Actual Play Report for an online Play by Post / Poll / Choose your own adventure
Inspired by the #detectiveWinters PbP-game, ages ago, by Matt Jackson, starting in February 2018 I hosted a PbP-public dungeon crawl in a Google Plus collection. I was planning to post several updates a week, until the adventurers were either successful, dead, or running away. For a system, I was using Maze Rats (because of simplicity) and let the world (Google Plus users) decide where things were going, via discussion in the comments and/or a poll.
I was new to Maze Rats (http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/197158/Maze-Rats ), though, so I was not quite sure how much those characters could take and if this adventure would have any semblance of hope for success. I was thinking of a party of four or five charcters, to be sent into trouble by the caring and/or uncaring fates (us).
Let us call this adventure, for reasons that may or may not come into play, #TheSpiderPit
A land of steep hills, with dense woods, and stark cliffs on the eastern shore of the Bay of Stones… glittering streams of water break from those cliffs and flow towards the Sea. This is a remote part of the Kingdom of Alys, connected by a single road with the civilized world down south. Here lies a prosperous town – Woodbridge – the only easily accessible harbor on this coast. A town with a bright future, but still very much frontier, the northernmost end of the King’s Road.
Down at the ground, south of Woodbridge, a person, a man in a cloak, walks towards a robust building with sturdy stables, a kennel for hounds, and a crude outer wall fashioned from rough stones and long beams of wood, more a symbolic barriere than of any serious value in an actual attack.
Light and voices spill from the windows of “The Cunning Cock”, the only Inn outside the town walls. It is on its own, situated across the wooden bridge that lent the town its name. South of the bridge, this means without protection from the town guard. And also without control. “The Cunning Cock” is a last refuge for those who don’t make it into town by nightfall, as well as first choice for those who don’t wish to be in town at all — or those who seek opportunity for adventure, or a party of brave adventurers.
Just a stone throw to the east there’s the Olde Mine, an amethyst mine abandoned decades ago.
From that mine, two well-trodden paths lead into the shadows of the Darkwood, which crawls up the hills that stretch away from the town. One north along the cliff, one east towards the closest goblin village, with which there is trade.
A hand pushes open the door,
Inside, the common room is packed. People of all kinds mingle here, be they man, goblinoid, even the odd elf, shoulder to shoulder. They enjoy a strong beer or three, exchange stories, and look for opportunities. A young warrior spreads his arms to describe the monster he bested last. Two veterans exchange a skeptic glance. Two barmaids command the narrow pathways between the tables and push aside anything that gets in the way of swift commerce, be it man or weapon. Shields and arms lean by every bench, are stacked at the walls, or lie on the tables in easy reach. These here are our kind of people! Because we need an adventuring party, someone who can and will go where the count’s troops won’t. We need help – armed help. And we are willing to pay for it
Two parties catch our eye….
There is a promising group of four:
A brawny, bronze-skinned woman in light armor. There are stains on her gear, and they look like blood. She gives off an aura of authority, and her sharp eyes betray her driven mindset. She has places to go, and an axe to swing. Phoebe tries to explain her plans to her companions: Basil, a grizzled, loyal veteran in dated armor. A gold tooth glints in his mouth as he agrees with her point. A warhammer rests top-down between his feet. Third in this crew is Uko, a green-skinned goblin with a huge, dark beard. He carries a crossbow on his mud-stained back and fiddles with a dagger, not too interested in planning. The last member of this team is a sinewy elf, but what an elf! Harmony is her name, but not her style. She wears undersized clothes and shaves her head – her ears prick up visibly, not hidden by classic elvish flowing hair. Only in two aspects does she fulfill the elven stereotypes: Her main weapon is bow, and an almost imperceptible shimmer around her hands hints at magical aptitude.
