Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Cyenannore: Chapter 5 - Beglaxeth

 (Read the previous chapter here.)

System: Tunnels & Trolls 
Tools: Wizardawn (While no longer available online, easily usable server files are available for download); Random Encounters, Vol. 2, No. 8 by Epic Werkes; UNERPGSolo.com 
(The above contains affiliate links.)

[Scene 1]

With no other way to go, the group left the Ward and headed back into the hallway and to the untried door in the north end.  Unlike the door they just left, this one was still intact.  As before, Fiddlestix did a quick check for traps and to see if the door was locked.  It wasn’t. <Is the door locked? (unlikely) No> She let Jonik by and the group entered.

The room was rectangular in shape and the door was set in one of the shorter walls. Its length was just over forty feet and about half that for its width. A triangular shaped wedge, or alcove, was cut out of the north wall. Hanging around the room mounted in plain frames were a few paintings, mostly of landscapes.  Between them were several bare spaces with nothing but an empty peg or two that clearly used to hold other paintings that were now long gone. 

The door they came though was situation in one corner, but in the other three stood large rectangular columns, or shafts, that were built out of the walls on either side.  It would be more accurate to say that only the top half of the columns were intact, since the lower halves were shattered and littered across the ground.  Lying among the rubble were stone body parts, apparently the destroyed remnants of several statues. At the vertex of the wedge shaped alcove in the north wall was a fourth column.  Unlike the other three, this one was mostly intact, except for a small broken hole that revealed the head of whatever statue it held. 

Within the alcove on either side of the column were shelves that were nearly empty. Across the front of the alcove was a raised dais that reached out halfway into the room. It about a foot higher than the rest of the tiled floor and lined with stone columns spaced at five foot intervals. Each column was carved with intricate patterns. In the center of the dais sat a long, golden sarcophagus etched with images, similar to the ones they saw in the preparation chamber, of the priest Mindrek and the god Zeriel.

As if this wasn’t enough to catch the party’s eyes, reclining across the top of the golden sarcophagus was a grotesque demonic creature. The rotund being was barely five feet tall and covered with elephantine purple skin and scales. Pointed ears stuck out from his head, as did long, pointed horns.  His eyes glowed purple and his mouth was filled with long teeth and fangs.  The monster was bare except for metal, spiked shoulder armor, metal boots, loincloth, and a kilt-like circle of leaves.

Around the base of the sarcophagus stood other beings, each appearing to favor a different element.  One’s skin was a mixture of dark, rocky plates and orange, glowing lava. Another was red with flames licking the surface of its skin. The last two seemed to be comprised of coagulated steam. Despite being larger than the demon, the four creatures appeared to be subservient to him.  The steam creatures rubbed his feet; the fire creature massaged his shoulders; and the lava creature fanned him with a fan made from large bird feathers.

“What are those?” Sylralei whispered in Jonik’s ear.

“That is a demon.  From its size, I assume it of the lesser variety.  Those other creatures are imps. Fire, lava, and two steam.”

<Random monster roll: 1 Success. What type? Lower Demon
Is it accompanied by any imps? (Likely | 7[d10]) Yes +Event: Malice / Military  (saved for later)
How Many imps? d4=4
Are the Imps immediately with the Demon?  (50/50) Yes, and . . . they are attending to him like at a spa.

The column-encased statues are a result of the “Ambush/Extravagance” event that occurred back with the group entered the crypt.  I determined it meant that treasure of the crypt (extravagance) would be protected by golems that would attack any thieves that tried to take the treasure (ambush)

Since there were already monsters here, I asked if the columns were damaged (reason to be explained later). (50/50) Yes, but . . .    (d4) 1 of the columns is still intact.

Demon reaction from T&T Monster Reaction Chart:  9-The monster is more interested in making a deal than fighting.

UNE: Insane - Idiocy - Future Action>


The purple demon turned to the group, his glowing eyes widening in anticipation. “Oh! You’ve finally arrived.” His deep voice expressed frustrated relief, as though he’d been waiting for the party for an excruciatingly long time.  “You can get started with the repairs right away, beginning with those columns over there.”  He waved his hand toward the crumbled stone in the far corners.

“What in the underworld is he talking about?” Syl whispered to Jonik.

“I have no idea. Should we ask?”

“Please,” Syl burst with exasperation.

“I’m sorry,” Jonik addressed the demon. “Do you think we are a repair crew?”

The demon sat up straighter, holding up a hand that caused his attendants to stop what they were doing. “Ag’thunok assured me he was sending over some slaves to help clean up around here.  Surely, you are them.”

“Um, no,” Jonik disagreed.  “Can’t say I’ve ever heard of . . .  Ag’thoon?  Ag’thung?”

“Ag’thounok!” the demon corrected.

“Whatever. We here on behalf of the Church of Zeriel the Free, the God of Creativity.  We have been hired to retrieve certain objects buried with the Exalted Priest Mindrek.”

