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  • Let's Read Hell's Rebels: Adventure 1, Part 3

    Welcome to another installment of “Let’s Read Hell’s Rebels!” You can find links to the whole series in its project page. This time we’ll go through Part 3 of its first adventure. It’s titled “Redactions and Revelations”.

    As always, we’ll be taking a look at how our hypotethical party consisting of Valeros, Lem, Merisiel and Kyra would fare here as GURPS Dungeon Fantasy delvers.

    As I probably mentioned in a previous post, Rexus’ parents were members of the Sacred Order of Archivists, a secret society of Irori1 worshippers dedicated to discovering and preserving the true history of Kintargo and Cheliax. The Chelish government dislikes them intensely, since they’re all about redacting that truth and replacing it with their own propaganda2. That’s why they burned the Victocora estate down with most of the family inside.

    Rexus, however, believes his parents might still be alive and hiding in the Order’s secret headquarters. His conviction that this must be the case grows as he works on the Silver Ravens document cache the PCs retrieve in part 1. Some time after that work is complete, he approaches the Ravens and proposes they look for his parents.

    He reveals the hideout’s location, under an abandoned museum of curiosities named Hocum’s Fantasmagorium. He’s never been there, but one of the things in the box his parents left for him was a mytrhil key that opens the secret door to the compound. At the very least, the place should contain some of his mother’s personal effects. Laria also encourages the PCs to go there, since if the Archivists survive they’d be the perfect allies.

    Unlike the more freewheeling part 2, this one consists of a single large dungeon delve, but we still have some flexibility in deciding when it starts. Rexus will only approach the PCs for this after he finishes the translation, but you can decide exactly when that happens. Starting it while multiple other missions from Part 2 are still ongoing is perfect to give your players a sense of “so many things to do, so little time”, but if you think they’re already feeling overwhelmed it might be better to wait until the other stuff is done. The book recommends waiting since it thinks the PCs should be level 3 to have a chance here… but if you’re running this using GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, there’s no need for that.

    Hocum’s Phantasmagorium

    One thing the PCs will quickly discover when they begin casing this joint is that the Asmodeans got here first. The Barzilai himself visited this place years ago disguised as a traveling scholar, on his quest to learn about the dark ritual that would make him immortal. Once he took power in Kintargo, he turned over the hideout’s location to the Church of Asmodeus, and they sent a team of ninja librarians to take it out and Redact All The Things. Some of them are still here, hard at work, and Thrune sometimes sends his henchwoman Nox to keep an eye on them.

    Some judicious information gathering by the PCs prior entering the site can reveal the presence of the Asmodeans, otherwise they’re in for a surprise. The museum’s doors are all sturdy with good locks, but the mytrhil key opens all of them.

    Searching the Box Office (E2) will net the PCs some loose change and a ring of swimming3. The Hall of the Cryptids (E3) is full of fake or mislabeled skeletons, some of which have been animated by the Asmodeans to act as guardians. The Hall of the Seas (E4) has a couple of spontaneously generated undead mermaid-things who rise from their aquarium at night.

    The Hall of Insects (E5) is now home to a clutch of giant spiders who were accidentally broken out of stasis by a greedy Asmodean who mistook the souvenir badge amid the eggs as a big treasure, which makes the stuff on his corpse the actual treasure at this location.

    That’s it for the west wing of the building. The east wing has a wax gallery in room E7 that might give the PCs a scare if they think he statues will animate (they won’t, but one of their eyes is a gem). Room E8 has a bunch of charred zombie guards who will attack anyone not wearing Asmodean colors. These are the corpses of the people who were inside the Victocora estate, including Rexus’ parents, who still wear their wedding rings. Bringing the rings back to Rexus will give him some closure and a bonus XP reward.

    Rooms E9 and E10 are the gift shop and the administrative office. They currently house a team of ninja librarians (AKA Asmodean Redactors with levels in Monk) and their evil cleric boss, hard at work reviewing museum documents for inconvenient truths. They’ll probably move to investigate any commotion in the museum level. The redactors should be built on 125 points with Martial Artist skills and abilities, and the cleric is a full 250-point Evil Cleric with a spell selection that allows invisibility and paralysis.

    Room E6, right in the middle and back of the building, is a small exibit on the dead god Aroden. His statue hides the secret passage to the hideout below. PCs can figure out the combination to open it if they pay attention. They can also brute-force the lock through skill checks or actual brute force.

    The Many-Steps Monastery

    This is the hideout proper. It’s occupied by the bulk of the redactor task force and their assorted bodyguards and defenses, including Nox, the regenerating henchwoman they met in passing during Part 1. It’s deep enough underground that the enemies here can’t hear fights happening topside. The name is a joke about the amount of stairs in the place, made by its former Iroran occupants. Unlike the museum, the layout of this lower level is mostly linear.

