Decaying Lands 19: Digging at the Crossroads

PCs Present & Played:

Claus Drexol, Magic-User 4 (Vegas)
  Wiebke Bott, linklady and magical initiate
Jewel, Really Good Dog 2 (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
Karl Gelt, Exiled Prince 1 (Helpful Waffle)
Tenkos, Cleric 2 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Sidebar: I don't know what's up with the text in this post but some of the sections came out looking all weird despite being set to the same color as everything else and this is the best I could fix it.

Last time the party picked up a new PC, rescued and returned an errant farmboy from a den of gladiatorial combat, met a big ass wolf that could understand them, and stole a ton of money from the aforementioned fighting den.

Sidebar: I am 100% stealing this idea from Skerples over at Coins and Scrolls. I like the short summary and link back to the previous session's write-up to make it easy to walk back when you miss a post. Well done.

Slow start this session, some wrangling required of players and not enough decisive starting from me. Claus and Karl made some noble small talk over Claus' fancy gun that he stole from the Bremmlecht wizard tower. Jewel took her 700 sp share from the fight club beatdown, wanted 100 sp (!!) for some kind of ridiculously fancy hat (picture forthcoming it seems), and distributed the other 600 sp to her friends.

Jewel convinced Buddy to come with her, and Claus was able to persuade Wiebke as well. The ratter was happy to get out of the city with a boss who so far had treated him better than his other pack alphas.

The curious linklady had spent the last four days getting an introduction from Claus on some of the mysteries and principles of magic and needs the barest suggestion of adventure to come along. When he told her that they were heading to Ghallia, potentially even Ghallia-That-Fell, she leapt at the opportunity. After a small advance to help convince her family that Claus was a legitimate sort of fellow who would be training her in some unspecified craft as an apprentice. Lies and magic!

They gathered up and headed out after considering a few different routes to get to Ghallia. Their goal was the town of Frissen five or six days north of Bremmlecht.

This is really the map of Teutonia that I use. Why yes, I am quite embarrassed, now that you mention it. I made this in Hexographer when I had no idea about distance or anything at all. Maybe one day I'll redo it in HexKit.
Two days of travel north got them to The Crossroads, a collection of inns, supporting houses, and farms at the intersection of the main road north/south and two ports roads. They camped at one of the average inns, the Crossed Candles, and got to drinking! They heard a bunch of fun rumors but then Jewel needed to decide if she wanted to hear people rumors or dog rumors. Rudy opted for doggie rumors and boy howdy did we get a fun one!

"The bodies in the graveyard are digging themselves further down every night."

Sidebar: Thanks once again to the folks that helped me fill up this rumor table over on g+ and an extra special thanks to Scrap Princess for this particular rumor and the adventure that will probably ensue. Go check out her blog and blow your mind out. I will be sure to shoutout other folks as their entries come up but probably they are already in that blog list to the right.

Everyone wanted to go investigate except for Viggo who was more cautious: "Generally poking a hornet's nest is not the best idea, but if y'all think there's some kind of valuable outcome for us, I'm not one to oppose it." He then worked to convince himself that, despite his better judgement, pursuing these kinds of things has been to his material benefit so maybe it's worthwhile to go along with the idea.

They walked down the road a bit to talk to the local priest, Mother Lanega. Her house was poor, and ramshackle, but the outside was maintained and had a small garden on the side. On the side away from the graveyard there was a lectern with a number of stumps and a few benches arrayed before it.

Sidebar: I originally called her "Sister Lanega" out of habit but that wouldn't be the right title for a priest, even a young one, so I've changed it to "Mother" throughout.

Mother Lanega was thrilled to have someone arrive at her house with two exceptions: Jewel the dog with the crazy hat and Tenkos the médecin sans visage from Ghallia. Jewel just seemed strange and not like a normal dog to her while Tenkos' borderline heretical beliefs (assumed, based on his profession) were not welcome in a true believer's house. Karl smoothed things over with some pious words and they got to talking. Unfortunately the priest had not heard or seen anything out of the ordinary and the party didn't want to show their hand too much so they decided to try and investigate things themselves.

Karl distracted her by being interested in the sermon while the rest of the party circled back around to the graveyard. They didn't see anything out of the ordinary so Jewel just started digging! Claus was standing near the most recent grave (a casualty of that Cold Winter LINK from a few years back) so she got to work digging it up. After 20 minutes Jewel was maybe 4-5 ft down and hadn't found a body yet, which was strange, but she also didn't hear anything either. She hopped out (girl can jump!) and went to work on an older looking grave while Viggo, Claus, and Wiebke tried to discreetly kick the dirt back into the first hole. They had a similar result for the second grave and decided that something was definitely weird here and it bore investigation at a more discrete time. They cleaned up and went back to retrieve Karl from the sermon.

Karl entreated the priest to keep up the faith and they all headed back to the Crossed Candles to figure out their next steps.

Feedback & Improvements

I'm always asking my players for things that I could do better and I actually got some feedback this session, which is great! I'm thinking about asking everyone for a "best thing / worst thing" at the end of each session. I want to make this game boss for them and I need help!

Anyway, two things: first was that it took us a while to get started. I can help some of that by being a lot more decisive in terms of getting the action rolling and will try to work on that.

The second comment was about "why are we roleplaying out six days of travel." The impression they had is that most of the time travel is handwaved and you arrive at your destination. I wonder about this too sometimes, and have certainly played in games where that was the case. My internal rubric is to look at the travel time and run it based on the order of magnitude. A trip that lasts 5 days gets a check every day, one that lasts three weeks gets one every week, etc. I've done that in the past in this game but never explicitly stated it.

I generally like a little more detail than just assuming they get there easily; there have been several random encounters that have been a lot of fun but also have built into the campaign in ways that the players are already seeing, even though they probably haven't realized it. I do have a tendency to get caught up in enumerating every single detail (which comes out in these summaries a lot of the time) so I do need to be careful not to overdo it. Hopefully stating my guideline helps to make it more clear and can be a discussion point if folks feel like we are too much in the weeds. Ironically this particular piece of feedback was immediately followed by "but then we got this cool rumor that turned into a mystery and who knows what will happen!" so thanks again to Scrap (and everyone else) for the awesome rumor.


Decaying Lands 18: Ralf's Return

PCs Present & Played:

Boris "Iron Guts", Fighter 1 (Vegas)
Karl Gelt, Exiled Prince 1 (Helpful Waffle)
Tenkos, Cleric 2 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Karl Gelt joined the party along with his brand new player!

Turned out that Karl was conveniently in the next cell down the hall from Ralf, he was just being super quiet when the party was talking to their rescuee last time. Karl is an Exiled Prince from the Principality of Altdorf in Ghallia-That-Fell. Ghallia-That-Fell is the southern half of Ghallia that was abandoned to a horrific plague during the last big war 50 years ago in a "human firebreak" type strategy. Karl would eventually like to get back to there and restore his kingdom but for right now he just wants to know what the heck is going on. The last thing he remembered was being close to the Ghallia / Teutonia border which is something like 100-150 miles from where the party encountered him.

With that retcon out of the way we jumped back to Boris opening the cage door for the large (100+ pounds, bigger than a great Dane) wolf that had been sitting there calmly regarding him.

Boris spoke to it and it nodded and responsed as though it understood him, even directly nodding its head when he asked if it understood talking. He elicited a sharp growl when he asked "Smart like my dog?", however, and the wolf responded with a shake when the bounty hunter asked if it wanted to go with them. He gave the creature a bit of meat from his pack and told the wolf it was free to go. The meat had barely hit the floor before the wolf scarfed it down, howled a quick thank you, and trotted past him out of the basement.

Karl wanted to go up and interview his captors but there was a bit of a hitch there. "Oh hey we killed everyone on the way down. Oh and we burned their house down too. Yeah." So instead he went looking for a bill of sale or something similar and took all the papers from their footlockers to evaluate later.

