Friday, 18 June 2021

AFF solo - Part X: The sweet perfume of fear

 

The Baubauan jungle at first offers a wonderland to the astonished travellers. A riot of green leaves and flowering plants of every conceivable colours greets the eye. Fruit hanging heavily on countless branches and vines, delighting both eye and palate. The calls of innumerable species of birds, each with more vivid plumage than the last, combine in a joyous refrain. And above all are the intoxicating perfumes swirling on the breeze.

But as the companions press onward, their initial elation ebbs away. The canopy of trees becomes thicker, chasing away the sunlight, even as it jealously holds in the sticky, sweltering heat. Cheerful birdsong is replaced by the buzz of stinging insects and the snarls of unseen predators, and the last vestiges of the path have long since given way to tangled underbrush.


Scene 6

Chaos:
Out of Control (d8)

Setup: into the jungle

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

Threads: Ksandajja's quest, Ilog's revenge

[For each day travelling in the jungle, I will roll 1 daytime and 1 night encounter check (1-2 on d6) using the encounter tables in Out of the Pit, and a Feature roll using the tables in the Heroes' Companion. Also, the PCs need to make a daily Jungle Lore (defaults to SKILL) roll in order to avoid any mishaps.]


Day 1

[no daytime encounter. Lore 2d6=4, ok
feature: random monster encounter (to be rolled on the HC table)]


Ilog leads the way through the dense foliage. He'd thrown off his travelling cloak and stowed it in his pack the moment they reached the jungle's edge, and revealed himself to be clad in merely an animal-skin loincloth; indeed the hulking tower of muscle certainly has the physique for it. But when he'd sighed and asked his new companions, "You're dressing like that in the jungle," they'd mistaken his question as a rhetorical statement about their sartorial failings. But as the wilting heat presses in, they are forced to re-consider his words. Before long, Fhenteskeer and Grebdal Themp have had to doff their leather jerkins. Fhenteskeer removes everything but his breeches, but Grebdal Themp can't quite summon the courage to remove his tunic. The sorceress was counting on her weather protection charm to keep her comfortable, and whilst it does spare her from the worst excesses of the heat and humidity, her voluminous, flowing attire catches on every thorn and branch. Soon Ksandajja has stripped down to a strophium and hacked off her shalwar at the knees. Even with these concessions, the cloying, sweaty air weighs them down, and intermittent squabbles break out as they try to navigate the perfumed wilderness.

So the companions slog resentfully onward after the determined barbarian, and the jungle endeavours to teach them a pointed lesson. All round them the vines begin to move, snaking round ankles and wrists, and seeking their necks with murderous intent -- they've blundered right between a pair of STRANGLEBUSHES.

[Awareness rolls (at -3) to spot them unsurprisingly all failed.]

STRANGLEBUSH   SKILL 5   STAMINA 7

Ksandajja and Grebdal Themp hack away at the grasping shoots with their swords, Fhenteskeer chops at one stem with his axe, whilst Ilog pulps the other with his morningstar. The killer plants are soon reduced to stringy mush.

"That could have been worse," says Grebdal Themp.

"I concur," says Fhenteskeer. "But it's a stark reminder to pay closer attention to our surroundings."

[The fight lasted all of 2 rounds. Stranglebushes don't inflict Stamina damage, but anyone caught is dead after 5 rounds.

night encounter: I rolled Pygmy on the encounter table (yeah, it's from 1985...) so this is obviously some of the cannibals who infest the jungle as rolled in the SS&SS adventure generator.

Q: Who's on watch, K&G or F&I? 1d2= F&I]


What seems an age later, the daylight, such as it is on the jungle floor, begins rapidly fading. The exhausted explorers hastily light a small fire to push back the darkness, and sit well away from its heat. They scarf down all the food Ksandajja had bought lest it spoil overnight. Besides, they passed more than enough skyfruit trees to feel confident of finding easy forage in the morning. Lots are drawn for the first watch; Ksandajja and Grebdal Themp spread their blankets on the ground and sink instantly into dreamless sleep.

Fhenteskeer tries to make conversation with Ilog to keep them awake on watch, but the barbarian nervously rebuffs every attempt. He is haunted by the nights when his former companions were stolen away by the darkness, and fear keeps his senses acute.

Indeed, it isn't long before Ilog notices lantern-light bobbing in the distance. He rouses Fhenteskeer, who'd dozed off, and throws a stone to wake Grebdal Themp (he'll let him wake the sorceress... just in case).

The lantern's owner has evidently seen the small campfire, and as the light approaches, Ilog strains to hear snatches of conversation.
"I say! Vyvyan, you were right; 'tis indeed a camp fire. Do let's see who's made it."

"Let's do, Algernon. Perhaps we can invite them round to stay with us. It's such a dashed long time since we've had guests at the villa."

"Now, don't let's frighten them away. They do so appear to hail from the lower orders..."

[1d6+1=]Five men step into the circle of light cast by the small fire. They are clad in incongruous finery: silken clothing ornamented all over with embroidery and brocade, fine small leather shoes, and wigs piled high into extraordinary convolutions.

"Friends!" says the leader. "Whatever brings you this way? It is ever so dangerous to be out at night, all unprotected. Why, there are wild beasts about -- and worse! Why don't you come with us back to the safety of our villa?"

[He's trying to Con the PCs: it's a resisted roll of SKILL vs. the PCs' best Con (G has 7+1)-- his roll is a natural 12, critical success.]

"If it's so dangerous," says Grebdal Themp, "What are all you doing out of your villa, roaming about in the dark?"

"Well, uh, you see... I mean, that is..."

"Comrades! To arms!"

These are no simple nobles, but a clan of sinister PENÊTOPHAGOI(eaters-of-the-poor)! As weapons fly into the explorers' hands, the cannibal leader draws his own wicked rapier and smiles delightedly to reveal that his teeth have all been filed down into sharp points. His four companions raise blow-pipes to their lips.

PENÊTOPHAGOS   SKILL 6   STAMINA 5
ARCHOS PENÊTOPHAGÔN   SKILL 7   STAMINA 6


[Round 1]
Fhenteskeer calls on the power of his fiery god to destroy these wicked fiends. The lead cannibal is wreathed in flames, igniting his pompous clothing. Despite the flames, the leader cackles with mad glee, and engages the priest with his rapier, sending up sparks as it is parried by Fhenteskeer's stout axe. [F cast Flame for 1d3=3 damage, dropping him to 3 Stamina.
Q: Does his clothing ignite? 50/50 (4+): O4 C7 - Yes.
The attack rolls were 10 vs. 10, so no damage.]


