Friday, 24 June 2016

II.12: Dying for a Cause

Xemdaresh, Q’barra
Dravago 7, 997 YK

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

Esthana watched nervously as Vaalyun moved ahead, moving low amid the foliage from tree to tree. A halfling in dirty leathers was standing by a tree on some higher ground up ahead, keeping watch for the cultists who were camped somewhere beyond. As she had once before, Esthana kept an arrow nocked, ready in case Vaalyun was spotted before he reached the scout.

She looked around again. “Khyber’s breath,” she cursed quietly as another scout, a human in a dark cloak, came into view from her left. Vaalyun was keeping trees between him and the halfling, but he would be seen by the other scout in a few moments. Esthana stood up and loosed an arrow.

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

Vaalyun and Esthana have a pretty bad record of working together. This is not going at all to plan.

The scout ducked under a hanging vine at the last moment, and the arrow stuck in a tree behind him with a solid thunk. The scout looked to Esthana, and shouted “Enemies to the south!” As the halfling scout turned at the sound, Vaalyun stepped out behind him and sunk a dagger into his back.

Anaya laid a hand on Esthana’s shoulder, and she felt the purifying power of the Flame flow into her, filling her with fresh strength. “The Flame is with you,” said the cleric.

Cast a Spell(Bless)(Anaya): 2D6(2 4) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Lose the spell
Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(1 3) +2+1 = 7 Partial success.
Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: you can catch the scout, but only by getting much closer to the main camp

Esthana declines: a soldier isn’t going to solo charge a camp full of enemies.

Esthana slung her bow, charging through the thick undergrowth towards the remaining scout. The scout turned and ran down the far slope, and Esthana had to draw her sword and cut through some of the jungle vines and branches to make her way forward. As she crested the ridge, she saw the main group of presumed cultists below, alive with movement and shouting as they grabbed weapons. The cultists had only been here for an hour, and had not set up a proper camp.

Discern Realities(Anaya): 2D6(4 6) +2 = 12 Success!
What here is hidden? What here is useful or valuable to me? Hold 1

First Anaya wants to know if these really are Khyber cultists: they are.

After that, she wants info that might help the party not die rather quickly against this much stronger force. I was not sure what would be useful, so I rolled amongst a few tactical options that might help them here: terrain, creatures, tactical. I rolled “creatures”, which is cool because we have not got to see many monsters yet in this campaign. Time to dig through the monster manual...

From ten yards to the right, Anaya shouted “Demon claw!” Esthana glanced over, to see her checking the body of the slain halfling. The Templar report about cultists in this area had said that they used a demon claw as their sign. So they are the cultists that we seek.

Spend hold(Anaya): Who is in control here?: Show signs of an approaching threat; and Think dangerously, this group is large enough that they intended to masacre a village, so it’s got to be a pretty big group.

Volley(Esthana): 2D6(6 4) +2+1 = 13 Success!
d10=2 damage

Most of the cultists are Rebels from the DungeonWorld monster list: 3HP, 1 armour. Blue sash guy can be a Bandit King for HP/attacks but have the Knight moves.

“There they are!” shouted one of the cultists below them, a halfling wearing a dark blue sash. “Get them, but stay together!” The camp contained at least thirty armed cultists, and there were probably more scouts out of sight.

“We’re dead if they swarm us,” said Esthana, moving towards Anaya. She had her bow out again, and loosed an arrow at the back of the fleeing scout, hitting him in the leg and sending him tumbling down the slope into the camp. Two cultists stepped around him as they began climbing towards the Templars.

“I have an idea,” said Anaya. “Blue sash must be in charge—see if you can take her out.”

Vaalyun had his shortbow out as well, and loosed an arrow at the halfling commander. He hit her in the arm, penetrating her leather armour. She cursed, then shouted, “In Masvirik’s name, kill these wretches!”

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 2) +1 = 9 Partial success.
d4=4 damage; use up ammunition

Blue sash is at 9/12HP. Our heroes are all full health.

GM move(soft): Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: You have one round before the first group of cultists reach you. You can shoot at the boss, but any mistake and the cultists will get to you before you draw your sword.

Esthana chooses to shoot at the approaching cultists instead.

Volley(Esthana): 2D6(4 5) +2+1 = 12 Success!
d10=2 damage

“For the Cold One!” shouted several cultists as they charged up to the high ground. Others back in the camp had drawn crossbows and were shooting. Esthana was getting most of their attention so far, her plate mail standing out in the jungle. She loosed another arrow, hitting a human cultist in the chest as and knocking her over.

Ducking behind another tree, Esthana drew her sword and unshouldered her shield now. As she dashed to the next tree, several crossbow bolts whizzed past, and one struck her shield firmly. As she reached cover, she saw Vaalyun sheltering behind the next tree.

