Return to the Owl's hideout [T&T + Weird Fantasy]

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Sometime last year I ran a short adventure with LotFP Weird Fantasy RPG [Adult Content Warning], using my Arabian Nights-inspired setting of Adûn as a backdrop. I love the flavorful design choices that distinguish this system from other versions of D&D, including it’s attitude toward alignment, it’s limits on attack bonuses and armor class, its easy approach to initiative, its simple encumbrance system, and it’s emphasis on crafting unique, memorable, and monstrous monsters instead of providing an canonical list. I’d be happy to play Weird Fantasy for a series of adventures. My only misgiving is that some of the art is too extreme for family game night.

That’s not really a show-stopper, though: Apart from poring over the equipment lists on the Kindle before the adventure (using the art-free version), we got through the first run without having to look up anything in the book. But we also enjoy Tunnels & Trolls big time, and when we decided to revisit our adventure in Adûn, T&T was a natural fit for the next chapter.

In the first session, our delvers Shiva and Abdullah were hired by a merchant whose shipment had been waylaid by a band of desert thieves. He promised them a cash reward to recover a single chest. Little did they know that these bandits were led by a fearsome criminal overlord known only as “the Owl”.

Shiva and Abdullah hired two mercenaries to help them and tracked the thieves to their lair, a cave in a wild ravine. There they stole in, sneaking past a sleeping guard dog and finding a hoard of loot, which was guarded by a handful of bandits that they took by surprise. After dispatching most of the bandits— one fled —they surveyed their massive haul of prized trade goods: tea, silks, and rare wines. They also noticed a large and ancient statue of a vulture that appeared to rest on a track of crenelated grooves. The vulture was far too heavy to move by brute strength, even with leverage, and they did not investigate further. In fact, they chose to avoid any further exploration of the caves, and shrewdly decided to leave with the chest and a few other portable treasures of little relative value. The players were keenly aware of the paper-thin hit points of their level one Weird Fantasy characters, and they decided to cut their losses and get out of there.

Loaded down with the chest, they weren’t so lucky sneaking past the Owl’s guard dog this time. The dog was a savage fighter trained to stop anyone from leaving with the Owl’s treasure. It gave them a scare, but they killed it and escaped back to the city to claim their reward. The players were mindful of the huge treasure they had left behind, but they succeeded in their mission and lived to tell about it.

As it turned out, the Owl was making her way back to the hideout when the delvers left, but they missed each other in the wilderness. The bandit leader knew about a lever that would trigger the ancient gears inside the vulture statue, revealing a magical mandala underneath. Magical research was required to puzzle out the mandala’s knockspell, and open a secret door to the catacombs below— and the Owl knew just the right scholar to blackmail for answers.

That was the end of our first run. Over the next few weeks I sketched out the chambers hidden below the vulture statue, and considered how the Owl might lay plans for revenge against Shiva and Abdullah, but with one thing and another we never came back to it until now.

After living in luxury from their spoils for over a month, Shiva and Abdullah were approached one evening by a hood, an emissary of the Black Prince of Adûmahr’s legendary Thieve’s Guild. Rumor had spread that Shiva and Abdullah had accomplished the unprecedented: They had found and entered the Owl’s hideout, and escaped with their lives!

Robbing caravans under the Prince’s protection made the Owl a very serious thorn in the Black Prince’s side, but if they could find the Owl and bring proof that the Owl was dead, the Prince would reward them handsomely. Shiva and Abdullah accepted the job, and accepted the Prince’s token of good will: twenty gold crescents to outfit them for their journey.

This time they left the city without hiring mercenary retainers. Perhaps their confidence was bolstered by the few additional hit points they had in their T&T incarnations. Or perhaps they got carried away by the hood’s flattery and their eagerness to drive up the price for their services. Or maybe they just didn’t want to split the loot or reward with any other comers. Anyway, this time they were caught in a sandstorm which cost them an additional day of travel, which left them with no provisions for a return journey— did I mention that they were tight with their petty cash?

This time they chose to explore the caves without any torchlight. They wound up taking a series of different turns, which remarkably, did not lead them to their doom. Finally, they found themselves at an exit on a high ledge overlooking the ravine, where they fell upon two bandits ostensibly on the lookout. When Shiva’s scimitar slashed the first bandit open, the second threw his hands up in surrender. They asked him where they could find the Owl, and he told them that she opened a door beneath the vulture statue and ventured into the catacombs below.

That’s where we had to stop last night, but everyone is eager for the next chapter! The Owl is a very deadly foe, but she is not the only peril they will face if they follow her into the ancient halls.

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