We began the game with six players and 15 or so characters.
The Leveled Characters: Ungo the Beggar (1st-level thief); Ahmal the Witness of Cthulhu (1st-level cleric); Obexa the Agent (1st-level dwarf); Spike the Acolyte of Ramat (1st-level cleric); Ralph Quickfingers - an inquisitive halfling haberdasher (1st-level halfling); Quinlynn the Unlucky - an elf sworn to the King of Elfland (1st-level elf); Badger’s Bane - human trapper (1st-level Thief).
The Villagers: Albert,
Bartholemew, Calvin, Dave, Krem, Ilvora, Stemp, Chance, Yeasty, Lord Scuttlebutt; Those crossed out did not survive.
The session began as an amalgam of three 0-level character funnels:
- Nebin Pendlebrook’s Perilous Pantry (session notes, PDF for purchase)
- Ruins of Ramat (session notes, PDF for purchase)
- Portal Under the Stars (from the DCC core rulebook) - run by Joan while I was away
As well as survivors of the Harley Stroh’s “Doom of the Savage Kings“
I’ve treated each of those as having taken place in the village of Bitterweed Barrow. Buried in this sleepy little corner of the world is evidence of past civilizations.
Back to Bitterweed Barrow
Having left Hirot after defeating the Hound of Hirot and framing Iraco, the characters returned to Bitterweed Barrow. I advanced the time a month (to reflect that we’ve been playing for over a month
During this downtime:
- Ralph fashioned an ostentatious hide armor made from the silver wolf skin pelt he found
- Other villagers had explored another barrow (Joan ran Portal Under the Stars in my absence)
- People were equipping themselves with hide or leather armor and shields
- Everyone was restless for more adventure
- Nine more villagers wanted to take up the life of adventuring. I wonder how many more villagers will hear the siren song of adventuring?
- Joseph, the drunken farmer, spoke again about a two-headed goat birth and green eyes (See second session for more details)
Quinlynn’s player, Erich, asks if he has any recollection of a previous time of two-headed goat births.
- I made a quick ruling for Elven Lore based on something mentioned in Spellburn #46. I will be formalizing this.
- XXX recalls at that time helping a wizard who was building a tower north of Bitterweed Barrow; He wanted precisely cut reeds from the fens.
Ahmal the Witness of Cthulhu hands over two radiant sacred Ramati scrolls to Spike the Acolyte of Ramat (See side-trek session for more details)
- I asked for a Luck check for Ahmal; She passed. On a failure Cthulhu would’ve taken notice and disapproved.
- I’m working towards paying greater attention to character alignments and decisions.
The characters also had a recollection of the Tale of the Barrow Wives:
Deep and ancient magic infuses the funerary rituals of mighty warriors and great leaders. One of these rituals involves the self-sacrifice of a lover of the deceased. The lover is ritually killed and buried in the loamy foundation of their beloved’s barrow; To sooth and serve their deceased lover for the eons.
After a bit, they embarked, choosing to seek the tower of the wizard.
For my session prep, I wrote up some procedures for the hex crawling near Bitterweed Barrow. The first hex, they rolled a 1 for their chance at an encounter.
Traveling along the road they come upon a road-side shrine , like the one that Ungo looted earlier. Ralph urges Ungo to make things right and return those coins. Ungo agreed, and unlike last time, threw caution to the wind and placed the coins in the bowl without careful inspection. The bowl tilted and a crossbow bolt shot from the brush, sinking deep in Ungo’s thigh.
A roar of “Attack!” and a dozen camouflaged bandits burst up, throwing javelins. I should’ve made some reaction rolls for the elves. Several javelins stick, three of the villagers drop dead. The adventurers rally and make a counter attack. Ungo and Ahmal attempting to flank, other villagers charging the bandits, slings bullets launching.
The first tide-turning event is Quinlynn casting Sleep (with the mercurial magic effect of healing 1d6 HP of everyone within 30’). He’s 3 points shy of getting the spell off, and Ralph offers up 2 points of Luck (one will be permanent). Ephemeral swan wings embrace the bandit hero and gentle drop him off to sleep.
The remaining bandits check morale, and press on! Ralph charges into the fray, picking off one of the bandits. The bandits respond and fell a few more villagers and Badger’s Bane.
Spike steps over Badger’s Bane and casts Holy Sanctuary (a cautious move given that Badger’s Bane is of an opposing alignment). Obexa charges a cluster of bandits with a mighty deed of “I want to cleave into the other”. He hits his deed and the attack and splatters two of the bandits.
Ahmal rushes over to save Badger’s Bane; A bandit harries Ahmal, but ultimately Ahmal heals Badger’s Bane. Ungo guts one of the bandits. The bandits check morale, and feel. They call for a retreat.
The adventurers, battered and bruise, pound their shields and drive off the bandits. As the bandits flee, Quinlynn casts another sleep spell, catching two more bandits (and healing the adventurers).
The adventures spend some time looting the corpses (upgrading to studded leather and scimitars), tying up the survivors, and preparing a funeral pyre for the four slain villagers and dead bandits.
One player’s characters all died, so I reached into the envelope of 0-level characters and pulled out Dave the Woodcutter. He had heard the commotion and came to investigate; He decided to join the adventurers.
As the brigand leader stirs awake, still bound, Spike approaches him. “You have done bad things. I want you to repent in the name of Ramat.” I call for a DC 15 Personality check, and he aces it. The brigand leader is a convert of Ramat. He goes to convert his fleeing crew.
As they press forth , they come to the King’s Way and see a lone traveller. They hail him. And he responds in a stilted manner. As they enter the next hex, I ask for a d6. Again a 1.
