(For those who came in late: this is the eighth 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!)
The PC: Temian Fell, explorer of ancient ruins and all-round hero.
The story so far: Temian is looking for a way to bring to Witch of Dunmoss to justice. At the end of his first adventure (“Temian Fell and the Witch’s Curse“), he discovered some old legends suggesting that the Witch’s power was derived from an ancient temple known as “Murdfane.” Surely, he thinks, if the Witch has a weakness, that’s the place to find it! In Episode 7 – Into the Wistwilds, Temian completed his journey to Murdfane Temple, and defeated the two Orcs who were lurking at the entrance.
As today’s story begins, Temian has just stepped through the gaping stone mouth that marks the entrance to Murdfane Temple itself…
Getting Started: What’s At Stake Plot-wise?
First of all, let’s roll to see What’s at Stake This Session? (Rolling…) 6! This means a lot is at stake this session. If we can swing it, then Temian will have a chance to earn Plot Elements in both his primary and his secondary plotlines. Nice.
A quick reminder: Temian’s primary plotline is his quest to find and explore the lost elven city of Lara Ithuil. His secondary plotline is his quest to bring the Witch of Dunmoss to justice. It will be very interesting to see how this develops.
Scene 1: The Secret of the Tombs
Sword in hand, Temian has just stepped into the Temple. What does he see?
Let’s ask the Dungeons system. (Rolling, rolling…) Result: the lair of trivial undead opponents.
Incidentally, those rolls also just told us that “Undead” is this Dungeon’s tertiary Monster type. So just for the record, here’s a quick summary of everything we now know about this dungeon:
Dungeon Type: Temple
Dungeon Theme: Place of Power
Primary Monster type: ?
Secondary Monster Type: ?
Tertiary Monster Type: Undead
Temian looks around. The air here is thick and stagnant – the Temple is ancient, and it seems, for the most part, undisturbed. A flight of worn stone steps leads down into the Temple proper.
Gingerly, Temian descends the steps. He soon arrives in what seems to be an entrance hall, with chambers leading off it in various directions. The roof here is supported by odd carved pillars, the likes of which he’s never seen before. Stepping closer to examine them, he discovers that they’re in fact tombs – strange, upright tombs, running from floor to ceiling. It’s not a comforting thought.
Just then, he hears an odd scratching sound that seems to come from inside one of the tombs. There are almost certainly undead creatures here, he feels. He had better be careful.
Temian now attempts to cross this area. First, let’s see if things are really what they seem. (Rolling…) 6: yes, this really is the lair of minor undead creatures.
(Rolling for a Mishap…) A trap! Temian must roll vs Per-based Traps to detect it, and then against IQ-based Traps to Disarm it. He can use either Literature or Poetry as a workaround. if he fails, he needs either to Dodge or Block, or else take 2d-2 cutting damage. Ow!
(Rolling for an Opportunity…) A secret passage! It seems to lead directly towards the Goal – but only at the cost of going through the lair of deadly Valirothian Hawk-folk! As it turns out, those dice also just told us that the Valirothian Hawk-folk are the Dungeon’s Secondary Monster Type. What the hell are those guys doing here? Perhaps it has something to do with the mysterious patrols they’ve been conducting over the Wistwilds. Interesting!
We have to deal with the Mishap first, though…
As quietly as he can, Temian sneaks through the entrance hall, taking special care not to brush up against any of the tombs. He tries to shut out the disturbing scratching noises he hears from time to time…
Temian is just telling himself, for the tenth time, not to get distracted, when something interesting catches his attention. Just off from the main hall, there’s a side-chamber with a very conspicuous inscription carved into one of its walls.
Temian knows he shouldn’t, but he heads over to investigate.
When he gets there, he sees that the runes are very large, and carved right into the stone. Even better, they’re letters he can read, a little. It reads “And weeping with joy, she traced out the letters of his name.”
What the hell does that mean?
Now we’re dealing with the trap. Temian doesn’t have the Traps skill, so he’s got no chance of succeeding that way – but he does have the workaround skill, Literature, at 10. Let’s see if he recognizes the quote. His odds are pretty low, since Peril is 2, which means his effective skill is just 8. (Rolling…) 4! Critical success! No way! That’s excellent news: 2d-2 cutting damage is nothing to scoff at.
Temian thinks for just a moment, and then smiles. It’s a quote from The Lay of Rasitar! Temian loves that Lay – he must have heard it a thousand times as a child. The quote is from the scene in which Princess Miralla, who had thought her lover dead, opens a letter from her husband that mentions him. Her Miralla’s husband thus unwittingly confirms her that lover is actually alive and well.
Now, Temian wonders, why is a quote from The Lay of Rasitar carved into the wall of this chamber? It seems very out of place, to say the least. Hmmmm.. maybe it’s a code of some sort! He thinks for a moment, and then recalls that this line in particular is especially famous, since it contains a very cunning poetic trick: if you take just the first letters of all the words in the phrase “she traced out the letters of his name,” you spell the surname of Princess Miralla’s lover, Benwick Stotlohn. (The poet was pretty thrilled when he came up with that one.)
Temian smiles again. He’s pretty sure he knows what to do here. Carefully, he takes his index finger, and traces just the first letter of each of the words in the second part of the inscription. And sure enough, by the time he has completed the sequence, the first letter has already begun to glow faintly.
A moment later, the stone wall disappears like a thick mist dispersed by a sudden breeze, and Temian finds himself standing in front of the entrance to a long, empty corridor.
A secret passage!
