Solo Skald |||

Undead Without Number - Session 1

While waiting for some other materials to arrive, I decided to upgrade a bit from Scarlet Heroes to use the Worlds Without Number rules from the same author, which has updated the rules for solo characters. This is a good opportunity to play again in Krevborna, a Gothic setting focused on monster hunting that I last played inalmost exactly a year ago.

Resources

Looking at the resources I plan to use in this game, naturally Krevborna itself is a major generative and suggestive resource on its own. As usual, affiliate links help me buy more game stuff to use.

Campaign Concept

After perusing the setting material, I decided I want to play an undead hunter associated with the Sacretta Carnifexa faction.

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.

There are some related factions, like the Choristers, the elite upper echelon of the Church of Saintly Blood”, and the vampiric kingdom of Lamashtu, a cold northern realm where the populace must pay their undead sovereign a tithe in blood.”

I’m playing to find out whether and how the Church of Saintly Blood could carry out a regime change in Lamashtu, and what the consequences of that would be, particularly for the characters involved.

Character Creation

When done, the character looks like this:

  • Name: Brother Erlan
  • Class: Heroic Warrior
  • Background: Priest (member of the Sacretta Carnifexa)
  • Attributes: STR 14 (+1), DEX 10 (0), CON 14 (+1), INT 14 (+1), WIS 13 (0), CHA 15 (+1)
  • Hit Points: 21
  • Foci: Impervious Defense, Connected
  • Equipment: Pike (d8+1, 2H, Long), Hand Axe (d6+1, Throwable), Priest Bundle

I’m not particularly interested in tracking equipment at a high degree of fidelity, so I’m using the gear bundles” rule; it just contains all the non-weapon, non-armor gear a priest would normally carry (and Impervious Defense means he won’t be wearing armor in any case).

A male in his early thirties embodies a blend of strength and solemnity. His build is strong yet not overly chiseled, reflecting a balanced physicality. His hair is kept short, framing a face marked by determination. Clad in full-covering priestly robes that echo the traditions of Catholicism, he exudes a sense of purpose and quiet power. Around his neck hangs a small, distinctive vial of blood, symbolizing his allegiance to the fictional Church of Saintly Blood. This unique adornment replaces the traditional cross, setting him apart. His stance is firm, prepared to face unseen challenges with a spirit of resilience and defiance. Image generated with ChatGPT

I’m starting with a suggested quest for the Sacretta Carnifexa, Slaughter the ghouls preying upon a remote town.” But I’ll phrase it as Protect Oakside against an undead threat.” (That sounds a bit like some sort of cookie-cutter subdivision from a predatory builder in suburban America.) While there are some key NPCs in the setting, a level 1 character is unlikely to interact with them yet, so that list will start off empty. As recommended, the Chaos Factor will start at 5.

Scene 1: Arriving in Oakside

I expect that Brother Erlan will arrive in Oakside and be welcomed by some locals. However, immediately this is an Interrupt Scene, focused on a new NPC. There’s an assault happening right now, as he arrives, and we’ll kick off with some action.

There are d6+1 = 5 undead (HD 1) attacking, and I use the stats from WWN p. 321:

  • Animated Skeleton: HD 1 (5, 6, 6, 1, 4 hp), AC 13, Atk +1, Dmg d6 (slam), Move 30’, ML 12, Instinct 4, Skill +0, Save 15+

Also, I need a few more details about the village, using the Rural Villages tables on WWN p. 149:

  • It grew up around a lordly manor
  • Run by a cruel and feared bully
  • The reeve is another significant local
  • Tags: Widespread Prosperity, Neglectful Ruler

I can figure out the details of that later. For now, I just need to know whether the bully and the reeve have neglected to organize a local militia (likely)? Exceptional Yes, the townsfolks are not even attempting to mount any sort of defense as the undead attack.

Because these enemies are all HD 1, Erlan’s Slayer” ability (from Heroic Warrior) means his rolls are always successful against them. He swings his pike with practice, taking out a skeleton with 4 hp (4 left), and his Heroic Warrior’s Fray finishes off another with 6 hp (3 left). All of the enemies miss him, though, not even coming close. He demolishes the other 6 hp skeleton with his pike as well as the 5 hp one, and the final one misses before he destroys it as well.

