Tuesday, June 24, 2014

MH Prospectus

Monday, November 8, 1999, around 11 p.m.  Light rain and low 50s.  
Typical Seattle weather, she thought.  The rain muffled her footsteps so that she could barely hear them over the patter of raindrops against her hood.  Here and there a mush of leaves squished thinly beneath her less-than-stylish rain boots.  It wasn’t cold like her home in Wisconsin, but the gray misting rain somehow cut right to her bones.  She gathered her rain jacket closer.  It felt clammy against her bare arms.
    It was dark on the street as she walked from her bus stop toward her apartment.  Sometimes the dark and the solitude made her nervous.  But not tonight.  Tonight she was too cold, too tired to care.  She hurried on.  Three blocks to go.
    Gradually she became aware that she was not alone.  It was a cool chill of recognition that seeped into her mind as surely as the damp air seemed to permeate her being.  When the feeling became a realization, she risked a nervous glance over her shoulder from the relative dryness of her hood.  Relief flooded her -- there was no one there.
    She turned her head slowly forward, allowing the hood to come down over her eyes, granting a view of her feet moving across the uneven pavement and little else.  Suddenly she saw a pair of black boots in that small tunnel of visibility, their toes pointing toward her.  Startled, she halted and looked up, her hood falling back and splashing her face with collected rainwater.
    She could see him clearly even in the darkness.  He was beautiful, an image out of fantasy, like an impressionist painting of her deepest romantic desires.  Her momentary fear melted away and she smiled at him awkwardly.  He returned the the smile, drawing her toward him.  He took her into his embrace, and she went willingly.  There was a fleeting pain as his fangs pierced her neck, followed by a gentle euphoria.  And then there was the darkness of sleep...

The world is a much more frightening place than any of us knew.  The stories told to children of terrors in the dark are all too true, though we have convinced ourselves that they are not.  And a precious few are all that stands between the rest of humanity and the forces of darkness.
    Most don’t believe in evil, nor the creatures lurking in the shadows, nor the things that go “bump in the night.”  Be they demons, vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts…  They’re real.  All of them.  Beyond the power of mundane men to deal with, this is where those few come in.  But how?  How do mere mortals battle these forces of darkness?  How do they come to even KNOW of this horrific threat?
    How indeed.
    The year is 1999.  November.  The place is Seattle, Washington.  It’s at the center of a booming region which boasts all of the benefits of city life in the shadow of some of the world’s most beautiful wilderness.  It’s a city in flux, trying to come to grips with its role in the world.  And it is a city that stands at the crossroad -- not just metaphorically, but literally.  What this means will soon become terrifyingly clear.
    All this is just a backdrop.  The central purpose to the mini-campaign is to chart the evolution of a handful of heroes from more or less ordinary, mundane people into the legendary monster hunters and saviors of humanity they will become.  This is not a “coming of age” story, but rather an origin story yet to be played out.  The themes are dark, as it is at its core a horror game.  But they are not without hope.  Anything is possible, from dark conspiracies, to aliens, to time travel, to the apocalypse.  Possibly all of the above at once.
    But the first question that must be asked is who are you?

Who are these people chosen by fate to battle the darkness?  They are competent normals -- the sort of people most of us can be, though possibly with an inkling that they are somehow different, and possibly even with some small knowledge of the Truth.  
    Something undefinable separates these characters from others.  That quality is best described by its manifestation in the face of danger: rather than running from the terror, these heroes run to it.  Whether willingly or unwillingly, whether as pawns of fate or perhaps driven by an innate sense of duty, they won’t simply join the masses and run.  They’ll stay and fight.  Or at least watch for a bit.  
    This implies either an unusual psychology or a background that has otherwise prepared them to step into the breach.  The most likely archetypes will have an element of action built into them from the start: athletes, cops, criminals, former soldiers, professional outdoorsmen, stunt men, and the like who have at least dipped their feet into the deep waters.  But while less likely, there’s nothing preventing a college professor, a hacker, or even a mundane store clerk from possessing the rare spark that enables them to come answer the call of fate.
    Such characters will find themselves firmly planted between the ranks of the mundane, who will do whatever they can to flee from horror and the fearless monster hunter who actively seeks it out.  They are raw material that can be molded into the elite champions of light and defenders of humanity who populate fiction.  In time, with much guidance and training, they might just become legends in their own right.
These characters are to be built on 100 points, with a maximum of 50 points in disadvantages and 5 points in quirks.  These should generally be “realistic” archetypes, though I’m happy to entertain character concepts which already possess some measure of the supernatural explicitly.  Insofar as these are realistic characters, they should have ordinary lives, and at least a small measure of consideration of their mundane background and backstory could go a long way to making them far more interesting.  These background details will be rewarded over the course of the campaign.
The second important consideration for characters is what monster hunting archetype they aspire to become.  This is a player decision, and will help guide his character’s experiences and opportunities throughout the course of the campaign.  Some of these can be logical directions for growth based on the initial character concept; others may take the raw material and move in a new and interesting direction.  Some suggested archetypes are:

