Friday, 9 July 2021

AFF solo - Part XIII: Perils of the night

Day 5

Once again they set out through the steamy jungle, relying on the barbarian's memory for navigation -- perhaps they'd ought to have brought a map. For he was sure that travelling south would soon bring them to the river -- the one which runs from the mountains through the jungle to the sea, where it is lined by the spires and graceful domes of Ulq. But after a full day's march they have not reached it [Jungle lore at +1 to find river: 2d6=11, fail]. At least they avoid any run-ins with dangerous fauna, though Ilog and Grebdal Themp nearly blunder into the tendrils of a gigantic carnivorous plant [both successfully test LUCK to avoid].

Day 6

The next day --again-- they set off in search or the river. By mid-day they are despairing of ever finding it, but after a pause for food and rest, their ill-fortune (with its concomitant ill-humour) departs, and they soon stand on the bank of the wide and swiftly-flowing river [jungle lore succeeds].

"That water looks divine!" says Grebdal Themp. "Shall we swim to the other side?"

"I don't like our chances against the current," says Ksandajja, eyeing the churning water.

"We could at least go paddling."

"And provide a feast for the crocodiles?" asks Ilog.

And so they head upstream along the bank, looking for a safe ford. They've still not found one as evening dims the sky, but they press ever forward, hacking their way through the thick foliage.

"Listen!" says Ilog, and stops short. The sound of drumming is carried on the breeze.

"We're not alone in this jungle," says Fhenteskeer.

As they proceed upriver, the drumming grows ever louder, reverberating through the trees and over the surface of the water, drowning out the groans and cries of the unseen wildlife.

"Is that a light ahead?" says Ksandajja, pointing up the river.

"Yes," says Grebdal Themp. "There's torches on a bridge."

"No, not a bridge," says Ilog. "A village! A village built on stilts, spanning the river entire."

[feature: hamlet, fortified settlement]

And there can be no doubt but that the village is the drumming's source.

"Let me handle this," says Fhenteskeer once the explorers have crept up to the outskirts of the village, and he disappears into the underbrush. Several minutes creep by as the drumming shakes the very darkness of the falling night.

[He needs an Etiquette roll to treat with the villagers. Magic 6 + Etiquette 1 + 3 (Silver Tongue talent)=10: 2d6=7, success.]

Fhenteskeer re-appears suddenly, flanked by jungle warriors. "They will allow us into their village and across their bridge. And they are happy to trade with us as well! But they say we must hurry inside so they can pull up the ladders. Even their mighty drums can't keep all the evils that stalk the night at bay."
The villagers are a friendly and gregarious lot, and the weary explorers are feted like dignitaries at a sultan's court. They do not want for hearty food, sumptuous desserts, or sweet palm wine.

In between courses, the explorers discuss their travel through the jungle, and trade for some items to help them in their endeavours. The villagers have no use for coins, but the herbs, jewellery, and precious stones are commodities they desire. Ilog comes away with a new bow and quiver of arrows, Grebdal Themp has a magical rising sun glyph tattooed on his shoulder for protection against the weather [from the Heroes' Companion], and a goodly quantity of dried provisions rounds out their trade. Strangely (or perhaps not at all), no one was interested in the elixir of Rage.

[Some mechanics--

Q: Are the villagers at all interested in coinage? unlikely (5+): O3 C6 - no.

The herbs are worth 61gp total, jewellery 50gp.

Q: Is anyone interested in the potion of rage? 50/50 (4+): O2 C5 - no
Q: Is a magical tattoo available? Unlikely (5+): O5 C1 - yes, and... more than one practitioner

Ilog wants to buy a bow (30gp) longbow & quiver of 20 arrows

Grebdal Themp wants a Rising Sun tattoo 65gp -- puts in his peridot & jewel to make up the cost.

Treasure division--
I gets bow + 30gp
g gets tattoo +30gp
x gets mirror & crystal
f gets green gas + 30gp

Q: Does anything untoward happen? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - no, and... all the PCs are on good behaviour (Ilog's pretty much a PC at this point).

For finding a safe haven in the wilderness, each PC regains a point of LUCK.]
Day 7

After the first good sleep in what seems an aeon, Ksandajja awakes in the cool darkness of a flower-strewn hut. Gone is every care, every lingering sense of fatigue from her arduous journey. But gone too is her long-limbed companion of the night, and possibly (she discovers after a quick search of her surroundings) one of her sandals.

Ksandajja totters out into the sun and heat, her head still fuzzy from palm wine and other nocturnal succulence. She finds Grebdal Themp eager to show off his new tattoo, alternately admiring it in a copper mirror and rubbing ointment on it to keep the swelling down. Fhenteskeer is chatting away with some of the villagers, still trying (in vain) to trade away the rage potion. Of Ilog there is no sign; he's gone out with some hunters to test his new bow. Grebdal Themp tells the sorceress to pack her things and be ready to set off once he returns. She's not convinced that she's in any fit state to travel, but Grebdal Themp knows a cantrip against hangovers, so her protestations go unheeded.

After many joyous (and one reluctant) farewells, the journey resumes on the far side of the river. The jungle begins to thin as the leagues pass, and by nightfall gives way to scrub-covered hills.

[jungle lore ok, no encounters

feature: ruin - half-collapsed castle

Why This Place Fell Into Ruin (via Age of Fable): The place was built for defence. When the threat was no longer present, there was no reason to maintain the place.

Q: Does conveniently bad weather force them towards it? 50/50 (4+): O5 C2 - yes, and...]

The weather takes a sharp turn as they are looking to make camp for the day. Thunderheads have rolled in down the mountainside and unleashed a torrent of rain upon the hills. Lightning streaks the sky and Sukh [the storm god (neutral)] booms out his displeasure at those who do not cower before him.
Another flash of lightning reveals a crumbling fortress atop a high ridge in silhouette.

"We could shelter there from the storm," says Ilog.

"Ummm.... I've done this before," says Ksandajja. "It didn't go very well."

"Done what?"

"Sought shelter from a storm in a ruin."

"I hardly think it will be haunted."

"I have to agree," interjects Fhenteskeer. "I find all this water... disconcerting."

"My new tattoo protects against heat and cold," says Grebdal Themp, "but I'm still soaked through to the bone."

"Fine. But don't say I didn't try to warn you."

"What happened to you before to make you so reticent?"

"It's a long, miserable story I'd rather not think too much on now. Perhaps I'll recount it in the morning -- to whoever survives."

[Q: It's inhabited, isn't it? Likely (3+): O6 C1 - yes, and... one roll each jungle & ruins tables]

The ruined fortress is a warren of time-shattered walls and indistinct piles of stone. Few of the old chambers still bear any semblance of a ceiling, but at last they find a darksome hall offering protection from the wind and wet. Ksandajja notes with elation that there is no sign of an entrance to underground chambers. But her elation is short-lived. As they are collecting bits of what must once have been a grand table to make  a fire, a terrible creature floats into the room.

Ksandajja is the first to see it, a bloated sack of flesh bristling with venomous spines. In its centre is a staring, iridescent eye. It catches Ksandajja's glance for a moment, and time slows. She can see it drifting closer, ever closer, the quivering spines coming ever nearer, poised to prick her exposed flesh. She tries to call out but cannot utter a sound, her body held fast by the EYE STINGER's entrancing gaze.

