Sunday, 29 March 2015
setup: Interrupt (was: hole up for night, Cleric keeping vigil with relic)
Interrupt: Ambiguous Event - Proceedings / Elements
The storm once again seems to worsen. It is rapidly becoming impossible to distinguish night from day. They are in danger of getting snowed in.
[Q: Able to rest the night? Unlikely: 26, Yes.]
Lycinia re-memorises spells: Read Magic, Sleep, Invisibility)
Frère Ambrosius prays for 3 Cure Light Wounds (1d6+3); it is unanimously agreed to heal up the best fighters (Lycinia, Manfred, and Gerdie) first.
Q: Can they rest all day? Unlikely: 06, Exceptional Yes. Everyone heals a bit: 1d3 if over half HP, else 1hp recovered.]
As the only uninjured member of the party, the cook sneaks away into the house to get what food she can find (protected by Lycinia's invisibility spell). She manages to find provisions for [1d4-1=] 2 days; everything else is spoilt.
setup: Altered (was: hole up for one more night, Cleric keeping vigil with relic)
Altered: Cult returns
[Q: What are the cultists doing? Imprison / Animals
The remaining (2d6=) 8 cultists are sealing up the church to starve the PCs out.]
Some strange banging is heard outside the church. One of the stained glass windows goes dark. More banging follows. Manfred, who was on watch, runs to the window to look as everyone else groggily wakes up. "By the molten streams of Gehenna," he curses, "someone's put boards over the windows. They-- they're trying to seal us in!"
"Why would they do that?" asks the cook.
"Maybe they wanna starve us out," says Gerdie.
"Or burn the church with us inside!" gasps Lady Margiste.
"Everyone go back to sleep," says Lycinia. "If someone smells smoke, then we can leave, but otherwise let them waste their effort. I can get us out through the stone wall when we need to go. Good night."
Despite the strange noises outside, and the constant hammering, they manage to rest whole night and the next day. Frère Ambrosius uses his healing spells on Gerdie, Manfred, and Orst. Lycinia prepares spells as before. They decide to leave at night, or at least, what they believe to be nighttime.
Final healing results:
Lady M 2/6
Cook -uninjured- 3/3
Confessor -uninjured- 7/7
They could be in worse shape...
setup: Altered (was: sneak out at night & head to Brightpool)
Altered: detected sneaking out
That evening, they finish the last of the foodstuffs, then everyone packs up their gear and gets ready to move. They are hopeful that they will be able to escape in the darkness, but their crossbows are loaded and held at the ready.
Frère Ambrosius is put in charge of selecting the thinnest point in the back wall. He remarks that, far from being desecration of this sacred edifice, it truly shews the Wisdom and Loving Mercy of the Light God that they have been 'imprisoned' in a place from which they may so easily escape; but no one is listening. They are more interested in Lycinia, as she opens the scroll case and removes the roll of parchment. She thinks back to Théscine pressing it into her hand as she left her fair and far-off homeland... but best not to think on such things now, lest her voice choke with emotion and spoil the magic.
As Lycinia reads out the words of power, the calligraphic letters on the old parchment twist and shimmer, each syllable disappearing into a fine wisp of black smoke which curls around the young elf's fingers. She gestures towards the wall, and the stone peels back with a soft, grating sound to form a rude doorway. Powdery snow crumbles in through the opening, accompanied by a sudden blast of cold and the scent of corruption on the air.
Lycinia rolls puts the scroll away and leads her companions quietly outside. The sky overhead is black with roiling clouds, but the courtyard is well illuminated by a blazing bonfire. Manfred notes with consternation that the cultists seem to have used timber from the collapsed great hall and the castle's furnishings as fuel. The party waste no time, but make their way towards the gatehouse. None dare to look upon the writhing horror growing out of the broken tower; but the barest glimpse of its awfulness confirms their fears that it has grown.
[As the Altered scene indicates, however, they will be noticed. cultists have built huge fire illuminating courtyard. For each of the 8 cultists, I rolled 1d6: 1-4= 0-level fighter, 5= Magic-User of level 1d3, 6 = other human class (Fighter, Specialist, or Cleric) of level 1d3.
3d6x10=160' encounter starting range
1d6=6 of the cultists are initially around; the other two have a 1-in-6 chance per round to arrive.
CH CN DX IN ST WI HP AC
hunter woman f0 9 15 7 7 9 13 7 11 handaxe, longbow
peasant man f0 12 13 13 13 9 9 6 13 shortsword, javelin
bandit man f0 14 8 9 8 10 15 4 14 heavy xbow, rapier, leather
bandit woman s3 12 13 15 9 10 11 15 13 2 pistols, dagger
warlock m1 15 10 15 15 7 13 3 13 staff
witch m1 12 14 16 10 12 7 3 14 dagger
Warlock: darkness (range 120')
Witch: sleep (range 30+10'/lvl)
No surprise; Initiative: PCs 6, cultists 5
Movement is halved due to the snow.]
Manfred keeps looking over his shoulder at the pyre, inwardly seething that they should treat the castle -- his castle -- so. He sees a few cultists around it. And fortunately, he sees that they have become aware of the escape, and warns his friends that they are heading this way. And he is pleased that they won't be leaving without a fight.
Both parties advance on one another. [Both advance 40'; encounter range now 80'.]
Everyone continues to advance [each side moves 20'; encounter range drops to 40'], except for the warlock, who begins to weave his black magic. As the warlock gestures violently with his staff, [1-2 L, 3-4 M, 5-6 G; 5=] Manfred feels a slight tug on his eyes as the wicked sorcery tries to rob him of his sight, but the rage welling inside him overpowers the subtle evil, and he shrugs it off with barely a grimace [saved with an 18].
Lycinia shouts her own spell back defiantly. A deep slumber takes hold of the huntress, peasant, and one of the bandits (2d8=3HD; the f0s affected], and they sink down into the snow. The warlock is turning to flee, but Manfred looses a bolt at him. It hits him beneath his shoulder blade, and he topples into the snow [3 damage drops him to 0hp]. The witch and the pistol-wielding bandit see a volley of crossbow bolts heading their way, but stand firm. One bolt grazes the bandit's arm, and a second her leg [3 total damage puts her at 12hp]; her only reaction is to aim her pistols and sneer, "Is that the best you can do?" [Gerdie and Orst hit; Lady M, the cook, and Durcet missed; there weren't even any range penalties!] Meanwhile the witch has been whispering a string of soft and cooing words, causing eyes to become heavy and limbs to droop [sleep, affecting 2d8=14HD -- everyone but Manfred (1HD too many) and Lycinia (immune)].
[round 4 - 6= the other two cultists show up this round]
Manfred and Lycinia find themselves standing alone as their companions sink into a deep sleep, some of them twitch now and then from untold nightmares brought on by the witch's fiendish sorcery. They look at each other for a moment, and then they are charging through the snow, brandishing their swords overhead and screaming out an incoherent battle cry. The bandit fires upon Manfred as he closes the gap, but her ball merely grazes his ear [1 damage puts him at 22hp]. Both Manfred and Lycinia manage to connect, but the snow has prevented them from building proper momentum [charges will not do double damage]. Still, Lycinia brings the witch low with a single deep cut across her brow [6 damage mortally wounds her (-3hp)]. The bandit takes a nasty cut from Manfred's rapier [8 damage drops her to 4hp] but fights on.
The last two cultists, a swordsman and an arquebusière, trot up to the fight. They stop short [20'], raise their weapons, and fire. Neither shot is telling. The swordsman tosses his pistol aside in disgust and readies a second.
CH CN DX IN ST WI HP AC
swordsman f1 10 8 6 8 10 8 7 15 broadsword, 2 pistols, chain
arquebusière f0 12 8 16 16 7 15 4 14 arquebus
Lycinia opens a gushing wound across the bandit's stomach [3 damage leaves her with 1hp]. Manfred does his best to avoid the pistol she yet waves at him. The report of the pistol rings in his ears as the shot clips his side [4 damage drops him to 18hp]. The two soldiers advance cautiously. The swordsman takes a shot [random target for firing into mêlée], but his bravado pays off; the ball hits Lycinia's shoulder, tearing through her mail as if it weren't there [5 damage brings her to 8hp].
The bandit is backing away, reaching for the dagger at her belt. Her guard drops for an instant, and Lycinia smashes her enchanted blade onto the woman's shoulder, nearly severing the arm. She is dead before she hits the ground [6 damage puts her at -5hp]. Manfred turns and runs at the arquebusière, who smacks his rapier away with the but of her gun, and then brings it down on his head, staggering him backwards [5 damage leaves him with 13hp]. The swordsman draws, but cannot get close enough to Manfred as his companion is still swinging her gun wildly through the air [rolled a miss].
Lycina moves to attack the swordsman. There is a flash of steel and silver, then a metallic ring as their swords meet once, then twice. The third time ends in a dull crunch, and then the swordsman is crumpled in the snow [8 damage puts him at -1hp]. Manfred's rapier is again turned aside by the heavy arquebus. And on the second pass the heavy stock crashes against his sternum [4 damage leaves him with 9hp].
Manfred has finally found the rhythm of his opponent. As the heavy wooden stock sails past he lunges, and transfixes the woman on his blade [5 damage drops her to -1hp]. She loses her grip on the gun and it sails off into the air as she collapses.
setup: Altered (was: get info out of sleeping prisoners)
Altered: doesn't go so well
Lycinia and Manfred wake up their sleeping friends, and then attend to the three sleeping cultists. The trio are surrounded, and Durcet prods them awake with his poleaxe.