Temian is thrilled – if the temple-builders took this much trouble to hide the passageway, surely it must lead somewhere important! Eagerly, he plunges in – only to notice, once he’s inside, the interior mechanism of the swinging blade trap he’s just avoided. Presumably it would have swung through the false wall to decapitate him, if he had traced the wrong letters.
That thought takes the wind out his sails a little.
And it’s a lucky thing, too, because as he stands there, he hears noises coming from further down the passage. He listens. They seem to be human voices, but he can’t quite work out what they’re saying…
Temian creeps carefully down the passage, toward the source of the voices. After a little way, the passage broadens out into what seems to be a suite of chambers. The distant sounds are a little louder here. He stops to listen again.
They’re voices, alright, and they’re speaking Valirothian. No – wait – it’s High Valirothian! Unbelievable – that’s a language spoken only by the Winged Lords of Valiroth – the mysterious Hawk-folk. What in Simara’s name are Hawk-folk doing here?
Temian listens for a while longer, but he can’t really make much out – he doesn’t speak High Valirothian. But just from the tone, he can tell that they…
What are they doing right now? Let’s ask the People system. (rolling for a “Current situation”…) 1,3,1: “In a rush”.
…are in some sort of hurry – or at least, that’s what it seems. At any rate, some of the voices seem to be giving orders with some urgency, and there’s there’s a fair bit of quite forceful shouting. In any case, it seems as if there’s a minor military operation going on down there.
Temian considers turning back and heading the other way – after all, he can hardly expect to survive a fight with a whole squadron of Hawk-folk. And yet, surely this secret passage is the best way towards what he’s seeking….
After a few moments’ thought, Temian decides to risk continuing onwards. Perhaps the Hawk-folk will be too busy with their urgent task to notice him…
Temian creeps through the Temple chambers, trying to avoid the shouting Hawk-folk.
Is this area really what it seems? (Rolling…) 10: yes, it really is the lair of deadly Hawk-folk. Now for a Mishap and an Opportunity.
(Rolling for a Mishap…) Some sort of poisonous natural Hazard. Temian must roll against either Gardening, Herb Lore, Naturalist, or Survival (Mountains) to notice the Hazard, and then the same again to bypass it. Failure means he takes 1d+2 toxic damage, unless he can resist by rolling HT-2.
(Rolling for an Opportunity…) Nothing. Fair enough.
Much of this area beyond the secret passage is in a very poor state of repair- it seems to have been abandoned a long time ago. Temian tries to keep his distance from any area in which he hears the sounds of Hawk-folk, and that seems to work fairly well.
But he soon finds that keeping his distance from the Hawk-folk means keeping to those chambers that are in the worst state of repair of all – in fact, many of them have been abandoned for so long that they are now infested with all sorts of underground lichens, mosses, and fungi.
Time to see if Temian stumbles into anything truly poisonous. His best applicable skill is his Survival (Mountains) 12, and Peril is 2, so his effective skill is 10. (Rolling…) 16: fail!
In fact, since underground bryophytes aren’t really Temian’s specialty, it’s not long before he unwittingly stumbles into a patch of Poison Reapermoss — a strange kind of carnivorous lichen that can occasionally by found clinging to cave walls in these regions. As he brushes up against it, the Reapermoss catches at him with its stinging strands…
Does he resist the poison? (Rolling…) 10: Just made it!
Ow! Temian leaps clear, and clutches at his face – that damned moss stung him! He can feel a welt coming up and his cheek and jaw already. Erk. Well, lucky it wasn’t worse, he supposes.
Temian continues on, doubly wary now.
At this point, it looks as if Temian is going to proceed safely through this area, leaving that mysterious squadron of Hawfolk behind. I’m grateful that he’s safe, but in another way it’s a shame to move on from the Hawkfolk so quickly, since they seem such like such a compelling mystery. As a player, I’m very curious to find out what they’re up to, and how it fits into the ongoing story. What can I do?
Luckily, I have a perfect excuse for getting Temian more involved with those Hawkfolk: the Plot. If you recall, one of my tasks as a player this session is to provide Temian with genuinely challenging opportunities to make progress in relation to his two plotlines. This looks like a great chance to do just that.
Temian picks his way carefully through the overgrown chambers. Everything is quiet and still – he can no longer hear the voices of the Hawkfolk. Perhaps he’s passed them? All safe, then, he thinks, breathing a sigh of relief.
Scene 2: A Nest of Hawks
In fact, Temian is wrong. He passes silently through a number of further chambers, and then, all of sudden, hears a faint rustling coming for somewhere up ahead. Wing-feathers, perhaps?
Moving as quietly as he can, Temian creeps up to investigate. Peering around the corner of a ruined chamber, he sees…
Since this opportunity to advance the plot needs to be “genuinely challenging” let’s make this a moderate encounter. (Rolling…) Result: one Hawk-man, rated at Peril 2.
… a single Hawk-man, seemingly standing guard. Damn! Temian can’t avoid passing through this chamber, unless he’s willing to backtrack – if he wants to keep heading further into the Temple via this route, he’ll have to sneak past this Hawk-man – or else confront him.
For a moment, he considers announcing himself to the Hawkman – Hawkfolk are not monsters, after all – but he soon thinks better of it: Hawkfolk are known, above all, for their ruthlessness, and to Temian, this has the look of some sort of secret military operation. They’re unlikely to respond kindly to his presence here.
