Open-Ended Solo Adventure 3

This is a continuation of the open-ended solo quest I’m playing on RPGsolo.com. Here’s a link to session 1 and session 2 if you would like to review them.

Character Sheet

Black-Eyed Mattie, Bandit

Skills: Stealth (Great), Archery (Good), Swordplay (Good), Toughness (Bad)

Inventory: bow and arrows, sword, leather armor, map, rations (1), broken holy symbol, rope, lantern, oil, flint, 21 gp 8 sp

NPCs: eunuch fence, the Javie brothers, traitor second-in-command

Thread: follow treasure map, bizarre cult murders, humanoid war bands

Begin Session 3

Mattie settles into the old adventurer’s rest as night falls down around her.

Does anything happen in the night? (Unlikely) No, and…

[She wakes up well rested. Small bonus to rolls that relate to alertness or energy today.] Morning comes on her suddenly. Mattie stretches, rises, goes to make breakfast. She feels good.

Can she catch any food today [archery]? (Somewhat Likely) No

What does the road ahead look like? Mysteriously / Disagreeable

The trail leads down from the gently rolling hills into a dark forest. She feels the weight of the canopy above her, and the darkness presses in. Between the hills and the heavy boughs, little light reaches the forest floor.

Mattie knows that her food is running out. Without success at hunting, she’ll be on starvation rations tomorrow. She decides to explore today, seeing what she can find, and she’ll head back to the village regardless of the outcome.

Does the map show anything in this area? (50/50) Yes, and…

it’s easy to find.

What is it? Overthrow / Dreams – Crazily / Delicate

The path continues into the forest until it opens into a large clearing. Mattie looks around. Small huts are suspended high in the trees, strung to the branches by silk-thin wires. Piles of broken wood lie throughout the clearing–wires spread like tangled spider’s web around them.

Is anyone still around? (Unlikely) No, but…

Does someone show up while she’s searching? (50/50) No

They’re nearby.

Can she hear them? (50/50) No

Mattie moves carefully along the forest floor, searching the fallen houses before trying to find a way up to the higher ones. How many houses are on the ground?

6 = 6[d6]

Does she find anything of note?

(Somewhat Likely) Yes Offensively / Lovely – Postpone / Anger

The first houses contain nothing but the detritus of every day life smashed to pieces. In the fourth one, though, she finds a suit of armor. It is light and delicate, fearfully made. She holds it up to the sky and it shimmers where the sun manages to pierce through the canopy.

Will it fit her? (50/50) No, and…

Too big? (50/50) Yes, but…

The material is made of a fine metallic thread. Mattie can’t tell how it’s woven, but it is clear that no ordinary smith could craft such a thing. Unfortunately, it would hang from her shoulders were she to try it on. Mattie slips the fine shirt into her pack [+Inventory: Elvish(?) Armor] and steps out of the house and back into the clearing.

Can she see any way up to the upper buildings? (Somewhat Unlikely) Yes, and…

From here, she can see what was invisible before–a thin staircase spiraling upward around the trunk of a great tree. An easy climb, if the stairs are in as good of shape as they look. Mattie decides to risk it. The chance of more treasure like the suit of armor make it hard to say no.

She climbs the ladder and it opens up into a vast, suspended city.

Does she see anything noteworthy in any particular direction? (Somewhat Likely) Yes, and…

She looks north. A willowy hall rises into the upper branches of a nearby tree. The tree and hall seem to mix and merge, and golden thread is intertwined amongst it all. Mattie’s bandit-sense tells her that there must be something worth taking there, if the building was worth so much effort.

[There will be treasure here for sure.]

What was the hall made for? Pursue / Suffering

Is there a monster inside? (50/50) Yes

Mattie isn’t sure what she expected from the beautiful structure, but it wasn’t this. She steps up toward the thin doors and peers inside. The room is lined with corpses, all hung and stretched between hooks and wires. She gags and falls back, scrambling for her sword.

Does she make enough noise to alert the monster (great stealth but she is approaching a building from outside)? (50/50) Yes

What is it? Take / Home

[Something that grabs/captures. A trap door spider of some kind.]

Does it come out to try to get her? (50/50) No, but… +Event: Procrastinate / Wishes

Mattie girds herself ands steps back toward the door. As she does, a loud chattering sounds from the center of the hall. She watches as a section of the floor peels back and several long, hairy legs stretch upward from below. She turns and runs before the thing has a chance to reveal itself.

[I know it won’t chase me because of the oracle question, but Mattie doesn’t. I’ll ask the oracle about her behavior.]

Does she run for the stairs? (50/50) No

She dashes away from the building and is soon out of sight. The hall is hidden behind the tops of trees as she follows the winding path through the canopy. After a few moments, she becomes sure she isn’t being followed. She pauses to steady her breathing and then continues on, quietly this time. She knows now she isn’t alone up here.

Can she see any interesting buildings up here? (50/50) Yes, and…

More than one.

What do they appear to be for? Recruit / Environment – Develop / The innocent

The catwalk splits up ahead. To her left, it rises and leads up to a great elevated platform that stretches out in the open space above the canopy. To her right, she sees a glorious temple, all twisted vines and interwoven flowers in myriad colors.

