Posts Tagged ‘Savage Worlds’

Arion, 014-3401: Dromedary

Posted: 11 November 2017 in Dark Nebula
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“How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done; thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways.” – King James Bible, Jeremiah 2:23

Aboard the Dromedary.

I roll for in-game reactions (Solo pp. 19-20) and an onboard event (Solo, p. 56): There’s only one active PC yet – Arion – who rolls a 6 and therefore fails to avoid a bad reaction; a further roll of 4 shows that a choice is made and he doesn’t like it. The onboard event is 43 – a power failure.

The Captain’s day cabin is spacious, by shipboard standards, and Captain Anderson sits at a small desk, interviewing Arion, who is dressed in an ill-fitting pair of Combine overalls and perched awkwardly on a folding chair. The scene is dimly lit by emergency lights, and the air conditioning is off.

“Our sensors confirm there’s wreckage from an Archive Surveyor, and the origin of your trajectory matches where it would have been when you left. So your story checks out. But tell me, why would pirates blow your ship up? First, they’re breaking no laws by being here; second, there’s no-one to enforce them if they were; third, a ship with an Archive transponder has nothing worth stealing – no offence – and fourth, the Archive is too powerful to upset for no reason.”

“None taken. I saw too much. I saw who they were meeting out here. Hierate scouts.”

“You sure?”

“Hraye III class with a fuel slab, squawking a clan recognition code. Unmistakable.”

“Pfft. Half the pirates out here are from the Hierate.”

“True, but they don’t squawk clan codes. And honour dictates that anyone using those codes be a member of the right clan, and vice versa. The code tells you who it was. No room for error.”

“Hmm.”

“Hmm indeed. So Captain, thank you for picking me up, but I need to impose on you further – I need to report back to Mizah right away.”

“Surveyor, the law is clear. I grant you’re a distressed spacefarer, and the Archive is good for your transport costs. But I can’t turn 600 tons of ship around and break my Bond to get you home three weeks sooner. Do you have any idea how much that would cost?”

“Don’t you see how important this is? The Hierate and Confed have been rattling sabres at each other for years, this could be the start of outright war – and if the Hierate barrels through here fangs out and hair on fire, they’re going to hit Mizah first.”

“But they might not.”

“But…” Before Arion can argue any more, Anderson interrupts, the steel any trader captain must have at his core being displayed for the first time.

“But me no buts, Surveyor. The law says I drop you at the next port of call and submit an invoice the next time I’m at an Archive facility. I have no obligation to deadhead you halfway across the sector first, and no obligation to reroute my ship for your convenience. Unless you have written authority from the Great Archive to pay the penalty clauses for breaking my Bond, which I know you do not because we searched you for contraband and weapons when we brought you aboard.”

The lights flicker back on and the air conditioning starts up again. “Finally!” Anderson mutters, then continues in a louder voice.

“Now that power has been restored, we can jump. And we will. You can either keep out of the way, or help with running the ship, but any more complaints about the route and you’ll find yourself in cryosleep in a low berth. Do I make myself clear?”

“Crystal, Captain.” Arion leaves the office. He is seething inside, but if he’s put into cryosleep, who knows where – or when – he’ll wake up?

GM NOTES

This story thread came about as I thought it was time we found out how Arion met Anderson, how the pirates were involved, and why Arion started working for him. I have no idea what happened, but the dice will tell us soon enough.

For this campaign, I’m determined that each post should have part of the story in it, so I’ll keep the commentary on rules and setting design in the GM Notes section, rather than in separate posts as I’ve done in the past. This time, as Arion is in jumpspace, let’s look at FTL travel, and the implications for the rules and the campaign. I expect that will make more sense if we have the map in front of us, so here it is.

The Dark Nebula boardgame makes several assumptions about hyperspace jumps. First, you can only move along the routes on the map (at least until you uncover the secrets of the Nebula itself). Second, you can’t leave a tertiary system unless there is a tanker present to refuel you with hydrogen harvested from the star. Third, in a two-year turn you can go anywhere on the map, stopping only for enemy units, tertiary systems without a tanker, or uncharted jump routes; since there are about 80 routes on the map and each side has three movement phases per turn, the theoretical minimum jump time is roughly three days, and is probably more than that. Finally, you can’t bypass any star system on your route (otherwise the tactic of blocking fleets with a sacrificial scoutship wouldn’t work).

