Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Building Bhakashal - Money, Money, Money...



Twitter regularly shows me the most fascinating things, for example, recently I have seen a few threads complaining that the PCs couldn’t find ways to spend their gold. 


Really?


D&D gives out a lot of gold or gold equivalents (jewelry, gems, other coins, etc.), so adventurers will find themselves laden with loot by mid-levels if they are lucky and survive that long.


Here are a few suggestions of ways to drain that loot.


  1. Heavy Loot - in AD&D 10gp = 1lb, so 100gp weighs 10 lbs. Doesn’t sound like much, but look at those treasure tables, you can roll 4000 gp as loot, that’s 400lbs of coins. Even if you split it up between 4 adventurers, that’s 100lbs each

I suspect most groups just hand wave the weight, or give out bags of holding and such. 


But that’s part of the reason you have too much gold to spend! If you use some form of encumbrance, every time parties grab loot there will only be so much they can carry out of the dungeon, and they will be slowed by it considerably. You haven’t really rocked it old school until you have had to choose between carrying gold and fleeing from a monster. 


Greed kills!


  1. Mounts - During low levels getting around is a slog, by mid levels parties should invest in mounts. This means getting tack and harness, sometimes barding, and arranging for upkeep, housing and food. Mounts are generally one of the most expensive things you get in the early stages of the game, and depending on how messy things get, you will have to replace them eventually as well. 


  1. Animals (dogs, pack horses) - PCs are enamored with guard dogs and extra horses to carry out more loot and gear, that costs in training and food!


  1. Guides - when in unfamiliar areas, it is usually possible to hire guides, often local hunters, to help parties navigate their surroundings. You get what you pay for…


  1. Transportation - I suspect that a lot of referees put their adventuring destinations close to the party so they don’t have to go far, but booking passage on ships or with caravans can be expensive. Also note that if you want to get a ship to take you to some remote island they aren’t going to wait around for free, and they aren’t going to take you on the cheap. Generally ships will only drop you off somewhere if it’s on one of their regular runs, and they will make you pay dearly for it. If you want them to WAIT, as opposed to dropping you off and returning weeks later when they are on their way back, it would cost a LOT.


  1. Transportation 2 - Buy a ship! If a party wants to be able to adventure on the waves, they could do worse than to purchase, provision and hire crew for a sailing vessel. By mid-level they should have the wealth for it, and it will give them much greater mobility. 


  1. Equipment, Weapons and Ammunition - no more endless quivers! Your adventurers should be replacing lost and broken arrows, spears, etc. over the course of the game. Damaged weapons, damaged armor, all of these things need replacing. A set of chain mail doesn’t last forever, so even if you have no detailed rules for armor and weapon damage, periodic replacement is in order. An easy house rule is to replace one non-magical item every time the PC levels


  1. Tithing - 1e had tithing for Paladins and clerics would give to their temple, but really, any class would have guild fees to pay, all PCs would likely donate to their temple, not just the paladins. 


  1. Taxes - Everyone wants a “medieval style setting”, but they ignore the taxation that came along with it. If adventurers are hauling back large sums of loot, local administrators are going to want their share of the wealth. 


  1. Property - Tables will spend time thinking about where you will be staying on the way to an adventure, but between adventures this is often hand waived. It shouldn’t be! PCs need a place to stay when they are not adventuring too! In most of my games once the PCs hit it big the first time they put some coin into renting rooms at a local Inn on a long term basis. By mid-levels they can often purchase land or real estate.


  1. Managing Money -  So let’s say your group has just become flush with funds after a successful adventure, and let’s say further that you manage to get a lot of that loot out of the dungeon. You arrive back in town, your mounts laden with gold filled saddlebags. 


Where do you put it all? Say you slay a dragon and end up with thousands of coins, this is 100% possible given the treasure tables. Say you have 10,000 coins of various kinds, that’s 1000 lbs of loot. Likely you will have to hire porters and mounts to extract the loot, and once extracted you can’t keep that under your mattress, or in your backpack, so it has to be stored somewhere and protected when you are not around. That all costs money. 


Smart PCs convert gold to gems, that saves a lot of space, but this will also cost money, it will cost to convert the loot (there are fees for that) and there won’t be an exact match, so sometimes you will get less for the gem than it is worth. For the ridiculous amount of wealth that a PC gets, storing and managing the wealth will be a significant cost 


  1. Sages - Gygax put extensive information about sages into the game, the idea being that PCs can consult sages to get a leg up on adventuring. Sages are a great way to drain gold from a party, as research can take a lot of time and require rare and hard to find books and lore. 


