Friday, 18 June 2021

AFF solo - Part X: The sweet perfume of fear


The Baubauan jungle at first offers a wonderland to the astonished travellers. A riot of green leaves and flowering plants of every conceivable colours greets the eye. Fruit hanging heavily on countless branches and vines, delighting both eye and palate. The calls of innumerable species of birds, each with more vivid plumage than the last, combine in a joyous refrain. And above all are the intoxicating perfumes swirling on the breeze.

But as the companions press onward, their initial elation ebbs away. The canopy of trees becomes thicker, chasing away the sunlight, even as it jealously holds in the sticky, sweltering heat. Cheerful birdsong is replaced by the buzz of stinging insects and the snarls of unseen predators, and the last vestiges of the path have long since given way to tangled underbrush.

Scene 6

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: into the jungle

NPC List: unseemly adept, failed sorcerous experiment, forgotten god

Threads: Ksandajja's quest, Ilog's revenge

[For each day travelling in the jungle, I will roll 1 daytime and 1 night encounter check (1-2 on d6) using the encounter tables in Out of the Pit, and a Feature roll using the tables in the Heroes' Companion. Also, the PCs need to make a daily Jungle Lore (defaults to SKILL) roll in order to avoid any mishaps.]

Day 1

[no daytime encounter. Lore 2d6=4, ok
feature: random monster encounter (to be rolled on the HC table)]

Ilog leads the way through the dense foliage. He'd thrown off his travelling cloak and stowed it in his pack the moment they reached the jungle's edge, and revealed himself to be clad in merely an animal-skin loincloth; indeed the hulking tower of muscle certainly has the physique for it. But when he'd sighed and asked his new companions, "You're dressing like that in the jungle," they'd mistaken his question as a rhetorical statement about their sartorial failings. But as the wilting heat presses in, they are forced to re-consider his words. Before long, Fhenteskeer and Grebdal Themp have had to doff their leather jerkins. Fhenteskeer removes everything but his breeches, but Grebdal Themp can't quite summon the courage to remove his tunic. The sorceress was counting on her weather protection charm to keep her comfortable, and whilst it does spare her from the worst excesses of the heat and humidity, her voluminous, flowing attire catches on every thorn and branch. Soon Ksandajja has stripped down to a strophium and hacked off her shalwar at the knees. Even with these concessions, the cloying, sweaty air weighs them down, and intermittent squabbles break out as they try to navigate the perfumed wilderness.

So the companions slog resentfully onward after the determined barbarian, and the jungle endeavours to teach them a pointed lesson. All round them the vines begin to move, snaking round ankles and wrists, and seeking their necks with murderous intent -- they've blundered right between a pair of STRANGLEBUSHES.

[Awareness rolls (at -3) to spot them unsurprisingly all failed.]


Ksandajja and Grebdal Themp hack away at the grasping shoots with their swords, Fhenteskeer chops at one stem with his axe, whilst Ilog pulps the other with his morningstar. The killer plants are soon reduced to stringy mush.

"That could have been worse," says Grebdal Themp.

"I concur," says Fhenteskeer. "But it's a stark reminder to pay closer attention to our surroundings."

[The fight lasted all of 2 rounds. Stranglebushes don't inflict Stamina damage, but anyone caught is dead after 5 rounds.

night encounter: I rolled Pygmy on the encounter table (yeah, it's from 1985...) so this is obviously some of the cannibals who infest the jungle as rolled in the SS&SS adventure generator.

Q: Who's on watch, K&G or F&I? 1d2= F&I]

What seems an age later, the daylight, such as it is on the jungle floor, begins rapidly fading. The exhausted explorers hastily light a small fire to push back the darkness, and sit well away from its heat. They scarf down all the food Ksandajja had bought lest it spoil overnight. Besides, they passed more than enough skyfruit trees to feel confident of finding easy forage in the morning. Lots are drawn for the first watch; Ksandajja and Grebdal Themp spread their blankets on the ground and sink instantly into dreamless sleep.

Fhenteskeer tries to make conversation with Ilog to keep them awake on watch, but the barbarian nervously rebuffs every attempt. He is haunted by the nights when his former companions were stolen away by the darkness, and fear keeps his senses acute.

Indeed, it isn't long before Ilog notices lantern-light bobbing in the distance. He rouses Fhenteskeer, who'd dozed off, and throws a stone to wake Grebdal Themp (he'll let him wake the sorceress... just in case).

The lantern's owner has evidently seen the small campfire, and as the light approaches, Ilog strains to hear snatches of conversation.
"I say! Vyvyan, you were right; 'tis indeed a camp fire. Do let's see who's made it."

"Let's do, Algernon. Perhaps we can invite them round to stay with us. It's such a dashed long time since we've had guests at the villa."

"Now, don't let's frighten them away. They do so appear to hail from the lower orders..."

