SB1.04: A first canvass of Commandery

The characters for this session: 

Thomas, cleric of Cuthbert 

Edgar, wizard 

Barky, southron 

Belmont, paladin of Hieroneous 

With their NPC allies: 

Oswald, fighter 

Vert, cute green dog 

Our four heroes plus Oswald have just given their word to Edensor, caravan captain, that they will hunt Hands down and take revenge. They now watch the departure of the slavers across Trowbridge ford, capture the horse that dragged the Hextor ritter, loot the still-attached body, and gather around Edensor.

Edensor shows them an empty cache where the caravan’s trade gems were stolen from, writes his promise of reward and hands over 200gp seed money, and bids them good hunting. Waittes hands over a sealed note that they are to present to his business colleague in the Commandery; he says it’s part thanks, part introduction to his partner Lia. Then, Trowbridge locals help feed the survivors and a full sleep is taken.

During the final leg to the commandery next day, the five pass the gem fields Bertran mentioned to Edgar, and speak to a gem-buyer’s guard of Gnome House, one of the three trader houses. They confirm that they are on the right trail – Hands was headed directly for the Commandery. And we pick up the action at the Commandery’s east gate.

 

Threads in play:

  1. Pursue Hands, seek revenge
  2. Send Celric’s money back to his kin
  3. Determine how cool Celric’s bracers are
  4. Present selves to appropriate contacts in Commandery

 

The helpful gate guard gives directions

Five adventurers, still sworn on Cuthbert to avenge the deaths suffered by the bullock train, arrive at the mighty walled town, Commandery. Belmont the paladin of Hieroneous leads a horse; the others walk. One carries a small green dog.

To the guard’s questions they explain that for convenience this horse is loaded with spare gear and the looted weapons and armour of the Hextor ritter the horse once belonged to.

(Horse – light warhorse, Hextor furniture; Sword; Horseman’s axe; Dagger; Saddlebags with food, kitroll for horsefodder and tarp)

 

All swear to obey the town rules which of course are reasonable and lawful – follow the orders of the Orders, declare obedience to the town gods, and pitch in to defend if need be.

This small ceremony immediately shows that this is no great entrepot with thronging crowds at each gate. One traveller may stand out!

The guard seems knowledgeable and helpful, and provides the locations of five inns.

  • Reasonable Ogre, near Osprey Gate
  • Cheering Flame, on Rich Hill
  • Laughing Cavalier, down by the Catacomb Gate plaza
  • Staggering Unicorn, east town
  • Grog Hall, near the docks.

 

The Father Superior also has advice

From inside the city, the ‘tower’ or Commandery of Hieroneous proper, is more visible. It lies on the west, separated from the walled town by a collapsible bridge. Most of the town is level, though the northern heights, or Rich Hill, stands proud.

Fr-superior Spearhavok, of Cuthbert’s church, appears even while the five are describing events and getting the city layout. He leads them to the Laughing Cavalier.

Its proprietor, Palfrey, is an ex-warrior of Hieroneous who lost his leg in a shipboard battle. His wait staff are rescued slaves from the raid and younger children from the same live as part of his extended family.

Thomas now provides Spearhavok with the full story. Spearhavok’s thought is that a follower of Nerull will cause suspicious deaths and that therefore Wee Jas’ temple should be among our thoughts. He also advises Edgar and Thomas, who spent most time with Hands, to go directly to the Osprey Gate and leave the description with clerics Nuku or Meda there, so that he can’t slip out to the docks from that gate.

 

Belmont to the tower rides

While the others shed armour and heavy weapons, get the lay of the land and how the inns support each other, learn about Palfrey’s history rescuing the slaves, and finish beer, Belmont rides across west to the Tower Bridge and speaks to sergeant Huxley of the fighting order and Snr Albert of the clerical order. Like Spearhavok, Huxley thinks Belmont is best staying with the others. The horse can be stabled at the Tower. So back Belmont walks.

By the time he arrives back the other four are ready to move out. Barky is finishing talking to Mina, a Southron by origin but born here, while they watch Vert chew a meaty bone. The others are done with unpacking and drinking. Edgar has one or two calls to try at the Central Square before they all go on to the Osprey Gate.

 

Advice, memory fail, and due warning given

It’s time to move funds. Edgar transfers 25gp from the ‘party bank’ purse Belmont is carrying, to Celric’s purse that he is carrying himself. Now, he can send Celric’s relatives the full purse. That’s one of the things he hopes to do at the square, and the other is to speak to the Wee Jas clerics.

With time an issue Thomas urges a division of labour, with he Belmont and Oswald going straight to the gate.

“We’ll meet at the Reasonable Ogre then” – Edgar

Sadly, Thomas’ memory proves hazy [nat 1] and neither of the other two can recall Hands’ features any better. Thomas sends Oswald to find the other two.

Meanwhile, Barky and Edgar have admired the humble buildings about the square, failed to see a trading house or courier, visited the Stern Lady’s temple where Snr Aegard listens and advises (much advice, one key piece being that Hands will need to kill every so often), and prayed and donated at Pelor’s house. They idle on up to the Reasonable Ogre, but never make it inside, because Oswald is there already.

Nuku and Meda – to Edgar’s disappointment – don’t have a high-level clerical spell that imprints a miscreant’s likeness on a document. Instead, Meda listens to Edgar’s description [perfectly adequate] and assures them all generally that such a one has not gone through to seek a boat. And given he is a cultist of Nerull, boat-owners and ship’s masters will be warned!

 

The ground is laid, possibly with pitfalls

Following that, there’s still a little time left in the evening. Not enough to stand a round of drinks at the Reasonable Ogre, unfortunately! Edgar calls at Gnome House, one of the three trading houses they’ve been told about by a number of people so far, and makes an appointment for the morrow (not just for delivering Celric’s belongings – they are gem merchants and Hands has stolen gems to cash). Then, as it’s directly on the lane back to the Laughing Cavalier, knocks at the ‘pothecary, and hands Waittes’ note of hand to Lia, his business partner. Lia’s a half-elf, blonde, violet-eyed, unmoved by cute green dogs. And so to the inn.

Palfrey has by this time had word from the gate guards: one lone man afoot did enter at the right time of morning. Edgar asks him about gossipy bards, who may be able to spread news, or may have news. Palfrey recommends they travel to the Staggering Unicorn, where the host, at least, is just that sort.

A well-earned rest (and foot-bath) later it’s time to head up to the Staggering Unicorn, to hear some gossip. At least, for Edgar and Barky and Oswald. Palfrey implies it’s not the sort of place a Cuthbert-Hieroneous duo would be a hit with. 3gp are withdrawn for the investment in gossip.

 

Olidammara’s bistro

This is a temple of Olidammara, doubling as a convivial pub with a bardic trio. [Olidammara is on the ‘tolerated’ list of Realm gods, a practical arrangement illustrated by this temple/pub.] The patrons are a mix of tradespeople and seafarers, and the wait-staff are young women. There’s a game of chance, too. The host is a larger-than-life type. The three youngsters decide to split efforts and share a kind of ‘the horror! the horror!’ gossip about Hands, in order to generate gossip. [poor convince rolls all round] At length the host summons them back to a separate table, plies them with corn-mash liquor, and learns more details. [Edgar makes a nat 20 on converse and 21 on concentration, to deal with the liquor’s effect] He recommends they try the other three inns. He’s also of the opinion that if one of the three trading houses was to do an illegal deal it would be the Western, which lost a few ships and is only just surviving.

 

By this time the night is deep and Belmont and Thomas are preparing for bed. Then Palfrey summons them – the game is afoot!

 

Threads in play:

  1. The main thread at present, pursuit of Hands, has several sub-threads. Bearing in mind that any one source may turn out to be false and treacherous, here is a shortlist:
    – Officialdom is being geared up, so that Hands can’t easily slip out
    – Gossipdom is being inflamed, so that a hue and cry will easily arise when Hands murders, and so that murder or gem-cashing can’t easily be concealed
    – Routes for gem cashing are to be probed, not just the three trading houses but other avenues sniffed out
    – Wee Jas is alert for suspicious death patterns
    – The other main temples are being alerted; they will need to be reminded that Hands may use misdirection/conceal alignment
    – The innkeeper circle is being alerted, but each inn needs to be approached separately.
  2. Complete Waittes’ transaction with Lia
  3. Send Celric’s money back to his kin
  4. Determine how cool Celric’s bracers are
  5. Present selves to appropriate agencies
    – Belmont and Thomas have completed this, but there is still Edgar (Boccob) and Edgar again (Bertran’s thoughts of quests) and possibly Barky (sword for hire missions)

NPC summary list – in town

Father Superior Spearhavok, of Cuthbert

Palfrey, innkeeper at Laughing Cavalier, and his staff

Senior Aegard, of Wee Jas

Senior Albert and militant sergeant Huxley, of Hieroneous

Brother Nuku and Sister Meda of Osprey Gate (Cuthbert again?)

Lia, ‘pothecary

 

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The Broken Land: into strange waters

Chapter seven of The Broken Lands continues…

A DCC/Mythic solo play (with other emulators as required)

Chaos is 5

Episode 3: Shipment

It’s all fun and games until someone loses a kobold

The first leg under the eye of Gorgun is confusing – also nearly deadly!