<What is the demon’s reaction? UNE: Insane-Confusion-Enemy>

“Oh, that snaky little Puss-Drinker!” the creature explodes. “Who is he trying to fool! He pretends to be my friend. ‘No problem, Beglaxeth,’ Ag says. ‘I’ll send some help.’ But all the while, that 30-toed spawn of pond scum is potting against me with the church of Zeriel. I told him I can’t get to the treasure. Still, he thinks he can just use their priests check on me anyway, take what they find, and, once they have it, steal it from them. Well, if Ag’thunok thinks I’m that easy a push-over, he has another thing coming!”  Pointing to the group, he orders his imps. “Kill them!”

<Ok, a lot is going on in this battle.  I’ll start with a quick set up, then a round of narrative, then a brief (hopefully) summary of the mechanics behind each round.

The group encounters one Lesser Demon and four imps.
Lesser Demon: MR80
Fire Imp: MR65
Steam Imp: MR55
Steam Imp: MR55
Lava Imp: MR50

Does Belaxeth join the fight? (Unlikely) No.

I did approach this battle with some DM knowledge, in particular, spellcasters needed to have a 20 INT or greater to cast spells that directly affect the imps.  Therefore, I didn’t waste spells that wouldn’t work on the imps>

The elemental imps, excited to be doing something more than pampering their pompous master, rushed toward the party.  Jonik, Kris, and Dalen moved forward with weapons drawn. Fiddlestix, thinking quickly, cast a Glue You spell at the approaching imps before pulling out her Haladie.  They slowed down noticeably, giving the group some additional time to prepare. Nen used the time to cast Vorpral Blade <double attack dice> on both Kris and Dalen.  Syl cast the same on Jonik.

Despite the steam imps’ vaporous appearance, Dalen and Fiddlestix’s weapons tore through, causing the monsters to reel in obvious pain. Jonik and Kris’ blades also pierced the sluggish monsters. Being a bit too overconfident, however, the two were grasped by the fire and lava imps respectively and felt the burn as the heat scorched their arms.  Sylralei was also caught off-guard and scratched by the fire imp, but slipped away as she prepared her next spell.

<Glue You allows the party to have two combat rounds to the victim's one. It has a range of 30’, so I interpreted that to mean I could cast it on all enemies within that range (perhaps more advantageous to the party than the original intent if it was supposed to be against a single enemy).  To account for the 2-to-1 effect, I simply doubled the amount of the party’s attack dice and adds.  Spellcasters could either cast two spells (such as Nen), or cast one spell and attack once (such as Fiddlestix).
After calculating all the dice and adds, this was the result:

Round 1 - Imps: 198 points (four 6s)  Party: 336 (seven 6s)  Party wins by 138.
Two Imps take 34 damage; Two imps take 35 damage.
Spite Damage (6s) against the party are randomly distributed to Kris (1), Syl (1), and Jonik (2).>

“Snap out of it!” Beglaxeth yelled at his minions.  “They’re embarrassing you!” <Does Beg join? (50/50) No, but . . . He spurns them on, preparing to join in next turn.>

As if on cue, the Glue You ran its course and released the imps. Seeing them suddenly speed up, Fiddlestix cried, “Look out!”

Heeding his partner’s warning, Jonik backed away as the fire imp swung wildly at him.  In his effort to avoid the flaming arm, Jonik careened into one of the remaining paintings of a maiden riding a unicorn. The frame came loose from one of its mounts and swung freely until it stopped at a forty-five degree angle.  As it did, a loud crack and crash emitted from up on the dais. Kris looked up to see the column at the back of the alcove shatter and the stone man run out with unexpected speed.

“What in the world it that?” he asked.

“Guardian Golem?” Dalen suggested, still fighting off the steam imp. “They must be the tomb’s security.”

The golem sped directly to Jonik, who stood next to the disturbed art.  Its fists came crashing down and the elf’s shoulder while he tried to dodge the blow. Protecting her friend, Fiddle blasted the new enemy with a Take That You Fiend spell.  Meanwhile, Kris and Dalen continued to battle the remaining imps while Syl and Nen strengthened the party’s weapons with continued Vorpral Blade spells.

<Does the art get touched, releasing the golem? (Likely) Yes, and . . . the golem is in attacking range, meaning he doesn’t need to spend a turn to enter the fray.  Since he is a neutral enemy whose job it is to protect the tomb, each round I will determine randomly which side he attacks.  This round it is the party.

Stone Golem: MR105 (I ignored several characteristics listed on Wizardawn for golems, otherwise, it would have been impossible for this group to beat it.)

Syl and Nen cast Vorpral Blade on Jonik and Kris.  Fiddlestix casts TTYF

Round 2 - Imps: 154 (one 6)  Party: 157 (five 6s)  Party wins by only 3, but all of Fiddlestix TTYF damage can still be applied (21 points) to the Golem, with the 6s being spread among all the monsters.  Jonik is randomly assigned the damage from the one 6 rolled by the monsters.>

“Rrrrr! I’ve never seen a more worthless group of denizens!”  Beglaxeth exclaimed as slid off the coffin and approached. “I guess I need to take care of them myself!”

