Sunday, 2 July 2017

IV.30: Into the Dark

Newthrone, Q’barra
Lharvion 3, 997 YK

Haka’torvhak was around 100 miles from Newthrone, deep in the eastern jungles of Q’barra. Few lizardfolk of the gul siksta had ever seen it, as it was the heart of the territory controlled by the Blackscale lizardfolk. Nyseris knew of its general location but had never been within sight of the fortress. The ranger was anxious, and yet Nyseris felt that, for the first time, they had a chance to make a real change in the balance of power in the jungle. The danger was worthwhile if they could strike a blow against the enemy that had plagued them for thousands of years.

On the first day in the jungle they had encountered a group of lizardfolk scouts. These were lizardfolk that had been at the gathering in the Vale of Eberron, and they recognised and welcomed the Templars—thought none spoke Common and Nyseris had to translate for them. Nyseris talked to the scouts for some minutes, and they had much to tell of the gul siksta’s preparations: the jungle near the human’s coastal settlements was now regularly patrolled, and warriors from more distant tribes were bivouacked in villages nearer the coast ready to respond to Tharashk’s incursions. In return, Nyseris warned them of the reinforcements arriving in Newthrone, and that more were expected to follow.

As the next sequence is a travel sequence, let’s use the Perilous Wilds journey moves rather than Mythic GME.

Scout Ahead(Nyseris): 2D6(4 2) +1 = 7 Partial success.
You discern a beneficial aspect of the terrain
Navigate(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 3) +2 = 8 Partial success.
You encounter a Danger: I rolled a natural hazard, a chasm. That fits with what the player characters want to do anyway.

Otherwise the first four days of travel east were uneventful. In an area so vast and sparsely populated, there was little chance of encountering anyone unless you approached something of value: water sources, good hunting grounds, and unusual flora would attract the jungle’s inhabitants, but there was plenty of wilderness in which to lose yourself away from those things. For Nyseris, it was easy to steer then into the deep wilderness, and to find the tracks of hostile wildlife and pick a safer path.

Nyseris’ companions were less adept at jungle travel. The Templars had spent enough time in the wilderness now that they had learned a little of its ways; Esthana knew what types of wood to look for and where to look for firewood at camp each evening, and they were both getting better at spotting hazards above and underfoot as they travelled. Nyseris was still at times amused or frustrated at how slow and noisy they could be—even the most hapless lizardfolk child could do better—but she admired their willingness to set aside their kinship with the humans in Newthrone and help the lizardfolk in their struggle here.

Defy Danger(INT)(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 2) +1 = 4 Failure!
Understand but not speak

As for Vaalyun, she still did not fully trust him, even if the elf had been proved right about Tharashk dealing with lizardfolk tribes. Before this trip he had spoken little to them, but now Nyseris found that Vaalyun spent much of every evening asking them questions, mostly about their language, and he would constantly write in his notebook as Nyseris answered him. After a few days of this Nyseris realised that he was trying to learn Draconic; his elven mouth was not made for the language, and while he could understand words and phrases, he could not pronounce them at all.

They had covered perhaps eighty miles by the end of the fourth day. They camped that evening deep in the wilderness, under a rocky outcrop covered in dead vines; Nyseris insisted that they alone would go to refill the waterskins at the nearby stream that night, as the others would leave tracks that Blackscale patrols might find.

Defy Danger(CON)(Anaya): 2D6(1 6) +1 = 8 Partial success.
Exhausted but rest will fix it
Defy Danger(CON)(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 5) +0 = 11 Success!

On returning with water, Nyseris say down at the small campfire that the others had started. Nyseris could have gone on for several more hours without difficulty, and Esthana looked like she could manage to go further, but Anaya had put her pack up against the outcrop and was sitting back against it, clearly exhausted.

“We are about a day from Haka’torvhak, if it were a simple journey,” said Nyseris. “But we are in Blackscale territory now, and we will need to move more cautiously as we approach.”

“Do you know anything about the fortress itself? How will we even get inside when we get there?” asked Esthana.

Spout Lore(Nyseris): 2D6(2 4) +0 = 6 Failure!
Reveal an unwelcome truth

“Legend says that it took thousands of years to build. There is no other fortress even half so large anywhere else in Q’barra; its stone towers stand high above the jungle around it. No army has ever stormed Haka’torvhak, and nothing is known of what lies inside.”

“If the lizardfolk could have taken it from the Blackscales, I suppose it would have happened long ago,” said Esthana.

Anaya said, “In the vision that the Flame sent me, the fortress was huge: too large, perhaps, for the Blackscales to occupy or patrol all of it. If we can get inside, we may be able to evade them. But the main gate was busy. I hope that we can find an unguarded entrance.”

“That will take time,” said Esthana. “If any patrol spots us then we may find thousands of Blackscales searching for us.”

Payoff for Vaalyun taking the time to investigate that book that he stole.

“I have been thinking about that,” said Vaalyun. “What we seek is not in the fortress itself, but in Khyber beneath. The book that I took from House Tharashk—the Gatekeeper cult book—contained a map of entrances to Khyber in this jungle. There is an entrance marked to the north of Haka’torvhak.” From the pocket of his jacket, he pulled out the book; having found the page, he got up and showed the map to Anaya.

