Saturday, November 23, 2013

S&W in the Southern Reaches: Session 1

Last night I played in the inaugural B-team session of Erik Tenkar's Southern Reaches of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy game. I've been itching to play a game, and itching to try an old-style D&D clone, and itching to play a game with a loose enough schedule that I could make it fit. Last night that all came together. Here is my summary. Nicely, we get bonus xp for writing summaries, which is like getting paid for eating chocolate - you'd do it anyway, but if someone is paying . . . all the better.

I do need to note that we played via Google Hangouts and Roll20. Once again, Google Hangouts did weird stuff and Roll20 just gave me more errors than fun. In four gaming sessions, Roll20 has worked flawlessly once, so-so once, badly once, and failed once. I call that 1W-3L. I never got to see anything except patchy video, couldn't log into Roll20, and got booted a few times. Erik and my fellow players didn't mind, though, so I was able to navigate through their eyes and roll my dice on my desk. Some of my who-did-what in the summary might be wrong because I was losing track of who was who and what just happened, but it's here as best as I can remember.

Mirado, Human Fighter (lvl 1) (me)
Banderas [sp], Human Ranger (lvl 1) (Ray)
Irban - Half-Elf M-U/Thief (lvl 1/1) (Jason)

Short backstory: Some prior PCs accidentally messed up the game world, causing everyone over a certain middle level to basically spontaneously combust, choke on a fish bone, fall on their axe edge, whatever, and die. Also, a lot of undead nastiness started to show up everywhere. Into this chaos our characters stepped into the adventuring life.

We were supposed to be joined by a dwarf fighter, but that player's connection was too troublesome and he couldn't stay in the hangout and play.

The three of us were at a small village whose name I can't recall. The town had two big problems - disappearing villagers, and an old well nearby that was spewing the occasional 3' human-faced worm that would come out. They asked us, wandering violence-peddlers, to deal with it.

They offered up all they had in the way of stored loot - an old hand-me-down suit of mail (which I ended up getting), two potions of extra-healing (taken, it seems, from the now-abandoned temple in town - the cleric had combusted.) We also hit them up for some rope to get down the well.

We checked out the well. It was set on an old barrowland, and now stank of rot and death. It shined with mucous-y slime, as well, and its top bucket-bar was broken off. We tied off the rope to something sturdy and sent down Irban, the half-elf, with a torch and his infravision. Partway down he was attacked by two flying human-faced worms. One missed, the other bashed his shoulder for minor damage (1 hp?) before both fell to the mucous below and disappeared. The hole they came out of was narrow, but lead a larger area beyond.

Irban climbed back up, and we requisitioned a hammer and chisel (best the villagers had) and sent someone (I think Irban, again) to climb down and bash open the hole. "Monster Summoning Zero" basically.

We attached some extra rope to the bottom just in case, and headed into the hole.

Beyond it was a cave with mucous-covered walls with dead villagers embedded in, and a bunch of polearms (pikes, bill hooks) on the floor. We didn't have time to investigate before two "corpses" attacked us. Zombies. We fought briefly, during which I threw my axe and missed, Banderas threw his and hit. The zombies attacked me and ignored the others. This would happen again. And then Irban dual-wielded a sword and a torch and killed the zombies, I think with a cleave. This would happen again, too.

We looted the corpses, and Mirado started to dismember them - heads, hands, feet off - all to avoid zombies later. We scored some minor loot off of one corpse, Irban (I think) grabbed a bill hook, and we headed in. We found a way down (a trap door) and had to get half our rope back to climb down.

We made it down into a deeper tunnel, with some bars on the side and a passage ahead. We tried to bend the bars, Banderas and Mirado, but failed. Channeling my players, I declared all bars to have defeated us and we stopped trying to bend them. We kept on and found a rotten ladder going down. At the bottom was a catwalk over some earthen blood-filled vats, with two zombies stirring them.

(I lost connection here for a bit, but when I got back . . . )
. . . we were down at the bottom, attacking the zombies. They attacked me, Banderas hit one with an axe, and then we killed them off. I can't recall if I hit one, but I was rolling an endless succession of 5s on my d20 and swapped it out after this fight. No fun being a fighter and not hitting.

