Due to unforeseen circumstances I was a last minute substitute DM this week. Unlike the last few times where I had a pretty set scenario that would be in play, this time it was anything goes. Exciting!
As the players came onto the chat I could see we had a fairly unbalanced party, not that balance is an issue to be overly concerned with in BROSR games. The newer players had to roll up fresh characters since their other Machodor based characters were still stuck on a spaceship. The particular combination we had ended up being ideal for the session ahead.
This session took place on 10/Feb/2023 and the PCs adventured for 7 days.
Godleve (Level 4 Cleric of Machodor)
Giuseppe (Level 4 Paladin from Rome, Brovenloft)
Sever (Level 1 Ranger of Machodor)
Shamus (Level 1 Irish Fighter from Brovenloft)
Slippery Pete (Level 1 Thief of unknown provenance)
Everyone is human unless specified otherwise in Trollopulous.
The players reviewed the options and outstanding requests that were known to the Adventurers Aid Society, plus some other current events. With the Sun once again shining in the sky and the blood rains of Lamalla over; there was still the matter of the Orc army that was rumoured to have taken flight towards the mountains south of Minas Mandalf. The Irish forces from Brovenloft, some 300 foot troops, were planning to search for the Orc army to make a name for themselves, they would be happy to accept a few specialist adventurers.
Alternate options included seeing what the Erinyes were up to in the Ruins of Trollopulous, or try to find more of the lost Aztech city in the swamp near Fort Pug.
In the end, the players decided to head south east from Minas Mandalf to St Raul (Machodor's newest city) and pursue a combination of different rumours. One, a strange creature attacking travellers on the road and draining their magic items, another concerned mutated Giant Skunks near St. Raul, and another being a bandit castle rumoured to be holding high value prisoners. With the bandits themselves now in custody, the castle was reported to be defended only by a skeleton force; which could amount to only a dozen or two bandits.
Unlike previous weeks, no one was interested in bringing along hirelings, even the more established characters baulked at paying for the AAS party support squad. So they all set out at a walk.
The road travel on the first day was uneventful, with the party running into a patrol of Paladins from the Order of St. Michael as dusk fell. Led by Sir Kelvin, these fellows were only to happy to provide what they knew about the magic eating dromedary-like creatures that had been plaguing travellers recently, and they also offered the party a chance to rest over night in the nearby Pegasus patrol tower, which they gratefully accepted.
The next day they made it to the spot where the Paladins had mentioned an attack had taken place, but, though they found some tracks of the wagon, they were unable to find any leads. They went off road in search of tracks but found themselves approaching the outskirts of St. Raul as evening was closing in. They chose to approach the next patrol tower rather than spend the night in the city, and it was as they followed a steep path up a ridge upon with the tower was built that they had their first real encounter of the session. Something was moving above them on the top of the ridge.
Slippery Pete (Thief Level 1 HP 1) heard the sounds of movement and climbed up to investigate. It wasn't one of the magic eating creatures, but a mutant Giant Skunk! His efforts to placate the creature with some rations served only to get its attention and it did not look pleased to see him. Giant skunks are bad enough, but mutant ones are even stronger; Pete slipped back over the ridge and down to his companions.
|watch out for the tail|
The creature leaned over the ledge, saw the party, and let out a blood curdling cry. Convinced it would charge, the players who could do so set their spears. But the skunk had another thing in mind before it closed with them.
All but one of the party failed their save to the Skunk's musk spray, bad stuff, but when it charged Sever (Ranger Level 1) was ready with his spear set and drove it through the monster, severely wounding it and making even it angrier. The effects of the musk spray were pretty devastating, I changed this up a little bit for the mutant to make it even more aggressive, but also allowed characters who had set spears before being blinded a chance to attack before the stench drove them into retreat. This allowed for a least another hit and before long Sever, standing alone, had downed it with a mighty blow from his 2 handed sword; but it was something of a pyrrhic victory.
