Monday, September 20, 2021

The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence: Attempt 2

"Jonas" created using Hero Forge. Used
here in accordance with their EULA 

Originally, I wrote this piece as a Novella. It was about 22,000 words with illustrations and all. Unfortunately, blogger does this thing where, for a split second, it replaces the content of your article with the string listng your tags. Normally not a problem. It puts it all back. But if you have an error where it switches your WiFi network at the wrong time, it will automatically save it in that state. So, I lost a book's worth of "Tale of the Manticore" inspired fiction.

It is not all gone. I have 70% of the book in garbled, out-of-order voice dictation notes that require hours of editing to translate what my phone heard into what I said. I am not yet sure if I want to spend the time.

But I still wanted to share this, because I am having fun.

Oh... And mildly NSFW art ahead.


Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia
Cover Art by Jeff Easley 
©1991 TSR, Inc
I am playing Venger Satanis' weird, pulpy, oversexed The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence as a solo D&D experiment. I am using BECMI Dungeons & Dragons played straight out of the Rules Cyclopedia that I have had since I was 12. Mixed with The Dozen Dooms. By Baldrage for simpler experience and encumbrance, and using most of the recommended house rules in 'Purple.

I am using Dungeon Crawl Solo from Parts Per Million as my tool for making GM systems and developing the campaign..

After the brutal TPK I suffered the last time I played, I decided to give my PCs a fighting chance by having full gear, a five person party, and starting them in a low level dungeon.

Once free of the dungeon, it will be a Hex crawl to find a town where they can resupply and start pursuing emergent goals. Using the character background generating tools in Purple is great for having built-in hooks without taking forever to generate. Adding in a DCC RPG occupation table writes the character for me.

The Islands of Purple-Haunted
e; Cover Art by Fausti
©2014, Kort'thalis Publishing 

 The Premise 

I decided to start with a low-level dungeon that is inspired by the essence of The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence : a no-holds barred Mashup of Sword & Sorcery, Eldritch Horror, and Pulp-Era Scifi. 

What would be better than being captured by an evil demon-worshipping wizard in a sunken spaceship off the coast?

I started with a random map in Donjon. I picked a location for a prison cell (13), a handful of rooms to be the Wizard's Lair (1,2,3,6,7,8, 12, 16, & 10) and a stairwell that would be the escape hatch (2). Those rooms I repopulated with cyborgs, evil Wizards, and the PCs. 

Based on the PCs I ended up rolling up, I decided that one character, Neela the Thief, would be a slave of the Wizard. She would have a roll on the Dungeon Crawl Solo oracle table to know certain facts about the dungeon. 

She would start knowing where the PC's gear is, where the exit is, the NPCs in the dungeon, and the monsters that the master intentionally keeps.

Map generated by Donjon

The Dozen Dooms, Cover Art by
Bob Greyvenstein;
©2020 Robert Sampson, Grim Publishing
She would have a chance to know the. Monsters in rooms between the Wizard's lair and the exit. She would not know anything about the location or power of any magic items, except that they are magical. She would not know anything about the contents of rooms 5, 9, or 18-24. 

The remaining touch was to reflavor the dungeon in my head to feel like a sunken starship that has been occupied by several demonic cults and mad sorcerers. 

I got the idea that the Wizard, whom I named Golmore, was messing with a Star Trek transporter, and this was the first time his targets didn't arrive inside-out or explode. Thus it was Neela's first chance to have help to escape... Something she has been prepping for ever since the Charm Person spell Golmore used to control her wore off. (she has Been faking it ever since.) 

Neela is sent to see if the PCs are alive, and when they are, she recruits them for her escape plan. 

The Summary

Neela as Concubine, 
Created using Hero Forge and 
Adobe Photoshop, used in accordance 
With the Hero Forge EULA

I am deeply saddened by the fact that I can't share my novelization with you here. But here goes a quick summary of the game in play.