Does the temple bear the symbol she found in the innkeeper’s chest? (Somewhat Likely) Yes

Mattie reaches into her pack to make sure, but there can be no mistaking it. The broken holy symbol she found matches perfectly–down to the pattern of the vining–with the great wreath hanging over the doors of the temple. She heads that way, suddenly uninterested in the view from above the treetops.

Are the temple doors open? (50/50) No +Event: Struggle / Lies

Is there a person (elf) here? (Somewhat Unlikely) No

As Mattie approaches the temple, she see writing scrawled in paint across the face of the temple.

What does it say? Care / Environment

“A bitter end for a better earth,” the graffiti says. Mattie scans the area but she can see no one who could have written the message, or who might be watching the temple. She readies her sword.

Are there any windows she can peek through?(Somewhat Likely) Yes +Event: Inform / Information

Is there a monster within? (50/50) No

Is there a treasure? (Somewhat Unlikely) No, and…

[there’s a trap, but because of the event she can see it.]

What kind of trap is it? Inspect / Stalemate

Mattie creeps over to a tall window frame. She shuffles her feet through a pile of broken, colored glass, careful not to step on it. She peers through the window at the [lightly/soft] delicately lit temple. There is no one inside, but as she examines the room she notices wires strung throughout, and a net suspended from the ceiling. Curious.

She slips in through the window, avoiding the ropes.

Can she find anything that reveals more about the church or its symbol? (50/50) Yes

What does she learn? Mistrust / Energy

Many of the shelves are bare, but in one corner of an adjacent room she finds a weathered tome. She flips through it. The pages crumble to dust in her hand, but not before she reads enough to learn that the temple belongs to a nature cult–one that disdains magic and its domination of natural forces.

Is this a common religion? (50/50) Yes, and… +Event: Struggle / The spiritual

[Mattie also dislikes magic.] Mattie nods as she reads. The elves–for surely this city was built by elves–are strange, but at least this batch knew enough to be suspicious of mages. Like the Javie brothers.

None of this explains how a nondescript innkeeper got his hands on an elven holy symbol, or why it was broken, or why a band of hideous beast-things attacked him, but it sure leaves one to wonder. Mattie makes a note to ask around about the elven city when she returns to the village. She doubts she’s the first one to have found it.

She pokes around a little longer, but the temple is empty. Returning to the main room, she avoids the traps and steps back out onto the catwalk.

Has anything changed since she went inside? (Unlikely) No +Event: Befriend / Legal matters

Do guards find her? (Somewhat Likely) No, but…

Returning to the branching path, Mattie heads up toward the elevated platform she had skipped earlier. As she crests the ramp, she finds herself staring down at the bodies of men and women clothed in robes and broken armor.

Have they been dead long? (50/50) Yes

The smell of decomposing flesh is strong, but that at least is something she’s used to. She keeps alert as she creeps over toward the bodies.

Is there anything still there to attack her? (50/50) Yes

Is it the same thing that killed the bodies? (Likely) Yes

How many powers does it have? 1d4-1=0 (floor 1). Negligence / Possessions

What kind of beast is it? Politely / Empty

[A ghost/spirit that can cause its foes to drop their weapons with its ghastly chill]

As Mattie moves amongst the bodies, she feels a cool wind rise up around her. A cold wind. A freezing one. Her breath comes in puffs. She glances at the trees. All are still; no leaves rustle around her. She turns and finds herself face to face with an elf. She yelps and falls back, caught off guard by the suddenness of the fey’s arrival. The thing takes a step toward her–no, she corrects herself–it SLIDES toward her.

GHOST: Swordplay (Good). Grave Chill: Pass a toughness check after hitting or blocking the ghost or drop your weapon due to the icy chill of the grave.

Mattie gathers her wits and climbs back to her feet. Her sword is already in her hand. She isn’t sure it’ll do much against the vaporous thing before her, but it’s worth a shot. She swings.

Swordplay (good v good) (50/50) No

The elven apparition draws a blade of its own and smashes her sword wide. At least she knows that her sword can touch the thing.

It strikes back and the blade dips beneath her startled defense. The tip of the thing’s sword slices through her armor and carves a line through her stomach. Mattie feels the blade like a burning, spreading cold. [hits its combat roll and she fails her toughness check] She cries out as her body seizes; she hears a clang and sees that her sword has fallen from her grasp.

She falls back as she tries to shake the feeling back into her hands. When she can, she grabs for her belt pouch and pulls out the twisted circle symbol that she found. It’s broken, there’s no reason it should work, but…

Does the ghost react to the holy symbol? (Unlikely) No +Event: Oppress / Pleasures

The ghost doesn’t so much as glance at the ring. As it moves closer, Mattie feels its weight. She is going to die here. Like the others. Elves all, ancient beyond understanding. And they died here, died to this thing, maybe. What can she do against it?

Can she shake loose from the fear? (50/50) No, but… Communicate / Danger

Suddenly, a horn blast sounds from somewhere below. The sound of it seems to come to her through a pool of deep, still water. She wakes up, only noticing now that she was sleeping. The ghost is right before her. Mattie rolls and sprints away, past it, back the way she came.

Can she grab her sword on the way out? (Somewhat Likely) No +Event: Overindulge / Possessions

She dashes toward her sword, but as she reaches for it she sees a thin rime forming across its surface. She snatches her hand away and continues running. She is down the ramp, along the catwalk, and back down to the forest floor before she dares to look back.

