Showing posts with label campaign report. Show all posts
Showing posts with label campaign report. Show all posts

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Session Report - Keep on the Borderlands, Strange Game Play

We played outside, until the wind flipped the table and scatter our dice and sheets. 

That's ok. This second session was a building session and since I cleared up the character sheets, I can put names to stats, so to speak. 

Lauren is a human ranger, second level. 
Aleric is a half elven fighter-cleric-magic user. He is the only 1st level character. 
Vandohl or Vandal (spelled two different ways) is the dwarven cleric. 
Belaphon is an elven magic user. 
Solvo is the hobbit thief and the only character injured in the last session. He has 1 hit point left.
Helvani is a human paladin. 

There is an odd PLAYER dynamic happening, I have three players controlling two players each. Ranger is matched to thief, the cleric with the paladin, and C-F-MU with MU. Two people can heal the thief, but no one has offered and it hasn't been asked for. Not sure why. 

So, let's rewind to review session one. The characters got chased off by the kobolds after entering area A. They now know there is a pit trap and at least 8 kobold guards. They knocked two kobolds down to zero hp, but their friends dragged them into their lair. They will heal up. 

Instead of participating with all of the archery, the thief (Solvo) ran into the Ogre's lair. He was struck for 6 points of damage and played dead. The Ogre ran at the party but was driven off by missile fire and spells. When he returned to his lair, Solvo killed him with backstab in the dark. The party dragged the body to their original camp and laid him out like a sleeping camper. In the image below, the red circle is the abandoned campsite, which has the ogre's body and a fire.  

At the start of session 2, the players have posted guards at the entrance to their cave E. They are watching for monsters. They noticed movement above the tree over cave A, marked in orange. These things are too big to be kobolds. They noticed the kobolds seem to appear out the tree, apparently they sneak up there from the entrance. The yellow line is another set of creatures, they are bigger than kobolds but smaller than humans. 

In the morning the party hacked down some branches to sweep out the litter in the cave and promptly discover the treasure. The thief immediately noticed some of the gold pieces are lead. The team formulates a plan. 

Lauren, Belaphon and Helvani will return to the Keep with their found gold pieces and the party's remaining funds for more supplies. 

The according to the map, the keep is about fifty 100 yard squares away. The module says characters can cover 3 squares or 300 yards an hour. I've never bought that one. It's about 3 miles away, they have a map and a ranger. The Keep is 1 to 2 hour away from the Caves, if no mistakes are made. 

While the party is divided, Solvo, Vandal and Aleric discover the magic arrows, the potion and the scroll while cleaning. They debate over the purpose of the gold plated lead coins and count everything else. They take turns cutting firewood with the only hatchet they have.

They have three interesting sightings through out the day. Vandal heard goblin voices from the east. Instead of spotting actual goblins, he spied a mountain lion. Later in the day, Solvo notices three smaller orcs foraging for firewood. They seem to be children and the party retreats deeper into the cave.  

After dinner, the rest of the party returns. They pause at their old camp and notice that an animal has eaten part of the ogre. Mountain Lions. Ick. From there, they make a crazy slow-panicked dash to their new home, with many odd things. 

Back at the Keep, the players were determined to find several dogs. They found two full sized mastiff like dogs and a collie puppy. The mastiffs were used to tow two small wagons. These wagons are children's toys and were lashed to the dogs with two 10 foot poles each. In the wagons were a barrel of water and a large wooden chest packed full of iron rations plus a few implements like shovels, axes and brooms. Each PC was carrying 50' of rope, three wine skins and three waterskins. They have quivers of arrows and slings and an extra pair of bows lashed to their backs. They are dying from the weight. 

They also have 3 books, ink and pens which the ranger bought to write down spells. This sparked a heated conversation with the mage who knew they weren't the right materials. Before leaving, there was a second fight about bankrolling the remaining gold. The weight made the choice easy, but tempers were short.  

It took an hour to get to the keep at a jog, 3 hours to find the dogs and less than an hour to buy all of the rest of the stuff. The return trip was a 4 hour circus, because the dogs aren't draft animals and the alternative was the players leading a dog while pulling a wagon, which left the third PC to keep track of the puppy and items that were dropped. 

The characters all settled in their new hobbit hole. Half the party ate and sacked out immediately. Solvo, Vandal and Alaric straighten up a bit and drew straws for guard duty. Belaphon grumpily pitched in when not pretending to sleep. He spent some time talking about the merits of magic over prayer while examining the found scroll, which is clerical in nature. 

Three times in the night, the guard sighted orcs by the tree and heard both kobolds and goblins. Solvo could swear he heard goblins right in their cave, but could find nothing. 

The players didn't seem interested in experience points, so I didn't award any this time. I have to tabulate the pool, but I think they earned a total 600 from the treasure alone and probably an equal amount as role play and clear thinking awards. By the way, Solvo is up one hit point from natural healing. I'll allow it this time, but he needs magic or rest. 

If you like the character sheets from the image above, you can download them from DriveThruRPG. There are 2 styles, both with 7 stats for AD&D and Unearthed Arcana.  

Character Sheet for AD&D
Character Sheet
Character Sheet for AD&D

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Session Report - Standout Play during Keep on the Borderlands

I ran the kids through one session of Keep on the Borderlands. For fun, I let them use AD&D characters. They have a Cleric, a Thief (halfing), a Paladin, a Ranger, a Fighter-Magic User-Cleric (half elven) and a Magic User (elven). Each character is 2nd level, except the F-MU-C who is 1st level. 

They were less than impressed with the Keep itself and as soon as they got directions to the Caves of Chaos they set off. They also learned some gossip about the area, but disregarded much of it. They picked out a campsite to the east of the Caves and explored for the first day. They spent a lot of time checking the area to the west of the Cave complex, but finally mapped out the four cave entrances on the lowest level. Areas D, E, G and A, in that order. Since they didn't try to enter any of these areas, nothing happened. The thief tried to listen at each cave mouth, but heard nothing. Of course, everyone else tried to listen but didn't get that close. 

Out of an abundance of laziness, once they completed the circuit of the area, they went back to Cave Entrance A. All six of them entered the cave behind the thief who was prodding around for traps. He spotted the pit just as the 8 kobolds outside spot the characters.   

