Solo Lady Blackbird 8 – Pyramidal trouble

Prior events: [0] Lady Blackbird is on the run from an arranged marriage to Count Carlowe. She hired a smuggler skyship, The Owl, to take her to the far reaches of the Remnants and secret lover, the pirate king Uriah Flint. The Owl is captured by the Imperial cruiser Hand of Sorrow. Lady Blackbird, her bodyguard Naomi, and the crew of The Owl (the captain Cyrus Vance, the goblin pilot Snargle and the mechanic Kale) are detained in the brig. [1] They escape from the Hand of Sorrow on the Owl, [2] but the Imperial soldier Silas Canter has remained trapped in their ship. [3] They land on the nearby Stingwitch planetoid, in search of fuel and they find it infested by mantis-like monsters. [4] The Owl goes adrift for a few days. It is rescued by a Free Worlds galleon, the Ripe Melon, whose commander Dr. Salacia Paldo offers to cure Naomi, who has been infected by the mantoideans. The Compulsor Uad Balentin will refuel the Owl and will not kill the crew, if they steal from the Arrowshield monastery on planet Wooddock the sacred scaly tail relic. [5] The heroes reach Arrowshield. [6] A dust golem defeats the party and hides himself in the box containing the relic. [7] The party delivers the relic to Balentin: the Golem comes out of the box and attacks the compulsor. The heroes and Silas manage to reach the Owl and make route towards Nightport.

 
I previously defined this hook using Vornheim’s character generation tables:

“Cyrus Vance once worked with Ashen, a goblin who now works for the Nightport oligarch Jorga of Nexis, officially as one of her body guards but actually helping her sell drugs in Nightport. The heroes want to contact Ashen because they think that he and Jorga could help them get in touch with Lady Blackbird’s once secret lover, the pirate king Uriah Flint. Jorga blackmails Mazlowe Gon Grolsh, the rich and esteemed official composer of the Free Worlds Federation: how will this interfere with the plans of the heroes”?

When the Owl reaches Nightport, Vance lets the Imperial soldier Silas Canter go his way.

Vance goes to meet Ashen, but when they are together Ashen receives a telepathic alarm from her boss Jorga of Nexis: she is in danger! Ashen and Vance run to Jorga’s house, but when they get there they see a vehicle leaving and Jorga cannot be found. Ashen’s telepathic power tells him that Jorga was on the vehicle: he will also be able to locate her. Ashen asks Vance to call the rest of the party to help him free Jorga, who clearly has been kidnapped by one of her numerous enemies. Following Ashen, the party reaches an upside-down pyramidal building (Nightport is a stalactite city, built inside a huge cave) that apparently has no doors.

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Kale manages to find and open a secret door. The party enters a room dominated by the huge image of a chained star.

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They move to the next room, a large corridor, but they trigger a trap and a grating entraps them in a small space: only Snargle is quick enough to avoid the grating. In the corridor, he is attacked by an Orc, and manages to put it out of action. He moves to the room the Orc came from, hoping to find the control to rise the grating and free the others, but he only finds another Orc drunk from a strange green juice. Vance uses his teleport power to bypass the grating and joins Snargle. The two try another door, but they cannot open it. They open the last door in the corridor and enter a room where Jorga is bound and gagged, guarded by three more Orcs [Dungeon Squad II Challenge 3]. Snargle and Vance manage to defeat the Orcs, but Vance is wounded in the fight.

Solo Lady Blackbird: Nightport views

A couple of sketches of Nightport, the “stalactite” city.

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Solo Lady Blackbird: Nightport / Vornheim adventure seed

I defined this adventure scheme for the city of Nightport, where my Lady Blackbird party will soon arrive. The scheme was meant to be filled with the help of the Vornheim city kit NPC generation tables:

[A random PC] once worked with NPC A who now works for the powerful NPC B. The heroes want to contact A because they think that he could help them get in touch with Lady Blackbird’s once secret lover, the pirate king Uriah Flint. NPC B has a specific relation with NPC C: how will this interfere with the plans of the heroes.

The PC I rolled was Cyrus Vance (the captain of the Owl skyship).

These are the NPCs I rolled using Vornheim [my additions in square brackets]:

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A. Ashen: a [goblin] lunatic. He is an amateur doctor and takes scholarly interest in any disease. [In the past he worked as a mercenary for an Imperial corporation and he met Cyrus Vance at that time]

jorga

B. An oligarch: Jorga of Nexis. She believes that Nightport is a living entity hostile to her, but is afraid to leave. She controls much of the trade in illicit substances in the city [I can see why she has an amateur doctor at her service and she might well be in touch with the pirates]. Jorga has protruding eyes, greenish veins, eerie. Jorga blackmails…

mazlowe

C. Mazlowe Gon Grolsh, the [richly remunerated] official composer of the Free Worlds Federation. Mazlowe believes that much of the oligarchs of Nightport are in thrall to a creature from the lower depths [the serendipitous appearance of the “lower depths” gave me an instant of pure joy]. Mazlowe is bow-legged, slow, talkative. [I guess that Mazlowe helps his creative efforts with some of Jorga’s stuff and she is trying to make all the money she can out of the rich old man].