  1. Clues and Information - pretty much every fantasy story I have read has a part where the protagonist spreads around coin to gain information. Paying off the locals to get the scoop, bribing guards to let the party through, there are lots of ways to spend gold to get advantages.


  1. Henchmen - AD&D and earlier editions assumed that PCs would have henchmen, and the best way to guarantee loyalty from your henchmen is to give them decent shares of the loot. Paying for room and board, buying them equipment and mounts, etc.


  1. Training - AD&D also makes you pay gold, a LOT of gold, for training to level up, training is a specialized activity from rare, hard to find higher level NPCs, it should be expensive!


  1. Potion, Spell and Magic Item Creation - It varies by edition, but if you have rules for making temporary or permanent magic items, they will all be a huge drain on gold supplies. And not just for rare ingredients, the AD&D rules for magic item creation, for example, require the wizard to sit with the item for days and do nothing else, that wizard needs to be protected and in a remote, or at least hard to access location to do this work uninterrupted. All of that costs gold, the location to work, the ingredients, the guards to protect you, etc, etc. 


  1. Potion and Spell Purchasing - though “magic shops” are not really an AD&D thing, purchasing of spells (on scrolls, or to have spells cast) and potions definitely exists in AD&D. Temporary magic items like these can be purchased, and are a significant source of gold drain for the treasure laden party.


  1. Magic Item Creation by NPC - At lower levels PCs can hire high level wizards to make items for them. The costs are staggering, but if you really want to drain gold, this is a sure fire way to do so. Keep in mind that the requirements of staying in contact with the item for days means that wizards who take on this work are taking great personal risk, what better time to attack your foe when they are stuck in a room touching a magic item and they can’t spellcast or defend themselves? So PAYING to have someone else do this will be very dear indeed.


  1. Helping Others - particularly if you have a good or lawfully aligned party, a gold heavy adventuring group can spread around the wealth in helpful ways. You don’t want to flood the economy with gold, that can lead to problems, but say purchasing a fishing boat for a fisherman who had their’s stolen, or giving a small village the gold needed to hire mercenaries to protect them, that sort of thing is an easy and in-character way to use excess wealth. For real, if an adventuring party has thousands of GP, they could pay to get mercenaries to protect a village for months with that sort of loot.


  1. Art! - mid level PCs with gold to burn can become patrons of the arts, commission a sculptor to make a statue of the Baron to curry his favor, have the party’s adventures immortalized in paintings, hire a skald to keep records of their exploits and sing them to all who will listen.



These are suggestions from my gaming experience, I’m sure others will have cool ideas too. Last suggestion: encourage any and all hare-brained schemes your players suggest, as they will likely cost a bundle to execute…






 


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Building Bhakashal - Weapons and Combat!


One of the features of Bhakashal that is best explained through example is the variety and impact of weapon choice. Weapons are meant to be different and to give players tactically meaningful options. Years of unsatisfying “you hit for dX damage” led to a design where the weapons you pick help to define your tactical choices, and all weapons bring something different to the table. This can be most clearly seen by combat between two unequal, but closely matched foes. 


Bhakashal is built on the premise that small, cumulative modifiers add up to significant advantages/disadvantages. When a combatant tries to strike, there are a number of modifiers in play:


“Fixed” Modifiers

Attack Modifier  - every class gets a level based attack bonus. Martial classes get the largest bonus, +1/2 levels, e.g. a 5th level mercenary (fighter) gets +2 to hit (5/2 round down).


Proficiency Modifier - all classes can forgo an extra weapon when they gain a proficiency slot, gaining a +1/+1 with an existing weapon. Only martial classes can stack these bonuses, and not at first level.


Magic Modifier - if the combatant has a “+X” magic weapon, then they get +X to hit, +X to damage with that weapon


These bonuses can change, but not for the most part during combat, so they are deemed “fixed”. They are totalled and listed on the character sheet after the weapon name, + to hit/ + to damage, e.g,. “Battle Axe [+4/+2]” 


Variable Modifiers

WvrsAC Modifier- weapons get variable bonuses/penalties based on the armor of their target, mods are given for wearing no armor, leather armor or metal armor. WvrsAC is listed with the weapon entry, e.g,. “WvrsAC:  -1M/+2L/+3N”, with “M” for metal armor, “L” for leather armor and “N” for no armor.