Commando - The one man combat squad, good with a gun, explosives, and all things kill-technical, he can put down anything that can be put down with bullets.  His situational awareness makes him good at finding cover, predicting enemy tactics, etc.
Crusader - God, Odin, Wakan Tanka, or some other higher power has chosen him for a higher purpose.  Spiritual warfare and good old fashioned smiting are his specialty.  Powers can take the form of miracle working via Divine Favor or abilities bestowed via another form of mystical power  Beyond the raw power granted by a divine connection is a source of training and knowledge aiding in combating the Enemy.
Experiment - Human, just more so.  Someone has re-engineered him or even grown him from scratch using biotechnology and/or weird science.  Now he’s just better than mere humans.  Whether he discovers this through play, is transformed in play, or is transformed “off camera” is determined by answering the question of who his creators were: were they the “good” guys or the “bad” guys, or somewhere in between, and either way, are they or were they allies, enemies, or neutral/tangential to the rest of the characters?
Inhuman - He is a monster, one of the very creatures his comrades hunt and kill.  Whether he discovers an existing nature through play or is transformed somehow will of course depend on the type of monster in question.  And how he comes to reject his “kind” is another fascinating question for him to answer.
Psi - The mind is a terrible thing to waste, and what a beautiful mind he has!  The only question to answer is what kind of psi he is: esper, psychokinetic, telepath, teleporter, or some combination thereof?  No matter what, his power will set him apart from humanity almost as if he were a monster himself.
Sage - Knowledge is power, and he has it.  Encountering the supernatural has spurred him to learn about it.  He will probably know magic, but not as much as a witch; magic backs his knowledge, but the knowledge is what allows him to fight the Enemy with intelligence rather than brute force.
Sleuth - Where the Sage hits the books to find the scraps of arcane knowledge that can sometimes be handy, the Sleuth seeks knowledge where the rubber meets the road: in the real world.  He’s a face man, an acquisition specialist, a detective, and all around useful guy.  He’s not the hammer blow of justice, but he is the well directed stab in the dark.  And most importantly he can help find the Enemy before it can do too much harm.
Techie - Dealing with the supernatural doesn’t mean that science can’t save the day!  After all, a long enough (and strong enough) lever and a fixed point can move the world.  How else can some spare parts, a midnight trip to Radio Shack, and a dozen 12-volt batteries be put together to banish a ghost?  Surely you’re not waking up old Fr. Flannery at this time of night…
Warrior - As the front-line melee fighter, he wields weapons from a less civilized era, wading into action with sword, axe, knife or spear.  Few monsters can stand against him in a direct, stand-up fight, and weaker ones are often one-shot drops.  Let the others do the legwork; once he knows where the bad guys are, he goes to work.
Witch - His arcane power allows him to bend the universe to his will!  Almost up to the feats of fantasy wizards, the witch can work powerful rituals in moments.  With magic fast enough for fieldwork (he can rely on it even in a fight as long as there’s someone there to hold off the opposition while he concentrates), the witch is a walking swiss army knife of ability.  

These are suggestions based on the Monster Hunter Templates in MH1: Champions.  Obviously there are numerous combinations of skills and abilities which make for good hunters.  GURPS Action and MH4: Sidekicks has some other good suggestions for archetypes to emulate, and really any concept you can envision might work -- just ask.  It’s also just fine to “trust the GM” to develop a path, though that is likely to mean something like “Experiment” or “Inhuman” in practice.
One important note: there will be no “BANG!” skills.  That is, none of the cinematic, all-encompassing skills such as Lore! or Detective! which are central to the Sage and Sleuth templates; instead, ordinary GURPS skills will be used.  Of course, this isn’t an issue for initial character creation…

