(For those who came in late: this is the first post in my GURPS solo-play campaign. Instead of a GM, I use a big collection of procedural tables (see the tabs above!). The campaign is set in a fantasy world I created from scratch in in a previous series of posts, using a procedural world-creation system. Enjoy!)
If you’re just reading for the plot, you can skip the italics!
Session 1: Our story begins!
The PC: Temian Fell, explorer of ancient ruins and all-round hero.
The story so far: Erm… none! All we know is that Temian lives in the ruin-ridden valley of Eldervale. He makes his living by exploring the ruins and bringing back the odd valuable artifact, but that doesn’t pay much, so he’s perpetually short of cash. As our story begins, he’s returning home from his last exploration…
Setting the Scene
Let’s begin by orienting ourselves.
(If you’d like to skip this orientation section, you can just scroll down to the heading “Act 1 Scene 1: One Evening at the Phoenix,” below – that’s where the action begins!)
Here’s the world map, with Eldervale marked out.
And here’s a map of Eldervale itself:
Let’s start Temian’s adventures in the most traditional (cheesy?) way, in a Tavern in town. Which town? Well, as you can see, Eldervale has three towns, strung out along the Cairnflood river…
…but none of them have names yet! What should we call them? Well, let’s let the system decide. Off to roll on the naming tables! Eldervale is a historically rich area, covered in ancient ruins, so let’s roll up a few “historical” modifiers, plus a few normal medieval English town names, and see what we come up with.
Results: for a standard medieval english-style town name, I get “Dunbourne”, which seems plausible.
For a historical modifier, I get to choose between “Destined/of Destiny”, “Moss-covered/of Moss”, and anything to do with “Withered” or “Withering”. Cool.
Putting these together, what about “Dunmoss?” That sounds pretty good to me. And it allows me to use the other name elements I’ve just generated to name another town, too: “Witherbourne.” Two towns is probably enough for now – I’ll leave the third for another time. Here’s the updated map:
…and Temian is currently in Dunmoss, right in the heart of the valley. He’s just come back from a long trip up into the mountains, and is heading into the local Tavern, which is called…
… what’s the tavern called? This looks like a job for my Tavern generation system, which I’m sorry to say I haven’t yet formatted for the website (Should have done that! Will soon!)
…The Phoenix Tavern.
Great! And the system also tells us that there’s something a bit mysterious, eldritch, or even magical about this tavern, which is very appropriate, given that it’s in the heart of mysterious Eldervale.
What else do we know about The Phoenix?
It seems the Phoenix is a fair-sized Tavern, with 5 staff or so, as well as two bouncers on rough nights. On a typical evening, it will attract about 11-12 patrons – more on a really busy night.
That’s pretty big, so let’s say it’s like this…
…The Phoenix is the only major tavern in Dunmoss, and it directly overlooks the Cairnflood river. Like most of Dunmoss, the tavern is very ancient, built into the ruins of a much older structure. The oldest parts of the tavern are stone, but most of the more contemporary parts are wood. Eldervaleans are a superstitious and sometimes slightly fey people, and The Phoenix particularly attracts the fey types.
Rolling for more details, I see that the Phoenix has two house specials: a good local ale, and also Demon Rum (see Dungeon Fantasy 10, p. 30) . Let’s say the latter is only available under the table, for special customers.
Rolling again, I find that the tavern has two “Regulars” – people who really ought to be proper NPCs. In the terms provided by GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 10: Taverns, these are a “Stranger in a Cloak,” and a “Thief.” It’s probably worth creating the proprietor/innkeeper as an NPC, too, since this tavern is in our hero’s hometown, and thus may end up seeing a lot of use – so that’s three new NPCs we need to create.
Q: Three new NPCs right now? That sounds like it’s going to take a lot of work!
A: Normally, maybe – but luckily, I’ve got a quick NPC generator prepared for just these occasions!
So When our Hero Enters the Phoenix Tavern, who is he going to find?
NPC 1: The Innkeeper
Heralf Vintcraven is a thin man who always has a bottle in his hand. He has the habit of pointing directly at whomever he’s talking to. His surname – “Vintcraven” – is actually a nickname: a joke about his supposed stinginess when pouring wine.
And since this is Temian’s hometown, he probably knows Heralf pretty well already, so I’ll roll for some deeper characteristics, too – the kind of things you’d only learn once you got to know someone a little.
Interesting fact about Heralf: (Rolling…) He cares very much for a relative. (Hmmm.. let’s say it’s his wife Heralda, who is also the cook)
Heralf’s Hopes and Fears: (Rolling…) He secretly hopes for love. (Woah! Uh-oh! Does his wife know?)
