Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 9

After preventing the forces of Chaos from undermining the inner bailey, the Banner of the Bleeding Wheel has spent a few days burying its dead, resting, and getting to know the other residents of the Keep.

Rules Changes.

I really dislike having to keep track of a bunch of kinds of dice. I’m working to winnow the dice used at the gaming table to a d20 or two, a d100 (for Mythic), and a couple of d6s. As such, I’ll be remaking the PCs to accommodate the following rules:

  • d6 Hit Dice. Fighters and monsters get d6+1, thieves and clerics get d6, magic-users get d6-1.
  • d6 Damage. Two-handed weapons deal d6+1. One-handed weapons deal d6. Small weapons (for magic-users and less-conspicuous carrying) deal d6-1.
  • Combat styles. Fighters can choose to dual wield (+1 to hit), carry a two-handed weapon (+1 to damage), or carry a shield (+1 AC). Clerics can also carry a shield, but no other class may choose from these options.
  • d6 Specialist skills. Thieves in Labyrinth Lord are boring. I’ll be switching to Lamentations of the Flame Princess’s specialist skill selection (roll-under on d6). Modesty is the party’s scout–learning Search 3, Bushcraft 2, and Sneak 2. Miles is their second-story man, learning Tinker 3, Search 2, and Architecture 2.
  • Reduced coin clutter. I’ll either be rounding copper pieces away or will be replacing them with bulky but obviously valuable trade goods–iron bars or silverware sets, etc. (I believe this idea was Gerard Neval’s). PCs can carry a number of coins equal to ST x 10. I will be tracking all found coins and distributing them only at adventure’s end. I’ll be assuming that 1 gold piece is approximately equal to a day’s salary for an average laborer, so prices will be adjusted when clearly out of line. An ale at the tavern doesn’t cost 5 silvers, for example, and no one would be willing to adventure for 1 gold per day.

Scene. Keep Business.

Setup: Finish up mundane business in the Keep and get a mission
Chaos: 2 vs 2-, Event!
Event: Move toward a thread – adjourn/reality (supernatural phenomenon)

Recovered and rallied, the Banner of the Bleeding Wheel makes ready to sally forth into the wilderness. Hannibal sets the men and women of the company to their duties as he reports to the inner bailey for a scheduled meeting with the Castellan.

Reminder: You can find links to every one of my solo session game reports on my Campaign Logs page.

The [m/w] man is not in a good mood, but he appears happy to see the adventurer. “Mr. Emmitt. Thank you for coming. Your timing couldn’t be better.”

He waves to a small, badly scarred foreigner standing beside a corner table. “This is Tangrir–one of our scouts.” The scout nods toward Hannibal. “He just returned from ranging far to the east. Tell him.”

The scout waves Hannibal over to the table. A roughly-drawn map of the region is weighted open. “We’re here,” the scout says, “and the forces of Chaos seem to be dug in here, into a system of caves in a small valley [09-03]. We’ve seen light fighting throughout the woods–and even here in the Keep, as you know–but other than these bands of saboteurs and bandits we have seen little in organized activity from the east.”

“Except?” Hannibal asks.

Tangrir nods. “Except. Yes. Something’s changed. My scouts and I have been watching the caves for nearly two weeks, keeping our eye out for coordinated activity.”

“They’re on the move?”

“If only. Instead, something…strange happened. We’ve been hiding in the woods here [11-02], where the hills give us good visibility toward the Caves and the eastern trails. But we didn’t see the host–we saw lightning.”

“That’s not so strange.”

“Lightning for three days straight, coming from a cloud hovering over the swamplands north-west of the caves. My men couldn’t sleep for the noise, and the power in the air made our skin crawl.”

“That is strange.” Hannibal wishes he’d brought Mercy Rouse with him.

The Castellan steps in. “Indeed. And that’s why we need you. Tangrir’s men are fine scouts, but they aren’t warriors. Take your company and find out what caused this lightning. If it’s a wizard, kill him. If it’s a monster, kill it. We’re prepared to pay [2d4x100] 500 gold pieces for this.”

Hannibal shakes the man’s hand. “It’s what we came here to do.”

