Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tomb of the Architect, Chapter 2

What follows is a write-up of my group's playtest of the new game I'm working on: Exiled in Eris.

I am running them through the introductory adventure I'm including with the game. I want to gauge the difficulty of my encounters against real players. Not to mention some final playtesting and fine tuning of the rules.


Rage Bourne Crusader, Human Artifact Hunter
Theris, Human Celestial Guardian, searching to recover lost artifacts of the Celestials.
Jip-Jip, Tintazi Scout with a slave-bond to Theris
Pi 2-50, Cyberdroid Aerine and sniper


Barbarian warrior from Gatas, land of the Amazon women.
Thyra wears the furs of her people but carries a ballistic rifle. She is trained in the mystic healing arts of the medicine women of her tribe.

"The Tomb of the Architect"

When we last left our intrepid band of artifact hunters, they had broken the seal on the ancient tomb in the desert. After removing a few urns, exploring a room with a rack of deactivated guardians, and finding a scale model of an unknown city, they forced open a door to a hemisphere-shaped room filled with dirt and debris. Within the debris were several dog-sized wrinkled naked cave rats, their wriggling sausage-like pups, and some loathsome giant maggots.

Amid the shells and bones and detritus of the room, Rage spotted a glass or amber ovoid. He called the team to clear the room of its inhabitants. Theris and Rage formed a shield wall at the entrance while Thyra and Pi 2-50 fired their rifles over the shoulders of the front rank at the gnashing rodents within. In a few moments, all the rodents and maggots were dead.

The team set about searching the detritus for more hidden treasures. After two hours of searching they had found additional ovoids. Rage identified them as Aya stones. The first stone contained a simple class-I Aya whose job was apparently to deactivate some kind of guardian. The second stone held a class-IV Aya in the form of a bald androgynous child-like humanoid. This aya contained comprehensive information on Sdara Vatran urban centers, including population, demographics, government, trade, transportation, and other sociological data. The third stone held what appeared to be a mercurial metal humanoid. The apparition that appeared shivered and popped and flashed colors. It began to scream and took a new form, that of a demonic being, a Varic!

Yay! They rolled a varic! Mental note- I need to shore up the varic rules for when they fail. All my rules are for when they succeed.

The varic immediately tried to jump into Pi 2-50, but the Ohnan was able to successfully resist the spirit. The varic remained trapped in the stone. Rage quickly wrapped the stone and hid it away.

Four small cramped tunnels, large enough for a person to crawl on their belly, led away from the room. The team made a note of it and exited the room.

Nobody was going to crawl around in no rat tunnels.

They went to a large brass door decorated in bas relief with a stylized golden obelisk. The door was locked but forced open after an hour of work.
Rage Bourne Crusader

Inside they found a large rectangular chamber. In the center of the chamber was a raised plinth. Atop the plinth was a golden obelisk the size of a man's arm. The team cautiously approached but Rage stopped them. He noted a difference in coloration in the stones in a five-foot band around the plinth and those of the rest of the room. He tied Jip-Jip to a rope and asked him to jump across the band. Jip-Jip easily did so and recovered the obelisk. However, Jip-Jip failed the return jump and landed on the band. The stones of the band descended quickly, creating a twenty-foot deep pit around the plinth. A hissing sound, like escaping gas, emerged from small vents near the top of the walls of the pit. They quickly hauled Jip-Jip up just as deadly yellow acid began to pour from the vents, filling the pit. The team took the obelisk and left the room in a hurry.

This would have been an awesome and potentially deadly trap had they not criticaled the awareness skill test and figured out how to get across. 

The fourth door was partially obscured by a huge pile of rubble from where the roof had collapsed, exposing the gallery to the sky above. As the team crossed the rubble, a pack of wolf-sized locusts known as devourers emerged from gaps and holes in the rubble. The team made a tight formation, back to back, as they defended themselves from the flying giant insects. Thyra and Pi-250 were shooting them out of the sky while Rage and Theris cut them down with sword and starblade. All of the devourers were soon defeated.

This was a great and memorable fight. There was a hint of danger but nothing serious. Everyone liked the back-to-back battle and the giant insects flying around.

The brass door before them contained a bas relief showing a grid with sixteen squares. The door was locked but forced open after an hour of work. Within they found a bare room, a ten foot featureless cube. It was Pi 2-50 that noticed that the far wall had a paper-thin gap separating its corners from all the other walls. The team pushed on the far wall and it receded ten feet.

The team spread out, each person taking a different wall. The farthest section of the wall to the left receded, revealing another room. Again the team spread out and tried each ten foot section of wall. The farthest section of the left wall again receded ten feet and stopped.

The team tried to continue the pattern but could not. They tried other sections of wall, eventually trying a section they had pushed earlier. The section of wall they pushed, the first section to the far left, receded farther.
 They spread out and tried each section. By trial and error, they found a section moved away from the far wall, revealing another ten foot by ten foot room and an exit. They quickly left the puzzle room.

I really need to add a penalty to a failed guess. Perhaps an electric shock for guessing the wrong wall. As it was, it was an interesting brain teaser, but wasn't a threat. It was solved by trial and error and pushing all the walls. 

