As with each open game table session, I never know the roster of players, nor the specifics of what I will run. In my preparation, I scrounge for random tables, write generators, procedures, and rumor tables.
To prepare for anything I did the following :
- Wrote bullet point details about Steelhart
- Wrote a rumor table for Steelhart (roll 1d16)
- Printed and reviewed the Heist system from Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad: Issue 3. It’s a city. When all else fails, run a heist!
- Grabbed the Carousing Table from Broodmother SkyFortress (first posted at Jeff Rient’s blog) and made a few small tweaks
- Reviewed my “start of session procedures”
With a rumor table and the fallout from carousing, I knew I’d have fodder for this session.
Two of the characters leveled up:
Joan checked Ahm-al’s Trauma score of 1, and passed. Ahm-al still has energy to continue adventuring. (See here for more details on Trauma and Retirement)
|Ahm-al the Witness of Cthulhu||Cleric (Guild Beggar)||1||12||Neutral||Joan|
|Ungo the Beggar||Thief (?)||1||13||Neutral||Joan|
|Obexo the Agent||Dwarf (Stonemason)||1||13||Lawful||Aidan|
|Spike the Acolyte of Ramat||Cleric (Herbalish)||1||12||Lawful||Greg|
|Badger's Bane||Thief (?)||1||10||Chaotic||Marlene|
|Mason Stone||Dwarf (Stone mason)||0||10||Neutral||Luke|
I offered the players a chance to carouse. Six opted to carouse (Tink, Ahm-al, Obexo, Ungo, Dave, Strove); The following failed their DC* 15 Will save:
- Ahm-al stumbles into a minor misunderstanding with local authorities. Roll a Personality check. Success indicates a fine of 2d6 x 15gp. Failure (or inability to pay the fine) indicates 1d6 days in the pokey.
- Obexo, the teatotaler dwarf, burns carouses while going to theater performances, makes lewd advances at a witch or conjure-man. Succeed at a DC 15 Will save or they turn you into a pig. Pick a character played by the player on your left. That character can understand you; For everyone else it’s squeals and oinks.
- Ungo, despite his best efforts, you found love in your latest dalliance. 75% chance they’re already married.
Each player rolled on the Rumor Table that I setup for Steelhart. They got the following results:
- “Last month, one of the caves had an explosion. To this day, you can hear the howls of the dead.”
- “The other night, I was drinking and this elf came in. Someone had mugged him, his ears clipped and bleeding.”
- “I heard that the Guild Elders are forcing the old Master Guilder, Gentle Steve, to step aside. He may still lead the Guardians Guild.”
- “Yesterday, or the day before, I heard a guy talking about finding a cache of old silver coins in the cliffs.”
- “I heard that someone to the west found treasures from a buried king.”
- “Hey, you’re new here…you looking to get rich? I need to know if this interests you? Any concerns about legality?”
Two of the players rolled the same result.
Further Details of Steelhart
As players wrap up their character advancement, reviewing rumors, and thinking on their carousing results, I added bits of information about Steelhart.
The guilds rule Steelhart. And in the four days of carousing they learn aspects of Steelhart.
The Gods with temple in Steelhart are:
- Tses the Arbitrator who Waits – Lawful, responsible for contracts of Steelhart
- Dis Pater – Lawful God of Death, the Underworld, & Riches
- Brigid – Lawful Triple Goddess of Fire, Water, Poetry, & Craft
Up beyond the cliff, active mines produce ore. Workers pole the ore along the Sludge Trails by pole and rafts. From there it careens over the water fall into the Sludge; Workers further sift and sort the ore in the Sludge.
The smell of sulfur permeates the city even as it buzzes in anticipation of next month’s Metal Faire.
Dealing with Carousing
Ungo had fallen for Anga, a married woman. “And what was it about Anga that Ungo fell in love with?”
“Her flowing green and purple hair. And her radiant emerald eyes.”
A Swine Time Was Had
Obexo worked with Dave to track down the witch. They came to her urban three story shop, with herbs and meats hanging in the window and throughout the shop. The witch, a 19 year old woman with a walking stick, greets Dave. She goes for her butchers knife, slamming it on a chopping block, asking Dave if he came for bacon.
Obexo, through Dave, pleads for her to lift the curse. He will give her the Star Crystal if she restores him. Her eyes light up with recognition, and she restores Obexo.