The other four blow venom-tipped darts at the explorers, which fortunately whistle past their targets and thud into nearby trees [very bad rolls!].

[Round 2]
Undaunted, they draw their own rapiers and close to skewer some fresh meat the hard way. They are canny fighters despite their life of dissipation; one gets under Ilog's shield and gives the barbarian a red gash across his flank [3-0=3 damage, putting Ilog at 13 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp's opponent fares less well, and it is the cannibal who comes away bloodied [3 damage drops him to 2 Stamina]. Two of the fiends come at Ksandajja. The swordswoman's brutal onslaught forces one back under a hail of blows which send shivers through his as they clang against his feebly raised rapier [3 damage leaves him with 2 Stamina]. His fellow is cowed by the display, and dares not come close [her attack total for the round was 18. The first one rolled a paltry 11, so took damage. The second got a 13: not enough to win the contest, but she only has one attack, so no damage is inflicted].

Meanwhile Fhenteskeer is locked in a mortal struggle with the flaming leader. The priest's axe ends the contest even before the flames consume him [3 damage kills him].

[Rounds 3-4]
[Q: Will they fight on after losing their leader? Likely (3+) O5 C8 - Yes.]

The cannibals are insensate to the loss of their chief, and indeed their own wounds. The slavering maniacs press the attack -- to their detriment!

Ilog bobs and weaves, and finally swings his morningstar in a high arc. The spiked ball impacts against the forehead of his foe with an almighty crunch, and the cannibal drops lifeless at his feet [Ilog has the Strongarm talent, giving him +1 on damage rolls; he rolled 1d6=6, pushing the result up into the 7+ column; 5 damage killed his foe outright].

Grebdal Themp and Ksandajja finish off two more with their swords, and after a bit of back-an-forth, Fhenteskeer fells the last with his axe.

[Rolling for treasure: total of 5d6=21gp + 2 "special items"]

Grebdal Themp takes the fallen foes' lantern and examines the bodies to see if they had any valuables. They have a surprising lack of jewellery for such a fashionable lot, and their collective purses net the miserable sum of but 21 golden coins. These are divided evenly, with Ilog getting the extra to show that his new comrades are not ones to quibble over the division of spoils. There is also a sack containing some suspicious-looking dried meats, and the five rapiers -- exquisite in craftsmanship, but each bearing a most unsettling family crest on the hilt; both these and the provisions are cast aside.

The travellers keep the lantern burning but concealed in case they need it, but dare not let the fires burn the rest of the night lest more cannibals are abroad.


Day 2

[Lore 2d6=7, ok. No day or night encounter.
feature roll: cottage

Q: Is the cottage occupied? Likely (3+): O5 C1 - Yes, and... home now
Q: Who dwells therein (using picture as basis)? 1 demoniac, 2 faerie, 3 wizard, 4 necromancer, 5 cursed exile, 6 alchemist

d6=5

UNE--
NPC Relationship: loved
Conversation Mood: helpful
friendly - comfort - current story]


The rest of the night passes without incident. In the morning, the travellers strike camp and continue forging a path through the jungle. They'd hoped an early start would allow them time to acclimate to the rising temperature, but are sadly disappointed.

As the day wears on, they come upon a vine-draped cottage in a clearing. Through the open window they espy a hunched-over, doughy-faced man of indeterminate age. His eyes shine out unnaturally from beneath his felt cap. When he sees movement in the bushes outside, he stands and runs to the window.

"Away! Away from here! I'll have no truck with the likes of you! Begone lest I-- oh, wait. So sorry. Who are you?"

"We are travellers, come lately from Ulq," says Fhenteskeer.

"In that case, come inside. It's safer at night in my cottage, what with all those man-eaters about."

The man trundles off to open the cottage door.

"Don't trust him," says Ilog, "See how his eyes glow! What foul sorcery is this?"

"Be not alarmed, friends. I am so agent of chaos, no demoniac, no evil wizard. It is but my curse, yea, that did drive me from my far off homeland in shame, but that is verily harmless to all save me."

[Q: Is he full of shit? Likely (3+): O3 C2 - yes, and...

I had Ksandajja resist his Con (1d6+4=9) with her Second Sight (Magic 6 + 1 skill=7). But he rolled a natural 2, auto fail.

Q: What does Ksandajja see? 1-2 chaos, 3-4 demon, 5 wizardry 6 something else: d6=1]

Ksandajja peers at the man with her witch's sight, and sees him surrounded by smoky wisps of ever-roiling chaos.

"Your words ring false," states Ksandajja flatly.

[Q: What is his reaction? Meaningfully / Mighty
He casts a spell of level 1-2 wiz 4, 3 wiz 6, 4 wiz 8, 5-6 sorc 4; d6=3

Spell(1d6): 1 Cockroach, 2 Exchange Shape, 3 Hurricane, 4 Petrify, 5 Wall of Power, 6 Web]


"So, you fancy you've caught me out, do you? Fat lot of good it'll do you. You should have come quietly. Now you're going to suffer at the hands of a CHAOS MAGE!"

CHAOS MAGE   SKILL 8   STAMINA 14   LUCK 9
MAGIC 8   Magic-Chaos 4


Before the sorceress has a chance to retort, the chaos mage lets out an awful howl which whips the jungle air into a hurricane about him. Fierce rains and even snow pelt the astonished explorers who must bend double to keep from being blown to the ground.

[PCs must test LUCK or SKILL to stand. Ksandajja & Grebdal Themp successfully Test their Luck and Ilog makes a successful Test of his Strength special skill, but Fhenteskeer fails, taking 1d3=3 damage. K, G, & F reduce current Luck by 1.]
Ilog sees Fhenteskeer fall, and drags him to safety [Skill+Strength roll at -1 succeeds]. His companions have already run out of the gale. The chaos mage raises his hands above his head, and coloured light plays about him in a manic dance. Fhenteskeer regains his feet, and all four flee the cottage. Fortunately the mage and his magic do not deign to give chase.

[The mage rolled doubles on his next casting attempt, which caused a chaos effect: random spell on random target in sight (rolled on the table in the HC). The spell was LAW, which has no effect on intelligent targets.

Q: Does he pursue? Unlikely (5+): O1 C2 - No, and...]


Following their hasty and rather wide detour round the chaos mage's lair, the remainder of the day and the night pass uneventfully.


Day 3

[Jungle Lore 2d6=12, failure (no forage) + disaster]

But on the following morning it seems Sindla [goddess of LUCK and fate] has once again soured on them. The plentiful jungle fruits are all rotting on their vines, and breathing the stifling hot air is like trying to inhale soup.

