Actual Play Report: Hall of Judgment 2 (Simone De Bellis)

Foreword (Douglas)

This continues the actual play report by Simone De Bellis, the first session of which was transcribed here in a prior post (mildly edited by me), and here in the GURPS North America Facebook group, which thankfully is used by folks well beyond North America.

As before, he takes what I gave him in Hall of Judgment and makes it his own. Some of the changes – such as making the thurs (a kind of fae troll-kin) into minor jotuns are pretty inspired. The other is using the natural freedom of the setting to plunk down needed resources, such as a village he needs for reasons to be revealed later, I suppose!

It’s great to see someone so obviously having fun with the material.

Read on for details! And pick up a copy today – either from Warehouse 23, or my own webstore.

Play Report  (Simone De Bellis)

Here the second report from my “Hall of Judgment” campaign. Enjoy.

Disclaimer

I happily share the second report of the “Hall of Judgment” campaign. If you have already red my previous (and first) report, you are aware that I am using this excellent adventure in my personal setting. Sometimes I had to change something, tweaking it, because it has to be more consistent with my world. But, to be honest, is not a huge work, for two reasons: the more we play, the more realize that fits totally my goal: the creature, the atmosphere, the lands, all of these is well done and easily implemented. Second: the book gives you enough freedom of movement, leaving you space to move around.

In this way you can use it as a stand alone (playing as written), or as a part of a larger story (as I am doing). On top of this, you can find a lot of different points of view to build your adventure: the journey itself is an excellent material. Random encounters are all exciting to play. And are open to add something more, adjusting them according to your playstyle. The beast compendium is amazing, well written, with all important information in easy view.

That said, for these 3 days of march I am going to recount, I changed the Thurs encounter a little bit: Thurs are perfect, but to be more consistent with my setting, I changed them into more iconic monsters: giants of Jotunheimr. Thanks to the knowledge of the norse character (history and religion check), he took basic knowledge of the fight strategy the giants are going to use. Thus, because they had a bit of unlucky rolls for perception, they didn’t spot the menace.

The second change I did, was to introduce an ancient village, pretty much destroyed. Why? Same reason: there is a bigger plan to create a consistent setting. I had planned to use this village later, but because the encounter that I rolled, I added it in that moment. Couldn’t be more satisfied. (Can not go deeper in details because don’t want to spoiler to my players, in case they will read, but in future, I will write the entire story, with all needed details).

Finally, last 2 words about my campaign: I think that a GM (or a DM, if like me you have played D&D for a long time) has as a real challenge, to narrate a good story. It’s not difficult kick the characters with challenging fights, it’s just an algebraic problem after all. The real point is to produce a story, articulate one, with events that link to each other, with subplot, good villains and – very important – placed into a living and consistent world. That’s my main task, and it is the reason I needed to change something.

In any case, the “Hall of Judgment” adventure is a rare pearl that gives you plenty opportunities and seeds, and I am very happy to have bought it, because to be honest, this campaign wouldn’t be so excited without it, and changing something is surely easier than inventing from the ground. And now, finally the report (hope to do not have bother you too much).

Second report

We played 7th, 8th and 9th day of the journey. Temperature: cold, but not too much. The snow was thick enough to use skis in place of wheels for their wagon. Players: Kaji (the rune fighter, Norseman); Ulric (the holy night from the northern realm called the “Bloody Throne”, half sorcerer, totally fighter); Elymir (wood elf, specialized in archery); The wizard was not able to play.

We have left our heroes moving from the hills, toward the mountains, when their wagon slightly started to bounce on the road. When they were looking for the cause, they found huge footprints beneath the snow. What could they be, when the tracks left 6 fingered footprints (really good survival check)? Kaji (the Norseman) recall some stories about his childhood, when the skalds and travelers told stories about the giants of Jotunheimr. But why are there giants here, in the material plane (Midgard for him)? What is happening to Yggdrasil and its roots?
They left these questions behind, unanswered, and carefully continued their travel.

