Before I turn away from Scarlet Heroes, I want to try it with a traditionally-built dungeon. After that, I may turn to some other game.
Dyson Logos’s Church of the Oracles in Onyx fit the concept I had in mind pretty well, so I printed it out and marked up with a Sharpie for room numbers and purposes, plus some notes about what can be found there.
Cartography by Dyson Logos
It might not be all that legible in places, but the only other thing I need to add is a random encounter table. For this particular dungeon, I’ll base my model on Chris McDowall’s Small Tables.
I’ll flesh out with other oracles when required. As Matt Colville has said, game design doesn’t have to end when the session starts. (I don’t always agree with that, but I certainly do in solo gaming.)
Amina makes her way to a quiet part of the outskirts. She’s tailed a number of Nuvrehnites out here and has determined that they’ve got some sort of temple inside. Given the church’s focus on wealth and gambling, this seems like potentially a good place to find some treasure.
There are two entrances: an unobtrusive opening with steps leading down into the darkness, and further up and to her left some sort of conduit opening. She’d have to squeeze through, and she doesn’t know if it might be dangerous. She decides to wait for nightfall and enter through the normal entrance.
As a relatively busy place, I’m going to roll for an encounter on each turn. There’s a 1-in-6 chance of the encounter and a 1-in-6 chance that she’ll get an indication of it. Some places on the map have definite encounters or chances of specific ones as well.
In this case, she makes her way down quietly (area 1). Ahead, she can see a few drunken monks coming back towards her, though! (Encounter check indicated yes, and the table rolled 3.) She quickly rushes back outside and hides to the side. I’ll roll a Simple check to see if they notice her, since they’re drinking, not expecting anyone, it’s dark, and she’s hidden: success by a wide margin. They head on out and she can duck back inside.
There are carvings on the wall here, but they’re hard to see in the shadows. What little she can make out seems quite old and doesn’t look like any of the Nuvrehnite iconography she’s seen before.
Amina finds her way down, past a large hole up and to her left that she guesses might connect to the conduit entrance. She makes a mental note of its location, as it seems large enough that she might be able to fit through in an emergency. Ahead, see seems a larger cavern room (area 4) with a large escarpment on the sides to her left. There are two exits besides that, one to her immediate right and one a little further ahead curving right, plus some decorations on the far wall.
I’ve written “enchantment hazard” on the map so it’s time to figure out what that will be. Scarlet Heroes has a “Hazard Found” table that includes a few different things, almost all of which are simple “save or take damage” effects. Instead, I’ll use the Tome of Adventure Design which has two relevant tables, “Basic Traps (Magical)” and “Magical Trap Special Effects”. It indicates a magical trigger: “Clouds or curtains of mist activate trap when agitated”:, and I’ve already noted that the effect is an enchantment. The special effect “involves movement up or down in some way”. I decide that the trap is a descending cloud of mist she needs to avoid or else she’ll take some sort of temporary debility to her Wisdom and Intelligence modifiers.
The saving throw here is difficulty 10, and she can add her Wisdom (+1) and Elven Senses (+3): success. She sees the cloud descending and manages to avoid it. There’s a small amount of treasure here, H2 Scruffy Bandit’s Purse. Instead of rolling for it now, I’ll just note that and she’ll move on. (This isn’t the kind of game for detailed encumbrance tracking.)
The exit to her right looks like a chamber, and the exit ahead looks like a corridor that snakes further into the temple. She’ll check out that chamber first.
She enters what turns out to be the chambers for the head priest here (area 5). There’s a place to sleep, a small study with some books and assorted papers, and a small shrine to Nuvrehn with a decorative gambling wheel mounted on the front. In this room, there’s a 25% chance of the priest being here, but the dice say “not right now”. There’s treasure here, H5 Petty Bandit Chieftain. That’s nice, but she’s pretty sure there’s more deeper in. Time to check out that corridor.