But Ilog has seen the abomination. He bounds up next to the sorceress, swinging his morningstar in an overhead arc. The eye stinger bursts as it crashes down, spraying Ilog and Ksandajja with a vile, caustic substance.

[All the PCs needed to Test their Luck to avoid the hypnotic gaze; only Ksandajja failed her roll. Ilog hit for 4 damage, destroying it. The acid splash from its demise did 2 damage to both I & K.]

The feeling returns to Ksandajja's limbs, followed immediately by a sharp burning. Ilog too is reeling from the searing pain. He turns about just in time to see an ebon paw strike Grebdal Themp out of the shadows. Claws rake down his back, and the paw comes away trailing bloodied strips of his leather armour, and not a little of his skin besides. The BLACK LION steps into the lantern-light with a mighty roar, drowning out Grebdal Themp's shrieks of pain and surprise.

[The PCs rolled Awareness vs. the Black Lion's Sneaking (=Skill), but none of them beat its total (a modest 2d6+11=19) so it attacked a random PC with Surprise (+6 attack, +2 damage roll). As this was all in round 1 (the Lion is cunning enough to use the eye stinger to its advantage), its target was chosen on 1d3: 1 G, 2 F, 3 I. Grebdal Themp took 5-1=4 damage, putting him at 6 Stamina.]

[Round 2]
Grebdal Themp and Fhenteskeer face the snarling beast. Its mighty paws swipe the fire priest's axe aside with ease [attack total 15 vs. 15, neither hits], but this gives the canny rogue a rare opportunity, and his sword opens a gory wound the whole length of the lion's sable flank [natural 12, crit. 3x2=6 damage].

[Round 3]
Ilog and Ksandajja rush into the fray. The beast jumps up at the barbarian, nearly knocking him down, but as the sturdy barbarian wrestles with the snapping lion, Ksandajja and Grebdal Themp skewer the beast with their steel. Ilog casts the bleeding corpse to the ground. [The PCs got +3 on their rolls for outnumbering the lion; G&K hit for 7 total damage.]

Grebdal Themp looks at Ksandajja sheepishly. "Not going to say 'I told you so'?"

"I'd rather hoped you'd all be laughing at my timorousness come morning."

Ilog does his best to wash Ksandajja's acid burns off with wine and bandage them, then tend to his own. The hardy warrior has a surprisingly delicate touch and superlative skills as a healer; Ksandajja supposes a lifetime of ferocious battle has given him plenty of opportunity for practice. [He's the only one in the party with the Healing special skill, as it happens (skill 7 + healing 1). Both checks succeed, restoring 2 Stamina to each of them].

Fhenteskeer meanwhile calls on he power of Filash to remove all injuries from his brave companion. His wounds close up without a trace [Heal spell, back to full Stamina].

Their wounds tended, they decide to search the rest of the fortress again to make sure there are no more surprises in the night. Fortunately they find no other fell creatures lurking amongst the ruins.

[Q: Any treasure in lion's den? 50/50 (4+): O5 C2 - yes, and... (rolling on both the monster and the humanoid tables (for a victim)]

Luckier still, amongst the scattered bones in the black lion's den, they find the purse of an earlier visitant to this forlorn place; inside are [2d6=]six golden coins of an uncertain minting and an elixir, which Ksandajja pronounces to be a draught of invisibility [Magic Lore roll succeeds].

Day 8

After a quiet -- if still uneasy -- night, they head south over the hills.

[Each day of travel requires a Hill Lore roll to avoid getting lost (I will not mention this unless the roll fails).

In the hills, random encounters will occur only on a 1-in-6 chance (checking for day & night). One feature roll per day, but with 3-in-6 chance to avoid it if desired (=they can see it from a distance when on high ground).

On the first day, no encounters were rolled as such, but the Feature roll came up as random encounter, and since I rolled Harpies, I ruled the 3-in-6 to avoid didn't apply.

Then using the AoF What Are the Monsters Doing? table to set the scene, I rolled: Wandering Chasing, or running away from, another creature or group of creatures (generate the other creature or group - the stronger side is chasing the weaker one).

So d3=2 Harpies chasing 1d3=3 Giant Wasps

Q: Do they ignore the party? 50/50 (4+): O5 C4 - yes, but... only the uninjured ones. So I ran a quick fight for them.]

The day is calm and the weather fair. In the afternoon they witness three GIANT WASPS being chased by a pair of HARPIES. The harpies catch the wasps -- to their detriment. Soon the leathery-winged fiends succumb to the wasps stingers, and plummet to the ground. The two injured wasps buzz away and out of sight, but the third one decides to have a go at the travellers it spotted below.

It swoops down at [1d4=]Ksandajja, who lops off one of its legs as it goes past. With an annoyed drone of wounded pride it flies away. Ilog looses an arrow after it for good measure, and shrugs as it falls well short of the mark.

[She'd hit it for 3 damage, dropping it to half Stamina. It failed its morale check.]

Day 9

The following day is nearly as uneventful as the last, until -- seemingly out of thin air --  a vicious NANDIBEAR rears up behind Fhenteskeer and slashes at him with its terrible claws.

But despite the monster's awful reputation, the ensuing combat is over in mere moments, and none of Fhenteskeer's companions are at all injured in the mêlée. Indeed, the scratches down his back are merely superficial, and a splash of wine on them to kill any infection stings more than did the claws themselves.

[The sneak attack did 2 damage, which was healed by Ilog's first aid roll. The fight was over on the second round.]

Day 10

In a hollow near the foot of the mountains, they come across a rocky grotto. A waterfall bursts from the cliff wall, filling the grotto's bottom with a clear pool.
[feature: spring (enchanted or holy) 50/50=holy

Q: Are there priests present? Certain (2+): O2 C3 - yes, but... lone hermit

reaction 2d6=6, neutral]

An old [d6=]man with a flowing beard, and dressed in pure white robes trimmed with golden thread rushes to meet the weary travellers, who are suddenly conscious of the dust, grime, and caked blood staining their raggedy travelling clothes.

"Who sent you here? you certainly don't look like pilgrims." [UNE: Mood=guarded; prejudiced - belief - superiors]

"Please, good sir, we are but travellers in this land," says Ksandajja. "We make for Drammub, there to consult a sage about a terrible thing we found lying forgotten in the jungle." [Etiquette roll (skill6 +2learned=8): 2d6=4, success]

"Drammub, eh? Dangerous place that is, e'en all locked up against the desert and those things that dwell there. But there is help here for those who ask."[friendly - aid - antagonist]

"Please, good sir, any assistance you can offer for our quest will be most appreciated."

"Come then. This spring is sacred to Telak, god of courage and combat. After his battle with the infamous SLIME DEMON Szughishyhgh, he split the rock with his golden sword so the waters would come forth and cleanse the land. Now any who bathe in it, weapon in hand, will enjoy the blessing of great Telak, provided their hearts be bold and courage unwavering."

[the blessing gives +1 to damage rolls, and the weapon counts as magical. It lasts 7 days, or ends immediately on any show of cowardice or retreat.]

Fhenteskeer, as a fire priest, refuses the water blessing on principle, but his companions are all too eager for a dip in the cool water.  