As Brother Erlan walked into town, then, he found a wave of undead skeletons attacking the village of Oakside without any resistance from the locals. With his training by the Church, he dispatched them all without them even touching him. But why didn’t any of the villagers even try to defend themselves?

The Chaos Factor ticks up to 6.

Scene 2: Investigating Oakside

As the village was built around a manor, he will head there, expecting to find whatever local authority asserts itself there.

Developing Oakside

To find out a bit more about this bully” and reeve”, I roll a few times using the D30 Sandbox Companion. First, the bully, a sort of power behind the throne” type:

  • Gender: Male
  • Name: Albinus
  • Occupation: Undertaker
  • Temperament: Treacherous

That’s suspicious as hell. And the reeve:

  • Gender: Female
  • Name: Portia
  • Temperament: Obliging

So while Portia nominally has at least some legal authority, in reality Albinus is the one who calls the shots.

The village itself is rejecting of” outsiders (also from the D30 Sandbox Companion), and now with all this in mind I can look at the tags.

Widepsread Prosperity: The community is uncommonly rich, not only for the gentry but for the common citizens as well. They may produce a valuable good, oversee precious resource extraction, have special economic favors from the ruler, or simply have inherited a vast body of infrastructure. Their neighbors likely view them with envy, and outside raiders and exploiters find them an ideal target.

Looking at the suggested enemies, obviously we have the arrogant local ruler over-proud of their wealth” in the form of Albinus. Potential friends include a local being exploited for their wealth” or agent of the local prosperity’s maintenance”. I’ll also use a suggested complication, the impending end of the prosperity is visible to all”, and a thing, casually-stored riches”. Finally, there’s a market full of luxuries”.

Interpreting these in the context of Krevborna, and in particular where I envision this village in a forest, some sort of local plant resource is the source of their wealth, but they’re likely overharvesting it.

The other tag is Neglectful Ruler”, but that largely applies to most of Krevborna. I’ll keep it in mind thematically, as Oakside doesn’t even have a militia, but I don’t need to bring it to the forefront at the moment.

At the Manor

When Brother Erlan arrives at the manor, he receives a cold reception. Albinus sneers in the background while Portia thanks him perfunctorily for his visit. Are there others present (50/50)? Exceptional Yes again - perhaps many of the community gathered here to wait out the attack.

Seeing them all gathered, he asks why they did not defend against the undead. He’ll roll a skill check, Charisma/Connect at the most common difficulty of 8+, and he succeeds easily. In response, they tell him that they are safe enough here and that the undead never truly end up presenting a threat to their lives and homes. This strikes him as unlikely, but he’ll have to make more subtle inquiries later.

In any case, he informs them that the Church has sent him to look into the matter and that, as a consecrated priest, he will do his best to live up to the example of Saint Othric the Avenger. Perhaps one of them might offer him a place to stay while he is here? Rephrasing this in the direction of action, which is if no one gives him a place, I instead ask the Fate Question, do the townsfolk leave him to fend for his own shelter (very unlikely)? No, an old widow has a spare room after her children moved away. He’ll stow his things there before he continues his investigation.

At the end of this scene, the Chaos Factor decreases to 5. I also add Albinus and Portia to the Characters list.

Scene 3: The Widow’s House

He’ll follow her, perhaps accompanied by a few other villagers, and try to talk to them quietly without extra ears around. However, the scene is interrupted again! Last time, I rolled an Event Focus while more or less knowing how I’d bend it, but this time it caught me off guard. I get NPC Action”, and it’s Albinus.

The undertaker is one of those escorting Brother Erlan to the widow Grisselda’s house, whether to keep an eye on the priest or misdirect him. He seems somewhat amiable, though. While Erlan’s not particularly good at reading people, that will be a Wisdom/Notice check at -2 (because he has no skill in it), and he fails. I think this means he completely misreads the situation and is deceived by Albinus’s façade.

