Monday, 25 September 2023
"Did it mention why it smells worse down here than the sewer?" asks Bassianus.
"I can't smell a thing," says Mortine. "the cold and damp are making my nose run."
T1 : random - none - expected
Location: Peaceful, Abandoned
The street ends abruptly, as ancient collapse renders it impassable. The explorers proceed through one of the buildings, evidently an old dwelling place. Rotten furnishings sag with age and damp, melting into carpets of fungus and slime. A hole in the back wall of a dank sitting room leads to...
T2 : expected - random - none
Encounter: sapient & armoured, cube, heat/melt matter
...a long straight path, 8' high and wide, and running off into the distance. The walls have been melted and scorched, but completely smoothed. The explorers take the path as far as they dare, until the temperature begins to rise and a smell of charred wood and stone reaches their nostrils. They look down a side passage to see a pulsing cube of white-hot metal slowly inching forward through rubble and stone. [Q: Has it cut off their route? 50/50 (4+): O1 C3 - no, but... it currently blocks the path]
They cover the lantern and creep back a short distance down the square path to wait until they are sure the thing is well away. [2 encounter checks d6=4, nothing; d6=2, hear something nearby]
They wait for what seems a geological age, alone in the dark. Grating voices are heard echoing down one of the side passages. They come closer, then fade as the explorers let out their collectively held breath. When they surmise that the burning cube has advanced far enough down its new passage, they feel emboldened to pad hurriedly past the junction and scurry off on their way.
[For future reference--
Q: What is its motivation? final Perseverance = it just wants to get on with its work, so not dangerous unless prevented/provoked. It probably would have given them directions, had they asked...]
The passage leads them into a decaying town house.
T3 : expected - none - none
They leave the square passage, and clamber through damp chambers with exposed brickwork and puddles of brackish water. The exit one through a doorway (which seems novel, as they are mostly squeezing through gaps in the walls) onto a balcony overlooking a lower entrance. The once grand stairs have broken away and lie in a heap below, but the walkway seems solid.
T4 : expected - expected - expected
The door at the end of the balcony leads to a long gallery. Marble busts, unrecognisable beneath fungal growth, rest on evenly-spaced marble plinths along one wall. The chequered floor is coated in slime. The explorers progress slowly to avoid slipping.
At the end a doorway opens onto a stone staircase, cracked with age and subsidence, but otherwise intact. They follow it down, down, down...T5 : known - random - random
encounter: shadow cloaked, sees future
random item: d%=audacious painting
...into an old vault. A heavy iron door still resists time and decay, but breaches in both side walls allow easy passage. The sole item left in the vault is an overlarge painting in a cheaply-gilded frame. It depicts a forest scene, with nude women reclining on the grass and playing in the sunlight, accompanied by a single clothed gentleman.
Bassianus spots the title on the brass plaque at the bottom of the frame. "ITAL Plein air, that doesn't say much."
"Hm," says Mortine. "It's signed Claude Lantier. Never heard of him. Do you suppose it's valuable?"
"It's far too big to carry out of here on speculation," says Athalie. "Plus it'd never fit in my flat."Clutching Oracle
STR 14, 5 hp, 2 armour
Step from the shadows: Automatically surprises everyone but intended target (who gets normal DEX save)
Prophetic clutches: grab character and project visions of future defeats into their mind: WIL save allows 1 future re-roll of any die affecting character, failed save inflicts d6 WIL damage
Cowardly: flees if damaged (hp depleted)
Whilst they are considering the work by lantern light, a hunched, cloaked figure emerges from a shadowy hole in the wall and grabs [1d5=]Athalie by the wrist. She instinctively responds with a blow from her sword. The blade bites into the creature's shoulder, and wisps of smoke come from the bloodless wound. But the creature is affrighted, and disappears back the way it came. Isabeau shines her lantern into the crack, only to find it empty.
"I may not know much about art," says Bassianus, "but I know when to stop looking at it in case there are more monsters lurking about."
They hurry through the breach in the wall, leaving the painting for braver or more discerning explorers.
[Athalie (only) got a DEX save to avoid Surprise: d20=5, ok. She hit it for 6 damage, so it fled before its special ability had a chance to work.]
Special: barely there (expected)
The breach leads into the basement of the next building over, with another hole leading out to a long, sunken street. It is mostly clear of detritus, save for the skeletal remains of prior explorers, picked clean of flesh and useful items. Or almost clean; [d4=] Mortine spots an intact glass flask amongst the jumbled phalanges of a headless array of bones. The label is still legible: fire oil. She uncorks the flask and hazards a sniff -- it still smells potent.
"May I keep this?" she asks.
"You found it, my dear," says Isabeau. "It's yours by right."
T7 : random - expected - expected (PP-6)
Location: Creepy, Majestic
They proceed along the street to an old theatre. The screech of the entrance door on rusting hinges causes a flurry of activity, as a pack of blind, featherless, and flightless pigeons scurry in all directions. Their white, cadaverous hides are pockmarked with disease, and they move like the man in the sphinx's riddle: on two legs, three, or four.
The carpet in the entry hall has been reduced to a soup of swampy fungal matter, which our nauseated heroes must traverse as they climb the steps to the upper level.
[STR saves are required; failure reduces HP to zero: only Athalie and Isabeau succeed.]
Bassianus and Mortine are overcome by the thick stench of rot and clouds of spores. Isabeau must take Bassianus' arm to support him up the stairs. Mortine is able to walk under her own power, but Athalie must carry her pig.
Up in the balcony, they look down to see the entire auditorium has been taken over by the fungoid growth. They pass through a row of decaying seats and out an exit onto the wrought iron fire stairs.
T8 : expected (PP-6) - none - none
The stairs spiral down into an empty alleyway. The brick walls towers above, leaning together to form a rough arch where the upper storeys have collapsed into one another.
The explorers pause in the (relatively) fresh air to recover from the choking fumes in the theatre. They sit on some of the less filthy pieces of rubble fallen from the buildings above. Bassianus takes a nip from his flask. Mortine strokes Chatterton and tells him what a good, brave pig he is. Isabeau has Athalie re-wind her clockwork hand.
