Thursday, September 29, 2011

Night's Dark Terror, Session 7

The party moved through a forest of stone. More than petrified wood, the trees, most of them still standing, bore branches, leaves, birds and their nests all turned to grain stone. They locaed the lair of the Wolfskull goblins, a rough fortification of stacked stone logs on the other side of a dark river crossed by a narrow river. They moved up river and then sent Allelle down to the river to scout. He hasn’t returned.

york by zoe seed
york, a photo by zoe seed on Flickr.

PM of 13th - Moldain, 14th Thaumont AC1000

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mayro and the House of Jourdain Part 4 ("What's the pay?")

After Mayro had spent about a week recovering from his wounds, Madam Guto came to him with an offer. The House needed more protection and he had shown that he was a brave and skilful fighter. Would he like to take up residence in the House, guarding her and the women? She offered 30 tael a month plus benefits.

Mayro accepted the offer, and they agreed that he would begin service in a couple more weeks after he fully recovered from his wounds. He asked for his belongings to be brought from his inn and this done. He asked to see Golfo and Nardon; this was attempted, but proved impossible since Beatriss, their patron had been placed under house arrest, and her associate had likewise fallen under official suspicion.

After about a week, and in anticipation of a large party, Mayro was moved from his luxury quarters to the humble room that was intended to be his residence while he stayed in the house. Small, windowless, and obviously not intended for entertaining high-paying guests, the room was clean, private, and located on the upper-floor of the House, otherwise reserved for paying customers.

A few nights later, Mayro’s rest was disturbed by the sound of someone breaking in through the and then running past his door. Grabbing his sword, he followed cautiously. He heard a door being battered down and then screaming. He arrived at one of the bedrooms in time to see a large, fearsome, humanoid creature, green-skinned and covered with sores leaping out the window. There was a woman in the bed, bleeding from cuts caused by the creature’s claws, but not seriously injured. Her companion was completely unharmed, but thoroughly outraged. Madam Guto arrived, told him he has having a bad dream, and convinced him to go to sleep. The injured woman slipped out and another replaced her in the bed.

The next day Madam Guto asked Mayro if he was ready to go to work. She needed him to remain in his room, listening carefully for any outside intruders, and be ready to intercept them. He was ready. Later that same day, one of the women came to him and explained that she was especially afraid of the monster and would he please take up his guard duty in Room Number 4, under the bed? He agreed.

Predictably and yet not so predictably, Madam Guto came to check on Mayro at a time, when Room Number 4 was very much occupied by a customer. He could heard her distinctive walk and he could hear her first lightly rapping on the door and then opening it. Mayro waited for an opportune moment to slip out from under the bed and get out of the room. But the woman beat him to it. He heard a whispered conversation, then the sharp blow of Madam Guto’s cane, then the sound of the woman collapsing on the floor. He got out from under the bed and dashed into the hallway, disturbing the dosing customer.

And the customer was very disturbed. Madam Guto tried to calm him down, but that only outraged him more. Who was this man in his room? Why was his girl lying on the floor here in the hallway? And when Kura, the ostensible of the Little Foxes gang, came upstairs to see what was going on, and then started making insulting threats, the angry customer became outraged. Madam Guto asserted herself once more. She sent Mayro to his room, sent Kura downstairs and tried again to tell the angry customer to calm down. He ignored her, and after putting on his clothes, stomped downstairs, shouting challenges to Kura.

After hearing Madam Guto stride away on her cane, Mayro crept out of his room to check the woman in the hallway. She was dead. Hearing the gang members amassing in the foyer downstairs, Mayro decided not to wait see what was going to happen-- he charged downstairs, and seeing the front door already barred, hurled himself through the window.

No one tried to stop him, and some of gangsters even laughed with surprise. But none of them laughed for long. The angry customer and his bodyguard-- four well-armed fighters were in the courtyard with their swords out demanding that the door be open or that Kura be handed over. There were gangsters in the courtyard, too, and on the roof, but they're defense wa unorganized and feeble. Mayro took out his own bow and assisted the angry customer in fighting his way to the window. Then after, taking a couple blows himself, Mayro ran for the open gate and the open night.

