Monday, 27 May 2019

AFF solo - chargen, campaign setup, and matters arising therefrom

Typically desultory proœmium

I'm about to be very busy again, and won't have the time to devote to writing up Lycinia's dungeon adventure for a couple weeks at least. But May is the Spring Has Sprung: Try something new! event (link - link) in the Solo RPG community, so rather than letting my blog lie fallow, I present the first part of a new campaign/game I started a while back but never got round to posting.

This game began as a conflation of vague ideas which I'd been ruminating over for years, but had never managed to realise in any workable way. I'd made a fair few false starts, none of which I mentioned on the blog, but it finally seemed to be coming together.

In fact, there were actually two separate campaigns I'd been trying to figure out, but having started one it seemed that combining them was actually the answer that had been eluding me. The first idea is just a non-Tolkien, non-D&D fantasy campaign: grim sword & sorcery leaning heavily towards the hallucinatory bandes-dessinées end of the spectrum, but without being too gonzo. The second idea was actually inspired by a painting, Waterhouse's Mariana in the South (see above), which gave me the idea of a lone PC held hostage in a fairy castle.

Other inspirations in no real order:
  • Tales of Telguuth
  • C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry stories
  • that one old Conan & Red Sonja comic in French translation I found in a charity shop
  • Leconte de Lisle's Poèmes tragiques
  • Nerval's oneiric works
  • Théophile Gautier's more orientalist tales
  • Mœbius
  • Die unendliche Geschichte
  • this really spooky cartoon version of 12 Dancing Princesses I saw on Nickelodeon in the late 80s
  • something else that I have invariably forgotten to mention

From a game perspective, I was looking for something different than my usual fare. I'd considered both OSR and BRP games, but neither of those avenues felt right. Essentially, I wanted something that could support a single PC (and occasionally a small party, since it always seems to come to that), had some built-in rules for social interactions, and would allow me to develop my idea of eventually running a dungeon adventure with little or no combat. So it seems almost ironic, given that last point, that I settled on playing Advanced Fighting Fantasy.

Now, time to set up the campaign.

Step 1 : World building

Just kidding. I'll figure it out as I go. It might be set on Titan, it might not. I'll use all the baseline assumptions in the 2nd edition Advanced Fighting Fantasy (hereafter AFF) Deluxe rulebook, including the pantheon of Gods. If I need an area map I can whip up something with Hexographer in 20 minutes or so.

What's really important is...

Step 2 : Character

My vague setting ideas came first, but the character's wanderings though the world are going to be the lens by which everything about it is revealed, so this needs a little more thought. I had a vision in my head of a lone rider on a strange mount in a bizarrely coloured wasteland, so I decided to keep that thought in my head as I moved through the character generation process.

Indeed the first thing mentioned in the Character Creation chapter is character concept. I'll go through the rest of the steps in order, and try to summarise the rules as I go. I direct interested readers to the free Quickstart, which has  a good, if slightly simplified, overview complete with sample characters and an adventure.


There are 4 characteristics (attributes). All PCs possess SKILL, STAMINA, and LUCK. Magic-using and priestly characters possess a fourth characteristic, MAGIC.

Skill is used as the basis for all skill rolls and actions, Stamina is hit points, Luck has a variety of uses, such as finding clues, avoiding traps, and resisting magic, and Magic is a measure of arcane power and skill.

All PCs start with SKILL 4, STAMINA 8, and LUCK 8. There is a point-buy system used to increase these, but the most compact one of any game I've ever seen. You get 8 points, with 1:1 increase except Stamina where 1 point buys 2. There are maximum starting values which may not be exceeded, but these are lower than the maximums attainable through spending XP, so min-maxing isn't a problem. I wanted my PC to be skilled in both fighting and magic, so I spent my points for the following values:



Humans, elves, and dwarfs are allowed as PCs. I chose human, as befits a sword & sorcery protagonist. Each race grants a bonus to one characteristic; humans receive +1 LUCK.

Special Skills

Special skills are areas of expertise and training, and are broadly grouped into 5 categories: Combat, Movement, Stealth, Magical, and Knowledge. They increase the character's SKILL score for relevant activities, though Knowledge skills may be used with a character's MAGIC characteristic instead (so you can make a very scholarly but not very martial wizard). 1 point is basic familiarity, 2 is competent, and 4 is a master-level of training, but most mundane special skills can be used without points allocated to them.

Default special skills are granted by race. Humans get World Lore 1, City Lore 1 (or Forest Lore, Plains Lore, etc. based on origin), Religion Lore 1, and 1 point of any Movement or Stealth Special Skill. They also get 4 points in the Language/Common Speech special skill.

Based on the image of my PC, I took Desert Lore 1 in place of City Lore, and Ride 1 for the free Movement skill.

All PCs may then assign 2 points to each of three special skills, and 1 point to six more. No special skill may be chosen twice, but these points may applied to the racial skills.

This was the point where I had to choose my PC's magical tradition, of which there are 3 major types: wizard, sorcerer, and priest. Priests draw their power directly from their deity, wizards shape the mystical energies in the world around them, and sorcerers power their spells with their own life force. I was really drawn towards wizard -- as I usually am -- but in the end I went with sorcerer just to be different. I already have a game or three going about wizards searching for new spells, so a character with a fixed list (sorcerers get all the sorcery spells, but  do not learn more) will force me to do something different.

