BS1.02: Days 1 to 3

 

The characters for this session

Cpl Bryn Williams, L1 Leader

LCpl Pinko McLean, L1 Combat

Ptes Harding and Cade, L1 Recon

 

Day one – Daphne takes us and the files for a lovely drive

This morning is grand the way it smells. Early dawn, the jungle mixing with cooking spices. Naught to fret over pet, here we are in Prome all safe and sound. Funny you would think the brass would send standing orders for how the word should be pronounced but I heard a BSM growling ‘Hand welcome to Prom sah’ as he handed off some civvie wallah, and our Williams, the Corp, says it with two syllables Pro-om like rhyming with poem.

In my last (included in this same) we had just tidied up some Burmese. Then, Corp and young Cade head into the police station. Fishburn, Daphne’s driver (the Bedford!) hands me two more box magazines for the Bren. Resourceful he is. I say well done to Harding on keeping to short burst, and since I can see plenty of bullet holes around the hotel opposite I remind myself to have a word to Cade. No harm in going through a magazine if need be, but not for potting at a whim, you may say.

Then up rolls a staff car and out pops the Lt-Genl no less, preceded by his BSM. No names no pack drill – I stick pretty close to the yessir nossir routine till he goes inside. Comes back out with a word of praise to us proletariat, heads off. Likely looking though, and at least he takes an interest. I tell you what pet if be it’s a boy, Alexander is a good name.

[And thank you to SM our GM for letting the name Alexander into the campaign in time for Pinko to write it home to wifey. Now even if he doesn’t make it home, Sandy McLean the would-be Bodie of MI6 has his name and Sandi Maclaine has hers!]

Harding and me swap places with Cade, Corp wants a filing cabinet moved. This is what Edson, the police gentleman, wants us to pack out to Prome. We trolley it out, downstairs, past some of Empire’s Outpost Hopefuls burning papers and a dusty look from the desk noncom, and into the lorry. Fishburn lashes it all down before someone decides they want their trolley back, we pile in then off to the races.

 

Fishburn to the rescue and off by rail bumpity bump

It’s like Doncaster on race day see, but never a white face. Crowds of Indian families walking north, which is where we are going. Then some cars ahead of us turn back, not a good sign. A section of Baluchis is what’s stopping things. Their non-com gives us the right-about – seems there’s a Jap roadblock ahead. I’ve already tipped Corp off to the railway running the way we want to get out of Rangoon, so after some consulting of his gentleman’s guide book to Burma, that’s where we head.

Harding misses a set-to in all the crowd but Fishburn doesn’t, and we fish a wee Indian family out of bother.

[No combat – Williams uses intimidation backed up by automatic weapons, and scores well over 20, to send a small gang of Burmese packing.]

They are headed for Mandalay but have as much show of getting there as the flying fish. We – or rather Fishburn – trades them a lift to the rail for directions. Daphne swings up onto the embankment as bonny as you like and off we roll. But I’m not the only one that thought of using the rail and it’s just as crowded with refugees. Shades of Dunkirk says I and look up and about sharp, to Cade.

[The Bedford is canopy-free, affording a good view from the bed. And besides, you lose your DEX bonus if caught seated in the cab when autofire is laid down on you! None of the squad rides with Fishburn. McLean stays near the tailgate, Harding stands behind Fishburn with some very simple agreed signals between them, Cade sits watching up and around, and Williams keeps an eye on all three of them.]

 

Two Johnny Walkers is the signal to stop for Mr Gibson

Daphne grinds northish slowly, very unpleasant on the sleepers but you may be sure, better than shanks pony. I say northish, for though we begin on a north-bound line, the rail swings away east to a wee place name of Mingalodon (as far as I can make out). And east is closer to the sharp end, as artillery fire thumping away ahead of us reminds us!

The first four hours though are slow and steady. Offered a chance we’d be off Daphne and commandeering some fuel and maybe a spare wheel to lash on as extra bumper. But by then the flood of refugees only becomes a trickle, so we pay the matter no mind.

Harding taps his signal for hold to Fishburn and luck comes to us in the shape of a newspaperman by the name of Mr Frank Gibson of the Rangoon Times. He uses two bottles of Johnny Walker to wave us down, and hops in the cab cool as you please.

With a ‘why we’re all war correspondents now’ he gives us to believe we may be heading for another Jap roadblock. Sure enough it would be about two hours before sundown and refugees are coming back agin our course. Corp waves one down and there’s a wee bit of jawing, Bombay Welsh to South Welsh as you might say. He’s a charmer as when he wants to be is Corp and bless me if johnny babu doesn’t sketch him out a wee plan of the Jap post.

[Williams gathers info using the Converse skill, scoring a 16. Here, a reminder that skills are house-ruled into more useful aggregates than the 3.0/VfV originals. There are only about 20, some very specific but others covering similar groups of proficiency.]

 

Back of an envelope - the best kind of plan!

Back of an envelope – the best kind of plan!

 

PPPPP

Corp sends our two steeplechasers forward, they loop right of the rail, into a wee bit of jungle. I fancy I can smell a village on the other side of it, so it’s no more than a few footba’ fields worth.

 

Cade and Harding: Cade moves first using his poaching experience, guiding Harding [giving +4 to Harding]. There is still some light at this point so they make good time. The paddies are “dry” which is to say they are boggy and absolute no-go for motorised transport. The jungle contains game or villager trails, so the pair successfully move silently [using their Stealth skill]. Harding has a small spyglass that he now uses to good effect. Looking along the second line of bunds (this line is scrub-covered – in Normandy it would be equivalent to bocage) he spots [Notice] both a 4-man squad up beside the rail embankment, and a MG section posted about 20 yards shy of that. Being an old sweat [soldier background] he is able to recall that the MG is the Taisho 11, a relatively short-range LMG. The pair sneak back, again successfully, using cover of night.

 

Mr Gibson is retailing us with all manner of gossip from the front, though as we all know the front is by and large all around us. But in good time not long after nightfall our pair slog back, and report.

Corp waits some time to hand us our orders and I can tell you if I hadn’t trimmed close my hair would be standing on end, for at one time he thinks to send the same pair alone agin all the Japs. Then at another he’s planning to burn them out using Molotov cocktails – of fine whisky mind you! But with Harding piping up I do my best as well and the orders as Corp hands them down sound achievable.

 

The plan

  1. The squad moves along Cade’s original path to a Lay Up Point (LUP) where the second bund meets the jungle.
  2. Cade guides Pinko to a Firing Position (FP) further along the jungle fringe, from where he can lay fire without shooting his squad.
  3. On Cade’s return to the LUP, Fishburn is signalled using a shielded lighter.
  4. Fishburn noisily moves the lorry back and forth along the rail staying out of effective rifle range.
  5. Using this diversion Cade and Harding followed by Williams as reserve work along the bund.
  6. They use grenades on the MG post followed by SMG fire while the Bren sweeps anything that becomes visible.

 

Error by night but all’s well in a fire-fight

Trouble is I’m a wee shade taller than Cade and Harding and no sooner do I step foot in the jungle than I run nose-first into a sharp branch or the like [Pinko rolls a 1 on Stealth] and some wildfowl fly up, while I’m busting a gut not howling. Harding whips round and stops me moving and we hold our breath until Cade mutters all clear. [A Japanese sentry moves over the bund and watches for a time, but when the scared birds return to their nests he goes back to his post.]

Well the plan goes ever so well after that little dance, and I’m posted away lying doggo sighting over my Bren towards the rail. I gather the signal works for after a good long time I hear Daphne grinding up. Then what do I hear but Jap laughing and the odd rifle shot. The lads do their bit and we soon wipe the grins off the Japs faces.

 

Combat

Surprise round: Cade and Harding have worked their way to within just under 60 feet of the MG post. Williams, who is by no means as stealthy, is well back. The forward pair hurl grenades. They are on the opposite side of the bund, so the task is equivalent to ‘over a low wall’. Neither make anything like a good throw, but by the vagaries of d20 (distance) and d8 (direction) one grenade lands very close to an ideal place while the other lands safely away in the paddy.

VfV rightly builds some uncertainty into when grenades explode. Neither does so.

 

Initiatives

  • Harding
  • Cade
  • Williams
  • Pinko
  • Japanese

Round 1: Harding and cade toss a second grenade each, accurately. The first pair of grenades go off as does one of the second pair. The MG post takes 33 points of damage from two grenades. Pinko fires the Bren at the second squad of Japanese, giving 20 rounds to one 10×10 square and 10 rounds to the next. Two targets appear to be seriously hit, two less so. In response those two Japanese, one a noncom, are seen to scramble into cover across the rail embankment.

Round 2: Harding drops his init to the Japanese as he waits for opportunity target. Cade crawls forward, then the fourth grenade goes off: but he makes his Refl SV with plenty of cover. Williams also awaits opportunity. Pinko reloads. Three Japanese appear from over the rail! Williams misses with his Lee-Enfield but Harding blasts a 10×10 area with his Tommy gun, covering two of them. One drops.

Round 3: Cade is now reasonably close to the rail and unloads a full mag into the Japanese, putting both down.

‘Corp?’ – Pinko

Williams advances, so seeing that, Pinko advances to keep the angle of fire. The Japanese do not return fire – they are dead or dying.

Combat ends

 

Day two – a bit of light armoured foraging and refuelling

These boys marched light – the camp stove and MG were the heaviest things they had about them – but we take spoils of war, namely some rice and some bayonets that will be bonny as cooking skewers if nothing else. With a bite of sticky rice and rations its brekkie done and north again. This time its proper north, to Letpadan.

The only bother we have is with the armoured mob, the 7th sitting across the tracks with their Honeys, who give us proper khana but jack with fuel for Daphne. Never you mind Corp I say, and let Cade know he’s excused to explore.

[Cade decides to wander and speak to people, gather info using his Converse skill. This works OK – he locates the fuel dump – but when he switches to Convince it’s a different story and the guard sends him away with a flea in his ear.]

Sounds to me Cade may have been too for’ard but Corp has a Welsh gift of the gab. He arms himself with a bottle of Johnny Walker and soon returns with two big cans of fuel. [Williams has plenty of CHA and it’s a much easier task with the actual bribe visible!] Daphne’s back on the road proper from there on, and it’s Prome the next day!

 

Day three – Prome and off to post

A bit of a comedy shall finish this, then off to post. I’ve not seen anyone look more baffled as Corp when we help Fishburn unload Daphne and no-one appears to whisk the filing cabinet away. [Williams was supposed to jot down the destination: he assumed Edson would be babysitting us the whole way] He decides he’d maybe best see what’s within, and I step away smart-like. What I don’t see I can’t lie about. After a time chuckling up my sleeve I post away and off an MP have direction to the nearest brass.

As I get back I see Cade has got the cabinet closed back up so I stub out my fag on the lock to hide any scratches and let Corp know the direction. Then it’s back into Daphne with the cabinet – Fishburn’s not best pleased – and off to HQ 1st Burma. Corp finds a brass hat willing to take the wretched thing, so job done and off to NAAFI for yrs truly.

 

And with the successful mission (barring actually delivering the files to the right person) and arrival, two days later, of the main convoy out of Rangoon, the characters all advance to Level 2.

In case you are wondering about what was left unsaid: the Japanese did have papers but Williams did not confiscate them; Cade did not frisk corpses for money; no time was spent on burial detail; firing pins were removed from guns and thrown into paddy fields. Williams looked at but did not steal the files, which were spy stuff.

Overall our squad is working well together. Characters knowing each other quite well is a little unusual for level ones. A fixed order of discipline is another challenge. Before the session I asked about nicknames, and said what they should call me away from commissioned ranks, and made sure the GM knew Pinko is a smoker and rolls his own. I’ll try to fill in smoking habits of the others, next session.

 

Historical note

The Imperial Japanese Army outflanked Rangoon but – and here is where their rigid command structure betrayed them – allowed the Imperial British Army and its colonial forces, all 40 miles of road-bound column, to leave by the north. Rangoon officially fell on March 9. 

The journey to Prome was indeed menaced by Japanese air power. Against the odds and short of parts and adequate airfields, British, Indian and American pilots managed to shield the retreat to a large extent.

So the British and colonial forces are in Prome. About eighty miles north, beyond the supposedly impassable Pegu Yomas mountains, a seasoned Chinese force has assembled around Toungoo to reinforce the 1st Division. The Brass, as Pinko calls them, are airlifted out to consult with Wavell (commander of the entire far east defence) in Mandalay far to the north. No such luxury for the swaddies – their job is to try to hold the Japanese until May and the monsoon. Wish them luck!

 

d20 differences, and a short glossary

Skills for this campaign: Athletics (DEX)=tumble, balance; Climb (STR)=climb, use rope; Command (CHA); Converse (WIS)=gather info, sense motive; Convince (CHA)=bluff, diplomacy; Demolitions (INT)=demolitions, disable device; Documents (INT)=decipher script, forgery; Handle animal (CHA)=animal empathy, handle animal; Heal (WIS); Intimidate (CHA); Jeweller (INT)=open locks, appraise; Logistics (INT); Notice (WIS)=spot, listen; Operate heavy equipment (DEX) may include drive large vehicle; Search (INT); Sleight of hand (DEX)=escape artist, pickpocket; Stealth (DEX)=hide, move silently; Swim (STR); Wilderness lore (WIS) includes intuit direction. Knowledge and languages have campaign-related guidelines.

