Saturday, January 26, 2013

Of Ghouls and Gangs

Well, after a long hiatus,  2/3 of my group got back together to resume their exploration of Hrulvir: City of the Groaning Gate.  After a recap of our previous session, Jethras and Yauk, a pair of morally bankrupt mercenaries, decided to collect a payment that owed to them for a service performed on behalf of an effete nobleman named Sepharis Vulnoor.  This minor task was interrupted by skirmish between two street gangs. The fracas erupted in a courtyard ringed by abandoned towers and shacks, just south of where the characters reside.

The gangs, distinguishable solely by either black or white sashes worn upon their forearms, seemed intent upon killing one another.  Jethras and Yauk opted to side with the white sashes, and they killed several of the black sashes.  The expeditious manner in which they butchered what were essentially street thugs in their late teens frightened the white sashes so much that they scurried off before they could be accosted by the two heavily-armed interlopers.

After their bloodlust was sated, Jethras and Yauk fled the scene just before The Ravens arrived.  As they made their way through the convolutions of The Narrows, they were nearly flattened by a fallen chunk of masonry that had been pushed from the top of one of the myriad leaning towers.  Enraged, the  two mercenaries ascended the empty tower and reached the top in time to spy a pair of young hoodlums scampering across the rooftops.  Black sashes were displayed prominently upon their arms.

Yauk managed to fire an arrow at the retreating saboteurs, but the arrow streaked harmlessly over their heads.  Frustrated, the twain left The Narrows and entered Hrulvir's commercial district without further incident.  Whilst making their way through the commercial center, they overhead a man say that pickpockets may be deterred by wearing a thief's finger around one's neck.

They finally arrived at Sepharis's manse and, after exchanging pleasantries, were awarded what essentially amounted to a check for 1000 bronze eels, as well as instructions to present the writ to one of the clerks at The Vaults - a bank.   Angered that their patron did not have the money on hand, the characters made their way to the vault.  The clerk who accepted the note was taken aback by the duo's mean appearance.  He was especially offended by the pouch of clacking teeth which is tethered to Yauk's throat.  His face curdled when he realized that Jethras was partially Lemuran.  Suffice it to say, it took the clerk close to an hour to certify that the cheque was legitimate.

After several minutes of haranguing, the clerk returned with a bag of bronze eels, and seemed quite eager to see the mercenaries out of The Vaults.  Jethras was bold enough to enquire about how he and Yauk could requisition a vault of their own, but the clerk derided him and seemed even more eager to remove them from the premises.

The pair then decided to visit the fence Dobbas.  They found their colleague at his tavern The Frigid Moon.  The fence, normally inebriated or suffering from the effects of recently being so, was uncharacteristically pale, and was seen coughing blood into a dirty rag.  When pressed about his condition, Dobbas admitted that he'd been poisoned several years ago by Balthazar, the leader of a particularly vicious syndicate known as The Long Hoods. Dobbas admitted that he'd cheated the man out of a significant amount of money, and that Balthazar had gotten even with him by poising him with a rare, slow-acting toxin. 

Balthazar has spent the last five years feeding Dobbas small quantities of the antidote to stave off the poison for short periods of time.  In doing so, he has been able to force Dobbas to carry out menial and often dangerous tasks, free of charge.   Dobbas asked the mercenaries to infiltrate the stronghold of a cult worshipping the god Sheol the Strangler.  Rumors hint that the cult owns a statue made of solid gold.  Balthazar is convinced that the rumors are true, and he has forced Dobbas to carry out this nigh impossible task.  

Dobbas tells the players that egress into the cult's headquarters may be obtained through the sewers.  Dobbas promises to pay the characters handsomely for their efforts.  He offers to safeguard the money that they've just collected; additionally, he offers to hire a locksmith to fashion a vault or safe and have it installed within the tower in which they inhabit.

The players visit Madam Nu's House of Pleasure, with Jaliel at their side.  After having an awkward conversation with Nu, they convince the madam to allow them to use the sewer entrance located in her basement.   The brothel basement is full of cages, as well as every torture implement conceivable.  The characters descend into the sewers and wade through a cavern of filthy water.  After several minutes of walking, they encounter a dead beggar floating facedown in the water.  Upon turning the body over, they see that something has eaten the corpse's face, as well as much of its torso.  