My PC has learnt the following:
Swords 2
Magic - Sorcery 2
Awareness 2 (search, spot, listen...)
Second Sight 1 (to "see" magical effects & creatures)
Sneaking 1
Polearms 1
Language - Ancient Allansian 1
Magic Lore 1 (for analysing magic)
Magic - Minor 1 (cantrips)


Each PC gets a single Talent, which is some sort of special ability. Elves and dwarfs also get a bonus Dark Seeing talent, which humans may not choose.

I went with Learned, which grants +2 to all Knowledge Special Skill tests, even if the character has no points in the special skill being used.

I envision my PC as having learnt the arts of sorcery and swordsmanship in some immense ancient temple in the midst of a vast and trackless waste, and having devoted many an hour to study of superannuated tomes and scrolls in its cavernous library.

Finishing Off

A character's social class is rated from 0 (beggar, mercenary, criminal, i.e. most PCs) to 10 (king). Looking at the chart, I think that as a sorcerer my PC has a 4, equivalent to a clerk or witch.

Magical characters need to calculate Magic Points at this stage. Sorcery doesn't use magic points, but my PC has a point in Magic - Minor, so will need MP to power her cantrips. She gets 2MP for every point of MAGIC and every point in Magic - Minor, so has 12MP to work her little tricks.

She gets 3 cantrips (3x points in Magic - Minor). I chose Hear (lets you eavesdrop on anyone in your line of sight), Honesty (target admits one lie they have just told), and Weather Protection (does what it says on the tin).

Starting characters get a modest supply of equipment: 2d6 gold pieces, one weapon for which they have a special skill (and failing that, a simple club), a leather cuirass if they have the Armour special skill, a lantern & oil, a backpack, 2 PROVISIONS (meals; each heals 2 STAMINA if eaten), and one potion (that restores STAMINA, magic points, or LUCK).

I chose a sword and a Stamina potion. I managed to roll 12 for starting money, and spent 5 of it on a set of nose plugs, which is used for one of her sorcery spells. Unlike wizardry, many sorcery spells require material components.

The only thing missing was a name. I had a list of sword-&-sorcery-sounding names I had made during an earlier attempt at a game, so I just picked a nice one off that.

But I also wanted a character portrait. I had to find a fierce swordswoman in oriental(ist) clothes/surroundings, and neither over-armoured like a Jeanne d'Arc nor under-dressed like an Odalisque. So I did a Google search for "Judith + classical painting", and saved a selection. I think there may be some Salomés and a Medea thrown in for good measure, too.

MAGIC 5   Magic Points 12
Social Class: Sorceress (4)   Age: 28
Talents: Learned
Special Skills: Common Speech 4 (+2), Desert Lore 1 (+2), World Lore 1 (+2), Religion Lore 1 (+2), Ride 1, Swords 2, Magic - Sorcery 2, Awareness 2, Second Sight 1, Sneaking 1, Polearms 1, Magic - Minor 1, Language - Ancient Allansian 1 (+2), Magic Lore 1
Cantrips: Weather Protection, Honesty, Hear
GP: 7
Provisions: 2
Equipment: sword, lantern, oil, stamina potion, backpack, nose plugs

So now the character was (rules-wise) ready to play, and I had a some idea of her background, but there were still a lot of gaps. What is she doing? Why was she travelling away from the solace of her temple? Upon what great Quest might she have embarked, and for whom? I think I can let that all come out as things develop during the game. If I ever make a big map, I can put a X on the far side of it for her eventual goal. It's probably the fairy castle, unless that is a random obstacle in her way, or only part of the story. Come to think of it, it's more likely that instead of a fairy king, the castle is the demesne of a vampire queen, or demon lord; this is sword and sorcery, after all.

She has enough personality and history that I have something to riff off of -- more in fact than some of my starting characters in other games -- and will avoid the pitfalls of my Magic World character who turned out less interesting than I'd hoped: sic tabula rasa, nec tamen rasior (thus a blank slate, but not too blank). But rather agonising over any more decisions about the campaign, I'm just going to play it out and see what happens.

next post: the adventure begins!

Sunday, 19 May 2019

BRP solo - Part V: „Macht mir den Teufel nur nicht klein“

Lightning streaks the sky and Lycinia quickens her pace, hurrying up the lonely street away from the guildhall. She's soaked nearly through by the time she finds shelter from the downpour under an awning. She shares the refuge with a young crier. The lass looks at her fearfully for a moment, shifting her weight from one foot to the other as she makes up her mind to act, then timidly proffers a handbill. Lycinia scans the first few lines, then scowls and hands it back. "I have no desire to fight in a human war." [random encounter: baron recruiting mercenaries]

The rain, for all its vehemence, lasts but a few minutes, and Lycinia is soon on her way.

[Two more random encounters -- work gang repairing building & con artist who failed their Fast Talk (60%) roll -- were redacted. I almost passed over the encounter above, but it was a nice reminder of what else is going on in the setting.]

Scene 9

Chaos: Out of Control (1d8)

Setup: inspect the tomb

NPCs: Orezuthía the Arcane, Geredrom, importer, Terenbela

Threads: find & stop Geredrom the wizard

Ildmarch's cemetery was originally built outside the city walls, but with the expansion of the New Town now sits within the outer ring. Despite being in one of the poorest quarters of the great city, only the wealthiest citizens can afford even a modest monument in this sprawling necropolis of marble and granite.

The rain has ceased to fall by the time Lycinia passes through the imposing stone arch and into the tomb-lined thoroughfare. The air is heavy with an earthy smell, which calls to the elf's mind memories of the ancient Hill King's barrow, whence came her magical sword. So too does she reflect on the strangeness of human burial customs, so much more like those of the dwarfen folk than those of her own. She pauses for a moment, uncertain where to start her search in this immense sepulchral labyrinth...