The house rules for the campaign on hit points: at level 1 hp=CON. At level 2 but not other levels, a normal 3.0Ed hp gain occurs. From there at alternating levels characters gain either their CON bonus if any or their hp dice roll.

 

Glossary of some terms used

Babu: Literally clerk, but not a polite usage

Baluchis: In this case, regular soldiers from Baluchistan

Bombay Welsh: Scornful term for accented English as spoken by Indians

Brekkie: Breakfast (abbreviation)

BSM: Battalion Sergeant-Major (abbreviation)

Corp: Pinko’s term for his Corporal (abbreviation)

Doggo: Hidden

Dunkirk: The British Expeditionary Force retreated on Dunkirk in 1940, under air attack most of the time

Fag: Cigarette

Honey: Stuart light tank M3

Jack: Selfish

Khana: Food, meal

NAAFI: Canteen service but also coordinated entertainment

Shank’s pony: Afoot

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Burma Sunrise: BS1.01 Day 1

a V for Victory d20 WWII campaign for military action at squad level

Welcome to a new game! Today kicks off a squad-level military RPG using V for Victory d20 rules. Our GM is the esteemed SM whose previous GM credits (featured in blogs) include Surplus Heroes, Keep on the Bountylands, Capes and Lankhmar.

The characters, in order of rank or seniority

Backgrounds are bolded.

Cpl Bryn Williams: Bryn was a teacher in South Wales, leading his classes rather than directing them. This ability stood him in good stead on being conscripted and he gained two stripes quite easily. He is ambitious for more! He is wiry in stature, dark-haired and with intense dark eyes. By the time our campaign begins he is aged 24 and is following the Command class path. He speaks with a mild Welsh accent.

This player previously played: Fennec, Iceman, Vic Creed, Paul Birkby, Morath.

LCpl Archibald “Pinko” McLean: As a younger man Pinko’s sheer physical presence behind them made unionists and Communist Party orators feel much safer. Before the war Pinko’s leftist loyalties were a strength to shop stewards and a nuisance to management. But in a wartime Wiltshire aeronautics factory, they became intolerable. Pinko finds himself in Burma with the automatic rank of LCpl since he is strong enough to wield the Bren easily. He has just received a letter from his wife, telling him she has a bun in the oven. Pinko is strapping (to put it mildly) and the climate makes him as pink as his moniker. By the time our campaign begins he is in his mid-20s and is following the Combat class path. He speaks with a very mild Scots accent for he grew up in England of Scots parents.

This player previously played: Pras, Widow, Martel Guerra, Mola, Sandi.

Pte Colin Harding: Harding is an old sweat – in other words he has been a soldier in the unit since peace-time – which accounts for his seniority over the other privates in the section although he is only 21. Harding lived a knockabout life and found the peacetime army a good way to avoid commitments to women. Harding is tan and sturdily built, and as our campaign begins he is following the Recon class path. He speaks with a generic lower-class-English accent.

This player previously played: Jotunn, Pip, Doc Samedy, Cliff, Celo.

Pte Tony Cade: Young Antony grew up mostly fatherless in semi-rural Kent, bending his path into increasingly criminal ways despite his mother’s opinion that he is a good lad, just misunderstood. By his late teens Tony Cade promoted himself from poacher to break-in man. Inevitably a stretch loomed and it being wartime, Cade was thankful to volunteer into the regiment. As our campaign begins he is aged 22 and is following the Recon class path. He is lean but well-muscled and speaks with a generic lower-class-English accent.

This player previously played: Crompton, BJ, Arbie, Banjo Carrick, Dan Hewstone.

 

And now to the story. I shall use green for in-game mechanics, blue for combat and something bright for inits, dark orange for technicalities outside of those, purple for me editorialising, and indigo for historical notes.

 

Packing it up then papers needed

Rangoon, March 1942

I’d think this will no make it past the censors, but even so. It’s a sultry hot day as you would not credit, the lads (Harding and Cade) and I loading officer’s treasures to the Bedford. You will maybe no have heard of Sittaung Bridge but here, it’s common news that the brass are all agley, most of the 17th Indian is abandoned, wrong side. Air-raids here as the RAF seems away.

Cpl Williams nips away round corner as CSM Windridge hails him to hear what the Burma Police gentleman has to say. We learn later that Important Documents are at stake.

‘Have you looked inside that chest yet,’ I say to Cade. After all, property is theft. I stand betwixt he and any onlooker then just as Williams is stepping foot back there’s a nasty wee crack as Cade makes a bollocks-mess of it. [Cade’s first roll of the campaign, it’s a natural 1]

I can tell Williams has dekko’d what’s afoot so I just give Cade a wee jab in the short ribs with my elbow like, and tell Williams ‘Cade’s taken a turn Corp’l he’s gone all white.’ [McLean has STR 18, Cade takes 4 temporary damage. Williams rolls a nice 16 and has good Notice but decides not to press the issue.]

 

It does not get Cade to the sick list and sharpish we are issued our combat kit. Williams even comes back from QM with half a dozen Mills bombs. [Williams uses the Logistics skill, a very important skill for gaining re-ups and extra gear: he scores well] One for you, one for you, four for you McLean he says. Now get your ordinaries and particulars, we have papers to find for this lovely gentleman. By which I take him to mean the Police gentleman, Inspector Edson. So swelter or no we march to barracks and pack kit. I keep your letter close by. And I tuck a chiv down my boot, a little thing I picked up in a market. Then off to the docks and what-for.

 

 

Loadouts: Our GM has provided nice ready-worked loadout sheets where the main stats and SV can be recorded and any small alterations in kit are easy to track. As the Bren gunner my character Pinko McLean expects to walk around in action with 73lb though of course if a pack can be shed, that will lighten the load. The extra four Mills bombs take the total to 79lb.

 

Driving to a what-for at the wharves

The Bedford is named Daphne and has a driver named Fishburn. [Drive is a skill which more than one character has as a core skill but at this stage of the war lorries were on the commissariat’s establishment and driven by specialists who were quite often, non-white.]

Daphne takes us through Rangoon towards the river and the docks there. Williams sits opposite we three and lets us know we are bound for Prome once we pick up the documents. Harding gets up behind the cab, he has sharp eyes for trouble.

Vehicles: All sides involved in this campaign prefer their motor vehicles to have right-hand drive. For my American readers: The gear shift on a lorry (truck) or car (automobile) is likely to be to the driver’s left hand. If he is right-handed, he can easily shoot left across the passenger seat, but will find it more difficult to shoot right, out of his own window. It’s also tricky for him to restrain a passenger, since that would be his weaker left hand. On the other hand it’s easier for him to extend a pistol out of his own window and fire directly ahead.

 

The buildings around the police station are turn of the century type of things, two stories tall I suppose. There’s sniper waiting for us opposite the station. Don’t you fret when I hear the shot I am out the back of the Bedford and into the monsoon drain like a flash. There’s a bit of nonsense then we trap the buggers and set them to rights.

 

Combat

Battle layout:

A broad open street, at a four-way intersection. A hotel or similar stands opposite the police station and the sniper is on the 2nd floor (American 3rd floor). The hotel’s front entrance is at the corner, the police station’s entrance is flush to the street facing the hotel. A service alley runs off the street beside the hotel but is not immediately obvious.

Surprise round: Sniper shoots at the Indian police officer that greets Daphne’s arrival. Misses. Harding notices the shot [Notice is one of a number of 3.0 skills house-ruled into broader categories, rather like 4E and 5E] and calls the location; Williams also notices roughly where it came from.

Initiatives

  • Cade
  • McLean
  • Williams
  • Harding
  • NPCs

Round 1: Cade stands in the cab and fires a full Tommy gun mag into the window where the sniper has foolishly remained in view.

A major shift away from d20Modern is that automatic weapons really are automatic and proficiency means they can be used as intended. Concepts like strafe and burst fire that in d20Modern require a number of feats and prereqs such as 13 WIS are available to beginning characters as simple attacks, either standard attack actions or full-round.

 

Full-round action, beaten zone requires DC24 Refl SV based on 30 rounds fired, less cover. The sniper fails [2d6 damage] and is seen to roll back out of line of sight.

As with most/all d20 rules, American-made weapons are more powerful than others but these have been house-ruled back down closer to reality. The Tommy gun and Colt M1911A1 are still powerful, just not as powerful as a medium machine gun.

 

From his seat at rear, McLean rolls out of the lorry and into the monsoon ditch behind Daphne’s rear axle.

Williams remains in the Bedford, though he does crouch, and issues orders.

From his position standing behind the cab Harding vaults out and covers the window.

 

“McLean, Harding – find the rear, enter, and turf the miscreant out!” – Williams

 

Two rounds tick by as Harding and McLean flank the hotel and Cade and Williams change aim. Cade keeps encouraging someone to toss a grenade at the window…

 

Round 4: Williams is ready for a shot with his Lee-Enfield, though he remains in an awkward position in the Bedford. Cade decides to toss one of his own grenades.

 

Grenade-throwing is reasonably simple though the penalties for range, at 15’ increments, are steep. The VfV rules provide a handy list of DCs for typical targets. The street is broad and Cade would be best off, so it eventually emerges, to jump down, run halfway across the street, and hurl with two range penalties. That sounds really dangerous and he tosses from his position in the Bedford. The GM decides to avoid further debate about how grenades work and goes with the flat book DC. Cade fails, the grenade-miss rules provide for the result. The grenade bounces off and lands quite near Daphne. Probably destroying a front tyre but no one thinks of that at the time. But luckily Cade did not advance into the open and is not in the blast.

 

The buildings along the alley seem occupied but quiet. Harding finds the rear kitchen service door easily enough. Then a grenade goes off in the distance! Harding kicks the door, his foot makes little impact. Then he pushes it open and sees the kitchen is abandoned. He moves through, McLean’s hefty tread behind him. A dead kitchen-wallah lies in his path. Not far beyond is a service hatch, he moves to that and through its slats sees three Burmese, two clumped and one further away.

 

Initiatives

  • Harding
  • McLean
  • NPCs

Round 1: Harding moves 5’ to the connecting door and kicks it open, sprays a burst at the solo Burmese, and kneels. [Bursts get a simple +2 to hit] The burst misses. McLean swings the Bren up and fires over Harding. Full-round, full magazine. Neither make the DC and are thrown back against the wall, riddled with heavy rounds. [2d10 damage each] [In fact the damage is not enormous but these lowly NPCs do not appear to have many hp or be allowed MAS SV. And according to the rules we did not read properly, firing from the hip is limited to short bursts at -2.]

The lone Burmese flees away and out the front… meanwhile at the hotel front both Williams and Cade are ready for this and Cade sends another full round of area fire at him. This Burmese drops as well.

 

Two rounds later Harding and McLean get to the sniper’s door, easily spotted thanks to the splintered bullet-holes through it. The sniper lies dead inside. Harding commandeers the Lee-Enfield and ammo, while McLean breaks the sniper’s pistol, a Nambu knock-off. [Mainly to see if it can be done using these rules. It’s a STR SV and McLean gets 21]

 

 

Historical note

At this stage the Imperial Japanese Army is proving far more resourceful and mobile than the Imperial British and its colonial forces. A series of strategic victories is in train, forcing the British high command to withdraw as best it can, all the way back to India.

At this point in the war it is fair to say that both main armies – Japanese and British/Colonial – believe implicitly that they are superior and everyone around them, including allies, is inferior. Of the two, the Japanese are having their beliefs endorsed by events.

Strategic Japanese success has brought Siam [Thailand] into the war as an allied force directed into northern Burma, and allowed the Japanese army to at least partly-train a Burmese force. Since they hold the Burmese in the same contempt that they hold all other Asian races that is as good as it will get for General Aung’s ambitions. China’s Nationalist army is splintering into scattered divisions in the north and Britain’s retreat is taking its forces further away from China. Although America has entered the war Roosevelt is thinking purely long-term and China; and American materiel is directed away from the crisis.

 

Campaign concepts, d20 differences, and a short glossary

This is a very British based campaign so I will strive to use British-English unless it is very confusing to do so.

As virtually all readers speak d20, allow me to simply highlight how V for Victory (VfV) differs from other very similar open licence properties.

No arcane aspect exists at all. All related skills and feats are removed.

Characters have backgrounds (d20 Modern concept) that provide pre-training core skills. Skills irrelevant to campaigning are not offered. There are typically more core skills from a background than in d20 Modern. The background also provides one bonus feat or feat-like ability.

Characters then select one or other Class, which provides another set of core skills, sets the hp dice, the skill point factor, and feats progression. The class also provides the usual SV progression and the defence bonus concept, as seen in d20 Modern.

VfV has its own classes that have 10 levels, similar but different to d20 Modern. Out of a fairly small choice our GM has restricted classes further to Combat, Recon, and Command. The other dropped class, Intelligence, is suited to partisans and resistance fighters.

Finally the Level 1 character selects one Specialty, which provides a feat relating to that. For example Cade selects Scout specialty and gains the Tracking feat.

 

The rules offer a couple of reasonably familiar concepts for grittiness and massive damage. They do not offer a massive-damage-save feat track so, as our GM has chosen a mid-way grittiness where 20 triggers MAS SV and beginning HP = CON, feats like greater fortitude assume major importance.

Our GM has also chosen a middle course for disease. If we don’t go out of our way to be unhealthy he will assume we don’t catch any of the plethora of tropical diseases on offer.

As other areas of dissimilarity emerge I’ll highlight them as we go.

 

Glossary

Bedford: 3-ton Bedford lorry.

Brass: Refers to senior officers with powers of deciding where whole formations go.