At first there’s no particular sign that Gorgun cares about the rogues one way or another. Then they complete the winding road down and reach the inner realm of the uruks, and things slowly get creepy.

 

The first main chamber, a branching one, is guarded by tough-looking uruks. When Gorgun barks at them as though demanding something the rogues assume it’s just normal. They clear the way, in surly fashion. Beyond, a broad tunnel stretches into the distance; there’s a suggestion of guard alcoves nearby. Half a dozen kobolds are loitering on the left branch. Perhaps a show of cooperation? Slowly the donkeys are led through.

The ‘uruk side’ kobolds fall in alongside, then begin jostling and tripping, targeting Borer in particular. It’s playground stuff, except the guards are armed. Rightly or wrongly Borer decides this is about a show of strength: he can either hit back, or forever be known as “kobold bitch.” Binye has taken some of the jostling as well and is just as ready! Elyn is good at reading people and is ready and willing to support her comrades. Borer uses his bulk to ‘prison-shove’ the nearest kobold and weapons are drawn!

Initiatives: rogues, kobolds, goblin guards, Zudi

Round 1: Binye clubs the nearest kobold dead on the spot, then readies Blood Spear; Borer rams Red-sash’s shortsword through another and leaps back to draw Harken; Elyn backstabs a third, then eases back away from danger.

These kobolds are undeterred by losing half their number: the three remaining yell war-cries (or maybe for help) then dart in, cutting Binye on the brow (crit, but min damage) and Borer (max damage, twice).

Round 2: A uruk guard captain emerges, drawing a fine broadsword: the uruks in the first chamber begin making their way along the caravan towards the strife. Gorgun physically blocks the captain and uses his presence to stall him. At the other end of the disturbance Zudi begins praising the uruk guard and admiring their equipment… they are at least temporarily distracted…

As Binye swipes blood out of his eyes, Borer chops a kobold in half. The other two kobolds miss their chance and Binye stabs his attacker, killing him.

Round 3: The remaining kobold is allowed to flee… Gorgun seems to have convinced the captain ‘nothing to see here’ and the other uruks arrive to be told to get back on guard duty.

As no-one else in the caravan joins in, the incident goes no further. Without explaining or rebuking Gorgun heads on, along a winding path. He doesn’t seem too sure of which way to go, but the faint sound of a river leads them down to the water and a boat dock.

How all this happens

My first task here is to frame how the adventure, or module, interacts with the ensemble here. There are a lot of rolls! – which I won’t bore you with – but I identify two major elements. One, I will reveal if it becomes relevant. The other is that Gorgun is neutral to this immediate piece of uruk territory – he’s going to drop the kobold message off but is actually working on behalf of the White Urukin, or perhaps his immediate boss Gariag, and has decided to use the caravan, or rogues, to further their ambitions or schemes. So the best course for me is to treat Gorgun as one of the party, though a very powerful member. Random chance will rule him as it does the others!

With that knowledge, the fracas begins with the simple question:

Mythic: Is Gorgun allowed through the complex automatically? (50-50) No.

LOC: So what happens? Punish attention

LOC: More please: Joyfully fresh.

Trying to identify what’s going on, a few questions later I turn to LOC again: Offensively amusing.

Then some more questions later, the kobold guard is identified as the practical jokers. 

Borer makes a PRS check, and the kobolds don’t, so I give him right of action. He provokes them right back, at which the violence erupts. 

New NPC faction: Ignorick’s guards

Black Gorgun joins ‘party’ list

Chaos rises to 6

 

The unexpected ambitions of the goblins

The goblin merchants seem taken aback. Yes, Gorgun has just pressed valuable gems into their hands. Yes, they could now head back…

“A merchant seeks profit in all things,” quotes Beareen, or so Zudi translates. “We visit Embercrag, buy low… bring those goods here, and take profit.”

Gorgun shrugs. “Donkeys?”

The goblins seem indifferent. “I’ll head ’em back ta Joetown, happen I c’n sell ’em thar. How’s ’bout you Zudi?”

“Mmmh… no. I’ll stay on.”

“Aw ‘zat so? Say then, mebbe I’ll see y’all round.”

It’s strange saying goodbye to the burly ogress. They’ll miss her tough humour, red hair and well-timed whip. They’ve done a lot of miles together!

The three goblin guards, Noregz, Scab and Zab, are having their own little conference. They show no sign of leaving and none of the seven goblin traders seem to think it’s time to pay them off.

Gorgun seems set on moving on.

“So, when do the boats leave?”

“Boat? You want to travel by boat? Huh – up to you… I can’t breathe water so I’m walking.”

Without further ado Gorgun swings away and walks up the opposite side of the boat dock, into a new set of tunnels.

How this all happens

The module actually provides for it, but it’s nice to report that random direction picking also brought the party down to the water. This is a fully underground river, not connected to Ironwood gorge as I understand it, but leading back via pockets of airless space to deeper uruk realms. The goblins could ride the boats, but when checking ‘who we’re saying goodbye to’ I get a ‘No!’ for goblins, and only a ‘Yes!’ for Cy. The scene has a ‘struggle expectations’ and ‘kill new ideas’ attached to it, so I do the best I can with rogues struggling to grasp what’s going on and how come the goods are being shipped but the goblins stick to Plan A, go to the Broken Land and trade.

Cy is removed from ‘party’ list and joins the ‘friends in Joetown’ list.

New NPC: boat crew

Chaos falls to 5, again this all suits the rogues’ plan

 

Episode 4: The undiplomat

What treasure is this?

The route back weaves back and forth as it ascends. Aside from knowing they are weaving ‘right’ of the dock (facing the river) the rogues lose all sense of direction. Or as Borer puts it:

“My keen Dwarf senses tell me we’re going back up a ways.”

Then as luck would have it, the straggling line of entrepreneurs, guards, spies and diplomat gets too close to three uruks squabbling over a gewgaw.

“Who ya lookin’ at, shithead?”

The bellow comes from a good 70′ distance but the challenge is unmistakable. Gorgun strides past the goblins: he rumbles some menacing blacktongue then swings back to the rogues:

“Show them our power! Reveal your wizardry!”

Borer blinks, then Harken is drawn, to glow (considering the soft, phosphorescent-lit darkness around them) brightly. If it’s supposed to persuade the uruks to back off, it fails! They are now walking rapidly towards the party, readying scimitars!

Elyn presses herself into what she hopes are shadows, but merely succeeds in picking herself out against the softly-glowing rock wall. Binye readies Blood Spear and the goblin guards reluctantly ready their long knives – bows aren’t going to be much use now. Gorgun’s huge shoulders roll with muscle as he slowly lifts his battleaxe and points it at the oncoming uruks.

“Last chance, fools!”

Initiatives: rogues, Gorgun, uruks, Zudi, goblin guards

They don’t take the hint, but charge the last two dozen yards. Borer smoothly sidesteps and swings Harken flat under the oncoming scimitar, chopping the uruk in half! Binye stabs the uruk heading for him, though barely breaking through the sturdy reinforced armour; Elyn sees one is distracted by Gorgun and stabs him with her short sword. Gorgun chops both wounded uruks down with brutal but efficient strokes. He snorts:

“Weak! You deserve death.”

“Mighty one! You are our leader!” Noregz fanboys.

“Yeah, we’re working for the big guy now!” Scab and Zab agree.

The gewgaw the squabble was about is a small dagger, kind of cool. But as they decide who should use it, there’s a shout from off to the left! Zudi pockets the blade.

How this happens

This is pretty much programmed into the module, passers-by get challenged. I make a chaos check to see if the encounter proceeds as written, it does. Elyn makes her LCK check, the range is (roughly in line with the module) about 75′. Then using CRGE (to conflict) I check who’s ‘in’ aside from the rogues:

Gorgun: no, and… will try to settle the dispute

Goblin guards: Yes (Surge+2)*

Zudi: Yes (Surge+4)

Gorgun makes an excellent PRS check. To see what he is doing I turn to

LOC: Propose magic.

Borer shows off Harken, but fails a PRS check.

Mythic: Do the uruks attack? (Likely) Yes.

They are at 50′ by that time, so I ask:

Mythic: Will Elyn and guards use missiles? No. Elyn fails her hide check.

*Cascades to Carry leadership, Desert possessions. They swap bosses and don’t care they might not get back-pay.

Note on loot: The dagger originates with a prisoner, and is +1

Chaos rises to 6

 

The stone bridge

Off to the left, the tunnel opens to a chasm and the roar of a waterfall can be heard. But over that noise the angry challenge comes loud and clear!

The rogues can only vaguely pick out the challengers in the gloom. Figures take on an unhallowed glow, part-lit from river foam, part from braziers. But Gorgun and Zudi can see four crossbow-armed uruks, approaching at the double. Gorgun scowls.

“They dare – pah! Their necks too shall bow. You – you – hide ready with blades. And you, wench” – here, he seizes Elyn’s arm and pulls her towards him – “since you do not know how to hide, stand here and look helpless!”

Elyn feels dreadfully exposed, since if the crossbows are loosed she’s the only real target. Gorgun next raises his voice and calls back in the rough accent of the slain uruks, remaining part-hidden:

“Yer! Lookit we got – ‘sa wench! Get some!”