Ok, wow – I wasn’t expecting that. Those last two are very interesting alongside one another. Does Heralf hope that his wife Heralda will love him more? Is Heralda in love with someone else? Or is our innkeeper Heralf in love with someone else, but afraid of admitting it, because he doesn’t want to hurt his wife, about whom he also cares deeply?
Let’s go with the latter: it’s a sad situation, but one rich in dramatic potential.
The fact that we know this tells us something else, too: it tells us that Temian and Heralf already have a long-standing relationship – long-standing enough that Temian knows, or can easily guess, Heralf’s secret. So let’s say that Heralf has been something of a “friendly uncle” figure for Temian over the years. Temian sympathizes with Heralf’s love situation, but can’t do much to help!
That’s enough for now. That Innkeeper turned out to be much more interesting than I’d expected! But moving on…
NPC 2: The Stranger in a Cloak
Nyssa (last name unknown!) is a compact woman with a heart-shaped face. She tends to sigh a lot when speaking. When Temian first encounters her, she is a bit sweaty.
Sweaty!? Yup, that’s what the table said. This will take some explaining! Maybe she’s going to rush into the scene with an urgent message? Let’s leave that to be determined later. Since she is, after all, a Stranger in a Cloak, let’s say that Temian doesn’t know anything more about her just yet – which means that we don’t, either!
NPC 3: The Thief
Yeira Gravedale is a fashionably dressed woman who is strikingly muscular. She is involved with religion in some way. She has the habit of tapping her ear while talking. When Temian first meets her, she is with her children.
Note that the system tells us that Yeira is going to try to lure the PCs (in this case, just Temian) out into the alley, so two accomplices can beat him and take his stuff… So that will be a fun scene…
That’s all the main NPCs. The whole of that only took 5 minutes, and now we have a very interesting scene shaping up! One PC, three main NPCs, and many different ways the scene might play out.
Now let’s get things rolling!
Act 1, Scene 1: One evening at the Phoenix…
Ok, I can’t help adding that this is quite exciting for me – remember that I’ve done no prep, I have absolutely no adventure planned, and I have next to no idea how this story is going to turn out! Let’s see what the dice decide…
Temian walks into The Phoenix – and heads straight for the bar. His old friend Heralf the Innkeeper is there (you know, Keeping the Inn, and all)
It’s not the usual way to go about things, but here I’m going to take things out of my hands by making a Reaction roll for Heralf, at +4 because he and Temian are old friends, +2 for Temian’s charisma and appearance: thus, +6. Rolling now… 15! Which makes 21! Heralf is thrilled!
Heralf is thrilled to see Temian – even more thrilled than usual, actually, since Temian has been away, up in the mountains, for the last week and a half, which is longer than usual, and Heralf was starting to get worried about him. But being a fairly gruff bartender type, Heralf doesn’t show this, of course…
Heralf greets him warmly. “Still wasting your time with those ruins?” They get to talking, joking, and generally enjoying one another’s company.
Does Temian notice the other new NPCs in the Tavern? Per roll… 13. Nope! But does Heralf point them out? Here I’ll turn to one of the mainstays of the solo gamer’s trade: the classic Solo 6! Rolling now… Result: 4 – “No, but…” Interesting! So Heralf doesn’t point out the newcomers… but one of them comes over on her own initiative. It looks like it’s time for the Thief to strike!
After a while, Heralf has to go and serve other customers, so Temian settles down at a table to eat his meal in peace.
He’s just tucking into his stew when a Yeira Gravedale, our Thief, approaches. She’s a large, fashionably dressed, very well-muscled woman, with three children in tow. Temian warms to her quickly, since he’s a kindly soul (Selfless, and so on) and after all, she’s having a hard time keeping three children in line all at once.
So Temian and Yeira get to talking. During the conversation, she tries to Fast-Talk him into coming outside, saying that she has something to say that only he can hear…
Let’s give her a Fast-Talk skill equal to 9+1d6. Rolling…. woah, 6! Her skill is 15! It looks like she’s a real pro. Trouble for Temian!
Now let’s roll a quick contest between her Fast Talk of 15 and Temian’s IQ of 12. Rolling now… She rolls a 9, he rolls a 12. Bad, bad! Temian loses the contest by 6. He’s taken in entirely!
Temian is totally convinced. After all, this woman is a mother of three – of course he can trust her! And she may need his help! So he accompanies her out to the alley that runs alongside The Phoenix….
Scene 2: A Back-Alley Mugging!