Any sign of the horn blower? (50/50) Yes, but…

Enemies. Orcs in the woods. She hears the grunting before she sees the torches, but they are not far behind. She turns and runs, back along the trail, back to the village.

When she is well clear of the cursed wood and the orcish war band, Mattie finally allows herself to settle into a fast, mile-devouring walking stride. It isn’t far to the place she camped the night before, and if she’s lucky she can cover even more ground than that. As she goes, she thinks about the map. For all the trouble it brought with it, there just has to be a treasure at the end.

END SESSION 3

Black-Eyed Mattie, Bandit

Skills: Stealth (Great), Archery (Good), Swordplay (Good), Toughness (Bad)

Inventory: bow and arrows, leather armor, map, rations (1), broken holy symbol, rope, lantern, oil, flint, elvish(?) armor, 21 gp 8 sp

NPCs: eunuch fence, the Javie brothers, traitor second-in-command

Thread: follow treasure map, bizarre cult murders, humanoid war bands

Open-Ended Solo Adventure 2

This is the second part of the open-ended solo adventure I began last week using the tools on RPGsolo.com. I’m sorry if this one’s a bit short. I’m going to try working on getting more regular updates out, even if the sessions are slightly shorter. I’m also experimenting with creating significantly more concise narrative elements between game mechanics. I have found that, when it comes to reading other AARs, I really am more interested in seeing how other players convert the oracle/system into action than I am in reading fiction (although good fiction is always welcome too!). Since I’m not a great writer, I figure I’ll try out this more direct story-game telling method for these next few rounds.

Begin Session 2

The village at the end of the world spreads itself out before Mattie.

Was anyone there to meet her? (Somewhat Likely) Yes, and… +Event: Celebrate / Opposition

They ride up and tell her that she has come during hard times. If she doesn’t cause trouble they’ll be happy to have her.

Is the trouble related to the cultists that she saw? (50/50) Yes, but… +Event: Lie / The intellectual

They act sad but don’t want to tell her much about the cult activity that she reported.

Does she detect that they’re keeping something from her? (50/50) Yes, and…

Is it because they’re afraid? (50/50) No

She grows suspicious but decides not to press further. There will be time to learn more in town. Maybe it’s just these two, or maybe it’s just because they don’t trust her yet. [This will impact the bizarre cult murders thread.]

She arrives in town around mid-day.

Does the town pay any particular attention to her arrival? (Unlikely) No, and… +Event: Spy / Hope

The townsfolk are gathered in the square as she arrives. Few turn to face the newcomer. They’re listening to a pair of adventurers standing on a raised platform. The man is clad in chain and the woman in traveling clothes. Both are filthy. Mattie turns to one of the men who met her outside of town. “Who are they?” she asks.

They’re adventurers. Just got back from scouting in the east march. It’s become tradition for survivors of expeditions to describe what they found. Helps others plan out future trips.

Mattie asks why anyone would reveal their secrets that way, but the man says that survival here is more important than treasure–at least in the long run. Everyone works together, and today’s rival might be tomorrow’s ally. The marches hold more danger than anyone could face alone.

What did these two find? Frantically / Modern – Intolerance / Vehicle

These two found a band of humanoids building a set of siege engines deep in the wilderness. They put the torch to them and killed the ones they could find.

[+Thread: humanoid warbands]

Can Mattie find any lodging? (Likely) Yes – Cheerfully / Delightful

Mattie finds her way through town to a bustling tavern and inn. She books a room for a silver piece and pays another for dinner and breakfast. [-2 sp]

Does she overhear anything interesting while she eats? (50/50) Yes, and… +Event: Adjourn / Expectations

[she overhears something that will delay a thread — d3 = 3, humanoid war bands]

Chatter in the tavern is all about the adventuring party that just returned. Whatever threat the war bands had posed, it sounds like the townsfolk are awfully glad it’s over. Mattie finishes her dinner and decides to turn in early.

Does anything happen overnight? (Unlikely) No

She rises early, grateful for the first good night’s rest she’s gotten in a while. She eats breakfast in the common room and then steps outside. It’s a fine morning, bright and trending warmer. She cinches her sword belt and sets out east, toward the edge of town.

Does her treasure map have any point of reference that she can recognize? (50/50) Yes

She stands at the edge of the village and climbs to the top of the low wooden palisade. The wall stretches north and south, not quite continuing all the way back toward the west to fully enclose the village. Piles of logs lie near the ends of the wall; material for future work.

When she’s alone, Mattie draws out the Javie brothers’ stolen map and looks at it. There’s the village, clearly marked. And there, nearly to the other side of the page, is a great X. Nothing else. No indication of what might be buried there, what might be guarding it. Just a town, a dotted line, some obstacles, and an X. Mattie can’t resist.

Several other landmarks like between the town and the X, but Mattie decides against approaching any of the other adventurers she has seen around town. Better to play cards like this close to the vest.

Can Mattie find a general store that sells adventuring goods? (Somewhat Likely) Yes

She purchases a rope, lantern, oil, and flint. [-8 sp].

After buying a few tools, Mattie heads north, toward the temple district.

Can she find one that bears the wooden circlet symbol she found in the inn? (Somewhat Unlikely) No

What does she find? Meaningfully / Rotten

The men here have forgotten the gods in favor of the strength of bow and steel and magic. The temples are falling apart, and few are manned by even a volunteer priest as she walks by. She decides against offering sacrifices anywhere and returns instead to the eastern gate.

