Friday, 25 June 2021

AFF solo - Part XI: The maid in the ice


Day 4

The barbarian crashes through the jungle like one possessed, ever intent on his goal. His companions feel they are nearly running to keep up. As they near the ruins, a change comes over their surroundings. The oppressive heat seems to lighten, the air becoming fresh and crisp. As they progress, the temperature drops sharply The vegetation begins to glisten with frost, and their breath makes clouds before them. Ilog seems insensible to the cold but the others frantically pull cloaks and other bits of discarded clothing from their packs, throw them on hurriedly, then rush to rejoin the others in the wake of the speeding Ilog.

[I gave Ilog a roll to find the ruins: opting to test LUCK, 2d6=4, success.

Q: How do ruins appear? Delightfully / Cold -- frozen over from accidental release of magics (=the SS&SS complication rolled earlier: Magical Catastrophe)]

And then the barbarian stops short. For before him, rising out of the frozen forest, stands a solitary doorframe of massive stonework. The walls which once enclosed it have long crumbled away, and the twisted, verdigris-crusted fittings of bronze can only hint at the splendid wooden doors which once barred the entrance. The cyclopean lintel shews the barest of cracks between the vines frozen to its surface, but still defiantly bears the weight of countless millennia.

The barbarian produces a wineskin and passes it round. Each in turn takes a hearty pull for its dual promises of courage and proof against the cold. Even the sorceress feels it acutely -- her petty weather protection charm is no match against the eldritch chill.

So fortified, and weapons firmly in hand, they proceed silently into the ruins. Crumbling walls of stone rise around them out of the forest, describing a twisting path through the remains of the once-magnificent temple. The original floor plan is all but lost to time; mounds of rubble now block corridors and processional ways, whilst great holes allow egress through shattered masonry. A few of the old chambers have their roofs largely intact, some once-open spaces are now covered over by the neighbouring structures' collapse, the rest are open -- but only to the dim jungle canopy. Time has done its best to erase the Temple from memory, but here and there are still to be seen weathered carvings of unknown and unknowable figures, the meaning of which even Ksandajja's great learning is unable to fathom.
Scene 7

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: into the ruined temple

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

Threads: Ksandajja's quest, Ilog's revenge

[I ran the ruins using 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.]

T0 : expected - falling pebbles - pottery

Proceeding through the frigid, vine-choked labyrinth, the explorers' movements often dislodge bits of stone and flecks of masonry from above, and potsherds crunch underfoot.

T1 : expected - falling débris - random (Meaningfully / Simple)

[PCs need Awareness rolls to avoid 1d3 damage (armour absorbs).]

But as they are hacking their way through the frozen vines covering a hole to the next chamber, the force of their blows pulls down fist-sized chunks of rock from the stonework. Ksandajja and Grebdal Themp look up just in time to see the danger [made their rolls] and dodge back out of harm's way. Fhenteskeer feels a stone thud off his back, but fortunately his thick leather jerkin cushions the blow. Ilog is caught in the midst of the collapse, and must cower beneath his shield until the collapse subsides. [Fhenteskeer's armour absorbs the single point of damage he would have taken. Ilog took 1d3=2 -1(shield) = 1 damage, putting him at 11 Stamina.]

Once they pass in to the chamber beyond, their attention is arrested by the pattern of the coloured flagstones. Set amongst the dull slabs of native stone, polished segments of black basalt were arranged to form a sinister hieroglyph, an indescribably ancient sigil of purest evil, staring up at the explorers through the rubble.

T2 : long gallery - falling dust - pile of bones

Not daring to tread on such a surface, they double back and find another route. A largely intact doorway opens into a long gallery which promises to take them further into the temple complex with a minimum of detours. About the mid-way point, they chance upon  pile of bones. Grebdal Themp prods them gingerly with his sword, but --against all expectations-- they do not  move.
T3 : special - falling dust - weapon
special: Add Element: Partially / Smooth

At the end of the gallery is a squat chapel of basalt, whose pyramidal roof forms a rudely stepped vault in the interior. In the midst of the chapel is a jagged column of stone, once graven in the likeness of the god or demon for whom this temple was builded, but which has been deliberately defaced so that now only the suggestion of a figure beneath flowing robes remains. An antiquated [d30=]mace of dented bronze lies discarded nearby, evidently the tool responsible for the violence against the image. Low reliefs on three walls accompany the defaced idol, but neither Ksandajja nor Fhenteskeer can elucidate their meaning.
[Ksandajja and Fhenteskeer made Religion Lore rolls at a -4 penalty to interpret the reliefs; unsurprisingly both failed.]

