Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Solo Gaming Appreciation Month #1

For SGAM2017, I’m going to try something, a play by play, step by step journal of using free or pay what you want resources to play a solo adventure game. With so many resources available online, there is very little investment needed to try it for yourself, except for time. If you end up liking it, just add the same item to your cart with a monetary amount you feel is appropriate.

The following items, with provided links, will get you started and set up with the same material as myself:
  1. Instant Game: This will randomly generate a setting and story
  2. Forthright: Effectively a d20 spin on Powered by the Apocalypse style gaming and will be the ruleset that I use.
  3. BOLD: Want a character backstory to go with the above?
  4. Conjectural Roleplaying GM Emulator: For randomly determining event
  5. Universal NPC Emulator: Just in case you come across a stranger…

To differentiate between different modes, I’ll have the GM text in bold, player text unmodified and mechanics in italics.

Instant Setting
  • 95 on setting table: wilderness
  • 25 on tone table: despair
  • 08 on things table: artificial intelligence
  • 32 on things table: frontier

Which of these things is not like the other? Almost everything lined up perfectly until I ended up with “artificial intelligence.” However, that can work. Obviously the setting is in the wilderness, and the last roll mentions a frontier. So, I’ve got somewhere that’s remote and isolated, a strong sense of despair, and an artificial intelligence. Perhaps that could be the source; perhaps it’s the solution. It’s definitely something to consider.

Instant Story
  • 26 on opposition table: evil mastermind
  • 59 on action table: launch and 75 on thing table: ship
  • 27 on action table: destroy and 29 on other thing table: grave

Ok, now things are a little weird. Evil Mastermind could tie directly into the artificial intelligence. Destroy grave seems moderately obvious, but launch ship seems kind of generic. I’ll roll twice on the descriptor table: once for the artificial intelligence and again for the ship.

  • 63 on descriptor table for the artificial intelligence: mercurial
  • 57 on descriptor table for ship: inspiring

That definitely clears things up for me. The intelligence is mercurial, so it’s likely insane, hence the evil mastermind. The ship is inspiring. Perhaps allowing escape or somebody on board can rival whatever plot the evil artificial intelligence has in mind.

  • 72 on descriptor table: precise and 73 on other thing table: red herring
  • 60 on personality table: insecure and 05 on people table: aristocrat
  • 32 on personality table: distracted and 32 on people table: expert

I generate a trio of extras that may or may not appear later in the game. It just gives me something to consider while I generate my character, which I’ll do in the next post. As weird as it sounds, I’m getting a Star Wars science-fantasy kind of vibe from it: a frontier wilderness with a mercurial artificial intelligence overseer that wants to destroy something on the planet before the character can escape.

I’ll let that percolate for the next few hours while I consider how I’m going to build a Forthright character.

Petra: Season 1, Episode 1 Finale

Scene 4:

Beneath the bascinet, the broad face breaks into a wide grin. He pulls his sword free of its scabbard and saunters into the room. I use the large table to keep some space between us. We circle the table, Catllali following me step for step. The swordsman’s eyes dart from me to the jaguar and back.

“You won’t stop us,” he sneers. “I’ll make sure of it.”

“Stop you? I came for these,” I gesture toward the items on the table.

“Ah. In that case, you won’t mind remaining here for a bit?”

“I’d rather not,” I reply, tightening my grip on my weapon.

“I see. I will try to make this painless,” he growls, charging past the table.

** GM sets Timer to 2 **
** GM sets the warrior’s combat bonus to +2 and 20 HP **
** GM rolls the warrior’s Str Attempt: 7, Setback **
** Player chooses to Counterattack and applies Expose **

The table slows his movements just enough. I smile and sidestep into the middle of the workshop. His overextension places him in the middle of Catllali and I.