Situational Modifier- attacking from behind, from high ground, by charging, while blinded, etc. all carry situational modifiers


Armor Class Modifier- Bhakashal uses descending AC, and the AC of the target is added directly to the “to hit” roll


There is only one attack table in Bhakashal, all bonuses apply to it. 


Attack Table (d20)

1-14 - miss

15-19 - hit for ½ damage

20-24- hit

25+ critical hit


The Combatants

This sample combat takes two typical low level characters, both fighters, and pits them against each other. They are close in level and stats with the main difference being their weapons.


Broggak the Bold - 3rd level mercenary (fighter)

AC: 7 (breastplate/greaves - metal), HP: 14

Weapons

Battle Axe [+4/+2] - 1-8/1-8, 4,  WVAC -2M/+1L/+2N - Cleave

Crossbow [+3/+1] - 2-5/2-5, WS: 4, ROF: 1, Range: 6/12/18, WvrsAC: -1M/+2L/+3N - Remain

Mace [+3/+1] - Mace - 2-7/1-6, WS:4, WvAC: +2M/+3L/+4N - Bludgeon


Broggak is third level, so he gets a +2 to hit attack bonus, he gets 4 initial weapon slots, he takes 3 weapons (battle axe, crossbow and mace) and gets a +1/+1 with one weapon (the crossbow). He also gets +1/+1 from his STR on his melee weapons. When he gets to 3rd level he takes a +1/+1 on the battle axe rather than a new weapon. 


Sayle Rokshir - 2nd level Mercenary

AC: 4 (Chain - metal)

HP: 10

Weapons:

Spear [+3/+2]- 1-6/1-8, WS: 4, WvrsAC: -1M/+1L/+3N - Set Against Charge/Dismount/Stab/Sweep

Longsword [+3/+2]- 1-8/1-12, WS: 3, WvrsAC: -1M/+1L/+3N - Remain/Stab

Dagger - [+3/+2] - 1-4/1-3 ,WS: 1, WvrsAC: -2M/+1L/+3N - Dual Wield/Remain/Stab

Crossbow - [+2] - 2-5/2-5, WS: 4, ROF: 1, Range: 6/12/18, WvrsAC: -1M/+2L/+3N - Remain


Sayle is 2nd level so gets a +1 attack bonus. Her STR is 13 and gives a +2/+2 on all melee weapons. Sayle has 4 weapons so gets no proficiency bonuses. Her DEX is 10 and gives a +1/+1 on missile weapons


Broggak is in the forest near the hideout being used by Sayle’s party. Sayle is on watch and walking the grounds, Broggak decides to try for a lucky shot when she is at the furthest point in her watch from the hideout, and if it doesn’t succeed, to charge the warrior and hopefully overwhelm her before she can raise the alarm


The referee rolls for surprise, Broggak rolls a 4, Sayle rolls a 2, and is surprised.


Broggak gets one shot before Sayle can react. He waits until she has passed by and her back is to him to shoot. 


Modifiers - Broggak’s Crossbow

Weapon (ability, attack, proficiency, magic): +3

Situational: +2 from behind

WvrsAC: -1 against metal armor

Armor Class: +4 (Sayle’s AC)

Total Modifiers:  +8


Broggak rolls a 10 +8 = 18


Attack Table (d20)

1-14 - miss

15-19 - hit for ½ damage

20-24- hit

25+ critical hit


So that’s a half damage hit.


Broggak rolls a d4+1 and gets 3 hp damage, halved to 1 hp, +1 hp damage for the crossbow. Sayle takes 2 hp damage, reducing her to 8 hp, in this case a minor wound. 


Ref - “a crossbow twangs from the dark and clips your shoulder, sending a sharp flare of pain down your arm”


Surprise is done, now initiative:


Broggak drops his crossbow and charges with his battle axe. Sayle views Broggak and considers taking out her crossbow, but opts instead to take out her spear. On charge, longest weapon strikes first. Sayle decides to plant the spear against Broggak’s charge. The spear gives Sayle a 1 point AC bonus, and the charge gives Broggak a 2 point AC penalty (and +2 to hit)


Broggak closes the distance in seconds and attacks second as Sayle’s spear is longer.


Sayle has the following bonuses:


Modifiers - Sayle’s Spear

Weapon (ability, attack, proficiency, magic): +3

Situational: /

WvrsAC: -1 against metal armor

Armor Class: +9 (Broggak charging, 2 point AC penalty) 

Total Modifiers:  +11


Sayle rolls a 15, +11 equals 26, so a critical hit!


Sayle opts for a weapon critical, double damage.


She rolls a d6 for base damage and gets a 3, x2 = 6 +2 for her damage bonus with the spear for a total of 8 hp damage, reducing Broggak to 6 hp, which is less than half, so the referee turns over a Jack and Broggak takes a 1 point penalty on everything until healed. 


Ref - “Broggak charges across the distance from the woods, his axe pulled back for a full force swing, Sayle plants her spear and positions it such that it catches Broggak on the right, he screams as the spearhead takes a chunk out of his arm.


Broggak now gets to return the attack with an axe blow


Modifiers - Broggak’s Axe

Weapon (ability, attack, proficiency, magic): +4

Situational: +1 (Broggak charging, +2 bonus to hit, Jack overturned, -1 to hit)

WvrsAC: -2 against metal armor

Armor Class: +3 (1 point AC bonus from spear reduces Sayle’s AC from 4 to 3) 

Total Modifiers:  +6


Broggak rolls a 7 + 6 = 13, a miss! Broggak decides that he needs this hit, so he spends 2 hp, reducing his HP to 4, pushing himself hard, that makes it a 15, a half damage hit. Broggak rolls a d8, gets a 3, halved to 1, +2 damage from the axe for a total of 3 hp damage. Sayle is now reduced from 8 hp to 5, exactly half, so no penalties.


Ref - “Broggak pulls away from the gash in his arm made by Sayle’s spear and swings his battle axe, she manages to almost dodge the swing, but Broggak brings the axe down just enough to catch her shoulder, spraying blood into the air”


“That’s your last lucky shot” she sneers.


New Round

Initiative is rolled.


Broggak is below half HP and has a Jack turned up, so he takes a 1 point penalty on initiative. However, Sayle wears chain mail, so takes a 1 point initiative penalty, these cancel each other out. 


Broggak chooses to use his axe again, Sayle drops her spear and takes out her longsword and dagger to dual wield, drawing weapons takes a segment, so gives a 1 point initiative penalty.


Broggak rolls a 3 + 4 (weapon speed) + 1 (Jack overturned) = 8


Sayle rolls a 1 + 1 (penalty) +3 for the longsword (highest weapon speed applies) = 5


Sayle goes first.


The dual wielding critical ability of the dagger works as follows: 


Weapon gives a 1 point AC bonus. On a miss or a 1/2 damage hit by the primary weapon, the secondary weapon is assumed to be blocking, a regular damage hit does regular damage, a critical hit allows both weapons to hit that round and gives a single critical effect



Modifiers - Sayle’s Longsword

Weapon (ability, attack, proficiency, magic): +3

Situational: none

WvrsAC: -1 against metal armor

Armor Class: +8 (1 point AC penalty on Broggak as a Jack is overturned)

Total Modifiers:  +10


Sayle rolls a 12 +10 = 22, a hit!


Longsword does 1-8 damage, Sayle rolls a 5 +2 = 7 hp damage, Broggak only has 6 hp remaining, and goes down.


Broggak’s player decides that he wants to avoid going down, and chooses to take a broken limb as a consequence to get above 0 hp.


The referee rolls a d8 and gets a 2, left arm. Fortunately Broggak is right handed. So Broggak now has a broken left arm, -6 to hit with that arm, but he is at 1 hp. Since this was the second blow that occurred below half hp, Broggak is given a Queen and takes a -2 penalty on everything until healed.


Ref - “Sayle circles Broggak after he tagged her on the shoulder, she feints and misses as if too damaged to attack, Broggak gets closer and she brings the sword back across for a vicious slashing blow, it bites deep into Broggak’s arm, and Sayle is rewarded by a sickening ‘snap’ as his arm breaks.”


Broggak now gets his attack. 


Modifiers - Broggak’s Axe

Weapon (ability, attack, proficiency, magic): +4

Situational: -2 (Queen overturned)

WvrsAC: -2 against metal armor

Armor Class: +3 (as the last hit was not a critical, Sayle’s dagger gives a 1 point AC bonus)

Total Modifiers:  +3


Broggak has no HP to spend to improve the roll and has no situational advantages, so at this point it’s all luck and some skill. He rolls a 6 + 3 = 9, a miss!


Ref - “Broggak staggers to the side after the blow on his left arm, pulls back the axe and makes a powerful, sky to ground sweeping blow. Sayle moves to the side at the last second, and the axe bites dirt”


New Round

Broggak’s left arm hangs at his side, his axe, held desperately in his right hand, sways as he stares down his opponent. 


Sayle has a 1 point initiative penalty, she rolls a 2 + 1 (armor penalty) + 3 (longsword) = 6


Broggak has a 2 point initiative penalty, he rolls a 3 + 2 (Queen) + 4 (axe) = 9


Sayle goes first.


Modifiers - Sayle’s Longsword

Weapon (ability, attack, proficiency, magic): +3

Situational: none

WvrsAC: -1 against metal armor

Armor Class: +9 (Broggak takes a 2 point penalty on AC due to the Queen turned over)

Total Modifiers:  +11


Sayle rolls a 1 + 11 = 12, a miss. She has 5 HP left, she decides that she wants to push herself to finish him off, she spends 3 hp to make this a half damage hit. She rolls a d8, gets a 4, divided by 2 makes it a 2 + 2 for her damage bonus and its 4 hp. Broggak is reduced to -3 HP, and loses consciousness. He will bleed out a 1 hp a round until he reaches his negative CON score (10), then he will die. Sayle now has a Jack turned over as this takes her below half HP. She now takes a -1 penalty on everything until healed.


Ref - “Broggak is slow and in agony with his wounds, Sayle jumps to one side then strikes out directly forward, running the warrior through, her sword slipping just under his breastplate. Broggak slides to the ground, bleeding and dying.”


Sayle binds his wounds and ties him up, taking him into the party to decide his fate.


Observations

Sayle had disadvantages, namely that she had a 1 point initiative penalty based on armor, smaller attack bonus and fewer HP. However, she took advantage of the fact that her opponent charged her, and used the spear to set against charge and to attack first in the round as her opponent had a battle axe.


The set against charge also means she gets a +2 to hit against the charging target, which improves her odds of a critical hit. Bhakashal combat is premised on the idea of small, cumulative bonuses mattering to combat, so making choices that amplify your situational bonuses is key. You get fixed modifiers for your weapons based on STR (ability score), proficiency (having fewer weapons but gaining proficiency bonuses with them) and attack bonus (level based). So initial choices of weapons matter, greater variety means less proficiency.


Note also that the low HP of the combatants makes fights fast and furious, this one took 3 rounds between two fairly evenly matched combatants. Most fights take about 2-5 rounds in Bhakashal. Gone are the days of long, drawn out fights.


Individual initiative is also important, as it impacts the flow of combat. Advantage can shift based on initiative rolls, it is also possible to hit your opponent “second” in the round, then win initiative and hit again before being attacked, essentially giving the PC two attacks in a row. 


Note also how each weapon had critical impacts and abilities beyond criticals. Spears were longer so attacked first on charge, the dagger didn’t hit, but it lowered the AC of the wielder when dual wielded. Weapon vrs AC adjustments are small, but in aggregate they can make a difference. Low penalties for changing weapons make it worthwhile to switch while fighting. 


Exhaustion is a major factor in Bhakashal combat, it gives the game a mechanism to give penalties when you have taken damage. One of the biggest beefs that players have had with D&D over the years is that opponents fight at full strength until they are downed. Exhaustion rules, flipping over cards to indicate severity, combined with lower overall HP, make combat particularly deadly.


Combat can go south very easily. If Broggak had rolled a critical on the first axe attack (he would have had to roll a 19, so he had a 10% chance of a critical) he could have chosen either to double damage (a combat critical effect, not weapon specific) or to cleave, give full HD damage to the weapon. Say he chose to cleave, that would have been 8 hp damage, +2 for STR for a total of 10, and Sayle would have went down on the first axe attack! This is one of the reasons why PCs travel in parties, numbers matter when any one individual can be taken out quickly.


Finally, a word about armor. In the quasi-Medival European setting of standard D&D, the weather is generally temperate to cold. In Bhakashal it is tropical jungle hot all the time, as well as very wet. As a result there are exhaustion penalties to wearing heavier armor. For example, PC’s can move at their regular Movement Rate for a period equal to their Movement Duration: 2x[AC + CON bonus + STR bonus] in turns. So someone in no armor gets an AC 10 for that value, someone in chain mail gets an AC 4, so for two warriors with equal STR and CON bonuses of +1 each, warrior A in no armor would last for 2X[10+1+1] = 24 turns before having to take a break. Warrior B in chain mail (AC 4) would last for 2x[4+1+1] 12 turns, half as long, before having to stop and hydrate and rest. If they choose to push through, they take an exhaustion penalty, a Jack would be turned over and the target would take -1 on all rolls until rested. 


In this sort of environment, full plate armor wearing warriors are rare, even warriors in chainmail are less frequent. Combined with the martial culture of the setting, which often views excessive armor as “dishonorable”, Bhakashal is a setting where high AC values are somewhat common. Since AC is added directly to the “to hit” for any attack, this means bonuses to hits will be large, targets will be hit more often, and combat will be much deadlier for both sides. 


Bhakashal is DESIGNED this way, combat is fast and furious, if you don’t get the advantage right away you can lose very easily, your HP are lower so you don’t have as much of a buffer, your armor is generally lighter, and once you are damaged your disadvantages add up fast. Weapon choice and strategy matters a lot, WvrsAC mods, weapon speed, criticals and non-critical weapon abilities (longest weapon striking first on charge or pole arms giving AC bonuses for example) mean that every fight is different. 


Bhakashal combat is deadly, fast and fun.


Friday, August 26, 2022

Building Bhakashal - Session Report - Summer Camp Day 4


The Party:

Magic-user (human) - Dhaklan the Ryne

Fighter (human) - Borak blackhand

Cleric of Bast (human) - Jek Rallah

Ranger (aaracockra) - Creeg Mar

Fighter (lizard man) - Golgan Torg

Druid - (aaracockra) - Fara Chald 

Illusionist (Malu - Fish man) - Phost the Grim



We started back today in the middle of a fight with a patrol of yuan-ti. The party was going to take down the patrol as evidence that they had the muscle to take down Horan, and win the favor of the bullywugs, who guard the pan lung’s egg. Well, three rounds into combat and things were not going as they had hoped. 


The yuan-ti were proving more resilient than expected, but the session started off with promise…


Shielded by his allies in front, and the druid multiplied by mirror image, Dhalkan cast monster summoning 2, waiting to see what the spell would bring him.


Creeg swept down from the sky and maneuvered between crossbow bolts and flashing blades to cut at the wounded yuan-ti, between several sword strokes and a barrage of magic missiles, one of the snake creatures was on it’s last legs. Creeg attacked from above, slicing open it’s head, and the beast collapsed to the ground, dead.


One down!


Another yuan-ti targeted Dhalkan, hoping to polymorph him into something benign, but Dhalkan focused, concentrated and shrugged off the transformative magic. The main party was still on the roof of a nearby building, only Borak was amongst the yuan-ti. One of them was still blinded by a light spell, and was concentrating. Seconds later, he was surrounded by 7 snakes, transformed from nearby sticks. The snakes formed a ring around the yuan-ti and hissed at all who would approach.


One of the yuan-ti had avoided being hit, enchanted or otherwise attacked. This one concentrated on Creeg as he looped around for his next dive attack, and suddenly the ranger was overcome with horror. In this case though, he did not flee, instead he struck out in blind terror at whomever was closest to him, which in this case was his own party on the nearby roof, he dove down and slashed at the party priest, tagging him on the shoulders.


Borak Blackhand was long away from the party, the fear spell that drove him to bolt was powerful. At that time Golgan arrived on the scene. He had been off in the jungle looking for some rare flowers that Dhalkan could use for an enhanced version of sleep, he checked in with the bandits and was sent towards the party. However, he saw Borak fleeing in terror, and decided to follow him. 


The pursuit was good fun. Golgan was faster (move 12” compared to Borak’s 9”), so, in essence, for every 3 squares Borak fled, Golgan traveled 4 squares. However, there was a distance of 80’ between them to start, and this meant that Borak was able to turn down an alley, make it to the end and exit before Golgan arrived in the alley to see which way he fled. When Golgan emerged he guessed wrong and lost Borak in the darkness


He decided to head back to the fight.


Back at the rooftop, the party druid, still duplicated by a mirror image spell, stood in front of the party illusionist to protect him.


Then, from the north, a buzzing noise, Dhalkan’s summoned monsters, three volts, came out of the sky and surrounded the warlock, flying around him in a circle. 


Golgan was approaching the site  of the conflict when he turned a corner and saw a group of yuan-ti, another patrol, in the distance. They also saw him, and he decided to flee. The yuan-ti blew a whistle three times and pursued.


Now, at this same time, two of the three yuan-ti (the two who were not blinded) decided to flee, they fled in different directions, leading the party to become confused about who to pursue. And right after the whistle sounded three times, Phost looked in that direction and saw the second yuan-ti patrol heading in their direction. 


Phost was far less of an optimist than the other party members, he knew they couldn’t handle any more yuan-ti, so he unfurled a scroll and cast a spell, shadow door. While an illusory version of him entered this illusory door and fled into the building, the real Phost fled invisibly and undetected into the night.


The screech of Creeg in the air above signaled his terrified descent for another sweep at the party. Fortunately he strikes one of Fara’s illusory duplicates as he screams. If anything, his fear appears to increase in intensity.


Borak - gone

Creeg- attacking

Phost -gone


The party decided on the spot that they were not going to win this one, and they threw down their weapons and surrendered. 


Given they had slain one of the yuan-ti and proven their prowess, and also gained some enmity, I decided to roll to see what they would do. They decided to wait, blew the whistle in a complicated series of bursts, and the new yuan-ti arrived, instructing the party to kneel and wait. They ended the fear spell on Creeg.


In short order Kwarino arrived, with 8 yuan-ti abominations in tow. She walked towards the party with confidence and arrogance. She knew she had the advantage.


“To what do we owe the pleasure of adventurers in the Forbidden City, you came to pillage, to slay?”


The party debated whether or not to be forthcoming, then one blurted out, “We only speak to Horan!”


I rolled an encounter reaction roll to see if that infuriated Kwairno or amused her. 


Her black laughter echoed between the buildings.


“Oh strangers, I have every plan to bring you to Horan, but first, all of your gear and weapons on the ground now.”


The party shot looks at each other, but begrudgingly agreed, tossing everything into a pile, which was quickly scooped up by the yuan-ti.


The party was bound, and the casters all gagged, and they were taken to Horan.


Meanwhile, Borak had fled to the farthest corner of the Forbidden City, and was climbing a cracked, ancient set of marble steps that lead into a dark cave, when the fear spell finally wore off. He collapsed for a minute and regained his breath. Fortunately he had not run into anything while fleeing in terror.


He grimly turned back and began to run to return to the party, hopefully in time. Golgan was heading in the same direction, and the two saw each other before reaching the site of the combat. By the time they did arrive, the party had been hauled off by Kwairno and the square was empty except for bloodstains and dirt.


They decided to go back to the bandit camp for now and regroup.


Meanwhile Dhalkan, Jek, Creeg, and Fara were marched into Horan’s home. They were brought to a large main room where they were told to kneel and wait.


Eventually, Horan appeared, clad in bright yellow silk robes, a strange looking creature at his side, it looked like a dog, it was about the size of a small pony, and it had a vaguely, disturbing looking human-like face. 


Horan greeted the party with apparent pleasantness, “I don’t get many visitors here that can survive an encounter with my yuan-ti, anyone who lasts a while is to be brought to me.”


The party nodded, a bit awestruck and unsure what to say. 


“I have two options for visitors such as yourself who show up uninvited”, Horan scratched the head of the creature which had entered with him, “but first, you must answer a question, did you know I was here?”


The party all shook their heads.


The creature beside Horan growled and barked, it was a very unnatural sound.


“Ibisal here has a very sensitive nose, people who are lying sweat as their heart rate speeds up, Ibisal can smell that.”


The party ranger looked at the rest of them and spoke, “We knew you were here at some point, we weren’t sure if you were here now.”


Horan nodded and smiled briefly, “There, that wasn’t so hard now was it?”


The sorcerer took a deep breath, “Let me make this simple”, he looked at the party individually, “there were more of you when the fight started, you will need to call in your comrades so my patrols don’t slay them… unintentionally of course.”


He paused, taking a sip from a goblet that had been on the small table beside him, but no one had even seen. 


“I have been here in the Forbidden City for a year or so now, and I have managed to gain enough power to rule, my yuan-ti, my pan lung, the patchworks, my bandits, all of these give me power here. So I have two options for you. One is to slay you, dismember you and reassemble you as patchwork. However, I have opponents here in the city as well, monsters which are selfish and willing to slay my forces and even threaten me. Can you imagine? I have not the time to hunt them down and slay them, and I don’t want to risk my precious yuan-ti. Your  arrival gives me another option, I let you live, and you dispatch some of the more recalcitrant creatures in the city for me.”


There was some OOC discussion, which I interpreted as a pause.


“Oh, come now, you would have happily slain these creatures if you found them on your own, why get squeamish now, unless you were here to sight-see.” 


There was some further talking, and the group decided to cooperate with Horan… for now. 


“The agreement seems fair, give us back our weapons and items and we can work for you.”


Horan smiled.


“Not quite yet. You all seem quite intelligent and driven, I have a… feeling… that you have been talking to others in the city, conspiring against me. Is this true?” The party didn’t know that the bullywugs had told Horan about their plan. There was then a HUGE conversation with the party about whether or not to tell Horan everything, they were worried his creature would detect their lies. So they decided to be straight up. They told him about trying to enlist both the bullywugs and the pan lung, and how they had made an alliance with the bandits.


Horan smiled, and sipped from his goblet again.


“I have suspected for a time that the bandits were conspiring, so it isn’t a surprise. Bandits are easily replaceable, you know, I could send an agent to the nearest city to the north and have a whole new crew of warriors here in 2 weeks. Actually, I will do just that. These bandits served their purpose; they have raided for me for a year now, bringing me fresh fodder for my experiments, but they have obviously lost their fear of me. If they are at the point of conspiring with outsiders to slay me, it is time for a change.”


Horan waved at the yuan-ti in the room, “they should know better, my yuan-ti are deadly as they are beautiful”, he then pointed at them, “I will give you each one of your weapons, and you will slay the bandits, every last one of them, and bring me the heads of their leader and their wizard. Once you have completely wiped out your co-conspirators I will be confident in your loyalty.”


The party had a good amount of OOC conversation, but decided that the bandits were terrible anyway, so why not? They agreed. Horan had the yuan-ti give each party member back a melee weapon to fight with, and sent them off to slay the bandits. 


When they arrived Borak, Golgan and Phost were there with the bandits. They conferred with them silently and agreed that they would wake the next morning, prepare spells and such, then slay the bandits by surprise. 


By sunrise the party was ready, and at a signal all hell broke loose. The two party fighters are 7th level, and get 7 attacks per round against 0-level bandits, so things got messy. With longsword and broadsword in hand respectively, they went to work. They almost couldn’t miss, and each hit’s minimum damage was almost enough to slay. It was a bloodbath, in the first round 14 bandits went down. They tried grappling, but unfortunately for them the party warlock did fire off Magic Missile, slaying 4 more, and the party ranger managed to pick off two from the air with arrows. The party druid slayed one, the party illusionist had his spell disrupted, and the party cleric brought one down with a Cause Light Wounds.


22 bandits down in one minute.


Whoof.


The bandits did have a higher level fighter and a wizard, the wizard lined up three party members (Dhalkan, Borak and Jek) for a lightning bolt, this did a good amount of damage, but all three were doing OK for HP beforehand so it wasn’t decisive. The bandit’s leader hefted a javelin at the party ranger but he missed.


18 bandits were left, they formed a half circle around their wizard and prepared to defend him as he was their best shot at winning.


Golgan waded into the warriors, he cut down 7 in the round, reducing them to 11. Borak did the same and brought down 5, two managed to survive as he missed. 6 were left. They finally broke morale and fled in terror. The party druid entangled them when they reached the nearest foliage and cut them each down with his scimitar.


Stone cold.


Finally, the party priest cast Hold Person on the bandit leader and the wizard, both failed their saves, and both were paralyzed. Golgan, fresh off slaughtering the bandits, decapitated the two paralyzed leaders and collected their heads for Horan.


The party decided that they will let Horan be their new patron, and they will follow his instructions… for now. When the time is right they plan to turn against him. That’s assuming that he doesn’t turn against them beforehand. Unbeknownst to the party Horan has an Aerial Servant at his disposal, and it is following the party around from this point forwards to ensure they are behaving and to report on their schemes. 


We finished there, and in a few weeks we will be resuming regular campaign play with the party working for Horan in the Forbidden City. 


We’ll see how long that lasts… 





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