The adventurers immediately think “Zombie” and I clarify. No its more jerky motion. “Like a marrionette?” asked Erich. “Yes that!”
I have some fun pantomiming a very herky jerky man. And talking with a not entirely in control voice. I’m aiming for Vincent D’onofrio in “Men in Black”
Spike attempts to turn unholy to no effect. The adventurers choose to let this “man” continue his trip towards Hirot. And they continue towards the wizards tower.
Tower of the Stargazer
From here on out are spoilers for James Raggi IV’s “Tower of the Stargazer”.
“Tower of the Stargazer” written by James Raggi IV. Cover art by Peter Mullin.
As they approach the tower towards the evening. They note the lightning striking it and the immediate surroundings, even the the sky is clear.
Ralph and Ungo decide to approach the stairs and doors to the tower. They move cautiously, noting a body just west of the tower. At the door they spend some time investigating the knocker, the door frame, the floor, and the door itself. As Ungo is about to pull the serpentine handles, Ralph suggests they knock on the knocker. A loud “Bong” reverberates and the door opens to a meticulously kept waiting room with two doors.
On the first floor , the rest of the party ascends the stairs and enters the waiting room. Yeasty lights her torch. In this room, one of the characters curious about illusions jabs a knife into a table. It appears to be real.
They open one door in the waiting room to discover a moldering closet with outdated clothes. They take the other door. It opens to a dining room with fine china, bottles of wine, a statue of a King and Medusa from a popular myth.
There was a wicked King who loved a Medusa. And she loved him. Together they grew powerful. And in this power they grew to resent each other. The King one day betrayed the Medusa and had her killed. In her dying breath she cursed his lineage, and on the 18th birthday each of his children, serpents kill each of them.
They spend a bit of time exploring. Ralph checks out the four wine bottles. They are of an old vintage. Spike continues to advise that they leave them here and can get them as they leave. Ralph, deaf to Spike’s suggestions, pops open a bottle and smells the sweet fragrance of a fine wine. He corks it and puts it back.
They head up the stairs to a servants quarter. They see a table, oven, corridor to other chambers, and stairs going up, with a notable oozing splotch of blood. They explore the servants quarters and find a journal written by Argyle Timmons. It details the day to day activities of the tower. The last entry, some 59 years ago ends with Argyle saying that he is going to flee Sir Uravulon Calcidius. Sir Calcidius, the wizard, has turned murderous and spiteful. They also find a key.
This jogs a bit of Ilvora’s memory; Argyle was a villager that took over helping Sir Calcidius when the tasks became rather onerous:
- fetch the placenta for a girl birth from a mother that was a first-born
- gather a rams horn fill with the blood of the ram after you have bludgeoned it to death by the horn
They gather themselves and approach the stairs and the door at the top. They note that blood continues to ooze from the key hole. They try the key and hear a “cling” as they push another key out of the other side of the keyhole. A quick use of parchment and they scrape up the key.
They open the door and see a white bearded wizard standing inside of a circle of salt. At this point, the players have a clear idea the Sir Calcidius is not a nice guy. But he starts out friendly and willing to pay them to free him. As they goad him, his anger rises, the veins on his forehead throb and he turns red as he proclaims “Free me now or I will scatter your souls across the cosmos.”
The adventurers proceed to goad him and prod him, exploring his quarters (and taking the 5,000 gp Star Crystal). He responds with equal parts anger, nihilism, and contrition. On a stand they find a book titled “Communications and Signaling the Beyond”. It goes on and on about the existence of other planets and their possible fauna and flora. And means of communication, though perhaps through other planes. A blathering of pseudoscience, if science were a defined concept in this world.
The adventurers checkout the door and find what appears to be an elevator shaft. Ralph, Ungo, and Quinlynn offer to explore (none of them need Yeasty’s torchlight).
Going up to the 4th level , there are two doors. One towards the center of the tower, the other towards the edge. They choose the center. It opens into a study room with tables. On the table is a book “Surviving the Interorbular Ether”, it is a dense read. There are two doors. They open one, and hear a woosh and are greeted with the scent of stale air. It is a library. There are countless books on three major subjects:
There is another door leading what would appear to be to the room that was accessible from the elevator shaft. They open that door. It is a chilly room with a wooden box. They open the box and feel a blast of cold air. Inside are 12 vials. Ralph inspects one. It looks like blood. As he holds it, the blood ripples a bit. He checks the other vials. All of them are blood. Not overly curious, he puts them back and they leave the room, heading back to the study.
They take the other door and enter a room with a table and two chairs, one facing them, the other ready for someone to sit in. To their left, a door with crackling energy barring its entrance. A ghost appears and said “Beat me at a game of chess and I will give you access. Lose and your soul is mine.”
The adventure gave some guidance; But with time running short, I offered a deal. You’ll roll a d20 to determine the results of the chess game. My initial terms were on a 1 to 15 you lose your soul. On a 16 to 20 you win and get 15 XP. I didn’t mention if burning luck would be an option. Chance opted to play. He rolled a 3 (and didn’t have enough luck to make up the difference). He disintegrated and reappeared as the ghost.
This time I offered 10 XP for 50⁄50 odds. Ralph thought about it, and sat at the table. And rolled natural 1. Poof. Quick thinking Quinlynn Invoked the King of Elfland. A quick errand from his shadow to Elfland (for the spellburn), and Quinlynn stepped back to offer Ralph guidance on the midgame and helped coach him. I gave Ralph a re-roll and increased his success range from 11+ to 6+. He rolled a 12. Chance’s ghost and the chessboard disappear and the force field to the other door blinks out of existence.
Having run out of time, we stopped there. I awarded 9 XP to the survivors.