Friday, November 21, 2014

The Adventures of Glendal Lorg, Scarlet Hero (1.5)

Continuing the on-going story of Glendal Lorg the Visionary, Elf Thief of the Phantom Cabal (at one point, at least), as he explores the Fortress of the Unholy Mound.

The immediately preceding episode can be read here, and the beginning of the story can be found here.

Turn 13, still in Room 4 on the ground floor:
Glendal drew his sword to meet whatever approaching creature was making the noise he heard.  His wounds were tended and he felt ready to fight, although there were still a few cuts and bruises that would take longer time or magic to heal.

From the same direction in which he himself had come stepped the Cleric of Cernunnos (the god of virility), Fargle Nex the Polygamist from the Accursed Island.  He held his hands open and empty in front of him, palms out, in the universal sign of, "Don't hit me!"

Glendal lowered the point of his sword, but did not sheathe it.  A part of him wanted to like this Cleric, but a larger part was suspicious.  "Was that your clever little trap I found?" he demanded, referring to the fire trap that had been added to the stairs.

Fargle Nex's face took on a pained expression, and he nodded.  "I warned you to leave.  I can't let anyone endanger my purpose here."

Glendal, losing his patience (as he often did) with this short-lived, short-sighted species of Humans, waved his sword menacingly.  "I told you I would help if I found it," he grated between clenched teeth.  "Now get out of my way."

The Cleric's face darkened in anger.  This Human seemed to wear his emotions on his sleeve, thought Glendal.  Perhaps that was why he was so successful with the women in his chosen calling.  The Elf could see the struggle between fighting and acceptance in Fargle's facial features.  Eventually, acceptance won out.

"Very well," he replied.  "If you were able to survive the fire trap, then well and good.  Perhaps you too are part of my geas, and mayhap were sent here to aid me.  I shall accept your aid."  He pulled a scroll from a side pocket and carefully unrolled it.  "This is what is required for the cure.  What I need from this place is in the room upstairs, in a sort of desk, or table, or pantry, you might say.  But it is trapped in such a way that none of my...assistants...were able to divine how to get to it."

He showed Glendal the scroll, pointing to the missing ingredient.  The Elf carefully read it.  "A poultice of cursed, salted blackberries?"

"You will find the salted blackberries in the room above," agreed Fargle.  "I will make the poultice myself.  And they are cursed simply by being here, in the Fortress of the Unholy Mound.  Anything 'unholy' constitutes a curse, for my purposes."

"What sort of disease is cured by a poultice of cursed, salted blackberries?" Glendal asked incredulously, but then quickly added, "Never mind, I don't want to know!"  After a moment's consideration, he said, "I will retrieve it for you, provided I keep anything else of value I find.  I'm not in this for your religion, and I'm not in it for you, Cleric.  I expect to be well paid.  I'm in it for the money."

Glendal asked a few more questions of what Fargle knew about the room above, then, keeping his sword bared, he cautiously ascended the stairs.

Apologies to Han Solo....

Here's how things went.

The Wandering Monster d6 check = 1 meant something was coming.  I rolled on the Basic Fantasy  Role-Playing Game Dungeon Encounter table, page 133, d12 = 5 = "NPC Party:  Adventurer."

I asked the Scarlet Heroes Oracle, page 115, the obvious question, "Is it the Cleric?"  I rated this as Very Likely, rolled d20 = 8 = Yes.

Glendal confronted Fargle with the question I wrote above (it's actually on my paper too), so I rolled for Fargle's reaction on page 117.  Despite their previous dealings, I used the NPC Stranger column, 2d6 - 2 (for insults or risks to the NPC's wealth or standing) = 4 + 6 - 2 = 8 = "Qualified Consent."

The Cleric answered with, "I warned to you leave, etc."

Glendal replied with, "I told you I would help if I find it.  Now get out of my way."

So I rolled another page 117 Reaction, 2d6 - 2 = 1 + 3 - 2 = 2 = "Anger."  I also rolled on the "Their Attitude Toward the Hero is..." table on page 79 for further edification, 2d8 + CHA = 5 + 3 + 1 = 9 = "The usual, given the nature of the encounter."  So it seemed appropriate that Anger won out.

What would he do about it?  I asked the Oracle, "Does he attack me?"  I felt that, even though he had a background that would allow fighting, it didn't seem right that it would be his first response, plus he had been pretty cautious up until now.  I deemed it Unlikely, d20 = 3 = No.

