Return to the Pit of Filth
I had almost forgotten about this.
Some time ago +matt jackson set a challenge based on a very small map. He asked that participants take the map as the basis for an adventure and he’d choose a winner. In the end, he highlighted a bunch of great adventures people had come up with and I got a PDF of Moleskin Maps as a runner-up prize.
It was fun.
Anyway – I wrote my adventure to use the Fighting Fantasy system, or (bizarrely) a simplified version of it (yeah, that is possible). After making the adventure freely available, I was contacted by a member of the French Fighting Fantasy publisher who wanted to translate it. I admit to being taken aback, but agreed without reservation.
And then I forgot about it.
This morning I noticed that I had a mention on Google+ and I found this – La Fosse aux Ordures. You can download this as a free PDF from the page linked below. The page and the PDF are both in French (and Google Translate has fun with the page, calling the adventure Cesspool, which I suppose makes sense as a possible translation).
Go ahead and have a look – and see The Pit of Filth in all its glory. Thanks to the Fighting Fantasy folks in France for taking the time to do this – and I hope that someone somewhere has a mildly grossed out evening playing this with their single, worried player.
Head over to Défis Fantastiques – La Fosse Aux Ordures and download the PDF.
(Originally posted on Google+)
I generally approach Monday nights with a creeping sense of dread. Don’t get me wrong – I love gaming night. I also enjoy the whole business of gaming. What kills me can be the uncertainty about whether I actually will GM or not. If I do GM, what size group will I have and what sort of game would they prefer to play.
I try to do what prep I can and have a drop-in game or three in my back pocket – but that does not come without some forethought. I like to think I can improvise without any prep at all, but that simply isn’t true… I need to have a grain of something to work with and the energy to do something with it.
I was tired last night as I took the reins of gamemastery for the weekly session, stepping in after the unexpected sickness of the planned GM.
I decided to play a Fate Accelerated version of Arclight Revelation Tianmar, Victorian steam mecha versus the Red Weed.
I think it all started well with the description of the setting, which I think throws all kinds of hoops in the player’s direction, but then I had a choice between describing their foe thus:
You find the village beset by creatures of bestial frame, their filthy, blood-encrusted black-white fur hanging loosely off their skeletons. Blood-tinged froth drips from their slavering lips, behind which you see long sharp teeth, stained and broken. You spy a twisted intelligence in dark animal eyes, a tortured malignancy; feral, riddled with rage and pain. Red weed grapples and entwines the beasts emaciated limbs, piercing the flesh, pulsing with a hideous alien life force. The weed-construct growls and levels a weapon at you, a silvery, box-like device you recognise as a Martian lightning cannon…
You find the village under attack by mutant weed badgers with guns.
I did not choose wisely… I don’t think the game suffered horribly, but I had envisaged the badgers with some measure of horror in mind, not comedy. The blunt and flavourless description did nothing to help or reinforce the intent. I let myself down just a bit and I regret that in retrospect.
I may have to find myself an alternate go to system as well as I’m not convinced I’m grokking the Fate system. Maybe I need to play a few games to really get to grips with it.
Pit of Filth
Matt Jackson – over on Google+ – created a mini-map on an index card and challenged readers to come up with an adventure. This was my own stab – the Pit of Filth. Given the existence of more than one horror adventure in the Fighting Fantasy solo adventure book range, it seemed an ideal fit for a system – and meant I could turn out something that you could play without knowing many mechanics at all.
This is a horror scenario for a single player and a GM. The adventure uses the basic Fighting Fantasy system.
Your character has three stats: Skill, Stamina, and Luck. Roll 1d6 + 6 for Skill and Luck. Roll 2d6 + 12 for Stamina. Skill is your ability to do things. Stamina represents your physical well-being. Luck represents your edge and the turn of fate. If you add all your stats together and they come to less than 30, re-roll one of them.
To fight something, roll 2d6 and your SKILL. Do the same for your opponent. Highest wins. If you draw, both lose 1 STAMINA and then carry on. If someone hits 0 STAMINA, they’re unconscious and close to death – and that includes you! At the start of the game you only have your bare fists to fight with, so battle with SKILL -2 and do only 1 damage on a successful hit, until you find something to fight with.
If you want to spice up the game a little you can use random Weapon Damage by rolling 1d6 on a successful hit and matching your results of 1,2,3,4,5,6 against the number outlined below (i.e. while unarmed, if you roll a 1 for damage you cause no harm at all, as your punch or nail-rake fails to land squarely or inflict more than a stinging scrape).
