Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Other Dust solo - Part IV : Betrayal

Scene 7

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: nighttime ambush

NPC List: Ling, Kaz, Norna, Fitz, Junemay, Assia, Marguerite, Oggie

Threads: mission, escape


The night is divided into three watches, each with 2 party members and 1 of Assia's crew: FE A, NK M, JL. The attack will come on 1d3 = the 1st watch.

I rolled mutations for Assia and Marguerite, but none of them were of the sort to affect the combat. What's important to know is:
Assia, 3HD, revolver
Marguerite, 2HD, revolver
Oggie, 1HD, bow, knife

otherwise all stats as Raiders (from the bestiary chapter). There are 2d4=4 additional Raiders lurking nearby. 4d6 made them all male; they are all clad in hide armour (AC6); weapons are sword, sword, axe, spear.

I gave Ewa's Danger Sense a chance to alert her to the approaching raiders. Wis/Perception -1 vs. Stealth +1: 9 vs. 7, success.

Before I get to the narrative, I feel compelled to mention my theory that Assia and her comrades must have been PCs from an alternate universe. NPC plans usually don't fail so spectacularly as this...]

That night, Ewa, Assia, and Fitz are sitting a short distance from the campfire on the beach outside the concrete rotunda, when Ewa looks sharply up at the street.

"I hear something," she says. "People up on the street level. I'm going to take a look." She starts to rise.

"Are you sure that's wise?" says Assia.

"I know what I'm doing."

She pads as quietly as she can across the sand and up the concrete steps. Whatever voices she though she heard have fallen silent by the time she reaches the street. The night is dark, but she can just barely make out a group of armed men [2d6x2=] about 14m ahead. She ducks back behind onto the steps to watch them. [Her Dexterity/Stealth +0 vs. their Wisdom/Perception +1 succeeds]

As soon as Ewa had left, Assia turned to Fitz. "I see how they treat you. Side with me and mine in this, and you will be rewarded. [She needed a 6+ on a Charisma/Persuasion roll to convince him to turn coat: rolling a 3+1...]

Fitz looks at the revolver Assia is pulling form her pocket, and starts shouting. "Ambush! Ambush!"

[Round 1]
Assia shoots Fitz without a moment's hesitation, but the bullet merely grazes his arm [1d8=1, 0HD damage].

Ewa fires on the raider with the spear. His head jerks back and he collapses to the pavement [1d10+2=10, 4HD damage]. The other three run at Ewa, but she is already backing down the stairs.

Fitz grabs a piece of firewood and hurls it at Assia. She throws up a hand to deflect it, but it hits her hard with a loud crack [19+1+7=hit; d4=4, 1HD damage leaves her with 2HD].

Roused by the noise, everyone in the rotunda is grabbing desperately for their weapons, some not even bothering to get out from their sleeping bags.

[Round 2]
Assia shoots Fitz in the back as he is diving for cover; he doesn't make it [2HD damage kills him].

Norna tries to fire on Assia, but the combat rifle misfires [1d20=2, weapon condition degrades to light damage (-1 to hit & damage)].

Junemay sits up in her bedroll and takes aim at Assia. As she fires, Oggie slashes at her back with his knife, but only tears the her shirt [1d4=1, no damage]. The burst hits Assia, who goes down instantly [9+2=4HD, killed]. Junemay wheels about just in time to see Kaz standing over her dead assailant with a smoking laser pistol [1HD damage, killed].

Ewa has dumped her rifle on the sand in favour of her crowbar. She swings at the first raider down the steps, but does not connect. He takes advantage of her over-swing and catches her in the shoulder with his axe, but the wound is more messy than deadly [1d8=3, 1hp damage drops her to 5hp]. The swordsman behind him slashes at Ewa as well, but comes up short.

Marguerite tries to shoot Junemay, but misses by a mile. Ling rolls over and blasts her with laser light [2HD damage] from her eyes. Marguerite falls back, dead, with two small smoking holes over her heart.

The second swordsman had been about to drive his blade into Ling's back. He wasn't dextrous enough to change its course when she rolled over, and the blade hit the concrete floor with a clang [1d20=1, the sword's condition degrades to Worn (no penalties)].

[Round 3]
The three raiders are spooked by the sudden reversal of fortune, and begin a fighting withdrawal [failed Morale]. Norna clears the jam in her gun, and squeezes off a burst at the swordsman over Ling, killing him on the spot [4HD damage]. Ewa caves in the skull of the other swordsman [2HD]. The axeman takes a last, futile swing at Ewa as he backs up the steps, but he's felled by a blast from Kaz's laser before he reaches the street [1HD].

Scene 8

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: aftermath

NPC List: Ling, Kaz, Norna, Junemay

Threads: mission, escape

[Ewa binds her wounds, after the combat. She can only recover the 1hp she lost just now, putting her back at 6hp.

I used UNE to determine how Junemay would react to events--
NPC Relationship: loved (= not mad at allies)
Conversation Mood: forthcoming (= will be ranting for a while)
scheming - plot - parents]

"Those traitorous bastards!" exclaims Junemay. "Those ill-begotten offspring of redhorns! Make all nice with us and try to kill us in our sleep! No better than skewmen this lot! That's the last time I...."

Junemay's rant shows no sign of soon abating, so the others merely get on with things that need to be done. The enemies' bodies are searched for useful loot, then dragged down the beach and thrown into the surf, in hopes that the tide take them. Fitz is wrapped in blankets and put next to poor Horsey.

Junemay's tirade eventually ends. She sets new watches, and sees that both combat rifles are in the hands of the watchers.

[1d6=1, night encounter -- 50/50 for coastal or necropolis: coastal chart; (1d6=)1 trader manning a small boat
reaction=8, Neutral
Q: Does the trader stop to investigate campfire? Unlikely (5+): O4 C5 - No.]

The rest of the night passes quietly. At one point a boat sails by. It slows slightly when the occupant(s) (presumably) notice the campfire, but it never comes within 300m of shore.

Morning comes. Breakfast is made more interesting by the addition of the enemies' rations. Everyone who wants some gets an extra helping, as Junemay thinks there might be too much to carry home. The important thing is to determine how to get the generator back. She was counting on the boats.

Ling suggests they build a litter to carry it. Norna says it were better to send a runner back to request transport. Junemay says it's too dangerous to send a lone runner, so they'd best go scavenge up some construction materials. Of course she'd side with Ling, thinks Norna.

[The scavengers need 3 successful Wisdom/Perception rolls of 8+ to find enough parts.
Kaz uses his Flawless skill class ability. He doesn't roll a 2, so succeeds. Ewa fails her roll, but Norna and Ling succeed.

There are no encounters for the scavenging party nor for Junemay guarding the generator]

The scavengers find plenty of useful junk in the morning. Ewa is then tasked with assembling it all whilst the rest take turns digging graves for Horsey and Fitz. Kaz assuages his lingering guilt by scratching Horsey's name into one of the raider's swords so her grave need not go unmarked.

[Ewa needs to make Intelligence/Postech roll of 8+: 11+1, success]

Ewa constructs a passable litter from rope, pipes, and an old folding table.

Scene 9

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: d8=3, Interrupt (was: journey back)
Interrupt: Ambiguous event - Disrupt / Tactics

NPC List: Ling, Kaz, Norna, Junemay

Threads: mission, escape

That night a terrible rainstorm hits. There is a sudden flurry of activity, as they had been keeping most of their firewood outside the rotunda near the fire. Everyone rushes to get it under cover, and Ewa manages to get a new fire kindled down the concrete walkway at a fair distance: enough that they still have some light but not so close that they get smoked out [she needed to make an Intelligence/Survival roll of 8+; 7+1(Int)+1(skill)=success].

The heavy rain continues for most of the following day, not letting up until late afternoon. Junemay decides that they might as well wait until the next morning to set off.

The day is uneventful, and mostly boring. At night [encounter, 2d4=3 whiskered devils] a trio of horrific mutant walruses lumber up on the beach in search of prey. Two are killed with weapons fire before they can reach the rotunda, and the third retreats back into the sea [uninteresting combat redacted].

Scene 10

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: journey back

NPC List: Ling, Kaz, Norna, Junemay

Threads: mission, escape

Junemay estimates the journey back will take two days if all goes to plan. [day 1, no encounters; day 2, no encounters] It does.

When they get in sight of Eastbourne's harbour, Junemay orders them to stop. She sends [1d4=] Kaz on alone (with Ling's map) to run back through the ruins to the Fortress to see about getting a boat.

When Kaz has gone, Ewa asks Junemay if they can talk privately [needs to roll Charisma/Persuasion 6+: 8-1, success]. Junemay sighs, but consents to the interview. They walk up the beach, well out of earshot of the others.

"I can't go back," says Ewa.

"What? Why not? What did you do?"

"Nothing. I just have things I gotta take care of out here."

