Friday, May 22, 2020

"To the Company!" Scamandros Toasts the Dead and the Living

[Returning from "the Complex" after another successful expedition--the returns of which included the bodies of former adventuring-comrade Feeble Finn, and Finn's compatriot, the dragon-knight Castora--Scamandros organizes an impromptu wake for the fallen in the Burning Witch Tavern, spending 20 of his own gold for free-flowing drink, and inviting others to pitch in as they wish ...]

Let's pour one out for Finn, once Fleet-of-Foot, then called Feeble, and another for Castora, a Dragon-Knight I never knew! Aye, I doubt I'll ever see Finn's debt to me repaid; about 60 gold for arms and armor I bought him before our last venture into the Complex, because I was loath to venture in with a comrade denuded by carousing-debts. But double that would I have paid, for better armor, if only Finn were still here amongst us, and nor would I have asked him the recompense!

I was there when the Fleetfoot lost his right leg to un-dead corpse of Way-Loon, down there in the Complex, and after which he jokingly called himself "Feeble". But he sought out the services of one Dr. Fortunius, and soon had a prosthetic made for himself, and if he wasn't yet as quick on his feet as before, still, he was fine-footed! Finn was a fine adventuring companion, and I myself will sorely miss him amongst our company here at the Burning Witch. Here's to Finn!

Fancy, can you not recite Finn's "Ode to a Dwarven Foot"?

[and Scamandros pours out a glass of wine on the fire, which sputters, and then burns more brightly for a moment]

As for those who knew Castora--we presume the other body we recovered is indeed his--ye may add your recollections of him as you wish, but for myself, alas, I never ventured forth with him.

[an interlude for any who would so recount]

Well, we did dis-cover them on the shore of an underground lake on the second level of the Complex, them alongside the corpse of a terrible lizard some eight-or-more feet long. Our getting there was most circuitous, but of little consequence; know just that there is an open well, in the caverns north of "the Pit", which overlooks as it were a great underground lake.

By intelligent use of ropes and physics, my trustworthy companion Betina the Blind was able to swing herself to a near-shore. But no sooner had she secured the rope for others to follow (Frim Frimerson and Phasmo went next) did the fighting-woman call out, "There's something moving down here!" (she of course could not see it).

Well, with Phasmo's light, another--living!--lizard was seen creeping up to eat Betina! Fortunately, Phasmo was able to blind the beast with his magic, and as the rest of us descended (minus Ornie Coldcut, who remained above to watch our ropes), and we cornered the beast in a further chamber and slew it by main force.

That chamber yielded certain secrets to us (mainly enjoyed by Journeyman Crannoc, our expert Librarian of Licentiousness), but also included the pair of skeletons you see thrashing there in the corner, bound by so many feet of copper wire. Yes, they are indeed metallic, though who knows what substance in particular is alloyed to the bones??

Well, we managed to extricate all the treasure, ourselves, and the metallic skeletons by our ropes through the well above.

But almost we would have poured more out to another comrade, if not for the liberality of Journeyman Crannoc! For in our haste to egress from the Complex, we were ambushed as a party by a band of dog-faced kobolds--and though the magics of my companions, Phasmo and Crannoc, were able to throw the sands of sleep over the kobolds, it was not before the same wretched creatures had stabbed Kiddo fully through the midriff with their spears!

And she and I had only just crushed the black fruits of healing in my possession into a cask with sugar, to be fermented at the Athenaeum, over the course of a month! I cried out to my compatriots--"Can no one save her?"

But Crannoc stepped forth, with bread baked from black bananas within the complex, and the eating of it did magically close the wound and save Kiddo's life. Something he whispered into her ear in the last moment between death and life; certainly something to the effect of, "Scamandros looks out for you!" I am sure of it. For myself, my heart is glad that you, Kiddo, remain among us the living, to share in our joys, rather than eating the dust of the grave!

Well, I have gone on too long! Friends, eat, drink, and remember to yourselves Finn, Castora, and whatever others as you will--Kay Em Dee we should also recall, I fear that I did miss his death earlier--let us all live fast and hard! To the company!

(I lately remembered this excellent song which would be relevant: "Here's a Health to the Company"; I don't know the singer, but he's better by a long draught than even the professionals like The Chieftains)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Agony of the Drow

I've been running a different game than usual, trying to drag the player-characters into the weird Underworld ... a new opportunity for this arose with the death of one character, and me suggesting that the player roll up a Drow as replacement.

Which means that suddenly I'm grasping through mists, trying to draw together something suitably interesting for a culture of Drow as I envision them, and for a PC to be embroiled in that society.

So I hit on the idea of repurposing the Ancestry and Birthright tables from AD&D Oriental Adventures, plus plundering the concept and table for Honor ... What I've put together is still just a rough draft, but I need to use it before the end of the week if I'm going to run the game this week, so I'm going to vomit forth what I have now for the player to use, and maybe return to write a new post later.

