Monday, July 18, 2016

The Adventures of Glendal Lorg, Scarlet Hero (1.9) The Finale!

And now, friends and neighbors, the concluding chapter of the current adventure of Glendal Lorg, Elf Thief and bloody Scarlet Hero.

This mighty hero, this Visionary from the Phantom Cabal, now a free agent working only for his own betterment, has explored and sacked nearly the entire Fort of the Unholy Mound, a decrepit ruined bastion from ages past.  Foes too numerous to count have ended their miserable lives on his crimson-stained blades.  Now, through some deeply-ingrained Elf sense, he know that he approaches the last two rooms in the Fort.  Will he win his way through to glory and gold, or die twitching on some Boss monster's sword?

Let's find out, shall we?

Glendal's immediately previous escapades can be found here and to start at the very beginning, go here.

TL;DR version:

The Elf had just cataloged a huge amount of treasure and slung it all into his bulging sack (now dangerously overloaded, surely), having just killed what he sincerely hoped were the last of the Looters.  The avaricious Elf was no more blood-thirsty than any other adventurer, but he was tiring of these short-lived humans trying to take what was rightfully his!

On with the Adventure!

Turn 23, Room 11:

The door was, for once, an ordinary door, unlocked, untrapped and open.  The Elf sidled up to the opening, peering through into the next room.  The remains of a bed, a table and chair and a few other things led him to believe this was once the Officer's Quarters.  As small as the room was, it was likely the Fort's commander's room.

Interestingly, in the middle of the room was a spiral staircase, leading down.  A thrill of excitement ran through the Thief:  just as he had supposed, there was a back way after all!

That thrill was promptly smothered when he noticed the quiet, unmoving figure sitting in the chair behind the desk across the room.  Glendal's hand reflexively moved to the hilt of his sword but didn't draw it.  He was stayed by the figure speaking.

"Good to see you again, Glendal."  The man, another human, was burly, dark-skinned with dimpled -- nay, scarred -- cheeks and a decided twinkle in his green eyes.  His wavy light-ash brown hair fell to his collar, and for as long as Glendal had known him, his beard remained stubbly and forked.

"Hello, Bosko," Glendal replied, not without a small amount of affection.  "What do you here?"

Bosko Stith was otherwise known in the Underworld, from which Glendal had only recently extricated himself, as the Hedonist Courier from the Forsaken Dens.  It was a big title which he had no doubt given himself.  The Elf knew him as the Press Gang boss; surely someone to avoid in the dimly lit early hours of the day, after having been drinking all night at some totty-shop.

Bosko spread his hands wide.  "I am here at the behest of certain others," he said, and paused to spit.  "Certain others, to whom I owe a measure of ... obedience.  For now."

Glendal moved more fully into the room, making sure -- subtly, of course -- that there were no more treasure seekers waiting to ambush him.  He knew from past experience that Bosko could be capricious in his moods and tastes.  However, the man remained sitting comfortably behind the desk, his hands resting lightly on the tabletop.

"I am alone," Bosko assured the Elf, "the moreso now that you've killed all of my hired hands."  He smiled grimly.  "Easy come, easy go."

The cautious Elf relaxed his grip on his sword only slightly.  "You're the leader of these bandits?  That doesn't sound like your usual line of work."

The bossman shrugged.  "Work is as work does.  I prefer to go my own way, as you know, but sometimes you have to work for someone else.  That is why I am here."  He shrugged again.  "But ask me if I care if I succeed for my ... friends."

Glendal's smile was more natural this time.  "Yes, I think I see which way the wind is blowing.  Well, at least one of them escaped, maybe more, I can't recall; they were nothing."  He cocked his head before saying, "Interesting you using a Cleric."

Bosko laughed, a harsh grating sound.  "That fop?  He never knew I existed.  But my men tried to play him off against me."  He laughed again, a short bark.  "I would have had to exact my own vengeance on the two-timers if you hadn't done them in for me.  For that, I owe you, and will hereby let you pass unscathed."

Glendal bristled at the brush-off.  Bosko beat him to the punch with his reply.  "Oh, don't bend your pointy Elf ears.  Maybe you could take me," he said, standing up, "but I'd make you know you'd been in a fight."  He thumped his fist against his chest; Glendal heard the sound of armor underneath Bosko's cloak.  The light that had been dancing in his eyes now glinted dangerously.

Mastering his emotions, Glendal deliberately relaxed.  "If you're not here to stop me leaving with all this treasure, and you don't really seem to care whether you let your 'friends' down, then why are you here?"

Bosko's mercurial moods swept over him again.  He threw himself back into his chair with a genuine laugh, saying, "The fools think there is a certain document that was stored here that might lead us all to riches unimagined.  Or perhaps call into being some infernal demonic power.  I really don't know.  But I hired my ruffians to find what they could," (and by 'hired' Glendal knew he meant 'press-ganged'), "and keep whatever they found with the exception of the item."  He squinted a look at Glendal.  "I'd say the same arrangement could be made with you."

Glendal considered the offer.  He preferred to keep people like Bosko on his good side, if he kept them at all; he had no particular grudge against him at this time; and so he said, "I saw some maps back there that might be salvageable.  What were you looking for?"

In response, Bosko slid a piece of parchment across the desk.  Glendal studied it for a moment, then shook his head.  "This I have not seen."

Bosko took the paper back, stuffing it into his jerkin.  "I believe you.  You do not deal in such things, and have no use for it.  But if you find it, will you bring it to me?"

Glendal nodded.  "We have an accord."

Bosko stood up laughing, and slapped the Elf on the shoulder good-naturedly.  "You always were my favorite Thief back at the Phantom Cabal."

Glendal bid good-bye and began to descend the stairs, knowing that he would not find any document before he was shot of this place.  And not really caring.

The room rolls are as previously discussed:
Goal roll d20 = 1 + 5 rooms = 6 = No goal.

For the room exit direction, I rolled d10 = 10 = "whatever direction would make the dungeon the most compact."  I decided that stairs down, leading to just east of Room 6 would fit the bill.

Room type, d20 = 13 = Officer's Quarters.

Room contents:
Encounter d10 = 7 = No.
Treasure d10 = 5 = No.
Hazard d10 = 6 = No.  Add 1 to Feature roll.
Feature d10 = 10 + 1 = 11 = Yes.