[Room 13]

 Neela arrives as the other PCs are still naked, confused, and suffering from Chronosis. She introduces herself, and explains what is going on. She gets them to agree to help her escape.

You can read my current character sheets here. The characters have advanced a bit since this adventure.

The PCs agree to help her escape. Neela shows them how to find hidden panels throughout the ship, then leads them through room 11.

[Room 11]

In room 11, the PCs stop to consider a tapestry made of woven flesh preserved against rot. It tells them clearly what kind of place they are in. They find a couple of gems.

Neela warns the others of Piercers and describes the henchmen and hirelings that serve Golmore... All adventurers who have been mind-controlled and their loyal crew.

Neela, who is a first level thief, points out that she has no intention of ever becoming a slave again, even if it means her life. She warns the player characters that women are used as currency on the Purple Islands, and shecwill take any means necessary to avoid being someone else's tender.

Cover to Dungeon Crawl Solo
By Peter Rudin-Burgess 
Art by Parker West
©2021 Parts Per Million

Mord, the party fighter, a mendicant and vagabond who ended up on the Purple Islands after stowing away on Sir cuthbert's ship to avoid being caught by the law for some petty crimes, shows off his special character ability: to perfectly time jokes and wisecracks so they never fall flat.

[Room 10]

In room 10, all of the equipment that the wizard has teleported away from test subjects is kept here. Many of the early tests caused the possessions to catch fire. Given that Neela has already said that they are the first ones to survive the teleporter, the amount of gear sitting around is alarming.

As the player characters were expecting to make landfall by the end of the day, I decided that all of their possessions, including randomly rolled trade goods from their DCC occupation rolls was here. This means the party has lucked into a hand cart, which will prove eminently useful.

Neela has been the slave of the Wizard for three months. She has gotten to know something about the way he thinks. I rolled the Oracle to see if she suspected that he placed a trap under the latest heap of possessions.

Not only was she successful, I rolled a six. I ruled that she had a pretty good idea of what kind of trap he would place, and gave her a modest bonus to find and disarm traps.

Tarrant the Squire turned Cleric, 
Created using Hero Forge and 
Adobe Photoshop, used in accordance 
With the Hero Forge EULA

The dice gods were kind to her. For a first level thief, with only a 10-point bonus to find and remove the trap with no one getting hurt, she lucked out. 

The party wss able to arm themselves with all of their starting equipment, plus a few odds and ends. However, I dud do that with a party of four neutral and chaotic first level characters and five hirelings around, I ruled thatanything worth more than a couple of gold pieces would have been pillaged. I also ruled that most of the best gear was already stashed by Neela for her own use.

As they were gearing up, I did some role play, purely to enrich the characters. I ruled that Neela had managed to find a suited leather armor, (which she had not bought during character generation,) but it did not fit her. As a former cobbler, I allowed Jonas, the party magic user, a chance to fit it to her at the cost of one turn. He successfully modified the armor for her.

Given Jonas's strange back story, a lonely cobbler who learned his magic in a hobgoblin shaman's pit of psychedelic slime molds, and the word proclivities that has given him, I have decided to characterize him as being shy, sweet, and a bit strange. The kind of guy who means well, but comes off as a little creepy.

Neela, Battle - Ready
Created using Hero Forge and 
Adobe Photoshop, used in accordance 
With the Hero Forge EULA
Once that was done, the player characters planned to escape by taking the widest way to the exit. However, Neela did not know how many turns he had until she would be missed. I was giving her a one in three chance of being missed for every round past the 9th, which would have been enough time for her to go to the room peek in, and then report . I also ruled that loud noises would also cause a roll, and shrekers would automatically start the wizard looking for her.

[Room 16]

Given that there are shriekers both in the room I chose for Golmore's barracks, and in the two rooms that. ark the edge of his territory, it makes perfect sense that Neela would know about them and how not to trigger them off. I gave her advantage on an oracle check to see if she knew about how many Shriekers there were in the mushroom farm room of 16. A six told me that she new how many, and where they were.

