Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Clueless

What else could the champions have done to scare up some clues?

Occult research. Is there any history of zombie activity in the area? No, which might point to their magical origin, offering a “what” clue.

The magical source of the zombies might prompt the champions to check with their contacts to see if anyone had recently purchased a grimoire of zombie-raising rituals, which might lead to Bonefat’s purchase of the enchanted goblet. This might be a “who” clue, or if the champions have already deduced the villain, it might count as a “why” clue, used to explain the whole scheme.

Since the slow zombies only last for a few hours, the champions might get a look at the remains. Forensics and a “Detective!” roll could offer some insights. Certainly, a “what” clue, to differentiate magically-raised zombies from, say, restless dead disturbed by poor grave maintenance.

Investigating the identities of the zombies might offer a “who” clue, after realizing that the dishonored dead were all old enemies and rivals of Bonefat’s.

No doubt Miss Dinkley could whip up all manner of useful gadgets that could expose clues. If the champions make enough “when” and “where” deductions, they might be able to set a trap or set up an ambush, eliminating the need for a “who” deduction.

There’s a whole world of clue opened up by tracking. As it happens, none of our champions have the Tracking skill… but they do have a mastiff. In my experience, when a PC pays for a dog as an Ally, that dog is usually half Lassie, half lion, and half bloodhound. Picking up a scent shouldn’t be beyond its capabilities. Tracking zombies back to the cemetery would likely be trivial, but what if the champions took it a step further? It’s not inconceivable that, from the cemetery, they might be able to pick up Bonefat’s trail, particularly if they’ve deduced the timing of the attacks and set themselves to interfere with the next occurrence. That could lead them to the villain’s country house, eliminating the need for a “where” deduction and offering a big bonus to the “who” question. Questioning the servants might yield many more “who” and “why” clues.

Advertisements

If it weren’t for you meddling Yorkshiremen…

It looks like I might possibly have the ability to run a game again soon, sometime in the next couple of months, and I’m leaning towards GURPS Steampunk Monster Hunters. More on that later, as the situation develops.

For those who haven’t seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the genre might need some explanation. Mundane humanity is largely unaware of the monsters lurking in the darkness, and that’s really for the best. (Like Kay put it, “People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals…” and if they knew about what was really going on out there, they would just make a bad situation worse.) You are one of the heroes who stands between the monsters and the innocent people of the world.

How’s this done? Mostly through digging up information from dusty old tomes, interviewing witnesses, and roughing up henchmen to get ’em to talk.

“There’s a reason champions are known as ‘monster hunters’ and not ‘monster killers.’

GURPS Monster Hunters 2

This isn’t Dungeon Fantasy, where you can walk down stairs into any old basement and find monsters to slay. The focus here is on solving the mystery, on the investigation, with an eye towards ending the threat. That might mean learning the Big Bad’s weakness and laying an ambush, but it might also mean giving the dangerous ghost what it needs to move on to the afterlife, or putting a stop to the mining that’s upsetting the gnomes.

In an effort to orient the players, and to get my own head straight, I’m going to work through a contrived example.

The Plot

Orson Bonefat, the Earl of Blatherskite, has run up a series of gambling debts. Being an amateur student of magic, he concocts a plan to use magic to enrich himself.

A village near Bonefat’s estate would make an excellent site for a airship mooring tower. If only he could drive off the current inhabitants, he could buy up the land cheap and make a killing!

He has access to an ancient Roman template, a place of power, on his estate. Through his contacts in the mystic community, he obtains an enchanted item, a goblet useful as a magical tool for casting spells relating to the undead. He uses these assets to create charms to temporarily raise the dead as zombies – the “mindless servant” kind, not the ones that are compulsive brain-eaters.

Bonefat begins visiting the village from time to time, ostensibly to attend the cricket matches. On these visits, he surreptitiously uses one of his charms to raise the dead in the local cemetery. The charmed remains dig themselves out of their graves and go on a mindless rampage later that night. They aren’t looking to kill people – their mission is to scare folks off – but they’re not above roughing someone up if they get the chance. They mostly chase folks, bang on shutters, break into barns and chase the horses out, and so forth.

The Mystery

The basic questions to be answered are the Five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why.

Who? The Earl of Blatherskite. He’s made some effort to hide his involvement, but he’s also Status 5. As a witch, he doesn’t have any particular Supernatural Features or Compulsive Behaviors that might give him away. Rolls to deduce his identity start off with a -6 penalty. The champions will be rolling against Current Affairs or Area Knowledge.

What? The monsters are magically-created zombies, but the true enemy is effectively a rogue witch. Rolls concerning the zombies will be against Hidden Lore (Restless Undead), and since they’re simple creatures lacking the ability to conceal their nature, those deduction rolls will be at only -2. Roll to deduce the magician behind the scenes will be against Thaumatology, at a -4 thanks to Bonefat’s attempts to cover his tracks.

When? On the one hand, the zombie attacks coincide with Bonefat’s cricket outings; on the other, he needs to drive everybody out of the village and make his dirty deals before his debts come due. Thus, rolls about timing are at -4.

Where? Linking the zombies to the cemetery isn’t much of a leap, and it’s easy to figure out that the village is the target of whatever’s going on. Anyone trying to make the connection between the village or the cemetery and Bonefat’s home, on the other hand, would be rolling at -10, since he’s going out of his way to keep his evil plans out of his own back yard.

Why? The motive for the whole situation is Bonefat’s desire to pick up cheap land so he can get rich from the airship mooring scheme. This is a plan with a couple of levels, and he’s working through zombie minions, establishing a -10 modifier for “why” deductions.

The Champions

Mr Jones is an Accidental Hero/Sleuth. He has Intuition, 36 points in “Detective!” yielding 3 bonus points, and 24 points in “Talker!” giving 2 bonus points. (Bonus points can be used to buy successes, reduce damage, add things to the environment, etc., within the area covered by the wildcard skill.)

Madame Blake is a Chosen One/Psi, with Psychometry, Spirit Communication, and some minor telepathic powers. She also has Intuition, and a 15-point Destiny, which gives her 3 destiny points. Finally, she has 4 unspent character points saved from previous adventures. (Both destiny points and character points can be spent like bonus wildcard points, but without the restriction in scope.)

Miss Dinkley is a Hired Gun/Techie. She has 48 points in Inventor!, providing 4 bonus points, and 12 points in Science!, giving 1 bonus point. Though she specializes in technology and engineering, she’s been around and seen some things, so she’s picked up a few points in Thaumatology. She has 5 unspent points.

Herr Rogers is an Avenger/Warrior with Gigantism. He’s got a hefty 60 points in Blade! giving him 5 bonus points. He has a mastiff as an Ally.

The Investigation

The champions arrive at the village following a tip. They begin their investigation by asking around and interviewing the people of the village. While meeting several colorful local NPCs, they rapidly accumulate several clues. The first eyewitness mentions being chased by “Old Man Toulouse, what died last winter”, a “what” clue that gives Mr Jones a roll against Hidden Lore (Restless Undead) at -1, effective 15, a roll he immediately makes by 4. We’re dealing with slow zombies!

A second eyewitness mentions details about the zombies that offer another “what” clue. Miss Dinkley rolls against Thaumatology at an effective 12. A roll of 11 establishes that these zombies were animated by magic, likely cast by no more than one or two witches.

After a few more interviews, Mr Jones compares the accounts and gathers a “when” clue. A roll at -3 (-4 starting modifier, +1 for the clue) against “Detective!” gives an effective skill of 13, another easy roll, made by 3. The zombies always attack late in the evening after a cricket game, and the violence of the attacks seems to be increasing, indicating an increased sense of urgency to whatever purpose they serve.

This prompts the champions to speculate. Perhaps the witch behind the zombies is someone attending the cricket games?

After some diplomacy, the champions gain access to the scene of the last zombie attack, where a man was killed. Madame Blake uses her Spirit Communication to contact the lingering spirit of the dead victim. (Herr Rogers grumbles about spooky powers.) Questioning the victim reveals that he had been distracted on the night of his death after a business argument. With good roleplay and lucky Psychology rolls from several members of the team, this counts as both a “who” and a “why” clue, but nobody is able to make a deduction roll. Still, those clues will modify future rolls.