Nature of the Feature, roll d8 = 5 = "A dangerous intruder or beast who has entered the site."

Creature Motivation, roll d10 = 6 = "Scout the site for an outside power."  Further clarification on the "Their Allegiance" table, d4 = 2 = "Grudgingly submissive to the location's rulers."  I determined him to be a Unique Foe d6 = 4 = Elite.  I'm not going to give the Elite stats because I didn't end up fighting him, but he did have the result of "Armored, AC +2."

Initially this was looking very much like a Boss Fight.

So I rolled on the NPC Reaction table, p117, and classified him as an "Unfriendly NPC, -2 for risks to NPC's wealth or standing."  2d6 = 11 - 2 = 9 = "Persuadable."  Hmm, maybe not so bad after all.

Next I rolled for his Attitude Towards the Hero, p79, 2d8 = 7 + 5 = 12 = "Disinclined to fight unless that seems necessary."

To determine exactly who I was dealing with, I asked the Oracle p115, "Is this the Bandit Leader?"  I gave it odds of Very Likely, rolled d20 = 17 = "Yes."

So with all of that, I wrote on my sheet, "He's working for somebody else but doesn't like it.  Doesn't care if he succeeds or not."

Well, if we're not going to fight, I need to know more about who he is and what he wants.

So I rolled on the Actors & NPCs table, p116, d8 = 7, d10 = 3 = "Press Gang Boss" in the "Underworld" column.

More rolls:  Memorable Trait p117, d100 = 43 = "Facial Scarring."
Ruling Temperament, d100 = "Capricious."
Immediate Desires, d100 = "Getting a document."

For his physical description, I used the "d30 Sandbox Companion," p46 "NPC Physical Traits."

His name, Bosko Stith the Hedonist Courier from the Forsaken Dens, I generated from the Wampus Country blog.

So in the end, I wrote that Glendal and Bosko parted without a fight.  In my notes, I didn't actually have Bosko and Glendal come to an agreement, but fiction deserves being added to.

I did kind of like the fact that I faced the so-called Boss Monster and it was nothing.

Turn 24, Room 12 (the final room):

Glendal descended the spiral stairs, peering carefully at each step before putting his weight on it.  He had not asked Bosko if the leader had come up this way, but he wasn't going to go back now and risk losing face.  The stairs led down into gloom.

The Elf guessed that this was a secret room, accessible only from above and from the outside through the door (probably hidden from the outside) to the southeast of him.  This room seemed to be just to the east of the Smithy, the sixth room he had encountered on the ground floor.  There may or may not have been a secret passage between the Smithy and here in the past, but it would have made sense, as this appeared to be an Armory.  The Thief surmised it to be the secret Armory of the Officers.

Alas but there were no magic, glowing weapons to be had.  Even though it was a secret room, it had been pilfered more thoroughly than had many of the more mundane rooms.  In fact there was very little here beyond some empty scabbards and broken scroll cases.

Scroll cases?  Kicking through the detritus, the Elf's sharp eyes espied one intact scroll case.  Not daring to believe his luck, he retrieved it, removed the ancient scroll from the case and carefully unrolled it.  Could it be the very document for which Bosko was looking?

Glendal sat back on his heels, momentarily stunned by the confluence of events.  It was the scroll in question.  Amazing!  Before returning it to it's case, the curious Thief scanned the document.  A-ha!  It was no wonder certain persons wanted this scroll; it contained a terrible truth about a very important person in the land, or at least about their family's history.

Turn 25, return to Room 11:

Replacing the scroll in the tube, he immediately climbed the spiral stairs.  Bosko looked at him expectantly, thinking, no doubt, that the reason for his so-soon return was anything other than the actuality.

Glendal set the scroll case on the desk and stepped back.  "My word is kept."

Bosko appeared non-plussed at first, then frantically tore at the scroll tube.  As his eyes read over the document, he murmured softly at first, and then more loudly as his mood changed, "Ha haa!  Well done, my Thief friend, well done indeed!  Bosko won't soon forget this!  A favor for a favor, yes?  I owe you one now, my friend."

Leaving his "friend" behind to crow over his treasure, Glendal began to backtrack into the Fort of the Unholy Mound, there to gather all of his blood-gotten loot.  Taking extra sacks from the already-stiffening dead men, he knew he would have plenty of space to drag it all out...if he could carry it all.  Somehow, the Elf knew he would find the strength.  Town and dancing girls were not so far away after all.

The end...for now.

I knew this to be the last room.

Wandering monster check, d6 = 6 = No.

Goal roll d20 = 8 + 6 rooms = 14 = No goal.  Ah well, I had pretty much found something to qualify for it much earlier.

Room exit, d10 = 5 = South East (into the woods outside).
Room type d20 = 2 = "Armory."  I figured, based on it's location in the Fort, it was a secret Officer's Armory.  Would there be any good loot left?

Room contents rolls:
Encounter d10 = 5 = No.
Treasure d10 = 1 = No.
Hazard d10 = 8 = No.  Add 1 to Feature roll.
Feature d10 = 8 + 1 = 9 = Yes.

Nature of the Feature table, p128, d8 = 8 = "An item of information, whether book, note, or talk."

Inanimate Feature Quality table, d20 = 12 = "Contains a terrible truth about an important NPC."  (I will admit I rolled more than once [4 times actually] before I got a result I felt "fit."  But this is the only roll I ever fudged.)

On the Example Specific Feature table, I rolled d4 = 3, d10 = 6 = "Ancient scroll; 10% chance of being magical."  d100 = 41% = Not magical.  Still, a scroll Feature?  It's like the game knows what it wants to make happen.

I asked the Oracle, "Is this the document that Bosko wants?"  I will also admit, I led the question by making the odds 'Very Likely' but I still feel they were appropriate.  d20 = 20! = "Yes."  A very definite Yes.

I will even further admit I was getting tired at this time, and was ready to both finish this particular session as well as this chapter in the life of Glendal Lorg.  So I went straight back to Bosko.

I rolled for his Reaction, p117.  Now that I knew who he was, he was no longer an Unfriendly NPC, so I used the column for "NPC Stranger, +2 for large bribe or significant service owed."  2d6 = 5 + 3 + 2 = 10 = "Full Agreement."