Just one table over, we find another hopeful crew:
The leader is one Reinhold, an obvious hero-type – maybe not too bright, but with chiseled chest, righteous mien, beautifully garbed in ceremonial fashion – and a fingersmith of some renown. He wears his hair carefully braided. On his belt we see a glinting scimitar and a sharp dagger. Right across from him we see the slumped form of Ursula, a roofrunner in tight-fitting, exotic garbs. Cunning eyes watch the room from under her dreadlocks. A sharp hatchet hangs from her belt.
At Reinhold’s elbow there is the honourable Oswald, a slender man, a fierce fighter. He, too, a longsword-wielder, always wearing the latest in fashion. An old brand mark is visible on his neck. Towering above all is Mortimer, the crew’s stoic longbowman, the odd one out in this stylish entourage, dressed in cheap, patched second-hands, with his long hair falling carelessly over his shoulders.
Which one is our gang?
- Phoebe’s diverse rebels
- Reinhold’s stylish heroes
- We climb on a chair and speak to the whole room
Who are these people?
This is a quick character matrix:
#TheSpiderPit – *Job Opportunity*
The common room of the Cunning Cock.
Phoebe is just explaining something: “We all know the Keep is built on elven foundations. And the elves are sly bastards! No offense, Harmony. So it stands to reason there must be a secret passage somewhere! Probably somewhere in the elven ruins. That goes directly into Hasimir’s basement.”
“Too weird, my sister, too weird”, says Harmony. “Elven ruins picked clean ages ago. And the count is a fool, but he ain’t fool enough to have his basement empty. Wanna pick a fight with the human army?”
Behind Harmony, Reinhold is busy telling about his great deeds: “… so there was just me, the daughter of the Duke, and her pretty best friend… and it turned out, she also had a twin sister!”
Ursula is rolling her eyes: “Could you cut that just for ONE evening? Your tall tales can be so annoying!”
At that moment, a young man in a cloak pulls up a big box from the wall and climbs on top of it. Then he throws back his hood, breathes, and pulls a little bell out of one of his pockets to chime it several times. It jingles with a clear, penetrating sound, until the hubbub dies down and people look in his direction.
He is a handsome guy, but he doesn’t look like he belongs here – he looks soft and weak, like a real city boy.. But he also looks well off, judging by the well-tailored sleeves that hint at very fine clothes under that cloak.
He is clearly distraught, as he shouts: “Hear my tale of anguish, brave adventurers! I am Balthazar de Vere, betrothed to my beautiful Wendy Miller. This day, on her way back from visiting her father’s grave, my sweet Wendy has been abducted — by a gang of five wood goblins! I’ve seen it myself, from a ways away, and I swear I would have stopped them.
Alas, I am not trained in the use of arms – I am but a gemcutter who has never done harm to any soul!”
Someone from the back of the room cries: “Coward!”
Balthazar ducks like under a hit, but continues his tale:
“I was powerless! I ran to the army as quick-like as possible, and begged them to save her, but the heartless bastards…” he looks back and forth, as if afraid they could have heard him “… they told me that she was probably long dead and I should just look for another wench!”
Sybil Beetleman and Jasper Dreggs, a pair of bounty hunters, step forward, listening intently. Jasper is a grimey guy with oiled hair. Sybil’s curly hair falls down on her battle-torn shreds of armor. She holds her trademark stake, an archaic weapon she insists on carrying.
Tears stream down Balthazar de Vere’s face.
“I know she yet lives! I can feel it! Deep in my heart! Please, good heroes, please rescue her! Return my Wendy to me! I am a good gemcutter! I can pay! Whoever returns my Wendy to me, alive and well, will get no less than 400 gold pieces!” He holds up four fine, tender fingers. “That is all of my life’s savings! And there is also my eternal gratitude, for as long as my natural life shall last! Even more, I can give you some means that may help you in your quest! I have two scrolls with magical spells that I can give you right away – and I also have four vials of medicine. These means I will entrust to those brave heroes who agree to go and find my love.”
A hard-eyed, slender woman with ritual burn scars all across her face laughs out loud.