Everyone but the thief made a mad dash for the eastern mouth of the ravine, but pulled up short under the large tree. The kobolds don't have missile weapons, so they pursued on foot. At the tree, the MU wanted to get a spell ready while everyone except the Cleric got out missile weapons. In the meantime, the thief sprinted for the entrance to cave E. 

One volley of arrows sent the kobolds back to their cave. The party wanted to regroup and rethink their plan but this was disrupted by a horrible scream and thud from Cave E. The ogre clobbered the thief, who had one hit point left and played dead. The ogre saw the rest of the party and charged. Several flights of arrows and a magic missile routed him back to his cave.

The characters loosed 4 flights of arrows in two rounds as per AD&D rules, most missed but doubling up missile attacks makes AD&D missiles more deadly than D&D.  Out of a hail of 12 arrows, only 5 hit along with the magic missile but they knocked the ogre's hp to just 4. Strangely, the cleric didn't pull out a missile weapon for second time and stood off to one side with her mace.

In those 2 round of activity, the thief picked himself up and hid just inside the entrance to the cave. Shockingly, he backstabbed the ogre for a one shot kill. 


Now here is where things went sideways. They moved into Cave E to camp for the night. The cleric threw out the idea of waiting until dark to move the ogre's body to their campsite to the east. They lit a nice fire for him and lay him out like a sleeping adventurer. The cleric prayed for the ogre out of respect for a fallen foe. 

Back at the cave, the characters mounted 3 watches. They are not simply guarding, they were watching for someone or something to investigate the body and the fire. 

That's a really nice plan and we ended on this high note. The next session will be a rare series of nighttime encounters. 

Experience awards were meager because the players don't know they are sitting on a pile treasure. They think the bag is a lumpy bed. They knocked 2 kobolds down to 0 hit, but their friends dragged them inside. I'm gonna count those as kills along with ogre. 

I have to give credit where credit is due. The cleric's idea to dispose of the body plus use it as a lure for other monsters was great. That is worth at least 200 experience. The thief's idea to to play dead to set up a backstab was turning lemons into lemonade. 

On paper that is 533 experience points. I'll add another 77 to make it an even 600 divided by 6. 

Since they made Cave E their base camp they will be pleasantly surprised when they investigate further. I will award another round of experience the moment they discover the treasure. 

If you don't already have this module, check it out on DriveThruRPG. 

B2 The Keep on the Borderlands
B2 The Keep on the Borderlands

Sunday, January 12, 2020

NFL Championship, Power Outages and Bolt Cutters

Between the Bills washing out of the playoffs, today's power outages, and me getting ready for school, we taking a week or more off.

I have been hanging out with the players so I do have an idea of what happens next. I'll call it "Ortaire-4-9-3". One of my players asked if there was a spell that would remove shackles. A different player inquired about bolt cutters. So the players themselves have decided to free Ortaire the Raider from being auctioned off as a slave. 4-9-3 refers to the 4 raiders, the 9 characters of the player's party and the 3 elves.

I was expecting this very type of rebellion from the players, but not right in the face of the Coven of Ash. These are a triplet of 3rd, 5th and 7th level magic users. They can totally destroy the party in a direct confrontation.

Let's restate the facts:

  • The Emperor and his council have given the players a letter which allows them to purchase or hire a ship at a price not to exceed 4,000 pounds silver. (40,000 silver at 1/10 of pound is 4,000 pounds). 
  • Anytime this letter comes into play, it's being read as a grant of power which allows the players to do whatever they like as if they have the Emperor's blessing. 
  • Roleplay is making this happen, as the players themselves don't state this and are only vaguely aware that this is happening despite a lot of hints, like the reader can't read or notes the Seal of Office on the outside.   
  • Theoretically, they could simply demand that the town officials turn over Ortaire with that letter. (I would make them lose it in this play. It's a problem.)
  • The Emperor really wants to end slavery, so the PC kind of do have his personal and private blessing. But the Emperor is unaware of the PC's outlook, so blessings would come after the fact.  
  • The Emperor is hamstrung by other forces which prevent an outright end of slavery. 
  • The Coven of Ash will kill the characters outright if they try a bold approach. The city will go into lockdown mode to avoid the wrath of the witches, which means there will be no help. 
  • Senator Vitus is willing to help the PCs free Ortaire, but he has already contacted the 3 elves to do this anyway. They don't have a plan yet. 
  • The raiders don't necessarily care if Ortaire is freed or killed. His silence is enough. 
  • The raider's plan is to hoof it to their comrade's farm far to the east of the city. They will not do this if the witches are chasing them, but think it's a good place to be in a fight with the elves or the party. 
If the characters do anything on the sly, and it looks like they will, this will not trigger the Coven to take direct action. They will make a play on the PCs through mundane means, perhaps by sowing confusion among the city guard which has lost it Praetorian leadership. 

Other points of interest, the Praetorians in this setting are 20% assassins, 70% fighters and 10% all other classes as councilors and advisers. All of the assassins were wiped out by the Coven, so the Praetorians are reeling and allowing city officials to issue orders. Nobody wants to be in charge while the witches are in Nace. 

I'm setting a goal of playing again on Feb 1st, but we might have a session before that. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

2019. That ship has sailed...

Ah, the campaign will continue in 2020. I've briefly spoken with all of the players and their primary concern was not getting killed by the Coven of Ash.

Well, that isn't a big concern on my part, but I can see how it bothers the players. They will be meeting with a Senator, either under hostile or friendly terms very shortly. He is a target of the Coven of Ash, he knows a fair bit about them, so he can explain them to the players. I have interjected the Coven as a means of making the town seem alive with the obvious benefit of having the characters interact with something very nasty early on. I don't want to surprise them later with something out of the blue.

I had hoped the characters would hop on ship at the next town, but they haven't taken the bait. In fact, they have refused the bait. Fine.

The ship has sailed on my main antagonists, the raiders. The players are clearly planning to head inland to avoid and frustrate them. The players are seriously pissing these guys off by showing up in the coastal cities and settlements, which makes the raiders believe they have a play at them, but then the party drifts inland. At some point, I am going to make the players aware that their behavior is saving many cities and towns from a good sacking.

Anyway, back to planning. I need to firm up my map of the city of Nace by the second week of January.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Character Sketch - Senator Vitus

I'm not sure if we will get a chance to play over Christmas break, but I want to sketch out a couple of characters for our next session. 

