I’ve had some rum luck with illness recently – a chest infection a few weeks ago, and now Covid (I’m recovering, thankfully) have meant I’ve missed two #TTRPG conventions that are genuine highlights. Owlbear and Wizard’s Staff is excellent beery fun in Leamington Spa, while Furnace is a centrepiece of the Garrison Conventions and the place that first got me into convention GMing.
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So, I’ve been left with an excess of prepped games, and no-where to run them – so I’ll be putting them out on here. First up, a game that was planned for Owlbear, for Roward Rook & Decard‘s Heart: The City Beneath. In Heart, your desperate treasure-hunters delve into the living, beating dungeon beneath the occupied city of Spire to find eldritch treasures – and themselves.
Full disclosure – I haven’t actually run this, although I’m sure it will get an outing soon. If you’re Heart-curious, this might give you an idea what to expect in the game. If you’re a Patron, feel free to message (on here or twitter) and I’ll send you the pregens I did for it as well, giving you a fully ready-to-run game. Also, this is based on an adventure seed in the actual book – there are loads of them in there – but fleshed-out to be runnable for a one-shot. I’ve got more to say about prep for loose-improv games like Heart and Spire, but that’s another blog post.
Into the Underhang
A Heart: The City Beneath One-Shot
Into the Underhang is an independent production by Burn After Running and is not affiliated with Rowan, Rook and Decard. It is published under the RR&D Community License. Heart is copyright Rowan, Rook and Decard. You can find out more and support these games at rowanrookanddecard.com.
Scene 1 – Derelictus
We begin in the city between the cities, a sprawling, semi-underground mirror of Spire, Derelictus. From Platform 1, where all manner of equipment can be sourced, to Platform 2, where we find ourselves now – with Ostrer, a mad researcher, is cutting you a deal.
Hang Station was built as a tourist trap; suspended over a vast subterranean sea, so that aelfir could see the captured, sleeping monster beneath, captured from the far north. Hang Station is on Tier 2 of Heart – so will need at least a couple of delves, stopping off at a waypoint on the way. He wants to get a sample of the beast’s blood – and he needs your help.
There appear to be two notable routes towards Hang Station (a Technology) – through the singing, open railways of the Vermissian Railways – maybe hoping to catch a train some of the way, or a darker, lower way, through Sump Station (a Warren) – the flooded remains of an old station now submerged. Darker, but less likely to attract attention
In Derelictus, each PC has a chance to prepare – they can try and get hold of a D6 piece of equipment for the journey, or research another route – perhaps one going through a more favourable area for them. After a skill roll each, and potential stress (always D4 at this stage, and usually to Supplies or Fortune), they must set off
Scene 2 – Delve to Tier 1
This is a delve they will take to either Sump Station, Hang Station, or another location
Route: Between Derelictus and Sump Station
Domains: Technology, Warren
Description: A tramp through foot-deep, the knee-deep, flooded tunnels, in fading light and with labyrinthine corridors. Occasional relics of machinery or rails puncture through the floor – and occasionally pumps still churn. It smells bad initially, then turns to a warm, cleaner smell.
Events: Jonjak and his gang of gutterkin will track the PCs from Derelictus, and attempt to jump them to find out what they are doing; a sudden overflow means they have to wade chest-deep or lower; strange fluorescent fish swim under the water and circle the PCs; a warehouse of fishmongery where Mikkel the Fish waits to serve them
Connection: Capture the glowing fish for Mikkel and he will teach you the secrets of the eddies
Route: Between Derelictus and Hang Station
Domains: Technology, Occult
Description: A walk along high, ruined walkways alongside the tracks which have collapsed in places; crystals line the path eventually; the smell of incense and sulphur. Damaged rope-ways line each pathway
Events: Jonjak and his gang of gutterkin will track the PCs from Derelictus, and attempt to jump them to find out what they are doing; a clattering of a passing train requires jumping out of the way – or onto it; the singing of crystals in the ceiling above as one falls and shatters
Connection: Repair the rope-ways linking to the paths
Scene 3: The Mid-Point
At this point, they have arrived, either in Sump Station or Hang Station, and have a chance for respite. Ostrer insists that they need to purchase some supplies – ropes and pulleys – but at this point you encounter the rival delvers, Protector Baram and his men.