Campaign Plan
The campaign I am envisioning begins simply, with PCs as outlined above.  Some may have an inkling that the world isn’t quite what it seems, some might even possess some hint of the supernatural about themselves.  None of them are really quite prepared for what they will face together.
    All of the PCs should know and be favorably disposed to one another, though they need not be friends per se.  Just three suggestions in this vein: (1) the PCs are members of a club and know one another through that affiliation; (2) the PCs happen to hang out at a specific bar, coffee shop, or restaurant; (3) the PCs engage in a common activity together, such as a regular card game, sport, etc.  This needs to be determined prior to the start of the campaign.  This is simply a meta-game convention to save us valuable time explaining why they will work together in the first place and also why they might continue to do so in the aftermath of the first adventure.
    After the Enemy first appears, the campaign begins in earnest, and it will flow along an arc determined in play by characters and overarching plot considerations.  Some of the challenges will be tailored for the PCs, but some are pre-planned.  These can be avoided, confronted head on or dealt with indirectly as the players (and their characters) see fit, and this may involve seeking help from NPCs.  
As the game progresses events in campaign will be interspersed with training montages, side-quests, etc., in order to mold the PCs to the character archetypes determined at the outset (or in play).  It is also expected that living in a world with monsters and the supernatural will interfere with their normal lives.  This is where having good backgrounds comes into play, and makes for interesting roleplaying challenges -- how to maintain your old life while occasionally saving humanity (or at least a segment of it) from horrors that most people aren’t aware of will be a major challenge.
Survival, too, is a challenge.  The game is cinematic, but bullets still kill.  We will be using some of the rules in GURPS Power Ups 5: Impulse Buys in order to tilt the balance.  But the currency will not be character points -- rather each PC will start with three “fate” points, and a maximum pool of 5.  One will be given per session.  They will also be given for good roleplaying -- in particular playing disadvantages and exploiting situational roleplaying opportunities.  
Even so, characters can still die.  If that happens, it may be possible for the character to continue (at least temporarily) as something else -- a ghost, vampire, construct, etc.  Eventually, it may be that the character moves on from this existence to whatever follows after and a new PC will be needed.  If so, such a character will be built to be roughly on par with the other PCs.
The famous TPK is also possible.  If so, there may be a way back from the other side.  Or so many PC deaths may become a prequel to a new series of characters taking up the fight of their fallen comrades -- as is deemed appropriate to the group and GM.
Finally, there is an arc to this campaign -- it is designed to come to a conclusion.  This doesn’t mean that the campaign MUST end when this conclusion is reached.  If we wish to continue it, we certainly can.  I.e., nothing that is planned specifically precludes the continuation of the campaign, but does provide a natural end point if we desire.

This is a game that deals specifically with the supernatural in a world that at least superficially resembles our own.  Therefore real world religions exist and could be involved.  An agnostic approach to the "deeper" truths will be adhered to at all times, but power will be ascribed to all religions.  Sometimes it will directly contradict the explicit practice and/or teachings of those religions.  So be it.  This game is a work of collaborative fiction, and from the moment we begin, we should all be aware of that.  That said, the "deep power" or "deep truth" concept is central to the campaign. The nature of these “deep truths” should remain a mystery to be revealed over time.
This brings to mind themes of good and evil.  Such things may exist, but they, like other platonic ideals, aren't readily seen from the perspective of our world.  Hence "good" vs. "evil" becomes a game of contrasts in which the vilest person may be a lesser (or greater) evil than a monster.  Characters (and players!) are free to consider something good or evil; but there is no explicit force for either any more than a tiger is "good" or "evil" when it kills a man.
Secrecy and conspiracy are also fundamental elements.  If the general populace knew of the threats that truly lurk in the shadows, society would falter and perhaps collapse.  Dark and terrifying things are out there.  Many of them consider humanity a steady source of food, and those are the nicer uses for us mere humans.  Given the need for secrecy, both hunters and prey fight a battle in the shadows and backwoods and back alleys of the world, neither strong enough to quite destroy the other.
Horror is an inescapable element of monster hunting.  Even the stoutest hunter can find his bowels turned to water every now and again.  Facing the supernatural is not for the faint of heart!  Death is a very real possibility, and might only be the beginning of a PC's journey of terror.  No source of potential horrors is off limits.
Finally, one important possibility should be noted, as I do not wish to pull a "bait and switch" in the game.  The potential for time and/or world travel exists within the campaign.  Whether or not it is ever revealed to the characters depends on many factors, including how long we sustain the game, what the characters do in the game, and what the players' interests are.

Magic, Psionics, and Superscience
This subject will develop over time.  Explicitly, the default magic system is Ritual Path Magic (RPM) from GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic.  RPM is highly flexible and is subtle enough (in its lesser effects) so as to believably exist in a world that is ignorant of both magic and the supernatural in general.  In its greater effects, it can perform feats to rival any fantasy magic.  
For the most part, mystical abilities are derived through mystical channels, chi powers, or by a different kind of Power Investiture based on prayers and miracles.  Other power sources are entirely possible.  The world is a damned strange place, as you're all about to find out.
Psionic powers exist and come directly from GURPS: Psionic Powers.  Superscience, too, exists.  Government labs, mad scientists, UFOs, etc., can provide tech that ranges from cutting edge to one-of-a-kind miracles.  The Truth really is out there!
With all the behind the scenes action and the tacit agreement to keep things quiet, conspiracies must abound.  Some are natural: secret orders of magical adepts, dark cults, "black" government agencies, etc. -- even other hunters.  Whether or not they exist, how deep their influence goes, and what their goals might be is unknown.  

