Sword & Sorcery Heroic Roleplaying – Part 4: Threats

We’ve now covered character creation (Part one and two) and provided classic sample characters (part three) in the previous articles on a Cortex Plus Sword and Sorcery hack using Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

Now, as a bonus fourth part to the three part series, I’ve provided some fully-fleshed-out opponents that Sword & Sorcery (and Sword & Planet) heroes might face. You may recognize some of them from movies and literature. Use and modify these examples as a framework to create your own deadly threats!

Here’s a preview of what you’ll find in this article:

    • Enemies
      • Giant Serpent
      • Evil High Priest who transforms into a giant serpent
      • Horde of near-human marauders
      • Writhing mass of shadow tentacles
      • Teleporting, telepathic priest of a mysterious goddess
    • Situational Threats and Active Adventure Locations
      • Burning Building
      • Ruined and Haunted Temple Complex

Giant Serpent

Expert Giant Serpent d8

Means: Steel d10 Guile d6 Lore d4

Sinuous Strength d10
SFX: Constrict. Add a d6 and step up the Effect die by +1 when inflicting immobilizing or crushing complications on a target.
Limit: Cold Blooded. Shutdown Sinuous Strength and add d6 to the Doom pool when low temperatures cause the Giant Serpent to become torpid.

Evil High Priest who transforms into a giant serpent

Means: Steel d6 Guile d10 Lore d8

Distinctions
Burly and Barrel-chested
Disturbing Presence
Voice of Command

Serpent Transformation
Sinuous Strength d10
SFX: Constrict. Add a d6 and step up the Effect die by +1 when inflicting immobilizing or crushing complications on a target.
Limit: Cold Blooded. Shutdown Sinuous Strength and add d6 to the Doom pool when low temperatures cause the Giant Serpent to become torpid.
Limit: Primal Forces. May only transform at the climax of an orgiastic and cannibalistic cult ritual.

Careers: Expert Priest d8, Expert Sorcerer d8

Horde of near-human marauders

Means: Steel 5d6

Distinctions
Crude Weapons
Bestial Ferocity

Grab d8                                Surround d8
SFX: Area Attack. Target multiple opponents. For each additional target, add d6 and keep +1 Effect die.
Limit: Horde Cohesion. Defeat each of the Horde’s Steel dice (with d8 Stress) to reduce Horde.

Writhing mass of shadow tentacles

Means: Steel 6d8             Guile d6               Lore d4

Distinctions
Beast from Outside Time
Eldritch Horror

SFX: Sanity-blasting touch. On a reaction against a Physical attack, inflict Mental stress with your effect die at no cost, or spend a die of equal size from the Doom Pool to step it up by +1.
SFX: Invulnerable. Spend a Doom Die to ignore Physical Stress or Trauma unless caused by sorcerous means.
Limit: Cohesion. Defeat each shadow tentacle’s Steel die (with d10 Stress) to banish the fiend back to the hell-dimension that spawned it.

Careers: Master Fiend d10

Notes:  Use Beast from Outside Time as a d8 when the fiend foretells the future and is ready for the heroes attack, and as a d4 when it drifts out of solid synchronization with the present, causing its attacks to be ineffectual.

Teleporting, telepathic priest of a mysterious goddess

Means: Steel d6 Guile d8 Lore d10

Distinctions
Imperious Demeanor
Enigmatic Threats
Manipulative Bastard

Psychic Priest
Telepathy d10    Teleportation d10    Illusionary Disguise d6

SFX: Mental Manipulation. Add a d6 and step up your effect die by +1 when using Psychic Priest powers to create Assets.
Limit: Shutdown Psychic Priest and add a d6 to the Doom pool. Activate a player opportunity to recover power.

Careers: Expert Noble, d8 Expert Priest d8

Situational Threats

Not every threat is self-aware and self-motivated. The Heroic Roleplaying rules can easily encompass ‘situational threats’ that take action against the heroes, and must be defeated (or escaped). The following threat has powers ‘re-skinned’ from an adversary in the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Breakout mini-event; it serves as an example of how easy it is to turn one type of enemy into something entirely different.

Burning Building

Means: Steel 3d8

Distinctions
Raging Inferno
Billowing Black Smoke
Wanton Destruction

Ablaze!
Leaping Flames d10    Lung-searing Temperature d10    Too Hot To Touch d4    Collapsing Roof Timbers d10
SFX: Area Attack. Target multiple opponents. For each additional target, add d6 and keep +1 Effect die.
SFX: Backdraft. Double or step up Leaping Flames on an action against three or more targets, then shutdown Leaping Flames. Recover after using Too Hot To Touch.
SFX: Firestorm. Double or step up Lung-searing Temperature on an action against a single target, then shutdown Lung-searing Temperature. Spend d8 Doom to recover.
Limit: Immobile. Can’t harm anyone not inside or near the building, can only burn while combustible materials are available. Turn an Ablaze! power into a Complication and add d6 Doom. Spend d6 Doom to recover.

