Solo Skald |||

Our explorers (Ataulf, Cethegus, and Melisanda) have travelled to northwest Krevborna on a mission from the Labyrinth Dredgers to explore one of the fabled Grail Tombs. They’ve reached the village of Miseford at a fork in the Pilstone River, but found that Ser Katya, a Knight of Lilith, has somehow enthralled the inhabitants.

In this session, I intend to resolve this situation and get the party into the tomb, perhaps even completing their delve into it.

The Village of Miseford

The village itself isn’t much; a few fishing huts, a mill, the things every small community needs to survive. I don’t envision the villagers as walking around like zombies; rather, Ser Katya has magically forced them to follow any orders she gives them.

So when the Dredgers disembark along with the barge captain and small crew, the villagers don’t seem out of the ordinary at first. They do tell them that all new arrivals need to check in at the village hall, which even the barge crew finds unusual. Why would whatever passes for authority around here care about who’s visiting?

But in the interests of not creating trouble where it’s not needed, the Dredgers head to the village hall. They just want to check in and find passage further upriver to Glismoda. But when they arrive, they recognize the woman who’s in charge from their previous passage out of Chancel. She does as well, and she’s quite suspicious of this group. ChatGPT envisions it this way (edited by me for consistency and matching my vision):

As the Dredgers enter the village hall, they are struck by how quiet it is. There are a few villagers milling about, but they seem to be going about their business in a listless, unenthusiastic way. A woman sits behind a desk, her eyes fixed on a ledger.

She looks up as the Dredgers approach, her expression guarded. What brings you to Miseford?” she asks, her tone clipped and businesslike.

The Dredgers explain that they are travelers passing through. They need passage upriver to Glismoda, and they were told to check in at the village hall.

The woman nods, her eyes flicking over the group with a hint of suspicion. I see,” she says. And what is the nature of your business in Glismoda?”

The Dredgers claim that they are part of a trading cooperative sent on a regular mission to visit with their trade partners. The woman seems to relax slightly at this, but she still regards the group with a wariness that is hard to miss.

Well, I suppose it’s not my place to stop you,” she says finally. But I would advise you to be careful. This is a dangerous area, and there are those who would take advantage of unsuspecting travelers.”

At that moment, Ser Katya enters the village hall. She is wearing a tabard over mail armor, and she carries herself with a confident, almost regal air. The villagers seem to stir at her presence, their eyes following her as she approaches the desk.

Ah, Ser Katya,” the woman in charge says, her tone deferential. These travelers were just on their way out.”

Ser Katya regards the Dredgers with a cold, assessing gaze. Whereto shalt you traverse the river?” she asks, her tone cool and detached.

The Dredgers explain that they are seeking passage upriver to Glismoda. Ser Katya seems to consider this for a moment, her eyes narrowing slightly.

Perhaps Melisanda recognizes her? It’s been several days and they’ve seen many people. I think she does, but I’ll roll to see if she recognizes that Ser Katya is a Knight of Lilith. She does indeed, and that makes this situation fraught with danger. They are not necessarily equipped to fight an entire village of people, and they don’t know what Ser Katya’s powers are.

But Cethegus has that psychoactive gem he recovered in a previous Grail Tomb. He held onto it, thinking he might need it if somebody recognized him from his long-ago past, and this is a related situation. He thumbs it surreptitiously in his pocket and whispers a word of power, attempting to put Ser Katya into a hypnotic state of suggestibility. She needs to save against this, and I’ll treat her as a 2nd-level character for this. She fails critically! Cethegus suggests that she order the barge captain to take the Dredgers upriver to Glismoda. She does so, and the barge captain and crew are happy to oblige.

Very well,” Ser Katya says, her tone still cool and detached. I shall see to it that you are taken upriver to Glismoda.”

Back on the river

The captain and crew had little interest in staying in Miseford after seeing the state of the villagers. Of course, they don’t quite understand what happened - and neither do the Dredgers. But something struck them as very wrong there and they agree not to stop through there on their later passage back downriver.

During this passage, I’ll roll for features and events: no feature, but we do get some event.

  • What happens: Seek / Social”
  • Involving: Recent Events / Technical (mental, operation)

Partway through the trip, the nervous captain corners Cethegus to ask about what happened in Miseford. It seemed like she was under some kind of spell, as were the villagers there. Was this some kind of infernal magic?

