(For those who came in late: this is the sixth 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: (Be warned: I’ve included quite a long summary this time! Feel free to skip down to “Scene 1” if you’re already up-date)
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.
In episode one, “One Evening At The Phoenix“, Temian returned Dunmoss after a long, unprofitable trip into the mountains – only find himself mugged by ruffians! Luckily, he quickly set things to rights.
In episode two, “The Witch of Dumoss“, Temian learned of the location of the legendary Lost City of Lara Ithuil – a place he’s always dreamed of seeing (he’s obsessed with ruins…). Straight away, he vowed to go there! Needing money to finance the journey, he went looking for work – and found out, to his horror, that the life of his friend Aed Steadlark was being threatened by the dreaded Witch of Dunmoss! Temian went to the Witch and begged her to spare Aed’s life, and the Witch said that she would consider sparing Aed – if Temian would go to the Castle of Heirloom Peak and retrieve an ancient tome of sorcery that once belonged to her. Having little choice, Temian agreed.
In episodes three and four – “The Journey to Heirloom Peak” and “The Castle of Heirloom Peak” – Temian traveled to the Castle and began exploring it. It turned out that the castle had been overrun by demons- and Temian was shocked to discover that the demons were also trying to find the Lost City of Lara Ithuil.
In episode five, “The Book of the Corrupted Seal“, Temian finally reached the deepest chambers beneath the castle and retrieved the witch’s book. Skimming through its pages, he discovered that the demons he had been facing were the minions of the demon Prince Narnuilakh (a.k.a “The Lord of the Starless Night”). This explained why the demons were searching for the Lost City: Narnuilakh is searching for a long-forgotten trove of magical lore, which is supposed to be located in the buried libraries there.
As our current session begins, Temian is beginning his journey back to Dunmoss. His immediate goal is to return the book to the Witch. and plead for the life of his friend Aed. In the longer term, his goal is to get to the Lost City of Lara Ithuil before the Demon Prince Nanuilakh does..
Getting Started: What’s At Stake Plot-wise?
First of all, let’s roll to see What’s at Stake This Session? (Rolling…) 5: “an element in the second personal plot”. But Temian doesn’t yet have a second personal plot! So it looks like one of my tasks as a player this session will be to try to introduce a second personal plot for Temian, as well as a challenging opportunity to earn a plot element. Great! That should be fun.
Scene 1: The Journey Home
As our story begins, Temian is setting off through the mountains, heading back to Dunmoss. Here’s the relevant portion of the World Map:
And here’s a zoomed in version:
Starting at Heirloom Peak, Temian is planning to head North-East all the way to The Witch’s Isle, and then on to Dunmoss. We’ll see if his plan succeeds!
Rolling up the Journey Home
Heading over to the Journeys system, we see that Temian can begin by using his Area Knowledge (Eldervale) to plot out a route. This is what the system calls “Researching the Dangers of the Journey” – and if you succeed at it, you can get a re-roll, to be used on one of the later rolls during the journey. Let’s roll for it now! Temian’s Area Knowledge (Eldervale) skill is 12, but Peril is 2, so his effective skill is just 10.
17! Critical failure! Oh no!
What does this mean? Well, clearly Temian is trying to take a short-cut, relying on his (completely faulty) local knowledge. This is bad news! I don’t actually have any specific rules for critical failures on research rolls (a serious oversight!) but let’s say that his bungled attempt at a short cut gives him -4 to both his Navigation and his Survival rolls later. Bad, bad!
Let’s now roll up the journey itself. The Journeys system tells us that arriving safely will require a roll against Navigation (Land), a roll against Survival (Mountains), and a single Event roll. Let’s roll them now.
Navigation Roll: Temian’s Navigation (Land) skill is 11, but Peril is 2, and he gets a -4 due to his critically failed research roll, so his effective skill is just 5 (!). This doesn’t look good. (Rolling…) 9. Failed. This means that the journey takes an extra unit of time – so, an extra 4 hrs.
