Even Dwarves Started Small


Charley: "Am I a good GM, dad?" 


We were playing MB's HeroQuest. 

Not my original set - my evil brother sold that for drugs money when I was studying in university in 1999. I got a bargain replacement on eBay in 2017, a fully working, all-the-bits-are-there complete set for uk£50, half what every other seller is asking, the going rate. My dad got it at the original price of £13 when it came out after seeing the amazing advert on tv. Seemed a lot of money back in those days. 





Charley and I had already done the brown Quest Book cover-to-cover with me as GM; now it was his turn. He's as hooked on it at age 8 as I had been age 12. He's also a better GM than I was at that age.

Why? Because he improvises. Because he takes an idea and dances with it. Because after a year of playing Skyrim like a pro he's full of inspiration. Because he's trying to impress me with his imagination

The idea was improvisation. It started when I took a different set of the four Heroes from my collection of miniatures. A Barbarian, a Wizard, an Elf and a Dwarf. 

The Elves are always snooty and think they're better than everyone else, talking in posh nasal accents and annoyingly usually getting it right although usually requiring the Wizard to heal them somewhere along the way. Either that or the other characters simply kill them off, it depends on the mood of the day.

But its the Dwarves who deserve special mention. In our play-through's we've already had Speedy the Dwarf, Nobby the Dwarf, Bobby the Dwarf, Dave the Dwarf, and so on. Somehow the Dwarf is always the butt of everyone's jokes and somehow they all end up dead while the other characters escape. We've gone through more Dwarves than Snow White. 

Tiny-The-Dwarf, is a giant among Dwarves. Literally, because while most 28mm and 32mm miniatures are believably interchangeable, The-Dwarf is a head and shoulders above them. Sold as a 32mm model, he'd fit into a 42mm model set easily if there is such a thing.  

This is especially funny because the Barbarian miniature chosen to accompany the group on this particular occasion is notably small compered with the other 28mm miniatures he's supposed to accompany. As a result, the muscle-bound Conan-like Barbarian in our party is literally the same height as the Dwarf. Which obviously is very funny and immediately became a part of the party's dynamic. 

The banter between the characters is an enjoyable part of our play, they ridicule each other, friendships are formed, we both actually cried when our very first character tragically died, who happened to be the longest surviving Dwarf we've had, simply because by then we'd grown so attached to him and his role in the group interplay.

"Tiny" the Giant Dwaf and Shorty The Barbarian,  Eye-To-Eye

So we have a giant Dwarf, who left his Dwarven kingdom because he was too tall and set out to seek adventure in the world, who is clearly overconfident as a result of it; and we have an irate short-tempered, short-statured Barbarian who set out to seek adventure because he's fed up of being called short-ass. They make a great team. 

The Elf is a typical robed Archer type with stereotypical posh voice and superiority complex. The Wizard is a Gandalf clone with a broken staff who bumbles around behind the others not doing much until his spells are needed for healing or fighting. 

The magic system in HeroQuest is really good, being based on the Four cardinal Elements and there being three spells for each element, but its also severely limited especially when you want to actually do something useful but have run out of both useful spells already. After reading the brilliant Ars Magica rulebook again several years ago, taking the very best of the very best, has helped to establish the MAGIC SYSTEM FOR BRAINS & BRAWN™ desktop dungeons (link to follow).


©1989 MB Games no copyright infringement intended, shared for educational purposes only

The heroes killed all the greenskins in the dungeon very quickly. Charley like his dad loves the Chaos Warrior models and had used one of them to represent the Dungeon Boss. Apparently the guy had been using Orcs, a few Goblins and some one-eyed Fimir to perform banditry on the local population so the King had sent my boys in as problem-slayers. 

Adaptations to the Map: Instead of a table from the HQ box, in the first room; Charley added a lot of realism to the dungeon by replacing it with a Skyrim style fire-pit I had made from slivers of XPS-foam (the very best stuff for making custom dungeons with) and PVA-Glue-mixed-with-Grey-acrylic-paint-(then-drybrushed-with-white) and burnt twigs. Yes I have burnt twigs. That's normal. It's from White Sage. Keep reading.

Charley wants to be a Blacksmith when he grows up and had discovered in my Old Treasure Trove Of RPG Stuff, a 3"x1" printed-on-card forge tile from Games Workshop's Advanced HeroQuest which I had saved up for myself for ages but have never played, because everyone else was fed up of HeroQuest by then and had grown out of it. Bastards. I'm fairly sure its the only surviving bit of either of those games I have left but for a small handful of Skaven (Ratmen) and Henchmen (boring pikeys).

I remember flasks of Greek Fire and the pikeys designed for stabbing diagonally like the Spear in original MB HeroQuest can do (as can the Wizards Staff), which clearly made the winning strategy to stand in a doorway, unleash napalm into a room of ratskins and have the Pikeys clean up any survivors as they came screaming Ratty Atrocities (Ratrocities™ and obviously RetroRatro-cities™) full tooth and claw and waving shorter-stumpier-pikeys around. Ah sweet dreams of teenage innocence. I remember also the necessity for the AHQ Wizards to gather spell ingredients (remember that comment about White Sage?) in the dungeons for using in their spellcraft, which essentially meant Moss, Pebble and Rat-Shit spell-elements (spellements?) were the order of the day.  Night. Underdark.


©1989 MB Games no copyright infringement intended, shared for educational purposes only

Charley: "The dead Warrior's armour and Axe are glowing with a dark aura." Remember, the kid has been studying Skyrim. When he puts on a creepy, cajoling voice, it's sinister and yet somehow indefinably compelling. "Do you ... want to ... pick them up? Do you want to ... use them?" 

Curiosity and playing his game got the better of me. His excitement and enthusiasm is infectious. 

"The Dwarf picks up the Dark Axe and the Barbarian puts on the Dark Armour." Says I. A part of me knows better. Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do. For the sake of the story and keeping an eight year old happy.

Immediately the Axe possesses the Dwarf and the Armour possesses the Barbarian, who boosted by the evil power of these items are now ten times harder to beat than ever and also who immediately turn upon the injured Elf and exhausted Wizard, fully intending to kill them maliciously.

"Damn it. I should have seen that coming."  Says I.

The battle was tough. The Elf and Wizard together take out the Barbarian and then leg it as fast as they can, slamming the door behind them and escaping the Dungeon before the Dwarf can catch up. The Dwarf meanwhile gives up the chase and while they are running away, pulls the Evil Armour off the Barbarian and puts it on himself. Remember, this Dwarf is a giant among Dwarves already. With the Dark Armour and Dark Axe, he begins to mutate. He begins to grow. He is filled with a surge of evil power. The last thing the surviving heroes hear as they escape to the Stairs and safety is a booming voice: "I will hunt you. I will kill you. I will return! Hahahhaaaaaha"

Game session ends on the promise of a sequel.


"Tiny" the Devil-Dwarf after his transformation and Shorty The Barbarian



FOOTNOTE

The title for this blog post is taken from a 1970 movie by Werner Herzog which does with film and the viewers psyche what is excruciatingly difficult to explain, much less give someone as an experience. Half-way through the movie, the viewers mind flips over from one state of perception to another, and if you are astute, you observe this happening to it; aware now that it can happen, you begin to question why you are not aware of it (such perceptual shifts) happening more often. It's liberating.



Foamboard Fortress / Bandit Camp

The Quest

The PC's (consisting on this occasion of The Wizard 'Gandalf' and The Knight (who is also a werewolf) 'King Wolf') have been sent by the local King to the bandit Camp some distance outside town, to clean it up. They will be paid 5 Gold Coins for the head of every bandit, unless the bandit already has a Wanted Poster for a larger sum.

