TI3.10: Fort Cullis, or “dang nearly got ’em!”


The characters for this session

Fennec, L2 Wizard (Combat magic)

Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (Townsman)

Jotunn, L5 Warrior (Hunter, Tracking talent)

Crompton, L2 Rogue (Runebearer, Roguery talent)

Our heroes have barely avoided a party split! Now the four take stock of options other than “let’s get going right now!” with cooling Gnoll and ape bodies spreading their bodily fluids across their fort-up room, making those curious and unpleasant noises that settling corpses do.

It’s a Dwarf’s right to change his mind!

There’s a fairly involved discussion lasting a full ten minutes as Jotunn suddenly has the nasty suspicious conceit that Cauleigh has the better of an imaginary horse-trade. Finally he accepts that the loan of his coif is temporary, settles Cauleigh’s helm on his own head, and discussion turns to which weapon he might use from behind the tower shield – effectively a Dwarf pavise – that the Gnoll leader bore. Fennec has – on loan – two of Crompton’s zapped throw-blades, and eventually – after a further ten minute debate – a second is on loan to Jotunn. Crompton has Jotunn’s bladed chain (yes, on loan) and Jotunn of course has his own vorpalled Axe.

“Right, let’s roll!” Cauleigh exclaims joyfully, pushing the door. [LK SR] It does not move.

“Let me by,” urges Jotunn, stepping around the heap of corpses and getting his shoulder set. The floor underneath is slick with bodily fluids. [LK SR] His boots get traction in the ash or grit that is all that remains of the Gnoll leader, and with a huge heave he forces the door and its two-corpse block.

Jotunn finishes pushing the door open and catches a suggestion of movement off right. As the four edge out (Cauleigh and Fennec VERY close to Jotunn) they catch a muted ‘thunk’ away in the distance. Maybe there’s a centipede-size clicking as well?

Following the hyena-men trail – into danger!

However, they reach the refectory door unmolested. Crompton checks it routinely and using the shield to good effect (and again with significant caution) they pull it open. Jotunn (Cauleigh and Fennec VERY close) advances while Crompton brings up the rear, uneasy.


Fennec’s torch is extinguished as something flung or projected from his left narrowly misses him. Cauleigh leaps back and left and collides chest to chest with something or someone smelly and strong. It dodges away but not before Caueligh’s kukri takes a good slice through it!

There’s some ineffectual blood-trail-following before Cauleigh (who is no ranger) loses the fresh splotches among many other bloody pools from earlier, then rejoins Jotunn who is directing Crompton to examine the far (southern) door.

“I think we looked beyond here, before…” Crompton muses. The door opens away from him.

“Hang on! Why are we heading deeper?” Fennec expostulates, realising which way the party is facing. “Weren’t we busy leaving?”

Fennec as far as I can gather is running with his original “I don’t mind getting out while those LF are working” and the other three are working on “avoid spending mana, investigate what we can, and keep the line of retreat open.”

Apparently not. Huffily he raises his now-burning torch high and watches Cauleigh kick the south door, which responds by moving a few inches. Jotunn leans his shield into it, and walks it open, revealing a left-right tunnel. There’s a suggestion of another tunnel opening, left and forward (that is, on the south wall of the tunnel); the door blocks sight to the right. Jotunn leans down, examines the stone floor, determines that most tracks lead left. As they swing out left, Crompton looks right, notes a door on that side.

“I thought our aim was to get out,” Fennec complains peevishly.

The others are still happy with their plan. As long as they have a clear run out, killing the things that would hunt them down in the open seems like a good plan. If they leave now it would be full night.

Fennec snorts irritably but speaks no more, allowing the warriors to investigate what proves to be an archway through to a very broad chamber or superior tunnel left and right. There’s a suggestion of ape-foot-shuffling in the dark off to the right. They move forward, Fennec close behind Cauleigh. Crompton uneasily bringing up the rear.

[IQ SR from Crompton and Fennec, Fennec makes L5]

Fennec is virtually certain that apes are off to the right. Beyond the arch, immediately off to the left, Jotunn feels that he can pick out the shapes of two Gnoll-size guards, though his view is not clear.