The crossbows are lowered and with lustful yelps the four uruks come hurrying on – and the ambush is sprung!

Surprise round: disappointing for the ambushers. Elyn’s gut-stab works well enough but she doesn’t put her uruk down, and Gorgun’s solid blow does not finish his choice. Binye and Borer leap out but are evaded; Zudi’s lusty swing connects only with an unexpected corner of rock and the tip of her staff cracks! And as for the three goblin, only Zab’s shot penetrates armour.

Initiatives: Gorgun, Zudi, Gorgun again, uruk guards, rogues, goblin guards

Round 1: Gorgun finishes his chosen target, then spins into a huge backswing, his axe sending the uruk flying, nearly in two pieces! Zudi draws the newly-looted dagger, and stabs Elyn’s target in the throat: the uruk falls to his knees choking on blood. The remaining uruk is still focused on Binye: it gets past Blood Spear and lunges at him, and only Binye’s chainmail saves him. Binye switches grip on Blood Spear and impales the uruk through: with a horrid cry it dies. Borer picks himself up from where he has fallen, and knocks the worst of the dirt off his clothing.

Loot: Four crossbows, four scimitars, a number of copper and silver coins.

“Well, I wonder what they were guarding?”

 

Gorgun makes his point

About fifty paces later, the party, and its tail of goblin traders, finds out: crossbows snap from the far side of a stone arch over the waterfall, and rattle around them. The range is considerable, and most of the party are still screened by rock shoulder. Who can say what may have happened if the distant guards had waited for them to get closer?

The three goblin guards scurry forward to stand around their new leader and let fly at extreme range. There’s an angry and pained shout. The rogues guesstimate crossbow angle (they’ve all used a heavier version not that long ago) and Binye’s mail once again saves him from injury. They let drive and again, angry shouts suggest they are on target, or close. Zudi is acting as shield-bearer, holding Borer’s old bronze-faced shield up.

With a bellow Gorgun runs full pace across the arch, expertly avoiding its smooth sides.

Round 2: Resounding cheers come from Noregz Scab and Zab, and they wave bows in the air in triumph – as though Gorgun has already won the battle!

“Aw hell, lookit, we better git our asses over thar, else th’ big guy’s gonna blame us if aught happens” reasons Binye and races across too, followed by Elyn, and at slower speed by Borer with Zudi still shielding him. Even at best pace, the lead two aren’t going to catch up to Gorgun, but they can now see the far end of the bridge clearly. Another shoulder of rock partly encloses a guard station, but the four uruks there are all out in the open now, drawing scimitars.

Gorgun arrives among them like a thunderbolt, smashing down onto the sword-arm of the nearest and lopping it off. The other three throw their scimitars down and surrender!

Gorgun glowers at them, kicks the bleeding-out uruk over the chasm into the falls and says:

“Start walking back up – or jump!”

The three survivors look at one another and begin the slog back across the bridge, passing the puzzled goblin traders on their way back.

With the party gathered – and more crossbows and coins distributed – the decision must be made which way to go.

“I must deliver the message to Ignorick… I think there’s a way back round…” begins Gorgun, and then black dwarves attack.

How all this happens

Again this is all pretty much straight module. The first guards are supposed to react when the three squabblers fight, then the far bridge guards are supposed to react when their mates get attacked.

Random chance decides things like Gorgun being ‘in’ still and deciding to ambush, and the goblin guards shouting and cheering in the final attack.

Chaos rises to 7

The reactive attacks of the module have drawn the party further and further from Ignorick’s halls. Will the message be delivered? Will Gorgun just end up killing everyone while shouting “I’m trying to be diplomatic here!” Stay tuned!

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The Broken Land Chapter Seven: night trails to Embercrag

Welcome back! During the course of the last chapter, our three surviving Ironbridge rogues Binye Borer and Elyn brilliantly succeeded – thanks to random chaos – in sending word to their taskmasters, the Templars, as to the Briar Keep situation.

Now the second and third stages of their task begin: 

  • A Uruk lord holds sway over illkin in the broken lands – where is his HQ; and
  • Is this so-called White Uruk the Uruk lord?

What’s known about the White Uruk?

Readers of the To Ikkutas! blog entries will know that this enigmatic illkin leader has quite the history in the Vale. Back when Sasha Orc-Slayer was just ‘Sasha, that girl who likes hanging around adventurers and will come to a bad end mark my words’ he had a run-in with her lover. No-one knows exactly what happened but Sasha’s lover died, the urukin got his white hide armour, and Sasha escaped with the urukin’s fancy falchion. She sold it to fund her thirst for vengeance, and it eventually ended up with Ponderblade who sold it to Cauleigh. That’s by the bye, although it’s worth knowing that the urukin will go to war to get the blade back! Years later a group of meddling dwarves turfed the white urukin out of his project to organise goblins not far south of Esgaroth into a considerable gang. He left for points west, mounted on his war-pig. After a couple of months Rothway had become mildly concerned about organised illkin forces operating south of the river. A couple of months later while Sir Cully Lucas was organising a punitive expedition, rumours of a White Uruk operating in the badlands south of Dolem’s Spire began circulating. By the time the Restorers rescued women from under Atharva Plateau the White Uruk had become synonymous with a large scale illkin hegemony under a Uruk Lord.

Readers who have an insane grasp on timelines will know that the three rogues are operating contemporaneously with the Restorers and have pushed past ‘season 3’. My own admittedly loose timeline looks like this:

Red Moon (the last full moon of high summer): Restorers slip out of Ironbridge, rogues guild purged and the 11 caught shipped up to Dunn.

2 weeks later: Restorers return to Ironbridge, Tadiko escorts Abbie away from Aurelon’s Keep, 3 other rogues begin wagon journey to Scarlet Heroes.

2 weeks after that: Present day. Full moon over Briar Keep. 

Character and NPC lists

Binye: L3 thief, 20hp, background animal trainer, +1 with club, STR14 STA14 AGI12 INT17 LCK16 PRS09. Currently down 3 LCK.

Borer: L3 dwarf, 21hp, background mason, +1 v corruption, STR13 STA14 AGI11 INT08 LCK14 PRS09.

Elyn: L3 thief, 13hp, background herbalist, STR10 STA09 AGI10 INT12 LCK13 PRS11.

The goblin traders (all female except where noted) Xagz the loquacious veteran, Beareen the even-handed banker, Gbus the friendly fletcher, Tarkar the awkward smith, Xmugz the timid seamstress, Xmab the arrogant male tailor and Kamz the aloof male herbalist.

The goblin night-guard: Noregz, Scab and Zab.

The red-haired ogress teamster Cy

The remarkably good-natured uruk cook, healer and teamster Zudi

Kobolds who occupy Ironwood Gorge outside Briar Keep

Lars the ex-Beadle

Red Sash gang survivors

Briar Keep’s margrave

Briar Keep’s sheriff

Briar Keep traders

Pantro, in Joseph’s Inlet

Templars

(That’s 1d12 of NPCs, if/when I need to roll which NPC is in the scene!)

 

Solo play resources

Aside from the emulators Mythic and CRGE, I use Location Crafter (LOC) for extra detail and UNE to drive NPCs. In terms of settings, while this chapter still uses elements of Dyson’s Dodecahedron 2014 and 2015, key elements are drawn from Usherwood Publishing’s BHS01-03 (all by James Kramer I believe). I did a lot of shopping around to find material that adequately conveys the ‘badlands under illkin hegemony’ flavour of the Broken Land, and I’m hoping BHS01-03 will do the job for the rest of the way. As usual, I’m converting to DCC wherever I can, including scaling down monetary values by a factor of 10. And as you’ll see in this session, everything is informed by pre-existing Vale events, geography and personalities.

 

Episode 1: The donkey raiders

For sale: used wagon

“I don’t really care as long as I can sleep in the back.” That’s Elyn’s judgement, and who can blame her after a very long danger-filled day. Apparently the next leg really won’t be suited to wagons and drays, so the kobolds have encouraged the goblin trading company to sell off the wagon and horses in Briar Keep. Cy explains:

“They’s sayin’ somethin’ ’bout fetchin’ mules, but anyhow, my job’s ta skin the wagon along, see what price we c’n git fer it, an’ you four’s gonna guard my ass whilst I’m a-sellin’.”

“I reckon I’m gonna git me some shut-eye too ‘less them road agent fools’re gonna try a holdup,” decides Binye, and like Elyn he rolls up in the wagon-bed.

“Sommun’s gotta watch, an’ I guess that’s me then,” Borer grumps. He makes sure their own weapons are stowed along with them!

Elyn and Binye are right: Briar Keep is quiet that morning, and if the sheriff’s men see a big empty wagon rolling across the bridge from their keep, they don’t come out to see who’s in it.

Across the bridge Cy finds the first likely buyer and begins negotiating. Borer grabs shuteye as well, and Zudi dozes under her mantle on the seat.

Binye catches up 1LCK and Elyn recovers 1 much-needed hp.

At length, the deal is struck. Cy and Zudi help the rogues gather their larger equipment and they all walk leisurely back.