We debated breaking open the vats, but decided to do that later - too much potential mess and trouble. They were creepy, though - worms from inches to feet long, swimming around in rotting blood, eating corpses stirred into the mix.

We moved into the next area, which was dominated by a bas relief demon face on the wall, with an open mouth with a chute-like tongue sticking out. Wriggling worms periodically dropped from it into a smaller basin of blood. Treasure offerings were on either side of it, but as we got distracted by the loot (Irban checking, Mirado searching, and Banderas standing guard) we were attacked by a dwarf with a crossbow and a pair of zombies. Once again zombies attacked me, but for once one attacked Banderas. Mirado changed his name from "Mirado the Attractive" to "Mirado the Lonely." I was hit (3 hp damage) but we managed to chop up the zombies pretty quickly, as my new d20 rolled better, mostly, and my d8 kept rolling 8s.

We finshed looting the altar, discussed defacing it ("Pissing on an unholy altar makes it more unholy") and if the silvered longsword on it was cursed ("Yeah, good idea giving the demon-god a cursed item.") We scored some potions as well, along with a ring from the dwarf. He also had a pick, which I took, because I don't have enough weapons yet.

Later I'd don the ring, just because a) no one had and b) if the dwarf wore it, it was probably benign, and c) someone mentioned a relative lack of cursed rings in S&W. It was - it was benign a ring of protection +1. Nice.

There was a boulder in the room, which we decided to use to block up the bas relief mouth. Putting our weapons away, we all rolled the boulder aside . . . and a half-dozen feral former-elves jumped out. In moments I'd missed, Banderas killed one, and Irban cleaved a couple. The others died shortly after, doing little except to get killed. The boulder turned out to be too much to use in our plan, so we headed out an exit leading around behind the face. There we set off a small deadfall, injuring Irban and narrowly missing hurting me, as well.

There we saw a big swine-sized worm pooting out evil worms and gnawing on an elf corpse. We attacked, It died quickly, but not before I needed to use 2 luck points for Mirado to force a re-roll of a bite that would have put me to 0 HP. The re-roll only dinged me slightly. As it died, it spewed out acid and wounded our ranger in the process. We drank some of the healing potions we had (parcelling out one extra-healing to three doses) and got back to full.

The room had some curtained off areas, and we began to search them - mostly for the dwarf's living area! - and found another "abomination." It was a a blinded ogre, legs cut off (at least partly), manacled to the wall. It was muscled and I think crudely sewn up as well. In front of it was a wooden level with a leather wrap.

So I decided to pincushion it with arrows. Notice I forgot to say "back off the maximum range and pincushion it with arrows." I took out my shortbow and shot at it twice, missing both times (a 1 and a 4, bad enough to easily remember.) It spewed out acid and sorely wounded me again. Aargh.

So I backed up to maximum range and shot off another 18 arrows. Six hit, doing like 18 damage (lots of ones in the rolls). It was alive but howling in pain. So Banderas shoot off his 20 arrows into it, and hit 9 times and did something like 32 damage. That was enough to kill it.

We approached and retrieved arrows. Some in the belly were firmly lodged in something. So I had Mirado take out his dagger and disembowel it. Inside was an elf corpse, which we searched about on and found a backpack (which someone took, not me), some money, some gems, and another ring. At this point we donned rings (Mirado the dwarf's ring, Irban the other one). The elf corpse's ring was a ring of protection +1, 10' radius (Saving Throws only). The elf also had a spell book, which we gave to the mage.

After this, and more unsuccessful searching for what we eventually decided was the dwarf's invisible bed, we found an underground lake. As usual, despite caution, a ranger, and infravision, we were taken by surprise (the dice didn't love us on surprise rolls), this time by a snake. It missed a couple free shots on us, and then we missed it back. It eventually bite and coiled around Irban. He desperately pulled his dagger but couldn't wound it, and it squeezed him down to -2 hp. Somehow Banderas and I managed to kill it (I missed a few times, but rolled max damage when I hit). We took some valuable glands from it (thanks to Irban for knowing this).

