Monday, December 30, 2013

The Hour of Dream, part 1

Happy Holidays to all the gaming community! It's been a while since I have been able to get to the blog. Had a nice vacation and had some family time during the holiday last week. Thanks to all the responses regarding my last post on play styles. I have done some thinking and experimentation with some different styles, which will lead me later to different play environments (gaming spaces).

In the meantime, I am returning to my Drowsbane campaign and having some fun with Epic (Mythic D6 Lite) and dusting off an older favorite system to alleviate any boredom I'm having with FU. Not sure how many parts this particular chapter will run at this point. This one gets a good old-fashioned hex-crawl treatment to get going. In part 2, there are some fun twists and turns, and from there...not yet sure.

Again, happy holidays to all!


“Hour of Dream”

A working randomly-determined title.

A Questers of the Middle Realms (PDQ) (with some elements of Jaws of the Six Serpents included), “Epic”, and Forgotten Realms mash-up. This is the fifth in a series of solo games entitled, “Last of the Drowsbane”, this time switching the core system and GM emulator. All meta-game text (except Epic questions and scene setup details) will be eliminated.

Tengrym Drowsbane

Fortune Points: 1
Leaning Points: 0
Strengths: Good [+2] Half-elf: Night-vision, Good [+2] Homeland: Northern Moonsea (Sullaspryn), Good [+2] Organization: Last of the Drowsbane, Good [+2] Swordsman, Good [+2] Brilliant Intellect, Good [+2] Agile, Good [+2] Enduring Magical Elf-blade*, Average [0] Arcane Rituals*§, Average [0] Displays of Light*, Good [+2] Magical Blast*, Average [0] Wall of Ice*, Average [0] Gravity Manipulation*, Average [0] Teleport*, Average [0] Slumber Spell*
Weaknesses: Poor [-2] Principled
Props: Good [+2] Corselet of Elvish Mail*

§ Arcane Rituals* can replicate almost any “downtime” effect, from scrying, to identifying magical items or attunement, to complex summoning rites. These effects are assumed to be those with the secondary duration effects or ranges, and must take considerable casting time. Since a ritual approach is assumed, no Upshift is granted for time. For complex spells, the GM is encouraged to impose TNs higher than Master (regardless of the effect one is building), require exotic or unique relics, and/or Fortune Point costs.

NPCs

Thedric Drowsbane
Qualities: Good [+2] Roguish Persona, Good [+2] Homeland: Hillsfar, Good [+2] Organization: Last of the Drowsbane, Expert [+4] Knife Play, Good [+2] Athletics, Good [+2] Winsome Looks, Good [+2] Legerdemain, Poor [-2] Roguish Persona
Props: Average [0] Knives (x6)

Introduction

Departing from Highmoon after the villain Shandorin’s flight, Tengrym had discovered the plot by the drow to overthrow the north. He also uncovered the danger of the drow’s intent to capture all the remaining Drowsbanes and effectively drain their essence for dark purposes. His only clue about the designs of the enemy was a handful of grain he had discovered that was thought to be a part of Shandorin’s secret cargo. He could have gone after Shandorin’s trail directly, but Tengrym had the plight of all the Moonsea and the Dalelands first and foremost on his mind.

He headed back to Shadowdale…

Adventure Setup:

Chaos Factor: 0
NPCs: Anoris Shandorin, Dark Elves, Thedric
Threads: Discover the nature of Shandorin’s plot

Scene 1

Setup: Random…
Twist: Focus — PC positive; Meaning — smiley face, tower
Scene: Tengrym returns to Shadowdale, greeted by warm and friendly faces. Going to Elminster’s tower, he asks about the seeds

6 Kythorn, Year of the Shadows

Without mishap, Tengrym arrived back in Shadowdale. First order of business, he returned Foalsnurse’s excellent horse to him. “See!” the man said. “No doubt a fine upstanding sir, such as yourself, would return her unharmed.” He met many a delighted Dalesman, who greeted Tengrym warmly. I need a new identity, and to go to a place where I am not recognizable, he thought.

Is Elminster at home? No, but…
Is Thedric and his guardian at home? No, but…

After that, he sought Elminster out in his old rickety tower. The old sage was not within, but his scribe expected him ‘any day now’. After that, he looked in on his brother at Torm’s place. He had been seen around, but was not there. Tengrym found Thedric carousing at the next likely place in the Old Skull Inn with Illistyl Elventree, with whom he was getting along fondly…perhaps too much so.

