(For those who came in late: this is the third session of 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!
The PC: Temian Fell, explorer of ancient ruins and all-round hero.
The story so far: Temian lives in the town of Dunmoss, in the heart of the ruin-ridden valley of Eldervale. He makes his living by exploring the ruins, but that doesn’t pay much, so he’s always short of money.
Last session (“The Witch of Dunmoss“), Temian discovered that his friend Aed Steadlark had been marked for death by Juliana Darkhound, a.k.a the dreaded Witch of Dunmoss. So Temian found the Witch and demanded that she release Aed from the spell. But the Witch wanted something done for her, first…
As today’s session begins, Temian is trekking through the mountains, in the middle of his errand for the Witch. His goal is a place called Heirloom Peak. Apparently there is a castle on the peak that has been overrun by dark forces of some kind. His goal is enter the castle, find a cursed magical tome called “The Book of the Corrupted Seal”, and then return it to the Witch.
(Unfortunately, this is the very book by which those dark forces were summoned in the first place…)
A brief and (as it turns out) somewhat irrelevant sidebar on Plots…
Now seems like a good moment to introduce my rules for Plots! The rules are here, but basically, each PC (in this case, just Temian) declares a long-term goal or plot in which they’re involved, and every session, you roll to see if anything related to that comes up. PCs get character points for furthering their plotlines.
Last session, we discovered Temian’s first Personal Plot: he wants to find and explore the Ruins of the Lost Elven City of Tara Ithuil, far to the North-West of here So let’s roll to see if there’s going to be any chance to further that plotline this session.
(Rolling…) 2: No. Well then! That was a bust. Back to the story!
Scene 1: Journey through the Mountains
It looks as if our first scene will be a journey, so let’s take a look at the map. You’ll probably need to zoom in.
Temian is in the mountains South-West of Dunmoss, traveling from The Witch’s Isle to Heirloom Peak.
Temian wants to get the Witch’s errand done quickly, since Aed’s life is on the line. At the same time, he’s a seasoned traveler in these mountains, and he knows better than to set off without preparing first. So he takes some time to gather his thoughts and plot out a route.
This counts as research, and uses the appropriate specialty of the Area Knowledge skill. Temian’s Area Knowledge (Eldervale) is 12, but he has to roll at a penalty equal to the current adventure’s Peril rating, which is 2, so his effective skill is 10. (Rolling…) 10: just made it! This means that Temian is well-prepared, so he gains a free re-roll he can use on certain rolls later in the journey. Great!
Confident that he’s plotted a plausible route, Temian sets out.
Rolling up the events of the journey
This is first time I’m giving y’all a worked example of how the journeys system works, so let’s roll this out step by step. (In later episodes, I’ll probably write it up more concisely…)
Temian has signed up for a Peril 2 adventure, but now that it’s too late to back out, we have to roll to see how Perilous the journey really is. Is it more dangerous than he thinks? (Rolling…) 12: no adjustment. Great! Peril 2 it is. Given the length of the Journey, this means that arriving safely will require just one roll against Navigation (land), one roll against Survival (Mountains), and one Event roll.
Let’s roll them now.
Navigation roll: His Navigation (Land) skill is 11. Peril is 2, so his effective skill is 9. (Rolling…) 7: success! Well, that was lucky. It looks as if Temian is heading in the right direction.
Survival roll: His Survival (Mountains) skill is also 11, so again, his effective skill is 9. (Rolling…) 11: failure! Uh-oh – it looks as if Temian is doing things in less safe a fashion than he ought to. That means he gets a +2 penalty to his Event roll, in just a moment. Now, I could use that research re-roll here, to represent his preparedness coming to save him – but since his effective Survival skill is only 9, he’s likely to fail the re-roll, too – so I think it might be better to save it for the Event roll itself.
Event roll: Now here’s the one that matters most: the Event roll. (Rolling…) 12. This would mean “Uneventful journey”, which would be good – but the +2 penalty from Temian’s failed Survival (Mountains) roll earlier pushes it up to 14, which means that Temian gets stuck between a rock and a hard place, with what this system calls a “Choice of mishaps”. This is bad! So let’s use our preparedness re-roll now. (Rolling…) 12 again! Oh no! It looks like we’re in for a choice of mishaps regardless – and now we’ve wasted our re-roll!
Oh no! A choice of mishaps!
This means we need to roll up 2 mishaps – then, within the game-world, Temian will have to choose between them. (Rolling…) 4,3: “convince, sneak past, or fight a Standard Encounter!” and 3, 2: “Negotiate an Obstacle” . Ok, interesting. So Temian will have to choose which danger to brave. Let’s see what they are.