[Q: Is anyone about in the graveyard? 50/50 (4+): O2 C3 - no, but...]

...but then she espies a light in the warden's cottage, where a candle has been lit to banish the stormy day's gloom.

The warden has a jocular mien, at odds with the circumstances of [d6=]his daily labours, though it does darken somewhat when Lycinia tells him she seeks the tomb of a wizard. He courteously points out the route to the guild's section, but unconsciously makes a sign to ward off the evil eye as he does so.

The guild's plots are ringed round by a black iron fence. The enclosure is smaller than Lycinia had expected, but she supposes that most wizards prefer grand and terrible tombs of their own -- those that do not learn to cheat death. But here the monuments are no more grandiose than those of the mundane inmates of the cemetery -- and no less.

It is but a minute's work to find the resting place of Varaniira the Seeress.

[Spot Hidden (69%): 55, success.
Q: Is there something to find? 50/50: O4 C3 - yes, but...]

Lycinia immediately notes that the space before the door to the crypt seems much cleaner than those of its neighbours, less mossy and with no overgrowth of vines. She presses gingerly against the rusting door, and is less than surprised to find it swings open on oiled hinges. Within she sees an empty marble sarcophagus, its lid lying in pieces on the floor beside.

Lycinia goes back to talk to the warden, but decides to keep news of the spoliation to herself. For though marvellous Ildmarch may be used to the presence of its wizards, but they are not so well loved nor trusted, and the less enlightened would be sure to assume the Seeress broke out of the tomb herself, as a lich, vampire, or something even worse.

[Reaction (CHAx5%) roll = 09, special success
Q: Does he know anything? 50/50 (4+): O5 C8 -  yes.]

The warden's cheerful demeanour has returned by the time Lycinia once again knocks upon his door. "Did you pay your respects to the great magicians of our fair burg? 'Tis not often they receive visitors."

"Do they not?" asks Lycinia.

"Them as is interred here don't seem to have many grieving friends in that there guild of theirs. But now you mention it, there were some folk lingering near the tomb a couple months ago. I chased them off. Nothing good never did come of normal folks hanging round the tombs of wizards." [UNE: knowing - report - knowledge]

"Did you know any of them?"

[Q: Did he? Unlikely (5+): O4 C4 - no, but... can describe one
+Event: Move toward a thread - esteem / Youth]

"Uncouth looking sort they were, at least most of them. But there was one, younger than all the rest, only it seemed he was in charge. Big mess o' curly hair and bright eyes, and this big ol' ugly windmill amulet."

Lycinia suddenly feels that her enemy has been toying with her.

[I actually didn't generate his appearance until this point, but I went back to the encounter on the road (scene 6) and inserted it in narrative there; another win for my posting-schedule lagging behind my playing.

Since Lycinia has now collected 3 clues (Move Towards a Thread results), it's time for her to make a roll. None of the clues point in any particularly strong directions, so she gets a difficult Luck (60/2=30%) roll: 90, no idea.]

Scene 10

Chaos: Out of Control (1d8)

Setup: interview apothecaries

NPCs: Orezuthía the Arcane, Geredrom, importer, Terenbela, youth with the windmill amulet

Threads: find & stop Geredrom the wizard

Lycinia's research at the guildhall has convinced her that making enquiries at the apothecary shops which the wizards frequent is the best way of picking up the trail of her quarry, either Geredrom himself or the cherubic youth who seems to be his apprentice. One of the guild's ianitores had told her of the three established shops in the Old Town (and where to find them). In a moment of perfect candour, he also did tell of two New Town shopkeeps, non-specialists to be sure, but whose no-questions-asked policies were much in favour of certain wizards who wished to conceal the substance of their Great Works from the rest of the guild. It was customary to visit these last in disguise. Will the good Elfin Lady be requiring one?

The components required for the gruesome rituals of which Lycinia read are quite rarefied, so she decides to start with the Old Town apothecaries.

[Setup: I used the d30 Sandbox Companion's Settlement Suppliers by Size of Settlement tables to determine how many apothecaries were in Ildmarch. Its population is about ~12000, (the smaller end of the Large City range), but for apothecaries (I used the magic supplies line on the chart) it uses the next column over. Thus there are 1d4+1=5 apothecaries

This scene's narrative is, by necessity, heavily truncated. Visiting a bunch of NPCs who have nothing to say in furtherance of the plot is exactly the sort of thing that gets cut out of a detective show. I have decided to leave my raw notes (including rolling up the shops with the d30 Sandbox Companion, and lack of formatting) for anyone who is interested. Scroll down past the green section if you aren't.

enc rolls : travelling peddler tries to sell trained rats, ignore

rowdy sailors, luck roll succeeds, ignored

3 in old town, 2 in new (non-specialists, but no-questions-asked. guild members visit (oft in disguise) to keep others in the dark about their research)

Old town 1
Interior: dirty
Prices: 125%
Depth of stock & C/U/R: robust 29/15/5
keeper attitude & react: poker-faced ±0

react: d30+3(cha): generally accommodating; will sell to PCs if item is in stock; will barter

reaction 65% roll:28ok

Q: Seen youth with windmill amulet? Unknown d6=4; 50/50: O4 C5 - yes

[friendly - happiness - treasure]so excited with his purchases. a model customer

encounter:town watch patrol

Old town 2
Interior: modest
Prices: 150%
Depth of stock & C/U/R: robust 29/15/5
keeper attitude/react: persistent +6

d30+3+6=31 will sell to PCs if item is in stock, and at discount (TBD by DM);
if item is not in stock, will try to hunt it down for PCs and attempt
delivery it to them (at standard price for item, plus applicable
delivery/courier fees); will barter for in-stock items