Bren gun: British light machine gun that features a top-mounted curved box 30-round magazine. Highly reliable. Firing the same .303 military ball round that the Lee-Enfield (cf) fires.

Burmese: refers specifically to the dominant inland element of Burma’s peoples. The Burmese population had no love for the many minorities present, and no great fondness for Britons; but especially loathed Indians. Some Burmese stayed extremely loyal to Britain and this should not be forgotten.

Car: Automobile.

Coy: Company (abbreviation).

Cpl: Corporal, two stripes in the British system (abbreviation).

CSM: Company Sergeant-Major, the senior NCO of the company. There are several ranks of Sergeant-Major, the larger the unit the more senior.

LCpl: Lance-corporal, one stripe in the British system. Somewhat equivalent to PFC or Specialist (abbreviation).

Lee-Enfield: British rifle. At this time the No. 1 Mk III is in use, firing the same .303 military round used by the Bren and the Vickers Machine Gun.

Lorry: Truck.

Mills bomb: Fragmentation grenade very little changed in design since the Great War.

Pte: Private, the lowest rank in the British army (abbreviation).

QM: Quarter-master, or the store itself (abbreviation).

Raj: Out-dated term for British system of rule of South Asia, often including Burma.

Sten gun: Sten SMG, reliable, firing 9mm parabellum.

Tommy gun: Thompson SMG, (a variety of Marks) firing the .45 ACP round.

 

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TI2.15: To the river

 

Characters for this session as they end the season:

Fennec, L2 wizard STR24 IQ21 LK15 CON26 DEX20 CHR13 SPD14 WIZ21. OGA value 49, Combat adds +25.

Cauleigh, L3 warrior STR27 IQ14 LK24 CON34 DEX29 CHR18 SPD29(+9). Combat adds 70 with ring of speed.

Jotunn, L5 warrior STR31 IQ15 LK20 CON52 DEX24 CHR8 SPD20. Combat adds 47.

Crompton, L2 rogue STR26 IQ12 LK19 CON22 DEX28 CHR12 SPD16 WIZ13. Combat adds 41.

 

Joyous summer beams upon their course

It is warm and still as our four re-founders of Fingold set off out the west gate and between two small bastions thrown up a bowshot from the walls. One directly guards the road, the other faces west-south-west. They swing around the latter and strike out along the well-beaten trail left by Chion’s regiment mere days since.

It makes for easy marching, and though Jotunn still ranges ahead he bears his full load. Animals and birds stay well away from the steady clanking progress of the four. Sweat stains the travelling clothes of Jotunn and Cauleigh in particular, though Crompton too sweats as he swaggers with heavy weaponry on his shoulder.

 

A slighted fortress offers a fine view of Hathlisveit

It is well through the second day of their march when Jotunn spots an unnatural line visible through the trees to his right. Perhaps fortification, perhaps siege weaponry.

Slipping his arquebus and some of his noisiest gear off and leaving the other three standing guard, Jotunn creeps [excellent DEX SR] through the young trees to discover the site of a slighted fortress. Here, a counter-castle and ruinous siege weapon are slowly decaying. Beyond, the broken walls of the fortress. Judging by the regrowth, it has been abandoned at least two years. There is no sign nor smell of human – not even the sour charcoal smell of an old fire.

A quick clamber up, and he can see beyond the woods to the siege lines around Hathlisveit, some six miles away. As far as distance allows him to judge, the siege is still being prosecuted and the lines are still not heavily occupied.

The view affords choices of shadowy paths where the party can slip close to the besiegers. From there it will be a simple matter for Crompton to sneak the party in.

And so it proves.

[And here I blank out and forget to place a set-piece encounter with a crashed hippogriff.]

 

Hathlisveit offers plenty of ways to spend money

At Hathlisveit they find they are welcome but the welcome comes with no great fanfare. They check into the Serpent once more (it is the only inn) and are greeted by Mukregard Distaff. Who approves of their choice to have separate rooms, and suggests they head to the baths.

Cauleigh has already confirmed that the inn’s common room has plenty of card players and hot Svelte women. After an adequate supper he and Crompton make up numbers for cards, and as they bring a devil-may-care attitude, lose comfortably.

But Cauleigh’s evening is far from over – Sveltes Scrumptious Sip and Harlotta are keen to get to know him much, much better. Over the next few days Cauleigh spends 200 gold in their company.

At about this point there’s a little cross-talk, egged on by the GM, that I can best represent thus:

“Hey, is Cauleigh heading away with all those girls?”
“It’s an orgy?!”
“Are we invited?”
“Do you wanna be? Three’s a crowd, four’s even more fun…”
“Uhh…”
“The party that orgies together…”
“…can’t look each other in the face the next day.”
“No you are not invited! I have my own room! Let’s go ladies…”

He partly reimburses the expense by selling his “chance division” of the vampiress’ loot. (She collected interesting valuables.) He has a steel, gemstone-decorated warhammer head, and sells it for 120 gold.

 

Jotunn – given a hint by one of the Chion’s regiment skirmishers – has saved his gold for Hathlisveit. He gains the ear of Sinofor Mes, master armourer and also vicar of Ikmal. Jotunn commissions a cuirass with magical protection. He pays up front: for some reason Mes believes there’s a good chance he’ll never see Jotunn again.

 

Crompton has not saved his gold at all, but does have one of the best “chance divisions.” He reaches out to Aussecur and soon sits down with the wily Svelte who examines his mithril coin collection.

Crompton wisely passes up Aussecur’s first two offers [I am so proud of Crompton, he is a very different Dwarf from the one that tried to bribe an urchin with a gold coin] but the Svelte leans in close and says:

“If not for money, how about I share my master-spell with you? If I teach you the Teacher spell you’ll be in the driver’s seat bargaining with any rogue you meet.”

This is a good deal, provided Crompton meets rogues that want the spells he has. So he hands over the coins and Aussecur begins teaching him.

 

Crompton and Cauleigh gain an interview with Berenger Aussi, gunsmith to Hathlisveit. His main concern is the siege so Cauleigh finds his usual charm not quite as effective. [makes L3 CHR but that’s not great in the circumstances]

The mood sours further when Crompton pushes his enchanted arquebus forward.

“Fancy, too fancy,” Aussi grumbles, though secretly impressed. “Hmm, not a bad little piece,” he says of Cauleigh’s caliver, “If you ask me it’s flimsy though. Look at that breech block and bore. I’d replace that…”

“How much?” Cauleigh asks striking while the iron is warmish, and makes a deal. It will take a significant number of days.

But then he makes the mistake of asking about an enchanted touch-serpent that would always burn when needed.

“Don’t take to none of that fancy charm stuff,” Aussi snorts. “My gunnes are fine pieces!”

“And uh, what about my arquebus stand,” asks Crompton desperately, “can you improve it?”

“Yes…” Aussi growls, gesturing for the stand.

He snaps it in two.

“Here,” he states, handing the pieces back to Crompton, “improved!”

(Later, Crompton contacts hand-gunners on Hathlisveit’s south defences and gets a replacement, free.)

 

Research too, though with slim results

Fennec has the treasure-map uppermost in his mind and having congratulated Righteous Filbard, asks about the roads there. He gets good advice on the best approach, which is to head roughly south through Greystand (capital of house Minas) to Edoras (of house Edoras), obtain mounts or a boat, and head up the golden river from there.

Cauleigh is interested in Ikkutas and what the supposed Ikkutas Dwarves here know about it. He talks to a beefy soldier who half-recollects a tale of a battle involving “Carloman” and some northerners, upriver.

Then at the end of their stay, Cauleigh attempts to get better information from an elder of the same kin, but strikes out. [Rolls a fail, the gaffer waves him away]

 

Jotunn joins the scouts, then everyone joins the fun

Having placed his order Jotunn finds himself easing through the forest south of Hathlisveit with half a dozen lightly-dressed scouts – mostly Sveltes – attempting to locate the enemy cavalry. His hunting skills are as good as ever and his legendary robustness enables him to at least keep up with the others.

Surprising a picket, Jotunn throws his knife away [rolls a fail] but uses his broadax, a nice magical weapon he got as loot from the shrine fight, to back the soldier off, and runs clear ducking the follow-through blow [just allowed to use his level dice plus adds to represent his experience, he ties].

 

Consul Haugri calls a war council. Hathlisveit must needs re-provision before the summer ends, so volunteers from Chion’s regiment, and the re-founders, will combine to exorcise the squadron.

 

The scouts set snare-lines in the forest where they intend the cavalry to flee, and the volunteers attack from one flank and the Dwarves from another. Thunder rumbles overhead: a summer storm is brewing slowly.

Crompton (Cateyes again) easily works his way close, but actually brings his comrades past pickets. As the alarm is sounded he wheels around, levels his arquebus on its stand, and sends a ball through the cheap plate cuirass. Another picket freezes is dismay, and Crompton uses tempus fugit to give himself time, drops the arquebus, draws two knives, and sends them into the picket’s head. Then bounds over, administers the coup de grace, and rejoins the fight.

Which is going well! Cauleigh aims at a silhouette and fires. The man crumples and falls face down. Jotunn fires his arquebus, the ball strikes a shoulder-plate and tears the victim’s chest across, and out the other side, leaving the unfortunate man screaming in pain.

Then Fennec who has been waiting to identify a choice target spots an officer’s gorget, and lets fly with a L5 TTYF:

WHAMMM!!!

A bright red flare with intense purple in its centre connects Fennec to the target: the victim glows ember-like: then there is nothing left save a gorget and boots.

Horses panic, pull their tethers, and flee. Fennec chooses one that hasn’t pulled free yet and fries that. More horses panic and flee.

Jotunn and Cauleigh set out for a struggling line of cavalrymen, but Jotunn slips in the dark. Crompton hastens to help him up then swivels his piece using Jotunn as a makeshift stand, and shoots another cavalryman!

Cauleigh uses kukri and shield to devastating effect. Attacked from their flank the cavalrymen flee as best they can into the trapped woods.

 

Loot is to be had. Cavalry get paid reasonably well, and these were dragoons: their carbines have been left on the field. Each Dwarf loads himself up as best he can (after a couple of attempts to persuade captured mounts they are pack ponies have left Crompton and Jotunn with bruises) and they tote the pieces back to Hathlisveit for the bounty. Cauleigh tucks the gorget away as well, perhaps as a memento.

 

A break in the weather requires shelter – welcome to Perryers Town

The re-founders slop their way through teeming rain towards lights. Unmarked on their map, this town seems to mark a border between Minas and Fingold.

If there is a gate-post they don’t see it, but what they do see is a bedraggled sorry looking group of four cavalrymen, lacking weapons or gear.

As the four Dwarves are hailed by a tout – “come in all, weather like this needs warmth and good ale – best ale gents – come dry yourselves” – Cauleigh turns back. He presses a dozen coins on the luckless deserters.

Having gained the Dwarves’ custom, the tout ducks back out of the storm and encourages them to dry off by the fire, rest on a bench, and order ale. It is good ale. Just beginning to explain the town – “why this is Perryers Town, founded by Perryer a scion of a minor branch of Minas; trading betwixt Minas and Fingold, and many a bargain to be had” – the tout breaks off again to welcome the bedraggled deserters, who now have coins.

The Dwarves order a meal – which is sent for to next door and proves to be two kinds of meat and barley bread – and ask about Perryer and the war and peace-keeping.

“As to the one, he sometimes stops by, but he has made his pile and lives back with his family. As to the other, we are no warriors! Minas has not gotten involved in a war since they knocked the Dragon Tower over. This is a realm of peace. And as to the third, each village has a beadle and detachments can be called up if that’s not enough.”

The Dwarves encourage the deserters to seek employ at Fingold town, for they are hiring there. Feeling better about the slaughter in the forest, they pay for lodging but do not linger for any supposed bargain.

 

Greystand offers final deals before the push to Edoras

Greystand is both ancient – an ornate castle, sporting a gleaming tower, challenges the sky – and modern. The houses are mostly prosperous and build of stone and wood, but a business-like modern-trace rampart surrounds them.

Jotunn’s chance division is a black-pearl-decorated flagon made from some mithril-like metal, and he finally gets a buyer with the “collector” credentials that boosts the price.

“Do we want money or horse?” he asks the others. Edoras has the best horseflesh and the collector, Lady Minas’ nephew (and second cousin to Perryer) offers a scrip for buying them. Fennec’s research comes in useful at this point. They Dwarves take the scrip.

It is at this point that Cauleigh realises his ring of Freeze protection is missing. He can pin down the moment the theft occurred: it was while he was completely distracted by three of the Svelte girls. Ah well.

 

To the river

“So, next we march to the river itself, purchase a crossing, and buy horses,” Fennec confirms.

“And get riding training,” Crompton adds confidently. These days, a mere fall from a horse won’t kill him.

“So we ride up the golden river to Golarion…”

“That’s Colairion Cauleigh, and it’s the name of the wizard that left the loot, not the name of a place. Or maybe there is a place, but it would be a graveyard.”

“…then loot, swing north-west, and head for Sarnas and the chance to trade for magic gear.”

“And perhaps a trail to Ikkutas!.”

“To Ikkutas!!”

So they all chorus, and with that the season ends.

Props

Perryers Town is inspired by a card in the rural locations concept cards(Coffey and Henzel). I’d originally thought to site it on the other side of Hathlisveit, between the siege lines, but the Minas-Fingold border makes more sense. The Universal NPC Emulator (Zach Best, Conjecture Games) helped me with Sinofor Mes and Berenger Aussi. The Vale is my own creation.

