Lights in the Darkness

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Hardrada
Patreon SupporterSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2015-06-28 02:40
Lights in the Darkness

In late 2014, I began an ACKS campaign I dubbed "Lights in the Darkness" to evoke the imagery of adventures in a setting where disorder (Chaos/Darkness) is ascendant, and the characters would be this disorder's antithesis. As it happens, I don't think the setting has quite delivered all the grimness and disorder I originally envisioned -- I also now realize there are some much grimmer settings out there -- but that is hardly a good reason to jettison the name.

With three years and 42-ish sessions behind us, I thought it might be fun to share the journal entries of my players (with their permission and some minor editing by me). These journal entries are not mechanics-oriented, but you can certainly see the basic principles of ACKS and OSR play shine through in places. Where I think it's interesting to do so, I'll share commentary, but this will be by exception.

Four additional notes bear mention. First, I've used something like fate points from the Heroic Fantasy Handbook since the beginning to reward journal entries: every entry earns the author a fate point. This is a powerful incentive for the players to keep track of things and chronicle the campaign, but it's also had a significant impact on the game's tone since it's allowed the players to reroll otherwise fatal saves on more than one occasion. Second, I plan to post these as I get time; it may well take several months before I finish with this project. Third, I encourage folks to ask questions; if I remember the answer, I'm happy to share it! Fourth, I've reskinned several RPG products along the way; if you recognize something, please don't share anything unless I mention it first (though you're welcome to PM me if you have a question regarding how I did something).

By the way, as of this post, we are currently recruiting (see http://autarch.co/forums/general-discussion/looking-players-looking-group)!

Hardrada
Patreon SupporterSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2015-06-28 02:40

January 2015

The Company:

Maurice "the Muscle" de Granville, a Dreaman Fighter of Weanople

  • Athelwine, a Geating Hunter (Normal Man) of Acworth

Orhan, an Alfarn Spellsword

Osric de Mandeville, a Dreaman Warden

  • Urien, a Weallack Oblate (Normal Man) of Carlton

Oswald, a Geating Fighter

Zephyros, an Ellasene Mage

  • Ansger, a Dreaman Fighter
  • Dudda, a Geating Thief

From the journal of Oswald the Gray, a Geating Fighting Man:

TREACHEROUS LIVING TREASURE MAP

After our victory over the pirates, the group handed over their prisoners to two rather dubious looking sergeants. Maurice and Taeting (former pirate, now living treasure map) waited outside town, while the others interacted with the locals.

Folkhart the blacksmith is curious about the alloy used to forge the chains I salvaged from the dungeon, but is too superstitious (and insufficiently knowledgeable) to analyze it further. He recommends that someone in a city might be willing to buy it and also expresses his interest in learning more about similar alloys.

Athelthrith (headwoman of another adventurer company): The local reeve is a magician of some renown who is mainly interested in his research and his taxes. He might be interested in buying monster parts.

There is a bigger town called Carlton about one day’s march to the east of Froxhall.

The Sunken City is a collection of ruins. One can use the menhirs near Froxhall to teleport into random parts of the city, but it is dangerous: several parts are submerged and sealed. Few groups enter several times.

Colbert the priest tells us about a Frog Cult in Taygle’s End, a village to the southwest. The canon in Taygle’s End died some time ago, but for unknown reasons, the Metropolitan of Hewflore has not yet sent a replacement. Hewflore is the capital of the local kingdom.

Helmward the local reeve: The group asks for an audience with the local reeve, which is granted. The reeve hardly bothers to prepare and continues his studies till the group stands directly in front of him. He considers helping his village against the pirates barely a start and tells us that people who try to evade the adventurer safety tax by sleeping outside the village will be treated like bandits, but he is very interested in buying monster parts from the group if we behave (and pay taxes). He also hints that adventuring wizards who titillate him might have a chance to study with him.

