Friday, 31 August 2018

Red Fang Lair

I am posting what is a fairly simple Orc lair for levels 1-3. The rules used are 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons but certainly, it can be modified to just about any fantasy ruleset. I have not included statistics for the monsters. Standard 5th edition statistics was assumed.

Red Fang Lair

An orc lair not far from human lands has encountered a deadly problem. The orcs are dying and desperate. This is good right?

Forty years ago an alchemist of dubious reputation set up his secret work area not far from the town of Daggerford. Otrava chose a set of caves beneath a rocky hill. Far enough from civilization so as not to be disturbed but close enough to allow him to get supplies.

Otrava needed the seclusion because he was laboring in the service of Talona, goddess of disease and poison. He was developing a magical artifact that could spread a toxin on command through the air, the Icon of Talona.

When Otrava had completed the icon he needed someone to test it upon. As if by divine intervention a tribe of orcs moved into the caves. The orcs were a small warband separated from the main tribe. The settled into the caves and began raiding nearby human settlements.

Death began to stalk the orcs in their lair. One of the first to go was their Warchief. The orcs began to realize where the danger areas were in the caves and moved to safer caves near the entrance. Without a war chief to lead them, a few of the orcs fled on their own. Those that remain know their numbers are not strong enough to safely make their way through human controlled lands to their ancestral home.

Otrava had planned to kill all of the orcs. But his creation was not powerful enough and the orcs could not be intimidated into leaving. Otrava worked feverishly on the artifact attempting to make it more deadly. In doing so Otrava miscalculated and exposed himself to the toxins. He died with a look of surprise on his face.

Players Introduction
The job board in Daggerford has a posting asking for adventurers to remove an orc lair not far from Daggerford.

Dungeon Key

(1). Entrance
There is a clear trail leading up to the Orc lair. The orcs have not taken any effort to hide their lair. Two large circular stones stand to either side of the entrance. These provide cover to javelin throwers if they are under attack and can be rolled over to block the entrance if necessary. Because of the depleted numbers of the tribe, there are no guards outside the entrance.

(2). Vigilant guard
There is an orc stationed in this alcove just inside the tunnel to the orc lair. The orc is alert making him difficult to surprise. He will bellow loudly if he spots more than 2 intruders (fewer and he feels he is capable of handling the threat on his own). If he yells out, the orc at area 3 will arrive in 2 rounds. The orc has 5 copper coins.

(3). Sleeping guard
There is an orc at this alcove just off the main tunnel. He is currently dozing but will be awakened by noise from area 2. The orc has 12 copper coins.

(4). Main Cavern
The tunnel leads into a very large cavern. A ledge (10 feet high) divides off the eastern side of the cavern. To the north, a tunnel leads up rough-hewn steps. To the south, there are two tunnels leading down rough steps. In the northwest corner of the cavern, there is a 15 foot in diameter pool of fresh water. The water must be replenished by a spring because it is clear and not stagnant. The pool is 12 feet deep. The roof of the cavern is 20 feet high.

If intruders have made it this far without making a lot of noise, there will be three female orcs filling sacks with water at the pool. They will fight with daggers if approached. If possible they will flee to area 6 to get help.

If the orcs have been alerted to intruders there will be 8 orc warriors and Breka (see area 5) waiting in the chamber. Four of the eight orcs are armed with javelins and will be atop the ledge to the east.

(5). Sub-chiefs lair
This area is now the sleeping area of the sub-chief of the Red Fang tribe. There is not much here, a pallet of straw and furs to sleep upon, a wineskin, and some raw meat. Hidden in the sleeping area is a purse containing 20 gold coins and 200 silver coins.

The second in command of the Red Fang tribe of orcs was Breka. He has taken command of the tribe now that the war chief is dead. He is treated as a normal Orc for statistics. Has lack of warrior skill has caused his leadership to be challenged and several orcs have run away. Breka makes up for his lack of warrior prowess with his uncommon wisdom. He will look at intruders in the lair as an opportunity. If given the chance he will request a parlay. If adventurers agree to the parlay, Breka will explain that something to the northeast is poisoning the tribe. He will ask that the adventurers help out the orcs by destroying whatever cursed object or creature is causing the poison. He can tell adventurers that the poison is gradual so they should have plenty of time to investigate. In return, the orcs will not attack or harass the adventurers as long as they stay out of areas 5 to 9. If the adventurers are unconvinced, Breka is willing to pay them 20 gold coins.

