Into the space wizard’s dungeon

Some thirty kilometers from the village of Caermor, on a mountain on the edge of the Dragon (or Serpent) mountain, there is a dungeon. People have went in and some of them have came back, telling stories of mutants, goblins, items of power, and deep chasms. In particular, you know that the adventure is likely to include climbing (bring ropes and maybe other relevant stuff).

Caermor itself had a problem with a devil-worshipping cult, which was recently eradicated. Now they are missing some key figures of the village. Below, I’ll first give a few rumours about what is going on in Caermor (probably irrelevant for this adventure, but who knows), and thereafter add former player notes and handouts concerning this adventure location. These represent rumours and other information the characters have managed to get their hands on.

Rumours in Caermor:

  • MacHeath, the pubkeeper, was just profiting off the hard work and farming of others. He was always a lazy bastard, and see where that took him – diabolism. That’s what you get for not doing hard work.
  • Don’t talk about gods in Caermor. They don’t like to hear it. They have some obscure storm god their worship. Or maybe an earth god.
  • Mother Gloam was a wise woman and one of the best people here. I wonder what went wrong and where she is now.

Possible motivations for dungeon delving:

  • The helmet of stargazing of the wizard that used to live there. It is supposed to be an item of power.
  • Money and magical treasures in general.
  • A local went in there with some adventurers but never came back! Go and rescue them. 100 xp (and 3d6 gold coins from locals) if you do.

Practicals

We’ll try to create characters before play. Use an established Holmes D&D character, create a new one, convert one, or let me give you a charactert.

We’ll discuss if the characters are strangers or from around here. Being a local, in the wider sense of the word, will give extra information to start with.

Once start playing, you can decide to either pay for food for four days of travel there (and maybe save three days of food for the trip back) and just start at the dungeon entrance, or we can play through the travel, with all the possible complications that implies. If you want to gather extra info or get hirelings or other stuff in the village, we’ll handle it quickly and abstractly. But I am fine with it. Might even be a good idea.

Into the space wizard’s dungeon

The witch and the mushrooms

A witch with affinities to mushrooms and plant life had set up camp in an abandoned dungeon, atop a dead dragon and its hoard, and allied with a bunch of animate mushrooms. Then adventurers burned it all down. The witch and some mushroom-folk survived. What do they do now, in this cruel world?

Meta

An OSR game, where a witch and some mushrooms, together with some other adventurers, decide what to do and we see how well they succeed.

  • Date and time to be determined. Assume weekend, some time reasonable for Europeans. There are more alternatives on the Christmas week and the week following that.
  • Estimated playing time is at most 4 hours.
  • Four players is good, but more or less works.
  • Rules system is homebrew more-or-less OSR-type rules framework. It is lightweight; you need no previous knowledge, and it does not really help you that much, either. Rules summary in Finnish: https://ropeblogi.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/vanhan-liiton-henkiset-saannot/ .
  • No prior knowledge required.
  • One-shot.
  • Voice via Discord. Voluntary video. A whiteboard application will likely be in use, too, at least if you choose to go dungeoneering.

Situation

The witch and the few surviving mushrooms are in burned ruins. The ground floor of the dungeon, an old watchtower, was burned and collapsed. The entrance to the first dungeon level proper is blocked by stones and such. There is supposed to be more mushrooms there, as well as other entities.

The village of Melford lies close by. The witch estimates the population of the settled area to be several hundreds. The people of Melford attacked them and the mushrooms. There are horses, cows and sheep in the fields. Also some horticulture.

There are goblins and giant spiders in nearby forests.

There are orcs on the nearby hills.

There is an elven city in the forest on the far side of Melford area.

The weather is unnatural: the winter is significantly (some degrees Celsius) warmer than it is supposed to be and there are constant unnatural storms raging over the region. The storms come from much farther away.

Possible characters

The set-up here is special, as the nature of the game depends heavily on the selected characters. The witch and the mushrooms are safe options, so to speak. Anything else will direct play significantly. Please do not make a character who hates another to begin with. Tensions are fine.

For character generation, either convert and use an existing character you have played (ask for details), or roll 3d6 in order (attributes are fitness, instinct, craft, will, charisma and lore) and select an appropriate character from the options below. Choose their background (profession or training before adventuring). Choose one of the three character classes: Expert (come up with a significant special ability), dabbler (come up with a weak special ability and an idiom of magic; we’ll roll you one completely random spell that fits) or mage (come up with an idiom of magic; we’ll roll you three completely random suitable spells). Write down whatever mundane equipment makes sense for the character. Done. You can name them, too, if you’d like.

The witch is a mechanically complicated character, and also a powerful one. Hit dice 2, a bunch of spells and some special abilities. Someone has to play the witch. They recover spells by feeding their fleurian symbionts.

  • This character is already complete, as it has been a non-player character.
  • Likely source of experience: Number of mushrooms at the end of session.
  • Other possible sources of experience: Number of people of Melford killed or 4000 xp if you drive humans away from the region, 2000 xp if you make an allience with the humans, or maybe amount of treasure acquired.

The mushrooms are of undetermined social and intellectual abilities, but they are about a meter tall and have a cap about a meter in diameter.

  • They do not seem to be to very active regarding their surroundings, most of the time, which suggests a low instinct.
  • They have a special ability; by default they can shoot spores that form into d6 new mushrooms, but other abilities are certainly possible.
  • Likely source of experience: Number of mushrooms at the end of session.
  • Other possible sources of experience: Number of people of Melford killed or 4000 xp if you drive humans away from the region, 2000 xp if you make an allience with the humans, or maybe the amount of treasure acquired.