The path was starting to change very fast, leaving the smooth plains at their back, facing the high peaks of the mountains. Taking some reference points (one peak looked like a dagger and another like a gigantic grin), they moved on.

The path was difficult, and the snow was frequently falling hard. They walked for few miles, and sometimes they had to double back, wasting time. When the sky was finally visible again, they managed to reach someplace to camp: a series of natural caves, forming almost a street, between the mountains. Fir trees lined both sides, with scrub and low vegetation, but no animals.

Giant Problems

Something was odd: Kaji had a strange impression. He saw something not consistent with the white snowy background. He took his magical runes, used the power of the “Uruz” rune (Strengthen) to improve his vision. Even so, he did not see the white figure who was aiming at them with a huge rock (unlucky roll). Elymir (the elf), thanks to his keen senses, understood what was going on a second before the giant rock fell on their heads and was able to dodge the attack, rolling back from the wagon.

The trio on the wagon did not. The rock smashed on the wagon, destroying a part of it, scaring the horses and wounded the thegns. The frightened beasts starting to rush on down the path, dividing them from Elymir.

While they were trying to calm the horses down, Kaji saw a giant figure on the mountain. The wagon had left behind their property, but they had another trouble. After they had calmed the horses, they heard a thump behind them, followed by a battle cry: a white-blue skinned giant, with a huge hammer, some furs on his body, a bear’s head as a glove and an unusual deer’s horns as helm, slid down and charged them. In the distance, they heard another roar and noise: another one was coming.

Ulric (the Knight) quickly used his sorcery to imbue his sword with holy light (Sword of Dawn, his sorcery spell) and started to focus on his defense to absorb the charge. Kaji used his rune to improve the fire on his brazier . . . and the frost giant attacked.

Ulric’s martial ability was enough to deflect and parry all the giant’s attacks, leaving him unharmed, and he payed the giant back. Huge bloody wounds appeared rapidly on the giant’s torso, exuding an acrid smell of burnt flesh. Fire from the brazier hit the giant while Kaji moved around to the beast’s back. Another exchange of hits from the creature and Ulric when Kaji attacked, smashing the giant who, with a mighty effort before he expired, used his freezing breath to entangle the armored knight. The giant then used his rage to hit Kaji hard, wounding him. The wounds suffered from the 2 thegns were deep: the creature fell, though another was coming. In a couple of seconds, Kaji used his fire of the brazier to free Ulric from his icy prison (scratching him). The clash continued: fast and surgically, Ulric moved, blocking a huge fist from the giant and he attacked, aiming at the leg: one hit and the leg was severed. The killing blow was merciful.

Elymir (the elf), after having dodged and rolled out from the wagon, took cover behind rocks and trees. He spotted the enemy that was throwing rocks and trees before starting to move in his direction, but the fast draw of two arrows per shot was enough to make the giant take cover in the face of a rain of arrows. The giant didn’t reach the elf’s cover, falling down into the snow, rolling a couple of time before stop. Another merciful kill.

They fought and won, but Kaji was wounded and the wagon half-destroyed. They decided to camp there for the night. They heard some noises: wolves were trying to feed from the giants’ rest, and before dawn, they heard some elks passing close their refuge, but nothing more.

Eighth day

They had to repair the wagon, and lost an entire day. Lucky for them, the weather was clement, and their work succeeded. At distance, the two huge ravens they have spotted 2 days ago, still followed them.

Ninth day

They moved, and for the first time, the pair of relics (twistakn) helped them to aim toward their goal. They had a direction now, and they followed it.

After a couple of hours, different footprints were visible: humanoid footprints, travelling the same way. Later, they spotted something odd in the white: an object on the ground. Due to the lack of visibility, they had to walk closer, only to find a humanoid figure, half eaten, and totally rotten, hammered into the snow. The figure slowly moved and try to grab them, but his body was totally unable to move and was not a menace. They set them on fire and moved on, without looking back.

