Last time was quite a bit of setup and a teeny weensy bit of actual play. This time ought to be the inverse, so sharpen your swords mates!
Act 1: Day 1 Continued
We left off with Hisham having a little investigative chat with one of the competing Blade seekers, Haruk. It occurred to me between sessions that I ought to see if Haruk and the other 10 seekers are in a party or parties, or acting on their own. We also need to make a roll to see if The Cold decide to attack… and I also thought it prudent to involve Mythic Game Master Emulator for asking whom or what they might attack, to change things up even further. Of course, I bust out the Wheel of Fate and turn the dial to the initial Chaos score of 5.
- Chaos: 5
- Odds: 50/50 (1d100 within 50) since he’s the reclusive monastic type (otherwise I would’ve said very likely).
- 1d100: 16 = Yes
- Chaos: 5
- Odds: Likely (1d100 within 75)
- 1d100: 7 = Exceptional Yes!
I’d considered splitting the Blade seekers aboard ship into 2 or 3 groups of rival parties, but this Exceptional Yes I take as meaning all of the 11 NPCs are members of the same order of monks (perhaps including some hired help).
Seeing as Haruk is so familiar and forthcoming with information on the Cold, perhaps he and his pals are in their employ, or are Cold themselves?
However, since he seemed devoid of the Cold’s signature creepy smile, I’ll give it Very Likely odds that his order is an age old rival of the Cold (and perhaps the Blade) and consider a failed roll to mean the former:
- Chaos: 5
- Odds: Very Likely (1d100 within 85)
- 1d100: 45 = Yes
The Cold ever seeking to resurrect the Blade are opposed by this order of chaotic monks, whose true intent is not yet known…
Tricky question… since there are only 4 Cold aboard ship and there are 11 of their rivals, it seems unlikely they would stage an attack. Then again, they are crazy cultists. It might seem more likely the monks would attack the Cold, but perhaps they’re largely pacifists, or maybe Captain Roger and the crew will have none of it.
That leaves my party. It would seem unprovoked at this point, but, as I said, crazy cultists might not need a good reason to pick a fight (an incessant need for sacrifice to the Blade seems sufficient). That said, I find it very unlikely they would attack at this point.
- Chaos: 5
- Odds: Very Unlikely (1d100 within 25)
- 1d100: 89 = Exceptional No!
Not only have the Cold behaved themselves on the journey, they’re later discovered to have completely vanished — at sea, no less! Curious, indeed…
The remainder of the party’s journey uneventful, the ship eases into the walled harbor at Kith-Avonmore. In the dusk of the brief hours of day, a hail of meteors can be seen raining down upon the Obsidian Cliffs
of Svårtgardto the East — their glassy black peaks marking the Northern end of a a range of volcanic mountains known as the Southern Reach. Extending West and South — where lies Kragholme, far to the South — their radiant orange glow highlights the dark horizon in the wake of the setting sun.
I’m now encroaching on the parts of the module that worry me most: maps and their keys. I’ve recently shared my thoughts on fiddling with the map to keep it interesting, but it still worries me so. It’s the edge of the dagger that could bleed this adventure dry, spilling its informative spoiler-blood all over my solo play. Needless to say, I approach it with caution.
In this case, we’re not spoiling too much from the map itself. It’s a town map and there’s nothing too secret revealed there (e.g. traps and secret door locations). As such, I don’t mind using it (rather than trying to trash it or rework it) aside from imagining it more as a walled harbor city, as I envision Kith-Avonmore.
The key is where the spoilers lie. My tactic here is to first play the GM’s role, describing the docks, the sights and sounds and smells of the place, and whatever else might be roughly “common knowledge” already or easily obtainable by the characters. Then, I’ll need to switch hats and be the Player, thinking on what my characters might do and ought to do after a long sea voyage, knowing “thar be adventure ahead”.
Avoiding the contents of the key as much as possible, I’ll switch back to the GM hat, scan the place name headings to see if any are relevant to what my characters seek (and if not, asking the engine and making it up if needed). Diving into the description of a location will be fodder for Mythic and UNE — perhaps not as described, but trying to weave in essential bits to the plot if necessary. Then it’s tit for tat until the characters leave town or die from consuming spoiled meat.
