Wednesday, 18 May 2016

I.5: Blood Gathering

Eyre 22, 997 YK

Investigate(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 6) +2 = 12 Success!
Useful information

Vaalyun stood in the shadows at the edge of the street as Anaya turned to brief the soldiers. He looked around nervously, acutely aware how visible the soldiers were, and how little they were liked by the inhabitants of these streets. He was anxious about his agent Ievos, who had worked for him for several years, presumed captured by the Blood worshippers that the party was here to track down. He was troubled too by rebels that they had encountered on the way here: no mere rioters, the rebels had set up and executed an ambush against a well-armed patrol. It seemed that there was now an organised rebel movement in the city.

We never actually described Anaya. Anaya is the character I started with—imported her as an idea from another campaign—so I have some backstory for her that I don’t have occasion to bring in yet. But let’s get up to speed on the basics, and reiterate some things that we already know in the fiction.

The templar, Anaya, had easily acquired two companies of soldiers at the Garrison. Vaalyun was surprised to see Thrane’s army defer so readily to an outsider, and one with so little experience: as an elf he was no great judge of human age, but Anaya could only be in her late twenties—though he supposed that was not so young by human standards. It was rare to see the authorities in the city be accommodating or flexible to anyone. But the Templars were an organization with strong ties to Thrane.

There was no doubt that she stood out amongst the soldiers. She wore chainmail, but she was too slender to be a soldier, and while the soldiers carried maces, she carried only a shortsword and, as was traditional for clerics of the Flame, a bow. Unlike the soldiers she wore no helmet, her brown hair worn up, and her appearance would be unremarkable, he thought, without the Templar tabard. But she had a certain presence, an air of authority, as she gave instructions to the company; the commander of the patrol, Lieutenant Athanas, was surely a veteran of the Last War, but he too deferred to her. Vaalyun even found his own nerves soothed a little by her quiet sense of control.

For various reasons I had to heavily rework and reorder the fiction in this part, to give the story a more natural order. Actually the main reason was that I started writing from Esthana’s point of view, then decided it worked better from Vaalyun. I kept all the rolls and their results.

Spout Lore(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 6) +2 = 13 Success!
Useful information

Information about the location we are about to raid.

Followers, Do Their Thing(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 4) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Unforeseen consequence

GM move(soft): Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities: We already had the follower be captured, so let’s just add a consequence (or perhaps cause) of his being captured: a lookout.

Vaalyun moved away and peered around the corner, into the street with the building that they were heading for. Everbright lamps lit the other side of the street, and he could see the building that Ievos had mentioned in his report: a stone building with a an old and crumbling colonnade along the front. Ievos had said that it might be an old bank or warehouse. But the colonnade stirred a memory in Vaalyun, from a book that he read once about the Blood, and he realised that it was an old temple of the Blood of Vol.

There was also someone sitting on the wall outside. A lookout, Vaalyun thought; if the cultists spotted Ievos, they were probably wary of trouble.

He returned to the soldiers and Anaya; she had finished her briefing, and was about to lead them forwards.

“Lady Anaya. The building, I believe, is an old temple of the Blood of Vol—from before this city was conquered by Thrane, if I am not mistaken. There are likely crypts under the temple, and it is probably there that we will find the cultists.”

Anaya’s expression became concerned. “The Blood will have no hesitation in using necromancy, and the crypt provides them with the tools for it. If they choose to fight, we may get stern resistance. Why has the Archbishop never had these old temples cleared and secured?”

“The living population of the city gives the Archbishop plenty of trouble. I doubt he has time to worry about the dead. Besides, the Blood have you at a disadvantage; they do not scruple to interfere with the dead, whereas the Flame would rather leave them undisturbed.

“There is also a lookout,” he added. “Give me a minute and I will try to silence him; otherwise they will be alerted as you approach.”

“I would rather avoid killing,” Anaya said, “unless it cannot be avoided.”

“I understand, Templar.” He turned to Esthana, who was had fallen in beside Anaya. She had had a rough time in the fight with the rebels, and her tabard was still scorched and bloodstained. “If you would be ready at the corner to back me up if I am spotted, I would feel safer.”

Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 3) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Worse outcome

GM move(soft): Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities: He can get close, but to cross the street, he would move into the light and be seen.

They walked ahead of the company. Esthana stopped at the corner, while Vaalyun turned into the street towards the temple. The lookout was looking at two townspeople walking away from him; he was hardly likely to notice Vaalyun, with his hood up, moving in the shadows on this side of the street. Vaalyun glanced back, and saw Esthana, with an arrow nocked, ready at the corner.

The other side was well lit though, and Vaalyun needed a way to get behind the watcher. When nearly opposite the watcher, Vaalyun reached out a hand towards the lantern opposite him. He drew on the power of his birthmark, calling on the power of shadow to extinguish the light from the lamp.

Dragonmark(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 1) +1 = 3 Failure!
GM move(hard): Monster move(Watcher)Raise the alarm

Fictional positioning works in DungeonWorld : Esthana said she was nocking an arrow, so she gets a shot as well.

