Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Canoe Raid Target: Fortress Temple Complex

You will row to the fortress temple complex beyond the Mires of Exaltation.

You will pry their statues’ eyes off and cut out their ruby tongues.

Even in the heart of civilization there are those with eyes as savage as blue crystal, bodies cracked and graven like remote ranges of icy mountains.
Are you (choose or roll d6):

1 An amoral fisherman of the imperial periphery.
d6 Prowess die
Sea Kayak. Increase your Prowess to d12 in the Mires; treasure taken there is worth double, as you can heap it and everything around it into your own boat.

2 A relict noble of an exterminated house.
d8 Prowess die
Claims of ransom: If confronted by enemies, you can surrender, then make a Prowess check vs d8 to escape. If you fail you are subjected to the original situation and must roll normally.

3 An untouchable, nameless but not humble.
d8 Prowess die
Tanner: Roll at d12 against a sources of damage that cuts or pierces. Stop doing this after you reduce your Prowess for the first time.

4 A far foreign shipwrecked slaver who has become one with a culture of mangrove maroons.
d8 Prowess die
Starflanged bill-trident: Roll with Prowess d12 when fighting.

5 An indentured laborer driven to the coast by a pogrom.
d10 Prowess die
They left me nothing but my balls: No abilities. All Treasure is worth double.

6 A warrior monk whose order’s practices involve cultivating power rather than emulating a pacifist.
d8 Prowess die
Visions of Sacral Impunity: You may reroll each Reward check once if you so choose.

When you advance to a new stage, roll that stage’s Hazards and then its Rewards.
If you fail a Hazard but survive, you may move on unless otherwise noted.
If your Prowess is reduced below d4, you go into shock and die.

You may Retreat to the canoes at any time. When you decide to do so, roll on each preceding stage’s Hazards but not its Rewards.
If you reach the Coast, name your character and record your takings, assuming a Hazard result hasn’t informed you that something else will happen first. That will conclude the raid.

Once you begin your retreat, you cannot advance again.

The Coast

The shores crunch with skeletons as you beach your vessel, for captives have been laid in these sands. You go over the bank and into the mires.

The Mires

This is a place of opioid mosquitoes. The fortress monks have been known to lay here, their sodden skins drying under carpets of bloodsuckers, their guts devoured from beneath by gauging gharials. This is an easier self-sacrifice than immolation in leadmelt (moonshine from stone seepage), or a walk down the jadegorge.

There are underswamp conjoint-canoe dwellers here. They bring their ships together into underwater sanctuaries. They bear up weapons against you, scaleblades cut into krises from the backstripes of petrified dart frogs. They lay urchin mines of deadly poison, alembic organs and skin mantle that filters water into venomladen crystal. Outside of the trees and canoes there is no combat without all four of your limbs submerged in the mud-soil. Do not allow yourself to be cut or punctured here.

1 A vertical charge of miredwellers plunging frogblades through the bottom of your canoes. The raiders spearfish them and fight in the bloody grime, pulled down to drown or plunging splintered oars into submerged assailants. Roll your Prowess and a d6; you are trying to beat the d6. If you roll greater than or equal to the d6 result, you have succeeded. Lower, you’ve failed.
Success: You hurl a panacea strongbox into the head of an attacker, putting a deep ruby dent in his skull. Another man stabs at you from the water and you break his hand with a marlinspike, taking up his poison flesh-kris. Increase Prowess by one die size when fighting (e.g. from d8 to d10).
Fail: A man emerges from the surface of the water and strikes you with bolas of spiked pufferfish, envenoming you so that you feel and move like a seasick drunk. Reduce your Prowess by one step (e.g. from d8 to d6).

2 You are coated in opoid mosquitoes. Roll Prowess vs d4 to bring yourself to sweep off the ecstasy of pricks. If you fail, you are drained and injected reducing Prowess one step. When you come back this way, you will face this Hazard again, as part of you is inclined to let the mosquitoes land. 

3 Gauging gharials going mad from the prongs of death urchins break through the bottoms of canoes and open their mouths in shattering explosions of wood. Roll Prowess vs d6.
Success: You step on the head of a gauging gharial and manage a single brachiation that takes you to shore. You look back, gaping, and shake your head.
Failure: You take wooden shrapnel in your legs, made worse when a gauging gharial clamps down on your leg and twists. You grab a machete and consider sawing off your leg, but you plunge it into the gharial’s jaw muscle and tear your way free. Lose a level of Prowess.

