Rust Valley Chronicles
A low-point campaign.
In the arid Iron Hills southeast of Zareph, hardscrabble mining communities are multitudinous, some going back a thousand years or more. Rich deposits are coveted and protected by calloused and weary townfolk, and precious-metal-hunting bandit troupes add an ancillary industry.
One community, Rust Valley, home to four hundred human souls, is nestled in the cleft of three prominent foothills north of The Fangs. Dozens of mines, most abandoned, litter the countless canyons, chasms, edifices, slopes and valleys of the area.
Nevertheless, families have resided here for many generations. The spring water is tasty and reliable, ranching and farming and hunting adequate, and at least some local mines are moderately productive, producing iron and copper ore and the occasional ruby deposit.
This is your family home.
Any deviation from the below will require up to 50 points to be spent on Unusual Background, at the discretion of the GM.
You are a life-long human resident of Rust Valley. You have heard of magic but never seen it. Your skills are limited to those that are reasonable for a medieval mining community.
You are either a miner or a relative of a miner.
These are 80 point characters.
Define your name, age/gender and role in this small mountain community.
You have a unique value to be in this party - what is it?
You have minimum one Dependent -- a family member or other person for whom you are responsible for protecting. Spend the points and define him/her/them.
You may not have any primary attribute higher than 13.
You may take no more than -30 points in Disadvantages and -5 points in Quirks.
You may not take any Supernatural or Esoteric advantages or disadvantages. These are regular folk in a hard world.
"Free" traits on all characters (no need to document):
- You have an implied disadvantage of Wealth - Struggling.
- You have an implied skill of Area Knowledge (Rust Valley) at IQ level.
- Quirk-level Greed -- the poverty culture of the community values determination and acquisition.
Session 1 Prelude
Yesterday, two of you were moving rocks to improve access to a shaded alcove in the vicinity of three minimally productive silver mines. While taking an afternoon break, a man unexpectedly tumbled down the steep hill above and flopped at your feet.
He was exotic, with leather-colored skin, and serpentine purple tattoos. His gear was rugged, but made in a style you'd never seen, stylized and ornate. He was equipped with a long curved scabbard, but had no sword. His neck and face and hands were striped with some sort of pulsing toxin, and he struggled to maintain his composure through the pain and seizures he was evidently experiencing.
Just before he exhaled for the last time, the exotic stranger said, "Above the waterfall of flowers, there is a blackened edifice... behind that, the treasure... below...."
The stranger possessed a wrinkled map showing mountain ranges and cities far outside your familiarity. But Zareph and The Fangs you know, and it can only be wondered what local knowledge he acquired to identify the location of the treasure... which may soon be yours.
Boo and Mac are moving rocks near a mine above the village, when the stranger landed with a thump. After hearing his last words, they resolved to keep the secret between them and go back to town to attend to obligations before heading out to investigate the supposed treasure.
In the village, the menfolk are drinking an alcoholic concoction around the fire at sunset, like always.
Boo and Mac decide to recruit Dirk Dirksen, because he's easy to fool but inexplicably lucky. He's also indecisive, and says he needs to sleep on it, so the duo offers to leave a train of cairns to allow him to catch up.
A day later, Boo and Mac are high above the village and encounter a troop of bandits who hold them up. Penniless, they steal Mac's dagger and carry on.
The following day, they run into renegade miner Rose Tillot and her henchmen, Grzzt and Hubbardin. Mac flirts with the lovely redhead, and she invites him back to her camp, leaving Boo with the henchmen.
After a brief conversation, lovemaking commences, whereafter Rose sends a signal to Grzzt to dispatch Boo. Boo is uncooperative in this regard, entangles the enormous half-orc with his whip, and subsequently bashes him with his enormous yoke. Grrzt stays down, and the little mongrelman scampers off.
The foursome decide to join forces, and the next day hike further up into the foothills towards the 'waterfall of flowers', which Rose claims is a place she often skinny-dips.
They arrive at sunset the next day, and sure enough she strips and dives into the warm waters surrounded by lovely flowers and accompanied by the patter of a steaming waterfall. Boo joins her after Mac announces he's off to hunt some dinner. While he's away, Boo is treated to Rose's talents and graces as well -- a first for him.
After a restful night's sleep, the party awakens to discover there are what appears to be spiderwebs stretched across the little pond, including strands attached their blankets.