Cethegus agrees with the captain that something was very wrong there. He suggests that whatever affected the villagers probably affected that headwoman in the armor as well, never letting on that he had something to do with her sudden acquiescence. He also suggests that the captain should be careful about stopping in Miseford on the way back downriver. (In reality, when Ser Katya realizes what happened, she’s likely to be quite unhappy about it.)

traditional fisher boats in Romania in the Danube Delta near the village Mila in 2005 Photo by Katrin Teubner (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Just after sunset, they finally pull into Glismoda. The Dredgers and the crew part ways here. Ataulf looks for a place to stay in this tiny village. There’s not a proper inn, exactly, but there’s a public house that allows for overnight accommodations called simply Randall’s.” The trio make themselves comfortable and rest up.

Into the wilderness

They gather together their equipment and purchase several days of rations, informing Randall they hope to return soon. As soon as it’s light, they head out of town into the moors to the west.

They find a strange natural feature. This time, I use the Scarlet Heroes tables for Wilderness Terrain and Features”: it’s a lake, but the surface reflects vivid unnatural neon colors. No one else seems to be around, so the Dredgers investigate more closely. There’s some sort of obstacle to their investigation: 🂾 King of Hearts, Dignified / Social”, combined with 🂮 King of Spades, Transform / Mystical”.

In fact, a solemn religious procession appears from over a ridge. But they don’t quite look like normal people. Twenty robed and shuffling individuals chant until they reach the lake shore. Melisanda approaches and asks respectfully as to the nature of their procession. They are bearing The Triptych of St. Florentine, The Shaper of the Flame, patron saint of craftsmen and inventors.

Do they know of the Monastery of St. Othric the Avenger (even)? No, sadly, though they recognize his name. (This is where they believe that they will find the entrance to the Grail Tomb they seek.)

The Dredgers join them briefly in prayer to honor St. Florentine, and then they part ways. As they continue through the wilderness, steady rain falls upon them and they find themselves in rockier terrain. The dice indicate a random event as well:

  • What happens: Seek / Mystical”
  • Involving: Knowledge / Mystical”

An omen appears before them, a halo surrounding a menhir. Is this actually the entrance to the tomb they seek (unlikely)? No, but it does indicate they are headed in the right direction. This seems like an auspicious location to set up camp for the night. They set up tents as quickly as they can, though the rain prevents any fires from being lit.

During the night, however, hostile forces oppose them: an Iron Fulmination trundles across the land. From The Monster Overhaul:

A tall, thin, distorted humanoid figure made of dark glass, grit, and twisted iron. Blue-white lightning burns through its cracked eyes and mouth.

What is it doing? [2] Tossing a horse into the air over and over. This massive automaton, possibly belonging to the Incendiary Guild (known for their wild inventions), hesitates when it detects the camp. It seems confused by the presence of the Dredgers, but it doesn’t attack immediately.

The trio scramble for their weapons regardless - this creature is immensely powerful and dangerous if it should attack. What is its goal? I draw a Joker, which in OPSE means I need to shuffle the deck and add a random event.

After reshuffling, I first draw for its goal, Travel”. The random event we add to this is Seek / Social” involving the topic Allies / Social.”

The Incendiary Guild and the Labyrinth Dredgers work together occasionally, as many of the Guild are obsessed with discovering the power of Lilitu’s ancient machinery.” This automaton has managed to escape the control of its inventor, who’s chasing after it. A man carrying unusual equipment (perhaps a backpack covered in spinning mechanical bits and sparking with energy arcs) is chasing after it. Help me! Stop that thing!” he shouts as he runs towards the camp.

Since this Iron Fulmination seems non-hostile albeit dangerous, the group tries to stop it in other ways. Cethegus and Ataulf run alongside it, tossing a rope in front to try to trip it. I decide that working together gives them advantage, and they just barely succeed even with that. It breaks their rope, but that’s enough to get it to go to one knee.

Is the inventor able to re-establish control (likely)? Yes, he manages to jam some sort of device into the automaton’s back and it stops moving, though it’s clearly still powered on and everyone can hear its incomprehensible electric hum.

The inventor introduces himself as Bertram, and as suspected, he is a member of the Incendiary Guild. His goal was Learn / Technical,” to test his newest invention but clearly that got a bit out of control. Say, what are these folks doing out here in the middle of nowhere at night?

Ataulf decides that Bertram is more-or-less trustworthy and explains that they are looking for the Monastery of St. Othric the Avenger. Does the inventor know where it is (unlikely)? No, but perhaps in the morning he might be able to assist them. With the unceasing rain in the darkness of night, they have some pity for the inventor and make room for him to sleep in their camp.

