Saturday, July 16, 2016

Return from the Azure Pits

Ale and wine flowed freely at the back table of the Bone House, but the mood  was not light. The party's mission into the Azure Pits to recover the stolen Cloud Gem was a success and the plans of the cultists of the Blue Dark were thwarted. But the artifact of Durik's order was recovered at a heavy price….

Art by the Great One
Poor Boarface was the first casualty. While walking along a ledge deep in the caves of the Azure Pits, the porter was caught by the sticky filaments of a pair of cave fishers and hauled up into the darkness. His screams were brief and with no way to reach him, the party moved on. His loss was especially tough for Fretta.
Then Durik fell, struck down by the spiked club of a one-eyed cave troll. It was to aid the cleric and his church that the party ventured into the darkness of the Azure Pits. But the other clerics of the Order, Therapon, Rhea, and Karpos convinced the party to continue, reminding them of the uncut sapphires that gave name to the Pits.

Shortly after the loss of Durik, a six-eyed cave hunter pounced on the party and Imorfin the elf was killed. The loss of his brother-in-arms stunned  the party's leader, and Thowin spoke to his companions again about their desire to continue. They voted to carry on.

After surviving a few more encounters the party found what they sought in a huge chamber deep in the heart of the Azure Pits. The foul cultists of Nag-Roop were in the middle of performing a ritual, the Cloud Gem held high, as a black tentacled monstrosity from the bottom of the Pits was called forth.

Art by Matt Morrow
The final battle ensued, and this time luck was with the party. The ritual was stopped and the cultists were killed. The Cloud Gem was retrieved, and the foul, tentacled beast was sent back into the Pits. Unfortunately, young Bursus was caught and dragged down into the darkness.

Having completed their objective, although at great cost, the party began the long trek back to Enharza….

Back in the Bone House mugs and goblets were raised, toasts given, and sorrows washed away. But what next for the companions.....

Foes Defeated
Treasure Recovered
5 Orcs
Helm of Protection +1
3 Rock Beetles
2800gp of uncut sapphires
7 Cultists of The Blue Dark
Spell book (3 spells: Allure, Magic Missile, Magic Mouth)
3 Necrotic Leeches
Sword +1
Crab Spider

7 Skeletons

One-eyed Cave Troll

Cave Hunter

Tentacled Horror of Nag-Roop

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Azure Pits (part 1)

Thowin Four Fingers, a fighter, and his torchbearer, Boarface
Imorfin the elf
Durik the cleric
Fretta the Dark, a thief
Balork the Medium, a magic-user and Bursus, his man-at-arms
Karpos, Rhea, and Therapon, clerics of Laex
Shaz, a horse handler

Recap: Durik's order, The Temple of Laex, has asked for help in their struggle against the Order of the Blue Dark, a group of cultists who worship Nag-Roop, minor demigod of the Underdark. The cultists of Nag-Roop have stolen the Cloud Gem from the Temple of Laex, and now plan to destroy the minor artifact in service to Nag-Roop.

Durik's brothers and sisters have learned that the dark ritual will take place in the Azure Pits, an entrance to the Underdark in the Dwarven Hills to the west (Hex 00.04).

The Temple of Laex has sent three clerics to aid the party. They know the way to the Azure Pits, having 'coaxed' the information out of a captured Blue Dark cult member. The Order of the Blue Dark has a full day head start so time is of the essence.

Moonday, 24 Harvester

Art by DRB
We rejoin the party as they pass through the gates of Enharza , heading to the west in the early morning light. Durik discusses the evils of the Order of The Blue Dark with Karpos, Therapon, and Rhea, as he rides alongside his fellow brothers and sister of Laex. Thowin and Imorfin lead the party, having been instructed to head to the Dwarven Hills likely a two day ride from Enharza.