Is the gate guarded? (Likely) Yes

Do they stop her? (Somewhat Unlikely) No, but…

The spearmen and archers at the gate give snorting laughs as Mattie passes out into the wilderness. She hears “Fresh meat” whispered more than once. She’s sure she wouldn’t be the first newcomer to disappear into the east.

Will reaching the map destination take many days? (Somewhat Likely) Yes, and…

With the village behind her and the road ahead, Mattie takes a deep breath and finally feels the tightness in her shoulders release. She is in danger here, sure, and a long journey away from her destination, but at least she is in control, making her own choices, for the first time since that sumbitch turned her in the Javies.

She looks at the map. Too far to go this time, but her twenty-odd golds aren’t going to hire her a team nor keep her in food and lodging forever. But there will be time. For now, she just has to find the trail, find some way to orient herself out here.

Daily encounter? (Likely) Yes, and… PC negative – Antagonise / Danger

What does Mattie antagonize? Gratefully / Smooth

Is it a slimy smooth thing? (50/50) Yes, and…

It isn’t long before the trail peters out and Mattie is marching through patches of waist-high grass which slowly give way to virgin forests.

The map leads her to a river, which she follows east and then north. Soon enough to going becomes slow, the ground mushy beneath her feet. She doesn’t know it, but she has stumbled into the territory of a band of skink-man zealots.

Does Mattie recognize the signs of the skink-men before they detect her? (Somewhat Likely) Yes – Healthily / Glorious

As she moves forward, Mattie notices piles of bones–birds, small mammals, that kind of thing. Later, she sees the pale shadow of a man lying against a tree. She examines it and realizes it’s the skin of a lizard-thing, its shape an alien blend of creature and man. She draws her bow and nocks an arrow.

Is she walking into an ambush? (50/50) No, and…

She crosses the next ridge and hears voices. Moving slowly, she crests the hill and sees a pair of slimy, naked lizard-men fighting each other with fists and fangs. Spears lay discarded on the ground nearby.

Does she see anything interesting beside the two beast men fighting? (Somewhat Unlikely) No

Eager to avoid putting her nose into anything, Mattie creeps south and then catches up with her trail a few hundred yards further on. She makes a mental note to avoid this stretch of the river in the future.

[That concludes her daily encounter]

What terrain does she reach by evening? Perfectly / Glorious

The trail winds up a hill, and Mattie reaches the top just as the sun settles down low behind her. The sun shines golden bright in the west as darkness creeps up from the east. She takes a moment to breathe it in, to remember a life before taking the Black and becoming the woman she is today. After a few moments, she exhales, lets it go. What’s done is done.

Can she find a good place to camp? (50/50) Yes – Healthily / Colorful

Not far from the summit she finds a shallow cave. The remnants of a camp fire lie within, and the walls are painted with graffiti in many languages. Those she can read brag of adventurers she’s never heard of. The ones she can’t read don’t look much different than those. She kindles the fire and cooks a dinner from the rations she took from the ruined inn. She gives thanks to the family as she eats their food. [-1 ration]

Character Sheet

Black-Eyed Mattie, Bandit

Skills: Stealth (Great), Archery (Good), Swordplay (Good), Toughness (Bad)

Inventory: bow and arrows, sword, leather armor, map, rations (1), broken holy symbol, rope, lantern, oil, flint, 21 gp 8 sp

NPCs: eunuch fence, the Javie brothers, traitor second-in-command

Thread: follow treasure map, bizarre cult murders, humanoid war bands

Open-Ended Solo Adventure 1

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the time to play a solo adventure. Since I last blog I’ve moved, changed jobs, and had several other major life events (mostly good!). I’ve been too busy to play, but things are kind of settling down now and I’ve had the bug to start a new solo campaign. My gaming things–dice, notebooks, rules–are currently in storage, so I’ve decided to play the game using just the rpgsolo.com website’s tools (mostly mythic along with some non-mythic yes/no rules).

For this game, I’ve decided to start with absolutely nothing in mind other than a fantasy setting. Everything else will be established as I go. These types of games tend to peter out due to lack of direction, so for this one I’m going to try to keep narration relatively short and roll with the punches from the oracle as much as I can.

One other change that I’m going to try making from my traditional Labyrinth Lord/house ruled setting is to use a very rules-light character system, tending more toward narrative than gaming. My PC will be more durable than traditional 1e solo characters, but I’m not going to use that knowledge to make crazy choices unless it really makes sense for the character.

Character Creation

Am I a man? (50/50) No

Do I use magic? (50/50) No

Am I very skilled? (50/50) Yes

A woman adventurer, then. A thief and warrior.

What have I done in the past? Oppose / Travel

Banditry. Hm. An ignoble start.

Am I still a criminal? (50/50) Yes, but…

Only for want of better work. Times are hard on the frontier, and a woman alone has few ways to make a silver.

Who do I know? Enthusiastically / Exotic – Communicate / Jealously

A foreign eccentric who trades in secrets and stolen goods. A fence.

A man? (50/50) Yes, but…

A eunuch then. [+NPC: Eunuch fence]

Who else do I know? Majestically / Interesting – Excitement / Peace

A sorcerer of some power who either has or is struggling for control over an area.