Following the corridor down, Amina finds herself in a rectangular room with metal flooring (area 6). There’s a door straight ahead - just past an automaton (marked
A- on the map) standing there! Rolling on the “Encounter Twists” tables in Scarlet Heroes, it turns out that the automaton is “lolling around and drinking” (which I’ll interpret as being not particularly busy), and its attitude is “predacious, willing to take advantage of those weaker”.
Can she sneak past? That seems challenging given the conditions, as the room is lit. Maybe one of her special devices can help? Last time, she found a couple of Controlled Blinking Nodules, which she can use to teleport when struck in combat. She’d rather not fight the thing at all, though. Her sleep inducer is highly unlikely to work on this non-organic automaton, either!
Maybe she can distract it from outside the room. She’ll head back into the corridor leading from the icon hall to here, climb up to the ceiling, and drop something down to make a noise. If the automaton comes to check on it, she can try to sneak behind it and either get past if possible or ambush the thing in a place where hopefully others won’t hear.
Normally, this would be an Average check, but (unknown to her) the automaton is generally not programmed to head into the caverns, setting the difficulty to Hard and requiring a 13 on her check. If she fails, either the automaton doesn’t come out at all or could even detect her on a low-enough roll. She succeeds, albeit barely, and so it trundles out to investigate.
She drops silently and heads off to the door, hoping it’s open (likely): yes, but… an error in some assumption some NPC is making. The automaton is heading back and she needs to move quickly and close it behind her. No time to dally!
She’s close to the end here, having reached a large ritual chamber (area 7). There are four pillars with swirling faces on them, plus two menacing-looking automata in guard alcoves (marked
A* on the map). She’s on a walkway that curves in a semicircle around to the other side and there are a pair of doors down in the chamber that lead back to something else.
Fighting the automata is a last resort, as usual. She looks more closely at the pillars from a distance, noticing that the faces don’t look human but rather some unknown kind of outsider she’s never seen before. Over by the steps down is a small podium area, likely where a cleric of some sort leads whatever rituals they indulge in. That might have something, but she’d be right in view of the automata if she tried to get close.
With guards between her and the doors she wants to reach, she decides to fight after all. Hopefully she can ambush the one nearby and take it out before the other one reacts.
Both of those automata are Elites with
HD 3, AC 5, Atk +3, Dmg 1d10, ML 10. From a mechanical perspective, that means her fray die can apply to them, but they do enough damage that this is risky.
She carefully sneaks behind the automaton and tries to take it out with a sneak attack using her light spear: she hits it, dealing enough damage to render it permanently inoperable. The other automaton is alerted, but she knows it’s coming and takes it out with her fray die. (That thief ambush ability comes in handy when I remember it, as does adding her attribute modifier to the regular attack roll!)
Amina decides not to go to that podium area yet; maybe on her way out. She notices that the swirling faces on the pillars have gone dark. Is that a good sign, or a bad one? No way to know, so she’ll try the doors. It turns out they’re not locked - or perhaps they were, but then unlocked by the priest coming out through them to investigate the noises!
She’s still in the ritual chamber with a couple of sparking, destroyed automata behind her. A sorcerer-priest in Nuvrehnite garb looks down, sees the results, and his face goes dark. “You should not be here,” he mutters, “and I will show you why.”
He’s a Sorcerer-class enemy in Scarlet Heroes terms, with
HD 3, AC 8, Atk +3, Dmg 1d4, ML 9. That would seem less impressive, but of course as a sorcerer he has some spells at his command. I’ve previously decided that they have the “Seven Small Thunders” spells prepared:
Aerial virtues of storm and light are compressed into small bolts of lightning and storm clouds. For each two levels of the caster, or fraction thereof, one bolt can be hurled at any target within range. The bolt strikes automatically and does a 1d6+1 damage die, inflicting 1 to 2 points of damage. Multiple bolts can be targeted at the same victim.
But as a hero, she gets to go first. Her spear is already in hand and she thrusts at him (though not in ambush), hitting him for 2 points of damage. In the ensuing melee, her miscellaneous jabs and strikes do enough damage to defeat him, and he lies on the floor, eyes staring straight up.
