Savages of the Forest Ridge – Ep01 – Dark Sun Scarlet Heroes

I’m burning out on my A monster’s bounty campaign, so I am embracing a switch to something traditional yet unique.
I’ve recently acquired Scarlet Heroes a solo GM & GM-less game system that is fully compatible with D&D. After a quick read I knew what I wanted to do. I headed back to my basement and recovered my Dark Sun 2ed revised boxed set
I will create a Dark Sun character and run them with Scarlet Heroes.

Name Chansa
Race Halfling
Class Fighter
Height 38”
Weight 63 pounds
Age 32 yo
STR 10
DEX 17
CON 15
INT 10
WIS 14
CHA 10
Traits ranger, ESP, E-whip, halfling stealth, halfling culture
Goal Explore halfling past
Weapons 3 obsidian-tipped javelins
Armor scale armor, thick hide shield
Supplies 5 days rations, waterskin
Clothing fur pants, sandals

I haven’t detailed all the character stats on purpose. Nevertheless I would like to state a few things on converting Dark Sun to Scarlet Heroes.
1. I will roll on the wild talents and use the power in place of a trait. I rolled ESP for Chansa.
2. I will use the MTHAC0/MAC concept. Using Mental Attack Bonus instead of MTHAC0, with a +1 bonus per two levels for wild talents.
3. I will not use different mental defenses for each mental attack. Too much work.
4. Each mental attack will cost one trait.
5. I will use the 3-18 stats range instead of 5-20. Scarlet Heroes is already balanced heavily for one character.
6. Likewise I will start at level 1 instead of 3. Hope this doesn’t come to bite me later.

I’m starting a Wildnerness Adventure in the Forest Ridge

Day 1

Hex 1:
encounter roll: no encounter
event roll: yes: terrain event: ambush by an encounter in the trees
I’ll be rolling in the dark sun random encounter tables: Ettercap
I take out the Monstrous Manual, and read the relative text on ettercaps. It’s going to be a tough encounter. Smart humanoids that create elaborate web traps and have a poisonous bite. They ambush and attack to feed. Such a perfect fit for a dark sun ambush encounter in the forest ridge. Thankfully they’re solitary and rarely travel in pairs.
Since its an ambush encounter I decide that the ettercap will have created a web trap.
Chansa must make a Saving Throw or be caught in it.
Chansa: Saving Throw (wisdom, ranger): 11/10: Success!
Now I made a mistake and hadn’t read the relative text about encounter distance in wilderness encounters, and I rolled on the ‘How Far Away’ table, and got ‘A Few Rooms Away.’ So I interpreted it as 60′ distance. Next time I’ll be more careful.

Chansa, the moon-strider, has left his village. He still considers the words of the strangers. Tall humanoids that had entered their territory. They were looking for ancient halfling artifacts. They offered a relic, a stone to the shaman with ancient symbols, in an attempt to save their lives. Nevertheless they made a good tasty meal for the entire village.
Chansa believes they were not lying, and set off to find their homelands, past the Ringing mountains. They came from a city to the east called Tyr.
He heads eastwards, exploring the forest for any clues in the way.
As he treks under the thick canopy of the forest something catches his attention. He almost fell right into a thick sticky vine. He takes a good close look at it and realizes its not a vine, but a webbing. If he even touched it, it would be really hard for him to set free. He draws one of his obsidian tipped javelins from his shoulder belt and readies his shield.
He crouched down and stars walking silently with his soft leather sandals, but far in the distance the trapper has already been made aware of the halfling’s presence. A tall humanoid with thin limbs and ugly face is coming towards him. ‘Ettercaps’ Chansa thinks.

Combat round 1:
Chansa throw javelin, long range: 15: Miss
Ettercap closes in 30′
Combat round 2:
Chansa throw javelin, short range: Nat 20: Hit: 8: 2 points of damage
Ettercap (claw/claw/bite): 14/15/12: Miss/Miss/Miss
Combat round 3:
Chansa melee attack with javelin: 15: Miss
Ettercap: (claw/claw/bite): 17/19/20: Miss/Miss/Hit: 6: 2 points of damage. Poison.
Chansa Saving Throw (constitution): 9/14: Fail
Chansa Defy Death: 4: 1 point of damage
Combat round 4:
Chansa melee attack with javelin: 25: Hit: 5: 1 point of damage
Ettercap: (claw/claw/bite): 11/12/10: Miss/Miss/Miss
Combat round 5:
Chansa melee attack with javelin: 12: Miss
I decide here to do a morale check for the Ettercap. I tried homebrewing it to use the Monstrous Manual, Elite (13) Morale value into Scarlet Heroes, but it doesn’t work. I’ll have to consider a different conversion rule.
Ettercap: Morale: 9/13: Stays
Ettercap (claw/claw/bite): 24/9/19: Hit/Miss/Miss: 3: 1 point of damage
Combat round 6:
Chansa melee attack with javelin: 26: Hit: 3: 1 point of damage
Again I used a wrong morale rule.
Ettercap: Morale: 10/13: Stays
Ettercap (claw/claw/bite): 19/17/14: Miss/Miss/Miss
Combat round 7:
Chansa attack: 23: Hit: 5: 1 point of damage. The ettercap is dead.

