Solo Skald |||

Sacretta Carnifexa - Part 1

As the spotlight is shifting from Brother Erlan as the primary protagonist to a group of adventurers under his command / patronage, as well as a change in system, this will look like a new campaign. Of course, the previous several posts provide important fictional context for what’s happening here.

Concept

I’ve decided to use Swords & Wizardry Complete Revised again, though with a significant restriction. Characters can only be Fighters, Clerics, or Rangers. This is in line with the setting and the concept for this particular group. I’ve documented other house rules and changes below.

To start them out, they’re going to revisit the Blackened Tower where, under the direct command of Brother Erlan, they defeated the necromancer Albinus. Despite his death, there are still monsters and perhaps others in the tower and, particularly, the dungeon beneath it. This campaign is focused on rooting out evil” in the eyes of the Church of Saintly Blood, not treasure hunting nor exploration per se.

While musing on that, I was reminded of something Matt Colville said:

The behavior a game rewards is the behavior a game encourages.

To that end, I’m adjusting the XP system as outlined below. Additionally, accomplishing faction goals for the Sacretta Carnifexa (defined for this purpose as completing a quest”) will yield other rewards, like magic items, renown, and so on. (This isn’t the reward system he describes in the video, but the needs of a solo game are different than those of a group.)

Faction Goals

Let’s look at the goals of the Sacretta Carnifexa in the Krevborna setting book:

Description:

The Sacretta Carnifexa are a group of templars, witchfinders, and inquisitors associated with the Church of Saintly Blood. Their goal is the destruction of Lamashtu, the persecution of the undead, and the execution of Countess Alcesta.

Motto: To bring final death to the dead is a righteous destiny.

Beliefs:

  • The undead are atrocities that must be destroyed.
  • Lamashtu must be liberated from the grip of undead rule.
  • The Church must be made militant and unforgiving.

Goals:

  • Assassinate Countess Alcesta von Karlok.
  • Radicalize the Church of Saintly Blood.

After this initial incursion, I also want to use the faction turn” from Worlds Without Number. That’s why this campaign will be documented in parts”, not sessions”, because faction turns don’t follow the same format as adventuring incursions. (Does session” even mean anything in solo play?) Likely factions include the Sacretta Carnifexa, obviously, but also the Knights of Lilith. possibly the White Ravens, and (at some point) the Countess herself.

House Rules

  • Rangers must have a minimum Strength of 13. They have a damage bonus against all unnatural creatures, including undead, lycanthropes, and other monsters.
  • Clerics must have a minimum Wisdom of 13 and can use any weapon. They generally prefer not to wear armor, trusting instead in shields and their faith.
  • Coinage is in silver pieces, not gold. Most everything else will be adjusted accordingly (e.g. coins will be in 1/10th the amount the tables specify).
  • Missile attacks after the first in a round go at the end of the round. Firing into a melee is possible at a -2 penalty; misses within that penalty range hit a random target in the melee.
  • PCs dropping to 0 HP exactly must save versus death. PCs at negative HP are dead.
  • Defeating enemies of the Sacretta Carnifexa (undead, necromancers, etc.) are worth 4x the listed XP (generally corresponding to their HD, tweaked occasionally due to varying abilities). Other monsters and creatures are only worth their listed XP. Treasure is generated and awarded as normal (subject to the coinage adjustment), but does not grant XP.

Character Creation

As I said above, the needs of a solo game are not the same as those of a group. To fit what I’m doing here, I generated six characters, rolling 3d6 for their attributes but assigning as I see fit. I also rolled their money randomly and chose equipment fitting the group’s needs and their classes.

