams stand in sharp contrast to the jollity of the onlookers.
Hardened warrior though she be, Ksandajja cannot but be moved, and indeed a little unnerved, by the spectacle. "Can this be another omen?" she asks herself, "Or just a reminder to be on my best behaviour." She examines her purse, counting but six golden coins therein. "I hope vagrancy isn't a crime here."
She spends a little money (5sp) for a visit to the public baths, hoping to look a little less of a vagrant. She spends a little more (1gp 8sp) for a bed in the common room of a cheap inn and food for the night.
[Q: Does she have a quiet night? 50/50 (4+): O5 C1 - Yes, and...
She recovers 2 Stamina for the Meal, and 4 more for a good night's sleep (back to her full 10).]
In the morning, Ksandajja takes stock of her situation. She can't afford food and supplies to continue her journey, nor does she expect that she could secure working passage aboard a ship (even without admitting what happened with her first sailing venture). She resigns herself to remaining for a time in Friendly-Dealing Ângu, and hopes she can find some way of improving her meagre circumstances.
[Time once again for the Midkemia Press' Cities Catch-up Tables. As usual, these fleshed out the city in a desultory fashion, and eventually led into an adventure. Rather than wasting all my NPC naming effort on people who will probably never come up again (once she leaves Ângu, it is doubtful she will ever return), I will narrate the passage of time cursorily until we get to the Adventure proper. Game mechanics for each week will follow in a separate paragraph.]
The first week in the lively metropolis is relatively uneventful. She installs herself in a more modest inn to ease the strain on her dwindling purse. She frequents the markets and taverns looking for work, but finds nothing suitable. A local grandee (through the intermediary of a servant, of course) offers her a job as a storyteller, 'that you might divert and delight my lord with tales of your far-off homeland, O foreign one'. This she politely declines, inwardly distrustful of the grandee's leering countenance. Boredom threatens to overtake her, and another resident at the inn entices her to a game of knucklebones. She wins a modest sum -- 10sp -- but even then is faced with the prospect of having to relocate to a less expensive inn should her circumstances not improve.
looking for work: +10% to Job Type roll since she is literate. d%=Plebeian type job found, d40=storyteller, no.
living at inn level 3 gp room&board for the week
gambling: risk 10sp, wins 10sp
(1gp 7sp total purse)]
Perhaps Sindla [Goddess of Luck and Fate] is smiling upon her, for the next week sees a complete reversal. She hears a cry for help coming from a dark alleyway, and upon investigating finds an aristocrat being threatened by a trio of scruffy, knife-wielding bravos. The mere sight of Ksandajja's bared steel is enough to send them scurrying back into the shadows. The aristocrat immediately offers to hire her as a bodyguard, and at twice the going rate. He's a ridiculous, perfumed dandy, but Ksandajja can't find it in her heart (or purse!) to refuse.
[event: befriend an aristocrat. offers job as bodyguard for double salary
salary: 3d8=13 x2= 26gp/week
save 30%: 7gp 3sp]
Ksandajja is pulled into a whirlwind of luxury and dissipation. Even with her new patron spending egregious sums to dress his new companion in the finest silks and jewels, she still haemorrhages her own funds in a completely negligent fashion. She doesn't half mind, though she feels less like a bodyguard and more like a life-sized doll at times, despite the glittering array of scimitars she is given for her use (one for every day of the week, plus special ones for holidays). But the rose petal strewn dream comes to an abrupt end. Ksandajja finds she has committed some unforgivable faux pas -- one which she hardly understands -- when a troop of house soldiers divest her of her new jewels and turn her out into the street.