Sharp, discordant whistles come from far off. Crompton immediately sounds his pleasant natural G whistle, and no attack eventuates.

“Hey, why don’t we use that whistle to control the apes near us?” Fennec suggests. No-one takes him up on it. Instead Jotunn directs Crompton to bring up his long gun and monopod and try a shot at those guards!

The arquebus muzzle noses out of pavise cover then retracts.

“Hey – that’s not a clear shot – there’s another of those blasted portcullises in the way!”

Indeed the guards are a good 40’ back, and the portcullis offers them cover. As Crompton decides whether to insert the arquebus into the portcullis grid and use it as a rest, Fennec notices four apes approaching in a regular, non-ape-like fashion. They don’t seem aggressive so (with due caution) they are allowed to pass by and out the arch. Fennec, who has taken possession of the whistle, stands on tenterhooks until they are gone.


Along a winding tunnel into a sand-man lair

Lacking a wink-wing spell or mind control they can’t raise the portcullis so they turn, and head in the direction the apes came from. Some way down it narrows to become a regular-size tunnel, and that gives them the idea that the door Crompton previously spotted leads to the “viewing room” behind their last fort-up room. Ahead on the left another door beckons, so they take that, and Jotunn hauls it open and signals (vaguely) to Cauleigh that there are shapes beyond.

Two shapes, as Cauleigh discovers, man-size and shifting. It’s almost as though they are living sand, beginning to form weapons where hands should be! Fennec brings up a WoW so Cauleigh has better light.

Crompton’s arquebus and Caleigh’s kukri are enough to disembody the sand-creatures and they collapse back to sand again. Their chamber seems barren of all but sand, which partly blocks a far door. A search however turns up their first loot with monetary value – two cubic-cut amethysts, merchant-marked at 60gp apiece. Fennec considers using a spell to detect hidden things but Cauleigh talks him down from squandering mana.

A morbid ape-crypt

Jotunn scrapes the sand carefully back from the door, and they peer out into darkness. Jotunn and Cauleigh glimpse something smallish, up left, as though on a pedestal, in an irregular-shaped chamber. No door is visible and the WoW floating in confirms this. The pedestal is in fact a solid stone shelf set back in the solid stone of the left wall. And what seemed smallish is in fact the head and shoulder of the body of an ape lying flat on that shelf.

Advancing, they realise this body is a preserved and stuffed ape, its orifices stitched closed. Fennec tries a Detect Magic which reveals that everything is vaguely magical! Cauleigh prods the body with the sharp tip of his kukri, it sinks in as though into a stuffed preserved body, and the Dwarves move on – or back to the main tunnel – and then left and along, to the point where a small portcullis blocks the tunnel. Fennec floats the WoW through and Cauleigh reports there are perhaps two other tunnel-mouths visible – and two pair of Gnoll-yellow eyes can be glimpsed in the left-hand tunnel!

And yet another portcullis

“How about we name this Fort Cullis!?” exclaims Jotunn discontentedly.

“How about I force those Gnolls to charge then we shoot them?” retorts Fennec. As he manoeuvres his fingers and sight-line to activate the OGA spell at them, they yip in alarm and leap back out of his view.

Grumbling, Cauleigh and Jotunn decide to try some raw muscle on the portcullis. Their efforts seem to budge it! [STR SR combined, beginning with Jotunn, then Cauleigh. Jotunn DAROs to L7 and Cauleigh makes a fail-forward L5] Though not at all easily. Cauleigh’s remnant of aketon splits and falls off as he strains. Wedging solid items such as axe-hafts under it, Crompton helps [STR L4!] and they pull and push it to the point where the tower shield props it up. There’s a momentary alarm as some agent blows a series of harsh discordant notes, and apes off hard right around the corner screech and beat the floor, but Fennec has it covered with his open-G-chord whistle. The WoW expires and Fennec begins recovering mana again.

The four cautiously enter the broad chamber beyond the portcullis and find the pulley mechanism for it immediately back right in an alcove. Cauleigh winds it taut and up and Jotunn retrieves his pavise. The apes can be dimly seen off in a tunnel right, there are two more doors half-right (south and south-west) while through the other portcullis a t-junction or alcove south can be guessed. Finally, hard left, another door. They start with that.

