Sunday, 1 September 2019

AFF solo - Part V: Against the Cult of Chaos

The unseemly and insalubrious taverns recommended by Ksandajja's rooftop "associate" are in the lowest of the low quarters, seemingly another world from the colourful bazaars and painted storefronts of the rest of Ângu of the pearl-lined streets. The first few locales she visits make her glad of the new sword of well-tempered steel at her side, as she wends her way through the throng of syphilitic sailors, beady-eyed cut-throats, sallow-skinned lotus fiends, worn-out catamites, thieves, scoundrels, usurers, and miscellaneous riff-raff she's too appalled to catalogue. More than once does she espy a ruined countenance she takes to be the leprous cult-priest.

She's about to give up, when at last chances upon a hardy trio, obviously not denizens of this squalor. She asks to join them, and they eagerly listen to her tale of adventure, as if they know from the start of the request which is to come.


Social Class: Mercenary (0)  Age: 24
Talents: Light Sleeper
Special Skills: Common Speech 4, City Lore 1, World Lore 1, Religion Lore 1, Ride 1, Strength 2, Swords 2, Hunting 2, Polearms 1, Dodge 1, Swim 1, Climb 1, Awareness 1, Sneaking 1
GP: 20
Provisions: 2
Equipment: sword, lantern, oil, luck potion, backpack

The first of the three is Orhhuta, a statuesque woman of the steppes. She is a mercenary by trade. Her muscles ripple beneath her light tunic as she raises her cup in a toast to their new friend.


Social Class: Priest (6)  Age: 28
Talents: Silver Tongue
Special Skills: Common Speech 4, City Lore 1, World Lore 1, Religion Lore 2, Climb 1, Magic-Priestly 2, Leadership 2, Elemental Speech 1, Etiquette 1, Axes 1, Awareness 1, Armour 2, Sneaking 1
Spells: Flame, Smite vs. Undead, Bless, Heal
GP: 10
Provisions: 2
Equipment: hand axe, leather armour, lantern, oil, anti-poison potion, backpack

To her right sits Fhenteskeer. He is a priest of the fire god, a fact underscored by his wild, darting eyes and the flaming red hair atop his head (obviously made so by lots of henna). His movements are as animated and constant as the sacred flames he reveres, but so too does he have a warm heart.

Grebdal Themp
MAGIC 2  Magic Points: 8

Social Class: Criminal (0)  Age: 20
Talents: Robust
Special Skills: Common Speech 4, City Lore 2, World Lore 1, Religion Lore 1, Jump 1, Magic - Minor 2, Sneaking 2, Awareness 2, Armour 1, Swords 1, Evaluate 1, Trap knowledge 1, Con 1
Cantrips: Enhance, Hear, Sober, Secrete, Instil, Honesty
GP: 5
Provisions: 2
Equipment: sword, leather armour, lantern, oil, luck potion, backpack

On the warrior's left is a softly-spoken young man who keeps looking over his shoulder as if he expects enemies to appear at any moment. Ksandajja is certain he must be in the same line of work as her rooftop benefactor.

When Ksandajja reaches the end of her narrative, she puts it to them that she requires their help to destroy the evil cult. The sorceress persuades them with promises of destroying evil (Fhenteskeer) and winning gold (Orhhuta & Grebdal Themp) though, truth be told, the jittery priest does seem to have an unseemly interest in gold, and the hulking mercenary would happily destroy evil gratis.

Scene 5

Madness (d6)

Setup: d6=Interrupt (was: dungeon)
Interrupt: Ambiguous Event - Increase / Balance (festival of Neutral god)

NPC List: cultists, underworld contact, angry aristocrat, angry government worker, scribe friend

Threads: destroy cult

Eager to begin their task (and as funds are dwindling, recover some spoils), Ksandajja's little band set out the very next morning. But as they move through the city streets, they find them choked by an ever increasing crowds of people, for this day is the Festival of [1d7=] Pangara, God of the Wind. The carnival atmosphere seems to have brought most of the folk of the city out-of-doors, and semi-solemn processions of priests and lay worshippers snake haphazardly (so it seems) through narrow streets and broad thoroughfares.

[Q: Can the PCs use the festival as cover to case the cult house? 50/50 (4+): O5 C2 - Yes, and...]

The little band is swept along in the train of a procession, but as fortune would have it, it progresses right past the cult house and to the nearby market square, though the general revelry still clogs the whole of the street.

[Q: Does the house look occupied? Unlikely (5+): O6 C5 - Yes]

"There goes... a... daylight visit," says a dejected Ksandajja, shooing away a trio of dancers.

"We'll... have to risk... more cultists being there!" says Orhhuta, dodging between a quartet of mummers.

"And under cover of darkness, up to something evil," says Fhenteskeer, who is just a little too sketchy looking for the townsfolk to approach, even on the high holy days.