No More Spoilers

Friday, June 13, 2014

Making better assistants and cultists in RPM

I've been thinking about a way to make better "mundane" helpers for RPM, and it occurs to me that DF: Henchmen already has an excellent Perk that could serve with a bit of tweaking.  The following Perk and the template which makes use of it are designed to make charm and potion shops viable for 100 - 200 point casters.

Knows the Words: This Perk lets you offer assistance with RPM rituals. You must specialize in one specific spell, one which has already been defined (e.g., Chill, Rain of Fire, etc.). Each assistant with Knows the Words negates -1 in penalties for long rituals (so a character with 1 assistant can gather up to 5 times without accruing penalties, one with 2 up to 8, one with 3 up to 11, etc.). In order for this to function, the spell must be cast using non-adept casting times.

That done, here's a template adapted from the Cultist in DF:15 designed with a MH campaign in mind as a possible sidekick for a "junior champion", the "mystical assistant" (50 points):
Attributes: ST 10 [0]; DX 10 [0]; IQ 10 [0]; HT 11 [10].
Secondary Characteristics: Damage 1d-2/1d; BL 20 lbs.; HP 10 [0]; Will 10 [0]; Per 10 [0]; FP 11 [0]; Basic Speed 5.00 [-5]; Basic Move 5 [0].
Advantages: Knows the Words (x3) [3], Energy Reserve 3 [9] • 20 points chosen from among ST +1 or +2 [10 or 20], IQ +1 [20], DX +1 [20], HT +1 or +2 [10 or 20], HP +1 to +3 [2/level], Will +1 to +4 [5/level], Appearance (Attractive, Handsome, or Very Handsome) [4, 12, or 16], Autotrance [1], Energy Reserve 1 - 5 [3/level], Fearlessness [2/level], Fit [5] or Very Fit [15], Hard to Kill [2/level], High Pain Threshold [10], Higher Purpose (Sacrifice yourself for Master) [5], Knows the Words [1/spell], Lifting ST 1-3 [3/level], Rapid Healing [5] or Very Rapid Healing [15], Resistant to Demonic Powers (+3) [3], Resistant to Disease (+3) [3], Resistant to Poison (+3) [5], Resistant to Spirit Powers (+3) [3], or Striking ST 1-3 [5/level].
Disadvantages: -20 points chosen from among Appearance (Unattractive, Ugly, or Hideous) [-4, -8, or -16], Chummy [-5] or Gregarious [-10], Clueless [-10], Delusions (Any belief that holds Master to be more capable than he is) [-5], Easy to Read [-10], Fanaticism (Serving Master) [-15], Gullibility [-10*], Hunchback [-10], Impulsiveness [-10*], No Sense of Humor [-10], Oblivious [-5], Obsession (Supporting Master’s Obsession of equivalent severity) [-5* or -10*], Overconfidence [-5*], Selfless [-5*], Sense of Duty (Master) [-2], Skinny [-5], Wealth (Struggling or Poor) [-10 or -15], or any of the following problems that Master possesses, in exactly the form given on his character sheet: Bloodlust, Callous, Charitable, Code of Honor, Compulsive Behavior, Disciplines of Faith, Fanaticism, Honesty, Intolerance, Lecherousness, Paranoia, Pyromania, Sense of Duty, Truthfulness, or Vow.
Primary Skills: Thaumatology (VH) IQ-1 [4]-9 • three of Hidden Lore (any) or Occultism, both (A) IQ+1 [4]-11; Expert Skill (Thanatoloy) or Poisons (H) IQ [4]-10; Alchemy (VH) IQ-1 [4]-9; Intimidation (A) Will+1 [4]-11; Exorcism (H) Will [4]-10; or 1 skill at +1.
Secondary Skills: Three of Dancing or Stealth, both DX (A) [2]-10; Panhandling (E) IQ+1 [2]-11; Fast-Talk, Propaganda, Public Speaking, Research, Speed-Reading, Teaching, or Writing, all (A) IQ [2]-10; Diagnosis, Diplomacy, Musical Instrument (any), or Philosophy (any), all (H) IQ-1 [2]-9; Singing (E) HT+1 [2]-13; Lifting (A) HT [2]-12; Scrounging (E) Per+1 [2]-11; 2 points to raise one of those skills by a level; or 2 points to buy an unselected primary skill. • One of Judo or Karate (H) DX [4]-10; Axe/Mace, Boxing, Broadsword, or Wrestling, all (A) DX+1 [4]-11; or Brawling, Fast-Draw (Gun or Knife) or Guns (any) (E) DX+2 [4]-12.
Background Skills: Five of Climbing or Driving (A) DX-1 [1]-9; Computer Operations or Gesture, both (E) IQ [1]-10; Streetwise (A) IQ-1 [1]-9; Carousing (E) HT [1]-12; Observation, Search, or Urban Survival, all (A) Per-1 [1]-9; or take 2 points in any Primary or Secondary Skill, or raise any skill by 1 level.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