It's not only the very document he wants, he is fully willing to honor our agreement, and I wrote that he said, "A favor for a favor.  I owe you one, my friend."

With all of the rooms explored, and all of the "monsters" defeated, there was nothing left for Glendal to do but gather up his loot and return to town.  Maybe find a wheelbarrow to carry it all or something, but he's resourceful; I think he can handle it.

And so comes an end to the Adventures of Glendal Lorg, Scarlet Hero, for now.  He survived his first foray into Adventuredom, and will gain 1 XP.  This puts him firmly halfway to Second Level.

The rules as written say, "Heroes usually receive one experience point after every session of gaming, assuming they at least tried to accomplish some suitably heroic feat."  However, even though I took 9 sessions to play this out, I don't really feel XP should be given that way in this case.  I figure the Fort counts as one session.  This is good, because I like low-level play, so I will be able to have a second adventure before he levels up.

I do plan to continue, possibly with an "urban" adventure next.  However, I will NOT be including all of the dice rolls and rules descriptions, except in rare circumstances when they're needed.  I may give just roll summaries so you can see how things develop organically.  Hopefully this will speed things up, enough that I can write about it more frequently.  We shall see.  Hopefully it won't be too, too long before Glendal Lorg sallies forth once again to make his mark upon the world!

And if you've enjoyed reading, seriously check out Kevin Crawford's Sine Nomine Publishing and get a copy of Scarlet Heroes for yourself.

Thanks for reading!

Postscript:  You want to know what's funny?  It wasn't until I was writing up session 1.8 that I realized that I have been spelling Glendal's name wrong this entire time.  Check out the photo of his character sheet below.

And then I thought, well maybe I wrote it wrong on his sheet.  But no, the Wampus Country name generator (linked above for Bosko) gives it as Glindal.

How embarrassing.  But I'm sticking with Glendal.  Birth certificates get messed up all the time.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Short Intermission: 4AD

Recently I've become acquainted with a new game called "Four Against Darkness" by Ganesha Games.  "Four Against Darkness" (or 4AD for short, available here and here) simulates four adventurers braving a random dungeon, in a solo gaming capacity; so it fits in nicely with what I'm doing here on 'Alone Amongst Many.'  Plus there is a competition in the rules packet and I admit I'm just as mercenary as my four adventurers.

I've been looking for a simple, solid, solo dungeon romp and have tried a fair few number of different offerings.  I won't name names because none of them really fit the bill for me and I don't want to burn any bridges.  (I'm not generally in the habit of giving reviews; my tastes are too esoteric to be of much use to anyone else, really.)  Dungeon crawling can actually be rather tedious and even boring if done improperly, so it needs to be simplified (note I didn't say simple) in order to ease the burden of boredom upon the player.

4AD is reasonably simplified, and it makes the crawling considerably easier without totally drilling it down to bare minimums.

There are better and more thorough reviews to be had of the actual mechanics of the game, and if you found my little blog then you can find the others.  Start here (and scroll down near the bottom) and here and here and go from there.

Some dungeon-crawl "simulations" try to do too much:  I don't need to know for how long a torch burns, or if a monster is visible in bright light or dim light because it's right at the edge of the range of the light source.  I don't need to keep track of how many arrows I've shot, or how many sling bullets I'm carrying, or how many feet I've moved this turn and whether I ran or walked.

4AD doesn't try to do any of that.  It has a little bit of "crunchiness" but not a lot.  Really, it has all it needs.  Someone has to carry the lantern, and there are limits on how much treasure and weapons/armor each character can carry.  And there are spell-casting limits.  Other than that, there's not a lot to keep track of, so you can devote all of your attention to exploration and combat.

The dungeon is generated randomly as you go, so mapping is part of the game.  This is why it's so eminently suited to solo play.  You will need graph paper.  The game only uses d6s.  I used my "DoubleSix" dice from a Kickstarter.

Below is a photo of my gaming setup.  You can click on the picture to enlarge it.  I had the rules on my tablet, and printed out only the pocket-mods of the pertinent tables included in the rules.  You don't really need to do this unless you don't have the full set of rules close to hand; having them on my tablet made it dead-easy to jump to whichever table I needed at the time.

My gaming setup:  tablet, graph paper, pencil, "DoubleSix" dice, and pocket-mod versions of the necessary tables.

I wrote out my four adventurous Adventurers:  Dirk Donovan the Warrior, Smitem Goode the Cleric, Dash Calypso the Rogue and Secretus Magicus the Wizard.  The life points are tied directly to their Level, so there is no ambiguity.  The pocket-mod doesn't give much room to write but I managed to fit it all there.

My four adventurers:  the pocket-mod doesn't give you much room to write, but such is the nature of the beast.

I recorded the details of the exploration and encounters on the following pages in the pocket-mod.  Below are Rooms 2, 3, 4 and 5 with their combats.  I won't go into my shorthand notation; you can make up your own anyhow.

A summary of my adventurous journey.

Below is the conclusion to my dungeon.  Amazingly enough, it ended after only 6 rooms.  I rolled for the big boss and....  Well, you'll have to read my room-by-room summation below to find out.

The conclusion of my adventurous journey.

Here is my map.  I was inspired to add the crosshatching; I don't normally do that.

The map of my adventurous journey.
I began in Room 1 at a three-way junction.  I chose straight ahead (North).

Still learning the rules, I entered Room 2.  It was empty.  I searched it but found nothing.  I think I remembered to roll for Wandering Monsters, but forgot to write it down.

Room 3 had a door that I decided was locked.  This is an optional rule.  My Rogue unlocked it no problem, but I then decided I wasn't going to do that any more this dungeon; not with still learning the rules.

Room 3 had a Level 2 Puzzle.  My Wizard solved that and was rewarded with a 25gp gem!  (This is only one of three places in the rules that I noticed a discrepancy:  in the description of the Wizard on page 11, it specifically states that he adds his Level to rolls to solve puzzles or riddles.  It does not state this in the Rogue's description on page 10.  However, in the Special Features table under the 'Puzzle Room' entry, it does specifically state that "Wizards and rogues add their level to their puzzle-solving roll."  So what to do?  I tend to allow things that help my characters so I plan on using the table.  This time it wasn't a factor.)