T4 : camp/bedroom - servitor - scrolls

Grebdal Themp spies a track to one side of the chapel, along the length of which the frozen vegetation seems to have been recently shunted aside. The path leads to a square chamber with four mostly-intact walls. A smouldering firepit has been dug near the centre and a canvas sheet nailed to the wall and supported with miscellaneous branches to make a sort of tent.

As the explorers enter through the ancient doorway, they find that a guardian has been left to watch the camp, an abomination made of human corpses stitched together into a shambling mockery of a [d6=]man. The FLESH GOLEM lurches toward the intruders, mismatched hands balled into meaty fists.

[I'd asked--
Q: Is the Servitor human? 50/50 (4+): O2 C2 - no, and... (1d6) 1 undead, 2 demonic, 3 created, 4 intelligent beast, 5 subterranean race, 6 wholly monstrous: 3]


Ilog was first inside, and the sorceress close behind. In the narrow confines of the walled campsite, only they are in a position to do battle with the horror.

[Round 1]
Ksandajja's sharp blade hews off gobbets of spoilt flesh from the golem's limbs as she deftly weaves round the swinging fists. Ilog relies on his shield for defence, but a solid smash against the boss sends the shock the impact up his arm and strains the tendons in his shoulder [2-0=2 damage, putting him at 9 Stamina].  

[Round 2]
But the stolid warrior recovers quickly, and as Ksandajja slices through one of the creature's legs at the knee, Ilog buries the head of his whirling morningstar in the top of its skull, destroying its purloined brain.

The sorcerous creation vanquished, the explorers make a quick search of the camp. Most of it is without interest, but the sorceress' eyes scintillate with delight as they chance upon an ancient, bucket-shaped container, still holding its fill of crumbling papyrus scrolls.

[Q: Scrolls in special container? Certain (2+): O1 C3 - no, but... in 'bucket'
K's Second Sight: 2d6=3, success
Q: Are the scrolls magical and/or protected by magic? 50/50 (4+): O2 C3 - no, but... (1d6) 1-2 on magical topic, 3-4 mundane trap, 5-6 both: 4
K's Awareness (Skill 6+2): 2d6=5 success]

Ksandajja masters her impulsive desire to reach out for the hoary books, and she examines them and their container closely. She notes with some disappointment that no magic appears to emanate from the lot, but does notice that the bronze rim of the bucket is deviously engineered sort of bear-trap -- a painful deterrent to would-be thieves.

This she turns over to Grebdal Themp, who after a few breathless moments [Trap Knowledge (Skill 7+2): 2d6=6, success] has safely disarmed the mechanism.

[Q: Are the scrolls valuable? Certain (2+): O1 C2 - no, and...]

Ksandajja carefully removes one of the scrolls, lays it down on a flat piece of stone and begins slowly unrolling it. Even with her caution, bits of the crumbling papyrus fall away.

"What does it say?" asks Ilog. "Can you read the old writings?"

"If this be an evil text," states Fhenteskeer flatly, "I must destroy it in Holy Flame."

"You needn't bother," sighs the sorceress. "See these columns, all the numbers, the red and black in alternation... these are the temple accounts."

T5 : expected - skeletons (u) - weapon

An intact doorway leads from the camp area to a rectangular courtyard. Rubble lines the walls, but there is a clear path down the centre. In about the middle of the room, [1d6=]a pair of [d30=]spears have been planted upright in the cracks between flagstones. Between them lie two rimed-over skeletons. The explorers are debating whose turn it is to prod the bones with a weapon when they slowly creak to life. The SKELETON WARRIORS snatch their spears from the frosty ground and advance to do battle with the living.

[Round 1]
One of the skeletal warriors rushes to skewer Grebdal Themp, but the canny rogue slips beneath its guard and slashes it across the ribs with his sword. The strike that would have felled a living opponent merely snaps off the lowest rib and glances off the top of its pelvis, barely slowing its counter strike [edged weapons only inflict 1 damage per hit]. Ilog's heavy morning star should fare better, but his ill-timed blow just grazes its scapula [a bad roll for 2 damage drops it to 3 Stamina].

Whilst Fhenteskeer is calling upon the fiery wrath of his god for aid [casting Smite vs. Undead], the other skeleton has engaged Ksandajja. She deftly evades the stabbing spear and her whirling strike neatly bisects her foe's left arm [natural 12, a critical hit for double damage (2 in this case) drops it to 4 Stamina and reduces its SKILL by 1].

[Round 2]
Ilog is off balance, and the undead warrior presses its advantage. The barbarian backpedals, trying in vain to interpose his shield between himself and the glistening spear-point. A momentary stumble over frozen vines is all the fiend needs to strike past the shield, and pierce Ilog's shoulder [3-1=2 damage, leaving him with 9 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp tries to surprise the skeleton warrior from the rear, but the unnaturally keen senses of the thing alert it to his attack, and it fends off each thrust of his sword with the butt of the spear [their attack totals equal, so neither hit].