  • Beorne (he/him), Fighter, HD 1 (2 HP), AC 6 (leather and shield), Atk +1, d8 (Battle Axe 1H), Save 14 (-1 penalty against magic), Movement 120’
  • Willex (he/him), Fighter, HD 1 (6 HP), AC 7 (leather), Atk +2, d8 (Flail 2H), Save 14 (-1 penalty against magic), Movement 120’
  • Ziva (she/her), Ranger, HD 2 (5 HP), AC 7 (leather), Atk +1, d6 (Short Sword), d6 (Short Bow), Save 14, Movement 120’
  • Vetla (she/her), Ranger, HD 2 (12 HP), AC 7 (leather), Atk +3, d8+2 (Bastard Sword), d6+2 (Short Bow), Save 14, Movement 120’
  • Steko (he/him), Cleric, HD 1 (5 HP), AC 8 (shield), Atk +1, d6 (Spear), Save 15 (+2 against paralysis and poison), Movement 120’
  • Latka (she/her), Fighter, HD 1 (4 HP), AC 6 (leather and shield), Atk +1, d8 (Long Sword), Save 14 (-1 penalty against magic), Movement 120’

Each of them carry charmed garlic as a folk remedy against the undead, except for Steko. As a cleric, however, he carries a silver holy symbol (a vial of saintly blood) as well as a flask of holy water. Additionally, both Steko and Ziva carry lanterns (bullseye and hooded, respectively) and flasks of oil. A few of the fighters also have rope and grappling hooks.

Incursion into the Blackened Tower

As in the prior session, the group must row out across a lake to the tower, which sits on a small island. This is near enough to their home village of Oakside that they do not need to worry about provisions, extensive travel time, etc. They are ordered to secure the tower and the dungeon underneath it; once complete, they will each be granted a magic item (as in, an extra roll on the Minor Magic Item table).

Random stocking

As normal for OD&D, the exploration will take place in turns of approximately 10 minutes each. In each room, I’ll roll a d6 to determine the contents:

  1. Monster and treasure
  2. Monster
  3. Treasure (hidden)
  4. Clue (for patron)
  5. Empty
  6. Empty

In the upper tower area, I have written a 2d3 monster table:

  1. d3 zombies
  2. d3 rats or toads (d4 HP each, no treasure possible)
  3. d3 human bandits (d3+2 treasure multiplier)
  4. d3 skeletons
  5. d3 cultists (as berserkers)

This will be influenced by whatever features the map shows for that location, rather than generating them randomly. Monsters in the tower itself could range from local wildlife to human scavengers to the undead. As they go deeper, the monsters will become more dangerous. Treasure will be generated from the tables in Swords & Wizardry, although the quantity of coins will be divided by 10 to retain the original progression rate. If it’s hidden treasure, and they find it, I’ll roll a d3 + dungeon level to determine which treasure hoard table to use out of the 8 in the book. (As noted above, this treasure does not grant XP.)

Underclock

I’ve also decided to give Arnold K’s Underclock a spin. To summarize:

  • Every dungeon turn, roll the Underworld die and subtract the result from the current Underclock value. The die starts as a d6 and the Underclock starts at 20.
  • The die explodes on a maximum result (add the value and roll again).
  • When the Underclock equals 0 exactly, set it to 3.
  • When the Underclock equals 3 exactly, a Shadowing Event occurs (e.g. an omen or spoor or clues of what is coming).
  • When the Underclock is less than 0, a random encounter occurs (usually related to the Shadowing Event).

Resting recovers all HP, but at the cost of 1-3 Underclock rolls (depending on the safety level of the location where they rest). The Underworld die also increases by one step (e.g. d6 → d8) each time they rest.

Update to the Blackened Tower map

Update to the Blackened Tower. Cartography by Dyson Logos.

Turn 1

I will start with the group outside the entrance to the Blackened Tower. After a blessing from Brother Erlan, they have crossed the lake and it’s once again mid-morning. (The Underclock is at 20 and the Underworld die is a d6.)

They climb steps as they proceed up a winding path. While it’s a bright day, there are clouds overhead and the wind is picking up. The group is a bit disturbed when they realize that there are no bird sounds here. The double doors hang open, and they can see the crossing where the portcullis normally drops into a pit beneath it. Just inside, they can see a monster: d3=1 cultist. The cultist reacts with hostility to the approach of the 6 militia members, but I don’t think he’s suicidal. Instead, he’ll flee back through the double doors behind him (carrying his treasure with him).