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In Greek, an agon is a contest, often physical (a footrace, boxing match, or chariot race), but potentially literary, or otherwise. One in agony, therefore, is someone experiencing the contest as a competitor. I envision it as the pain or anguish one feels when uncertain of victory, or even the trouble at heart in knowing that someone else is better than you.

Thus "agony" for the Drow: the acute sense that all is conflict, and that every competition--even a simple conversation--creates the opening for victory or defeat, and that victory is rewarded with greater status and appreciation, while defeat brings revilement from those once deemed your betters or equals, or worse, those formerly beneath you! The honey of success is vanishingly sweet, while the gall of humiliation hangs bitter in the throat forever.

For a Drow, then, agony is an inverse score from 100 (essentially an outcast, reviled by everyone) to 0 (the height of status, envied by everyone--and the target of every assassin's blade ...). Individuals have their own personal sense of agony, but derive a base value from their House; the individual sisters mostly seek their own betterment, but clear victories on their own part also reflect well on the House, while terrible individual defeats also reveal to all just what a failure the individual's House is. Any change in agony during the course of adventure by a single Drow in multiples of ten reflects on her House in the same way (positive or negative) in increments of one (so -20 agony for the individual grants the House -2 familial agony).

For an individual, shedding certain amounts of agony come with rewards (and envy) ...

At 25 agony, a Drow is allowed to participate in the Troll-Bacchanals, rather than creating offspring merely through parthenogenesis or the use of male slaves. This increases the likelihood of "breeding-true" and having an actual Drow daughter to continue the House. Naturally, I'll need to write something like a carousing table for this, and it will involve bonus xp.

At 20 agony, she becomes "the talk of the town". Assassination attempts against her become more likely, and other Drow wishing to prove themselves may challenge her to duels or drinking contests, or whatever. The base suggestion from OA is a 10% chance per week.
Having written this after the table below, I'm already going to have to rejigger the table to include more of this, but not right now, because it's almost 2 am. Regardless, refusing a challenge causes a +10 increase in agony, while surviving an assassination attempt would naturally cause a decrease in same, depending on the potential effectiveness of the would-be-assassin and her plan.

At 15 agony, a Drow may be sought out by a cousin of a lesser House, or even one of the slave-races that serve the Drow, essentially to establish a patron-client relationship between the Drow and the person seeking her out. Recognized as a creature of status, the character basically has the sway to change the fortunes of those less glorified than herself. My immediate thought would be to create a relationship or institution which the character could begin to cultivate, and reap reasonable rewards from, so long as her agony remains low.

At 10 agony, a Drow is approached with various offers of alliance. These need not all come strictly from Drow Houses; there's no reason that Duergar or Serpentfolk wouldn't necessarily court powerful Drow for semi-mutually-beneficial alliances. The referee should make some interesting pitches from likely enclaves, and generally write them to be mutually incompatible. Accepting any one alliance should be beneficial in particular ways, but invite greater envy/enmity from other factions ... assassination attempts or open conflict could well follow!

At 5 agony, a Drow is able to cut herself off from her own House and establish a House for herself and her own descendants, if she wishes to cut ties with her own sisters, mother, and grandmother ... this is, of course, both dangerous and exhilarating! Creating one's own lineage comes with a variety of assassination attempts by those hoping to inherit/take one's possessions and inheritances for themselves, but also comes with the advantage of being the Great Grandmother of a House, and able to decide one's own path and alliances without the interference of older generations ...

Any Drow who achieves 0 agony and dies with the same is able to pass her success in life on through "genetic" memories to any newly created Drow character by the same player (or in the same House). There is a formula for this in OA that basically allows one to bump up ability scores and such, though no greater than +3 to any one roll. So that's the general idea there ...


Some ways to affect agony:

Agony --- Action
-5 --- avenging a Sister
-2 --- avenging a Cousin
-7 --- avenging an Elder
-1/HD --- taking a prisoner (Drow)
-1 --- taking a slave
+10 --- taken AS a slave/prisoner
-6 --- defeating an Ancestral Enemy / Feuding House
+3 --- calling in a Favor
+2 --- entering into Debt
-2 --- reaching Name Level
-2 --- being asked a Favor
-4 --- successful Assassination
-8 --- successful Assassination in-House
+8 --- failed Assassination
+20 --- failed Assassination in-House
-variable --- attaining Noble Title
+variable --- losing Noble Title
+4 --- losing House Heirloom
+6 --- causing a Feud through blundering
-3 --- creating a Feud strategically ...
+12 --- defeat by an Ancestral Enemy / Feuding House
-2 --- forging an advantageous Alliance
-1 --- acquiring Property
+2 --- losing Property
-1 --- lending Money
-1/2000 xp --- defeating a Monster
-1/coffle --- purchasing Slaves
+8 --- regularly associating with Slave-Races (non-Drow)

This isn't exhaustive ... like I said, it's a rough draft, and largely culled from the Honor table in OA. I expect it'll need fine-tuning with play, and expansion as the mists obscuring Drow culture clear for me through running this thing.



Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Allegiance instead of Alignment

I was asked today to brainstorm some ideas for "vows" for the Natural Cult like the three I wrote for the Good Cult of Alignment in my game some time ago.

I wrote up my ideas; I'll post them here soon. But first, the request and my daydreaming together led back around to my original frustration with Alignment as expressed in later D&D ... and with a new idea for something different: Allegiance!

Very original, I know.

I'm going to draw up some rough rules for one Allegiance here now, with suggestions for further types. The justification/argument will follow behind, in contradiction to the way I used to write things.

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"Allegiance" as written here is not a "moral" characteristic, but a metaphysical/eschatological choice for your character and whom they would back during the Final Battle at the end of time.

Today I'll be rough-drafting what Allegiance to Dragons could look like, given that just about all my characters worship "the Black Dragon" and so that's honestly what I've given most thought into when justifying my alignment, even before this "new" idea.

So:

Characters allegiant to Dragons prioritize the acquisition of wealth above all things, whether they merely find that admirable in itself, or wish to actually acquire wealth for some real or imagined Dragon, or even believe in their own possible "apodrakosis" in which they literally transform into dragons through their acquisitive nature.

To this end, a character so allegiant gains 1 xp for every 1 gp value of treasure nabbed above/beyond that nabbed by the player-character with the next highest gp count of treasure.

(Simple example: Xanthos, Henry, and Shoopie are on an adventure together. They find a treasure chest; Xanthos investigates it alone and finds it full of 1000 gp; secretly, he skims 100 gp, and reports back to his comrades the other 900. When they split the loot up back at town "honestly", each character gets 300 gp. At the same time, ostensibly, each character would earn 300 xp, but Xanthos will earn an extra 100 xp from the gp he "siphoned off" from the others. [My personal game would have slightly different xp, but the reasons create a math digression])

These characters are also incentivised to maximize (or steal) treasure because if they return from an expedition with more treasure than other characters (even if it's just 1 gp, or an item), they would then earn an extra 5% xp from the expedition as a whole, calculated the same way as a Thief with high dexterity, or a Fighting-Man with high strength.

But alas (and of course) these benefits come with restrictions: a character allegiant to Dragons cannot give away or lend wealth (unless the interest rate is ridiculous, like 25% or so, to be repaid in a month) or items, without reneging their Allegiance. Obviously, characters who renege cannot gain their associated xp bonuses; but they are also reviled by anyone else who may be allegiant to Dragons,  causing -2 on reactions with such (other than PCs, who can form their own relationships ... though other Draconic PCs would probably face social repercussions for continuing to associate with such reprobates).

Clerics would lose spells ... in B/X D&D I think the other classes would be generally unaffected, other than the social/xp troubles. Honestly, alignment/deity/allegiance is more of a cleric function anyway, so that's not unreasonable.

Atonement for such transgressions is of course possible, per the spell and D&D rules, and the terms would adhere to the severity of the transgression (10 gp is not 10,000 gp), and the nature of the particulars of the Dragon cult ...

So, this is already longer than I was shooting for, but I still want to say that declaring one's Allegiance to Dragons doesn't necessarily mean any Particular Dragon. My own characters generally worship "the Black Dragon". I made that up of old, in a moment, because a "Black Dragon" god was something I knew I could work with metaphorically.

My expectation/hope as referee would be to ask a player, "Your character is allegiant to Dragons; so is there a real dragon that your tribe worships, or is this some kind of metaphorical dragon-god? Or ... ? Who is it, what's the name, etc?" It doesn't matter much to me if you're the only worshiper, or if you claim to be one of an entire country, but the idea of "Dragon" is that you can at least narrow down some particulars of your cult to the idea of the Draconic, and act accordingly.

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Allegiance in this sense is not merely the kind of obedience offered a liege by his vassal, but something of Cosmic significance. The kind of Allegiance under discussion here is eschatological; when the Rainbow Bridge is overthrown, when the Gjallarhorn is winded, when the Nailship sails from the Mist-Realm, your character's Allegiance determines whether he or she stands with the Gods and the Honored Dead, or if he or she marches with the Giants and Titans to overthrow the halls of the Gods--or if they stand aside altogether as the Final Battle rages, and instead look to the regeneration of the World Tree itself ...

I still don't give a crap as referee if you want to play a "lawful good" character but end up doing some larceny, or if you play a "chaotic evil" character, and lend a little charity to some orphans. What I want is for "alignment" to have some bearing on the world--and for characters to not have to worry about it if they don't want to!