Were things eventful? Yes, and…
What happened? forest, near miss, butterfly net, strongman

Tengrym asked how things had been, assuming all was uneventful. However, it was not so. In fact, there was quite a kerfuffle while the half-elf was away. While Thedric was palling around in the woods with his new friends, there was an attempt to capture him. It was a near miss, and it required the might of several Knights to thwart the somewhat coordinated effort. The offenders were experienced and formidable mercenaries…perhaps the Zhentarim, or likely employed by them. When asked why, the roguish Torm replied, “When it’s thick with the Zhentarim, there’s no denying their stench.” The men had escaped, but the Knights followed them. They headed toward Dagger Falls, but lost the trackers through some cunning evasion.

Tengrym was mystified and more than a little worried by it. Attempts on the Drowsbanes, even in Shadowdale! Even more so, it was a sign it was time to move on.

He asked Illistyl for a favor. Being magically inclined, she might be able to know something about the mysterious grain he had pocketed from Highmoon. He gave an account of his recent adventure in Deepingdale, and the meeting with both the mysterious Shandorin, as well as the encounter with his drow accomplices. She had no inkling as to what was the significance of the substance, but she was determined to find out. They made a point of meeting again the next day. In the meantime, Tengrym told Thedric to be ready with his things and to make whatever preparations needed to leave. His half-brother was of course cocky, and tried to downplay the whole affair. Tengrym was firm.

Conclusion

CF: +1
NPCs: Anoris Shandorin, Dark Elves, Thedric, Illistyl Elventree
Threads: Discover the nature of Shandorin’s plot, Find a new safe haven

Scene 2

Setup: Tengrym meets with Illistyl the next evening
CF: 1
Altered? No

The next day, growing dread overcame Tengrym. He still had no idea which way to go. He called again upon Elminster, but the sage was still not within. He grew anxious as Thedric playfully toyed with his knives in their room at the Old Skull. The half-elf wanted news about the grain as quickly as possible. When the appointed time came, they went to meet the sorceress.

Did she find out something? Yes…
What? playing with dolls, fountain, parachute

Illistyl whispered. “These are bearing some sort of enchantment,” she began. It was her theory that these grains, when consumed, would allow he who ate them to be controlled, or perhaps fall under a deep slumber. The magic was so potent, that tasting just a small concentration might be lethal. The sorceress thought that they might be sprinkled among a greater supply of normal grains to achieve a safe and undetectable level. Even a handful of the chaff drifting through the air might be enough to cause one to fall into a deep slumber.

Tengrym and Thedric were horrified. The half-elf cursed himself for allowing Shandorin to escape. However, he had been in no condition to give chase, let alone pose any significant threat. Still, the guilt he bore was tremendous.

“I assume their plan is to poison most of the region through the distribution of the stuff,” Tengrym said. “Then, perhaps the drow or their allies are already in position for an easy conquest.”

“Or soon will be,” Illistyl added solemnly.

“Where does most of the grain in the Dales go?” asked Thedric who still refused to put on the sad face.

Does Illistyl know? Yes…

“Scardale has the largest granary,” the sorceress answered. “And it’s the Dales’ largest port, still the greatest even after Lashan’s fall.”

After a long pause, Tengrym pronounced in a hushed whisper, “Shandorin’s plan must be stopped.”

Conclusion

CF: +1
NPCs: Anoris Shandorin, Dark Elves, Thedric, Illistyl Elventree
Threads: Find a new safe haven, Discover if Scardale is the distribution point for the seed, Stop Shandorin’s plan

Scene 3

Setup: The heroes navigate a shortcut through the woods to Scardale, avoiding some natural obstacles to race against time
CF: 2
Altered? Yes
Interpretation: Instead of obstacles, they have some monstrous encounter

Is it a natural beast? Yes, but…(It’s terrifying)
What are some characteristics? spectacles, step ladder, t-rex skeleton
Interpretation: Sounds like a basilisk!

The next morning, the two departed early. Visiting Foalsnurse again, Tengrym used some of the winnings from Thedric’s wagers during their time apart. Because of the heroes’ reputation and Tengrym’s upstanding nature, they got a deal on two decent steeds…not spectacular, but far better than they could really afford. Some supplies for the road were scrounged, and they set off.

Tengrym planned to follow the Ashaba south to Mistledale, then the road through the old elf realm, then half-ax trail south to Scardale. It was a dangerous road, but might cut the time from other safer routes.

Do they find clues of the creature’s presence? No…
How does the encounter go down? blind face recognition, ray gun

Basilisk

Qualities: Good [+2] Predator, Good [+2] Hide Armor, Good [+2] Large, Expert [+4] Shocking Appearance (Petrify)*, Good [+2] Claws, Good [+2] Toothy Jaws, Poor [-2] Large

The two followed the narrow track along the river, turning their course east through Ashabenford without a break. Two days along that way on the eleventh of Kythorn, their luck turned ill.