I went back and considered the lever a bit, but never did throw it. I couldn't see what it was for that I'd want it to be for - maybe it opened a secret door, sure, but maybe it just let the ogre out, opened a cute somewhere, or spewed acid on the thrower. I wasn't feeling like there was a real reward for the risk, so I just moved on. No one else stepped up to demand it be thrown, either, or I might have done so.

In the end that was it - we found nothing else, discovered the bars covered the elf-thing's cage, and used the pick to bash up the bas relief's tongue-chute and open up the blood vast to spill out the worm-things. Then we headed up. On the way out, I took the dwarf's head. Turns out Mirado is basically practical, ruthless, and not squeamish. I blame my players and, oh, my friend Don.

We got back to the surface, which surprised the elders. I showed them the head and asked if they knew the dwarf. They did - he'd lead a party to the well about 80 years ago. I can see why they didn't mention it, but it would have been helpful to know.

I can't believe we are such bastards, but we even shook the villagers down for their spare money, silverware, etc. at the end. This came out of Irban, I think, forgetting they'd given us potions and chain armor as pre-payment. I briefly argued we didn't need to shake them down, but instantly backed down - I mean, they were already getting it out, so what the hell. Then the Lawful ranger gave some back, as is the requirement of being a ranger. Nice of him. This tells me a lot about my character's character - he's even more cold and pragmatic and "us vs. them" then I'd thought. He's Neutral for sure.

I left them the head, and told them it did them a bad turn underground so they better keep it above ground a while. Heh.

We ended there, divvying up the cash loot (with Erik let us cash out, just for simplicity.) We didn't do bad at all - slightly more than 328 gp net, and 1165 xp. +5% for my Prime Requisite at 13+, +10% for this writeup, means 1339.75 xp, which I assume round to 1339. Level 2 isn't far off (2000 xp), assuming Mirado survives the next delve.



This was my first time playing a non-GURPS RPG in years, and my first time playing S&W. Last time I played a non-GURPS RPG it was d20 Star Wars, and the last time I played a D&D clone before that was AD&D sometime in the 90s. However, AD&D is my native gaming language, so it wasn't difficult to snap right back to "roll to hit, roll damage, and roll initiative each round" without a problem.

My favorite blue d20 rolled a whole lot of 5s. So I quit using it and switched a black one from my Hundred Kingdoms boxed set. I seriously love my d8, though. I rolled all of one attack that did less than maximum damage! It just came up 8 after 8 after 8. Wow. I felt bad after a while, and kind of relieved when I finally rolled a 6. Maybe this is karmic payback for Tarjan Telnar doing rolling three 1s on damage over and over again. It was fun to roll dice, and nice of Erik to let me do it and trust the results, but I felt bad not using the same system as everyone else. I'll try to find some time to kick Roll20 into working for me.

My experience with zombies, etc. is colored by my GMing. I'd totally make the dead guy you didn't dismember come after you. So if Mirado seems like a total corpse-dismembering bastard, well, yes, but it's him being practical not psychotic.

We meshed really well as a team almost immediately, which was nice. All mission oriented and motivated, too. Interestingly we seemed to have gone for "treasure by most utility," largely. I got the chain mail armor because I had the same armor as the ranger but less HP, so I needed it more. The ranger got the silver longsword because he's got a longsword already and this one is better. Spellbook to the mage. The rings might be an issue - I kept the ring I put on, figuring I took the risk, although Irban does have a point that he really needs a +1 to AC. I may have to reconsider and trade it for the +1 in 10' radius one, since I'm more likely to be standing shoulder to shoulder with allies.

I like the Luck rules. First time, but it gave me the do-over I love so much in GURPS with the Luck advantage.

I also regret not pushing my STR to 18. I felt a little sad that my 14 DX put me last in the initiative order for my side, and yet my ST 17 was also less than the other fighter. And I'm too aggressive to really use Defensive Fighting. Oh well, it's not a big deal.

This game was a lot of fun. I'd love to play more often, schedule permitting. But I have so few free nights it's hard to commit one of them to game, especially since I already commit 2 of my 4 days off a month to game.

Thanks to Erik and the other guys for a great night of gaming! I hope for many, many more!

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