Solo Skald |||

Scarlet Hero in the Undercity - Part 3

In the spirit of my previous thoughts on Scarlet Heroes, and in keeping with the existing Ruins of the Undercity campaign, I’m going to go back to the SH procedures, but freshen them up a bit with content from RotU. Spoiler: this goes well until it doesn’t.

Updates

I’m not using the RotU Main Table (roll d20 to get a corridor or door or room or whatever) any more, instead using the Dungeon Turn procedure from SH. However, I’m inserting creatures from RotU as possibilities for the encounters by rolling on a custom table, some of which can include the humanoid tunnel-dwellers (jinxkin, gibberlings, etc.) and potentially other creatures as I delve deeper into the Undercity. This table is weighted to be more likely to produce those or scavenger beasts (rats, rot grubs, fire beetles, etc.) with a smaller chance of undead or brigands once in the Undercity proper.

The traps table from RotU, though, is pretty good and fills a hole I’ve noticed in prior gaming when I want a random trap, so I’m bringing that straight in to replace the hazards subtable from SH.

Also, as SH anticipates, I’ve generated a list of 20 locations within the Undercity (rather than the default lists for Caverns, Fortresses, Temples, etc.) with the help of ChatGPT. Other tweaks might get made as I go, since this is largely just feeling my way forward.

In the City

The last session ended with Garrison the Fang climbing back out of the Undercity into Cryptopolis and selling off some loot. The fire beetle glands will fade before he heads back down, so he needs some more lighting options. I also want to take a look at his weaponry and armor to make sure I’m balancing things correctly. He’s considering hiring henchmen, which fits into his long-term goal of establishing a mercenary company, but his funds are still somewhat limited (if significantly expanded from his starting position).

It’ll take him a couple of days to check all the shops and merchants. He heads out with 222 gp to his name.

Day 1

Today he wants to get set up with better lighting. Rather than lug around those torches (liable to go out whenever he runs into something dangerous), Garrison checks Dawd’s Market for some lanterns. They’re out of stock, though! (This is a RotU mechanic.) He can get a couple of clay lamps, though, which I will treat as one-use items that otherwise function as lanterns (they require oil, can be set down without putting them out, etc.) That’ll be two of them for a total of 1 gp, plus a six-pint cask of oil (each lamp burning requires 1 pint) for another 1 gp. This gets him down to 220 gp.

I’d previously forgotten about rations, but honestly I don’t enjoy tracking things at that level. That’s potentially a bit inconsistent with tracking lighting, but that’s part of the joy of solo gaming! It is not yet time to invest in nicer clothing, though.

All this trekking around and trying (unsuccesfully) to find a lantern has taken all day, so I roll for a random event: a trader will pay 300gp for a map of your next exploration! That’s a good deal as he takes careful notes as he explores. That requires him to get back safely, though; some hazards could potentially destroy the map.

Day 2

Time to look at his armor and weaponry. A two-handed weapon deals d10 damage, but he’s often wielding a shield (so I should not have been rolling a d10 for his damage). That should be a light spear, then, which deals d6 damage. This is good for exploring, because he uses the haft of the spear to test the floor, but I think he should have something more substantial for fights where he can prepare (even if only for a moment).

So with that in mind, he heads for The Curved Shop and gets a scimitar for 15 gp. He takes some time and chats with the shopkeeper and clerks, mostly bragging a bit about his exploits in the Undercity. (Surviving that statue doesn’t take much embellishment, even if everyone thinks it’s an invented story!) He’ll also go back to The Brass Anvil to get chain armor for 75 gp, improving his AC to 3 total. That’s 90 gp spent, leaving him with 130 gp.

This isn’t quite enough wealth for him to be concerned with depositing it in the vaults of the temple of the Red Goddess, but perhaps after this expedition he’ll have enough to consider it.

No event happens today, but tomorrow should be eventful enough!

Into the Undercity

This time I’m going to use a pair of Dyson Logos maps, starting with The Shrine Atop Lazuni Hill. I’ve separated the map into 7 locations; assuming this goes well, he’ll use the small cave to enter the grotto that will be the portion of the Undercity he explores.

The Shrine Atop Lazuni Hill Cartography by Dyson Logos

Turn 1

Garrison reaches Lazuni Hill early in the morning before the sun beats down too hard. There’s a statue at a switchback curve, and he knows that bandits and scavenger beasts are common in the area.

The dice indicate treasure and a hazard; the map indicates a feature (the statue). This is a statue of the Red Goddess herself, an avatar of the Blood Moon. The treasure is one tenth of the C-type trove appropriate to the place”, and the hazard (which I will roll from the RotU trap table) is a 10’ pit trap. Perhaps the pit trap is near the statue, catching those (like Garrison) who do not genuflect to the statue. He fails his saving throw (2D8+3 vs 10) and takes 1 damage, dropping his HP to 12.

