First Adventure: Castle Charon (Dungeon Hero Zine)

Recently, I decided to pick up a fun, quick, solo RPG game called “Dungeon Hero Zine.” These charming little booklets definitely fire up a bit of nostalgia in me, so I was hooked the instant I saw them and watched a bit of a playthrough on YouTube. Learning the system came quick (it’s wonderfully simple) and so I dug out my old standby heroine “Sigyn Hammeress” and prepared to assault Castle Charon, a crumbling and forbidding ruin from the first set.

To set the stage (without spoiling the module), the brave paladin Sigyn Hammeress has come to the gates of the ruins of Castle Charon to investigate reports of a great demon summoned by cultists who have infested the structure. Picking her way up to the castle, she first encounters piles and piles of loose bones, making for uncertain footing on the approach. Using her skills “Bodyslam” (D10) and “Endurance” (D8), she rushes at the gate, pulverizing the bone piles underfoot as she goes. (Her roll: 1, 8; Challenge: 6,6). 

Sprinting over the bones and through the gate, Sigyn rushes headlong into a dark and moldering hallway where a huge creature as black as obsidian and as wispy as shadows rises to meet her with snarling jaws. She recognizes it as a Sentry Beast, an infernal monstrosity likely summoned here to guard the ruins and keep anyone from interfering with the cultists’ nefarious plans. Fortunately, smashing infernal enemies is exactly what Sigyn has trained for, so she rushes into combat, relying on her hammers (d12) and platemail (d12) to pulverize the Sentry Beast. Sigyn rolls a 10 and a 1, while the beast rolls a 4 and a 3. In a daring, wrathful double-swing of her mighty hammers, Sigyn Hammeress powers over the bone piles and easily obliterates the Sentry Beast, leaving nothing but wisps of smoke and dust where the horror once stood.

Progressing slowly and carefully over the bone-strewn entrance, Sigyn then comes upon a great portcullis that still stands in the entrance to the ruins of Castle Charon. Inspecting it carefully, Sigyn decides that the best way through is by smashing the gate to splinters, so she readies her hammers (d12) and rushes to bodyslam (d10) the portcullis.

Despite the age of the ruins, and the general state of the Castle, the portcullis holds against Sigyn’s rush and she falls backward. Forced to use a point of stamina to try again, she picks herself up and prepares to assault the portcullis again, but it holds still, and she uses yet another point of stamina. Only on the third attempt does she manage to obliterate the portcullis by rushing it and slamming into it. As she picks herself up, trying not to think too much about all the noise she has just made, she looks around and realizes she has finally entered the castle proper. The place is ancient and falling apart, eaten away at the edges with corruption. Remembering the rumors from town of a great network of underground tunnels where the cultists go about their infernal business, Sigyn readies her hammers and prepares to explore the crumbling ruin.

The first thing she encounters is a statue with ruby eyes that sparkle even in the darkness. Figuring her hammers will be too clumsy and heavy to remove the rubies in one piece, Sigyn digs around in her Dungeoneer's Pack for the tools she needs to pry them loose. Since her hands are kind of clumsy in her gauntlets (and she doesn't have any relevant skills) she will be rolling d6+d4 against the d6 for the statue and an additional d8 since she's still smarting from crashing through the portcullis. Stretching and sweating while fiddling with her tools, it takes her two points of stamina just to get the ruby eyes loose, but she manages to carefully remove them and slip them into her pack.

Unfortunately, it took her so much time getting the gems loose that by the time she gets them in her pack, she turns around to find herself face-to-face with a cultist patrol. They seem quite peeved about Sigyn's theft of the eyes of their idol, and as they ready their daggers, Sigyn readies her hammers.

Rushing into battle, the hero of the hammers puts down five of the eight Cultists in a series of vicious swings. Their blades bounce off her platemail, and again she strikes, taking down two more. The last cultist lunges and sticks a knife between the plates of her armor, dealing two damage to her resolve before she whips around and pulverizes him into oblivion.