They arrive at night (which suits perfectly that the foamboard models I have been studiously working on for a week have so far only been base-coated black and not yet painted up with greys and highlights. Neither have I painted up most of the NPC miniatures yet, apart frmo some white basecoats. As a result we have white miniatures on black scenery which is somehow nicely themic given the context.)


Drama

It is night and there are many bandits in the camp, lurking in the shadows as they do. For this reason, whatever the characters do will be commented on and joked about, enthusiastically cheered or jeered, by a small crowd of voices from inevitable onlookers. Emphasis is given to plot elements through this device, by the recognition that most of the people around here are of various attitudes about various issues, some of which can be introduced through the device of hidden crowds discussing openly about those issues to bring them to the PCs attention. It is fun and it works well in this environment. 

Descriptions of 'voices looming from the shadows' also makes the PCs (and player) feel they are having more of an impact on the game world, despite being surrounded by bandits who could probably kill them off easily. As a result it becomes a quick-witted scenario about power-plays, which is what you want to be happening in a bandit camp. It breaks it away from the 'go in, kill everything, collect the booty' model of roll-playing.


The Side-Quests / NPC missions

Bandit Girl
StrongMan
Dad&Son
Goblin Bounty Hunter
Dryad tree
Bandit Queen



The Challenge

The Knight boldly walks into the bandit camp, draws his sword and approaches two women who are practicing sword-fighting and footwork. The older of the two women see's him approach, stops what she is doing and engages him into conversation. What she says is so stunning it stops the Knight dead in his tracks from his intention of attacking the nearest bandit and cutting off its head for the measly sum of 5gp's.

"Here comes one now, look at him in that tin-suit! He looks like a lobster! I bet you're all suishy and soft inside of there though, ain't ya', buddy. Hey, you want to spar with us? Teach you a think or two we will. Tell you what, you fight me and if you win, you get her as your girlfriend but if you lose, you get me as your girlfriend. What say you?"

Laughter from the shadows around.

The Knight, surprised by the bandits banter, laughs and nods and agree's to fight.

"This is a spar, mind you. No actual injuries. You wouldn't last a full minute by killing any of us, with so many unseen enemies all around. Brave you must be to walk in here brandishing a sword like that!"  

The female bandit has seized the authority of the scene by dominating the narrative. By which it is quickly established through mental-emotional manipulation of the player using combination derision (lobster, squishy), use of a mate-phrase (buddy), respectful empowerment (brave), warning (shadows have arrows), comedy and a challenge; that this level is not simply going to be an all out bloodshed.  It reveals also this female bandit is socially intelligent, confident and has charisma.

The two women are called Winona and Louise which is GamesMaster short-hand for 'win and lose', names to be assigned depending on which of the NPCs wins or loses the Challenge. Wizard is happy because potentially he's going to get a girlfriend out of this (whether he likes it or not).

The battle lasts three rounds, in which the Knight wins one, loses one, wins one. Louise, the bawdy bandit with whom he has been sparring, disappears into the shadows after pointing to the younger bandit girl and reminding him she is now his girlfriend. She smiles and sidles up to him and tells him she is pleased he won. 

Her name is Winona. She came to the bandit camp after traveling from the plains where her people are a tribe of nomadic barbarians. She survives how she has to, is not used to urban ways yet but knows how to live wild.

With that, the Wizard and StrongMan approach them.



The Twist

The Wizard boldly walks toward a different rogue, this one a huge man with a bare chest. He is jovial and sincerely does not believe the Wizard is going to kill him. Thus he behaves entirely confidently, even when an armoured knight rushes at him from the darkness.

"You're not going to kill me!" is the first thing the StrongMan says. "You're too feeble to hold a sword right and I don't even believe in magic!" He laughs. He adds; "Besides, you'd be a fool to."

Re-affirmation to the other player/character this is not a level about rushing in and killing everything to collect a bounty. It is the Bandit Camp and bandits have a culture, ways and wiles, to be explored here. 

"I'm going to try." Says the Wizard. StrongMan laughs heartily.

Wizard slashes StrongMan diagonally across his chest with his sword. "Bastard!" He laughs as if the pain is nothing.

Wizard slashes StrongMan diagonally across his chest the other way. Strongman laughs. "That looks amazing!" He says as he observes he now has a unique scar on his body. "Hey look everyone, X marks the spot!" He laughs loud and turns around for everyone to see, while laughter from the shadows and comments such as; "x marks the spot hey that's a good one" and "Hey looks like StrongMan has met his match."

StrongMan puts his back to the Wizard and then preceded by a quiet 'ffft!' sound, StrognMan topples backwards and almost crashes into the Wizard. "Oh, bugger." He says and collapses at the Wizards feet. There is a crossbow bolt sticking out of his chest, the bolt has hit the bullseye of his 'X marks the spot' wound. He has been shot from the shadows! 

"Sniper!" Exclaims the Wizard.

StrongMan reaches up toward the Wizard. "My... friend..." He clutches the air, trying to grab him. "I had no argument with you, and now .... (he coughs up some blood) ... now it is the end for me. I need to tell you ... need to ask you ... important ... most impor... (he coughs up some more blood)."

"I didn't want that to happen!" Says the Wizard who is feeling awful about Strongman being assassinated and his own involvement in it. Wizard player checks his character sheet. "I have a healing spell! I cast healing on the StrongMan!" 

"He is dying, he's been injured pretty bad." says the GM. "How much Power does your Wizard have?"

"2 points." 

"Not really enough." 

Tense moment. 

"Three with the Power in his +1 Staff."

"That might do it. Roll Three or less on 1 dice." 

"I rolled a 1!" Elation from the Player.

"Good enough. The crossbow bolt plops out of StrongMans chest and the wound scars over. He stirs slightly and says;"

"That bloody Goblin bounty hunter, it has been after me for awhile because the 500 gold coin reward on my head. I'm going to kill it!" StrongMan stands up. "I'm going to chop its bloody head off I swear it!" Then he looks down at the scar on his chest and he looks up at the Wizard. "I told you already, I have no argument with you. And now you have saved my life, and convinced me to believe in the power of magic..." He places a large hand on the Wizards shoulder and looks into his eyes. "I owe you a life debt, my friend. I will travel with you until such time as I might someday have to save your life in exchange, after which I will be freed. For such is an ancient code of honor."  

Bonus. 

"Why do you have a 500 gold cin reward on your head?" Asks the Wizard, quite sensibly wanting to know what he is getting himself involved with here. 

StrongMan explains. "I was in the tavern, quietly minding my own business, having a drink and a friendly chat with some of the locals, and some crazy young adventurer came in all hostile and waving an axe in my face trying to prove himself, and he attacked me. I swung my fist to defend myself and without meaning to do it, I punched him so hard he dropped dead. So the stupid King put a price on my head and I had to escape the town and come up here to the bandit camp to live because I don't have anywhere else to go. Pretty much most people up here have similar stories, through no fault of their own they have ended up being outcasts from society, turning to stealing because there is no other way they can make a living." 

This important awareness sinks in. They might be bandits with prices on their heads, but they are also people, and they all have unique stories to tell which if true, or even vaguely true, or nearly but not quite totally true, do a lot to justify that they did not turn to a life of banditry for no reason. They are not all by default bad guys simply because the King and his minions say so. "I mean, we're not goblins, right?' StrongMan adds loudly, promoting hatred toward Goblins.

A lot of cheering and agreement, affirming comments from the shadows in response to StrongMan's profound speech.

