Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Khareo's Tale #4 - Yelling a devil down

This session report is a continuation of the previous session: Speaking of the devil

Act 2, Scene 3 - The poison apple

The sister decided to head for the Arc society to consult the library. Neither managed to find something about devils, but Mary convinced another member to help. Martha eventually found out that devils are usually insubstantial and invisible. Devils are made of black magic and are motivated purely by malevolence. Interestingly, they are repelled by true faith and white magic.

The following day around lunchtime, Lady Fremton came to talk. She confirmed that they really had been sent by Silvardo Torrens. Reassured, Lady Fremton explained that she was haunted for two years by a devil named Merbaum. He first preyed on her husband for a reason that she did not know, requiring to be fed gold every night. Once that he got on the brink of bankruptcy, her husband attempted to resist. Merbaum use wicked curses to make him sick until he died. Since that day, the devil visits her almost every night, demanding more gold. Lady Fremton obliged under the threat that Merbaum will go after her relatives. Lady Fremton was now penniless and tormented by creditors.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mechanism to adjudicate Astrological Divination

In the campaign Khareo's Tale, a lot of the plot revolves around astrological divination rituals. Knowing what to provide as the outcome of a divination spell can be difficult to gauge. This is particularly so if you want to consistently scale the usefulness of the information with respect to the margin of success. This post describes how we are doing it on our campaign. 

This is a joint post with Sophie Blouin, who brainstormed with me and had the idea of buying destinies using powerful prophecies (which I find very cool). 

In a nutshell

Astrological divination is concerned with position and timing. The better is the divination roll, the more precise is the prediction in these two scopes. Astrology is a ritual subject to normal ritual modifiers (GURPS Thaumatology) and some specific one about the object of the divination. A star chart prop was designed to simplify the adjudication of divination checks. 

The star chart. The number indicate the MoS cost of each area.
Latin is used for flavor, but the English word is shown in smaller print.

This post is further divided into three sections: Ritual Magic modifiers, Interpreting the results and examples.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

044 - Dashing through the snow

... with a 900 lbs crystal ball!

Act 44, Scene 1 - Dashing through the snow

After cleaving the Palantirs from the altar, the two living members of the company set on foot to reach the Raven before nightfall. Sir Galdor was weighted down by his armor. Halin offered to carry his hauberk to lighten his load. To maximize their speed, they decide to travel on the hard ice of the fjord, which should put them on sight of Mulkan at some point. Finbert, as a wraith, decided to follow the two and scout ahead. 

The snow was falling with increased intensity. By the time that the pair was passing east of Mulkan, the visibility was less than the width of the fjord. Finbert flew over to the village to take stock. The Lossoth of Mulkan were picking up the pieces after the wave of destruction of the afternoon. Halin and Sir Galdor never realized that they had passed the village.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Khareo's Tale #2 - The pendant and the foil.

Act 1 is an introduction to get the players to settle into their characters. I picked two of these events as they involved fun play from each PCs. 

Act 1, Scene 1 - Martha's swashbuckling at the fair

GM's note: I thought that a bit of action to send the campaign off would work well with a 6 years old gamer! Chloe isn't familiar at all with Martial Art's combat options, but I narrated the combat as best as I could, using figurines and acting, and proposed options for her. She totally loved the ideas of feints and to use the serendipity engine to find combat openings. It worked very well: the action was fast paced and engaging. All that I needed to do is to translate what she wanted to do in GURPS terms, and tell her her target number before rolling. 

Mary and Martha went for a whirlwind tour of the Chilkarro Market to pay off outstanding tabs. The month of July had been good for business. At the fair, Martha spotted a fencing tournament and decided to enter. Her opponent was a tall man: not as fast moving as she was, but definitively with a longer reach. To win the 10 silver crowns, all that she needed to do was to score three hits. Martha played safe at first: a few parried strikes were exchanged to size up the competition. Then, she carefully evaluated her opponent and waited for him to slip and leave something open. While he was looking at her smallsword, she slapped him with her off-hand [ Serendipity Engine Opening, off-hand attack +1 to strike / -1 to defend vs waiving the ability to dodge this turn. ][+]. This blow was just enough to shock her opponent and get him to miss on the counter-attack. Martha made a feint low then scored a point on the man's chest.

Khareo's Tale #3 - Speaking of the devil.

