Monday, September 29, 2014

The Adventures of Glendal Lorg, Solo Hero (1.1)

Glendal Lorg the Visionary, from the Phantom Cabal, was tired of serving in said Phantom Cabal, and decided to strike out on his own.

The Phantom Cabal acts as the Thief's Guild in my version of the Lost Lands of Barakus, or Citystate of the Invincible Overlord, or Greyhawk, or the Forgotten Realms, or wherever.  Depending on whom you ask.  And what day of the week it is.

The rules governing Glendal's conduct and adventures will be from Scarlet Heroes by Sine Nomine Publishing; HOWEVER, I will be removing all elements of the default (Chinese/Japanese/island) setting, as I have no interest in Oriental gaming/culture/deporting basic fantasy to an alternative (apologies in advance), and simply wish to stick with my comfort zone.  Spells and monsters will be converted as necessary on-the-fly, using whatever I happen to have on-hand at the moment:  Holmes D&D, Menzter D&D, AD&D 1e, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, or my current go-to favorite Basic Fantasy Role-Playing.  All other aspects will be used as closely as written in Scarlet Heroes, i.e., treasure, monster encounter frequency, and especially the adventure generators for solo Urban, Wilderness and Dungeons.

I should add here, up front, that I like my solo role-playing to be a little less Mythic story-question driven, and a little more random-table-dice-roll controlled.  That's just me.  That's how I roll (the dice).  I love Rory's Story Cubes.  I won't be using them with Scarlet Heroes.  I love Mythic.  I won't be using it with Scarlet Heroes, other than the modified/adapted table that is provided in Scarlet Heroes.  I love The 9 Qs.  I won't be using them in Scarlet Heroes.  If it's not in Scarlet Heroes, or on a table somewhere else, I won't be using it.  Tables are how I keep myself in suspense.

*** Naturally, this is the first rule I will break when it suits me. ***

Glendal was named using the Random Name Generator from Wampus Country:

Glendal's vital statistics:
Elf Thief, Level 1, XP 0.
STR 16
DEX 16
CON 16
INT 11
WIS 14
CHA 14
...all of which were rolled legitimately on real d6s.  That it took more than one set of rolls to get these results is irrelevant.  Irrelevant, I say!

Max HP 6, Current HP 6
Armor Class 5 (using descending AC, per the Scarlet Heroes rules)
Attack Bonus +1
Fray Die 1d6

Traits & Abilities:
  • Elven Senses +1
  • Former Fighter in past life +1
  • Adventuring Thief (Stealth, lockpicking, pick-pocketing, climbing, disarming small traps) +3
  • Keen Danger Sense +1
  • Streetwise Information Gatherer +2
  • Has the Thief's Ambush ability +4 to hit, x3 damage.
  • To explore the world and get rich (yet with a heart of gold).
  • Leather Armor
  • Backpack
  • 1hw Sword
  • Small Weapon/Dagger
  • Bow, Quiver of 20 Arrows
  • Camp Gear
  • Common Clothes
  • Rations for 5 days
  • Waterskin (1 gallon)
  • Torches (10), burn for 1 hour each
Glendal decided to set out on his own, to earn the renown that surely is his due.  But at the same time he wanted to start small enough so as to not embarrass himself should he (inconceivably) fail.  This meant exploring a nearby deserted(?) ruin that had been nagging at him to pilfer for months.

So on Tuesday morning, Glendal filled his waterskin, sharpened his sword, packed his backpack and set out for...

I rolled on the "Dungeon Types and Sizes" chart on page 126 of Scarlet Heroes:  d10=5, d12=12

...a "shattered outpost," a type of fortress.  Naturally, as every child in Glendal's home town knew, the old Fort of the Unholy Mound...

---Thanks to Wampus Country name generator again---

...was practically overgrown with jungle plants and falling down around your ears, but yet rumor persisted that unclaimed treasure from the defeated garrison was to be found there.

And what more reason does a cunning fellow like Glendal need to risk life and limb, than the faintest rumor of long-forgotten treasure?

Never mind the logic that if the garrison was defeated and the fortress sacked, then there wouldn't be any long-forgotten treasure.  These rumors were persistent, I say!

