Solo Skald |||

Last time, the explorers trekked up from the city of Kheyus following the river up through the Corrose Woodlands. This time, I’ll keep doing some world building, figure out what’s going on with this mountain city, and maybe even head to the ruins further north.

World building

Our group went all that way up a river I didn’t even name, to a city I also didn’t name. Bad on me, I guess! As usual, I’m going to turn to Fantasy Name Generators. For the river, I’ll use the River Name Generator and choose Notnora River”.

The city is a bit more complicated in my mind because it says more about the people who live there. After some pondering, I decide it’s more of an outpost, or at least it started that way. But the names in that generator don’t fit the right style; I want something that sounds like a random word (similar to Kheyus”, although I guess maybe Dyson had more behind it). After playing with some different generators, I ended up with cavemen names and choosing Dhuru Ramparts”.

Dhuru Ramparts is much more likely to provide a base of operations for our explorers as its much closer to the ruins, crystals, and such. I think Dyson originally intended this one to be a secret” city (within the fiction), but I’m going to treat that big stone tower as the ruins.

So let’s roll or choose some basic info from Worlds Without Number Major Cities” p. 150. (This isn’t a major city but it’s not a rural village either, so this’ll do.)

  • Rationale: It’s a shelter from dangerous environs
  • Who Runs It? Chief magistrate
  • Significant Locals: Neighborhood patriarch
  • Current Problem: The rulers have gravely offended a local religion

There are a few other bits there about City Involvements with Adventurers” but I don’t want to deal with them yet.

What’s this religion about, anyway? There are a few more tables starting on page 140 and I’ll pick and choose ones that seem interesting:

  • Scope: This mountain range
  • Structure: Each holy man or woman is the autonomous leader of their own branch of the sect, with however many followers they can gather
  • God Origin: It’s the genius of a particular land or location (the mountains themselves)
  • Goal of the Faith: Strengthen or protect its devout believers
  • Strictures: Pray at certain fixed places or times / make certain pilgrimages to holy places

I’m imagining this as sort of a folk religion” for the people whose ancestors lived in the mountains. Other, newer arrivals may or may not have accepted this religion, so it’s not really locked to an ethnicity.

There are specific places in the mountains that they hold as holy, and they have a few rituals that they perform there. The city somehow caused problems with one of those places because only a specific branch had claimed it as holy, but now the others have all joined together with that one. I don’t think this religion has a formal name, so let’s just say the members themselves call it the Mountain’s Breath”.

But the mountains need a name themselves! Mixing things up, I’ll use the Dwarven city names generator and choose Garkihm”.

Now that the basics are written down, what about tags for the community here? I can see a few interesting ones, but Heavy Fortification” is immediately and obviously applicable:

The community is remarkably well-fortified for a site of its size and role. Tall, stout walls, strongpoints inside the community, concentric defenses, a strategic terrain location, or a large body of standing troops might be present. Some threat is thought to exist that makes maintaining this fortification worthwhile, though it may come at a dear cost to the locals. The community’s suzerain may be uncomfortable with these defenses, as they could just as easily be used to defy the ruler.

I might work in a few elements from other tags that could work here as well, like from Hostile Terrain” or Decaying Working”. So pulling it together:

  • Enemies: Heavy-handed local ruler demanding protection money (maybe this is the real source of religious conflict)
  • Friends: Local warning of some sudden impending danger
  • Complications: The terrain offers some special profit as well as danger
  • Things: Precious resource found within the terrain
  • Places: A holy site within the terrain

I can add to this as needed, because I do think there’s a Working involved here as well. But that will come later, likely.

Arrival

A tunnel at Lianhua peak is only available for one person to pass by. Photo by Aden Lao on Unsplash

Last session, the group climbed up a set of narrow steps carved directly into the mountain and made into the Ramparts. At the end of that grueling climb, they’ll need to rest. Dana and Kasciuto in particular have decreased ready pools; while this is a game mechanic, not directly represented in the fiction, I can imagine that their own exhaustion increases with their exhausted pool. Rolling for them both, Dana recovers 1 (up to 5 in her ready pool) and Kasciuto stays at 5. They’ll find a place to rest for the night; nothing fancy, the equivalent of a hostel.

In the morning, now that they’re awake and in slightly better shape, they can get the lay of the land, as it were. The Mountain’s Breath folks are agitated, but nobody thinks that a handful of recently-arrived explorers are part of that. Kasciuto learns a bit about it and warns his friends that they should tread carefully before exploring in the mountains themselves. He ends up drinking tea with a woman named Isizia, who is a member of the Mountain’s Breath. She quietly lets on that things might get a bit rough around here in the next few days and that they should keep their heads down.