"I'm not like that." Says one nasty villain who walks past the characters. "I really like killing people, slowly and painfully." emphasizing every word for added drama.

Another nasty walks past, saying "I love stealing, taking things from people. Steal milk from a baby I would." 

The StrongMan rolls his eyes. "Okay so not everyone in the bandit camp is like that. Some of them..."

"A lot of us!" from the shadows. 

"Quite a few of them up here are perverts and psychopaths." Says StrongMan.

"And nasty!" voice from shadows. Followed by snickering.

"And scum." voice from shadows over by there. 

"And skullduggerers." voice from shadows over by there. Followed by giggling.

"Rob your grave, I would." Each voice is in a different voice to add character. 

"Spit in you as soon as look at you, I would." Wicked laughter.

"Kill you in your sleep, he would." More laughter.

"Not sleeping with you no more then!" Even more laughter.

"Shtole my gwammies false teefs, I did."

StrongMan: "Set them all off now, haven't I. I was just saying. C'mon, lets get going." 

The Wizard follows StrongMan into the next clearing, where they encounter The Knight and The Bandit Girl.


Dad & Son

This scene is interjected with a curious young boy creeping out of the shadows and his more cautious dad calling and pulling him back into the shadows, lurking close by in the bandits camp, watching what is happening here. This little part of the story is to indicate that children are growing up in this environment and that there are parents who care about those children trying to prevent them from getting caught up in any trouble. 


Goblin Bounty Hunter

A curious little miniature of a snarling goblin wielding a crossbow happened along and into the story. The Goblin Bounty Hunter is specifically trying to claim the price on the head of Strongman, who knows he is being hunted by said Goblin and finds it irritating in the extreme. The Goblin is waiting for StrongMan to happen along, and is sitting on top of a wall behind a pit trap, crossbow loaded and ready. He fires it as soon as he see's Strongman approach (and hits). StrongMan reacts by swearing an oath to behead the troublesome scum (which he does).



The Traps

Thankfully the characters are able to avoid the trap involved in this mission because the Goblin is too busy trying to reload his crossbow to remember to use it. It will most probably feature in a future adventure. 

The trap consists of a pit in a narrow connecting tunnel section, on top of which is a trapdoor, with a rope&pulley system connecting it to a vantage point on top of the wall where the Goblin Bounty Hunter lurks with his crossbow. 


Dryad Tree

The tree is miserable looking. Bandits keep snapping its branches off to use as firewood, or the trunk as target practice with their arrows and daggers. The Wizard immediately senses there is something about this tree, it is not a normal tree. It is in great pain.

There is a freshly decapitated goblin head nestling in the branches. It is not the cause of the tree's misery. The Wizard bothers to ask the tree if it is alright and a Dryad appears amidst its broken branches! The group are amazed.

Bandit voices from the darkness;

"I told you its a ghost tree!"

"We should chop it down!" 

Wizard establishes the tree is a Dryad and it is being drained because close to here is a place where magic energy comes up through the earth but, it is all being channeled syphoned off by someone using it for themselves. The Dryad needs this energy to make a beautiful glade here and thrive, however her roots cannot tap the stream of magic which is diverted away from her. On top of this, the bandits keep wounding her body and she is slowly dying. She breaks down into tears and sobs. The Wizard asks if there is anything he can do. The Dryad replies, depressed and pessimistic; no there is nothing. She continues crying and returns into her tree.

"C'mon, lets keep moving. We need to see the bandit Queen." StrongMan encourages the group to keep moving.


Bandit Queen

In the center of a square ruin with wide entrances facing each other, is a crudely built square slab upon which the bandit Queen has placed various artifacts. This is her altar, harnessing the raw magickal energy which flows up throughout the hillside and has been concentrated on this spot by her placement of several crystaline rocks supporting the altar slab. Instead of dissipating all over the area, or randomly surfacing at different times in specific locations, all the magickal energy is now harnessed into the area where there is an altar.

The Bandit Queen stands next to it. She is currently bossing around some of the Bandits who respect her bossiness, who are being laughed at by other more independent minded Bandits who do not respect her bossiness. She is asking her henchmen what is the latest story with the Farm? One of her henchmen is explaining that the farm has hired additional guards, funded by the King. Raiding it in future is going to be more difficult than was raiding it in the past.

The Adventurers approach and introduce themselves. They explain they have been sent by the King to clean up the bandit Camp and there is a 5 gold coin price on the head of every bandit, except since they got here they have decided they actually quite like some of the bandits and having heard their stories decided these are normal people who fell upon hard times, or were otherwise pushed out of society through no real fault of their own. The adventurers have decided to take a Humanitarian approach to their dealings with the bandits and resolve this in some other better way than all out massacre. Also, there is the small but important factor of many hidden arrows lurking in the dark, and the adventurers would not survive more than a few minutes were they to wade in and start killing anyone and everyone here.

The Bandiot Queen laughs. "Ye be double agents then? Aye, true banditry that be n'all. Kay ye may join us here and we decide yer path. Either me men loot ye and feed yer bodies to the crows, or ye can be of help to us. Ye go back to yer King and tell him there be no bandits here, for a good start. Then ye be working for me, a part of the Crimson Flag."

Laughter from the darkness. "Crimson flag, she's mad she is."

"She thinks she can unite all the bandits into a single gang with her as its boss. She's mad." 

"Everyone here is out for themselves. Stab you in the back while smiling in your face."

"Aye, the bandit way.. Never trust them." 

The Bandit Queen listens to the gossip and then says to the adventurers; "You see what I have to put up with? I am attempting to organise ourselves into a functional group so we can all survive. Its one thing being wiped out by the Kings men because we cannot do that simple thing, its another thing fighting amongst ourselves. What this rabble need is strong leadership." 

"And she thinks that's herself. High and mighty, self-styled 'the bandit queen'. Its a joke name. Who does she think she is?"

"Got a chip on her shoulder that one. Thinks she's more important than the rest of us."

"Everyone knows we ain;t important. None of us here. We are all scum, the dregs of society, outcasts and with a price on our heads."

"I'm worth five gold coins, I'm important."

"You're worth five dead, you're worthless while alive. Shut up or I'll colelct he booty on ye meself." 

"That's fighting talk that is. Take this!"

"Ouch! That hurt."

"Ouch! Don't you hit me back, you villainous scum or I'll..."

"Ye'll what?"

"SILENCE!" screams the Bandit Queen and in full credit to her, everyone shuts up.

Nearly everyone: "Did you see that? Everyone obeyed her command. That's authority that is. She really is a leader if ye ask me."

"Shut up." 

Everyone listens to the bandit Queen.

"Whether we like it or not, food just got harder to acquire and we are all going to starve this winter. The Farm is soon to be heavily guarded because the King has paid for extra guards. My best advice is the toughest of you find employment working there as guards, to help the rest of us sneak in while our men are on guard duty."

A lot of mumbling goes around the camp about what a terrific good idea that is and how with a genius brain like that, the bandit Queen truly does deserve her position of authority. A lot of encouraging sounds of agreement about the plan.

"So anyone who wants to become one of ouyr agents working as a farm guard, please step forward now."

Nobody does.

"Do you see my problem?" The Bandit Queen asks the adventurers.

"So you have all chosen to starve to death this winter then. Alright that's your decision." The Bandit Queen turns around, signifying she is turning her back on the bandits.

"I'll do it." Says a gruff voice. "Better than starving to death and getting eaten by one of you foul lot."

"Ye, count me in too."

A small handful of bandits step forward, offering to get work as farm guards.

"Good, my trusted men. Each of you is now a hero, helping to ensure all of us here will have food this winter." 

