I didn’t sleep last night, so when we got together to game, my prep wasn’t where I wanted it to be for a return to the Roots of Old Kalduhr. I grabbed Attack of the Phase Spider, definitely the strangest adventure I have written. Reading about the False Hydra, I see that the concepts have something in common, though the False Hydra stuff goes a bit further than I’m comfortable with in blurring in and out of game.
Lots of cool stuff happened but I want to playtest Attack of the Phase Spider and don’t want to spoil it. In the end we discovered that Aaron is not a fan of time travel stories but for a meal he wasn’t wild about, it was a fun game.
As written now I feel like this adventure’s text is a hammer to traumatize one’s friends. It needs a ferocious re-write but there is a good idea in there that I can’t wait to get right.
We had a character hit 6 Ruin (but pulled it back with clever temporal magic problem solving). I love the rules for hitting 6 Ruin as they are written and wish there were more games where we had moments for folks to step up and co-GM a bit. I feel much less nervous about a character dying now. Now I want full rules for players stepping up and running an incursion for when their character becomes a monster and shacks up in a dungeon and starts eating folks.
When this adventure is working, it should use the characters’ backgrounds to create a surreal otherworld, blend character’s histories together in confusing and interesting ways and confront parts of characters’ past while thinking a bit about the future (something the desperately in-debt treasure hunters rarely have time to do). As it is, I think I managed to do that but the text isn’t helpful just yet. Still, a good first step.
Devil’s Bargains from this session:
If Baso goes to 6 Ruin he’ll become a Temporal Monster of some kind…
What is a Devil’s Bargain, you ask? From the book:
Phase Spider – shit, I named it in the title.
Takeaways: I need to re-write this adventure but there is something good in there.
Ready for Next Week: Re-read the Roots of Old Kalduhr and daydream about the delve and Fort Duhrin and the refugees from Wellslode a bit.
We missed a few weeks but it felt good to get back and see what is going on with these treasure-hunting weirdos.
SPOILERS for A Heart Hums in the Darkness ahead!
As if constructs weren’t odd and creepy enough, the treasure-hunters are being escorted into the mining town of Wellslode by constructs created by bees to understand (and possibly infiltrate?) humans.
As we started, I was feeling low energy. On those days, when we’ve missed a few sessions and I’m feeling groggy, I’m happy to have a game with structure. In Trophy Gold’s case, it is the incursion structure, giving me moments – bullet-points I can use right away rather than boxed text that I’m loathe to read. I am not a GM who lives in terror of not knowing what to say next but still, it is nice to have a life-preserver to grab onto when I’m getting back into the swing of a game.
I gave them some time to wander around the set a bit – a park set into a gorge near a waterfall feeding a water wheel. This group picks up consequences quickly and after a few Hunt rolls they had a grip on this place once the Mole-thing dug through the stone behind the waterfall and destroyed the water wheel. Introduced lamplight fungus, the snuff miners use to see better in the dark.
They helped young Orfuss get the bees-think-your-dead pheromone smell off him, coaching him from afar, not touching him. Orfuss, for whatever reason, was kind of a comic relief goofball, mentioning a bard’s story he had heard where a hero smeared himself with mud to avoid an otherworldly hunter’s strange vision. “Get to the carriage!” Too goofy? Maybe.
Kel said that the strange parroting that the bee-construct guards do reminded him of how his fey lords back in the Grove used to toy with kidnapped humans (good fuel that I’ll use later).
After I mentioned the buzzing a few times, Baso grabbed some honey off a corpse’s face, rolled it into a more solid ball and put it in his ears, hoping to block out any buzzing magic to come. He offered earplugs to his comrades but they weren’t sold on it. He found a lyre and had to climb up a goat path out of the gorge and take a long way down to avoid some bees. He held up a walking stick he found with a scrimshaw drawing of a skeleton parade on it, commanding the dead to rise and do his bidding.
Me to Jim, “We agree that this isn’t going to work, right?”
Pela gathered leaves and sticks and used his Enliven to give it life. The effigy, Baso’s high pitched singing and Kel’s quick movement got him away from the oncoming Mole-thing, that began eating corpses instead.