Easy react79, ok

Q: Seen youth with windmill amulet? Unknown d6=4 50/50: O6 C7 - yes

[prejudiced - partiality - superiors] didn't like him. apprentices are always blowing themselves up. but he wouldn't say who his master was!

getting nowhere. to new town...

enc lost peasant

assassin pursued by guardsmen

New town 1
Interior: dark
Prices: 90%
Depth of stock & C/U/R: average 20/6/1
keeper attitude/react: stoic ±0

react d30+3=30, will sell to PCs if item is in stock, and at discount (TBD by DM);
if item is not in stock, will try to hunt it down for PCs and attempt
delivery it to them (at standard price for item, plus applicable
delivery/courier fees); will barter for in-stock items

easy react, ok

Q: Seen youth with windmill amulet? Unknown d6=3 likely: O4 C2 - yes, and...

1d4: 1 here often, 2 seen him around, 3 at tavern, 4 elsewhere; 2

Around where? d10=new town, mercantile =this neighbourhood

Q: Anywhere specific? 50/50 (4+): O5 C1 - yes, and...
Cities random business: spice merchant

enc watch patrol

spice merchant
Interior: cramped
Prices: 75%
Depth of stock & C/U/R: average 20/6/1
keeper attitude/react: considerate +1

react+4: generally accommodating; will sell to PCs if item is in stock; will barter]

The first two Old Town apothecaries remember the strange youth, and have little real information concerning him. Lycinia decides to forego the third, and heads straight into the New Town. The first of the New Town merchants gives her a more solid lead, one so obvious she feels foolish for not having considered it herself: the youth is known to frequent a nearby spice merchant.

The spice merchant is a pleasant middle-aged [d6=]woman, though she seems completely inured to the exotic perfumes permeating her little shop. When Lycinia inquires after the youth, her face becomes instantly grave. [Reaction (65%) roll 05, special success]

"Him!" she exclaims. "Yes... I know him. I do wish he'd stay away. There's something... unnatural about that one."

"Please, go on." [Persuade (23%) roll fails.]

"I daren't!"

"How often does he come here?" continues Lycinia. "I need to find him. I'm looking into his activities on behalf of the mage's guild."

[Q: Does mention of the guild loosen her tongue? Unlikely (5+): O6 C2 - yes, and...]

"He needs a lot of melegueta pepper, and keeps coming back to buy more. I can barely keep up with his demand. He's threatened that if I any sell to anyone else..." [insane - turmoil - equipment]

"How often does he come by? Is he due back soon?"

[Q: Is he? 50/50 (4+): O4 C1 - yes, and...]

"He'll be back tomorrow."

"Good! Let me come back early and wait for him here."

Scene 11

Chaos: Out of Control (1d8)

Setup: Altered (was: waiting)
Alteration: surprize / Corse

NPCs: Orezuthía the Arcane, Geredrom, importer, Terenbela, youth with the windmill amulet

Threads: find & stop Geredrom the wizard

Lycinia returns to the shop early the next morning. It's dim inside, but a single candle still burns in a wall sconce. "Hello?" she calls. "Anybody here?"

[Q: Is anybody there? Unlikely (5+): O6 C6 - yes
+Event: Move toward a thread - observe / thing
Q: Who's here? (1d6): 1 corpse behind counter, 2 corpse rigged as 'trap', 3 animated corpse, 4 corpse + murderer, 5 corpse + youth, 6 animated corpse + youth; d6=4; d6=f: the murderess was generated with my Excel-based random thug generator]

She walks into the shop. Behind counter, see discovers the merchant's bleeding corpse.

The Murderess
STR 11  CON 13  SIZ 16  INT 10
POW  9  DEX 10  CHA  9
Dmg Mod +1D4    HP 15
Dodge 22%, Fast Talk 23%, Conceal 12%, Sleight 26%, Listen 43%, Spot Hidden 34%, Track 19%, Hide 10%, Move Quietly 16%

weapons: Dagger (54%/36%) 1D4+1+1D4
armour: hard leather helmet AP2

[Rolling the murderess' MQ (16%) vs. L's Listen (44%): 45 vs. 49...
Both failed, so the Murderess needs a Luck roll (45%) to avoid being heard:89, fail]

The floor creaks in the stockroom. "Who's there?" says Lycinia, drawing her sword. "I hear you!"

[Q: Is there a back door? Unlikely (5+): O1 C5 - no.

The murderess tries to Hide (10%): 18, failure.
Lycinia's Spot Hidden (69%):13, special success.]

There is some shuffling in the stockroom, and a shadow moves under the heavy curtain that serves as the stockroom door. Lycinia nudges the curtain aside, and sees a husky woman (nearly Brichtrethe's size) trying vainly to hide behind a wooden coffer.

[Round 1]
Lycinia tries to ensorcel the woman before she can attack, but the woman leaps at her with a dagger, and her need to parry the blow ruins her concentration. [Actually, she failed her roll to cast Sleep; -1MP for the attempt.]

[Rounds 2-3]
The woman presses her advantage, and Lycinia cannot work her magic [-1MP] under the furious assault, but neither can the woman best the elf's skill with a blade [hit,parry;hit,parry].

[round 4]
Lycinia abandons the peaceful approach, and lashes out with her sword, mangling the woman's arm. Her dagger falls from benumbed fingers at Lycinia's feet.