(6). Orc Warriors
The remaining orc warriors of Red Fang tribe sleep in the cave. The cave has a sandy floor and spread around on it are ten straw pallets for sleeping upon. If the adventurers have achieved complete surprise there will be 8 orcs resting in this area. Each orc has 1d20 copper coins and 1d6 silver coins. They are armed with great axes and javelins. Two of the orc warriors are female.

(7). Orc Sleeping area
This cave has a sandy floor and there is a cooking pit in the center of the cave. In the pit are burning hot coals and wood. Above the flames is a large cauldron. Smoke from the fire escapes through a natural chimney in the roof of the cave 12 feet above. Pallets of grass and leaves mark sleeping areas. There are four female orcs here tending the fire and five young orcs. A stew of racoon meat is bubbling over the fire.

The female orcs will fight to defend the young orcs. Treat the females as regular orcs and the children as non-combatants.

(8). Larder
Several sides of beef and various skinned deer, raccoons and even squirrels hang from hooks pounded into the ceiling of this low (7 foot cave). The beef is from cows stolen from human farms in the area.

(9). Storage
Five wooden crates are stored in this chamber. All have been opened. In the crates are blankets, human clothing, and metal utensils. The crates are marked “Daggerford”.

Effects of the Icon of Talona
Once adventurers leave area 4 and move north or east they enter the area filled with the diluted toxin from the Icon of Talona (in area 19). The toxin is odorless and colourless so it is unlikely to be noticed. Every two turns adventurers are in this area have them roll a DC10 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save they take 1 point of damage (no damage on a successful save).

(10). Abandoned Barrack
This cave has a smooth stone floor. There are twelve simple wooden beds scattered about the cave. Two beds are flipped on their side. A dead orc lies face down in the center of the cave. The orc has been dead for about a week and has no signs of violence on him.

(11). Abandoned Kitchen
This cave has a simple stone oven against the north wall. Piles of chopped up firewood and two large, wooden tables. Rotten food (meat and vegetables) rests on the tables. The secret door is next to the oven on a flat part of the cave wall.

(12). Garbage heap
Piles of bones and rags are tossed into the narrow cave. The cave is also the home to 4 Giant Rats. In amongst the bones are 6 gold coins.

(13). Council Room
This cave has a dozen wooden stools arranged in roughly in a circle. Three dead orcs lie on the floor of the cave. There is not a sign of violence on the orcs but they have been dead for days.

(14). Death from Above
This is a large cavern, the ceiling bristling with stalactites. There are also four large stalagmites in the eastern end of the cave concealing a secret door. There are four Darkmantles clinging to the ceiling in this cave (20 feet up). They will drop down on unsuspecting adventurers.

(15). Refuse dump
Just inside this cave, the floor gives way, dropping ten feet into a large pile of food and biological waste. The smell is noticeable as soon as the tunnel leading to the cave is entered. If adventurers stand on the ledge and observe the pile of refuse they will spot occasional movement. This is the movement of 6 giant centipedes burrowing under the garbage. They will only attack if disturbed. It is possible that heroes might mistake this garbage as the source of the toxin in the air. Even a thorough search of the garbage will find nothing.

(16). Dripping cave
This cave is dripping with moisture which has covered the floor with a film of water. The walls of the cave are coated in strange, glowing green moss. There is a clear patch on the south wall that is dry. Examining the floor in this area will reveal scratches in the stone left by the secret door that open outward. There is a pit dropping 20 feet down in a small alcove in the north end of the cave. The pit is only 3 feet in diameter.

(17). Unlucky adventurer
In a small cave, there is the skeletal corpse of an adventurer seated against the north wall of the cave. A broken sword is clutched in one hand, the blade nowhere to be found. In his pack are mummified rations and a pouch containing 200 silver coins and 20 gold coins.

(18). Spider Lair
This cave appears empty except for a broken blade lying on the ground and what appears to be the jawbone of an orc. If adventurers look up they will see a ceiling of webs 15 feet above their heads (the actual stone ceiling is 20 feet above). Crawling about in the web are 2 giant spiders.

(19). The Alchemist's Lair
The secret doors lead to a stone chamber. The walls are carefully fitted stone blocks, the floor flagstones, and the ceiling is stout oak timbers. The chamber is dark but there are four unlit lanterns on the walls that could be relit. In the center of the room, there are two large wooden tables cluttered with books, papers and glass bottles and vials. In the southeast corner, there is an unmade, human-sized bead. A small end table beside it with an open book on top of it. Several cloaks hang on hooks near the bed. There is a backpack resting on a small table against the west wall. In the backpack are two jugs of wine and six packets of rations (unspoiled). Finally, in the north east corner of the room, there is a 5 foot in diameter stone platform 2 feet tall. Resting on the platform is a curious looking crystal statuette of a demon with its fanged mouth hanging open. Just beside the stone platform is a dead man lying on the floor. The man is wearing a heavy cloak, leather gloves, curious glass lensed goggles and a plague mask (a cone shaped mask that covers the mouth).