Is this person a foe? (50/50) Yes

Is it a man? (50/50) Yes, and…

Not only a man, but two men: the Javie brothers. Sorcerers and bastards both. They control a small patch of earth not too far away and one too many of their wagons went missing. Now they’ve an eye out for me. [+NPC: the Javie brothers]

What am I doing out here on the frontier? PC negative – Disrupt / Jealously

The last job went well. Too well. A wagon of goods were taken, but it turned out the iron and wood were covering a chest full of magical components for the Javie brothers. My second in command–the bastard–took it and fled. The Javies caught him and I knew it wouldn’t be long before he gave me up to save his own life. And so I found myself here, on a dusty road winding toward the very ass-end of civilization. [+NPC: traitor second-in-command]

My face is known in the west. My name is known even more widely than that. So now I’m here, and I’ve got to…

Debase / Information

Find out one way or the other whether this map I found in the Javies’ wagon–the one my traitor underling didn’t find–really points to something special or not. [+Thread: follow treasure map]

Character Sheet

Black-Eyed Mattie, Bandit

Skills: Stealth (Great), Archery (Good), Swordplay (Good), Toughness (Bad)

NPCs: eunuch fence, the Javie brothers, traitor second-in-command

Thread: follow treasure map

Inventory: bow and arrows, sword, leather armor, map

Begin Story

The road climbs up from the gully. Finally, it crests the low hill and the frontier lays itself out before me.

Is the town nearby? (Somewhat Likely) No, and…

The hills continue onward, unending, toward the horizon. I sigh and shoulder my pack. A long way to go. I follow the road as it snakes along the top of the ridge before falling down into the lowlands once again.

Do I see anything interesting today? (50/50) Yes – Enormously / Mighty

Before long the road finds its way creeping into a mire in the space between two hills. The air is thick and weighs heavily on me. Sound travels slowly. Eventually, I notice that a rhythmic thumping is not the beating of my own heart, but instead of something very large and very near.

Am I able to hide? [Stealth test +1] (Very Likely) Yes

I look around. The wet soil and stagnant pools are little like the rich forest where I came from, but they are not so strange that I cannot disappear in them when I need to. A rotted tree rises from the damp earth not a half-dozen paces away. I rush to it and press myself against the soft wood as the thumping grows louder and nearer.

The thing that passes, there can be no doubt, is an ogre. A man, or part of one, but twisted and stretched to horrifying proportions. Even from this distance I can smell the thing’s stench. I will it to come no closer. My thoughts never go toward my sword or bow. The beast is massive, ten feet tall or more, and muscled more like a bull than a man. I keep low and pray as it passes by.

Does it approach? [unlikely since I passed my hide test] (Unlikely) No

I hide like that for a minute or two, although it feels much longer. Eventually the great brute passes on, leaving squelching foot prints in the soil as it heads off toward whatever horrible errand drew it across my path. Finally, it is gone, and I pry myself from my hiding place and return to the road.

Can I reach the town that night? (50/50) No, but…

I get a few more hours of travel in before the sun sinks low in the sky. The town–if it really exists–is still so far off that I cannot see it. At least the road exists, and I figure it must lead somewhere. I travel on a little further before deciding that it would be foolhardy to press on any more in the darkness. That’s why I notice a glint of light shining ahead. A cabin! Barely visible, but another few minutes of walking reveal it to be true. Lights, a few feet apart–a fire revealed through windows. I hurry forward along the trail, caring little for the danger of the road or the light at the end of it. I want no part of night out here, where ogres dwell.

What does the building look like? Generously / Classy

A stately roadside inn stands beside the trail. A stout wall encircles a courtyard, and I can see lights shining within.

Can I hear voices inside? (50/50) No

All is quiet. If there are customers, they aren’t raucous ones. The whole thing seems strange–so large a building so far from civilization. But then, I suppose, any traders traveling to or from the end of the world must have to pass this way. I press in through the gate.

Is anyone around? (50/50) Yes, and… – Loudly / Lethal

Am I in danger? (Very Likely) Yes, and…

There’s blood already spilled! My eyes take in the courtyard.

Is the innkeeper dead? (Likely) Yes, and…

A portly man and his family lay dead in the dirt.

What is the attacker like? Fearfully / Aromatic – Gracefully / Damaged

A pack of fearfully smelly man-things move through the courtyard. As the nearest passes through the light of the inn’s open door, I see its flesh. Dark curves of scar tissue line every inch of the body that I can see.

Are there many of them? (Unlikely) No

I can’t believe I didn’t detect them sooner. Foolish! Now that I am inside the wall, I nearly retch from the stink rising from them. Like the smell of sickness and death, but still moving and grunting and killing.

Have they seen me yet? [Stealth +2 vs their Perception -1] (Very Unlikely) No, and… +Event: Trick / News

I fade back into the darkness, choking back the urge to vomit. As I watch, another figure steps out from the inn. This one is [Threateningly / Interesting] silhouetted against the light from inside the building, but even in profile I can see blades and pieces of metal sprouting from beneath its skin. It shouts at the three creatures in the courtyard.

Does it speak a language I can understand? (Unlikely) No

The guttural screaming is something like the speech of normal men, but somehow worse. The others bark back at it, and then it gestures toward the gate where I am hiding. I fall back and then run around the side wall as they move toward me. They step out onto the road and look around before moving off intently into the darkness.