[1d6+1=]Five men step into the circle of light cast by the small fire. They are clad in incongruous finery: silken clothing ornamented all over with embroidery and brocade, fine small leather shoes, and wigs piled high into extraordinary convolutions.

"Friends!" says the leader. "Whatever brings you this way? It is ever so dangerous to be out at night, all unprotected. Why, there are wild beasts about -- and worse! Why don't you come with us back to the safety of our villa?"

[He's trying to Con the PCs: it's a resisted roll of SKILL vs. the PCs' best Con (G has 7+1)-- his roll is a natural 12, critical success.]

"If it's so dangerous," says Grebdal Themp, "What are all you doing out of your villa, roaming about in the dark?"

"Well, uh, you see... I mean, that is..."

"Comrades! To arms!"

These are no simple nobles, but a clan of sinister PENÊTOPHAGOI(eaters-of-the-poor)! As weapons fly into the explorers' hands, the cannibal leader draws his own wicked rapier and smiles delightedly to reveal that his teeth have all been filed down into sharp points. His four companions raise blow-pipes to their lips.


[Round 1]
Fhenteskeer calls on the power of his fiery god to destroy these wicked fiends. The lead cannibal is wreathed in flames, igniting his pompous clothing. Despite the flames, the leader cackles with mad glee, and engages the priest with his rapier, sending up sparks as it is parried by Fhenteskeer's stout axe. [F cast Flame for 1d3=3 damage, dropping him to 3 Stamina.
Q: Does his clothing ignite? 50/50 (4+): O4 C7 - Yes.
The attack rolls were 10 vs. 10, so no damage.]

The other four blow venom-tipped darts at the explorers, which fortunately whistle past their targets and thud into nearby trees [very bad rolls!].

[Round 2]
Undaunted, they draw their own rapiers and close to skewer some fresh meat the hard way. They are canny fighters despite their life of dissipation; one gets under Ilog's shield and gives the barbarian a red gash across his flank [3-0=3 damage, putting Ilog at 13 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp's opponent fares less well, and it is the cannibal who comes away bloodied [3 damage drops him to 2 Stamina]. Two of the fiends come at Ksandajja. The swordswoman's brutal onslaught forces one back under a hail of blows which send shivers through his as they clang against his feebly raised rapier [3 damage leaves him with 2 Stamina]. His fellow is cowed by the display, and dares not come close [her attack total for the round was 18. The first one rolled a paltry 11, so took damage. The second got a 13: not enough to win the contest, but she only has one attack, so no damage is inflicted].

Meanwhile Fhenteskeer is locked in a mortal struggle with the flaming leader. The priest's axe ends the contest even before the flames consume him [3 damage kills him].

[Rounds 3-4]
[Q: Will they fight on after losing their leader? Likely (3+) O5 C8 - Yes.]

The cannibals are insensate to the loss of their chief, and indeed their own wounds. The slavering maniacs press the attack -- to their detriment!

Ilog bobs and weaves, and finally swings his morningstar in a high arc. The spiked ball impacts against the forehead of his foe with an almighty crunch, and the cannibal drops lifeless at his feet [Ilog has the Strongarm talent, giving him +1 on damage rolls; he rolled 1d6=6, pushing the result up into the 7+ column; 5 damage killed his foe outright].

Grebdal Themp and Ksandajja finish off two more with their swords, and after a bit of back-an-forth, Fhenteskeer fells the last with his axe.

[Rolling for treasure: total of 5d6=21gp + 2 "special items"]

Grebdal Themp takes the fallen foes' lantern and examines the bodies to see if they had any valuables. They have a surprising lack of jewellery for such a fashionable lot, and their collective purses net the miserable sum of but 21 golden coins. These are divided evenly, with Ilog getting the extra to show that his new comrades are not ones to quibble over the division of spoils. There is also a sack containing some suspicious-looking dried meats, and the five rapiers -- exquisite in craftsmanship, but each bearing a most unsettling family crest on the hilt; both these and the provisions are cast aside.

The travellers keep the lantern burning but concealed in case they need it, but dare not let the fires burn the rest of the night lest more cannibals are abroad.

Day 2

[Lore 2d6=7, ok. No day or night encounter.
feature roll: cottage

Q: Is the cottage occupied? Likely (3+): O5 C1 - Yes, and... home now
Q: Who dwells therein (using picture as basis)? 1 demoniac, 2 faerie, 3 wizard, 4 necromancer, 5 cursed exile, 6 alchemist


NPC Relationship: loved
Conversation Mood: helpful
friendly - comfort - current story]

The rest of the night passes without incident. In the morning, the travellers strike camp and continue forging a path through the jungle. They'd hoped an early start would allow them time to acclimate to the rising temperature, but are sadly disappointed.

As the day wears on, they come upon a vine-draped cottage in a clearing. Through the open window they espy a hunched-over, doughy-faced man of indeterminate age. His eyes shine out unnaturally from beneath his felt cap. When he sees movement in the bushes outside, he stands and runs to the window.

