Friday, 29 July 2016

II.16: Demon's Pawn

near Newthrone, Q’barra
Dravago 9, 997 YK

See What They Find: Common, Themed, Danger (creature: high priest) I discarded a couple of rolls there that didn’t fit with the session so far; this one follows nicely from previous moves.

They emerged into a larger cavern, perhaps fifty yards across. A cluster of Khyber dragonshards, the largest perhaps four feet long, protruded from the rock wall opposite their entrance, and purple light emanating from the crystals was the main light in the cavern. The floor of the cavern sloped gently down in front of them to the centre of the cavern, and Anaya’s eyes were drawn to three large creatures at its centre. Thin strands of green light surrounded them, like a cage keeping them in place.

Spout Lore(Anaya): 2D6(6 5) +1 = 12 Success!
Useful information

Two of the creatures were like giant toads, brown and bulbous, and when standing hunched on their hind legs they were over six feet tall. Anaya recognised them as hezrou, powerful demons of Khyber with both great strength and unnatural abilities. Behind them stood another demon, ten feet tall and long-limbed, its taut flesh pierced in many places by sharp spines, and its arms ending in foot-long claws. The tall demon screeched, and Anaya’s heart seemed to skip a beat as she realised it was a flesh render, one of the deadliest of Khyber’s children.

Under the Khyber shards, there was a dais of sorts carved into the rock. A woman standing on the dais, clad in a long robe bearing a large purple symbol of a demon claw, pointed at them.

“Kill them,” the priestess shouted. The cage of light dissolved, releasing the creatures as they turned towards the intruders.

Hezrou: group, large, d8+5 damage, 10 HP, 1 armour. Forceful, armour counts as 4 against non-divine damage, poisonous stench.
Flesh render: reskinned DungeonWorld Barbed devil, with an extra ability: armour counts as 4 against non-divine damage.

Cast a spell(Bless)(Anaya): 2D6(2 3) +2 = 7 Partial success.
Lose the spell
Magic weapon(Nyseris): 2D6(2 2) +1+1 = 6 Failure!
Monster move(Priestess): Shield of faith

Put someone in a spot

Anaya touched her hand on Nyseris’ shoulder, saying “The Flame gives you strength” as she drew on the Flame’s blessing and bestowed it on the ranger. Nyseris hissed “Ibafarshan valignatic!” as they levelled their spear at the approaching creatures.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(6 4) +2 = 12 Success!

The two hezrou charged up the slope towards them, roaring their hatred. Esthana had her bow in hand, and took a shot at the priestess; the arrow flew true, but a shimmering shield of purple light appeared in the air and blocked the arrow. Then Esthana had to drop her bow and roll out of the way as the first hezrou rushed at her, its bulky, muscular form crashing into the rock where she had been standing. The cavern shook at the impact.

Nyseris met the charge of the other hezrou head on. The ranger’s spear stabbed into the creature’s thick hide, but it did not slow its charge, hitting the ranger and slamming them against the cave wall.

Hack and Slash(Nyseris): 2D6(1 5) +2+1-1 = 8 Partial success.
Deal 3 damage, negated by abilities; takes 9 damage, 8 after armour
Defy Danger(CON)(Anaya): 2D6(5 2) +0 = 7 Partial success.
Deals d6=1 damage, negated by the creature’s resistance

Anaya was right beside Nyseris and the creature. An overpowering strench rolled off of the creature, making Anaya sick to her stomach instantly. She took one slash at the creature with her short sword, which did not even cut its hide, and then had to back away, only just managing to stay on her feet.

Defy Danger(CON)(Esthana): 2D6(3 5) +2 = 10 Success!
Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(5 2) +2 = 9 Success!
Deals d10+d6=3 damage; Separate them

Esthana’s weapon negates 2 armour and, because of the its silver fire, it negates the magical resistance of these creatures. She might be the only one that can really harm these creatures. But only 3 damage!