Bandit Queen turns to the adventurers. "These men here, have been sent by the King to collect the bounty on all our heads. Instead, they have recognized the King to be a bad King and they have joined forces with the Crimson Flag!"

Nearby Bandits look at the adventurers and respect their magic and strength. The little boy from earlier comes close and touches the Knights armour before his dad hisses at him to get back here into the safety of the shadows.

Several more bandits step forward. "We wish to join the Red Flag Gang." They say.

"Congratulations." Says Bandit Queen. "And thank you." She explains to the adventurers that their presence is helping her, and basically they should consider themselves to be founders of the Crimson Flag and her generals. "I am confident we will not only survive this winter, but also we have some protection from the King's men." She establishes that the adventurers should return to the King and tell him there are no bandits in the Bandits Camp.

The adventurers agree to do this.

The Bandit Queen takes the adventurers aside and shows them a map. "You are my trusted generals, so I will have no secrets from you. This is what I am really after." It is a map of a dungeon. "This is several weeks journey from here. I require a capable party to help secure it as a base. It is an ancient wizards lair. There is a lot of magickal stuff to be had. It will help us." The adventurers agree to join her mission.

"There is something else we should discuss." Says the Wizard. "That tree back there... it is not a normal tree. It is a Dryad. And it is hurt, because your altar is syphoning the magickal energy of this hill and the bandits are snapping off its branches."

"What? Really? I didn't know. Show me." Replies Bandit Queen.

They go to see the bedraggled tree, and persuade the Dryad to appear. The Bandit Queen is horrified at what she is doing, unknowingly, by consequence of her actions. "I came to this place to tap the magickal energy here, I had no idea it would harm someone like you." She says. "I have an idea. Can you untap your roots?" 

"I can try." replies Dryad in a weak voice.

The Crimson Flag gang help to relocate the tree, replacing the altar with the tree who snuggles her roots directly down into the focus core of the magickal well. Immediately she seems full of life, much happier. A blissful, healthy energy fills the area and affects everybody with optimism.

"Thank you!" the Dryad smiles. "You have saved my life and made me strong and I will always help you!" 

Unfortunately, during the moving of the Dryad Tree, the Knight/Werewolf accidentally dropped his moonstone (under the roots of the tree), which he was using to tame his wild nature and control himself from becoming a werewolf.



NEXT: A KNIGHT INN



Future Quests

The Crimson Flag (aka 'the red rag gang')
Farm
Wizards Tower








Foamboard Fortress / Ancient Wizards Lair

Prelude

The group climb a steep mountain and using Bandit Queens magic, discover the Hole which local legend reputes to be a back-door into the sealed, magickally protected, grandiose Gate of the Ancient Wizards lair which they passed on the ascent.

"Why do they call it a wizards lair, and not his workshop of tower or retreat or something different?"

"I don't know. There is probably a reason for it." 

"Was he a good wizard or a bad wizard?"

"Nobody knows. There are not any stories of the wizard who lived here. Obviously he was powerful to have constructed a base inside a mountain. The huge ornate carved gate is not of Dwarven manufacture; even so, the Dwarves like the workmanship on the Gate very much. "Magickally crafted." They agree. "Living rock, softened and shaped and hardened again. Takes a lot of energy to do that. Strong wizard. He knew what he was doing. Such magick is rare, even amongst Dwarves who know about this sort of thing." The Dwarves exchange glances. They obviously know a lot more which they are not telling about. Their eyes gleam, not the gleam for the promise of gold but the gleam of affirmation that some Dwarven stories suddenly make sense. They have discovered something of legend which has turned out to be real. They can barely contain their excitement and are overcome with a zeal for pressing on and seizing whatever assets are to be found within. "I like this place!"

Before they descend into the hole, Bandit Queen uses her magic to cast Glow spells on the Seasoned Adventurer, the Warrior and herself, to light up the area around them as they move so they will not need to carry torches.


Down The Hole

They climb single-file down a long rope, into a dark vertical tunnel. They threw down torches but they sizzled and went out; water below. The water is a shin-deep puddle, which disgustingly stinks strongly of Orc urine and excrement. It is a terrible, nauseating smell which fortunately their dry torches help to burn up from the air so they can breathe without gagging on it. The party has apparently landed in the Orcs toilet. Seasoned Adventurer recognizes it at once for what it is; the main entrance of an Orc lair. Evidently the green-skinned bastards have infested the Ancient Wizards lair.

As the adventurers land in the toilet pool, something strikes them, sharp and painful. Peering into the darkness, at the edge of their vision can be seen a young Orc child with a catapult, shotting pebbles at them. When he realises he has been seen he jabbers in Orc language and runs screaming back up the tunnel behind him. Seasoned Adventurer growls; "I'm gonna get that little bastard!" and runs up the tunnel before the rest of the party have finished descending. 


Battle!

Warrior and Wizard follow him. By the time they catch up with him two corners later, he is engaged in combat with three Orc braves, one of whom is unconscious or dead on the ground at his feet. Orcs are notoriously tough to kill. Their skulls are several inches thick around a relatively small brain approximately the size of a cat, according to some, ahem, 'researchers'. Simply because an Orc has been laying presumed dead for up to several days does not mean it is actually dead, albeit displaying zero life-signs. Greenbloods have astonishing natural healing abilities and have been known on occasion to continue fighting even after decapitation.

The Orcs are despatched of. Big Ron decapitates one of them to make sure (to cries of "they killed uncle Ernie!" from the Orc children who are running around firing catapults for zero damage and pulling scary faces). The team splits with some remaining to fight an Orc while others progress up through the corridors, occasionally stopping to dispatch of other Orcs along the way.

During this time, healing spells are cast by the Wizard and Bandit Queen (who is also a magic user), and both of them notice their power is increased in this place. The raw essence of magic flows through the fabric here. They have reduced Power Points cost for spellcasting, although they also use up a lot of their energy and must rest. These Orcs are a pretty tough bunch, defending their home and their family from murderous adventurers, one of whom (Knight) has shifted into his Werewolf form to do better battle (double speed and double strength). Big Ron has been knocked unconscious (for the second time in two scenarios) and left momentarily by the others who are busy fighting Orcs.

The adventure party arrive in dribs and drabs into a medium sized room, containing an old treasure chest (which the Orc kids are currently hiding in, occasionally peeking out from a crack in the lid, their piggy red eyes glowing in the gloom) and a giant fossilized snail shell. The room also contains a very nasty looking Orc wearing spiky armour and whose eyes are not the usual red glow of Orcs, but are sparkling green, the same dark green sparkling mist is swirling around his hands, flowing as if he is controlling its flow, scooping it from the air, forming it into shape, directing it.

He sends a blast of the dark green sparkling swirling mist toward the party and it hits the Barbarian Girl who falls to the ground in pain and agony, the green sparkles crackling all around her like electricity.

Knight (in Werewolf form) and Big Ron simultaneously charge at the Orc Shaman, whose vine-like green misty sparkles grab hold of Knights longsword and wrestles with it. Knight lets go and the sword flies toward the Orc Shaman, who is surprised but uninjured, and thrusts it back through the air toward the Knight. His other hand is still pointing at the Barbarian Girl who is still twitching in agony on the floor. Bandit Queen reaches her.

Big Ron whacks it with his axe and causes the Orc Shaman lets go of everything he is holding with his magic (the Barbarian girl and the Knights sword). He begins rolling his hands to scoop up some more magickal energy for another attack.