But the undertaker surely has some explanation for all this, and it’s surprisingly mundane: these poor souls were not buried properly with the rites of St. Nephemias, The Grave Tender. Perhaps Brother Erlan would be so kind as to accompany him to the graveyard where he could demonstrate the situation?

That mollifies Erlan, who may not quite understand the power dynamic here, believing that Portia is indeed in charge (although he’s likely detected that the two of them have some sort of relationship). This man has a very reasonable approach, though.

As the scene closes, I’ll decrease the Chaos Factor to 4.

Scene 4: The Graveyard

The graveyard is likely quiet at this time, although in some state of disarray. As a priest, Erlan should be very well-educated about the appropriate methods of burial and safety, so I’ll have him make a Wisdom/Pray check at DC 8: he fails. However, I don’t know if that means there’s something he should have noticed (but didn’t), or if there’s nothing to see and he mistakenly finds a problem. I think the question where yes” is more active would be, is there something he should have noticed (50/50)? Exceptional No, meaning he believes there’s something going on here, but it’s definitely not the issue.

Instead, he’s led somewhat astray by his zealous imagination, finding all sorts of problems with the wards and symbology. He assures Albinus that the two of them will need to collaborate closely to correct the situation. They begin inventorying the specific faults that Erlan notes, preparing to correct them in the morning.

The Chaos Factor increases back to 5.

Scene 5: Night in the Widow’s House

He’ll finally get a chance to talk to Grisselda this evening. Her temperament is reckless;” she’s an old lady who does not care what anybody else says or thinks! Over a simple meal and glass of wine, she gives him an earful of how Portia and all the other weak folks around here just do whatever Albinus and his friends tell them. But she doesn’t have much longer in this life and wants the priest to know that, whatever is going on, Albinus is mixed up in it.

Of course, Erlan tries to persuade her otherwise, and I’ll have him roll a Charisma/Convince check at DC 10 (convincing a stubborn old woman she’s wrong is tough, particularly when she actually isn’t): he fails miserably. Does she have something to show him (50/50)? No, she doesn’t have anything at hand. In that case, she must have something to point him towards: the weak-willed folk of the town. Get one of them who goes out to pick the kabavines to talk when Albinus and his stooges aren’t around. Erlan agrees, if for no other reason than to humor his host. And besides, there may be something in addition to the graveyard problems he can learn.

The Chaos Factor increases to 6 (as he failed in the one thing he tried to control), and I’ll add Grisselda to the Characters list.

Scene 6: The Kabavine Picker

The next morning, he steps outside for his dawn prayers and hoping to meet a few of the workers who are heading out to the forest. Mythic tells me to alter the scene, though, and I think there are a few folks getting set up in the village square.

He approaches them and asks if they could tell him anything more about the recent attacks; they’re skittish, but he does carry the air of authority. He further assures them that he is working with Albinus, and that they believe they’ve identified the problem already. That’s going to be another Charisma/Convince roll, but I’ll give him a modifier of +2 due to his authority and apparent alignment with Albinus: that fails, however.

They tell him they don’t know anything about any of it, and they really need to get to work, and they will pray for the saints to bless his efforts, may St Nephemias shepherd those poor lost souls to their eternal rest, and perhaps he’d like to try some kabavine before he heads back to Chancel (the church’s seat), and isn’t Grisselda such a lovely woman, she’s like everybody’s grandmother… at this point, even he definitely can tell they’re uncomfortable and not answering him honestly. He does promise to go learn about the kabavines during his visit, though.

The Chaos Factor increases to 7, but none of the characters rise yet to the level of interest to go on the list.

Scene 7: Tending the Graves

Elran plans to spend the day correcting the deficiencies in the graveyard that are allowing the unquiet dead to escape. (In many settings, that would be highly unusual, but in Krevborna, the dead rise unexpectedly from time to time.) But there’s another Interrupt Scene: a new NPC, an enforcer-type who will use adversity”, and to me this means another assault, but this time a singular, more powerful undead.