Mayro circled the building, listening to the sounds of fighting, and picked off the gangsters still on the roof. It got quiet, and we waited. After a short time, the angry customer and his men burst out of the gate, singing a song of victory. He watched them go, then set off into the ruins, looking for a safe place to spend the night. He encounter a group of the Emperor-Khan's men, riding on patrol. At once suspicious and deferential, they escorted him to a decent inn in Fun Town. Most of his money and his main spell book had been left behind, but he had enough to pay for his room.

The next day, he went to see Xiao the merchant and ask for a job. "Come back in a few days." He did, only to find that Xiao had left town, called on sudden business. After knocking on a few more doors, he found another merchant he'd served once before, and who, thanks to several profitable seasons, was interested in hiring a well-armored household guard. 6 tael per month, plus upkeep.

Mayro and the House of Jourdain Part 3 ("What's the price?")

Mayro spent a week or so resting, and hanging out in both his secure, comfortable inn and in the common rooms of the seedier inns that he used to call home. He heard rumors that of frequent closings at the House of Jourdain for the purpose of “renovations.” Business was down and they were relaxing their door policy, which as some joked, was likely to bring in more of the guests who create the need for renovations in their wake. Mayro returned to his stakeout point in a half-ruined building.

behind the door by Brayo
behind the door, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

After a few days and nights, Mayro saw a rowdy customer being ejected by a crowd of gangsters with spears and torches. The ejected customer yelled and cursed, threw stones, and banged on the gate, but was ignored. He tried to apologize. “I didn’t mean to.” “I wasn’t going to eat her.” And was ignored some more. After some more threats and stone-throwing, he finally collapsed on the ground outside and fell asleep. In the morning, after the other customers had awakened, the ejected customer woke up. In the morning light, Mayro saw that he bore a striking resemblance to Lord Jourdain, as represented in the portraits hanging in the music room. And the man’s clothes, still distinctively “foreign” despite their ragged filthiness might be those that belonged to Lord Jourdain some 50 years ago. The man rose, wagged his head and knocked sheepishly on the door. After some 30 minutes, he was admitted inside.

Mayro watched throughout the day. Towards evening, he saw a group of gangsters and servant women leave the compound with a basket of garbage, some shovels, and what Mayro guessed to be a body, wrapped in a shroud. The servants dumped the garbage on a pile maybe 50 yards from the compound and continued on their way toward the bluffs overlooking the river. After about 30 minutes trying to dig a grave in the rubble, the gangsters ordered the women to dump the body into the river.

After the group had returned to the compound, Mayro went to investigate at the river. The body, that of a young woman, had slipped out of its shroud, and lay half-in and half-out of the water. From the top of the bluff, Mayro couldn’t guess how she had died; surely the body had been damaged in being flung down some 30 feet over hard rocks.

Without filling them in on all the details, Mayro made contact with Golfo and Nardon and they made plans to enter the House once more as customers. They agreed. They were received well at the door, their weapons were taken for safe-keeping, and they were ushered to the “Drinking Room,” the other, more expensive common room, where customers linger while choosing which woman to pursue. Madam Guto made an appearance almost immediately, promising Mayro, that there was someone very special that she wanted him to meet. “Perfect for you.” While waiting, some other women had some good fun helping the three warriors out of their armor, and trying on the various pieces. First Golfo and then Nardon went upstairs with a new friend-- but Mayro was not left alone for long.
In due time, Madam Guto presented to him Misty Valley, a beautiful woman, dressed as a bride. Mayro, thinking ahead had only carried with him enough to pay the entry fee and the 10 tael going rate for a “room upstairs.” Roughly two months’ salary for a poor mercenary guard, but clearly not enough.