"Like hell you do. You have to come home. The vicar's your guarantor. You don't show up, they'll kill him. It's the law; he's not exempt."

"He's the one that wants me to go. He's dying, anyway. And this is bigger than him, than me, than all of us maybe."

"Shit, Ev. What story's he filled your thick head with this time?"

"You wouldn't believe it if I told you. And it doesn't matter. I can't stay. Just let me leave. I did my part and waited until we got the generator back. Just let me walk away, disappear into the ruins."

"You start walking up that way, I'll shoot you in the back for deserting."

"Will you though?" [cha/persuasion 7+: 9-1=success]

"Damn you! Just go. It'll be easier not having to see your ugly face around."

"I'll miss you too... Kiss goodbye?"

"Don't make me reconsider the shooting thing."

Friday, 19 August 2016

Other Dust solo - Part III : The thing in the darkness

Scene 5

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: more recon

NPC List: Ling, Horsey, Kaz, Taf, Norna, Fitz, Junemay, Assia, Marguerite, Oggie

Threads: mission, escape

The next morning Junemay has gone to find Ewa sleeping up on the street level. She briefly considers kicking her to get her attention, but realises that might accidentally get her shot. She instead picks up a rock, and is about to throw it at her when Ewa wakes up in alarm.

"Dammit," says Junemay, dropping the rock, "I can't even have my petty revenge with you!"

"Sorry," yawns Ewa.

"So... you care to grace us with your presence this morning? Good. But check that rifle, soldier. You're not to fuck up today, so I don't want to hear 'it jammed' when I ask why you lost another scavver." [inquisitive - command - weapons]

After a joyless breakfast of dried fishcakes and gruel, Junemay leads her entire band up to the pier entrance. This time she's sending Ewa, Ling, and Horsey to explore. The rest will watch from the street. Assia, Marguerite, and Oggie elect to watch from the beach.

[Wisdom/Perception roll 9+ for Ling: 6+0=failure]

The pier still seems entirely still and deserted. The three women slowly make their way towards the boarded-up yellow building. Ewa holds her rifle at the ready, Ling has a revolver, Horsey a battle axe.

After a brief search of the building, they find the sole working door, lacking a handle and painted the same blue as the wood stopping the other entrances and windows. Horsey forces it open as Ewa and Ling wait with guns trained.

"Ohmygod that smell!" cries Horsey, swooning.

"What smell?" says Ewa.

"Shut up!" says Ling, antennae twitching.

"I'm not being funny," says Horsey. "but I need a minute or I'm going to be sick."

"It's dark inside," says Ling.

"I'm not going in there without a light!"

"We can prop the door open," says Ewa. "There's plenty of crap on the floor."

Ewa jams the door open with a piece of twisted metal, and the three take their first tentative steps into the building, moving only as quickly as their eyes adjust to the half-light. The stench of death and decay is overpowering. Horsey's eyes are watering and she can barely suppress a gag, Ling's antennae still quiver with revulsion, and even Ewa feels something wrong in the warm, humid air.

[Surprise check: party's Wisdom/Perception +0 vs. ???'s Dexterity/Stealth +1: 3+0 vs. 7+1, Horsey and Ling are surprised since Ewa cannot be.

Initiative Ewa 5, Assailant 7]

Ewa is suddenly overcome with dread. She wheels about to shout a warning just in time to see a hulking black form emerge from the darkness behind Horsey. It touches her shoulder with a long, black rod, and there is a flash of electricity and the smell of burnt flesh. Horsey convulses once and collapses to the floor. Ewa discharges her rifle at the mysterious assailant, but the shot goes wide.

[Round 2]
Stepping fully into the light, the attacker is revealed to be an ancient security robot, an imposing, dull black humanoid with a squat, neckless "head" and a retractable stun baton extending from its right wrist. The robot's voder/speaker unit is visibly cracked, and the baton is sparking with blue electricity.

[Security bot (AC 4, Move 20, HD 3, Atk +4/1d8*, Skill +1, Save 13+, ML 12) *the bot's stun baton is faulty and inflicts lethal damage]

The robot lunges at Ewa with the baton. She dodges backwards, and the baton just barely brushes her coat, seriously jolting her with electrical current and making her arm feel numb [it hit her for (1d8=7) 2 damage, leaving her with 6hp]. Ewa casts aside her rifle and takes the crowbar from her belt as she backs swiftly away from the robot.

Ling releases a blast of laser energy from her eyes. It burns two neat holes in the robots carbon-fibre. Sparks fly from within, but the robot continues its relentless assault [2HD damage reduced it to 1HD].

[Round 3]
The robot lunges towards Ewa, but manages to catch its baton in a rusted lighting fixture dangling from the ceiling, producing another shower of sparks [it rolled a natural 2, so the weapon's condition downgrades (-1 to hit/damage).]

Ewa hits it over the head with her crowbar, but it just rebounds off the resilient surface [miss].

Ling puts another laser blast in its back as it tries to extricate itself from the hanging wires. There is an audible pop from within, and it ceases to struggle, crashing to the floor moments later [2 more HD damage destroys it].

"If that thing had power..." says Ling, and flips on the light switch beside the door. But she almost immediately wishes she hadn't. The one intact lighting fixture in the ceiling flickers thrice and then comes on, revealing a scene of unspeakable horror. There is a now-doorless security office at one end of the front room, and within the office a holding cell. The cell is full of mouldering bones and oozing corpses, piled so high they have filled the cell and are spilling out into the office itself. Taf's lifeless body lies sprawled atop the pile.

Ling rushes out the door to be sick. Ewa follows, dragging poor Horsey's corpse behind her. They both sit for a while, breathing in the sea air to steady themselves.

"Do we dare go back in there for Taf?" asks Ling.

"I don't think even I could," says Ewa. "Help me drag Horsey back to the street, at least."

"Ugh," buzzes Ling as she lifts Horsey's heavy, armour-clad arm. "She deserves better than this."

The two drag her back the same way they came in, as they aren't sure the decking will hold elsewhere. They briefly recount the sortie to Junemay, who thinks it over for a few seconds...

[Q: Does Junemay send them straight back in? 50/50: O6 C6 - Yes.
+Event: NPC action - Norna - Oppose / Jealousy]

"Well?" says Junemay. "I don't see a generator. Get back in there. bring [1d6=] Fitz to make up your number. Move!"

"Wait a minute," says Norna, "How come [1d3=] Ewa always gets to go in? I want a shot at the take too, y'know."

"She goes in cuz I say she goes in," says Junemay. "No one gets to keep nothing until we get back home and have earned a reward. Right, in you three go. Norna, you go wrap Horsey in something to keep the flies off."

[Q: Does Norna let it drop? Likely (3+): O2 C7 - No.
Q: How does it end? Carelessness / Rumour]

"Why you always play favourites, Junie? It ain't right. At least let me go instead of Fitz. I wouldn't let that one out of my sight if I was you, seeing how he's always saying someone ought to see you don't make it back from a run one of these days."


"Just saying what I hear. He ain't the only one what feels that way neither."

"Is that a threat?"

"Just saying what I hear."

"Explain yourself Fitz. Is this true? Did you say that?"

"Hey, uh, well," begins Fitz, "that's just... you know how things get taken out of context." [prejudiced - view - knowledge]

"That's a shite denial," says Junemay.

"Look, we get a batch of strong wine brewed, and we all start saying things we don't mean. Us scavvers hate you guards with your nice barracks and your spiffy guns and shiny armour. Geez, I don't think that's a big secret or anything."

[Fitz needs to roll a Charisma/Persuasion check of 8+ to defuse the situation: 6-1=5]

Junemay unshoulders her rifle and thrusts it into Kaz's arms. "Ev, take his sword. Fitz, put 'em up. You want at me, now's your chance."

[Q: Does Fitz relinquish his sword? 50/50: O6 C7 - Yes.
J win initiative. 11+2+2+6=hit. 1d2+2=4, 1HD damage]

Fitz hands his sword to Ewa, and raises his fists. Junemay assumes a fighting stance for a moment, then rushes straight for him. She throws a single punch, which breaks his nose and sends him reeling backwards. He falls dazed onto the pavement.

Junemay wipes the blood from her knuckles. "Gee, Norna, it's your lucky day. But since you pissed me off you gotta go get Taf. Fitz can wrap up her and Horsey when he wakes up."

The three make their careful way back to the building. Ling refuses to go back inside. Ewa goes in, but just long enough for her and Norna to drag Taf out with their crowbars. But Norna ducks back inside.

[treasure class=P5 (there's tons more but it's all ruined and corroded). cbt rifle, shield, power cell B]

Norna comes back out after a few minutes, bearing a combat rifle and power cell. "See?" she says. "Worth it."

"You're disgusting," gags Ling.

They drag Taf back to the street and Norna hands over the goods. Junemay (who is now wearing Fitz's sword) examines the rifle for a few moments, then pronounces it a good fine. She loads it with the spare magazine she carries, then hands it back to Norna.

