Tuesday, 29 July 2014


Five weary figures stand at the bottom of a stony mountain path, surveying the narrow valley before them in the twilight gloom.

"It was easier to climb down here than I thought," says Nikias, the young soldier.

"Look at that gate up ahead,"  It looks like it's standing wide open." responds Eratosthenes, the veteran officer.

"I would expect it's open night and day." says the courtesan, Nossis.

"Good," adds the fearsome, if superstitious, Typhon, "because it would be hard work getting back up!"

"I'd say few have ever done it," says the wily Dicaearchos, "without the favour of Zeus..."

[Whilst the T&T Katabasis characters are finishing their frankly anachronistic conversation*, let's do a bit of housekeeping.

Fate is rerolled every session, so:
Dichaearchos has the best luck, thanks in no small part to the Orphic amulet he carries. He also rolls a 17 on 3d6; his base score (5) with the bonus for the amulet (+6) give him a score of 28 for this session. Nikias, despite his -1 base value, manages to roll a DARO on his check, so he will have a Fate of 25. Eratosthenes rolls another 10, so he holds steady at 15 Fate (+3 normal, +2 amulet). Typhon's Fate drops to 14, and Nossis' sinks to a mere 11.

Everyone is suffering from the wounds they received in the dungeon, and the long, tiring journey through the dark caverns gave everyone a point of Fatigue; this will reduce everyone's effective STR by 1. Nossis already had 5 fatigue points from spellcasting, so she's now at 6, for a -6 STR and -3 to all other attributes (save for CON). Now, back to the adventure.]

Like this +47

The party all crouch down behind some rocks and look down the path at the gate, still some distance away. The cyclopean gate is carved of black stone, and looks the equal of any besieging host. The magnificent doors on their great hinges of adamantine yawn open, but some sort of creature can be seen pacing the ground before the opening, occasionally emitting gouts of flame.

Adeimantos (dauntless) Nikias volunteers to scout ahead. Approaching unseen will require a level 3 SR on DEX. A roll of 8+23=31, success. Nikias slinks off, darting from boulder to boulder for cover. He comes back a few minutes later, looking a bit pale and trembling. He reports that, indeed, guarding the gate he saw, "unspeakable, unmanageable Kerberos, the savage, the bronze-barking dog of Haides, fifty-headed, and powerful, and without pity.**"

"I thought he only had three heads," says Dicaearchos.

"You try painting a 50-headed dog on the side of a vase," replies Nikias.

"What do we do now?" asks Typhon.

[I'll give the party a level 2 SR on EDU for a clue. Despite her -3 from fatigue, Nossis still has the highest. She rolls 9+(27-3=)24, a success.]

"Wait a minute!" cries Nossis, "Of course! How foolish of me not to have thought of it sooner: we just go right in."

"How do you figure?" asks Eratosthenes.

Nossis recites: "A fearful hound guards the house in front, pitiless, and he has a cruel trick. On those who go in he fawns with his tail and both his ears, but suffers them not to go out back again, but keeps watch and devours whomever he catches going out of the gates of strong Hades and awful Persephone.***"

Everyone looks at her with more than a little disbelief. Perhaps they do not trust the accuracy of her memory in such an exhausted state. Or perhaps they mistrust the words of an ancient farmer, who seems to have forgotten the other 98 ears one would expect from earlier in his poem. But what choice do they have? At length, Eratosthenes decides to take action.

"Company, form up!" he shouts, and the soldiers instinctively snap to attention. "We're going to rely on Nossis' ear for poetry, and march straight through that gate! All right men... march!"

It will be a level 1 SR on Charisma to command the troops. Eratosthenes rolls 7+15=22, success. With Nossis following behind, Eratosthenes leads the soldiers bravely through the gate. The terrifying Kerberos is all sweetness to them as they pass, but Dicaearchos makes the mistake of looking back once they've passed through the gate, and fifty pairs of flaming red eyes stare back at him hungrily.

The forbidding plain stretches before them, hemmed in by impassible mountains and a forest of gnarled, twisted trees. The little band stop to consider their options. It is then that Dicaearchos suggests they refer to the text on the amulet he wears. He carefully removes the thin sheet of gold rolled up in the golden phylactery. But the glint of gold arrests the attention of other netherworld denizens.

[The random encounter table results in--

A little German goes a long way if you want to use Katabasis monsters in your own T&T games, so here is the stat block explained item by item.

Grabräuber: Graverobbers, an NPC party like the characters.
MR: MR is MR, (1d6x5)+5. W=Würfel, die.
RS: stands for Rüstungsschutz -- Armour Points; a grave robber has 1d6x5 -15 (so, 0-15)
#: number encountered is 2d6-5, minimum (mindestens) of 1.
1W6-4 Schätze: 1d6-4 treasures; a Treasure is defined as being worth 3d6x10xDungeonLevel silver drachmae.
Spitemanöver: Spite manoeuvres, special effects inflicted along with spite damage (there's a table in the combat section)
INSG. 1W ➞BES. AUSR., 2W ➞NORM. AUSR.: (Insgesamt 1W Besondere Ausrüstung, 2W Normale Ausrüstung) That is, In total (insgesamt) 1d6 rolls on the Besondere Ausrüstung (special equipment) table, 2d6 rolls on the Normal Equipment table. You can click on the ➞ in the PDF to go to the relevant charts.

Totally not the PCs

So, for the encounter I rolled a group of 6 graverobbers. They have no treasures, just some miscellaneous (Normale & Besondere) equipment, to be determined later. For the sake of argument, lets say there's five men and a woman. The first one listed will be the leader. Thus, we roll their MR & RS, yielding:

35 15 : Eurysthenes, a handsome officer
10 10 : Aristarchos, a wily ne'er-do-well
10  5 : Anaximenes, a hellenised Scythian
30  0 : Nikomachos, a sculptor
25  0 : Baucis, a porne
35  0 : «Typhoeus», a big ugly guy

As they have no treasure, I decided that they are ἄταφοι, the unburied dead, having been a group of adventurers killed fleeing in the Seleucid army's rout at the hands of the Ptolemaic forces, which battle

πολλὰς δ᾽ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν
ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
οἰωνοῖσί τε δαῖτα...
(Homer, Iliad I:3-5)

("sent forth many brave souls of heroes to Hades, and made them (i.e. their bodies) spoils for dogs and a feast for the vultures"). But, of course, this encounter is not with the souls of heroes. These graverobbers lack money to pay the ferryman, and are intent on rolling the PCs for spare change.]

