Most of the previous post dealt with setting things up, although we did set up a starting situation. The explorers entered a Grail Tomb looking for a lost expedition, and made a grim find: the expedition itself had been killed by horrible monsters within. Our group managed to kill the monsters and we left the session there.
Mechanically, everyone earned 1 XP for surviving the session. In the 1974 Style Rules (™ Stan Shinn), “the GM awards 1-3 XP per session (typically 2). With each 5 XP, you advance a level.” I may update that if characters advance too quickly or we end up with significant disparities.
Also, “hit points are fully restored at the end of each combat.” If a PC goes below 0, I think (for now) that they’ll die if they get to the negative of their max HP (so -8 by default). But they’ll need some kind of medical or other treatment to get back to 1 HP, such as getting back to civilization and having downtime.
In the crypt, the group has caught their breath and thus restored their hit points. Melisanda is inspecting the walls carefully, trying to find something that could tell her more about the Lilitu. Does she find the secret door here? No.
Are there any other interesting objects here? Yes, a useful tool, key, or device. This is just the supplies from the previous expedition. They’ll have plenty to return to civilization (which I don’t currently track anyway, but at least this explains why I don’t worry about it on this particular expedition).
Rolling on the “Dungeon Crawler” tables in OPSE, we get no encounter but an interesting item or clue. Drawing cards for the “Oracle (Focus)” tables, we get:
A trap! There’s a pressure plate that will trigger an arrow trap. I didn’t determine in advance who is going first, so I’ll roll randomly: Melisanda. Can she avoid it? Yes, and she points out the pressure plate to the others.
That tells the Dredgers, as if they didn’t already know, that this place is dangerous and maintained. This is a long hall, with several alcoves along the sides and double doors about halfway down on the left. Several central pillars support the ceiling, carved similarly to the ones they found in the hallway before (chambers 1 and 2).
The Dredgers cautiously examine the doors on the left before going to the end of the hall. Is it trapped (even)? No. Is it sealed (likely)? Yes. They’ll have to force it open if they want to get in, or perhaps Ataulf can pick the lock. He’ll try, actually: success!
Again, no encounter but an interesting item or clue. The Focus Oracle gives us:
There’s some sort of illusion here, or an item that creates one. What’s the illusion about? Jack of Spades, “Recent Events / Mystical”. The explorers see a mirror that reflects their own images, but as if they themselves were undead - as vampires, actually.
At this point, I want to roll a “GM Move” from OPSE to see if something happens at this dramatic moment:  Advance a Plot. We don’t have any plots right now, but I want to involve those Knights of Lilith in some way. Rolling on the “Plot Hook Generator” yields:
What’s the truth about? Nine of Clubs, “Rumors / Physical”. The vampiric appearance in the mirror actually has the explorers in the livery and armor of the Knights of Lilith themselves.
This is a bit horrifying, and so that triggers Insight rolls for everyone. Melisanda’s Insight remains the same, at 1, but the other two characters each gain 1 and are now at Insight 2. This will help if they need to interpret vampiric symbols or whatever, but it also takes them a bit closer to retirement.
In the meantime, Melisanda will spend some time removing this “Mirror of Undeath” from its location in this chamber. That will count as a Bulky item; as with Into the Odd, a character can only carry up to two Bulky items at a time.
Before they can enter this chamber at the end of the long hall with alcoves, they must examine the door.
Is it trapped (even)? No. Is it sealed (likely)? No. So after a lengthy examination to confirm that, they open the door and enter the chamber, where they find an encounter with hostile enemies plus an interesting item or clue.
Never truly born, these man-like things feast on despair.
I’ll use the “Homunculus” stats in TMO for this monster, which means there’s only one. I’ll consider it as Feral for the purposes of the reaction roll from TMO. Its reaction is then  “plays dead”. Oh, that’s creepy! It looks like a little unborn fetus laying on the ground.
There are a few other random tables for this creature, and a few of them might give us some fun texture. Its “Abilities” are  can sense lies and it was created by a  dark fair. (That’s something to note for a future adventure!)
The chamber also holds an “Old / Mystical” item that does something related to “Command / Social”. That sounds like a magical item and we’ll deal with that after the encounter.
In any case, Cethegus approaches the creature with caution and prods it gently with the pointy end of his halberd. Of course, the horrid little thing reacts to this stimulus with hostility and attacks! It has AC 11, MV 9, 7 HP, and does d2 bite damage although its bite has an additional sleep effect.
So we’ll roll initiative, and the creature goes first. It attacks Cethegus, leaping up and trying to bite with a critical hit! That does only 2 damage, but Cethegus needs to make a save and fails, falling asleep on the floor.
That doesn’t bode well for the others. Ataulf immediately draws his pistol and fires at the creature, hitting and dealing 4 damage. Melisanda is next, and she does the same. Her shot also hits and does enough damage to kill the thing.