Savage Worlds itself is silent on the topic, but the Sci Fi Companion says that a ship can jump to any system regardless of distance, potentially in zero time if it’s prepared to expend enough fuel, and The Last Parsec adds the idea that the jump is faster and less risky if the system has a hyperspace beacon. To match Dark Nebula I could say that astrogation beacons communicate with each other faster-than-light (explaining how each player in the boardgame has perfect knowledge of the enemy’s movements), that beacons only allow travel along specific routes; and that tertiary systems have no beacons. In that case, tanker units would be a kind of self-propelled beacon.

Traveller limits ship movement by the amount of fuel carried and the rating of the jump drive installed, rather than by specific jump routes; refuelling at a planet is still needed, but you can bypass systems as long as you have the fuel and drive rating to do it. Aligning Traveller with the Dark Nebula is straightforward; I usually rationalise the jump routes by saying that the map is a 2-D representation of 3-D space, and systems that appear to be next to each other may be too far apart vertically to allow a jump. Saying that the boardgame’s ships have jump-3 gives a close enough match for strategic mobility – Bors, Daanarni and Taida Na remain impassable without some means of refuelling, and while you shouldn’t be able to access Ria, Osa or Karpos I can live with that – I want Arion to visit Ria and Karpos. As the map is drawn, J-1 pretty much limits you to Mizah and its neighbours, J-2 is good for exploring either subsector but won’t get you from one to the other, J-3 lets you travel between subsectors, and J-4 lets you leave the map. That progression has a certain elegance to it, don’t you think?

(If running multiple campaigns a generation or more apart on the timeline, I could argue that the drives in the various games are the same kind of hyperspace motor at different technology levels; first the DN drive, then the Traveller one, and finally the SW version. But ain’t nobody got time for dat.)

TL, DR: Traveller jump drive wins. There’s a good campaign to be played using the official Savage Worlds hyperdrive, but it’s not this one. Maybe next time.

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Review: Sector Asgard Kappa

Posted: 8 November 2017 in Reviews
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Missed another session last Saturday, but as I was wondering what to regale you with today, what should drop into my inbox but an announcement that this Kickstarter is done and I can download the final product. Woot! Let’s have a look, shall we?

In a Nutshell: SF setting and plot point campaign for Savage Worlds and its Sci Fi Companion. 170 page PDF by Applied Vectors Ltd. About $20 at time of writing, with another $10 getting you a larger plan of the default party ship.

CONTENTS

The Introduction, New Edges, New Hindrances, and Native Races (6 pages) aren’t listed as a separate chapter, but it is convenient for me to treat them as such. The premise: This sector of space was cut off from the rest of the galaxy for centuries due to a dark matter storm, developed independently, and is now being reopened for travel and trade as the storm has passed. This section introduces the concept of “Ventures”, small groups of explorers, adventurers, and deniable troubleshooters, originally a rakashan thing but now open to all. We also learn of the Tenarii, a long-vanished alien race which created technological wonders (including the Wormway, a network of jumpgates, and a variety of ringworlds) and then disappeared. There are two new hindrances and two new edges, and a comment that each world has at least one playable native race.

Worlds of Sector Asgard Kappa (105 pages): Here’s the meat of the book; 30-odd star systems, all with at least one inhabited world, some with two or three. Oddly, given the nature of SW hyperdrive (all worlds are one jump away from all other worlds) this section begins with a sector map on an 8 x 10 hexgrid; even more oddly, the names on the sector map are those of the stars rather than the worlds themselves.

Each world has a Sci Fi Companion statblock, a page or so of background info, a few local NPCs, a full-page combined system and world surface map in colour, a playable native race or two (usually variants on one of the races in the SFC, presumably diverging from the main species during the period of isolation), a sidebar detailing some local oddity, and a short adventure, about the size of a SW One Sheet, often with statblocks for new creatures or enemies. Systems with multiple worlds get more pagecount and more maps. The structure of the world descriptions, and the maps, are both good.

Crowfoot’s Venture (10 pages): This section includes full stats and deck plans for the party’s ship, a refurbished warship which is a bit bigger and more heavily armed than the usual group of ne’er-do-wells would be tooling around in; as well as stats and descriptions for the crew of nine, any or all of which could be seasoned player characters. I approve of the authors listing the advances by which each one reached Seasoned.

The deckplans themselves are available for another $10 as 18″ x 12″ sheets, which look like they would still be usable on the tabletop if magnified. They’re the same images, just bigger and higher resolution.

A Million Starflies (28 pages): No spoilers! This is a plot point campaign in 15 episodes, each of which will take 1-2 sessions to play. This pits the PCs against a dastardly foe bent on large-scale domination and his minions – picture a Bond villain and you have the general idea. Given that you have effectively several dozen Savage Tales sprinkled through the book, you have about 50 sessions’ worth of play here, which depending how often your group meets would be a year or more of play.

