Thursday, October 29, 2020

Solo Game: Pacts and Blades II: The Jester's Return Pt.3

The Bandersnatch

I am going to roll the rest of the details for the Bandersnatch now, and test to see if the details they have learned are true:

Body Structure: Organic (⚀ - false), it is actually 1d12: 7: Alien

Size: Large (⚅ - true)

Basic Type: 1d6 - ⚀ Animal

Pact or Blades: Claws and Nature (⚁ - false), it is actually d44: 33 roll three times: 43: a Pact with a fear entity, 11: A Pact with an elemental entity, and 41: Blade: thorny tail

Distinctive Features: Bifurcated Tongue with two heads - one has sentience (⚄ - true)

Motivations: d8: 7: it needs to lay eggs in your dead body

Special Skills: Can bend Time (⚃ - true)

Ye gads, this thing is a horror!

 The Thing

(Rolling BD&D-style Surprise: Bandersnatch , Adventurers ⚃; Monster Reaction⚄⚄ = 10: Neutral; Initiative: Bandernatch 5, Mirdon 6, Shanix 6, Lorenz 6, Walken 9)

Shanix stood on an ancient stone balcony overlooking the lava flows below. All around her was a carpet of luminous blue moss and brightly glowing white flowers. Their perfume overwhelmed the stench of brimstone they'd been breathing for hours. Glowing orange fire bees leaving heat trails behind them moved from bloom to bloom, studiously ignoring the human intruder.

For a moment, her permanently chiseled-on smirk fell into open-mouth wonder. She walked slowly, like a child in a yuletide snowfall, to the edge of the balcony and a broken rail. Below, across a broken stone bridge, was a dome of precious metals surrounded by glowing fungus. There, the orange lights of the fire bees shimmered brightly. Strains of alien music came up from below barely audible under the roar and hiss of geysers.

She shook herself from her trance and forced her face back into a scowl. Walking back to the foot of the rope she called up: 

"Get the lead out of your asses! I think I can see the hive."

The twisted, hunchbacked dwarf Mirdon was next, surprisingly nimble coming down the rope. Then the featherweight Lorenz; too pretty and delicate to be a farm boy to her mind. They too, went to the edge to look at the hive as Walken came down last.

He was halfway down when her mind began to stutter. Colors became too bright and all at once muted and washed out. One moment Walken was coming down too fast, the next he seemed to be going up the rope. Time echoed forward and backward assaulting her ears with echoes, some of them sounds not yet made, or that would never be made.

She forced her head towards the origin of the pain and sound and distortion, and saw a horrendous parody of life slithering from a nearby archway.

It's flesh was neither ooze, nor air, nor solid tissue. At angles it was like looking at scaly reptilian skin through a bubble or a bent mirror . At other times it was completely translucent. She couldn't pin down exactly what it should be. She felt nauseous trying to interpret its matter, so she pulled her perspective back to look at the thing itself.

This was a corrupt parody of a snake. It's tail branched out into fractals like a spiked club of twitching scales. It's head, a bulbous oversized imitation of a viper's head. It unhinged its jaw slightly flicked out a tongue - a more clearly defined two-headed snake, which in turn flicked out tongues with bulbous tips suggesting that they too were in the process of becoming snakes heads rather than forks of a serpent tongue.

"Mirdon...?? She called as the thing seem to skip space to get closer to her and then rewind slithering backwards while being in front of her all at once. Processing it made her stomach lurch.

"You are not completely intersected." The voice was musical. The right fork of its main tongue moved its jaws as the thing spoke.

"...Good to know?"

"You are in the correct coordinates in four dimensions. But out of alignment in two. You may not be the one we need."

"For what?"

"This incursion is incomplete. our interpretation of our first host is not fully aligned."

She felt Mirdon's hand on her shoulder, heavy and cold. Walken was somehow now in the grass and off to its side, his ahnd hovering to seize his spear, but not yet drawing it. Echoes of Future Past gave her an alien certainty that Lorenz was behind her.

"Are you the Bandersnatch?"

"Our calculations tell us that may be a name we are known by. We would not use it for ourselves."