Are they heading toward the town? (50/50) No

They pass over the road and disappear into the vast, rolling wilderness. I wait a few minutes, and then a dozen more, before I screw up my courage and return to the in. I listen, but can hear no sounds inside. The scent of death is still strong, but without the underlying sick smell. They’re gone. I draw my sword and move toward the innkeeper’s family.

Have the bodies been desecrated? (Very Likely) Yes

Was there any obvious intent to the desecration? (50/50) Yes – Overindulge / Illusions

I cover my face as I approach the nearest body. The innkeeper, I assume. A large man, given to fatness–or he was. His body is bloody now and partially flayed. Even worse, his eyes, nose, ears, and mouth have been mutilated. Sharp stakes of stone or metal have been driven into every orifice in his head. I survey the others. They’re no better. This was not done at random. [+Thread: Bizarre cult murders]

Is the ground soft enough to dig easily? (50/50) No

The ground here is rocky and dry. I might have been able to bury the family in the gully, but up here I doubt I’d be able to dig deep enough for the lot of them, and there is no way I’m dragging them beyond the wall in the night. I drag them together and gather wood for a pyre to prepare for the morning. I can’t leave them the way they are.

When the pyre is ready I allow myself a short breath, and then I set to exploring the inn.

Are there any other customers? (Very Unlikely) No +Event: Trust / Technology

[A piece of machinery (a gate, in this case) will protect me in the night]

Before I leave the yard I catch sight of the gate, swaying on its hinges against the wall beside the gate. I step closer and take a look. The wood is strong, and the lock and chain are fine. I shake my head. The thing must have been left unlocked, even in the dark. I swing it closed and slam the heavy bolts home. It won’t keep an army out, but I’ll certainly here if anyone tries to break through it.

That done, I turn toward the inn and sweep through the rooms. There aren’t many, but all are clean and well-kept. No customers this night. That’s lucky, anyway.

Are there any treasures to find? (Likely) Yes +Event: Inspect / Inside

[Yes, and it’s hidden]

It feels macabre to loot the homes of the recently dead, but I’ve nothing to my name and they’ve no more to fear from hunger.

Is the treasure well-hidden? (50/50) Yes +Event: Intolerance / Ambush

[And trapped]

[I rule that Mattie’s stealth skill probably means she’s good at finding decent hiding spaces, so I’ll give her a fair chance to find the treasure, and an okay chance to find the trap]

Where is the treasure hidden? Deceive / Suffering

I pour over the inn itself for the better part of an hour, finding plenty of food and drink and even a fair bit of small coin–coppers and [4d6=8] a handful of silver–but there’s nothing to write home about, nothing to rob the place over. Not the kind of folk who’d have been my target, even when I was the worst Black-Eyed Mattie I’ve ever been.

[+Rations, 8 sp]

After that, I move out into the yard again. Around the rear of the house I find a small graveyard plot.

Do I notice that one of the plots is fake, designed to hide treasure? (Likely) Yes, and…

[A bonus to find the trap too]

I stoop close, examining the headstones at first out of mere curiosity. That’s when I notice the earth–it’s raw, packed tight, and the thin grass the blankets the rest of the yard doesn’t grow here. Like it sees a lot of traffic. I examine the head stone, move it lightly with a hand. It rocks in the soil. Loose.

Do I detect the trap? (Somewhat Likely) Yes

I lift the headstone and drop it to the side. Below it lies a small hole, maybe four inches wide and sixteen long. At the bottom, nestled tight against the earth, is a small wooden box. I reach for it, but my hand stops itself short. Reflex? I check again–there, a wire. Strung just above the soil and run just above the lid of the box. I slide the box out, carefully, beneath the wire. When I’ve got it above ground, I find a stick and use it to prod at the thin wire. With a sudden clack, a bear trap concealed just beneath the surface of the soil snaps closed where the box had been. Powerful enough to break a wrist for sure.

But now it’s out. I take out my sword and use the tip to pry open the box’s clasp.

Is there anything unique inside? (Somewhat Likely) Yes

Something that may have caused those monsters to come here? (50/50) Yes, but… +Event: Block / The innocent

[Some kind of ward, but it doesn’t work any longer]

Is there gold inside too? (Somewhat Likely) Yes, and… 3d10 = 22

The small box falls open. A pile of gold and silver coins lie within in. I close the box quickly and take it inside to examine in relative safety. I pour the coins out onto the floor and count them.

Twenty-two in all. A king’s ransom, for out here. But amidst it all lies something else. A delicate silk bag, and within a circle of twisted vines, fixed around the middle with an iron ring and a silver chain. A necklace. Some kind of holy symbol? I lift it from the box, but when I do the dried vines crack apart and one half of the circle falls to the floor. Broken. I replace the pieces in the bag, which is surely worth many times more than the plain wooden ring. I slip the bag into my belt pouch. If it was worth keeping beside twenty-two gold pieces, it might be worth my keeping until I can find out what it is. [+Inventory: 22 gp, Broken holy symbol]

With the place searched, the bodies gathered, and the gate locked, I survey my surroundings. Everything looks as secure as I can get it. I find a spot to sleep, huddled up in the hayloft rather than the inn, just in case.