Kasciuto is certainly going to want to get more information about the places to avoid. He doesn’t go so far as to explain the group’s plans, but of course he wants to know what places are holy and whether they should visit the shrines, avoid them entirely, or something else. On a failure, he could somehow offend Isizia, while a complication could be getting some of the information wrong. Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Skilled (bartering), Supported (Sarca). Total of 4 dice, highest is 6: success! Stress = 4, pool decreases to 4. Isizia is pleased that an outlander shows this amount of interest and respect and lists The Five Shrines of the Mountain’s Breath, along with some general indications of their location. Outlanders don’t need to go make offerings or anything, but respect should be shown if they encounter these places.

Ruin Generation

The group didn’t come here to sit around and drink tea with local believers. They want to find artifacts and perhaps even riches! Looking at the map, reaching the towering ruins would take several days. They’d rather stay close to the city for a bit and maybe get some more supplies. But that will require some exploration here in the city itself - or rather, under the city.

So let’s generate something for them to explore. I’ll use the One-Roll Ruin Generation” table in WWN p. 187:

  • What do the locals think of it? It’s traditionally taboo ground to them
  • How did it become ruined? Some natural calamity despoiled it
  • Why hasn’t it been plundered bare yet? The environment around it is very dangerous
  • How old is the ruin? Belonging to the unfathomable past
  • What basic kind of ruin is it? Temple, monastery, or pilgrimage site
  • Who’s used this ruin before? Adventurers trying to make it a base

So there’s an ancient place of worship that is despoiled by a natural calamity; a rock slide could have buried it, or at least the entrance, and the locals decided that the mountain spirits were angry. Some other adventurers tried to use it as a base; perhaps they’ve left some supplies or even treasure behind.

This time, for exploring the ruins, I’m going to use the revised rules from Perilous Wilds, specifically the Plumb the Depths” chapter.

Rumors and Legends

This is what our explorers have heard about the place from asking around and talking to people.

  • Who or what is believed to have built this place? Natural (this is a mountain cave)
  • For what purpose was it built? Indiscernible / mysterious
  • How or why did its original purpose come to an end? Natural disaster
  • What Dangers is it said to conceal? Falling rocks; mountain curses
  • What Discoveries may lie within? Leftover treasure from previous adventurers; relics of a long-dead religion

Foundation

Before they can go in, a few things need to be established.

  • Name: Cave
  • Size: Small; 1d6+1 = 4 areas, 2 themes
  • Themes: Element: water/ice/mist; Transformation
  • Form: Caves / caverns
  • Accessibility: Buried in rubble
  • Function: Worship / devotion
  • Situation: Below ground
  • Builder: Natural
  • Cause of Ruin: Natural disaster

Areas

Since this is such a small place, I’m not going to need the full list of areas. But I did ask ChatGPT to suggest a few types.

  • Common: Vestibule; Sanctuary
  • Unique: Crypt; Reliquary

Exploration

From outside, it looks just like a regular mountain side. Upon closer examination, there are a few places where they can wriggle down into the ground. Others have gone here before, but with the risk of the rubble collapsing on them, most don’t consider it worth the risk.

Our characters are not nearly so wise. Dana peers down into the darkness, then pushes a few boulders aside with her strong arms and descends into the darkness. Because this isn’t necessarily the intended path into the temple, they may not end up in an entry way. And in fact, on the new area” table, I roll [10]: a unique area with 1 danger and 3 discoveries.

This is the reliquary: A small, dimly lit chamber filled with sacred relics and artifacts, such as statues, vessels, and other religious symbols. It may also contain offerings or gifts made by faithful worshippers.” The danger is a creature, in fact just vermin. Dana can hear a single rat scurrying about below, although her eyes haven’t adjusted yet so she can’t quite see it. She’ll be careful, however, because it could be more than it seems, or it might have friends.

Getting the whole group further down into the space will be risky. On a failure, someone could be injured, and shifting rocks could present a complication. Since Dana’s going first: Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Supported (by Kasciuto). Total of 3 dice, highest is 6: success! Stress = 6, pool unchanged. This went as well as it possibly could have. Dana helps her companions down into the cave safely. What do they discover?

  • Feature: Bridge / stairs / ramp
  • Find: Alcoves of elemental magic
  • Feature: Cave-in / collapse / obstacle

The stairs to the next area are also blocked and will take some effort to move them. But in here, there’s an alcove of ice magic, with several small shelves staying cold. Can they remove the alcoves? [4] yes, but they’ll need special equipment (which they don’t have) to do it. They’ll leave this device in place for now and return when they can acquire crowbars or something similar. Perhaps someone would be interested in purchasing this artifact from them when they can get it out of the cave.