Luckily, the Hawk-man doesn’t seem particularly attentive. “Well,” Temian thinks, “here goes nothing!” As quietly as he can, he slips into the chamber, trying to keep to the shadowy side…
For the Hawk-man, I’ll use my generic Monster stat block, rated at Peril 2 – but I’ll adjust them using the “Winged Folk” Template from Eric B. Smith’s excellent 4e conversion of GURPS Fantasy Folk. This gives us the following stats:
Peril 2 Hawk-Man: ST 11, DX 12, IQ 10, HT 10, HP 10, Per 11, Will 10, Fp 10, Basic Speed 5.5, Dodge 8, Parry 9, Acute Vision +3, Flight (Winged), Vulnerability (Crushing) x2, DR 2, Weapon Skill 12.
This means that Temian’s attempt to sneak by is unlikely to succeed: The hawk-man’s Acute Vision means that Temian’s Stealth of 11 is competing against the Hawk-Man’s effective Per of 14. Not good!
Ok, let’s see how this goes. (Rolling) 14, 14: Temian fails by 3, and the Hawk-man succeeds exactly. Darn!
…but the Hawk-man notices him immediately. Damn those Hawkish eyes! It fixes its gaze on him and cries out.
Is the Hawk-man surprised? Let’s check… I’m not a big fan of the surprise rules on p B393, but let’s use them for now. (Rolling…) Result: ok, that’s good news: the Hawk-man is surprised, and must make an IQ roll at the start of his turn to snap out of it, or else Do Nothing. Fair enough.
Luckily, the Hawk-man seems startled by Temian’s sudden appearance, and his weapon is still in its sheath, though it’s clearly reaching for it, murder in its eyes. Temian seizes the opportunity and attacks!
Temian swings at the Hawk-man. His Broadsword skill is 13. (Rolling…) 11: hit. The hawk-man tries to Dodge (Rolling) 3: critical success! This turns Temian’s attack roll into a critical miss! Bad, bad! (Rolling on the critical miss table…) 8: “The weapon turns in your hand. You must take an extra Ready maneuver before you can use it again”. Damn!
Temian delivers a very fine blow… but somehow, the Hawk-man manages to slip out of the way at the last moment. Worse, Temian’s follow-through drives the blade hard into the stone wall behind the hawk-man, throwing sparks and jarring his arm. For a worrying moment, Temian feels as if he’s lost his grip on his sword…
Does the Hawk-man recover from stun in time to do something other than defend? (Rolling…) 6: Yes he does! That was another great roll – it seems this is one dangerous Hawk-man. The Hawk-man doesn’t have his weapon out, but Hawk-folk are highly aggressive (like Hawks, naturally), and so I think he probably wants to attack immediately, while Temian’s grip is faulty. Let’s say he tries to grapple.
Hawk-Man attempts to grapple. (Rolling…) 15: fail.
Temian spends his turn readying his sword.
The Hawk-man, getting worried, draws his own sword.
Temian swings at the Hawk-man. (Rolling…) 10: hit. The Hawk-man tries to parry (rolling…) 12: fail. Temian rolls for hit location (rolling…) 9: torso. Temian rolls 1d+3 cutting damage (rolling…) 3. +3=6, -2DR=4, x1.5 for cutting, =6pts of damage to the Torso. Nice!
This is a Major Wound, so the Hawk-man has to roll for HT to resist knockdown and stunning (rolling…) 7: success.
The Hawk-man chooses to all-out defend.
As Temian tries to recover his grip on his sword, the Hawk-man grabs at him, trying to catch him in a wrestling hold – but is unable to get inside Temian’s guard. Temian recovers his sword, while the Hawk-man draws his.
Then the sword-fighting begins in earnest! Temian catches the Hawk-man with a solid slash across the belly, forcing him onto the defensive. Then he attacks again, confident that he can press home this advantage…
Temian swings again. (Rolling…) 14: miss.
The Hawk-man swings at Temian. (Rolling…) 9: hit. Temian tries to parry (rolling…) 16: fail. Uh-oh! Hawk-man rolls for hit location (rolling…) 15 1: Left hand. Bad, bad! Hawk-man rolls for 1d+1 cutting damage (rolling…) 6, +1=7! Not good! Temian has 2pts of Dr there because of his leather gloves, but still, that’s easily enough damage to exceed the maximum of 1/3HP (which is 4) and thus cripple the hand. Ow! That counts as a major wound, too, so Temian has to roll vs HT to avoid Knockdown and Stunning. Woah – this roll really matters! (Rolling…) 8: success! Thank heavens!
Still, Temian is now a total of 6HP down and has a crippled left hand. This is bad in itself, of course, but it also poses an immediate problem, since his cloak, which he normally wields in his left hand, is presumably useless now. This reduces his active defenses significantly. Dangerous times!
Could this be the beginning of the end for Temian Fell? It’s a serious possibility. In hindsight, I should have used his Luck to re-roll that failed parry – but I didn’t want to be over-cautious, and I was hoping that the blow would hit his mail and bounce off.
Ah well – it’s too late for take-backs now! Let’s see how this plays out. Fingers crossed the campaign can continue!
… but in his confidence, Temian overextends himself: his blow goes wide, throwing him off balance, and he has to use his off-hand to steady himself. .Instantly, the Hawk-man sees his opportunity, and deals Temian a devastating slash to the left hand.
Temian cries out. Blood spatters the floor. His left hand is crippled.
It’s all he can do to keep defending himself from the follow-up attack…
Temian takes an All-Out Defense.
The Hawk-man swings at him again. (Rolling…) 14: miss.
