[The Beacon at Enon Tor] The Doomsday Clock

While investigating the cellars of the Beacon at Enon Tor on Sunday, my players got into a Kill conflict with some zombies, inspired by Sean Nittner’s zombie from the forums: http://www.burningwheel.org/forum/showthread.php?13472-Zombie (though mine where Might 3 and their claws gave +1D to Attack). The three players managed to defeat the four zombies, but it was a near thing! They gave me a major compromise! I turned to Killing Is My Business on page 74 to investigate my options.

The fight took place in a wizard’s laboratory (the zombies were the wizard’s servitors; the wizard had made a mistake while researching a Feeblemind spell and magically lobotomized himself and the zombies were acting to “protect” him). It was instantly clear to me that the last major compromise option was the right one: You are killed but you cause massive collateral damage (start a fire, open a dyke, collapse a roof, etc.).

During the sprawling fight, numerous alembics and retorts containing volatile alchemical solutions and mixtures crashed to the floor and broke, starting a raging fire! It was also the end of the fourth turn, so everyone was hungry and thirsty and the torches went out. The players were quick to relight their torches from the flames, but I stopped them when they tried to drink from their skins: smoke was billowing out and they were starting to choke; there was no time to stop for a drink. They agonized for a few moments about whether to duck into the wizard’s study (a dead end off the laboratory) to grab the chest they had found there (which they hadn’t opened, but was full of valuable loot). But sense prevailed and they opted to retreat.

Good thing too. I hadn’t really thought about how I’d handle a fire in a dungeon before, but I think they’re pretty nasty! And this was an alchemical fire; it would burn extremely hot! Thinking on my feet, I figured that the group would have to make a Health test immediately and then every three additional turns that they were subject to the smoke—essentially until they left the tower. The obstacle of the test started at 1 and would go up with each subsequent Health test. Best of all, after a twist earlier in the session, the door out of the cellar they were in had been spiked shut from the other side and they’d driven off some giant rats (which had made one of them Sick) into the stairway up. And they had to carry the cursed wizard out of there. Also, they had mapped the upper levels of the dungeon, but not the cellar.

They passed the first Health test. Then they had to deal with the rats. There was no driving them off because there was nowhere to drive them off to—the only other exit from the passage was spiked shut. So the players went for the kill. They managed it with a minor compromise: Some other creatures in the dungeon had heard the fight and made preparations for the adventurers. Even with their map, they’d have to deal with an obstacle before they could get all the way out.

And first they had to deal with the spiked door. The dwarf was already sick and exhausted, he didn’t think he could batter down the door. The thief stepped up and did it with his help. Crash. They took a moment to drink some water after that (I ruled they had a few seconds). Then she had to make an Ob 3 Laborer test to carry the wizard out. That made her angry. Then everyone had to make another Health test to deal with the smoke, Ob 2 this time! And that was the fourth test, so everyone was Hungry/Thirsty again!

They were on the ground floor of the tower now, but they knew the two closest exits from their location were spiked shut and a third led to a room with more giant rats that they’d avoided earlier. So they opted to climb instead and make for another exit. That exit had been taken over by kobolds (5 of them) since their last sally into the tower, and they ran straight into them! Or rather their trip lines. Everyone had to roll to avoid the trap. The elf immediately went down (which prevented him from leading or helping on the disposition roll on the follow-on conflict). The players opted to flee for the exit from the tower on the other side of the room. It was a knock-down, drag-out fight! I used Feints mercilessly to activate the traps with which the kobolds had festooned the room: more triplines, deadfalls, etc. The players wound up making a desperation maneuver just to disarm the traps. It looked grim for a bit, but a well-placed Defend brought their disposition back up to full and they managed to escape.

In the end, the players only made two Health tests due to the fire, but it certainly created a sense of impending doom! And it successfully spend up the clock, so to speak. It was quite fun!

Incidentally, the thief and the elf managed to emerge from the Town Phase with the fresh condition. The dwarf failed to throw off his afraid condition, so he was still afraid and exhausted at the end of town.

Awesome! What would you have done had they failed the Health test? Lose a turn due to a coughing fit (or pass with Sick)? Have the twist be that the fire has spread and is now an immediate threat?


All good options. I probably would have started with afraid and then gone to twists like you describe.