It was nearing dusk after the hottest day of their journey so far. They were pushing hard to cut the miles, when Tengrym briefly spotted something large sprawled out on the road before them. It was lizard-like. Before he could think or identify the thing, their flight was abruptly halted. Two riders were thrown as their newly bought horses turned immediately to stone and smashed into thousands of shards. Both riders rolled, but were miraculously uninjured save a few bumps and bruises. Tengrym recognized the danger, and shouted out, “A basilisk! Don’t look it in the eye.”

Both brothers rushed to find cover behind trees on opposite sides of the road. They heard the hiss of the scaled monster as it scuttled forward on its many legs to finish its prey. This monster had been emboldened enough to threaten travelers on the road. Without the elves of Cormanthor, the great forest had truly become more dangerous.

The thing was nearing. Thedric, on the other side of the road, looked panicked. Darting across to his side, Tengrym cried, “Run!” and scrambled among the more dense tangle of trees. They passed into foliage, but the snapping of branches and young trees behind them signaled that the monster was close on their heels and little affected by the obstacles. The two scrambled nearly head over heels to evade the thing, not daring to look back. Gradually, the crunch of snapping limbs receded, and the thing broke off chase.

The two stopped only later when they were sure their predator was well behind them and they were near exhaustion. They stopped and collapsed against a tree, each catching his breath. They were suddenly without their fine horses, and both mourned the loss.

“We have to somehow cut across the forest and evade that thing,” Tengrym announced. “So much for speed…”

“What if the thing follows us?” Thedric asked.

“A distinct possibility…” answered Tengrym hesitantly. “We will have to be vigilant and cautious!”

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Solo Play Styles

Currently, I am running a number of different solo projects and sort of dabbing at each. In one of these, I am trying some different options in order to speed up play. As with each style of playing an RPG, there are a number of strengths and weaknesses. In this post, I'll make some observations of some styles I use. Any solo rpg enthusiasts out there should feel free to contribute with some of the ways you play.

“How does one play an rpg solo? I mean, what do you do when you play?”

These are common questions in various discussions with those for whom the concept of playing an rpg solitaire is new. And, it’s a good one.

What do I do?

Some form of journaling seems necessary. Without having a written document of what transpired, it seems hard to say I’ve done anything...however, I’m pushing the envelope.

Journaling can come in a variety of forms: bullet points, brief summaries, or full-on prose. The latter can be nice, but it’s cumbersome and often leads to the endeavor stopping short. My current rate of completion on detailed prosaic campaign/adventures is probably 2%. At some point, it’s necessary to look at this alarming fact and admit that this style simply doesn’t work. I have had some fun moments with those incomplete projects, and sometimes review the journal with hopes of picking up where I’ve left off. However, I rarely even have time enough to sort through all the notes.

But can something really sketchy or reduced to only the fundamental facts lead to a fun experience? I am finding out now.

In my current experiment, I am using my new “Epic” (Mythic D6 Lite variant) to run a quick adventure — by ‘quick’ I don’t mean brief in terms of scope or number of scenes, but rather expedited with a barebones approach to my journaling experience. I tried to accomplish this with my Ultra Minimalist Solo Engine and use of FU, my fastest rpg of choice. However, it’s not so much the system that flaws the attempt — it essentially boils down to the problem of  detailing the experience.

So here’s what I’m doing: I am beginning a scene with a concise phrase of its setup. All the relevant NPC lists are there, of course. I am using Inkflow on my iPad as a scratch pad and note taker. I’ve even thought of carrying a little blank pocketmod around in my back pocket and a few d6’s, but I’m sticking with technology for the moment...I might also pick up an iPad stylus pen to make it easier.

After the setup, I play out the entire scene in my head, crunching any numbers, and resolving game mechanics as needed. When the scene is concluded — completely — I write only a brief paragraph summary of events in the most concise form as possible. This may sound like an obvious route for most, but I have always paused to summarize a few sentences about a particular turn the action has taken, or particular interesting dialogue AS IT IS HAPPENING, rather than when I can sit back at look at the scene as a whole. Then, if I am organized, a scene can play out in as few as ten minutes when I’m done with my written summary. I may even impose a word limit, (but perhaps that’s not necessary). Even though the experience is sketchy and short of detail, I still recall fondly the memories of the exercise and the particulars.

Am I still having fun? As of yet, it might be too early to tell. Part of the fun of rpg’s for me is not so much the characterization (immersion?) of the protagonist, but the weaving together of a good story with lots of twists. On that front, I’m having lots of fun.

I have also considered and experimented with voice recognition software. However, it tends to be fussy, and the frequent use of fantasy names in my games make it difficult and cumbersome. I have also toyed with the idea of simply using a voice recorder. I tend to get a little gun shy in front of a microphone, but I think it might work for some people.

What do you do? A nice discussion of what sorts of journaling techniques work for everyone can be a valuable resource. How much time do you spend writing, talking, or noting your adventures, and how much time do you spend actually playing? Any other tricks that make it a successful experience?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mystery of the Burned One, part 3

And now, the final part of the adventure...

