Sunday, 24 November 2019

AFF solo - Part VIII: The Thing from the Pit

"We've come this far, I guess," sighs Grebdal Themp, looking at the stair leading down into the yawning pit. But shifty rogue does not take a step towards it.

"Our fate awaits below," says Ksandajja. The sorceress looks to her companions, but they are as immobile as she.

Then all is silence and stillness. Mighty Orhhuta contemplates the limb-hewing blade of her sharp sword, and Fhenteskeer the flame-priest seems to sway in reverie, mumbling an ardent prayer to his fiery god.

Finally the sorceress loses her patience. "Don't tell me we've all lost our nerve!"

"She's right," says Orhhuta, striding towards the stair. "We can put an end to this vile cult of Decay, once and for all!"

"And relieve them of their gold," adds Grebdal Themp, going after her.

"A sentiment most worthy of coin-palming Ângu," adds the fire-priest as he and Ksandajja follow.

[Q: What guards the staircase? (1d6): 1-2 guards, 3-4 trick/trap, 5 both, 6 nothing
1d6=trick/trap: Magical, teleport trap; Awareness at -3 to notice]

The staircase narrows as it descends, finally becoming so cramped that Orhhuta's broad shoulders almost touch the rough, damp stone on both sides. The stair descends an impossibly long way, as if it were taking them down to the very centre of the world -- or perhaps down into the Pit itself.

[Orhhuta is in the lead, so must make an Awareness (7+1=8) roll at -3 (so, she needs 5-): 2d6=5!]

Orhhuta stops abruptly. "Look there, ahead!" she points with her sword. "The air shimmers!"

"That's just the flickering of your lamp," says Grebdal Themp.

"No, she's right," says Ksandajja. "I sense magic there." [She got a Second Sight (5+1) roll at -1 to find trigger (needs 5-): 2d6=4!]

The sorceress squeezes down past her companions to examine the shimmer, peering at it with her witch-sight.

"It's these three steps," she announces. "We'll have to jump them."

"How do the cultists get past?" asks a bewildered Orhhuta.

"There's probably a password, isn't there?" says Grebdal Themp.

[They must all make Jumping rolls to bypass the trapped steps. As no one has points in the Special Skill, they all default to SKILL. A normal failure results in 1d3 damage; a Fumble additionally means a roll down to the bottom -- 2d6 damage unless someone can stop them.]

Ksandajja leaps over the steps gracefully, but lands less so, and bashes her knee hard [failed; 1 damage drop her to 4 Stamina]. Fhenteskeer makes an ungainly vault, but the hand of his god sees him safely down [he Tests his LUCK instead of rolling SKILL, succeeding; his current Luck is down to 5]. Grebdal Themp's leap does him no credit [1 damage, down to 2 Stamina], but the muscular woman of the steppes swings herself down as if dismounting a horse, landing with aplomb [Orhhuta succeeds].

Grebdal Themp sits on a step for a moment to steady himself, and munches on some hard tack out of his pouch to fortify himself. Orhhuta's stomach is growling at the sight -- all that head-splitting has  worked up a warrior's appetite -- so she helps herself to a similar repast. The sorceress prefers to simply down the precious elixir she had discovered. the magic courses through her body, and all her wounds, bruises, and abrasions fade as if she'd ne'er suffered them.

[O&G each eat a PROVISION. Orhhuta regains the usual 2 Stamina, whilst Grebdal Themp gets 1 additional point for his Robust talent; they're back up to 4 & 10 respectively. K drank a Stamina Potion, healing her to full 10. Once again, I forgot to make First Aid rolls...

The 3rd level of the dungeon has 1d6=2 rooms. I (obviously) did not draw a map.

Penultimate room contents: other feature - magic fountain
Q: How does it appear? Fully / Scary]

Just when they thought they were doomed to descend the staircase forever, it ends in a dark, square  chamber. The ceiling goes up to a high vault, its height fully twice the length of the room. A single gloomy passage leads out of the chamber, and a fountain has been carved into the rock wall beside it, with the shape of a skeletal figure looming above the basin. The fountain gurgles and splashes and froths. The water within it is brackish and foul, the stone pitted from its corrosive touch.

[Ksandajja gets a Magic Lore test to know what it does, at +2 from the earlier Special Success on Religion Lore she rolled to understand the cult's workings (back in Part V).
5+1+2=8- needed: 2d6=3!

Q: What is the magical effect? d30 Adventure Generator Table Phenomena=disembodied voices]

"How horrid!" gasps Grebdal Themp. "And the stench! Look here; it once bore an inscription, but I can't make out what it says."

"No need," says Ksandajja. "These waters allow the cultists to communicate with demons, and receive their oracles."

Fhenteskeer visibly shudders.

"We'll do something about it later," says Orhhuta. "Come, there's no time to tarry."

[The final room of the dungeon was always going to be a cult wizard summoning a huge demon from the Pit, because that seemed like a fun encounter. So--

Q: Can the PCs hear ritual before they reach the room? 50/50: O6 C3 - Yes, but... only with Awareness rolls. Grebdal Themp makes his roll easily.]

They leave by the cramped passage, which twists and turns every few paces. Suddenly Grebdal Themp stops short. "Listen," he whispers. "It sounds like chanting."

"That's a lot of voices," says Orhhuta.

"No-- only one voice. It's a lot of echoes."

They leave the lanterns on the ground, and Fhenteskeer kindles a single candle to light their way. They creep carefully forward through the blackness as the reverberating chant grows ever louder.

[The candle was not actually on his character sheet, but I hate when the pictures don't match the text; plus the next room is well-lit.

The PCs need to make Sneaking rolls, resisted by the cult wizard's Awareness. He rolls 2d6=3, +5 for Skill (he lacks points in the Special Skill) makes 8; the PCs all roll (2d6+Skill+Sneaking) much higher than that.]

The chant grows louder still, and soon a light appears at the end of the twisting passage. Grebdal Themp slinks forward and peeks furtively out into the immense chamber beyond. After a moment, he motions for his companions to come forward and see. The great subterranean vault is lit with the fires of randomly scattered braziers of blazing coals, smoking with strange funereal spices. irregular columns -- some of brick, some cut from the living rock -- support the irregular ceiling and cast deep shadows which criss-cross the floor. Alcoves contain small altars and shrines piled high with all sorts of decomposing offerings.

The chanting does indeed come from a single cultist, screaming out a canticle in ancient Allansian alternating with barbarous words and the names of several dead and forgotten gods. The chant is punctuated with signs and gestures, addressed at a gaping hole in the dusty floor.

[Ksandajja gets to make a Magic Lore roll at +2 (9-) to realise it's a wizardly incantation, not priestly magic: 2d6=7, success]

"Wait a moment," says Ksandajja as a sudden realisation hits her. "That's no priestly rite, he's a conj--"

The word dies on her lips as a grotesque form erupts up from the hole. The thing's glistening worm-like body is bigger round than a wagon-wheel. The fleshy surface pulses and undulates as the thing sways in time to the chant. The worm-body is surmounted by a colossal staring eye, ringed round with countless writing tentacles. The heinous CULT WIZARD has called down into the vastness of the Pit to bring forth THE GRASPING EYE.

MAGIC 6  MP 18
Wizardry-3, Conjuring-5
sacrificial dagger (+1 on damage roll)

2 attacks, large 'bite', light armour

"It won't be long till it notices us," says Grebdal Themp.

"I'm going to cast a spell, then we move," says Ksandajja. "You three take care of the demon. I'll handle the wizard."

Her companions nod sagely as the sorceress traces an elegant pattern in the air with fingers and whispers a string of sibilant syllables. She seems to glimmer for the barest moment as the magic settles upon her skin, an invisible barrier of protection. For his part, Fhenteskeer speaks an orison to Filash, and is filled with the righteous Fire of his god.

[Ksandajja casts MAG (counterspell) on herself: Sorc-7; 2d6=7 success. The spell costs her 2 STA.
Fhenteskeer casts Bless on himself: +1 to all rolls for 8 rounds.]

Without another word, Ksandajja springs forward, charging the wizard with sword outstretched. Her companions follow moments later, rushing towards the summoned demon.

[Round 1]
The wizard wheels about, and hastily utters the words to a potent spell [Q: How potent? (1d6): 1-2 1pt, 3-4 2pts, 5-6 4pts]. As she closes within 5 paces, a bolt of lightning leaps from the wizard's outstretched hands. The white-hot flash of the discharge intensifies the wizard's evil grin, but his expression turns to sudden fear and surprise as the electricity plays harmlessly over Ksandajja's body. He barely has the presence of mind to sidestep her sword, and receives a nasty gash across his shoulder. [3 damage drops him to 7 Stamina. Ksandajja's MAG nullifies the Lightning Blast (2d6+2, no save!) entirely, but dissipates in so doing.]