In the Jailhouse Now
While in jail, Ahm-al strikes up conversations with followers of Dis Pater. A moment of doubt passes for Ahm-al.
Should Ahm-al be following Cthulhu? A god that so often disapproves of any and all his requests.
Ahm-al would need to shift alignments. Joan, Ahm-al’s player, weighs the decision as the other players talk about a heist against the temple of Dis Pater. Would Ahm-al convert? If so, what would he do about the planned heist? Ultimately, Ahm-al feigns interest in learning more about Dis Pater to aid in the heist. And Cthulhu turns a bit in its sleep.
Following up on the Rumors
Robyn and Mason Stone expressed interest in the heist; and pressed on with some role-playing.
A noble, with airs of superiority, wanted someone to strike at the wealth of a rival merchant. In the Ziggurat of Dis Pater the merchant had deposited his wealth. During the funeral ceremony of the Lesser Priestess Pelendra, they could break in and steal it.
The noble tells them to look for the wealth in the vault on the main floor . Their co-conspirator wants to bankrupt his rival; He does not even want the rival’s wealth.
The noble then gives them a description and directions to a safe house (a two story, tile roofed house with a flag that has a squid emblem).
Here we introduce Erin, playing her first RPG* session. Her characters know that the top level of the ziggurat houses the Blessed Helmet of Dis Pater. They have also worshipped in the lower level of the Ziggurat of Dis Pater; A large open room with support columns, tapestries, and braziers.
A multi-hour funeral ceremony and procession through the large city park outside the ziggurat will honor the Lesser Priestess. The participants walked to slow drum beats, each naked except for a helmet.
They plan to sneak up behind the ziggurat, on the other side of the procession. Then cut through the box wood labyrinth and enter the temple while the majority of priests and priestesses attend the funeral.
Some of the characters opted to not join. The following characters went forth to loot the temple: Ahm-al, Ungo, Obexo, Strove, Fredora, Dave, Badger’s Bane, Yeasty, Robin, Mason Stone, Shear Madness, Al, and Cap.
They approach the ziggurat, Ahm-al and Robin scout ahead, noting two naked guards with helms and staves. A bit of discussion and they strip down, don helmets from the group, and approach. “We’re here to take over. You can go to the funeral now.”
The guards accept the order, and leave their post. The rest of the adventurers wait, and then flood into the entrance of the ziggurat.
Crossing the entrance they find a 10' x 10' room with a stone beaded curtain on the other end. One wall has etchings of the underworld. The other has etchings of dancing skeletons. The group moves through the beads and onto a landing and head downstairs.
They light a torch and a few braziers in the main area of worship. Splitting up they explore a few alcoves that appear to be the quarters for acolytes. Others approach and investigate the obsidian altar and large chest for offerings.
Obexo smells gold and silver both in the large chest and behind a tapestry. Ungo fails to pick the lock on the chest. Badger’s Bane tries, but snaps her thieves tools in the lock.
In one alcove, Robin finds a silver dip pen, some silver coins, and a foot locker with sandals, undergarments, a purple robe, and a purple cloak. He takes the robe and cloak.
In the other alcove, Fredora notes a small box. Inside she finds a gold band and a stack of letters written from a Lady Suzanne to Emory; The letters express Lady Suzanne’s pleading for Emory to come back. In the foot locker Fredora finds sandals, undergarments, a purple robe, and a purple cloak. She takes the gold band, robe, and cloak.
Up to the Main Floor
Obexo’s nose leads him up the stairs and to the door right across from the stairs. Approaching, he knocks. A voice responds “Yeah? Who’s there?”
“Just checking if you need anything.”
“Nah, we’re good.”
The party proceeds to the right and enter the next room.
Inside they find a bed, footlocker, a small table with lamp, oil, and a devotional book to Dis Pater. In the footlocker is the now standard sandal, undergarments, purple robes, and purple cloak. This also has a purple headband with an embroidered blue eye.
Cap looks under the bed and sees an etching on the floor. Above the etching, tucked under a support, Cap finds a small leather box. She pulls it out and opens it. Inside she finds a viridian pearl and a small obsidian goat figurine.
They take the pearl, figurine, cloak, and robes.
Moving the bed, they see four lines etched into the floor.
A clear sign of Orcus.