Staggering back, Anaya saw Esthana, her sword burning with silver fire, close with the other hezrou. She ducked under one swing of its mighty, clawed paw, and stabbed the creature in the shoulder. The silver fire flared and the creature roared in pain from the blow. But then it swung with its other paw, and Esthana was forced to back up from its powerful blows.

Defy Danger(CON)(Nyseris): 2D6(1 3) +0 = 4 Failure!
Put someone in a spot

This is an example of how difficulty is controlled in DungeonWorld . You do not worry about encounter balance, and just throttle back the GM moves when the party seems in deep trouble. If this was a deathtrap dungeon sort of campaign, we would probably have killed Nyseris there; but Be a fan of the characters, I’m giving Nyseris a chance to recover.

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 2) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Deals 5 damage, 1 after resistance; Put someone in a spot

Meanwhile, the flesh render is moving in on: Random Esthana.

A cry from Nyseris brought her attention back to the ranger. Pinned to the cavern wall, Nyseris was struggling helplessly, being crushed by the powerful demon. Anaya looked on helplessly, but then she saw Vaalyun move out from behind the creature and fire his wand at its back. The creature started in pain, seared by the magic missile, and dropped Nyseris as it turned around to face the elf.

Esthana is going to try to keep two of the demons occupied, alone.

Defend(Esthana): 2D6(4 5) +2 = 11 Success!
Hold 3

Beyond, the flesh render had advanced as well and moved behind Esthana. Anaya saw the Templar back up towards the wall of the cavern and take a stand against the two creatures towering over her: the flesh render on her right, swinging its long clawed arms threateningly, while the hezrou before her beat its chest with its powerful arms and roared, the sound echoing through the caves.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(6 2) +2 = 10 Success!
Deals d10+d6=7 damage

10 total damage, that kills it.

The flesh render moved in, slashing fiercely, but Esthana ducked one blow and then blocked the second with her shield; from the other side of the cavern, Anaya could hear the scraping of claws on metal. The hezrou charged while her back was turned, but Esthana ducked low and thust with her sword, impaling the demon. There was a flash of brilliant silver light and fire surrounded the Templar and the creature; it roared in pain as it was consumed, and its burned husk fell to the ground. Esthana completed a turn and was up and ready to meet the render’s next attack.

The priestess is going to intervene too. Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: Anaya can help Vaalyun or Nyseris or go for the priestess right now. Once again, I think Anaya’s answer is written into the character: she goes to help the injured person.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 5) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Worse outcome: close enough to it to get in its foul smell
Cast a spell(Cure Light Wounds)(Anaya): 2D6(6 3) +2 = 11 Success!
Heals d8+4=6 damage

Nyseris is at 13/20 HP. That’s enough to probably survive one hit from these enemies.

The other hezrou charged at Vaalyun, snorting with rage. As Vaalyun rolled away from the first charge, Anaya could now move to help Nyseris, who had fallen when the hezrou moved away and was struggling to stand. She hurried over and laid a hand on the ranger, pouring more of the Silver Flame’s purifying light into them.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Anaya): 2D6(5 4) +1 = 10 Success!
Defy Danger(DEX)(Nyseris): 2D6(2 2) +2+1 = 7 Partial success.
Worse outcome: loses her spear

Anaya looked up just in time to see the priestess raising her hands to point at them. “Move!” Anaya shouted, pushing Nyseris one way while she rolled the other way. A blast of black and purple fire hit the spot where they had been standing; Anaya felt the heat of it on her face as she stood. As it cleared, she could see Nyseris again, unburned and staggering to their feet.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(6 5) +2 = 11 Success!

Esthana is tying up the most powerful enemy, at least.

Defy Danger(CON)(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 1) +0 = 5 Failure!
Deal damage: d8+5 = 9 damage, 8 after armour
Put someone in a spot: he takes damage again if no-one helps him out

Probably Anaya is the one to charge in to save him; he and Nyseris do not have a bond yet.

