Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Glendal Lorg in the City, Setup & Scene 1

Glendal goes Urban.

I can't keep away from Scarlet Heroes by Sine Nomine Publishing.

* * * * *

Glendal Lorg, adventuring Elf Thief, has returned triumphant from the Fort of the Unholy Mound, pockets bulging with his blood-won spoils.

He has been back in his adopted city of Sorcerer Crest for some days now, adroitly avoiding his former "friends" at the Phantom Cabal -- those thieves --  and spending his gold on dancing girls and fine drink.

The city of Sorcerer Crest -- for it truly could be considered a city, though a small one -- was, like so many cities where too many Humans lived, crowded and unkempt, especially to an Elf's delicate sensibilities.  It was ruled as an oligarchy, although the Elf didn't really know for sure, primarily because he didn't care as he tended to do what he wanted anyhow.  He thought there to be maybe as many as 25 co-equal leaders, but he wouldn't swear to the number.

Glendal had lived there for many, many years and still found much to smile about in regard to the city's inhabitants.  For instance, he was highly amused by their reaction to outsiders:  they were generally irritated by them, considering them to be boring boors who couldn't find their way down Astrologers Stone Street to Tawney Lane without hand-holding directions.  Never mind the fact that the streets and lanes of Sorcerer Crest were winding, narrow, dirty and unevenly paved; the outsiders were still barely tolerated.

Fortunately, the city was reasonably prosperous, with generally low taxes as well as low prices, but ever with the threat of inflation.  The worst part about living in Sorcerer Crest was the poor waste disposal system:  streets often overflowed with refuse and sewer runoff, a legacy to the fact that the city was built up over decades, never with a plan but simply haphazardly.  This more often than was liked led to disease sweeping through the population, and the occasional fire wreaking havoc especially in the poorer districts.

And if those weren't enough problems, there was also the ever-present nearby threat of rampaging hobgoblins.

Despite Glendal having lived in Sorcerer Crest a very long time, and despite the fact that he being an Elf was clearly superior to any short-lived Human, he was still sometimes greeted with racial intolerance.  As well, his noble profession of Adventurer Thief (emphasis on Adventurer, thank-you-very-much) was often the source of look-down-your-nose attitudes as well.  In particular, the city fathers tended to frown upon the Pilfering Arts, and this in spite of the fact that the Phantom Cabal lined those city fathers' pockets quite well to look the other way.  That there were 25 sets of pockets to line should tell you just how prevalent and prosperous the Phantom Cabal was.

Glendal wasn't entirely sure if the Phantom Cabal knew he had left their employ prior to his lark in the Fort of the Unholy Mound.  He didn't really have any intention of going back to them, but at the same time he hated to burn any bridge that didn't need burning.  So he felt he would wait and see what they thought of it first.

Glendal had been splitting his gold and his time between three taverns:  the 'Filthy Ogre,' the 'Acolyte's Pick,' and the 'Captain & Brigand.'  Each offered something the others did not.  The Filthy Ogre was the the place to go to drink when you didn't care who saw you there or what you were going to drink, although they did have an excellent selection of wines.  The Acolyte's Pick was the place Glendal went when he was in the mood for slender, nubile (primarily Elven) dancing girls.  And the Captain & Brigand was known for its exotic weapons mounted over the hearth, and for the fact that it catered to more upscale customers.

It was shortly after his return to Sorcerer Crest -- after he had carefully disposed of much of his money, and turned the non-spendable gems into hard cash -- that Glendal heard the rumors.  Even though he was staying away from the Phantom Cabal, they still had a way of insinuating themselves into his life.

One night, while drinking at the Filthy Ogre, the Elf was enjoying a languorous mood, having imbibed more cheap wine than was necessary, when his attentive ears overheard a whispered conversation.  The room, as always, was dark, and Glendal was in his favorite corner with his back to the wall.  However, there was a table near him to his left, partially in a niche where its inhabitants no doubt thought themselves safe from prying eyes and ears.  Nevertheless, with only the slightly movement, Glendal was able to listen.

Two ne'er-do-wells, both of whom Glendal knew from the Phantom Cabal, were discussing the upcoming theft of ... something ... from ... somebody ....  They were very careful, the Elf had to admit to himself, to not give too much information away.  But what had caught his attention was the mention of the name Dassadal Ul.  Dassadal Ul the Vainglorious Coachman from the Primordial Road to be more specific.  Glendal knew Dassadal from their time together in the Phantom Cabal.  But whereas Glendal considered himself (rightly, mind you!) a cultured and principled Thief, Dassadal was no more than a cretinous Underworld street thug.  Glendal, being an Elf, was old by Human standards (but young by Elf standards) while Dassadal was uncommonly old for his position.  That he was this old and still no more than a common thief only added to his bitterness.

