Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Doria in the Savage North, part 2

Well, this was a ridiculously long period since the last time I was able to sit in peace. At least I got to finish this. The session resulted in plenty of twists and turns in this phase of play. One more part to go to bring it to conclusion.

Rears Its Ugly Head

Three: The Hunt for Jermal

Setup: Doria goes out on the street looking for Jermal, knowing that he is the key to unraveling the mystery and encountering the Zhentarim in Luskan
Position: Disadvantaged (+1)

Does Doria find signs of the madman? Yes…

Does she shadow him unseen? (1FU spent) Yes, and…

It is not long before Doria hears her kinsman frothing at the mouth near the center of town where the Host Tower of the Arcane casts its malevolent four-pronged shadow. Doria remains unseen to Jermal, and…

Seed: Tree

Intersection: the idea suggests the actual Host Tower of the Arcane, which has been described as a tree-like structure rising very high with branches in the four directions. A wizardly person appears at the base of the tower and attempts to take both Jermal and Doria (since it’s the Rears Its Ugly Head phase, we’ll assume they’re savvy and have Doria already on their radar). (Conflict)

Valdaris Blackrot

Concept: Evil Necromancer
Descriptors: Evil Genius, Gaunt, Death Magic, Sick Ambition
Gear: Wand of the Dead
Conditions: none
FU Points per Scene: 1

As Doria watches Jermal under the sinister shadow of the great tower, a black-robed gaunt man suddenly appears. With a simple point of the finger, he has Jermal enthralled and commands him to approach, which he does with the staggering steps of a zombie.

Does Doria resist the effects? Yes… (But using Valdaris’s one FU point, it changes to No, and…) (+1FU)
[X] Enthralled

Doria too is dumbstruck and wanders to the wizard. Through some gate effect, she and Jermal both disappear within the tower she presumes. They are placed in a cell, still bound by the spellcaster, and unable to move or speak.

Story Probe: Does the wizard discuss war plans against the Harpers with his minions? D6+1 = No

Something Different: drawing a mysterious alien face (which I’m interpreting as telepathic; so maybe some mind-flayers) and intersecting against the Story Probe, Valdaris discusses with a illithid he calls Klorpus how to extract some power from Jermal that will allow control of a vast undead army.

Scene Close: Things are looking bad, and Jermal has some hidden gift that the necromancer needs to control a fell army. This clarifies How (and helps lower the DL), and changes what Doria thought about Who. The Harpers are involved somehow, but Valadaris seems to be at the heart of the plot (– DL). Even though she’s suffered a setback (+ DL), it still amounts to lowering the Danger Level for the next scene.

Four: Escape

Setup: Doria attempts a daring escape with Jermal
Position: At Odds (+0)

The two regain their senses (at least Doria does — Jermal is just crazy). She watches the guards assigned to their cell, timing their routine and looking for an opportunity.

Interpreting the intersection of the scene later, this gives Doria a chance to make a break for it first. The intersection will be added later, to see what complication arises.

Does she overpower the guards at an opportune moment? Yes…

Collecting her weapons and leading the insane Jermal along, Doria seeks a way out.

Does she maintain stealth? No, and…

Sneaking through the maze, a magical alarm sounds, and guards pursue them.

Seed: Lightning

Intersection: interpreting the idea as the obvious, this means that hedge mages appear, unleashing destructive magic to destroy Doria and apprehend Jermal. (Conflict)

Hedge Mages

(squad of 3)
Concept: Apprentices of the Arcane
Descriptors: Naive, Curious, Magic
Conditions: [ ] Confused, [ ] Slowed, [ ] Out of Action

Does Doria avoid their magical attacks? Yes, but…

Powerful thunderbolts are released and other energetic attacks. Doria dives to safety, but Jermal is caught in a spell of holding.

Does Doria close the distance to the mages? Yes, and… [X] Magic Dispelled

Like a wildcat, Doria rushes forward. She lays about with her blade and puts the mages on the defensive. One of them who had the hold on Jermal releases the spell in a panic to defend himself.

Does she escape with Jermal? No…

Try as she might, Doria turns down a passage only to run into armed guards. Every passage seems blocked off. There is no other way than to fight!