Hack and Slash(Aided)(Anaya): 2D6(4 5) +0+1 = 10 Success!
Deals d6=2 damage, none after resistance
Aid(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 3) +1 = 10 Success!
Aid given

They both turned towards a triumphant roar from the centre of the cavern, and saw that the remaining hezrou had caught Vaalyun; it grasped him with both of its forearms and was beginning to crush him. Anaya drew her sword again and charged, crying “For the Flame!”

The creature turned at her charge, and took one arm from Vaalyun to swat at the cleric. Anaya managed to dodge its stroke, and slashed at its arm with her sword; this time it did cut the skin, but the creature seemed unaffected by the injury. With his free arm, Vaalyun pulled his dagger from under his jacked and stabbed the creature’s paw; distracted, it released him, and he fell to the ground, vomiting and gasping for breath.

Cast a spell(Magic weapon)(Nyseris): 2D6(1 1) +1+1 = 4 Failure!

Wow, Nyseris just cannot cast that spell - 3 attempts, 3 failures. I keep trying because that would enable them to bypass the creature’s resistance to normal weapons; without it, only Esthana is really any good here. Considering that Nyseris has Anaya’s Bless active on them, it really has not helped.

I made a soft move last time, so it should really be a hard move this time. Put someone in a spot: priestess casts hold... lizard?

Madv duxirv!” cried the priestess above, and dark streams of energy passed over Anaya. She glanced over her shoulder to see Nyseris entangled in glowing green threads. Esthana was still engaged with the flesh render, and a loud screech of pain reverberated in the cavern as the Templar landed a blow on it.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(5 5) +2 = 12 Success!
Deal damage: d10+d6=10 damage
Defy Danger(CON)(Anaya): 2D6(6 6) +0 = 12 Success!
Summon Living Dragonmark(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 1) +2 = 4 Failure!
Random Use up their resources

The stench of the hezrou was near overpowering, but Anaya kept herself together this time. It swung a heavy arm at her, but she gave ground and managed to stay on her feet, using her shield to take the worst of the hits that she could not dodge. Behind the hezrou, she saw Vaalyun stagger to his feet, turn away from the battle and run to the cave entrance.

Defy Danger(WIS)(Nyseris): 2D6(6 3) +1 = 10 Success!
Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(1 6) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Worse outcome: you can get close, but take a hit to do it; Deal damage: d10+3 = 8 damage, 3 piercing

Spend hold(Esthana): Deal level damage to the attacker: 4 damage
Spend hold(Esthana): Halve damage to 4; reduced 1 more by armour.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(1 3) +2 = 6 Failure!
Deal damage: d10+3 = 13 damage, messy

Spend hold(Esthana): Deal level damage to the attacker: 4 damage

Esthana chooses to take the hit and use her hold instead to deal more damage to the creature.

Anaya could see, across the cavern, that the flesh render was still slashing at Esthana. The creature had burnt gashes in its arms and torso already from Esthana’s sword. Moving in again, the Templar ducked under a stroke by the creature, cutting at its long arm and causing it to screech in pain again. Past its guard, Esthana moved in close, but the creature brought its other clawed arm down in a powerful stroke, cleaving into the Templar’s shoulder. There was a sound of rending metal and Esthana cried out in pain; but she still managed to drive her sword into the demon’s body. There was a screech of pain, and the fiend thrashed wildly as silver flames engulfed it; its burning form fell to the ground, with Esthana standing over it.

Esthana is at 10/26 HP; Anaya is 16/17 HP; Vaalyun has fled with 7/17 HP; Nyseris broke out of the Hold Person and has 13/20 HP.

Hack and Slash(Anaya): 2D6(6 6) +0 = 12 Success!
Deals 6 damage, 2 after its resistance

The hezrou is at 7/10HP.