The Dwarves have stayed behind to examine a wall, unlike the rest of the building. They are discussing with each other how there is something peculiar about the stonework of this place. It is not a natural cave. It is not built by normal construction methods. It is more as if someone has somehow tunneled directly into the rock and then smoothed all the surfaces. All except for the one wall on the corner, which appears to be a T-junction with a very badly made pile of rocks stacked terribly (probably by the Orcs) across one corridor to block passage. Where the headless Orc landed against it earlier has dislodged some of the rocks and there is a pressure feeling of a different air behind it, the tunnel has not been used for some time.




Suddenly the Dwarves observe the 'presumed dead' Orcs around them are all simultaneously standing up, pulling themselves together, and returning to combat! Most surprisingly the headless Orc picks up his severed head, grips it by the hair, holds it above his neck (causing splatters of green blood to bounce off the shoulders and neck which is also oozing dribbles of green blood over the body and trailing across the floor) and lumbering ungracefully up the corridor toward the larger chamber. Likewise, the other Orcs ignore the Dwarves and hastily run toward the Shaman Orc to defend it.

The Dwarves chase them. The Orcs in the corridor are surrounded by Dwarves on one side and Strongman (who wakes up as the orcs trip over him), Bandit Queen, and finally Barbarian Girl who is recovering quickly enough to return to battle, and all these Orcs are killed (again), probably because they are on low energy from having previously been killed/knocked out and magickally re-awoken.

Meanwhile, Werewolf (Knight) and Big Ron are simultaneously finishing off the Shaman Orc, Ron chopping it into several pieces to ensure it does not wake up again.

Behind the Shaman Orc are a semi-naked young adult Orc, an old crone Orc, and a big - mean BIG as in two times larger than normal, Orc Mamma! She is holding a baby Orc in her arm and angrily bossing the others around, ordering them to fight the invaders and protect the Orc kids! She is lingering in the doorway of a smelly room from which sounds of frightened Orc children can be heard.

One of the Dwarves catches up and kills the Orc. Werewolf (Knight) kills the old crone. The three fighters surround the Orc Mamma and she kicks the crap out of all three of them. Wizard and Bandit Queen arrive and touch-heal those injured from fighting her. Finally, after inflicting many ferocious wounds on the warriors, mamma Orc is fatally wounded. In her final act of defiance she throws the screaming orc baby at the Werewolf (Knight) who simply bats it out of the way, it goes flying into a wall with a crunch, falls to the ground with a splat, and stops gurgling.

Big Ron charges into the room and chops up Orc mamma, observing there to be three young infant Orcs in beds in here. He mutters and complains loudly about how disgusting this vermin is and how much he despises their foul ilk, while hacking and chopping at every bit of green skin and any of their blankets, until he is quite certain they are all dead with no chance of being ressurrected. The rest of the party watch his frenzy.

The Dwarves, StrongMan and Barbarian Girl decide to gather up all of the bodies of the Orcs and pile them up in this room, while the Magic Users and Big Ron stand guard and recover a bit of their energy after the battle.


Heart of the Mountain

Nothing else comes out of the corridor ahead, and so they explore it. The Magic Users and the Dwarves are delighted to discover a huge green crystal pulsing with life energy (magic) in the next room. All of the parties wounds are healed, their powers put back up to full and increased by 1 (level up time!) simply from liberating this Life Crystal from the disgusting Orcs. It is swirling with the same green sparkles as was the Orc Shamans magic, no doubt the source of his malignant power.

The Dwarves describe this crystal to be the Heart of the Mountain, its living soul, a sacred artifact. They call it a Life Stone. Bandit Queen and Wizard understand it to be why the place feels so magickal and why their powers are boosted here. Every magickal weapon the party are carrying is glowing while near the crystal.

Werewolf runs up the corridor ahead, for the longest time, until he realizes no natural corridor could go on for so long. As soon as he turns around, he is right back where he began. The corridor is magickally protected to send anyone who moves through it, back to the start of it.


Arya

"A fayrie!" Exclaim several members of the party upon discovering a winged, small humanoid creature who was hiding in the old chest in the large room with the fossil giant snail shell. The Orc children who were previously hiding in it have sneaked out and escaped.

"I am not a fayrie, I am an elemental I'll have you know. An air elemental to be specific. Custodian of knowledge and resident of, this place. I was summoned and bound by my Master who built this place and who now sadly is deceased from a magickal accident." 

"Can you help us?"

"You have got rid of the nasty Orcs who had infested my masters workshop and so yes, I shall help you. How can I be of your service?"

"How can we get past the magic trap on the corridor?"

"Oh that's easy, I put that there to stop the nasty Orcs. It took up a lot of my power. Consider it gone."

"Thanks. Can you tell us about this place?"

"My Master built it. A wizard. For his study. He summoned and bound me into form so I can explore this dimension and help him with his studies. But now he is gone, I am stuck here with nothing else to do. Such a waste."

"Can you help us clear the rock pile which is blocking the other corridor?"

"The barricade built by the stinky Orcs because they are afraid of what lays beyond it. Oh, that is easy."  Arya flitters through the tunnels, followed by the fastest members of the party, who observe her blast the rocks with a surge of air and they fall to the ground, exposing the corridor. It turns a corner. At the end of the corridor is the stoutest looking wooden door the adventurers have ever seen. It has a big googly eye in it, which is watching them.

"Do not attack the door, it is heavily enchanted. Any violence you try to do to it, will happen to you." 

"How do we get in?"

"You would have to ask my Master."

 "Can you still talk with your Master?" 

"Of course I can. Being a creature of air, which is all about knowledge, I am very wise; especially as I studied with my Master who is even wiser. I can call his ghost, but it uses a lot of my power to do that. I would have to rest afterward."

"How long will that take?"

"I am exhausted already from moving those rocks. You will have to wait ... until I have slept..." 


"Will you do that for us? So we can talk with him? Please?"

"As you asked nicely. And you did clean up the problem with the Orcs." 

Arya returns to her treasure chest to rest. The party rest and discuss their situation. The  Werewolf/Knight explores the furthest corridor now that the spell has been lifted. He discovers another store room with shelves and lots of small stoppered bottles of colorful liquids. Unfortunately as a century has passed since they were made, many of the labels are faded or fallen off.


Arya the Air Elemental wakes up and summons the ghost of the Elder Wizard.

"What do you want?" He grumbles.

"Can you help us?"

"These brave ones cleaned up the Orcs, master. They are friends." 

"Then they might be my friends also. Are you my friends?"

"We are!" said with absolute certainty.

"Then you will finish the work I began and unfortunately could not finish?"

"Er, we might. What would we have to do?"

"Oh there is my research of course, but most important, to ensure the true King sits on the throne of this land and not some imposter. Tell me, who is King in your time?"

"Bad King John."

"Oh bollocks. That's the wrong one. You will have to fix that. If you fix that i will help you. I will give you my laboratory/study/workshop/lair to use in exchange for you putting thetrue King on the throne. Do we got a deal?"

"How are we going to do that?"

"I'm sure you'll figure out a way."

"Okay, yes, we will usurp the tyrant dictator and ensure the true King sits once more on the throne."

"You will have to find him first."

"Okay."

"Okay then." The Old Wizards Ghost fades away.

"I'm going back to sleep." says Arya.

The door to the Wizards Lair is now open.


The Lair

In the center of the room is a Saalak complete with tentacles and teeth. It is a demonic entity summoned by mistake which then ate the Old Wizard. A warning against the risks of using magic, and about personal hygiene. This is the first thing the characters see as they enter the Wizards Lair.

