(For those who came in late: this is the fourth 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 Jouney to Heirloom Peak“), Temian found his way through the mountains to the Castle of Heirloom Peak, which seems to have been overrun by dark and demonic forces.
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 of Dunmoss, back in the valley.
As our session begins, Temian has just entered the castle by a small postern gate…
Getting Started: What’s At Stake Plot-wise?
First of all, let’s roll to see What’s at Stake This Session? (Rolling…) 4: “A Personal Plot element.” Excellent! This means that this session one of my jobs as a player is to try to arrange a genuinely challenging opportunity for Temian to make progress in relation to his Personal Plot, which at the moment is his attempt to find and explore the Ruins of the Lost Elven City of Tara Ithuil, far to the North-West. If I manage to do arrange that in a plausible way, and if Temian succeeds, then Temian will earn a character point, and will also accumulate his first Plot Element. So we’ll see how that goes!
Scene 1: The Castle Cellars
Temian enters the castle cautiously, sword drawn. Immediately inside the postern gate, he sees…
Time to head over to the Dungeons system! Here’s what we know about this dungeon so far:
The Castle of Heirloom Peak
Dungeon Type: Castle.
Dungeon Theme: Unsealed.
Peril Rating: 2
Primary Monster Type: Demon-Kin
Secondary Monster Type: Undead
Tertiary Monster Type: ?
Now that we’re inside, we can roll to determine what’s up ahead? (Rolling…) 12, 6: There are two ways to go: one way seems to lead to the lair of standard opponents; the other seems to lead further away from the Goal.
… a small stone chamber with a wooden table in the center. The table is covered with empty bottles, many of them smashed, and indeed the whole flagstone floor of the chamber is puddled with spilled wine. This is obviously where the drunk demonling Temian just slew began his drinking session. There doesn’t seem to be much of value here – the place is a mess.
There are two obvious exits. Firstly, there’s a wooden door that seems to lead outside, into the castle’s outer bailey. That doesn’t seem like a good option – Temian suspects that the cursed tome he’s after is probably being kept deep down in some of the castle’s innermost chambers, so going outside again seems like a roundabout route.
The second exit is a set of steps that seem to lead down into some deeper set of chambers. There’s obviously been a fairly heavy traffic down those stairs, and at least some of that traffic was quite recent – a lot of the spilled wine has been tracked down the stairs, and it’s still wet and dripping. Temian thinks it very probable that creatures of some kind are still down there.
Well, there’s nothing for it – Temian decides to take the second exit, and risk meeting whatever monstrosity is down in those lower chambers. So he strides boldly down the stairs, sword drawn…
Now that Temian has committed himself, it’s time to roll on the “But Are Things Really What They Seem?” table. Maybe it’s actually an ambush! Or just something other than what he expects. (Rolling…) 10: “Yes, things are really what they seem.” Ok.
So this area really is the Lair of some sort of standard opponents. To work out what sorts of dangers Temian will face here,, we need to roll for a “Mishap” and an “Opportunity”, and consult the “Lair” column each time. Let’s roll them up now.
(Rolling for a Mishap…): A trivial encounter. (Rolling for an opportunity): A Lore Point.
So what’s this encounter? For that, we use the Monsters system. (Rolling…) The primary monster type: Demonkin. (Rolling for numbers etc…) It seems Temian runs into two Demonkin, rated at Peril 1. What are they doing? Let’s use the People system to generate a “current situation”. (Rolling…) 3,3,4: the demonkin are “Tired or Hungry”. Great!
So Temian encounters some demonkin. Who notices who first? Let’s roll a quick contest between Temian’s Stealth and the Demonkin’s Per, and vice versa.
(Rolling..) Temian makes his Stealth roll, and the demonkin critically fail theirs! Evidently they’re so tired and hungry that they’re not paying much attention to their surroundings, and he’s able to sneak right past them.
…and arrives in another set of chambers. Judging by the quantity of broken bottles, overturned wine racks, etc, he appears to have arrived at the castle’s cellar. It’s quite extensive. Temian is expecting trouble, and so he proceeds very carefully and quietly, tiptoeing through the broken glass without making a sound.
He doesn’t have to go far before he starts to make out voices talking to one another. Or moaning and whining at each other, really: it sounds for all the world as if they’re complaining. Temian can’t understand what they’re saying, exactly – they’re speaking some sort of guttural, jagged language he can’t speak – but there are definitely two of them, and Temian gets the distinct sense that each one wants the other to get up and fetch something that it’s too lazy to fetch for itself. Food, maybe? In any case, they seem unwilling to move.