As a result, future cultists will have +1 to their numbers and -1 to their reaction rolls.

The Underworld die rolls a 5, dropping the Underclock to 15.

Turn 2

The group enters the tower (room 3, a hexagonal chamber with a pillar inside it). From my random table, there is hidden treasure here, but I hadn’t previously considered how they might find it. That said, that’s partly why I didn’t use the Thief class: in some sense (especially the Fighters), they’re all thieves. In another sense, of course, that’s not their purpose here.

So I’ll make an oracle roll and call it 50/50: no, they don’t search for it. From here, they see a tapestry, statue, and doors leading further back. While they inspect the statue and tapestry closely, I’ll roll on the Ironsworn Action/Theme oracles to characterize this: Evade Resource”. Given the themes here, this gives me the idea that the scenes depicted show someone hiding from the light and forest outside, which represent goodness and life. The necromancer knew what he was about.

The Underworld die rolls a 2, dropping the Underclock to 13. From here, the group will ascend the stairs to ensure the upper tower is clear before descending into the dungeon.

Turn 3

In the second level (room 7), they encounter d3=3 bandits. The bandits’ reaction is to wait and see what the intruders do. The Sacretta Carnifexa is not particularly focused on law enforcement, but neither are they willing to turn a blind eye to what these bandits are doing in such a foul place. Steko (the cleric) gives them an ultimatum: leave now or face their justice. I decide to use a morale roll for the bandits at a -1 penalty (treating their Morale as 1 lower than listed): they stand and fight, believing these poorly-armed peasants will themselves flee at the first sign of violence.

Neither group is surprised at this point, so there’s no need to roll for that. The room is dimly lit by the light filtering in from the embrasures in the room next door. The bandits are armed with bastard swords and wear leather armor.

  • Bandits: HD 1 (3, 3, 5 HP); AC 7; Atk weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 17; Morale 8

The bandits get initiative during the first round. Beorne, Willex, and Steko (who was engaging in the negotiation) are in the front rank, with Ziva, Vetla, and Latka behind them. The bandits will make one attack each against the front rank: only Willex is hit, for 4 damage (dropping him to 2). In turn the three in front engage in melee with the bandits directly in front of each of them. The two fighters each hit their targets, killing two of the bandits. Steko misses, and that bandit must now make a morale check: he either doesn’t realize or is too full of adrenaline to try to flee or beg for mercy. (I’m not sure he’d be able to get to the stairs easily in the first case).

So in the next round, the group wins initiative. Latka moves into the fight, while Ziva and Vetla peek down the stairs to see if anyone (or anything) comes up behind them. Willex hits the bandit with his flail, dropping him there. The group checks their opponents for treasure. The estimated treasure value here is 4 * 45 = 180, putting us on the third treasure table. This yields trinkets worth a total of d2 gp, d10 gp, and d6 * 100 cp. That’s 2 + 10 = 12 gp and 100 cp, which Latka will carry. However, these bandits are not actually worth any XP under the setup I devised.

The Underworld die rolls a 2, so the Underclock counts down to 11. Nothing comes up behind them for now.

Turn 4

They’ll move over to look outside the tower via those embrasures in room 9. Again the stocking table indicates hidden treasure, but once more the group doesn’t think to check here. Outside, the wind is driving more clouds into the sky from the east and they can hear the occasional peal of thunder far off in the distance. The Underworld die rolls a 5, and the Underclock goes to 6.

Turn 5

Still on this level, they carefully examine the door at the back, a 20’ x 30’ chamber that appears to have been used for some sort of storage. Most of the crates and equipment here have already been ransacked, unfortunately.

This time I roll a 3 on the Underworld die, dropping the Underclock to 3. That indicates a shadowing event, so I’ll roll on the encounter table, generate an omen of that, and the next time they get a random encounter, it will be: more bandits. They can hear voices somewhere drifting up (or down?) the staircase, laughing and grumbling. The militia grips their weapons more tightly and ascend the staircase.

