In the place that is not a place, Hordan, Lady of Darkness, sits across a game board from her unwilling husband Hulian, the Smith. The board portrays the Dread Sea Dominions in great detail, and assorted pieces in red (for Hulian) and black (for Hordan) are arrayed on it in complex patterns of conflict and dominance.
“Your move, husband,” breathes Hordan, while demonic sychophants on her side of the table perform acts Hulian affects to ignore. He pushes a piece into the space representing the city of Gilaska; a complex piece, representing a group of individuals moving as one – a Scoundrel, a Sage, a Lotusmaster, a Gladiator, a Monk and a Barbarian of the North.
“Oh, Hulian,” laughs the Queen of Night. “Is that the best you can do?”
I managed to persuade the WFRP3 group I play in to try Savage Worlds and Beasts & Barbarians last weekend, and as a taster I ran them through the adventure Thieves in the Night, from Savage Insider #3, using some characters from Archetypes of Jalizar and the Dominions.
Thieves in the Night, like several other adventures in the B&B line, has a duration that can be adjusted easily by adding or dropping sections; because I was rusty, and none of the five players were familiar with the game, we didn’t play through all the possible encounters, but it worked well. Be warned: Spoilers this time; the adventure was published in 2011, it was free to download, and if you haven’t played it yet you have only yourselves to blame!
Stopping over in Gilaska, while watching a funeral procession the bulk of the party encounters the Scoundrel (a native) and Balcor the Beggar, who for a cup of wine and the promise of a share in the loot explains how to get inside the Earthenware Pyramid of Gilaska and take possession of the newly-dead lord’s jewels. The armed guards and crocodile-filled moat are merely courtesy details.
Sneaking around the back of the pyramid, the party gets their Barbarian to build a raft and carry a line across to the edifice, where he acts as one end of an impromptu zipline as the others cross. All goes well until one of the sacred crocodiles takes an interest in the Sage; the Scoundrel kills it outright with a lucky pebble from his sling, providing an early demonstration to the players of how aces work. I take great delight in pointing out to the Scoundrel, who worships Etu, that he has now vandalised the goddess’ pyramid, and used the piece he broke off to kill one of her sacred crocodiles. Etu, the Great Mother, is not angry – but is terribly, terribly hurt.
As the dead crocodile rolls over, the Sage decides to take it with him for further study. Alas, he is unable to manage hanging on to the rope one-handed while steering a dead crocodile using his staff with his other hand, and falls in, to the great interest of the other sacred crocodiles.
At this point the Monk distracts them by throwing a roast chicken from their food supply some distance from the Sage, explaining that the chicken will gain great karma by saving a human life, and any damage the crocodiles inflict on each other is their own fault for not sharing.
Entry to the pyramid is easily gained, thanks to Balcor’s instructions, and pausing only to vomit after finding the headless body just inside, they move on into a strange circular chamber with a hole in the ceiling and a socket in the floor. Looking for secret doors, they discover the lair of something unpleasant, filled with decapitated rat skeletons, and decide whatever lives there is responsible for the thief’s death. While the Lotusmaster (Dorjee Pema) and the Sage debate the room’s purpose and operation, the fighting-men and Scoundrel advance, discovering a side passage leading down into a sarcophagus room. Immediately deciding that this is a false treasure room and unworthy of their attention, they leave without triggering the trap, to my disappointment.
Moving on, they find a room acting as a T-junction, occupied by a group of worried guards and a headless corpse. Zosimus the Gladiator intimidates them with the convincing (but imitation) noises of something they don’t want to argue with approaching down the corridor, and they withdraw. But behind them, the dreaded Tomb Baboon, a giant carnivorous ape, has attacked the intellectuals (and the Barbarian, left behind to guard them)! The Barbarian is stunned into immobility by the baboon’s special intimidation attack, but the Lotusmaster draws a dagger and makes an impressive full defence roll it cannot penetrate; the fighters barrel back in, and thanks to the Sage’s screamed advice of “Go for the armpit!” they fell it easily – and then drag the corpse back to where they found the soldiers, setting it up as a primitive ventriloquist’s dummy in case the troops return. I felt I should reward this by having the guards come back, and the players are delighted to scare them off again with gorilla imitations and the adroit use of sticks to wave its arms around.
The Monk demands a map of the complex, and I draw a schematic one based on what they’ve seen so far. He points out that the baboon couldn’t have attacked the rearguard without the advance party passing it, and I put on my best poker face and leave the players to work that one out; they decide there must be a secret room, and roll to Notice it; when the Sage scores over 20 on his Notice d6, I obligingly add the room of engravings as a secret room, and the Sage gets a chance to shine by finding clues to the Citadel of the Winged Gods, which I expect they will follow up at some point. The players pose the question of how the baboon learned how to open all these secret doors, and get the poker face treatment again; after a few moments they decide it must have watched the priests of Etu burying people – monkey see, monkey do.
You see, the players will do a lot of the work for you, if you only let them, and reward them by adopting their ideas.
After a little more exploration by the party I notice the session end approaching and advance them to the tomb proper, where they meet the dead lord’s assassin soliloquising about his plot before getting his comeuppance at the hands of the ex-ruler, now a mummy, who shakes off phenomenal amounts of damage thanks to his invulnerability. The Scoundrel scuttles around collecting the gems while the fighting-men hold the undead at bay, then the team withdraw to the round room, where the Sage pauses to stick his staff in the socket. In my haste I misread the effect, and the Sage now has a staff-shaped power point battery which is no use to him at all, except that since it has at least one power point in it, it counts as a magic weapon – however, he thinks he used up all its charges in the final battle, when Zosimus, the Barbarian and the Monk immobilise the monster, and between the magic stick and Dorjee Pema’s Lotus Reserve (Red Lotus of the Phoenix Fire), they manage to take it down.
The Scoundrel now dresses himself in the assassin’s hooded robes, effectively disguising himself as another local noble, and with an imperious gesture dismisses the guards as he emerges from the tomb. The party complete their looting at a leisurely pace and emerge victorious.
- It’s the first time I’ve had either a Lotusmaster or a Sage in the partry, and both worked really well; considering neither player had used SW before, they quickly got the hang of their special Edges and used them to great effect.
- I have been playing the No Power Points rule for so long that I had forgotten how power points worked, and had to look it up.
- Completely abstract dungeons didn’t work for this group, so I had to draw them a map eventually; but the Savings Rules were accepted with no adverse comments, in fact with a laughing acknowledgement that they accurately reflect the genre.
Next time for the Pawns of Destiny: Wolves in the Borderlands.