And yet fortune's wheel has not yet stayed its motion, for as she walks through the streets of Thousand-marted Ângu in a daze, she happens by a written notice tacked to the door-post of the temple of the very goddess whose plaything she feels herself to be. The notice advises any who might be able to read it to apply for a position as a public scribe at the guildhall. She marches there and obtains a position forthwith, though they caution her to buy a less elegant dress with her first salary, lest she ruin her fine garment with ink stains. They don't even ask about the incongruously rusty sword at her belt.
savings roll, d%=05, lost job! (aristocrat now counts as offended)
d6x10=50% chance she can still look for new job this week: d%=48, yes
public scribe, 15gp/week
save 100%! +15gp]
[Weeks 4 & 5]
Unsurprisingly, the fate of a public scribe in Purse-filling Ângu is to copy and recopy contracts, deeds, and bills of sale. The work is uninspiring, but Ksandajja does befriend one of the other scribes, who is overly anxious to hear tales of her travels [UNE: mysterious-secrets-experience]. She buys some plain clothing for work, but, much to her chagrin, she can't quite save up enough to buy a proper sword. And then one morning as she arrives at the guildhall a junior clerk stops her at the door, and says her behaviour has been deemed most unbecoming. Not only is her employment at an end, but the balance of her salary forfeit as well. Her friend later tells her that the official whose scroll Ksandajja was to finish is most put out, and she'd do well to avoid the guildhall henceforth.
event: befriend fellow worker
savings roll: d%=02! lost job again, another breach of etiquette
can't find another this week
back to inn -11gp (12gp 10sp left)
event: offend govt worker (whose scroll she didn't finish)
job search fails (biologist???)]
With the loss of her job, and no new prospects, Ksandajja rapidly runs out of money and is forced to take to the streets. She beds down in a narrow alley for the night, making a nest out of clothing, sleeping with her sword near at hand. One morning she is awakened by a pair of strangers with kindly faces.
[She can't afford lodging, so I rolled on the Living with No Money table: d%=taken in by temple or strangers]
"Oh you poor dear," says the old woman. "To see one so young reduced to such circumstances!"
"What a tragedy," says the old man. "Price-gouging Ângu is no place to be a pauper."
"You should come with us," says the old woman. "Our order offers a safe haven for all who find themselves friendless and alone in this venal city."
[I rolled 1d30 to see what god (from the AFF rulebook) this pair serves. d30=Decay.
Ksandajja must Test her LUCK to realise these "kindly strangers" are up to no good: 2d6=9, just succeeded, so it will take her a bit until the realisation dawns upon her. There are a total of 1d3=2 cultists + 1 priest.]
The strange old couple cluck and coo over the 'poor dear lass' as they lead her through a maze of winding streets and back alleyways. They have lots to say about the wicked city of merchants, but are unusually reticent to say aught of their faith. By the time they have arrived at the shabby door of a dilapidated townhouse, the sour feeling in Ksandajja's stomach has changed from hunger to dread.
"I-- I just realised I have a cousin in this city who can put me up," says Ksandajja unconvincingly. The man's grip tightens on her wrist as he realises the game is up. Ksandajja sees the door open slowly, and a leprous visage stares out into the street. She wrenches her hand away from the old man, and draws her sword. The old couple cackle horribly, and produce long curved knives which are crusted over with the blood of their last victims. The pair of wicked CULTISTS manoeuvre to cut off Ksandajja's escape.
first CULTIST SKILL 5 STAMINA 4
second CULTIST SKILL 5 STAMINA 5
PRIEST SKILL 6 STAMINA 8
Devotion 6 (MAGIC + Magic - Priest)
Surrounded or not, the swordswoman has the upper hand over these vile fanatics [they get +1 attack for outnumbering her, but it's still her 8 vs. their 6]. The man feints, but Ksandajja was expecting the clumsy move, and her blade nearly takes his arm off at the shoulder [3 damage reduces him to 1 STA]. The old woman's foot gets caught in the hem of her robe, and she falls face-first into the dirt [fumble (rolled natural 2); lose next round].
The leprous PRIEST gurgles out a Curse, calling upon the pestilential exhalations of his abhorrent god [casts Weakness]. An unnatural sickness wracks Ksandajja's body, and she breaks out in a cold sweat [-3 to Skill and damage rolls for 6 rounds]. She stabs weakly at the old man, but her arm feels so heavy and sluggish. It's all she can do to keep a grip on her sword. [8-3+2d6=11 vs. 5+2d6=11, no hits]. Fortunately, he's still chastened from the stroke she dealt him to make a credible attack of his own. Behind Ksandajja, the old woman is regaining her feet.
