The Bellringer's Tomb

I don’t know if everyone in this highly engaging hangouts game is on this board - I know Doyce is - and I don’t know if everyone here is part of the G+ Torchbearer community. If you’ve already read this there and rolled your eyes at it, I beg your forgiveness. If not, what follows is actual play from the point of view (occasionally piercing the fourth wall) of my human thief, Lovell the Liar.

(Episode 1 started with character generation and banter, and thus only 3 turns occurred. Lovell is no less long-winded.)

The adventure started off in an unusual fashion - the creepy old man in a tavern who hired us wasn’t particularly creepy, and he came with us on the gig - usually these types like to hide behind their beards and sob stories. “Took an arrow to the knee,” I’m sure. Then it turns out the crew is me (Lovell the Liar, the finest safe-cracker and con-man born, and only briefly a cook’s boy, dammit), a dwarf-raised human “wizard,” the only magic I’ve seen so far has been his magic ability to talk without pausing for breath. Then there’s the cleric who hired us, maybe he should have also hired a team with a block and tackle to get the stick from up his backside. Finally, two dwarves - a crazy one with an axe, and then the one I broke out of the Sea-King’s camp. Yes, I picked a lock that had stymied a dwarf. GO ME! At least there’s one familiar face in the group. It’s good that someone has my back, even if it’s only up to my shoulderblades. HEY-O

So we hiked all day to the Bellringer’s Tomb - I was looking forward to dragging something epic out of there, something that will make all Camberly Lock forget I was ever a cook’s boy - not that I was a cook’s boy for all that long, mind you. But instead our cleric/leader/creepy tavern-liaison starts poking around at a big stone by the tomb entrance. YAWN. O, quoth he knowledgeably, it’s a statue of King Bull, one of the beast-gods that predates worship of the Lord of Tolls (Theologian test, passed, turn 1). Dead boring until someone mentions that the sockets for the bull-horns had flecks of gold in them - the horns likely being inside the tomb, repurposed as Bellringer arifacts. What the heck are we waiting for?

That mouthy magician tried to lead the way in, probably to set off every trap in the place, and he and I had a bit of a jostle to see who was first. It was me, of course! Inside it’s very cavey and WHOO SAINT’S BONES WHAT A PONG. Rotting flesh, slaughterhouse in summer, chandlery, tallow-works, with (and I quote) the “aftertaste of feces.” We get a torch and a lantern lit and look about. The brainboxes took a moment to try and figure out what the bones all over the floor were from, (BL Hunter test, failed, turn 2) and wouldn’t you know they send a stack of bones clattering around. That’s when we hear the voice from an opening to the south. A scary beast-voice demanding tribute. Then this wolf the size of a draft horse - well, a courser, anyway, a big one - okay, more pony-sized ANYWAY. This big-ass wolf comes in and demands one of us as tribute! The magician steps up and offers some fresh dwarf-rations (which as far as I could tell were identical to preserved dwarf-rations, which are identical to old shoe-leather) and the wolf, unimpressed, looks like it’s going to eat him. I think okay, wizard, magic this sucker into gobbets…

But instead the crazy axe-dwarf charges, the magician yells out something that sounds like gargling with porridge, and it looks like a fight! Naturally, I’m here to help so I draw my dagger, Bloodsipper, and fade into the shadows to set up my backstab. Yes, I really did that! But that wolf has got teeth like EVERYWHERE and the prudent thing appears to be make like a chemise and take off (Fighter versus Big-ass Wolf Nature, Drive Off intent, failed, turn 3) so we beat feet in whatever direction and end up in this other cavey room, that doesn’t stink nearly as bad but is inconveniently blocked off now by an angry ox-sized - well, young ox-sized - wolf. We have enough time to see tree roots on the ceiling, some kind of mosiac on the floor, and a sinkhole leading down to running water… and my torch goes out.

