Monday, November 28, 2016

Valda and the Desolation of the Fire Coast, part 5

Way behind on my SGAM updates. A short, single scene today, continuing Valda’s contract. In this one, an ophidian twist squeezes our heroine. Lesson to be learned: always check unfamiliar bathrooms for critters.


10. Steam Room

Location Roll — random (efficiently lovely), trap, random (peacefully lonely) (7, 6, 4)

Valda loped down a corridor with a descending grade. The tunnel grew hot and steamy. Presently, she emerged into a large room tiled in white and sometimes colorful slate. Steam was thick and immediately made her skin glisten. The details of the room were hidden within the gloom. Somewhere above, a skylight shed some illumination about the bathroom.

Large baths divided the room, all fed by a fountain in likeness to a great stoic warrior with closed eyes. Some of the areas were also for washing laundry or crockery.

Q. What does the trap do? abandon hope

As she lurked and watched for danger, she stepped on some sort of loose tile. Suddenly, the doors at either end of the room slammed shut. In desperation, Valda turned and tried to push the solid stone door open, but it was closed fast.

She was trapped!

Glodol (unique creature)

A glodol is a large snake found in the jungles that grows extremely long. Although not poisonous, they have a tremendously strong body and are very quiet and sneaky. They kill their prey through strangulation.

Size: Large
Traits: furtive; special attack: constriction. If a glodol attacks by ambush when its prey is unaware and hits, it inflicts automatic damage each turn (d6H) unless the victims can break free with a Hard strength task.

Strength:    4    Attack:    +2
Agility:    1    Damage:    bite (d6) or constriction (d6H)
Mind:    -1    Defense:    1
Lifeblood:    20    Protection:    1

Hard (-1) observe roll — fail (4)

She fought with the slick door, but there were no latches, rings, or catches that could open them from within. Beyond the periphery of her awareness, a small trap door opened in one of the pools, and an immense camouflaged serpent swam slowly out and over the lip. Its forked tongue darted out of its mouth as the large reptile gauged its prey.

Then, it struck!

Note: since the snake is statted as a full monster, I’m going to summarize this struggle round by round, instead of as a whole…

Glodal attacks for free with a bonus — miss (8)

Round 2

Initiative roll — Valda scores a mighty success!
Valda: attack — hit (11; 4 damage)
Glodal: attack — miss (8)

From behind, Valda sensed something as the giant slithering doom poised itself. Suddenly, the monster lunged to wrap its great coils around the slender northron. The ice princess deftly moved aside and readied her blade. She had but a moment to regard the thing with loathing and then struck, scoring the smooth scaly hide along the great snake’s flank.

Round 3

Valda: attack — calamitous failure! (Valda earns a hero point)
Glodal: attack — miss (6)

The assassin pressed the attack, but a thick coil checked her step, tripping her backwards. Her Valgardian blade skittered from her grip. In desperation, she drew her dagger dove aside as the great head of the serpent struck.

Round 4

Valda: attack — hit (14; 1 damage)
Glodal: attack — mighty success! (12; 4 damage; knockdown)

Valda turned and struck again, but another unseen coil tripped her afresh. This time, she was pinned underneath a heavy sinuous length. However, she still had her dagger in hand. The creature’s hissing head loomed closer, its slitted eyes regarding its prey deviously.

Round 5

Valda: attack — hit (12; 2 damage; 1 hero point spent for mighty success — bloody slash)
Glodal: attack — miss (7)

Rather than try to gain her feet, Valda awaited the inevitable strike. She turned to the side at the exact moment when the deadly fanged attack came, and the next moment drove her dagger hard into the thing’s head, gouging one of the monster’s eyes.

Round 6

Valda: attack — hit (9; 1 damage)
Glodal: attack — miss (7)

Valda struck again and again, but her small blade was largely ineffectual against the great serpent.

Round 7

Valda: attack — hit (9; 1 hero point spent for mighty success — 1 point + bloody slash)
Glodal: dead

The creature struck again. This time, the ice princess latched on with her hind legs, wrapping herself around the beast’s large diamond-shaped head to keep its deadly jaws trapped shut. The thing smashed and thrashed against the tiles, but still Valda held. She plunged her dagger into its head. With a final quiver, the giant beast slumped to the floor atop the gasping assassin. She had killed the monster!

3 Lifeblood restored

She wriggled free of the heavy serpent and immediately went to the water to wash herself clean of the serpent’s filth and clean her wounds. The fountain continued to stare sightlessly at her. The play of water gurgled despite the violence that had just transpired. She recovered her sword and next sought a way out of the bath room.

Tough (-2) find a release mechanism — failure (2)
Tough (-2) climb to the skylight — success (9)

The barbarian once more sought a way out. She felt about for hidden mechanisms, trap doors, and concealed pressure plates, but found none. Next she observed the statue fountain as it spilled its waters into the now bloodied pools. She belted her sword about her waist and climbed the statue. Using a combination of determination, agility, and luck, she squirmed her way to the skylight by wedging herself into the oddly shaped chimney. Eventually, she found freedom in the open air above the structure’s roof. As she did, the sliding door below to the bath room opened, guards pouring in only to find the slain guardian.

A harrowing encounter! But Valda lived. Tune in again when Valda makes her final confrontation with the concern of her contract. While Valda emerge successful, or we she succumb to a greater foe? Find out next time...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Valda and the Desolation of the Fire Coast, part 4

Continued from here, in this part, Valda explores deeper...and the heat is on! It is clear that subtlety is not Valda’s strong suit in the third part of my Barbarians of Lemuria solo actual play for the 2016 Solo Gaming Appreciation Month.

7. The Dome

Location Roll — expected, random, none (3, 7, 5)
Q. What does the encounter look like? Loudly Hard

The opposite way led to another doorway. This opened to a descending stair that hugged the inside of the central dome of the palace. Many ways branched off from this landing or that. The winding stair descended two levels to the main floor of the building. Skylights allowed the starlight to enter.

As she descended, bells of alarm tolling incessantly, a group of guardsmen entered the floor below led by a hulking man of huge proportions. He looked up as Valda was mid-span down the way. In a booming voice, he commanded his men after her.

Kalev Bauk (tough)
Strength 2, Agility -1, Mind 0, Appeal 0
Melee 1, Ranged 0, Initiative 0, Defense 1
Careers: Mercenary 1, Captain 1
Lifeblood: 8
Protection: Medium armor (2) (-1 Agility (already figured)
Weapons: Sword (d6)

Palace Guards (rabble)
Guard 1; 3 LB each (x6); 1d3 damage (d6L horde)

Q. Do the footsteps of pursuit get louder? (likely) No (2)
Q. Is there chandeliers or curtains? (likely) No (2)
Q. Is there a nearby side passage? (likely) No (1)

A half-dozen men issued up the stairs in their war regalia. Valda couldn’t make the next landing and side passage before the men would beat her there. Instead, she faced them with a ferocious snarl, staking out a point of defense near a column on higher ground.