Anaya had been giving ground, but the hezrou had now driven her nearly to the cavern wall. Seeing that it had her trapped, it moved closed and swung at her with both its arms. Anaya pushed off of the wall behind her, ducking under the creature’s left arm and cutting at the creature’s chest as she moved. There was a satisfying roar of pain, and she turned to face the creature again.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(6 3) +2 = 11 Success!
Deals d10+d6=10 damage

The creature turned, roaring, and advanced slowly. It struck again, but Anaya backed out of range of its grasp. Then from the left, sword blazing, Esthana charged in; timing her charge so the hezrou’s arm was to the side, she lunged forward, driving her sword into the demon’s heart. The hezrou let out a final sigh, and the Flame consumed it.

Anaya looked around for the others first. Nyseris was on the dais under the Khyber crystals; the priestess was down. Vaalyun was walking down towards the Templars from the entrance. Both were limping with their injuries. Anaya herself was uninjured; she wiped her sword clean, sheathed it, and turned to Esthana.

“Take my sword,” said Esthana. Esthana was standing sideways to her, sword-arm closest to Anaya, and with her helmet on Anaya could not see her expression, but her voice sounded strained.

She took the sword. “Are you injured?”

“Wipe it for me; I cannot.” Anaya gasped as the Templar turned to face her; Esthana’s shield was gone, her paldron was shredded, and her shield arm hung limply.

I’m seriously considering having Esthana’s whole arm be beyond saving. Messy hits are meant to cause gruesome injuries: “ripping people and things apart” as the rulebook says. Let’s let the dice decide.

Defy Danger(CON)(Esthana): 2D6(2 2) +2 = 6 Failure!
Reveal an unwelcome truth


Anaya wiped the sword and handed it back to her companion, and moved around to inspect the damage. At the back, where the flesh render had struck, it was even worse; the back of Esthana’s plate was torn open and a deep wound ran down nearly a foot from her shoulder. Bones were exposed in places; she had several fractured ribs, and her collar bone was broken. But the shoulder joint itself was torn to pieces, and bleeding profusely.

Cast a spell(Cure Light Wounds)(Anaya): 2D6(1 3) +2 = 6 Failure!
Deal damage: d10=3 damage

Esthana is at 7/27 HP.

“Tira help us,” said Anaya, overcome with anxiety for her friend. “Esthana, this is beyond my skill to heal. We have to get you out of that armour and bandage it, quickly.” But, as she spoke, Esthana swayed, and fell to her knees, putting her one good arm out to break her fall as Anaya supported her other side. Vaalyun was beside them now, and moved to help Anaya unbuckle the plate mail.

Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: It takes more than Cure Light Wounds to fix a crushed shoulder.

They heard laughter from the dais. “There are more demons where those came from,” said a female voice. “More than there are stars in the sky. Even the Flame’s best are no match for them—aah, enough.” Anaya looked over as Nyseris jabbed the priestess, now bound, with her spear.

“Let me free, and I will try to heal your friend. It may not be as gentle as the Flame’s healing, but she will never use that arm again without it.”

They had Esthana’s breastplate and helmet off now; the fighter’s face was covered in blood and sweat, and her gambeson was soaked with the same. Anaya glanced uncertainly at the priestess; to summon such creatures, and the other powers that she had used, showed that she was a cleric of some power; she might be able to heal even an injury this grave. But to allow someone who wielded the power of Khyber so dangerously to go free—Anaya would not have contemplated it under any other circumstances.

Esthana made a deal with the Flame, her life for the Khyber cult. The decision is written into her backstory.

“No,” said Esthana, shaking her head and gritting her teeth with the pain. “Anaya, we came here to end this; I came here to end it. The Flame spared me for this.”

Anaya hesitated a moment longer, then nodded sadly. She got up and walked towards the dais; climbed up to it; stood over the priestess, now lying face down, Nyseris’ spear pressed into the priestess’ back, pointed at the center of the demon claw symbol on the robe.

“By the authority vested in me as a Templar of the Silver Flame,” Anaya said, drawing her sword, “for the crime of drawing on the power of Khyber, of—”

“A power beyond your imagining!” screamed the priestess.

