Review: Kith’takharos One-Sheets

To round out this run of Kith’takharos reviews, here are the One Sheet adventures.

CONTENT

Spider Hunt is for 3-5 Seasoned PCs, and you won’t be surprised to learn that the PCs are commissioned to hunt down some Spiders Of Unusual Size. What is a little unusual, though, is that their webs have interesting properties, so the objective is to bring some back for study, and leave enough spiders alive to produce more in case the webbing is valuable.

The Repository is a small cave system for the PCs to explore. Maybe they find it themselves, maybe someone else reports it and they are tasked with investigating it. The inhabitants disapprove, either way. This one is for 3-5 Veteran characters.

The Hideout is for 3-5 Novice or Seasoned PCs, and lets them raid a small outlaw base.

FORMAT

The standard one-sheet format; two sides of full-colour adventure in three scenes, a monster, and a map. As usual for WHM products, the colour of the text boxes announces their purpose, and makes them easier to find.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

My eyes aren’t what they once were, and the amount of stuff compressed into these adventures makes the print small, thus hard to read. Small black letters on a dark green background in particular are troublesome. Layered PDF to let me turn off the colours would be appreciated, as black on white is a lot easier to read.

CONCLUSION

These fit nicely into the Kith’takharos setting, but are easy to move elsewhere, and are probably good for one session apiece.

An honourable mention for the new type of giant spider in Spider Hunt (I’m looking forward to trying that on the PCs).

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5.

Shadows of Keron Episode 13: The Skinner of Syranthia

The party reached Syranthia this week, and while most of them were off doing whatever it is the characters do when their players can’t make it, Gutz, Nessime and The Warforged become embroiled in the hunt for a serial killer. As ever when running a published scenario, I hold myself back to avoid spoilers, but the most memorable moments were…

  • Nessime’s casting of her Entangle power. She has some unusual trappings, and the trapping for Entangle is a horde of enchanted monkeys appearing from some improbable place and swarming over the target. This week her foe was standing on top of a barrel, so of course the monkeys were in the barrel. More fun than a barrel full of monkeys, as the saying goes.
  • The Warforged allowing the sages to measure and draw him in exchange for access to the Great Library. He wouldn’t let them take any samples, though.
  • Nessime persuading an encountered street gang to join them, arguing that they couldn’t allow murder to go unpunished on their turf unless they’d done it themselves.
  • Gutz persuading a priest that he was a member of an obscure religion he in fact knew nothing at all about, and then later persuading one of the Library sages that he was a famous third-generation taxidermist. That went well until he asked the Library’s chief taxidermist for tips on stuffing and mounting illegal subjects.
  • The Warforged taking the time to change to his Sorceror’s Spiked Frying Pan before his finishing move on the chief enemy thug. (He welded spikes to it some time ago, then there was an unforeseen accident in Gilaska which led to it being imbued with the qualities of a sorceror’s staff…)

The group finished this scenario in half the time I expected, deciding who the villain must be very early on with almost no evidence, and ignoring at least two major subplots along the way. Had their guess been wrong, things could have been even more entertaining.

As it is, as well as being wanted for desertion and murder by the army of Kyros, they are now also wanted for theft and arson by the Great Library, so they must move on in a hurry.

The paladin of Hulian tries so hard to do the right thing, but the rest of the party are just not on the same page…

The Price of the Lotus

Lotus concoctions are going to be a staple consumable for the party in Shadows of Keron, especially Healing potions. Cracking open Beasts & Barbarians, I see that with a Streetwise-2 roll one can find a potion, which costs $200 per rank. Lotusmasters only recover power points when the potion is drunk, and I assume they are wealthy enough to live well – this is because they must initially have had the status and time available to study, and now require expensive components.

How often the potions are drunk – i.e., how quickly the Lotusmaster gets his power points back – is a stronger constraint on manufacture than how long it takes to make a potion (a few hours).