+Thread: investigate lightning storm over swamp

Scene. Keep Business (cont’d).

Setup: Prepare for an excursion
Chaos: 2, no roll since this is a continuation

While Hannibal meets with the Castellan and scout, the rest of the company conducts the mundane business of preparing for an expedition.

Is Zephaniah able to sell the extra chainmail they have? +8: No, and… the trader is closed.

Unfortunately, the recent excitement has upset life in the Keep more than they realized. The trader’s shop is closed, and Zephaniah is unable to find anyone else with the means or desire to buy three sets of chainmail. Many other adventuring essentials are also now going to be difficult or impossible to obtain.

Is the shop closed permanently? -2: No.

The shopkeeper’s assistant explains that they’ll reopen when the merchant returns, but his caravan is overdue. Until he returns, though, they’ve little to sell–and the young man certainly isn’t authorized to spend his master’s gold buying used armor.

+Thread: Trader closed
+NPC: missing Trader

Unwilling to throw away armor that could fetch 150 gold pieces, Zephanian takes the chain back with him, to be packed onto the mules when they head out.

While Zephaniah fails to get rid of the companions’ armor, the two scouts attempt to find the party supplies for the journey.

Has the provisioner’s reopened? +0: No.

The provisioner’s shop is still closed as well, although the owner’s son informs them that their father will reopen soon. That’s of little help to the company, though, since they doubt they’ve time to wait for the man to grieve.

“The Watch!” Miles realizes as they muse how to find supplies. “I’ll bet I could talk the Watch into selling us what we need–they owe us at least that much.”

They set out for the yard to find the Corporal or his scribe.

Are they both there? +0: Yes

They approach the Corporal and explain the situation.

[(sociable) friendly – support – experience]
“After all you’ve done for us, I doubt very much the Castellan would begrudge our supporting you in your fight–at least as far as this,” the Corporal says.

Will they provide rations free? -4: No, but… cheap

“How much do you need?”

“Supplies for eight, for a week. We’ll be back sooner than that, hopefully.”

The corporal nods. “We can spare it, but in these days we can’t afford to be incautious. My scribe will settle with you.” He walks off and leaves the scribe to finish dealing with the scouts.

The scribe sends a few runners to fetch the rations. While they are gone, he tallies up the Keep’s costs. “I can let you have them for 16 gold pieces, total.”

It’s a better price than they were expecting–a lot better. “It’s fair,” Miles says, trying to decide whether to bargain for an even better price. In the end, he counts out the coins and passes them over without any further dickering. The pair of scouts wait for the runner to return before directing them to load up the company’s donkeys.

While the others prepared supplies and tried to sell chain, Richard and Balthasar set out to buy the party as many crossbows as they could find.

Can they find any, given the trader’s closure? -4: No.

They return to the inn empty-handed and disappointed, where they meet Zephaniah in the same mood.

Israel heads to the local church, where he drops three gold pieces in the donation box as a tithe and spends an hour in quiet prayer.

CHA check to learn a rumor for the local priest: 18 vs 10-, fail

He introduces himself to the local priest before he leaves, but the two manage only a bit of smalltalk before the priest excuses himself to care for another parishioner. He returns to the inn to meet up with the others.

They don’t have long to stew. Hannibal returns in the late morning and gathers the company to him before explaining their mission.

Scene. Travel to the Swamp.

Setup: Overland travel toward the swamp.
Chaos: Level 2, no roll.

The trip to the swamp will be two days, if they make good time. They set out from the Keep with both donkeys in tow. They travel in a loose line, with Modesty ranging ahead.

Did the Keep’s men leave an easy trail to follow? +0: No.

The company gathers around midday, after the Keep has disappeared from sight behind them. Hannibal calls Modesty to him a few dozen yards from the others.

“You know where we’re going?” he asks.

She waves in the direction they’d been traveling. “Northeast,” she says. “There’s no trail–little need for one, I expect. The Keep’s men are good at covering their tracks.”

“You can find our way?”

“A swamp is hard to miss. I’ll get us there.”

The company finishes its meal and the soldiers heft their packs, then they move out.

Travel events (story cubes): trees – leaf – pine cone [the most mundane roll possible for a woods adventure]

The day’s journey is slow and monotonous, winding down into a tree-filled valley.