We hire two mercenaries, Urien and Athelwine, to accompany us on our adventurers. Osric uses this time to plea for a prophecy and gets the vision of a strange menhir hidden in the mists. Soon, we set sail toward the promised treasure, luckily without running into any trouble.

After about half a day we reach an island with the menhir from Osric’s dream on top. Taeting leads us to the treasure and explains we have to dig close to it. Despite considerable digging, we find no treasure and settle for the night. The next morning, Tating tries to escape but is stopped by Zephyros sleep spell. After being bound, he confesses there would be no treasure: He wanted to use the menhir to teleport back to Froxhall, as most of the menhirs lead there. There is an underground ruin beneath the menhir, though, which could be opened by knocking on the menhir.

After binding Taeting, Oswald knocks on the menhir, and, indeed, a secret door opens, allowing access to stairs leading down. Taeting mentions that several pirates tried exploring the dungeon, but none returned. Fearing a trap, the group rolls a heavy boulder down the stairs, but without any specific results (except for a lot of noise).

Oswald, Osric and Maurice descend the stairs, reaching a chamber with cobwebs on the north, a crate to the southeast and a further tunnel to the south, ending in a metal door. When poking the crate, several skeletons burst from the ceiling, attacking the group. They are quickly turned by Osric’s invocation of the Maker and are easily dispatched afterwards.

When trying to open the door to the south, Maurice triggers a trap and almost falls into a pit directly in front of the door. Athelwine only just drags him back in time. A torch thrown into the pit reveals a natural cave with a pool at the bottom. We consider investigating the lower level but decide instead to return to the entrance to allow our magician to better prepare himself. We also learn that the secret door closes on its own after about one hour.

The next day, we first sent one team in to check whether one can open the door from the inside or not. That proves to be rather easy, so the whole group descends. We also find some strange dust on the walls that glows when squeezed; we fill a bottle of it for further study or sale. The metal door to the south proves to be false, but we find a strange rune on the eastern walls during a more thorough search. Maurice finds a strange skull (with a ruby for its left eye) in the crate on some kind of push-button. When pressing the button, a secret door opens in the wall section with the rune.

In a small chamber beyond the secret door, we are ambushed by small, white-skinned humanoids with sharpened teeth and hooked swords currently in the middle of cooking meat stew in a large cauldron. Walking in the lead, I kill the first attacker quickly, but I am then badly injured by the remaining attackers. Luckily, Osric and Maurice turn the tide before I fall.

Now seriously injured, I take a more passive approach. We push through another room, past a stairs leading further down, and finally into a room with filled with gears and mechanisms. While entering the room, the whirring machines hit both Maurice and Osric, and Osric is badly wounded. They quickly leave the room through another door and find themselves back in the room with the large cauldron. Using the cauldron and dropped swords of the gray-skinned humanoids, Maurice finally jams the gears of the machines and halts their movement.

Afterwards, we grabbed the corpses of the slain monsters and returned to Froxhall to heal. The reeve was very happy with the monsters and bought them and the skull for a great deal of money. Oswald gave the monster’s weapons to Folkart the blacksmith on the condition that he will turn them into tools and sell them for a low price to needy families; Folkhart was rather touched by this gesture. Osric donated a lot of money to the local church, pleasantly surprising Colbert. Maurice tried to buy better armor but discovered that only leather was available.

We discussed what to do afterwards, visiting the ruin once again (to gain more treasure and experience) or going to Hewflore (to sell our loot). We also learned that the Scaleless Snake, the local inn, offers a free safe deposit for adventurers on the condition that everything not reclaimed within a year and a day passes to the Inn keeper. With that, we rested in Froxhall.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Splendid! I'm so impressed your players deliver this.

Hardrada
Patreon SupporterSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2015-06-28 02:40

It took a few sessions for players to become invested in their characters. Once players became invested, though, journal entries became very much worth the trouble due to the connection with the campaign's equivalent to Fate points.

