Second scenario of my hybrid Pulp Alley Tomb of the Serpent / OPR DoubleTap: The Thing in the Well. This time the evil serpent cultists must face the just-as-evil forces of the Colonial Empire.
The Imperial troops are lead by Aurelius (Q3+). The three soldiers are Q4+: Caius and Demetrius are fast.
The four cultists are Q4+ with Piercing Fire.
The Plot Point is at the bottom of the well at the central well. To grab the relic, a figure must pass two Quality Tests at -1, taking a hit for a failed test.
The “fast” ability proved vital: after the second round, Caius already was inside the well. Demetrius kills one of the cultists.
Round 3: a second cultist is killed by Demetrius. Caius passes the first Quality test.
Round 4: Caius fails both his QT and the save roll to survive the hit: he is out of action! Demetrius and one of the cultists enter the deadly well. Aurelius shots a third cultist: the one inside the well is the only one still active.
Round 5: also the cultist fails his QT and the following save. All the cultists being dead, I declared the scenario an Imperial victory. The relic (the Wings of Celerity) was recovered and given to Aurelius.
Demetrius has scored two kills and survived the scenario.
Aurelius has scored one kill and survived the scenario.
Years ago, I played several games of Pulp Alley. I like the pulp theme and many aspects of the game, but I find the rules too complex for solo play. In particular, they require a good deal of book-keeping.
I recently bought Tomb of the Serpent, a Pulp Alley supplement that includes a “Solo Deck”. Of course, I was very curious to see this deck, but it turned out to be something I am not terribly interested in at the moment: basically, random events that affect a skirmish turn.
On the other hand, Tomb of the Serpent includes a pulp campaign consisting of several carefully designed skirmish scenarios. I have only read a couple, just to get a feel of the book. The scenarios are divided into three stages:
1. The Leagues (i.e. the PC teams) fight the Serpent Cultists in order to snatch as many as possible of four powerful relics
2. The Leagues compete to find the location of the Tomb of the serpent god Apophis
3. Final confrontation
I decided to give the campaign a try, using One Page Rules Double Tap, which has some points in common with Pulp Alley (in particular, the reaction system) but is much simpler. I further simplified the rules, dropping the morale rules and making melee basically a do-or-die confrontation (with no “blocks” i.e. save rolls).
This is the first scenario I played: Sideshow of Horrors. The setting is a traveling freak show. Five civilians (marked with the yellow pebbles) represent potential “plot points” (i.e. objective). The team that wins the first plot point is free to promote one of the other four to the status of Major Plot Point – i.e. an Apophis relic.
The Leagues were:
the exotic rebels lead by Princess Tejua
a bunch of cultists lead by a Serpent Priest
Several units of both sides (but not the leaders) have the “fast” special rule, so there was a lot of movement. The Rebels came in touch with one of the civilians in the upper part of the board, but they didn’t manage to “solve” it (a DoubleTap quality test). On the other hand, the cultists managed to convince Mr.D to tell them the location of the relic: it’s with Miss.L, in the tend at the bottom left. Of course, the cultists have chosen a convenient location for the major plot point. I now began random moving Miss.L at every turn start, still the priest reached her and snatched the relic (The Wand of Destiny). In the middle of the board the was a lot of fighting and killing between the lesser characters. At the end, only Joo and Tejua survived, but the Serpent Priest secured the relic.
I used two simple squads of 40 points each: the Reds are Q:5+, the Blues G:4+.
The Blue enter from the terrace at the South. The Reds from the corridor door at the North-East. The three green stones are the objectives.
Round 1: The Reds are fast at occupying the largest space, but one of them is readily killed by a Blue SMG-man. The Blue rifle-men move through the East door, to contend the East objective.
Round 2: One of the Blue SMG men is killed and the other is attacked in melee: the Red soldier is killed. The Blue rifle-men enter the corridor and one of them is killed.
Round 3: With two Blues killed, the Red have an advantage and push forward. But the Red pistol-armed soldier is killed, as well as the Red that tries a melee attack in the East corridor.
Round 4: the North objective was never contended and is won by the Reds. The South-West objective is secured by the surviving Blue SMG-soldier. The Red soldier in the corridor manages to survives until the end and secures the third objective and the victory to his side.
Once again, I forgot to use morale, but the rest of the rules seems to run smoothly. I like this kind of skirmish games in closed spaces: a lot of cover and melee. Quite exciting!
Room 3: Secret 1 – What is the source of my power? My radio-enhanced telepathic link with my siblings on other planets.
The three heroes walk through the secret door. They inspect this huge space that occupies most of the building. Three cylindrical machines seem to be connected to the antennas on the roof. They are also connected to the head of an insect statue whose eyes glow purple in the dark. Near the central cylinder there is console: Isaak tries to switch the power off and fails (Successes:0 Fails: 1) – he rolls a double two, and must resist the voice of Athamion that he now hears speaking in his head. Milena finds an encrypted instruction plate on a side of the console: she tries to decipher it and fails (S:0 F:2). The only way seems to be cutting the tubes that connect the machines and the insect statue. Milena cuts the tube connecting the central cylinder to the one at the West (S:1 F:2). Cora cuts one of those connecting the statue and succeeds as well (S:2 F:2). Isaak fails, and has to take a wound to succeed (S3 F:2): when he cuts the last tube, a purple ray beams from the scorpion tail of the statue and hits him! He is now Critically wounded!