 

The players seemed happy with this ¾-length session but I was off my game. Descriptions were patchy or forgotten. I can tell I’m not concentrating when I’m not feeding scent-based information to players. And I’m still cross at myself for missing the crashed hippogriff. It was supposed to link in to explaining how Hathlisveit dealt with the hippogriffs, which may or may not have knock-on effects west. With an eye on the clock I also missed the whole dragon tower follow-through at Greystand, having set it up at Perryers Town.

So, season 2 ends. I have promised myself I will not build multiple NPC groups into future games. But I did enjoy Fingold’s Adventurers Guild. It seemed to work as a thing a fantasy city under siege would need. Thanks to the arch-mage teaching spells, thousands of gold poured into the treasury, enabling Fingold to bounce back quickly once given the chance to buy mercs.

I did not envisage the entire season being all Fingold but I’m very pleased that’s how it worked out. This is how Cauleigh’s player puts it: when he arrived, Cauleigh was a “hollow” level three. As he heads out of Greystand Cauleigh is a very powerful level three, easily able to cope with level four. The same applies to all the others. Fennec, who is the central character if there is one, has changed from a semi-competent level two to a powerful level two with a couple of really nice aids, enabling him to throw down on all sorts of higher-level nasties.

For now, farewell and may the light of Ikmal guide your path!

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TI2.14: Survive 5, Splatter 6!

Characters for this session

Fennec, L2 wizard

Cauleigh, L3 warrior

Jotunn, L5 warrior

Crompton, L2 rogue

Our four heroes are awaiting Righteous Filbard, his five veteran bearers, four tough warriors drawn evenly from across the heavy hitters and Lefties, the two senior wizards, and Gnat.

With them in the earlier rooms of level 5 are the survivors plus Damper, Sprain and Soup. Sprain is very low on CON, so are the Dwarves. Damper and Soup and the survivors are better off – in double figures.

They are not wholly aware of their surroundings, nor of how long Righteous Filbard may take to arrive.

Crompton is caller

“Thanks for the save back there,” Mizva growls to Cauleigh. “I was down but for you!”

“No problem,” Cauleigh replies. It looks as though Mother Hobb is doing a good job keeping Mizva off the bottle. The survivors tank walks over to Crompton and pats his shoulder.

“Hey, you did great out there. Nice calling.”

“Yes, just doing my job.”

“Good spotting on those zombies and the terrain. Really good.”

“Yeah, you did good!” Burnley and Whitey agree. And so Crompton becomes key decision-maker for the defence. [Also takes a permanent +1 to CHR]

From the darkness, danger stalks

The eleven left to solidify the foothold are in good spirits, especially when they find that given time, Mother Hobb can cover most of the healing needed. With blankets rigged up for the latrines, and closed doors double-checked, it’s time to think about inspecting other areas.

These can be broken down to three. First, there’s the immediate surroundings. Second, there’s the side-cavern to the great wet zombie cavern. Third, there’s all the unknown beyond the twin arches the rails (or channels) lead through.

As they discuss how much light might be needed Jotunn [IQ using hunting] senses movement.

Zombies attack, but the experience of the warriors tells: they are held at the arches and easily dealt with. Beyond away in the dark, Fennec glimpses a pair of yellow eyes.

They next check the rooms they already know of, ensuring nothing evil has crept in. Then warned by Jotunn once again, they rush to defend the arches. Beyond them, two mine-carts are being pushed forward!

Mizva the survivors’ tank backs the rogues up with his lantern shield, and Damper stands ready to his flank. Fennec hurries over to the latter:

“Can you boost me? I need to see inside the carts!”

From the vantage of a tall human Fennec can see that the cart immediately to his fore carries two Morlocks. He’d imagined gunpowder. But he does spot those eyes again and lets drive with a L2 TTYF!

The Morlocks are easily dealt with by the bright light. There are but three. One is killed in the cart, two attempt to retreat and Cauleigh and Jotunn leap around the cart and into them. Each cart has been pushed by a zombie, and those are dealt with as well.

So far so good, though Fennec is tapped out of mana once again!

The wrong kind of drop! Desperate recovery of items!

Deciding not to split the party further, they hunker down to stand guard until Crompton feels the time is right to start probing further. There’s a last room on this “north” side of the arches that has two doors leading “south” beyond. An enemy might use that room to flank them.

In the nick of time! For the eyes of evil  – which they are beginning to think must be the vampiress – are spotted there. As light splashes into the room a bulky shape, perhaps half the size of an ogre, with sharp fangs, can be glimpsed.

Fennec is caught in mid-room without his support! He makes an extra burst of speed and out, but leaves his staff behind!

Cauleigh dashes in! Fennec’s staff is too important! Whammm! A painful cascade of orange bathes him and he falls nose down, apparently dead.

But Cauleigh has presence of mind to throw up his magical shield as he dashes, and most of the damage is absorbed by it. [leaving him with a CON of 1 as his CON had not been at full at that point] He is awake but stunned.

“Oh fine, I suppose I can’t abandon my meat-shield,” Fennec grumbles and ducks in. Then glass shatters between him and escape, as something small is flung, and orange mist pools out and begins forming… something.

A weird bipedal dragon-like thing forms from the vapour and a vicious fight develops around the doorway.

Meanwhile Cauleigh rolls over to find a face grinning down at his. He whips his shield up, determined not to be hypnotised! Then rolls to the door and under the dragon-warrior.

Fennec’s GlueYou does not work on the summoned creature! But, once the other warriors cut down its ability to move and breathe fire, Crompton shoots it with the enchanted arquebus, and Cauleigh chops up at it from below with his bladed shield, it slowly dissolves again.

Fearing yet more arcane blasts they use rope to hook Cauleigh’s other gear and bring it back to him.

Another assault, weirder than the last

The next assault comes from the arches again where strange collections of bone creatures advance. They have only one thing in common: they all bear a weapon of some sort!

For this, the twin tanks Mizva and Damper excel, blocking the arches then pounding the bone creatures back to shards. Jotunn and Cauleigh use their athletic abilities to leap in around the flanks.

But behind the bone golems the bulking evil lurks – something weirdly feminine about it – and this time Jotunn is hammered by the TTYF. It fades back before Fennec can do more than hit it once with his own TTYF.

[I use TTYF here because it ties in with shatterzone Uruks using it. Curse You would have been a better fit. And there’s something very scary about being cursed and that stat not coming back.]

Gnat says: we’ll be ready soon, and would you like this wand to take the fun out of it all?

As they rest wearily, Soup confesses he has a wand that generates an illusion, but takes concentration. So they set torches and he rests by a doorway, watching his illusory warrior patrolling.

Resting and watching. Being healed. The hours tick by.

Then something blurs out of the dark near the entrance, kicks the illusion in the head – passing straight through – and bounces off the nearest wall.

“Hi Gnat, what took you?”

“Funny,” Gnat returns in an unfunny tone. She joins them in their camp.

“I’ve been detailed off to let you know how things are going. It should take about three more hours. How’s things going with… whatever?”

“We’re holding things off… the vampiress has had one go at us already… we saw off zombies and bone things…” all these and more are pressed in on the diminutive heavy hitter.

“So you’re held up… well I do have a gadget.”

So saying Gnat hands over a wand that detects enemies. It has charges, she seldom uses it, because, not so much fun.

Crompton deputes Burnley, the nippiest rogue on his feet, as scout. He uses the wand like it’s free magic. Using it, the teams move quickly through the remainder of level 5:

  • One of the doors leading “south” encloses a set of luckless kobolds, slaves to work in the mines. The two sides have the Dwarven tongue in common. They feed Crompton some useful information about the side-passage off the great wet, including that there are more of their work gang there. Crompton frees them.
  • The other door leads via Morlock living quarters – where a current Morlock pay-chest and a long-forgotten Morlock pay-chest are found – back to the main mine passage. Opposite that, the last processing chamber lies long abandoned. The end of the main passage is visible from there, one tunnel leading away from it.
  • That tunnel definitely slopes down!
  • The side passage off the great wet is duly checked by a sub-party of rogues. They free the kobolds there.

Let the assault commence!

By the time the rogues head back out, Righteous Filbard’s bearers are wading the great wet, with the wizards and warriors standing guard.

And so it’s time to make some final decisions and speeches, and tackle level 6!

I’ve invited strategies off the players over the past four sessions and had very little back. Based on them choosing to guard Filbard’s bearers and the success of teaming up with the survivors, I decide Two and Bless have gone with a “strong diversion” tactic.

“We and the Lefties will head down the main passage. Our job is to make a lot of noise and draw the defence. We’ll be in touch for the hour my spell lasts. Your job is to guard Filbard and get him to the shrine and make sure he purges it.

“And can I make the point, this is the time when you all – please – I beg you – stop conserving gadgets and use them. And don’t forget your holy water!”

Gnat yoinks her Oh Dread wand back from Burnley, lifts her hand crossbow with the holy water vial bolt in salute, and smirks confidently. The survivors glance around at each other and nod to Crompton. They’ll stick with the Dwarves.

 

Skeletal guardians guard the forgotten wing

On level 6, all is as it was left, except that Crompton, who has placed himself in the lead and using a Cateyes, can pick up traces of small feet where Spriggans wandered in, found it boring, and left again. There are two doors right, one left, and one on the far end of this large chamber. The one on the left has elaborate decor around it, though, so does the far door. Cauleigh has confidently pronounced them to be of “religious significance.”

Crompton waves Burnley, who is now using a detect-traps wand, forward. Yes, the far door is trapped.

“Can you undo a trap?”

“Sure. Knock-knock.”

Crompton leaps even further back as the door shifts a little and there is a faint hiss as displaced air seeps through. After a nervous ten minutes the door is eased open…

A skeletal being, the size of a wolf, bounds out – followed by two more!

Aside from these creatures needing magical weapons to harm them, they are not difficult to defeat. Especially once Mizva joins them from his rearguard position. The passage they guarded leads to a similar door, and it is similarly unlocked. At this point, Fennec breaks in with narrative:

“The others are fighting creatures… big hag… wolf thing… Oh – one of the Lefties just tried to kill himself – they’re piling on him”

In response, Crompton pushes on ahead faster.

The chamber beyond is strange, to say the least. Its roof is supported by a massive but ornate pillar, with strange runes boldly carved on it. A small thin pillar stands nearby each of the four faces. The floor is swept clean and an elaborate design, possibly mosaic, covers a wide stretch of floor left of the pillars from where they have entered.

The only other possible exit ends in a broad dead-end, facing the design. But Crompton feels along that wall and finds eye-holes and a lever to unlatch a panel. Standing on his pack, he can see the other two parties finishing up from their combat, checking surroundings. He begins making creepy noises [not true but trying to say ‘hi guys how’s it going’ through concealed eye-holes counts as being creepy] then decides just to open the panel. But then:

 

Trouble ahead! Dwarves to the flank!

Gnat calls enemy ahead and the heavy hitters shake out again, Lefties supporting them. Crompton giggles – Lardo and Sprain are trying to use those huge polearms the zombie-shepherds were waving round, and they look out way of balance. [STR burns quickly using too-heavy weapons, but if an enemy is put down in one round it’s worth it]

Cauleigh calls from the rear:

“If they’ve got trouble we need to get through the other flank! Come on!”

Shrine of the fallen falls to the righteous

The party order reverses as they all run back to the big forgotten chamber and move to the “main” door, the one with the most ornate decor around.

Heaving it open they behold a mighty shrine to the dead! On the opposite side, but left of their door, a strange corrupt idol looms over misty, green-glowing lichen walls, where the dead seem to reach out from ledges. And on the floor, so many dead, some undead perhaps, but all awaiting the call to battle.

Across the shrine they go, shielding Filbard. The chamber opens out even wider, and lower, leftward. Fennec catches a glimpse of something that way, quickly vanishing.

On their right, they see a mighty Ogre, or Ogre-corpse, wielding a hefty axe like a willow switch, and beside it a slighter figure but still bulky with muscle, though unpleasantly feminine as well. [This is the Ogre from the first assault into Level 3, and the second and final Night Hag]

These two final defenders last until they are overrun by the heavy hitters and Lefties warriors.

Moving left, the Dwarves see that the further chamber is blocked at its far end by masses of tumbled stonework and boulders. But this broad chamber, which is lower than the shrine, is part-filled with mist.

There is a pause as Filbard begins purging the idol and temple. The other groups spread out. Two and Bless throw three Dispels between them, cutting a path through the mist. But there’s no secret door, the rubble is really rubble.

“I’m getting a faint reading – straight ahead,” reports Gnat.

After an hour, Filbard’s task is complete. Fennec can feel a sense of mana powering down. The shrine is filled with dead, but they are really dead. The mist, too, begins dispersing.

Silly vampire! We can detect you! Now fall!

Cross-checking on the first reading confirms the danger really is beyond the rubble. A passage leads out of the lower chamber and through a few abandoned rooms to the vampire’s lair. All that bars their way is an immense pile of bones at a doorway, and this is dispelled then pounded to shards before it can activate. Just in case.

Bereft of allies and mana stripped down to her own supply the vampiress makes her stand.

Crompton notices Lardo stepping behind Two, and warns the party quickly enough – the warrior is bundled to one side and the vampire approached.

Gnat shoots her with the holy water, and at least two rogues fling theirs as well.

And the vampire is overrun and dies.

I wondered if  Cauleigh and Jotunn would stunt in and be tricked – she had a gadget – but they choose straight combat as it turns out. Good choice.

