Some time ago, I ran BareBones Fantasy RPG for Irfan. The campaign is set in the default setting: the Keranak Kingdoms! Late afternoon yesterday, we continued the game with him playing the halfling spellcaster-warrior Jake Hastur and I running the human scholar-scout Finn Riverwyld. We stopped by sundown and resumed the game this morning.
Last time, Jake and Finn were commissioned by Duchess Lyla Keranak of Kingsbridge to look for her missing brother Captain Kane Keranak, or at the very least return his signet ring back to her. The duo travelled to the Island of Netharak where he was last seen. After having rested in Mr. Bonewall‘s house at the fishing port of Dronak, Jake and Finn geared up and set out northwest to where Kane was last seen headed.
The duo headed into the thick jungle.
By noon, Jake had almost wandered into a river with foul black water but Finn with his superior scouting skills stopped the faux pas. Then a large, slimy tentacle burst out of the water. They both hastily retreated toward separate directions, but the tentacle hunted after Finn, who promptly hid in thick bushes beside a fallen tree. Jake hid up a slope by tall trees and bushes. Before the tentacle found Finn, Jake cast a lightning bolt (29 from Offensive Strike 56%) that blew a hole midway down the tentacle, spilling its black blood.
Finn used the distraction to roll under the fallen tree trunk and scramble up the slope toward Jake. As the flailing tentacle smashed up nearby flora in pain looking for prey, Jake’s second lightning bolt hit, severing it where the bolt struck. The tentacle withdrew rapidly into the river. Finn thanked Jake as they resumed their journey.
They were halfway up a heavily-forested mountain when night fell. It was raining heavily. Jake cast a spell to push away the rainclouds away from the mountain. Finn set up their tent and a fire and began dinner.
The night passed by without incident.
After a breakfast of salted meat, Jake and Finn pressed on. They reached the peak by mid-morning. The top of the mountain consisted of thick clusters of tall bamboo. They spotted a town at the base of the mountain from a quick survey from the peak.
Noon had passed for several hours when they arrived at the small town which lay along a northwest-northeast road by the mountain. Jake wondered if they should purchase more supplies. Finn figured that they had at least nine more days of food. Instead, they bought weapons from the smithy. Jake purchased a new, shiny longsword and Finn bought a hefty maul.
They left the town in mid-afternoon hiked down the northwestern road toward the sea. They realised that they had forgotten to ask what the name of the town was. Oh well.
It was late when they set up camp and started making supper.
They woke up cold and in a thick mist, unable to see even 10 feet away. (Both failed Scout rolls.)
A large ferocious bear exploded out of the obscured jungle and descended upon Finn who was folding the tent. Jake (with the highest initiative) cast a lightning bolt spell but missed. The bear’s paws slashed Finn, tearing flesh and spraying blood (25 Body Points + 2 Damage Resistance – 23 Damage = 4 Body Points left!). The badly-wounded Finn swung his new maul but missed. Jake lunged and stabbed it with his new longsword (for 17 Damage). Angered, it turned toward him for vengeance, slapping him with its paw (causing 12 Damage). It was then that Finn leapt forward and struck the beast’s head with his maul (inflicting 13 Damage, completely depleting its Body Points) causing it to teeter and ultimately crash into the dirt no longer moving.
Jake tried to stop Finn’s bleeding with compresses and bandages.
They hobbled onward with Jake’s walking stick helping the wounded Finn to perambulate – and by late morning the mist began to clear.
They found themselves in the shadow of an abandoned ziggurat, carved out of black rock. Finn had no knowledge of the structure. There was a large sculpture of twisted faces grimacing out toward all directions at the peak. They decided to explore it, finding an entrance through thick bushes and roots. In a large abandoned central hall, they came across bodies of Keranak Guards. None of them were a captain.
From their condition, Finn ascertained that they had died not a month ago. Searching the corpses, they found 60 gold pieces, 3 vials of blue liquid, a ring with three tiny ruby stones, 100 feet of silken rope and a scroll.
The liquids were healing concoctions. They each swallowed a vial’s worth and the liquid’s imbued magicks coursed through their bodies, healing their injuries. Jake said, “We should save the third vial for later… in case we need it.”