It is Zora Nethercoat, a famous huntress: “Nonsense. Your Wendy is dead and probably roasted and eaten, too. Before you squander your values on a fool’s errand, give it to me! I’ll even marry you for it, in her stead. Better a living hag than a dead beauty, eh? Ha-ha!”
Who steps up to help and rescue Balthazar’s love?
- Phoebe’s gang
- Reinhold’s gang
- The bounty hunters
- Phoebe and Reinhold
- Phoebe and the bounty hunters
- Reinhold and the bounty hunters
- Other (comment)
Scrolls to use with WIL save
A Cauldron appears, filled with hot turnip soup.
For one round (six seconds), caster’s hand’s emmitt a sharp beam of light that hurts it’s targets like a giant thorn, dealing 1d6 damage
#TheSpiderPit – *Departure*
The gemcutter Balthazar de Vere is pleading with the armed crowd in the common room to follow five kidnappers and rescue his betrothed.
Stroking his chin, Reinhold Middleway nods to his crew: “Adventure beckons! This is a call for us, and a chance for glory.” He gets nods in return, and rises to hail Balthazar. “Fear not, dear man” he begins … only to notice that the disagreeable Phoebe has also chosen to step forward. She shoots him an annoyed glance, as she offers her hand to the maybe-widower.
“Do not worry! We will find your Wendy and get her to safety.”
Reinhold purses his lips. Phoebe, of all people. The vile lass has, at more than one occasion, rejected his advances. He would loathe sharing treasure with her and her gang of bald oddballs and bearded greenskin misfits.
“Indeed, we shall find and return her safe and sound, with the help of the gods. Thank you for your kindly offer, good Phoebe, but …”
“I stood up first. Forget it, sweet-talker. If you don’t like it, sit down and shut up.”
Balthazar is delighted seeing no less then eight heroes so eager to go after the goblins. And to think he was worried they might reject his plea outright! Oblivious to their mutual distrust, he attempts to pull Reinhold and Phoebe into an embrace, but they are both reluctant to join in and stronger than he, so they just form an awkward triangle. The two parties don’t mix well and watch each other warily, except for Basil and Mortimer, who appear quite chummy from the get-go.
“Y’all gonna need a tracker”, a veteran Briarborn with tangled hair and an arming sword at his belt grunts. “They call me Rough. I’m gonna help you find your way if I get one hundred — up front. But I ain’t gonna fight”, he warns, “I’ll just track.”
Everybody has heard of Rough. He is a former army scout, and it is said he’s better than some of the best goblin hunters, a master of the wilderness, and a deadly shot with a bow to boot.
But Zora Nethercoat snorts. “Ha-ha! Nonsense! No way that’s worth a 100! Not even half of that! I’d do the tracking for free, but I ain’t doin it at all. Not for a dead wench, oh no.”
- Hire Rough
- 100?? We can track on our own
- Haggle, then hire
- Try to hire Zora
“One hundred?” asks Phoebe, taken aback.
“That’s a stunning amount, a full quarter of the price on offer! We stand aghast”, seconds Reinhold.
“And with an express no to arms…?” asks Oswald, as he looks Zora up and down, scratching his own burn mark as he surveys the ritual markings in her face. “I dare say I’d agree with this fine… You a tracker too, I’d say….” he leaves the sentence hanging, but the remark was enough: Zora Nethercoat finds herself suddenly the center of attention.
“Whoah, whoah,” she tries to appease. “I ain’t ever said I was going to! And not in the dark of night, that’s a given!”
“But you know the wood like the back of your own hand! You are a legend among your peers”, Reinhold is baiting her. She resists, but as gold is on offer, her resolve wavers.
The veteran Rough is quickly forgotten, as Reinhold, Oswald, and Balthazar do their utmost to convince Zora to join the team. He shoots everyone an angry look, reserves two dark stares for the huntress, and returns to his beer. Uko, Harmony, and Mortimer watch him go with mixed feelings, but the wyrd has spoken, it seems.