Amina has reached the inner sanctum (area 8). There are small idols to her right and left, plus steps down into an smaller section that seems to be carved out of the rock again, unlike the metal flooring tiles in areas 6 and 7. Standing in front of a display curtain is a huge statue, or perhaps automaton. This one she recognizes as the form of Nuvrehn, the god worshipped by this church, with two altars in front of it.
The figure does not move or react as she studies it closely. She’ll check to see if she can tell if it’s an automaton or a statue. I don’t think any of her traits help here, just her Intelligence modifier (+1) against a Hard check: she fails, and simply can’t tell. Given that it’s a temple, supposing that it’s a statue seems reasonable.
Next she inspects the altars; as she suspected, they’re full of treasure, H7 Powerful Cult Leader. She glances back at the idols, unmoving, and then at the curtain. Something here seems dangerous, but she can’t tell what.
Of course, as soon as she grabs the treasure, the automaton comes to life. This one has Boss-level statistics plus additional armor, so it has
HD 6, AC 3, Atk +6, Dmg 2d8. That’s incredibly dangerous and she doesn’t think she can fight it. She’ll get to running, but she needs to make a check to see if she can get out of the room without it getting an attack off. This will be Hard (target 13) against 2d8 + Dexterity (+2) + Streetwise Rogue (4): she succeeds, and an energy blast hits the wall next to her as she runs through the door.
Alarms are going off with strange blaring sounds and flashing lights. I’ll roll for encounters in each of the areas she needs to pass through: 7, 6, 4, and 1: encounters in rooms 6 and 1. I interpret this as meaning that whatever is coming from room 1 will arrive on the second round of a fight in room 6.
In that room, there’s an automaton, but it’s minion-level. She fires a crossbow bolt, just missing. In return, it reaches out with some sort of energy arc and hits her for 1 damage (dropping her to 7 HP). She doesn’t have time for this, with a huge automaton bearing down from behind and perhaps more ahead of her!
She whips out her light spear, taking it out, and she rushes forward to find a monk in her way. Behind her, she can hear the large automaton stomping her way. The monk looks angry, and she’d rather not kill them, but she also doesn’t want to get blasted. Her opening feint finds only air, but she follows up with a thunk to the back of the head. Hopefully that’s not going to cause long-lasting damage, but it’s enough of a stun for him to fall over and she’s finally out of the temple into the night!
Amina breathes heavily, having run to her graveyard hideout. Time to count up what she got.
That totals to 2,604 GP, 1 Cheap Jewelry, 6 Costly Jewelry, 4 Precious Jewelry, 8 Cheap Gems, 3 Costly Gems, 6 Costly Clothing, 5 Priceless Clothing, 5 traditional Lesser Magic Items, and 1 artifact Greater Magic Item.
That said, she’s also going to take some Heat for this. She had 1 from her previous adventure rescuing Guhari, plus 1 before the adventures I’ve blogged here. After a quick roll to check, I see that she needs “to either move on or run an adventure where the Plot revolves around coping with the consequences of [her] notoriety.” I think she’ll move on, to be honest, but I’ll have a little think about where she goes from here. (She also gains 1 XP but it’ll be a bit before she reaches 4th level.)
That implies to me that she needs to move all these goods quickly, accepting less than their full value. She’ll get half of the following:
That totals to 35,180 GP, which she’ll sell for 17,590 GP. (That hurts on one level, but on another, that’s more money than she’s ever seen before.) I decide there wasn’t really any furniture in that stash, since it doesn’t make sense as offerings stashed in an altar.
The 5 magic items are:
And the artifact is a “stunner”, a handheld device that looks like a metal sphere with a handle. When activated, it fires a long-range energy beam that stuns the target for one round. If she’d realized what she had in her hands, she might have been able to use it to take out the automaton in the temple, but she didn’t know what it was.
She needs to head out of town for a while, and that feels like a good place for this playthough to pause.