After several rounds of vigorous shaking, Cethegus wakes up. He grumbles about it all, but after all Ataulf had his back even if there was a bit of a “friendly hit” in the previous encounter.
This room is a smaller hall that leads up to a platform at the back. There are alcoves on either side just before the steps up to the platform. There’s a dais on the platform that holds some sort of large gem. I have wanted to use The Dungeon Dozen and this is just the right opportunity! Page 122 has a table, “Psychoactive Gems”, and I roll  “induces hypnotic state of suggestibility.” Cethegus takes this one, glancing about furtively as he feels the power of the gem. He might keep this one for future usage.
In the meantime, Ataulf will search for secret doors but fails (which is a real shame since there is one). Melisanda searches for traps, but there aren’t any here to be found, unlike the door Ataulf missed.
After a bit of a rest, the Dredgers prepare to head back. I’ll roll on the “Scene Complication” table in OPSE:  “Wouldn’t it suck if…” That just invites drawing cards for the “Oracle (Focus)” tables:
It would indeed suck if some additional help arrived just as they’re leaving, and that’s what happens. This wouldn’t have really changed the outcome too much, but a young apprentice archivist runs up to the entrance just as they exit grimly. He’s a bit out of breath, but at least he can help document the place and the fate of the previous expedition.
Together, the Dredgers and the apprentice recover the remains of their fallen comrades. At least they can ensure a proper burial back in the city. They’ve also found a few interesting items, including the Mirror of Undeath, a psychoactive gem, and the tracking device (which is property of the Labyrinth Dredgers anyway).
I had not previously established the location of this particular Grail Tomb. After considering the map, I decide that this location is in the Nachtmahr Mountains. From Krevborna:
- Fang-like mountains of sublime beauty and terrifying aspect.
- Sudden and unrelenting thunder storms amid the peaks.
- The sinister sound of an unseen bell tolling.
- The uncaring grandeur and power of the natural world.
- Evil endures.
- Like vermin, practitioners of black magic seek places of darkness to propagate.
I’ll roll twice on the “Hex Crawler (Event)” table to see if they encounter anything interesting on the return to Chancel, but no, nothing happens.
The Church of Saintly Blood has its stronghold in the holy city of Chancel. The Labyrinth Dredgers will certainly have a lodge here, though I’m not sure if this is their principal location.
For now, I can set a scene in the lodge. The group reports on the results of their expedition to the lodge master of the Labyrinth Dredgers, a formidable woman named Morwenna. She grieves the loss of the earlier expedition, of course, but she’s also pleased that this expedition was able to recover their remains as well as the Mirror of Undeath. This item is an excellent example of the sort of arcane item they want to study and document with the intention of defending humanity against the forces of darkness that plague Krevborna.
I asked ChatGPT to envision the scene:
As the group enters the lodge of the Labyrinth Dredgers, they are immediately struck by the somber atmosphere. The other Dredgers in the room fall silent as they enter, casting wary glances at the group as they make their way to the lodge master, Morwenna.
Morwenna sits behind a large desk, her sharp features softened slightly by the flickering light of the fireplace behind her. She nods to the group as they approach, but doesn’t speak until they have taken seats before her.
“I’m pleased that you were able to recover the remains of the lost expedition,” Morwenna says, her voice soft but firm. “It is a great tragedy that they were lost, but at least now we can give them a proper burial. And the Mirror of Undeath…that is a significant find.”
She leans forward, her piercing gaze fixed on the player characters. “Tell me, what did you learn during your expedition? Did you encounter any of the undead or other creatures of darkness?”
The players recount their adventures in the Grail Tomb, describing the traps and obstacles they faced, the undead creatures they battled, and the strange magic of the Mirror of Undeath. Morwenna listens intently, nodding occasionally and asking probing questions.
When they have finished, Morwenna steeples her fingers, deep in thought. “This is valuable information,” she says finally. “It will help us better understand the nature of the undead and their connection to the Grail. We will need to study the Mirror of Undeath further, of course, but for now, I am pleased with your work. You have honored the memory of the lost Dredgers, and you have helped to further our cause.”
With that, Morwenna dismisses the group, her attention already turning to the next task at hand. As they make their way out of the lodge, the other Dredgers give them a nod of respect, acknowledging their bravery and skill.
A couple of specific threads to think about:
The first one, of course, came from the initial world building. The second one is a result of the random encounter with the homunculus.
I’m thinking about what quests the Dredgers might give them. The expedition from which they just returned stemmed from a suggested quest for the faction, similar to one listed for the Grail Tombs. I didn’t really make the tombs “particularly maze-like” or “miasma-afflicted” as those quests suggest; instead, I am treating that expedition as something like a backstory for the group; it’s the reason they first grouped up together.