The goblins and the spiders are the dominant force in some nearby forests. These goblins feyish and have blue skin, long ears and nose. Sneaky. Consider spiders as divine, yet do not build temples; respect and fear more than worship. The spiders vary greatly in size and in species of the real-world spiders they resemble. Some spiders allow goblins to ride them. The goblins do not have a great love for the humans of Melford, as blood has been spilt and the humans had a farm where they treated some spiders as cattle.

  • A goblin can have whatever stats. They are smaller than humans regardless.
  • Likely sources of experience: Gold, diplomacy with humans or elves, murder.

The orcs of the Red tusk clan of the Rotting eye tribe sometimes come here. They hold humans in contempt and sometimes rob, raid or even kill them, but the low level of activity has kept the relations relatively calm. They mostly target travellers, not locals. They sometimes take goblins as prisoners. They also have pies they claim are magical.

  • Typically high fitness, lower lore.
  • Experience from: murder, gold, diplomacy with elves or humans (hard!).

A resident of Melford of suitably tolerant, selfish or mercenary outlook might fit. The smith, Irena Yar, knows of a treasure hidden near by and has martial and thief skills. Then there are the farmers and hunters, some of whom might be sympathetic to the witch, if encountered in the right context.

  • Some residents already have stats. Ask if interested.
  • Experience from: Diplomacy probably, though gold is also likely.

An elf from Kyrimi, the elven town from the other side of the Melford settlements, might be appropriate. Some young ones have an eco-terrorist movement brewing. It is not clear how most elves would treat an elven mushroom-witch. The elves have diplomatic relations with the goblins, but no love for the orcs.

  • Typically high stats.
  • Experience from: likely diplomacy, maybe murder, mushrooms or gold

A wanderer, i.e. whichever usual player character, might also work, if they start somewhat sympathetic towards the witch and the mushrooms.

What happens in play

The likely play will consist of two parts: First, the characters decide on a direction of action and a plan, and second, they take action. These both are played. Goals (and sources of experience) are chosen after the direction of play has been chosen. The part where characters first meet and choose to not kill each other at once is not played, but rather assumed.

Note that different characters can have a different quest (source of experience), but everything that is earned is divided by the number of player characters regardless. If you have several sources of experience, you get average earnings.

The witch and the mushrooms

Skullduggery

If you want to play in this one-shot, let me know and also tell which characters you would like to or are willing to play.

Meta

A blood opera with a few evil cultists, an elven prisoner, ghouls, a magical artifact, and maybe goblin allies.

  • December 13th Central European time.
  • Estimated playing time is 4 hours. If belief workshopping is not done before play, this will extend by up to an hour.
  • Up to five players, but three or four would be better and two the minimum.
  • Rules system is Burning wheel. Some characters are pregenerated, some you can burn up yourself, up to various constraints.
  • Prior knowledge of the rules system is a benefit, but not a requirement. Rules complexity is adjusted according to player experience.
  • One-shot, but I do plan to run further one-shots in the same game world. Rules systems that have been in use: homebrew OSR, Burning wheel, D&D 5, homebrew, Pathfinder 1.
  • Voice via Discord, other gameplay via Roll20. It has character sheets which handle some of the fiddlyness of advancement and rolling.
  • Blood and guts and undead are likely. I usually keep descriptions fairly tame.

Situation

Three cultists, Alyissid the powerful elven death priestess (now deceased), a human death priestess and a human mage hatched a plan to attack the elven city of Kyrimi. They took over an ancient elven tomb and brought with them goblinkin who took over old gnome burrows not far away. Then they started raising the dead and attacking caravans of humans about to trade with Kyrimi.

A group of elves, bolstered by Än, a human mage of great power, attacked the small death cult and killed Alyissid, losing most of their number in the attack. Some of the newly created ghouls retained their identity.

Alyissid also had a powerful artifact of evil, a dagger whose strike kills any mortal and raises them as a walking corpse controlled by the wielder. Now the dagger wants a new wielder.

Who gets the dagger? Do you leave or stay? Do you try to give Alyissid the gift of undeath, and what comes of that? What about the ghouls, horrified at what they have become?

The wider context and the map of the tomb are from an adventure in Footprints #3: https://www.dragonsfoot.org/ft/. It is completely voluntary reading (and not particularly good).

Characters

The characters are lacking in precise beliefs. We’ll write those after figuring out who the player characters are to know what we should be focusing on. We should manage to workshop this via Discord chat before the actual session, but if necessary, it can be done or finished at the beginning of the session.

If you want to play some character that you should burn by yourself but you don’t know how to do that, ask and I’ll do it with some input from you.

(reserved) Än the ghoul used to have magic. He still remembers it and is bitter.

  • Get the dagger and gift it to some powerful good actor to recover his life. Or rise an army of undead instead?
  • Social skills, ghoul powers, and some minor combat skills and academic skills, plus miscellany. Converted from D&D 5, so a bit strange mechanically.

The warrior priestess has the dagger; does she get to keep it? Why is she here, anyway?

  • The dagger, serious armour, some combat skills and other skills, decent stats. Converted from D&D 5; a bit strange mechanically.
  • At least one belief about the dagger.
  • At least one belief about why you are here.
  • At least one belief about another player character.
  • At least one belief about the dark gods of Duvan’Ku.

The mage is in love with Alyissid, though her death adds complications. Is that his only motivation? Maybe he, too, would find some use for the dagger.

  • You can burn this character yourself, but there are some restrictions: gifted, sorcery B5, knives skill opened but not advanced further and the only weapon skill, much of resource points already used (spells, potions, relationships, the tomb).
  • Quasit familiar.
  • At least one belief about his love for the departed Alyissid.
  • At least one belief about the dagger.

The prisoner is an elven woman. There were plans to sacrifice her within the span of days. She is yours to burn as a character.

  • Without equipment for obvious reasons.
  • You can make her as powerful or weak as you want. Up to you what you want to play. Do ask the other players if thinking of optimizing for several grey stats or humongous skills or other excessivities.