[Q: What is the disaster? Innocently / Aromatic]

Around midday they tramp past some bright orange wildflowers, and inhale deeply of their alluring fragrance as an antidote to the sickly sweet odour of decomposing fruits. The smell causes a whorl of colourful oneiric visions to swim before their eyes, and Grebdal Themp falls right over, comatose. This happenstance forces its way into his companions' dim awareness, and they drag him bodily away from the narcotic vegetation and sit for a while on a fallen tree to recover.

[The soporific effects of the narcoblooms required a Test of LUCK to avoid. Only Grebdal Themp failed his roll.]

An hour later Ilog blunders straight into the coils of a GIANT constrictor SNAKE.

GIANT SNAKE   SKILL 7   STAMINA 11

Fortunately his companions slay the beast before it can do him any harm. Ilog immediately sets about butchering the beast as his companions build a fire. Finally, some freshly-cooked PROVISIONS to calm their rumbling stomachs. And some more seared and wrapped in leaves for the evening meal, and perhaps even the next morning's if it keeps well enough.

At the end of the day's travel, the explorers find a stone circle in a peaceful clearing, seven rough stones, with the largest bearing ancient glyphs.

[feature: stone circle - small circle of rough pointed boulders
d30 Magical Places Generator: 'circle of the ancients'. The rolled effect was too D&D-like to apply to AFF, so I opted to have it restore 1 LUCK instead.]


Ksandajja examines it tentatively, and she feels an otherworldly tranquillity emanate from within [+3 bonus to Second Sight roll, success]. She coaxes Fhenteskeer inside the ring to examine it, and the priest too feels the blessing. He pronounces it a fit spot to make their camp.

"Tomorrow we should reach the ruins," says Ilog. "We'll have to be more on our guard than earlier today if we're to prevail."



next post: ancient secrets in the temple ruins!

Friday, 11 June 2021

AFF solo - Part IX: Vengeance for a warrior

 


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

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

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

Scene 1

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

Setup: travel from Ângu to Ulq

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

Threads: quest, omen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Scene 2

Chaos:
Out of Control (d8)

Setup: business in Ulq

NPC List: -

Threads: quest, omen

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

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

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



Grebdal Themp

SKILL 7    STAMINA 10    LUCK 11
MAGIC 2  Magic Points: 8
Social Class: Criminal (0)  Age: 20
Talents: Robust
Special Skills: Common Speech 4, City Lore 2, World Lore 1, Religion Lore 1, Jump 1, Magic - Minor 2, Sneaking 2, Awareness 2, Armour 1, Swords 2, Evaluate 1, Trap knowledge 2, Con 1
Cantrips: Enhance, Hear, Sober, Secrete, Instil, Honesty
Equipment: sword, leather armour, lantern, oil, luck potion, backpack


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


. . .


Fhenteskeer

SKILL 5    STAMINA 10    LUCK 9
MAGIC 6

Social Class: Priest (6)  Age: 28
Talents: Silver Tongue
Special Skills: Common Speech 4, City Lore 1, World Lore 1, Religion Lore 2, Climb 1, Magic-Priestly 3, Leadership 2, Elemental Speech 1, Etiquette 1, Axes 2, Awareness 1, Armour 2, Sneaking 1
Spells: Flame, Smite vs. Undead, Bless, Heal
Equipment: hand axe, leather armour, lantern, oil, anti-poison potion, backpack


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

[Encounter: warrior looking for vengeance

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


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

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

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

. . .


Ksandajja

SKILL 6    STAMINA 11    LUCK 9
MAGIC 5   Magic Points 12

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Scene 3

Chaos:
Out of Control (d8)

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

NPC List: vengeful warrior, unseemly adept, hostile merchant

Threads: quest

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

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

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


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


Scene 4

Chaos:
Out of Control (d8)

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


Scene 5

Chaos:
Out of Control (d8)

Setup: convene at the inn

NPC List: vengeful warrior, unseemly adept, hostile merchant

Threads: quest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh, we're in!"

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

Fleshing out the adventure--

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

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

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

Ilog is a starting character--

Ilog, the Vengeful Warrior
SKILL 7  STAMINA 16  LUCK 10

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


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

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

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

[Inconsequential random city encounters redacted.]

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

next post: random encounters and the Pathetic Fallacy



Monday, 12 April 2021

Mörk Borg solo - Part 5 : « Vous n'êtes qu'un orgueil menti par les ténèbres »

"I agree, we should leave," says Vesania, "but let the lich get a head start. We don't want to antagonize it any further."

They wait by the door. Wait, wait, wait... and as they wait, untold aeons pass. Whole galaxies of stars coalesce from whirling cosmic dust and die in cataclysms of fire, and still the explorers are sat by the cathedral door, waiting in lugubrious silence. Or maybe its only been, like, half a minute or so.

"Maybe we could make better use of our time and poke round the other side of the cathedral," offers Doctor Sêps. [DR 10 Presence d20+0=13, ok]

The others readily assent, and head for the nearest side chapel.

[Q: What's it like? Calmly / Abnormal
Q: What about it is abnormal? lay / society]


The chapel is nearly the mirror image of the one on the other side. The carvings do not depict exactly the same mix of saints and sinners, but this small detail is lost on the travellers who have merely dismissed them as too bulky to loot and too hard to sell. And besides, their attention is more suddenly arrested by the group of [1d6+1=] half a dozen peasants praying serenely before the idols, seemingly oblivious to the intrusion. [reaction=8, Indifferent]
"Who are you?" blurts out a surprised [d5=] Uth.

A middle-aged woman in mud-caked rags detaches herself from the rest. "We are farmers from Schlammau, come for our weekly devotions."

"But this cathedral hasn't been here a week."

"Oh, good King Fathmu must have built it summat quick. And it's nice to see some new interest in religion in the parish. Canon Horvik's sermons were getting a bit repetitive, I fear."

"Who're you talking to, mother?" says a bedraggled middle-aged man. "Och! will ye look at them. 's no need for carrying such an arsenal on a holy day." [hostile - submission - weapons]

"Come, father, mustn't be judgemental. Even the good King's soldiers need the comforts of religion."

"Aye, mother, that they do. That they do. Strangers, will ye light a candle and say a prayer with us?"

The explorers mumble excuses and back away...

[Q: Can they get out without a problem? 50/50 (4+): no, but...

The problem is Threateningly / Disgusting; d6=2 zombies

The PCs can roll their best Presence (+2) DR8 to avoid surprise: 4+2=6, failure]


...right into the path of two shambling corpses. They lunge at Uth and Vesania, who both manage to sidestep the plodding onslaught [19+0, 12+1 both defend].
[Round 1 - PCs win initiative]
Törzug smacks the one that attacked Uth with her crowbar, but only tears off a bit of already-dangling flesh from its side [hit for d4=1 damage, but its dead flesh is worth -d2 armour, so 0 damage]. Uth crashes her own crowbar down on the zombies bald pate, and with a wet pop reduces its skull to a sickly porridge [critical hit; d4x2=8 damage, -d2=1; 7 damage destroys it].

