By the amazing and talented, Rachel Walton.
Eric couldn’t make it to finish up Doom of the Savage Kings, so I asked Rachel and Renee if they would pick up the characters who died in Frozen in Time and play in an idea I had, playing their dead characters in a Hell Funnel.
As with all Dungeon Crawl Classics games I run, I start AP threads remembering the dead, in this case, the dead were already dead but now their souls have become part the infernal flora of hell.
*Rest in Hell*
Elsen the Watchman of King’s Landing, killed by stirge-like apprentices in a wizard’s tower, just off the River Styx.
*Welcome to Hell*
I monologued for maybe too long to set the tone. It might’ve been the longest exposition I’ve ever given to start off a game but hell’s tricky.
The characters found themselves in a 20 by 20 cube, a cage made of iron ribs, on jagged wheels, being pulled by a beast of burden that seemed to be made of the bodies of dozens of sinners, slammed together into a vaguely oxen-like shape, if you were around when oxen were created but don’t really remember or care about the particulars.
There were three comets in the sky, one much lower than the others. The comets stand out specially because the sky seemed to suck light. One was low on the horizon, probably about to crash into the ground.
Everything hurts. Time is odd and difficult to manage. It feels like coming out of a fever dream, the rhythmic creaking of the wheels. The desert sands are bone white. The last thing you remember is dying.
That kinda shit.
When the comet crashed, the devils flying around the cage grew agitated and began to argue in Infernal, which sounds like a mixture of every ugly word in every language and vomiting. They packed up the items the characters had on them when they died and began to leave.
Maze the Thief tried to beg them to let them out before they left. I reckoned that begging a jailer is a skilled roll for a thief. The roll failed and the devils laughed. One spoke common.
“To the west are the mountains, Asmodeus. You could take your chances with him. To the north is Dis; you won’t make it there. To the east are the Drowned Swamps. To the south is the Styx.”
And with that the demons flew away with all of their stuff.
*The Iron Ribs Cage*
It turns out the cage was a Frost Giant an the lock, its head, still talked. I knew the lock talked when I had envisioned the encounter. I really had no idea how or if they were going to get out of the cage cube. Renee’s character, Nanny Millhouse Cromwell was a blacksmith, so I made a personality roll to talk an iron cage into opening for them a skilled roll, due to her familiarity with iron.
A stretch? It is in hell. Wtf.
She talked the lock into opening and she rolled so well that the lock asked to be unscrewed from the cage, to come with them and perhaps lock up something else somewhere.
After a brief discussion, it was decided that any opportunity to see the Styx in-game should be taken. South they went.
I didn’t do much prep. I jotted down some ideas for what was in each cardinal direction and daydreamed some ideas of what encounters are like in hell. It felt like prep I would’ve done when I was 14 and winging it, high on Mountain Dew and youth.
On the Styx was a ferryman, some patches of scalp and hair still clung to its scalp and it was going through a bag, tossing items aside that it didn’t want. In the hold of its barge were a dozen or so souls, newly arrived, just like the PC’s. They were begging.
They overhead the ferryman talk to a cultist in the hold because he spoke Infernal but the ferryman was unswayed. On the ground around it were ceremonial knives, coins, tiny polished stones, boots, flowers – things people might’ve been buried with. It pulled a long noose out of the bag.
The barge was held to shore by a longer noose rope
After Mave the Thief did some sneaking and got his hands on a few knives – one silver and one bronze. They decided to untie the noose and try to get on the boat and into the Styx’s rough current before the ferryman could catch them.
There was rope swinging and stabbing and derring-do. Nanny fell into the Styx and failed her Stamina roll, getting amnesia, no longer remembering dying at all, no longer aware that she was in hell (I figured if she was in the Styx longer she’d lose more and more memory).
The ferryman was stabbed off the rope.
They found themselves on a barge, floating on a fetid, oily river with treacherous currents.
Mave picked up the ferryman’s pole and made a solid Int roll to navigate the river; that turned out to be a big, big deal.
Nanny asked for her love. Mave assured her that her love was fine. “She’s fine because she isn’t here. We’re in hell, actually in Hell.”