Beyond, they found a corridor leading down a long flight of stairs. Tiny square holes lined the walls of the corridor. Rage and Theris started running down the stairs, triggering a hail of poison darts. The darts bounced harmlessly off their thick hides and chain mail armor. Once they realized this, they slowed their pace and calmly walked down the stairs, immune to the effects of the ancient trap.

Again, I need to ramp this trap up. It would be dangerous to anyone without armor, but useless against anyone with armor. Maybe electric arcs. I like that. 

At the bottom of the stairs, the team found a round room with a domed ceiling, like a rotunda. Four pillars connected the floor to the ceiling. A ring was set in the floor connecting each of the pillars. In the center of the dome was a ten foot aperture. There was no other exit.

As the team entered the room to inspect the pillars, the aperture opened and from it emerged a ten foot hovering silver sphere of liquid metal. Spikes emerged and receded from the silver sphere. The room began to rotate. Only the ring and the pillars remained motionless.

Rage Bourne held forth the aya stone that controlled the guardian. The aperture reopened, the guardian retreated within it, the aperture closed, the room stopped spinning. Problem solved!

When the room began to spin, the entrance in the wall rotated away from the corridor. The entrance now faced a blank wall. The team began to push against the pillars in order to spin the room some more. Each time they pushed against the pillar, the guardian re-emerged from the aperture. Rage would simply re-present the aya stone and the guardian would retreat again. On one occasion, Rage was a little slow in presenting the stone and the guardian managed to attack, launching two spears of liquid metal at range and attacking anyone near it with long spikes of liquid metal. Rage quickly recovered and forced the sphere to retreat. Eventually, the team rotated the room 270 degrees and revealed another corridor.

They exited the room and were faced with double brass doors with bas reliefs displaying the space gods known as the Sdara Vatra creating all the worlds of the heavens. The doors were sealed with lead which was easily chipped away. The doors were forced open, revealing the burial vault within.

The room was a long rectangle. The center of the room was dominated by a large sarcophagus. A large steel vault door was set into the far wall. The right and left walls were each covered with five large brass panels. Each panel was adorned with Aeonian runes and bas relief images. Rage Bourne began translating the panels while Theris, Thyra, and Pi 2-50 searched the rooms for traps and opening the sarcophagus.

Each panel took twelve minutes to translate and read:

  1. He was born to Tilkas and Ulumei, leaders of the city of Hrosek, during the year of the falling moonshard. The haruspices of far Gromad foretold of the building of a great empire in the west. His brother Selmic was healthy and strapping while Yalzhas was weak and sickly. 
  2. As a child of ten years, he found a spear and aya stone at the site of the fallen moonshard. He named the spear Ite and the aya stone Deyyam.
  3. As the age of 15, he defeated the Nilian bandit king Rothor in the Battle of the Nyrroth. There he gained the loyalty of the Nilian Horde.
  4. As a strapping lad of 16, he bested the gymnosoph of the Copper Prince in a series of tests of cunning. His reward was a golden ewe and a position as seventh apprentice to Klaven Mason of the Jeweled Spires. Within two moons he wore the brass compass of first apprentice.
  5. At age 20, having learned all his master had to teach him, during the season of crimson skies, he departed on his famous trek to the sunken temple. There he heard the prophecy of the hissing sybil who foretold his assassination at age 40. In melancholy, he conceived the first of his weighted and pitching labyrinths.
  6. At the age of 22, his parents were murdered by his treacherous brother Selmic. Yalzhas slew his brother in a duel of honor and became ruler of Hrosek. 
  7. By the age of 25, Yalzhas led his army to conquer the surrounding kingdoms. He personally defeated several kings in ritual battle using Deyyam-Ite. Wealth began to pour into his city.
  8. By the age of 30, Yalzhas had rebuilt Hrosek into a powerful walled city-state protected by a wide but shallow lake. Hrosek became the jewel of the west. Its fabulous towers were of Yalzhas’ own design and distinctive style.
  9. By the age of 35, Yalzhas had many wives, cementing treaties with other cities from the south and east. 
  10. At age 40, Yalzhas was assassinated by agents of the northern coalition. The Aya Stone known as Deyyam was never found. He was buried in this tomb of his own design with his magic spear Ite. 

Within the sarcophagus were the mummified remains of Yalzhas the Architect, builder and ruler of an ancient Aeonian city.

Yalzhas was buried in a funerary shroud and adorned with jewelry worth a total of 5000 Aus. A pendant of starmetal is placed on his chest. Runes engraved on the pendant spell the words “NA ITE MELKONI” in ancient Aeonian runes.
Theris was able to channel the Oudh into the pendant, causing it to glow, but could activate no other property.

The team then turned to the vault door on the opposite wall. A brass cover slid aside to reveal a triangular keyhole the size of a human finger. Theris was unable to cut through the door with his starsword and no one was able to open the lock. Suddenly, Rage remembered Jip-Jip, who stayed behind at the top of the stairs. He ran back up, ignoring the hail of darts. He wrapped Jip-Jip inside a heavy cloak and carried him safely past the darts.

