Saturday, 21 May 2016

I.6: The Flame Illuminates the Darkness

Thaliost
Eyre 22, 997 YK

We’re in the secret base of the Blood of Vol. The party is descending into the private crypts, having separated from the soldiers who are dealing with the worshippers on the upper level.

Cast a Spell(Cure Light Wounds)(Anaya): 2D6(3 1) +2 = 6 Failure!
Show signs of an approaching threat

Esthana is at 14/25 hitpoints, but there’s no healing to be had here.

They descended the staircase to the private crypt, Anaya and Esthana in front and Vaalyun behind, the way lit by silver light from Anaya’s sword. The stonework here showed better craftsmanship that that above; it was dustier here, though there were signs that the dust had been disturbed recently.

Anaya looked across to Esthana walking beside her: the soldier looked grimly determined, but she was limping a little after the fighting to get here. Anaya went to draw on the power of the Flame, to heal her friend, but her connection to the Flame seemed weaker here, and its presence flickered in her mind. Some evil here was casting a shadow across the Flame.

They began to hear noises from up ahead, stone grating against stone and a faint snarling sound. Anaya said “Be ready. Something awaits us down here.”

They emerged into another burial crypt. This one was a long, narrow chamber, with ornate sarcophagi along the walls, engraved with the sigil of some ancient family. Tall cast-iron torch stands, bearing crystals glowing red with heat, provided a dull illumination here. At the far end of the room, at the edge of the light, they could see several human figures, and some shorter hunched shapes in front of them.

One of the humans pointed towards Anaya, and the three shapes turned and began to move forward. They ran forward on all fours, snarling rabidly, talons clattering on the floor, humanoid forms with pale grey skin drawn tightly over their bones, faces drooling and twisted with undying hunger.

“Ghouls,” said Anaya, slowing but still moving forwards. “Stay close, and wait for me to begin.”

Okay, so 3 ghouls, a vampire in the back, and Esthana is already wounded. I hope the party is up to this... At least they got the necromancer out of the way, so I won’t give them any more powerful human opponents. The party should be worried about the vampire and humans allies just running while the ghouls delay them.

The ghouls slowed and spread out into a semicircle around the party, baring their sharp teeth and lifting up their arms to slash at the air with their talons. Esthana stood to Anaya’s right, sword drawn, and Vaalyun stood a little behind to her left.

GM move(soft): Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities

“Back!” shouted Anaya. “The Light parts the darkness!” As the creatures leapt to attack, the light from her sword flared, silver light flooding the room with dazzling brightness and a sudden sense of tranquility. The ghouls screeched, throwing their arms over their eyes.

Turn Undead(Anaya): 2D6(6 4) +2 = 12 Success!
Momentarily daze intelligent undead

A character only triggers Hack and Slash when attacking enemies that fight back, so instead the characters just deal damage here. But they only get a moment before the ghouls are active again.

Esthana deals d10 = 7 damage. Vaalyun deals d4 = 3 damage.

The vampire is stunned too, so it’s not making an escape... yet.

Esthana and Vaalyun seized the opportunity to hack at the ghouls around them. Vaalyun stabbed his dagger into the chest of the ghoul in front of him. Esthana swung with her sword, cutting the arm off of the ghoul facing her; it screeched in pain, the sounds echoing in the close confines of the small stone crypt.

The light receded, but a silver light still surrounded Anaya. They could see the figures at the end of the room clearly now: on the right, a tall woman in a dark red, formal robe with two attendants. On the left, a male figure in a dark robe, recoiling in the light. “On the left—that’s the vampire,” said Anaya.

The conditions of Turn Undead are: so long as you continue to pray and brandish your holy symbol, no undead may come within reach of you.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(4 4) +2 = 10 Success!
6 damage

The ghoul facing Anaya dared not approach her, but turned to join the one fighting Esthana. As they approached her, Esthana slashed across them with her sword, injuring both; the first ghoul collapsed, expiring noisily on the ground.