In Room 4 I met a Boss monster (but not THE Boss monster), an Orc Brute, Level 5, with 5 life points and 2 attacks!  Wanting to see how the combat system worked, I had everyone attack in melee (as opposed to using spells).  In order, the Warrior missed, the Cleric hit for 2 damage, and the Rogue and the Wizard both missed.  Then the Orc attacked.  I had him attack the Warrior.  The first attack missed but the second hit for ...  Well, I forgot to roll a second attack!  (Still learning the rules, you know.)

In round 2, the Warrior hit for 1 point, dropping the Orc to less than half his life points.  This caused a morale roll, which he failed, so he fled.  The Treasure roll provided 25 gp.  And by defeating a Boss, one character got to level up.  I chose the Wizard, as I wanted him to have access to more spells.  Secretus Magicus succeeded in becoming Level 2!  Hooray!

In Room 5 I encountered Minions, specifically 10 Fungi Folk.  They were Level 3.  All Minions have 1 life point each.  This should be easy, I thought.  I was wrong.

This combat lasted for three rounds, with various and multiple misses by the Heroes and the Villains.  Over time, I finally wore the Fungi down to 4 remaining which finally caused them to flee.  However, during the combat the Rogue, the Cleric and the Wizard each took one hit.  This does not sound like much until you recall they only started with 4, 5, and 3!  Additionally, when you're hit by Fungi you have to roll to save versus Level 3 poison or lose 1 life.  I rolled three 1s in a row(!!) [with 2 different dice!!] so each character lost another life point.  This put their life points at Cleric 3, Rogue 2 and Wizard 2.  What's more, you have to defeat 10 Minion combats in order to have a chance at leveling another character!  Now, I realize I should have had my Wizard use his Fireball spell, but I wanted to see how the combat system worked with regard to Minions; plus I was saving my heavy-hitting magic for the Boss monster at the end.  And for all of that trouble, I only got 5 gp.  Curses!

Room 6 turned out to be (coincidentally) the final Boss Monster:  a Mummy, Level 5, with 4 life points and 2 attacks.  Mummies are especially susceptible to the Fireball spell.  So guess what I led off with?  That's right, I had my Wizard cast Fireball!  Oh yeah!

I rolled two 6s in a row plus a third d6, plus the Wizard's level plus 2 for the Mummy not liking fire = 21.  This games uses the "Explosive Six Rule:  Whenever you roll a 6 performing any character action, immediately roll another d6 and add the result to the total.  This is cumulative: if you roll another 6, roll again and add it to the total.  With enough luck, you could roll ANY number.  In combat, this will let you kill multiple minions with a lucky blow.  In other situations, it will let a character save against a threat higher than 6."

Now, this is slightly ambiguous (this is #2 of 3 rules I found that way), as it doesn't specifically mention here about combat with monsters with more than one life point.  However in the "How to Attack Monsters" section, it states, "Every successful hit on a Boss depletes one of their life points," and regarding Minions it says, "Every successful attack kills one."

So I believe, as I read it, that the Explosive Six Rule will allow you to do multiple life point damage to a Boss Monster.  And so that's what I did.  That certainly seems to be the intent of the rule, in my opinion.

21 points is more than 4 times the Mummy's Level of 5, so that did 4 points of damage.  One dead (again) Mummy.  Mr. Wizard is very smug about this.  He constantly reminds them that they should be very glad they brought him along, what with his puzzle-solving ability and his fireball spells.  The Treasure ended up being 1 gem worth 120 gp.

That's a total of two gems worth 145 gp, and 30 actual gp.  Not bad for a six-room dungeon.  But in order to enjoy the spoils I had to exit back the way I came.  For each room I entered as I retraced my steps, I rolled for a Wandering Monster.  I annotated these rolls out to the side on the map.  I successfully exited the dungeon without further incident, especially since I resisted exploring down the two unexplored corridors in Room 2.  Discretion is the better part of valor, I always say (or I do when I'm laden down with gold and one room away from the exit!).

I should add here the third rule that I found slightly ambiguous.  When you search an empty room, you roll on a table.  One of the three results is, "Clue, secret door, or hidden treasure."  However, there is no mechanism for determining which of the three it is you have found.  Now I know I can just roll 1d6 and assign 1-2 to Clue, 3-4 to Secret Door and 5-6 to Hidden Treasure, but when you have tables in the rules detailing how, when and where you find things, to NOT have one is jarring.

But I'm weird that way.  When I buy a set of rules, I expect them to tell me how to play the game.  If I have to "fill in the blanks," then I might as well write my own game and play that.  This is not just a criticism of 4AD, but of many, many another game I own (I'm looking at you, Two Hour Wargames!).

However, with only 3 instances of rule ambiguities in 4AD, I consider this a very minor annoyance, and an overall win.

The game was fast playing, even with learning the rules, and pretty satisfying.  It pushed almost all of the buttons I like in a solo dungeon crawl.  And for the parts that may be too simplified for some people, it's always easy to add a house-rule.  There's also a decent amount of artwork in the book, although personally I can always use more artwork (unless it's just bad art which this is not).

And there's already a published adventure available, with more promised to come.

All in all, it's worth the price of admission.

And now back to our regularly scheduled solo RPG....

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Adventures of Glendal Lorg, Scarlet Hero (1.8)

Glendal Lorg -- Elf, Thief, Scarlet Hero -- the Visionary from the Phantom Cabal, has so far successfully avoided dire hurt as he explores the Fort of the Unholy Mound.  He has made it to what might be called room 8 of a total of 12, which he obviously knows in some deep, dark, unconscious Elf-Thiefy-part of himself.

He has just discovered a Secret Door leading out of Room 8 to Room 9.  What lies beyond, nobody yet knows!

After disabling the trap, he prepares to enter...Room 9.

Turn 19, Room 9:

Glendal slipped through the gap in the door as skillfully as sand between fingers.  In a moment he was standing, silent, in what had once been the Fort's Prison Cell.  A barred section was rusted and open, empty of everything but the smell of age-old decay.  However, in the center of the room on a rickety table was a pile of gold coins.

Strangely, this room's roof was intact, casting everything into deep shadow.  For a split second, the Thief was blind, before his Elf eyes adjusted to the gloom.  What he saw made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end:  three of the Looters were crouched in places of hiding around the room, very obviously ready to ambush the helpless Thief.  To a lesser being, they would likely have been invisible until too late; to the mighty hero -- with his Elven senses and carefully cultivated keen danger sense -- they were as apparent as if they had never tried to hide.