To the Next Room
They move further down the hall and enter a dorm room. Numerous footlockers and bunk beds. They grab the robes and cloaks.
Further down the hallway, they find stairs heading up. They double back.
The Greater Priestess came back to the Ziggurat, engaging in a brief conversation with Ahm-al and Robin, before she went into the temple. Ahm-al pauses a moment and follows. The Greater Priestess stands past the beaded door. Hand outstretched touching a stone. She withdraws her hand. And asks “Yes?”
Ahm-al offers a quick apology and returns to his post. Robin and Ahm-al wait 10 minutes, then grab their gear, put on their clothes, and head into the worship area to follow where their friends went. See one of the tapestries by the altar somewhat astray, they push it aside, climb the spiral staircase and bump into their party.
Back to the Main Floor
They circle up and agree to bust into the vault. But they will need a plan. When in doubt, fire!
Into the Vault
Not feeling well, Joan left, taking Ungo and Ahm-al with her. We rationalized that they opted to return to the watch.
Fredora decides to smoke the guards out. She pours oil on the door and starts fanning the smoke underneath.
Minutes later, they offer to help the guards get out. They hear the bar to the door lift. As the door opens, Obexo says “I get out of the doorway.” Everyone else follows suit. The door opens and 3 crossbow bolts whiz by, hitting the stairs. They now hear the telltale ringing of an alarm bell.
Initiative! Note: For such large groups, I’ve adopted group initiative. Each round, each side rolls. The winning side goes then the losing side. The adventurers win out. Yeasty, Robin, Al, and Boo charge in. One of the five guards falls. They notice the fifth guard pulling on a rope ringing an alarm bell.
From the back ranks, Robin throws his torch into the melee. And rolls a natural 20. On his critical result he rolls a 3 - “Foe jabbed in the eye! Ugly bruising and inflict +1d4 damage with this strike.” The table erupts in celebration as the torch strikes flame end into the hapless foes eye socket, striking him dead.
The guards respond, inflicting minor damage (no one collapses). Three tense rounds of back and forth, most attacks missing, but a few hit their mark. On the fourth round, the five guards lie dead and none of the adventurers have fallen.
Alas, I forgot to check morale, meaning the guards fought to the death. Surrendering guards would have complicated the escape.
Fredora heads down the other side of the floor. Exploring rooms. Again standard issue, footlocker, oil, lamp, table, bed.
Towards the end of the hall, they find a locked door. Fredora knocks, yells “Hey there’s a fire!”
A male acolyte, in purple robes and cloak stumbles out. Perspiring, with blood-shot eyes, confusion, and slurred speech he does his best to help put out the fire. I lost track of this NPC* during the extreme chaos of the session; Even though he wouldn’t have done much to disrupt the heist.
Back to the Combat
Having dispatched the guards, they turn their attention to the three stone chests. I clarify everyone’s location on the map. During the fight, Obexo and Fredora had started exploring the other passage. Strove, Badger’s Bane, and Al standing watching the hallway by the stairs, keeping watch.
Dave, Yeasty, Robin, Mason Stone, Shear Madness, and Cap decide to loot the stone chests. Robin opens the chest and blast of poisonous gas erupts. I grab 4d6, roll an 11, and call for a DC 15 Fortitude save. Dave, Yeasty and Robin fail their save (and each take 11 damage).
I explain that the poison cloud continues hanging in the air. They pause and discuss a plan. I help narrow down the options:
- If you leave the cloud now you won’t get hurt
- If you stay (or pull a friend out) you’ll need to make a check
Mason Stone leaves the cloud. Shear Madness tries to pull Robin out but fails their save, and dies. And Cap pulls out Dave.
A Bit More Side Exploration
Obexo and Fredora head down to the locked door. They bust it open and see a narrow hallway with paintings of naked helm-wearing men and women, each standing in that pose reserved for the nobility of the Middle Ages.
The high priestesses room has a large bed, armoire, writing desk with lamp and oil. In the corner of the room they also see a small statue of a medusa. Opening the armoire, they find three helmets:
- A plain steel conical helmet
- A round steel cap with cat ears
- A helmet with rams horns curling down and back
Looking for secret doors, Badger’s Bane jabs a dagger into each painting, hitting stone in all but the last one. The last one feels like wood. She looks around and finds the secret door and the release. Cracking the door, she sees the stone beaded curtain of the main entrance.