An Ally, and Disaster
Shortly after the battle, a hideous goat-woman named Swedgey scampers into camp, tears open one of the enormous spiders, and presents its dripping egg sac to her "new master", Boo. It seems she was a slave to an expedition of Easterners on a quest to raid the tomb of Ragnar, but their group was annihilated by "mountain soldiers", and she alone escaped. Wired for servitude, she has chosen Boo to dominate her.
A grouchy Rose is repulsed by the goat-creature, but likes the idea of being led to the site of the demise of the Easterners, and so the party treks higher into the mountains.
The next day, the party arrives at the scene. Scavengers have shredded the questers' remains, but a few choice items are plucked from the wreckage and the party carries on towards a dark cliff that Swedgey says is the site of the tomb.
During the climb, Boo takes a tumble and decides to take a long switchback instead. Swedgey joins him, leaving Mac and Rose to forge ahead across a rough slop of rocks.
Eventually the forward duo spot men with long spears hiding in the rocks above.
As Boo and Swedgey approach, singing like harmonious angels, Mac gives into to his impulsivity and stealthfully creeps up into the rocks above to assassinate one of the soldiers. A battle ensues, with Rose arriving just as a second soldier attacks. Boo charges up the hill to help and enters the fray. Crippling injuries are received, but the two strange soldiers are defeated.
Unfortunately, both Boo and Mac succumb to their injuries and fall unconscious after the battle.
Into the Breach We Go
- The clone-faced mountain warriors are able to regenerate mortal wounds, and so she has been dismembering the corpses and hurling the pieces off the cliff.
- The main entrance to Ragnar's Tomb is to the west, guarded by "too many" warriors.
- A crevasse to the east shows glints of gold within. She believes it to be treasure, and promises to lead the group there, in return for one extra share of the riches.
Reunited, the party makes their way to Rose's crevasse, and with some logistics and minor injuries, spelunkers their way into the tomb.
The crisply-hewn corridor leads to the frigid heart of the mountain, and the group dons winterwear, lights torches, and marches towards their fate.
They encounter desiccated elf corpses and loot the bodies for armor, weapons, and magic. They trigger painful traps whilst ripping ceremonial armor and weapons from racks on the wall.
And they encounter the ghostly wolf that caused the demise of the elves. With difficulty, it is defeated with bashes of lit torches.
Eventually, they reach Ragnar's burial tomb, where he and his sorceress queen lie in peace, flanked by giant iron automatons. Upon approach, magical torches sputter sparks and alight in blue flame.
The ghost of the queen issues a dire warning, but the group is undeterred and approaches, dispelling the illusion. As they begin looting the riches within the sarcophagi, the iron golems awaken, and a battle ensues. Rose, Dirk, and Karl provide support, while Boo and Mac do the brunt of the damage.
Boo is saved from dismemberment by his shield; Mac by his dexterity.
Eventually the giants are slain, and fabulous booty collected. The party has become rich.
Turn Left at Lefty
Astonished by their new-found baubles and jewels, Mac and Boo think of their families in Rust Valley, while Dirk complains of dire gastrointestinal distress, Rose's eyes sparkle with delight, and Bearded Karl and his cat Jerry are just pleased to be a part of the group. For her part, Swedgey is recovering from exhaustion and nearly ready to keep up with the group.
Then, a mild tremblor causes concern, and the faraway sound of falling rock is heard, triggering the locals' recollections of friends and family lost in collapsed mines. Loot is divvied (Rose chooses the map and the jewels) and the party hustles towards the exit, only to find the crevasse through which they entered to be now impassable.
At the main entrance to Ragnar's (and Estrid's) Tomb, five clone-faced mountain warriors await. Boo wreaks havoc, first with his whip, then his enormous war hammer. Mac hacks and stabs with his shortsword, and though he is stabbed in the legs repeatedly, survives the day thanks to Karl's healing talents. Eventually, the weird clones are defeated.
Bloodied and exhausted, the party descends from the entryway to a defensible position a short distance away, where they make use of their new Anklet of Refuge. After a couple hours, Mac and Boo's most grievous wounds are mostly healed, and Karl has regained his strength as well. Unfortunately, poor Dirk's stomach problems continue, despite Swedgey's attention.
At dusk the following day, as the party makes camp, Rose and Karl spot a wisp of smoke down-canyon a few miles. Mac volunteers (wearing his new Slippers of Stealth) to investigate, with Rose and Karl trailing behind for backup.
