Boch's Belfry!

I ran a slapped together one-shot for Carly and Austin and they asked me to run more for them over hangouts, so I gathered them and two more friends as an adventuring party. They’re adventuring in the region of Stroms (which I posted to The World Known and Unknown forum).

Austin - Valoric the Cleric, who wears a tunic with his house crest emblazoned on it.
Carly - Burke the Dwarf, with ribbons and silver threads woven in his beard.
Ian - Milo the Halfling, who wears a puffy blue baking apron over his armor.
Jere - Dracen the Magician, who wears a ceramic cult mask over his face.

Here’s my canned text that I read to the players:

“Boch was a fierce warrior and agent of the ageless wizard Aage, and in his later years a powerful wizard in his own right. Towards the twilight of his life, he and Aage had a falling out and he retired to a tower in isolation to spend it on his own research and spend his final years in peace. The tower has remained undisturbed for years, and no word has been heard from Boch, and fear of his wrath has kept anyone from venturing to found out what his fate may have been. Now, people from steads neighboring the tower are disappearing, and hard questions are being asked. Is there anyone brave enough to find out what’s been happening to the villagers, to face the haunts and enchantments of the tower, and to climb BOCH’S BELFRY.”

The party journeyed through the rocky desert north of Karsand towards the wizard’s tower, and arrived hungry and thirsty (Failed Pathfinder test). They investigated around the tower and found what at first appeared to be a clump of flapping rags, but when investigated turned out to be a body, broken and hurled from the top of the tower (in that order) (Passed Healer test). Milo pounded on the door of the tower, but there was no answer and the party was wary of just walking in, so they walked around the tower first, looking to see how sturdy it was and if there was a way they could climb it. As they were investigating and making their way around, a group of robed figures came from the opposite direction, armed with daggers, and attacked! (Failed Stonemason test)

Dracen tried to talk and explain to them that they were here to investigate a mystery, but suddenly darkness shrouded the entire group (Failed Oratory test). The party, unable to fight in total darkness, tried to flee the robed figures but one by one were swallowed by the darkness. Burke lasted the longest, his dwarven endurance leading the strangers on quite a chase before he too was caught and the entire party bound. (Flee conflict due to mysterious Total Darkness, GM won, but players got a major compromise). During the conflict, Dracen cast Celestial Music causing the bell to appear to ring. The figures were not lured away, but a frightening, skeletal figure climbed up the tower and into the belfry. After being caught, the figures recognized the mask worn by Dracen and his magic powers and mistook him as the Arcane Master, a cult leader of the Arcane Lord, a cult deity of the Immortal Lords of Mystery (this was the major compromise). He was taken to their leader in the basement of Boch’s Belfry in a hidden room - the Shadow Master! The room contained a bloody altar, a summoning circle, shackled prisoners, and an altar to the Veiled Lord. The Shadow Master wears black robes and a black mask, and slits the throats of one of the cultists to demonstrate his apology to the Arcane Master for his mistreatment.

The players are in the hands of an insane, human-sacrificing cult, and the only thing keeping them from being murdered is a case of mistaken identity. Next time: the Arcane Master and the Shadow Master!

Interesting story!

About how long did you all play for?
Any other conditions or twists handed out?
Roughly how many turns did you all play?

I’m trying to gauge how much material covers how much time.

We played for about 3.5 hours I think, though a significant chunk of that, at least half, was character creation.

I handed out hungry & thirsty as conditions for the first failed Pathfinder test, and then later after the Flee Conflict because the timer hit 4.

This is every twist that I introduced in this session. I remembered after posting this that there was also a theologian test identify the cult, but they passed it and there was no condition.

We played roughly 5 turns, but one of those was a Conflict that lasted about 9 or 10 actions.

Holy cats! I love it. Are they excited to play again?

Everyone had an awesome time and is excited to play again! It’s a really great group, too. There were quite a few times that either the dice or the rules didn’t go in their favor but they totally rolled with it.

We had our second session last night. I am probably not going to remember all the tests as accurately as I did last time, but I’ll give it a shot.