Specialty (objects & locations don’t have ‘careers’)
Menace Expert d8

Active Adventure Locations

The final example shows that adventure locations can be described by more than just a few Scene Distinctions. Here’s a location with active threats that will attempt to kill the heroes at every turn! The various Powers and SFX interact with one another to form patterns which the heroes can learn to anticipate and exploit. Add in an evil sorceress, her accursed half-human henchmen, and a treasure beyond price, and you have an evening’s adventure right here.

Ruined Temple Complex

Means: Guile 8d8

Distinctions
Long-abandoned
The Lure of Treasure
Cryptic Ruins

Deadly Environment
Traps d10    Collapsing Stonework d10    Lurking Beasts d8    Stinging Insects d4

SFX: Area Attack. Target multiple opponents. For each additional target, add d6 and keep +1 Effect die.
SFX: Multipower. Use two or more Deadly Environment powers in a single dice pool at -1 step for each additional power.
SFX: Cave in! Double or step up Collapsing Stonework on an action against three or more targets, then shutdown Collapsing Stonework. Spend a d10 from the Doom pool to recover.
SFX: Frenzy. After inflicting Physical Stress on a target with Lurking Beasts, double Lurking Beasts on your next action or reaction.
SFX: Pack Tactics. Reroll a dice pool including Lurking Beasts, then step back Lurking Beasts to 2d6. Activate a player opportunity to recover.
SFX: Poison! Add a d6 and step up your effect die by +1 when inflicting poisonous complications on a target with either Stinging Insects or Traps.
Limit: Rusty triggers. Shutdown Traps when heroes first enter the temple in a scene, and after using Traps in a dice pool. Activate a player opportunity to recover.
Limit: Immobile. Can’t harm anyone not inside or near the temple. Turn a Deadly Environment power into a Complication and add d6 Doom. Spend d6 Doom to recover.

Haunted
Ghostly Apparition d8   Poltergeist d6

SFX: Bloodthirst. Spend an effect die from a Physical attack using Ghostly Apparition to step up Poltergeist by +1.
SFX: Get Out! Double or step up Poltergeist on an action against a single target, then shutdown Poltergeist. Recover by activating a player opportunity.
SFX: Unnerving Wails. Step up your effect die by +1 when inflicting Emotional Stress on a target.
Limit: Nocturnal. Shutdown Haunted when the temple complex is occupied during daylight hours and add d6 to the Doom pool. Recover Haunted when night falls.

Specialty (objects and locations don’t have ‘careers’)

Menace Expert d8

Notes: The Temple Complex fits into the turn order just like a character, and must be defeated by individually overcoming its Guile dice. With 8d8 Guile dice, it may be quite dangerous at first, but through teamwork, creativity, and care, heroes should be able to eliminate some of the threat rather easily. Note that Traps begins shutdown. See below for tips on using Traps.

The temple will generally act using either a power from Deadly Environment or Haunted individually, but as the encounter escalates consider including a multiply-stepped-up Poltergeist with Collapsing Stonework or Traps, to represent the haunts taking an active hand in triggering disasters for the invading heroes! Make sure to describe such combinations in a way that makes it clear that something unnatural is behind the attack…

The Traps power starts the scene shutdown, and recovers on player opportunities. Describe the environment in colorful detail, then let the action described by the player who rolled the opportunity inspire an appropriate trap:  A ‘1’ rolled during an attempt to sneak down a corridor lined with leering gargoyle faces could trigger poison darts shooting from the gargoyle’s mouths. A ‘1’ during a violent fight with wolves lairing in the complex (Lurking Beasts) could mean that a stray sword-blow tipped a balance and sent a gigantic stone ball rolling down toward a lone hero!

About DainXB

Casino Surveillance Professional, Freelance writer, RPG & Computer Gamer, Science Fiction & Fantasy Fan, Part-titanium cyborg.
This entry was posted in CortexPlus, Gaming, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, Sword & Sorcery Heroic Roleplaying and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Sword & Sorcery Heroic Roleplaying – Part 4: Threats

  1. I’d love to see an entire book of this material. Here’s hoping MWP gets a compatible license someday…

Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s