A large chamber offers many options

It’s an unpleasantly mouldy smelling room with three preserved ape corpses on shelves, the nearer ape furred with a scum of mould. Wisely they decide to not investigate. [Cauleigh makes a good LK SR which covers the risk of yellow mould spores]

Fennec staves off yet another attempt to incite apes. He’s beginning to draw some conclusions about the whistles:

“I believe each has only one purpose. The apes are not controlled in any subtle way. Luckily, I have a “return to your business” pacifier!”

The two other doors lead to storerooms, one via a short tunnel. That will prove useful, later. Each store contains petrified spars, and steel items that might be spares for dungeon gear such as pulleys and windlass gears.

Leaving that for the time being they turn their attention to the second portcullis. Crompton spots a small being, far back, peering round a corner, and with a fine shot wings it – or simply makes it duck back. The arquebus’ muzzle-flash shows that there definitely is a T-junction right beyond the portcullis.

An incautious step drops half the party

Jotunn sees a use for the spars. Three Dwarves are soon heaving at the closed portcullis [not such an impressive STR SR from Jotunn means Crompton is needed] and Fennec wedges a spar under. Finally, the tower shield once more. Cauleigh moves boldly towards the T-junction, Crompton beginning to fumble under his breastplate for his Missile Dismissal arrow while trying to use the shield as cover. Both are hit solidly by hurtling axes! The sheer force spins Cauleigh around and drops him face-first, while bright arterial blood spurts through Crompton’s clutching fingers as he is struck where a gorget should be!

Cauleigh is allowed double armour but not allowed his shield, since he makes a fail on SPD. His CON drops below 0 but not to -10. Crompton makes L1 SPD which allows some cover from the shield; then a L3 fail-forward LK SR to test how dead he is. From the SPD SR he takes the best of either halved damage or 12 protection from the shield. The fail-forward is some uncertainty about how many Poor Baby points he needs to stop him bleeding out.

Forting up in the dark

Half an hour later Fennec and Jotunn are forted up inside the south-west storeroom off that chamber, bulks of petrified wood acting as a barricade along the short tunnel to that chamber, in the dark, the deeply unconscious bodies of Cauleigh and Crompton beside them. Bloody skidmarks along the outer chamber suggest the two wounded were dragged rapidly along on their breastplate.

The maths of PB are confusing and though we went through them twice I still did not get it right. This is partly because Fennec’s Ring of the Sorcerer has not been defined well. 

PB face cost: Level 2 spell, no power ups, 2 per 1 CON.

Cast by a wizard using a staff: deduct Wizard level, minimum 1 cost.

When Fennec waits 10 minutes and accumulates 1 WIZ he can cast a 2-point PB, costing him the minimum of 1. It is a 10-minute-per-1-CON process.

Ten more minutes pass. Fennec mutters – possibly kind words, possibly “I told you so” – and Crompton [who is reserve healer] drifts closer and closer to consciousness.

Jotunn extends his arquebus and shoots! He’s spotted a small, perhaps goblinoid, head, outlined by some vague source of light beyond the barricade. There’s a squawk, and after short pause something barks the small body is dragged away.

An unexpected visitor

The pair pass the time wittily joking about a dragon being next, then there’s a distinct barking – as though to attention – a tramp of booted feet – slithering as of a great snake – and a human male voice pronounces:

“This is Samuel of the Loam! Who am I addressing?”

“Jotunn the wilder!”

“Jotunn the wilder? I admire your defence of your comrades so far, but you must see that resistance is useless. Throw down your arms and surrender and you will be well-treated… as I have been.”

[LK SR to catch an outline of the speaker – Jotunn makes L5 and works out he is talking to a giant man-snake. Now, he wants a target]

The two Dwarves fall to loudly discussing how best to shoot this guy!

“Are you going to use that f**king big gun?” Fennec asks, to which Jotunn half-assents then re-levels his own trusty arquebus. Fennec floats a WoW out the door and through the barricade.

“You anger me!” cries Samuel.