But it wasn’t his money that they were after, but his prowess as a warrior. Misty Valley was promised to another man who she didn’t want to go to. Maybe Mayro would negotiate with this other man. He agreed and Madam Guto took him through the kitchen and down to the cellar. He waited in one room among half-drunk gangsters and sleeping servants while Madam Guto disappeared down a corridor behind a locked door. While he waited, Misty Valley and some of the other expensive courtesans helped him back into his armor and brought him his sword. Madam Guto returned, and brought Mayro into the corridor, then closed the door and locked him inside. “First door on your right!”

Mayro moved down a corridor lit by a lamp hanging on the wall. The first door on the right was ajar and upon pushing it open, he encountered Lord Jourdain in the cramped squalid room that seem to be his living and sleeping quarters. Not wasting any time, Mayro attacked his rival as the man rose from his bed. “Hey, that’s not what I wanted!” He made two cuts with his sword before the other seemed to understand what was happening. “Hey, you’re not a girl!” He reached for his own weapon—a great spiked club—and begin swinging at Mayro, driving him back into corridor. Having pushed Mayro out of the way, “Lord Jourdain” lumbered toward the locked door, demanding a refund. Mayro stabbed him from behind, and at last Jourdain attacked him back in earnest. Despite Mayro’s armor, the force of the man’s blows was incredible, throwing Mayro first against one wall and then the other. But Mayro’s blade was sharp and quick and he continued to slash his enemy. At last, both men, bruised, battered, and bloodied, fell to the ground. Fighting to stay conscious, Mayro called out to help. And his call was answered. Mayro had the sensation of being carried and opened his eyes long enough to see the dead body of hairy, hulking bestial man in the place where Jourdain had fallen, the gangsters engaged in chopping off its head.

When Mayro next regained consciousness, he was in a large comfortable bed with perfumed linens . . .

Golfo and Nardon came to see him in the morning. Madam Guto was grateful for his help, and promised to help him recover. Golfo and Nardon especially were reluctant to leave their friend, but as Madam Guto pointed out, moving him through the ruins in is current condition could be lethal.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mayro and the Monastery of the Two-Fold Path

Mayro moved to a new, better inn to get a private room with a lock on the door, and bought a small iron box to store his valuables. While waiting for Golfo to recover from his fight with the giant leech, Mayro did another stake-out of the House of Jourdain. Mainly, he saw more of the same: another servant woman being driven out with a beating, occasional deliveries during the day, 3 or 4 groups of customers at night. Curiously, one day he arrived at his stake-out post to find others already there—also watching the House. He slipped away without being noticed. Also, one night, he saw a group of monks leaving the House near dawn, and taking a couple women with them; he trailed them back to the monastery of the Two-Fold Path.

Golfo had told Mayro a few things about this Monastery, and Mayro now decided that he had seen enough that he was ready to go in. The next day, a little before dawn, the party (Mayro, Golfo, and Nardon, all wearing their new armor) made their move. Golfo was able to point out a formerly secret, now half-concealed, back entrance and they began exploring the ruined former living quarters. Their were a few signs of recent maintenance, but most of what they saw lay in complete disarray. Large sections were returning to a natural state with weeds, sapling, and even mature trees growing amongst the rubble of a collapsed hall. They began picking their way through those rooms, which while burned and scarred still had intact ceilings and internal walls.

Mayro & co. lost a hireling when the floor collapsed beneath them in one room. The seasoned warriors knew how take a fall, but the malnourished laborer did not. But there was little time for mourning as the noise attracted attention of a group men who began shooting arrows at them on sight. The party returned fire and killed the men. After climbing out of the pit, they examined the bodies, and found that they did not look like monks, but nomads or wandering brigands. The party retreated to rest and returned a few days later. Nothing much had changed. The party crossed the pit without incident and in the rooms beyond, found a stable, seemingly unused, and a long flight of stairs descending underground.

The space underneath the monastery was dug roughly out of the hard clay. The tunnels were narrow and twisting, and the party soon saw an explanation as to why, when they stumbled into a room occupied by a group of giant insects, some bipedal and wielding weapons, the others more conventional except for their size, roughly that of large dogs or even ponies. The insects allowed the party to retreat while guarding their own weaker members.