After a heated discussion it is set:
Zora Nethercoat will serve as a tracker in exchange for four-and-twenty gold, regardless of success, and without participation in any physical exertion or combat action. The remaining eight of the party are looking at the prospect of 47 gold pieces each, plus the eternal gratitude of Balthazar de Vere, and any valuables that may be found in the possession of the goblins.
The elf Harmony is clearly not thrilled to have Oswald in the group, as he follows a strange cultish faith that is at odds with her own visions. But she finds solace in the two scrolls: “Summoning Cauldron”, an interesting, less popular hex that produces a good sized cauldron filled with soup, and “Thorn Beam”, which suggests a pretty direct application of force against armed opposition. She nods and hands the scrolls to Phoebe. As Reinhold tries to grab for them, a brief struggle ensues, but it is generally agreed, even in Reinhold’s team, that Phoebe or Harmony are better suited for using magicks than he. It is a question of discipline and concentration, after all, he is not known for either, and nobody wants a spell going wrong.
The haggling concluded, Balthazar is eager to see the group off and follow the fiends at once.
It is clearly risky to enter the Darkwood by night carrying torches. The party would be highly visible. On the other hand, they might catch up with the enemy much quicker.
On the other other hand, staying the night may provide an opportunity for some of the team to get rid of some of the team. But how? Comment with ideas, if that should be the plan.
Set out at once, at night
Set out tomorrow
Outsmart competition (Comment!)
Who are these people?
This is a quick character matrix:
#TheSpiderPit – *Into the Darkwood*
Shortly before sunrise, Ursula quietly approaches Zora in the hopes of setting off before dawn and leaving Phoebe’s crew behind. Ursula chuckles as she imagines the shock and surprise Phoebe must feel when she wakes up and finds them gone.
Alas, the goblin Uko has had the same idea in vice versa, and Phoebe’s group is just as ready as Reinhold’s. So they just exchange crooked smiles, each knowing full well what the other had in mind, then they all grab a quick bite for breakfast and leave to take a look at the tracks in the first light of day.
They feel like an army, and they are pretty relaxed, because with eight blades against five, cutting down some scrawny goblins should be as easy as stealing a blind hen’s eggs. The only trouble will be finding them.
To everyone’s surprise, it is child’s play to follow the enemy. The goblins have grabbed Wendy at the southern banks of the Cursed Creek and presently carried her off into the woods. She struggled all the way, as the tracks suggest. Her dagger has been cast away first. A shoe lies discarded behind a lump of grass, and the irregular path the abductors had to take, slipping, changing places and gripping their captive in a different way from time to time, shows that she was not an easy victim.
“Looks to me like they really wanted her a-livin’”, muses Zora. “Half the people I know would carve up their own kids if they fight them like she did these gobboes here.”
This is good news – after all, the mission is about rescue, not revenge, and if Wendy gets killed, Balthazar will not pay.
Then it is time to enter the Darkwood, close to the northern path that climbs the cliff east of Woodbridge.
But as the foliage shrouds the adventuring party in shadows, it gets even easier to follow the trail: The goblins have put their captive on some kind of carriage with two wheels, and those wheels left deep, unmistakable marks in the soft ground, leading straight northwards along the cliff’s edge.
This makes Reinhold nervous. Zora’s pay seems quite a bit too expensive now. She did not really help until now, and she has made it clear that she will not fight the goblins, and at one point she has said she would do it for free, hasn’t she? Maybe it is not too late to cut the expenses. Reinhold begins to mumble incoherently, then progressively louder, giving voice to a creeping doubt that grips many of the group, including Ursula, Uko and Harmony.
*Do we even need a tracker? Does this easy job warrant 24 gold?*
- Fire Zora
- Keep Zora around
#TheSpiderPit – part 5 – *Arguing*
“‘Sup, princess?” asks Zora, as Reinhold’s anger gets almost physically tangible, and his complaints get loud enough to be heard several yards away.
The adventurer vents his frustration. “‘Sup’? ‘Sup’?? I’ll tell you what ‘sup’! These tracks here are so deep, my blind grandmother could follow them, at night. I wonder why we even took you with us, and then why we pay you good money for nothing.”
