Runequest Thursday #150 - A Savage North/ 100 Oddities Crossover!

Clint Staples

I just got back from a perilous trek to the wilds of Indiana and survived the Apoc-eclipse, to join the marauding horde of over 60,000 gamers and fans  that descended on GenCon like a viking fleet on an Irish monastery (only we gave them moneys for what we took - so, like, the crappiest viking fleet ever). It was an awesome time, with much gaming and the meeting of many fine folks (not least among them the staff of Chaosium, publishers of Runequest!), great travel, some rain, and excellent company!

While I was away, I missed posting the first Runequest Thursday since I began about three years ago. (sorry, decent wifi was an early victim of the Horde).  Today, I post the one I intended for last week.

Among the Runequest games I have been running over the last several years, is one set in the terrifically Hyborian Savage North (from D101 Games) setting. Recently, the hero, Aquila, an ex-patriot imperial sorcerer-knight, visited the cursed court of the King of Nordland, Hengulf Wulfing, called Beardless since he lost the battle of Ulford and surrendered the North to the Empire a decade and a half ago. Aquila learned that the King, in a fit of despair after the battle, had banished the priesthood of Stromgar from Nordland for failing his people in their time of greatest need. Finally, she discovered that only the reconsecration of the Nordhammer, ancestral weapon of the kings of Nordland, and sacred to Stromgar, could return the god to his people and perhaps break the King's curse.

There was only one problem. No one had succeeded in lifting the Nordhammer since the king had dropped it in the audience chamber and banished the priests so many years before.

Aquila would have to steal the hammer, if she could even lift it. And she wouldn't get a chance to try lifting it before the heist.

Well, to make a long story short, Aquila reasoned that using an Air elemental, Air and Storm being elemental energies sacred to Stromgar, gave her the best chance. So, while most were away from the palace at the summer fertility rites, she teleported to the side of the hammer, lifted it with a potent air elemental, and teleported to a wagon that her servant waiting outside of town.

It took little time for servants to notice the missing hammer and even the dullest courtier could hardly fail to suspect the visiting sorceress who had asked so many questions about the Nornhammer so recently.

The chase was on.

Search parties fanned out, then narrowed in on the fleeing thieves as then made their way north through the Forest of Wolves, to the ancient temple of Stromgar that Aquila hoped yet sheltered the banished priesthood. Some good ideas and some lucky rolls kept the wagon and its contents ahead of the pursuers, but could not shake them off the trail. Finally, as night fell, the searchers discovered the wagon track though the forest, and closed. Only Aquila's subtle magic and excellent bushcraft on the part of her servants prevented capture. Parties of searchers bedded down within a few dozen yards of the wagon with neither side of the chase the wiser until Aquila's group broke camp before dawn. An alert sentry heard the commotion, sounded an alarm and the chase began again.

Aquila's servants scattered each leading a horse, one taking the wagon, and Aquila, teleporting ahead with the Nordhammer, held in the airy grip of her elemental. The sorcerer leapt ahead in teleport jumps, losing not only her pursuers, but also her allies, until, exhausted, she collapsed in the shelter of a fallen tree, the sacred weapon of Stromgar lying in the loam beside her.

Some time later she woke, muzzily, some of her power returned to her, but with little sense of direction, location or how much time had passed. A sound to her left and she called up her elemental, whether to hurl away an attacker she had no wish to kill, or to carry the Nordhammer, she knew not. But it was her servant Thrain who had stumbled through the pursuit and into her. He had been knocked from his horse after leading a pair of king's men a merry chase and fled on food when they found the beast. Together, they knew no more of the fate of their companions. Reasoning that their chances of finding their friends was far lower than that of encountering their pursuers, they set out northward, knowing that each would make for the northern extent of the Wolfwood if they could.

So the air elemental carrying the Nordhammer, and Aquila and Thrain walking, they trudged through the northern forest, the distant howls of a wolfpack the only sound. At least for the time being, we had had enough chase music, so I decided to interject a change fo pace. Since Aquila was traveling through a Forest, I thought that 100 Oddities for an Enchanted Forest probably had numerous changes of pace that would be suitable. So I opened up my PDF (I did not yet possess the potentially even cooler Deck of 100 Oddities for an Enchanted Forest, which got here a few days afterward).

So after several miles of PC trekking, and a single d100 roll from me, they encountered An Odd Place in the Forest (which is to say #22 from Oddities for an Enchanted Forest!). Here is the entry:

A gleaming sword juts from a lightning-blasted oak stump in the middle of a clearing. The sword is magical and serves as bait for a fiendish trapdoor spider of great size. Anyone approaching the sword risks being entangled in the spider’s gossamer threads, which are so fine as to be almost invisible. Once these threads are disturbed, the giant spider bursts from its lair and attacks! There is doubtless more treasure concealed in the monster’s lair, which it has accrued over centuries of preying upon travelers through the forest.

 

I would like to mention at this point that I altered a thing or two about the encounter from the Oddities description. First of all, this technically was not an enchanted forest (see title of the Oddities book). But I decided to roll anyway, because there are a lot of great Oddities in there that can work for ANY forest, sometimes as is, sometimes with a little tweaking. I thought I might roll a few times until I came to one that worked, but as it happens, I got lucky first try. I did one other thing, because I was doing this in the middle of the adventure (a perfectly acceptable way to do things when using an Oddities title, which I mention in the introduction) and I did not want to look up or stat a new monster. So instead of looking up a giant spider for Runequest, I went with a monster that I knew, because I had worked it out a couple of years back in a bonus Runequest post: Oddities of Chaotic Mutation: Giant Chaotic Vinegaroon Runequestified (yes, Chaotic Mutation is another Oddities title we have in the works). In this instance, I stripped out some of the mutations and let 'er rip!

I also liked the picture of the whipscorpion that I had used for the post. The fact that vinegaroons do not make trapdoors like trapdoor spiders do, did not trouble me in the slightest.

(BACK to the Action!):

Aquila, even with the Nordhammer to lug around, could not resist the mystery before her, and quickly became entangled in the web. Thrain, a pace or two back, was luckier, such that when the demon whipscorpion surged from beneath its trapdoor, he escaped its notice as the monster attacked the sorcerer with long forelegs tipped with spines the size of swords.

Aquila called her elemental to bedevil the demon as she tried to break free of the webbing. The airy thing flitted here and there, swatting at the massive arthropod with little effect, but Aquila was able to draw her longsword and hurl a lightning bolt which blacked and whithered one of the beast's legs. Ignoring the elemental, it drove at its entangled target again, stabbing with its tines, only to be forced back by the parrying longsword and blasts of air from the elemental. Another rush, and its struck, driving a tine through the armor of the Sorcerer-knight and into her leg, even as she clove the carapace of its thorax. A spearthrust from Thrain opened a rent in the monster's abdomen and it scrambeled back into its lair, the trapdoor slamming with sufficient force to aid in loosening the web binding Aquila to the spot. Aquila sank to the ground, her leg-harness red from the thigh down, her leg pierced through and useless.

With the arachnodaemon cowering in its lair, Aquila has time, and a decision to make. With sorcery, she can heal herself. But does she want to see what is down in that lair enough to go down the sloping passage - or will she content herself with the sword that the daemon had used to bait its trap?

We will have to wait and see. But to while away your time til then, here is the version of the vinegaroon that I used.