The tower captain greeted them coolly, holding his nose and enquiring as to their business. The party managed to convince him that they smelled so bad due to their service to Machodor, and, being very grateful not to have been the one to deal with the creature himself, he allowed them to spend the night (in the stables). He wasn't interested in helping to get the 25 foot long carcass into the town, but did suggest that tomorrow's (lucky roll on a d7 there) supply caravan could probably be persuaded to help.
The next day dawned on a weird city adventure as the party, still smelling terrible, entered Machodor's newest city. The population of St. Raul is made up by mutants created by exposure to radiation after the recent nuclear on Minas Mandalf. They were mostly from Trollopulous, but also from other areas in the region, and had answered a call to repentance delivered by Sir Lansabit, High Paladin of Machodor.
The city was constructed with a heavy contribution from a Lyre of Building, with a classical look in vogue, the public buildings featuring many columns and pillars of stone and such.
Fortunately, Professor Dorol of the St Raul Botanical Society was only too pleased to greet them when the supply caravan arrived and dropped the carcass of the dead mutant skunk on the front entrance to his faculty. He himself was a mutant, and, gradually during their conversation, was revealed to possess 4 arms. These he gestured with interchangeably as he wrote down the party's description of what had happened and the characteristics of the creature. He promised that after a period of 2 weeks they could return and receive a reward based on whatever he and his colleagues managed to do with the creature. He also suggested they take advantage of the town's public baths.
This wasn't good enough for the party, they wanted the Machos, and so Dorol agreed to write them out an explanation vouching for their efforts that could be shown to the city governor. Slippery Pete chose this moment to try and pick the professor's pockets, which he fail at badly. I rolled a high reaction check though, and decided that the professor interpreted this as an attempt to discover if he had even more arms hidden away in his voluminous robes.
|He did not|
Dorol bid them good day at this point and the party Paladin Giuseppe set to arguing with the Thief over his blatantly criminal behaviour. It got so heated that one of the local paladins was attracted to the commotion and came over to reprimand them. Of course, this only encouraged the thief who began to insult the newcomer. Once again a bizarrely good reaction roll came up, the St. Raul Paladin misinterpreted the Thief's actions as part of a comedy act and encouraged him to work on it.
Next we had a good old fashioned BROSR shopping session (!) since the PCs had to replace all their clothing, and spend an hour or two in the public baths. These, perhaps owing to more than mere good fortune, they managed to claim to themselves.
By the end of the day, when they were all presentable (some odd clothing choices were made but I forgot the details) the PCs proceeded to the town hall and managed to get in just before the High Paladin had concluded business for the day.
|Sir Lansabit, High Paladin of Machodor|
Lansabit was both amused and pleased at the party's story, and rewarded them 200 Gold Machos each. This they immediately spent on horses and the supplies required to travel into the mountains. Giuseppe, doing his Paladin duty, tithed 10% to the church of one of the city's three Patriarchs. This worthy, pleased with the party, offered them lodging in the stables overnight. There was some back and forth with the Paladin having banished the thief from the party but him refusing to leave, and in the morning the latter trailed after them as they headed south west into the Bandit Mountains.
Two days passed without incident and the party began the ascent into the foothills, here they were reminded that it was still winter; though the blood rain snows were melting in places even here, there was still plenty of snow about. The Adventurers Aid Society had related to them the directions given by the captured Bandit (confirmed through detect lie and such), and these they followed without incident for two more days. Then, at a junction of narrow valleys where they expected to find a fallen standing stone, the whole area was covered in snow from a recent (overnight) avalanche. The peaks around them funnelled travellers through valleys to the North, North West, and West; so they only had a 1 in 3 chance of choosing the correct direction randomly.
Slippery Pete, who all along had still been following the party at a distance (and would have been in big trouble if any random encounters had occurred up to this point) caught up and immediately proceeded past them to the North West. Soon after he encountered some pilgrims or monks of some kind, though not of any religion he recognised. There we about of a dozen of them, dressed in robes and hoods that had seen better days, marching in single file in his direction. He bravely turned around and went back to tell the others, then hid himself in the rocks to watch what transpired.
