Almaric's Tale

I enjoyed it thoroughly and would love to hear more.

Did you give any thought to adjusting the rules a bit to make up for the fact that your hero is solo? That first battle almost ended this story before it began!

Or maybe your House Rules make a difference…

Sounds like the fellow needs a henchman or two! I too enjoyed reading this, though. Sorta makes me want to run something similar; been having trouble getting a full crew together recently, and ACKS works well with small parties anyway.

Some of my House Rules (posted in the House Rules section on these forums) are used specifically to aid in one-on-one games - particularly the addition of low-magic solutions like healing salves/poultices and first aid, that allow non-casters the chance to keep on going for a little while longer without making them unkillable.

Other than taking care to not run the players into anything of warband size, I consider everything else to be fair game. To me, it’s all about the story and if the story involves the hero getting his butt kicked because he didn’t go with ‘Plan B’ (run away!), then so be it. Luckily, my players know that’s how I roll so they don’t expect to get off lightly. I will cut them a break if I feel it will advance the story but death through a brain fart on their part is just… tough!

I’m sure Almaric would love a henchman.

Shame I’ve not made an effort to remind him that he can have one, muahahah!

Seriously though, he’s not been in a position yet where he can get any real long-term help. To be honest, I didn’t even expect him to buy a horse since most steel-swingers tend to blow all their starting cash on arms and armour. The amount of fast-foot shuffling I’ve had to do to incorporate that dang Osgar…

Apart from doing one-on-one single character games, I also run games where a single player runs an entire adventuring party, although those games take place in a specific area of my campaign world much removed from the ‘Known Lands’ where the regular and solo play games take place. Again, they’re fun because you don’t have to wait around for each individual character in the group to organise amongst the rest what he/she will be doing. The player gets to do most of the donkey work by sorting their actions and organising the turn, etc. I just apply the rules whilst taking them through the story. In a lot of instances, it’s so much easier than traditional play, especially as you don’t have to give an instant response as you would in a face-to-face tabletop game. You can consider their actions without any real time pressure and just concentrate on (hopefully) making the experience more fun for all involved.

Now if only all live gaming session could work that way…

Almaric’s Tale: Unfamiliar Surroundings

Slowly, a dark fog clears from your brain and your eyes focus.

You are in a large room and a roaring fire burns in a fireplace. You sit up on the couch and quickly realize you are in a tavern. A long bar sits opposite the fireplace and there are several tables scattered around the room. It must be late as no patrons share the room with you. The light of the full moon shines through the windows confirming your suspicions.

Reaching for your belt, you notice it is gone. Your gold, your weapons, your clothes, everything is missing. The fog in your brain is fading now but you can’t seem to recall how you came to this place. The last thing you can remember is that you were travelling to the borderlands village of Larm in search of adventure. The road was long and night had come upon you. A light in the distance gave you hope. The merchants you passed earlier in the day mentioned that a tavern lay ahead and you should arrive shortly after nightfall. Their definition of ‘shortly after nightfall’ is certainly not the same as yours, but regardless, it was not far off. Then there was a man asking for directions…

“Ho there,” says a gravel-filled voice. A thin, old man sits in the chair across from you. He passes you a mug filled with steaming tea. “Nasty little lump you got there. My man, Kel, found you on the road a short way back. Naked as the day you were born, I should say. Kel was coming back from his monthly supply run when he startled off your attackers. They heard him approaching and ran off, to the south and into the Greenwood. There were three of them. Kel couldn’t see much more, but he didn’t need light to see what they were doing.

Now, I have to figure that you normally don’t go traipsing about the world butt-naked like that, so that means bandits. And that, my friend, is something that I just can’t abide. There was a time when travelling the road was not so safe. Bandits of all kinds used the forest to hide out in. But the army cleared them out five years ago. I built this tavern here after that because I was sick of the city and the road was safe. If the bandits have returned, word will get out and my business will be ruined."

You ask him about Osgar, which elicits a briefly puzzled look until you clarify that Osgar is your horse.

