Thursday, 25 February 2021

Mörk Borg solo - Part 1: « Dans un Styx bourbeux et plombé / Où nul œil du Ciel ne pénètre »

Six figures trudge along a muddy track which cuts through the weed-choked Wästland plains. The air is damp and heavy, the sky the colour of the skin on the pale and bloated corpse the travellers passed one league back.

Yesterday they had been travelling with a caravan. But the caravan had vanished in the night, abandoning them in the wilderness. Now they slog onwards, bound together by necessity more than friendship, though not all are strangers.

[For my first foray into Mörk Borg, I decided to go totally random. The germ of the first adventure was rolled on the Even More Reasons to Risk One's Life tables at the back of the rulebook--

Where do you wander? In the poor Wästland countryside
Who (or what) contacts you? Monk who was bitten at night
Adventure spark: Movement in a black star’s crater

Other than their names, my six PCs were also completely random. They are by-the-book characters without classes, but with rolls on the optional Terrible Traits, Broken Bodies, Bad Habits, and Troubling Tales tables.

I also wanted to establish random character connections. Normally, I'd just use the tables in Zozer Games' Solo, but Mörk Borg's setting is so unremittingly grim that I felt I needed something stronger, so I made my own d66 table to use.

My toolbox for the campaign is--

The character sheets below are somewhat truncated to omit (currently) extraneous information. Classless characters all get 1d2 Omens to spend on re-rolls, which replenish after 6 hours rest. None of them started with any scrolls, so the (1d4+Presence) uses per day of Powers are similarly omitted. I didn't list food or water in the equipment, though everyone has some to start. The attributes are STRength, AGiLity, PREsence, and TOUghness. Armour is only noted for those who wear any; it provides damage reduction, and may increase the Difficulty Rating of Agility and Defence tests. The rest should be obvious.

Right, let's get on with it.]

Leading the band (in marching order, not moral authority) is a nihilistic woman who calls herself Törzug. That isn't her actual name, but the name of the woman whose identity she'd stolen. And who would know the difference, these days? for beneath the gilded mask she wears half her face has rotted away. Glimpsing the decayed skin peeking out from beneath the mask, no one really wants to get any closer to her -- though her state of constant aggravation and penchant for laughing at her own jokes may also be to blame. She drags a mangy donkey behind her.

Hit Points: 7
Weapons: crossbow +11 bolts (d8), crowbar (d4)
Backpack: metal file & lockpicks
Silver: 60

Behind her is Uth, whom she's only known a short while -- ever since that night in the in the cemetery outside Galgenbeck when they coincidentally tried to rob the same grave.

Uth is a lanky, frail-seeming lass [1 hp!] with wild hair. The ill-repaired scale byrnie she wears was certainly made for someone of greater stature. She has a tendency to lose items and forget facts, but can be quite shrewd when she isn't feeling too lazy to bother. Despite her frailty, there's a healthy pink glow to her cheeks -- matched by the less healthy red glow of her nose, which bespeaks her love of tipple. She's fun though.


Hit Points: 1
Weapons: warhammer (d6)
Armour: Scale (med. -d4, +2DR AGL)
Backpack: lantern + oil for 8 hours, toolbox
Silver: 100

Today, however, she often glances behind herself, partly fearful that the golem tracking her will appear, and partly fearful of the next woman in the rank, Mivls, to whom she'd sold a lame mule.

Mivls is a shrivelled crone, wrapped head-to-to in a greying habit. Her sore-caked hands grip her bow and arrow; she worries too much to ever put them aside, for the golem seeks her as well. Mivls is deceitful, and an insecure shit-stirrer.


Hit Points: 5
Weapons: bow + 11 arrows (d6), crowbar (d4)
Sack: medicine chest (5 uses)
Silver: 90

So she looks behind herself too, both for signs of trouble, and to study the woman behind her, Vesania, whom the severed head of a poet once told her she was fated to meet from birth.

Vesania limps along, having lost three toes on her right foot. Her forearms are latticed with scars, as she never uses a blade without first testing it upon herself. None of the wounds are fresh, for the last knife she'd owned was left between the ribs of one who'd incurred her wroth. She now fights with a femur plucked from the inmate of a gibbet. She is nihilistic, vindictive, and given to strange dreams. Once she dreamt of a  temple in the bowels of the earth, and ever since has understood the songs of worms and insects.


Hit Points: 8
Weapons: femur (d4)
Backpack: grappling hook, bomb (d10)
Silver: 40

Behind her comes Dr. Sêps -- but how? She is certain she'd murdered him that night in Galgenbeck.

The suspicious-seeming man in the scholar's cap is Doctor Sêps, a chirurgeon late of Galgenbeck. His sleep is plagued by the nightmares of others, so he must always keep himself at a remove from the rest a-nights. He did try to tell them why he must sleep so far from the fire, but he never can get to the point. His bags are fully stocked with medicine, despite his wastefulness. If only he could find a remedy for the cataract spreading in eyes.