Scene 6

Madness (d6)

Setup: d6=Altered (was: dungeon)
Alteration: Open / Military (=cult warriors guarding house)

NPC List: cultists, underworld contact, angry aristocrat, angry government worker

Threads: destroy cult

The festival eventually dies down, and by an hour after sunset all the revellers who have not wandered home have removed to the taverns and bawdy houses of costly-incensed Ângu. The streets are thus empty as a grim little company moves through the streets, their hearts burning with the desire to do battle against wickedness (Fhenteskeer's most of all).

They stop short of their goal so Grebdal Themp and Ksandajja can slink up to the house through the shadows to reconnoitre. [Rather than figure out the opposition in advance (for resisted tests), I had each make a simple Sneaking roll. G & K need 9-/7- respectively; their rolls are 9&5, success.

Q: How many rooms has the house? d6+2=6 (2 storeys)
Q: Is the upstairs dark? 50/50 (4+): O5 C6 - Yes]

The house is a modest affair, like most in the quarter. The windows all stand open to allow the air to circulate on this sultry night. The ground floor is dimly lit, and there are a few people visible in the common room. [1d3=] Three CULTISTS in long robes sit around a rude table. One is reading a cheaply-bound codex, the other two are playing cards. Behind them stand [1d3=] two muscle-bound CULT GUARDS of indeterminate gender, wearing dark cowls, grotesquely stitched-together jerkins of rawhide, and curving scimitars suspended from black sashes. The upper storey is in complete darkness.

"I'll see whom I can flush out," says Ksandajja, as she puts in the pair of nose plugs she carries in her pouch. "Tell the others to be ready to move." Grebdal Themp isn't sure what she intends, but he's not the sort to second-guess a magician. He pads back to his fellows as Ksandajja creeps up closer to the house, making sure none within can see her. She whispers the words of an ancient incantation, using her sorceress' will to open a small rent in the fabric of this world, and allow some of the noxious air of the very Pit to leak through into the house.

[Ksandajja is casting NIF (~stinking cloud). She spends two extra rounds on the casting, giving her a +4 bonus; 5(magic)+2(skill)+4=11; 2d6=6, an easy success. The spell costs 1 stamina: all within the cloud suffer -2 attack penalties from the smell for 7 rounds (=MAGIC + Sorcery special skill)

Q: Does the smell force cultists outside? 50/50 (4+): O3 C3 Yes, but...
+Event: Remote Event - Activity / Military (noted)]

The three cultists at the table bolt when they catch the first whiff of the hellish fumes. The guards seem to droop a bit, but the fanatics will not leave their assigned posts. They draw their scimitars in anticipation.

Leather cuirass, sword

[Round 2]
Ksandajja bursts in through the open door and attacks the nearest guard, whose armour proves surprisingly resilient beneath her sword. Still, she has bloodied the silent hulk, who does not even cry out at the offence [she hits for 4-1(armour)=3 damage, leaving the guard with 4 Stamina].

[Round 3]
The second guard manoeuvres round the table so Ksandajja is surrounded. The swordswoman fights like a demon of the Pit herself as the noxious fumes swirl about her, but these practiced killers are intent on spilling blood, and she receives a long gash down the back of her shoulder.

[Ksandajja rolls an 11 for the round, attacking the 1st guard still.
g1 has a total of {7(skill)-2(NIF)+1(extra attacker)+2d6=} 14, hitting her for 3 damage, dropping her to 6 STA.
g2 has a bad roll, totalling 9, a miss. (she only gets one declared attack, so inflicts no damage despite her higher total).]

[Round 4]
Orhhuta and Grebdal Themp charge in through the open door. The smell sends them reeling, but they fight as best they are able -- at least they distract the second guard at Ksandajja's back. The sorceress does not waste the opportunity; she strikes out with the truest of aims, and her sword plunges into the guard's neck above the thick hide armour. She leaps aside so the corpse does not hit her as it falls.

[Ksandajja rolled a Critical Hit (natural 2, doubles damage); 6 damage (-0 for armour roll) kills the guard outright.
Orhhuta and Grebdal Themp are also at -2 in the fumes. O rolls 11 vs. the 2nd guard's 11: no hits.
Grebdal Themp rolls a 9, miss.]

Fhenteskeer has elected to stay outside as a rear guard, in case the other cultists return.

[Rounds 5-6]
The guard is surrounded [+2 to be hit for 2 extra opponents], but fights to the bitter end. Orhhuta receives a bloody cut across her arm [3 damage puts her at 13 Stamina], but the guard soon lies dead on the floor, brought low by a massive stroke of the warrior's blade.

The victors go outside into the relatively fresh city air until the stench subsides, then return to search the house...

[Awareness rolls at -2: f fail, g fail, o fail, k ok
Q: Is there anything of value in house? Unlikely (5+): O1 C6 - No.]

...but there is nothing of especial value within: there is no strongbox nor cache of jewels, the cult weapons are corroded, and the codex on the table is but a common pornographic chapbook.