Attracted by the glint of gold, a band of six mercenaries and hangers-on approach the party, spears at the ready, murder in their hollow eyes. The battle is joined.

[round 1]
In an attempt to end things without violence, Nossis casts φόβος (phobos: Oh, go away!) on the one who is obviously the leader. Her EDU(INT)+Fate+CHR is compared to his MR. Even though all three attributes are reduced by -3 for fatigue, 24+8+11 > MR35; the spectral soldier flees. Nossis acquires 4 more points of fatigue (5 for the spell, -1 for her staff).

The rest of the ataphoi are unconcerned, or perhaps just desperate. They charge to attack. Their combined MR is 110, giving them 12 dice + 55 adds. They roll 47+55=102, with 3 spite.

The PCs get 16 dice + 65 adds in their fatigued state. They roll 55+65=120, with 4 spite. The PCs win this round of combat, inflicting 120-102=18 damage, which is reduced to 3 by the  15 points of armour on the enemy side. But the 4 spite hits add 12, so a total of 15 damage comes of their MR.

Typhon, Nossis, and Eratosthenes (randomly) each get 3 damage from the trismegistos spite hits.

[round 2]
The graverobbers' MR is reduced to 95, so they get 10 dice +48. They manage a HPT this round of 85, with 1 spite.

Nossis is going to fall over if she takes much more fatigue, so she joins in with her dagger. The PCs get 18 dice +67 now, and get a total of 133, with 5 spite.

The PCs win the round again. 133-85=48 -15 for armour = 33 +15(5 spite x3)= 48 damage inflicted.

Poor, tired Nossis takes the spite hit for her side, suffering the loss of 3 more CON.

pictures in lieu of narrative combat

[round 3]
The desperate shades press their attack. MR 47 gives them only 5+24, for a HPT of 44. They don't roll any 6s this round, so no spite damage.

The PCs give no quarter, and roll a HPT of 132, with 2 spite. 132-44= the PCs kill them all.

The vanquished shades lose all cohesion, and melt away into the rocky soil. Their leader is nowhere to be seen.

There are, however, a few items lying on the ground where they fell. To account for the Leader escaping with his own equipment, I will reduce the number of rolls for Special and Normal equipment by 2. Rolling the dice yields (1d6-2=) 4 pieces of special and (2d6-2=) 6 pieces of normal equipment. These are determined on the Besondere Ausrüstung table with a d66 roll, the Normale Ausrüstung with d666. So,

Special Items:
31 Opobalsamon: one does heals 1d3 damage and adds twice that amount of Fate (Luck) for one day.
46 Invisible Ink (heat activated)
51 Disguise Kit
14 Burglary set (axe, small pickaxe) SD25 ENC1

Normal items:
134 Grappling hook
212 Torch, burns 40min
214 Torch, burns 40min
251 Omphacomeli (a drink of sour grapes and honey)
356 Touchstone (to identify metals)
661 Wineskin

The PCs gather up their treasure, then turn their attention back to the inscription on Dicaearchos' amulet. To be continued...


* Astute readers will have recognised a clumsy paraphrase of Vergil's Aeneid, which the PCs could not possibly know, as it won't be written for another 250 years.

                   ...facilis descensus Averno :
noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis ;
sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
hoc opus, hic labor est. pauci, quos aequus amavit
Iuppiter aut ardens evexit...
vergil, Aeneid 126-30

                                 ...ἀμήχανον, οὔ τι φατειὸν
Κέρβερον ὠμηστήν, Ἀίδεω κύνα χαλκεόφωνον,
πεντηκοντακέφαλον, ἀναιδέα τε κρατερόν τε
Hesiod, Theogeny 310-12

         ...δεινὸς δὲ κύων προπάροιθε φυλάσσει
νηλειής, τέχνην δὲ κακὴν ἔχει · ἐς μὲν ἰόντας
σαίνει ὁμῶς οὐρῇ τε καὶ οὔασιν ἀμφοτέροισιν,
ἐξελθεῖν δ᾽ οὐκ αὖτις ἐᾷ πάλιν, ἀλλὰ δοκεύων
ἐσθίει, ὅν κε λάβῃσι πυλέων ἔκτοσθεν ἰόντα
ἰφθίμου τ᾽ Ἀίδεω καὶ ἐπαινῆς Περσεφονείης.
Hesiod, Theogeny 769-74

Thursday, 24 July 2014


Katabasis and a couple supplements

After a more-or-less restful week in Emesa, the party are anxious to get back to the dungeon. Swords sharpened, provisions packed for the trail, all possible gods propitiated, they head off once again into the desert.

"That was an awful lot of silver we spread round the marketplace," observes Nikias, "I hope no thieves or bandits are on our trail."

"Did we remember to sacrifice to Hermes, Archos pheleteon?" asks Typhon. "Shall he not protect us from thieves?"

"I thought," responds Eratosthenes, "that we were asking him to protect the thieves -- namely us!"

But as this is an RPG, gentle reader, you know that ultimately it is Tyche (fortune) who must decide. Covering their trail through the desert to lose any pursuers is a Level 3 SR on EDU. Nossis has the best EDU (27), so rolls: 7+27, a resounding success. Nossis is a city girl, but she'd been marching in the train of camp followers behind the mercenary army for months, so she knows the kind of mess they leave behind. But convincing her compatriots to follow her advice is a Lvl 1 SR on CHA: 6+14=20, so with her prodding they manage to arrive at the ruins of Paraisima without incident.

They spend a quiet, if somewhat restless, night camped amongst the toppled stones, and on the following morning descend into the dungeon. It all seems as it did when they left it. Hearing not a sound in the entrance hall [room 2], they decide to continue their exploration to the north. They pass through room 4, where the bodies of the cave harpies are emitting an awful foetor. Nothing appears to have disturbed them; not even the lowly fly could bear to come near the stinking corpses.