(reserved) The goblin leader has their ogre bodyguard and some thirty to forty mixed goblinoids and five gnolls. They are here to murder the elves and eat them, hopefully getting rich in the process. They do not yet have the strength to attack the elves; that is what the growing army of the dead is for. So why is it not growing? Maybe you should wield the dagger, after all.

  • This character is yours to burn, should you want to burn them. Get an affiliation, reputation and relationship with your forces and a relationship with Alyissid and your bodyguard. You wield a battleaxe and some heavier armour.

Seyrael the ghoul used to be an elven paladin of nature. Now he hates himself terribly and will certainly do something about the matter. He is physically powerful and has remnants of his old skills.

(reserved) The dagger is sentient and communicative if someone really wants to play it. Not mobile, though. Play at your own risk.

The quasit has nasty demonic powers and strives to corrupt the mage. But maybe its masters would be satisfied with the dagger and a rotting army, or a dead elven forest?

  • Stats based on the lesser dæmon, with some significant modifications and different special powers.

Playing a ghoul or someone from the goblin force would also be possible, if one really wanted to. Another character particularly well suited to the situation might be possible, too, if you have one gathering dust.

Skullduggery

The aliens help those who help them

A flying thing, the size of a small fortress, made of yellowish metal appears above, shooting blue flames below and behind it. Your characters hear the rumbling, but in their mind they also hear Israte’s voice asking them to come to the ship. Those who say no are free to go; those who say yes are taken in. This happens to the following characters when the opportunity or downtime presents itself:

  • Conradin of Wherf
  • Gurra Sanduli
  • Snena
  • Gumarik
  • Faerin

A smaller vessel, maybe like a wagon or a sled, comes down to pick up those who wish to fly up. Inside they first land in a large hall with several more such vessels, all un-manned, and many creatures like Israte: two to two and a half metres tall, skin like cracked earth and between red and blue in colour, though always slightly dulled; no mouth, but eyes which flash in different colours. Many have long straight hair like a long pony-tail of ropes. Some of them wear harnesses, some what seems to be a breastplate with some selected pieces of armour on legs and arms, too.

From there the characters are escorted to some kind of meeting room. There you are greeted by one of the creatures, skin more cracked than usual and giving off a certain impression of great power, flanked by two breastplate-clad warriors. It presents itself as Ilgu, a templar of its kind.

The news is that they have not found any signs of the enemy. The enemy might still be present, but hiding or dormant, but for now, things seem fine. They have set up a warning system in case the enemy approaches.

For your effort in helping Israte you are offered one gift each. The opportunities follow. In addition, to each of you separately, Ilgu offers the possibility to act as an agent on their behalf; this would mean, in addition to a gift offered below, access to their database and information and constant telepathic communication with them, but also some concrete and some open-ended tasks to accomplish; these would be exploring places or finding particular types of places, and possibly establishing networks of reliable and influential people to prepare for the enemy’s possible arrival. Faerin only gets this opportunity if he chooses to be healed of his affliction. In fact, they are desperate enough for agents that if only one character chooses it, they get to pick an extra reward.

Rewards:

  • Psycho-physical adjustment, i.e. messing with ability scores. Choose any one: increase any stat you choose by one, increase two random stats by one, increase three lowest stats by one, increase one stat you choose by d4 but reduce another you choose by d4, swap any two stats you choose.
  • Healing: any permanent wound is healed to be better than it used to be. For Faerin, this can also mean the mental wound, but this would amount to a permanent change of character class or at least patron, but also +1 wisdom.
  • Miscellaneous improvement: learn a skill (but not arcana, nature, religion or history), get a saving thrown proficiency, permanent increase of a movement speed by 10′, permanent 1 hit point per level (including for future levels), fast language learning (one week to usability, two to fluency, month to native-like skill if the language is in active use, for example if you practice speaking with someone daily; learning from a written source is not helped), or something similar.
  • A technological or a psionic item. Ask for something.
  • Information about whatever you choose, as much as they know. (No, they will not reveal their own secrets.)

Furthermore, any character interested in space exploration or living their life in a world far away from here can choose that, instead. This means having the character retire from this game. But who knows? Maybe there is a scifi game where you can play them or their space ship crashlands on some other fantasy world.

The aliens help those who help them

Restarting a farm, or a small gothic story

If you want to play in this one-shot, let me know and also tell which characters you would like to or are willing to play.

Meta

A game of family drama, maybe culminating in a murder, while others are trying to get a farm up and running. A farm with giant spiders.

  • 2nd August, 12:00 Central European summer time.
  • Estimated playing time is 4 hours.
  • Up to five players, but four would be better and two the minimum.
  • Rules system is Burning wheel. A bunch of pregenerated characters, but also some you can create yourself. Feel free to suggest another custom character.
  • Prior knowledge of the rules system is a benefit, but not a requirement. Rules complexity is adjusted according to player experience.
  • One-shot or maybe two sessions, but I run extended campaigns and plan to run further one-shots in the same game world and maybe even the same village, so further play is possible. Rules systems that have been in use: homebrew OSR, Burning wheel, D&D 5, homebrew, Pathfinder 1.
  • Voice via Discord, other gameplay via Roll20. It has character sheets which handle some of the fiddlyness of advancement and rolling.
  • There might be a threat of violence, or worse, against a child, especially if Mia is in play. This is up to the explicit permission of the players; scenario works fine without, which is the default. But if all the players are fine with this, it might come to be.

The one-shot builds on the following adventure modules by Stuart Marshall on the Dragonsfoot website, as well as on the developments and events in my campaign play and a previous one-shot, of course. People who do not intend to play in my D&D games need not worry about spoilers; Burning wheel works well without secrets.

