With some judicious holiday hours off I decided to actually
run a game of Deluxe USR Sword & Sorcery instead of laboring on the third
and final book of the trilogy. I offered up the introductory adventure from the
setting guide (the third book), Shrine of the Keepers. A venerable adventure I
wrote back in 2012 for the first playtest of this game. Wow, USR Sword &
Sorcery has a first edition!
I was much pleased to get many enthusiastic answers and
interest to the game session. After I sorted out the time slot, I ended up with
4 rogues. A goodly number, for the pulpy nature of classic sword and sorcery
does not lend itself to large parties of dungeon delvers. The roll call
consisted of Hackon Rinson-Hunter, Nosarat-Hunter, Patty-Warrior, and Votwin-Sailor.
The adventure was to begin in Zul-Bazzir in the world of Xoth and two of the
players rolled for nation of origin. This came up as Khora, the Island of Sea
Reavers, and Khazastan, the might empire across the great desert east of
Zul-Bazzir. The other two I just declared they were locals of Khazastani and Jairan
heritage. Character creation was done at the “table” for USR Sword &
Sorcery is a rules-lite system and creating a character is dead simple. Gear,
on the other hand is a pricey proposition. Armor and fine weapons are well out
of reach for a starting character in the world of Xoth. The wealth disparity
between the rich and powerful and everyone else is vast. This meant, outside of
some favored weapons I granted the Warrior and Sailor, the group possessed no
armor. I take that back, Hackon was able to purchase a shield to complement his
sling and club.
The set up for Shrine of the Keepers is one of simple
robbery. It is late night, and the group is finishing up hours of carousing and
look to settle their tab. Unfortunately, whatever silver they had left on their
person was gone. I slinking thief twirling their coin pouches good be seen slipping
through the rowdy crowd and exiting the wine bar. A swift pursuit began as the
players leapt after the thief, all the while the wine tender hollering for his
payment. They chased the fleet-footed scoundrel through the warren of alleyways
in the slums of Zul-Bazzir. They lost sight of the thief and as they wondered
which way to continue the chase when a blood-curdling scream pierced the night
now far away. Descending on the scene they were just in time to hear the death
rattle of the thieving dog. His body was slashed and ravaged. Their coin purse gone.
The crafty hunters searched the ground for tracks. The night was full of light
from the twin moons of Xoth, and they could pick the tread of sandaled feet
leading down an alley which ended in a walled courtyard. The single large door
for the gate left slightly ajar.
A passing city guard, drawn to the scene by the dying scream
of the thief, quickly assessed the situation and cautioned the party to let go
their loss. The open gate led to the temple of the Seekers. These
demon-worshipping cultists were not to be trifled with. The Seekers keep what
they take and only fools and madmen would risk causing their wrath. They predictably
ignored the watchman’s sober advice (and it is a one-shot gaming session), and
cautiously approached the open gate.
The courtyard beyond was illuminated by the moonlight and
the hunters again could see the tread of sandaled crossing the dusty ground to
the entrance of the Shrine of the Keepers. A wide stone building unadorned.
Black smoke issued forth from somewhere out of the roof. In the middle of the
temple’s simple facade a wide set of steps led into the building fronted by
three wide pillars evenly spaced across the entranceway. They slinked up the steps
into a wide unlit chamber. The slanting rays of the twin moons revealed large
bronze doors directly across from the staired entry. Open archways gaped to the
left and right, one had the flickering of torchlight coming from it. The other,
darkness. All was quiet and no further tracks could be discerned indicating
which way the group of cultists had travelled.
While they debated which course of action they should take,
their brief exploration of the entrance chamber revealed a door to the left of
the mammoth pair of bronze portals, discreetly hidden behind a tapestry writ
large with obscene images and runes of dreaded black speech. The group globed
onto this hidden door and desired to pass through it. It was locked, but the
sailor worked one of his arrows (he carried a bow) and rolled well enough on his
non-contested attribute roll (NCAR) to spring the latch.
Their exploration of the hallway beyond found them abruptly
entering a bald priest’s quarters, the owner present. They had interrupted the robed
priest in the middle of scratching his meaningless ramblings upon parchment. He
quickly leapt from his chair and brandished a dagger gauging the danger in which
had come upon him. Hackon boldly charged with raised club. The priest,
considering his odds poor, ran to another door close by, opened it looking to
escape. Votwin had his bow at the ready and made a called shot against the
priest’s legs. His shot was a success, the damage great, and the priest fell to
the floor incapacitated. The rest of the party followed, and before Hackon
could fast-talk information from the wounded man, was stabbed repeatedly
through the chest and killed.
The group made a thorough search of the main level of the
temple, encountering four priests loitering in a room of tall shelves stacked
with scrolls (they were dispatched in close hand to hand fighting), a sunken
chamber filled with granite sarcophagi, a room heated to a blast furnace by a
coal-fueled fireplace burning a pile of human bones, and a room with a large,
lurid stone idol adorned with candles holding a bronze platter with a decent
pile of gold and silver coins upon it. Besides doorways leading out of this room
a narrow set of stone stairs descended to a lower level.
The group had no stomach for the lower reaches of the shrine,
but they had yet to gain significant loot to leave. They continued their search
of the upper level until they found the chambers of the high priest. There they
were confronted by 4 priests and 2armed temple guards. Here they experienced
the benefits of armor as the priests were cut down by quick thrusts and Votwin’s
rain of arrows. But the 2 guards presented a hardier challenge and before they
were hacked down, they grievously injured Hackon and Nosorat. Facing no further
opposition they then looted the high-priest’s chamber of valuables and quickly
left with their loot into the late night streets of Zul-Bazzir sleeping under the twin moons of Xoth once again.