There's a whisper of magic in the air as the last Cultist falls, and deep, impenetrable shadows suddenly cloak the room (I keep rolling ones for encounters, lol!). Stumbling around and still smarting from the stab wound, Sigyn fumbles about in the dark, trying to feel her way around the room. Searching in her Dungeoneer's Pack, she pulls out a torch and tries to light it. (Sigyn: d6+d4 v. d6 + d6: Dungeon). Despite her clumsy fumbling, she manages to light the torch and say a few magic words to dispel some of the shadowy magic.

With the shadows still clinging to her armor in wispy tendrils, Sigyn searches the ruined castle for a way to the tunnels beneath. Her armor and her boots clink and rasp so loudly she can barely think, and the quiet becomes almost oppressive. Dark thoughts bubble up, but she manages to tamp them back down with her Charm (d8) and Endurance (d8). Just a little song, sung sweetly to herself, and she is able to shake loose the last of the shadows and move deeper into the dungeon. 

But the silence doesn't last. Instantly, the unnatural quiet is broken by the barking and snarling of a vicious pack of guard dogs that come rushing out of the darkness, their eyes burning like embers in their black furred faces. Readying her hammers and trusting in her sanctified plate, Sigyn rushes headlong into battle and, throwing a little stamina behind her swing, she makes quick work of them before moving confidently forward.

Reveling in her thus-far unmatched combat prowess, Sigyn pretty much runs smack into a guard. The guard startles, and makes to call out, but Sigyn promptly bodyslams him against the nearest wall and pulverizes him with her hammers.

Standing alone in the hallway, she realizes that she's found the entrance to the tunnels that run under the castle. Unfortunately, judging from the sounds, the way in that she's found is packed with cultists. As much as Sigyn would love to take her hammers to all of them, she decides that discretion is the better part of valor and withdraws to find another, quieter and less defended way into the tunnels below.

Scouting around, Sigyn eventually finds another passageway leading deeper into the castle. Strange, mystic whispers echo around the passage, clawing at her sanity, and it takes her four stamina to keep from going utterly mad. The whispers fill her mind with dark images, and yet still she pushes on, deeper into the castle.

It's then that Sigyn trips and falls down a deep shaft, hitting the bottom hard and taking four points of damage to her Resolve. Picking herself up, she realizes that she has inadvertently found a way into the tunnel network under the castle, and so she sets off again. Without much more than her Dungeoneer's Pack to help her, she misses the door of a hidden passage until she stumbles through it, setting off a trap that hits her for four more damage. Beaten and bloodied, she picks herself up, grunts past the frustration setting in and continues down the passageway.

A short ways in, Sigyn comes across a ruined chimney leading down, deeper into the tunnel network. The chimney is narrow and black with oily soot, but Sigyn steels herself and prepares to descend. Without much more than her Dungeoneer's Pack (d6) and her Endurance (d8), she readies the climbing gear from the pack and steadily makess her way down the chimney. It drains her stamina by one point, but she manages to make her way to the bottom without losing her grip or falling, and emerges into the dank darkness of the castle's catacombs.

Still covered from head to toe in greasy soot, Sigyn looks around and finds herself in a strange library. Chanting in the distance and the heady scent of incense on a cool, fecund breeze reach her, and it's all she can do not to shiver. The library itself is built into the catacombs, and bones are mixed with strange, glittering tomes in every shelf and bed on the stone walls. Leaning into her Endurance (d8) and her utter lack of experience with arcane tomes (d4) Sigyn decides to search the Library for anything valuable. Something in the incense makes her dizzy, and she loses three Stamina before she finds a tome that looks like it might be something she can sell for a lot of gold later on. Feeling her fleeting stamina slowly draining away, she hurries out of the library, hoping to clear her head and fight her way to the center of this dark labyrinth of horrors.

Still reeling from the scent of the heady incense, she rushes down a nearby tunnel. The passageway is cold, unnaturally so, and as frost begins to gather on her armor, Sigyn pushes ahead, deciding that throwing everything she has into rushing down the passage (Bodyslam [d10] and Endurance [d8]) is the only way through. Her teeth chatter as she hurls herself through the tunnel and goes bursting through a flimsy wooden door into a room piled high with bones, but her resolve is unaffected by the cold. 