This dungeon has dim light from glowing panels on the ceiling. I didn't even add this, it is what was described in the Donjon adventure. Given the proliferation of piercers, I like to imagine that the ceiling of this ship has built up a crust of salt, niter, sedimentary rock, ice, and strange purple coral. That the light is diffuse, being dim everywhere and pitch dark in pools.

This creates quite a challenge for the party. If they try to walk through room 16, or use a light, they will trigger off the shriekers and start the countdown. I decided to give them a chance to use their bows and slings to kill the shrekers at a distance, but with penalties for both range and light.

"Shrieker" from the AD&D Monster
Manual. Art by Dave Trampier. 
©1977, TSR, Inc. 
They would get only one shot. Missing even once would trigger the shriekers.

They got very lucky. Mord, The fighter, and Holden, one of the parties two Clerics  both rolled exceptionally well given a -4 and a -6 penalty on their attacks. The shreikers were killed.

Not that it mattered. On the next turn as they were scouring the room for treasure (they found an assortment of coins) her absence was finally noticed.

This required a change of plans. They decided to cut across room 17 to room 20, and wait an ambush, hoping that the wizard would go on to explore rooms 19 and 18 to cut them off, giving them a chance to go around and get behind him.

[Room 17]

This room is covered in frescoes of hideous alien faces.  As this turn, number 12, begins, I begin moving Golmore from where I have ruled the controls for the tractor beam are: at the South end of room 8, at a rate of twelve squares at a time towards room 13. When he reaches room 13, he will begin searching for the PCs. Any loud noises may divert his course.

I also rolled a random encounter as the PCs entered from room 17. In this case, I rolled four manes on the custom encounter table generated by Donjon. Given that there is a demonic idol just passed room 20, I decide to have them come out of that unexplored room.

"Lemures" from the AD&D Monster
Manual. Art by Dave Trampier. 
©1977, TSR, Inc. 
The manes attack the party. Because they are immensely stupid demons, I rule that they rush forward and don't act as much of a group.

But they're fairly good armor classes, Mord The fighter and Holden the cleric receive the charge of the first main and cut it down in seconds.

The straggler is picked off by a combination of Neela's arrows and then Jonas's sling bullets. The party's second Cleric, Tarrant helps complete a skirmish line. Holden and Mord kill one of the manes, and taggart critically wounds another. I decide that nila would step into a gap and try to stab the last Mane. She misses, and I randomly determined that the Mane decides to attack her first.

It manages to do two damage, reducing her to a single hit point.

I also rule that the protracted combat means Golmore has heard the fighting.

On the third round, as the party butchers the final mane, Jonas gets an idea, he attempts to force the door on the south-western wall of room 17. It takes him two rounds to do with Mord's help. After that, he starts setting up a false trail of blood and signs of battle Mord attempts to assist him.

Their final result isn't perfect. A "Yes, but..." result on a VSd6 test. I decide that Golmore will have a VDd6 roll, with 2 dice due to his high intelligence, to see through the ruse. And then an additional VSd6 rule every turn to figure out he was tricked.

[Room 20]

Cover to "Into the Demon Idol" 
By Jobe Bittman.,
©2017 Bloody Hammer Games
I decide to take advantage of the presence of the demon idol, and a desire to make it more science fiction-ish, that this chamber has some kind of alien power regulation hoses running through the looping tunnels to the north and south. That some of these tunnels are lined with hoses and wires connected to alien power sources. And that the demon idol in location a is also hooked up as a power source and surrounded by fossilized offerings. The wandering mains were summoned when an energy surge passed through the idol.

While Neela listens at the door to determine whether or not the wizard detects their ruse, the rest of the party searches room 20 for treasure, and then decides to receive further back into the tunnels. They stumble upon the idol.