"Ah. Kel didn’t see no horse around when he found you. Must be they’ve made off with him too.

As I see it, we have a common interest that needs solving. You have the look about you of an adventurer. I have met your kind before and I know your type well enough. I am sure they have stolen more than one thing that is dear to you, and they are trying to steal my dream.

I can equip you. More than one of your kind has left here in a drunken stupor, leaving the odd item here and there. I keep them in that trunk over there.” He points to a large, wooden chest near the window opposite the entry door.

“I can’t tell you if any of it is of particular use or value. Even though it was left here, it does not belong to me. I figure I’d best leave it alone in case the owner decides to come back and claim what is his. You won’t catch me on the wrong side of your type, no offence. But most of it has remained in the chest for years.

“Go ahead and take what you need. Dire times call for dire choices. Go back down the road to the east and look for a large rock on the south side of the road. There will be a spot of blood on it where your head paid a visit. Kel said that whatever happened, you must have fallen and hit your head on the rock. If you need to come here and rest, I will keep a room set aside. And when the bandits are dead, I think I may be able to offer you a small reward as well. Now good luck to you!”

[/OOC The following list includes all the items found in the chest. You can equip your character as you deem appropriate. Items removed from the chest should be removed from the list and cannot be replaced.

Chest Contents: Pack (empty), 50’ rope, oil flask (2), lantern, torch (5), tinderbox, large sack (2), pouch, quiver w/20 arrows, short bow, broad sword, longsword, short sword, dagger (2), club, mace, suit of chainmail, clothing, boots, shield, four pouches containing (what you assume to be) spell components. The tavern keeper will also supply food and water for three days.]

The GM giveth and the GM taketh away…

Almaric’s Tale - Notes

This is the post I sent to Almaric’s player explaining how the next set of adventures would be played and how they would differ from what he had experienced previously.

OK, so we’ve done some easy stuff so far just to get you into the swing of how things play. Now the fun begins…

If you want to return to the inn, you may do so at any time (to report back, rest, restock, heal, etc.) and I will count this as ‘civilisation’ and therefore award any new XP to you.

You will want to chart your character’s progress by mapping the adventure as you play. To make things a bit easier to track, I have broken the overall map down into sections that will be revealed as you move around and encounter different things and areas, etc. The map sections are labelled with a letter identifier (A, B, C, etc.). I would suggest taking a sheet of A4 graph paper and use it landscape. I have knocked up an example of the kind of mapping I tend to use for these things and sent you a copy.

For most location encounters, I will provide you with that area’s map section. You can add it to your map at that time. Generally, you will only receive one map section to add to your map at a time, although there are some locations that include two or more map sections and others are not complete until you move to another location within that same map section. Also, don’t assume that each of those blank areas will have something to go in there - I just needed a way to grid the overall map and encounters up into easy-to-track chunks! Hopefully it will make sense fully as we get into it…

Resting in the Field:
You may find it necessary to rest in the field rather than returning to the inn. If your character rests outdoors, I will roll for random encounters a total of three times - checks are at dusk, midnight and dawn. For the purposes of this adventure (you being solo, etc.), encountering wandering monsters during the rest period will not interfere with the benefits of resting (regaining hit points, etc.). I generally won’t be rolling for encounters during normal play, but there may be exceptions [/wink]

GM Note: The reduced chance of random encounters was to aid the fact that he would be on his own but still giving him the sense that it was the wilds and not a holiday park he was tromping about in. Some of my random encounter table results are not the traditional ‘1d4 Orcs’, etc. some of them are HINTS or tastes of other possible encounters - wolf calls in the night, rustling in the undergrowth, etc. I won’t include any of the map sections I sent since I’m not sure how these forums handle graphic attachments.

Almaric’s Tale: The hunt is on

“Thank you sir for your aid and hospitality and my thanks to Kel. My name is Almaric and you are?”