The party quickly cross north to the next chamber [room 5]. It is empty (room contents roll of 5), as are the alcoves leading off of it. The party begin to wonder if someone had been here already and looted the place in their absence. But as they continue on down a narrow, sloping passage and into a smaller room [room 6], their fears are allayed.

The room is square, with walls of roughly-hewn stone. Shelves and recesses are carved into the far wall, full of costly vases evidently imported from Magna Graecia and even Etruria. "This stuff would be worth a fortune," says Dicaearchos, "if only we could get it out of here intact." Nikias is somewhat humbled by the painters' skill, Nossis is disappointed that there's nothing in the Boeotian style, but everyone is in agreement: they should find a way to take these treasures away. Even Typhon, for once, doesn't have any superstitious objections. Perhaps he will acquire some...

Astyanax is the first to approach, and he gently lifts one of the smaller vessels to test it. "It seems pretty solid," he says, turning toward his companions, his eyes ever on the artfully painted maenads dancing gracefully around the inside of the phiale (saucer-shaped cup for pouring libations). Oh, if only they were real! If only he were there with them, one of the satyrs in their band, leaping and cavorting with lovely thyrsos-bearing maids! Why, just thinking about it, he's starting to feel a bit ithy---

And suddenly his reveries are shattered by the sound of his friends shouting to look out. [Level 1 SR on DEX: 9+11= success] He turns just in time to see that the pottery behind him has flown off the shelf, and is floating in the air in the rough outline of a warrior: a warrior about to smash him over the head with a strange, red-figure war club! Fortunately he has time to react, and draws his sword in the nick of time.

The monster is a Beseelter Schatz (Animated Treasure) with MR40 and 30 points of armour (both determined by rolls of 1d6x10). The first round is just the surprise attack whilst Astyanax's friends are drawing their weapons and advancing on the creature. Luckily Astyanax made the DEX SR, or he would not have been able to use his sword.

[round 1]
The animated treasure rolls 5d6 + 20 for its attack, generating a HPT of 41. It rolled a single 6, so Astyanax will take 3 damage no matter what (as Katabasis triples spite damage). Astyanax counters with his curved sword (machaira) rolling 4d6+1 for a HPT of 15, including 1 spite.

The animated treasure's superior attack inflicts (41-15=) 26 damage on Astyanax. He has a total of 9 points of armour, doubled to 18 as he is a polemistes (warrior). 8 damage penetrates his armour, and he suffers 3 more from the spite; he is reduced to 1 CON, having been pummelled repeatedly by a masterfully-executed 'Ajax throwing himself on his sword'.

[round 2]
Astyanax falls back out of the fight. Nossis drags him to safety. The other four form a shield wall and fight in close quarters. 

The treasure's MR was reduced by 3 (to 37) for the spite damage it took, as it shattered an oinochoe (wine pitcher) against Astyanax's armour. It rolls 18+17= 35, no spite. The PC's HPT is 120 (Dicaearchos 30 + Typhon 33 + Nikias 31 + Eratosthenes 26), but only 2 sixes are rolled out of all of that. Still, 120-35= 85 damage, less 30 for the creature's armour = 55; the animated pottery is utterly destroyed, some of the fragments crushed to powder by the mighty blows of our heroes.

They feel a great wave of grief at loss of so much treasure, grief as great as that of the archaeologists -- or, indeed, their long-suffering graduate students -- who will some day try to piece together these priceless artifacts, only to discover how much has been lost.

Meanwhile Nossis is busy applying some silphion to Astyanax's wounds. She heals 3 points of his CON, though 0 of pride.

Having explored the northern parts of the tomb in their entirety, the party return to the entrance hall in order to explore to the east. At the end of the hall, the faux skene (stage backdrop) stops, and there is a raised platform of polished black marble, on which sits a low, sacrificial altar still covered in dessicated cakes and dusty vessels full of grain. The hall continues for a long way after the platform [room 8]. Here the walls as well as the floor are faced in the same black marble, giving the wide passage a most unearthly feeling. The party advances slowly, each step resounding in the hollow sepulchre, every clink of arms and armour echoing like an entire army.

The shadows seem to move as if alive, now creeping over the walls and floor, now strangely static in the flickering torchlight. Then three detach form the wall entirely and float into the middle of the passage, coalescing into the ghostly forms of three ancient warriors wearing high-crested helmets and brandishing stout spears. The largest of the three takes a step forward, and addresses the party.

"Halt, mortals! And look ye upon my ghostly form! I, the shade of the great hero Ascalaphos, do stand before you!"

"Ummmm..." offers Eratosthenes, "Ascalaphos? Sorry, I don't know the name."

The rest of the PCs look on in nervous silence.

"Ascalaphos," repeats the spectral warrior. "You know, 'And they that dwelt in Aspledon and Orchomenos of the Minyae were led by Ascalaphos and Ialmenos, sons of Ares...' Come on guys, I'm in the Iliad."

"Oh, um, this is kind of embarrassing," says Eratosthenes, "but I always kind of skipped past the Catalogue of Ships. Nossis, you're cultured; you've got to know that bit."

"Sorry, I'm really more of an Odyssey girl. Nikias? Ever paint a vase with an... Ascalaphos was it?"

"Perhaps," interjects the shade, turning his empty orbs towards Nikias,  "you painted the scene where Deiphobos 'hurled his gleaming spear. For a second time he missed Idomeneus, hitting Ascalaphos Enyalios’ son: the heavy spear entering his shoulder. Down in the dust he went, clutching the ground.' Remember that part? Book XIII. No?"

"Sorry," replies Nikias with a shrug, "I got nothin'."

The shades step forward to attack. Askalaphos is a Schattenheros (Shadow Hero - MR 1d6x10 + 50) and is accompanied by 2 Schattenkrieger (Shadow Warriors - MR 1d3x5 + 20). These shades have a 50/50 chance of being incorporeal or having 10 points of armour. These three turn out to be incorporeal, which halves all non-magical damage they recieve, though not the raw HPT of their opponents. Askalaphos has an MR or 100, his sunaspistai (shield-fellows) are MR 30 and 25.