"There's a building at the end, too," says Junemay.

"You can barely see the end of the pier from here," says Ewa. "You coming closer to keep an eye on us?"

"No, m'dear. I've just helped myself to your binoculars. I'll be right here keeping my eye on you, don't you fret."

"If this is just some weird ploy to check out my arse in these new trousers..."

"Get moving."

Scene 6

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: to the end of the pier

NPC List: Ling, Kaz, Norna, Fitz, Junemay, Assia, Marguerite, Oggie

Threads: mission, escape

There is about 140m of severely damaged decking between the first section and their target. Ewa, Ling, and Norna move forward at an excruciating crawl. They can hear the structure beneath groaning with the ebb and flow of the waves.

[Each of them must make a Wisdom/Perception check of 6+ to avoid danger. Only Norna makes her roll.

For their failure, Ewa and Ling need to make Evasion saving throws. Ewa's +2 for Danger Sense sees her through, but Ling rolls a 1...]

Norna picks a sure path through over the decaying pier, but the other two are not as lucky. Ewa's sixth sense saves her from putting all her weight on a board that disintegrates under her foot, and she hops back just as it gives. Ling is not so lucky, and crashes right through the decking.

[1d6=6, 2HD damage.
Q: Does she fall into the water? 50/50: O3 C4 - No, but... she will in 1d6=4 rounds]

Ewa and Norna drop prone and crawl over to the hole. They see Ling lying motionless on one of the rusting support beams.

"Shit!" says Norna. "Is she dead?"

"I can't tell," says Ewa.

"What do we do? She's slipping."

"Dammit. I'll try to get down there..."

Ewa drops her rifle and takes the crowbar off her belt, then begins to crawl into the hole towards the unconscious Ling.

[Strength/Athletics check 8+: +1str / -1 unskilled; 2d6+0=9, success. She will reach Ling on round 1d6+2=3]

Ewa climbs to within an arm's reach of Ling, who is starting to slide off the beam. She hurriedly takes a stim patch from her pocket and slaps it onto Ling's forehead.

Ling wakes up instantly as the Old Terran medicine courses through her veins. She is still groggy, but has the presence of mind to hold on tight to the beam.

"Can you get back up?" asks Ewa.

"I'll try."

Ewa manages to scramble back up to the top, but when she looks back down, Ling has scarcely moved. [Athletics checks as above: E 8 ok, L 7 fail.]

"I can't make it," buzzes Ling.


"I can't."

"Jump into the water then."

Ling crawls a bit further down the beam, then rolls off and splashes into the water.

[Str/Athletics 6+ is needed: 8=success.
Q: Is the water dangerous? Unlikely (5+): O2 C5 - No.]

Ling swims out from underneath the pier and then slowly back to shore.

"So," says Norna, "we wait for Miss Buggyface or what?"

"No, Junemay doesn't like to be kept waiting. We continue."

"Blimey, what'd you ever see in her?"

Ewa pretends not to hear, and collects her things. They proceed even more cautiously to their destination.

Little remains of the structure at the pier's end but a burnt-out shell. They peer into it through an obliging hole, and easily spot their prize. The generator is nestled in a corner at the furthest end, barely visible save for the weakly flashing power light. It's little wonder it has sat here all this time without being scavenged; what sharp eyes their scouts must possess, they both think.

[Q: What awaits them there? Using a BOLD waylay to flesh out the encounter produced: Easy Foes - deputies. So, another Security Bot (AC 4, Move 20, HD 3, Atk +4/1d8stun, Skill +1, Save 13+, ML 12).

The party's Wis/Perception +0 (Norna) vs. its Stealth (+1): 4 vs. 7, Norna is surprised. Initiative rolls for Ewa and the bot are 6&6; PCs win ties.]

Ewa and Norna clamber through a gap in the wall to investigate the inside of the building. A security robot hiding amongst the detritus suddenly extends its stun baton and lunges at [1d2=] Ewa. A crackling voice issues from its speaker "Halt, intrudSKKKZZHZT--"

Ewa's shot shatters its voice box, cutting short the bot's warning with a burst of sparks and static [1d10+2=6, 2HD damage; the bot has 1HD left]. It comes for her with relentless determination, but she sidesteps its baton.

[Round 2]
Ewa goes for her crowbar, and sidesteps the robot again. Norna recovers from her momentary fright, and raises the combat rifle, and fires a short burst into the side of the bot. It stumbles forward another few steps towards Ewa, then crashes to the ground, inert [burst fire uses 3 rounds and is +2 to hit & damage. 17+2+4(AC)=hit; d12+2=6: 2HD damage destroys the bot].

Ewa retrieves her rifle and reloads, but it is soon clear that there is nothing else lurking in the rubble. As they make their way over to the generator, something catches Ewa's eye.

[I gave her a Wisdom/Perception roll of 8+ to spot a random treasure: 2d6-1=10, success. Random item -- 20m rope TL1

Q: Is something tied to the rope? 50/50 (4+): O2 C3 - No, but...]

Ewa pauses to take up a length of old rope dangling down through one of the larger holes in the floor. She pulls it up to reveal a webbed, three-fingered hand and forearm tangled in the end of it.

"We're not the only ones after the generator, it seems. But this rope might be useful." She uses her knife to cut off the tangles at the end with their gruesome ornament.

[Q: Any trouble removing the generator? 50/50(4+): O3 C4 - No]

Ewa uses the rope and the remains of a door to fashion a crude sled. She and Norna drag the generator back to the street, making certain to retrace their steps across the solid decking.

"If that had fallen into the water, I'd have shot you both," says Junemay with a wink.

[There are no night encounters, but I thought it might be prudent to ask...

Q: Is there a betrayal by Assia's band? 50/50 (4+): O5 C7 - Yes
Q: Do they have reinforcements? Likely (3+): O3 C7

Well, then... (to be continuued)]

Monday, 15 August 2016

Other Dust solo - Part II : Found & Lost

Scene 2

Average (d10)

Setup: 1d10=3, Interrupt (was: scouting out the target)
Interrupt: Introduce a new NPC - Dispute / Disruption

NPC List: Ling, Horsey, Kaz, Taf, Norna, Fitz, Junemay

Threads: mission, escape

The next day the band resume their march. They pick their way through the last of the collapsing ruins, and head down to the beach, well past the dangers of the old harbour, which is haunted by horrible water mutants, or insane warbots, or something else so terrifying that fear of it has passed from scouts' reports into the oral tradition of their enclave.
 It's a long trudge up the beach, past bits of wreckage and areas of treacherous erosion.

The weather is intermittently stormy, but even with the mist their destination comes into view after a few hours. The last bit of their journey is the easiest, for an old, bunker-like sea defence provides a covered walkway for the last kilometre.

But when they are nearly halfway down it, they se they are are not alone any more. A lone figure is moving towards them from the far end. The figure resolves into the shape of a young woman, obviously a mutant, as patches of metallic silver gleam brightly in her light brown skin. She wears flashy, carefully-mended clothing of Old Terra, and sports an intricate and fanciful hair style, which seems to defy gravity.

[I rolled her up on the random NPC tables in the rulebook.

patched old terran clothes
self-sacrificing, irresponsible
desire - better equipment
barely adult, north african, average build
fanciful hair
stigma: The nanites have formed a metallic crust or chrome over some portion of the character.

NPC Relationship: friendly
Conversation Mood: guarded
knowing - news - treasure]

When she gets closer, it becomes evident that, despite her grace and poise, she is scarcely an adult. She also appears to be unarmed. She walks serenely forward with open hands, then speaks in a voice as measured as her gait. "Hello, friends."

"Who're you?" asks Junemay, cradling her rifle in a decidedly less-than-neutral stance.

"I'm Assia."

"Why are you out here all by yourself?" says Junemay.

"Oh, but I'm not."

"I don't see no others."

"They're out hunting."

"what do you want, then?"

"Want? why should I want something?"

"You came up to us. You didn't have to."

"Where would I have run to, between this structue and the sea?"

"You might've outrun us all the same."

"Well, I'm here now."

"Fine. Now what?"

"Why don't we talk?"

"We are."

"I mean, why don't we discuss how we could act to each other's mutual advantage?"

Junemay looks back over her shoulder at Ewa. "Well?" she asks pointedly.

"Well, what?" responds Ewa. "Oh... sure, talking's fine. I mean, what could it hurt?" But inwardly, Ewa thinks italI can't believe she still thinks I'm psychic.

[Ewa did need to make a Mental saving throw against her paranoia. 1d20=17, so she could agree to Assia's proposition that they all talk; Danger Sense only works for immediate threats, not potential ones.]

"Good," says Junemay, then turns back to Assia. "So what do you got to offer?"

"That depends," she replies. "You're from Eastbourne, I presume?

"And if we are?"

"Then you're probably looking for your missing friends. They were exploring the pier... but never returned."