[Q: Can they get passage downriver to town? likely (3+): O3 C8 - yes]

A stream flows from the pond for a short ways before joining a navigable river. A dock is there with a waiting raftsman, who earns a meagre living transporting pilgrims to and from the shrine. He wants 6 gold per passenger, and steadfastly refuses to haggle. [1d6+1=6gp each; G attempts to bargain (at -3) but fails]

Day 11

Sailing down the river on large raft is a welcome respite from walking, though the monotony begins to chafe at some of their more adventurous natures.

[Q: Other passengers? unlikely (5+): O4 C3 - no, but... cargo]

There are no other passengers on the voyage, just a pile of empty crates being brought back to town to re-fill with supplies for the shrine priest. Fhenteskeer attempts to make conversation with the raftsman, but finds him unusually taciturn. Grebdal Themp mostly naps. Ilog lies back to look at the pictures in the clouds, but soon succumbs to sleep himself. Ksandajja trails her feet in the water behind the raft, and thinks long on the road ahead of her.

[random encounter=hill troll
Q: Is the troll overtly hostile? 50/50 (4+): O4 C4 - yes, but...
+Event: (see next post)]
Only once is there a moment of excitement, when they pass a HILL TROLL fishing. The troll bellows something about stoopid humins disturbing his fish, and angrily pelts the raft with stones, but they bounce harmlessly off the deck and the empty crates as the raft drifts out of range.

next post: type 8a standard adventure plot

Friday, 2 July 2021

AFF solo - Part XII: Terrors of the Temple

The abomination which burst from beneath the earth was Ensevektu's mad, Balthus-Diresque attempt to swap round the heads of a reptilian Gretch and a six-armed simian Krell. His ungodly scheme was a gory disaster, and instead of a pair of intelligent servitors, he was left with a single, half-mad lizard-headed six-armed ape-thing.

The GRETCH-KRELL bellows as it lunges out of the broken ground, ready to rend the intruders in its masters domain with claw and fang.

[Setting up the battle--

For the Failed Sorcerous Experiment from the SS&SS adventure generator, I rolled on two random encounter tables in Out of the Pit and mixed the results. For stats, I went with the average of the listed values +1

medium claws, medium armour

Ilog has been calling his enemy a wizard all along, which would indicate a specific type of magician according to the rulebooks, as distinct from sorcerers, enchanters, conjurers, etc. These terms, however, are used as synonyms by all save a few scholars and the magical practitioners themselves; most beings neither know of nor care about the distinctions, not even as urbane a chap as our Ilog. So,

Q: What kind of magician is Ensevektu? (1d6): 1-2 sorcerer, 3-4 wizard, 5 chaos mage, 6 necromancer: 1, sorcerer

Ensevektu the Unseemly Adept
sorcery 3, swords 3
chain cuirass, sword

He'll cast random (sensible!) spells of (1d3) level 1, 2, or 4 each round as long as he can reasonably do so. I'll assume he has components for whatever is rolled.]

[Round 1]
The abomination lunges straight for Grebdal Themp and Ilog, who meet it with their combined might of arms. There is flurry of claws from the beast, but the practised fighters dodge every furious swipe. Ilog's morning star hits the creature on the crown of its head with an almighty crack, but its malformed skull deflects the blow [3-2=1 damage]. Grebdal Themp's blade opens a messy rent in its thick hide, spraying ichor over the frosty ground [4-1=3 damage, dropping it to 6 Stamina].
Meanwhile the magicians are working their several enchantments. Fhenteskeer has called on the Righteous Flame of Filash to act through his Priest [casts Bless on himself, +1 all rolls]. Ksandajja weaves a charm of protection about herself as proof against the adept's spells [cast MAG (costing 2 Stamina); avoids the effect of the next spell]. Ensevektu tries to ensnare [d4=] the priest in wisps of confusion [DIM], but in his haste skips one of the requisite gestures, and the magic des not come [2d6=9, failed his casting roll].

[Round 2]
As priest and sorceress pick their way across the rubble towards him, he attempts the spell again -- and to his supreme annoyance makes exactly the same mistake [2d6=9 again!].

The abomination has learnt the measure of its two foes, and as it fends off Ilog on one side, it rakes a claw across Grebdal Themp's torso to give him a matching wound, even through his leather jerkin. Flecks of his blood mingle with the ichor on the ground [4-1=3 damage, dropping him to 7 Stamina].

[Round 3]
The adept elects to use a simpler, less subtle incantation [casts HOT for 4 Stamina]. A ball of unearthly red fire erupts between Ksandajja and Fhenteskeer. The priest feels more shame than hurt as the very element of his god singes his side [1d6+1=2 damage leaves him with 5 Stamina]. Ksandajja's magic protects her; though the flames lick round her greedily they cannot touch her skin.
Ksandajja delivers a powerful stroke to Ensevektu's shoulder. His mail deflects the sword's bite, but the force is felt even through his armour and the padding beneath [4-1=3 damage, 5 Stamina remaining]. Fhenteskeer is too shaken from the ball of fire to make a credible attack [miss].

Ilog, Grebdal Themp, and the monster circle one another warily... [G & it both roll the same attack total, Ilog rolls below that]

[Round 4]
...then it rushes suddenly between them, shoving Ilog aside and tearing another chunk out of Grebdal Themp [Ilog rolled low again; it hit G for 3-0=3 damage, dropping him to 4 Stamina].

Ensevektu knows that he'd be cut in twain before he could get another spell off, so draws his own blade. He proves a surprisingly competent swordsman, and not only fends off every advance from the fire priest's axe, but gives the astonished sorceress a deep cut down her thigh [3 damage puts her at 6 Stamina].

[Round 5]
Her riposte merely snags in his mail [2-2=0 damage] but gives Fhenteskeer just enough of an opening to smash him hard in the flank [3-0=3 damage, down to 2 Stamina].

The beast rears up to finish off the wounded Grebdal Themp, but he lurches forward and opens up its belly with a swift downward stroke, putting an end to the foul thing's existence [4-0 damage kills it].

[Rounds 6-7]
Grebdal Themp steadies himself against a toppled pillar as Ilog tries vainly to cross the debris choked chamber and join the fight against Ensevektu. The adept's defence against Ksandajja allows Fhenteskeer another opening, but his axe just clunks against stout mail.

Ksandajja thrusts her sword with all her might. She feels a but a momentary resistance, then the sharp point of her sword bursts a weak link in the riveted mail and slides all the way through the adept's chest, only stopping when it encounters the armour at his back [the damage roll and the armour roll were both a 6; 4-2=2 damage, dropping him to -1 Stamina]. The sorceress' eyes flash in triumph as his corpse slides off the end of her blade.

Ilog appears at her side, and turns the lifeless Ensevektu over with his booted foot. "I'd hoped to be the one to strike the killing blow," says the barbarian, "but I'll not quibble. My vengeance is satisfied."
The barbarian stands guard as other three pause to bind their wounds. [F & K both succeed at their healing rolls, recovering 2 Stamina (up to 7 & 8 respectively. G rolls a natural 2! +4 Stamina to 8].

Their blood staunched, the priest and sorceress cannot help but examine the icy sarcophagus in great detail, peering through its smooth, limpid surface with the utmost cupidity.