For his part, Golmore falls for the ruse, and spends two turns crossing room 17 into room 19. He knows about the piercers in that room, and I rule that it will take him several turns to cross as he evades them. This could buy the party a lot of time.

Neela searches the idol for traps, and finds none. Then she and her allies pry lose two huge Ruby eyes worth 5000 gold pieces each. They also discovered strongbox full of coins in room 20.

As Golmore is spending his first turn in room 19, they decided to risk facing the cyborg living In room 14 to escape.

[Room 16]

"Mord flexes" Created using Hero Forge and 
Adobe Photoshop, used in accordance 
With the Hero Forge EULA 
On turn 24 as the party returns to room 16, they must rest, and I roll a random encounter. In this case, a group of fire beetles with strange arcane powers. Rolling double sixes on the NPC reaction roll, I decided that these are the subjects of some of Golmore's experiments. This tells me a great deal about who he is. He is kidnapping people with the teleporter, because he wants to try and create magic using slaves. I will explain the friendly reaction by explaining that they are used to Neela feeding them.

The party expends a day of rations to feed the four hungry beetles, and enjoy some increased light from their new companions.

Unfortunately, on turn 25 Golmore bursts into the room just as they are getting up to move. Needing to get out of his line of sight as quickly as possible, the party forces the door to room 12, the pens for the non-magical fire beetles Golmor is keeping for his future experiments.

[Room 12]

With the hand cart in the armor, they move a lot slower than he does. And they need to force a door. I rolled initiative and get simultaneous results. The party forces the doo andr runs through it into the room full of surprised beetles, but are also hit with a supercharged web spell leaving them trapped.

Cover to The Game-Players of Titan,
1st Ed. by Philip K. Dick. Art by
Charles Gaughan. ©1963 Ace Books
The Oracle tells me that Mord managed to shut the door so far that Golmore cannot reach them, even though they're caught. He must go up and around, mustering his henchmet as he goes. The party has 40 minutes before they can get free.

Golmore, and all 9 NPCs muster in room 7. A morale check tells me that the piercers in that room will not attack given the number of people active. 

Neela, my oracle determines, knows that Golmore will likely scan them with ESP. extremely difficult for the player characters to surprise him. But the, I thought back to a favourite Philip K. Dick, story; The Game Players of Titan, about beating Telepathy at a card and board game . I wondered if Jonas might be able to make a split decision, but then ask a bunch of pointless Tactical questions, and drown his own thoughts out with math practice.  This seems plausible, but tricky. Depending on who's mind Golmore is listening to.

This was a puzzle, but a fun one. The kind of thing that if I were purely a DM I would let happen by Rule of Cool. 

[Room 7]

"Holden" Created using Hero Forge and 
Adobe Photoshop, used in accordance 
With the Hero Forge EULA
I give him VSd6 0-die pool... As in he rolls 2d6 and takes the worst result. His result is 4... Yes. He gets to surprise Golmore by tricking his ESP. Jonas can dive into the room and cast sleep. The dice are kind: the spell goes off and knocks out everyone except Golmore.

Because his party didn't know what he was up to, they are suprised as well. On the next round, Mord charges in and wounds Golmore, ruining his own sleep spell.

Golmore surrenders, calling on Tarrant, who is clearly a knight, to take him prisoner. Unfortunately for Golmore, Tarrant is a witch-hunter with the Order of the Crow, knights who take holy oaths to protect common folk from magicians that abuse their power. He is not going to give Golmore slack.

Holden, a Cleric of Benedetti, goddess of stars and fate, is the voice of compassion, and argues that they ought to take him a prisoner. Mord suggests Neela ought to be the one to decide. Neela venomously insults Golmore's manhood and sexual ability before killing him.