First, the players have asked for a few more NPC followers. With the exception of a new cook, I am going to make the party act out the hiring process. Right now the party has 9 low level characters, four of which are NPCs. I don't mind the endless parade of hired help, the players aren't asking that these NPCs engage in combat. Cooks and horse handlers are fine, but I'll push back if they start looking for gladiators or other combat orientated NPCs. 

On my side of the equation, I need a few more NPC to flesh out the city of Nace. In our last session, the party chased the elven warband around and the elves managed to slip away. Where did they go in a xenophobic, human-centric city?  

They are hiding in the house of Vitus. 

Senator Vitus has a couple of connections to the story so far. He is the third son of Senator class citizen. He lives in Nace, but travels to the Capital for his duties to the Empire. As the third son, he wasn't expected to amount to much and was a miller before the deaths of his two older brothers. The oldest brother was assassinated for pushing for manumission of all slaves in the Capital. The other brother was killed in a skirmish with the elves out on the frontier. These two events shaped Vitus. 

He is a self-made man, having worked his way up in the family business of milling before establishing his own milling company. He specializes in milling the magical herbs and plants from Nace and is extremely rich as a result. Vitus only employs slaves in his own household on a routine basis, most of his workers are freedmen and women with only a handful of slaves in administrative positions in his business. 

After the death of his brothers, he became a stoic, seeking to mitigate the ills of the world in his life. Vitus is a 3rd level monk. He believes that slavery is wrong and a fruitful peace with the elves and dwarves is necessary. This is why he is harboring the elves. He has ingratiated himself with several temples and cults in the north of the Empire and is friendly with several powerful mages in Nace proper. 

He is a thorn in the side of the Coven of Ash. They would kill him in a heartbeat, if given the chance. The massive resources of Vitus and his family are the only thing keeping him safe. He has his own unit of assassins for counter intelligence and personal safety. 

He does have one vice, alcohol. It isn't much of a vice as he selects a couple of bottles and partakes in them only on holidays until he is roaring drunk. This results a private party where he frees one or two of his slaves. The members of his household know about this and are aware that this continuous stream of freedmen annoys the conservative in the Senate and many people in Nace, such as The Coven of Ash. For this reason, his household will prevent him from freeing more than one or two slaves each holiday. When he is in this gregarious mood, the slaves of the house draw lots. The losers absent themselves from Vitus's presence on these days so they cannot be picked for freedom. 

Several years ago, Vitus freed his whole household at once, and the Coven of Ash killed them all. Vitus's response was to target the assassins and personally executed one of the witches himself. Since then, the household has been careful to make sure this isn't repeated as they don't want their freedom to be a death sentence.  

My to-do list is to make some peasant type characters for the household and for the players to hire. I need a character sheet for Vitus and his assassin bodyguards. A handful of magic users and clerics should also be generated. The characters will probably ask to meet some of these people, too, given that Nace is a magical place.  

I hope to be done with all of these by Monday. 

Monday, December 9, 2019

Session Update - Just Let It All Hang Out

After very nearly wiping out the party by accident and the players loving it, I decided to put the pedal to the metal and crank up the intensity. Many of the characters leveled up on the last adventure, so there was some give to the take. 

The characters broke into two groups, then four by necessity. The plan was to meet up at Five Tree Hill, just outside the city gates by lunch time, but it was lunchtime when the first group arrived. Jaime, Jim, Matilda, Megen and Melvin arrived on horse. Jaime made arrangements at the inn and stable for the care of the animals and kicked back to wait for the wagons out on the hill.

Megen and Matilda went to see the sights in Nace. Jim just declared himself to be a 1st level ranger and needed better supplies, so Melvin joined him on a shopping excursion.

The players were given several hints that something was amiss, and everyone but Jaime went to check out the "problem". The denizens of Villa quickly came to the conclusion (click for last pre-session update) that Guilbert should be sent north for trial and execution. Ortaire would be quick marched south to Nace for a mini-Triumph then sold in to slavery.

The four raiders in town were not too pleased by this. Ortaire could rat them out. The elven warband also encountered the sad Triumph over Ortaire, and were thinking of doing something about when Megen noticed them.

The players have an issue with this campaign in respect to the status of non-humans. They have been told elves and dwarves are evil enemies, but they just don't believe it. I decided to let fun and intrigue rule the day and the elves bolted as soon as she pointed them out. The players pursued them using a set of racing min-rules I invented. It was a chase as opposed to combat, which both amused and frustrated the players. It made them believe that the elves were shadowy antagonists without ham-fisting it. The players are probably not inclined to kill off elves for the heck of it, like most citizens of the Empire, which is fine by me. But now they are wary of them.

In the meantime, several other events occurred. All of the characters met up at Five Tree Hill just in time for the wagons to arrive. The raiders also came to Five Tree Hill to see if they could recruit help to free Ortaire by force or maybe just kill him to keep him quiet. Neither was a good plan for the raiders.

In the final act, the characters had not identified the raiders as such, but believed they were cut-purses or something and watched them closely. At this point, all players were playing their main character plus at least one NPC. It takes a load off of me, plus they seem to protect the NPC's better than I do. 

Queue up the finale. The Coven of Ash are the self-appointed defenders of the Empire. They are much higher level than the characters. I figure, why would a high level antagonist hide from the player characters when they have an advantage? This is the opposite of respect and should be every big-bad's operational standard. 

The Coven has walked right into the midst of the party, invisibly. As the party passed near the raiders, Caecilia, the youngest of the 3 witches, dropped her invisibility to cast Stinking Cloud on the raiders. Her intent was to set up the party as aggressors against the town and cause them all kinds of problems when they try to re-enter Nace. 

The Coven knows who and what the raiders are and thinks of them as useful pawns. They also know that the player characters are agents of the Emperor. And the Emperor intends to upset the "natural order of Empire", which cannot be allowed. 

We rolled for surprise. Guess what? 6 siders either hate me or love me*. No one was surprised by Caecilia. The player covering Melvin was living it up by doing some real role-play. He was eating an apple with a knife and managed to hit Caecilia before she could cast. 

Foiled, the other two witches helped Caecilia escape by invisibly tormenting the players, guards and raiders. The guards and raiders lost morale and slammed the gates shut. The players managed to convince them to open up, but only after suffering several rounds of invisible high jinx at the hands of the witches. Wails, loud claps and pokes sent the oxen into a tizzy and annoyed the players.  