Which is great news, since it allows Temian to sneak through the area unhindered. Out of curiosity he takes a peek at them in passing, and sees…
What do they look like? (Rolling…) Quadrupeds, medium-sized (ST 9), Winged (gliding only), scales for extra DR 1. IQ is only 6, but they’re still capable of basic speech.
…two odd demons that look like big dogs – if dogs had black scales and batlike wings. Are these the “Hellhounds” that Temian has heard the old tales tell of? Maybe. In any case, they look pretty nasty, and Temian is glad they’re not paying enough attention to notice him.
But what about that Lore Point? I’m coming to that!
When Temian comes to the largest chamber in the cellar, he starts and catches his breath. That’s not just wine on the floor – it’s blood – and in some kind of deliberate pattern. Evidently, this cellar has been used for some kind of dark ritual! Appalled, but quite interested all the same, Temian examines the markings carefully…
As per the rules for Lore Points, if Temian spends 10 minutes and succeeds on a suitable skill roll here, he’ll gain a re-roll that he can use later in this dungeon, to represent the extra knowledge he’s gained. Temian’s Occultism is 11. Peril is 2, so his effective skill is 9. (Rolling…) 5: success! Nice.
…and after a time, he believes he’s starting to understand some of what was done here: evidently, the demons that were set loose initially by the Book of the Corrupted Seal have been sacrificing members of the Baron’s household in order to summon even more of their infernal kin. Wicked! Temian hopes this knowledge will help him somehow later on…
Past the ritual chamber, there seems to be…
Now we simply return to the start of the Dungeons system, and roll to determine What’s Up Ahead? once again. We’re further into the Dungeon now, though, so we have an increased chance of rolling up interesting results – including our ultimate Goal. (Rolling…) 17: dead end. Damn! We’ll have to backtrack.
… a brick wall. Evidently, this ritual chamber is in the deepest part of the cellar – now Temian will have to turn back.
This seems like a good moment to throw in an opportunity for Temian to make progress regarding his Personal Plot, which his attempt to find and explore the Lost City of Lara Ithuil.
How? Well, let’s say that the bloody ceremonial markings on the floor of the ritual chamber actually concern the Lost City in some way…. But we’ll only find out how if Temian manages to read them! And since the rules for plots say that this has to be “genuinely challenging”, let’s say that if Temian fails to read the markings correctly, he’ll summon more demons! Oh no!
…just as he’s about to turn back, something odd catches his eye. That bloody mark, there – isn’t that the sigil of the Lost City?!?! Excitedly, Temian starts trying to pronounce the symbols out loud…
Let’s just make this a straight-up Occultism roll. Temian’s skill is 11. (Rolling…) 11! Just made it by a whisker! Alright, so we accumulate one Plot Element towards the Personal Plot. Here’s how it goes down:
As he reads aloud, Temian is startled to feel dark energies being summoned up around him, as the veil between the real world and the Infernum is stretched…. but not broken. He gets a feeling of foreboding, but nothing truly untoward happens.
And having read the words, he’s astonished to realize that…
Realize what? Let’s ask the Solo 6.
Does he realize that these Demons are the same Demons who destroyed the Lost City of Lara Ithuil, all those centuries ago? (Rolling…) 5: “No.”
Ok. Does he realize that, like him, these Demons are also searching for the location of the Lost City, but for their own foul purposes? (Rolling…) 2: “Yes.” Ahah!
…these Demons seem to be searching for the location of the Lost City! Temian shudders… if these Demons – or their infernal masters – knew that he knows the location… Well, things wouldn’t go well for him. Why exactly are the demons also searching for the Lost City? He can’t tell, but it can’t be for anything good.
That revelation will have to wait for another plot element!
Well, that’s it for the cellar. Quietly, Temian sneaks back past the two grumbling demonkin…
Now, normally I’d just let his previous Stealth roll cover this, especially since the demonkin critically failed their perception roll – but what if we choose to make things more difficult for Temian, instead? I think it might be fun to Raise the Stakes here by requiring a new roll. It’s a significant risk, since my earlier roll set the demonkin’s Perception at a relatively high 13, whereas Temian’s Stealth is only 11. (Rolling…) Temian rolls 10, succeeding by 1; the demonkin roll 14, failing by 1. Alright! That was lucky. He makes it by a whisker!
…and heads upstairs, back to the chamber he entered initially.
Scene 2: The Outer Bailey
Then he takes the other door, out into the castle’s outer courtyard.
We’re entering a new area now, so we have to roll to determine whether this path really leads where it seems to lead. (Rolling…) 10: Yes – this really is the way to the bailey.