Survival roll: Temian’s Survival (Mountains) skill is also 11, so his effective skill is once again a miserable 5. (Rolling) 15! Oh, no! Since his effective skill is only 5, this counts as another critical failure! This session is going very badly for Temian. I do have rules for this situation – we need to roll on the “Falling Prey to Danger” table. (Rolling 1d6…) 4: “Your next event roll suffers a +5 penalty”. Ouch! I’ve got a sinking feeling here…
Event roll: This is just a straight-up 3d6 roll – but with a +5 penalty! (Rolling…) 10, +5=15: “A Choice of Mishaps”. Let’s see what these mishaps are:
First bad choice: (Rolling…) 3,1,2: “Negotiate an Obstacle.” What kind of Obstacle? Let’s ask the Hazards system… (Rolling…) Ok, so the obstacle requires a DX or Climbing roll, both penalized by Peril; failing that roll means that you must suffer 2d-2 crushing damage, unless you can save yourself at the last moment with a final DX-Peril roll. This is obviously some sort of high ledge or cliff:
Second bad choice: (Rolling…) 3,1,1: “Negotiate an Obstacle” again. What kind of Obstacle? (Rolling…) Ah, ok: we need to roll against Swimming at a penalty equal to peril, or risk drowning. This seems to be some sort of fast-moving stream or river.
Ok, so things are going poorly. But what does all this look like in play? Let’s find out!
Temian sets off from Heirloom peak, heading towards the Witch’s Isle. Confident that he knows the area well, he decides to take a short cut through the mountains. He’ll be safe home in no time!
But after trudging happily through the mountains for the whole morning, he starts to get the feeling that he’s wandered off course. Was it really this gully he was meant to come up? Or should he have borne a little more to the east back at that last ridge? Hmmm…..
As the day drags on, he starts to get the sense that he’s too high up in the mountains – he ought to have descended down to the valley floor by now. Damn! He must have taken a wrong turn. Ah well – nothing for it but to keep pushing onwards!
The sun is just starting to get low in the sky when he emerges from a steep ravine to find his fears confirmed. He’s still far too high up in the mountains – indeed, he’s come out on top of a large waterfall that he was planning to come out underneath.
That is, he was expecting to come out at the bottom of the valley, and see this view of the waterfall:
And instead, he’s come out at the top of the valley, and is seeing this view of the waterfall:
Needless to say, this is a big problem! Not least because he now has to get past this waterfall, in order to find his way down the mountains on the other side.
Looking at the situation, it seems that he has two options, if he wants to keep going forwards.
The first option would be to simply try to make his way down the cliff, right here. This would mean avoiding the waterfall, which would be good; but it would also mean climbing down a pretty steep section of cliff with a big drop beneath. Nasty!
The second option would be to try to wade across the river at the top of the falls, and then head down the gentler part of the cliff on the other side. But this would be quite difficult – and the water is moving fast, with what looks like a strong undertow, and there are jagged rocks that could easily catch on his clothes and cause disaster. Plus he’d have to try to keep the book dry, which would mean “swimming” with two arms up in the air for a while. Not easy.
What to do?
After a little while, Temian decides to risk swimming across the river just above the falls.
Yes, I know this is stupid – would you really risk the Book of the Corrupted Seal by going swimming with it? Probably not. But it’s much more fun this way!
Wrapping the book as tightly as he can in his sack – which is already heavy with silver – he makes his way down to the water’s edge, and then starts wading in.
At first, it’s not so bad – but as he nears the center of the stream, he finds that it’s getting very deep, Soon he has to try to tread water across a very fast-moving part of the stream, all the while keeping his heavy sack lifted up above his head….
Temian’s Swimming skill is 12. Peril is 2, so his effective skill is 10. (Rolling…) 14: fail! Oh no! It’s time to break out the inhaling water rules from p.B354. It looks a if Temian inhales water, thus losing 1FP; then he has to make another roll, and he’ll keep inhaling more water until he either succeeds or drowns!
…which turns out to be extremely difficult. Gasp! Cough! Temian inhales a mouthful of water! Eager to keep his sack dry, he holds it high up above his head and tries to tread water strongly enough keep his mouth free…
(Rolling again…) 15: fail! Temian inhales more water, and loses another FP.
…but fails; he’s just not able to do it. Cough! Splutter! A bit worried now, Temian searches with his feet, trying to get a purchase on the slippery stream-bed that he knows is somewhere beneath him…
(Rolling again…) 14: fail! Another FP down!
…but there’s just nothing there. It looks like he’s on his own! Gah – slurp! More water into the lungs! Becoming desperate, Temian redoubles his efforts – and starts to consider ditching the book (and his treasure) entirely!
(Rolling again…) 9: success! Finally. But he’s not out of the woods yet, because, as the Hazards system stipulates, he has to succeed on a number of swimming rolls equal to Peril – which means he has one more to go!
