S&W Solo: City of Spires (Session 1)

This is the first session of my dungeon crawl series using Swords and Wizardry. My assumptions heading into this game are outlined in Session 0. Alindor’s character card:

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Alindor-Who-Seeks-Righteousness arrives in the City of Spires on a sleek ship, carried across the sea by a merchant-captain of that ancient city beyond time.

Reminder: You can find links to all of my solo plays through my Campaign Logs page.

[Tarot] What does he see when he arrives? 

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The marketplace beside the dock bustles with activity, and Alindor is bewildered by the frenetic city. Animals and children run loose in the streets as merchants hawk wares at passers-by and men and women is strange and alien robes pass with heavily armed retinues ahead and behind.

Does anyone take notice of him? -4: x-no + event
Event: Explore/Structure

Nearly an hour passes while Alindor wanders the streets in obscurity. His chain armor and heavy mace pass unnoticed beside the ornate, gold-trimmed plate worn by the guards in service of what he assumes are noble or holy men.

The city is so vast and strange that it is with some shock that Alindor realizes that his wanderings have brought him to the interior courtyard of a great palace, surrounded on three sides by airy verandas and palisades, and on the fourth by a great stone wall whose open gate he passed through without noticing.

Is he in trouble for his trespass? +0: yes

He tries to leave discreetly, but the occupants notice his presence. The guards stop him before he can pass through the gates once more. They demand to know his purpose.

CHA test: 19 vs 10 (fail)

He quickly explains that he has come to the city from far away, and he’s simply looking for work but became lost. The guards have little patience for his story or his naiveté. Alindor quickly learns that foreigners–particularly unproven foreigners without purpose–are ill-received in the City of Spires.

“Unproven?” Alindor asks. “Is there one who will hire me?”

Do the guards know of a place where a foreigner can work? +2: yes

The men direct Alindor to the foreign quarter. It is a long walk and a world away from the area where he was found, and even poorer and more tightly packed than the merchant’s quarter where he first landed.

Can he find an inn or tavern? +6: yes

The Biting Dog tavern lies beside the main avenue within the foreign quarter. It is cramped and smoky, but the faces within don’t look at him with immediate distaste–only mistrust.

Are there any followers of Alindor’s gods? -3: yes
[Tarot] Who? Knight of Cups

A mountain of a man, clearly very drunk, stands up when he notices Alindor in the tavern’s dim light. “A man of god!” he exclaims, perhaps a bit too loudly. He calls Alindor over and demands to buy him a drink.

Alindor accepts, parched and famished after his long day. Eventually, he asks the knight what brings him to the City, for it’s clear that their own god is unknown here.

Was the knight part of a company that fell in the Undercity? +0: yes

The knight explains how the City claimed his men, sent to recover an artifact thought lost from his homeland long ago.

Did he find it? -4: no

Turning briefly bitter, the knight explains that they found not even a hint of the thing in the twisting ruins of the Undercity, and he believes now that his companions died for nothing.

Why did Alindor come to the city? Frightful/Prophecy (wow. What a great result!)

Alindor clings to the word the knight used–the Undercity. This is why he crossed the sea! The ancient prophecies had written of an evil that would stir beneath the eternal city, and that could mean nothing other than this City of Spires, old before the foundations of the world had been fully set.

Can the knight guide him to the Undercity’s entrance? +4: yes
Will he go in with him? -4: no

“I can show you the way,” the knight says, “though I urge you not to use it, brother Alindor. There is little more than death down there, and a few baubles to tempt the foolish.” He tilts a handful of small gems onto the table, worth enough to feed a village for a week. “A fair sum, but little for the life of my friends and brothers-in-arms.”

Is the entrance far? -2: no, but…

The knight refuses to show him the way to the entrance, not now. “I’ve had too much to drink, and the sun is too far west. I’ve had enough of the city’s darkness for now. In the morning, priest. I’ll take you then.”

Can Alindor rent a room here for a fair price? +2: yes, but…

The innkeeper’s prices are fair–a gold piece buys him a room and board for the evening–but the rooms are all taken.

Can he stay with the knight? +0: no + event
Event: release/solution

The knight, like many of the patrons, is staying in the inn’s overcrowded common room, and there’s no room for another body within.

As Alindor considers asking for a dry spot in the stables, another patron approaches their table.

[Tarot] Who is he? Three of Cups

Tarot -- Three of Cups

The stranger pulls down her hood and reveals herself to be young and beautiful, with long golden hair. She explains that she is the daughter of a magistrate of small power and small consequence in the great city, but that her father recently disappeared while traveling in the foreign quarter and she has traveled here to see if she can learn more of his disappearance.

She suspects that he may be below ground, although she is unwilling to say why she believes as much.

If Alindor is willing to travel to the Undercity, she would be willing to put him up in an inn elsewhere in town, and she is sure her father would reward Alindor quite fairly if he were found.

Alindor, drawn by the tale of the girl’s missing father and coming to understand how important a contact in the local government might be for navigating this foreign city, quickly agrees.

Does anything happen overnight? -2: yes
What? Distract/Leader

The inn where Alindor stays is comfortable without being ostentatious, and it is not far from where he met the knight. Making plans to meet the knight again in the morning, he goes with the girl to take what rest he can.

In the morning, he rises and waits to meet his new employer. When she doesn’t come down into the inn’s common room, he goes up to check on her. He notices then that her door is cracked, and when he peeks inside he sees that the room is empty.

Are there any signs of a struggle? +0: yes

The bedsheets have been tossed on the floor and the room’s furniture is scratched and upended. Alindor can’t believe that he didn’t hear the ruckus the night before.

Are there any clues as to her whereabouts? -4: yes
Do they point to the Undercity? +2: x-yes

A message, carved with a knife across the windowsill, reads: The Iron Hand will accept no law from above.

Does the innkeeper know about the Iron Hand? +4: yes + event
Event: Disturb/Pain

The innkeeper is pale when Alindor returns to the common room, and he nearly faints when Alindor mentions the “Iron Hand.”

“My stable boy found this just a moment ago,” he says, drawing Alindor out to the rear of the inn. Lifting the lift from a bucket of feed, he shows the priest a severed hand, too small for a man but too large for a child, lying across the blackened grain.

“I’m afraid for your young woman, if she’s fallen afoul of the Hand,” he says. “The law will not help her–it does not go beneath. Her father should have known that, as well.” The man says no more about it, but it’s clear to Alindor that the girl and her father–more well known than she let on–have made enemies of dangerous men.

Worried now, Alindor gathers his things and runs to the inn where the knight waits for him. There is little time–he must find the entrance to the Undercity.

Conclusion

Dang! A very interesting first session, although it took quite a while to work up an excuse to find the dungeon. maybe I should have just started by going in in the first place? I like the framing story though, and this may help Alindor get work below ground if he survives. I had expected the father to be a macguffin victim, but now it’s working out into a story of a minor magistrate who maybe went after a crime group a little above his weight. Interesting!

Next time: I’d better recruit a team of whatever desperate men I can find and head underground, hoping to find either the girl or her father if I can.

One thought on “S&W Solo: City of Spires (Session 1)

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