Glendal knew from long exposure to the rumors of the street regarding the Fort of the Unholy Mound (henceforth known as FUM) that it was a two-story structure, consisting of a dozen rooms or chambers.

This came from rolling a further d12 on the "Size" column, scoring a 6:  "Two parts of 3d6  locations," which then became 1 + 5 + 6 = 12 locations.

What's more, *I* knew, even if Glendal didn't, that the ruin was inhabited (although "inhabited" might be too strong a word), since on the "Common Dungeon Inhabitants" table, I rolled d20 = 17.  The Basic Type of inhabitant would be "Looters"; the Minion type would be called "Novice Adventurers"; the Elite type would be "Skilled Freebooters"; the Boss type would be "Expedition Leader"; and any Mages encountered would be "Traditional Mage"; and lastly, Civilians would be called "Porter/Servants."  I'm not really sure Looters qualify as inhabitants; however, they are obviously there before Glendal, and are in the building, so technically they qualify as inhabiting, just not in the traditional sense.

Apparently, other no-good-niks had the same idea as our illustrious hero; namely, that the taking of free loot is a good way to earn a living.

Glendal also knew, from his street rumor-mongers, that the ruins of FUM were not too terribly dangerous.

In other words, I rolled 2d6 on the "Dungeon Threat Adjustment" table, scoring 2 + 6 = 8:  "The danger is roughly as anticipated.  The Threat level is equal to the PC's level," i.e., 1.

And so, having established all that could be established prior to setting out, Glendal Lorg the Visionary set out, trekking through the overgrown paths, eyes alert for danger at every turn.

He arrived unmolested at the front door of the fallen Fortress of the Unholy Mound.

It was a decrepit-looking wooden and stone-built fort of ancient design.  While obviously of human origin, it pre-existed the current nearby city.  Being a long-lived Elf, Glendal felt he should know something of this place, but didn't think of it in time before heading inside.  Only the moment of Now mattered!  (He'd been living among Humans for a long time.)

Cautiously entering the first room through a gap in a collapsed wall, Glendal found himself in what must have been the Cistern, where it once provided water to its beleaguered residents.  Now, however, it was cracked and dry, the water having long ago escaped through the fractures in its sides and bottom.

Glendal, despite his relative inexperience, felt intuitively that he would encounter no random, perhaps-best-described-as-Wandering, Monsters for at least 30 minutes.

I decided to follow the recommended and rather traditional practice of only rolling for wandering monsters after every third turn.

There are several rolls made upon entering each room in Dungeon exploration.  I will elaborate on this first set, and from now on will abbreviate as much as possible.  They will be presented in the same order when possible.

First, I roll to see if the Goal (the villain or macguffin) is present.  A roll of 20 means yes, and it is +1 to the roll each room after the halfway point.  I don't know what the Goal might be for this delve, but I roll anyway.  Goal d20 = 15.  No Goal.

Next, in order, determine:  room type then room contents (Encounter?; Treasure?; Hazard?; Feature?).  All rolls are by 1d10 each.

Finally, after everything has been ascertained and dealt with, roll for the direction and type of the next room.

Turn 1, Room 1
Room type d20 = 5 = Cistern.
Encounter d10 = 8 = Yes.
Treasure d10 + 3 (for an encounter) = 13 = Yes.
Hazard d10 = 4 = No.
Feature d10 = 2 = No.

Glendal entered the gloom of the unlit cistern.  Hazy green light filtered in through the rents in the ceiling and walls from the jungle outside.  His hopes of a quick and easy carouse through the complex, scooping up piles of coins and jewels, were quickly dashed as he spied...others!  Hugging the shadows against the wall, Glendal scoped out his opponents.  Would he have to kill them or would they share?, he wondered.

Encounter Found, 3d6 = 2 + 5 + 6 = 13.  "1d6 + T hit dice worth of Minions and Elites, with a 50% chance of T hit dice worth of guard beasts or allies," where T = the Threat level = 1.  So d6 = 2 + 1 = 3 hit dice worth.  I decided that two Novice Adventurers would be led by one Skilled Freebooter.  A 50/50 d6 roll yielded no allies.