Volley(Anaya): 2D6(2 2) +2 = 6 Failure!
GM move(soft): Location move(Use a threat from an existing faction or type of creature)

I’ll interpret this move broadly, because what I want to do is give consequences for failing these rolls. If the party keeps messing this up and the alarm is raised ahead of them, the important cultists can now escape before the party gets to them: through a back exit. Let your moves snowball

Vaalyun’s nerves betrayed him: the light flickered, as shadows played around it, attracting the lookout’s attention. He saw Vaalyun, and immediately dropped down from the wall and began running up and into the colonnade along the front of the building. Vaalyun broke into a run, pursuing. An arrow shot past, richocheting off of one of the stone columns, missing the fleeing cultist.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 2) +1 = 4 Failure!
GM move(soft): Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: Vaalyun can follow, but it will separate him from the party & soldiers.

Vaalyun is a lousy adventurer. At least he’s earning XP? Maybe not for long after this move.

The lookout was too quick for Vaalyun, darting into the alley down the side of the building. Vaalyun rounded the corner, only ten paces behind, and saw the lookout descend a few steps to a door that appeared to lead under the building. As he ran up, the door opened and the lookout pushed through, shouting “Close the door!” Caught up in the moment, Vaalyun jumped down the steps and rolled through the door into the stone room beyond, the iron-bound door slamming shut behind him.

Esthana is running up behind him. Can she make it in time before they bar the door and trap Vaalyun?

Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(5 1) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Tough choice, Offer an opportunity, with or without cost: She can drop her bow and get there in time; or, Vaalyun has to buy her time.

She declines; the party pins its hope on Vaalyun making a roll. What could possibly go wrong?

Vaalyun stood up from his roll and spun around, taking in the small stone room in a moment. The lookout he could see clearly now by the lamplight, a roughly-dressed man; by the door were two women, clearly guards and fortunately surprised by his entrance.

“Close it!” said the lookout.

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 5) +1 = 10 Success!

Keith Baker refers to Indiana Jones sometimes when talking about the feel of an Eberron game, and I am trying for that style when I can. Dungeon World’s alternating ups and downs fit that well, I think.

The woman on the left reached over to the bar that would seal the door shut; the other, standing by the door and barring Vaalyun’s escape, drew a shortsword from under her cloak. In one smooth motion, Vaalyun drew his dagger and threw it, past the guard who had drawn her sword, into the woodern doorframe, where it stuck with a solid thunk—blocking the bar from lowering into place.

“Khyber’s breath!” cursed the first guard, letting go of the bar and grabbing the dagger to remove it. The lookout turned and ran down a passage that led out of the room. Vaalyun’s gaze shifted to the other guard: she had a sword pointed at him, he had no weapon.

We gave the party the option to have Vaalyun buy time and he did, by succeeding and stopping them from barring the door. So they get the benefit: Esthana arrives now.

Esthana is running at this door full tilt. Fictional positioning matters & Be a fan of the characters: we established that this is a heavy, iron-bound wooden door, with a guard standing right behind it...

Suddenly the heavy door was slammed open, hitting the guard in the back and sending her sprawling on the ground, as Esthana jumped down the steps and barged into the room.

Aid(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 3) +0 = 4 Failure!
Location move(Introduce a new faction or type of creature): Ghouls

Vaalyun was going to try to help against this guard. The monsters are off-screen—in one of the crypts here. I’ll figure out exactly where later. Maybe it’s a trap of some sort.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(6 2) +2 = 10 Success!
7 damage

Enough for both guards. Once again on a success the character gets to choose how it goes down, so she’ll choose not to kill anyone.

The other guard, having taken Vaalyun’s dagger, threw it down and drew her sword, cursing again. Esthana drew faster though, flicking her sword to the guard’s neck. The guard froze, then reluctantly let her sword fall to the ground.

“Good timing,” said Vaalyun. He turned to the other guard, but she was unconcious. They could hear shouting now from the passage leading deeper into the temple, and the heavy footfalls of soldiers running towards them outside.

Anaya and Athanas were next through the door. “The lookout got away; they are alerted,” said Esthana.

Cast a Spell(Light)(Anaya): 2D6(3 3) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Lose the spell

“Then we should hurry,” said Anaya. “The Light of the Flame guide us.” As she said this, her sword flared into silver light, illuminating the passage as she moved ahead. One of Athanas’ soldiers took control of the prisoner, and Esthana joined Anaya in leading the way; Vaalyun retrieved his dagger from the floor and followed them, with the soldiers following behind.

The passage was dry and a little dusty, and there was a heavy smell of incense in the air struggling to mask an odour of dust and decay. It was wide enough for two abreast, though the ceiling was low, as if they were being funnelled towards danger. Esthana had sheathed her sword and drawn her bow again, peering at the edge of the light to see what lay ahead.

Location move(Use a threat from an existing faction or type of creature)

The Blood are very utilitarian: necromancy is just a tool to them.

GM move(soft): Show signs of an approaching threat

They emerged into a larger chamber, a crypt with alcoves along the walls. As they emerged into the room, there was a rattling sound from all around, and Vaalyun saw the skeletons lying at rest within the alcoves begin to move—stepping out and turning towards the group. Aside from their own light, the only other light came from a lantern on the far side of the room, illuminating two robed cultists.

