Werewood Pirates, game 4

Oh! the last game actually ended with the crew leaving the tower and sailing away. But in the process of getting Emmersea and Aria off the tower, the ship's captain (Drakasha) and some crew members leapt over to help out...

Only Drakasha didn't help. She pulled out the strange statue from game 1 and slammed it into the strange summoning bowl at the top of the tower, then leapt back aboard the ship behind the retreating crew.

So, this session started with seeing some strange hideous red-skinned devilish figure appear at the top of the tower while the Obscura high-tailed it away. None of the PCs got a roll high enough to figure out that it was a Tarteran, but they did figure out that whatever it Drakasha "summoned" wasn't natural and was likely bad.

Emmersea tried to confront Drakasha about it, only to be told off.
"When you're the captain, you can ask the personal questions."

Emmersea goes off to brood about it.

The ship sails south-southeast, making their way around Aamanian settlements after crossing over the Sea of Sorrows. It's a relatively quiet journey (more healing from arrow wounds). Until the Obscura puts in at Caprica on Thaecia for some shore leave.

The PCs head into 'town' to sell some stuff and see if they can track down rumors (personal quests). Pip comes up with a 'scheme' to make some 'legitimate money' by having folks pay to arm-wrestle Ovet and then working the crowd to take bets while Aria uses witchcraft to boost Ovet's chance of winning (increased strength mainly). This goes ok, and while Aria and Ovet charm and beat the crowd, Pip starts roaming around and stealing things that aren't nailed down (mainly coin purses, but also some minor trinkets).

Emmersea joins them in time for them to see Drakasha come down from the second floor of the tavern (that they thought was relatively empty), cloaked as if she was attempting to hide her identity. Not long after, some huge (tall) cloaked and robed figure comes down the stairs with a silver-chain leash, the end of which is some strange hideously filthy thing. (Again, some not so hot lore checks give the PCs the info that its some sort of demon, but they don't know what kind nor what the tall figure is - note: one player knows but her character doesn't so she kept mum).

Emmersea and Pip decide that they simply must. Know. More. Separately, they start to approach this cloaked figure. Ovet and Aria back off, keeping watch, but wanting to stay out of things.

Emmersea attempts to fake a fall so that she can grab a hold of the figure and pull back it's hood. Pip is going to attempt to pick it's pocket.

(Note: Neither gets a great roll for their respective schemes. Neither scheme was particularly well planned in any case, but alas...)

Emmersea breaks out of the crowd near the figure, 'stumbles', only to find the hideous beast from the chain clinging to her leg, exuding a foul stench, and looking up at her. With a mouth full of drool and halitosis and broken teeth, it says "what do you think you're doing?"

Pip, his hand on the being's purse, stops as it hears the thing speak. He looks up and finds a pair of black eyes peering down at him.

Emmersea begins to freak out. Arms waving. Body half-frozen in revulsion and disgust. Lots of "ew, ew, ew, getitoffgetitoffgetitoff" going on.

The tall figure stares at Pip, drops the chain, snaps its fingers. Another strange thing appears in its gloved hand, perhaps 6 inches tall, and whispers something to Pip. Then the cloaked figure closes its hand over the apparition, snaps its fingers again (the chain comes back to its hand) and it starts to walk, dragging the creature from Emmersea's legs.

Emmersea immediately begins to strip off her leggings and boots in the middle of the tavern in utter disgust. Pip, stands there, still agog at what was whispered to him. When Aria goes to see what's up, Pip only says, "I've got to go speak to the captain."

So, off to Drakasha they go.

On board, Pip manages to convince Drakasha that the Obscura should head east - towards Tarun - next. Pip dresses it all up in terms of bounty and booty - things they can steal, slaves they can liberate, ports they can sell things in. The other PCs still don't quite know what's going on, but they hop on Pip's train and go right along, agreeing to heading east. In short order, they convince Drakasha to head east after shore leave is done instead of heading back to Werewood.

Right, this is actually going to cover a couple of games. Our regularly scheduled game night had an illness, so we canceled one week, then last week and this we did a game night essentially 'back to back' to make up for it. However, we're going to probably be missing a session or two as the next 3-4 weekends are tied up.

*

We picked up with the characters in the wizard's tower from last game; mostly just recuperating and recovering from the battle with the plant grue last game.

Note: Recuperation times are kinda wacky. HP are an abstraction, yes, but still wacky.

The pirates windship comes sailing in low over Lake Venda, full speed, being pursued by a slow bulky ship painted white, white sails with a big eye painted in red in the center. Aamanian witchhunters. And the group's pirate ship is leading them right towards them.
Ovet (the Thrall) starts signalling the ship with a hand mirror, trying to coordinate a fast pick-up while simultaneously giving them advice about the Aamanians behind them. Aria (the Dhuna) and Emmersea (the Cymrilian) were just waiting for the Aamanians to get within spell range, while Pip (the Arimite) was fretting about getting all of his spoils aboard the ship.