Turn 6

Level 3 is actually inaccessible from this staircase, so they come out on the roof of the tower, with six pillars and a summoning circle in the center. No signs of life or anything else here, fortunately. Necromancers are often in league with demons and devils; Steko gives a silent prayer of thanks that they did not have to encounter any such fiends this time.

But the Underworld die rolls a 3, dropping back down to 3. The voices are getting louder (and I’ll add a +1 to the amount of bandits they encounter when that happens).

Turn 7

Descending back down to the first (ground) level in the hexagonal room, they can hear the bandits somewhere behind the door next to the statue. Nodding at each other in something between agreement and nervous reassurance, Beorne and Willex bash the door open.

On the other side, there are indeed three more bandits. Steko calls out in a loud voice for them to lay down their weapons in the name of the Church. The bandits hesitate, waiting to see if the militia will indeed attack. When they see that the group doubles their numbers, I roll a morale check for them at a -1 penalty again: they decide to flee. Steko instructs them to leave their ill-gotten gains behind for a donation to the Church.

The bandits leave behind 2 platinum (no way to divide this by 10), 1 gold, 4 copper, and a small bracelet worth another gold piece. This time, Steko places the treasure in his own pack.

However, that was a stocking roll, not from the Underclock, so the Underclock remains at 3 until I once more roll a 3 on the Underworld die. They haven’t found all the bandits yet, though we don’t know if they’re in the final room on this level or underneath in the dungeon.

Turn 8

In the back of the level (room 5), they find not bandits but 3 zombies. No reaction roll required here - to battle! Neither group is surprised, and the fight is simultaneous.

  • Zombie: HD 2 (2, 6, 13 HP); AC 8; Atk strike (1d8); Move 6; Save 16; Morale 12

One of them looks far chunkier than the others.

This time, Steko will pray for intercession against these shambling corpses (turn undead). That won’t take effect until the end of the round, though, and in these cramped quarters only three of them will be able to engage in melee. With Willex having been wounded earlier, this time it will be Beorne, Latka, and Vetla. Only Latka hits her target, dealing 4 damage and thus destroying one of them. But since this is simultaneous, all three zombies will get their chance to attack: Vetla is struck for 6 damage, dropping her to 6 HP. The other two miss. Ziva and Willex keep one eye on the fight and one on the approach behind them. Unfortunately, for all Steko’s faith, he is not powerful enough to channel the holy energy to send these dead back to their rest. He’ll continue his prayers and chanting through the fight. ((ETA: I think I misread my dice and this should have succeeded. I won’t retcon it, though, and as we’ll see, that makes a huge difference.))

For the second round, the group wins initiative. Ziva leaps into the fray with her short sword. She and Beorne will target the stronger zombie, while Latka fights the slightly weaker one. Ziva’s sword cuts into the rotting flesh (3 damage), but Beorne does only incidental damage. Meanwhile, Latka is locked in futile battle with the other undead, not damaging it at all. Each of the zombies manages to hit its target; Beorne takes 6 damage, which is enough to kill him outright! Latka only takes 1 damage, reducing her to 3 HP. At this point, Steko’s vial of saintly blood glows with an unearthly red light and the zombies try to flee. That gives everyone a free attack against them: Willex and Ziva against the stronger one, Vetla and Latka against the other. That first zombie is dropped to 4 HP and the other is killed outright by Vetla. The zombie flees and will return in 3d6 = 10 rounds (a full turn).

At the end of the turn, I roll a 6 on the Underworld die, dropping the Underclock to -3. That means an automatic encounter as we start the next turn (and the Underclock resets to 20). ((This should have exploded the die but it wouldn’t matter here.))

Turn 9

Three more bandits enter the room, and I don’t think there’s a reaction roll necessary here. They realize that several of their number have been defeated, and others were flushed out. Again, neither group is surprised. The militia have reduced numbers (and haven’t even attended to Beorne’s body yet), but they knew the dangers coming in.

That said, the bandits win initiative on the first round and close to melee.