[the heroes must successfully use at least 2 of the three collected secrets in the final confrontation with the Ancient Evil]
Secret 6: the demented cultists. Behind the West cylinder, the heroes find stairs going down. On the stairs they are attacked by two Athamion cultists. Milena shoots them! (S:1 F:0).
Secret 8: bronze can stop the Ancient Evil. When they reach the underground room, the door of a bronze cage is slowly opening and the monstrous winged giant Athamion is moving forward. The monster attacks Isaak, who tries to dodge the attack and fails. He takes his third wound and dies! [Isaak’s death gives Cora and Milena a second chance to use this secret at their advantage]
Secret 1: Athamion’s power depends on the radio station. The radio receiver in the underground room seems to be directly connected to the antennas. Cora frantically tries to put it off and succeeds! (S:2 F:0).
Secret 8 again: Athamion starts to crawl back towards his cage. Milena stabs at him with her bronze sword. Failure: S:2 F:1. Athamion dies, but with a last swing of his claws he rips away Milena’s gas-mask. The body of Athamion disappears in a cloud of purple smoke, but Milena’s brilliant mind is lost forever.
[Second session with To the Temple of Doom! The game mechanics are simple: in order to successfully explore a room, the PCs must collectively score three successes; if they score three failures before finishing the room, the game is lost. It is possible to choose to take a wound to transform a failure into a success. I am using the GameMaster’s Apprentice cards (GMA) as an idea generator.] Room 1
Secret for Room 1: (6) What is the most terrifying aspect about me? Those who breath my stench must blindly obey me forever. They are completely demented, with no will of their own.
Cora, Milena and Isaak are in front of the abandoned radio station in Prevelberg. The door of the building is closed. Isaak tries to pick the lock, being a Rulebreaker, this gives him an additional die; yet he fails. S:0 F:1. Milena shoots at the lock and they enter the building.
They are in a large room, some kind of store-room in which there are several very large crates. The air has a purple quality: they are happy to be wearing gas-masks. While they explore the room, one of the crates opens and a frantic man jumps out and attacks Isaak. He tries to dodge the attack, but fails: he takes a wound, managing to put the opposer off-balance (S:1 F:1). Milena shoots the madman and misses: Milena and Isaak fight the attacker hand-to-hand. They finally kill him, but Milena is wounded as well (S:2 F:1).
They examine a large bas-relief representing a skull on the Northern wall. The disturbing sculpture is accompanied by a glagolitic inscription. Milena manages to decipher it, using her Genius trait and her specialization in Secret Symbols (S:3 F:1): it’s an invocation to Athamion, a proto-Slavic deity. It ends with the sentence “Breath my breath and live forever”.
[I roll with a 50% chance of using one of the secrets I wrote in the previous section. This time, I have to create a new secret about the Ancient Evil] (8) What kept me sealed away all these years? [Game Master Apprentice Cards: replace feral temple – the ancient animal cults being replaced by Christianity] With the advent of Christianity, my adepts were persecuted as witches or demoniacs. [GMA: shining chrome – I replace chrome with bronze, which was known in antiquity] A warlock imprisoned me in a bronze cage: I cannot break that metal. I was forgotten for centuries in the dungeon of a ruined castle.
[I also wanted to get an idea of what Athamion looks like. How human is he [1-100]? I rolled 53%. GMA: A familiar face (monkey). – Hunting weapon (falcon): something like a vaguely humanoid giant winged monkey]
The room contains tens of abominable sculptures made of different materials. In the center there are a large statue on a pedestal, a shelf full of ancient books and a couple of desks. Cora insists that she wants to seat and rest a little, reading one of the books: she is being Senile and using her Booksmart skill, yet she cannot understand what she is reading (S:0 F:1). Milena tries with another book and fails as well (S:0 F:2) [double 1 rolled – she resists possession]: something that she only half understands in what she has read seems to stick in her head like the haunting voice of Athamion.
While they are examining the items in the room, an iron statue attacks Cora: it’s an ancient automaton! Cora instinctively hits the automaton with her bronze amulet and the automaton crumbles to pieces (she has used her artifact to turn a rolled 5 into a success – S:1 F:2). She tries to understand what happened, using her special competence in metals: (S:2 F:2). Now something of what she read in the books makes sense: Athamion is somehow vulnerable to bronze. They all take some of the ancient bronze weapons that make part of the collection in the room. Isaak uses his Architecture competence to search a secret door and finds it in the South wall (S:3 F:2).
Situation after the first two rooms: Cora is unharmed, but she has used her artifact. Milena is wounded and has resisted possession. Isaak is wounded.
Next session: third room and final confrontation with the Ancient Evil!