** Player rolls Str Attempt for Petra: 6, Raised to Exchange **
** GM chooses to Un-hinder and removes Expose **
** Player rolls 5 damage **
** Player rolls Str Attempt for Catllali: 8, Exchange and deals 4 damage **
** GM chooses to Counterattack for 5 damage **
** GM counts Timer down to 1 **

I try to take advantage of his placement, but my attack is unpracticed with my new found ally. The sword digs deeply into the warrior’s shoulder. Catllali snarls and leaps at him as well, raking his claws across the man’s face. The warrior pushes Catllali back with his shield and slashes into the jaguar’s side.

** GM rolls Str Attempt: 12, Exchange and scores 6 damage **
** Player chooses Expose **

The warrior presses in on Catllali and slashes the arming sword across one leg, leaving a deep bleeding wound. To Catllali’s credit, he maneuvers and pounces on the table, leaving the man’s back exposed to me.

** Player rolls Str Attempt for Petra: 9, Raised to Win and inflicts 5 damage **
** Player rolls Str Attempt for Catllali: 10, Raised to Win and inflicts 8 damage **
** GM counts Timer down to 0 **

I appreciate the effort that Catllali makes. I slide forward and thrust the bastard sword where I think his kidney should be. As the man screams in pain, the jaguar drags its claws across the man’s throat. The room is filled with a sudden gurgle coupled with heaving as he falls to his knees.

I reach down and take his sword; Catllali hops down and stands beside me. We both watch him gasp and struggle for air with cold detachment. As I am about to search over his warm soon to be corpse, the air becomes charged with electricity. A wave pulses across the floor. The man turns to us and mouths something, smiling in spite of his imminent death.

Turning, I scan my surroundings as another pulse travels across the floor. The bastard sword is shunted back into the place between. I stow the gear into the large sack and head back down the main corridor. A third pulse rumbles beneath my feet, quicker this time.

As I break into the circular chamber in the middle of the labyrinth, my eyes swiftly take in the scene. A stone arch seemingly made of a single stone. Black and streaked with strands of green. Six figures kneel around the arch in a circular formation. Silent. Watching.

A fourth pulse crosses the floor, this one accompanied by a wall of purpureus energy. The wave passes over the six figures then continues on to envelope the corridor Catllali and I are standing in. My hair stands on end, like I’m underwater. I begin to float, touching the floor with the tips of my boot. Catllali reacts the same, floating in a sea of energy. Then, just as quickly, we are released back to the floor as the wave moves along. The six figures slump over in their kneeling positions, unmoving, and everything seems normal.

Whatever. Folks want to sacrifice themselves to make a purple wave, that’s their prerogative. I’ve got the items recovered, and it’s apparent these cult members are dead. I turn back and walk toward the exit of the labyrinth.

“Let’s go, Cat.”

Scene 5:

The walk back through the labyrinth was hollow. My boots made muted thumps on the stone as if they were thinly carpeted. The hallway felt different, like something was out of place. While the workshop was still there, the warrior’s body was not. The vials seemed filled with dull green liquid and the beakers were coated with grey dust.

I found myself back at the entrance and found nothing but the pit to greet me. I look down into the pit and see a floor lined with stakes; had I fallen into that pit, I doubt I would have made it back alive. And that was when I noticed the first change in this environment.

The path that would lead up to the tower was, instead, a path leading down into a swamp. The nearest to Luln would be The Blighted Swamp, but that must be a week or so away. I turn around and look back at the maze. This was where I had entered, wasn’t it?

I look down at Catllali who seems visibly disturbed by something. I shrug, and he rumbles back. Whatever the cultists had accomplished, I seemed to have moved a week’s journey away from Luln. That also brought me closer to Specularum. At the very least, I had a small pouch of gems, so I could barter those for supplies for the trek back to my hometown.

With a renewed sense of purpose, the two of us head down into swamp.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Petra: Season 1, Episode 1, Scene 3

** I’d been trying to figure out how to translate PbtA non-binary success to a d20. Forthright seems to have done it; there’s also a Creative Commons version available for free. I’m going to use the non-binary resolution mechanic with the rest of the modifications to see how I like it.