DF Session 3: A ship?

Alvin (Dave) -- Human bard, equipped with wit, song, and rapier.
Bjorn (Craig) -- Northman barbarian, armed and armored with anything he can get his hands on.  (Built “freehand” and including the “Northman” racial template that exists in another campaign, he’s still a classic barbarian -- big, strong, good in the outdoors, etc.)
Enneric (Rich) -- Human wizard, of the Coma Bat school of wizardry.  (Coma Bat started as a typo for “combat”, but it has become something of a running gag; this warrants a Magical Style® of its own.)
“Hustaba” (Alaric) -- Human thi--er…  Human “acquisition” specialist. (“Ivan” is the assumed name of the week for this character -- this may become a running gag as well.)

The adventure resumed with the bedraggled party returning to Swallowfeld.  The greatful townsfolk couldn’t offer much in the form of reward, but expressed eternal gratitude.  After some rest and healing, the party decided to go slaver hunting.  After all, these “degenerate” goblins were trading the girls for something, and that something must be valuable enough to make it worth the effort -- and corresponding risk.
    Sammeth was forthcoming after some negotiation -- he was willing to turn on his former comrades provided that there would be a space for him on the new ship, and provided that he could pretend to not be helping them.  In other words, he wanted to play both sides.  After some debate, Alvin agreed.  The general reasoning went that if they failed, they’d likely be dead anyway, and if they succeeded they would do so with his aid.
    A small group of mercenaries from the slaver ship were to meet the goblins and exchange the girls for weapons.  Sammeth agreed to take them there so that they could set an ambush for the mercenaries in hopes of taking the ship.  The weapons, Sammeth informed them, were already stashed for future exchange.
    After a few hours of walking, they found the clearing -- and the weapons (see treasure and xp for this session!).  They prepared an ambush, but it wasn’t fully ready when the mercenaries arrived.  Sammeth was bound and “threatened” at swordpoint to beckon the mercenaries onward.  Once again, Hustaba ran amok, using stealth and deadly accuracy with his knife to slit throats down the line.  By the time the mercenaries realized it was a trap, there were few enough left to do much about it -- Bjorn and Alvin made quick work of the remaining men.
    Two were captured alive, “aggressively” questioned (their account was more or less in line with Sammeth’s, only they apparently knew him by a different name).  It seems that their captain had a witch consort, and either together or separately they had as an ally (or minion?) a terrible beast that had done great damage to enemies in the past.  
With the mercenaries dealt with, the party worked its way through a network of caves connecting to a smuggler’s cove beneath the clearing.  There they found a boat to carry them to the slavers’ vessel, which was mostly concealed by the fog.
    They rowed the boat carefully to come alongside the ship, then Hustaba crept aboard, followed closely by Alvin and Bjorn.  Hustaba killed a man quickly, then moved quietly through the hold (which is exposed to the elements).  Alvin and Bjorn, and shortly Enneric, Jory, and Alysa, then came aboard.  
    Hustaba went straight for the captain’s cabin (really a permanent tent below the steering “deck”).  A strange perfume hung on the air, and before too long Hustaba found himself entranced by dark hallucinations.  He nonetheless entered.  The witch lay supine upon a soft bed in a state of near undress with a silk garment hanging loosely about her.  The censor which put out the intoxicating smoke hung from the ceiling.
    Hustaba tried to stab her, and a fight began in which her garments sprung to life, strangling him and grappling his arms as he stabbed her repeatedly.  At the same time, he slipped deeper into a trance-like state of calm hallucinatory detachment.
    Meanwhile, Bjorn and Jory faced opponents along the rails, making quick work of them.  Alvin followed Hustaba toward the cabin and was faced by a sailor, who he likewise dispatched quickly.  Jory fell to the captain, taking his bosun with him.  Soon Bjorn faced a terrifying monster which somewhat resembled a giant potato bug with mandibles and striking arms in the middle of his body.
    Enneric found himself facing the captain, who struck him as rather a good match for Autumn.  A massive Air Jet spell knocked him back, and a second blast knocked him over the rails and into the dark water into which he disappeared.  Enneric turned his attention to the difficult fight Bjorn was having with the monster on the oar deck.  
    Meanwhile, Hustaba was aided by Alvin, who was not nearly so affected by the smoke.  The witch dispatched, Hustaba curled up and slipped into a deep and contented sleep.  Enneric returned to the deck and joined Enneric and Bjorn in dispatching the potato-bug monster.  Both Bjorn and Enneric were badly wounded before the beast fell into the black water.
    The ship suddenly clear, Alysa came and provided medical aid.  The day was won, and the party had sole possession of a cog!  Freedom of the open seas awaits...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Treasure & XP for the Slaver's Ship

