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Tartary is Bollymecha part 2: the Mecha, or jury-rigged rules for rigged jury battles

October 1, 2013 3 comments

How many months since part 1?

Well, mecha combat seems imminent and unavoidable, so here are some rules for handling it. They are completely untested and will probably fold like a carnival float after Holi, but here goes:

Mechs have a pilot, and optionally one or more gunners and an engineer.

BATTLE STATIONS!
Piloting (and therefore moving) goes first, but after that all attacks and damage are simultaneous.

1. Pilots roll against each other to see who gets advantage each round. This is determined by:
MECH AGILITY + SKILL + d10 + GAMBLING BID + AWESOME PLAN.
The one with the higher result gets to do the thing they wanted to do and gets the difference between rolls as a bonus on the gunner’s roll (or rolls if there are multiple gunners). Example things pilots can do: ram (an attack, see below), dodge, run away, brawl, take cover, evade (apply your bonus as a penalty to the enemy’s shooting), change range.

2. Gunners shoot and reload their weapons. They can also GAMBLE but doing so exposes them to enemy fire without the benefit of armour or risks their weapon malfunctioning somehow. Damage depends in large part on how well you hit.

3. Engineers repair, jury-rig and salvage stuff on the fly. They may also GAMBLE to give the pilot a bonus on the next turn and make DESPERATE SAVES to mitigate mishaps this turn – though these must be extravagantly surprising – see under MISHAPS, below. Engineers sometimes go EVA to get stuff off the battlefield, set traps etc. They can also try to spy on or jam enemy communications, or use any other gadgets during combat that you can think of.

4. If you can think of it, you can try it. Just because I haven’t mentioned spellcasters, psychics, boarding parties, grapnels, human cannonballs, fifth columnists, weresquid or airbags doesn’t mean you can’t introduce them. If you surprise me you automatically surprise the enemy too.

GAMBLING AND MISHAPS:
Gambling is declaring a numerical bonus you want to apply to your roll. Anyone – pilots, gunners, engineers – can gamble. Everyone’s gamble gets added together to get the MISHAP target. If you roll under the target on the d10 then a MISHAP happens (roll on the MISHAP table).

You can simultaneously succeed in your roll and MISHAP at the same time – the order in which the two happen depends on how badly you rolled relative to your mishap chance. Other factors can also increase your mishap chance/gravity – damage, environmental factors… some of these will be obvious (skating on glass, pilot’s seat destroyed so he has to cling to the controls) some will be secret (eg. faults in your machine that you didn’t know about). And mishaps tend to damage your rig, breeding more mishaps.

Getting hit costs you +1 mishap the next turn per hit. Ramming costs you +3 next turn. Getting rammed costs you the margin of the rammer’s success in mishap penalty this turn.

When engineers gamble successfully, they reduce the overall mishap penalty by their margin of success. BUT if a mishap happens on an engineering roll then it happens personally to the engineer, and/or the place where the engineer is at the time (usually the engine room).

HITTING
All hitting is simultaneous – its consequences come at the end of the current round.
To hit roll 9+. This is modified by the pilot’s margin of success + gunnery skill – range +/- any bonus given by the dancers and gambling.

RANGES
There are 3:
i. close enough for fisticuffs n flamethrowers. This is too close for most ranged weapons (-1 to hit) but not for the sidearms of crew members.
ii. shooting range.
iii. long range. most weapons are at -3, a few are unmodified.
To change range you have to win a piloting contest, unless you both want to change range in which case it might be automatic or you might charge past each other. Mechs are like bulls. Which means I should have a surprise system but I don’t yet.

DAMAGE
Damage = the amount you succeeded by on your roll + weapon damage bonus. When you inflict damage, roll for location (see PARTS, below). Damage is taken straight off armour. When armour is gone, then further damage to a part disables it and/or hurts the crew there.

Mechs also have a WEIGHT CLASS which = their damage bonus for melee attacks/ramming.
Ramming does double damage – triple if you actually have a ram fitted.
When ramming, if your margin of success + difference in weight class is 10+ you can knock the opponent over: -3 to all rolls, no movement until they get back up.
One point of vehicle damage/one vehicle HP = 1d10 HP for a person.