They arrive at a ledge overlooking a campfire, surrounded by some faces that are familiar to Mac.
- Lefty Laduke, boss-man of Rust Valley, gulping booze
- Red-bearded and clever Gregor, Lefty's "right hand"
- Strong-man Hagor
- Petite huntress Wren
- Slave boy Bok, tending fire
And a dark-skinned stranger with long black hair -- He looks as if he may come from the same land as did the tatooed stranger who told them of the treasure a week ago...
As Rose and Mac whisper their observations, Karl stands up and waves to the camp, introducing himself.
Lefty and his crew lurch to their feet, weapons drawn and on-guard.
Karl keeps talking, eventually divulging that Mac and Boo (who have been missing from work for a week) are camped a few miles back and have recently raided Ragnar's Tomb. His protestations of innocence and ignorance are undermined by his lack of guile and gregariousness, and a minute later, after trying to flee, he is stripped and tied up.
Rose and Mac slip away in the night and report back to Boo, and the remaining team quickly comes to the decision to bypass Rust Valley entirely en route to Zareph to seek the next chapter of their shared adventure. Dirk trudges along, his gut in turmoil.
They pack up and hike through the night (dragging poor Dirk along), traversing ridges westward to avoid their home community, finally camping (at sure-footed Swedgey's urging) in a defensible ring of boulders shortly before dawn.
As the sky blushes gray-pink an hour later, Boo awakes with a start.
Standing at the edge of camp, his 12' spear held straight up at attention, is one of the mountain warriors. He is staring, expressionless, at Boo.
Shocked, the party leaps to their feet, and soon assess that the warrior is obediently following... Boo. Because he possesses Ragnar's Crown.
After sending poor Dirk down a game trail that leads home, they spend the day descending out of the arid crags of their homeland and, near sunset, spot a cooking fire. Reconnaissance by Mac identifies 3 scruffy miners and a young woman in chains. The party decides to free her.
They sneak down and surround the miners' camp. After a brief confrontation, Mac hurls a hefty rock at one of them from behind, breaking the fellow's leg. Boo, too, breaks a miner's limb with his whip. Mac deals a grievous wound to the third, and the poor sods surrender. Cassandra, a slave-girl of 19, is freed, and soon is under Rose Tillot's competent wing.
The next day, in the sparsely-treed foothills above Zareph, the party encounters two groups of rough-looking miners. One is a smaller group that includes the knuckleheads with whom they tangled the previous evening, and the other is a group of several dozen, including terrifying ogres smashing rocks that are being carted out of a huge cave.
Late that day, the wagon-rutted trail the party's following opens up into a vast and dusty camp of hundreds of miners, smiths, and support services like supply tents, latrines, forges, brothels, distilleries and makeshift restaurants serving slabs of meat and stale bread. The party is set upon by pushy salesmen, and Rose, Cassandra, and Swedgey keep their heads down and hoods drawn.
Mac's impulsiveness gets the best of him and he registers to fight an ogre chained to a stump -- after agreeing to give Rose 40% of his prize for helping in any way she can...
Surrounding the ogres are a dozen rotting corpse, ravens plucking at soft bits. Boo inquires and learns that for 10x the fee, he and Mac can fight as a team.
Mac and Boo take terrible chances and get lucky several times. The ogre falls, big puncture wounds in his belly and head from Boo's warhammer.
The bloodthirsty crowd goes absolutely wild, and Boo and Mac are recruited to join a dozen violent causes.
Rose rolls her eyes and ushers the other females through the insanity. The silent (and now fly-covered) warrior walks silently along behind the group.
Once the boys extract themselves from the recruiters and catch up with the ladies, the group has entered Zareph proper, where three-story brick and stone buildings line sturdy streets and thriving commerce of all varieties seems downright frenetic. Rose knows exactly where she's going: Larae's, a complex of hot springs, public baths, bar/restaurant, various spa services, and of course a pleasure-professional for every predilection. She wisps young Cassandra away to get cleaned up and leaves the rest of the party to navigate the services themselves.
Live from Zareph
The boys and their cohort (Swedgey and the rotting mountain soldier, dubbed "Bob"), stop at the first inn they see, drop off NPCs, and go out on the street to experience the wonders of the city.
Mac navigates the duo to Smithy the Smith, a dwarven master armourer. After a brief tussle with a snooty nobleman and his manservants, negotiations begin for new defensive equipment. They also learn of the Dusty Rose, another tavern/inn where the "drinks are stronger and the women prettier".