The monastery

Once day dawns, the clouds clear and the Dredgers can cook a bit of food. With the rain gone, can they see the monastery (unlikely)? No, unfortunately. So they’ll need to continue exploring the region.

Before they decamp, though, they’ll chat with Bertram. He’s interested in their expedition if he can possibly participate in a share of the discoveries. None of them are really in this for the money, although nobody minds it either. This iron fulmination could come in handy if they run into something really dangerous, although (as the previous night proved) it could be the danger as well.

The dice indicate a random event. Something physically moves, and it involves our current need. I decide that this relates to reactivating the automaton. It has some information that could indicate the way to the monastery.

So the expedition trundles in the indicated direction. It takes another full day, but they reach an ancient monastery that they believe contains an entrance to a Grail Tomb. They set up camp for the night, and then they’ll explore in the morning.

Finding the entrance

No overnight events occur, so in the morning they get started. The monastery appears quite old and has a mystical air about it. That could be in the explorers’ minds, of course, but from time to time they feel something strange. This excites Bertram in particular, as the Incendiary Guild believes that derangement of the senses leads to scientific breakthroughs.” But I also draw the 🂡 Ace of Spades, indicating mystical deception, so when something occurs, it’s going to involve something unexpected.

The first location, which has three exits, is an entryway into the monastery. Rolling for encounters and objects, I get Unique NPC or adversary” and Rare or special item.” In this situation, I don’t expect that Ser Katya has caught up to them this quickly, but another Knight of Lilith could be here. I draw a card for their goal, 3 of Spades, Learn / Mystical.” They have come to seek lost knowledge that links Lamashtu to the arcane ways of the Lilitu.” She has a notable nature,” per the NPC Generator” table: Unique / Technical,” so she is also a scientist or inventor of some sort.

That seems to fit with the Rare or special item” I drew. What does it do and what kind of thing is it? What it does is Take / Physical”, and the kind of thing is Unsavory / Social”. The Knight (whom we’ll dub Ser Grisselda) has excavation equipment powered by soul magic, some sort of unholy amalgam of engineering and deviltry. Seeing this group of explorers accompanied by an iron automaton, she’s not sure what to make of them.

Melisanda clears her throat and informs the knight that the Labyrinth Dredgers will be taking possession of this site. They’ll give her a chance to leave with her life, but they will not tolerate interference. Ser Grisselda’s reaction is Cautious Aggression”, so she pulls up her shield and orders some of her 1d4 = 2 squires to join her in battle.

Fight in the monastery

Ser Grisselda has Knight stats (HD 3 = 7 HP, AC 16, MV 2, #AT 2, 1d6+1 sword).

Her squires each have Peasant stats with weapons (HD 0 = 1 HP, AC 10, MV 12, #AT 1, 1d6 sword).

The initiative order will be: Melisanda, the squires, the other Dredgers (and Bertram), and then Grisselda.

Melisanda immediately draws her pistol and fires at one of the squires, just missing. The squires then rush her, one of them hitting her with his sword (4 damage). Ataulf draws his dagger and stabs at one of the squires but can’t find a good angle. Cethegus swings his halberd wide at Ser Grisselda, challenging her to single combat. He finds a weak spot in her armor and deals 3 damage. Bertram busies himself trying to get the iron fulmination online; it’ll take another round before it is up to full power. Grisselda then accepts Cethegus’ challenge and swings her sword at him, dealing a full 7 points of damage. He may not make it much longer.

Melisanda, now in melee, drops her pistol in favor of her rapier. She runs one of the squires through with it. The other squire, seeing his companion killed so quickly and easily, drops his own weapon and flees. Ataulf doesn’t bother chasing him, and he’s not particularly interested in honor so he’ll violate the single combat” challenge and attack Grisselda as well, nicking her for 1 damage. Cethegus growls at this but has no time to argue, bringing his halberd around once more but finding only her shield. Grisselda’s sword can’t find him this time. Bertram’s automaton comes online now and can enter the next round.

However, Melisanda gives the knight a chance to surrender. Throw down your weapons and yield,” she cries. Grisselda is not particularly impressed, but she does eye the magical machine that has stood up. The Iron Fulmination makes its way over to her, attempting to grab her with its iron arms, but fails. Grisselda cries out that she craves the reward of undeath, and so Ataulf stabs her. Her armor turns away his dagger easily, and her shield blocks Cethegus’s halberd once more. The onslaught is tiring her, however, and Cethegus is able to disarm her.