The stone golem seemed unfazed, despite being damaged by Fiddlestix’s spell, and continued to pursue Jonik.  Following the leprechaun’s example, Sylralei cast her own Take That You Fiend spell against the golem, but with a little extra push <cast at level 2 for twice the WIZ cost and twice the damage>.

Fiddlestix took a quick look at situation.  Nen was still casting spells, strengthening Kris’ scimitar. Syl was focusing her attention on the golem. Kris, Dalen, and Jonik continued the battle the imps, who have been joined by the golem, and the ugly, purple demon was heading their way. Seeing that the battle might soon turn against her group, she did the only thing that seemed appropriate at the time . . . she cast another Glue You at the imps and disappeared!

Almost immediately, she reappeared standing directly behind Beglaxeth and, before he knew she was there, thrust her halide into his back.

<Since the golem is directly being attacked by the party, I’ll skew the probability that he will continue to attack them.  Party: 1-4  Monsters: 5-6  Roll=3

Fiddle will cast another Glue You, giving the party two attacks this round.
Nen casts Vorpral Blade on Kris and attacks.
Syl casts TTYF (doubled) on Golem and attacks.

For Fiddle’s second attack, she uses Wink-Wing to teleport behind the demon and attempt to make a surprise attack.  If she succeeds, her damage is done no matter the outcome (similar to a TTYF spell).  I gave the demon L4 LCK SR (Demon LCK based on Wizardawn). His roll failed.

Round 3 -  - Monsters: 214 (three 6s)  Party: 242 (four 6s)  Party wins by 28 but 30 points of damage is actually done against the golem thanks to TTYF.  Fiddle does an additional 10 points against the demon for her sneak attack.

Spite damage (6s) were randomly distributed.>

Thanks to the hindrance of the Glue You spell, what should have been a rout by the imps had turned into a manageable battle by Kage Gordain and their newfound mercenary friends. All four imps and the golem were still battling, but the group was able to dodge their strikes with only a few scratches here and there. Kris then noticed the lava imp begin to move a bit more freely.

“Fiddle!  Blast ‘em again!”

“I can’t.  My magic is too drained.”

“We just have to depend on plain ole weapons and brawn, friend” Dalen tells Kris.

“I guess so,” Kris agreed as he took a great swing at the lava imp, severing its head cleanly from its body.

Before a steam imp could fully regain its movement, Dalen hacked off one of its arms. The creature retaliated by lashing out at the dwarf before falling to the ground, barely still alive.

The second steam imp regained its full movement, but unfortunately for it, the sudden change in speed caused it to miss Jonik and strike the stone golem instead.  The golem, constructed only to protect the tomb and itself without discrimination, turned its attention to the imp and tore it to shreds.

Their magic heavily reduced at this point, Nen and Syl lifted their weapons as Fiddlestix continued her attack on the rotund demon as it stumbled in its attempt to turn and face his attacker.

<Roll determines the golem attacks the monsters.

Round 4 - Monsters: 125 (one 6)  Party + Golem: 202 (three 6s)  Party wins by 77

Dalen randomly takes the spite (6) damage.  Two imps are killed (Lava, steam)  The second steam imp has 1hp.  Fire imp has 9.  Demon has 52.>

With one final hack, Dalen dispatched the steam imp. Nen and Syl quickly removed the fire imp from this world before joining Kris as he turned to attack stone golem.  Jonik sprinted to Fiddle’s side to assist her fight against the demon.  In just a matter of minutes it was all over, and the tired, but surprisingly little scathed, group stood over the bodies of the otherworldly creatures.

<Round 5 - Monsters + Golem: 101 (four 6s)  Party: 165 (three 6s)  Party wins by 63
Round 6 - The party’s combat adds are greater than the monsters roll of 56, so I didn’t even roll for them.  As typical, all the damage from the 6s were randomly distributed among the group, but no one was close to being knocked out.

Full disclosure, in rereading my notes, I believe I made some errors in running this battle.  I tried to retcon them as best as possible for narrative purposes, but I believe the final outcome would have been the same had I not made the errors.>

[Scene 2]

“What did we just stumble upon?” Kris asked, surveying the carnage.

“Squatters,” Fiddlestix responded, wiping off her haladie on the demon’s minimal garments.


“Demons often hang out in old tombs,”  Jonik explained in an attempt to clear up Kris’ confusion. “They make them their homes.  Maybe they like being around death.  Perhaps is a way of turning their noses up to the gods.  I don’t think anyone know the real reason.”

“If Zeriel is so powerful,” Syl sneered, “Why didn’t he just kick them out?”

Jonik shrugged in response. Fiddlestix gave a disregarding, “Who cares? It happens. We deal with it.”

