Friday, 2 April 2021

Mörk Borg solo - Part 4 : « Ouvrez au fossoyeux / Qui claque à votre porte »

The iron stair twists upwards into the spire, and resounds with every incautious footstep, every insouciant clatter of arms against its rail. Törzug leads the way with her crossbow, though it be little help against the skeletal servants of the dread lich, whilst Irtinj brings up the rear, hoping he need not attempt to fight in these cramped quarters with his Zweihänder.

[Other than the very top, I had no opinions on what would be in the spire, so I couldn't fill out more Location Crafter lists. The randomised location crafting rules in Mythic Magazine 2 hadn't come out yet, so I had to improvise. So...

Each of the 1d4+1=3 levels will have the usual LC Location-Encounter-Object schema, with 2 Random elements and one Special, as determined by the following roll:

Special element is (d10): 1-4 location, 5-6 encounter, 7-10 object

And to help with the interpretation of encounters/tricks/traps/etc., I asked the Oracle--

Q: Has the lich been all the way to the top? 50/50 (4+): O7 C6 - yes. So, no locked doors or unattended magic items.]

Level 1

Location: Aggressively / Disagreeable
Encounter: Special, MULTI-ELEMENT: Judgementally / Watery, Violently / Watery
Object: Perfectly / Dark
At the top of the stair is a low stone archway, situated in the corner of a square chamber taking up the whole space of the tower. The air has a strong and bitter and smell which stings the eyes and burns the nose, but after a few moments to wipe their tears away, the explorers are free to examine the squat marble font in the middle of the chamber which forms its only furnishing. The font's basin is a smooth, one metre diameter depression filled to the brim with perfectly clear, still water. A fist sized black pearl is submerged in the centre.

[Rolling the party's best Presence to examine the pool DR12: d20+2=21, success]

The explorers crowd round the font, and stare covetously at the pearl, but not a one makes a move toward it. Finally, wiping away yet another effusion of tears from her eyes, Uth says, "I don't think that's just water."

There is murmured assent, then they file out into the archway in opposite corner from whence they entered, in which is another twisting staircase of iron.

[It was indeed not water, but some sort of acid or toxin. And there was some sort of water weird-esque monster in the pool which only attacks if disturbed. But the PCs surmised the lich would have taken the pearl if it hadn't been so dangerous, and decided to leave well enough alone.]

Level 2

Ruthlessly / Lonely
Encounter: Fearfully / Ancient
Object: special, EXIT HERE: Daintily / Hard
The next level of the spire is laid out as a bedchamber, and has the stale reek of a sickroom. Drooping wooden furnishings line the walls. White sheets have haphazardly been thrown across some of them, and he exposed surfaces are nearly as white from dust. The  sagging bed in one corner seems larger than it is due to the shrivelled and withered form of its inmate, whose sallow and wrinkled visage betrays no hint of gender, and in fact leaves the onlookers with some doubts as to the invalid's species.

[reaction=5, Angered]

A tremulous hand emerges from beneath the soiled bed linens and points feebly in the direction of the explorers.

"Go away!" croaks the invalid. "You aren't wanted here!"

"Please," says Doctor Sêps, "do not be alarmed. I am a Doctor of Physick. Let me find a tonic for your ills."

[DR14 Presence to calm the invalid: d20+0=13, fail]

The invalid sniffs derisively. "Your friend was nosing about, nearly killed us all. He said he couldn't die, but then he left! He's going to die and so will you. Now leave before you ruin it for us all." [UNE: hostile - death - enemy]

[To notice the Special Object, I rolled a DR18 Presence for all PCs: only V succeeds (with a natural 20!)]

As Doctor Sêps squabbles with the invalid, Vesania's attention is arrested by a faint noise coming from across the chamber. She follows the sound to a shrouded bit of furniture, and peeks curiously behind the sheet. Underneath is a free-standing mirror with an elegantly-carved frame of gilded hardwood. But the glass shews no reflection -- it is a portal to beyond.

The skeletal figure of a Death Angel hovers on the other side of the glass in an awful void, a vast emptiness and lightlessness beyond understanding. It pounds against the glass, the dull thuds of its bony fists just barely audible. It stops when it sees Vesania, exhales a frost onto the glass and begins tracing out a message with one osseous talon.
[DR8 Presence to read it: d20+2=11, success]

The message reads: LET ME THOUGH TO COLLECT THE OLD ONE'S SOUL, AND I SHALL REWARD YOU [scheming - means - power]

[Q: Is this an absolutely terrible idea? Unknown

Presence DR12 to guess if this is a terrible idea (roll d6 to know the odds); DR 16 to know for certain (roll odds and Oracle result before making a decision): d20+2=14

1d6=4 50/50 odds]

The invalid is shrieking now but Vesania can't hear. Maybe her friends are screaming too. Do they see beyond the pane as does she? No matter. She hefts the femur in her hand and smashes it into the mirror's surface. The shards of glass are sucked inwards as the pressure in the room drops suddenly.

