Archive for category Session Journal

The House of Bastardy.

Location:The Great and Glorious Embassy of the Khutan Empire.

Iswann, The Bastard as the locals called him, contemplated the state of his affairs. He was sat one of the many reception rooms in the Great Embassy of Khutan. He eyed the remains of the lavish breakfast he’d consumed and considered the merits of another round. It had been some time since he’d spoken to Antiva, the Monk-priest and he felt good about that. Oh, they’d resolved their differences after the falling out they’d had when investigating the mansion after they’d banished the mad Frog Priest Spune. Antiva had much more invested in the ways of the Old Country then he had. He was obsessed with this search for some long lost power – the arcane ruled his life and that wasn’t high on Iswann’s agenda.

Iswann, in contrast had been the Bastard in residence in Lankhmar for so long now, and the official duties of Bastardy were so esoteric and light that privately he felt very little loyalty to the Empire any more. Of course he never gave Voice to these thoughts but no one in the Embassy would have dared batter an eye-lid if he did.

He was more interested in the family business and getting the Swordsmans’ Guild back into the state it deserved to be. For this he needed pots of cash – really pits of cash. That’s where the Jade Gluditch of Solitude came in. Or rather it didn’t because fuck knows where it was.

He really couldn’t recall all the finer details of how it fell into their possession and why Burli was entrusted with keeping it. It was something they’d got from the Dough Magnate – Pilsbury. They had made substantial money out of saving the city and getting the Jeweller back to safety. However the real deal breaker, and what could get the Guild and his personal estate back into the black that his mother insisted he sorted out was by selling off that Artifact. Problem was – no one would touch it with a barge pole. Then Burli had been robbed. Then he’d been charged with manslaughter in the first degree in passionate flagrantly – or whatever it was the lawyers were calling it today. And just to kick them firmly in the teeth – the Last Princess of the Cold Wastes – stone-cold fucking dead. He threw a dagger into the wall disconsolately as a passing minion tidied up around his largesse. Of course the minion didnt speak – they were trained not to. Nor did she show any outrage or reaction to his outburst. They all knew better than that. She just silently plucked the dagger from the priceless stucco-decorated wall, popped it onto the tray to return with the other things and made a mental note to inform Gregorious of the need to hire the famed Artist to come and re-do the face of the Third Inglorious Bastard. Again.

He toyed with his cream-cheese bagel as the minion cleared things away. He stared for a moment at the smoked salmon on his fork. Fish. Fishing. It rang a bell. The fisherman and that hedge-witch type. He struggled to recall their names. Amberrh had sensibly left Lankhmar to lie low and keep a low profile. Burli had gone with. They’d got caught up with some Marshlanders. Ironically this escapade had brought them back to the city. Antiva had been involved – somehow. So the princess ended up being in danger again. It made his head spin. His thoughts turned to the death of Grendowynn. Now the death of the princess. The Bastards were infamous instigators of mass death – well, his great, great grandfather Tehrwann was the last Bastard to raise the Warrior-Caste into battle.

His eyes fell on the dramatic painting that depicted the Almighty Destruction of the Gerhun. No Gerhun lived it was said. The wrath of the Caste had been such that the battlefield was impervious to life and remained so to this present day. The desert of death as it is known now, the tenuous transcendental inter-planar junction to the after-life. So many had been sent to their deaths (so the record-keeping caste told him) that a bridge direct to the underworld had to be built by the Magus. Problem was he never quite figured out how to dismantle it afterwards. Another thought tickled him but he pushed it away as sheet insanity.

Oh there’d been skirmishes since then, all presided over by the Bastardy. None as great as his ancestors. When that fateful day he ascended the Endless Stair to meet with the God-Emperor, and in doing so was appointed the task of the office of Bastardy his mother had been insufferably proud. Auspicious she’d called it to have two of their line in such a prestigious role.

What had it brought them? A posting to the Heathen Lands. Banished to this forsaken pit of seething villainy. How he loved it. Everything he could do to prolong the need for the Empire to have the Embassy at Lankhmar was justifiable to Iswann. Even if that meant arranging for the Last Ambassador to have an untimely accident. Well those reports he wanted to send – sedition! Recommendations for the cessation of political indemnity. Insufferable!

His fingers stroked the Writ of Legal summons. Once the seal was broken you were magico-legally bound to appear before the issuer. This was heavy stuff. Shame he’d not undertaken to open it. But then he had no need to. The Emissary had invited him anyway. So he could appear and not be bound by the magical imperative and hear out the evidence that Burli’s defence lawyer required for the hearing.