The demon is in a circle, and its tentacles can reach beyond the next circle surrounding the first. The circles are stone flagstones cut into shape. the whole of the floor is a magickal device with layers of circles, circles surrounding circles, pentacles, spirals, triangles, and rune and sigils. It is possible for the adventurers to completely surround the demon without it being able to reach them. Around the outside of the room are alcoves and bookshelves, fire-place, tables, altars, cupboards, chairs, treasure chests, writing desks, all the stuff you would imagine to find in a Wizards lair.

The adventurers attack the Saalak and the Saalak attacks the adventurers.

This scene is fun because the character turns move in a circle around the monster.
Several tentacles get chopped, several chops miss the creature altogether, several tentacles are dodged; before and between the following sequence:
Knight gets grabbed by the tentacles and hoisted into the air.
Knight drops his sword blade first into the Saalaks mouth, which tries to cough it up but in doing so causes it to drop back into its mouth, doing further damage, ad infinitum.
Knight is thrown across the room and lands in a heap.
Big Ron stabs his broadsword directly down into the Salak's mouth and twists it about. 
Wizard character casts a water spell at Saalak trying to drown it.
Bandit Queen casts Freeze spell at the water.
The two magic users work well as a team.
The Saalak is now frozen, with some tentacles wibbling about.
Knight and Big Rons swords are embedded in boththe Saalak and in the ice.
More tentacles get chopped by the Dwarves, StrongMan and Barbarian Girl.
Saalak's teeth begin crunching at the inside of the ice core.
Bandit Queen asks Wizard if he can adapt his fireball spell to make a very tiny but very hot ball of intense heat to appear inside of the Saalak's mouth and then descend down into its body.
"But that will melt the ice!"
"It's only a matter of time before that things teeth crunch the ice into shards anyway!"
"Okay lets do it!"
Bandit Queen uses her Enhance spell to amplify the Wizards Tiny-Core-Of-Intense-Heat spell. She gifts him Power points, or more precisely she gifts her Power into the spell cast by the Wizard. It is difficult to modify a spell, even a known spell, but the Wizard succeeds.
The tiny core of intense heat is the size of a spinning coin and it incinerates the Saalak, melting through its body into its mouth. The ice also melts, but not before the demon has withered and died and turned into black ash.

"You did it!" hooray's Arya who returns at this moment.

"Oooh!" exclaims another sprite, this one a fire elemental who has been hiding in the fireplace of the lair.

"Oh not you." says Arya. 

"Who are you?" ask the party.

"I am Sizzle, a fire elemental. I have been hiding in there for a long, long time because of that nasty demon which ate my master. You have rescued me!" Sizzle and Arya explain how fire burns air so Arya does not like Sizzle, but Sizzle does like Arya. They have a strange relationship. Both are female. Between them they explain to the group, they were summoned and bound into bodily form so they can explore this dimension and help their Master. They also explain how their names change around the theme, as rapidly as their elements shift, to describe different aspects of their personalities. Sizzle is also called burn, flame, and a bunch of other associated names. Usually the Master directed the elementals using these various names as instructions as to what he intended his servants to do for him. 

"Are there any more like you?"

"Well there's rock, also called dirt or mud or soil or stone, an Earth elemental."

Rock the Earth elemental rises up out from a crack between the flagstone flooring and introduces himself in a gruff voice. He chortles. He is stubborn minded and takes persuading to do anything, he is also a bit slow-witted. He has a very simple outlook on life.

The Earth elemental explains eventually after being asked by the Dwarves about a strong Rock magick which the Master was exploring, he used to shape these halls which are not natural caverns. The Dwarves recognise a legend of a Dwarf hero whose name translates into "Stone-Shaper", who was a lazy Dwarf and did not mine and craft like all the other Dwarfs but dreamed of easier ways to make things from stone than mining, digging, cutting, carving and crafting it. Eventually he left to study for a hundred years (Dwarfs live a very long time) after which he learned how to shape rock by magic. He proved it by making a small palace in a mountain known to the Dwarves as "Impossible Strong" which was a sort of stone no Dwarves could carve into nor even scratch the surface of. Stone-Shaper used his magic to 'persuade' the stone to re-shape itself. It seems that in the Old Wizards studies, he learned some small amount of Stone-Shapers abilities. There are documents on his bookshelves regarding this.

A book on his altar is open to a page entitled; "summoning and binding of a water elemental". The other elementals (who are discussed in other pages of the same book) explain to the characters that the Old Wizard accidentally summoned a demon because he got the spell wrong and his water was not pure. Between them, the Wizard character and Bandit Queen are able to perform the same spell and this time, succeed at it. They summon and bind a baby water elemental (drip, splash, etc) who can talk basic words, whose energy ripples out her emotions; happiness and contentment, fear, and anger. Calm, Dark, Storm. The group and the elementals who now work for them nurture her and give her a flagon to live in, which they place in the wizards lair. Her 'body' artifact is a tiny blue bottle containing water from the scrying pool / bowl used to summon and communicate with her before the ritual binding part of the spell (technically a different spell, woven into the summoning spell). Like the other elementals, she agreed by her own choice to be bound in exchange for the ability to access our dimension and hold physical (albeit elemental) form, Arya's feather, Rocks pebble and Sizzle's copper ring, fetish objects,  are all hidden away by the elementals themselves after their Master was killed. He was previously using the trinkets to control the elementals, who over time had come to trust and respect him.

Arya and later Splash help tremendously by cleaning up the foul stench of Orcs from the tunnels and rooms of the Old Wizards Lair, which is the new home of the adventurers.

The treasure chests contain a lot of old kingdom gold coins - significantly different from new kingdom gold coins, in that they are five times larger and twice as pure. It is a fortune. The characters are all very rich now.


Pendants

All eight of the charcters plus all four elementals simultaneously hear inside their minds, the voice of the green crystal heart of the mountain. It is calling to them, "Come!"

Amazingly, in the time it has taken for the characters to do all of this,  the green crystal has grown eight tiny shards from it, which clatter to the floor at the adventurers feet as they surround the giant Life Stone. They decide to turn them into necklaces. Each of these items has a Power rate of 3 and who knows what else they can do? 



PostScript

The adventurers discuss upkeeping their part of the bargain made with the old Wizard and usurping the tyrant Bad king John from the throne, after first having located the true King. They decide if anybody has any rumours or knowledge of such things, it will be best found at the Inn in the town they are all likely outlaws from for their previous trouble-making incidents. It being that sort of a place.
















Foamboard Fortress / A Knight Inn

After explaining to the King that aside from a few goblins, who have been dispatched of, there are no bandits up at the deserted hilltop village known as Bandits camp; the characters return to the Inn to spend their well earned bounty of five gold coins. 

The usual landlord is not present, instead a larger than life seasoned adventurer is serving at the bar. 


Also present are;

-an eight foot tall Troll brandishing a four foot tall tree stump club, the inn's Bouncer. 
-an Elven minstrel playing various songs ranging from bawdy to serene,
-two drunk Dwarfs singing the Dwarven Beer song ("Beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer," ... the expression and rhythm make all the difference) 
-a mother and her child, who is complaining what a no good, low down sonofabitch her deadbeat alcoholic husband is and how she's going to give him a piece of her mind when he gets out of jail or whatever hedge he has fallen in this time. (Readers of the previous adventurer Jail Break will recognise the character who has hired some assassins to murder his nagging wife who he says is the reason why he drinks). 
-a woman sweeping the floors
-one of the many N from N's farm, the biggest food production in the area who everybody relies on.
-Bob the Blacksmith and his beautiful teenage daughter who he does not let out of his sight. 
-an aging Knight who is too old to fight but not too old to teach what he knows, who served under both the old King and the old Kings father, the old old King, both of whom were better Kings than the current one. 
-two shady rogues drinking in the shadows.
-several farm laborers and other general peasantry. 