The ghoul facing Vaalyun was also still standing. Seeing the creature recover from the shock, Vaalyun moved away from Anaya, moving behind one of the torches standing at the side of the room. As the creature moved towards him, he pushed the torch over towards it with his free hand; its hot crystal shards scattered over the creature, burning its flesh. The creature gave a harsh, guttural scream, but kept advancing, circling to trap him against the wall.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 3) +1 = 10 Success!
d6 = 2 damage

DungeonWorld encourages one to add more scenery for the heroes to use during the fights, so they can get creative in combat. It’s important to avoid combat degenerating into combat rounds like D&D, as you want to keep up a narrative flow. This was important for Vaalyun here; he badly needs to avoid a stand-up fight here as Hack and Slash uses his weakest stat, so I came up with a course of action that gave him a Dex option.

As it wasn’t him doing damage, I chose to let this move deal d6 damage rather than his normal d4. The ghoul facing him is still at 5/10 HP though.

It would be good if Anaya could help Vaalyun, but she has no bond with him, so the roll would be +0. So she goes to Esthana’s aid instead, and hopefully that frees Esthana to aid Vaalyun.

Aid(Anaya): 2D6(6 1) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Cost: she has to make a feint attack, ending her Turn Undead
Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(2 5) +2+1 = 10 Success!
9 damage

Anaya moved close to the ghoul facing Esthana. She swung at it with her sword, not really intending to hit it, but it recoiled from the divine light. Esthana lunged as it hesitated, running it through with her sword; the creature convulsed and fell to the ground. The light around Anaya was fading now though; just the light from her sword remained, silver vying dimly with the red light of the torches to illuminate the crypt.

Well, the party is doing really well here: just one ghoul is left at 5/10 HP, and the party took no hits at all. And stalled the vampire briefly so their actual targets didn’t get away yet. I think the vampire has had enough now though.

GM move(soft): Monster move(Vampire): Retreat to plan again
GM move(soft): Offer an opportunity, with or without cost: The vampire & cultists they are after are going to run for it; you can take time to help Vaalyun, or you can start harassing them before they get out of the room

At the end of the room, the tall woman—a priestess, Anaya thought—addressed the vampire and said “We must go. You!”—turning to one of her attendants—“Go to my room and burn all the papers there. Hurry!” The vampire was already opening the door at the far end of the room.

Hack and Slash(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 1) -1 = 2 Failure!
Deal damage: d8 = 5 damage (1 piercing)

Anaya and Esthana moved forward to pursue them, but Vaalyun still had a ghoul facing him. He tried to stab the creature, but it moved too fast, rearing back out of range of his stroke and them jumping at him. It slashed him with its talons, easily cutting through Vaalyun’s thin leather and leaving him with a gash down his side. The creature paused, drooling, to savour the fear of its wounded prey.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 2) +1 = 5 Failure!
Put someone in a spot

Vaalyun dropped low, feigning the injury was worse than it really was, then tried to spring over the creature. But instead he stumbled in pain, and the creature seized him and bore him to the ground. Esthana glanced back to see their companion in trouble, and stopped to draw her bow, letting Anaya run ahead. As the ghoul’s jaws closed on Vaalyun’s arm, Esthana’s arrow struck deeply into its side, and the foul creature slumped to the ground.

Volley(Esthana): 2D6(5 5) +2 = 12 Success!
9 damage

Esthana just saves this party time after time. But that cost the party vital actions here. Who does Anaya shoot at? Vampire, high priest, or acolyte running to burn the evidence? I rolled for it, and got a 2: the high priest.

Volley(Anaya): 2D6(2 2) +1 = 5 Failure!
Turn their move back on them

Anaya, however, was focused on their real goal here, now within reach. She had her bow out and shot at the priestess, but the arrow hit her attendant instead, who collapsed to the ground as priestess and vampire went out of sight. “After them!” urged Anaya, running through the far doorway.