FORMAT

Judging by the properties in the PDF, this is a 7″ x 10″ book. Two column black text on white, colour border for each page, colour illustrations. Does the job.

Production values don’t seem quite as polished as my usual fare, but I am a content guy more than a format guy, and it’s perfectly usable, so no complaints.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

The hexgrid sector map is neither necessary nor useful for SW play if you’re using the standard hyperdrive rules. It could be useful if you want to convert the setting to Traveller or Stars Without Number.

For the same reason, I would have presented the worlds in alphabetical order of name myself, rather than in their sequence on the hexgrid.

The floorplans and deckplans have a square grid, but the grid would be more useful at one square to two yards (one tabletop inch); it appears to at roughly 12 squares to the tabletop inch.

CONCLUSIONS

I haven’t really got the hang of the world generator in the SW Scif Fi Companion, and I was hoping that this would be an example of how to use it in anger. However, the more I read this book, the more convinced I am that the authors created a Stars Without Number sector using this tool and converted it to Savage Worlds, sprinkling the result with some Traveller concepts such as the Ancients (Tenarii) and red zones (red trade codes). I do that sort of thing all the time myself so no complaints about that.

However, it does reinforce my opinion that the SW Sci Fi Companion world generator isn’t very useful. and doesn’t show me how to use it to good effect – that’s not the authors’ fault, mind, they wrote what they said they’d write.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5. I don’t regret backing this, and I can surely cannibalise it for parts; but the quest for the definitive SW space opera setting goes on.

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

1514 Daanarni E000000-0 Ni.

Daanarni is blindingly bright; a blue-white supergiant. You can read by it in the next star system but one, that’s how bright it is. So look away into the blackness, and after your eyes or your screen filters have adjusted, you may be able to make out a small, bright dot. Zoom in on that, and keep zooming, and eventually you’ll see a human figure in a deep space pressure suit, solar panels cranked out of the backpack like wings. It was the light glancing off those that caught your eye. It doesn’t look like he’s going to run out of power any time soon, whatever else he’s short of.

One of the panels reels in, just a little, and after a while extends back out again. You realise he’s using the radiation pressure and the solar wind to tack across the system, quite possibly just to keep his mind off wondering how long he’s got left before the air and water recyclers break down or he starves to death. Or whether he could open the faceplate just a crack, just long enough to scratch that God-damned ITCH on his nose.

You’re just starting to get bored with watching his glacial progress when the familiar disk-and-slab shape of a subsidised liner winks into existence, not too far away from him and on an intercept course, or nearly so. Its turrets swivel to align lasers on him, the ship’s computer having registered him as a potential threat; after a few seconds it picks up the suit’s transponder and moves the ship itself elegantly aside instead. You scan through the appropriate radio frequencies, and shortly pick up traffic between suit and ship.

“…I say again, this is Surveyor Arion Metaxas of the GAS Bozcaada out of Mizah. Well, technically I suppose it’s not so much a ship, more an expanding ball of gas fluorescing in the far ultraviolet, but… Sorry, I’ve been out here quite a while. Permission to come aboard? I’ll be good, I promise, and the Archive would be ever so grateful, I’m sure. I certainly will. Oh, and there were some pirates in the system a while ago, you might want to keep an eye out for those.”

“Hang tight, Surveyor, this is the Combine liner Dromedary, Captain Anderson commanding. Give us a few minutes and we’ll reel you in.”

At length, a hatch opens in the Dromedary and a pair of suited figures appears. They tether themselves to the ship, then jet across to intercept Arion on manoeuvring thrusters while he reels in the solar panels. Catching him easily, they escort him back to the ship, and all three disappear inside.

To be continued…

-o0o-

Fade up theme music (Joe Satriani: The Traveler). Roll credits…

DARK NEBULA SEASON 1: THE TRAVELLER

Starring Andy Slack as Arion Metaxas

Also starring…

  • Karen Gillan as Coriander
  • Vin Diesel as Dmitri
  • John Lithgow as Perry Anderson

Produced and directed by Andy Slack

Written by a bunch of dice and large quantities of single malt.

Music by Joe Satriani.

Based on the boardgame by GDW, Solo by Zozer Games, and Savage Worlds by Pinnacle Entertainment.

With additional material from Classic Traveller by GDW and Stars Without Number by Sine Nomine Publications.

Tryouts: Gold & Glory Dungeon

Posted: 28 October 2017 in Tryouts
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“Why are we in a swamp?” asks Abelard. “It’s alright for you, Carlesha, you humans are tall enough to stick out of the water. The half-folk an’ me, we’re like to drown.”