I followed up to the Oracle with the question, "Does he stop me?"  I also considered this Unlikely, d20 = 13 = "No, but..."  I rolled d6 on the 'The "But" Is Related To...' table = 5 = "The failure of a piece of gear, either for the hero or an NPC."  I interpreted this to be in regard to the failure of the trap to stop Glendal, so the Cleric would grudgingly allow him to help.  I figured he would tell the Thief what he knew about what he was looking for.

This encounter ended Turn 13.  I then rolled to discover what was in Room 7 at the top of the stairs.

Glendal cautiously peered over the lip of the top of the stairs.  This room originally had more wood in the ceiling, but large portions were missing, letting in the wavering light from the forest outside.  Shafts of golden sunlight slanted through the room, illumating the dancing motes of dust floating haphazardly through the air.  It served to illumine the room while at the same time making it difficult to see specific things.

Glendal squinted against the glare.  After assuring himself that the room was empty of inhabitants, he climbed the rest of the way up the stairs.  As he took his first step, something crunched underfoot and he instantly drew back his boot.  He looked down at the floor:  shards of clay and bits of broken glass were strewn everywhere in the room.

Shielding his eyes, he realized this had once been the Fort's Storeroom.  Lining the walls were shelves, some straight, others sagging and bent from age and exposure; all were filled with bottles, jars, boxes and loose piles of debris where a sack had once been but had now rotted away.

A stout wooden door blocked the exit to the southeast.

Other things also were in the room:  eating utensils, plates, a few weapons, and several desks and tables with cupboards.  Walking carefully through the debris, Glendal spied a short bow missing its string, numerous broken dinner plates (most beyond hope of repair), an oddly out of place ten foot long wooden pole (broken into three unequal pieces), and...he suddenly stopped short.  On the floor near one of the tables with attached cupboard was a dollop of feces and the remains of some small creature; mostly just the entrails, but a few other bits were recognizable.  Worms crawled through the remains.

Shards of glass, as from a shattered vial, sat in a blue stain on the floor behind this table.

There was nothing of any value in this room, it's contents having been looted or ruined ages upon ages ago.  And yet, Glendal knew, from the Cleric's description, that at least one thing still remained.

Sheathing his sword, Glendal edged over to the table with the built-on cupboard.  According to the love-lorn Cleric, the cursed, salted blackberries were inside this cupboard, but it was trapped in some fashion that the Looters who were "assisting" him could not decipher.  The cupboard had doors that were closed, both of which opened outward, with two round wooden knobs near their innermost edge.  The cupboard doors did not appear to be locked in any way.  The doors, however, did not begin at the table, but about six inches above it.  This left a small inset or shelf, inside which were sat a number of ceramic jars.  The jars were all different sizes and shapes -- some short and round, others tall and thin -- and two were colored green and blue.  The flat space of the table was littered with dust, leaves, broken pieces of glass and ceramic, and -- most interestingly to Glendal -- some small footprints no larger than a gold but oddly-distorted, almost as if the toes were joined or webbed.  There did not seem to be a direction of travel, and there were no more than two or three prints.

Knowing this to be the correct table, the Elf Thief made a careful, thorough search of the table for anything else out of the ordinary.  Running his fingers gently over the surface of the table, he detected a hard metal plate, set flush into the surface of the tabletop.  It was worked to appear the same as the wood surrounding it; only in touch did it differ.  The clever Thief immediately recognized it as a pressure plate, which either needed to be depressed, or to be kept from being depressed, in order to trigger the trap.  Further examination -- and years of experience coupled with a natural instinct for this sort of thing -- caused him to look up.  There, hidden in the maze of dark and light shafts of daylight and shadow, dangled a thin string.  The bottom end was frayed as if it had been cut long ago.

Aha!  Now Glendal knew exactly what he was facing.  There had obviously once been something tied to the end of the string, most likely a feather or something similarly lightweight, which was all that was needed to counterbalance the pressing of the pressure plate in the table surface.  Touching the plate without the correct counter-key would trigger the trap.  Peering with an Elf's incomparable eyes at the ceiling, Glendal thought he could detect a trap-door, through which, he had no doubt, something heavy and deadly would fall, crushing whoever was below it into bloody pulp.

It was no wonder the luckless thugs working for the Cleric had not understood the trap's design:  the feather had long ago rotted away or been lost, the string was all but invisible in the gloom, and the pressure plate was practically undetectable.  It was a wonder at all that the Looters even knew there was a trap!

One thing only niggled at the back of his mind as he jimmied a replacement for the feather and tied it to the string:  the strangely-webbed footprints.  But he was busy and consumed with being careful as he worked to disarm the trap.

