Ybeena campaign set-up

[Following the advice I received on the Lone Wolf Roleplaying G+ group, here is the set up for my next THW Chain Reaction games]

After his success in the Zurqana campaign, Sgt. Claude is moved to a robotized Green platoon fighting against the alien occupation of the town of Ybeena. In this area, the Blue collaborationists actually fight side by side with the invading “snails from space”.

[I will try Sophia Brandt‘s Minimal Solo RPG MiSo. I used the Gamemaster Apprentice’s Cards to define a few characters for both sides.]

GREENS / Earthlings 

Sgt.Claude.jpgRESSgt. Claude [GMA: bestow feral poverty] A young guy from a poor family, he enrolled to make some money. He is serious and reliable about his job, occasionally overconfident.

Lt.Bassma.jpgRESLt.Bassma is Claude’s immediate superior [GMA: wish hopeful merchant] Bassma sees war as a mean to get a better bargain with the other side. She is convinced that the final solution will be diplomatic: open conflict only is an accessory of politics. She is an enthusiast of war robots: they help limit human losses to a minimum. In the near future, wars will not imply blood spill.

Dr.Jodie_Skarus.jpgRESSgt. Jodie Skarus [GMA: Remember Stealthy Trial] Her knowledge about the aliens doesn’t derive from academic studies and raised suspicion in the army. She was processed and spent several months in jail, but finally managed to convince the court that her knowledge has the only aim of helping the Earthlings fight the aliens. She still beliefs her rank is considerably below what she deserves.


Col.Rakat is a fervent supporter of biological warfare. He is sure that H.G.Wells’ The War of the Worlds is a prophetic book and that the aliens can only be defeated by viruses.

BLUES / Collaborationists

Dagrad.jpgRESDagrad [GMA: inflict ghostly pain] A collaborationist fanatic fighting in Ybeena. He is believed to be a sadistic torturer. Rumors aside, not much is known about him: not many of those who met him survived to tell their story.

Prof.Solmerer.jpgRESProf.Solmerer [GMA: meet arcane relative] One of the leading experts in the field of alien life-forms. The “snails” kidnapped his son and somehow managed to blackmail him into joining the collaborationst side. Green Intelligence has reported his possible presence in the Ybeena area.

Setting up the first Mission

Ybeena is currently split into two halves under Human (Green) and Alien (Blue) control. The town center (E) is still disputed.


[Scene Inspiration – BOLD (Universal PC Stories and Deeds Generator) Waylay:
Unforeseen accusations overcome by personal resources]

Bassma and Claude discuss the next mission. Bassma informs Claude that, in the high spheres, she is being accused to be inefficient in contrasting the Blues.

Option A [D6]: Bassma believes that her record grants her quite enough trust to continue with the current schedule of Patrol missions in the center of Ybeena.

Option B [D4]: Claude feels sure he can find a way to easy the Green capture of the center of Ybeena. Bassma accepts his suggestion and sends his team scouting the area.

ROLL: D6:1 D4:3 Option B wins. We will soon see if Claude starts his service in Bassma’s platoon on the right foot.


Tomb Of the Serpent / Double Tap – 5

First sessions of Tomb of the Serpent Chapter 2: Dark Truths. It takes place in a house, with a Serpent Relic hidden in one of five possible places. I used again the free One Page Rules – Double Tap rules.

I had a first go using the Imperial soldiers against the Cultists. The Soldiers won and gained the Hyksos Key: an artifact to be used in Chapter 3.


The second go on the same map had Tejua’s Rebels facing four Faceless Cultists (with “Piercing” power shots). Tejua and the Rebels enter from the South.

Rounds 1-3: During the first three Rounds, no shooting was allowed. Both sides fail the Quality Check needed to solve Targets. One of the Cultists (marked MC2) passes his QC, only to find that the Target was a red herring.


Round 4: the fight starts. Tejua is attacked in melee and kills the attacker. A cultist shots down Rangol but is killed by Tejua when she activates. The cultists find a second Red Herring.

Round 5: the two rebels Valj and Zogral keep failing their checks on the Target in the South room.


Round 6: Valj finally passes his Check and finds the Major Target! Tejua’s tiger kills the last Cultist.


This was brilliant victory for the Rebels, who snatch the Ring of the Pharaoh’s from the hands of the Serpent Cultists!

Tomb Of the Serpent / Double Tap – 4

Last scenario of Tomb of the Serpent Chapter 1: The Evil Below. It takes place in a cemetery, with the Serpent Relic in the hands of a magic statue (blue marker) that moves to a new pedestal (yellow markers) at every turn. I used again the One Page Rules – Double Tap rules.


It was the last chance for Princess Tejua to gain one of the relics, but she failed again. The Serpent Priest leading the Cultists was quite strong: Q:3+ and a 4 dice spell to be used both in Melee and Ranged combat. But the real problem was that it was difficult to get near the statue to gain control of the relic. Some of the Rebels had a chance, but rolling two success with Q:5+ required a good deal of fortune, which they didn’t have.