Tower Guards

(squad of 5)
Concept: Armed Guardians
Descriptors: Duty Bound
Gear: Long Halberds
Conditions: [ ] Confused, [ ] Slowed, [ ] Out of Action

Does she punch a hole through the guards? Yes…

Her vengeful streak fueling her on, Doria smashes through the armed guards with blade and force of will, sending them scattering.

Host Tower of the Arcane

Concept: Mysterious and Highly Magical Tower
Descriptors: Arcane Mysteries, A Maze that Defies Physics, Password Protected

Does she find an exit? Yes…AND!

Flying through strange passages with a pack of angry guards on her tail and an incoherent geriatric barbarian on hand, she flies into some sort of magical gate chamber. A wizard in the midst of some magical research or purpose has an active portal open. Doria flies through the portal, finding herself free of the tower, AND somewhere else entirely…

Story Probe: because of the fiction, no Story Probe needs to be asked.

Scene Close: If I could think of a logical Story Probe, I could go ahead and state it. In this case, an action sequence without furtherance to the plot is fine. The DL goes down one step because I consider Doria escaping Valdaris’s clutches with Jermal is a success in thwarting the antagonist’s plans. We still have answers for only three of the Big Questions, which means we are still in the Rears Its Ugly Head Stage.

Five: the Grotto

Setup: Doria investigates a mysterious cavern complex for more clues of her enemy
Position: Advantaged (-1)

Note: The grotto sounds scary and mysterious. A great place to start! Why here? What details of the system let me to assert this stage? In Perilous Intersections, flexibility and narrative license are built right in. As long as there is reason to frame a scene, the player can exercise any license he sees fit to set that scene in any place that makes sense. For me, a mysterious grotto could be anything… It does not necessarily dictate a real place, such as another city, other part of the continent, different world, or what have you. I did not have to use a Seed or a random idea to generate the setting for this scene.

Doria finds herself in a vast, artificially lit cavern. Water drips in many places, but it is not empty…

Does she investigate in stealth without alerting anyone? Yes, and…

Story Probe: Does Doria find a barbaric slaves exhuming corpses from a mass grave? D6-1 = 4; No

Something Else: using the image of dice, the idea of a game or score intersects with the question to suggest that the (dead) barbarians themselves are undead legions of some great army being housed in the Underdark that is being made ready to be released when the enemy has gained control of the legion (presumably through Jermal). There are human and goblinoid overseers here.

Doria is left with the horrifying view of hundreds of her dead kin. Unsure what to do, she tries to come up with a plan. Her thirst for vengeance now includes the wizard Valdaris in addition to the Zhentarim, who are no doubt involved. She reasons that wherever the cave is, it must be reasonably close to the target of the attack.

Now, I haven’t included an intersection yet, so here it goes:

Seed: Sunflower
Intersection: a sunflower suggests a ripening and giant growth…and also seeds. I’m also low on revelation-type events, and the clock (remaining Seeds) is ticking down. Without changing the personal danger for our heroine, this sounds like when Doria is focused on the scene, Jemal wanders off and is grabbed…“We got you!” says one. “Good,” says a hobgoblin general. “Call Klorpus…when he extracts the seeds from the barbarian’s mind, the army will be ready to attack.” (Revelation)

Doria’s chance to free Jermal again is probably best now rather than later. Even though the DL is low, it makes sense that there are great numbers here. If she fails, that’s a setback, making the final showdown harder. The last of the Big Questions must get answered in the next scene regardless of what happens here. Combat seems likely…and the great numbers will be represented by some squads. If she gets a poor result on some of her FU Beat the Odds questions, that may mean more squads come to the call.

Hobgoblin Overseer

Concept: Big Mean Hobgoblin Boss
Descriptors: Tough, Intimidating, Fighter
Gear: Man-cleaver (huge battle axe)

Grotto Squads

Concept: Mooks for Hire
Descriptors: Duty Bound
Gear: Rusty Sword

The Grotto

Concept: Unknown Vast Cavern
Descriptors: Vast
Conditions: [X] Unknown

Does Doria surprise the captors? Yes…

Doria leaps out and surprises the goblinoids that have Jermal in hand.