Dilemma: What do we do with the bodies and the money? Should we bring the bodies up and burn them? Discussion about how this fighting ring had guards and nobles involved. Could the party stay because the ring was on the down-low or should they get out quickly? They decided that they should just leave everything where it was, transfer the money from the chest to sacks, and try to get out of Bremmlecht as soon as possible.

On their way out of the underground complex they tried to get some more information about the cows from Ralf. The young man is incredibly simple, but he said good cows made him happy when he came back from Stilton. Then one day bad cows came so he had to stop them. Said that he didn't kill his own cows, just the bad cows. The party wasn't sure what to make of that but he was very convinced that he had only killed bad cows and not his own. 

They rolled up to Frau Esther Wegener, Ralf's aunt, and initially didn't want to tell her anything. Viggo tried to warn her not to talk about what happened to her "for her own good." This came off threatening, so he tried again saying that if she didn't then he couldn't guarantee her safety or similar. This only made her more upset so Viggo decided to spill the beans a bit and describe where Ralf was held. Wegener grasped the gravity of what they'd done quickly enough.

Frau Wegener's (older) kids came out, and the twins blanched at the realization that Ralf was back, bit of an awkward moment where the party questioned if they were involved in his capture by the fight organization. I think Wegener sort of shooed them away back into the house. Her main desire was that Ralf not cause the family name any more trouble and the PCs mostly succeeded at that, so she paid up. It's unclear what possible repercussions will visit themselves upon the Wegener dairy farm after the forest massacre is uncovered, if any, but the party will certainly not be staying around to find out.

It was around this time that Ralf's parents came running from their home, overjoyed at the safe return of their son. They presented a small vial, saying that it kept their grandfather safe during the war with Ghallia (spit!). He would tell stories of how the opposing soldiers couldn't tell which one of him was real to hit. The party was surprised, but grateful, and headed back to their inn.

Sidenote: It's a potion of mirror image, woo! This is the third potion that the party has received. They still haven't used their spider climb (ouch for Helga) or comprehend languages potions so I'm not expecting this one to get much use either. They've got a scroll of mending and continual light too that I'm thinking will never see the light of anything either. Probably all get lost in a river and ruined or smashed. At least Sugarplum / Tenkos is ALL about throwing those fire bombs.

Karl went through the letters, found
  • Names of people who participated in the fights voluntarily
  • Betting odds sheets
  • Letter to the people in the fighting pit talking about a proposition for them, new produce for their market
He burned everything except for the letter after transcribing it all into code. While looking through the letters Karl saw the current date on one of the letters and got real quiet. Karl also went to the post office to send a letter into Ghallia to a former retainer and ended up picking up some letters for Viggo and Tenkos (which I still need to write...)

Overall, between rumors of riches to be had in Ghallia-That-Fell, an uneasy stink of trouble from this fancy cheese place Stilton, and an honest to goodness exiled prince the group decided that there were enough hooks to head west to Ghallia! It's good to have something of a firm direction again.


Decaying Lands 17: Storming the Fight Club!

PCs Present & Played:

Boris "Iron Guts", Fighter 1 (Vegas)
Caleb, Fighter 2 [farmer kit] (Just Yolks)
  Suzie, a stubborn but loyal mule
Tenkos, Cleric 2 [plague doctor kit]
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit]

The session started with a sad announcement: Just Yolks is going to be taking a break! This means that Caleb will be MIA for a few months while Just Yolks pursues some educational enrichment.

They revisited their plan to go in and murder everyone EXCEPT Viggo still wanted to give them a chance to surrender Ralf. After some more discussion they settled on an immediate nighttime raid to try and catch everyone unawares in their pajamas (yes they really did talk about the pajamas again).

Caleb decided to tie Suzie up at a bit of distance so that she didn't give away their position; they wanted to be really sneaky approaching. Viggo then headed off to do some solo recon of the situation.

Viggo sneakily approached under cover of darkness, found a snoring sentry in a tree and not much else after making a loop around the building. Debated trying to climb up and murder him but instead opted to cover the ground around the tree in caltrops. He wanted to avoid any possible risk of failure or alert as long as possible. Actually speaking of that:

"Tenkos since you're the fire bomber you should stay away," said the bounty hunter to the cleric.

Caleb took out his greatsword, put on his great horned stag helmet, and terrified all of his fellow party members. After recovering themselves, they got  ready to have Caleb sneak towards the front door around the edge of the forest with Viggo and have old Iron Guts and Tenkos hang back in reserve.

We used the group stealth rule from Beloch over at Papers & Pencils, meaning that Viggo got a -1 for trying to carry Caleb, net 3 in 6. Unfortunately, that one came up 6 (failure) and the sleepy guard woke up shouting curses.

Caleb charged the big door, Tenkos went for the little door. The big man failed to get through (on several attempts) but Tenkos made it in and started shouting for them to let Ralf go or they would burn the place down.

Meanwhile the guy in the tree was trading pot shots in the dark back and forth with Boris while Tenkos tried to get within range of the building. Neither archer connected much but Tenkos lobbed a blackfyre bomb straight up onto the thatch roof once it became clear that the occupants weren't going to play ball. The roof erupted in glorious purple flames while Caleb and Viggo beat feet back.

Now that the building was on fire it was much easier for Boris to see the archer in the tree and he nailed the poor sentry. Tree guy decided that discretion was the better part of valor and scrambled down the tree, dropping down the last couple of feet. That proved a mistake as he had no chance to avoid the caltrops and landed firmly on top of them. There was a lot of screaming.

There was even more screaming when Boris or Tenkos (can't remember which) rushed over to him so that they could stab him and make sure he was dead. He didn't die immediately, just collapsed a lung and slowly gurgled and choked before dying some minutes later.

Sidebar: My players thought that was just flavor but dude hit -3 HP and in LotFP that means you're dead in d10 minutes with no chance for saving. I like to apply the HP and dying rules on both sides of the screen.

While that guy was wheezing his last Viggo once again shouted out to try and get the occupants of the house out, saying that there wouldn't have to be any more killing if they gave up Ralf. All they heard in reply was the crackling of burning wood.

Sidebar: Just want to note that without Jewel confidently following the trail here they would have no evidence of Ralf even being here. They even debated that aspect for a while before fixing their recollection.

After several hours waiting for the fire to die down the party entered the remains of the still hot structure. They tried to look for any kind of hidden entrances or basement doors on the floor but there was too much burnt debris to find much without clearing things. They did see a large hole revealed where the rear of the structure had a bear skin on the wall that led down into the dirt mound.

The pathway curved and narrowed as it descended back around under the building. It was tight, forcing a single file approach with their big fake knight in the lead. They called out as they curled around but there was no response.

Caleb being in front potentially saved them all from a TPK because a pair of crossbow bolts came out of the darkness and four attackers rushed them. His platemail deflected a ton of blows, despite the crossbows ability to punch through. Their (Wetzel from earlier) hung back and kept up the ranged assault while two of his comrades tried to wrestle Caleb down with mancatchers and two hung back with whips.

Caleb was swinging mighty blows but couldn't connect with anything. Viggo snaked his bladed grappling hooks around the large farmer to strike at his enemies and Boris peppered the leader with arrows from his shortbow. Tenkos held back, hoping that his magic wouldn't be needed.

Even with the plate Caleb still almost went down and in serious trouble with Tenkos bottlenecked behind his comrades.

Once Caleb started connecting, however, he was hewing people in half left and right, pushing into the room. Viggo took the gap and went for the leader, using his 10' hooked chain and rolling a nasty critical. He sliced up his opponent but then went for the free grapple that he gets for his chain and lost the exchange! The leader coiled the chain around his arm and ripped it out of Viggo's grasp. His success was short-lived however as Boris punctured him with another arrow, dropping him.