“Oh my, here I am, yammering away like one of my barmaids and forgot to even have the decency to give my name. I’m Hugo Barsh and this here is my pride and joy, The Travelling Man. Kel Biggins is my right hand around here, helps out in the bar, kitchens, stables, whatever needs doing, he can do it.”, this last comment seems to amuse him as he adds, “Or so he tells me. Anyway, I’ll be sure to pass along your thanks to him but I won’t be needing any thanks beyond you putting an end to those thieving villains and coming back all safe like.”

While they talk, Almaric equips himself from the innkeeper’s chest.

Since he does not appear any the worse for wear, as soon as he’s ready and with a last look back and salute to his host, Almaric strides out of the door and down the road in search of his ambushers… and more importantly Osgar and “Goblin-Cleaver”.

Moving down the road Almaric arrives at the spot of last night’s ambush.

[/OOC The Travelling Man is in area E and the ambush site was on the road at B]

A narrow path leads south from the road into the woods. The path, more a game trail than proper trail, is overgrown but not difficult to follow. The trees in the forest are large and the undergrowth is limited due to the all-encompassing canopy of trees.

Following the thin forest trail, Almaric quickly arrives at a small clearing.

The area is no more than 50’ wide at any point and it is covered with a layer of knee-high grass. The grass near the centre of the clearing has been trampled. Almaric quickly notices some of his stolen possessions are laying about the trampled area. There are four paths leading away from the clearing, including the one that leads back to the road and the inn.

[/OOC The clearing is area G.]

Almaric’s Tale - The Clearing

Crouching down outside the clearing, Almaric surveys the scene for signs of possible ambush - the collection of items lying in the open just too tempting to be innocent.

Removing his pack and hiding it in the undergrowth, Almaric starts to slowly skirt around the edge of the clearing - just inside the tree line - moving around to the east, all the time looking for bandits to shoot. Nothing leaps out or attacks him as he continues his traverse of the clearing’s perimeter. Finally, he arrives back at his starting point and, convinced that the area holds no (immediate) unpleasant surprises for him, he moves into the patch of trampled grass.

Scattered about the area, Almaric can see most of his more mundane items and equipment. His attackers were apparently selective and only took his weapons, armour, money and anything they felt they needed or was of value.

[/OOC At this time you can re-equip your character with any items from your character’s original inventory (prior to arriving at the Travelling Man) with the exception of the following: Weapons, Armour, Potions, Treasure (including jewellery, coins and gems) and any containers. All other items are in the area including rope, bandages, clothing, crowbar, etc. There is no sign of your saddle - or indeed, Osgar.]

Almaric’s Tale

Bundling all of the discarded equipment into a sack, Almaric returns to his hidden backpack and adds the sack to the concealed cache. Thinking that it might be be easier to travel unburdened, he leaves the bags and returns to the centre of the clearing.

Almaric spends a short while examining the ground for any tracks that might give him a clue as to the bandit’s direction. Apart from catching sight of one or two faded hoof-prints (that may or may not belong to his missing mount), there are sadly, just too many other tracks and spoor trampled throughout the area to tell him anything of use - other than this place has seen a fair amount of traffic.

Knowing that the general lay of the land puts the small river to the east and without any other means of tracking, Almaric decides to eliminate the smaller eastern region first before turning his attention elsewhere if needed.

Having lightened his load, Almaric is able to make better speed but since he is literally in ‘bandit country’, he elects to try and move as quietly as possible whilst staying alert for the sounds of voices. With a last look around the clearing, he sets off down the east path.

The path here is overgrown and very hard to follow. The gurgle of rushing water gives Almaric ample warning and as he moves through some thick scrub, he finds the path split by a quick-running stream. It is only about ten feet wide and it looks shallow. The stream bed is filled with gravel and small stretches of sand. Larger rocks and trees have created pools up and down the stream. The water runs off to the south. Looking to the south he can see a small trout break the water and snatch an insect that strayed too close to the surface. The path continues on the opposite side of the stream.

Almaric’s Tale - The Stream

Moving around the stream proves fairly difficult. The vegetation is thick at its banks and it is simply easier to walk in the water. The stream is generally less than a foot deep, apart from some pools that are no more than three feet deep. The water is very cold and Almaric’s investigation proves fruitless. Aside from spooking the occasional trout, he discovers nothing other than the fact this would be an excellent stream to fish.