And, if the players' visions of philosophy differ, for the "alignment" to be something "metaphysically true" in the game world that I as the referee can point to, regardless of what players may think, thus to adjudicate whether someone is acting "within alignment" or not.

I once considered abandoning the traditional Law-Chaos/Good-Evil schema of D&D alignment for completely made-up cults in my world, and decided that I liked the elegance of the traditional D&D scheme as shorthand for people familiar with it, and for those who have a vague sense of it.

"Shorthand" turned out to mean, in practice, that virtually everyone would write down their "alignment" on their character sheet as envisioned by themselves, and then ignore what I'd written for what that alignment actually meant.

"I'm Chaotic Good" they'd declare, and then neither seek (chaotically) to get ahead of everyone else in treasure or kills, and also not NOT get into fights (those who are Good are obliged not to start fights). "I'm Lawful Good," they'd say, but then not use the means laid out to gain extra xp by donations to either cult of  Law or Good. "Alignment" generally has continued to mean nothing other than something written on a "character sheet" for basically no reason.

Well, I once dreamed of writing a specific Cult for each of the nine possible alignments in AD&D. My frustration has driven me back to a version of that--getting rid of the "moral" dimensions of "Chaos" or "Good" will unfortunately cut out certain shortcuts that I liked, but those shortcuts turned out to be so particular to me as-such, that I think abandoning Alignment altogether and writing something new will actually be the most fruitful way to go about this kind of "fictional positioning" of characters.

------

"I don't want to have my character be part of a cult to be Good!" someone once said when I proposed my changes to alignment, back in the day. (what, 2012?)
I didn't make the argument correctly then; but the thing is, BE the nicest, best-mannered character you want in my game; BE unaligned, or be Good, or be Evil, or whatever.
But, after listening to (and causing, and I'm sorry) hours of arguments about "alignment-as-morality", I'd like to play a game where IF alignment matters (enough to put it on a character sheet) then it MATTERS, and there'd better be some rules about it.
Otherwise, who gives a shit what the difference is between Chaotic Good and Neutral Evil?
No rules? No worries. I'll be Chaotic Lawful! Or Good Evil. Who cares what I write on the character sheet when it's meaningless?

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Trivia of Names

This is self-indulgent trivia, but I think there's at least a couple friends who might also find it amusing.

Recently (in February or March?) I joined Nick's new game in the city-state of Orm, much to my pleasure. We who are participating were obliged to roll up new characters, to be native neophytes of the world under its dying sun. This was a great opportunity for me, something I've been wanting to do for a while--my other B/X characters are almost all mixed up with one another for various reasons, and it would be nice to have a fresh start separate from their interests.

I was hung up on the name. Almost all of my human characters have Greek-inspired names (Eleutheria, Ismene, Nebridius, Eleithiya, Aspasia, etc). There are a couple oddballs here or there: Jimmy Neckbeard (a halfling who claims dwarfish ancecstry), Laurantha (an Elf shamelessly named after Dragonlance's Lauranthelas), Goldilocks (an NPC orphan that one of my characters adopted, and I thence rolled into a character), Xev (semi-deceased, shamelessly ripped from one of my favorite sci-fi TV shows, Lexx).

So what could I do that's new?

Well, nothing new that I looked at hooked me; my smattering of basic Arabic left me uninspired, and it was the main source I was toying with. I haven't gotten much traction out of my thin German for fantasy names, and despite the seeming-medieval setting of assumed-D&D, I prefer the weirder bits of Classical and older pagan history for my characters and inspiration.

So alright, I think, why not re-tread old ground? I named my first B/X character Xanthos, explicitly out of the Iliad. He's still my main character; if I'm naming a new "main" character, why not do that again?

Technically, my inspiration for Xanthos was that that was the name of one of Achilleus' horses, the one that speaks to him (if I'm remembering right); but I also knew that the name was shared with one of the rivers that bordered the fields where the Achaeans and Trojans joined battle.

So, why not name this new character after the other river? Perfect! Same source-material, but a sideways justification. (I also considered using just any old name from the Iliad, like Meriones or Idomeneus--and specifically them, because I once had a wild-haired dream of writing a play using them, which was a bad idea, but I like those characters in particular--but I decided it would be better to use place names, so that I could win my own glory! rather than competing with literal heroes)

My memory was that there were two rivers on the plain of battle before Troy. The plain was sometimes called Scamander because of one of the rivers that bordered it; if Xanthos was one of the rivers, I reasoned, then Scamander was the other one. Hence the new character's name: Scamandros!

Alas, I clearly haven't reread the Iliad any time recently. Xanthos and Scamander are the same river, known to mortals as Scamander, and to the gods as Xanthos. The other river that I was thinking of that bordered the plain was the Simoieis ...