(Episode 2 of the Adventures of Lovell the Liar, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cleric)

Sooooo when last we left our valiant heroes, they’d fled-- er, been driven-- er, retreated to a cavern just out of the reach of a bigass wolf, who stalked around muttering threatening poems while we decided what to do. Geiri lit a new torch for me and we surveyed the sinkhole. Running water sounds came from below - otherwise it’s pitch dark. So naturally, being the bold one, I offer to rope down with a light and check out the scene (some people will tell you I had to be badgered into it, they’re LIARS). So we knot me up and my main dwarf Geiri lets me down easy (Dungeoneer, pass, turn 4.) Below is a natural-sorta cave, creeky thing a couple manheights wide running through it, trash or debris scattered on both banks. They lower me a little farther and just there, at the edge of my torchlight where it goes from Dim to Surely Thou Kidds’t Me I see the scariest thing you can possibly see dangling from a rope in a cave below some mankey wolf.


The group above decides to haul me up for a report, before I have a chance to confront this kid-ghost or whatever it is, and I pass the news along. Oddly, this news makes everyone peckish so we have a nosh - me, I take a good swizzle from the wineskin and get some Camberly Lock Courage to face down the kid-ghost. Using the equipment I had the foresight to bring - a grapnel, thanks, hope I get a couple extra cash dice to buy a new one at the end of this mess - Geiri and I construct a rope ladder-bridge-thing and the whole party makes it down to look around (Dungeoneer, pass, turn 5). The junk all over the banks turns out to be some kinda religious stuff, wax tablets and little lead thingies with writing cut into them. Whatever it is, it makes the magician so mad he shuts up for a while. Win! The kid-ghost turns out to be… a statue. Well, with a heavily-armed scary dwarf at my back it’s a lot less spooky. NOT THAT I WAS SPOOKED BY IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

The only way out of the cavern that doesn’t involve drowning or being eaten by a wolf is downstream, so naturally I take the lead and get roped up again, picking my way carefully along, while the roaring current does its best to pull me off my feet. Unfortunately its best is good enough (Dungeoneer, failed, used Devil May Care against myself, Turn 6) and I go under – totally because I step in a yawning hole in the riverbed! It’s a good thing I pointed it out so that no one else stepped in it. I come up for air and discover something plastered over my face. I won’t lie, my first thought was LEECHES EW and with a modicum of elan I plucked the offending thing away. Clambered into shallow water, spewing water from my lungs. Whew! Being point man is hard work - I’m Exhausted. Everyone else looks hungry.

We find ourselves in a new cavern, roughly circular, a room flooded to knee-depth or better, and filled with biers atop which are effigies of pissed-off-looking old ladies. We can hear weeping and whimpering coming from one, and the magician (who’s sworn to find some skeevy halfling who wandered in) cries “It’s Pip!” and throws the top off. Inside are three things: a pile of betrothal rings, the bones of some old religious biddy, and an UNDEAD ABOMINATION. Did I use big enough letters? AN UNDEAD FUCKING ABOMINATION. A hatred-masked hag, black hooked claws, bony bone-feet, stinking of brine and menace, spitting out slime-bucketloads of chewed up bones and feathers. And here our erstwhile leader does something moderately impressive: he just throws up his holy symbol, hisses out a couple prayers, and the hag jumps like a goosed servant (Fury of the Lords of Life and Death, 7 SUCCESSES). With a shriek, she whirls up to the ceiling! A black stinking wind carries her around once, twice, thrice! And then away, farther down the river. A truly awful fight prevented with just a couple of mumbled phrases! I am thinking about rolling a new toon.

