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.

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

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

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]


"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'