"Piercer " from the AD&D Monster
Manual. Art by David C. Sutherland II. 
©1977, TSR, Inc
Golmore wore an emerald Ktulu pendant, a precious ring, and carried two magical swords. Given that only fighters can use magic swords in 'Purple, both go to Mord, even though he is not yet proficient in wielding them.

He also carries a white gold and amethyst slave collar that Neela keeps, despite having dark memories attached to it. 

The party trusses up the others. Then they head back to Area 12 to free the beetles. The moment they do there are two wet thuds, as the piercers hiding in the room decide to take advantage of the vulnerable targets. I roll a d10 for each body in the room. They impale Maythe, a Chaotic magic user, and a torch bearer.

The PCs slay the Piercers and wake the NPCs. Free of Golmore's charm spells, the PCs have a bonus to Reaction rolls.

Once they agree to a truce, the PCs free them. An indifferent reaction means that the remaining NPCs have no interest in opening hostilities, but as one friend and one employee were killed by the PCs' inattention, they are not ready to team up, either.

The NPCs know the password to get past the Machine and offer to trade it for Neela. The PCs refuse that offer. They tell the NPCs to leave by the shortest route possible. The PC party agrees and departs. The PCs then offer any hireling that wishes to stay with them 500sp to bring the raft back upon return.

[Room 1]

Free now to pillage, the PCs go directly to Golmore's room where, aside from some coins, a hammer and tongs, some ink and notebooks, and a Cloak, the room contains a gold chain that matches the collar.

They also find Golmore's spell book and give it to Jonas. He is awed by its contents. 

Tarrant, Neela, Jonas, Mord, and Holden as done I. Hero Forge. 
used in accordance With the Hero Forge EULA

[Room 2]

This room serves as the kitchen, lounge, and as the quarters for the other NPCs. There are a few filthy Bedroll, but most of the food from the kitchen area and goods were ransacked by the other party on their way out. The PCs find Mathye's Spellbook hidden in a wall panel.

Two Shriekers were kept there in glass bell jars made of the purple sands of Kravian. These dull the senses of the Shriekers inside. Lifting the lid creates an instant alarm. They decide against taking them.

[Room 6]

Room 6 is a laboratory; a confusing jumble of computers. alchemy gear, Occult paraphernalia, herbs, grave goods, and  magical items. They have no idea what is worth taking. They do claim a scroll of Protection from the undead.

[Room 4]

"Piercer " from the AD&D2e Monstrous
Compendium. Art by Jim Holloway. 
©1989, TSR, Inc
Midden of the dungeon, this room is full of bones of all description and crawling with crabs. The stench is intense. Neela is aware of two Shriekers here. To avoid wandering monsters, they try to destroy the Shriekers from a distance. They fail this time and Tarrant is forced to cut one down with a charge.

The PCs decide to rest here, relieving themselves of waste, waiting for the ringing in Tarrant 's ears to stop, etc. The Shriekers' call unfortunately attracts more piercers. Jonas sees them just in time to shout a warning. They have only 2 rounds to react before the Piercer ls can attack. It is a desperate barrage of bullets, bolts, and arrows before the second one finally succumbs.

[Rooms 11, 10, 17, 16]

The party is eager to see daylight now, but decide to take the longer route to avoid the other party and see if there is more treasure to be had.

[Room 22]

"Jonas with sling" created using
Hero Forge. Used here in accordance
with their EULA
The PCs are suprised by a pair of piercers. Neela is impaled and reduced to - 2 hp. Holden operates as fast as he can, using his military training. He stabilizes her, but not much more. Between the Demon bite and this, I roll that she now has a trick elbow.

Desperate to get her to safety, there load her on the cart and begin moving quickly.

[Rooms 24, 23]

They do not stop to search these rooms.

[Room 21]

Despite looking for them, another Piercer ambushes the party and aims randomly for Neela. As Jonas is pushing the cart with Neela, I allow him to  make a Save vs. Death Ray to block the attack with his own body. 