“Howdja get on Cy, I wuzn’t payin’ no mind?” Borer asks politely.

“Aw, reckon I got me a dealer was plannin’ on high-tailin’ it north, he paid over th’ odds. Seemed real pleased ta hear th’ trail ta Joetown ain’t so bad.”

“Waal swell, say, how’s about a tip fer our service then”

“Ya mean, all thet hard snorin’ y’all did?”

“Waal sure, reckon ain’t nothin’ says, ‘safe trails ta Joetown’ like a passel o’ snorin’ guards!”

“Haw haw! OK, this hyar don’t need ta git ‘counted fer.”

 

A welcome break

Pocketing the silver Cy hands out they all arrive back at camp in a good frame of mind. Most of the kobolds and some goblins are gone. Beareen is tallying goods, Tarkar has her portable forge going, and Xmugz is mending. There’s evidence Kamz is working on herbs. In the deeper shade, Xmab is idling.

While no-one exactly explains, it’s pretty clear there’s no urgency. Beareen waves her assent to Binye’s half-hearted suggestion a guard be posted. Elyn sets a poultice to speed up her cut’s healing. They all end up taking advantage of the soft moss at the shade line, and getting another full sleep.

Binye catches up another LCK and Elyn recovers 2 more hp. 

 

The reason for the absence of armed men in Briar Keep

Perhaps a league north, on the east side of the river, a camp of mounted men is laagered in. Mounted armed men approach from the Keep.

Halloos are exchanged and the arrivals permitted to approach, empty hands out. From the military-style tent amidst the camp strides a bald and fussy, over-dressed templar, flanked by a young dwarf with well-trimmed beard and a mighty warrior with full helm.

A parley of sorts ensues. It takes plenty of time, during which Briar Keep is not as well-defended as it ought to be in these troublous times.

 

The reason for the absence of armed goblins and kobolds

The last night of the last harvest moon is well spent by the time the rogues, now rested enough to feel on edge, hear the approach of mounts and people. The goblins don’t seem too scared, so it’s no surprise when in strut the missing kobolds and goblins. And a string of donkeys.

“Load fast!” Beareen proclaims, “into kobold lands before sunup!”

Everyone bar a screen of kobolds and the three goblin guards sets to, tying on loads of merchandise, grain, food, tools and necessaries. Binye the ex-animal trainer is the most useful of the three. But with nearly 20 pairs of hands, and some of those hands very big and strong, the job is done and the donkeys are led, unhappy, into the gorge and south.

Elyn passes on the odd bits of information Zudi has picked up.

“They stole them donkeys off one of the town traders. Also, sounds like blood was shed. Also, sounds like the kobolds’re getting shut of us fast as they can.”

The two other groan, under their breaths though. The ante has just risen dramatically. Will they be able to dodge a charge of horse-thieving?

 

How all this happens

These two scenes actually evolved in the opposite order, but that’s how the narrative makes sense. For a lot of the arc chaos checks are fine.

Framing the chapter: I use CRGE most of the way, mainly to avoid colouring events with my own thoughts about ‘how’ the BHS scenarios should go. We begin with the fact (last episode) that kobolds have turned up again, and aren’t hostile.

  1. Do the kobolds intend to trade directly with the goblins? Yes (Surge+2)
  2. Will the next leg require mules or donkeys? Yes but… none are available
  3. Do the kobolds intend to hand the traders on to orcs after that? Yes (Surge +2)
  4. Will the goblins be permitted to resupply in Briar Keep? Yes… and unexpectedly… scene shift:
    Mythic: focus NPC positive, d12=Templars, meaning ‘persecute competition’, cascades to ‘spy intrigues’.
  5. Has an expeditionary force arrived already? No but… it is close.
  6. Are the rogues aware of this? No (Surge+2)

Scene: Goblins gathering mules/donkeys:

Mythic: ‘Carry attention’, cascades to ‘kill the innocent’.

CRGE to knowledge:

  1. Are the kobolds doing the killing? Yes (Surge+4)
    Which trader faction? (d4) North.
  2. Does that mean crossing Briar Keep by road? No (+6)
  3. Are the goblins and kobolds raiding the trader direct? Yes (+8)
  4. Are they leaving the rogues? Yes (+10)
    LOC for remote scene raid: usurp death

Chaos drops to 6

Scene: horses and wagon for sale. Chaos check is fine. Meaning triumph dispute: trade goes really well.

Chaos drops to 5

 

Episode 2: Into the kobold tunnels

A reminder of past mortality

The gorge sides become sheer and the single trail in would present a hostile force with severe difficulties. The rogues sense watching sentries back in murder-holes as they pass under cliffs and walk right alongside the stream. Then, right in the stream! It proves shallow. Judging from the rock beside it, the stream swells during the year and might make the route impassable. Donkeys are sure-footed as long as they’re not hurried, and Cy and Zudi can both see well in the dim. At one point the stream pools and the donkeys get up to their withers, but the gear is all well-wrapped and there’s no real difficulty.

The rogues try to relax, but fail. This doesn’t feel like friendly territory, even though the goblins are all taking things easy. Their unease pays off when Elyn spots strands of spider-web:

“Ssst! Last time I saw that stuff we lost a couple of good men!”

There’s a rattle as kobolds present crossbows and another rattle as a few go astray: the rest hit a great black cave-spider. It crumples up, well away from anyone it could have stung.

How this happens:

Chaos check OK, event meaning negligence of ambush. BHS01 has so many encounters possible (1 in 5 every 3 turns!) that I just roll some. The first is a giant spider. Elyn makes her LCK check (she’s back to lowest LCK now Binye has recovered one) and I ask:

CRGE: Will Elyn cue the party? Yes (Surge+12)

Inits: Spider is a long way back, and the kobolds shoot it dead.

Chaos drop to 4

 

A sudden promotion, or is this a hijack?

Time acts strangely deep underground, as the rogues know. It could be only a half-hour since they first entered the tunnels, or it could be longer. Their donkey-train is intercepted by an important-looking uruk, flanked by four tough-looking kobold guards.

The mighty uruk extends a battleaxe as though it is a swagger-stick and bids the donkey-train halt. He seems to speak ogrish as well as his own tongue and common, so the rogues, well to the fore, catch parts of the proceedings while Cy, Zudi and the merchants are all speaking at various times.

It seems he’s a lieutenant of the White Uruk, and is heading back bearing word from kobold chief to uruk lord. The rogues prick up their ears!

There’s some fairly heated debate, but the sheer presence of this big uruk bears the kobolds and goblins down. It seems that there won’t be any need to trouble the kobold chief with these trade goods – the uruk lord will take them all!

Gesturing back in what could be a fond farewell, the kobolds retreat as the uruk boss heads the train around. The rogues have the impression they’re doubling back. Then the uruk leads them up through properly-fitted doors into dry land, then through well-cut passages, then through winding caverns surrounded by murder-holes, then more passages and finally to a sturdy door guarded by more uruks. They salute, and the donkey-train passes into uruk territory, on its way to Embercrag!

How this happens:

The second encounter is an orc diplomat, headed back bringing a message from the kobold chief. Using UNE I discover he is much stronger, has a neutral position, the conversation is hostile. Bearing and focus are death/power! This sequence cascades to ‘oppress travel’ and cascades again to ‘arrive ambush’.

So I’m pretty sure this uruk is either the same boss Cauleigh fought one-on-one, or his 2-i-c. It’s the 2-i-c.

CRGE to conflict:

Is the orc going to ambush the traders? No and… [here, I roll a meaning since nothing leaps to mind: ‘postpone legal’]

Is the orc going to take over? Yes (Surge+2)

Does this move them to pre-programmed encounters? [which would imply the kobolds fight the uruk] No and… [cascades] ‘agree expectations’.

Does Zudi hear about goblins seeking the Bone Hilt Sword? No and… is not interested in entangling the party!

CRGE to endings:

Are they ushered through kobold territory to orc territory? Yes (Surge+2)

Does this include Embercrag? Yes (+4)

Chaos rises to 5.

NPCs dropped: All Briar Keep NPCs, and Pantro

New NPC: ‘Black Gorgun, killer of widows, killer of orphans, mangler of Ogres’

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SB1.03: Midge Hill and Trowbridge ford: the plotter unmasked!

The characters for this session: 

Thomas, cleric of Cuthbert 

Edgar, wizard 

Barky, southron 

Belmont, paladin of Hieroneous 

With their NPC allies and friends: 

Oswald, fighter 

Vert, cute green dog 

Snarvil, kobold 

Waittes, ‘pothecary 

Bertran, bard 

 

Threads in play: 

  1. Get to the Commandery 
  2. Send Snarvil on his way before we reach the actual walls 
  3. Send Celric’s money back to his kin 
  4. Solve Celric’s murder 
  5. Recover the transferable deeds and gems Celric owned 
  6. Pay back Bertran’s potion, probably in kind 
  7. Pay off Bertran’s passage, if any 
  8. Find expensive herbs for Mr Waittes to help offset potion cost 
  9. Let memories of why there is a better road under the current surface bubble up 
  10. Determine how cool Celric’s bracers are 

As we last left them our friends are asleep barring Belmont, whose watch this is. He sees something…

Predawn peril!