Looking around (and still brushing the ice from her armor) Sigyn realizes that these bones are not old and moldering like the rest of the bones in the catacombs. These bones are new, the bones of recent sacrifices, and in among the piles is the corpse of what she can only assume must have been another adventurer who got very unlucky in this room. Carefully pawing through the corpse's remains with her plate-gauntleted hands (d10), she steels herself with her indomitable endurance (d8) and when the trap that killed the fallen adventurer goes off again, it bounces harmlessly off her armor. Feeling confident that Castle Charon will not claim her as its next victim, Sigyn then plucks a rather sizable gemstone from the dead adventurer's trappings and turns about only to find herself face-to-face with five giant maggots.

Grinning from ear to ear, Sigyn Hammeress readies her weapons (d12) and puts her faith in her armor (d10) as she prepares to do what she does best-- smash her way through the opposition! The first blow pulverizes three of the giant maggots before they can even reach her, but as they close, one darts out and latches onto her, biting right into the wound she'd suffered from a cultist's blade earlier. Her resolve drops by one, but it hardly slows her down. Obliterating another maggot with a clean sweep, she focuses on the one chewing into her flesh, but can't get it loose before it does another two points of damage to her. In a final, desperate act, she tears the horror free and stomps it into goo, then shouts her rage at the walls.

Favoring her wound and bearing her teeth against the pain, Sigyn moves to the next tunnel in the catacombs and begins to walk among the leering skulls of the long dead. Several times, she feels like the skulls are watching her, but whenever she turns to look, there is nothing but dry bone and silent, web-feathered eye sockets staring back at her. 

The passage ends suddenly, but Sigyn can tell from a whisper of breeze in the air that the wall ahead of her is not really a wall, but rather a secret door. Deciding that she doesn't have time for more tricks (or the wiliness to find the trigger or mechanism for the door) she readies her hammers (d12) and bodyslams (d10) the wall. Despite her weeping wound and the hardness of the stone door, Sigyn manages to tear through the thing, expose the mechanism and bash it into oblivion.

Instead of finding more tunnels or cultists beyond though, she finds herself suddenly wading through a strange and oppressive miasma of rotting, horrific-smelling fog. Relying on her endurance (d8) and a wet cloth from her Dungeoneer's pack (d6) she pushes on through the stink and manages to make her way past whatever form of infernal corruption is generating it. 

At the edges of the stinking miasma, she finds another moldering door and pushes her way inside. Raising her torch, she casts her eyes around the room she's just entered, and momentarily she is delighted to find that she is surrounded by racks and racks of shining weapons. When the weapons lift off the shelves and hurl themselves at her, she instantly steels her resolve and stands against them, trusting in her hammers (d12) and plate mail armor (d10) to keep her safe.

Beating back the flying, animated weapons is a workout, but Sigyn manages to beat them away at the cost of another two points of stamina. Flagging and exhausted, her nostrils still burning with the stink of the miasma, she heaves her hammers over her shoulders and stumps her way through the empty racks of the haunted armory, her eyes set on another door at the far end.

Strange shrieks and skin-prickling chants rise and fall, growing in volume as she makes her way to the door. Her hand hesitates on the pull, but she muscles it open in one last burst of resolve, ready to face whatever might be waiting on the other side.

The chanting reaches a crescendo as she suddenly finds herself in the ruined summoning chamber of Castle Charon. A mass of red-robed cultists rise and flail as the fabric of reality ripples and twists around the great bulk of something pushing through from another plane of existence. Not waiting to see what kind of horror is emerging into her realm through the viscous, flashing portal, Sigyn rushes into the room and instantly finds herself confronted by eight, crazy-eyed fanatics wielding crimson-stained knives. Trusting in her hammers and her plate armor, she lashes out and drops one of the fanatics instantly. Knives lash out, biting into her skin and taking her resolve down by two points. Howling and swinging, she obliterates another four fanatics in her second rush, leaving three more screaming curses back at her. Another blade finds another soft spot in Sigyn Hammeress's armor, and she takes another point of damage, but driven into rage by the sting of tiny, biting blades, she lashes out with her hammers and fells the last of the fanatics in a series of desperate swings.