“When he was spouting off, that demon said something about not being able to get the treasure,” Kristopher reminded them.  “What do you think he meant by that?”

“Perhaps Zeriel was able to protect the crypt afterall,” Jonik suggested, casting a mildly triumphant glance at Syl.  “Perhaps his master sent him to fetch the Gloves of Original Beauty, but, being a demon, he didn’t have the power to steal something so divine.”

“Or there was nothing to steal,” Syl quickly countered, looking over the nearly bare shelves. “It looks like this place has been pretty well cleared out.”

“But if there was nothing for Beglaxeth here, why would he stay,” Nen asked.

“Maybe it’s as Jonik already said?” Dalen offered, recalling Joniks explanation and the various tales he had heard himself.  “They took up residence in this old crypts to taunt Zeriel or it’s church.”

Fiddlestix glanced around the burial chamber. “Taunting aside, he had some decent digs here . . . for a demon.  Protection from the weather.  Servants. A dark creepiness.  Why would he want to leave?”

“Especially if he was hiding from that Ad’thunk he mentioned,” Jonik added.  “Or whatever his name was.  It’s possible Beglaxeth would have been punished if he returned empty-handed, so by staying here, the demon was pushing off the inevitable as long as possible.  Which brings us back to the reason we’re here.  The Gloves.  Let’s see if they are in the coffin.”

Jonik grasped the lid of the sarcophagus as he motioned to the rest of the group to lend a hand. Jonik and Dalen each grabbed a hold of the lid, while Nen and Fiddle came near, in case they were needed as well.  Syl made no move to help but stood watching with her arms folded.

On the count of three, the trio lifted. The golden lid came off with surprising ease, and they moved it aside far enough to lay it back down with enough of an opening to see inside.  Dalen picked up his lantern and shone it in the darkened enclosure.  Mindrek’s bones were still encased inside, however, it was obvious from their haphazard arrangement they had been disturbed sometime in the past.  What was even more disheartening was the fact that there was no sign of any valuables, including the Gloves of Original Beauty.

<Now came the time to make the roll on the rumor table to see if the priests’ information about the Gloves was correct.  Since it was based on legend, I felt the roll could have some leaning toward truth since it was something that had been handed down through church history.  The rumor table has a “Magnitue” section that could be used to determine how much advantage/disadvantage to give a roll.  I rolled to determine advantage: 7 which equalled a +2 advantage.  Roll on truth table: 5+2=7  “Mostly False”

Surprise, surprise.  I was originally playing/writing this as though the result would be partly true or better.  Even though I doubt I will be investigating Jonik and Fiddles interactions with their employers after this, I did come up with an explanation.  The Chuch in Millhelm knew that the crypty was in disrepair and was probably explored in the past.  There was a good chance the Gloves were already taken, as well as any other treasure.  However, since the church was losing prominence, they had to be sure on the slim chance they could find anything that could help rebuild the church.  They didn’t mention this, however, so that whoever they hired wouldn’t be dissuaded by the possible futility of the quest.

Follow up questions:
Did the church offer a sliding scale of pay based on whether anything was actually found? (Likely) Yes.
Are the gloves in the crypt? (Very Unlikely) No +event (recruit/jealousy)  Instead of a new event, I used this prompt to inform the discussion surrounding Beglaxeth’s intentions.  He was recruited by a stronger demon to get treasure from the crypt, but not wanting to seem a failure, he just stayed and lied about the treasure.
Were the other items in the crypt already stolen? (Very Likely) Yes.

Which required a slight rewrite of the scene.  Originally, I had the walls full of elegantly framed art and the shelves full of valuables: ornate boxes, gold goblets, jewelry, etc..  I even used Wizardawn to generate a bunch of items and their associated value.  However, once I realized most everything had been stolen, I had to remove all that and just leave some plain items, enough to cause the golem to be triggered if they were disturbed.  (Don’t ask why the golem hadn’t already been triggered, I have no idea.)

Luke 10:17-20

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Cyenannore: Chapter 4 - The Crypt of Mindrek

(Read the previous chapter here.)

System: Tunnels & Trolls
Tools: Wizardawn (While no longer available online, easily usable server files are available for download); Random Encounters, Vol. 2, No. 8 by Epic Werkes; RPGSolo.com

[Scene 1]

“Nothing!  I don’t see any trolls.”

Nen peered from behind a dense copse of bushes at the partially sunken crypt of Mindrek. The ground around the structure was rather uneven, a possible sign of a small earthquake or sinkhole, causing the building to drop several feet into the earth. The portion that still sat above the surface was little more than a marble building about the size of a shed.  It had carvings adorning the walls and eaves that were once highly detailed, but now worn, chipped away, and overgrown with crawling vines and other plants. Only the top three or four feet of the door opening was visible, but any actual door was long removed or destroyed.

“Do you think the acolytes would have lied, do you?” said Sylralei, hinting at sarcasm.