PARTS:
Mechs are made out of parts. Each part has armour points (HP). Armour shelters the part’s mechanisms and crew members: as long as there is armour on a part, the crew on that part are safe. Once the armour is gone, any hit will disable the part AND damage the crew there. Also any critical hit (margin of success = 10+) disables the part even if it still has armour and damages the crew unless they save vs CHA.

Each mech has a COCKPIT (where the pilot is),
a DRIVE (often where the engineer is, also the bit that makes it go), and other subsystems, such as
WEAPONS (manned by gunners, whether they’re guns, melee weapons or other) and a wide variety of
CRAZY SHIT.

When you get hit, roll d10 for location.
1= COCKPIT.
Then each extra Part occupies another number on the die.
Any numbers left over are DRIVE.
If you want to call a shot to a specific part you add 3 to the target to hit, but if you hit it you add 3 damage (ie cancels out the damage penalty, since damage is success-based).

MECH AGILITY is baked into the mech design rules (TBD). Some designs come with more agility than others before you add weapons. In general bigger mechs have less agility but can carry more stuff. It’s just a flat +/- to piloting but also indicates relative top speed: a higher agility mech can reliably run away from a lower agility one after long range is reached.

Singers and dancers mostly set a BONUS RESOURCE before combat begins. OPTIONALLY (and probably not for the first combats which are already looking plenty complex enough) they could manipulate bonuses/penalties during combat by swinging the crowd on the narrative arc of the fight.

An example to make things even more confusing:

Shivaji and Mahmoud are mech fighting at shooting range. They are both pro pilots (skill = 5). Shivaji’s mech has 1 cannon and agility 2. But it also has a damaged foot (permanent +1 mishap). He gambles another +3 – so he has to roll 5+ (over 4) on his d10 to avoid a mishap altogether. Mahmoud intends to ram. That means closing to fisticuffs range AND a tricky maneuver – automatic +1 mishap. He gambles +6, so he has to roll 8 or above to avoid mishap.
Shivaji rolls 2 (dice) +5 (skill) +2 (agility) +3 (gambling) = 12.
Mahmoud rolls 6 (dice) +5 (skill) +0 (agility) +6 (gambling) = 17
so Mahmoud gets his wish – he rams Shivaji. If Mahmoud had any gunners then this turn they would shoot at +5 (his margin of success). But he doesn’t. The weight class of his mech is 3, so he does (5 (margin of victory) + 3) x2 (doubled for ramming) = 16 damage. He gets a 2 on hit location: weapon. That weapon had 12 armour: it is lost and the gunner will be killed at the end of the round (4 damage blew through = 4d10 damage to the gunner).

Shivaji lost the piloting contest so his doomed gunner gets no bonus, and range is fisticuffs so that’s a -1 penalty. The gunner has skill +3, -1 for range (movement goes first but ramming is an attack ie it does not affect this attack b/c everything is simultaneous). He gambles +3 and rolls an 8, for a modified 10 – he would’ve hit with a 9, so with a 10 his margin is 2. The gun is a small cannon: +3 damage, so that’s 5 damage in the…  rolls a 0=drive. The drive’s 30 armour is cut down to 25.

Both failed their mishap rolls and Shivaji’s gunner added an extra +3 to the failure. So, Shivaji failed by 5 but Mahmoud’s ram margin is added, so that’s failed by 10. Mahmoud failed his by 2. Both have engineers who can try to mitigate the mishaps with a straight grease monkey roll, target 9+, modified by gambling. If they succeed then the mishap number is reduced by the margin of success. Shivaji’s engineer gambles +5 and rolls a 5 +4 for skill = 14, so he avoids taking the mishap on himself and reduces it by 4 for a final result of 6 mishap, which means the other gunner is thrown off the rig! Mahmoud’s engineer rolls a 3, failing to mitigate his mishaps – Mahmoud’s agility is reduced by -1 until repaired.