"We know where they went."

"They said that a great treasure was hidden in the building at the end. One of them -- Philbert, the ginger one with mandibles -- saw it gleaming at night, he said."

"You didn't try to help them?"

"They seemed rather intent on not lettng any of us near it. So we kept our distance, and cared for your poor Marthia, who'd been bitten by a flaysnake."

"Ugh, there's a lot of that going, round," interjects Kaz.

"Something chased them out," continues Assia, "back to the gate... but they didn't make it. Tadeu got outside and shut it, but he had lost so much blood... I'm sorry. Whatever it was didn't follow, but we chained the gate shut just to be sure."

Assia leads them up a short stair to the pier entrance on the street level. "I want some reconnaissance," says Junemay. "Ewa, Kaz, Taf, leave your packs with us and go have a look round. The rest of us will set up camp."

Assia's camp is in the concrete rotunda at the end of the sea defence, right beside the pier. She suggests to Junemay that is is the best protection from the wind and weather, and that her companions would welcome the company of a combined camp. Junemay consents.

As they are making camp, Assia's companions return from hunting. Oggie is a null-strain human. He wears the skins of a variety of mutant creatures, and a hotchpotch of old terran shreds and plant textiles beneath. Marguerite is Assia's older sister. They both sport the same metallic patter of mutation, and there is a strong family resemblence in their features. But where Assia's dress is vibrant and ornate, Marguerite favours earth tones and practicality.

[They were randomly generated, of course. Each had the usual 20% chance of being a mutant. When I rolled the exact same stigma as Assia's, it made sense that they'd be related.]

Scene 3

Average (d10)

Setup: scouting out the pier
1d10=3, Altered

NPC List: Ling, Horsey, Kaz, Taf, Norna, Fitz, Junemay, Assia, Marguerite, Oggie

Threads: mission, escape

[Q: How is the scene Altered? NPC negative - Taf - Mistrust / Tactics]

The pier is roughly 60m wide where it joins the street, and stretches about 280m out to sea. It has been ravaged by fire, and only one building stands intact upon its surface. There are many holes in the decking where the iron structure shows through [the Ruin has the Unstable Construction tag].

Ewa, Kaz, and Taf are left in front of the rusting metal gate. They scan the pier beyond in silence. Hesitant to make the first move.

[10+ Wisdom/Perception check for the party: Kaz has the best chance at skill-0, and wis+1. But 2d6=5]

"I don't see nothing," says Kaz.

"Yeah, but something's got to be there," says Taf. "Try listening."

"All I hear is the sea," says Ewa.

"Yeah, me too," adds Kaz.

"Me three," says Taf.

Another silence.

"That girl gave you the key," says Ewa. "Open it."

Kaz does as he is bidden. The small, metal key is on an ancient textile-based key fob, in the form of a big-headed, flaccid, pink-and-white striped, mutant feline. The key grates in the lock, but still works. Kaz nudges the gate with his foot, and it slowly gate screeches open.

"Ladies first," he says.

"Seriously?" says Ewa.

"You do have the biggest gun."

"Point taken. Let's go slowly. The decking doesn't seem stable."

Ewa proceeds very slowly through the gate, weapon at the ready. The other two follow close behind her. Ewa seems more concerned about the flooring than any surprise attacks, and moves forward at a snail's pace.

Taf is rapidly frustrated by her over-caution, and can no longer contain herself. "This is stupid!," she says. "There's nothing outside. I'm gonna check out that yellow building."

"No," says Ewa,"stay with us. We need to get a feel for the place. Everyone is supposed to have died here. But there's no bodies. No nothing...."

Taf does not answer, but trots on ahead to the intact building.

"Dammit! Come on, before she gets herself dead. I don't fancy draggin her corpse home without a boat."

"I hear ya'", says Kaz.

Ewa and Kaz move as quickly as they dare, ever cognisant of the danger from the damp, rotten wood. Kaz is loathe to step anywhere but in Ewa's footsteps -- he is relying on her sixth sense to see them safely through.

Taf has reached the boarded-up old building before Ewa and Kaz have crossed even half the distance. She begins to circle it, and is lost from their sight.

[They need a 9+ on a Wisdom/PCN check: 5+1(Kaz's mod.)=failure.]

Ewa and Kaz shuffle round the back of the building. Taf is nowhere to be seen.

"Where the hell is she?" says Kaz.

"That stupid fuck..." replies Ewa.

They call her name a few times, but get no answer. They make a circuit of the building, slipping several times on the damp wooden deck. 

"Shit where is she?" mutters Kaz.

"Did she go inside?" asks Ewa.

"I don't see how. It'sall boarded up."

"What if she fell through the deck?"

They shuffle over to the biggest hole. Ewa lies down on her stomach on the black and white chequered linoleum flooring left over from the building that once stood there. She begins to crawl gingerly up to the edge of the hole. Kaz is about to follow suit when...

[Q: Does the decking hold? Likely (3+): O2 C3 - No, but...]

... Ewa suddenly backpedals as fast as she can. "It's starting to give!"

"Shit! shit! back to camp! We'll check it out from the beach."

They rush off the pier and down to the concrete rotunda. No one saw anything fall. They all rush out into the surf to see if Taf can be found. Even their three new friends run into the waves to help look.

[Q: Anyone stray underneath? Unlikely (5+): O2 C8 - No
Q: Any dangers in the surf? Doubtful (6): O1 C0 - No]

After 15 fruitless minutes, the search is abandoned. Junemay is furious, though the bulk of her ire is vented at Ewa. "How could you let her get out of your sight? I expect this sort of amateur bullshit from Kaz, but you, Ewa, I thought had at least a little bit of common sense. But instead of coming back with even the slightest bit of useful information, you go and lose on of our number. And now we're all wet. You two arseholes just pulled an extra round of firewood detail. Be dark soon. Get out of my fucking sight."

Scene 4

Out of Control (d8)

Setup: collecting firewood
1d8=1, Altered!

NPC List: Ling, Horsey, Kaz, Taf, Norna, Fitz, Junemay, Assia, Marguerite, Oggie

Threads: mission, escape

Ewa and Kaz slink away from the camp and into the ruins of the town, looking for an old building with wooden trim or frame in order to collect dry firewood.

"This totally wasn't our fault," whinges Kaz.

"She just likes to pull rank," replies Ewa.

"I guess. But, really.. haven't you ever heard of staying friends with your ex?"

"My-- wait... shit, what? You know about that?"

"There's like [2d4x100=] 600 adults in our whole enclave. You think anyone doesn't know?"

[Collecting firewood in the ruins called for an encounter check, but nothing is alerted by the noise.

For the Scene Alteration, I decided to use a BOLD waylay: party - accusations, exhausting. Solution=avoidance]

At length, Ewa and Kaz stumble upon the ruins of a traditional English pub. Any liquor has long since been looted, but they are more interested in the (restored? faux?) tudor interior, and begin to pull wooden trim off the walls with their crowbars. Looters have already made off with any useful furniture.

When they get back to camp, Junemay still wants to argue [UNE:hostile - rage - skills].

"I put you in charge because I thought you were more sensible. It's not like you've never been away on a mission before. Maybe you should try acting like it. You came back with no information. Nothing! And now everyone's spooked that Taf just disappeared like that. What were you thinking? Were you, even?"

[Charisma/Persuasion roll of 9+ needed to calm her down: 6-1, failure.]


"Don't you even start with the pet names! Reminding me of the mess you made in the past isn't going to make me forget the one you've made now."

"I'm on first watch again, right? I think I'll take it up at street level this time."

And so saying, Ewa walks off alone. When Junemay finally sends someone to relieve her, she decides she'd be happier sleeping away from camp, and wraps herself in a blanket under a concrete overhang.

[There were no night encounters; I made two checks: once generally and once for Ewa on her own.]

Friday, 12 August 2016

Other Dust solo - Part I : Incipit

On a morning like any other, the forty or so scavengers of the enclave are assembled on the beach. Some are watching the last of the fishing skiffs put out to sea, some are idly chatting, some are merely sitting on the pebbly ground and waiting, fiddling with the nametags they are to throw into the Sorting Hat to receive today's unit assignments.

Soon the Director is spotted emerging from the fortress, and trudging down the beach to meet the scavengers halfway. Such is the custom, though the significance of the act is no longer really remembered.

Rumours begin to fly through the assembly. What's he holding? Is that a Writ? There are more soldiers than yesterday. Yes, and fewer of us.

The Director stops, looking overheated in his fur-trimmed robe of office. He wipes his pallid brow with an ancient Nanoclean® handkerchief, then raises his jangling, scrapmetal staff to command silence. The scavengers do fall instantly silent -- for that is a Writ in his other hand, and there are more soldiers today.

"I have six names," states the Director, brandishing the Writ for emphasis. "These six will step forth when called, and put their tags in the mission jar." Here a soldier holds aloft the top of a blender. Some amongst the scavengers shudder, as they know the blades within symbolise great danger ahead.


