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.


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

Monday, 15 March 2021

Mörk Borg solo - Part 2: « Qui rêve en haut, jauni par le vitrail livide »

The cathedral that fell from the heavens sits smouldering in its crater, leaning at an oblique angle. It shines with a sickly light through the gloom, burning its image into the vision of all who behold it. The land ringing the crater is blackened and wasted for almost half a league, burnt away by the fiery descent.

[Day 3 - d20=12, no Misery - weather unchanged (Lifeless grey)]

The travellers break for lunch at the edge of the devastation. Mivls Törzug (with bow and crossbow) scout ahead to peer timidly over the crater's rim.

[DR 14 Presence tests to notice anything: M 2+1=fail, T 15+1=success
Q: Is anyone/thing about? Unlikely (5+): O5 C4 - yes, but... not dangerous]

Up close, the Cathedral shews itself to be a subtle parody of the Cathedral of the Two-headed Basilisks in Galgenbeck. Every line the wrong length, every angle a mockery, every arch and buttress a two-fingered salute raised against the Basilisk's sacred geometry.

Nothing stirs in the crater. Törzug can just make out the form of a diseased-looking horse tied up outside the cathedral's entrance. "There's someone else here," she sighs when she's gone back to inform the others. "We might have to fight for our plunder."

They advance as a unit to the rim of the crater, then stare down into the pit reticently. They feel the great round St Kurthurn's Wheel watching them like a malevolent eye. "Well, one of us has to go first," says Vesania and begins skittering down to the bottom, kicking up clouds of dust and ash. The rest are chastened by her bravura, and follow her down. Törzug is the last one in, dragging her recalcitrant donkey behind her.

[DR6 Agility to descend safely (or 1d6 dmg): all PCs make their rolls

Q: Does anything happen on the way down? 50/50 (4+): O4 C1 - yes, and... strike / punishment]

The St Kurthurn's Wheel begins to glow with ever-increasing intensity, and then lashes out through the dust and steam with a beam of grey light. [at d6=M; she gets a standard (DR12) Defence roll. 1d20+1=11, failure. Damage is d10=7; she'll spend an Omen to reduce it by -d6=5; 2 damage drops her to 3hp.] The blasts the soil right out from under Mivls' feet, and she takes a nasty tumble the rest of the way to the bottom.

The others look up at the Wheel in shock, and run straight inside as it begins charging again.

[Q: Does the horse do anything? 50/50 (4+): O3 C4 - no, but... it doesn't look right.]

Törzug is appalled by the noisome, leprous-seeming horse, and decides to tie her donkey up inside the entrance to the edifice. For once, the donkey does not resist her.

[To flesh out the dungeon, I had rolled on the One of the many bedevilled dungeons tables in the back of the MB rulebook:

What is it Called? Plague Temple
Status: still active
Imminent danger: A lethal mechanism is about to activate
Who or what dwells here now? Nechrubel-worshipping lich with a skeletal court
Distinctive feature: High ceilings, whispers in the upper dark

I mostly kept to the results, though some got slightly different interpretations as things developed.

To run the dungeon crawl, I turned to the Location Crafter. The LC results for each Turn (beginning on turn 0 to make it easier to track Progress Points) will be abbreviated as
T# : Location - Encounter - Object
. The ground floor, upper level, and spire are separate Regions (in LC parlance) so have separate lists. The ground floor is as follows--

I'll also type it out and put it in the comments to save having to scroll past it.]


T0 : expected - none - none

[Q: What do they glimpse up the aisle? Offensively / Scary]

The vast, vaulted interior of the Cathedral continues the wrongness of the exterior. No matter which way the travellers look, they are confronted by blasphemous images and iconography, everything a parody of the True Faith of Basilisks. The air is thick and bituminous, and not a single living creature can be seen in the dusty twilight. Sounds echo and are lost into the space above. Constant creaks and groans are heard faintly above all else -- but are they the sounds of the structure settling into its new foundations, or something else?

Uth considers lighting her lantern, but thinks better of it. There's just enough ambient light coming in through the grotesquely coloured stained glass to be able to read the inscriptions on the vestibule walls -- mostly the names of heretical and proscribed 'saints' -- and a lantern would seem more of a beacon announcing their presence to enemies than an aid for exploration.

T1 : vestibule - d3 skeletons - expected

Waking straight up the central aisle also seems like begging to be ambushed, so the travellers go through a smaller arched doorway on their immediate left into a small vestibule. Broken bits of wooden furniture litter the floor, through the midst of which a path has recently been cleared, as the scrapes and footprints in the dust attest.