For now, Dana and Kasciuto will need to clear the path to the next area. On a failure, the rubble becomes completely impassible, and on a complication, one or both could get hurt. Kas leads the way: Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Skilled (destruction), Supported (by Dana). Total of 4 dice, highest is 6: success! Stress = 5, pool unchanged. Again, the best possible outcome! The expert explorer and the strong warrior work carefully and are able to clear the rubble out of the stairs down to the next area.

The new area is [5] a common area with no dangers or discoveries. This is the sanctuary: A grand chamber with a raised dais and an altar at the center, surrounded by rows of stone benches. This would have been the main gathering place for worshipers.” After spending considerable time checking the benches, under the dais, and in the altar, they find nothing of interest.

From here, there will be 2 exits: one to the vestibule and the other to the crypt. After conferring briefly with one another, they decide to go to the vestibule in hopes that the previous adventurers left something behind. A large entrance hall with columns, archways, and a stone floor. It is full of debris and fallen masonry, but once served as the main entrance to the temple.” Unfortunately, this area has also been picked bare. The supplies that were here rotted long ago, and they left nothing else of value behind.

The crypt is their last chance for something valuable. As they enter, they’ll find d4 = 1 danger and d4 = 1 discovery. I’ll roll those up and then envision the characters exploring the area.

  • Danger: Trap (based on elemental magic)
  • Discovery: Feature - statue / idol

These have to be the same thing. There’s a frozen statue of a god here in the crypt, and removing it looks risky. But this is what Sarca is for; their knowledge of artifacts will come in handy here! They could try to cast summon spirit for help or guidance, but that would run its own risks. The group decides to go ahead themselves. So on a failure, some magical ward is triggered, preventing them from acquiring the treasure, and on a complication, Sarca will take some form of magical harm. Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Skilled (artifacts), Supported (by the group). Total of 4 dice, highest is 6x2: critical success! Stress = 6, pool unchanged. Sarca’s expertise helps them avoid the wards and they can remove this statue without trouble. They’ll take it back to Dhuru and see if they can find an appropriate buyer.

Resupplying and equipping

The strength of Abenteuerspiel! is also its weakness at the same time. I love its beautiful simplicity for character creation and risky actions, but at the same time it doesn’t provide much guidance for things like getting new equipment.

As the game is partly inspired by Trophy, I’ll take some inspiration there as well. The statue will be worth enough gold for the explorers to find appropriate lodging for a while, plus they can each get one new piece of equipment. Perhaps in the future I’ll bring in more of the economy from Trophy Gold, or even switch to that system entirely. It would take only a little work, I think, to mash together Trophy rules and the Perilous Wilds exploration system.

For now, they’ll each get the following:

  • Dana: Rope
  • Sarca: Ritual incense (3 uses)
  • Kasciuto: Crowbar

With this equipment, they’ll head back a day later to see if they can retrieve the magical frozen alcove. First, though, their rest gives them a chance to earn back dice from the exhausted pool. Dana gets hers back, but Kasciuto doesn’t. I like to think he stays out a bit too late, drinking with the locals and trying to make friends and contacts.

As they go back to the ruins, though, they’ll need to take some risks to get back in there. Dana will try to lower them in: Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Equipped (Rope), Supported (by Kasciuto), Advantaged (experienced with this particular entrance). Total of 5 dice, highest is 5: success with a complication. Stress = 3, pool decreases to 5. The complication is just a condition, Rope burn”. It’ll clear after some rest, and in the future she might want to use gloves or something.

Now that they’re down in the reliquary again, time to see if Kasciuto can remove the alcove. Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Skilled (Destruction / Craft), Equipped (Crowbar), Supported (by Sarca). Total of 5 dice, capped at 4 by pool, highest is 4: success with a complication. Stress = 3, pool decreases to 3. The complication is a condition, Blistered hands”. Like Dana’s rope burn, it won’t last terribly long, but it’ll be a nuisance as they try to lift this artifact back out of the cave.

Which they’ll attempt now. Kasciuto is not really in the best shape to do this, even with his skills. Instead, he’ll advise Dana on rigging up her rope to pull the magical ice alcove out. On a failure, they could destroy the artifact! Roll: Stressed, Equipped (Rope), Supported (by Kasciuto), Devil's Bargain (the entrance will collapse after them). Total of 4 dice, highest is 5: success! Stress = 4, pool decreases to 4. Just as they scramble out of the hole, the rubble shifts and moves to block the entrance. Dana twists her ankle in the process, taking that as a condition. That won’t clear until she can replenish her entire dice pool.