Glendal knew a few more things about Dassadal:  that he was uncomfortably wed with marital strife; that his bitterness often caused him to strike out with swift wrath; and that great physical strength propelled that violence.  Some said he was only inspired by the excitement and thrill of new experiences, but Glendal knew it was more about how he could self-promote:  the term "Vainglorious" was not added haphazardly, after all.  Even though Dassadal was missing an eye from some long-past fight, he still found ways to show off:  his eye-patch was encrusted with glittering gems!

Glendal and Dassadal were not friends, to be sure, yet they were not strictly speaking enemies, either.  They were rivals:  of about the same "rank" in the Phantom Cabal, and of much the same experience.  And while the Elf was mostly willing to leave the Cabal to its own devices in exchange for being left alone, he still couldn't resist the temptation of poking a finger into the eye of Dassadal, especially if it would be amusing at the same time.

So Dassadal was planning to steal something from someone, was he?  It came into Glendal's mind that he would either steal it first, himself, or perhaps prevent it from being stolen, depending on what it was.

He made his plans rapidly, sobering up almost instantly at the thought of the thrill of the chase.  The first thing to do would be to find out the who and the what of it all.

The Human lowlife who had been doing all the talking, Glendal knew as well.  His name was Essem Meem, known as the Orphan Scout from the Unseen Castle.  He was regarded as a mule, a person to whom things could be given and they would then be carried to someone else.  He didn't generally work much, though, because he was lazy.  The main thing that motivated him was trying to impress the boss, and the man who used Essem's services the most was Dassadal Ul.

Essem and his companion finished their drinks and their conversation.  The con artist wrapped a ragged scarf around his face on his way out the door, half-heartedly attempting to disguise himself.  Glendal dropped a few coins on the table and followed Meem at a safe distance.  He would trail Essem, accost him in some dark alley, and force him to tell all he knew about Dassadal's plans.

* * * * * 

The city, taverns and environs have been formed by using the Ultimate Toolbox by AEG, the d30 Sandbox Companion by New Big Dragon Games, and City Street Names by sorry-I-don't-know-who.

I'm using the Scarlet Heroes rule set, and playing an Urban encounter series.  I've never played the urban adventures before, so I'm feeling my way.  I wanted to establish Glendal's home base before I dove into the actual adventure:  I need to know the lay of the land before starting, after all.

Threat Level = 1
Heat = 0
Victory Points:  Glendal = 0; Enemy = 0
Clues = 0

Urban Adventure Plots and Crimes
I rolled 1d8 = 2 :  "An Antagonist seeks to steal something precious to a Target."
"Draw or choose either the Antagonist or the Target, whichever your hero is most likely to care about.  Draw the unknown actor only after a successful Investigation scene spent discovering their identity.  The object being stolen is the Target’s most precious
possession or something important to the Antagonist that the Target possesses.  Scenes revolve around finding the thieves, guarding the object, and snatching it back if it is stolen."

I decided to choose the Antagonist (and create him/her) and let the game create the Target.  I opted to do this because I have no other back-story NPCs to associate with Glendal (at least, none that wouldn't feel contrived to use).  I figure the only reason Glendal will be interested in this potential theft is not that it occurs to someone he knows (unlikely), but that the person attempting to do the theft is known to him (and he will probably want to stop him).

Using the Scarlet Heroes rules, I rolled on multiple tables:  "Actor Relationships," "Actors, Relationships & Reactions," "Quick NPC Creation," and got the following:

The Antagonist is a Society Fellow (meaning my society), an Underworld Cretinous Street Thug, (likely a former Thief from the Phantom Cabal).  He is uncommonly old for his position; is wed uncomfortably with marital strife; has great personal strength or potential for violence; is wrathful and swift to strike out at all which affronts him; his most powerful motivation is excitement and the thrill of some new experience or lore; and he is missing a limb or eye to accident or battle-wound.

Using the Wampus Country Name Generator I christened him Dassadal Ul, the Vainglorious Coachman from the Primordial Road, who is wanting to steal/has stolen something.

I then had to decide Who is the Target?

Scene 1:  Investigation:  1d10 = 6 "Ambush a dangerous Actor who holds a Clue.  Face a Fight instead of a check."

I rolled on the "Crime Details" table, with the following result:
Location = Business; Witness =  Culprit's minion; Why no Action? = Evidence stolen.

I decide to ambush this minion to find out the Who, What, When, Where, How & Why.