With Aksil cursing their strangeness, they went into the aqueduct from the hole the Mole-thing had carved.
Kel climbed up a building and got the lay of the land. There was good in and out of game banter about using or not-using their Hunt tokens to get by this Set but everyone knows the Queen looms in some future Set ahead of them and they don’t want to go into that low on tokens. Smart.
Taking stock, we realized that we had quite a crew gathered – the 3 player characters, Aksil, Orfuss, and the 2 bee-constructs – mirroring player words and gestures in the creepiest ways I could muster. There was some talk about Pela’s still-animated effigy; could he take away its animate magic? We decided it would take a Risk Roll to do so but for now, the 2-3 foot tall stick and mud-thing still waddles around.
How many creepy constructs can one group of treasure-hunters have in their posse?
As the game ended, Kel and Pela went to see what was going on in the warehouse with a mix of buzzing and sobbing coming from it. “Kel, it is the sobbing of someone who is captured and is losing hope of every getting away. You know this sound well…”
Baso struck out on his own, approaching the alchemist’s door. I wanted to hint at the crossbow bolt pressure plate trap and so I mentioned bloodstains on the doorstep. As Baso approached, he took a crossbow to the ribs as he knocked on the door, calling the alchemist’s name. Jim made it very clear that he was more than willing to pay the price of separating from the group.
We’ll start the next game with Kel and Pela trying to figure out how to save the humans being made to chew vegetable matter for the bees, guarded by a bee-shaped construct the size of a pony. Meanwhile, Baso will meet the Alchemist while contending with the new Condition – gutshot.
We need to name the Mole-thing and the pony-sized bee constructs.
Takeaways: Nice to be back at it. Looking forward to finishing this adventure next week.
I was explaining what Hunt rolls did in Trophy Gold and described them as part perception roll, part random encounter roll but they offer a little more than that. On rolls of 1-5 the result is the character encounters something terrible. Lots of wiggle room there. The situation at hand guides what it means and offers space for the GM to find out through play.
Character, who is fae-born, is searching through a sarcophagus in the ancient king’s barrow. They’ve used their skill with spirits to speak to the ghost of the ancient king who is buried there and know that the king’s corpse is under a false bottom. The king was legit and the placement of the treasure is actually in the adventure description.
But still, the character describes searching through the treasure and I ask for a Hunt roll. This isn’t to decide if the treasure is there; we already know it is there. This isn’t to see if the ghoul is hiding there; the ghoul is already slain (probably could’ve tossed in an extra ghoul but that feels off to me). The roll says the player gets a Hunt Token and encounters something terrible. Hm.
I realize something about the king, who had asked that the treasure-hunters leave him his crown so that future folk know that he is a mighty king buried here. The king hunted fae-born and their skulls and masks adorn his coffin. That is the terrible thing encountered, something upsetting and unsettling to the character. I had described the king’s crown as being iron adored with jewels – the iron crown was a symbol of fae-hunters, I now realize.
The character takes the crown and takes the fae-born skulls and masks to bury in the forest. “Leave the body here, crownless, so folk will think this barrow belonging to a commoner.”
This detail about the king is just white-space on the map that I got to fill in through dice results and play.
If the player had rolled a 6, maybe they’d want to use that Hunt token for an extra treasure. “The king was holding out on you and didn’t tell you about the signet ring in his boot.” Maybe not. Either way, I use the Hunt roll to learn new details to put on the bones of the adventure as I know it. The bones don’t change but the details do.
I’m enjoying the Hunt roll as a tool for getting dice to the table whenever a player uses their character to show curiosity. I often ask what that search looks like before rolling and move from there. As the dice say, in Trophy Gold, you’ll offer encounter something terrible – be it a ghoul in a barrow or the skulls of lost ancestors, that is up to the logic of the table.
I had read an incursion that had themes that fit this group all too well. I decided to pitch it to them in-game to see if they were interested in doing some work for the Governor of Ft. Durhin.
The group got back from their first foray into the Roots of Old Kalduhr, set up a household and took a side-job.