[The short rest restores all HP, but d6=1 : random encounter
encounter: acid-dripping, towering biped, launch explosives]Caustic Colossus
STR 18, DEX 4, WIL 4, 12 HP
Toxic fists (d10) or Acid Splash (d6 blast)
The far end of the alleyway grows darker, as a colossal silhouette appears to block the way out into the street. A terrible moan shocks the explorers out of their exhausted quietude. Bassianus is momentarily confused by the plodding shadowy form's appearance, but his companions leap to their feet, weapons at the ready [he failed his DEX save and is Surprised].
Mortine hurls the flask of fire oil right before the creature. The glass shatters and spreads a flaming puddle before it, though the flames hardly touch the unseen creature [1 damage]. But it is unseen no more, for the flash of sudden flame reveals a hideous shape, a grossly humanoid thing of tumescent flesh the colour of an open sore.
Athalie and Isabeau discharge their pistols at the brute. The bullets thud into the pulpy rugose flesh of the creature, and it lets out a gurgling bellow of rage [5+1 damage drops it to 5hp].
The colossus raises its misshapen arms and a spray of caustic fluid spurts forth from the hollow stumps. Somehow the droplets of reeking yellow acid miss Isabeau completely, but her companions are caught to a greater or lesser degree.
[d6=4 targets, d5=I unaffected
A 2dmg to 8hp
B 2dmg to 5 STR (titan paste gone), d20= 12 crit
M 2dmg to 4 STR, 18=crit
pig 2dmg to 8 STR, 9=crit]
Athalie does her best to ignore the burning on her hand and face, but her companions are not so sanguine. Bassianus feels the last of the Might from the Titan Paste flee his limbs as the burning brings tears to his eyes and he falls a-weeping for pain. Mortine doubles over and collapses on the damp ground, and screams and screams and screams. Chatterton meets the rush of agony with porcine stoicism, then faints dead away.
Athalie snatches up Bassianus' musket, shoulders it and fires on the beast. The ball tears a goodly chunk out of its shoulder [5 damage to 0hp], and though it howl and moan, it does not stop its advance. It stomps straight through the pool of burning oil [5 damage, down to 13 STR; d20=1, no crit] and lurches right for Athalie. It slams her with a dripping fist, but she fends off the blow as best she might with her chitinous hand, which has heretofore been exempt from the ravages of the toxic bile. The force of the blow fairly rattles her frame, however [7 damage leaves her at 1hp].
Meanwhile, Isabeau has dragged Mortine out of harm's way, and has endeavoured to quiet her down lest her screams attract more attention, though with limited success.
Athalie flips the musket round in her grip and smashes the butt into the creature's midsection. Something squelches inside the creature, the forceful blow having dislodged something important; it falls leaking onto the wet ground [d6=6dmg to 7 STR, 9=crit].
[Q: Is the musket ruined? unlikely (5+): O5 C4 - yes, but... mechanism corroded, will become useless after a damage roll of 1 or 8]
A drop or two of spirits is enough to dull the pain of the caustic burns -- doubly so when the second drop is taken internally. Athalie cleans off Bassianus' musket as best she can, and apologises for misusing it. The mechanism seems to have been corroded somewhat by the acid, but after a few dry fires Bassianus pronounces it still serviceable.
Mortine ignores her own injuries to tend to Chatterton. The poor thing is displeased but submissive when she tries rubbing a little whisky on his burns to kill the infection, and it requires all of Isabeau's prodigious strength [STR 17] to hold him still so Mortine can get a slug down him. "He's really rather a snob about blends," she explains.
[short rest, HP back to full. d6=5, no encounters]
encounter: stinking filth, obese biped
object: Lethal, Fortunate
Rested and reloaded, they emerge from the alley into another rubble-strewn street. They spot another of the horrid colossi stomping towards them from some distance away.
Mortine and Chatterton retreat to the alley as the others take careful aim and fire. Bullets rip through the swollen flesh, and seem merely to annoy it. [d6+d6+d8= 8 damage; it's down to 4hp]
The three fall back into the alley before it has a chance to spray them with toxin. They hide in doorways and behind rubble, hurriedly reloading. [DEX saves needed to finish in time: A&I make theirs.]
Bassianus is still fumbling with the ramrod when the thing comes into view. Athalie and Isabeau fire their pistols [d6+d6=10damage to 0hp, 12 STR, d20=crit]. The thing falls with a sickening squelch. Everyone hurries back out of the alleyway before the pool of frothy blood and oily toxin grows too big to leap over.
Athalie and Isabeau reload their pistols in the street as Bassianus stands guard. Mortine looks round, a trifle bored, then something shiny catches her eye. She takes Isabeau's lantern up from the ground and runs off before anyone's had time to scold her. A skeletal corpse of a more recent explorer is crumpled over a sagging bench. Its hand still grips a fine sabre [noble weapon, d8]. She uses her pen knife to snap the fingers off and admires the shining blade in the lamplight. Her companions are abruptly behind her. Their vulgar imprecations turn at once to coos of admiration when they see the treasure she's found.
The street ends abruptly in an impassible ruin. They find a hole bored by something leading into a shattered building off to the side. The roughly circular path leads out to an open area. Here a set of concrete steps lead to an upper story, and a makeshift bridge connects to the theatre's upper balcony.
T10 : special - none - random
Object: Travel, Fortunate
What's left of the ground floor is a maze of corridors. The explorers proceed down them without getting too turned round, and at last find a narrow stairwell leading down to a concrete platform. At the platform's end is a pump car on a rail which disappears into the darkness of a long straight passage.
"It's either this, or walk," says Bassianus.
T11 : expected - expected (-6PP) - expected
Indefatigable Isabeau operates the pump car at a modest speed, lest the track suddenly run out. Fortunately it does not, and several minutes later thy come to another platform, deserted save for the pale little vermin which scurry away from the hated lamplight.