"Then, what are you called?"

"We are the 7th dimensional incursion."

(Monster Reaction⚄⚃+4 = 13: Friendly; Initiative: Bandernatch 6, Mirdon 6, Shanix 7, Lorenz 5, Walken 3)

Slowly the flows of time began to right themselves. The echoes died down to a whisper and things moved more or less from past to present, save sudden jumps and jerks in.

"Why are you interested in what we are unto ourselves?"

Mirdon held his breath. Hoping that Shanix would not say something to give deeper offense. She seemed like the wrong person to be trusting this conversation to. However, he was there to test these people. Could they survive the vaults of gloomy chaos? Best to let her continue.

"People are sensitive about their names. I often call people by the wrong name to annoy them. I don't want to annoy you. I asked you your name so I could use it."

"You have no fear. You are far out of alignment."

The thing looked more now like a being of flesh and blood; less like a wound in reality.

"What do you need to complete your incursion? What does that mean?"

"Our first attempt to enter this reality was through the ovum of a snake. We did not have enough time before hatching to fully integrate with this time space.

"We are unable to keep this form together without help of the gnomes of Earth and the Lord of Torment and Nightmares. To gain a stable form, we must be reborn."

"And you need a person for that?"

"We must create progeny in a more stable and preferably advanced vessel. Preferably one with an easily disrupted consciousness."

Shanix played dumb a great deal. She didn't like showing her brains off. It caused her nothing but grief in her home village. But, she was capable of doing the calculations. The name of the creature's pacts, his choice of words... she did not care for what she heard.

Smiling, she knelt down in front of the being, meeting the speaking head eye to eye.

"So, you need someone to break, and then hatch out of?"

"That is factual."

Shanix lashed out hard and fast grabbing hold of the speaking snake head, and calling fire to her hands.

(Shanix: Salamander -1, -3 narrative advantage vs. Difficulty 3: RV 5: ⚂⚂,⚄: become Ethereal, Automatic Damage ⚅: Severe Wound.)

"Then fucking die!!: she screamed as she pulled the tongue. It's flesh cracked and tore in the heat of the arcane fire that wreathed her hand. As she snarled she became a thing of fire herself, shimmering gold, with heat shimmer wreathing her.

With a snap, she wrenched he head off, leaving a smoking stump behind as the creature let out a wail echoing backwards and forwards, forward and reverse, metallic and alien.

(Lorenz: Salamander -2, -1 Narrative advantage vs. Difficulty 3: RV 6: ⚅⚃, ⚄: become Ethereal, Automatic damage ⚁, It.)

Although confused, Lorenz reached out and grabbed hold of Shanix' blazing shoulder, tapping into her magic, as the strange transformation wreathed them both. He pushed power through, and the flames flared brighter and hotter, searing the monster's tissue.

(Walken: Spear -2 vs Difficulty 3: RV 7 ⚅⚂,⚃: Stunned)

Dice Are with Me

I am a bit embarrassed by how well this is going, especially as I am notoriously unlucky at the table. Seriously, why can't I be this lucky on Thursday nights?

It is fascinating how I ended up with multiple friendly encounters by rolling on the NPC Reaction table presented in the Rules Cyclopaedia. I expected the Wyvern to be A hellish fight and The Bandersnatch to kill at least one PC.

Instead I got a friendly encounter where my PCs could suss out its motivations, then curb stomp it  in a surprise rounds where everyone is rolling 6s on damage. This could have gone a lot worse.

Walken bellowed a loud battle-cry and rushed in from the side, driving his spear into the creature, watching it bend and warp in the rising distortions around the creature, like watching a stick being pushed into a glass of water... but then he found something solid, and there was a spray of iridescent fluids. Driving his boot onto the creature, and then throwing his shield aside to use both hands, he bore it town, crushing and impaling the creature with his weight.

As it thrashed, the stone it touched crumbled to sand. Walken's spear aged to brittle wood and snapped. Its howl made their ears ache and their hearts smashed hard against their rib-cages. And then it was still, slowly melting into a vaguely serpent-shaped pile of jelly before their eyes.