[round 1]
The shades have a combined MR of 155, so get 16 dice +78 adds. Normally I wouldn't record their exact roll, but it was so abysmal as to be worth noting: 6,4,4,3,3,3,2,2,2,2,2,1,1,1,1,1. Their HPT is 38+78=116, with 1 spite.

Nossis wastes no time in blasting the Shadow Hero with a Δέξαι μαστιγία! (TTYF) inflicting 27 damage + providing a shock effect.

The others advance in formation; their overlapping aspides (shields) provide +3 points of armour to the person on the left of the bearer; all but Typhon (on the far right) get this bonus.

They get a total of 19 dice + 66 adds: 70+66(+27 shock effect)= 163, with 3 spite, and win the round.

Damage is 163-116= 47+9(for 3 spite)=56. But this is halved since the shades are incorporeal, so their swords and spears only inflict 28 damage. Nossis' spell is not reduced: 27 magic damage. Typhon takes 3 damage from spite (I always roll the spite randomly when I play more than one PC).

[round 2]
The shades' MR has been reduced to 100, giving them 11 dice + 50 adds. Their HPT this round is 49+50 = 99, +3 spite.

Nossis lets off another spell (2 points less effective due to Fatigue), the rest press their attack. Their HPT is 59+66+25(shock effect)= 150, 1 spite.
150-99=51 +3(spite)=56 /2(incorporeality)=28 +25(spell) = 53 damage in total against the shades.

Dicaearchos, Astyanax, and Typhon each suffer 3 points of damage in return.

[round 3]
The shades are starting to lose their cohesion. Their MR is down to 47 (8 dice + 24).
Their HPT this round is a mere 26+23=49, with 2 spite.

Nossis joins in with her dagger to conserve spell-casting ability (hiding under edge of Astyanax's shield). The party get 21 dice+74. Their HPT is 69+79=148, with 3 spite; this results in 54 damage getting through.

The PCs are victorious. Gibbering and howling, the spectral warriors sink into the floor.

In the back of the room sit three burial urns. Within are mostly bones and ashes, but in each is found the remains of a golden death-mask, melted and deformed by the heat of the funeral pyre. These grisly trophies should be worth something (in fact, 3d6 x 50 x 1 (the dungeon level) = 450SD).

The party pauses to apply more silphion to their injuries; they've now used up 60% of their healing supplies. Perhaps, they all agree, it would be prudent to leave the dungeon until they've recovered somewhat. And that's when I finally rolled something of interest on the Random Events table. The actual result was "Typical event and/or an opponent who has previously fled returns with reinforcements". No one has actually escaped our little band of fortune-seekers, but an idea about an encounter with the Weithinverderber, the undead they first robbed in the tomb, came unbidden into my mind:

As the PCs return to the entrance hall, they find the stairs blocked by a dozen phantoms. "You stole our treasure," they say, disconcertingly chorus-like, "now you must pay the penalty. Never again shall you return to see the surface world. You warriors shall never again walk amongst your hollow ships by the loud-roaring sea, never again feel the loud-voiced Zephyr blowing in your hair, never again sit yourselves down to rest beneath a sweet-smelling cypress."

So saying the phantoms' voices rise in pitch and volume, until at last they are so loud the helpless mortals can do naught but cover their ears in pain. he sound seems to shake the very earth. A rumbling is heard -- nay felt -- in the foundations of the tomb. Suddenly, the stones above the staircase crack and give way, and the ceiling falls in, sealing the tomb forever.

As the dust settles, the phantoms are nowhere to be seen. The party is miraculously unscathed; but there is no way past the collapse. They have no choice but to look for another way out. They tread heavily back down into the Shadow Warriors' hall [room 8], and down the narrow passage at its end [room 9]. It turns sharply north and goes on well farther than the torchlight can reveal. Eratosthenes and Typhon take the lead with their iron-tipped spears poised for quick action. For what seems an age, the adventurers advance through the narrow tunnel, whose walls appear to be natural stone. The farther they go, the more the tunnel slopes downward.

Then without warning it empties out in to a great cavern. The ceiling is high, almost beyond the reach of the torchlight. The air is cold; one can almost see one's breath. But it is the cave floor which is most arresting, covered as it is in countless human bones.

Something glitters deep in the farthest recess of the cave, shining like bright gold. "Could that be...", says Dicaearchos, "Yes! It's the sceptre, just as the papyrus promised! Come, let's get it. What could we possibly have to fear from these old bones?"

"Well," begins Typhon, but his words trail off unnoticed. The bones are starting to move, flowing strangely over the floor to a central point, twisting and adhering together to rise up in the form of a weird, composite giant. The thing has no head, as such, but each of its four arms ends in a trio of skulls, with angrily snapping jaws.

[I rolled a Leichenberg (Corpse Mountain; MR150+) on the encounter table. The description of the monster indicates more of a flesh golem / frankenstein's monster sort of beastie, but I had that really cool picture above I wanted to use, so bone golem it is. The PCs are in pretty bad shape, so MR150 is probably an adequate challenge.]

[round 1]
The Leichenberg (bzw. Knochenberg) gets 16 dice + 75 adds. It rolls a HPT of 133, with 3 spite.

Nossis unsurprisingly responds with another Δέξαι μαστιγία! (TTYF), inflicting 25 damage (she's still got 5 points of fatigue, which reduces her STR by 5 and her other attributes, except CON, by 2).

The rest of the PCs rush forward to surround the bone creature, attacking with spears and swords. They get 16 dice + 66, +25 extra for the shock effect of the spell. Their HPT is 170, also with 3 spite. 170-133= 37damage. +25(spell) +9 (spite) = 71 total damage to the Leichenberg.

Spite damage is allocated to the PCs randomly; Typhon, Nikias, and Astyanax all suffer 3 hits off their CON from the biting skull hands.

[Round 2]
The Leichenberg is now reduced to MR79 (8d+40). It is relentless in its assaults on the heroes, garnering a HPT of 67, +2 spite. Eratosthenes suffers one of the hits as a splinter of bone hits him in the neck. Astyanax takes the other spite hit; the monster smashes down on his shield and sweeps him aside. He falls in the pile of broken bones on the floor.