One more door… again… and disaster

The vampire’s lair is decked with all manner of curiosities, but perhaps disappointed that there are no piles of gold, Cauleigh proposes a short extra search. Fennec and Crompton agree…

The third room they try seems empty… then a strange shark-like form rises out of the stone floor, draws itself up on limbs and attacks!

Cauleigh is smashed away into the opposite wall, Fennec is spun off his feet by Cauleigh’s hurtling form, and Crompton’s gunne misfires. The land-shark chows down on them… but the GM is soft and lets them go with damaged armour as they flee.

It’s a bittersweet discovery – the two doors off the first chamber they even came on in Level 6 are both treasuries.

A salute to the re-founders of Fingold

It is the next day, perhaps, if time has been measured after healing and sleep are dealt with. The Dwarves, cleaned up and in what remains of their best, are in the citadel council chamber. They wear each a new gold token at their neck, denoting their status in the Guild. Duchess Melissa, QMGLC Saundra and the arch-mage stand.

“A toast! To the four Dwarves who changed our fortune! We now have peace on our east, a gold mine with which to buy mercenaries, and a future!”

“Truly, the god Ikmal guided our footsteps!” Cauleigh responds, not to be outdone. The arch-mage smiles behind his snowy beard. Saundra purses her lips but nods: The gold and silver looted is pouring into her coffers as equipment is replaced and spells purchased. Melissa smiles radiantly and raises her goblet again:

“To you four, the re-founders of Fingold!”

We have one more session for this season, since I want the Dwarves to feel they are definitely moving upriver once more. Fennec’s plan, at this stage, is to head for Hathlisveit, then dip south of the river to follow up his treasure map. Stay tuned!

Props

Dyson’s Dodecahedron 2014 provided me with Levels 3 to 6, though altered slightly to enable connections between. &Magazine’s generators provided room descriptions, monsters and loot, and needed relatively little alteration, just a few tweaks so it fitted together with mining and an ancient temple.

I also downloaded some dungeon themed noises from DriveThruStuff.com. I think that’s the first time I have used ‘sound effects’ and it certainly works as a signal that attention might need to be paid! A ‘clanging noises in the distance’ kind of track really enhanced the final Morlock attack.

Also, me! I crafted 2D versions of Levels 5 and 6 using black craft paper stuck to wargame boards or mats. Parts that players could not see were covered with throws or more paper. I think overall, it helped with the levels of paranoia. It did make set-up logistics an issue though.

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TI2.13: The descent in four parts

Characters for this session

Fennec, L2 wizard

Cauleigh, L3 warrior

Jotunn, L5 warrior

Crompton, L2 rogue

 

Part one: faction down

Significant NPCs for the first stage

Lady Melissa, Duchess of Fingold: Autocratic, almost a force of nature when roused in her city’s interests. She loves her people, they love her.

The arch-mage: Dwarf elder with ice magic specialty. His power has fended off the besieging force for two years, allowing the city of Fingold to develop their Adventurers Guild.

Armouring up at the north barracks

News of the assassination (of the Captain of Kimelas – last ep) flies quicker than thought! Soon the whole city is discussing what it means. Cauleigh’s cunning master-plan of Lady Melissa wedding the Captain of Kimelas is over. He says to Fennec: we need to investigate!

More prosaically Crompton and Jotunn set off for the awl-prickers and to the north barracks to see if the armour ordered is finished. Crompton has had four separate trickles of healing to get him up and walking, Jotunn is relatively unhurt but has shed his armour – there’s nothing worth keeping.

[The door trap end of last crawl dished out 30 points. Crompton had 21 CON and maybe 9 to 11 points of armour at the time. He’s walking around on 4 to 6 CON.]

Crompton orders another gambeson – there’s no doubt he’ll be needing it. “Keep the sleeves short” he commands. He wears a fancy bracelet on one wrist, which has a powerful enchantment on it.

At the north barracks Jotunn finds his status as hero has brought a benefit. Cauleigh placed an order for a breastplate for him and he has jumped the queue.

“I have to apologise Jotunn, given the urgency I simply cut down a fine cavalry breastplate. It’s near shot-proof, the latest design. If you don’t mind waiting I’ll just finish the last fitting and it’ll be ready. Oh, and your comrade’s breastplate should be done after that.”

Jotunn readily agrees to wait, secretly delighted, while Crompton heads off to see if he can find the Sveltes.

He can’t, and for the remainder of the day is kept busy enchanting ballistae off scrolls provided by the arch-mage. Apparently the hippogriff overflight requires defences to be kept up like this.

“By the way,” the master smith says approaching Jotunn again, “I converted this off a cavalry helm as well. I thought it would make a good helmet for you. There’s a second one as well, if you find it useful.”

“What do you call this?” Jotunn asks, turning the helm over in his hands. It has a short nasal, three crests or ribs – the central rib high like a morion’s – and round ear-protectors with gaps cunningly fashioned between the helm and protector.

“I don’t know… a morion-burgonet? A basquenet?”

Trying it on, Jotunn finds that styling aside, it works well, a good balance between clear sight and sound, and solid protection.

He returns to the Guild with the new armour by evening. He walks against a current of rumour: the east faction has surrendered! And in truth, there are a number of east-faction deserters being sworn in or assigned tasks around the citadel wall and gates.

The truth of the diplomatic coup

The truth of the matter, Crompton and Jotunn discover, is that Cauleigh (wearing good gear) and Fennec (wearing best wizard robe) accompanied Duchess Melissa, along with Bless (dressed as lady-in-waiting) and Gnat (dressed as maiden-in-waiting), and Melissa carried all before her and persuaded the besiegers, who were in disarray, that their best interests lay in changing sides.

“I don’t like to brag but my few well-chosen words did have a startling effect,” Cauleigh explains modestly.

“I don’t like to brag but I kept my mouth shut the whole time, even when Bless was creepily ogling Gnat in that blue dress thingy,” Fennec adds.

[Since Melissa is doing the talking I get the two characters present to roll on CHR and the two players not involved to roll for Bless and Gnat. Cauleigh DARO’s to level 8. Bless and Gnat hit L2 and 3 respectively. Fennec hits L1 with a bonus for being a wizard but has already specified that he is keeping mum.]

“How’s that staff?” asks Crompton, seeing Fennec with it now.

Fennec waxes lyrical. This replacement for his shattered staff is a swap from the Lefties. It is named the Staff of the Wizard, and has a number of properties. Cauleigh traded off his scimitar for it and just wants to get remembered in the next good drop.

With this change of direction for the defences – and the east faction soldiery is already being drafted to building bastions facing west and south – the Adventurers Guild Council is convened.

 

Part two: the die is cast, kind of, pretty much

Significant NPCs for the second stage

Two AKA demon in glasses, party leader for the heavy hitters, specialist in communications and conjuration

Gnat, party rogue/assassin/tracker for the heavy hitters

Bless, brains for the Lefties, has some private agreement with Two

Mother Hobb: party leader for the survivors, potion specialist, secretary to the Guild council

Mizva, inebriated survivors tank

The Council pretends to study calculations

There are a number of things to bring to the table. Foremost, the pressing need to fulfil the mission against the vampiress and to purge the shrine.

Crompton (with health much closer to normal now) quite rightly points out that the “shrine” is an assumption, not a fact. The great wet zombie cavern might have a shrine tucked away just off it. Perhaps this colours the decision-making later.

The great wet zombie cavern brings up the arch-mage’s response to Cauleigh’s proposal. It’s midway between Fennec’s guess of ‘too important to bother’ and what they hoped for. He’s provided Two with a barrage of calculations showing that in a wide cavern of slowly-moving water there’s no practical way of freezing widely-dispersed zombies.

The way zombies are replaced is discussed. The fall of the east faction probably means no fresh zombie supply. But no-one found how the fire-mage and the vampires communicated, so nothing’s certain.

And as to zombie maintenance, Two has made his own calculations, he says with a gleam in the glasses. His theory is that the statue-shrine on Level 3 is more important than originally thought. Scouting spotted seven statues and if each provides a maintenance battery that explains how such an enormous amount of necromancy mana is being spent to keep zombies moving day after day.

The side-quest he suggested to Fennec some time ago seems even more attractive.

But the side-quest will not go down well with QMGLC Saundra.

But, independent-maintenance batteries.

Cauleigh gently calls the wizards away from their collective drooling. “Speak flatteringly to the QMGLC using her titles, and present her with reasoned arguments. She will listen.”

Then considers going in with full force

The next item to consider is the effect that clearing levels is having. There is no mistaking it – at least not if you have been doing this for a couple of years – the response is fragmented, even accidental in the case of Level 4.

This means that there is a really valid argument for putting in a big effort on the great wet zombie cavern. Then, finish clearing Level 5. That will allow a real base to be set up, from which the assault on Level 6 can be made properly.

Two (and Bless, who is clearly on the same page here) sees no great problem with the secret tunnel the Dwarves found, as a means to introduce Righteous Filbard to Level 6.

“He’s got what, five sturdy veteran bearers? Just clearing back more of the rubble while we ready ourselves. It would work.”

The Dwarves opt for this plan, and the survivors throw in. Mizva is keen. “I get to swat zombies? Works for me,” he mumbles. Cauleigh catches Mother Hobb’s eye and murmurs something about keeping Mizva dry.

Tucking away vital equipment

There’s a pile of holy water vials, one per person. Each Dwarf takes one.

There are three mirrors not counting the one Bless has already called dibs on. Each is larger than a tiny hand-mirror. They could be useful checking for vampires, illusions, etc. Jotunn takes one.

Mother Hobb has two healing potions per person. She explains:

“It’s slow-acting, using your mana to power recovery. Don’t expect to jump back into action – this is just the difference between dying and not.”

[Technically, over the course of an hour WIZ moves down 6 and CON up 6.]

The general dimensions are agreed

Then to the discussion of forces. The way Two (and Bless) see things, the Lefties and heavy hitters should hit the great wet zombie cavern from above.

“We know there are guard stations on the stairwell. We can deal with those, then use the height of the cavern to our advantage.”

So that means the non-fliers are creeping down and assembling at the other end, where the massive double doors are. The wizards will all be in communication with one another (using Two’s spell) so everyone will know when noise and light aren’t a problem.

Speaking of light, it’s an immense cavern so there’s some discussion there. Mizva has a “lantern shield” but Mother Hobb suggests spirit-boat paper affairs, with candles or the like.

The plan in summary

The Lefties and heavy hitters work down from the main Level 4 passage, knocking out the guard posts. The others are waiting. They team up to hit the great wet zombie cavern, clear it, sweep Level 5 again, then see whether the side-quest is something that can be presented to QMGLC Saundra.

The council breaks up to rally rogues (Soup is still out reading scrolls over ballistae) and gear up.

 

Part three: down among the dead men

A quick summary of the adventuring groups, in order of power

Heavy hitters: Three warriors of differing fighting styles, a powerful wizard quarterbacking them, and a lethal rogue to guard the wizard or assassinate stubborn opponents. The fighting members all have powerful melee weapons, so the caster is free to coordinate strong attacks or defences, and the rogue is reserve.

Dwarves: Two warriors with similar fighting styles, a strong L2 wizard in support, and a strong rogue supporting both ends. They rely on a mixture of spells and magic weapons to power-up melee, so once the casters are done they have little staying power.

Lefties: Three warriors with very similar fighting styles, a rogue in support, and a strong L3 wizard in support of all. They rely on spells to power-up melee, which limits caster options.

Survivors: One tank warrior, two missile rogues, and a potion-specialist strong L2 rogue in support of them.

On Level 5, Zombies are moving out

We rejoin our heroes as they walk away from the watercourse that splashes down to the great wet zombie cavern. And as Mizva’s brightly-shining shield activates, they notice a difference.

The zombies are moving in organised clumps, away towards what’s believed to be the exit. The nearest clump of zombies, half a dozen or so strong, are short in stature and armoured in grey fabric of some type, and bear axes and shields.

“Should’a whicked those heads off” Cauleigh curses. There’s a quick tactical session. “The other two groups are held up!” Fennec pitches in with, “the guard posts are stronger than expected!”

“Can you LF me?” Cauleigh calls back, “Pretty please?” By this time he’s already jumped down and is forging through the knee-deep water. Jotunn is with him, while Crompton swings his arquebuss into line and leans into the monopod stand to get a steady shot.

Boom! To the zombies at large and anything nearby in the tunnels, Crompton announces their presence. The shot definitely strikes the group but not being a head shot, has no effect at all.

Nor does Fennec’s OGA: undead don’t react to normal stimuli.

Nor does Jotunn’s flaring torch: the sturdy short zombies are definitely the same group he helped kill, but don’t react to light in any noticeable way.

“Mmh, well, I guess we need something…” Fennec grumbles and speeds first Cauleigh then Jotunn.

Two LF, the OGA and some more grumbling later Fennec is pretty much tapped out. [It’s his choice though: he could have used two of his staff’s limited stock of charges up, and have plenty of mana left. The Staff of the Wizard reduces spell cost by 10, but there are only 17 charges left.] He (and Mother Hobb, on his arm) have splashed through the water to stay in support. Crompton calls tempus fugit and flanks around the warriors, getting to close range.

Cauleigh’s first foray is against the zombie-Morlocks and Jotunn takes the heads off two Cauleigh trips. They can hear one another quite clearly thanks to the new helmets. Then Cauleigh glimpses a huge splash over left.