“Stop whining, Abelard. See yonder gazebo? That will be dry, and inside are the stairs leading down into the Serpent Shrine.”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the stairs go down below the water level. Stands to reason that shrine’ll be flooded.”

“Have faith, Abelard. Have faith.”

“Didn’t do the priests much good, did it?” Abelard mutters under his breath.

I’ve selected the Snake Shrines dungeon for this trial, because I love the idea of getting into it through a stone gazebo in the middle of a swamp. That suggests the first room below ground should be in the center of my graph paper, or in this case Dungeonographer grid, which I have arbitrarily made 30 x 30 squares. I decide that since my main focus this time is the dungeon generator, I shall use the Savage Worlds Quick Combat option. I note that in the Snake Shrines, there are no doors.

First room; I draw three cards. 9 of diamonds, 7 of spades, 3 of clubs. That tells me the first room is 9″ x 7″, has one exit, and has treasure in it, specifically a one-foot snake idol worth 200 gp. That’s a pretty big room, so I roll a d12 and a d20 for features; 6 and 10, respectively. After a couple more dice rolls, that resolves as a chasm, 6″ x 4″ and 30 yards deep, and a flooded floor. That’s how it works, so now you’ve seen it once I’ll speed up. Here’s the final map, with the room details below.

Room 1: The stairs end in a chamber 18 yards by 14, the floor covered in water leaking into the Shrine from elsewhere which pours into a chasm 12 yards by 8, and draining away who knows where… “Aha!” cries Abelard, plunging his arm into the scummy water and pulling out a golden snake statue a good foot long. “Floods aye, but gold too!”

Room 2: North of the party is another chamber, 16 yards square with two exits; but at Abelard’s cry of triumph, three hideous snake-human hybrids turn and glare at him from the shadows. As they charge the party, Abelard’s dwarven eye is drawn to the golden snake torc around the leader’s neck, worth a good 100 gp in his estimation. Then the burly mutants are upon them, and a fierce melee ensues.

Time for some quick combat. A witch and two rogues against what are effectively three Uruk-hai? I think they’re outclassed, so roll at -2. Neither side appears to have a tactical advantage, so that’s the only modifer. Carlesha rolls on her Spellcasting d8 and gets a 3; she fails and collects a Wound, and it takes two bennies to soak it, so she only has one left. The dwarf and the half-folk each roll on Fighting d6; both succeed on a 4, and get through the fight unscathed.

Abelard, elected mule by virtue of being a dwarf, adds the torc to his bulging backpack. Now the party’s loot is worth 300 gp. Looking up, he sees a big chunk of the ceiling has fallen in; this explains where the water is coming from. On one wall is a delapidated wooden shelf with a couple of mouldy candles on it, but this is of no interest to treasure hunters.

Room 3: East of the snake mutants’ lair is another huge chamber, 20 yards square, with two exits. Spiralling columns provide some cover, but within stands a regal snake-woman, towering over a pile of bones, who points at them and commands: “Leave! Or die!”

“Just going,” says Carlesha, and the party backs away. “But… but…” stammers Abelard. “Look in the next room! Beyond the corridor!”

Room 4: Actually a corridor running south, the raiders can see this has two other exits and a very large snake coiled up on the floor. It watches them lazily as they withdraw.

The connection between rooms 4 and 5 isn’t created by the rules, it just made sense to me given that both rooms have an exit which can only really be in that place.

Room 5: Whether a wide corridor or a narrow room is unclear, but as the adventurers retreat they can see a long room, lined with a double row of statues of standing snakes, many of which have gemstones as eyes. The floor appears to be covered in deep mud.

Room 6: The party moves through the snake-mutants’ lair into a corridor with two further exits, and Carlesha pauses to run her fingers lightly over an inscription on the north wall: “Scales of the Three Moons, Bless Us! Blood Snake, Give Us Strength! Soul Snake, Give Us Wisdom!” she reads aloud. “Hmm. I wonder what that means?” But before she can work this out, a small, venomous snake darts out of a hole in the carvings and tries to bite her. Panicking, she blasts both it and the carvings to smithereens with a bolt of energy.

I can’t help but embellish the raw table entries, hence the hole in the carvings, but more Quick Combat here… Carlesha rolls on Spellcasting, no modifiers, and gets a success with a raise, recovering one benny and comprehensively frying the snake.

Room 7: At the end of the corridor on the north side is a further chamber, centred on a 10 foot tall stone snake idol, with massive ruby eyes. The floor is again flooded, and there are empty torch sconces on the walls. The dwarf boosts the half-folk up, and between them they quickly remove the statue’s eyes. Total loot so far: 700 gp. Assuming they can get out alive, that is.