And there it is! He manages to move himself into a slightly less violent part of the stream. He’s got a lungful of water, but at least he’s not inhaling any more right now. Surely just one more push should do it…
(Rolling again…for the last time?) 9: success! Yes! He’s through!
…and indeed, after a final lunge forwards Temian finds himself in the slightly shallower water near the far bank. Coughing and spluttering, he finishes wading across and then hauls himself up onto the bank, retching to clear his lungs. Then he collapses on the bank to recover. Whew! Safe at last!
The rest of the journey down the mountainside should be simple enough, but Temian’s “Short cut” has actually wasted a lot of time, and so it’s now getting on towards night. Temian himself is half-drowned as well as bone-tired (if you recall, he didn’t manage to get any sleep last night at all…) It looks as if he’ll have to camp on the mountainside for the night, before moving on.
Temian has now done everything he needs to do to complete this journey successfully – except that he’s wasted so much time that he’ll need to spend the night outdoors. This will require an additional Survival (Mountains) roll, penalized by Peril. His effective skill is 9. (Rolling…) 8: success! That was lucky.
As luck would have it, there”s actually a fairly decent campsite not far from here – a little sheltered dell just back from the cliff, out of the wind. Temian starts up a fire, dries himself by it, and then gratefully tumbles into his blanket for some longed-for sleep.
Scene 2 – The Witch of Dunmoss
After a slow start the next morning – Temian really needed that sleep! – our hero makes his way back down the mountainside into Eldervale proper. It doesn’t take him too long to make his way back to the Witch’s Isle. Then, just as he did before, he climbs the rocky bank and then pushes his way through the briars and brambles to the clearing in the center of the island, where one can summon the Witch.
Then, with great reluctance, he says the words, makes the secret signs…
…and the Witch appears!
“The Book! The Book!” she screeches. She seems to be able to sense its presence, even though it’s hidden inside Temian’s sack. “Give it to meeee, morssssel!”
“Not so fast, Juliana!” Temian cries, using the Witch’s real name. (After all, it pays to be polite with witches, even when you’re trying to act tough). “What about Aed Steadlark? Release him from your curse, and you can have the Book!”
The witch pauses, eyeing him as a vulture eyes fresh carrion.
“Ssooo he’ss a brave little morsssel, issssss he? ” She cackles. “Did a sssserviccce for meee, and now wantsss sssomething in returrrn, doesss he?”
Ok, here goes!
“Yes.” Temian says. His sword is in his hand, and now he draws himself up to his full height. “I’ve slain the demons of Heirloom Peak, and if you don’t release my friend from your curse, I’ll slay you, too.”
Well, I’m trying to complete the initial Convince adventure now – it requires a Quick Contest of Skills: Temian’s best social skill vs the Witch’s effective skill of 16. Temian’s best social skill is Intimidate, which is why he’s acting so tough. His skill is only 13, but he gets a +2 because he did her a service in returning the book, so his effective skill is 15. Let’s roll it up now!
(Rolling…) Temian rolls an 11, succeeding by 4. The Witch also rolls an 11, succeeding by 5. Damn, lost the contest! Failing the contest has bad consequnces (see the rules for Convince adventures, if you’re interested) – and there’s a lot at stake here anyway. So this looks like a good time to use Temian’s Luck. Using it allows him to re-roll twice, and take the best of the three.
(Rolling…) 8, 12. Well, let’s take the 8. Thanks to his Luck, Temian succeeds by 7, thus beating the Witch by 2. Nice! This isn’t the first time I’ve been thankful for that Luck advantage – 15 pts well-spent!
But what about a plot twist?
Now that we’ve met the conditions for success in the Convince adventure, we have to check for a possible plot twist, as per the Adventures system. (Rolling…) Nope, no plot twist! Excellent.
The Witch shuffles a little nervously. She doesn’t think Temian could hurt her, really – but there’s always a chance – and she’s a coward at heart.
“Morrrssssell, morssell, there’sss no call for harssssh wordssss. We’re all friendsss here, aren’t wee?” She mutters an incantation. “Sssseee, morssel? I have releassed Sssteadlark from my curssse. Now give me the book!”
With great reluctance, but knowing that he’s already pushed his luck about as far as it can go, Temian hands over the Book.
When she gets hold of it, the Witch is visibly very pleased.
A moment later, she is gone.