With a slight swagger, Glendal stepped away from the door, fingering the hilt of his sword, and at first acting as if he knew not of their presence.  Then with a flourish, he drew the blade and spoke to the men, projecting his voice with authority.  "Pathetic men!  Your ploy has failed.  Leave the gold -- no, I'll be generous, take one each -- and go home to your families.  I'll not give you a second chance or another warning."

His eyes darted between the three men.  Two were mere minions, followers probably lured in by promises of much wealth.  The third was more formidable, a skilled freebooter more used to the ways of treachery and bloodshed.  The Elf would have to dispose of him first, and quickly.

Still, he waited for their first move.  He would let them live should they choose that path.

It was not to be.

With a growl of anger, their leader rose, brandishing his weapon, and ordered his men to attack.  Quickly they closed on the Thief, and battle was joined.

Glendal waited until the leader was committed to his attack before flicking his wrist to skewer the man, and promptly dropped his own sword!  The human leader moved in for the kill, grinning at the Elf's clumsiness, but impaled himself on Glendal's dagger instead.

The surprised but dead mercenary crumpled to the floor, and Glendal turned his attention to the two novice adventurers.  The first, while clearly upset by the killing of his leader, nevertheless continued to close and attack.  His greed outweighed his better judgment.  "I knew we should'a killed ya earlier when we 'ad the chance!" he spat.  "That damn cleric....  We never should'a listened to 'im."

The second adventurer, however, upon seeing the widening pool of blood on the floor, fell to his knees and tried to join Glendal's side.  "Please, good sir," the filthy, black-toothed scalawag begged, "I didn't mean no 'arm.  I's just followin' orders.  They promised me money, but I ain't seen nuthin' yet but killin'."  He inched closer and closer on his knees, arms open wide.  In moments, he was close enough to get in the Elf's way.

Luckily, even though Glendal was distracted, the first looter was as inexperienced as he was dirty, and his swing missed.  The Elf slid his toe under his sword, flipped it up into his hand and promptly missed this attack as well.  Arrgh, why didn't these lesser beings leave him alone?  Frustrated, he took extra care with his backhand attack, and dropped the first minion where he stood.  The Elf was always intrigued by the look of surprise on the faces of those he killed.  Did he really look so incompetent that they didn't think he could kill them?

Something in the tone of the second rogue's voice triggered a warning in the Elf.  The fellow had practically enveloped the Thief in a hug around his legs, since he was still on his knees.  He was still saying the same sorts of things, "I didn't mean no 'arm, after all, my sword is broken now and how will I ever get home?" but somehow it was just different enough to give him away.

Glendal brought his sword around and parried the sneaky thrust of this one at the last possible second.  Appalled at the treachery, the Elf dispatched the Looter without hesitation or comment.  He then stooped to wipe his blade clean on the ruffian's clothing, but stopped when he realized it was only making his sword filthier.  Disgusting humans, he thought.

As he caught his breath, he surveyed the rest of the room.  The stacks of gold coins -- at least 400 by his quick estimate -- were there, no doubt, for the same reason as those in the other rooms:  the Looters had accumulated it and stored it for later retrieval.  Plus, it was probably intended as a lure for him, and a distraction from their ambush.  Feeling pretty confident -- not over-confident, as the Elf would never admit to that -- Glendal left the gold right where it was.  By his estimation, there couldn't be that many more trouble-makers left in the Fort, so it should be safe until he could come back to get it.  What he found most interesting about this encounter was that he now knew there had to be another way up from below; these ruffians certainly had not sneaked past him to get here first!

Lastly, he looked to the South East, and the very odd door there.  It was entirely made of quartz.  It glowed a soft pinkish in the dim light of the room, not from any inherent light but just because it collected what dim light there was.  The Thief examined it carefully.  There appeared to be no way to open it:  no knobs or handles that he could see, nor did it seem to be trapped in any way.

He stood puzzling over it for some time.  Then, taking a lit candle for a little extra light, he went over the door more thoroughly.  Engraved along the edges were a series of grooves; not quite runes, but shallow carvings, and yes!, they formed some words.  Instructions, he realized with a start.  Holding the candle, he traced the words with a long finger.  Momentarily nonplussed by what he read, he traced the words again.  It did not make sense, but with no other way to get through the door it was worth a try.

Following the instructions, he opened his canteen and carefully poured some water on the runes, then spoke the command word as written on the door.  No sooner had the word left his mouth than the quartz door suddenly split right in half, side to side, opening top to bottom.

The noble Elf readied to enter the next room.

Right, so here's how things shook out:

I rolled the usual things:

Room type d20 = 14 = Prison Cell.
Goal roll d20 + 3 rooms = 18 = No.  Of course you could argue that I've already found the goal, but I like to keep my options open.

Room Contents d10 rolls:

Encounter = 8 = Yes.  Adds +3 to Treasure roll.
Treasure = 9 + 3 = Yes.
Hazard = 9 = No.
Feature = 3 = No.
Exit direction d10 = 5 = South East (to Room 10).

Encounter 3d6 = 4 + 3 + 3 = 10 = "2d4 + T HD worth of Minions & Elites."  The 2d4 + T = 1 + 1 + 1 = 3 HD = 2 Minions and 1 Elite.

They have the same stats as previous Novice Adventurers and Skilled Freebooters.

The Encounter Treasure 3d6 = 1 + 2 + 5 = 8 = "No encounter treasure, but M2 worth of room contents."  M2 = 2d4 x 100 gp = 2 + 2 = 400 gp.

The occupants' Reactions:  First, I asked the Oracle, "Are these the same Looters from downstairs, that I met with the Cleric?"  I assigned it as 'Likely.'  d20 = 15 = "Yes."

Next I asked the Oracle, "With the Cleric gone, do they want revenge?"  I assigned it as 'Very Likely.'  d20 = 9 = "Yes."

I then rolled on the Reactions table on p117, under the column titled "Unfriendly NPC," with a modifier of "-2 for insults or risks to the NPC’s wealth or standing."  2d6 = 1 + 3 - 2 = 2 = "Anger/Violence."