As she flees, Melisanda shakes her head and picks up the pistol she dropped, but the Fulmination has no trouble catching up to the heavily armored knight. It can’t quite grab her, however, and the other two Dredgers also chase her into the hallway beyond. Cethegus’s halberd clatters to the floor as he overextends himself, however. She’s able to escape onto her horse and ride away. The Knights of Lilith will likely return with a larger force in the future.

Seeking the entrance

The Dredgers catch their breath (restoring HP) before continuing the exploration. Cethegus takes the body of the Lamashtu squire outside and covers it; they’ll bury the young man later. The hallway where they chased the knight has a Rare and special item.” This is a Mundane / Mystical” thing that does Harm / Technical”. Is this a trap (likely) or a magical item? It’s a trap, a magical rune on the floor. Does Ataulf see and avoid it? Yes, and in fact he points it out to Bertram. This seems to be the exact kind of thing that the Incendiary Guild would be interested in, and so the scientist sets to studying it while the rest of the group seeks the entrance to the tomb.

The hallway only led to an outside exit, so they return to the entryway. The next location has a specialized purpose, a unique NPC or adversary, and a useful tool, key, or advice. I think it’s likely that this is the entrance to the tomb, but the dice do not agree. The oracles will tell us more.

The location looks Dignified / Technical” and it is used for Create / Mystical” purposes. This is the library for the monastery, where the monks studied their holy texts. Melisanda (and potentially Bertram) both will be interested in the information here, but the oracles also told us that there’s an encounter here. Rolling on some encounter tables, it turns out there is a pair of six-legged hell hounds here!

These must have been part of the Lamashtu expedition, and they’re quite dangerous. They react with cautious aggression, stepping forth with fiery snarls. This is not a fight the Dredgers will want to take on! So they back out and try to slam the door before the hounds can leap upon them: Cethegus gets caught in the door briefly, and they each get one attack on him before the door slams shut. One of them bites him savagely for 7 damage, nearly bringing him down completely.

That room has two additional exits, though, so they may find a way back to the group. This isn’t over, and so Cethegus is unable to recover his HP.

Location 4, the last exit from the entryway, is a transitional area (hallway) with hostile enemies and an interesting item or clue. But because it’s a dead end, the hell hounds aren’t here. The monastery is so old that a collapsed wall or ceiling blocking the way seems entirely normal. But who or what’s inside?

A woman dressed in ragged robes and a broad hat stands before them, speaking in an unsettling whisper. However, she appears afraid of the group, or perhaps she heard the fighting in the entryway earlier. Let me pass,” she hisses, a solitary tooth showing in her mouth. The secrets of life and death are not here…”

The group pulls up short, and Melisanda asks her what she means. I am a necromancer,” she says. I have come to this place to learn secrets of undeath. But you have defeated my champion, and I fear that the information I seek is not in this place.”

In reality, the Dredgers likely could not stop her even if they wanted to, and it would cost them their lives. She passes smoothly, her robes swishing along the ground with no sound of footsteps beneath them. Just before she disappears through the entryway, she turns to them and says, Remember this day that the Grey Wanderer spared you.”

The Dredgers are left to ponder this encounter. Why did she not come to the aid of Ser Grisselda, or even try to fight them? What secrets of undeath does she seek?

That’s not the most pressing matter, though. They can hear the snarls and snorts of the hell hounds in the library, and they need to go through there to reach the tomb. Bertram will need to fire up the Iron Fulmination; can they convince him to do it?

Unleashing the Iron Fulmination

They return to him as he’s engrossed in studying the arcane ward. They explain the situation rapidly, gesturing back to the library door. Will he help them? Of course, although he uses the situation to his advantage and claims first rights to any information in there.

Quickly, they sketch out a plan. They’ll use the automaton’s Zap ability to unleash lightning as soon as the others can open the door. Even if that doesn’t send the hounds fleeing, hopefully they’ll focus their attentions on it while the others try to bring them down quickly.

I decide they don’t need to roll anything for the doors. They’ll start off with that plan, and then if the hell hounds don’t flee, we’ll go into initiative order and fight normally.

And so Bertram’s invention stands before the library doors as Cethegus and Melisanda draw them back. As soon as the doors are open, Bertram activates the Fulmination. The lightning arcs out, striking the hell hounds for 9 and 10 damage. This immediately kills one of the hounds and drops the other one below half health. But the hound makes its morale check and stays in the fight.