A simple concrete corridor leads away from the platform. After several junctures, it ends in a doorway. An iron-clad door hangs by a single rusted hinge, and above the lintel a device is stamped into the frame. Scant flecks of paint still adhere to it, but despite age and neglect Athalie can make out the sequence of alchemical symbols. "This is it!" she exclaims. "Just like the lich's book said it would be." If she flushes at the memory of some of the steamier allusions in the dead wizard's description of the entrance, her companions fail to notice.
Isabeau gives the hanging door a good kick and it falls to the ground with a crash.
T12 : complete - expected - random
Object: Meaningful, Liquid
Once the dust is settled (and the coughing fits have subsided, and Isabeau's final apology has been issued) the explorers proceed into the sub-basement. The walls and floor are smooth concrete, save for the single wall of dressed stone where, according to the floor plan Bassianus tore from the library book, the old staircase is walled in. Shelves had been built into the far wall. These are mostly fallen away in a heap in the dust, but on the one that remains Bassianus spots a glass phial. Wiping the dust from it reveals a pink, bubbling liquid inside. He pockets it for now, as he's not desperate enough to sample an ancient wizard's forgotten potion just this moment.
The room is cramped, so much so that there is only room for one of them to work at a time. Athalie volunteers to start them off, and the others stay outside on the platform as she attacks the stones with the pickaxe they'd brought for the occasion.
[The digging will last long enough that three encounter checks must be made: 2,1,6. The 2 result would normally be sounds of a nearby encounter, but the noise obscures it totally. The encounter (1 result) occurs when (d4=)Bassianus is digging; all his attacks are Impaired until he catches his breath.
encounter: ceramic terror bird/reptile hybrid
Q: What does it want? Eternal Comforter]
The echoes of the pick striking the wall resound down the passageway, making conversation for the three waiting outside an impossibility. As one tires from the hard labour, their place is taken by another. Slowly but steadily the little sub-basement fills with rubble as a hole takes shape in the ancient stonework.
The creature is a collection of white ceramic pipes in the rough outline of a four-legged terror bird. Tiny wing-like protuberances on each side of its body end in long, steely needles that flex as it clacks forward with a jittery equine gait.
"You are injured!" it rasps at tremendous volume.
"I...," stammers Mortine, lowering her sabre in consternation.
"And you also!" it rasps again.
Chatterton grunts assent
"I am also hurt," says Bassianus, emerging into the doorway.
"Prepare to receive treatment!" it screeches, agitating its wing needles.
"You know me," says Mortine, rolling up her sleeve. "I'll try anything once."
The ceramic terror bird drives a needle into her arm. Fsssst! goes the injection. Mortine shudders, then...
[The effects are (1d4): 1 +1 STR, 2 +1d4 STR, 3 +1d6 STR, 4 euthanasia (1d12 STR damage): +1d4]
...her injuries miraculously disappear; cuts heal without a scar, bruises fade, even the fingernail she'd bitten to the quick returns to a healthy length.
Bassianus goes next, and whilst the unknown medicine restores him to full health, yet does he lament the Titan Paste has completely worn off. Chatterton grunts as the needle pierces his hide, and whilst it does not cure all his ills, he seems happy enough, as pigs go. [M +3 to 7 (full), B +1 to 6 (full), pig +1 to 9 STR]
The creature clacks off into the darkness.
next post: creeping through the council fortress
Monday, 18 September 2023
The explorers pause before its grandeur, then slowly begin the climb.
"W-wait," says Isabeau as they are at the halfway point. "On second thought, I'd better not go in."
"Why shouldn't you?" asks Athalie.
"I still haven't returned, erm, the book I borrowed. It's well overdue."
"What book is it?"
"I'd, um, rather not say."
"Oh? Oh! Can I borrow it when you're done, then?"
"I'll wait with you," offers Mortine. "I don't think they take kindly to pets."
Chaos: average (d10)
NPC List: the Superior Order, PCs' patron, villain, scribe, Mortine
Threads: find lost entrance, investigate location
[Q: Do any of the PCs have overdue books and/or fines? 50/50 (4+): O5 C5 - yes (d3=Isabeau)
+EVENT: NPC action - scribe - I see the recumbent Flocks
=the Scribe is watching those outside the Fortress, and making a plan
Q: What is the librarian like? as the horrid Apparition to Brutus
(the reference is, of course, to Shakespeare (Julius Caesar (Act 4, Scene 3); but I mixed it up in my head with Iulia's ghost in Lucan's Pharsalia (who appeared to Pompey, not Brutus):
membra ducis; diri tum plena horroris imago
uisa caput maestum per hiantis Iulia terras
tollere et accenso furialis stare sepulchro.
so I went with that.]
Neither Bassianus nor Athalie want to disturb the librarian, so they instead go to the card catalogue.
[WIL saves: 11,7 both make them - each finds something useful.
Q: Does A need to go to the desk? 50/50 (4+): O4 C1 - yes, and... special collections
Q: Does B need to go to the desk? 50/50 (4+): O2 C0 - no, general stacks
Titles & authors to be rolled on my unfinished grimoire generator.]
Each finds something of interest, and notes the title and shelf mark on a piece of paper provided. The scratch of their pencils shatters the quiet, but at least no shushing ensues. Bassianus' discovery is in the general stacks, so he wordlessly goes off to find it. But Athalie wants to consult an item from the restricted stacks, and must meekly take her slip up to the counter. The librarian looks at it briefly, then indicates the special collections wing is found upstairs, pointing with a long, bony finger.
[A reaction roll is needed to view this item: WIL save d20=5, success]
The special collections librarian is much more helpful and much less terrifying than the one downstairs, but Athalie still notes the bulge of a pistol beneath her frock. And the item she wishes to view is not the sort of book one would should admit to reading, unless one were writing a scholarly treatise against such depravity. So Athalie must sit dans l'enfer de la bibliothèque to read it under the watchful eye of a sinister and disapproving invigilator.
[Q: Is it dangerous? likely (3+): O6 C4 - yes, but...
Her WIL save to avoid complications succeeds.]