The adventurers are now in the company of a group of insane cultists, with Dracen the Magician pretending to be the leader of another cult, the Master of Mysteries of the Arcane Lord, and the other adventurers his servants. Believing it to be the will of the gods, the head of the Veiled Lord cult makes an agreement with Dracen that if he can circumvent the traps leading to the top of the tower, they will split the artifacts and riches found there. Dracen agrees and asks for a place to rest, and is given access to the cult’s dormitories. The adventurers retire, but first Milo and Burke ask some of the cultists if they can spare any rations. “We’ve heard great things about your cooking!” Milo says to two cultists who are sawing away at a sacrificial corpse on an altar. One of the gore-splatter cultists gives him a parcel of rations and taps his chin affectionately with a knife (failed Manipulator test, Milo gets Afraid and Burke gets Angry). The group then made camp, with Milo trying to cheer up Burke at camp. However, angry dwarves are cheered up best with arguments, and the result leaves Burke feeling much better but Milo rather angry himself (failed Nature roll - Merrymaking - to cheer up Burke).

The group then embarks, asking the two black robed cultists, last seen sawing apart a body, to fetch the Master of Darkness. They are obstinate, not wanting to leave the altar or the kidnapped villagers there, but Dracen commands them and the rest of the adventurers stand intimidatingly behind him. The cultists relent and leave (successful Manipulator test). The prisoners then beg the adventurers to free them, but Dracen says the danger is too great. Milo is uncertain and looks to Burke who agonizes himself. Finally, Burke says that they have to put the party first, and a single fat hobbit tear rolls down Milo’s face as his heart breaks. Wanting to do something for these poor people, Valoric the cleric performs funereal rights for them so that the Immortal Lords will remember their names when they pass on (successful Ritualist test).

The Master of Darkness leads them to the stairway upwards into the tower and then departs, leaving a lone cultist to watch them. They clear the crude barricade blocking the way (successful Laborer test), and Dracen gazes upon the stairs with Supernal Vision (failed Arcanist test, leaving him Exhausted) and sees that there is a line on one of the steps with runes written around it. An enchantment! He asks Milo to disarm it. Milo tries to pry the stones loose with his short sword, but the sword snaps! (Failed Dungeoneer test). In a fit of anger, Milo stomps on the stone, causing a the sound of a bell to chime in the upper levels. The group then enters into a kitchen and seating room, and heavy stone feet stomp down the steps towards them. They try to hide out of sight, but as the statue enters its large stone head swivels towards them and gestures towards the seats (failed Scout test). The characters sit, and the statue stomps around the kitchen area, eventually serving them empty teacups. The adventurers pretend to drink tea and then examine the room. They see that the stairs leading up are splattered with dried blood, and Dracen spots a dangerous rune marking the stairs - a mystical killing trap, though its magic is faded and no longer as potent.

The adventurers then devise a plan. They tell the Master of Darkness that the way up is clear, and that Dracen has enslaved the guardian to his will. The cult leader leads his cult up the stairs, and then commands one of his lesser cultists to lead the way. Dracen intervenes, saying that the Master of Darkness should be the first to gaze upon the mysteries that Boch left and that he should not trust anyone else with them. The Master of Darkness agrees! (Successful Manipulator test) He cackles madly and walks towards the stairs, and then his head is grasped by the guardian statue and crushed.

Two high-ranking cultists draw their knifes and turn on Dracen, but Dracen commands them all to bow before him or face the powers he wields at the will of the Arcane Lord! The lesser cultists, leaderless and frightened, stand behind him, while the two remaining priests of the Veiled Lord leap at Dracen with their knives out (Orator test! Successful against the lesser cultists, failed against the higher ranked cultists).

Next session: The Magician, the Madmen, and the Mysterious Statue!

Man! Your session is much more interesting than mine. I’ll have to try to play again.

I look forward to more of this. Good job!

The trick is having players that insist on doing everything in the most complicated way possible. (I mean, it doesn’t seem that way to them, but as the GM I’m like, “Sheesh you guys!”)

Another night in Boch’s Belfry! Jere, the player of Dracen, couldn’t make it so he was put in storage leaving Burke, Milo, and Valoric to deal with the cultists. While most of them had persuaded to give up their faith in the Veiled Lord in favor of the Arcane Lord, the two highest ranked cultists pulled daggers and attacked. The statue just stood impassively while the skirmish occurred.