Battle ensues — Valda takes 1 damage

The snarling northron bested the six men, sending each sprawling on the floor or fleeing for their lives. Their huge captain stared incredulously at the barbarian streaked with soot and heaving like a feral pict.

“Bah!” he growled, drawing his own broadsword. “Can’t even defeat a woman!”

The man flew up the stairs. Valda was ready for him.

Battle ensues — no damage

The two squared off, but the barbarian woman yielded no ground. They exchanged savage blows, but the barbarian was too quick. The man tried to use his superior size to take her down into a bear hug, but he only managed to skewer himself on her waiting blade.

She pushed him off and stole downstairs.

8. The New Crypt

Location Roll — special (random [Nicely Young] barely there), random (Frantically Important), random (Gratefully Macabre) (6, 7, 4)

Valda turned down a darkened passage and immediately was swallowed by a maze of tarpaulins. The air was dusty, and she caught herself before running to a wall. Someone squealed. When she got her bearings, she found herself in a small alcove of fresh and partial construction. She saw it was a small crypt with a newly chiseled tombstone. The squeal came from a scrawny household servant — or more likely official, like a seneschal, in a nightcap and gown.

“Don’t kill me!” he sobbed, sinking to his knees.

“Get out of my sight, knave!” she hissed in her thick northern accent. The man got to his feet and ran out.

She wished not to be trapped there, so turned about to find another hiding place.

9. The Bedchamber

Location Roll — Bedchamber, King Bley, none (7, 9, 9)
Q. Are the king’s advisors with him? (likely) Yes (4)
Q. Any fighting men? (likely) Yes (9)
Q. Does the king have any fighting ability? (50/50) No (5)

King’s Advisors (rabble)
Scribe 1, 1 LB each (x6); 1d3 damage (d6L horde)

King Zandar Bley (villain)

Strength -1, Agility 0, Mind 2, Appeal 3
Melee 0, Ranged 1, Initiative 2, Defense 1
Careers: Merchant 2, Mariner 1, Noble 2, Priest 0
Lifeblood: 9
Villain Points: 2
Traits: friends-in-high-places
Trappings: rich clothing, dagger (d6L)

King’s Guard (toughs, 4)
Strength 2, Agility -1, Mind 0, Appeal 0
Melee 1, Ranged 0, Initiative 0, Defense 1
Careers: Guard 2
Lifeblood: 7
Trappings: sword, shield (1), medium armor (2)

Valda turned down another corridor and passed through a door. There, a torchlit bedchamber stood. Just ahead of her was King Bley and his escort. “Let us hide here, m’lord,” one of his advisors said. The group all heard the door behind them and turned. The king’s face turned ashen when he saw it was the intruder, bloody blade in hand, and face streaked with soot like an assassin.

Q. Does the king order an attack? (likely) Yes (4)

“Kill her!” the man said, drawing his rich silken robe about him. Four armed men detached from the king’s retinue and advanced in the small space.

Q. Does Valda have room to retreat? (50/50) Yes (10)
Moderate (0) evasion — success (9)

The ice princess turned and fled with the four king’s guards behind her. She turned a sharp blind and, as soon as she was beyond sight, ducked within the shadowed opening to the crypt and knelt within the shadows.

Moderate (0) hide — success (12)

The soldiers lumbered by. “Where did she go?” one asked. “This way!” answered another. She heard them head towards more distant shouting.

When it was clear, she furtively retreated to the bedchamber.

Q. Did the king lock the door from within? (50/50) Yes (8)

The northron swordswoman found the door barred from within. It would require a prodigious effort, but she nonetheless tried.

Demanding (-4) kick — failure (6)

She smashed at the door, but it was made of solid jallallibar, and would not yield.

Q. Does that alert men to her location? (likely) No (3)

She heard hushed whispers from within. It was no use…she would not have a hostage. With little other choice, she explored further along the adjoining corridors.

Getting quite messy for Valda. Will she be able to fulfill her contract? Will Steelgard find her first and best her in battle? Find out next time. Monstrous serpent guardians await...

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Valda and the Desolation of the Fire Coast, part 3

Credit: Donato Giancola
Continued from here, in this part, Valda takes the more direct route...right up to the front door of Paol Steelgard's palace! Things quickly get hot in the third part of my Barbarians of Lemuria solo actual play for the 2016 Solo Gaming Appreciation Month.

In our last session, Valda starting casing the joint. I haven't actually shown the lists upon which the Location Crafter is built. So far, we have the following for the Steelgard compound:

Paol Steelgard’s Temple-Palace of Fyrzon:
  • Locations: expected • expected • expected • random • shrine (U) • special • kitchen (U) • bedchamber (U) • random • armory (U) • complete
  • Encounters: none • none • none • guardian • trap • trap • random • Paol (U) • King Bley (U) • King’s advisors
  • Objects: none • none • none • random • none • random

4. The Gate

She strode up the winding causeway. Her hope was that with the king in audience, there would be less eyes on the front gate.

Q. Does anyone challenge her? (likely) Yes (10)
Q. Are these guards rabble? (50/50) Yes (9) [randomly determine 2 of them]
Q. Do they come out of the gate? (50/50) No (1)
Q. Do others come out of nearby guard positions? (50/50) Yes (9) [randomly determine 6 of them]

Palace Guards (rabble)
Guard 1; 3 LB each (x6); 1d3 damage (d6L horde)

However, when Valda arrived at the gate, two guards shouted out a challenge. She ducked to the side. From out of a guardhouse, six armed men appeared after a shout of warning from the gate. With little room to maneuver, the ice princess put her back to the wall, drawing her sword. The guards looked at one another dubiously, but obliged her.

Battle takes place — Valda takes 1 damage

A fierce melee ensued. The men circled, but could scarcely get through her considerable defenses. They scored a minor hit to her shoulder. She fought like a lioness — with respective ferocity as well as noise. She growled as she made the narrow windy ledge red with blood.

Moderate (0) climb — success (10)

She finished the six, then replaced her sword. She took to the outer wall of the palace and climbed high into the upper levels above. She disappeared silently before the two gate guards came to reinforce their fallen friends. She slipped through a window and tended her wounds. Below, the alarm rang.

Recovery — 1 lifeblood restored

5. Upper Corridor

Location Roll — expected, none, random (3, 3, 6)
Q. What does the object look like? Frighteningly Dirty

When Valda had bandaged her shoulder, she looked around. She was in an outside arcaded corridor overlooking the front portion of the palace. It ran either direction, following the rounded contour of the structure. As such, it obscured what lay beyond either stretch.

She looked over at a pot teeming with flies. Its odor revealed its contents — that of human filth. Most likely, given its presence, this was a guarded way. Valda might have encountered the guard stationed here had the alarm not been triggered.

She drew her sword again and arbitrarily moved to her left.