    The stairs from area E6 above lead into The Sacred Archive (F1), a cavernous library that used to be filled with historical records and rare tomes (made rarer by Chelish redacting). The place is now almost bare, with the few remaining tomes waiting to be examined by the redactors. It’s guarded by a type of outsider called a Scrivenite, which is basically a living book that can take a humanoid form made out of fluttering pages and long bookmark ribbons. This one has been bound to aid the redactors, is quite resentful of the fact, and will gladly answer questions about the other defenses and enemies down here as long as the PCs don’t try to advance further into the complex. They will eventually have to, which will cause the spirit to warn the other redactors telepathically. If the PCs can somehow prevent it from doing so, they will have the element of surprise.

    Areas F2 and F3 were the living quarters for the Archivists, now taken over by the redactors. If the PCs manage to get here without raising an alarm, there’s a chance they can catch Nox sleeping.

    Area F4 is the Artifact Recovery room. The Archivists were also in the business of locking dangerous cursed artifacts away, it seems. Most of the stuff here has been carted off to Barzilai’s opera house base, but something called a cubic gate was left behind. I suspect this is one of those Hellraiser puzzle boxes, given the mess it made when the redactors activated it by mistake. Four of them are in here trying to figure the thing out. They’ll hide in the room and watch the PCs fiddle with it for a while before attacking. See? Ninja librarians.

    Area F5 is a mostly uninteresting lecture hall, currently used as a kennel for Nox’s pet hell hound. If the PCs get this far without raising an alarm, the creature will be here.

    Next is the Common Room (F6), which is where most of the redacting work currently happens. There’s five Redactors in here plus a half-ogre bodyguard. Pathfinder half-ogres are horribly deformed and mentally handicapped wretches, in keeping with the game’s theme of “ogres as inbred cannibal hillbillies”. This one’s mind has been further muddled by years of Asmodean mental control. It should be built with the Brute and Half-Ogre templates, with particularly low IQ. Smart PCs can easily divide-and-conquer this lot, since the half-ogre won’t attack unless the PCs attack it directly or try to move past it to the next area.

    The final area is the Meditation Garden (F7), a large chamber with an underground river running through it and some impressive landscaping. This is where Nox and her pet hellhound can usually be found, so you might as well call this place the “Boss Fight” room.

    Nox is technically human, but she’s sold her soul to a devil in exchange for power. She’s a level 5 fighter specializing in polearms, who can also regenerate, teleport and summon a lemure. In GURPS, she should be built with the Knight template and wield a dueling glaive, and should have Unholy powers matching her supernatural abilities from D&D. Overcoming her regeneration should require Holy attacks, and the book also suggests that drowning her in the underground river would kill her for good. If Nox dies, she definitely won’t be coming back - her contract ensures her soul goes straight to hell.

    Would a cleric’s spells automatically count as Holy Attacks? That’s an interesting question. The original Pathfinder weakness is “good spells or good weapons”, so maybe you have to use a Holy Might power from a Good deity. The general guideline is that she should have the same vulnerabilities as a real demon in your campaign.

    After the PCs deal with Nox, they can loot the room of the books she’s been reading to pass the time. These were created by the scrivenite we described above, and contain a rendering of the memories and knowledge of several of the deceased Archivists… including Rexus’ parents. Through these, it’s possible to procure their aid, after a fashion.

    Adventure Conclusion And Commentary

    The Fantasmagorium looks like a pretty standard dungeon delve if you play it as written: enter room, kill enemies, loot, rinse, repeat. While it’s true that the people in one level can’t hear what goes on in the other, there’s no reason why all those ninja librarians and their assorted hencthings wouldn’t investigate fights happening on the same level. So you can run this dungeon as a brutal raid where most enemies in the level converge on your party as soon as the alarm is raised. This would be murder on a level 3 Pathfinder party, of course, but might be just the thing to make it really challenging to a party of Dungeon Fantasy delvers. Conversely, if the party takes pains to be stealthy and remain undetected, this could be a tense infiltration mission where success is rewarded with plenty of opportunity to shank surprised villains.

    Clearing out the museum and hideout officially concludes the adventure. If you haven’t played through all the events of Part 2, the book advises doing so before moving on, and generally giving the PCs some room to breathe. By the end of Adventure 1 they should be well on track to becoming the most powerful opposition to Barzilai’s government.

    1. The Buddha-like god of knowledge and self-improvement in Golarion. 

    2. I tried inserting a joke about fake news here, but couldn’t come up with a sufficiently funny one. 

    3. How did that get in there? 

  • State of the Octopus: May 2017

    I would say it’s time for another State of the Octopus post, but the truth is I’m late! Let’s get to it already, then.

