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


  1. Location Crafter lists--

    guard room
    side chapel
    mechanism room
    altar (U)
    complete (stairs up)

    d3 skeletons
    d6 skeletons
    d6 skeletons

    locked door
    poor box (U)

  2. I still don't quite understand how the 'expected' result works. If you get the next room and it's something that's "Expected", what are you supposed to put in? Just decide the next logical room type?

    Does that work in practice or does it end up feeling a little disappointing when you get that one? I imagine it might lead to more mundane/boring encounters.

    1. That is how it works. I actually find it very useful when dealing with places that have normal layouts, like a house or, in this instance, a cathedral. It avoids the weird results I tend to get with the Scarlet Heroes Locations Within A Dungeon table, where the pantry connects the master bedroom and the stables.

      For this adventure, I glanced at some cathedral floorplans when filling out the lists, and kept the general layout in mind as I went.

      For more random or mysterious areas, I don't put Expected on the lists at all.

  3. At the beginning of this chapter the PCs are attacked by St Kurthurn's Wheel. I don't see this set up or mentioned anywhere else (even an internet search only brings up your blog). Is this a part of Mork Borg lore?

    1. No, it's just the St Catherine's Wheel on the front of the cathedral, given a more Mörk Borg sounding name.

    2. Ahh, I was unfamiliar with said inspiration. Now I know.