[L's attack roll was 06, special success, vs. a failed parry. 1D8+1=7 damage to the Right Arm. The murderess has a useless arm and only 8hp left.
Q: Does she surrender? Likely (3+): O6 C5 - Yes.]

"Please don't kill me!" pleads the woman, sinking to her knees.

"What have you done here?"

"A... a job. I needed the silver."

"Who hired you?"

[Q: Does she tell the truth? 50/50 (4+): O3 C7 - no.
d30 Key NPC = queen mother (normally I re-roll that result, but it seemed a perfectly sarcastic response]

"The queen mother."

Lycinia smacks her across face with the pommel of her sword. [1D3+2(as cestus)=3 damage] "Don't get smart with me!" [easy Persuade (23x2=46%): 22, success]

"Alright, alright! It was Boniface." [knowing - news - antagonist]

"Who's that? I mean, what does he look like?"


"Humour me."

"Uh, young guy. works for a wizard or something. Curly hair, pretty eyes. Always wears that ugly windmill necklace."

"I need to find him. Take me to see him and I'll forget I ever met you."

"Why would you?"

"Nothing else matters."

[Lycinia's Fast talk (13%)for the probable lie: 47, failure; murderess' Insight (6%), 11 failure, she has no idea what to make of that statement.

Q: Does she agree? 50/50 (4+): O5 C2 - Yes, and...

Q: When? d24=1am
Q: Where? new town, wealthy quarter; Cities random building=scholar's house]

"I'll take you. I'm supposed to meet him tonight to collect my fee."

"Fine," says Lycinia. "I'm going to bolt the door, and we're going to wait here until then. You'd best bandage that arm of yours. And if you don't mind, I think I'll be tying you to a chair..."

Scene 12

Chaos: Out of Control (1d8)

Setup: Altered (was: to the meeting)

NPCs: Orezuthía the Arcane, Geredrom, importer, Terenbela, youth with the windmill amulet, murderess

Threads: find & stop Geredrom the wizard

As they head out into the nighttime streets, Lycinia warns her captive to keep her wounded arm concealed under her cloak; luckily it is a clear and frigid night, so it will hardly look suspicious.

[enc: merchant (& 1d6-2=0 retainers) tries to buy something from characters]

They've barely made it out of the New Town when a [d6=] man rushes at them from out of the shadows. "That sword! Just from the pommel I can tell it's a magnificent piece. What a tidy sum it would fetch on the collectors' market. I don't suppose you'd consider parting with it? I can pay handsomely. In gold, of course."

[Easy Persuade (23x2=46%) roll to chase him off; d%=13, success]

The way that Lycinia's hand flies to her weapon tell the merchant she isn't intending to draw it for display, and he scurries off into the night.

"He must've had a few too many, eh?" smirks the murderess, only to be disappointed that after nearly 15 hours together she's still not gotten the elf to respond to her with anything but cool disdain.

Before they have reach the scholar's house, Lycinia goes over the plan once more. "I will use my magic to become invisible. You go inside, pausing in the doorway to complain that your injury pains you -- making enough noise that it will mask my footsteps as I slip in beside you."

"Good plan, boss. What could possibly go wrong?"

[Casting Invisibility, taking an extra round for +INT to skill (46+16=62%): d%=56, success -4MP (based on her SIZ); Lycinia now has 6MP remaining

Q: Is the youth alone? Doubtful (6): O6 C2 - yes, and...
Q: Does he have any unusual senses or an active Perception spell? 50/50: O6 C3 - Yes, but... not any that will grant automatic success.

Some rolls--
Lycinia's Move Quietly (41-4=)37%: 76, fail
Boniface's Listen 29%: 83, fail
his Sense (10 + 1d6x10=)40%: 50, also fail]

The murderess raps a staccato rhythm on the door, and the curly-haired youth opens the door to admit her. "Thank the Gods of Hell and the Night!" exclaims the murderess as she pauses just inside the threshold. "I was afraid I couldn't get the knock right with me left hand, and I'd be stuck out here in the cold all night! Look what that cow did to me fighting arm!"

[Q: Does Boniface say anything first? 50/50 (4+): O2 C3 - No, but...]

Lycinia has meanwhile crept invisibly in behind her, sword in hand. Boniface, unaware of her presence, shuts the door firmly. An awkward silence falls over the room.

"So, uh, if you just give me my money, I s'pose I'll be off, then."

[Q: How does he kill her? d30 Phenomena (ridiculous result=weapon): strange weather]

Boniface holds out a purse of silver with one hand. As the murderess reaches for it, he stabs her in gut with a short sword. [hits abdomen, d6+1=7dmg, leaving her unconscious & bleeding with 1hp] She topples to the floor, her lifeblood forming a dark pool where she lies.

[His base stats were also a product of my Thug generator:

STR:  8  CON:  7  SIZ:  9  INT: 13
POW: 13  DEX: 14  APP: 10
HP: 8  DM: +0
Combat: Shortsword 49%/31%, Dodge 47%
Skills: Fast Talk 30%, Insight 42%, Hide 57%, Move Quietly 57%, Listen 29%, Search 33%, Sense 40%

Lycinia is going to attempt to hit his sword arm; attacking from invisibility is Easy (x2), which cancels the Difficult (÷2) for the Called Shot. She rolls 03, Critical success. Damage is capped at 4 points (2x arm HP), which puts Boniface at 4hp.

Q: Can he suffer blood loss? unknown d6=6, doubtful: O1 C6 - no.]