Hardrada
Patreon SupporterSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2015-06-28 02:40

January 2015

The Company:

Maurice "the Muscle" de Granville, a Dreaman Fighter of Weanople

  • Athelwine, a Geating Hunter (Normal Man) of Acworth

Orhan, an Alfarn Spellsword

Osric de Mandeville, a Dreaman Warden

  • Urien, a Weallack Oblate (Normal Man) of Carlton

Oswald, a Geating Fighter

  • Taeting, a Geating Pirate (Normal Man)

Zephyros, an Ellasene Mage

  • Ansger, a Dreaman Fighter
  • Dudda, a Geating Thief

From the Journal of Oswald the Gray, a Geating Fighting Man:

THE BROKEN LIFTING MECHANISM

I hire Taeting as guide through the swamp, offering him standard pay and a share in the treasure if he enters the ruins we discover. Taeting agrees on the condition that he can refuse to enter any particular ruin.

Afterwards, the group returns to the tunnel complex beneath the menhir. Before entering, the group takes time to reconnoiter the island. We find a trail that leads us to a swamp boat hidden on the short; this provokes a long discussion regarding what to make of the boat and what to do with it. During this discussion, a giant mutant frog (with a human arm protruding from its back) attacks us, but it is quickly gutted. While harvesting monster parts, Maurice gets poisoned and suffers nausea, diarrhea, and vertigo. Luckily, the symptoms subside after a short while, and, while relieving himself, Maurice also spots several submerged buildings in the water (which we do not further inspect).

The group returns to the overnight site from our last expedition and sets up camp. During Zephyros’ and Oswald’s watch, two short humanoids try to sneak into the camp but are noticed, and we react. The figures then flee towards the menhir. The group remains in place, and the rest of the night remains calm.

Next morning, we enter the complex anew. The traps (and skeletons) in the first room have been reset, we destroy the first skeleton by bowling a large stone down the stairs, afterwards Maurice and Oswald take care of the remaining. The skeletons look different from last time, mutated humans instead of normal humans. We stash their weapons outside and continue through the secret door.

In the former cauldron room (this time without a cauldron), we are again ambushed: this time by a frog man and a mutant human. There is also one of the small, gray-colored creatures (that I will now call “gnomes” for simplicity) we fought the last time, but it flees and shouts “prepare the defense” in Beastman. (To our luck, Zephyros understands the language and warns us.) Even though Maurice is wounded, the group manages to cuts down the attackers. We also mercilessly cut down the frog man that tried to escape into the machine room.

We find the door jammed, but Maurice easily bashes it open. When we press forward, we figure out that the gnomes did not try to ambush us: they were trying to prevent us from going to the stairs.

After checking the machine room and then trying to discern the origin of a strange jabbering sound at a turn toward the machine room, we descend the stairs. The stairs end in a long shaft with a large metal chain running up and down. I make it across, but I can only find some very small holes in the wall on the far side and nothing else. Neither a stone nor a torch dropped down the shaft reveal any further clues, but the torch flashes briefly before vanishing in the darkness.

We return upstairs and give the machine room a closer look. We find and pull a lever which starts some kind of machine. The group splits with half remaining in the machine room and the other half checking out the chain. They find something changed: there are not levers where the holes were. Maurice binds himself to the chain and tries pushing them. When he manages to do that, he suddenly vanishes down the shaft. With some luck, he manages to keep his wits and somehow lights a torch, finding himself shortly above two tunnels.

The rest of the group gathers near the shaft, looking for a way to recover Maurice. After some discussion (and yelling up and down the shaft), we learn which lever Maurice pressed and, by pressing the opposite one, return him to our level. This takes some testing. Afterwards, I am bound to the chain and lowered and lifted through the whole shaft. I discover that there is no level above us – only the ceiling with a small hole for the chain – and that there two levels beneath us: the one with two tunnels about 20 yards beneath us and a second one with a lake and a tunnel about 40 yards beneath us.

After some discussion about how to cut as large a piece from the chain as possible, to sell somewhere else, we decide to attempt  entering the lower tunnels through the trap door near the entrance instead of braving the chain.