I ran into a little problem here, because there are no specified stats for "Novice Adventurers" or "Skilled Freebooters," or for the Basic Type of "Looters" either for that matter.  This is odd because there are other creatures available on the list of possible Dungeon Inhabitants which are statted out.  Also, there are stats for Human Bandits, Commoners, Nobles and Soldiers.  And there is a chart for "Statistics for Unique or Unstatted Foes," which certainly seemed like the answer, except the stats for Vermin, Minion, Elite, Beast, Boss, and Mage didn't really seem to correlate to the stats for Human Bandits, Commoners, Nobles or Soldiers.  They were almost the same, but not the same.

I went back and forth for a while, before deciding to use the "Unstatted Foes" table for all Looter-types.  It seems perfectly clear to me in retrospect, but at the time it caused me needless delay and confusion.  I really felt that a "name" adversary should have stats.  This is not the same as needing to substitute a monster from another D&D edition, at least not to me.

At any rate, all Minions aka Novice Adventurers have the following stats:
Hit Dice 1
AC 7
Attack +1
Damage 1d6
Move 30'
Morale 8

All Elites aka Skilled Freebooters have the following stats:
Hit Dice T (1)
AC 5
Attack +T (+1)
Damage 1d10
Move 30'
Morale 10

Glendal couldn't quite make out what sort of treasure the ruffians were pawing through, but it looked like a little something-something.  In fact, it looked like...

...3d6 = 4 + 5 + 6 = 15 = 1/10th of a C-type treasure trove appropriate to the place.  Which C-type trove?  I guessed it would be C4 "Minor Ruin's Wealth."  More on that later.

Glendal stepped out of the shadows, announcing his presence by simply appearing.  The Looters stopped their sorting and counting, freezing in place as this almost-apparition materialized out of the darkness.  His sword was in its scabbard; shadows hid his face.  One hand rested on the pommel of his sword.

The two Novice Adventurers -- two street hooligans hardly older than Glendal looked (for he was an Elf and of great age compared to Humans) -- exchanged nervous glances, then both looked to their more experienced leader, the Skilled Freebooter.  Here was a man who knew the ways of thieves, and he saw in his opponent's eyes that which reflected his own:  It's not yours, it's mine!

With a growled curse, the Skilled Freebooter drew his sword, motioning for his two subordinates to do likewise.  Warily they circled the Elf interloper, who had also now armed himself.  After a few tense moments of sizing each other up, the Looters attacked!

I used the Reactions Table from "Actors, Relationships, and Reactions" on page 117, but it didn't feel quite right for the situation.  I wasn't sure which column to use or how to modify it, as this table is really meant for interpersonal reactions between PCs and NPCs as opposed to combat reactions.  Nonetheless, I used the "NPC Stranger" column, rolled 2d6 = 2 + 3 = 5 "Flat Refusal" (which certainly seemed to work), and asked the General Oracle, "Do they attack?"  I deemed this "Likely" (partly as it seemed likely, but also because I wanted to run through a combat encounter to make sure I understood the mechanics of it).  I rolled d20 = 14 = Yes.

Glendal spotted the tell-tale gleam in the Freebooter's eye seconds before they launched their assault, and was able to act first.  The changing light that filtered through the jungle canopy and into the cistern gave a weird otherworldly glow to the proceedings.

This was Glendal's first real fight and a strange blood-red haze seemed to obscure his vision.  He sprang at the leader, missing with his quick backhand, but hitting solidly with his main strike, killing the Elite Skilled Freebooter with a single stroke.  If he had been a trifle more careful, he realized later, he probably could have carried through with his swing and killed one of the other fighters.  He would need to control his temper better in the future, so as not to make that mistake again.  Next time, it might kill him!

It was also my first real fight and I falteringly felt my way through the combat system.  It's familiar enough to anyone who's ever played old-school D&D, yet there are a couple of differences that will trip you up if you're not careful.  My first mistake was in how I allocated attacks and damage:  the real way is much more free-flowing than what I used.  I targeted and applied all regular damage and the fray die to the same target, which in this case didn't matter as the fray die came up a 1.  But any damage can be spread around targets, as long as the attack roll would have hit them.  So of the 2HD worth of damage I did with my main attack, only 1 was needed to kill the Elite; I could have applied the 2nd to one of the Minions.  Lesson learned.