Temian heads out into the castle’s outer bailey – a broad, muddy courtyard surrounded by walls and towers.
Let’s roll for Mishaps and Opportunities here in the bailey. (Rolling for mishap…) 6: Safe for now! (Rolling for Opportunity…) 13: Nothing special. Well, that was easy!
What’s up ahead now? (Rolling…) 12, 5: A choice of two ways.
The first way leads to a monster’s lair. What kind of monsters are we dealing with? (Rolling…) 12: The Primary Monster Type: Demonkin.
The second way leads to an area full of some kind of hazards, wards, obstacles, or traps. To find out which, let’s head to the Hazards system! (Rolling…) Obstacles. Fair enough.
The outer bailey seems deserted, but it’s spotted with muddy footprints (or rather, claw-prints and hoof-prints) that Temian suspects belong to demonic creatures of the kind he’s already encountered. Most of them – and certainly the most recent ones – seem to lead to one of the towers that lies across from the main gate. Perhaps there’s a way through to the inner bailey from there?
There’s also a gatehouse that clearly leads through to the inner bailey. It would definitely be Temian’s choice of route – he wants to get deeper into the castle, after all – but it’s suffered some sort of large-scale structural damage, probably recently, and it’s half in ruins. Temian suspects that whatever unholy event brought the demonkin to the castle also took a serious toll on this inner gatehouse. The gatehouse looks as if it might well be impassable, thought it’s a bit hard to tell from here.
Feeling a bit exposed in the courtyard, and not wanting to tangle with any more demon-kin if he can avoid it, Temian decides to try the half-ruined gatehouse.
Warily, he starts to pick his way through the rubble, passing under the portcullis (which dangles very precariously), and then heading inside…
Now that he’s committed to this course of action, let’s see if things in the gatehouse are really what they seem. (Rolling…) 7: yes – it’s a ruined, perhaps impassable gatehouse, just as we thought.
Now to roll for mishaps and opportunities. (Rolling for mishaps…) 13: You meet with an obstacle. (Rolling for opportunities…) 15: Nothing.
Ok, what’s this obstacle, then? (Rolling…) Ahah – something that needs one or more of ST, Forced Entry, or Lockpicking to pass through – whichever seems most appropriate.
… where he finds himself face-to-face with an inner portcullis. It’s closed, but not properly or intentionally in fact, it seems as if structural damage to the gatehouse itself has brought it out from its groove, and now it’s just blocking the way, without quite being set up properly. Since it’s out of its moorings, maybe he can throw his shoulder against it and budge it a little? Just enough to get past, perhaps?
Temian throws his shoulder against the downed portcullis …
A simple, gamist way to do this: just a ST check, at a penalty equal to peril. Temian’s ST is 12, so his effective ST is 10. (Rolling…) 9: success!
…and finds himself able to tilt it just enough to wedge his way past. Nice! He’s made it to the inner bailey!
Cautiously, he looks around…
What’s up ahead? (Rolling…) 10: a choice of two ways; roll on the area type table for each. Ok, good – the Area Type table allows us to subtract the number of areas we’ve come through so far from our roll. The area we backtracked out of doesn’t count, and the inner bailey was a detour, and so counts as negative one. The gatehouse counts as one – but this still only brings our current count to zero! This castle is giving us the runaround! Well, let’s roll up the two options anyway.
The first option appears to be (rolling…) a safe area: perhaps deserted?
The second option appears to be (rolling…) the lair of trivial opponents. What kind of opponents? (Rolling…) 10: The Primary Monster Type – Demonkin.
…and sees that the inner bailey is dominated by two towers, one in the East wall, and the other in the West. Muddy claw-prints lead off into the Western tower – there’s probably demonkin in there. Meanwhile the Eastern tower looks deserted.
Deciding to play it safe, Temian heads for the Eastern tower in the hope that it will contain some kind of stairwell down to the sub-level he suspects houses the Book of the Corrupted Seal.
Scene 3: The Spider-Demon’s Ambush!
When he pushes open the door of the tower, he finds that…
Are things really what they seem? (Rolling…) 17: No! This tower isn’t as safe and abandoned as it seems! Ah – here comes our first roll on the What Is This Area REALLY? table. This can be a very dangerous table!
(Rolling..) 9: The lair of trivial opponents. Ambush!
Temian is being ambushed by what now? (Rolling…) 11: The Primary Monster Type: Demonkin. Fair enough. How many are there, and how tough are they? (Rolling…) One Peril 2 Demonkin. Ok – what does this Demonkin look like? (Rolling…) Arachnid, pretty large (ST 12), sharp claws, sharp teeth.