As the party cut down a lot of the first wave a second group came running in behind them. Boris tried to draw aggro from Viggo (who was getting punished) by taunting the clever lady who had just run in with the rest of the folks. He was quite successful, meaning that Viggo's attempts at parley for Ralf without any more violence fell flat.

Sidebar: There were a bunch of morale rolls called for here with one of the leaders going down and number depleting. They just kept making all of them!

Boris ran up to stand with Viggo to try and take some of the aggression with some rough words about killing her husband, all the while going into a defensive stance. He took some serious hits, called out more bold words, but continued to parry since another shot probably would have killed him. Tenkos swiftly came up behind him to try to mend some of his wounds with magic, staving off defeat for the moment.

Sidebar: There were 9 opponents overall, four with crossbows. The crossbows were balanced out by the subpar weapons used by people more used to catching animals and vagrants and whipping them into a fighting frenzy for the entertainment of others. The party laughed a bit about the mancatchers and whips but I equipped the enemies before I thought about all the weapons that would have been lying around an arena. Still, without Caleb's platemail this could have very quickly turned into a TPK. It's worth noting that Viggo and Boris ended up being pretty defensive too, with a shield on the bounty hunter and life-saving Parry for the... other bounty hunter.

They offered no more quarter and pretty quickly finished off the rest of their opponents. Although the initial passage and combat area was all mud and supporting beams the next room signaled a rather stark change as mud gave way to well made stonework and tiled floors. The structure itself also opened up, showing much more complexity than the party first suspected.

Whole locale is based on this gorgeous map drawn by Guillaume Tavernier. Click for source.

The initial worked chamber was stocked with all manner of melee weapons, many stained with blood. The next was packed with bunk beds and footlockers. The third room was much larger, better kept, and had the furnishings of a well-appointed cocktail room. One set of stairs led up, presumably to the burned house above, and another led down.

They followed the stairs down into a very large space, still all in stone, centered around a pit with a railing, standing tables, and some bar height chairs. There was a counter offer to the side with a wooden plackard, odds still slotted in, and a very large, locked metal chest.

In the other corner there was a tight spiral staircase heading even further down. At the bottom it continued for a bit  before branching. Two side passages led towards the arena with a pair of gates on each one, like an airlock staging area for dangerous combatants.

Sidebar: All this description and exploration of the stone areas and rooms would normally have taken a bit of time but I rushed through it to try and give Caleb's player Just Yolks some closure on this particular adventure prior to taking leave of us. 

Past the arena entryways the stonework finally started to peter out, leading into a more natural, less refined passage. The tunnel continued straight into a large, barred cell before turning a corner. A very large, maybe man sized or a bit bigger, sat inside on its haunches, staring at them.

They ignored the creature for now and turned the corner, coming to a half dozen or so more normal cells at the end of the hallway. In the last one was a rather sticky man, covered in dried blood, blubbering quietly to himself. The blubbering increased dramatically in volume and intensity once he saw the party and it was difficult to communicate.

Viggo eventually got through to Ralf by saying he would bring him back to his mother and father. They tried to get him out of his cell, with Viggo attempting to pick the lock and Boris racing to find the keys. The adoring protege beat out Viggo, who couldn't pick the cell lock, and Boris unlocked Ralf's cell. Ralf continued blubbering and embraced Viggo, getting a lot of snot and slobber on the man in the process. They quickly moved to get Ralf out (sacking the place on their way), but Boris stayed behind, observing the wolf.

The wolf observed Boris right back, sitting calmly with a cocked head. Iron Guts held out a hand by the bars, offering a sniff, and the wolf rose and began to walk forward with a measured step. Perhaps getting impatient, Boris simply rose and unlocked the door.

Annnd end session. Thanks Vegas for giving us a great hook!


Decaying Lands 16: Search for Ralf

PCs Present & Played:

Boris "Iron Guts", Fighter 1 (Vegas)
Caleb, Fighter 2 [farmer kit] (Just Yolks)
  Suzie, a stubborn but loyal mule
Jewel, Really Good Dog 2 (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
Tenkos, Cleric 2 [plague doctor kit]
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit]

The party left off on the edge of the Lordswood east of Bremmlecht on the trail of Ralf Wegener the bovine butcher. The boy had left a trail so erratic that it was child's play for the party to follow between Jewel's nose and Viggo's experience.

The trail got more narrow and less disturbed as time went on but it was still easy enough to follow. They eventually came into a bit of a break, a small clearing. They checked things out and found a other, much cleaner trail leading into the clearing from a similar direction. Jewel found a little depression where a large man might have curled up for a bit, too. The main feature was all of the broken branches and scuffed dirt in the area leading to a much larger trail that went away from the clearing. It looked to their eyes like something large dragging on the ground.

The party's theory is that some people came into the clearing, fought with Ralf, and then dragged him out the other direction. The drag marks got less erratic and eventually settled into a solid path which the party interpreted to mean that Ralf had given up struggling.

Jewel smelled something on the wind off to the side of their trail as they continued and set off to investigate ("sniff the air"). She found a girl foraging in the woods, basket on her arm. She suspected the girl of not being human but a surreptitious sniff (and scratches!) said she checked out as far as Jewel could tell.

After firm assurance that Caleb was not, in fact, a knight of Lord Taylor, the girl opened up about foraging in the Lordswood. She hasn't seen Ralf but hoped that they would find him because he was always so sweet and kind. Despite what she heard the girl was sure there was some kind of explanation.

They made their way back to the trail they were following and continued on, eventually spotting a large shape thru the trees, probably a building. Viggo and Jewel both snuck forward, the bounty hunter circling right and the very good dog heading left. Viggo was silent as a butterfly but Jewel... Less butterfly. A man sitting outside the building caught sight of her, called out, she ran, and he ran after her, shouting to a "Wenzel" inside the house. Her pursuer had a brace of throwing axes hanging from his belt.

Gaze in wonder at my ms paint abilities. That's a big mound of dirt in the back.

A woman walked out and then a man, both armed. The woman's leather apron was bloody, and she had a cleaver in her hand. They went back and forth with the party, Caleb taking point in the discussion and Viggo remaining hidden in the back of the building. Caleb a d company repeatedly talk about just wanting Ralf, these three folks say they don't know who that is and they're just out here trying to scrape by.

Caleb asked to see some of their antler scrimshaw wares to try get an opening to get more info and get Jewel inside. Unfortunately there were too many competing scents for her to pick up anything definitive. Caleb ended up buying a really sweet helmet though.

Something like this, probably, until Just Yolks give me something else.

While they were in there, Jewel pawed at the door. The woman showing the scrimshaw kicked her, drawing out Caleb's rage, and he pushed past her through the door and into the larger part of the building. All he saw inside was a workshop with various skins hanging on the walls. Somehow there was no violence yet and Caleb slowly backed down and out of the showroom.

Sidebar: I am pretty sure that the only thing stopping Jewel and Caleb from just all out murdering everyone was the fact that their players thought everyone else didn't want to do that. Just wait!

Viggo stayed hidden round back (Solid Viggo! Viggo Snake!) while the occupants of the building shouted and yelled and told them to get the hell away. While the folks in front of the building continued to argue about Ralf / leaving, Viggo heard some voices in the back of the building talking frantically about getting ready.

Jewel gave up on human talk and ran around to the back of the building and started digging in the dirt in the rear. There was very nearly bloodshed but Viggo materialized out of thing air (took off his cardboard box), put his hands up, and said that they were sorry and would be leaving immediately.

They debated pulled back to their original planning point, barely in sight of the building, and debated going back right then, weapons out, and killing them all. Jewel tried to draw something in the dirt but wasn't able to get her message across, so they decided to fall back even farther to the clearing.