6. The Kitchen

Location Roll — kitchen, trap, none (7, 5, 5)
Q. How does the trap behave? Deceive Success

The outside corridor passed through a doorway and into a crowded kitchen. The small tiled place was cramped and hot from the furnace and smelled of pungent herbs and spices. A dozen butchered game birds lay on a board, but no blade was within sight.

Angry Cook (tough)
Strength 2, Agility 0, Mind 1, Appeal -1
Melee 2, Ranged 0, Initiative 0, Defense 0
Careers: Cook 1, Worker 1
Lifeblood: 5
Protection: none
Weapons: butcher blade (d6L)

Spot hiding cook — success (10)

Valda sensed that all was not right. The alarm bell still tolled. From a pantry door that was slightly ajar, she noticed faint movement. Suddenly, a large screaming bearded cook with a butcher’s knife came flying out of hiding.

Battle ensues — no damage

A brief scuffle broke out. After a few close exchanges, the butchered cook joined his scattered chickens on the floor.

Q. Does this draw attention? (50/50) Yes (7)

From further beyond, Valda heard the shouts of men and approaching feet. She turned and fled the opposite direction.

As it turns out, Valda is not too subtle. Find out what happens next when she stumbles upon the king...

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Valda and the Desolation of the Fire Coast, part 2

Map of Lemuria. Credit:


Continued from part 1, in this part we chronicle the Ice Princess’s exploits in Parsool, answering the following questions:
  1. What jobs will she pull on behalf of her new mentor to learn more secrets of the blade?
  2. What can she learn of her enemy?
  3. Can she fully trust Erion Khul, or will she find a knife in her own back?
The purpose is also to use the Location Crafter for my main oracle and driver. Therefore, much of the game will be devoted to exploration. The goal is to carry on enough to earn an advancement or two.

After the first saga, the second will likely focus on getting to the Fire Coast and infiltrating Methyn Sarr’s considerable fortress. Whether I’ll see through to such a long goal is dubious. Yet, I’m hopeful.

Adventure 1: The First Job

1. The Mark

Q. Who is Valda’s first target? What does he look like and what does he do? Cautiously Military; Overthrow Emotions

Paol Steelgard was a high priest of Fyrzon, the Sentinel, the god who watches over the stairs. He was of paramount importance in Parsool, serving both as war counselor and commander of the army for King Zandar Bley. He was respected and feared in equal parts and led an extremely solitary and private life.

“Steelgard?” echoed Valda.

Erion stared back in silent answer.

“Why him?” she asked.
Q. Does he say? (50/50) No (5)

“The details of the contract is all you shall know or care about,” answered Erion in his hallmark sibilant hiss. “…Except the details of the mark — where he lives, what he does, his defenses, and the means of egress from his domicile.”

Q. Is she to take him in his home? (50/50) Yes (6)

Q. What does it look like? Playfully Horrible

Valda listened as Erion described Paol Steelgard’s palace. It sat on a lone hill opposite the king’s palace looming above the harbor, a single large dome unadorned by landscaping other than that purely defensible or uninviting. A sheer climb up a daunting cliff was needed. Inside, none knew the layout of the place, but it was rumored to be very utility and orderly within, with a shrine to Fyrzon, and bedchamber, a kitchen, and most likely an armory. Nothing was actually known.

“It is said that through some miracle of the red lotus,” concluded Erion, “the priest of Fyrzon does not sleep. You may find him most likely in training with his weapons, or at meditation before his shrine. But beware! The palace is most likely trapped or guarded by some hidden thing.”

Valda kissed the man on the forehead. She picked up her blade and a knife. “I’ll be back before the end of the night,” she boasted.

Note: The Location Crafter works by constructing lists, which may have random elements in them. When you enter a new location, you roll on these lists, putting together a context for an event or encounter. As characters explore, they will natural delve deeper into the location's lists. Players can also roll simple or complex questions, making it a fairly effective and simple oracle for solo play.

2. The Lofty Palace

The pale northron barbarian bound her bright red hair and streaked her face and bare arms with soot, then stole away in the starlit night to the singular mount that upheld the strange dome shaped domicile of the famous war counselor.

She stared up at the impossibly sheer sides of the mountain to the daunting height. Most would pal in terror. Not Valda of Valgard. 

Demanding (-4) climb — fail (5) 
Hero Point for “Luck of the Gods” — fail (4) 

However, the very rock of the mountain was hewn with some oily substance, and virtually smooth-sided with almost no handholds. Foiled at every attempt, Valda was forced to seek an alternative form of entry. She retreated to a safe place where she could eye the causeway that wound up the inaccessible slope. 

Moderate (0) observe — success (11)

The barbarian would-be assassin noted that no traffic approached by the causeway. She noted a hoist high up on the rear of the structure. She retreated further into the quiet stalls of the market and waited for the inevitable supplies that would be loaded. 

Q. Do these come soon before the sun is up? (likely) No (3)

Early in the morning, Valda watched as the early peddlers arrived to open their stalls. The market came to life. But it wasn’t until the next evening that the suppliers rolled their noisy cart to the loading area. Down came the hoist and platform. The supplies went slowly up the sheer sides of the mountain, housed by a couple of indistinguishable figures high above. Valda noted the source of the cart. 

Q. Does she note any other routine activities of interest? (50/50) Yes (9)
Q. What are these? Leadership Antagonize 

As Valda noted these activities, a large train passed by. Among these was none other than King Bley and his advisors. “What will Lord Steelgard advise us for his nightly council?” she heard one ask.

“I’ll ensure it be no more of his zealous drivel,” answered the king.

The group slowly wound their way up the precarious causeway and were led inside. Valda noted the fortuitous activities, and followed the supply porters back to their origin. 

Easy (+1) shadow and spy — success (10) 
Q. Would this means of entry be easy? (likely) No (3) 

She made her way into a storeroom and cellar in the back of a large building of shops and stalls. There, the cart sat directly in the open. Many porters, peddlers and folk milled about constantly, making this way tricky, but not impossible.

This was turning out to be more difficult than Valda had anticipated. Erion was testing her well.


3. A Second Try

Valda found a place to rest. She did not want her mentor to point out that she had already failed to deliver on her playful promise. After sleeping much of the afternoon, she roused herself. She decided the best course was to follow King Bley into the palace. 

Hard (-1) capture some pigeons — calamitous failure (natural 2)

She went about trying to secure a distraction. She stalked a group of pigeons. They evaded her. Soon, she found herself on the roof of a warehouse. She nearly toppled into the square below trying to lunge at another. That’s when she saw the royal procession already bearing the causeway of Paol’s estate. They were early! 

Tough (-2) vault down from on high — failure (8)

Acrobatically, Valda leapt from perch to perch and half climbed and fell to the ground. By the time she was on the square, the train began their ascent up to the palace.

She cursed her luck. This left her with the more difficult option. 

Tough (-2) haunt the warehouse — failure (4)

She returned to the supply warehouse. They were preparing another load. There was no way she could sneak into the wagon without being spotted. Instead, she waited and simply shadowed the pair as they pushed their cart to the loading area. 