This spider-demon is ambushing him, so let’s roll for its Stealth score. (Rolling..) 10: “9+Peril”. So its stealth is 11. Does Temian notice it? His Perception is 12. (Rolling…) Temian makes it by 1, the spider-demon fails by 1. Whew – just made it!
…everything seems quite safe and deserted. Ah, what a relief! And look, there’s something shiny on the ground!
He’s just bending over to pick it up, when he hears a rustling above him. Instinctively, he looks up – and wham! Some sort of unholy crimson-scaled spider-demon drops down from the roof! Ambush predator!
We’re definitely heading into a fight scene here, so we need to determine the spider-demon’s Basic Speed. What are its DX and HT? (Rolling..) DX 10, HT 9. Whew, that’s not too bad! Its basic speed is therefore 4.75, so Temian goes first.
Whirling to face this sudden threat, Temian lashes out with his broadsword…
(Rolling to hit…) Natural 3! Critical hit! Nice. (Rolling on the critical hit table…) 7: “If any damage penetrates DR, then treat this as a major wound, regardless of actual injury”. Excellent! Temian does 1d+3 cutting damage (Rolling…) 1, +3 =4. Bad roll! But never mind – it’s gooing to count as a major wound regardless.
Now, does the Spider-demon have any special demonic defences? (Rolling…) Yes, it has a High Pain Threshold. Well, hopefully it will need it! Demons have DR equal to Peril, so Temian does 2 pts of basic damage to it, which increases to 3 because it’s cutting.
Since this counts as a major wound, the spider has to roll against its HT9 to avoid knockdown and stunning. (Rolling…) 15: fail. And in fact, this fails by more than 5, and thus leads directly to unconsciousness!
… and strikes the spider demon a telling blow, right between its (many, many) eyes. This appears to be just the right spot in which to hit it, because the awful thing instantly goes limp. Temian rapidly finishes it off.
Having dispatched the spider-demon with a single blow (lucky!) he takes a moment to look around the tower…
What’s up ahead? (Rolling…) 11: A choice of two ways. The first seems to lead to a more dangerous (Peril3) area, and the second seems to lead into a “Safe or deserted” area.
Well, that’s an easy choice! – “safe” it is!
…and, right down at the bottom of the tower, he discovers not one but two stairwells, heading downwards.
The first stairwell is choked up with some kind of awful webbing, and Temian suspects that there are more Spider-demons to be found in that direction. Not that way, then!
The second stairwell is dusty, and seems as if it hasn’t seen much use in a while. Of course, the tower seemed abandoned, too…
But nothing ventured, nothing gained! Temian heads down the “abandoned” stairwell…
Scene 4: The Tunnels Beneath…
Is this stairwell what it seems? (Rolling…) 9: Yup, it really is abandoned. Great!
(Rolling for mishaps…) 5: Safe. (Rolling for an opportunity): natural 3! A large hoard of Treasure! Score!
Now, for the first time in this campaign, we get to break out the Treasure system! Good times.
Rolling for Treasure!
How much treasure, exactly? Let’s head over to the Treasure system. A “Large Hoard” has 1d6+Peril treasure elements. (Rolling…) 6! Score! That means 8 treasure elements – a pretty sizeable collection of treasure, actually . Nice! What are they?
So it turns out that the real centerpiece of this hoard is a finely-wrought silver circlet (200sp, negligible weight)
There’s also a whole heap of coins: 10sp in Valirothian silver pieces, which are the standard currency in this region, plus a pile of foreign Armarian coins: 10sp worth of Armarian coppers, 200sp worth of Armarian silvers, and 100sp worth of Armarian gold.
And then there are some rather uninspiring miscellaneous items, none if which Temian is likely to take: a finely carved, but utterly unwieldy dressing table (100sp, 100lbs); a common fired-clay basin (4sp, 4lbs); and a large tapestry, once quite fine, but now so heavily soiled by demon-filth that it’s barely worth anything (4sp, 40lbs).
Ignoring those last three, the hoard comes to a total value of 520sp – which is just slightly more than the total worth of everything Temian currently owns! So it’s a huge windfall for the likes of him – if he can survive long enough to spend it.
…and finds himself in what was obviously once a very well-appointed suite, probably belonging to a fine Lady. Perhaps it belonged to the Baroness herself?
It’s a bit hard to tell, to be honest, since most of the chambers have been thoroughly despoiled by demonkin. Luckily for Temian, though, the demonkin seem to have lost interest in the area – there’s no sign of them coming through recently. Even more luckily, beside the (ruined) bed he finds what appears to be the Lady’s (Baroness’s?) secret stash of traveling money, together with a fine silver circlet that looks to be worth a good deal. Well, whoever she was, she won’t be needing it now.