The party ended the session in front of a warm fire at the inn, with mugs of beverages to sooth their nerves. The players seemed both frazzled and amused. 

*I have a bad time with surprise dice, but this outcome was even better than the one I planned. I can't wait for the next session. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Meet The New Antagonists - The Coven of Ash

For tonight's session, I added a few more problems for the players. These three self-styled witches are dangerous magic users

Looking at the pre-generated character lists, I am missing druids, illusionists and assassins. Druids and Illusionist are coming soon, but assassins will only appear as a historical footnote. In this campaign, the Praetorian Guard was made up of regular soldiers under the leadership and guidance of assassins. The Coven of Ash is a collection of magic users that believe they can do the Guard's job better with magic. 

About 3 years ago, all of the assassins were eliminated by the Coven. The city of Nace recorded 37 dead in just 7 days. Exactly how this happened was a mystery. The main headquarters was the focal point of these attacks, but the last several bodies were found in the Temple to Jupiter. These witches know no bounds. 

The Coven has the same purpose of the Praetorian Guard, except they answer to no one or no thing except the concept of Empire. The do not take orders from the Emperor, as he is only human. The Coven strives protect the Empire against all threats, foreign and domestic, with dark magic and terror.  

In reality, our plucky heroes didn't
 come close to landing a hit.
After a close call with the Coven and the Elven warband, the heroes knocked heads with the raiders failing to lay low in town. 

Session Updates - Level Up and Kit Up

The party is now in 4 groups. Felix, Felice, Gurwinder and Rona will arrive by wagon my lunch time. Melvin, Jim, Megen, Matilda and Jaime arrived by horse at the end of the last session. Melvin and Jim have gone off to acquire new equipment for Jim as he is now a 1st level ranger. Megen and Matilda are exploring the town while Jaime is getting lunch for the party. The plan is to meet up at Five Tree Hill at lunch time.

Megen, Matilda, Jim, and Rona have all leveled up last session. The players will check out their new character abilities and proceed from there. You can click the link to see the PDF file.

I have also created a reasonable list of provisions in the wagons, as record keeping became a nightmare last session. I believe the party somehow acquired an extra horse. Not sure, but it is now official, they have two wagons, 4 oxen, and 6 horses. The players don't seem to be abusing their character sheets, so I'm letting this one go. They don't need six horses and perhaps don't realize they have that many. It seems they gave Gurwinder a horse to search for the raiders last session, but now she's riding on the wagons like a captain of a fleet of ships.

They'll have a chance to obtain new horses and such in town. The players don't seem to be making a distinction between horses, but by my records, they have 3 riding horses, a medium war horse and 2 draft horses.

As a gag, I plan on firing up my old Mac and letting the players play a little bit of Oregon Trail. That should be fun.

If the numbers seem right, I'll let them obtain provisions like this. They need more Oxen and a few wheels. :)

I have to run. I need to generate some raiders and a couple of witches.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Campaign So Far

Last session, mistakes were made. The raider party was not much of a combat, it was a just an opportunity to chew up NPCs and scenery.

Here is the set up for tomorrow. First, Guilbert and Ortaire surrendered themselves at the Villa. Guilbert was outmatched and Ortaire was exhausted. There is no more fight in either of them. The players got some information out of them, but decided they were safe to leave behind for the Empire's justice.

The elven war band is still out there. They were hampered by their uniforms, so they stole some clothes from the Villa, plus a horse.

Horses have become a record keeping nightmare for me. The players seem to absconded with too many horses, so at their next stop, I will present them with a livestock auction so they get the animals they need and dispense with the ones they don't. They swiped horses from the raiders and the elves, then lost some to the Guilbert. Now I am convinced they have two too many. We'll fix that with some auction fun. The characters are flush with cash.

The raiders are just as scattered as the characters and the elves. So, let's get everyone together.

Step one, the elves flinched some stuff from the Villa and have entered Nace ahead of the characters. They are doing about as well at disguise as Spock, Capatin Kirk and Bones but no one has noticed them yet. The elven sloop is in the south, marked in green on the map. It is too far away to help, even if they had more troops, which they don't. I'll give them all something to do in a moment.

There are five raiders in or around Nace. One is going home to never again venture off the farm. His farm is the small structure on the right hand side of the map. It's isn't important, I'm OCD. We'll likely never hear from him again. The four raiders in town have been drinking themselves stupid. Their ship is marked in red, so it's of no help to them. Let's have them join the elves.

Guilbert and Ortaire were back at the Villa the last time the player saw them. Justice was swift. Guilbert is on his way north to the Capital for torture and execution if he doesn't come up with a plan. He has a plan. He is pretending to be a much high rank than he is and will happily make up anything he can to save his neck. This got Ortaire's neck out a noose. Ortaire has been taken to Nace for a mini-triumph. He is being paraded around on a donkey and will be auctioned off a slave as soon as the humiliation gets old.

(Remember, the Emperor is NOT into slavery and he is the only person who can declare a Triumph, so heads are going to roll over this. Luckily, his agents, the player characters are on hand. Maybe they'll do his will or maybe he can spin whatever happens to his will. The Emperor really needs a name because he is turning out to an ex post facto, arch-machiavellian, super Amadeus.)

Queue up the 3 elves and 4 raiders. The elves hate slavery and the raiders are horrified by the capture of their friend. Both groups are going to attempt a rescue. The characters will become embroiled in the mini-triumph over Ortaire and will definitely meet the raiders and the elves.

Maybe, everyone will wear disguises. Wouldn't that be fun?

Aligning the Stars and Setting the Stage

Last session, the players romped all over the raiders then chewed scenery. I totally lost track of both real time and game time and probably let them do too much. This caused the party to be fragmented, with half at the gates of Nace and the other half still traveling with the wagons.

To get around any sort of headaches, I'll start the session at Five Tree Hill. It's a location just outside the Eastern gates. The "hill" is actually the slope to the city, so it is lower than the gates, but still dry.  As you can see, I have revamped much of my map to look more Roman.

Just inside the gates, there is an inn, a stable, water on the outskirts of the city. Food is also available at the Inn. Five Tree Hill is a convenient meeting spot for travelers. It's a large open area marked out by some arrowroot trees. The guards keep this trees pruned, so they don't interfere with the defenses of the town. No camping is allowed, but a lot of people grab a meal here while waiting for news, deliveries or friends. It's a good place to find a walking stick and swap gossip.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Well... that was different. Campaign update.