“So much for stealth,” said Vaalyun, in Elven.

“I hope Nyseris gets here soon,” said Esthana, as she turned to face the cultists behind her.

The village was set in a small clearing in the valley, with a tributary river running down through it from the east. The village was similar to those of Nyseris’ own tribe, and so it felt like a homecoming of sorts. The wattle and daub huts of the tribesfolk were scattered around the outside, with the largest huts for the village elders set near the great communal bonfire in the middle. There were a thousand villages like this in the jungle, though few lizardfolk would ever see those beyond their own tribe.

Nyseris was spotted by one of the tribe’s lookouts as they approached. In draconic, the watcher called out “Who emerges? Come forward and state your tribe and business.”

GM move(soft): Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment: the plan relies on a character with Cha 8 to persuade the village to quick action.

Nyseris wants to get to the tribe elders and explain, quickly; the leverage is the information she has about the troop of cultists camped less than a mile away.

Parley(Nyseris): 2D6(1 3) -1 = 3 Failure!
Turn their move back on them

Obviously Nyseris doesn’t lisp in draconic.

“Nyseris, of the Eternal Fire tribe.” Nyseris used draconic amongst other lizardfolk; few had any need to learn Common. “I come with urgent news, of danger to your village. Humankin are come from the south, armed and warlike.”

“Approach, and drop your weapons. Ineius!”—shouting over their shoulder to someone out of sight—“Stranger here!”

Nyseris did as was bid. The lookout was armed with a stout spear and several throwing spears; gesturing with the spear, they got Nyseris to back away from the weapons on the ground, and picked up the bow and spear themselves. With Nyseris’ weapons secure, the lookout seemed less nervous.

“Are there others with you?” they asked. Another lizardfolk, also armed, came into view.

“No—there are humankin camped to the south,” said Nyseris.

The lookout did not even look that way. “You come with us. Teegwul will deal with you.”

They drew attention as they walked towards the centre of the village, as many tribesfolk stopped what they were doing to look curiously at the newcomer. The lizardfolk of this tribe were blue-skinned with green dots; Nyseris’ grey scales marked them clearly as an outsider.

The chieftain was standing by the communal fire, and here Nyseris was presented. “We stopped this outsider at the edge of the village,” said the lookout loudly, so all could hear.

“I am Nyseris, of the Eternal Fire tribe.” Nyseris lowered their head, partly out of respect, partly out of fear.

“We know of the Eternal Fire, and honour the Cold Sun Alliance. What brings you so far from your own lands?” asked the chieftain, suspiciously.

“I travel to seek the source of the humankin that plague our lands. I come from their city on the Adder Bay.” Nyseris talked hurriedly, nervous and urgent. “There is a humankin warparty camped just to the south—I tracked them here, and come to warn you!”

Here’s the really big roll.

Parley(Nyseris): 2D6(1 2) -1 = 2 Failure!
Offer Aid from an Enemy, or Opposition from an Ally: House Tharashk has bought this tribe.

I took a little time to think about that move. I had expected that this tribe would be happy to reward the party’s help, but now it’s more complicated. Past Conflict, Present Intrigue: it fits a major theme for Eberron, that everything is shades of grey, and every organization has its traitors. The lizardfolk are no different.

There were murmurs of concern among the gathered tribesfolk; Nyseris heard someone say “But he said no more would come.”

The chieftain silenced them with a gesture and an angry stare. “We will learn the truth of this. Seenicin, take some warriors and scout to the south. Be wary: I do not trust this one”—gesturing to Nyseris—“so expect a trap.”

So the party is outnumbered and in a bad spot, but the lizardfolk are approaching cautiously, not dashing to rescue them. Also, Separate them: Nyseris is a prisoner in the village, not able to help them.

Since the cultists are working to release a godlike being of pure evil, they count as evil themselves for the purpose of Esthana’s Exorcist weapon: indeed, she was gifted the weapon specifically to kill Khyber cultists. Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(3 5) +2+1 = 11 Success!
d10+d6+2=16 damage

That kills five cultists.

Anaya paused and glanced back up the ravine. Still on the high ground, Esthana cut effortlessly through the neck of a cultist, her sword burning brightly with silver fire. Blood sprayed over the next two cultists to jump forward to attack; several more already lay dead at her feet.

Anay turned away—there were shouts of cultists from all around, and they would surely find her in a moment. Ahead of her was a great mound of vegetation, as she had seen from above. Nyseris would never have camped so close to this thing, but the cultist troop had been in a hurry and had overlooked it. Anaya was not a gambler normally, but she had learned to trust her instincts, and a desperate situation required desperate measures.