The 9Q’s: Questions 7-9

Q7. Be the PCdefiance, combat

Scene: Tengrym is led away by drow to be transported to the Underdark. It is his one chance to escape.

Tengrym was released from the chain, though his manacles were kept in place. Leg irons were attached with a chain to his manacles, keeping him restricted. He was led down a darkened corridor away from the gathering. Pushed roughly at times, he trudged along, taking note of several side corridors, one that led to a stairway landing going up to areas where light played. Another corridor led to an area of dungeons. He wondered if possibly Aurous’s family was kept there.

Deeper he was led and down another stair coming at last to a round chamber set with a six-pointed star at its center. Six monoliths stood at each point. A gate, mused Tengrym. There standing nearby was a drow sorcerer with a staff of black and long robes trimmed with violet. The long-haired emaciated dark elf regarded Tengrym dispassionately and resumed study of a scroll. Tengrym noted the fellow to his left flank who carried his weapons and gear. It was his one and only chance…

Does Tengrym magically break free of his bonds? [1 FU to activate power, -Manacled, +Veteran Mage, +Veteran Mage] Yes, but…

Tengrym closed his eyes as the others stopped, awaiting to be signaled by the sorcerer. He imagined the representative symbols of power in his head and focused his attention, using a greater control of will to substitute for his hand gestures. With a breath, he uttered one word…

“Tserlas!”

Immediately, his chains broke free, but his guards were not witless nor idle. With a grunt, Tengrym dropped with a kick to his backside.

Be the GM nextopen book, treasure chest, digging

Tengrym rolled up and prepared another quick spell. His opponents drew their weapons and grimaced in hatred, ready to kill. In the meantime, the dark elf sorcerer dropped his scroll and drew something dull from an inside pocket of his robes. The half-elf could not wait.

“Alarthcana vae!” he cried, launching a blast of fire at his four escorts from the tips of his fingers.

Does he inflict a wound on them with magical fire? [1 FU to activate, +Veteran Mage, +Veteran Mage, -1 More than one target] Yes, but…
☑ Injured

Flame erupted and consumed the four screaming warriors, but still two of them stood defiantly, swatting off sparks in black smoldering cloaks. The stench of burnt flesh filled the chamber, but the sorcerer was not idle during this time. The dark elf had cast a dark stone to the floor. It bounced and rolled. Where it landed, the stone around it took the sudden shape of a massive humanoid and sat up from its stony grave, a hulking monstrosity.

Be the PC again

Does he snatch up his sword before the others can stop him? [+Injured, -Injured, -Athletic] Yes…

Quickly, Tengrym rolled between the two distracted and still standing dark elves, snatching up his magical elf blade from his pack of things still clutched in the charred arms of one of the downed escorts. He continued his momentum through to stand on the opposite side of the group. His still-healing wounds caused him to grunt in effort.

The rock monster stepped forward, each step trembling the stones with a powerful impact tremor. Even the recovered drow stepped back in alarm and fear.

Does Tengrym cause a partial tunnel collapse from his spell? [1 FU to activate, +Veteran Mage, -Veteran Spell] No… [1 more FU point to flip a pip] No, but…
☑ Slowed

Tengrym stepped backward into the tunnel escape. Summoning all his power, he recited an incantation, repeating the arcane melisma. Directing his offhand upward, the stones above the way started to melt, turning to mud and slag. It didn’t have the effect he wanted — the tunnel opening remained intact. However, the hot and slippery stuff kept back pursuit for the moment.

The monster lunged forward against the hot and weakened arch, trying to clear the way for pursuit at the command of its master. Tengrym didn’t remain behind to see the outcome.

Does he escape? [+Slowed] Yes…

The sounds of impact and crumbling, tumbling rock continued behind as Tengrym sped down the darkened way.

Q8. Be the GMlightbulb, coughing, entering corridor — the enemy takes aggressive action against unsuspecting victims and the heroes

Scene: Hearing the alarm, and Aurous staging a sudden daring rescue with the loyal militiamen of Deepingdale, Shandorin moves with a contingent of drow to take Aurous’s family hostage to buy safe passage, running into Tengrym.

Not far down the tunnel, Tengrym approached the dungeons. From out of that passage, Shandorin appeared suddenly, roughly tugging a screaming woman in chains. Behind him were four dark elf warriors, two of whom bore squirming bundles — most likely children.

“We must escape!” he told his minions. “Aurous has stormed the warehouse with men of Deepingdale. They are our ticket to freedom…we must get the cargo out of here.”

It was then the scarred half-elf spotted Tengrym lurking in the shadows beyond just as another distant crash drew their attention. The man’s eyes widened…“And stop him!”