What’s Temian’s first option, the “Standard Encounter”? To find out, let’s head over to the Encounters system. (Rolling…) It seems we have 2 monsters, rated for Peril 1. How far away are they? (Rolling…) About 150 yards away. Most importantly, what are they? Let’s head over to the Monsters system to find out! (Rolling…) 13: “A random monster appropriate to the Region’s Theme”. Interesting. Eldervale‘s Theme is “Historical”, so I refer to the “Monster Types by Region Theme” table and roll accordingly. (Rolling…) Demon-Kin! Oh no!
First choice: demons!
Right – so Temian almost certainly won’t want to go that way. What’s the second option? It’s an “Obstacle,” so let’s head over to the rules for Obstacles, Hazards, Wards, and Traps. (Rolling, rolling…) Ok! The system tells me that this is an obstacle that requires a DX, Acrobatics, or Jumping roll (penalized by Peril) to bypass. If the first roll is failed, you can make a DX-Peril roll to catch yourself at the last moment…. Failure there means you suffer 1d+2 crushing damage. Reading between the lines, it looks as if this obstacle is some sort of narrow ledge that needs to be negotiated without falling.
Second choice: a narrow ledge!
That gives us enough to go on. Now let’s see what it all means in-game…
…Temian hikes up into the mountains. It’s a fine day for traveling, and he makes good progress. He starts out quite cautiously – these mountains are pretty wild and dangerous, after all! – but the day is so nice that he soon starts enjoying himself a little, and bit by bit, his usual caution wears away. By midday he’s just tramping happily up the mountain paths, enjoying the sunshine.
At some point in the mid-afternoon he’s hiking through a particularly rugged section of trail, when he hears the noise of some sort of creature up ahead. Cursing himself for his lack of caution – he was just about to start whistling, for Simara’s sake! – he ducks down behind a boulder and hopes the creature, whatever it is, hasn’t heard him.
Have those demon-kin heard him? Let’s make a per roll to see. (Rolling…) 8: success! They’ve heard him, alright.
Temian sneaks a peak out of his hiding-place, and looks down the rocky slope to see two…
Ok wait- what do these demon-kin look like, exactly? Let’s head over to the Demon-Kin tables to find out. (Rolling, rolling…) Ok – it appears they’re full-sized humanoids, and quite strong (ST 12). And the Infernum obviously breeds ’em weird, because these two have an additional pair of vestigial legs, as well as a vestigial tail. Odd!
…ugly, misshapen creatures coming along the path the other way. They’re still a long way away – 150 yards or so down the slope – but they look pretty nasty. In fact, they’re obviously unnatural: they’re basically humanoid, but they also have a whole warped and misshapen hind-quarters – a bit like centaurs, but with their whole rear section kind of stunted and half-grown. That ought to make them seem comical, but actually they seem quite threatening – partly because they’re pretty burly. And they seem to have heard him, because they’re hurrying over in this direction…. Erk!
Does Temian recognize them as Demon-kin?
Let’s say this is a per-based Occultism roll. Temian’s Occultism is 11, but this roll is penalized by Peril, so his effective skill is only 9. (Rolling) 12: failure. Nope – he knows they look nasty and unnatural, but he doesn’t know they’re demon-kin.
Temian hunkers down behind the boulder and considers his options He could wait here and try to ambush them, but the fight would be two-to-one, and he doesn’t like to accept odds like that if he can avoid it. So he looks around for another option.
After a little bit of searching, he finds his other option. The mountainside above him is very steep – virtually a cliff – but it appears that there’s a narrow ledge leading up and along it. If he took that path, it would probably throw those two misshapen creatures off his trail. Climbing up there would be easy enough, but then the ledge itself looks like it gets pretty narrow further along… well, it would be a risk.
Temian decides to take that risk. Creeping back down the path a little, he scales the slope where it’s shallowest, and then makes his way along the narrow ledge.
For twenty minutes or so he makes his way along the narrow ledge, until he’s fairly confident he’s left the two misshapen creatures behind. Ha ha, he thinks! Nice decision, me!
Now for that DX roll. Temians’s DX is 12, but he takes a penalty equal to Peril, so his effective DX is 10. (Rolling…) 16! Oh no!
…but just as he’s congratulating himself, he finds the rocky ledge beneath him crumbling a little, and his foot slipping… and he’s falling! Desperately, he tries to grab at the rock-face as he falls…
Last chance! His effective DX is 10, again. (Rolling…) 12: failure! Damn!