…where he is quickly set upon by Yeira’s two thuggish accomplices! (Let’s just say that Yeira herself bustles off with the children a moment beforehand…)
For the two thugs, I’ll just use my Generic Monster stat block – and since this is Temian’s first encounter, at 150pts, I’ll just rate them for Peril 1. And let’s arm them with clubs.
This means that their relevant stats work out as follows:
Back-alley thugs: Basic speed 5.25, Broadsword 10, Damage 1d crushing, Parry 8, Dodge 8, DR 1 (leather jerkins), HP 9, HT 10
Temian Fell: Basic Speed 6:00, Broadsword 13, Damage 1d+3 cut or 1d+1 imp, Parry 12 if using cloak, Block 11, Dodge 12, DR: 4, or 2 vs crushing, HP 12, HT 12.
Let’s do this by RAW – so we need to start by rolling to see whether either side suffers from Partial Surprise. (I know, this is really odd – surely the muggers, who were lying in wait for exactly this, couldn’t be surprised? Not according to p B.393)
Temian rolls a 5, +2 for combat Reflexes, +1 for higher IQ, =8. Thugs roll a 1, +2 for being prepared, = 3. Hmmmm…. so the Thugs are surprised by Temian? And have to roll vs their paltry IQ of 9 every turn to snap out of it? That doesn’t make sense to me. I hereby abandon RAW (that didn’t take long!) and declare that neither side is surprised. I think perhaps I’d better use some alternative surprise rules in this campaign – Peter Dell’Orto’s , maybe? I’ll give it some thought.
Anyway, let’s just go by Basic Speeds. Thus Temian goes first.
Temian walks out into the alley and is shocked to find two club-armed thugs awaiting him. But, thinking fast, he fast-draws his sword and tries to disarm one of them!
Yes, as we’ve discussed previously, disarming is usually a stupid tactic, but hey, it’s the heroic thing to do! Temian rolls against Fast-Draw… 9= Success! Then he rolls to hit at -2…. Result: 15 = fail!
Temian tries to knock the sword out of Thug 2’s hands, but doesn’t even come close. Then the Thugs try to hit him back…
Thug 1 rolls to hit… 13=Miss. Thug 2 rolls to hit… 10: hit! Temian rolls to parry… 7=parry!
Temian tries to disarm Thug 2. Rolling to hit at -2…. 11=hit! Thug 2 tries to parry…. 10=fail. Contest of skills to disarm him: Temian rolls a 13, making it exactly. Thug 2 rolls a 9, making it by 1. Thug wins, but only by 1, s his club is now “unready.”
Thug 1 rolls to hit… 13=miss. Thug 2 readies his club.
Temian tries to disarm thug 2 (for the third time now!). Rolls to hit at -2… 13=miss. Damn, stupid disarming!
Thug 1 rolls to hit… 12=miss. Thug 2 rolls to hit… 8=hit! Temian rolls to parry… 7=parry.
So the fight begins with a flurry of blows on both sides. Temian ducks, weaves and parries, and the two thugs are unable to hit him. Temian’s first (heroic!) instinct is to try to disarm the thugs, so as to subdue them without injury… but to no avail (though he once manages to loosen one of the thugs’ grip on his sword for a moment).
Finally realizing that this could go south for him at any moment, Temian begins trying to put the thugs down in earnest…
Temian switches his attack, and swings to hit Thug 1… 9=hit! Thug 1 tries to parry… 14=fail! Temian rolls 1d+3 cutting damage… 6! = 9 basic damage, -1 DR, = 12 damage! Deadly. Thug 1 has suffered a major wound, and rolls to avoid knockdown: 9 = success.
Thug 1 rolls to avoid unconsciousness: 8=success! But he’s at -3HP, and has a -4 shock penalty this turn, so he elects to use an all-out defence while backing away a step.
Thug 2 rolls to hit… 7=hit! Temian tries to parry…. 10=parry!
…and as soon as he does so, he deals Thug 1 a devastating blow to the chest! Thug 1 is left severely wounded, and falls back, while Thug 2 continues to attack. Now Temian feels that the odds are again in his favor – so he tries a disarm again (groan!)…
Temian rolls to hit at -2… 6=hit! Thug 2 tries to parry…. 14=failure. Contest of skills to disarm…. Temian rolls 12, succeeding by 1; Thug 2 rolls 10, succeeding exactly. Yes! Finally, Temian’s disarm succeeds!
…and the club finally goes skittering out of Thug 2’s hands! Meanwhile, Thug 1 passes out (rolled a 15 at the start of his turn). This fight is over, surely!