[examining sarcophagus (rolls at -1 for obscurity)--

F Religion Lore 6+2-1=7: 2d6=5, success
K Magic Lore 5+1-1=5: 2d6=7, fail
and her Second Sight 5+1=6: 2d6=4!

Q: What sort of godling is it? Joyfully / Lethal
1d6: 1-2 m, 3-4 f, 5 hermaphroditic, 6 other; 3 (rolled much earlier, obvs.)]
Fhenteskeer is almost at a loss for words. "I... I cannot believe it. The whispers! The legend! All true. This is -- dare I pronounce the name? -- Vidzqissu, She-whose-glance-brings-annihilation."

"Who?" asks Grebdal Themp, immediately regretting the question.

"A minor goddess -- or demoness -- who took such perverse delight in destruction that the Lords of the Pit themselves imprisoned her, lest she unmake the entire kosmos."

"Such power radiating from the ice," says Ksandajja. "I've never seen a binding such as this! I'd say that unless that madman knew something we don't, there was little chance  of him freeing her."

"I hate to seem like the stereotypical barbarian," says Ilog, "but ancient entombed demonesses make me nervous. Let's leave this chamber before she starts whispering at us through the confines of her prison."

"The rest of you don't hear her?" says Ksandajja. "Just a joke! Trying to lighten the mood... Come on, let's get out of here whilst there's still feeling in our extremities."

Her companions' faces lose their sudden expressions of shock, and Grebdal Themp even chuckles at her little jest. For it was just a jest, was it not? That sighing in her ear -- it must surely have been the wind. Yes, merely the wind.

T7 : treasury - crazed merc - random (Hopelessly / Beautiful)

They make a hasty exit into the courtyard and take the passageway leading away from the ruins' centre. The passage has been recently cleared of obstacles, and a confusion of footsteps in the dust show it to be frequently travelled. A little way down it comes to an opening in the wall.

Peering inside they see a storeroom of sorts in an enclosed chamber; Ilog recognises some of the containers from his first expedition. The storeroom is guarded by a [d6=] woman in a chain byrnie with her back to the entrance. She is standing before a statue of beautiful [d6=]youth, mumbling sweet nothings to it interspersed with cruel imprecations, alternately playful and scornful that her affections are not returned. Beside her on a stone shelf is a small chest, in which the glint of gold can be seen.
The woman seems entirely oblivious to the intruders. Grebdal Themp slinks into the room, delicately takes the chest from the shelf, and pads back out again [Sneaking roll 2d6=3, success]. The guard is none the wiser, having eyes only for her beloved. By the doorway, Grebdal Themp helps himself to a sack as an afterthought.

The explorers retreat a safe distance with the spoils. The little chest holds a quantity of gold coins and jewellery, but Grebdal Themp seems intent on closing it. "I'd feel better if we counted it when we're well away here." The others nod assent.

Grebdal Themp is about to dump the contents of the sack on the ground when Ilog stops him. "These are trail rations from the expedition." They divide up the [2d6=8] provisions, stow the chest in the sack, and head once again down the passage.

[Q: Any problems getting out? unlikely (5+): O4 C3 - no, but... one more turn before exit]

T8 : lab - random - scrolls

At the end of the passage is an open chamber with a smooth stone floor, in which a makeshift laboratory has been set up. On a slab in the centre lies an unwholesome corpse, with the body of a humanoid lizard and an ape's head. Fortunately the cold has kept it from decomposing, but the shrivelled thing still provokes a wave of nausea in the onlookers. And thus it is that they do not see the [random element= Bravely / Small] tiny WINGED GREMLIN flit out from behind a pillar and throw a glass vial in their direction.

The vial sails right over their heads and shatters in the passageway behind them, releasing a cloud of greasy red smoke, but the explorers have rushed through the doorway in an instant, out of danger. The gremlin hisses in annoyance and flits round their heads, swiping down at them with needle-like claws. Then a second later it is a wet smear on the ball of Ilog's morningstar.

[The PCs had to each Test their LUCK to avoid the poison gas, and all succeeded. Ilog hit the Gremlin for 4 damage in a single stroke, killing it.

Q: Do the scrolls contain the secret to sunder the prison? 50/50 (4+): O1 C2 - no, and... are worthless

The PCs find 1d6=5 herbs/potions as loot (1-2 potion, 3-6 herb): 1,2,4,5,4 - 2 potions, 3 herbs.]

The explorers make a cursory examination of the laboratory, finding a pair of elixirs and some dried herbs which might have some value. There is a pile of scrolls which Ksandajja peruses eagerly, but is both disappointed and disgusted to find they are evidently Ensevektu's notes on the physiology of the gretch and the krell.
Ilog wants to burn this abominable room, and Fhenteskeer is elated at the proposition. Ksandajja offers up the horrible scrolls as kindling, and after they have all clambered out a small window into the jungle, the priest invokes his blazing god Filash; the blaze quickly consumes the mad sorcerer's unspeakable works.

[Q: Do they have a quiet night? 50/50: O5 C5 - yes
+Event: NPC action (Ilog) - Propose / Goals]

They make camp a good distance from the temple complex. The jungle heat is almost a comfort after the frigid terror of the place.

Before the daylight fades, they set about examination of their plunder. The little chest is found to contain 90 gold coins, and various bits of silver and copper jewellery which Grebdal Themp estimates to be worth about half that [45gp]. There is also a mirror backed with gold and a glowing pink crystal, for both of which Ksandajja voices an immediate desire as they are tools of her Art.

None of them are versed in Herb Lore, so the value of the dried herbs is unknown to them.

The elixirs are handed over to the sorceress that she may scrutinise them with her expert eye. The first is a clear glass phial in which a roiling green vapour is seen. "I've no idea what this does," admits the sorceress. "Someone has oh-so-helpfully written 'green gas' on the label, but..."

"Perhaps we'd best get rid of this second one," offers Grebdal Themp. "Its label reads 'rabies'."

"No, let me see that," says the sorceress, excitedly snatching the ruddy elixir from he companion. "It's not 'ra-bies'," she says, enunciating each syllable. "It's written in ancient Allansian: 'ra-bi-es', meaning 'fury'. It's a berserker's draught."
[Many dice were rolled for the treasure.

The contents of the chest were determined using the AFF treasure table, rolling at +3:
jewellery worth 50gp
sorcery component: gold backed mirror

Grebdal Themp made a successful Evaluate roll on the jewellery.

The pink crystal is the Energy Crystal reward from the SS&SS adventure generator. It is a one use item providing up to 4 STA/MP for a single spell; it shatters when used.

The potion labels were determined with my Drink Me system:

Two potions were found together (+1) and were the property of a wizard (+1) so there was a 3-in-6 chance for each to be labelled. d6=1,2 : both labelled

Two random potions: green gas & potion of rage

The 1st was written in the Common language. The second was written in a scholarly language, ancient Allansian (here played by Latin). I gave Ksandajja an Ancient Allansian roll at +2 to make the connection, which she easily passed (needing 11-).

The potions, whilst not technically carried by an NPC, were found in his lab (as opposed to in a random treasure hoard), so the labels will be truthful on a 1-5 on 1d8.

Ksandajja used her Magic Lore to attempt to identify the potions (needing 6-): 2d6=9,3. She's not sure about the gas, but knows the potion of rage is the definite article.