The death angel grasps the edges of the mirror frame in its skeletal claws and pulls itself bodily into the chamber. It pauses to unfurl its majestic, rotten wings, filling the space as it looms over the terrified mortals cowering in the sudden cold.

[Q: So, was this an absolutely terrible idea? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - no, and... there will be a reward as promised.

Reward (1d8): 1 sacred scroll, 2 unclean scroll, 3-4 misc. power, 5-6 extra omen per day, 7-8 extra life; d8=8]

"My sincerest gratitude," rasps the Death Angel, "for aiding me to capture this fugitive who has so long escaped the fate that must come to all mortals. There be none but that in the end comes into our eternal embrace, yet for this great service to us I grant you a single reprieve."

So saying, it snatches the invalid bodily from the bed and returns through the mirror, disappearing into the terrible void.

[Vesania can avoid death once, waking after 10 rounds with d4hp (as the Gutterborn Scum power, a but single use only, 100% successful, and with no cost against Power uses per day).]

After a few moments of stunned silence, wherein Vesania's companions choke back any reproofs they may have had for her rash behaviour, the explorers head up the next staircase.

Level 3

Offensively / Lovely
Encounter: Cautiously / Empty
Object: special, REMOVE ELEMENT (=none)
The room above is filled floor-to-ceiling with twisted iron sculptures, abstract but somehow obscenely suggestive. It is difficult to move between them without tripping over jutting bars or getting clothes caught on sharp and pointed ends, but somehow the explorers thread their careful way through the room to the stairwell in the opposite corner and ascend to the space at the very top.

[It was a DR8 Agility test to get through without incident, and weirdly all the PCs made the roll]

Top floor : the Consciousness Organ

Suspended from the apex of the spire, a net made of chains cradles an elephant-sized mass of raw red flesh. It shivers all over at random intervals, causing the chain net to rattle and droplets of viscous brown fluid to drip down. The droplets are caught in an iron funnel and sucked down the central hole by unseen bellows below. Iron pipes run from below the funnel up to the ceiling, where the fluid is dripped from nozzles back onto the flesh.

[It's reaction roll 2d6=7, neutral]

The flesh shivers in a staccato, prolonged way. The explorers hear its words in their minds.

Are you the new priests?

"No, uh, travellers," says Doctor Sêps.

"We're pilgrims!" offers Irtinj.

[DR12 Presence to lie convincingly: d20-1=13, success]

The other one is not to be trusted. If you seek the blessing of the Divine Ekphysis you will discover his plans and reveal them to me. [inquisitive - command - antagonist]

"Why, er, what makes you certain he cannot be trusted?" asks the Doctor.

He is clad in death and unwholesome feelings.

"He says you are come to destroy our world."

I am here to aid life by destroying the enemies of Hope. [aid / life]

[DR6 Presence not to be swayed by the thing: all PCs succeed]

The explorers back away slowly, then scurry towards the steps.

[Q: Does it let them go? 50/50 (4+): O4 C3 - yes, but...]

Doctor Sêps is slowest off the mark, and sees his comrades disappearing don the staircase ahead of him. He fells an unearthly force pulling at him, seizing him from within. A quantity of blood is pulled through his veins and bursts out the skin on his back, where it is strained through his clothing and armour then splashes out and up onto the flesh. He doesn't look back, but by the time he reaches the bottom step he feel weak and unsteady.

[He'd rolled the lowest Agility test to escape: T15 U4 I18 S3 V20. He took d8=1 damage and suffers and -1 Toughness from anaemia until at least 1 good meal & sleep.]

The trip back through the sculpture room is easier this time [DR6 now they've done it, all succeed]. When they come back to the sickroom, they find that the temperature has dropped to an uncomfortable level, and frost crystals are glinting on all the dusty furnishings.
"We can't leave this mirror-portal here like this," says Irtinj. "I'm going to destroy it. Who'll help me?"

"Not I, certainly," says Vesania.

Törzug and Uth heft the mirror sideways onto the floor so Irtinj can bring his Zweihänder down upon the frame in a powerful overhead swing.

[DR6 Strength : 3+0=fail]

The sword crashes down onto the wood, chipping it a bit but otherwise ricocheting off harmlessly.

[Q: Any backlash? Likely (3+): O1 C7 - no. He can try again.]

