BW 1: Chapter One

An Old Friend

[Here’s the first volley! Let’s keep metagame stuff in square brackets and separated from the game text by dashes, like below. Read the introductory text, and let me know what you’d like to do. When asking for a test, feel free to explain valid FoRKs and request helping dice from NPCs. Also feel free to ask about obstacles. The standard test will be Ob 3. Oh! And as per the rules for starting artha (BW pp 73), give yourself 1 Fate pont.]

You’ve been robbing graves beneath the city for a few weeks now, though robbing and graves are both generous words. It’s mostly shuffling around the undercity, deciphering what you can of weathered and ancient symbols to uncover remains long forgotten. The last two baubles you pulled out of moldering bone piles has got your landlord happy until the rainy season, but not much else.

It’s warm and humid, a gray drizzle keeping your world enclosed in a dreamy mist. Perfect weather to slip into the undercity via the Tannerhog culvert, a massive archway of weather-smoothed stone. At the other end of the short tunnel, you spy a small party and immediately assume an inconspicuous stance. One man in front, two behind and carrying a large drooping load between them, all three sticking close to the wall. One of the bearers stumbles and knocks the load against stone.

“Gentle, Adefo!” admonishes a smooth, familiar voice, “She’s not to be bruised.”

A brutish voice answers, “How will she know our bruises from the ones she’s got? She’s addled toes to tits. Whither my berries if she can tell arse from mouth!”

The other bearer pipes in, shrill, “Arse or mouth’re the same to my—”

“Enough! One of you bugger the other if needs, but this fine lady of dreams must yet remain untouched by our calloused hands. Venal pins venereal in this night’s moral struggle.” A short pause, and then, “Elucidation: Madame Gally’ll cut you neck to stones if you so much as sniff the biddy’s wind. Hands off tonight, my friends.”

Why it’s Sam Mino! That greasy bastard’s still running warm bodies with the old crew. You remember the brute Adefo, but the shrill thug must be a new addition to your crew. Sam’s crew. The three (four) slip through the same ancient doorway you were planning to use tonight, disappearing into the undercity. You cautiously approach the old stone and, after a brief wait, push it slightly open. Those long-dead dwarves live on in their craftsmanship: The heavy stone glides open with only the faintest rasp. You can’t hear anyone beyond, but the sweet musk of opyon lingers about the undercity entrance. Now what would the Gaulliot’s, or at least the Madame, want with an opyon dreamer?

The rain picks up as dusk fades into night. The muddy rivulets have coalesced into a miniature river gliding around and past your feet, slipping down through the doorway and into the dead city beneath.

I quickly try and follow them in.  I like to keep tabs on the old crew, but the dreamer has me interested.  What would they want with her?  I don’t feel as bad about them kidnapping a dreamer, it’s better than a rich innocent girl.  I quietly grab the latch and try to open it slowly and a bit quieter than the rain fall outside.  In full chain mail and with my one hand reaching for my throwing dagger, it’s not impossible, but the ground is slicker than I thought. 

I catch the eye of an old bum half-sleeping in his own vomit.  A rat crawls out of his jack and starts pawing at his face.  I think he’s dead.  Hopefully he won’t cause a stir.  

[Inconspicuous B4 check, what would be the obstacle?]

[Inconspicuous is the ability to specifically hide in crowds, the skill here would be Stealthy. If you firmly believe that should have been a part of your character, feel free to rearrange your general skill points. Otherwise, it’s Beginner’s Luck versus Sam’s Observation, so use your Stealthy root stat and get one tick towards learning Stealthy (I updated your spreadsheet with skills and learning sheets). And it’s Ob 0. Seriously. He rolled for shit. Gimme your roll and I’ll narrate the result.]

[I’ll roll beginner’s luck. Cal is new to this type of crime, he usually let other guys sneak up on the people being kidnapped. Stealthy, 3,3,3,2!  No successes!  Btw- I’m writing this on the train with my BW books open. ]

[oops I have one more die, the root of stealthy is speed. I roll a … 6! One success!]

You slowly pull the door shut, your eyes taking only a moment to adjust from the waning sunlight to the soft cyan glow of the undercity.  A thousand miniature runes shine dimly from their own slight eldritch power, casting weird blue-tinged shadows. The rat paws again, turns glinting eyes towards you, and a deep voice grumbles out from beneath it.

“My little precious thing. Does it want a morsel?”

You flatten against the wall, knowing the man’s certainly seen you, hoping Sam and his thugs will not. The ruined man shifts a bit before a grimy hand appears, a pinch of something between its fingertips. The rat snatches and takes furtive nibbles. It studies you as intensely as the man ignores you.

Sam’s voice drifts away ahead and you push on. You glance once behind you before slipping quietly around a corner; the rat’s eyes shine like wicked stars in the gloom.

“… furthermore, as our escapades become troglodytic in fashion …”

You follow a handful of twists and turns, so far familiar to you. The group must just be around the next corner when Sam’s monologue halts. You steal towards the edge, cocking your head to listen.

“… and by which folly of nature’s design granted poor Thumbs a memory eidetic? Good Thumbs, kindly ponder these runes, mysterious to my brain and forever unfathomable to yours, and indicate which allow ingress?”

A pause, and then, “Damn your stones, man! You can name every constellation, every ship in our illustrious Fleet! All that dross must push away anything practical. Thumbs, remember the etchings Fyloss presented?”