The heroes of Scarlet Heroes always act first in Initiative order.  Now it was the Minions' turn to act.  I decided a Morale Check was in order.

The two Novices turned to look at the bloody ruin that had been their leader.  One formed the thought:  "More loot for me!" and continued his attack, the other decided that it wasn't that much loot after all, and turned and ran.

Minion #1 rolled 2d6 = 11 and ran.  Minion 2 rolled 2d6 = 7 and stayed to fight.  I gave Minion #1 a 50/50 chance of running inside or outside (since we were at the entrance to the dungeon), and rolled for him to run outside.

"Life on the streets is better than dying in here!" he shouted over his shoulder as he disappeared into the foliage.

The other Novice pressed his attack while Glendal was distracted.  The distraction worked!  His sword slipped past the Elf's defenses and scratched the skin.

Minion #2 rolled his attack really well:  d20 = 17 + 1 + AC5 = 23.  The d6 damage came up 2 which equals 1 hp damage.

Glendal returned his full attention to his attacker...and missed!  Darn that blood rage bad temper thing!  Calming himself, he backhanded the Novice ruffian, causing him to trip over a root and impale himself on Glendal's sword.  The last of the three Looters was dead.

My main attack roll ended with a total of 19, which is not enough to hit even a Novice Adventurer.  Luckily, my fray d6 scored a 5 which correlates to 1HD damage, which was just enough to kill Minion #2.

There is an option in the Dungeon Exploration rules to have Dungeons with Alarms.  I opted not to have this happen this go-around, as I wanted to see how far Glendal could go without that added threat.  Plus, it didn't really seem to fit a nearly-deserted ruin.

Kicking the bodies aside, Glendal eyed the loot.  After pawing through their pockets, he began separating the coins they had been counting into piles of his own.  Neither of the ruffians had anything worthwhile on their person, and luckily for Glendal they had already found what meager treasure there was to be found in this room.

90 gp.  1 cheap jewelry.  1 costly jewelry.  No precious jewelry.  1 lesser magic item.  No greater magic item.

Specifically, a malachite toe ring ("A toe ring?  Really?") worth 50 gp, and a rose quartz amulet worth 100 gp.  Also a potion that with a careful tongue-touch Glendal identified as the street-drug "Rapture."  Just what the ecstasy-inducing potion was doing in a former military fortress was beyond the Elf's ken.

Otherwise, not bad for a first room's work.

The C4 Minor Ruin's Wealth list consisted of:  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.

Everything was 1/10th of that.  My rolls resulted in the "awards" just listed.  I figured I would round up, i.e., I rolled d6 + 4 = 3 + 4 = 7 pieces of cheap jewelry; except I get 1/10th of 7, which would be 7/10ths of a piece of jewelry.  That's not gonna happen.  So if it's applicable, I round up.  Ergo, there is 1 piece of cheap jewelry.  If it ends up being 3/10ths of a piece of jewelry, I'll round down as well to zero.  I play fair.

I rolled d10 x 10gp = 50 gp cheap jewelry.  Then a d12 identified it as 8 = malachite, then another d12 = 12 as a toe ring.

Next, d6 x 100gp = 100 gp costly jewelry.  d12 = 12 = rose quartz; d12 = 1 = amulet.

Finally, the lesser magic item via d10 = 6 = became a potion.  A d% = 83 = "Rapture:  A costly extract compounded from the essences of numerous recreational drugs and sorcerous concoctions, a potion of rapture may be consumed by a user or splashed on a victim.  If the subject submits to the drug, they spend the next hour in a helpless, oblivious state of ecstasy.  If they fight the effects, the drug lasts only 2d4 rounds - but each round the subject must make a saving throw aginst difficulty 14 to perform any action."

That's a very interesting potion, and I am unlikely to find anything remotely similar in any of the Old School books.  Also, it's off-the-wall enough that I decided to keep it as-is. 

Glendal then took a few minutes to examine and tend to his small wound.  Between counting out the loot and the five minutes needed to catch his breath, he felt like he was back at full strength.