GM rolls on Location Crafter: 6, “Workshop (unique);” 7, “Cyclops (unique);” and 6, “pouch of gems.”

GM rolls 9 against Chaos Factor 5. Scene loads normally.

Event focus, 96, “NPC Negative.” Event action, 58, “Betray.” Event subject, 73, “Opulence.” Well, that’s an interesting coincidence…

There should be a couple Easter Eggs for all you older gamers. **

Scene 3:

I am in a maze of twisty passages, all alike. The corridor stretches for minutes at a time, then I come across a branch. I’ve followed a few of these, but the end results in a dead end or connecting back to the main walkway. I suppose that’s a good thing; if I follow the wider main path, then I should make it to the center. Or out. Or wherever the designer is taking me. That’s my primary concern. I’m being led somewhere.

The grey stone is featureless and about double my height. I suppose I could have climbed to the top and walked along its length, but that feels like cheating.  At least I still have the late afternoon sun to navigate by. It’s about then that I hear a grumbling voice. My steps slow, head tilted to focus on the source, while I creep along the wall.

“Stupid,” it mutters in a voice that sounds like stone pushed across stone. “Stupid maze. Stupid maker. Just stupid.”

** Player rolls Dex check for stealth: 14, Win **

I move closer to the voice and peek around the corner. The cyclops is standing in the middle of a workshop of some sort. There are vials and beakers on shelves along the wall. An ornate wooden table lies just off center with alchemical equipment strewn about. And the cyclops.

The thing was heavily wounded during its attack on Luln. I can see vast gaping wounds across its back and legs. His breath is labored and pained even when he’s standing still. The large sack he carries gets placed down on the table. That’s what I came here for. If it was important enough to attack a village, it’s important enough to take back.

“I shoulda never done this,” he continues to himself, wearily looking at the passage across the way. “Shoulda just stayed away. Stupid. Stupid cult. Stupid humans.”

I summon the crossbow to my hand, reloaded after my prior encounter with Nose Voice. Interesting. He was having second thoughts; I wonder if I can use that to my advantage. The crossbow targets his large head as I step from the shadows.

“If you’d rather return what you took, I can take it off your hands,” I say, only confident because this poor creature looked on the verge of death.

Startled, the cyclops lets out a grunt and spins in place. His eye focuses on my crossbow then snaps back to my face. Cuts and bruises line his arms and shoulders.

** Player rolls Cha check to talk down: 21, Win **

“Look, we’ve both seen fighting. It’s messy. Someone usually ends up dead. You didn’t hurt anyone in the village; I just want the stuff you took,” I explain.

The cyclops watches me warily but seems to relax a bit. A heavy hand rises and scratches along one of the cuts.

“Tired of humans,” he finally confides. “They paid good money, but I don’t think it was worth it.”

He grabs the large sack and places it between the both of us. Almost as an afterthought, he thumbs a small pouch from his immense belt and also places it beside the sack. I meet his eye quizzically.

“Payment,” he says, relaxed enough to offer a wry smile. “If you tell me how to leave.”

It’s my turn to smile. The crossbow fades back to the place between. I stride closer, ignoring the two containers for now.

“I can do that,” and I retrace the steps I took that leads back to the tower proper. “Do you know why they needed these?” I ask, pointing at the larger of the sacks.

** GM rolls 59 on the Fate Chart: no **

“No. They are valuable, though,” he says. He nods his head with a heavy sigh. “I… I hope you find what you’re after. Thank you.”

I grab both sacks and make my way over to the large table. “Thanks.”

The air is still for a heartbeat. Normally, you would end the conversation with a farewell, but we weren’t friends. Not quite. I felt a mutual respect, but that was it. The cyclops must’ve felt the same as he turned and ambled down the corridor I had come from.

I dumped the contents on the table and added the book I had found previously. With a few precious minutes to spare, I hoped, I could discern what these things were. The small pouch had a handful of valuable gems. Enough to buy almost anything I may have needed. The sack had artifacts of some sort: an obsidian dagger, a large flat club lined with obsidian teeth and the pelt of a large spotted cat almost as long as I was tall.