"I call the first name: Taf!" Here a sullen-faced woman clutching a scrapmetal spear in her calloused hand stands up from the ground and stomps up to put her nametag in the jar.


"I call the second name: Ling!" A young woman saunters across the beach, her every motion exuding an easy sensuality. Ling is beautiful and she knows it. Before the collapse, she would have been an artist's model or a poet's muse, her form known to, and envied by, the teeming billions. Now she is simply the most gorgeous woman in the enclave, even with her insect head.


"I call the third name: Kaz!" Kaz is a hotshot in garish Old Terran clothes. He has a laser that he'd scavenged himself in the ruins, and brags about endlessly. He is waiting for a chance to prove himself and be accepted into the Fortress as a soldier. He's been waiting for a long time.


"I call the fourth name: Norna!" Norna is a good 15 years older than any of the rest of them, which practically makes her one of the village elders. She has a crossbow she made herself, because she 'doesn't trust weapons using nor powder nor power'. She's also sick of most people's bullshit. It's said she's even told the Commander to get stuffed once or twice.


"I call the fifth name: Fitz!" Fitz looks like a walking junk pile. He's fashioned everything he owns himself, even the sword he isn't technically allowed to own. Fitz has a problem with authority, and is perpetually one infraction away from becoming fish bait. But he has a superb eye for finding real treasure amongst the rubble.

"I call the last name: Ewa!" The blue-skinned mutant is almost surprised to hear her name called, but as she walks up impassively to throw her tag in the jar, she realises that the Fates must indeed have added her name to the Writ. One way or the other, she knows, this will be her last mission for the enclave.

[Rather than throwing my PC right out into the wilderness, I decided to start the game just before she leaves on her Quest. In fact, getting away from the others and setting out will be one of the starting Threads for the adventure. Also, her interactions with her compatriots will be a sneaky way of doing some world-building setup without taking time away from actually playing. It's a good shakedown of the rule system as well.

There is a wealth of tables in the Other Dust rulebook, so I may not have to supplement it much, but just in case my toolkit for this game will be:

Scarlet Heroes has plenty of solo tables which can be mostly used as-is, but I'm applying a few minor house rules to the combat overlay to reflect a less cinematic campaign:
  • No fray die
  • Any damage die that rolls a natural 1 inflicts 0 HD of damage, regardless of modifiers. PCs still take damage in the normal way (unless the modifier is +5, they would only lose 1hp).
  • Classed NPCs get +1HD at 1st level to make them less absurdly fragile. Survivors get an additional bonus hit die at levels 3, 6, 9, & 12.
  • I'll probably keep the Defying Death rule, but it is a bit redundant with my PC's Hard to Kill class feature.
Back to the narrative...]


The soldier holding the blender is a gangly, awkward girl whose visible mutations have caused her to be stuck with the unfortunate moniker of 'Horsey'. As Ewa puts the final tag in the mission jar, Horsey squints, and moves her head from side to side to make sure all six of the chosen are still standing before her.

"Go collect your overnight things and some food, then meet me back here. It's gonna be a long one."

"How long?" asks Fitz. "I don't know how much to bring if you don't tell us nothing."

"At least three days. Maybe more if you lot don't do your job right. Now go get your kit and meet me back here before the Lieutenant arrives. She won't be pleased if you're late."

"Two soldiers for only six scavvers?" asks Kaz. "Don't you trust us?"

"If we didn't, you wouldn'a been picked. Now move!"

The chosen six return to their dwelling places and gather together the things they'll need for an extended mission. Ewa packs every last useful thing into her pack, and a few things she can't use but is hoping to trade. She'd hoped to find the vicar about to say a final farewell, but he is nowhere to be seen. But, she reflects, he has already given her leave to depart on her great Quest, and there is truly nothing more to be said. Besides, if she went back with tears in her eyes, it could scupper the whole plan.

Ewa makes it back just as the last band of scavengers is heading out into the local rubble, and fortunately isn't the last to arrive. The mission leader has meanwhile come forth from the Fortress, and is talking to the Director. When Ewa sees her, her step falters, and her chest feels suddenly tight. She's been so distracted by the thoughts of her Quest that she failed to make the connection when Horsey mentioned the Lieutenant. Of all the soldiers in the Fortress qualified to lead a major foray -- why did it have to be her?


[So, here's the stats for the party in full. I made three other first level characters when I was playing around with the rulebook. Ling is a Speaker, Kaz is a Scrounger, and Horsey is a Slayer. The others are 1HD human Enclave Dwellers per the bestiary chapter, except Junemay (the Lieutenant) who is a 3rd level Slayer. I rolled attributes for them to make them a bit less generic. OTC stands for Old Terran Clothes, base AC7. Hide armour is AC6.

        sx C/L ST IN WI DX CN CH AC
Ling     f sp1 10  8 14 13  8 14  7 revolver, OTC
Horsey   f sl1 14 12 11 10 12  7  3 2-h axe, scrap plate
Kaz      m sc1 15 10  8 14 14 13  5 laser pistol, OTC
Taf      f  -  10 12 14  7  5 11  7 spear, hide armour
Norna    f  -  14 11 13  8  9 15  6 crossbow, hide armour
Fitz     m  -  11  5 15  9 13  6  6 sword, hide armour
Junemay  f sl3 18 13  8 14  9 10  6 combat rifle, OTC

Ling and Ewa dressed for AC7

For Ling's Stigma, I rolled "The nanites have molded your flesh into an unearthly vision of beauty or handsomeness save for one blatantly
inhuman feature". Her mutations are (briefly)--
1: foolish / natural immunities (auto success at 1 Tech save per day)
2: needs 2 food rations per day / quick healing
3: -3 Physical saving throws / Laser Eyes

Horsey's actual stigma is a pattern of nanite tattoos. This is overshadowed by her first two mutations:
1: hippoid traits and features / healing touch
2: weak sight (no ranged attacks past 10m) / poisonous stinger
3: extra damage from psi / +2 dex mod. (activated, costs 1 system strain per 5 minutes)

Kaz, being a null-strain human, spent his mutation points to increase his Wis, Dex, and Cha bonuses by +1 each. Thus, his attributes and modifiers are:
st 15/+1 in 10 wi 8/+1 dx 14/+2 cn14/+1 ch13/+1

Ling, Horsey, and Kaz actually have full character sheets, but I will spare you the info-dump in order to get to the fun part, which is the characters' inter-relationships, for which I naturally turned to Star Trader--
  • Ling is secretly Horsey's half-sister. Not even Horsey knows.
  • Horsey is a loner
  • Kaz is openly jealous of Horsey; why should she get to live in the Fortress when he is forced to live in scavvers' digs
  • Taf is also a loner
  • Norna is an old (and these days, ex-) friend of Junemay
  • Fitz is Junemay's enemy, and is waiting for chance to strike!
  • Junemay is bitter towards Ewa about a past event
PCs aren't exempt; Ewa's roll turned up Sexual partner -- of Junemay. So the Past Event for which Junemay still feels bitter is obviously a messy breakup. Whose fault was it? Is our Scarlet Hero also a Scarlet Woman? We'll leave the fine details aside for now whilst we pause to reflect on the dangers inherent in starting one's adventuring career with a 3rd level Slayer who hates you.

Now, on with the adventure.]

Scene 1

Chaos: Average (d10)

Setup: travel to Hastings (1d10=1, Altered)

NPC List: Ling, Horsey, Kaz, Taf, Norna, Fitz, Junemay

Threads: mission, escape

[Q: How is the scene Altered? Failure / Vehicle]

Junemay looks over the assembled chosen and sighs visibly. Ewa is sure that the soldier's eyes rest on her for a bit longer than the rest, and she seemed just about to say something, but didn't. She merely shouldered her rifle -- one of the priceless ancient artefacts owned by the Commander and issued to his elite soldiers -- and turned to head up the beach.

"Right. Follow me."

Horsey twitches her barbed, venomous tail. "You heard the Lieutenant! Step lively! You too, blue girl. Don't keep the Lieutenant waiting!"

Ewa falls in next to Horsey. "You know," says Ewa to the marching soldier, "she may be one of the Commander's 'picked men' and all, but Junemay hates being called 'the Lieutenant'. You might want to keep that in mind."

"Just shut up and march," says Horsey, flushing red.

They trudge about a kilometre up the beach where their transport awaits them. There is a small speedboat anchored a few meters off shore, and a second that has been pulled up onto the shore. A pair of technicos work on each. The beached one has most of its engine disassembled and arranged carefully on a plastic tarp, and judging by the anxious faces of the two in the one offshore, its engine fares little better.

The lead technico stands up, brushes the sand from his trousers, and pushes his magni-goggles up from his eyes. "They both got bad engines. That one'll at least turn over, but it cuts out after 15 seconds. This one was seized up good. Dunno what the problem is."