She swoons at some of the steamier passages but does not faint, nor sigh, nor cry out. Besides, the invigilator's stare is practically burning holes in the back of her neck, which does put somewhat of a damper on her mood -- as well as reminding her not to turn the pages with her hideous claw.
[Q: Does Bassianus have any problems finding the book? doubtful (6): O6 C8 - yes
Q: What? (1d6): 1 random encounter, 2 book lost, 3 currently checked out, 4 currently being read, 5 hard to find shelf, 6 roll 2d5: d6=random encounter
Encounter: Appetites of the Brute, d6=f]
He is just able to slip back as she comes down the centre aisle [DEX save succeeds] and bury his face in a tall volume plucked at random from the shelf. Seeing no one of interest about, she soon wanders off towards the [Dewey decimal d1000=260] Social & Ecclesiastical Theology shelves. Fortunately, he's after Architecture [720s].
He finds the book he seeks, and repairs to an out-of-the way carrel to read it.
The Consolation of the Worlds is an obscure work, attributed to a pedantic lich. It describes in exhaustively detailed prose and verse the building of the old stronghold, which the author claimed would be greatly marvelled at by creatures both spiritual and corporeal, so much so that all strife would cease and a new golden age dawn. Bassianus leafs through paeans about window-sills and a mathematical analysis of the Perfection of the Cornices until he finds what it is he truly seeks, for in the midst of the chapter entitled 'The Sub-Basement, or A New Jerusalem', there is an engraved plate with a detailed floor plan. He surreptitiously tears this from the volume and stuffs it beneath his waistcoat.
[DEX save to not get caught, d20=9 ok
Q: Does anything happen to others outside? 50/50 (4+): O3 C5 - no
Q: Can they retrieve their expedition gear without incident? unlikely (5+): O2 C4 - no, but... minor problem
Q: What? worthy of all Observation - they are followed by agents of some unknown party. Adding The Tail to the NPC list, will strike at the appropriate moment]
When Athalie and Bassianus finally emerge from the library, they find Isabeau and Mortine have fallen asleep, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the steps, with Chatterton acting as a guard pig.
Chaos: out of control (d8)
Setup: d8=Interrupt (was: into the Underground)
Interrupt: PC negative - Bassianus - His Bounty is absolutely without Limits
[The library have detected the theft, and there will be trouble should he go back.]
Chaos: average (d10)
Setup: into the Underground
NPC List: the Superior Order, PCs' patron, villain, scribe, Mortine, Tail
Threads: find lost entrance, investigate location
[Setting up the dungeon--
Oddpendium: Is there a link to the Underground? d%= an old well
Since Athalie's research was successful, the Random Location Crafting dungeon (Mythic Magazine #3) will be a Small Location. The Underground of Bastion is weird, so I rolled a d3 for type: d3=Palatial Dungeon.
Story descriptors: The source of a mystery; The place was brought to ruin by a calamity
Region descriptors: Crumbling, in ruins; Thick with plant life
Random encounters were inspired by the Weird Creature Inspiration tables (Nature, Form, Twist) in the Oddpendium. Stats were 3d6 with 2d6hp, except where the inspiration suggested a particularly high or low score. Attacks/Defences/Powers were created with an eye to making the encounters interesting to play beyond just simple attacks & damage. I will probably truncate some of the combats as a strict blow-by-blow can bog down a dungeon adventure.]
Bassianus' crowbar makes short work of the rings securing the chains. Then with a mighty heave [STR 17!] Isabeau shoves the cover off onto the ground.
T0 : expected - random - expected
Inside is complete darkness; had any in Bastion ever seen the sun overhead, surely the shadows cast by the looming ruins about them in the square would still have hidden the well's depths from mortal eyes. Bassianus tosses a rusty nail down, and moments later it pings erratically off something hard, for the well has long since run dry.
Isabeau's lantern is lit and lowered slowly down the well at the end of a rope until it rests on the floor, some 50 feet below. Then begins a lively debate about who's going in first. Athalie is first to tire of the bickering, and peevishly -- I mean, bravely -- volunteers. The rope is secured to a nearby post. Athalie clambers over the side of the well, loops the rope about one foot, then slides down cautiously, holding the rope in her horrible claw and a loaded pistol in her free hand.
As the room below comes into view, Athalie can make out the rubbish-strewn floor, covered in dirt and other sediment. The chamber is squarish, with an alcove or passage at one end. Amongst the filth she spots movement, something long and rusted, like an iron serpent, begins to move with a terrible grating sound. Its tail beings to twitch, and Athalie's gaze traces fine wires extending from the tip of the tail to the ceiling above, where spindly metal arms with spade-like claws are reaching for her.
[Oddpendium Weird Creature Inspiration--
nature: rusted shell
twist: grasps with extra limbs]
STR 11, DEX 10, WIL 9, 3 HP
catching claws (d8 or Grapple, STR save to escape on subsequent rounds)
Athalie pauses her descent long enough to fire a shot at the iron serpent. The report is deafening. She sees the spark where the ball dents the flared metal cobra's hood, but does not hear it ricochet off onto the wall, nor the unprintable expletives hurled by her affrighted companions above. [She made a DEX save to avoid Surprise. Damage was 4-1(armour), dropping it to 0hp.]
Athalie lets go the rope, intent of dropping the last few feet into the chamber, but her feet never touch the ground, for the spindly arms catch her and hold her fast.
More from fear than raw strength, Athalie throws off the claws that bind her. But moments later she is caught from behind by another creaking pair. [Her STR save succeeded. I gave the monster a 50/50 chance to attack normally or start another grapple]
Isabeau slides down rope with consummate grace [DEX save to descend safely in one round; she rolls a natural 1].
Athalie is held fast [STR save fails] by the claws. Another pair is stabbing at Isabeau, but she's already bringing her sword down hard on the body of the creature. She leaves a huge dent in the side, and it ceases to function. [2-1 dmg to STR 10, d20=crit]
The arms go limp as soon as the snake stops moving. Athalie carefully disengages them from her person, then slides to the ground.