Continuing their exploration of the underground space while avoiding the narrower tunnels, the party came to a tunnel sloping up and ending at a ladder and a trapdoor. Mayro climbed the ladder and with a little effort, busted it open—to find himself surrounded by about 20 monks. Their initial response was surprised relief, but they soon showed signs of suspicion or hostility and Mayro dropped back down.

Fleeing with his companions, Mayro & co. heard at least a couple monks in pursuit and decided to take a chance in the insects’ warren. They fought their way through a small group of giant ants and then found themselves at the center of the hive, in a large chamber housing the overfed, glutinous body of the queen and her many attendant guards. These guards were fierce and did not allow an easy retreat. Likewise their hard exoskeletons repelled most of the warriors’ blows. Fighting within an inch of their lives, just to get back out of the queen’s chamber, the party fled the insects’ den and made a beeline (ow!) for the relatively safe, ruined section of the Monastery. After catching their breath and binding their wounds as best they could, they made all the way out and returned to Khanbaliq. Mayro concluded that the Monastery wasn’t something to tackle with such a small party.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mayro Below the Jade Temple / Review: Lesserton & Mor (One DM’s perspective)

Although one reviewer noted rightly that “Below the Jade Temple” a 5-page mini-crawl set in the ruins of Mor, is not, the major selling point of a product with over 100 pages, most of them devoted to descriptions of locales, folk, and plots of the base town—it is the focus of this “review.” Reason number one: this post is also an adventure log describing Mayro’s exploits in the Jade Temple. Reason number two: I have way too much unused campaign source material that might provide very interesting reading for DMs, but because of a lack of obvious “plot entry points,” will likely remain unusable. Indeed, often I find that campaign sourcebooks are so well-presented as self-regulating machines that I can’t imagine how autonomous PCs could be introduced without breaking them. Therefore, a fully fleshed out adventure provides an introduction to a setting that DMs and players may begin to see as their own.

The Jade Temple uses an entry-point that’s straight-forward without forcing the players’ hand. By chance they meet an adventurer (Golfo) who had been taken prisoners by a band of orkin living in the ruins. Imprisoned in the base of a small tower, he heard noises below him that made him think that there was a hidden entrance to a ruined temple. Thus there were two motivations for adventure: revenge and exploration/looting. Instead of orkin,
I varied this a little, and added some Khanbaliq-specific details. Golfo had been imprisoned by members of the Dirty Rain gang after he ran up large gambling debts that he was unable to pay. The Dirty Rain had planned to sell him as a mine slave, but instead he was purchased by an agent of the Black Flower gang. The Black Flowers had their own terms—they had wanted Golfo to find some friends to attack the Dirty Rain outpost and secure the tower. Although Golfo had escaped this debt by helping to exterminate the Black Flowers, he was still interested in seeing what was inside and below the tower. And Mayro reasoned that it was ok to kill people who had planned to sell your friend into slavery.

We played this game with one PC (Mayro who is a 3rd level M.U., Fighter) plus Golfo (published as a 2nd level fighter, he has risen to 4th level in adventures with Beatriss) and Nardon (also a 4th level fighter). I expect this adventure was intended for a larger number of lower-level characters. There were a couple places where their small numbers made the adventure much more dangerous.

Although he understood that it meant earning no XP for the adventure, Mayro opted to rely on magic to gain entrance to the tower. Ironically, the adventure includes enough detail about the gang’s daily activities-- including visits to the well to collect water—that had Mayro followed his usual M.O. of a long stakeout, he might have found another way. But his approach was very quick and very safe: sleep on the sentries from a distance, then jump up to the top of the tower. He killed the sleeping sentries, then brought his companions up on a rope.