Panting he looked up at Shanix, shining, unearthly, gazing into the eyes of the dead snake - head she held in her hand.

"What the hell did you do that for?! We could have walked away!"

"Did you not understand what the thing said?!

"I --" Walken heaved a sigh. "No. I didn't"

Shanix, slowly cooling down to her fleshly form again, spat into the mound of iridescent jelly.

"The thing was a looking for a woman to terrorize, break, and --" She spat again, and glared at Walken.

"Sorry. I'm an idiot." I didn't understand what the hell it was talking about. I just thought that we were going to be able to walk away. It didn't seem interested in someone who wasn't 'intersected.' I'm not here to play hero. Just to get rich."

Shanix sighed. "Me, too! But..."

"But here's a dead thing that you both killed! And you agree both beautifully on what we are here for, which is so much nicer than at court," Mirdon clapped them both on the shoulder, "So let us not quibble and quarrel. It was probably wretched and deserved to die! It might thank you in the hereafter! Shake hands my lovelies, your are shield siblings now!"

"Mirdon's right." She said. "It's dead. It needed to die. And rather than bitch about it, you helped me kill it. No point in getting angry."

"Adrenaline makes morons of us all. Best to be morons together than apart. Come, apprentices."

Shanix clapped her hand in Walken's, and nodded.

As she walked away, Lorenz offered Walken his club.

"You'll be needing a weapon. I know it's not ideal, but with your spear ruined..."

Walken smiled and clapped Lorenz on the shoulder. Ahead, Mirdon grinned secretly; perhaps he's chosen wisely after all...

The Mother of the Fire Bees

All we know about the Mother is that she is part of a swarm of intelligent insects that seeks a pact with mortals. And that she is doing so in response to the Firefall. Let's use Salamandur Household to roll the rest.

Body Structure: 1d12: 7: Alien

Size: ⚃-Huge

Basic Type: Monstrosity

Pact or Blades: d44: Pact (Demonic Entity)

Distinctive Features: d44: 22: Egg Yolks instead of eyes 

Motivations: d8: 4: Fear

Special Skills: d44: 43: It's Hide is very strong armour: 10/5/3 

Light 🔳🔳🔳🔳🔳🔳🔳🔳🔳🔳

Moderate 🔳🔳🔳🔳🔳

Severe 🔳🔳🔳

Let's adjust thevstory: The Mother is not offering a pact with itself, it is offering a Pact with a Demonic Master so that it will be satisfied with new souls rather than claim her offspring. The story of her offering wondrous boons is thus a bit of a lie. I will go on Twitter and select the first cool sounding demon generated recently by The Lesser Bot for its fiendish patron.

№ 6958 Apostle AMTZO, DEMON of:

‣ infirmities

‣ apocryphal tintinnabulations

This is pretty cool as a patron for a being with no eyes: it could destroy hearing and cripple her if she does not obey. We'll call him Amtzo, Demon of infirmities and ringer of the apocryphal bell. Definitely  Chaoic.

The Hive

The Last climb was brief, and brought them into a field of shimmering teal flowers mixed with brightly coloured mushrooms. An ancient bridge still spanned the chasm, though twisted and sunken. The hive integrated the far end of the bridge into its structure, a towering dome of wax, paper, and cement that integrated works of quartz, gold, and warped hexagonal patterns.

The air was alive with shimmering fire bees casting light like candles over them as they crossed the bridge. The closer they got, the more bees there were.

It was when they reached just a stone's throw of the hive that the bridge bucked and shuddered, throwing them to their knees. Suddenly they found themselves swarmed by palm sized guardians that stung the flesh as they landed. Swatting scalded Lorenz' bare palm as he fought for room to stand and peace to think.

The bridge groaned as the hive split along a seam and tore open, blasting them with the smell of honey and decay.

The being that emerged looked like an ancient husk: a withered bee's carapace as long as any dragon they might have seen above. It showed little of the inner flame of the fire bees, but glowed from patches of fungus clinging to it. Holes bored into her ancient, thick exoskeleton swarmed with bees and dripped with crimson honey. The empty eye-sockets that once held compound eyes were filled with translucent amber globules in which the embryos of more of her offspring swam. She clattered and rattled as she moved, and thick crimson sludge fell from her mandibles as she spoke in a sweet, girlish voice.