We had our first Kill conflict. The players immediately learned that the cultists with them were nearly useless as none of them had the Fighter skill, so the adventurers had them sit out the conflict. They butchered the black-robed cultists but had to give a minor compromise, so the black-robed cultists inflicted an injury on Burke the dwarf.

The adventurers looted the bodies finding some copper, a satchel, and a book. They patched up the stab wound in Burke’s leg, though he has a persistent limp (failed Healer test, dropped Health from 5 to 4). Valoric paused to read the book (successful Scholar test) and discovered it was the journal of the leader of the cult of the Veiled Lord. They had come to Boch’s Belfry to claim his summoning circle and summon a guide to lead them to the hidden temple of the Veiled Lord, and he believed he knew where it was. Meanwhile, the surviving cultists who followed Dracen carried off the corpses of the dead cultists to sacrifice them to the Arcane Lord on the bloody altar they had set up.

The adventurers then discussed how to get past the statue, which was now picking up the kitchen after the fight. Burke and Milo proposed hopping on its back and riding it to the top of the tower.

Burke: It’s like a sport we dwarves have where we ride pigs. We call it “piggybacking riding.”
Milo: We halflings also do that. We call it “the sport of champions.”

Valoric gave up at this point, and just headed into the stairwell triggering the trap. His brain was filled with blinding pain and a vision of Boch taunting him, and his nose and mouth began to bleed (failed Health test resulting in the Injured condition, I realized in retrospect I could have done a better job of discerning his intention so that I could give him a condition and a success but I think ‘survive deliberately triggering a magical death rune’ can be considered the intent in retrospect). After triggering the rune, the guardian statue turned and charged at him and Burke and Milo jumped in the way.

They then engaged in a Drive Off conflict with the guardian statue. It was a crazy conflict, with excellent rolls and scripting and use of their resources. Milo got MVP of the game with a roll that netted him 9 successes in an attack on the statue (tapping nature, using Hidden Depths, and opening 6es). They also succeeded in a defend roll to top off their disposition, and then got a coup de grace with a feint on the statue’s defend. The dwarf, halfling, and wounded cleric managed to drive the guardian statue backwards and send it tumbling down the staircase to the first floor of the tower.

They then turned back to the stairway.

“Did my triggering the trap make it go away?”
“How do you determine that? Do you test it?”

So at this point, Burke decided he was just going to get out his mining tools and dig through the wall around the trap. A few mighty strikes of his pickaxe, and perhaps it was the power of the rune or just a structural weakness, but the stair collapsed and a hole was created in the side of the tower (failed Laborer roll). One could safely assume that the death rune is no more, but the stairs up the tower are gone as well.

We ended the game with Milo patting his handy rope and waggling his eyebrows.

Next session: A Perilous Climb!

Love it.

Great job, Bret. I think you handled the death trap correctly. They’re very tricky. But if you can say: Either something really awful happens to you* or you survive with a condition, you’re probably safe.

*It has to be short of death, though. So paralysis, coma, insanity so you can’t recover from Afraid or Angry, etc. are all good options.

Our last session begin with Dracen returning, but Milo’s player absent so we were halflingless. The group clambered up the now-destroyed staircase, with Burke doing all the work and having to haul the useless humans up after him (failed dungeoneering test, condition Angry). They then find a bedroom/living chamber with a decomposing corpse (mysteriously missing an arm) clutching a book, some vials on a stand beside it, and in the corner some chainmail, a helmet, and a battleaxe. Valoric, fearing that the corpse may be one of the undead, crushes its head with the mace. The corpse does not resist.

Valoric determines that the vials are a Soothing Tincture (successful Alchemist test) and Burke checks out the weaponry. The armor is impossible to lift! Dracen reads the book the corpse was holding for any clues and finds the words repeated throughout “Ignorance is the curse of the Immortal Lords. With knowledge we become them.” (failed Scholar test, he gains the condition Angry) He says those words aloud but nothing visible happens, and then throws the book on the ground. Valoric scoops it up and they head upstairs.