Let’s say he needs to make $1,000 per month ($780 personal living expenses, based on the top end costs for food and lodgings in the Fantasy Gear Toolkit, plus whatever they need for savings/hobbies/family). That’s five Novice rank potions, which at an average of 2-3 power points per potion is about as many as a Novice (Lotusapprentice?) can make without recovering power points. Therefore, he must assume potions will be drunk within a month of sale; I can see fine print on the potion bottle saying "Best Before Month End".

Things follow from these assumptions.

  • Since the Lotusmaster’s income is driven by his power points, non-adventuring ones take the Power Points Edge as often as they can, starting with 15 points and gaining 5 more per rank.
  • Income is badly hurt by keeping back potions for personal use such as home defence. Lotusmasters need powerful friends, and/or bodyguards, and probably band together for mutual support. Outside of Gis, where presumably being in charge gives some protection, they are likely to hide, which explains why you need a Streetwise roll to find one.
  • Likewise, potions are mostly made to order, as having a concoction lying around in case someone buys it risks a 20% loss of revenue for the month.
  • Some sort of guild structure is likely. The Lotusapprentice lives in relative poverty and churns out Healing potions to fund his master’s more grandiose projects, but knows once he learns better powers he can command high wages.
  • Lotusmasters will try to sell potions that give them the most income (highest rank) for the least power point expenditure. These are Confusion or Succor for Novice rank powers, or Slow for Seasoned powers, so those are likely to be the most common concoctions.
  • The least common potions are likely to be high-powered versions of Blast or Blind at Novice, and Invisibility at Seasoned, because they have the worst income to power point ratios.
  • Most potions will be the minimum power point versions of a power (I can get $1,200 for three two-point Blast potions, or $400 for one six-point Blast potion).
  • The only Veteran powers a Lotusmaster has access to are Puppet and Zombie. It’s hard to think of a legal use for those. Puppet for keeping those uppity Lotusapprentices in line, perhaps.

An alternative pricing system would be $100/power point rather than $200/rank. That would keep prices roughly the same for most powers.

This makes me realise that using the No Power Points option for NPC Lotusmasters as well as PCs would remove the major constraint on how many potions there are in the campaign, and how powerful they are. I should think carefully about that before allowing it, but it would address the players’ concern about running out of healing potions.

Review: Seal the Rift

The final episode of the Kith’takharos adventures from Dave Pryzybla and Michael Galligan, published by White Haired Man. The Savage Worlds version is designed for 4-6 Heroic characters, and is 42 pages long.

CONTENT

Colour map of the region; introductory fiction; explanation of how and why the authors write adventures this way; GM background and adventure hooks; then into the meat of the book.

The adventure itself is in seven parts (scenes, encounters, call them what you will), and is a surgical strike into a three-level dungeon, aimed at recovering a lost artefact – the sole means of preventing the return of the Big Bads who caused the fall of the now-vanished reptile man civilisation which used to control this region. Recovering this item demands that they deal with numerous traps and guardians.

We close with appendices on new items and monsters.

FORMAT

The usual WHM approach; good, extensive use of colour. Illustrations for handouts are conspicuous by their absence this time, though.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

You can sing along with this one by now; layers in the PDF, please, for print-friendliness, and a single downloadable PDF of the setting on the website (under construction at time of writing).

CONCLUSIONS

You really don’t want to start Kith’takharos here. You should play at least The Nine Towers and The Dreamers Awaken first. You could start here and complete the adventure, but without the background and emotional investment in the setting built up over the last few adventures, it would be robbed of much of its impact.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 as part of the sequence, 2 out of 5 if played alone.

Shadowrun Episode 3: Super Nova, Part 2

I’m feeling lazy today, so no in-character stuff, just the bare bones.

Zanshin, the Refined European Troll, and the Technomancer followed the clues in their dead contact’s PDA back to a NovaTech building, where they concluded the deal.