Uko agrees. “Easy money, I say. Easy money. It’s just a waste, so much gold for no real work.”
Zora looks taken aback. “Whaitaymoment. It weren’t I, wanted to come, were I? Not my fault that them gobbos don’t hide their moves either! ”
Harmony and Ursula try to to defuse the situation: “Of course! Nobody wants to argue. It is just, well, we might take a moment to think about the money again.”
“How about we find a compromise? Some middle ground. What about half the agreed payment?”
“Wat, twelve gold? For a good days walk for who knoes how far? Ye wanna go back on yer promises! And in the middle of da job, too!”
“Only to adapt the contract a tiny bit.. you can clearly see this is not worth so much gold.”
Now Oswald and Phoebe weigh in. They are against re-negotiations, especially Oswald, who openly takes Zora’s side: “We practically begged her to come. It was our idea, not hers! Our honor demands that we pay what we agreed upon.”
“Why don’t you pay her from your share?” Uko suggests, but Basil supports Oswald: “N-n-n… It.. it.. Isn… n’t .. r.. right!”
“Shut up, or learn to talk first, half-brain!”, sneers Reinhold.
“Half a brain is plenty more than you have!” snaps Phoebe.
“We don’t need that branded hag!” cries Uko with his.
“We gave our word!” shouts Oswald.
“Not fair to lie”, grunts Mortimer.
“Wasted money!” complains Reinhold.
“How about fifteen?” asks Harmony over the hubbub. “Fifteen should do it.”
“Ye bastards”, spits Zora. “Ah coulda sit at the inn all cozy-like but now I drag ma cold bones thru this here dirty wood with a bunch of traitahs.”
“I am terribly sorry”, says Oswald.
“Let’s make it 16 gold, fair money for a nice job”, says Ursula.
“Ah’m of a mind ta leave y’all here ta rot… Wait!” Zora freezes. “Hush! Hide!”
Zora dives behind a thick tree trunk, as an adult female centipede panther drops from a treetop just five yards away. This predator is rather rare, a giant insectoid the size of an elongated bull, with 24 pairs of flexing legs. It can jump a good distance for its bulk, and is protected by a hard, purple, chitinous shell. This centipede panther rears up with it’s first six legs to tower over the group, and it clicks with its vicious mandibles that ooze a paralyzing venom out of a maw big enough to bite off a human head.
Centipede panthers are strong and tough, but not particularly clever. They are solitary night creatures and abhor bright light, but here under the trees the sun will only be uncomfortable for it, not blinding. It is unusual for such a beast to threaten a whole group, when they typically drop onto lone creatures to paralyze and eat at leisure.
It must have been asleep, but the loud argument of the group must have disturbed it’s rest.
Disperse and hide!
We are eight. ATTACK!
Other idea (COMMENT)
Character stats: http://bit.ly/2tcRkhw
#TheSpiderPit – part 6 – *a storm of swords*
Confronted with the aggressive centipede panther, the newborn army of eight breaks instantly.
Reinhold turns, yells “RUN!”, and proceeds to do so himself.
Uko is right behind him. Reinhold may be a nuisance, but a sensible command is a sensible command, the bearded goblin reasons, as the two of them thunder back the way they came, towards sunlight and safety.
Ursula and Harmony follow Zora’s example – the huntress has taken cover and is nowhere to be seen, so the dexterous Ursula climbs the trunk of a tree and quickly disappears amidst branches and foliage. The elf moves sideways and finds cover behind a twin oak.
Meanwhile, Phoebe shouts “Shield wall!”, and Basil faithfully locks shield with her, hefting his stabbing sword.
Oswald has his longsword up, ready to attack. However, noticing that he is standing alone at the point of a quickly disintegrating gang, he reconsiders and takes a step back to take position beside Phoebe and Basil, although not with a ready shield.
