To start with, I rolled three characters using the ‘3d6 and assign in order’ method. In Worlds Without Number, you can then raise a single stat to 14. Two of my rolled spreads ended up fairly average, and the third above average. A pleasant and somewhat lucky start.
Lyriel of Tain is an archer with the Barbarian background. She is proficient in combat, survival, and has a natural aura of leadership. I gave her the Authority and Deadeye foci.
Gesmund Dar is a mage studying High Magic and Necromancy. He has the Artisan background and is skilled at persuasion and making connections. I gave him the Connected focus.
Ghost is a roguish individual with the Criminal background. He is perceptive and stealthy, and I gave him the Alert and Impostor foci.
I selected their starting equipment packages, chose Gesmund’s spells, and rolled hit points. At that point, they were ready to go adventuring.
But, to add just a little bit of meat to their bones before I begin, I rolled on the motivation tables in UNE and obtained “hinder” and “slavery” as results. Skimming over the WWN pdf, my immediate interpretation was that the party were fleeing some form of oppression in Ka-Adun. Perhaps Gesmund and Ghost were childhood friends, growing up together in the maze-like streets of the New City. Gesmund had been forced to endure indentured servitude, something Ghost turned to crime to evade. Perhaps Lyriel, being a barbarian outsider, somehow became the driver of their emancipation during one of her raids upon their settlements. Whatever the specifics eventually turned out to be, this would be enough motivation to get the ball rolling.
The Set Up
So, if the party were fleeing the New City and Ka-Adun, where would they go? I had a look at the regional map of the Gyre, and common sense told me they would likely travel south along the Usuldarum River. These characters would be drawn to the wilderness of Llaigis. It‘s far from their oppressors and contains numerous opportunities for adventure, coin, and the aquisition of power.
At the city of Acitor, the characters would obtain a working passage on a riverboat bound for Hodrin. The vessel would travel to Akan Lai before attempting the dangerous journey around southern Llaigis.
At this point, I asked the Mythic GM Emulator if the characters would make it to Hodrin without an encounter. The result was an extreme no. That said to me an overwhelming and hostile encounter on the river and provided me with the setup for the first scene of the game.
I needed to work out the specifics of the encounter before I could begin play, so using some of the wilderness charts in the WWN pdf, I knocked up a rudimentary random encounter table for the southern Llaigis borderlands.
I rolled a 10. Outsiders. These are the descendants of alien races that have invaded Earth over the countless millennia, remnants of ancient star faring civilisations that have washed up on the planet like driftwood. In this area, that would probably mean either a Jikegida hunting party (perhaps 1-4 on a d6), or a Polop warband (5-6). I rolled a 4. Let say around 3d6 Jikegida would descend on the riverboat looking for warm blooded creatures to capture and use as incubators for their larvae. Grim.
Night on the Usuldarum. Pale light from the waning moon cast grey shadows against the gloom, the only sounds were air currents moving through trees and the occasional slap of a riverboat sail. A fat cargo vessel wallowed sluggishly upstream, its Vothite captain eager to take advantage of favourable winds. Night crew padded barefoot across the deck, quietly going about their work whilst most of their comrades slept below.
Up ahead, unbeknownst to the crew of the boat, a hunting party of Jikegida waited in the overhanging canopy, their thin, insectoid limbs clutching the branches that arched out across the water. The Stick Men had been motionless for hours, patiently lying in ambush as the scent of approaching humans drifted up river on the night’s breeze. The lead Jikegida, a large Manborn, watched the boat draw closer, its mandibles twitching. It could sense the impatience of the Beastborn hanging behind it. Lowly kin, incubated inside livestock and wild animals, numerous but weak. No matter, the humans they were about to capture would become hosts to a good-sized clutch of Manborn. Bigger, stronger, smarter. Worthy additions to the nest.
As the boat slowly moved underneath them, the leader let out a series of clicks, signalling for the attack to begin. Jikegida dropped in silence from their hiding places onto the deck of the vessel and began their grisly harvest. By the time the crew realised what was happening, it was already too late.
Whilst the crew on deck are surprised by this attack, Ghost’s Alert focus prohibits him from being similarly affected. I roll a Notice check for him and he passes. Below decks, he hears the dampened thuds of invaders boarding the boat and wakes the others.
I ask the Mythic Fate Chart if they would have enough time to hastily don their padded armour and ready weapons, and the answer is yes.