Anaya gets +1 forward for acting on her Discern Realities.

Cast a Spell(Light)(Anaya): 2D6(1 5) +2+1 = 9 Partial success.
Lose the spell

“Flame, illuminate the darkness!” cried Anaya, holding her shield out in front of her. The shield exploded into silver light, the dazzling flash of blue fire driving away the shade of the jungle.

The mound in front of her erupted upwards, recoiling from the sudden light. Vines and branches and fungi, tangled and rotten, lurched up, flailing around in the unnatural blue light. It stood 12 feet off the ground, its upper limbs standing above the edge of the ravine, and a stench of rotten vegetation rolled outwards; the monstrosity let out a loud groan like creaking wood.

Offer Aid from an Enemy, or Opposition from an Ally: when I rolled a creature to be the “useful” thing for Anaya, I then went to a 5e random encounter generator and took the first jungle monster that I rolled. This one isn’t in the DungeonWorld monster list, so I’ll quickly make a DungeonWorld monster for it here.

Shambling mound: solitary, large. d10+3 damage, 16HP, 1 armour; close, reach, forceful, stealthy, terrifying. Moves: lurk, devour.

It lashes out immediately—Think dangerouslyDeal damage: d10+3=13 damage. Damn.

The creature’s limbs lashed out wildly. A group of cultists advancing parallel to the ravine were caught entirely by surprise; Anaya saw a flailing branch break the necks of the first two with a single sweep. Vines grabbed another man, tossing him across the ravine where he crashed into a tree, twenty feet off the ground. Another was grabbed around the neck by a vine, and in a few seconds his neck was crushed and he fell limp.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(3 4) +2+1 = 10 Success!
d10+d6+2=12 damage

Another 4 dead.

“Devourer’s teeth, what is that thing?” shouted Esthana. Anaya looked up, to see the other Templar at the top of the ravine now, cultists swarming around her. The cultists attacked fiercely, but Esthana cut through them effortlessly, smashing one in the face with her shield while she ran another through with her sword. The cultists blows were wild and reckless, and failed to find a gap in the Templar’s armour.

“Get to the other side of the ravine!” shouted Anaya. Cultists were shouting as well, both battle cries and, from behind the main fight, someone was giving orders.

Show signs of an approaching threat: crossbowmen

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 6) +1 = 11 Success!
d4=4 damage

Four crossbow-armed cultists took up position above the ravine now, preparing to fire at the retreating Templars. One had a bolt already loaded, and took aim at Anaya, but then an arrow shot from behind Anaya hit him in the eye, killing him instantly. Vaalyun is still with us, then.

Defy Danger(INT)(Anaya): 2D6(5 2) +1 = 8 Partial success.
Put yourself in danger

Shambler deals d10+3=4 damage. In total, we have killed 15 cultists so far: half of the main group. Monster move(Shambling mound): Devour

Anaya moved further down, moving closer to the shambler but putting it between her and the crossbow cultists. It recoiled from her, trying to move its body away from the blue fire around her shield; it reared up the side of the ravine, grabbing the nearest crossbowman in its vines. It hauled him into a crushing embrace, forcing his body into the centre of its own mass, devouring the corpse whole.

But it lashed out at Anaya as well, vines reaching down and grabbing her legs before she could jump back. It dragged her up into the air; the jungle swung dizzyingly around her, and the rotten smell of the creature was stifling as it pulled her closer.

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

The silver fire around her shield, due to the earlier Light, doesn’t actually set fire to things; it’s just divine light.

Those crossbows are about to shoot at the now exposed cleric as well: the party didn’t deal with them. Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: deal with the crossbows or the shambler right now.

Summon Living Dragonmark(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 6) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Living shadow, 1HP, all basic moves with +1

He is going for the shambler. Golden opportunity: Deal damage: d6+1=6 damage, -2 armour for Anaya. She is at 13/17 HP.

Hack and Slash(Vaalyun’s shadow): 2D6(4 5) +1 = 10 Success!
d4=2 damage

More vines tried to close in on her, and Anaya struggled to push and cut them away with shield and sword. The two cultists with crossbows, backing away from the shambler, saw their chance to take a shot at her; Anaya felt a jolt of pain as a bolt stuck into her side.

The light from her shield cast sharp, waving shadows all around the creature as she struggled in its grip. The shadow itself seemed to move with an energy of its own; shadowy vines seemed to grapple with the real vines of the tree, and the creature’s attacks slowed as it instead grappled with the shadow around it.

Two cultists head for Vaalyun now that he has revealed his position.

Defend(Esthana): 2D6(1 4) +2+1 = 8 Partial success.
Divert attacks to self

Okay so Deal damage: d6+1=3 damage which is negated by Esthana’s armour of 4.