Recovering Some Bodies
Cap rolls Dave’s body over. Dave lets out a cough (losing a point of Stamina, and gaining a point Trauma). Mason Stone, wanting the magic short sword from Robin, goes back in. As does Cap, trying to rescue Yeasty. They take precautions, but Mason Stone fails his save. Cap pulls Yeasty out, rolls her over, and sees death has claimed Yeasty.
The rest of the party leaves the room and lets the cloud dissipate. They loot the stone chest. Grabbing a dozen or so small leather boxes.
Obexo starts laying out options to get out of there. They settle on a plan. They will go to the high priestesses room, wait for the guards to come into the temple (going downstairs), then sneak out through the main entrance.
To the Safe House
The guards come, lead by the high priestess. She leads them through the stone-bead door and down the stairs. The adventurers stumble out, all dressed in purple robes and cloaks. Fredora scampers out saying that people attacked the temple. Then Ubexo with a believable tale. Badger’s Bane, Cap, and Al then come out with Dave between their arms.
The gathering crowd, partially clad in sheets or whatever they could find, looks to help Dave. With a bit of coaxing 4 towns people offer to help get Dave to a doctor. Badger’s Bane leads them to the safe house; Asking one person to fetch some water.
At the safe house, they ambush their rescuers. Two fall, but the third flees into the streets, surviving two failed attacks. Fredora throws a spear at the fleeing person in the city street. The players ask if anyone sees it. I call for a Luck check (roll under). Fredora’s character rolls a 1. Nope. Not a soul saw what happened.
We draw the session to a close on the evening of the 18th of Spring’s Laugh (Setday).
- To Yeasty, Robin, and Shear Madness who died in a cloud of poison.
- To Mason Stone who attempted to recover the body but inhaled the lingering cloud of poison
Aside from the Dungeon Crawl Classic core book
- Tomb of Adventure Design for fleshing out details of Steelhart: Rituals; Temples; City features; Generating a local god (Tses the Arbitrator that Waits)
- Broodmother SkyFortress - for Carousing
- Divinities & Cults Volume II: Roman & Celtic - for Dis Pater and Brigid
- Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad: Issue 3 - for Heist mechanics
- Crawl #6 - Bard and Ranger
- Purple Sorcerer 0-Level Party Generator - Made 10 sets of 4 characters using the Punjar Occupation Source
Again, I had a large table (7 players and 19 characters). Through most of it, players opted to play a subset of their characters. Six characters abstained. Two more kept guard. Leaving 11 to explore the ziggurat.
I ask everyone to flip over the character sheets of characters not present in the current “scene.” It helps as a visual cue.
Blending into a crowd of naked people ran contrary to equipping for a bank robbery style heist. The single random aspect (a naked religious procession) from the Tome of Adventure Design help imprint this session on my mind.
From the second session the players have heard “Beware, beware the eyes of green.” They keep finding emeralds, viridian pearls, and now Anga the married love of Ungo.
Group initiative continues to shine. I noticed some confusion as most of the players come from the individual initiative systems and assume I will call them to act. I may adopt the Veins of the Earth rule about whomever holds the torch calls out when other characters act.
The Heist system provided a solid framework for an impromptu session. Throughout the session, I incremented the Heat die, and rolled it with regularity. Most of the time rolling below a 4. Regardless, the Heist system helped frame an evening of adventure.
Consequences to Consider
- The High Priestess goes looking for the people she saw
- What befalls the bodies of the adventures that the party left behind?
- What does the temple say happened?
- Will they acknowledge the robbery?
- What will they do behind the scenes?
- How will the wrath of Dis Pater manifest?
- How does the city respond to the attacks?
- Will Anga’s spouse respond with jealousy? vengeance? relief?
- What will the cultist of Orcus do? Do others in town worship Orcus?
Things to Do
I asked the following in the DCC RPG group on Google+ before posting this session report:
In last night’s session, the characters robbed the temple of Dis Pater. They broke into the safe room and absconded with 12 or so leather safe deposit boxes (of 200 or so); The boxes measure 6" x 5" x 2" (about the size of Veins of the Earth). The safe deposit boxes each varied in weight. Please help me create a random table of “What’s in the safe deposit box?” Need to find a random encounter table for Steelhart.