"You!" shouts Manfred, pointing at the huntress. "Tell me what you're doing here. And what the purpose of this madness is. Now!"
"The lady does not wear the necklace?" replies the cultist. "Why not?
Does she not know it was a gift? [UNE: inquisitive-interest-equipment] She should put it on! Then she'll know all. It is the God's gift to her, the furtherance of her house! [mysterious-enigma-rewards]"
"This is nonsense," says Lycinia, "Manfred, cave this fool's skull in and be done with it."
"Ladies first!" he replies.
Lycinia shrugs, and then strikes the woman down with her sword.
[Q: Does this break one of the other two? Very unlikely: 93, No.]
The death of their compatriot does nothing to weaken the fanatics' resolve. [UNE: insane-fear-last scene]
"You should have stayed in the church," says the peasant, "When you were too weak we were going to break in and get the girl and the necklace. It would have been a quicker death for you. But not her; she must become one with the god! It's not too late girl! It is your destiny! You will be whole!"
Lady Margiste kills the remaining two cultists herself. Emmeline is horrified by the cold-blooded behaviour of the two people she looks up to the most, and flops down on the snowy ground in tears. Lady Margiste slaps her and says something inarticulate and cruel, then stalks of in a huff, mumbling something about making sure the rest are dead. Lycinia tries to assuage Emmeline's tears, telling her a story in elvish about her dear lost Miolla chiding her for such actions in the past. Emmeline finally calms down, but by that point Lycinia is fighting to keep her own tears from welling up.
Thursday, 26 March 2015
"We've little time until the sleepers outside wake up," says Lycinia.
Manfred leaves the cook to assess the fallen, and heads outside with Lycinia and Gerdie. They find Durcet looking forlornly through the mud for the corpses of their companions. Manfred catches sight of him and shudders, but says nothing.
Lycinia delicately extracts one of the sleepers from the pile without waking the others. She kicks him awake, and he wakes with a start to find himself surrounded by Lady Margiste, Emmeline, Manfred, Gerdie, Lycinia, and their cornucopia of weaponry.
[He needs to make a morale roll vs. ML7; 11 = fail; he'll blab]
"Talk," says Manfred, prodding him roughly with the end of his rapier. "What is all of this about?"
"We have brought forth the god for the Outer Darkness. The god shall reward his faithful servants, and make us masters of this puny world. Or so we've been told..."
"Who's in charge of all this? Where are you all coming from? Or disappearing to?"
"Our leader is the High Priestess! Only she can commune with the god, when all has been made ready, when the time is upon us. Until then she waits in her lair... a cave in the deep forest."
"What about the necklace? And my sister?"
"She was to to become one of us and then... merge with the god in mystic union. With her great sacrifice, the Father and Daughter would become one! Then our power would... would..."
Manfred runs the man through with his sword. "I've heard enough of this drivel!" he exclaims.
[The Mythic et al. questions which produced the above:
Q: What is cult after? Oppress / The Mundane. how boring, their evil god will grant them temporal power.
Q: Will sleeper divulge location of cult HQ? 50/50: 34, Yes.
Q: Where is it? rolling 1d6 and counting hex sides from the top = south
Q: What did they want with Lady M & the necklace? Attainment / Pain: some mystical shite about controlling the girl to sacrifice herself to the god.]
"The forest is only a couple miles from here, right?" ask Lycinia. "If so, I've got a plan; so we can't kill more than three..."
Manfred nods in agreement. He and Gerdie dispatch two of the other cultists [1d4= the 1st level M-U is the one they leave alive]. Lycinia stands a few feet off, prepared to cast invisibility as the cultist awakens and then follow him back to the cult lair. Everyone else is leaving to hole up in another part of the castle.
setup: Interrupt- (was: Lycinia invisibly follows cultist back to lair)
Interrupt: Remote event - Expose / Fears
There is a terrifying sound of stone splintering and giving way, as the top of the great western tower bursts outward. The stone walls of old Marquess' bedchamber have been sundered by the thing growing inside, a thing that now protrudes tumescent and writhing from the top of the fractured tower, a gangrenous behemoth of pulsating flesh and writhing cilia-like tentacles. A sound seems to emanate from it, more felt than heard, a low rumbling warble of confused syllables rising and falling in a staccato rhythm.
Everyone stares up at it in horror, unable to think or avert their gaze. Finally, Lady Margiste breaks their silence. "We must to some shelter."
"We cannot go back inside," answers the old priest. "To the servant's chapel. Quickly."
They leave Lycinia standing with the sleeping cultist as they hurry to the small chapel, an old stone outbuilding on the far side of the courtyard.
setup: Altered- (was: Lycinia invisibly follows cultist back to lair)
Altered: The cultist isn't going back
The strange almost-noise seems to disturb the cultist's sleep. As she stirs, Lycinia hurriedly whispers the words of magic she had prepared, and fades from view. The cultist looks round in shock at the carnage around her, and the spectacle of the unholy thing protruding from the tower. She sees tracks in the snow leading away towards the small chapel, where torchlight flickers -- a sign of life!
She runs to the chapel, and pounds on the door. "Please let me in!" she shrieks. "It's all so horrible! I had no idea what would happen! I'm so sorry for everything! please let me in! You must forgive me!" She continues in this vein for several minutes, and shows no sign of tiring.
Inside the chapel, Emmeline is holding her hands over her ears to try drowning out the desperate pleas and hammering fists. Manfred is arguing the morality of the situation with the confessor. Gerdie and the cook are trying to decide if building a fire inside will keep them all alive or suffocate them from the smoke. Lady Margiste and Durcet are tending to Orst's injuries; if he lives until morning, he may just survive.
[Q: Does someone take pity on her? Very Unlikely: 83, Yes. - confessor]
"We cannot sink to the level of animals," says Frère Ambrosius. "The Light God teaches us that Compassion is required even towards a fallen enemy. And I believe your much vaunted code of chivalry says the same."
"Fine," sneers Manfred. "We'll try it your way. Maybe the little wretch can tell us something useful about what in the name of deepest Erebus is going on!"
Frère Ambrosius unbolts the chapel door, and the frightened woman comes in out of the snow. Lycinia lets her spell drop, and follows her inside. She throws a look towards Manfred seeking an answer, but he merely shrugs. Durcet closes the door straightaway, and replaces the bolt.
[Q: Can confessor convince the rest to be forgiving? No Way: 98, Exceptional No.]
The cultist is too scared to speak, and falls to her knees, weeping profusely. "Come, my child," says the old cleric, "if you truly repent of your wickedness, there will eternally be succour for you in the Merciful Emb--"
Suddenly a crossbow bolt is protruding from the woman's chest. She gasps and collapses to the floor, her breathing ragged, barely conscious but alive [5 damage puts her at 0hp]. Everyone turns to find [1d6=] Lady Margiste holding the crossbow. "She'd have done the same to us," says Lady Margiste calmly.
[Q: Does this blow up into a fight? Likely: 55, Yes + Event: Horror - NPC - MU cultist; Phenomenon = shadows]
Everyone begins arguing, pointing fingers at each other, and shouting. Lycinia is defending Lady Margiste's action, Frère Ambrosius is condemning it, Manfred is is angry at the both of them for the entire situation. Even Gerdie and the cook get drawn in. Thus it is that no one notices the wounded cultist start to moan and quiver, nor do they see her expire messily as two shadow creatures claw their way out of her head through her eyes. No one sees them, in fact, until they have slithered along the ground behind Gerdie and Lady Margiste, and have raked down the back of each their inky black claws. Lady Margiste cries out in pain, stumbles, and then falls face first onto the hard wooden floor. Gerdie yelps and reaches for her sword.
[Party are surprised. Lady M takes 1 damage, dropping to 0hp. Gerdie takes 4 damage leaving her at 1hp. The creatures have standard shadow stats as per Labyrinth Lord.]
AC: 14, Mv: 90', HD: 2+2, HP: 7 & 13, #Att: 1, Dmg: 1d4+strength drain, Save: F2, ML: 12, Spc: only hit by magic weapons
[Round 1 - PCs win initiative]
The cleric runs back to the altar where he had lain the relic. He seizes it with both hands and begins a most fervent prayer [activating Protection from Evil 10' r.]. Gerdie draws her sword and tries to fight back; her eyes go wide with fear when she sees the blade pass harmlessly through the shadowy demon. Lycinia fares far better. Her enchanted sword strikes true, and the shadow dissipates with an infernal screech [8 damage kills it]. The other shadow takes a swipe at Gerdie, but she is already running for the safety of the relic's holy aura.
Lycinia faces the shadow alone. It seems to loom over her in the gloomy interior of the church. Though it can feel the bite of her sword, it does not fear the young elf. The black claws find their way past her armour, ripping holes in her flesh, tugging at her very soul. She feels her strength begin to ebb, siphoned off by the foul touch of the terrible phantom. Her companions watch helplessly. Emmeline gasps every time the claws catch at her friend. Manfred shouts unheeded advice on swordplay. But perhaps his guidance isn't necessary. A cut here, a thrust there, and another final jab finish off the unholy thing, and the room somehow seems lighter again. [Lycinia took 7 total damage and lost 2 points of STR, leaving her at 2 hp & STR 13. ]
Her battle ended, Lycinia sits down heavily against the wall to catch her breath. "One of you," she says, "had better throw the body outside. I think I've earned a rest now."