That’s not good enough for Mr Jones, who has really been enjoying being the best detective at the investigation. He taps his Intuition to get another try at that “who” deduction. Before the GM rolls, Mr Jones’ player mentions a willingness to devote 2 “Detective!” bonus points towards turning a regular success into a critical success. The GM rolls an 11, just enough for a success. After conversion to a critical success, that’s enough to reveal Orson Bonefat by name!

Mr Jones makes an intuitive leap. The ghost’s description of the circumstances before his death, plus various incidental pieces of information gathered in previous interviews, points towards Bonefat as the Big Bad. But why?

… and the question of why matters, since Bonefat is a living human being. Nobody makes too much fuss when you chop up a zombie or stake a vampire who “died” two hundred years ago, but they tend to take active interest when a bunch of scruffy murder-hobos bust in and chop the head off a member of the peerage. No fair foiling the plot by murdering humans. Herr Rogers curses with feeling.

Well, if the champions can’t get a stand-up fight, they’ll settle for a caper. They pull off a complex series of actions that puts Miss Dinkley in Bonefat’s private study. There, she goes through his personal papers, using Administration to uncover financial records, a “why” clue. She uses a couple of unspent character points to make sure it’s a good clue, worth +2 to deduction rolls. Still, nobody makes the deduction roll. Even with a couple of clues, a -10 is hard to overcome.

As the team goes over the purloined papers, Madame Blake uses her own Intuition for a second chance, and offers to use all three of her destiny points to make this roll count. The roll fails, but 3 points is enough to turn that into a critical success. She puts together several lines in a ledger and puts together the whole plot. A few nights of bad luck led to an unexpected debt. Favors were called in, but too little, too late. Payments to buy an antique Celtic goblet, just before the first appearance of the zombies. Speculation in the airship business. Notes on the need for a local mooring tower. Property purchases, and offers made on other plots.

With the whole plot revealed, the champions come up with a solution that might not require an unacceptable level of anti-social behavior. With a little more investigation into Bonefat’s estates, the teams turns up a “where” clue and locates the place where Bonefat keeps the enchanted goblet: an old Roman ruin in a quiet corner of his estate.

Finally in his element, Herr Rogers takes the lead. The team loads up for a fight, sneaks onto Bonefat’s estate, and approaches the ruin. There, they encounter a party of slow zombies defending the goblet, and it turns into a fight scene. Rogers spends most of his bonus points being awesome in the battle. In the end, the zombies are put down, and the goblet destroyed.

As a final touch, the next day, Mr Jones calls upon the Earl. In a diplomatic way, he takes responsibility for the destruction of the goblet and Bonefat’s zombie minions, and politely communicates that the team will be keeping an eye on him in the future. No more evil magic, or they will take certain unspecified but ominous “steps”.

And then it’s off to Paris, to see about these reports of a rogue gorilla…

 

D&D 5E: Dome

The kids’ game had one of the experienced players back, giving us a manageable six PCs:

  • Styx – alchemist wood elf arcane trickster 3
  • Necro – experimental warforged conjurer 2
  • Reaper – noble drow warlock 2
  • RH – noble human paladin 2
  • Gwar – knight half-orc monk/barbarian 1/1
  • August – folk hero half-elf bard 2

This is the session where I blew it figuring encounter balance. When I was putting the adventure together, I was thinking we would have eight PCs on the stage (wrong), I was expecting a couple of them to level up by the time the fateful encounter came about (nope), and I figured a couple of near-dead PCs would be acceptable. (Questionable but moot, since I overlooked a rule that turned “near-dead” into… well, you’ll see.)

Background

In between games, in conversation, I pick up bits of characterization. Not all of it comes up in a play synopsis. Here’s some pieces I’ve gathered.

Gwar benefits from wearing no armor, so his “Sunday go adventurin'” outfit is his boots of the winterlands at one end, his new cap of water breathing at the other, and as little as he can get away with in between.

RH worships the turkey god, a proud and noble Lawful Good deity who rewards those who cook good food and those who smite foul evil. RH does both with enthusiasm. When on the road, he keeps the party’s morale high by turning iron rations and scavenged herbs into an endless stream of surprisingly tasty sandwiches.

Like all warforged, Necro was designed to be a soldier; in his case, he was meant to be a battlefield necromancer. He often feels compelled to act according to that role: collecting bones, seeking necromantic spells, raising undead minions, and so forth. He has vague memories of a life spent in battle, leading an army of skeletons, possibly during the Titans’ War. Later, he was deactivated for some time, only to be (briefly) awakened by “The Creator”, a thin, old man wearing an extravagant handlebar mustache. The Creator’s experiments cost Necro his memory (and, it seems, many levels) but gave him free will and the ability to forge his own destiny.

Styx grew up as a wizard’s apprentice, but personal tragedy and her wild ways put her on a path of thievery. Her education was disrupted by a vampire attack that cost her most of her immediate family. She survived, wounded, but since then she’s avoided bright sunlight, and recently, she’s lost her appetite…

What Happened

At the end of last session, our heroes were attending a feast at Swamp Village, in honor of their baby-rescuing efforts. Gwar and RH engaged in a drinking contest, which RH won when Gwar fell off his log. While lurking in the shadows, Styx ran into an elderly woman who gave her directions towards the deepest part of the swamp. “Those who enter do not return,” she warned. Perfect place to find a hidden artifact.

The next morning, they set out. Where they were going, a wagon would be no use, so they had their dwarf teamster, Angus, stay in Swamp Village. Instead, Reaper located and purchased a rowboat made from a single giant turtle shell, large enough to carry them all but small enough to carry when open water was unavailable. The party chose to proceed at a slow-but-stealthy pace.

Several hours into the journey, they had their first encounter. While scouting ahead of the main party, Styx spotted a group of lizardfolk who were likewise moving quietly through the swamps. After a whispered conversation, the party decided to set up an ambush. When the lizardfolk party came by, they found themselves suddenly confronted by Reaper, in the guise of a lizardfolk warrior, waving his hands and pantomiming a lost voice to cover for his lack of knowledge of the Draconic language. While all eyes were on him, Styx stepped from a bush unobserved, quietly decapitated one of the lizardfolk with her magical “dagger” (in name only, being more of a short sword), and taking the head with her, stepped back into concealment. Finally, Gwar burst up roaring from beneath the water where he had concealed himself (cap of water breathing, remember) and bisected one of the trailing lizardfolk with his greatsword. With all eyes drawn towards the rear, RH charged from the bushes in front, tackling one of the lizardfolk and taking it to the ground to be pummeled. Necro, August, and Reaper set up a barrage of spells, killing two more lizardfolk, causing the last one to rethink the situation and flee.

The party trussed up the one that RH had grappled. They decided to call him “Yellow” (based on the color of his generic plastic mini) and tried to question him without the benefit of a common language. Styx drew a decanter on a piece of paper, gesturing that it was what they were seeking. Yellow nodded, pantomiming recognition of the object and a willingness to lead them to it.

That settled, the party settled down for a long rest in the middle of the day, having blown through a lot of high-powered magic in the fight. They set the two elves and the warforged on watch, since they all only need a few hours of downtime, while the humans sacked out. The elves and warforged commented on the laziness of humans, speculating that they could get by with four hours a day as well if they really tried.

After only about an hour, the party’s peace was disturbed when a huge, animated pile of compost pulled itself out of the swampy water and started moving towards the sleeping party members. A shambling mound! Those on watch raised the alarm, waking the sleepers, and the party moved to defend the camp. Despite taking a couple of hits, the party surrounded the mound and rapidly tore it to pieces. Necro poked around in the stinking compost of the remains, looking for bones, and RH noticed a pouch that proved to be full of coin: a fair amount of gold, and a somewhat larger amount of rare electrum pieces.

The party finished their rest, rising after sundown and proceeding by torchlight, with Yellow pointing the way. He first led them to a location where they found a strange effigy, made from vines, branches, and turtle shells, in the shape of a dragon with spread wings and a pair of large horns. Yellow touched the effigy’s chin, muttering rapidly under his breath in Draconic, then stepped back, gesturing at the rest of the party to also touch the dragon’s chin. All but Styx and Necro did so; Necro was suspicious, and Styx was checking the dragon’s mouth for loose change.

They pressed on. The swamp grew denser. Travel slowed and visibility dropped. The party began to hear strange, almost reptilian cries high above them. They tossed a few quickly-captured fish into the air. Not all of the thrown fish came back to the ground.