(Monster Reaction⚂⚀ = 4: Threatening; Initiative: QB 7, Mirdon 4, Shanix 7, Lorenz 7, Walken 5)

"It has been so long since I have had visitors. What compels you to walk into my home unbidden?"

"Dear lady, humblest of apologies and fine felicitations. I am Mirdon, formerly Court Jester of King Olan of Morlaix." He gave a practiced courtly bow and affected his finest groveling pose. "We beg your indulgence."

"I need no honey from your tongue, Mortal. I have enough."

"Indeed, not. And that is why we have come, Your Majesty, it is my earnest hope that we might offer you our service. We have been told above that you reward braves come to your service with a magical boon, and finest honey and jelly. We are Brave, Your Majesty, and foolhardy, too! Can we not offer you chivalry in return for that boon.?"

A bee landed on Mirdon's neck, searing his flesh.

"You have heard wrong, Jester. But it has served me to have such stories spread."

(Mirdon: Roll vs. difficulty 4 to appease the Queen, Narrative advantage -2: RV 10: ⚃⚄ = 9: Partial Success - I'll turn the -4 on the next roll to a -2)

"It makes it so much easier to bring fools to my reach."

(Monster Reaction ⚃⚂ -2 = 5: Threatening; Initiative: QB 5, Mirdon 3, Shanix 7, Lorenz 1, Walken 1)

"Aye, Your Majesty," Mirdon winced. "And fools we are, me even more so than my Apprentices. But we are brave and clever. We have slain the Bandersnatch that haunted these tunnels already, and wish to offer you its head in proof." Mirdon nudged Shanix.

"I was going to keep that, damnit," she whispered, as she knelt and offered up the head that she'd hung with pride from her belt.

(Mirdon: Roll vs. difficulty 4 to appease the Queen, Narrative advantage -3: RV 9: ⚄⚁ = 7: Partial Success - I'll repeat the bonus, but the clock is ticking...)

Round 1

(Monster Reaction ⚃⚀ -2 = 3: Hostile; Initiative: QB 6, Mirdon 5, Shanix 10, Lorenz 8, Walken 5)

"Your offering has no interest to me. There is one I shall take however: Choose an Apprentice, Fool, to be sacrificed on the Altar of my Lord Amtzo, and the rest of you may live."
Created by The Lesser Bot

Sighing, Mirdon looked back at his apprentices, and muttered a spell in a gluttural tongue, calling on the spells he first learned in the hidden Atellier of Queen Magdha.

(Mirdon: Mephistopheles -2 vs. Difficulty 2: RV: 4: ⚄⚅,⚄: Become Ethereal)

Calling up the demon of ill winds Mirdon threw back his head and belched a acrid cloud: a poison too weak to harm man... but perfect for insects. As he belched the last of the insecticide, the fire bees all around them plummeted into the lava below. Mirdon himself took on a thin, translucent aspect, becoming a living haze of poisons.

Even as her offspring writhed and perished in her flesh and she howled in rage, an arrow flew from Walken's bow and punctured one of the jelly-filled eggs in her withered eye socket, bursting it and sending a grub to splatter on the ground before her.

(Walken: vs. Difficulty 3: RV 9; ⚄⚂: Partial Success)

Walken cursed as he pulled his next arrow, his fumbling fingers caught too many arrows and several spilled from his quiver and fell into the lava below.


