Over the Ringing Mountains – Ep02 – Dark Sun Scarlet Heroes

After some discussions regarding balance (thanks! u/Talmor), I decided to go ahead and upgrade my character at the Dark Sun standard starting Level of 3, increasing Chansa’s hit points, attack bonus and mental attack bonus. As extra traits, I decided to give a second point to Ranger and Halfling Stealth. Also the adventure’s Threat has risen to 3.

After the experience of the first session, I see that I need to change a bit the narrative approach for this adventure. Scarlet Heroes is more metagaming oriented than my usual playstyle, therefore I will include what I call ‘narrative for the game master’. I will include text as if I was reading a pre-written module. Or to make a better analogy, like in comic magazines, where there is narration describing the setting, which also includes information the protagonist wouldn’t know about.

Now to the adventure. Chansa has come upon a ruined settlement. Burned to the ground. His halfling curiosity gets the better of him and he will go inside to explore. I need to start interpreting some of the tags that I rolled up during the previous session.

Q: Is the building’s size fit for halflings?
A: No
Q: Is the building’s size fit for larger than humans? (very unlikely)
A: No

Ages past, this used to be a bustling city of humanoids. But the Cleansing Wars came. The champions of Rajaat scorched the city to the ground. There were no survivors. The defenders perished, along with the civilians, women and children. Long lost souls still echo in the silent alleys. But maybe not all is as still as it should be.

Chansa enters the ruins. Some remains of buildings are still standing, but most are reduced to rubble. He notices from the doorways, that the people who lived here must have been taller than him. As he enters one of the intact structures, he feels awe at the height of the ceiling. The light comes from the roof, there seem to be some openings that let it come through, but nothing at the ground level.
In one corner he notices something that looks like a small, rough edged, altar.

Q: Are there offerings?
A: Yes
Oracular Adjective: Imprisonment.
I guess it’s a trapped animal. Let’s see if Chansa can identify it. I’ll roll a Wisdom check and add his Ranger trait to the roll.
Chansa: Check: 9/9: Success

Chansa comes closer and notices that there is a little golden furry mammal, snared up next to the altar, a Jankx. As it sees Chansa, it tries to escape using its little strength, but it can’t.

So now I consider my options. There’s little chance Chansa would think twice before killing the Jankx for food. I know from a meta perspective that there may (let the Oracle decide) be repercussions.
I’ll use the fray die, to see if he kills it right away.
Chansa: Fray: 5: 1 point of damage. It’s dead.

Chansa drips saliva from his mouth as he sees the tasty treat. He draws his bone dagger and with a quick and calculated thrust kills the little critter.

Q: Is there an intervention?
A: No, but (the failing of a piece of gear either for the hero or an NPC)
Oracular Adjective: Mistake

As Chansa kills the creature, it flails around, destroying the small altar, throwing some offerings to the ground, and knocking down a small statue.

Somewhere further away, a spirit wanders, unbeknownst to it that the altar and its offerings have been disturbed. The soul still cannot accept that its patron deity did nothing to protect its people. Little does it know that the gods never arrived to Athas.

Chansa will do some thorough searching in the ruins see if he can find anything of interest.
Chansa: Check: 15/9: Success
Q: Is there anything of interest?
A: Yes
Oracular Adjective: Courage, Treachery

Chansa looks around. He can’t find anything of value. Most of the things he finds are either half burned to ashes or decayed from the relentless time.
What strikes him as odd, though is a huge wall painting he comes across. It reminds him some cave paintings he saw among the most feral of his people. There is not much skill or color, but the image is clear. It depicts a massive army outside the walls of a city. Chansa can see that the city has two large statues very much similar to the ones he saw right oustide, so he realizes it’s the story of this city. The people who live inside don’t remind him of any race he might know of. They are muscular, hairy, with tusks on their pig like face. They seem really ugly, Chansa considers that they wouldn’t taste good either.
Continuing to the right of the tapestry, he sees that a small side gate of the city walls was opened for the besiegers. ‘Treachery’ he thinks. That’s the only way the courageous defenders could have lost.
He embraces the picture, trying to commit it to his memory. This cultural experience was of greater value to the little halfling than a bronze sword to a Tyrian gladiator. Chansa feels grateful and continues to his trip to Tyr.