  • The spider farm: Read this for more information on the farm and the Reyn family. Essentially spoiler-free. In particular, there is a description of the farm and the farm buildings with some of their functionality included.
  • Melford murder: Reading the character descriptions in this blog post or the adventure module will spoil the murder mystery, which has not yet happened in my campaign world, and might or might not happen. Your choice. For this and other Burning wheel games spoilers are not a problem. You are expected to keep player and character knowledge separate. Some of the characters are described in the adventure module.
  • Shrine of the Oracle: Reading the shrine part is safe, but will only provide some peripheral context for this game, so not of much use. Note that of the sibyls only Mishpat is still alive in my campaign. The dungeon part is not relevant for this scenario.

Situation

Near the village of Melford there was a farm, where Ulayah Reyn kept giant spiders and gathered their silk. Some cultists captured him and many of the workers. The rescue attempt failed and Ulayah is presumed dead or worse.

Ulayah’s daughter, Heri Reyn, is trying to restart the farm, but she has her own problems, too. Deborah Snaid, who was almost married to Ulayah, is helping her. They need the spiders back in the pit, workers to run and fix the entire place, plus some protection against possible goblin attacks.

Meanwhile, brother and sister Wyke, who run the local inn, do not have everything okay between them. Lena would like to get her share of the profits of the farm, if possible, and is getting tired of staying in her brother Gerrit’s shadow. They also have a dim-witted and mis-shapen brother, Mipp, that they keep hidden elsewhere, and who has been associating with forces of darkness. Mipp has taken a poor child, Mia, into his protection, unbeknowst of Lena and Gerrit. Mia used to work at the spider farm and has recently discovered that she can speak with spiders.

A dragon’s hoard worth of treasure was just excavated and brought into the town, bringing with it some suddenly rich locals and a few foreigners.

Characters

The characters are divided into key, involved and peripheral. Key characters are excellent player characters. Involved characters are good players characters, too, but not quite as central, so they require a bit more work to make important. Peripheral characters are unlikely to play a large role, but might make an appearance, and a dedicated player might drag one into focus.

There is a simple relationship map available at https://kumu.io/tbrander/mernua

Good player characters are marked blue, green characters might be important, yellow ones are unlikely to matter much, and gray characters are dead. Characters are linked if one of them has a mechanical relationship to the other, one of them has a belief about the other, or if they are family.

Key characters

(reserved) Heri Reyn, 24, is a depressed woman suffering from crippling social anxiety. In her youth she lived with her father, the deceased Ulayah, who protected her from the outside world, maybe even too much. She tries to cope with all this while setting up the farm.

  • This might not be the emotionally easiest character to play.
  • Problem: Crippling social anxiety and no self-esteem.
  • Some skill in literacy and spider farming.
  • Where to find the workers and the capital for the farm?

(reserved) Lena Wyke, 27 years, is an ambitious innkeeper, who co-owns the inn with her brother Gerrit. They have a deformed idiot brother Mipp they keep hidden in a broken farmhouse, but visit every now and then.

Lena is quite bitter about Gerrit getting all the honour and spoils of their inn-keeping, while she does all the work. She has been talking with her friend, Magdalene Colerre the beekeeper, about the matter, and even murder has been discussed. She also wants wealth and power in general, with the newly rich providing fine possibilities.

  • Out to improve her lot in life, maybe at a cost to others, maybe helping others in the process. A potential fiend.
  • Strong social skills, reasonable professional skills.
  • Magdalene is a scary, if unreliable, ally.

(reserved) Mia, 8 years, grew up as a common child of the spider farm community. After its destruction she wandered from farm to farm, helped and begged. One night she seeked shelter in an abandoned farm, found an intact cellar, and climbed down. She stumbled in the darkness, found webs, was swarmed with spiders and bitten.

She awoke up in the farm, with a dreadful, deformed man-like creature tending her. He turned out to be Mipp who lives down there; but nobody is allowed down, and she must stay hidden if others come here. She was sick and delirious for some time, seeing strange visions of deformed, colourful  spiders eating at her, and indeed there were some visitors in the building (she will recognize Gerrit and Lena Wyke when she sees them).

It turned out that Mipp, in spite of the dreadful appearance, evident dumbness and lacking social skills, is very good to Mia. She visits him every now and then. And she can speak to and understand spiders.

  • Wants to help Mipp and Heri.
  • Little in way of skills or abilities due to age, but can speak to spiders.
  • Has a gothic friend of some potential and huge weakness.

Involved characters

Deborah Snaid, 51, is an accomplished seamstress and tailor. She was born and lived much of her life in the city of Heatherleigh, where her daughter Sanya still lives. She considers herself to be better than the locals.

  • Issue: To get over the sadness or not?
  • How to help Heri, as she promised to do?
  • Professional skills, social skills.
  • Sympathic towards Heri.

A former works(wo)man at the spider farm, whom you can create as a new character. Mostly or only peasant and villager lifepaths, nothing magical. Tie the character to others via relationships and BITs.

The spiders at the farm are big. If someone wants to play one, they are also intelligent.

  • You can make the spider by yourself or ask me to do so.
  • Issue: Freedom or imprisonment?

Gerrit Wyke, an inn-keeper, the brother of Lena and Mipp. You can generate the character by yourself or ask me to do so. May get killed.

Mipp Wyke, 25 years, a mentally and physically deformed sibling of Lena and Gerrit. He has walked down some very dark paths, but has now discovered light in Mia.

  • Low stats and very few skills, but some magical powers and treasures.
  • Would be challenging as a player character.

Herluin, a knight, the youngest of his family, who came to Melford seeking a better future. Some dungeoncrawling later he has two and a half thousand gold pieces, and a desire to protect and help the locals.

  • Low stats, at least martial skills.
  • Lots of cash and equipped for war.
  • Not from around here. Knows little and few.
  • Smells magic.