Note: This was intended to be a quick game. The Aamanian vessel had two medium ballistae up front (one to each side) and a small ballista at the rear. They had a complement of archers (10 archers) led by a commander (some ranks in skills for tactics and command) and a priest (who already had some defensive magics up). The pilot of the Aamanian craft was skilled (+10), but the ship itself was slower and less maneuverable (-5 to rolls). I nabbed the rules for fighting different sizes from Hellas; the PCs would have an easier time hitting the Aamanian ship itself, but do less damage; conversely the ship would have a hard time hitting them with its main guns, but do a heckuvalot more damage if they did hit. The plan was to give the PCs some hard choices - how to get onto their vessel without subjecting it to too much enemy fire, how to get any loot aboard with them (while most of it was small, there were also some rugs, tapestries, and other large sundries (salvaged food)), and how to take out/neutralize the Aamanian ship and still get away. The Pirates own vessel only has one small ballista at its prow, whatever firepower the PCs themselves bring to bear, and five additional sailors who can act as archers. The ship's pilot is skilled (+10) and the ship is nimble and fast (+3 to maneuvers).

GM intent aside (as it always is), Ovet got the pirate's vessel (The Obscura) to whip around the tower, tossing an anchor to the tower itself to help slow and coil the ship close. When that happened, the PCs wound up between the Obscura and the Aamanians - that's when the first volley of arrows from the Aamanians flew across.

Aria used one of the arrows (that had just struck her) as a focus for a witchcraft spell to target the Aamanian archers. Basically, she'd wind up using this trick repeatedly to take out archers almost one by one. Emmersea started blasting with Elementalism, mixing things up between fireballs aimed at the sails or ship itself, and lightning bolts aimed at the crew members. Pip pretty much just hit the deck and tried to avoid arrows, screaming at everyone around him to stop the fighting.
But Ovet... Ovet leapt over to the Obscura, easily I might add with her high physical and endurance scores. Once there, she started commanding the crew who could be archers AND she hopped up and started loading the Obscura's ballista.

Note: Do **not* let a combat optimized Thrall use a ballista.*

Over the next few rounds, the Obscura would drift away from the tower (the anchor chain snapped) while Aria and Emmersea would continue to pelt the Aamanians with spells, while themselves getting poked by arrows (or occasionally dodging them or seeking cover on the open tower top). Aria focused a lot on taking down individual Aamanian crew/archers, while Emmersea kept up a rotating series of attacks on nearly everything in sight.
Ovet used the ballista to:

1. Shoot out the main mast of the Aamanian ship. This was detrimental to their forward momentum. (Emmersea then started burning sails that had come down.)

2. Shoot out the Aamanian rudder/stabilizing sails. This was detrimental to their ability to maneuver. (Emmersea then blasted the side of the ship with a gust of wind, breaking some boards, but also attempting to tip the ship.)

3. Then after Emmersea, Pip, and Aria had all taken some injuries, Ovet realized that the Obscura was too far from the tower to recover them. So she figures out an approach that would keep the Obscura out of the arcs of the Aamanian ship-weapons (though the archers were still an issue) while allowing the Obscura to reach/dock at the tower.

4. The Aamanians did not like all of this. The Aamanian priest aboard comes to the railings and casts something. The PCs are not sure what. Pip starts screaming at Ovet to, and I quote, "do something about that priest."
Ovet shoots the priest with the ballista.
Ovet makes the roll, even with penalties for hitting a small target (remember the rules I mentioned before).
The shot is enough to break through the defensive aura the priest had up as well as drop a lot of his HP in one go. See previous note about Thralls and ballistae.

Pip decides that recovering the Aamanian priest's staff is a viable option, boards the Obscura, and attempts to convince folks to get him over to the other ship so that he can 'claim his prize.' Pip is denied.

With the Aamanian ship partly disabled, the PCs and pirate crew decide to depart, quickly, before the priest can get back up. Pip is distraught that he didn't get any treasure from the Aamanians. "We're pirates, dammit! We should loot and pillage!"

Session notes: the game went pretty quick, mainly because it was largely just one big combat. Pip, as the party's primary 'thief' didn't really have much to do - he's not really built for giving orders nor distance-based combat. That's something that I'm going to have to watch out for and address in some way.

I've got a question for all of the die hard Tal fans. How does one create potions, elixers, and so on using the alchemy skill? I can't find any diagrams or any rules on how to make these. How would a character make a healing elixer? What if they wanted to make something like a breathe fire potion? I can't find anything.