4 You fight miredwellers in the branches of a watertree as urchinspikes gleam beneath. Roll Prowess vs d6.
Success: A warriors leaps at you and you drop onto your rear on the branch, grabbing his daggerstraps and falling backwards. You dump him headfirst in the urchin-laden water aikido-style while swinging beneath the branch by your legs like a gymnast, righting yourself on your rear again and standing up.
Failure: One of the fighters has a giant black axe of pure obsidian and he swings it into the thin branch on which you stand. The axe shatters but not before breaking the branch enough to dump you into the water. Lose a level of Prowess as the spikes dig into you with breathtaking depth, then roll Prowess vs d6 and repeat if you fail.

1 Sapphire-bodied parasites begin pushing their way into your flesh. Acquire as many as you can before you are burdened down or have your limbs locked together by the mutual magnetism of their mating rites, remove them by dangerous surgery when ensconced in civilization, a dying yearning treasure-laden parasite.
Decide how long you’ll remain and let them embed themselves in you.
You can take on up to 9 units of sapphire parasites.
For each, you gain 2☼ and have a 1/10 chance of dying under surgery after the raid.
You automatically take on 1.

2 A dead miredweller floats face-down and you take a witch bottle from where it’s strapped to his thigh. You drink deeply of the bottle, ignoring the hair and teeth inside. Its ichor is transformation.
1 Empowering: Go up one die size in Prowess.
2 Revelatory: Reroll any one result that comes up in the future.
3 Mutilating: Your appearance is so warped that you have a 1/10 chance of being murdered when you return to civilization. Roll after the raid if you escape.
4 All three of the above.

3 Moss in a morass of gold, unburied plunder. You make off with d4☼ in the feeding frenzy of raiders.

4 You break off crystal spines from death urchins. Gain 2☼, then decide if you’ll break off more. If you do, roll Prowess vs d6 up to 4 times. For each time, gain 2☼ and if you fail, lose a level of Prowess from envenoming. 

    If you advance with the raiders, move on to the Awnings.
    If you take your haul and depart, go back to the Coast and leave this raid.

The Awnings

Some live in the shadow of the monastery. Halfburied houses. Canvasine leaves in eternal rot. Old, communal rites.

They trade what comes from plots in the sunlight with those from abroad.

1 You corner a maiden in her home and she begins whispering a prayer to her household goddess, who turns her into a penanggalan. Her head rips itself free from her shoulders in a circular fountain of blood, dragging her guts through her empty neck, and she floats at you with tears streaming down her face, fangs growing as she opens her mouth. She will die in a few minutes.
Roll Prowess vs d8 to escape. If you fail she mauls you, sticking her fangs into you a dozen times on her way out the door and you lose a level of Prowess, numb and on fire, pouring blood. She sticks her fangs into the brains of several raiders before one manages to douse her in rotgut and set her afire, immolating the raider that was grappling with her in the process.

2 Monastic purveyance men are here garnishing the market. They come at you wielding jade godendags made from the tails of some creature.
You enter a brutal melee with them, darting in and striking at the backs of their heads. Roll Prowess vs d6. If you match or are successful, the monks are overwhelmed and can’t even escape, rolling around slowly in their blood as the raiders rain blows on them. If you fail, you are cracked across the temple with a steelstone godendag and lose a level of Prowess. You wake up concussed with a fractured skull after the surviving monks are driven off.

3 The almsvillagers breed cats with obsidian eyes, silver claws. Their scratch is madness, often death. One who survives will be made delicate and unwillingly perceptive. Their horns are made of lead and they rub them over everything and swish them in the water.
A silverclawed cat leaps into your arms, clawing the fuck out of you. Make a Prowess check against d4 to hurl it off before the claws run too deep.
Success: A raider swings a hollow kanabō and hits the spinning cat into a stream with a wap.
Fail: It rakes you all the way down as you pull it off you, filling your wounds with silver bacteria. Lose a level of Prowess, but you get to reroll your next Reward check if you choose.

4 There are giant trapdoor spiders in the autumn leaves. You step into a shallow pit and one leaps up and out at you like a giant hairy hand encompassing your vision.
Make a Prowess check vs d8.
Success: You grab its forelegs, screaming shrilly and holding the thing in place long enough for raiders to stick three or four polearms through it. 
Fail: Its fangs sink into your inner thigh, and then you are cut several times as horrified raiders rain bills and halberd through the creature. You stagger back with bizarre ichor in your wounds. Your bitten thigh swells up like a giant red raisin that soon weeps a slurry milk. Lose a level of Prowess.

1 You ransack houses and find spices, seeds, herbs of medicine worth 2d4☼.

2 You corner a merchant and do his pockets, finding gilded seashells, so fragile. Gain 3d4☼ but lose 1☼ every time you lose a level of Prowess.