Jip-Jip set about opening the lock. He managed to open the door after three hours.

Inside the vault, the team found:

  •  A mysterious staff made of starmetal mounted on a beautiful display. 
  • One hundred iron cauldrons filled with coins and gems worth 1,000 Aus each. Each cauldron weighed about 100 pounds.
  • Four statues, each the size of a small humanoid, carved from ruby, jade, onyx, and ivory worth 50 Aus each.  
  • Corn, beans, wheat, cured meats, wines, and spirits stored in sealed amphorae to provide refreshment for the king in the afterlife. Each amphora weighed about 200 pounds and was worth 100 Aus.
  • Two fine suits of ceremonial armor and swords, impractical for battle, each worth 1000 Aus.

Pi 2-50

Pi 2-50 noticed the fine pin-sized holes that lined the wall near the ceiling. Fearing a gas-trap, Rage spiked the vault door open and the team began moving ten cauldrons, all four statues, and the suits of armor out of the vault. Once they were safely in the burial chamber, they exited the vault. Theris then carefully took the starmetal staff from its display.

When he did so, a grey mist began to emanate from the pin-holes. Theris quickly left the vault, but the grey mist dissolved his clothing and all his soft possessions into fine grey powder. Rage removed the spike and closed the vault door.

Very clever players! I thought they'd go for the mysterious staff first, but they figured that removing it would activate the trap, and they were right!

Safe from the strange grey mist, the team returned up the dart corridor. They opened the door to the room of the shifting walls only to discover that the walls had returned to their original position and that none of the walls would move. They were trapped!

They returned to the burial chamber to think of their options. The Imperials would arrive any hour now. Pi 2-50 estimated six hours left before their scheduled arrival.

I rolled randomly at the start of the adventure, they actually only had three hours left. 

It was then that they noticed the small tunnels in the walls, just large enough for wrinkled cave rats. The team sent Jip-Jip ahead to scout. Jip-Jip returned an hour later with a triangular key, "Hey look! I found the key in one of the tunnels!"

Rage rolled his eyes, "Great! That's helpful now. Do any of the tunnels lead out?"

Jip-Jip looked nervously back into the tunnels, "Not that I've found, but they have to lead back to that rat room, right? I'm just nervous about going alone."

The team decided to explore the tunnels with Jip-Jip. They slowly belly-crawled through the dark smelly tunnels, carrying as much gold from the cauldrons as four bags dragging behind them would allow, occasionally finding a small chamber with some rat pups. After about two hours of crawling, they made their way to the room filled with dirt and detritus. From there they retraced their steps to the exit.

Back in the harsh glare of the sun atop the trapezoid shaped monument, they could see their air-skiff in the distance. They could also see another air-skiff, the one carrying the bandits! Pi 2-50 spotted an ambush waiting for them at the gates to the necropolis.

Pi 2-50 and Thyra took up sniper positions while Theris and Rage drew their swords and charged the gate. They battled the bandits man-to-man while the snipers picked off the rest. Rage even managed to scare two of them into running away. The pair ran back to their air-skiff and took off, leaving their companions to die.

Lessons learned from this battle: re-tool the ranged weapon rules, shooting was too damn easy! Also make shooting into melee a little more perilous. I have since added in some friendly fire rules. I made up the morale rules on the spot because Rage made such a good roll. I'll have something better next time. 

The team returned to their air-skiff. They found Glorin tied up and gagged. They also found their power coupling stolen! Without it, they were stranded in the desert. However, Pi 2-50 offered an alternative. He removed his own power coupler, rendering him unconscious, so that it could be used on the air-skiff. With that, they got loaded all the statues and gold and jewelry, the mysterious staff, the obelisk, and the urns on the air-skiff. Each was carefully logged and inspected by Glorin. Not logged was the starmetal amulet and two of the three aya stones. They repaired the air-skiff and were soon in the sky, headed back to Acik-Sehir.

When they left, they literally had one hour left before the Imperials arrived to take all their treasure. It was a nail-biter for me! The players had no idea until they got away and I showed them the tick-marks where I recorded each hour that passed compared to how many they had.

Almost immediately once they were in the air, they could see the dark shape of an Imperial air-frigate in the distance, coming closer. Glorin took a wide course away to the south to avoid the air-frigate. After four hours, they were back in Acik-Sehir. The sun had set by then and the sky glimmered with the swirling patterns of the permanent aurora that lit the night sky with pale green vapors.

They met their contact, a human broker named Tarvo, accompanied by two human thugs, two myrmidon warriors, and three drudge laborers. Tarvo took possession of the artifacts and Glorin and told the team that their payment was hidden in a water barrel over there. Rage verified the payment of eight thousand aus and the two groups parted ways without incident.

I was surprised they gave up the mysterious staff so easily. But it was their first mission and they didn't want to piss off their employer too much right away.

Thus ends The Tomb of the Architect.

Next week, the adventure continues with chapter 1 of "The City in the Mirage"!

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