…but to no avail. He tumbles from the cliff face, dropping fast through the empty air…
Well, here goes 1d+2 Crushing damage. (Rolling…) 4, +2-=6 pts crushing damage. Ouch! We’re using a pretty simplistic armor system here, so his mail will soak up 2 of that – but still, 4 pts of crushing is nothing to scoff at. Especially when you don’t have any magical healing abilities!
… and slams heavily onto the rocky slope beneath. Ooomph. He lies there for a moment, stunned, and then groans. Well, that went badly. At least one of his ribs is sprained – he hopes it isn’t broken – plus he’s got some cuts, and heavy bruising. Not good!
Once he regather himself, he tries to bandage himself up, as best he can…
Temian’s First Aid skill is 11. (Rolling…) 13: failure.
…but he does a pretty shoddy job of it. He feels pretty jarred and battered. He doesn’t want to strain anything, so he drags himself over into the shade of an overhang, nursing his sprained rib, and then rests for a half hour or so, until his wooziness fades a little.
The rules for treating shock on p.B424 say that after half an hour’s decent rest, you can make another First Aid roll. Honestly, I’m not sure that this is meant to apply when you’re making the First Aid roll on yourself – but the rules here are not really clear, so let’s allow it, since we have a whole castle ahead of us… (Rolling…) 10: Success! How many HP does Temian regain? (Rolling 1d-3) 2. Great. So he’s now 2hp down.
Once the shock has worn off, Temian starts feeling a little better – evidently, those ribs really were just bruised and a little sprained, rather than broken. So he sets off again…
… and as night falls, he finally sees his goal ahead of him: the Castle of Heirloom Peak!
Scene 2: The Castle of Heirloom Peak
Now we come to the first traditional “Dungeon” of the campaign! Very exciting. Of course, I don’t have a dungeon prepared – I just learned of the existence of the Castle of Heirloom Peak! – but that’s no problem. Let’s just head over to my rules for creating Dungeons by exploring them. Thanks for your help, previous me!
We already know that the “Dungeon Type” is “Castle”, and the “Dungeon Theme” is “Unsealed”. But we don’t yet know anything about what kind of monsters lurk within… So let’s start exploring!
First step: is the information we have so far accurate? (Rolling…) 8 – Yup. Great.
Next step:what does the Entrance to the Dungeon look like from here? (Rolling…) 4: “The Dungeon entrance is very problematic indeed.” Uh-oh! This means that the main entrance to the Castle is concealed, guarded, and locked. Not good! Though that makes sense, I guess – castles ought to be hard to get into.
It does pose a certain problem for the story, though – how can a castle entrance be concealed? Usually the fortifications make it pretty obvious! To solve this, let’s start by saying that it’s the castle itself that’s hard to find.
Ok, so having determined all that, let’s back up a step, and re-write the final line of the last scene…
…and as the sun sets,, Temian finally comes to Heirloom Peak – yet the castle itself is nowhere to be found! Instead, the mountainside is shrouded in a thick mist.
Where is the damned thing?
Temian’s Per is 12, and he has to roll at a penalty equal to N+Peril – so his effective skill is just 9. If he needs to make repeated attempts, then each one will cost him 4hrs (Rolling…) 15: failed.
Temian peers through the mist, trying to make out the Baron’s castle – but it’s misty, and the dark is coming on pretty quickly – and come to think of it, he’s not even 100% certain he’s on the right side of the mountain. Still, there’s nothing for it – as the sun sets, and the dusk fades, he makes his way over the ridgeline to investigate the mountain’s farther spur….
(Rolling again…) 6: Success!
All of a sudden the mist clears – and finally, there it is!
It seems he had been approaching it from the wrong side of the mountain after all.
Well, it’s full night now – which is actually good, since it means that Temian can try to investigate the front gate of the castle under cover of darkness. He creeps closer to take a look….
We already know that the gate is both locked and guarded. But what’s it guarded by? Let’s head over to the Monsters system to find out!
What kind of monster is it? (Rolling…) 9: The Dungeon’s Secondary Monster Type” Ok, fair enough – but what’s that? (Rolling to fill this dungeon ecology slot…) 14: “Roll as per the Dungeon’s Theme.” Ok – the Theme is “Unsealed”, so let’s roll accordingly (Rolling…) 5: Undead. Ahah! The walking dead, eh? Very well. How many are there? (Rolling…) Just one, rated at Peril 2. Sounds like a single skeleton to me!
A Brief Digression on Skeleton Placement:
Now, usually we’d just say that the skeleton is somewhere where Temian can get to it, so as to make for a decent fight scene. But why the heck would you guard a castle from in front of the gate? That would be stupid – you guard the gate from atop the battlements, obviously.