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My 2E interpretation of the Gnorl Rhabdomancy magical tradition. The secrets of the Gnorls revealed! I'm probably cursed now for writing this...

https://futurolog.wordpress.com/2018/06/14/on-gnorl-rhabdomancy/
On Gnorl Rhabdomancy
On Gnorl Rhabdomancy
futurolog.wordpress.com

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ATLANTIS

Random web-clicking and I discovered that there is a statue of an unknown snake goddess from Minoa's antiquity. A woman standing with snakes in her hands over her head... sounds like the Gorgons were there. Perhaps one of the early cults when the Hesperian Empire was at its height...

Hey, I just joined :).

I'm a 21yo gamer who started with AD&D and never really moved away from old games, with a few digressions into Story Games for a year or two. I started gaming 9 years ago and have mostly been a Dungeon Master throughout these years. I've been interested in Talislanta for years but never had the courage to tackle such an interesting setting, until now. I have 4th Ed. but considering my system of choice is now the original edition of D&D, with its focus on winging it and very little crunch, I'm led to believe 1st or 2nd edition Tal would suit my playstyle better. Wisened souls, could you tell me of the difference between the two first iterations of the games? Which has the best ratio of minimal rules and useful/and/or evocative systems?

Actual play - Werewood Pirates

Had a group of four this time. Before we started, I ran them through some Lifepath charts - basically what you find in the Atlantis: the Second Age game, but tweaked and customized for the 'civilized' Western part of Talislanta (i.e., 7K, Aaman, Zandu, Arim - with a few nods to Sarista and Dhuna and Ur). The group really seemed to dig that - though they wound up with more than a few Tragedies and Enemies in their backstory than might normally occur (a result of some bad dice rolls).

Story for the night was fairly simple: abandoned wizard home/tower overlooking Lake Venda from the Onyx Mountains in Arim.

The PCs get there, find it fairly easily, though it's a bit of a trek up a winding mountain road to reach it. The manor has 5m tall walls surrounding the front half, but the back 'half' is essentially a sharp drop off the cliffs to the waters below. Part of the manor is built on the cliff and the tower hangs somewhat precipitously over the edge of the cliff. It looks like the back-half of the house may have actually fallen down the side of the cliff due to erosion or something. The front of the wall has a small gate-tower (approx 2 stories tall with windows overlooking the gate).

They started off by checking out the gate. It was intact, slightly off its hinges, but wedged firmly in the stone. The Cymrilian rogue-magician sent a companion ghost through the gate (she's the only one who can see the ghost, but the others were willing to wait). The ghost spent 20 minutes on the other side before reporting back that there were a lot of dead bodies in the courtyard, that the back of the house did indeed drop off the back of the cliff (that could be a way inside) but that there was something big and scary inside the back of the house. The front door seemed warded against entry, so the ghost returned.
While they waited for the ghost to return they weren't too idle. They inspected the door, found some strange ash outside (determined to be demon dust), and decided that the door had been hit from within to knock it off its hinges and into the stone of its arch and lintel.

Instead of hacking through the front door, and worried about potential wards on the wall, they worked their way around to the side so that they could scale the cliffs where the wall dropped off.

This was a difficulty -8 roll; hard for an amateur, but almost routine for a professional. However, of the group, only the Thrall really had the skill enough to easily manage it - and she did. The others had to rely on a spell from the Dhuna to boost their skill to get over. The Arimite made it fine. The Cymrilian nearly fell (the Thrall and the Arimite managed to grab her before she plummeted to the rocks below). The Dhuna made it too, but it was a near thing since she had to concentrate to keep the spell up AND manage to climb at the same time.

Once inside the courtyard, a quick inspection while staying close to the wall seemed to indicate that most of the dead bodies within the walls were folks who had once been fleeing the manor, while a few were those who had apparently attempted to come and loot the place, but failed to gain entry. All of the bodies were desiccated and lifeless. The Cymrilian deduced that this was due to some sort of demonic attack. That the manor's gardens were also affected - all dry and dead and withered - led the group to believe that there was a plant demon, a grue, present somewhere. They wondered if that might be the presence in the back of the house. In order to do their best to hide from it, the Cymrilian (who is also an Elementalist) used an illusion spell to make all of them hard to detect.

The Players, and the PCs, knew that demons can detect living creatures within a certain radius, but they weren't positive how close. This spell was one to basically confound that sense - the demon would still be able to physically see (smell, taste, hear, touch), but it's supernatural life-sense would be fouled up. It worked out pretty well.