They broke into the tower from the top and worked their way down, killing the gang members in their barracks rooms. When they found a locked door, the occupant raised the alarm, but the party took a defensive position and knocked off the gangsters in small numbers. Once the attackers stopped coming, the party moved through the ground floor and found the kitchen and then the stairs to the cellar—a succinctly described place of squalid misery well-known to Golfo, with a single pair of manacles hanging on the wall.

There was hole in the floor covered by a grate. In previewing the module, I was a little anxious the total of 3 spots requiring a successful bend bars in order to continue with the adventure. While I appreciate the realism, it can be really anticlimactic. Isn’t it almost better to fail a save and die of poison, then to fail a bend bars check and then have to just go home early? Anyway, this was actually the only instance, where it came down to a straight die roll and one of the three reasonably strong fighters made it and down they went.

Sewers! They’re a cliché I never get tired of and I don’t think anyone else does either. Consider that every urban feature—roads, sidewalks, intersections, even skyscrapers-- has its mirror image underground.

Fantasy blue. by phill.d
Fantasy blue., a photo by phill.d on Flickr.

Really? Anyway, the sewer map here is small, but suggestive of something larger, and more complicated. By simple process of elimination, the party was able to find its way to their intended goal, but there are plenty of blocked passageways that could offer passage to other “fossils” of the old city. Some passages were narrow and some wide, some filled with standing water, and others dry. Finding a nest of oversized worms (carrion crawlers) at the end of one of the blocked passageways gave them a clue that something lay beyond and after slaying the worms, (not difficult, but dangerous with a small party—at one point both NPCs were paralyzed by those nasty tentacles,) and “thawing out” Mayro & co. began trying to dig their way through. The module has some nice rules for exhaustion, that I unfortunately forgot to apply.

And on the other side of the rubble? The thrill of a locked gate! You can’t get beyond, but you know you’re going the right way or there wouldn’t be a gate here. Rather than trying to bend bars (I suppose an open locks check could have also worked if they’d had a thief), Mayro started bashing the lock with a big rock. This shook the gate and the roof above. And it shook up the party a little, but not enough. After killing some worm worms that popped out behind the falling flagstones, Mayro attacked the lock some more and finally broke it off. Behind this lay the third “test of strength” another grate, this one at the end of a small, upward slanting crawl space. Mayro tied a rope to one of the bars and I let all three of them combine their rolls.

So they broke through the grate and continued to the sarcophagi room. What I liked about this room is that the guardians weren’t inside the sarcophagi. After one tough fight and one easy one, the adventurers looted the room—jade monkey statue plus small jewelry on the long-dead priests.

Perhaps the best moment was one the way out when Golfo, in crossing through one of the “wet” tunnels, stepped on a weak point in the floor and fell through, taking the party’s torch with him, and plunging everyone into darkness. They heard him scream for help and jumped in after him. They found themselves about waist deep in water and fighting something big and slimy that had attached its mouth to one of Golfo’s legs and was sucking out his blood. Golfo stabbed at its head while the others attacked its thrashing body, and they killed it in time to save Golfo. After catching their breath, they dug a dry torch out of Golfo’s backpack, lit it and surveyed what seemed, for a few minutes, their likely final resting place.

They were in a 30’ diameter globular cavern, with water about up to their waist and no obvious exits. Water from the corridor above that they’d been sloshing around in was pouring down in a small, but steady stream. They were in no immediate danger of drowning, but neither was the chamber filling fast enough that they could forward to letting it fill the chamber and carry them back up to the exit. It was one of those times when the rules about re-acquisition of spells really matter. Mayro had his spell book, but what else did he need to re-learn jump? My long-standing house rule is spells can be re-acquired at any time through one-half-hour of uninterrupted study per spell level. I’m very diligent about wandering monster checks, and because any serious interruption (e.g. even the howling of a pack of wolves that do not attack, but not one of your friends sneezing) requires the spell-caster to start all over again, higher level spells can be very difficult to learn outside of one’s own locked study. Obviously, this rule worked very much to the party’s favor in this case. Also in mine, since the “standard rule” would have put me in the position of figuring out whether Mayro would be able to get a good night’s sleep on the slopes of an underground pool if his life depended on it.