After a bit of thinking, I’ve decided they should explore another Grail Tomb. This time, they’re not out to rescue another group. Instead, they’ll be looking for specific relics. I’ll generate those in advance of heading into the dungeon. Additionally, I think I’m going to look a bit at the overland travel rules in OPSE and adjust them a little bit for a point crawl.
Let’s think about where they are and where they’re going. Right now, the group is in Chancel, on the southwest side of the Nachtmahr Mountains. The Tomb they’re seeking will be in the open land west of Hemlock, where I interpret the grave symbols on the map as representing (in part) Grail Tombs.
From the setting book:
Krevborna’s cities, towns, and villages are connected by rough trade roads. Those who journey upon the road had best keep an eye out for highwaymen, bandits, and the supernatural horrors that prey upon travelers.
Respite and shelter for travelers can be found at coaching inns, public houses, and roadside shrines dedicated to the martyrs of the Church of Saintly Blood. Be wary, for many a lonely night in the wild turns violent and uncanny for those who stray beyond the safety of civilization.
I can add some settlements in between, but the land route looks like
Chancel -> Creedhall -> Hemlock -> Tomb. Those arrows are fairly important, because lots of stuff can happen along the way.
Rethinking that, though, river travel seems more likely. I’d need to name them, but basically they could take a barge or something from Chancel, past Creedhall on Lock Riven, up to the tombs without ever going through Hemlock. That still provides a number of adventure opportunities, but it has more verisimilitude as well.
Note that this journey is not a hex crawl. That process is more appropriate for discovery and mapping. But our explorers, at least for most of the journey, will be travelling through inhabited lands that have commerce, agriculture, and settlement. Instead, I’ll use a point crawl, which is more appropriate for a journey like this. Returning to the options in OPSE, I’ll modify the Hex Crawler rules to eliminate the terrain, increase the chances of features, and significantly increase the chances of events.
Along each path, I’ll roll two d6s. They will encounter a feature on a 5-6 on the first die and an event on a 4-6 on the second die. I’ll also add a few stops along the way so that they have more chances to roll as well as some opportunities to build a bit more of my own version of Krevborna.
So with that in mind, the route looks more like
Chancel -> Creedhall -> Lock Riven -> Miseford -> Glismoda -> Tomb. The two stops before the tomb are settlements I’m adding at the fork in the river and where they’ll disembark, respectively. I don’t know if there’s a canonical name for the river, but I’m going to call it Pilstone River. If it turns out later that there’s a canonical name, well, many places have more than one name depending on who’s talking.
The group will purchase passage on a barge headed upriver from Chancel to Creedhall. These should be fairly common, but perhaps there’s a scene on board the barge before they reach that intermediate destination. They’re chatting, perhaps in a dingy lounge for the few passengers here. The weather is cloudy but there’s no rain. That keeps the voyage fairly smooth, albeit somewhat slow as the barge must sail against the current. Sometimes the wind helps, but there’s a good bit of poling involved as well.
But all is not as it seems, according to the “Scene Complication” table! This is a good time for a “Pacing Move” and I roll “Advance a threat”. The “NPC Generator” gives us 🂦 Six of Spades, “Soldier / Mystical,” and it doesn’t take much to realize this must be a Knight of Lilith. Her goal is 🃆 Six of Diamonds, “Find / Technical (mental, operation),” so she’s been looking for Labyrinth Dredgers out on an exploratory mission. Her “Notable Feature” is a quirk or mannerism, and according to the “Detail Focus” that’s something 🃔 Four of Clubs, “Old / Physical,” which I decide means she speaks in a slightly archaic manner.
What’s her current attitude to the group?  More than expected, and the conversation topic is 🂻 Jack of Hearts, “Recent Events / Social”. This wouldn’t be about the recent lost expedition; in fact, does she even know these are Dredgers (unlikely)? No; everyone just looks like travelers, particularly in this lounge where they don’t have their equipment.
So this Knight of Lilith is out hunting Dredgers while undercover, although she sticks out a bit due to her manner of speech. Everyone’s just talking about the recent gossip; perhaps talking about Creedhall, where they’re headed, which hosts Creedhall University. I don’t need to invent a lot of detail here, so instead I’ll just note that she’s marked them as people to watch. She’s friendly but suspects they might be the kind of people she’s looking for.
In terms of features and events: the dice indicated neither, so advancing this threat is the only thing that really happens.
The barge docks in Creedhall, and the group disembarks. This is a smaller town than Chancel, but it’s a university town. No one likes to traverse Loch Riven at night, so they’ll need to find a place to stay the evening and head upriver in the morning.