Selling the artifact

They’ve managed to carry this extremely heavy artifact back to Dhuru proper but they’ll need to find a buyer. For this, Dana will be in charge of lugging it around (albeit not by herself), Sarca will be on hand to discuss any questions about this magical alcove that can bring the temperature down inside of it, and of course Kas will handle the deal.

There’s not necessarily a lot of interestingness in finding a buyer, but the buyer themselves could be interesting. Who deals in buying artifacts like this? I’m using the Persons of Interest” supplement, technically for Stars Without Number but mostly systemless. It gives us four basic components:

  • Motive: Safety, to protect themselves from some woe
    • A rival has put a bounty on their ruin
  • Capability: Information, knowing useful secrets of things
    • Sources: Resources, obtained via money or goods
  • Opportunity: Their threat has just broken through their best defense, and they need help
  • Appearance:
    • Visual: Unusual prosthetic hand or arm; uses it to constantly fiddle with small objects
    • Social: Offers deals in a petitionary fashion; generally has strange ideas about outlander habits

The dealer here, who I’ll now name Siya” from the Other Voyagers” table in Ultraviolet Grasslands, generally meets with potential associates at a specific booth in a local drinking establishment. They’ll be there in a few hours, and the explorers will have to wait for them to arrive. ChatGPT envisions the setup like this:

The three explorers, Dana, Sarca, and Kasciuto, sit in a dimly lit booth in a shady bar, their eyes flicking around the room warily. The air is thick with the smell of smoke and alcohol, and the sounds of laughter and conversation from the other patrons fill the room. They nervously tap their fingers on the table as they wait for Siya, the dealer and information broker they are here to meet.

Finally, the door to the bar creaks open and Siya slips inside, her eyes darting around the room as she tries to stay unnoticed. She approaches the booth with a nervous smile, her hand resting on her waistband where her knife is hidden. Good evening, friends,” she says in a low voice. I’m Siya. I understand you have something to sell?”

From here, they’ll go back and forth a bit. The group really wants funds for this, but Siya can offer them something better: information. Kas takes over the negotiations from here and treat this as a risky situation. On a success, they’ll get information on a secret entrance to the ruins, but on a failure the situation goes bad. Complications could include a bounty hunter, or a rival also having this information. Roll: Stressed, Skilled (Bartering), Supported (by Sarca). Capped at 3 dice, highest is 4: success with a complication. Stress = 1, pool decreases to 2. I like the idea of rival adventurers, so that will be the complication.

The deal is struck and everyone fades into the night.

Getting out of town

First, some replenishment rolls. Dana recovers one die back and now has 5 in her ready pool. She still has the condition twisted ankle.” Kasciuto also recovers one die back and now has 4 in his ready pool but no conditions. Sarca remains in excellent shape.

In the morning over tea, Kas’s contact Isizia lets him know that things will be going down that night; if they’re planning to head out of town, today would be an excellent time to do so. He takes that back to the group: can they get their supplies together and leave immediately? I don’t think there’s a lot of risk to this, so they can go right to the exploration. They leave town quietly; as far as they know, they haven’t gotten into any trouble and nobody should be looking for them.

NB: Reviewing the exploration procedure from WWN, it looks like I should be generating some point of interest when I roll a 1-2 on a d6, not just a 1. That tweak will hopefully improve the pace and interest from the last time.

So in this case, they’ll take a day to move north through the mountains. Still no POI, but there’s an encounter. The rival adventurers won’t show up until they’re in the ruins, so here in the mountains they find [68] Rubar after a bit it turns out that creature is not in any of the books I have. So let’s try again: [88] Snow Loper.

Tall and thin-legged, a snow loper is a fast-moving omnivore. It has a very short neck and a large head with a wide, toothy mouth. Long hair covers its roundish, muscular body. Below its mouth are two thin arms with two-fingered hands that it uses mainly for grasping food or navigating treacherous climbs. Since it lacks thumbs, it doesn’t really use tools.

Most people speculate that the snow loper is a genetically engineered creature intended to be used as a mount in steep, rocky environments. In the Ninth World, however, many snow lopers roam wild.

Snow lopers make excellent mounts. They can bear a rider and hundreds of pounds of gear and still climb precarious heights. They travel at great speed, seemingly without getting tired.

If a wild snow loper is caught, it can be tamed and trained relatively quickly, becoming cooperative and docile. The creatures are slightly more intelligent than typical animals, and some can even be trained to use cyphers and other simple devices.