Bushcraft (2): 1 vs 2-, success

Modesty takes them through the densest part of the wood, taking care to lead them over ground where they’ll leave little sign of their passage. Her guidance is good, and dusk settles on them after a long and–thankfully–uneventful day.

The company eats 8 rations.

They rise early and set out just after dawn.

Day description (story cube): clock – mountain – bugs

The morning is hard going as the party scrambles to cross ground broken by heavy roots and crossed by deep rivulets. [Bushcraft to avoid losing time: 1 vs 2-, success] Modesty leads the party beneath the dark branches, and though the way seems slow they soon emerge out from beneath the tangled wood.

Even in the foothills, the party is wary of the mountains to the east. The thought of the beasts hidden behind the towering stones weigh heavily on them as they skirt around the hills.

Does anything take notice of them? -4: No

Their fears seem to be unfounded–they pass the next few hours unmolested and are grateful to be able to move unhindered by the terrain. A few hours pass before Modesty heads them out of the high foothills and down into a shaded wood.

Are they attacked by bug monsters? +0: No, and… it’s not a threat, it’s a warning

It’s Richard who notices it first. “You all hear that?” he asks.

“What is it?” Hannibal asks.

“The bugs. They’re quiet. All of them.”

Hannibal holds up a hand and the Banner stops. He holds his breath–Richard is right. “Take care,” he instructs the others. He sends Miles forward to run relay with Modesty, but the rest of the day passes without event as they move forward on their guard.

The land continues to roll gently downward, and evening sees them walking on ground that is springy with moisture. They make camp just as dusk falls, on a low dry patch of grass. The ground all around is wet–they have reached the swamps.

The company eats 8 rations.

Scene. Finding the Source.

Setup: Search the swamp to find the phenomenon’s source
Chaos: 12 vs 2-, no chaos

None of the company sleep well in the swamp. They arise after a night of haunting whispers and restless dreams.

“At least there were no bugs,” Balthasar says as they eat a morning meal. It’s little comfort to most of the others. They eat quickly, eager to be on their way.

Is the phenomenon visible right now? +0: Yes
What does it look like? Majestically/Less
The land or the sky? The land

The sky above them is overcast as they break camp and move on. They move now in search of the unknown. They wind northward, into the deeper swamp. Their path takes them up a low hill.

Modesty is the first to crest it. She gasps and falls back as the others charge up behind her.

Beyond the hill is a blasted wasteland. No trees stand, and their fallen trunks are burnt and twisted; the earth is shattered and pitted. Nothing moves. Nothing rises more than a few feet from the ground.

Is there anything that’s obviously the cause? -4: Yes!
What is it? daintily/small, designed to imprison/portals

Far on the horizon, a shadow mars the otherwise featureless landscape. Something stands above the waste–a ring of standing stones? They draw their weapons and descend the hill, eyes alert for signs of an ambush.

Is anything out to get them? +4: Yes
What? fearfully/drab — some mud-dwelling monster

Monster Design
HD (d3+1): 4, 20 hp
#AT (d4-1): 3, failure/energy — smother or strangle the victim
#SA (d4-2): 0 (other than basic attack special ability)
#App (1d2): 1
ML (d6+6): 9

Mucklurker: HD4* (20 hp), AC 12 (rubbery hide), AT 3 arms (1 dmg, +4, auto hit for d6 subsequent rounds until target is dead), MV 40′, ML 9.

The long walk across the marshy plain passes slowly, and they draw close to the ring of standing stones. Suddenly, a mass of mud and rotting vegetation rears up from the ground immediately before them, forming in a horrific imitation of a man. An elemental groan like a breaking tree branch rumbles from its throat.

Check for Surprise (1-3): 3 vs 3-, the party is surprised

Surprise Round

Before they know it, the mucklurker is in the midst of the company. Bands of mud slap toward their faces. Hannibal, Modesty, and Richard are knocked from their feet and quickly buried beneath the living earth [all are hit and will start suffocating].