Act 2, Scene 1 - Something wicked written in the sky

Martha woke up late as usual: her night spent on the roof peering at stars and drawing on sky charts had this way of flipping her sleep cycle upside down. In the kitchen, she met with her mother and her neighbor, Silvardo Torrens, a prosperous fur trader. Silvardo seemed worried. He asked Martha for advice about helping a friend that he thought was in trouble. Martha asked him some details about his friend such as full name, birthplace and time of birth. Silvardo was worried about Lady Fremton. He was hoping that Martha could help.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Khareo's Tale #1 - Introducing the Characters

This mini campaign is designed to be played with my two daughters: Sophie and Chloe. They are eager to play GURPS, and have some interesting ideas to seed the story. Sophie wants to try her hand with Ritual Path Magic using the Energy Accumulation mechanics (with black and white aspected magic). Chloe wants to play a swashbuckling gal with a fond interest in Astrology. I chose the Alchemical Baroque setting, which they gave me for my birthday (hint, hint). I am also using the most interesting Tome of Adventure Design to create stories and NPCs.

Starting Point

The location is Khareo, a semi-independent city state on the Southern Plains of the Known Lands. Khareo is a port city with a mercantile tradition. Fishermen are bringing a boon from the sea and export fresh and smoked stocks inland. A steady stream of traders from the Golden Archipelago also come ashore and flood the city's market with exotic wares from the Sudentland.  These goods are then sold for export to the prosperous North. The majority of the Khareo citizen are of the Architecturalist denomination, although there is a sizeable Horologicalist community that co-exists in relative peace.

Khareo's politics is somewhat tumultuous: an attempt on the life of Queen Sharma D'Ossani III was made 3 weeks ago. The unlikely assassin: the Lord of Saffronderry, a Solar noble betrothed to her. One stream of rumours claims that the Lord was caught and executed on the spot: war with the Solar empire is imminent. Another rumors stream claims that Lord Saffronderry was bewitched into the murder attempt, then mysteriously disappeared.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Character awards for Reclaiming Khazad-dum: Into Mirkwood

This is a long overdue post about character awards for this campaign. It covers all actions since the beginning of the Ardacer's adventure after splitting from the diplomatic mission near Lake-Town. This includes ten days of overland travel and the action seen in the last two days.


Drolf has spent quite a bit of time settling into his command position. He has taken interest in Intelligence Analysis ( 1 cp ). He did take the lead in the battle of Browek Bridge ( 1 cp into Strategy ), but deferred to his subordinates quite a bit as well. His leadership was used during the heroic action of Browek Bridge ( 50% chance of gaining 1 cp, success ). Drolf participated into an heroic action and gets to place 1 cp into any combat skill or technique, or related attribute. I really liked the use of meditation as a way to cope with nightmares ( 1 cp in meditation + 1 free cp ). 

As a side note, your men are hoping for a bit of looting. You promised them spoil, and Mirkwood is frankly not that great for it, but Drolf can sense that the concern is bouncing around the mercenaries with increasing frequency.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Character Awards for Palantir Campaign, Session 15

Here are the character awad for the last session. This also includes the side session Cliffside Swordfight
  • Araliniel
    • 1 free pt - for being there
  • Arnadil
    • 1 pt in Broadsword - fighting briefly against new kinds of foes (Lossoth and Shapithui)
    • 1 pt free
    • Astor has absorbed power through its great deeds:
      • Weapon-bond with Arnadil (1pt, +1 to Hit)
      • Cold-damage (+1 if the damage penetrates AND Astor deems the opponent worth it)
  • Finbert
    • 1 pt in Brawling
    • 1 pt free
  • Galdor
    • 1 pt in Broadsword or Wrestling - Fight vs Lossoths 
    • 1 pt in Sheild (Fight vs Lossoths)
    • 1 pt Area Knowledge (North) or Hiking - for all this hiking today
    • Your sword is now magical:
      • Galdor has a weapon-bond with it (+1 to Hit)
      • When causing penetrating damage, release a jolt of 1d+FP cold damage. Where FP comes from Galdor himself.
  • Halin
    • 1 pt Two-handed Axe/Mace - Fight vs Lossoths
    • 1 pt Area Knowledge (North) or Hiking - You did a lot of walking around today!
    • Zander has awakened (Warhammer's self declared new name):
      • Weapon Bond with Halin (1pt, +1 to hit)
      • IQ 6, Will 12, Per 10, simple telepathic language to Halin only
      • Disadvantage - Pride
        • May refuse to fight against lesser foes (up to -3 to Hit )
        • Can be "conviced" by a contest of Will ( takes 1d second to argue)
  • Irina
    • 1 pt in Brawling - Fight against Lossoths
    • 1 pt free
  • Kasper
    • 1 pt free - for being there
  • Thannolf
    • 1 pt free
    • 1 pt wrestling or Brawling - for fight vs temple guard
    • Bone Knife has become magical through a great deed:
      • Weapon bond with Thannold (1 pt)
      • Magical Barb (May get stuck like a swinging impaling weapon)
      • Improve HT 14 - making it very hard to break