Jotunn fires, but the shot merely glances off stone [L3 DEX is not good enough against a form mostly in cover and hard to see through the barricade!]

“Dispell!” calls Samuel and the light is extinguished.

Fennec hopefully preps another WoW as Jotunn waits for another shot, but it merely shines on an open tunnel. Whoever Samuel’s bodyguard were, they have withdrawn.

With life there’s hope, and new decisions

After perhaps forty or fifty minutes, and occasional healing, Crompton rouses and clutches his neck. Dried blood thickly covers his doublet and breastplate, but the wound is a mere scar. Now, he can heal himself as his own mana rises.

After perhaps an hour Cauleigh too is healed enough to scrabble up, fetch his pack, and quaff a healing potion. [It’s old, from the shatterzone, I turn it into a 2d6 roll of 7+ means ok, use the lowest d6 of the two as the actual CON gain. All healing potions are officially gone – though both Fennec and Jotunn still have Mother Hobb’s short-term d6 potion recorded.]

In his truffling for healing potions Crompton has recollected that he has a potion of plant control. It colours decisions made later.

All four Dwarves are now abreast of the situation and the unexpected appearance of Samuel of the Loam.

“Samuel of the Loam was a human, as I recall…” Cauleigh muses.

“And his mission was to rescue the women and deal with the hyena-men” Fennec adds.

“So he’s done a turnabout,” Crompton concludes, still scrubbing dried blood off his breastplate.

“Well they’ve gone, what say we move out quietly?” Jotunn suggests.

Fennec decides to search deeper

The barricade is shifted quietly and they creep out, don packs and set up party order again. A half-dozen apes stand about placidly. Fennec’s torch reveals that the open portcullis north is still open, and that the huge shield is missing. Jotunn hands Cauleigh back his helmet.

“You know,” Fennec says wryly, “now that we’ve got this far and I have control of those apes, it would be crazy to not check down their tunnel. We can still retreat under the portcullis if need be.”

[I make this a CHR check at +10 since this is such a 180 degrees by Fennec, Jotunn and Crompton find his argument convincing. Cauleigh goes along with it.]

A water source and a swift retreat

With G-chord whistle at the ready the four Dwarves shift west along the tunnel and into a large northward chamber. Three or four apes stand in the northeast corner. A large shallow relief of a maternal ape suckling adorns the entire south. Another tunnel or perhaps arch leads west. The music of trickling water reminds them all they are all very thirsty.

Investigating the apes’ corner Cauleigh finds a fontana style drinking bowl, and beside it a deeper relief of a maternal ape holding out a bowl: the bowl itself juts from the wall. Inspecting it Cauleigh detects a few grain-like motes. He makes an offering of a corner of trail ration, and moves on to the fount. It is fresh rock-filtered water, clean and cold. He drinks deep and fills all three of his canteens. The others, thirst assailing them, follow suit.

Crompton returns Jotunn’s bladed chain and collects a throw-blade from him. Cauleigh hands a torch to Jotunn and he thrusts a torch through the arch. Three more apes stand placidly – one looks exceptionally like a Dwarf, old and battle-scarred.

Cauleigh’s curiosity catches fire and he retrieves the torch and looks at the “Dwarf” at close range. [IQ SR, he makes L1] No – it’s an ape, old, scarred, bearded and handless to be sure, but an ape nonetheless.

Cauleigh retreats hastily!

“Aaaugh! If we stay here too long we turn into apes! Let’s get out of here!”

Regardless of the rational objections raised by Jotunn and Fennec he sticks to his story. The four discuss options.

“We either fort up here and hope not to be turned into apes; or head out NOW because if we delay the ape colony will be foraging.”

The retreat’s first leg against the dawn

And the four retreat. Cautiously. It takes half an hour, and pre-dawn is giving way to dawn. The sun is yet to kiss the plain but they have plenty of water.

Crompton and Cauleigh are by no means healthy so they set out at best march. A few minutes in, Fennec breaks stride:

“How much time is it going to take, Jotunn, if you disguise our trail?”