The demon flails about with its tentacles. Orhhuta ducks in under them and stabs her blade into its glistening side, causing a spray of sickly-smelling ichor to jet form the wound [3 damage drops it to 9 Stamina]. Fhenteskeer is slapped backwards by another thick tentacle, and it takes him a moment to recover from the shock [3 damage drops him to 4 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp is reticent to close with the unholy beast, and hardly comes within striking distance [miss].

[Round 2]
The cult wizard speaks another charm, causing two illusory duplicates of himself to spring into being [cast Mirror Selves]. They surround the sorceress and confound her attack, but her blade strikes true in the end, dealing the wizard another nasty wound. [3 damage drops him to 4 Stamina. The wizard managed the casting despite the -2 for being in mêlée.]

The demon thrashes about again, and smashes Fhenteskeer with overwhelming force. The priest is nearly overcome by the heavy blow [3 damage leaves him with 1 Stamina]. Orhhuta makes a grave mistake, and leaves herself open to the thing, and feels her shoulder pop out of joint as a tentacle slams into her [fumble, +2 damage roll; 5 damage drops her to 4 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp is still too timid to approach [miss].

[Round 3]
The wizard attempts another spell, but Ksandajja is unsure as to his intention, for he is bathed in a pale light which seems to age him by almost a decade. The duplicates age similarly as they whirl round the sorceress. She slashes right through one with her sword, but the illusion is unfazed. [The wizard fumbled his casting roll, and aged 2d6 years. Unlike the sorcerous version of the spell, hitting duplicates does not dispel them.]

Orhhuta can't seem to get the upper hand, and another tentacle slams into her [3 damage drops her to 1 Stamina]. Fhenteskeer withdraws, clutching his aching sides. The demon thrashes ineffectually in his direction, giving Grebdal Themp the opening he needs. His sword sticks into the thing's fatty side, and pushes past the resistance to draw another spurt of ichor from the creature [4-1 (armour roll) damage puts it at 6 Stamina].

[Round 4]
The wizard draws a wicked sacrificial knife from his belt and stabs at the sorceress. She's not sure which blade is the real one, but wheels about, parrying all three [the duplicates count towards outnumbering an opponent]. Her own blade flashes harmlessly through another illusion.

Grebdal Themp receives a glancing blow, and counts himself fortunate [3 damage drops him to 2 Stamina]. Orhhuta doesn't even see the tentacle that ends her. One moment the canny warrior is closing in with her gleaming blade, the next a crushing strike has bent her spine double with an almighty crack. She slumps to the dusty floor, an ungainly and bleeding heap [critical hit. 4x2=8 damage, dropping her to -7 Stamina, instant death].

[Round 5]
As Grebdal Themp and Fhenteskeer run screaming from the room, the wizard begins subtly manoeuvring Ksandajja closer to the demon. But dance and feint as he might, the canny sorceress does not fall for his ploy. [I had her Test her LUCK to stay out of the demon's reach: 2d6=4, success. Their combat totals were tied this round, so neither scored a hit.]

[Round 6]
Standing back from her foes, Ksandajja begins to whisper the words of an incantation. The wizard responds with a counter-charm of his own. A ball of flame appears in Ksandajja's hand, and leaps forth from her palm, but it is arrested in mid-flight by a blue wave of crackling force. There is a slight wavering between them as conflicting magical energies collide, then the ball of flame bursts through the barrier and lands at the wizard's feet. A moment later it explodes in cloud of incandescent fury. Ksandajja takes a step back as she feels the rush of heat from the blast wash over her, and shuts her eyes against the sudden glare. She then hears the thud of a body hitting the floor, followed by the loud squelch of the collapsing demon. She is victorious.

[Ksandajja cast HOT, which cost her 4 Stamina, leaving her with 6. The wizard cast Counterspell, which takes a penalty to the casting roll equal to the level of the spell it is used against (-4 here); 9-4=5, 2d6=9, failed. Both opponents took 1d6+1 damage: Wizard 4 (to 0 Stamina), Demon 7 (to -1).]

Ksandajja wastes no time in examining the smouldering corpse of the wizard for choice treasure [rolled at +2 on the main treasure table at +2]. He has a cheap cloth purse containing 12 gold coins, and an silver and lapis pendant (worth 12GP) is hung round his neck on a now-singed cord, which snaps easily in the sorceress' hand. His sacrificial dagger is also worth a fair bit -- should a buyer be found for the awful-looking thing.

She adds the treasure to her own purse, and takes Orhhuta's money belt (20gp) and Luck potion besides -- she can't afford to be sentimental. Then she kindles a lantern and leaves by the dark, twisting passage.

[Q: Have the other PCs gone far? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - No, and... waiting just a little ways off.

Grebdal Themp has attempted first aid on both of them: fail on himself, but healed Fhenteskeer up to 3 Stamina.]

Ksandajja has only gone a little ways down the twisting passage when she spies lamplight shining from round the bend. She is soon face-to-face with her sheepish comrades.

"I thought you two were gone for good," says Ksandajja.

"Discretion mumblemumble valour..." says Grebdal Themp.

"At least it's over," says Fhenteskeer. "The God of the Pit is dead, and its high priest with it."

"No," says Ksandajja. "That wasn't a priest -- just a corrupted wizard."

"This is dire news," says Fhenteskeer.

"And we haven't much to show for it," moans Grebdal Themp.

"I mourn more for the loss of our comrade," says Fhenteskeer.

"I mourn for us, if we meet any more of these fiends on the way out of here," says Ksandajja. "But I took what little gold I could find, if it makes you feel any better."

It's a long trek up the stairs, which necessitates several stops to catch their breath. Then back through the catacombs, and up more stairs, until finally they reach the basement of the cult house.

[No encounters; I rolled 1d6 per room to check for random encounters on the way out... surprisingly no 1s came up.]

Fearing their LUCK must soon run out, Ksandajja and Grebdal Themp slink up the steps to make sure the way out lies clear. Fhenteskeer limps quietly a fair distance behind them.

[Q: Is the Priest waiting above in house? 50/50 (4+): O4 C6 - yes.
+ the 2 cultists from earlier.

The PCs must match their Sneaking against the cultists' Awareness:
K 6+1+5=12
G 7+2+7=16
Priest 6+1+4=11
cultist #1 5+0+2=7
cultist #2 5+0+6=11

The PCs have Surprise; an ambush grants +6 attack and +2 to the damage roll]

both armed with daggers

Devotion 6 (MAGIC + Magic - Priest)

Voices are heard in the house. A man and a woman are discussing the slaughtered cult guards; Ksandajja recognises the CULTISTS as the old man and old woman who once led her hence in the guise of charity. A third voice is joined to theirs, its low gurgling and slurred speech almost impossible to understand -- the leprous PRIEST OF DECAY!

Ksandajja and Grebdal Themp dart into the front room with swords raised, a battle cry on their lips. Grebdal Themp cuts down the old man with a single stroke of his sword [4 damage drops #1]. The priest is far hardier than one would expect, for though Ksandajja lays open his back with a sickly squelch, his eyes yet burn with lively malice, and he wheels about to face her [5 damage put him at 3 Stamina].

[Rounds 1-2]
The priest rasps out an imprecation, and Ksandajja feels all the strength drain from her limbs. The priest burbles and cackles with hideous glee at her plight [he cast Weakness, giving her -4 skill and -2 damage rolls]. But his triumph is short lived. Fhenteskeer stands in the doorway, shouting a prayer to Filash, imploring his god to smite the evil one with holy fire. Suddenly the leper priest is wreathed in burning flame, and falls to the floor defeated [he cast Flame for 1d3=3 damage].

Grebdal Themp squares off against the remaining cultist, who is at pains to fend off his sword with her dagger. The fight does not last long.

Ksandajja must steady herself against the wall to recover from the unholy magic. Whilst her strength slowly returns, Fhenteskeer is going joyfully about the room, throwing the cult's books and papers atop the burning corpse of the priest, breaking up the furniture for kindling, and setting the curtains alight.

"Let it burn!" he shouts. "Let the Sacred Fire cleanse this den of evil!"

"He's a bit mad sometimes," whispers Grebdal Themp to the sorceress.

"Agreed. Let's tell the watch before the whole quarter burns to the ground."

As the flames and smoke rise, they must all run into the street without stopping to check for treasure.

. . .

The next morning in the inn's common room, the three companions fall into conversation.

"We were thinking," says Grebdal Themp, "that, as pleasant as our time in Ângu of the Silken Kiosks has been, it is high time we were moving on. It is not all the populace of this fair city who will adjudge us heroes for last night's work."

"I, too, intend to move on." replies Ksandajja.

"Where are you headed, if I may ask?"

"South to Ulq. At least at first."

"And after that?"

"Further inland."

"You don't want to say yet; I will respect your privacy."

"It is well that you do."

"Of course, with the loss of poor, dear Orhhuta, we find ourselves without an accomplished swordswoman in our little band. I don't suppose...?" [UNE: scheming - plan - experience]

"I could use the company. But I can't afford a horse."

"We could, er, borrow some."