As Ksandajja and her foe circle one another warily [equal attack totals], Fhenteskeer rushes forward, his axe wreathed in spiritual flames. Mighty Filash himself guides the priest's hand, and his devoted disciple shatters its sinister grinning skull [3x2=6 damage, destroyed]. The rest of the bones clatter noisily to the ground.

[Round 3]
Moments later the barbarian's morning star crashes through the sternum of his foe and shards of bone fly every which way as the skeleton warrior crumbles [critical hit: 4x2=8 damage, destroyed].

Ilog wastes no time in binding his injured shoulder. [healing roll succeeds, +2sta to 11]

T6 : expected - adept - sarcophagus

Near the end of the path through the rubble-strewn courtyard, the temperature drops sharply. Two doorways on opposite walls lead further into the complex. The one on the right hand side, leading towards the centre of the complex, has icicles hanging down from the massive stone lintel.

"This way!" says Ilog, repressing a shudder. "We'll tear the wizard's power out at the roots." He strides down the icy passage without so much as a glance at his companions behind him.

The passage leads to a chamber that shows signs of total collapse and very recent excavation. The jungle had never penetrated here; all the bits of frozen vines and leaves came only on the wind.
In the midst of the broken chamber lies an immense block of ice, pellucid as holy water in a sacred basin. Within is entombed a maiden of the most resplendent loveliness, lying in an attitude of gentle repose. She is a picture of serene pulchritude and the softest graciousness. Only her great stature, fully half again as tall as mighty Ilog, betrays her more-than-mortal nature.

It is hard for the onlookers to avert their gaze from the delightful beauty, but Ilog is conscious that she is not alone in this chamber, and his exclamation rouses his companions from their reverie.

"Ensevektu, you treacherous cur! Face me and know that it is I who shall spell your doom."

The adept is standing a few scant paces from the frozen maid. He is clad in ostentatious finery, and seems more a courtier than an occult scholar. Curling locks protrude from beneath his velour hood, slick with fragrant unguents. The barbarian's voice has startled him from deep contemplations as well. When he turns to pass his leering gaze over the intruders, they see the glint of mail beneath his costly garments.

NPC Relationship: hostile
Conversation Mood: neutral
scheming - negotiation - relics]

"Ilog, you've found me! I didn't think you capable of the initiative. Come to recover the promised treasures, have you? Your slavering over gold shews you for the ignorant savage I met back in Drammub. If you could only comprehend the real use to which I will put them. But forget your petty revenge and help me -- and all shall be forgiven!

"Not so fast," interjects Ksandajja. "Just what are you doing?"

"I shall open this sarcophagus of ice and release the dead goddess within. Then I shall make my offering as her high priest to earn her favours -- such unlimited power shall be mine."

"We'd probably ought to kill this maniac," mumbles Fhenteskeer.

"Be careful," says Ilog. "If I thought it were that easy to slay a wizard, I'd have come alone."

Ilog and Grebdal Themp advance with weapons bared as Fhenteskeer and Ksandajja begin working their spells. The unseemly adept shouts a guttural string of syllables. The ground between him and his foes begins to rumble, and a nightmare creature bursts forth...

next post: horrors revealed!

Friday, 18 June 2021

AFF solo - Part X: The sweet perfume of fear


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

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

Scene 6

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: into the jungle

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

Threads: Ksandajja's quest, Ilog's revenge

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

Day 1

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Comrades! To arms!"

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 2

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The man trundles off to open the cottage door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Your words ring false," states Ksandajja flatly.

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

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

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

MAGIC 8   Magic-Chaos 4

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

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

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

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

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

Day 3

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

next post: ancient secrets in the temple ruins!

Friday, 11 June 2021

AFF solo - Part IX: Vengeance for a warrior


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

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

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

Scene 1

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

Setup: travel from Ângu to Ulq

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

Threads: quest, omen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scene 2

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: business in Ulq

NPC List: -

Threads: quest, omen

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

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

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

Grebdal Themp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . .



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

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

[Encounter: warrior looking for vengeance

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

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

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

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

. . .


MAGIC 5   Magic Points 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scene 3

Out of Control (d8)

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

NPC List: vengeful warrior, unseemly adept, hostile merchant

Threads: quest

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

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

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

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

Scene 4

Out of Control (d8)

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

Scene 5

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: convene at the inn

NPC List: vengeful warrior, unseemly adept, hostile merchant

Threads: quest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh, we're in!"

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

Fleshing out the adventure--

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

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

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

Ilog is a starting character--

Ilog, the Vengeful Warrior

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

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

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

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

[Inconsequential random city encounters redacted.]

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

next post: random encounters and the Pathetic Fallacy