Maybe he had the opportunity of getting Burli off the hook without recourse to strong-arm diplomacy. Perhaps he could find out if the Emissary had encountered the Artifact. If so, there was a chance to at least tie up that loose end if nothing else. In the meantime perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to see if he could locate the Hedge-Witch and the Huntsman. Maybe they could e d value after all. They’d been partly responsible for bringing the Princess and the Toymaker back to the city ill-advisedly early. So from his point of view they could at least make amends for this mess now that it affected him and the House.
He turned to the serving-boy who had been stood stock still for at least a half-hour by the doorway. He uttered four words that catapulted the boy into action.
“Bring me that priest”. He bit his tongue after saying it, however he could see no other way of getting things to happen without dealing with Antiva again. He stabbed the fork into the arm of his chair, rose, adjusted his swords and swung his cape majestically around his shoulders before heading off to his first appointment of the day.


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Session 6: The Return of Putrexia?

Gracie Buttertreacle sat silently in the street’s filth. She watched the strangers scoot past her and eyed them expectantly. She was on the look out for trouble and the possibility of food or a coin. Or information. After all Fourfingers had promised the Ratboys a tidy sum for the right kinds of knowledge! Suddenly her heart quickened – there he was – the Furriner they called him, the Bringer of Death. This was her chance. She lifted her hand and croaked “Hey mister, spare us a $merduk can yer?”. The furriner just sailed past oblivious. His gnome companion, whom they said thought he was a dwarf looked at her piteously, and chucked her a coin. She blinked a couple of times and then ran as quickly as she could. There were more $merduks waiting for her from Fourfingers for keeping him up to date with the Death Bringer’s movements. She glanced back long enough to see Liam tumble from his hiding place and stalk the pair as she darted off to the Spiced Apple tavern. That’s where Jimmy’s second in command would be waiting for her news, and where she could spend the $merduk on some decent tucker and a place by the fire.

Liam winked at Gracie as she pelted off. He crouched on the ro20130825-114214.jpgoftop and watched the pair stroll up the street to the College-Temple. He let them get a comfortable distance before he shinned down the pipe and darted in pursuit. Like most of the Ratboys he was almost preternaturally stealthy and agile and he reveled in following people without their knowledge. This was easy money – yessiree! He bit into the crab-apple and sucked in its sour goodness. He watched them enter the temple and then settled himself into the rooftop of the fairly run down house over the road. It was probably going to rain, but that wasn’t going to stop him from earning his keep, and avoiding a beating into the bargain for not getting the job done. Boy that Fourfingers was a hard-ass when he wanted to be. What drove him to want these two goons he’d never figure.

Liam woke with a start. It was pelting down but that wasn’t all that drew his attention. The College-Temple was turning into a fungus ridden puff-ball nightmare. Huge tendrils of fungus were everywhere! He’d never seen anything like it at all in the whole miserable 13 years or so of his life. What on Nehwon was this? The bakers cart was stopped in the street and Higgins the bun-seller was gawping open mouthed at the scene. Then he seemed to have a sudden, desperately worried thought, or some kind of odd reaction. Next thing he was back in his cart and whipping his pony for all it was worth. He was off in a hurry. Liam looked after him, and then back to the Temple. Then he saw the filamental spores drifting, catching the early light. Now he could see why Higgins had left it. This place was, umm, infectshious. Yes that was it – it was some kind of putrid death trap! He hopped off the backwall and onto the next roof. Time to report in. No sign of his quarry – maybe they’d carked it or were still on duty. This was news – if he could get to the Bell Mews before Higgins he could break the story and still tell Fourfingers what was up before it hit the press. Double down! He sped up his pace as he jumped from one roof to another. Down below in the streets the pony whinnied as Higgins applied some whip-based encouragement. Shortly thereafter he was knocked sideways as 8 stone of smelly Ratboy ruffian slammed into him from above, skittering him onto the cobbles. Liam whooped as he took the reins and the pony bolted off.

Ulris the White contemplated the fate of Lankhmar. This seething canker – this putrescence of a boil on the Temple. Clearly it was Putrexia returned. Angered by the betrayal of her High-Priest, now incarcerated, she’d seen fit to visit this abomination of disease upon her own and blight the foul quarters. If Huw, Varek and Hooknose don’t get the components for the Spell of Asepsis from the good Doctor, as laid out in the Tome of Advanced Precautions, then there was practically nothing he could do to prevent this catastrophe. Already the sick and dying were starting to impact on the City. So the questions now tugging at the mind of the Wizard Ulris were: would Dr Carom be up to this task? Furthermore would the trio he’d steered into undoing this great wrong follow it through? Ulris fervently hoped that the answers to these questions were – yes and yes. Much hinged on this and unless this was successful he didn’t rate the chances of the population doing anything much more than adding to the legions of the dead over the next few days. The Undead and Life disadvantaged league were bound to have a great deal to say about all this! Was this the Year of the Putrexian Fungal Death?

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Session Four: The Diary of Kris Kristoffersson.

Excerpt from The Diary of Kris Kristoffersson, Watch Guard Captain, 2nd Class, In the Service of the Sherriff of Lankhmar and Under the Shadow of the Overlord.