The hound can’t see all its enemies so it doesn’t realize at this point that there’s anyone other than the Fulmination in front of it. It attacks with a savage bite, dealing 5 damage to its target. Cethegus is prepared and brings down his halberd, successfully decapitating the horrible creature.

Everyone can breathe now. Melisanda follows Bertram into the library and they begin to look at the books. This will take a bit of time, so the other two Dredgers will check the adjoining rooms carefully.

Chamber 5

This next area is also a location with a special feature, but an obstacle blocks the way. The obstacle is Unsavory / Technical (mental, operation)” and it does something Protect / Mystical.” I decide the technical” domain means that there’s some sort of mental effect, and it’s protecting the next chamber. A magical ward, in other words, but one that affects the minds of those who approach.

They’ll both need to make a Save roll to pass through or else find a different way: Ataulf steels himself and walks through, but Cethegus quivers a bit. Because it’s unsavory”, I make an Insight roll for him, but the roll is under his Insight of 3 and doesn’t increase.

Is the special feature the tomb entrance (likely)? No, but… something about Community / Physical”. The community is physical, so I decide it’s not ghosts or supernatural. What kind of thing is it? Unexpected / Social.”

Are there squatters living in this dangerous place (even)? Yes, that’s what is happening, sort of: pilgrims are in this monastery, seeking relics of St. Othric. How do they react, seeing a dangerous explorer push through the magical barrier? By retreating - they’re frightened! Ataulf isn’t inclined to try to stop them, because there are enough of them that they could overwhelm him if their panic turned from flight” to fight.”

He does pull back, though, and (with Cethegus) they try to lock and bar the door.

What has Bertram found in the library? Specialized / Mystical,” or in other words arcane tomes of knowledge. While the Dredgers would like this, they did grant him first rights to the information here. That said, Melisanda found something Exotic / Technical”, likely some sort of schematics for a device. She doesn’t mention this to Bertram; does he see through her ruse?

I decide he rolls with Disadvantage because he doesn’t seem the type to be perceptive, and Melisanda is herself an antiquarian. But even so, he realizes she’s holding something back. Let me see,” he demands, and stomps his foot. With a sigh and an eye roll, she hands him the book.

Chamber 6

The three Dredgers leave Bertram in the library a bit longer and check out the other area connected here. It’s a typical area” with hostile enemies, no interesting objects, and it’s a dead end.

And the hostile enemy is… a devil. I should note that, in Krevborna, devils are a little bit different than what they are in other fantasy settings.

For most Krevbornites the words demon” and devil” are interchangeable, but these beings represent distinct forms of supernatural evil. The angels who rebelled against the gods were cleaved in twain by the loyal archangels; the spirits of the fallen angels became devils and their bodies became demons. As such, devils and demons crave wholeness but are doomed to opposition against each other—thus does evil forever war against itself. True to their nature, devils tempt mortals to commit spiritual transgressions, and their agents are wraiths and specters. Demons tempt mortals to commit bodily sins, and their agents are physical monstrosities such as vampires, ghouls, and werewolves.

With that in mind, a devil whose temptations lead to spiritual transgressions makes a good bit of sense in a holy monastery. I doubt it’s an archdevil, but we can see which of them it serves: Malistrad, the Infernal Sage, who inspires mortals to seek knowledge hidden by the Church.”

That will indeed be a hell of a temptation (pun intended) for these explorers, who belong to an organization that searches for lost knowledge that the Church may have proscribed. But its appearance may not immediately give away its identity. Instead, it takes the form of a woman wearing a plague doctor’s mask. She is dressed in a long black robe. (Perhaps the hell hounds were her servants; that would explain why they did not come to the aid of Ser Grisselda.)

She turns to them and crooks a finger in invitation. I see I am not the only one here to learn,” she says. Her face is covered but the smile can be heard. My name is Crocon. Come, let us talk.”

Wrap-up

That feels like just the right place to leave it. The Dredgers can certainly find the tomb if they work with the devil. And what about those pilgrims? Are they associated with the devil somehow, perhaps as worshipers or just lost souls?

I really like how this is shaping up thus far. The overland rules frustrated me a tiny bit when the group left the last village, but I’ll take a look at them again and see how I might make them work or enhance them with other resources.

Finally, I’ve decided to reduce the amount of explanation I give for random results. I don’t think I need to keep including the card emojis, for example, or dice rolls in most circumstances. If it’s a new resource or a particularly involved chain, I might, but otherwise future posts will cut down on the amount of mechanical detail in general.

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