All the PCs attack this round. Even Nossis takes a swing with her knife. They get 21d+77, for a HPT of 142 + 2 spite. The battle is furious. Chips of bone are flying everywhere. It looks for a moment like the tide may be turning, but in the end the heroes best the creature, which collapses in a clattering heap. [The PCs did 75 damage, but the spite pushed it up to 81, destroying the monster.]

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief as Nikias goes to help Astyanax to his feet. But Astyanax does not move. The hateful Ker (death) that was allotted to him when he was born has opened its jaws to take him.

ὦ δύσερμε Ἀστυάναξ !

"O dúserme Astyanax!" laments Typhon. (dusermos = not favoured by Hermes, unlucky). The survivors bury poor Astyanax as best they can under a pile of bones, leaving him his possessions (and silver!) for his journey across the Styx. This mournful deed accomplished, they turn their attention at last to the sceptre at the back of the cave.

The sceptre is propped up in a shallow recess in the cave wall. It is shaped vaguely like a tree branch, and seems to be made of solid gold. Everyone stares, afraid to touch it. Nossis can feel magic coming off of it in waves. Since no one else will dare, not even greedy Dicaearchos, she shrugs and picks it up.

A warm glow emanates from the sceptre when she touches it, suffusing the cave with a yellow light. The sceptre's light reaches into the smallest parts of the cave, and by it Nossis sees a passageway leading out, one that no one had thought could be there.

The passage goes on for at least a stade. It continues to slope downward, but the presence of the sceptre's light and the breeze coming from before them lifts everyone's hopes. At last, it seems they are emerging from the caves, but the vista that greets them tells them they have not some out into the Syrian desert.

A strange twilight land stretches out before them. Sharp, craggy mountains form a twisting valley. Beyond lies a forest of twisted, blackened trees. Many stades distant is a dark lake or sea. A large temple sits in the empty plains beyond the valley. Some sort of gateway seems to block the exit from the valley.

As they descend down the path into the vale, the baying of a hound is heard. No, make that two... or three...

Monday, 21 July 2014

ἐμοιράσαντο, ἐμοιράσατο

The PCs have managed to get back to Emesa with their loot. In total they have:

130 silver coins
a pile of cheap jewellery (50SD for the lot)
a plain gold ring (50SD)
a silver knife with an ivory handle (350SD)
four bronze tripods (170SD each)
and a golden necklace, with a golden box containing an Orphic lamella (650SD)

Altogether it's worth 1910SD, which means the PCs have earned 1910xp as well (which makes 318xp each). But they won't necessarily manage to turn all their treasure into cash... or will they?

According to Katabasis' commerce rules, there is a maximum sale price for any single item. The price is determined by taking the average of the sellers CHA and EDU (INT), and consulting a chart. Nossis is best suited for this endeavour, having scores of 14 and 27, respectively. And, being who he is, Dicaearchos knows a guy, so they arrange a meeting in one of Emesa's less savoury klisea. It's such a nasty place that there should probably be a L1 SR on Fate (Luck) in order to avoid any problems. Dicaearchos makes that roll with ease.

They want to sell all the goods except for the Orphic amulet. Looking up Nossis' score of 20 on the table gives a maximum item sale price of 6000SD. So our charming hetaira sells everything at its full worth. Had Dicaearchos gone alone, his score of 10 would have meant that he couldn't get more than 60SD for any single item. The pair walk away with 1130SD (a lot of that is probably in gold drachmae, but even so it's not more than they can carry). Had Dicaearchos gone on his own, he'd only have come away with 400SD.

The party now have 1260SD to spend. The men do the manly thing and complete their ὅπλα (hopla, armour), buying all the pieces they lack. They would, of course, all like to become χαλκεοθώραξ (chalkeothorax, "with brazen breastplate"), but that would set them back 400SD per person -- more than they have right now. So they will have to make do. Eratosthenes buys a suit of heavy armour (120SD): scale armour with leather skirts and a pair of bronze greaves. He is now at least ἐυκνήμις (euknemis, "well-greaved"). Typhon does the same, and adds a helmet as well (150SD total) to finally become εὐκόρυθος (eukoruthos, "with beautiful helmet"). Nikias and Dicaearchos both buy impressively-plumed helms for themselves (30SD each), arguing over who is now the more εὐπήληξ (eupelex, "with fine helmet"). Astyanax needs a shield, so invests in an aspis (25SD). The others tease him that a Saian* must have his old one, found by a bush somewhere -- but this new one is no worse!

Whilst her friends are having an epic shopping session, Nossis goes across town and buys a magic staff (rhabdos). "Just like Circe used on Odysseus' men", swears the merchant, "when ῥάβδῳ πεπληγυῖα κατὰ συφεοῖσιν ἐέργνυ (having struck them with her staff, she confined them in the pig-sty [Hom. Od. 10.238])". A blatant lie of course. Circe would have had a deluxe staff, not a 100SD staff ordinaire.

Nossis also picks up 10 doses of real silphion (35SD each) whilst she's out, as the PCs are sure to need more healing when they return to the dungeon.

The PCs spend a total of 455SD on equipment, plus 350SD for the silphion. The rest of the treasure (another 455SD) is spent on food, lodging, and expiatory offerings at the temple of Zeus (Elgabal).

"O mighty Zeus... er, Baal! We humbly offer these sacrifices unto you. Please don't ask where we got the money for them"

οὕτω δὲ Μοῖρ᾽, ἅ τε πατρώιον
τῶνδ᾽ ἔχει τὸν εὔφρονα πότμον, θεόρτῳ σὺν ὄλβῳ
ἐπί τι καὶ πῆμ᾽ ἄγει παλιντράπελον ἄλλῳ χρόνῳ
-Pindar, Olympian Ode 2. 35-7

"For as Moira (Fate), who accords our mortal race their heritage of happy fortune, to their heaven-sent prosperity brings at another hour an opposite load of ill."

On my first reading of Katabasis, I confess to have skimmed over certain sections which  appeared to be standard T&T rules. In so doing, I missed the unusual nature of Fate (Luck), which varies from session to session. A character's starting Fate is generated by the usual 3d6 (TARO) roll, from which 10 is then subtracted; starting Fate can even be negative. At the beginning  of each game-session, 3d6 (TARO) are rolled and added to the characters base Fate value to determine their Fate for the game.

