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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Dirty linen

In the spirit of intrepid explorers from Lewis and Clark to Henry Morton Stanley, lately I’ve been delving into that most alarming and hard-to-penetrate of realms, the past. And, sparing no blushes, I’ve unearthed this fragment from the back of my first published work, Mortal Combat, written with Steve Foster and published by Waynflete House, the company I set up with Nick Henfrey in 1979.

The Crypt of Lieberkuen really is a “dungeon bash” of the crudest sort. As my own games almost never involve dungeons, and certainly never of the random monsters-n-puzzles variety, it’s a little surprising to find something like this even among my juvenilia. I think the explanation must be along these lines:
Nick: “You’ll have to put in an adventure. People expect it these days in a new role-playing game.”
Dave: “That’s a whole other book. I’d have to explain the background, the politics, all that stuff.”
Nick: “Seeing as it goes to the printers next week, can’t you just do an underworld? You know, like the scenarios in White Dwarf.”
Dave: [sighs, grumbles, starts typing]
The scenario, such as it is, might best be consigned to the flames, but for a couple of points of mild interest. Anvil, the wizard mentioned here, was the character played by Mark “Min” Smith (below, looking ridiculously young) in my and Steve’s Empire of the Petal Throne campaign. The inspiration (if we can use that term) for the name came from the crypts of Lieberkühn, another name for certain intestinal glands. And – but no, that’s all.

Mortal Combat itself was an excellent game (largely the work of Steve Foster, not me) and it brought us to the attention of Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson at Games Workshop, who commissioned us to design an RPG called Adventure. So I was about to say there’s the silver lining, but come to think of it, we were never paid a penny and, just as Adventure was finished, GW got the UK RuneQuest licence so they didn’t need a role-playing game of their own. So let’s put this back in its box and never mention it again. I can only plead in my defence, M'lud, that I atoned for these early sins against creativity six years later by designing Dragon Warriors.

If you are looking for a good dungeon-type adventure, let me refer you back one year to Steve Foster's superb seasonal Legend scenario "Freeze Thy Blood Less Coldly". Yes, it's that time of the year again - nearly. Yo ho argh.
THE CRYPT OF LIEBERKUEN (scenario for Mortal Combat)

Background notes on the adventure:

While drinking in a tavern, the players learn of the knight Lieberkuen, an honourable & powerful nobleman who died a hundred years ago and whose wife, Karen (a great sorceress) had built for him a grand tomb with many treasures. She also stocked it with magical guardians of various kinds, to test the mettle and ingenuity of any trying to infiltrate the tomb.

Upon travelling to the tomb (a burial mound out on the moors), they discover the entrance and steps leading down deep into the ground...


Note that in a ten foot wide passageway, characters can fight two abreast, but greater crowding than this makes combat very difficult. Magicians casting spells can stand three abreast. A torch or lantern is needed per group of four people exploring unlit places. Torches burn for one hour; lanterns require refuelling. Torchlight has a range of no more than thirty feet, and counts as "poor light" for missile use (Section 3.093). Doors are usually five feet wide and made of wood banded with metal, or sometimes wholly of metal. If bolted or barred, they may take several kicks to break in (or even several axe-blows), and this alerts beings in the room beyond. Remember to take such things as the position of open doors, direction of spiral stairways, etc, into account during combat. During exploration of some fortress or tomb-complex, characters are assumed to move cautiously, and hence movement is reduced by 25 percent.

1. A stone blocking passage. Will take three men with picks an hour to break it up, assuming average strength. However, if players think to look, they will find a hidden lever which raises it into the tunnel roof.

2. Empty room lit by magical braziers which burn continually; if touched, the braziers flare up to attack the person doing this (treat as Flaming Hand spell). On the wall is this inscription:

The Crypt of Lieberkuen. Take both doors or neither.

Remember that only characters of Learning greater than 12 can read.

3. A Grave Gaunt. If the players get the significance of the inscription in room 2, they will split the party and the others will go around to attack the creature from behind. The Grave Gaunt is using a magic sword (+1).

4. Room with marble floor and velvet tapestries along the east and west walls. The room is lit by torches on the walls. At the table in the middle sits an old man flanked by two warriors. (The old man is A 0, D 0; 7 hp; 1st rank fighter-equivalent; no armour or weapons. The warriors are A 5, D 8; 12 hp; 1st rank fighters; chain-mail, shields, swords.)

The old man says to the characters: "If you wish to gamble, you may. Otherwise leave." He takes out three cups and a gem of obvious value, and places the gem under one of the cups. Those players not wishing to gamble may go through the south door. Although he has no real powers, the old man has an aura of tremendous power and authority.

He explains the deal. He will move the cups around. If the players can guess which cup the gem is under, they get it (it's worth 200 crowns); if not, he takes an item from them – probably a weapon. He will use sleight-of-hand to cheat, and only players of intelligence 15 up will spot this. (They can always attack him, of course. If willing to gamble at all, why not gamble on him being powerless?)

5. The old man's treasure-room (entrance hidden behind tapestries). Contains: 45 crowns, 200 florins, 3 nonmagical shortswords, a flask containing one draught of the Elixir of Bramullin, and an Amulet of Fidelity disguised to look like a Talisman of Norfengu - anyone putting it on after the death of the old man (the owner) will be both the new owner and the victim of the amulet, and thus will be reduced to a mindless automaton until the amulet is removed.