Temian swings for the Hawk-man. His active defenses are shot, so we really need to end this quickly! (Rolling…) 11: hit. The hawk-man tries to parry. (Rolling…) 11:fail. Great! Where does Temian hit? (Rolling for hit location…) 15, 5: Right hand. Ah, the irony. Temian does 1d+3 cutting damage. (Rolling…) 3, +3=6, -2DR=4, x1.5 for cutting = 6 pts of damage to the hand. This is past the maximum of 13 H, so it only does 4HP damage, but the Hawk-man’s right hand is crippled. The Hawk-man drops his sword.
This brings the Hawk-Man to 0HP, so it has to make a HT roll to stay conscious. (Rolling…) 12: fails, and passes out. Woah, thank heavens!
Luckily the Hawk-Man’s next blow goes wild. Temian knows he has to finish this fight quickly now, so in desperation he lashes out with a mighty blow… and catches the Hawk-Man with a crippling blow to the right hand.
The Hawk-Man, bleeding now from both belly and hand, looks dazed and drops his sword. Then he falls to the ground, unconscious. The fight is over.
Quickly, Temian makes sure that the Hawk-Man is dead, and then stops to bandage his poor, poor crippled hand. The pain is nearly unbearable…
(Rolling for First Aid…) 8: Success. Temian regains 1 HP.
… but once the bandage is firm, he finds that he can manage it. He won’t be using that hand any time soon, though.
Wincing with the pain, he creeps further into the Temple.
It’s not long before he hears more voices speaking in High Valirothian – many voices, in fact. This is not a comforting thought – and even less comforting is the thought that those voices are coming from right ahead. He doesn’t want to go that way, but it seems the only option – unless he wants to give up on this route and go back. His one consolation is that the voices sometimes seem to be echoing up from somewhere below his current position. That’s odd.
Gritting his teeth against the pain in his hand, he steels his nerves to find out.
Passing gingerly through into the next chamber, he finds himself on a kind of ledge – almost a balcony, but with no railing – looking down into a fairly spacious cavern. The voices of the Hawkfolk echo up from below. Moving as slowly and quietly as he can manage, Temian peeks over the edge and surveys the scene…
What does he see? More hawkfolk, of course. What are the Hawkfolk doing? Let’s ask the People system. (Rolling..) 2,2,2: “in a meeting”. Ah, interesting! Is it a big meeting, with a whole squadron of Hawkfolk? Let’s ask the Solo 6. (Rolling…) 3: ‘Yes, but…”. Ok – yes, it’s a big meeting of Hawkfolk soldiers, but the meeting has just finished, so the assembled Hawkfolk are just starting to disperse, back to their various tasks. What are those tasks, I wonder? To take this decision out of my hands a bit, I’m going to roll for some random words on the miscellaneous modifiers table, and then use them for inspiration. (Rolling, rolling…) “Stone,” “Kindred,” “Crenelated”. Ok – it looks to me as if they’re quarrying stone down here, in order to build some sort of fortification, on behalf of their kin back in Valiroth. Are they transforming the Temple into a hidden fortress, perhaps? (Rolling the Solo 6…) 5: “No”. Ah, ok: are they fortifying this area of the Temple, not to keep people out, but to keep something evil in? (Rolling) 1: an emphatic “Yes!” Uh-oh! What ancient evil lurks beneath the Temple??!
In any case, this is probably all the information that Temian can glean from just a glance at what they’re doing, so there’s no need to determine anything else as yet.
What Temian sees shocks and frightens him. There’s a whole squadron of Hawk-folk down there – sixty at least – and they seem to be having some sort of assembly. One of them – obviously a Lord or leader – is standing at the front, making a speech of some kind, and the others are standing in orderly rows. It reminds Temian of a military parade-ground – though it’s odd, to say the least, to see a parade-ground where all the soldiers have wings.
Meanwhile, the cavern itself is littered with masonry tools, half-cut stone, and so forth, and is partly closed off at one end by a half-built wall. It appears the Hawkfolk are in the process of fortifying the far end of the cavern – and Temian shudders when he realizes that it’s the deeper end. The Hawkfolk are in a hurry to fortify the cavern, but they’re not trying to keep people out – they’re trying to keep something in.
This all makes Temian very nervous, but also curious – and yet there’s no way he can sneak down there to investigate with all those Hawkfolk about, and in any case, he’s quite sure he doesn’t want to mess with whatever’s behind that wall.
He’s just decided to creep back and try to find another way through when he hears something that makes him catch his breath.
“Kacilk taskilata ak Narnuilakh!” cries the Hawkfolk leader – and, as one, the assembled troops cry “Narnuilakh askha!” in response.
Temian understands none of it- but did he just hear them shout the name “Narnuilakh”?! If so, there’s much more going on here than meets the eye – as Temian discovered in Episode 5 (“The Book of the Corrupted Seal”), Narnuilakh is a Demon Prince who is currently walking the earth in mortal form, searching for the location of the Lost City of Lara Ithuil. Why in Simara’s name are these Hawkfolk shouting the name of a demon prince? And why are they here at all?
Temian burns to know.
But – not to be a tease – that’s enough information for one Plot Element: Temian has now discovered that the Hawkfolk of Valiroth are somehow mixed up with the demon prince Narnuilakh, whether as friend or foe – and also that they are conducting a secret military operation in the Wistwilds, including an attempt to fortify the tunnels beneath Murdfaane Temple, so as to keep some kind of ancient evil at bay. That’s worthwhile information – it’s just a pity he had to cripple his left hand to get it!