Alright, nothing went as I expected. For what I expected, see this post.

The mission was to escort the bodies of the dead to Nace. That part was initially unsuccessful due to a great number of injuries to the party but they got the job done in the end.

The dice went in the party's favor, especially the 6 siders. They were unsurprised by the raider's ambush, which was devastating to the raiders. The party lead on every roll of initiative for the whole combat.

(I was expecting a fun run back to the Villa, with the characters picking off raiders. Nope, didn't happen like that.)

Gurwinder and Cassia let off a volley of natural 20 arrows, which left 3 of 4 of the horse riding bandits dead. One poor guy was super dead as Cassia and Gurwinder rolled 20s and 6s, one time each. The fourth raider on horseback stopped in his tracks.

Our strategic map. The black marks in the middle are coffee
or the blood of dead raiders... not sure which. 
Jim and Jaime were riding on the right side of the wagons (left side of the map) and totally sidestepped the slingers first volley. Gurwinder, Felix and Megan were hit. Cassius took an a single arrow for double damage... and shrugged it off.

In the next round, things went nuts. Jaime was taken off his horse by a swipe from a two-handed sword as the two raiders stepped out the treeline. Ortaire, the only surviving thief turned tail and ran off with Jim in pursuit. The oxen were hit by sling stones, which caused the wagons to slam to a stop as the oxen tried to back up.

Into the next round, the raiders tried to get on the wagons. Guilbert hit Rona with a bastard sword, nearly killing her. Flortina and Jim, the zero level humans, fired arrows into everything except the targets. Cassius went hand to hand with one of the raiders, downing him immediately. Gurwinder took another down, while Megan and Matilda got kicked around. Interestingly, all of the action came from the right hand side of the map, but the melee type players were confused and thought the main action was to the left.

The theater of the trash heap, or when
you don't have minis for your players. 
In the fourth round, things weren't looking good for the raiders. Cassius and Jaime downed another raider each, while Cassia and Gurwinder pin cushioned three more. Guilbert decided he had enough and took Jaime's horse and booked it. Megan and Matilda got a piece of him, but not enough to stop him. Jim spotted Guilbert galloping up behind him and thought he was being set up. Ortaire got away, with Guilbert not far behind as Jim gave up the chase.

The fifth round was mop up time. Not much to clean up as two of the raiders made it off the map on horseback.

Megan, Rona, Felix, Gurwinder and Cassius were down to a single hit point each at the end of the fight, so the party returned to the Villa to recuperate. They planned to try again in the morning.

I had an encounter with the 3 elves planned, but everyone was so low on hit points, I replaced it with the surrender of the some of the raiders. It was supposed to be for humor, but it would have turned deadly quickly. The player of Gurwinder took control of Rona, while the other NPCs were divvied up between the other players.

By morning, Guilbert and Ortaire showed up at the Villa to surrender themselves. They traded information on the remaining raiders, and search parties are combing the area to the north of the Villa. The raider's information is not especially helpful. Guilbert doesn't know one raider has gone home and doesn't know any of the raiders made it to Nace. They had thought the information would be enough for a pardon, but Rona nixed that idea with a powerful speech. At least for Guilbert. Ortaire never got a chance to attack anyone, so he might escape with a slap on the wrist.

The second foray to Nace was successful and uneventful. The party attended the funeral but had to leave for the Villa to return the honor guard. On the way, they rounded up most of the raider's horses and did a bit of healing.

Briefly, using the horses, the party joined in the search for the missing raiders. They spotted the lone raider hoofing it home but didn't recognize him as anyone important. He'll probably go back to turnip farming. Ortaire and Gil are on their way north to the Capital, to face whatever justice they find. The Villa is still abuzz with changes and excitement. The party, after returning the honor guard to the Villa, started making their way back to Nace. They arrived by morning on horseback, but the wagons will be a bit behind.

The Eastern Gate of the City of Nace. 
Next adventure, Jim becomes a Ranger. This is a relief to the party, because he had a handful health and was riding point far too much. Megan's player will be taking Jim's character as a second. She doesn't like how swashbucklers work a low levels. She'll be playing two characters for now.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Raider War Band

The Raider War Band is waiting for the PC's party to the Southeast of the Villa. There are 7 fighters and 3 thieves. The 3 thieves are mounted and have been hunting for food. Ortaire has been keeping everyone fed with his bow skills, but is running out of arrows.

Albé and Guilbert are the only mounted fighters. Guilbert is one of the younger raiders, but has risen to be the nominal leader of the war band thanks to his high Charisma. All three thieves have short bows as does Warren. Raglan, Albé, Frédéris and Guilbert have slings.

One square is 10 yards.
Guilbert has selected a bend in the road to ambush the party. His plan is to hide the sling armed raiders on the right side of the road with the two melee only fighters on the other side. The horse mounted bow men will charge at the party, which will be the signal for the slingers to attack the oxen. That will allow the bowmen to dismount and attack from the front.

Click the link for a PDF of the 10 characters.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Honor Guard

The players were not supposed to court any retainers or followers at the Villa. However, due to circumstances beyond their control, they will have an honor guard traveling with them until they reach Nace.

Cassia, Florentina and Lucius have been selected from the ranks of villagers by the Emperor to escort the two accused to justice and then lay their master and mistress to rest. All are slaves that were instrumental in operating the Villa del Vino successfully.

Lucius is an elderly man, however he is a former gladiator. He has a head for accounting. He is in his late 60's but is still powerful. His daughter-in-law is Florentina, the head woman of the villa's mill and presses. Her husband died many years ago and she is representing him. The final member of the honor guard is Cassia, the master's mistress and bodyguard. She was horribly beaten during the raid, but was also responsible for scattering the other villagers before she was incapacitated. She has given a statement that could free or condemn the accused murderers.

Rona has healed Cassia as much as she is able to. Gurwinder has encouraged the woman to take up her master's bow, which is a +2 weapon. Cassia laments not having it during the attack, as she is a deadly archer.

The honor guard will travel with the party several miles north to hand over the prisoners. They will then return to the Villa and transport the Master's family to it's final resting place in Nace. This is a little trickery on the Emperor's part. He wants the bodies of the family removed from the Villa proper, but also honored in a major city so that when he replaces them with his own leadership, no one will have a reminder of the former Master.