Their established household is a tree-house, taken from the Old Kalduhr and planted where an old shack used to stand. Jim’s idea and I dig it, bringing the creepy forest to them.
Aaron described Kel’s ruin as having more to do with his headspace than with wounds, so he sparred with Delinia Alger, the head of the Governor’s Kingsguard to clear his head. She asked if they wanted to do a scouting mission for the Governor, looking into what was driving refugees from Wellslode. They said yes and so the incursion, A Heart Hums in Darkness by Michael Van Vleet began.
The Governor offered them 3 Coin when they returned and would pay for the burden of any extra Hirelings they wanted to take on. They hired reliable Aksil once again, reassuring him that Baso was leaving Tortoise, the Dollem construct from the Orphan Villa, in the household to guard it while they were gone. “They bees follow the Queen of Millions, some kind of queen bee-thing.”
The Governor offered to double the money if they could kill the bees’ queen and 4 Coin total if they could get the bees to agree to move.
Aksil had mentioned that he had heard some adventurer-types had burned down the Humming Woods, leading to the bees invading Wellslode. Baso followed up and asked the governor some questions about it and ended with, “Any idea where we can find those adventurers?” I asked for a Hunt Roll and he got a good ole “encounter something terrible.”
“Yeah, Stefan, was a part of that posse that lit fire to the Humming Wood and he’s been camping by the wells for a while now.” Knowing something terrible was waiting out there for them, Kel and Pela wanted nothing to do with that but Baso grabbed Tortoise and headed over.
Yeah, Stefan was a beeswax construct, taken right out of the Incursion. It seemed the obvious thing. They talked to the Stefan Construct, who parroted shit back to them. Baso wanted to bring the construct with them but no one else was having it. They left with the beeswax construct standing guard outside the door, Tortoise inside, arms folded. Was Tortoise glaring at the beeswax construct? Surely that is your imagination…
At the edge of Wellslode, three constructs in militia livery were outside of a cheese shop. Kel immediately wanted to see if they were constructs and got an “encounter something terrible,” so the three constructs looked exactly like the characters.
Another encounter-something-terrible led to an elderly refugee leaning against the tree, holding his belongings in a blanket, to be crying honey, complaining of hearing the Hum in his head. Kel lost his composure a bit and demanded to know if the beeswax trio had something to do with the old man’s condition. They pleaded ignorance. Did Pela say last rites over the man? I’ll ask next game.
We ended with the constructs agreeing to take the treasure-hunters to the Queen of Millions as long as they left the torches that Baso was making from the cheese shop’s cheese-cloth behind. Baso went into the shop, put the torches in his bag and claimed he left them inside. Off they went…
Devil’s Bargains from this session:
I think it was all Hunt rolls this session, no Risk Rolls yet.
What is a Devil’s Bargain, you ask? From the book:
We do need to name the Beeswax constructs…
Takeaways: Baso is leaning into the folk horror creepiness – having Tortoise do dances while he tells stories to the children about the glory of violence. Pela
Ready for Next Week: I’ve got the rest of this adventure ready but I’ll look it over one more time.
It was Jim and Aaron this game as Jay had some work stuff come up. With Jim’s permission, we decided he had left camp, following a beautiful piper’s tune but had lost it when he heard a bell ring. Jay‘s character and Jim’s (Baso and Pela) switched places somehow because of the constructs with the silver bells’ magic that we don’t understand but makes it easier to explain the rotating cast. The constucts were dubbed Dollems (rhymes with golem) by Jim.
Jim got his feet under him fast. Baso looted the silver bell off of the Dollums and Jim suggested that perhaps the animals around the fountain were some kind of astrology. I jumped on that; yes, the 6 animals (lion, griffon, pig, rooster, bull and tortoise) were for children born during various times of year and the 7th, the cthonic beast whose statue was broken, was for children who knew nothing of their births.
“Thanks, Jim. Now you’ve made me help make me sad by making something up with me. Are you happy now?”
The silver bell had no clapper…
In the Common Room was another Dollem, this one with a tortoise head. Baso mimicked its movements, holding the silver bell on his own hand. I asked for a Risk Roll and through dice and Devil’s Bargains, the Tortoise Dollem was bound to Baso, who now had an understanding of the bells – “You feel as if you are 3 rings away from a cliff-face, from being sent to a terrible place that you don’t want to fall into.” On the wall, in Old Kalduhri, Aksi read the inscription in bright but faded letters, “Good children get to sit, bad children get the pit.”
When the Griffon Dollem showed up, they held it at bay and took the bell off of its right hand. It looked confused for a moment and then went back to searching the Common Room, in cupboards and under tables. At some point Jim proclaimed, “Baso can ring the bell now even though it has no clapper,” and that made perfect sense. The Tortoise, when given a command, gave Baso a condescending pat on the head. Cartwheels seem to be an introduction and also a way of saying, “Thank you,” and “You’re welcome.”
Something so strange happened that I nearly forgot to write about it. Someone was in the midst of a Risk Roll (I think it was Aaron) and Jim’s Devil’s Bargain was about the bell breaking and doing something unexpected. He left that to me to decide, like a fell gift under a watchful and ancient Kalduhri tree.
I decided the bell broke and brought something out of the pit. A blob made of half a dozen children rolled across the Common Room, screaming and crying and singing. When they didn’t engage with it, it rolled into the barracks, as if remembering its old life (lives?). They debated killing it but in the end, left it.
As Baso said, “If we don’t destroy that thing I’m going to find myself thinking of it whenever I try to sleep…”
Kel and Aksi went into the office to look for the money; Baso stayed in the courtyard, dancing and humming, hoping to keep any other Dollems away. When the Rooster Dollem jumped out of the wardrobe, Aksi and Kel tried to destroy it but a bell went off – only 2 more until they were sent to the pit. Aaron did the math and spent 3 Hunt Tokens. Aaron narrated hulking out, Wolf Beast-Bitten Style, and smashing the room to pieces, coming out with the gold over his shoulder. Jim added a nice detail, the gold was in the remnants of one of the Dollem’s silk jackets.
At one point in the midst of this glorious frightening mess, Aaron said something about the events reminding Kel of how his monarchs in the Caliginous Grove were turned to wood and I need to go back and dig a little at that.
I did some describing of the way home, as Jim hadn’t been at the game where they ventured down. Aaron mentioned that they were going to take a careful route to avoid the Cave Hounds that were eating Treasure-Hunter remains on their way in.
I had a Devil’s Bargain about the exit being complicated because of the excess of blood they used in the ritual to enter the Roots. Chatwyn and Sprunt were there, waiting to rob them. Chatwyn had a crossbow. Listed among the weaknesses of the Lost Treasure-Hunters was intimidation, so when Baso approached them with his Tortoise Dollem (yes, it followed him out of the delve) and asked if they wanted to play and the Tortoise reached into its porcelain head and wound up a music box that played an off-key lullaby, they just backed off. Chatwyn even gave up the crossbow when Baso asked for it.
They got back to Fort Duhrin without incident and Aksi made them tea and let them know that if they needed help with a future delve, they’d gladly join them as long as the Tortoise Dollem was nowhere near them.
Devil’s Bargains from this session:
I did not write down the Devil’s Bargains this game, which is a bummer. I know that the Dollem being bound to Baso came from one and the broken bell bringing the child-blob out of the pit was from another. They are good shit and one of the secret sauces of keeping everyone involved in every roll and marshalling the creativity at the table in a cool way.
What is a Devil’s Bargain, you ask? From the book:
Dollems, a creepy name for creepy monsters…
Lost Treasure Hunters? Vultures…did someone call them that?
Child Blob Things need a name
Takeaways: The 3 Hunt Tokens to get the Set Goal is not only a fun way to game the system a bit but it works as a pacing mechanic in a way that I can’t quite describe yet but have seen in both runs of Trophy Gold I’ve GM’ed. Trophy Gold can be pretty deadly and the fantasy horror can be a little unsettling. It is cool to be able to spend the capital from one’s past curiosity and cash out. Speaking of which, I feel like the horror elements came out in this session; I’ll email the group and just check in, give room for folks to contact me and to stop play if something in a future session is not fun-horror-movie-creepy but shitty-trauma-creepy.
Ready for Next Week: I’ll read over the Hearthfire downtime rules this weekend and brush up on the rest of the Roots of Kalduhr mega-incursion; it is a delightfully easy read that is also easy to use at the table.
I had read the Climb and the Streets but the Set they eventually arrived at I had only skimmed but the way the Sets are laid out, short sweet descriptions and lots of bullet-points, make them easy to jump into as we go. If I had needed to, I could’ve easily just asked for a minute to read it over but it wasn’t necessary this time.
We decided that Kel and Pela had known each other back in the day before they had set aside their backgrounds. Aaron described Kel as reaching for a purpose like he had when he was a Kingsguard and Jay described Pela as growing his hair out and trying to move past his days as a priest. When I asked how hard we had to work to figure out where Pela had been or how Kel and Baso had been separated, I was assured the table wasn’t fretting about it all that much. We got to playing and will figure the rest out later.
In the midst of ancient statues to primordial deities whose names are lost to time, worn away by wind and rain was a Kalduhri glyph and a scroll amidst some leavings. After some Hunt rolls to figure out the details, Pela did the Ritual, spilling some of their own blood and asking Kel to spill theirs in order to open the entrance to the Roots of Old Kalduhr (see cool-ass Devil’s Bargains below).
The entry led to The Climb, which was a huge, hewn pit with stairways corkscrewing downward. Kel found tracks of Treasure-Hunters who had come before them and the Hunt roll asked for something awful – so one of the Treasure-Hunters had been killed by their comrade. They had to fight the Petty Imps, left behind by the Treasure-Hunters’ in-fighting and violence – they took a short-sword off of the corpse.
Aaron asked me about the architecture and I started to stutter a response and so he helped me out, “Judd, I’m going to see what I can learn about Old Kalduhri society from the buildings.” After the Hunt Roll, I described the simple, square villas in this area and how he could tell that the Kalduhri society was highly hierarchical, with these simple hovels giving way to villas and then on to palaces made of stalagmites and stalactites – also, Cave Hounds…
I had described crystal lights flickering on as they passed, but not creating really useful light, just making the shadows creepier. Kel got out a torch when I asked who was dealing with the lack of light and they made their way around a pack of Cave Hounds, gnawing on the flesh and bones of another dead Treasure-Hunter. I asked how they were looking for an area with treasure. Aaron said they were looking for areas where the crystal lights were in good repair – and with that, I picked my Set.
They found a villa that was in unnaturally good repair. There was a fountain in the courtyard with a statue of children leading 6 animals in a circle – one of the animals’ statues was broken. Kel put the broken one together and I said it was a Cthonic creature that was unsettling. Pela was sifting through the algae-thick water when the construct attacked them with a porcelain-lion head and a silver bell in one hand.
The unnamed construct went down after some effort, dealing out Ruin as it went. We ended the game with the construct ringing its silver bell as it perished and other silver bells answering the call throughout the villa.
Devil’s Bargains from this session:
Exit will be complicated by forest creatures, drawn by the blood…
The denizens will look at Pela as a Blood-giver…
What is a blood-giver? We’ll find out in play.
What is a Devil’s Bargain, you ask? From the book:
These are hirelings I have made for our Trophy Gold game but are clearly useable for whatever medium you use for pretending to delve into demon-haunted ruins for “the gold and experience,” as China Miéville said.
Whenever I asked questions about the characters I realized that for me almost all of the answers were YES but I’m sure you’ll have your own answers and your own questions.
Will I ever put together a fictional duo with names as good as Chatwyn & Sprunt? I doubt it. The search terms that got me there are hazy, maybe 15th century British surnames? I saw Sprunt and knew right away that was the name for our guy with the spiked mace. Chatwyn followed suit.
Aksil is who got hired in our Friday game and I like them very much. Their name came from doing some searching on Berber names from Morocco.
One of the many problems with grabbing art from the British Library’s flickr account is finding cool warrior women. I had this image saved for a long time and decided they could fight in skirts when I saw an image illustrating what girding one’s loins meant back in the old days. The names were taken from Lithuanian villages, an homage to my mother’s side of the family.
Dhea was made by cutting and pasting a witch about to be burned onto the armored body of one of her captors. The name Dhea came from nowhere. I wonder if she’ll be burned or lead a new religion or find some other path.
This is another pic I had been sitting on for a while. He almost seemed too put together for Fort Duhrin but I decided that was part of his strangeness.
I wrote about Piye and broke my own damned heart. If you use these NPC’s in your games and Piye gets home, please let me know. I found his name in a list of ancient Kushite monarchs.
When we played I only had Chatwyn and Sprunt, the Rubis Sisters and Aksil. The rest will be in town if the players should survive their first delve to return to Fort Duhrin. I am rooting for them but the forest and the fort seem determined to devour them and their dreams. If you meet any of these NPC’s in your games, please let me know how their fates turn out.
Here they are without text in case you want to add in your own backstories or stat-blocks. If you use them I’d love to hear about it.
We began the game in Fort Durhrin, in the midst of the hangover of a festival to celebrate someone brave enough to venture into the Roots of Old Kalduhr. Baso, Jim’s character, had slept with a treasure-hunter named Osto, who had died of a heart-attack, and the Fort’s cryptic laws meant that Baso had to take on the dead treasure-hunter’s debt and go into the forest in their stead. When I asked Jim where Baso was as the game began he told me that Baso was chained up so they wouldn’t run away from their obligation. Kel entered Fort Duhrin to meet up with the recently deceased Osto, to venture into the Roots of Old Kalduhr, the most famous delve in an ancient forest dense with danger and strangeness.
Moments in Play
Osto’s ghost was talking to Baso while they were in Fort Duhrin but no one else could see them. Everyone took this in stride; Jim had fun talking to the air.
They hired Aksil the Spear, an elder hireling known for this experience from the Borderlands to the Bone Sea. I made Hireling Cards.
As they crossed the marker that let them know that they were entering the forest, I let them know that there are strange villages along the forest’s border that are used to treasure hunter visitors. Baso said, “I bet if one of us dragged another wounded of us into one of those villages, they’d just eat us. Better to sleep in the forest, I think.” Aksil disagreed, “Sleeping in the forest is dangerous.”
As they crossed into the forest, Osto’s ghost disappeared.
I wasn’t sure what to do to show the forest’s strangeness. I had the Trophy Loom pdf open in a tab, I went to the Deep Kalduhr entries by Paul Baldowski and this jumped out at me:
It got an immediate reaction. Kel was sad at seeing the bones where butterfly wings would have fluttered and Baso put out honey and bread for the God Neighbors. Baso also left a vine crown that fell from the cage, “My first treasure…”
I am not even sure how to describe the series of die rolls that came next that led to the treasure-hunters lost in the forest. It was a blur of Hunt Rolls, Risk Rolls, Devil’s Bargains and cool shit. The cult that imprisons fae caught the group’s scent when Kel used magic to tear the cage apart with his bare hands. Aksil led them to a hill that was actually a hill-sized beast that awoke and Basto speared into the cult’s path.
In the end, they were lost in the forest and made camp under a stone overhang where they found a beast-born skull. Aaron said something about the skull being his character’s skull. Hell yeah.
“How do you know this is your skull, Kel?” Turns out, Kel broke his collar-bone when he was a young Kingsguard sworn to the Caliginous Grove’s monarchs and the skeleton had evidence of the exact same break, wearing the Grove’s livery.
As they sipped tea and dusk fell to night, Aksil said, “This was a good first day in the forest. Perhaps when the sun rises we will find our way.”
Added to the Bestiary
Grwllah – beast mistaken for a hill, can be prodded to go in a direction with a spear, head rises first when awakened
Order of the Dead Stag – cult that hunts faeries and beast-born, led by a cursed fey power – Orion?
Snags – sharp toothed little faery folk
Takeaways: This game, as the kids say, slaps. The way it marshals everyone’s creativity for every roll in a way that isn’t overly story-gamey is a damned pleasure to play.
Ready for Next Week: I’ll print out and read over the first bits of the Roots of Old Kalduhr and daydream about the entryway.
(NOTE: I’m re-reading this blog post and watching myself try to write a normal actual play post and failing to filter out how odd and wrong everything is right now. Maybe because it feels surreal to be gaming right now. There is going to be a game soon when I turn to my friends and say something like, “See you next game; I hope we’re still gaming in a democracy-shaped republic.”)
Thunderspire Labyrinth offered the inspiration – the treasure-hunters chasing a group of shitty people (in this case human traffickers who sold people to ghouls for food and slavery). The shitty people ran into the ruins of a minotaur city, said to be cursed and devil-haunted – you know, the usual.
The module itself was a bit too much for me, so I distilled it down to 5 sets, grabbing names and details from the module as needed:
I wanted the players to know that there was more than one way in, so I made the goal of the first set: Decide how you want to enter Saruun Khel. The players were savvy. They watched the ravens flying around the gate, noticed that the older ravens refused to enter and only the younger ravens went in at all.
I’m not sure why a fantasy story about a beautiful city, full of bullish folk who worshipped labyrinthine choice and devils and demons falling to civil war because of the worship of a selfish liar full of secrets would appeal to me right now.
Drew made his Hunt roll to know the history of the place. His none-too-bright former gladiator knew the history of Saruun Khel because there was a gladitorial game based on the city’s civil war. Love it.
Sometimes Trophy Gold’s Hunt rolls call on the GM to say something the players find that is terrifying. Sometimes they find what they are looking for but still, run across something terrifying. It isn’t always a monster encounter.
When Revel was looking for a map of the city, I had to offer something terrifying.
“Here’s what is terrifying. This city was really beautiful. It was an architectural marvel, a flittering jewel in this mountain and now it is a flooded ruin. Now it is nothing but a dungeon to loot because of civil war.”
Yeah, it is obvious that shit is on my mind.
Griffons and Dragons
There was another cool moment where Revel charged a griffon. It was a dangerous move and Drew knew it. The actions of the other two characters entirely saved his ass. Rasei fired arrows at it and I had archery as a weakness of griffons – John had his character, Theoden do something so smart that I wrote it down as a new weakness. He used a spell to imitate a dragon call.
Of course griffons would be scared of dragons; it is the only predator above them on the food chain in the mountains. Those two actions, both utilizing weaknesses, dipped the griffon’s Endurance so that their roll defeated it.
I’d like to take this moment to say that describing a griffon dragging a goat up onto an 8 foot rock and eating it was fun. Giant eagle maw cracking bones and horns and hooves; the sound of it must be terrifying. That was a fun GM moment.
I knew there was a dragon in the Tomb Mountains but didn’t know if it was awake. Today I found out it was awake now. John’s character, Theoden, imitated a dragon-call to scare the griffon and then a few Hunt rolls demanded something terrifying.
Yup, dragon’s awake. What would wake up a dragon fast? A dragon-call. Mountain ranges aren’t big enough for two dragons.
I decided there was a scholar from the capital studying griffons in the peak.
The Big Score
Drew’s ex-gladiator said, “Where do minotaur store their taxes?”
The city is entirely flooded. The tombs are on hilltops, so they only have knee-deep water in them but the rest of the mountain is a big moongator tank. One can see the tops of towers and cathedral spires in the murky water. The players are thinking about ways to drain that water or freeze it and dig through the ice.
I had a panicked second – what would I do if they drained Saruun Khel?
It was a short second of panic. Here’s what I’d do.
In Trophy Gold you are saving up to get 50 gold and achieve your drive. What if they drained the minotaur city and defeated whatever was still guarding the city streets?
What if I just said, “Good job, you all achieve your Drives. Roll up new characters. You see a city just opened up called New Khel and adventurers are flocking to it. From this metropolis you can go delving in the underdeeps or along the surface of the dragon-haunted Tomb Mountains.”
Maybe they just do it. Maybe they’d just change the world a bit and we’d take some time to adventure in that changed world and see what treasures are worth hunting in it.
Maybe you can build something on the wreckage of a minotaur civil war.
Or maybe they’ll get eaten by the moongator, stalking the floodwaters, a moon-colored monster.