Defy Danger(INT)(Anaya): 2D6(5 2) +1 = 8 Partial success.
Hard bargain: cut yourself free & take fall damage. Deal damage: d8=3 damage, no armour.

Anaya accepts the damage, and is at 10/17 HP.

As the creature was distracted, Anaya saw that she could cut herself free. With a few strokes of her sword, she cut the vines still holding her—and fell down into the side of the ravine, rolling down into the stream running along the bottom of the ravine, bruised and in pain.

Hey, a smart person could steer the creature using the shadow. Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities

Defy Danger(INT)(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 2) +2 = 10 Success!
Deal damage: d10+3=8 damage

The creature still stood over her, flailing at its own shadow. As Anaya lifted her shield, the shadow seemed to move to the other side of the creature, drawing it away and up, out of the ravine—and into the two cultists with crossbows, still reloading at the top. Lashing branches cracked the skull of one of them, and the other was crushed by a vine grasping wildly at shadow.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(1 2) +2+1 = 6 Failure!
Deal damage: d6+2=4, doesn’t get past her armour
Defy Danger(CON)(Anaya): 2D6(2 5) +0 = 7 Partial success.
Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment: climbing out of a ravine while wearing armour and shield is hard
Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 5) +1 = 11 Success!
d4=1 damage; the target falls for an extra d6=6 damage

An arrow whizzed past Anaya’s head; she turned and blocked with her shield as two more struck home, the force jolting her arm. “Archers above!” she shouted; two halflings had climbed trees further down the ravine, and were shooting down at her. Seconds later, an arrow struck the nearer one in the arm, and he lost his grip and fell to the ground hard. Anaya glanced up to see Vaalyun nocking another arrow. Behind him, several cultists were stabbing at Esthana with spears.

Hack and Slash(Vaalyun’s Shadow): 2D6(6 3) +1 = 10 d4=4 damage

The shambler is at 12/16 HP. 18 or so cultists dead, and their cohesion is shattered now.

Hack and Slash(Anaya): 2D6(4 4) +0 = 8 Partial success.
Deals 1 damage (absorbed by armour), takes 2d10 keep highest (3 2) = 3 damage (1 after armour)

There was a sound of leaves and undergrowth shifting from Anaya’s left; she turned to see the blue-sash halfling sliding down. The halfling was stout, wearing a chain shirt and a demon-claw pendant; she found her feet immediately and came at Anaya with a short sword. Anaya parried the first blow; the second got past her but glanced off of her mail.

“Who in Khyber are you?” asked the halfling, as she circled for another strike.

Defy Danger(INT)(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 2) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Worse outcome

d10+3=12 damage. That kills the halfling; if it had been a successful role, I would have given Vaalyun enough control to say that the halfling was crippled rather than dead.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Anaya): 2D6(6 5) +1 = 12 Success!

Suddenly a shadow loomed over them. The halfling looked up, turning her face just in time to meet a branch of the shambler crashing down; it smashed the halfling’s skull with a sickening crunch. Anaya ducked and scrambled away just in time as more vines and branches came down, thrashing around in the ravine.

She clambered up the side of the ravine. There were more arrows flying past now, but not aimed at her. Looking around, she saw that there were lizardfolk at the top of the ravine now. Dead cultists lay everywhere around the ravine, many around Esthana’s feet, others with arrows in their backs; Anaya could see a few more fleeing into the forest. Behind her, she could hear the crunching of bones and groaning of boughs as the shambler devoured the cultist leader’s body.

End of Session(party): Esthana risked herself to defend someone weaker (the lizardfolk villagers), meeting her alignment.

Anaya: 1 failure; at 10XP. (Ready to level up.)
Esthana: 2 failures, alignment goal; now at 7XP.
Nyseris: 2 failures; at 5XP.
Vaalyun: 0 failures; at 7XP.

The plan that I came up with for the party, for the record, was:

  • Vaalyun and Esthana take out a scout on the far side of the cultist camp, so Esthana and Anaya can take up position there.
  • Nyseris gets to the village and rouses them to fight the cultists, before the cultists make their attack.
  • Vaalyun would then work his way around to the north side and try to take out the scout there, so they could not report that the village was being mobilized for battle.

Obviously, the plan went off the rails completely. But the party rolled well in the fight itself and crushed the cultists.

I had no idea, when I started the session, that there would be a shambler, or what the party would do with it. Vaalyun rolled really well to manipulate it: I kept making him roll hack-and-slash for the shadow that he animated, to give the shambler a chance to destroy it, but he kept making those rolls and the rolls to actually direct it against enemies.

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