Belmont wakes Barky and points – over yonder at the tree line is a rider – on a wolf! It looks as though McLeish is aware of the danger and is trying to decide whether to get his crossbowmen to try a shot.

Barky keeps low and works his way towards the stream that lies between the bullock-lines and the trees. [good stealth checks, twice in a row] But he’s in two minds, because if he crosses the stream, he’ll be bound to make noise. Behind him Belmont also wakes Edgar and Thomas, then Oswald, and in the same manner, points out the problem.

As if reading his mind, Belmont ostentatiously walks to the farthest-out wagon and undoes his fly, hoping to draw the rider’s attention. Edgar keeps much closer to cover, and fishes around in his components, trying to estimate distances.

Belmont manages to carry off his act with aplomb! And the warg-rider takes the bait, and charges!

[In the following sequence, Barky and the rider get the same init, but Barky has higher DEX. The GM allows Barky to split move, to react as the rider moves.] 

As the warg bounds over the stream, Barky races to intercept and manages a deep cut to its flank as it gets clear of him. Then he spins and runs after it, rage burning in his veins!

Belmont is in grave danger for a moment but his sturdy scale armour saves him – fortunate that he was on guard to start with – and the melee is joined as he drags his sword clear, Barky catches up, and Thomas races in with mace – ineffectually.

From beyond, Edgar drops a wisp of wool and calls ‘Daze’ but with no effect, and the others hold. Oswald carries his halberd to the fight, but has no success.

Barky catches up to the melee, nicking the warg: the warg throws down its rider and attempts to escape, and Barky severs its spine with a massive blow!

“Take him prisoner!” – Edgar

Thomas ensures the goblin rider can’t escape by smashing its skull.

The warg bleeds out as Barky begins recovering. Endosor strides out to assess the situation and the crossbowmen nervously gaze out at the woods surrounding them.

“Roll him over” – Endosor

The rider’s armour is good quality and the warg saddle is also good.

“Hextor work. Happen maybe that kobold of yours was telling the truth” – Endosor

 

Farewell to bait (that’s us)

The next morning, an early libation, the bullock-train heads for Midge Hill before anyone has time to tell the wayfarers to act as scouts. As a result they have chances to chat and ask questions.

Over the course of the day, the sapient suspicion of Thomas falls on Hands the bullockee. There are two reasons for this. First, he’s linked to the non-appearance of young Hoppy, big, blond, dim, who had been expected on the train. Second, he also won mocking fame as the one who was out by the stream having a crap when the warg rider incident occurred.

Hands’ story is not without chinks and when Thomas shares this with Edgar the wizard asks the cleric to help him question Hands with the benefit of a spell.

As the bullock train approaches Midge Hill Snarvil says his farewells and slips away:

“Goodbye, bait” – Snarvil

Otherwise, the adventurers gather some pointers as to what employment could be on offer around the Commandery. For example there’s a gem-field, and a swamp full of lizardmen, and a hill-range of ogres, and a fortress full of slavers guarding their pirate fleet. Later, Bertran describes an elaborate tale, almost a myth, of the creation of two rival artefacts like gauntlets: one white, one dark. It all sounds really high level, or really far-flung. Belmont gets more useful-sounding information on his own order at the Commandery, from Edensor. There is a role for ‘friars’ in the hierarchy run by Porteous, senior of the order.

The rumour of slavers possibly trailing the bullock-train has swelled, and all crews are keenly hoping to reach the other side of the Trowbridge ford, where they will be in Commandery territory.

 

The missed poison affair, part one

At Midge Hill the chance to question Hands under hypnosis comes late in the evening, but before the gates close. Over a “friendly pint” Hands describes Hoppy having fallen in with a saturnine, crop-bearded rider with broad shoulders and fine gear and horse.

 

The night is interrupted – at very nearly the exact same time as the previous – by the sight of a dark figure among the bullock-lines where no guard on regular patrol should be. But when Barky investigates, he finds no-one.

 

Morning brings the answer: Waittes has missed a potion of deadly poison. It’s enough to seriously slow even several spans of bullocks, if their fodder were to be dosed.

 

Which is exactly what has happened.

 

The missed poison affair, part two

The dosed bullocks aren’t limited to any one wagon, but the worst affected is the lead wagon. The question of switching some out and abandoning at least one wagon is raised – by the southron – but it’s too drastic a step. Edensor opts for simply driving on without a stop.

Just in case someone is evilly gloating, Belmont painstakingly walks and detects evil, up and down the entire length. And Barky coopts Edgar in to look for a recently-shaven saturnine man.

 

Despite the train’s fears, or perhaps because the rearguard is strengthened, no attack comes before Trowbridge ford. By this time evening is spreading its mantle. The broad river, at least 100′ across, looks forbidding.

“Clearly where danger lies. What say – Belmont! – we make our way over, and give cover?” – Edgar

 

The plotter and the pursuers

The adventurers decide to form part of the van, and wade safely – Edgar carrying Vert as well as crossbow and staff. Then they turn and make ready. All have range weapons. Edensor and McLeish join them, and the point riders rein in beside them. The first wagon crosses.

The outriders from the second wagon make their way across. Watching one rider encouraging his horse over to safety, Edgar realises he’s not an outrider:

“Hands! So – it was you all along!” – Edgar

“A libation for Nerull!” – Hands

The wizard’s crossbow bolt and at least one other missile strike grinning Hands as he lashes his mount to a gallop. He may have armour concealed under his bullockee garb – in any case he shrugs off the missiles and is away.

Since none of Edensor, McLeish or two outriders with them give chase, that’s the end of that. They watch anxiously, then in alarm, as the first Hextor riders show in the distance!

It’s an easy race for the riders, warg riders and goblin foot to win. The two wagons on the far side of the ford cannot possibly cross before the crews are caught. Indeed as the vanguard watches, they can see wargs trip and throw down luckless men. From behind, they hear the sound of Trowbridge firmly closing its gates!

Belmont adds his voice to McLeish’s call to rally. More men join the bank defence.

 

The thrown-under slavers

Waittes has decided to try his luck pushing across with pack aback. A splint-mail-armoured ritter splashes into the ford and overtakes him: another follows, a short way back. Belmont lands an arrow on the near rider but it barely makes an impact on the heavy armour.

“Hurry Waittes!” – Edgar

“Dodge!” – Thomas

“Duck!” – Barky

But the rider easily hooks a gauntlet through Waittes’ cumbersome gear and he’s dragged up off his feet. Thomas tries a shot, which luckily misses both. Edgar drifts a small handful of sand into the flow and calls for horse and rider to ‘Sleep!’ [7HD. Great start!] The horse falls under the water, then rears awake – by which time the rider has lost his seat and is being dragged! The far rider is also in trouble.

“Run Waittes! Run!” – Edgar

Waittes splashes closer, out of range of the second ritter, who’s busy recovering his seat. Then Bertran, who has been hiding at water’s edge under a bush, decides to try his luck. But a wave of goblins gives chase!

“Run for your life Bertran!”

The adventurers attempt a couple of shots, but the dim and the range are against them. On the far side mounted commanders can be guessed at: and the guessed-at presence of heavy crossbowmen is confirmed as they approach to the river and one tries a shot.

Barky’s next shot finds its mark: a goblin falls. The ritter has regained control of his horse as Bertran gains mid-stream, goblins close behind. Thomas calls Cuthbert’s blessing. Edgar once more drifts sand and calls on the whole group behind Bertran to ‘Sleep’. Four goblins fall!

“And there’s more where that came from!” – Edgar, bluffing

In the breathing space, Bertran labours his way over and the drenched ritter and goblins decide to pull back. Edgar brandishes his staff! – then bends down and recovers his crossbow and starts reloading it.

 

Half safe is a kind of a victory  – and resolution follows

The caravan has, in effect, lost half its strength. The slavers fade back into the dark with their coffles of slaves. Edensor asks Thomas to swear vengeance by Cuthbert, and extends that to ask Belmont to serve Hieroneous in the same cause. They do, and the others – Barky, Oswald and Edgar – fall in with the plan, more or less willing. Edensor promises 200 gold to kickstart this enterprise!

 

And as the GM invites them to think about what level 2 might look like, the session ends.

 

Threads closed: 

(2) Send Snarvil on his way before we reach the actual walls: Done, and by leaving us as ‘bait’ he rises to undreamed-of kobold glory. 

(4) Solve Celric’s murder – Sure, I mean, we did work out whodunnit as he rode off gloating 

(5) Recover the transferable deeds and gems Celric owned: Finished as unsuccessful unless we happen to defeat Hands in future 

(9) Let memories of why there is a better road under the current surface bubble up: This land was once part of the old empire and they built in stone. 

 

New Thread: Pursue Hands, seek revenge.  

New NPC: Hands, servant of Nerull

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The Broken Land: Briar Keep – wait, the kobolds are allies?

Chapter six of The Broken Land concludes!

A DCC/Mythic solo play (with other emulators as required)

Fresh from gutting a ruined temple and flushed from the unexpected success of both looting and sending an arcane message, Elyn, Binye, Borer and Zudi follow their local – and unexpectedly competent – guide Lars Stone back through the faction-torn streets of Briar Keep.