Quiet Mortimer had his bow ready since they entered the forest. Standing safely behind the shield wall, he draws, takes aim and calmly looses a shaft at the beast.
His shot glances off the monster’s armored hide, but the centipede panther feels the hit and glares in the direction. It sees the shield wall and pounces at the warriors.
It jumps too short and claws at Phoebe’s shield. The three warriors stab or hit, respectively, but their strikes prove insufficient to break through the hard shell. Mortimer’s next arrow misses wide.
Now the beast roars and powers through their shield wall to push them out of the way. Oswald is in danger of being trampled, but rolls aside in the last second, as the beast’s claws narrowly miss. Phoebe and Basil are separated as they retreat from the bulky monster.
With the shield wall broken up, Mortimer is in an uncomfortable position, right in front of the angry animal.
Ursula is in the treetop and cannot use her slingshot. Harmony is in cover and curses her useless spell “Silencing Pyramid”. What will silence accomplish? She has a bow strung and ready, though.
Please leave suggestions in the comments.
+++ There were no comments, so everyone was hesitating +++
Character stats: http://bit.ly/2tcRkhw
#TheSpiderPit – part 7 – *blood*
The centipede panther has powered through the shield wall and snorts at the longbowman.
Their formation broken up, the fighters are unsure how to proceed. Are their weapons even strong enough for this beast? Are the campfire-stories about slain centipedes just tall tales?
The adventurers hide behind their shields and blades and look for options, but no tactic comes to mind.
Mortimer quickly calculates the distance to the nearest trees. Too far to run. But he thinks he’s figured out the weak points of the enemy. He draws the bow to aim at one of the monster’s eyes.
The centipede panther doesn’t wait for the shot. It jumps forward with shocking speed, shoving the archer to the ground, and taking a generous bite out of him. Armour rips, the arrow snaps, ribs crack, and a liberal amount of bright blood splatters. Mortimer rolls through the soft mold, shedding arrows from his quiver. His left hand and the yew bow are trampled under the centipede panther’s claws. The arm, including the shoulder, is nowhere to be seen – bitten right off.
After two heartbeats of stunned disbelief, Phoebe is the first to run – straight east, away from the cliff, into the Darkwood. Basil follows her a moment later, slightly more northerly. Oswald curses, turns around and runs the other way, towards the cliff.
Harmony and Ursula remain in their hiding places and watch as the centipede panther turns and listens to the noises the fleeing fighters make. But it does not follow. It seems to be quite content with them running as it carefully bites Mortimer’s leg and pulls his bleeding body back towards the strong, wide tree it came from. It leaves the body there and circles the tree twice, sniffing the air. Then it makes hooting sounds and begins to chew up Mortimer’s leg.
At least his wounds suggest that Mortimer is truly dead, not just paralyzed and helpless.
Very pale and shaken, Ursula glides down from her tree. Harmony waves to her and Ursula stealthily joins her, never taking her eyes off the beast.
“It killed him! It killed Mort! We have to avenge him!” Ursula whispers.
Harmony shakes her head: “We have no chance.”
Ursula knows it is true.
Together, they leave the centipede panther’s haunt to quietly follow Oswald’s path.
Only an hour later, all seven meet at the cliff. Phoebe and Basil have turned around to take a detour and avoid their place of defeat on their way out of the wood, and Reinhold and Uko have chosen to walk back up out here as well, at the lip of the cliff, where the wood is light and open.
They overlook the Cursed Lake and see the guards on the “Cursed Tower” of Woodbridge, a fitting backdrop to the grisly tale that Harmony shares with the others, as she recounts Mortimer’s fate, while Ursula stares across the town to Lord Hasimir’s keep and far out to the waves of the Bay of Stones.
Suddenly, Zora Nethercoat is among them.
The argument of an hour ago seems rather pointless in hindsight.
None of them is happy to leave Mortimer with the monster, but neither are they sure what to do about it.
Go back and kill the monster
Go north and save Wendy
Give up and return home
Character stats: http://bit.ly/2tcRkhw