"That seems unwise. Besides, I think getting a ship there is a wiser course of action. Despite what happened on my last sea voyage..."

to be continued...

Experience Points
The survivors each earn 40xp for the adventure. I seem to have accidentally omitted discussing XP from Ksandajja's earlier travels & travails. Her character sheet attests that I awarded 25xp for her first adventure (probably too few) and 5xp for her initial wanderings to and within the merchant city. I ran Fhenteskeer and Grebdal Themp (and poor, deceased Orhhuta) through the sample dungeon in the rulebook before using them in this adventure, so they all had a few XP to start with as well.

Current totals are thus-
Ksandajja 70xp
Fhenteskeer & Grebdal Themp 55xp

Time to spend  few before the next adventure:
Ksandajja spends 55 for to increase Stamina to 11 (cost= new levelx5)
Grebdal Themp spends 20 for Trap Knowledge 2, and another 20 for Swords 2 (cost= new levelx10)
Fhenteskeer spends 20 for Axes 2, and 30 for Magic-Priestly 3

Their next adventure begins here.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

AFF solo - Part VII: Horror beneath the streets

Grebdal Themp leads his companions down the long catacomb passageway, between stack upon stack of the mouldering bones of Ângu's long-forgotten dead. The corridor finally ends in a great circular chamber [Room 9]. There is a stone staircase leading downwards in the room's centre. It is otherwise empty save for a series of iron hooks ringing the entire chamber. Most are empty, but dirty robes hang from a few.

"This is evidently the cult's vestry," says Fhenteskeer with undisguised contempt.

"You know," surmises Grebdal Themp, "these would make excellent disguises..."

"Out of the question," retorts the fire-priest. "I should never so debase myself!"

"I don't relish the feel of this unwashed sackcloth against my skin either," says Ksandajja, "but any small advantage against these fiends--"

"Very well, I'm convinced," says Fhenteskeer.

"That was fast," says Orhhuta.

"I am a priest of one of the great gods of Good. I had to at least be seen to protest. For the sake of form, you understand."

Grebdal Themp is chuckling to himself as he selects a robe from the wall. But as his fingers touch the dirty fabric, it comes to life and wraps tightly about him, crushing and smothering the hapless rogue, for this is no robe, but a terrible WRAPPER!

[As this was the final room of the level, the stairs down were automatically here, and I rolled a guardian on the Level 3 list in the main AFF rulebook. The Wrapper result made it obvious that this was a vestry.

1d4=Grebdal Themp gets attacked. He had to test his LUCK to notice the creature amongst the robes; 2d6=9, failure. He takes 2 damage, dropping him to 2 Stamina.]

Grebdal Themp's companions raise their weapons, but are unsure where to strike the creature, lest they also harm their friend struggling beneath. After a moment's deliberation Fhenteskeer strides forward and intones the Sacred Melody of the Lambent Flame. The wrapper catches alight, and with a high-pitched squeal it relinquishes its hold upon its prey and falls twitching to the floor, where it is a simple matter for Orhhuta to dispatch it with her sword.

[Fhenteskeer cast the Flame spell. I thought it might do extra damage, but upon looking at the entry in Out of the Pit, I found that any fire will cause it to let go and fall, whereupon it can be killed in one hit. So that was lucky.]

The other cult robes, as evinced by a good deal of prodding with sword points, are inanimate. Everyone finds the least filthy robe that will fit, and dons it as a disguise. "Let's go!" says Orhhuta, "we must strike now, whilst we have the upper hand!"

"Not... not yet," groans Grebdal Themp. "The rest of us haven't quite your stamina, dear Orhhuta."

"Allow me," says Fhenteskeer, and begins to chant an entreaty to Filash to rekindle the vigour in the souls of his comrades and cauterise their wounds with his sacred healing fire. And sure enough, Grebdal Themp and Ksandajja find their spirits lifted and wounds erased. For his own part, Fhenteskeer eats a bit of bread from his pack, and burns the other half of the loaf with an obliging torch as an offering to his god.

[Fhenteskeer ate his 2nd PROVISION of the day, restoring 2 Stamina (up to 7). He cast Heal on Ksandajja, restoring her to full Stamina, then spent a Luck point in order to cast it a second time in one day, healing Grebdal Themp to full Stamina as well.]

Orhhuta's yawns of impatience do not go unmarked; soon enough they are marching deeper into the bowels of Titan. They descend for an impossibly long time, and the stairs spiral ever downward. More than once they must stop to let the dizziness subside. At last the interminable steps give way to a small, but blessedly flat, room [Room 10]. One wall is decorated with cult mosaics, rudely narrating the works and deeds of their vile lord, Decay. The other is bare stone. A cracked and cobweb-choked skeleton lies against it; whether it be the remains of an intruder or a broken guardian of the cultist's lair, none can say. But it offers no resistance nor danger, so the disguised companions file past it in silence.

[The 2nd level of the dungeon contains 1d6+2=6 rooms.]

Two dark corridors lead out. Following the eastern passage, they eventually come to an oaken door with heavy iron fittings set into the stone wall [Room 11 - locked room]. It doesn't budge when pushed. "I'm sure I can get us inside with a minimum of effort," whispers Grebdal Themp with cool bravado, and he sets to work on the lock with the point of his long dagger. [He may be the thief type, but he doesn't actually possess the Locks special skill, so this is a straight roll against SKILL: 2d6=7, just succeeding.] After a few false starts, he finally gets the mechanisms to click into place, and the lock to click open. And not a moment too soon; he was on the cusp of having to admit he didn't really know what he was doing!

The door creaks open and the odour of cramped and filthy confinement wafts into the corridor, briefly overpowering the omnipresent smell of hoary death. Three shapes stir in the darkness, recoiling from the sudden lamplight. Weapons are readied for the barest moment, then lowered as the wretched prisoners are revealed: an aging peasant in rags, a large foreign man in tattered hides, and a small woman in a soiled black cloak. "Please... don't hurt us again," says an unsteady voice.

[The 1d6=3 prisoners are (via Age of Fable): farmer, berserker, thief; d6=mmf]

"Hurt you?" exclaims Fhenteskeer. "Fear not, gentle souls, for we are your deliverers from this awful place!"

"Keep your voice down," scolds Grebdal Themp. "Do you want the whole cult to come running?"

"That voice...," says the woman. "Grebdal Themp, is that really you?"

"Lanktra Snard! Word was you fled the city after the Trundici job, and didn't even pay the Shadow Guild its due. They're looking for you, you know..."

"Fled the city! As if I'd be so foolhardy. Trundici is no mere merchant -- he is a vile worshipper of Decay! Had I known, I'd never have agreed to rob his strongbox. His undead guards overpowered me and locked me up in here."

"As touching, truly, as this reunion is," says Ksandajja, "I think it were best you two... legitimate businesspersons talk over old times later."

"Agreed," says Orhhuta. "We've got some Decay worshippers who still need their heads caved in."

"We're too weak to fight," says Lanktra Snard. "The 'food' they served us..."

"Say no more," says Grebdal Themp. "Can you find your way back to the surface?"

"Can I? How long have you known me?"

"Just follow the trail of fresh corpses," says Ksandajja, "and you can't go wrong."

They walk back to the staircase [in Room 10], where two groups part ways. Grebdal Themp allows himself a single, wistful look back over his shoulder as Lanktra Snard departs, then focuses his attention once more on exploring the dusty catacombs. And well that he does, too, for as the passage ends in an abrupt dead end [Area 12], some flash of intuition [a successful Awareness roll] tells him that he has led his comrades directly into a trap. He bids his fellows wait as he scouts back the way they came, and finds the cunningly hidden spear trap in the wall. Examining it, he finds the pressure plates in the floor which armed the mechanism on their first passage over them, and which will spring the trap when traversed a second time [Trap Knowledge roll succeeds]. It is then a simple matter for him to leap over to the first plate, and disengage the mechanism.

As they retrace their steps, a small gap is noticed in the wall. Peering inside reveals another passageway, so one by one they squeeze through and continue. The passage branches off into a Y; something glimmers in the darkness down the left branch, so they naturally proceed towards it.

The corridor ends in a low circular room [Room 14], with a pedestal of smooth, red-veined marble in the centre. A glass phial rests atop the pedestal, the glowing liquid within causing the green faceted glass to sparkle. As the four explorers marvel at the obvious magic, something stirs in the shadows. Out step [1d3=]two skeletal figures clad in tattered black robes. The sparkling red eyes of the DEMONIC SERVANTS glow with infernal malice as they fly with terrible claws to slay the interlopers.


The battle is fierce, but brief. The abyssal magic animating these wretched servants of darkness is no match for the heroes' steel, and they are summarily reduced to piles of crumbling bone.

[Demonic Servants are destroyed if hit twice in succession without scoring a hit of their own. Grebdal Themp took 2 damage, but the outnumbered monsters really didn't stand a chance. The roll for treasure indicated that they were guarding a Special Item: a healing potion (restores STAMINA to full)]

Ksandajja turns her attention once again to the phial. She is at first reticent to touch it, but leans in so close that the green glow plays over her face, and sparks glint in her flashing eyes. She can feel the magic reaching out from the glass, invigorating her with its merest presence.