Durcet and the cook rush to comply, as Emmeline comes over to the exhausted elf. "Someday I hope you will teach me to use a longsword like that," she says.
Saturday, 21 March 2015
setup: fight the cultists
[Some quick setup was needed, since I've been playing without a map. There is only [1d3=] 1 way into the great hall, other than through the kitchen. But the kitchen exit has been boarded up securely & barricaded already (which was in my notes, but I may have forgot to mention it in the write-ups). I did a quick sketch map of the hall on some graph paper; I'm glad I didn't do anything more intricate; you'll see why...]
Spurred on by the cook's warning, some of the heavy tables are quickly shoved into position to block the double door into the corridor. The remaining ones are put on their sides to act as cover. Everyone moves behind them, and readies their crossbows.
a reconstruction of the map before the beginning of the fight. Most PCs behind the barricade, Iexelcis unconscious on a divan at the back of the room, Emmeline and the valet tied to chairs.
There is a knock at the door. A woman's voice calls through the doors, which the castle residents recognise as belonging to one of the groundskeepers. "Surrender now! Or face the consequences!"
"Damn you, traitorous swine!" replies Manfred, "I'll see you all hanged first!"
"I hardly think you will. Let me offer a deal. Send out the Lady Margiste in her lovely new necklace, and we'll let the rest of you go."
"What?" Manfred asks quietly. "What necklace? What's that villain on about?"
"The necklace!" cries Lady Margiste. "It must have been meant for me all along. It must have made Emmeline go mad!"
Lycinia stalks over to Emmeline, and rips the necklace from round her neck. "We should destroy this," she says.
"Please, Lycinia," begs a tearful Emmeline, "set me free. I'm so frightened."
[this news calls for reaction rolls from Lady Margiste (10) and Manfred (4).]
"Yes, untie her quickly," calls Lady Margiste, "and give her back her sword!"
"No!" shouts Manfred, "have you lost your senses? What if the magic still holds her? And you want to give her a weapon!"
The groundskeeper screams once again through the door. "We need an answer!"
Manfred screams something unprintable in return.
After Manfred's tirade, a tense silence comes over the great hall. Nothing is heard but the nervous shuffling of feet behind the barrier, the creak of floorboards, the dull rattle of chain armour. Then, starting near the middle of the double doors and extending most of the way down the exterior wall, the solid stone of the château begins to melt, transforming into a wet grayish mud. The wooden floor, suddenly unsupported on one side, sags with a mighty groan, and begins to splinter and fall apart. The half on the side of the interior wall remains mostly intact, but the other half forms a fragmentary slide out of the castle through the now-missing wall. The furnishings barricading the doors slide off into the snow some 20' below. Some even fall into the room beneath the great hall. Half of the barrier of tables meets the same fate. And though they scramble up into the other side of the room, some of the defenders slide out as well...
[The excitement of random treasures in the hands of NPCs! One of the magic-user cultists had a scroll with Transmute Rock to Mud. The spell affects "3,000 square feet of rock 10’ deep", which is 30 map squares.
Everyone in the room needs to make a saving throw vs. Paralyzation or fall out. Anyone who is unconscious or tied to a chair fails automatically. It's a 20' drop, but the mud and snow will cushion the fall so that the damage is a mere 1d6.
Manfred, Orst, Lycinia, maid #2, Frère Ambrosius, and the cook make their saving throws.
The others fail:
Lady Margiste takes 5 damage (1hp left); Gerdie takes 3 (13hp); maid #1 takes 4 (-1hp, unconscious); maid #3 takes 4 (0, unconscious); Durcet takes 3 (3hp)
Iexelcis takes 3 damage, (-3hp, mortally wounded);Emmeline takes 2 (2hp); Franval takes 6 (-1hp, unconscious)
Everyone who fell and is unconscious or tied to a chair will drown in the mud unless rescued.
There are 12 cultists. Each one had a 1-in-6 chance to have received the unholy blessing of the god-thing they worship, thus becoming a level 1d3 Magic-User. There ended up being three of them, one of each level, so each one got to lead a group of three (Ftr-0) cultists. Their morale is 9, reduced to 7 should their MU leader be incapacitated.
This was a complicated encounter to play out, with five groups on two levels. The initiative was rolled by group, so the order was: Upstairs PCs, Upstairs cultists, outside cultists group 1, outside cultists group 2, outside PCs (who automatically lost initiative because they fell). Lycinia changed levels, further complicating the sequence of events. I'm going to narrate the upstairs & downstairs battles separately.
a reconstruction of the map at the beginning of the fight. remaining PCs in the room and the now-reduced barrier. Other PCs outside in the snow. Casualties removed. Three groups of cultists grouped around their M-U leaders
CH CN DX IN ST WI HP AC
MU 2 m 16 14 9 13 15 11 8 * staff
cultist a m 13 8 8 13 10 11 4 11 cudgel
cultist b m 6 17 16 18 8 9 6 14 dagger, arquebus
cultist c f 13 10 10 14 15 8 4 12 rapier, longbow
MU 1 f 7 11 14 14 15 10 5 13 dagger, pistol
cultist x m 16 11 10 10 8 9 3 12 cudgel
cultist y m 13 10 6 6 12 10 5 11 poleaxe
cultist z f 7 10 10 12 14 7 5 12 longbow, dagger
*shield spell: AC 17mêlée/19missile
MU1: Hold Portal
Lycinia: Sleep, Comprehend Languages, Invisibility
CH CN DX IN ST WI ML AC HP
Lycinia f 11 14 16 16 15 9 -- 18 16/16 sword, pistol, chainmail
Emmeline f 16 11 8 14 8 9 7 11 2/4 (tied to chair)
Lady M f 12 11 14 12 9 4 7 13 1/6 rapier, lt. crossbow
Gerdie f 11 16 12 12 14 10 7 16 13/10 sword, hvy. xbow, chainmail
secretary m 8 12 9 9 11 8 6 12 3/6 polearm, hvy. crossbow
Lycinia's elven grace allows her to backpedal swiftly up the collapsing floor, but she watches in horror as Emmeline slides away and is pitched over the edge. Fearing for her charge's life, she doesn't hesitate, but leaps over the edge after her. She comes down harder than she had expected [1-3 damage for the jump, save vs. paralysis to negate; she fails, 3 damage puts her at 13hp], dropping to one knee and cracking it against something solid. One of the groups of cultists [led by the 1st level MU] approaches the building through the snow, the other group hangs back somewhat. Meanwhile, Lady Margiste hurriedly frees a sputtering and choking Emmeline from the broken chair and tangle of ropes, whilst Gerdie and Durcet collect their weapons out of the muck.
Lycinia speaks the words of her old elven magic, and throws a spell over the approaching cultists [casts Sleep, 2d8=11HD]. The charm vanquishes the four of them, and they nestle into a pile in the snow, overcome with enchanted slumber.
The warlock leading the other group [MU2] responds with a wicked spell of his own seeking to blot out the light from Lycinia's eyes [Darkness]. The magic swirls around her and dissipates harmlessly, unable to suppress her keen fairy senses [she made her save, so the spell failed completely].
One of the men next to the warlock raises an arquebus and discharges it in the elf's direction, but the ball whistles past ineffectually.
The woman draws her longbow and looses an arrow which sticks in Gerdie's shoulder [4 damage puts her at 9hp], but she seems unfazed by the injury. Moments later the woman is lying face first in the snow, Gerdie's crossbow bolt protruding from her neck [8 damage reduces her to -4hp, killing her outright].
Durcet fires his crossbow, but the bolt speeds off into the darkness. Lady Margiste and Emmeline have been rooting through the sludge for their weapons, and find a crossbow and rapier [respectively].
Lycinia trudges forward, drawing her shimmering sword as she advances through the knee-deep snow [movement rates are halved, so she only goes 20']. The three remaining cultists move to meet her, weapons poised for attack. They attack furiously, and power through her defences. One catches her squarely in the side with his cudgel [3 damage puts her at 10hp], the second rakes his dagger down her torso, but the heavy chain links turn aside the curved edge [the -2 for using a minor weapon vs. heavy armour made the difference].
Gerdie and Durcet charge, but cannot get enough momentum in the snow [both miss]. Lady Margiste and Emmeline ready their weapons should they need to defend themselves, but decide to leave the heavy fighting to the warriors. And Durcet, who may very well get himself killed.
Lycinia delivers a vicious slash across the cudgel-wielding cultist's face. The wound isn't as deep as it could have been, but it nearly takes the fight out of him [2 damage leaves him with 2hp]. Lycinia fends off his counter attack with her gauntlet, but the impact is still jarring [1 damage; she's got 9hp left].
The warlock raises his staff. He and Gerdie face off, but after a bit of dancing about, neither have managed to land a blow.
The cultist with the dagger decides that a softer target is in order, and comes at Durcet. He punctures the scholar's stomach with a swift stab [2 damage drops him to 1hp]. Durcet can't back up far enough to bring his poleaxe to bear [miss].
Lycinia swings her sword in a wide arc, severing her enemy's weapon-arm at the elbow. His forearm and cudgel land several feet away in the snow, and he falls backward spraying blood [6 damage puts him at -4hp, dead].
The warlock hits Gerdie squarely in the sternum with the tip of his staff, staggering her [she takes a single point of damage, leaving her with 8hp; she then rolled a 1 on her attack].
Durcet swings his poleaxe, lodging the blade in the head of the cultist. He pulls it free with a wet squelch [7 damage puts him at -1hp].