Mizva is in trouble! The survivors’ fighting men have tackled another larger group of zombies, but one is whaling on Mizva’s shield with an immense polearm, pounding him down below the water’s surface again and again. Whitey and Burnley don’t have the stopping power to do anything about it.

Meet ferocious grinning dancing zombie-shepherds

The three Dwarves race through the water. They’ve got the rhythm of moving at twice speed now. Crompton pulls out the wand that Sharp forgot to collect back off him, levels it and yells:

“Fight for me!”

It hesitates.

Jotunn smashes his shield into the creature – which seems agile but is temporarily at a loss – and Cauleigh brings his billhook’s pole-end up and down in a leaping spike, pinning the thing’s head to the ground. Boom! Crompton’s shot shatter’s the thing’s head open and globs and bits begin drifting away to where a stream drains.

The larger zombie group ceases marching purposefully away, and begins swinging around towards noisy adventurers.

Cauleigh’s proficiency with billhook is accelerating! He trips two, even three zombies at a pass. Jotunn swipes heads off with athletic sweeps – though at one stage he ploughs through the water as he hits an unexpected deeper footing. Mizva pitches in again, his powerful mace shattering heads completely.

Crompton is acting as caller. He sees two dangers. On the far side of where they are, another zombie group has marched in from a side-channel. And towards the supposed exit, where the other groups are to appear, a zombie group has turned, and its shepherd is grinning and dancing, waving its huge polearm.

As they turn though, two of the crew topple into a deeper area. It’s worth marking out as terrain they can use.

“The other groups are just about here! They’ve finished up above!” Fennec calls. Indeed the lights from their advance can be glimpsed, dimly.

“Fight for me!”

Crompton’s tactic works again. Cauleigh feints the hesitating shepherd onto the wrong footing then between them the four butcher it apart. Its limbs join the drifting mess of zombie brains.

And finally, the delayed arrival of the flying teams! The heavy hitters have their approach all worked out: Gnat is flying high running interference against any bugs in the roof; Two is lower coordinating, and the warriors are flying just above zombie head height where they can comfortably whick heads off. The Lefties have a less-calculated approach: Bless is perched at ease on a floating bedroll casting VB at her leisure; Soup is towing her while casting VB as needed; Panic is using the magic scimitar they swapped off Cauleigh; and the other two warriors are using billhooks.

Crompton uses up quite a supply of shot, shooting zombies struggling up out of the sinkhole he spotted. He marks the side-passage down as a possible location of zombie shrine and rejoins the group.

 

Aside from a mouthful of water (Jotunn) and a lungful of water (Mizva) there are no wounded among “team sneak down.” The other team seems to have had a tough fight up in the guard stations. Snake-monsters, skeletal guardians, and a trap. But the wizards still have mana in reserve so they all bundle into the relative dry of the broad “workings” shaft.

 

Part four: accidentally, everything is go, OK?

The first ten minutes is spent explaining the layout, and cautiously checking the guard-chamber left of the entry gate is empty.

Mizva’s lantern shield is still shining bright, so with a couple of torches flung down as they go, the Dwarves form advance guard and check the next pair of doorways. These stand opposite one another across the broad shaft.

Jotunn is following bloody drag-marks – it’s obvious to his eye where the Morlock corpses were dragged way for preparation, and that other Morlocks did it – when he stiffens, alert to a new sound, or presence.

The warriors fall back and tank up with support warriors.

Almost anticlimactically, an ice lizard steps menacingly into the light, its head weaving in alarm. It does not seem to have a choice about its advance, though.

“It’s just icy. We Glued one and killed it quickly.”

“Oh. OK. Gnat, just get rid of it.”

There’s a blur, a scuff as Gnat kicks off from the roof, and a nasty thwoock sound as she dive-slams a shortsword down through the creature’s skull. It topples, dead. Gnat shakes the blood off her sword, sheaths it and wanders back through the shield wall to her post by Two. Fennec and Mother Hobb edge closer to Two.

But the pause has allowed Jotunn to sense more oncoming enemy. From the right scrabble a swarm of huge beetles! Their mouth-parts glow with ichorous fire.

Jotunn and Cauleigh leap atop a pair of them, Mizva just uses his shield to take the fiery spittle. With three down in short order the remaining few are quickly dealt with. Glowing paste sticks on the blades that hacked them apart.

Spriggan!

But meanwhile Crompton has been watching out carefully. It wasn’t bugs that drove the lizard on. There! In the left doorway! He swings the long arquebus barrel around on its stand and lets drive.

“Spriggan!” someone screams.

Boom!

In the doorway a Spriggan jerks, struck by the bullet. Its face snarls in a rictus of anger! It pulls a pistol from its belt! It levels the pistol at Crompton!

“Bang!” the Spriggan shouts.

It looks crossly at the pistol barrel then levels it again.

“Bang!” it shouts again. The other Spriggans around it snicker and begin attacking.

“Tank up!”

“Protect!”

“Shields!”

There’s a general movement of shield-carrying warriors forward to block the recess the Spriggans are emerging from. But the wounded Spriggan appears in front of Crompton. And grabs his arquebus by the barrel.

As Crompton wrestles the Spriggan for control of his precious, Jotunn hurtles in, swinging his axe laterally. By an inch he clears the barrel and Crompton’s fingers! The Spriggan stumbles back, an arm missing. It still looks very annoyed. Then Cauleigh hurls his kukri! It’s not built for throwing but he times its rotation perfectly: with a chwuck it takes the top off the Spriggan’s head, and it falls dead.

Cauleigh is after the kukri in a flash! Hunts desperately… can’t see it… then a small hand presses it into his grasp and Gnat vanishes back to the fight again.

Meanwhile:

“Giant up!”

A peculiar power of the Spriggan is to suddenly become gigantic. From behind the main line of shields Cauleigh yells:

“Fall back!”

But luckily there’s another yell:

“Tank up! Don’t let it past!”

Although the giant can and does lean over and deal massive damage, the line holds and the other Spriggan can’t get past to attack the weak rear!

[The combined attack surplus is dished out among the warriors and rogues. The Dwarves share 200. One of the great things about T&T combat is that tanks can tank, by taking a larger share of the damage. Cauleigh and Jotunn (52 armour each) take the bulk. Each is left on single-digit CON]

Crompton now has his harquebus back on its stand and loaded. Ignoring his wounds he aims the piece up:

Boom!

Can’t miss! A piece of its shoulder is torn away.

At the rear, where Fennec and Mother Hobb are sheltering, Two and Bless seem to be about ready to do something. Bless slides one of her four wands out of her hair.

Fennec’s own mana has trickled in, and he slams a TTYF into the giant. WHAMM! There’s a slight red tinge to his spell’s effect now, he’s interested to note.

Two levels his arm and white lights begin playing around it, and a noise like metal bolts slamming home begins in sequence:

Chu chu chu chu chu CHOOMMMM

[Accompanied by wanking motions from some of the players. Hey, if you can do it, why wouldn’t you trick your spell up to look more lethal? But fun, I’ve been waiting for Two to throw a higher-level TTYF since he first partnered with the Dwarves]

A tremendous whitish-blue arc blazes from the wizard to the giant’s chest. It falls!

The warriors press forward, jabbing with swords and axes. They hold the remaining Spriggan, but only just. Then someone in the front rank makes the call:

“Now Two! Now Bless!”

And gestures the line back:

“Entangling thorns!”

“Plant destruction!”

In one sweep, the Spriggan are entangled then torn apart as the complementary spells take effect before they can escape.

A couple of nice drops are found and shared

The Spriggan seems to have recently arrived – there’s no lair as such. They had a chest, covered in stone dust. Later, Jotunn finds where they pulled it out of the rubble the Dwarves had been working on.

Aside from a nice collection of coin, there’s a red, two-blade shield in it. Magical. The Lefties and Dwarves begin dickering over it as though the other groups don’t count. Cauleigh agrees to surrender his kite shield, and gets the attack shield.

The rooms are checked again and pronounced clear. The path through to Level 6 is much as it was – though the space the chest came from is noticeable. On the other side, since the Sveltes just did a once-over, they look more closely. At the narrow end of the ancient forge-room where stone lies in a pile, Jotunn can feel a breeze from above. Shifting the stones quietly, they unearth a grapnel in perfect condition. It has a short length of rope attached.

One of the heavy hitters recalls such an item once belonged to an earlier group. The rope extends, apparently. The Lefties claim it. In exchange they surrender the plant control potion jug, and that weird powder that makes black ooze from under fingernails.

[I should also add that the Lefties get the two enormous polearms. They are simply too long for a Dwarf.]

Level 6 is a go!

Although Two and Bless are now significantly down on mana there’s a general feeling that this is the time to launch at Level 6. If the vampiress is bringing allies like the Spriggan in, delay can only harm.

Gnat is despatched ahead to shoulder-tap Righteous Filbard and Two and Bless, with a screen of four warriors, head back to Level 3 to await the cleric.

The remaining teams begin setting up camp, drying gear, and exploring. And the session ends.

Whew! This is a bit of a marathon but I felt I should deliver all four parts, because:

Waitangi weekend bash! Level 6! Stay tuned!

 

 

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TI2.12: The lost gold mine of Fingold

or, scouting Level 5 the hard way

Characters for this session:

Cauleigh, L3 warrior

Jotunn, L5 warrior

Crompton, L2 rogue

[minded by GM] Fennec, L2 wizard

NPCs:

Ausecur and Ondsop, L4 rogues, and Kamerad, L2 rogue

Attracted by the noise, Zombies

Our four Dwarf heroes have just lowered themselves off a ledge and beyond massive double valves letting into it. Their aim is to scout Level 5 and locate a passage down to Level 6. Preferably a secret one.

Cauleigh, heavily equipped for the rigors of dungeoneering, makes a heck of a racket, and Jotunn is just about as noisy. [No roll permitted, Cauleigh is well above 25% capacity] Fennec and Crompton glare at them. The four stand in a small faint pool of WoW light, darkness pressing in around them. The shaft or chamber appears to be so broad the sides can barely be glimpsed, and barrel-vaulted in section. They stand at what appears to be an entrance to a very wide, level shaft with twin tracks cut in the stone. It is dry enough to be termed slimy. Filthy water fills the tracks or channels suggesting the cavern outside the gates is very nearly on the same level.

As Cauleigh begins to sort through his gear and decide what can be left here, a zombie, attracted by the noise, shambles to the still-open gate. Another is close behind.

Fennec lets out a nicker of fear and repositions himself adroitly, further into the tunnel so that he is rear-guard. He holds off on spell-casting. Crompton, who at that moment is beginning to test the gate for ease of pulling shut, whips the rope they descended on around the ankles of the second zombie as Cauleigh’s billhook trips the first. Jotunn chops the head off the first.

More zombies appear! The rope trick works well again, but Jotunn stumbles in one of the stone channels or gutters. The second zombie grabs his ankle. Cauleigh slams down the billhook blade, taking the arm off that zombie, though leaving it attached to Jotunn’s ankle. Crompton and Jotunn heave on the gate, and the remaining zombies are shut out. The remaining two zombies are dealt with.

Then the real defenders show up

Fennec throws up his second WoW and squeals in terror and pain as a broad-axe cleaves through his pack. In the confusion he has not noticed a small phalanx – six or seven strong – approach from the shaft’s depths.

These defenders seem disciplined enough to stay in a tight formation. They are pallid, of no more than Dwarf stature, and their eyes bulge blindly. They each bear a wicked-bladed broad-axe and target shield. Their armor is heavy grey fabric or leather of some type.

Jotunn decides the formation needs breaking up and salmon-leaps into the axes! They bite deep, [37 off CON!] but his tactic works insofar as Cauleigh is able to cripple one that Jotunn cut. Cauleigh too experiences the excellent axe-work of these strange deep-dwellers. But the enemy are down to six.

That doesn’t make them less dangerous! Jotunn rolls out and cuts at one’s legs, taking more damage, Crompton, now LFed [his tempus fugit charm] dances in to one flank, and Cauleigh, also LFed, cuts on both. The tactic of sharing damage around the phalanx is the wrong one and Cauleigh is severely wounded. One of the defenders is hurt to the point of falling out of formation.

By this time flight is looking a good option. Fennec struggles with the gate but lacks the strength to push it back open. Jotunn, now reeling from wounds, joins him and the valves squelch back apart. Meanwhile Cauleigh and Crompton use their speed to stay out of range and bring the wounded defender down. They are down to five. Two more rounds of WoW remain, three more rounds of LF.

Jotunn shimmies up the rope intending to haul Fennec up. [I roll a 3 for Fennec] The wizard takes a broad-axe to the back of the head and falls face-down! Crompton scoops up the WoW-enchanted staff and uses it as a makeshift shield trying to draw the defenders off the wizard. Cauleigh outfoxes a defender and puts him down. They drop to four. One more round of WoW remains, two more of LF.

Jotunn realizes things have gone amiss and that he is effectively in the dark. Frantically he operates his tinderbox and gets a torch alight. In the broad mineshaft Cauleigh and Crompton team up to wrong-foot another defender and he too falls. They drop to three. The WoW gutters out, one more LF round remains.

Jotunn bravely drops, grabs Fennec’s collar and yanks him out of the muck, so he won‘t just drown. The light allows Crompton and Cauleigh to repeat their maneuver. The defenders are now only two, one of those badly wounded. But the Dwarves are now reduced to normal speed.

Jotunn joins in, though defensively so as not to take damage. To his surprise the grey defenders reel back from his torch! With this advantage and being just as fast on their feet, the remaining two are slain without more than a couple more scratches being taken among the Dwarves.