The crowd parted and the body of Amberrh, The Lost Barbarian Princess of the Icy Wastes was held high and placed sensitively onto the awaiting hearse. Jeremiah Goldstein hung what remained of his exquisitely stitched head in deference as the inconsolable some time Wrestler and Toymaker Magnate – Burleinthearm was led away by the Sherriff’s cowering men.

The imposing shadow of Bummingham Gaol would engulf that man’s sorrow. The dread feared master of the Diamond Spider Tavern eyed the crowd. Behind his back one of his dancing girls quaked, but it wasn’t the cold Lankhmarian air that she was shivering over. It was the sight of the old enemy. One of them.

Huw stood impassively as the Watch scraped what remained of their own from the cobbles, walls and bystanders. They were asking a lot of questions. I looked at the document for the nineteenth time and focused on the seal on the stranger’s document of immunity. His own soldiers killed over a woman and this man he couldn’t arrest! Somehow he was the cause of all this trouble from what could be gathered but the witnesses barely managed to string a coherent accusation together.

All I can do is escort him to his embassy for safety purposes. What a fucking mess this was – when the Underlord got the news via the Sherriff and then the Overlord heard – who knew what would happen?

The death of a princess? Was this the Year the Icy Waste Barbarians waged war on Lankhmar after all? Long had half maddened prophets scried and warned of the hordes descending from the Wastes. They would freeze the swamp and descend upon the city of thieves and cut out the beating heart of all those who stood in their way. And that was one of the more optimistic forecasts! If you get a Putrexian Augur to cast the bones – Phtt!

I turned to the furriner and said, trying to hold the terror in my belly at bay, “You must return to your Embassy – these guards will ensure your safety….sir”. Quite frankly I decided then and there to get some new guards because from what I’d seen no one lived for very long around this Huw bloke. He was strange, dangerous and seemingly impervious to permanent harm. I mean to take a blast of the icy chill-spell like that and not be dead! Oh yeah – and he had a very strange sense of dress. This notwithstanding he’d faced down and survived the assault of Amberrh of the Wastes, and her lover boy friend who shot a Ballista of all things through the head of that little shit Lint. Awful. What would I tell Petunia about her Lint’s demise? And what would the Guild of the Watch say about not being able to touch the trouble-maker?

Enough of this. The mess is mopped up. The toy maker will be wallowing in gaol soon enough and be up in front of judgement a few days hence. The furriner ushered clear of the scene and encouraged to the embassy. The crowd slowly disperse, some clusters talking to each other and eyeing up the departing figures. I stomp off to make my report. There was a lot of hard spelling to do – decapitat.. Decapitatshun. This was going to be a long night over the nibs.

Jeremiah Goldstein led the dapple grey mare who looked balefully at him to the cemetery. No rush job this one, oi-vey, which nothing ever was to the zombie staff of McKinley’s. After all no need to snag his new stitching on anything sharp was there – the cost of thread alone and the time taken to repair was enough of an deterrent. Let alone the rents.

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“Starting Off In The Hindmost Quarters” Game Write Up for Gaming Group 3: Session 1

The Diamond Spider Tavern is a rowdy unsavoury public house that is sandwiched in at the end of the street just before the gateway to the theatrical plaza. As the emissary passed by the window he heard rythmic loud chanting and, thinking erroneously that this was some kind of local religious ceremony he entered the holy house. The skinny sallow eyed hirinian dwarf eyed the newcomer and saw – a massive opportunity in the shape of a bizarrely attired idiot. He has a hat shaped like a boat on sideways with tassles and robes that swept to the pissed-stained floor. Clearly he was one of those ‘furriners’ or out of towners. Putting all that aside what he was to the dwarf was a potential grand distraction. How long could you stand in the cut-throat Diamond Spider Tavern looking like that before you got assaulted?

The dwarves question was answered a few moments later when one of the drunken patrons accosted the stranger and demanded to know who the hell he was and why he was dressed like a carpet merchant in a wagon accident. The stranger jiggled his face-mask (face mask!) and waved his hand nonchantly. The height of arrogance. He was about to get belted by the ferret-like patron when the aforementioned slipped on some piss and the stranger sashayed past to a vantage point near the toilets.

Thoughts crammed furiously into the dwarf’s brain like gold pieces into a stuffed purse. He picked through them. All around him a seething mass of baying idiots who were betting on whether or not the over-perfumed, plumed hatted noble could manage another draft of the killer opiate-laced brew the landlord was serving up. There was a lot of money riding on this and the hirinian was keen to relieve the soon to be comatose drinker of what he thought was his purse that he’d shoved clumsily down his massive leather gloves a while earlier. Difficulty was – this was a thieves-guild pub and he was an unlicensed thief. Penalties against unlicensed thieves tended to be, umm, fatal. Still – now he had the massive distraction about to happen in the shape of this feckless idiot in the daft hat.