"The rest of you can come down now!" shouts Isabeau.
"You should tell the others to come down now that it's safe," says Athalie.
"I just did, dear heart."
"Let's not use guns down here any more!" she shouts, pointing to Athalie's smoking pistol.
Mortine and Bassianus lower the pig down next, which is as absurd an event as Isabeau and Athalie have ever seen. They are still wiping tears of laughter from their eyes when their companions have both rejoined them. Mortine fails to see the humour, and whispers in Chatterton's ear to restore his normal porcine calm.
Isabeau takes the lamp. They all unlimber their hand weapons, and then squeeze through the gap at the end of the alcove.
next post: exploring the Underground
Monday, 11 September 2023
She throws back the covers and finds a robe on the floor. "I'm coming!" she shrieks as she retrieves her pistol from the night stand and hazards a glance at the clock. She opens her front door a crack and is relieved to find her visitor is but a tiny street waif.
"It's just gone half eleven," grates Isabeau at the wide-eyed child. "Have you no decency? What's this about."
"Aye 'ave a missige fer yoaw," says the waif in an exaggerated, fake cockney.
Isabeau snatches the sealed envelope away. "Off with you!"
The child's only response is an outstretched hand and a pleading whine. "Pleeze, Missus, myte aye 'ave a pinny fer sum bred."
Her response is to cock her pistol. The urchin runs off.
Isabeau shuts her door, rubs the sleep from her eyes, then breaks the seal on the envelope. A single folded sheet of paper is within, bearing a short missive, evidently dashed off in some haste. It must be urgent.
"Have heard of yr adventures. In dire need of brave souls to undertake task. Come to back room of address on front, bring yr associates.
P.S. Pls excuse this informal note. I have dashed it off in some haste to underscore its urgency."
She throws on some clothes and a wrap and heads straight to Athalie's flat.
Chaos: average (d10)
Setup: the summons
NPC List: the Superior Order, PCs' patron, villain
Threads: the mission
[Q: Does anything untoward happen on the way to Athalie's? 50/50 (4+): O2 C2 - no, and...
+Event: Introduce a new NPC - romantic Visionary
Q: What does (d6=)she want? A Person may be chearful among his Friends]
But she's scarcely walked three blocks when she runs into an old friend sitting on the pavement and staring dejectedly down into a sewer grate. Her pet pig is tied to a lamp post nearby.
"Mortine! Why so mopey?"
"Oh, Isabeau! I am ever so lonely. I've nothing to do but sit here and watch the lights flickering down in the sewer."
"I... don't see any lights."
"They've stopped now. I think whoever was down there got eaten by something."
"I know the feeling... Look, my friends and I have been summoned for an important and, no doubt, dangerous mission. But you're welcome to tag along."
"I should love to! Come, Chatterton, we're going on an adventure."
[As she's joining the party, I rolled up a new character with the alternative equipment table in the Oddpendium.]
Mortine des Combres
STR 7, DEX 14, WIL 8, 2 HP
cricket bat (d6 B), glue, pig ("Chatterton")
When they are nearly to Athalie's flat, Mortine stops short, and a grave expression comes over her face.
"This is the edge of the Ghetto. Your friend lives here?"
"Perhaps I should wait here. I doubt she'd appreciate me bringing a pig into her flat."
"Ha ha! I don't think that will be a problem. Athalie may be « une affreuse juive », but wait until you meet her -- she's as treyf as they come!"
[STR 7] gives up halfway, and sits on the landing breathlessly whilst Isabeau continues up. She lets herself in with her own key, stumbles through the dark garret and pulls up a chair between Athalie's bed and the table bearing the empty bottles of last evening's debaucheries. And one last piece of cake, to which she helps herself.
"Summoned?" yawns Athalie. "By our Patron?"
"Worse -- the council. They sent a runner."
"Oh bugger off, my darling. I don't even live in your borough."
"It's a dangerous mission, my dear, and I need your help. Now, get out of bed you lush. It's time to go on an adventure!"
[Q: Any issues getting B? likely (3+): O2 C5 - no]
Fetching Bassianus is singularly uneventful. From his they proceed directly to the appointed meeting place. The Despair & Anchor is a quiet little pub frequented by clerks, bankers, solicitors, and others of that ilk; needless to say, our heroes never drink here. They ask at the bar, and the publican directs them to the back room.
"Ah, Miss Isabeau, so good of you to come promptly," says the man without getting up, "and I see you've brought friends along. Allow me to make introductions. I am Councilman Montoni, Head Councillor pro tem. Here on my shoulder sits our treasurer, St Aubert."
The cat yowls something approximating a greeting.
"And in the bell jar is poor Ludovico. I'm afraid he was killed during the, ah, disturbance, but we were able to contain his etheric form here to maintain a quorum."
"Leeeeet meeeeeeee diiiiie," moans the spirit.
"Chin up, old chap, I'm sure once Miss Isabeau and her companions have solved this little conundrum of ours, you'll be allowed to pass on. And as to that: there is a schism in our council. Some of our members have formed a little cabal, and are trying to wrest power from the remainder of us. They are holed up in the council fortress, having sealed all the exits and windows with some sort of energy barrier. We've been trying to breach the outer defences with a hired cannon, but to no avail. If you and your associates can find a way in, you'll be rewarded with an Exemption on your council tax. You're very much in arrears, Miss."
"How many of your fellows are holed up inside?"
"There are [1d6=] five of them. Plus some servants, clerks, and the like."
"Five? I thought you had a quorum here."
"We do. The other three of us are supervising the soldiers. With the cannon."
"Can you tell us about the building?"
"It's listed, grade II, and very ancient. It was once home of a great wizard, or so it is said."
"Can you tell us anything else?"
"Not really, no."
. . .
Out in the street before the pub, Isabeau stops and addresses her companions.
"Well, that's worse than I expected. This is my mess. I'll understand if you don't want to come along."
"Oh, pish," scolds Bassianus. "You know we'd not desert you."
"Thanks ever, you two. Three, if I may count you, Mortine."