Does anything else happen that night? (Unlikely) Yes, but… – Lie / Realities

I sleep through the night, but my sleep is restless, haunted by strange dreams.

Dangerously / Cold

In my dreams I am descending, ever deeper, along a spiraling staircase. No windows penetrate the stairwell, but I can feel the air growing colder and colder as I go lower. The weight of air grows heavy, pressing down on me, choking me, but even so I find my feet carrying me ever onward. I don’t know whether I am being drawn down or fleeing what is above. It doesn’t matter. Whatever is down there, whatever cold death, I will go to meet it.

In the morning I rise and survey the land beyond the roadhouse’s walls.

Is there anything to see? (Unlikely) No

The land beyond looks still, calm, in the morning mist. I light the pyre and watch as the butchered family burns. I wish there was more that I could have done, but that’s the way of things. When the fire is roaring and I am sure it will not go out, I open the gate and set out along the road.

Do I encounter anything else before I reach the village? (50/50) No, and…

The country levels out as I head further east. My going is quick, and it seems as though I can see for miles in all directions. Soon enough, I see a thin smudge of dark against the sky. Another quarter hour and it resolves into friendly-looking trails of smoke rising from chimneys. I’ve reached it. The edge of the world.

Character Sheet

Black-Eyed Mattie, Bandit

Skills: Stealth (Great), Archery (Good), Swordplay (Good), Toughness (Bad)

Inventory: bow and arrows, sword, leather armor, map, rations, broken holy symbol, 22 gp 8 sp

NPCs: eunuch fence, the Javie brothers, traitor second-in-command

Thread: follow treasure map, bizarre cult murders

Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 11

This session begins as Father Israel Clement and Zephaniah Poole, armorer and experienced campaigner, limp home from a disastrous but profitable delve into a lair of Chaos magic. Considerably wealthier but now nearly alone, the pair must consider their options before moving forward.

Scene. Return to the Keep.

Setup: Return to the Keep to report, resupply, and plan
Chaos: 5 v 2-, no chaos

Israel and Zephaniah limp out of the woods and into the shadow of the Keep. Neither thought they would ever be so grateful to see the small, monster-threatened fortress. They climb the winding trail and approach the gatehouse.

Do they find the Corporal inside? +4: No +Event
Event: NPC Action – arrive/news

They enter to see a crowd clustered around a rider on a lathered horse.

What is he discussing? Propose/Competition

“People of the Borderlands! The Queen, God save her, has heard your plight and recognizes the great sacrifice that you have made for her empire. As such, she has proposed a competition–a way for men of might to show their honor and strength.

“The company that can rout the forces of Chaos from their foothold in the hills will be granted a reward of 5,000 gold pieces, and they will earn Her eternal favor.”

Is the news received favorably? +0: Yes

The war-weary citizens of the Keep applaud, though Zephaniah and a few of the other men-at-arms in the crowd curse under their breath. Five thousand gold pieces is enough treasure to bring adventuring parties from across the Known World.

“It’s about to get crowded,” Zephaniah whispers to the Cleric, “but at least we won’t have any trouble finding help.”

+Thread: Queen’s call to clear the Caves (5000 gp reward)

Continue reading “Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 11”

Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 10

The Banner of the Bleeding Wheel ended last session at the mouth of a yawning pit, attempting to find the source of a mysterious lightning storm that has blasted a swampland into oblivion. The journey there had been uneventful until a mud monster ambushed them and slew Richard the fighting man and Modesty the scout.

Scene. Into the Dark.

Chaos: Level 3, no roll

The party peers down at the torch flickering 40′ below.

Is there anything within 10′ that they can tie a rope to? -4: No.

“How are we going to get down there?” Balthasar asks. “Looks deep.”

“Rope,” Hannibal says. “String it around the stone there, and we’ll daisy-chain half of the second.”

“Better be a good knot,” Balthasar replies. “We’re heavy.”

“I grew up in a ship’s rigging,” Hannibal says. He cuts one of their lengths of rope in half and joins it with the other using a good knot. He loops them around the donkeys’ harnesses before tossing the end down into the dark.

-Inventory: 2 lengths of 50′ rope
+Inventory: 25′ rope

“Should we leave something up here, just… you know… in case?” Miles asks, peering down into the hole.

Israel nods. “I’d rather my gold be returned to the poor than lost in the dark.”

They each chip in 40 gold pieces and bury them in an inconspicuous place beside one of the standing stones.

+Thread: 240 gp buried beneath the stones

When the coins are buried, Balthasar moves to the rope. “Me first,” he demands, grabbing the rope and dropping into the pit.

“Godspeed, my son,” Israel says. He shoulders his pack and prepares to drop onto the rope next.

It takes a few moments for Balthasar to reach the ground, but they soon see the torch pick up and wave the okay. Israel grabs the rope and rappels down.

One by one they descend until they find themselves in the darkness.

Tools Link: I’m using Kabuki Kaiser’s Mad Monks of Kwantoom, his awesome sequel to Ruins of the Undercity, to generate this dungeon.

Continue reading “Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 10”

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.

Continue reading “Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 9”

Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 8

After how long it took to play out the battles against “trash mob” monsters in my last session, I have decided that I would much rather fight more unique, difficult monsters in fewer numbers. Starting with this session, I’ll be using Mythic to create a unique monster for most encounters. If an encounter calls for a more mundane enemy, it will be men. Check out Room 9 to see how I am using the oracle to develop a monster’s look and special abilities.