At night, Chansa will cook to eat the Jankx. But there are two associated risks.
1. The position of the poison sacks.
2. The chance of a nearby Jankx herd that will be enraged at the smell.
Chansa: Prepare Jankx meat: Check: 10/10: Success
Q: Are there any nearby Jankx?
A: Yes, but, not too many of them. 2d6: 6 Jankx.

As night falls in the mountains, Chansa, slowly removes the poison sacks from the underside of each limb near the paw. He skins it and takes the fur, and then proceeds to cook it for the night.
As the smell of the cooked Jankx fills the air, and Chansa has started filling his belly, he hears a quick trek, and turning around he sees half a dozen of the little furry creatures charging at him.

Distance: 120′.
Combat Round 1:
Chansa throws a Javelin: 31/20: Success: 7: 2 Points of damage. 1 Jankx dead.
Jankx come 30′ closer.
Combat Round 2:
Chansa throws a second Javelin: 21/20: Success: 3: 1 Point of damage. 1 Jankx dead.
Jankx come 30′ closer.
Combat Round 3:
Chansa readies his Javelin for melee combat.
Jankx come 30′ closer.
Combat Round 4:
Chansa moves 30′ closer and attacks: 20/20: Success: 5: 1 Point of damage. Fray die: 5: 1 Point of damage. 2 Jankx dead.
Jankx5 attacks Chansa: 10/20: Miss
Jankx6 attacks Chansa: 23: Hit: Poison: 14/10: Success
Combat Round 5:
Chansa attacks: 14/20: Miss. Fray die: 5: 1 Point of damage. 1 Jankx dead.
Jankx6 attacks Chansa: 19/20: Miss
Combat Round 6:
Chansa attacks: 24/20: Hit: 7: 2 Points of damage. 1 Jankx dead.

He aims under the moonlight, and launches his javelin, hitting a Jankx straight to the head, killing it instantly. Quickly, he draws a second javelin and pierces another one through its belly. As he draws his third and last Javelin, he decides not to launch it and sets it up, holding his shield on the other hand as the creatures charge at him.
Carefully timing his strike, he thrusts forward as the Jankx charge and with a single strike, he pierces through two of them. He opens up his flank more than he should though, and one of the furred mammals sticks a spur into his leg. He feels the rush of poison, but his strong constitution is enough to fend it off.
He stabs the Jankx on the ribs, killing it, and blocking the last one with his shield, before returning quickly to finish it off.
He has enough food to last him for more than a week now.

Day 8

Back to the wilderness adventure now. So Chansa is lost, so next move is random. I will roll 1d6 to find the hex direction he will follow. He heads SW instead of E.
Encounters: No encounter.
Events: No event. Event threshold increases by +1 to 2.
Features: No feature. Feature threshold increases by +1 to 2.
Since Chansa is no longer in the Forest. I will be rolling a check to see if he finds water. If he stops finding water, it will start dwindling. He has a waterskin for 3 days worth of water.
Chansa: Check: 12/9: Success

Lost in the mountains, Chansa spends the entire day trying to track his path to the east. Each route he takes is a dead end. In the end, as night has fallen he feels as if he has traveled further away from his goal. Maybe the next day he will be able to get back on track.

Day 9

Back on track. He heads E.
Encounters: No encounter.
Events: No event. Event threshold increases by +1 to 3.
Features: Dungeon!
Dungeon: Temple: Heretic Hideout: 7 Locations: Rebels: Threat 3
What a great chance to try out the Dungeon Adventure feature of Scarlet Heroes! I love how the different adventure styles mix and match.
So, Athas has no temples, priest worship or such. But since this is a heretic hideout this doesn’t mean there can’t be a cult that worships elementals. And since they’re heretics, I will have them worship paraelementals! I lean towards magma.

Chansa goes into a chasm heading east, as this is the only passage heading to his intended direction. He avoids the unstable rocks and sliding mud and dirt and continues onward as the chasm slowly narrows down. Finally, he reaches a dead end. The only way forward seems to be a cave in front of him. Red and yellow symbols on each side of the cave, warn Chansa about the possible existence of inhabitants inside.

Turn 1:
Room 1:
Meditation Room
Encounter: No encounter
Treasure: No treasure
Hazard: No hazard
Feature: No feature
Wandering monster check: Encounter: 7 HD worth of minions (armed acolytes) and a 3HD elite (temple champion)
Purpose: Cleaning their home from filth
Attitude: Bloodthirsty, spoiling for a fight
Condition: They’ve been hard-pressed lately, morale lowered by 1
Allegiance: Neutral who may or may not cooperate with the rulers
Combat style: Blood-crazed; Never checks morale against a wounded foe
Their first round of combat: All-out attack, charging in heedlessly

As he enters the cave, he notices huge stalagmites and stalactites and warmth emanating from the ground. This place feels hotter than the outside. With careful attention, Chansa makes out some stalagmites that have been smoothened up and cut off to resemble a place someone can sit on. They’re pretty much for halfling size.
Heavy footsteps echo from down the corridor, and he listens closely, a bass voice speaking in the trade tongue. “Clean it up! Magma is our element not dirt!”
Chansa hasn’t had time to hide, when he comes across 8 stout dwarves. As they see him their leader, wearing a long red cloak shouts. “We have an intruder! Kill him!”

Combat Round 1:
Chansa moves 30′ and attacks the leader: 13/20: Miss
Fray die: 4: 1 point of damage, 1 minion dies
Elite attacks: 22/20: Hits: 4: 1 point of damage.
Minions: 1 Hit: 3: 1 point of damage.

Combat Round 2:
Chansa attacks the leader: 26/20: Hit: 5: 1 point of damage
Fray die: 2: 1 point of damage, 1 minion dies
Elite attacks: 25/20: Hits: 9: 2 points of damage.
Minions: 3 Hits: 4,2,2: 3 points of damage

Combat Round 3:
Chansa attacks the leader: 13/20: Miss
Fray die: 2: 1 point of damage, 1 minion dies
Elite attacks: 14/20: Miss
Minions: 2 Hits: 2,4: 2 points of damage

Combat Round 4:
Chansa attacks the leader: 19/20: Miss
Fray die: 2: 1 point of damage, 1 minion dies
Elite attacks: Nat 1: Miss
Minions: 0 Hits

Combat Round 5:
Chansa attacks the leader: 25/20: Hit: 4: 1 point of damage
Fray die: 2: 1 point of damage, 1 minion dies
Elite attacks: 24/20: Hit: 4: 1 point of damage
Minions: 0 Hits

Combat Round 6:
Chansa attacks the leader: 17/20: Miss
Fray die: 2: 1 point of damage, 1 minion dies
Elite attacks: Nat 1: Miss
Minion: Miss

Combat Round 7:
Chansa attacks the leader: 25/20: Hit: 3: 1 point of damage. He dies.
Fray die: 5: 1 point of damage, last minion dies

Combat Round 8:
Chansa attacks the leader: 24/20: Hit: 7: 2 points of damage: leader is dead

Chansa recovers 2 hit points.

In a savage outnumbered fight, Chansa singles out the leader as his target, but not letting his guard down against his minions. The stout dwarf leader yields a large two handed club made of obsidian, and crushes it down on Chansa, while on the side, the halfling exchanges blows with the other dwarves who flank him. One by one, the minions drop down dead, until only Chansa and the dwarf leader remain standing, wounded, bleeding.
With a savage, furious strike, the halfling stabs the dwarf, right on his heart, and as he removes the impaled spear, the dwarf drops, blood spilling from his mouth, dead.

A few things about the combat. I’ve been running it all in theater of the mind. With scarlet heroes, its manageable. I should have the dwarf elite’s weapon break down on this Nat 1 (and twice!), which would be more in line with Dark Sun. Also on my next fight with humanoids, I’m going to be using the hit locations table from Player’s Option: Combat and Tactics, using the initial damage roll as the location counter.

Turn 2:
Room 2: SE
Encounter: encounter found: 7 Hit dice worth of foes in minions
Treasure: no treasure
Hazards: no hazards
Features: no features
Purpose: Seeking privacy for an assignation
Attitude: Predacious, willing to take advantage of those weaker
Condition: Half of them are wounded, losing half their hit dice

Chansa continues down the corridor, and he comes across, seven more crazed dwarves. But three of them are wounded, laying on their side, the others tending to their wounds. They draw their obsidian clubs. “It’s only one. And he’s wounded. We can sacrifice him! Get him!”