As a backup, I also rolled a Reaction Check on page 79, which is elaborated on, on page 55 (at least, I consider them to be basically the same thing).  2d8 = 4 + 1 + CHA 1 = 6 = "Predacious, willing to take advantage of those weaker."

Both descriptions seemed to back each other up, and also fit what I felt was appropriate for the situation.

Next, I had to determine the answer to the question, Does Glendal ken to their ambush?  I rolled an Opposed Check.  The Looters rolled 2d8 = 6 + 2 = 8.  Glendal rolled 2d8 + Elven Senses (or Keen Danger Sense; he has both at +1 but can only use one) + WIS = 7 + 7 + 1 +1 = 16.  Obviously he was very aware of their presence.

I then wrote out on my sheet, "Your ploy failed.  Leave the gold -- take 1 -- and go home to your families."  (I was really getting into the part, don'cha'know!)

So I asked the Oracle, "Do they obey?"  I continued with the theme that the Reaction Tables had provided, as 'Very Unlikely.'  d20 = 13 = No.  So I rolled on the Oracular Adjectives and Motivations table on p115.  2d20 = 14, 16 = "Rapacity," "Regret."  I interpreted this to mean they were too greedy, and regretted that they didn't kill Glendal earlier.

Naturally this led to Combat.

The Elf took the initiative, and promptly rolled a 1 for his attack.  Fumble!  However, the Fray d6 scored 2, which did 1 point of damage to the Elite, killing him.

The Minion morale check resulted in Minion1 passing with an 8, but Minion2 failed with a 2.  This ended with him fleeing.  In order to make things more interesting, I asked the Oracle, "Does Minion2 flee away from Glendal?"  Since panic can make men do strange things, I assigned it as 'Unknown.'  d20 = 7 = "No, but..."  The "But" d6 roll = 1 = "A twist to the relationship between people in the situation."  I interpreted this as him attempting to join Glendal's side, begging and interfering with him.  I took this direction partly after reading the following in the Bestiary, under the heading "Morale" on p54:  "Brave creatures may make a fighting withdrawal, trying to reach some more defensible position to make a last stand. Others might simply turn and run, or throw down their weapons and beg for mercy. Most creatures will act according to their training even after their morale breaks. Soldiers may abandon their weapons and flee the field, but they’re more likely to retreat in something resembling disciplined order. Bandits, on the other hand, are apt to scatter to the winds as
soon as they lose heart."  [emphasis mine]

Then Minion1 attacked with a 15 and missed.

Round 2:  Glendal again attacked but only managed a 14, which is quite the miss.  However, again the Fray d6 saved him with a 2, killing Minion1.

What was I going to do with Minion2?  I didn't really want a camp follower or a dogsbody or anything.  I asked the Oracle, "Does Minion2 stay?"  'Unknown.'  d20 = 14 = "Yes, but..."  The "But" d6 = 5 = "The failure of a piece of gear, either for the hero or an NPC."

Again I turned to the Oracular Adjectives and Motivations table.  2d20 = 20, 14 = "Servitude," "Trickery."  I interpreted this to mean that Minion2 panicked, offering to help Glendal, claiming his sword is broken, but when he gets close he attempts to attack instead.

Do I notice?  This calls for an Opposed Check.  Minion2 = 2d8 = 2 + 5 = 7.  Glendal 2d8 + Keen Danger Sense + WIS = 1 + 8 + 1 + 1 = 11.  Yes, the Elf notices.

Combat ensues / continues:  Glendal d20 = 25.  That's a hit.  Damage d8 = 4 + 2 = 6 = 3 points of damage =  one dead Minion2.

To determine what type of door the connecting door to Room 10 was, I consulted the Tome of Adventure Design p153, Table 3-30 "Normal Door, Unusual Features of."  Four d100 rolls provided that it was made of Quartz; of a Natural Color; that it Divides at middle, top slides up, bottom slides down; and that it had a Written Trick.  To divine what the Trick was, I rolled on p208, Table 3-114 and 115.  It answered as "Water" and "Carved in Stone."  Table 3-116 said, "The written trick gives instructions that must be immediately followed."

Ergo, If you pour water on the quartz grooves and read the command word the door opens.

Turn 20, Room 10:

The Elf Thief slipped carefully but determinedly through the quartz door into the room beyond.  He had time only for a quick glance before events began to move forward.  This had been the Fort's Map & File Room, judging by the tattered and torn ribbons of parchment adorning the walls and what furniture that remained.  A table or two still stood upright, covered in yellowing, desiccated, decaying scrolls:  map scrolls by the looks of them, not spell scrolls.  Most of the writing and images on the wall maps were so faded as to be illegible.

However, what captured the Elf's attention first were two simultaneous things:  first, a mound of glittering jewels, jewelry, gemstones, potion bottles and gold pieces; and second, three more thugs angrily facing him with weapons drawn as he appeared.

"He killed Kenny!  Get 'im!" their leader shouted.

Glendal was already moving.  He had had enough of these shallow, greed-blinded humans, interfering with his plans to acquire all of the treasure in the Fort of the Unholy Mound.  Didn't they realize yet that it was all meant to be his?

His sword sang from its scabbard with a musical sound, and promptly flew out of his fingers to stick in the wall across from him.  But his backhanded dagger slash gutted the skilled freebooter who had spoken.  He withdrew the blade and met the eyes of the two lesser thugs.

The first unskilled adventurer very obviously plucked his courage up by it's bootstraps, and stood his ground.  The second, though, gave in completely to panic.

"Oh no, not again," thought the Elf.  But this time, instead of claiming his sword had broken, the young ruffian actually broke it over his knee, and then turned tail and ran out the single door behind him to the east.

The Thief was momentarily distracted by the spectacle, and was unable to sufficiently parry the first hooligan's attack.  The sword scraped through in a gap between the Elf's leather armor, drawing a thin line of red behind it.

Dancing away from the attack, Glendal deftly retrieved his sword, swung about, swung, and ... missed again!  With an aggravated grimace, the Elf re-centered his focus, and impaled the looter on his dagger.

Glendal had already cleaned and sheathed his weapons before the novice adventurer's body fully hit the floor, and was eyeing with intense pleasure the pile of loot before him.

Turn 20's events unfolded as follows, with the normal rolls:

Room type d20 = 11 = Map & File Room.