They find a lab and a library. Valoric instantly spots a hidden panel containing Boch’s spellbook (successful Scout test), and searching the rest of the library reveals a map to a cavern that Boch had been planning an expedition to and some candles. They then finally ascend to the top of the belfry, finding the enormous bell Boch used to control hostile spirits. Valoric rings it, and Burke surveys the surroundings for danger (failed Scout test). He spots a creature in some kind of man-sized burrow. It emerges and runs towards the tower, and begins climbing it. The party runs downstairs and Dracen leads them in barricading the door against it (successful Laborer test). It scratches and flails against the door but cannot enter.

The party then decides to head to the basement and camp. On the way, Valoric decides to give lifting the armor another shot and it works! Burke shrugs out of his leather armor and puts it on and it fits surprisingly well. Meanwhile, Dracen strips the corpse of its stained robes in the hope that he can trick the guardian statue. They head back down through the tower, and find the statue cleaning up shattered crockery in the kitchen. It ignores them as they walk past.

They go into the cultist’s area and find that they are happily making some human sacrifices to reconsecrate the area to the Arcane Lord. The prisoners plead with the adventurers again to free them, but they walk past and make camp in the cult’s dorm area. The greasy smoke from the burned offerings gives a +1 factor to recover from exhausted (minor inconvenience on the camp table) but Valoric’s anger settles. The group discusses what to do next, and decides to kill the cultists. The charge out of the dorm and attack, slaughtering them all. However, the din and the bloodshed attracted something else. The door to the cultists’ chambers swings open revealing the hideous humanoid figure that pursued them earlier - its eyes milky weight and its rictal grin revealing bloodstained teeth. (successful kill conflict, minor compromise that something walks in on them having killed the cultists)

Dracen offers the creature the villagers as a sacrifice, much to their distress, but it ignores him and stalks the three, circling them. Valoric tries to call upon the Lords of Life and Death to drive the creature away, but his voice is plucked from his throat nad he knows it is because of the sacrilege that he has allowed to occur in this tower. Then, Dracen summons up a mystical voice higher up in the tower, and the creature is lured away (failed Arcanist test, Dracen is Exhausted). The adventurers free the villagers who are torn between relief and gratitude and anger at Dracen for offering them to the creature. They don’t make any trouble, though, and flee the tower as do the adventurers. They pass a previously barricaded door, now smashed open presumably by the creature, but are too exhausted and wounded to investigate and head back to Karsand with Dracen leading the way (successful Pathfinder test).

Next session: The Heroes of Karsand!

We’ll do town rules and figure out the next expedition!

We had our first Town phase last night as the adventurers returned to Karsand. Karsand is a busy crossroads, and the carpenters guild was on watch and warned the adventurers that no brawling was permitted within the walls, and that you could not bear arms larger than a knife or dagger inside. Burke wrapped his axe in his cloak and buried it in the woods outside of town before they went in.

The adventure-town feedback loop kicked in here as the players realized that they hadn’t brought back any loot at all from the adventure, not even salvage. There was a little bit of loot, but it was being carried by Valoric, whose player was absent this session. I was unsure of how to handle this, but didn’t want his pack to be plundered while he was absent and I know some things the rest of the party wanted to sell (some books they’d found) he did not, so they had to deal with it.

They still got some things done and did surprisingly well on the lifestyle roll.

Burke stayed at a flophouse, repaired his helmet at the armorer’s guild, and got a job from the blacksmith’s guild - stealing the lucky ram of the woolmen’s guild (Successful Circles test). He waited until it was unattatended in the back field of the guild hall, headbutted it to show his dominance, and then took it back to the blacksmiths (Successful Fighter test vs. the ram’s nature). He also bought some rations at the market, but realized later he had been scammed when the food rotted in his pack on the first day of their journey (failed resources test).

Dracen stayed with his mentor who was a magician who now gets by as a con artist and was staying with a high-ranking guild member. She brought him into her ruse, giving him a test towards advancing Manipulator. He also bought some gear from the market, successfully haggling to get a cloak and some rations thrown in for free (Successful Haggler test carrying into a successful Resources test). However, on his way out he noticed a mark above the door indicating the shopkeeper was a member of his former cult (Failed resources test for more gear). Oh no!

Milo stayed with his lovely parents who are cooks in Karsand. He made a bit of money from a tanner by sneaking into a rival tanner’s shop and trashing the place (successful Circles and Criminal tests). I think he went and bought some rations too, I honestly can’t remember.