The final result is:

Cyrus Vance once worked with Ashen, a goblin who now works for the Nightport oligarch Jorga of Nexis, officially as one of her body guards but actually helping her sell drugs in Nightport. The heroes want to contact Ashen because they think that he and Jorga could help them get in touch with Lady Blackbird’s once secret lover, the pirate king Uriah Flint. Jorga blackmails Mazlowe Gon Grolsh, the rich and esteemed official composer of the Free Worlds Federation: how will this interfere with the plans of the heroes?

Solo Lady Blackbird: Nightport prep

Lately I have been doing some world preparation for my solo Lady Blackbird campaign. I have been mainly thinking of planet Nightport and its capital city. The ruleset says: “Unlike other worlds, Nightport does not rotate, which means one face is always in darkness. It is on this side that pirates and smugglers have built a hidden port city in which to carry out their nefarious dealings”.

I have decided to use here two ideas I have had for some time:

1. Using the great Vornheim city kit to run the city (the module is packed with random charts that will provide a lot of action).

2. An upside-town city. It is built inside a huge cave, above an uderground sea. The buildings are like stalactites, hanging from the top of the cave, towards the sea.

Here is a cross-section of how I imagine Nightport. Skyships will land on the surface of the planet, above the city.

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And here is a retouched photograph meant to give an idea of what Nightport could look like (but the pirate city will not be so glamorous… I should try to come up with an illustration in the cool punk style used by Zak for Vornheim).

nightport

Because of the strange cave and underground sea, I made Nightport an artificial planet, built by some long-forgotten civilization. To visualize the planet, I painted a small watercolor, wrapped it in a cylinder, applied a circular mask, and here it is:

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cilinder

Finally, to provide some context for the events in the campaign, I used the idea of Factions from Stars Without Number to build a simple scheme of the main forces. I only used the basic idea of defining factions, without adding any of the many details provided by SWN (yet).

The factions are:

  • The Lower Depths – i.e. the mysterious entity living below the Wild Blue;
  • The Empire – the place of origin of Lady Blackbird;
  • The Free Worlds – the other main political organization in the “system”;
  • The Pirates – which our heroes hope to contact in Nightport;
  • The Cult of the Stone Goddess – was suggested by me by Chris Stieha, via RND Issue 1: I ran a couple of sessions in the Arrowshield monastery.

I rolled a few dice to define the nature of the relationships between the factions. Appropriately, the dice did not point to any friendly relationship. I have not made sense of all the results yet, but they seem to be interesting:

  • The Pirates have hostile relationships with all the other factions;
  • The Cult of the Stone Goddess is neutral towards everyone, but the Pirates and the Free Worlds. Since the Cult is rooted in the area controlled by the Free Worlds, the reasons for tensions between state and church are rather obvious:
  • The Free Worlds and the Empire are declared enemies. This is perfectly consistent with the setting and with what happened in my previous sessions. The two sides are in some kind of cold war.

I still have no idea of why the Cult is particularly hostile towards the Pirates (and vice-versa). Ethic reasons could be the simplest explanation, but we will see.

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Solo Lady Blackbird 7 – A Golem on the Ripe Melon

[A solo campaign based on the setting and characters of John Harper’s Lady Blackbird, using Jason Morningstar’s Dungeon Squad II and a mix of OSR rules, mainly White Star]

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Prior events: [0] Lady Blackbird is on the run from an arranged marriage to Count Carlowe. She hired a smuggler skyship, The Owl, to take her to the far reaches of the Remnants and secret lover, the pirate king Uriah Flint. The Owl is captured by the Imperial cruiser Hand of Sorrow. Lady Blackbird, her bodyguard Naomi, and the crew of The Owl (the captain Cyrus Vance, the goblin pilot Snargle and the mechanic Kale) are detained in the brig. [1] They escape from the Hand of Sorrow on the Owl. [2] They find that the Imperial soldier Silas Canter has remained trapped in their ship. [3]  They land on the nearby Stingwitch planetoid, in search of fuel, but they find it infested by mantis-like monsters. [4] The Owl goes adrift for a few days. It is rescued by a Free Worlds galleon, the Ripe Melon, whose commander Dr. Salacia Paldo offers to cure Naomi, who has been infected by the mantoideans. The Compulsor Uad Balentin will refuel the Owl and will not kill the crew, if they steal from the Arrowshield monastery on planet Wooddock the sacred scaly tail relic. [5] The party (without Naomi) reaches  Arrowshield. A fortune teller tells Vance that he will soon be changed. The party fights the monks and finds the relic in a crypt. [6] They receive five mysterious golden apples from a monk. A dust golem defeats the party and hides himself in the box containing the relic.

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Natasha, Vance, Kale and Snargle flight back from Arrowshield to the Ripe Melon galleon. They eat the golden apples they received from the Scimitar Monks and their wounds are immediately healed.