"I'm keeping this," she says, and it disappears into the folds of her garment.

[Ksandajja has Magic Lore 1, Magic 5; 2d6=5, she identified the potion. I also ruled she'd receive 1 LUCK for find, putting her back up to 8.]

Unwilling to second-guess the opinion of the sorceress, the other three merely shrug, and Grebdal Themp leads the band out another long narrow passage. At its end is a chamber of dressed stone [Room 15], swept cleaner than the surrounding catacombs. In one corner is an ornamental doorway surmounted with leering demons carved in bas-relief. On either side of it, a DORAGAR stands guard. Both of the warlike creatures are clad in baroque spiky armour and bear serrated swords after the manner of their kind.

The doragar pause a moment, as if awaiting a watchword, then silently brandish their weapons and move to attack the intruders.

sword, medium armour

[Round 1]
Grebdal Themp runs ahead of Ksandajja too fast, and instead of a flanking manoeuvre leaves himself open to the doragar's attack. The sword rips through his armour and tears a jagged rent in his side [3 damage drops him to 5 Stamina]. Ksandajja arrive in time to strike, but her blade merely crashes against that of her foe, dislodging flecks of rust -- no, not rust, but the dried blood of the doragar's last opponent!

Orhhuta lands a solid blow against her enemy, but the spiky protrusions on its armour keep the blade from biting deeper [3-1= 2 damage, leaving it with 8 Stamina]. Fhenteskeer is too timid to get close in with his hand axe [miss].
F miss

[Rounds 2-3]
Grebdal Themp is following Ksandajja's lead now, and lands a heavy blow atop the creature's horned helmet [4-2=2 damage]. His follow through only swishes through empty air [miss]. Ksandajja whirls in with a combination strike. The first hit draws a line across the doragar's face [3-0=3 damage], but the down stroke gets caught on a spiky pauldron [3-1=1 damage; it has 5 Stamina left].

Orhhuta makes a terrible mistake [fumbles] and exposes her flank. The doragar's sword tears a bloody strip from her side [+2 damage roll; 3 damage puts her at 10 Stamina]. Fhenteskeer cannot lands a single blow.

[Rounds 4-5]
The first doragar finally falls under the swords of sorceress and thief. The other fights to the end, but surrounded by four stalwart warriors, the death knell soon sounds.

Orhhuta binds her wound, but Grebdal Themp is overcome by curiosity, and decides to open the heavy door. Light streams in from beyond, but as his eyes adjust his hopes of finding the cult treasure are suddenly dashed. As the others peer in past him, a robed figure walks into the room from the other side. As soon as [d6=]she notices the slain doragar, the CULTIST begins to scream and flees back the way she came.

Ksandajja sprints after her, and not a second too soon. The sorceress cuts down the cultist mere paces from an enormous bronze signal gong.

[Grebdal Themp went towards the last room on the level (13), so I asked the Oracle--

Q: Is this the final room of the dungeon? 50/50 (4+): O3 C3 - No, but...
+EVENT: NPC Action - Attract / Rumour (cultist comes into room, tries to raise alarm)
I gave the cultist 1d3=2 rounds before she could raise an alarm; Ksandajja could only attack if she beat the cultist in a Test of SKILL each round; she succeeded twice, and killed her just in time.]

"We've had no luck with these reeking disguises," says Fhenteskeer, throwing off the stained cult robes. "I'm not wearing them a moment longer!" The others are only too eager to do likewise.

The room beyond the door [Room 13] is carved with stone arches and low colonnades, radiating in three concentric circles round a gaping pit in the centre. Braziers spaced between each pair of columns make the room almost as bright as day, though the smoke and cloying incense prevent the light from offering any comfort. Closer examination of the central pit shews it to be a spiral staircase leading ever downward.

"We've come this far, I guess," sighs Grebdal Themp.

"Our fate awaits below," says Ksandajja.

Next post: The Inner Sanctum!

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

AFF solo - Part VI: Into the catacombs

Passing between the grim guardians of chaos, Grebdal Themp leads his companions cautiously down the cramped and narrow tunnel. Old bones lie quietly mouldering in alcoves on either side of them, blanketed with cobwebs and the dust of ages. "These catacombs haven't been in use for many generations," observes Fhenteskeer, "not since the wood importers ad urn-merchants made cremation fashionable. So it goes in purse-emptying Ângu!"

"If all the mourners too are long-since departed, that means no one we meet down here will be up to any good!" says Orhhuta.

"Which is why you should all stop talking, lest they hear you," growls Grebdal Themp.

The passage leads into a tholos-shaped chamber, empty save for a life-sized marble statue of the three Graces in the centre [Room 3 - Feature: unusual statue]. Another narrow passageway leads out from the room.

[Q: Anything obvious about the statue? 50/50 (4+): O2 C5 - No]

"This shouldn't be here," says Ksandajja.

"Let's just leave it alone and pass by," says Fhenteskeer.

As the companions all sidle along the curving wall of the chamber, alert for any dangers...

[The statue...(1d6)
1. is a normal statue
2. holds a clue
3. animates (combat)
4. animates (magic effect & combat)
5. animates (talks)
6. hides a secret]

...the three Charites begin to slowly move, untwining from one another. Their movements become a slow and sinuous dance. The onlookers stop, staring in rapt attention at the enchanting spectacle.

[They must each Test their LUCK or become paralysed: only Orhhuta fails her roll]

Then before their very eyes the statues begin to change and contort, long claws extending from dainty fingers, sweet lips parting to reveal mouths full of needle-sharp fangs. Having revealed their true forms, the ACHARITES rush at their prey with talons extended, toothy maws open wide in silent howls. Orhhuta is still fascinated by the magical dance, and stands dreamy-eyed and unknowing as her friends raise their arms to meet these awful foes.

Medium Armour, Small Claws

[Round 1]
Ksandajja is upon the her opponent before she's crossed half the distance from the centre of the chamber. The sorceress' sword strikes true but only glances off her milky-white marble shoulder [2 damage, -2 for armour: no effect]. Grebdal Themp fares better; he brings his sword down upon the beautiful-tressed head of his foe, and cracks her face nearly in twain [4 damage leaves her with 2 Stamina]. But Fhenteskeer raises his axe vainly as the creature is upon him and raking with terrible claws; he receives a long, bloody gash across the next from the darting-eyed monstrosity [3 damage puts him at 7 Stamina].

[Round 2]
Ksandajja strikes again; this time her aim is sure, and her blade chips off a goodly portion of the fair-cheeked monster's hip [3-1(Armour)=2 damage, dropping her to 4 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp's opponent is still reeling from the shock of his blade. She leaves herself open with a clumsy feint [fumble: expose weak spot to attack, no armour roll] and his sword smashes right into the crack it had already made and down, eradicating the eyes with their limb-loosening glance. The acharis falls at his feet, shattering into bits of jagged stone [2 damage destroys it]. Stepping on light feet, the third acharis forces Fhenteskeer back with her terrible assault. Even as he retreats, she tears a shred out of his leather jerkin --  and his skin beneath [3-1=2 damage, leaving him with 5 Stamina].

[Round 3]
Try as she might, the sweet-singing fiend cannot approach the sorceress but that a shining blade cracks lightning-swift across her white marble skin [3-0=3 damage, dropping her to 1 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp rushes to aid the beleaguered fire priest. He cannot connect with the fleet-footed acharis, but he distracts her enough that Fhenteskeer can make a credible attack, smashing his axe down hard against the sternum of that horror whom joys delight [3-0=3 damage, putting her at 3 Stamina].

[Round 4]
Ksandajja, never faltering, presses her attack. In a hail of strokes, the slim-waisted abomination falls before the sorceress' might, and shatters to rubble against the cold stone ground [3-2=1 damage, destroyed]. Despite the dual effort of rogue and priest, the tender acharis once again slashes her claws down Fhenteskeer's jerkin, and again bloodies him through it [2-1=1 damage drops him to 5 Stamina; G missed].

[Round 5]
Now three stalwart fighters surround the last acharis. Without her sisters, she is no match for them, and Fhenteskeer's axe soon ends the Orchomenian devil.

The moment the final acharis crumbles to pieces, Orhhuta suddenly snaps back to her senses. "I just had the loveliest dream," she says, yawning. "but it seems I missed all the fun." Fhenteskeer mumbles something impolite as he binds his wounds [except really I forgot the first aid rule again]. The he rummages through his pack for some PROVISIONS to restore his flagging vigour. The sorceress is also feeling a bit peckish, and he gives her a bite to eat as well [both regain 2 STAMINA]. Orhhuta stands guard as Grebdal Themp slinks off down the passageway to scout ahead [he makes a successful Sneaking roll].