Round 1: Monster wins initiative

The party struggles to find a target in the mounds of moving earth as the beast bears down on the trapped warriors. Hannibal thrashes strongly against his captor [3 dmg, 4 hp left] while Richard’s protestations slow [4 dmg, 1 hp left]. Modesty is motionless, and her still legs are soon buried beneath the earth [3 dmg, dead].

Screaming, Mercy plunges her dagger into what looks like the beast’s torso, opening a wide gash [3 dmg, 17 hp left].

With a sudden roar, blades erupt from within the monster’s flesh–Hannibal and Richard fight back from within [both hit, 8 dmg, 9 hp left]. Seeing hope for his trapped companion, Israel rushes forward and plunges his hand into the earth, reaching for Richard’s flesh. Praying, he sends the Spirit of God down into the living grave [3 dmg healed, 4 hp left].

Round 2.

Israel cries out as Richard goes limp beneath his hand [6 dmg, dead], but he has little time to mourn–the mud twists beneath him and grabs for his throat. He batters it away with his shield as he leaps backward [it misses]. Hannibal’s sword twists wildly as the captain struggles to keep air in his lungs beneath the deadly press [2 dmg, 2 hp left].

Despite his best efforts, Hannibal is unable to cut himself free, opening instead only a tiny gash through which to draw a shortened breath before it seals itself closed [1 dmg, 8 hp left]. Israel runs to him, and he is able to recover the captain’s life with his prayer [heal 6 dmg, 8 hp left].

The rest of the party trip over each other trying to find a foothold or a target in the mire. Only Miles’s arrow, fired nearly blindly into the mass, does anything [1 dmg, 7 hp left].

Round 3.

The earth beast swells up beneath the feet of Mercy and Zephaniah. The fighting man leaps to safety, but the magic-user is knocked from her feet and the soil swarms over her head and shoulders [1 dmg, 4 hp left]. Hannibal pushed through the mound trying to cover him [2 dmg, 6 hp left], fighting free long enough to swing futility before being pulled under again.

Balthasar finally manages to cross the roiling earth and swing his sword at the man-shaped core of the monster. His blade knocks huge chunks from its body as its limbs fight against the others, leaving it unable to defend itself [4 dmg, 3 hp left].

“Down!” Miles calls, as the beast reels from Balthasar’s assault. The fighting man twists over as the scout fires his bow into the monster’s core. The arrow penetrates and pierces through to the other side [4 dmg, dead].

There is a moment of silence, and then the monster collapses into mud and waste around them.

Mercy and Hannibal thrash for a moment before realizing that the force trying to kill them has stopped moving. They struggle free from the earth and climb to their feet. Modesty and Richard lie still, buried in shallow graves.

“What… the hell… was that?” Hannibal asks.

Do the magic-user or priest know? +0: No

“Chaos, maybe?” Mercy offers.

Israel shrugs. “Has to be. No monster or demon that the exorcists have fought before.” He looks up at the standing stones before them.

Do they bear known evil signs? +0: No.

“Why they chose here, though… This is a pagan shrine, but not a Chaotic one. Druids, I think.” Israel shakes his head. “Not that the Chaos doesn’t corrupt anything it can reach.”

“Well, let’s consign it to the hell it came from,” Hannibal says, “but we won’t leave our friends with it. We need to dig them up… and then bury them again.” None of the others argue–they wouldn’t want to lie forever beneath the flesh of the thing, either.

Is there any treasure to find? -6: No

They recover their friends’ rations and important goods (and coins, though they do it quietly, without discussing it) and then move them a few hundred yards away, where they are able to dig shallow graves in the soft earth.

Israel says a few words as they lay them to rest, and then the party moves forward toward the ring of stones.

Is there anywhere to go from here? +6: yes
Stairs down? +0: no, a pit

The ring looms up around them, but the Banner barely notices the massive boulders. Instead, their attention is drawn to the yawning pit that opens into the earth at the very middle of the ring.

Any light visible? -6: No
Can they hear anything? +0: Yes, helpfully/heavy (grinding machinery)

After a few feet the chasm fades to blackness, and not even the sharp-eyed scout and see anything in the dark. They soon realize that the heavy thudding that they feel in their chests is the sub-audible pounding of some distant machine, not their hearts. None feel comforted by the thought.