Next round Shivaji starts with no gunner and +2 mishap (his usual +1, +1 from being hit). Mahmoud starts with +4 mishap (+3 from ramming, +1 from being shot). They might be well-advised to just spend a round recovering unless their engineers make some kind of desperate saves to right their rigs.

The Mishap Table

Every point by which you fail a mishap roll takes 1 from your speed. There are also more serious effects, as follows. “Repair” is a saving throw made by a grease monkey, which takes up the monkey’s action the next turn.

  1. Drivetrain damage – limit +2 to any mod thereafter until repaired
  2. Damage: agility reduced by 1 until repaired
  3.  Memorable damage, which is described: -1d6HP to vehicle. Player must invent some excuse for a save to halve the damage
  4. leaking! +1 mishap thereafter, and some vital resource (blood, food, fuel, transmission fluid) will be gone in 3 turns unless repaired. Fresh mishaps reopen the leak.
  5. Something is lost (prob. a weapon, optionally something else). Also, secret +1 mishap.
  6. Crash/man overboard.
  7. One character suffers Arduin crit. Secret +2 mishap and save every turn against vehicle coming apart (engineering rolls).
  8. Weapons fire randomly, 2 in 6 at own vehicle. Arduin crits for all characters and vehicle.
  9. Magazine explosion, or grease monkey turns rogue, starts murdering other occupants. High probability of PC death.
  10. Fuel explosion, or drivetrain turns rogue
  11. Meltdown. Vehicle destroyed.

Mech stats

zodanga

CATERPILLAR: Agility 0. Size +1 (capacity +4 tons of gear)
Cockpit: 8, drive 24.

Cutter #5, driven by Jen the goat and Kyre the human

Cutter #5, originally driven by Jen the goat and Kyre the human

SMEROE Cutter #5: Agility 3. Size 0 (capacity +23 tons)
Cockpit 0. 6 non-drive legs: 3 each. Drive: 15
Cutters: +6 damage in fisticuffs

_g

Giant Imperialist propaganda bell repurposed as armour for Cutter #5. Shhhh.

Dashoguz Mechs

_e

BASHER: Agility -2, Size 3
Cockpit: 5 Hammer: 12 Drive: 20
Hammer: +5 damage in fisticuffs
Chisel flinger: +1 damage ranged. (cannot use both at once)

_a

BORER: Agility -1, Size 2
Cockpit: 10 drill: 30 Drive: 20
Drill: +2 fisticuffs and the same again next round unless you beat it in piloting contest, penalty -2

_c

CRUSHER: Agility 0, Size 6
Cockpit: 5, crusher 15, drive 15
On a successful ram, the pilot rolls a second contest to see if you are trapped in the crushing gear. If you are then your engineer has to save to sever the bit that’s being crushed in order to get free. The crusher does 6 damage every subsequent round but must roll over the Size of the mech it’s crushing each round to avoid being destroyed itself.

Visiting contenders

_b

CATATHUMP: agility -2, size 5
Cockpit 20, thumper 30, drive 40
Can only move by recoil from its gun, therefore cannot give chase against a more agile mech.
Cannon: +5 ranged, one round reload. 3 marines with gold rifles for close defense

_1

JHOOM BARABAR JHOOM agility +2, size 2
Cockpit 15, mine 10, gun1: 10, gun 2: 10, drive 26
If it rams by +4 over opponent’s roll it sticks its mine to them. Engineer save to disengage it before it goes off in 1d3 rounds.
Guns +1 each.

_5

MARATHI SONIC agility 0, size 1
Cockpit 20, sonic weapon 20, drive 20
Sonic weapon attacks for +3 mishap but no physical damage. Ranged.
Unidentified Mechs lurking by the side of the Arena…

_2

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Spiritrap: a variant on Bilbil’s Ravenous Phylactery for Pokemon-type shenanigans

June 7, 2013 5 comments

A while ago I wrote a pokeball magic item for destabilizing your DnD game. Here’s a variant that affords different sorts of trouble, ideal for Tartary…

The spiritrap can take any form but it almost always appears as a colourful orb made in 2 or more pieces. When activated these pieces hinge or distend or something so the whole thing “opens” briefly – all too briefly – on one side and simultaneously “closes” on the opposite side.