He hears a commotion before him, and douses his lantern, creeping forward to see what is going on. In a low-ceilinged, dusty chamber[Room 4 - encounter], he sees a group of squat, hairless, hobgoblin-faced SKORN locked in combat with a band of CULTISTS. He elects to leave them to it, and hastens back to tell his companions.

[encounter 1d6+1=3 Skorn

Q: What are the Skorn doing (via Age of Fable)? Fighting with creatures of different species

Rolling 3d6 again on the encounter table came up with Skorn again, so rather than re-rolling I decided that meant 1d6=4 Cultists.

Battle Results (1d6)
1-3 cultists win
4-5 skorn win
 6  draw

Losses (1d6)
1-3 moderate
4-5 low
 6  heavy

d6=3,5; each cultist loses 1d6-2 Stamina]

Grebdal Themp bids Fhenteskeer to cover the light of his lantern so that there is just enough to see by, and leads his companions down the corridor. They wait until the din of battle subsides, then rush forth into the scene of carnage. Three skorn lie dead in the dust, but the four cultists leering victoriously over them are all bloodied and battered themselves.


Lusting for more violence, they raise their arms and fly at the newcomers, but these fanatics are no match for seasoned warriors, and they all soon join the skorn in ignominious death. Only Grebdal Themp sustained any injuries in the battle, and that due to his own over-confidence.

[This may be Fighting Fantasy, but posting two dungeon crawls in close proximity has given me writing-about-combat fatigue. I'm going to try truncating or summarising the fights that aren't terribly interesting. Grebdal Themp's opponent rolled a Fumble (off-balance, -2 to physical actions next turn) then managed to score the only hit against the party on the subsequent round despite the penalty, but that alone wasn't worth writing out the whole combat.

Needless to say, I also forgot to have someone use First Aid again. But I did remember to ask the oracle:
Q: Do the cultists have treasure? unlikely O3 C4 - No, but... 2d6 SP each.]

To cope with the pain of his wound (or rather the embarrassment of receiving it), Grebdal Themp busies himself with rifling through the cultists' purses. He amasses the somewhat less than princely sum of 29 silver coins. No one minds when he puts them in his own purse.

[Since I made the map in advance, movement is random into unexplored areas. 1d2=]

Two exits lead from this room[4]; Grebdal Themp sneaks down the passage that curves to the south. Soon he comes to an arch-roofed colonnade[Room 5 - magic trap]. Where once was dirty rock and dusty floor, now he finds only polished, carved stone and clean-swept flagstones. The colonnade seems to stretch almost endlessly before him, and the whole begins to be suffused with a pale green light, though Grebdal Themp cannot discern its source.

[He must Test his LUCK (currently 10) to escape the trap: 2d6=2!]

He stops to look round, then realises suddenly his feet have not ceased their forward stride. With a great effort of will he turns about, and flies back into the relative safety of the bone-lined catacombs.

Bent nearly double trying to catch his breath, he manages to rasp out, "that way is cursed!" Seeing the panic in his eyes, his comrades elect not to question the assessment. Once he has recovered, he wordlessly leads them down the other passage. They pass by an even narrower side-passage, and continue forward until they arrive at the next chamber [Room 6 - encounter].

The stench of decay is stronger here. Part of the ceiling at the back of the rectangular chamber has fallen in, leaving a mass of stone, dirt, and the tangles of roots from some garden above. Half-buried forms begin to stir in the rubble, as six humanoid corpses in various states of decay step forth from their dank hidey-holes. They pick up a variety of old swords, and then these hideous ZOMBIES shamble menacingly towards the living.


"They're slow," says Grebdal Themp. "We can easily outrun them."

"No!" shouts Fhenteskeer. "I am sworn to destroy such unnatural fiends!" He raises his axe towards the heavens, and utters a prayer to Filash in his capacity as Kindler of Funeral Pyres [casts Smite Undead, which lets him make 2 damage rolls per hit].

[Round 1]
Both Fhenteskeer and Ksandajja are beset by two of the plodding horrors, leaving one each for their companions. Fhenteskeer is seized by a holy fury and leaps into the fray. His axe splits the first zombie neatly in twain with a single stroke. The halves fall, smouldering from the Fire God's hatred of the unnatural creature [hits for 3+3=6 damage, destroyed]. The second zombies sword is smashed aside as an afterthought [missed].

Ksandajja clashes swords with the first thing to face her, and parries every thrust of its pitted blade [combat totals equal, no hits]. But the second slips in under the distracted sorceress' guard, and slashes its scimitar across her flank [3 damage puts her at 5 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp does no better, and is nearly disembowelled by the sweep of a rusting cutlass [4 damage leave him with 4 Stamina]. With the pommel of her sword, mighty Orhhuta smashes flat the ribcage of the zombie faces her, but not even her powerfully muscled arm can compare with the Fire God's wrath, and the beast does not fall [3 damage dropped it to 3 Stamina].

[Round 2]
Urged on by his sacred task, Fhenteskeer slams through into his remaining opponent. His axe removes its arm at the shoulder, and ruins much of its decomposing torso. It yet clings to unlife, though by the barest margin [3+2 damage, 1 Stamina left].

Ksandajja fights with more caution, and manages to fend off one attacker whilst delivering a punishing blow to the one who caused her injury [3 damage reduces it to 3 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp grits his teeth and springs at his assailant, offering up a silent prayer to Telak, Lord of Battle. Be it Telak who guides his hand or the lucky blessing of Sindla, none can say, but his flashing blade sends his enemy's fleshless head sailing off into the gloom [natural 12, Critical; 3x2=6 damage, destroyed]. Orhhuta fights with calm and purpose, and the mangled limbs of the zombie soon lie at her feet [3 damage destroys it].

[Round 3]
The battle is all but won. Fhenteskeer leaves another smoking corpse in a heap, and Ksandajja carves her attacker to pieces. The final zombie is caught between the blades of cunning Grebdal Themp and indomitable Orhhuta, and it falls in two twitching halves onto the grimy floor.

The air in the zombies' chamber is particularly noxious, so no one tarries after the battle. They rush  back down the corridor to the side passage before stopping to catch their breath, wipe the filth from their arms, and bind their wounds [except I forgot this last part again...]. The side passage is excessively narrow in the beginning, and broken old bones litter the ground, though it is also evident that the way is a well-travelled. It soon leads to an intersection, though neither branch appears more or less travelled than the other, so Grebdal Themp leads them to the right on a whim. He has cause to regret it ere long, as it opens out into a rough-hewn circular chamber [Room 7 - encounter], where a scene of the most gruesome awfulness greets the hardy band.

[Encounter: 1d6=2 cultists
Q: What are they doing? (AoF) Washing]

A simple slab of weathered granite with a convex top sits near the centre of the chamber. A human sacrifice is affixed to the rude altar, held in place by a copper band about the neck. His stomach has been opened from groin to sternum, his mouth gapes in a silent scream, and his dead eyes stare, frozen in their last moments of terror. A pair of CULTISTS stand beside, their robes cast to the ground, anointing each other with the blood of the victim.

The cultists do not notice the armed strangers until they are nearly upon them, and then it is too late. In an instant their blood is mingled with that of their victim, as their souls fall shrieking into the Pit to join their demonic Lord.

[PCs had surprise: +6 attack, +2 damage rolls; the fight lasted a single round]

There is but one way on from here, and they are all eager to take it, but they wait just long enough that Fhenteskeer can say an orison over the poor victim on the altar.

The passage leading out shews more signs of recent passage. It leads to another intersection [area 8 -  other feature + magical trap] where one of the few walls not harbouring the bones of the deceased has been decorated with a black-and-white mosaic of the wicked god, Decay. Waves of the blackest sort of magic emanate from the mosaic as its aura of terror seizes the hearts of the interlopers in Decay's unholy house...

[The PCs must all Test their LUCK to avoid the effects. All succeed!]

...but after the nauseating spectacle they have just witnesses, not even the very countenance of the Prince of Carrion can move them to flight. Each passes by the mosaic wordlessly as they continue through the catacombs.

next post: deeper into the vile cult's lair!

Sunday, 1 September 2019

AFF solo - Part V: Against the Cult of Chaos

The unseemly and insalubrious taverns recommended by Ksandajja's rooftop "associate" are in the lowest of the low quarters, seemingly another world from the colourful bazaars and painted storefronts of the rest of Ângu of the pearl-lined streets. The first few locales she visits make her glad of the new sword of well-tempered steel at her side, as she wends her way through the throng of syphilitic sailors, beady-eyed cut-throats, sallow-skinned lotus fiends, worn-out catamites, thieves, scoundrels, usurers, and miscellaneous riff-raff she's too appalled to catalogue. More than once does she espy a ruined countenance she takes to be the leprous cult-priest.

She's about to give up, when at last chances upon a hardy trio, obviously not denizens of this squalor. She asks to join them, and they eagerly listen to her tale of adventure, as if they know from the start of the request which is to come.