Irtinj swings his great Bidenhänder at the other zombie, but the point just barely scrapes along its shoulders [2-1=1 damage, dropping it to 6hp]; at least he didn't hit his friends with the massive blade. Neither Doctor Sêps nor Vesania get close enough to score a hit, nor do the zombies clutching claws find their mark [miss, miss, defend].

[Round 2]
The zombie is surrounded now, though half the combatants fighting over the tops of pews mean few strikes land home, and those that do (Irtinj's & Törzug's) do little more than cosmetic damage to the stinking corpse [I 2-2=0, T 1-1=0 damage]. The thing makes a vicious lunge at Vesania with sapping, frothing jaws, and sinks its teeth into her upper arm [2 damage puts her 6hp].

[Round 3]
Irtinj gives it another love-tap with his Zweihänder, apparently [3-1=2 damage]. Törzug cannot reach it from her position [miss]. Doctor Sêps merely continues to be useless [miss].

Vesania changes her grip on her femur-club, and smashes it into the zombie's  forehead in an attempt to dislodge it from her arm. Her plan meets with mixed success, for, whilst she does knock it free and send it staggering back several steps, it comes away with a sizeable chunk of meat from her arm and shreds of last season's haute-couture still clenched in its gory maw. [She hit for 3-1, dropping it to 2hp. She also rolled a Fumble on her Defence, taking d2x2=4 damage, leaving her also with 2hp]

[Round 4]
The thing staggers right into Törzug's path, and she snaps its spine with a solid blow [4-1=3 damage, destroyed].

Despite loud affray, the screams, the curses, and crashing over of pews, the peasants are still happily praying in the side chapel. One or two look over at the commotion, but just smile beatifically and go immediately back to their devotions.

Doctor Sêps finally proves his worth by patching up Vesania's grisly wound with supplies from his medicine chest [healing d6=5, back to 7hp]. "There," he says triumphantly, "good as new!" But inwardly he wonders if she'll live another 48 hours, as there is no known cure should the wound become infected [She needs to roll a DR 8 Toughness test to avoid death in 2 days: 16+2=18, success].

"Perhaps," opines Irtinj, "it's time to leave now."

The others concur. They hurry down the centre aisle to the entrance and slip out through the heavy doors.

[Q: Is the donkey still there? unlikely (5+): O2 C1 - no, and... not a trace]

They note with some disappointment that Törzug's donkey has vanished without a trace -- and all their provisions in its pack along with it.

[Q: Any problems leaving? unknown d6=5: O2 C3 - no, but...]

They make straight for the crater wall, intent only on the climb out. It is only luck that Vesania hazards a look back at the cathedral, and sees the St Kurthurn's Wheel charging with unholy energy. Thus it is that she leaps out of the way just in time, as the ray of grey light vaporises the rock where she had been standing. [random target, d5=V. DR 16 Defence roll -  d20+1=16, ok]
The travellers find a less-marshy patch of ground on which to make "camp". The night is long, cold, and miserable, but at least free of encounters with fiends, roving bandits, or petulant undead sorcerers.

[They have no food, so no hit points are regained from rest. Irtinj had depleted all his Omens, so gains d2=1 for resting 6 hours.]

Day 4 - d20=18, no Misery - weather: Irritating drizzle

The weary travellers trudge back across the sodden plain. A steady drizzle ensures they are all completely soaked through, sniffly, and shivering at all times. Their stomachs rumble from lack of food, but they must stop occasionally to rest, licking water from leaves and grass, or drinking from the less murky puddles.

[d6=1, a random encounter. LC: Loudly / Defeated]

About midday (though you'd never know it to look at the grey, heavy sky) they come upon a [d6=] man clad in a full suit of ornate, but very functional, plate armour. He is sitting in the mud beside his shattered shield, dented helm, splintered lance, and bent sword, loudly bewailing his fate.

[reaction 2d6=5, Angered]

His head snaps round when he sees he is no longer alone on the plain.

"What are you peasants looking at?" shouts the knight, choking back his sobs. [hostile - resentment - the character]

"What a sad figure you are, sitting in the mud!" laughs Uth.

"If I still had my sword, I'd make you eat those words. Or rather my spear -- I'd not profane my sword on the likes of you." [hostile - combat - equipment]

Törzug isn't having it. She levels her crossbow and looses a bolt, which punches right through the mail protecting the knight's hip joint. He shrieks and passes out, falling back into the mud with a clanking squelch.

[d20=19, hit. d8=8 -d6=6, 2 damage; he has 2d8=2hp left, 0 hp=broken -- broken limb (left leg). can't act for d4=3 rounds then back with d4hp.]

Q: Does the knight have any valuables? Unlikely (5+): O3 C2 - no, but... (just a roll on the corpse plunder table.]

None of the others bat an eye. They continue past the knight on their dreary way. Irtinj pauses only briefly to snatch the knight's purse from his belt, which contains the princely sum of [d66=] 65 silver coins. They hear the knight come round as he begins to spew out his impotent rage against the glowering heavens. No one looks back.

Back at the henge temple, they find their friend the monk hunched over the body of one of the other coenobites, worrying his blood-drenched stomach. The monk looks up with dead eyes, intestines trailing from his mouth, then stands and rushes towards the arrivals to add them to the feast. He leaps into their midst, and is soon beaten down in the mud.

But the monk fights on, and chews through Irtinj's boot, biting deep into his ankle before Törzug's final blow crushes his skull.

[It was a 3 round fight with SO MANY missed attacks. Irtinj is bitten for d2=2 damage. DR8 Toughness: 11+0=avoids sickness

Q: Do the monks have anything of value? Unlikely (5+): O1 C4 - no, but...
Q: How far from Schleswig are they? d10=5 days

The PCs' best Presence (+2) vs. DR10 to find enough unspoilt food: 10+2=12, ok]


The once-pious monks must have had a vow of poverty, for there is nothing worth stealing in the henge temple. The explorers do manage to find a significant quantity of unspoilt food, which, whilst all unappetising mushroom-slop, should suffice for the rest of the journey to Schleswig. They also help themselves to the monks' sleeping mats and threadbare blankets, which are almost proof against the night's cold and damp. Irtinj and Vesania help themselves to some vellum rolls, intending to peruse at their leisure.