First I must create him.  Again, I rolled on "Actors, Relationships & Reactions," and because I didn't feel he needed quite as much depth, I simply used, "Memorable Traits," "Ruling Temperament," and Immediate Desires."  These produced the following:

Always Carries Things; Lazy; and Wants to Impress the boss.

However, the Investigation Scene description says that this is an ambush and I must fight.

Who, exactly, and where?  I rolled on "Potential Foes," and "Urban (Slum) Locations."
The minion is a Pit Fighter(!), a Human, and I corner him in a Tattered Market.

Finally, I use the Wampus Country Name Generator to give him his identity.

He is Essem Meem, the Orphan Scout from the Unseen Castle.

* * * * *

Scene 1:  Investigation:  "Ambush a dangerous Actor who holds a Clue.  Face a fight instead of a check."

Glendal tailed the thug through several back streets and alleys.  He awaited the appropriate opportunity to corner Essem without interruption.  The second scumbag went his separate way after a while, and Glendal continued to follow the mule.

They wended their way through the warrens into an even seedier part of town.  Finally, Essem appeared to reach his destination, a place in the slums called the Tattered Market.  Once, it had been a thriving marketplace but now it was mainly a disused covered set of stalls, even somewhat maze-like.

Once Glendal was certain the thug was inside, he stepped to the door, knocked, then stepped five paces backwards.  Essem opened the door, carefully looking around.  When he saw the Elf, he scowled.

"Hello, Glendal," he said.  "What do you want?"

"Essem," the Elf acknowledged with a nod.  "I want you to tell me about the little job Dassadal is planning."  He put one hand on his coin purse and the other on his sword hilt.  "I can make it worth your time, in more ways than one."

Essem looked startled at first, not understanding how Glendal could know about the job.  Gathering his wits, he stepped out of the shanty, flexing his muscles and cracking his knuckles.  Glendal suddenly recalled, a bit late, that Essem had once been a pit fighter and retained much of that physique.  (He blamed the cheap wine for that particular lack of memory.)

"I'm not really in the mood for talking," Essem growled.

No matter, the Elf decided.  He could still deal with the thug.

And then four more toughs shuffled out the door into the shadows and sunlight slanting between the stalls.  They were no pit fighters, but certainly dangerous street rabble.

Glendal waited until they stopped moving before speaking.  "The option is still open, Essem.  It's yours to choose but be warned:  I will have my information."

Essem's response was to spit on the ground.  "Bring it, Elf."

Glendal did.

Not wanting to kill the Orphan Scout from the Unseen Castle, the Thief slashed with his sword, deliberately so that Essem would dodge.  He did, right in to the pommel of the Elf's dagger.  The blow connected and Essem dropped unconscious to the ground.

That left just enough of an opening for one of the street rabble to score a strike on Glendal, drawing blood.  The Elf twitched away and the other three attackers missed.

Glendal had been willing to let the villains go, but once his blood was spilled he tended to be much less forgiving.  With a slick flourish, he used the same maneuver to distract the rabble who had dared to stab him, and skewered him with his dagger.

The second thug also was able to hit the Elf, drawing another red line of blood.  Glendal promptly split him in half in payment.  With a backhand motion, he sunk his knife hilt-deep in the third tough's neck.

Pausing only for a moment, Glendal locked eyes with the last thug, giving him his chance to escape.  Instead, the fool taunted him.  Glendal speared him with his sword, felling him.

He wiped his weapons on the dead men's clothing before catching Essem by the collar.  The pit fighter's head lolled limply.  Glendal sprinkled some water from his canteen on Essem's bruised face and slapped his cheeks lightly to bring him around.  Moaning, Essem opened his eyes.  Now the Elf would have his answers.

* * * * *

The Fight Difficulty level is d8 + 1/2 the Threat level (rounded down) = d8 + 0 = 2.
However, the description said he is a "dangerous" Actor, and he is a Pit Fighter, so 2 didn't work for me.  I chose "4" = 1d4 + T Rabble + 1 Veteran (which I changed to Thug).  I ended with 4 Rabble and 1 Thug (Essem).

I purposefully noted on my sheet that I was attacking to subdue Essem, not to kill him.

My Fray die did the job, and I took 2 wounds from the Rabble before I killed them all.  I allowed 2 separate Morale roll chances for them to escape, but apparently they wanted to die.

I won the Scene.  +1 VP, +1 Clue.  I used violence, but in a socially-acceptable location and against socially acceptable targets, so no automatic Heat increase.  I rolled 1d10 vs the total number of Investigation + Action scenes [1] = 7, so no Heat increase.  Heat = 0.