The Icon of Talona
The statuette is the Icon of Talona. If a character gets close to the icon they can see an almost invisible mist pouring from the icon’s mouth. While characters are in area 19 they need to make a Constitution save against DC10 every turn. If they fail they take 3 points of damage. If they pass they take 1 point of damage. The icon will continue spewing toxin into the air until the command word is used to stop it. The command word is in Otrava's diary but it is written in infernal. The icon can also be destroyed casting Dispel Magic on it at level 3 or by doing 10 points of Bludgeoning damage to it (which will cause it to shatter).

The Alchemist Otrava

Otrava the specter will appear if any damage is done to the Icon or if it is moved. He will furiously attack intruders. Otrava's rage at the manner of his passing has turned him into a specter. It is Otrava’s body lying on the floor killed by his own creation. His mask is a magical mask of protection which reduces the effects of the icon to 1 point of damage in this room and no damage in the rest of the caves. There is nothing else of interest on the corpse.

In the alchemy lab, there are many items of interest. In an opaque jar, there are 7 red gems (7 x 50 gold). One of the many vials is a potion of growth. Resting amongst a number of clay pots is an Alchemy Jug. The book on the nightstand is Otrava's diary, it is written in infernal. It details the experiments that Otrava has been performing. Under the books is a small pouch holding 45 gold coins. Four of the books spread about on the tables are valuable (4 x 150 gold coins). There are also 12 vials of poison resting on the tables.

If the adventurers succeed and head back out of the caves, the orcs will be waiting in area 4. Unless provoked, Breka will allow the adventurers to pass. Breka can also be convinced that it would be best for the Red Fang tribe to find a new hunting ground further from Daggerford.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Scarlet Heroes Wilderness Solo

For my second attempt to play Scarlet Heroes solo I am going to stick closer to the solo rules. Last time I sent a single magic-user against a published Basic level module. This time I used the solo wilderness rules. The one modification I made was using a prepared wilderness map (the Isle of Respite).

I still want to try to get a solo player through the Palace of the Jade Sorceress but I am going to try to level him up on a wilderness adventure first. I have had some suggestions to accompany the solo hero with some henchmen but I do not want to do that. Once you add some henchmen you might as well use the Basic rules as written.

Shenhong Long

Shenhong Long is a first level fighter living in the village of Darga on the east coast of the Isle of Respite. Darga is about as remote a village there is on the island. It is a fishing village of 120 inhabitants. There is a small garrison of militia numbering six men. The head of the militia is Fen Long, Shenhong’s father. Shenhong (Shen to his friends) learned everything about fighting that he knows from his father Fen.

Darga is not full of enough challenges for Shenhong and he longs for a life of adventure. He often spends days in the nearby hills hunting game armed only with a longbow. When he last returned from a hunt he was surprised to see a strange ship pulled up to the beach at Darga. Hurrying down to the village, he met his father talking to some strangers. Refugees from Haven. Shen learns that the red tide has encroached on the island from the west swallowing up the Palace of the Jade Sorceress. Some kind of calamity has befallen the Sorceress, an explosion was heard at the Palace before the red mist surrounded it.  Shen’s father was an investigator for the Jade Sorcerer and wanted to head out himself but he is just not up to the travel. Shen steps up and volunteers.

Shen knows that the Valley of Haven is only about 20 miles away but the terrain is rough and there are no trails. He sets out the next morning, headed northwest to avoid the Windsheath Mountains. The first day is without incident and Shen sets up camp for the night.

The next day Shen continues through the hills until he sees the Jecho river in the distance. As he nears the river he spots a winding tunnel in a hillside. He decides to explore.

At this point, I switched over to the random dungeon rules. Rolling a geomantic nexus of four caves.

Shen drops his packs and excess equipment near the entrance and lights a torch. He carefully descends down the tunnel for 40 feet coming into a natural cave filled with a large underground pool of dark water. The water smells fairly stale. There is a narrow ledge around the edge of the pool. Shen spots a tunnel entrance to the northwest and the northeast. He decides to go northeast. The tunnel goes a short distance and enters another small cave. This cave is on the bank of a quickly flowing underground stream. The stream enters from the west and exits to the north. Shen leans down and tests the water. It is clear and cold. The exit to the north for the stream has a narrow ledge. Shen edges along the ledge and comes across another tunnel going to the east.

