Thursday, 7 July 2016

Ruins by the Lake Part III, being the 9th report from the Tower of Zelligar campaign...

It's been a long time in the gestation this post; even  longer than it took the boys to arrange another session of their campaign. Yes, they finally ventured back into the catacombs under the ruins, in October last year.

The previous session - back in May 2015 - saw Josef the Thief sliced up by a scything blade trap. So we rolled up another character, and waited for an opportunity to introduce him.

The rest of the party made their way into the room with the trapped door, mostly by trusting their insanely high Armour Classes to keep them safe from the blade. Inside was a small Kobold guard-post. The two Dwarves speak Kobold of course, so a very shouty fight developed with a mixture of threats and psychological warfare.

After a messy bloodbath, the two surviving Kobolds surrendered. Once again the Chaotic Dwarves decided to torture the prisoners in order to get 'information' (though what they think they're going to learn, I'm not so sure), so this time, I had the Kobolds realise what was going on and take up the fight again, but to no avail. The party butchered them and searched the bodies. Some small treasure here, but the party is failing to get anywhere because they're not necessarily using their heads. They still haven't searched the Goblins properly that they encountered a few rooms ago.

Frustrated by the lack of progress they search again wherever they've already been - and hey presto, in the room where the Goblin-corpses are they find the key to the stone door they couldn't smash down.

Venturing through that door, they come into a room that seems to have been some sort of Goblin headquarters: and here was one of the few times I've seen the guys in real fear for the mayhem that might be about to break loose. Rising from the jumble of furs in the middle of the room was a figure. Not a Wraith or a Vampire or even an Ogre, no, but something that, even on its lonesome, was enough to put the frighteners on these burly lads (four of them, anyway, Josef's player hadn't managed to get his new character introduced yet). The figure that arose, sleepily burping and scratching itself, was an Orc.

OK, we're Old School, and we've all read all the monster stats a gazillion times. We know that in practical terms the difference between an Orc and a Goblin is not much. And four Goblins are certainly more troublesome than one Orc. But the players genuinely seemed nervous and tense.

The combat was brutal and swift. The PCs took the Orc apart in pretty short order, and seemed mightily relieved at how lucky they'd been when they did. I mean, really, maybe they just don't know. It seems that they think Orcs are much tougher than they actually are.

A bit of looting followed, part of which involved finding a chest containing four clay figurines in the shape of dragons. Around this time, as (former) Josef's player had been hanging around a while, and the party showed no signs of moving on, I told them that an Elf (for that is what Josef's player had rolled up, an Elf called Ronoc - he's been separated from the rest of his party) had approached them down the corridor on the other side of the room to the door they'd entered..

Bromeen's player decided that he was going to be a dick. "I attack him!" he shouted; a look of dismay passed across Ronoc's player's face. So Bromeen rolled to attack (it took Ronoc by surprise - hell it took everyone by surprise) and the result was that Ronoc took a battle-axe (or was it a longsword?) to the face. Cue, collapsing and having to make a CON roll to survive as the rest of the party tried to staunch his wounds...

Players can be massive twerps on occasion.

Deciding that they'd fortify the room and wait it out for a while led to them to start examining the clay dragons more closely. This included Bromeen taking one and smashing it into the floor. Not throwing it at the wall, mind, but taking it and pounding it into the floor without letting go.

The dragons should perhaps have given them a clue. These figurines are actually vessels for an alchemical concoction that resembles dragon-fire. Cue Bromeen bursting into flames (his hand anyway) and losing the majority of his hit-points...

That's where they left matters when they packed up to go. They may soon organise another evening as exams have finished and I've finished work on my thesis for the moment. So we will see ...

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Isle of the Fountain

I thought I'd share another of the Fortunate Isles - further to my thinking about 'Gatekeepers' recently, this isle indeed contains such an NPC.

Island 008 - the Isle of the Fountain - small isle

This low-lying isle is pleasant, wooded and quite unremarkable, except for an enchanted fountain standing at the island's highest point, in itself a hill that would be insignificant elsewhere. The fountain spills water into a pool, which overflows into a stream that flows to the sea.

The water in the stream is perfectly normal, but the water in the pool has magical properties. Imbibing it on the island (it loses any magical properties once removed from the island) will grant either of the following properties, depending on the result of a Save against spells, and the race/class of the person drinking it.

The point of drinking the water from the pool is to gain access to a specific spell. The PC must name this spell in advance. The ability to cast the spell (once per day, should the PC in question obtain it), will last d6 days.