Doctor Sêps

Hit Points: 8
Weapons: staff (d4)
Armour: Mail (med. -d4, +2DR AGL)
Sack: life elixir (d6+cure infection), medicine chest (4 uses)
Silver: 90

He has been very solicitous about the health of the young man behind him, Irtinj. Such finery he wears, and the good doctor covets it for himself.

Irtinj can never return to his family estate in Alliáns, having been banished and disowned for unspecified deeds. He's been wandering for months, falling in with one bad lot after the next. He once blacked out in a lotus den in Galgenbeck and came to three days later, covered in blasphemous tattoos. He is shrewd and egocentric, but sometimes whistles when trying to hide [when the d20 comes up 5,7,9,11,13].


Hit Points: 4
Weapons: Zweihänder (d10)
Carried: magnesium strip, 15' heavy chain  
Silver: 50

He was once conscripted into the Shadow King's army with Törzug. At least, he thinks it was her...

Scene 1

Average (d10)

Setup: random -  Ambiguous event - persuade / means

NPC List: -

Threads: -

[To start the adventure proper, I rolled a random scene, which indicated a jump directly to the Who (or what) contacts you? result I'd rolled above.

Mörk Borg has a nice d12 weather table, which I roll on for each day (Day 1: Lifeless grey), and every morning I need to check to see if a Misery befalls the world. Miseries are the calamitous events which portend the destruction of the world; the seventh ends the campaign. I chose to use a d20 for the checks, so there is a 1-in-20 chance per day of a Misery occurring. This makes the end of the world about 6 game-months off.

But for today, d20=7, no Misery.]

As the travellers pause at a crossroads to argue over which route leads to Schleswig, they spot a figure in the distance. Weapons at the ready, they watch the figure approach. It soon resolves into the shape of a ragged monk, hand outstretched in what must be a sign of benediction or greeting.

"Left you out here to die, has [d6=]he?" says the monk. "That caravan is always a few travellers lighter when the food starts to run out. [UNE:knowing - report - last scene] But maybe we can help one another. My name is Frater Wemut, and my order can give you food and point the way to Schleswig. If you could look into a small matter for us, that is..."

The travellers cannot but agree.

[d30 Sandbox companion cult tables--
name: Fraternity of the Sun
immediate goal: conversion, everyone
strange cult practices: sleep on bed of rocks

Their temple is (d30) a henge earth bank w/ inner ditch + stones

Q: Do they get to the henge without incident? 50/50 (4+): O1 C9 - no.
Q: Why not? Attach / Dispute

d6=5 peasants accost (1-3 monk, 4 party 5 single PC, 6 everyone) the PCs. Reaction roll is 2d6=11 (helpful) so the encounter shouldn't turn violent.]

As they follow Frater Wemut down the muddy road, they come upon a filth-caked band of peasants vainly tilling the blighted soil. They look up dully from their labours, but upon seeing the monk they become agitated. The leader of the band, a dried-up crone of but 29 winters, addresses the travellers.

"What are you doing with him? There's summat not right about them monks. Get you away form him, it'll be your death else." [UNE: prejudiced - dislike - friends]

Uth steps forward and tries to reason with her. "We are but weary travellers making our way to Schleswig. This kind soul has offered us succour on our journey."

"You're the suckers, if you believe anything what he says," says the peasant.

[Time to let the dice decide how this turns out.

Tests are at the heart of the Mörk Borg rules. A Test is made by rolling 1d20+the relevant Attribute against a Difficulty Rating (DR) of 6-18, with 12 being average.

To talk down the peasants, Uth must test her Presence (of +2) vs. DR14 (difficult): d20+2=12, failure.]

Uth tries to reason with the woman, but is cut off every time she opens her mouth. The peasant implores her at every to have nothing to do with the monk, and Uth soon loses interest in the conversation refusing to hear another word. The peasant stands aside to let them pass; only the farmers' laughter follows them down the road.
The temple, when they reach it, is a disappointment. No warm hearth, no wine cellar, not even a roof -- just stone circles in concentric rings and a ditch round them all. And the whole order comprises but [d20=3] three monastics.

The travellers are treated to a meagre peat fire, sour beer, and some sort of whitish paste that claims to be stew and/or porridge; the cook has conveniently taken a vow of silence when asked about ingredients.

As they choke down the splendid repast, Frater Wemut makes his case.

"A star fell from the heavens, and spat fire over the land. When the fire died down, a smoking crater was left. In its midst sits a cathedral of no known religion. Ten good monks of our order went forth to investigate -- none returned. We hired some mercenaries to go after them. Only one came back, and [d6=] she was mortally wounded. She told a disjointed tale of great riches and terrible horrors. Will you investigate and put an end to this evil?"

"what sort of riches...?" asks Mivls.