It’s time to breathe, and pick up the various bits of gear their desperate tactics threw off. And pull out!

As they rope Fennec’s chest a healing potion is found, tied prominently to the wizard’s doublet. How fortunate! [I roll a good LK SR to make up for the 3] They lack the expertise to safely apply it, but what’s he got to lose! It is poured down the wizard’s gullet.

They clamber back out, sluicing the muck and blood off in the running watercourse, and report to the Guild.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many 3s rolled in one cluster from the zombie-fight to the Morlock fight. The Morlocks were collectively far more powerful than the four Dwarves so stunts were paramount. I was handing out the spite damage and ignoring total scored. Crompton and Cauleigh both fumbled. Weapons were dropped, it was pretty desperate stuff. Jotunn left Fennec exposed as he retreated. Fennec rolled a 3 to escape before being hit. Since his player was absent I just hand-waved him as falling unconscious, then the healing potion as having an effect. Normally when a player steps away their character just holds packs or has other chores, but Fennec’s WoW was needed, at least at first.

Having survived, the Dwarves use their allies wisely

It takes more than a day for them to heal, during which time the Guild is called on to perform other missions, such as harvest guarding, and applying scrolls to ballistae. Cauleigh limps over to the citadel and though QMGLC Saundra is still extremely busy, manages to gain permission for the master-smith to fashion him a new breastplate. The initial measurements are done.

Crompton and Jotunn also make arrangements for armor, using Cauleigh’s influence if necessary.

While at the barracks, Cauleigh invites the Sveltes back to the Guild. Their help will be needed.

In Guild council, the Dwarves find the other groups are still happy to lend support. Two can mystically link to Fennec so that Fennec can describe what he sees, allowing Two to map it. Bless and Two can both provide Cateyes which will allow perhaps twenty minutes dark-vision inside the shaft.

Most importantly the Sveltes agree to help scout. Sveltes have dark-vision as part of their heritage.

Ausecur: STR20 DEX16 LK40 SPD14 CON27 IQ16 WIZ16 CHR17. Spells are DetM, LT, OGA, WoW, A-Scram, Boombomb, U-Bd, Ding, HH, Shrug, BLTG, Teacher.

Ondsop: as Ausecur; for spells Ding, BLTG, Teacher are dropped, OTIS and TTYF are added.

Kamerad: STR16 DEX14 LK20 SPD14 CON22 IQ14 WIZ14 CHR17. Spells are ItsEl (earth), LT, U-Bd, DetM and Boombomb.

Seven strong on Level 5

The uses of HideyHole are much debated. Cauleigh is keen to go in under invisibility to sneak forward as far as possible, so they try this first up.

There are no issues getting into the shaft: it seems nothing has closed the valves. Considerably more of the wet cavern can be seen now that they have Cateyes up. It is huge, stretching out into blackness. They can see dozens of zombies, aimlessly moving or standing in the water. As for the water, it seems it must gently drain away, somewhere beyond.

Cauleigh comes up with a cunning plan for tabling at the Guild and above. If the arch-magi can use his special Ice power to freeze the cavern the zombies can easily be dealt with.

Inside the shaft, a side-passage or guard-room can immediately be seen. The Sveltes investigate. Inside is a huge icy lizard! It can sense them, though it can’t see them, and lurches out to attack.

Glue You! Fennec yodels happily and the six others hack the lizard apart before it can get fully out of its lair. Crompton sighs regretfully: he has used the last Sheeting Arrow of Claes.

Sveltes tracking ahead they all follow the twin trackways in. Again on the left, another doorway stands open. This time they do not have the luxury of a HideyHole and with a booming challenge a monster cave-ape galumphs out to the attack! Ausecur uses his BLTG to speed away at great pace, and muttering the time-honoured phrase “I don’t have to be faster than him, I just have to be faster than you” Ondsop speeds ahead of Kamerad!

Kamerad is swatted to the floor but the fighting Dwarves are there to help. Jotunn and Cauleigh each flank around, cutting at its tree-like forearms. They get into difficulty when they try to improve on that the next round: Cauleigh is casually batted across the shaft to smack against the wall and Jotunn is parried off. But meanwhile Crompton has done a lot of damage to the beast’s hamstring and it is soon toppled and dispatched.

Finding a secret way down?

The Ape’s lair is truly filthy, but noticeable in the nest itself is a staff with a silver head. It is the mace-staff Crompton lost on his second zombie fight! “That’s got a definite owner” Crompton explains, handing it to Fennec to mind. There is one other exit in the lair, a closed stone door on the right. Crompton examines it, finding it still in working order. Muck and filth are dug back to permit the door to be dragged open.

Beyond, they can see two passages into connecting chambers. As they explore further an immense beetle rumbles out of the further chamber!

It is so large that both Cauleigh and Jotunn can leap atop and chop through its carapace. As it struggles sideways to fit through a doorway, they slay it.

Little of note is found in either chamber until Crompton presses a pressure plate, and locates a hidden door. It leads to a passage that curves down!

With no more Cateyes, they close the door and pull back out.

Resting and recovery brings Cauleigh and Kamerad back to fitness. Crompton hands the staff-mace over with due ceremony. Mizva is mightily pleased.

Meanwhile the early harvest is completed and under the truce, trading progresses between the camps and town. A few merchants from further afield east bring news and goods to trade.

But unlucky Fennec loses a prized possession

It’s still too early for the breastplate to be fitted but time presses and the seven-strong party returns to Level 5.

This time, they choose not to throw a Hidey-Hole down since it may be an empty area now.

The previously-icy lizard lair is empty and thawed, and some beer-money coin is found. So far so good. Sticking to that left face, they work down to the next side-entry, where the ape laired.

A mighty snake has made its nest among the usefully-warm dung the ape left and lunges forward. There is much ducking and diving! Unable to constrict a victim, it recoils back and sits in a good defensive position. Fennec makes the call to use OGA. Jotunn leaps high as Cauleigh blocks low. Not good enough! The snake smashes the already-weakened staff Fennec uses to protect himself as Cauleigh opens it up with a mighty gash, and Jotunn chops down into its barrel-size body.

Inside the snake’s crop is a healing potion, which is added to Fennec’s supply. Fennec would be ranting about his broken staff but strict noise discipline is being observed. He tucks the staff pieces into his new pack.

On Level 6 a voice is heard

Nothing has been through the further chambers, though the beetle carapace lies jammed in the doorway, eaten out to a hollow.

Crompton operates the secret door again, and they scout in. The passage curves, drops down a few steps, curves down some more, a few steps more… and is blocked by rockfall.

But, Ausecur realizes, not the kind of rockfall that is impenetrable. Quietly, a chain of rock-movers is formed, and rocks stacked around the chamber. Eventually (and for part of the time Fennec has rested so as to be able to cast WoW again) a Dwarf-size tunnel is made atop the fall.

They all squeeze through carefully, soon finding the down-passage gives onto a straight, well-cut shaft into a larger chamber, opening towards their left.

Jotunn swipes his hand across the grime on the floor. Beneath it the stone is good quality, a nice polished granite.

Not far ahead on the right face of the chamber are two strong stone doors. Another impressive stone door is across the chamber, and a fourth stands on the chamber’s right face. These last two have impressive vaulting and arching around them. Cauleigh studies these.

“Some religious significance” he mutters confidently. [Based on making L1 IQ SR]

Crompton meanwhile has caught the indistinct sound of a female voice from beyond the door at the far end of the chamber! [Just shy of L3 LK SR] He waves urgently, signalling ‘vampire’ and they retreat. Jotunn and the Sveltes smother their tracks so it is not obvious a party of Dwarves just explored, and a false rock-fall is carefully re-inserted at the low end.

As they pull back to the level’s main shaft a swarm of large beetles emerges from the dark trackway passages and attacks, their bites poison. Jotunn and Cauleigh shield the weaker members and they all pull out safely.

Much excitement in the Guild! Though it will be difficult to maneuver Righteous Filbard over the rocks, this is a genuine prospect for a surprise attack on Level 6.

And meanwhile, events in Fingold march on

The Guild is still busy with normal patrol and other duties though the Lefties, minus Soup, have part-cleared Level 4. And yes, they came back with another nice item. Two has a theory about the circular roof-carving the Dwarves found in Level 4. He also has thoughts of that side-quest he suggested to Fennec.

Speaking of that: Cauleigh places his genius plan in front of the wizards. Fennec thinks the arch-magi is too important and busy to use, but Two says “I like the way you think” and he and Bless will take it higher. Two also likes the idea of a huge cavern – it gives the heavy hitters a lot more combat options than they usually have.

Duchess Melissa has curbed her mettle and her ‘battalion’ has returned to normal city life. The western faction seems unwilling to re-prosecute the siege – though the presence of hippogriffs means the arch-magi is still having to churn out scrolls for ballistae. Chion’s regiment has been paid and is ready to march home.

As talk circulates of a dinner at the citadel, for the purpose of bringing the Duchess and the Captain together on a social basis, the Dwarves and Sveltes decide to keep scouting Level 5. Or clearing it, if that’s a likely thing.

Fennec agrees to go along, though he’s mainly there as the light-source. So back the seven go.

Back down to Level 5: clearing the outer mineworks

In the short time they have been absent the areas they have cleared have stayed clear. With growing confidence they advance, following the twin tracks, to a point where they can see the tracks disappear through twin shafts or tunnels. On the right face of the main shaft a shallow bay and stone door beckons. A little further along the main shaft on that same side, quite near the trackway-passages, a similar bay and door.

Crompton investigates and heaves the near door open. Beyond lies a large chamber, somewhat reminiscent of a forge but larger, where the remains of smelting pots, stands, ore-benches and the like are vaguely recognizable though crumbled to nearly nothing.

Among the rubble that was once a trying-furnace the Sveltes find some more coin.

Beyond a further solid door, another chamber. This may once have been an assay area. Ausecur scoops three lengths of jewel-rock, or raw gold, out of the remains of an ore-bench.

The second door off the main shaft is tried next. It leads to a long chamber. Though debris cloaks the floor, it is hard to say what purpose it served. On the left side, and therefore on the face that the main shaft extends down, two bays and doors stand. But time is pressing (these cautious explorations tick through WoW) and they begin pulling out.

As a last spiteful farewell, as Crompton checks just one last door, it falls outward and over on him! He is thoroughly depressed, but the others heave the mighty stone off him and drag him out for healing.

News and rumor chase one another in the city above! The Captain of Kimelas has been assassinated!

And the session ends.

I set the Level 5 monsters to be very direct, requiring a lot of damage. It gives advantage to those that can think their way round, which is usually the case.

There were a few options for recruiting help, once the players had canvassed it. All sorts of combinations might have been tried. They went with the stealth-mode choice. I turned over the Svelte stats to them, though vague about armor. Each player played his own character plus one Svelte. On the whole it didn’t work very well, we are not really used to handling multiple characters. I think the dungeon would have flowed better with me just playing Sveltes fleeing back and reporting dangers.

If you are wondering about the comms spell Two uses, it is his own Communication spell, though also an obvious nod to the ‘RPG gamer’ vibe of the heavy hitter adventurer group. Team-talk, enables chat between team members, LVL2, cost 6+2 per added member. 3 turns duration, higher levels extend time.

There’s a lot going on up in the bright summer sun of Fingold, but next session the lads are continuing to clear Level 5. Wish them luck!

Props

Level 5 comes from Dyson’s 2014 Dodecahedron, &Magazine’s Wizardawn generators provided the monsters, both op cit., and I used HeroQuest (the MB Games boardgame) chance cards to decide what was encountered while clearing.

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TI2.11: Factions and deceptions

The characters for this session

Fennec, L2 wizard

Cauleigh, L3 warrior

Jotunn, L5 warrior

Crompton, L2 rogue

We have found ways down!

As he clears the last few rope-ladder rungs, Crompton spots a light far below. The Dwarves – and Ausecur – haul the rope ladder up and stand ready for trouble but nothing eventuates, so they retreat from the passages and up the gully, to see what else is happening.

Far off to their left, in the depths of the great cavern, can be heard the sound of voices raised in larking about and japes. They bend their course that way.

The great cavern drops away rather than eases down. The lower area, partly supported by an immense column of natural rock, seems quite wet under far-away lights. At one point a ladder has been placed, though the scramble down is not too difficult for Dwarves with hands empty.

They can see the noise comes from the heavy hitters, who are obviously light-hearted. Sharp makes some kind of joke, Damper makes some kind of joke, Gnat jumps and kicks Damper in the head. All good fun. Nearby them, a pile of stones can just be made out.

As they begin choosing a course down, Princess flies up and soars in their direction, up, and descends majestically, using a cloak that permits flight. The effect is slightly marred when Crompton realizes he can see up her tunic.

In her slightly formal speech pattern, Princess invites them down. The great cavern is cleared and sealed! And to see what the Lefties have to report. They have been checking a water course letting out from the cavern.

They make their way down as directed and across the wet stone to the rear of the cavern. It seems the rocks have been piled up against a door to another cavern complex. Cauleigh turns from where he is helping Sharp and Damper:

“Is this the job for a captain of Fingold? How’s tricks lads?”

Cauleigh has numerous endeavours to relate

Cauleigh, ambling back from the Customhouse with 2,000gp in merchant-mark gems to share round from the fire-mage’s stronghold, is diverted out through the gate and around (cautiously, using the shatterzone as cover) to the gunne battery.

