Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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Guest Post: “Yes, of course we’d love to go see the Priests; but first…”

Session 2 opened with the introduction of two new players. Each had created a character beforehand:

Alagolan (Golan for short), lawful Elf, Sleep, AC1, HP6; Str10, Int13, Wis15, Dex13, Con9, Cha9 (Christian)

Quin, neutral Magic-User, Charm Person, AC9, HP3; Str9, Int13, Wis9, Dex9, Con8, Cha7 (Trey)

These were my two longtime friends, previously in two campaigns set in the same game world years before. Indeed, Trey had even gamemastered one of them, with me as a player, set in my game world. We understand the gaming modes and preferences of each other very well– so much so that I completely grokked Trey when he informed me of his character concept.

Quin had been leased out by his family to a businessman (Cagot, the foreigner in the leadership team of the expedition) in part for his literacy and clerical skills, and in part for his single spell, which was handy in business negotiation. He is not an enthusiastic magician, diligently researching magic or with any interest in the occult at all. He just happens to have a skill set of some value to others. Quin dreams of being able to buy out his contract or outright escape his indenture. On top of that, he spent all his starting coin on office supplies, suitable to the clerk he was playing. He did not even have a starting weapon. To knowingly go into a dungeon crawl, playing a weaponless clerk… I just love that kind of thing. Unfortunately, Trey was only present for Session 2, and Quin faded into the background in subsequent sessions. I had been looking forward to what the other players were going to make of him. They never discovered his class, which he did not share. I suspect they assume he is a thief, based on his preoccupation with wealth and coyness about class.

Anyway, introductions to the setting and adventure went quickly. Golan and Quin survive the sandstorm and come out lost. They meander through the desert to the lost city, with the towering step-pyramid rising above. They ascend the pyramid, note the dead Orc still propping open the door, check out the three tarnished bronze statues, and then carefully make their way in through the door. They were not quite as cautious as the first party, but still they were cautious and plenty inquisitive. Quin, recognizing the enormous sums that the statues above might fetch if they could somehow be brought back to Scumville, began scheming. Golan slowly led the way down the darkened hall.

The first party, fearing an ambush in Room 1, had entered with someone manning the heavy crossbow propped in the middle of the hallway floor aimed at the door, and they just left it there when they moved on. This puzzled Golan and Quin to no end, and they really didn’t know what to make of it. Eventually, Golan took possession and wields it to this day. [It has not yet been fired so the players don’t know this– but I ruled that it does D8+2 damage–easily the most lethal thing they’ve yet seen, aside from a sleep spell or poison.]

In Room 1, they find the two additional dead Orcs with no obvious wounds and the disabled traps. And then they hear a commotion from the room below, where the first party is regrouping after the battle with the fire beetles. At this point, it’s been about two hours since the first party ascended the ziggurat. They have a low-key reunion, with barely any mourning for the passing of Grogan Greylips. They assess the contents of Room 6 (“Special Storeroom”) and harvest the poor-quality oil in clay jars. Quin starts a log of the party’s inventory. As they start to formulate a plan of egress, a troop of seven Goblins bursts through the southwest door. This was the result of a series of wandering monster rolls I decided to make. The party had vacillated for so long, I felt it was time to start rolling.

When Goblin came up on the encounter chart, I decided it was a scouting party, sent by the Priests of Zardoz. They did not yet know that the pyramid had emerged from the sands above. But Zardoz had ordered scouts to the surface because it senses something, a presence it’s not felt since…. Both groups are surprised but neither resort immediately to violence. The Goblin leader interrogates the party (in Goblin)— “What are you lot doing up here? Where are your masks?” Human Cynidiceans all wear masks, usually of animals. The non-mask-wearing PCs are very conspicuous for a lot of reasons—armed to the hilt, heavy armor—but the bare faces are the first thing a native Cynidicean would notice.

Kraalll and Golan (the Elves) both know enough Orcish of a close-enough dialect to keep up. The leader, Mik the Tubinator, decked out in a snappy blazer with fancy epaulettes, is suspicious and can tell something is really off about this group. After his demanding tone goes nowhere, and the party tells him they’ve come from “Outside”, Mik adopts a conciliatory tone: “Oh you are our guests! Come, the Priests will want to welcome you… What priests? The priests of Zardoz, of course… Zardoz? He is the ruler of this land. Yes, Great and Terrible, his fury knows no bounds. You will like him. Come. Come below with us to the Priests. We are all friends now.”