Hannibal lights a torch and drops it down the hole.

Does it hit land? +6: Yes
After how far (d6x10′): 40′

It falls for better than a second before the torch bounces to a stop. It’s barely a spark in the darkness, but each is secretly relieved to know that there’s a bottom down there, somewhere.

“Well,” Hannibal says, “I guess it’s time. Miles, help me set a rope.” None speak as they prepare themselves for the pit.

Wrap Up

A good outdoor session with an exciting, dangerous fight and we end about to descend. Looking forward to running a straightforward delve soon! Info will be updated on the Companion Page.

Treasure and Experience

Coin Capacity: 700 coins
Carried Currently: 310 gp

Found:

  • Nothing yet

Killed:

  • Mucklurker, 4HD*

Mythic Stuff

Threads: Stop the threat of Chaos in the region, investigate lightning storm over swamp (500 gp reward), trader closed

NPCs: captured overseer, Corporal of the Watch, Castellan, missing Trader

The Party

MARCHING ORDERMARCHING ORDER
Hannibal (sword)Israel (mace)
Zephaniah (spear)Balthasar (spear)
Mercy (dagger)Miles (bow)

Hannibal Emmitt: F1 (80 xp), 6/8 hp, 12-8-13-11-8-16. Atk: Sword (d6, +0). AC 14 (chain, shield, -dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8), 50′ rope, flint. 49 gp. Leader, crippled sailor. Matter-of-fact.

Israel Clemont: C1 (83 xp), 6/6 hp, 15-8-11-11-15-10. Atk: Mace (d6+1, +1). AC 14 (chain, shield, -dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8). Spells: Cure Light Wounds*. 52 gp. Brewer.

Zephaniah Poole: F1 (83 xp), 6/6 hp, 13-14-8-9-11-9. Atk: Sword (d6+1, +1), Spear (d6+1, +1), Shortbow (d6, +1, 15 arrows). AC 16 (chain, shield, dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8). 54 gp. Armorer.

Balthasar Hill: F1 (83 xp), 6/6 hp, 15-10-7-5-12-11. Atk: Sword (d6+1, +1), Spear (d6+1, +1). AC 15 (chain, shield). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8), flint. 50 gp. Bridlemaker. Simple and boisterous.

Mercy Rouse: MU1 (83 xp), 4/5 hp, 8-16-11-15-8-10. Atk: Dagger (d6-2, -1). AC 12 (dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8), spell book, flint, lantern (8). 51 gp. Spells: Sleep*, Feather Fall, Read Magic, Invisibility. Wise woman. Innocent and curious.

Miles Sinkler: S1 (83 xp), 6/6 hp, 7-14-9-14-13-14. Atk: Axe (d6-1, -1), Shortbow (d6-1, +1, 15 arrows). AC 13 (leather, dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8), 10′ pole, 50′ rope, thieves’ tools. 51 gp. Tinker 3, Search 2, Architecture 2. Roofer. Conniving.

Donkey 1: Feed (12), 10 gp, chainmail, chainmail, waterskin, rations (27)

Donkey 2: Feed (12), 16 gp, chainmail, waterskin, waterskin, waterskin, rations (27)

DEAD Modesty Boyd: S1 (83 xp), 0/4 hp, 5-15-5-12-9-10. Atk: Axe (d6-2, -2), Shortbow (d6-2, +1). AC 13 (leather, dex). Backpack: bedroll, torches (8), 10′ pole. Search 3, Bushcraft 2, Sneak 2. Bookbinder. Taciturn.

DEAD Richard Lanius: F1 (83 xp), -2/6 hp, 13-12-7-8-13-6. Atk: Sword (d6+1, +1), Spear (d6+1, +1). AC 15 (chain, shield). Backpack: bedroll, torches (8). Farmer. Conscientious.

5 thoughts on “Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 9

    1. Thanks! I’m still trying to work out how much “gm fiat” I like to use to maintain consistent worlds vs giving free rein to the oracle. It sometimes feels hard for me to be both a neutral arbiter and a player.

  1. The mucklurker is a great monster. I’ve always had the idea of including a marsh-dwelling monster made out of mud and rotting vegetation in one of my games.

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