So now I've got two characters running around in different games both named after the same river, by different names. I won't lie that I briefly thought that they must be the same soul, transmigrated via the fantasy of D&D to occupy both bodies in wildly different places; eh, but better they're just two souls coincidentally co-named. After all, I was looking to branch out to begin with!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Returning From a Successful Expedition, Scamandros Recounts to a Friend

[Returning to the Burning Witch tavern after the most recent expedition into the Complex just outside the city-state of Orm, Scamandros and company lay out their loot to be divided amongst themselves upon a table. Like Scamandros, Fergus and Fancy appear unharmed; while Thea and the dwarf Feeble Finn both seem to have suffered prodigious nosebleeds (and earbleeds?). Of the four hirelings, Terk has one arm thoroughly wrapped in a blood-soaked cloak, while Kiddo and the others all seem as unscathed as the first three of the company.

Before the hirelings split, Scamandros produces a bottle of dark berry wine from his person, purchased some time ago when the merchant Bartamus Fludge came through town, and he also counts out 12 gold pieces from his purse.]

Hold up, comrades! Take this bottle of wine and this gold and split it up amongst yourselves for your valiant services today--and know that with future successes like this, the bonuses will only be greater. My thanks to all of you, and I'm sure that I speak for all in the company today. Now go, eat, and be merry!

Now, my adventuring fellows, my suggestion is that we take what we suspect to be enchanted to my compatriots at the Athenaeum of the Dying Sun to be identified. Our library of tomes in Old Imperialish (Phasmo's specialty) and Gnomish treatises (my own particular), combined with Crannoc's nose for dweomers will have every property properly understood in a trice, and for a pittance to boot!

And Finn--you may retain what you will of the equipment I purchased as you wish, or return it; I would simply ask that you pay me the coin that I used to purchase anything you keep, while anything returned will expunge the relevant debt to me. But count the arrows as free; oft have I heard the refrain from archers, "Love not thy ammunition." Altogether, I spent fifty-eight gold, not counting the arrows. (I can provide an itemized receipt if needed)

[And turning away from the wrangling over remaining particulars, Scamandros spots sometime-companion Betina the Blind among the other patrons of the tavern.]

O! Betina! Share a pint with me, won't you? I've just returned from the Complex. I'll tell our tale, if you regale me with the particulars of the white altar. (I'm sorry I missed that expedition, I got caught up in the mixing of alchemical reagents and completely lost track of time!)

--Friend proprietor! Bring us a pitcher of chestnut ale won't you? Here's four gold, I hope that covers it. (and I'm sorry I've forgotten your name, I'm sure I'll remember it next I'm in)--

So! I have vague ambitions to seek the rumored "Yeast Fields" within the Complex for the brewing of alchemical potions, but my companions seemed more interested in "reconnaissance in force" (and hopefully a bit of dis-covered recompense), and we opted to seek the rumored elevator. But we were sidetracked by a rumor of a recent expedition in the northwest of level one, and of certain places left unexplored therein.

Thence, therefore, did we march, past the staked-heads west of the Pit, and around through the secret door and under the great arch. Several paths lay before us at the next juncture, and we elected for the nearer doors.

The first door we opened led to others; the next revealed disappointment in an old storage room. But to our horror, Thea pointed out a translucent flowing amoeboid come through the door in pursuit! It descended on Finn, congealing around his head and extracting the fluids of his braincase most terribly. Fortunately, he was able to cast it off with his hands, and I darted in to strike its nucleus just right such that it "popped" and dis-integrated.

Relieved of that horror, we turned to the next door, and behind it found an octagonal room containing a singular chest. Certainly treasure was secreted within! But wary as ever, we held back from our enthusiasm, and Fancy the Bard gave his touching-pole to--Termin, I think was the name? A hireling of his, anyway--to prod open the lid. Well, that he managed to do, but not without the mishap foreseen! A dart was cast forth, and delivered what must have been a fine dose of poison to the poor man. He had to sit down and put head between his knees until his heart stopped "pattering", as he said (meanwhile, we were elated to find within the chest a reasonable amount of electrum coins).

Continuing to open the many doors before us, we next discovered a storage chamber, already looked-through by the three occupants, caught in the act of tapping on the walls in seek of secret doors. They attempted to mislead us by declaring a "musical" interest, but Fancy showed them real music, and two of the three became entranced. They revealed themselves as servants of the Sorcerer-King Valtropis, seeking certain treasures told to them by the Gnomes to be hid within that reach of the Complex. The armor we recovered (over there) is theirs; alas, they forced our hands, and we had to slay them, rather than remain cordial! Fergus' understanding of the dweomers of sleep proved his worth in this clinch of conflict.

Well, the walls didn't hold any secrets; I can't decide if the Gnomes gave poor information, or if the Vat-Spawn only poorly understood their intelligence? Regardless, we continued our investigations.

