Raiders of the Pter Nuum, Chapter 1: The Lost Expedition (BoL play report)
Last night was the first BoL session for our little group. The players “converted” their Swords & Wizardry characters with ease — I simply had them build BoL characters from the ground up, keeping in mind their LL characters’ attributes, classes and backgrounds. As we went through the conversion process I explained the core mechanic, boons and flaws, and hero points (renamed Wyrd in my Zhontaar setting.) It was interesting to see what careers the players chose to represent their characters:
- ADA — Fighter -> Mercenary 2, Hunter 1, Soldier 1, Noble 0
- BASULA — Fighter -> Barbarian 1, Hunter 2, Dancer 1, Healer 0
- SWERVY — Rogue -> Assassin 1, Monk 3, Thief 0, Mercenary 0
[Note: if the bulleted text is too scrunched up to read easily, click on the title of this entry for a more spacious version. Sorry about that!]
The adventure picked up where the previous S&W session left off in Humbelton-on-the-Zhon, a bustling river port and trading city centrally located in the breadbasket region of Zhontaar’s main continent. The trio were enjoying some R&R, visiting the Autumn Fair and spending some of their hard-earned coin on the city’s delights. Elren, a young aristocrat whom the adventurers had helped break a family curse, introduced them to a fellow noble in need of assistance: Kemo Gorlak, head of a prosperous mercantile family. His younger son, scholar and adventurer Rhys Gorlak, had gone missing in the mountainous jungles of the Pter Nuum region while on a mission for the Archivists Guild. Furious at the Guild’s apparent lack of initiative and urgency in reestablishing contact with his son”s expedition, Kemo Gorlak has decided to finance his own expedition of adventurers. Our heroes’ mission, should they choose to accept it: travel down the Zhon River and up one of its feeders to the fortified river outpost Testament, pick up the trail of Rhys and his expedition, find out what happened and, if possible, bring them back alive. The trio agreed to the mission, terms for payment were settled and the contract was drawn up.
The trio made passage on the merchant river ship Sunfisher, captained by the one-eyed river rat Rundo Leers. The passage went smoothly until a day or so before making port, when the ship was attacked by several war canoes loaded with heavily-armed river pirates. The PCs and Sunfisher crew only managed to loose a few arrows before the pirates were swarming over the rails. Our heroes were instrumental in turning the tide of the fierce melee that followed, amassing a pile of pirate corpses, slaying their leader and breaking the morale of the remaining attackers. With victory in hand and minimal crew losses, the Sunfisher continued its voyage to Testament. Here, the party gained some information about the region, its dangers and inhabitants, and learned of the Gorlak expedition’s goal: to find the lost city of Ñem Piat, capital of a long-dead ancient empire that once dominated the Pter Nuum and surrounding lowlands. The trio was also informed of the increasing frequency of pirate/bandit attacks on merchant ships and trading caravans, which have carried off both goods and people.
Equipped with this information, the party joined up with a caravan heading into the interior to trade with several of the Chelek (human tribe) villages. Along the route, the caravan was attacked by a bandit party comprised of humans and Goki (Green Apemen). The bandits seemed to be driven by some unknown factor, as they fought to the last man. When they searched the body of the bandit leader, the PCs found a giant snake fang worn as a medallion around the dead Goki’s neck and a shirt that appeared to be stitched together from sloughed-off snake skin. Our heroes suffered some significant wounds in the battle but were able to patch themselves up and carry on. The heroes left the caravan at the second Chelek village after they learned that Rhys’s party had turned southwest towards the Ssleeth (lizardfolk) village deeper in the interior of the Pter Nuum. After some bartering, the Chelek chief agreed to provide two guides to lead the party to the Ssleeth village.
In the Ssleeth village the group learned a little more about the sorcerous rulers and decadent culture of Ñem Piat, a cruel empire that consorted with demons, enslaved neighboring peoples and engaged in many wicked and depraved practices. They also learned from the Ssleeth chieftain that Rhys’s expedition passed this way in search of a black obelisk that would supposedly point the way to Ñem Piat. The party set off into the jungle in the given direction… They eventually stumbled across the remains of an expedition member; when investigating the corpse they dislodged a nest of foot-long poisonous centipedes. They dispatched the creatures and turned their attention back to their quest. Some amazing tracking work by Basula turned up a faint trail, which the party followed until they reached a crumbling black stone monument in the center of a clearing. As it was nearing nightfall, the group decided to set up camp in the clearing. Over the course of the night, they heard a strange leathery flapping — as if some unseen creature was circling in, alighting atop the obelisk and observing the characters as they stood their individual watches…
Sorry for the somewhat long-winded recap. A few behind-the-scenes notes:
- Players easily grasped the core mechanic and character conversion was relatively fast (considering I was also laying out system info.) They seemed to quickly grasp the flexible possibilities of the Career system; we had several brief discussions over the course of the game regarding Career applications to combat situations.
- No Mighty or Legendary Successes yet — but to be fair, we’re using 2d10 instead of 2d6 for the core mechanic (14 or better to succeed.) No one used any Wyrd/Hero Points for anything, although I reminded them about the possibility of bumping successes. As the dangers and the stakes increase in future sessions, I’m sure we’ll see some spending…
- Combat was very fast, considering that in both the pirate and bandit encounters there were over 20 combatants. I assigned a subgroup of villains (including the leader) to fight the PCs and handled that combat normally. Each round I would also roll for each side’s remaining forces that weren’t directly engaged with the PCs (Allies+ rabble vs. enemy rabble.) On a successful “hit,” the defending side sustained d3 casualties, which were subtracted from their physical numbers as quasi-Lifeblood. This sped up play considerably, reducing the number of attack and defense rolls I had to make. A couple houserule ideas occurred to me in play, I’ll mull them over a bit before next time.
- The bandit and centipede encounters were improvised, and the stats for those foes were pretty easy to make up on the fly. Studying BoL/BotA monsters and creating new ones will improve this skill.
- Afterwards, MF and NB expressed that they enjoyed rolling multiple dice more than singles, an aesthetic preference I have long shared. (Once I learned of the “‘0-9 twice’ d20 + d6 control die” combo, D&D ascended to a whole new level of enjoyment!)
- Adventure soundtrack: Terra Ambient – The Gate ; Rhythm Devils – The Apocalypse Now Sessions
- The dinner menu: “King’s Ransom” (Golden cauliflower & Cheddar cheese soup), fresh whole wheat seed bread, fresh blueberries & strawberries, cookies, water, hot tea.
Great game, great fun — more coming soon!