So now, for the first time, I’m going to invoke my Raising the Stakes rules, voluntarily making things harder for myself by placing the skeletal guard up above the battlements, out of Temian’s reach, and arming it with a bow. The scene makes more sense that way – and Raising the Stakes in this way also gives Temian a slight chance to earn more XP at the end of the adventure.
…and soon sees a sight that chills his bones: atop the battlements, just above the gate, THE DEAD WALK AMONG THE LIVING! Well, ok, just one of the dead – but still – it’s quite uncanny. Somehow it’s even more disturbing that the skeleton is wearing the formal livery of a man-at-arms serving the Baron of Heirloom Peak. Was the Baron really so far fallen into darkness that he practiced the foul art of necromancy, and manned his walls with the walking dead? Temian shudders at the thought!
In any case, there’s a bow-armed skeleton warrior up there, and the gate is shut, and no doubt barred or locked. Temian considers trying to rush the gate, but there’s every chance that that unholy thing could fill him full of arrows by the time he managed to get the gate open.
But maybe there’s another way in? Temian begins to make his way around the castle at a distance, carefully searching for another way in.
As it’s night-time, and he’s searching a whole area, this takes quite a while! He’s been at it for a few hours when suddenly…
This is obviously a time for the Finding Another Way In rules. Since Temian has spent quite a lot of time in the past investigating ruined castles, let’s have him make a Per-based Archaeology roll, at a penalty equal to peril, to find another way in. His Archaeology is 11, so effective skill is just 9. (Rolling…) 13: fail. His mad archaeology skills are of little use here, it seems!
… he gives up. This just isn’t working – if there really is another entrance, then it’s not one that he can manage to spot at night. Much better to find a decent place to hole up for the last few hours of darkness, and then see what the morning brings….
I don’t have any special rules for camping just outside the dungeon, but it seems as if this would be a good opportunity for a Survival (mountains) roll, penalized by Peril. Temian’s skill is 11; effective skill is 9. (Rolling…) 12: fail! Darn. Let’s say that Temian doesn’t manage to find anywhere decent to hole up, and so he gets no sleep whatsoever. As per pB.427, this puts him down 3 FP. He’d better get a decent night’s sleep this next night coming, or he’s going to start accumulating some more serious penalties. And, depending on how this goes, his next night may be spent inside the castle…
When dawn comes, a very stiff and bleary-eyed Temian tries to take another stab at finding a secondary entrance, just on the off chance. He retraces his steps from last night, and now, in the light of day, he realizes that…
Effective skill is 9 once again. (Rolling…) 9: Success! What is this entrance like? (Rolling…) 9: Obviously Guarded. Ok – by what? (Rolling…) By the Dungeon’s Primary Monster type, which is (rolling…) appropriate to the “Unsealed” theme, which makes it (rolling…) Demon-Kin. Ahah! Obviously a relative of those other two demon-kin from earlier.
What does this demon look like? Let’s head over to the Demon-Kin section of the Monsters rules to roll it up. (Rolling, rolling…) It’s a tiny (SM-2) humanoid with oversized talons, and fangs that drip with poison.
What’s it doing when Temian sees it? The People rules ought to be able to tell us. (Rolling for a “Current situation”..) 3,4,2: “Drunk.” Ah, perfect -I love it when random systems throw out appropriate results like that. These demons and their vices! And it’s a spot of luck for Temian, too…
…there’s a small postern gate at the base of the western wall. He must have overlooked it during the night- and no wonder, since it was so dark. In any case, the gate is open now!
Temian creeps closer to investigate – and soon learns why the gate is open. There’s a tiny creature sitting in the doorway! The creature really is small – maybe only 2.5 feet tall. But it’s having a fine old time, drinking from a large flagon of what Temian can only assume is wine. It’s an ugly, misshapen little thing, and it definitely has the look of the Infernum about it.
Temian decides that an open gate, “guarded” only by a single drunk little monster, is too good an opportunity to pass up, so he tries to sneak up on the little demonling…
Temian’s Stealth is 11. What’s the little demonling’s Perception score? (Rolling…) 4: “8+Peril” This means the demonling’s Per is 10. As per pB428, being drunk gives it a -2 to IQ, and thus to Per, so its effective Per is 8. (Rolling for Temian) 14: failed by 3! (Rolling for Imp…) 5: success by 3! Erk!
…but he makes a hash of it, stepping into a whole pile of dry sticks – and the drunk little demonling spots him right away. At once, the demonling…
How does it respond? I’ve got no idea whether it’s actually on guard duty, or whether it’s entirely alone in the castle, or whether it’s just sneaking off for a beer and doesn’t want to be caught by its superiors… who knows? But let’s present the Solo 6 with some of the more obvious options, and see what we come up with.