The master gunner is no diplomatist. He needs the gunnes re-positioned to menace the neighboring bastion, because the much smaller gunnes there still cover the road out of Fingold. But Chion’s regiment has got the crazy idea that they are being paid in gold now… and he would need gold to be released from the Quartermaster-General’s office to pay them.

Cauleigh uses his knowledge of Esgaroth flim-flammery to work out that the rank and file Dwarves are playing the master gunner. Once Cauleigh dislodges the file chiefs like Sayer from the distractions their rankers have created, the master gunner gets his workforce.

There’s a distraction while this goes on: a flight of hippogriffs flies over Fingold, out of the west. One rider dips low enough for Cauleigh to see they are well wrapped up.

Cauleigh stays with them until he is happy with progress and heads into Fingold and walks briskly up the main streets to the citadel. He’s recognised, admitted, but then cannot make contact with QMGLC Saundra – everyone is extremely busy rushing around trying to cope with new supply situations.

Eventually Cauleigh gains an interview with the QM Lieutenant-general, one of Saundra’s abacus-men. He listens carefully, appoints Cauleigh acting Captain, and sends him back out. [L5 LK SR, only reaches L2 so misses meeting someone useful]

Cauleigh rejoins the master gunner to begin negotiations. He seeks two able seconds to stand proud for House Kimelas and gets two powder-monkeys. It is late in the evening and torches flare where the bastion commander awaits talks.

The opposing faction is now commanded by the Captain of Kimelas. A proud veteran noble below middle years, barely civil to the Dwarf, does not offer his right name. Cauleigh agrees to a truce during which the fallen can be removed, and learns that the Captain is a widower with children.

He heads back, very tired, to the Guild and sleeps the sleep of the just after calling in to Level 2 and learning that four more new adventurers have died and the fleeburns will have to break up and combine with other groups.

His brain sparking with a master plan, Cauleigh seeks very earnestly for Duchess Melissa and/or QMGLC Saundra and after much searching and waiting is admitted to see Saundra. She is still hard at work and is vexed at her sister’s decision to camp outside the walls with her ‘battalion’ which consists of hundreds of militia rabble.

Delighted to be able to plague Melissa with a suitor, Saundra falls in with Cauleigh’s master plan and writes out what she calls a ‘bill of sale’ for the potential husband to admire. On repeating his plea for admirable seconds, Saundra provides him with two soldier-courtiers: Belloc, whom he already gets on well with; and R’stair, a very presentable man of similar age and rank. Belloc retails the glory of the Fingold Battalion’s advance and clearing the lines. Though he does admit, as many fell from friendly fire as from enemy resistance.

The Captain of Kimelas does – partly – admit that the western faction might be a problem but speaks grandiosely of having reserves he can draw on. Cauleigh contents himself [no better than L2 to L3 CHR in these discussions] with waving the lure: “look! Duchess!” in front of him and dealing with his prejudice about Melissa (the Captain remembers her as a plump, plain child). He hands over the ‘bill of sale’ and the Captain seems interested but commits nothing.

The siege therefore remains in stalemate, and we may guess that the master gunner may order the battery to fire, but Cauleigh now betakes himself to the Guild and makes his way below.

The grand tunnel is barred, not far from the now-normal entry from the healing station, by an impressive stone wall, with firing steps and a gateway. Workmen from the town are atop a rickety scaffold finishing up, while a few Dwarves from Chion’s regiment work on the gate. They direct Cauleigh to the tunnel that leads through to the great cavern. And so to the stone-piling.

The Lefties also have had much success

The Lefties emerge from further left and fill in whatever Princess has left unexplained. They have scouted down a stream on the left side of the great cavern, down a waterfall, along a stream across the Dwarves’ trail, down more waterfalls and into a deep area. It was Soup’s torchlight that Crompton spotted.

There is a lot of information to exchange and maps to compare, so it’s time to retreat for a cup of tea and more planning.

They check in with Mother Hobb again, hearing from a couple of the newbies there that the groups have reformed, except not too sure where the new guy, Max was it, is supposed to fit. They agree to look for him. Jotunn hands a wet pack of cat-meat over to Mother Hobb.

And so to a nearby room where they won’t be bothered by the comings and goings of the healing station, and where tea can be brewed.

Ausecur checks that nothing is about to start, takes his fourth of the ogre’s coin pouch, and leaves to update the other Sveltes on progress. He seems smugly confident that he can persuade the arch-magi to teach him spells. Fennec mutters darkly about finding his frozen bones somewhere in the near future, but mutters it to the Svelte’s retreating back for he is off.

Princess sets her cup down

With tea properly made, each party explains what they have found or achieved and Two sketches Level 4 quickly on translucent parchment, overlaying it on the Great Cavern. If he’s right, the stairs up that Jotunn found will link somewhere to the ‘possible Level 4’ marked beyond the grand tunnel, beyond the furthest point the Lefties threw up a barricade.

They discuss the stairs down and Jotunn explains to the admiring crowd his logic.

Then Panic and Bless explain the water-course down. “One direction leads to a dead end, but the other takes you out above a huge wet cavern, where zombies stand around.”

“So tentatively, we can say Level 5 is shallowly below Level 4,” Two comments.

“What did you find in Level 4?” Gnat wants to know. “Randoms? Any kind of Level boss?”

“There wasn’t much,” admits Jotunn, “we ambushed an ogre and minion, beheaded some zombies, that was it really, oh, and a cat.”

As Jotunn speaks, Crompton notices [L3 LK SR] that when he mentions the ogre, Princess puts her tea cup down quite sharply. She is normally very particular about how she holds her tea and would never just bang it down.

“What’s wrong?” he asks curiously

“The sound of that I do not like!” she exclaims.

After a few minutes’ further elucidation Two explains:

“Two ogres seems one too many. In her homeland, there are magical ogres. In fact in her country’s legends ogres are ruled by magical ogres.”

According to these same legends magical ogres could look like anyone.

“Who’s seen those Sveltes lately?” Fennec suddenly exclaims.

“Uh, minutes ago you waved goodbye to Ausecur.”

The conversation moves on. Once again the physical dimension of navigating an aged cleric down to Level 6 must be focused on. As far as clearing Level 4 goes, the other groups seem to think that the Dwarves can have first go as their right, or they can choose to let the new groups try, and support them. But the priority is to find a non-main-stair way down.

Merry dancing furniture of death come knocking

A commotion – “protect her! Fall back! On me!” – draws the groups out and down to the healing station. Mizva has a huge shiny shield at the upper entrance – the one up to Level 2 – and Whitey and Burnley are on his flanks in support.

A massive table lurches into view, and slams Mizva a huge swipe, sending him bowling back to the healing brew. The table appears to be fairly flexible for all its size, and squeezes itself in.

There is an eruption of noise behind them – what do you mean you lost your furniture animation wand?” “’ey, ees OK, I trap heem, will drop black drip from ‘e fingernails” – but regardless, the Dwarves press forward to aid the survivors. Behind the table they can see a large powerful chair waiting to join the fray!

Fennec holds back far enough to hear Two and Bless agreeing what they will try, and checks his own choice. “Yes, stick with the Glue-You, good choice,” Two agrees.

The front-rank Dwarves find themselves well outmatched by the table but as more forces take their place and hold it, Cauleigh leaps atop it and chops it apart. The chair, slowed by Fennec, is dealt with by Crompton who reads out a plant-control scroll; but a second chair joins it. Cauleigh attempts to topple that one but is flicked off into the next room along.

Ogre mage!

From that vantage he sees the young ex-militia wizard Max peering into the same room. About to wave him over Cauleigh spies black spots dripped below him.

He rushes, intent on tripping the gangling wizard.

“Hohoho, I don’t think so my friend,” Max chuckles and swells rapidly, drawing a short rod: which becomes an enormous spiked mace. A massive foot strikes Cauleigh solidly on his breastplate and he catapults over a balustrade and up against the stone wall, apparently dead. [Cauleigh is kicked aside with 90 STR, and has 34 CON, so I feel OK allowing him to sacrifice his breastplate to remain alive but stunned.]

Bless levels her staff across the debris and fires the next Dispel at the ogre mage. “Keep debuffing, at the worst he’ll have to counter it” Two urges Fennec, “I’ve just used my last buff, we are ready now. Damper! Push!”

As he planned to do even without Two’s advice, Fennec throws his last Glue You at the ogre mage. The furniture is being reduced to kindling, and Mizva has been put back on his feet by Mother Hobb. Sitting back in the pocket with the other wizards Fennec gets a good view of the fighting styles. The heavy hitter warriors fight in orthodox fashion around Damper’s defence, and they can afford to. The Lefties are even more so, though left-handed.

As Mizva barges the line once more the groups rush the ogre mage. Jotunn has gotten behind him and is stopping a retreat! Then Cauleigh – minus his mangled breastplate – launches himself off the balustrade and tangles the huge ogre up. Blades rise and fall and the ogre mage dies messily.

Reduced

The dead ogre mage’s cache is found among the quarters – now tombs – of the other adventurers. In most cases, they have been killed quietly while asleep. A few seem to have awoken to be chopped apart by the ogre mage’s huge spiked mace or squashed by enchanted furniture.

Finding that the ogre mage has most of their fire-mage treasure on his person (along with the note from the arch-magi explaining them), the Dwarves begin reclaiming it. But Gnat, ever with her eye on the drops, wonders if it’s necessarily theirs. As an expedient, they hand over the fire mage’s deluxe staff. After all, they might have trouble selling it.

Pragmatically the adventurers all split the treasure of the dead fellow-adventurers, before contacting the authorities to have the bodies removed.

This changes the options for the drive to Level 6. Up until now, they have planned that low-level parties can guard their backs. Now they are back to four, counting the depleted survivors group.

They retire to restore wounds and mana.

[About 12 hours with healing and WIZ recovery, though it’s not just passive resting. Re-equipment such as purchasing armor is undertaken as well. I ask for a decision on who Filbard’s bearers will be, if anyone. They elect to use the official bearers, therefore are limited to being able to buy/borrow hauberks off Chion’s regiment.]

[Loot shares: all meal tokens are donated to Mother Hobb to buy better food/drink ingredients; various non-magical equipment* is bundled into the spare equipment room; everyone gets 300gp; each group gets 1 holy water vial.

To be sold/traded: 2 eye agates worth maybe 30-50gp each; *a hand crossbow which is too nifty to just lie idle; red target shield with amber unicorn design: shield absorbs 10 dmg for only 1 STR, but DEX requirement is normal. The Lefties are willing to surrender 3 minor items (eg potions, scrolls) for the shield.]

Scouting level 5

Lacking either Righteous Filbard or Duchess Melissa to pursue diplomacy, there is little to be done now save seek the best way down. The Dwarves are once again chosen for their ability to scout in limited light. They take plenty of rope, a billhook, and hauberks purchased from Chion’s regiment. They also have on loan the ‘fight for me’ zombie-command wand, and a potion for plant control.

The watery path down is as described by the Lefties and their map, so after not much more than ten minutes’ quiet descent from the great cavern, the Dwarves are ready to make the last drop down to a ledge overlooking the ‘big wet zombie cavern’. Jotunn rams a dagger into a rock crack and whips rope around it, then they cautiously lower themselves the last steep descent. Cauleigh ensures the billhook he insisted on bringing is lowered to him as well.

Fennec’s second WoW lights the ledge and the first few zombies below. Perhaps because it is above their eyeline or perhaps because it is faint, the zombies do not react to the light. The few they can see are shin- to knee-deep in water. They are not stationary, but nor are they patrolling in any order.

Immediately below their feet, double valves – one part open – let into the ledge from the big wet. Something more organised and structured lies beyond – perhaps a mine shaft. Whatever it is, they can carefully lower themselves into the opening, and avoid the zombies completely.

And so they begin, but the session ends before they can find out what lies beyond.

The three players not involved in Cauleigh’s flashbacking were very patient, but I did interleave chunks of the adventure so it was not (as it reads here) all Cauleigh. Then on to the set-up for the great deception. These are very hard to do even-handedly and without rigging the stage one way or another. I was reasonably successful. I felt that I worked the Princess tea-cup clue in OK.

I should state for the record that it was purely through Crompton’s player naming the rolled-up newbie ‘Max’ that I came up with the idea of using something like the canonical Max the magic ogre as the real level boss. Was he there trying to assassinate someone? Yes, but didn’t realize ‘Lady Melissa’ is Fingold’s ruler. Then by chance he is introduced to the Guild as a newbie. Hmm, this looks bad – these people have found their way down past Level 3! Have to intervene! That’s how my mind worked. The final coincidence is that the randomizer I used to generate an ogre mage produced the same wand for him that one of the Lefties has. So Max stole it and can produce up to four furniture items active at a time.

The animated furniture was lethal! I suspect whoever came up with it was thinking of it as purely a ‘normal human’ type of device, the attributes and dice leverage off its wielder. Although I intended to be GM neutral, I found myself actively preventing the Dwarves from dying. I’ve noted Cauleigh’s encounter with boot above, but Crompton planned to (a) tank up with Jotunn and later (b) sneak around the highly aware ogre mage. I managed to stop both those. Not as cool, but then, not so dead. I also allowed Fennec to not be included in the damage dished out by the furniture, by allowing him to choose to stay back.

Props

This all involved far more prep than I usually commit, but I simplified by pillaging the old D&D boardgame (produced here by Parker) for random floor layout, and drawing the normal fighting pattern of each group on card circles so the players could simply lay out one circle for each group.

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