Jake was about to slip the ring on when Finn asked, “Do you really want do that?” Jake thought it prudent to put the ring away and try it at a safer location.
The scroll displayed runes wrote that Captain Kane Keranak came to the Isle of Netharak to look for an unspeakable evil, a creature only known as Kul’Thoru. (Failing his Scholar roll with a -20 penalty) Finn had never heard of such a creature in his studies.
Fully refreshed by the potions, they left the abandoned structure and continued toward the sea.
At the end of the day they arrive at Balakor, the northernmost fishing village at the northwestern shore of the island. Halfling bartender with a Jheri curl haircut at the Crimson Whale Inn greeted them and asked Jake’s business. Jake told him of their quest to find someone. The halfling gregariously asked, “Who is it? What did he do? He stole from you? Is there a bounty on his head?”
When Jake was unable to reply, Finn stepped up and asked about “Kul’thoru”. Immediately the halfling’s demeanour shifted to that of anger and fear. He exclaimed, “Kul’thoru is a great and terrible evil. No good will come of anyone looking for it. Anyone who went looking for Kul’thoru never returns. Go back and tell whoever sent you that this person you are looking for is dead. Now get out of my inn, and get out of this town!”
Exploring the town a bit more, they found Darkstone Bed and Breakfast run by the dwarf Mrs. Darkstone. The B&B was carved out of an enormous boulder in the middle of Balakor. For five gold each, they rented rooms, with dinner and breakfast next morning. They rested until they were roused for dinner, which was turkey, bread, cheese, honey and a lot of vegetables. Finn ate heartily whilst Jake dined cautiously. After dinner, they both retired for the evening.
After a breakfast of omelette with mushrooms and chopped onions and bell peppers, they bade Mrs. Darkstone farewell, hiked toward the beach and headed north. They were beset by the sight, sound and smell of the sea. Fishing boats could be seen afar casting nets into the ocean. Finn gleefully named his new maul Bear Cruncher.
After some hours, the sand turned into jagged rocks. There was an old man sitting alone on the rocks with sun-dried skin and long white hair. He asked, “Going north? Hope you have a big funeral ready!” He was still laughing maniacally as Jake and Finn heaved themselves over the boulders. They skilfully scaled the rocks which over time transformed into a dangerous cliff face. (Both PCs roll DEX saves successfully.) Reaching the top, they both carefully treaded along the cliff edge until they discovered an intriguing location: a small cove hidden by heavy foliage.
Malodorous black water flowed out of a river into the sea from a dark cave cloaked by the cove. Jake led the climb down to the cove and discovered a sandy pathway along the waterline. There was an alcove, overgrown with vines. Several sword strokes upon the greenery revealed skeletons, manacled and long dead. On one of the skeletons, Jake spotted a broken sword with inlaid jewels on its grip and pommel. A large diamond with a zigzag emblem of a lightning bolt adorned the guard at the base of the blade. Finn (on a successful Scholar skill roll) recognised the broken weapon as the Elven Blade of Starspark. Legends said it was a powerful weapon from the Lost Elven Clades that could magnify the power of lightning and had been lost for hundreds of years.
How did it come to be here?
They pushed deeper into the foul-smelling cave following the river. Without warning, the river began rolling violently, the waves coming from downstream. Several moments later, a wall of seawater smashed into the cave from outside. Jake slipped and was about to be pulled out to sea when Finn reached out at caught his hand. The water subsided as quickly as it rushed it. Both adventurers were cold and dripping wet.
Torches alight, they discovered an adjoining cave by the river path and rushed in hastily with swords ready, forgetting to scout for danger. Thankfully it was empty.
Farther upriver, there is was a black, skin canoe tied to a rotting pier with a broken, unusable sword laying on its deck. Finn recognised it as a lizardman blade.
Shortly a foul wind blew from deep within the cave. They both were compelled to vomit, but their hardy constitution prevented a disastrous upchuck. (Successful WIL saves.) They both had never experienced such an evil smell before.
As they travelled deeper and mulled over the lizardman blade, they turned right into a crowd of six lizardmen. Their senses had failed them! The lead lizardman drew his blade and hissed, “Intruders! Attack!” The others brandished their crude but lethal spears.