Anaya ran through the door, into a small passage running to the left and right, stone walls dimly lit by glowing crystals in sconces at intervals, though she barely noticed the other direction as she turned left after the vampire and the priestess. They were running ahead, and the vampire was just turning a corner up ahead. Anaya raced to keep up, and could hear Esthana running behind her.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Anaya): 2D6(5 1) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Worse outcome; GM move(soft): Monster move(High priest): Tries casting Hold Person

As she rounded the corner, she found herself abruptly in a small stone chamber. There were no doors, but stone steps led up to the ceiling, and the vampire was at the top, pushing up the stone slab to reveal an exit into a chamber above. And opposite her, the priestess faced her, arms raised, a knife in her hand and a fresh cut upon her arm.

Defy Danger(WIS)(Anaya): 2D6(6 5) +2 = 13 Success!
Ignores the spell

Anaya sensed the spell, feeling the evil energy circle her, like a wall of darkness trying to bury her. But the power of the Flame within her was stronger, and she moved freely out of its grasp, pushing the priestess aside. She grasped the holy symbol around her neck and drew once more on the Flame. Radiant silver light flooded the room. The vampire recoiled, letting the slab fall back into place and blocking its exit.

Turn Undead(Anaya): 2D6(4 5) +2 = 11 Success!
Momentarily stuns intelligent undead

Really that was Anaya’s only move to stop the vampire getting away.

Esthana: d10 = 2 damage. (1 after the vampire’s armour.)

Then she can have another shot before it closes the distance.

Volley(Esthana): 2D6(1 3) +2 = 6 Failure!
Put someone in a spot

Esthana was at the entrance, bow drawn, and shot an arrow, hitting the vampire in the side. It hissed in pain and, retreating from Anaya, turned its attention to Esthana. Esthana shot again, but she flinched under the vampire’s fearsome gaze and her shot went wide. The vampire smiled, regaining some of its poise.

“You again,” it said, moving closer to Esthana. “Our last meeting was painful, but I bear no scar now. Do you think you can end me, mortal?”

Anaya watched as Esthana cast aside her bow, unshouldered her shield and drew her sword as the vampire approached. The creature’s shadow, cast sharply by the light of Anaya’s Flame symbol, fell over Esthana as it approached. It struck first, moving with unnatural speed, its fist striking Esthana’s shield with enough force to dent it. She staggered, but struck back, her sword slicing deeply into the creature’s torso.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(2 3) +2 = 7 Partial success.
Deals d10=6 damage, takes d12+5=7 damage

The vampire is at 4/10 HP. Esthana is at 11/25 HP.

GM move(soft): Monster move(Vampire): Charm someone

“Immortality awaits for those that embrace the power of Blood,” it said, giving Esthana a little space. “Do you think any reward awaits you in the flames?”

Defy Danger(WIS)(Esthana): 2D6(1 1) +0 = 2 Failure!
Show signs of an approaching threat

Oh shit.

I had to get up and spend half an hour thinking about how this could go. I thought the fight was about to be over, but now I see it’s just getting started. The party has trapped a powerful foe—might they regret it?

Anaya saw Esthana lock eyes with the vampire, and hesitate. The moment lingered, and the vampire added, “The Flame only consumes. This cleric brought you here to do her killing, and die for her. Why serve her, when you could serve yourself?”

“No!” shouted Anaya. “Esthana!”

“Kill the cleric, and I will show you immortality.” The vampire’s voice was commanding now, its smile confident.

Esthana turned towards Anaya, her face expressionless, and took a step forward to stand beside the vampire. In the background, the priestess stood up, watching nervously as the vampire worked its charms.

The game rules say, of Turn Undead “Intelligent undead may still find ways to harry you from afar.”

Anaya is in a bad spot. If she drops her holy symbol to defend herself, she loses her protection and the vampire can attack her—if Esthana doesn’t kill her first. But she has to try something.