Q. Does any other unexpected opportunity present itself? (unlikely) No (4)
Q. Does the porters leave allowing Varda enough time to “catch” the lift up? (50/50) No (5)

They performed their tasks and left after the lift of goods was drawn up. With nothing else to do, Valda decided to take the direct route.

Better luck next time, Valda! Stay tuned for the next part of her adventure...

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Valda and the Desolation of the Fire Coast, part 1


a Barbarians of Lemuria Mythic Edition solo saga using the Location Crafter for posting during Solo Gaming Appreciation Month.

My first contribution for SGAM 2016, this is the first in a longer play report. I have decided to go with an old favorite, BoL. Simple old-school inspired gaming goes well with solo endeavors. I think it also works well with Tana Pigeon's Location Crafter, which I feel hasn't gotten much attention. It's not only good at what it says, but also just a darn good all around solo engine, locations or no.

This first post introduces our protagonist. BoL does admirably also helping to generate a backstory, and enough roots to give a few hooks already to the heroine. The setting itself is ripe with ideas too. In sticking with Sword & Sorcery sensibilities, there will be lots of moral ambiguity in this particular game.

In the "Saga" section below, I also generated more of the adventure's hooks using the Saga generator in the back of the BoL Mythic book, which is worth its weight in terms of solo usage.


A proud daughter of the Bloodwolf tribe, Valda was the youngest but most devoted to her father, King Vengal. From an early age, she would watch her brothers fight and train, and bested them in private contests of skill and arms. Eventually, she was given the respect to choose her own path and joined her brothers in hunting and times of war, even if not allowed to join the front ranks.

When her father united several tribes to sweep south, she insisted on joining them. Little would she know that she would be the sole survivor among thousands of her people when their army would be decimated at the gates of Shamballah after an unforeseen appearance of the Witch-Queen of the Fire Coast.

The Shamballahns took in the half-dead northern girl, calling her the ice princess. They trained her to ride and hunt, and mended her wounds. She would be thankful to them, but vowed to avenge her father and return his iconic helm to the bosom of Valgard and slay his killer.

Valda, a beautiful flame-haired girl of voluptuous contours, soon left Shamballah for points further south to learn of her enemy and plot her revenge. By way of her sword, or often her promiscuousness, she found her way to Parsool. There, she learned the name and some details about Methyn Sarr. She also met Erion Khul, a somewhat infamous assassin. In exchange for favors, Erion agreed to teach Valda the tricks of the trade and help her plot her audacious and improbable revenge.

Currently, she works in Parsool, picking up bits of information about‪ the Witch-‬Queen and perfecting her new skills.

Strength 1, Agility 2, Mind 0, Appeal 1

Melee 2, Ranged 0, Initiative 0, Defense 2

Careers: Barbarian 2, Hunter 0, Temptress 1, Assassin 1

Lifeblood: 11
Hero Points: 5

Languages: Lemurian, Valgardish
  • Battle Harness — This boon allows your character to wear a chainmail bikini or a loincloth and battle harness (light armour at best) and treat it as if it were medium armour for damage protection purposes, with no armour penalties at all.
  • Born Athlete — When doing any athletic activities such as sprinting, climbing, swimming, or leaping (other than fighting), you may roll a bonus die.
  • Quick Recovery — You have a much better constitution than many. When recovering after a combat, you regain one additional lifeblood, on top of the half you recover normally. In addition, you recover one lifeblood each day regardless of the type of activity you carry out after being injured.
  • Distrust of Sorcery — When dealing with wizards and alchemists, you take a penalty die.
  • Illiterate — You cannot read or write, and you cannot choose a career with literacy as a requirement.
  • battle harness (2; treat as light)
  • Valgardian longsword (d6)
  • knife (d6L)

The Saga

Valda’s task is to obtain a certain thing. The appropriate career is temptress. The Helm of Freezing Doom. The hero gets this task as an errand of revenge.

The Witch Queen, Methyn Sarr, the fearsome and infamous sorceress, sought to destroy relics that posed a threat to Zaggath, Lord of Fire. One such item was the helm of a famous northern hero, Vengal Bloodwolf, the Thrice-Crowned — a mighty Valgardian king who led many forays deep into the south, first a petty king of a small tribe, then as a great leader of the north, and finally as a conqueror-emperor of a number of lands. His great battle helm bore great silver wings and granted the king his second moniker, that of the Freezing Doom.

King Vengal’s last campaign was short lived. In a siege against Shamballah, the northron king was assured to win. However, the Witch-Queen appeared suddenly and slew the barbarians and took the king’s helm. No male Valgardian who fought lived to see the next day. However, Vengal’s daughter was a shield maiden of her tribe, young though she was. Attended by the Shamballahns, she lived, vowing to reclaim her father’s helm and seek vengeance.

Next up, part one of the actual adventure for Valda (which doesn't go too well for her)...

Saturday, August 27, 2016

RotSM, part 8

When last we left her, Mitra had lost her most trusted companion to a pack of warg riding scouts from the hordes of Dragonspear that were advancing along points north and south. Misfortune also stole from her grasp the one evil possession that promised salvation for her friends, the death mask of the naive king. The Axegrinder dwarf clan is forced to work for her nemesis, Xavier Zalibar unless she can deliver the now stolen item. What is she to do? Does she pursue the thief in vain and abandon her new friend, Redbeard, and the rest of depraved Soubar?

For a recap of posts in this exciting epic, refer to the list with links to the original posts. Skip all this if you are interested only in the system specific details of the AP.
  • Post 1. Mitra ventures to remote regions of the Thunder Peaks and recovers the Death Mask of the Naive King.
  • Post 2. In Luskan, two conspirators discuss the progress of Mitra. A wizard has the means to observe her movements remotely.
  • Post 3. After a long journey, Mitra travels west and north with her prize. Near the High Moor she encounters wounded Red Beard who warns of hobgoblins and devils. They traveled south together to Soubar to warn the folk of the region, but Mitra is robbed, her mask taken.
  • Post 4. In Luskan, Hacarthor the wizard meets his contact’s employer, Zalibar, the nemesis of Mitra. They learn that the cursed mask was stolen. We also learn that Zalibar has imprisoned Sanbar Axegrinder, Mitra’s friend and his clan who are building a mechanical horror — the mask is key to its completion. We also learn in Soubar about the thieves — the Calashite orphan flees Soubar with the mask.
  • Post 5. Mitra send Redbeard to the town’s officials to break news of the impending invasion and goes in search of the thieves. She finds their lair, but the trail of the thief grows cold.
  • Post 6. The petty-thief, Stordfast, met an untimely end and has released the demon bound within the mask. Our heroine has no clue as to these events, but the fate of her friends lays in recovering and delivering the mask.
  • Post 7. Mitra sets out alone to track the mask’s thief blindly, but stumbles into a scouting party from the hordes of Dragonspear. She looses her trusted steed and is faced with the need to warn the town or potentially loose her quarry.
In my last post, I discussed how I planned to convert the game to Cornerstone Universal RPG, and listed stats for our heroine. I am also using Rory’s Story Cubes to fill in prompts and blanks, with a simple roll of a D6 indicating the general positivity or negativity if such context is not immediately obvious. I will impose a few more guidelines about how I intend to use the cubes…

In past sessions, I might roll one or two cubes at a time as needed. My cut scenes devoted to NPC and plot development were some of the most intriguing ones. These were freeform, relying only on a set of nine cubes picked to taste.