Magdalene Colerre, a beekeeper, and also an arcane monster. Lusts for power and death.

A goblin or a spider from the woods, who would like the spider farm to not operate, but would also like to avoid outright war with the big and scary humans. A character to make for oneself. These goblins are fey-like mischievous trouble-makes but also assassins and maybe sorcerers, rather than of the violent orcish army.

Peripheral characters

Brad Jennings, 43 years, grew up in and near the village of Rashtan, and has done much: trapping and farming before moving back to the village, after which he acted as a barber, before finally becoming a shopkeeper in Melford. He enjoys the genial interaction with customers without all the blood, but keeps his old tools and skills ready for emergencies.

Brad is in love with Deborah and intends to do something about it any day now, when he gathers his courage.

  • Issue: Deborah said no to him. Does he accept this or try harder? Stay honest or try to force the issue by financial or social means?
  • Medicinal skills, observation and rumours, plus a healthy mix of various other stuff.

Marieka, a woman constable (as the village guards are called) who had a tryst with the travelling dragonborn noble Charirastrix, and does not want to believe she is in early pregnancy. Wants Melford to be a safe place; making the goblins angry would not help in that.

  • Mechanically strange due to conversion from modern D&D.
  • Only hostile social skills, but some wilderness and broad, if shallow, combat skills and strange languages.
  • The general representative of the village constabulary.

Felona Vedane, 29 years, a cosmeticist married to Tom Vedane, but who plans seducing Brad Jennings. The current marriage is not a happy one.

Tom Vedane, 31 years, a jeweller married to Felona.

Reiner Vogg, 37 years, a livestock keeper with orcish blood. Attracted to Marieka. Misses his daughter Savula Vogg.

Irene Yar, a local smith with connections, but also more than that.

Warmann, a young local constable with more than a thousand gold pieces in cash. A kind of an overconfident asshole with no perspective. Likes Mia.

A newly rich peasant or villager with more than a thousand gold pieces in cash.

Distant characters

Savula Vogg, 14 years, a new sibyl (priestess) of the Oracle, a minor local deity, not terribly far from Melford.

Mishpat, the elder sibyl of the Oracle, famous for her great beauty.

Sanye Snaid, the daughter of Deborah Snaid at Heatherleigh, and priestess of Mother earth.

Charirastrix, the noble dragonborn sorcerer who has traveled away.

Ulayah Reyn, dead.

Harold the hedge mage in the village of Rashtan occasionally bought spider venom for alchemical use or as an ingredient in magical inks.

Restarting a farm, or a small gothic story

The dragon’s hoard and the terrible mushrooms

Near the village of Melford there are small ruins of an ancient city’s gatehouse, the city having been swallowed by the woods. A group of adventurers killed several goblins there, the goblins having captured local farmers with families, some of whom were saved. Later another group of adventurers ventured in. Only one came back, clearly rattled to the core, mumbling about a dead wyrm’s treasure and terrible mushrooms.

You are the next ones who venture in.

Meta

  • Sunday 21st, starting around midday European time. (Default 13:00 Finnish time, 12:00 Norwegian time, but can be adjusted.)
  • Player-driven, can be over quickly or take a long time. Four hours should be enough.
  • Up to six players.
  • Rules system is flailsnails / generic OSR D&D. Please come with a character you have played in some D&D-like system. We will make use of their level, attributes, hit points and spells, and maybe also other details. You can also ask if you can bring in a character from some other system or make an entirely new character.
  • One-shot, but I run campaigns and one-shots in the same world.
  • Voice via Discord, maybe mapping and such via Roll20.
  • Style of play is challenge-oriented dungeoneering. Meet strange creatures, traps, and other dangers, try to survive, get rich, and get out alive. Your skill as a player is what counts. There will be a focus on meeting things, problem-solving and social interaction, with almost no emphasis on navigation (drawing maps and such), and possibly some combat. But play is player-driven, so nobody can know for sure.

Information

The rumours told by the insane adventurer are represented by the notes of players whose characters have ventured into the ruins. Make what use of them you can.

The dragon’s hoard and the terrible mushrooms

Widow’s choice

If you want to play in this one-shot, let me know and also tell which characters you would like to or be willing to play.

Meta

A drama game with focus on character choices and relationships.

  • Saturday 23rd or Sunday 24th this month, probably starting around 12:00 Norwegian or 13:00 Finnish time.
  • Estimated playing time is 4 hours.
  • Up to five players, but four would be better and two the absolute minimum.
  • Rules system is Burning wheel. Pregenerated characters, with maybe a possibility to do one by oneself.
  • Prior knowledge of the rules system is a benefit, but not a requirement. The characters are simple and we will be sticking to the core mechanics (hub, spokes) without the extended conflict rules, but maybe some resources or circles.
  • One-shot, but I run extended campaigns and plan to run further one-shots in the same game world and maybe even the same village, so further play is possible. Rules systems that have been in use: homebrew, homebrew OSR, Burning wheel, D&D 5, Pathfinder 1.
  • Voice via Discord, other gameplay via Roll20. It has character sheets which handle some of the fiddliness of advancement and rolling.

The one-shot builds on the following adventure modules by Stuart Marshall on the Dragonsfoot website, as well as on the developments and events in my campaign play, of course.

  • The spider farm: Read this for more information on the farm and the Reyn family. Very minor spoilers in the way of hidden treasures to people who play D&D in my world.
  • Melford murder: Reading the character descriptions in this blog post or the adventure module will spoil the murder mystery, which has not yet happened in my campaign world, and might or might not happen. Your choice. For this and other Burning wheel games spoilers are not a problem. You are expected to keep player and character knowledge separate. Most of the characters are described in the adventure module.
  • Shrine of the Oracle: Reading the shrine part is safe, but will only provide some peripheral context for this game, so not of much use. Note that of the sibyls only Mishpat is still alive in my campaign. The dungeon part contains spoilers concerning the dungeon in question.