Panting and sweating, Sigyn looks up from the broken bodies of the fanatics just in time to see another wave of cultists rushing toward her. Instead of attacking her, however, they shove over a series of blazing braziers, scattering burning logs and embers everywhere. Relying on her platemail and rushing in to bodyslam her way past the fallen braziers, she fights her way over and through the flames without taking more than two damage to her resolve.

And then the minions come, dozens of them, leaping and snarling, their sleek bodies glistening in the light, their red eyes full of hunger and hate. Roaring and charging forward, hammers at the ready and trusting once again in her armor, Sigyn plows into the swarm of horrific minions, using her last point of stamina to cut the first wave of horrors in half. Shrieking and tearing at her, the minions rip into Sigyn, but only manage to further aggrivate her existing wounds, cutting her resolve by one. Again she swings, and again she pounds another two minions into the floor, but as she flags, the horrors leap upon her and find her flesh with their wicked fangs, doing another four points of damage. Blinded by her own blood, Sigyn screams and lashes out as another minion bites her, bringing her down to seven points of resolve just as the first wave finally falls. 

Bellowing in desperate rage, Sigyn pushes herself and plows through the second wave of minions with a single, wrathful swipe that pulverizes all of them. The third wave is similarly cut down, until only one minion remains. The demonic horror chitters and snarls, but Sigyn only howls back, obliterating it in one last, final sweep of her hammers.

In the calm that follows, she finds her eyes drawn by the glittering shape of a ritual knife laying on the floor. Its gem-encrusted handle calls to her, and relying on the protection of her platemail (d10) and her endurance (d8), she reaches for it, only to find that once the knife is in her hands, it slithers around her wrist like a snake and bites her. Howling, she drops to her knees and tosses the knife away, seething and bleeding all over the floor.

Only when the wailing voice of a desperate captive reaches her does she find the shreds of her resolve again. Getting to her feet and fighting to ignore the horror coming through the rip in reality ahead of her, Sigyn turns her eyes toward the source of the wailing and sees a ragged old man trying to fight free of the arms of a trio of chanting cultists. Their knives flash in the darkness, and as Sigyn rises and roars, swinging her hammers and rushing in with her blood-spattered plate armor catching the light dully, the cultists make quick work of the captive and flee. The sound of the sacrifice hitting the floor is enough to shake Sigyn's resolve, and her reserve drops to four.

And then the horror pushing its way through tear in the fabric of reality emerges fully. Great blades manifest as the Scion of Bloodletting emerges from the ritual circle and plants its meaty crimson feet on the stone floor. The remaining cultists fall back as the avatar of war itself faces Sigyn and screams its own terrifying battle cry at her.

Utterly exhausted, bleeding and barely clinging to consciousness, Sigyn raises her hammers one last time, says a prayer to Thor for protection and prepares to take on the towering figure before her.

The great horror sweeps its massive blades down at her, but she dodges them easily and lands a solid series of hits on the Scion of Bloodletting, bashing away half its health in the first volley of blows. Again, the horror howls and sweeps its blades at her, and again she hurls herself to the side, narrowly avoiding damage from them. Her hammers rise, and as the thing stomps toward her, she delivers such a fierce blow to its leg that it drops to one knee and screams. Wasting no time, Sigyn bares her teeth, rushes in, and puts an end to the horror with one final solid blow that pulps its meaty face and leaves it to tumble lifelessly to the floor.

In the silence that follows, Sigyn looks around at the summoning chamber and watches as the few cultists who remain flee with the death of their god, leaving the catacombs and the castle empty once again. 

Dropping to her knees and breathing a long, tired sigh of relief, Sigyn Hammeress rests for a moment, recovers the shreds of her stamina and swears that though her work here is done, the cult will persist, and so too must she, until every one of those who would seek to summon such horrors as the Scion of Bloodletting are put out of their zealous misery.

When she finally gets to her feet again, she finds it easy to follow the tracks of the cultists out through the castle's main entrance. The journey back to town is an uneventful one. Ale, and a long bed rest are the only things on Sigyn's mind now.

3 Loot Obtained!

Next adventure: The New Hill!


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