Volley(Anaya): 2D6(2 4) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Place yourself in danger
d8 = 1 damage

Damn, no damage inflicted (vampire has armour 1). That was a 50:50 chance to kill it.

In a quick motion, Anaya let her holy symbol fall, seizing her bow. The light from her symbol faded, leaving the room only dimly lit from a lantern in one corner. As Esthana moved towards her with sword drawn, Anaya loosed an arrow at the vampire which sunk into its shoulder—but it barely seemed to feel it. There was no space to retreat, or take another shot; she could only drop her bow and try to defend herself.

Defy Danger(CON)(Anaya): 2D6(2 1) +0 = 3 Failure!
Use up their resources

Anaya tried to shelter behind her shield as she drew her sword, but Esthana’s first strike knocked the weapon out of her hand, sending it clattering into a corner. The vampire looked on, smiling mockingly as the templar struggled to fend off Esthana’s attacks.

No chance to get a lucky hit on the vampire now. Anaya is out of weapons.

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

Hmm. I’m going to give Anaya the benefit of the doubt here, because she knows Esthana personally and the vampire does not. Be a fan of the characters Past Conflict, Present Intrigue

“Esthana, don’t do this,” pleaded Anaya. She thought frantically for something that could bring the soldier to her senses. “It was the Blood of Vol that assassinated Mishann, Queen of Cyre, heir to the throne of Galifar, during the Last War. You know this. How many of your countrymen died as a result? How many died fighting against the undead armies of Karrnath?”

Defy Danger(WIS)(Esthana): 2D6(3 3) +0 = 6

Not resolving the move, as Anaya can Aid it.

Esthana hesitated. Anaya let her shield drop a little, and said “You know me, we have fought together. The Flame protects us all from the darkness.”

Aid(Anaya): 2D6(5 4) +2 = 11 Success!

The +2 there is for Anaya’s two bonds with Esthana; she’s making a personal appeal. A successful Aid gives +1 to Esthana’s roll, enough to push it up to a 7 and a partial success.

Defy Danger(WIS)(Aided)(Esthana): 2D6(3 3) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Hesitation or worse outcome; Put someone in a spot: drops her sword
Defend(Anaya): 2D6(2 4) +0 = 6 Failure!
Deal Damage: d8+5 = 9 (to Esthana)

Esthana came to her senses, shaking her head; her grip loosened and her sword fell to the ground. “No!” said Anaya, as the vampire strode forward to strike; she tried to interpose her shield, but the vampire’s supernatural strength brushed it aside and slammed into Esthana, throwing her to the ground.

Esthana is at 4/25 HP; that hit could have killed her. Anaya’s alignment applies here: put herself in danger to heal another.

Cast a Spell(Cure Light Wounds)(Anaya): 2D6(3 5) +2 = 10 Success!
Heals 5

Golden opportunity: Deal damaged8+5 = 8 damage (to Anaya)

Anaya knelt down, hurriedly laying a hand on Esthana. Esthana was barely concious, but she drew a deep breath in as the healing energy of the Flame flowed into her. Then the vampire grabbed Anaya by the throat, lifting her seemingly effortlessly and slamming her against the wall; stunned, for a moment Anaya knew nothing but cold stone, dust and blood.

Esthana is at 9/25HP, Anaya at 11/17HP.

The priestess makes a grab for Esthana’s sword, I think. But Vaalyun arrives now, and tries to intercept her.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 2) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Worse outcome: Put someone in a spot: you grab her, she grabs your knife.

But Esthana has sword in hand again, and can stand. The vampire’s back is to her.

d10 = 3 damage. -1 for the vampire’s armour—it’s still alive! Yikes.

Anaya felt the vampire pull her back, ready to slam her into the wall again, but then it released its grip and screamed, dropping her and turning away. Anaya fell against the wall, and turning, she saw that it was Esthana, sword in hand again, attacking the vampire. Beyond her, Vaalyun and the priestess were struggling, both grasping at a dagger.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(5 3) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Deals 5 damage; takes 11 damage

Esthana only gets a +1 there because she is shaky for -1 Dex. And she takes a high 11 damage, 9 after armour, which reduces her to... 0 hitpoints.