Well — *gulp* — here goes…
As the party disembarks, their senses are assaulted from every angle: docks and earth that don’t sway, mingling smokes from a miscellany of open fires and chimneys sting their eyes and beckon them to hot meals they can almost taste — all amid the seeming lack of sound, save the occasional distant shout and ship’s bell. Passing from the ship into the dockyard, they catch a few sidelong glances and murmured epithets of “blade-sick” and “sword seekers”, among other, less tasteful sneers. As the harbor opens up into the city proper, they’re confronted by a slummy neighborhood of drafty-looking dwellings, replete with snow-covered midden heaps and the stench of fishmongers. To the West, a large hill rises to meet the top of the harbor wall, overlooking the icy sea and frozen city on either side.
Vincent pauses at the first friendly face he can find to inquire about a hot meal and a place to recover from their journey. He finds that they’re currently in the fishmonger’s ghetto, and there are two nearby inns in Kith-Avonmore: the upscale Golden Leopard on the other side of Market Square, and, deeper into the city, the — errr, more affordable — Avonmore Arms. The party pools together their purses and decide they’ll travel the extra block, despite the “affordability”, and moves ahead on unsteady land legs, eager to find a place by the hearth in the inn’s common room.
Unfortunately, my party is on the poorer side with a only a few gold each. While they might cover the cost of meals and a single room at the Golden Leopard, they’ll have scant left over for other purchases, should the need arise.
The module text indicates the Seeker is currently residing in the Golden Leopard, the opulent bastard. In contrast, the noble Defender is supposed to appear in the
Støvring Inn Avonmore Arms, which is located in a crumbling shantytown in the floodzone. Let’s ask Mythic who is actually where, though:
- Chaos: 5
- Odds: 50/50 (1d100 within 50)
- 1d100: 80 = No
If you’ll recall, the Defender is a level 4 Thief named Ophelia Fade, and apparently thievery has been a lucrative venture for the gal. Instead, at the Avonmore Arms we find the Seeker, Zul Highmore:
A brutal monk on a mission of personal vengeance. Working with him grants 2 points of Chaos.
- STR: 11, INT: 11, WIS: 17, DEX: 13, CON: 10, CHA: 9
- HP: 27 / AAC: 13 / AC: 19 – (13 – 2) = 8 (unarmored)
- Equipment: staff 1d6
- Spells: Enthrall, Heat Metal, Remove Curse, Remove Fear
- Summons: Flowing Colors Demon [AC 15, 6 HD (27HP), #at 1 at 1d6, stone shape (at will). When hit by the demon, the affected body part changes instantly and permanently into another color.]
- (16) Knows that the Black Blade will attempt to control whomever wields it. It is not sure how he/she intends to use this knowledge.
- (13) Carries a bag stuffed with polar bear furs, ready to trade with the obsidian gnomes.
- (12) Has heard of a wandering spirit that can change its form at will.
- (15) Has decided that, as a manifestation of pure law, the Black Blade’s power can be held at bay by enclosing it in non-geometric shapes.
We rolled this guy from the pool of Seekers — and he does seem like a bad dude from the description — but considering he’s a monk and we’ve already bumped into a dozen other monks who seemed of nobler stock, perhaps he’s not all his reputation would imply. Let’s see what UNE makes of him, jumping right to the NPC Emulator charts:
Mood (Neutral): (30) Peaceful
Demeanor: (78) Mysterious
Bearing: (27) Secrets
Focus: (17) Retainers! (this meshes quite well with the module)
While both ugly and unclean, the place is warm and the food is hot — a far cry from the near-frozen hardtack they’d been struggling to digest for weeks at sea. They suck down the fermented fish wine and tasteless gruel happily, the former becoming tasteless as well after choking down the first few gnarly swills. The feeling returns to their extremities and, with it, their spirits rise, each knowing they are closer to answering the questions that have driven them here — answers about the Black Blade.
Hisham spins tales about the unfortunate but often comedic plights of his customers amid raucous laughter from the group and other tables nearby. The moment is severed, however, when a shaven monk approaches their table, lowering his head solemnly in greeting. Recognizing them as fellow Blade seekers, he orders them another round of fish wine and tells them of his own calling to the Blade. He “Knows that the Black Blade will attempt to control whomever wields it”, so he’s looking for some hardy adventurers to accompany him in his quest for the Blade. For mutual benefit, of course, he implies… and offers them (1d4*10=) 30 gold per day for their trouble.
Eyes wide and mouths agape, the impoverished party looks back and forth to one another, speechless, pondering the monk’s proposal. Before anyone can respond, the man asks them to sleep on it and pays their board for the night. He asks them to meet him here again on morrow’s eve to discuss the rest — should they take him up on his offer. Otherwise, best of luck in their quest.