Threat Level = 1
Heat = 0
Victory Points:  Glendal = 1; Enemy = 0
Clues = 1

* * * * *

Essem lay on the ground, Glendal kneeling straddled over him, one hand on the thug's throat, the other holding his dagger.

"You like working for Dassadal that much?" Glendal asked.  "I can make you look like him too," and he gently waved the glinting dagger close to Essem's eye.  "Now I'll ask you again:  What is Dassadal after, and why?"

Essem's eyes crossed as they focused on the point of the knife.  He gulped, and then stammered, "It's a statuette, nothing special, not even worth all that much, just a couple hundred, it's just a statuette."

"Keep going," Glendal urged with a shake of his hand.  "What's it look like?  Who does it belong to?"

Essem squeezed his eyes shut tight.  "Uh, uh, it's made of inlaid wood, plated with pewter.  I think it shows a person, maybe a victim?  I'm not sure.  It's a marriage statuette, it's for a wife to give her husband--"

"I know what a marriage statuette is, dullard.  Who is it for?"

"Immuth Nex, the Scribe from the Fallen Castle."

Glendal paused.  Something about that name or the title sounded familiar.  He thought hard for a few moments while Essem sweated.  Then it came to him.

"Immuth Nex, that's her married name.  What was her maiden name?" he demanded.

"Uh, uh, Raglia Bazh, I think.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's what Dassadal said."

Glendal almost laughed aloud.  Ahhh, what odd games did the Fates play with mortals.  Fargle Nex was a Cleric of Cernunnos, god of virility, whom Glendal had only just met during his exploration of the Fort of the Unholy Mound.  They had aided each other briefly, and had parted on friendly terms.  The Polygamist from the Accursed Island had been searching for a cure for his lady love, Raglia Bazh, the Scribe from the Fallen Castle (but more a minor politician or functionary for one of the Twenty-Five) and Glendal had helped him procure it.

Apparently the cure had worked and Fargle and Raglia had wed.  It was common practice in Sorcerer Crest for the married woman to change her name, both her first and last, thus signifying her new life.  Another strange custom particular to Sorcerer Crest and it's immediate surroundings was the giving of a marriage statue by the bride (or bride's family) to the groom, again to show the full "ownership" of the woman by the man.  In this case it would seem the statue displayed a representative sacrifice, of the "victim" bride to her husband's care.  Glendal did not put much stock into these token displays; he had seen too many marriages end far too soon in spite of these customs.  No, fidelity to one's mate was far more important than some pathetic statuette or meaningless name change.  Given Fargle's chosen career, Glendal wondered if the man knew what he was doing.

Breaking from his reverie, Glendal gave Essem one last shake.  "Why?  Why does Dassadal want this marriage statuette?  What is it to him?"

The pit fighter shook his head.  "I don't know, I swear!  All I know is Dassadal wants it."

"Does he have it yet?  Has he already stolen it?"

"No, not yet," Essem replied.  "I'm not sure when he plans to make his move, but he hasn't yet."

Glendal stood, then helped Essem to his feet as well.  Giving the henchman a gentle dusting, he then gave him a gentle warning.  "Don't tell Dassadal.  If I find out...." and he let the word hang in the air, before turning on his heel and striding out of the Tattered Market.

* * * * *

I had won the Scene, so Essem told me...what?

For the Who I rolled on Actors, Relationships, and Reactions, getting the results of:

Elite and Noble, "Famed Courtesan."  For Race, I rolled Shou-blooded (which is Orc) but I didn't see how that fit, so I changed it to Half-Elf.

Next I rolled, as usual, on the Wampus Country Name Generator.  Now keep in mind, this table has 100 entries for all five columns.  Here's the amazing part:  I rolled Nex with a legitimate first roll for the surname.  So obviously this was related to Fargle Nex from the first adventure.

I only assumed I didn't have any NPCs for the Target when I started the game.  And how can it be contrived when the dice themselves tell me what to do!

What was the object?  I gave 50/50 odds to Object or Jewelry.  I got Object.  I rolled between Costly/Precious/Priceless and it became a Costly Statuette of Inlaid Wood, plated with Pewter.

The Tome of Adventure Design by Frog God Games gave me the specifics:  a statue of a "Person (Victim)," "Conferring Ownership."

I asked the Oracle if it had been stolen yet, with 50/50 odds.  1d20 = 5 = No.

I asked the Oracle if Essem knew why Dassadal wanted to steal it.  I gave it Unlikely odds.  1d20 = 9 = No.

Now I know Who the Antagonist is, Who the Target is, and What is to be stolen.  I still don't know When, Where, How and Why.

Glendal has some work to do.

Please check in again soon (hopefully) to see what I find out.

Thanks for reading!

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....