Does she free him with a swipe of the sword? Yes, and…

She lashes out like a panther, smiting two of the hobgoblins. Grabbing Jermal by the hand, she dashes out through the nearest passage, and leaves her pursuit confusedbehind her.

Does she find escape? No, and… (+1FU)

Dashing down that way, she comes only to a dead end cavern with more corpses lying on various slabs. Trapped! Turning, she grits her teeth and draws dirk and sword. She must fight for her life to get free.

Does she fare well against the squad? Yes, but…
[X] Reinforced

The wildcat becomes a lioness. Bodies begin to heap at Doria’s feet, but more reinforcements arrive. The overseer hefts a massive axe and orders his grunts forward.

Does she convince the hobgoblin to meet her in single combat? Yes, and…

Doria calls out the leader in single combat. The huge hobgoblin accepts her challenge and agrees that a map showing the way out is hers if she defeats him.

Does she fare well? Yes, but…

The two stalk around taking account of each other then meet in a clash of steel. She is the faster, gouging a wound in his side, but he shrugs it off being trained for worse hurts.

Does she press the attack? No, but… AND
Both participants are [X] Injured

A brief exchange too fast to follow with the eye results in Doria stepping back, wide eyed. Blood begins to flow down her arm from her side where the cruel axe nearly maimed her. The hobgoblin grinned, but staggered. It turns out that Doria’s initial touché was worse than he thought.

Does she press the attack? Yes, and…
[X] Dying

With a final burst of speed, Doria ducks under her larger foe’s slow and clumsy attack. A spin and slash opens up the hobgoblin’s abdomen. He looks down as his innards spill out.

“I’ll be taking that map,” she said as her opponent slumped to his knees. She reached in and produced a dogeared parchment before her foe fell on his face.

“Get back, or the same pile of dead meat will be made of you all!” she warned the crowd of minions.

Does she intimidate them? Yes, and, AND…

The crowds parted for her and most disperse in fear of their commanders, feeling themselves liberated from their unwanted duties. Furthermore, one of the hobgoblins agrees to lead the two to the closest exit from the caves to the lands beyond.

Scene Close: Nothing further was answered this scene. The only question remaining is Why, which must get answered during the next scene (there is only one Seed remaining). The only moving criteria for changing the DL that was met was thwarting the antagonist’s plans, which Doria did resoundingly. The DL stays put for the next scene, since it’s already at its lowest level.

Six: the City

Setup: Doria and Jermal come upon a city
Position: Advantaged (-1)
Note: I don’t know yet what city this will be, but I’m assuming some sort of war will be waged on a powerful enough organization or nation that there will be a city of some sort. I’m also going to mix it up a bunch in this scene, starting with some investigating and building a bit of context for a Probe. Then, I’ll throw in the intersection last. Strategically, we want the DL to remain low, so Doria will try to clarify What — who is this war waged against? The Seed will somehow impose the Why regardless of her efforts here due to the lack of remaining Seeds. Hopefully, if she doesn’t get a setback, these will balance out.

Doria with her hobgoblin escort emerges from a cavern. Below her on the water is a walled city surrounded by shoulders of mountainous rock under a cloudy sky. She does not yet recognize what city it is. She leaves the hobgoblins behind and leads Jermal to the gate of the city.

Story Probe: Is this a powerful city with magical rulers that is a rival of the Zhentarim, like Mulmaster? D6-1 = 5. Yes! This answers What more definitively, and begins to hint at Why (the Zhentarim are using high powered wizards of Luskan to eliminate certain magical rivals). We will get more details later in this scene.

Doria discovers the city’s name from the guards. She considers her options — the Harpers were involved. Undoubtedly, they wanted to thwart this plot, although she has no clue what their true interests are. She also considers alerting the powers that be about the attack, hoping they might give Jermal protection; however, she reconsiders this too. If the rulers here knew that the crazed tribesman was the key to controlling a legion of undead, were they completely unscrupulous (likely) and capable of great magic too, they might just as easily turn the tables against their own enemies. In any case, that would mean the same fate for Jermal and the desecration of the remains of her kin. The last option was to run and hide.

The best option, although hopeless, was to seek any Harper agents here ask for their help. She had no idea how to go about that except in the most blunt fashion as is her wont — find the seediest tavern where dark business is conducted (and hopefully watched by other powers) and call them out.