“Aye, well, if you can think of a way to make our boots look like ape pugs I’ll try. But I got the impression those hyena-men can sniff us out,” Jotunn growls. “Best I can offer is veering off right of a true course, to where we spotted some kind of scarecrow affair. The ground is harder there.”

They agree with this – then insist that he head the party direct for Perrol, after all.

The wind of yesterday has picked up the smoke and flung it into crazy streamers banding the sky. Half an hour of brisk walk later, a banner of smoke filters the sun which is no longer dazzling. Looking back, Crompton catches sight of at least half a dozen Gnolls, perhaps ten, bearing bows and running towards them!

Archers! Take cover!

A quick debate – there is no vantage point – Crompton sets his monopod and aims while Jotunn too tries a shot. Fennec waits to identify the leader. [He makes a fair roll, it will be 2nd combat round before he is sure] Cauleigh, having merely a caliver for range work, casts about for a buffalo wallow or similar dip.

Crompton touches match to powder – and the match fizzles out. [LK SR, he DAROs above 20 picking up a boon] Adroitly he tips the piece to Jotunn who relights the match – and the gunne misfires.

[Two fails on the shot convinces me – the gunne has a damp charge and will need to be shot cleared.]

The bows must be longbows! From some hundred yards or so, the Gnoll archers loose accurately.

Missile dismissal” yells Crompton, brandishing his talisman-arrow, and four shafts are blasted out of the air. Fennec is by now some yards distant, beside Cauleigh in his “shallow grave,” and the warrior uses his small shield to good effect, knocking away a couple of arrows. A few others get close. Altogether, eight Gnolls loose.

Jotunn fires a second time and a second Gnoll is hit [he’s only making ‘group’ size hits but I roll a couple of threes for their saves!]

With a CHUFF Crompton clears his damp charge and begins reloading. And now, Fennec has identified a leader. Who is well back behind even the distant Gnolls, out of normal spell range.

The Gnolls loose again – they seem disciplined – and again Cauleigh knocks a couple clear. Four others are knocked down and the other shafts miss.

Since it is relevant here – because Cauleigh asked to find prone cover and Crompton and Jotunn were already engaged with gunnes, I have mentally placed Caueligh and Fennec quite some distance from the other pair. The missile dismissal will not help Cauleigh in any kind of priority.

Fresh danger and a desperate course

Fennec pushes some healing into Cauleigh. But luck cannot last forever. Cauleigh’s third attempt to deflect arrows fails. A long shaft slams through Fennec’s robe – and pins it to the ground, without harming the wizard. [Cauleigh rolls high, and finally recoups the LK he lost in the black manse. Fennec’s boon token is used up here]

Crompton drops a third Gnoll archer. He looks about: cover?

[L4 LK SR for Fennec at this point.]

Crompton decides to compromise by kneeling by Jotunn who has hunted up another dip in the ground.

[Fennec has DARO’d up to L5]

“There are pincer forces on our flanks!” Fennec cries. Dust has alerted him.

Now things are desperate. There are six archers left, two unknown sized pincer forces, and no real cover.

“I’m going to ram them!” Jotunn calls – in Dwarven – grabbing up his own and another pack and Crompton readies his own pack to do the same but is persuaded not to do that.

“Little Feets!”

The battle and its outcome

Jotunn already has packs as shield and charges the hundred yards with élan. Crompton aims along behind him and takes a Gnoll down! [L4 DEX is a clean hit from the long gun] Five archers remaining!

Cauleigh, caliver ready, runs swiftly behind Jotunn. Fennec follows at a more sedate, wizardly pace. BZEOW!! A powerful longbow send a shaft true at Cauleigh [SPD check again – no fail this time] and the force of it spins him round as his shield knocks it clear. Fennec [IQ SR] marks the shooter for future pain!

A clothyard shaft slams through one of the packs Jotunn is using, along his vambrace and stops at his breastplate. As he gets within handy heave-range the bulky hunter hurls both packs [STR SR, DAROs to L7] knocking a Gnoll off his shot: and closes with the other three.

WHAMM! A crimson-tinged blast rips the right-hand Gnoll off his guard. [Fennec sends this at L2, using a staff charge since he is already low on mana] It grunts and draws a useful-looking short cutlass.