Social Class: Mercenary (0)  Age: 24
Talents: Light Sleeper
Special Skills: Common Speech 4, City Lore 1, World Lore 1, Religion Lore 1, Ride 1, Strength 2, Swords 2, Hunting 2, Polearms 1, Dodge 1, Swim 1, Climb 1, Awareness 1, Sneaking 1
GP: 20
Provisions: 2
Equipment: sword, lantern, oil, luck potion, backpack

The first of the three is Orhhuta, a statuesque woman of the steppes. She is a mercenary by trade. Her muscles ripple beneath her light tunic as she raises her cup in a toast to their new friend.


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 2, Leadership 2, Elemental Speech 1, Etiquette 1, Axes 1, Awareness 1, Armour 2, Sneaking 1
Spells: Flame, Smite vs. Undead, Bless, Heal
GP: 10
Provisions: 2
Equipment: hand axe, leather armour, lantern, oil, anti-poison potion, backpack

To her right sits Fhenteskeer. He is a priest of the fire god, a fact underscored by his wild, darting eyes and the flaming red hair atop his head (obviously made so by lots of henna). His movements are as animated and constant as the sacred flames he reveres, but so too does he have a warm heart.

Grebdal Themp
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 1, Evaluate 1, Trap knowledge 1, Con 1
Cantrips: Enhance, Hear, Sober, Secrete, Instil, Honesty
GP: 5
Provisions: 2
Equipment: sword, leather armour, lantern, oil, luck potion, backpack

On the warrior's left is a softly-spoken young man who keeps looking over his shoulder as if he expects enemies to appear at any moment. Ksandajja is certain he must be in the same line of work as her rooftop benefactor.

When Ksandajja reaches the end of her narrative, she puts it to them that she requires their help to destroy the evil cult. The sorceress persuades them with promises of destroying evil (Fhenteskeer) and winning gold (Orhhuta & Grebdal Themp) though, truth be told, the jittery priest does seem to have an unseemly interest in gold, and the hulking mercenary would happily destroy evil gratis.

Scene 5

Madness (d6)

Setup: d6=Interrupt (was: dungeon)
Interrupt: Ambiguous Event - Increase / Balance (festival of Neutral god)

NPC List: cultists, underworld contact, angry aristocrat, angry government worker, scribe friend

Threads: destroy cult

Eager to begin their task (and as funds are dwindling, recover some spoils), Ksandajja's little band set out the very next morning. But as they move through the city streets, they find them choked by an ever increasing crowds of people, for this day is the Festival of [1d7=] Pangara, God of the Wind. The carnival atmosphere seems to have brought most of the folk of the city out-of-doors, and semi-solemn processions of priests and lay worshippers snake haphazardly (so it seems) through narrow streets and broad thoroughfares.

[Q: Can the PCs use the festival as cover to case the cult house? 50/50 (4+): O5 C2 - Yes, and...]

The little band is swept along in the train of a procession, but as fortune would have it, it progresses right past the cult house and to the nearby market square, though the general revelry still clogs the whole of the street.

[Q: Does the house look occupied? Unlikely (5+): O6 C5 - Yes]

"There goes... a... daylight visit," says a dejected Ksandajja, shooing away a trio of dancers.

"We'll... have to risk... more cultists being there!" says Orhhuta, dodging between a quartet of mummers.

"And under cover of darkness, up to something evil," says Fhenteskeer, who is just a little too sketchy looking for the townsfolk to approach, even on the high holy days.

Scene 6

Madness (d6)

Setup: d6=Altered (was: dungeon)
Alteration: Open / Military (=cult warriors guarding house)

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

Threads: destroy cult

The festival eventually dies down, and by an hour after sunset all the revellers who have not wandered home have removed to the taverns and bawdy houses of costly-incensed Ângu. The streets are thus empty as a grim little company moves through the streets, their hearts burning with the desire to do battle against wickedness (Fhenteskeer's most of all).

They stop short of their goal so Grebdal Themp and Ksandajja can slink up to the house through the shadows to reconnoitre. [Rather than figure out the opposition in advance (for resisted tests), I had each make a simple Sneaking roll. G & K need 9-/7- respectively; their rolls are 9&5, success.

Q: How many rooms has the house? d6+2=6 (2 storeys)
Q: Is the upstairs dark? 50/50 (4+): O5 C6 - Yes]

The house is a modest affair, like most in the quarter. The windows all stand open to allow the air to circulate on this sultry night. The ground floor is dimly lit, and there are a few people visible in the common room. [1d3=] Three CULTISTS in long robes sit around a rude table. One is reading a cheaply-bound codex, the other two are playing cards. Behind them stand [1d3=] two muscle-bound CULT GUARDS of indeterminate gender, wearing dark cowls, grotesquely stitched-together jerkins of rawhide, and curving scimitars suspended from black sashes. The upper storey is in complete darkness.

"I'll see whom I can flush out," says Ksandajja, as she puts in the pair of nose plugs she carries in her pouch. "Tell the others to be ready to move." Grebdal Themp isn't sure what she intends, but he's not the sort to second-guess a magician. He pads back to his fellows as Ksandajja creeps up closer to the house, making sure none within can see her. She whispers the words of an ancient incantation, using her sorceress' will to open a small rent in the fabric of this world, and allow some of the noxious air of the very Pit to leak through into the house.

[Ksandajja is casting NIF (~stinking cloud). She spends two extra rounds on the casting, giving her a +4 bonus; 5(magic)+2(skill)+4=11; 2d6=6, an easy success. The spell costs 1 stamina: all within the cloud suffer -2 attack penalties from the smell for 7 rounds (=MAGIC + Sorcery special skill)

Q: Does the smell force cultists outside? 50/50 (4+): O3 C3 Yes, but...
+Event: Remote Event - Activity / Military (noted)]

The three cultists at the table bolt when they catch the first whiff of the hellish fumes. The guards seem to droop a bit, but the fanatics will not leave their assigned posts. They draw their scimitars in anticipation.

Leather cuirass, sword

[Round 2]
Ksandajja bursts in through the open door and attacks the nearest guard, whose armour proves surprisingly resilient beneath her sword. Still, she has bloodied the silent hulk, who does not even cry out at the offence [she hits for 4-1(armour)=3 damage, leaving the guard with 4 Stamina].

[Round 3]
The second guard manoeuvres round the table so Ksandajja is surrounded. The swordswoman fights like a demon of the Pit herself as the noxious fumes swirl about her, but these practiced killers are intent on spilling blood, and she receives a long gash down the back of her shoulder.

[Ksandajja rolls an 11 for the round, attacking the 1st guard still.
g1 has a total of {7(skill)-2(NIF)+1(extra attacker)+2d6=} 14, hitting her for 3 damage, dropping her to 6 STA.
g2 has a bad roll, totalling 9, a miss. (she only gets one declared attack, so inflicts no damage despite her higher total).]

[Round 4]
Orhhuta and Grebdal Themp charge in through the open door. The smell sends them reeling, but they fight as best they are able -- at least they distract the second guard at Ksandajja's back. The sorceress does not waste the opportunity; she strikes out with the truest of aims, and her sword plunges into the guard's neck above the thick hide armour. She leaps aside so the corpse does not hit her as it falls.

[Ksandajja rolled a Critical Hit (natural 2, doubles damage); 6 damage (-0 for armour roll) kills the guard outright.
Orhhuta and Grebdal Themp are also at -2 in the fumes. O rolls 11 vs. the 2nd guard's 11: no hits.
Grebdal Themp rolls a 9, miss.]

Fhenteskeer has elected to stay outside as a rear guard, in case the other cultists return.

[Rounds 5-6]
The guard is surrounded [+2 to be hit for 2 extra opponents], but fights to the bitter end. Orhhuta receives a bloody cut across her arm [3 damage puts her at 13 Stamina], but the guard soon lies dead on the floor, brought low by a massive stroke of the warrior's blade.

The victors go outside into the relatively fresh city air until the stench subsides, then return to search the house...

[Awareness rolls at -2: f fail, g fail, o fail, k ok
Q: Is there anything of value in house? Unlikely (5+): O1 C6 - No.]

...but there is nothing of especial value within: there is no strongbox nor cache of jewels, the cult weapons are corroded, and the codex on the table is but a common pornographic chapbook.

[Religion lore rolls at -2 for the PCs to have any idea about the cult. Fhenteskeer can substitute MAGIC in place of SKILL as this is a Knowledge Special Skill: 6+2(Religion)-2=6; 2d6=8, no idea.
Ksandajja rolls 2d6=2, Special Success; she'll get +2 on relevant Knowledge skill checks in the dungeon.]

As the others search in vain for lucre, Ksandajja pokes at one of the dead guards with her sword. Drawing the heavy cowl aside reveals a gangrenous, sexless visage. Fatted worms writhe and creep about beneath the diseased flesh, now and again bursting through as they feast upon the rot. Ksandajja nearly swoons, and must catch herself on the table lest her legs buckle beneath her.