“The Flame burns that which it cannot cleanse.” Esthana said, driving her sword into the vampire once more. The vampire slammed its fist into her chest, the force of the blow throwing her into the wall with a crash; she slumped to the ground, unmoving. Her sword was still stuck in the vampire, and silver fire played around the edges of the blade. The vampire screeched higher and higher, the sound drowning out all else in the confines of the crypt; it put its hands to the hilt, trying to draw out the blade, but to no avail. Before Anaya’s eyes, the creature was consumed by the Flame, its robe falling to the ground in a pile of ash and dust.

Defy Danger(STR)(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 1) -1 = 5 Failure!
Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask

The priestess shook Vaalyun’s grip from the dagger, and now she held him, dagger to his throat. “That’s enough,” she said. “Let me go, and you can attend to your friend.”

Anaya looked to Esthana; she was lying awkwardly, unconcious, perhaps mortally wounded. She looked back to the priestess and Vaalyun.

Vaalyun has not had a chance to use his class abilities in a while.

Dragonmark(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 5) +1 = 9 Partial success.
The effect won’t last long
Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 2) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Worse outcome, deal damage: 4 damage

Vaalyun glanced at Anaya’s bow, still lying on the ground near her, as if signalling to her. Then, suddenly, shadow enveloped him and the priestess, as if the light had been sucked out of the space around them. Anaya could hear the priestess’ sharp intake of breath, and a brief scuffle. Anaya grabbed her bow and readied an arrow, moving around towards where Esthana lay prone.

The priestess and Vaalyun reappeared. Vaalyun had slipped her grasp, though he had a nasty cut in the his shoulder. The priestess was holding the dagger, and looking around, startled.

“Now, toss the dagger back to my friend,” said Anaya, arrow at the ready.

Parley(Anaya): 2D6(4 6) +1 = 11 Success!

The priestess complied, and Vaalyun herded her into a corner, keeping her at arms length. Anaya dropped down to Esthana, frantically checking her pulse.


Esthana did not reach the floor. The pain simply stopped, as did all sense of her surroundings. She felt a sense of peace and security around her.

She opened her eyes. She was standing in a stone passageway, much larger than the crypt had been, perfectly carved grey stone under her feet and around her. Ahead was a large double gate, wrought in glittering mithril; it was like something out of an elven song. Beyond the gate, there was only white light. Yes, there had been a song, one that her father had sung to her many years ago, of the shining gates of—

To the left side of the gate, in a mithril brazier, a silver-blue flame burned. It gave off no heat or smoke, but its presence was soothing. Esthana approached it.

“You come to us, Purified.” The voice came from nowhere, and yet she knew that it came from the Flame.

“Am I dead?” said Esthana. “Is this—?”

“This is the gate. Those that pass beyond are joined with the Flame.”

“Tira?”

“I am Tira, and I am many. Tira was the first to join with the Flame; she gave us our voice, to communicate with world. But we existed long before.”

Above the Flame in front of her, an image gradually appeared of a human woman in gleaming plate mail, with a longbow at her back and the silver arrowhead of the Flame, with blue fire playing around it, emblazoned on the breastplate. Her voice was the Flame’s.

Esthana trembled. She had believed it all her life, but to speak with Tira Miron, the first paladin of the Flame, was overwhelming. Tears ran down her face. She looked down; she was still herself, dressed as for parade day: chainmail perfectly polished, a silver-blue flame embroidered on the tabard.

“Are you ready?” Tira said.

Esthana hesitated. The memory of the crypt, Anaya and the vampire, seemed distant, but it still floated in her memory. “Anaya, is she all right?”

“Know that our servant Anaya is alive. You slew the vampire.”