As the first Thug collapses, clutching the gaping sword-wound in his chest, Temian corners the second (disarmed) Thug against the wall at sword-point. A few moments later, some of the inn’s patrons spill out into the street and see what has happened; they call Heralf out, who, in his capacity as innkeeper (this is a small medieval town, remember?) takes the two thugs into custody.
Done and dusted! And not a scratch on Temian.
At this point I’m going to make a Reaction Roll for the whole crowd, just to see what they think of this. Temian gets +2 for his social advantages, and let’s say there’s an extra +2 for having just single-handedly subdued two dangerous-looking Ruffians. Rolling… 13! +4 =17. A very good reaction. He’s the toast of the bar!
Scene 3: Hero of the Hour!
Temian is carried back into the tavern – he’s the hero of hour! And since he’s got the crowd’s attention, he tries to take the opportunity to learn if anyone knows of any paying work in the area…
This is clearly a case where Carousing is the right skill to use- but Temian’s never been much of a party-goer (too busy exploring ruins!) so he’ll be using it at a default level of HT-4 – which means 8. Gulp! But on the other hand, it seems fair to give him a +3 for being the Hero of the Hour – thus he’s rolling against 11. Rolling now… 16! Oh, no!
…Temian may indeed be the Hero of the Hour… but that doesn’t mean he can hold his liquor. What with the adrenalin of the fight, plus all the attention, plus round after round… well, it all goes right to his head. The next thing he knows, it’s late morning, and he’s waking up in one of The Phoenix’s spare rooms, with a splitting headache, and a horrible feeling that he squandered whatever reputation he’d made for himself by looking the fool all last night. Damn that Demon Rum!
Clutching his head, he goes back into the common room to find some breakfast…
Is Nyssa, the mysterious Stranger in a Cloak still there the next morning, I wonder? This looks like a job for a Solo 6! Rolling… 2=yes!
… and comes face to face with a woman he’s never met before. He can barely see her face, since it’s hidden deeply in the folds of a dark…
Hmmm.. what color is that cloak? Could be significant! Luckily I have a random color table. Rolling… Brown. ok.
…brown cloak. She seems…
A reaction roll for Nyssa. +2 for Temian’s socials. I figure the “Hero of the Hour” thing and the “failed Carousing roll” thing from last night cancel one another out! Rolling… 15! +2 – 17! Woah, that’s a very good reaction roll.
…very eager to speak to him. “Ah, you’re awake!” she says. “I’ve been wanting to talk with you…”
This is definitely the moment when the Adventure appears… so let’s head over to the adventure creation system and roll one up!
1- Peril Rating: Since Temian is built on 150pts, I nominate a Peril of 1, though 2 would also be a plausible choice. Rolling…. 13=+1 Peril! So the Peril Rating is 2 after all!
2- How Much Does It Pay: Rolling… 16=nothing! It’s just a promising site to explore. B ut that’s exactly what Temian loves most (Obsession: Exploring Ancient Ruins), so that will go down well with him.
3 – How Far Do We Have to Go? Rolling… 16=Very Far Away! Rolling to see how far…. 22 days! Woah. A really long way!
4- What’s the Rush? Rolling… 9=No Particular Rush.
5 – What Do We Have To Do? We already know that this is an independent Explore Adventure.
8 – What is the Site? Rolling… 5,1=Ruin! Awesome! That fits Temian perfectly! There’s no way he’s going to be able to resist this, even if it’s an absurd distance to go, for no pay!
So Nyssa obviously knows the location of an ancient ruin that’s very far away, but very intriguing. What could this be? Well, let’s take a look at the world map, and try to work out what might be 22 days away from here…
…Woah, ok, I’ve just plotted this on the complete world map, and this is what we get: (the arrow is Temian’s current location – the town of Dunmoss – and the circle marks all the places that are (very roughly) a 22-day journey away. That’s a good chunk of the known world, right there!
So at some point soon, we’re going to have to decide where exactly on this line the ruin in question lies.
“Sure, we can talk” Temian says. “But can we do it over breakfast? I’m starving!”
So Temian and Nyssa sit down over breakfast together. And Nyssa proposes her crazy plan…
Oh Yes, A Cliffhanger!
… and that seems like a great place to end this session. To find out where in the world this mysterious ruin is, you’ll have to tune in again next week, to the exciting adventures of Temian Fell! Don’t blame me – I don’t know yet, either… and I’m looking forward to finding out.
Well, that was a real whirlwind session, and I had a blast. I hope you enjoyed it, too!
If you want to keep reading, then you might want to head to the next session report: