Sunday, 25 September 2016

Bali's Tale - A Single PC Adventure

This project contains a small adventure story anyone could use to setup a single player gaming session. I will show you how I normally prepare for shorter games.

I got together with one of my oldest buddies, and we began working on the story we wanted to tell. We were both a part of a long running DnD 2e campaign a number of years ago, and the characters from that game have stuck with us (Returning as beloved NPC's and PC's alike).  We decided to revisit them again for this game and have it take place many years beyond the time when we last checked in with them. 

I prepared very little for the session, I showed up with a simple map, and a bit of back story that we worked on together. The idea was to tell a fun tale that would fill about a two hour session time.

So, in order to set us up, I sent him the following story line via email the day before the game.

More than 100 years have passed since the Fortress of Clan Goldhelm was destroyed by legions of Orcs. Shaken by the death of their father, and crushed by the defeat of their clan, the Brothers Bali and Druggum have gone their separate ways.

Druggum has retreated back to the North to live with the Barbarian clans that raised him. There, thanks to his physical prowess and long lifespan, he united several settlements of Northern Folk and became the King of the Barbarian Tribes.

Bali has wandered restlessly in the South lands, working as a hired axe and adventurer.  He has been living on the road, taking work where he can get it, and making a name for himself. 

Bali is surprised one day to get a letter from his brother, asking him to return North to their old homelands.  Druggum explains that he needs his brothers help, saving a piece of their father's legacy.

The wandering dwarf hoists his pack of belongings and heads to the North...

Here is the map I painstakingly detailed before hand...

The Adventure Sites:
These are the three rough scenes I had planned out for the game.  I felt like three scenes was a good amount of content for a two hour session.  If things were moving too quick, I'd add an intrusion or two to slow it down.  If we were running short on time, I would make a scene a little shorter.

0 - Introduction - The King of Barbarians

In the first scene, I wanted Bali to reach the encampment of his brother's people.  He would meet with Druggum, who would explain that he may have finally learned of the place where their father made his last stand against the accursed orcs.

High in the mountains where their childhood home lay in ruins, is a small tower. There was a secret exit from the main fortress that their father had been using to attempt to escape the orc invaders. Druggum believes that their father and his honour guard fell in the lower levels of this tower, There will be an orc presence at the site, but it should be lightly guarded.

Bali strode purposefully down the nearby snowy hillside and stomped into the huge barbarian encampment without delay.  His brother's tent was easy to locate; it was a very large (garishly colourful) affair in the centre of the camp.

After a quick discussion with his brother about why he was called North, Bali declared that he would travel into the mountains to search for their father's remains.  Druggum could not go with him, as his older age and failing health prevented him from making such a perilous journey.  

The Barbarian King did offer his brother some warriors / scouts as comrades, but Bali stubbornly refused.  "This is Family business my brother!"

1 - The Guardhouse - Mountain Entrance
Near the old tower on the mountain, is a guarded passageway cut into the stone face of the cliffs.  It was an ancient guardhouse of sorts used by dwarves to ensure that the buildings on the plateau above were protected. A narrow footpath cuts across the ice covered crags, and runs up to a gateway and small fortification set into the mountainside.  It appears to have two levels, with murder holes visible above the gate.

A pair of orc sentries are guarding the entrance to this gate.  They are wielding spears and appear to be very uncomfortable. Huddling in the cold beneath their cloaks.

Bali crouched amidst some snowy boulders, a short distance up the footpath from the gatehouse.  He knew there must be some sort of secret entrance to this fortification (dwarves are very practical like that).

*Graham declares he would like to make a knowledge check to see if there is a secret entrance. His clan built this place, so it seemed like he may know about one if it existed.  The test was successful.*

After a successful test I told Graham that Bali was aware of a secret hatchway into the second level of the gatehouse. However, it was locate above the building among the rocks and ice. If Bali wanted to get up there he would need to climb, and avoid being detected by the guards below.

Making sure that his belongings are secured tightly, Bali prepares his climbing equipment and readies himself to attempt to scale the cliff face and reach a long forgotten secret entrance to the gatehouse. He is a capable athlete, and also has a magi-mechanical arm which he can rely upon to help him with the climb.  The hard part is going to be keeping quiet and hidden while making the climb.

*Graham handily succeeds at an Athletics check to scale the cliff.  He then holds his breath and rolls again for a Stealthy check.... it is a success!*

Bali slips past the guards unnoticed and scales the mountain. He reaches a spot between two boulders where a small hatch is hidden.  He opens the hatch, and drops down into the upper level of the gate house undetected.

2 - The Guardhouse - Interior and Stairway
The interior of this guardhouse is a curved space with a central staircase running though it and a small living quarters at the far end.  Bali is situated at the top of a small rotting ladder, peering down into the stairway from a dusty attic storage area.

*Graham declares his intent. Bali is going to try and sneak down the ladder and bar the door to the gatehouse so that the orcs outside cannot get back in.  He rolls another Stealthy roll... and passes.*

Bali sets the heavy wooden bar into the hooks on the gatehouse door. The guards outside cannot get in the gatehouse any longer.

At this point, I decided to intrude upon the story.  I slid a XP across the table, and declared that the bar dropped into the door hooks with a heavy thud.  From atop the stair and around the corner a gravely voice can be heard.

"Oi! You two lazy no good maggots had better not be shirking yer duties! I said guard posts until it was suppa time!"

Bali quickly sidesteps out of the hallway and into a small alcove next to the stairs.  A large orc with dark green skin and a savage looking cutlass hanging at his hip begins to descend the steps. The orcish captain is peering about the hallway suspiciously on the lookout for his lazy and oafish subordinates.

*Graham declares he is going to toss a cup from his backpack into the corner behind the orc, to try and trick him into turning his back.  He makes a deception roll... and passes! *

The orc hears the clattering cup hit the wall behind him and wheels about. Bali quickly readies his net in one hand and his axe in the other.  The dwarf leaps out from his hiding place and hurls his net at the orc's back.

*Graham rolls an attack roll against the orc (a fairly low level goon) and succeeds in trapping him under his net.*

With the orc pinned to the stairs, Bali strides up the stone corridor and proceeds to bury his axe in the fiends neck.  His pathway through the gatehouse was now clear.

3 - The  Plateau and the Webbed Stair
The final scene for our game would take place on a windswept plateau high above the gate entrance on the icy peaks.  Snow is piled in high drifts around this ancient courtyard, and a small crumbling tower stands frozen and tilted at the far side.  A narrow cobblestone path winds across the area. Frozen chucks of rock are strewn about on the ground.

Bali crosses the courtyard cautiously and approaches a tattered and rotting wooden door that leads into the tower. Pushing the door ajar with his weapon he peers inside. 

There is a stone stairway spiraling down into the darkness below ground.  Snow swirls down into the depths as it falls into the tower through the destroyed ceiling.  The centre of the staircase is choked with a tapestry of thick heavy cobwebs that hang down as far as can be seen in the darkness.

A wild grin spreads across Bali's face. He reaches into his travel kit, and removes his flint and tinder.  Using it he quickly lights a small brand of wood on fire, and hurls is quickly into the thick webbing that hangs within the tower.

The flames quickly spread, consuming the flammable strands of web. Within moments the interior of the tower is blazing hotly with fire. The ice and snow melts on the walls and stairs and the flames travel down into the deeps. A horrific screech is carried up from below. A rage filled and anguished cry of something large and inhuman.

A giant hairy spider hurls itself up from the darkness below, screaming and hissing in rage.  Bali's fire has burned up her nest.  He has destroyed all of her eggs as well as her food she had stored to weather the cold season.  She intends to exact her revenge and restock her larder at the same time!

*Graham rolls initiative and ends up getting his turn after Grimweb, the Giant Spider Matron.

Grimweb launches her huge frame through the doorway and Bali is unable to get out of the way in time. He is struck firmly by the spider and knocked from his feet onto the icy ground.  The spider now looms over top of the prone dwarf, attempting to bite at him, and stab at him with her spike covered front legs.

Bali takes a deep breath and slashes savagely at the monstrous creature above him. 
*Graham rolls an attack against the spider and scores a superb hit!*
Thick ichor sprays down on the dwarf, coating his weapon and armor in gooey spider juice. Grimweb reels backwards in pain.

The spider snaps back quickly at the axe wielding warrior, attempting to bite him with her dripping poisonous fangs.
*Graham rolls a speed defense roll and fails.*
The spider's bite sinks deep into Bali's leg, injecting burning venom into his blood.

With a tremendous surge of effort the dwarf strikes out at the Spider again and lands another great attack.  The monster's legs are badly wounded and it topples to the ground.  With a final swing of his axe Bali is finally able to dispatch the behemoth and sends it crumpling hard onto the icy rocks.

Finally, wounded and beginning to suffer the effects of a powerful poison Bali is able to descend the stairs. He finds beneath the tower in a narrow tunnel a scene of a once great battle. Dozens of dwarven skeletons lay crumbling into dust along the ancient corridor.

Bali finds his father's remains among these fallen clan members, and is able to reclaim his families lost heirloom (a magical crown, worn by his father during negotiations to help gain insight into the minds of others).  He lays his fathers remains to rest properly in a great chamber beneath the mountain and begins the journey back to the barbarian camps.

Will he arrive safely? Will he succumb to the venom now coursing through his veins?  That is a tale for another game night....

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