They then set out on their journey! Burke and Dracen succeeded in their lifestyle maintenance tests. Milo failed and was taxed to zero, so he spent everything he had in town paying his bills. They then set out towards the Crystal Caverns!

They followed the Skein River using the map they’d found in Boch’s Belfry, with Dracen leading the expedition to the ancient magical site. They had to cross the Skein river at one point, and Dracen chose a spot that looked shallow and safe to cross. It turns out it was deeper than it appeared! (Failed Pathfinder test) Burke easily swam across the river, but Milo failed and had to ditch his leather armor. Dracen made it but when he came to shore, there was something wriggling and thrashing in his pack (Milo and Dracen failed Health tests). Dracen threw the pack on the ground and tried to get Burke to open it. Burke was about to smash it with his axe, when Dracen decided to just grab a stick and open it with that. A scorpioncrab scuttled out towards Dracen, but Burke smashed it with his axe (successful Fighter test). Milo carried the corpse with him in case it was edible.

They then arrived at the cavern. They entered the cavern mouth and it reeked of ammonia. Milo decided to scout ahead, and as he got out of sight of the part, realized there were a bunch of giant bats over his head. They flapped all around him and he screamed and flailed and was driven back to the cave mouth, but not before glimpsing a ravine with a rope bridge ahead and two more tunnels (failed Drive Away conflict, minor compromise). After gathering Burke and Dracen, Milo returned for revenge and Burke easily swatted all the bats away with one swing (successful Drive Away Conflict, minor compromise). But the fighting and the shrieking had alerted something deep within the cave, and they heard the sounds of howling and screaming getting closer.

Next session: What Approaches?!

How did you find Finding Work to work out for you? It struck me as odd when I read it that it only gave +1D but raised lifestyle by 1 (and required a Circles test on top of that). That seems like breaking even unless you’re planning on failing lifestyle and just want some quick cash to buy gear before sneaking out of town with bills unpaid…

Would it also raise Lifestyle by another 1 because resolving the Work would count as Conducting Business?

I didn’t count resolving the work as conducting business. I wondered that myself, and opted to just make it a self-contained thing.

It makes sense to do if you have Resources 0 and no dice of cash, otherwise you can’t make your lifestyle roll at all. Once you have that 1D, you can use Rewards, get help, etc.

Ah, ok, so you probably wouldn’t use it if your resources are already 1 or higher or you have any cash on hand… unless you feel like you need the extra tests for advancement I guess.

That or you just think it’s cool, which is why I think both my players did it.

I’m not quite sure what you mean by this or what you did.

I stumbled over this, too, when players were asking about it. The rules that looking for a job is +1 lifestyle cost, but then a simple job only gives a bag of silver. Going by the loot table, I figured a bag of silver is just 1D cash. So, my players & I didn’t see much point in looking for simple work.

I could see using it as a way to generate an adventure and be able to get a share of the haul, though.

I think the main use is what Bret said. If you don’t have any Resources or Cash at all, then you can’t even make the Lifestyle check. So if you’re dirt broke but have some Fate or Persona or friends willing to help, then you can look for some work so that you at least have the opportunity to roll instead of auto-failing and getting attacked by thugs or losing Circles. It’s for the desperate (unless you can find really good work, which isn’t all that common for murder hobos who aren’t guild members).

So what jovialbard was asking and what I was wondering about is does looking for work count as the following:

  • The act of looking for work - Looking for Work (+1 Lifestyle)
  • The roll or rolls you make to accomplish the work - Conducting Business (+1 Lifestyle)

or just

  • The act of looking for work and all related rolls - Looking for Work (+1 Lifestyle)

I ruled that it was just Looking for Work (+1 Lifestyle), and the rolls made to accomplish the work counted as the same action so it was only 1D of cash and +1 Lifestyle Ob. I may have been too nice and that may have been against designer intentions.

Also, there is a point to looking for work which is if you have Resources 0. That way you don’t get hit with the Resources 0 penalty when you leave town, and you can actually roll against your Lifestyles and use Rewards and get help. If you came back from the dungeon with a ton of loot, though, then yes, looking for work doesn’t make much sense.