Chaos is 7

Episode Three: Unexpected departures

The old chum gets a taste

“Not so fast Lars me old chum, where’s ya takin’ them outsiders? Hey?”

Lars groans under his breath and forces a smile:

“Hey, Darby, great… to see you.. and the lads. Look, we don’t want trouble…”

“We’re just traders, going about setting up in town,” Binye cuts in menacingly. The longsword now buckled to his waist and the swag-sack of loot on his back don’t look particularly trader-like, but it’s still dark. Maybe this small gang of four cutthroats will think twice. They are dressed to impress with flashy silks and furs.

“Traders? Just wot I like ta heer,” Darby Red-sash leers. “Ya knows abaht th’ toll, then, surely me old chum’s tole ya. And wot’s this? Wimmin’? Cor yer luck’s in ladies, Darby’s got a great big present under ‘is sash for yer.”

One of the three Darby has with him snickers, and adds, “Reckon ya bin messin’ with them Temple gang huh Lars?”

Lars shuffles and mutters something about checking it.

“They ain’t up ter much,” Darby boasts, “but if ya done me a favour an’ knocked a few orf, I’ll go easy on ya, maybe make do wiv just one poke.”

Elyn stirs, and glances at Zudi, who looks back at her, in a “who me?” kind of way. Elyn attempts to look cowed and shuffles closer to Darby, then stabs him.

But he’s not caught out by the move, and the blade doesn’t finish the job! In response Darby whips his own short sword up and only Elyn’s adopted leather armour saves her – she reels back, bleeding slightly.

Elyn’s two comrades are half-expecting something and steel screeches as it clears scabbard. As Lars stands uncertain, Binye rams his longsword through one thug’s chest and Borer attempts to end the fight by hacking at Darby. The street boss sways back and the bastard sword doesn’t fully connect. Zudi tries a jab using her staff, but the thug is onto the danger and steps clear. The two thugs left on their feet stand by their leader, but their clubs are slow and the rogues easily evade them.

Lars seems to make a decision: and as Binye spins and back-hands his blade into Darby, Lars smashes his ex-boss in the head! The two remaining thugs flee.

“Let’s move fast, I don’t s’pose that’s the only capo around.” Elyn comments, wrapping a clean pad of cloth over the cut.

“He’s the big boss of the whole goldarn slum!” Lars exclaims. “Why, you-all dealt ta him like, like…”

“He brung a sword ta a sword fight, ‘s’all I c’n say complee-ment’ry ’bout him,” is Borer’s verdict.

“Nice balance, too,” Binye decides, quickly wrapping it with its owner’s red sash and tucking it away. Two belt-pouches follow. “Guess them other two’s still borin’ a hole in th’ horizon,” he chuckles.

“Yeah… ’bout that… ya know, I might jest stay on here, or anyways, this’n’s good a place as any ta say our farewells,” Lars decides. He’s pretty sure he knows where Darby kept his trove.

“Right, guess so. Say, ya bin a buddy, Lars, happen we’ll getcha a discount once th’ traders set up the wagon.”

Lars shakes Binye’s extended hand, nods to the others, and fades off. The other four turn their attention to leaving quietly using the half-light of pre-dawn to navigate back to the camp.

How this happened

Scene alteration, ‘introduce a new NPC’

Mythic: Is it one of Lars’ contacts? (50-50) Yes.

UNE: Similar level or stronger, mood guarded, insane bearing, focus on last scene.

Mythic: Does he want to take over? (Somewhat Likely) Yes.

Mythic: Does he want to rob the party? (50-50) Yes.

LOC: What does Lars make of all this? ‘Happiness of power’

Mythic: Is Lars sticking to the party? (50-50) Yes and cascades to ‘adversity of power’

Mythic: Has this new guy brought reinforcements? (Likely) Yes

LOC: Descriptions: Ferociously magnificent.

One of the sources I’m using for Briar Keep, BHS03, has a red-sash gang led by an appropriate level thief. I port that in as Darby Red-sash and d4+1 gang members. Only Darby has the hp to really stand up to three level 3 thieves. Binye does have to burn 3 LCK during the fight. I randomise whether the enemy thieves burn any. I also check on whether Lars steps up in round 1 using LOC and get ‘refuse success’ so he stays out for a round, which is understandable. Elyn takes an 8-point wound, nasty given her meagre hp.

Finally in a new scene I get another alteration, NPC positive. 

Mythic: Is it Lars? (50-50) Yes

I roll ‘care possessions’ so Lars bids the party farewell and heads  off to loot Darby’s stash.

During these scenes, chaos rises to 8 and falls again to 7.

 

Really, guides

Weary from an all-night mission and some nasty scrapes, the four straggle back into camp, grumpily acknowledging the guards then reluctantly taking buckets down to begin filling for the breakfast and horses. Runban’s grave is not far downstream.

There’s a commotion in camp, though not in a warlike sense. By the time they straggle back with water the camp is half-packed with kobolds!

Beareen is spokesperson, it seems, and her lack of forcefulness comes over. It seems that the kobolds bear no special grudge for the death of their raid leader… or at least, that’s how Zudi interprets for Elyn and Cy.

On the bright side none of the goblins had time to take inventory of the night’s takings, so Binye and Borer stow the gems and gold coins away privately.

Plans change! Instead of trading into Briar Keep, the wagon is going to be led directly into the wilds – into the Broken Land!

Chaos drops to 6, since this is exactly what the rogues need.

AP: It’s been hard to track, but they are halfway through the 80 points needed to get to Level 4. Binye is currently 3 LCK down as he has not had a chance to sleep and Elyn is still carrying an 8-point wound. 

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The Broken Land: Briar Keep – message sent!

Chapter six of The Broken Land continues!

A DCC/Mythic solo play (with other emulators as required)

Chaos is 7

The ‘scout party’ sent in by the goblin merchants consists of our usual suspects Elyn (usually spokesperson, prefers throat-slitting and distance shots) Binye (prefers sticking Blood Spear in, but isn’t carrying it) and Borer (prefers chopping them ‘cross th’ guts wi’ Harken, but isn’t carrying it) and teamster/cook/healer Zudi the uruk (fighting capability unknown). So far they have disastrously lost their guide Dan the halfling but have collected someone who appears at face value to be a better guide to Briar Keep, Lars Stone the ex-beadle. 

Lars’ information is that he used to work at the temple of the Father, and knows a secret entrance. Lead on!

In the scenes that follow, I’ve generated a 27-room temple using Wizardawn’s area builder for D&D 1981 edition, then using DCC to re-stat the encounters and again, divide loot by 10. While it isn’t magically perfect the randomly generated dungeon gives me exactly what I’m looking for, for this leg. I’m using a roll of 1 on a d12 to determine randoms. To avoid endless green ink explanations, I have omitted all the detail of how the party chooses to do stuff – just remember, it’s all based on Mythic. 

Episode Two: The factions exposed

A plan, or rudiments of one

The entrance to the temple of the Father is disguised as a drain, but just outside it, so the rogues and Zudi take advantage of the night following Lars who confidently leads the way around the contours of Briar Keep’s wider settlement. They have just enough in the way of candles and torches to feel they can manage what lies ahead.

Lars bends down to a solid iron grate and after some fumbling causes it to tilt back easily. “An escape route, that even older brothers can manage, ” he grunts.

Binye reassesses Lars. At first glance he’s a tired and impoverished minor temple functionary, forced to join a standover gang to survive. But muscle ripples under those rags. He can probably be lethal with that iron-shod club. Good to bear in mind!

They clamber down, feeling the damp quite distinctly now they’re out of the cool dryness of Briar Keep’s harvest-season night. “Quite low fu’ther ‘long,” Lars breathes. “Ya’ll find a slope up oncet we’re b’yond th’ entrance.”

“Le’s jest take a second to strategise,” Binye suggests, “and mebbe prep light and p’izin and such like.”

“Yeah, what could the templars do here, apart from burn smoke and bleed suckers of cash?” Elyn wants to know.

“They had a sacristy, pretty big, with a big jewel and a servitor of steel, that allows a talkin’, at the very least, to Dolem’s Spire.”

“What? Say again?”

Lars explains again: “I did hear some talk th’ servitor is some kinda legacy of some bull-cult or other, but either way there ’tis, bigger’n life. It sorta holds up a jewel an’ th’ brothers can speak simple messages. Th’ high priest, now, he c’d do more but I ain’t never seen it.”

“Holy bullpuckies! Sound jest like whut we need!”

“Why, what’re we gonna say?”

“Waal, we got th’ gen’l idea ’bout Briar Keep hya, thet’s whut. Sorta Keep at War kinda headline, that about fair ta say Lars?”

“Yep, guess so. Margrave in th’ tower at war wi’ th’ crooked shuriff in th’ keep an’ both’ll kill any soul get in thar way.”

“OK, we report thet. An’ don’t let no-one git in our way.”

“Take it slow’n easy,” Elyn cautions, “if we can work alongside folks, that’s what we sh’d do.”

 

The residents ain’t friendly!