Unarmed (U): 0,1,1,1,1,2
Improvised (I): 1,1,1,1,2,2
Sharp (S): 1,2,2,2,3,3
Blunt (B): 2,2,2,2,2,3
Piercing (P): 1,2,2,2,3,4
If you try to do something or beat fate, roll 2d6 and roll equal or less than your SKILL or LUCK, respectively. If you roll against LUCK and succeed, reduce the value of your LUCK by 1. In combat, if you lose a SKILL test to your enemy and they damage you, you can Test Your LUCK to reduce harm taken to zero.
The numbers match up to the map, with the character starting in the lower chamber marked 1.
“You wake to an overwhelming stink of festering meat and an uncomfortable warmth. You feel the embraces of bodies enclosing you. At first you feel safe in the warmth, until it dawns on you that you have no idea where you are nor any recollection of what happened before now… Except, no… that isn’t true. You remember drinking heavily. Some kind of party, and people clustering tightly around you. Games, laughter, then cold air, nausea, vomiting… Then nothing. When you try to open your eyes, you find them stuck shut. You try to clear the goo, attempt to squint. You can see only pale shapes in a thin light leaking through a crack off to your left. You turn your head and come face to face with a half rotten skull…”
Light Source: Nothing in the room. Light leaks in beneath the door.
The character lies in a charnel pit, in room 1 on the map. They lie atop a couple of dozen other bodies in various states of decay. The smell, first and foremost, pervades the room and blankets everything. The room contains no direct source of light, though light from room 2 leaks in from the cracks around the ill-fitting door.
Scrambling across the heap of bodies takes time and a little balance, and each movement seems to stir up the stench of death all the more. The character feel a wave of nausea and almost inevitably feels bile rising in his or her throat. Make a Test against SKILL to move across the bodies without falling over and sustaining 1 STAMINA damage.
The south-east corner of the room rises slightly from the level of bodies, a floor of hardened, packed earth free from bodies. In brighter light, the character would see dark patches in the dirt. If the character sniffs close to the floor, they smell the irony tang of much blood.
The pit contains many bodies, male, female, old and young. Most wear some clothing, a few just scraps of underwear. The bodies vary in state of decay, a few so rotten the skin sloughs off the bone.
Searching through the bodies provides some useful finds, but requires an iron stomach. Roll 5d6 (a six sided die rolled five times) and compare against the character’s STAMINA. A result above the character’s STAMINA means they become overwhelmed with nausea and vomit violently, losing 1 STAMINA and getting no roll on the finds table.
After three attempts to find something (whether the character fails the STAMINA roll or not), the dogs in room 2 start growling and scraping at the door. After a fourth attempt, the dogs start to bark and the character risks drawing unwanted attention, unprepared.
When searching, make the STAMINA check then, on a success, roll on the find table, below:
1 – Pocket knife (S) (character fights at SKILL -1 with a damage of 2 STAMINA)
2 – Key fob torch and a couple of keys
3 – Mobile phone, without any charge
4 – Handkerchief and a card of matches
5 – Debit or credit card
6 – Handful of small change
The character will only find results 1 – 5 once. Change can be found more than once and if the character finds three handfuls of change and scrounges a sock (either from their own foot or a corpse) they can improvise a Blackjack (B) (with the same combat stats as the pocket knife, above).
A truly desperate character might consider tearing a leg off one of the rotten bodies, with the intent to use the item as a club. Despite best efforts this will prove impossible, the muscle and sinew simply too tough to tear apart, and the character will suffer 2 STAMINA damage from violent vomiting.
The exit from this room is composed of wooden planks roughly fixed together with a nail gun. On the outside (from Room 2), it looks like blanks of discarded wood leaning against the wall – and would require a successful SKILL test, at a penalty of -1, for someone to find (assuming they had the time to search, given the hungry dogs occupying the room).
“The room stinks of raw meat, wet fur and animal crap. Two wretched, bony mongrels lounge in the centre of the room, chewing on large bones from an unidentified animal (or, perhaps it isn’t an animal). The dog’s fur is spiked with filth, grease and blood. They have a lean and hungry gaze…”
Light Source: Three battery powered LED lights affixed to dark green toughened plastic spikes light the room. Someone has driven then spikes into the floor, one near each door and the other in the north-east corner behind the dog matting. The character could use the Spike (I) as a weapon without an adjustment to SKILL and inflicting 2 STAMINA damage. The spike shatters, causing 1 STAMINA damage to the character and becoming unusable, one any pair rolled (i.e. double 1, double 2 and so on).
When the character enters the room the two mangy dogs snarl and pounce to attack.
DAMAGE: Roll 1d6, 1-3: 2 STAMINA bite, 4-6: 1 STAMINA scratch
TYPE: Animal (Canine)
If the character subdues the dogs, they discover a couple of buckets and several large bones. One bucket contains warm water, the other contains meat scraps. The dogs rested on a patch of straw under which the character will find, if they search, a wristwatch, a pair of broken spectacles and a human finger with a gold wedding ring.