Stepping back, the Elf took a deep steadying breath, totally confident in his abilities.  He knew he had found the only trap, he knew he had properly disarmed it.  Catching sight of the charred edge of his leather breeches, though, he decided to step as far away from the table as he could and still be able to reach it to touch the pressure plate -- just in case.

Standing at arm's length, he pressed down on the iron plate until he heard the faint click, indicating the cupboards were un-trapped and un-locked.  Silently congratulating himself on his superior skill and accomplishment, he was caught completely off his guard by the Giant Toad that plopped out of the cupboard, looked around itself grumpily, and sprang at him in attack!

Technically, the roll for the room direction was unnecessary, since this roll is for the exit of the previous room (Room 4), and I had already determined it was upstairs.  I did roll for the room type d20 = 18 = Storeroom.  Perfect!

Then I rolled the usual things:
The MacGuffin or "Goal" roll d20 = 19 +1 (for being in the second half of the 'dungeon') = 20 = Yes, it's here!

Prior to this point, I only had the Cleric agreeing to let Glendal help.  I had no specifics of what he was looking for or where it was to be found.  So I decided that the MacGuffin was the cure.  And how unbelieveably lucky was it that it was in a storeroom, so that it actually makes a bit of sense?  At the time I had it in my mind that it would be a potion.

Continuing the usual rolls:
Room contents, Encounter d10 = 1 = No.
Treasure d10 = 3 = No.
Hazard d10 = 9 = No.
Feature d10 = 7 + 1 (for 'No' to the previous three) = 8 = No.

Wow.  A real, empty room.

Next I rolled to determine the direction of the exit, which per the rules said roll should come after exploring the room.  But either I forgot or just felt at the time that a door would be noticeable; really, what difference does it make when you generate the direction?  d10 = 5 = South east.

Next, I wanted to find out what sort of things were to be found in this storeroom, so I turned to the d30 DM Companion by New Big Dragon Games.

I rolled three times on the "MDDA:  Misc. Debris I" table on page 10; d30 = 24, 9, 10 to generate the short bow, the plates and the broken pole (which I further rolled to determine their condition, "needs repair" and "beyond repair.")

I also rolled three times on table "MDDB:  Misc. Debris II" on page 10; d30 = 30, 1, 23 to find out that there were "standard" worms, feces, and offal/entrails of vermin.

That's a pretty nasty room.

Next, I turned to the Tome of Adventure Design by Frog God Games.  I used Table 3-124 "Specific Courses of Treatment for Normal Diseases" on page 216.   d100 = 73 = "Poultices of an expensive and noxious substance (1d4 days)."  So now I was looking for something to make a poultice.  (This was the second time while playing this game I had to look up the definition of a word I thought I knew.  See?  RPGs are learning games!)

I thought I better determine exactly what I needed to find to make this poultice, so I consulted the ToAD again, page 244, Table 3-166 "Plant or Plant Part," (which is a sub-table from the main heading of "Table 3-163:  Detailed Alchemical Ingredients Master Table"; I just skipped to the end).  Three d100 rolls = 47 "Salted," 25 "Blackberry," 24 "Grown in a cursed glade."  Whilst typing this up, I see that in my haste I originally mis-read line 25 for line 26; the real result ought to be "Black Truffles," but I think "Blackberries" is funnier so it stays.

So Glendal is in a storeroom littered with debris, which must have a table or cabinet of some kind, and he's looking for salted blackberries.  This is not exactly how I pictured my Hero's adventuring career!

Now for the trap that is supposed to be there, that kept the Cleric and his Looters from finding the salted blackberries themselves.

To detail the trap, I returned to ToAD, page 218, Table 3-127 "Mechanical traps - Concealment, Complicated Triggers."  First d100 = 35 = "Desk."  O.K., a desk can also be a table.  Second d100 = 07 = "A feather is suspended over a very delicate pressure plate.  If it is blown down by air currents, it will activate the trap when it lands (so would other very light objects)."

And what will the trap do?  ToAD, page 217, Table 3-126 "Basic Mechanical Traps."  d100 = 71 = "Spiked ball (or other heavy object) swings to hit."

I have very little Real Life experience with traps.  Effectively zero experience, in Real Life.  I've read most of the "Grimtooth's Traps" series of books (see also Goodman Games for an announcement regarding this line of books), and I always look forward to the 'trap of the month' in Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine, but truthfully, deep in my heart of hearts, I think most traps are ridiculous.