“Perhaps,” the hired elf replied. “There’s a possibility that the family of trolls have since moved on.  But I agree, that’s rather unlikely.  Instead, I would expect they found exploring the tomb more than they were able to handle.”

Still skeptical, Slyralei offered another suggestion. “They probably never even came. They just hung out somewhere for a week or two, had a good time, then made up the whole thing, so the Priests would think they did the best they could.  I mean, aren’t Priests supposed to be super trusting?”

“Understanding, Yes,” Jonik corrected. “But that doesn’t mean they trust blindly. Even so, I don’t think the acolytes just shirked off their responsibility. Their desire to please their god Zeriel, and not to mention the priests, would compel them to complete their task if possible. It was more likely they entered and came across something that was too dangerous or complicated for them to overcome.”

“Why not just tell the truth?” asked Nen.

“Embarrassment.  They were in a holy crypt dedicated to their deity.  Zeriel was supposed to give his acolytes the protection, strength, and courage needed while they were inside to overcome any evil. The acolytes may have felt it was more respectable to say they were prevented from ever entering than admit they were too scared or weak to continue.  If they admitted they were too scared, that would mean that either their faith was weak or Zeriel had abandoned Mindrek’s resting place, neither of which they would want to admit back in Millhelm.”

“So much for relying on your god for strength.” No one acknowledged Sylralei’s snark.

<When the party reached the crypt, I rolled the second die on the rumor table (the first roll was 3). This roll came up 2 for a total of 5, or “Deliberately false”.  This is only my character’s speculation, but my interpretation is that there was never a group or family of trolls living here when prior acolytes came to retrieve the gloves.  Instead, there was some other reason inside the crypt that frightened them off. The story about trolls, however, was more self-respecting or believable than what they actually encountered.  Assuming that is true, that would mean there was a good chance the party would encounter something in the crypt and they would probably come across it sooner than later, so I upped the encounter chance to 1-3 on a d6 until the first encounter.

I devised a small table to determine what creature/monster they would encounter on any positive roll.>

As they approached the sunken tomb, they could see that the ground around the doorway had been excavated enough to allow someone to enter without crawling through on their belly.  The vegetation growing over the ground indicated it wasn’t dug recently, but still thin enough to appear to be only a few months old.

“Perhaps this was dug by the acolytes?” Dalen said.

“Or graverobbers,” Kristopher suggested.

“We just have to see what is inside,” Jonik admitted.

<Did the entire ground shift? 50/50 No, but +Intolerance/Bureaucracy (See Syl’s comments below) Is there signs of excavation inside the tomb?  50/50  No, but +Ambush/Extravagance  (Later)

The map and all the images below came from Epic Werks’  Random Encounters, Vol. 2, No. 8.> 

[Scene 2]

Jonik and Fiddlestix led the way into the crypt, followed by Kris and Dalen, Syl and Nen bringing up the rear. Just inside was a staircase, or what was left of a staircase, leading down. The first twelve or so “steps” were little more than chunks of rubble mixed in with natural dirt and stone.  One of the rocks shifted under Jonik’s foot and he tumbled several feet down the passageway, causing Syl to smirk.. <Jonik failed a L1 DEX SR to not fall and took 3 damage.> The elf stopped at the top of the intact portion of the staircase. At that point, the walls and stairs appeared to be undisturbed. There were no signs of additional excavation, but small scratches and critter trails could be detected. <the “no, but”>

“Only the top portion of the ground must have shifted,” the dwarf Dalen said, examining the walls and stonework. “I wonder if the crypt is located just at the edge of whatever caused the ground to shift.”

“Why would the church spend all kinds of money to build marvelous crypts, and then let it all fall apart?” Sylralei asked disgustedly. “I thought they were all about helping people.  The cost to build this could have probably gone a long way to helping those living in the slums of the city.”

“Kelseen would be quick to remind you that it is her god, Ilmis, who teaches compassion, not Zeriel,” Dalen said. “The Zeriel church is much more likely to spend their money on gaudy decoration.”

“What do you have against beautiful buildings anyway?” Fiddlestix the leprechaun chimed in.

“Nothing,” Syl answered bluntly. “As long as they’re taken care of.  The church obviously doesn’t care about this place. It’s just a big waste, probably built to make them look more devoted than they actually act.”

“Come on down.  There’s a door down . . . Ahhh!”

The group suddenly looked down the stairs at the sound of Kris’ voice.  No one had noticed that he ventured further down while the rest were distracted by Syl’s rant.  They bounded down the stairs to find Kris swatting his scimitar at a spider about the size of a small dog. Jonik and Dalen joined in and quickly dispatched the creature.

“That thing came out of that crack. Got me good on the leg, but I should be all right.”