After several hours of travel, they broke out from the heavy tree cover to see an open space in the swamp surrounding a huge metal dome! It was clearly old, covered with creeping vines and slippery slime, but parts still shone in the moonlight. It was over a hundred feet high, at the top, and at least a mile across, with a wide area of open water around it. At the top, they could see torn and corroded metal; an opening, perhaps?  “Holey rusted metal,” Gwar observed, pointing.

They decided to climb the dome to take a look in the hole. Styx and RH, being expert climbers, led the way, then dropped ropes for the others. Necro took a few jokes when he couldn’t muster the upper-body strength to climb a rope, but they tied a loop under his arms and hauled him up.

The top of the dome was flat enough to walk around on, and dotted with obscure machinery. They made their way over to the hole, looking down over a drop of about a hundred feet to the treetop canopy of a jungle environment below. They heard animal noises from below. They finally saw the bird-things that they had been hearing, and found them to be winged lizards. Under the far side of the hole, they saw an area rising maybe twenty or so feet above the tops of trees. Two streams of water fell from the pedestal in a pair of small waterfalls. Between the two streams… a black dragon, as big as a horse, curled up asleep.

The party was divided on how to proceed. They could drop ropes and descend to the jungle area. They could just as easily descend to the dragon’s perch. What to do then? Attack it from surprise? Or sneak in, snag the best treasure, and sneak out, leaving it asleep the whole time?

Reaper insisted that they give the dragon the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was a good dragon, after all! They could offer it a basket of fish as a gesture of goodwill and try to become its friend.

Various schemes were weighed and discarded, until finally Reaper took matters into his own hands. He upended the basket of fish, dropping its contents into a slippery pile right in front of the dragon’s nose. It awoke. The rest of the party scattered, seeking places of concealment. The dragon looked around, sampled the fish, then took to the air, revealing that it made its bed on its treasure. It flew up through the hole and landed in front of Reaper. It clearly spotted August, as well, but didn’t seem particularly aware of the others.

“What do you mean by dropping these fish on me!” it demanded.

“O mighty dragon,” Reaper replied, throwing his hands in the air in praise, “I have traveled far, wishing only to gaze upon the wonder that is you! O finest of dragons, I give you these fish as a gift, because you are so awesome!”

The dragon rather liked all this, but still had some questions. Like: Could Reaper catch more fish like those? After learning that yes, he could, the dragon grabbed Reaper and took to the air, returning to his perch with the two streams and demanding that Reaper fish. Reaper did, and while he did, he noticed that the two streams led back to the rear of the pedestal, near the dome wall. There, he could see their source: the decanter!

Back atop the dome, opinions were badly divided. Gwar was strongly in favor of getting back in the boat and leaving Reaper to his fate. Styx pointed out that they were almost within sight of the object of their quest. Gwar replied that he hadn’t started the day on a quest, he had woke up with a hangover and gone for a ride in his buddy’s new boat; he had surely never signed up to fight a dragon!

Matters came to a head when the disagreement made enough noise to draw the dragon’s attention. It returned to the top of the dome, roaring and demanding answers from August, the first person it saw. In a remarkable display of daring, August used his bardic comedy stylings to render the dragon helpless with hideous laughter!

Sadly, the party didn’t have a unified plan of action, and so they split their efforts. Styx rushed down a rope to join Reaper, who was already running for the decanter, with both passing by the rest of the dragon’s treasure horde. The others initially hung back, but finally attacked the dragon, breaking it out of its laughing jag.

Angry, the dragon moved to line up its shot and unleashed its acidic breath weapon. RH fell, mortally wounded and making death saves. He was the lucky one. August was utterly erased from existence, burned away to nothing!

That was enough for Gwar, who ran for the boat. Styx climbed the rope in record time, carrying the decanter. As soon as she crossed over the edge, she opened the decanter and unleashed a geyser of water, knocking the dragon prone! Taking advantage of its distraction, the party as a whole fled, returning to the boat and paddling madly for the cover of the trees. They were able to make their escape. After hiding for some time, they turned to the slog back to Swamp Village.

Epilogue

For the most part, the party counted the adventure as a win: they met a dragon, only lost one member of the party, and made off with the MacGuffin. Several party members even gained a level along the way.

Gwar, having lost his half-elf half-brother, took it somewhat harder, but is expected to recover and find a new sidekick shortly.

Styx has stated her intention to return to the Chasm of Flies. There, she and Necro will finish stealing the goblin tribe’s treasure, returning through the matriarch’s escape passage. If Necro learns how to raise skeletons, they’ll do it with the help of some skeleton porters, to help carry the treasure. Once that’s taken care of, they’ll use the decanter to wash out all the webs and decay and old titan bones, and see about shrinking that magic gauntlet down to humanoid size.

 

D&D 5E: Gingerbread

This session, the kids were again joined by a couple of more experienced players. Since the kids have been running two characters each, it was only fair that the incoming players do the same, so we ended up with a greatly enlarged team.

  • Styx – alchemist wood elf arcane trickster 3
  • Necro – experimental warforged conjurer 2
  • Reaper – noble drow warlock 2
  • RH – noble human paladin 2
  • Gwar – knight half-orc monk/barbarian 1/1
  • August – folk hero half-elf bard 2
  • Brian – tribal human barbarian/fighter 1/1
  • Kristina – criminal lightfoot halfling ranger 2

Styx and Necro are just starting a romantic relationship, despite alignment differences. Reaper and RH are childhood friends, presumably thrown together due to their similar backgrounds. Gwar and August are half-orc half-elf half-human half-brothers, working together so that Gwar does heroic stuff and August sings about the heroic stuff Gwar did. Brian and Kristina appear to be partners in crime.

This adventure was largely inspired by an adventure I read once (but can no longer locate) called “Cooking with Auntie Erma”.

What Happened

All the PCs fell in together, the way PCs do. Unusually, they ran in to each other in a library. Or, at least, as close a thing to a library as the mining town offered: the back room of the alchemist’s shop, where the gnome shopkeeper kept a few volumes of lore. When Styx’s research bore fruit, the others became interested – even the PCs who had been standing around bored, waiting for the bookish types to finish up. She had been seeking a way to clear out the Gauntlet of Spiragos, aiming to shrink the artifact down to humanoid dimensions. She found a reference to a particular decanter of endless water which was said to lie at the center of a swamp only a few days’ travel to the southwest. The party formed around this quest, and adjourned to the nearest tavern.

While most of the party were carousing downstairs, Necro went upstairs to set up a brazier with some expensive incense. It didn’t take long to summon his first familiar, a bat. He sent it out to spy on the others and play pranks for a while. Once that got old, he came downstairs, and offered to let Reaper use the brazier to summon his own familiar. The warlock accepted, summoning a spider.

The next morning, they all left, with Angus the miner-turned-driver handling the first of two wagons. The journey was uneventful, until they entered the swamp itself. The road had narrowed to a muddy track with open water to either side. Thick bushes crowded close to the path.

With a cacophony of croaks, a ragged band of bullywugs attacked from ambush! They jumped from behind bushes, surrounding both wagons and attacking with spears. In the first moments of the fight, Angus was badly wounded and knocked out, while one of the horses was killed outright. The party fought back vigorously, incapacitating many of the frog-men and sending the others running off to the south.

While looting the bodies of the fallen bullywugs, they found a scrap of papyrus with some crude hash marks and an obscure rune. After some discussion, they finally identified the rune as meaning “human babies”.

The bullywugs were stealing babies!

This offense could not stand!

Necro sent his bat winging after the fleeing bullywugs, even as Kristina picked up their trail. Leaving Angus and the wagons behind, the party struggled cross-country. After a time, the bat reported that the bullywugs had gone to ground, inside a building. When the party burst out into the clearing, they saw that it was a house… made of gingerbread.

They licked it. Yup, real gingerbread. They tried to peek in the windows, but to no avail – they were glazed.

Styx did her roguery on the door, pronounced it safe, and opened it a crack to peek through. Inside, she saw a huge kitchen, much bigger than the house could possibly contain. For that matter, the table in the middle of the kitchen was bigger than the entire house! Various over-sized, animated cutlery and kitchen utensils were working industriously. On the far side of the room, a normal, human-sized stairway led up to a closed door.

In a decision that would bring later consequences, they left Necro and RH, the louder members of the party, to watch the door, while the others slipped sneakily inside. They stayed under cover, making their way across the room to the stairs. Along the way, they got a peek inside a cupboard, discovering jars full of eyes and similar unwholesomeness.