Scene 2

Chaos: Average (d10)

Setup: travel to the crater

NPC List: Frater Wemut, dirt farmers

Threads: investigate the cathedral, find the way to Schleswig

[Day 2
weather: d12=Cloudburst
Misery: d20=5, none

The crater is 1d4-1=1 day's travel away.

Q: Do the monks provide food for trip? 50/50 (4+): O4 C1 - yes, and...]

The next morning, the travellers are awakened by a peal of thunder and a sudden driving rain. Father Wemut explains the crater is a day's march distant, and provides them with enough food to get there and back plus an extra day for exploration. They give him their thanks for the food, groaning (mostly) inwardly when it turns out to be dried cakes of the whitish stew-matter.

[Encounter checks (1-in-6, morning, afternoon, & night): 4,2,1]

The travellers plod off in the direction indicate. They see no one all day, not even wildlife, as they slog through the dreary plains. Somehow they find a sufficient quantity of dry-enough wood to get a smoky campfire going [best Presence (+2) vs. DR16, d20+2=18, success] before they make camp for the night.

But something stirs in the darkness outside the weak circle of firelight. Hungry eyes glitter needfully in the black night, and form a twisted plan in their black hearts.

[Q: What is the encounter? (Location Crafter): Aggressively / Lean =subsistence cannibals

# encountered: d6+1=2. Stats are as Bent (MB p.59)

Q: Who is on watch? d6=Mivls & Doctor Sêps (lucky for him, since he usually sleeps at a distance from the rest!)

Testing the best Presence of the two to notice the ambush (DR12): Mivls d20+1=20, success]

Mivls and Doctor Sêps are sitting with their backs to the fire, making occasional strained attempts at conversation ("Shit weather we're having." "Can't believe what King Fathmu gets up to." "Ever kill a guy from Alliáns?" vel sim.)" when Mivls abruptly shushes him. He strains to see and to hear, and detects footsteps squelching closer though the mud.

"Hey," he calls out. "Who are you?"

[This is the first combat, so as usual I'll explain the mechanics in more detail than normal.

Initiative is handled by a single roll. d6=4, the party goes first]

Two feral looking youths come into the flickering light, clad in gore-stained tatters and wielding equally gore-stained knives... and forks. They drool in anticipation and make to pounce as Mivls nocks an arrow and looses it.

[Hitting with a missile weapon requires a DR12 test of Presence. Mivls rolls d20+1=12, hitting for d6=5damage. The cannibal has no armour, so damage isn't reduced. The cannibal now has 2hp remaining.]

The arrow sticks in her opponent's chest, but he seems not to mind.

Doctor Sêps raises the alarm, trying to rouse his sleeping companions by running round the fire and shouting [forfeiting his attack]. He raises his quarterstaff defensively as the second cannibal lunges at him.

[Monsters don't get attack rolls. Instead, the PC defends against each attack with a DR12 Agility test. The doctor rolls d20+1=15, so the attack misses]

The cannibal cannot get close enough to sink his blade in to the good doctor's succulent flesh.

Mivls does not fare as well [rolling d20+1=9], and she finds the first cannibal's fork protruding from her thigh [d4=3 damage, leaving her with 2hp].

[The Bent have a special ability; the PC with the highest Presence (M, +1) must make a DR14 test at the start of the fight or random PC gets backstabbed: d20+1=17, avoided. (this is here, out of sequence, because I almost forgot it!)]

The cannibal tries to sidle behind Doctor Sêps whilst Mivls is cursing with pain, but she doesn't give him room to safely manoeuvre.

[Round 2]
Mivls drops her bow and snatches her crowbar up from the ground.

[sleeping PCs need a DR12 Presence test to awaken and join the fight: only Törzug and Uth succeed.]

Törzug rolls over and takes up her crossbow. Her eyes are too bleary to aim properly and the bolt whizzes off into the night [miss]. Uth struggles out of her bedroll, warhammer at the ready, but her lurching swing goes rather wide of the mark [melee attacks are DR12 Strength tests; d20+0=9, miss].

Doctor Sêps smashes the iron-tipped butt of his staff into the forehead of his foe with a satisfying crack; the youth collapses in a heap.

[The doctor rolled a natural 20, a critical hit (double damage). d4x2=8, killed.

As half the enemy force is now hors de combat, the remaining cannibal needs to make a morale check (the usual 2d6 roll-under ML). Bent have ML8: 2d6=7, he keeps fighting.]

The wounded youth slashes furiously at Mivls, but she wards off his gruesome knife with her crowbar [DR12 Agility: d20+1=18, defended].

[Round 3]
Törzug is looking for her own crowbar as her three companions advance on the cannibal, but the surprisingly nimble youth evade their weapons [miss, miss, miss]. But at least his knife comes no closer to any of them [Mivls roll d20+1=14, defended].

[Round 4]
The cannibal presses his luck, and feints a Uth. She's not buying it, and swings hard with her warhammer, burying the point in the cannibal's neck. His blood sprays over her as he falls [DR12 STR: d20+0=14, hit. d6=3 damage, putting him at -1hp, dead].