Boniface stands over the dying woman, seeming to revel in his deed. Lycinia pads closer and lashes out, bringing her enchanted blade down in a high arc upon his sword arm. It neatly bisects his limb halfway to the elbow, but no blood flows from the wound. The whole of the stump shews rotten gangrenous flesh beset by writhing worms, and the smell of decomposition wafting from it causes the suddenly visible elf to retch.

L 18+5
B 14+10
He attacks with (1d8): 1-3 spell, 4-6 demon power, 7-8 other (un)natural weapon: 5
Vomit Acid (40%, 1D8, range 4m)]

The angelic-faced youth laughs for a moment, a mellifluous sound at odds with the aura of corruption he exudes. Then he tilts back his head and a stream of yellowish bile issues from his throat. [Attack 40%: d%=30 hit, L's dodge (63-4=)59%: 34, success]

Lycinia's warrior instinct takes over, and she deftly side-steps the toxic stream, which eats through the overstuffed armchair behind her. She takes a swing at the demonic youth, but he just as nimbly avoids her blade. [sword would have hit, but dodged]

[Round 2]
Boniface spews another acid stream, but Lycinia has already moved aside [miss]. She buries her sword nearly up to the hilt in his chest, where his heart should be [4 damage reduces him to 0hp]. His mocking grimace vanishes as he topples to the floor. His body starts to froth and boil, quickly losing all cohesion as it melts into a noisome oily mass.

Lycinia's eyes burn from the stench, but knows she must search the house.

[Time to roll for Clue #4 (from last scene): she gets a Normal skill roll; Spot Hidden (69%) seems appropriate: 66, success.]

There is a desk piled with papers, upon which she finds a deed to an old theatre, recently purchased in the scholar's name. With it she finds old plans of New Town streets with sewer entrances marked, and the same markings on a more recent plan, showing the new arrangement of streets laid out after a fire ravaged the quarter. She also finds a ring of old, tarnished keys, one of which, she hopes, will unlock the theatre [Spot Hidden: 36, success].

[Q: Is the scholar's corpse present? 50/50 (4+): O4 C3 - yes, but... not all of it
Q: Is there any treasure? Unlikely (5+): O6 C1 - yes, and...
Boniface is TF6: jar of 250 coppers, purse with 12sp & 2gp, windmill amulet worth 658sp]

The rest of the house produces little of interest. The scholar's library is extensive, but his focus on plants and animals in the natural world has left little to excite one dedicated to supernatural studies. The scholar himself -- or rather, what is left of him -- has been reduced to a dried cadaver, laying in jumbled pieces atop his bed.

Lycinia had hoped that the unnatural, spiritual substance of the demon-youth would have disappeared into the aether by the time her search was concluded, but this unholy fiend seems firmly rooted in the physical realm. She feels the amulet could be important however, so fishes it out of the gelatinous decomposition with a fork and washes it thoroughly with wine.

She wraps the amulet in a cloth, and puts it in a pouch with the city plans, deed of sale, and the ring of keys, then slinks invisibly away and back to the guild.

[Thus concludes the investigation portion of the adventure. I think if I do this again I will hand out clues whenever they seem to fall naturally, rather than waiting for Mythic to produce Move Towards a Thread results from the Oracle. Those would make good extra, unexpected clues, though, and keep the investigation from drifting steadily and inexorably towards the most obvious conclusion. Also, mysteries work better with a small, known group of NPCs, so maybe I should have just used the Horror theme like I usually do. It worked for Call of Cthulhu...]

Next post: into the dungeon! (Click here)

Monday, 6 May 2019

BRP solo - Part IV: „Ich frage keine Blume / Ich frage keinen Stern“

"You cannot come in here like that!" protests the ianitor, Cemmeret, as the gargoyles take up position behind him with their halberds.

"But time is of the essence! I must see Orezuthía at once."

"This is a place of study and repose for the members of our guild, an august body to which you, unless I have been misinformed, do not currently belong. We aren't in the habit of allowing ill-tempered warriors in full armour and bristling with weapons to stomp inside whenever they feel so inclined. Not even elvish ones."

"Fine. I haven't the time to argue," says Lycinia. The gargoyles tense as she takes the pistol from her belt, but instantly relax as she places it carefully on the step before her. She unclasps her sword belt, which clatters down around her feet. Her miséricorde is still skittering down the stone steps as she begins wriggling out of her mail hauberk, which she discards just hastily.

"Now I will go to see Orezuthía," says Lycinia as she shoulders her sack and pushes past the sputtering ianitor. The gargoyles step aside to admit her into the hall, and she is almost certain she can see a smirk flash cross their stony, otherwise impassive faces.

Scene 7

Out of Control (1d8)

Setup: back to the Guild

NPCs: Orezuthía the Arcane, Geredrom, importer

Threads: find & stop Geredrom the wizard

"I need a necromancer," says Lycinia, half out of breath.

"I believe 'hello' is a more usual greeting in these lands," says Orezuthía. "And keep your voice down -- that's not the sort of magic one does here."

"No, I mean in the original sense. I need someone who can speak to the spirits of the dead."

"Really? Whatever for?"

Lycinia opens her leather satchel to reveal a human head inside. "I have some questions I need to ask her."

"Oh! What a sight. But I see that my trust in you was well placed. You really are willing to do whatever it takes, aren't you?"

"Théscine once said I over-react sometimes... but this seemed the most expedient course of action." (In point of fact, Lycinia couldn't bring herself to cut off the head of the woman she found still alive, but does not see any wisdom in revealing this fact.)

[Q: Does O know Speak with Dead? Unlikely (5+): O5 C4 - Yes, but... not memorised. Can cast from spellbook.]