Turn 2
A "Short Rest," to steal a phrase from another incarnation of D&D, allows the hero to bind his wounds and regain some lost hit points, dependent on the situation for how many he recovers.  I was able to heal all of Glendal's lost hit points, all 1 of them this time.

Ready to move on, Glendal dumped the treasure into his pack and stealthily moved toward the only exit from the room:  an opening leading to the North East.

To be continued in The Adventures of Glendal Lorg the Visionary, from the Phantom Cabal:  Room 2!


  1. Great report!

    I've been eyeing the Scarlet Heroes (but also not into the Oriental theme). I do have the Solo Heroes pdf (by the same author, I think?). I also am on the same page as you regarding Mythic, Rory's Sory Cubes, use of tables, etc. I will definitely be following this blog and hope to do some similar gaming one of these days.

    1. Thanks Fitz-Badger. Yes, the Black Streams: Solo Heroes is by the same author, and is basically the same mechanics; it's sort of a pre-cursor to the more-fleshed out version in Scarlet Heroes. There is also a free Scarlet Heroes Quickstart pdf which contains the updated mechanics of the full Scarlet Heroes without any (much) of the background, spell lists, monsters, or solo campaign stuff. Either one will let you run solo heroes through regular D&D modules (but it's a DM and a player, not just you by yourself).

  2. Interesting, sir. I look forward to more delving reports.

    -- Jeff

    1. Thanks, Jeff. Glad to see you here. Many more reports are simply waiting to be written up.

  3. A new blog! Woo-hoo! Love the story telling, KC. Looking forward to more stories and derring-do soon! Squibzy

    1. Thank-ee kindly, Captain Squib. It's the natural next step after Facebook, starting a blog. You're next!

  4. Since your hero is wearing leather armor, shouldn't he be AC7?

    1. You might think so based on the somewhat poor organization of information in the writing of the rules, but on page 11, under "Write down your armor class," it says, "Your armor class is based on the armor you're wearing and modified by your hero's Dexterity modifier." Glendal's DEX is a 16 which gives a +2 modifier, or because of the descending AC a -2, which, when coupled with leather armor of AC 7 becomes AC 5. I think that might be the only place where it is stated, and the descending AC isn't really explained, it's more of a "you must know what you're doing if you're playing this game" sort of thing. Or so it seems to me.

    2. It's always a pleasure to see people getting use from the game. In practice, though, I've noticed that it's the newbies who have the easy time of it. The experienced D&D grognards tend to instinctively gloss over the rules as written. More than once, I saw playtesters miss major chunks of the combat system because they expected it to work like other D&D-based games; convincing them to stop and read the text obliged things like the warning sidebar at the front of the systems chapter. It's tough to break habits like that, though, and even with examples and repeated warnings it's still an issue for some experienced players.

    3. It is a very clever and inventive ruleset. It is not an easy task to write something at once completely different and yet so familiar. I will concede in advance that any mistakes I make in playing are most likely because I either thought I understood the rule, or skipped over it for almost the same reason. Please don't take any small criticisms I make personally, as it's probably just a fit of pique in a momentary frustration at not understanding some aspect of whatever I'm currently not understanding.

      But I've been having a blast finding out what happens to Glendal Lorg!

  5. Oh, they're very reasonable observations. The very familiarity that makes a game accessible and approachable is a double-edged sword; the more you make it compatible with OSR standards, the harder it is to clearly convey the differences. I'm sure there are ways to refine the process and presentation, so there's nothing for it but to keep trying to polish things.

  6. It was interesting to read the way your character and notes interacted with each other.

    I have a question. Why does Glendal want to explore the world and get rich? (With or without a heart of gold. :) )

    1. Thanks for reading, Kenny the Cabbage.

      As for your question, that's simple: A) it was a bit of "I can't think of a really deep character reason so I'll go with something easy, plus this is an experiment for me so I don't want to get bogged down too soon," and B) as a personal "failing" I just can't play evil or chaotic characters; they just have to have a silver lining somewhere, usually closer to the surface than not.

      It may be as time goes by, Glendal will develop more of his own motivations.