He fled with his hostages, leaving two to intercept Tengrym.

Be the PC again

Does he shield himself with magic? [1 FU to activate, +Veteran Mage, +Veteran Mage, -Novice Spell] Yes, but… [for only this one encounter]

Tengrym hastily incanted a spell, and a blue-white energy coalesced briefly around him. Then with a snarl, he leapt forward with his blade flashing in a testing arc.

Does he defeat his opponents? [+Swordplay, +Enduring Elf-blade, +Magically Armored, -Injured, -Drow Warriors, -Adamantium Weaponry] Yes, but… [the earth elemental charges]

The dark elves put up a fight, but could find no weakness in Tengrym’s defenses despite their fury of blade work. The half-elf cut them down. As he stood catching his breath over the fallen, a sudden explosion of rock nearby caused him to shield his face from a spray of flying shards. Before him and blocking his way was the stony behemoth, crouched in the narrow way. There seemed no place to run.

Does Tengrym magically “blink” to the other side? [1 FU to activate, +Veteran Mage, -Veteran Spell] Yes…
Does he outrun the elemental? Yes, and…

With a flourish and a mote of red sparkles, Tengrym disappeared, reappearing far to the opposite side of the passage, leaving the controlled creature to seek its prey. The half-elf wasted no more time and continued after his own prey. Nearby screams in the darkness alerted him that he was close.

Does Tengrym catch up? [-Head Start, +Burdened by Captives] Yes…

Tengrym rounded a corner and came close on the tails of his quarry. Shandorin spun wildly with a woman of middling years in his grasp, a dagger at her throat. “Not another step, Drowsbane!”

“It’s over, Shandorin,” Tengrym said. “Aurous will ensure you never leave this town. If you harm her, he will have no mercy upon you. What’s in the shipment?”

Does he get an answer out of the villain? [-Principled, -Cunning] No…

“You’re a fool, Drowsbane!” spat the disfigured half-elf. “You’ll die in thralldom like most of the other quaint Dalesfolk!”

Be the GM Once More

Shandorin turned with the woman, the drow backing away slowly and keeping the children between Tengrym and them. When they disappeared again, Tengrym kept going. When he came to the warehouse, already a battle of men and dark elves was taking place. Parts of the warehouse were burning, and everywhere men and drow grappled in hand to hand combat or exchanged arrow fire. Set in the center of the clearing of containers and boxes was a laden wagon already hitched to two horses. Shandorin was making for this. Already, the children freed themselves from their two dark elf captors in all the chaos.

Tengrym saw Aurous across the way. He beckoned and nodded toward the escaping Shandorin. “Your wife, I presume?” He shouted over the cacophony. Seeing this, Aurous shot into the midst of battle to get to the fleeing half-elf. Tengrym did the same.

Does Tengrym avoid injury? [+Lots of Cover] No, but…
☑Dazed

As Tengrym sped across the open spaces, an errant arrow clipped him. He fell, swooning in pain. However, Aurous had got to Shandorin’s wagon. Now he was halting due the villain’s dagger tip poised at the throat of his wife.

Does Tengrym cause an injury and a distraction to Shandorin with a magical blast? [1 FU to activate; +Veteran Mage, +Veteran Mage, -Dazed, -Protective Ring] Yes...
☑Injured

Tengrym felt himself losing consciousness from the pain. He focused himself enough to utter a spell. A ball of light coalesced in his palm, then sped towards Shandorin, striking him in the back. The villain cried in pain and released his hold on the woman. Aurous leapt forward to protect his wife’s escape, and the two were locked in battle. Shandorin was the better swordsman, but with his injury, the two were well matched. The tide was turning toward the Dalesmen, with the drow getting pushed back.

Suddenly, the great rocky behemoth smashed through a wall, and all sides of the conflict turned to panic. The giant stepped through fire and charges through crates and obstacles, even splitting one of the supports of the warehouse. It fought its way toward Tengrym’s position, knocking anyone or anything out of its path. Behind the thing, Tengrym spied the sorcerer who summoned the thing from the beginning. It would mean ultimate disaster for the Dalesmen if something was not done about it. Tengrym was little help in a fight in his current condition, and even if he was fully hale, he couldn’t hope to stand up to an earth elemental. Dark elves were also notoriously resistant to magic.

Tengrym was pushed with a surge of adrenaline. He forgot his pain. With effort, he called into being a last magical effort.

Does Tengrym blink behind the sorcerer? [1 FU to activate; -Dazed; +Line of Sight, +Veteran Mage, +Veteran Mage] Yes, but…

With a word and gesture, Tengrym again vanished just as the monster bowled through his location. He reappeared just behind the spell caster, but it seemed the wizard had expected such a maneuver.