So the easy part: everyone received 4 XP.  Again, Alaric's PC was voted the bonus point for "Hustaba's" excellent work in battling the witch-woman and generally tearing throats up in the woods.  (Poor Autumn has lost out on two sessions' worth of XP, and a tailor-made bad-guy, but them's the breaks in a pick-up game.)

There was a lot of treasure this time, though not all of it valued as yet.  Primarily, there is the ship.  It's a 45' cog, well provisioned with food and water, plus navigational instruments and a few charts and maps.  There are also several sets of chains and manacles bolted to the frame -- enough for up to 40 roughly human sized people to be shackled together in squalid conditions.  Beneath the tiller deck there is a well put together "cabin" fashioned from sailcloth.  Up to 4 people could comfortably sleep in it, though it appears that only the captain and his witch made use of it.
    In this cabin is a strongbox, within which are 25 gold and 800 silver coins.  There is also a good supply of the strong opiate which was burning in the cabin -- enough for a dozen more uses.  (This is identified by "Hustaba" as Purple Lotus -- a rare hallucinogen used in divination.)  There is a slashing rapier and a metal buckler, as well as a simple chain shirt in the cabin.  The witch had several potions as well -- 12 healing potions and 1 potion of health made (made with Herb Lore as opposed to Alchemy).
    The ship has 120 man-days worth of rations aboard, and barrels with 40 man-days of water in them.  It also has a dozen light bucklers, 8 shortswords, 5 ST 11 Crossbows, 5 Regular Bows, 240 arrows, and 120 crossbow bolts.  There are also a dozen each of daggers, small and large knives.  For the rest, there are some personal items that aren't terribly interesting (unless you really want to know the contents of their shaving kits).
    There are 4 sailors in varying states of severe injury remaining; they will all profess loyalty to whomever will pay them to sail now that their captain has abandoned them.  When pressed, they will also claim that they never wanted to be pirates/slavers/mercenaries/etc., but merchant seamen.  In any event, they seem sincere in their desire to live and sail.
    I'm going to assume that things have progressed further, since the goal is a breezy -- and portable -- game that can be swapped for other GMs/players/PCs/etc. at a whim.  To do that, though, some "boring" loose ends will need to be tied up.
    Assumption #1 is that the PCs will go back to check on their former captives.  They have been killed, just like "Sammeth."  They appear to have been looted, and it also appears that the weapons cache has been looted, though there was far too much of it to be readily portable, so there's still quite a bit left behind.  There remains a dozen shortswords, 8 thrusting broadswords, 15 throwing axes, 1 fine balanced throwing axe, 400 arrows, and 100 large knives.  The weapons are all of varying manufacture, look to be both well used but also well maintained.  There are also 3 chain shirts and 2 full suits of scale armor, all of which look to have been repaired multiple times. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

DF Session 2: Into the Hall of Bones

It came as something of a surprise to have two back-to-back DF sessions.  No worries, though.  The adventure continues!

Alvin (Dave) -- Human bard, equipped with wit, song, and rapier.
Bjorn (Craig) -- Northman barbarian, armed and armored with anything he can get his hands on.  (Built “freehand” and including the “Northman” racial template that exists in another campaign, he’s still a classic barbarian -- big, strong, good in the outdoors, etc.)
Enneric (Rich) -- Human wizard, of the Coma Bat school of wizardry.  (Coma Bat started as a typo for “combat”, but it has become something of a running gag; this warrants a Magical Style® of its own.)
“Ivan” (Alaric) -- Human thi--er…  Human “acquisition” specialist. (“Ivan” is the assumed name of the week for this character -- this may become a running gag as well.)