Situation

Near the village of Melford there was a farm, where Ulayah Reyn kept giant spiders and gathered their silk. Some cultists captured him and many of the workers. The rescue attempt failed and Ulayah is presumed dead or worse.

Ulayah was about to marry Deborah Snaid, a local milliner, who made fine clothes from the silk. He also left behind an orphan, though already an adult, Heri Reyn. Both of the women were devastated by the occasion.

Some time has passed. Deborah is running out of money, while Heri is miserable. Deborah was about to visit the now-empty spider farm, when she was captured by goblins (that had attacked the farm earlier, but had been repelled). Goblins spoke about the spiders as their gods and that there would be vengeance if the blasphemy were to continue. Deborah was left in a ruin, rescued by mercenaries who killed lots of goblins that lived there; but yet more are supposed to live in the Spider woods.

Will Deborah, or someone else, set up the spider farm again? And what happens to the people whose fates are entangled in the matter? (The possible matter of the goblins will not be resolved in this game.)

Characters

The characters are divided into key, involved and peripheral (and distant). Key characters are excellent player characters. Involved characters are good players characters, too, but not quite as central. Peripheral characters are unlikely to play a large role, but might make an appearance, and a dedicated player might put one into focus. Distant characters are a part of the extended relationship map, but will almost certainly not appear, or at least be important.

There is a simple relationship map available at https://kumu.io/tbrander/mernua

Good player characters are marked blue, green characters might be important, yellow ones are unlikely to matter much, and the gray character is dead. Characters are linked if one of them has a mechanical relationship to the other, one of them has a belief about the other, or if they are family.

Key characters

Deborah Snaid, 51, is an accomplished seamstress and tailor. She was born and lived much of her life in the city of Heatherleigh, where her daughter Sanya still lives. She considers herself to be better than the locals, though the current events have taken priority.

  • Issue: To restart the farm or not? If not, how to make the ends meet?
  • Issue: To get over the sadness or not?
  • Professional skills, social skills.
  • Sympathic towards Heri.
  • Respects Brad Jennings, but does not love him.

(reserved for a player) Heri Reyn, 24, is a depressed woman suffering from crippling social anxiety. In her youth she lived with her father, the deceased Ulayah, who protected her from the outside world, maybe even too much. She lives with Brad Jennings, who puts her down constantly due to lack of respect. If only she could find a way out, but she could use some help in the task.

  • This might not be the emotionally easiest character to play.
  • Problem: Crippling social anxiety.
  • Problem: No self-esteem.
  • Some skill in reading, writing and miscellaneous skills.

Involved characters

(reserved for a player) Brad Jennings, 43 years, grew up in and near the village of Rashtan, and has done much: trapping and farming before moving back to the village, after which he acted as a barber, before finally becoming a shopkeeper in Melford. He enjoys the genial interaction with customers without all the blood, but keeps his old tools and skills ready for emergencies.

Brad appreciates people who work hard. He does not feel Heri Reyn is one of these people, but keeps her in the house due to his former friendship and business relations with Ulayah. He keeps telling to Heri that she is not trying as hard as she should, yet she does not learn, much to the frustration of Brad.

Brad is also in love with Deborah and intends to do something about it any day now, when he gathers his courage.

  • Relationship stuff with Deborah and Heri.
  • Question: Does he conform to the social reality about the relationships, or force others to conform to his? Does he learn of this?
  • Medicinal skills, observation and rumours, plus a healthy mix of various other stuff.

(reserved for a player) Lena Wyke, 27 years, is an ambitious inn-keeper, who co-owns the inn with her brother Gerrit. They have a deformed idiot brother Mipp they keep hidden in a broken farmhouse, but visit every now and then.

Lena is quite bitter about Gerrit getting all the honour and spoils of their inn-keeping, while she does all the work. She has been talking with her friend, Magdalene Colerre the beekeeper, about the matter, and even radical ideas have been aired. In short term she would be satisfied in having more money or power; King’s head inn’s business will go down if Deborah’s fine clothes will stop attracting the rich from Heatherleigh, so she needs to get Deborah back to her senses or to secure independent sources of wealth and influence.

  • Out to improve her lot in life, maybe at a cost to others, maybe helping others in the process. A potential fiend.
  • Strong social skills, reasonable professional skills.
  • Magdalene is a scary, if unreliable, ally.

Mia, 8 years, grew up as a common child of the spider farm community. After its destruction she wandered from farm to farm, helped and begged. One night she seeked shelter in an abandoned farm, found an intact cellar, and climbed down. She stumbled in the darkness, found webs, was swarmed with spiders and bitten.

She awoke up in the farm, with a dreadful, deformed man-like creature tending her. He turned out to be Mipp who lives down there; but nobody is allowed down, and she must stay hidden if others come here. She was sick and delirious for some time, seeing strange visions of deformed, colourful  spiders eating at her, and indeed there were some visitors in the building (she will recognize Gerrit and Lena Wyke when she sees them).

It turned out that Mipp, in spite of the dreadful appearance, evident dumbness and lacking social skills, is very good to Mia. She visited him every now and then. And she could speak to and understand spiders.

  • Wants to help Mipp, Heri and Deborah.
  • Little in way of skills or abilities due to age, but can speak to spiders.
  • Has a gothic friend of significant power and huge weakness.

A former works(wo)man at the spider farm, whom you can create as a new character. Four lifepaths, exponent cap 5, mostly or only peasant and villager lifepaths, nothing magical. Tie the character to others via relationships and BITs. Some other custom character might be fine; ask if you have an idea.

Peripheral characters

Gerrit Wyke, an inn-keeper, the brother of Lena and Mipp.

Mipp Wyke, 25 years, a mentally and physically deformed sibling of Lena and Gerrit. He has walked down some very dark paths, but has now discovered light in Mia.