I’ll be very interested to see how this plot turns out. It’s getting quite complex.
Scene 3 – The Witch’s Weakness
Seeing that the assembled Hawk-folk are dispersing into various corridors, and not wanting to push his luck, Temian sneaks off. His path along the ledge brings him into another tunnel, and the tunnel leads to…
What’s up ahead? (Rolling…) 7, 4: the path splits into three, and we get to roll on the Area Type table for each of them. (The good news: we now get to subtract 4 from all our rolls on the Area Type table, since Temian has passed through two areas, one of which – the secret passage – was a very promising route towards the Goal.)
What does the first path lead to? (Rolling, rolling…) Result: an exit from the Dungeon.
What does the second path lead to? (Rolling, rolling…)Result: an area that seems likely to be magically warded.
What does the third path lead to? (Rolling, rolling…) Result: an area that seems likely to contain useful information about the Dungeon and its inhabitants.
…a crossroad. There are three tunnels leading out, plus the little one by which he entered.
On the left, there’s a broad tunnel with what looks to be a trace of natural light beaming down at the far end. The trampled and flattened ground here seems to indicate that the Hawk-folk have been dragging big objects through here – probably masonry equipment and general supplies. Presumably the Hawk-folk have been using this tunnel as an entrance to the Temple, and as a haulage route. In fact, now that he looks more closely at the rough, semi-natural stone walls, it seems as if parts of this tunnel have been widened recently, presumably to make room for the haulage
On the right, there’s another natural tunnel that has been artificially widened. It seems that the Hawkfolk have been hauling things this way too, since the ground here is also trampled and flattened. Temian assumes that this tunnel leads back to the big cavern in which the Hawkf-folk are building their fortifications – presumably, that’s where all the equipment has been hauled to. To be honest, though, he doesn’t particularly want to go down this tunnel to find out, since the walls have been painted, recently, with complex Valirothian runes. Temian suspects that the Hawk-folk have covered this area in magical wards so as to cover their rear.
The final tunnel is dead ahead. It’s not natural – in fact, the carefully worked stone from which it’s constructed reminds Temian strongly of the worked stone in the Temple’s entrance hall. Peering down this tunnel a ways, Temian notes that, somewhere farther down, the walls looks to be carved with pictures or friezes of some kind. Could these friezes perhaps tell him something about the origins of the Temple? And about how the Witch of Dunmoss acquired her infernal powers?
Well, there’s only one way to find out. Temian heads down the central tunnel.
On his way down, he reflects that the sensible thing to do would be to head for the natural light, and thus for safety: after all, he’s already been wounded quite badly twice, as the aches in his right thigh and left hand keep him painfully aware. But he’s committed to seeing this through, come what may.
And also, I might add, his character sheet includes Obsession (exploring ancient ruins) [-10], Impulsiveness [-10], and Vow (to explore the ruined city of Lara Ithuil [-1], all of which contribute to his (foolhardy? reckless? hopefully not “suicidal”) decision here.
Wincing with the pain of his injuries, Temian heads down the central passage…
(Rolling for a Mishap….) 7: safe! No mishap. Nice.
(Rolling for an Opportunity…) 7: “You discover a secret passage or door. Roll on the Area Type table to see where it leads – but it’s bound to be interesting, so subtract an extra 3 from your roll.” Sweet! Where does it seem to lead? (Rolling…) 11, -3 for this secret passage, -5 for areas covered so far – which makes a total of 3: “Your Goal”. Woah -amazing! That was really very, very lucky. These secret passages have a been a huge help, this time. And just when Temian needed it, too…
Ok, what to make of all this? Let’s get back into it and find out…
Temian makes his way down the central passage, towards what seem to be carved reliefs or friezes of some kind. Perhaps these carvings will tell him something about how the Witch got her powers – and how to destroy her?
When he reaches the carvings, he finds that many of them are too old and weathered to be much use – they’re virtually impossible to make out. What a pity! But the further he proceeds down the passage, the clearer and sharper the reliefs get.
After following the passage for more than fifty yards, past a series of twists and turns, he finally comes to some relief that he can make out clearly. The most interesting of them is a series of carved images of….
…of what? For inspiration, and to take the story out of my hands as much as possible, I’m going to roll for a few miscellaneous modifiers. (Rolling, rolling…) “Disloyal”, “Sacrifice”, Blasted”. Ah, this part of the back-story just writes itself!
… Juliana Darkhound – the woman who became the Dunmoss Witch. The image has three panels, and they pretty pretty clearly tell the story of how she got her powers – though obviously they leave out a lot of the crucial specifics.
In the first panel, Juliana Darkhound is bowing down before a terrifying creature of some kind – almost certainly, Temian thinks, the demon prince from which she stole her powers. She’s bowing down as if to worship it, but once Temian looks closely he can see that the artist has taken great pains to show that she’s concealing a ceremonial dagger behind her back. Is this a sign that she’s already planning to betray the demon prince? If so, that’s no surprise – but the fact that she used to worship that demon is news to Temian.
(and to us!)
In the second panel, Juliana Darkhound is obviously conducting some sort of ritual sacrifice. There’s an evil-looking altar with someone strapped onto it, and Juliana Darkhound stands behind it with her arms raised in the classic “I’m about to plunge this dagger into the sacrificial victim’s heart!” pose. The dagger is evidently the same ceremonial dagger that she was concealing behind her back in the previous panel. It’s not clear who or what is being sacrificed, but they seem humanoid, at least. Temian suspects that this is an image of the ritual Juliana performed in order to steal the powers of the demon prince, but this is frustrating, since it doesn’t give him enough information to understand the ritual, let alone to reverse it.