He aims and launches the first javelin. With a thump it misses and gets lodged into a nearby tree. The ettercap lunges towards him, and he sends another javelin flying, this time, striking true, hitting the creature right on the chest. It lets of a screech, and with fury it charges clawing and biting at Chansa, who ducks and evades all of the creature’s hits.
Chansa now thrusts in melee with his last javelin, but the ettercap blocks it with its arms and bites the small halfling’s arm. Chansa feels poison running down his arm and with the persistence of his people, he shakes it off, a black necrotic spot a reminder around his wound.
The two are locked in furious combat, with the halfling evading the bites, and sending two more thrusts into the ugly creature’s belly, but receiving a claw slash at his chest. He blocks the other slash at his side with his shield, sweeps down between the ettercap’s legs and sends a final thrust at the surprised monster’s groin. With a moan, it drops down, dead.

Chansa will attempt to recover the ettercap’s poison glands: 15/9: Success

Chansa wastes no time. He jumps at the creature’s head, and with his dagger, he removes the fangs along with the poison glands.

Chansa also wants to know if he can use any of the meat to recover his rations.
Chansa: Survival check (Wisdom, Ranger): 10/9: Success
Q: Is the ettercap meat edible?
A: Yes, but (a twist in the relationship) Chansa remembers that according to his village’s customs, ettercap meat is supposed to be tainted.

He considers if he should make a good meal of the creature, but then he remembers his shaman’s teachings. These beasts have tainted meat that has a very ugly taste.
Then, he takes some time to bandage his arm, and put some healing poultry to the venomous bite.

Chansa will bandage his wounds recovering 2 hit points.
Chansa will spend the entire day exploring the area.
Feature roll: 5: No feature: Feature threshold increase by +1 to 2.
Chansa gets a full night’s rest, recovering 1 more hit points.

Chansa further explores the region hoping to find something of interest, but he fails, and ends his day, eating from his supplies and recovering from his wounds.

Day 2

Hex 2:
encounter roll: encounter: behir, seriously?
time of encounter: night
encounter distance: 100′
notice check: Chansa/Behir: 14/5: Chansa wins with over 4 points. I decide not to engage at all.
event roll: no event. event threshold increases by +1 to 2.
features roll: no feature. feature threshold increases by +1 to 3.
Chansa gets a full night’s rest, recovering his last hit point.

Chansa further continues exploring the area eastwards. By nightfall, something catches his attention. He hears the trample of a dozen legs. His danger sense kicks in, and quickly he climbs atop a tree. Under the light of the stars, his eyes adjust, and in the distance he makes out a gargantuan creature, 40′ long. It’s a reptile so big it could swallow Chansa whole. He knows discretion is the better action, and climbs among the vine trees to avoid engaging with the huge beast. It would have been a great hunt, but he’s not ready for such an engagement.
He doesn’t find anything else of interest, and will continue his next day further eastward.

Day 3

Hex 3:
encounter roll: no encounter
event roll: no event. event threshold increases by +1 to 3.
features roll: no feature. feature threshold increases by +1 to 4.

Another day he continues eastward. The Ringing Mountains now are so much closer. He’s almost out of the forest and on their foothills. He knows that the next day he will have to spend hunting. He has no idea when he will manage to find abundant prey again.

Day 4

Hex 3:
encounter roll: encounter: plant (dangerous): Choke Creeper
time of encounter: day
encounter distance: 250′
notice check: Chansa: 6/9: Failure

As Chansa walks stealthily, trying to find prey to hunt, he steps on a thick vine. But something doesn’t feel right. He feels the vine move quickly and rapidly begin to entangle around his leg.

Combat Round 1:
Chansa: melee attack vine: 13: miss
Choke Creeper (vine/vine/vine/vine): 8/14/22/21: Miss/Miss/Hit/Hit
Combat Round 2:
Chansa break free: Saving throw (Strength): 15/12: Success
Chansa: melee attack vine: 17: miss
Choke Creeper (vine/vine/vine/vine): 21/18/9/10: Hit/Miss/Miss/Miss
Combat Round 3:
Chansa break free: Saving throw (Strength): 11/12: Failure
Chansa: melee attack vine: 12: miss
Choke Creeper damage: 4: 1 point of damage. Strangulation: no strangulation.
Choke Creeper (vine/vine/vine): 22/19/17: Hit/Miss/Miss
Combat Round 4:
Chansa break free: Saving throw (Strength): 9/12: Failure
Chansa: melee attack vine: 14: miss
Choke Creeper damage: 3/4: 2 points of damage. Strangulation: no strangulation.
Choke Creeper (vine/vine): 21/8: Hit/Miss
Combat Round 4:
Chansa break free: Saving throw (Strength): 17/12: Success. He breaks free.
Chansa runs away.
Choke Creeper (vine/vine/vine/vine): 21/19/17/12: Hit/Miss/Miss/Miss
Combat Round 5:
Chansa break free: Saving throw (Strength): 14/12: Success. He runs away.