Blades: Longsword -1
      Hammer -1
      Spear -1
Pacts: Lucis, Lord of the Judging Light -1 (Order)
      Mephistopheles, demon of ill winds  -2 (Chaos)
     Salamander -1 (Orderr)

Alignment: Chaos 2/4 Order 1/4
Reserve Limit: 5

Hit Difficulty: 3 (9)


🔳◻◻◻◻◻    Moderate
🔳◻◻◻              Severe


Blades: Flail -1
     Spear -1
Pacts: Salamander -1 (Order)
Hit Difficulty: 2 (6)

AL: Chaos 2/3 Order 1/3
Reserve Limit: 3


🔳🔳 ◻◻◻◻◻       Light
🔳🔲 ◻◻◻                Mod.
🔳 ◻◻                      Severe


Blades: Spear -1
Pacts: Salamander -2 (Order)
Hit Difficulty: 2 (6)

AL: Chaos 1/3 Order 2/3
Reserve Limit: 3


◻◻◻◻      Light
◼◻             Moderate
◻◻              Severe


Blades: Spear -2
Pacts: -
Hit Difficulty: 2 (6)

AL: Chaos 1/3 Order 2/3
Reserve Limit: 3


🔳🔳🔳 ◻◻◻◻◻  Light
🔳🔳 ◻◻◻              Mod.
🔳🔳 ◻◻                 Severe

(2 in 6 Chance the Queen will not realize Mirdon is immune to attack this round: ⚅)

The queen screamed in agony. As the scream reached a fever pitch, a bell came with in, ringing pain and madness in their ears.

(Queen: Amntzo -1 vs. Difficulty 3: RV 8: ⚄⚂,⚄ = 8: Total Success - everyone takes ambient damage this round. Mirdon ⚃: Moderate, Shanix ⚀, Light; Lorenz ⚀, Light, Walken ⚂ moderate; Become Ethereal)

Even as Mirdon retched from the sound, The queen seemed to break apart and fade half-out of reality herself, swirling, shifting shadows of insects shapes showed where she was. Mirdon, however saw her clearly in terrible, glowing flesh, and smell the sweet honey on her breath.

Lorenz glanced around in a panic, seeking any sort of advantage, noticed an altar of stone visible through the sphincter from which the Queen came; he burst into a run.

Shanix roared in the fire-tongue thrusting her hand out.

(Shanix: Salamander -1 vs. Difficulty 3: RV 8: ⚅⚁,⚃: May reuse this spell; Severe Wound)

The heat of the King of Flames leapt from her fingertips and seared across reality, blackening and cracking carapace.

Round 2

(Initiative: QB 8, Mirdon 10, Shanix 4, Lorenz 9, Walken 8)

Shanix lashed out again: more flame, more fury; riding high on the euphoria of magic and destruction. And then the Fire suddenly went mad, she was losing control of her hands, whips of hellfire lashing uncontrollably.

(Shanix: Salamander -1 vs. Difficulty 3: RV 8: ⚅⚂: Failure; Shanix spends a point of Chaos from her alignment to re-try: ⚂⚃: Partial Success - moderate wound: Order Displeasure ⚀⚃: Vow of Silence)

Feeling the magic go wild, Shanix pulled on her inner resources. As she did so time froze for an instant, and she found herself kneeling in a grand palace of Brass. The being on the throne before her appeared as a man with skin like antique bronze, and strange serpentine features.

You have demanded much of me for a new oath-bound, Child.

"I need to kill this thing!"

I shall let you try. But at a cost.

"Fine! What do you want?"

Your Voice, child. You have a quarrelsome and spiteful tongue. It must be taught stillness. You shall not speak for a year and a day.

"I--" Shanix bit down on her tongue at the creature's scowl, then nodded.

Fail me, and the thrill of magic shall never be yours again.

Then she found herself once again in the heat of battle tasting blood in her mouth as she hurled the flames she had bought so dearly.

Bee's Health
Light        🔳🔳🔳🔳🔳🔳🔳🔳🔳🔳◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻
Moderate 🔲🔲🔳🔳🔳◻◻◻◻
Severe      🔲🔳🔳◻◻

Lorenz Scrabbled through wax and honey to the strange stone slab in the heart of the hive. A tangled, twisted thing that looked as though it were made of tangled, desiccated bodies, with a pair of withered arms holding a black bell. Without hesitation he grabbed a quarrel and cut his palm, smearing blood on it then struck the bell.

He froze in trance as he called on the being beyond the Sound.

(New Pact: Amntzo -1)

Walken slung his bow and retrieved the club Lorenz had given him and grabbed his shield. "Shanix! I can't hit this thing without magic! Help me out!"