NPC stats will have to be generated for these characters as they will respond to any encounters with the enemy with lethal force, for vengeance. These will be loaded to the Pregenerated character lists when time permits.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Who's Out There - Post Twoth

Twoth by sea. Who is out on the water ways?

The elven schooner and the raider ship. The elven schooner put 3 elven warriors ashore and left to go chart the comings and goings of ship of the Empire. The Schooner has a problem as the raider's ship has been ghosting them.

The raiders have a spy and informant network on the shore and believes that the schooner is the source of a power band of warriors who hit them at the Villa del Vino. Well, that's not true at all. The party captured two, killed 3 and the remaining men are scattered to the winds. They know the sea and the coastline, but have poor land navigation skills.

The raiders have a myoparo, a ship with 15 rowers and a crew of 55 men who are also raiders. Most of the rowers are slaves but some of the younger, inexperienced raiders also man the oars. The real crew is less than a quarter of everyone on board.

The raiders believe that the schooner has inflicted all the casualties on their crew, which they count as 25. In reality, only 5 are dead, three are horribly lost and wandering eastward on to the plains and the last two were captured. There are three groups of raiders prowling the area, each unaware of the others. Technically, most of the raiders are not lost, they merely don't know where the others are.

There is a group of 5 men on foot, northwest of the Villa del Vino. They are busy dodging patrols. In actuality, these "patrols" are runners bring news back and forth from the Capital to the Villa. They would like to reach the shore, but keep getting forced into the trees due north of the Villa.

There is a tiny group of 4 that has wandered in to the city of Nace. They are currently drinking themselves silly, believing that the Empire's assassins are on their tail. They couldn't be more wrong.

The third group is southeast of the Villa, waiting to bushwack anyone coming south. There are 10 men, half on foot and half on stolen horses. They have seen their myoparo come and go several times, but they believe that they can catch some or all of the slaves fleeing the Villa. Unfortunately for the raiders, the people of the Villa are now heroes surrounded by real heroes, namely the PC party. They won't be fleeing anywhere and the PC party will encounter these guys soon. So could the elven war party, which could make things interesting.

The last raider is walking home, to his farm.

Meanwhile, back on the myoparo, there are only 35 raiders and 10 slave rowers. All of the inexperienced raider/rowers have gotten lost on shore. Since the ship needs 15 rowers, the older raiders are pulling double duty and are very angry about this. Words have been said that can't be taken back and violence will erupt if they don't find something else to fight. So far, the only thing they have seen small enough to engage is the elven schooner. Things are getting dangerous on the ship, for everyone, except possibly the slave rowers.

(Hey, that adds up to 17 raiders... I am updating the numbers to add to 25.)

Who's Out There?

Ok, the characters are not all alone out there. These are 6 mile hexes, so there are a lot of unfriendly forces hanging out.

Closest to the party resting at the Villa del Vino is an NPC party. This group is unusual as they are made up of 3 elven spies/warriors. Eirien, Liscë and Turu have a couple of problems they need to solve.

They aren't supposed to make contact with anyone as they are spies. But they are wearing military uniforms. They were dumped off just south of the Fortezza Port di Nace during rough weather, because the horses were going crazy. The schooner that dropped them off is tailing ships and marking the tides. The spies are zig zagging the area making maps and avoiding people. They started with 3 horses but lost one, so they are in trouble. This is one of the horses found by the player characters. They don't realize it's an elven horse. 

The elves have spotted Jim, Felice and Felix riding their horse, exploring the area around the Villa. They intend to take the horse back. Elven horses are supposed to respond to a whistle. It should throw any unfriendly rider and return to the owner. Except Jim has been feeding the horse apples galore and the horse now believes Jim is his owner, so it doesn't respond to Turu's calls.

Jim is a zero level character and scout, so he hasn't noticed these calls. In fact, he has walked right by the elves several times.

Plan B. Solve two problems at once. Knock Jim off the horse and steal his clothes. One of the elves will get a horse while someone gets a non-military outfit. Jim's clothes are not much of a disguise, but at least they are not military uniforms.

They do know that Jim has a bow and that he is kind to the horse. He is also not much of a scout, as he has trotted by them several times. They will use Shield to protect themselves from the bow and try to use Floating Disk to prevent Jim from cracking his head. They think they can overpower him and rob him without killing him.

We shall see.

Why hasn't the schooner come back? I'll cover that in the next post.

The Misunderstandings So Far

It looks like we'll get in a game session this weekend. The whole thing petered out two months ago, so I need to refresh myself with what is happening.

The Emperor's Council hired the players to head south and gather intelligence on a Keep. The Council was willing to pay the characters 1d6x100 each for this mission. Additionally, the characters were supposed to buy a ship using 4000 gps cash and a script for 36,000. The ship should be left at the southern port as reinforcement.

What actually happened was, no one mentioned the ship, the characters thought that the 40,000 gps was their pay and that more money will come after the adventure. Since 40,000 gps was put on the table from the get-go, the party thinks the reward will be on the order of 100's of thousands of coin.

The party purchased a modest 1,400 gps worth of supplies, pack animals, horses and wagons using the 4,000 coins they were given. Additionally, they are flashing around the Emperor's signature at the bottom of the script, like it means something more. Most people they have met believe that this IOU from the Emperor is some sort of warrant, order or title. They can't or don't want to read it.

The party has no idea that this is the general interpretation of an IOU letter in the Emperor's hand. They believe they are honoring the deal to the best of their ability and people want to help them.

The Council is a bit confused by all of this. Since the players never inquired as to their pay, the Council believes that they are dealing with professional, super-patriots. There has been some back and forth about either not paying them at all, killing them off or rewarding them handsomely with titles, land, military ranks and duties, etc.

The Council also believes the party is traveling by ship. Because of this misunderstanding, when the characters attacked the raiders at the Villa, the Council believe that the party destroy an enemy ship and killed as many as 100 raiders, not merely 5 guys left to fend for themselves. The captured raiders are rare prize. In the intervening weeks, the Council has received mixed messages from the Villa, which they find suspicious, but continue to believe the characters are on a ship.

The view from on high is not any less confused, but IS slightly better.

The primary reason for human/demihuman antagonism is human slavery. To the Elves and Dwarves, humans are evil because of their culture of slavery. They are only slightly better than the horde of sea-faring raiders who take and use slaves. Since the raider are mostly human, there is little reason for demihumans to look for differences. If this could be settled, the détente with the demihumans could turn to a real peace.