Mave found the key to the hold in a bag of silver and freed the other souls. Renee rolled up 3 more characters to add to her funneling.
The ship went down the river for four years, it seemed. No one really talked for those years, too scared to upset a shipmate. It felt like an awkward four years on a boat. The river branched off, one area was a calm cove and the other was rough. When one of the souls suggested that a calm cove in hell must be a trick, Mave aggreed and turned into the white water.
*The Tower and Charon*
They came upon a broken, charred tower that was easy enough to dock at. When people stepped off of the boat, Mave felt a churning in her gut, as if something was wrong. It was her first biological feeling in a long time.
Renee’s new characters, all with pretty posh stats, went ashore to see this tower. It had no doorway but had several oblong oval windows.
There was a stretched skin of an abusive wizard, who said his apprentices must’ve cursed themselves with his magic. He had a long conversation with Elsen the Watchmen, who Renee decided had been from King’s Landing.
When the apprentices buzzed into the tower, Renee’s two characters who were at the foot of the tower, casually turned their back on him and walked back to their own barge.
Elsen died, trying to lead the, Anophelii-inspired, stirge-like apprentices back to the ship. George R. R. Martin would’ve been proud as Elsen of King’s Landing’s blood was sucked dry and he was dragged into the tower to be fashioned into a throw rug to go over the wizard-skin. Renee seemed relieved that her excuse to make Game of Thrones jokes was off the table.
Meanwhile, back on the boat, a ship came out of the mist for Mave. She knew it came for her. Charon walked off of his ship from a plank and boarded Mave’s recently stolen ship.
Charon took the bag of silver that the key was in.
J: Renee, did you take the bag of silver?
R: I didn’t say I did, so I guess I didn’t.
J: Asshole Judging is in effect! The silver is still in the front of the boat. Charon takes it.
Charon explained to Mave that she owned him silver for each of the souls she had transported across the river. She offered the silver knife she had stolen and Charon took that and complimented her river skills.
Charon: Would you like to be unmaksed? (showing a sharpened hooked thumb-bone)
Mave: No, I will remain masked.
After explaining that Mave was to charge one silver for each eye of each passenger, Charon walked away.
“The first eye is mine. The rest is yours.”
Renee: 50%, you won’t find a better deal in all of Hell.
Cage – 2
Ferryman – 3
River Styx – 2
Tower – 3
That was fun and a great way to stay sideways connected to the ongoing game but not moving on without a player. If I could’ve gone back and done a bit more prep, I would’ve had a random encounter table for each direction and a loose map for my own use and inspiration.
I’m excited to find out what life is like for a group of damned souls moving with the Styx’s current, with a anointed ferry-woman leading the way.
My dear friend, Alexander is selling his Alan Moore signed copy of his 1st print, Batman: The Killing Joke on Ebay.
Plugging that is an excuse to talk about Batman!
Ever since Hans said that Batman (particularly in the Nolan films) is the myth that the 1% will save us I have not been able to shake his words from my brain. I was talking about that this weekend with Janaki and Carly. I immediately thought of this E-Z reader. E-Z readers are made to bridge the reading game between picture books and chapter books. Time Warner and Disney realize that this is an age where young folks bond with an intellectual property.
In this particular book, Killer Croc wants medicine. He wants his antidote and is rampaging through a hospital to get it. Batman tells him that there are good doctors in prison.
At one point, Robin takes Croc’s pills and spills them in the sewer.
“No!” Croc screams.
It is Batman beating up a desperate uninsured person who is suffering from mental illness. He’s kidnapped a doctor but man that detail feels tacked on. The kidnapping is done off-screen and the doctor is never interacted with in any meaningful way. The doctor is never named. We see the doc tied to a chair, being untied in the background by Robin and with a blanket on his shoulders when EMT’s take him away.
As Carly and Janaki said in their best Bruce Wayne voices, “I don’t understand people like Croc. Why didn’t he just have his Alfred get his drugs for him or purchase a hospital?”
I just got done watching True Detective and I liked it but I’d be really careful about how I recommended it to, if that makes any sense.
NOTE: Paula’s review and analysis are spot on!
