Saturday, 22 November 2014

Runequest solo 2 - part I, "Rather the desert take me..."

Gallamah, youngest daughter of the great general, was reclining serenely on her divan as a somewhat flustered Lachaidiga entered her incense-perfumed chamber. She surveyed the harried sorceress with her soft, heavy-lidded eyes, which seemed always to be half-dreaming. "Come," said she, with a majestic wave of her hand, "sit by me and tell me whatever is the matter, my dear."

Lachaidiga slumped heavily into the plush cushions beside her friend. She breathed deeply of the spicy, scented air and let it out in a great sigh. "I... I am in need of advice," she began. "I had a plan all worked out to... avoid a certain awful entanglement..."

"Yes, my dear, I received the invitation yesterday."

"But now I'm afraid. It's a dangerous plan -- oh, but worth it to be rid of that dolt! I won't back down. I just wanted to know... what to expect."

"Are you after my advice as a friend, or as a prophetess?"

"Well... both, if I may be honest. But especially the second."

The prophetess laughed sweetly. "O moon-daughter, you know that yours is the future I cannot see. Turmoil surrounds you and confusion follows ever in your wake. You bear the great mark of a mysterious goddess in your strange and changing eyes. Perhaps it is to her you should be turning for wisdom. Some there are who would look into your eyes to know the phase of the moon. They must chase you down, and get you to sit still. I don't say this as a reproach, but that's quite a feat, my dear friend. Such an effort, when they could just as easily look up."

"You've reached a new level of cryptic."

"I'm a prophetess; it's in my nature. If you wanted a straight answer, you should have asked your brother Enzzal."

"I could do without his opinions!"

"Say what you will about him, but he never lies to you. And nor shall I. You are decided on a course of action; I say stick to it bravely. Your courage has ever been an asset. Do not waver. And come to me freely with your troubles. I may not be able to advise you as a seer, but I shall always be here as your friend."

"But I shall not be here! To escape the wedding, I must leave Anzakàr entirely."

"I see. Little wonder at your distress. Have you ever been outside the City before?"

"Yes... no. No farther than the militia training field. And of course the harbour, but that doesn't really count, either."

"Whither shall you go?"

"Anywhere. Through the desert. Somewhere I can't be found."

"There are many dangers and nameless terrors lurking in the desert. Even the greatest caravan masters cannot avoid them all."

"I'd rather the desert take me than that useless fool Alkinu!"

"And so it shall if you proceed rashly."

"No, don't worry. I'm not running out into the wastes. I've... or rather Master Hhsasv has made arrangements for me to travel, and given me a message to deliver to another sorcerer in Hasharu. Oh, I shouldn't have said! You won't tell, will you? Please, say you won't tell."

"You were never fated to be bound to Alkinu; I need no gift of prophecy to see that. You may rely on my discretion, my dear. I will not tell a soul."

. . .   . . .   . . .

[It is time to chronicle Lachaidiga's next adventure. I'm using the exact same toolbox as her first one: Runequest 6, Mythic with Mythic Variations, Cities, and random pictures.

I will be presenting things a bit out of order, however. At the close of her last adventure, she had approximately 5 weeks before her wedding day. I had used Mythic with the Personal theme tables from Mythic variations to play out the entire time as she went around the city plotting her escape. I had originally intended to present it all under the somewhat joking title 'Escape from Anzakàr', but... honestly it would be a little too boring. Nothing truly spectacular happened, and no one came close to discovering her plans; the Chaos factor even sunk all the way to 1!

I'd briefly thought of just summarising the whole thing, or even scrapping it all and starting over, but there are a few scenes worth keeping. These will be related at the appropriate junctures, whenever they may be. I'll set them off from the current adventure in some obvious way when they come up (and use the past tense to write them). The above proöemium is in fact scene 8 of 9. Other scenes, like the thrilling trip to the market with neither encounters nor incidents (scene 7, chaos 3) can be safely forgotten.

For playing through all of that, Lachaidiga will earn the minimum (2) experience rolls, and since she ends up outside the City when she receives them, she is ineligible for her +1 bonus roll for high Charisma.

The new adventure will start off again with scene 1. As it's entirely open ended at the moment and has no overriding theme, I'm going to use the standard mythic chart. To make things more interesting, I'm going to use the rule from the Action theme where all doubles rolled on the Fate Chart result in a random event. And for sanity's sake I'll start off again on Scene 1. So,]

Scene 1

chaos: 5

Setup: something interesting happens to the caravan (1-2 encounter, 3-4 environmental hazard, 5-6 internal dispute): 6=dispute
1d10=3 days into the ~2 week journey

NPC list:
1. Ni'arouj, the Caravan leader
2. (dissenting party)

1. get to the city of Hasharu
2. find a certain sage (task given by her Ophidian master from the sorcery college in Escape scene 3; more on this later)
3. don't get caught and dragged home

As the caravan plods through the desert, Lachaidiga fidgets uncomfortably atop her camel. Ni'arouj, the caravan mistress, bids her second to lead the train and slows her pace to ride near the sorceress. The shrewd nomad can barely repress a smile as she looks at the miserable city-dweller.

"Why so glum, sorceress," asks Ni'arouj.

"I just thought," replies Lachaidiga, "that my first time out of Anzakàr would be more momentous, is all. Instead there's just sand and rock and heat and sun. I don't know what's worse: my face going all red from the sun, or my arse from the saddle. It feels like we've been travelling forever, even though I know we haven't. How long since we set out?"

"Three days. And probably eleven more to go before we reach Hasharu."

"Three days... today was to have been my wedding day. You know, suddenly I rather love the desert."