    May saw a whopping 644 sessions from 448 unique visitors to Octopus Carnival, numbers which are almost twice those of April. This time the US had the clear lead in the number of sessions, with 304. Brazil came in second with 162. The others had a slightly higher number of sessions as well, but remained arrayed in more or less the same positions.

    Facebook was still the largest source of referrals at 130 or so, but Google Plus was close behind it with 128. Looks like announcing posts in a general roleplaying group there paid off.

    Looking at the most accessed pages for the month, we had two individual articles beat the home page in number of accesses for the first time ever: To GURPS or Not To GURPS and Alternatives to GURPS, a pair of opinion pieces on when I think it’s appropriate to use GURPS for a game and what I use when the answer to the first question is “no”. I was very surprised by their popularity, both in number of views (139 and 133) and in how much discussion they ended up generating (tough mostly in Google Plus instead of in the article comments). Note that both of them came out towards the end of the month, too.

    I’m very satisfied with the blog’s performance in May, and quite surprised anyone cares about my opinion :). I hope I can keep the good work going forward.

  • Review: Planet Mercenary RPG

    The Planet Mercenary cover. Illustration by Jeff Zugale.

    The Planet Mercenary RPG is a space opera game set in the same universe as the excellent webcomic Schlock Mercenary. In it, the players take the role of officers in a 32th-century mercenary company. They take on varied contracts from all manner of client, human or alien, lawful or shady. Said contracts often result in a copious amount of explosions with a healthy side order of humor.

    This game started out as a Kickstarter project organized by the comic’s author, Howard Tayler. Being a fan of the comic, I backed it, and it recently reached a successful conclusion. The PDF can now be bought on the link above for US$25.00, and overall I consider it well worth the money if you’re looking for a relatively light and very chaotic action-oriented system. Familiarity with the comic only makes the whole thing better, but is in no way required for your group to have a good time with this game.

    Presentation

    The main text of the book is presented in a double-column layout, in a font I found easy to read. The page background is white, with light purple margins on the “outer” side of each page. The page numbers and associated decoration are done in a “techy” style meant to give the impression you’re reading the text on some futuristic electronic device. As I have the PDF version, that turned out to be the actual case!

    There’s a fair number of well-done illustrations here, most of which depict whatever is being currently discussed in the text itself, be it a typical member of a species, a specific individual, a place or a piece of equipment (from pistols to warships). The images use a more realistic and detailed style than the Schlock Mercenary comic, and some of the landscapes done in this style can be quite spectacular (just look at the cover above).

    The text of the book also contains one of the best examples of game fiction I ever saw. Instead of a short story or comic at the start of the book, this one is told through a series of editorial notes on its margins. “Planet Mercenary” is the name of an in-setting corporation that specializes in selling weapons to mercenary companies, and the RPG itself is written like a piece of promotional material for them. The editorial notes in question are from the fictional staff responsible for writing the book, the idea being that they were supposed to be removed but were left in by mistake. They serve to both add color to some of the passages in the main text and to tell a story about the characters making the comments. I was going to say it’s a surprisingly good story for in-game fiction, but it’s not actually surprising at all given it was written by Howard Tayler, the comic’s author (who also, IIRC, wrote all the setting information here).

    Setting

    Anyone familiar with the comic should know the setting of Planet Mercenary pretty well already. Even if you’re not, you shouldn’t have much trouble understanding the setting with the information included in the book.

    Planet Mercenary takes place in our Milky Way galaxy, in the year 3100. Galactic society is incredibly diverse, encompassing a very large number of alien species and AIs with intellects ranging from “quite dumb” to “godlike”. All of these people get into fights with each other often enough that there’s no shortage of mercenary companies willing to get paid to do fight for them.

    Humans have been a part of this hodge-podge for about 900 years, but there are many species far older than ours out there. Heck, there’s more than a few individuals older than our species.

    The book includes detailed information on several important systems and worlds, most of which were featured in the comic at some point. There’s also a few places that are new to this book, and provide new and interesting ways to kill your PCs even if they’ve read all of the comic already. The descriptions are humorous, but also succeed in being good space opera on their own merits.

    Characters

    Such a wide-open setting can theoretically allow for any sort of game, but Planet Mercenary helps you out by narrowing the focus to something that should feel quite familiar to fans of the comic. As mentioned in the introduction, PCs in Planet Mercenary are officers in one of the setting’s many mercenary companies. Character creation should be a group effort, since the last step involves creating the company the characters work for!