I'd recently bought the Titan Herbal, but none of my PCs have had a chance to pick up Herb Lore, and all missed their rolls (-4 for lack of skill) to identify the random plants: jheera, sandalwood, & canefruit.]

Other than the mirror and crystal which go to the sorceress ("I relinquish all claim to the rest of the treasure," says she), their plunder is secured in the chest to be apportioned once they've gotten somewhere safely out of the jungle.

"Speaking of getting out of the jungle..." begins Ilog cautiously.

"You had something in mind?" says Fhenteskeer.

"There is a sage in the city of Drammub who oft employs me. I shall see if he has any work for me. And mayhaps spend some of that treasure in the city. If you've nothing more pressing, perhaps you'd care to accompany me. What say you all?"

"I just so happen to be going towards the desert," says Ksandajja, "so I shall certainly accompany you."

[I rolled Ilog's proposition using the SS&SS adventure generator as a springboard. The Supporting Character result was Sage, which seemed best as the actual 'quest-giver' (normally I roll for NPC gender, but I have a great picture I've been saving up for a sage, so...). The sage will reveal most the rest of the results. The only other result which has immediate bearing is Location: Raider-Inhabited Desert. Not that Ilog knows exactly where they're going, but it did cause me to add a city to my map (Drammub) on the edge of the desert for the sage to reside in.

Ksandajja's path was always going to be through the desert, but what of the other two?

Q: Do G&F like the idea? 50/50 (4+): O4 C4 - yes, but... need convincing
+Event: Move toward a thread - Develop / A project (helping I will assist in her quest more than just geographically)

Ilog needs a Leadership (7+1) test to convince others to come: 2d6=7, success.]

Grebdal Themp looks quizzically at Fhenteskeer, whose face shews some displeasure at the notion.

"Of course," says the barbarian firmly, "I also intend to take my tale of that accursed temple and its imprisoned demon to him. He'll know if there be any danger, or if we can let the matter slip quietly back into oblivion. I should never be able to rest if I thought such evil could be unleashed upon the world."

"In that case," says Fhenteskeer, "we are honour-bound to join you."

[With food & rest, everyone regains 6 STAMINA. And they get back 1 point of LUCK since they vanquished evil -- everyone is back to full Stamina, but not Luck.]

After a blessedly restful night and a breakfast of purloined PROVISIONS, they strike camp and prepare to head deeper into the jungle.
next post: safe haven or deathtrap?

Friday, 25 June 2021

AFF solo - Part XI: The maid in the ice


Day 4

The barbarian crashes through the jungle like one possessed, ever intent on his goal. His companions feel they are nearly running to keep up. As they near the ruins, a change comes over their surroundings. The oppressive heat seems to lighten, the air becoming fresh and crisp. As they progress, the temperature drops sharply The vegetation begins to glisten with frost, and their breath makes clouds before them. Ilog seems insensible to the cold but the others frantically pull cloaks and other bits of discarded clothing from their packs, throw them on hurriedly, then rush to rejoin the others in the wake of the speeding Ilog.

[I gave Ilog a roll to find the ruins: opting to test LUCK, 2d6=4, success.

Q: How do ruins appear? Delightfully / Cold -- frozen over from accidental release of magics (=the SS&SS complication rolled earlier: Magical Catastrophe)]

And then the barbarian stops short. For before him, rising out of the frozen forest, stands a solitary doorframe of massive stonework. The walls which once enclosed it have long crumbled away, and the twisted, verdigris-crusted fittings of bronze can only hint at the splendid wooden doors which once barred the entrance. The cyclopean lintel shews the barest of cracks between the vines frozen to its surface, but still defiantly bears the weight of countless millennia.

The barbarian produces a wineskin and passes it round. Each in turn takes a hearty pull for its dual promises of courage and proof against the cold. Even the sorceress feels it acutely -- her petty weather protection charm is no match against the eldritch chill.

So fortified, and weapons firmly in hand, they proceed silently into the ruins. Crumbling walls of stone rise around them out of the forest, describing a twisting path through the remains of the once-magnificent temple. The original floor plan is all but lost to time; mounds of rubble now block corridors and processional ways, whilst great holes allow egress through shattered masonry. A few of the old chambers have their roofs largely intact, some once-open spaces are now covered over by the neighbouring structures' collapse, the rest are open -- but only to the dim jungle canopy. Time has done its best to erase the Temple from memory, but here and there are still to be seen weathered carvings of unknown and unknowable figures, the meaning of which even Ksandajja's great learning is unable to fathom.
Scene 7

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: into the ruined temple

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

Threads: Ksandajja's quest, Ilog's revenge

[I ran the ruins using the Location Crafter. The LC results for each Turn (beginning on turn 0 to make it easier to track Progress Points) will be abbreviated as
T# : Location - Encounter - Object.]

T0 : expected - falling pebbles - pottery

Proceeding through the frigid, vine-choked labyrinth, the explorers' movements often dislodge bits of stone and flecks of masonry from above, and potsherds crunch underfoot.

T1 : expected - falling débris - random (Meaningfully / Simple)

[PCs need Awareness rolls to avoid 1d3 damage (armour absorbs).]

But as they are hacking their way through the frozen vines covering a hole to the next chamber, the force of their blows pulls down fist-sized chunks of rock from the stonework. Ksandajja and Grebdal Themp look up just in time to see the danger [made their rolls] and dodge back out of harm's way. Fhenteskeer feels a stone thud off his back, but fortunately his thick leather jerkin cushions the blow. Ilog is caught in the midst of the collapse, and must cower beneath his shield until the collapse subsides. [Fhenteskeer's armour absorbs the single point of damage he would have taken. Ilog took 1d3=2 -1(shield) = 1 damage, putting him at 11 Stamina.]

Once they pass in to the chamber beyond, their attention is arrested by the pattern of the coloured flagstones. Set amongst the dull slabs of native stone, polished segments of black basalt were arranged to form a sinister hieroglyph, an indescribably ancient sigil of purest evil, staring up at the explorers through the rubble.

T2 : long gallery - falling dust - pile of bones

Not daring to tread on such a surface, they double back and find another route. A largely intact doorway opens into a long gallery which promises to take them further into the temple complex with a minimum of detours. About the mid-way point, they chance upon  pile of bones. Grebdal Themp prods them gingerly with his sword, but --against all expectations-- they do not  move.
T3 : special - falling dust - weapon
special: Add Element: Partially / Smooth

At the end of the gallery is a squat chapel of basalt, whose pyramidal roof forms a rudely stepped vault in the interior. In the midst of the chapel is a jagged column of stone, once graven in the likeness of the god or demon for whom this temple was builded, but which has been deliberately defaced so that now only the suggestion of a figure beneath flowing robes remains. An antiquated [d30=]mace of dented bronze lies discarded nearby, evidently the tool responsible for the violence against the image. Low reliefs on three walls accompany the defaced idol, but neither Ksandajja nor Fhenteskeer can elucidate their meaning.
[Ksandajja and Fhenteskeer made Religion Lore rolls at a -4 penalty to interpret the reliefs; unsurprisingly both failed.]

T4 : camp/bedroom - servitor - scrolls

Grebdal Themp spies a track to one side of the chapel, along the length of which the frozen vegetation seems to have been recently shunted aside. The path leads to a square chamber with four mostly-intact walls. A smouldering firepit has been dug near the centre and a canvas sheet nailed to the wall and supported with miscellaneous branches to make a sort of tent.