Sure enough, as the noble started to keel over and all hell broke loose a lot of attention was on the stranger and the seething mob, and less of it – well hopefully none of it was on him “helping” the unconscious stranger for a few moments. He stuffed the whole caboodle – his right glove into his tunic and was slightly alarmed at how massive and heavy it was, but then also excited that it might mean that he had enough money not to go hungry next month. There was only so much begging for jobs at Smithies in the Foul Quarters that he could take. ‘Sakes he even applied for a job at the Tannery and that was taking the piss. Him, a leather-worker!? Unheard of, and so demeaning.

He exited as a fight started to break out and ended up in the alleyway next to the ridiculousy garbed stranger who seemed – vacant. He’d got out at the same time, apparently not so insane as to hang about in the Tavern as skulls were crushed. Also, there was the small matter of the fat noble getting stabbed by someone and the fact he hadn’t paid the landlord’s bar bill for all the lethal cocktails he’d been chugging. What the hirinian needed was somewhere to lie low. Then he realised the walking carpet was trying to talk to him. ‘Sakes he could barely speak the common tongue. In fact, no, he was using the high-language intermixed with common. It was a travesty to language.

In the end he dragged the stranger out of the flickering lamp-light, down the alley and towards the theatre. That’s the kind of place this chap probably would go unnoticed anyway and it was a good place to hide. Difficulty was the idiot was refusing to move staring at the shop just next to the Diamond Spider. It was one of those “Magic Emporium’s”. Now he was ringing the feckin’ bell! The dwarf panicked – this was no way to get out of a bad situation to go ringing shop bells. He fumbled inside the glove and realised that it contained a gauntlet inside – some money, no wait a massive fecking coin with a green sort of gem stone in the middle. He spied it for a minute and realised it was worth a bundle. He couldn’t get the massive coin in his purse so he started to look for somewhere to hide this shit. He was interrupted by the shopkeeper blearily opening his door as the last peal of the bell faded into silence. The noise of a Troll in the street adjacent relieving itself against the wall took its place. The shopkeeper, in his jim-jams holding aloft a lamp, blinked and cried “Emissary!! What on Nehwon are you doing here? Oh no! It can’t be! Sir, Sir you must come up”. They were both bundled in by the man who was jabbering and distraught. The Hirinian couldn’t figure out why he was so beside himself.

Later it all became clear. The Emporium Owner, Abdool, explained that this idiot was a Foreign Ambassador from his homeland and he was able to translate. ‘Sakes it was a long drawn out affair, the man kept on insisting on reading long scrolls and waving his arms. Protocol or something or other. He was starting to think it was all going to go well and they could just rob the shopkeeper and get the hell out of his magic shop when the conversation took a nasty turn. It was the ‘Gluditch’ or the coin they’d taken from the noble in the bar-fight. Abdool was incensed when he saw it. He told the dwarf that this was worth half the kingdom and if the Overlord found out he’d got it then, well, they were curtains. Abdool was even more besides himself – half crazy with fear and insisting that the pair of them get out of his shop and never darken his door again. But, he was a native of the Emissaries homeland and this obligated him to help. So, boggling at the contents of the emporium the dwarf found himself being given a ring to put on and Abdool seemed to threaten him with dark magic if he didn’t. so he did. The fool ‘Hew’ was given a small phial of healing/harming potion. Next they were bundled out of a secret door and made to sneak to the College-Temple of Putrexia.

Abdool explained someone owed him a favour. They could hide in the temple-college and be their new ‘Night Security’ team. Then he could figure a way to get them out of the town and to safety, or get help from the Emissaries Embassy – he wasn’t quite sure how. In return they owed him, Abdool, big time. At one point they couldn’t figure how to get over the main college avenue without being spotted. There was one of McKinley’s Night Hearses on the street and other passersby making their sweet lazy way down that big ol’ stretch of cobbled avenue. They just had to get to that guard’s outpost in the wall of the college-temple without being spotted. They needed a diversion. So, the dwarf cranked up his crossbow and after sorting out all the nobs and whistles on it he had a crack at shooting the hearse. He’d planned on just winging the hearse itself but it turned out to be something of an awful shot. A gust of wind caught the padded-safety quarrel he was using to make a big thump, and it ended up taking the driver’s hat off. The petrified Hearse-Man shouted “Alarum Alarum! Call the Watch! I’m being attacked!” as he cowered under the hearse’s horse. The horse didn’t care much for this and reared up nearly killing the driver. In the furore, they scampered over the road. Well, all but that idiot Emissary who just strolled across, oblivious to the urgency. Some tense negotiations later and they found themselves bedecked in College-Temple robes, undertaking their first Night-Patrol with the shouts of the Under-Sargeant ringing in their ears. As far as the Hirinian was concerned, this was a very peculiar development, but one not without profit. At least the feckin coin thing was safe in the guard locker he’d been given. He had a job. He had some food inside him. Ok he had this idiot to deal with and the threat of death, but that wasn’t much of burden given his situation lately. Thing was: could he bear to be in such a run down foul shit hole of a place as Putrexia’s College-Temple with this idiot for the next 24 hours? And was it alright if he fixed all those wonky light-fittings as they were driving him INSANE?