As the travellers are idly poking through the bits of wood looking for brass fixtures to pocket, a pair of blood-soaked, impossibly silent skeletons slink into the room, attacking from the shadows. One reaches for Uth just as she is bending forward to examine the obscene figure on a carved arm rest. Its gory claws swish through empty space where her head had been just a moment prior. The second lunges for Irtinj but stumbles over a broken seat back, alerting him and giving him ample time to retreat out of reach.

[I gave them DR14 Defence checks to avoid the ambush, and both succeeded. Due to the debris and cramped quarters, the other PCs won't be able to join the fight until (d6=) round 5. d6=4, the party win the initiative]

[Round 1]
Uth raises her warhammer, and swings ineffectually at the skeleton, but if she cannot land a hit, at least she gives it no opening to counter-attack. Irtinj's Zweihänder describes a great flashing arc, forcing his opponent to make a similar retreat. [both miss, both make their Defence rolls]

[Round 2]
Please see round 1 for details.

[Round 3]
Irtinj opts for an overhead swing and a brave dash forward. The heavy blade smashes down on the skeleton's shoulder, shearing through the ribcage with a quick series of wet crunches [d10=7damage, destroyed]. The thing falls in two uneven halves to the floor and is still. Uth merely continues her martial dance with the other [miss, defend].

[Round 4]
With one down comes more space to manoeuvre. Uth crushes the grinning skull with the flat head of her warhammer at the same instant as Irtinj's sword bisects the spine. [d6=6 + d10=9 damage. Either hit was sufficient to destroy it]

Irtinj and Uth catch their breath whilst shooting daggers at the others for not helping, and are roundly ignored until they stop sulking.

T2 : expected - none - locked door

The skeletons came from the only passage leading out of the vestibule. It is empty, save for a stout wooden door at the end. The door proves to be locked; fortunately Törzug has the presence of mind to always keep a set of lockpicks on her person.

[DR16 Agility test to open the lock: d20+0=18, success]

She kneels before the door to work. Moments later there is a sharp click and the door swings inward to reveal...

T3 : side chapel - random - none
Random : Mechanically / Exotic

...a small side chapel, empty of furnishings save the marble altar on the long side wall and the carvings of saints and sinners in low relief. Two bizarre wrought iron beings or automata are here, looking like the insides of several clocks but somehow alive [Mechanically / Exotic]. They seem to be cleaning or perhaps grinding down the shrine with jerky movements of their various appendages. They are wholly apathetic to the presence of intruders in the chapel [reaction: 2d6=8, indifferent] so the travellers pass them right by, ducking through the narrow archway into...

T4 : side chapel - none - special
Special: d100=multi-element: fresco, incense adjoining side chapel, somewhat larger than the first. Incense burns in an enormous (i.e. too heavy to loot) wrought iron censer suspended from the ceiling on a chain, filling the room with a pungent haze. It smells [Threateningly / Graceful] very expensive but mildly poisonous.

The walls are covered in al fresco paintings, flaking and faded with age, which narrate some important story or myth -- but what it means is far too obscure to readily piece together. Unless...

[DR14 Presence to interpret: all PCs fail their rolls. Vesania spends an Omen for a re-roll: d20+2=19]

Vesania has a flash of insight that, in keeping with the perversity of this place, the scenes are to be read back-to-front. In so doing she is able to narrate the following tale.
[The narrative is made up of 3x BOLD Waylays.

1. hard foes - monster; illuminating
solution= faction intervention]

"See, it starts here, with this glowing monstrosity. It slaughters everyone in its path and ravaging their cities. But an order of priests appear one day, and slay the monster with their magic.

[2. physical - labour; hallowed
solution= personal resources]

"The populace of the final remaining city are grateful to the priests, and build this cathedral with the rubble of their very houses.

[3. haven - hermit; haunting
solution= the authority]

"Then the priests cut out the heart-brain of the monster, and install it at the top of the spire, so that it becomes the genius loci of the cathedral," concludes Vesania.

"And for the good of our world, we'd ought to kill it," says Mivls.

"And take its stuff," adds Uth.

T5 : chapter house - random - statue
random=Dangerously / Macabre

They press onwards, leaving through another passage. A flimsy door in the wall catches their attention. Opening it reveals an extraordinarily Spartan charterhouse. The long rectangular central room contains only a sagging communal table lined with rotting benches. A hearth occupies the whole of the short wall near the entrance, and a [Very / Creepy] very creepy statue of an angel looms on the opposite side. The monastics' cells are but rudely hewn cubicles along the length of the outside wall.