BAMM! A caliver shot, fired at the run, takes Jotunn’s left-hand opponent. Whether by chance or design [DAROs up plenty!] the shot takes the Gnoll in its gaping mouth, punching through and out, taking brains with it. The Gnoll collapses like a wet sack. Jotunn is against one fit Gnoll, and the wretch that took Fennec’s TTYF. He unleashes his bladed chain at the fit Gnoll, a perfect hit round the ankle, allowing a virtually free shot against the exposed flank. The axe sinks deep, ribs show white and guts spill from the gaping wound, and the Gnoll is killed outright.

Jotunn’s battle experience comes into play. He ignores the wounded Gnoll to his right and simply sprints on at the leader – who is surprised! [I don’t roll a fail but a miserable 5 does not allow leeway]

Crompton is busy reloading. Fennec is backing up but with no mana and well behind. Cauleigh, not long delayed, now joins the battle line and feints the now-ready wounded Gnoll onto the wrong foot [good L3 CHR SR] and his kukri rakes through the ribs, cutting a kidney, and with a dreadful tittering howl it dies. Cauleigh too ignores the two Gnolls to his left and races to help Jotunn.

Who is in very close combat! The bladed chain catches the leader’s flail but it becomes a tug o’ war [L9 SR demanded by the Gnoll’s excellent STR roll, Jotunn makes L7 with DARO]. Jotunn is drawn into a hug and the leader champs down on the Dwarf’s shoulder with its massive teeth. But Jotunn has a free hand and deals a massive stab with his (loaned) magical throw-blade as he is drawn in.

As Cauleigh runs and jumps, Crompton fires an excellent shot [just shy of L5] and removes the last ready archer from the field. Two surviving Gnolls flee as Cauleigh leaps, stabs, and finishes the leader.

And a new course set, at the run!

Retrieving their gear, decision are made swiftly. Cauleigh ruefully shakes out his damaged pack, tucks the cape of plausibility under his breastplate, stows the odd piece of equipment and his canteens, and is ready. Jotunn retrieves his own pack and walks back for his arquebus. Crompton tosses it to him:

“Which way now?”

“Suggestion! We could retreat to that line of trees you were talking about earlier,” Fennec suggests, tucking away a couple of items away he’s looted off the leader. [Belt, gewgaw, bone whistle]

“Aye then be ready to run,” Jotunn comments grimly. “We’ll scurry away along the tracks west there.”

[L3 SR on CON from Crompton sets the bar. The others make it easily. Jotunn gets to choose LK or IQ+Hunter for the decision about direction and makes L3.]

“First of all, it’d be the last thing they expect. Second of all, judging by the smoke of yesterday, there be trees.”

And as Jotunn hefts a second pack and shadows Crompton, the session ends.

Wow! What a game! It felt tight and right to me, the players were (by and large) engaged, and the balance between being dead and nearly dead made it very exciting. Lots of doubles, including in urgent need, raised the enjoyment for all. 

While it’s dangerous to count chickens I think next week will involve a woodland environment and new options for our heroes. Stay tuned!



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TI3.09: Against the hyena-men!

The characters for this session

Fennec, L2 Wizard (Combat magic)

Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (Townsman)

Jotunn, L5 Warrior (Hunter, Tracking talent)

Crompton, L2 Rogue (Runebearer, Roguery talent)

Past ancient stone guardians

The Dwarves check equipment as they march onward into the shadow cast by the Atharva plateau. They have marched through the heat of the day, eking out water, saved from real difficulty by cloth aketon or robe, and sturdy constitutions. And now, dusk gathers. The suggestive seam in the plateau’s flank toward which Jotunn has steered them, now resolves into an east-facing notch, and in it, a gate or stone door flanked by massive ape heads! It is the ruin they have sought in their quest to rid the world of woman-stealing hyena-men!

The ape colony that surrounds this notch is alive with family groups enjoying the cooler hours. For many miles around, the plain bears marks of foraging. Some of the adults are as tall at the shoulder as a Dwarf, and the larger males might be considerably stronger. And large or small, they all have long sharp canine teeth.

Jotunn pauses and studies the bare ground leading up to the door. Many hard-booted Gnoll patrols or raiding parties have come and gone here.