It was a strange interaction, the lead pilgrim (the most ugly man they had ever seen, and he was the most comely of the group) signed that they had take a vow of silence. As the conversation became detailed, he laborious wrote down what he wanted to say in elaborate, but legible, calligraphy. Finally, he caught on that the party wanted to know which direction the fallen standing stone, which was buried under the recent avalanche, pointed, which they knew indicated the direction of the castle they sought.
Once this was understood the man was delighted to help, and they soon parted ways.
Another day of riding and a night dodging a random Cave Bear later; they had reached their goal.
|Castle Von Necro|
Let's put all my cards on the table; the Castle was indeed defended by a skeleton force, that force of skeletons numbers 200! Yes, about five minutes after coming up with this hook six months ago I decided the skeleton force was literal. The last member in a long family line that resides in the castle, Gisoria Von Necro (Magic User Level 7) has a limited spell selection, but the crypts below the castle have been plundered by her and used as fodder for Animate Dead. The Monster Manual description notes that they can be given relatively simple commands that they will follow without their master in view, and she has placed them all over the castle with various orders in place to take care of intruders. Skeletons are of neutral alignment and do not stand out to a Paladin's Detect Evil ability. Gisoria's association with the Black Hand Bandits was one of convenience and she shed no tears when they went out to raid one day and never returned.
Up to this point we were about 3 hours into the session, and honestly I was not sure we had enough time to complete this scenario. What followed was a great set piece, I had simply laid out all the skeleton locations, their orders, and what Gisoria would be doing; and let the PC's do their best against it. I didn't have to fudge anything, and of course there was no preconceived plan or story at play.
The castle sat at the top of a plateau in the centre of a roughly circular valley, a path ran around the adjoining mountains where the PCs emerged from the gorge they had followed to reach this place. Along the path to their right they could see it was connected to the castle via a stone bridge that stood above a hundred foot drop to the valley below.
It was morning and they had a clear view of the castle, there was no sign of life. The party hid themselves and waited for dark, no encounters broke the monotony as the hours ticked by. When it was fully dark there was still no sign of light, or life, in the castle.
Rather than approach the bridge, Slippery Pete announced he would climb down into the valley cross to the base of the plateau then climb up it till he reached the top under of the bridge. As a level 1 Thief with 1 hit point, this was a bold move, and, after looking at the relevant table, I ruled he required 4 successful climbing rolls to get down, and 8 more to get back up on the other side. I rolled them all and he passed every one. He chose to come up on the left side of the bridge, which meant he did not see anything on the right side, and found himself at the entrance to the gate house. Its portcullis was open and through it he could see into a large courtyard. There were bodies all over the place, as though a battle had been fought and neither side had cleaned up afterwards. Examination of the nearest body showed it had been reduced to a skeleton underneath its tattered armour; what had happened here?
Having gone out so far all by himself, Pete chose not to proceed into the courtyard - saving himself from almost certain death - but instead used his bullseye lantern to signal the rest of the party to approach. They rode up to the bridge and noted another body right at their feet where it joined the path. Examination showed nothing unusual about the body other than it too having been reduced to a skeleton, neither did Detect Evil, so they rode across the bridge, which curved slightly so as to occlude one end from the other, and dismounted in the gate house. As they did so, a couple of them were sure they heard a weird sound; like a combination of a metallic scraping and a wooden windchime, coming from back across the bridge.
Returning to the other end of the bridge they found nothing unusual; except that the body was gone! A quick search found a piece of tattered armour stuck on the edge of the bridges stone railing, and, when they looked over the side, they found below them a narrow ledge running the length of the bridge, at the end of which was a small wooden sally port. Slippery Pete would have found this earlier if he had gone up that way instead.
Having intended to enter the courtyard via the gate house, the party now changed plans and scooted along the ledge to the sally port door; leaving Shaemus behind to guard the horses.