6. Room with three doors, of (looking from east to west) gold, silver and lead. Before the doors floats a ghostly figure which says: "There is a statement on each door, but only one is correct. One at a time, you must choose which door to go through."

The Ghost was a rank 7 fighter in life (A 10, D 12; 14 hp; sword), and if the players try to confer, it will first caution them, and then attack.

The inscriptions are:

GOLD door-- Your goal lies through this door.
SILVER door--Your goal does not lie through this door
LEAD door-- Your goal does not lie beyond the gold door


The Ghost will read these aloud for illiterate characters. The players should pass thru the central, silver door; the others each lead to a Gorgon!

7. Here the players will meet the magician Anvil, coming from the west tunnel. He is short (5' 2" tall) and powerfully built (Strength 19: damage bonus of +6), of 8th rank with A 13, D 13; 17 health points; chainmail, great helm, morning star, crossbow. He has Reaction Speed 15, Intelligence 13, Talent 15; 82 spellpoints; +2 on Physical and Evasion Saving Throws. He wears robes of black velvet, his helmet is silvered, and he has a potion (Essence of Air) in a flask at his belt. He will join a party rather than attack, but he is an untrustworthy ally and may turn on them later.

8. Empty room, except for the body of a goblin which burrowed in from elsewhere and was slain by Anvil.

9. An altar to the patron god (actually a minor demon) of the tomb, covered with treasure. There are 100 crowns, 300 florins, 2 gems, 6 items of jewellery and a scroll of type 6. If any of this is touched, the two giant urns (in the north-west and south-west corners, on either side of the door) burst open and a Revenant (fighter variety) steps from each. They will attack any attempting to steal the treasure.

10. At this intersection, a single torch burns in a bracket on the wall. By it lie 3 dead men, slain by arrows. (See 11.)

11. A party of two bowmen. They have left the torch at the intersection (10) and wait until characters step into the passageway to begin shooting. Since they have no lighted torches with them, return shots are unlikely to hit. Note that the range of torchlight is thirty feet, and they will wait until the players are this far from the torch on the wall before they begin to shoot. (The intelligent thing for the players to do, of course, is remove the torch from the bracket and take it with them.)

The bowmen are 3rd rank; A 7, D 7; 13 health points; hardened leather armour, long bows, swords, shields. One is a sorcerer (Intelligence 16; 15 spellpoints).

12. An iron key, suspended by three thin cords, hangs from the ceiling of this chamber. The key cannot be reached directly, as a sheet of unbreakable glass is interposed just above head height. The cords pass through hooks on the ceiling and down through tiny holes in the glass to empty suits of armour (in the north, south-west and south-east), to which they are tied. The key hangs above another hole, centrally located and just large enough for it to fall through. The locked door in the south has a prominent keyhole.

If an attempt is made to synchronize the cutting of the cords – which are quite thin – it will fail, and the key will swing to one side and fall onto the glass. The best course of action is to untie the cords and steadily lower the key through the hole.

13. The Crypt of Lieberkuen. In an open sarcophagus lies the remarkably well-preserved body of the knight Lieberkuen. He appears to be asleep rather than dead, but his heart is not beating and his body is cold. He wears full battle regalia: chainmail armour (including chainmail helmet) with white surcoat, and magical shield and sword (both +1). Over his form lies a white shroud with runes sewn into it in gold thread.

Anyone donning the shroud will begin to sink into the floor at the rate of three feet per round. If an attempt is made to grab him, he will be found to be intangible. If he removes the shroud, he will solidify in the floor and die. He will continue to sink down for a minute (thirty feet), and then emerge into a second chamber below the first, whereupon he may safely remove the shroud. (Note that the others will remain unaware of what is befalling him; the umpire should send them into another room while he explains the following to the player concerned.)

The chamber in which the player finds himself is unlit. Wan light can be seen from a tunnel to the south. If he follows this, the player will come to another room, where a ghost with the appearance of Lieberkuen confronts him, saying, "You show a bravery I admire, and I reward you with the gift of my earthly prison. Throw yourself into yon pool; no harm will befall you."

If the player jumps into the pool that the ghost indicates, he will find his soul transferred to Lieberkuen's body in the crypt above. He retains his own Reaction Speed, Intelligence, Learning and Talent; but his other characteristics become those of Lieberkuen's body: Strength, Constitution and Looks of 18 (health points thus 27) and all other characteristics of 14.

The other players should be called back in at this point and told that the body is climbing from its sarcophagus. However, it will take 1-3 rounds for the player who has undergone the metempsychosis to gain sufficient control of his new body to speak. If the players panic, they may attack and kill him before he can tell them of their mistake! (If the player concerned is wise, he will lie motionless in the sarcophagus at first, so as not to surprise his companions into such rash action. Note that if the players destroyed Lieberkuen's body before the soul transfer, then the unfortunate fellow who donned the shroud can only appeal to the Gods for help.)

6 comments:

  1. Min really looks like a Magyar there!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, I came across your site and wasn’t able to get an email address to contact you. Would you please consider adding a link to my website on your page. Please email me.

    Thanks!

    Joel Houston
    JHouston791@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Joel - the email address is there in the sidebar:
    contact Jamie: info@fabledlands.net
    Drop us a line!

    ReplyDelete
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