Sidebar: I made Rudy use his offhand to draw in roll20 to simulate how shitty a dog would draw. He did a pretty good job but they weren't picking up what he was putting down. This is probably the first time that Jewel's inability to talk to her party members has resulted in frustration and real communication issues.

While they were debating what to do they encountered the same girl they had met previously, making her way back out of the wood. They confronted her again, asking a lot of questions about the house in the Lordswood. She knew about them and how they hunt and sell but got quite uncomfortable about it. "Everybody has to eat, right?" Further prodding coupled with their suspicion that the house held Ralf got her to open up more, however.

The girl told the party that while those folks did indeed steal from Lord Taylor and her wood that it was just a front for another, also illegal activity: an arena, often with fights to the death. The Church would not approve but she has personally escorted a number of nobles and guards to the fights. She's never gone inside, only guided the VIPs through the Lordswood, but she was sure that they must bribe a lot of important people to maintain their operation.

The next arena evening would be in two nights. She didn't want to cause trouble but Ralf was always so sweet and oh she just really hoped he was okay. She quickly bid the party goodbye once they didn't have any more questions for her and hurried off, worry on her face.

Sidebar: I should probably explain that I'm not just throwing this lady at the party. I use Beloch's random encounter scheme LINK (which is great). The first time she came up I hit an.. 8 or 6 for "sense of place." Figured someone foraging in the Lordswood would make sense. The next encounter they had was a 6 or 8 (whichever wasn't the first time) so they cross paths with a large many-pointed buck but couldn't get at it before it fled. The third time an encounter came up it landed on NPC (7) so it made sense that they would run into this girl again. All happened pretty organically, actually.

After she left they spent some time discussing various plans. The options were "go back and murder them" or "go back and try to return this stag helmet and create a ruse to get inside."

"Let's just light their house on fire!"
"Well we do want to save Ralf..."

Tentative Plan: Sneak in at night, almost kick down the door, ultimatum of going into the cellar, looking for Ralf or we'll burn your damn house down. "We'll go in wearing armor, they'll be wearing pajamas."


Decaying Lands 15: Bremmlecht BizDev

PCs Present & Played:

Barthelm Schade, Specialist 4 (James)
Boris "Iron Guts", Fighter 1 (Vegas)
Claus Drexol, Magic-User 4 (Vegas)
Jewel, Really Good Dog 2 (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
Tenkos, Cleric 2 [plague doctor kit]
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit]

The party had survived a foray into the abandoned wizard tower of Bremmlecht with only one casualty, and a dog at that. Their linklady Weibke and guard Sandra quickly abandoned them once they left the tower. Despite the fact that the party had doubled their wages they still were worried what the two women would say or not about the night's events. Captain Foofamaloo decided that adventuring wasn't for him and left as well.

They still didn't know what to make of the voice in their heads or if they wanted to go back in or not but their immediate plan was to take a few days to rest and heal.

Sidebar: I had absolutely no idea what they wanted to do this session. Nothing.

Now that they were relatively safe, Claus cast comprehend languages so he could talk to Jewel for real. She came from Cronnon, far to the east and north and wants to establish herself in this "beautiful country", that is "definitely nice." She also treated everyone like they were her vassals but everyone played along.

Jewel, now with the ability to talk, also told Claus that she really opposes his clone spell idea and fears for the integrity of the multiverse. Claus pretended to write it down and tell everyone else but mostly just ignored that part. Of course since Jewel can understand him she knew that but not much she could do about it.

Was Jewel a human? Nope, always a dog.
"Hey how come you're smarter than other dogs?"
"Why does the bird fly? Why does the fish swim?"
"That's the opposite! You are a flying fish!"

They didn't get much resolution there but we're happy to learn something of their canine companion. The next order of business was going over what they had taken from the tower, starting with the chest.

The first instinct was to chop it open, which caused  Jewel and Barthelm to abandon the room. Think this was after Barthelm and Viggo both failed to pick the lock. Barthelm may have also been shy after almost dying to a poison needle in the lock when they  were in the tower itself.

The rest of the party examined the chest and both Tenkos and Claus caught the scent of some common alchemical reagents emanating from the chest. Instead of chopping, they decided to be more careful and attack the chest with a drill and saw. The damaged maybe a quarter of the components (1d100 = 26% value lost) but discovered that in addition to a bundle of normal lab supplies there was also an extra padded bottle labeled "volcanic ash" set by itself and carefully protected.

Next they moved to the three foot long scroll case. Jewel had growled at it in the tower but now she could share through Claus that she growled because it smelled wrong to her, a strange mustiness like the "shit chair" in the tower's entrance floor. Claus popped the cap anyway, curiosity overruling all, and pulled out the tanned torso skin of an adult man. The skin was joined at the left side and went from the neck and shoulders down to the pelvis. It was covered in intricate geometric shapes, tattoos reminiscent of the drawings they had found inside the tower but more complex. Claus stashed it again, maybe to be investigated at a later time.

- Jewel demanded a feast from her underling
- Tenkos went to the post office.
- Barthelm and Tenkos went to the tower and did a stakeout
- Everyone got back together to go searching for Weibke

They found her house after bribing the waiter that introduced them in the first place. Weibke's dog was particularly innefective at guarding, rolling over for belly rubs and quickly acquiescing to Jewel's request to let them pass.

Weibke was less friendly and shut the door in their faces. Viggo shouted that he never would have let Barthelm hurt her (he shackled her hands in the tower but also stood by her) and Claus tried to remind her of how interested she had seemed in the adventuring life. She refused to open the door still but didn't tell them to leave anymore either.

The party backed off a bit to have a private conversation. Viggo liked Sandra better as a companion because she seemed less fazed, but Jewel barked and growled..

"Weibke almost killed us all!"
"Yeah, and so did Claus, and Caleb...."

Claus wanted to spend a lot of time learning spells and making stuff with Tenkos, so he shouted out to Weibke that if she changed her mind he would be waiting for her at their inn to teach her.

Viggo went around to the taverns, looking for a bounty.

* Bandits on the road to the south, sounded familiar to Barthelm
* Farmer entreating the guards to help with her nephew who went crazy and killed the cows, they don't believe her

Jewel wanted to help the farmer out, Viggo wanted to go after the bandits, make some money. Risk vs reward discussion ensued. They figured that the farmer might be a quicker turnaround and decided on that.

Weibke did show up, Claus started talking to her about read magic and initial magical training. This was going to take a while, so Vegas rolled up a quick fighter to party around while Claus is researching spells and doing magic stuff. Boris "Iron Guts" (!!) just so happened to run into Viggo and the rest of the crew while they were out and about!

Sidebar: Vegas rolled some decent stats for Boris, including an 18. Boris got to be "Iron Guts" because he put that 18 into Constitution. That's right, he's so scared of dying he even put his highest score for a throwaway character into Constitution to get more HP.

Boris "Iron Guts" recognized Viggo from their youth! Boris knew him when he was little and Viggo was a teen (he's 36 now) and Viggo knew he'd be a douche even then. Apparently he uses his talent for drinking to wager against local heavies / drunks (he has no talent for bounty hunting).

"Shouldn't they call you silver guts, then?"

Viggo immediately tried to dump him, but Barthelm latched onto the idea of a meatshield very quickly ("Oh is that a close combat weapon?").

They arrived at the Wegener farm to investigate the missing cow killer nephew. Barthelm and Jewel broke into the house while the rest of the party followed the trail of blood and smell of meat into the butchering shed. Jewel followed her nose about, investigated a disheveled bunk, but they didn't come up with too much.

Meanwhile in the shed the rest of the group told Esther Wegener, the boy's aunt, that they were here to help. Apparently Ralf, her newphew, had been a bit strange ever since coming back from Stilton. He was much quieter, beefier, and dumber, but he really seemed to be closer to their dairy cows until the night he snapped and started killing them all just two nights ago. Esther's brother and his wife are too devastated to talk, so Esther took them back to the house to discuss further, leaving the rest of the family to continue trying to salvage what beef they could.

