Friday, January 25, 2013

A Distant Inheritence 12

Home sick. Sorry for the delayed posting.

adventure continued below the fold
Let it be known far and wide that we here at Subplot Kudzu are firm advocates in repurposing existing stuff. Experienced gamers doubtless recognized the name Nosnra from the classic “steading of the hill giant chief” AD&D module, but it goes deeper than that – I now urge you to go out and download a PDF of the module at (, as I am planning to steal the maps and several key concepts for the adventure to follow.

Once the company has made it through the tailored to their traits and talents challenges of last session they find themselves looking down on the hill giant’s steading. It is a huge and imposing building for all of its crude simplicity, and once the PCs see actual giants moving around it with some goblins to give it scale it takes a Lineage (Courage) TN 5 roll to even keep looking at it. It’s just that bad.

Fortunately the company doesn’t have to try a frontal assault as that would be suicide – an individual Giant is a TN 25 extended contest, and there are always a couple more in earshot that would quickly make it TN 30 or even 35. Thom’s map and story revealed to the educated PC who found him that he group escaped through a cistern in the dungeons that led to an underground stream (that had headroom for breathing) that emerged in a small pool a mile away from the steading. Find the pool and they can backtrack (though magic might be required for this going upstream). The storeroom that contained the swords was just around the corner from the cistern. In theory they should be able to emerge from the cistern, steal the swords and some other gold/jewels to fund their actions and then head out without anyone being the wiser.

OK, it won’t be that easy. But that’s the plan.

It’s an Education TN 10 to locate the exact pool from the map and Thom’s story. After that it is an Athletics (Swimming) TN 5 to get into the outflow point – Hobbits can add their Small Stature talent to this roll as well, as the space is big enough for them to stand in, brace themselves and keep their heads above water.

That gets them in. Traversing the mile of pitch black underground stream requires a Lineage (Courage) TN 5 or, if someone fails it, for someone to make a Lineage (Command) TN 10 to get that person back on track – usual tripling/+5 TN rules apply for commanding more than one failed roll. The first 600 yards of the stream are Athletics TN 0 (yes, that’s zero; assuming the PCs have gear this segment is free, but without gear suffers the usual +5 penalty).  The remaining 1200 yards are Athletics TN 5. Helping someone through that is Athletics TN 10. Finding the right offshoot to the cistern is TN 15 and can be with Education or Perception with any likely talents.

The use of Wizardry for Water Lore TN 10 will reduce the TN on all of those rolls by 5 points, or 10 points if the PC rolls 20 or higher (so a roll of 20+ means no need for rolls to travel even if the company has no gear, and finding the cistern is TN 5).

If the company misses the cistern they surface in a big dark spooky cave (Dungeon area 23) that is home to several giant centipede monsters. These things are TN 10 individually TN 15 if all three attack, and the PCs should make short work of them before heading back into the water to try again at finding the cistern.  

Once the company finds the cistern (dungeon area 22) they can move quickly and quietly to the nearby storeroom (dungeon area 24) where Ergrim found the swords last time in a hard to reach bundle of items – the giants had no idea of their real worth. Unfortunately due to Ergrim’s near escape Nosnra has learned their worth and moved them to the true treasure rooms! Now what?!?

What, of course, is that the company is going to have to find the swords somewhere in here.

They might think that the padlocked room past it (room 25) will hold what they’re looking for, but once they pick the Burglary TN 10 lock they find just the wine cask full of very, very strong wine (If they drink any it is TN 5 to stay at all sober – and a Lineage (Connoisseur) TN 10 roll to realize that this is the last of the ancestral wine of Tarmalania grown on the slopes of lost Umbral.

The swords are actually in treasure room (dungeon areas 33), which is a bit of a trick. If you look at the map this isn’t a terribly long distance, but it’s behind a couple of secret doors.

First things first: an Education (Pathfinding) TN 25 will let the PC remember tales of where the alternate storeroom is. This is insane, of course, but not outside the realm of these sorts of stories. If there is an Elf in the group an Education (Elf Lore) TN 20 might give them a prophetic song hinting at the path they have to take to get there (see below).