Followers, Do Their Thing(Anaya): 2D6(3 5) +1 = 9 Partial success.
d8+1 = 4 damage, GM move(soft): Put someone in a spot

The skeletons began shambling forward. Athanas stepped out to Anaya’s right, and struck with his sword at the foremost skeleton, smashing away half of its rib cage—but the thing kept advancing, backing him up against a wall.

Discern Realities(Anaya): 2D6(3 3) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Who’s really in control here?

“On the right! That is the necromancer,” said Anaya, her sword pointing, still ablaze with light, at one of the cultists.

This could be a Golden Opportunity, since the player party just ignored the threat against Athanas. But Esthana established that her bow was ready, so I’ll let them have it.

Volley(Esthana): 2D6(4 6) +2 = 12 Success!
4 damage

Hum—none of the wizard characters in the DungeonWorld manual have any HP. They’re just regular humans that die if hit.

Two skeletons were closing in on Esthana—their fingers, flesh long since gone, reaching for her throat. Vaalyun was standing behind her and, expecting her to retreat, stepped back to give her space. Instead she calmly drew back her bow, and loosed an arrow at the necromancer. The shaft went straight through his neck, and he collapsed to the floor, gurgling.

GM move(soft): Put someone in a spot

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(1 2) +1 = 4 Failure!
GM move(hard): Deal damage: d6 = 4 damage

Esthana has 2 armour. She is down to 14/25 hitpoints.

The skeleton closest to Esthana wavered for a moment, like a puppet hanging from strings, then reached for her again, grabbing her shoulder. It was too close to draw her sword, so she tried to head-butt it—but she merely cracked its skull with her helmet, without halting it. Vaalyun saw her wince in pain as the skeleton’s grip compressed her paldron. But as the skeleton reached with its other hand to claw at her face, it—and all the skeletons in the room—wavered again, and then fell apart, with a crash of dry bones on the stone floor.

Vaalyun looked around the room. All the skeletons were down. The gurgling from the necromancer had ceased; the other cultist could not be seen, and the doors to the next chamber were thrown open. Esthana looked at her shoulder where several finger bones, from the skeleton that had attacked her, were still embedded in the dents that they had made in her pauldron.

Spout Lore(Anaya): 2D6(2 4) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Vague information

“Does that always work?” said Vaalyun, stepping forward nervously into the room.

“It probably depends on the spell used,” said Anaya, as she began to move forward.

Oddly, this is only the second time in the campaign where I reach a point where I’m unsure how to proceed (the first was after the failure of CSI: Eberron in ch3). Here, the uncertainty is firmly on the GM side. Dungeon World provides guidance for dungeons—as you would expect—but nothing concrete about layout, obstacles or enemies; the moves are all quite high-level.

Quick check on what we know: Vaalyun’s hireling, Ievos, is a prisoner in here somewhere; there is a vampire here; there is a side exit; two cultists have got away so far, so the whole place is alerted; this is the main Blood base in the city; most of the cultists are just worshippers, not part of whatever secret scheme is afoot; they have weapons and don’t like the Silver Flame or Thrane, but aren’t wanting to fight soldiers (even the inner cabal would rather give weapons to the rebels for that).

I do like the idea of private crypts though, and the cabal and vampire are probably in one of those. And a private crypt would be the logical place for a side entrance, so some noble family didn’t have to go past the common graves to see their private tomb. That gives me an idea of what to do.

The next room was a wide stone chamber, with a large carving of the skull symbolizing the Blood carved into the wall opposite where they entered. Another stone passage exited on the right, and from that direction they could hear shouting and could see light at the end of the passage. There was also an exit on the left, a dark stone stairway leading down further under the temple, with carved sigils at its entrance.

Spout Lore(Anaya): 2D6(2 5) +1 = 8 Partial success.
General information, up to players to make it useful

“The stairs likely lead to private crypts,” said Anaya. “The vampire might be there.”

“Lady Anaya,” said the Athanas, “I have only twelve soldiers with me; I will need all of them to subdue the cultists.”

A partial on Spout Lore is tricky for a solo game; the idea is that the players have to figure out what the GM is holding out on them about. I know that the vampire & perhaps some of the inner cabal are in the private crypts. I decided to roll for it, giving Anaya an advantage for the partial success. D6, 1-2 the party goes to the cultist gathering, 3-6 they go to the private crypts. They rolled a 5.

“Take your soldiers that way,” said Anaya, pointing to the main passage, “and contain the cultists. There should be reinforcements here within half an hour. We will investigate the private crypts—you do not want a vampire behind you.”

Athanas nodded, then turned and signalled the soldiers to follow him. Anaya and Esthana turned away to the stairs, heading down. Vaalyun looked to the soldiers for a moment, but then turned and followed the templar; there was no way to know which way Ievos would be, and he felt that the templar might have a better idea than most what to do in this crypt.

I decided after the fact to break up the raid on the Blood base into two parts, as it ran longer than expected. So no End of Session move here; I will do that at the end of the next chapter.

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