She may or may not have caught Barthelm and Jewel in the house, it's fuzzy (think she did). Even if they avoided that complication, Barthelm doubled down by offering her a single silver piece to help with the near complete loss of all of their livelihood. Viggo facepalmed behind her, muttering "I forgot there was a reason why I do this by myself." Good old "Iron Guts" gave her a business card and it was a wonder that Viggo didn't throw up everywhere.

Esther explained further that Ralf had been sent to Stilton to try and make a deal with the cheese makers there to use the Wegener farm as a supplier of fine milk. The town had recently been put on the map because of their cheese and the stuff was in high demand across the land. Ralf failed, however, and wasn't able to explain what happened when he came back. She offered the party a taste of their special milk but only Tenkos took her up on it.

It was fucking delicious.

She offered the party 200 sp to find the boy and make sure that he doesn't damage the Wegener name and fortunes any further. He primary concern at this point is salvaging the fortunes of her family and its well known dairy farm. If they can bring Ralf back alive and safe, all the better, and maybe his parents will add to their reward.

The party departed, following the tracks from the farm outskirts to the nearby game forest and girded themselves for the unknown.


Decaying Lands 14: The Tower of Bremmlecht 03

PCs Present & Played:

Barthelm Schade, Specialist 4 (James)
Caleb, Fighter 2 [farmer kit] (Just Yolks)
  Suzie, a stubborn but loyal mule
Claus Drexol, Magic-User 4 (Vegas)
  Wiebke Bott, linklady from Bremmlecht
  Sandra Schöll, guard from Bremmlecht
Jewel, Really Good Dog 2 (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
  Grizzle / Shado, grizzled mongrel
  Wimpy / Cpt. Foofamaloo, escaped housedog
Tenkos, Cleric 1 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Full house tonight! Ended off last session with the party discovering a secret room in the corner of a room with a bunch of skeletons and spellbooks in footlockers. The door handle that opened the secret door was in the bottom of a screaming chest, in a false bottom. They opened the door and peered carefully inside. There was a luxurious rug; a desk and chair; and a basket with some tubes in the back.

Jewel picked Grizzle to go in. She definitely liked him the least but also happened to be his turn. They figured odds were high of awfulness. She told the mangy cur to enjoy himself and he did, rolling about and jumping up and down on the finely embroidered rug. It was really nice and looked like a ton of fun until he got closer to the chair. That's when they heard the snickt sound as a large metal spike shot thru the rug, into the dog, and right on out the top. He was transfixed, twitching in his death throes.

Barthelm traced a safe path to the dog and put him out of his misery with an axe. He lifted the desk off the rug so that Viggo could pull it out of the room, Grizzle still impaled by a trap and a second, still untriggered trap over in front of the basket. Barthelm's trained eye identified a really fancy bear trap!

Barthelm: "Did you just give us the greatest treasure of all? As far as Barthelm's concerned we can probably leave now." Choice quote from Barthelm but in general they are all so fucking pumped.

Viggo: "What would someone be doing in here with a secret door and traps and secret rooms?"
Barthelm: "Probably experimenting with awful worm creatures in bottles."

Once the "OMG more bear traps!" exuberance had subsided they examined the desk a bit more. It looked to be of exquisite construction with more ebony inlay on the top surface. There was a single drawer slung underneath the desktop with a pair of handles and a large arc of ebony on the bottom middle.

Desk, front view. Circle things are handles, ebony wood in the curve at the bottom.
Viggo attached his chain to one of the handles and pulled slowly, keeping his distance. The ebony portion of the drawer stayed put while the lighter wood of the drawer pulled out. They could see the dark wood in the back of the desk, full of papers. The light wood of the drawer that got pulled out had some writing on it but they couldn't read it from this distance.

Viggo went up to the desk to try and puzzle out the writing. As he read them he could feel himself getting sucked in for a moment, transfixed, before they exploded in his face and lit the desk on fire! Viggo stumbled back, nearly dead (2hp) while Claus rushed forward to try to save the papers. Unfortunately the wizard was not quick enough and ended up with some scorched hands for his trouble. 

Sidebar: Explosive runes! I have encouraged my players to use their knowledge however they can because the game is hard and unforgiving. After Viggo almost died both Claus and Barthelm's players said "Oh yeah I totally thought that was explosive runes, why did you we say anything?" I don't know, but since Viggo didn't die it probably didn't weigh too heavily on their minds. I'm thinking Claus' player is probably more upset about losing the papers and they should all be upset about losing all these very fine and expensive furnishings.

Once they had healed up Viggo a bit (hey they've got a cleric now!) they got to theorizing. "If this person was a great wizard, why was the secret room in the apprentice area? Was this a secret apprentice who was way more powerful? WTF is the wizard floor going to be guarded by?!" They all cast a meaningful sidelong glance at the remaining dogs (the henchdogs not Jewel, probably).

The only thing they had left in the room was a trio of scroll cases in the corner basket. Two were normal sized but one was around three feet long. They opened the first regular one and it was full of strange and intricate drawings, even more impressive than the ones that were found in the other chests. Sandra seemed ready to kill Claus if need be based on how excited he was about the possibility of new magic (what is obviously an evil thing) but Barthelm got up in her face with a threatening stare.

The second case had a small bottle, a dropper, and what looked to Tenkos' trained eye to be a dosing chart. They just couldn't tell exactly what the dosage was for. Jewel growled at the long case so they avoided opening it for the moment. She also nudged one of the party members to give Foofamaloo a bit of meat to shore up the dandy dog's motivation a bit.

Barthelm went to one of the other rooms and peeked out the window get a sense of time. They'd been in the tower for a full two hours already (maybe more? I dropped the ball on accurate time records) and had a few more to go before dawn. They decided to press on, continuing up the stairs to the next landing. On the way they found three more corpses in chain mail, scrounging what silvers they could from the bodies.

At the landing they all stared at the door. They knew from their outside observation that this was the top floor; the stairs up past this led to the roof. Claus, after a moment, continued on up the stairs around the corner to wait for everyone else to open the door. 

Jewel, hoping to put Sandra more at ease after the confrontation, told Foofamaloo to go lick her hand. When she rebuffed the dog the party decided that she would be the one to open the door. Barthelm checked it for traps without finding anything, Foofamaloo ran up to Claus, and Sandra opened the door.

Bodies, a bunch of bodies. Eight tossed around the room, with one all by itself at the other end of what looked like a highway. Four of the bodies were all burned up, clustered around a charred metal door. The other four didn't have obvious wounds from where the party stood.

Sandra moved into the room and the rest of the party followed. The floor was covered almost completely by another thick rug with intricate geometric designs, similar to the one from the secret room. The hallway straight ahead led to an open door blocked by curtains.

The most impressive feature of the room was the giant statue of a naked, incredibly muscular man standing next to the door. It was posed like a wrestler or a body builder might be and had an incredibly level of detail for a sculpture, similar to the cowled figure near the tower entrance.

"Get the big key! Check alllll the spots"

Sidebar: Hey, HEY, it's another dick joke. This is apparently the kind of game I run. I'm okay with that.

Obce they determined that the  statue wasn't going to come to life and murder them in the immediate future they commenced their usual rummaging around the bodies, taking what they could find. Most of the corpses seemed like normal soldiers but the one closest to the doors had much nicer equipment, including a metal helmet that was completely bashed in and crushing the skull.

They also grabbed a bunch of money, a fancy greatsword, and an intricate eyeglass shaped in the likeness of a yellow cat's eye. Claus immediately put on the monacle and thought it's awesome!