The foul fiend being routed, we get with the looting and though we crack open all the coffins, no other treasure. I did find a nice gold betrothal-ring set with amber - maybe I’ll save it for that one special girl. OH WHO AM I KIDDING, it’s Pawn City for me! I fill my empty wineskin with water from the river. Eeeuch! It tastes like owl and witch-ass. Ah! We did find Poor Pip’s satchel, which had an oil flask and a pretty paltry bag of cash. The magician weeps - I almost feel sorry for him. ALMOST. This room has a set of stairs that exit up out of the wet, to the east - our wizard Kenneth goes pell-mell up them, perhaps using Wizard Sense to determine that his halfling pal is close. The short passage at the top ends in a T-junction and we pause, listening. Bones split for the marrow all over the floor. Whispered song or conversation up ahead, sounds a little louder to the right. If ONLY we had SOMEONE to sneak up there and take a look! Oh, of course, it’s me! The crazy axe-dwarf is actually a pretty decent sneaker, so with hand-signals we ghost forward like a couple of thieves. I can almost make out the words - “bone feasts” and “shrouds for blankets,” sounds interesting, I just need to get one step closer – that one step is on an old dry bone (Scout test versus Nature, tied, broken with Quick Witted in favor of the enemy,Turn 7). At the sharp crack the voices go deadly silent. So what do you do when you’re faced with a couple of faceless wormy-fingered cannibal cultists, your only companion a dwarvish berserker? You run at ‘em, screaming out the most awful war-cry you know. We charge and what do you know, those cowardly critters flee on down the corridor into the darkness! Not being complete idiots, the dwarf and I stop and hurry back to tell of our encounter. “They’ll soon be back,” intones Geiri, “and in greater numbers.” So under the wizard’s direction we assemble a hasty barricade from the pillaged coffin-lids (Laborer, passed, Turn 8 ) and wait, hearing the hissing creeping skarrows coming back with reinforcements. Next time on Adventures of the Poor and Smelly: CONFLICT.

Someone turned the Bellringer’s Tomb from Below into a Torchbearer module? Oh that is pure awesome! Thank you for sharing.

WHEN I CATCH WHOEVER DID IT oh wait it was me.

Having a total blast with this game. The party are doing pretty well so far - Exhausted is the worst condition anyone’s got, and they’ve got a mighty 5 checks to spend when they camp.

They haven’t mapped yet, though, and there’s still an angry, hungry wolf-lord between them and the way out…

Episode 3: Let’s You and Him and Him and Him and Him and Him and Him and Him Fight - brought to you by Owl Arse Water. It’s Like No Other!™

When last we left our valiant heroes, they were kneeling about Lovell in attitudes of respect and adulation, prepared to listen to him drop some mad rhymes. What they got, instead, was his prologue, which you too can experience by taking a very deep breath and reading the second part of the first post, above, in one long blitheringly-fast rush. My comrades were not without motives ulterior - the prologue let me remove Exhausted, lest I be forced to make a roll in the immediately-proceeding fight with a skarrow-squad.

My main dwarf Geiri was nominated Conflict Captain, on account of his knowledge of our opponent, his fighting spirit, and his notable Fighter score. We were offered the chance to live by our charnel-munching opponents: “Flee, all of you, and we will let you keep your marrow: you will live.” Geiri boldly replied “You are the ones must leave! Abandon these tunnels: walk upon the skin of the earth, or be buried beneath it.” This was, as you may imagine, not well-received. As the skarrows came hissing and tumbling into the fringes of our light, casting forth nets of corpse-dust and cobweb, Geiri determined that we’d drive them off with our bravery and battle-lust, and revealed our first round’s stratagem, leveraging his dwarvish cunning and years of tunnel-fighting experience to script—


Now I, Lovell, have been around the Burning block a couple times. And I know, in my heart, that ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK is what you script when you want the GM to saddle you with awful compromises. It is the script of last resort, of desperation - what you script when the Vaylen are about to convince you that getting a hole drilled in your head is a fucking fantastic idea, and you are hoping to maybe get them to take your wife and children instead. It’s what you script as the Orcish Avatar of Darkness and Blood, He Whose Black Ichor Poisons the Sea and Drowns the Land, takes the field and hope fades like delicate fingers of frost touched by the morning sun. Needless to say, based on our disposition of 10 versus the skarrows’ 12 I feared ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK would leave us in tatters.

First up was Angry Keneth, the Wizard, whose rage drove his Eldritch Darts to fly like bothersome bees at the advancing skarrow. He managed to keep their stabby bone-shards and flung nets at a distance: they’d scripted Attack as well, but were forced into a versus test. His 6 successes versus their 7 means we lose a point of disposition.

Next came Geiri, whose Attack was opposed by… Maneuver! Geiri decides to throw his spear, making his attack independent, and BOY HOWDY did skarrows fall like tenpins or ninehammers or some other sporting-throwing analogy involving numbers. I seared more than a few (fingers) with an expertly-wielded torch, whilst Munifred’s mace and Bellarmin’s axe dealt out crushed and severed heads as appropriate. 9 successes for the doughty yet puissant dwarf as his flung spear transfixes two at once, which pushes their disposition to 3! And 4 successes for the skarrows, who despite the shocking whuppin’ just dished upon them still manage to disarm Bellarmin and hurl a cobweb-net into his face. Friends, I have long suspected that you don’t mess with the beard: now I have seen the awful results with my own eyes.