I’m going with a roll of nine again for all scenes including PC-centric ones. I may or may not use them in the order rolled, depending on whether or not this impedes progress and ease. In any case, a set of nine will be my pacing mechanism for the scene. Once all nine are expended, my goal is to wrap up any loose ends as quickly as possible. Hanging threads are always fine too — even desirable, since they keep me coming back for more.

Since this is a first post with the new system, I’m going to be kicking the tires of Cornerstone pretty hard.

Without further ado…

Mitra ran in full force, tears of grief ran freely intermingled with gasps for breath as she willed her legs forward. Her baldric clanked loudly against her shirt of mesh. The town’s edge slowly drew nearer.

Elephant. Bull, male, tusks, thick skin, memory? I find brainstorming helpful to achieve results that do not always produce the most obvious ones. Memory seems good. A roll of 4 on a Die of Fate indicates a positive meaning.

As she ran, a vision suddenly filled her thoughts. She saw an old and kindly man with deep leathery creases in his weathered face who loomed over a baby lying in a crib — she was that baby. He spoke soothing words to her and stroked her cheek with the back of a rough calloused hand. “Nala…” the man said, the old Damaran word for angel. The man was her father — a man she should have had, by all conventional reasoning, no right to remember. He had died during Damara’s first Witch-King invasion when Mitra was only three weeks old.

The vision cleared, and Mitra found herself in a standstill, shocked by the omen. Why had it come at such a time? What did it mean? There was no time for pondering.

No Entry. I think this has an obvious meaning…was Redbeard able to assemble and warn the town?

Mitra burst upon the square of the town gripped by chaos. Redbeard stood at the center of a mob scene along with the militia men the two had encountered after Mitra’s theft. Angry townsfolk thronged in a mass, screaming angrily at one another, demanding answers to hard questions, and causing disorder. To one side, an abandoned child screamed for her mother who was nowhere to be seen, and to another corner two men broke into a fistfight while others were going about looting a general store.

The Damaran was shocked by the pettiness and lawlessness of the folk. For the moment, her sorrows were replaced by anger. She leapt upon the landing atop the stairs to the tavern. “Stop this insolence!”

Okay, time for my first Task roll. She’s going to attempt to cow them into understanding. She sees running from the approaching horde as the only option, with those stalwart enough to face the first wave of attackers to remain behind to buy time for the rest to escape. That’s a tall order, so I give it a -1 penalty due to difficulty, plus another source of difficulty because there’s a mob scene. Next we’ll figure out traits. She’s going with a direct approach, which is her method core trait. That cancels out one difficulty modifier, leaving her with a single -1 penalty. She happens to be spattered with gore and disheveled which might grant gravitas to the situation. She is using her Influence skill, which is rated as capable. She succeeds with a roll of 3 or higher.

She rolls with a -1, getting a result of 5 and 3. That succeeds! She’s not out of the woods, however. An even result adds an “and…” to the result, while odd provides a “but…”. I like the fact that straight-up “Yes” or “No” are pretty much eliminated in Cornerstone, so there’s always a push on the narrative. It’s also fascinating how many result details one can determine with a throw of a single die.

Some gaming parts (traits, difficulty, and advantage) are at first a bit confusing, but I think I’ll get the routine shortly:
  • Only one positive trait can be used per action; it provides a +1 or an additional “and…” or “but…” qualifier
  • Multiple sources of difficulty provide up to +1/-1 per source, but don’t stack
  • A trait can cancel out a difficulty modifier/qualifier, and CAN stack with difficulty (meaning the most penalty/bonus you’ll ever see is +2/-2)
  • Multiple sources of advantage/disadvantage cancel out but don’t stack, providing a roll twice, keep best/worst option
Slowly the bickering and looting slowed and eyes turned to the gore-spattered warrioress who found that her bloodied sword was still grasped in her tight hand. She had been a veteran of hundreds of skirmishes, and as a woman had surmounted even greater obstacles to command the respect of hardened men. She was also a gifted leader and knew how to exert the coercion needed to force men to listen, often in the face of terror and death.

When she felt she had every eye, she continued. “Soubar is lost! If you are to survive, you must abandon her. The enemy is already upon us…I slew two scouts on the edges of town. A horde of goblins and devils is behind them. The host will not be more than half a day’s ride from here.

“Your window of escape is nearly closed, unless you leave NOW! Take your loved ones, what you need to sustain you on the road and leave the rest behind. Make for Baldur’s Gate. You can escape only if the strongest and bravest stand behind to waylay the first wave of the enemy.”

She saw that she impressed upon them the need to escape, but the last part of her plan turned most of the cowards’ bowels to water.

“I am Mitra! I am a field commander of some experience, and I shall remain behind with those brave souls that will teach these raiders why they should not test the mettle of the good folk here. Die if I must, we will hold back a great number if you should follow my sword.”

Her words had a profound effect. She sent the townsfolk hastening. They were terrified, but at least found the conviction to act. By the time the goodwives, children and elderly had cast off down the western road and she had collected her volunteers, she had only a fraction of the number she estimated from a town of such size. Those that returned were the sort of desperate, infirm, geriatric, paltry lot she hoped to avoid — and severely under-equipped besides. Nonetheless, they commanded more of her respect than could any of her former mercenary comrades with many times the skill in arms.

I’m going to be tracking some of these difficulties as we go: so far, we have a difficult task of waylaying the greater enemy (-1), and disadvantaged due to under-preparedness/training, and ill-equipped. I’m a little unsure the difference between a difficulty and an advantage/disadvantage, since the rules seem to imply there can be multiple sources of difficulty. They seem equivalent according to the examples in the rules. I guess difficulty is related to the task itself, while advantage relates to outside sources of aid or impediment. Still somewhat unclear. [Edit: after a quick Q&A with the author, this is true.]

She addressed them, Redbeard at her side. “Soubar will be lost. We cannot hope to protect her, so abandon your attachment now to your homes and property. Those things will only earn you death. We can hope to raze her to thwart the enemy and buy time for your kin. If you feel saddened to loose your home and memories — your heirlooms and mementos — I sympathize. Your only solace is in seeing that the enemy does not take these trophies!”