I’m not quite sure I resolved this encounter correctly. It was quite odd using a plant encounter. Afterwards I realize I should have used the fray die for each of the vines separately.
Chansa recovers 2 hit points.

Thick vines entangle Chansa. He tries to hit it with his javelin, but his hands aren’t free. Each second that passes the vines twist stronger and stronger, trying to reach for his throat. He manages to break off one arm and tries again and again to hit the vines, but the javelin is too unwieldly to use in such close quarters. Finally he breaks off his feet from the clench of the carnivorous plant. It lashes out another vine, but he manages to push it back, and Chansa runs away as fast as a halfling ranger can.

Hunting roll: 16/8: Success: 1 day worth of rations. He recover his last hit point.

His hunting didn’t go very well. Catching only small prey. By the end of the day, the small humanoid sets camp, sheltered under an ancient tree’s hollow trunk.

Day 5

Hex 3:
encounter roll: no encounter
hunting roll: 12/8: success: 3 days worth of rations.

Chansa spends an entire day hunting. He manages to catch several little birds, gathering 3 days worth of rations. Content about his supplies, he decides that the next day he will continue on his journey.

Day 6

Hex 4:
encounter roll: no encounter
event roll: no event. event threshold increases by +1 to 4.
feature roll: no feature. feature threshold increases by +1 to 5.

The small physique of the halfling passes unnoticed as Chansa ascends the foothills of the Ringing Mountains. As he was walked a significant distance, he looks behind him. The humid, vivid forest that is his home is far behind him. Will he sleep again under the cool shadows of his trees? Chansa wonders as the dark sun’s scorching rays start to burn his skin. He extends his light cloak to cover this shoulders and his back, and slowly continues on his path.

Day 7

Hex 5:
encounter roll: no encounter
event roll: event. event threshold reset to 1: get lost next movement roll is random
feature roll: feature. feature threshold resets to 1: Ruin, Town, built by modern humans, as a common dwelling, ruined due to outside conquest, scorched by fire, with signs or recent use, having wooden palisades, square towers, having hideous gargoyles, no ground windows and colored in hot red hues.
I had to reroll a few points that didn’t fit at all with the Dark Sun setting, but other than that it worked out pretty well.

According to Chekhov’s gun concept, there must be a reason for the feature. So I decide that this is an excellent point to initiate a small side adventure.
Adventure tag: angry ghosts.
That fits in perfectly.
I have a few ideas of how this will all play out, but I’m not revealing them yet until I’m certain.

Chansa keeps on in the winding paths of the ringing mountains. He knows where the east and west is, but the whole region is completely strange to him. The constant light from the sun rays has had him disoriented, when he comes upon a strange sight. Up on top of a hill overseeing the region is what seems to be a settlement.
From the distance, Chansa notices the red color of the buildings, but as he slowly comes closer he can see burn marks. The wooden palisade around the settlement is burned down. The red color alternating with the black of wood turned to coal and the white of ash.
The entrance to the town is guarded by two huge statues of hideous winged creatures, ominously overseeing the strangers coming in.
Chansa feels his heart pounding, but his halfling curiosity overcomes him. What people lived here? what happened to them? Could there be answers to his halfling heritage?

I decide to stop my session here before proceeding to the exploration of this feature.

Session Summary

Notes on Scarlet Heroes: The solo game engine framework it provides may feel like a mini-game, counting all those meta points, but it’s effective. It takes a lot of work that would be needed otherwise.
One could disregard the traits and several rules and run pure AD&D with only the damage and fray dice modification. I was tempted to run it like that, but it will definitely increase the amount of work that needs to be done. Right now it’s fast, almost like Savage Worlds.
I love how I am able to play Dark Sun, all those years later. Scarlet Heroes suffers from the same problem all D&D styled products have, albeit much reduced due to its simplicity. Bland combat. I need to introduce narrative additions to it to make it more interesting. I’ll consider a couple hacks for my next sessions.
Converting the monsters to Scarlet Heroes was so and so. The Ettercap wasn’t a problem, but the Dangerous plant was quite hard to convert. As for the imbalanced Behir from the Dark Sun encounters table, that’s true old school deadliness. One could state that I had meta info and decided to avoid the encounter, but I doubt that any sane halfling would try to engage a 40′ reptile even if it doesn’t know that it can spit lightning.
The solo adventuring mechanics seem to hit the right spot between narrative inspiration and effective gameplay. One could hack these with some work to fit different settings as well. According to ones desires they can bullet point the entire game without losing content or add narrative to the extent I did or even more. I will continue this adventure as I have only touched the surface of Scarlet Heroes, but I think that it will be a perfect way to run the Beasts and Barbarians setting I have for Savage Worlds. I must say I am a bit excited.
Finally I would like to note once more how deeply helpful it is to have physical copies. Reading the entry of the monstrous manuals and dark sun books is so much easier than going back and forth in a tablet or pc.