“You step into a passage of packed earth, loose grit, and stinking dirt, the air cold and dry. A cold draught trickles down a rough passage that rises toward an ominous block of stone. In three other directions, rough wooden doors with long, rusted nails for handles, block off direct sight into three separate chambers. To the left, you can hear low moans of pain. Ahead, the dull throb of muffled music.”
Light Source: One battery powered LED lights affixed to dark green toughened plastic spike, as per Room 2. The spike has been driven into the ground at the north point of the crossed passages.
The block of stone has a small keyhole, discovered on careful inspection with a reasonable light source. Pushing the door finds it too heavy to shift. The draught of cold, crisp air trickles over the top of the stone. Crying or calling out attracts no attention from outside (as the hide-out is simply too far away from any other habitation), but does alert the Dark Priest in room 5.
“The large room is filled with a dull red light from several covered lamps with filthy, soot stained glass. Two bodies hang from manacles bolted into the ceiling. The wretches wrists glisten slick with blood, and they balance precariously on blocks of rough stone like hideous statues. In the far corner of the room, a stepped platform supports a slab of stone atop which sits what appears to be a massive fish tank jammed full to the brim with flesh.”
Light Source: Four battery powered LED lights affixed to dark green toughened plastic spikes light the room. All lights have become smeared and stained with blood, sending out a dull red light. Affixed in the ground, one in each corner. Otherwise, as per Room 2.
The bodies hanging from the manacles have been horribly mutilated. One has an eyeball hang loose, scooped from the socket and left to wither and die. The other has no nose and both nipples sawn off. Both have deep, raw scars across their bodies and several broken bones. The Dark Priest has them both drugged to a point where the pain means nothing to them and they have only a tenuous grasp on reality. If release from their bonds, they have no concept of survival or saving themselves – roll 1d6, 1-3: the survivor attacks the character, 4-5: the survivor collapses in a heap and lapses into a coma, 6: the survivors starts to attack the hideous Canker.
The tank contains a horrible experiment of mutilation, murder and dark magic, a tortured creature constructed from body parts and netherworld otherness. When the character enters the room, the content of the tank seems like nothing more than a container of loose gore. As the characters enters the room and interacts with the content of the room, the blood and ooze in the tank begins to slop out, puddles forming on the slab beneath. If the character disturbs the prisoners or releases one, the noise and movement will suffice to agitate the Canker to over-excitement. On a 1d6 roll of 5-6, the Canker shatters the container and attacks. A disturbed survivor attacking the monstrosity will cause the tank to break automatically.
If the character defeats the Dark Priest before coming into this room, the enchantment on the Canker dissipates and it goes ‘wild’, breaking free of the tank with a loud crash of glass audible throughout the whole cave. Once free, it attacks the manacled bodies, before bursting through the door – a roiling, pulsing barrel of sinew, flesh and gristle with thrashing tentacles of glistening muscle, all slick with gore.
Searching the room a character will find several Knives (S), a Power Drill (P), and several bottles of drugs without labels. The knives can be used as weapons with no adjustment to skill and causing 2 STAMINA damage on a successful hit. The power drill used as a weapon adjusts SKILL -1, but will cause 3 STAMINA damage on a successful hit. The drugs have a sedative and narcotic effect, and need to be administered by ingestion.
DAMAGE: Roll 1d6, 1-2: 2 STAMINA bite, 3-6: 1 STAMINA scratch
Wretched, emasculated victim motivated by drug-crazed hostility.
DAMAGE: Roll 1d6, 1: 1 STAMINA scratch, 2-4: 2 STAMINA bite, 5-6: 3 STAMINA thrash
TYPE: Undead (mindless)
Diseased mass of flesh and tentacles
“A strong smell of incense sweeps out of the room. A dull throb of music comes from a muffled speaker lying on the floor, surrounded by leather bound books and fat, yellow candles. A figure dressed in black leather harnesses, spikes and latex, kneels in the middle of the room. As you enter, the figure looks up and pale eyes glare through the holes in a mask depicting some otherworldly creature of fire and pain. ‘Get back in your f*cking pit, you f*cker. I’m going to rip out your f*cking guts you filthy piece of sh*t’. He growls, spittle hanging in strings from the base of his mask, and pulls a thick-bladed machete from his belt. Around his neck, you see a key dangling on a chain.”
Light Source: A dozen or more candles, all made from rendered human and animal fat, giving the air in the room in a sickening stench, thus the incense. The lighting flickers and threatens to blow out completely if anyone leaves the door into Room 3 open. Careless movement or combat may cause the candles to fall over and set fire to the books and bits of rug scattered on the floor.
