Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ripping Off Ali Baba (Part 1)

As usual, I'm a bit pressed for time, but I'll see what I can do.

As mentioned previously, I was able to play-test my version of D&D Mine on Thursday, a little game I'm calling 5AK at the moment. The system worked well and received positive reviews from the players...Kayce, who has played and DM'd most editions of D&D enjoyed the fact that her character (a thief) was competent right from the get-go, and...well, maybe I should just do the write-up.

Here are the logistics of the thing...I showed up a bit after 8 (we'll call it 8:20ish). Two players ended up making it: Kayce and Will. I provided an overview of the setting and some of the unique rules/mechanics starting around 9 or so, and then we did chargen, step-by-step as outlined in Book 1 (I've got my own three LBBs for 5AK). We started the scenario around 10:20, with a slight interruption (when Nick showed up on his way home from work), and finished up before midnight...probably about 11:40ish (Will had to catch a bus home).

I drank a lot of beer. Not unusual.

The setting is kind of Mythic Middle East (think like Ars Magica's "Mythic Europe"). The time is about 800CE, about 150 years after Mohammed, and in this particular world the Franks never converted to Catholicism, leaving Europe a war ground of squabbling barbarian tribes with Rome left in ruins (i.e. there ain't no "Holy Roman Empire"). Islam (or its renamed knock-off version) is a big deal but not a requirement...only about 30% of the population is actually "True Believers" (and as with real world history, many of them converted so as to be exempt from the local poll tax on non-Muslims).

The basic introductory setting in Basur, a sprawling coastal city of 70-100K about 280 miles southeast of Bagdabha, the most wealthy and famous city in the world (and about 10 times the size of Basur). Basur, is built upon the ruins of an ancient city of the prior evil know the drill: sorcerous necromancers living behind giant basalt walls. It was burned and razed in the time of The Prophet and now the military camp set-up to oversee the ruins has blossomed into a thriving port town while the ruins have become a link to The Underworld (in the Holmes/OD&D sense of the term).

First step of chargen is choosing one's class (as ability scores are pretty secondary in nature). Kayce decided to go with a thief, and Will chose the easy road to power of the sorcerer (a subclass of magician: think "sold your soul to Satan for magical knowledge" and you'll get the  drift). Both were neutral in alignment with different motivations that color their personalities. For Kayce, her character (Rianne? Rianna? Something like that) was motivated by curiosity/excitement: she wanted to see and experience new things (ah, youthful indiscretion!); she was also a True Believer. Will's character (Hakim or Hakeem) on the other hand was motivated by revenge: he decided his ancestors had once been part of the sorcerous magic tradition of the original city and he burned to have his family's former glory restored. This was made more interesting by the fact that the PCs were cousins, with Rianna's immediate family having taken a more-or-less "live and let live" attitude to their current state of affairs. Both characters ended up (by random roll) being of "low class" which certainly went hand-in-hand with their character backgrounds, and gave them additional reason for seeking their fortune through adventurous means. They decided that despite their other differences (Hakim was NOT a follower of the True Faith, although he pretended to it...he also hid his sorcery from the average person, as trucking with demons was a big no-no), they were the only members of their (extended) family that shared a longing for something more and different...hence their reason for adventuring together.

The key to starting their career, of course, was getting them into the Underworld. Both had different motives for wanting to go (excitement/curiosity versus seeking for the means towards power as a way of facilitating vengeance), but they were still on the same page as far as adventure is concerned. Fortunately, they heard rumors of (poor) folk from the swampy coastal area (swamp people!) disappearing, and were able to follow rumors to a likely cave, hidden in the marsh. Having spent almost the entirety of their dinars on some fairly spare adventuring equipment (Riann was armed with a sling, while Hakim had a curvy dagger and a staff; neither one owned any armor), they lit up a couple of torches and entered said cave.

Only to be confronted by three scruffy brigands with clubs and knives of their own.

"What are you lot doing here?" Um...looking for missing swamp people; have you seen any? Reaction rolls indicated immediate attack and the brigands bum-rush the pair.

Hakim drops his staff and draws his dagger, brandishing both in front of him to ward off the bandits; meanwhile Riann drops her torch and plunges deeper into the cave, hoping to lose herself in the darkness (and thus hide). The brigands grapple the sorcerer, and quickly pin his arms behind his back.

In the fading torchlight behind her, Rhiann sees the tunnel splits in two directions. Rather than taking any particular fork she ducks behind a stalagmite and readies her sling, glad she though to fill a small sack with rocks beforehand. Down the tunnel, she can see the three bandits are now following after her, one holding Hakim's dropped torch and leading the way, while the other two hustle the sorcerer between them. She decides to put a stop to this by slinging a stone at the bandit walking point, and knocks him dead with a skull-crack fracture.

One of the other guards releases Hakim to pick up the torch of his fallen comrade, and she does for him, too. The third one is no dummy and decides to draw his weapon and charge her position, but the sorcerer chooses that moment to break free and attempts to mesmerize the brigand. "Look deep into my eyes," he begins...but the bandit punches him in the nose and knocks him cold (Hakim only had one HP). However, his gloating is short-lived: as he turns back to his quarry, the thief puts a stone in his eye and knocks him dead.

Rhiann quickly revives her cousin, when both hear the sounds of many (scruffy) men and booted feet from the tunnel to the left. Once again, the thief uses the rock formations of the cavern to hide herself, while the sorcerer mumbles a quick magical chant and vanishes into thin air. It is not long before five more brigands arrive on the scene and (after exclaiming mightily over the observed carnage) send one of their members down the other tunnel, while the remaining four gather the three fallen bodies and head back from whence they came. Hakim decides to follow them, while Rhiann (who can't see the invisible sorcerer anyway) decides to chase down the lone brigand headed the opposite direction.

Hakim follows the bandits through a large cave that appears to be some sort of makeshift storeroom, barracks, down another corridor that opens into a huge cavern, filled with perhaps another dozen or so bandits, a couple-four wenches of wretched demeanor and a throne upon which lazily sprawls a self-styled bandit king wearing a mail shirt. "What is the meaning of this?" he shouts as the brigands drag their fallen comrades into the cavern. "O Lord, we are invaded by outsiders who have done for our brethren!"

[to be continued]

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