Lyriel, Gesmund and Ghost wake the slumbering crew and swiftly gather their equipment, running up the ladder that leads to the cramped aftcastle and out onto the deck. By now crew and Outsiders are locked in combat, arcs of lightning from Jikegida stun-maces illuminating the area in staccato bursts. Lyriel quickly counts at least eleven Jikegida. A scream tears through the night and is strangled off into a bubbling gurgle as a crewman hits the deck, his throat ripped open from a jagged mandible bite. The Jikegida standing over him crunches its mouthful greedily.
Assessing the situation, Lyriel turns to her companions. “We can’t win here,” she says. “We have to leave.”
Ghost looks horrified at this. “But the crew,” he stammers. “We have to help them.”
Gesmund rounds on the thief with a curse. “Don’t be thick! There’s no way we can help them, they’re as good as dead. Or worse. Now move!”
At this point I roll to see if the attackers have noticed the characters. Having made no attempt to stealth onto the deck, I roll a flat skill check for the Outsiders, which they pass. Four Jikegida break off from the main attack and charge the characters.
Rolling Initiative, thankfully the characters win.
Lyriel nocks an arrow to her bow, draws to her anchor and releases in one swift move. It takes the lead Jikegida high in the throat, and a lucky damage roll kills it outright. Gesmund, not wishing to tarry here, unleashes The Coruscating Coffin, his only prepared spell. The second insectoid attacker is engulfed in a torrent of dark, purple energy. It fails its saving throw and is flayed from existence, the Legacy tearing it down to component atoms. Swiftly grabbing a throwing knife, Ghost hurls it at the oncoming creatures, but his aim is wide and the blade clanks against the forecastle wall and bounces overboard.
On the far side of the riverboat, the Manborn takes notice of the spellcaster and fires his boltcaster, the vicious barb impaling Gesmund in the shoulder and taking the mage down to one hit point. It’s too late to disrupt his spell, but the shot has nearly killed him. The two remaining Jikegida pass their Morale Check and finish their charge. The first swings at Ghost, who dodges the blow. The stun mace hits the deck and discharges lightning across the wooden surface, leaving a spider web of burn marks. Ghost will take a point of Shock Damage, which represents the excessive strain of combat, and the accumulated minor damage of a vicious melee. The second attacker swings and hits Lyriel in the leg, searing the flesh of her thigh.
Grunting in pain, the warrior drops her bow and draws an axe. She swings, but barely grazes the creature. That’s a point of Shock Damage to the Jikegida. Ghost, on the other hand, swiftly produces a short sword and plunges it into the eye socket of the closest Outsider, a soft crunch as the tip of the blade pushes out the back of its skull. Pulling the sword clear, the beast drops to the ground, dead. With blood drenching his tunic, Gesmund unsheathes a dagger and slowly inches backwards to the edge of the boat, moving out of the Manborn’s line of sight, who goes back to subduing nearby crew.
The last Jikegida just manages to pass its Morale Check and attacks Lyriel once more. A solid hit and damage roll, the mace heavily impacting her side, fracturing ribs and burning flesh. She is down to two hit points and is in awfully bad shape.
Drawing on her reserves of strength, Lyriel attacks again with her axe and lands a hit, burying the blade deep in the creature’s neck. It is thankfully enough to kill the Jikegida.
The immediate danger over, the characters swiftly gather any dropped items and run to the back of the boat, away from the main battle. Needing no further encouragement all three jump over the side and into the cold, dark waters of the Usuldarum. Whilst the current is sluggish, the characters are injured, so I roll an Exert check for each swimmer. Thankfully, they all pass and manage to reach the far riverbank.
I roll on the Fate Chart to determine whether the Jikegida pursue, and the answer is no. The Stick Men seem satisfied with subduing and capturing the remaining crew still on board.
Pulling themselves out of the river, the three battered adventurers limped into the undergrowth, the sounds of combat slowly fading away upstream. Breathing heavily, Gesmund began to deliver a pessimistic evaluation of their chances of survival with a severely injured warrior and a mage with no prepared spells.
Grunting in agreement, Ghost helped Lyriel up the inclined bank and past the treeline. “We need to find a settlement as soon as possible.”
“Yes,” nodded Lyriel, her smile weak and her breathing ragged. “And how about we hire some extra muscle, eh? A huge grunt. A proper bruiser.” She thanked Ghost and slumped down with her back against a gnarled trunk.
Gesmund smirked and looked down at the barb protruding from his shoulder. “Aye, lets hire a meat shield.”