    The system is almost entirely skill-based. There are no attributes like “Strength” or “Dexterity”, and stuff that would modify those in other systems (such as your species) modifies skills instead. There are two derived stats, Health (which is basically HP) and Defense (how hard you are to hit). Players begin by picking a Command Package that describes their function in the company, a Background Package that describes what they did before enlisting, and a Sophont Type, or species. While the setting has thousands of sophont types, the book provides details on twelve particularly interesting or common ones, four of which are actually from Earth (humans are prolific uplifters).

    All of these provide you with a set of skill modifiers and one or more species-specific special abilities. With those in front of you, you then distribute 40 skill points to round out your character.

    With characters in hand, players then create their company by spending Resource Points, with are the game’s abstraction for large sums of money. They use this to buy a warship and its controlling AI, and convert the remainder into Supply Points (i.e, smaller chunks of money) used to outfit the PCs with their gear. Gear stats are usually quite simple, but they get the job done.

    As officers, PCs never go into the field alone. Each is in command of a fire team of three NPC Grunts, which has simplified stats and acts on the PC’s orders. They may also be accompanied by a larger, more abstract group of grunts not under their direct control.

    In addition to acting as an extension of your character, Grunts can also act as, well, Ablative Meat. That’s the actual name of the rule. This basically means a grunt can take an attack that would normally hit a PC. The more times they survive the experience, the more detailed their descriptions get! Losing a seasoned grunt can feel like losing a friend… but if they stick around long enough they can get promoted to full PC status when their comanding officer finally buys the farm.

    Mechanics

    If the mechanics of Planet Mercenary can be said to have an overall theme, that theme is chaos. The galaxy is a big, chaotic place and the PCs are expected to get into messy, unpredictable and often violent situations. Even with the best-laid plans, anything can happen once the excrement hits the ventilator.

    The basic mechanics are simple. Players roll 3d6, add a relevant skill, and try to get a result higher than a GM-set difficulty, which goes from 7 for super-easy tasks to 30 for nearly impossible ones. The GM is expected to mostly eyeball these difficulties - there are no detailed tables of modifiers to be found here. Combat uses basically the same system, with the target number usually being the enemy’s Defense. Combat initiative doesn’t use dice at all - whoever speaks first, goes first. Yes, this makes fights quite lively, and yes, there’s a fairly large advice section on how to deal with potential problems.

    The other thing that really gives Planet Mercenary its unique flavor is the Mayhem mechanic. One of those three dice should be distinct from the other two somehow, and is called the Mayhem Die. When a test is successful and the Mayhem Die has a higher number than the other two, the person who just rolled draws a card from the Mayhem Deck included in the game and (usually) immediately resolves the effect described there. There are about a hundred cards, sorted into descriptive suits such as “Kill”, “Die”, “Bleed”, “Block” and so on.

    Mayhem effects can happen on any test, not just in combat! The effects are pretty varied and described a bit vaguely: the players and GM are expected to work them into something tht makes sense for the current ongoing scene. Some are beneficial, some quite detrimental, and most are somewhat ambiguous but guaranteed to make things more interesting in the Chinese curse sense.

    There’s also a “Roleplaying Points (RiPP)” mechanic, which combines with Mayhem to make things more varied. Players can use RiPPs to re-roll some of all of their dice in a test, to negate a Mayhem effect, or to invoke the Ablative Meat Shield rule (see above). The GM, conversely, is expected to hand out RiPPs to players for good roleplaying and to negate Mayhem cards that would hurt the game rather than make it more fun.

    Conclusion

    Planet Mercenary was something of a rarity for me, in that it’s a system I feel like playing after reading through it. It has enough unique mechanics that it would be hard to replicate the same “feel” in another system, and it’s very well-suited to its setting (which I love).

    In fact, the Planet Mercenary rule set even has utility outside its home setting. I can’t think of any other system I would rather use to play in the Warhammer 40.000 universe. It does Only War better than Only War itself, and I feel writing psyker rules for Planet Mercenary would be less painful to me than enduring a whole campaign with that percentile system.

  • GURPS X-COM: Second Research Phase

    Illustration by AntiMingebag on DeviantArt

    The intrepid soldiers of my X-COM campaign have just completed their second field op and returned alive but not unharmed. They discovered and explored a huge Forest of Woe in southeastern Brazil, met a new and more dangerous type of enemy, and brought back what seems to be an alien defector.

    At this point I once again invited the players to step out of character for a while, and we entered the game’s second strategic/research phase. The bonus event they got this time was a debriefing of the alien refugee, because Sokolov was their head scientist. Had it been one of the others, this would have been a normal research choice and would cost points.