There had been some discussion about exactly why the party was aiding Durik's church since the Order had made it clear their coffers were basically empty. But Durik had talked Thowin and Imorfin into helping with promises of finding caves of sapphires in the Azure Pits. After all, the caves got their name after the colorful gems, which supposedly littered the tunnels to the Underdark. At least the Head Priest of Laex did provide each member of the party with a healing potion, even the retainers.

The adventurers fell silent as the miles passed beneath the horses' hooves. Before long Moonday was drawing to a close and it was decided to make camp for the night.

Godsday, 25 Harvester

The night passed without incident and the party was on the road early. They encountered a pack of wild dogs later in the day, but the animals seemed uninterested in the group. The party didn't provoke the dogs, and soon they were out of sight.

They reached the Dwarven Hills in the early afternoon and pushed on to the west, following the direction of Karpos, brother of Laex. The moon was already rising as dusk fell and they decided to make camp for the night. Just as they were about to stop, up ahead in a clearing they saw  a number humanoids engaged in a fight with a huge, winged beast.

Art by Ben Maier
In the fading light Imorfin's keen eyes made out a band of orks swinging stone axes at a giant owl, as the winged predator hovered just out of reach. It seemed to the elf that the owl was the attacker, as the orks ducked and dived, avoiding the sharp talons of the giant bird. One unfortunate ork tripped in the chaos and the owl was upon him in an instant. The winged beast leapt again into the air, its great wings flapping hard and taking it up into the the night sky. A few of the remaining orks on the ground pulled out crude bows, but the owl was already out of range. It crossed the moon, ork still flailing helplessly in its clutches, before disappearing into the darkness.

(On my random encounter tables I have a less frequent entry which is monster v. monster. In the few times when it does pop-up, I always find it interesting to see which two entries from the table will get drawn up against each other and to imagine how they stumbled upon each other. So when the rolls came up with orks and the giant owl for the last encounter check of the day, this image came immediately to me - a giant owl on a hunting mission at dusk.

The party ends up scattering the orks who are already rattled after the surprise of the owl attack. I ruled that it was 'very unlikely' they would return during the night, but Mythic had other ideas. I rolled a 02 which is an exceptional yes - they do come back, and with numbers!

Luckily the orks arrive during Imorfin's watch and the elf sees them coming with his infravision. Thanks to Balork's sleep spell and some high attack rolls, the party deals with the orks, sustaining only minor injuries.)

(To be continued...)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hemming and Hawing

Even though it has been forever and a day since I last posted, I have continued to play and the game (story) has moved along quite a bit since my last post. No spoilers, but a lot has happened to our brave band of adventurers in their quest to recover the stolen Cloud Gem from the cultists of Nag-Roop. They've followed the cultists deep into the Azure Pits and (ok, minor spoiler) not all in the party will return to the surface…

But the purpose of this post is to try and articulate the continuing difficulties I've had with writing up the session summaries. When I first started exploring the idea of solo play, I did a bit of research on various blogs covering the subject. On one blog (unfortunately I cannot recall which) I read that session summaries were an integral part of solo play. BUT, that they should be kept short - max a paragraph or so. I agree with this (although I find a paragraph is TOO short), and I have thought about ways to 'shorten' but haven't had any luck…
Artist unknown

Then I realized that the whole reason I play this game is for the story that develops organically from the rolls of the dice, use of random tables and my interpretation of them, etc. I have my notebook with my scribbling and various rolls and whatnot, but I also want to take a stab at putting in the extra effort to convey the images going on in my head as I play. This isn't an exercise in creative writing (Lord knows that's a stretch with me), but I do want to try and tell the story. Who knows, my kids might find it interesting one day when they get old enough.

So, I will move ahead and try and 'catch-up' with the current story. I'll try and focus on presenting scenes that I find most interesting, including commentary of how choices were made, which randomizers I used, etc. Then I will use a very abbreviated, 'fast-forward' format to connect to the next important scene.

Hopefully this format will work and writing session summaries will no longer be the bottleneck it currently is!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Order of the Blue Dark

So what does the party do next?

