Tuesday, November 21, 2017

AS&SH: New Roll20 Campagin

We're taking a break from MCC and beginning a new campaign with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  I backed the kickstarter for the second edition last year.  At the time, I knew nothing of the game, but I loved the idea of a setting based on the works of HP Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith, and the artwork looked great, so I figured I'd mine it for ideas at the very least.  Last June at NTRPG con, I had the opportunity to play the game in Chainsaw's Lost Treasure of Atlantis dungeon and loved it, so I promptly asked Jeff Talanian to upgrade my pledge from pdf level to the hardback.  The kickstarter delivered the pdfs in September, only a few weeks behind the original projected date, which is a huge win as far as kickstarters go.  Books began delivering in October, and although I haven't received mine yet (Jeff is hand signing each one in backer order, and I'm backer #853 of 897), the pictures folks have been sharing on the G+ community are beautiful and the praise has been pretty universal.

Aside from my one game at NTRPG con, this is a completely new system to our group.  We had a session zero a couple weeks ago to go over character creation and run a quick skirmish to get everyone exposed to the combat rules.  My group loved the character class options, and although most of them have never played a descending AC system, combat went pretty smooth.

The Party

Badulf is a Kimmerian Shaman and follower of Krimmr.  With his draw poison and medicine man skills, he is the healer of the party.

Ingolf is a Viking Death Soldier.  He was a sailor on a longboat out of Vikland that was sank in a storm off of Brigand's Bay.

Hogsalt is a Kelt Berserker and follower of Yoon'Deh.  He is the strongest and fastest member of the party and a ferocious warrior in close combat.
Sheela is an Amazonian Ranger and follower of Artemis.  She is skilled in wilderness survival and in archery.

The Adventure

We began our campaign in the village of Swampgate, a setting described in the AS&SH Appendix.  The players met a rogue named Dunukar who told them that while traveling to Swampgate through the Fields of Vol, he'd run into a Kimmeri-Kelt hunting party and had to hide in a cave.  Exploring the cave, he found a large cavern with ancient altar, upon which was a grotesque toad-like idol.  The toad's great mouth was open and a massive gem could be seen inside.  Before he could take it, some terrible horror manifested out of the darkness - shapeless and convulsing, all mouths and teeth and bile.  He fled the cave empty-handed, but seeks companions to return and try to steel the gem from that abomination.

The adventurers set out from Swampgate, following the river to the northeast.  Dunukar told them it'd be a two-day trek along the borders of the Fields of Vol.  On the morning of the second day, they were ambushed by a group of hairy ape-men who attacked from high on a ridge overlooking the river, throwing stones down.  Sheela's keen senses spotted the ambush just in time, warning the party to prepare.  Sheela, Badulf, and Ingolf stayed below, firing arrows and quarrels up at the ape-men, while Dunukar ran up a nearby footpath to flank them.  Hogsalt, enraged by their cowardly attack, flew into a berserk fury and bounded straight up the steep ridge to crash into the ape-men.  The slaughter was quick.

Arriving at the cave, they lit torches and descended a damp and slimy tunnel.  The rough ground and sharp, narrow cuts made for slow travel through the cave system.  When they came upon a cave filled with refuse and rot, Sheela examined the floors and identified the tracks of giant rats.  She prepared the group for the rodents, and when a swarm rushed in, their readied shots quickly dispatched them.

Eventually they came to a massive, open cavern, where the ceiling rose up out of sight.  A loud buzzing announced an approaching swarm of stirges.  Dunukar had one attach itself to his neck and begin draining the blood from it, but Sheela rushed in with a whirlwind of dual hand-axes to cut it off him.  The rogue was shaken, but grateful for his life.

This cavern, he was sure, was where he'd found the altar.  Crossing to the far end, they found a raised section of cavern floor with a path rising up to it, upon which sat a large stone idol.  In a nearby alcove, Ingolf spied a few old straw beds and several empty bottles.  He warned the others that there might be other residents of this cave.  They examined the altar, observing the amphibious designs on its base, the grotesque idol rising over it.  The surface of the altar was concave, as a basin, and stained with blood.  Ingolf noticed scraps of parchment scattered around the base, which examination showed partially described some evil rite to the god Xathoqqua.

As the others examined the idol, Hogsalt peered into the darkness of the ceiling above, just in time to see a glistening black ooze ebb and undulate above them.  The amorphous blob dropped to the cave floor beside them, convulsing to reveal dozens of mouths gleaming with fangs.  Dunukar made to grab for the star ruby out of the idol's mouth, but in his panic knocked it out and onto the cavern floor behind the idol.

Hogsalt, Ingolf, and Badulf rushed the mouthy abomination while Sheela leapt atop the altar, firing arrows at it.  Dunukar scrambled behind the altar searching for the gem.  The warriors quickly found their best strikes useless in cleaving the horror, and Hogsalt was bitten by two of its mouths with a half dozen more stretching open and seeking to rend his flesh.  Dropping down for the altar, Sheela spotted the gem and grabbed it up as the warriors called out a retreat.  The party scrambled away and jumped off the ledge, Dunukar nearly splitting his head open on the fall.  Behind them, the terrifying mass ebbed and shifted in a slow pursuit.  The adventurers retraced their path out of the cave as fast as they could, back into the safety of daylight.

The journey back to Swampgate was mercifully uneventful.  Sheela hunted for game and gathered berries which Badulf enchanted to help the party recover from their wounds.  Ingolf used his sorcery to confirm that the gem was not magical.  Back at Swampgate, Dunukar offered to take the gem to his contacts in the thieves' guild, but the adventurers did not trust the rogue with the gem out of their sight.  They were sure the village's general store would be unable to offer a worthy price on a gem of this size, so they decided to try to sell it to the wealthiest man in the village, town mayor Connar Nill.

At the mayor's manse, they impressed upon the guard the value of the gem and obtained a meeting with the mayor.  Regaling him with the tale of their exploits - although carefully omitting anything about possibly defiling an altar to a dreaded elder god - they were able to sell the gem for a fair price.  The mayor was also impressed with their heroics and mentioned he'd have some work for them soon, if interested.

For now, the adventurers return to the Swampgate Inn to rest and plan for their next adventure.

XP Total: 2306 (462 each)
Gold Total: 1400 (280 each)


We had a lot of fun with our first session of AS&SH.  The built in setting is a fantastic swords & sorcery world that feels ripe for adventure.  We ran four combat encounters and I felt like it ran smoothly.  The phase 1/phase 2 initiative system feels like it should be cumbersome, but instead it creates a flexibility that other systems lack.  There are so many combat options without feeling like too much crunch.  These are rules for covering the stuff players naturally want to try to do, rather than a bloated system of feats or moves.  It's only one session, but this might end up being my favorite combat system I've ran yet.

Another highlight for the system is the character classes.  Each character felt unique and useful and had moments to shine.  The ranger class's wilderness skills came in handy multiple times in the adventure, the berserker proved to be as frightening a combatant as you want that style of fighter to be, and the warlock and shaman both were effective support combatants with added arcane utility.  I think my players all enjoyed their roles and we look forward to the next adventure.

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