They make camp well away from the henge, lest any more undead are on the prowl.

Day 5 - drizzle, no encounters, no Misery
Day 6 - idem


For the next two days they trudge over blighted, muddy fields. The drizzling rain never stops, and they don't see a single living creature -- nor, fortunately, an undead one.

Day 7 - no Misery

The next day the rain finally ceases, and the air becomes marginally warmer. Thunder booms as the grey clouds race overhead.

[d6=1, encounter. LC: Defiantly / Poor]

After a few leagues' travel they smell smoke on the breeze. They march on and soon come upon its source. A tiny village of a few dozen houses has been burnt to the ground, most likely by King Fathmu's soldiers. Not a soul stirs in the wreckage, and the travellers continue past unmolested.

[Q: Anyone still about? Unlikely (5+): O2 C7 - no]

Day 8 - dead quiet, no encounters, no Misery
Day 9 - no encounters, no Misery


The next day is eerily quiet. The travellers fear the noise of their clomping boots must be audible for miles through the stillness. But they journey alone through endless plains of mud and weeds as the world holds its breath.

On the 9th day their clothes are finally dry and free of the damp. And so with a peal of thunder the sky opens up in torrents as they finally come in sight of the imposing gates and slender spires of the sad-but-gaudy city.
finis.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Mörk Borg solo - Part 4 : « Ouvrez au fossoyeux / Qui claque à votre porte »

The iron stair twists upwards into the spire, and resounds with every incautious footstep, every insouciant clatter of arms against its rail. Törzug leads the way with her crossbow, though it be little help against the skeletal servants of the dread lich, whilst Irtinj brings up the rear, hoping he need not attempt to fight in these cramped quarters with his Zweihänder.

[Other than the very top, I had no opinions on what would be in the spire, so I couldn't fill out more Location Crafter lists. The randomised location crafting rules in Mythic Magazine 2 hadn't come out yet, so I had to improvise. So...

Each of the 1d4+1=3 levels will have the usual LC Location-Encounter-Object schema, with 2 Random elements and one Special, as determined by the following roll:

Special element is (d10): 1-4 location, 5-6 encounter, 7-10 object

And to help with the interpretation of encounters/tricks/traps/etc., I asked the Oracle--

Q: Has the lich been all the way to the top? 50/50 (4+): O7 C6 - yes. So, no locked doors or unattended magic items.]


Level 1

Location: Aggressively / Disagreeable
Encounter: Special, MULTI-ELEMENT: Judgementally / Watery, Violently / Watery
Object: Perfectly / Dark
At the top of the stair is a low stone archway, situated in the corner of a square chamber taking up the whole space of the tower. The air has a strong and bitter and smell which stings the eyes and burns the nose, but after a few moments to wipe their tears away, the explorers are free to examine the squat marble font in the middle of the chamber which forms its only furnishing. The font's basin is a smooth, one metre diameter depression filled to the brim with perfectly clear, still water. A fist sized black pearl is submerged in the centre.

[Rolling the party's best Presence to examine the pool DR12: d20+2=21, success]

The explorers crowd round the font, and stare covetously at the pearl, but not a one makes a move toward it. Finally, wiping away yet another effusion of tears from her eyes, Uth says, "I don't think that's just water."

There is murmured assent, then they file out into the archway in opposite corner from whence they entered, in which is another twisting staircase of iron.

[It was indeed not water, but some sort of acid or toxin. And there was some sort of water weird-esque monster in the pool which only attacks if disturbed. But the PCs surmised the lich would have taken the pearl if it hadn't been so dangerous, and decided to leave well enough alone.]

Level 2

Location:
Ruthlessly / Lonely
Encounter: Fearfully / Ancient
Object: special, EXIT HERE: Daintily / Hard
The next level of the spire is laid out as a bedchamber, and has the stale reek of a sickroom. Drooping wooden furnishings line the walls. White sheets have haphazardly been thrown across some of them, and he exposed surfaces are nearly as white from dust. The  sagging bed in one corner seems larger than it is due to the shrivelled and withered form of its inmate, whose sallow and wrinkled visage betrays no hint of gender, and in fact leaves the onlookers with some doubts as to the invalid's species.

[reaction=5, Angered]

A tremulous hand emerges from beneath the soiled bed linens and points feebly in the direction of the explorers.

"Go away!" croaks the invalid. "You aren't wanted here!"

"Please," says Doctor Sêps, "do not be alarmed. I am a Doctor of Physick. Let me find a tonic for your ills."

[DR14 Presence to calm the invalid: d20+0=13, fail]

The invalid sniffs derisively. "Your friend was nosing about, nearly killed us all. He said he couldn't die, but then he left! He's going to die and so will you. Now leave before you ruin it for us all." [UNE: hostile - death - enemy]

[To notice the Special Object, I rolled a DR18 Presence for all PCs: only V succeeds (with a natural 20!)]

As Doctor Sêps squabbles with the invalid, Vesania's attention is arrested by a faint noise coming from across the chamber. She follows the sound to a shrouded bit of furniture, and peeks curiously behind the sheet. Underneath is a free-standing mirror with an elegantly-carved frame of gilded hardwood. But the glass shews no reflection -- it is a portal to beyond.

The skeletal figure of a Death Angel hovers on the other side of the glass in an awful void, a vast emptiness and lightlessness beyond understanding. It pounds against the glass, the dull thuds of its bony fists just barely audible. It stops when it sees Vesania, exhales a frost onto the glass and begins tracing out a message with one osseous talon.
[DR8 Presence to read it: d20+2=11, success]

The message reads: LET ME THOUGH TO COLLECT THE OLD ONE'S SOUL, AND I SHALL REWARD YOU [scheming - means - power]

[Q: Is this an absolutely terrible idea? Unknown

Presence DR12 to guess if this is a terrible idea (roll d6 to know the odds); DR 16 to know for certain (roll odds and Oracle result before making a decision): d20+2=14

1d6=4 50/50 odds]


The invalid is shrieking now but Vesania can't hear. Maybe her friends are screaming too. Do they see beyond the pane as does she? No matter. She hefts the femur in her hand and smashes it into the mirror's surface. The shards of glass are sucked inwards as the pressure in the room drops suddenly.

The death angel grasps the edges of the mirror frame in its skeletal claws and pulls itself bodily into the chamber. It pauses to unfurl its majestic, rotten wings, filling the space as it looms over the terrified mortals cowering in the sudden cold.

[Q: So, was this an absolutely terrible idea? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - no, and... there will be a reward as promised.