Bellarmin roars out a war-cry, again gargling with porridge, and goes bodily over the barricades. Those undead bastards stole his axe - it’s Grudgin’ time! His 5-success Nature-fueled Attack is opposed by none other than a Feint! Eyeless skulls are cracked, wiggly fingers stompled, backs broken and the skarrow killed or sent fleeing to the last. We won! And quite handily - the only casualty is Keneth, whose hurt arm makes him oddly thirsty for some of that delicious, fragrant Owl Arse Water. It’s Like No Other!™

Then we made camp - Munifred did some kind of cooking thing, and I so wanted to not get involved, because I am NOT A COOK’S BOY, but they were going to put sugar in with the rosemary and I wanted to have something edible so I helped. Keneth made some alchemy-stuff while Geiri was up for hours, drafting a map of our periambulations. Once I gave out all my checks I went the hell to sleep. After that, scouting of the area revealed some corpse-niches filled with good Toller dead, a few pagan burials, and a Toller knight en-niched with sword and helm. Munifred the Cleric was kind enough to turn his back while I swapped my dagger with the knight’s sword - may Bloodsipper serve Sir Whoever well in the afterlife. Geiri snagged the helm.

And next time on Resource: the Managing, exploration! Madness! And maybe some good loot.

This AP report has been brought to you by Owl Arse Water. When you’re Hungry and Thirsty, nothing removes conditions like Owl Arse. It’s Like No Other!™

Owl Arse Logo by John Evans


Now I, Lovell, have been around the Burning block a couple times. And I know, in my heart, that ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK is what you script when you want the GM to saddle you with awful compromises. It is the script of last resort, of desperation - what you script when the Vaylen are about to convince you that getting a hole drilled in your head is a fucking fantastic idea, and you are hoping to maybe get them to take your wife and children instead. It’s what you script as the Orcish Avatar of Darkness and Blood, He Whose Black Ichor Poisons the Sea and Drowns the Land, takes the field and hope fades like delicate fingers of frost touched by the morning sun. Needless to say, based on our disposition of 10 versus the skarrows’ 12 I feared ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK would leave us in tatters.

Amazing. Perhaps one of the best things said about our games. Ever.

Volume 4 of the Annals of Lovell the Magnificent*

First thing we did upon breaking camp was to reconnoiter the strange circular passage. Our light sources died so we lit the cleric on fire and used him as a human torch** - that’s why we hear so little from him this session. In the course of setting the cleric on fire, Geiri discovers a pivoting pit trap by the tried-and-true method of falling into it - only his dwarfy connection to earth and stone and my human connection (via my hand yanking him backwards by his cloak) keeps him from toppling the fifteen-ish feet to the bottom. The pivot is narrow enough to jump across, so this we do. Then, once again, I, Lovell the Magnificent, the Safe-Cracker and Non-Potboy of Camberly Lock, volunteer to have a rope tied around me and be lowered into the pit. Within is a bull’s head carved of stone, looking down remonstratingly at the (presumed) screaming and unfortunate victim of this not-very-imaginative trap. I mean really, Sun-Bull, a pivot pit? It’s about as exciting as dwarvish pornography. (“And here, laddie, is an especially saucy engravin’ of a hand-tooled ewer - note the luscious spout o’ nog,” etc.) The bottom of the pit is carpeted with bone fragments, courtesy the skarrow’s sloppy dining habits. I make it all the way to the bottom and find a dried-out old corpse, a couple years old, of some peasant git who died under the stern gaze of the Sun-Bull, leg broken. Poor bastard probably died of hunger & thirst, exhaustion, anger, sickness, injury, and fear - a bad way to go. Fortunately for us, he has one horn of the Sun-Bull statue (see Post 1, above)! SOLID GOLD, BABY 5D awwwwww yeeeeeeeea! Only Geiri has the pack room for it after a shuffle-about of gear. We are getting ominously low on torches, and by their flickering light Geiri insists we re-cover the trap with bone bits, and mark its location on the wall with torch-soot - perhaps to fool any followers, or to provide some spice if we come fleeing madly back this way. Onward!