Gerdie and Lycinia gang up on the warlock. Gerdie suffers another punishing blow from the end of his staff that she can feel even underneath all her armour and padding [3 damage puts her at 5hp]. The two of them find their blades are slowed by the invisible magical barrier protecting the wild-eyed warlock [-1 damage/hit from Shield] but they wear him down a cut at a time until at last he drops beneath Lycinia's enchanted sword.
They leave Durcet with the girls, and rush back into the castle to aid their companions, whose battle yet rages over the remains of the creaking floor.
the map again for reference
Meanwhile, back upstairs...
CH CN DX IN ST WI HP AC
MU 3 m 7 10 9 12 11 4 8 * shortsword, scroll
groundskeeper m 6 12 11 9 15 10 4 14 handaxe, leather
groundskeeper f 11 11 5 11 15 12 4 12 handaxe, leather
cultist 1 m 14 10 9 10 9 11 2 12 dagger, lt. crossbow
*shield spell (from scroll): AC 17mêlée/19missile
MU3: Magic Missile, Spider Climb, Force of Forbidment
Scroll: Mirror Image, Contact Outer Sphere, Animate Dead, Speak with Dead
Confessor: turn undead
Relic: Protection from Evil 10' Radius at will, but cannot take any other action incl. movement
CH CN DX IN ST WI ML AC HP
Manfred m 5 17 8 12 12 10 8 15 30 rapier, lt. xbow, chainmail
Orst m 9 10 10 13 15 11 7 16 6 rapier, hvy. xbow, chainmail
maid f 17 6 10 10 12 9 8 12 3 spear, hvy. crossbow
cook f 12 8 13 10 8 6 3 13 3 mace, lt. crossbow
confessor m 12 4 14 8 11 16 6 13 7 shortsword, relic
As Lycinia is jumping down after Emmeline, the rest are scurrying up into the safe half of the hall, taking cover behind the remaining table, and aiming crossbows at the doors, one of which has fallen away, whilst the other half-obscures the corridor beyond.
Frère Ambrosius holds the relic of St Lisaveta in both hands and assumes an attitude of prayer [Protection from Evil 10' for as long as he concentrates], kneeling down behind the upturned table. Manfred moves into the corner of the room, covering the doorway from the side with his crossbow.
The cultists advance down the corridor under cover. None are yet visible.
A cultist appears around the still-hanging door and fires his crossbow. The bolt sticks into the table right beneath the cook [missed due to +4AC cover bonus].
The two groundskeepers charge into the room with their hand axes.
Four crossbow bolts sail through the air [the PCs had held their actions, so this is essentially simultaneous with the above]. The maid's shot rebounds off the stone wall (the part that's still intact), but the other three strike true. The cook's bolt hits the male groundskeeper in the chest [3 damage drops him to 1hp], and his sister takes one in the side from Orst while Manfred's hits her arm [2+1 damage drop her to 1hp as well].
Despite their wounds, the furious siblings continue their respective charges. The sister makes for Manfred in the corner, but he ducks aside, and her axe merely crashed down on the wall sconce beside him, sending the candle rolling away down the sloping floor. The brother heads right for Orst, who does not pull back behind the table far enough; the axe comes down hard on his shoulder, and his collarbone is heard to crack [4x2(charge)=8 damage takes him to -2hp] and he collapses behind the barrier.
The cook and the maid are both crouching down behind the table, reloading their crossbows.
The brother dashes to join his sister, that together they may best Manfred, a much deadlier opponent than the help behind the table fumbling with crossbow mechanisms. They back him into the corner, but neither of them manage to land a blow. His own clumsy attack does him no credit [rolled a 1].
The cultist with the crossbow retreats behind the door to reload, and his wizard friend moves up behind him, staying out of sight.
The maid is still reloading [heavy crossbows take two rounds to reload] but the cook appears over the top of the table again, ready to fire. She sees the two groundskeepers pressing on Manfred, and decides to even the odds. She fires at an inopportune moment, and her bolt sails right past the groundskeeper and hits Manfred instead [firing into mêlée without aiming results in a random target]! He bellows as the bolt hits him in the thigh [5 damage puts him at 25hp].
The cultist leans around the door again to discharge his crossbow. His second bolt joins the first in the table before the cook.
Despite the unexpected help, the fight is going against the groundskeepers. Neither hits Manfred, but a slash from his sword lays the sister low [1 damage puts her at 0hp].
Behind the door, the wizard reads a spell from his scroll [Mirror Image]. [1d4=] Two duplicates spring into existence beside him, miming his every move.
The cook and cultist duck back under cover to reload, as the maid pops up and the tripled wizard moves into the room. The maid's bolt hits neither the wizard nor his images, as he tucks the scroll in his belt to prepare a spell.
The groundskeeper makes a fatal error of judgement, and Manfred slashes him across the neck, nearly removing his head from his shoulders [8 damage drops him to -7hp]. He dies in a heap over the body of his beloved sister.
The maid ducks down again to reload. The cook stays still beside her, chastened by her mistake and hesitant to repeat it. The cultist hasn't got a clear shot at Manfred, and is too prudent to make the attempt.
The wizard rasps out the words of a heinous curse [Magic Missile] in a chorus with the two phantoms beside him. Waves of colourless energy ripple from their fingertips through the air to swirl about Manfred, sapping his life energy as they surround him [12 damage leaves him with 13hp]. Unnerved by the damping of his very soul, he staggers forward a few steps and swings his sword weakly at the wizard, slicing through the air several feet short.
The three wizards draw three shortswords, and stab at Manfred. He parries the wrong one, and the true sword stabs him through a weak spot in his mail [4 damage drops him to 9hp].
The duplicates present a confusing target, but Manfred's blade comes down upon the real wizard, who cries out in pain as the blade opens a bloody line across his chest [4 damage leaves him with 4hp].
Moments later, the duplicates fade into oblivion.
Manfred is momentarily as baffled by the images' disappearance as he was by their presence. The wizard takes advantage of his sudden rush of overconfidence and jabs his sword into Manfred's leg [4 damage leaves him at 5hp]. Manfred's riposte is easily turned aside.
The cook and maid are both ready. They pop up from behind cover, and seeing the cultist in the doorway, loose their bolts. He had been waiting, and his own bolt speeds towards them at the same time. The cook's shot merely hits the wooden door beside him, but the maid's bolt catches him right in the eye, killing him instantly [7 damage puts him at -5hp]. But she will never know of her success, for at the same moment his bolt pierces her breast; she falls, her lifeblood gushing from the terrible wound [6 damage drops her to -3hp, mortally wounded, with 1d10= 1 minute left to live].
The wizard asks no quarter, nor is any given. Manfred fights on as one possessed, raining blow after blow down upon the wizard, who can barely fend them off with his short, stout blade. One gets through, a minor cut, and then another, and another. Finally he falls before Manfred's onslaught, bleeding but still alive [0hp exactly]. Manfred does not allow him to live for long.
He hears the thud of heavy boots running closer in the corridor outside. Suddenly Lycinia and Gerdie burst into view, bloodied and caked in mud. Manfred feels a sudden twinge of fear. "My sister--?" he asks.
the actual map I used to play out the combat. this is how we did it back in the day.
Wednesday, 18 March 2015
setup: Altered (was: go to chapel to retrieve relic)
The chapel is large and bright and airy. The Light God in his much less stern aspect seems to hold sway here -- or had until recently. From the overhanging balcony, the three searchers discern that the chapel has become a scene of horror. Blood is spattered everywhere, and [1d6=] three gory bodies are strewn about the altar.
"We should be careful," says Gerdie. "We don't know if whoever did this is still around."
"Or whatever did this," adds Iexelcis.
"And we don't even know," says Lycinia, "if those bodies are quite dead."
The three descend to the chapel floor, and approach the altar with trepidation. Lycinia and Gerdie walk with bared steel, Iexelcis' fingers are already forming the first stage of a magical gesture. The stench of the bodies is overwhelming. They seem to exude some oily fluid underneath all the blood, and their flesh is discoloured and tumescent. Gerdie prods the nearest one with her sword. It doesn't react, so she prods it harder, breaking the skin and causing a vile, black fluid to ooze out.
"Looks like they're dead," says Gerdie.
But they're not quite dead; moments later they spring to their feet with supernatural quickness, and attack.
Int: high, MV 150', AC 15, HD 3, Att 1 (claws), damage 1-6, Special: Stench (save vs. poison or -2 to hit if within 10')
[The undead have a +2 bonus to surprise, and roll a 4; the humans are taken unawares, but not the elf. The party win the initiative, but Gerdie and Ixelcis cannot act in the first round.]
Lycinia wrinkles her nose at the foul odour of the animated corpses, but hardens herself against the impulse to retch [makes her saving throw]. She swings at the nearest of the unnatural creatures, but just barely connects with the tip of her sword [2 damage drops it to 9hp]. A pair of putrid hands grab Gerdie [3 damage puts her at 17hp], but Iexelcis is just too far out of the third thing's reach [it missed].
Lycinia manages a more solid hit on her attacker [7 damage drops it to 2hp]. Gerdie feels like she may swoon [failed her save] but still delivers an impressive blow with her sword [7 damage leaves her attacker with 1hp]. Iexelcis bears up under the noxious fumes [saves] and chants syllables of power; the air about him shimmers for a moment as the protective charm [Shield] settle over him. The three awful corpses are a blur of clutching claws, but none of them are able to find a chink in their quarry's armour [all 3 miss].