Reward (1d8): 1 sacred scroll, 2 unclean scroll, 3-4 misc. power, 5-6 extra omen per day, 7-8 extra life; d8=8]


"My sincerest gratitude," rasps the Death Angel, "for aiding me to capture this fugitive who has so long escaped the fate that must come to all mortals. There be none but that in the end comes into our eternal embrace, yet for this great service to us I grant you a single reprieve."

So saying, it snatches the invalid bodily from the bed and returns through the mirror, disappearing into the terrible void.

[Vesania can avoid death once, waking after 10 rounds with d4hp (as the Gutterborn Scum power, a but single use only, 100% successful, and with no cost against Power uses per day).]

After a few moments of stunned silence, wherein Vesania's companions choke back any reproofs they may have had for her rash behaviour, the explorers head up the next staircase.

Level 3

Location:
Offensively / Lovely
Encounter: Cautiously / Empty
Object: special, REMOVE ELEMENT (=none)
The room above is filled floor-to-ceiling with twisted iron sculptures, abstract but somehow obscenely suggestive. It is difficult to move between them without tripping over jutting bars or getting clothes caught on sharp and pointed ends, but somehow the explorers thread their careful way through the room to the stairwell in the opposite corner and ascend to the space at the very top.

[It was a DR8 Agility test to get through without incident, and weirdly all the PCs made the roll]

Top floor : the Consciousness Organ

Suspended from the apex of the spire, a net made of chains cradles an elephant-sized mass of raw red flesh. It shivers all over at random intervals, causing the chain net to rattle and droplets of viscous brown fluid to drip down. The droplets are caught in an iron funnel and sucked down the central hole by unseen bellows below. Iron pipes run from below the funnel up to the ceiling, where the fluid is dripped from nozzles back onto the flesh.

[It's reaction roll 2d6=7, neutral]

The flesh shivers in a staccato, prolonged way. The explorers hear its words in their minds.

Are you the new priests?

"No, uh, travellers," says Doctor Sêps.

"We're pilgrims!" offers Irtinj.

[DR12 Presence to lie convincingly: d20-1=13, success]

The other one is not to be trusted. If you seek the blessing of the Divine Ekphysis you will discover his plans and reveal them to me. [inquisitive - command - antagonist]

"Why, er, what makes you certain he cannot be trusted?" asks the Doctor.

He is clad in death and unwholesome feelings.

"He says you are come to destroy our world."

I am here to aid life by destroying the enemies of Hope. [aid / life]

[DR6 Presence not to be swayed by the thing: all PCs succeed]

The explorers back away slowly, then scurry towards the steps.

[Q: Does it let them go? 50/50 (4+): O4 C3 - yes, but...]

Doctor Sêps is slowest off the mark, and sees his comrades disappearing don the staircase ahead of him. He fells an unearthly force pulling at him, seizing him from within. A quantity of blood is pulled through his veins and bursts out the skin on his back, where it is strained through his clothing and armour then splashes out and up onto the flesh. He doesn't look back, but by the time he reaches the bottom step he feel weak and unsteady.

[He'd rolled the lowest Agility test to escape: T15 U4 I18 S3 V20. He took d8=1 damage and suffers and -1 Toughness from anaemia until at least 1 good meal & sleep.]

The trip back through the sculpture room is easier this time [DR6 now they've done it, all succeed]. When they come back to the sickroom, they find that the temperature has dropped to an uncomfortable level, and frost crystals are glinting on all the dusty furnishings.
"We can't leave this mirror-portal here like this," says Irtinj. "I'm going to destroy it. Who'll help me?"

"Not I, certainly," says Vesania.

Törzug and Uth heft the mirror sideways onto the floor so Irtinj can bring his Zweihänder down upon the frame in a powerful overhead swing.

[DR6 Strength : 3+0=fail]

The sword crashes down onto the wood, chipping it a bit but otherwise ricocheting off harmlessly.

[Q: Any backlash? Likely (3+): O1 C7 - no. He can try again.]

"It's more solid than I expected," he mutters, and raises his blade for another stroke. He brings the sword down again with a terrific crash, and bits of shattered blade skitter across the stone floor [rolled a 1].

"Let's take this as a hint, shall we?" says Vesania, as Uth and Törzug put the mirror face down on the floor.

"So what now?" asks Uth. "I don't trust that... that thing."

"But who do you trust?" asks Törzug. "That undead thing?"

"It didn't try to harm us," says Vesania. "Or hinder us in any way."

"I wouldn't trust it either!" says Irtinj.

"And the Fraternity of the Sun? What about them?" asks Törzug.

"Now that you mention it, they did rather over-sell the prospect of riches."

"I'm starting to feel a bit had," says Vesania.

"What if we just left?" asks Uth. "Get away from this place and pretend we never saw it. Safer to not get involved."

[Since they're new PCs, I'm not entirely sure what they want, so I made a quick d10 table to let the dice decide.

The options are Run away (R), side with Lich (L), stay and look for Treasure (T), and stay and look for Clues to what's going on (C).

    R    L    T    C
T  1-2  3-4  5-7  8-0
U  1-7   8    9    0
I  1-3   4   5-9   0
D  1-3  4-5   6   7-0
V   1   2-5  6-7  8-0
]


The debate goes in circles for a little while, then they decide to put it to a vote. Törzug and Uth would rather leave, Irtinj and Vesania think it best to talk to the lich (but for very different reasons!), and Doctor Sêps just wants to know what's going on in this place. Uth and Vesania, representing the opposing camps, do their best to sway him [+2 Presence for  both, so best roll of d20], and in the end he thinks getting out now, whilst they still have all their limbs, is decidedly the safer course of action.

They begin to descend towards the cathedral entrance.

[Q: Any random encounters on the way down? 50/50 (4+): O5 C8 - yes
Awkwardly / Disgusting -  zombie

Reaction=8, indifferent]


They meet a solitary shambling corpse on the balcony, but it stands aside to let them pass.

"I think the lich told its servants not to attack us," says Vesania.

"I still don't think we should throw in with it," says Uth, "no matter how much it reminds you of your new pal."

[Q: Does the lich find them? unknown d6=6: O6 C2 - yes, and...
reaction 2d6=5, Angered]


They make it all the way back to the vestibule without encountering anything else, living or dead. But as they come out before the grand entrance, they find the lich standing before them, arms crossed in an attitude of supreme peevishness.

"You were just going to slink out? How disappointing."

"We're, um, we're in over our heads here," says Uth.

"You spoke with it, didn't you?"

"We did!" ventures Vesania. "It said you were 'clad in death and unwholesome feelings' and were here to 'destroy the enemies of Hope'."

"Do you want to know what it told me?" [knowing - telling - knowledge]

"Please."

