Role-playing reviews

Reviews related to role-playing games, with a focus on Gods & Monsters, and a bit of superhero gaming.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

992 9 September 27, 7 AM

Jerry Stratton, April 9, 2016

The Caverns of Thracia cover: The cover for Paul Jaquays’s The Caverns of Thracia.; Judges Guild; The Caverns of Thracia

Minotaurs, saurians, and jackal-headed mananubi. The cover fits the reskin pretty well!

The jackal-headed mananubi brought the captured characters to a Greek-like open-air chapel. On the way there, they saw a glass tube rising into the clouds; a gigantic oak-like tree; and a wall of thorny trees on either side of the chapel. There was a minotaur, two saurians, and five jackals on guard at the chapel. The creatures all discussed what to do with the captives. They decided (a) to send some jackals back to the platform to check out the other side, since it probably isn’t guarded any more (six people can’t sneak through); and to send one of the jackals on ahead to tell the minotaur-king that they have captives.

At that moment, Zah Eil commanded the minotaur to sleep. The minotaur walked over to a column, leaned back, and took a nap. While the minotaur was walking, Zah Eil manifested darkness. Because they’d seen this sort of thing before from him and Riana, none of the player characters were surprised.

Eddie Lizard could still see people—saurians have “underground” vision. He/she surmised, then, that the two saurians on the chapel steps could also see. They brandished their clubs and began to step down.

The jackals that had had their bows out fired in the darkness, and missed everything.

Riana manifested sunder weapons. All wooden weapons in play were warped and cracked beyond use: the bows of the jackals, the clubs of the saurians, and the battle-axes of the jackals on the steps. Since the player characters didn’t have any weapons, this didn’t affect them. Eddie saw the saurians reach for something in their armor.

Zah Eil ended his darkness.

Alvin began sermonizing about the wrath of the gods.

The saurians threw darts at Eddie and Zah Eil, and hit Eddie.

Majelica and Owen both cast sleep on the six jackals that had captured them. All but one fell asleep.

At this point, the remaining jackal behind them ran away; the five up front retreated quickly, with the saurians covering them with more darts. Riana manifested darkness on one of the saurians; it didn’t hold, but there was still darkness around the west side of the chapel/guardhouse. This covered the player character escape as they ran back to the platform they’d arrived on.

Alvin grabbed the bag of their weapons that one of the jackals had been carrying; they distributed their weapons and jumped onto the platform.

And waited.

Alvin and Majelica looked at the destroyed control pillar; everyone else went into the center of the platform. After a minute, everyone else disappeared. Alvin and Majelica then went into the center.

Rather than the platform floating above the jungle that they expected, they were in utter darkness. No stars, no moon(s), nothing. Eddie could see shapes moving. Owen called out “light spell” in Anglish and cast light.

They were in a large, open-air temple, this time rectangular. Eight jackals had bows pointed at them. One of the jackals looked at Eddie and asked, “what are you bringing those humans here for?”

Majelica and Owen both cast sleep. Riana manifested sheet lightning on the outer two jackals, so that sheet lightning flashed between them—and through all eight of the jackals.

The jackals all fired arrows, most of them at Eddie; Eddie barely survived.

Riana shapeshifted into a bear and charged the remaining jackal. It ran out of the temple. They let it run, and gathered up the weapons of the sleeping jackals. They were preparing to get back on the platform, and Zah Eil noticed the statue of his goddess Ishtar in the temple.

So he looked around; there was another statue off just outside of Owen’s light. Owen, Zah Eil, and Majelica went to look at it. It was a statue of Sin, god of the moon, visions, and kingship. Written on the base was “Oh Sin, anointer of kings, shine upon me and show me your way.” On the alcove behind it were two marble bas-relief panels showing acts of the god, set into the rock.

This matched the riddle that Zah Eil had received from Ishtar:

…a third secret, the tablet of music and the arts, waits in the court of the lizard king, beyond the ebon demon, beyond the shrine of the moon, past the temples of the dead, in a city lost, ancient beyond imagining. Look you beyond, and beware, the hidden crossroads and the guardians of the lizard king’s rest.

Eddie looked over it for a secret door; he didn’t find any. But Zah Eil was adamant that there had to be one, so they all got together and looked again1.

One of the panels was a secret door. Eddie looked for traps, didn’t find any, and opened the door.

And got hit by one of two spears that short forth from the hallway beyond.

They heard noises off to their left; they stepped inside and closed the secret door behind them.

After walking about ten feet, they saw the hallway open into a room some sort forty feet down. They walked a bit more, and in the center of the room they saw a huge black demon staring at them, its eyes glittering in the light.

When they reached the room, they see it is a completely circular room; they smelled a very faint odor of methane2. The demon statue was on a round platform raised slightly off of the ground. They sent Alvin and Riana—still a bear—inside to look around the room. The demon turned to watch them as they went around the wall.

The walls were covered with plaster and very faint frescoes of lizard men; the rare humans in the frescoes were being sacrificed or eaten. There were no obvious gods.

Alvin and Riana split up; the demon followed Riana. Riana turned human again; the demon continued to look at her wherever she was. She went out of the room into the hallway. After about ten feet, the demon turned to look at Zah Eil; if he moved, it followed him around the room. When Riana re-entered, the demon swiveled back to look at her.

They examined the frescoes more closely and found nothing indicating a secret door.

Owen spoke the word “grah” to activate the belt he wore3. Owen disappeared into the ethereal and walked through the walls and around, until he found a hallway beyond, where the secret door was behind the plaster. The secret passage led to stairs, which he followed down; the stairs were covered in fallen rocks but, he guessed, would be traversable. The stairs led to a large temple with eight doors leading out of it, and an altar at the far end.

He returned to the demon-room to tell them what he’d found.

In response to Caverns of Thracia session reports: I have been wanting to run Caverns of Thracia ever since I saw it—and probably ever since I heard of it, back in the day when Judges Guild was a producer of myth.

  1. In Gods & Monsters they can have one individual and one group effort for any action. After that I make them try something else.

  2. In the world of the Thracia, apparently, methane has an odor.

  3. Owen found the Belt of Walking in the caverns around Dowanthal Peak, and, as player, recognized the similarities of the script to Elvish. He then guessed at several possible pronunciations until he got one that worked… then he had to repeat the process to return to normal, as the trigger words to go ethereal and come back to normal were different.

  1. <- Thracia session 1
  2. Thracia session 3 ->