Amulets are very important. Depending on their value (in Silver Drachmae), an amulet provides both a bonus to the daily Fate roll and also assures a minimum value.

As an example Eratosthenes initially rolled a 13, so that gives him a base Fate of 3. He has a cheap (3SD) amulet, which gives him a +2 on his Fate rolls and assures his current Fate will never drop below 3 (not terribly comforting...). So, rolling 3d6 for the next phase of the adventure nets him a 10. The amulet raises this to 12. Adding to his starting value, he will descend once again into the dungeon with a Fate of 15. His combat adds are now (re-)determined using the current Fate value; STR 16, DEX 11, Fate 15 gives +7 total combat adds.

Dicaearchos is hanging onto the golden necklace with the Orphic lamella recovered from the dungeon. Its value of 650 drachmae gives him a +6 bonus with a minimum of 15.  He rolls a 14, +6 for the amulet, +5 for his base value: 25 Fate for the next session! He'll be doing better in combat too, with +14 total adds.

Astyanax, on the other hand, forgot to even buy an amulet. His base Fate is 1, and he only rolls a 7. His +1 from Strength is cancelled by the -1 from Fate, leaving him with no combat adds and a suspicion that the gods must hate him.

The rest of the party's final results, in brief:
Nikias: Fate 17, +21 adds
Nossis: Fate 15, +18 adds
Typhon: Fate 20, +21 adds

Next time, on a very special episode of Katabasis...

*The Archilochus reference in full:

“Ἀρχίλοχον τὸν ποιητὴν ἐν Λακεδαίμονι γενόμενον αὐτῦς ὥρας ἐδίωξαν, διότι ἐπέγνωσαν αὐτὸν πεποιηκότα ὡς κρεῖττόν ἐστιν ἀποβαλεῖν τὰ ὅπλα ἢ ἀποθανεῖν
    ἀσπίδι μὲν Σαΐων τις ἀγάλλεται, ἣν παρὰ θάμνῳ
    ἔντος ἀμώμητον κάλλιπον οὐκ ἐθέλων ·
    αὐτὸν δ᾽ ἔκ μ᾽ ἐσάωσα · τί μοι μέλει ἀσπὶς ἐκεινη ;
    ἐρρέτω · ἐξαῦτις κτήσομαι οὐ κακίω.”

-Plut. Lac. Inst.

“When the poet Archilochus visited Sparta he was driven out of the city at a moment's notice because they discovered that he had said in a poem that it was better to throw away one's arms than be slain:

    The shield I left because I must, poor blameless armament! beside a bush, gives joy now to some Saian,26 but myself I have saved. What care I for that shield? It shall go with a curse. I'll get me another e'en as good."

-Plutarch, Spartan Institutions

Sunday, 13 July 2014


In the last post, I completely forgot to mention that the contents of all the rooms, monsters and random events are taken from the tables in the GM section of the Katabasis rules, as are fatigue effects, special combat rules, etc.

Speaking of Fatigue... Nossis cast Δέξαι μαστιγία! (TTYF) in the fight with the harpies, using her amulet in place of a staff. An amulet can only take 1/10 its worth in silver drachmas worth of spell points through it. After that is used up. Nossis' is worth 60SD, so, after reducing her spell by 1 point of casting cost, it's down to a potency of 5. The spell gives her 6-1=5 points of fatigue, which reduce her strength on a 1:1 basis and her other attributes (except CON) at half that. Hellenic magic is not as easy to use as Trollworld sorcery!

Nossis decides to rest for 10 minutes while the others search the room for treasure. This reduces her fatigue by 1, but also necessitates another random event roll. 2d6=7, No event.

Our heroes are interested in the cramped eastern passage [room 7]. They proceed cautiously down it, to find it splits into four short dead-ends. Bodies have been interred in each, obviously some time after the place was first constructed. Most of the corpses are laid out directly on the ground or propped against the wall, though one of them was laid to rest in a lead coffin. Nossis' torchlight picks up glittering spots all round the bodies: silver coins, and jewellery of copper, silver, and even gold!

"What should we do?" asks the courtesan.

"We're grave robbers," sighs Nikias, "we should do what we came here to do."

"That's sacrilege!" exclaims Typhon.

"That's a year's wages!" replies Dicaearchos.

"Well, I suppose they've already paid the ferryman..."

Eratosthenes prods one of the bodies with his spear. It doesn't react. Eratosthenes looks back at Typhon, who shrugs and begins picking the coins up from the ground. The rest of our exalted heroes follow suit. After about 10 minutes, they have collected all the loot. There's 130 silver coins in total. Most of the jewellery is sub-standard (about 50SD for the lot), but the inhabitant of the lead coffin has some choice items: a plain gold ring (50SD), a silver knife with an ivory handle (only 1d+1 in combat, but worth at least 350SD), and a small golden necklace on which hangs a golden box, within which is a thin sheet of beaten gold (lamella) inscribed with instructions on how to navigate the underworld, written in slightly dodgy hexameter (650SD total, and may contain a spell instead of just the Orphic text).

Nossis' torch is beginning to sputter, so a new one is lit (this is from the random event table for this turn -- if they'd been doing anything else I would have said it's a Luck SR to not end up in the dark, but as they would have been actively using the torch to make sure nothing glittered in the corners they noticed automatically). I need to keep careful track of time now, as the contents roll for room 7 was actually Monster & Treasure. For the monster, I rolled (1d6[2] x 1d6[6]=) 12 Weithinverderber, undead lying in their place of interment with plenty of valuable grave goods. If their treasures are removed, they will rise an hour later to exact vengeance upon the thieves. But more of this anon.

The party head back through the room where they fought the harpies and into the chamber off its western side [room 4]. There are more alcoves in this room, though none contain bodies. There is a large pile of junk in one of them, in which something metallic shines. Eratosthenes pokes at it with his spear, and suddenly there is a flurry of movement. He has disturbed a nest of deadly, poisonous centipedes!

There are [1d3=] 2 swarms of centipedes. Each has a collective CON of 1d6x10: 20, 40. Every round they attack as a swarm, and ignore 1d6^2 points of armour. Each swarm that penetrates a character's armour inflicts one point of damage, and for every point of damage taken there is a 1 in 6 chance of being poisoned.