The party followed tracks in the dust on the floor until they reached an antechamber near the centre of the castle. Within this room were some furniture, a mirror, and two suits of armour stood at either side of the far door. The armour was in good condition and so the Ranger decided to go for the upgrade, ignoring the skeletal remains inside. It was thus while their pants were literally down that the sounds of feet marching towards them could be heard through the southern door.
Through the door to the north the thief could make out someone shouting; something about "servants" & "arise". The thief hammered in spikes to both of the room's exits, north and south, while Godleve helped Sever into his new armour. By the time he had finished both doors were being battered from outside, it was only a matter of time before one or both gave in.
It was time for Godleve to shine. Aided by Guiseppe, they turned 15 of the skeletons. These promptly tried to flee through their fellows, causing a traffic jam. The next round the northern door failed, and they repeated the process in that direction; but in addition to the skeletons (that had climbed up the courtyard wall into Gisoria Von Necro's room) Gisoria herself stood ready to cast her favoured offensive spell; Slow.
Busy with skeletons, the rest of the party could do nothing about the magic user; but Slippery Pete improvised a weapon out of his bullseye lantern. Now, having been alerted to the party's presence, Gisoria had prepared by casting Shield, Mirror Image, & Minor Globe of Invulnerability. Her plan was to cast Slow in the first round, then do so again in the second round; the Slow spell has no saving through and is one of the few that is cumulative in effect. With an army of skeletons to protect her, she was confident in her plan.
Initiative was a tie, but, due to his Dexterity attacking bonus of +2 Slippery Pete went first, and, not only did he hit her, he picked out the correct target (I rolled a 1 on a d4 to determine this) out of the Mirror Images. Now she was damaged, on fire, & her spell spoiled.
More turning happened after this, and Gisoria manged to get her second Slow off; it was looking touch and go for both sides as the fleeing skeletons got past and allowed the unturned (?) ones to attack while more oil was thrown back at the magic user but without luck. Slow has no effect on spell casting, so I ruled that Godleve could continue Turning while the others tried to push their way through to the enemy spell caster in the round where they could not attack.
Finally they reached her, but their swings failed to find the correct target until, once again, Slippery Pete got around behind her for a back stab that (again a 1 in 4 chance as she had refreshed her images at one point) found the real thing and went home, finishing her off for good.
Treasure and XP
Giant Mutated Skunk:
For all 5 PCs 162xp Each
200 Gold Machos each from Sir Lansabit
+ Pending reward from Proffesor Dorol in St. Raul (around 24th Feb)
Black Hand Bandit Castle:
Gisoria Von Necro (Lawful Evil Female Human Magic User, Lvl 7):
Total XP 6325 so For 4 PCs (Sheamus fell asleep before any fighting at the Castle) = 1581 XP each
Also to be dealt with:
Gisoria had a few books in her room, some of which got burned in the fire, but two which did not glow under detect magic.
8 Important Prisoners & 14 Slaves who have their own story to tell.
Far from a negative or onerous part of the game (as I used to assume it would be), once again this week the prospect of class ratings spurred the players to play their roles to the hilt. And when they do so the game is better in every way. I suppose modern nuD&D may not work the same way, but the Appendix N inspired classes of AD&D - when played to an Excellent standard - results in Appendix N levels of fun.
Slippery Pete (Thief Level 1), E. Honestly the MVP of the session, used practically everything thief ability available and was able to almost solo the magic user at the end. Deserves an E+ if there was such a thing.
Sever (Ranger Level 1), E. Used his skills and fought strongly as well as cleverly.
Godlevel (Cleric Level 4), E. Used his abilities exactly as required, his turn undead was the only thing keeping the party alive.
Giuseppe (Paladin Level 4), E. Tithed, you don't actually see that much. Fought well and bravely, chastised the Thief when required.
Shaemus (Fighter Level 1), E. Did what he could when he could, unfortunately suffered from sleep just before the end battle.