Spoilers lurk below.
I’m thinking about how I’d game it. My first instinct is to grab Unknown Armies, make up some kind of Room of Renunciation that is a room full of inadmissible evidence that points to terrible occult crimes.
But then I look at this old Sorcerer idea. I think of Rust Cohl’s notebook and his trailer. His notebook would be his demon, wouldn’t it? The trailer is when the demon grows.
“This is a world where nothing is solved. Someone once told me, ‘Time is a flat circle.’ Everything we’ve ever done or will do, we’re gonna do over and over and over again. And that little boy and that little girl, they’re gonna be in that room again and again and again forever.”
That is the quote I want to build the game on. Starting at the kicker and somehow circling back to it again. Maybe even playing the kicker through to its completion and then when it is resolved, picking up and starting over with tiny choices as different, letting the dice fall where they may and seeing what turns out different from the first cycle.
I dunno. Rustin Cohle’s got me thinking.
Have a good weekend.
During our last Burning Wheel game Swordlord Zora seized control of a 400 person Rostlander army with 7 knights among them. I looked to my Swordlords pinterest board and found some decent knights and wrote up a short blurb on each.
Lady Liva the Young: a squire of Lord Drazj, she was knighted after holding a bridge during her Swordlord’s retreat. Her family’s lands was among the first to be taken by Brevoy when this conflict escalated. Her family’s True Sword is said to be captured by Brevoy and held by a Brevosi lord.
Sir Jeppe Sokka-Drazj: Jeppe is the knight who reported directly to the castellan; he is called the House Butcher behind his back in whispered tones, referencing the bloody work he did for his Swordlord. His father was raised to knighthood from distinguished service in Rostland’s army.
Lady Thea the Dawn-killer: one of the most celebrated tourney knights in Rostland before turning her eye to war. She has taken to it, known for surprising a small army of Brevosi soldiers before they had woken and butchering them in their tents.
Sir Karl the Saint: Is said to have traded away his True Sword, left his lands to his heir and took up errant knighthood because of a holy calling. Same say that he will be a Sword Saint when he perishes.
Lady Eliska Nemec – Her family held a border fort near Brevoy for years before Lord Drazj commanded them to pull her forces out to protect his retreat. The Nemec line can trace their lineage back to one of the original 7 Swordlords but their True Sword was lost centuries ago.
Sir Noah the Tree: He is an old knight who folk jest is old as many oak trees. In his youth he was a fine tourney knight but has since trekked from Swordlord to Swordlord, pledging his service for a time but leaving before setting down any roots.
Lady Pavla Drazj – a distant elder cousin of Lord Drazj whose True Sword was broken in a battle with the barbarians in the west. She was captured by a war band and sold into slavery but returned of her own accord.
Reading: I’m reading A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall and it is good fun. If it ends as a complete, stand-alone novel, I’m going to write a love letter to it once I’m done.
Planning: Gaming and probably some brunches.
Writing: I’m trying to finish a few little things I started but I’m hitting road blocks. Finished a short story, which was fun.
Frozen in Time, Session 1
as a 0 level funnel
First thing’s first…
Rest in Peace
Nannie Milhaus Cromwell the smith, femoral artery pierced by Bore Bugs
Delbret the Beepkeeper, skull crushed like a grape by a robot’s pincer-hands, skull cavity licked thoroughly by Carl the Pig (not a nickname, an actual pig)
Hugo trading for a grappling hook and a Holy Symbol of the Whale God just outside the caves with the locals who came to watch the crazy foreigners go into the haunted glacier.
Players winning the yeti over with food when fire didn’t work.
Groat the Slave, in the midst of the battle with the robot, praying over his strange shaped rock to the Chaos Gods for aid – no response.
Players wrapping the robot up in a chain, winning a big Strength test and holding it down for a while. Once 5 PC’s were holding the chain, I asked them to make a Strength roll vs the robot, with the highest Strength modifier and the players rolling a d30 vs the Robot’s d20. They won and held it down for a bit.