"It's more solid than I expected," he mutters, and raises his blade for another stroke. He brings the sword down again with a terrific crash, and bits of shattered blade skitter across the stone floor [rolled a 1].

"Let's take this as a hint, shall we?" says Vesania, as Uth and Törzug put the mirror face down on the floor.

"So what now?" asks Uth. "I don't trust that... that thing."

"But who do you trust?" asks Törzug. "That undead thing?"

"It didn't try to harm us," says Vesania. "Or hinder us in any way."

"I wouldn't trust it either!" says Irtinj.

"And the Fraternity of the Sun? What about them?" asks Törzug.

"Now that you mention it, they did rather over-sell the prospect of riches."

"I'm starting to feel a bit had," says Vesania.

"What if we just left?" asks Uth. "Get away from this place and pretend we never saw it. Safer to not get involved."

[Since they're new PCs, I'm not entirely sure what they want, so I made a quick d10 table to let the dice decide.

The options are Run away (R), side with Lich (L), stay and look for Treasure (T), and stay and look for Clues to what's going on (C).

    R    L    T    C
T  1-2  3-4  5-7  8-0
U  1-7   8    9    0
I  1-3   4   5-9   0
D  1-3  4-5   6   7-0
V   1   2-5  6-7  8-0

The debate goes in circles for a little while, then they decide to put it to a vote. Törzug and Uth would rather leave, Irtinj and Vesania think it best to talk to the lich (but for very different reasons!), and Doctor Sêps just wants to know what's going on in this place. Uth and Vesania, representing the opposing camps, do their best to sway him [+2 Presence for  both, so best roll of d20], and in the end he thinks getting out now, whilst they still have all their limbs, is decidedly the safer course of action.

They begin to descend towards the cathedral entrance.

[Q: Any random encounters on the way down? 50/50 (4+): O5 C8 - yes
Awkwardly / Disgusting -  zombie

Reaction=8, indifferent]

They meet a solitary shambling corpse on the balcony, but it stands aside to let them pass.

"I think the lich told its servants not to attack us," says Vesania.

"I still don't think we should throw in with it," says Uth, "no matter how much it reminds you of your new pal."

[Q: Does the lich find them? unknown d6=6: O6 C2 - yes, and...
reaction 2d6=5, Angered]

They make it all the way back to the vestibule without encountering anything else, living or dead. But as they come out before the grand entrance, they find the lich standing before them, arms crossed in an attitude of supreme peevishness.

"You were just going to slink out? How disappointing."

"We're, um, we're in over our heads here," says Uth.

"You spoke with it, didn't you?"

"We did!" ventures Vesania. "It said you were 'clad in death and unwholesome feelings' and were here to 'destroy the enemies of Hope'."

"Do you want to know what it told me?" [knowing - telling - knowledge]


"It said it was here to raise an army of the dead [employ / Ghost] with which to conquer the world. It offered me a generalship."

"Oh. That's odd," says Vesania.

"You didn't accept?" asks Irtinj cautiously.

"I think it told me what I wanted to hear. That is, what it assumed I wanted to hear."

"Hmm," begins Vesania. "Us too, I think. It charged us with finding out your plans if we wanted its blessing."

"My plans are to leave this place and not return unless I find a good reason for so doing. [scheming - arrangement - experience] Tell it if you want. I don't recommend it."

"Where will you go?"

"I've nothing against you, but this doesn't make us friends. Should our paths someday cross again, I could hardly promise you'd survive the encounter." [prejudiced - view - future action]

"I see. Let us detain you no further."

[Q: Does the lich leave immediately? Certain (2+): O5 C4 - yes, but...]

The lich turns to go, but pauses in the doorway and looks back. "Perhaps we will have use for each other again someday. Stranger things have happened. Daily, it seems... but for now, adieu." [scheming - plan - power]
"You see," says Uth, once the lich is trudging towards the crater rim, "even the undead think there's something wrong with this place."

next post: 'just one more room'


  1. I don't believe I've ever encountered an indifferent lich before.

    1. Nor have I.

      Usually when I roll a neutral reaction it's not very interesting, as it doesn't give me much to go on to flesh out the encounter. But in this case it fit perfectly; the lich will have to come back as a recurring NPC.

      Also (this should have been in my DM notes, but I forgot) the lich had nothing to gain by antagonising the PCs, who probably would have bested it in a fight. A lich's major ability is that Powers don't work on it, and once per round it can steal the contents of a Scroll and use it against its opponents -- and the party didn't have any. The PCs, of course, wouldn't have any reason to know this, but neither could the lich be 100% certain of their ignorance, so both sides got to dance round the other and try not to seem either too menacing or too weak.