The priest is content to watch his minions fight with their quarry. And what a show it is! Ksandajja parries a thrust of the woman's dagger, only to watch in horror as the blade snaps off against the crossguard. Ksandajja throws the useless pommel to the ground, cursing vehemently, though not loud enough to drown out the phlegmatic laughter emanating from within the house.
[She Fumbled, and will be off balance (-2 to all actions) next turn. Because the fumble is necessarily a roll of doubles, the rusty sword she picked up beneath the ruined tower finally breaks (I can't believe how many fights it lasted).]
She tries to fight them off unarmed, and receives a matching pair of wounds for her efforts [both hit for 2 damage, dropping her to 4STA].
Ksandajja knows she cannot best these cultists -- at least not today! She runs between them, [testing her LUCK: 2d6=8, success (current Luck decreases to 7)] evading their daggers, and flies off down the street.
"After her, you fools!" rasps the priest.
The cultists give chase. [1d6=3 rounds before she has a chance to lose them.] Ksandajja runs through an alley and into a main street. This being Ângu, it leads right into a market square, where merchants are already setting up their stalls for the day. Ksandajja feels the unnatural Weakness sloughing off as she races for the square. She finds the largest concentration of people, and uses them as cover until she can slink off down a side street [Skill 6 + Sneaking 1 (7-): 2d6=6, success].
Ksandajja spends the whole day moving from place to place, ever on the watch fro that horrible old couple. She is too afraid even to sleep that night [no STA regained]. The following day, she spends the last of her money on a meal to keep her strength up [+2STA].
Ksandajja prowls round the city for the next few days. The run-in with the cult coupled with the loss of her sword has left her paranoid, and after a week her demeanour is scarcely less terrible than that of the knife-wielding cultists.
One night, as she is perched atop a gabled roof to observe the streets below, she hears a scraping sound beneath her. She watches as the shutters of the window below her seat open slowly and a black-clad figure climbs out onto the roof. The figure stifles a gasp as it finds a pair of staring eyes burning into its own.
The figure pulls aside its kerchief to reveal a smiling, pock-marked face. "Now 'ere's a surprise," says the man. "I didn't expect to find me escape route occupied. You're obviously not town militia, and you don't got the look of a hired guard, so just who are you? And just what are you doing sat atop Thammranaio's manse at this hour."
"I am a sorceress. And I keep my own counsel."
"A sorc-- I don't mean to pry, m'lady! Perhaps I should be off..."
"Stay, thief! For I would talk with you a while."
"I-- er, yes. Of course."
"You have connections in this city, do you not?"
"I knows a churl or two."
"I have been ambushed by an evil cult, and I would strike back at them, and root out their wickedness once and for all."
"But I cannot do it alone, for where one cultist is visible, a dozen more lurk in lightless tunnels below."
"And I thought you knew of somewhere I could find some more adventurous sorts. The kind who will see this necessity as a chance to win untold treasures back from the very hands of darkness."
"I think I just might know a place you could look, full of those what likes to bust heads -- evil heads, of course."
"But I gots to warn you, nothing in coin-shaving Ângu is free."
"Of course it isn't... but that includes my silence, thief."
"Tell you what, m'lady: how bout's I give you a cut of my night's profits -- as a donation to your righteous cause, obviously -- and you forget you ever met me. And I'll throw in the names of a few taverns what you could visit for to find you some hired muscle."
event: befriends an underworld character
gives her 1d20x5=75gp
-22gp lv 3 inn room & board
-30gp new sword
For her new friend's advice, Ksandajja gets a +1 to her City Lore roll to find a place to recruit mercenaries/hirelings/thugs. 6(skill)+2(Learned)+1=9; 2d6=5, success. She finds 1d3=3 others.
Rather than figuring out what to roll to see who she turns up, I just grabbed the other 3 PCs I made when I first bought the game. I had run them through the sample dungeon in the rulebook, so they all have a few xp and a little bit of treasure -- but not much of either. I like a game that leaves your PCs a bit skint!]
Next post: Ksandajja gathers her forces and strikes back at the vile cult!