The fishing village of Hovick, on the shores of Blacksalt Lake, has been terrorized for the past month by a creature with the head of a massive bull and the body of a man. The first time it appeared, an entire family of farmers was slaughtered. The village elders called an emergency meeting, and it was resolved that a messenger would be sent to Assalom’s Rest — the regional seat — to request aid. In the meantime, offerings would be set out for the creature, in hopes of dissuading it from taking more lives.
Several swine and sheep were appropriated from local herders and tied up some distance from the village’s palisade. The next time the bull-man emerged from the Thornwood, it devoured the animals as hoped, but then turned its rage upon Hovick itself, smashing the gate down and killing a number of the watchmen before wandering back into the dark forest. Panic and fear overtook the settlement, and a number of residents gathered their meager belongings and promptly fled.
As luck would have it, the next morning a knight-errant by the name of Sir Galwaith rode through the shattered gates on his warhorse. As traumatized residents peered out of their thatched houses, he announced that he been on the trail of the bull-man for some time, and was pleased to find recent sign of its passage. He told them to fear no more, and vowed to return with the head of the beast before two days had passed.
Four days later, Sir Galwaith had yet to return. While more villagers began to abandon their homes, those still remaining demanded action from the elders. In an act of desperation, the elders called a meeting of the able-bodied, and announced that a party would be dispatched into the Thornwood to hunt down the beast. A handful of straw was carried from person to person, and each drew forth one piece. Sixteen short straws were drawn.
To kick off this series of session reports, allow me to introduce our cast of 0-level PCs. Their occupations come from a custom occupation table I threw together based on Hovick’s identity as a rural fishing village. Occupations, names, stats, traits, and equipment were all rolled up at the first session, with actual dice on an actual tabletop.
PERRY, an aging village watchmen, has seen fellow members of the watch mercilessly dismembered before his eyes.
Str 6, Agi 15, Sta 14, Per 11, Int 12, Luc 9
HP 2, AC 12.
Equipment: Spear, helmet, shield, holy symbol.
STILLMAN is a swineherd, some of whose stock was set out in the unsuccessful attempt at appeasing the beast.
Str 6, Agi 5, Sta 12, Per 9, Int 12, Luc 13
HP 4, AC 8.
Equipment: Staff, 2 swine, 1 torch.
COLBY, the village butcher, is eager to practice his trade on the carcass of the beast.
Str 10, Agi 16, Sta 6, Per 15, Int 12, Luc 11
HP 1, AC 12.
Equipment: Cleaver, chest, 10 lb. side of salted beef (in chest).
OSWALD, a woodsman by trade, is extremely anxious about recent events.
Str 13, Agi 11, Sta 8, Per 12, Int 12, Luc 11
HP 1, AC 10.
Equipment: Hand axe, 7 pieces of firewood, large sack.
OSRIC, a burglar recently arrived in Hovick, is eager to get into the Thornwood before the local authorities learn of his status as wanted man in Assalom’s Rest.
Str 8, Agi 6, Sta 11, Per 14, Int 7, Luc 8
HP 2, AC 9.
Traits: Stocky, wanted.
Equipment: Sap, large sack, 10′ pole.
SIGBERT, a humble fisherman who plies the Blacksalt Lake, walks with a limp but will not be deterred from his duty as a citizen of Hovick.
Str 13, Agi 9, Sta 7, Per 11, Int 6, Luc 9
HP 2, AC 10.
Traits: Lame, helpful.
Equipment: Knife, fishing net.
WILFRED, Hovick’s resident scribe, is not one for adventure, but is secretly looking forward to spending some time in proximity to Daisy.
Str 10, Agi 12, Sta 13, Per 9, Int 6, Luc 6
HP 5, AC 10.
Traits: Mousy, randy.
Equipment: Quill, bottle of ink, 4 pieces of parchment, empty flask.
DURWIN, a devoted follower of Arimar (Lawful God of Peace and Truth) and tanner by trade, is full of trepidation, but eager to prove his worth to his deity.
Str 7, Agi 13, Sta 12, Per 7, Int 12, Luc 8
HP 4, AC 11.
Traits: Acne, religious (lawful).
Equipment: Knife, 6 animal hides, thieves’ tools.
ESMA, a swineherd with a less charitable opinion of pigs than Stillman, is reluctant to fulfill her duty.
Str 13, Agi 12, Sta 10, Per 9, Int 8, Luc 12
HP 4, AC 10.
Traits: Big ears, illiterate.
Equipment: Staff, 2 swine, 11 iron spikes.
HUNWALD, Herald of Hovick, has never had much to do in this backwater, so he is eager for a change of pace.
Str 13, Agi 7, Sta 10, Per 9, Int 13, Luc 11
HP 1, AC 9.
Traits: Ugly, clueless.
Equipment: Short sword, trumpet, flint & steel.
DEVON, the undertaker, does not trust the judgement of the elders, but figures this endeavor may be in need of his professional services.
Str 14, Agi 11, Sta 8, Per 11, Int 4, Luc 13
HP 1, AC 10.
Traits: Bald, suspicious.
Equipment: Holy symbol of Jeneva (Neutral Goddess of Strife and Suffering), thieves’ tools.
PIERCE, another of the Blacksalt’s fishermen, is unhappy about having drawn one of the short straws.
Str 12, Agi 6, Sta 9, Per 14, Int 13, Luc 5
HP 2, AC 10.
Traits: Curly hair, rude.
Equipment: Knife, fishing net, waterskin.
DAISY is an alewife who operates The Toad and Badger, Hovick’s only tavern. To say the least, business has not been so good lately.
Str 7, Agi 10, Sta 4, PEr 11, Int 10, Luc 12
HP 2, AC 10.
Traits: Mousy, heroic.
Equipment: Rolling pin, cask of ale.
THELMA is one of the village’s two professional roof thatchers, and a firebrand who can’t wait to sink her hand axe into the bull-man’s skull.
Str 11, Agi 6, Sta 14, Per 15, Int 8, Luc 10
HP 3, AC 9.
Traits: Bright blonde, hot tempered.
Equipment: Hand axe, 3 sheaves of straw.
GARETH, the shortest woodsman anyone has ever seen, is determined to take the beast down, no matter how much bigger it is than him.
Str 12, Agi 13, Sta 10, Per 9, Int 10, Luc 13
HP 2, AC 11.
Traits: Very short, haughty.
Equipment: Hand axe, 6 pieces of firewood, 1 torch.
FINMUNNI, an asthmatic dwarf stonemason, settled in Hovick years ago after finding the lakeshore climate agreeable. Although she is the only dwarf most villagers have ever met, she has become a respected fixture of the community.
Str 15, Agi 16, Sta 7, Per 7, Int 10, Luc 9
HP 2, AC 12.
Traits: Persistent injury (asthma), religious (Clangeddin, Lawful Dwarven God of Stone and Industry).
And so, sixteen brave and hardy souls — well, maybe eight brave and three hardy — er, a big motley gang of villagers sets off into the shadowy reaches of the Thornwood, a forest that most of them have shunned since childhood…