For Elves, Magic Users and Thieves, a successful Save will allow the PC to cast a named spell from the First Level MU spell list. If the PC throws the actual number that is listed for their Save, they do not gain access to that spell but a random spell from the list. An unsuccessful Save will replicate the effect of the named spell cast against the PC.

For Dwarves, Halflings, Fighters and Clerics, the spell must be from the First Level Clerical Spells list; otherwise, everything about acquiring the spell in the paragraph above applies equally to these classes.

The fountain has a guardian. This is currently Sir Varek, also known as Varek Dragonslayer, the Red Knight of Ilan Veryon (Isle of the Fountain in the local lingo), who spends his time sharpening his sword while sitting by a red-and-gold pavilion pitched by the pool, and will challenge anyone seeking to drink to a single combat.

I hate pinterest. Google 'red armour' - this comes up. Yup, I think it looks cool. Even if his armour isn't red.

Sir Varek is still quite young, perhaps in his late 20s or early 30s, He is handsome and generally pleasant (though somewhat old-fashioned in regards to racial tolerance and sexual equality), issuing challenges in a courteous manner. He is friendly towards Dwarves, Halflings, Fighters and Clerics, but distrustful of, and a little rude to, Magic Users, Thieves and Elves, all of whom he regards as without honour. He will ask the name of his foe, and say that the name will be recorded for posterity; this is true, in his pavilion is a scroll with the names of hundreds of combatants, including, some years ago, Sir Varek the Dragonslayer, who replaced the previous guardian after defeating him in single combat.

His shield (gold with a red dragon, because he really is a Dragonslayer) and sword are perfectly normal; however, he wears the Armour of the Red Knight.

He is particularly keen to fight the strongest male PC, preferably a Fighter or Dwarf, but he'll be happy if it's martial Cleric; if his opponent is a woman, a Halfling or an Elf, he will try to decline but not too much. He isn't a coward, it's just he thinks that it's less of a challenge to fight a woman, Halfling or Elf, and will be less interested in doing so as his sense of self-worth relies on defeating strong opponents. There's no glory in defeating the weak.

However, he is generally courteous about this, especially to (male) Halflings. He will praise the bravery, resilience, resourcefulness and agility of the Halfling race, but claim his longer reach gives him too much of an advantage. He is being honest, he does admire these qualities of Halflings, but still thinks he's better in a fight. Female Dwarves will leave him in a quandary - does his respect for Dwarf-kind overcome his sense of superiority over females?

He will reluctantly fight a woman, claiming at first that it is not to be considered, but will eventually (d6 rounds +/- CHA adjustment) agree, sighing all the while. Essentially, the prettier Sir Varek thinks the PC is, the more reluctant he is to fight her.

Elves, because he thinks them dishonourable, he will not be happy to fight, but will consent to do so after some barbed comments about how he will be content if his opponent fights honourably (by which he means, without using spells).

He won't be keen to fight a Thief for similar reasons of honour, though he will reluctantly accept, and he really won't want to fight a Magic User of either sex (but then what MU would want to fight a knight in single combat anyway?).

If Sir Varek is in the position where a single successful hit will kill his opponent, he will ask them to yield rather than go on with the fight. If he reaches a point where one hit could kill him, he will ask his opponent for quarter and surrender the field, allowing his foe to drink from the pool. He will also offer to surrender his place as Gatekeeper of the fountain, as well as his armour. If an opponent has acted dishonourably, however, by using magic against him, he will fight to the death, using the powers of the Armour of the Red Knight to assist him.

If the PC is killed (unless magic has been used) Sir Varek will be melancholy - "alas! Such a brave and noble warrior died today... I offered quarter, but noble (insert name of PC) would not yield, and fought to the last. Truly, a great hero is no more" and such like.

If Sir Varek is killed, four Bugbears will emerge from the pavilion and take his body inside. They will not fight the PCs unless prevented from carrying out this duty. If the party sticks around, one of the Bugbears will later emerge and, in broken Common (or whatever other language is understood by the party), offer Sir Varek's armour to the PC who defeated him, and ask them to become the new guardian of the fountain. If the PC accepts, then they can take up this role, but they are free to decline. If this happens and the PCs return to this locale on any subsequent occasion, they will find Sir Varek alive, but forgetful of their previous presence.

BECMI stats for Sir Varek:

 Str 13*; Int 9; Wis 9; Dex 13*; Con 13*; Cha 15: 4th level Fighter: hp 24: Att 1 or Special: Dam weapon (N Sword) + STR*: Save Cl 10 (due to effect of Armour of the Red Knight): Mv 40' (120'): AL Lawful (and both charming and irritating at the same time): N Sword, Shield, Armour of the Red Knight
*stats subject to change due to effects of the Armour of the Red Knight