Karma (from past episodes):

The player characters (Wizard and Warrior) are accompanied by two rogues (barbarian girl and StrongMan) from the Bandit Camp. StrongMan is known to the Town Watch and has a price on his head of 50 gold coins for murder (he proclaims it was self defense, he was attacked and struck back only as reflex). The PCs are seen in public to be hanging out with known bandits, despite their recently having been rewarded by the King who hired them to clean up the Bandit Camp.


Events: 

StrongMan walks directly to the bar and orders drinks. 
Barbarian Girl walks directly to the bar and orders drinks. 

Conversations can be overheard in the background, plot-hooks for further adventure story lines involving farming and how the N Farm is hiring guards to protect it from the bandits. A mother is explaining to everyonein a loud voice that her husband the Drunk is going to get it when he arrives. She is consoled by the Old Knight. Her young son is dragged along with her, he is shy and quiet.

The Town Guard walk in and cause a problem for the StrongMan who is recognized. He refuses to go with them and attacks the Guard, who blos a strange blue dust into his face, he immediately falls unconscious. At which point the Troll Bouncer literally picks the troublemakers including the Guard up and throws them all out through the front door. The fight continues outside. Barbarian Girl runs outside to protect her friend, insulting the PCs as useless for their not doing the same thing. 

This stresses the Warrior character who runs out of the door as he uncontrollably turns into a werewolf. He knocks out one of the Guards, pins another to the Inn wall and threatens him with a terrifying animal snarl before dumping him in a muddy puddle, while the third Guard runs off terrified into the darkness. Barbarian Girl gently soothes the werewolf/Warrior PC who reverts to Human form. The PCs stash the unconscious but uninjured StrongMan's body in the alley at the side of the Inn and return to the bar to continue drinking. 

The stand-in Barman/Seasoned Adventurer recognises at once the Warrior to be a shapeshifter and gives him something, a small vial of potion called MoonGlow which will help him to tame his wild nature. There is only a small amount in the bottle but it smells strong and inhaling it is sufficient to gentle his temper. They talk with the Seasoned Adventurer who is looking to hire other adventuers to follow the trail of an old map he has recently acquired, where there is much ancient treasure said to be buried. The PCs agree to accompany him, although it is a one month journey there and another month journey back again. 

The PCs talk with the Old Knight who tells them he will train them in fighting. They arrange to meet him in the morning, in the Inn, so he can show the fighters some good moves. 

The Barman calls time and everyone leaves except for the Dwarves who are sleeping in their seats and who have paid for lodgings anyway, and the PCs who do not wish to risk being accosted by the Guards who by now are looking for a dangerous Werewolf. They go and wake up the StrongMan and bring him inside, paying the 1GP for lodgings which turns out to be a bench in the main room of the Inn. 

There are two knocks on the front door (which is barred); a heavy insistant knock of the Guards, which is ignored and a special rhythmic knock code at which the Sesoned Adventurer opens the door and exchanges osmething through the crack in it with somebody unseen. He explains to the PCs that to survive, it is best not to ask questions of that which does not concern you unless you feel strongly that it does concern you. This is a part of strengthening your instincts, which you will rely on to survive out there in the wilds. He then relates a story about how he and a group of adventurers once survived an attack by Gnarl-Wolves while they were camping in their lands not far from where the location on his map leads to. 

The next morning the Old Knight arrives and instructs the Warriors in some fighting moves. Then the Bandit Queen arrives and instructs the PCs they are to accompany her immediately to the location she previously mentioned, the Ancient Wizards lair, to ransack it of any magickal artifacts they can find there. The Seasoned Adventurer and the two Dwarves insist they come along too.

StrongMan, Warrior/Werewolf, Barbarian Girl and Bandit Queen are all pleased to be leaving the town region where the Guards are looking for both of them. 







Cardboard Castles / Jail Break

Preface

Gamesmastering for a large party of adventurers takes time and a lot of work to keep it fairly interesting and working on all the levels it needs to.

This dungeon took a different approach. It's the first time I'd given the kids -bad guy's- as characters. The story begins with one bandit (whose player stayed long enough to create a character sheet but then had to go home) already in a jail cell and the other bandit on a rescue mission.

Admittedly this scenario was inspired somewhat by the awesome computer game Thief on X-Box360, a terrible affliction which playing desktop rpg's with miniatures is a major leverage to get the kid away from it and actively using their imaginations instead. 
 
We are now using the Advanced Brains&Brawn™ character sheet.

Brains (all things mental and perceptions)
Brawn (all things strength and hit points)
Craft (how skilled you are at doing general stuff)
Move (speed, reflexes, add this value to 1d6 for your movement that turn)
Magic (how magic you are)
Power (how much you can do with your magic)

Each character gets 4,3,3,2,2,1 points to divvy up between the 6 attributes.


Session One

It was agreed that Session One will end the moment where the rescuer character encounters the imprisoned character. 

There are several other prisoners incarcerated by the Town Guard whose dungeon this is. They serve to make the story more interesting and to act as comedy, also possibly as additional enemies or more probably as helpful allies, as needs be.

Rescuer character was given an option of lock picking tools or rope&grapple in starting equipment. A discussion ensured as to whether the proper accepted name for this tool should be lock-picks or pick-locks. No final decision was made. There is at least one overhead air-vent in the complex leading to a suitable stretch of passageway. The character opted for pick-locks and to boldly storm the castle through the front entrance, in this case down a set of spiral stairs and into the office and store room. This room contained a map of the level on display, with labels, which made it easier for everybody. I was able to place the dungeon sections out in advance of them being discovered. 

This being a populated area, there are lanterns casting sufficient light that the characters did not require to brandish their own torches. We did however use the special Sneak rules (movement is equal to Move Attribute + 1d6 as normal, divided by 2) to lurk in shadows unseen. 




The first room is guarded by one guard who was easily stabbed to death with a dagger before he recognized an intruder. The bandit character looted him for everything (an iron key, 1d6 coins, a recognizable guard uniform including a +1 defense leather waistcoat, a light helmet and a short sword) and then looted the room; discovering a cupboards full of Wanted! posters, records of criminals who had previously been through the facility, their name, species, crime and punishment. 

Next to the cupboard is a writing desk on which (along with quill and ink) is a record of all prisoners currently incarcerated, their crime ("banditry" is itself a recognized albeit non-specific crime in this town), the appropriate punishment (which varies greatly) and importantly, which cell they are being held in. 

There is also a chest containing items taken from prisoners (a bottle of rum, a small red leather book of spells, a bottle of green swirly potion, and everything from the captured bandits equipment list), and a rack containing the type of Spears and short swords used by the Guards. 


Guard miniature painted low-budget circa 1990 by a pre-teen


The door from this room is locked (requires an iron key). Our bandit character opened it and entered the corridor in which a surprised guard immediately attacked him while shouting for backup. Sadly for him the dungeon doors are all closed and very thick, which meant nobody could hear him. Nobody but for the crossbow carrying guard lurking in the shadows at the far end of the corridor, that is. The bandit dispatched of both of them while suffering a lot of injuries, and added crossbow to his equipment list. By now, despite advice fom the GM that bandits typically try to travel light so as to move swiftly, he had become encumbered and his movement rate reduced appropriately.

Instead of pressing on for the cell in which his friend is being held, the bandit decided to kick open a door into the guards recreation room in the hope of murdering everybody and looting. The guard room is occupied by Tiny Tim who wields an enchanted short sword which glows when nasty people are about. The bandit player is overcome by Greed and wants that sword at all costs. The guard room is also occupied by the Sheriff, Big Bob the Hunchback HobGoblin in his hob-nailed boots. Big Bobs fists are bigger than the bandits head.