Does Tengrym avoid a blow? [-Dazed, -Injured, +Swordplay, +Enduring Elf Blade, +Emaciated] No, but…

With a grunt, Tengrym took the butt of the sorcerer’s staff to his gut. However, the brunt, he deflected firm enough that the dark elf lost his grip, the staff clattering on the floor.

The behemoth turned, locating his quarry again and lurched forward. Putting a sword tip to the sorcerer’s throat, Tengrym snarled, “Call off your monster! Do it, or you die!”

Does Tengrym’s threat work? [+Enduring Elf Blade, +Compromising Position] Yes…

The elemental stopped in its tracks. The sorcerer sneered. With a word, the monster shrank back into its handheld phylactery form. The dark elf kneeled in defeat, but in the confusion, Shandorin and a handful of drow escaped on horseback with the wagon. Several Dalesmen gathered around to gather up the surrendering drow and the sorcerer. As they did, Tengrym collapsed on the floor. He could give no more…

Q9. Conclusionsmiley face, tangential arrow, pushing over wall

The half-elf recovered from his mild injury, though his old wounds had reopened, and traveling any time soon was not in the cards. Nonetheless, the folk of Highmoon were hospitable and welcoming, especially after the Drowsbane had helped uncover the corruption. Aurous was discharged from service, but was pardoned of any treachery, since he was under duress. The half-elf constable happily accepted the decision — he thanked Tengrym for helping to free his family, and he no longer had to work for young Lord Thormemnon. He looked forward to peaceful times in the country caring for his family and leaving the constabulary of the dale to capable hands.

Tengrym, too, was exonerated for any suspicion of slaying five men in the inn his first evening in town, and given the thanks of the Dale and an honor for his valor and service. Tengrym refused, not wishing the name Veldis to become famous for deeds connected to his true identity and know by his enemies. However, Lord Thormemnon would not hear of it and held a banquet in his honor many days later. Thanks to some healing by a priest of Lathander, Tengrym planned to leave town before that date would come around.

Shandorin and a handful of his cronies did escape to which direction none knew for sure. The villain had done well to thwart any pursuit. And though the wagon had been recovered along the road outside of town, it’s mysterious cargo was missing. How Shandorin disappeared with an apparently heavy load on horseback was unknown. Only a mysterious grain spilled around the old warehouse near some of the parcels that were taken was the only clue as to what that cargo was. Tengrym took a small scoop of the stuff…perhaps research would illuminate more of Shandorin’s and the dark elves’ plan.

With that, Tengrym was unsure of his next move. He felt that more information was needed before attempting to pick up his nemesis’ trail again. Perhaps he would get the information he needed from his new friends in Shadowdale. After two days in Highmoon, being greeted by every goodwife and laborer, he knew it was long overdue to hit the road again.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mystery of the Burned One, part 2

And, the second part of the adventure...

The 9Q’s: Questions 4-6

Q4. Be the PC — defiance, infiltration

Scene: later that night, Tengrym returns to the inn common room and watches. When folks drop off to sleep, he seeks a possible secret entry point from the Underdark.

Tengrym made his way back to the Rising Moon later that afternoon. He drew up the hood of his cloak around his face and kept to himself, seeking a darkened corner of the room to best watch the patrons of the inn. Ordering a frothy tankard of ale, he nursed the drink slowly, appearing as almost any other normal — albeit mysterious — patron. The night approached and more folk poured in, and still he watched and waited. Tengrym heard talk of the previous night’s disturbance that had seen the demise of several of the regular patrons. Slowly, these folk grew rowdier and more outspoken. Despite the tempered and gloomy moods, musicians still set up and sang obscene songs and played raucous jigs. Eventually, most retired for the night, though some still fell asleep where they sat.

Tengrym finally got up and began to search the place. Somehow, the drow had entered the inn, and he had a hunch it wasn’t through the front door.

Does he find any clues? [+Perceptive, +veteran mage, -whatever it is — it is bound to be well-hidden] No, but… (spend a point to “Flip a Pip”) Yes, but…

The half-elf cast a quick spell of detection and pried about, making his way to the cellar. He found few clues until he found the faintly glowing signature of magical residue. There in the corner behind several great wooden casks was a pattern. So, they teleported in, he thought. Tracking them would be no easy task. Even with careful study, his own transport spell would likely encase him in solid rock.

Be the GM

Suddenly, Tengrym heard the creak of floorboards and whirled around to see Aurous coming down the stairs with a lantern in one hand and a sword in the other.

“It seems lord Thormemnon was right not to trust you,” he said.

“Put your sword away and don’t be a fool!” Tengrym snapped. “I am here to find out how the perpetrators got in here.”

“I doubt there were any dark elves,” the constable replied. “What a fanciful story.”

The half-elf ranger stepped nearer. Tengrym could see there was no other way out than back up the stairs behind the taller and bulkier opponent.