However, after this he scoops up the treasure; this should just be a Minor Hidden Treasure, so at 1/10th value it will be 1d6 gp, and I will divide the chances of any of the other treasures (gems and jewelry) by 10. That turns out to be 5 gp with no other treasure, perhaps from a small offering someone left at the statue.

Rather than climb the walls directly, he’ll continue on the path around the hill.

Turn 2

On the south side of the ascent are a pair of stone benches that provide a nice view of the valley leading down to the farmland about the city.

He finds another small hidden treasure here, trove M1, which is petty cash in the amount of 20gp. This is already paying off better than those sewers and he hasn’t even gotten to the Undercity yet!

That said, he can hear noises somewhere in the distance and pauses, trying to make out whether those are the steps of humans or something on four legs…

Turn 3

He passes among some pairs of pillars, each marked with religious symbology indicating the prayers that supplicants should offer to the Red Goddess in their ascent. But he’s not an adherent of that religion, so he continues on after studying them for a few moments.

Turn 4

Garrison reaches the top of the hill and can see the shrine on a small plateau just below him, as well as the cave entrance. He carefully searches this promontory for indications of anything interesting, but it’s empty.

Turn 5

Now on the smaller plateau, he can see the cave entrance better, as well as a small altar. There’s a hidden treasure here, so I will roll a check for him to find it with no modifiers. He fails; too bad, so sad! But that’s why it’s hidden, after all.

From here, he could head down into the grotto via the cave entrance, but he’ll investigate the shrine first.

Turn 6

At the entrance to the shrine are four more pillars with similar symbology, if in somewhat better condition. There’s a door into the small shrine and he inspects closely for traps but doesn’t see one yet. He grips his scimitar and pushes the door open with his shield.

Turn 7

Someone is here! I have previously written on my notes that any encounter has a 4-in-6 chance of being brigands, otherwise scavenger beasts (rats, scorpions, etc.)”, and indeed he finds the brigands. This is 2D4 = 7 HD of Minions, like 2 HD worth of Elites.

But I need to make a reaction roll for them first. Again using the table from Worlds Without Number, this comes out as friendly and helpful as their nature and the situation permits them to be”. They’re not attacking him; in fact, they’re just enjoying a bit of khavi (coffee). He introduces himself and tells them a bit of gossip from in town. They wave him off with a bit of jocularity.

Time to head down into the grotto itself!

Turn 8

The Grotto Beneath Lazuni Hill starts with a natural grotto, including a small statue of the Red Goddess in another form, a small pool, and several exits. He lights a small clay lamp (1 lamp and 5 pints of oil remaining).

Grotto Beneath Lazuni Hill Cartography by Dyson Logos

The dice indicate nothing dangerous or valuable here, so Garrison considers which direction to head. There’s a curtain concealing some of the grotto, an obviously carved tunnel (smooth, straight), and some natural tunnels that lead into the caves themselves.

I think he’ll listen at the curtain first, then push it back very gently to see if there’s anything valuable here or if he should just move on.

Turn 9

No treasure to be seen, but there’s a hazard of some sort: a hail of needles comes flying towards him! RotU indicates Roll 10 attacks/character as a fighter of AL level, each hit causing 1 damage”, but 1 damage in those terms wouldn’t affect him because of the SH scaling, so I’ll assume that anything that hits actually has a 50% chance of dealing 1 actual point of damage. He has AC 3, so any attacks need to roll 15 or higher to hit.

Rolling 10d20, only one of them hits (the others either miss or bounce off his armor). He takes 1 damage, dropping to 11 HP.

Turn 10

This is as good a place to rest for a minute and bandage back up as he’s likely to get, or at least he thinks so. He’ll spend a turn doing so, and I’ll roll a 1-in-6 chance of being interrupted by an encounter: nothing.

Turn 11

He heads back out of the curtain and goes to his right down some steps carved into a natural tunnel. But he finds an encounter and a feature; the encounter itself consists of scavenger beasts, 2D4+2 = 5 HD worth of Elites and Minions. These are Giant Rats, snuffling about in the darkness around a small abandoned campsite. That’s 1 Elite (2 HD, AC 9, Atk +2, Dmg 1d10 Bite, ML 6+1 for being in its lair) and 3 Minions (1 HD, AC 9, Atk +1, Dmg 1d6 Bite, ML 8+1 for being in their lair).

First I’ll roll for their reaction: more friendly and benign than you’d expect them to be, given the circumstances.” They sniff at him, waiting to see if he’ll actually disturb their nest, but that’s not remotely in his plans. He’ll back away slowly before continuing on.

Turn 12

Now he’s in a carved area with a small platform on his left. But there’s a 10’ pit trap with spikes here, which his tapping light spear haft finds. He skirts around it carefully; if those rats chase him, perhaps one of them might fall in.

After examining the platform and objects on it for a few minutes, Garrison determines that none of them have any real value, at least not to somebody basically looting the place. Scholars someplace probably care, but not the ones willing to pay gold.