The next room contained nothing but alcoves and a dusty recliner, but two other floating amoeboids came on after us while investigating. Fortunately our combined arms proved their match, and they too were soon "popped" (I should not neglect to mention the bravery of our hirelings here, who were the ones to deliver the final blows to both horrors; I think Glys killed one all alone with her crossbow). Fancy, digging through his knowledge of lore declared the amoeboids were "metroids", whatever that may mean, but also suggested that we just call them "suck clouds" given their proclivities.

My astute observations and fine deductive mind next allowed us ingress through a certain wall formerly assumed to be true, but now found to contain a secret door. The first door within proved merely a closet; but our hirelings, set to guard, called out from the corridor, and filing out from our investigations, we discerned a fleshy tentacular horror squelching toward us from the darkness. This too fell before our arms, and I will not feign modesty that it was my own magic missile that dealt the killing blow (though Fergus did call out for it in the final act).

The last that we explored was another room, containing only a corpse, dressed in one of the finest shirts of mail that I have ever seen. Indeed, it is there upon the table, being wrangled over by my comrades! Fain, of course, were we to remove the armor from a dead man, and remand it to one of our own who would more happily use it ... but none of us wished exactly to be the hand that took from the dead. Terk was volunteered, much to his chagrin (as perhaps you saw).

He went as ordered, and returned after but a moment, and something was crawling in his arm, under the skin. The horror of it almost paralyzed. Fergus suggested cutting it out with a dagger; Finn suggested hacking the arm off entire with a falchion. Fancy blanched at both (as did Terk), but could not immediately recall whatever lore he was clearly seeking behind his eyes.

So! Terk we grasped, all of us, and held him down without analgesic, and Fergus applied his dagger in imitation of a surgeon.

To no avail! Blood poured, and the man howled, but the thing still writhed in his arm.

But, "Fire!" Fancy suddenly declared, and he lit a torch, and while continued to hold poor Terk down, Fancy applied the brand to the flesh, and forth came the grub, terrified like a tick from the flame, and Fergus cut it atwain with his knife.

Seeing all this, a light did we see in Thea's eye, and she muttered something to herself about, "The silent death," and went to the corpse. I know not what she did, for I was engaged with Kiddo consoling poor Terk and wrapping his arm; but when we returned to the corpse to retrieve its armor, Thea did declared it free of the wretched grubs, and lo! nothing further untoward occurred when handling it.

Well! Such are the deeds as we have just accomplished them. But I think I missed any true retelling of your own adventure to seek out the white altar. How is it that you came by your new unlooked for power of touch? And I think, also, that I have missed word of some of your other adventures, if you have any wish to expound on deeds of daring-do!


Monday, May 11, 2020

A Dialogue Between Scamandros and a Goat

[Scamandros the Seer, drunk on much spring wine, is escorted back to the Athenaeum of the Dying Sun by a goat blessed by the shepherds of Old Orm, to whom he expounds concerning his latest adventure within "the Complex"]

Well, my horn-ed friend, there we stood before the stairs descending to the seeming depths of greatness! Myself--Riverborn Scamandros!--and my companions ... allow me to count them if you would, while you chew your cud ... Betina the Blind, a fighting-woman whose sword I trust though her eyes are gone; Journeyman Crannoc and Phasmo, two fellow magic-users of the College of old, and now business-partners anew; and Frim Frimerson, a fighting-man of mien most dour. With us too were Kiddo, my trusted lictor, she bearing forth my partha shield with all the ancient Teucrian ancestry; and Veteran Ornie, once an oarsmen in the galleys of the Cerulean Sea, if I took his meaning right.

"Baa-ah!" what? And you also desire a name heroic, o! goat? Then here, take this crown of dandelions from off my brow, and I shall name you ... Anthouaix. Eh, be not ashamed! Thou art thus the Goat of the Flower!

Now ... We had come by way circuitous, half explained by Crannoc as he pored over his myriad maps. An elevator there was, would take us to the depths (though the lowest depths, they said, would split color itself!). We aimed to ride it down seeking fortune, but Crannoc's notes depicted a door unlooked-through, but of interest.

Well, looking through it was much blood, dried; and the next door held the same; but the next was always unexplored until a stair led down before us. Phasmo cried out in excitement--

Yes, this is where I tried to start, so stop your bleating! What's next begins adventure--

Anyway, we descended the steps, and found ourselves in a hall, flanked by painted statues of a man bearing a key, and a woman with a globe held high. Most interested in the key was Phasmo, but our investigations were cut short by the arrival of several beetles.

Very large beetles, with great scything mandibles.