3 Drovers. Riches are fed to oxen and smuggled through here. The beasts are sacrificed by the raiders, barbecuing them over mossy wood and pulling jewels out of their guts. Usually one would be left charred on the pyre with its bounty still within, but not with this group. Your cut is d8☼.

4 There are a deputation of people who live only as caravaners, world-ranging nomads. They trade with skindrinkers, the cyclorrhaphage lords and the ichthyarchy, so they have outlandish unguents and outré extracts for sale. They stand by indifferently while you plunder. If you barter, refer to the following options. If you gather a group of raiders and rush them, refer to what follows.
Pay 3☼ for a tiny mechanical dust-emitter containing fossil powder that will allow you to reroll a Reward result. If you still have this at the end of the raid, you can sell it for 2☼.
Pay 6☼ for a piece of wood-derived salt entrapping an electromagnetic array that, when crushed and gazed into, will allow you to reroll a Hazard result. If you still have this at the end of the raid, you can sell it for 4☼ (less valuable in civilization).

If you attack them they immediately throw handfuls of needles into the oncomers, which lodge themselves in the body and then grow in every direction at once, manifold stars of metal. 
Roll Prowess vs d10. If you succeed, you slide beneath the needles and begin striking the recoiling merchants as raiders writhe and scream on the muddy gravel. You slash and pommel them with the aid of the several more raiders until they are stiffening, disjointed blood-slick mannequins, and then you loot their carts.
You take 3d4☼ in silk of peridot and one viable use each of the fossil powder and wood salt. 
If you fail, darts become stars within you. Reduce your Prowess by d4 steps as you sprint away screaming. 

    If you proceed to the Temples, move to the next section.
    If you wish to depart this place, go back into the Mires and roll Hazard.

The Temples 

Lightning erupts from the stone of these mountains. The monks worship it.

They dwell in pillars in the heart of the mountain, each dressed in a crescent-lined harlequin of staircases spiraling down it like something being revealed. Bridges stretch between them like the flesh of a thing being pulled apart.

Beneath the temple is a place where stone rains and hardens, shaped in slopes and stalagmites, filling things in. The earth is unstable and fissure cracks run in complexes beneath like cities in revelation. They are inhabited and then they close.
Things grow in the steam vent with claws fixed on crevices. Their tails hang and grow sodden. The creatures are sedated via blowgun and their tails are harvested. In time they grow again.

The monks were once supported in largesse. They discovered war and overthrew their benefactors.

A pair of officials from a distant imperial philosopher claiming dominion here wait to be seen at the great entryway. A woman and a man.
She wears the madness of pure ideology, blinking relentlessly, her gaze fixing and re-fixing on the horizon every other moment as if entering a mental hyperspace and constantly pulling herself back in. She is sad, disjointed, ready to allow destruction.
His pain is constant, silent, written in his face. He ignores it. He speaks when he can. Assert, assert, assert. Wild-eyed. He cannot relent. He looks past something with great intensity.

The monks will fight at range. Their 6’ reedy arrows are the dried, hairless, stiffened legs of giant spiders. When you pull out such an arrow it will take a vast agglomeration of flesh with it, gripped and woven through by the arrowleg’s mycelium.

They have only one band of close-fighting zealots. They are retained for a single battle, in which they are expected to die. The battle is not regarded as having ended while enemies live; if one escapes, the warriors will pursue him to the ends of the earth and then commit ritual suicide when the deed is done. 
If the battle is won and all enemies taken on the field, the warriors will be gathered among the people, celebrated, and then sent off into the next world. 

The priest’s tower glows, a giant femur holding up the mountain. It is a place of power and it has never been conquered. It is dangerous even for the monks. Periodically the waters cascade into it from above, drowning and draining out those within. None can say when the waters will come; praying here is devotion and devotio. The priest cannot be drowned.

1 You fight a running battle with the monks; you fire your blowgun and they launch their thin, bony arrows at you. A raider is struck and his companion tries to pull it out, given that the arrows don’t appear to have arrowheads. Muscle is pulled out of the man’s body for feet around the wound and his bones are visibly displaced. His companion falls back screaming and pushes the wounded man over a ledge with his feet. 
Roll Prowess vs d8.
Success: Your mighty lungs send deadly dart after deadly dart into the monks. Eventually the survivors break off the attack despite the perfect cover provided by their gasifying dead companions.
Failure: You are shot in the leg with a spiderbone arrow, and you wisely break it off. However, the mycelium tightens and tightens inside your thigh. Lose one level of Prowess as you are permanently stiffened.