The pelt was perfectly preserved. It had leather straps that reached across where the cloak would settle on the shoulders. The head became the cowl. I had no idea how valuable a piece like this would cost to buy, but it seemed to fit well. A bit macabre but well.

The club was odd. Either it could be used like a paddle or an oar, but the obsidian lined edge implied something else entirely. The length of the “blade” had palm sized squares carved into each side, a curious design embossed upon each square. If I didn’t know better, this would be something from the Atruaghin. I’ve never been so far as their territory, but this certainly seemed to fit the description.

The dagger seemed pretty straight forward. Wooden hilt wrapped in leather, obsidian shard fashioned into a blade. A relief of a cat’s head was carved into each side of the dagger, framed within a small square, with eyes of malachite. When I lifted the dagger, a small tag fell to the ground. The tag was written in Common and had one foreign word: Catllali.

“Catllali, eh?” I mutter.

The malachite eyes light with amber and fades away. If I hadn’t been watching, I might have thought I imagined it. A circle of smoke about six feet in diameter appeared in front of me. An unseen vortex pulled the smoke into the circle, filling in an invisible mold. As the smoke poured into the container, a large cat took form.

Its length could be measured by a human’s height; it stood as tall as my waist. Darker rings of smoke marked spots along the cat’s coat. Complete, the circle disappeared. The smoke jaguar padded silently toward me, thin wisps of vapor drifting away from its body. It had an immense rumbling purr, really a throaty growl, and pushed its head against my leg. I reached down and scratched behind its ear. I mean, what else was I supposed to do?

“Catllali, eh?” I repeat.

** Player rolls Int Attempt: 18, Win, 3 Effort **

And that left the book. I pull my hand away from Catllali and leaf through it. The ink on the parchment behaves oddly. When I focus on it, the letters slide off the page like debris carried on ripples. If I don’t look at it directly, the lettering remains still.

** Player rolls Int Attempt: 11, Exchange, 4 Effort and gains Vulnerable to Eldritch Damage **

The text begins to make some sense. It’s a grimoire. I don’t know if maybe it was my natural magical aptitude that allowed me to understand it, or if anyone could’ve attained this power. The first page was an oath to a… unicorn? At least that’s the implication I got with the unicorn line art facing dexter. This was followed by more pages of some arcane variety.

** Player rolls Int Attempt: 4, Setback **
** GM sets Timer to 3 **

The text begins that strange sliding and makes it hard for my eyes to focus. There’s a part of me that says to leave it for later, but there’s the soldier in me that says I’m almost done. I can feel it. But the hollow sound of boots striking stone comes from down the hall.

** Player rolls Int Attempt: 5, Setback **
** GM sets Timer to 2 **

Catllali eyes the direction the footsteps are coming. They are closer; I am not. I am not ready to give up just yet. I can feel something stirring, like I need to accomplish this before moving on. My eyes glance toward the hall before focusing on the book again.

** Player rolls Int Attempt: 6, Setback **
** GM sets Timer to 1 **

I am stumped. Perhaps it’s the pressure of the approaching footsteps. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t been formally trained as a Wizard. Then it strikes me. A Wizard. I thumb back to the first page and read the oath to the unicorn. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Here goes nothing. I recite the oath and hope that does the trick.

** Player rolls Int Attempt with Raise: 18, Boon, 4 Effort **
** GM counts Timer to 0 **

Suddenly, everything makes sense. The words stop sliding. I realize what I’m holding. It’s not just a path to power. It’s a promise. A binding. Horkos apo Dasos Kidemona. I feel a glimmer of an awakening within my chest. My oath accepted.

And that’s when a burly form steps from around the corner. His bascinet reveals a dour man, stern and not entirely pleased. He wears a hauberk like me with a kite shield on his arm. An arming sword swings on his hip with casual familiarity.