If only there was a way for the Empire to flip a switch and end slavery. The Emperor is willing, but there is too much societal momentum for him to simply command this. What he needs is an opportunity to unleash the manumission sects in the Empire, without setting up a palace coup.

Well, one good thing has happened. The master of the Villa was no friend to the Emperor. The man had hundreds of slaves on several farms around the port towns. Now that he and his whole family is dead, the Emperor has ordered the council to set up several more manors or villas in the area, operated by freedmen. This had been tried before, but each one failed because they couldn't compete with free labor. He has also ordered all the Master's slaves freed, for their service in the defense of the Empire. Thanks to the raiders and the PC's conflict, the Emperor now has a freedman foothold just south of the Capital.

The Emperor himself has taken personal interest in the battle for the Villa, the accused murderers Stephano and Trinculo and perhaps a Triumph for himself if they are convicted. Oddly, the Emperor is fair and good, so Stephano and Trinculo could be found innocent, which would make them a valuable set of prisoners as they are still thieves and brigands. Exactly which is better is a matter of point of view. If the party can continue to kill raiders and slavers, make promises they can't keep and complete the mission, the Emperor should come up smelling like roses.

Next, post: The Slowing of the Party.

The destinations, Tabletop, the Compass Rose Inn and Victory. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Session Update - Save Vs. Disease

My players, their children have all failed their saving throws vs. disease. Another session will buy it due to cold and flu season.

So this weekend I want to try something different. I want to do an inked action scene on 14"x17". I normally work on images no larger than 8x11. I started laying it out. Excuse the low quality phone images. This doesn't fit in the scanner.

I have 3 characters converging on a central character.

The lightly drawn figure on the right is an archer readying a shot. She is wearing a pallas, a sort of cloth garment worn over a toga.

The figure on the left has been blindslided with a bolt of energy. She is not quiet on the ground. She will be wearing a gown and doesn't appear to be a typical combatant.

The third foreground character is a man with a sword and buckler or target shield.

The woman in the middle is a magic user with some interesting magical items and powers. First, she has a custom spell called "Disruption". It is very much like a magic missile, except it does 1d4 per shot, shots can hit any living or non-living thing with a to hit roll. It never increases in power, but the number available increases every two levels instead of three. She does not wear any "protective" magic, per se. She wears a wolverine pelt, with an intact skull as a stole. It can be commanded to attack, making defense rather moot. I have only hinted this magic item with a snaking line through the middle of the sketch.

I'm not sure if this is the one I will be working with. I think I can find some images which will help me get the proportions correct. Something is very wrong with the bow right now and I should have drawn a horizon line first.

Not bad for a first shot at something I've never tried before.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Campaign Session 3 - The Party So Far

My embronic idea for the Peninsula of Plenty Map
Alright, I have reached out to all of my players and we decided to skip next week's session, too. Everyone has some sort of ick or children are down due to illness. For the time being, I am taking suggestions from the party by text and email. The whole party is convinced they need to hang out at the villa to get them back up and running again. 

Just to recap, the party arrived at a manor or villa just after a raid. They killed a small patrol of raiders in short order and have two raiders as prisoners. Gurwinder and Rona dislike captives, but have not killed these two fools because of the location. They figure enough law and order exist right now that they can leave them be. 

Our current map of the Peninsula of Plenty.
There have been many changes since first conceived.
I have been instructed that the party is attending to the needs of the villagers until help arrives. We are assuming one day passes for every week of game play at the moment. 

The whole party is good or lawful. Matilda is more neutral good and is a bit punchy. Gurwinder and Rona are grimly practical, despite being good. They hate raiders, with good reason. The entire party is rather cosmopolitan when it comes to race, displaying none of the typical attributes of average citizens of the Empire. In this campaign, the Empire is on the verge of war with the Elves and Dwarves. Halfling Tribes started appearing recently from over the northern mountains, flooding the area of like a barbarian horde. The Empire is actually terrified of the Little People. 

While I am honoring the timeline set out by the players via email and text, I have some rather rude surprises for them. 

Here is a list of the Player Characters: 

Matilda the Knife - Swashbuckler, Human, 1st level
Megen the Ruffian - Swashbuckler, Human, 2nd level
Jaime the Fearsome - Fighter, Human, 2nd Level
Gurwinder A’flumine - Fighter, Human, 2nd Level

In case you are wondering, the swashbuckler character class is one of my own creations. You can grab it at DriveThruRPG. They are Errol Flynn types and are aggressive combatants but bad at killing. 

The party also has a whole band of support characters in tow, whom are the subject of this post. Or is that who is the subject of this post? I don't know.

Rona the wisewoman - Cleric, Human, 1st Level, NPC
Melvin the Wise - Magic User, Halfling, 1st level, NPCFelix  - Human, 1 level commoner NPC
Felice - Human, 1 level commoner NPC
Jim the Scout - Human, 1 level commoner NPC

I have another book about Uncommon Commoners, which is also available at DriveThruRPG. 

You can download the complete party rooster in PDF form here. This list of characters has not been updated with current equipment. It is only a taste of what is happening. 

I am trying to make the NPCs conform to something realistic. Rona and Melvin have classes, so they will engage in combat despite not being very good. Felix and Felice will NOT engage in combat, except to protect each other. They are horrible at combat. Felix and Felice have wandering into this traveling circus by accident and are hoping to make enough cash to retire and start a family. Jim the Scout is foolhardy and brave. The party has him on horseback, hoping the horse will protect him from his desire to get into a fight. He has 2 hp but is well on his way to becoming a fighter or perhaps a ranger.  

The party has buried two other NPCs and has a strong desire not to do that again, so they are conforming to my idea of keeping the NPCs away from danger. Melvin is an avowed coward, but he has good ideas. He is also a halfling, which is a hated race in the Empire, so the party is keep him close for his own good. Rona is very old and dislikes travel by horseback. She views the PCs and their wagons as a godsend. Felix, Gurwinder and Jim all take turns cooking, since the death of the cook. Jim is best at it, while Gurwinder is a survival nut and wants the party well provisioned and fed at all times. 

It's a cool party dynamic. 