Rounding a corner, they spy a ghoul devouring another beggar.  A fight breaks out between the ghoul and they players.  The characters dispatched the ghoul without much effort, but two more ghouls showed up and complicated matters.  Although one of the additional ghouls was also killed, the last emitted a scream that was so terrifying that it stunned two of the three players.   Jaliel, by some miracle, managed to withstand the effects of the horrid scream, and managed to fight off the ghoul until Jethras and Yauk regained their senses.   Yauk managed to behead the last ghoul as soon as he regained his wits.  

Moments later, they players arrive that landing described as the secret entrance to the lair of the followers of Sheol the Strangler.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Dead God's Palm

Although this game world is being built collaboratively, I've decided to shoehorn in a huge swathe of wasteland called The Dead God's Hand.  This waste, east of the Barrier Peaks, is bone-dry ocean marred by a thousand caravan routes, strange ruins, and fearsome tribes that are nations unto themselves.  Additionally, I am using the wonderful Spider God's Bride for inspiration.  As much as I love the setting that is outlined in the book, I have decided to graft it onto world that I and my players are building.   It would be cool if the characters stumbled upon a relic such as the one that appears in this photo.  I notice that there's graffiti written upon.  What if the entire thing was defaced with profane sigils known only to a secretive desert cult that worships a slumbering god?  The ideas are endless.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

20 Urban Encounters

City Encounters
1.           Two nobles prepare to engage in a maiming duel.  One or both will offer the characters money to fight on their behalf.  Although these duels have been outlawed, the Raven can be easily induced to turn the other cheek.
2.           A piece of rubble falls from an overhanging wall or tower.  20% chance of landing on one of the characters.
3.           Rival gangs (two or more) are either seen or heard fighting in the back alleys.
4.           A pimp beats one of his or her whores on a side street.
5.           A quarrel between two men escalates and results in the overturning of a produce cart.  This is actually an elaborate ruse; a pickpocket lurks nearby and will attempt to steal something from one of the characters while they are distracted by the fight.
6.           A squad of Raven accosts the PCs and questions them.  They are either looking for a bribe or they suspect that the PCs perpetrated a recent crime.
7.           A fisherman has just been dragged from the river after losing a limb to a large eel.  He is bleeding out and begging for help.
8.           A mendicant scrawls obscenities with excrement and offers to divine the PCs’ futures for a few bronze eels.
9.           A shifty-looking fellow offers the PCs a powerful narcotic called Dream Lotus.   50% chance that it’s fake. 
10.         The PCs witness the assassination of a local crime boss.
11.         An assassin begins to stalk one of the players after mistaking him or her for someone else.
12.         A fire erupts from a nearby building in which people are trapped.  (2D6 rounds before the building collapses).
13.         A sickness breaks out in the poorer districts.  The dead are carted off by haggard-looking men in sackcloth.  Someone or some group is actually poisoning wells.
14.         The Day of Secrets.  A procession of priests of Groan garbed in ash-colored vestments asks the characters to write their secrets on paper and toss them in a burlap sack.  The secrets will be burned on a large pyre at the tolling of the last hour.  Unscrupulous priests blackmail those who are foolish enough to write their names on their confessions.
15.         A group of persistent beggars attempts to weasel money from the PCs.  They will retaliate if they’re ignored.
16.         Someone is seen putting up wanted posters which feature a rugged-looking warrior, allegedly a bandit, who hides in nearby caves.  If the PCs ask, the individual reveals that he is a member of the Bounty Hunters’ Guild, and that he has too many contracts to handle on his own.  He will offer the PCs 500 eels to apprehend the brigand – alive or dead.
17.         The PCs see wanted signs which feature someone that closely resembles one of them.
18.         The PCs cross paths with an enemy, a former associate, or both.
19.         Men gather around a wooden trough in which two eels fight.  Bets are being accepted.  The PCs are welcome to wager on the eels.  The fight is fixed.  Perception roll to notice that one of the eels is blind. 
20.         People gather at the wharves and peer at a dismembered torso that floats in the water.  This is one of many such occurrences, and isn’t long before the dark, shimmering waters teem with the ridged fins of predatory eels and remains are devoured.       