As the explorers enter through the ancient doorway, they find that a guardian has been left to watch the camp, an abomination made of human corpses stitched together into a shambling mockery of a [d6=]man. The FLESH GOLEM lurches toward the intruders, mismatched hands balled into meaty fists.

[I'd asked--
Q: Is the Servitor human? 50/50 (4+): O2 C2 - no, and... (1d6) 1 undead, 2 demonic, 3 created, 4 intelligent beast, 5 subterranean race, 6 wholly monstrous: 3]


Ilog was first inside, and the sorceress close behind. In the narrow confines of the walled campsite, only they are in a position to do battle with the horror.

[Round 1]
Ksandajja's sharp blade hews off gobbets of spoilt flesh from the golem's limbs as she deftly weaves round the swinging fists. Ilog relies on his shield for defence, but a solid smash against the boss sends the shock the impact up his arm and strains the tendons in his shoulder [2-0=2 damage, putting him at 9 Stamina].  

[Round 2]
But the stolid warrior recovers quickly, and as Ksandajja slices through one of the creature's legs at the knee, Ilog buries the head of his whirling morningstar in the top of its skull, destroying its purloined brain.

The sorcerous creation vanquished, the explorers make a quick search of the camp. Most of it is without interest, but the sorceress' eyes scintillate with delight as they chance upon an ancient, bucket-shaped container, still holding its fill of crumbling papyrus scrolls.

[Q: Scrolls in special container? Certain (2+): O1 C3 - no, but... in 'bucket'
K's Second Sight: 2d6=3, success
Q: Are the scrolls magical and/or protected by magic? 50/50 (4+): O2 C3 - no, but... (1d6) 1-2 on magical topic, 3-4 mundane trap, 5-6 both: 4
K's Awareness (Skill 6+2): 2d6=5 success]

Ksandajja masters her impulsive desire to reach out for the hoary books, and she examines them and their container closely. She notes with some disappointment that no magic appears to emanate from the lot, but does notice that the bronze rim of the bucket is deviously engineered sort of bear-trap -- a painful deterrent to would-be thieves.

This she turns over to Grebdal Themp, who after a few breathless moments [Trap Knowledge (Skill 7+2): 2d6=6, success] has safely disarmed the mechanism.

[Q: Are the scrolls valuable? Certain (2+): O1 C2 - no, and...]

Ksandajja carefully removes one of the scrolls, lays it down on a flat piece of stone and begins slowly unrolling it. Even with her caution, bits of the crumbling papyrus fall away.

"What does it say?" asks Ilog. "Can you read the old writings?"

"If this be an evil text," states Fhenteskeer flatly, "I must destroy it in Holy Flame."

"You needn't bother," sighs the sorceress. "See these columns, all the numbers, the red and black in alternation... these are the temple accounts."

T5 : expected - skeletons (u) - weapon

An intact doorway leads from the camp area to a rectangular courtyard. Rubble lines the walls, but there is a clear path down the centre. In about the middle of the room, [1d6=]a pair of [d30=]spears have been planted upright in the cracks between flagstones. Between them lie two rimed-over skeletons. The explorers are debating whose turn it is to prod the bones with a weapon when they slowly creak to life. The SKELETON WARRIORS snatch their spears from the frosty ground and advance to do battle with the living.

[Round 1]
One of the skeletal warriors rushes to skewer Grebdal Themp, but the canny rogue slips beneath its guard and slashes it across the ribs with his sword. The strike that would have felled a living opponent merely snaps off the lowest rib and glances off the top of its pelvis, barely slowing its counter strike [edged weapons only inflict 1 damage per hit]. Ilog's heavy morning star should fare better, but his ill-timed blow just grazes its scapula [a bad roll for 2 damage drops it to 3 Stamina].

Whilst Fhenteskeer is calling upon the fiery wrath of his god for aid [casting Smite vs. Undead], the other skeleton has engaged Ksandajja. She deftly evades the stabbing spear and her whirling strike neatly bisects her foe's left arm [natural 12, a critical hit for double damage (2 in this case) drops it to 4 Stamina and reduces its SKILL by 1].

[Round 2]
Ilog is off balance, and the undead warrior presses its advantage. The barbarian backpedals, trying in vain to interpose his shield between himself and the glistening spear-point. A momentary stumble over frozen vines is all the fiend needs to strike past the shield, and pierce Ilog's shoulder [3-1=2 damage, leaving him with 9 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp tries to surprise the skeleton warrior from the rear, but the unnaturally keen senses of the thing alert it to his attack, and it fends off each thrust of his sword with the butt of the spear [their attack totals equal, so neither hit].

As Ksandajja and her foe circle one another warily [equal attack totals], Fhenteskeer rushes forward, his axe wreathed in spiritual flames. Mighty Filash himself guides the priest's hand, and his devoted disciple shatters its sinister grinning skull [3x2=6 damage, destroyed]. The rest of the bones clatter noisily to the ground.

[Round 3]
Moments later the barbarian's morning star crashes through the sternum of his foe and shards of bone fly every which way as the skeleton warrior crumbles [critical hit: 4x2=8 damage, destroyed].

Ilog wastes no time in binding his injured shoulder. [healing roll succeeds, +2sta to 11]

T6 : expected - adept - sarcophagus

Near the end of the path through the rubble-strewn courtyard, the temperature drops sharply. Two doorways on opposite walls lead further into the complex. The one on the right hand side, leading towards the centre of the complex, has icicles hanging down from the massive stone lintel.

"This way!" says Ilog, repressing a shudder. "We'll tear the wizard's power out at the roots." He strides down the icy passage without so much as a glance at his companions behind him.

The passage leads to a chamber that shows signs of total collapse and very recent excavation. The jungle had never penetrated here; all the bits of frozen vines and leaves came only on the wind.
In the midst of the broken chamber lies an immense block of ice, pellucid as holy water in a sacred basin. Within is entombed a maiden of the most resplendent loveliness, lying in an attitude of gentle repose. She is a picture of serene pulchritude and the softest graciousness. Only her great stature, fully half again as tall as mighty Ilog, betrays her more-than-mortal nature.

It is hard for the onlookers to avert their gaze from the delightful beauty, but Ilog is conscious that she is not alone in this chamber, and his exclamation rouses his companions from their reverie.

"Ensevektu, you treacherous cur! Face me and know that it is I who shall spell your doom."

The adept is standing a few scant paces from the frozen maid. He is clad in ostentatious finery, and seems more a courtier than an occult scholar. Curling locks protrude from beneath his velour hood, slick with fragrant unguents. The barbarian's voice has startled him from deep contemplations as well. When he turns to pass his leering gaze over the intruders, they see the glint of mail beneath his costly garments.

NPC Relationship: hostile
Conversation Mood: neutral
scheming - negotiation - relics]

"Ilog, you've found me! I didn't think you capable of the initiative. Come to recover the promised treasures, have you? Your slavering over gold shews you for the ignorant savage I met back in Drammub. If you could only comprehend the real use to which I will put them. But forget your petty revenge and help me -- and all shall be forgiven!

"Not so fast," interjects Ksandajja. "Just what are you doing?"