Room 8: Opposite is more of an alcove, a priests’ robing room perhaps? Whatever it was, the walls and ceiling are visibly unstable, and the entire floor has collapsed into a pit 20 feet deep. Abelard can see coins at the bottom, but also a number of snakes, and the bones of the last person to try recovering the coins. “Let’s give that one a miss,” he suggests.

Given that they don’t fancy mixing it up with the Snake Queen, that’s it for the day, and they emerge and make their way back to town. Here, they fence their 700 gp of loot; they agree to buy two units of bandages and balms against future need, and take 200 gp each as their personal share. While the two rogues go Carousing, Carlesha embarks on some research; they each make a roll on the appropriate activity table and I decide they each take one advance, which at this stage of their career costs them 50 gp each, leaving them with 150 gp in savings. Our dwarven friend draws a joker, which lets him draw two more cards; he hears a rumour about another dungeon, and gets a Tarot reading which temporarily grants him the Luck Edge. His half-folk rival parties hard, and gains Charisma until the next time she is out on the town. Carlesha’s research means she learns a new power permanently; however this is actually one she already knows, with a new trapping.

As I don’t currently intend to play these guys permanently, I won’t bother with the advances and new power. I could have bought them another couple of advances each, but you can only draw an activity card once between sessions, and besides it doesn’t feel right, although it is only likely to happen in the early stages of a hero’s career, since there is a steady rise in the cost of advances.

GM NOTES

This is a very enjoyable little game; it does the best job I’ve seen yet of making Savage Worlds feel like an Old School dungeon crawler, and I’ve tried that several ways now. I intend to use it to create dungeons for the Hearts of Stone group, although I will probably create my own monster, treasure and feature tables – or more likely, borrow them from some OSR game – to avoid giving you too many spoilers from Gold & Glory.

Incidentally, I’ve played a few sessions off-camera, and this particular dungeon had some unusually large rooms. Notice though that you do get some long narrow ones which act as corridors.

Quick Combat worked pretty well too, so I’ll add that into the toolbag for future solitaire games. While I’m playing a combat-heavy group session most weeks, I can afford to cut some corners in solitaire gaming without suffering skill fade.

I want to try out Gold & Glory: Seven Deadly Dungeons, reviewed last week right here. It’s not designed for solo play, really, but I’m sure I can make it work that way. First I need some player characters…

For the first character, I begin by drawing three cards: 2 of clubs, 10 of diamonds, 9 of diamonds. These give me a male dwarf rogue, with characteristics of Ag d6 Sm d6 Sp d6 Vi d8; skills of Fighting d6, Notice d6, Stealth d6, Streetwise d6, Climbing d6 and Throwing d6; the Brave Edge and Bad Luck and Mean Hindrances. (I chose the last two skills, the rest are determined by his class.) His gear includes leather armour and a dagger from his class, and then I draw cards for extra gear; you draw three cards here and choose two to determine your gear, but as a rogue, the dwarf repeats this twice.

The first three (club 7, heart queen, club 6) give me the options of soap, mirror and comb; 2d6 toy soldiers; and a hammer and 20 nails. Hmm. I like the idea of the toy soldiers, but reluctantly discard them.

The second three (diamond 5, spade ace, diamond jack) offer me a spyglass, a bag of caltrops (and Throwing d4), and lockpicks (plus Lockpicking d4); goodbye, spyglass.

The final three (heart jack, diamond 7 and spade 9) are lockpicks again, a shovel and bucket, and wooden dice (plus Gambling d4). I’m not sure what happens if I take lockpicks twice, so I discard that one.

As the character is randomly created, he automatically gets the new Edge, In the Hands of Destiny. As a dwarf he gets Low Light Vision, Slow, and Tough (factored into the statblock above).

Let’s call him Abelard, and as he has no Arcane Background, we need not concern ourselves with powers. I can’t do connections until we have the full party, so let’s generate a couple more; I’ll just give you the name, race and class here, and the statblocks below. Experience teaches that big parties are hard to run solitaire without introducing a level of abstraction (as in Solo), but as each PC has (optional) connections with two others, I need at least three; two more, then, and each draws a card to establish a connection with the next.

7H 6H QD: Female half-folk rogue.