Gathering at the door, the party burst inside, surprising three green hags at tea!

The room was on the cozy side. The hags were each sitting in an overstuffed armchair. To one side, they saw a waist-high brass cage, with half a dozen babies inside, who immediately set to wailing. With a roar, Brian crossed the room to attack one of the hags with his greatsword. Reaper used the power of his new ring to throw a web at one corner of the room, trapping two of the hags and making most of the room treacherous ground. Gwar joined Brian in applying two-handed weaponry vigorously to the seated witch, whose defense began to crumble under the powerful blows. Styx wanted to call for Necro and RH, but knew they would never be able to join the fray in time.

One of the trapped hags broke free, rushing up close to the party. Her eyes went black as she unleashed the horrible power of the eyebite. This caused a fearful stir among the PCs, but turned out to be more eye-bark than eye-bite; every PC targeted was able to make the Wisdom save and escape unscathed.

With everybody bunched up so close, it didn’t take long for the party to put down one of the hags, breaking the coven. At that point, it became “every witch for herself”. One of the fey creatures was able to slip past the party and escape out the door, but the last one was surrounded. She fell to her knees, begging for mercy, offering to use her magical powers for the good of the PCs.

For a moment, they considered the offer, but Brian was having none of it. He mercilessly lopped off the hag’s head in mid-plea.

As the gingerbread house began to gently crumble, the party got the babies out of the cage and performed a quick search, discovering much coin, quite a few gems, a potion, and a cap of water breathing. They carried the rescued babies back to the wagon and woke Angus. After a bit of searching, they were able to find a small village nearby, where they handed the lost children back to their relieved parents and enjoyed a feast of thanksgiving.

They say the decanter lies near the center of the swamp…

 

D&D 5E: Scouting and Deception

Since last session, the kids’ schedules diverged a bit, so we ended up having a couple of sessions with varying numbers of players. This provided an opportunity to demonstrate the whole “short rest/long rest” recovery scheme, to both players and DM.

I’ve got this nefarious scheme where I’m trying to leverage D&D for educational purposes. (Hey, it worked on me.) As a part of that, I’ve rejected the seductive path of milestone leveling. When the PCs overcome an obstacle, I award XP, the players do the math, and we see if anybody levels up. I was worried that might slow down the game too badly, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I keep an eye on their XP totals, so I know when they’re getting close to a new level. I try to pace it out so that they level when it’s about time to wrap up for the day.

Reminder, we’re using the adventure, Gauntlet of Spiragos, if only loosely. From this point on, you will surely encounter spoilers. (One thing I did change: the original module has the local goblins being variants with six arms, among other mutations. I left it at just spidery eyes and a poisonous bite. I figured that would emphasize the monstrous nature of… well, you’ll see.)

What Happened

Reaper and RH settled down in a concealed location near the Chasm, keeping watch and eating sandwiches. Styx and Necro went to reconnoiter, approaching the Chasm more closely than before. They discovered that it was a deep, sheer pit. How deep, they could not tell, because a canopy of webs hanging dozens of feet below obscured the view. There were a couple of crude rope bridges, woven from giant spider web, leading from the edge of the pit to a couple of odd stone pillars in the hole’s center.

Taking care to be quiet, the two crossed over the nearest bridge to one of the columns. As they approached, they realized that the column’s surface was riddled with holes, some large enough for a goblin to slip through. Being a slender elf, Styx had no trouble doing the same.

Styx discovered two things. First, upon getting a close look at the column’s surface and interior, her alchemical training allowed her to notice that it was no normal stone, but fossilized bone!

Marveling at the thought of such a large piece of bone, she made her second discovery: the column contained an interior hollow space, dark and thickly coated in cobwebs, that formed a kind of descending spiral staircase. She called to Necro, who was able to squeeze inside with some difficulty. Without keen elven eyes, Necro wasn’t able to see as well in the darkness, so he summoned dancing lights.

They had only descended a short way before they heard something. It sounded like exhausted whimpering, perhaps a wounded creature of some kind. Looking around, they noticed movement a few feet below, behind sheets of webs. A humanoid form?

While they were distracted, the giant puppeteer spider struck! It grabbed Necro around his waist, but wasn’t able to secure Styx. The battle that followed was tense and desperate, fought at close quarters, but in hindsight, the outcome was inevitable. Being grappled by the spider, Necro was an enemy of the spider, within five feet of it, and not incapacitated… which meant Styx could lay down a sneak attack on her every turn. She took it apart.

It turned out the “humanoid form” was really a crude puppet made of webs wrapped around a humanoid skeleton. The spider had worked it like a marionette.

After a shiver at this grisly encounter, the two carried on, taking occasional peeks outside the column to see how they were getting on. Having descended some way, they decided to check the webs outside the column to see if they could support a person’s weight.

As it turns out, Necro is a rather poor climber. Seconds after leaving the inside of the column, he slipped and fell!

The good news was, the webs could support a person, so they quickly stopped his fall. The bad news was, at least some of them were sticky, so he was trapped until he could extricate himself. The further bad news came in the form of a swarm of spiders the size of house cats, looking to see what tasty morsel had fallen into their webs!

Unnoticed on her perch above, Styx reached into her pack and pulled out her lunch. She tossed it in a direction far away from Necro, who held very still. Feeling the impacts on the webs, the spiders were spoofed, and ran off to investigate. While they were out of the picture, Styx quickly climbed down to lend a hand. Working together, they were able to free Necro and return to the dubious safety of the column before the spiders returned.

Descending further, they came to where they could see the bottom of the column’s internal shaft. It opened out onto a makeshift platform, more-or-less filling the entire area of the Chasm. Around the edges of the platform, Styx’s keen eyes could just make out that the Chasm’s walls, at this level, were lined with some kind of metal wall with huts atop it.

Having seen enough, the two quickly and quietly returned to camp. There, they related everything they had seen. The entire party settled down in a concealed camp for the night.

(Overnight, both Necro and Styx leveled up.)

The next morning, the party welcomed back Angus, their dwarven driver, upon his return. Leaving him in charge of the camp, they crept back up to the edge of the Chasm, where Styx and Necro pointed out all that they had seen the day before. Their plan was to retrace their steps, crossing the bridge to the same column, then descending to the bottom of the internal stairway. They set out to follow this plan.

Reaper and RH didn’t care for that plan. Having heard about Necro’s close call, they decided to take the quicker, easier route. They jumped from the edge of the Chasm, trusting the webs would cushion their fall. Reaper insisted that, as a drow, he was good with spiders.

As it happened, he wasn’t all that good with spiders.

The web did catch them, but they hadn’t counted on the stickiness. Reaper isn’t really the athletic sort, so he was quite hampered by it. RH was able to free himself, though, and made his way to the outside wall of the Chasm. The spiders came out to threaten Reaper, who attempted to use drow secrets of spider training, to no avail. In the end, they had to use the same trick as the day before, throwing food as a tasty distraction while they fled.

The party descended in two groups, with Reaper and RH climbing the outside wall while Styx and Necro climbed down the goblin staircase. They hadn’t gone far at all before they realized that the commotion with the spiders above had drawn unwanted attention from below. Inside the column, two small goblins followed by one big goblin were climbing up from below, silently, knives in their teeth! At the same moment, RH and Reaper noticed a goblin climber coming up the outside wall, as well!

RH displayed an unexpected prowess with climbing, moving to defend Reaper, who split his time between harassing the goblin with spells and hanging on for dear life. After taking a few hits, RH used his shield to batter the goblin until it fell.

Inside the column, Necro used dancing lights to light up the vertical battlefield. The goblins engaged with darts, so the PCs advanced to melee. After a short duel featuring several attempts to hide and multiple sneak attacks, the goblins were slain.

Now seeing that splitting up the party has its down side, all four PCs regrouped inside the column. RH helped Reaper as they picked their way across the Chasm on the web.

Reaper took a close, hard look at the body of the larger, “boss” goblin. Reaper is a warlock, who knows Mask of Many Faces, which allows him to cast disguise self at will. While this is his favorite party trick, it hadn’t done him much good thus far, because he can only vary his height by a foot either way. The goblins were too short to imitate. But now that he had a big goblin…

When the party came to the bottom of the stairs, they boldly walked out onto the patchwork platform with Reaper in the lead, disguised as the boss goblin who had just gone up the stairs. They had guessed that the huts around the perimeter were guard posts, so he waved an “all clear” and led the party that way. They had guessed right: a goblin poked its head around the door with a questioning look on its face.