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Some Early Player Reflections on the Hydra Experience

DM’s Pre-amble.

Ahem. Evening all. So imagine my surprise and delight when in my e-mail box was a missive from one of the playtesters (Richard) in the second playtest group with some reflections on his playtest experience so far? Yes, you are quite right – most definitely relieved. Here are Richard’s thoughts with zero editing, and I’ll confine my own rejoinders to a post-amble as per usual. Enjoy the clean prose from an unperturbed mind presumably not marinated in unnecessary, obsessive dictionary reading. Unlike my own. Richard plays ‘Flick’ or Felicity Sparrow, and you can read the session summaries of his character play in the Second Group Sessions 1 and 2.

Player Reflections.

At the risk of further badgering from our long suffering GM/DM/HM (HydraMaster), here’s some idling, musings and fragmentary thoughts regarding Hydra, as experienced from two sessions.

Character Creation: In any game system, it is my contention that proper character creation goes a long way to setting the scene for the game. By investing the time right at the start of a character’s life, the player has a closer bond to their avatar, a handle on how they see the character developing and, I feel, a greater survivability. Any system that glosses over this part has already failed, so Hydra feels a lot like Harnmaster or Runequest and attempts to create a rich back-story from which one can nurture the character into some semblance of authenticity. Without it, characters are just numbers on a piece of paper. I think it’s also Steve’s preference for character creation, as he likes to weave into the back-story to give each character an initial motivation, a friendly shove in the right direction. The whole, visceral feel of just rolling 3d6 specifically for each stat as you go along means you really have to think hard about how they all work together in a coherent fashion – after all, you’re going to have to play this character convincingly, and it is an RPG – the clue’s in the title. I was quite lucky in that I rolled very well except for one attribute, and even then it’s only just below average. Quite what happens when a player rolls half a dozen attributes under 7 remains to be seen. Whilst I accept that PC’s are, almost by definition, out of the ordinary, we shouldn’t preclude the ordinary from having a go at achieving greatness.

Concerns so far? At the moment, and this is just a vague sort of see-what-happens tickle at the back of the brain and that’s equipment and the encumbrance system. Still trying to get a handle on relative carry amounts and tracking it, assessing without recourse to the HM scrabbling through his (impressively) slim line resources. But that’s all I can think of at the moment.

Gameplaying: The game itself has a very free flowing feel to it. The ‘combat’ didn’t revolve around counting hexes/strike ranks/weapon speeds/did he/could he and just happened in a very fluid, organic way. As I understand from the HM, there is a bit more structure when dealing with more typical combats. Overall, it seems to hit the main concerns that Tim and I had as players when we were all discussing our perfect RPG system. I think that the hardest thing to do, as a player and occasional DM of 30 years is the letting go of certain mindsets/concepts. For example, the magic system. Of all the systems I’ve played, the best in terms of playability is Harnmaster. I had to bite my lip in the second session from asking about ‘neutral’ magic etc. My trouble is I’ve played a wizard for a long time and my hubris is that I think I have good ideas about a rationale behind magic. Ultimately though, it’s brought back some of the mystery to RPG’s by stripping away all the mechanics from the players so there’s more time for role playing, not number crunching.

DM’s Post-Amble

I have to say I am very chuffed to get such positive feedback from Richard’s experience of a couple of games (and pretty shortish one’s too) using the mashed up Hydra. Not sure about the term ‘HydraMaster’ though – sounds like I ought to have some kind of animal handling license. It would be pretty impressive to have an animal handling license for a Hydra! Anyway – I digress. Let me chuck in my rejoinders and comments upon Richard’s reflections. Regarding character creation, the only thing I can pick up on is what might happen if you were to roll up a character with half a dozen attributes under 7. Indeed it remains to be seen – but the character would be played anyway. Statistically you would be hard-pressed to roll up such an relative unfortunate – but it could happen. As a character it would be at a relative disadvantage as a result of the poor stats and harder to keep alive. Harder – not impossible. If you could keep the character alive then you would be able to boost pretty much all those characteristics – as some of the players have started doing for their character’s in the current ‘main’ game. It remains to be seen as to how successful Hydra is in enabling this to happen and how ‘badly’ rolled a character can be and still be nurtured forward into a more heroic figure.

As for Richard’s concerns about the encumbrance system – I share them. Encumbrance has been dialled back in Hydra to be minimally intrusive. We don’t want the past situation of multiple sets of armour profiles and tedious recalculations of combinations of carried stuff. Carry is not just about weight it also contains the notion of carryability – as in somethings are difficult to handle and not just an encumbrance because of their weight. Hydra is not so concerned about movement unless it’s something that needs to be compared against in a chase or a race – so combat is not so affected by encumbrance. Having said all that – you can’t just go ahead and monty haul your character with absolutely everything you can purchase/steal/acquire and carry infinity smerducks back to your base once a game is over. I’m hoping it achieves the right balance but time will tell as the game goes on. So far it’s not played much of a role because no one is burdening their character’s too much.