Scene. Continuing in the Dungeon.

60 minutes have passed.

After taking a short rest, the party escorts the body of Comfort back to the bottom of the well. While they keep a loose watch in the corridor behind them, they send the wounded Miles back up to the surface with a pile of silver and coppers coins, the chaotic warrior’s armor, and Comfort’s body and effects.

The tunnel after part 7.

The return north, passing a door beyond which Modesty could hear nothing. From the slave quarters [room 5], they head north into the tunnels, passing a closed door and a side tunnel before their own passage ended in a T.

70 minutes have passed.

Choosing blindly, Hannibal leads them west. The short tunnel dwindles away, and they return to a nearby door.

Continue reading “Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 8”

Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 7

In Part 6 of my solo Keep on the Borderlands playthrough, the Banner of the Bleeding Wheel arrived at the Keep just in time to help put out some fires and repel an invasion by the forces of Chaos. Thanks to their heroics (and the fact that everyone else has their hands full), the Corporal tasked the Banner with chasing the retreating kobolds down the Keep’s well and finding out how the beasts got in.

Scene. A Night to Worry.

Setup: The company gets lodging and rests up before their mission
Chaos: 14 vs 3-, no event

Are there any rooms available at the Traveler’s Inn? +2: Yes.

The Banner takes up residence at the Traveler’s Inn, although the fire next door has made the air inside acrid and stale. Hannibal hands the innkeeper 10 silver pieces for a private room for the women to share and another 7 silvers for space in the common room for the men. Another twenty silver pieces buy the whole troop dinner and a breakfast of bread, butter, and thin soup.

Israel prays for healing for Zephaniah Poole, and the Holy Spirit answers him [heals 5 hp, back to max].

Hannibal sends Miles, Modesty, and Richard Lanius to the stables. They feed both donkeys and retrieve 30 gold pieces from the pouches hidden in the feed bags, then head to the provisioner’s to buy a set of thieves’ tools.

Can they find one? +6: No, but… +Event
Event: Ambiguous — Betray/Danger

The provisioner’s shop is closed when they arrive. [1-2: him, 3-4: wife, 5-6: kids] The man sits weeping on the front porch, the body of his wife in his arms.

The party moves onward, not wanting to disturb the man. The trader has a set available, although he is quick to charge a premium when he learns what they’re looking for. [+4% cost] Miles hands over 31 gold pieces and two silver for the set of picks, files, and pliers.

That evening, Israel retreats to the women’s private room to devote himself to prayer while they sleep. He prays for the strength to detect evil and heal his companions’ wounds twice.

Continue reading “Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 7”

Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 6

The Banner of the Burning Wheel arrives in the Borderlands road-weary but alert. The company’s rations have run low. Morale is better, but fading–fighting is hard on the men, but long bouts of boredom are even harder.

So it’s with great relief that Hannibal Emmitt sees the Keep rising in the distance. A night or two of drinking, sleeping beneath a roof, and letting off steam will do the company good, he knows, and he and Comfort are sure to find profitable work in the dangerous region.

Note: For this session I went back to using a Mythic Variations II style “roll for 11+ on a d20 with modifier” oracle system. I also roll a second d20 against a Chaos number to determine if a random event occurs.

Continue reading “Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 6”

Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 5

After last session’s disastrous attempt to explore a ruined castle a few days’ march from the Keep, I’m stepping back from my oft-repeated experiments at running sole heroes or tiny parties through Basic-DND era dungeons and encounter tables. It’s hard enough with four, but with one or two guys a single bad roll–which happens a lot–is enough to spell our doom.

The Banner of the Bleeding Wheel

And so, I introduce The Banner of the Bleeding Wheel, a mercenary company that has come to the Keep in search of work, wealth, and excitement. If they do a little good while they’re at it, all the better.

Party Members

I’ve rolled up a party of ten random PCs, based around a low-magic world in which only PCs with a natural 15+ in INT or WIS can choose to be Magic Users or Clerics. Presenting the Banner:

Hannibal Emmitt: F1, 9/9 hp, 12-8-13-11-8-16. Leader, crippled sailor.

Comfort Stewart: F1, 7/7 hp, 13-10-8-7-12-16. Sergeant, butcher.

Mercy Rouse: MU1, 4/4 hp, 8-16-11-15-8-10. Wise woman.

Israel Clemont: C1, 6/6 hp, 15-8-11-11-15-10. Brewer.

Balthasar Hill: F1, 7/7 hp, 15-10-7-5-12-11. Bridlemaker.

Zephaniah Poole: F1, 7/7 hp, 13-14-8-9-11-9. Armorer.

Zaccheus McCanless: F1, 8/8 hp, 13-15-12-14-13-11. Cooper.

Richard Lanius: F1, 7 hp, 13-12-7-8-13-6. Farmer.

Miles Sinkler: T1, 6/6 hp, 7-14-9-14-13-14. Roofer.

Modesty Boyd: T1, 4/4 hp, 5-15-5-12-9-10. Bookbinder.

Adventuring Gear and Equipment

Since the Bleeding Wheel is a mercenary company, I’ll be rolling each of their starting coinage and then pooling it for the company’s benefit. Pay will be distributed after everyone is equipped and company goods (wagon, etc.) have been purchased.

Continue reading “Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 5”