The open door is a single massive stone perhaps 8’ wide, well balanced, and with a keyhole visible in the centre. Beyond, steps lead down west. Cauleigh lights a torch and Jotunn ventures in.

Party order, as a general rule:

Jotunn, ready with axe and bladed-chain and scouting up down and around; followed only a short way back by Cauleigh carrying a torch in his shield hand and with kukri ready; then Fennec ready with staff and close behind Cauleigh; and a short way back Crompton ready with his long gun, keeping an eye and ear out behind.

As Jotunn pauses at a landing before turning south, Crompton notices a circular shaft a few inches across above shoulder height on the left stone wall at the entrance. He summons Cauleigh back and by the torchlight they can see a square steel shaft set further inside. Since neither of them wants to fool around and possibly lose a hand, they shrug and move on.

The stone of this dungeon is of some hard granite, extremely well finished and with virtually no seam in the blocks. There is no trace of abrasion on the surface, either from iron studded soles or steel armour. The tunnel they are descending is broad enough for three Dwarves to fight abreast if need be.


Down to a series of chambers and tunnels and many doors

Catching sight of a bloody hand-print at the arch through the west wall of the chamber below, Jotunn heads that way. It’s a tunnel, and from it nervous apes screech a challenge! As the Dwarves ready for battle the apes demonstrate, but are happy to sidle past, guarding their young, away up and out. The tunnel is clear – but it leads merely to another chamber and another choice of doors, south or further west.

The south door leads to a long east-west tunnel, just as broad as the descent. A number of doors are dotted along it. These doors are massive in construction, proof against anything less powerful than a demi-culverin. They typically open out into the tunnel. Which in turn veers south then straightens west ending at a portcullis.

Not wishing to make themselves easy targets the four pull back and investigate one of the doors. This and a second prove locked [actually Crompton rolls a fail on the second]. A third however is pulled open to reveal wreckage from a fierce struggle in times past. Amid the remains of a shattered bedstead, a shed snake-skin of great size is suggestive, as are goblin bones. An OTIS from Fennec reveals a spyhole in the rear wall. And therewith, the travails of the group begin!


Braving the hyena-men’s fierce defence

At that point Crompton’s sharp ears catch the sound of stealthy enemy and a fierce fight ensues, the Dwarves defending the shallow corner of the tunnel and a squad of at least five gnolls attempting to overrun them. Crompton’s shot into the melee with his long arquebus is decisive and the surviving gnolls beat a retreat.

The Dwarves follow up gamely and a full scale battle rages across the immovable stone benches of a common room or galley, reinforcements feeding in to the Gnoll defenders from the south and Jotunn and Cauleigh ably assisted by Crompton from the north, with Fennec strategically opening with LF then dropping into a well-chosen hidey-hole as five gnolls rush him!

Tired and scratched, aketons shredded, the three combatants collect Fennec and retire to the broken bed-chamber for a rest.

Enduring desperate battle

Two hours go by and just as Crompton heals Jotunn a little, the Gnolls mount a determined attack, led by a mighty leader-type with ceremonial club, silvered collar, and massive turret shield. Four apes vault over the shield to disrupt the defence. They are swiftly dealt with! As Cauleigh stunts in to take the leader down Fennec spoils his effort by blowing the leader apart with a L4 TTYF. Ten blood-mad gnolls trample over the shield – and Cauleigh – and go for the three other Dwarves!

Jotunn and Crompton share damage to defend Fennec then Cauleigh wrestles his way out from under the shield and pounces one-two, and the battle swings in the defenders’ favour! As Crompton picks himself up from a death-grapple with one Gnoll he notices a bone whistle. It must have rolled away from the scorched remnants of the leader. Eerie whistle notes have been heard in the tunnels, from time to time. He takes it.


And since it didn’t work the first time, forting up again

For their part Jotunn and Cauleigh are optimistic. The shield, which is rigged so as to lock onto the shield arm of a wielder, offers a defence-based tactic. Jotunn will tank, Cauleigh will stunt. Jotunn loans his comrade his precious coif of leaping. They turn to warn the other two that the hunt is up – then see Fennec and Crompton are lolling back, enervated and unwilling to move.