The spiritrap can take in one creature – man or monster, living or undead, first level or 30th. In order to be vulnerable to the trap, the creature must have been subdued or somehow rendered unconscious or immobile OR it must have performed the action that activates the trap. It gets one save vs magic to avoid capture. Once captured it heals at normal rates and requires no sustenance while inside the trap. It can be kept in the trap indefinitely. It observes everything that’s going on around the trap but can take no action.

The only way to get a creature out of the trap is to activate it. There are 2 modes of activation:

1. simple, obvious button-push: this frees the creature but imprisons the person who activated it.

2. incantation + button push: exchanges what’s in the trap SPECIFICALLY for a creature that has already been trapped in it (only works if the creature is nearby, creature does not get a saving throw).

Even though this item is clearly highly coercive and extremely evil in nature, the stories surrounding it all tell of partnerships and friendships between the creatures thus trapped. The most popular stories concern a wizard who appeared to be a were-creature: using the trap he could swap places with a terrifying monster at will, and then equally suddenly revert to his mild-mannered wizard form. Evidently either the monster co-operated with its captor or it was under some other kind of charm or coercion, so that it willingly reimprisoned itself. It is a matter of considerable irritation to historians of magic that the monster’s side of such stories is seldom told.poke_ball_by_clairc_artstuff-d5hvq62

Look how happy he looks. Look how the creatures piled up in a ball have no real way to tell us how they feel.

Pokeball+Cupcake3

so you eat a pokeball, so what’s the worst that could happen? Unimaginably bad. The second worst is that it opens inside you, splattering you everywhere and suffocating the pokemon.

 

pokeball_valentine__s_day_card_by_yoshi_music_art97-d4po13y

It occurs to me that if you haven’t read the post or thought carefully about the consequences of getting caught in a Pokeball and released only to fight for your handler’s pleasure, the deep creepiness of the above sentiment might be lost on you.

pokeball3_large

After the straight-up pokeball, the reversible hat is one of the most popular forms for the spiritrap

 

pokeballs2

And then there are the people who want to trap up to 10 creatures in their fingernails. OK I say people, there’s really only Scrap Princess in this category

I do not make these up. And no I don't think I'm at all misogynistic, it's just that I haven't found any pokeball jockstraps. Even though it's _obvious_ I mean _come on_

This one was not designed by a woman. Consider the discomfort of getting a sandshrew in there.

Pokeball_83f04f_2466623

The whole issue of how you trap a goddamn god in a pokeball is never really adequately explored. Although in truth it’s no stranger than being able to catch a crowned dragonfish (which isn’t a dragon) in one.

il_570xN.446111005_4rsh

Decidedly handy for catching them all. Possible downside: which one is the user in?

On the proto-history of Mecha, or Golems for Genus

November 19, 2012 1 comment

Successive waves have washed back and forth over the line between sorcery and technology in Tartary. Right now the mood is decidedly technurgical – something unexplained may make the giant run, but its skeleton is almost certainly worked wood or metal, its eyes cameras or viewing screens. And inside there will be a pilot – tucked away, perhaps, like a baby bird in an egg, but altogether in command.

The lithomancer Epjabel demonstrates the proper use of the tripod

Today.

But things were not always thus. Some hints of how they might have been before can be seen in ancient statues, which show stunted, cat-like creatures perched atop strange bodies, steering them to terrible purpose

And then there are the writhing, tormented pits of Azoth under Dashoguz

Most such remnants are assumed once to have been clothed in metal plates, as they would be now. It is inconceivable that the world of power and subjugation should have been ruled by such soft-bodied things, no matter how strong their grip.

Still there are hints that the day of solid iron may be reaching its end. Rumours are circulating that strange, flowing forms have been seen issuing from the Archmage of Ashgabat’s cult-tower (that palace or tomb where the Great Bashi has sealed himself up these past fifty years).