They accost the players as they explore the haven, asking them their business and mocking them. They know that the beast has laid eggs, and can see that Ostrer wants one as well. Depending on the PC’s approach, they may suggest an alliance, or try and sabotage their equipment. Either way, he will wish them luck.
As with Scene 1, PCs may make 1 test to try and recover equipment or preparations for the further delve.
Scene 4: Into the Underhang
From their location, they need to venture deeper into the Heart, to Hang Station and the underground lake.
Route: Between Tier 1 and Hang Station
Domains: Cursed, Technology
Description: Trekking through walkways suspended over still lakes, or raging torrents – creaking at the wind that blows through them. The smell of tar, and then of some big, fishy beast. The crackling of magical energy from long-decayed dampers and siphons. The echoes of fellow hunters, or ghosts, around them.
Events: A crackle of energy covers the ground in front with a web of occult power that must be bypassed; the walkway shatters and falls, meaning they must form a new route; Jonjak, still tracking, ambushes them on a walkway; Baram makes his move as they approach; a ghostly engineer seeks aid in repairing conduits and walkways
Connection: Repairing the conduits will allow them to lay the ghost to rest.
Scene 5: The Harvest
They emerge onto a vast creaking observation platform, a sparkling lake below them swaying gently. A huge whale-beast has broken the surface of the water below, and a light snore echoes around the cavern – but the eggs are on the other side.
- Somehow get down to the lake. There are maintenance rowboats and rafts available, ropes and pulleys, that could be fashioned
- Recover the eggs from the egg sac beyond the creature – they could dive in, or trick it into rolling over
- Avoid the attentions of the rival gangs, who will attempt to ambush them
At their moment of triumph, a roar echoes through the lake – the beast has awoken, and they must escape
Ostrer the Mad Researcher
Motivation: Find and recover the eggs of the Hang Station beast
Sensory Details: Thick, clouded goggles with no light; the smell of dusty books mixed with oil; a dirty, flapping lab coat
At the Table: Close eyes when speaking
Jonjak the Tunnel Brigand
Motivation: Find a score big enough to retire on
Sensory Details: Filthy overalls and cloak; scarred face and hands; odd limp
At the Table: Speaks with a pirate accent (Arr!)
Resources: Stolen heirlooms (D8, Taboo), Poorly-written maps (D6 Delve)
Motivation: Gain freedom from Jonjak, or at least more pleasant employment with him
Sensory Details: A mob of 8 or 9 gullboys and heron-girls; squawking and clambouring over one another; rusted, broken knives with alarming speed
At the Table: Look this way and that while skwarking in semi-speech
Stress: Knives D6, Unreliable
Mikkel the Fish
Motivation: Serve his narcotic fishes to the discerning
Sensory Details: A scale-clad shaved gnoll with rings everywhere; stares oddly at everything; the smell of oil and tar
At the Table: Keep mouth open when not speaking
Protector Baram, Drow Rival Delver
Motivation: Be the first to recover a beast-egg for his masters
Sensory Details: The smell of cheap perfume, a shiny well-maintained leather coat, the clip of heels on ground; accompanied by a pair of cackling gnolls, Forrad and Vorrad
At the Table: Alan Rickman-esque villainy
Stress: Whip D8 Tiring, Pistol D6 Ranged One-Shot
The Hang Station Beast
Motivation: To eat, sleep and breed
Sensory Details: A thick smell of fur, fish and sweat; blue-grey skin covered in slick water; a light, echoey snore
At the Table: Describe the ground shifting
Stress: Roll over D6