The Dark Priest wears sadomasochistic clothes and piercings. He hisses and growls throughout the rest of the encounter, swearing and demeaning the character for showing any effort to survive. The man clearly feels the character has no right to live, no right to even be considered anything more than meat. He has worked horrible dark magic to create the Canker in room 4, and has murdered time and time again over the space of several months. He kills to fuel his own depraved and twisted desires, keeping a few unlucky individuals alive as ‘donors’ for his experiments.
DAMAGE: Roll 1d6, 1: 1 STAMINA slash, 2-4: 2 STAMINA deep cut, 5-6: 3 STAMINA gouge
ARMOUR: Roll 1d6, 1-4: no benefit, 5-6: reduces damage by 1 STAMINA
The key on the chain around his neck unlocks the stone door into room 6.
“You heave the stone door aside and take a deep shuddering breath. A small cave shelters several boxes of food, fuel and other supplies from the weather. A bracingly cold winds rushes in, but serves as a blessed reminder you’re still alive. You take a long, cleansing breath, then step out into the open to find an unattended SUV waiting with a key in the ignition. A track leads away to civilisation and somewhere in the distance you hear the faintest sound of ordinary existence.”
“You have survived…”
Reading, Gaming, Challenging
I have been really falling behind on my reading this year. Well, actually, I have been really falling behind on logging my reading this year.
I have been using Goodreads.com for the last two years to manage my reading challenge, and this year is no different. However, this year a third of my target relates to gaming books, and many of the older ones I really want to read don’t have a barcode and/or don’t have an entry on the website. I have occasionally added books to the site before now, but I don’t really want to get into the habit of it. It takes time and effort, and if I add something that someone else never ever reads, what was the point?
I might have an easier time of it now that Goodreads.com has made an agreement with Amazon to link into their book data, but older books still might not appear. I have history and gaming books without ISBN codes, and no wish to become an unpaid cataloguer for anyone.
I might opt for spoofing books with comparable reads. Maybe I can find a book of comparable page count and pretend I read that instead, just to keep up with the challenge? Or, I could get over myself and do the cataloguing. Better yet, do away with a website challenge count and just read the pile of books I have waiting for me without getting all bothered about keeping a precise count.
I have continued to enjoy expanding my reading, especially with the addition of gaming books in the pile. Over the weekend I read a game I purchased in 2009. I doubt that’s the oldest unread gaming book I have in my possession. In this instance, I bought Warhammer Fantasy Role Play 3rd Edition on release, at considerable expense. I started reading, but got waylaid and never went back. Now that I have read it, I regret leaving it so long, as I really quite like the mechanics and I’m familiar with the background. With the reading done, I have started playing a game with my wife and kids.
That’s good, valuable reading effort.
Scrabbling in the Dark
I have been looking for a simple D&D-style game to use for a dungeon bash, and had Microlite in mind for a while. Then I stumbled across TileHack. Boy, people will wish I hadn’t. Essentially, TileHack takes the meagre scraping left of D&D that you’ll find if you really break it down to ultra-basics, then uses Scrabble tiles and the words you create with them as an alternative to a twenty-sided dice.
Bam! I’m sold.
Players have an Action Pool, a Dodge Pool and a communal Party Pool. To complete tasks they create words from the appropriate pool or combo of pools. If you make a word and it’s relevant to the activity, you get a bonus. So, if you want to go somewhere in a stealthy fashion, spelling out CREEP, SNEAK or SHADOW will be more beneficial than COW or ERA. When you fight someone, the value of your word forms a substantial part of your combat damage, while the words for spells determine their damage potential or difficulty number to resist. The Dodge pool only refreshes at the end of combat and provides extra letters to improve your chance to avoid damage.
I haven’t even run (or played) the game, and I have an inkling to allow players to support each other by letting someone get a single tile from another player’s pool – providing they can role play how they offer the support. Heck, maybe a wizard casting a ritual could get a tile from more than one player. Of course, I wouldn’t make an adjustment like this until I’d played the game as written a couple of times to see if it warranted making the change.
Conversely, the game allows a crafty GM to throw in traps and adversaries that complicate the wordcraft and either remove, restrict or temporarily render inaccessible certain tiles or letters. Maybe a DARK room temporarily removes the letters D, A, R and K from the player’s available pools, or players might only overcome a puzzling SPHINX if they can come up with words that begin with one of those letters? A common Kobold has a Letter Thief special ability that allows him to steal a tile from a player’s action pool.
In a nostalgic corner of my brain, I think about the classic UK children’s TV series ‘Knightmare‘, where spelling cast literally meant spelling out the name of the spell, one letter at a time.
TileHack seems to have the simplicity of the Microlite20 format with the added edutainment value of a word game. My family, at least, would benefit from playing something easy to pick up and taxing on their vocabulary. Creativity in wordplay makes for an interesting balance between quick win short words or head-scratching to come up with something a little more impressive. You can opt to ‘fumble’ and refresh your whole Action Pool, but is it worth the risk? There’s only one way to find out…