Before things go too far south, Kraalll casts Charm Person, Mik fails his save, and they settle into a long dialog. The party learns a little bit about the city below. They learn that “outside” is unknown, at least to the Goblins. They learn that the Priests of Zardoz are in charge. And the PCs develop a pretty strong inkling that Zardoz might not be a very nice person. During this discussion, Quin stealthily casts Charm Person on Rictur San Bellurgio (Trey passed me a note to that effect). I roll the saving throw, which Rictur fails. Quin makes no attempt at actual influence yet, so we have no need to inform the player, R.J., that any of this has happened.

Meanwhile, Mik the Tubinator’s troop loiters about, alert but more or less unconcerned. Their boss is just doing his thing with these weird people. But then Kraalll tells Mik that, “Yes, of course we’d love to go see the Priests; but first we need your men’s help— one at a time– in moving a bunch of stuff from upstairs.” Fortunato (the thief) slips away up the ladder. Mik then follows with a couple PCs, and they murder him when he emerges at the top of the brass tube. Kraalll calls down that Mik needs another Goblin up above. One goes up… roll for surprise… murdered. The PCs call for another. At this point, the remaining Goblins are suspicious and unwilling to go. But down below in the room, one of the PCs points out a Goblin “volunteer”. The rest, seeing a brief reprieve, gang up and shove him forward. No roll for surprise because he’s totally alert, the Goblin wins initiative and inflicts a small wound. They murder him too, but not before he lets out a cry.

Two rounds of full-on melee then ensue between the four remaining Goblins and the downstairs PCs (Quin sits out the fight, aggrieved at the slaughter of Goblin manpower he felt sure they could somehow monetize). Two more Goblins are cut down, but so is Rictur. The last two Goblins fail a morale roll and flee out the door they came through. They win initiative twice and get to the stairs safely, only suffering one volley of PC missile fire. The PCs reluctantly break off pursuit.

Fortunato mourns the passing of his brother Rictur. Quin silently laments a wasted spell. They strip the Goblins and find, among the ordinary equipment, some silver coinage. Generally similar in size and weight to their own akce (silver pennies, pronounced “ah-chay”), these coins are stamped with unfamiliar symbols and, in relief, the profiles of kings and queens unknown to them. The party takes a rest period of about eight hours, retreating back to what they think is the relative safety of the hallway in the uppermost tier. They hoist the corpses up to the room above, Grogan and Rictur lay in state separate from the stack of Goblins and Orcs, which are used to barricade the doors of each bronze tube.

—-

Observations

One thing I really like about the setup for B4 is that there is a logical and organic source of replacement PCs, additional players and red shirts. Anything a GM wants to introduce is waiting out in the desert, and can stumble upon the Lost City at any time. On encumbrance— Armored up as they are, this party is slow. A lot of the creatures in B4 are also slow, but this party can’t really outrun anything. Initiative combined with sequence of play matters in a pursuit situation. The party really wanted to prevent an alarm being raised, and I wanted them to succeed. But the dice rolls went against them. They probably don’t have much to worry about though. The Goblin escapees won’t have a very coherent report as it will focus more on the Tubinator’s weirdly seditious behavior than anything else. Enough detail might get back to Zardoz to confirm its sense that its domain is once again connected to the world above.

Read Earlburt’s entire series on The Lost City:

  1. Setting out for the Lost City
  2. Nonvariable Weapon Damage, Alignment Tongues, and Rolling Hit Dice
  3. Setting and Player Introduction for The Lost City
  4. Into The Desert
  5. Context, Cut Scenes, and the Pen and Paper Experience
  6. Death Lurks in Every Nook and Cranny
  7. Guest Post: The Mythic Underworld and Gygaxian Naturalism in The Lost City
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2 responses to “Guest Post: “Yes, of course we’d love to go see the Priests; but first…”

  1. benbr December 5, 2012 at 11:37 am

    The character for Quin is classic Scumville! Reminds me of Tom Berg mastery of true neutral characters. .

    • earlburt December 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      Yeah, Tom had a PC type, for sure.

      I’ve run games that ranged over quite a lot of the game world, but Scumville has been the funnest. I think it is easier to add color to NPCs and the setting as a whole when they’re sort of dark/corrupt/hostile. Like how bad guys in movies are often the most compelling characters. And since Scumville is fun, I run more games there… so I develop it more… and it gets funner because it’s more fleshed out.

      That’s probably a common phenomenon of home-brew game worlds.

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