<Are there any creatures in the area? (Likely) Yes. (not sure why, at the time, I used the oracle instead of a dice roll to determine any monsters)  I rolled up a single spider of MR50. The group's combat adds alone were enough to kill it, but it did roll 3 sixes which I felt would thematically go to one random character: Kris.>\

At the foot of the stairs stood a four-way intersection.  The south and east directions were block by stone doors with abstract patterns carved in them. To the west, the hall extended another five or six feet before ending in the cave wall which held the crack from which the spider emerged.

Jonik motioned to the south door and Fiddle, following a routine they have perfected over time, examined the lock and delicately searched it for traps. <L2 INT SR 5=21=26 Success!  Is there a trap? (Very Unlikely) No, and . . .>

“It’s clear,” the leprechaun announced. “Not only that, the lock was clearly destroyed. Someone forced their way in.”

“The acolytes?” Kris postulated.

“Doubt it,” Sylralei quipped.  “They probably ran when they saw the spider.”

“Whether they did or not, this mechanism has been broken for a long time,” Fiddlestix said. “I’m sure it was already damaged when they got here.”

Jonik pushed past his partner and opened the door. The room on the other side was decorated by ornate frescoes on the walls. An alcove was cut in one wall and housed a small wax-spotted alter. But the most urgent in the room were five animated skeletons that roamed around aimlessly. <1 in 3 encounter check: 1  Five Skeletons, MR25 Each>

The skeletons were mostly bare, with a few remnants of leather armor or adornments hanging off their bones. A couple held rusted blades.  Fiddlestix, Dalen, and Kris barely had time to enter and pull their weapons before the undead noticed them and turned to attack. Syl flew in, blasting one skeleton with a Take That You Fiend  spell before engaging another with her staff. Nen held back, flinging stones at the bony beings with his sling, a futile exercise as the stones passed harmlessly through their rib cages. Scimitar, axe, and terbutje easily smashed through rusted weapon and bone, dispatching the dead warriors before they could do more and inflict a few small scratches.

<The battle was over in two rounds.  RD1 Skeletons 104-Party 150;  RD2 Skeletons 62-Party 170.  The only hits to the party were two 6’s which went one each to Syl and Dalen.>

“Judging by the decaying packs, pouches, and rusted weapons and trinkets, I think these were the remains of a previous group of wealth seekers,” Dalen said.

“There’s not much here,” Nen added, looking through one of the pouches.

“Who, or whatever killed them must have taken anything valuable,” Jonik said. <Is there anything worthwhile in the adventurer’s packs? (Unlikely) No, and . . .  Event: Change Weather (To be saved for later)>

While they examined the skeleton’s belongings, Kris looked around the chamber. Besides the two columns supporting the ceiling and the altar in the alcove, the north and south wall were adorned each with a large fresco. The south wall featured a middle-aged man dressed in priestly robes. He was being addressed by a strange creature that floated several feet in the air.  The creature was dressed in robes similar to the priest’s and its face resembled the man’s.  The bottom half of the creature was cloudy and not well-defined, but appeared to have the shape of a large winged bird, such as an eagle.  Kris thought the priest might be Mindrek, but had no idea about the other figure.

The outlaw turned to the north wall to see the same two figures.  In this image, however, Mindrek stands behind a table, his hands molding a lump of clay on its surface. Watching over his shoulder is the same creature, except that the bottom half of its body was more representative of the rear and legs of a deer or gazelle.

“Is that Mindrek?” Kristopher asks, aware of Dalen standing next to him.

“I would assume so. I’m obviously not familiar with the priest, but this is his crypt.”

“And what is that creature?”

“I believe that is Zeriel, the Deity of Creativity.”

“Why does he look like Mindrek? And why do his legs change? Do they not know what he looks like?”

“From what I’ve learned from reading various church texts, Zeriel being the God over creativity, is himself creative in nature.  There is much written about how he is ever-changing, always taking on the appearance of whoever is standing the closest to him. As for his lower half, it also changes from one type of animal to another.”

<I’m planning on exploring the religious system of Barisea later in this adventure, but since I felt that two of this world's gods resembled a human man and woman, I wanted the third, Zeriel, to be something else.  I used the Age of Fable’s Creature Appearance table to figure this out. Using several rolls, I came up with a creature whose top half took on the appearance of whoever was standing closest at the time and a bottom half that was a plume of smoke. I interpreted this last bit to mean that it was always changing and never the same.

INT SR check to see if anyone was familiar with the purpose of the altar.  L3 for Kris, Syl, and Nen.  An easier L2 for Fiddle, Jonik, and Dalen, as they might have some previous knowledge about the purposes of crypts.  Jonik is the only success.>

“This must have been the preparation chamber,” Jonik said while he examined the wax spotted altar. “Acolytes and other visitors to the crypt would take time at this altar to prepare and purify themselves before continuing further.  They would burn candles and pray to Zeriel, as well as send up honors to Mindrek, believing the priest was watching them from the hereafter.”