“I failed. My strength was tested and I failed.” Esthana fell to her knees, sorrow and guilt running through her mind.

“You did what few could do, and slew it.” Though the image of Tira spoke, the voice was expressionless and serene, offering no warmth.

I rolled this at the start of the scene, as there would have been no need for a scene at all if she rolled a success. But it was more dramatic to reveal the result now. Biggest roll of the game so far: 2d6 and on a 6 or less she dies.

Last Breath(Esthana): 2D6(5 2) +0 = 7 Partial success.
Hard bargain: take it or die.

“What of the Blood?” said Esthana. “Will the Purified in the city be safe?”

“Know that safety is never achieved or lost, only sought. There are always dangers. Are you ready?”

“No, I am needed.”

“Yes, servants of the Light are always needed. Are you ready?”

“For what?”

“Your spirit clings to the world; we think your work is not yet done. Rise.”

Esthana got to her feet, and gazed at Tira. The image’s lips moved with the words, but there was no expression on the face, no feeling there.

“Know that if you choose to return, it will be in the service of the Flame. There is evil in the world, and the Flame drives that evil before it, binding it in the depths; without our servants, fiends would still roam the surface of Eberron; no civilisation would exist. Know that you return in our service, and it is our strength that returns you, and it costs us to do this.”

Esthana stood up to attention before the Flame. “I serve the Light.”

“Know further that we return you with a purpose. The fiends in the dark are stirring. A cult of Khyber seeks to unbind the prisoners that the Flame binds there. We return you to serve, to seek out this cult.”

“I will serve.”

“Know further that we will advise the Keeper of your service. Go, our servant Esthana.”

The rules for the partial success on this move are to “Offer something that will be a challenge to play out but will lead the game in a fun new direction.” It has to change the character’s direction.

I chose randomly from the following, picking from some standard threats in the setting that the Flame might be concerned with:

  • Discover the cause of the Mourning.
  • Uncover corruption within the Church.
  • Reveal the hidden plot within the Blood.
  • Uncover the sinister power within Karrnath.
  • Destroy the Cult of the Dragon Below.
  • Or... come up with a new list, something more obscure.

I rolled a 5. That idea came partly from the setting, but of course I already foreshadowed that—specifically for Esthana, even—at the start of chapter 4.

Show the Devastation of the Last War: Cyre was destroyed two years ago.

“Wait. May I... are my parents with you?”

There was a pause.

“Know that only the spirits of the dead are joined to the Flame. Memories are lost. We know only what our servants communicate to us. Know further that many Purified were joined with the Flame that day.”

Esthana nodded, downcast. “I am ready.”

Wow. The 16HP dragon is regularly used as an example in DungeonWorld , but I inadvertantly turned the vampire fight into such a battle with how the charm played out. The vampire had 10HP, but it took so much chaos to take it down. The whole party was near dead. I was triumphant when Estana didn’t fail the Last Breath.

End of Session(party): Anaya met her alignment goal, +1XP. The party defeated a notable creature, and learned something new and important about the world: +2 XP for everyone.

Anaya: 4 failures, alignment goal met; at 9XP.
Esthana: 3 failures, now 10XP.
Vaalyun: 6 failures, now 13XP.

Everyone has enough to level up. I am inclined to jump cut forward now: we are done with the scene in the Blood base, I think. And we will leave Thaliost soon: Thrane and the rebels can sort it out between themselves. We have a new mission. So let’s assume the party gets a night’s rest here.

Make Camp(party): Healing
Level Up(Anaya): +1 STR, Scales of Life and Death: +1 to Last Breath in her presence

I wonder why I chose that...

Level Up(Vaalyun): +1 CHA, Summon Living Dragonmark

His Dragonmark is Shadows & Darkness. We might see some Melisandre-level trickery from this guy.

Level Up(Esthana): +1 WIS, Weapon of the Exorcist

That’s from the Exorcist of the Silver Flame compendium class in the Eberron supplement.

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