Mayro spent some his time with his spell book, took a torch from Goldo and the rope from Nardon and jumped out of the hole, then turned around and pulled out his companions. On their way out, they found that the door from the cellar to the tower was barred, giving them some notice that the Dirty Rain may have returned, but broke down the door without any special precautions. They exited the tower made tracks for the city, only to be waylaid by a small group of Dirty Rain on the road. Neither side was eager for combat, and the party was able to pass after surrendering some of the jewelry they’d looted from the temple.

After resting up for a few days, they went to visit Xiao, who helped them find a buyer for the jade monkey statue. Each of them decided to spend about half his share on a suit of full armor—lacquered steel plates, co-ordinated arm-guards and leg-guards, tailored epaulets and lined gauntlets—the works. Mayro also invested in the supplies needed to create a second spell book containing a couple of his favorite spells.

Ancient Iron Armor by rockourworld1
Ancient Iron Armor, a photo by rockourworld1 on Flickr.

In closing, and to state what I hope is obvious, yes, “Under the Jade Temple,” is a solid mini-adventure that provides players a clearly-defined objective even while contributing to a sense of what the ruins are like and who is moving among them. I don’t think it would make much sense to run it as a one-off, but it works as well in any other “ruins” setting (e.g. mine) as it does in Mor. And it’s very useful as a stepping stone to more Mor adventures , or again, getting deeper into the referee’s to consider what parts can be adapted to one’s own setting.

Mayro and the House of Jourdain Part 2 ("What's my alignment?")

Now in possession of a little cash, Mayro, Goldo, and Nardon decided to return to the House of Jourdain as customers, ostensibly just for the purpose of gathering information.

Cheongsam woman-3 by sun art space photo
Cheongsam woman-3, a photo by sun art space photo on Flickr.

They were admitted through the front gate and then through the front door and welcomed to the music room, a comfortable lounging area, richly adorned with a unique collection of local and foreign luxuries, including portraits of the House’s original owner, Lord Jourdain. Among the customers there was a samurai from Zipang, one Gamo Mitsu, who tried to pick a fight with Golfo over one of the women. Madam Guto intervened, sending Gamo and his bodyguards upstairs with various companions. This left Mayro & co. nearly alone in the Music Room. The other occupants—a musician, a drowsy merchant and a woman who were sharing a bottle of wine — were magically eased into slumber. After looking behind the paintings and finding nothing, Mayro stole a handful of tael from the sleeping merchant and the party took their leave.
The problem, Mayro, explained, was that he really hadn’t seen anything to justify taking more decisive action. Madam Guto was creepy, but he wasn’t going to just cut down an old woman. The prostitutes seemed happy enough, and didn’t show any signs of being held against their will. During his days of surveillance he had seen a badly-beaten servant woman being ejected from the House, but she had refused to talk to him, and so he was reluctant to speculate as to how she had been injured, who was responsible, or why he, Mayro, should be involved in the administration of justice. The investigation or plunder of the House of Jourdain was only one of several opportunities for adventure recommended by Golfo, and it now seemed to Mayro that some of the other options promised more clearly-delineated adversaries and more loot.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mayro and the House of Jourdain Part 1 (“What's our objective?”)

Because he had some familiarity with the House of Jourdain already, Mayro liked the idea of sticking his nose in there, but wasn’t sure whether his approach should be to attack the people who ran the brothel or sneak in and steal things.

So he started with some surveillance, setting up a shelter at the edge of an encampment of nomads that was in the same general vicinity. After a couple days of watching, Mayro learned that customers came in the night and left at morning, and that occasionally merchants made deliveries, but that the gang members didn’t seem to leave except to hang lamps outside as the sun was going down. He tried to gain entrance as a paying customer, but couldn’t even get through the gate due to his lack of funds. So he made the acquaintance of one of the brothel’s suppliers, a dealer in silken garments, and tried to get a job.