Thursday, July 18, 2013

K10 - The orc with the plaid sash

Prelude: What Khazek knows about Sarn Goriwig
The hunters from Thranduil hall reported to the Ark-lot, via Khazek Strongmoss, that the obsidian tower of Sarn Goriwig appeared to be occupied again. Khazek has heard of this tower from the Lore of Mirkwood. He knew that the tower was a large glass construction which was built by Morgoth in the first age. It seved as an outpost in Mirkwood and a gate to the underdeep. When the Necromancer was expelled from Mirkwood, the tower was deserted. However, the presence of "fresh" orcs suggested that Sarn Goriwig was occupied again by a new overlord. 

Act 10, Scene 1 - The ranger's raid over an orcs' forward depot.

The Attack-Lord of the Ardacer sent the Ark-Lot North to move to contact with the orc's main body. Gomar Flameaxe, Herd-lot of the Ark ordered his crack ranger guard to open the march. This guard was lead by an impetuous member of the Royal family called Khazek Strongmoss. Training dwarves to fight like elves was a difficult task, but he was getting better at it. Khazek proceeded North off the path, keeping his 13 rangers under close control.

Monday, July 15, 2013

043 - To kill a demon, a picture story.

Act 43, Scene 1 - The temple guards of Mulkan

Three Lossoth temple guards to the rescue of Elder Tiani.
After sucking Elder Tiani dry of his life force, the company left the previous session with a number of charging temple guards. The bad news was that their weapons were clearly visible in the shadow world and this meant danger for them. The wraiths, wrapped in cool flames, flew above the charging guards that didn't flee following Kasper's casting of the Panic spell.

Arnadil remained close to Tiani's body while the hobbits and Thannolf swooped from the guard's rear. The Lossoth used their hooked swords to attempt to disarm Arnadil, but managed to get grazed by the sneaking wraiths from behind.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

042 - Cliffside swordfight

As the party has split, this encounter was played off sequence to speed up the coming session. Its outcome remained secret to most players in the campaign until its consequence were revealed to the rest of the company. This encounters is a continuation of a previous one: "We're not in Kansas anymore". 

Act 42, Scene 1 - Leaving the Imenstone Shrine

The two "surviving" members of the company left the Shrine and decided to follow their wraith friends along the top of the cliff. Their destination was more than likely Mulkan, and the time to get there was anywhere between one and two hours. At first, the fog was thick and the sky unnaturally dark. Sir Galdor and Halin both waved their warding totems at the bone terrors lurking maybe a dozen yards away. Soon, however, the fog lifted and the light came back. The bone terrors faded and were soon left behind. 

Halin lowered the totem, put it against his shoulder and wrapped his arms around the pole. Soon, Sir Galdor was dragging the pole in the snow.

Halin spotted five figures heading in their direction at the edge of sight [ He was shortsighted, but has spectacles and managed to roll a critical success on his Perception check. ] [+]. This unusual warning allowed Halin and Galdor to descend into the cliff side and seek concealment. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Character award for Palantir Session 12 to 13

Everyone gets a 2 pt serendipity point which can be used to buy a reroll of one dice. Alternativly, these can be used toward the purchase of an advantage or disadvantage (such as combat reflex [15pt])
  • Araliniel
    • 1 pt into Read Palantir
    • 1 pt into See Shadow world
  • Arnadil
    • 2 pt into either Politics, Diplomacy, Fast-talk
    • 1 free point
  • Finbert
    • 1 pt into Shortsword
    • 1 pt into Wrestling
  • Galdor
    • 1 pt into Wrestling
    • 1 pt into Shield
    • 1 pt towards Per
  • Halin
    • 1 pt into Two-handed Axe/Mace
    • 2 free points
  • Irina
    • 1 pt into Fast-draw (bow)
    • 2 pt into ST
  • Kasper
    • 2 pt into Panic
  • Thannolf
    • 2 pt into Wrestling
    • 1 pt into Knife

Friday, July 5, 2013

K09-1 - The Battle of Green Creek

This story summarizes the action seen by the Gate-Lot in Mirkwood. Gate is tasked with the improvement of a ford over a small creek. It can be easily forded on foot, but crossing with the heavy carts is more difficult.

