Wednesday, June 17, 2020

OSR: The Calaveras Campaign 4, 5, 6

Read what happened on the previous sessions of this Knave campaign. Things are progressing well as we close up the first dungeon crawl, and the group moves to other adventures in the region of Rietikon.

Let's look at the characters:
Pancho (Copernico) - guy with a lance, and a tendency to grab shiny stuff in front of him.
Zemalayou (iagson) - carrying a bow and a spellbook. Face heavily scarred and mutated.
Nerisse* (Mo) - redhead bow-woman, who wakes up in the first visited dungeon without any memory of how she ended up there.
Angan Enge (Copernico) - beastman of the Biber Hills, assigned by Rhys to accompany the adventurers. Wants to find his family.
Hirelings - Daniele (woman-at-arms, sword & board)
*Nerisse joined the group at Session 3.

Session 4

  • They spend a considerate amount of time debating what the next course of action is, still puzzled at the riddle from the thick prayer book: "Place something cold, my Agent, the color of our essence."
    • Zem decides to cut part of his newly lizard-like cheek to let some blood drip, to no effect (other than the damage willingly taken by the attempt).
    • They try other objects, and finally with a bit of the separating curtain get the effect of a nearby human-sized cobra to spill a red liquid. PCs are too afraid to come near it, so they move on.
  • Extremely cautious with the door to the East, Pancho starts working with his trusted lockpicks on the door. After some time (burning torches and resources), he unlocks it.
  • There, they are back at a human-sized statue of a cobra (another one) in the corridor, two gems (green emerald and red ruby) on the eye sockets. Of course Nerisse plops them out. Of course the green one turns to dust and blasts chocking poison damage to the group (albeit not fatal). Red ruby hauled though...!
  • Stairs go down, turning to the right. Stone door needs further exploration. Inside, a temple-like area, with stone statues flanking the space, columns supporting the structure, treasure scattered on the floor (coffers, bracelets, amphora). And this guy, but in a statue made of stone (cool looking obsidian sword on his hand):
This guy, but as a statue instead
  • Pancho convinces Daniele to remove the obsidian sword (treasure!), whilst Zem starts pocketing riches, and Nerisse protects the entrance with her bow.
    • Of course, the statue animates, mauls Daniele the hireling to a pulp (FIRST DEATH), and recovers the sword. PCs are fast enough to flee, and the creature doesn't seem too bothered to pursue them past this room, which they wisely close behind them.
    • ... many torches and plenty of equipment are left behind on Daniele's corpse...
  • Next room explored has another column with manacles (no skellies there this time), and a cryptic graffiti message on the western wall "Kill the False Heir!".
  • Reluctant to waste more time, after investigating the space, they move North to the only available exit. Large corridor, with rubble slowing their steps.
  • They find a new room, with 4 stone lamps, and the skeleton of a medusa on the ground with a dagger on the hand. After some investigations, playing with lighting 2 of the stone lamps, and finding some treasure below the skeleton,....
  • ... a naked kid shows up, lizard-like eyes. Shouts and commands the adventurers to leave this sacred place. Intruders!

Referee Commentary

  • Players learnt the hard way that there are fights not worth fighting.
    Running is a viable (and sometimes very advisable) strategy.
  • Timing a session is extremely hard, no matter how experienced you are running games, or how much you prepared your session in advance. Glad it worked this time!

Session 5

  • Pancho is able to convince the lizard-kid to leave them alone, arguing that they are here to help. This buys the group some precious exploration time, as he disappears leaving the adventurers to their task.
  • After several turns exploring every corner of this area and room, the group is in the brink of giving up. Including the nearby locked door spitting paralyzing darts to both Nerisse and Pancho, when trying to force it open with the lockpicks.
  • Finally, a random encounter is rolled. The dragon-lizard strikes again, this time bigger and meaner. It opens with a tongue of flames, that catch Zem unaware, so the adventurer gets his lower face burned (losing the ability to speak). We all rejoice in how scarred his face is!
    • There's a cruel and short-lived combat encounter, where let's remember, Nerisse is still paralyzed. Pancho is able to convince the creature of their good intentions, by showing it the red ruby they found previously.
  • Too hurt and frustrated at the lack of a way forward, the treasure hunters decide to call it a day, and make their way out of the dungeon. When exiting, they take a secondary tunnel, and detect a foul ogre as the owner of the barking dog, and the Dragon Skull entrance. Party (wisely) walks away from the brute undetected.
  • To cash in their acquired treasure, group wants to go to Rietikon. But it's clear, they will have to spend the night in the Biber hills. Unfortunately, they get two encounters, both with Beastmen.
    • First, just a pair of scouts in the distance. Nerisse scares them off by using her magical spell Disguise.
    • Second, during the camp at night, they get ambushed by a bigger patrol of 7. Weapons are surrendered. But they get positive reactions, and hence get an audience with the leader of the Beastmen, "Rhys".
  • Next day, some rest was taken. With the Beastmen as newly found "guides", the numerous group moves West towards the locals' lair, by a lake. Mid-way they have the unfortunate event of a random encounter with a giant eagle (!) that grabs Pancho and takes to the skies.
    • Beastmen pepper the bird with spears, and Zem gives the final blow with this crossbow.
    • Pancho however... barely makes the fall, and is carried from now on in a comatose state. (SECOND DEATH)
  • With a snail pace, dangers are avoided on the second part of the trek. Beastmen lead the treasure hunters to their lair in the cave system near a natural lake. Carcass of the giant eagle is taken as trophy. And an audience with the leader of the Beastmen is arranged.

Referee Commentary

  • I agree that players should be able to recoup from a dungeon at any point of their choosing. They were just so close... perhaps this is feedback to the dungeon I designed, and some tweaks are necessary.
  • The random encounter proved very fatal. Chance and luck are a pickle. Take precautions, be vigilant. You will die anyway.

Session 6

  • Zem & Nerisse get an audience with Rhys, shaman leader of the Beastmen of the Biber Hills. They find truce and peace, as there could be mutual benefit. She inscribes a tattoo into Zem's chest, helping him speak through a living mouse. An avatar of sorts.
  • Rhys takes Pancho's possessions as payment for their "hospitality". A sour price, but there's not much of a choice here. Promises to try and recover him. However, Nerisse takes a hard negotiation angle, sells off some recovered goods from their first dungeon delve to the Beastmen, and both her and Zem get their first 250XP!
  • Angan Enge gets introduced to reinforce the party. A Beastman hunter in search of his lost family. The floods have taken everything from him.
  • Rhys has a few quests for the group, to aid the Beastmen in reclaiming the Biber Hills:
    • Go kill the fungal midgets that reproduce like vermin! Or at least find out how they come to be. Rhys has a location for the PCs to investigate as a starting point.
    • Recover a bone hookah adorned with runes. Had a seer dream recently, and saw it on a grove of stone trees. It's undeniably important and related to the floods.
  • Marching out to explore the Hills (with re-stocked rations, rope, and a porting goat), after a couple hours they find a grey knight sitting with a greatsword at their lap. "Grey Knight of Bratum"... "failed at my quest; poisoned to death; kill me in a duel to get my title".
    • Nerisse accepts, but then starts skirmishing the knight and raining arrows on him. The knight retreats back to his post, claiming this is not the noble duel tradition mandates.
    • PCs leave him there to die... "we'll pick up his sword when he's dead!"

  • Moving on, they decide to take a de-tour to the South instead of running to the fungal midgets' point. There is an abandoned watchtower, and Angan rightfully points out "It could be a good way to scout the area for possible threats".
  • Midway there, they run into another group of scoundrels, Auriola and the Crows. Reaction roll is positive, and the groups are for talking. Auriola looks for a sparring partner, but nobody is in the mood, nor do they mention the knight. Their wizard, with a big scarf around his neck, has a speaking method similar to Zem's, but through a crow.
    • Groups exchange information; Auriola & co claim to have cleared the ruins of the watchtower already.

Referee Commentary

  • XP awarded for their first plunder was too low? They missed a big treasure haul by a hair. But hopefully this serves as a lesson to bring more hirelings/torchbearers/mules with them next time, and go better prepared.
  • They bypassed several fights. That's good. But maybe Auriola and the Crows should have imposed a more confrontational goal (what do the NPCs want?). I felt they just went past each other, and I didn't give a hard choice. But at least the players know they are not the only treasure plunders in these hills anymore.


  1. Wow! Sounds like a fun few sessions. Those random encounter rolls with the Beastmen really took the campaign down a sharp unexpected turn—that sounds like so much fun for both you and the players.

    I'm also interested in how long it took to award the first experience. I guess your players were down in the dungeon for so long, there was no opportunity to sell off their treasure. I tend to usually stock dungeons with way more treasure than I think the players will find, as they usually don't find it all.

    Looking forward to the next session reports!

    1. Frankly, we got a really interesting set of encounter & reaction rolls when outside the dungeon, in the mini-hexcrawl. I'm glad with how things played out, if only a bit bitter the Beastmen dungeon (which I prepped in Roll20) got scrapped.

      With the treasure, I let them cash the recovered relics from the dungeon (only jewelry & gems, but not coins) directly with the Beastmen (session 6). I decided right on the spot that given their proximity with at least 2 sizeable settlements, Beastmen would be up for semi-regular bartering for tools, utensils, and some food with said neighbors.

      You're right with the stocking: there were some problems with the dungeon. First, I valued some treasure too low (doubling treasure value would've been better). Second, let's not forget these are completely inexperienced players; they missed the usefulness of hirelings/porters/torchbearers/mules to carry more stuff. Lastly, they missed a pretty big haul in the last room of the dungeon, which they failed to enter (even though they tried and tried and tried...).

      I have to convert my scribbles to a report for session 7. Then, we haven't played in a while, and won't be picking this game up again until the summer break is over :)
      Last thing we did was a session of Microscope that went splendidly well.