Thumbs’ shrill voice comes next, “Shit, Sam, you should’ve just asked in the first place. They’re all right here.”

Another pause, longer than the last, followed by the whisper of grinding stone and footsteps. Then an abrupt silence. You cautiously peer around the corner. Nothing! A dead end!

I immediately run to the wall.  I examine the runes.  I try to figure out a way to make it open again, waiting for a few minutes to make sure Sam, Thumbs and whoever else is there aren’t waiting on the other side.

I also look at my feet and around for clues.  I make a quick glance behind me every so often to make sure the old man hasn’t followed me down.

[I’d like to use Symbology B2 to see if I can read them or figure out a way to open the doors]

[While trying to read the runes I’ll try to be prying the door open, possibly a Strength B6 check?]

[First make a Symbology test Ob 3 (remember the carefully rules p. 31, with carefully failure consequences being that if Sam is leaving the area beyond the door, they’ll be long gone/at their destination). Depending on what you want to do after that, it may lead into a linked test, where exceeding the obstacle gives you a +1D to the next test.]

[PS – After the Symbology test, you may get a chance to start learning Secret Doors-wise.]

[I’ll work carefully +1D for symbology.  1, 2, 1, 6.  That’s only 1 success!  I have a feeling they are long gone!]

You can pick out only a few runes, and none of relevance. You’ve squinted at the runes for long enough that the opyon musk is dissipating.

Some wet spots on the ground glint in the blue-green light, but none offer any clues beyond the obvious: That a secret passage lies hidden against one of these walls.

While you work, you’ve not seen nor heard any sign of the old man.

[Your Symbology is only B2 + 1D for carefully — that should just be three dice! No worries, don’t reroll or anything. Be sure to mark that off in the skill advancement doc! Now you can try Secret Doors-wise Ob 4 (I’ve already doubled the obstacle for beginner’s luck, and don’t forget that Perception dice are open) if you’d like to open it legitimately, or a Power test at Ob 6 (it’s dwarven stone construction). Also, don’t let me talk you into anything — if you want to do something else entirely, let me know!]

[Symbology advancement: 4D vs Ob 3 is Difficult. Secret Door-wise learning: Wises are Perception, so use your Perception for aptitude mark Secret Door-wise on your Learning sheet. And three successes? You were so close! I’m about to show you how failure can lead to success with complications.]

Your weeks spent grave robbing have paid off! Despite your inability to decipher the runes, you recognize a trio of similar symbols: Elven nobility if memory serves. You depress the raised cartouches in what you hope is the proper order. You nervously glance behind you one last time as you hear the familiar sound of grinding stone.

A man-sized peaked outline glows brighter and begins to rise softly into the ceiling. As it opens, you can see a yellow tinge to the rune-cast light beyond. Your experience tells you this is an older, or at least richer, section of the undercity.

You slip through into the room beyond and freeze as a sharp report blasts from inside the walls. There is a slight shudder and, whether by your mistake or the age of the hidden machinery, the secret door falls freely into the ground. It cracks nearly in two with a deafening crash, easily alerting anyone even remotely within earshot.

You cringe as you look around you: A small room inscribed with runes sharper and more sinister to your eyes, bathed in a yellowish-green. A single stone shelf shot juts out from one wall, holding a dry little heap. There is only one exit now: A stair descending down, deeper into the belly of the undercity.

[System-wise, you failed your roll, so the door opened but it blew your Let it Ride on Stealth. If you think it’s worh moving quietly, make another Stealth test. But before any of that, make a Perception test Ob 3. That’s 4D vs Ob 3 so a Difficult test as per BW p42.]

[Ok!  Let me make the perception roll.  5, 4, 4, 1.  Three successes! I’d like to make my stealth check again. Does it count towards another test?  I have to update my test sheet.]

I immediately drop to a crouch and try to move silently.

[Oh shit!  I roll stealth 1, 1, 1, 2, 3. That’s a terrible roll.]

I slip!  Badly!!!!

[At least you’re training up your Stealth! Yeah, it counts as another test. It was versus, and I rolled 3 successes. Through Let it Ride rules, you cannot make another Stealthy test unless circumstances change (either through my narration or your character’s actions).]

You hear cautious footsteps echoing faintly up from below. As you crab-walk to the top of the stair, you stumble on another heap below the shelf, sending a large iron ring over the top stair. The clanging echoes back up for a good dozen hearbeats, and then a bark of pain!

Peering down the stairs, you can see they spiral downward and disappear behind a central column. Half-hidden behind the column is a landing leading into a shadowy room.

Straining your ears, you can still hear footsteps approaching upwards, much slower than before.

Upon hearing the ringing I immediately draw a throwing dagger in my right hand and my regular dagger in my left (off-hand). I can see that I am about to be found out.  I freeze with my daggers poised.  I’m ready to shout, “It’s just me, your ol’ buddy Cal.” when the figure gets close enough.

 [Drawing the daggers is one of my instincts.]

The footsteps continue up the stair, slow and deliberate. They stop just out of sight, and you can see the tip of a blade poking out from behind the column. 

[Is this close enough for you to shout? Or do you want to wait a bit longer?]

As soon as I see the blade tip I shout, “It’s just me, your ol’ buddy Cal.”  I’m ready to throw a dagger the first sign of danger.


Zak Zak

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