She laid out a plan. Dividing the folk into groups, one team worked to scavenge for anything useful as weapons or to construct traps. Flammables were stockpiled, pits dug, and homes doused in oil to light aflame. Timber was salvaged affixed with sharpened stakes to form choke point barricades at even intervals, allowing odds to be reduced in favor of the less numerous defenders. Lastly, Redbeard instructed the remaining townsfolk how to effectively handle a weapon. For the most part, they would use projectiles and incendiaries.

Mitra has her human ability, a technique that allows her to never fail when performing non-combat related tasks in connection with her Expertise. For her, this is battle tactics, so she needs not roll to perform these tasks. We’ll just tally the advantages: traps and strategic choke points. That will cancel out the disadvantages. When all is said and done, it looks like she’ll be making Influence command tasks without a modifier, since her Mercenary class trait can cancel out that modifier. A roll of 3 or better will grant a success.

When all was made ready, dusk began to fall. The few townsfolk were entrenched in their positions, ready to take the enemy as they swept south through the town. She and Redbeard shared the anticipatory watchfulness in silence.

Minotaur. I’m wanting to know if Redbeard presses Mitra about the incident with the scouts in the previous post. Minotaur — bully, tough, labyrinth. I’ll say he tries to trap her through his cunning labyrinth of questions.

“Did you find any badges or marks upon those goblins?” the veteran asked after a spell of silence.

“Hmm? I didn’t think to check,” Mitra answered distractedly. “My only thought was to alert the town.”

“Where did you say you encountered them?”

“I didn’t,” she answered. “It was east and south of town.”

Silence. After a time, “It seems to me strange that you would find yourself along that eastern way.”

“What are you implying?” Mitra asked with irritation, taking a defensive posture.

“If I am to die with you, I would know with whom I fight and what motivations drive her,” he said with even tone.

It was a fair point. Mitra had purposefully deceived him in order to avoid questions about what was actually stolen from her. How could he trust her? Even more, why?

Mitra could remain tight lipped upon need, and she still wouldn’t reveal the nature of her quest even now when they together faced a likely death protecting a lawless folk. Still, he owed her his life — but she understood well the fundamental bonds from which loyalty issued.

Mitra will again use her Influence to convince him to trust her, but without lying. No modifier, and she’ll trigger her loyalty trait to cancel an “and” or “but”. She’s disadvantaged because he has proven skullduggery is afoot. She needs a 3 or better and gets 6 and 3. It’s a yes “but”, although her trait successfully cancels the qualifier. That’s kind of a cool thing about how traits work…the player must choose what benefit (+1, add an and/but, or cancel an and/but) is desired before the roll.

“Dauravyn,” she began, “you have guessed correctly that I am keeping something from you. I cannot reveal its nature, because it will betray dear friends — friends who are in mortal peril should my quest fail. These, too, are good and honest folk with wives and kin that will also suffer the same fate as these townspeople here do. There is evil in my mission, but I cannot abandon it.”
Redbeard put a hand on her arm. “We needn’t pursue the issue further. I sensed a conflict from some trouble, but also felt the quality of your convictions. Keep your secrets…”

The two said no more.

Wormhole. Now, we’d like to know how the enemy first appears. Psychic attack, disoriented, weird, magical gate, radiating waves, target, blast of fear. I’ll go with the latter.

The waiting seemed interminable as the deepening gloom fell upon the mostly vacant town. The palpitant silence was suddenly rent asunder by a frightful blast from a mighty horn call. Joining the unison were several other answering blares.

“Their advance has started,” Redbeard said needlessly.

Mitra saw the fearful shift of her hastily trained defense line. “Steady yourselves,” she said in a calm tone. “Remember your kin — hold your positions so that they may live.”

She tries to remove their fear. She’s disadvantaged because of it, but again triggers her loyalty trait to cancel an and/but. She gets a 2 and a 2, which fails. However, she is able to cancel the “and…”, meaning they are afraid but hold their line.

She could see their quaking. There was nothing that she could do to nullify their fear. But she knew what the effects of fear could do to benefit the common man during the throes of battle.

Arrow. What is the next thing that happens? Well, that’s very appropriate!

The shrill whistle of arrows followed as the fall of deadly bolts began to precipitate, some of which were lit with burning pitch. “Let them waste their arrows!” she called to her untested soldiery. To herself, she added under her breath, “Let them burn this accursed town!”

Mitra executes the next part of her plan — to lure the enemy in and set fire to the flammable traps. Her traps advantage cancels the under-prepared disadvantage, but her unorthodox methods add one in. We still have to contend with a -1 modifier and have no traits from which to draw. Mitra rolls 5 and 5, so that’s a success BUT…

More arrows heralded the front lines — warg riders bearing torches. Mitra exercised all her will to hold back her men from bolting or setting fire to their elaborate traps too early. The first few enemy riders shot through the perimeter of the square. Mitra gave the signal and the incendiary pots and strategic oil-doused buildings burst into flames.

Screams of the enemy were heard. The plan was taking its toll on the front wave of marauders. But screams from nearby townsfolk mingled with the horrific cries of the enemy as one burning structure tumbled into the square trapping a group between walls of fire.

“Come on!” Mitra cried to Redbeard and many of the nearby fighters. They hastened to the edge of the blaze. Every moment they waited, the flames crept ever closer toward the circular prison’s center.

Mitra had an idea. “Stay clear!” she called to the trapped townsfolk. “You five, help me push this over…” She came to a still standing section of the structure’s wall that had not yet caught fire. If they could tip it over atop the flames, they might create a bridge of escape, provided the section didn’t crush the people.

The description says it all. This is a Might task with a difficulty modifier of -1. She’s got help and is being creative, which are two advantages. She rolls, getting a 1 and a 2. That’s “no, but…”.

When putting their might together, they finally caused the section to topple, it was simply too short to reach the safer center where the people were trapped. However, the dust and broken timber was enough to smother some of the flames. That was enough boost to encourage many of the men there to attempt to pierce the barrier of flames. They punched through, many of them catching fire. Their comrades smothered the flames that eagerly licked at their garments. Many were severely burned.

Hanging Around.

As Mitra helped one of the last across, some of the flooring broke underfoot. She dropped into the smoking ruin under the burning structure, hanging onto a broken ledge with one arm. Burning embers showered her, singing the bare skin of her arms, and smoke choked her lungs.

Getting out, she must contend with the smoke and embers, making it -1. There’s no advantage or trait here, just a straight up Might roll. She rolled a 0!

She tried to twist to grip the jagged edge with her other hand, but the crumbling handhold failed. With a cry, she fell into the smoking ruin.

Yikes! Now a Resistance roll for damage. I love how Cornerstone makes the GM’s job easy! Give any opponent or source of danger a damage rating and call it done. The author suggests a range of damage suitable for weapon lethality, going up to about 10. I’m going to give this a range of 10 / 20, because that’s more than Mitra has. And I think this has the potential to take her out of the action. She rolls a 6 to get a “Yes, and…”. She’s a tough cookie! (Vitality remaining: 6)

Next, she must climb out. Normally, this would be standard difficulty, but she has to contend with the disadvantage that the place is going up in flames. This sort of implies she should also roll to resist the flames — 3 / 6 damage I’ll say. Coordination to get out gives her a roll of 2 and 2 — “No, and…”. Persevere through the smoke and flames — 1 and 1 — “No, but…”. She is taken out, but finds a place to lie away from the worst of the flames. She’s out of Vitality and incapacitated.