"I shall remind you of that," says Ni'arouj, "when you start complaining again tomorrow."

. . .   . . .   . . .

That evening finds Lachaidiga sitting by a campfire with some of the caravan mistress' subordinates, absently poking the ashes with a stick and listening to the incomprehensible babble of nomad speech around her. A hand on her shoulder shocks her back to her senses.

"Come, sorceress," says Ni'arouj. "It's time to earn your keep."

"What's going on?" asks Lachaidiga as she stands and dusts off her robes.

[Q: What is the nature of the dispute? Usurp / Opulence + random picture (below) to find principal disputant]

"The mercenaries are grumbling about their pay. Just follow my lead."

At the other side of the camp, groups of armed and sometimes armoured warriors sit around their own fires. Lachaidiga recognises some of them as belonging to Ni'arouj's clan -- and therefore beholden to her in some sort of feudal/familial sense which Lachaidiga, as an outsider, cannot understand -- but there are a score of foreign mercenaries hired on as well to protect the richer-than-normal caravan. The mercenary captain, a gruff veteran by the name of Pahshub, stands silhouetted before one of the large fires, haranguing his troops with bitter invective.

"...they say they need us to protect them from bandits. Look at our paltry wages! I think we all know who the real bandits are!" cries Pahshub. His words are met by a chorus of muttering approbation.

"That's enough out of you, Pahshub," says Ni'arouj sternly. "You've done nothing but grouse since we left the harbour. I kept your company on retainer whilst I conducted my business in Anzakàr, and we've had no trouble the whole time. You share my food, you share my water. Your wages are more than generous. Let us end this foolish talk before things get out of hand."

"Afraid to negotiate without your new pet sorceress?" says Pahshub.

"Hardly," replies Ni'arouj, "but if this is going to get ugly, I want it ended. Quickly and definitively. Understand?"

"Please," implores Lachaidiga, "can't we all play nicely together? I'm tired and sore and I just want to go to sleep, which I can't do whilst you're arguing. Don't make me use my spell. It isn't pretty -- for the survivors!" This last she snarls out in the Ophidian tongue; whether or not they understand it, the sound of the serpentfolk's language is often more than enough to frighten the superstitious and ignorant.

[So do the threats of a petulant sorceress carry any weight? She's definitely bluffing; even though she could affect up to 6 opponents with a single casting of Smother, there's no way she could survive a 1 vs. 20 fight. But they don't know that. So, she'll need to make a roll against Deceit (59%) for them to believe she's that powerful, and then if that succeeds, a roll against Influence (63%) for them to fear her wrath. These rolls will be resisted by Pahshub's Insight (43%) and Willpower (60%) respectively.
Deceit: 59 vs. 34; both succeed but her roll is higher, so she wins the test.
Influence roll: 62 vs. 66; success vs. failure.]

Pahshub looks angrily at Lachaidiga as if he's about to say something, but never does. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, which seem an eternity for his quaking soldiers, he turns and stalks off.

"Anzakàr be praised," sighs Lachaidiga. "I just had this dress cleaned..."

Ni'arouj conducts Lachaidiga back across the camp to her waiting tent. "You certainly put Pahshub in his place," says the caravan mistress as she is about to take her leave, "but try not to overdo it next time."

. . .   . . .   . . .

[Q: Is that the end of it? Unlikely: 97, Exceptional No.
Q: What do the mercenaries do? Return / Military]

The next morning, one of the nomad lieutenants bursts into Lachaidiga's tent and shakes her roughly awake. She rubs the sleep from her eyes, takes the sword from beneath her pillow, and hurriedly exits the tent in her night-dress, oblivious to the shocked expression of the caravaneer.

Outside, the camp is in commotion. Ni'arouj and Pahshub are shouting, both so consumed with rage that they've switched to their mother tongues, of which neither rightly understands the other. Their intent, however, could not be more plain. Behind Pahshub, the mercenaries are packing up their gear.

[Lachaidiga will try to intervene. She'll need to make a Difficult Influence roll (63% x2/3 = 42% adjusted skill level) to even be heard: she rolls 23, a success.]

Lachaidiga interposes herself between the two and makes herself heard. The furious pair lapse into silence as the sorceress bellows out some equally inarticulate imprecation.

"Would anyone like to tell me what's going on?" asks Lachaidiga calmly.

"The mercenaries have elected to turn back, and return to the city." says Ni'arouj.

"You've got your witch to protect you," spits Pahshub, "so you won't need us any longer." So saying, he turns and marches off. His soldiers fall in behind him.

"You're making a mistake," calls Lachaidiga after him, but a half-hearted rude gesture over his shoulder is his only response. Ni'arouj crosses her arms and watches them go in silence.

[Lachaidiga failed a Difficult Influence roll to change Pahshub's mind (which would have been resisted by his Willpower in any case).

Q: Once back in Anzakàr, will the mercs tell anyone that they know where Lachaidiga went? 50/50: 51, No, but just barely -- they're probably too far down the social ladder to hear about her scandalous flight. Pahshub would leap at the chance to get back at her, if he only knew.]

As the last ranks of the mercenary company are receding in to the distance, the caravan mistress turns to address Lachaidiga. "Well, I hope you know what you're doing," she says. "You are now our only defence against the monsters and marauders of the wastes."

"But..." protests the sorceress.

"We had a deal: your magic in exchange for passage... and my discretion as to your whereabouts. You share my food, you share my water. We have a deal, and you're going to stick to it, little miss!"


  1. I was hoping for a new Star Trader episode but this is fun too.

    -- Jeff

    1. There will be more Star Trader some day. But I just can't leave a certain sorceress stranded in the desert!