As the intruders are debating whether or not to sift through the filthy, dried straw in the cells for treasure, a nightmare creature steps out of the furthest cell to meet them. The undead brute was once an ogre. Its skin has been peeled away, leaving it a mass of sinew and meat, now greyish and reeking with incipient putrefaction. The hands and forearms bones have been removed, and the distended muscles braided into whips and studded with rusty iron spikes.

[Stats as a Berzerker. d6=3, it wins the initiative. attacks 2 random PCs.]

The shock of its sudden appearance give it the advantage. It strides into the midst of the searchers and swings its spiky, meaty appendages in a whorl. Törzug is still backpedalling to raise her crossbow when the metal scraps tear through her shoulder, leaving three jagged but parallel rents [Defence roll 6+0, failure. She takes d8=3 damage, dropping her to 4hp].

Its other arm slaps Mivls on the crown of her head. The downstroke catches in her skin, removing her scalp and most of her face in a single shred of flesh. She expires quietly burbling at its feet. [Her Defence roll was a natural 1, fumble (double damage): d8x2=8, down to -5hp, dead]

Törzug looses a bolt from her crossbow moments later. It plunges into the beast's thigh with a squelch, but the thing barely registers the hit [Missile combat is a Presence test: 19+1 hits; d8=4 damage. Its insensate flesh counts as light armour, reducing damage by -d2=2; 2 damage leaves it with 11hp].

Irtinj steps in and swings his Zweihänder, barely nicking its stomach with the tip [14+0 hits, d10=3 -d2=2, 1 damage]. Vesania knocks it in sternum with the human femur she wields as a weapon [17+0 hits d4=3 - d2=2, 1 damage puts it at 9hp]. Uth's warhammer doesn't connect at all [8+1, miss].

[Round 2]
The ogre écorché flails about at all who draw near. Both Irtinj and Uth are hit. Irtinj feels iron shards bite through his neck, which to his elation fail to open any major arteries -- the Fates have surely smiled down upon him this day [he's hit for d8=6 damage, and elects to spend an Omen to reduce it by -d6=3. 3 damage puts him at 1hp]. Uth is hit squarely in the chest. The scale hauberk she wears may keep the rusty iron from slicing into her flesh, but the frock she wears over it for a bit of colour is positively ruined. Ruined, I say! [d8=3 - d4=4, no damage]

So incensed is she that she swings in a furious though ill-timed arc, smashing her warhammer into the paving stones with such force that the head snaps off and skitters across the floor [natural 1=fumbled attack; weapon breaks]. Irtinj's sudden brush with mortality has rather energised him for the better; his heavy blade bites deep into the ogre's shoulder, shearing off a gobbet of spoilt meat [d10=5 - d2=2; 3 damage]. Vesania smashes ribs apart with her femur [d4=3 - d2=1, 2 damage]. Doctor Sêps has been quietly slinking round behind the furious beast. Now he finds himself in position, and jabs the metal-tipped butt of his quarterstaff straight into the ogre's spine with a loud crunch [d4=4 - d2=2, 2 damage drops it to 2hp].

[Round 3]
The myriad cuts and jabs are slowing the noxious horror. It lunges and sweeps its arms at its assailants, but they are always just out of reach [attacks Irtinj & Vesania, who roll 17+0 and 11+1 respectively; both defend].

Irtinj has overextended, and cannot quite bring his sword to bear [miss], Uth is fuming and weaponless, and Vesania's strike is deflected off its solid hip bone [d4=1 -d2 =0 damage]. But the courageous Doctor, still behind, slams his staff into the base of its skull, caving it in with a wet pop [d4=4 -d2=1, 3 damage drops it to -1hp]. The ogre topples over and is still.

The battle ended, the victors take time to bid their injuries and wipe the stinking gore from their arms. [Törzug and Irtinj were both injured, so first must test Toughness DR8 to avoid contracting an Infection; T 7+3, I 16+0: both succeed. Thus, for binding their wounds, each recovers d4 hp: T +3 to full 7hp, I +2 to 3hp].

But the victory was not without cost. They gather round, and gaze down mournfully upon the bleeding, faceless corpse of Mivls. Doctor Sêps removes his cap in respect, and Törzug makes a reverent gesture over her fallen comrade.

"Does anyone wish to say any words?" asks the Doctor.

"Dibs on her bow," says Uth.
La morte di Mivls (after Gentileschi)

next post: more death and stuff