"You magic up that appalling smell, but the sight of a dead body makes you faint?" quips Grebdal Themp. "And here I thought you were a hardened warrior like our dear Orhhuta." He nudges the body with his foot for emphasis, causing a tumescent worm to fall out upon his boot, still munching upon a bit of green-black flesh.

Grebdal Themp runs into the street and is violently sick.

"I've met with these fiends before," says Ksandajja. "The Order of the Devouring Worm: a sect devoted to the vile god Decay." 

"We shall burn out their infection with purifying flame!" says Fhenteskeer.

"I've found a set of stairs in this closet," says Orhhuta, "certainly leading down to the cult's lair. Once Grebdal Themp is done reviewing the contents of his dinner, I say we attack."

Fhenteskeer tends to the wounds of his companions whilst they wait for Grebdal Themp to recover. At length he returns, looking fit if still somewhat pale. He the fire-priest each illumine a lantern, and one by one they descend into the darkness.

[I am so used to OSR games that I constantly forget about making first aid rolls after combat. I put it in the narrative, because an injured person certainly wouldn't forget, but they recover 0 STAMINA as it's way too late to ret-con.

Marching order is G* K F* O.

The dungeon was run with the generator in the AFF rulebook, and I mixed in some tables from Age of Fable to make things more interesting. It's a great collection of random stuff, but a bit unwieldy to scroll through during a game. Next time I'll cut-and-paste a few that I am likely to use into a separate document.]

Grebdal Themp leads the way, his sharp eyes [Awareness 2] sweeping the steps, walls, and ceiling for the trap he is sure must protect the entrance. His companions follow a fair distance behind.

[Skill 7 + Awareness = 9; 2d6=9, success

Q: So, is there actually a trap? 50/50 (4+): O5 C1 - Yes, and... blade trap, -1 to disarm
Q: Is there a guard? Likely (3+): O6 C4 - Yes, but... asleep]

Light shines weakly up from the bottom of the steps. Through the arched doorway a cramped guardroom [Room 1] of dressed stone is visible, in which the guard -- a CULTIST in dirty robes -- has fallen asleep at [d6=] his post. He snores quietly in his  rickety wooden chair, and his spear is propped against the wall beside him. A single candle burns on low stand by the entrance.

Grebdal Themp is about to creep into the room when he notices slender threads, fine as spider silk, criss-crossing the doorway. He sheathes his sword as quietly as he might, then draws his dagger with equal stealth. He sets about delicately cutting the strands, fearful that the slightest pressure will spring the trap.

[Skill 7 + Trap Knowledge 1, -1 difficulty = 7: 2d6=5, success]

He cuts the threads one by one, scarcely daring to breathe, but in the end he has removed them all, rendering the trap inert. It is then but a trifle to tiptoe across the room and dispatch the sleeping cultist [Sneaking roll succeeds, auto-kill assumed]. As his companions file into the room, he scouts ahead down the narrow, rough-hewn passage.

[He makes a successful Awareness roll, noticing d6=2 skeletons standing in alcoves]

He is soon back with a report. "There's another small chamber ahead. There are bones propped up in two alcoves flanking the only way out. Strange, monstrous bones. And I do not suppose they rest there in natural fashion."

Gripping their weapons, they follow Grebdal Themp to the chamber [Room 2], where they behold an awesome sight. For there, standing in the alcoves on either side of the exit, are the SKELETONS of the legendary APE-DOG and DOG-APE who once guarded Balthus Dire's infamous Citadel!


[Ksandajja can roll Ancient Lore (Skill 6  + 2 Learned)=8; 2d6=3, success]

As the bony creatures step down from their alcoves and clack menacingly towards the astonished intruders, memories race through Ksandajja's mind. She blurts out "I am here to treat Kylltrog!" and the skeletal guardians suddenly stop, then return to their stations and are still.

"I... I don't believe it," says Orhhuta.

"What...? How...?" sputters Grebdal Themp.

"What necromancy is this?" asks Fhenteskeer.

The sorceress heaves a long sight. "I see none of you are up on your classics. I thought everyone on Titan learnt their letters reading the Lay of the Citadel of Chaos. You know, the epic in which YOU are the hero..."

Next post: Into the catacombs!

Saturday, 24 August 2019

AFF solo - Part IV: The glint of gold and steel

The free city of Ângu, as its many epithets attest, is one of the wealthier merchant cities of the Trenaali coast: Sea-gilded Ângu, Ângu of the joyous markets, Ângu of the fair scales, the Caravanserai of the Heavens. But even the most obsequious of sobriquets cannot mask the sinister reputation of the thriving port.

As Ksandajja approaches the gate, it seems hardly different from any of the other wealthy cities she has seen on her travels, right down to the bored guards in tatty leather jerkins leaning on their spears. Ksandajja joins the queue behind some tired-looking camels.

When it is finally her turn to enter, the craggy-faced guardswoman looks her up and down.

"Sellsword, eh?" she asks.

Ksandajja nods, seeing no reason to disabuse her of this notion, and especially not to admit her practice of the sorcerous art.

"The entry toll is ten silvers for your sort."

Smiling sweetly, Ksandajja flips the guard a gold coin. The woman grimaces for a moment as she catches it; she'd obviously asked for silver so she could skim off the top.

Scene 4

Chaos: Out-of-Control (d8)

Setup: City adventure

NPC List: -

Threads: Quest, travel to Ulq

[Then it was time to break out Midkemia Press' Cities for a random urban encounter: d%=already occurring, d%=Public Execution]

Ksandajja's bout of complacency ends the moment she steps through the gate and emerges into the bustling square. A man has been stripped and lashed upside-down to two great pales by the ankles and wrists. A pair of executioners are at work upon him with a long-bladed, jagged saw. His screams stand in sharp contrast to the jollity of the onlookers.

Hardened warrior though she be, Ksandajja cannot but be moved, and indeed a little unnerved, by the spectacle. "Can this be another omen?" she asks herself, "Or just a reminder to be on my best behaviour." She examines her purse, counting but six golden coins therein. "I hope vagrancy isn't a crime here."

She spends a little money (5sp) for a visit to the public baths, hoping to look a little less of a vagrant. She spends a little more (1gp 8sp) for a bed in the common room of a cheap inn and food for the night.

[Q: Does she have a quiet night? 50/50 (4+): O5 C1 - Yes, and...
She recovers 2 Stamina for the Meal, and 4 more for a good night's sleep (back to her full 10).]

In the morning, Ksandajja takes stock of her situation. She can't afford food and supplies to continue her journey, nor does she expect that she could secure working passage aboard a ship (even without admitting what happened with her first sailing venture). She resigns herself to remaining for a time in Friendly-Dealing Ângu, and hopes she can find some way of improving her meagre circumstances.

[Time once again for the Midkemia Press' Cities Catch-up Tables. As usual, these fleshed out the city in a desultory fashion, and eventually led into an adventure. Rather than wasting all my NPC naming effort on people who will probably never come up again (once she leaves Ângu, it is doubtful she will ever return), I will narrate the passage of time cursorily until we get to the Adventure proper. Game mechanics for each week will follow in a separate paragraph.]

[Week 1]
The first week in the lively metropolis is relatively uneventful. She installs herself in a more modest inn to ease the strain on her dwindling purse. She frequents the markets and taverns looking for work, but finds nothing suitable. A local grandee (through the intermediary of a servant, of course) offers her a job as a storyteller, 'that you might divert and delight my lord with tales of your far-off homeland, O foreign one'. This she politely declines, inwardly distrustful of the grandee's leering countenance. Boredom threatens to overtake her, and another resident at the inn entices her to a game of knucklebones. She wins a modest sum -- 10sp -- but even then is faced with the prospect of having to relocate to a less expensive inn should her circumstances not improve.

[event: -
looking for work: +10% to Job Type roll since she is literate. d%=Plebeian type job found, d40=storyteller, no.
living at inn level 3 gp room&board for the week
gambling: risk 10sp, wins 10sp
(1gp 7sp total purse)]

[Week 2]
Perhaps Sindla [Goddess of Luck and Fate] is smiling upon her, for the next week sees a complete reversal. She hears a cry for help coming from a dark alleyway, and upon investigating finds an aristocrat being threatened by a trio of scruffy, knife-wielding bravos. The mere sight of Ksandajja's bared steel is enough to send them scurrying back into the shadows. The aristocrat immediately offers to hire her as a bodyguard, and at twice the going rate. He's a ridiculous, perfumed dandy, but Ksandajja can't find it in her heart (or purse!) to refuse.

[event: befriend an aristocrat. offers job as bodyguard for double salary
salary: 3d8=13 x2= 26gp/week
save 30%: 7gp 3sp]

[Week 3]
Ksandajja is pulled into a whirlwind of luxury and dissipation. Even with her new patron spending egregious sums to dress his new companion in the finest silks and jewels, she still haemorrhages her own funds in a completely negligent fashion. She doesn't half mind, though she feels less like a bodyguard and more like a life-sized doll at times, despite the glittering array of scimitars she is given for her use (one for every day of the week, plus special ones for holidays). But the rose petal strewn dream comes to an abrupt end. Ksandajja finds she has committed some unforgivable faux pas -- one which she hardly understands -- when a troop of house soldiers divest her of her new jewels and turn her out into the street.