"Of course. But how shall we start? They gave us less than nothing to go on. They couldn't even offer a guess about how to break in to their own chambers."
"It's obvious where to go first," says Athalie.
"And where's that?"
"To the library!"
[I had no strong opinions on how to start the second adventure, so before starting the game I rolled on the Adventure Generator Tables in the d30 sandbox Companion to get some ideas. As usual, not all of the results got used, but it was good to have things to riff off as it progressed.
Trigger: summoned by group
Goal: investigate location
Obstacle: find hidden/lost entrance
Loc. feature: gallery
Phenomena: disembodied voices
Villain goal/reason: domination/control
Key NPC: scribe
To set the first scene, I asked the Oracle--
Q: Who are the group from the Trigger result? Ministers of a superior Order = a political cabal within the local council
Q: Whom do they contact? (1d4) 1 Athalie, 2 Bassianus, 3 Isabeau, 4 all at once: Isabeau
Q: Why exactly? penal Effects - she's behind in her council tax payments.
Here follow the PCs' updated character sheets, and new portraits to show them maturing with the rise in levels. The adventure continues below.]
STR 13, DEX 14, WIL 17, 10 HP
pistol (d6), sword (d6), steel wire, scented candle, 8s
Ugly Mutation (crableg-claw d6, no fine manipulation, 2-h mêlée weapons Impaired)
STR 6*, DEX 11, WIL 7, 4 HP
musket (d8), hatchet (d6), crowbar, flashbang
*currently at 11 due to the effects of Titan Paste
STR 17, DEX 10, WIL 10, 9 HP
pistol (d6), sword (d6), acid, animal repellent, antitoxin, 4s
Chaos: average (d10)
Setup: to the library!
NPC List: the Superior Order, PCs' patron, villain, scribe, Mortine
Threads: find lost entrance, investigate location
[The Quickest Route across Town: d%=up the hill, then back down]
The library is just over the hill from the pub. Since everyone has already brought their gear with them, they set off straightaway.
[Q: What happens as they go up? Suppose every charitable Disposition - chuggers]
STR 8, DEX 12, WIL 8, 1hp
Driven to collect from all passers-by. Will attack unless the target signs their petition, incurring a debt of 1d100 shillings.
Truncheon (d6), Never check morale, Critical damage Impairs their attacks but does not cause unconsciousness
The mid-day crowds are not so dense as to impede movement for a change. But halfway up the hill, the explorers are greeted by a terrifying sight. About a dozen persons in smart clothing, all sporting the same bright yellow cap, are accosting all passers-by, clip-boards at the ready. Those who do not donate to their cause are swiftly beaten down by their wooden truncheons. Many try to flee, and some even fight back, but there is no single way past them up the hill.
"Everyone split up!" says Bassianus. "It will be easier to evade their clutches if we go singly. Now, move!"
[To manoeuvre past, each party member needs to make both a WIL save (finding a clear route) and a DEX save (dodging past). A 2,14 ok; B 15,15 fail; I13, 12 fail, M 2,3 ok]
Athalie winds through the throng, dashing past a slower pedestrian to leave them firmly in the sights of a descending clipboard. Mortine slaps Chatterton on the bottom, and sprints after her squealing pig. Having to leap out of the way of the beast unbalances several chuggers long enough that they can't catch her.
Bassianus is not so fortunate. [1d3=] A pair of crossed clipboards bar his way, as a pen is held out accusingly towards him. "Spare a coin for the victims of Tinea Pedis?" Isabeau is not far behind him, having been stopped by [1d3=] two more of the brutes, one of whom is even now telling her she has a kind face. A fight to the death ensues.
Bassianus responds with his hatchet, splintering one of the clipboards and bloodying the hand carrying it [2 damage, critical (attacks now impaired)]. The chuggers belabour him with their truncheons [4+3dmg to 0hp, 7STR, no crit] but he does not fall.
Meanwhile Isabeau is locked in battle with the other pair. "Die, you fiend!" she screams as she thrusts her sword, but it is deftly parried by her opponent [1 damage]. "You have a really great style," comes the rejoinder. Their counter-attacks are largely ineffectual [1+3 damage, she's down to 5hp].
Bassianus fears for his life. He takes the flashbang from his belt and throws it down before him. The chuggers are momentarily blinded, and he escapes in the chaos.
Isabeau nearly severs her first assailant's arm at the shoulder [6dmg to 4 STR, crit], but he only screams out in pain, "it's less than the price of a cup of coffee per week!" and, like his fellow, continues raining blows down upon her. Fortunately she receives only a few minor bruises, fending off the worst of it with her sword. [2+2=4dmg, 1hp left]
Athalie sees Isabeau is in real trouble, and takes careful aim with her new pistol. The shot rigs out, and [5 damage to 1d2=] the injured chugger drops like a sack of pamphlets at Isabeau's feet. Isabeau lays into the other, who is bloodied but undaunted [5 dmg, no crit]. Isabeau stagers back under the furious assault, but parries every blow [1dmg to 0hp]. Bassianus unlimbers the musket from his back.
Bassianus' ball speeds through the brain of Isabeau's last assailant [7 damage kills]. She scurries away whilst the rest of the chuggers are either still blinded or signing up other prey.
[Q: Any repercussions from fighting in the street? 50/50 (4+): O3 C0 - no (neither accolade nor reproach)
Q: What happens going down hill? silent Even or Morn]
Once again together, the little band crest the top of the hill and go down the other side. The street through which their route takes them is completely deserted. No lights in the windows, no pedestrians on the pavement nor carriages in the street -- not even rats in the gutter. Everywhere is stillness and silence. Unnerving, unnatural silence.
Their pace increases.
next post: from Library to Underground
Wednesday, 6 September 2023
Sunday, 3 September 2023
Friday, 1 September 2023
Saturday, 5 August 2023
"Do we try it?" asks Bassianus.
"It's the right way to go, I suppose," says Athalie.
Swayed by her ringing endorsement, they take the passage.