“Can we trust a book about a legend by a group of cultists?” asked Esthana.

“If it is correct, though, then it would surely be easier than breaching the fortress,” said Anaya. “The Flame calls on us to do this, and we must find the way. Let us try to find this place; if we can, then I will consult the Flame and it may give a sign as to whether this is a true path.”

By morning, the weather had changed. Instead of the usual relentless heat of the jungle, rain was falling, creating a heavy ceiling of noise as the water filtered through the canopy above them. The outcrop that they had camped beside gave them some shelter at breakfast, but once they set out their travelling cloaks were soon soaked. The heat was lessened a little by the rain, but not enough to make wearing a cloak comfortable.

It took them a few hours, but the map proved accurate, and they soon found the entrance that they sought. They had been following a brook—turned into a raging stream by the rain—for a mile, when suddenly they came upon a gap in the trees and the ground fell away. They found themselves looking over a chasm, thirty feet wide and perhaps two hundred feet long.

Spout Lore(Nyseris): 2D6(3 6) +0 = Partial success. Vague information

The party knows enough to put this into context.

Nyseris turned to her companions. “Some say that these are the claw marks of Khyber,” they said, “wounds inflicted at the world’s making.”

Vaalyun moved to the edge, peering down. The sides of the chasm were overgrown with vines, and the roots of the trees above broke through and clung to the sides in many places.“If the map is correct, there is a path down into Khyber here.”

“It looks like a dangerous descent,” said Esthana. The stream ran down into the chasm, and the sides were slick with water.

“We could fix a rope at the top here and use it to scale down,” said Nyseris.

Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment: This was rolled as a danger anyway, but will be more than that for a one-armed character.

Change the Environment

“More dangerous for you, Templar,” said Vaalyun. “You cannot climb down with only one arm. Nyseris, could you lower her down?”

Nyseris looked over at the Templar; even in plate, she would be lighter than the lizardfolk. “Yes.”

Guidance(Anaya): 2D6(4 2) +3 = 9 Partial success.
Lose the spell

Longbows are the traditional weapon of clerics of the Silver Flame. We should work in more longbow into the Templar stuff.

“First, I will consult the Flame,” said Anaya. The others drew back a little, and Nyseris watched as the cleric set her pack aside and stepped forwards to the edge of the chasm, longbow in hand. Silver light surrounded Anaya, silhouetting her against the grey rain and the jungle beyond, and Nyseris felt a tug on their spirit as Anaya called on the Flame’s power. The cleric drew an arrow and loosed it down into the chasm below, silver light trailed behind it into the darkness.

After a few moments the light around Anaya faded, and she turned back to them. “I can feel the evil seeping up from below. It is taint of the Overlord, and other fiends trapped below, leaking out through this opening. The passage will not be safe, but there is a way down into Khyber here. The Flame will light our way.”

It was decided that Vaalyun, as the lightest of the party and with the benefit of elven darkvision, should be the first to be lowered. Anaya tied a rope around the elf’s waist, as Nyseris shouldered their bow and found a good spot at the chasm’s edge over which to hold the rope.

“I don’t suppose any of your ancestors were rock climbers?” asked Esthana; she looked uneasy as she watched the preparations for the descent.

“Not that I know of,” Vaalyun replied, “but the line of Phiarlan goes back forty thousand years, back to before the elves left Xen’drik. Legends say it was a wild place away from the cities even then, so my ancestors were surely better than I at travelling through dangerous places.”

“Then I hope they are watching over you today.”

“That is not—likely,” said Vaalyun, suppressing a frown. “The ancestors that remain to guide us do not travel beyond Aerenal. But I thank you for the thought.”

Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 5) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Reaches the bottom safely, finds footing, but there’s no good place to stand here

The rope secured, Vaalyun moved to the edge and began to abseil down into the cavern, as Nyseris payed out rope at the top. After a minute of lowering him, the rope went slack, and shortly afterwards they heard a call back up from below. “I am at the bottom of the chasm itself, but it opens into a cavern that slopes down to somewhere out of sight. There is no good footing here, so be very careful as you follow. I will try to get a rope secured down here.”

Defy Danger(STR)(Nyseris): 2D6(4 6) +2 = 12 Success!
Lowered fine

They lowered Esthana next; with only one arm she could not do much but keep herself from crashing into the sides. A rope was tied around her, and Nyseris once again had the task of lowering the Templar into the chasm. Esthana’s plate mail and sword made her much heavier than Vaalyun had been, so Anaya held a second rope as a backup braced around a tree. But Nyseris still had no difficulty in lowering the Templar safely to the bottom, and Anaya’s assistance was never needed.

Defy Danger(STR)(Anaya): 2D6(3 1) +0 = 4 Failure!
Put Someone in a Spot
Defy Danger(CON)(Nyseris): 2D6(2 2) +1 = 5 Failure!
Deal damage: 3d6=12 damage to Anaya ignoring armour. Think Dangerously I intentionally chose an amount that could kill Anaya if I rolled high; two failed rolls calls for a serious result.