"I know the spell you're after, but I haven't used it in an age. Tell me everything whilst I find the book it's in."

"I would very much like to learn this spell," hazards the elf. "I found it on a scroll once, but I had to use it ere I could copy it down into my own grimoire."

"Then you understand," says the wizard, digging through piles of old tomes, "we have to prepare our questions in advance. And that we'll be limited by how long she's been dead. When exactly did she die?"

"I don't know. This morning, perhaps? Maybe last night?"

"Oh? So you didn't k--"


"Don't get tetchy. I'm well past judging you... just intrigued. Ah! but here it is; now let's get started. Hmmm... just put that on the floor. No, leave it in the satchel. I don't want it dripping everywhere."

[Speak with Dead isn't included in Classic Fantasy, but is trivial to convert. I didn't worry about skill as Orezuthía can cast slowly and has plenty of time & Magic Points to get it right. The LotFP spell allowed the deceased a saving throw to resist, so POW vs. POW on the resistance table. As a 9th Level M-U, Orezuthía has POW of 1D8+13=18, the farm girl has the normal range, 3D6=12; this gives her a 20% to resist, but she fails the roll.

Q: Has she been dead more than a day? Certain (2+): O1 C1 - No, and... died shortly before L got to the farm (thus, they get three questions since it's within 24 hours).
+Event:  Move toward a thread - use / charms. the questions will result in a Clue.]

They discuss avenues of questioning before casting the spell. Orezuthía agrees to follow Lycinia's lead, though she herself will still need to ask the questions. When all is in readiness, Orezuthía opens her dusty tome and begins the incantation.

The head's eyes suddenly open when the last syllable is pronounced. Orezuthía sets the weighty volume aside and addresses the head. "What happened leading up to your death?"

The head's lips move sluggishly, and the voice that answers seems detached and far away. "He tricked us! We thought Geredrom was our friend, but then he put a sleeping draught in our wine. When we awakened, we were chained up in the barn, and he used our insides to form a magic circle as we yet lived..." [UNE: knowing - speech - antagonist]

"What about the delivery of serpents?" says Lycinia, and Orezuthía echoes her words.

"He didn't say. We were happy to keep them in the barn for a while. They ate all the rats." [friendly - gratitude - retainers]

"Did he say why he was doing this?"

"He babbled something about needing to appease some wicked goddess, and to trick her into reversing death itself." [hostile - death - antagonist]

The head has barely fallen silent before Orezuthía exclaims, "The madman! He thinks he can bring [d6=] her back!"

"Her?" asks Lycinia. "Her who?"

[Q: Who? 1d6: 1 mother, 2 daughter, 3 friend, 4 lover, 5 wizard, 6 demigod; d6=5]

"Varaniira the Seeress, one of the most powerful wizards of this age."


"To hear her final prophecy, of course! No doubt he's found a way to compel her to speak it. And avoid her curse." [hear / sentiments]

"Her curse?"

"You really don't know, do you? I am surprised word of her prophecy hadn't reached the faerie forest."

"More likely it has -- but has not been divulged by order of the council."

"No doubt. Well, her final prophecy was said to be about a power so great she dared not pronounce it, for fear of the repercussions. So she went willingly to her own death, but only after she had conjured a curse so terrible against any who would disturb her rest, that it..." Orezuthía shudders in spite of herself.

"I understand. I don't suppose you'd let me use the library?"

* * *

[And for the record, I had asked--
Q: Does Lycinia get her 'parcel' through city gate without any problems? 50/50 (4+): O6 C5 - Yes.
but putting that at the beginning would have spoilt the surprise. There were also no random encounters of note on the way back.]

Scene 8

Out of Control (1d8)

Setup: in the library

NPCs: Orezuthía the Arcane, Geredrom, importer

Threads: find & stop Geredrom the wizard

Orezuthía escorts Lycinia to the great library. The elf can't help but look round in wonderment at the row upon row of magnificent stacks, groaning under the weight superannuated tomes, even older scrolls, and tablets of wood, clay, and stone that predate many of the ancient elvish books she was once allowed to consult in the magician's school of far away fair Feyalldra.

"Try not to look so gormless," scolds Orezuthía, "or you'll be relegated to the apprentices' section." Lycinia composes herself at once. Orezuthía strides across the room and right up to the podium behind which the head librarian, a being whose face is perpetually shrouded in the darkness of its heavy cowl, is sitting and turning the vellum pages of a codex bound in human skin with an unnaturally withered, begloved hand.

"This one's looking into a delicate matter of Guild business for me," says Orezuthía, jabbing a thumb over her shoulder. "I trust you'll afford her every courtesy you'd afford me."

The cowled figure makes a shaky, yet sweeping gesture towards a nearby wooden frame, upon which rests an oversized tome, nearly as tall as Lycinia herself. "Our catalogue," says Orezuthía. "It's easier if you know how to ask it for what you want, but I'm sure you'll make do." Lycinia once again regrets having had to use a spell from the captured scroll [Bookspeak] before she had the chance to transcribe it into her own spellbook. She suppresses a sigh, and begins leafing through the weighty book.

[Library research may be one of my favourite things in real life, but it makes for terrible storytelling. So imagine, if you will, a montage sequence of Lycinia searching through the gigantic catalogue, running her finger across the carefully scribed rows of titles and shelf locations, and her eyes lighting up as she finds a book she thinks will help. Then doing it again... and again... and again... then finally getting a stack of books to consult, and reading... reading... reading some more. To really shake things up, imagine the quizzical look on her face as she comes across a significant passage, then flips back 10, 20, 30 pages to compare it to something she'd read earlier in the book.