As for magic – well it’s a very different system I have hijacked for Hydra and as of yet we have only scraped the surface of it. There are more layers and complexities to it then have so far been explored by spell-users in the games so far. So far no one is, I think, even at Spell Level 1, let alone any of the more advanced levels required to progress further into the mysteries of magic use. All of that to come and until it happens I’m not sure myself how well it will stack up against the elegance of Harn Master’s magic system. This will be a collective learning experience! Right – got some bangers and mash to finish off – see you all later. Comments to the usual place. Thanks Richard for taking the time to chuck some comments our way and feel free to write more!

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Trouble at T’Marsh – Second Playtest Group Session 2.

Tillie, Flick and Amberrh are in the almost featureless wetlands of the Great Salt Marsh. They’ve located the “Charnel Cave” and have established that there is a Salt Marsh Leopard in the area from what seemed to be a sizeable paw print. Stood on top of the rocky crag where the twisted tree thrusts into the mist filled sky Amberrh mutters more invectives about how wretched this situation is. She is filled with loathing for the Marsh and is decided, no matter what the consequence, that she won’t stay a moment longer. Amberrh is resolved to return to Lankhmar as soon as possible. Brooding deeply she is almost startled by Tillie’s hand grabbing her shoulder. She points to the huge padding beast below some 50 yards away or so stalking something neither can see. Flick meanwhile is investigating the tree and hunkered down can see nothing, until she sights that the barbarian princess is hefting her bastard sword and making her way to the edge of the outcrop.

Flick focussses upon the symbols of the spell and feels the conjoining of minds as the last words are uttered. Being a beast it is unable to resist, and Flick acts out what she desires the beast to do. As Flick turns and walks away from the cavern entrance so the giant cat pads towards Tillie and Amberrh. As it sees both Amberrh and Tillie though, the creature immediately vanishes from sight. They are forced to sweep their weapons around low on the ground to locate the recumbent cat as Flick lies in the mud wielding the influence over the cat – forcing it to be still.

Eventually they bump into the invisible creature. It growls and rattles it’s throat at the them but allows them to remove several claws from its paws which they do gingerly and with difficulty seeing as they cannot exactly make out what it is that they are doing. Flick starts to feel the edges of the spell collapsing and calls warning. Amberrh and Tillie sprint back to the cave as Flick wields another spell, this time casting mobility upon the pair to speed their retreat. It becomes apparent though as they recover their breaths that the cat is no longer interested in sticking around. It is deadly quiet in the marsh and no counter attack is forthcoming. It is however becoming dark and cold, and the prospect of a night out in the marsh sinks into the bones of all of them.

They decide to spend the night in the cavern. They collect firewood from the twisted tree and have a fire set up in the entrance-way.  As the light of the fire springs up so sparkly shapes of the night-sky present themselves daubed upon the cavern wall. Some of them are curiously aligned and Flick endeavours to capture the images with quill and ink. They skirt around the tunnels just to make sure there is nothing untoward or dangerous to interrupt their night’s stay. There seem to be some small signs of passage – perhaps from ogres or similar it is difficult to decipher. Flick uses her skills of spirit sense and determines there are spirits deep within the caves. They light their fire and set a watch. They get as much sleep as they are able and make the most of eggs, bacon and local mushrooms in the morning. Flick, Amberrh and Tillie discuss whether they should further investigate the caverns and although they are intrigued by it are determined to head back to Lankhmar at best pace. The barbarian princess is relieved to be heading back to civilization and curses the muddy dank swampland.

Eventually though, the unlikely trio are headed back to the city stopping first at the crossroads tavern. They stay overnight and rest up. But not before they have learned more about Amberrh’s misfortunes at the hands of Jimmy Fourfingers and the militia and why she is holding out at the edges of the Salt Marsh. Flick  agrees to help the pint-pot princess unpick the plot against her. Amberrh and Flick help with a timely diversion so Tillie can liberate some expensive bottles of booze to help line his pockets for life in the city. United by their experiences in the marshland and a desire to make their collected fortunes they are soon rattling along the Great Salt Marsh way in the returning wagon.


A useful point made was that the DM should roll some of the PC skill rolls such as listen and spot-hidden when it is useful for the player not to know immediately from the dice roll whether their skill attempt has been a success or failure. Asking a player to ‘make a spot-hid’ roll, but the roll fails, cues the player into knowning that there is ‘something out there’ that they should have spotted. The DM making the rolls in the background and alerting players when the rolls have been successful, or if distorted and misleading is better then being falsely aware of potential events by making their own rolls.

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Main Hydra Campaign Session 10 – What Became of the Hirinian Jeweller?

Preamble and What To Do With Your PC’s In Between Scenarios.

Adjust The Speed Of Game Time & Explore What PC’s ‘Do’ Between Adventures.

