Return to the sphinx’s lair – session report

(Polska wersja)

On March 17, 2019, I run the second session of “Bronze and Iron”, continuation of “A quest for the statue of Poseidon“.

The Heroes (in alphabetical order):

  • Kassandros – an inexperienced but honorable warrior devoted to Atena
  • Pelagios – a man of many talents, including seafaring, craftsmanship and medicine
  • Selina – worshipper of Artemis, a huntress who hunts not only animals, but also opportunities for enrichment

Epeisodion (Scene) I: The plan

The Archons of Tripolis announced that there are no buyers for metallurgical products of the city, and Tripolis very much needs commercial partners and military allies, because the armed forces of the city are very few and there are rumors about Dorian invasion coming from the north.

Dorian invasion. Source:

The memory of the wealth left in the sphinx’s lair in the basement of the Poseidon’s temple on the island of Pelios made Pelagios and Selina restless. Kassandros wanted to prove himself in battle. All three of them, however, realized that the sphinx was an extremely dangerous opponent. Pelagios came up with an idea: he went to the Archons of Tripolis and asked them for two criminals sentenced to death, promising that he would use them in a way that would benefit the city. His request was fulfilled and two convicts were given to him: Lydos, accused of murder and Xenon, accused of blasphemy. Then Pelagios acquired a stunning poison.

Stasimon (comment of the Game Master) I:

The preparations for this session were really short and simple. I knew that the players would want to return to the sphinx, so I did not have to create new quests for them. Being a Game Master is convenient when players show such a proactive attitude! The only thing I did before the session was combining “safe” and “risky” random events (in accordance with the conclusions from the previous session). I had 16 events that could occur on land, 8 – at sea and another 8 – in ruins. Announcements of archons were rather “hooks” than “real quests” – but as it turned out, pursuing their own ideas did not prevent the players to take these hooks into account as well.

Epeisodion II: the second cruise to Pelios

Three Heroes and two handcuffed prisoners boarded the “Seahorse” and set off. Soon after leaving Tripolis the weather worsened: a strong wind torn the sail of the ship. In this situation, the Heroes sent the prisoners to the oars. They also asked them about their offenses. Lydos was a gloomy grumble and did not even try to pretend to be innocent, while Xenon tried to persuade the Heroes that as a successful manufacturer of Hephaestus’ amulets, he became a rival for Damianos, one of the archons of Tripolis. Damianos convinced others that the amulets made by Xenon depicted Hephaestus in a distorted manner, they are blasphemous and can bring divine disgrace to the city. The words of the convict seemed convincing to the Heroes, so they began to doubt whether he was actually guilty. Later, the Heroes were appeared by triton, friendly because of the Poseidon’s favor still resting on the Heroes. Pelagios offered him wine and drew in conversation about the possible trade relations of both peoples. The triton promised to present this proposal to his people.

Triton. Source:

Stasimon II:

The tearing of the sail and the encounter with the triton were the results of random events rolls, one for each of the two sea hexes that Heroes had to traverse to reach Pelios. Xenon’s claims were pure improvisation on my part – when the players investigated the topic, I thought it would be interesting if the guilt of one of the convicts turned out to be doubtful. Quite unexpectedly, this improvised story has attracted the players so much that they want the Damianos thread to be the main topic of the next session! So this time I will have much more to work to prepare a juicy plot …

Epeisodion III: on Pelios

After a full day of seafaring, the Heroes decided to camp for the night immediately after landing. To discourage prisoners from possible escape plans, Selina demonstrated her skill with bow to them. The Heroes took the watch in turn. During his watch, Kassandros noticed a deer running away from taurog. Sometime later, when Selina replaced him, the taurog appeared again, carrying a hunted animal. This time he noticed Selina and invited the Heroes to his village the next day. During the Pelagios’ watch, the rainy weather again took its toll on the Heroes. In the morning the Heroes decided to go to the ruins avoiding the taurogs’ village because they were not sure how the creatures would react to the prisoners. They traveled, therefore, a previously unknown part of the island.

At one point, Selina was under the impression that they were being watched, but nothing caught her attention, except for some dark and almost leafless (unlike the others) tree. When she began to sneak in that direction, she heard the sound of branches that seemed to sound like words… After a while, she realized that she was unconsciously and unknowingly walking towards the tree. She managed to regain control of herself and quickly returned to her companions, but she was noticeably dazed. They decided to avoid the mysterious tree from a long distance.

evil_tree_by_saraforlenza_d7pqh28 — kopia

Stasimon III:

During the night, I made a random event roll for each of the Heroes. The result “hunters” occurred twice in a row, but because from the previous session it was clear that the island is small and no people inhabited it, I decided to interpret it as a meeting with taurog. Players wondered if the creatures would still be friendly and for a moment I was tempted to roll to check their attitude, but I didn’t, considering that the Heroes had done nothing to upset taurogs, so their hypothetical hostility would be hard to explain. As suggested by Nathan (author of Freeform Universal RPG) expressed in the comment to the previous session, for each random encounter, one player made a roll to check who will notice the other side first. The players were lucky and during the whole session the Heroes were noticed first only once – by the taurog returning from hunting, who was friendly nevertheless.

After approaching the mysterious tree, the player controlling Selina had to make a difficult roll to determine whether she would be able to resist its hypnotizing influence. At first she got “no and” result, but she spent the FU Point to reroll and managed to get the “yes, but” result. I interpreted it as regaining control, but the influence of the tree left (for a short time) a trail of daze. If not for this reroll, events could have taken a much more dramatic (or even tragic) turn.