[Religion lore rolls at -2 for the PCs to have any idea about the cult. Fhenteskeer can substitute MAGIC in place of SKILL as this is a Knowledge Special Skill: 6+2(Religion)-2=6; 2d6=8, no idea.
Ksandajja rolls 2d6=2, Special Success; she'll get +2 on relevant Knowledge skill checks in the dungeon.]

As the others search in vain for lucre, Ksandajja pokes at one of the dead guards with her sword. Drawing the heavy cowl aside reveals a gangrenous, sexless visage. Fatted worms writhe and creep about beneath the diseased flesh, now and again bursting through as they feast upon the rot. Ksandajja nearly swoons, and must catch herself on the table lest her legs buckle beneath her.

"You magic up that appalling smell, but the sight of a dead body makes you faint?" quips Grebdal Themp. "And here I thought you were a hardened warrior like our dear Orhhuta." He nudges the body with his foot for emphasis, causing a tumescent worm to fall out upon his boot, still munching upon a bit of green-black flesh.

Grebdal Themp runs into the street and is violently sick.

"I've met with these fiends before," says Ksandajja. "The Order of the Devouring Worm: a sect devoted to the vile god Decay." 

"We shall burn out their infection with purifying flame!" says Fhenteskeer.

"I've found a set of stairs in this closet," says Orhhuta, "certainly leading down to the cult's lair. Once Grebdal Themp is done reviewing the contents of his dinner, I say we attack."

Fhenteskeer tends to the wounds of his companions whilst they wait for Grebdal Themp to recover. At length he returns, looking fit if still somewhat pale. He the fire-priest each illumine a lantern, and one by one they descend into the darkness.

[I am so used to OSR games that I constantly forget about making first aid rolls after combat. I put it in the narrative, because an injured person certainly wouldn't forget, but they recover 0 STAMINA as it's way too late to ret-con.

Marching order is G* K F* O.

The dungeon was run with the generator in the AFF rulebook, and I mixed in some tables from Age of Fable to make things more interesting. It's a great collection of random stuff, but a bit unwieldy to scroll through during a game. Next time I'll cut-and-paste a few that I am likely to use into a separate document.]

Grebdal Themp leads the way, his sharp eyes [Awareness 2] sweeping the steps, walls, and ceiling for the trap he is sure must protect the entrance. His companions follow a fair distance behind.

[Skill 7 + Awareness = 9; 2d6=9, success

Q: So, is there actually a trap? 50/50 (4+): O5 C1 - Yes, and... blade trap, -1 to disarm
Q: Is there a guard? Likely (3+): O6 C4 - Yes, but... asleep]

Light shines weakly up from the bottom of the steps. Through the arched doorway a cramped guardroom [Room 1] of dressed stone is visible, in which the guard -- a CULTIST in dirty robes -- has fallen asleep at [d6=] his post. He snores quietly in his  rickety wooden chair, and his spear is propped against the wall beside him. A single candle burns on low stand by the entrance.

Grebdal Themp is about to creep into the room when he notices slender threads, fine as spider silk, criss-crossing the doorway. He sheathes his sword as quietly as he might, then draws his dagger with equal stealth. He sets about delicately cutting the strands, fearful that the slightest pressure will spring the trap.

[Skill 7 + Trap Knowledge 1, -1 difficulty = 7: 2d6=5, success]

He cuts the threads one by one, scarcely daring to breathe, but in the end he has removed them all, rendering the trap inert. It is then but a trifle to tiptoe across the room and dispatch the sleeping cultist [Sneaking roll succeeds, auto-kill assumed]. As his companions file into the room, he scouts ahead down the narrow, rough-hewn passage.

[He makes a successful Awareness roll, noticing d6=2 skeletons standing in alcoves]

He is soon back with a report. "There's another small chamber ahead. There are bones propped up in two alcoves flanking the only way out. Strange, monstrous bones. And I do not suppose they rest there in natural fashion."

Gripping their weapons, they follow Grebdal Themp to the chamber [Room 2], where they behold an awesome sight. For there, standing in the alcoves on either side of the exit, are the SKELETONS of the legendary APE-DOG and DOG-APE who once guarded Balthus Dire's infamous Citadel!


[Ksandajja can roll Ancient Lore (Skill 6  + 2 Learned)=8; 2d6=3, success]

As the bony creatures step down from their alcoves and clack menacingly towards the astonished intruders, memories race through Ksandajja's mind. She blurts out "I am here to treat Kylltrog!" and the skeletal guardians suddenly stop, then return to their stations and are still.

"I... I don't believe it," says Orhhuta.

"What...? How...?" sputters Grebdal Themp.

"What necromancy is this?" asks Fhenteskeer.

The sorceress heaves a long sight. "I see none of you are up on your classics. I thought everyone on Titan learnt their letters reading the Lay of the Citadel of Chaos. You know, the epic in which YOU are the hero..."

Next post: Into the catacombs!

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