“—calling forth demons from Khyber, and violence—” Anaya had her sword drawn now.

“You will all be consumed in the breath of the Dragon Below!”

“— against the followers of the Flame, I sentence you to death.” With both hands on her sword, she drove the point downwards into the prisoner’s back; the priestess let out a short cry, and was silenced.

Anaya walked back down to Esthana. Vaalyun had cut away some the torn up part of her gambeson around the wound—Esthana herself was lying on her front now while he worked—and was pressing a bandage to the wound. He looked grimly at Anaya, and held back the bandage for a moment. There was more gambeson left than flesh holding the arm in place.

“Esthana, this is beyond bandaging,” Anaya said sorrowfully. “And the wound is likely infected, given the foulness of those creatures.”

“Then do what must be done.”

Vaalyun followed Nyseris down the passage leading away from the Khyber dragonshard shrine. He tried to keep his thoughts focused on dangers ahead, not on the fight that had just passed or its grim aftermath: they had left Anaya working on Esthana. The passage, like the others down here, was only dimly illuminated in blue light shining from the next room ahead of them.

They emerged into a small room, once a cave but mined larger by the cultists. A painting of a dark-skinned dragon hung on the wall, illuminated in the purple light of a Khyber shard lantern hanging just above it; before this shrine, a robed man knelt in prayer. To one side was a desk with some old books and several bottles of good quality wine, and a fine crystal drinking vessel.

Discern Realities(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 6) +1 = 11 Success!
What here is useful or valuable to me? What here is hidden? Hold 1

“Count Zuokas I presume?” Vaalyun stood beside Nyseris, hoping that he would not need the lizardfolk’s fighting skill now. He wanted answers.

“I always knew that it would come to this.” The Count’s had a stentorian voice; he did not turn to face them. “Everything is a struggle between the light and the dark, the above and the below.”

“Why did you choose to serve the Dragon Below?”

“Because Khyber wins in the end. Every legend agrees on that.”

“You kept up appearances, I see; the main floor of your manor was presentable enough. You kept the cult out of sight.”

“So few can see the inevitable coming. Paying fake homage to a King, I pay my real homage here, to the Dragon.”

“Was it you that uncovered the caves here, and the dragonshards?”

“No; my father, when the manor was built, found them. He was interested; but it was I that realised its true worth.” The Count’s voice was commanding, and spoke with total certainty; the absolute certainty of a madman, Vaalyun thought.

“What of the lizardfolk?”, Vaalyun asked. “Why incite a war between them?”

The Count turned at that, and got to his feet. He was a tall man in his fourties, with dark hair and a proud bearing. He looked a little surprised when he saw Nyseris, and Vaalyun in his fine jacket—perhaps not the zealous warrior that he expected—but continued to talk.

“They stand in our way.”

“Because they protect the dragonshards?”

“Dragonshards?” The Count looked at Vaalyun, confused. But he continued. “The lizardfolk serve Masvirik.” He doesn’t know what he is doing, thought Vaalyun.

Spend hold(Vaalyun): Who is really in control here?

Vaalyun realises that the Count is not the one in control; he doesn’t even know about the sacred dragonshards. Reveal an unwelcome truth

Investigate(Aided)(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 2) +2+1 = 10 Success!
Useful information
Aid(Nyseris): 2D6(6 4) +0 = 10 Success!

“The Blackscales–s serve Masvirik,” said Nyseris.

“And you wanted to take their place,” said Vaalyun.

“The Overlords don’t need us,” said the Count. “Their demons will destroy all of civilisation. Only those that can serve them will be spared.”

“So it was politics; the Blackscales stand beside the Overlord now, so you tried to arrange for a war to weaken them, so you could step into their place.” Vaalyun smiled wryly; he was used to the politics of the Five Nations, but the plots of cults were not so different it seemed.

The Count was getting rattled now; he took a step forward, gesturing as he spoke. “My followers would have been spared—they could have served Masvirik himself! I tried to save them!”