Well, that was profitable – but it doesn’t necessarily help him reach his ultimate goal, the Book of the Corrupted Seal (and the Baron’s treasure, that is said to lie with it…). So where to from here?
What’s Up Ahead? (Rolling…) A choice of two ways. The first way appears to lead further away from our goal, and the second appears to be a dead end. Well, damn!
Temian finds that there are two obvious exits from the Lady’s chambers.
The first option is a tunnel that simply leads right back in the direction of the Outer Bailey. He doesn’t want to go that way – surely that would mean losing ground?
Yet the second option seems even less promising -it’s a tunnel that seems to lead deeper underground – great! – but it’s pretty much entirely collapsed. He could probably clamber down it a little way, but it’s very likely that it concludes in a dead end just a little bit further along.
Well, there’s only one choice, really: he takes the first tunnel, even though it seems to lead back in the general direction he’s just come from.
Is this tunnel what it seems? (Rolling…) 9: up.
(Rolling for Mishaps…) 11, 4: An Obstacle, Hazard, Ward, or Trap. Which kind? (Rolling?) A Hazard appropriate to the “Unsealed” theme. What kind of Hazard, exactly? Ahah! The kind that does 2d-2 Toxic damage if you fail to dodge, and then also fail a HT-Peril roll.
Even to notice it in the first place, Temian needs to roll against Alchemy, Chemistry, or Hazmat (Magical) – none of which he has! But is there a workaround? (Rolling…) Yes, you could also notice it with a successful roll against an appropriate Hidden Lore specialty. Hmmm… Temian does have Hidden Lore (Troll-Wights). Is that the appropriate specialty here? Let’s ask the Solo 6. (Rolling…) 6: “No, and…” Ouch! So Temian’s experience with troll-wights might actually be positively misleading here. Gotchya!
(Rolling for Opportunities…) 10: None. Damn!
Temian heads down the tunnel, and soon finds himself in some kind laboratory area. Evidently, this was where the Baron practiced some of his dark arts! There’s a lot of alchemical apparatus down here – the old alembics, retorts, odd glassware, and so on – but the majority of it is smashed up or soiled beyond repair. Temian knows better than to mess around with spilled alchemical brews, so he just tries to pass through the area as cautiously as he can….
…but then something catches his eye. Is that a troll-wight claw pinned to the table over there? With some sort of green ichor dripping out of it, into a shallow basin? Now, he knows that troll-wight blood isn’t explosive, or poisonous, or anything, so he feels it’s definitely safe just to go over and take a l…
The moment he approaches, the whole apparatus goes up in a explosion of glass fragments, green ichor, and some kind of toxic gas. Temian tries to fling himself clear…
(Rolling to dodge…) 8: success! Phew.
…and ends up on his back, a few yards away, as the thick cloud of toxic gas gradually dissipates upwards towards the ceiling. Whew – that was close!
Trying not to breathe in any of the lingering vapors, Temian makes his way out of the area as quickly and carefully as he can.
What’s Up Ahead? (Rolling…) A choice of two ways.
The first way seems to be a dead end.
The second way seems to lead to the lair of deadly opponents – but also seems an extremely promising route towards the goal. Passing through it would be risky, but would allow us to add 3 to any future rolls on the Area Type table… which would be a big help.
What kind of opponents are we talking? (Rolling…) 9: The Secondary Monster Type: Undead. Interesting.
Temian finds a number of passages that seem as if they once led out of this laboratory area, but most them are now blocked with rubble – he probably can’t get through. But after a little while he does find an open tunnel.
In fact, it’s a little too open. For it turns out that the Baron’s alchemical laboratory connects up directly with something even more sinister: the unholy crypt in which he worked his darkest sorcery of all… the raising of the dead! The tunnel Temian has come to evidently leads directly into the crypt – and the whole place reeks with the foulness of un-life, un-death.
Horrors! And yet, surely if the Baron were to keep his Book of the Corrupted Seal anywhere, it would be here in this dark crypt, or somewhere near it?
Temian takes a deep breath to steady his nerves, and then enters the crypt…
…and that seems like a great place to end the session. (Though honestly, I’m actually very eager to know how Temian’s going to fare in this next, potentially deadly, section. If my sole PC dies, then this whole series is going to end much faster than I’d hoped!)
Anyway, stay tuned next week, to find out if Temian can survive the Castle Crypt!
Experience Points and Plot Awards
Temian manages to make progress in his Personal Plot, so he earns a character point, and also accumulates a Plot Element. Nice!