Gerdie brings her sword down heavily on her opponent. The blade slices cleanly through its neck and down into its shoulder, removing both head and arm in a single mighty blow [8 damage drops it to -7hp]. It falls to the floor with a wet thud and is still. Iexelcis draws his rapier and joins the fray, but neither he nor Lycinia are able to land a hit on their swiftly-moving foes. Nor, at least, do the undead manage a riposte.
Lycinia's enchanted blade finally finishes off the thing coming at her [2 damage puts it at 0hp]. Iexelcis, perhaps overconfident in the protection of his sorcery, lets his enemy slip past his guard. Bony claws shimmer as they pass through the magical barrier to grab his neck and tear [6 damage, -1 (for the shield), puts him at 0hp]. He passes out from shock, blood dripping from the wound that fortunately did not open his jugular.
The last of the undead proves to be a much cannier foe than the others. Its claws find no purchase on the heavy armour of its opponents, but every time they try to fend it off with their swords, the thing has already leaped out of the way. And when they do land a hit, the wounds are never deep. In the end, it is no match for the seasoned warriors, and Gerdie's steel finally ends its unnatural existence.
[The end of this fight was pretty rubbish. In rounds 5, 7, 8, and 9 there were no hits scored at all. Gerdie took a single additional point of damage, Lycinia remained unscathed.
Q: Is the relic still retrievable? No Way: 72, Yes.]
Lycinia examines Iexelcis, and is elated to find he yet lives. Gerdie takes the blood-spattered altar cloth off the altar, and uses one of the clean bits to make a bandage for the fallen wizard.
"Could you get the relic," asks Lycinia. "I don't think I should risk touching it. I'm not even sure I should get too close to the altar."
"If them things weren't hurt by it," replies Gerdie, "I'd say it's safe for the likes o' ye."
"Perhaps," replies the elf, "but it makes me nervous, all the same. And someone's got to watch our injured friend here."
"Have it your way, girl," says Gerdie as she tromps back behind the altar, "but if ye hear me start to yell, ye best come runnin'."
Gerdie lights a torch and goes behind the altar. In the apse is a trap door to a seldom-used crypt; it has been filled in times long past with the bones of Manfred and Margiste's distant ancestors, and predates the larger family mausoleum under the outer chapel. At the end of the cramped row of tombs is a small shrine containing the relic, part of the thighbone of St. Lisaveta, the Guardian of the Meek. Gerdie opens the dusty glass door of the golden shrine and reaches for the bone. Her fingers stop short for a moment as she is paralysed with fear; maybe the elf is right about not wanting to handle such an item. She looks to the ceiling and whispers, "Light God, Lord of Everythin', you know we really need your help right now. Please don't strike me dead for touchin' the relic." Then, holding her breath, she takes the bone from its seat of velvet and gold. And feels nothing. "This thing had better be genuine," she mumbles.
Gerdie comes back up the stairs, gingerly holding the fragment of bone in her hand. She sees Lycinia sitting on the floor next to the unconscious Iexelcis, reading a parchment. "Oooh, whatcha' readin'?" says Gerdie. "Wait, don't tell me the end -- you'll spoil it."
"It's those arcane fragments we found behind the panel in the hall. The work of a madman, to be sure. But not, I think, one of the ones we're dealing with... It's getting so dark outside. I think we'll need that torch of yours to get back."
Lycinia folds the parchment and puts it into her belt pouch. She carefully lifts the injured magician, and she and Gerdie make their way back through the dark corridors.
setup: Interrupt (was: return with relic) Horror - NPC: governess - table AG6: Phenomena: decay
[Meanwhile, back in the great hall...]
Lady Margiste's governess starts to complain of feeling very unwell.
"Oh, you're burning up!" exclaims Margiste, feeling the old woman's forehead. "Perhaps you've been sitting too close to the fire." She walks the old woman over to one of the more comfortable chairs, and helps her to sit down.
A rapid change comes over the governess, even as Lady Margiste looks helplessly on. Her flesh starts to droop, and then rot. Her eyes shrivel, her right hand drops off, leaving Lady Margiste holding it. All her flesh begins to ooze away into a mass of corruption.
Margiste is too frightened to scream, but one of the maids notices what is happening, and alerts everyone with her cries of horror.
Manfred pulls his sister away, and begins barking orders at the rest. The chair is doused with lamp oil and set alight, lest the corruption spread, or worse, animate the body. Frère Ambrosius says a prayer as the flames rise, hoping to speed the poor woman's soul on its way.
setup: Interrupt (was: return with relic) NPC action: Emmeline - attract enemies
The flames soon die out, but the room is filled with the ungodly stench of decay and burnt flesh. Emmeline has been staring out the window into the unnatural noonday darkness. Suddenly, she picks up the sword Lycinia had given her, smashes out the glass, and begins calling outside, "We're here! We're all here in the great hall!"
Manfred springs into action. He forcibly restrains Emmeline, trying all the while not to injure her. Before he can hold her still both he and Durcet have received a nasty cut from her blade.
setup: return with relic
Lycinia and Gerdie return to find the great hall in commotion. A charred skeleton sits in the scorched remains of one of the upholstered chairs, and Emmeline is tied to another chair nearby, weeping and pleading to be let go, and repeating over and over that she doesn't know what she did wrong. Two of the maids are hastily trying to board over a broken window. Lady Margiste is weeping uncontrollably, ignoring the confessor's attempts at consolation. Manfred is pacing angrily, but when he sees the unconscious Iexelcis, he stops short and turns very pale.
"No!" he screams, as he rushes toward Lycinia. "He can't be--"
"He's alive," she says, "but hurt badly. We need the cleric to help him."
"No!" says Manfred, "He's used his miraculous powers for the day. By all the lords of the Abyss! why did I let him waste it on me? If I'd known..."
Manfred takes the unconscious wizard from Lycinia's arms, and takes him over to one of the couches by the fire. He puts him carefully down, then kneels beside him, smoothing his brow and whispering soft words.
Meanwhile Gerdie has presented the relic to the confessor, who takes it from her reverently, a look of religious ecstasy washing over his features.
Then the cook turns abruptly away form the window, and whistles to get everyone's attention. "There's torches outside in the courtyard. I think whoever the crazy girl was shouting at is come for a visit."
Sunday, 15 March 2015
setup: Altered (was: collect weapons)
Somehow everyone manages to get a little sleep. In the morning, it is decided that arming the entire assembly in the hall is the first step in any plan, so a small band is dispatched to fetch weapons. Severin takes the lead with his great keyring, followed by Gerdie and Lycinia. Iexelcis goes in Manfred's stead as he is soundly sleeping. The cook, a round woman in her mid-50s, completes the band.
[Q: Can Lycinia get her stuff back from her room? Unlikely: 16, Yes.]
The first stop is Lycinia's room, which had been sealed whilst she was imprisoned. The steward unlocks the door, and the anxious elf bursts inside. "Oh, my lovely spellbook, how I've missed thee! And my beautiful sword! And don't you feel left out, O my chainmail! you know I feel incomplete when you're away." The others look on this scene in silent wonderment as the elf joyfully dons her warlike things. "Right," she says once she is armed and armoured, "now let's see to the rest of you."
Gerdie's room is next. She too seems happier with chainmail and broadsword, and gives her rapier over to the steward.
They then trudge outside to the gatehouse through the biting cold. The door still stands ajar from the secretary's ill-omened visit, and bangs against the stone wall in the wind.
The stench inside the guardhouse defies all reason. And in the middle of the floor, spread over the corroded remains of some weapons and suits of chain armour, and some half-dissolved bones, is a great pool of greenish-black filth, which even now seethes and bubbles with activity. The cook nearly faints from the sight, and has to be supported by the wizard.
Severin tells them to wait outside. It is the last thing he will ever say. In that instant, the slime rears up, supported on a framework of jumbled bones in a roughly hexapodal shape. It springs forward at the startled castle steward.
Slime creature (INT 0, AC 14, speed 60', HD 4+2, 1 attack, damage 1d6 + caustic poison (save or 1d6 additional damage, Regenerates 2hp/round unless killed, (i.e. -4hp))
[no surprise, it wins initiative]
Severin tries draw the dagger at his belt whilst backing away from the viscous horror, but never gets a chance. A dripping pseudopod hits him across the face, peeling flesh away as it retracts. He shudders once, then collapses [5 damage + a failed save for 3 more puts him at -3hp, mortally wounded].
Lycinia and Gerdie step forward, swords in hand, to battle the unholy creature. Their blades whirl and flash, and in a few seconds it is all over. The creature collapses back into gooey mass on the ground [2 rounds of combat dropped it to exactly -3hp; L&G both hit twice, it only missed].
They both look quickly about the room, and find some old cloth to wipe their blades clean. But as they do so, they fail to notice that the the creature is starting to coalesce again. It rises suddenly, and lunges at Gerdie [2 rounds of regeneration have brought it back to 1hp; it's not smart enough to wait any longer -- it merely exists to destroy all life. The surprise die comes up a 1, so the PCs are caught completely unawares]. It slams hard into her back, knocking her face first into the wall [6 damage drops her to 14hp] but fortunately none of the caustic venom seeps through her armour to her skin [she made her saving throw vs. poison]. Even as it is attacking her, it continues to become more cohesive [regenerating to a total of 3hp].