  • Low stats and very few skills, but some magical powers and treasures.

Marieka, a woman constable (as the village guards are called) who had a tryst with the travelling dragonborn noble Charirastrix, and does not want to believe she is in early pregnancy. Wants Melford to be a safe place; making the goblins angry would not help in that.

  • Mechanically strange due to conversion from modern D&D.
  • Only hostile social skills, but some wilderness and broad, if shallow, combat skills and strange languages.
  • The general representative of the village constabulary.

Felona Vedane, 29 years, a cosmeticist married to Tom Vedane, but who plans seducing Brad Jennings. The current marriage is not a happy one.

Tom Vedane, 31 years, a jeweller married to Felona.

Magdalene Colerre, a beekeeper but not only that. A dark one.

Reiner Vogg, 37 years, a livestock keeper with orcish blood. Attracted to Marieka. Misses his daughter Savula Vogg.

The spiders at the farm are big. They at least used to live in a pit covered with wooden bars.

Irene Yar, a local smith with connections, but also more than that.

Distant characters

Savula Vogg, 14 years, a new sibyl (priestess) of the Oracle, a minor local deity, not terribly far from Melford.

Mishpat, the elder sibyl of the Oracle, famous for her great beauty.

Sanye Snaid, the daughter of Deborah Snaid at Heatherleigh, and priestess of Mother earth.

Charirastrix, the noble dragonborn sorcerer who has traveled away.

  • Player character; use only with permission and would require conversion.

Ulayah Reyn, dead.

Harold the hedge mage in the village of Rashtan occasionally bought spider venom for alchemical use or as an ingredient in magical inks.

Widow’s choice

Dwarven merchants

They say they come from the Seven-pillared hall, up north. About 10 warriors, a few oxen, and three merchants. They are here to visit Arkinsburg, which they call Winterhaven, and will then go back. If you want to join them they ask for 100 gp, unless you make a persuasion check DC 15 (DC 10 if one of you is a dwarf in reasonable standing).

Wares

  • Studded armour (35 gp, 28 lb) 5 available, chainmail (40 gp, 40 lb) 3 available
  • +1 plate armour of cleansing (680 gp, 50 lb); gives advantage on saving throws against continuous damage
  • Mace (5 gp, 6 lb) 4 available, battleaxe (15 gp, 6 lb) 6 available, warhammer (15 gp, 5 lb) 4 available, light crossbow (25 gp, 4 lb) 6 available (but no bolts for sale)
  • +1 maul of victory (840 gp, 12 lb) 2 available; when you drop an enemy to 0 hit points, all enemies adjacent to it fall prone due to the impact; does d6 extra thunder damage on a critical hit
  • Steel shield (10 gp, 15 lb) 6 available
  • Shield of deflection (520 gp, 15 lb); resist ranged and area effect damage until end of your turn as a reaction, use once per long rest
  • Steel shield of protection (680 gp, 15 lb); as an action, you and a nearby ally resist all damage until the end of your next turn
  • Ranging defender shield (840 gp, 15 lb); as a bonus action, throw the shield to protect an ally within 25′, giving the shield’s AC bonus to them instead of you until the end of their next turn and, if they are at less than half their hit points, they also resist all damage while the shield protects them. The shield then returns to you if you are within 25 ft, but otherwise drops to the ground.

Rumours

The Hall of seven pillars seems to be an underground trading post maintained by mages. There are merchants of several different and typically hostile species that meet there in relative peace, enforced by strict discipline. You gather the following pieces of information from the discussions of the dwarves:

  • They are amused about Ulthand Deepgem losing his pet boar, and unfortunately did not see it on the way here, or would have gotten easy money as a reward.
  • There is a kobold beggar, Charrak, there and it sells information. Not always reliable, unfortunately.
  • One of the mages, Ordinator Arcanis, can be summoned by calling their name in front of the minotaur statue.
Dwarven merchants

Next patch of online games

These are in addition to or between the two ongoing campaigns; same world, miscellaneous events without many of the regular characters.

Widow’s choice

  • Melford.
  • A full session, 3 to 5 hours.
  • Characters: usual folk at Melford, with a slight possibility of importing a suitable existing character. Some have been seen as NPCs. Suitable for new players and independent of other games.
  • Burning wheel. Previous rules knowledge is neither assumed nor required. We will mostly stick to the core rules and not fuss with the advanced subsystems.
  • Voice via Discord plus possibly character sheet maintenance via Roll20 or similar.
  • More than halfway prepared. Some further characters could be generated by the players.

A pure drama game. A local farmer, unique in that they had a farm with giant spiders (a fine source for spider silk) died in a bad way. Her almost-wife, who made fancy clothes of the spider silk, has a choice to make – continue the farm (even if the horrid goblins in the nearby woods might get hostile) via some means, waste away, or find another way. But she has the sorrow to cope with, too. The farmer’s daughter, previously sheltered and now mocked, has no self-confidence. Can she find some? Possible other characters are an orphaned child who can speak to spiders, a shopkeeper in love with the widow and also the custodian of the farmer’s daughter, a ruthless businesswoman, a constable who most certainly is not pregnant with a non-human child, and maybe some others.

It is possible to choose some themes which will not be part of play, and others which are central.

A fae council

  • Fae woods.
  • Full game, several hours.
  • Mostly or completely new characters plus some that have been seen as NPC’s.
  • Freeform, symbolic use of whichever rules system (but actually mostly freeform, or proper Burning wheel. The last option would assume at least cursory knowledge of Burning wheel, but hopefully experience playing it.
  • Discord, or in case of Burning wheel, additional Roll20 or similar for character sheets.
  • On idea level, but a couple of the characters are defined and even statted in various rules systems.