Scene 3 – Aed Steadlark
By mid-morning we find Temian in the home of his friend Aed Steadlark, the mouthpiece of Simara (who we met in Episode 2). Aed seems in good health, so the Witch appears to have been telling the truth: she really did release him from his curse. Thank heavens! When he sees Temian, Aed…
How does Aed respond? Well, he’s the one who initially gave Temian this “Convince” quest (with a Reward value of 44sp, mind you!) so this is exactly the right time to roll on the So How About That Reward? table. (If you want to check out that table, see the end of the Adventures system, right down near the bottom of the page). Is Aed grateful for Temian’s help, and willing to give him the promised reward?
18: Betrayal!!! Woah! I was NOT expecting that! Aed betrays Temian at the last minute, and tries to murder him! Why, Aed, WHY!??!
It looks like we’re suddenly in a fight scene – a “Deadly” encounter, rated at the current Peril, (2). This is a huge surprise to me! And pretty thrilling, actually. I’ve got no idea why Aed is doing this, but that’s ok – neither does Temian! Hopefully the system will make that clear in time.
Let’s now head over to the Monsters system to work out what this encounter consists of. (Rolling…) 1: One opponent, rated at Peril+2. Ok, so it sounds like this is Aed himself, who is rated at a fairly mighty Peril 4. This could well be a truly deadly encounter! Using the generic monster template, this gives Aed the following stats:
Aed Steadlark, Treacherous Bastard
ST 12 HP 12
DX 12 Per 13
IQ 11 Will 12
HT 11 FP 11
To hit: Roll vs Broadsword 14
Damage: swing for 1d+3 cut, or thrust for 1d+1 imp
DR 4 (let’s say he’s wearing mail under his shirt, just like Temian is)
That means that Temian and Aed are almost exactly evenly matched – their stat-lines are pretty much identical. Temian has Combat Reflexes, which Aed doesn’t – but then Aed’s Broadsword skill is one higher. That one extra point makes a difference, since it raises Aed’s Parry by one. The big difference is that Temian uses his cloak as a shield, which raises his active defenses somewhat. With a fight this close, it looks like Temian may need those defenses – especially since he’s already used his Luck for this session!
Well, this is a risky fight! Let’s see how it goes down…
…smiles, and welcomes him into the house with open arms. As soon as Temian is inside the door, though, Aed shuts – and locks – the door behind him. Quick as a flash, Aed’s sword is out, and he’s coming right for Temian!
Only pure reflex gives Temian the edge here! He whips out his sword to meet his old friend, and new foe!
Temian’s Fast-Draw (Broadsword) skill is 12. (Rolling…) 8! Succcess!
Then, since he still doesn’t understand what’s happened to his old friend, he tries to knock the weapon out of Aed’s hand…
To attempt a disarm, Temian first needs to make a roll to hit, at -2. His effective skill is 11. (Rolling…) 9: hit. Now Aed gets to attempt a parry. His Parry is 10. (Rolling…) 14: failed. So far so good! Now for the tough one: Temian needs to win a Quick Contest of Skills – and his skill is lower, so the odds are against him.
(Who would have thought that the local soothsayer would turn out to be a master swordsman? There’s obviously more here than meets the eye!)
(Rolling the Quick Contest…) Temian rolls a 7, succeeding by 6. Aed rolls a 13, succeeding by 1. Temian wins! Gee, this has been a very surprising scene – I wasn’t expecting that, either!
…and Aed’s sword goes flying across the room, and lands point-down and quivering in one of the wooden chairs. It seems this fight has ended almost before it began!
Temian is confused by his friend’s inexplicable attack, but he’s no fool – he keeps his sword-tip pointed conspicuously at Aed’s neck.
“Don’t pick up the sword” he says. “What gives, Aed?”
What gives, indeed? I wonder why Aed has betrayed us? This sounds like a job for the Solo 6!
Hmmm… let’s see… Perhaps the Witch lied when she claimed that she had released Aid from her magic. Maybe she’s actually controlling him, and is trying to kill Temian, in order to cover her tracks! (And – ahem – possibly because he threatened her, earlier…) But we need a specific question to ask the Solo 6. Here’s one: is Aed still under the influence of the Witch’s magic? (Rolling…) 2: Yes.
Well, that’s simple enough! Now for some more details: can Aed break out of the spell now that Temian has foiled the Witch’s plan? (Rolling…) 1: An emphatic “Yes, and…”. Great! Let’s say that by disarming him, Temian has broken Aed out of the Witch’s curse for good! Aed is now immune to the Witch’s curse.