Catllali growls in his feline manner. I slap the book shut and place it on the table. I grip my shield and will my bastard sword into my free hand. Here comes trouble…

Friday, October 27, 2017

Petra: Season 1, Episode 1, Scene 2

** GM rolls 6 against Chaos Factor 4. Scene loads normally.

Event Focus, 67 on Horror table, “PC Negative.”  Event action, 79, “Intolerance” and Subject, 00, “Information.”

Roll on Location Crafter: 2, “Expected;” 1, “Gaping Pit;” and 4, “ruined armor.” GM sets Timer to 1.

I liked the modified Spellburn mechanic mentioned on Ultimate Effort, so I’ll use that for magic and sorcery in this setting. **

Scene 2:

I discovered my ability while in the military. I always thought I was just quicker on the draw than anyone else there. It wasn’t until a few months later that someone noticed the weapon would leap into my hand before I even touched the hilt. One of the battle mages said I could have studied at the Academy in Glantri if I had been discovered earlier. Like my family could’ve afforded tuition…

I came around the tower and saw what Mikhail had been talking about. The ground sloped away, a gentle path curving gently against the mountain. From my vantage point, I could see another series of stone walls. Locked within was a small maze, a hedge maze, made of the same grey stone. Whoever built this tower had a sick sense of humor; at least a hedge maze had decorative purpose. This was obnoxious.

The path ended against the entrance to the maze, the wall arced left to right with a simple two person wide segment cut away to provide access. There was a lone figure standing just within the labyrinth waiting for me. He could have been a monk or priest of some sort. His robes were deep brown and made of a coarse material. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered how long he’d been standing there. Maybe he had a chamber nearby where he could sit and wait until a trespasser approached.

“The spirits tell me you’ve spoken with Mikhail,” he said, his voice nasally and punchable. “He should not have told you about us.”

I brush most of his commentary aside. “I’m here for the cyclops. Whatever strange scheme you have, that’s not my problem. Tethering one world to another? Doesn’t seem all that possible, but if you could tell me which way a cyclops would go?”

“Of course,” he replies with his annoying voice. “He’s in the labyrinth. I’m afraid you won’t make it. I need to stop you just in case you intend to interfere.”

** GM counts Timer down to 0. **

This is where things get a little hazy. I had had enough of him talking, so I started to cross the threshold. My right hand came up, a blueprint of my crossbow traced itself within my clenched fist. The cerulean lines flared, and my weapon was in hand. The ground began to rumble, and I could hear stone clatter beneath me, skipping along a wall then scattering against a rocky floor.

** GM sets Target to 10. **
** Player rolls 15. **

The floor gives way, and my instinct pushes me to jump toward the nasally monk. I land in a crouch a short distance from him, shield in front and crossbow at my side. Who builds a pit trap at the beginning of a maze? If I find whoever built this place…

** GM rolls for initiative: 16 **
** Player rolls for initiative: 18 **
** Player rolls for Dex Attempt: 17 vs 10, 6 damage **
** GM sets Spellburn counter to 1 and rolls Int Attempt: 8 vs 13, 1 damage. **

My hand comes up and pulls the trigger of the light crossbow. The bolt flies across the short distance and pierces its way into his shoulder. Maybe I was lucky, but the man gestured toward me, fire dancing across the back of his fingers, then nothing. His eyes register the briefest hint of surprise as the fire grows still then lashes back across his forearms. I can’t help but smile at his high pitched scream.

** Player rolls for Str Attempt: 12 vs 10, 9 damage. **

My hand is filled with the blue filigree, transforming from crossbow to sword. I cross the distance quickly in case he has something else up his sleeve. The sword swings swiftly and cuts a thin line across the mage’s throat. A red line appears and trickles with blood. He tries to talk, but, thankfully, it only comes across as a wet wheeze broken by small fits of coughing.