And these fluid giants, the size of a fighting machine, appear to be thinking for themselves.

(BTW, some much better monster creation over here)

The sorcerer Bakchkan

October 3, 2012 1 comment

Bakchkan stalks Tartary, often in disguise, always causing trouble. He may appear as an Emir or vizier, a visiting merchant loaded with Cathay silks, an angel or a genie or a corner fruit seller (and very, very rarely as a beggar).

Like The Doctor or Gandalf he’s a player of the long game, maneuvering in a dance that began in untold ages past. His actions therefore frequently appear mysterious or nonsensical. Why does he elevate a loser on the street to the royal court? Why does he lift up one prince and cast down another? He is evidently among the very few classical magicians of Tartary, so why does he so rarely use those lightning-throwing powers to get what he wants more directly?

In particular, ask the stage-manager-sorcerers who work the mecharena circuit of Baluchistan, 

why does he insist on making a great show of “dropping the ball” and letting the people see behind the illusory-magical curtain? It’s like he wants to sabotage the trade or something.

For all his inscrutability, Bakchkan has a soft spot for neerdowell adventurers and rarely upsets their schemes – unless there’s some deeper plot afoot (so if he mucks up the PCs’ action it’s a fair bet that something’s going on they don’t know about yet… and watching the sorcerer might be a key to finding out about it). As a patron, he tends to offer the moon at the price of the world. And he’s always gone before the fallout hits.

One thing about Bakchkan, at least, is not a mystery – once an enterprising your engineer snatched brief notoriety by stealing The Big B’s aftershave and demonstrating that it had an uncanny effect on all around him – like a mass charm spell, it caused everyone who smelled it to misrecognize the wearer as a friend, a patron, a master or a king.

It was while the young engineer was exploiting its effects to be seen as a lover that the scent abruptly wore off, leading to the engineer’s execution and a thorough reshuffling of the palace staff in the Qaghanate of Herat.

You Know Me (5th level MU spell, available as a potion)

The caster or imbiber can convince all around them that they are a friend, a lover, a trusted confidant or any other role they choose. All who can see the caster or are within smelling range of the imbiber must save vs spells or misrecognize the caster/imbiber as the persona they have adopted. The caster/imbiber must act out their chosen persona in words, manner and gestures, but may otherwise do whatever they wish. Most often the effect is used to infiltrate palaces or sneak past guard trolls but it is known that Bakchkan once spent an entire month living in the harem of the Sultan of Bishkek as one of the Sultan’s most senior and favoured wives – a role in which he was accepted by the Sultan, the guards and, more surprisingly, the previous senior wife.

The effect does not work on machines or optical devices: a photograph would show the caster clearly, although it would not dispel the illusion that clings to the caster’s person – it would merely show that somebody was around that could not be seen normally.

By the way, if you’ve been wondering what all Jason Kielbasa’s recent dance-off posts have to do with my mecha/carcosa wacky races setting, well (a) you haven’t been paying attention and (b) this.

And if you’d really like that done to death, here.

Best thing I’ve read all year!

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Is Rogues and Reavers’ post on fucking tourists, a new class for LL and Krul. Also ideal for Carcosa, The Bleaklands and anywhere else where life is a daily desperate struggle. It’s especially useful for me because I’m just about to post a bunch more about ERB’s Barsoom books, and what it’s like to read them while traveling through arid, rugged countryside where you don’t really speak the language and also alas can’t jump out of trouble.

I still really like Grognardia’s Stranger class, but this is the perfect foil for it.
Also, cf. Cory Doctorow’s short story Nimby and the D Hoppers.

So Chris Kutalik asked for an underworld layer

June 12, 2012 Leave a comment

here. And I REALLY REALLY need to be working on something else, but then I figures “better to get it out of my brain and down on paper instead,” so here it is.

Disclaimer: Where I say “Ark” and “Noah” please substitute your own fun – Baldur would be fine, or Dave Bowman or Turkmenbashi or whatever you like. Even Noah, I guess. I kinda like the conceit of the Other Ark, with all the creatures that we don’t see around us.