Before the end of Turn 6, all the Rebels were down. It was a real massacre! The cultist collect their third relic (the Ankh of Warding). The Imperials soldier have a relic (the Wings of Celerity – conquered in game 2) and the Rebels none. But it seems that the Rebels will have a chance to steal a relic from the cultists in Chapter 2….




Tomb Of the Serpent / Double Tap – 3

Third scenario of my hybrid Pulp Alley Tomb of the Serpent / OPR DoubleTap: The Haunted Hall. Princess Tejua. her pet Tiger and three other rebels enter the house in search of a Relic of the Serpent goad. The five yellow pebbles are the possible locations of the relics. The four purple pebbles are the points from which 2 cultists will enter at the beginning of each round.


Round 1: It starts with a powerful Serpent Priest and a Faceless Cultist in the bottom left corner. The rebels spread in different directions.

Rounds 2-3: Zagral kills one of the cultists, but Joo and Valj go down too. Tejua is isolated in the Northern room. The cultists multiply and one of them finds the secret door that gives access to the relic in the North-West room.

The Tiger fights fiercely and eliminates an undead Risen Priest, but it is then put down by the Serpent priest. Only Zagral and Tejua are still in play.

Round 4: The forces of the cultists are too overwhelming and the last two Rebels go down. The cultists retrieve the Ring of Pharahos.


Doom in Prevelberg 3 – purple final

The finale of my solo To the Temple of Doom!

First session
Second session


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.


Dice, sketches and GameMaster’s Apprentice cards

Doom in Prevelberg – 2: the curse of Athamion

[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”.

Room 2
[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!

Eve of Tschai 9 – The Lizard Temple of Orugis

Prior Events: [1] The two scouts Eve Reith and Titania Waunder are sent in a small ship to investigate the surface of an unknown planet. Their mother ship is destroyed by a mysterious missile. When the scouts crash-land on the island of Vord, Eve breaks a leg. In the following weeks, she is cured by a Pnumekin (a human servant of the Pnume aliens), R2714, who also teaches her the basics of the language of planet Tschai. The underground Pnume settlement is attacked by the Dirdir, a different alien race. Eve escapes and reaches the surface, but she is wounded. [2-4] She is taken prisoner by a man, Zutiz; they sail Northward on an artificial canal. [5] They stop at a shrine, where a priestess of the blue moon Braz bids Zutiz to take Eve to the temple of Az (the pink moon) in Osomena, on the Northern shore of Vord. [6] In Osomena, Eve fails the trial of Az and is ordered to leave before the next day. In a tavern, she meets a girl, Caj, who tells her that her scouting starship was embarked on a ship directed to Dima, in Southern Charchan, also stopping in Bamarsa in Eastern Kachan. [7] Caj has her own ship, the Qumberina. She offers to sail with Eve and Zutiz to Bamarsa, in order to collect some Viz, a material that can be sold well in Charchan. From Bamarsa they will sail to Dima. They embark a fourth member of the crew: Kodr. [8] While sailing East, the Qumberina is stopped by an air-raft manned by Wannekmen from the city of Azez: they ask the payment of a toll to cross the Vord strait. One of the Wannekmen hides Dirdir drugs onboard. Eve and the others are taken to Azez and questioned. Zutiz tries to resist and is wounded. Eve manages to convince her Wannek interlocutor that they have been framed. They are allowed to leave.


[Encounter rolled on the Adventures on Tschai (The Space Gamer, 1981) module]
[Game Master Apprentice cards:  steal religious object]

The Qumberina is reached by a Wannek swimming below the surface of the sea with water-jets. He delivers a message sealed in a metal cylinder. The Wannek ask Eve to steal the sacred black cup from the temple of the six-legged lizard, in the ruined city of Orugis. They will have to take the cup to Bamarsa, where the Wannek will contact them again.

Eve’s goal: to steal the black cup.

Will Caj come with Eve to the temple? YES AND the mistrust due to the episode in Azez seems to be forgotten. Zutiz is still wounded and Kodr will stay with him, mounting guard to the ship, while the two girls visit the temple.


The Temple of the Six-Legged Lizard

The temple of the six-legged lizard is a large pyramid at the center of the ruins. It is apparently deserted. Eve and Caj enter from the portal on the left. They cross a first empty vault. In the second room, they find a door marked with what seems to be magical inscription. They pass through the door. Is everything quiet? YES AND they see in the next room a stair leading to the upper floor.
They must pass next to an ancient machine. Is it out of order? NO BUT it doesn’t seem to be dangerous. It just start humming as they climb the stairs.
They have reached the room in which the sacred black cup is kept! Can they steal the cup? NO BUT…they can leave unarmed. Eve and Caj find themselves surrounded by several cultists armed with spears and wearing lizard masks. The cultists tell them that they know of their sacrilegious intentions. They will be escorted to their ship and they cannot come back to Orugis ever again in the future.


The Sacred Black Cup is well guarded….