And he got a job. Not a permanent one, but a one-day contract that involved him accompanying the merchant (“Xiao”) when he made his monthly delivery to a particular customer that always tried to cheat him, or to offer unseemly and unfavorable barter terms. Day-to-day, Xiao felt secure with a couple men-at-arms, but for dealing with Madam Guto at the House of Jourdain, he would appreciate additional protection. Mayro offered the additional protection of his associates Golfo and Naron, and this was accepted.
Zheng He by aliinjapan
Zheng He, a photo by aliinjapan on Flickr.

When the group arrived at the House of Joudain, they were welcomed inside the music room and told that Madam Guto was running late. Young women brought them tea and made light, flirtatious conversation. When Madam Guto did appear, she told Xiao that she did not have enough money to pay and would we accept a smaller sum. He refused. She said she would look for more money and that while they were waiting Xiao should let one of the girls entertain him in her room. To Mayro’s surprise, Xiao agreed. He even tried to stop him from going, but the merchant shook him off. Not knowing what else to do, Mayro stood outside the room.
After about an hour, Xiao returned and so did Madam Guto. She could pay half, was that enough? Xiao was angry and distraught. He wasn’t going to let her trick him like that and he wasn’t dealing with her again, and he demanded his money. They waited some more. Feeling increasingly compromised, by the surroundings, the old woman’s commanding presence, his own lack of discretion, and the sounds of a group gathering in the courtyard, Xiao at last relented and sold his silks at a steep discount. After being escorted home, Xiao paid Mayro and his friends their promised wages and told them he’d be in touch if he needed their help again.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mayro in Khanbaliq

One of the consequences of being slightly embarrassed about playing D&D is that you end up playing in small, furtive groups, even one-on-one sometimes. Or oftentimes, since you don’t have to co-ordinate around several people’s schedules and you’re roommates. So here’s what happened in Khanbaliq when I re-connected with an old friend, went to visit him in Florida, and he dug out his old character, Mayro—rolled up close to 20 years ago.

Quick backstory on Mayro: Mayro was a desert nomad, captured by "the empire" and sold as a slave to northern barbarians. Later, he was acquired by a "Persian" merchant, and became the merchant's personal secretary/bodyguard, and spent many years traveling with him until the merchant died in Khanbaliq. Since then, he’s been living hand-to-mouth, as a longtime resident at a poor inn, doing odd jobs and getting occasional jobs as a guard. Meta-game details: Mayro started as a Magic-User, reached 3rd level, then switched to fighter and has reached 3rd level. This is not multi-classing, but dual-classing. Maybe it shouldn’t be allowed, but it’s in the AD&D PHB 1e and 2e.

So then, Mayro became acquainted with other masterless swordsmen who float around the poor inns in the laborers’ district in Khanbaliq. Among these acquaintances is Golfo, who pulled him in on the assault on the Black Flower gang at the House of Joudain.

Following the qualified success of that attack, Golfo shared with Mayro his other schemes for getting rich while making the world a better place.

IMG_8787 by Brayo
IMG_8787, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

Night's Dark Terror, Session 5

Pavel: "My hopes that Law has a purpose for these people, beyond chasing horses and gold has been encouraged by their decision to attempt the rescue of a good Traldaran who was captured by goblins in one of their raids. As a man of experience, I realize that he already been butchedred, cooked, and eaten, but I keep this to myself, allowing my companions' ambition to encourage their valor and other virtues. Tracking the cowardly goblins has likewise presented hardships-- in the form of cold, rain, darkness, hard beds and hard food-- that stregthens the character of a good man, even while it drives the wicked to increasingly desperate act. Time (and additional hardships!) will surely provide future proof to which camp each of us belongs. (That includes your Pavel. While I may be inured to natural hardships and have faced death in the eyes of embodied evil, I sense temptations and challenges before of forms too terrible to imagine.) Even today, we encountered and slew a terrible wolf that in death showed its true form to be that of a Traldaran man. Today a man in the form of a wolf, tomorrow perhaps we meet a wolf in the form of a man! For any of us, death may come at any time. "