"You guys are really fucking useless," says Junemay, and throws up a hand to interdict any further comments. She instead addresses her band. "Looks like we're walking, then."

"You heard her," yells Horsey. "Fall in!"

"I'm pretty sure they were going to," says Junemay. "They're scavvers, not recruits. So bin the echo, 'kay?"

Junemay doesn't wait for a response, but turns and heads inland. The scavengers follow her without question, and a moping Horsey brings up the rear. Junemay halts just before they cross into the ruined streets of old Eastbourne.

"As those of you who aren't complete fuckwits have probably surmised," says Junemay, "the last special mission never made it back. So it's like this: we're going after them and completing their mission. And recovering the bodies if we can, but that's a secondary concern. They knew the risks."

"So do we get to know what the mission is?" asks Fitz.

"I was just getting to that. Jeezits, you're as impatient as Horsey. Our objective is a working solar generator that one of our scouts saw on the Hastings pier. So it's up through Old Eastbourne until we pass the harbour, then the rest of the way we go up the beach. Now, which of you lot has got a scavvers' map?"

"I do," says Ling in her breathy but slightly buzzing voice. She reaches into her coat pocket to produce a hand-annotated 2079 Ordnance Survey map of the East Sussex coast.

"You're with me then," says Junemay, trying not to let her voice crack. Even elite soldiers sometimes blush like the schoolgirls of Old Terra (so the legends say) when they are bathed in the beauties of the divine presence of Ling. Even with her insect head. "Lead on."

[Random encounter check: 1d6=1, an encounter (I'm checking once during the day and once at night).

Rolling on the encounter charts in the back of the rulebook: d12=Building collapses or deathlands sinkholes have made progress treacherous. 1d6 days are spent in the same area trying to get
clear of the wreckage, -1 day for each level of Navigation skill possessed by the group. 1d6-1=1 day].

After a few minutes, Ling stops short. She peers at her map, then her surroundings, then heaves a long sigh. "None of this should be here," she says with a sweeping gesture. "There should be through-streets and housing blocks. That big pit shouldn't be there at all."

"Is, um, is your map wrong?" asks Junemay.

"No. Or, it wasn't. There's been some subsidence. Probably the sewers collapsed or something. Either way, we'll have to go round it. It's not safe."

"I think I feel a rumbling under my feet," says Kaz.

"We need to not be standing here now!" shouts Ewa.

"Oh, shit," says Junemay. "Everyone follow Ewa!"

Ewa has already started running before Junemay finishes her order -- and so has Norna, who knows her reputation in such matters. The rest are quick to follow.

They look back from afar, and everything seems still. There is a slight rumbling, then silence. Fitz starts laughing, and points an accusing finger at Ewa. "Bit jumpy, are we? I'd feel a right pillock, crying danger at th--"

His words are cut short by the loud metallic clang of a streetlight toppling over where they had stood just moments ago.

"Given the dangers from further subsidence," says Junemay, "Ewa and Ling are going to navigate us around this mess. That cool with you, Fitz?"

And so what should have been a six or seven hour jaunt turns into an entire day of just finding a new trail through the wreckage. Ling fastidiously marks their route and new danger zones on her map. Horsey seems anxious that this will delay the mission, but Junemay reminds her that they need to return this way with the generator.

It's dusk by the time that the little band has nearly reached the edge of the ruined town. They find a suitable, two-storey semi-detached house for shelter, the more ruinous half of which provides easy access to wood for the campfire. Junemay haphazardly orders the watches, and hands her timepiece over to Ewa and Ling whilst the rest of them head upstairs for some rest.

[Q: Anyone ask Ewa why she's brought so much gear? Likely (3+): O6 C3 - Yes, but...she can try to laugh it off (see below)]

Ling and Ewa converse now and again to break the monotony of guard duty, and to make sure neither falls asleep in the small, warm front room, lit by low lantern light.

"I don't care what most people say about you," says Ling, "I think you're well easy to work with."

"Uh, thanks, I guess," says Ewa.

"That sorta came out wrong. I just mean you don't fall all over yourself around me and go all goo-goo eyed."

"That's because I've seen what you do to your lovers when you're done with them. Marcus walked out into the wastes alone, Annabel wandered into a nest of heritor bugs--"

"But Tasha shacked up with Imran and now they're expecting a litter of kittens. Or something... anyways, I thought you were above listening to enclave gossip."

"Should we change the subject, maybe?"

"Yeah, prolly. So, like... how come you brought so much gear this trip? You can barely walk under it all. And you're at least as strong as Norna."

"I was fine until Junemay made me lug the tent."

"Well she hates you the most. Even more than Fitz. But seriously, I saw power cells in your bag. You don't even own anything that needs them."

[Ewa needs to make a CHA/Persuasion check of 8+ to deflect the question: 2d6-1(unskilled)=9, success.]

"Special assignment. I want to be ready for anything. I got a good feeling about our scavenging potential on this one."

"You're weird, you know that?"

[Time to check for a night-time encounter; 1d6=1! Since the watches were haphazardly chosen, I just went down my N/PC list and took each pair as a watch. Ewa counts as the first on the list, since Junemay wouldn't want to take a watch with her. So, on which watch does the encounter occur? (1d4) 1 EL, 2 HK, 3 TN, 4 FJ: 1d4=2, Horsey & Kaz

The random encounter charts produce 1d4=2 Flaysnakes (AC 7, Move 20, HD 3, Att +4/1d6 bite+poison, Skill +2, Save 14+, ML 8).

Now to check for surprise... Surprise -- when there is a chance of it at all -- is determined by an opposed skill check. The average Dexterity/Stealth skill total of the ambushers is rolled against the best Wisdom/Perception skill total of the ambushees. The flaysnakes have a Skill +2 notation which applies here, and Kaz has Perception-0 and a +1 Wis bonus.

So, Kaz's PCN-0: 2d6=12! vs. 2d6+2=10; No surprise round]

Kaz and Horsey are sitting in uncomfortable silence. Horsey is desperately trying to think of something -- anything -- to say, and Kaz is just wishing he'd been given watch with Ling. Or Taf. Or anyone else, really.

Something stirs in the ruined kitchen, where no one should be. "Did you hear that?" whispers Horsey, her ears twitching.

Kaz does not respond, but stands and aims his laser pistol at the empty doorway. But it isn't empty for long. Two flaysnakes -- man-sized, skinless, venomous serpents famed for their malicious ferocity -- dart out of the darkness to strike.

[Initiative is 1d8+dex modifier; Rolls are K8 H8 fa5 fb2]

Horsey leaps up and sounds the camp alarm, all the steel and aluminium cook pots hanging on a cord. Kaz fires his laser at the first snake through the door. The sizzling yellow beam leaves a long, charred wound in the flaysnake's side, but it merely hisses louder and tries to strike. Kaz wheels aside at the last second, and its dripping fangs close on thin air. The other serpent tries to sink its teeth into Horsey. It almost succeeds, but cannot pierce the armoured shell of scrap metal she wears.

[Kaz rolled a 19. His base attack bonus is +1, so I stopped counting, as an adjusted roll of 20+ is a hit (just like in Scarlet Heroes).=hit; Laser pistols do 1d6 damage; a roll of 2 translates into 1HD in Scarlet Heroes terms. The flaysnake has 2HD left.

Flaysnake-A attacked Kaz. It rolled 1d20=7 +4(attack bonus) +5(Kaz's AC) for a total of 16, miss. Flaysnake-b rolled even worse (a 6) versus Horsey's better AC (3); 6+4+3=miss.

Having been roused by the alarm, the sleepers upstairs will all be grabbing weapons and rushing down the stairs. They will arrive on round 1d6+2; Ewa's Danger Sense will let her arrive on round 1d4+2.]

Arrivals -- E3 L4 N4 F5 J5 T7

[Round 2]
Kaz burns a hole in the peeling wallpaper with his next shot. Horsey lashes out with her tail stinger, and the tip nearly gets stuck in the floorboards. Neither flaysnake catches its prey in its slavering jaws.

[Rolls of 3,4,3,6. I swear I was using d20s...]

[Round 3]
The flaysnake before Kaz coils back to strike again. Kaz takes careful aim and fires just as it springs towards him. The laser beam burns into it but it does not drop, and Kaz finds its jaws clamped down on his shoulder. He cries out and falls to the floor.

[The laser did 1 more HD of damage; the flaysnake has 1HD remaining. It rolled a 6 on its damage die, which translates into 2HD of damage. Kaz is now at 0HD -- dead or dying.]

Meanwhile, Horsey and the other snake are circling each other warily, looking for a chance to attack [miss, miss].

The first flaysnake is rearing up for a chance to strike at Horsey from the back when Ewa comes down the stairs. She takes her crowbar in both hands and brings it down on the snake's head with a loud crunch. The flaysnake flops down over Kaz, twitches once, then is still.