[/OOC No map for this area because you chose to turn back early]

Almaric decides to abandon any progress further east across the stream and opts instead to return to the clearing in the west.

From the clearing he then strikes out south.

The path here is clear and there is very little undergrowth beneath the forest canopy. The trees, mostly 100-foot tall jack pines have dropped their needles for decades, creating a carpet of brown that is only disrupted by the occasional green fern. The path, which is well worn, is only distinguishable because it has formed a slight depression in the ground. Almaric’s keen eye catches a strange feature just off the path. The remnants of a campsite are clearly visible. A tent, mostly rotted and collapsed, is the most obvious feature. A ring of stones and empty hearth are also clearly evident. The fire pit is covered with several years of pine needles.

Almaric’s Tale - The Old Campsite

Almaric slowly approaches the old campsite, sword drawn and shield up. Carefully moving the remains of the tent flap to the side, he expects something to rush out at him. Sure enough. No sooner does he move the canvas to reveal the inside of the tent, when three monstrous black centipedes emerge and attack!

The centipedes are almost two feet long and black fluid drips from their fanged mouths.

[/OOC No surprise on either side, so it’s straight to initiative for round 1: Almaric (7+1)=8, Centipedes: #1 (20), #2 (9) and #3 (15).]

The foul creatures act with alarming quickness as they swarm around Almaric’s legs and between his feet, seeking to entwine them and trip him as they occasionally rear up and attempt to bite him.

[/OOC Centipede #1 attacks Almaric. Rolls (3) - Almaric’s AC (7) = -4. MISS
Centipede #2 attacks Almaric. Rolls (15) - Almaric’s AC (7) = 8. MISS
Centipede #3 attacks Almaric. Rolls (6) - Almaric’s AC (7) = -1. MISS]

The disgusting, wriggling critters fail to find a way through Almaric’s chainmail and he lashes out at them in retaliation.

[/OOC Almaric attacks (randomly /d3) centipede #3. He needs an 8+, he rolls (1) - ** (centipede AC) = MISS.]

Attacking fast-moving targets that are climbing your legs without doing yourself any harm proves trickier than Almaric thought it would be. He fails to land a blow worth noting.

The three creatures continue their harassment of Almaric whilst trying to sink their ichor-coated fangs in him…

Almaric’s Tale - Fighting the Black Centipedes - Round 2

[/OOC Initiatives: Almaric rolls (5+1)=6, Centipede #1 (17), Centipede #2 (12) and Centipede #3 (14)]

The three large insects continue their attacks on Almaric.

[/OOC Centipede #1 bites at Almaric, rolls (19) - Almaric’s AC(7) = 12. HIT!
Damage = 1 HP but now Almaric must make a save against the effect of the black venom.
Almaric needs a 14+ to save vs. Poison, he rolls (10) + 1(CON bonus) + 4(the venom is not a strong one) = 15. SUCCESS!

Centipede #3 attacks next, rolls (14) - Almaric’s AC(7) = 7. MISS
Finally, centipede #2 attacks, rolls (7) - Almaric’s AC(7) = 0. MISS]

Almaric wards off two of the three creatures, but one of them finds a way though his defences and manages a small bite on his leg. The wound is minor but he feels a momentary wave of cramps ripple through his muscles, he has no idea what could have happened if the venom were stronger but he suspects he doesn’t want to find out the hard way.

He realises that attacking the centipedes currently crawling on him without injuring himself is going to be awkward but it has to be done. Snapping his attention back to the creature that just bit him, Almaric swings his blade at it…

[/OOC Almaric attacks centipede #1. Needs an 8+, rolls (16) - **(centipede AC) = HIT!
Damage from longsword, (5) + STR mod.(2) + Fighter mod.(1) = 8 HP. KILLSHOT!]

…which reduces it to an exploded mess of red and black goo.