The third panel is an image of the demon prince from the first panel – but this time some kind of burning energy is being torn from its chest, and it appears to be suffering. Presumably this symbolizes the demon’s loss of power.
“Well,” Temian thinks, “that all seems clear enough, but it’s not terribly helpful.” Though, really, assuming these image can be trusted (and why are they even here, he wonders? Who carved them, and why?) this frieze does tell him a few things that he didn’t know before, chiefly that the Dunmoss Witch was once a worshiper of the demon prince from whom she stole her powers, and that her power-stealing ritual involved a humanoid sacrifice.
Still, that’s not much to go on.
Temian is just about to continue down the tunnel to try to find some other intact friezes, when something catches his eye. Beneath the three-panel frieze he’s just examined, right down where the wall meets the floor, there’s a stone block that seems out of place.
This is obviously the way to access the secret passage we just rolled up -and we could just let Temian open it. But we still have to give him a genuinely challenging opportunity to make progress in his second plotline – so let’s add a bit of challenge here by rolling for an Obstacle Hazard, Ward, or Trap. (Rolling, rolling…) Result: a magical ward, somewhat similar to the one Temian bypassed earlier. He has to detect and dispel it using Theology or Religious Ritual, or else use either Literature or Poetry as a workaround. Otherwise, the ward is activated, and he takes 2d-2 burning damage unless he dodges.
Right! That seems pretty dangerous. Let’s see if Temian makes it through. First, let’s see if he notices the ward. Once again, he’ll have to use Literature for this -and his odds are low, since his skill is 10, but Peril is 2, so his effective skill is just 8. (Rolling…) 6: success! Wow, that was a bit unexpected. Does he manage to bypass the ward using Literature, too? (Rolling…) 7: success! Holy crap – these dice are really on fire this scene! Temian turns out to be a master of Literature – who would have thought?
In any case, trap bypassed!
(…Impulsively, in fact…)
…Temian reaches out with his foot and is to press against the protruding stone, when he suddenly remembers something… wasn’t there a secret switch just like this one in the Lay of Rasitar? He thinks for a moment… yes, that’s right! It’s in that great scene where the princess’s handsome lover Benwick Stotlohn sneaks into the castle via a secret passage….
Hmm, Temian thinks. This could be important. How did that scene go again? Ah, that’s right – to open the secret passage, Benwick had to press the loose stone at the base of the wall, just beneath the famous “Dragon Tapestry” – but he took care to duck while doing so, because the Princess had told him that the dragon in the tapestry would breathe real fire whenever the secret door was opened from the outside.
“I already know that Juliana Darkhound, or whoever built this temple, filled it with references to the Lay of Rasitarm” Temian thinks. “It can’t hurt to duck while I do this…”
Temian gets down low, and then presses the loose stone. As he does so, there’s a sudden whoosh! , and the demon prince pictured in the third panel erupts with flame, fire bursting out of its ruptured chest. “Whew!” a slightly singed Temian thinks, as the flames pass more-or-less safely over his head. “That was close!”
A moment later a shallow rasping sound comes from somewhere in front of him, and then the section of wall he’s facing swings around to reveal an empty tunnel.
Another secret passage!
Elated with his good luck, Temian heads down the secret passage right away. It’s not long before he enters an impressive chamber – the most impressively decorated he’s seen here in the Temple. And there, n te the other side of the camber, is the exact altar he just saw pictured in the frieze.
Temian find himself shivering, partly in fear, and partly with anticipation. All his research and exploration has led him to this spot. If he’s right, then he is now standing in the exact place where, centuries ago, Juliana Darkhound stole the power of a demon prince and became the Dunmoss Witch.
Right! Now we’ve reached the Goal. Is the information Temian is seeking really here? (Rolling…) 5: “Yes – and you’ve hit the jackpot – what’s here is much better than you’d hoped! Take a 4-point bonus to your roll on the “So How About That Reward?” Table. Plus there’s also a lead towards another adventure…. Go ahead and roll it up!” Amazing! Wow, these dice are really loving Temian right now. (Maybe they’re trying to make up for his crippled hand?).
Before I decide what that means in practice, I think I’d better roll up that additional adventure, since it may help to determine what all this means. (Rolling, rolling…) Right, so the new adventure is as follows: it’s a Slay adventure. If he attempts this adventure, the Temian needs to to slay a single foe, rated at Peril3 –which is pretty tough for a 150pt hero. The adventure itself is rated at Peril 1, since it doesn’t involve anything except slaying that single foe. It pays very little (100sp), it’s located right here, and there’s apparently no rush. So in essence it’s just a single big, tough fight. Interesting. That sounds to me like it might be the Witch herself…. which is worrying, since Temian is so wounded that the fight may be the end of him…
In any case, Temian has now reached his Goal, and our “Plot Twist” troll just told us that he’s going to get excellent information – even more than he’d hoped for. In addition, he’s also done enough to receive a Plot Element toward his quest to bring the Dunmoss Witch to justice. So to me, it looks as if he’s now going to find out, not merely the specifics of how the Dunmoss witch got her power, but (even more importantly) he’s going to be able to deprive her of it.