** “Does he have anything valuable?” Fate roll: 43 (yes), event meaning, 16 (inquire), event subject (new ideas).
“Any coins?” Fate roll: 75 (no)
GM sets Chaos Factor to 5. **

As the man slowly comes closer to death, I take the opportunity to search his not yet corpse. When you’re a soldier, and poor, you do what needs to be done. I frown into his fading brown eyes. No money. I guess that makes sense if you’re a monk or priest, but this book…

The book is fairly new. Black leather cover, parchment. It’s embossed with a sigil: it’s like a slightly slanted I followed by a V and another V or chevron crossing them caught in a circle. All of it in silver. Not silver leaf. Actual silver. I thumb through the pages and quickly realize I have no time to devote to reading it right now; it’s thick with lots of words with a few pages of diagrams. Immaculate penmanship.

I look down at the now dead guy. Too bad. If this was his writing, he was, or used to be, pretty neat about it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Petra: Season 1, Episode 1

I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around Heroquest. I don't think I'm much of a fan of its resolution mechanics. Character creation feels Fate-ish but has the strange Masteries. So, I’m going to new school old school gaming: 5e Basic D&D as played through Index Card RPG Core (or try the free quickstart) with Swords & Wizardry Continual Light optional classes in place of class archetypes. And Karameikos from Mystara. With Ravenloft for Halloween. I’ll include the Session Based Advancement (increased per session for optional classes per Sword and Wizardry Continual Light) from DMG pg 261 and Hero Points from pg 264.

Thanks to Sophia Brandt, I came across the Dungeon World Adventure Builder and Aladdin Technique. I think I will finally break down and try the Mythic Game Master Emulator with Mythic Variations because I need a little more dark in my gaming. I may as well make it Word Mill themed and use The Location Crafter while I'm at it…

Feeling kind of warrior-ish, I place my highest scores in Strength and Constitution. Add some Charisma to make a New Basic version of an Eldritch Knight. I envision them as being like Warlocks but with more fighting prowess. Which I’ll write up as:

Eldritch Vanquishers are Fighters that draw power from the eternal struggle and victories of battle. They may bond with up to two weapons, using them as a focus, and can summon them at will. Vanquishers function as Fighters but may cast spells as a Wizard two levels lower.

Then it's just a matter of race, class, equipment and background. For added background, I roll dice from GAZ1, The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, and find out she’s (odds were male, even female) from a penniless Traladaran family. That’s even more incentive to go dungeon delving in search of loot.

Petra Sergeinov, Human Vanquisher
Story From a penniless background, Petra served in the military for money to help her family. After an eight year tour of duty, she left to find wealth and fame by adventuring.

STR +3
DEX +0
CON +2
INT +1
WIS +0
CHA +1

HP 10 / 10
Armor 13
Basic Effort +0
Weapon Effort +3
Magic Effort +0
Ultimate Effort +0

Background Soldier (Infantry)
Personality I am full of inspiring and cautionary tales from my military experience.
Ideal My family is all that matters.
Bond Those that fight beside me are those worth dying for.
Flaw I have little respect for anyone who is not a proven warrior.

Bastard sword (bound), heater shield (+2 Armor), light crossbow (bound) with 20 bolts, mail hauberk (+1 Armor), supplies pack, weapon kit (+2 Weapon Effort)

CHA Power (Summon one of your bound weapons to your hand at will)

Character built, on to Adventurer Builder: a random mix of the Enchanted, Fright, Medieval and Mythic Rory Storycubes reveal a caped person, labyrinth, gate, frog, warrior on a pile of skulls and a path leading to a tower. So I come up with, “I am exploring a [labyrinth] that lies in a [ruined tower] seeking an [alexandrite frog]. I am  here to [close the gate] guarded by [cultists] and their [champion].”

Now we apply the Aladdin technique: rolling a d6 to see what’s changed, 3, and roll one random Story Cube which shows a cyclops. Then another d6 to see what’s added to, 1, and the random Story Cube shows a black cat. Finally, another random Story Cube creates the intrigue beyond the Adventure Builder, a bindle. Which leaves me with:

I am exploring a labyrinth that lies in a ruined tower seeking a cyclops. I am here to close the gate guarded by cultists and their champion. What did the cyclops take that was so important to Petra?