Once again Lycinia and Gerdie bring their swords to bear. Lycinia's stroke knocks it back to the ground, and Gerdie's hits something more solid, which produces a loud crunch. The thing dissolves completely into a runny, oily fluid, seeping along the cracks in the floor and spreading in a wide, foetid pool. The two watch it for some time, fearful of another resurrection, but it moves no more.
They clean their blades again, then call Iexelcis and the cook inside. The four load up on swords, spears, and crossbows.
Poor Severin has expired from his wounds, and the manner of his demise troubles Lycinia. She and Gerdie bring his body into the master-at-arms' former office, and put him on her desk. They make an ersatz pyre with blankets, tabards, papers, and random bits of furniture, douse the whole with as much lamp oil as they can find, and set it alight before running back out into the snow.
setup: Interrupt (was: distribute weapons) - PC Positive - Neglect / Tension
They return to the great hall laden with armaments. Manfred demands to examine everything they have brought, and distribute it as he sees fit. Lycinia tells him that she has no objections, but she did personally select a rapier for Emmeline, whom she has taught how to fight. "If we live through this," says Manfred, "you must tell me what you did to convince her to learn swordplay. I've been trying to get Margiste to learn for years!"
Manfred is happy to have a task on which to focus. He does his best to drill the non-combatants with their new arms, and Gerdie sets up a firing range for the crossbows. Lycinia is left to study her spellbook in peace. Frère Ambrosius prays to the Light God to wash away Gerdie's pains [cure light wounds restores her to full hp] and then sits before the fire in quiet contemplation, that he be ready to work more miracles for the Glory of the One True Faith.
Everyone wonders why Severin didn't return, but no one wishes to hear what they know must be the answer.
setup: Altered (was: Lycinia goes to examine dead Marquess)
The night passed much as did the one before, though the mood in the hall is somewhat better, now that they feel capable of defence. The strange storm continues outside, and no one has quite gotten used to the thunder and lightning accompanying the snow.
Lycinia pulls Manfred aside after breakfast. "Manfred," she says, "it's good that we're all ready for a fight here and everything, but I don't like just sitting and waiting. The... the thing you described in your father's chambers. I think we should have a look at it. See if there is any way we can defeat it..."
Manfred looks stunned by her request, and begins tripping over his words [UNE: insane-confusion-relics]. "No... we can't-- it's so awful! Mustn't go upstairs... the foulness... we need a weapon against the foulness. The relic! We must have the relic! Yes, that's the only weapon for this..."
[Q: Does this mean anything to the confessor? Very Unlikely: 68, Yes.]
Frère Ambrosius overhears Manfred's ravings, and strides over. "Manfred, you're under a lot of strain, and have overtaxed yourself again. I think you'd ought to get some real rest. I know you stood watch twice last night. That's no way to keep in fighting trim, my dear lad. But you may have a wise idea. The family has a a relic of St Lisaveta in the chapel. It could be of some use to us in this most desperate hour."
Lycinia wastes no time in convincing Gerdie and Iexelcis to make sortie with her to retrieve it. As they are setting out, Manfred calls after them [UNE: insane-accident-recent scene]. "I should never have gone up there. Never! Promise me you won't go up there. It... it's too horrible."
Thursday, 12 March 2015
LotFP Solo - Part the Forty-Eighth: „Ob längst die Mitternacht verklang / Im Schlosse bleibt es immer wach“
setup: Altered (was: searching cottages for clues)
Emmeline takes charge of Lady Margiste, but Manfred rudely shakes off anyone who tries to console him. He sits for a long while, immobile and staring, then suddenly comes back to himself, angrily banging his fist down on the table. "Dammit, there's no use sitting here and moping like children. Has anyone searched the valet's chambers again? or the groundskeepers' cottage? or the gamekeeper's?"
[Q: What does Manfred want now? Excitement / Information]
A search party is quickly formed. Manfred's companions are worn out from their journey, but he himself has the energy of his purpose, and insists on leading the party. Lycinia, Severin and Frère Ambrosius go with him.
Outside the snow is deep, and the wind howls through the battlements and around the towers. The aged cleric requires the steward's assistance to walk without being pitched over.
The groundskeepers, brother and sister, have a cottage built right up against the curtain wall. It is a cozy little wooden affair, with an adjoining shed full of their tools. It is also currently on fire.
[Q: Will the snow keep the fire from spreading? Likely: 53, Yes.]
The gamekeeper's cottage is outside the walls, and undamaged. It looks to have been abandoned for several days. The searchers turn it over thoroughly, but nothing of any value is discovered.
setup: Interrupt (was: searching valet's chamber) Horror - NPC: maid
[revealed in scene 24, below]
setup: Interrupt (was: searching valet's chamber) NPC action - valet - Carelessness / The intellectual
The search party trudges back through the snow and wind, and are relieved to finally reach the (relative) warmth and calm inside the castle. They ascend the main stair and set off into the east wing, wherein the senior castle staff have their private rooms. When they push open the door to the valet's chamber, they are surprised to see a lamp burning brightly within. Franval, who had come back to retrieve his secret spellbook, is just as surprised to see the door open.
[The book contains (4+1d3=) 5 spells: Read Magic, Magic Missile, Hold Portal, Faerie Fire, Sleep
Q: Has he been here long enough to memorise spells for today? Very unlikely: 53, Yes.: Sleep, Hold Portal
There is a small, leather-bound book lying on the bed amongst some papers, a coinpurse, and a few bits of jewellery. Both Franval and the searchers start at the unexpected encounter, and then Franval begins the words of a spell.
[Round 1 - Both sides were Surprised, Franval wins initiative]
The magic takes hold of the steward and confessor; they fall to the ground in a deep sleep [Sleep affecting 7 hit dice: not enough to include the 4th level Manfred]. Meanwhile Manfred and Lycinia have burst into the room. Lycinia grabs Franval bodily [opposed grappling rolls (1d20 + Str adjustment + attack bonus) L 15+1+1, F 2+0+1] and holds him fast. Manfred threatens the struggling valet with his rapier [Franval's ML is (best2/3d6) 11] but to no avail.
Franval continues to struggle against Lycinia's hold [opposed grappling checks] but cannot extricate himself from her grasp. Manfred changes tack, and hits Franval in the face with the basket hilt of his rapier [counts as a minor weapon, 1d4 damage. 3 points drops him to 5hp].
He still continues to struggle [opposed grappling checks again] but is forced to the ground, and can fight back no more.
setup: searching valet's chamber
Franval is bound, gagged, and blindfolded. Severin (once awakened) stands guard, holding Manfred's sword at his throat whilst the other three search the room. Luckily, most of the important items seem to have already been put on the bed.
[Q: Obvious clue? Unlikely: 58, yes.
d30 Sandbox Companion table AG8, Artifact/Relic = cup
Q: Does it match a previous clue? 50/50:89, Yes.]
Under some of the papers on the bed is an ornate silver cup, which at first appears to be a ceremonial item like one might find in any temple of the Light God, but on closer inspection is covered in arcane sigils. The confessor says he saw similar markings on the eerie silver mask.
setup: Interrupt (was: interrogate valet) NPC positive - Gerdie - Inquire / Art
When the search party returns to the great hall with their prisoner, they find that they were not the only ones to have had some excitement. One of the maids is tied to a chair, unconscious and bleeding. The cook is winding a strip of cloth round her middle as a bandage [She's at 0hp; this is the aftermath of the Interrupt from scene 21; the d30 horror result for the maid had come up 'Mania'].
A tearful Emmeline runs up to Lycinia. "The maid took a carving knife from the kitchen," says the girl, "and out of nowhere she just attacked me. Oh, the look on her face! Those eyes will haunt my dreams for the rest of my days! I was so frightened she'd kill me. And you weren't here and my sword is in my room, and... well, luckily for me you taught me how to avoid blades as well as swing them so I leaped out of the way and screamed for help and then Gerdie rushed over behind the maid and then suddenly there was two feet of steel sticking out of her stomach and she dropped the knife and I thought Gerdie had killed her but she hadn't but there was a lot of blood and so we tied her up because she might still be possessed but she hasn't woken up yet and--"
"Emmeline, sweetie, you need to breathe before you pass out!"
"I'm glad you're all back," says Gerdie, pointedly ignoring Emmeline. "We been shut up in here for days, like, and no one's yet thought about lookin' to see if anything funny's hid behind the secret panel. Severin, you still got the key?"
Severin, Durcet, and Frère Ambrosius all look a little embarrassed that Gerdie thought of this before they did. The steward produces the key as Gerdie lifts one of the painted wooden panels off the wall to reveal a cast iron door about 3' square. The key grates in the lock, the hinges squeal, and the alcove inside is covered in dust. Within are a piles of papers, a few ledgers, small wooden boxes, and a few money bags, one of which has split and spilt golden coins.
[Q: Anything exciting within? 50/50: 43, Yes.
d30 table AG8: artifact/relic - grimoire
Q: Should this not be here? Very Likely: 67, Yes.]
"None of this looks unusual," says Severin, poking about half-heartedly. "Just some emergency cash, a few deeds and old-- ah, wait... here's something. What's this?"
Shoved inside one of the books is a collection of large sheets of parchment, evidently ripped from a larger codex. They are hand-written in the old scholar's tongue [this world's Latin cognate, known to all wizards and scholars], and covered in arcane diagrams, sigils and charts. "The Manuscript of Diabolism," he reads aloud, "I don't like the looks of this. My lord, what would you have me do with it? It is after all, in the castle safe, and so yours by right."