[/OOC Both the remaining centipedes are within range of his CLEAVE attack.
Cleaving sword swing at (random choice) centipede #2. Needs an 8+, rolls (10) - ** (centipede AC) = HIT!
Damage from longsword, (3) + STR mod.(2) + Fighter mod. (1) = 6 HP. DOUBLE-KILLSHOT!!]

His blade continues onwards and with well-honed reflexes, he finds another of the wriggling menaces. This one too is obliterated in a spray of ichor.

As it stands:
Almaric has lost 1 HP (now down to 8 HP)
Currently engaged in combat with 1 uninjured centipede.

Almaric’s Tale - Fighting the Black Centipedes - Round 3

[/OOC Initiative for this round: Almaric (8+1)=9. Centipede (18)
Because more than half of it’s group was slain in a single round, the centipede must make a MORALE check. It rolls, (10) - 1(it’s Morale mod.) - 2(for losing more than half its group) = 7. FIGHT ON]

Seemingly unaware of its companions demise, the centipede launches another attack at Almaric.

[/OOC Centipede attacks Almaric. Rolls, (17) - Almaric’s AC(7)=10. HIT (just)
Damage is 1 HP and again, Almaric must save vs. Poison.
Saves on a 14+, rolls (18) + 1(CON mod.) +4(weak venom) = 23. SUCCESS]

The centipede manages to get its tiny mandibles through some of the links in Almaric’s chain leggings and he again feels a slight scratch followed by the fleeting sense on muscle twinges that quickly shakes fades.

Bolstered by his smiting of the first two centipedes, Almaric swings at the remaining creature.

[/OOC Almaric’s sword attack: needs 8+, rolls(4) -**(centipede AC)=MISS]

This time, Almaric swings wide.

As it stands:
Almaric has lost another 1 HP (now down to 7 HP)
Currently engaged in combat with 1 uninjured centipede

Almaric’s Tale - Fighting the Black Centipedes - Round 4

[/OOC Initiative for this round: Almaric (16+1)=17. Centipede (9)]

Almaric continues to battle on.

[/OOC Almaric swings his sword at the centipede. Needs an 8+, rolls (11) - **(centipede’s AC) = HIT.
Damage from sword blow, (6) + 2(STR mod.) + 1(Fighter mod.) = 9 HP. KILL]

With a deft flick of his wrist, Almaric catches the wriggling centipede with the flat of his sword-blade and lofts it into the air. Even before the creature has a chance to try and right itself, his blade arcs out and arriving with a swish, ends its existence in a spray of sticky mess. Wiping his blade clean against the canvas of the tent, Almaric surveys the scene.

Having survived the attack of the black centipedes Almaric carefully inspects the decrepit tent. All it contains are a rotting bedroll and some other camp items, all decayed beyond use.

The fire pit has clearly not been used in several years. Moving the pine needles around with his sword tip, Almaric uncovers some fragments of bone. The bones are impossible to identify given their age and the fact that they were subject to fire. Otherwise, the pit is empty.

Deciding that there is nothing further of note here, Almaric turns his attention to the pathway east.

The path here is overgrown and hard to follow. Again, the gurgle of running water reaches Almaric’s ears before he clears the path. Emerging from some thick scrub, he discovers that the path is split by a quick-running stream. It is only about ten feet wide and it looks shallow. There is a pole embedded in the middle of the stream. The rotting remains of what looks like a bear head is impaled on the top of the pole.

Almaric’s Tale - The Bear’s Head

With the path being so overgrown, Almaric doubts that the bandits came this way but he’s too curious about who may have put the bear head on the pole.

After examining the immediate area and failing to find anything noteworthy, he carefully wades across the stream - checking the depth and his footing before moving.

Once on the other side, he continues along the path.

Following the path is not difficult in this area of the wood. The trees are large and very little undergrowth is present. Just ahead the path splits and Almaric is forced to make a decision.

Almaric’s Tale - The Encampment

Striking out north-east, Almaric expects to end up on the other side of the river that he didn’t cross earlier.