Note: The game was put on hold at this point. We resumed in the morning.
Jake stabbed one of the spear-armed lizardmen and killed it immediately (with a Warrior Melee: 21/35%, knocking off 12 from 10 of the lizardman’s Body Points). The lizardman leader swung its jagged sword at Jake but missed. Finn also failed to batter his assailants with his Bear Cruncher. Four spears were thrusted at Finn but easily parried the attack at that close a range. “Finn,” Jake yelled. “Lightning attack!” A jagged bolt of electrical energy sliced through the air, missing lizardmen and struck the wall on the far side of the cave. (Spellcaster: 77/56%, a failure.) Jake and Finn rolled their eyes. The lead lizardman lunged at Jake with his sword and failed again. Finn too failed a second maul swing and when the lizardmen quartet attacked him, he danced out of the way of their spears.
Then an idea hit Jake and he unsheathed the Starspark. “Magnifies electrical energy, eh?” he said before yelling, “Get out of the way, Finn!” Finn jumped clear as the magical electricity coursed through the broken, jeweled sword. An unbelievably large bolt of lightning lanced out from it. (Spellcaster: 99/56%, a critical failure.) It was difficult to control and hit the ceiling and the cave walls. Some of the Starspark’s energy discharge had also coiled back onto Jake, causing him some harm (4 Damage). Deadly rocks rained down upon them.
Jake and the lead lizardman sprinted out safely ahead of the rocky deluge but Finn was injured by a sharp stone. The remaining lizardmen did not make it out. (Collectively, a DEX save of 99/50, a critical failure.)
A three-way battle erupted. Finn swung Bear Cruncher but missed. (Warrior Melee: 65/35%) The lizardman, still focused on killing Jake succeeded in stabbing his side and drawing blood. (Warrior Melee 32/40% including a -10% penalty because of Jake’s DEX save. 15 Damage was inflicted, reducing Jake’s Body Points to a mere 4!) After a short scuffle, Jake said, “It’s payback time!” and a well-timed sword thrust stabbed the final lizardman in the heart, killing him immediately. (Warrior Melee 16/35% followed by a Damage 12, 2 points more than the lizardman possessed.)
Finn pointed to Jake’s injury and said, “You’re badly wounded. You need to drink the last vial of healing concoction.” A quick gulp and the magical potion rejuvenated his body and healed most of his wounds. (Rolling the 2D resulted in 8 Body Points, increasing Jake’s to 12.)
Jake illuminated the tunnel with Wizard’s Light as they went deeper along the underground river. Another cold wind blew from upriver bringing another wave of nausea. This time Finn lost his lunch.
The river became a waterfall, flowing down from a tunnel a hundred feet high up on the wall of the large cavern. There was no way to climb up. Jake tried throwing his grappling hook tied to the new silken rope, but he was not skilled enough. The exhausted Jake pored through his scrolls but also failed to find anything to help them. (Scholar 66/62% critical failure.) It must have already been evening, so they decided to hole up and camp.
Just as dinner was being fixed, no one noticed (Scout: 49/42% and 81/36% for Finn and Jake, respectively) that a hungry dire rat the size of a large dog had emerged from the shadows downstream. It shrieked and prepared to pounce on Jake. Jake (gained the highest INIT,) spun and sent a lightning bolt that opened up the rat’s rib cage like a melon. (Spellcaster 08/56%, Damage 7 onto 3 Body Points.)
After the duo has rested until morning (and regained 2 Body Points each), another wave of evil-smelling wind hit them. Again, Jake weathered it (04/54% WIL save) but Finn started vomiting blood (99/67% WIL save, a critical failure infliciting 3 Damage.) But when Finn studied his scrolls once more with rested eyes (Scholar 43/62%) that he was inspired to wade into the river and into the waterfall. He then yelled to Jake, “There are steps carved into the rock!”
After breaking camp, they both started up the steps. But Finn slipped, fell and badly injured himself. (88/52 DEX save, critical failure inflicting 10 Damage.)