With Autumn’s player absent (our actual reason for playing DF again), I wanted an easy out for her.  Simple -- she was the most badly hurt.  But how to get the rest of the PCs healthy and introduce “Ivan”.  Again, simple: Alysa and Jory were both in the Salt Wolf (back in Wolverton) the day that the rest of the party left early in the morning.  That afternoon, Ivan’s vessel arrived.  He naturally went to the nearest watering hole to find out what opportunities for profit might be found along the Lonely Coast.
    It didn’t take long for a slightly inebriated Jory and a very determined Alysa to interest Ivan in an opportunity for reward.  Ivan, wanting to share as little of this reward as possible, coaxed the pair into setting out immediately.  It being late afternoon and the journey being 14 miles on poor roads, this would put them there well after dark.  But this hardly seemed a problem to the trio, who made the journey without incident.
    Upon arrival, they found the village in a bit of an uproar -- it seems that some adventurous sorts had been attacked by a band of these “degenerate” goblins, with several injuries resulting.  Alysa headed straightaway for the farm house where the rest of the party was, save Bjorn, in a bad way.  She set to work, using Healing Slumber liberally, and quickly determed that Autumn was just too wounded to head out the next day.
    Why the next day?  Bjorn had some information, and at least two goblins yet lived, and also that the goblins may well be about to sell or trade them with slavers (this last he had obtained from the human rogue who identified himself as “Sammeth Kinesson” -- it was assumed to be a nom de guerre rather than his true name).  With some effort, the goblins might be persuaded to reveal the location of the missing girls and Sammeth the location of the slaver ship.  
The following morning, with the goblins and Sammeth expertly tended to (though not magically healed), they were interrogated by Alvin and Bjorn.  Sammeth did in fact admit to being a slaver, his purpose in Swallowfeld being a covert meeting with the goblins.  He also gave what Jory, a former local fisherman, claimed to be a fair description of where the slaver ship might be.
The goblins, it turned out, speak Common.  So they had heard that they were being sold out.  A judicious application of bard-song and brutal threats caused them to join in and sing -- in exchange for their lives.  The first received the promise from Alvin that he -- Alvin -- would not kill him, which was sufficient for him to confirm the slaver’s tale.  The second chimed in, but not without receiving a more stringent promise from Alvin that he do all he can to spare his life.  He promised to guide them to his village, grumbling that this whole dealing with human slavers had soured him on his tribe.
All but Autumn were up to snuff by late morning, and so the PCs set out, accompanied by Alysa and Jory.  The goblin led them through a number of twisty, turny paths each much like the last, which were something more than a game trail and something less than a true pathway.  Nonetheless, by late afternoon they were at the edge of a clearing, beyond which the goblin claimed was a short path down into his village, which, he said, was in the “Hall of Bones”.
Goblin Village
The party held up, with Ivan volunteering to scout the village.  Two minutes after he left, Bjorn followed.  Both worked their way around the clearing, taking care to be as quiet as possible, and of course to remain unseen.  They were helped in this by an overcast day and a persistent light rain.  Ivan circled the clearing until he found a path down to the village.  He found the village, and discovered that “Hall of Bones” is apt, as the village lies at the bottom of an old sinkhole, and is completely surrounded by bones suspended from rope, with an awning formed of bones ringing the pit-like village.  He looked down into the village, with its dwellings built into the walls of the old sinkhole, to see which of them might be the most important.
He guessed that one of them belonged to the village shaman and decided to scout it, at the same time getting a closer look at the rest of the village.  He worked his way around the top of the pit until he came to another path, one he assumed opened near the shaman’s home.  He was correct.  
Quieter than a mouse, he crept down onto the swampy pit floor and investigated the shaman’s house.  He peered through the dim light, saw no signs of movement in any of the homes, and thus proceeded to investigate the shaman’s house.  He looked in through an unshuttered window and saw what he thought to be the shaman’s supine form, his sleep loudly pronounced by his snoring.  
Ivan took a piece of wood and wedged it into the packed mud so as to block the shaman’s door.  He then took a long look at the two bejeweled idols standing to either side of the door.  Finding no traps, he proceeded to denude them of their gems.  One of them had a secret compartment.  Inside were two narrow openings to the outside, both plugged with small glass cylinders.  There was also a bag of an unknown powder.  Ivan took them all and placed them into his purse.  He then began his return trip to meet with his comrades at the edge of the meadow.  
In the mean time, Bjorn had followed him, never quite seeing him.  He found a good overwatch spot and settled in with good concealment to observe the village.  He watched as Ivan investigated and denuded the idols.  Very shortly after Ivan left, a trio of goblins had met in the middle of the “courtyard”, then moved out along three different paths.  One passed Bjorn’s position without noticing him; a short time later, another returned by the same path.  It seemed to be the changing of the watch, which had narrowly missed Ivan.
A few minutes later, Ivan spotted Bjorn, who told him he’d seen a guard change while Ivan had been working his way back around the village-pit. This started a sort of game between the two, as Bjorn hadn’t heard, and had only just barely noticed Ivan, who had seen through his camouflage with (relative) ease.  The two would play a dangerous game of hide and seek.
Ivan made his way quietly up the path until he spotted a one-way blind looking out into the meadow.  He saw the goblin peering out across the clearing apparently oblivious to his presence.  Ivan pulled out his sling/flail (a combination weapon modeled on the weighted scarf) and whacked the unsuspecting watchman on the back of the head.  Though dazed, he was still conscious.  Wanting to end it swiftly, Ivan punched him in the back of head, dropping him.  He then bound the hapless guard and dragged him back to meet the others.
Ivan sketched the map for the rest of the crew, mentioned the “barn” doors he had seen, and decided to return to investigate.  Alvin would interrogate the goblin to see what he could tell them while Ivan searched the barn.  
Alvin was able to learn that the village was thinly defended -- it seems that a sizeable portion of their fighting strength was missing.  Before much else could be determined, however, a trio of goblins came down the trail and attacked without hesitation.  A short, sharp fight left Jory slightly wounded and three goblin corpses.
In the mean time, Ivan had worked his way back to the village.  Along the way, he snuck up behind Bjorn and tapped him on the shoulder.  Bjorn was understandably upset -- having been caught off guard, he had quick-drawn a weapon and was about to use it, but checked himself before striking his new companion.  Ivan was amused and set out for the barn.
Bjorn changed position somewhat, finding a slightly less advantageous observation post that left him with his back to a stout tree-trunk and offered better concealment as a compensation.  He then settled in to overwatch.
Ivan slipped quietly into the village, still unobserved, and crept to the barn door.  Inside were the missing girls, or at least some of them. Unfortunately, they weren’t very quiet, and he tried to silence them.  After a small commotion and a few tense moments of waiting in the open, none of the goblins seemed to have roused themselves and so he sought to finish things in one fell swoop.  He tried to lift the heavy bar which sealed the door, but it refused to budge.
Returning to Bjorn -- this round of hide-and-seek mostly a draw -- he asked for help.  Bjorn, still annoyed, refused and asked him to go fetch the rest of the party.  Ivan finally agreed and brought them to Bjorn.
There was discussion, but the only plan that came out was a pell-mell rush into the village to retrieve the girls.  Ivan snuck down in advance, then together with Alvin and Bjorn, the bar was lifted free and the girls came out noisily.  The village was finally roused.  
Some goblins took to shooting crossbow bolts across the courtyard.  Another, coming from his home, was cut down quickly.  Alvin used his bard-song to sew the seeds of discord, telling them to kill the chief to surprisingly good effect -- a sharp battle took place between the chieftain and two of his men.  The door to the shaman’s house rattled but never opened.  One of the girls was hit by a crossbow bolt, but kept her feet.  Yet in spite of the disorganized attack, the goblins were more disorganized.  
They made it to cover, healed the girl, and set out through the woods.  Through the course of the night, their goblin captive guided them, afraid now that if he were caught he would suffer a terrible fate.  Exhausted, they made it back to the village at sunrise.