Sidebar: I had been describing all of the corpses as skeletons up to this point when Vegas, Claus' player, started asking me about states if decomposition and skin and evidence of bugs and all sorts of stuff. He thought there would be sunken skin or something if there was no bug evidence (my mistake) and I said nah man been here a long time, just bones. (MAYBE DON'T CLICK THESE) A couple hours of bubbly body research (body farms!) and I feel fairly confident that a tower with open windows would have skeleton corpses instead of mummy corpses. Maybe there would still be bug evidence but I bet even that stuff decomposes after long enough.

As soon as they opened the curtain Claus started to hear a voice in his head. He didn't share this with anyone but went forward in the room, holding a torch and moving towards the large brazier. Barthelm was close behind, and Jewel was near Weibke. Both Claus and Weibke were talking about lighting the brazier to try and make it easier to see. In addition the the brazier there were some bookshelves in disarray, a desk, a chest, and a robed corpse half covering a large summoning circle.

Even a summoning circle was not enough to draw attention away from this brazier, however. Claus got to the brazier and tried to light it.

Sidebar: I think Vegas said something like "Well if no one stops Claus then I am definitely lighting this up." Bless your heart Vegas.

Barthelm stopped Claus from putting the torch in, Weibke tried to throw hers in but Jewel beat her out at initiative, grabbed her, stopped her from throwing. Viggo jumped in and grabbed the torch, put some manacles on her. All this time the voice was trying to convince Claus to light the brazier.

Then Barthelm dumped the brazier contents on the floor. This didn't stop the voice.  It started talking to Jewel but she growled. Started trying to get Caleb too, he seemed tempted by whatever it was saying to him but couldn't quite push him over the edge in that moment.

Sidebar: Managing all of these mental communications with instant messaging instead of just telling them out loud was really cool but became unmanageable the more people I added to talk to individually.

Barthelm exploded further into the room after they had secured the torches from Weibke and Claus. He noted a cell with some kind of child-sized skeletons seemingly fused together. The robe on the corpse on top of the symbol was very fine and Claus confirmed once again that the summoning circle was an intricate, powerful one. All this time the voices continued to Weibke and Claus. Oh and Barthelm threatened to brutally kill Weibke if she even so much as looked at a torch in this room.

"Maybe we can research some way to consecrate the ashes." I don't remember who said this but my response was something along the lines of: "Hey, research! That's a really interesting word that you all have never said before." I need bigger things to hit them on the head with, I guess.

They grabbed a chest in the back of the brazier room, Claus snagged some books off the shelf, and they all got the hell out of dodge as quickly as they could.


One Shot Shenanigans: Troika! Odd Couple

I'm three regular campaign summaries behind at the moment but I wanted to get this session report out to mix it up a bit. Skip down to the postlude if you just want quick thoughts about Troika! but some of it won't make sense without the context.

My campaign has suffered a bit in the past month. I had to cancel one session because I was working a lot and didn't have time to play. This past weeks session I cancelled but managed to reschedule from Thursday to Saturday based on availability. Most of that fell thru at the last minute so I was left with two of my normal six players about an hour after our usual start time. We took advantage of the time to do some lovely catching up and then decided to hit the hay early like responsible adults.

Lies! We didn't sleep, we shot the shit and then I started proposing various one shot recipes for their preparation and consumption. I was thinking Maze Rats or Troika! since they were a ton of fun to run before for IntroCONso and character creation is a snap. One of my regular crew (I'ma call him Peanut Butter) who played in that Troika! one-shot for IntroCONso perked up immediately and the decision was made pretty quickly. Vegas had never played before so we got him spun up and they got to rolling up their characters.

Sidenote: You can see what they've played in the regular Lamentations campaign over here.

Troika! is a retroclone of Advanced Fighting Fantasy and has three stats: Skill, Stamina, and Luck. Doing things is generally Skill, you want a high one, and they both rolled as low as possible there (4). On the other hand, Peanut Butter maxed out on Luck (saving throws-ish). Both of those facts came into play very prominently later as the session got closer to ending. So we had:

Jonice "Jonesy" Tuscany (Peanut Butter)
  Sorcerer of the College of Friends
??? (Vegas)

If you don't have Troika! (why don't you there's a free artless version dammit!!) then you might not know that a Zoanthrop is a person who has willingly had their forebrain removed, turning them into some kind of wild animal man thing. Most likely they're naked, it says. This one wasn't naked, however, as Jonesy made sure to cover him up in loincloth and poncho. They decided that Jonesy probably knew this guy pre-op and has been trying to reign him in a bit after failing to convince him not to auto-lobotomize. Jonesy calls him "Erik" but unclear if that was his name before. Hell of an odd couple though! Guy who just wants to be friends with everyone and spread the love and barely-a-guy. That's the magic that the dice give you in Troika!

We decide that these two don't travel the million spheres on one of the golden barges but that they are aware of their life on one of those spheres. It's small enough that you could travel around it and it wouldn't take your whole life so that's what they're doing. At a local tavern they overheard some anglers complaining of lake monsters and another guy freaked out about trees that tried to kill him. They introduced themselves to the fisherfolk by way of "Erik" jumping forward and saying "spooooooky fishessss!" Vegas got into character real quick.

They asked about nighttime attacks and came up with day trouble only. Their plan was to go out and do some recon during the day in a borrowed boat. Only Jonesy had any skill in swimming and it's not much (5 or less on 2d6) so they were hoping they don't get into trouble. 

Of course "don't get into trouble" and "reconnaissance" turned into "let's hang out on this lake all day and see if we can find the monster." They managed to catch some regular fish before attracting the attention of a fifteen foot long tentacles monstrosity. It started off trying to grab "Erik" and pull him into the water but caught a couple of mighty club hits for the effort. It then went straight for murder tentacles.

Jonesy tried to Jolt the thing which would have been super effective in the water but alas, rolling 5 or less on 2d12 is really hard. Then he declared that he was taking out his knife to which I replied "Oh yeah? Where is it on your inventory list?" Even getting stuff out in combat is a roll based on what number line the thing is on (1-12). Of course poor Jonesy failed that one too even though the roll wasn't so bad (I think?).

Meanwhile "Erik" was just smashing back and forth with this giant tentacle thing. I toned it down after the first exchange because I realized 7 skill and damage as medium monster was way too strong for two starting schlubs with no armor. Oops. Second session of Troika!, still don't have an idea of mob strength yet. It was still close, but "Erik" got in a killing blow and they had until the end of the round before other it started to sink. Unfortunately the black end of turn die came out before they could secure the beast and it sunk into the depths of the lake. That was the only kind of initiative bag trickery that came up in this combat. It also wasn't quite as fun to pull the dice from the bag myself and shove them at the camera; much prefer making the players pull the init dice out.

Jonesy wanted proof that they had killed it so he prepared to dive in. The sorcerer wasn't a very good swimmer (one point in it) but he was still better than his empty-headed companion (no points). Since they both had a base skill 4, that put their chances of actually passing a swimming test at 28% and 17% respectively. Not good. Jonesy was committed though so he took off his gear and I think did some breathing exercises or something. He also created a pair of helping hands on the side of the boat to help pull the like back up once he'd secured it. "Erik" would help pull it up too. Prepped, Jonesy dove into the water!

And immediately failed his check. Drowning is brutal in Troika! (d6 additive damage per failed check) but we have him a mulligan since he was going in on purpose and wasn't really even in the water yet. Didn't matter much though, because now that Jonesy was in the water and dove down in earnest he failed again and started taking damage (d6). He secured the rope on the corpse and tried to use the rope to assist in his assent. He got big bonuses for being able to use the rope, probably needed to make 7 or lower at this point (58%) but still failed (2d6). "Erik" was barely able to haul the spluttering friend sorcerer onto the deck. Jonesy had very nearly died (and not passed a single check the whole time) but they had a big gross monster fixed to the hull. Success!