[Ewa arrived on Initiative d8=1. A crowbar used one-handed is a normal club (d4 damage), but with two hands it inflicts 2d4 damage. Ewa gets to add +1 to one die for her STR bonus. The damage rolls were 2+1 & 2: 1HD each. 2HD damage killed it.]

[Round 4]
Horsey and the furious serpent keep circling one another. Each makes a few feints, but neither can get past the other's guard. [The flaysnake needed to make a morale check as its friend was killed and it's seriously outnumbered. But as these things are so vicious, I did not apply any penalties to the roll. 2d6=8, it kept fighting].

Norna and Ling are next down the stairs [Initiative 2&5, respectively]. Ling has her revolver in hand, but doesn't wish to risk hitting one of her friends in the small space, so draws a knife instead. Norna doesn't particularly care, and shoots her crossbow. The bolt hits the snake in the tail, but it seems to be more annoyed than injured.

[There aren't firing-into-mêlée rules, but I will probably use some from another game. But Norna rolled a natural 20, so I don't need to go looking quite yet. Unfortunately, she rolled a 1 for damage, so the hit has no appreciable effect.]

Ewa swings her crowbar so hard she nearly loses her balance, and connects with nothing.

[Round 5]
As the flaysnake ducks slightly underneath the arc of the wildly swinging crowbar, Horsey's tail swishes up and spears its jaw [1d6=6; 2HD damage drops it to 1HD]. The snake hisses in pain, and blood and venom leak from the wound. It strikes back at Horsey in a rage, but just rebounds off her steel breastplate.

Ling advances with her knife, but between Horsey's swishing tail and Ewa's wildly swinging crowbar [miss], she cannot get in close enough to stab at the flaysnake [miss].

Norna draws her own knife. Fitz and Junemay arrive behind Norna on the staircase, but can only crane their necks to get a glimpse of the action.

[Round 6]
Horsey stabs forward with her stinger once again. The point pierces the awful snake's heart, and blood sprays out its mouth as it falls to the floor at her feet [1HD damage kills it].

[Round 7]
Having slain the flaysnake, Horsey rushes immediately to Kaz's side. His breathing is ragged, but at least he still draws breath. She puts one hand over his head, the other over his heart, and concentrates. She stirs up the life-energy in his injured frame, willing injured flesh to heal. She's never understood this power herself, but her instincts have always been true.

Soon Kaz opens his eyes, and stares weakly up at Horsey. "If this is heaven," says Kaz, "I want a word with that lying vicar."

"Jeezits, Kaz," interjects Junemay. "I was gonna let you off since you were injured in the line of duty, but since you're such an ungrateful shite I'm gonna make you finish your watch. Horsey, you're relieved -- you've earned a rest. Ewa, you take the rest of her watch."

"Me? What'd I do?"

[After 6 rounds, a mortally wounded character dies, so Kaz had until round 9. He got to roll a Luck save to avoid being poisoned by the flaysnake's bite, which he fortunately made -- had he failed it, I would have ruled him past hope.

Healing Touch restores 1d6+Con modifier damage. 3+1=4, which translates to 1HD in Scarlet Heroes terms. Kaz also picks up a point of System Strain.

I actually threw a die to determine who got stuck with the extra shift. 1d6= Junemay is not above petty vindictiveness.

Re-reading the Encumbrance rules, I realised that Ling and Norna would have been able to draw their knives (being Readied Items) and attack in the same round. The whole drawing-a-weapon-and-not-attacking-until-the-next-round will be a feature of this campaign for a while, at least until Scene 15. Mea maxima culpa.

The Oracle said the rest of the night would be uneventful, and there were no random encounters the next day, so this ends the scene.]

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Other Dust solo - character & setting

Various environmental factors have been conspiring to push me towards post-apocalyptic gaming. The heat of summer somehow always prompts me to dig out my 2nd edition Gamma World set. So I rolled up a party of mutants and ran them through the (frankly shite) solo module that came in the 3rd edition set. I wanted to continue from there, but -- as lovely as it is -- Gamma World just isn't the kind of game that would work for the vague idea I had for a campaign. Normally, I wouldn't be looking at a D&D-based game for this at all, but the other games I looked at all fell short in one respect or another. I thought about modifying Gamma World, but I'd rather play than tinker. I looked at Mutant Future, which has the Labyrinth Lord-compatible rules in an appendix, which I thought might work well with Scarlet Heroes. This line of thinking led me quickly to Kevin Crawford's Other Dust.

The adventure I want to play is a conflation of a handful of ideas that have been rolling about in my head for a while, for decades in some cases. When I was a kid I saw The Omega Man on TV one Saturday afternoon. I tried to emulate it with Gamma World, running a single PC driving around a ruined city of the Ancients (the Port Loren map from Star Frontiers) and avoiding dangerous mutants (from the random encounter tables). It was fun enough, but quickly devolved into just looting & shooting -- but at least there was no brassy music, wooden acting, or leisure suits. Anyways, the idea of a lone hero stalking the ruins of a broken world has plenty of cinematic and indeed literary antecedents, so a Scarlet Heroes overlay seemed like the right idea. But one needs a little more than just that to base a campaign on, so...

World-building and/or -destruction

I bought Other Dust for the rules, not the setting, as I already had my own setting in mind, which is essentially a less kooky Gamma World: at some point in the future there is a global nuclear war, and now it's a few hundred more years later and everything still sucks. I don't really need any more than that, and the Other Dust rules for settlements etc. can be used as written, minus a very little bit of the fluff.

For the specific setting, I am going with SE England, primarily the coasts of Kent and to a lesser extent East Sussex. My wife and I have done a lot of exploring down that way, and parts of it look like the end has already come (see the photo at the top of the post).

My other big campaign inspiration is from M.R. James' A Warning to the Curious, though it's technically set in Suffolk. Briefly, my PC will have been convinced by the enclave vicar (~shaman) that the only way to restore England and bring peace to the land is to recover the three holy crowns that were buried along the coast in ages past. The crowns probably don't exist, of course, but it's all just a pretext for hexcrawly adventure.

So, the scene is set for wandering across desolate landscapes, avoiding the predations of cannibalistic mutants, exploring strange installations, meeting warlords living in ancient castles and Napoleonic forts, and learning the shocking secret of the still-functional port of Dover.

But first I need a character. I will assume that my readers have a general grasp of o-/A-/BX- style D&D, and only elaborate major deviations from the norm. So, taking the steps from the book in order...

Roll your character’s six attributes.

Modifiers for high/low attributes are slightly different than other OSR games. 8-13 is the average (no modifier) range; 18 and 3 are +/-2, and everything else is +/-1. Modifiers can be changed without altering attributes by spending mutation points (see below).

3d6 in order got me: s14 i5 w8 d10 c16 ch12.

Normally I'd save the poor sod with a 5 INT for an NPC, but I'll be able to raise it as a feature of the class I want to take. So there we are.

Choose a concept and motivation.

Quixotic wanderer -- see above

Pick a background package.

My PC started as a Scavenger, sent out from her enclave to pick over the ruins for useful items to bring back.

Each package grants 4 skills at level 0, which is basic proficiency. Scavenger yields--
Combat/Primitive (any muscle-powered weapons such as spears, swords, bows, and thrown weapons, including hi-tech versions)
Culture/Enclave (for knowledge of your home)
Survival (hunting, foraging, &c &c)
Tech/Postech (anything that can be manufactured/understood with post-collapse technology).

Choose a class.
There are four character classes: Scrounger, Speaker, Slayer, Survivor. My PC's scavenging background would have made her a good candidate for Scrounger, but she views technology as merely a means to an end, so I went with Survivor.

In addition to all the usual attack & saving throw stuff, Survivors get 1d6+2hp/level (all other classes get a simple d6) and have the Hard to Kill special ability, which allows them to usually survive losing all their hit points. The Prime Requisites for a survivor are Intelligence and Constitution, either of which may be raised to 14, so the 5 I rolled for INT is happily improved.

Pick a training package from your class.

The training package determines your skills. I chose Stranger With No Name, which was the best fit for my character concept of Drifter on a Holy Mission.

The package grants 6 skills: Combat/Any, Culture/Traveller, Navigation, Stealth, Survival, Vehicle/Any

Two require specialisations, so my mutant will get Combat/Projectile and Vehicle/Water. Culture/Traveller is a special skill that cannot be increased above level 0, but counts as Culture/Enclave-0 in all but the most isolated regions (thus avoiding the Unskilled penalty). As she already got Survival in her background package, it increases to level 1.

Determine starting mutations.

All PCs receive 3 mutation points. Each point can either be used to buy a mutation, or raise an attribute modifier by +1. A character with no mutations is a "null-strain human" who cannot suffer mutations from radiation, etc. But if I wanted to play a human PC, I'd have bought a different game.