While the players are hanging out at the villa, I know they are thinking about taking on more NPC followers. The villa can't support that due to loses and I have planted the suggestion that they not make any attempts here. What would probably happen is, the whole pack of villagers will follow them to Nace then bail on the party in favor of safety. Nace is loaded with adventurer types and is a far better place to find skilled help.  

Saturday, September 7, 2019

3rd Session Preview Part 2 - Tyranny's End.

This week's update can be blamed on a mistimed cold and an unfortunate swimming adventure. School started back up this week on Tuesday which meant I needed to catch a summer cold on Monday, so I would be completely ready for school. By this morning, I was having trouble breathing regularly, so off to the doctors. I am taking a course of steroids plus some other stuff to fend off the pneumonia and help with laryngitis. In retrospect, swimming with my class on Thursday was not a good idea.

My next gaming session has been delayed until I can speak again. 

So, let me tell you more about the city of Nace. In the previous post, I detailed the Forum and the two insula due south of the center of the city. Today's post is about the first section of the city built, the only two insula surrounded by walls. 

The Empire has herbal products which are not only unique to it, but are the basis of their competitive exports. Verbena is a magic herb that will stanch all wounds, restoring 1d4 hit points. Emperor's Valerian is a deep purple flower that will cure blindness and head injuries, including lost eyes. Flaming Yarrow is the third herb produced solely by the Empire. It restores damaged and decayed teeth, reduces fever and if prepared correctly, can induce sleep. 

These magical plants require a magical ecology to grow. When the town moved from the port to this location, the first insula to be constructed were the magical gardens. Each garden area is protected by a low, 4 foot wall and four arches as entry points. Since these are the only insula in the town with walls of any kind, they are called Palisade North and Palisade South. Collectively, they are called Tyranny's End.  

The North Palisades
The North Palisades contains 3 manor houses or villas for the families who cultivate herb crops in the two gardens, in addition to a small grove of trees to support the growth of mistletoe. The gardens have tiny non-functional houses or follies, to represent a small farm. They are maintained as if they were real as this is a part of the magic of this place.
The South Palisades 
The South Palisades is much the same, except there are 3 houses and one shrine. The Shrine is a memorial to the Defender of the Port Gardens, the druid responsible for maintaining the weather inside the original gardens. Her entire line perished protecting the gardens when they were located in The Fortezza Port di Nace. Without their sacrifice, the largest gardens for these sacred planets would have been destroyed. The new Druid lives in a stone structure at the southeast corner of the South Palisades. 

This druid and her kin employ magics beyond what spellcasters can imagine. To support the gardens, everything except the weather must free within the boundaries of the Palisades. This is the origin of the name "Tyranny's End". 

The walls are not a defense for the gardens, but a warning. The weather is always controlled to the needs of the plants. This would be danger enough inside the confines of the town, but the druid's authority over the weather requires a sacrifice of all other worldly control within the walls. Any agreement wrought by man can be ended here. Emperors have come to the garden to abdicate. Any slave that enters the walls are immediately freed. If horses or other beasts enter, they are no longer the property of anyone. Arranged marriages can be nullified here, but never marriages of the heart or conscience. 

There are interesting cases where animals enter and then return to owners of their own free will. Some of the most epic tales of the Empire revolve around couples attempting to end an arranged marriage here only to find one, the other, or both really loves their partner. If these couples stay together, blessed by the gardens with fame and fortune. 

There is a legal issue for slave owners entering the walls. The magic will instantly set all of their slaves free. Sometimes the owner and slave will receive the same blessing as the couples mentioned above. Technically, it is illegal for a slave owner to set all of his slaves free all at once, but if he or she receives no apparent benefit to it, a blind eye is turned. However, many Usurpers has attempted to reroll fate by setting vast numbers of slaves free. If that becomes apparent, the punishment is always death. 

For slaves entering the gardens, the circumstances are different. If they were ordered to do it by their master, that slave becomes a free client of the former master, a nearly familial relationship where favors are traded back and forth. If the slave enters the garden to escape a cruel master, the authorities will view all that that former slave's statements as absolute fact and WILL legally pursue the master, usually to the most extreme limits of the law. This fact causes the slaveholders of Nace to act on their best behavior. 

There are very few cases where a slave would accidentally enters the gardens. In those rare instances, if the former slave asks forgiveness and it is accepted, they become an adopted family member to the master and both receive a title and small stipend from the Emperor. If the master does not accept the apology then the former slave may, at his or her choice, enter the household of the Emperor as a paid servant or enter the military. This is where the Empire gains many of their trusted messengers. The alternative choice of military service grants a low officer rank. If the slave refuses to ask for forgiveness, he or she is still free but exiled from Nace. The masters of the gardens may provision this person as they see fit, but they cannot accept anything from anyone else in the city. 

The six houses that care for these lands are made up of both hereditary post holders and those who have enter the gardens in an effort to end some sort of loss. Many a widow, orphan and widower have entered the gardens seeking to end the heartache of loss and find salvation in service to these houses. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

3rd Session Preview - A History of a Town

Welcome back for a preview of my campaign's third session. We are using pre-generated characters for this campaign and the assumption is that they have been up and down the coast, so none of this is secret DM information. 

The Fortezza Port di Nace started off as a town, but one hurricane too many sent the townspeople fleeing northward to a more protected location. Their intention was to rebuild the whole town of Nace. That did and did not happen. The town of Nace is set somewhat back from the sea, and as a consequence is not a port town. 

The Fortezza Port di Nace was supported by the Empire, even through massive population shifts and has grown even bigger than the town that once supported it. The Fortress has become a more industrialized site while Nace proper has become a fiera or Fair town boasting traders from all over the empire. This homely setting is more conducive to civilian life than the militarized fortress port. 

I have begun sketching out the main area of the town, starting with the Forum.

Directly to the south of the Forum is the Thermae, or public baths. The Thermae's insula also has one very expensive villa house. Being the oldest part of the city, the remaining apartments, houses and shops are are merely the first in the area, not the best.

Scattered through out Insula 2 are various stationaries. A stationary is a shop with a fixed location, specializing in books, scrolls and parchments. The close proximity to the forum allows these shopowners access to priests, mages and other who can work magic, which is necessary for creating spellbooks. Many artists and illuminators reside in this insula. There is no other place like this in the city.

Much of this post draws upon the excellent book City by David Macaulay and is fused with Kevin Stroud's History of English Podcast, episode 106.