    Bonus Event: The Refugee

    The alien is around 1.5m tall, and quite skinny. Its body is covered in a dark purple, chitinous carapace, over which it wears clothes. It has four arms and two legs, and moves in a somewhat discomforting and “twitchy” fashion. Its seems to wear a mask, as there is a clear seam between its face and the rest of its head, but this “mask” is soft and warm and almost human-like, and moves like it was a natural face. It’s a strong royal blue in color. The alien’s eyes are yellow with black pupils, and it has a very pronounced nose. This being does not have a gender as humans conceive of the concept.

    As a genderless alien who wants to come and meet us, it was inevitable that the refugee would receive the code-name of Ziggy (from David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust). Despite Dr. Vahlen’s strenuous protests, Dr. Sokolov elected to debrief X-COM’s new guest by personally interviewing Ziggy, since it was capable of communicating in English.

    Ziggy’s use of grammar was quite peculiar, and it refused to use the pronoun “I”. Sokolov soon found out the movements of its mouth didn’t match what it seemed to be saying, and recordings of the interview only showed it speaking the same alien language the PCs had heard over their comms multiple times. As a result, the interviews were all transcribed the old-fashioned way, using the services of a stenographer.

    Ziggy gave X-COM some basic organizational information on their opposition: they were made up of multiple alien species, some from previously conquered worlds and some engineered for war. The leaders of this force called themselves the Ebon Masters, and arrived on Earth through “gates”. The trees were part of a weaponized, artificial ecosystem it called “The Moon Flower”. Ziggy had been only a civilian clerk in the employ of the Masters, so he wasn’t able to provide much in the way of specific strategic detail.

    Ziggy also referred to something called “The One Power” several times, and said none of the species previously conquered by the Masters had such an advanced mastery of it. Figuring that misunderstanding out quickly revealed that the advanced alien technology on display so far was, in fact, magic, and that humans were totally ignorant of it. Ziggy became as fascinated by this revelation as Sokolov was about the existence of magic.

    Like the rest of the alien Masters, Ziggy’s look and culture are a mashup of the original Ethereals from X-COM and the devils from the excellent Kill Six Billion Demons comic. It’s the equivalent of a Blue Devil, so low-ranked but quite intelligent. Ziggy also has a conscience, which makes it nearly unique among its species.

    A blue devil from the Kill Six Billion Demons comic.

    The whole “friendly alien helps X-COM” idea sprung from a My Little Pony fanfic, of all places. That story is here if you’re curious, and though it becomes a bit muddled later on its premise was interesting enough that I decided to recycle it with a more campaign-appropriate alien.

    Also I didn't have the heart to replicate this scene.

    Research Options

    This time, the players had 2 research points to allocate. Their options were the following, with the ones in italics being new:

    Cutting-Edge Research

    • Advanced Medkit (this was Vahlen’s “free” project”) 0/1
    • Personal-scale combat drones (this was Shen’s “free” project) 0/1
    • Project Stardust (Employ Ziggy as part of the research staff and harness the One Power) 0/2

    Alien Artifacts

    • Pinnochio (Puppet of Ruin) corpse 0/1
    • Rosie (Bakegumo) corpse 0/1
    • Alien guns 0/1
    • Alien swords 0/1 -Alien Explosives (from grenades/RPG rounds) 0/1
    • Black Trees (Study those substantial Black Tree pieces) 0/1
    • Red Dust (It’s sprinkled over every alien body and artifact, as you’ve discovered earlier) 0/1

    The group discussed this for a while. Two new players had joined the group at this time, and they provided their input as well. In the end, Project Stardust won out. It was the equivalent of researching psionics in the computer games, and it was even more vital here than in the original material.

    The One Power: Setting Information

    What Ziggy called “The One Power” is the ability to cause direct changes to physical reality by visualizing them in extreme detail and willing them into existence. It’s called that by the Ebon Masters because they never before had encountered a civilization that managed to achieve more than a medieval level of technology without resorting to it.

    Ziggy’s description of the theoretical underpinnings of the One Power match a lot of human occult lore, sharing several similarities with Kabbalah and Pythagorean numerology among other sources. Manifesting a given effect requires modeling it through an equation in the alien numerological system, and then repeatedly solving it in one’s mind. Using it in practice requires more than an active imagination and skill at mathematics, however!

    Medical scans show Ziggy’s body is permeated by an extensive network of circuit-like metallic filaments, made from the same materials detected in the tree fragments. These are naturally occurring in every species capable of using the One Power, according to the alien. These “circuits” act as a conduit for it, and take on some of the work of processing those mental equations.