"I shall open this sarcophagus of ice and release the dead goddess within. Then I shall make my offering as her high priest to earn her favours -- such unlimited power shall be mine."

"We'd probably ought to kill this maniac," mumbles Fhenteskeer.

"Be careful," says Ilog. "If I thought it were that easy to slay a wizard, I'd have come alone."

Ilog and Grebdal Themp advance with weapons bared as Fhenteskeer and Ksandajja begin working their spells. The unseemly adept shouts a guttural string of syllables. The ground between him and his foes begins to rumble, and a nightmare creature bursts forth...

next post: horrors revealed!

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!

Friday, 11 June 2021

AFF solo - Part IX: Vengeance for a warrior


The ship bound for Ulq is a fast merchant. Barely a day and a half is spent at sea before the mist-shrouded harbour and graceful domed temples of Ulq come into view. Fhenteskeer is nervous the whole voyage; as a Fire-priest the sea is always a source of discomfiture. He spends nearly every waking hour -- which are many, for sleep will not come for him -- in  unceasing and wretched prayers. Perhaps this is why the voyage passes for him without incident. Grebdal Themp spends the day at dice with the sailors, and the night playing cards with the captain and first mate. But despite his skill at games of chance, and his luck at games of skill, he is no richer upon disembarking than he was upon boarding, nor --fortunately-- poorer. Ksandajja, so far from her desert home, is fascinated by the swelling waves and unfathomable depths beneath them. Once does she espy a mermaid sunning herself on a stony reef in the spray. The little siren calls to her with her magical song, and though she be sorely tempted, the sorceress does not drown herself for desire of the lovely creature. She does, however, spend the rest of the voyage in a mood.

[Leaving Ângu and sailing to Ulq formed the substance of the first Scene. It was mostly uneventful, and the actual adventure was yet to come.

There's more that got cut from the narrative than was worth leaving in, but for those who are interested in solitaire gaming procedures:

Scene 1

Chaos: Out of Control (d8) (chaos improves one level as cult dispersed)

Setup: travel from Ângu to Ulq

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

Threads: quest, omen

Before leaving--
Q: Is there a fire temple in Ângu? 50/50 (4+): O3 C5 - no.
Q: Does Fhenteskeer and/or Grebdal Themp know a place in the city to get omens interpreted? 50/50 (4+): O1 C3 - no, but... next city to south (Ulq)
Q: What temple? (1d6): 1-2 Filash (god of fire), 3-6 Hamaskis (god of learning): d6=Hamaskis.

-16 gp from treasure for room & board: all Stamina (& Luck) restored

Q: Can they find a captain willing to take passengers? likely (3+): O5 C3 - Yes, but... expensive: 5+1d6= 10gp each

{{{some pointless random city encounters redacted}}}

The voyage--
Q: Uneventful sea voyage? 50/50 (4+): O6 c4 - yes, but...

Random encounter (via Out of the Pit): 3d6 = mer(1d6: 1-3 -maid, 4-6 -man)

Q: Does the mermaid try to ensnare a PC? 50/50 (4+): O6 C7 - yes. 1d3=Ksandajja. She successfully Tests her LUCK to avoid the charm.]

Scene 2

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: business in Ulq

NPC List: -

Threads: quest, omen

As the trio disembark in Ulq's harbour, they find a quiet-seeming tavern to use as their evening rendez-vous, for they are all eager to see to their several interests in the city; Ksandajja makes for the Temple of Hamaskis, Fhenteskeer must repair to the temple of his own god, and Grebdal Themp would merely like to convert some baubles to golden coins.

[The NPC list has been cleared out since it was specific to the last city. I'm rolling one random encounter in Midkemia Press' Cities per PC errand. One of the many benefits of solo gaming is that you can split the party without players sitting round being bored.

It's been a while since my last AFF posts, so as a reminder of who the PCs are I will preface their individual errands with their updated character sheets.]

Grebdal Themp

SKILL 7    STAMINA 10    LUCK 11
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 2, Evaluate 1, Trap knowledge 2, Con 1
Cantrips: Enhance, Hear, Sober, Secrete, Instil, Honesty
Equipment: sword, leather armour, lantern, oil, luck potion, backpack

As Grebdal Themp makes for the marketplace, he hears a commotion up ahead. A band of four drunken warriors are lurching unsteadily down the street, hurling crapulous abuse at all whose paths they cross.

[Encounter: 4 warriors looking for a fight
to avoid-- SKILL 7 + sneaking 2; 2d6=7, success]

Not wanting to risk an incident, Grebdal Themp melts into an alleyway and leaves some less fortunate passers-by to their fate. Once in the marketplace, he asks about for a reputable jeweller [City Lore roll succeeds] and is soon inside a brightly lit little shop, haggling with the proprietor under the hawk-like glare of two enormous mounds of muscle, each holding an axe taller than Grebdal Themp himself.

He's not sure if he'd inadvertently said something to arouse the merchant's ire, or if all foreigners in Ulq receive the same ill treatment, but from the first the merchant seemed disinclined to talk to him and offered only the most ludicrously low price for his baubles. Grebdal Themp leaves with his treasures in a hurry.

[He'd previously made his Evaluate rolls, so knew the actual values, but...

Merchant's disposition (2d6): 2-3 friendly, 4-9 neutral, 10-11 unfriendly, 12 hostile: 12! (-5 penalty)

Merchant's skill: 4 + 2d3 bargain: 7

resisted Bargain rolls
g 7+0-5=2 +2d6=8
merch 7+2d6=15 : will only offer 50% of value - no sale]

. . .



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 3, Leadership 2, Elemental Speech 1, Etiquette 1, Axes 2, Awareness 1, Armour 2, Sneaking 1
Spells: Flame, Smite vs. Undead, Bless, Heal
Equipment: hand axe, leather armour, lantern, oil, anti-poison potion, backpack

As Fhenteskeer is praying before the blazing altar in the temple Filash, Lord of the Sacred Flame, he hears a commotion behind him. He turns to see a powerfully-built barbarian warrior arguing with a pair of temple attendants who are trying to convince [d6=] him he cannot profane the sanctuary by carrying his weapons here.

[Encounter: warrior looking for vengeance

NPC Relationship: loved (! -- this set the scene)
Conversation Mood: sociable
scheming - plot - last action]

Fhenteskeer strides over to help the attendants who are visibly wilting under the barbarian's stare. But as soon as the warrior sees him, he throws himself at Fhenteskeer's feet with the utmost subservience.

"O good priest, will you hear my poor story? For my enemies are like unto a gangrene, and must be burnt away in the cleansing flame!"

"I am ever ready to aid a true aspirant in distress," says the priest.

. . .


MAGIC 5   Magic Points 12

Social Class: Sorceress (4)   Age: 28
Talents: Learned
Special Skills: Common Speech 4 (+2), Desert Lore 1 (+2), World Lore 1 (+2), Religion Lore 1 (+2), Ride 1, Swords 2, Magic - Sorcery 2, Awareness 2, Second Sight 1, Sneaking 1, Polearms 1, Magic - Minor 1, Language - Ancient Allansian 1 (+2), Magic Lore 1
Cantrips: Weather Protection, Honesty, Hear
Equipment: sword, nose plugs, luck potion

As Ksandajja is wending her way towards the temple of Hamaskis, she hears a commotion all round her.

