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17 May 2016 @ 12:04 pm
[WotMK: Hexcrawl] Session Six + Seven  
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyarhé.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.

I'm combining these two sessions because each of them had a single main event that dominated the session, though it was a different event for each session.

In the tower town around Etemenanki, the group slept at the inn, again spending the money for a private room (something like 20x as expensive as sleeping in the common room, though they don't have to pay per head for a private room) and in the morning they headed out check the markets. This ended up taking most of the session, and ended up with Elaphe selling the automaton to a Silent One and raptok pair of artificia dealers for a staggering sum of money--three ryō, roughly enough money for a peasant to retire on as long as they're willing to live in a hut and eat gruel for the rest of their life--and then turned around and spent a bunch of it. After some initial contemplation, he turned down the serpentine automaton assassin the dealer was offering, but he did buy an enchanted lockpick which reconfigured its shape based on the lock it was used with.

As soon as he had the money in hand, he headed out to a mount dealer and bought a claw strider with saddle and tack. He plans to bond it as a familiar once he finds a hedge wizard to perform the ritual for him.

Shining Star spent some time studying the materials she had managed to salvage when she fled the Kingdom of Flowers and finally mastered the incantations for the Cloak of Night, which is extra worthwhile because Amos has a crystal that lets him see in the dark.

Bonnie spent some time in a private library in tower town. After paying the entrance fee, she found a few books about Etemenanki--with a fortunately lucky roll, because she had no dots in Investigation--and spent much of the afternoon reading about the tower. She learned that, in megadungeon tradition, it offers great risk and great reward, with barely a fraction of it even explored, much less cleared and made safe. She found a reference to the pidgit-folk and looked up another book, Fading Mist's The Peoples of Agarica, which had a very brief section about the pidgit-folk. Mostly, she learned that there was a cleared route in Etemenanki that led to a balcony where the pidgit-folk would occasionally trade with ground-dwellers, that they lived on the Cloud Kingdoms, that they refused to touch the base earth, and that their sorcerers had command of the winds and storms.

That evening, everyone regathered at the Three Fishes inn and discussed their course of action. They decided not to go into Etemenanki, since it's enormous and not going anywhere, and they do have a treasure map. So they slept and at dawn, they headed out of tower town on the south road. The day's travel was uneventful and they made camp in a small copse of trees. The next day they set out, and around midafternoon Amos saw a sad-looking female chuzan standing over a hastily-patted down mound of earth off the side of the road. No one else saw her.

Unfortunately, Amos doesn't speak Musakalan, and the ghost didn't speak anything else. The group managed to arrange an a system of yes or no questions, where Bonnie would ask the questions in Muskalan and the ghost would nod or shake her head, which Amos would relay. After a while, they learned that in life, the ghost was the daughter of a merchant who had her marriage arranged, but she ran away to become an adventurer. She was on her way to tower town when she was killed by bandits, who included two amanita, a mandragora, and a raptok. She didn't know their names. She did confirm that her two guards also died but had not become wraiths, and the group debated what to do. Swayed by Shining Star, they offered up one of their number for possession, in the passenger rather than overshadow sense, and the ghost instead possessed one of the trow-crafted shields they had taken from the city. Bonnie idly wondered what would satisfy the ghost, and right next to her ear, she heard a hollow voice vehemently whisper, Their blood.

The next day, the group continued south on the road, meeting a few travelers here and there but mostly just making time. They made camp off the road behind a hill, picking Concealment and Sustenance on their Survival roll. During the third watch, near dawn, Amos smelled something rotten on the south wind. The moon was out and the sky was clear, and he could see a group of people moving ("Would you say they are...shambling?" was asked of me) vaguely toward their campsite, though he couldn't tell if the shapes were moving with purpose in their direction. He woke the Green Knight, and the two of them quickly woke the others.

The party debated whether to attack preemptively or not, and finally decided to do so when the Green Knight could handle the vile presence of the walking dead no longer, leaped on his horse, and spurred it toward them, though he did come around in an arc so that the others could approach from another angle. Elaphe grabbed his bob-omb and charged in, following by Shining Star, while Amos picked up his bow and started firing flaming arrows into the group of walking dead. The Green Knight crashed through the horde, somehow missing all of them with his lance and also picking up a passenger as one of the undead grabbed his leg, so he spent several actions trying to get it off. When he rode out of range, Elaphe threw his bob-omb, which did serious damage to many of the walking dead but didn't destroy any of them.