I must admit that I am getting antsy for the party to explore more of the Southern Isles so I can found out what else is out there. While I think the city exploration of Enharza is working out just nicely, I would like to flesh out more of the sandbox. But even though I, as DM/Player, am getting a little bored of the party's exploration of the same dungeon, I want the story to emerge organically. Therefore I won't decide what the party does but rather create a table of likely actions and let the dice guide the way.

Despite my feelings I figured given their recent haul, a return to Stonehell was a likely option for the party. They know the location and are amassing some knowledge of what is where in the dungeon. And very importantly, they know there is treasure to be plundered.

Certainly I want to have the option for the discovery of new leads as well. This is really how the sandbox will be fleshed out. And Durik and Balork have each already come up with possible story lines during their exploration of the city. Maybe Durik would convince the group to aid the Order of Laex. Or maybe Balork's thief would be the one to pop up…

So in the end, I came up with the below d8 table to roll on:

1-3 Continue exploring Stonehell
4-5 Look for new leads
6-7 Decide to help out Durik's church
8 Visit from Balork's thief (or his partners)

And……..I rolled a 7. So Durik is able to convince the rest of the party to aid Laex. So what all did the cleric learn from his visit to the temple?

The Southern Isles hex map
Durik's order, The Temple of Laex, has asked for help in their struggle against the Order of the Blue Dark, a group of cultists who worship Nag-Roop, minor demigod of the Underdark. The cultists of Nag-Roop have stolen the Cloud Gem from the Temple of Laex, and now plan to destroy the minor artifact in service to Nag-Roop.

Durik's brothers and sisters have learned that the dark ritual will take place in the Azure Pits, an entrance to the Underdark in the Dwarven Hills to the west (Hex 00.04).

The Temple of Laex will send three clerics to aid the party. They know the way to the Azure Pits, having 'coaxed' the information out of a captured Blue Dark cult member. The Order of the Blue Dark has a full day head start so time is of the essence.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Thoughts on solo-play city exploration

Before play resumes I wanted to reflect a bit on how I think the game is going. I'm definitely still figuring things out as I go along, but overall I am happy with the method that is emerging for the party's exploration of Enharza. I think using the Mythic oracle for question resolution coupled with Rory's Story Cubes and my own d4/d6 tables of potential outcomes is helping to take the play into unforeseen directions, which is great as this is my ultimate goal. But I will continue to look for ways to improve. Some additional reflections…

Tables, tables, and more tables! I've always been a big believer in random tables and I'm now finding that they are an integral part fleshing out the sandbox. I have quite a few stashed away but I am ever on the lookout for more that I can use and tweak.

With seven in the party now (including retainers), each potentially heading in his own direction, there is the danger that the time spent on city exploration can get out of hand. I need to find out how to achieve the goal of allowing the sandbox to develop via random events triggered by character exploration while avoiding the potential trap of developing too many threads and bogging down the overall game.

I am not sure how I will do this, but I am contemplating something like rolling a d4 each visit to determine the max number of character threads for further development that visit. These could be already existing threads or new scenarios based on fresh encounters.

In any event, some of the leads/hooks may never pan out, e.g. the thief that threatened Balork in the Mage's Guild may never be heard from again. Maybe he's rotting in a cell or soon to be executed. Or maybe he's already escaped and is trying to track down Balork….

I'll update the current tables I have developed for city encounters with the possibilities for 'unresolved' threads popping up. But I don't want them hanging unresolved for too long, so I will likely put a (game) time limit on them, before they disappear from the radar screen.

And of course, character attrition may take care of some as well. As much as I am becoming attached to the party, I know most of them won't be around for too long!

Now it's time to figure out which lead the group decides to follow…..

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Retainer Carousing Rules

With many thanks to Jeff Rients who paved the way….