They returned to town to incredulous celebrations. The townsfolk gutted and salted the monster to leave it in the sun in the hopes of preserving it as a tourist attraction. Jonesy laid up for a bit after his very much near-death experience then spent the festival week casting minor magics and making friends. "Erik" just... did "Erik" things, I guess. He's a weird guy. An old lady, impressed by Jonesy's displays (stuff like Protection from Rain, too stronk) brought him a trio of plasmic cores but warned him of their addictive, destructive properties.

Sidebar: At this point we could have stopped or kept playing. It was general stopping time for our normal sessions but since it was the weekend we kept rolling.

Towards the end of the celebration they searched out the truffle gatherer who had fled the forest after being attacked by trees. He was grateful that they didn't think he was crazy and described the hill where he usually found the best mushrooms, right next to the lake. Jonesy stocked up on oil for the burning and they rolled out.

Found the copse easily enough, didn't approach. Instead Jonesy cracked open his Second Sight (detect magic) and saw an evil aura extending from the trees down into the roots. They circled over to the lake side of the cliff, saw a beech down below, and decided to go down. They had no rope but there was plenty of roots hanging down over the side. "Erik" also detected an acrid, foul smell down there, cementing their decision to go down. The man-beast scampered down the cliff easily enough and next it was Jonesy's turn for a feat of athleticism.

You might think that all of these handy climbing roots (and commensurate bonuses) would make this climb a cinch but nope! Jonesy barely failed his physical task again, taking a decent chunk of damage in the fall. He needed to rest and take advantage of the fact that eating a provision heals in Troika! "Erik" searched about and found a handful of gold coins. Rich! He also found a crack in the cliff, and they both went inside. The dirt turned into more finished stone and they found a mucked up chamber with more than half a dozen cracked eggs. More importantly, they found two miniature lake monsters!

The initiative bag jumped in a little bit here, ending some rounds early before everyone had a chance to act. Initially they were more hungry than anything and the players had an idea of that but then things devolved into blows pretty quickly. Maybe this is actually where Jonesy went for rations in his pack and failed the check to grab it in a tense situation. Either way, "Erik" hopped in front of his buddy and handily slew the two creatures inside of a few rounds between his turns and beating the creatures when they attacked him.

Sidebar: In Troika! someone always gets hurt when there's a melee combat, doesn't matter if it's your turn or not. Makes holding a door or facing off against a bunch of minions really interesting. Also makes facing a single, more dangerous creature more of a gamble for everyone not just the PC that gets attacked on the creature's turn. I love it.

They didn't waste too much time after dispatching the creatures beyond noting the improved stonework and remaining unaccounted for eggs. They coiled underneath that room and went further into the caves, spotting a mass of tree roots. Jonesy slowly approached one and it tried to grab him! He dodged, backed up, and lit them all up with his extra oil. Preparation!

They came to a large room with a pair of sarcophagi surrounded by an oily liquid. "Erik" took a running start and leapt onto the closer coffin. Unfortunately a hideous, alien creature exploded out from it and tried to kill him, letting out a horrific howl.

Good thing "Erik" ain't never scared! Forebrain removal really coming in handy here. Jonesy tested his luck and passed, so they both escaped the effects of the howl.

Sidebar: Luck is the saving throw stat in Troika!. It's got a max set at character creation and goes down every time it's tested regardless of result. It can be restored with rest and some consumables. Players can choose not to test luck if they'd rather save it. At this point they had both tested their luck a few times so the numbers were getting less favorable.

There was some back and forth on top of the coffin with Jonesy trying to provide support from the other side. "Erik" was hurting, and tried to flee back to the outside of the room, but failed, falling into the oil. The creature hopped down too but ended up going prone. Their collective plan was to get "Erik" out of the oil, have Jonesy light it up, and then GTFO before heat, smoke, or monster ended them both. The next few pulls from the initiative bag were pretty tense, but they manged to get "Erik" out of the liquid and onto the stone with Jonesy following up with the Ember to light it up.

Their plan was almost too successful, as now they needed to get out of the room without dying horrible because of all the smoke and fire and heat. Think it ended up being three turns to get out, test luck at the end of every round or take damage, something like that. Jonesy got out pretty safe, with his much higher luck, but "Erik" was in more trouble and fell unconscious just at the edge of safety. Our friendly sorcerer rushed back into danger to save his friend, healing him back up with a provision or some water or something enough to for them both to get out of the fire.


There are some review bits sprinkled throughout the summary but overall I think it should be pretty clear that I love Troika! The general play mechanic is straightforward, the backgrounds are dripping with verve and beauty, and the art inside is gorgeous.

Sidebar: Before continuing, a disclosure: Daniel Sell asked on g+ at some point if anyone wanted review copies of things. He was non-specific, but I volunteered based on the fact that I really loved Troika! and had backed Crypts of Indormancy. It turns out the review copies were for... Troika! and Crypts of Indormancy. I got review copies of things I had already bought and paid for. I don't really know what that means, I guess? I think if I had already bought something that I later got comp'ed it probably doesn't count as a comp but worth noting at least.

The initiative bag does a great job of adding tension and unpredictability to combat. Having speed, coordination, and decisiveness all represented as the number of dice that go in the bag is an effective abstraction. The fact that someone always gets damaged in melee is another good addition, simultaneously solving the problem of a bunch of PCs surrounding a badass monster and the inverse of that when a single PC tries to hold a choke point against a rush of little booger mobs or something. Spells and ranged weapons aren't contested, however, so maybe it just turns everyone into Legolas. I haven't seen that happen in two sessions but it would also be a lot harder since characters are rolled completely randomly on the background d66 table.

That background table is of course one of the other huge strengths of Troika! with 36 unique and interesting backgrounds oozing with implied setting. Creation is incredibly fast which is a great thing when health never improves over the (short?) life of a character. In my first Troika! session I had two PCs die but they were back with a newly rolled character faster than it mattered. I'm really looking forward to seeing the rest of the full d666 table (216 entries) that Daniel has planned for Troika!

I'll also note the inventory system as being incredibly elegant in terms of management but maintaining an impact on the PCs. Everyone gets 12 slots and that's (generally) it. You can carry more stuff but it's incredibly crippling. If you need something in a hurry, you have to roll over its slot number. That's it! No endless inventory but also no need to audit all the time to see if anyone should really be a lot slower when they're trying to run away from the awful murder beast.

Peanut Butter has basically guaranteed that I will be running Troika! at every IntrCONso and random one-shot for a while, too. He also said something really insightful after the session that made me appreciate Troika! even more. Part of the baked in setting is this idea of "travelling the millions spheres," so Peanut Butter pointed out how cool it was that both of the sessions we played were happening concurrently somewhere in this universe. I find this very attractive as a method to mix things up with different spheres, sessions, and characters while still maintaining a sort of continuity.

My only real complaint is that I don't like the second printing's cover as much as the first's.


Decaying Lands 13: The Tower of Bremmlecht 02 - A Secret!

PCs Present & Played:

Barthelm Schade, Specialist 4 (James)
Caleb, Fighter 2 [farmer kit]
  Suzie, a stubborn but loyal mule
Claus Drexol, Magic-User 4 (Vegas)
  Wiebke Bott, linklady from Bremmlecht
  Sandra Schöll, guard from Bremmlecht
Jewel, Really Good Dog 2 (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
  Fuckhead / Shado, grizzled mongrel
  Wimpy / Cpt. Foofamaloo, escaped housedog
Tenkos, Cleric 1 [plague doctor kit]
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit]

We started the session back in the room with the muddy bloody rugs, blood trail towards the last closed door, and elaborate inlaid wood chair covered in shit. Jewel's player was back in the game after leaving early last time so we got a fair bit of dog-nosed investigation of the chair. Jewel was able to smell some things but didn't come up with much that was actionable for the rest of the party.

Tower level 01. Shit chair in the top left.