Gromdain, 12 Thaumont AC 1000 (& early AM Tserdain, the 13th)

yellow moon by Brayo
yellow moon, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this (Night's Dark Terror, Session 4)

I missed session 3, in which the party defended Sukiskyn from goblin raiders. Although they were repelled, the goblins did manage to steal a large number of horses were stolen and in session 4, we went after them, under an agreement that we’d be allowed to keep half(?) of those we recovered. We tracked the goblins to a small, human settlement a few hours away, recovered the horses and brought them back to Sukiskyn. In the morning, a small of group of men approached Sukiskyn, explaining that their own settlement had been attacked and Stefan (brother to Pyotr, our host at Sukiskyn) had been kidnapped. More details can be found here: Soladain, 10 Thaumont AC 1000

This rest of this post is a rambling editorial, looking at why my character Pavel, the cleric, is on this adventure or why any cleric goes on any adventure.

It’s kind of stupid to ask, “Why does my character even want to go on this adventure?” A good answer is, “Why are you even here in my basement?”

But you'll keep reading anyway. Some other answers . . .

Because you’re the strongest, smartest, most generally capable man in the village and if you don’t go kill that Thing, it will come here and kill all of us.

Because you’re too lazy to work, too imprudent to save . . . too shiny to go without and too sexy to care . . . and that Thing is sitting on a big pile of gold.

Because that Thing’s as old as the world and it . . . knows things.

Because you took care of a lot of widows and orphans last week and preached a bang-up sermon yesterday and by golly you deserve your day to recharge like anyone else! And maybe, besides the Thing, there’s a vampire in that cave, and you can kill that, too.

With clerics, it’s hard. Although most members of the priestly caste are insulated from danger, life's random deprivations, even the need to go out and make a living, there are some who exile themselves from the comfort most other adventurers are, at least nominally seeking. In Pavel's case, he was a young acolyte who went into the wilderness for twenty years. That’s long enough to go crazy, and not long enough to get back.

The adventure associated with Night’s Dark Terror is pretty straight-forward: help us get these valuable white horses for a cut of their sale price. That could happen in our world. Goblins and ankhegs take the place of rustlers and injuns. Or to be more narrowly contemporary, speed traps and intestinal worms. (It's just the horses who have worms. Probably).

And the low-fantasy realism of it makes it even harder to explain why the priest-man is there.

He has access to very powerful painkillers and anti-biotics.

In the last game, he was also able to warn Allelle, an Elf Fighter/ Mage about the dangers of consorting with goblins. About an hour after we met a goblin in a tree—whom Allelle communicated with using the disgusting creature’s own perverted language— we met another elf, a woman, who was living in the company of goblins, and whom we shot dead. Slippery slope. Lie down with dogs. (Some of the sharper members of the party think she may have been a hostage, but don’t tell Pavel.)

Pavel is a Traldaran, and has a strong suspicion of not only non-humans, but even non-Traldarans—i.e. Thyatians. At the goblins camp, they found dead prisoners in the huts and almost his first thought was, “Are these Traldarans?” Is it still Xenophobia when those who aren’t your kind want to eat you? (Either literally, with the goblins, or metaphorically, in the case of the Thyatians who are consuming Traldaran resources and obliterating Traldaran culture.)

Pavel rejects the creature comforts of civilization but he hasn't necessarily adapted to the wilderness either. Rather, he endures. And maybe deprivation and fear associated with the wilderness are in some ways easier to grapple with the spirtiual threats presents by city life. Or even outpost-in-the-forest life.

IMG_0230 by Brayo
IMG_0230, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

One of the great features of D&D is the leveling system and the qualified expectation that a band of impoverished adventures will one day be heroes. And this gives some credence to Pavel’s otherwise baseless “prophecy” that this is not just about horses and getting paid, but at some point we will be called to do something really important in the service of Law. (Never mind that Pavel may be the only Lawful member of the party, that’s all part of the prophecy.)