** 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. **
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…