Combat Round 1:
Chansa attacks a minion: 30/20: Hit: 6: 2 points of damage: 2 minions die
Fray die: 4: 1 point of damage, 1 minion dies
Minion: Miss

Combat Round 2:
Chansa attacks a minion: 28/20: Hit: 4: 1 point of damage: 1 minion dies
Chansa kills the wounded dwarves

In an effortless show of skill, Chansa, quickly dispatches all of the dwarf cultists. Their blood smeared around in the room. Finding nothing other of value, he continues further deep into the temple.

Wandering monster check: no wandering monster

Turn 3:
Room 3: W
Pilgrim quarters
Encounter: no encounter
Treasure: no treasure
Hazards: no hazards
Features: feature: unusual piece of movable furniture: hindering: snares the PC here for 1 turn: obscenely defaced furniture

Wandering monster check (x2): no wandering monster

Chansa comes across a large room, with several hard stone beds, sporting a soft mattress made of sand. As he heads to end of the room, there is a huge large cabinet. It used to have some markings, but they have been scratched off, and Chansa can’t make out what it used to have. The cabinet blocks his path further, and he has to use all his little halfling strength to push it aside and squeeze through the opening.

Turn 4:
Room 4: NW
Ritual chamber
Encounter: encounter found: 7 Hit Dice worth of minions and elites.
Treasure: no treasure
Hazards: no hazards
Features: feature found: A dangerous intruder or beast who has entered the site: Negotiate with the leader of the dungeon

Chansa creeps slowly further into the temple. The cave system going further into the mountain and the heat growing stronger and stronger.
“It’s here! It has been summoned! Our prayers have been answered! Praise Magma that devours everything! Praise the true element of Athas!” From hiding, Chansa catches a glimpse of another dwarf in red cloak, accompanied by 4 more acolytes, in a five star circle around a pit.
Down in the pit there is the source of the exhausting heat. The pit is filled with lava and magma. As he watches entranced, he notices that the magma moves and takes shape. A huge beastly shape slowly materializes in front of him.
He recalls that there were clerics of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water among the shamans of his people, but he never knew about magma worship. What an amazing find.

Now let’s see if Chansa remains hidden.
Chansa: Stealth Check: 11/9: Success
He can continue watching without risk of detection.
Now, that’s a paraelemental beast. Will it attack the cultitsts (failed negotiation) or will it join them?
Q: Does the paraelemental magma beast attack the cultists?
A: No, but, Sublimely bad or good timing by a sudden event.
Let’s see what the random event is.
Oracular adjectives: Thoughtlessness, Aging
Something happens that will help the cultists calm the paraelemental beast.
An old cleric arrives at the scene. He could be the major boss.
Q: Is the cleric the leader of the dungeon?
A: Yes, but The failure of a piece of gear, either for the hero or an NPC.

The magma beast thrashes around wildly. “Call Suthra! Quickly, if we can’t appease the beast it will kill us all!” The leader in the red cloak calls to one of the acolytes, and he rushes, out of the room, returning quickly, with an old dwarf, carrying a black ashen staff.
He raises his hands to the air and falls on his knees, bowing to the beast. The heat in the room pulsates wildly, as the beast slowly stops thrashing around.
As the cleric does so, his staff, breaks in two from the energies emanating in the room.
Chansa knows that this is his chance. If he disrupts the cleric’s concentration, maybe the beast will attack them all.

Surprise Round:
Chansa throws javelin to Suthra: 28: Hit: Damage: 4: 1 point of damage. The cleric’s concentration is disrupted.

Combat Round 1:
Q: Does the paraelemental beast attack the nearest cultist? (likely)
A: Yes, but The failure of a piece of gear, either for the hero or an NPC. Huh. That doesn’t make sense. The paralemental beast will be rolling a morale check each round to see if it decides to returns to its plane.
Chansa throws another javelin to Suthra: 24/20: Hit: 8: 2 points of damage.
Paraelemental beast, magma: Morale: 8/9: Success
Paraelemental beast attacks minions: Miss, Miss
Minions, Elite move 30′ towards Chansa.
Suthra tries to concentrate again to gain control of the Beast.