Battlefield preparation

Herd-lot Hillar Granitedigger didn't like the look of this: his lot was now lagging by at least 20km behind the main force, in a trackless forest. His force were bound to the old forest road (-1) or else contact would soon get lost. Instead of setting up a thorough screen (-2), he dispatched a guard along the Northward path that had been previously recon'd by the rangers and order all haste in upgrading the ford. The orcs, moving to contact soon figured out that the path was guarded and approached along the creek instead. The margin of success for the recon contest was +7, enough to achieve surprise, but not an ambush.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

041 - Five wraiths over Mulkan

Session 14 - Frost Wedging part 3 of 3. 

A chip from the Imenstone
This session report covers the adventures of the Palantir Commission members who have crossed into the shadow world. Its timeline is intertwined with the previous story (Act 40). 

Act 39 - Lossoth Tales...
Act 40 - We're not in Kansas anymore
Act 41 - Five wraiths in Mulkan 

Act 41, Scene 1 - The eye of the storm

Arnadil banked on his leather glove to keep the Imenstone from affecting him. This theory went out by the window. The tumult of the world of the living was suddenly replaced by a void. Little of the world around remained: there was a standing stone close to his head, but it was crystal clear and didn't look to be solid anymore. The shard was clasped tightly in his hand. Astor, his gondoling sword, was glowing like a mirror in the sun. He turned around and saw Kasper and Finbert in similar predicament as his. Where his other friends stood, there were only faint outlines, barely a shade darker than the background. Arnadil noticed that the amulets were also glowing, and in his pack, one of the ruby encrusted in the key of the library of Annuminas. The three friends nodded at each other, planning to let go of the shards and return to the world of the living. Neither Kasper nor Arnadil managed to let go: against their better judgment, they chose to remain in the shadow world while Finbert vanished. 

K09 - The Battle of Browek Bridge

Act 9, Scene 1 - Mopping up Browek Bridge

By 1500Z, the combined Ice and Slammer Lots poured through the defensive positions of the orcs. Drolf pressed on with the Ice-Herd into the ruins while the orcs opted for a Full Retreat option. The command post got a chance at a beheading operation on the orcs' leader. The setup was simple: catch/neutralize the leader in 6 seconds and grant +1 on the MASS combat resolution contest. Kalin, Herd-Lot of Ice ( +Alex Safatli ), Vadek, Sergent-Major of Ice ( +Arne Jamtgaard ) and Drolf ( +Justin Aquino ) , Attack-Lord of Ardacer had spotted the new  field-pomoted commander atop a ruin wall. They set on a charge through a downpour of arrows and a defensive line of spearorcs. To their right, one of the axdwarf suffered a major wound which weakened the PCs flank. Drolf, after a bit of encouragement, engaged on their left while Kalin and Vadek plowed towards the orc commander. 

Vadek eventually managed to strike the last standing orc in the defensive line. The orc, still standing but stunned got bypassed to be picked up by Kalin on Vadek's rear. Vadek slammed into the commander, who by then had started to recoil. He knocked him over, leaving him lying down and winded. By then, the orc archers had abandoned their high vantage points on the walls and were fleeing. Vadek, with cold determination, started to kick the commander until he croaked. As he applied himself to his craft, he beckoned the last remaining archer who decided to slip away while there was still an opening in the rear [ Intimidation-based influence check, MoS=+4, archer turned away ] [+]. Drolf, wanting the commander for an interrogation, dispatched his opponent with a great blow  [ Pretty cool end for this orc, he got slammed in the torso and sent flying due to a knockback. However, a tree was standing behind and the resulting slam damage on his head knocked him unconscious! ] [+]. Unfortunately, he arrived too late to save the commander. Both dwarves argued over the poor strategic value of killing this orcs before interrogating him [ Vadek has bloodlust, and no interest in strategic matters ] [+]

By then, the last of the orcs were scurrying into the woods to the West. Some 5 orcs were dead and about 10 left reeling from heavy wounds. The dwarves didn't pursue them as this would have caused a messy scatter [ Ooops, the GM forgot to check for spontaneous pursuit... ] [+]. By Kalin's estimate, about as many escaped. Drolf encouraged his dwarves to make grim displays with the corpses in an attempt to "dehumanize" the foes (de-orcanize?). Two dwarves had to be put on litters with major wounds (out of about 100 fighters) while 4 others had to be rallied after getting lost in the forest during the assault (and being mocked about it for the rest of the day).