Finally, I find a random song on YouTube that feels like mood music and character inspiration. Today, it’s choosing Trending Music, briefly scroll down and come across Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons. Actually seems pretty fitting for a penniless soldier. On to the first scene…

** GM sets Chaos Factor to 4 and rolls event action and meaning (100, 07) for the first scene. “Change Allies” with an 8 against Chaos Factor. Scene loads normally. GM rolls a 4 on the d4 for Timer. Because… **

Scene 1: Unexpected Allies

Whatever it takes… plays in the back of my head. Over and over. It’s become the driving force taking me from Luln up into the mountains a couple days away. Since the cyclops came down from the foothills and attacked a village of a few thousand people. For what? A trinket?

At least it was gravely, if not mortally, wounded. Otherwise, I would never have embarked on this foolish journey. Whatever it stole from the village had better be worth risking its life. Because when I catch up with it…

The tower is little more than rubble and ruin. Funny, how these ruins are never really marked on any map. This one was just a short trip on foot from the village and, yet, no one bothered to note not to go there unless you asked. There aren’t a skull and crossbones marking places not to go on many maps. Few, at any rate.

It’s late afternoon. Overcast. That’s most days in Karameikos. Kind of grey and dour like most people I’ve come across. Serious until there’s a reason to celebrate, then it’s loud and boisterous. After my time campaigning across the country, I’ve learned to be a little more festive: I wear an ash blue scarf to go with my utilitarian dark greys. When you’re surrounded by dust, especially around these mountains, it pays to dress smart.

My boots crunch loudly across the gravel and rocks as I complete the long weary walk to where the tower’s door would be. Not much of a door left. More like a stone arch. Ish. The upper most parts has fallen to the ground. The brass hinges are still intact, if not a little tarnished, so that’s something.

A quick glance around, through, rather, the tumbled mess of what remains of the wall just shows me wooden beams and a clutter of broken furniture. As strangely polite as it sounds, I enter through the front door. Knock, knock.

“Leave,” I hear from the air surrounding me. It wasn’t ominous and foreboding, but it was a little disconcerting.

“Excuse me?” I ask.

“Leave,” it repeats in an airy tenor. A pair of chalk colored hands rise from a patch of dirt, using it for leverage to pry its spectral body from the earth. Rising from its knees to its, his, full height, he seems like a portrait from another generation. Black hair, like mine, with a heavy moustache. His clothes were, what, from 300 years ago or so?

** GM counts Timer down to 3. **

You know, if there wasn’t this one time where I had to battle with undead, I would probably be more intimidated. That’s another story.

“I can’t, Sir…” I begin, waiting for him to fill in the blanks.


“Mikhail. I’m Petra,” formalities out of the way, I continue. “There was a cyclops severely wounded after attacking Luln. Did you, um, happen to see where he went?”

** GM counts Timer down to 2. **

Mikhail nods, exactly one time, pointing through the ruins of the temple. “Behind the tower, there is an entrance to the maze below. This is why you should leave.”

Now I’m curious. “What’s in the maze? What does this have to do with the cyclops?”

** GM counts Timer down to 1. **

“Sorcery,” he replies, “Dark magic. They think they can join this place with another. I don’t understand.”

Now I’m very curious. “Did you hear when this happens?”

** GM counts Timer down to 0. **

“Yes, it-” and Mikhail’s response is cut short. Another pair of chalky hands erupt from the earth and grasp him by his ankles. Mikhail’s body is pulled halfway back into the ground, his elbows and fingers digging, kind of, for purchase against the floorboards and dirt.

“It-,” he tries to continue, but his response is abruptly cut short as four hands grab his arms, hair and neck. With the briefest gasp, Mikhail disappears beneath the tower.

I take a deep breath to steady myself. I may be a soldier, but soldiers can experience fear, too. We just work through it, doing what needs to be done. Whatever it takes...