Background:
The ark project – a multi-level “open menagerie” – was either a miserable failure or too successful. Point is, there was never a good moment or method for letting the animals out – things got pretty hairy in there after the second generation of forced evolution. So it was sealed up tight behind a combination lock, the key to which was buried with Noah, and a complicated system was made for controlled release of the animals or for drowning the project altogether… one day.

Millenia passed, the complex fell into ruins, and a few critters have escaped – they roost in the ruined machine halls (blue on the map) around the Ark itself. Now those escaped beasties make the whole place dangerous – especially around the Great Lock in the old entrance hall, which links multiple floors in a big open court. The smarter beasts know what will happen if that door is opened, so they keep a watchful eye on the Lock and try to stop anyone meddling with it.

The machine halls can be flooded individually or the whole complex can be flooded, using the still-working pump houses (green on the map) – to neutralize the threats of beasties in one set of halls or another. Some halls get soak occasionally by malfunctions, though: they contain sea life (giant anemones, nautili and such) that’s dormant unless you flood them back to life. If the whole complex is flooded, folks up on the surface will first notice the level of the river sinking abruptly, then once it’s all flooded, the central Ark piece will break loose and rise up to become a new island in the river.

Treasure can include ancient tech tools and gewgaws (eg “jewels” that are really light-up plastic buttons), knowledge (especially about ancient species/maps of long long ago) and the critters, if they can be captured.

Each of the machine halls is an extensive dungeon complex, as is the Ark itself. Pump houses consist of only a few rooms and are uniformly some stories above the galleries: A is particularly inaccessible: reaching it from any direction involves an arduous climb.

Click for print-size version

Carcosa Wacky Races actual play report

June 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Just in case you haven’t been following this nonsense, Carcosa Wacky Races is a not-very-purist turn-based play by post game on G+, in which Mad Max dunebuggies tear across electroradiant hellscapes pursued by mutant dinosaurs.

It’s the first thing I’ve run in maybe 15 years and I’m having a blast. To begin with the orders that came in were mostly fairly tame and sensible, but in the last 2 turns the mayhem level has ramped way up – the players are seriously bringing it. So my neat little 3-paragraph turns have ballooned with all the different kinds of trouble they’ve set in motion. Here are the results of turn 4…

Crunching down the travertines shots are fired left and right. Sweph lobs a mess of rotting meat and metal cans high into the air with his roof-trebuchet, while bits of masonry scatter in his wake.
Rahu, intent on shooting Thora with a peculiar black blunderbuss, is distracted when acid from Poison and Keek hits his scorpion – he misses, his scorpion shrieks in pain, snags a leg on an outcrop and… topples… into the valley of cairns below. Meanwhile Poison, distracted by sacrificing his sky man guide, and Keek, distracted by spraying Rahu, fail to spot Uggs careening crazily down the path behind them. The skullking rams the baby altar from behind, and axe-wielding Uggs leaps across to start murderin’ time. The two vehicles are locked together as they slide past the bridge and disappear among the cairns…
…and Chaz, the skullking’s new driver, blacks out, so they ricochet out of control back and forth among the tombs.

Ahead of them all at the rope bridge, Moon boy leaps from Devil Dino with – is that severed human legs glued to his feet? – and lands on the rearing glassworm, stabbing two electrodes into its back. The glassworm writhes and shrieks, and Moon Boy screams too as his left foot touches the worm’s body and is burned to a crisp – but he holds on. Then the worm’s enormous form swings ponderously over the bridge, while Devil Dino scrabbles madly to catch up.
Just as he hits his stride, however, Devil Dino is toppled by Sweph’s can of spam to the back of the neck. The titanic lizard crashes head-first into the bridge and moves no more –but a smaller, blood-coloured Hemodino springs loose from his long belly wound and disappears into the cairns…

Grampy has had no luck scraping his frogman passenger off on the way down the cliff – the squishy invader straddles the bonnet and works its spatulate fingers into the frame around the windscreen, leering at Grampy, who has to steer looking through its gelid, transparent body. So Haakon takes advantage of Grampy’s distraction to bounce right past him: his ride’s skittering legs leap and tumble past racer after racer, and he hits the bridge neck and neck with Thora.
Grampy accelerates onto the rope span just as the Glassworm drags its furnace mouthparts across the support ropes, setting them instantly afire. The bridge sags: stays snap left and right as Grampy and Oogah tear across. Together they get within 20 feet of the black oil lakes, but the bridge gives out and drops them on top of a flat-roofed mausoleum, just shy of the barricade.