Take your most basic trap in any dungeon:  the pit trap.  You mean to tell me that these little 3-foot-tall kobolds/goblins/etc. dug a 10 foot deep pit in the middle of the hallway, through solid stone, on a route they travel often, and I need to tap a wooden pole along the way like a blind man to have any chance of finding it?  Or that they somehow engineered a room where the walls and/or ceiling move to crush with irresisible force and then retract back into their original place?  Why, then, aren't they in high demand in the dungeon-creating realms, demanding triple overtime for working on kobold holidays, and getting good employer-funded health plans?

Not to mention the (dare I say it?) unrealistic aspect of having traps in ancient, empty tombs, where dead people are buried; or on everyday objects, like doors and chests.  Just how, exactly, does one 'trap' a door's lock?  "The door is trapped."  What, the whole door?  Do they have a bucket of water suspended over the inside opening arc?  And how does that needle shoot out of that itty-bitty, teeny-tiny keyhole in the lock on the chest?  Is that really going to last the decades that this place has been sitting empty?

I realize it's very easy to simply hand-wave away all of this with the use of magic traps, but I'm talking the ordinary, mundane traps that are all-too prevalent in most written dungeons.  I also realize that it's unrealistic of me to allow my imagination to visit a world populated with elves, dragons, and magic, and yet have this be a huge sticking-point at the same time.  I think the best explanation is that traps represent a form of puzzle that the Dungeon Master presents to the players to solve.

I just like for a little realism to pretend to exist in my fantasy world.

And so, with all that being said, I felt the need for more details to help explain this feather-trap (I mean, what kind of a trap is that, really?).

Therefore I consulted the d30 DM Companion, page 12, table "RTG1:  Trap Type & Difficulty."  d30 = 2 = -10% chance to detect/disarm (this means it's more difficult to spot); and it's a barrier type.  A further roll on table "RTG2a:  Barrier Traps" table, d30 = 15 = "Iron Door" that will do 3d4 damage if it springs.  I figure the 'iron door' equates to the 'delicate pressure plate.'

As far as where the 'treasure' is, exactly, I roll on page 13, table "TCP1:  (Treasure) Container Type."  d30 = 10 = Ceramic urn/jar.  This fits quite nicely with it being in a storeroom.

For grins and giggles, I also rolled on page 13, table "TCP2:  Treasure Protection."  d30 = 11 = Hidden creature in a hidden area.  While technically the room is empty of an Encounter, Hazard or Feature, still I felt that this could be added without disrupting the Scarlet Heroes flavor.  I also felt it would explain the feces found earlier.  Something is hiding, as a separate threat apart from the trap, that is still somehow related to the treasure.

To determine what was hiding, I rolled d30 = 11 for 1 roll on the "Common" monsters column on page 15 of the d30 DM Companion.  I then counted down the list, excluding monsters that could not possibly be hiding inside a pantry/cupboard, and ended up with a total of 8 candidates.  I rolled d8 = 7 = "Giant Toads," which a further roll produced only 1 Giant Toad instead of 2.

And finally, I turned to GM's Resources:  Dungeon Dressing:  Chests by Raging Swan Press.  This particular issue has a table in it called, "Table B:  Dressing & Features."  I rolled d100 = 77 = "Shards of glass, as from a shattered vial, sit in a blue stain on the floor behind this chest."  Raging Swan has a lot of similar booklets to buy, and some seem pretty interesting, but some others seem a trifle thin for the price, even if that price is only a buck or two.  But I already had this one, and more ambience is almost always better than less.

Glendal searched for traps with full foreknowledge given by the Cleric.  I adjudicated that this would start at an Average difficulty of 11, plus the 10% extra difficulty of the harder-to-find trap equals the next-higher difficulty class of 13 (as I've done in two of the previous episodes of Glendal Lorg, when dealing with traps), minus the helpful foreknowledge provided by Fargle, finally equalling a target Check number of 11.  I rolled 2d8 + 3 (Adventuring Thief) + 1 (WIS) = 8 + 7 + 3 + 1 = 19!  Woo hoo, that's what I call passing a Check!

Found it.

Glendal then attempted to disarm the trap.  Taking into consideration its age and the missing feather/trigger, I ascribed a Hard DC 13 to the task.  2d8 + 3 (Adv Thief) + 1 (WIS) = 3 + 7 + 3 + 1 = 14.  Close enough!  Here's what is written on my paper:  "Opened, and out plops Giant Toad.  Am I surprised?"