A migration soon follows, but first, Darnell Armand tracks them down -- they killed his ogre and he wants to hire them to go get a new one. The duo considers it, until Rose Tillot shows up and reminds them of other priorities, like being near Rose Tillot.
The night proves eventful, with both Mac and Boo enjoying female companionship in the surprisingly exotic Dusty Rose.
The next day, Mac makes time to send an ornate box of silver pieces back to Grandma Moses, hoping the courier is trustworthy.
After a tour of the docks and picking up their new armor from Smithy, Mac and Boo return to encounter an apparent warrior-type who is seeking them out because 'his employers' are interested in Bob. The duo chooses to hide and keep the Crown of Ragnar, but allow the warrior and his 'burly boys' to remove Bob - piece by piece. "Bye, Bob", says Boo.
After getting cleaned up, they head back to Larae's, where Rose is in the process of seducing a lusty young bartender. She pauses her efforts to address Mac and Boo. She's lovely in a red ruffled tube top, shorts and high boots, and invites the boys on a treasure-seeking adventure to the south, in which they'd each earn a 25% share of the profits for their continued fearless loyalty.
The hillcountry lads jump at the chance, and Rose is pleased. The party will depart on a ship at dawn...
There Be Monsters
Rose collects the lads in a pale blue camisole, short-shorts, high boots, with throwing knives strapped to her bare thighs, Cassandra trailing behind in a green smock carrying a large leather bag. The docks are already bustling in the pink-orange light of dawn, and Rose soon locates Captain Jack Venture and his sloop, The Penetrator. Laughing and embracing like old friends, Rose and Jack barely acknowledge the rest of the party, nor the dozen thick-necked sailors on board.
The ship is underway shortly, Rose shacks up with Jack, and Boo and Mac share the other cabin with Cassandra. Swedgey, fearful of water, camps out in a dark corner of the cargo hold for the entire journey.
Jack seems an able (if arrogant) sailor and leader, providing curt-yet-polite banter with the lads, reserving most of his attention for Rose.
Over the next few days, the boys guard against unwanted affections aimed at Cassandra, and Mac makes it a point to observe and discuss the methods and materials of sailing men.
On the fourth day, the wind picks up and the Penetrator stabs towards a narrow channel between craggy mountains. Nearing the channel, a spotter cries out that a young man is waving them down from a hunk of a sunken ship. A rescue operation commences, and Deenus is brought on board, to Rose's great delight.
The boy tells of the loss of his father's fishing vessel yesterday, after an attack by a tentacled sea monster. His father and two brothers perished. Only Deenus survived. He is hungry and thirsty and grateful to be alive.
Hearing the story, Jack pales and retreats to his cabin.
The sailors begin debating turning around to avoid any monsters, but Rose shouts them back into focus and the journey south resumes while Rose goes below to confront Jack. Boo tags along and witnesses her withering criticisms of his weakness and cowardice.
Rose assumes control of the vessel, assigns a steersman and other organization details, and the party observes with admiration the towering peaks on the landward side.
Suddenly, the quick sloop lurches to a halt, causing crew and passengers to table across the deck. Enormous tentacles arise on all sides. The ship is captured, and four of the giant tentacles attack, throwing sailors off the deck and wreaking havoc. Boo and Mac are among those thrown into the sea, but not before doing grievous damage to multiple tentacles, Boo with his dagger and Mac with a flaming sword.
Eventually the beast is discouraged by their blades, and retreats. Rose, on deck with a short bow, assists her exhausted companions get back on board.
But then, the ship lurches again. Adrift for almost 30 seconds, the Penetrator has run aground on a rocky outcropping.
The remaining crew - Octavian and Marcus - conjecture that high tide could set them free, but it's no guarantee. Boo seeks out and finds a small rowboat - designed for four people, dangerous with more than 6.
Jack re-emerges from below, looking sallow. Rose and the lads confront him again, he withers further, and Boo and Mac hurl him overboard in disgust, to Rose's amusement and the crew's shock.
Discussions continue, but then Boo and Rose notice something on shore, 200 yards away. Nine giants, as tall as the trees, observing the party, pointing and discussing.
Then, they slip into waves and begin swimming towards the boat.
Rose, Cassandra, Deenus, Swedgey, Boo, and Mac board the little rowboat and begin rowing the opposite direction...