"It said it was here to raise an army of the dead [employ / Ghost] with which to conquer the world. It offered me a generalship."

"Oh. That's odd," says Vesania.

"You didn't accept?" asks Irtinj cautiously.

"I think it told me what I wanted to hear. That is, what it assumed I wanted to hear."

"Hmm," begins Vesania. "Us too, I think. It charged us with finding out your plans if we wanted its blessing."

"My plans are to leave this place and not return unless I find a good reason for so doing. [scheming - arrangement - experience] Tell it if you want. I don't recommend it."

"Where will you go?"

"I've nothing against you, but this doesn't make us friends. Should our paths someday cross again, I could hardly promise you'd survive the encounter." [prejudiced - view - future action]

"I see. Let us detain you no further."

[Q: Does the lich leave immediately? Certain (2+): O5 C4 - yes, but...]

The lich turns to go, but pauses in the doorway and looks back. "Perhaps we will have use for each other again someday. Stranger things have happened. Daily, it seems... but for now, adieu." [scheming - plan - power]
 
"You see," says Uth, once the lich is trudging towards the crater rim, "even the undead think there's something wrong with this place."


next post: 'just one more room'

Monday, 22 March 2021

Mörk Borg solo - Part 3 : « Comme les meurtriers et comme les infâmes »

Having looted the body of their fallen comrade, they find that one of the cells is actually a short passageway leading to...

T6 : mechanism room - special - none
special: This is bad : none (nothing can live in here long)


...a cramped room filled with all manner of rusting iron machines. No one can immediately fathom the purpose of the mechanisms, and as they move in to examine them both Irtinj and Doctor Sêps take a sudden turn. The others also begin to feel some sort of unpleasant emanation from the corroded metal, and they make a hasty exit before they too succumb.

[The broken mechanism is leaking radiation/contagion. Everyone needed a DR12 Toughness check to avoid taking d3 damage and becoming Infected; Irtinj and the Doctor failed their rolls.]

T7 : chapter house - none - statue

They retreat back through the chapterhouse [as the dice would have it] and out to the passageway, which they follow into...


T8 : mechanism room - none - incense

...a second mechanism room, though this one is evidently in good repair. The machinery is clean, rust-free, and the air even smells nice. They approach with caution and, feeling no ill effects, puzzle over the device.

[DR16 Presence to figure it out -- only Uth makes her roll.

Q: What does it do? listen / horror]


"Ah!" exclaims Uth. "Suddenly it's so obvious. You just close these valves here, here, and here, then set these two sliders like so, and finally--"

The others are all too late to stop Uth from pulling the great iron lever. As she does, the machine whirs to life and a thunderous, screeching cacophony is heard to emanate from the direction of the cathedral's high altar. Uth slams the lever back into place to stop the noise.

[Q: Does anyone/thing come running? Likely (3+): O1 C5 - no]

Uth and her irritated companions watch the doorways with weapons at the ready until it seems certain that no one is coming to investigate.

T9 : vestry - d6 skeletons - statue

[Q: Ambush? Likely (3+): O6 C3 - yes, but... the party can test their best Presence at DR12 to avoid : d20+2=9, fail.

d6=5 skeletons, armed with knives (d4)]


A small, very plain wooden door leads from the mechanism room into a long and spacious vestry. A smallish wooden idol of a saint, executed in frankly poor taste, sits in an alcove on the far wall. Robes and raiment of all sorts, exquisitely if gaudily brocaded, hang from pegs on both sides of the room, smelling of dust, stale incense, and not a little mildew.

The explorers doubt there is much here of actual resale value, and as none of them are looking to update their wardrobes, they pass through the room after a cursory examination. Thus it is that they fail to notice the five animated skeletons hiding behind the vestments like naughty schoolboys, minus the giggling. The blood-drenched monsters rush forth from their concealment and fall upon the hapless explorers with wicked steel knives.
Both Uth and Doctor Sêps are stabbed in the back, but the blades are fortunately turned aside by their armour. Irtinj takes a nasty slash across his torso, and sinks senselessly to the ground. Vesania reacts in just enough time to parry the knife with her name on it [Defence roll 11+1 just succeeds]. Törzug throws a clumsy punch as she dodges her assailant's blade, though just as ineffectually.

[3 damage put Irtinj at 0hp exactly, so he needs to roll on the Broken table. He'll be unconscious for d4=1 round, and then awaken with d4 hp.

Törzug's defence roll was a natural 20, so she got to make a free attack -- but missed.]


[Round 1 - skeletons have the initiative]
Törzug takes a deep cut across her upper arm [2 damage, down to 2hp] as she takes the crowbar from her belt. Uth has her crowbar already in hand, and fends off her attacker, though her counter-attack is ineffectual.

Doctor Sêps faces two of the fiends. One merely scrapes its blade across his mail [2-2=0 damage]. The other makes a severe error of judgement, and gets its jaw smashed off by the good Doctor's staff [a natural 20 on his Defence roll: riposte hits for 3 damage], which then whirls about for a follow-up crack to the ribs [his actual attack also hit for 1 damage, leaving it with 2hp]. Vesania and her foe both feint, retreat, and feint again [defend, miss].

[Round 2]
Uth is hit a third time, and for a third time her armour turns aside the blow. She's almost mirthful as she belabours the frustrated undead with her crowbar [4 damage drops it to 3hp]. Doctor Sêps whirls his staff like a seasoned warrior, knocking back the knives of both his foes, then knocking off one of their heads [defend 2x, hits the injured for 4 damage, destroying it].

Neither Törzug, Vesania, or the skeletons they face do anything of note. Irtinj comes round, and climbs to his feet.
[Round 3]
Törzug gets knocked in the face by the pommel of a dagger [1 damage puts her at 1hp] and staggers back, but not before dealing a glancing blow to her attacker. Irtinj steps in and severs its head [5 more damage destroys it]. Uth and her skeleton size each other up for a moment [defend, miss] as Vesania crushes the ribcage of the thing facing her [she defends, hits for 4 damage], but it fights on. Doctor Sêps sweeps low with his staff, smashing through both legs at the knee. The skeleton falls to the ground and shatters [nat. 20: d4x2=8 damage, destroyed].

[Round 4]
[The remaining skeletons must check morale (ML8) 2d6=3, they fight on.]

Vesania presses her advantage, and her opponent soon lies in pieces at her feet. Törzug hangs back, as Uth and her skeleton poke at each other weakly. Irtinj's sword flashes behind them and Uth is nearly hit by the blade as it slices through the skeleton before her, ending the battle [d10=10 damage!].