To the left of the door they came through was another closed stone door. Again, Fiddlestix examined it before Jonik entered to be sure there were no traps. <L2 INT SR for traps. Fiddle rolls 44 indicating she will detect any traps if they exist.  Do they? (Unlikely) No>

Assuming the builders of the crypt were mainly concerned about protecting the way into the crypt and not impeding movement once the crypt has been entered, I will determine that none of the doors further on are trapped unless something happens (i.e. random event) that would indicate otherwise.

Additionally, the first group the church sent probably encountered either the skeletons or the spider, so from here on out, the chance for a random encounter will drop back to 1-in-6.>

[Scene 3]

The door opened onto a short hallway that ran north to south.  After about five feet in either direction, the hall turned to the east.  Just south of the doorway stood a carved marble pedestal that was topped with a dry, dusty basin. Jonik explained that this was probably used for ritual cleansing before entering the actual burial room.

<No wandering monsters and I randomly rolled to head south.  Is the door locked? (Unlikely) No, and . . .>

Just around the south corner, easily visible from the door the group just came through, was another doorway partially blocked by the remains of a bashed and broken stone door.

“It looks like someone has also been through here,” Fiddlestix said.

“You mean you don’t think the door just fell apart by itself?” Nen ribbed the leprechaun in reply to her stating the obvious.

“No. They usually don’t do that,” she replied matter-of-factly, unaware of Nen’s sarcasm.  The halfling rolled his eyes.

The hallway split once again, one branch continuing straight east, the other south. Jonik and Fiddlestix led the way east.  The passage made several right-hand turns until it met back up with its original starting point at the damaged door.

“What do you think the purpose of this hallway is?” Kristopher asked Jonik. “It seems rather pointless.”

“That it does, which suggests there must be something more.”

Before Jonik had finished his answer, the others had begun backtracking and checking the walls for any hidden buttons, handholds, or anything else that might reveal a secret opening. After some searching, Fiddlestix called out as she pressed a portion of the wall, revealing an opening to the space that lay within the hallway's perimeter.

<Since this is an odd configuration for no reason at all, I’ll consider the idea for a secret door rather obvious and have everyone make  L1 INT SR to consider looking for one.  Anyone who succeeded will try to make a L2 INT or LCK SR (whichever is higher) in order to find it. Everyone but Kris thinks to look for a secret door.  Jonik and Fiddlextix will immediately find it due to their LCK (45), but I did roll for each character to determine how many adventure points they receive.

What is in this room? RPG Solo CD: Wildly/Faded  What is its purpose?  CQ: Abandon/Disruption>

Fiddlestix cast Will-O-Wisp to light up the room more brightly than the group’s lanterns. Before them were arranged all kinds of art, the room’s secrecy preserving them from any potential tomb robbers. However, they were clearly not made by skilled artisans.  Instead, they appeared to be the work of a child or children.  Most were paintings or charcoal drawings on parchment, but there were some sculptures and other trinkets scattered throughout. Despite being undisturbed, the material was low quality and showed a lot of wear.  Many of the paintings were faded, some crumbling or eaten by bugs at the edges.  Wooden items were rotting and everything was covered with dust or cobwebs.

<Everyone needed to make a L3 INT SR to determine if they knew, or could figure out, what this room was for. Dalen would use his Literary Knowledge skill (bonus +4). Nen could use his Puzzles skill (+1, why not). The only character who succeeded was Jonik, of course.  He seems to know a lot about crypts and/or religious practices.

How does Jonik know about this room? 1: Past experience  2: Told by the priest  3: Jonik had researched crypts and religious practices  4: Just a really, really good guess.  Roll: 1 He knows from past experience.
Everything else I determined about this room I will explain after the narrative.>

“This must be the crypt’s Ward,” Jonik stated.

“The what?” Kris asked.

“The Ward.  A room of protection.  In the Zeriel religion, they believe that artwork created to honor the god has about it a ring of protection.  The younger the artist, or to put it another way, the more innocent, the greater the protection.  When Zeriel’s followers built a crypt they would include rooms filled with such works of art, mostly done by children, in order to form a bubble of protection over the crypt and keep away all types of evil.”

“How do you know this?” Kris inquired further.

“From when I used to work for the Church of Ilmis.”

“Ugh, I knew you were no good,” Sylralie expressed, thinking about Kelseen and her annoying obsession with the Goddess of Life.

“I said I worked for them, not worshiped with them,” Jonik explained. “When I was just starting out in this line work, before I met Fiddlestix, one way to get practice and experience was to join one of the Ilmisian Assistance Teams.  The church’s goal was to offer help where needed, and many tasks were assigned to the Assistance Teams. The local Zeriel Church hired one of these teams to help maintain one of its crypts. Nothing big, just head in once every few months to repair any damage or clear out vermin that may have taken up residence within its walls.”

“Looks like they could have used one of those teams here,” Syl said.

“Our guide on one of those trips took us into the Protection Room.  He explained what it was and how they were hidden in secret rooms to keep them from being disturbed from anyone who might enter, including those who were rightfully there. Really fascinating stuff.”