By luck, most of the party speaks the language of the goblins, including Reaper. He explained that he had run into these guys (points at the PCs) who had come to join up with the goblins, since they all worshiped the same titan. This being a religious matter, he had to take it to the matriarch.

The guard saw how this all made sense – or at least enough sense for its pay grade and challenge rating – and so the party was waved towards a big trap door. They slid down on ropes made from webs, descending through open air to a pile of rubble. The elves could see evidence of four tunnels off the main chamber along one wall, and a larger, barricaded tunnel to one side.

They were challenged by a gang of goblins, but again, Reaper went through his “it’s a religion thing” story and again, the goblins bought it. They waved the party through to the barricaded tunnel, escorting them into the presence of the tribe’s champion, a mutated, multi-armed giant of a goblin! Again, Reaper did his song and dance, and again, it worked, at least for a short time.

The tribal champion took the party into the matriarch’s chambers. There, under her questioning, the story started to ravel a bit at the edges. The champion finally put two and two together, moving to attack while shouting a warning at the matriarch. Before she could do much of anything to defend herself, she was charmed, and stood confused while the party dog-piled the champion, quickly silencing him.

Reaper settled down to have a nice conversation with his new best friend. With the keys to the city, so to speak, it didn’t take long for them to get what they wanted. She showed them the goblins’ treasure room, containing several hundred gold pieces’ worth of miscellaneous coin, gems, and jewelry. Then she showed them the tribe’s real treasure, two relics of the titan Spiragos: a dagger and a ring! (No gauntlet, though, even though it had been expected.) Finally, she showed them her secret back door that could be used to escape the Chasm without going back through the entire goblin tribe again.

The party collected the magic items and about 60% of the treasure. (They didn’t want to take all the treasure and leave the whole goblin village destitute.) They then took quick advantage of the matriarch’s secret tunnel, emerging some distance away from the Chasm, and then walking some distance to return to camp. Angus was happy to get on the road immediately, and so they returned to town after three days on the road.

While on the road, RH leveled up, and the party inspected the magic items. It was discovered that the dagger was a +1 weapon with some special poison-related powers, and the ring offered some spider-related spells and powers to warlocks. It was decided that Styx should have the dagger and Reaper should get the ring.

After reflection and research back in town, the party realized…

… (spoiler space, no, don’t look)…

… the entire Chasm had been the gauntlet! The story goes, Spiragos and another giant-sized titan had fought on the site hundreds of years before. At one point, Spiragos fell, plunging one of his hands deep into the earth, where it was momentarily trapped. The other titan took advantage of Spiragos’ situation to cut off the titan’s trapped arm, leaving behind the gauntlet on that hand, the ring on one of the hand’s fingers, and the dagger that the hand had held. Over time, once they were out of contact with their owner’s flesh, the ring and the dagger shrank to human size. The gauntlet remained in contact with the titan’s bones, though, and stayed mega-sized.

Future Plans

Styx wants to go back, take the rest of the treasure, evict all the goblins, excavate all the giant titan bones, and return the gauntlet to human size. It is acknowledged that this might be a higher-level quest.

Everybody wants familiars. Styx wants a pseudodragon, and Reaper wants to research how to befriend a flameskull. (He first wanted a crawling claw, but I guess a skull wreathed in flame is more metal.) Once they get to town and can buy the right incense, though, they’re going to settle for spiders and bats.

 

D&D 5E: The March

Since the kids’ last D&D session, they had the opportunity to go to our Friendly Neighborhood Gaming Store’s annual D&D camp. There, they were exposed to the 5th Edition. They wasted no time telling me that 5E is superior in all ways to my crusty old version. 🙂

So, we abandoned the Cyclopedia and switched to the modern version of the game. Their characters from camp had made it to 2nd level, and they wanted to continue those characters’ careers. To bump up their numbers, we decided to have each kid play two characters simultaneously.

We picked up 5E play with four PCs.  They are Styx II (female wood elf sage/alchemist Rogue 2, with an eye towards Arcane Trickster), Reaper (male drow elf noble Warlock 2), Necro (male-identifying warforged sage Wizard 1, aiming to specialize in conjuration), and Rienhardt (male human noble Paladin 1, also known as “RH”).

Just like the last campaign, I snagged a free adventure to jump-start things; in this case, that adventure was Gauntlet of Spiragos. I’m making little tweaks as I go along, but be warned, there’s still likely to be spoilers.

What Happened

Styx and Reaper were teleported home at the end of the camp adventure, but something went wrong. While the rest of their old party returned to their lives, our heroes were swept away by a strange arcane misfire. They found themselves on the dirt floor of a crude stone hut, far to the north of their previous location. RH had taken shelter in the hut earlier. His initial surprise at the others’ sudden appearance was compounded when he recognized his childhood friend, Reaper.

While Reaper and RH caught up on old times, Styx poked around in the dusty hut, discovering a coffin-like crate. It was locked, but this presented no barrier to an experienced 2nd-level Rogue. When opened, the create proved to contain a mothballed clockwork “robot” with a crystal face. It slowly awakened when Styx started clearing packing materials away from it. Barely able to speak, it introduced itself as Necro. Styx was drawn to Necro by curiosity, while Necro took Styx to be his creator, and thus worthy of loyalty.

When discovered, Necro had an old piece of parchment clutched in his hand, which proved to be a map. After some discussion and orientation, the party decided that the map pointed towards a location called the Chasm of Flies, and hinted that one might find three magical items there: a ring, a dagger, and a gauntlet. They left the hut and walked up the road a bit to the nearest town, Cragfort, where they got their expedition organized.

Styx and Necro visited an alchemist’s shop, where they became friendly with the gnome shopkeeper and picked up necessary supplies. The shopkeeper provided some scraps of information about the legend of the Chasm of Flies, saying that after it received its name, the infestation of flies had attracted spiders.

Reaper and RH reserved rooms at the inn for the night, and then retired to the common room for carousing. There, they met a dwarf who worked in the local copper mine who liked the way they drank.

Realizing that it would take them several days to travel to the Chasm and back, and being told that opportunities to forage along the way were limited, the party purchased a large amount of rations. Unable to afford mounts, they instead hired the dwarven miner to drive them to the Chasm in his wagon. Bright and early the next day, they left town, heading north. The trip was punctuated with good-natured banter and a steady stream of RH’s sandwiches.

While the party slept on the second night of the trip, Necro stood on watch. He spotted a flicker of movement in the distance. He cast dancing lights, sending the glowing orbs thus produced over to cast some light on the subject while he shouted an alarm. The others awoke to see a goblinoid dressed in black leather, standing surprised and blinking foolishly in the light with knives in hand.

RH came off his bedroll at a sprint. Not bothering to arm himself, he simply tackled the smaller creature, applying a grapple and seeking to beat its head against a nearby rock. The others joined in the dog-pile as well. Once the goblinoid was immobilized, Styx put the point of her rapier against its throat and demanded its surrender. It spat defiance, telling them that people like them didn’t belong here. Styx shrugged and sent it to its reward.

The next morning, they left the hills behind and made their way across the Devils’ March, a wasteland left devastated after magical wars a couple hundred years before. Shortly, they started to hear the baying of hounds in the distance, a sound that seemed to grow closer as they went. They cautiously proceeded, with weapons close at hand. It wasn’t long before the more keen-eyed of the group spotted a humanoid figure in the distance, half-running, half-staggering towards them.

Only seconds after they first saw the person, he was brought down by a pair of large dogs. The party shouted at the dogs, who raised their eyes towards our heroes, revealing themselves to be partially-rotted undead. They howled once, then charged. Their howls were answered as two more undead hounds came over the ridge.

The heroes jumped off the wagon and ran to engage. Styx had to use acrobatics to avoid being surrounded, and would have ran away, if she weren’t forced to run back to aid Necro, who had been pulled off his feet by one of the dogs. RH caved in one of the dogs with a single swing of his warhammer.

In the end, the party stood victorious. The hounds carried no treasure, but each of them was wearing a collar with a tag. The tags bore a rune, something like a simplified sketch of a fanged skull. The party was able to identify the rune as a wizard’s personal rune, but wasn’t able to identify the wizard.