Then was a funky moment where Groat gumbled, Eric rolled on the fumble table and rolled a 16+ but with the robot subdued, it made more sense for a really bad fumble to mean cutting the chain and with the group’s blessing, that is what I did.
Then Groat picked up the katana of the Enteral Shogunate of the Lich Shogun, fumbling and cutting the chain that was holding down the robot.
Group killing the robot just before it could kill Groat.
Llaras fitting into the Petal Knight’s full plate armor after making the roll of a 17 on a Luck check.
E: Llaras would like to wear the armor. Does it fit?
J: I dunno. Make a luck roll!
There are a whole lot of slow, even nearly harmless rooms but that ramps up the tension for those rooms where there is a whole lot at stake. Fun times for my first time as a DCCRPG Judge!
At the end of the session, the surviving characters hit level 1. It would be a little over a month until we’d play again.
First thing’s first:
RIP Maeve the Thief and Isidore the Dwarven Priest of the Whale God.
Maeve dared to dream beyond being a simple wainwright, making a short living by her stealth, luck and wits.
Isidore was born deep under the earth and found faith in a deity of the sea. Perhaps that combination was what led him to die in that haunted glacier.
They both died climbing out of the haunted glacier while its demons yelled misunderstood warnings to them all from the infernal walls. The crevasse did them in where the T-rex, mutant ant man and killer robot did not.
The party had accrued enough XP to get to level 1, so in the month between games, we leveled them up to level 1. It was a big group, with only 2 being killed in the first session (and 2 more tonight).
T-Rex and Art
I had been inserting some power glitches after the big robot fight and had the stasis field go down around the t-rex, causing its eyes to focus on the party just before the field went back up. This might’ve tipped them off too much but I liked the effect.
They went through this room, ignoring the art and getting to the tube.
The mutant ant-man was getting pouched on by the party, getting nickled and dimed by them. I knew that the owlbear would seen come out of its field. Renee’s thief wanted to hide, get away from the combat. I asked her where she wanted to hide.
“Behind the owlbear, I guess.”
Eric’s wizard still has the katana from the Shogunate of the Lich-Shogun. Groat made the killing blow against the ant-man.
Then the owlbear lumbered to life. Renee’s thief made a backstab against the owlbear that had no idea anyone was there. Then Groat stepped up with the katana and did a crit, finishing it with another blow.
I said that the katana, clearly magical, seemed like it was made to do this, made to behead enemies but that it clearly hungered to do something more. The katana is sleeping but can be awakened.
It was really important to figure out where everyone was. It wasn’t a matter of having pieces on a map, just a matter of asking good questions when the players announce their actions.
I had some trouble describing the time machine. Renee cautiously tapped at it with a staff and as described in the adventure write-up, a successful Luck roll means nothing happened. When her character made that roll, I described the character feeling as if they were on the edge of a terrible precipice, a bottomless pit, that they were very lucky that nothing happened due to their meddling.
They left the time machine alone.
But Eric’s thief was still in the room, trying to cut out the ant-man’s poison sacs. He was successful but couldn’t get out of the room, as he didn’t have the gold pass-key. When the stasis fields came down, the thief hid successfully while the 3-headed tiger devoured the human and the walrus man backed up to the door, claws and tusks at the ready. The slug climbed to the ceiling.
They went back for the thief and the tiger was sated, fat and content from devouring the human. Knowing that the t-rex was waiting for them above, they climbed into the room where the yeti had been, using their rope and grappling hook to good effect.
The yeti had left when the explosions hit. The crevasse claimed 2 lives when Eric’s wizard failed to cast Feather Fall. But their bodies were retrieved.
I love how the power going out changes the rooms entirely, letting beasts out and making levitation tubes into dangerous smooth surfaces to climb.
Describing modern things to a non-modern mind is fun and funky, though sometimes I’d just say it, “If this was a movie, the audience would recognize the Mona Lisa but you’d just all see it as a woman with an enigmatic smile in an odd dress.” Though I insisted on calling the laser rifle a stringless crossbow.
I have to learn the characters’ names now that they are first level.
Doom of the Savage Kings!
NOTE: This was cobbled together from a few AP posts on the DCCRPG G+ group but wanted to save it here.