Shen follows the tunnel to the east and enters another cave. This cave also appears to be empty. However, as Shen waves the torch about he sees some white, human bones on the floor. Checking the bones Shen finds they have been gnawed upon. As he is squatting over the bones Shen hears a step and a growl nearby. Leaping to his feet he spots a bestial ogre entering the cave from a tunnel headed east.

Shen drops his torch and readies his naginata with both hands. Shen strikes first hitting the ogre firmly in the shoulder. The ogre roars in anger or surprise. It swings an enormous fist at Shen striking him and knocking him backward.

Shen is staggered and swings and missed the ogre, but the ogre fails to strike Shen while he is off balance. Shen leaps forward with an impaling strike into the mid-section of the ogre sliding the blade of his weapon deeply into the beast. The ogre flails about and Shen clings grimly to the weapon. After a few moments, the ogre bleeds out and Shen slides it off his blade.

Searching the ogre, Shen finds a jeweled pendant in a dirty pouch at the ogres waist. The pendant looks to be worth about 60 gold coins.

Shen continues east and the tunnels turns to the south. It enters another cave that looks to be the filthy lair of the ogre. To the southwest is another tunnel that leads back to the entrance cave.

Shen exits the cave and sets up camp. He treats his wound and takes a rest. Eventually, he gets up and heads down to the river. It is too deep to wade across so Shen makes a simple raft from some logs. He puts all of his equipment on the raft and swims across the river. On the other side of the river, Shen dries off and makes camp. He tries to catch some fish but does not have any luck. He stays for the night. Haven should only be a day or two away.

Shenhong leaves the Ogre cave victorious.

Isle of Respite

My Scarlet Heroes solo adventure in a modified B3: Palace of the Silver Princess ended with the death of the hero Ti Yasho.  But fear not, I cannot leave the Jade Sorceress and the island of Respite in a peril so I am trying again this time with a fighter.

I am also beginning with a wilderness adventure to give the lone hero some experience before he enters the dungeon.  I could use the random wilderness tables in the rules, but since I already have a setting in mind I have created a simple little hex map of the Isle of Respite.

Isle of Respite

The island is located to the east of Nordheim but experiences a slightly more temperate climate. The winters are short and cold and snowfall covers the island. The summers are fairly long and warm. The island has central highlands and a small range of mountains.

There are a number of small villages dotting the coastline of the island. The inhabitants of these villages get buy with fishing and some farming. The largest coastal community is Enrano being a full-fledged town of 4,000 people. Enrano is at the mouth of the Choitont river.

The population is predominantly human with a sizeable percentage of dwarves. The dwarves came to Respite as skilled laborers for the Jade Sorcerer many years ago. Some returned to their homeland but many stayed as skilled crafters. Most of the dwarves dwell in Haven.

The largest community on the island is in the interior around Crystal Lake. Qishan, Haven and the Jade Palace are all near the shores of the lake. The best farming on the island occurs in the valley of Haven around the lake. There is a steady flow of produce along the Choitont river to Enrano for shipment to other islands. The valley of Haven is also famous for wine production.

The Wenpo Uplands is a region of wooded badlands. All manner of fell beasts prowls this area and only the bravest adventurers venture here. Similarly, the Windsheath mountains are home to some small tribes of Shou that make venturing through the mountains dangerous.


Respite had only a small population of human fishermen until 180 years ago. Refugees from Xian settled on Respite including a powerful magic user known as the Jade Sorcerer. The Jade Sorcerer impressed upon the Shou that they should share the land and the Shou retreated to the Windsheath mountains. Artisans from all the lands were brought to construct a beautiful palace for the sorcerer in the hills overlooking the valley of Haven.

About 120 years ago, the red tide began to encroach onto the shores of the isle of respite. The Jade Sorcerer lent all of his study to the problem and discovered a way of keeping it at bay. The red tide was halted and did not advance any closer.

Recently the Jade Sorcerer decided that a long life of 240 years was enough for him. Tired of this plane of existence he expired and passed the throne to a young apprentice who he had adopted as his heir. For the past few years Argentia, the Jade Sorceress, has ruled Respite.

Since taking the throne Argentia has had to deal with a long line of suitors. Whether brought to Respite from tales of her beauty, wealth or the secrets of her magic (or some combination of the three) suitors have been coming two or three a month. Most bring gifts in hopes of impressing the young Sorceress.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Palace of the Jade Sorceress

My bi-weekly D&D 5th edition campaign came to a conclusion and I am currently not playing in any online games. I have gone from playing at least once a week to not playing at all.