Retainer Carousing Table
1 Alcohol Poisoning (see subtable for effects)
2 Way too friendly with the tavern wench --> banned from tavern for good
3 Signed up for weekend's Arena Games (see subtable for opponent)
4 Mugged and robbed of all valuables
5 Signed up with Cap'n Quint --> ship out in two days
6 Wake up naked and in jail (d6 x 10gp to get out)
7 Bar Fight (d4 x 20gp in damages)
8 New tattoo (1-3 it's kinda cool, 4 it's lame, 5 it would be cool if not for the mistake, 6 it actually says something crude/stupid/insulting in an unknown language)
9 Buy/lift/find a treasure map!

Artist unknown
10 Hungover - no ill effects
11 You won the oiled pig race - you've made a name for yourself!
12 Wake up hungover and engaged to the local tavern wench!
13 Pissed off somebody (see subtable for who and what)
14 Bar Fight --> lose teeth and break nose (-d3 hp and -1 on all rolls for a day)
15 Fell for a lady of the night
16 Discover that you have latent magical abilities (hedge wizard); start at -250xp and d3 cantrips
17 Hungover - no ill effects
18 Joined a cult….uh-oh (Use d30 Sandbox Companion to generate)
19 Hooked up with the wrong crowd and ended up in a black lotus den (roll on subtable from Raggi's Death Frost Doom for effects!)
20 Alcohol poisoning (see subtable for effects)

Alcohol Poisoning (roll on both sub tables)
Pick your poison
1 Dragon Ale
2 Dwarven Spirits
3 Demon's Brew
4 Ork Milk
5 Elven Wine
6 Death Grog

1 -2 on all rolls for d3 days
2 Blindness for d3 days
3 Addicted!!
4 Bedridden for d3 days
5 Bedridden for a day and lose all hair…permanently
6 Oracular visions….

Art by Raph04art
Arena opponent
1 Brutus, current hero (2nd level fighter)
2 One-armed white ape
3 Giant scorpion
4 Two-headed hyena
5 Axe-wielding barbarian princess
6 The Thing in the cage…..

Who did the retainer piss off? (roll on both sub tables)
1 Thieves Guild
2 Mages Guild
3 City Watch
4 Cult/Church/Sect

1 Cash only….
2 Perhaps a service could be performed….
3 Not a chance - bad blood!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Sects in the City

Thowin Four Fingers, a fighter, and his torchbearer, Boarface
Imorfin the elf
Durik the cleric
Fretta the Dark, a thief
Balork the Medium, a magic-user and Bursus, his man-at-arms
Sunday, 23 Harvester

We rejoin the party as they sit around a table at the Bone House, the tavern/inn that they call home for the time being. It is their first time together after a couple days of individual exploration of the city. They recount their experiences of the previous two days and discuss the next course of action….

For the remaining characters I will limit the story-telling and focus on the 'behind-the-scenes' action.

Fretta the Dark and Boarface, a torchbearer
After determining that Fretta and Boarface were carousing together I had to figure out what amount of gold they blew in their carousing. The normal house rule is to roll d6 x 100 to determine how much gold is spent (whether they have that much or not). This is what I did for Fretta and rolled a 1. So the thief spent 100 gold and earned as much in experience.

Boarface, being a torchbearer, had much less gold on him. During the treasure division, Thowin did give him a 15 gold bonus on top of his daily rate, but still it wasn't much. So I ruled that he would spend all his remaining gold while carousing, boozing it up with the cheap stuff!

Art by Steve Zieser
So now time for the saving throws versus Poison! I roll a 17 for Fretta which is a success but poor Boarface fails his roll with a 12. I have different Carousing Mishap tables for PCs and retainers, so I roll another d20 and consult the appropriate table….

Boarface enters an oiled pig catching contest  sponsored by the Rose and Skull Tavern in the Redlight District of Enharza….and takes first place! The torchbearer wins 10 gold and a trained, pet rat! Fretta and Boarface celebrate the victory, whooping it up in the taverns along Tavern Alley.