  • Ravenous Husk: HD 3 (13 HP), AC 13, Atk +4, Dmg d8 (bite), Move 30’, ML 12, Instinct 6, Skill +1, Save 14+

His Slayer ability for a guaranteed success on hit will not come into play here, nor the Fray ability to do automatic damage. Does Albinus turn and run (50/50)? Yes; whether that’s out of genuinue fear, to get help, or to maintain a ruse is unclear.

Brother Elran does have his pike at the ready, however, and rushes to the fight. He successfully hits it for maximum damage (9 points), fending off its bite and keeping it at reach. He takes it down, just barely, panting with exertion.

Does Albinus return with others (likely)? Yes, although this strikes Erlan as suspicious since they mounted no such defense in the previous day’s assault. Again, I’ll roll a Wisdom/Notice check at -2 to see if he saw where the undead came from, although only at a DC 6: success! It came from the direction of the residences, though, not the graveyard itself.

He orders Albinus and his small force to follow him to check on the village; perhaps others are in danger, or perhaps they may find some other source of this activity. I suspect Albinus might not be inclined to do what he says, so Erlan needs to make a Charisma/Convince check at DC 8: he succeeds, and they follow him with makeshift weaponry and a bravado they don’t necessarily feel.

The Chaos Factor continues to rise, now at 8.

Scene 8: The Source of the Undead

He’ll check the houses first, although I do not expect action to ensue here. Mythic interrupts the scene with a random event again, though: NPC action again, this time from Grisselda! She’s gathered a few others, and they’re going to confront Albinus directly in front of the priest.

Their story twists the plot: Albinus has been freeing the dead and controls them in some way. They’ve seen him at it, and they implore Brother Erlan to do something about it. He turns to Albinus, perhaps to apologize for the accusations (as many people take the opportunity when a Church envoy is present). Does Albinus react with anger (50/50)? No, although perhaps it’s roiling beneath the surface. He does his best to explain that, given his occupation, many blame him for this, but surely the priest can see that he’s been doing his best to help. And in any case, didn’t they already identify the cause?

Erlan isn’t so easily convinced at this point, though. He’ll make a Wisdom/Notice check (-2) against of DC 8 - and succeed! He can tell Albinus is stressed and lying, though in what way he doesn’t know. Grisselda and her friends could be correct, or perhaps he’s just afraid of losing his position due to something out of his control.

Instead, he’ll tell them he wants to see where the husk came from. A nearby home on a sleepy street. He’ll go there and see what he can find.

The Chaos Factor ticks down a little, as he’s starting to wrangle control of the situation, and it’s now at 7.

Scene 9: House of the Dead

Given all the context thus far, I expect something horrifying and occult in or around this house; the Mythic test allows the scene to proceed.

As they get closer, there’s a foul smell. Albinus starts to smile a bit, which is a bit odd and perhaps even concerning. Erlan stops and inspects the house from the street, looking for indications of occult activity, and I’ll use Wisdom/Pray this time at DC 8: he fails, so when he enters, I think he’s ambushed.

Now is the time I need to ask Fate, is Albinus secretly a necromancer (likely)? Yes, and this is his lair. He’s maintained his cover for some time, but finally the Church took notice.

He reacts in a surprisingly friendly, benign manner, however, seeing the priest approach this place. Is it clearly Albinus’s home (very likely)? Yes. Upon seeing this, Elran turns to the undertaker with a questioning look. Albinus says that perhaps the wards on his home are also weak, given the fact that of course his line of work would attract the undead. But Elran is already suspicious, so he keeps his guard up.

This is going to be a much tougher fight (I hope, as I’m still getting my feet under me with this game). I’ll use the Necromancer stats from The Monster Overhaul p. 163, modified slightly for WWN.

  • Necromancer: HD 7 (32 HP), AC 11, Atk +7, Dmg d6 (dagger), Move 30’, ML 9, Instinct 3, Skill +2, Save 7+

He casts raise lesser undead as Erlan enters the grounds of his property, and 3 Zombies (HD 2) appear.

  • Shambling Corpse: HD 2 (7, 14 hp), AC 10, Atk +2, Dmg d8 (slam), Move 20’, ML 12, Instinct 6, Skill +0, Save 14+

I don’t think Erlan realizes that Albinus is a necromancer yet, so he’s going to take on the zombies first. He does 4 damage to one of them, taking it to 3 HP. One of the zombies hits him hard for 7 damage, however, taking him to 14 HP.

In this second round, he misses a zombie. This seems like a good opportunity to make an Instinct check for both zombies. From WWN p. 298:

If the number rolled is equal or less than a combatant’s Instinct score, measured from 1 to 10, they do some- thing impulsive, short-sighted, instinctual, or otherwise less-than-tactically-sound.

It suggests the second round of combat as a good time to do this, and they both roll under their score. One of them gets confused and momentarily goes for one of the villagers and the other one seems unable to figure out how to get around the priest’s pike, so it flails about wildly.

Albinus seems less amused now, though, and speaks: Perhaps you should not meddle with powers you cannot understand”. Erlan whirls about, realizing now the danger he is in. But those zombies are still a threat, so he’ll instead try to finish that one off, and he does, taking it down. The priest and warrior also can heal 1d8 = 2 points of damage (taking a point of system strain to do so). The second zombie comes for him at Albinus’s command, dealing only 1 point of damage. At that, the necromancer extends a pale finger and commands the priest to die. Brother Erlan feels a wave of necromantic power wash over him, and he feels his life force ebbing away. But he is Unbroken (another Heroic ability, once per day), and instead only goes to 1 HP.

He’ll then try to defeat that zombie that is pounding on him, dealing 6 damage to it. Somehow it misses him. Albinus crows in his assurance of victory, failing his Instinct check as well. You cannot win!”

Erlan, however, turns to the shambling corpse and, with his Veteran’s Luck, destroys it. That’s enough for me to roll a Morale check for the necromancer, but he passes. Instead, Albinus snarls and leaps at him with his dagger, which is enough to reduce the priest to 0 HP, leaving him Mortally Wounded.

Does this cause the villagers to intercede in some way (likely)? Yes. Perhaps they take the priest’s body away to attend to him; Albinus will need to make plans now that he’s been exposed.

But Mortally Wounded is not dead, and especially not in the case of this priest. They’ll carry him to Grisselda’s house, where I’ll pick up with the next scene in the next session.

Of course, the Chaos Factor must increase to 9 at this point, and Albinus is now listed as a necromancer rather than simply an undertaker.

Conclusions

While combat in WWN isn’t intended to be balanced, I’m still finding the right way to get a sense of the danger of a combat. The game has a few more dials and knobs than I’ve used in a while as well. And Mythic GME is injecting a good amount of chaos; I could quibble a bit in places with whether I should have made the Chaos Factor go up or down, but it’s been fun and that’s ultimately the goal here.

For the next session, I’ll have Erlan figure out how to deal with the necromancer (as soon as I rolled undertaker” for the NPC, I had a pretty good sense of where this might go). Perhaps he should gather some allies before confronting the villain, or perhaps Albinus might even retreat to build a stronger power base elsewhere.

Up next The Cryptorum - Session 5 Undead Without Number - Session 2
Latest posts Dyson’s Delve - Session 3 Dyson’s Delve: Session 2 Dyson’s Delve: Session 1 Return to Ker Nethalas Thousand Year Old Vampire: Heathcliff Ker Nethalas - Exploring the Starting Domain Thoughts on Ker Nethalas Sacretta Carnifexa - Part 3 Sacretta Carnifexa - Part 2 Sacretta Carnifexa - Part 1 Undead Without Number - Session 3 Undead Without Number - Session 2 Undead Without Number - Session 1 The Cryptorum - Session 5 The Cryptorum - Session 4 The Cryptorum - Session 3 The Cryptorum - Session 2 The Cryptorum - Session 1 Cinderheim - Session 4 Cinderheim - Session 3 Cinderheim - Session 2 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 20 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 19 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 18 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 17 5 Parsecs from Home - Campaign Turn 16 Cinderheim - Session 1 RPGs vs Wargames 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 15 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 14 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 13