Caleb then tried to grab the chair and rock it around. The sides of the chair went all the way down to the floor, so he was looking for some way to move it or uncover a hidden trapdoor. He found the chair to be securely attached to the floor but discovered an angled slot hidden in the back, between the chair and the wall.

I made a drawing in roll20 to show my players the general setup (my lines are in black). They turned the wall into a dick. I've been there so I can't complain (not that I would).

This is what happens when players can draw things.

Caleb tried to fit his mailed hand inside but couldn't quite get it all the way in, just a bit too big. He didn't want to remove the mail, however, afraid that he would lose his hand as well. Viggo tried next, heedless of any danger, and found that the slot fit his hand like a glove. The inside was smooth as silk and the slot split into five smaller indentations, perfectly sized for each of the bounty hunter's fingers. They did not observe anything else to happen, so they started to speculate.

"Oh your dick! Put that in!"
"Yeah, put your dick in there, it's so silky."
"Do you have some kind of hydra dick?"

So I guess I need to write about something with a hydra dick now? Spoilers for my players, this chair was not made for a hydra-dicked being.

The next thing they tried was ripping the hands off the skeleton from the kitchen and putting them into the slot. The skeleton hand also fit perfectly into the slot, similar to Viggo's. Somebody asked Jewel if the chair was bad, and she nodded. Claus, contrary to his prior extreme caution, put his own hand inside the slot in the back of the chair. He also found the inside of the slot to fit perfectly around his hand, as though it were made for it, and it did feel incredibly silky smooth. Unlike Viggo, Claus also felt a tingling in his hand that lasted for several moments after removing his hand from the slot.

At this point, Barthelm cautioned against further investigation of the chair. "We can only push this so far, eventually somebody goes back for the rope if you know what I mean."

They followed the blood trail to the last door and into a stairwell, discovering another robed skeleton in the process. This one had a dagger, but little else, so they sent Fuckhead up the stairs to check before following up. The non-dog party members heard a bunch of barking between the canine people and Jewel indicated with a nod for others to ascend. They eventually all made their way up the stairs and found another skeleton. This one, however, was armed with a sword, shield, and chainmail. They were excited about the chainmail until they flipped the skeleton over and found the chain burst apart in the front.

They examined the shield and the armor, looking for some kind of indication of whose soldier this was. The shield had was emblazoned with the mark of the local lord of Bremmlecht. Oh, what's their name? Well I didn't make a name for them yet, but-

"It's Lord TAYLOR."

Everyone is getting naming privileges revoked.

Yeah okay, a soldier of Lord Taylor. Sure.

They scrounged a few more scraps of silver coins from this corpse and Barthelm leaned into the door, listening. He heard the whistle of a breeze but little else. He gently eased open the door on the landing, ignoring the stairs up for now and went into the darkened room. Seeing an open window with no curtain, Barthelm quickly assessed the room, grabbed a table near the window, and put it on end to block the opening.

More light discipline! This party seems to have it pretty together.

They brought in Weibke and her torch to examine the room. Barthelm (I think) was rocking a torch by now too for extra coverage. There were a few crates that they quickly ransacked. In the first, Claus found an abundance of very high quality black (x10 value) and colored (x15 value) inks. In the second, he found a number of plain wooden cases. Inside each case was what looked like a syringe with finger holes along the length of it.

"What could it be," they wondered?

They picked another door to go through. This time Jewel told the fancy-pants housedog, Wimpy, to go through. This dog actually had a name that people gave it ("Captain Foofamaloo") but Jewel refused to use it. Wimpy whimpered a bit but passed a morale check and went in through the door before whimpering some more and running back out. Inside a small side room they found a skeleton slumped against the wall with a dozen crossbow bolts in and around it. Barthelm quickly rushed in and stuffed the bedroll in the open window (more light discipline!), revealing a small coin pouch and a scrap of paper.

"Josef, you are a true servant to the Church. Thank you for you service. We will come for you shortly, remain strong."

The crossbow bolts and the mention of the Church must have made something click in Viggo's head because he started to talk about how incredibly dangerous everything could be in the tower. His previous experience was with more mundane challenges but now that they were messing with magical detritus he realized that he should be more cautious. Barthelm agreed, said they all needed to watch themselves (you don't get to level 4 in this game without being careful).

Jewel sent the ratter into the next room, taking turns with doggerlings. Buddy the ratter was businesslike and professional, responded with a "Yes boss" and a quick report of the room. Everyone else filed in, found a rack with leather straps on it, some shelves, and a crate with some more ink and syringe-like objects from before. They reasoned that the straps were to hold people down onto the table for some kind of strange torture.

They tried to press on into the next room with Caleb taking the lead (no dogs this time!) but the door had some resistance behind it. Caleb, beefy man that he is, heaved against it and pushed three more mailed skeletons out of the way. Nothing moved, so they took a quick survey of the room. There quickly saw three bedrolls and three skeletons but also an open window. Caleb quickly shoved the bedroll in the corner into the window to block their torchlight and, in doing so, uncovered a arced groove worn into the floor. He investigated further, found a hairline gap in the wall and tried to wedge a sword and a thieves' pick in their but to little effect.

Leaving the crack for now, they tossed the rest of the room. They didn't get much from the skeletons, maybe a few silvers from the mailed soldiers of Lord Taylor, but then they came to the two footlockers. One was in the north side of the room, next to two of the skeletons and a pair of bedrolls. The other was as far away from that as possible, on the side of the room near the other skeleton, the groove, and the crack in the wall. They went after the top footlocker first. Barthelm very carefully looked at it without touching, then poked it and prodded it before finally picking it up and examining the catches and gaps. He spotted a small needle inside of the locking mechanism and was able to warn Viggo so that he could deftly avoid it by springing it before picking the lock.

Inside the footlocker they found several matched sets of robes, some sundry personal effects, and a pair of spellbooks at the bottom. Claus was pumped! He would have to take some time to read the spells with magic but this is probably the least of what he was hoping to find in here. They found a few sheets of papers with different geoemetric designs and drawings on them inside as well. They tapped the bottom looking for a hollow compartment but came up with nothing.

The bottom footlocker didn't seem to have any needle or other obvious trap. It was still locked however, and this time it was Viggo who popped it open.  As soon as he began to lift the lid an ear-piercing shriek began to emit from inside. He quickly snapped the lid shut, hoping that no sound had escaped the tower, and thought about what to do. They talked about the possibility of bringing the chest elsewhere but they really wanted to open it now, so they took it into the central room to consider their options. They tossed the bedrolls in the bottom left room again and found a key but it didn't go into the lock.

Tower level 02. That's Caleb's Suzie to the right.
Impatience getting the better of the group, they told the doggerlings to leave the room and opened the chest again, enduring the sound to search the contents. Inside were some more robes, some silver, and another spellbook. Claus at this point might be content just to leave, although maybe I'm underestimating his greed. He only knows one second level spell still because they've never stopped anywhere long enough to They found more drawings too, although fewer than the other footlocker. This time their investigations into bottom of the chest paid off. Viggo (I think?) was tracing the bottom of the locker with a knife, poking and prodding. Imagine something like the knife game, but the bottom of the chest. He hit paydirt when the knife cut through a small square of fabric into a small switch which, when depressed, released a catch. In the hollow compartment, they found a brass door handle.

This picture is perfect minus the screw holes.

They quickly closed the chest and ran back into the room with the groove on the floor. A few moments of sliding the handle around the wall near the crack and boom, the handle was fixed in place. The door was heavy, scraping the ground as it opened, but when it was open they had revealed a previously unknown portion of the tower.

Annnd end session.

Sidebar: I've got a prep post drafted with how I put this together including (especially important) props for the cartographer of the map but I don't want to post it until my group has explored more. I will say that I got the map from Eneko Menica's feed and that he's a boss cartographer. I guess if my players really want to go hunting then whatever, it's their own fun they'd be spoiling!