And yet fortune's wheel has not yet stayed its motion, for as she walks through the streets of Thousand-marted Ângu in a daze, she happens by a written notice tacked to the door-post of the temple of the very goddess whose plaything she feels herself to be. The notice advises any who might be able to read it to apply for a position as a public scribe at the guildhall. She marches there and obtains a position forthwith, though they caution her to buy a less elegant dress with her first salary, lest she ruin her fine garment with ink stains. They don't even ask about the incongruously rusty sword at her belt.

[event: -
savings roll, d%=05, lost job! (aristocrat now counts as offended)
d6x10=50% chance she can still look for new job this week: d%=48, yes
public scribe, 15gp/week
save 100%! +15gp]

[Weeks 4 & 5]
Unsurprisingly, the fate of a public scribe in Purse-filling Ângu is to copy and recopy contracts, deeds, and bills of sale. The work is uninspiring, but Ksandajja does befriend one of the other scribes, who is overly anxious to hear tales of her travels [UNE: mysterious-secrets-experience]. She buys some plain clothing for work, but, much to her chagrin, she can't quite save up enough to buy a proper sword. And then one morning as she arrives at the guildhall a junior clerk stops her at the door, and says her behaviour has been deemed most unbecoming. Not only is her employment at an end, but the balance of her salary forfeit as well. Her friend later tells her that the official whose scroll Ksandajja was to finish is most put out, and she'd do well to avoid the guildhall henceforth.

[Week 4
event: befriend fellow worker
savings roll: d%=02! lost job again, another breach of etiquette
can't find another this week
back to inn -11gp (12gp 10sp left)

Week 5
event: offend govt worker (whose scroll she didn't finish)
-11gp room/board
job search fails (biologist???)]

[Week 6]
With the loss of her job, and no new prospects, Ksandajja rapidly runs out of money and is forced to take to the streets. She beds down in a narrow alley for the night, making a nest out of clothing, sleeping with her sword near at hand. One morning she is awakened by a pair of strangers with kindly faces.

[She can't afford lodging, so I rolled on the Living with No Money table: d%=taken in by temple or strangers]

"Oh you poor dear," says the old woman. "To see one so young reduced to such circumstances!"

"What a tragedy," says the old man. "Price-gouging Ângu is no place to be a pauper."

"You should come with us," says the old woman. "Our order offers a safe haven for all who find themselves friendless and alone in this venal city."

[I rolled 1d30 to see what god (from the AFF rulebook) this pair serves. d30=Decay.
Ksandajja must Test her LUCK to realise these "kindly strangers" are up to no good: 2d6=9, just succeeded, so it will take her a bit until the realisation dawns upon her. There are a total of 1d3=2 cultists + 1 priest.]

The strange old couple cluck and coo over the 'poor dear lass' as they lead her through a maze of winding streets and back alleyways. They have lots to say about the wicked city of merchants, but are unusually reticent to say aught of their faith. By the time they have arrived at the shabby door of a dilapidated townhouse, the sour feeling in Ksandajja's stomach has changed from hunger to dread.

"I-- I just realised I have a cousin in this city who can put me up," says Ksandajja unconvincingly. The man's grip tightens on her wrist as he realises the game is up. Ksandajja sees the door open slowly, and a leprous visage stares out into the street. She wrenches her hand away from the old man, and draws her sword. The old couple cackle horribly, and produce long curved knives which are crusted over with the blood of their last victims. The pair of wicked CULTISTS manoeuvre to cut off Ksandajja's escape.

first CULTIST      SKILL 5   STAMINA 4

Devotion 6 (MAGIC + Magic - Priest)

[Round 1]
Surrounded or not, the swordswoman has the upper hand over these vile fanatics [they get +1 attack for outnumbering her, but it's still her 8 vs. their 6]. The man feints, but Ksandajja was expecting the clumsy move, and her blade nearly takes his arm off at the shoulder [3 damage reduces him to 1 STA]. The old woman's foot gets caught in the hem of her robe, and she falls face-first into the dirt [fumble (rolled natural 2); lose next round].

[Round 2]
The leprous PRIEST gurgles out a Curse, calling upon the pestilential exhalations of his abhorrent god [casts Weakness]. An unnatural sickness wracks Ksandajja's body, and she breaks out in a cold sweat [-3 to Skill and damage rolls for 6 rounds]. She stabs weakly at the old man, but her arm feels so heavy and sluggish. It's all she can do to keep a grip on her sword. [8-3+2d6=11 vs. 5+2d6=11, no hits]. Fortunately, he's still chastened from the stroke she dealt him to make a credible attack of his own. Behind Ksandajja, the old woman is regaining her feet.

[Round 3]
The priest is content to watch his minions fight with their quarry. And what a show it is! Ksandajja parries a thrust of the woman's dagger, only to watch in horror as the blade snaps off against the crossguard. Ksandajja throws the useless pommel to the ground, cursing vehemently, though not loud enough to drown out the phlegmatic laughter emanating from within the house.
[She Fumbled, and will be off balance (-2 to all actions) next turn. Because the fumble is necessarily a roll of doubles, the rusty sword she picked up beneath the ruined tower finally breaks (I can't believe how many fights it lasted).]

[Round 4]
She tries to fight them off unarmed, and receives a matching pair of wounds for her efforts [both hit for 2 damage, dropping her to 4STA].

[Round 5]
Ksandajja knows she cannot best these cultists -- at least not today! She runs between them, [testing her LUCK: 2d6=8, success (current Luck decreases to 7)] evading their daggers, and flies off down the street.

"After her, you fools!" rasps the priest.

The cultists give chase. [1d6=3 rounds before she has a chance to lose them.] Ksandajja runs through an alley and into a main street. This being Ângu, it leads right into a market square, where merchants are already setting up their stalls for the day. Ksandajja feels the unnatural Weakness sloughing off as she races for the square. She finds the largest concentration of people, and uses them as cover until she can slink off down a side street [Skill 6 + Sneaking 1 (7-): 2d6=6, success].

Ksandajja spends the whole day moving from place to place, ever on the watch fro that horrible old couple. She is too afraid even to sleep that night [no STA regained]. The following day, she spends the last of her money on a meal to keep her strength up [+2STA].

[Week 7]
Ksandajja prowls round the city for the next few days. The run-in with the cult coupled with the loss of her sword has left her paranoid, and after a week her demeanour is scarcely less terrible than that of the knife-wielding cultists.

One night, as she is perched atop a gabled roof to observe the streets below, she hears a scraping sound beneath her. She watches as the shutters of the window below her seat open slowly and a black-clad figure climbs out onto the roof. The figure stifles a gasp as it finds a pair of staring eyes burning into its own.

The figure pulls aside its kerchief to reveal a smiling, pock-marked face. "Now 'ere's a surprise," says the man. "I didn't expect to find me escape route occupied. You're obviously not town militia, and you don't got the look of a hired guard, so just who are you? And just what are you doing sat atop Thammranaio's manse at this hour."

"I am a sorceress. And I keep my own counsel."

"A sorc-- I don't mean to pry, m'lady! Perhaps I should be off..."

"Stay, thief! For I would talk with you a while."

"I-- er, yes. Of course."

"You have connections in this city, do you not?"

"I knows a churl or two."

"I have been ambushed by an evil cult, and I would strike back at them, and root out their wickedness once and for all."


"But I cannot do it alone, for where one cultist is visible, a dozen more lurk in lightless tunnels below."


"And I thought you knew of somewhere I could find some more adventurous sorts. The kind who will see this necessity as a chance to win untold treasures back from the very hands of darkness."

"I think I just might know a place you could look, full of those what likes to bust heads -- evil heads, of course."

"Of course."

"But I gots to warn you, nothing in coin-shaving Ângu is free."

"Of course it isn't... but that includes my silence, thief."

"Tell you what, m'lady: how bout's I give you a cut of my night's profits -- as a donation to your righteous cause, obviously -- and you forget you ever met me. And I'll throw in the names of a few taverns what you could visit for to find you some hired muscle."

[Week 7
event: befriends an underworld character
gives her 1d20x5=75gp
-22gp lv 3 inn room & board
-30gp new sword
23gp left

For her new friend's advice, Ksandajja gets a +1 to her City Lore roll to find a place to recruit mercenaries/hirelings/thugs. 6(skill)+2(Learned)+1=9; 2d6=5, success. She finds 1d3=3 others.

Rather than figuring out what to roll to see who she turns up, I just grabbed the other 3 PCs I made when I first bought the game. I had run them through the sample dungeon in the rulebook, so they all have a few xp and a little bit of treasure -- but not much of either. I like a game that leaves your PCs a bit skint!]

Next post: Ksandajja gathers her forces and strikes back at the vile cult!