Finn climbed back up with Jake’s help and wished to keep going, but Jake advised against it. (4 Body Points against a great unknown evil is pretty much a bad idea.) Jake would scout ahead alone and let him know if there was any danger ahead. Finn relented grudgingly.
It was a wide cavern with a low ceiling. The darkness continued past Jake’s Wizard’s Light spell. His bare foot touched something. (39/16% Scout skill check inclusive a -20% penalty) A piece of twine snapped. Jake was unable to avoid the roof collapse (Damage 5 resulting in 9 Body Points left!) It was then that he heard a loud thumping coming from the depth of the cavern. He quickly stood up, raised his hand and threw a deadly lightning bolt. The bolt struck the far wall and illuminated something horrifying.
A gigantic three-headed hydra was crawling slowly towards him. The blue-scaled serpentine creature roared, “Who dares intrude upon the home of Kul’Thoru? A halfling? Many greater folk have tried to kill me. All have failed.” There were dozens of skeletons still clad in their armour and clothing on the floor around the hydra. The creature bellowed as it crawled closer, “You will be but a light meal for me.”
Jake nocked an arrow, drew his longbow string and fired, missing Kul’thoru. (Warrior Ranged: 73/39% – oops!) The hydra laughed, “An arrow? You must be new at this!”
Throwing his bow to the ground, Jake loosed another bolt of lightning at the hydra. The sliver of energy struck the middle head which squealed and then went limp. (Spellcaster: 45/56%. Damage 18 to the hydra. Body Points reduced from 60 to 42.)
“That hurt!” roared Kul’thoru. “So will this!” He would be close enough to strike Jake in a second. That was when Jake unleashed the Starspark. Wielding it would certainly injure himself, but not using it would be his death. He hoped that the Starspark would be powerful enough to stop the hydra. He concentrated and cast the spell.
Bolts of lightning surged from his arm to the Starspark and arced back at him, singeing his clothes and hair. He was a living ball lightning for a moment. Then, he released the energy. A thick white bolt gushed out at Kul’thoru striking it, with smaller jagged forks running out from it to burning the walls, ceiling and floor of the cavern. Kul’thoru clamoured in rage and pain then exploded! (Spellcaster 92/56% but lucky reroll per encounter produces 06/56%, Damage 50, exceeding the hydra’s remaining 42 Body Points.)
An ancient elven magical blade that magnifies discharge of lightning energy
Skill use: Spellcaster (Example spell use: Offensive Strike – lightning bolt)
Damage to target: 3Dx2
Damage to user: 2D
Jake fell to his knees, then onto the steaming cave floor. The wounded Finn appeared from the mist and picked up his fallen friend.
(Using the Starspark to cast Offensive Strike inflicted 10 Damage on Jake, exceeding his remaining 9 Body Points. He could recover the negative Body Points with a STR save after the encounter, imbued with 1 Body Point. The STR save was 90/51% a failure. I allowed a lucky STR save reroll which resulted in a 66/51%. Alas.)
He was holding the halfling in his arms when Jake Hastur, valiant spellcaster-warrior died.
Finn searched the piles of skeletons and found the ring of Kane Keranak. The Captain had been slain here.
It took a day for Finn to drag Jake’s body down the waterfall, out to the jungle and back to Balakor. Soon the news that the valiant halfling Jake Hastur had slain the evil hydra Kul’thoru at the cost of his own life had spread throughout the village.
The people of Balakor were both elated and saddened by this. But none was more upset by Jake’s death than the halfling bartender of the Crimson Whale, Pnaus Ghikayu.
Messengers went to Dronak to inform Mr. Bonewall, who arrived several days later with a Keranak honour guard. After Finn handed him the Captain’s ring, Mr. Bonewall told him, “If you need anything, the Lady Lyla would be the first to offer her assistance.”
“Thank you,” said Finn. “But I do not believe I will be leaving this village. Balakor will be my home and in the memory of Jake Hastur, I will defend this region against any evil.”
As Mr. Bonewall and his contigent of guards saluted Finn Riverwyld and left Balakor leaving him his promised rewards, the town elders unveiled a newly-commissioned marble statue of Jake Hastur in the middle of town square. It glinted in the pink evening sky.