  • Bandits: HD 1 (4, 5, 7 HP); AC 7; Atk weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 17; Morale 8

Since no one is surprised, that gives the Sacretta Carnifexa enough time to shift the two rangers and Latka into the front. Steko and Willex will try to flank, but it’s difficult in these cramped quarters. Only Vetla is hit, and she is cut for 3 damage. She and Latka both hit their targets, though, killing two of the bandits. The third bandit makes a morale check: she doesn’t flee, snarling and whirling her sword around.

In this second round, though, the remaining two Sacretta members are able to surround the enemy, and they also win initiative. Steko’s spear deals 2 damage, and Ziva’s short sword finishes the job with another 6 damage. The bandits are felled, just in time for that zombie to come back!

Steko begins intoning his prayer, and the other four win initiative. The prayer is interrupted as both rangers strike the undead with their melee weapons and end its rampage.

The Underworld die rolls a 2, bringing the Underclock to 18.

Turn 10

They can finally take a moment to look around here. While Steko prays over Beorne’s body, entrusting his spirit to the saints, the others search the bodies of the three bandits. (The room rolled monsters, not treasure, so there was no hoard in the room with the zombies.)

The bandits have between them 2 platinum, 5 gp, 47 sp, and 100 cp. Ziva puts the coins into her pack. The group also is awarded 30 * 3 * 4 = 360 XP for defeating the undead. They decide to press on into the dungeon below, vowing to return for Beorne’s body later when they have secured the area.

I roll another 2 on the Underworld die, bringing the Underclock to 16. They descend the stairs to the dungeon level.

Turn 11

Pushing aside the curtain from which the bandits emerged, they head down the stairs to the long room with six alcoves (room 11). Another bandit is encountered here, and given all the fighting, I think she knows that the militia is out for her blood. Her reaction roll indicates a positive” reaction, and in this circumstance I’ll interpret that as a surrender. She drops her weapons and swears never to return to this place. Steko steps aside, letting her pass.

The Underworld die rolls a 2 again, dropping the Underclock to 14.

Turn 12

They’ll check the altar room next. Before rolling the contents, I decide to update the procedure very slightly.

I’ll assume they are searching any area where they spend a full turn, looking for whatever they can find (treasure, clues, etc.). That’s assuming that they’re not doing something else, like resting (binding wounds), examining some previously-discovered item, keeping watch, etc. Each character searching has a 2-in-6 chance of finding any hidden treasure (cumulative). If there is both treasure and a secret door or similar, I’ll roll randomly to see which they find.

In this case, I’ll have Vetla and Willex rest. They don’t participate in searching the altar room, and thus Ziva will stand guard with them (preventing surprise). Steko and Latka explore the altar room, but it’s empty.

I’ll roll twice on the Underworld die for a total of 6, reducing the Underclock to 8. The Underworld die also steps up to a d8! In exchange, Vetla and Willex go back to full HP (12 and 6, respectively).

Turn 13

The group proceeds through the tight passage to the statuary room. Other than the six odd-looking statues, there is nothing else here. From the previous exploration:

The statues depict tall, gaunt figures with long fingers and sharp teeth, with chalice motifs engraved on their bases. The tapestries display [vaguely Lamashtuan] heraldic symbols.

On the d8 Underworld die, I get a 6, dropping the Underclock to 2. From here, they move to the next map, which I’ll cover in the next session.

Conclusion

I haven’t decided on the Underclock yet; in particular, for solo play, I have a pretty good sense of how long until the next encounter. While it might average out to a similar number of encounters per session, there’s little to no chance (at first) to have multiple wandering encounters in a row. After some rests, however, and the die growing in size, that may not be as true.

Turn Undead, at least at these low levels, is not tremendously powerful, and in particular I like how it takes at least a full round of melee before it takes effect, which prevents things from being trivialized. That said, almost everyone spent silver on charmed garlic” and I haven’t figured out what that does yet. It’s about time, given that they’re entering a more dangerous level of the dungeon.

These characters need to get a little more creative with how they’re going to handle some of these encounters anyway! Using fire or tripwires or something might help them swing the odds in their favor.

Up next Undead Without Number - Session 3 Sacretta Carnifexa - Part 2
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