2D 8S JC: Female human wizard.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

Abelard, male dwarf rogue

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigour d8.
Skills: Climbing d6, Fighting d6, Gambling d4, Lockpicking d4, Notice d6, Stealth d6, Streetwise d6, Survival d4, Throwing d6, Tracking d4.
Charisma +0, Pace 5, Parry 5, Toughness 7 (1).
Hindrances: Bad Luck, Mean, Slow.
Edges: Brave, Low Light Vision, Tough.
Gear: Leather armour (+1), dagger (Str+d4), backpack, soap, mirror, comb, hammer, 20 nails, bag of caltrops, lockpicks, shovel and bucket, wooden dice.
Connection: Competing Friends with Belka; whenever one rolls snake eyes, the other gets a benny.

Belka, female half-folk rogue

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigour d6.
Skills: Fighting d6, Healing d4, Knowledge (Music) d4, Knowledge (Trade) d4, Notice d6, Shooting d6, Stealth d6, Streetwise d6, Survival d4, Throwing d6.
Charisma +0, Pace 6, Parry 5, Toughness 5 (1).
Hindrances: Anaemic, Lame, Short.
Edges: Elan, Fortunate, Spirited.
Gear: Leather armour (+1), dagger (Str + d4), backpack, musical instrument, winter clothes, bandages (1 use), helmet, crowbar, 6 torches, flint and tinder.
Connection: Former business partner of Carlesha, I haven’t decided what trade they were in yet.

Carlesha, female human wizard

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigour d6.
Skills: Fighting d4, Knowledge (Magic & Occult) d6, Knowledge (Trade) d4, Investigation d6, Notice d6, Spellcasting d8, Survival d4, Tracking d4.
Charisma +2, Pace 6, Parry 5 (1), Toughness 5.
Hindrances: Bad Luck, Big Mouth,
Edges: Arcane Background (Magic), Attractive.
Powers (10 PP, nature trapping): Bolt, deflection, detect/conceal arcana.
Gear: Staff (Str + d4, 2H, +1 Parry, Reach 1), dagger (Str + d4), spellbook, quill, ink, 6 candles, flint and tinder.
Connection: Former hunter – used to go hunting with Abelard.

Next up: Into the dungeon…

Anvil Road, 8th June 216. Boris, The Fox, Hug-Hug, Pascal, Silmaria, X7-09.

Almost all our heroes are somewhere in the mines now, and gather by the campfire between the lift shafts and the spiral staircase. While the others lick their wounds and roast – well, best not to think about it, really – over the fire, Boris, the Fox, Silmaria, Pascal and X7-09 descend by the northern lift shaft (now repaired by X7-09) to the lower level.

Some short-range exploration allows them to tie up their rough maps of the upper and lower levels, and to deduce correctly that the only thing they haven’t investigated on the upper level is the mysterious moaning noise behind one of the walls. Leaving that for another day, they follow one of only two unexplored corridors they know of, which twists and turns and at length leads them to a circular chamber with a high ceiling, which X7-09 notes is covered with holes. On the middle of the floor lies a body in chainmail, stretching its hand out towards a large gem. The Fox attempts to shield-surf down a short flight of stairs into the chamber, fails miserably, and walks the rest of the way to the gem, intending to liberate it. Two things happen immediately; large spikes slide out of the holes, and gravity in the chamber reverses, hurling the helpless Fox onto the spikes. Through swift reactions, adroit use of the shield, and (to be honest) miraculous luck, the Fox survives the spikes; then gravity returns to normal and he falls 20 feet to the floor, suffering severe contusions.

The rest of the party had cautiously retreated outside the chamber during this performance, and so survived. Pascal scampers into the chamber, again reaching for the gem; this triggers the trap again, and while Pascal’s extraordinary wall-crawling abilities protect him, the Fox is again slammed into the ceiling spikes, and then back onto the floor again. He begins to look somewhat the worse for wear and there is some doubt whether he can leave the chamber under his own power, so Boris casts entangle in his unique manner – extending his luxuriant armpit hairs to a length of some 15 feet and projecting them for the Fox to grab onto. Given where this impromptu rope has been, the Fox is reluctant to grab it – until it triggers the trap again, when clutching on to it allows him to avoid the spikes, but not the bonecrushing slam into the floor afterwards. X7-09 and Boris reel him in like a fish and he is partially healed. Pascal gathers up the loot and after a short argument, the Fox gets the chainmail for his pains – and puts it on before anything else can stab him.

Pascal determines to his disappointment that the gem is an illusion, and more productively, that if he walks round the edge of the chamber he can cross the chamber without setting off the trap. The party cross to the other side and open the opposite door, at which point they are blasted by a lightning bolt of uncommon puissance. Fortunately, X7-09 is in the van, and as he becomes more experienced and better-equipped, he is getting increasingly difficult to hurt. Smoking slightly, he leads them through, and they discover the bottom end of the staircase where the others are camped. Not wanting to risk the chamber again, they troop upstairs, across to the lift, and back down again, before taking the only route they haven’t explored yet, another passage.