Act 9, Scene 2 - Intelligence Gathering, Drolf Style

Option B for interrogation was not exactly commander-quality. Drolf picked the least dumb looking of the prisoner who still had teeth. He interrogated him forcefully and managed to pull a lot of good information [ Magin of Success of +8] [+].  The orcs called this location Browek Bridge and manned it as an advanced post against giant spider raids. He told Drolf the tale of 7m spiders coming in waves from the South to feed on his kin. He couldn't specify how many more orcs there were (he obviously was not a commander), but placed the number between 300 and 2000. He also specified that his kind were in the service of a terrible wizard living in a glass tower in Mirkwood mountains.

Drolf kept on using enhanced interrogation techniques until the orc could speak no more. He turned to the North and tried to spot the mountains through the trees. He couldn't, but earlier glimpses of them along the old forest road suggested a distance of 10-15 km. He looked south of Browek Bridge: the dwarves from the Ark-Lot had managed to ford in high water and had secured the southern approaches. A forest path to the south had been discovered on the Western bank. Drolf rallied his subordinate commanders for a quick command post chinwag.

Act 9, Scene 3 - Council of Dwarves and FRAGO* to the Ardacer 

Browek Bridge, just after the battle. Click to enlarge.
Drolf gathered the Lot-Herds and senior non-commissioned officers such as Vadek around him. He was in a bit of state of panic, but didn't let on any of it on the surface. There were spiders to the South and maybe up to 2000 orcs to the North. The Bridge would require 3 days of work to bring up to standards and two other sites to the East also required up to 12 hours of work. The Gate-Lot was stationed 25 km behind to make a quick ford over another of Mirkwood's murky streams.  Drolf wanted to reinforce the defensive positions, but Kalin advocated an emphasis on scouting. When asked for advice, Vadek proved rather unable to grasp the operational situation. He muttered grumpily only about what was in front of his eyes.

It was decided in the end that Ledge-Lot was to seek the Fire-Lot to the South, make contact and bring them back to Browek Bridge. Ark-Lot, the scouting unit including Khazek's rangers was to scout Northward until contact was made. Dispositions and numbers were to be reported back ASAP. The other Lots were to prepare defensive position on either side of the former bridge.

Act 9, Scene 4 - SITREP** at twillight

By nightfall, a small party of messengers from the Ark-Lot returned to the command post. Contact with orcs had not been made by the dwarves, but a report from the hunters of Thranduil Halls was passed along. The elves determined that the orcs living in the Mountains were new orcs, rather than orc spawned in the days of  the War of the Ring. This suggested that a new orcs spawning pit was active somewhere. They also reported that Sarn Goriwing, once an outpost of the Dark lord, appeared to be occupied again. The elves specified that the glass tower had been cleared when the Necromancer had been chased from Mirkwood. Its bridge was then taken down.

The messengers from the Ark then returned to the deep shadows of Mirkwood, on their way back to the Ark-Lot. Also, a dispatch from the Gate arrived late into the night to report on an engagement that occurred earlier in the evening

*FRAGO: Fragmentary orders
**SITREP : Situation report

Monday, July 1, 2013

040 - We're not in Kansas anymore.

Session 14 - Frost Wedging part 2 of 3. 

A chip from the Imenstone
The company is exploring here the possibility to cross into the shadow world in order to advance their quest for the Palantirs. 

Act 39 - Lossoth Tales...
Act 40 - We're not in Kansas anymore
Act 41 - Five wraiths in Mulkan 

Gwirith 29th, Midday 

Act 40, Scene 1 - Going up...

The air was thick like pea soup, a heavy sleet was washing the ice bank. Reitu pointed at the cliff where the fjord meets the bay. "It is easy to find, good luck, Southrons". The fact that their guide flatly refused to follow wasn't enough of a warning of things to come. The company crossed the icy kilometer to the foot of the cliff. The ambient light started to shift from white to blue. A rhythmic wind ebbed from the heights. The trek up the cliff would take 10 minutes. From the chiseled rocks overhead, the skeleton of a giant walrus peeked forward, but then recoiled at the sight of the warding totems. Finbert cued the company to two other tall skeletal figures lurking in the gray backdrop. Halin, Galdor and Kasper kept the totems high as the company resumed their hike upward. The demons kept on recoiling, kicking stones that tumbled down to the company's feet. At one point, one of the bone terror slipped downhill beyond sight. The light faded to a deep purple. The flight of countless bats could be heard, making circles above their heads. 

When they reached the edge of the cliff, the rhythmic breathing had gotten intense and seemed to originate from a circle of standing stones. The snowy ground was a vast boneyard, thousands of bats were grasping at any rough surface available. The only sound to be heard was the low breathing from the Imenstone shrine. The bone terrors could approach closer due to the lower light, but the totems still kept them at bay.