They packs were lowered next, and then Anaya climbed down the rope. This time Nyseris held the second rope, paying out at the top as the cleric climbed down. A few seconds after Anaya had climbed out of sight, the weight on the rope in Nyseris’ hands suddenly increased, pulling it out of the lizardfolk’s weary hands. Horrified, Nyseris fell to the ground and grabbed at the rapidly vanishing rope, but it was moving too quickly and they could not get a hold of it. There was a crash from below as the end of the rope flew over the edge of the chasm.

Defy Danger(CON)(Nyseris): 2D6(2 5) +1 = 8 Partial success.
Show a downside to their class, race or equipment: wearing gloves would help with sliding down a rope. Deal damage: d6=2 to Nyseris.

Nyseris grabbed the other rope—all of their other things had already been lowered below—and slid down, the rope burning at their hands as they controlled their descent into the darkness below. First they saw the lantern below them, and a few seconds later their feet hit the wet rock floor hard, scrambling to find a footing on the slick surface as the lizardfolk clung to the rope for support.

Getting their footing, Nyseris looked around. The cavern floor sloped down steeply, the water from above spreading out and streaming down the smooth surface running off into the darkness below. Esthana was clinging on to a rocky outcrop with her one arm, shock written on her face, and from a rope tied to the same outcrop Vaalyun was beginning to lower himself gingerly down the sloping floor. There were scratches and chips in the stone where Anaya had hit the slope, and the scratches showed the direction that she had slid away.

Cast a Spell(Nyseris): 2D6(1 3) +1 = 5 Failure!
Separate them

Glancing to Esthana, Nyseris simple said “I will get her.” Letting go of the rope, she kicked off of the rock wall, throwing herself down the slope in the direction that Anaya had fallen. The steep angle and slickness of the surface allowed them to easily slide down on their belly, and Nyseris could feel the marks left by Anaya’s mail on the rock. They summoned the light of the Flame around their hand, and by its silver illumination was able to see the break in the slope just before reaching it.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Nyseris): 2D6(2 4) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Use up their resources: spear shaft is broken

Nyseris tumbled through, feeling the impact of the rough rock wall on the other side of the fissure. The light reflected off of the damp rock face dazzled the ranger as they fell, but instinctively they reached out and grabbed an outcrop to break their fall, though slamming into the rough wall again knocked the breath out of them. Nyseris quickly scrambled for a foothold, and took a moment to look around.

Pausing for breath, Nyseris looked up, holding their lit hand above their head to shield their eyes from the streams of water cascading over the edge above. Nyseris could see that they were about ten feet below the top of fissure, which was around five feet wide on average and fifty feet across. Evidently it was quite deep, again disappearing in darkness below them. The sides were very uneven, however, with many outcrops, indents and shelves of rock jutting out into the space. Glittering below in the silver light, Nyseris could Anaya sprawled, unconcious, on one of these shelves. Nyseris let go, kicking off of the opposite wall, and landed next to Anaya, the water pooled there sloshing over the side and down the fissure.

Cast a Spell(Cure Moderate Wounds)(Nyseris): 2D6(1 6) +1 = 8 Partial success.
-1 forward to casting; heals 2d8=11

Anaya is at 16/17 HP.

Reaching down, Nyseris put their hand on the fallen cleric. Silver light enveloped both of them, its brilliant light flooding the fissure, as its soothing energy flowed from Nyseris into Anaya. The cleric started up, pushing herself out of the pooled water and taking a deep gasping breath. After a moment on her hands and knees, Anaya pushed herself upright against the side of the fissure, taking deep breaths.

“Thank you.” She looked down and put a hand to her ribs, feeling her injuries, and then looked at Nyseris again, raising an eyebrow. “No broken bones at all! It is not possible to fall so far without causing some serious injuries. Your healing ability exceeds even mine, Nyseris.”

“I am sure that being near you has brought me this gift, Lady Anaya. The Silver Fire watches over us.”

Esthana’s voice echoed faintly from above. “What’s going on down there?”

Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 4) +2 = 11 Success!
You get down safely
Discern Realities(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 4) +1 = 9 Partial success.
What here is useful or valuable to me?

“They are fine,” came Vaalyun’s clear reply. Looking up, Nyseris saw that the elf was perched above them, on an outcrop at the top of the fissure. “And it appears that they have found the way down.”

Nyseris looked over the edge into the gloom below. “It goes down, but does it go where we want to go?”

“It is the right way,” said Vaalyun. “And we are not the first to use this path. There is an iron hoop fixed to this outcrop, a place to fix a rope for climbing down. Evidently the cult that discovered this opening has used this path to access the realm beneath.”

End of Session(All): Nyseris and Anaya met their alignment goals

Anaya: 1 failure, alignment goal; at 12XP.
Esthana: 0 failures; at 11XP.
Nyseris: 3 failures, alignment goal; at 9XP.
Vaalyun: 1 failure; at 9XP.

Dungeon World is okay at handling these non-combat challenges, but it does leave most of the burden on the Gamesmaster to come up with the content and structure of the challenge—unlike combat where it provides the equivalent of a monster manual.

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