At the same moment, El Diablaser skids onto the bridge, his ride, dragula, covered in tentacled brain. Ayatollah the Grell grabbed hold of him on the way down the travertines; as they lurch onto the bridge the grell is still trying to seize control of dragula but El D is hanging on like grim death against the tentacles’ iron grip. The bridge collapses and together they tumble into the cairns. Crashing through a roof, the whole back of Dragula snaps clean off behind the steering wheel, so now El D is hanging onto the steering column, his feet braced against the gas pedal and dashboard, with a grell hopelessly tangled all over him, and the 2-wheeler roars on for a few seconds with the fuel that’s left in the engine and lines.

Across the bridge at the oil pits, Haakon swerves toward the scree slope, with Thora shooting wildly behind him. Thora is able to grab up 3 barrels and roar away before anyone notices she’s there, but she can’t stop Car-charodon grabbing a barrel behind her as Eribotes fires bravely up at an attacking glassworm, making blue-white bolts of heat rain down from it, eliciting a ragged cheer from the defending men. But then Thora’s cigarillo hits the oil pit beside them and prompts a deafening screech as the oil within rears up in agony, trying to douse the flames spreading across its surface. Cheers turn to panic, and the defenders turn on Eribotes and his infernal machine. Eribotes picks off an orange man with his weird little wand before the defenders close to attack and the racers haul away to escape.

Down among the cairns another kind of hell is breaking loose. Sweph has managed to swipe some weird huge fish and water-weed offerings off a tomb, breaking into its domed roof in the process. But that’s some pretty minor desecration compared with what Rahu’s falling scorpion, Ayatollah the Grell and El D have done. The valley floor is littered with broken tombs like eggshells, their contents exposed to the sky… and with long reaching fingers and a scurrying like monkeys and like shadows, those contents are suddenly swarming all over the valley, tangling up a spiderweb of wrappings and grave-cloths in the narrow alleys of the necropolis…

At the end of the turn, it’s:
1.      Haakon in the lead, followed by
2.      Thora, with a good haul of fuel. Then
3.      Car-charodon, pursued by fuel-defenders. These three are all on the far side of the valley ready to make their ascent, but they face a tough decision: they’ll either have to duck between the glassworms blocking the way to the smooth channel leading up the wall, or deal with a mob of oil defenders running down the scree slope.
Down in the valley,
4.      Sweph has just a couple of blocks of cairns and tombs between him and the shield wall, while Poison and Uggs careen down a parallel path, grappled together in a battle royale. Scraggy black figures swarm out of the crypts around all of them.
5.      Grampy and Oogah, stuck on their mausoleum roof, will either have to jump the final yards to the fuel pits (dicey) or head down the stairs into the mausoleum and find a way out of the necropolis up the side of the pits (unexplored). So far they can’t see any crypt-creepers nearby…
Behind them, right in the middle of the necropolis, surrounded by a ring of wary crypt-dwellers,
6.      Rahu’s scorpion has struggled upright, clearly nursing several injuries. And behind and above Rahu,
7.      Moon Boy struggles to stay upright on his giant glassworm. Skeletal, iridescent glass spider things come scampering toward him from both ends of the worm as his human leg heat buffers burst into flame.
And finally:
8.      Ayatollah and El Diablaser, in a snarl of tentacles and brake cables, are interrupted by Hemodino chasing a cryptcreeper between two tombs in front of them.

…two, maybe three turns to go. Start placing your bets…