    Once X-COM’s scientists and engineers figured out the basics of how all of that works, they realized it wasn’t much different from modeling a physical process in software. With this knowledge in hand, they were able to separate the steps of building the necessary model (“compilation”) and running its simulation enough times to manifest the effect (“execution”). Sokolov didn’t like calling these things “spells”, so he named them “metatronic loops” to make the whole thing sound more scientific.

    The One Power: Game Mechanics

    Behind the scenes, the One Power as used by the aliens is basically Ritual Path Magic from GURPS Monster Hunters 1: Champions and GURPS Thaumathology: Ritual Path Magic. The main break from those supplements is that the aliens are able to use it to create permanent items and constructs, which is where all the “TL 4+n” stuff comes from.

    The bit about naturally occurring “magic circuits” is swiped from the Fate franchise; their game effect here is to allow a character to buy Magery (Ritual Path) and Ritual Adept. Humans in this game lack these circuits and so can’t use “classic” RPM at all. However, this discovery allows them to build similar circuits into computers, giving them access to the Technomagic variant from GURPS Monster Hunters 5: Applied Xenology.

    The immediate game effect of this discovery was to add a new item to the group’s master equipment list: the Metatronic Device, a hardened, custom-made PDA that could store one metatronic loop in its memory and run it at the tap of an icon. The thing’s processor would burn out after the effect ended, but it would be possible to carry several of them into the field. The first loop available was one that completely protected everyone in a given radius from the Hostage Effect (AKA psychic numbness) for up to 6 hours.

    Players can also elect to learn ritual magic paths from now on - once they do, they’ll be able to develop their own loops using the top-of-the-line setup at X-COM HQ and take them into the field using the PDAs. For now they’re limited to what the NPC scientists can make.

    Another, less visible effect of the discovery was to give X-COM access to the magical side of every other discovery they made through research! This is why researching the One Power was so vital - every possible countermeasure for the Dreams of Ruin involves a healthy dose of magic, particularly the higher-end ones. They couldn’t arrive at any of those solutions without this knowledge.

    Once the choice was made and the effects explained, I took a little time to come up with their next mission. In the next update to this series, we’ll begin covering Operation SNAKE OIL.

  • Let's Read Hell's Rebels: In Hell's Bright Shadow, Part 2

    Welcome to another installment of “Let’s Read Hell’s Rebels!” You can find links to the whole series in its project page. This time we’ll go through Part 2 of its first adventure. It’s titled “Rebuilding the Ravens”.

    As always, we’ll be taking a look at how our hypotethical party consisting of Valeros, Lem, Merisiel and Kyra would fare here as GURPS Dungeon Fantasy delvers.

    “Adventure Path” style modules have a reputation for being extremely railroady. Part 1 certainly lives up to that, since it consists of a series of tightly scripted scenes and two back-to-back dungeons where the PCs have no real alternative other than delve right in.

    In Part 2, however, we leave the rails behind for a bit! It starts by stating that the PCs plus Rexus and Laria are the group best-positioned to offer organized opposition to Barzilai Thrune in the whole of Kintargo. It goes to show how thorough the guy was in killing everyone else, I guess, since right now our heroes have a snowball’s chance in Hell of taking him down. Before they can have a shot at The Barzilai, they need to expand the newborn Silver Ravens into a proper rebel army and consolidate support for their position.

    The PCs are expected to engage with the custom rebellion rules at this point, which means this part of the adventure will play out over multiple weeks of game time and will largely consist of PC-initiated actions and their consequences as they focus on recruiting agents and gaining supporters. The book lists several special events and missions that will happen or become available while the PCs do this. By the end of the first adventure, the Silver Ravens should become a substantial movement with broad support among the oppressed of Kintargo, and should be ready to move out of Laria’s basement and into a more permanent base.

    A Spy Among Us

    The events mostly concern Blosodriette, the imp the party has unwittingly brought from the Fair Fortune Livery along with the documents they recovered there. She will hang around the hideout either invisible or transformed into a rat or spider. Her goal is to be set free without being banished back to Hell, and she begins sabotaging the rebels in an attempt to either convince the PCs to let her go or to attract attention from outside allies who can free her.

    The GM is free to come up with clues and setbacks caused by the imp. Events in the book go from structural sabotage to mind-controlling an otherwise innocent NPC into betraying the group to the dottari. The PCs can thwart her in several ways: finding the contract and ripping it up will send the imp back to Hell, as will spotting the invisible devil and defeating her in combat. If a PC happens to belong to the Sarini noble lineage, they can actually command Blosodriette and turn her to their service, since the contract binds her to that lineage.