The entry is quite wet, but their boots haven’t dried off, so no harm done. Lars eases open the puddle-lapped panel to the back of a store cupboard and the other four follow him into a simple store room, with a few spoiled provisions remaining. Fungi grow richly on the ceiling. Luckily none sound an alarm, dose the rogues with hallucinogens or other funny japes. Zudi shivers as she joins them: Joetown is a lot warmer and drier than where she’s been in the past two hours.

Lars extends a torch, revealing up-sloping passage curving away left and right, ramp-style.

“Which way?” Binye asks. He can see a panel on the left ramp wall that looks like it might let into a chamber.

Lars is hesitant. “Maybe right?” Binye looks darkly at him but lights a torch and hands it back to Elyn. He eases the grip on his club and winds his travel cloak about his left arm, as a makeshift shield.

To the right, they ascend to a dogleg right: there’s another panel just before that. Further down there’s a door left and a door at the end of the dogleg.

Lars seems uncertain, and allows Binye to take the lead. Spine prickling Binye advances and bends low. Is that light beneath the first door? He motions the others forward and takes position.

As Binye flings the door wide the man on the bed reacts quickly, smoothly grabbing his bastard sword and reaching for a good bronze-faced shield – but he’s a little slow, and Elyn’s flung knife catches him in the throat! Binye lunges forward and brings his club down on the dying man’s skull, to make sure he doesn’t yell.

“Nice!” Borer gloats, arranging bastard sword and shield. “I wuz feelin nekkid without Harken!”

Elyn collects a bottle of ink, and a small mirror, and admires a silver bracelet before adopting it. Binye tucks away a coin pouch.

“So, he ain’t a templar, am I right?”

“Waal, no, he’s some bandit or brigand or mercenary. Like I said, th’ temple’s been put outta business.”

“OK then. Guess if they’s all sleepin’ this ain’t gonna be too tricky.”

 

The night patrol is a dire wolf!

The group re-forms and with torches flaring makes its way up to the end of the slope, where the passage or ramp terminates in a door.

Immediately facing them, once that door is open, is another door. To the left, the chamber opens out. A broad passage, and a small arch, suggest that other connecting areas are in easy earshot!

As quietly as they can, the six intruders move into the open space and gaze around. It’s pretty clear that some type of ritual is performed here. Alchemic symbols and runes suggest this could be a means of communicating. Partly by mime and part by whisper, they check this idea with Lars. He agrees. But something is missing. For one thing there’s no bull statue.

After a glance at the further passage and arch, Binye sneaks back to the facing door. Beyond, the ramp appears to slope up and around. A faint smell of smoke and animal musk comes to them, as a large wolf-like creature races down the slope to the attack!

Elyn snaps a throw-knife into it and leaps back to let Borer get swinging room. Zudi attempts to keep the dire wolf at bay with her staff tip, but the big beast lunges past that. As it fastens its teeth on Borer’s cloak-wrapped arm Lars brings his club down on its skull. Then using his raw strength Borer stabs the bastard sword up into its heart!

 

The patient search

Borer is unhurt. Curious as to what the big beast was guarding, they stalk up the slope and into a chamber that seems to be designed to carry incense away up a flue. There’s a door left, and a broken shelf with a bag on it. With due caution the bag is investigated. It’s a leather knapsack, so worth stealing, and holds 8 shiny gold pieces as well as 3 silvers and 4 coppers.

Binye signals a return. This wing doesn’t feel like an area you would store sacred temple equipment. Back at the arcane chamber, he heads over to that arch. Elyn taps walls gently as she follows. Lars stays near Binye, Zudi stays at the rear.

The arch leads to a robing chamber, with another arch left and a bay right, currently being used to store a barrel of water. The left arch lets into an access passage with another arch directly across from it; the passage stretches right. With nothing immediately of danger or interest Zudi and Elyn turn their attention to the barrel.

Above it, where temple robes were probably hung, dangles a pouch. Again using due caution it’s confiscated and proves to contain some 2 dozen coppers and a set of thieves tools.

Meanwhile at the front of the party, Binye is satisfied that the right passage leads to an ablution block. There’s a passage left out of it, and a far passage right, which most likely loops back to the junction. A faint breeze from the left confirms that passage leads up to the ruinous exterior. He signals Borer and Lars: let’s head back.

Back to square one

The rogues re-draw the runes and attempt to activate them. But as Lars has suggested, there are a couple of key elements missing.

With a shrug – no-one was hurt or turned into a frog – Binye signals: let’s go all the way back.

There were a couple of options not taken back at the beginning: it’s time to check more carefully.

 

Another dire wolf!?

Back to the puddle they started at, and this time Binye heads up the shallow ramp, left if you are facing away from the entrance.

Beyond the panel at the top of the ramp, a room still shows signs of a struggle. There’s a nasty smell and the rotting head of something humanoid. The only thing worth taking is a pouch of silver powder, often used in ritual magic.

There’s only one door out, and when Binye eases it open he is driven back by the spring of another dire wolf!

Borer raises the bastard sword on high and brings it down two-handed on the wolf’s neck, and with a hideous howl it dies! But the noise has alerted men further away – the rogues can hear them scrambling up from cots or mattresses, and one of them sounds the alarm:

“Alarm! Someone’s fighting!”

 

The first key element

Borer’s blood is up and he bolts out through the doorway and charges right in amongst the still-disorganised bandits! He hits nothing but his sweeping sword is impressive and they are still disorganised when the others catch up, bringing light. Zudi, who can see perfectly well anyway, rams her staff into the back of one’s head, knocking him in a heap; Elyn stabs another from behind to deadly effect, and and Lars catches the shoulder of the third. He is focused on Borer, and lashes out with a club, but the dwarf parries it off with his cloak-shield. Then Binye, who has been lining the victim up, scrags his shirt with one hand and stabs him with a knife.

They catch breath, waiting to see if they need to flee… but it seems the alarm fell on deaf ears.

Borer and Elyn search the men’s quarters while the other three stand guard. Borer locates a floor panel, under which is a hefty metal statuette of a bull-man, standing upright. Lars looks excited, gives the thumbs-up. There are some words on the base that will need to be studied…

They filch the coins each bandit had as his own personal loot, ensure no-one is getting up to attack them, and sneak on.

Left of the three men’s quarters a short passage leads to another door. Binye heads that way. Beyond, there’s a surprisingly clean area. Elyn checks a work-bench, holds up a mortar and pestle with a few trace elements in it, and mutters:

“Potions, probably”

 

Last of the banditti

The ‘pharmacy’ has a door right and perhaps they have not been quiet enough. As they ready to check it, it bursts open and a bandit chief attacks! But once again Borer’s cloak-shield is enough to avoid a wound as a longsword slashes down, then the dwarf’s bastard sword cuts deep up into the chief’s vitals!

Binye robs the corpse of sword and damaged leather armour, and personal coin-pouch. The others search the room. Aside from having the best furnishings, it has a concealed panel with a hefty loot sack behind it! There are hundreds of coppers and dozens of silvers.

 

The second key element

Seeing that they are still unmolested the rogues grow confident. This may have been the last of the gang. With slightly less noise discipline, they head back to the pile of three corpses and left to the other unexplored passage. Two arches go right and left at the end of that passage. The left opens into what looks like a junk-store with unwieldy tarps piled in any old how. Leaving that in reserve they head right, to a room that looks at first glance like an antechamber or tiring-room, but is in the wrong area to be one. They spread out searching and Binye finds a very cunningly concealed wall-safe! It’s so well concealed, it’s exact panelling can’t be picked out from the wall panel. Elyn fishes the silver powder out and dusts it carefully around. Enough sticks that they can operate tools to ease the safe open enough… and disable a wire tripline.

“Yahoo! We’ve struck the jackpot!”

Clearly, the bandits did not know about this. A large amulet is the other missing element – and there are two very nice matching topaz, nearly 20 gold pieces, and quite a lot of copper and some silver.

 

The message is sent

Elyn initiates the minotaur activation phrase and this ancient relic of a forgotten cult grows to full size. It holds the amulet as the runes are activated. The arcane marks shift and become a kind of vortex, at the end of which can be glimpsed a clerical office.

With enough shouting Binye attracts the attention of a duty clerk, who summons a senior templar!

“Reckon this Briar Keep’s kinda feeble, there’s a heap a’ folk warrin’ with each other, but ain’t no real big power – or if’n thar is, it’s far off. Fella hyar says th’ shuriff’s in cahoots with robbers, but th’ margrave ain’t. We’s ’bout ta head fu’ther in, luck willin’.”

And the message being complete, the six head away with their booty, and Chaos after various twists and turns is 7 again.

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The Broken Land Chapter Six: Briar Keep

Chapter six of The Broken Land begins!

A DCC/Mythic solo play (with other emulators as required)

The surviving Ironbridge rogues: Binye Borer and Elyn, have finally reached the outskirts of Briar Keep. Just as they are about to begin posing as wandering traders, along with their new teamster/cook/healer Zudi the uruk, Borer realizes he has left the mithril-bladed broadsword back with the wagon. The others agree it’s worth the quick trip back, so they hasten back to the campsite – and realize that it’s about to be attacked!

Character lists: the rogues (below), two goblin factions (the majority with no clear leadership, the minority with Runban) the two teamsters Cy the ogress and Zudi the uruk. New danger thrown up by last scene: kobolds with wolves. Briar Keep factions currently unknown.