“Away from the place of the watery door,
To the sound eating black ash floor
Take the door beside the stairs
Avoid the levers pulled in pairs,
To the right and right again
Rise not to unsheathe your long lost friends.”

It’s doggerel, but it sounds much better in the original Elvish.

Most likely, however, they’ll take the passage into area 1 and start looking. Someone with Third Eye can try a Lineage (Speak to Spirits) to see a friendly slave ghost who will point them to the door to the cells (dungeon area 3). It’s a straight up Burglary or Perception TN 20 roll to spot the secret door, dropped to TN 10 with the help of the elf-prophecy.

Listening at the open passages is Perception TN 5 to hear the giants moving around in the passage to the north and Perception TN 10 the sound of a smaller group of people in the south. Listening at doors is TN 5 to hear goblin speech in area 4, human ramblings from area 3 and TN 10 to hear the sound of occasional slaps of stone on wood in area 2.

Area 2 contains a giant, two trained bears and a goblin chief – the first and last of which are playing dominoes with fierce concentration. The whole group is TN 30 to beat, but any TN reductions on the players part are permanent as they kill the goblin, then the bears, and finally the giant.  Facing the giant at all is Lineage (Courage) TN 5.

Area 4 and its environs contain 9 equipped goblins, TN 15 to defeat.

Either of these encounters will make a lot of noise and call in more goblins from further south. The thick ash of the floor from years of braziers and torches do muffle the sound, so as long as the company keeps people from reaching the stairs or the path to areas 26-28 they only have to face that one giant.

Area 3 contains human prisoners who recently tried to escape and have not all been tortured to death and eaten. These are 9 humans who will, at best, add 1 die to a PCs actions as an ad hoc company. One of them – Beek Gwender by name – knows the location of the secret door besides the stairs.

One intriguing possibility is that if a player did decide to have their PC be a child of Ergrim they find that worthy still alive here, albeit in very poor shape. Ergrim has had his right hand and right foot amputated to make sure he can’t fight back or escape, and then was left here for the giant chief to mock. If his child appears Ergrim will rouse to life, join the party and fight as best he can – adding another die to all of his child’s actions when he can back them up. If things go very wrong for the PCs Ergrim will repeat his performance of twenty years earlier, buying his child and their companions a chance to escape. Witnessing this will let the child add a new Lineage talent of Courage (or Family History as they father’s ghost whispers to them if they already have Courage).  If Ergrim is still alive then he’s the one who knows where the secret door is.

In the secret rooms space 29 is empty, and the levers in room 32 operate the gates. Room 30 contain Three grizzly bears kept in maddening confinement who are trained to attack. These are TN 20. Room 31 contains a sizable amount of treasure but none of the swords. The secret door to room 33 is Burglary or Perception TN 15 to spot and Burglary (Lockpicking) TN 15 to open. Inside is a whole mass of money and the three magic swords of Tarmalania – Arian, Agar and ‘Faith’ – that complete the prophecy.

Once the company has the swords they will likely leave the way they came in (use the same rules, but the TN for the swim is rescued by 5 since the current is now with them). If this was a perfect in and out with no fights, no rescued prisoners, nothing then they have sizable time before anyone realizes they were ever there - instead they will be spotted moving away from the area by a goblin patrol, which will give a very minor chase and really change  the tenor of the next session.

More likely they have killed some giants, goblins or at the very least rescued some prisoners. This will send Nosnra and his court into a rage as they check their troves, see that things have been taken and that the humans are getting all uppity. The Giants and their goblin minions will come out in force and give chase. More specifically they will head into the Giant’s Shadow and start killing anyone they can find and destroying anything in their path.

The Company can handle this in one of two obvious ways: try to race down the mountain ahead of them, raise the alarm and rally the troops, or hide, let the giants pass and then be in a position to do something from behind them. Any other action is unworthy of the children of Tarmalania.

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