Each character is attacked separately by each swarm. They easily bypass everyone's armour, though Typhon and Nikias are lucky enough to only take one point of damage this round. Everyone else takes two. Eratosthenes is poisoned. The PCs easily squash all the beasties in one round of combat, but Eratosthenes falls to the ground, unable to move (I rule it will be 1d6 turns: 40 minutes).

The wounded apply pseudosilphion to their injuries; Nossis and Eratosthenes heal 1 point, everyone else feels no benefit. They decide to carefully dig through the pile of junk whilst Eratosthenes slowly comes round from the poison, and Nossis regains her lost Fatigue. Four bronze tripods are found, each worth 170SD. During this time, they find it necessary to light another torch, but also they they have been underground so long that their eyes are becoming more used to the darkness (+2 Fate for SRs due to better awareness and perception, which lasts until they encounter bright light). There are no other random events, but before Eratosthenes has recovered enough to walk, the angry undead from room 7 arrive, looking to take back their stolen treasures.

In the cramped quarters of this room, only 6 undead at a time will be able to fight. The PCs cannot flee past them if things go poorly, however. The battle is joined!

[Round 1] Eratosthenes is lying in the corner, too weak to stand, so he's not in this at all. The rest of the men advance with sword and spear, totalling 15 dice + 46 adds. The undead are MR20 monsters, so the first six get 13 dice + 60adds (as if they were a single 120MR creature; attacking monster MRs are added together in Katabasis). Nossis hangs back by Eratosthenes, and casts Dexai, Mastigia! (TTYF) which destroys one of the undead and adds 27 damage for the shock effect.

The PCs dice look amazing, rolling an even 100, including 8 sixes. Their HPT is 173, worthy of brazen-armed Ares himself. The monsters roll a paltry 45 (only one six!), +60 adds = 105. The PCs win the round, inflicting 68 damage, and 24 additional points of spite damage (as it is tripled in the harsh world of Katabasis). The damage destroys 4 of the shambling corpses, leaving the 5th one severely injured (MR 12), whilst the 6th was blown to pieces by Nossis' spell. Typhon takes the spite hit for his side, suffering the loss of 3 CON.

[Round 2] Five fresh undead join the fight. They have a total MR of 112, so 12 dice +56. The PCs still get  15 dice +46. Nossis casts another Dexai, Mastigia! spell, but after reductions for fatigue her effective EDU is only 25. Still, it's enough to destroy another monster outright. The angry dead move stiffly and their broken old weapons (passed over by the grave robbers as worthless) splinter against the shields of their foes; their HPT is a wretched 31+56=87, and they score no spite damage. The PCs fight like the well-greaved Achaeans of song and legend, with a HPT of 61+46+25= 132. They hack and hew 45 points of damage (+9 more for spite) into the undead.

[Round 3] The last of the undead joins the fray, but even the addition of a full MR20 creature only brings their side up to a combined MR58, 6 dice + 29. The fight is soon ended.

Typhon is unsure whether he should castigate his associates for disturbing the dead or praise them for their prowess in battle, so says nothing. The rest of the party, despite their splendid success, are all starting to feel a bit run down from CON loss and Fatigue, so they decide to head out of the dungeon with their treasure for now.

Monday, 7 July 2014


εἶπέ μοι · ποῦ εὕρηκας τὸ βιβλίον ; ἔφη ὁ Ἀστυάναξ, ὁ ἐκ τῆς Αλεξανδρείας ναύτης.

Hmmmm, the T&T Katabasis PCs are speaking Greek. Make an Level 3 Saving Roll on INT to understand them. Did you succeed?


"Tell me, where did you find this papyrus?" asks Astyanax, the seafarer from Alexandria.

"It was given to me in a temple in Aleppo," responds Dicaeopolis in a convincing lie, "by a fellow initiate; I can't say any more. Can you read it?"

"Most of it," says Astyanax, "at least where there are no holes. It says to go to the temple of Baal in Emesa, and make offerings to the god at sunrise. Thence set out in the direction of the rising sun, and travel the desert for three days to the ruins of Paraisima. There look for the shrine of the cthonian Demeter, and inscribe these signs around the altar in the blood of a white sow. If this be done with proper reverence, a secret way shall be revealed, to a place filled with great treasure: gold and silver coins, bronze tripods, and a wondrous golden sceptre."

"Astyanax has shown me the papyrus," interjects Nossis, the courtesan, as she absent-mindedly plucks a melody on her lyre, "and I have seen these signs before. A simple charm of opening."

"Do we trust this witch?" growls the giant man, the boxer called Typhon by his fans and detractors alike.

"Can we afford not to?" replies Nikias, the young peltast. "We need her magic to open the secret path."

"I think we're all in agreement," states Erastophanes, the de-facto leader of the expedition. "It's either go after this treasure, or go back to fighting Ptolemy."

A chorus of agreement greets his words.

"But wait," says Astyanax, "I hadn't finished yet. Right here at the end where it breaks off there is a warning about terrible guardians..."

Three days later the intrepid little band of adventurers find themselves amidst the ruins of a small town. Not a soul stirs around the toppled columns, collapsed walls and  broken statuary that litter the sandy plains. A foul, sulphurous pool occupies the remains of the agora, bubbling up from the depths of the earth. Though they are all unsettled by the morbid stillness, only the superstitious Typhon gives voice to his fears.

"There's barely enough tinder in this accursed place to make a decent fire. And there are no animals here, no birds. I haven't seen a living creature besides us since the day we left Emesa, and that was a vulture, I'm sure of it! And that word carved above the shrine: ΙΚΕΣΙΟΝ (hikesion: "for supplicants"). Who ever heard of supplicant at a temple of the underworld?"

"That's enough out of you, Typhon," says Eratosthenes firmly. "It's just a piece of stone. There's not even a curse inscribed on it. Besides, we're not here as supplicants, we're here as grave robbers. It's too late to back out now."