Vancian Blackmarsh

I am planning to use a pre-made fantasy module for my Eve of Tschai solo campaign based on Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure.
The candidate is Blackmarsh by Robert S. Conley.
I found this work mentioned on a 2013 blog post on tenkarstavern.com with the following description: “I’m not sure how many freely available campaign settings there are in the OSR, but this is professionally done and has the makings of one heck of a hexcrawl if the DM so desired.”
I have read the booklet and I found it well written. It has a small hex map with eighty locations and adventure seeds described in the text. There is no plot: it really is a setting detailing the history and geography of a small region. This is a fantasy setting and I will have to adapt it to Vancian SF, but I don’t expect this to be too difficult. I am thinking of the following conversions (but I will improvise as I go):

  • evil wizards fond of crazy dungeons: Pnume and Pnumekin
  • orcs: Dirdir (man-eating humanoids)
  • elves: Wannek and Wannekmen (I know this is far-fetched, but it should be fun)

All magic will be translated to some kind of alien technology.

In preparation of the game, I have redrawn the map adapting the names to Vance’s style. Blackmarsh is now Bamarsa. It is situated on the East coast of the Kachan sub-continent. Eve is sailing to Bamarsa from Vord and the journey will require her a few more weeks / game sessions. So I still have time to think if there is anything else I can do to get ready for her arrival in the area.

I don’t think I have ever used an adventure module for my solo games before. I am curious to see how it goes….


Eve is currently in Azez, on the Vord strait. She still has to travel about 2000 kilometers before she arrives at Bamarsa (as I have renamed Blackmarsh).


Solo Grail – Ivana vs Magic

I played a second game with the informal set of rules I derived from Archipelago, A Grail Epoch and Storyleaves. I provisionally called these rules “Solo Grail” (download link).
I made a few changes from the first game:

  • “Destinies” have been replaced by simple goals for the Protagonist and the Antagonist;
  • I introduced a count of the challenges won by the Protagonist; basically, if the Protagonist wins most challenges, he reaches his/her goal; else, the Antagonist reaches his/her goal and the Protagonist looses the session.
  • I will also change how the initially empty sheet is used: a 3×3 grid seems too much. I guess that 3×2 (with at most 6 locations) in enough.

The game went like this:
Elements: Love, Rivalry and the Grail.


Main Characters:
Protagonist: Duchess Dulcina, whose goal is to use magic to increase her power.
Beloved: Manlius, Dulcina’s astrologer.
Antagonist: Ivana, Dulcina’s maid of honor, whose goal is to fight all forms of magic.

Ivana and Manlius are characters from the previous game.

Initial Locations:
Dulcina and Ivana are at Dulcina’s palace.
Manlius is at the Library (location from the previous game).


Round 1.

I drew an Archipelago fate card for Ivana:
“This character does something rash that causes them a lot of trouble with the element you own [the Grail]. An unwise sexual liaison; insulting an ally; destruction of property”.
Cino, King Wilfred’s Geomancer, is staying at Dulcina’s during a journey. Ivana insults him, accusing him of having made a pact with the Devil.
Are Dulcina’s excuses accepted by Cino?
“Yes But in order to succeed you must sacrifice something dear to you”.
Dulcina has to send away Ivana in order to prove to Cino that she will not allow similar episodes in the future.

Manlius the Magician reaches St.Vitus Monastery, where Abbess Virtuosa is keeping a council about the boundaries between magic and heresy.


Round 2
Ivana travels South and stops at the Blue Dragon Inn. There she meets are ex-fiancee Sir Leo. She asks him to help her take revenge on the mischievous kin of magicians. Does Leo accept?
“Yes But your success has dangerous and unintended consequences”.


A Fate card for Dulcina:
“Something important is stolen from this character by someone connected to the element you own [Love]”.
Dulcina and Cino travel together towards St. Vitus, to assist the council. While crossing the Burnt Hills, they meet Sir Florian, a nobleman who is in love with Dulcina. He is so jealous of Cino that he captures the magician in order to take him as a prisoner to his castle. Dulcina asks Florian to inform Abbess Virtuosa of his action, so that they can decide if Cino has committed some kind of heresy and if he has the right to imprison him.
Does Dulcina convince Florian? “No, but your failure helps another succeed.”
Cino manages to magically inform Manlius that he has been imprisoned and asks Manlius to look after Dulcina.

[Dulcina has scored a success in R1 and a failure in R2, so in the final challenge both sides will have the same chance of winning]

Round 3: Leo and Ivana reach St.Vitus. Ivana is under disguise as Leo’s sister Igina. At dinner, Ivana attempts to poison Dulcina, so that will stop helping the treacherous plans of magicians. Does Dulcina’s survive Ivana’s attempt to kill her?
“No, and someone or something dear to you is harmed, lost or destroyed.”
The conditions are particularly favorable for Ivana: she kills both Dulcina and Manlius.


[Fate cards are very powerful, but playing one in each of the first two rounds, you get an unexpected story line. They also help introduce new characters. I like the fact that you quickly build a whole range of minor characters that can be reused in future games]

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.


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).


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:



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.