We had a bit of extra time at the beginning of our last session because I managed to pitch up early to the RPG club for once in my life. We used the opportunity to work out what the characters had been up to flush from their success working for Lord Pilsbury and eliminating the terrorist Grungh threat. (See Sessions 1-9 in the Campaign Session Journal). Here we did the old DM’s trick of accelerating gametime to quickly zip through the intervening time between sessions. I just did a quick roll on 3d3 for how many months had passed and described the changing of the seasons accordingly. (We’ve are now in month of the Lion which is the Lankhmarian equivalent of July). It also enabled me to continue trialling the Hydra rules on training up attributes and skills that the player can do at the cost of time and money.

Get Them To Spend Their Hard-Earned Smerducks On Character Development.

In this way the player characters can spend their hard earned adventuring money not just on pretty baubles, but also on self-development – purchasing new spells, new skills and working on making themselves heroic. Just in time to become skint enough to take on another foolhardy adventure! During this time you can have NPC’s they know (like Burli or Fillestro  in our campaign) sidle up with new bits of info, plot-hooks and developments on the remainder of plot- elements from previous games. In this case there is still the matter of the Jade Statue of the Gods of Trouble. Burli advised Iswann to keep it hidden, and if he wanted to try and claim the ‘reward’ on offer then he was best served getting some other sucker to try and collect it. It being common knowledge that the Temple was on the warpath to get their statuette back –rumours of assassins, mercenaries and the like being approached to get it returned. This scenario follows on and picks up from one of the events that wasn’t followed up in the previous scenario. In this way you get a sense of congruity and meaningfulness about the off-shoots of events and sub-plots that you scatter in amongst your main games.

Portray The Development Of The PC As They Strive Towards Heroism/Notoriety.

In a matter of about a half hour of real time we’d figured out Iswann’s focus of activities for the next 3 months, taking the party from spring into summer. Vincent did all his experience checks from the last scenario and I described any noticeable improvement in skills qualitatively as a result. He then paid for Iswann to do some weapon and strength (attribute) training. Whilst the attribute has increased numerically it hadn’t shifted a descriptive category or influenced any derived attributes. However I like to indicate progress with skill increases by indicating qualitatively how close the character is to the next category level. So for instance having had his Cliff Toad Whip made Iswann spent most of his three months in training at his family home using the new weapon. He started off as ‘Poor’ (the opening category description for using a Whip) and we checked out whether his dexterity was good enough to use such a tricksy bit of kit – which it was. He then splashed out his hard earnings on a weekly training programme to push the percentile underneath up, and with the two and a half-months he had available to train and with the money that he had to spend he was able to push it up to ‘Fair’.

Appraisal Of Skill Use And Chance of Success.

In Hydra there is a systematic way of describing the probabilities attached to these skill levels, and at a ‘Fair ‘level of ability the individual is described as being able to hit the mark about half of the time provided it’s not too far or more difficult to hit. This gives the player an idea of their ability without knowing the actual amount. The DM provides ‘appraisal’ descriptions depending on the degree of success of an appraisal roll the player makes with their given ability that enables them to have some idea of how likely they are to be successful in using their skill in a given situation. Naturally the DM applies situation modifiers and adjusts the accuracy of their appraisal according to the degree of success of their appraisal roll.

Iswann found himself a bit out of pocket after all this and is now a bit in debt to the family because of his largesse. I role-played this out a bit by having a ‘family meeting’ and his mother giving the family a lecture on fiscal responsibility and the need to fill the family coffers this coming season. I made the matriarch of the house give him lots of eye contact throughout this little interlude. Of course unfortunately George’s character Glenda died in the last session so all we could do was finish off a few bits with his new character Moolsh – just tying up a few loose ends. We have yet to establish how Antiva spent his downtime as Jordan was tied up at the beginning of the session but we will do so retrospectively.

“I’m not a Dwarf, I’m Hirinian you Lofty Delicate Types.” Gray’am AxeSplitter of Xanth.

By the month of the Lion the company as is was sat in the cracked head reminiscing over their lost compatriot. This time George took on the role of Moolsh the thief-spy compatriot of his previous character Glendawynn. Sat in the head having a few jars they are joined by Burli who taps the Bastard for a drink. Burli is desperate to get some decent cash together so that he can pay off various members of the militia to help out his girl-friend the feisty self-styled barbarian princess Amberrh who is ‘laying low’ in the outer reaches of the Great Salt Marsh. (See the Second Playtest Group Sessions for more of Amberrh’s predicament). She has had so many run-ins with the local constabulary for ‘misunderstandings’ (mainly assault) and also with unlicensed thieves intent on stealing her family heirloom from her (hence the assaults) that she has had to go into hiding. Burli is trying to sort out the mess with the constabulary. And that costs! Burli has heard that Pilsbury has a job for Iswann and his friends and he wants ‘in’ on the escapade. Unable to lay hands on Antiva for the moment, who is absorbed in telling Riffkin’s fortune in the bar, they head off the same evening for the Flour magnate’s mansion on the West Side of the Park District.