Does it call for help? (Rolling…) 2: Yes. Well, that was simple enough! Does it flee into the castle? (Rolling…) 6: and emphatic “No, and…” Ahah! So it’s an aggressive little fellow, keen to taste mortal blood!
…cries out in a snarling voice, and leaps for Temian’s throat! It’s on!
Fight! We need to compare basic speeds, so let me now roll for the demonling’s DX and HT. (Rolling…) DX 11, HT 10. The Demonling’s Basic Speed is therefore 5.25. Temian’s is 6, so he goes first.
A bit taken aback by the suddenness of the Demonling’s attack, Temian nevertheless brings his sword up in time to attempt a blow…
Temian’s skill is 13, but the Demonling is small, so he gets a -2 to hit. His effective skill is therefore 11. (Rolling…) 12: just missed!
…but narrowly misses the little thing, due to its size. Damn, the creature is tiny, and hard to pin down! Meanwhile, the Demonling…
The demonling is obviously about to attack, so it’s time to determine whether it has any special attack powers due to its being a demon. (Rolling…) No. Well, not apart from those poisonous fangs we noted earlier…
The demonling’s brawling skill is 11. (rolling…) 13: miss.
…launches itself at him, its fangs snapping viciously – but Temian’s attack throws it off, and it fails to get a bite in. This gives Temian a chance to take another swing at it…
(Rolling…) 14: missed again!
…but the vicious little monster is inside his range now, and damned hard to hit. It’s scrabbling up his chest now, trying to sink its venomous fangs into his exposed throat…
Realizing it has little chance of penetrating the mail on Temian’s chest, the Demonling tries to go for Temian’s unarmored throat. Its Brawling skill is 11, -5 for targeting the throat, +4 for Telegraphic attack: thus effective skill is 10. (Rolling…) 4: critical hit! No active defense possible!
Uh-oh! Some thoughts on how bad the situation could now become…
Well, this is might become a serious problem for Temian. The bite itself only does 1d-5 impaling damage, which (somewhat counter-intuitively) really means it will definitely do 2 pts of damage (1pt is the minimum for everything but crushing, and then that point is doubled since it’s impaling). But then the poison kicks in! This means Temian will have to make a HT-2 roll, and take 1d toxic damage on a failure. On a bad roll, that could really ruin his day. If he received 5 or 6 pts of damage from that, then he’d be down to 1/3 HP, and would thus be slowed by his wounds… which could well mean the end of him – and maybe the end of the campaign, too!
It’s precisely for situations like these that you buy the Luck advantage! So Temian uses his Luck now. This means the Demonling has to re-roll the attack twice, and take the worst of the three rolls. (Rolling…) 12 and 6. Well, let’s take the 12 – a miss. Phew!
…and Temian tries to keep it away from his neck, but simply can’t. He winces as the vicious little thing plunges its venomous fangs right down into his exposed throat…
…but, to his great surprise, there’s no pain. It seems that, by pure luck, the thin iron necklace that Temian always wears has somehow found its way up to the top of his throat, and the little demonling has got its fangs momentarily tangled up in it.
That’s a spot of luck!
Quickly, Temian hacks at the creature…
(Rolling to hit…) 7: hit. Since this is the first time the Demonling has been hit, we can now determine whether it has any special demonic defenses (Rolling…) No. Phew! Ok, so the Demonling’s dodge is 8. (Rolling…) 13: fail. Temian’s damage is 1d+3 cutting. (Rolling…) 3, +3=6 cutting damage. The Demonling’s DR is 2, so he does 4pts cutting, which turns into 6. Solid! The demonling only has 5 hp, so it’s got to roll against its HT of 10 to remain conscious. (Rolling…) 11: fail. This fight is over!
…and now that he finally manages to land a solid hit on it with his broadsword, the vicious little demonling goes down.
Temian quickly finishes it off and heads into the open postern gate. He wants to move quickly, because the demonling cried out pretty loudly just now, and so there may well be something else coming…
Does anyone respond to the demonling’s warning cry? Let’s ask the Solo 6. (Rolling…) 6: an emphatic “No, and…”. More good luck for Temian! No-one else responds, and somehow whoever is there is particularly unresponsive… Let’s save determining what that means until later, when we have more information about what’s around here.
Our hero is now inside the Castle – and since this is a moment of some dramatic tension, as well as the start of a new scene, it seems like a good place to end the session.
That was a lot of fun at this end – I hope it was fun to read, too.
Stay tuned for the next part of the adventure, when we’ll see whether or not Temian can make his way through the (demon-infested?) castle, find the Book of the Corrupted Seal, and escape!