The youths' only treasure is their cutlery. Mivls and Uth each take a knife, which, once disinfected in the fire and whetted clean, should make serviceable fighting daggers.

[For catching her breath and having a little water after the fight, Mivls can recovers  d4 hp. d3=4, all 3 lost are recovered.

For being stabbed by the filthy fork, she needs to test Toughness at DR10 to avoid becoming Infected. d20-3=14, success.]

As Mivls pulls the fork from her thigh and tosses it angrily away, Doctor Sêps shakes Irtinj and Vesania awake and begins berating them for sleeping through the ambush. For their penance, they must take watch the rest of the night.

The others lie down in their bedrolls to sleep. Mivls has a terrific nightmare, dreaming of being caught by the cannibals, flayed alive, and stewed in their pot. Poor Doctor Sêps, who'd grudgingly moved his bedroll closer to the others for safety, shares her nightmare and wakes up screaming.

next post: the crater

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Silent Legions solo - Part 10: All for nothing

31 October

"It's Halloween," says Elgin. "You two making any plans for tonight?"

"I assumed that since Jeanette wanted to meet so early today," replies Cat, "that means she's going to scupper them."

"Too bad," says Amit. "Now that you're clean, I was looking forward to us celebrating in our traditional manner again."

"You two got a tradition?"

"Haha, no, not really," says Cat. "It's just that we had two Halloweens in a row where we went down the pub and both unsuccessfully tried to pull the same goth chick dressed up like Morticia Adams..."

[Scene 27 - another meeting

More specifically, this is the Event (Move away from a thread - escape/stop cult - make / Friend) from scene 26 at the end of the last post.

I extrapolated a bit of detail for the Event's meaning by rolling a Resolution scene--

Resolution: The Enemy is impervious to whatever harm the PCs can do. It’s surrounded by too much political power, too many minions, or is simply supernaturally invulnerable. Its identity may be obvious, but to hurt it, the PCs need the investigation’s clues.]

Jeanette arrives at the new flat alone, 11am sharp, and is eager to get down to business.

"I have, as they say, some good news, and some bad news."

Cat sighs. "Let us have it..."

"Our difficulties with the Circle are now at an end."


"It's because of a necessary détente."

"Wait-- what? why?"

"We... we require their assistance. and they ours." [bring / strength]

"But... they killed--"

"Yes and it's regrettable, but they've suffered losses too."

"You're shitting me."

"Cat, you killed one of theirs. Not an innocent, not a bystander, like they have, but one of the actual cult members. Surely you must see the difference."

"I hate to say it," says Amit, "but it makes a certain sort of sense. Gross, but a certain sort of sense."

"The fuck?"

"Cat, just listen for a minute," continues Jeanette. "We're putting aside our hostilities for a reason. This doesn't make us all suddenly chummy. But it does mean none of you are going to get hurt. Vendettas are to be put by the wayside -- who knows, in time they may be forgotten. There are more pressing matters at hand, and likely will be in the future, and --who knows!-- they may just decide that they're better off courting your favour in the long run. Not that I advise completely throwing in with them; honestly I think our association will be much more profitable to you. And the ceasefire won't last forever, so if you're going to nurse this grudge there'll certainly be a time to act on it. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"What's the catch?"

"Why would you assume there is one?"


"Cat," says Elgin, "I think this whole thing is its own catch."

"OK. Fine. Why though? What's the reason this has to stop right now?"

"I'm afraid I must beg your indulgence a bit further; I don't know." [inform / situation]


"The Circle raised the white flag, so to speak, and my superiors have asked me to treat with them. They want you there, too. They were very specific."

"Please tell me how this doesn't smell like a set-up, because I've no fucking clue!"

"Because outside factors are forcing us together. We neither of us can afford to fight any further now."

"Outside forces?"

"That's all they told me; I'm not sure which one it is."

"How many are there?"

"Later, perhaps. We've got to get to our appointment."

"What if I'd refused to listen to any of this?"

"You're an intelligent woman. I didn't expect more than token resistance."

- - -

Jeanette and Cat take the tube into town. Cat's questions about other 'outside forces' are rebuffed; Jeanette wants Cat focussed on the situation at hand. It's a straight shot on the District Line to South Kensington, but a long one to have to pass in silence. Once out of the station, Jeanette heads straight up towards Kensington Gardens.

"We're meeting our contact by the Albert Memorial," she explains. "His name is Randall. Just look for the bloke in the green pork pie hat."

[He was randomly generated. 1d6=m

Age: Youthful, perhaps someone up-and-coming in their role.
Profession: Musician, singer, dancer, or other entertainer.
Memorable Quirks: Has a strikingly unusual physical feature (I rolled on the Magic World Appearance table: clothes-hat)
Personality: Moody, Never Hungry (tweaker!)

Q: Has Cat ever met him? 50/50 (4+): O3 C6 - no.

His initial Reaction roll: 1d6+6=8, neutral.]

The monument is surrounded by the usual mix of slow-moving tourists and locals on their lunch hour dodging past them. Randall is fortunately easy to spot with his vivid green hat and very loud, ugly-on-purpose charity shop wardrobe. Cat doesn't remember anyone from the old days called Randall, and when she gets a close look at him she knows instantly why; his intense stare, gaunt frame, bad teeth, scabby hands, and sallow complexion mark him as someone with a mutually-incompatible habit to the one she's just kicked. She's pretty sure she'd hate him even if he didn't dress like that.

Jeanette walks up to Randall and nods in greeting. "Let's walk," he replies, and they set off into the park without any introductions.

[Q: What's the deal? expect / death]

"I'm glad you both came," says Randall. "Cat, I was afraid you wouldn't come after the recent... incidents." [UNE: insane - chaos - recent scene]

"I heard a truce was on offer."

"Quite. We haven't the resources to spare to keep throwing them at you. We need them for other things right now."

"Such as?" asks Jeanette.

"The Hidden Eye of the Iron God."

Jeanette opens her mouth as if to speak, but says nothing.

"So I have your attention, I take it?" continues Randal. "Good. Cat, I'm going to assume that our dear Jeanette's reaction says enough for now, and we can fill you in on all the particulars of this august body later. They're overstepping their bounds right now, trying to accomplish something that could wipe us all out."

"What about the Blessed Sodality?"

"We're approaching them too."

"Surely the Hidden Eye aren't foolish enough to fight a war on three fronts..."

"That's not what they're planning. They're going to complete the Inexorable Adjuration."

"Don't be daft."

"They've found the Hand."

"Surely not! The Hand is a myth, or-- or an obfuscation."

"And yet..."

"How do you know all this?"

"One of their adherents broke with them over it. And has already been killed for their treachery. Quite messily, I might add. They deal with apostasy even more strictly than we."

Cat suppresses a shudder at this statement[Physical save succeeds], but does not attempt to conceal her glare.

"I take it you've a plan," continues Jeanette.

"There could be a way to stop it, yes. I think you can probably guess." [mysterious - uncertainty - weapons]

"I'm sure I can't."

"Oh come! If you can't, then maybe Cat. No? No one wants a go?"

"Don't be boring. If it's this serious, there's no time for games."

"Right then: the Teeth of Rheims."

"If that's what I think it is," says Cat, "then I'm done listening to this bullshit."

"I know how it sounds, but this isn't just a ploy on our part to get it back. The fallout from such a deception would make it scarcely worth our while."

"He's not wrong Cat," says Jeanette. "If they tried to use us and the Sodality just to draw you out, our combined retaliation would be devastating. None of us wants a war right now. You can be sure of that."

"So what's it do then?" asks Cat.

"You haven't figured it out yet?"

"Humour me. If this thing is our best bet, I want to hear you tell me why."

"It disrupts magic, or negates it. It should be strong enough to spoil the ritual."

"Forgive me for asking an obvious question, but shouldn't there be simpler ways of stopping a ritual? Like, shouldn't it fail if we interrupt it or summat?"

"Under normal circumstances, you are correct. This is different. If the Adjuration were performed incorrectly, or the final stage left incomplete, the effects would be catastrophic."

"And the artefact will circumvent this how?"

[Q: Does he know? Unknown 1d6=6: O4 C3 - no, but... (=not sure, but his hypothesis is basically sound)]

"It should strip the power from the hand, rendering it inert." [insane - illusion - relics]

"That will stop it?"

"We'd better hope so."

They soon part, with Randall promising to ring with the final details about where and when to meet. Jeanette spends a long time convincing Cat that they do need to work together, because it really is that serious, and not at all a trap.

[Scene 28 - finale


Q: When? 1d4-1= 3 days hence
Q: In Town? (Scarlet Heroes How Far Away Is A Thing? (p.115)) 2d4=Within a day’s ride
Q: Do they only want a small group to go? Unknown 1d6=4: O6 C8 - yes (1 from each of 3 cults + Cat)
Q: Does the Circle understand 'worthiness' in relation to the artefact? Unknown 1d6=4: O4 C7 - No.
Q: Setting? A forested valley in the Brecon Beacons of Wales. Bleached bones and barren rock mark the edge of a steaming pool. (via;cthulhu_location-setting=british_isles_ii). Wales is a bit farther than a day's ride' result above, so I decided on Oxfordshire instead.

NPC stats--

Age: Youthful, perhaps someone up-and-coming in their role.
Profession: Street criminal, prostitute, thug, pickpocket, or the like.
Memorable Quirks: Always forgetting things or fumbling simple matters
Social Standing: An unproven person or untrusted newcomer*

Praveen's stats (1d12): 1-2 cultist, 3-5 1HD cultist, 6-9 heavy, 10-11 cult enforcer, 12 serial killer;

* the Blessed Sodality sent an expendable foot soldier; they probably believe disrupting ritual will prove fatal

Randal's stats (1d12): 1-4 cultist, 5-7 1HD cultist, 8-9 2HD cultist, 10-11 pc class level 1d4, 12 high priest;

Jeanette's stats (from earlier): cultist, 4hp

Q: Do any of the NPCs have spells? 50/50 (4+): O1 C4 - no, but... Jeanette will if she survives

Finally, 1d4 of the 'party' will be armed: 1d4=3; Cat, Praveen, & (1d2=) Randall
only a 1-in-6 chance not to have knives: both have knives]

3 November

Cat waits in Oxford station for Jeanette's train to arrive. She finally catches sight of her as she is queued up at the barriers to exit the platform. She's dressed down considerably, even more so than when Cat led the expedition to the cave. Cat's never seen Jeanette in trousers before. Hell, Cat wasn't sure she owned any.

"Hi, Cat," she says, "I hope you didn't have to wait long."

"No, the bus got in late too. I just got here five minutes ago."

"You took a bus? When you said we should meet at the station, I assumed you had some business here earlier. I'd have gotten you a ticket, you know. At least let me treat you to dinner. I don't suppose you saw a cash point on your way here? We're to all meet at the Lamb and Flag -- the bar is cash only."

The pub is warm and inviting after the chill night air. It's easy to spot Randall, thanks to his hat. At least the rest of his attire is in neutral tones. The representative of the Blessed Sodality is at the table too, whom Randall introduces as Praveen. She's a very short, very surly girl in a black bomber jacket, whose mumbled 'hi' comes off almost as a threat.

Dinner is short and conversation is kept necessarily vague. Randall won't even say exactly where it is they're going afterwards, just repeating that it's in a wooded area. After dinner they catch a bus from the city centre out to one on the neighbouring villages. Randall reluctantly stashes his green hat in his backpack, quickly replacing it with a knit cap -- but not quickly enough to keep the others from noticing he sports a skullet.

Cat's completely lost by the time the get off the bus. She didn't get the village name, and looks round in an attempt to get some sort of bearings. They're on a one lane road, the houses are all semi-detached, and the air smells strongly of wood-burning fireplaces. Randall leads them down a gravelly dirt path between two fences and past a sprawling village pub.

"Mobiles off, everyone," says Randall. "We don't want anyone's ringtone giving us away."

"Fuck, mate, we're not amateurs," opines Praveen. "You don't gotta tell us."

Randall leads them down some winding country roads, then onto a wide dirt track through grassy fields. When they reach a dilapidated set of stone outbuildings with sagging roofs and rotting wooden window frames, he turns off the track to find a narrow dirt track leading into the forest.

"This is it," he says. "There should be a trail behind."

They spread out and scan the treeline, which appears little better than a black blob on this cold, moonless night.

"It's here," says Randall, "They should all be at the clearing by now to set up, but just in case, be ready to get off the path and hide."

"How close do we need to get?" asks Jeanette. "For the artefact to work."

"Close, but not too close."

"You don't know, do ya, mate?" says Praveen. "Bloody typical."

"Follow me. I got pretty decent night vision," says Cat.

She creeps forward along the path, feeling the way with arms outstretched and placing each step carefully in front of the last. She feels a tug on her backpack; Jeanette is holding onto her.

[6+ Wis/Perception to follow trail: 2d6+2=10, ok
8+ Wis/Perception to hear congregants: 2d6+2=8, success]

After a good quarter of an hour (which seems much, much longer) Cat hears voices ahead. She stops and whispers to Jeanette, "I hear them ahead. I think we should leave the trail. OK?" She passes the message back in similar fashion, and the affirmations come swiftly back. Cat shuffles them up into the trees and through some weeds or bushes. Fortunately, the woods are kept well enough that leaving the path presents hardly more challenging terrain than following it. Come to think of it, Cat can't say for certain that she's been following the path at all.

She sees dim firelight in the distance, and wends her way slowly in its direction. Soon it is bright enough that she can make out the silhouettes individual trees between her and it. Her companions become aware of it too, and she feels Jeanette's hand tentatively let go. She looks back over her shoulder, and can just make out Jeanette standing behind her, and maybe Praveen too. "I can almost see you," she whispers. "We should get closer, but keep the trees between us and them."

[To see if they are detected, I rolled the party's weakest Dex/Stealth (+0) vs. the cultist's best Wis/Perception (+2): 2d6+0=12 vs. cultists 2d6+2=5]

They creep up to the mossy trunk of a fallen tree which provides ample concealment.

Peering through the gloom, Cat sees a steaming pool about 20' in diameter. Braziers burn in a semi-circle round it, and the cultists are busily setting up and lighting the rest to complete the circuit. Cat counts [1d20=]13 cultists in all.

Cat takes the artefact from her bag. "There's four of us," she says. "how're we doing this."

"It just needs three to operate," says Randall.

"I'm standing guard," says Praveen, drawing an oversized survival knife from beneath her coat.

"Take this, then, just in case," says Cat, handing her the antique revolver.

"Sick," she says admiringly.

When all 11 braziers are burning, the cultists don robes and take up position between them. The leader begins a shrill, atonal chant, which the other ten in the circle begin to echo. The two remaining cultists drag a bound [d6=]woman to her feet, who struggles vainly against her bonds. The leader speaks some words over her, and makes complex gestures, then she is thrown into the pool. Noxious fumes well up and her screams ring out as the bubbling, acidic pond burns away her skin. The screaming abruptly ends. The chanting rises in pitch.

Meanwhile, Cat, Jeanette, and Randall each take hold of a point of the artefact and begin to concentrate on it. The artefact draws their intention into itself, making their awareness one with the magic.

[Magic save: 1d20=2, Randall is not worthy; his maximum hit points are temporarily reduced by 1.

Cat suffers 1d6 Madness for witnessing the ritual: 1d6=1 (to 37 total).

Q: What happens next? Cruelty / Pain : something bad (but not earth-shattering) comes through

weak outer entity
AC 3, HD 4, Move 40', Madness 1d10, 2x tentacles +4, 1d6 damage, SA: immaterial

Q: Any other effects? 50/50 (4+): O6 C7 - yes : rolling a random Dark Sorcery effect (SL p.44ff): It introduces an alien environment

This last roll set the whole scene. For the alien environment, I decided that all time and space would warp in the local area (picture the graveyard scene from Easy rider). Every round the PCs and cultists would need to make a Physical save in order to act (the entity is unaffected).

There were 18 'combatants' in total, so I decided a map might help run things, but since spacetime was distorted it could be a bit abstract. So I took a cue from classic Traveller and used range bands, which I hastily sketched on an old, coffee-stained piece of scratch paper. Each of the normal cultists was represented by a white d6, the high priest was a d8, the PCs were each assigned a transparent d6, and the monster was a red d10. The cultists were all showing a 6 initially; they all have 1d4hp, so any that took damage without dying had their die rotated to show current hp.

This was fun to play out, but a full round-to-round account would read like a wargame after action report, so I'm going to truncate it to narrate from Cat's perspective instead.]

The artefact becomes Cat's whole world; there is nothing but the metal soft beneath her fingertips, the drone in her ears, the ripples of sensation washing over her. Then there is an abrupt return to consciousness, and the screams start. She looks over to see something emerge from the steaming pool. Then reality lurches sideways.

[surprise round]
The thing from the pond defies attempts to look at it. A mass of colours and fleshy, disconnected substance pulsing and twitching. Fat, loathsome appendages reach out at the high priest, knocking him back into the brush. The thing howls, a sub-sonic ululation more felt than heard. The cultists try to run for the path but the ground, the trees, the air are all warped and stretched, spacetime is contracting and twisting, confusing directions and distance.

[Round 1 - Initiative: it 6, party 5, cultists 1]
The thing smashes the priest to a pulp. Cat feels the artefact snatched from her grasp, and is vaguely aware that Jeanette and Randall are no longer beside her. She wants to run too, but can't find her way past the wall of striated lines or the nexus of terrible screams blocking her path.

[Round 2-3]
Cat is moving now. Forward? She hopes. Follow Jeanette. Is that her coat? It smells like it. Randall lurches ahead of her, carrying something metallic, so bright it glows.

[Round 4-6]
Cat is still dodging past the screams. Some of them snap back behind her as the thing pulps their source. Cat presses on ahead instinctively, even though her feet are so heavy.

[Round 7-9]
A new sound thunders in the cacophony; the revolver sounds once, twice, then is silenced forever. A jittering stain of striated lines appears ahead of Cat, and in the depths of her brain she remembers the stone outbuildings. She lurches towards them, finds a doorway. Inside is darkness and the damp smell of spiders and old life. Cat hides herself behind bales of sour hay. She hears wittering voices nearby, and the smell of pissed-in denim.

Then a shining, three-pointed star floats in through the heaving dark, with Randall attached.

[Round 10-12]
The noise sloshing in the door gets louder as the thing moves through the throng, and the screamers are extinguished.

[Round 13]
The howling is omnipresent, rattling Cat's fillings and the object implanted in her chest. The thing is slurping into the barn.

[its Perception vs. everyone's Stealth:
it 2d6+4=8!
cultist-a 2d6+1=7
cultist-b 2d6+1=4
Randall 2d6+1=7
Cat 2d6+0=9]

There's a wet crunch, and the wittering ceases. Seconds later the air wavers with the impact of a second body against the stone wall [2 cultists slain].

[Round 14]
The shining star wavers in the quivering murk, then abruptly sets beyond the horizon. More wet sounds precede its fall.