Instead, he’s got two ways to go, a small staircase to his left that leads down and a larger set of steps to his right that leads up. So far as he can tell, down is more likely to have valuable stuff in general; that’s where he’ll head first.

Turn 13

This is another medium sized area with several alcoves and an altar to the Red Goddess, but again nothing is calling out to him as something worth grabbing. (I actually rolled twice for treasure here because it seemed like a supremely logical place for it, but that’s the way they rolled.)

From here, another narrow staircase leads up, likely to the same landing those wider steps from the platform room would have led to.

Turn 14

Indeed, he can peer back around the corner and see down to a room he’s already been in. Here, though there’s an architectural feature of the original structure”, which (per the map) is likely something about that modified corner, or perhaps the steps themselves. Either way, that’s not particularly valuable to somebody robbing the place.

Before he goes through the door to the next area, he listens carefully for any noises that could indicate something dangerous, then eases the door open as quietly as he can.

Turn 15

There are two large square pillars dominating a large hall. There are a few alcoves that end up having no treasure, but ther are three doors on the right-hand side as he comes in. He listens to each of the three and hears something at the first one, so he sets down the lamp, sheathes his spear in favor of a larger, heavier weapon (scimitar), and nudges the door open.

Turn 16

The sound was a small colony of carrion caterpillars, 1d6+2 = 7 HD worth of Minions and Elites, with another 2 HD of dangerous centipedes. They turn and bare their mandibles at him, coming down a set of steps from what looks like a plain wall as well as from a smaller room to his left.

I roll a check for him to see if he can back away without getting caught in an attack, and he succeeds by kicking the clay lamp at them. That breaks open and the oil catches fire across the floor, giving him enough of a barrier to get back into the large hallway.

Turn 17

He catches his breath and watches for a moment to make sure they’re not coming, then goes to the second door in that large hallway. This turns out to be the small, narrow steps back up to the grotto where he initially entered. There still hasn’t been any sound from others following him, though at the same time he hasn’t found much of anything worth his time. It’s a good thing he has that merchant willing to pay for a map, at least.

Still, there’s another natural tunnel out of here and at least one door he didn’t open yet back in the hall, so for now he’s going back to that door.

Turn 18

The dice continue to betray my delve, with no danger no treasure here. This is a shrine area with an altar on the far end, and despite his searches, no one seems to have left any offerings or valuable items. There are some suspicious stains on the altar, but from what exactly (and, more importantly, from how long ago) he couldn’t say.

But there’s a door near the altar, and it’s quiet. On the other side is a small staircase in a natural tunnel that leads up a bit before ending in a small flat area; he inspects that suspiciously smooth wall and finds a secret door built into the stone. He listens, hearing nothing, then steals through.

Turn 19

There’s a storage area with steps on the other side that lead down and around. Most of the boxes and crates are empty, but one has a false bottom! He finds a small trove, which SH says should be 1/10th of the C-type trove appropriate to the place”. Here, I would call this a Minor Ruin’s Wealth, so that is 1d6+4 = 9 x 10 = 90 gp, 1 Cheap Jewelry (a turquoise bracelet worth 20gp), 1 Lesser and 1 Greater Magic Item! Those magic items consist of a Potion of Golden Visage (improved appearance and temporary Charisma bonus) and an enchanted 1-hand weapon (+1 heavy spear). Not bad, considering how the rest of this delve has gone!

Down the steps he can hear only silence, so he’ll make his way down carefully.

Turn 20

There’s another bit of treasure, trove M1 in room contents”. This looks to me like a small natural cave room just off the grotto and the trapped living area, so I’ll call this a Substantial Cash Amount worth 2D4 = 5 x 100 = 500 gp.

With this, he decides to get out while the getting’s good. I roll a check for him to see if those brigands stop him on the way out, only just succeeding. He scrambles down the walkways and back to the main city, with the midday sun drenching him in sweat.

Back in Town

He has 615 gp in coins and a small amount of jewelry to sell. As before, he makes a check to see if he can do so without giving up a big cut, but first uses the Potion of Golden Visage to improve his appearance (and thus get a +1 to Charisma for the check). That’s not enough, and the merchant insists on a 20% cut.

That’s 492 gp, plus he gets the full price for that turquoise bracelet (20 gp), for a total of 512 gp. Add in the 300 gp for the map and he’s in a much better position! This leaves him with 942 gp. This seems like enough to deposit in the temple vaults, albeit at a steep 10% deposit fee, so he gives them 900 gp, of which 810 makes it into the vault, keeping 42 gp for himself.

The campaign event, though, says:

The character got infected with a sexually transmitted disease. They lose 1 CHA and DEX every week and die 2d6 weeks later.

Again, I really dislike this. I think that’s enough of the Ruins of the Undercity for me. I might use some more Scarlet Heroes again in the future, but for now I think I’ll retire this campaign. It’s easy enough to ignore that RotU table, but it leaves such a bad taste and there are so many other settings and supplements that I would rather just not.

Up next Scarlet Hero in the Undercity - Part 2 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 13
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