After a short rest, the party carried on into the wasteland. In the early hours of the afternoon, they came within sight of a circular hole in the ground, about 150 feet across. The Chasm!

The party had their driver park the wagon behind a handy boulder, then formed up with RH in the lead to march the last couple hundred yards on foot. As soon as RH stepped out in the open, however, an attacker appeared atop the boulder! It was a strangely-misshapen goblinoid riding a giant spider, who threw a dart at the paladin. The dart bounced off his helmet ineffectively, but then a second goblin popped out of concealment, high above, to harass the rest of the party.

Having no missile weapons, RH drew his warhammer and struck a two-handed blow against the rock, hoping to shatter the surface and bring one of the spider-riding goblins down. It almost worked, forcing the spider to dance quickly upwards to avoid falling.

The magic-users were able to bring down one of the spiders with a combination of acid splash and eldritch blast. Its rider fell to the ground, where it stood to find itself at melee distance. It bared its needle-sharp teeth, ready to fight like a cornered rat.

Styx tried to use her short bow to cripple the other goblin’s spider, but wasn’t able to make the shot. Commenting that she was really coming to dislike the bow, she drew her rapier and ran acrobatically up the rock face to where the goblins lurked. There, she grabbed a handhold and wounded its spider. The spider bit back, injecting its paralyzing poison. Styx was left alive, but unconscious and unable to move, her hand locked closed around its perilous hold.

While the one goblin bit at RH and Reaper and the other played hide-and-snipe, Necro tried a desperate gamble. He cast sleep, knowing that RH was inside the area of effect, but hoping that the goblins would be affected before him. Hoping in vain, as it turned out; while one of the goblins and the surviving spider did fall asleep, so did RH!

The other goblin turned and ran. It ducked for a hiding place, eluding Reaper, but Necro spotting it where it lurked. Found out, it scurried up the side of the boulder and vanished over the edge of the top. After a few moments of confusion, the party spotted it when it broke cover on the far side of the rock, running swiftly for the rim of the Chasm. Reaper stepped backwards to get a clear shot, then took the goblin down with a well-aimed eldritch blast to the leg.

The party rescued Styx from her perch. RH laid on hands, healing her and bringing her back to consciousness, but couldn’t do anything about the paralysis. Necro examined her and concluded that she needed an hour or so to get over it. Accordingly, the group settled down for a rest.

While they waited, RH and Necro performed some interrogation. RH spoke the Goblin language, and Necro loomed threateningly. (He would have engaged in some light torture, just to make sure no lies were told, but RH wouldn’t stand for it.) They learned that the Chasm was home to a tribe of spider-like goblinoids. The captives didn’t know anything about any magical items, but said that if there were any such items in the Chasm, they would likely be held by the tribe’s matriarch.

Having extracted all the information they were likely to, the party loaded the bound captives onto the wagon and instructed their driver to take them some way out into the wastelands and turn them loose. He happily agreed to undertake this task, unloading a day or so of rations before driving off, whistling cheerfully.

The party turned their eyes towards the Chasm and the expected treasures within.

 

D&D Known World, Session #5: Troglodytes

The kids carried on, without the guest players. Despite the scuffle that broke out last time, they decided to give the magic sword to Timi, the halfling henchman.

What Happened:

Being out of spells and low on hit points, the party decided to camp out in the easily-defended room with the pit trap and the bed. During the night, Kohncrete and Nautical left with the charmed orc, to do some scouting, but they never returned. The next morning, Anya prayed over Styx, healing his wounds, before they set out for the day’s exploration.

Carefully working their way past the pit trap, they paused at the door so Styx could listen and peek through the keyhole. He heard voices, and observed a group of troglodytes dragging a bound woman into place in front of a stone idol shaped like a humanoid alligator. While the trogs chanted, Styx slipped up behind them, making off with a couple of stone clubs and taking up a position behind the dagger-wielding priest.

Shouting war cries, the rest of the party burst from the room and engaged the trogs from behind. Everyone but Styx was sickened by the troglodytes’ terrible stench. Shadow charmed one, while the others fought to the bitter end.

The party took a bit of damage, and used a couple of spells, but was left in generally good shape. Their new troglodyte ally was dubbed Clod the Trog. Once woken, the would-be sacrifice introduced herself as Aniria, a cleric. She healed Styx, who took special pride in the rescue.

For a moment, it looked like there would be a disagreement about who would get the glowing, obviously-magical dagger, but then Styx noticed the alligator-idol’s two gem-set eyes. He climbed the idol to pry out its eyes, in approved old-school fashion, while Shadow put the dagger in his belt.

With that settled, they turned around and retraced their steps. They went all the way back to the room where they had appeared after falling victim to a teleport trap. There, they again went through the “everybody in the room, close the door, open the door” cycle a couple more times, just to make sure they didn’t go anywhere. They didn’t.

Since the trap still seemed to be one-way, they went back the way they came, re-examining the route. Thinking it led upwards, they returned to a stairway they had marked on their map, but discovered that it actually led down. No thanks!

Taking a right where they had previously taken a left, they came to a door. When Styx listened at the door, he heard nothing, but he detected the telltale smell of trogs. Clod wasn’t able to talk to the others, as none of them shared a common language, but he pointed at the door, shaking his head vigorously and holding up six fingers.

Rather than taking a head-on approach, they decided to try for subterfuge. They sent Clod in, while everyone else hid. After a few minutes, Clod returned, bringing one of the troglodytes out with him. Distracted by Clod, the trog was easy prey to a group backstab.

Shadow liked the way that had worked out, but wanted to speed up the process. Pulling a chicken leg from Timi’s rations, he opened the door and waved it at the five surprised troglodytes, shouting “Come and get it!”

Of course, all five charged. Battle was joined, as it so often is, at the doorway. Aniria tried to help, but with no armor and only a stick of firewood for a weapon, she wasn’t all that effective and soon fell back, wounded. Timi was knocked unconscious and Shadow had to drag her out of the melee. In the end, everyone was wounded, some badly, but only one troglodyte remained standing against them. It chose to turn and flee rather than carry on. The party chose to let it go, rather than pursue.

Once more entirely out of spells and low on hit points, the party decided to go to ground again, in the trogs’ old room.

 

D&D Known World, Session #4: The Endless Tunnels play tricks

The kids’ D&D adventures continue, this time with a couple of guests. As of last session, Styx had become a 4th-level thief, while Shadow is still a 3rd-level magic-user. This time, they were joined by a couple of guest players, bringing in some new PCs: Arnt Knott and his identical twin brother, Nautical, both 2nd-level fighters, and Kohncrete Sinderbloke, a 2nd-level dwarf. The party was rounded out by the surviving henchmen and hirelings: Bob the Goblin, who failed his save and therefore continued on, still charmed; Anya the 2nd-level cleric, now receiving spells; and Timi, 1st-level halfling.

This session, the kids experienced several classic D&D moments for the first time. Sadly, one of those classic moments was a squabble within the party over magical treasure, explaining why the session came to a somewhat-abrupt end. On a happier note, after looking at some of the illustrations in the Cyclopedia, they finally realized that “halfling” means “hobbit”. Much to their relief: it turns out they had been worrying that Timi’s hairy feet were a sign of something sinister. 🙂

As for our guests… They were adults with D&D experience, but only going back so far as 2nd Edition. They seemed a little appalled at some of the differences: “3d6 in a row” was one thing, but “Dwarf is a class” needed some explaining. They were good sports about the weirdness, though, even when… well, it’ll come up in the story. The guest PCs come in partway through the story.

What happened:

After the great haul last time, the whole party was eager to return to the  The Endless Tunnels of Enlandin (copyright © 2003 by Stefan Poag). After consideration of the 3-day travel time to the dungeon, most of the party decided to pack extra rations. Shadow decided he would save the money and live off the land, hunting for food. That didn’t turn out so well, as he was only able to find food on one day of the trip. Rather than let him starve, Timi shared some of her fresh rations with him, after extracting a promise of repayment upon their return to civilization.

Read the rest of this entry »

D&D Known World, Session #3: Entrance to the Endless Tunnels

The continuing adventures of the kids’ first D&D characters, using the rules from the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia. Last session, both PCs again leveled up, bringing us to Styx, the 3rd level thief, and the Shadow, 3rd level magic-user. They added a hobgoblin to their charmed gang, so their starting henchmen were Bob the goblin (also known as Boblin and, in formal moments, Robert the Goblin) and the hobgoblin, variously referred to as Steve, Joe, Steve-Joe, Joven (half Joe, half Steven), and “hey you”.