Jonas succeeds, but the piercer mangles his upraised hand and drives itself into Jonas' abdomen before his allies can kill it. Jonas has no hit points remaining. He has lost a finger and may yet die.

The two clerics race to save his life in a delicate and complicated operation. He barely survives. They load him onto the cart with Neela.

[Location A]

A second demon idol sits here. Mord pillages it's ruby eyes without a thought.

[Room 2]

Waiting here they find one of the hirelings interested in the 500sp offered. Kis name is Korl. A Sherpa with great knowledge of Kravian. He helps them get Neela and Jonas on the waiting raft. He then helps them row to the Western point of Kravian and find a campsite..

Welcome to the Purple Islands! 

Map of the Purple Islands. ©2014 Kort'thalis Publishing 

Hex 002, Kravian, Day 1, Third Watch

It takes time to row across to the mainland. Once there, Korl helps the party find material for a campfire while Holden guards the wounded.

As the sun sets, Mord inspects the two swords. The one with the silvery blade and angelic hilt washes him with waves of disdain and contempt. The other, to his surprise speaks in a husky, feminine voice. The red metal sword is called Scarlett. She was Forged from iron of the Abyss and tasted so much life that she eventually gained sentience. It is a blade that is deeply hedonistic; she loves sex and violence in equal measure and enjoys living vicariously through her masters, and knows a few hundred lurid tales.

She introduces the other sword as Elegance, an ancient blade that believes itself a weapon worthy of only the Ultimate swordsman. It is, Scarlett assures him, a snob.

While Mord meditates on the blades, both Holden and Tarrant perform rites to their respective gods: Benedetti, goddess of fate and weaver of stars, and Khorus, the God of Law and Harmony.

Upon completion of their prayers, they find that their deities have blessed them both with Clerical magic enough to bring their Fallen companions back to consciousness. 

Once they are settled, they tell something of their stories over an evening meal on the Purple sands. With a native available, they decide to share some of what they have heard of the Purple Islands and see what is true. 

What Neela Knows

Neela is here to find crystals to heal her foster daughter, a child born on these islands, but handed to Neela fourteen years ago in a market. The scholars believe her child needs healing from her birthplace, and the crystals are miraculous. But she has also heard  they are a curse on the bearer. 

Koshi says that carrying too many crystals comes at a price to mind or body. 

What Tarrant Knows

Tarrant once read the grimoire of a warlock he had slain that described black pylons on the Purple Islands that could bend reality to the whim of one who learned its terrible secret. 

Koshi has heard stories of the pylons, but has never seen one. 

What Holden Knows

Holden has heard that the face of the first God is carved on a mountainside on Kravian, and gazing on it brings Revelation. 

Koshi knows the place and can guide him there as he has done for many pilgrims in the past. 

What Mord and Jonas Know

Both have heard that the island is ruled by a beautiful, blue-skinned witch queen. 

Koshi has never heard of this. 

Where to? 

Korl presents them with some options :

  • There is a Koshi village a few hours away where they might trade for supplies, but the Koshi can be tricky.
  • There is the Red Monks of Zygax-Xith, who have much, but are cruel and trade in knowledge. Any who come to trade  has best know something of value or they may be taken to the pits to become entertainment.
  • The Face of God is a few day's journey. He could guide them there.
  • He knows of a cavern with plenty of crystals, but it is very dangerous, and they would be better off supplied first.
  • He can take them to a free colony of pirates and smugglers where gold might be worth something and men & supplies are to be had.

After Some Consideration, the party agrees to follow the Southern coast to find the freebooters' village and buy new supplies. From there trios to a crystal - mine and The Face of God may be easier. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, so much detail! The spaceship, wizard, demons, alien power system, monsters, treasure, and teleporters... utterly fantastic.

    I'm going to check out the supplements you named. I would think solo roleplaying would lose any exhibitionist charms, but your play reports makes up for that.

    BTW, the cover art for The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence was Fausti.