Planks of wood and other rubble fell atop the mercenary as she hit bottom with a painful crash. Soot and smoke filled her lungs. She gasped for air as she fought her way out. Much of the structure above came crashing down quickly thereafter and she knew no more.

Dungeon; Creepy Boatman, Marshal’s Badge. Going to use up the rest of these to close the chapter.

Redbeard turned to find Mitra was not there. He asked one of the men where she went, but none had seen her tumble into the cellar of the ruined building.

In moments, more riders poured through the barricades and past burning buildings. The complication had cost the freedom fighters valuable time. In moments, any who put up resistance were cut down. The remainder, including the captain of the Stewards of the Old Road threw down their weapons. Mercy was not a trait of the hobgoblins, but a higher power dictated their actions. After the first resistors were slain, the defeated were rounded up and manacled. Many large pen wagons drew up, pulled by massive beasts. The prisoners were mercilessly whipped and loaded on board, their few personal effects taken from them.

The force’s captain strode forward — a massive bloated abomination of pocked rubbery skin bubbling with rupturing nodules. The horrific demon strode up to the lead wagon, identifying Redbeard from the horde’s previous incursion against his forces. The captain of the hobgoblin and demon army smiled hideously.

“The mask…” he said in a sickly baritone. “Where is it?”

Mitra has another string of bad luck — or perhaps not. She’s at least free if she can scramble free. What will happen next time? Another complication turns with the demon captain also wishing to covet the mask. Tune in to find out what happens...

Last Notes

After a little time with Cornerstone, I think it runs fast and lean. Many of the gizmos, widgets, bobs and buzzers are not overwhelming. If there are a number of factors in play that might require modifiers and advantages, it’s quite easy to eyeball them and determine a mostly negative or mostly positive slant. Since +1/-1 is the most from any one thing, snap decisions are easy to make. There’s also an intriguing aspect of play when determining how best to use traits — choosing from a flat modifier or an additional and/but before the roll. It makes for some interesting strategic choices.

In any case, I’m looking forward to continuing Mitra’s epic story…

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Coming Back Around to RotSM

Been quiet around here. Almost two and a half years since my last post on the topic, and I’m missing my ex-mercenary solo character Mitra, who was in the midst of some very harrowing adventures with a lot at stake. I’m planning to come back to her using a similar format.

These posts were mostly prose, making heavy use of Rory’s Story Cubes. I used cubes to prompt action and detail when I came up blank. I also used a whole set of them for creating cut scenes — building whole scenes of NPC action to build characters and lay out plot. I also used a Die of Fate mechanic to determine the overall negativity or positivity of a situation or prompt.

I paired these techniques with FU, one of my favorite all-time RPGs with its six outcomes that work great for generating more forward momentum, the interpretation of which serves nicely as its own form of game oracle. FU is also fast and gets out of the way, allowing the player to zoom in and out of the action as needed and resolve any sort of dramatic situation.

I will be changing this system in this actual play continuation. For this, I’m going to test drive the Cornerstone universal RPG — particularly the Cornerstone Fantasy plugin both created by Ben Dutter of Sigil Stone Publishing.

But why ruin a good thing? Dutter cites in his rules that they are heavily influenced and inspired by Freeform Universal, Fate, PbtA games, all of which are games I love and that do good things. Cornerstone keeps a similar FU-style “and/but” outcome, along with Fate-style traits/aspects, and a simple single die (sometimes two dice/pick the best). Characters feel unique, and there are a few other aspects about the game that appeal to a soloist — the PC only rolls, just like in FU, but NPCs are expressed only through their Vitality (hit points), the flat damage they can do, perhaps an overall difficulty modifier they might confer, and that’s about it. Even minimalist FU has more bookkeeping than this.

To show what’s in the tin, I’ll stat out Mitra, converting her into Cornerstone.

The first thing the author advises is creating a game concept. Here, the genre, tone, setting, and purpose for adventuring is codified. This is important for a group to get on the same page. Here, I know what I’m after, but I’m listing it anyway to be complete, making this a more complete walk-through of the system. Fate Core has a similar game creation step, but here it’s minimalist, comprised of nothing more than a short list:

Game Concept
Genre. High Fantasy

Purpose. Lone Hero

Place. Sword Coast, Faerun

Color. Epic/Gonzo

The next step is to codify the character concept. I have a very strong one in mind for Mitra, because she’s a favorite character of mine that I’be used frequently. We get the following:

Who? Loner, Compassionate, Riddled with Regret
What? Seasoned Warrioress, Tactician, and Rider

Background. Former captain of the Black Dragons Mercenary Co., she committed regrettable wrongs, working for the evil network that employed them until she left to join the fight to liberate her native Damara.

Foreground. Working to release her friends, having been blackmailed by her old employer to do an evil deed.

Traits are next; those aspect like descriptors that can be “triggered” to provide some mechanical boost or hindrance. Characters start with three core traits — ideals, method, and history, that already say a lot about a character. For this we get:

Ideals. Loyalty
Method. Direct
History. Cavalier

All cool and simple so far. Cornerstone Fantasy adds races and classes to the basic rules. Mitra is a human, which grants her some special abilities related to her expertise, being tough, and most of all, creative problem-solving (something I can see myself using frequently). She’s a warrior, and has a few special things attached to it, like more than average Vitality, other toughness related to damage reduction, bonus to damage, and faster initiative. Suggested expertise is applied to that skill, which in Mitra’s case will be “battle tactics”, making that part of her important.

Next, the base skills are filled out with additional ones to facilitate the genre. This is already handled in Cornerstone Fantasy. We have the eight standard: Awareness, Coordination, Influence, Knowledge, Logic, Might, Resistance, and Stealth. Add to this Magic and Expertise (which is a catchall skill tailored to what your thing is). Next we rank these, each rank providing a range for success on a D6. Mitra has:

Awareness. Average (success on 4-6)
Coordination. Average (success on 4-6)
Expertise. Great (success on 2-6)

Influence. Capable (success on 3-6)
Knowledge. Bad (success on 5-6)

Logic. Average (success on 4-6)

Magic. she has no permission to use magic

Might. Capable (success on 3-6)

Resistance. Great (success on 2-6)

Stealth. Bad (success on 5-6)

Basic Cornerstone has Abilities, which include one unique thing a character can do. Cornerstone Fantasy takes care of that with races and classes. Already, our heroine is quite nuanced with information about her behavior, capabilities, and faults. We’re not quite done, however.

