Escape from the Forbidden City!
Readers will recall from session nine that Victoria the Dwarf was the sole survivor of the most recent party of bold explorers to dare the dangers of Bawal Bayan. The last of her companions, the long-lived and much beloved dwarf "Gilmie", was blasted into slag by a lightning bolt at the very end of the prior session. The offending rogue wizard, master of the tasloi who haunt the city, was badly wounded and with his guard-panthers slain, he fled deeper into the ruins.
|Like most bad guys, he's not so tough without his kitties (or his spells).|
Victoria had a difficult choice before her: try to escape the crater or pursue the wizard into unexplored territory in hopes of avenging her fallen friends. Though the young lady playing Victoria was not a gamer, I could tell that she was into the action and that the game was on her mind. By mid-morning I'd overheard her talking to peers about the upcoming class:
"I want to go to Core [class] today! I have a bunch to do ... but I'm pretty sure I'm going to die!"
Luck was with Victoria from the start as we settled in to resolve things. She chose without any hesitation to pursue the fleeing wizard and his last pair of tasloi lackeys. A die roll of 2 allowed her to pick up the blood trail and follow it to the shell of a ruined house. A heavy tree limb had been dragged across the open doorway in a last ditch attempt to slow pursuit, but she didn't approach, opting instead to circle the structure. The lone window was too high for her to reach easily.
"Can I roll a rock over to stand on so I can reach it?"
"Um, sure. Sure you can."
Several tense rounds followed as she stepped atop the stone to fire her bow through the window while the pair of tasloi gave answer with hurled javelins and stones. A quick flurry of fire and she'd break off to circle a bit, sometimes drawing near for a partially obstructed shot through the door, sometimes casting a stone of her own to cause a distraction. At one point she spied a narrow crack at the rear of the crumbling house.
"I'm going to peek through it."
"Alright. One of them must have heard you and was waiting just beyond the wall! It thrusts at your face with its javelin [rolling a 15] and just barely misses. The stone point scrapes across your armored collar!"
|Cat and Mouse|
And so it went. Eventually, running low on arrows, she heaved the tree limb out of the doorway:
"I want ... I want to turn it like this so that ... yeah, so that I don't have my back to them."
Her next arrow slew one of the tasloi "gremlins" and the other failed its morale check and dove through the window (though she tried to catch it!). But where was the wizard? The spider hole in the corner couldn't hide long from dwarven eyes and soon Victoria had uncovered the dusty canvas concealing a crawlspace.
"I guess I do down it -- no, wait! I search first, then drop down."
The wizard, out of spells and henchmen, had no way of knowing that his pursuer would be so relentless ... or that she'd be a dwarf! The darkness and low ceiling of the crawlspace only aided her pursuit and soon she overtook the fleeing wizard, struggling along in his robe on hands and knees while trying to drag a sack behind him.
"I know what you have come for! The secrets of life eternal! The Yuan-Ti know ... the Yuan-Ti have much to teach!"
Victoria, however, was completely unimpressed by the villain's attempt to monologue.
"I shoot him."
When the first arrow missed, he just started talking faster, fumbling for his dagger in the darkness.
"Wait! Wait! I have gold ... I'll give you gold if you let me live!"
She wasn't having it.
"Nope. I'm not listening. I just shoot again."
And then the wizard was no more. Victoria wasted no time, but began to pick through the treasures in the sack. Dagger for Kids has no encumbrance rules, but I just limit my players to six items (the number of blanks in the equipment section of their character sheets). It works amazingly well and couldn't be simpler. Victoria finally chose the wizard's golden serpent staff and the jeweled fillet from his brow, keeping her bow but abandoning her shield to make room for another piece of loot.
Now began the long, lonely, dangerous trek across the crater of Bawal Bayan and back to the safety of The Stockade. Victoria wasn't going to be entered any marked section of The Forbidden City, so the main danger would be from wandering monsters.
I decided to handle it like this:
I'd roll a 1D20 check every time she entered the territory of a particular creature type.
- 20 = immediate ambush
- 19-17 = and encounter
- 16-14 = signs of a creature nearby
- 13-1 = all clear
When she came to The Crevasse I allowed her to roll a die to see if all three ropes had been cut -- one remained and she shimmed across.
I rolled another check.
North of The Labyrinth she skirted along the edge of the territory hunted by both the Giant Caddisfly Larvae and the robberflies.
(Nothing and nothing.)
The player was practically squirming in her seat at this point, staring hard at the map as I made her trace and retrace her exact line of travel.
When she passed under the lee of The Fallen Colossus I made a check to see if the mongrelmen were still riled.
A 14 meant that she heard some gabbling cries echo off the cliff walls, but saw nothing.
She made a dash for The Black Canyon and I rolled a check at the repaired rope bridge (a bluff, I knew that area had been cleared) and a check in the grotto of the Yellow Musk Creepers. At this stage I veered from my usual habit of rolling everything in the open and, as Victoria saw the grim line of the corpses of her former companions, now swathed in heavy vines and sprouting pale buds from eye sockets and mouths, she had no way of knowing if the zombies were about to become active or if they were still dormant. She hesitated for a moment.
"How many of them are there?"
"You can see about 12. There might be others tangled within the masses of vines."
|explorers as fertilizer|
After firing her last arrow into the knee of one zombie (it didn't respond) she climbed down to the sandy floor and picked her way gingerly along the wall, staying as far from the dead as possible.
I rolled a check as she paddled across the Crocodile Pool and slipped out into the jungle where night had fallen.
Treading carefully, she followed the jungle trail as the tasloi began to whistle and shriek in the distance. One final wandering monster check (all clear) and Victoria was home free and slipped within the protective walls of the Explorers' Palisade. I got a cheer and a spontaneous fist pump as Victoria counted her loot and became the first of our middle school students to level up!