Dalen listened intently and jotted some notes to add to his journal when they got back on the road.

“I doubt any of this has any real value beyond its religious aspects,” Kris commented.

“Even so, I don’t think the priests would appreciate us desecrating the crypt’s protection,” considered Jonik.

“But you said we could take what we want?” a confused Nen asked.

Fiddlestix quickly answered the halfling.  “Any treasure out in the open, that’s fair game.  As far as we know, grave robbers stole them . . . that is basically what you are. Right?” She cast a cheeky look at Nen who returned it with a threatening glare of his own. “But taking away the crypt’s protection, especially when it was specifically hidden to keep it secure?  Now you’re messing with the power of the god itself.”

Sylralie harrumphed as all turned to leave the room.

<Is it common for this exhibit to be in a secret location? (50/50) Yes

Wandering monster checks on both the art room and the hallway around it were negative.

Also, there is a secret door in the hallway that branches north and south (you probably saw it on the map).  I did ask the oracle if anyone had thought to look for a secret door (unlikely) and the answer was no.>

(Read the next chapter here.)
John 19:38-40

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Silent Night, Wretched Night - A Wretched & Alone Game: Alternate Ending

 (Read the original ending here.)

<By the nature of this game, there would obviously be a successful ending and a failed, or wretched, ending. While I didn’t know how it would all turn out as I was playing, I was contemplating the different endings to prepare for whatever would happen.  I came up with what I thought were two great endings.  You’ve already read the successful ending.  However, if I am being honest, I actually liked the wicked ending better.  So, to keep it from fading from memory, I would like to share the alternate ending to this story.  What would have happened if Santa was indeed defeated by the evil vampire Count Dracula.>


Mrs. Claus sat silently in her rocking chair, head down, as Peppermint and the other elves told her of the horrible news. The matriarch of the North Pole kept up a good front, but tears still welled up in her eyes.

Peppermint placed her hand on Mrs. Claus’ knee. “I'm really sorry. I did all I could, but it just wasn’t enough.” The elf turned and walked out of the room, dejected.

The rest of the elves stood around, unsure of what to do or say. They just waited to offer any assistance should their former employer’s wife need it. After several minutes, she stood up and quietly left the room.

Mrs. Claus opened a door to a darkened room. Light shone in from the hall and barely illuminated a four-poster bed. Laying on the bed was a covered form.  It remained still.

“Christina?” spoke Mrs. Claus.

A rustle of the covers and a slight moan answered her.

“Your father didn’t make it.”


“The SEALs recovered his body and laid him in the ice chapel.”

Now at the side of the bed, the new widow laid her hand on her daughter, only to feel the younger woman pull away.

“I understand, dear. I’ll be in the living room when you are ready.”  Mrs. Claus backed out of the room and shut the door behind her.

Christina Claus remained where she was for several minutes before slowly pushing back the covers and sitting up on the side of the bed. With a flick of only her hand, a small flame lit upon a half-melted white candle that sat in an ornate bronze holder. To any mortal, the woman in the pale, pink nightgown would have appeared to be just over twenty, despite having lived almost three times that. She stared blankly into space, seemingly contemplating nothingness, until her eyes fell upon the large, ornately carved, oak wardrobe standing against the opposite wall. Christina stood, crossed the room, and stopped in front of its massive doors.

“It’s time,” she said, addressing no one in the room, and opened the wardrobe.

*  *  *  *  *

In the living room, Mrs. Claus was back in her rocker, several other elves still keeping her company. Cookey had just come from the kitchen with a steaming mug.

“Here you go, ma’am,” she said, offering her the drink. “I brought you some of my warm, spiked eggnog. It should help you relax.”

“Thanks, Cookey.  You’re a darling.”

Suddenly, sharp footsteps could be heard coming from the hall.  Everyone turned their heads to see Christina Claus enter the room.

The young woman stood tall, her athletic body covered by a red leather bodysuit. Over it, she wore armored pauldrons, gauntlets, corset, and shin guards, each silver piece decorated with gold edges and vine-like patterns. Her lower legs sported knee-high, silver-colored boots. On her head, sat a red, fur-lined stocking cap similar to the type her father wore. Flowing out from the cap and framing her fair-skinned face were the waves of her waist-length, platinum blonde hair. Finishing the ensemble was a flowing, red-velvet cape, trimmed with snow-white fur.

Equally eye-catching were the implements she held in her hands. In her right, she held a wooden cobbler’s hammer.  In her left, a wooden candy-cane, its straight end sharpened into a wicked point.

The elves stared in awe as the battle-ready Christina scanned the room with her ice-blue eyes.

“Elves, ready the sleigh!” she ordered.  “We have one last gift to deliver.”

“Gift?  What gift?” Cookey asked, confused.

Mother and daughter’s eyes locked, and Christina’s ruby red lips curved into a vengeful smile as she held up the piked peppermint.

“Stake!  Well done!”


Luke 2:1-19