“How did you expect to do that? How would your mere fifty men have fared crossing the jungle of Q’barra while a war raged?”

“The, I—Khyber would guide us.” Zuokas’ eyes glanced down; that made him think.

“The Blackscale spears were a strange detail,” Vaalyun lied. “Who suggested that? Your men struggled to use weapons that they had not been trained with.” Explain your plan, Count—was it your plan?

“It—it had to look like the Blackscales, or they might have tracked it back to us. Elisea said—How do you know about the spears?”

Elisea. We let her go, Vaalyun thought. Mockery’s blade! “The Templars killed your men, scattered them in the jungle. The lizardfolk were warned of the trap. Did none of them make it back here? Or did Elisea conceal their failure from you.”

“She would not—I am a noble, and my servants do what I command.”

“How long had she been in your service?”

“Since my father’s day; she is a loyal servant.”

“She told us where you were without hesitation.”

The Count was flustered now. “She said—There was no place for us unless the Blackscales were removed.”

“She never intended that you would reach Masvirik.” Vaalyun turned away. “Deal with him as you like,” he said to Nyseris. “He is just a pawn; we have learned all that we can from him.”

“No, wait!” Vaalyun heard a thud behind him as Nyseris moved into action, silencing the Count’s cry. Vaalyun kept walking; his House would prefer that there was no blood on his hands. His business was simply information.

Behind him there was one sharp cry of pain, and then silence.

Loot: d10+d4=5 is a minor magical trinket. Let’s resolve that another time.

Cast a spell(Cure Light Wounds)(Anaya): 2D6(5 5) +2 = 12 Success!
Heals 8 damage (on Esthana)

So Esthana doesn’t bleed out.

End of Session(party): We killed a notable creature, +1 XP for all; Nyseris, Anaya, Esthana all met their alignment goals

I am learning a little about using DungeonWorld . Having three demons and the priestess, all with abilities that blocked attackers getting close to them and let them resistant to damage, made this fight too slow. I’ll avoid that next time. If Nyseris had got that magic weapon spell off, it would have made the fight much smoother.

If Esthana had a player, there would have been some hard choices for them in this session. Esthana could have used her Defend hold to reduce the strength of that big hit, instead of damaging the creature, and would have avoided a grievous injury; but the party was struggling to make any progress and the hezrou might have killed Anaya before Esthana got free. The priestess’ offer would have been tempting for a player, too; Esthana had a chance to bleed out after the fight was over, due to some terrible rolls.

Anaya: 3 failures, alignment goal; level up; at 0XP.
Esthana: 2 failures, alignment goal; level up; now at 7XP.
Nyseris: 4 failures, alignment goal; level up; at 1XP.
Vaalyun: 3 failure; at 6XP.

Level Up(Anaya): +1 Wis; Random Penitent: take +d4 damage on a hit to gain +1 forward to spellcasting
Level Up(Esthana): +1 Dex; Random Multiclass dabbler(Paladin): Charge!: when you lead others in the charge, they take +1 forward
Level Up(Nyseris): +1 Con; Random Familiar Prey: Spout Lore about monsters using Wis

I can say a little more about the GM side of the game. The heroes already disrupted the Khyber Cultists front; now they have eliminated it. It is replaced by a new front for Elisea, whose true nature is not yet known in the story. The idea that Count Zuokas might be a pawn, with someone else pulling the strings, was suggested by some ideas in the setting (plus the idea that every faction in Eberron has an inner cabal subverting it, which is part of my Past conflict, present intrigue).

Originally this was built in to the front, but I changed my mind and let it be determined randomly. When I was rolling random enemies in the manor (when I rolled a Danger), one of the options was a traitor/manipulator, and that’s what I got in the study. Anaya only rolled a partial success to read that situation; on a full success, the Templars would have been able to ask more questions and would very likely have seen through Elisea’s surprisingly calm sellout of her master.

Thus ends book 2 of the campaign; I will post a fresh summary, glossary and character sheets before the next gameplay episode.

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