    It’s probably best if these events are interspersed with the special missions the book describes later, and/or with the normal turns of the rebellion management mini-game. Solving each one gives the party a XP award, as does defeating the imp. Of course, the party might end up finding the imp quite soon, and all of this will be moot if they already dealt with her back at the Livery. Defeating the devil early awards the party XP for any events that hadn’t occurred yet; the party was successful in preventing them, after all.

    There’s another unrelated event here that provides a bit of foreshadowing about the Rose of Kintargo, an NPC who appears in the second adventure. Foreshadowing is all this is, but I suppose it’s possible for a frustrated party to link this to the imp’s sabotage instead. It’s something to watch out for.

    Conversion Notes

    Blosodriette should be built as a Wizard with the Shapeshifting, Suggestion and False Memory spells, plus any pre-requisites and other spells the GM deems suitably annoying (like summoning swarms of rats). In her natural form, she’s SM -3. Her advantages include Flight (Winged) and switchable Invisibility as an advantage rather than as a spell, since she can keep it up for a very long time. Her disadvantages include Sadism and an Obsession with being freed from her contract, as well as any vulnerabilities common to demons and devils in your game.

    Missions

    These are “special missions” which occur outside the rebellion management rules. They’re numbered, but can happen in any order as decided by the PCs.

    Mission 1: Decode the Documents

    Decoding the documents requires skills with Linguistics and fluency in Celestial, Elven and Strix. Rexus has all of this and will take 7 weeks to do the job by himself, but PCs who also meet the prerequisites can try to help shorten this time. Finishing the job in 4 weeks or less is worth bonus XP, and regardless of the time it takes the party will get a permanent bonus to all Silver Raven organization stats from the tactical information contained in there. They’ll also learn a lot about the history of the original group.

    Since this is a long-running thing, the PCs can obviously engage in other activities or missions while it goes on.

    Mission 2: Investigate the Fires

    A lot of places connected to dissident characters and organizations burned down in the Night of Ashes, and the PCs can look into those fires if they are so inclined. The only site that will yield something of value are the ruins of the Silver Star, Shensen’s shop, which has a hidden stash of potions and scrolls which wasn’t damaged by the fire. More substantial clues as to what happened at these locations will be found elsewhere.

    Mission 3: Prisoners of Salt

    Freeing the high-profile prisoners from Kintargo Castle might be more than what the group can handle at this point, but that’s not the only place where prisoners are being held. A group of rogues and mercenaries friendly to Laria is being held prisoner at the Salix Salt Works, and they would make a good addition to the Silver Ravens. They’re guarded by a group of thugs hired by Thrune.

    The book provides a keyed map of the area, but this will be mostly just a big brawl. There’s a total of eight CCG Thugs led by a dwarf fighter named Kessrin, but only half of the group is on guard duty at any one time, with the other half asleep in an outbuilding. Our hypothetical party should have no trouble at all moping the floor with these doofuses, particularly if they strike at night. Rescuing the prisoners allows the PCs to recruit them to the Ravens.

    Conversion Notes

    We already discussed the CCG Thugs in Part 1. Kessrin should be built as a well-armored dwarf Squire with a few extra points of ST, Overconfidence, and the Throwing skill. He wields a mace and shield, and has a couple of alchemical grenades. The original uses Tanglefoot Bags, but the GM might want to employ something more devious like poisons or sleep potions.

    Mission 4: Murders In the Nursery

    Remember how I talked about Golarion having more horror elements than your typical D&D setting? We’ll get to see some of them here.

    You see, tieflings face a lot of racial prejudice in Cheliax, even in Kintargo. I find this a bit surprising in a nation that generally considers everything devil-related to be just swell. Perhaps the justification for this is in a setting book I don’t have. Most of Kintargo’s tieflings live in a decrepit slum nicknamed “The Devil’s Nursery”, and the harassment they face when they try to move out makes it very difficult for them to do so.

    Thrune made their lives even worse by not only imprisoning the most effective advocate for their civil rights during the Night of Ashes, but having a witch in his employ conduct an horrific ritual in the Nursery that summoned a pack of eight tooth fairies (the Hellboy kind, not the children’s story kind). The fey roam around the slums every few days, killing people and taking their teeth. It’s causing a panic that may erupt into a riot if nothing is done about it. If the PCs help here, they’ll earn many supporters from among Kintargo’s downtrodden.

    This mission is a meaty investigative scenario - all the PCs know at the start is that people are getting killed in the slums. This might require interviewing reluctant witnesses, examining a body before the locals can cremate it, or even having one of the PCs act as bait for the killers by wandering the streets alone at night.

    The fairies fight to the death once they’re cornered in their lair, which is also where the PCs can find the remains of the ritual that summoned the fairies here, which include the body of a child. Treating it with respect and solving the case earns them extra supporters in the coming weeks.