Hoping that they were hidden, the PCs approached the front door. It, unlike much of the rest of the surroundings, seemed to be a perfectly fine oaken door (bound with black iron). They poked at it a bit, until the Thrall just up and knocked on the door, tired of the smaller mages just slowly looking at things.
A face appeared out of the door and spoke to them in a language none of them truly understood (old Phaedran). The Dhuna tried to respond in Talislan, and eventually got a response in the same - asking them what they sought at the home of the master. They bluffed their way past the door which unlocked for them.

Inside was fairly typical low-level dungeon/abandoned manor house. Lots of dust, atmospheric description, and not much too loot or fight.
So, they split up. The Thrall and the Cymrilian went upstairs, while the Arimite and the Dhuna went to explore the back of the house.
Did they forget there was something "big and scary" back there? I don't know, but they went.

Here I started splitting time - a few rounds downstairs, followed by a few rounds upstairs - usually pausing at dramatic moments. The upstairs crew found some empty bedrooms (and some minor loot/treasure (Treasure +1)) and eventually a large study/library. It had not only a bunch of books (including a rare one worth Treasure +3) but also a crystal skylight and a set of blackened stairs leading up to a black-iron door (to the tower).
Downstairs, of course, the sneaky Arimite and nearly-as-sneaky Dhuna found a slumbering plant grue in a 'nest' of desiccated bodies in the middle of a kitchen - a thick curtain of dried up vines blocked most of the day-light but allowed wind inside - that also had a strange magi-tech stove (permanent conjure heat/fire on a large disc of black iron with some ceramic on the bottom). It had a bunch of runes and stuff inset into the edges, but the Dhuna couldn't really figure out how to work it, though the 'stove top' was already quite warm.

In short order, there was a fight going on. The Arimite and the Dhuna had to fight alone against the Grue for two rounds until the horrific screams of the monster below. The Thrall was much faster getting downstairs than the Cymrilian. (2 rounds instead of 4).

However, during the 4th round (technically 5 because the Dhuna's first attack was a surprise round), the Cymrilian showed up and between all four of them, they quickly dispatched the grue (the Dhuna actually did a ton of damage with attack spells). Everyone (but the Cymrilian) took damage during the fight, with the Dhuna bearing the brunt of it (since she was up close doing attack spells at very close range).

Afterwards, they decided to rest up and recuperate while the Cymrilian explored the library and tried to figure things out.

The big tower, by the way, was essentially a 20m tall column of black iron inlaid with brass sigils that the tower itself had been built around. The top of the iron column had an inset brass bowl that had some inset runes in something that looked silver (but wasn't silver. it was argentium but no one in the group recognized it).

Some asides:

The winnowed down and narrowed and combined Skill list seemed to work really well.
The aforementioned Lifepaths worked well.

I'm running a Tal 4E/5E hybrid game that should run for a 3 to 5 months. If anyone is interested in getting more detail contact me, and we can talk it over. Starting June 10th and games are every other Sunday at 2:00 PM CST.

We'll be using Discord for the voice and Roll20 for the game.

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Getting some of the old Archaen Legacies game (a play-by-post run on rpol) that I ran some 8 years ago gathered together for preservation sake.

First chapter linked at the bottom of this post -

Actual Play - Werewood Pirates

So, I'm starting up a game of Tal for some ladies from my work. Some of them have prior RPG experience, some have writing experience, and they basically wanted an outlet to get together outside of work. Since I'm something of an RPG fan and I've got the space, I offered up my house every other week. We went over some different game ideas and settled on Tal.

However, I was in the middle of doing some system changes to Tal (some to make it more similar to Atlantis, some just to clean up the system, some to make a document that integrated some house rules). So, they're now an inadvertent but willing playtest group as I try to wrangle some different ideas together into a cohesive whole.

In some ways, you could say this is my version of a mythical Tal 6 (or a Tal 7 if you wanted to count Savage Land as a Tal 6). Basically, I'm changing up some of the Attribute and Skills and the Modes to basically reduce the things you have to track. I'm keeping them all separate so that I can switch out things that wind up not working (or add in bits if things need clarification and change). I'm also plinking in a modified version of the Lifepath system from Atlantis to bolster up the slimmer skills and get the PCs tied into the game world (and occasionally each other).

Premise of the game is that all of the PCs are crew on a windship - a 'pirate' windship - that flies out of Werewood (they use a semi-looted Phaedran tomb as a fallback base, though many of them spend a great deal of time on the ship.
There is a pirate captain. She's a Danuvian ex-soldier type.
The ship is a modified, but fairly current Cymrilian design (is it stolen? who paid for it?).

All of my Players are female, but not all of the characters are.

We're going to have a Dhuna witch, a Thrall soldier, a Cymrilian fighter-mage, an Arimite scoundrel, and a (crazed) Zandir swordsman (who is confused as to whom she actually is).

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