Eschewing conflict, we tried a doorway in the corridor to the east, and opened it upon a roomful of pugnacious blue-furred beasts. Alas! they seemed intent on our flesh as delicacy, but Betina slammed shut the door, while Crannoc devised an ingenious plan to spike it shut, but with a rope coiled round the spike that we might pull it forth and release the hounds of hunger upon the beetles of our despair should they come in pursuit.

All followed per Crannoc's plan; we ourselves moved deeper into the complex.

(Very well, Anthouaix, I too require a moment to relieve certain natural pressures. Soon, now, we will arrive in Old Orm, and you will see our Athenaeum; I advise you not to eat of any tome.)

We entered into a star-shaped room; a set of stairs descended deeper into the Complex ... again, Phasmo cried in delight to discover a deeper truth ... but all that opened before us was a crescent-shaped shrine with an ancient altar. Its face was worn with the pawings of many a hopeless pilgrim, or so I surmise; for some reason my companions all knelt before the stone and placed their hands against it like--

--yes, like fools, I agree! "Baa-aah!" Very cutting, Anthouaix--

And before anything of value could be dis-covered, the skittering of beetle-legs was discerned upon the stair. Oil we spread, ready for fire, and Frim (son of Frimer Frimson, grandson of Frim Frimerson, if I got the lineage right ...) and Betina the Blind stood valiantly forth, backed by the spears of lictor-Kiddo and Ornie, and the sorceries of Riverborn Scamandros, Journeyman Crannoc, and one Phasmo!

A vicious battle followed! One of the two remaining insectile horrors was laid low by the swords and spears of my companions, along with my own magical dart!; while the other was stilled by the magical prism of Phasmo, illusionist extraordinaire. (I think that I must call upon my companions to learn more of magic, don't you think Flower-Goat?)

The still-and-sleeping beetle we fettered as a bull of old-and-ancient Minos ...

Ah, well, here we are--the Athenaeum of the Dying Sun. Ramshackle it may be, but it contains a wealth of ancient knowledge. Well, I guess it's time we parted ways and you went back to your--stop chewing on my cloak! I just had this made for the festival! Shoo! Shoo, you damn goat! If you eat this, how else am I again to impress Veturia??

[Reeling from an excess of drink, Scamandros tugs the tips of the cloak he spent some money on from the mouth of his attendant goat and sits down outside the portal of the Athenaeum of the Dying Sun to meditate on the missed opportunities of the night of the Vernal Equinox, when cherry-wine thickened his tongue and made twisted his advances to the maiden Veturia Casca ...]

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Greyhame Game Expeditions 89 and 90

Expedition 89, 2 April's Roster:
Torrack, Gunther, and Thor (ogres)
Coball and Iliana (clerics)
Leafit (Elf)


Torrack is of such a level as to seize a cave or cavern system for himself and gather a band of ogres under him. His announced intent is to attempt to educate such a band of ogres and introduce them to civilization.

To that end, he gathered a group of comrades at the Waldburg, Kord's castle just east of Brakeridge, and the party set out toward the mountains to the east, hoping to find a cave. They didn't ask around about rumors or attempt to hire any guides, but just struck out into the wilderness, hoping to blindly stumble into success.

Well, some kind of disaster struck them down. A day after their departure, Iliana returned from the wilderness to Kord's castle, chattering about "tentacles from the dark" and "the stones themselves! The stones themselves had teeth! Everyone dead ..."

Guided by her, Ham and a larger party discovered a double-cavern entrance at the south end of a cliff-face set under and between the Whitecrown and Greyhame mountains. From within, they recovered the bodies of Torrack and his party, all badly mangled and partially digested. Over the next few days, with difficulty, Ham was able to raise from the dead all but Thor, whose body was just too far gone.


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Expedition 90, 4 April's Roster:
Clark (paladin)
Mizer and Blackleaf (magic-users)
Koko (woman-ape)
Lucky Bob (travelling man)
Tiwo (thief)
Rolf Rolfson, Thorgil, Clothis (clerics)


Following up on two previous expeditions into the Howling Tower to discover what happened to Okok the Ape-King and to help him drive out the Getae holding the tower, the adventurers gathered in Brakeridge with the intent to delve into the Howling Tower Dungeon once more. On the 86th expedition, a number of slaves were delivered from the Tower, saved from servitude under the Getae; these slaves were able to offer a small bit of intelligence concerning the Getae, namely that the chief of the Getae, one Tamoric, was gifted by the Red King of the Getae with a huge red ruby that glitters of its own light, and which was set into the base of a huge axe; after this, according to the slaves, it seemed that certain vile sacrifices became more common.

Knowing that werewolves abound in the area, they bought up a bunch of wolfsbane (and noted that wolfsbane has become common in town, hung up over lintels and nailed to doors), Koko groused about not having armor and ordered a suit especially made for her ape frame from a local armorer, and then they set out.