(Queen Bee vs. Difficulty 3: RV 9: ⚄⚁ - Partial Success: Moderate)

Slashing out with a massive leg, The Mother of the Fire Bees slammed into Mirdon's side throwing him down onto the bridge, raising her ancient bulk higher to smash him.

Even as he spat more blood from his mouth, Mirdon called again on Mephistopheles for another ill-wind.

(Mirdon: Mephistopheles -2 vs. Difficulty 3: RV: 7 ⚅⚁,⚃ - Total Success: Use again)

A howling blast reeking of sulfur and carrying sparks washed over the Queen: the ancient chitinous limbs skittered across stone, and she twisted suddenly, desperately scrabbling as her massive pincers cracked stone to allow her to hang on. Below the lava boiled hungrily.

"We can't defeat her by burning and beating, lovelies! Cast her off!"

Round 3

(Initiative: QB 5, Mirdon 3, Shanix 3, Lorenz 4, Walken 8)

Shanix bit her lip, trying not to speak aloud as she thought her new spell out, forming the prayer to Salamander in her mind. Take your favour from her.

(Shanix: Salamander -1 vs. Difficulty 7: RV 8: ⚅⚀ - Partial Success)

The faint glow deep beneath the carapace faded, the fire elemental powers of the spirit began to weaken. She could feel the grim impatience of Salamander in her mind. No more spells she told herself, as she unslung the flail... at least not today.

Mirdon continued his chant calling bitter channeled winds, pushing the Queen be ever further down off the bridge,

(Mirdon: Mephistopheles -2 vs. Difficulty 3: RV: 7 ⚅⚁,⚅ - Total Success: Spectacular effect)

The Queen Bee screamed as the cinders bourne by the wind began to burn and the wind tattered her wings. She struggled for a moment more and then was torn away, plunging into the lava below. Her flesh, no longer guarded by ancient elemental blessings, seared and cracked, the chitin exploding into shards as she thrashed for a moment and then sank.

Slowly becoming matter again, Mirdon picked himself up, wiping blood from his mouth and feeling his bruised ribs.

"We live, my lovelies!" He chortled as he clapped Shanix and Walken on the shoulders. Walken let out a whoop, then both were stunned as Shanix said nothing.

"Have my ears been broken by those screams, auntie?"

Shanix touched her finger to her lips. Mirdon nodded solemnly.

"What's wrong with her?" Walken looked at her face, a knot in his stomach.

"She's paying a price for her magic. Some genie has taken her voice in payment for her spells. For a time, at least...

"Let us go see what Lorenz has found while being too slow in being clever."

Walken whistled as he assessed the gems... the honey, the pools or royal jelly. There was a fortune here among the piles of dead bees. The others joined Lorenz by cutting hands and placing the on the altar, to have their own visitation with the Demon beyond. At last they all pulled away, all aching from it, their hair streaked with new locks of white... a gift of a new and strange bargain.

"Enough magical nonsense, Merry-Man," Walken began. "We have serious matters to attend to... Like how we are going to get all of this home..."

Mirdon looked at the jewels embedded in the thick resinous walls with a scowl. It is more than the few casks he'd carted with him... and so tempting.

"Aye, Nuncle... a fine dilemma to have... but a dilemma..."

Their mentations were interrupted by the sound of beating wings and a trill, as a great shape swooped from on high and landed on the bridge. The long, scarred and sinuous form of the Wyvern gazed at them from without the hive,

Mirdon smiled wide.

"I think we may need some riding lessons, Apprentice."


  1. Awesome! Nice story, and a very interesting adventure. The dice were certainly with you.

    1. The first Solo for P&B that I posted was not nearly so fortunate. I watched a PC who had already excelled in a previous playtest get beaten into a greasy paste in a single, horrible round. The dice rolls involved were brutal and improbable.

    2. I converted this into an ICRPG adventure for my playtest group later, and it was a very different experience. They fought the Bandersnatch, won and took samples for Arcane study, which they offered up to appease the Queen of the Fire bees,then took the honey without making a Pact.