Behind the door is a great square chamber filled with gargantuan machines made of tarnished brass. The machines stand silent now, and glisten with moisture from the unpleasantly humid air. There is a man wearing a wide-brimmed hat, velvet eye-patch, and voluminous cloak, currently engaged in picking the mushrooms growing on the machinery and stuffing them into his pockets.
[Q: Who is he? Ye Slaves of Appetite]
The sudden light glinting off the brass alerts him to the new arrivals, and he wheels about with a flourish of his cloak.
"Who are you?" asks Isabeau.
"I? Who are you? You obviously aren't star cultists, and you don't look like you work for the sewer conglomerate..."
"We could say the same about you!" says Athalie. "But we are travellers, who besought to avoid the dangers in the streets by taking a shortcut Underground -- perhaps unadvisedly. Now, who are you?" [Athalie's WIL save (Reaction roll) succeeds, so he's willing to talk]
"You mean you don't recognise me?"
"I'm afraid not."
"My name is -- Bunbury."
"You've not heard of me? Really?"
"I am Bunbury: the Epicure Supreme -- The modern-day Trimalchio -- Last of the red hot flâneurs. And lately, a fugitive from the star cult."
"Do you know a way out?"
[Q: Does he? 50/50 (4+): O3 C8 - no]
"I fear I have lost my way."
"Come with us, then, and we shall find you a way to the surface."
"Really?" asks Bassianus.
"Any enemy of the cult..."
"You've a point there, my dear."
[Q: Does he have any equipment? likely (3+): O6 C7 - yes (alternate starting character)
Q: Does he have any cash? doubtful (6): O6 C4 - yes, but d30=19s
Q: Has he taken any damage? 1d4-1 attributes reduced: 1, d3=STR d8=3damage]Bunbury
STR 6/9, DEX 16, WIL 9, 6hp
crowbar (d6), snail, scented candle, 19s
Once their new companion has finished stuffing his pockets full of fungus, they head back to the main corridor, which leads finally into an irregular, C-shaped chamber.
[puzzle : desperate Madness (so, more a trap than a puzzle)]
As they pass through the empty chamber, they feel a resonance coming from the bare, striated cement walls. The tones -- felt more than heard -- rise to a maddening crescendo, and derangement follows in their wake. Isabeau and Athalie, being young ladies of sense, steel their wills against the encroaching delirium. Their gentlemen companions, however, succumb to the waves of lunacy.
[They all needed WIL saves to avoid madness. For the failures--
Q: What is Bassianus' folly? unruly Appetites
Q: What is Bunbury's folly? rejoice in this blessed Hope]
Bunbury becomes convinced that nothing will prevent him from leaving this accursed sewer, and he puffs up with foolhardiness and hope. Yet no one notices the sudden change in his demeanour as Bassianus' affliction plays out before their eyes. An awful hunger wells up in him, and he must feed -- now, on meat. Delicious, raw meat. He suddenly takes his hatchet to Geta, felling the hawk with one mighty blow [3 damage kills] and begins to devour it raw, feathers and all.
The others look on in bewilderment and horror mixed, but as they feel the madness ever plucking at their brains they merely urge him to eat on the way. They pass a side passage, but Athalie shakes her head [WIL save succeeds], and they follow the curve round to the far end, where a long, lonely tunnel leads them to...
...a squarish chamber, full of overhead pipes. Others run vertically from floor to ceiling, creating a sort of tunnel for those who do not wish to crawl. Clicking noises reverberate off of, or perhaps within, the pipes.
In a sort of clearing near one of the walls the explorers come upon a solitary, hunched-over beldam, currently engaged in stirring some evil-smelling broth in a kettle made from parts of an old boiler. As they draw near, the lantern light reveals her skin to be hanging off her tiny frame in rubbery folds, as if she'd bought it several sizes too large. [encounter: drooping Mother]Drooping Mother
STR 15, DEX 10, WIL 11, 9HP
Driven to make a vile soup
Rubbery skin (Armour 2)
Awful Wail (d6 Blast), if critical damage inflicted target drains away to a pool of bubbling fluid -- to be added to the broth
The wretched creature looks plaintively at the explorers, and is opening her mouth to speak when Bunbury leaps forward, a wordless cry of bravado issuing from his lips.
[The rest must make DEX saves to avoid Surprise: Athalie, Bassianus, and the Drooping Mother succeed.]
Bunbury wields a crowbar like a bludgeon. It connects solidly with the awful beldam, but bounces off her rubbery hide [5-2=3 damage to 6hp]. Athalie and Bassianus follow with sword and hatchet, but their blades too meet resistance on the thick, drooping dermis [2-2=0, 4-2=2 damage, down to 4hp].
As they rain blows down upon the creature, it stands stock-still, but underneath the folds of its terrible face it opens wide toothless red jaws and a monstrous keening issues forth. All in the room feel it in the marrow of their bones, as if they might shatter or burst.
[All take damage to their HP. Bassianus gets the worst of it, taking 5 points, leaving him with 0hp and 11 STR; d20=7, no critical, luckily]
Joined by Isabeau, they continue to lay into the abomination, but their weapons are continually repelled by the rubbery flesh [7 total damage get through; it's down to 0hp, 12 STR, but avoids critical damage.]
The keening will not stop. Athalie proves the most resistant to it [to 0hp exactly], but Bassianus and Isabeau are certain their limbs are going to explode [both to 0hp, 9 STR, no crit]. The sound has spelt doom for poor Bunbury, however. His entire body starts draining away like wax from a cheap taper. Everything is consumed -- flesh, bones, hair -- until all that remains is a puddle of bubbling goo in a pile of fashionable clothing [failed his STR save].
The others' terror renews the fury of their assault, and the keening is abruptly silenced [crit damage]. They do not stop until the thing is a pulpy mass beneath the tatters of purloined skin.
Their rage and fear spent, they stand round their new comrade's... remains.
"Poor sod," says Athalie.
"I'd just been starting to warm to him," adds Bassianus.
"Well, he won't be needing his stuff any more," observes Isabeau.