2 Your raiding party fights with the death zealots. They leap onto your bridge from above; some break their legs, most don’t. The latter are on you in a heartbeat. Roll Prowess vs d8. 
Success: The zealots are furious but inexperienced in actual combat. One rushes up to you, screaming, but hesitates with his spiral-bodied steel polearm held before him. You reach in, pick him up by his belt and robes, and hurl him into the depths. Eventually all follow in his wake, alive or dead.
Failure: The battle becomes scattered amongst the towers and bridges. Eventually you rejoin several raiders and press on.
If you make it out of this region, a month later one of the warriors will find you. Roll Prowess vs d8 to defeat him. Otherwise, reduce Prowess and try again until you beat him or he destroys you.

3 Water blasts out of the priest’s tower, rolling down the bridge you’re on. It washes raiders off before you. Roll Prowess vs d8 to stay on.
Success: You dive down the very center of the bridge away from the water. It carries you forwards unstoppably as it consumes you, and it deposits you with your body half over the left edge. Good enough. You inch yourself back onto the surface.
Failure: Roll a d6. On a 1, you fall into the depths and eventually land in a sea of magma so distant from the bridges that you could not perceive its light from above. On a 2-6, you land on a lower bridge, breaking at least one bone. Lower your Prowess two steps.

4 You ascend a stairwell inside a tower and as you pass a window you realize that the staircase is imperceptibly descending, lowering physically, and that you must now be quite far below where you entered despite having climbed many steps.
Roll Prowess vs d4. On a Success, you sprint up the stairs and return to the bridge where you entered. On a Failure, the stairs descend faster than you can move and you exhaust yourself, dying of thirst within a week.

1 Inside a tower you find the crop of the monastary’s aqueducts, molluscwine and shellacquer worth 3d6☼.

2 A ribbed heart. Profoundly valuable in lands ruled by pseudodraconic remnants. Salable for 11☼.

3 One of the slaughtered officials’ obsidian rain sticks is filled with pearls. Unstoppered and dispensed as payment. At great moments it is opened and swept in an arc, disgorging them all. A noisy rain stick is worth little. A silent one is not to be trusted. The official’s is worth 4d4 - 3☼.

4 The runic stoneborne secrets of a prophecy-to-be. Salable in a land where there is a war of prophets, a war waged on the basis of splendor and proof. The lesser prophets are gradually drifting from the claim and aligning with one of the great potentates; any would pay dearly for this portent of the future, which could reinvigorate his potential as the last prophet. You can sell this for 3d4☼, but there is a 1/10 chance you are assassinated and have it taken in the attempt.

    If you pursue the priest in his tower, go to the next section. Otherwise, return to the Awnings and roll Hazard.

Priest Tower

You lead a band of raiders into the darkest chamber, a place of warm falling water.

The high priest is a being older than the stones. He was once occupied by millipedes; now the millipedes have replaced the innards of their erstwhile host and they are his personality.
The ridges of his body are occupied with the millipedes, giving him armor and allowing him to sprout thousands of claw legs in a bloody rain. With these he can climb walls or even race along the ground, leaving a bloody streak if the legs are newly burst. 
He falls forward and rushes across the ground towards you when you enter. 

Roll Prowess vs d10.

If you fail, lower Prowess by one step and try again, as the priest’s body presses itself up against yours, chest to chest, arms to arms, legs to legs, and the millipedes give you a death of a thousand cuts. You will forever after carry their toxoplasmosis and be partial to millipedes. Roll again if you have at least d4 Prowess remaining.
If you succeed, you manage to cut apart the priest and send partial shells of millipedes in every direction. When you slice open the priest’s guts you find a bolt of swallowed silk electroacidizing into a nerve-laden bezoar capable of functioning as a trainable brain. Shorn of its millipedes, it will forget this purpose and be ready for a new one. This is worth 20☼ to the right cabal.

There are many statues of baroque darkness here, lightning daemons simultaneously propitiated and trapped in images. You can cut pry their eyes off and cut out their ruby tongues to gain an additional 10☼.

It is time to escape the fortress temple complex.

Return to the Awnings and roll Hazard.


  1. Awesome as usual. Question: how small can Prowess get? Do you "die" if it gets small enough? Under 1d4?

  2. So... the Cockleshell Heroes storming a decadent Buddhist monastery full of deadly centipedes? Well, it works,

    1. If I did a set of these targets I might call it "Wakō", though the empire of origin and the targets wouldn't have unitary inspirations; nevertheless this target could be considered close to home since there were warrior monk temple fortress complexes in sengoku Japan. I like the idea of samurai horse archers (or wakō with nothing but short robes, swords, bows and headbands) against castle-strewn Ptolemaic super-galleys, Zoroastrian cataphracts riding along wall networks on and around ziggurats, rocky isle plunder knights a la Rhodes and Malta, crocodile howdahs etc


Art - First Run