The Johnson had overstepped his authority, and so got the 9mm version of severance pay, while the PCs handed over both cases to his boss and got paid. Unfortunately another group of mercenaries had followed the party, and burst into the meeting room. While the patron and his bodyguard escaped through a secret escape lift, the PCs held off the intruders.

This was a very bloody fight, as you can see from the stacks of wound and stun modifiers piling up under the figures – the Technomancer’s player referred to these as “Towers of Pain”.

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Towers of Pain – aka NovaTech Office, 15th Floor
Clockwise from top: Red samurai; technomancer; refined European troll; Zanshin; red samurai; cyborg minigunner; some sort of wizard.

At length, the PCs prevailed, thanks to having more Edge than the opposition, looted the office and left. Shortly afterwards, a grateful NovaTech official upgraded the van we stole last session, adding armour and a drone rack.

We’ll now switch back to Beasts & Barbarians for a couple of weeks.

The Cost of Living

I’m still experimenting with upkeep costs for my fantasy campaign.

Based on the costs in the Savage Worlds Fantasy Gear Toolkit, and assuming three meals per day, food and accommodation would cost:

  • $270 per month for someone living cheaply (cheap meals, room shared with 5 others)
  • $390 per month for the average character (good meals, shared double room)
  • $780 per month for someone living well (feasts, private rooms)

So, starting wealth being roughly one month’s upkeep still seems about right, once you allow for entertainment (all right, ale and whores then), ammunition, spell components and so on. It also matches $1 being roughly one copper penny historically, but there’s only one of my players who might know that, and he won’t care, so I’ll leave $1 as one silver Moon.

Where I’ve been going wrong, I think, is in charging PCs this much one per session – once per adventure seems more reasonable, since an adventure typically covers only a few days of game time but can take 3-5 sessions to complete.

However, to discourage people leading a string of ponies around behind them (The Warforged, I’m lookin’ at you), I shall charge them the "living cheaply" rate for each horse as well.

Review: The Dreamers Awaken

This 64 page book (or PDF, in my case) is the fourth episode in the Kith’takharos series, by Dave Pryzybla and Michael Galligan, published by White Haired Man. The Savage Worlds version, which is my topic for today, is designed for 4-6 Veteran characters.

CONTENT

The book starts with a full-colour map of the Kith’takharos region, some narrative fiction, and an explanation of the authors’ philosphy and purpose of the scenario. It then moves on into the usual background for the GM section.

The Dreamers Awaken builds on previous Kith’takharos adventures. Personally, I’d play them in sequence, but I think you could miss out the first two easily enough. It would be harder to drop players in who haven’t completed The Nine Towers, but possible using one of the adventure hooks provided.

The scenario itself is in seven scenes, so would probably last two or maybe three sessions of play. By now the PCs should know from earlier episodes that once a race of civilised reptile men lived in the region, and that their civilisation vanished. By the end of The Dreamers Awaken, they will know what happened to that civilisation.

The essence of the adventure is to find a dungeon, explore all three levels, and emerge victorious with the knowledge needed to begin the next adventure in the series, as well as some useful relics.

FORMAT

As usual for White Haired Man products, this make good – and extensive – use of colour. Different types of text are pulled out in different colours, and there are a number of illustrations to use as player handouts.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

Use layers in the PDF to make it more printer-friendly.

Duplicate, or collate, the handout illustrations at the back of the book. As it stands, I need to either cover up bits of it and show the players only what they need, or print out a second copy and chop it up.

It would be clearer to me if the "Place" sections in this and earlier adventures appeared in the right place in the adventure; pulling them out to a previous section confuses me, I’m afraid.

CONCLUSIONS

One of the staples of the genre; kick down the door, kill the monsters, and steal their loot. Underneath that, however, is the ongoing story of what happened to the dungeon builders, which I’m quite interested in by this point.

Overall rating: 2 out of 5 on its own, but 4 out of 5 as part of the sequence. It depends heavily on the previous adventures – nothing wrong with that, but if you like Kith’takharos, this is not the place to start.