Wolves howl in the wilderness; strange howling emanates once more from the Tower; the party gathered on the hillside by the secret insect-hole that leads into the Tower dungeons and sent Rolf in first. On the way in, they discovered a renewed number of large egg cases in the larger cavern outside the dungeon proper, and elected to smash them all before continuing.

Emerging once more into the crypts under the tower, the adventurers quickly made their way north to the door where they'd encountered large numbers of goblins before; listening in, they seemed to hear another such group of goblins and wolves. They briefly debated whether to clear them out again, but decided to move on.

At the next door down the corridor to the west, the party listened again, and heard ritual chanting and muted whining and howling. This seemed more interesting than mere goblins; because there were two doors into the chamber, the group decided to split up with Clark, Mizer, and Tiwo taking the south door, and everyone else at the northwest door.

The plan was that Clark should open the south door, distract those inside, and then while whoever or whatever was inside was distracted, the others would burst in from the west. This went down generally as intended--Clark opened the door and stumbled in, and found a little more than he bargained for.

A barbarian chief with a silver circlet at his head and a huge axe slung over his shoulder (giant ruby sparkling at its pommel) knelt before a statue of an Elf queen, a tripod smoking with incense at his side. Attending him were eight well-armed barbarian huskarls, a pack of wolves with intelligence gleaming in their yellow eyes and a horrible beast, its body like a hulking baboon, its head like a great shaggy wolf, and from its shoulders sprouting six swaying serpent heads.

The barbarian stood and turned to Clark and suggested that the paladin step in and disarm himself. Clark refused, denying the magic, but he did step in with his sword raised. "I challenge you, one on one," Clark declared confidently, and the barbarian chief smirked in reply. "Let us to the holmgang, then," the barbarian replied, and his huskarls drove daggers into the floor in an arena square. Hefting his axe, the chief stepped in, and Clark stepped in with his sword ... and the two set about to ineffectually swinging their weapons around as both player and referee rolled nothing but 3s and 5s for several rounds.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party decided they wanted in on the action, so in the door was kicked. Blackleaf bathed everyone in the room with a fireball, which both the chief and Clark shrugged off, but which knocked out some of the wolves. A web spell aimed at the eight huskarls by Mizer was fizzled by an axe thrown back at him; Koko charged in, sword flaming, and directly engaged the horrible baboon-snake demon, while Thorgil and Clothis closed with the wolves, and Lucky Bob, Rolf, and Tiwo stood back shooting crossbow bolts.

Koko's melee went poorly; though she snicked off a couple snake heads, the others got numerous bites in against her, and she felt fiery venom coursing through her veins, seizing her muscles. Blackleaf followed Mizer's web with one of her own, this one actually covering the barbarians and preventing them from joining the fray. Mizer covered himself with mirror images. Clark and the barbarian traded misses; Clothis and Thorgil knocked out some wolves.

Seeing this fight turning against him, the barbarian chief changed; his skin flushed bright blood red, from his shoulder sprouted a serpent's head, and from his mouth burst forth a full wolf's head. ... But even with all three attacks he still managed to miss Clark. Koko drank a potion of antivenin, and succeeded her second save with a natural 20, ending the threat of poison, while the rest of the party mopped up the chief's allies.

At this juncture, the chief attempted to escape invisibly, but Blackleaf had a wand of enemy detection which briefly set his outline alight before Thorgil dispelled all magic in the room with a dispel magic scroll. The chief was discovered in the corner, while the barbarians all were released from their webs.

Half the party crowded around the chief while the others meleed the barbarians. Surrounded, the chief sent forth a stroke of magical lightning which laid Blackleaf low and cooked Thorgil and Clothis without killing them. After another round, the chief again turned invisible, and the northwest door opened and closed.

Clark, Thorgil, and Clothis ducked out the door after the chief while the others dealt with the huskarls. Another stroke of lightning blasted through the corridor, but the adventurers had healed themselves enough with potions and lay on hands that they survived. Despite his regenerative abilities, the chief was at low hp at this point, and three characters whaling on him (including a critical hit, I believe) laid him low. But not dead--his body continued to regenerate even as he lay unconscious, an axe blade buried in his head.

The thing that finally ended his weird life was to divest him of everything on his person, including a fair number of gems, the silver circlet, and the axe. As the party was fairly well beaten up, they elected to gather the chief's body and possessions, and then return to the surface and the safety of town, to return to drive out the Getae another day.

Back in town, the axe was discovered to be magical (of course), and was proffered to Axxxl the Mask, local sage, to be identified. It is an axe +3, dancing, but Axxxl mentioned that there was something abominably evil about it and offered to pay 40k in gold to take it off their hands, not trusting it with them ... but they refused, and Clark won the argument to keep it.

So the chief of the Getae of Tower lies dead, his body in the hands of the adventurers ... but the Getae remain in their fastness, and Okok the Ape-King remains in the dungeons below ...