“I won’t fight you, Aurous,” he said. “And I fail to see how you finding me in the cellar incriminates me for anything.”

“So you say,” Aurous replied, leveling his blade. “What are you really doing, Veldis?”

Be the PC Again

“I am doing what I must,” Tengrym sighed. “In truth, I seek the answer to a riddle. Somehow, the drow are related, but I don’t fully know yet what the connection is.”

Reading doubt and inner turmoil in the ranger’s eyes, Tengrym pressed. “I don’t know what Thormemnon wants, nor will I debate the methods of his rule, but I can see you have no love or respect for him.”

Does he touch a nerve? [+Bigoted] Yes, but…

Aurous lowered his blade a few inches. “He is a coward, a charlatan, and the spoiled son of lord Theremen Ulath, who is traveling to the east. No, there is no love between us…however, I still wish for justice on behalf of those who lost their lives to a cold-blooded killer!”

Tengrym regarded the constable compassionately for a moment. “Although I did not know these men, I wish for the same justice you seek. I usually work alone — and since I can see I will not easily shake you while I endeavor to complete my task — let us join together. It seems that our quests are aligned. I seek the killers too, for they hold the key to solving my riddle.”

Does he convince him to join him? [+Principled, -Suspicious] Yes… [+1 FU Point]

After a moment of thought, Aurous replied, “Agreed. I can then keep a closer eye on you.”

Tengrym smiled and extended a hand. They clasped firmly and released. “I see I shall have to work hard to earn your trust, good Aurous!”

“Indeed, you shall. Now, tell me your plan…”

Q5. Be the GMbetrayal — magnet, snake, masks

Scene: Still at the inn, Tengrym learns to his dismay that Aurous is also not who he seems!

Tengrym related his plan to inquire once again about the mysterious fellow that he was seeking — a cloaked half-elf in black with a raspy voice and burned face. When Aurous heard the description, something overcame his features.

“What is it?” Tengrym asked, pausing his description. “Do you know something?”

“You never mentioned him,” the constable said. “Come with me. I will lead you to someone who knows him and can tell you more.”

Tengrym was shocked by the revelation that Aurous knew something. “What is his name? What do you know about him.”

“In truth, very little,” he said. “However, the one who I will take you to knows much. Come!”

A little alarmed and wary, Tengrym followed. Aurous led him through the now deserted streets of Highmoon toward Merchant’s Square, a hitching point and storehouse district for several major merchant companies and coasters. The area was eerily quiet and devoid of people. Aurous led Tengrym around the back of a larger warehouse with the mark of the Three Suns Trading Company. There, Aurous knocked thrice and the door opened a crack. He whispered something to the figure within, and quickly, they gained entry.

Winding their way between aisles of crates, they approached a lit area where they heard whispering voices. They emerged to a small clearing with a couple dim lanterns, a desk, and a few chairs. Sitting around the table were two fat men in finery sipping at snifters with a third fellow in the deeper shadows opposite them. Hearing the approaching men, they ceased their conversation and turned to face their guests.

“As you asked, master Shandorin,” said Aurous, “I have brought the inquirer.”

Tengrym was already on edge. However, he was not fully prepared to face the very same scarred visage that he sought. Around the edges of the ring of light, several armed figures appeared.

Be the PC next

The half-elf turned on the constable in wrath, and steel was bared in both men’s hands. “What is the meaning of this? Why have you brought me here?”

Notes: Using the NPC 9Qs, I roll three for Aurous’ questions 4, 6 & 7, getting spectacles, musical notes, and shooting star.

“Spare me you indignation!” spat Aurous. “I have seen into the hearts of men…all have at least the baser need of self-preservation therein, while most are driven by greed.”

“I take it the last applies to you?” Tengrym scowled.

“One may be a means to the other,” he answered cryptically. “I work in tandem with the Three Suns.”

“You mean you’re in their pocket!”

“Do not be so quick to judge!” snapped Aurous. “Unless you have sons and daughters, you could scarcely begin to understand me.”

Still with sword in hand, Tengrym turned to face the scarred one — the man whom Aurous called Shandorin. Around him were armed men, and thought he heard the click of crossbows.

“And you,” he challenged. “Are you under the employ of the merchants?”

NPC 9QsQ6. — tree

“Hardly!” the man hissed. “The Three Suns is only one of the many fruits of my labor.”

“What do you mean?”

Be the GM Once More

“Enough of this!” the man growled. “Shoot him!”

The click of crossbows followed.