They wipe off his possessions as best they are able and distribute them amongst themselves. Athalie fancies his scented candle, as her flat still has a suspicious odour after the gefilte fish incident. Bassianus surmises he'll have a more immediate need of the crowbar. Isabeau is content with his meagre purse of 19 shillings, and adds it to her own.
[Q: Did the drooping Mother have any treasure? unknown d6=2: O1 C8 - no][Short rest, no encounter, HP back to full; WIL save for navigation succeeds]
They follow her down a short passage which opens out into a long, triangular space.
[contents: Goal (the exit), caustic pools]
The floor is uneven, pitted concrete. Pools of an acrid-smelling, caustic fluid are everywhere, and the explorers must pick their careful way between them. Then a rhythmic clicking is heard, and moments later the animated skeleton of some unknown quadruped, the size of a small deer, walks into the light. It moves right through the toxic pools, unfazed by its acidic properties.
The explorers are certain it means them ill, and ready their arms to do battle.Skeletal Ungulate
STR 8, DEX 13, WIL 6, 15hp
Nasty bite (d8)
immune to missiles and acid, but shatters if it suffers critical damage
[Each round, a DEX save is needed to avoid splashing one's self in a puddle for d12 damage, OR one may fight carefully, but lose Initiative and all attacks are Impaired]
The skeleton bounds up, rears, and bites at Isabeau, but she fends off the snapping jaws before they fasten on her throat [4dmg to 1hp]. Her counterattack is weak, as she expends more attention on not stepping in the acid puddles than she does on swordplay. Bassianus' and Athalie's attacks are similarly ineffective [Impaired attacks, so d4+d4+d4=10 damage, dropping it to 5hp].
Its snaps at Isabeau's face, and the teeth just barely scrape the end of her nose [1 damage to 0hp]. But it soon reduced to a lifeless jumble of bones at her feet. [critical damage, shatters]
At the far end of the room, a ladder leads up to the street. Isabeau pauses to wind her mechanical hand, then they climb to the surface. They emerge from a manhole...
[Q: Are they very close to their destination? 50/50 (4+): O4 C1 - yes, and...]
...to find themselves a scant few doors down from their destination, Hightower Hats & Canes. There's no way to make themselves presentable, being covered as they are in grime, blood, and less pleasant things, so Athalie concocts a plan that takes their current state into account. She will distract the shopkeeper whilst Isabeau slinks behind the counter to place the Tack. Should she be about to be discovered, Bassianus will pretend to trip over a display.
[2 out of 3 PCs must succeed in a Save in order to pull this off]
They go in boldly. Athalie is in the lead, her claw hand carefully concealed beneath her travelling cloak. They all three exude the odour of the sewers, and as the disgusted shopkeep is opening his mouth to say something, her monologue cuts him off.
"Heavens! What an afternoon we've just had. That's the last time I go near the sewer taxis, let me tell you! There were mutants! Mutants everywhere. They devoured the taxi man and linkboys, and then came for me. My stalwart manservant fought them off bravely, but -- O the benighted fiends! -- they stole my favourite hat. Fortunately we emerged where we did, for there is a darling bonnet in your window, and I simply must have it. Must, I tell you." [WIL save: d20=14, success]
The shopkeeper decides to breathe through his mouth and see to the customer. She demands he get the the one down from the furthest mannequin in the window display, and refuses to take it herself. She snaps her fingers. "Basingstoke, put the bonnet on me. I can't very well do it myself. And those dreadful mutants ate my maid."
Bassianus springs to m'lady's side and puts the bonnet on her head, struggling with the bow beneath her chin as if he'd never done up a young lady's bonnet before. Though perhaps this is no mere act.
Whilst the shopkeeper is preoccupied, Isabeau slinks behind the counter and jabs the Tack into the wall. [DEX save: d20=3, success] When she glides back onto the sales floor, Bassianus gives Athalie the signal (a wink -- they couldn't think up anything better).
"I just can't decide! Dame Ilford, do come over and let me have your opinion."
Isabeau comes over and offers some nonsensical opinions, but 'Lady Acton' can't make up her mind, and insists she simply must sleep on it. The three companions scurry out into the street, taking care to retain their laughter until they've turned the corner.
There's a stairway down to the sewer taxi. Isabeau digs into her purse for poor Bunbury's dosh, and counts out 5s each for journey back home.
DénouementTheir shadowy boss is satisfied -- insofar as he is able to feel satisfaction with any of his underlings -- and cancels the current interest on their debt, though they are still his creatures until they pay off the original loan (the amount of which I'm keeping vague, as it's a plot point rather than something they can pay off with treasure).
Athalie sells the jewellery they took from the cult for 10d10=62s. WIL save: d20=6, success -- she knows whom to sell it to so that there will be no repercussions. They divide the haul -- 20s each, with the leftover 2s spent on pie & plonk for a celebratory dinner down their local.
Athalie has kept the Psalter from the (aboveground) cult temple. Curiosity gets the better of her, and she spends a night reading it alone in her room. So--
Q: Is it an Arcanum? doubtful (6): O1 C7 - no
Q: Is it worth something? doubtful (6): O5 C6 - no
Q: Is it safe to read? unlikely (5+): O4 C3 - no, but... a WIL save is needed to avoid deleterious effects: d20=14, ok. She'll hang onto it for now, as one never knows, but she's not going to look inside its covers again.
For surviving their first adventure, the PCs advance to the Professional experience level. They each get 1d6 additional hit points, and roll a d20 against each of their Ability Scores, raising them by 1 if the die rolls higher.
STR increases to 13, DEX to 14, +5hp
STR to 6, DEX to 11, WIL to 7, +3hp
STR to 17, DEX to 10, WIL to 10, +4hp
They spend some of their cash to buy new equipment (a pistol for Athalie, a flashbang for Bassianus, acid, animal repellent, and anti-toxin for Isabeau). I'll assume whatever stipend their patron doles out allows them to break even for food & shelter whilst they perform miscellaneous tasks for him until the next adventure commences... anon.