The footprints appeared again a couple of time, then, nothing more.

Before evening they reached a strange part of the mountain: a huge arch, half destroyed, with inscriptions and runes, ruined by time, was standing in their path. From the remains of such knowledge, Kaji recalled that was the ancient, almost forgotten, village of the first man: the Toblakai. They taught the worship of the gods to their children, how to hunt and fight.

The village was no longer what it used to be: columns, statues . . . of 8 legged horses? . . . houses, and temples were all destroyed. The foundations were barely visible. A thick fog and blanked of snow surrounded the area, leaving only 3 arches were visible. They stood silently keeping watch over the deserted and mute area.

The 3 arches were strange: nearly untouched by the sands of time. They saw through these, what the village used to be in ancient times: all beautiful buildings, columns, fountains, gardens, and the majestic temples of Odin and, against all odds, Loki. And no fog at all.

Kaji placed himself behind the arches and told them where to look. The big circling ravens, for the first time flew closer to the party, and when the thegns started to look for something where the temple of Odin and Loki stood, the birds started to be excited. Kaji, thinking they were an Odin’s sign, fed them.

They found a rune of protection beneath the snow and Kaji managed to suppress it. But he realized: that rune was corrupted, like the ancient obelisks they found. Something unholy lurked below. Finally, they pushed the stone away and a stair appeared. Darkness follows.

With caution, they went down, but before reaching a medium size hall, the ravens approached, positioning themselves on the Kaji’s and Elymir’s shoulders. The two beasts stood still, in silence. When they reached the hall, the core itself of the Loki’s Temple, they illuminated the area. Every column and statue was destroyed (they understood, not by time, but by “someone”). The altar itself, was also destroyed. And 3  sturdy stone doors, stood behind it.

They approached the altar and tried to read the rune. Nothing was learned or revealed to them, and they decided to look for the rest of the altar, to read what was written there.

With the right soundtrack and description, there was a good pathos. But the session has ended there.

That’s the end for this week. Hope you liked it and see you next week! Cheers!

Afterword (Douglas)

I’m really starting to get a feeling of how long a campaign Hall of Judgment can support, and the answer is clearly “a very long one.” Recall that its ancestor, Lost Hall of Tyr, was designed to show off Dungeon Grappling in two different two-hour sessions at GenCon 50. My first group played through the entire plot arc in two hours, successfully killing the Big Bad at the end. The second group got to the fields around the Lost Hall and engaged in a fight outside the hall itself, but did not enter.

Simone’s adventure is a much more relaxed romp. I particularly enjoy how he’s using the terrain and weather background to make life more interesting. Sometimes it gets cold. Sometimes it snows. Sometimes that’s not a problem, sometimes it halts progress. This unpredictability of weather and environment mirrors exactly what I hoped to achieve with this segment: provide fun without bookkeeping or slog.

As I noted earlier, mixing up the thurs and making them frost giants was pretty inspired. In the Dragon Heresy background, giants (of the frost, fire, or any type) are a remnant population: the dragons took over Jotunheim and destroyed most of the giants who dwelled there, leaving only a few left on Midgard, who live in isolated areas of Tanalor. In the Dungeon Fantasy RPG version, they dwell far north and east of Norðlond.

Having to manage frightened animals, the snow, destruction of their wagon? Even though the fight was pretty fast and easy, these are still obstacles of no small import, and I’m glad to see them there.

Slapping down a dungeon on the way? Awesome, and precisely my intent in the lands even farther beyond Isfjall – Tanalor (the realm north of Norðlond/Torengar, my viking country) is riddled with such things, and having one there both to anchor the world to his own concepts but also to provide another source of adventure, risk, and riches? Exactly what I would have wanted.

I’m really enjoying reading this, and can’t wait to see what’s next.

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