Aed falls to his knees, sobbing. “Oh Temian, I’m so sorry! I would never…” He blinks. “Juliana Darkhound… Simara forgive me, but I was too weak to fight her off – she had me in her grip all this time! But she’s gone now, I feel it! Temian, I’m truly sorry.”
Temian quickly recognizes that his friend is telling the truth. He’s a pretty friendly soul, and soon all is forgiven. And Aed insists that Temian accept a reward for saving his life – 300sp, as it turns out.
And that, my friends, would bring us to the end of the session….
Bonus Scene: The Witch’s Weakness!
…except that we still need to invent a new Personal Plot for Temian, and give him a genuinely challenging opportunity to earn a plot element towards it. What should this be? Well, he’s just found out that the Witch of Dunmoss lied to him, and tried have him murdered – and by his good friend Aed, no less! So it might be fun to declare that Temian is now searching for a way to avenge himself on the Dunmoss Witch. That sounds like an amusing personal pot!
What’s his first step here? We’ll, we’ve been treating the Witch as if she’s too powerful simply to attack directly – so let’s say that Temian has to find her weakness, somehow.
In the days that follow, Temian finds it more and more difficult to get out his mind the fact that the Witch attempted to use his own friend to have him murdered. It’s not long before Temian has decided that he needs to bring the Dunmoss Witch to justice!
But obviously he can’t face her directly – she’s just too powerful. What he needs is an edge – some way to find her weakness.
To the library! (Well, probably not the public library, in the modern sense… but Temian’s local to this town, and a student of the Occult, so he must know someone with access to books of this kind. He heads there!)
This attempt to further the plot needs to be genuinely challenging, with a significant (though not necessarily vast!) chance of failure, so let’s just require Temian to make both a Research roll and an Occultism roll. That sounds about right, when researching the weaknesses of a Witch!
Temian has both Research and Occultism at 11. (Rolling…) 7 and 10: both successes! So Temian manages to find out the Witch’s weakness!
Temian spends the next few days poring over all the dusty tomes he can get his hands on. Eventually, he finds something that looks promising: an old legend that seems to suggest that…
Seems to suggest what, exactly? This sounds like a brilliant excuse to roll up a new adventure! To the Adventures system!
(Rolling, rolling…) Ok, here’s what we’ve got: we need to Investigate a Temple, 7 days travel away. The adventure is rated at Peril 1, and success means earning 150sp plus 1 character point that can be spent on social advantages such as reputation, contacts, or the like.
Let’s roll for one more detail about this temple, just to flesh things out a little. What about a Theme? (Rolling…) “Place of Power”. That couldn’t be more appropriate! This temple is obviously the source of the Witch’s power!
…the Witch’s powers find their source at an ancient temple. Temian can’t yet tell to which dark god or goddess the temple is consecrated, but it’s obviously a place of great evil. If he could find out more about the Witch’s weaknesses anywhere, surely it would be there!
And that pretty much wraps up this session. Wow, it’s been a surprising one, full of unexpected twists and turns – starting with that first roll, which was a critical failure! I think I’ll go back and name it “Treachery in Eldervale,” since that was such a great plot twist at the end. And since Temian’s first adventure is now complete, I think I’ll retroactively name it “Temian Fell and the Witch’s Curse“.
Since Temian has now concluded his first adventure, it’s time for some serious XP awards! (The rules I’m using here are at the bottom of the Adventures system.) Basically, we roll 3d6, and we get a bonus depending on how well the adventure went.
Let’s see now: the adventure was certainly a success, so we get a a -2 bonus. (Note that there’s nothing about what happened that particularly makes the adventure what this system calls a “raging success,” so we can’t claim a -4). The adventure filled 4 sessions, so that’s another -4. And we “Raised the Stakes” twice, so that’s another -2. So our total bonus is -8. Now let’s roll it up!
7. With the -8 bonus, we’re left with a result of -1. That’s certainly than less than 2, so Temian earns a full 3 character points for this adventure! Awesome!
He also earned a character point and a plot element towards his new personal plotline: to bring the Witch of Dunmoss to justice.
Right, that’s it for this episode. Stay tuned next week, for Temian’s attempt to journey to the temple and find the Witch’s weakness.
And also watch out for some upcoming posts in which I decide how to spend his XP (he’s got 6 unspent character points, now!) and his treasure (More than 1000sp). I’m looking forward to that – those are always fun decisions to make.
(Later edit: I recommend checking out how Temian spent his points and cash, but if you’d prefer just to skip to the next episode in Temian’s adventures, head here!)