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1) Compulsor Balantin receives them in his office: a few of his exacters and Dr. Salacia Paldo are present as well. He opens the box containing the Arrowshield tail relic and the Dust Golem forms from the dust collected inside the box. The Golem immediately attacks Balantin. In the following confusion, the heroes defeat a couple of exacters and moves aft through a door.

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2) They are now in a large storage room. In a corner there is the dead body of a strange six-legged creature. While the others move forward, Kale cannot resist looking into a large trunk and grabs a bronze statuette representing what seems to be a winged goddess.

3) The others move through the main passage of the ship. They are confronted by two exacters who are fleeing from the Golem. The exacters are quickly put out of combat and the crew reaches a small room where they find Silas Canter, the Imperial Soldier that remained locked in the Owl when it was captured by the Hand of Sorrow. Silas asks them to take him away with them. He offers to lead them to were Naomi is kept.

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4) Silas leads them through the main passage again and through a navigation room, occupied by a great spherical model of the Wild Blue.

5) They reach a green-house room, apparently where Dr. Paldo keeps the plants she collected in her journey.

6) Silas takes them to a small room, where they find Naomi who is still recovering from the infection contracted on Stingwitch. They give her her golden fruit from Arrowshield, she eats it and she is immediately healed.

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7) Now the six people move towards a side hatch from which they can reach the Owl. They are confronted by Dr. Salacia Paldo who placed in front of the hatch a large carnivorous plant. Naomi attacks Paldo, but she initially misses. The others fight against the plant. Silas, Natasha / Lady Blackbird and Snargle are wounded by the plant, but Vance manages to put it out of combat. Salacia is defeated as well.

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The party is back on the Owl and Snargle makes route for Nightport.

Alternative Doll-House arrangement

A while ago we discussed on the RND G+ community the possibility of collecting a bunch of paper “doll-house” rooms to use for a random tower-crawl.

Ray Otus posted a template that makes it easier to produce this kind of paper dolls.

Here is an alternative that is slightly harder to assemble but has the advantage of using almost all the available surface when printed on A4 paper:

https://goo.gl/azMpwr

The arrangement is very similar to that proposed by Ray, but it uses a rectangular format (closer to the A4 format) and has not central hole. I hope that the images will make clear how to build the doll-house.

Here are a few images of the final result.

 

OSR to Dungeon Squad II conversion

Here is how I intend to use Dungeon Squad II by Jason Morningstar as a much simpler alternative to standard OSR combat.

In Dungeon Squad II, each monster (and each “problem” in general) has a 2-6 Challenge number. You roll a single D6:

“When you fight a monster, each point over the monster’s challenge number is equal to one Hit Point of damage against that monster. Each point under the monster’s challenge number is a point of damage for your guy – mark down your Hit Points by that amount. If you shoot a bow, rolling under the monster’s challenge number does not hurt you unless that makes sense [if the opponents also has a ranged attack, the shooting character might be shot back]. If you roll the challenge number exactly, choose one of your guy’s Specials and mark it as ready. Once you do use it, mark it as used”. You are announce that you are using a Special before you roll the die.

This is extremely simple: only the PCs take actions. If they succeed, the monster receives damage; if the PC fails, he receives damage. I will simplify this even more, not counting hit points and simply having a “Wounded” condition. So basically each character / monster has three possible conditions: “whole”, “wounded”, “out of action / dead”.

The advantages are:

  • each monster is defined by a single number (the Challenge number)
  • for each character / monster you only have to book-keep the current condition
  • in an encounter, you roll a die for each PC and you always get a meaningful result

fight

Each character has number of specials (6, according to the rules), that can be used to model OSR classes and races (spells for Magic Users and Clerics, special attacks for Fighters, trap stuff for Thieves….). I guess this could be fun to do (of course the results will not be accurate, but that’s the point of simplifying).

I will define a rough average level / average AC for the party (exemples below assume Level 2, AC 7). I will map OSR monsters / NPCs to a Dungeond Squad Challenge number as follows:

Challenge 2 – Hit Dice and/or AC worse than the party’s average (e.g. 1 HD AC 9);

Challenge 3 – Hit Dice and AC close to those of the party (a 1 HD, 2 AC difference is OK e.g. 1 HD AC 5 or 7);

Challenge 4 – 2 or 3 HD more than the average Level and / or significantly better AC (e.g. 3 HD, AC 5 or better; 4 HD, AC 5, 7 or 9);

Challenge 5 – “boss” encounters (these should be rare, maybe less than 10% of the encounters).

I can have 5 second Level PCs fighting against 3 Monsters (3 HD) and I should be able to resolve the encounter with maybe a dozen die rolls (vs maybe 50 die rolls with the standard combat system).

If I want to get some more detail, I can still differentiate one or two characters in the party:

  • a particularly strong character rolls two dice and uses the highest
  • a particularly weak character rolls two dice and uses the lowest

If I want to highlight a Monster leader, I will simply assign it a +1 Challenge number than the other Monsters.