Amos continued to fire as the leading walking corpse got close, then it suddenly lunged for Shining Star, grabbing her arms and making her choke and gasp with the stench (-1 to non-reflexive actions due to nausea from a failed Stamina + Resistance roll). Bonnie sent her iron jaws familiar to save Shining Star while Elaphe got out his knife and the Green Knight finally dislodged his unwelcome passenger and wheeled his horse around, charging back toward the group. As the zombie snapped at Shining Star and she barely got her face out of range, he rode in, leaped off his horse, and tore it to shreds with his wooden claws, knocking Shining Star to the ground and covering her with gore, but leading her uninjured.

Elaphe disemboweled a zombie and another one lunged at Bonnie, grabbing her. Amos picked up his musket and fired it, snapping one of the walking dead nearly in half as Shining Star rose to her feet. The animated corpse holding Bonnie bit her, crunching through the flesh of her shoulder as Bonnie let out a scream. Her iron jaws familiar immediately flew to her defense, though not to much avail.

Shining Star chanted the words to the Chains of Searing Light and bound the zombie attacking Bonnie in solid starlight and flame, rolling four 10s, completely immobilizing it, and dropped it to the ground. Bonnie scuttled away from the battle as Elaphe cut the spinal cord of another of the walking dead and Amos shot one in the head, dropping it to the ground on fire. One of them grabbed the Green Knight, but he tore it apart with his claws before it could bite him, and the group made short work of the remaining walking dead, switching to bow fire to take out the last few who had followed the Green Knight away during his initial charge and only now were staggering back to the battle.

After the battle, Shining Star looked at Bonnie's wounds and was surprised to see that they didn't seem as bad as she thought, though they were bleeding heavily (she lost an additional Health Level from blood loss but managed to score 4 successes on three dice and thus passed the Difficulty 4 Stamina + Resistance roll to avoid wound infection). Her hedge magic wasn't effective, but she used bandages and bound Bonnie's wounds, but not before applying the Malfean Balm (here not powered by demonic energy) into the wound, which made it look a lot better, though turning her fur around it to a shining bronze color.

The group found a new campsite closer to the lake, and this time picked Comfort and Concealment. Elaphe took his claw strider hunting, and they rested for two days while Bonnie's wounds healed.

The combat between a dozen animated corpses, five PCs and one iron jaws took just over an hour, or two run-throughs of this compilation of all versions of Castlevania's "Bloody Tears". That's not bad at all for Exalted combat! Though it did drag a bit at times, but I'm not sure that's even possible to avoid in turn-based combat. At least tick-based timing makes it more unpredictable.

The battle could have gone a lot worse than it did. Bonnie has a Lethal soak of zero, but the zombie did two damage on nine dice. Another zombie missed Shining Star even with her lower Dodge DV and being clinched. No one ever hit Elaphe. Both zombies that grabbed the Green Knight failed to do anything. The Green Knight's horse passed its Valor roll when the walking dead seized it. Bonnie passed her roll to avoid infected wounds in an incredibly statistically-unlikely way (it's usually Difficulty 3, raised for 4 for animated corpses through their Plaguebearer power). Not something the party can always rely on, but I think it helped drive home that combat can be very dangerous. Especially when I mentioned that it would take Bonnie over two weeks to heal before they used the Malfean Balm to turn some of her Lethal damage to Bashing.

I need to add a way for the walking dead to do reflexively Coordinated Attacks if they surround a target. Right now, they're great at clinching but bad at biting (Clinch Accuracy 8, Bite Accuracy 4), so they rely on grabbing people and then biting them, which is thematic. But a group of them isn't dangerous enough, since they would have to take three actions--Coordinate Attack, Clinch, then Bite--to hurt someone. Letting them do it reflexively if there are more of them surrounding a character than that character's Dexterity helps drive home how dangerous it is to get surrounded.

I originally rolled up bandits, but it was 1 point off of the walking dead and I have some plans for things happening in the area the PCs are traveling in. One of the most important parts of a sandbox is that other groups also have plans that they carry on with that the PCs can interact with, or not, so it's not just a game of MOVE TO HEX -> SEARCH -> TREASURE Y/N. The Fairhaven election was one of those--and the election is over now, and one of the candidates won, but the PCs haven't asked in anywhere about it and didn't even check the rumor mill in tower town--and the random animated corpses are another. I've got a couple more schemes up my sleeve, too.
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