According to the rulebook, about 1 in 5 humans are mutants, and many face some sort of discrimination in certain enclaves. Mutants without any visible signs of mutation may be one of the hated and feared psychics, and will be hunted down and killed by most communities (I'll be keeping this bit, even though I am not using the setting as-is, and crazed psychics did not help destroy the world).

Visible signs of mutation are known as stigmata, and there is a table to roll on for all mutant PCs. I rolled 1d10=1, Your skin is of a dramatically unnatural color and/or texture. I was messing around with Heromachine, so my PC is a bit more mutated than just being a different colour. Most stigmata have no effect beyond the cosmetic.

At this point I feel the need to point out an annoying error in the text. Stigmata (στίγματα) is a plural noun, of which the singular is stigma (στίγμα). And whilst I'm on the topic, the proper plural of necropolis (νεκρόπολις) is necropoleis (νεκροπόλεις), though necropolises is a common Anglicisation -- necropoli (νεκρόπολι) is a dative singular form in non-attic dialects. I find things like this really jarring, but it's a great game so I will overlook them.

So anyways, my mutant is blue and sort of weird-looking. But what else can she do? For each of her 3 mutation points spent, she gets a mutation with both a benefit and a flaw. Two points could be spent for a mutation that is only beneficial, but where's the fun in that? Both mutations and flaws are rolled on 1d12. Most of these results refer you to one or more sub-tables to determine the exact effects. You are encouraged to explain the benefit & flaw together to describe the specific mutation.

mutation 1

Flaw: (1d12=)You suffer a [Mental Debility]. Rolling on the Mental Debility table reveals that my PC is Paranoid.

Benefit: (1d12=)Hyper-acute awareness and sensory mutations grant you [Sensory Power]. For her Sensory Power, she rolled Danger Sense.

This one was easy to tie together; she has an uncanny sixth sense about dangerous people and situations, but every little thing sets her off. In game terms, she can't be surprised and gets +2 to Evasion saving throws, but needs to make a saving throw versus Mental Effects to make any kind of agreement with anyone other than a teammate or close friend. The save can be repeated once an hour if it fails, though she'd need to argue with herself the whole time.

mutation 2

Flaw: You recover slowly from stress, losing one accrued System Strain point every other night instead of each night. Use of some exotic mutations or high-tech devices can put a strain on the body. If system strain points ever exceed a person's CON, they are rendered unconscious.

Benefit: Your enormous vitality grants you [Endurance Power]. She gains Radioactive Vitality, making her immune to radiation damage (and further mutation there from). Instead, she heals 1d6 hit points of damage every time she would need to make a radiation saving throw.

Another easy connexion: some things don't bother her at all, others take longer to recover from. More importantly, this also gives me an idea for her background story...

mutation 3

Flaw: Your [Sense] is very weak.  She has (rolls) Weak Smell and Taste, which gives her a -2 penalty on all foraging checks and the inability to distinguish contaminated food from clean.

Benefit: You have a resistance to [Injury Source], forcing a second damage roll and using the lesser of the two. Rather luckily, she rolls Chemical: Acids, toxins, gas clouds.

Two things seem to be at work here. On one hand, she doesn't so much need a sense of smell as a survival tool. On the other, she's eaten so much spoilt food that she's built up a bit of resistance. As a social result, one of her childhood friends was a mutant called 'Stinky'. She could also drink her entire village under the table.

Roll hit points for your character.

1d6 +2(Survivor class feature) +1(CON bonus) = 8hp.

Choose languages.

Her native language (the language of her enclave) is certainly English. She gets a number of bonus languages equal to her INT bonus (+1 for INT 14).

I wasn't sure what this should be, so I decided to let a die roll decide. Using a list of the most common non-English languages in use in the UK, I came up with the following: (1d12) 1 Bengali, 2 Punjabi, 3 Hindi, 4 Gujarati, 5 Cantonese, 6 Italian, 7 Polish, 8 Greek, 9 Turkish, 10 Welsh, 11 Scots Gaelic, 12 Irish Gaelic.

1d12=7, Polish

She is, sadly, illiterate, but hopefully can fix that with skill points when she gains a level.

Choose starting equipment.

A character starts with a knife, 1d6+2 rations of clean food and the same number of clean water rations. You can also choose one weapon and one suit of armour off the starting lists. The rest of your equipment is determined by 6 rolls on the starting equipment table (you can spend two rolls to pick an item if so desired).

There is no money; all trade is done by barter. A 1-kg ration of clean food (a day's worth for one person) is the standard measure of value.

My PC's choices/rolls yield: Breech loading Rifle + 20 bullets, Old Terran Clothing (AC7, 0 encumbrance), TL2 Binoculars, 5 Flasks of oil, Crowbar, 5 Patch stim doses, 2 Type A power cells, Tent.

Armour class is roughly the same as B/X D&D; pre-collapse clothing is highly durable. Stim doses are essentially high-tech healing potions, but each one adds a point of System Strain to the recipient. Type A power cells will fuel a laser pistol; it's a nice touch that you can start with equipment you can't use.

She could really use a backpack, so trades 2 oils and 1 clean food ration for one. To start off her first adventure at only Light Encumbrance, she'll also ditch 3 water rations.

Class: Survivor, Level: 1, XP: 0
Str 14(+1) Int 14(+1) Wis 8 Dex 10  Con 16(+1) Cha 12
HP 8, AC 7, Attack bonus +1
Languages: English, Polish
Skills: Combat/Primitive, Combat/Projectile, Culture/Enclave, Culture/Traveller, Navigation, Stealth, Survival-1, Tech/Postech, Vehicle/Water
Mutation Benefits: Radioactive Vitality, Danger Sense, Chemical Resistance
Mutation Flaws: Reduced System strain recovery, Paranoid, Weak taste/smell
Equipment: Breech loading Rifle + 20 bullets, Old Terran Clothing (AC7, 0ENC), leather backpack, TL2 Binoculars, 3 Flasks of oil, Crowbar, 5 Patch stim doses, 2 Type A power cells, Tent, Knife, 4 clean food rations, 2 clean water rations

Ewa grew up in Eastbourne. She was the only child of (apparently) non-mutant parents. Mutants are tolerated well enough in the enclave, but Ewa's particular genetic expression left her with few friends other than Stinky, the unfortunate skunk-man. She had a typical childhood of menial labour, sudden tragedy, and occasional bouts of privation -- no worse than most in her enclave.

Eastbourne is an average sized post-collapse settlement. It is divided into 4 main parts. As Ewa's leaving her home and probably not coming back, I didn't roll up all the details of her home enclave, just painted it in broad strokes.

The Fortress was built in 1804 to repel Napoleon's potential invasion. It fell into disuse, but was called back into use in both WWI & WWII, after which it became a museum. Now it is home to the Commander, the warlord who rules the enclave. He is the 4th Commander in his line (it's a hereditary title), and has continued his family tradition of semi-enlightened despotism. The casemates house his private army of c. 200 soldiers, and an assortment of servants and master craftsmen. He also has a small cadre of historians who study both the documents & artefacts left over from the museum and recovered from the wastes.

About a kilometre down the beach is the pier, which holds the public workshops and communal kitchens. It also holds the village shrine, which is tended by three spiritualist mediums, two Anglican vicars, and Buddhist monk.

The waterfront buildings running between the Fortress and the pier house the bulk of the enclave's population. The inland-facing sides and through streets have all been blocked off so that creatures and raiders cannot come through. In times of great need, the people take refuge in both the Fortress and the pier.

Surrounded by the ruins of the past are a few fields for vegetables and spelt (where once were public parks and a golf course). They are heavily fenced off but otherwise unprotected. Raiders have burnt them thrice in recent memory, but this was mostly an annoyance as the people mainly subsist off the bounty of the sea.

Most villagers fish, a few farm. If you do neither, you either are an important specialist (healer, historian, smith, technician) or are a scavenger. Scavengers are sent out in small bands. Each scavenger must have a Guarantor -- essentially a hostage -- who stays behind in the village to keep them from running off with the goods. A scavenger who proves to be both skilled and trustworthy is allowed to own weapons. Some of these are occasionally sent on inland missions which can last up to a fortnight; soldiers always lead these missions.

Ewa is a scavenger. She's no better at finding than anyone else, but she has an eye for useful tech and always made it back home with the goods, surviving even the worst mutant and raider attacks. There was of course the unfortunate time when she was an inexperienced scavenger, and brought back a case of highly radioactive medical supplies. Three villagers died before the cause was discovered. The Commander issued a formal pardon to young Ewa, assuming she too would be dead from radiation within the week. When she did not die, rumours began to spread that the Commander possessed supernatural powers, which was a better propaganda coup than he'd ever hoped to get out of it.

When Ewa's parents died (they were eaten by fish mutants), she became close to the old vicar, who became her new Guarantor. He told her the old tales and legends, as far as he understood them, and eventually inspired her Quest.

When he knew was dying, he told her to go on her next scavenging mission and not return.