Goal roll d20 + 4 = 5 + 4 = 9 = No.
Contents d10 rolls:
Encounter = 10 = Yes, add 3 to Treasure roll.
Treasure = 7 + 3 = 10 = Yes.
Hazard = 8 = No.
Feature = 5 = No.
Room exit direction d10 = 4 = East (to Room 11).

The Encounter 3d6 = 1 + 2 + 3 = 6 = "1d4+T hit dice worth of foes numbering several
Minions or Civilians and possibly an Elite."  The 1d4 + T = 2 + 1 = 3 HD worth of foes = 2 Minions and 1 Elite.

I did not feel the need to ask the Oracle whether or not these were the last of the Looters from downstairs.  It just seem right to say they were.

The Treasure roll turned out as follows:  3d6 = 6 + 6 + 6 = 18! = "A full C-type trove is present appropriate to the type of dungeon. It will require 1d6 turns to fully catalogue and
collect it from its repository, risking wandering foes."

For the C-type trove I felt C4, a "Minor Ruin's Wealth," was appropriate.  The rolls required were as follows:
"1d6+4 x 100 gp, 1d6+4 Cheap Jewelry, 1d4 Costly Jewelry, 25% for 1 Precious Jewelry, 1d3 Lesser and 25% for 1 Greater Magic Item."

So I rolled on all the appropriate tables.  This was definitely Glendal's big score!  Rather than write it all up, I've included a photo of my notes, below.

You can click on this to enlarge it in order to read it more easily, assuming you can actually read my chicken-scratch handwriting.

For the combat, I had Glendal attack right away, no need for conversation.  There was no way the avaricious Elf was going to let this loot slip through his fingers!

There were two Minions (Novice Adventurers) and one Elite (Skilled Freebooter), just like the previous room.  Glendal attacked first, and rolled a 1, just like the previous room!  Ol' Glendal really isn't as good as he thinks he is!  His Fray d6 scored a 5, which was enough to kill the Elite.

I then rolled a Morale check for the two Minions, just like the previous room.  Minion1 passed with an 8 (same number as Minion1 in Room 9, which is exactly the number needed to pass), and Minion2 failed with a 2 (which, again, was the exact same number as in Room 9!).  This is total déjà vu!

I asked the Oracle, "Does Minion2 flee away from Glendal?"  The same as before, I assigned it as Unknown due to panic, d20 = 13 = "Yes, but..."  The "But" d6 = 1 = "A twist to the relationship between people in the situation."  Again, this was the same result as previously.

I really did roll everything separately, I promise!

Finally, with the Oracular Adjectives & Motivation table, I got some new results.  2d20 = 1, 10 = "Habit," "Broken Object."  So I decided he broke his own sword and ran away home.

Minion2 attacked Glendal and hit for 1 hp, bringing Glendal down to 5 remaining.

Round 2:  Glendal attacked, scoring a 14 which is a miss.  The Fray die scored 3, which was enough to kill Minion2.

And Thus Ended Turn 20.

Turn 21:

Glendal wasted no time.  Despite his greed, he knew to take care of himself first (as he usually did in most situations anyhow, whether they were social or combative).  While applying some ointment to his wound, he listened carefully for the sounds of further attack.  All was silent, save for the sound of blood seeping into the wooden floorboards.  After a sip of water and bite of pounded cake, he felt like a new man, er, Elf.

Turn 22:

Next he turned his attention to the pile of treasure on the table.  Ordinarily, such a large 'take' would require a long time to carefully sort and catalogue.  Luckily for him, the looters had done the work for him:  everything was neatly arranged in rows by type and value.  Obviously they had been preparing to split the wealth between them when they were interrupted.  As it was, Glendal was able to rake his eyes across the gems, fixing everything in his near-perfect memory for such things before sweeping the entire lot into his backpack (with the exception of the huge pile of gold pieces; he would need a larger sack to carry those).  The clatter and clink was like music to his pointy ears.  It was so quick he didn't even worry about other looters sneaking up on him.

After a last look under the table to make sure he had missed nothing, he turned his attention to the eastern door, leading to the next room.  By his estimation, this would be the next to last room in the Fort.  Somewhere ahead must be another way down that the looters were using to get in front of him.  The thought sobered him:  he didn't know how many more looters there might be, and he was in no mood to share.  Steeling his nerve and checking his sword, he approached the door.

Turn 21 was a simple healing turn.  Per the rules, Glendal healed the immediately preceding damage, bringing him back to full hit points.  The wandering monsters d6 roll = 3 = No (only on a 1).

Turn 22 was to have been the start of cataloging the treasure by rolling 1d6 for the total number turns it would take.  My roll was d6 = 1 turn.  I figured the ruffians already had it sorted and counted.  Very nice of them.  In fact, it seemed so elegant that I either decided to not roll for another wandering monster or I forgot (I don't recall which).

And Thus Ends Turn 22.  Tune in next time (whenever that may be, hopefully sooner rather than later) for the final two rooms in the Fort of the Unholy Mound.  It was great fun for me to play it.  It just takes 10 times as long to write it up as it does to play it out.  I think after this game finishes, I'll simply play and write them up as "narrative," with no rules explanations.  It'll save an enormous amount of time.

* * *  Thanks for reading this far, and I sincerely hope you enjoyed it.  * * *


Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Adventures of Glendal Lorg, Scarlet Hero (1.7)

Continuing the ongoing adventures of that illustrious Elf Thief, Glendal Lorg, as he continues to explore the Fort of the Unholy Mound.

When last we left our hero, he had just finished Turn 16, er, that is, he had delivered the needed ingredient to the waiting Cleric, who had then healed the Thief.

He then prepared to enter the next room to the South East.

Turn 17, Room 8:

The wary Elf edged his way through the mess of the former Storeroom to the archway into what appeared to have been the Sickroom.  However, this was really just a guess on the wily Thief's part, because most of the room was covered in ruin and rubble, making it difficult to suss the true original purpose.

Carefully scanning the perimeter with his trusty Elf eyes, peering through the slanting shafts of sunlight as they filtered through both the swirling motes of dust as well as the leaves of the exposed trees visible above the roof, Glendal took in all the details.  Much of the ceiling had collapsed, covering the rude beds with a tangle of debris.  There were also no occupants, living or otherwise.  More to the point, there appeared to be no exit.

The Elf found this odd, since he had it on good authority that this dilapidated fort should have twelve rooms.  And he was certain he had not missed any previous to now.  He would have to make doubly sure before he moved on.

He was about to step fully into the room when that wonderful sixth sense that kept skillful Thieves alive made him pause.  A second, closer look revealed what his subconscious had warned him about:  the room had once been trapped!

Looking up, he could tell that the ceiling was once arched.  Parts of it now littered the floor where it had fallen in.  And mixed in with the pieces of roof and beds was an area of netting.

Obviously there had been a net-trap in the ceiling, designed to fall on someone entering this room of the wounded and ill and those otherwise too weak to defend themselves.  Yet decay and time had connived to wreck the trap before it's useful purpose had been fulfilled.

Glendal checked twice, and once more, before entering the room.  Sadly, there were no secreted treasures or piles of coins set out for him, courtesy of the Looters.  They had never made it this far into the Fort.

I rolled the usual dice to determine the room's contents and whatnots.  First, the room type d20 = 15 = Sickroom.  Next, checking the direction of the exit, I rolled d10 = 1 = North West.  That was the direction from which I just came, so I figured something was up.  The text from the Scarlet Heroes rulebook reads, "If there is already an explored room in the direction you’ve rolled, draw in a passage to it and roll again, or add a stairway up or down."  I didn't really want to roll again unless I had to, or do another stairway.  I solved it on the next turn as you shall read shortly.  It was risky, but what self-respecting Adventurer would do otherwise?

Continuing, Room Contents d10 = 3 = No.
Treasure d10 = 5 = No.
Hazard d10 = 10 = Yes.
Feature d10 = 2 = No.

For the Hazard d8 = 7 = "Trapped feature. If Feature, save or take Td6 damage."   However, there is no Feature.  How can you have a 'Trapped Feature' without having a Feature?  This is one of the few times Scarlet Heroes falls flat.  It wants to give you everything, so you get in the habit of letting it do all the work, when suddenly it makes you think for yourself.  How dare a game make me think for myself!  Anyhow, I resolved this by rolling for what the Feature had been, d8 = 2 = "An architectural feature of the original structure."  Since there is no Feature, I surmised that the architectural feature of the original structure was now crumbled, broken, so therefore there was also no longer a Trap.

To learn more about what that architectural feature might be, I then consulted the "D30 DM Companion" by New Big Dragon Games, page 8, Table "DFG2: ADDITIONAL FEATURES" d30 = 10 = "ceilings, arched (round)."

Next, I rolled on page 12, Table "RTG2c: CEILING TRAPS" d30 = 15 = "netting," to find out what type of Trap used to be there.

From this I finally concluded that the arched, rounded ceiling had collapsed, spilling the netting from it trap-y place onto the floor, covering a small area about 10 feet in diameter.  Ergo, the trap is ruined.

There was also the real possibility of this being a dead end.  I used Turn 18 to find out whether it would be or not.

Turn 18, Room 8:

Glendal, the ever-suspicious Thief, refused to believe his eyes.  They told him there was no other exit from the Sickroom, but his instincts told him otherwise.  Long years of Thieving, as well as his exceptional Elf senses, would help him find what others might miss.

Stepping gingerly through the room, he followed the walls, running his nimble hands and dexterous fingertips over every nook and cranny.  The extreme age and general state of ruin of, well, everything made it easier than normal.  And there, on the North East wall, was what he was looking for:  A Secret Door!

Having verified the existence of the door, he next looked for and found the mechanism.  However, before activating it, he stepped back and studied the wall and the door.  Would it be trapped? he wondered.  Likely, since they had gone to the trouble to both hide this door and attempt to protect the Sickroom occupants.  And would the trap still function?  He would only know that if he were able to find it first.

Before the thoughts had even formed in his mind, his practiced eye saw the tell-tale marks of the trap and it's location.  Removing an iron piton from his pack (every Adventurer worth his salt carries an iron piton, doesn't he?), he jammed it carefully and forcefully into the mechanism, effectively disabling the extremely heavy iron door barrier trap from falling and crushing his noble Elf head.

Having completed his work, Glendal paused to listen.  The only sounds were the wind in the trees outside, and his own soft breathing.  Pushing gently on the Secret Door, he prepared to enter the next room.

I decided to check for Secret Doors, since otherwise this would be a dead end.  My worry was if I didn't find the secret door, what then?  Bah, I cast all worry to the four winds and rolled the dice.

I decided that the difficulty of the Check would be Average, or 11, based on the age of the Fort and it's crumbling nature making it easier to find such things.  I rolled 2d8 + 1 (WIS) + 1 (my Elven Senses) = 7 + 3 + 1 + 1 = 12.  So I found (just barely) a Secret Door.

But is one really there?

I asked the Scarlet Heroes Oracle on page 115, "Is there a Secret Door?"  I gave myself straight-up odds of 50/50 ("Unknown") = d20 = 17 = Yes.

So I've found a Secret Door.  I wrote on my paper, "Check for traps, check to open it."

"Is it trapped?" I asked the Oracle.  I considered it "Likely" for the reasons I gave in the fiction, d20 = 12 = Yes.

I then Checked for traps, again versus an Average of 11 = 2d8 + 1 (WIS) + 3 (Adventuring Thief) = 8 + 6 + 1 + 3 = 18.  I very definitely found the trap.

Next, I attempted to disable the trap.  I rated this as a Simple Check of 9, again based on it's age.  2d8 + 2 (DEX) + 3 (Adv. Thief) = 8 + 3 + 2 + 3 = 16.  I therefore disabled the trap.

And finally, out of curiosity I consulted the "D30 DM Companion" again, page 12, "RTG1: TRAP TYPE & DIFFICULTY" d30 = 3 = "Barrier."  A further roll on table "RTG2a: BARRIER TRAPS" d30 = 5 = "Iron Door, 3d4 damage."

So now I could press on into Room 9.

But which direction?  d10 = 9 = "On a result of 9 or 10, the next direction is whatever would
make for the most compact dungeon," so I placed it to the North East which puts it over Room 6 below.

And finally, I checked for wandering monsters, d6 = 2 (only on a 1) = No.

That's it for this report.  Tune in again next time, when things a lot more exciting that broken traps and secret doors happen.  No really, it's a lot more exciting!

Thanks for reading!