On the road to Darkholme (again)
Now with Brenda the prize-winning cow in tow, along with our horse - that I insisted we named 'Glenda'. our journey to Darkholme continued.
We had stopped for the night in a tavern and taken a convenient corner spot in the bar when the unexpected occurred.
A disc of white light appeared on the floor close to us and began to expand. As the light on the floor grew, it pushed any object it touched away, creating a clear area. The disc continued expanding until was at a diameter of twelve feet, then the light rose up to the ceiling.
Within the twelve foot wide column of light, we could see the silhouetted outline of two figures, one of them seemed very large. The light then vanished and standing before us were Milo and Percival the demon.
The reaction from the tavern's other patrons was both predictable and instantaneous; they all fled the tavern screaming. We though, were not so easily perturbed.
Milo acquired a shandy and a warm pasty and sat himself down at our table while Percival looked on.
Milo explained that he needed us to complete a task for him.
But before he told us what he needed, he told us a tale.
A history lesson
A hundred years ago, Conrad the wizard, known as 'Conrad The Crazed' had begun a war with an individual called 'Oubilette The Forgotten' over an artefact called 'The Citrine Orb'. This war was prolonged and damaging.
Eventually, the knight 'Sir Scarbrough' was tasked with ending this conflict. He dealt with the situation by slaying Conrad The Crazed. The matter was closed, or so it seemed.
Conrad The Crazed had become a lich and was raising an army and planned to use it to invade the world.
Milo was going to a meeting and since we had so many of his items, he'd decided that we should resolve the threat.
Milo then explained that the only way to kill Conrad now, was to use the sword that killed him before.
We had to acquire Sir Scarbrough's sword 'Blight' and use it to dispatch Conrad. Milo supplied us with a map of the Scarbrough's family crypt, amusingly called 'The Crypt Of The Depraved Scarbrough Family'! The map showed the location of Blight within the crypt.
With that, Milo departed. He had left Percival with us, the demon could teleport us wherever we needed to go.
Since everyone here had fled in terror, we had Percival teleport us to the outskirts of an entirely different town, where no one would see him. Then we went shopping, since we knew that at some point or another we would be facing the undead, we bought some supplies, including garlic, salt, holy water and silvered weapons.
We were ready, or so we thought.
After Percival had teleported us, we found ourselves on the outskirts of the Scarbrough manor.
It was windy and raining, night was beginning to fall. In the failing light, we could see Scarbrough house, overgrown, decrepit and fallen into disrepair.
Adjacent to the house was the Scarbrough crypt, 'The Crypt OF The Depraved'. It was here that our quest took us... What could go wrong?
Entering the crypt
Upon arriving at the crypt, we were confronted by a set of double doors. Above the doors a plaque read, 'Enter freely and of your own will'.
Any attempt to open them was not only a failure, but it actually inflicted harm on whoever was attempting to open the doors?
Eventually a spell was used to open the doors, but when someone passed through, they took damage.
Further scrutiny revealed that a glyph of damaging had been scribed on the floor beneath the doors.
Beyond the doors, were stairs that led down into the darkness.
At the bottom of the stairs was another set of double doors, we went to open them and harm was inflicted on the person opening the door again! These doors also possessed a glyph of damaging. We dealt with the doors and pressed on.
Lord Edgar's tomb and the Book of Lies
Beyond the doors was a chamber, utterly dark and ominously silent, our map said this sizeable room contained the tomb of 'Lord Edgar' and something called 'The Book of Lies'? Both of which were in a large alcove along the north wall.
The chamber contained four pillars, beyond them was the alcove with the sarcophagus and beyond that was a plinth containing a closed book.
Approaching the book and in the flickering of our torchlight, we could see it was titled 'The Book of Helpful Hints'.
Egbert opened the book and immediately the sarcophagus opened and Lord Edgar appeared. He attacked, but not in the way we expected! He stared intently at Egbert and mesmerised him, Egbert turned and attacked me!
During the ensuing battle, we managed to wrestle Egbert free of Lord Edgar's influence and defeat him, he vanished in a puff of smoke.
During the battle, the sounds of encroaching wolves had been heard, most likely summoned by Lord Edgar. Egbert cunningly used a spell to lock a set of the double doors, keeping the wolves out.
We went to read the book again, but Lord Edgar appeared again! It turned out, he was some sort of vampire! A second battle ensued and we drove Lord Edgar away again. Quick as we could, we ran to his sarcophagus and threw it open. The dormant form of Lord Edgar was there - and we needed to stake him!
Unfortunately, stakes were an item we had not acquired during our shopping trip. One of the mages cast a hold spell on Lord Edgar after several tries, we managed to use a arrow shaft as a makeshift stake.