Combat Round 2:
Chansa will throw his last javelin to Suthra and use his dagger in close combat: 19/20: Miss
Fray die: 5: 1 point of damage. 1 Cultist dies.
Elite: Miss
Minions: Miss, Miss, Miss
Paralemental beast, magma: Morale: 7/9: Success
Q: Does the paraelemental beast attack the elite or the cleric?
A: The cleric
Paraelemental beast: attack cleric: Hit, Miss: Damage: 7: 2 points of damage
Suthra: Check: 18/17: Success: He gains control of the paralemental beast

Combat Round 3:
Chansa attacks the minions: 30/20: Hit: 8: 2 points of damage. 2 minions die.
Fray die: 6: 2 points of damage to elite
Elite: Miss
Paraelemental beast, magma: launches into the air and moves 30′ towards Chansa
Suthra: maintain concentration

Combat Round 4:
Q: Can Chansa evade the magma beast and reach the cleric?
A: No
Chansa fray die and psionic attack at Suthra: 4: 1 point of damage to elite: elite dies.
Psionic attack: failure
Paraelemental beast, magma: shoots lava on Chansa: Damage: 15: 4 points of damage. Save vs Spell: 16/17: Failure.

Combat Round 4:
Chansa move towards cleric, even if it puts him in the path of the magma beast and psionic attack at Suthra: Hit: 2: 1 point of mental damage: the cleric loses concentration!
Q: Does the paraelemental beast attack the cleric? (very likely, they attack whoever looks like their summoner)
Paraelemental beast, magma: attacks Cleric: Hit, Hit: 15, 7: 6 points of damage. The cleric dies. The beast is free to return to its plane.
Chansa bandages himself of 2 hit points damage.

As the paraelemental cleric tries to dominate his presence over the beast of magma, an unexpected javelin, hits him right on the left arm. Then another, pierces his shoulder. The cleric loses concentration, and the cultists quickly identify Chansa as the perpetrator and charge after him. The magma beast furious and unshackled, thrashes wildly at two cultists, but fails to hit them as they have already moved away. Chansa throws a third javelin to Suthra, but it fails to meet its target.
With his long bone bladed dagger on his right hand and his thick hide shield on the other, Chansa is locked in melee combat with the dwarves. Without much effort, he kills them, as the magma beast turns on its summoner. It burns down on the already wounded cleric, who in a last effort to maintain control, calls out with both his hands, in a gesture that seems to calm down the beast, which in turn, switches direction towards Chansa. It jumps out of the laval pit, as Chansa kills the red-cloaked leader of the cultists. Under the command of the cleric, it shoots a bolt of lava towards Chansa, which hits him, searing his flesh.
The little halfling sees that it can’t get to the Cleric without going through the magma beast. Chansa then focuses on his inner thoughts, and with his mind he visualizes a whip with which he lashes at the priest. His first attempt fails blatantly, but during the second, he feels he has broken through Suthra’s defenses. His mind open, he loses concentration on the beast.
The creature quickly turns around and bashes at his summoner, drowning him under two magma fists.

Session Background

This session lasted a lot longer than I expected, with the dungeon and all, so I had to cut it in the middle of the adventuring. I’ll continue with the last 3 locations in the next session.
So I’m trying to stay true to the Scarlet Heroes mechanics as much as possible. Hence I’m missing some solo mechanics, like Interventions, False Presuppositions and the ‘And’ oracle results.
As in the first session, I really enjoy the mechanics of Scarlet Heroes, though I must admit that at times it felt a tad bit *too boardgamey**. On the other hand, it’s spiritual ancestor, D&D is one of the most boardgamey RPGs, so that’s to be expected.
I found some results to be too disconcerted. I mean, okay, I found a dungeon during wilderness exploration. Why, should my character go inside? I mean, it’s okay if a dungeon is the final goal, but when it’s just an obstacle, I’m missing the reason. I try to think of my protagonists as rational beings, and not MMORPG style adventures who go on quests that have no meaning.
Inherent halfling curiosity saved the day.
Regarding the last encounter with the paraelemental beast I find that the whole encounter was a tad bit too harsh. Therefore I did some on-the-fly rulings regarding the concentration aspect of the summoned creature, and I must say it worked quite well.
I didn’t need a full-on psionic combat according to those rulings. Just one successful attack with at least 1 point of damage.
Overall, I really liked the session and looking forward to finalizing the dungeon, reaching Tyr and running an Urban Adventure there, so that I have fulfilled the Scarlet Heroes adventure types.