So anyways, she can make one Library Use (34%) roll every 4 hours; realistically, that's going to be 2 rolls.

1st roll: d%=20!

Q: What does she learn? return / existence : reincarnation as way of bypassing hereditary curse

2nd roll: d%=04! special success. She'll get 1d3=2 pieces of information

From my grimoire title generator (WIP):
   The Bizarre Night of Miscreation
   written by a dreadful king
   Spells contained: special

She learns --
conceal / air : must be done in place hidden from the sky
approach / moment : astral cycles, 1d8=7 days left

Q: Does the ritual require constant tending? 50/50: O6 C6 - Yes.
+Event: PC negative - advance / order (see below)
Q: Does it require perishable supplies? 50/50: O3 C4 - no, but... distinctive ones
Q: How long does it take in total? 20+1d100=81 days]

Lycinia spends the whole day in the great library, but when she finally stumbles back to Orezuthía's chambers she is beaming with her success.

"I know what Geredrom is doing," says Lycinia triumphantly.

"Tell me before you collapse," replies Orezuthía.

"It all makes sense now. It was all there in this ancient grimoire I found. Have you ever read The Bizarre Night of Miscreation?"

"Oh, honey, I'm just not that sort of girl!"

"I'm being serious. The ritual in there... all described... I may never eat again."


"He's... not exactly resurrecting her, and it's not precisely re-incarnation either. He's... it's like he going to regrow the flesh round her bones and have her, well, reborn. The serpents were just there to harvest their skin, and the other thing, the ritual to appease the Mother of Carrion, it was...."

"You'd better get some sleep before you fall over."

"I'm afraid of my dreams..."

* * *

But sleep she does, and when she wakes the next morning she resolves to set out into the city on Geredrom's trail. But as she leave the guildhall, she does not realise she is being followed.

[Time for the Event from above (PC negative - advance / order); another guild member moves against Lycinia due to her connection with Orezuthía.
1d8: 1-2 O's rival, 3-7 apprentice of O's rival, 8 non-wizard guild servant; 5

Terenbela, initiate of the 2nd circle
Apprentice wizard

Personality: Shifty, Lucky

STR 11  CON 13  SIZ 11  INT 15
POW 13  DEX 12  CHA 14
Damage Mod +0
Hit Points 12

Spells: fools' gold, light, burning hands, hopelessness

I have some random NPC generators I made for Magic World & RQ3 that I've been using for stats, and adjusting skills etc. as needed. Someday I hope to redo them properly. Until then, I'm assuming 1d6x5% increase in skills that seem plausible, and INTx2 + 1d8x5% for beginning spells (to be rolled as needed).

Terenbela's Move Quietly (36%): 17, success
vs. L's Spot Hidden (69%): 74, she doesn't notice]

Terenbela is one of the younger apprentices, but has taken to the cutthroat internal politics of the guild like no other; there is no doubt amongst the master wizards that she shall have a long and fruitful career in their venerable institution, though possibly at the expense of one or more of them, should they not be careful. But today she is content to do the bidding of her [d6=]master, and further his schemes against his rival Orezuthía by striking at her associate. Terenbela has never met an elf before, and wishes the circumstances were otherwise, but she is certain she can best the fairy princess in guile and cunning, if perhaps not any other way. The dagger concealed under her cloak is but little comfort today; for an elven lady is never without her sword.

She swallows hard, and once she is certain the elf is far out of earshot, she begins weaving a spell upon her. [She casts Hopelessness (100m range); skill 60%, 42 = success.
POW vs. POW to resist: Lycinia has a 45% to win the contest: 25!]

Terenbela bounds up the narrow path after the elf, meeting her right before the iron gate. "Hey! hey, wait a moment," she calls. "I don't know what that old witch has got you doing, but it seems pretty hopeless."

Lycinia turn to see the breathless young woman opening a money pouch and pouring out a fortune in [fools'] gold coins into her hand.

"I feel bad for you," continues Terenbela. "Really I do. Here, take this. You can use it to get out of Ildmarch, start a new life, m--"

"Cast another spell on me and those coins will be paying for your funeral." [Persuade fails]

"Huh. You're a better magician than I thought. Especially after what they've been saying about you. You know, with what happened last time you were in Ildmarch." [UNE: mysterious - obscurity - last story.
Fast Talk (30%): 01 critical vs. L's Insight: 05, special success -- the Critical is thus reduced to a Normal success (=lie believed for 5 minutes)]

"Last time? What have you heard? What are they saying?"

"It's not my place to say. But after what happened with Itragad..."

"Yes... well..."

"and then, the...."

"and what?!"

"It's not my place to say."

"Just what is your place?"

"I'm an apprentice! But, y'know, at least the wizards aren't all whispering behind my back. I don't envy you at all. Sure you don't want my help? This money will get you pretty far in the human lands."

"I-- no! I have things to do. I suggest you get out of my way."

"Things to do? I just hope you're up to it, is all." [scheming - compromise - skills]

"Be off with you!" shrieks the elf.

[Q: Does Terenbela follow her? Unknown 1d6=4 50/50: O1 C1 - no, and...
+Event:  Ambiguous event - surprise / heaven]

But Terenbela does not hear Lycinia's words, for a that moment a peal of thunder resounds in the heavens, and the wind comes in greater gusts. Terenbela takes a look up at the glowering black clouds, then hurries back inside the guildhouse, leaving the fuming elf to cool her anger in the shower of rain that begins to fall.

next post: grave robbers, murderers, and apothecaries