But what does he find out, specifically, and how does he find it out? Let’s ask the Solo 6. Ok. First idea: does Temian receive the crucial information in a sudden vision when he approaches the altar? (Rolling..) 1: an emphatic “Yes.” Ok – that was simple! Hmmm…. does his vision tell him that he needs to destroy thee altar in order to deprive the Witch of her power? (Rolling…) 1: another emphatic “Yes.” The dice are being very clear about this!
As Temian approaches the altar, he can sense its evil – malevolence and hatred seem to roll off it in waves. It’s not a pleasant feeling. And in fact, the closer he gets, the more the feeling of evil grows, until it begins to feel almost overwhelming.
Still Temian approaches. As gets closer, he finds himself experiencing flashes of thoughts, images, feelings – feelings and even memories that are not his – feelings and memories, he realizes with a shudder, that belong to the Dunmoss Witch. He tries to keep his mind clear, but he cannot keep it out: her pain and suffering, her vengefulness, her regret, her sense of loss.
The altar is obviously still deeply connected to her in some way, he thinks. Perhaps – the thought comes to him suddenly – it’s still somehow serving as a focus or conduit for her infernal power? As soon as the thought comes to him, he feels the truth of it – indeed, he feels the Witch’s infernal power itself. It belongs in the Infernum, he feels – that feeling is very clear indeed – but the altar is channeling it towards her. Or it might be better to say that the altar is the anchored that keeps the unholy power of the Infernum tethered to her mortal form.
Immediately, Temian knows what must be done. The altar must be destroyed!
How to destroy it? In system terms, we could jut go ahead and declare it destroyed – after all, Temian has reached the “Goal”. But destroying a powerful infernal altar seems like something that ought to require a roll of some kind, so I’m going to go ahead and Raise the Stakes here. Now destroying the altar is going to involve a number of rolls. If Temian succeeds – great, altar destroyed. If he fails – well, the altar s still destroyed (all our previous results are enough to guarantee that, I think) but we’ll say that he does something wrong that will come back to haunt him somewhere further down the line.
But how to destroy it? Temian examines the altar, and racks his brains to see if there’s some kind of special destruction method that he ought to know about…
This sounds like a job for Occultism. Temian’s skill is 12, but Peril is 2, so his effective skill is just 10. (Rolling…) 7: success!
…and it’s lucky he’s read so much about this sort of thing, because yes, in fact, there is a “Ritual of Desanctification” that the legends say is useful in such instances. Temian is fairly sure he remembers pretty much how the Ritual of Desanctification ought to go, so he gets started right away.
First he draws symbols on the ground around the altar, using ash. Then he checks them over once – they look as good as he can make them, though to be honest, he’s not entirely sure he got them right. Then, more or else satisfied, he begins his ritual chant…
Exorcism seems like an appropriate skill here. Again, Temian’s skill is 12, and Peril is 2, so his effective skill is 10. (Rolling…) 10! Just made it! Nice. The dice gods have been good to me during this scene!
Temian’s chant drones on for a little while without effect, and he begins to worry that perhaps he’s missed a crucial step in the ritual. Was there meant to be an invocation of some kind to open the ceremony? Maybe, he thinks doubtfully.
Then, all of sudden, he’s conscious of a distant keening, like the sound of a cold wind whistling through a hollow place somewhere far away. At first the sound is very quiet, but it builds quickly, as if the wind were rushing towards him, closer and closer…
…and then the dark powers arrive, and the world seems full of screaming. Temian covers his ears against the noise and tries to continue the chant, while being buffeted to and fro by an unseen force. The whole chamber shakes and shudders. It’s as if the Witch herself is screaming in pain, and the whole room is somehow inside her mouth as she screams. With a shock, Temian realizes that he can sense the Witch’s presence – she’s close by – she’s somewhere inside the Temple!
(This is me trying to work in that additional adventure opportunity we just rolled up – the Peril 3 “Slay” adventure.)
Around him and inside him, the wailing reaches a peak. He feels that something in him is about to break, as if his soul itself were an eardrum about to be shattered. Desperately trying to retain his grip on his sanity, he tries somehow to push that shattering force outside him, just to keep himself together.
Temian completes the chant…
…and the altar explodes into a thousand fragments.
A moment later, Temian finds himself on the floor, gasping for air. His head is ringing, but the world around him is still and silent. It’s a huge relief. He senses nothing – glorious, blessed nothing. Evidently, the evil has fled.
Rising gingerly, he surveys the chamber. Where the altar had stood just a moment ago, there’s a ruin; fragments of black stone are scattered around the chamber. He shivers when he sees a large wedge of stone embedded deeply in the southern wall – he’s lucky that didn’t hit him. At any rate, the infernal altar seems to have been utterly destroyed.
Resting his eye on the ruin of the altar itself, Temian notices something interesting. There’s something else there, under the rubble – perhaps something that had been hidden inside the altar, when it was intact. Cautiously, but with mounting excitement, Temian begins to dig it out… Could it be the Witch’s treasure?
You’re damn right it’s the Witch’s treasure! As you may recall, there’s always treasure at the “Goal”. So here we go over to the Treasure system. Lots of fun! How many treasure elements are there? (Rolling 1d6 and adding Peril…) 6! Nice. Peril is 2, so this makes for 8 treasure elements. Huge! What kinds of treasure are they? (Rolling…) 4, 8,8,10,11,12,12, 15. This means one special or magic item, six lots of coins, and one miscellaneous treasure.
