Tuesday, December 10, 2013

USR Sword & Sorcery After Action Report


I DM'ed my first game in over twenty years via Google+ Hangouts. It was a Sword & Sorcery game using Scott Malthouse's USR rpg rules. True to all rules-lite systems, the DM is required to embellish the sparse rules with the flavor of the genre you wish to play. For my game I modified character creation by limiting players to human characters. They cannot start with magic capabilities, though this may be acquired through game play. Random rolls on a background table are also required, but the players are free to choose the arrangement of their attribute dice, and their three specialisms. My two players ended up with a Hunter/Hunting Site, and Craftsman(Blacksmith)/Poverty. I encourage the players to embellish these sketchy details, and come up for a reason they find themselves together in the desert city of Dipur mingling with the wine sellers, lotus peddlers, dancing girls, and thieves which are found in the busy South Bazaar. To explain the Blacksmith's poverty the player stated he once had a blacksmith shop in the city, but his competitor had run him out of business by bribing the tax collector to close him down. The Hunter was coming from his prized hunting site in the Zorab mountains with a mountain lion skin to trade for silver. The Blacksmith is a friend who he usually visits to have his hand axes sharpened. 

The story hook revolved around a cairn the Hunter had discovered near his hunting site. Wrought with undecipherable glyphs, the Hunter hopes the Blacksmith knows someone in the city who could explain these strange signs. Of course a city dweller such as the Blacksmith would know that Avant the Failed, an aged scholar, might be able to shed light on such archaic symbols. Another story hook I floated was that the Game Master of the gladiator arenas was paying a princeley sum for exotic animals from the "Spires" found northwest of the city deep in the unholy Ash Plains. I was prepared to pepper the group with other prepared rumors, and story hooks if they spent more time in the city, but they were happy with the scholar's grim tale of Rakoss the Undying, and his supposed tomb sealed and forgotten in the Zorab Mts. Could this cairn with the long ago defeated necromantic lord's symbol indicate the location of this tomb? The aged scholar was most anxious to confirm such a discovery. Such a historical discovery would revive his dim reputation among his peers. The party negotiates for additional muscle, some expedition supplies, and strike a deal; treasure and loot for the players, relics which prove the place is the last resting place of Rakoss for the scholar.

In the morning the party heads due east towards the towering mountains with Gomar the man-servant, and a compliant donkey loaded with supplies in tow. The trek is not uneventful. A wandering monster check brings the degenerate hill men of Zorab down upon them in the night. Since this is the first combat I had run in a dogs age I only sent three of these desperate savages at them. The man-servant was grievously wounded while the ax wielding Hunter chopped all in front of him down. He chased down the last fleeing hill man, and split his skull with ease. In the morning the small group pushes on to the Hunter's prized hunting site to rest, and heal.

Inspection of the weird cairn by Avant's man-servant suggests that the writings are a warning, and indicate the location of the tomb is due east against the towering walls of the mountains a short distance away. After hours of exploration the Hunter locates a narrow ravine which opens up into a large chamber, and behold, at the end of the chamber is a large sturdy door! While the door is locked with no visible means of opening it does help to have a Blacksmith, and a donkey in your group. It takes some time, but the group is able to pry the door open enough to slide on in. 

So far the party has survived the initial horrors found within, but they have just scratched the surface. What terrors lay withing the unexplored chambers, well, we shall see!