Oh, this could be helpful! They also live in small packs. Can Dana catch some and start taming them? Of course, the snow lopers might decide this is a threat, or Dana could somehow get injured in the process, but those risks are worth it. Roll: Stressed, Skilled (beasts), Equipped (Rope), Supported (by Sarca). Total of 4 dice, highest is 6: success! Stress = 2, pool decreases to 4. Twisted ankle notwithstanding, she’s able to round up a few and get them calmed enough to work with.

The group will camp at the foot of the mountain tonight. Checking for random encounters at night, the dice favor us and everyone can rest. We’ll make replenishment rolls again: Dana remains at 5 in her ready pool (so her twisted ankle” condition remains as well). Kas recovers 1, bringing his pool back to 4.

The expedition moves on in the morning through clear land, but the ruined tower looms impossibly large in front of them to the north. However, they encounter a point of interest here! (The updated procedure is paying off.) Time to see what it is from the Wilderness Tags” table in WWN: [80] Ruined Fortification. Likely some outlying defense for the tower from long ago:

This place was of great strategic importance in some prior age, and a ruined castle, outpost, waystation, or military base can be found here. It may have been destroyed by the slow march of time, or some great military catastrophe may have shattered it. The site is probably too remote or now of too little military value to attract the interest of current governments, but it may still serve as an excellent lair for a more local tyrant or bandit lord.

  • Enemies: Ghostly shade of the fortress’ last commander
  • Friends: Remnant survivor of the original garrison
  • Complications: The real bulk of the site is hidden from easy view
  • Things: Massive fixed weapon that still works
  • Places: Wall slumped into a ramp, Tower snapped halfway up

I want to interpret the Enemies and Friends as the same entity, perhaps what we’d consider as the site’s governing AI. Its reaction is yet to be determined. The site contains some installation that protrudes out slightly from the ground, but whatever power and control systems still exist lie underground.

The group decides to break here so Dana can continue working with the snow lopers. Kas and Sarca will investigate the surface portion of the ruin, but promise not to delve deep inside without Dana.

So as they look around, there are some beams of an unknown metal that remain; a few remnants of walls are all that protect them. Sarca decides to see if there’s anything valuable here; the dice will decide whether the ghostly shade” activates and its reaction. Roll: Stressed, Unconditioned, Skilled (artifacts), Equipped (artiform, Spark), Supported (by Kas). Total of 5 dice, highest is 5: success with a complication. Stress = 4, pool reduces to 5. While they are examining an intricate bit of the metal, which resemble nothing else so much as an insect’s antenna, the shade of the fortress’ commander appears. Like the face in the forest, it appears as a translucent blue grid mesh. When it speaks, the voice seems to come from all around them rather than from a specific direction. Both Kas and Sarca take the condition spooked” temporarily, as they didn’t expect it at all.

As Sarca and Kasciuto approach the ruined defensive structure, the air crackles with energy and a holographic figure suddenly materializes in front of them. The ghostly image appears to be a uniformed soldier, standing at attention, with a stern expression on its face.

Halt!” the hologram says, its voice echoing through the ruins. This facility is protected by the military of the Kazu Empire. Identify yourselves and state your purpose.”

Sarca and Kasciuto look at each other in surprise, realizing that they have activated some sort of ancient guardian spirit. They tentatively explain who they are and what they are doing there.

The ghostly soldier nods, its expression softening. I see,” it says. This facility was once a bastion of the Kazu Empire, designed to protect our citizens from harm. But that was thousands of years ago. I am the last guardian of this place, and I have been alone for far too long.”

The ghost pauses, its holographic eyes sweeping over the ruins. I am pleased to see that someone has come here, after all this time. Perhaps you could be of assistance. The facility’s systems are failing, and I am unable to repair them. I ask for your help in preserving this place, as a testament to the greatness of the Kazu Empire.”

Sarca and Kasciuto exchange a look, considering the ghost’s request.

I think I want to end the chapter here and pick up next time with their decision about this particular ruin.

Wrap-up

I realized my mistake” too late regarding what the city in the mountains should be, but I decided to handle it in the spirit of Bob Ross’s happy little accidents” and envision it as this ancient outpost bound in snow and stone. The idea of some religious unrest there pleases me, too, particularly what I think it represents thematically.

The Perilous Wilds procedure worked really well and I’m looking forward to trying it out in a larger instance with the ruined tower. For that, I expect to customize some of the random tables, but prep is play” after all. However, I still need to figure out how to handle equipment, or more specifically re-equipping and getting new equipment. It worked okay for now, but that doesn’t feel like a good longer-term mechanic.

So I’ll go off and noodle on these things and come back soon!

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