A note about this adventure:
There were numerous encounter rolls, and a timetable that I used but was unknown to the players involving when the goblins would be active, guard changes, etc.  Had an encounter roll come up, had they done things differently, they would have faced stiff resistance.  There was an element of luck to this to be certain.  
But there was also an element of skill: the blocking of the shaman’s door was far more effective than I had thought at the time, but the shaman had trouble getting out.  The bard song worked, since the goblin’s morale was quite low (they were missing 13 of their male villagers, including a party of 3 who went to look for them) and so some of the goblins were unhappy with the chieftain.  He and the shaman together with the remaining warriors could have been quite a bit more difficult even if not organized; organized things would not have gone nearly as well, and the girls might even have perished.  
So be it -- the chips fell where they fell.  It’s DF.  Sometimes things go spectacularly well and sometimes they don’t.  TPKs are a possibility, and I will feel zero remorse unless I know that I designed a no-win scenario.

Treasure & XP
There sadly was little treasure this time.  The bodies of the fallen goblins weren’t really looted.  Only Bjorn and Ivan know that any loot was taken, and Bjorn has said nothing.  Ivan’s player will receive an accounting of what he found.

All of the PCs received 4 XP, with Ivan being voted the bonus XP point for his shaman-blocking.  Alvin was a close second for the utility of his bard-song.