One of the two special abilites of Giant Toads (the other being it can shoot it's tongue 15 feet) is that it surprises on 1-3 on 1d6 in normal OSR-style games (this as described in the d30 DM Companion).  However, there is no "surprise roll" in Scarlet Heroes.  Instead, it uses "Opposed Checks" to determine the outcome when two opponents are trying to accomplish mutually contradictory ends.  There is a specific example of a surprise attack by a monster described in "An Example of Play:  The Tower of Iron and Jade" on page 26 that uses an Opposed Check, so that's how I opted to resolve it.

I gave the Toad a +2 skill bonus for no reason other than the spider in the example had a +2, plus I figured it tied in nicely with a 50% surprise chance.  It's also a 2 HD monster.  I did not add more because it felt like the Toad wasn't attempting to surprise, it just happened to be in the cabinet (maybe it got stuck there?).  The Toad rolled 2d8 + 2 = 7 + 6 + 2 = 15.  Glendal rolled 2d8 + 1 (Keen Danger Sense) + 1 (WIS) = 8 + 2 + 1 + 1 = 12.  Glendal is surprised.

By surprising me, the Toad gets a free attack.

Letting out an amplified bullfrog croak, the loathsome, slimy, warty, green monstrosity hopped aggressively across the table and lunged to bite the startled Elf.  In the instant between surprise and reaction, Glendal had the stray thought that he didn't know Giant Toads could bite; did they even have teeth?; how much could this possibly hurt, really?

The next moment, the Toad's mouth closed on the Thief, and Glendal breathed a mental sigh of relief that there was no pain.  Having previously sheathed his sword, Glendal struck out with nothing but his fist as he tried to re-arm himself.  He landed a resounding thump on the Toad's head, causing the creature to pause momentarily.  But the Toad's ravenous hunger from being locked away accidentally far outweighed it's fear of being harmed, and it attacked again.  It's mouth closed again on the Elf's arm, this time causing a flare of pain as it bit down hard.

Glendal finally managed to drag his sword free of it's scabbard, and promptly skewered the vile creature.  Viscous green bile dribbled down the blade and dripped onto the table.  Glendal looked around for something to use to clean his weapon but didn't find anything suitable, so he gave it a good shake.  Digging a cloth out of his pack, he realized he now knew what had created the pile of dung:  this Toad must have been living here for some time.

Having sheathed his sword, the Thief began examining the jars and vials in the cupboard.  On a few the writing was still faintly legible, others he had to open and carefully sniff the contents.  Eventually the Elf's sensitive nose identified the salted blackberries in a small ceramic jar, which he placed in his backpack.

The Giant Toad's stats, as derived from the d30 DM Companion, are:
HD 2(+4), but Scarlet Heroes does not address the +4 part, so it's ignored
AC 7
Attack  bite 2d4
Move 9
Special  Tongue can shoot 15', surprises on 1-3

The Toad's surprise attack hit Glendal, d20 + skill 2 + my AC 5 = 15 + 2 +5 = 22.  However, it's damage roll of 2d4 = 1, 1 = no actual damage was done.

For my first attack, I rolled d20 + STR 2 + attack bonus 1 + Toad's AC 7 = 3 + 2 + 1 + 7 = 13 = miss.  My Fray d6 = 5 = 1 HD worth of damage.  Toad down to 1 from 2 total.

The Toad's next attack, d20 + 2 + 5 = 16 + 2 + 5 = 23.  It hits.  Damage, 2d4 = 1, 2 = 1 hp damage to me.  Glendal was now at 3 from 6 total.

Glendal's next attack, d20 + 2 + 1 + 7 = 10 + 2 + 1 + 7 = 20, exactly what I needed to hit.  I rolled damage, d8 = 7 + 2 STR = 9 = 2 HD worth of damage.  This is more than enough to kill the Toad.

Turn 15, still in Room 7:

Glendal Lorg the Visionary then removed a tin of ointment and treated his wound -- more of an abrasion, really -- from the Giant Toad.  This took a few minutes, after which he was ready to continue.  Now the question was, should he go downstairs and deliver the blackberries immediately to Fargle Nex, or should he obey that unspoken urge to continue exploring and go through the door into the next room?

I took a turn to regain the single hitpoint I had lost in the fight with the Giant Toad, putting Glendal back at 4 of 6.

I then rolled a Wandering Monster check, d6 = 3 = No.

Please tune in again, same Scarlet Hero-time, same Scarlet Hero-channel, for the further adventures of Glendal Lorg, Scarlet Hero!