[Encounter: already occurring - public execution (normally I re-roll duplicates, but this was too good to discard]

The townsfolk are all excitedly babbling and rushing towards the square at then end of the street, and the sorceress is swept along by the clamouring throng. In the square, in the shadow of the temple of Sicalla, goddess of justice and punishment, she finds a public execution taking place. Ulqite soldiers have bound several criminals, naked and howling, to upright pikes, which one by one are being lowered over hot coals to roast the unfortunates alive. The foul smoke stings Ksandajja's eyes so she cannot read the placards announcing their crimes. She hurries away on a detour down a narrow street, vowing to be on her best behaviour in the city.

The tyraleion -- for Hamaskis is worshipped in Ulq under the name Tyralar -- is an imposing edifice of gleaming white marble. As Ksandajja steps silently over the threshold, the twinned scents of frankincense and old papyrus greet her nostrils, giving her a dreamy nostalgia for the far off desert temple wherein she'd learnt the Arts of Sorcery.

She addresses one of the priestesses in ancient Allansian, and finds her all too eager to speak with a woman of learning. Once she hears the sorceress' petition, she gathers a handful of other clergy, and they discuss her omen at length.

[Ksandajja's Etiquette roll to determine how they received her was a natural 2, critical success!

I treated their explication of the omen as a Rumour (ask an NPC), with +1 for the good reaction.

Type: d6=6, Miscellaneous
Misc: d6=5,  business tip (re-rolling that as it's nonsensical)
d6=3, warning

rolling on the plus/minus column (it's a warning, so negative): 2d6=10: ruin (-4)

rolling 1st truth die now d6+1=7! very likely! (When the second truth die is rolled, the minimum result will be Partly True, and there is a 50% chance (4+ on the d6) of Completely True.)]

Ksandajja has been lost in heady meditation before the golden statue of youthful Tyralar reading from a lengthy scroll when the priestess returns to her, a grave cast to her countenance.

"It is a dire portent, I fear. The harbinger of death snatching away the sword means that you cannot best your greatest foe by force of arms; should you try, death shall tear victory from your very hand, and you shall surely perish." [-4 combat rolls]

"And the two executions I witnessed...?"

"They do confirm it, O sister. Death is waiting to meet you."

[She does get 1 Luck back (to max), as forewarned is forearmed or summat.]

Scene 3

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: d8=3, Interrupt (was: convene at the inn)
Interrupt: NPC action - Develop / Pain

NPC List: vengeful warrior, unseemly adept, hostile merchant

Threads: quest

As Fhenteskeer is leading his new acquaintance towards the inn to meet his comrades, the hulking warrior suddenly doubles over in pain and cries out.

"A! it is the adept's curse eating away at my insides!"

[Q: Is he incapacitated? Unknown (1d6=5, Unlikely): O3 C5 - No. only 2 STA damage
Q: Is it really a curse? Certain (2+): O1 C2 - No, and...]

But the fire priest is not convinced. Whilst there is some small chance that foul sorcery is involved, he thinks the much more likely culprit is the undercooked sausage the barbarian bought from that dodgy-looking street vendor.

Scene 4

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: d8=4, Interrupt (was: convene at the inn)
Interrupt: NPC action - adept - Take / Magic = at least 1 magic item amongst his treasures -- noted for later.

Scene 5

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: convene at the inn

NPC List: vengeful warrior, unseemly adept, hostile merchant

Threads: quest

Night is falling by the time Fhenteskeer returns to the inn with his new-found comrade. They find Ksandajja and Grebdal Themp sitting sullenly at a corner table in the common room, a mostly empty jug of spiced wine on the table between them. Ksandajja sharpens her sword mechanically, whilst Grebdal Themp turns the unsold jewels over an over in his fingers. The rest of the clientèle in the inn are but weary travellers, who unsurprisingly are giving the pair a wide berth.

"My friends, I have someone I want you to meet," says the fire priest. "listen to his proposal whilst I fetch another jug of that wine."

He scurries off to the innkeeper as the barbarian addresses the others.

"I am Ilog, a warrior of the Goharsian -- or a 'mountain barbarian', if you prefer. Some months ago I met a wizard in Drammub, who hired me and several others for protection on a  foray into the Baubauan Jungle. He'd happened upon an old map, which showed the way to lost, ancient ruins, said to hold the fabulous treasures of a bygone age. One night our camp was attacked by savage beasts. The wizard vanished during the fighting, taking the map and the rest of our provisions with him. We were all too injured to attempt a pursuit, and had to turn back, but disaster followed disaster, and those who did not perish to monstrous creatures were stolen away in the night by the cannibals who haunt the fell jungle. I alone survived the nightmare and reached this city. But I have consulted old books in the library of Tyralar and with what I remember of the map, I think I know where to find that accursed wizard in those hidden ruins."

"You seek to recover the treasure for yourself?" asks Grebdal Themp.

"Treasure? Phaugh! It's yours, should you help me. I seek only vengeance on that treacherous cur."

"What do you know of this wizard?" asks Ksandajja.

"Only that he called himself Ensevektu -- though I suspect even that was a lie!"

"What say you, friends, to good Ilog's proposition?" asks Fhenteskeer.

"Oh, we're in!"

[Q: Can warrior foot the tab for one night? 50/50 (4+): O3 C7 - No.
-16GP from the party's treasure

Fleshing out the adventure--

When the 'vengeful warrior' encounter was first rolled, I'd asked the Oracle...
Q: Revenge on whom? (UNE): unseemly adept
Q: Why? (Mythic): Bestow / Riches - there was treasure involved

Then I used the Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells adventure tables...
Location: Cannibal-Infested Jungle
Antagonist: Failed Sorcerous Experiment
Supporting character: Forgotten God
Complication: Magical Catastrophe
Reward: Energy Crystal

Unusually, I managed to fit them all into the adventure without any issue (I almost always end up ignoring at least one result when I pre-roll an adventure as it develops by itself in another direction), though one of the results became merely scenery and not a challenge of any sort.

Ilog is a starting character--

Ilog, the Vengeful Warrior

Talent: Strongarm (+1 to damage rolls)
Special Skills: Clubs 2, Strength 2, Jump 2, Sneaking 1, Swim 1, Healing 1, Awareness 1, Bows 1, Leadership 1, Thrown 1, World lore 1, Mountain lore 1, Religion lore 1
Equipment: morningstar, small shield, backpack, 2 Provisions, Stamina potion]

Ilog tells them that the ruins lie deceptively close to the city; it should be but [1d6=] three days' travel through jungle.

They make a quick trip through the market in the morning to buy supplies. Grebdal Themp has another go at selling his baubles, but finds all doors close in his face. [City Lore at -2 to find a different merchant: natural 12, a fumble]. Evidently the merchant he'd offended has spread word through the city not to trade with him.

Ksandajja spends what little gold she has to buy a day's worth of unpreserved food for each of them. She's optimistic about being able to forage more than enough food on the journey.

[Inconsequential random city encounters redacted.]

The road out of Ulq is little more than a dirt track winding through the terraced farmlands on the hillsides surrounding the port city. The companions follow it up to the crest of the ridge where it abruptly ends. Beyond the stone watchtower guarding the limits of Ulq's influence, the lush green jungle waits to meet them.

next post: random encounters and the Pathetic Fallacy