Question: Does romance occur between Fretta and Boarface? (50/50)
Mythic: 73, No
Nothing happens on this night, but I think the two outcasts have formed a special bond as a result of the joint carousing, and I will role play it accordingly going forward.

Durik the faithful servant to Laex, goddess of wind decided to visit the temple in Enharza. New to the city he hadn't yet met the brothers and sisters of the local order. When he arrived he found a small shrine, clean and orderly, but definitely in need of repairs.

Using an ad hoc table I determine that the order is small (2d12), and come up with 14 current members. I decide that Durik will contribute at least half of his gold and then developed the below possible additional actions:

What happens at the temple?
1 - Durik makes a very large donation (80% of his gold) and is warmly received by the rest of the order
2 - He learns of a crisis facing the Order of Laex
3 - He is invited to join the Order in a formal position, after a test
4 - He is asked to help the Order in some regard

I roll a 2 and then use the below table to figure out more about the crisis.

1 - There is a conflict with another temple
2 - A brother/sister is very sick
3 - The Order is in dire straits financially
4 - There are undead in the sewers below the temple!
5 - Strife within the temple (factions)!
6 - There is a conflict with another temple (same as 1)

I roll a 1.

The Order of Laex warmly received their brother, Durik. And his generous donation would go a long way towards much needed repairs to their modest temple and to filling the larder. But he also learned of a crisis facing the temple. Their most treasured possession, a minor artifact of Laex known as the Cloud Gem had been stolen by a group of cultists worshipping Nag-Roop, a minor demi-God of the Underdark.

After discussing the matter in more detail, Durik left the temple with a heavy heart. As he walked back to the Bone House, he began to think how he could convince his new comrades to aid his church in their hour of need.

Balork the Medium
During the party's last visit to the city Balork had made his way to the Mages' Guild and was informed that all magic-users in Enharza were required to seek membership. The fee was 200 gold. At the time the Mage didn't have that amount of coin, but thanks to the sack of platinum found in Stonehell, he now had more than enough to cover his membership dues. In fact he had so much more that he also wanted to research a new spell.

What spell does Balork seek?

1 - Charm
2 - Spider Climb
3 - Detect Magic
4 - Random 1st level

I roll a 3, Detect Magic.
Q: Does he find the spell? (Near Sure Thing)
Mythic: 48, Yes

How much will it cost in materials? (170 gold)

Q: Does he pay? (Very likely)
Mythic: 02, Exceptional Yes

Since the result comes back as an exceptional yes, I decide to use some Story Cubes (4) to see what additional happens. I come up with Reading/Books, Fighting, Stealing/Thief, and Surprise/Fear.

Art by Tsabo6
As Balork poured over a table full of books in the middle of his spell research, something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Looking up he spied a man wearing a dark cloak, hovering by a nearby bookshelf. The man surreptitiously pocketed a small book, unaware that he was being observed. The thief began to leave, walking towards a still unobserved Balork. The mage took it upon himself to intervene. "Thief! Stop!"
A scuffle broke out between the two and the thief was able to escape Balork's grasp. As the man ran for the exit, Balork cast a Sleep spell. The thief made his save (17)!

Q: Does the thief escape? (50-50)
Mythic: 55, No and a Random Event occurs as a result of the doubles.
Random Event: NPC Negative (I then roll 'Disrupt Wishes')

As the thief tried to make his escape, he tripped and fell. Before he could even rise several guardsmen were atop him.

So what happens?
1 - Balork is brought before the Guild's Council Members
2 - The thief vows revenge against Balork
3 - Balork makes a key contact in the Guild as a result
4 - Balork picks up something of note/value dropped by the thief

I roll a 2…

As the thief was being dragged away, he looked up at Balork with rage in his eyes. "You! I'll find you! I'll find you and make you pay for this!" A flustered Balork went back to his books but was unable to concentrate on his work.

(To be continued...)