Mitra has some equipment. In her last adventure, she sadly lost her trusty horse. But she still has a sword (does 2 damage on a “Yes, But…”, or 4 damage on a “Yes, and…”, plus has a trait: good against flesh, implying it does better against unarmored targets), and mail (which reduces a point of damage on a “Yes, But…”, or 3 damage on a “Yes, and…”, plus is loud but concealable). Other than a dagger (which does 1 / 4 and has nimble), she doesn’t really have anything else of note.

Advancement can take place after completing quests. Characters can benefit in several areas, including ranking up a skill, gaining another point of Vitality, a potential change to one of the core traits, a descriptive trait (a new trait describing reputation or some interesting character thing they’ve picked up along the way), or a technique, which is a new addition to Cornerstone Fantasy. A technique is like one of the basic rulebook’s abilities, which allows a special thing that characters can do without fail, do when it would otherwise be impossible, or do with advantage (roll two dice and take the best). Techniques, however, only allow players to choose one of the three benefits.

Considering that Mitra completed a quest already (to recover the death mask of the naive king), I’m going to select some advancement options to reflect what happened. She gets the benefit of:

* +1 Vitality
* Becomes average in Knowledge
* Gains the fear of the dead descriptive trait (yes, I’m actually choosing a negative trait!)
* Keeps her core traits as-is
* and gains a new technique: Dirty Fighter — roll with advantage during the first exchange if you use a cheap of unorthodox fighting method

Okay, that about wraps it up. In the end, Mitra looks like this:

Mitra of Damara


* Ideals. Loyalty
* Method. Direct
* History. Cavalier
* Class Traits. Mercenary
* Descriptive. Fear of the Dead


Awareness 4+; Coordination 4+; Expertise (battle tactics) 2+; Influence 3+; Knowledge 4+; Logic 4+; Might 3+; Resistance 2+; Stealth 5+


* Never fail At noncombat Tasks related to your Expertise Skill.
* Advantage when Tasks are attempted in a creative or unorthodox method.
* Permission To roll for Impossible Tasks related to endurance, willpower, or pressing on through pain.
* +2 Vitality


* Base Vitality = 9 + Resistance Rank (15 with advancement and all bonuses)
* Survivor. +1 DR
* Slayer. +1 Damage
* Swift. Advantage when rolling for order
* Expertise. battle tactics


* Advantage when using cheap of unorthodox fighting methods during the first exchange of combat


* Sword. 2 / 4; good against flesh
* Dagger. 1 / 4; nimble
* Mail. 1 DR; loud, concealable

Again, there’s lots of detail on her sheet. Everything being player-facing and low impact on the GM, this game is a natural choice for the solitary player. In my next post, we’ll examine how it actually works in play. The other appealing thing is that most modifiers cancel out and do not stack for the most part, so the most one can expect is a +1/-1, best/worst of two dice and add an and/but to the result. Sounds simple, but I’ll find out if it lends speed to play or not.

Looking forward to post #8 of Return of the Shattered Mail, a game I haven’t revisited in more than two years.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Four Against Darkness, part 1

Thanks to Aleksandar Battreps of the BattReps blog (all around awesome person and solo gamer extraordinaire), I became aware of Ganesha Games’ Four Against Darkness, a casual dungeon delve pen ’n paper game inspired by old school RPGs. I picked up the 66-page game today, gave it a read through and played a short game (actually not so short as I was busy navigating the tables in the book).

It’s a fun little invention, and I love little mapping exercises. Furthermore, 4AD’s creator, Andrea Sfiligoi is running a little contest:

4AD Competition! Win LIFETIME products. 
To enter, you must purchase a copy of 4AD through and write up one or more playthrough reports of the game, and publish them on social media (Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc) or on your gaming-related blog. The more reports you write, the more chances you get to win. Unleash your purple prose and tell us about the glorious victories or the rotten luck of your heroes. Post photos of your completed dungeons on Instagram! Use the #4AgainstDarkness hashtag and always add a link to the product page. 
Make sure that each report includes a link to the product on and send an email to to let us know of it. The competition ends on May 24th, Andrea's birthday. On the 25th, Andrea will put all names in a hat and draw a winner who will get a LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTION to all 4AD products (or a minimum value of $50 in other products should 4AD be discontinued). That's it: the winner will receive for free every new adventure or supplement we publish for 4AD.

Not too bad! So here is my first game...

  1. Voldor the Bold, Amblin the Righteous, Jed the Wiley, and Mira the lighthearted elf enter the dungeon! they see a wide to room with three north-facing doors. They choose the right passage.
  2. Upon entering, they see a square room. It is filled with eight fungi men! The group waits to see what the strange mushroom men will do. They attack! A furious battle ensues, with both Voldor and Jed getting hurt. However, the party prevails! Two of the monsters flee. On the bodies of the fallen, Mira finds a scroll. The group searches, finding nothing more, and then Amblin heals the injured ones. With no other ways to go, the group returns to the original entrance room.
  3. Next, the group tries the middle door. they encounter in empty twisting corridor.
  4. The corridor extends further north, appearing to dead-end. However, a door to the west and further on to the east appears to reveal more rooms ahead. The group tries the western doorway first.
  5. Another twisting passage appears. However, this one is not empty. Two lumbering trolls approach! Amblin slays one, while Mira shoots another. Voldor chops up the bits with his axe to prevent them from returning. the monsters carry 5 pieces of gold. The group moves on…
  6. The passage continues to switch back-and-forth. Around another bend, the group encounters eight goblins! the group finds their groove, soundly defeating the goblins and finding a pretty gem.
  7. The group takes a door that does into a short corridor containing two nasty trolls! Voldor takes a bit of a beating, but they hack up the trolls into diced bits of troll ready for canning. They also find a ring of teleportation!
  8. The group moves through at south door. This opens into a larger chamber. Suddenly, a bear trap snaps, nearly snagging Voldor’s foot. Fortunately, the warrior is quick. They find a hidden scroll under some rubble. the group continues south.
  9. More snaking of passageways here in an “H” pattern. However, an eerie glowing altar sits in its length Voldor is cursed! (But Amblin blesses him). The group decides to head north.
  10. The group comes to a small blessed temple and Amblin is imbued with greater divine power. Ahhhhh!
  11. The group heads south through a door to a room connecting with the entrance chamber. Two orcs threaten them. Voldor and Mira quickly dispatch them, finding a pretty gem.
  12. Moving on to the west, this passage circles back around to connect with the “H”. A door reveals a possible room.
  13. Instead of a room, they find another short corridor with doors on either side. More urgently, however, the group sees a hideous Medusa! Amblin and Mira are immediately petrified. Voldor and Jed fight valiantly, finally defeated the creature. Voldor gains a level. They also find a gorgeous necklace.
  14. Voldor and Jed attempt to carry Amblin and Mira’s stony forms and vacate the dungeon…which they do, luckily without further incident…
Returning to town, they hope to sell the new things and get blessings cast…do they have enough cash?