An elven lord is facing threats to their forest and has called a fae council. The council-caller listens to the wishes and grievances of those attending, decides which issues are discussed in which order, but does not otherwise affect the conclusions. A risky prospect.

The woods of the elves are plagued by goblins, a necromancer with undead, and rumours of some sinister satyrs, and a general feeling of darkness creeping in, while some eager youngsters think the humans are the problem. The council has been called: someone from the elven town, the queen of the spider woods (a goblin, a spider or something between), the centaurs who have been guarding the forest but seem less active now, a sibyl of the Oracle, a human representing Melford, a druid representing Hommlet, and maybe a satyr. Many of them have goals, more or less in conflict or distasteful to each other.

The game is a mix of free interaction and the official discussions called by the elven lord. In case of Burning wheel, these would presumable be duels of wits, often.

Skullduggery

  • A necromancer’s home crypt.
  • Two to four hours.
  • Characters: a death priest, a mage with necromantic interests, a newly created undead who retained their will in the process. Possibly: a death priestess who is now dead, an allied goblin leader or representative thereof, an powerful soul-eating dagger, a prisoner to be sacrificed, an undead who stirs due to desecration of the crypt, a loyal undead servant of the necromancers
  • Burning wheel or some other fantasy game
  • Discord for voice, maybe Roll20 or something else.
  • Idea level, with some characters having stats for D&D5 or AD&D.

A death priestess was about to take her revenge on an elven town, but was defeated. Her two lieutenants survived, as well as most servants. A powerful mage was one of the killed attackers, but had strong enough a will to retain some amount of sanity in the transformation into undeath, even if magical powers are gone.

This game is a blood opera, where the powerful artifact dagger might change ownership or not, the self-willed undead might escape or not, and the entire operation might fall or keep its strength.

dragon’s hoard and the mushrooms

  • Melford.
  • Two hours or more.
  • Characters: any at Melford. Good for new characters.
  • OSR, D&D, Burning wheel, Pathfinder 1 or some other fantasy roleplaying game.
  • Voice via Discord plus shared sketching, or maybe even Roll20.
  • Could run whenever as OSR; otherwise prepared up to writing stats for a couple of things.

There used to live goblins in a dungeon, but many were killed. Some travelling mercenaries went in and and only one came out with a magical sword, babbling about killing a dragon and a huge treasure it left and murderous mushrooms and a witch. The dungeon is close to village of Melford. Motivations for going in: greed, safety of the village, plus any of the usual ones.

Next patch of online games

Figure chess against goblins

I am running a game through Roll20. The game has two main purposes: one character is stuck in an elven forest and agreed to help them, which is to be resolved, and I will be there to learn how to use Roll20 better.

Practical matters

  • Sunday 26, precise starting to be determined but in the range 11-16 Norwegian time (12-17 Finnish time).
  • In Finnish or English.
  • Room for 2-3 more players.
  • One-shot.
  • Estimated play time: 3-5 hours.
  • D&D 5. Basic knowledge of the rules is assumed. We will be using the following optional rules: encumbrance, combat on grid. Character options published by Wizards of the coast are fine.

Situation

A human mage came to an elven village to ask for help. The human agreed to help the elves in return. The issue: there are goblins in the woods. Drive them off (or kill them, who cares). The woods have been getting darker for a while now, but the goblins ransacking merchants and skulking in the woods are a concrete and immediate threat. The elves are unable to frolic freely in the woods, which is unacceptable.

The elves send a group of their guards to help the mage. The objectives of the guards: keep each other alive and get as many goblins killed as possible. The mage surviving would be nice, but is not essential; it is a human and they die quickly of age, anyway. Besides, the mage does not seem overtly cooperative, nice or polite.

The estimated distance to the goblin encampent, the location of which is unknown, is 15-30 kilometers (9-20 miles).

Preparation

If you already have a character that would be credible as a guard in a wood elven village, ask if you can play them. Otherwise, make a character according to the following rules:

  1. Roll stats 4d6 drop lowest in order. First roll to strength, second to dex, and on til the sixth roll goes to charisma.
  2. Exchange the highest mental and the lowest physical value. We assume the village guards are among the more physically competent villagers, which this represents. This is not optional.
  3. Your species is wood elf. Apply stat modifiers and so on.
  4. Choose a class. Recommended, in rough order of relevance: Ranger, fighter, rogue, barbarian, druid. Others might be fine, if you really want to. You are first level.
  5. Choose a background. Try to choose a credible one, given the setup.
  6. As additional starting equipment, you may take any or all of the following: longbow (plus 20 arrows), longsword or leather armour.
  7. We use the carrying capacity rules. Choose how much and what you will take along. Recall that 1/3 of the maximum carrying capacity reduces speed by 10 feet, while 2/3 or more of the standard maximum carrying capacity reduces it by 20′ and presents a disadvantage on various physical checks.

An alternative is to use the following Abulafia generator, but only do the stat swap if it is favourable to the class. Take the first character presented the first time you open the page: http://www.random-generator.com/index.php?title=Guardian_of_an_elven_forest

Comment here that you want to play or take contact otherwise, if interested. I can help with character creation, if necessary, or do it for you.

Rewards

In fiction: 300 gold for taking the task, plus 500 gp more for the head of the goblin leader, plus the favour of the elven king, naturally.

Meta: You can choose one of the following as your source of experience for the session. Note that whichever you choose, the sum is divided by the number of characters that start the task, regardless of what they get experience for.

  • Default; quest/helping the elves: 1000 experience for driving out or killing the goblins, plus 1000 for every other threat you drive out, if any. Partial reward is 100 experience for each threat whose source you locate; this is part of the thousand if you manage to drive them away, too.
  • Money: 1 gold piece gives one experience. This includes any treasure recovered (the elves are not interested in used goblin equipment) plus any reward.
Figure chess against goblins