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Spider God's Bride

I purchased an electronic version The Spider God's Bride, through DTRPG.  Mongoose has threatened to publish this product for quite some time, but I was beginning to believe that it would never see the light of day.  In short, although I was about to give up on this, now that I've seen it, and can say unequivocally that the the wait was worthwhile.

Mongoose did a great job of adapting this product for their Legend System, which is itself an adaptation of the old BRP version of Runequest.  I have never played Legend, but it's quite compatible with the BRP rules that I'm using to rune my Hrulvir campaign.

In addition to providing several pages worth of information on setting, religion, and magic.  The tone I think closely mirrors that of Howard or Clark Ashton Smith.   The world is very exotic and antediluvian in tone.  There are tons of sun-bleached runs, nefarious cults, and tawny swordsmen.  I think that anyone interested in running a sword and sorcery game in the vein of Howard or Smith could do a lot worse than the setting that is presented in this book.

Since I am hoping to evoke more of medieval, city state feel,  I am probably going to draw more heavily from the ten adventures outlined in the book than I am from the setting - as wonderful as it is.  Without giving anything away, these adventures are modular, flavorful, and are packed with all the tropes that one would expect to encounter in a collection of sword & sorcery scenarios.  There are plenty of scheming nobles, creepy cultists, and countless opportunities for derring do.

I am going to choose one of the adventures and adapt to my setting for an upcoming gaming session. I look forward to doing so immensely.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Prison Barges

The City State of Hrulvir warehouses criminals in one of two places: the bowels of The Citadel, as well as aboard one of the many prison barges which float upon The Quietus - the vast grey sea into which the River Hrul empties.  It is not unheard of for inmates to rebel and commandeer these vessels.  It is said that some criminals prefer the gallows to one of these dismal ships, since life aboard these waterlogged gaols is wretched beyond description.



Tuesday, January 8, 2013

River Eels

The black water of the River Hrul teems with gigantic eels.  The terrifying beasts are rumored to be able slither onto land to capture prey.  Despite their ferocity, these creatures are caught and sold by the rough fishermen who reside within the meaner districts of Hrulvir, as well as the many towns and villages that exist along the River.  Many of these fishermen have been practicing this trade for multiple generations, and they are extremely proud of this dangerous calling.  It is not unheard of for a large eel to yank fishermen from their boats and attack them.

Although eel meat is not necessarily the tastiest fare, it is abundant and takes seasoning well.  In addition to protein, eel hide is used for all sorts of accouterments, since it is as supple and as sturdy as leather.  Thieves and assassins often wear eel skin armor, since it is light, cheap, and protective.

20 Rumors

Here are twenty rumors that one may hear while traipsing through Hrulvir.

1)      The Lord of Whispers commands legions.
2)      Those found guilty of trafficking in sorcery are fed to beasts that lurk in the belly of the citadel.
3)      The Old Ones have demon blood threaded through their veins.
4)      When the Nine-Headed Crone bears three sons, the sky will hemorrhage blood and dogs will gnaw upon the bones of stars.
5)     The Old Ones were granted Orichalcum by their profane gods in exchange for the sacrifice of their firstborn children.
6)     River eels slither onto land and eat children.
7)     Groan will not pardon your sins on The Day of Secrets unless you write your name on your confession.
8)     Priests of Groan blackmail parishioners who are foolish enough to write names on their confessions.
9)      If you lacquer your blade in your own blood before a battle, you will be victorious.
10)   You will deter pickpockets if you cut off a thief’s finger and wear it around your neck.
11)   Thieves’ Finger is a medicinal herb that will staunch bleeding, suture wounds, and mend crushed bone.
12)   A subterranean city exists beneath the sewers.
13)   Ruins of the old empire jut from the earth like splintered bone.
14)   If a crone murders a girl and drinks her blood, she will become young for a year and a day.
15)   The Vozhd, neither seen nor heard, is a golem stitched together from the rotting flesh of the former rulers of Hrulvir.
16)   It is inauspicious to kill a raven.
17)   Something terrifying lurks in brine of the old sewers.
18)   The Old Ones bide their time, and should not be allowed to live among us.
19)   Although impolite, it is nonetheless auspicious to brag on certain days.
20)   Rats are sacred.