At length, this passageway ends at a door, with an apparent gargoyle statue in an alcove nearby. Remembering that “the gargoyle knows the command word”, they ask for this and receive it. It’s at this point they begin to wonder what the command word does, but Silmaria is inspired by the word and begins scribbling notes about an awesome song using the word as its title.

X7-09 marches up to the door and tries to open it, receiving a very large spring-propelled spear in the guts for his pains. However, his shield slows it down enough that it does no actual harm, and he twists it sideways intending to smash its wielder into the wall beyond. He discovers that the door is false and the spear part of a trap, but while he is finding this out, Boris runs a long nail down the gargoyle’s cheek and says “My, aren’t you a handsome fellow,” while at the same time the Fox barrel rolls away from the skewered X7-09, expecting further attacks – straight into the gargoyle.

The gargoyle interprets this combination as an attack – wouldn’t you? – and leaps from its alcove to rend the party into toothsome chunks. Boris immediately invokes his magical bodyguard (a medusa).

“Stanley, my love,” says the medusa. “It’s been so long!”

“Gorgon – kill!” instructs Boris.

“Anyone in particular, or just all of them?” asks the medusa.

“Not me!” shouts the Fox.

“Just the statue today, my dear,” explains Boris.

“How dare you cheat on me!” roars the medusa. “You thought I’d forgotten after all this time!”

While Silmaria taunts the gargoyle from the rear, the others lay into it with a will. Everyone hits it and hurts it, except X7-09 who is preoccupied with the door; but perhaps predictably, it dies when Boris kicks it somewhere tender with a viciousness not normally seen in elven wizards.

After some discussion, the party declaims the command word, thus opening a secret door. Following the corridor beyond leads them to an altar room, with an unbound corpse nailed to the altar by a dagger. The errant Hug-Hug is hiding behind the altar.

“Fanatics!” hisses X7-09, deducing in a flash that a sacrifice of some sort is needed to proceed. While the rest of the party gazes on, mouths open in shock, Pascal casts stun on Hug-Hug, X7-09 grabs him and slams him on the altar, and Pascal rams the dagger into his chest, killing him instantly. A section of wall slides back, revealing a passage deeper into the mines.

“Poor Hug-Hug,” says Boris, intoning a request to his patron Icon under his breath.

“Yes, Master?” moans Hug-Hug, as he struggles to rise from the altar.

“You have done well, my friend,” says Boris. “The King has given you a second chance.”

The Fox cries out: “THE NECROMANCER!” and leaps forward, longsword swinging for the goblin’s exposed neck. Hug-Hug’s head flies from his shoulders to roll across the floor, while Boris gleefully skips off to join the rest of the party, as they venture into the newly-revealed passageway…

To be continued…

GM NOTES

The Fox is currently going by the name of Sir Balthazar Rook, but I find it easier to think of him as the Fox. He never takes off his closed helm, as we have established that while everyone forgets his face at midnight, they do remember that their party contains an Imperial knight (who for some reason never opens his faceplate).

X7-09’s player (also Pascal’s player, though in this session X7-09 was the Wild Card and Pascal the Extra sidekick) is proving remarkably good at figuring out puzzles with next to no clues, which is gratifying.

Boris continues to be a deeply unsettling individual. The player does Chaotic Neutral very well.

Pressure is mounting to explore Babe Island (drawn on the map by Boris about 15 sessions back), so I have agreed to take them there once they’ve finished in the mines, which will probably be next week. I’ve been meaning for a while to switch over to some homebrew adventures, and this is a good chance to do so. Who knows what they’ll find there? Not me, but the dice will soon tell me…

In a Nutshell: Old School dungeon crawler for Savage Worlds. Written by Giuseppe Rotondo, maps by Dyson Logos, published by GG Studios. 114 page PDF, $9.90 at time of writing.

CONTENTS

Introduction (2 pages, one of them a black and white illo): What Gold & Glory is; not a setting, but a really fast Savage Worlds dungeon crawler with random character generation.

Character Creation (14 pages): Savage Worlds doesn’t have a random option for character creation, relying instead on the semi-pregenerated archetypes; this section provides a one (you can still use full fat SW if you want). You draw three cards; suits determine the character’s gender, race, and ‘character class’, while values determine edges and hindrances.