Epeisodion IV: ruins

Heroes and prisoners reached the ruins. They swept along the walls, heading for the temple of Poseidon. In one of the houses, Pelagios noticed a clay tablet covered in a linear script <>. As the only literate member of the party, he read it and learned that many years ago Pelios had an alliance with Egypt. A little further, Kassandros saw a soldier… who passed through the wall. Uncertain of the ghost’s attitude, the Heroes avoided contact with him, which was not easy, because they saw him twice more (but the ghost did not notice them, or at least he did not react). Finally, they entered the temple of Poseidon. There, the Heroes forced Lydos to swallow pouches with poison, hoping that it would stun the sphinx if he devoured the man. At the same time, both prisoners got weapon and heard that if they survive the encounter with the sphinx, they would regain their freedom. All five went down to the temple’s basement. The sphinx gave Lydos a riddle, and when he could not answer, he lunged at him. At this moment, Kassandros intervened, thrusting the spear into the monster’s side. Selina put an arrow in it. Lydos also tried to fight, but the sphinx’s claws inflicted heavy wounds on him. Pelagios and Xenon did not take any action, and after a while Kassandros finished the bloody work, knocking down the sphinx. Then he asked him the riddle of his own: “What is this: big, dumb and lying dead?”. The sphinx did not answer, so the Heroes rushed to plunder its treasures. Pelagios, however, first focused on providing first aid to Lydos and barely managed to stabilize him. In addition to valuables, Selina found a lockpick, and Kassandros, a strange, lightweight sack that almost opened before Pelagios realized at the last second that the sack contained Hypnos breath, which would render anyone sleeping. Pelagios himself found another treasure, namely Hermes’ Caduceus. Loaded with loot and carrying the unconscious Lydos, Heroes left the temple … and barely avoided the meeting with the ghost. A bit further, Kassandros spotted the house well known from the previous expedition, where the bat-like creature was sleeping. When they had almost left the ruined city, Kassandros inadvertently leaned against the damaged building’s wall that collapsed on him. Only the protection of Athena, which he took care of before setting off on the previous expedition, saved him from wounds. Nevertheless, the crashing wall awakened a recently bypassed monster who set out to find the source of the noise. Heroes rushed to escape, and were successful, although Pelagios and Xenon, as the most encumbered and lagging behind, were close to panic. Sometime later, Selina noticed an irregular stone figure, like an unfinished monument in the distance. Wary Heroes avoided the figure and finally reached the taurogs’ village.

Stasimon IV:

Eight possible random events desinged for the ruins were probably too small number, because one of them (the ghost) came up three times in a row! How the encounter with the sphinx looked like from the “mechanical” side?

  1. I rolled to check whether Lydos would be able to solve the riddle (“no and” result). This is one of the rare cases when players hoped for such a result 🙂
  2. Kassandros performed a melee roll, he had as many as eight Attributes increasing his chances, so despite five hindering dice resulting from sphinx’s Attributes, it was a simplified roll and the result was “yes and”, so the sphinx became wounded and confused.
  3. Selina rolled for archery. She had four Attributes increasing her chances, and there were only two hindering dice (not all sphinx’s Attributes were used in defense against ranged attack, and it was already wounded at the moment). The result was “yes”, so the sphinx obtained another wound.
  4. I rolled to check whether Lydos would be able to harm the sphinx. I decided that he had two beneficial dice (one of them due to the sword handed to him before the fight) and three hindering dice resulting from the wounded, but still deadly sphinx’s Attributes. The “no” result meant that Lydos was badly wounded.
  5. Pelagios did not take any action and I decided that the sphinx is too absorbed by Kassandros and Lydos to attack Pelagios (otherwise the player would have to make a roll).
  6. Kassandros made another melee roll, this time he had even more beneficial dice (due to the sphinx’s severe wounds), so he easily obtained another “yes and” result, which meant the sphinx’s death.

On the way back from the ruins, Kassandros was successful in perceptiveness tests twice (he avoided the ghost and the bat-like beast), but the third time he did not notice the danger (wall prone to collapsing) in time. At that moment I made a mistake, because escaping from the awakened beast was definitely too easy. Forcing players to fight (or at least making the escape much more difficult) would add more emotion to the session, especially given that after a while Selina was also successful in the perceptiveness roll during the (avoided) encounter with a stone figure. I need to make these rolls more difficult…

Atalanta concept art — kopia
Selina. Source:

Epeisodion V: return to Tripolis

According to the invitation, taurogs welcomed the Heroes in their village. Pelagios took care of Lydos (he also made sure that the prisoner vomited previously swallowed pouches with poison), and then repaired the sails of “Seahorse”. The Heroes formed an alliance with taurogs on behalf of Tripolis: creatures will get high-quality weapons and tools, and in return some of them will go to Tripolis to defend the city against its enemies. Xenon stayed on the island, while Lydos was set free ashore before reaching the city. Heroes handed a lot of treasures to the city, which was met with great enthusiasm, as well as news of the agreement with taurogs. In the following weeks the people of Tripolis focused on the construction of fortifications and further increase in production. The Heroes began to look more closely at the archons, especially Damianos…


The community welfare roll brought the “yes and” result – which was not a surprise, considering that the Heroes’ deeds brought additional beneficial dice. The position of Heroes has greatly increased during the two sessions, but is it strong enough to stir up the secret affairs of the archons? Time will tell…

Any ideas on how to develop the Damianos plot will be highly appreciated 🙂


My other posts about RPG:

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