Concept: Evil Moonsea City
Descriptors: Dangerous, Steeped in Intrigue, Maze of Machinations

The Crying Siren

Concept: Nastiest, Seediest Tavern in Mulmaster
Descriptors: Den of Cutthroats, Legitimate Place of Illegitimate Business

In steps Doria with her mumbling companion. She sets him in a quiet corner and begins her ‘inquiry’. She lays the silver pin of the harp she picked up from her initial scuffle with the Harpers in Luskan on the counter of the bar in front of the barkeep and asks him in a not-too-subtle voice where she could find Harper scum.

Does she get the info she seeks? Yes, and… AND!

Even as she is asking, she notices a figure step up behind her. Two more flank her. They are grim faced men, and one of them bears a similar pin.

Doria spins about to greet the men. “I encountered your men in Luskan,” she said. “I want to talk.”

Warily, the men lead her to a private parlor. She brings Jermal along who begins raving again about the looming war.

The Harpers chastise Doria for openly talking of them, blowing their cover. She counters and tells about their comrades who were looking for the raving barbarian and the encounter with the necromancer. She asks for their help.

They fill in the story.

Note: this is the last scene of Rears Its Ugly Head which will complete unanswered BQ’s. It doesn’t matter how it’s answered, though incorporating the last Seed is a part of it. Without further Probes, a good amount of license will be used to provide details; and, as a result of no available Probe left for the scene, it means that the BQ detailed here is subject to amendment during the Final Boss Fight. Here, I’m allowing the NPC informants to fill in the missing details. It will be colored, however, by the perception and agenda of the Harpers.

Sevae, the leader of the trio tells the story: Anestal Devilsend, an agent of the Black Network, has been bent on recovering the Ring of Fire — a fell circle of magical stones wrought by the wizards of Netheril and buried under what is now a local temple. It is a gate to one of the Nine Hells, and capable of loosening beings of unthinkable power and evil and he alone has the key to unlocking it. Anestal hopes to use his undead hordes to assail Mulmaster, and they, along with the barbarian’s seed are the key to open the Ring of Fire. The Harpers’ mission in Luskan was to track Jermal, knowing he was key to Anestal’s plan, though they didn’t know exactly how he fit. It turns out that the mad barbarian has some curse laid upon him, through which Anestal can wield the power of raising the dead, among other powers. Sevae and his companions were in deep cover in Mulmaster to keep an eye over the temple.

Having those answers, Doria asks what next to do. Sevae only responds that to hide away somewhere is a temporary fix. Some conflict with Anestal is inevitable, and now, it seems, so too is one with Valdaris Blackrot, his colleague in Luskan.

Intersection: Using the last seed, of fire, Doria smells something as smoke begins to creep into the room. Screams from the taproom indicate a fire is burning the Crying Siren. She doesn’t doubt that Zhentarim spies have tried to flush her out. (Conflict)

Raging Fire

Descriptors: Chaos Reigns, Hot Flames
Conditions: [ ] Out of Control [ ] Conflagration
Grabbing Jermal, Doria heads out the door and finds the nearest exit.

Does she find a clear exit? [-2FU] Yes…

Out of the private room, the smoke is thicker and people shriek. Sevae and his men push their way forward, trying to help. Down a back way they go and then into a darkened smoke-filled alley. As soon as they break free of the burning building and into the alley, several dark figures loom out of the shadows.

Zhentarim Thugs

Descriptors: Treacherous, Greedy
Gear: Gleaming Short Sword
Conditions: [ ] Confused, [ ] Slowed, [ ] Out of Action

Does Doria cut through them? No, and, AND…
[X] Unconscious [+1FU]

Without warning, more figures pop out from their flanks. Sevae and his men are cut down. Before Doria can free her blade from its scabbard, a heavy impact hits her hard on the back of the head and she swoons. The last thing she sees is Jermal screaming as figures hoist him over their shoulders and abscond with him.

Scene Close: Well, that could have gone better! At least, it answers the last of the BQ’s, though with Doria’s setback, it’s not only an elevation of the Danger Level, but a trigger for the next phase, the Final Boss Fight.

We are left with a worksheet that looks like:

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