This session, the kids grappled with encumbrance. I had been taking care of it for them, while showing them what I was doing; this session, I had them look up numbers and do the math for themselves. The only question from the younger of the two: “How many coins can I carry before I can’t move?” Enough to bring a tear to a 16th level fighter’s eye, it is.

They also independently invented the “15 minute adventuring day”, as we’ll see in due course.

SPOILER ALERT: This session leads our intrepid heroes into The Endless Tunnels of Enlandin, an adventure Copyright © 2003 by Stefan Poag. If you don’t want its secrets given away, you might want to skip this session.

The adventure describes itself as “An old school adventure for 5-8 low-level characters” which made me nervous in the beginning. The introduction gives some history, though, saying that this dungeon was used as a starter for new 1st level characters. I figure, two 3rd level PCs plus henchmen stack up to just about as much as six 1st level PCs, especially since they would level up as they went.

What happened:

Having gotten into the groove of things, our heroes went shopping. While in Threshold, Shadow scanned all their accumulated treasure with detect magic. Finding nothing new, they sold off the jewelry from the ghoul room for a sizable profit, then turned the money around to improve their gear. Having noted his attribute adjustments (penalty to melee for low Strength, bonus with missile from high Dexterity), Styx picked up a short bow. Shadow bought a backpack. They considered buying a healing potion, but decided it was too expensive (at the AD&D pricing, from the 1st edition Dungeon Master’s Guide).

One of Styx’s unsavory friends approached him with an offer to sell him a treasure map. He eagerly accepted. The map showed the location of the long-lost castle of the Mage of Enlandin, about three days’ travel from town.

So, they started thinking about henchmen.

Read the rest of this entry »

GURPS Supers Character: Korrasami

Another 600-point super, for the same game as Jade Rocket. This one is for my wife; she’s been observing all this GURPS stuff for some time, and has decided to join in. I worked out the details of the character under her direction, along with some feedback from the GM.

She started me off with “You know Raven from the Teen Titans?”

heroforgescreenshot-2

Korrasami

600 points
Age 19; Human; 5’5″; 120

ST 10 [0]; DX 12 [40]; IQ 16 [120]; HT 12 [20].
Damage 1d-2/1d; BL 20 lbs.; HP 10 [0]; Will 17 [5]; Per 16 [0]; FP 12 [0].
Basic Speed 6 [0]; Basic Move 6 [0]; Block 7 (DX); Dodge 9; Parry 10 (Brawling).

Social Background
TL: 8 [0].
CF: Western (Native) [0].
Languages: English (Native) [0].

Advantages
Alternate Abilities: Magical Aura [212]
Warp (Blink; Extra Carrying Capacity: Extra-Heavy Encumbrance; Magical; No Strain; Pact: Discipline of Faith; Range Limit 10 miles; Reliable +6) [185]; Warp (Blind Only; Magical; Pact: Discipline of Faith; Range Limit 10,000 miles; Reliable +9; Takes Recharge: 1 hour; Tunnel: forms before you teleport) [135/5]

Alternative Abilities: Projected Psychic Energy [128]
Crushing Attack 5 (Double Knockback; Magical; Variable) [29/5]; Crushing Attack 5 (Area Effect (2 yd); Magical; Mobile (+1); Persistent; Requires Concentrate; Wall: Rigid: Any shape desired) [67/5]; Healing (Affects Self; Magical; Pact: Discipline of Faith) [39/5]; Telekinesis 25 (Based On Will; Magical; Pact: Discipline of Faith; Visible) [100]

Attractive [4]; Claim to Hospitality (worshipers) 2 [2]; Damage Resistance 4 (Tough Skin) [12]; Damage Resistance 5 (Force Field; Magical; Nuisance Effect: ability makes you obvious; Pact: Discipline of Faith) [24]; Danger Sense [15]; Detect (Supernatural phenomena) [20]; Empathy [15]; Luck (Defensive) [12]; Regeneration (Slow: 1HP/12Hr) [10]; Teleportation Talent 4 [20].
Perks: Attribute Substitution (Body Sense based on Will); Attribute Substitution (Innate Attack (Gaze) based on Will); Cloaked [3].

Disadvantages
Discipline of Faith (Mysticism) [-10]; Enemy (Demonic culture) (medium-sized group, some formidable or super-human) (6 or less; Hunter) [-15]; Nightmares (12 or less) [-5]; Pacifism (Cannot Harm Innocents) [-10]; Reputation (spooky) -1 (All the time; Almost everyone) [-5]; Sense of Duty (Mundane humanity) (Entire Race) [-15]; Weakness (Contact with holy water and artifacts) (1d per minute) (Rare) [-10]; Wealth (Struggling) [-10]; Weirdness Magnet [-15]; Xenophilia (15 or less) [-5].

Quirks
Can Be Turned By True Faith; Dead Giveaway (Always wears a cloak and hood); Dorky; Hated by fundamentalist followers of Abrahamic religions; Photosensitivity

Skills
Autohypnosis-15 (Will-2) [1]; Body Sense-16 (Will-1) [2]; Brawling-14 (DX+2) [4]; Detect Lies-17 (Per+1) [1]; Exorcism-15 (Will-2) [1]; Fortune-Telling (Dream Interpretation)-18 (IQ+2) [1]; Hidden Lore (Demon Lore)-16 (IQ+0) [2]; Hidden Lore (Spirit Lore)-15 (IQ-1) [1]; Innate Attack (Gaze)-18 (Will+1) [2]; Intimidation-16 (Will-1) [1]; Meditation-15 (Will-2) [1]; Mind Block-16 (Will-1) [1]; Religious Ritual (Demon worship)-14 (IQ-2) [1]; Scholar!-16 (IQ+0) [24].

Equipment
Boots, High (Styling (+1); 6 lb); Cell Phone (4 oz); Cloth Gloves; Light Cloak (Styling (+2); 2 lb); Mail Coif (Titanium; 1.33 lb); Mail Hauberk (Titanium; 8.33 lb).

Background and Origin Story

It’s not something that’s necessarily obvious about the world of “Campaign City”, but as it happens, there are quite a few folks who worship demons. They’re just normal folks, going about their normal business, aside from their behind-closed-doors religious observances. It being a comic book world, some of the demons being worshiped are real.

Korrasami grew up in Hell, raised by those demons. They told her that she had been born to a family of mortal demon-worshipers. Almost from birth, they said, she had displayed magical powers. Thus, she had been an excellent sacrifice. Her mortal family handed her over to their demonic overlords.

She doesn’t know if any of this is true. Demons are notorious liars. She’s heard several variations on the story, including one where her magical talent comes from being the descendant of a demon.

In Hell, Korrasami was trained in the use of her magical abilities. Being trained by demons in the mystic arts is just about as pleasant as you would expect it to be. The expectation was that once her training was completed, she would be used as a weapon, or tool, or both, by her owners.

Instead, when she got a chance, she jumped ship and escaped into the mortal realm. She’s been on Earth, in “Campaign City”, for a few weeks, now. She’s making a modest living for herself, working as a fortune-teller and a sort of unordained minister to the same kind of suburban satanists as her parents.

Explanation and highlights

Attributes

Extraordinarily intelligent, and even more extraordinarily strong-willed. Even though she doesn’t have any telepathic powers, I expect her to end up protecting the group from psionicists, mostly because, with her Will, she’ll be nearly impossible for them to affect.

Social Background

So, weird thing about comic-book Hell… Apparently, it’s TL 8, and they speak English there. Probably with a California accent. You can tell, because Korrasami has the standard, default package of TL 8, Cultural Familiarity with the Western world, and English as a native language.

The reasoning here is to avoid extraneous complexity. We considered the possibility of having “Demontongue” as a native language and so forth, but decided that it would just complicate things and wasn’t necessary to the character. Anyway, one might argue that “realistically” a race of demons living in a different dimension would have their own language, culture, and so forth, but in the comics, none of that ever seems to matter much. Smooth-tongued contract-writing demons don’t ever seem to suffer a penalty for being unfamiliar with Earth culture. English-speaking wizards never summon French-speaking demons.