"Away! Away from here! I'll have no truck with the likes of you! Begone lest I-- oh, wait. So sorry. Who are you?"

"We are travellers, come lately from Ulq," says Fhenteskeer.

"In that case, come inside. It's safer at night in my cottage, what with all those man-eaters about."

The man trundles off to open the cottage door.

"Don't trust him," says Ilog, "See how his eyes glow! What foul sorcery is this?"

"Be not alarmed, friends. I am so agent of chaos, no demoniac, no evil wizard. It is but my curse, yea, that did drive me from my far off homeland in shame, but that is verily harmless to all save me."

[Q: Is he full of shit? Likely (3+): O3 C2 - yes, and...

I had Ksandajja resist his Con (1d6+4=9) with her Second Sight (Magic 6 + 1 skill=7). But he rolled a natural 2, auto fail.

Q: What does Ksandajja see? 1-2 chaos, 3-4 demon, 5 wizardry 6 something else: d6=1]

Ksandajja peers at the man with her witch's sight, and sees him surrounded by smoky wisps of ever-roiling chaos.

"Your words ring false," states Ksandajja flatly.

[Q: What is his reaction? Meaningfully / Mighty
He casts a spell of level 1-2 wiz 4, 3 wiz 6, 4 wiz 8, 5-6 sorc 4; d6=3

Spell(1d6): 1 Cockroach, 2 Exchange Shape, 3 Hurricane, 4 Petrify, 5 Wall of Power, 6 Web]

"So, you fancy you've caught me out, do you? Fat lot of good it'll do you. You should have come quietly. Now you're going to suffer at the hands of a CHAOS MAGE!"

MAGIC 8   Magic-Chaos 4

Before the sorceress has a chance to retort, the chaos mage lets out an awful howl which whips the jungle air into a hurricane about him. Fierce rains and even snow pelt the astonished explorers who must bend double to keep from being blown to the ground.

[PCs must test LUCK or SKILL to stand. Ksandajja & Grebdal Themp successfully Test their Luck and Ilog makes a successful Test of his Strength special skill, but Fhenteskeer fails, taking 1d3=3 damage. K, G, & F reduce current Luck by 1.]
Ilog sees Fhenteskeer fall, and drags him to safety [Skill+Strength roll at -1 succeeds]. His companions have already run out of the gale. The chaos mage raises his hands above his head, and coloured light plays about him in a manic dance. Fhenteskeer regains his feet, and all four flee the cottage. Fortunately the mage and his magic do not deign to give chase.

[The mage rolled doubles on his next casting attempt, which caused a chaos effect: random spell on random target in sight (rolled on the table in the HC). The spell was LAW, which has no effect on intelligent targets.

Q: Does he pursue? Unlikely (5+): O1 C2 - No, and...]

Following their hasty and rather wide detour round the chaos mage's lair, the remainder of the day and the night pass uneventfully.

Day 3

[Jungle Lore 2d6=12, failure (no forage) + disaster]

But on the following morning it seems Sindla [goddess of LUCK and fate] has once again soured on them. The plentiful jungle fruits are all rotting on their vines, and breathing the stifling hot air is like trying to inhale soup.

[Q: What is the disaster? Innocently / Aromatic]

Around midday they tramp past some bright orange wildflowers, and inhale deeply of their alluring fragrance as an antidote to the sickly sweet odour of decomposing fruits. The smell causes a whorl of colourful oneiric visions to swim before their eyes, and Grebdal Themp falls right over, comatose. This happenstance forces its way into his companions' dim awareness, and they drag him bodily away from the narcotic vegetation and sit for a while on a fallen tree to recover.

[The soporific effects of the narcoblooms required a Test of LUCK to avoid. Only Grebdal Themp failed his roll.]

An hour later Ilog blunders straight into the coils of a GIANT constrictor SNAKE.


Fortunately his companions slay the beast before it can do him any harm. Ilog immediately sets about butchering the beast as his companions build a fire. Finally, some freshly-cooked PROVISIONS to calm their rumbling stomachs. And some more seared and wrapped in leaves for the evening meal, and perhaps even the next morning's if it keeps well enough.

At the end of the day's travel, the explorers find a stone circle in a peaceful clearing, seven rough stones, with the largest bearing ancient glyphs.

[feature: stone circle - small circle of rough pointed boulders
d30 Magical Places Generator: 'circle of the ancients'. The rolled effect was too D&D-like to apply to AFF, so I opted to have it restore 1 LUCK instead.]

Ksandajja examines it tentatively, and she feels an otherworldly tranquillity emanate from within [+3 bonus to Second Sight roll, success]. She coaxes Fhenteskeer inside the ring to examine it, and the priest too feels the blessing. He pronounces it a fit spot to make their camp.

"Tomorrow we should reach the ruins," says Ilog. "We'll have to be more on our guard than earlier today if we're to prevail."

next post: ancient secrets in the temple ruins!

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