After such a furious fight, the explorers need a few minutes to recuperate. Törzug is pleased to find her wounds were mostly superficial [resting heals d4=4, she's back up to 5hp (of 7)]. Doctor Sêps gives Irtinj a healing elixir which restores him to full health [d6=6, back to full 4hp, and his Infection is gone]. He uses a nostrum from his medicine chest on his own injuries [back to full 8hp, Infection cured].

T10 : altar (U) - random - statue
random: Coolly / Smelly


The door at the back of the vestry leads, unsurprisingly, to the altar. [d4=1] A dead monk is sprawled on altar, with ash-grey, drooping flesh and exuding the stench of rotten insides.

The wrought iron statue is larger than life, and is unutterably blasphemous in shape, depicting as it does a two-headed wyvern. Despite its size, the whole is [Mechanically / Small] formed of a myriad of intricate moving parts. Uth conjectures the bellows-like mouths must be the source of the sound from the machinery she'd activated.

As they are staring at it in rapt fascination, the monk's corpse come to life and crawls over to [d5=] Doctor Sêps, intent on taking a bite out of his leg -- though it merely succeeds in getting a mouthful of cloth and mail. The Doctor shunts it away with his staff and Irtinj severs its spine with a quick thrust of his sword.

And it is then they notice a glimmer of metal at the monk's belt; the monk has [Corpse Plundering table, d66] a Black Kergüs Dagger [2d4 damage] hanging by a cord.

Everyone's eyes go wide at the evil-looking treasure. They all want it so very badly, but aren't yet convinced that fighting all the others to the death is a particularly wise course of action. So they leave it in the hands of the Fates; they place the dagger on the floor, stand round it in a circle and give it a good spin. It comes to rest pointing at [d5=] Uth, who greedily snatches it up from the floor to admire her reflection in the cruel night-black blade.
T11 : complete - none - special

Behind the altar, at the very end of the choir, a low archway reveals a cramped spiral staircase leading up.

[As I mentioned before upper level is a separate LC Region, with its own tables (typed up again in a comment at the end), so the turn count also starts over.]
T0 : stairs - none - none

The stairs climb halfway to the grand vaulted ceiling...

T1 : balcony - none - none

...and empty onto a 5' wide balcony which extend most of the way round the perimeter of the cathedral. A low iron railing stands between the explorers and the dizzying fall to the floor far below. Above, shadows play amongst the arches of the high ceilings, and unearthly whispers can be heard [from the MB dungeon tables]. The explorers advance cautiously...

T2 : balcony - none - random
random: Miserably / Creepy


...and find the way blocked by a dead priest, whose expression is a frozen mask of horror. Irtinj beheads the corpse just to be safe. They step over the inert form...

T3 : balcony - none - random
random: Dimly / Interesting


...and continue along the balcony to find three large spools of iron chains. Each spool is furnished with lock and a crank by which the chain may be let out, lowering ornate glass chandeliers to the floor below to be lit. They continue slowly...
T4 : balcony - none - none

...along the balcony...

T5 : narrow walkway - d3 skeletons - ropes

...which narrows to but half its previous width. Stout ropes for some of the smaller chandeliers are here affixed directly to the railing. A single bloody skeleton bars the path, silently threatening with a rusty short sword.

[d6=party wins initiative]

Törzug, in the lead, thinks her crossbow a poor tool for this job, so decide to put her shoulder into it; she rushes bodily at the skeleton and tries to hurl it over the side.

[I let the skeleton attack, but her Defence roll succeeded. Throwing it over the side will require a DR 12 Strength test to accomplish, but if that fails she'll need to make a DR14 Agility test to retain her balance. d20+1=11 failure; she spends an Omen to reroll: d20+1=18]

The thing raises its sword in a feeble defence, then is propelled over the side of the rail by Törzug's charge. It falls through space for a few pregnant seconds, then shatters audibly against the marble floor.

T6 : balcony - none - window

The balcony widens again, and a tiny window is set into the wall...

[Q: Anything interesting to see outside? Unlikely (5+): O3 C2 - no, and...]

... but smoke and the glow from the crater obscures any view it might have afforded.

T7 : platform - none - ropes

Beyond is a platform in the corner of the structure, where many more chandelier ropes are tied round the rails, and a pair of chain spools are attached as well.

T8 : ring under cupola - none - window

At the end of the platform, the balcony continues, running its way round a cupola, whose vaulted ceiling is awash with religious imagery painted in the tawdriest of styles. Another window peers out into the haze.

T9 : complete - none - none

[I decided by GM fiat that the Nechrubel-worshipping lich (from the Who or what dwells here now? dungeon generation table) would be at the end of the 2nd level if not previously encountered, accompanied by d6 skeleton guards. The way the dungeon played out and the UNE conversation topics I rolled up made it clear that, rather than dwelling here, the lich was simply another explorer.]

At the far end of the ring is an opening, inside which narrow iron latticework steps lead up into the spire. Törzug stops short and holds up a hand to silence her comrades. "Listen! Footsteps on the stairs."

They back up a few paces, weapons at the ready. The sound of the plodding footsteps reverberating on the iron stairs reaches a crescendo, then a putrid corpse clad in tattered and rotten finery steps out onto the balcony, and a bloody sword-bearing skeleton right after.
The air round the ambulatory corpse fairly crackles with unholy energies, and its hollow eyes glower with sparks of cold light. The shreds of its robes, necklaces of copper and carnelian, and tarnished silver rings it wears are all caked with grave mould. There can be no question that the explorers are in the presence of a lich.

[Reaction=7, Indifferent
UNE: inquisitive - suspicion - rewards]


"Who are you?" it whispers through maggoty lips.

"We could ask you the same," says Doctor Sêps.

"You have an air of desperation about you. Is that what brought you to this place?"

"The Fraternity of the Sun tasked us with cleansing the evil from this benighted place."

"Surely not they?" it laughs. "They're naught but [Loudly / Damaged] a bunch of shouty madmen, worshipping a god that has plainly turned its back on the world. They must have offered you a fortune to come here." [prejudiced - discrimination - superiors]

"Well, er, no, not exactly..."

"What then? Do tell."

"They... they said there'd be treasure."

"Everything here is cold wrought iron, and broken down machines."

"We'd, er, noticed," says Uth.

"Why are you here?" interjects Vesania.

"The world must end. I thought perhaps the thing in this cathedral might hurry it along." [prejudiced - dislike - campaign]

"We shan't let that happen!" shrieks Irtinj.

[reaction=10]

The lich laughs out loud at the outburst. "Far be it from me to get in your way."

It stands aside with a curt bow and a sweeping gesture towards the stairwell. The explorers look at each other in consternation for a few moments, then wordlessly tramp up the stairs.


next post: staring into the abyss