"I'd like to have a look at that," says Iexelcis, Manfred's wizard companion.
"Manfred!" shouts the Frère Ambrosius, "That is out of the question and you know it! You can't let an evil thing like that remain in this house. We must burn it immediately."
Manfred seems unusually flummoxed by the opposing viewpoints. "Shut up everyone," he yells, "I need to think."
[Q: Who sways Manfred? 1-3 the confessor, 4-6 his friend; 2]
"Sorry, Iex," he says after a long silence, "but Frère Ambrosius is right. If it is an evil thing, it ought to be destroyed. Especially with everything that's happening here."
"No, wait!" shouts Lycinina. "What if it holds a clue? Can we risk passing by a chance to determine what's causing this mess?"
[Q: Can she change his mind? No way: 73, Yes.]
"Dammit! I don't like having it around. But the elf might be onto something. Iex, you look it over; I know I can trust you."
[The manuscript is a product of my still-a-work-in-progress grimoire generator:
The Manuscript of Diabolism
fragmentary major grimoire
attributed to an unloved cabalist
form - loose parchment pages
language- scholarly (primary)
manuscript, with diagrams
spells: Animate Dead]
setup: Altered (was: interrogate valet)
Iexelcis takes the pages to the table to read by the light of the chandelier.
Meanwhile, Franval is tied to a chair, and ungagged for his interrogation. He flatly refuses to speak. Manfred wants to beat information out of him, but Lady Margiste balks. "What if he's not to blame," she says, "what if he's possessed like the maid?"
Manfred reluctantly gives in to his sister, and angrily goes to replace Franval's gag. As he is about to do so, Franval spits out a cryptic message [UNE: insane - fear - knowledge]: "You're all hiding in here, afraid of what you'll find outside. But will the hiding drive you to madness before you even learn the truth? You're all doomed! Doo--"
And then Manfred's fist has silenced him.
setup: Ambiguous event (was: sleep in shifts)
The hour is late, and there is no one but who feels exhausted from a mixture of fear and exertion. They set a watch and do their best to sleep through the night. Outside the storm rages. Snow falls, sleet and hail patter against the windows. Now and again there is even thunder, and the flash of lightning. This is no ordinary storm...
Sunday, 8 March 2015
LotFP Solo - Part the Forty-Seventh: "The exhalations and the thirsty winds / Are sick with blood; the dew is foul with death"
setup: Altered (was: Steward & Confessor come to let Lycinia Free)
[Q: How is the scene Altered? Overthrow / Prison]
Lycinia lingers in the cell another whole day, anxiously awaiting news of release that doesn't come. Nor is Emmeline allowed back for another visit. She does not even receive a visit from Severin, though he does have another collection of poetry sent with her food.
[Q: Does Lycinia witness the Alteration? 50/50: 40, Yes.
Q: What is it? d30 Table AG6, Phenomena = poisoning(s)]
Lycinia is once again roused by knocking at the door at the top of the stairs. One of the guards goes up to open it, disappearing out of sight in the steep stairwell. Lycinia hears the woman open the door, then say, "what are you doing here?" Then she screams, and topples back down the stairs. The second guard grabs his sword and rushes up the stairs, only to meet the same fate moments later.
The two guards lie dead on the floor of the dungeon, their faces discoloured and swelling, steaming slightly from the acidic bite of the insidious poison. Lycinia tenses, waiting for an assailant to descend, but all is silence. She is just on the point of forming a plan to get herself free when she hears the door creaking open, and footsteps on the stairs.
[Q: Is Lycinia blamed? Likely: 60, Yes.]
The confessor and steward descend into the dungeon, and stop short at the sight which greets them. Before Lycinia can even open her mouth to speak, the cleric is pointing his unsteady finger at her.
"You!" shouts Frère Ambrosius, "I knew you were a creature of evil! And to think, Severin had just managed to convince me of your innocence. Wicked! Benighted Spirit! Guards!"
Without even thinking, Lycinia speaks the words of an elven charm, and the two men sink to the floor in dreamless slumber. [Sleep, 2d8=12HD affected; the Confessor is a 3rd level cleric, the steward is 0-level.
Q: Can Lycinia use her belt etc to get key ring without waking the sleepers? Very unlikely: 63, Yes.]
Lycinia tears a long strip from her blanket, and attaches it to her belt. She uses the makeshift grapple to hook the keyring hanging off a peg on the wall opposite her cell. It falls to the ground with a clatter, but the sleepers do not stir. Lycinia is soon free.
setup: Interrupt (was: frog march steward & confessor upstairs, call meeting) Horror - NPC : soldiers
[d30 Sandbox Companion table AG6, Phenomena: fungi/mold/slime]
Aroused by the shout for a guard, but unwilling to risk his own life, Durcet, the Marquess' private secretary, runs off to the gatehouse to fetch some of the few remaining soldiers. When he gets there, he is greeted by an awful sight. The soldiers are all dead, having dissolved into festering pools of blackish-green corruption. The master-at-arms' brass nose floats amidst the seething ooze. The smell causes Durcet's eyes to water, and he rushes outside in horror, and is violently sick into the snow.
setup: Frog march steward & confessor upstairs, call meeting
Meanwhile, Lycinia has taken a sword and heavy crossbow to arm herself. She nudges the steward awake with her boot. He looks up at her groggily.
"Look," he says, "I know you haven't done anything wrong. Ambrosius would have come round eventually. He just needs his bluster. But did you really have to go and put us out like that? Lots of people in the castle look up to the priest, and he's unlikely to forget this... this attack. You've not done yourself any favours."
"Nor have you by locking me up when it's obvious I'm not the enemy. Now wake up the old man and let's get moving. I want everyone to assemble in the hall and we'll discuss this like civilised beings. But until calmer heads prevail, I'm afraid the two of you are hostages."
[Q: Are Severin and Ambrosius frightened into cooperating? 27, Yes.]
"Quite," sighs Severin as he shakes the cleric awake. He goes wide-eyed at the sight of the angry elf looming over him with loaded crossbow, but says nothing. Whether he trembles with rage or fear, it's hard to say.
Lycinia follows the two of them slowly up the stairs and into the castle proper. She is struck by the chill in the air, even inside the great pile.
"We'll find most everyone who's still here in the great hall," offers Severin. "There are too few servants to keep the fires going, and the winter has become unnaturally cold. I'll send one of the maids to fetch the rest."
They arrive in the great hall, where a fire roars and comfortable furnishings have been brought in to sit beside the dining table. A small is already group assembled in the warmth. Emmeline and Lady Margiste are sitting by the lady's governess, all working at their embroidery. Three maids are lounging by the blazing hearth. The cook is asleep in an armchair. Gerdie is staring out the window. The secretary is pouring himself a stiff brandy. "The soldiers," he says, "in the gatehouse. Dead. All dead. It was horrible!"
"Well then," says Severin to Lycinia, "it looks like we're all assembled. Other than the Marquess up on his deathbed, locked in with his physician, there's no one else left in the castle."
All eyes dart from the affrighted secretary to the new arrivals, and there is some agitation at the sight of the loaded crossbow held by a peevish elf.
"Oh, come on, girl!" says Gerdie, "I'm sure ye've made yer point. Now let's all make nice and figure out how we're to live through this mess!"
"Fine," says Lycinia, laying the crossbow down on the long table, "I don't really trust any of you right now -- don't look hurt Emmeline, you know I don't mean you -- but if we're all that's left we should probably learn to work together. Now, as I see it, we have a few options..."
Everyone sits round the table (some more readily than others) and possible plans are outlined. In the end, there are four possible options:
1-all flee despite the storm
2-send someone to fetch help
3-ask the Marquess for advice (as it's his domain still)
4-set a trap for the killers
[Lycinia, of course, wants to fight. I rolled a d4 for all the NPCs' choices; the fact that they are all on edge made the completely random opinions seem more justifiable.
Flee: Emmeline, Lady Margiste, Maid#1, Cook
Send for help: -
Ask Marquess: Gerdie, maid#2, steward, secretary
Set trap: governess, maid#3, confessor, Lycinia]
No one trusts the others enough to put their fate in one person's hands. The vote is a three-way tie: 4-4-4. The final motion is a great compromise: talk to the Marquess, and let his vote be the deciding factor to stay or fight. But if he is too sick to be moved, then fighting will win by default. The steward, Lycinia, the confessor,and the secretary are to be sent to his chambers. Everyone else will stay put.
setup: Interrupt (was: S,C,sec & L to see Marquess) - Ambiguous event
Threads: investigate suicides, clear self, chaperone Emmeline
NPCs: Emmeline, Lady Margiste, Lady M's governess, Gerdie, maids, cook, groundskeepers, steward, confessor, valet, secretary, physician, marquess
[I had decided in advance that the first Ambiguous Event or New NPC result would indicate the arrival of the Earl, Lady Margiste's rogue of an elder brother.]
As the vote is decided, shouting is heard just outside the hall. "What in the Nine Hells is going on here?! Where in the name of black Tartatus is everyone?!"
The doors to the great hall burst open and a trio of men enter, armed with swords and crossbows. All are wrapped in winter travelling clothes, though the glint of chain armour comes from beneath two of their cloaks. Fresh snowflakes are still melting on their heads and shoulders.
"Manfred!" cries Lady Margiste. "You're home!"
"I am home," he thunders throwing back his hood, "but it seems no one else is! Somebody had better have an explanation for all this."