When staked through the heart, Lord Edgar gave a great scream and disintegrated into dust.
Searching the sarcophagus, we found a key.
Then we looked inside the book, it listed a series of hints.
- The pool of bile abhors the dark, burn it with fire to fulfil your desire.
- Pamela’s pets won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.
- Lady Elsbeth craves the light. Fear her embrace, not her bite.
- Ladies last!
It had not escaped our notice that the map labelled this book, The Book of Lies...
There was nothing else of importance here, so we headed towards the east exit. We found it was locked. Locked with four locks to be precise. Well, we had one key so far.
The Pool of Bile
Our maps showed, that to the west was 'The Pool Of Bile'.
The Book Of Helpful Hints said: 'The pool of bile abhors the dark, burn it with fire to fulfil your desire'.
Cautiously, we headed west and entered the chamber, in the torchlight we saw a pool in the centre of room.
As we moved in, we saw the 'pool' had eyes. The eyes immediately closed and the pool attacked with an acidic pseudopod.
We were about to attack the pool with fire, when we paused for a second, the helpful hint said, 'Burn it with fire to fulfil your desire.'
Was this good advice or bad? A helpful hint or a lie?
We had to put it to the test. The helpful hint said the pool would abhor the dark. So we decided to make it dark and see what happened.
After we extinguished our light, we were in total darkness, the creature still attacked and we were more vulnerable than before.
We lit our torch again and we saw that the creature eyes had been open and then it closed them again when the light appeared. It didn't abhor the dark, it preferred it!
This meant that the hints were lies!
After this, we pressed the battle and definitely did not use fire.
Our magical weapons and spells allowed us to destroy the creature. At the bottom of the pool was the second key.
Next, we turned south.
The map told us, 'Lady Elsbeth preferred to be buried standing.'.
The hint told us, 'Lady Elsbeth craves the light. Fear her embrace, not her bite.' going by our logic, this meant that she possibly feared the light and we should fear her bite more than her 'embrace'. This sounded like another vampire?
So we entered the chamber at the end of the southerly corridor.
It was smallish and square. In the centre of the room was some sort of square plate or tile, almost like a trapdoor. Each side of the plate had a lock on it.
Beyond the plate, on the southern wall was inscribed a poem of some sort.
- So now you know how all the folk on both sides of the weir,
- Lost lots of sheep and lots of sleep and lived in mortal fear,
- So drink the health of Scarbrough who kept the babes from harm,
- Saved cows and calves by making halves of that famous Scarbrough worm.
Some time was spent pondering what the meaning of it was. We had a suspicion that both sides of the weir might have been a reference to the conflict between Conrad and Oubilette?
We were quite unsure what the reference to Scarbrough worm was.
No doubt another key could be found beneath the plate, so we had no choice but to open it.
Urham cast Detect Magic and the plate and all four locks were protected by glyphs of harming!
Next Dispel Magic was cast on the plate, the glyphs vanished and with dazzling speed a snake sprang forth! A snake? I had expected a vampire, still we now knew what 'embrace' and 'bite' meant in context of a snake.
A Hold spell was cast on the snake - who must have been Lady Elsbeth and we attacked.
"Chop it in half!" Yelled Egbert, with reference to the line 'Saved cows and calves by making halves of that famous Scarbrough worm.' from the poem.
Randulf leapt forward and in typical barbarian manner, did just that and Lady Elsbeth was dispatched.
And so, the third key was found.
Little Pamela and her revolting collection
Our map showed that there was a further chamber to the north to explore and no doubt, the fourth and final key to find. The map stated, 'Little Pamela and her revolting collection.'.
The hint said, 'Pamela’s pets won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.'.
This might mean that we should attack Pamela's 'pets' upon first sight. We wondered what these pets or collection might be? My money was on spiders, or rats. That would be par for the course for this crypt!
We marched north, back past the Pool of Bile and into the northern corridor until we reached a door.
This door was barred and bolted - on this side. Meant to keep whatever was on the other side from coming through?
We girded our loins and gripped our weapons; the door was opened. There was only darkness ahead, and a set of stairs that led downwards.
Cautiously, we walked down until we reached a landing, a second set of stairs continued the downward journey. Pausing on the landing, we heard a child's laughter and a skittering sound, spiders perhaps?
Steeling ourselves, we continued. We arrived at the bottom, the chamber here was awash with insects - not spiders, but close enough. They covered the floor and coated the walls and ceiling.
There was little time to spare, the insect swarm was moving in to attack us. The insect were originating from within a coffin, coming out of the seams of the coffin.
Quickly we ran over to the coffin and flung it open. Inside was the corpse of a giggling little girl with her mouth wide open. Insects were spraying forth in a constant stream.