Batting off the usual offers from street vendors and prostitutes that comes with being men about town late at night Moolsh, Iswann and Burli arrive relatively unmolested at the impressive mansion house of Pilsbury. They chat with the somewhat bizarre late-night gardener Titchmarsh, whom some say uses arcane abilities to foster the impressive topiary. They sit in the waiting room until Pilsbury makes his entrance with his newly acquired Ogre bodyguards. Moolsh isn’t impressed by his choice of companions but they are a fearsome pair. Ogre guards are the ‘must have’ of the would-be elite this season he notices. Pilsbury is rubbing his hands in contemplation of mayhem and profit as he smiles at the trio.

He reminds them of the fracas surrounding the loss of the Jeweller’s son at the same time his businesses were being attacked by Spune’s Terror Troops. A Hirinian Dwarf went missing all of the sudden named Darak. Several months down the line and he’s still missing. Nobody knows what’s happened to him but he has a significant stake in the Hirinian Family’s Jeweller’s business and there are taxes to be paid. Pilsbury is a ‘silent partner’ in this business and has a vested interested in what happens in terms of the ownership of the business, If he is dead, killed by the terrorists as some allege, then this needs verifying. There should be a will or similar, and if there is then Pilsbury wants that document so he can broker the transition of power. It may turn out that he could contest the will and get a controlling stake in the business and expand out of Flour and Bread into the profitable Jewel Market. Iswann and his band have proven themselves able to get results where the city Watch and Constabulory can not. Pilsbury offers them whatever support they need – he’ll pay for additional brute-force if needed, and the company can keep all the bounty and treasure they find on site. By all accounts Dashak was pretty mean with his money and loaded as a result. All he is interested in is either proof of the Hirinian’s death, and or/his will, or the Hirinian alive so that he can resolve his estate and financial affairs.

The party consider whom else would be useful to bring along and when Antiva arrives and they clue him in on the situation – to explore the possibly deceased Dwarf’s mansion and resolve the mystery of his disappearance. He immediately suggests they hire a Hirinian he met a couple of evenings ago in the Head, the first he’s ever seen. Going by the name of Gray’am Axesplitter he is an ex-pit fighter from Xanth and is working as a stevedore at the south docks on a small ship called the Silver Unicorn. The Party locate the Silver Unicorn thanks to the somewhat potty Harbourmaster and the bushy bearded Hirinian takes little persuading when he learns that it is a fellow countryman whose plight it is they are investigating. The prospect of reward and repair of his arms and armour is also a consideration. The stout fellow soon corrects Iswann however over the use of the term ‘Dwarf’. Most frowned upon – damn lanky impertinence!

They head into the north-east quarter of town where the Dwarf Artificer has his residence. It’s close to Ulris’s School near Death Alley. It stands alone in the centre of a walled-off garden. The garden has gone to pot and the mansion is locked up tight but with signs of ongoing neglect to the general décor. The double-doors are bound, banded and locked. Antiva and Moolsh climb their way up onto the roof as the Hirinian Axesplitter tackles the door with Glenda’s lock-picks. He gains entry just as Antiva and Moolsh scramble onto the roof.

Never Split the Party!

Gray’am, Iswann and Burli survey the entrance hall of the mansion. It’s deeply carpeted, no furniture. Smashed stain glass lying on the floor. Several doors lead off and stairs lead up to the second storey with an overhanging balcony. As they get lanterns prepared (it’s all sealed up inside and gloomy) and go to check out the respective doors they hear the sounds of chains rattling and low moaning from deep within the house, up above. It swiftly subsides however and Iswann worries that there may be zombies in the house. They can hear nothing beyond their own more anxious breathing and they make their way, Gray’am taking the lead down a small narrow corridor. Once again the Dwarf makes relatively light work of the door courtesy of the borrowed picks and they are in a much larger chamber, about equal in size to the front entrance with some light coming in from the window overlooking the garden.

The floors a bare and look in one corner to be rotten with woodworm. Iswann pokes about at the floor with his sword to see how bad it is and before he knows it the floor is collapsing before him. Scurrying out of the darkness two giant centipedes – a good 2’ high (they come up to Gray’am’s waist and over 10’ long attempt to bind themselves around the adventurer’s legs. Their scales deter Iswann’s frenzied dagger blows and their jaws are able to find nooks and crannies even in the Hirinian’s scale armour. Both Iswann and Gray’am fight off the sluggish effects of the centipede’s natural poison as Burli tries wrestling the outsize creatures off his companions. His grappling skills enable him to eventually hurl one of the centipedes into the corridor behind them and Gray’am slams the door shut with a well-timed axe swing. He is struggling with the poison of the the second giant centipede wrapped around him and the group as a whole rain blows upon the biting, twisting giant insect. Eventually their joint efforts batter it to death and Gray’am collapses sick with poison and bites upon the floor…

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