Everyone but Lady Margiste seems cowed by Manfred's wroth. "Please, brother," says she, "do sit down and let me explain what has happened in your absence. And allow me to introduce our guest--"
"Princess Lycinia of Feyalldra," interrupts Manfred. "We've met."
Lycinia is flustered; as much as she's heard about the infamous brother of Lady Margiste, never has she suspected for even a moment that he's the madman she had met during the blizzard at Cheapington. "I thought he was an Earl..." she whispers to Emmeline.
"He is," replies Emmeline. "The heir apparent in the March of Limenne holds the title of Earl or Countess of Vuldois, and receives the appropriate forms of address for a peer by courtesy therefrom."
Meanwhile Lady Margiste has begun telling the story of the goings on at the castle. All others lapse into silence; even her brother does not interrupt her narration. When she has finished, he sits and thinks it over a while, then suddenly bangs his fist on the table [UNE: inquisitive - scepticism - current scene].
"You're all acting like scared children!" says Manfred. "I'm going to go talk to my father, and then I'll deal with the rest of you!"
Manfred stands up from the table and stalks off without even introducing his companions. Lady Margiste, used to her brother's ways, does her best to make them comfortable, and handles the introductions of everyone herself. Her brothers companions are Orst, a young soldier from Finnsover, and Iexelcis of the Sevenfold Way, an apprentice wizard. Orst has lightly curling golden hair, whilst Iexelcis has the nearly-black skin of a native of far-off Ifrac; both are unquestionably handsome. Lycinia is certain they were in Manfred's band in Cheapington.
setup: deal with Manfred when he comes back
[The scene hinges on Manfred coming back with his news. I used Mythic et al. to figure out what the news would be. He will reveal the interpretations himself...
Q: Has anything happened to marquess? 50/50: 03, Exceptional yes
d30 Sandbox Companion table AG6: Phenomena: transformation
Q: Is the physician dead? Likely, 98 yes.
Manfred needs to make a Saving throw vs. poison: 2! He fails utterly.]
Manfred returns after scarcely five minutes. He flings the doors to the hall wide open, then stops to steady himself against the door frame. His complexion has gone green and there is vomit splashed over his boots. "It... I..." he stammers.
His companions rush to his side, and sit him back down at the table. Severin fetches him a cup of brandy. He takes it down in one go, then drinks another long pull directly from the decanter.
"I've never seen anything so horrible," he says, "something has grown out from the centre of the bed, like a sort of immense and gangrenous polyp. God of Light, the smell! It has... limbs... so many limbs, growing out of it and going up the walls. The walls are coated in more of the diseased flesh. Like the... the thing is growing into the room. I... I cannot say any more..."
"What of the physician?" asks Durcet. "Surely he should have--"
"The physician is dead!" shouts Manfred. "His body lies on the floor of the chamber, where even now the... thing is dissolving it. Or absorbing it..."
"Then, your father..." whispers the confessor, too overcome by emotion to finish.
The steward puts his hand on Manfred's shoulder. "That makes you... You're the Marquess Limenne now, my lord."
Lady Margiste begins to wail.
Friday, 6 March 2015
Chaos: increase to 8
setup: Altered (was: present evidence to steward & confessor)
Despite her protestations of innocence, the master-at-arms wants to hold Lycinia for questioning. She will not even let the elf finish a sentence, and patently refuses to believe her wild tales of a traitor in their midst. Lycinia surrenders her weapons and agrees to come quietly. "I've done nothing wrong," says she. "It will easily be proved so. If I were involved in this nonsense, the lot of you would be dead by now!"
The master-at-arms does not react, but orders her troops to lead the elf back to the main hall. Once inside, she shouts at one of the maids to go fetch the steward. He arrives shortly, with the confessor in tow.
Confessor 3, Unfriendly (UNE: hostile, withdrawn)
Steward 10, Talkative (UNE: peaceful, neutral)]
"We found her climbing out the stable window, holding this weird thing," says the master-at-arms, handing the silver mask to the cleric.
"What is it?" asks Severin.
[Q: Does anyone have an idea about the mask? Very unlikely: 81, No.]
"I've no idea," replies the cleric, turning the mask over and over in his hands.
"It was hidden amongst the stable girl's clothes," says Lycinia. "But that's not all. Look what I found under her pillow. Recognise it?"
"A scarab!" says the cleric. "Just like the last time..."
"And did you know that the valet is a magician? He tried to kill me with his magic: some evil charm which saps life energy."
"Quite," says the cleric. "And I suppose you have some proof of this allegation? Franval has been with the marquess since he was a mere lad. I think we'd have learnt by now if he were a sorcerer. You claim he tried to drain your life energy..."
"She does look a little peaked," offers the steward.
[Q: Is Lycinia absolved? Likely: 96, No.
Using UNE to see where this goes: mysterious - rumour - previous scene]
"There are some," continues the confessor, undaunted, "who believe your coming at this time is not a coincidence. And why did you want to keep the scarab you found? And how did you know about the poison? Oh yes, we know about the poison. Gerdie is a loyal villein; she doesn't try to keep secrets from us."
"I'd never even heard of you lot before a week ago! Nor of your castle. Something is dreadfully wrong here. We need to search for more scarabs!"
"We don't even know if they cause the deaths, or are just being left as a token afterwards -- perhaps by you!"
[Q: How does this end? Pursue / Advice]
Lycinia swells with rage; yet another cleric of the Light God is getting under her skin, and she won't have any of it. Frère Ambrosiusis equally incensed, as he cannot abide pagans, and especially not those of the lesser races. The two start shouting, and an exasperated Severin has to bodily interpose himself between them to bring calm to the situation.
"I think," says Severin, looking pointedly from elf to cleric and then back again, "that we need to approach this from a rational standpoint. We shall search the castle -- you and I together, Ambrosius -- and keep the elf with us under guard. She won't find anything, and we'll know where she is at all times, so if we do discover anything out of the ordinary, it should help prove her innocence. Agreed?"
"Alright, then. We'll start with the northwest tower."
setup: Altered (was: sit under guard whilst castle searched)
Lycinia is marched from room to room between a pair of halbardiers whilst the steward, confessor, and the master-at-arms search each space.
[Q: Anything found? 50/50: 94, No.
Q: Is Lycinia kept under guard? 50/50: 07, Exceptional Yes - in dungeon]
They find nothing, and the confessor's suspicions only increase. He convinces the steward that until she is proved innocent, the elf must be kept in the dungeon under constant guard. Frère Ambrosius cannot be talked down from this, and in the end Lycinia consents; though not without a good deal of grumbling. Severin does his best to see that she is comfortable in her cell.
Searching the entire castle takes [1d3+1=] 3 days. Lycinia is allowed to eat with the searchers in the dining hall, but is locked into her cell again every evening.
The search is widened to include the castle grounds. Lycinia is not allowed outside, so must spend the day in her cell. She's starting to believe they aren't going to let her out, but bides her time for now. Fortunately for them, she thinks, elves do not feel time passing as do humans.
Chaos: increase to 9 (maximum)
setup: Interrupt (was: languish in dungeon) NPC action - groundskeepers - Betray / Outside
[The groundskeepers ask the gamekeeper to help search outside around the castle. The gamekeeper is not seen again.
Q: Does suspicion fall on the groundskeepers? Unlikely: 79, No.]
setup: Interrupt (was: languish in dungeon) NPC action - valet - Cruelty / Food
Lycinia spends [1d6=] three days alone in her cell. Severin comes to check on her now and again, and makes sure to bring her books from the castle's library. He refuses to discuss the investigation, but says he might be able to allow Emmeline to visit.
[the Interrupt happens on day 57; Lycinia learns about it the next day when...]
Setup: Altered (was: visit from confessor & steward)
Lycinia hears the door to the dungeon open, and looks up, expecting to see Severin coming down the stairs with the missing volume of the Lays of Gibert the Younger, which he had promised to find for her. Instead, she sees a very excited Emmeline burst into the room.
[Q: Does Emmeline have any news? Likely: 18, Exceptional Yes. - Release / The spiritual]
"Oh, I've been so worried!" says Emmeline, teary-eyed. "It's good to see you! They've not treated you badly, I hope. No, you're looking well. It's been a dreadful few days. Simply dreadful! First there was talk of sending me away. I said I'd not go without you! Then the storm moved in, and the talk changed to how we're snowed in, and so I must stay even if I had wished to go. Not that I'd wished it, not for a moment! With you in this awful cell, and poor Margiste so worried about her father -- the physician hasn't let her see him, and it's put her in such a state. Then this business with the stables. And the valet is missing, and the gamekeeper. And some of the soldiers may also have fled. And then last night no one came to serve dinner. Gerdie went and looked in the kitchen, and the cook was lying on the floor dead! Well, not dead, exactly, but it was as if all the life had been sucked right out of her [reduced to -2hp from a Magic Missile]. Frère Ambrosius was able to revive her with a spell or a prayer or something [Cure Light Wounds]. Oh, but the good news -- other than the poor cook not being dead -- is that the priest finally is willing to believe that you are innocent and he's probably going to let you out soon!"
Emmeline babbles on for a few minutes, pausing only to kiss Lycinia's fingers through the bars of the cell. Lycinia is quite touched by Emmeline's grief, and does her best to reassure her, chiding her once again for not speaking in elvish, which elicits a smile from the girl.
"Don't fret, sweet Emmeline," says the elf, "Once I've gotten out of this cage, I will get to the bottom of the mystery hanging over Château Télème."