So I have been looking over some of the many solo game systems I have picked up over the years.  A few weeks ago it was 4 Against Darkness. This time I take a look at Scarlet Heroes.

I got Scarlet Heroes by supporting the Kickstarter. It arrived as a digital product, I looked through it and then forgot about it. But now that I am looking for something solo to play I pulled it out again.

I did not use the solo rules for a test game. I used the main intent of the rules which is 1 player - 1 gamemaster. This was more interesting to me. I find purely solo games lack a plot or demand a lot from the player to develop a plot. I am also intrigued by the assertion that Scarlet Heroes can be used by a single player to play in classic published adventures. This is different from having a single player controlling several PCs or a single player supported by several henchmen. In this case, it is a single player with a single character running through an adventure with encounters designed to challenge 6-10 characters.

I chose one of my favorite adventures, B3 Palace of the Silver Princess. It was the first published adventure I put players through as a dungeon master back in 1982. I have not looked at it in years so I did not have it memorized. To make the challenge really difficult I created a 1st level magic-user character, Ti Yasho. Traditionally, B/X magic-users are a real challenge to play at low levels. I had to be honest with myself and attempt to make decision that I thought the character would make and not what I could see in the text of the adventure. So even though the text mentions a treasure in the head of the statue I could decide that my character would not think to look.

I meshed the Red Tide setting of Scarlet Heroes with the original background of the published adventure to get, Palace of the Jade Sorceress.

For many years the Jade Sorcerer ruled the island of Respite on the edge of the encroaching Red Tide. His powerful sorcery keeping the Red Tide at bay. In return, he demanded a reasonable tribute from the villages on the island. Two years ago the Jade Sorcerer finally passed away from old age. His young daughter Argentia took his place on the throne. Protection of the island of Respite fell to her. Called the Jade Sorceress upon sitting on the throne, Argentia has proven to be a capable sorcerer. The Red Tide continued to be kept at bay.

As a powerful, unmarried woman, Argentia was pursued by many suitors. Most of whom brought her expensive gifts in hopes of earning her hand in marriage. But all failed in their quest. Recently, a wealthy suitor rode through the local village of Haven and up to the palace. Rumours told that he presented Argentia with an enormous ruby which he called “My Lady’s Heart”.

At midnight of the night that Argentia was presented the ruby, disaster struck. There was an enormous loud explosion at the palace. The villagers of Haven raced outside of their homes to see what had happened. Suddenly, the red mist began to seep into the valley for the first time and it enveloped the palace. Within a few days, bands of goblinoids began to terrorize the valley, seemingly coming out of the mist. The crops began to fail and the livestock grew sick. The first wave of refugees began to leave the valley. Can Respite be saved?

My heroic magic-user Ti Yasho came to Haven to fulfill his destiny (as he saw it) of being a hero. As he approached the Palace he found the way was blocked by the red mist. Then it suddenly parted letting him in through the gatehouse. Once inside the gatehouse, the portcullis dropped trapping him in the Palace.

Trapped in the Gatehouse. Ti Yasho faces two skeletons.

Ti Yasho did reasonably well but ultimately failed. I might have been better served to have rolled up a 2nd or 3rd level magic-user. Attempting to get through the dungeon on just 4 hit points proved to be too difficult. The published adventure was designed for 6-10 adventurers of 1-3 level. I have had 3 players successfully complete the adventure in the past using the Basic Rules.

Ti Yasho did get almost entirely through the first level of the dungeon. He killed 2 skeletons in the gatehouse and bribed a giant rat with food. He killed 2 goblins in the pantry causing the remaining 3 to run away. At this point, he was down to 2 hit points and was actively attempting to avoid trouble. He eventually was forced into a fight with 2 living crystal statues and had to use Defy death to get away. After that encounter, he had 1 hp so he locked himself in a storeroom and slept 8 hours to get 1 hp back. Setting out again he managed to kill the mad guardsman Travis and his wolf but was down to 1 hp again and it got him killed by troglodytes right near the final room of the first level. Defy death did not work the second time.

Ti Yasho found that his Fray die was his most successful attack. Magic-users are the only class allowed to use their fray die against stronger creatures. This proved essential.

I would like to try it again with either a thief or a fighter. I think something shorter that will allow them to level up before they take on something big like B1-B3.

It is, of course, not the same as roleplaying. But you get what you put into it. It was interesting and given I am not playing at least it was a sort of role-playing game experience.

Ti Yasho, apprentice magic-user