Near the docks, but not too near, they find a place called “The Crown & Shield.” Checking to see what it’s like, I draw a 🃞 King of Clubs, “Dignified / Physical,” so it’s fairly nice. The Dredgers have an account here, as it’s not full of the sort of riffraff sailors and those who cater to them. The weather is damp and so the group huddles in front of a fire in the common room, seated in chairs of worn leather, drinking draughts of ale.
An NPC takes action, and I draw 🃍 Queen of Diamonds, “Mystic / Technical.” She’s a student of the occult at the university whose goal is 🂵 Five of Hearts, “Restore / Social,” so maybe she recognizes one of the party. Her name is Livia, and given the dark secrets that both Cethegus and Melisanda have, it could be either of them: it’s Melisanda, who is an antiquarian but also has an uncanny double. Is Livia mistaking Melisanda for her double (unlikely)? Yes, definitely.
She approaches Melisanda, calling her “Tacita,” and tries to re-establish some sort of rapport. Perhaps this young woman in fancy attire once had a romantic interlude with Tacita, but Melisanda (recognizing the situation) tries to convince her she’s got the wrong person. Livia is not convinced, though. In fact, the innkeeper starts shouting about “entitled scholars” and has to force her to leave. As Livia departs, she has tears in her eyes and insists that she’ll find a way to “make her love me again.”
The next morning, the group heads back to the dock to get passage upriver. They’re down there early, just before sunrise, and the moon is about to set. No clouds block the moonlight from the lake water, so as the group looks down, they see a brief, distorted omen, 🃁 Ace of Diamonds, “Unique / Technical,” the image of a huge lightning tower. Looking to see what it does, 🃚 10 of Clubs, “Take / Physical (appearance, existence),” the lightning bolts shift and illumination on the waves makes it appear like a face.
Everyone must make an Insight roll, and they all roll above their current Insight, meaning they each increment that rating by 1. Is this related to the past or the future? That remains to be seen.
The barge is ready to go, and the group crosses Loch Riven during the day. I roll to see if there’s a feature or event, and both come up “yes.” The feature is a  strange natural feature. In the middle of a river, what could it be? 🂶 Six of Hearts, “Mundane / Social”. There’s a small island in the middle of the lake, and there’s a small gathering of people there. They must have gotten there quite early, of course, because no one sane would be out in the middle of Loch Riven at night.
Time to figure out the random event. What happens is 🂭 Queen of Spades, “Assist / Mystical,” involving 🂪 Ten of Spades, “A Plot Arc / Mystical.” Originally, I thought I’d be tying this to the Knight of Lilith, but now I think it is related to the Dark Fair, which is appearing here on the island in the middle of the Loch.
For reference, this comes from Skerples’ Monster Overhaul, and it appears as a small mobile festival. There’s a sharp-eyed man in slightly archaic clothes, who sounds possibly drunk, and he beckons to the captain of the barge. The captain, however, recognizes how utterly unusual this is and rejects the temptation.
Before dark, the barge reaches the place where the Pilstone empties into Lock Riven. The captain suggests with an uncomfortable laugh that, as the moon will be coming up soon, everyone should perhaps head below deck. After a bit, though, the heavens open up and a downpour conceals almost everything. At this point, the barge instead pulls up to the riverbank and lights lanterns so any other traffic will see that in the rain and avoid them. During the night, they hear one vessel pass by, but it’s too dark to see it.
The rain stops shortly before dawn and the barge gets back under way. Clouds and fog obscure their way, but otherwise the weather is dry. About midday, the barge reaches Miseford, a small town at the river fork.
What’s this place like? 🃓 Three of Clubs, “Large / Physical,” so it’s spread out despite the low population. There are some fishing huts and a mill. The river is wide here, and the group disembarks as soon as the barge docks. The group will want to grab a quick drink and then find a way upstream to Glismoda, a small riverside village that they’ve been told is the nearest settlement to the Grail Tomb they’re seeking.
As on the passage from Chancel to Creedhall, all is not as it seems here. Hostile forces oppose the Dredgers. Is this the Knight of Lilith they met before (likely)? Yes, and…
The Knight, who we’ll dub Ser Katya, has somehow enthralled much of the village. She doesn’t know who the Dredgers are, but when she sees them, she’ll recognize them and become suspicious.
That’s where I’ll leave it for now.
Pulling things together, we have a few NPCs of interest:
In terms of secondary story threads, we have the Knights of Lilith (which I think will likely become the primary story at some point) and the Dark Fair. We also have the current primary quest of exploring the particular Grail Tomb that our group is interested in.
Mechanically, OPSE worked a lot better for me this time. Since I haven’t used it in over half a year, it felt a little clunky at first, but now I can see how it works for this purpose. Certainly the overland procedures felt good and I really enjoyed the adventure as they traveled from Chancel to Miseford.
Next time, we’ll deal with whatever is going on here in Miseford and then go find a tomb.