Does Tengrym avoid getting hit? [-Injured, +Light Elf Corselet, -Drow Hand-crossbows, -Outnumbered] No…
☑ Poisoned

Rather than heavy bolts, tiny darks struck the half-elf as he lunged toward the burned man. How quickly the poison entered his system was astonishing. The world spun around him and with a few staggered steps, Tengrym fell…

Q6. Be the GMpot of gold, hanging gymnastic bar, flower — intrigue

Scene: Tengrym is kept captive in some underground location where he learns about Anoris’s nefarious plans
☑ Trapped

Tengrym awoke to numbness. A clanking sound rhythmically chimed softly like dull bells or iron chain links. The hero’s vision came slowly out of a nauseous vortex of motion. He was chilled from a cold sweat and wet strands of white hair clung to his face.

He found himself in a dank dark room of stones. He couldn’t feel his arms. Looking up, he saw his wrists were in irons and he hung a few feet above the floor.

Not far beyond lay a short corridor. Tengrym saw the soft glow of faerie lights. A table was set up with chairs. Atop the table was a heap of gold coins, and the room beyond was stacked with several large casks of unknown goods.

Stripped to his undergarments, he was still too depleted to more than weakly groan. After doing so, he drew the attention of the guards. The figures emerged from the shadows — dark elf warriors! One prodded Tengrym with compassionless attention using the pommel of his black dagger. The half-elf groaned louder, and the burned visage of Shandorin appeared soon after.

“I see we are awake, my friend,” he hissed in low gravelly tones. “What is your name?”

Does Tengrym convince him? [-Principled, -Cunning] No, and… (he knows something of his true identity)

“Veldis,” he said weakly. “Of Thentia.”

The scarred man leaned close enough that Tengrym could see the discoloration of his right eye. “You are the one I crossed swords with near Ordanthimus, the demon’s lair. I can smell a Drowsbane anywhere,” growled the man. “Why else would you seek the Stone?” he asked, referring to Tengrym’s last adventure that began almost a tenday before.

Tengrym recoiled at the knowledge that the man knew his true name.

“You are one of the last,” the man persisted. “Do not deny it. I can smell the arrogance of a Drowsbane from great distances. It’s written on your face and etched in your gray eyes. I don’t know why that merchant sought the Stone of Baolnor, but I can well guess your reasoning.”

Tengrym remained silent, but again studied the similarities under the mass of scar tissue on the face of his counterpart. Finally, he asked weakly, “And you? What is your part in all of this?”

The half-elf smiled briefly in a hideous grimace. “My part? I am here to see through that the prophecy does not come to pass.”

“The prophecy?”

“You know the one…it is said the power of restoring the clan and Sullaspryn lies in the power of the last — the last heir of the house of Drowsbane. It cannot come to pass!”

“Why does this concern you?”

“Because my curse only ends when the last drop of Drowsbane blood is spent!” the man sneered in anger. He was now a mere finger’s breadth from Tengrym’s lips.

Tengrym watched in grim fascination, discerning something terribly wrong with the man opposite him. He could only guess at the pain and torture the man had endured, probably at the hands of the drow. It had obviously transformed the man into a hideously disfigured monster bent on helping destroy the remnants of the nearly extinct dynasty.

“However,” the half-elf continued backing away, “the game has changed. Since the demon, Egelrenardruth, was released and destroyed, and the stone with him, it has freed the drow from one aspect of the curse. The stalemate is broken. The war against the moon goddess has begun in earnest now.”

Shandorin turned and gestured toward the casks. “Even now, a plan is already in motion that will aid in not only the demise of Sel√Ľne’s last allies in the north, but also bring down the cities of the Moonsea as trophies of conquest!”

Before Tengrym could ask further, Aurous walked in. Shandorin turned in irritation. “What now, constable?”

“I have done as you have asked, master,” Aurous said. “What of my family?”

“You shall be with them soon enough — but not quite yet,” replied the scarred half-elf.

“But you said…”

“When the dark elves are finished here,” interrupted Shandorin. “You have done well…you have brought me a Drowsbane! The dark elves are pleased and shall take him to their realm to extract his essence — slowly — and further their great plan. Deepingdale shall be untouched for a minimum twelve year stint, and once the shipment is more than ten leagues from here, your family will be released…no sooner.”

Be the PC next

This last part, the scarred man said while looking at Tengrym’s face. Tengrym could read the disgust and agony on Aurous’s face as he stood behind him. He had misjudged the constable. Whatever plan was in motion, Tengrym had to stop it. However, his escape was the immediate concern. If his hands were free to move, he could easily release himself from his bonds. Now that they were not, he was unsure.

“Whatever it is you have planned, it will be stopped!” said Tengrym.

Be the GM once more

The scarred man smirked. “Perhaps it will,” he countered, “but it won’t be on account of you!” He turned to the drow guards next. “Prepare this prisoner for transport.”

Then he turned and left with Aurous. The constable left slowly, casting a look of disgust and contempt toward the drow and a sympathetic look toward Tengrym as he hung in his manacles.