We struck the corpse a blow and more insects streamed from the wound. Randulf decapitated her and even more insects streamed out of her gaping neck! And all the time the ever-growing swarm was attacking us and we were in danger of being overwhelmed.
The mages used their Fly spells and I Used my Shield Of Flying to try to keep the swarm at bay. We desperately needed a change of tactic. So the mages used their Heal spells to close the wounds on the corpse and lessen the flow of insects. Then they used a spell to close the coffin. Meanwhile I rummaged around the insect-filled coffin and found the final key!
With that we fled! The furthest parts of the swarm had already reached past the door at the top of the stairs. Nevertheless, we closed, barred and bolted it shut again. Luckily for us, the insects that had gotten further than the door didn't prove too troublesome. And we had the fourth and final key. Onwards!
Silas, Otto, Amelia and Adelinde
For the room beyond the east door, the maps said, 'Silas, Otto, Amelia and Adelinde.' and showed four sarcophagi.
The hint said, 'Ladies last.'. We surmised it must have meant 'ladies first'.
The four keys fitted into the four locks on the door to the east and we opened it up. On the other side was a large chamber that, as expected, contained four sarcophagi. On the map there was a secret door clearly marked out along the north wall, but we couldn't find it, no matter how much we looked.
So back to the sarcophagi and avoiding the glyph of damage close by, we decided to open Adelinde's sarcophagus first.
As we did this, the other three sarcophagi opened and unimaginably loud screaming started coming from all of them.
Randulf savagely staked Adelinde through the heart. She disintegrated into vapour which flew into the north wall. Cracks appeared in that part of the wall. We knew what we had to do.
Meanwhile the screaming had grown in intensity, so much in fact that we took damage.
Next we staked Amelia and again her vapour-remains caused more cracks to appear in the north wall..
Then we staked Otto and finally Silas. When Silas had been dispatched, the cracks in the wall shattered and way north was revealed!
In all this time, their screaming had been damaging us. Our encounter with the insects earlier had left us all in a bad way and it nearly killed Egbert and I! It was a close call, but both of us survived.
The sword Blight and other curiosities
By now we were all on our last legs and we cautiously approached the passageway. The map showed a small room with a sarcophagus and said, 'The Sword Blight, and other curiosities.'. There was no helpful hint about the chamber.
We entered the room and searched it. We found:
- 'Blight', a magic sword that would give the wielder a bonus against Conrad. Swords were not Randulf's style, but he was the best sorted to use it, so we gave it to him.
- The hand of a statue that had been broken off.
- An extract torn out of a book.
-A handwritten note.
We left the crypt and found Percival. He returned us to the first village we had started at this morning for some well-deserved rest and to consider our next move.
In Darkest Warrens, an explanation
In Darkest Warrens a very light RPG, condensed into 2 pages or so.
PCs have 4 stats, each with an associated value. All tasks are assigned to one of these 4 stats. To succeed, all a player needs to do is roll equal to or above the value (So lower values are better.).
There are 5 professions, each profession grants a player a special ability that they can use once per combat
Magic is equally as simple and elegant. Magic users can cast each spell they know once per combat, but if they fail to cast it, they don't lose the spell and can try to cast it again (Until they succeed at it.).
I could write more, but it would probably end up longer than the actual rules.
Suffice to say that these rules are designed for quick 'pick-up-and-play' fun and not long term play.
So on with adventure and exploration!
Because of lockdown we're playing over Skype, a new experience for us.
The Sarbrough Family Crypt
The map came from Paths Peculiar. I left all the annotations on it for the players to ponder over.
Player handout #1
Lady Elsbeth's poem
“So now you know how all the folk on both sides of the weir,
Lost lots of sheep and lots of sleep and lived in mortal fear,
So drink the health of Scarbrough who kept the babes from harm
Saved cows and calves by making halves of that famous Scarbrough worm.”
This is taken from the lyrics (changed to include the Sccarbroughs) of the song The D'Ampton Worm from the 1988 film The Lair of the White Worm.
Player handout #2 A section torn from a book
This is a quote from 'The Song of Alan Bane' a story in issue #71 of Creepy Magazine (the first issue I ever saw) written by Gerry Boudreau and published in May 1975.
Creepy #71 with Ken Kelly's amazing cover depicting Alan Bane.
Player handout #3 A handwritten note
This is the first ever RPG clue I wrote. It accompanied my first ever dundeon, The Mansion of Mad Mage Milo, written in 1981.
It was fun to re-use some of my old ideas for these new adventures. As you've already seen, Milo appears here too. Less mad this time though.
Buy your own copy of In Darkest Warrens for not much money
These write-ups are taken from Three Spellcasters and a Dwarf