Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #5 – Hunchback Havoc

The Company:

  • Heinz (MU1)
  • Marredorn (F1)
  • Jaquet (F1)
  • Guillemette (T1)
  • Ynes (T1)
  • Midja & Nico (heavy foot soldiers)
  • Manuel (porter)


  • Purple heart-shaped bottle
  • Brass rod
  • Thieves tools


  • Midja & Nico — sucked dry by a large malicious cloud
  • Marredorn — bludgeoned to death by hunchbacked technicians


The company scrapes together what remains of their rapidly diminishing funds to pay for their upkeep, resupply and hire a few retainers. Then, they once again set out for the castle, determined to finally return with significant treasure.

Upon arrival, they take the rose garden entrance once more. Their plan is to return to the washroom where they spotted a large glittercloud carrying a purple heart-shaped bottle in its nucleus. Checking the galloping hallway they are relieved to find the phantom horses absent. Carefully, they move to the washroom without encountering any of the castle’s denizens.

Guillemette checks the door and sees the hand swarm and cloud still present in the room, as well as the eerily fluttering linen on lines. The company forms up, kicks open the door, and loose arrows at the swarm of hands. A few more hits later and the hand swarm is vanquished, but the cloud immediately begins to suck blood from the nearest companions. They focus their attack on the thing while Guillemette slides under it to catch the bottle of it drops from the cloud. The thing is destroyed, but the thief fails to catch the bottle. Luckily it remains in one piece. The same cannot be said for the two heavy foot soldiers, who lie dead on the floor, sucked dry by the cloud. They bag the bottle and move on.

The company heads east, and has the choice between two doors. From behind the southernmost of the two they hear the sound of chains, the chopping of wood, and the occasional sigh. Carefully opening the door they are greeted by a man in chains wearing a featureless mask and holding an axe. The room is otherwise filled with a large pile of chopped wood. The man introduces himself as Blérot and begs to be released, but most of the company is somewhat apprehensive at the prospect. However, before anyone can intervene, Marredorn smashes the chain from the wall, freeing the man. A brief exchange develops, in which Blérot admits to a fondness for chopping, and not just wood. The company attempts to recruit the masked lumberjack for the remainder of the expedition, but Blérot requests to be let go so that he can go find a special tree which he’s been very much looking forward to chop. They let him go, and he wanders off into the darkness. Ynes briefly pursues but when Blérot detects her presence she hurries back to rejoin her companions.

The company returns to the hallway and tries the northeast door. They enter another corridor with a door almost immediately leading north. Checking it, they spot a handful of hunchbacked men in greasy overalls tending to a broken-down coil. The room also contains an additional two coils which appear to be functional, another door to the north, and a shaft with rungs leading up into the ceiling.

Like this, but in greasy overalls (Antoine Wiertz)

Guillemette enters the room and greets the men, who react less than favorable to her presence. She tries to win them over but botches the attempt and is rewarded for her efforts with a wrench tossed at her head. Opting to stand and fight, a brutal melee develops in which the company’s fighters use the doorway as a choke point and duke it out with the hunchbacks, who wield ends of metal pipe. Both Marredorn and Jaquet drop to the ground at one point. The latter is saved by Guillemette who feeds him the fortified wine they found several expeditions ago. Marredorn is not so lucky. When Jaquet is revived he enters a battle rage aided by his +2 axe and utterly slaughters the remaining hunchbacks.

The hunchback bodies are looted (they take a set of thieves tools), the room is searched, the functioning coils are deactivated, and a rod is removed from the busted coil. Deciding they’ve had enough, the company swiftly but carefully makes their way back out of the castle, and returns to Tours-en-Savoy.

Referee Commentary:

The players impressed me with their initial approach to the big glittercloud, making good use of crossbow volleys and fighting in formation. Despite this fact, the retainers bought it. Those clouds are really nasty, partly because I run their osmosis drain attack as something to save against, and level 1 characters have pretty shitty saves.

The encounter with Blérot was fun to roleplay and it also has a neat bit of follow-up that can happen next downtime. I look forward to surprising my players with this tidbit. It will reinforce that their actions in the dungeon can have longer term repercussions.

The fight with the hunchbacks dragged on a bit. In part, this was because they kept making their morale checks, but also because I let the players use the door as a choke point unhindered. I overlooked the fact that the hunchbacks could have also tried to grapple them and toss them against the coils. That would have added some neat variety to the scene. But once we got rolling I did not really pay attention to the encounter description anymore, as usual trying to keep the pace of the combat up. Next time when I feel like I need to change things up I will allow myself to take a moment to review the encounter description for ideas.

When the group returned to town they had the bottle identified (a love potion), and they also wanted to try and sell several of their magic items. They are desperate for both gold and experience, which I can understand, but I stuck to my guns and told them there isn’t a buyer’s market for magic items in Tours-en-Savoy, and therefore they also get no xp for the things.

Afterwards however I started doubting myself and considered allowing them to sell items and therefore also get xp. If I would have gone that way I probably would have used the xp values listed in the 1e DMG as a guide. But I decided to drop Gabor Lux a line about this first to ask how he ran it in his playtests. He confirmed my initial impression that magic items do not yield xp nor can they be sold. He also emphasized there is a sufficiently generous amount of non magical treasure in the castle to run a purely xp-for-gold campaign. And so I have resolved to stay the course, and will have a little meta conversation about this with my players at the top of the next session. Basically, the fact that they’ve been having very little luck gaining xp so far is largely due to their strategy and tactics. At some point this should become apparent to them. When they do finally hit the jackpot, the victory will be all the sweeter for it.

7 replies on “Castle Xyntillan – Session #5 – Hunchback Havoc”

You know, in the course of 25 sessions now, my party has not once encountered a Glittercloud. Razzle-Dazzles, yes, but never clouds. Kept getting lucky with the encounter rolls! Heck, they’ve never been to that section of the dungeon. They got a rumor early on and have been scared stiff of the northwest sector ever since! Amazing that our respective parties’ experience is so different in the same adventure!

Now I am curious what that rumour may have been. But indeed — this is what I love about running CX, each session is so unpredictable, the castle so large, and the entries into it sufficiently numerous that I simply cannot prep for it. It’s been a great exercise in letting go, so far.

I just checked and it must be this rumour: “Avoid the northwestern section! (T)”

That’s hilarious. And after a bunch of sessions in that section I can only say: too true.

Exactly! The party also gathered from Claude that Aristide’s lab is in the northwest, and they’ve avoided it like the plague since. They’ve never met Aristide, but they’ve met the Beast, and they know that Aristide is the only thing in the Castle that outranks him. Their experience from the wedding informs them that even Maltricia, a scheming, spell-slinging vampire, relies on the Beast’s goodwill. They’re levels 5-6 and the idea of Aristide still makes them (rightfully) crap themselves.

Oh man, I can see my party just bumbling into Aristide’s lab, totally oblivious… Although they are talking about getting some rumours next time. (Finally!) Who knows, maybe they’ll learn something useful.

We are starting an exploration of CX in a few weeks. I was wondering if, for random encounters, I should roll additional treasure? Have you considered it?

Assuming you’re running a baseline S&W game, I don’t think that’s necessary at all. Some encounters carry quite a bit of treasure with them by the book, but many aren’t necessarily the kind that should lead to a combat encounter where it’s a fight to the death. At least, that’s not how I’ve been running things. I make copious use of reaction rolls and morale checks. As of this writing (after thirteen 2,5 hour sessions) we have two level 1, two level 3 and one level 4 PC in the company. Quite a few bit the dust along the way.

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