[Round 15]
The vibrating howls make Cat want to throw up, but after a brief and painful crescendo drain away into the distance. [Cat gets a Luck save for this to be over: 1d20=14, ok]

Cat stays crouched in the heavy darkness until time and space are righted. She listens intently for sounds of the monster, or movement, or other voices. Hearing none, she creeps out of hiding. She turns on her mobile, using the feeble light of the screen to light her way towards the door. She doesn't dare turn on the torch; she'd rather not get a good look at the vaguely body-shaped lumps on the floor.

But a faint metallic glimmer catches her eye [Wis/Perception 9+: 2d6+1=10]. She stoops down to pick up the artefact. It feels different now. The metal is solid now and brittle, and rubs off on her fingers like old leather. Several of the teeth have fallen out. Once outside she wraps it in a cloth and stows it in her bag.

Cat brushes the hay from her clothes, then hikes swiftly down the dirt road, getting as much distance between her and the woods as she can. She follows the road signs and walks all the way back into Oxford. Once her phone has signal, she rings Jeanette's number, and leaves a message saying to please please please call as soon as she can.

Cat gets on a late bus back to London, and promptly passes out in her seat. She sleeps all the way back to Victoria.

*~*~* finis *~*~*

Post mortem

The Experiment sort of faded into the background as the adventure ramped up, but this whole thing was essentially playing out the world set-up. And even then, there are still huge gaps, e.g. I haven't yet selected 9 Locations for my Region (SL p.89 ff), and even the ones I have defined don't have all their Location Tags rolled up. I've rolled up 4 Cults, though one of them has suddenly lost a goodly chunk of its membership. There's one known Kelipah (the machine realm) and no aliens. But that's plenty to work with, and it's honestly nice to have lost of mysteries remaining.

Quick notes from the last scene

Cat accrued +1d10=2 Madness for encountering the monster (up to 39 total). I probably should have given her 1d6 more for the alien environment, but forgot.

I'm surprised she made it out in one piece. I was really expecting to have to use her Ravenous for Life class ability to survive a mortal wound.

I'd also asked the Oracle--
Q: Is the Artefact still in one piece? 50/50 (4+): O4 C3 - yes, but... damaged in some way
Abnormally / Delicate: completely ruined in 1d100=19 days


That was an awful lot of adventure. The rulebook XP guidelines are not totally applicable, since if I go for XP per session it's way too much, and per adventure somewhat too little.

I thought about using my scene-based XP table from Lalie & Éliane's 1st adventure, but I didn't structure the scenes in a way that would make that work properly. I don't want to alter the scene breaks with each exit/exeunt as I already plotted them on paper to keep track of the adventure. Plus I never varied the Chaos level.

Soooo.... lesson learnt for next time. I will arbitrarily award Cat 3000xp (possibly too stingy) and the other three each 2000xp (maybe too much); but it means they all get to be 2nd level for the next adventure.

For going up a level, everyone gets to remove 10 Madness from their total. They get an additional hit die and re-roll hit points (keeping the old score if they roll lower) and get 4 skill points to spend. (Also better saving throws, +1 Expertise point, and possibly a better attack roll.)

In brief--

Madness: M 0, A 16, E 13, C29

HP: M 9, A 9, E 7, C 13

A Leadership 0, Perception 1, 1 unspent skill point
E History 0, research 1, medicine 0
C Athletics 1, Stealth 1
M Perception 1, Stealth 1 (I almost had Mary take Language-0, then decided the 2 increases were more important. But I did decide that she is taking conversational French classes at the Institut Français, so if I ever do spend the skill point for Language I know how she got it.)

I'll put up their complete new stats (with their portraits) when they show up in the next adventure.

Some final notes

The interim between adventures will be: 1d4+2= 3 weeks

Q: Is there fallout with any cult? Likely (3+): O1 C5 - no.

The Circle and Star are both pleased with the results, despite their losses; Jeanette, Praveen, and Randall are all dead. The cults are all licking their wounds and plotting. Gerrit tells the PCs that the Star will be in touch.

Somehow the mutilated bodies in the woods outside Oxford never make the news.

Elgin moves back to his own flat in Greenwich. He's technically 'friends' with Gerrit and the Star: one or both will force him to choose sides if things kick off again. The Circle is neutral, but may attempt a rapprochement if they need his skills.

Cat has been booted out of the halfway house for good, and is couch surfing with Amit.

Amit needs to roll 8+ Cha/Culture-criminal: 2d6+2=9, success; so he doesn't need to pay back his associates for the gun quite yet. He could probably trade the automatic for it if he were desperate.

Cat needs to roll a straight 10+ to find a job in the interim: 2d6=6, no.

Mary occasionally rings Cat to talk, and treats her to the pub. They still meet strange places and in secret. Amit gives Cat shit about it, but neither of them are convinced that it's a good idea for Mary to meet him or Elgin yet.

Next post: new adventure, new experiment