Threads open: guard the caravan into the Broken Land, scout Briar Keep, scout the Uruk Lord, get word back to the Templars to fulfil the quest, maybe get revenge on Runban?

Chaos is 8

The rogues as L3 DCC characters:

Binye: STR14 STA14 AGI12 INT17 LCK16 PRS09; +1Attck/Dmge with club. Currently on full 20hp

Borer: STR13 STA14 AGI11 INT08 LCK14 PRS09; +1 vs corruption. With heavy armour, treat as Dwarf class. Currently on full 21hp

Elyn: STR10 STA09 AGI10 INT12 LCK13 PRS11. Currently on full 13hp

Arriving in time for the victory lap

At first, as Borer gleefully votes for action and the other two rogues agree, they hear only small creatures in some number, then wolves howl!

“They’ll be after the horses! We have to hurry!” Zudi urges.

Zudi is less well-armed than the other three and stays behind them as Borer, Binye and Elyn, in rough formation, hasten back upstream and to the wagon, where Cy is trying to calm the five massive dray horses, and stand off any marauding wolf. Atop the wagon the goblin defenders are wielding bows to good effect: two wolf carcasses lie further out. It looks as though even Xmugz and Xmab have seized up bows. Tarkar the smith is trying to stanch bleeding on one fallen goblin.

Although I game this out, the rogues arrive in round 3 by which time the shortbows have pretty much won the battle.

Binye and Borer shout fiercely as they lunge forward and as another wolf falls the last pair turn tail and flee!

“Well that was a lot easier than I thought” Elyn gasps.

“You came back! Good timing!” Cy grins.

“There’s someone hurt? Who?” Zudi asks, unbundling her kit of healing herbs.

“Runban!”

 

Introducing an inexpert guide

As Zudi checks for signs of life Beareen the banker excitedly takes the rogues through the defence. Somewhere out there in the rapidly-dimming twilight a war-party of small two-legged creatures with crossbows let drive. It was that first volley that caught Runban and Gbus, though the latter is only wounded. The goblins gave as good as they got and the creatures fled. But half a dozen wolves raced in…

Borer confidently, and Binye less-confidently, head out to search for any fallen, and see what they were and loot them. A couple of minutes later a cry is heard from them:

“We got a live one!”

The still-staggered, still-surviving wagon defenders are merely grasping at the idea of Runban’s scheming forever stilled – and here is another shock! The wretched bound miscreant Borer drags in is a halfling!

“He wuz a’ready tied up mind,” Borer supplies, “so I guess it ain’t likely he fired off no crossbow with them hairy toes a’ his!”

“So what’s the damage?” Binye asks, looking hard at Elyn.

“We lost one, our chief employer Runban,” Elyn replies, staring equally hard at Binye.

“Waal say, now, thet’s jest too bad,” Borer drawls, setting the hobb upright.

“Yep, I’m plumb poison sad ta hear it,” Binye agrees, earning another hard look and frown. But Elyn confines herself to saying:

“We’re running out of evening. Let’s find out what this is – what’s your name, let’s start there?”

 

An inexpert guide to Briar Keep

The halfling’s name is Dan Springbird, and his story is strange. He has ties to an odd-sounding bunch in town, but unnamed troubles made him head out for his health. He claims to have headed for Joetown on his own, in order to get help for his folk in Briar Keep, and was promptly caught by kobolds. They roughed him up quite badly but for whatever reason – possibly fresh meat – kept him alive as they headed through the brush. Then for whatever reason they threw him down – “bound as you now see me gents, ladies,” and shot crossbows, then after a couple of them got hit in reply, they grabbed up their wounded and ran.

“OK, we got us a insider, are we calling off the scouting or what?” Binye wants to know.

Partly using Zudi as interpreter and partly on her own, Elyn has a quick round of negotiation with the seven surviving goblins. She’s frowning as she reports back.

“Untie Dan, he’s going to be our guide. But, we’re not carrying trade gear any more. The wisdom of old mother and others is, have a quiet sneak in with the expert guide talk to his people, report back.”

Later as the three, Zudi, and Dan file quietly along the stream, Elyn elucidates:

“As best I can tell, some are of the opinion we can’t be trusted to take gear, because we might cut and run. There are quite a few different opinions.”

“Dan, we got us a quiet moment here,” Borer checks the halfling, “how’s about ya really say what’s goin’ on in town?”

Dan’s story is that his people are a band of free men, making a precarious living taking ‘toll’ from evil traders and such like crossing the town bridge. There are a couple of factions that are too strong, but traders and lesser folk still pay. There is still a margrave, in the tower. So what’s a margrave? Some kind of boss. With armed men.

“We saw th’ tower. How about that fortress off south?”

“Naw, ain’t rightly sure who’s in charge thar. Town bank’s up thar. Traders gotta combine sorta thing, guess they all gotta share an’ pay fer guards.”

There’s a retired thread from a while back, ‘get rumours of Briar Keep’ but this is so vague it’s hard to justify re-opening the thread. 

A whole bunch of events and cascades and DCC generation give me Dan Springbird, but the most interesting are: he’s lying about his own ability, and pointing the rogues towards his own faction, at the bridge. And he suggests a river-bank approach, not by road.

Chaos drops to 7

To prepare for this chapter, I’ve layered three sources together, and identified eight factions, one of which is very general – ‘traders’ – and will need to be broken down geographically with a d4 for any detail.

Sudden exit of the inexpert guide

The progress of the five along the stream has by this time allowed them to reach a point where Dan warns them:

“Now, ya gotta take real good care. Th’ branch here gets rough an’ deep. Lose ya footin’ and ya be swep’ inta th’ gorge, right smart.”

“Gorge?”

“Aintcha seen how th’ trail is off away frum th’ river? This hyar’s on’y a stream feedin’ th’ main river, goes north through Ironwood Gorge. But we foller th’ river back up hyar, we git t’ th’ bridge. Lookit, ya c’n see it ‘ginst th’ moon. Then ya tells ’em how ya gonna he’p ’em an’ ol’ Dan’s back in business.”

“I think we skipped one or two explanations there,” Elyn begins then has to save her breath for not drowning, as she loses footing along the slick stone of the river edge. There’s a chain reaction: Elyn unbalances Zudi and Zudi slips against Dan –  Binye grabs Elyn – Borer grabs Binye – Elyn grabs Zudi – but with a brief and pathetic splash Dan is gone under the river surface – he’s just too short for any of them to catch!

Refl SV as they progress. I rule that no more than half the rogues+Zudi need to make it. Two do, two don’t. Dan gets a rotten roll.

Checking with Mythic on whether Dan can be helped I get a 00, No! That cascades to ‘move home.’

Just checking: Mythic: Has Dan drowned? (50-50) Yes.

Chaos rises back to 8!

The just deserter

“What now?”

It’s Binye who decides:

“It’s too dark to safely git back, and we’re practically at th’ bridge. Let’s push on to Dan’s base and hope no-one’s got a itchy trigger finger.”

Partly guided by Zudi’s night vision, the four grope along the last stage of the river to where a sturdy stone bridge spans it. Within close crossbow range, they are challenged!

Fixed encounter: Bridge faction

PRS check: Elyn makes it, but the bridge faction get a higher result.

This bridge gang is a bunch of petty criminals making a living, not as doughty resistance fighters, but simply road-agents levying a ‘toll’ on the weaker. As Dan’s explanation half suggested, traders and regular folks are their normal prey.

None of the rogues bother to explain how they knew about the approach. Instead they concentrate on the basics: we have very little cash, we have weapons and armour, it’s not worth your while to pick a fight when we could be allies.

As the night progresses Elyn strikes up a conversation with an oddly proud man, who seems a little out of place. Cautious at first, he opens up little by little…

She learns Lars Stone has but recently joined the gang, from the nearby slum. And before that, he was in service. To who? Why, the Temple of the Father. He used to be a Beadle, but the temple has been thrown down by enemies! He holds a pretty severe grudge against that faction…

“Is there a secret entrance to the temple, by any chance, Lars?”

“Yes!”

New character: Lars Stone.

This scene is generated by a scene shift ‘move towards a thread’ and the thread is ‘scout Briar Keep.’ Checking for information on the scene I get ‘take rumour’ and the rumour, rolling a d8 for which part of the town it’s about, is the bridge. 

Mythic: Is the rumour true? (50-50) Yes.

Then I move to the PRS check with the gang, because that much is true. Since both sides clear the PRS check:

LOC: Desert masses

Using a d7 (skipping the bridge) to find out where the deserter is from I get the slum nearby.

LOC: What do they want? Politely mighty; UNE: Discourse experience.

LOC: What experience? Lazily warm. 

Mythic: Is that a temple? (50-50) Yes.

Mythic: Is there a secret entrance? (50-50) Yes.

Then, UNE and DCC for Lars himself. UNE tells me Lars has a prejudice against the last story, which I read as holding a grudge around his previous occupation. He is of similar power to the rogues so I roll a d4-1 to find level and get Level 2. I’ve rolled his stats and they tend to suggest he’s a fighter, but we’ll see.

Chaos falls to 7

 

 

 

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