The next morning Nossis rises with the rosy-fingered dawn. She leads the white sow to the remains of the Pherrephattion (Φερρεφάττιον, sanctuary of Persephone) where she offers it up to the Stygian goddess. She inscribes the magical charakteres with the steaming blood of the sacrifice, and chants a prayer to the maiden goddess (Κόρη), whose amulet she wears as a good luck charm. The sound of stone grinding against stone splits the morning stillness, as a great slab slides down to reveal a staircase descending into the darkness.

Her companions soon appear, in full panoply (well, as much of a panoply as first level characters could afford. Not exactly well-greaved Achaeans, this lot). Typhon hands Nossis a lit torch, and they proceed wordlessly down the stairs.

The wide stone steps lead down to a long landing [room 1], on which a few scattered bones lie amongst the débris that has been tracked in from outside. The underground is cold and dry. Dust covers everything, though trails of footsteps are visible on the marble floor. The party cautiously proceed further in to the first chamber.

One wall of this long chamber [room 2] is made up to look like the stage in a theatre. False doors are painted between the columns. The flickering torchlight seems to make shadows play across the wall as if there were actual players on the stage. Everyone in the party suddenly begins to laugh, as they recall a choice line from Aristophanes. Suddenly the shadows stop, and leap off the walls, flitting around in a furious assault upon the living.

There are [2d6=] 12 Emporstiegender Schatten (Risen Shadows). Each round, every character must make a SR on Speed (adjusted down for Encumbrance). They either destroy a number of shadows equal to the level of the SR made, or dodge twice that number. Every shadow that is not killed or avoided does 1d6 damage, ignoring armour. This being the first encounter, everyone is in fighting trim, so all the SRs will be rolled to attack.

1. Dicaearchos 10+10=20, makes a Level 1 SR (just)
2. Astyanax 16+11=27, L2
3. Nossis 17+8=25, L2
4. Typhon 11+8=19, flails about ineffectually (a Level 0 SR would dodge one, but can't inflict damage)
5. Nikias 17+8=25, L2
6. Eratosthenes 13+7, L1

Now to roll 12d6 to see who the shadows attack. Fortunately I just bought a set of 36 dice for T&T purposes. 1,1,2,2,2,3,5,5,6,6,6,6 The shadows seem to ignore the biggest target (Typhon), but certainly have it in for Eratosthenes. So,

Dichaearchos kills one, but another shadow rips him open with inky black claws for 6 hits off his CON. He's only got 2 CON remaining.
Astyanax kills two, but is raked by another for 3 damage (down to 9 CON).
Nossis kills the one that attacked her, and could have killed another if it came within reach.
Nikias kills both of his opponents.
Eratosthenes kills one, but three more slash him with their terrible claws, though he only takes 7 hits. He's down to 5 CON, but it could have been worse.

Round 2. Five shadows remain. Everyone but Dicaearchos will attack this round. He's going to dodge and hopefully stay alive. The shadows attack 2,3,4,5,6; it seems he must have really dodged well. The SRs,then:

Astyanax 16+6, L1
Nossis 17+6, L1
Typhon 11+9, L1
Nikias 17+10, L2
Eratosthenes 13+12(DARO)+5, L3

Our brave heroes destroy the rest of the shadows with dagger, sword, and spear. Dichaearchos, Astyanax, and Eratosthenes have all been injured, so in the absence of healing magic (alas, starting characters cannot yet cast θεραπεία (Poor Baby / Restoration / Souffle bobo / whatever), but they do have some of the healing herb pseudosilphion in their packs, which heals <3W-1 CONS (meaning, roll 3 dice (W for Würfel) and take the lowest result, then subtract 1).

Dichaearchos rolls 4,4,6. 4-1= 3 points of CON regained.
Astyanax rolls 2,5,1, so the cure is ineffective.
Eratosthenes rolls 2,5,6. one point of CON is restored.

Opposite the entrance the hall continues off into the darkness. Another chamber lies to the north. There are sounds coming from that direction, but down the hall everything is  stillness. The party decide to see if it is, in fact, monsters making the noise. Better to know than risk an attack from behind.

They proceed to the chamber to the north [room 3]. The room is large, and mostly empty, save for piles of bones in one corner. [Every game turn (10 minutes) requires a roll on the Ereignisse (events) table. I rolled Wandering Monster.] As they are deliberating which of the three exits to take, a trio of Höhlenharpyien (Cave Harpies) come in from the northern passageway.

Cave harpies are simple T&T monsters: MR (1d6x5)+5. The three harpies, who fancy themselves to be quite the loveliest things in the dungeon, have Monster Ratings of 35 (Aglaia), 20 (Euphrosyne), and 15 (Thaleia). The fiendish creatures take one look at the intruders and attack. No quarter shall be given, none asked.

Round 1.

The harpies attack with their gruesome claws. They roll:
Aglaia (4 dice + 18 adds) = 36
Euphrosyne (3 dice + 10 adds) = 19
Thaleia (2 dice + 8 adds) = 12

The harpies' combined Hit Point Total is thus 67. Weirdly, I rolled no 6s, so they don't inflict any Spite damage.

As her compatriots raise their weapons and charge the harpies, Nossis pronounces a most potent formula of ancient magic. "Δέχαι, μαστιγία !" (Take that, you fiend!) she shouts, as magical energies spring from her fingertips and sear the flesh and feathers of the beast nearest to her (randomly determined to be Aglaia). Aglaia takes 27 points of damage from the spell, and the shock effect adds 27 to the characters' HPT this round. As to the rest:

Dichaearchos attacks with his xiphos (shortsword 3 dice +2 adds). With his personal adds of +4, he gets a total of 18 (including one point of spite damage for rolling a single 6).
Astyanax slashes with his machaira (a machete-shaped sword -- see his character picture in the previous post: 4+1, +1 personal adds) for 15 (and 1 point of Spite).
Typhon stabs with his spear (4+0, +13 adds) for 26.
Nikias also stabs with his spear (4+0, +14 adds) for 28 and 1 Spite.
Eratosthenes also stabs with his spear (4+0, +5 adds) for 20 and 1 spite.

The PCs have a HPT of 134, exactly double the harpies'. Dividing the damage equally amongst them gives them 22 points each. Aglaia had already taken 27 damage from the spell, and neither of the other two has an MR over 20, so at the end of the round all three bird beasts lie dead at the feet of our mighty heroes.

to be continued...