Let’s start with all those coins (Rolling, rolling). Results: 300 Valirothian silver pieces + 10 Armarian silver pieces +100 Valirothian copper pieces + 100 ancient Imperial copper pieces + 40 Valirothian copper pieces. If you converted all this out to standard Valirothian silver, at full value, it would come to 334sp worth in total. A rather mixed hoard. Fair enough. We ought too throw in the inital Reward for completing the adventure, too, which was 150 sp, so his total take is 484sp. Good.
Now for the special or magic item. (Rolling, rolling…) A short bow without a string – it fires magical concussion blasts, as per the Concussion spell in GURPS Magic, p. 26. (The bow itself can be found in Dungeon Fantasy 8: Treasure Tables, p.41.) Awesome! Now Temian just needs to learn how to use a bow. This is the first magic item to turn up in the campaign, too, so let’s try to give it some ornamentation and backstory. First, let’s roll for a few supernatural embellishments and decorative motfis, and then choose the ones that seem the most interesting and appropriate. (Rolling, rolling?..) Possible supernatural embellishments: always clean? Smells faintly of smoke.? Always dirty? Made of bone? Possible motifs: Crocodile? Wagon? Hunter? Ship? Los of interesting combinations here! What to do? Well, since Temian is meant to be a plain-vanilla hero, let’s go plain vanilla… see below!
Now for the miscellaneous treasure. (Rolling, rolling…) An object worth 20sp, weighing 4 lbs, and that is bulky, noisy, or otherwise inconvenient to transport. Hmmm… what could it be? Let’s say this is a long chain with scores of little ceremonial bells attached, all made out of tin. Would fetch a decent price, but it’s very noisy to transport – so Temian will no doubt leave it behind. It’s too dangerous to wander the Temple, and then the wilderness, while being so conspicuous!
All in all, a pretty nice hoard – particularly that bow.
Sure enough, there’s a chest down there, half-buried under the rubble of the altar. Digging it out and opening it up, Temian finds a pile of mixed coins of rather various provenance, a set of old tine bells – too noisy to carry around here, surely! – and, thrillingly, a beautiful shortbow, clearly of Elven make.
Temian eagerly takes up the bow and looks it over. It’s a slender and elegant bow, with a slim grip richly decorated in green and gold. Amid the delicate patterning and scroll-work on the grip, there’s a hunting motif: specifically, a deer sniffing the wind. SOmething in this catches at Temian’s memory – he’s read ancient Elven legends since he was a child, and this reminds him of… Quickly, excitedly, he raises the bow to his nose and smells the wood. Sure enough, the wood smells faintly of woodsmoke, like campfire. At that pint, Temian finally recognizes the bow for what it is – it’s an ancient Elven Windbow. They appear in many legends, though of course he’s never actually seen a real one – indeed, most people would assume that they’re mythical. Windbows are said to enable one to shoot the wind. Now, if only he could master it…
For now, though, it’s time to go. For a moment, Temian considers trying to find the Witch herself, so as to destroy her forever – but he soon reconsiders. He’s got a crippled hand and is seriously wounded to boot, and so he’s in no shape for another fight – and he’s already broken her connection to her infernal power. In any case, no matter how evil she is, he’s not sure he’s happy with the thought of killing an ancient woman who is no longer really a Witch. So he decides to head home.
(In system terms, he’s just deciding not to pursue the “Slay” adventure that we’ve just rolled up. Of course, in story terms, it would be fun if this decision not to destroy the Witch ends up returning to haunt him in some future episode…
Wow, that was a really eventful session – and a rewarding one for Temian, too, despite his crippled hand. And we finished the adventure!
As for XP awards, there are quite a few this session, since it was a kind of climax. Let’s see what we have…
Firstly, Temian earned Plot Elements towards both his primary and secondary plots. This earns him two character points, for a start.
As it happens, it also means that he has accumulated 3 plot Elements towards each of his plotlines, so we can choose to resolve either or both of them, if we want to, and if the story justifies it. The story obviously doesn’t justify resolving his quest to explore the Lost City of Lara Ithuil, so we’ll leave that. But I think that, since he just destroyed the Witch’s source of infernal power, this is a good moment to resolve his quest to bring the Witch of Dunmoss to justice. As per the rules for plots, resolving the plotline at this point earns Temian 15 character points that he can spend on anything that the story justifies. Nice!
Temian has also just completed this adventure, so that earns him some XP, too. Firstly, as we determined at the end of Episode 6 – Treachery in Eldervale, one of the rewards for this adventure was a single character point that can only be spent on appropriate social advantages such as reputations, favors, contacts, etc. So that’s nice.
And we still haven’t factored in the normal XP that any PC earns by completing an adventure in this system. (The rules for earning XP are at the very bottom of the Adventures page, if you want to follow what I’m doing here.) The adventure was definitely a success – though not, I think, a raging success, since Temian’s hand was crippled. This means that we get to subtract 2 from our roll on the table. We “Raised the Stakes” just once during the adventure, so that’s an additional -1. So our total bonus is -3. Here goes! (Rolling…) 9, -3=6. This mean Temian earns 2 character points for completing the adventure.
So, in summary, Temian earns the following XP:
- 4 character points that can be spent freely.
- 1 character point that can only be used to purchase suitable social advantages such as Reputation, Favor, Contacts etc.
- 15 character points that can only be used to purchase things he might plausibly have gained as a narrative result of succeeding in his quest to bring the Witch of Dunmoss to justice.
All in all, that’s a pretty big swag of XP! It’s going to be a lot of fun working out how to spend it.
Right, that’s it, folks! Watch for a post soon in which I try to work out how to spend all these new character points. Plus, if you’re having a good time, stay tuned for the next episode, too!