Therefore, Korrasami’s particular comic-book Hell has a lot of commerce with and understanding of the mortal realm. They might prefer a medieval aesthetic, with swords and cloaks and brooding castles, but they still know all about cell phones and automatic transmissions. Some of them come and go, working to taint souls or some other evil scheme. They bring the news back with them.

Advantages

Yeah, yeah, I know, I said one of the goals was to minimize complexity, after showing a character sheet that seems to have two of everything. Let’s break it down into pieces.

Korrasami has two sets of Alternate Abilities. First is her “Magical Aura”, which has two versions of Warp, one alternate to the other. The second is “Projected Psychic Energy”, which includes her outward-directed powers, mainly variations on psychokinesis.

The two flavors of Warp amount to “quick, close, and small” versus “big, showy, elaborate portal”. Under normal conditions, she’ll use the first version, with Blink and No Strain. This is a quick, Nightcrawler-style “bamf”. With Reliable and her Teleportation Talent, she’ll have a roll of 26, before penalties for time and distance. With Blink, she’ll be able to perform a teleport as an active defense at that level. (Eek!) The second version of Warp opens a portal, and can reach any where on the planet. It operates with a roll of 29, which is good, because a jump of over 1000 miles is going to be at a -8 for distance, plus a -5 for teleporting blind, putting her back down to an effective skill of 16 before we consider the modifier for time spent. It’s likely she’ll be taking 30 seconds, for no penalty. Once she’s opened such a portal, she needs to recover for an hour before she can open another.

Essentially, she’s got a teleport power that’ll carry her and a friend around the battlefield or across town, and another that’ll be used in Act 1 to drop the team into whatever exotic locale they’ll be in for this issue.

Next up, Projected Psychic Energy. The flagship power is Telekinesis sufficient to lift 1.25 tons. She uses this to fly. She can also project her psychokinetic energy as a 5d cr attack that does double knockback; an average damage roll should throw a normal human back a distance of four hexes. Alternatively, she can project that same force as a protective force field that lasts as long as she concentrates on it. Finally, she can project that same energy with such finesse that she can heal wounds, even her own.

(Regarding that projected force field, I would just like to say, the way GURPS does walls just feels weird. I mean, I can appreciate the way modify-attack-to-wall generalizes them, so you build “Wall of Stone” the same as “Wall of Fire”, but… weird. Makes it look like she’s got two different attacks, rather than an attack and a defense.)

Korrasami’s Claim to Hospitality comes from ministering to those suburban satanists: from time to time, she can find a spare couch to crash on and a refrigerator to raid.

She’s fairly rugged on her own, with DR 4 from tough skin, but she can also summon a personal force field for additional protection. She also heals quicker than a normal human. These abilities might point to demonic ancestry, or they might be side-effects of growing up in the alien environment of Hell, or they might be the result of thousands of hours of mystic rituals aimed at gathering magical power.

After a lifetime spent in Hell, she’s always on guard, giving her an almost-supernatural Danger Sense. Her magical studies have made her sensitive to any kind of supernatural phenomena. (Demons, yes. Magic, yes. Psychic powers? I’m not sure, we’ll see what the GM says.) Despite a lifetime spent in Hell, she possesses Empathy, which might be the root of her rebellion and escape.

Korrasami has three Perks. Her Body Sense and Innate Attack skills are magical in nature, and so they’re based on sheer Will. She has Cloaked, because in Hell, if you can’t rock a cloak with style, they send you down to the sulfur mines to prod the damned souls of shoplifters and people who dog-ear books instead of using a bookmark.

Why two Warps? It got too expensive trying to do everything all at once. Splitting the power in two made it much more affordable. It also keeps her from popping over to the campaign equivalent of STAR Labs’ Tokyo campus to grab the World’s Biggest McGuffin Ray when we realize, three seconds into the big fight, that a McGuffin Ray would be really useful right about now… while still allowing her to deliver the team to exotic locations with impressive scenery… which I’m sure the GM will appreciate.

Why Healing, Affects Self, and Regeneration? That one’s mostly a belt-and-suspenders tactic. I figure, if she gets a little scuffed, she can heal herself up between scenes, but if she’s beat up so bad she’s unconscious, she’ll still have the Regeneration ticking away in the background. Comic book characters bounce back extraordinarily quickly, so I think just about any super can support Slow Regeneration, just as “plot protection”.

Another thing to consider about the Healing/Regeneration thing is the limitations. Healing is Magical (-10%) and has the Pact limitation, meaning it might not always be available. The Regeneration, on the other hand, is built-in and just keep on going.

Finally, that Pact limitation that pops up all over the place. Korrasami spends a lot of time meditating, burning incense, chanting odd phrases (“Azarath Metrion Zinthos!”), and so forth. If she doesn’t do this, she loses the mystic focus required to perform a lot of her magic tricks. If she can’t meditate, she can’t teleport, she can’t heal, she can’t pick up small cars with her mind. On the other hand, she doesn’t need to meditate to raise a telekinetic wall or blast things with brute force. Those are the manifestations of her raw magical abilities that she displayed even as a child.

Disadvantages

Korrasami’s former owners (or “family”, as they would have it) would like to get her back under their control, but it’s hardly their top priority. They’re hunting her, but on 6 or less.

Her upbringing has left her with recurring Nightmares. She also has spooky ways that are often off-putting. The same process (or supernatural genetics) that gives her such tough skin and rapid healing also left her vulnerable to holiness, just like any demon.

Still, even Hell itself couldn’t affect the core virtue of her soul: she cannot bring herself to harm the innocent, and she feels a responsibility to protect those who are lucky enough to know nothing of the magical dangers lurking behind the surface of reality.

Understanding what it’s like to be a mystic fish-out-of-water in a mundane world, Korrasami can sometimes have a bit of a soft spot for those who are strange, unusual, or even freakish.

Like calls to like, and so weird calls to weird. Being a practitioner of the Dark Arts, she’s always running into the strange things that shouldn’t exist.

Quirks

Korrasami is allergic to True Faith, just like she’s allergic to holy objects. The atmosphere in Hell being what it is, she’s somewhat sensitive to bright lights.

Hell’s fashion sense run towards the baroque, but has one underlying constant: the cloak makes the demon. Korrasami will inevitably end up wearing a hooded cloak if there’s any possible way to do so.

Being an admitted spawn of Hell with demonic magical powers and a goth style, Korrasami isn’t all that popular with fundamentalists of several different religions.

Being unsure of herself among humans in social situations, sometimes Korrasami will overthink her actions and display Dorkiness.

Skills

Mostly self-explanatory for a character who was taught to meditate by demons. She’s got a bit of Brawling, despite not being a physical, in-your-face melee fighter, because sometimes life in Hell requires an uppercut to the chin. Her Detect Lies is extraordinary, because she learned by penetrating the deceptions of the best liars in the multiverse.

Korrasami’s flagship skill is Scholar! at IQ.  This stands in for a lot of the “book learnin'” that wizards need to have. In particular, it’s the reason why Korrasami can get away with being a wizard without Occultism.

Korrasami makes her living with a combination of Fortune-Telling and Religious Ritual (Demon Worship). This isn’t enough to generate much income, but it has the benefit of being low-profile.

GCA put in a footnote saying that her Intimidation might be affected by her spooky Reputation. I suspect Korrasami might get more mileage out of “… or I’ll eat your soul” than she would out of “… or I’ll beat you up”.

Gear

Hell has TL8 metallurgy and a pseudo-medieval style. Korrasami came to Earth wearing a mail coif and hauberk made from some hellish metal that more-or-less approximates titanium. Those, a pair of knee-high boots, a pair of gloves, and (of course) a well-made cloak make up her costume.

Since she’s been on Earth, Korrasasmi has established herself well enough in modern society to obtain a cell phone.

 

Peter's ESL

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Set Adrift, On 3d6

A brief look into my life through GURPS.

Northport

adventures in designing a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy setting

False Machine

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Dreams in the Lich House

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Game Geekery

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

DYVERS

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Dark Paths and Wandered Roads

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Roll and Shout

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Dice and Discourse

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Ravens N' Pennies

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

One Yard Hex

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Nature Kills: A Hexcrawl for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Richard's Dystopian Pokeverse

Mostly Old-school RPG musings

Orbs and Balrogs

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

RPG Snob

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

yog-blogsoth

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Spiderweb in the Corner

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

The Tao of D&D

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Game in the Brain

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape