Thursday, January 22, 2009

A short game

We played again the other night. Not a very long session due to the girls having to get to bed early, it was a school night. But I thought I'd jot down what happened if for nothing else than to keep the story current. (And to have a place to reference what's gone before.)

Isabella - Female Human Fighter level 2 (my wife)
Ember - Female 1/2 elven Cleric level 2 (youngest daughter)
Safira - Female Ice Elf level 2 (eldest daughter)

After emerging from the woods and saying goodbye to Fura, the characters spent the evening at the Bent Hook. A small celebration for a newly married couple was occurring at the Inn and there were more people crowding the common room than was the norm. Ember, Safira and Isabella stayed up for a while and observed the festivities, but noting the hour, and their exhaustion, they soon thereafter went to bed.

Next morning they descended the stairs and were met with the sight of the Krieger triplets sitting in the common room without a beer in their hands! Belinda, Fura and the other 2 henchmen were sitting around a table, talking amongst themselves.

Their destination? The Hermit.

Convincing the two henchmen that crossing the river on the back of a giant gar was slightly more difficult and expensive (due to a roll of 12 on the morale dice) than it should have been, but eventually they were convinced that it would be safer than crossing the "Toll Bridge".

Once upon the opposite shore the party of 10 decided upon a marching order and cautiously proceeded into the woods along the faint game trail that led to the witch. About 2 hours along the trail the party cut due north, following the witch's directions.

The overcast sky provided dim illumination under the canopy of trees and the terrain turned decidedly more hilly and rough. The witch had said that the hermit lived about a day's march due north, so at noon, when the group broke for lunch, Safara shimmied up a tree in order to see if she might be able to spot the tall hill upon which sat the large tree.

Surprisingly enough she determined that they were actually heading in the wrong direction. They somehow must have let the terrain turn them a bit, instead of due north the group had been heading in a more north easterly direction. Safira was looking at the ridge sitting nearly right in front of her, instead of off to her right, as it should have been.

After the meal the group backtracked a ways, climbed another tree and got their bearings. At about this time the cloud cover thinned enough for them to see the sun, which also helped. Every hour or so Safira climbed a tree, just to make certain they were still headed in the proper direction.

Many hours of marching later, with supper time fast approaching, Safira climbed a tree once more, and this time she spotted, not too far off in the distance an obviously tall hill with a enormous tree sitting astride it. The party set off in that general direction.

As they marched down the trail, with Isabella leading the way, a rustle in the brush alerted the barbarian to company. She froze and warily watched the area. The alert group luckily caught, and immediately emulated her actions. All was quiet.

An enormous mountain lion glided out of the brush, head low to the ground, in the opposite direction. It didn't seem to notice the invaders as it was stalking some unknown prey, drawing its attention elsewhere.

After the large cat disappeared into the far brush, the group proceeded. They noticed immediately though that the area was rife with large cat tracks. Seems this beast likes to hunt the area. Ember quickly surmises that they are encroaching upon the large cat's territory and that they should be extremely wary.

When they finally come upon the large hill they realize just by glancing along its bottom that it's oddly shaped. They decide that a route around the circumference might better determine what they're dealing with. Surprisingly it seems that the hill is an ancient round step pyramid that has eroded with time and weather to appear as a hill. The giant fig tree atop the "hill" also contributed greatly to the erosion.

Again, the large cat's prints were spotted all around the hill, so Fura decided that he would take the Krieger brothers, Belinda and the other two porters around the hill in an attempt to watch for the cat and to look at the hill more closely, for a possible entrance. The others will ascend the "hill" and make contact with the hermit.

Three quarters of the way up the hill the adventurers break through the canopy and can now see across the tops of the rolling forest. And they can also see that there's a large hole of some sort in the side of the massive fig tree. As they came closer they could hear a low growl emanate from the hole in the tree.

The head of the puma appeared as the cat slunk slowly forward out of the shadowed rent in the tree. A querulous voice asked who was there...and to step forward and announce your intentions. As the cat slowly approached a gnarled hand appeared from the shadows to lay casually upon the back of the enormous mountain lion.

After brief introductions the old man, presumably the hermit, cursed that he'd been found again but was willing to answer a question. They three asked if he had heard anything about the relics of St. George of Gyxag. The hermit grumbled a bit and said that he'd heard the name St. George...but he didn't know anything off hand about any relics. But, if the party was willing to come back at dawn he'd see if he could come up with a better answer.

They agree...and that's where we stopped.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Once again, into the breach...

Time once more to update the continuing saga of our home Labyrinth Lord game, which includes my two daughters and now surprisingly, my wife. Yipee!

Isabella - Female Human Fighter level 2
Ember - Female 1/2 elven Cleric level 2
Safira - Female Ice Elf level 2

Lisa, the town's woman, sprints for the water's edge, hoping to gain her freedom. The adventurers are ready for her break and leap to tackle her. Unfortunately they all leap at once, and tangle in the attempt...Lisa gains the water and the adventurers are smart enough NOT to jump in after her. After all, they've seen the gar!

Ember uses the flute to call the gar and both she and Isabella mount the fish and it slowly turns and swims to the other side. Lisa notices this, and knowing that the fish is a one-way ticket, she turns around and weakly swims back, her stroke is failing. Watching from the shore, Safira realizes that Lisa will not likely make it, so she finds the longest branch that she can and tries to shadow the woman's progress along the shore.

Meanwhile, the gar has reached the other side and the women leap off, blow the flute and again mount up. What tedium!! Ach. By this time Lisa has weakened significantly and her swimming is uneven and frantic. She yells out briefly, then her head disappears beneath the muddy waters of the Hruesen.

Safira waits and watches while her comrades make shore. Ember sprints into town with the intent of bringing back a watchman.

Nearly a minute passes and Lisa's head breaks the brown plane of the water and Safira sprints down to help her with the branch. The exhausted woman is pulled to safety and she collapses in the mud, coughing and retching water up out of her lungs.

With the arrival of the watch, Lisa is recovered enough to get up and be led to the jail-house. The rest of the party is told to come both verify the story as well as to make sure that they're not somehow trying to cover up wrongdoing.

After a few hours of questioning, which includes the entire Shuester family, and the friar from the chancel, it's obvious Lisa has been up to no good. She won't say who she's gone to see but she does admit to trying to poison her no good laggard of a husband. It's surmised though that she's gone to see the Thorn Queen, better known as 'The Witch'. Old Man Nester knows a bit more as he's been to see her long ago.

A visit with Old Man Nester provides the group with enough information to find the witch as well as a "reason" to seek her out. It seems that the witch is some kind of oracle and might know where the Hermit would be located. She's been in the woods for generations and no one knows how old she is...ancient it seems, and a font of that type of knowledge, if the price is paid. Apparently she takes rare herbs and sometimes "favors" in return for her words of wisdom.

Exhausted, but still game, the adventurers proceed to the Bent Hook tavern, where they had informed their party to meet them. There they find the triplets drunk and Fura waiting nervously. They all wonder what's been going on, and after a quick explanation they also agree to meet the next day and try again.

Down to the dock the women head after convincing Fura that he should come along. Once there, they pull out the flute and summon the giant gar, they're determined to see this witch today...even if it kills them. The trek is three hours according to Old Man Nester IF they follow the trail. If not, it could take days.

It takes a little searching but Isabella finds the faint outlines of a game trail and off they go. About two hours into the hike, the trees grow quite a bit larger, the canopy tightens up above them, dimming the light, and the underbrush starts growing much more verdant. Giant, twisted briars, with beautiful flowers grow alongside the narrow game trail, snagging and catching at the adventurer's clothing and gear.

Not far in the distance, the snapping of branches and a cacophony of low growls alerts the party that something is going on not far off in the brush. A stick is stepped on and the growling suddenly stops...the rushing of feet through the leaves prompts weapons to be drawn with haste. Out of the bushes hurtles three large hyena-like creatures, their muzzles smeared with blood and their long yellow canines barred for violence.

Initially it looks bad, Safira is pounced on by two of the creatures and dragged to the ground where they savagely maul her. Fura is beset by the third beast and he luckily dodges it's first snapping advance. Teeth flash and snap. Blades and staff go snicker-snak. Soon the beasts go down and Safira's wounds are healed by Ember and her belief in Freya; the goddess of battle and beauty.

The group takes a short breather and luckily catches sight of a smear of blood just off the trail, as if something was dragged away, INTO the brush. They investigate and discover the dismembered corpse of a female. It's in too poor a condition to tell who she was, or even if she was human. But they do discover a fine silver flowered necklace and a small satchel of herbs with a sharp silver paring knife obviously used in the collection process.

They decide to keep moving towards the witch and quite soon they emerge into a small clearing occupied by a small woven briar hut and a large black-iron cauldron, wherein some type of viscous green liquid bubbles and pops, heated by flickering blue flames. The clearing stinks of an acrid nasty stench emanating from the cauldron.

A rough voice issues from the darkness of the small hut asking the intruders to announce themselves and to state their business. The adventurers do so and gnarled hands push aside the hanging vines covering the doorway to reveal....a twisted and ancient dwarf! He comes limping out on his club foot and asks a few other pointed questions. As the questioning progresses the air is filled with a buzzing sound and looking up the adventurers see a small group of pixies flitting above their heads.

Satisfied that the adventurers mean no harm, the dwarf looks up as if to someone behind the party and asks if she's ready to see them. The party whips around and a kindly looking plump-woman dressed in a faded, but still pretty, flower-print dress nods and smiles to each of them. She greets them and asks if they'd like to take tea with her.

Safira agrees and surprisingly, her wounds are healed the rest of the way! The witch introduces herself as Neegle and tells the party that the body they found in the woods was an assistant of hers out collecting herbs. She also informs them that she'd be more than happy to answer questions, but there is a price.

Two questions are agreed upon by the group: Where can the Hermit be found, and what is behind the Black Door in the ruined monastery of St. George of Gyxag? The price for the first answer is the herbs the party came across on the slain body. The price for the second answer will be determined at the next full moon, whereupon the group will meet Neegle here.

After handing over the satchel to Neegle, she informs them that the Hermit lives only a few hours hike due north of here, but beware, he is not nearly as tolerant of visitors as Neegle. The answer to the Black Door is a little more complicated. What the group seeks may be found behind the Black Door but therein also dwell things that are not meant to see the light of day. She also mentions that the Black Door is not the ONLY way into the depths...

Armed with this new information, and agreeing that they shall reconvene here at the next full moon, the adventurers take their leave of Neegle and bid adieu. Their hike back towards the Hruesen river is uneventful...They break out of the trees at dusk, exhausted and bedraggled.

And this is where we'll pick it up again. Until next time.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Ken Follett's 'World Without End'

Well, here's the first post of '09. Happy New Year to everyone! Here's hoping for a peaceful and prosperous new year...

You're probably thinking that this is going to be a post about the book 'World Without End' eh? I hope I'm not going to disappoint you but it's not. What it IS about though is how it shaped my Labyrinth Lord game.

A bit of a preface is likely apropos at this point; My wife of over 15 years is absolutely accepting of my role playing proclivities, but she's only ever once partaken in role playing, and that was a Shadowrun game many many years ago. (before we were married) She tried it and was disappointed when she was told what "her" contact said. To be completely truthful, she's never had much patience with sitting around for more than an hour or two. A movie is about max. A good book is the exception, she can wrap up with an excellent story for hours upon hours.

Anyway, my daughters have been playing Labyrinth Lord with me and in the interest of getting a game in during our weekend stay in the mountains, I brought my gear with me. Turns out my wife finished her book, 'World Without End' and was bored. I don't know what possessed me but I thought I'd ask her if she wanted to play, knowing full well that she'd quite likely laugh and politely turn me down. She's a sweet heart and I love her to death for putting up with my hobbies.

Surprise of surprise, she accepted and said she'd like to play a sorceress. I scrambled and started rolling one up for her, knowing that the character creation process would frustrate and bore her. As I pulled the dice out she mentioned that she'd play anything. So I rolled some dice and came up with an Amazonian-like fighter, replete with an extraordinary strength of 18! Yeah man, no cheating required.

We played about an hour after I finished her character; Isabella. I couldn't believe it, my wife was sitting and PLAYING at the same table as my daughters and me. It was astounding and ground breaking.

It was awesome! And was exactly what my daughters needed, a little adult guidance and wisdom.

Following is a rough recap of that nights events:

Isabella - Female Human Fighter level 2
Ember - Female 1/2 elven Cleric level 2
Safira - Female Ice Elf level 2 (I know, I've been calling her Safara for eldest just corrected me the other night.)

The Gathering Festival was held under the great Oak near the edge of town. Due to the free food and drink, nearly the entire population of Botkinburg was in attendance. As well as food and drink there were competitions aplenty. A knife throwing contest attracts all of the martial crowd and this is where Safira meets Isabella as the elf wins the respect of the tall Amazon by winning the competition easily. They strike up a conversation and one thing follows another...Isabella is now part of the group.

All the while the party is speaking to potential hiring prospects and they find quite a few willing individuals who will all meet in 4 days time back at the Bent Hook.

Days flow past and random little chores are accomplished and minor gear is replenished. A few rumors are followed up during the interim. One of them being the sighting of Lisa Schuler, a farmer's wife, across the river on a couple of different occasions.

Visiting the Schuler farmstead, a ramshackle two-story building with a horde of 1/2 dressed children scampering about nets an interesting conversation with Mr. Schuler. It seems that Lisa has possibly been poisoning Mr. Schuler! Isabella finagles a small sample of Mr. Schuler's drink to test for poison.

The group goes to the Chancel and speaks with the good friar. The holy man casts a spell and confirms that indeed the drink is slightly poisoned but he tells them that w/out proof that Lisa is behind it, he can do nothing, and besides, it's not really his place to do much other than heal Mr. Schuler. They must go to the Sheriff with this information if they can provide proof.

While at the Chancel the party visits the ailing priest who's hired Fura, the halfling they met in the field on their way into town a few days ago. His physical appearance supports Fura's reports, he's thin as a rail and speaks in a barely more than a whisper. Ember and Safira ask him about his mission and he informs them that he's from a church far to the east and north, in the City State. Many many years ago the church was broken into and had its most important religious artifacts stolen. It's been his life's work to track them down and recover them. He's been successful for the most part and near the end of his life he only has a few more items to find.

His trail has led him here, to Botkinburg, in order to track down a man who is rumored to have access to much information. This man is known as the Hermit and he's supposedly exiled himself from society and is now a recluse in the Tangle Downs somewhere. This is the man Fura has been hired to find.

The order's patron is Saint George Gyxag! Gasping simultaneously, the girls pull out the statue and the old priests eyes water as he nods, yes he says, this is his patron. He asks where they found this and the girls say that they've just returned from an expedition to the Ruined Monastery in the Tangle Downs and that the rumor is it was built long ago by a priest from far to the west.

They then proceed to tell him the story of the key and the black door and the red caps, with Melchert, their leader, who are frantically working to find access to the black door. The rest of their items didn't seem to hold the old priest's interest but the door he said could very well be his tomb. And this was most certainly where his church's saint had disappeared to. This was a marvelous find! As the old man drifted back off to sleep he smiled and said that his choice in Fura was obviously the right one, for the halfling had obviously chosen his comrades wisely.

A little later that day the girls went to visit the goatherd that had reported seeing Lisa across the river. He didn't have much to add other than he saw her in the morning at the river's edge as if she were looking for something...the mists then rose and he lost sight of her.

The second townsman who claimed he saw here was Gunderman, the loon who lived in a house half falling into the river. As they approached they spied him sitting upon his roof, feet dangling in the water, fishing pole firmly ensconced in his fist. He greeted them warmly and told them that he had seen Lisa in the evening but he didn't have much more to add...unless of course they had a few coins to spare. 3 pieces of gold would buy them more information if they returned later.

Turns out that Gunderman has an aquatic green-skinned female friend from the river that has seen Lisa cross the river by summoning a giant gar with a small flute made of river reed. Lisa doesn't have the skill to produce a thing such as that and Gunderman couldn't think of anyone else who might be able to make such a thing. All this information though comes from Gunderman, who keeps his relationship with the river faerie hidden. (Safira spied upon him to discover who was providing the info.)

Now armed with all of this information the girls decide that they're going to hide on the river's edge and wait for Lisa. It is late when she appears, but as expected she pulls a small flute from her satchel and blows a few notes. Not much later a large shape emerges from the water of the Hruesen. Sitting astride it she crosses the wide river.

The girls wait. Just as the sky is turning pearly grey the notes of the flute are heard again and Lisa returns. They spring out to surround her and at first she flatly denies any of the poisoning alligations and says that no one would believe in the story of her crossing the river on a gar. But she drops the charade and says that if they mess with her that her allies will eventually make life hell for them. They ignore her and take her satchel, in which they find a couple of small vials, the flute and a few other small trinkets.

Lisa dives for the flute but her arm is kicked by Isabella as the flute is grabbed by Ember. She then makes a break for the river, running full out.

And there we pause our game. (we played the last portion of this in the car on the drive down from the mountains and I didn't have any dice we paused in that rather odd spot.)


NOTE: I do have to say that my wife is quite bright and intuitive when playing. She's a wonderful addition to the game. I'm not too confident that she'll be a consistent part of the game but nonetheless, it was a pure pleasure to have her to game with.