Weary from their voyage, and their heads spinning from the fermented wine, they all say their goodnights and stumble off to their bunks.
Much of this is described just so in the module text for the Defender, with some embellishment here and there. Thanks to Mythic, I’m now bending the Seeker more towards the Defender’s persona, so hopefully that will lend to the mystery of “who’s who” rather than just flubbing things up.
The Hours of Darkness
The text now comes upon the next opportunity for the Cold to strike the party…
- Chaos: 5
- Odds: 50/50 (1d100 within 50) — we’ve still got two more opportunities for them to jump the party.
- 1d100: 87 = No
Two things happen in the passing of the night:
(1) Each character has a new vision of the Black Blade (d6+d8 on the Dreams table):
- Vincent: (7) You step forward and grasp the Black Blade in your hands, power coursing through your body like never before. You turn and see your enemies fleeing before you. Down in the valley below, the peasants shout your name in ecstatic revelry.
- Shira: (5) Something is calling to you from the North—something of incredible power and loneliness. It wants…no it needs you!
- Hisham: (9) Dream of hundreds of people, slowly bowing before a giant sword hanging in the sky.
- Calleagh: (8) Your dreams are dark and terrible beyond description. When you awake, you know two things: 1) The world will soon end, and every living thing in it and 2). the only solution is in the far North, encased in ice, waiting for this moment.
(2) From this point on, each character rolls a d4 nightly to test for Blade Sickness. On a 4 they pass the night in fevered Blade dreams and do not regenerate HP or regain spells. Should they fail the check 3 times, they’re consumed by Ceaseless Bladelust.
- Vincent: 1
- Shira: 3
- Hisham: 3
- Calleagh: 4 – Blade sick!
The description for Ceaseless Bladelust is much as you’d expect: the character becomes consumed by a desire for all things sword — holding one at all times, even attacking their own friends to obtain one.
Considering this regular check, it might be worthwhile for me to dig up some simple rules on sanity and madness. Unless I’m overlooking it, the Rules Cyclopedia doesn’t have specific rules for madness (I suppose this is more of a Lovecraftian horror mechanic), however, Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules suggest using the 4th level magic user Confusion spell (which is also in the RC, but I like the varied results of LotFP better). Here they are side by side:
Duration: 12 rounds
This spell will confuse its victims, affecting all creatures within a 30′ radius. Victims with less than 2 + 1 Hit Dice are not allowed a saving throw. Those with 2 + 1 or more Hit Dice must make a saving throw vs. spells every round of the spell’s duration, if they remain in the area, or be confused.
Confused creatures act randomly. The DM should roll 2d6 each round to determine each creature’s action, using the following chart:
2-5 Attack the spellcaster’s party
6-8 Do nothing
9-12 Attack the creature’s own party
Duration: 1 Round/level
This spell touches the minds of any living creatures within a 15′ radius circle around the target point to see the interconnectedness of everything in creation, causing them to become confused, making them unable to independently determine what they will do as they struggle to determine which of their actions will be least likely to ultimately lead to the destruction of all matter. A saving throw versus Magic is allowed to resist the effect. Roll on the following table on each subject’s Initiative number each Round to see what the subject will do.
- Attacks the caster or caster’s allies
- Acts normally
- Babbles incoherently
- Meanders away from the caster for a full Turn
- Attacks the nearest creature
- Attacks own allies
Another mechanic I stumbled on in LotFP that might be useful is regarding rest: characters must get at least 4 hours of sleep per 24 hours or suffer a cumulative -1 (or -10%) penalty to all rolls. In the RC I could only find a blurb about Exhaustion in the Movement chapter, which is more in relation to running for extended periods. However, it does advise penalties for exhausted characters in the form of granting opponents +2 to hit (lethargic) and a -2 to the character’s damage rolls (weak).
I promised not to inundate you with GM miscellany, but mostly I’m just keeping track of game time since it’s quite relevant to the module: this brings about the end of Day 1, and next time we’ll pick up at daybreak on Day 2.
We’re also building up a list of Threads and Characters for Mythic should we happen upon a random event:
- The Defender: Ophelia Fade
- The Seeker: Zul Highmore
- The Wildcard: Karsten-doo (not yet appearing)
- Haruk Hanevold and his party of 10 monks
- The Silver Queen
- The Black Blade ?!
- Find the Black Blade
- Blade Sickness
- Zul’s Retainers
Til next time, friends. I’ll be sitting here pondering on exhaustion and madness (both in game and without).