When the bandit awakens he is in a cell, his equipment gone. The only other person in the cell is Dave the Drunk, a regular prisoner who is sobering up after having caused yet another riot in the Broken Ball Tavern. He does this several times a week. The cell smells of sick. 

For a drunk he is clever. He explains that he alone knows a way out of the cell, as he has been in here so often and has figured it out. He comes here to avoid his wife, who is the reason why he drinks, and then he gets in trouble simply to avoid going home to her. His other problem is his favourite tavern, the Broken Ball, is situated half way between here and his home, so he somehow always deviates into said establishment before arriving home, wherin he gambles and drinks, usually winning enough money to buy enough drinks to make friends, or at least soften enemies, and to pay in advance for his next misadventure to ensure that even when he loses at gambling he will still have space on his slate to keep getting drunk when penniless. 

The bandit presses him for information about how to escape. Dave the drunk offers a deal. Since the bandit will likely be hung or beheaded tomorrow for murdering three guards, he doesn't have much else to lose nor many other options anyway. As he is a hardened killer, Dave requests that in exchange for being told the secret of how to escape this cell, the bandit will meet Dave in the Broken Ball in advance of the bandit killing Dave's horrible nagging wife. Once she is dead, he will no longer have to hide from her in the tavern and get drunk to drown his sorrows, nor will he have to sober up in the cells to avoid her wrath. 

The bandit agrees to the proposal so Dave tells him to pull up the flagstone in the corner, which has a passage below it. The tunnel is a rat infested crawl space which leads to a dead end, although at that dead end, an overhead flagstone can be pushed up... emerging into the corner of the other cell, currently occupied by a strange looking man in a red leather tunic and the other bandit who the first one is here to rescue. As agreed, the session ends here.


Session Two 

The second bandit who has been imprisoned here for at least a day, has already made friends with her cell mate, an un-named wizard. He explains he has memorized one sleep spell but has not the power to cast it. he does teach both bandits how they can donate any spare personal power they have, to him, so he can use it to cast his spell. 

As soon as the guard comes in to water the prisoners, he is surprised to see an extra person in the cell. The surprise does not last long because the red mage makes good on his promise and with his extra power, he puts everybody in the dungeon to sleep for an unknown amount of time, except for himself and the two bandits. With their cell door unlocked and open, they can pick-pocket the guards to find the dungeon keys, and leave quietly. 

The bandits have other plans. 

The bandits raid every guard they can find. They raid every treasure chest they can find. As they are arguing about who should get what from their loot, they decide to rescue Dave the Drunk (who is sleeping). After they wake him up, Dave suggests they lock the guards in the cells and rob the place at their leisure. Then he leaves (leaving behind his bottle of rum).

The first bandit has the terrific idea of using the dungeon torture room, and straps Big Bob the Hunchback HobGoblin and his hobnail boots, to it. He takes Tiny Tims enchanted sword of detect nasty people, which glows brighter as he holds it, and the dungeon keys from the hip of Big Bob the Hunchback Hobgoblin in his hobnail boots. There is a chest in this room containing leather gloves (of mighty punching, +1 attack), some rope, and some dice (3d6) which always land on 6.

The red wizard entertains everyone, he has a pouch of shrinking which he can fit anything into, the chests, the weapons rack, the whole lot. Then he sets fire to the cupboard of criminal records and wanted! posters, and leaves, agreeing to meet the bandits in the Broken Ball Tavern, later, to properly divvy up their loot.





TBC....? 




Cardboard Castles / Cygn's Cairn



CYGN'S CAIRN

Cygn. Sign. Cygnus. Cygnet. Psy'gn. Kine. Coin.
The Eld God's name has many forms. 
Their meanings, aspects, entwine. 

The heroes do not know this as they enter its temple.

They know only that they are ready to explore a lost Barrow,
into which none has entered for a long, long time.  

None has entered because the entrance leads through a wide set of stairs to a pit shaft, 
up from which blows a cold, damp air. 
The walls and ceiling are covered in moss and vines 
which have rooted themselves into cracks in the ancient stone walls and ceiling. 

The pit shaft follows the in-game logic that 1 inch = 6 foot. 
Every "square" or "move" of a character is 1" / 6'. 
At two squares across the pit is twelve feet. 
It's a long way to jump. 

The Wizard won't make it (unless he uses his magic), 
nor will the heavily plate-armor clad Knight. 
Only the dexterous Elf stands any chance. 
He makes a successful Leap roll (Stat Test), lands niftly on his feet on the far side.

Those vines might be strong enough to support a persons weight.
Moving only 1 square per turn, 
the Knight, having succeeded his Stat Test, 
cautiously inches his way over the deep, black pit.

Meanwhile the Wizard simply casts Teleport Spell, 
dissolves into the air and reappears within the 12 Square Radius of the Spell Limit,
happens to be in the next room wherein he casts Lumos Maxima spell 
while waiting for the Knight to catch up. 




Two crumbly, rotting tables
and mossy, rotted tapestries
adorn the next room. 

Our troupe passes through it.





In the center of the pit stands an inaccessible plinth, 
upon which a huge stone statue, ten to fifteen feet tall. 
The plinth has the Eld script carved on all four sides. 
Only a Wizard will be able to read it. 


South
(midday)

"I am Cygn
Magi of Eld
Friend by some 
Feared by many"

East
(sunrise)

"In my light,
Power to friends
Who serve my goals."

North
(night) 

"In my shadow,
Consequences of my friends deeds
Create my realm."

West
(sunset)

"Bringer of Balance
For every task done
One must be undone."
  



The Elf takes his lantern into the far room,
discovers a moldy chest,
empty but for blue-purple-green fungus.  

They attack!

Killer Mushrooms  Brawn 2 Brain 1 

They bite and his wound is infected with the green-purple-blue spores.
The Elf cleverly throws his oil lantern at them. They burn.
Foul black smoke closes his lungs, and the knight who followed him in
While the Wizard translated the plinth runes. 

The smoke billows and blinds, however; 
as they come choking through into the large room,
the smoke is drawn along the cold flagstone floor and flows
as a river, as a waterfall, down into the pit.





The Knight and Elf recover.
They search the skeletons in the corner. 
The Wizard begins to leave.
In his mind he hears these words:

"Find My Pearl!" 

Two moldy skeletons locked in combat,
each plunging a rusty old blade through the ribs of the other.

The Knight who complained how boring this place is with nothing worthy to fight, 
prizes apart the bony hand of one skeleton;
it had seemed to pulse with a soft glow.

  A pearl! 

The Wizard tells him what the voice had said.
The knight gives the pearl to the Wizard. 
As soon as he hods it, that same voice speaks;

"Deaths of two
Brings Life for two." 

The Wizard passes his Brains Stat Test
and figures out that Cygn, a God of Balance


What he does not yet understand is the pearl contains two reincarnation spells,
which can be used by its wielder. 

It also has many other consequences which its wielder will discover in future. 

The characters leave the dungeon.


They may return here. 
There may be secret doors yet to be discovered, 
levels below, accessible via the pits. 

A "clean this crap up" spell
and a rickety rope bridge
may make a working temple of the place,
in time to come.

Cygn has new servants, now
An Eld God not known for many years, 
who the Wizard most certainly will research upon return to the Library. 

Cygn is working through these characters.
Consequences of their actions will bring balance.

"So he does both light and dark."

"From one comes the other. That is his realm."

The statue, wielding a double-headed axe.