Race determines starting characteristics, and character class is basically a starting skills and equipment package – it has no effect on character development later in the game, but does define what gear you have and what you can do with it. If you have an Arcane Background because of your class, you draw 1-2 more cards to check what powers you have; arcane casters also roll a d6 to select trappings for their powers.

You draw another three cards for extra gear you might have; some of these items give you extra skills.

Optionally, each player draws a card for a connection between his character and that of another player; so in a group, each PC is connected to two others. These have mechanical effects as well as narrative ones – my favourite is Competing Friends: whenever one PC rolls snake eyes, his Competing Friend gets a benny.

Equipment (10 pages): This covers currency, selling loot, buying magic scrolls, and a revised encumbrance system which disposes of pounds weight in favour of abstract units. There are a few new mundane items (shout out for the poison purge, which allows you to reroll the effects of being poisoned). Light sources have an additional attribute: The usage die. When you enter a new room, you roll that die; if you score a 1, the usage die becomes a d4, or if it is already a d4, the light goes out.

Setting Rules (10 pages): These are focused on Arcane Backgrounds, lighting conditions, time and movement during exploration; they serve to make the game more like Original D&D. Wearing armour reduces your casting chances, you can prepare spells ahead of time for mechanical benefits, you only recover power points under certain conditions, experience points are based on loot recovered, that kind of thing. Design notes explain the decisions the author has taken – the objectives are to speed up play and discourage disruptive behaviour at the table.

Experience (6 pages): Your PC is in this game for the loot; you enter dungeons because that is where the loot is, you slay monsters because they are standing between you and the loot. The revised experience system is the key setting rule, and as such gets its own small chapter.

If you spend your loot on carousing, magical research, or offerings to Solis the Sun God, you can convert gold pieces to experience points – spending the money on other things doesn’t help. The xp you need to gain an advance start at 50, and increase at each rank. In effect, then, you buy advances with loot. Once per session, if you have spent gold to buy xp, you also draw a card based on which activity you spent the money on; this gives you a random benefit, which can be temporary or permanent. Anyone can carouse, but research and offerings only really help those with the right Arcane background.

Wild Draw Dungeons (6 pages): This is a random dungeon generator, intended to be used on the fly. If you do this, you’ll need a second card deck with the aces, faces and jokers removed. Draw three cards for each room as you enter it; the values determine the room’s size and number and type of exits, while suits determine what’s in the room. At first, I thought there was no advice on connecting rooms with passages; but after a little thought I realised that a corridor is just a long, narrow room.

Optionally, you can take some black cards out of the deck; this means you get to the interesting rooms more quickly.

There are examples of the dungeon layouts this generates, but specific monsters and treasures vary from dungeon to dungeon, which is where the next chapter comes in.

Dungeon Adventures (61 pages): These are intended to be used with the random generator in the previous section; that creates the map, while the seven dungeons in this chapter each provide an overall theme and tables of loot, special features and monster encounters – these are generally standard SWD monsters with a couple of modifications. Each dungeon has flavour text split into what everyone knows, what information can be found by a Streetwise or Investigation roll, and what it looks like once you’re inside. Sometimes there are special rules which apply to a particular dungeon. Several of them have a distinct fairy-tale feel.

FORMAT

Single-column black text on white, lots of black and white dungeon maps (most chapters have one as the last page), occasional line art or colour images.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

There’s no index or table of contents, which doesn’t bother me at all because I use the PDF reader search function. But you should know what you’re getting, and an index or table of contents isn’t it. Update 22 October 2017: The product now has a table of contents.

I find the vertical text centering used in tables harder to read than top-centred text. It’s only really possible for me because of the grey banding on table rows. That could just be my eyes, of course.

At different places in the book, it seems to say random PCs start with 250, 2d6, or no cash. I’ve assumed no cash because the gear is often worth more than any of those amounts. Update 16 October 2017: The author explains it’s 2d6 for randomly created PCs and 250 for ‘standard’ ones. My mistake.

If I draw three cards for gear, then get a joker to draw two more, how many of the four items do I keep? I used two, thinking that the extra choice was enough of a bonus. Update 16 October 2017: The author confirms you keep two.

CONCLUSIONS

In about three sessions’ time I’m going to need some fast and easy SW dungeons for the 13th Age game. This may well be how I get them.

The random character generation sequence might be an entertaining way to create NPCs. The setting rules strike me as an especially simple and elegant way of encouraging PCs to behave like D&D PCs without forcing them to do so.

The seven dungeons provided will certainly get you started and keep a group occupied for quite a few sessions, but you will eventually need to prepare more encounter and treasure tables.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5. I love this, and it will see use in the next few days. Watch for an ‘after action report’ soon!