Farther around this passage, the niches and bodies trail away to nil, leading to another T-junction. Following the advice of the Ancient Saint (Gygax the Merciless), we turn left and head down a corridor, which terminates in a massive set of wooden double doors with ritzy-looking bronze hardware and a big old set of Toller scales engraved on them. We listen, and on the other side hear the purl of moving water, harsh whispers, and panting. Not good panting, either. Do we listen some more? Try to ease the door open? Are the hinges on this side, or that? Construct a rope-trap to catch whatever lurks heavy-breathing on the other side? All this dungeony pondering is made moot by the dwarves Bellamin and Geiri, who just bash the door open and charge in. Yay dwarves! The doors open into an enormous subterranean church: we’re in the nave, and there are lower spaces to the right and left, the right side flooded with visible glints of black gurgling water at the periphery of our lights. Panting and whimpering to our left, and Kenneth heads down to find Pip curled up, dazed and babbling, at the bottom of the steps. In a display of maternal tenderness, the magician swoops down and picks up the stricken halfling as the whispers grow louder. What could it be? Skarrows? Super-skarrows? Double-skarrows?

NOPE It’s the troth-wight! She’s back and already filled with undead indignance (since the cleric smoked her like a fattie of halfling pipeleaf in Episode 3). She wants her halfling back, and swoops down, hissing and spitting owl-feathers all over everything. What she gets is a faceful of spearpoint, served with an apertif of battleaxe and a side of swordpoint (nicely garnished by yours truly) - she backs away, angry beyond words (but not angry beyond feather-spitting) and swoops down again, intent on a conflict! Once again, we determine to drive her off, since she’s too tough to kill and bitch, we ain’t runnin. Maybe she thinks because Munifred is oddly still and wooden of expression that this time she’s going to have it all over us.

I guess she didn’t count on Kenneth.

Bellamin, our conflict captain, scripts Attack Maneuver Attack, which I feel a little better about than the last seemingly-suicidal-but-actually-amazing script, and Kenneth fires up his Eldritch Darts. With Nature and various help, he marshals 13D YES THIRTEEN DICE and makes an incredible 8s! To add the icing of awesomeness to this victory-cake, it’s Independent of the hag’s Maneuver. The hag swoops down and gets a barrage of angry aether for her pains - she fades to the left, and Geiri drives her back into the magical fusillade! She jinks to the right, and is met with a sword thrust and a swing of the axe! That old familiar stinking wind bears her once, twice, and thrice around - does this seem familiar? - and with a wail she shoots out the double doors and down the passage.
Then there is a whole lot of church talk, which is hella boring, so I mostly trail Geiri around (since he’s toting the loot) watching him destroy irreplaceable, priceless Bellringer frescoes to look at a bunch of pagan Sun-Bull crap underneath. I guess this place was reused - no shit, I imagine the funds for building a brand-new underground church weren’t in the Bellringer’s offering plate. Finally we find some kind of door triggered by a scale connected to a mechanism in an altar. Now THIS sounds like a Criminal test in the making!

And thus endeth the sermon.

*Who is magnificent at everything, apparently, other than noting down turns/tests and pass/fail. Scholar Ob 2, FAILED

**Not actually.

“It’s good that someone has my back, even if it’s only up to my shoulderblades. HEY-O”

Written in my session notebook, after “Goal: Defend Lovell from harm.”

“The stones bid us protect children, drunkards, and fools. Humans usually count for at least two of three.”

Great write-ups. Great game.

(And Attack, Attack, Attack is only crazy some of the time. You have to pay special attention to the drug interactions label - the weapons used made the difference, flipping Independent attacks into Versus, and Versus tests into Independents at just the right time.)

Totally agreed, Doyce, which made that A-A-A all the more masterful in execution.

He rolled and wound up with 9 disposition to their 7, while I scripted Attack, Maneuver, Defend. He jotted down his actions, then made to show them to the magician’s player for approval (he’s got the best read on my scripts). “Nope, dude, I’m not there,” the magician’s player said. “Not gonna look at it.” It was all up to him.