Always on the alert for any possible threats from wildlife, he presses on, relying on his senses to alert him of anything untoward.

[/OOC General perception check. Target is 18+, rolled (20) +INT mod.(1)=21. SUCCESS]

The smell of something cooking drifts through the wood. It is not something most people would describe as pleasant. As the trees open ahead, Almaric sees three figures hunched around a cooking fire. They appear to be orcs and they are cooking something on spits. The carcass of a bear hangs from a nearby tree.

Almaric determines that although he is now on the other side of the stream, he is a fair distance south of where he thought he would be. The woods are thick all around here and there is no discernibly easy way to progress any further north from here.

GM NOTE: The natural ‘20’ for his perception check gains Almaric’s player a bonus card (see my House Rules).

Almaric’s Tale - The Orc Encampment

Having never encountered Orcs on his own before, Almaric considers fighting three of them at once may be too much, especially since he is slightly injured. With this in mind, he attempts to quietly return to the stream without alerting the creatures.

Keeping a close eye on the Orcs, Almaric backs away, preparing to take full flight should the alarm be raised and they creatures show signs of persuit…

Luckily, the Orcs were oblivious to his approach, concentrating more on their culinary arts than on their surroundings. Almaric quietly fades back down the way he came and arrives back at the stream with the mounted bear’s head.

GM NOTE: The random bonus card is ‘Might’, +1 bonus to physical damage.

Almaric’s Tale - Back to the Bear Head

Almaric looks back the way he came, to the west and the clearing where his belongings await… but the new path to the south has piqued his curiosity.

Mindful that there are Orcs (and apparently bears) in the area, he moves as quietly as possible with his senses on high alert south down the new path.

The trail slowly descends into a hollow where the trees grow thicker and darker. Daylight struggles to break through the canopy of trees. Smaller scrub trees and brush threaten to overrun the trail until it finally emerges in a small clearing. A mound has been formed and dominates the area. Nothing grows on the mound and it is covered with small stones. A single entrance to the mound lies open.

Almaric’s Tale - The Mound

Mindful that he has no source of light with him, Almaric creeps up to the mound entrance - sword and shield ready - and listens for sounds of movement, whether it be orc or bear. Peering inside he decides that a light source is definitely needed as it is very dark within the mound and nothing is visible beyond a few feet.

After a few minutes spent listening intently at the entrance, Almaric has heard no sounds from within the mound. In fact, the area outside the mound is also oddly quiet. He decides to return to the clearing where his equipment is hidden.

Back at the clearing, Almaric checks on his cache of gear and is happy to find it all still exactly as he left it. He then takes stock of his options.

[/OOC: He has a MIGHT bonus available for use at any time.]

Almaric’s Tale - The Mound

Retrieving the previously hidden backpack, but leaving his recently recovered equipment hidden in the sack, Almaric returns to the oddly quiet mound.

After taking a moment to discern how sturdy the mound is, Almaric clambers up on to it to examine the stones and see if they from any sort of pattern. Moving about the area is a little unbalancing since the footing is uneven and difficult but after a complete search, all he is able to determine is that entire mound is maybe 45-50’ in diameter and rises to a height of around 15-20’. The stones on the top of the mound form a ring around the crown. What, if any, significance that may hold is lost to him. Beyond that, Almaric finds nothing of interest.

Returning to the ground, Almaric approaches the dark entrance. It is a little over 5’ wide and is only just tall enough for him to stand fully upright, though he may occasionally bump his head if not careful. Organising his gear, he lights a torch and leaving his weapons sheathed, slowly and quietly enters the mound.

Once inside, Almaric discovers a short corridor leading to a single chamber that he estimates makes up the entirety of the inside. There are no decorations on the walls of the tunnel or chamber. Facing him in the centre of the chamber, a skeleton sits silently upon a stone throne. It holds a longsword across its lap. Remnants of fur-based clothing cover the skeleton and a tarnished helmet obscures most of its head.

Near the entrance sit a pair of tall braziers.

[/OOC: He has a MIGHT bonus available for use at any time.]