    Conversion Notes

    A GM who wants to really focus on the investigation here might break out the rules from GURPS Monster Hunters, which cover the “identify the monster and find it” part pretty well. Social skills would be useful for interviewing witnesses, Diagnosis for examining the bodies, and Hidden Lore (Faeries) to idenfity the culprits and their weaknesses.

    Pathfinder Tooth Fairies are pixy-sized fey (SM -6) who wield magical pliers that attack like SM 0 magical knives and give them the ability to pull out someone’s teeth mid-fight. They also have a paralytic bite, and explode into nauseating glitter when they die. The eight fairies in this encounter can give a party who relies exclusively on physical attacks some unexpected trouble!

    As for our party, this would mostly be Lem’s and Meririel’s show until they managed to confront the fairies, in my estimation. Fighting them might be tricky unless Lem can get off a Mass Daze or Mass Sleep spell, or Kyra can set them on fire.

    Mission 5: Crackdown at Clenchjaw’s

    Clenchjaw’s was a fairly unremarkable bar until recently. Now it’s becoming a hotbed of anti-government sentment as well as the stage for huge, nightly brawls. Its owner used to keep a lid on this stuff, but he’s been passing out early each night for some weird reason. PCs can get involved here while looking for recruits.

    PCs who look hang around the bar long enough will eventually find out the cause of the increased chaos is Vendalfek, a fairy dragon! He moved here after the other bar he lived in was burned in the Night of Ashes, and has been using his illusion powers to make Clenchjaw’s rowdier to stave off his boredom. This in turn attracted more dissidents to the place.

    Vendalfek can be convinced to stop his shenanigans peacefully, and some skilled diplomacy might convince him to join the rebellion as a special ally. Outright invinting him to live on their base will have the same result. Failing to resolve the situation will eventually cause the bar to be raided, which will cost the Ravens some supporters.

    Conversion Notes

    Vendalfek should be based on the Shoulder Dragon template on p. 27 of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 5: Allies, with the addition of some spellcasting ability focused on illusion. He makes a good spy, being basically a less powerful but also less ethically questionable version of Blosodriette the imp.

    Mission 6: An Unsanctioned Excruciation

    This section goes on a bit about “excruciations”, which are public torture and humilation sessions the Chelish government likes to punish its dissidents and criminals with. Barzilai’s preferred method is “doghousing”, in which the victim is forced to share a space with two large angry dogs for days and choose between fighting them for food or starving. No official excruciations are scheduled during this adventure, but the ever punchable members of the Chelish Citizen’s Group have decided to perform a few of their own.

    This is an event that should happen once the Silver Ravens have gained a fair bit of notoriety. The CCG captures a friendly NPC who isn’t a member of the Ravens, perhaps someone who helped the PCs during Mission 4 or 5, and stages a doghousing in Aria Park. The PCs should get wind of this fairly quickly once it happens, since it’s not exactly a discreet event. It’s up to them whether and when to stage a rescue, but waiting too long will obviously prove lethal for the victim.

    Fighting the four CCG thugs and their two big angry dogs would be a literal walk in the part for our brave delvers. Doing so in a public fashion increases the Ravens’ notoriety, but I personally think it’s worth it. The dottari show up a few minutes after a fight breaks out, but by them the party will be long gone.

    Mission 7: Threat of the Red Jills

    The Red Jills are a small but violent gang of thieves who are taking advantage of the current chaos to prey on the citizens of Kintargo. They leave the dottari and the CCG alone, so Thrune lets them keep operating to keep the population afraid. As such, making them stop will benefit the Ravens.

    Recruiting the Jills as allies isn’t possible: they’re led by Scarplume, a strix with a particularly fierce hatred of humans. Tracking the Jills down to their abandoned orphanage hideout will lead to a big fight.

    Conversion Notes

    Once again the investigation rules from Action or Monster Hunters would do a good job here! Streetwise and Area Knowledge (Kintargo) would be particularly important for finding the hideout.

    Strix are winged humanoids, and their stats should be basically like a human’s aside from the Flight (Winged) advantage. Scarplume is a sorcerer whose spell list can be summed up as “All The Fire”, which means she can be statted up as either a Fire Elementalist or a DF Sorcerer with lots of burning Innate Attacks. She has Intolerance (Humans) and a host of other sociopathic disadvantages. The rest of the Jills should be built using the Cutpurse or Skirmisher templates from DF 15, and should all be non-human.

    Conclusion

    That’s it for part 2 of the book! Part 3 contains a substantial dungeon delve, but doesn’t necessarily happen after all of the events here: the timing for that is entirely up to the PCs, so they might end up having to deal with the stuff here even into the second adventure.

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