And as the warriors grudgingly decide not to split the party, more whistles are heard from the tunnels beyond, but the session ends.


I wrap the session early since it feels as though another slog is imminent and perhaps cooler heads and some perspective are called for. Perhaps.

There were some excellent rolls in the session’s early stage, Crompton and Cauleigh both rolling over 20 on dice. Non-essential rolls unfortunately! I gave each a ‘boon’ to be retrieved when things turned to custard. They each claimed their boon early at a non-custard point in the action. Such is life.

I’ve skipped the amusing paranoia about giant centipedes. A bunch of them followed the Dwarves in and down the steps. In the end, the Dwarves didn’t waste resources trying to scotch them, but they definitely creeped Crompton out. His CON is still at the point where a poor roll might mean a fail against centipede poison, so fair enough.

For those interested in the mechanics of how Fennec throws those powered-up spells: he has two key items, one a ring that “scores” his spell-casting rank as though it is a level higher; the other a staff with a fixed number of charges, each charge removing a chunk of the spell’s mana cost.





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MechWarrior One-shot/How-to: the Battle for Sally Ridge!

Yo! Etran Ramirez here, that’s Ramirez to you, or if you a green, TO Ramirez. I jockey a Phoenix Hawk, my boss is Jamal in his Hunchback, and my wingmen are Alvin Lansem in a Spider, and Frank Stocker in a Gryphon.

But let me tell you about this one time we got down and dirty on Sally Ridge.



Welcome to this one-shot filler for a week we can’t play our regular campaign. This session, we learn how MechWarrior works, at least for humans outside of the mechas they pilot.

MechWarrior is supposedly the ‘roleplaying’ side of BattleTech but what follows is a very simple skirmish game to show how movement and combat works. We have three players:

  • Alvin, played by DB
  • Frank, played by AL
  • Ramirez, played by yours truly
  • and we have a GMPC named Jamal.

We players provided the roleplaying element of the game by overacting and imagining what Jamal is like. I’ll try to do justice to that since it was the fun element of the session. Alongside that, I’ll outline the rules of movement and combat as I wrote them down.



Stepping away from the dropship’s cycling, Jamal listens to the scout-skimmer reports coming in. Then he wheels and shouts, his mighty afro swaying, the mid-morning sun glinting off his mirror shades:

Yo! Lissen up suckas! Some fools lightin’ up our grunts on th’ ridge ahead! Git yo’ asses movin!

Across the dropship’s other side Ramirez twitchily checks the charges on his flak vest: two spare for the laz-rifle he holds, one spare for his Cutlass autopistol. No glinting surface anywhere. He’s ready to go.

Further back team medic Frank Stocker, big-chinned, red-necked, spits his wad and checks his elevation. He likes to get maximum LOS from minimum exposure. Across from him Alvin Lansem, puffy-cheeked, beady-eyed, buck-toothed, checks his map:

That’s Sally Ridge all spread out for us

Jamal lifts his laz-launcher combo to the vertical so sunlight gleams up and down its length. He yells:

Les’ kick some ass!

And with that the command lance heads to Sally Ridge.


Initiative, Movement and Line of Sight

At this point the GM has sketched one (1) terrain feature upon our hex battlemap. That is where allied foot, two four-man squads, are and they are taking incoming ground fire.

Narrator’s forces on left, incoming fire from right

How line of sight works: Very much as you would expect (so far). The ridge is too low to completely block visibility either way. As the action commences, friendlies are dispersed and prone, and incoming are off the board.

How distance and movement works: Each hex is 5′. Movement is 1MP per hex to foot and various gaits achieve fixed maximum amounts of movement. Sprint 12, run 9, dodge 6, walk 4, crawl 2. The first two rates prevent fire.

How initiative works: Each character has a Personal Initiative Bonus (PIB) and adds that to the roll of 2d6. High is good. The lowest score declares, moves, shoots and melees first, which gives those with higher scores the chance to react, pick targets etc.

Initiatives (lowest to highest):

  • Enemy rifle platoon
  • Allied rifles/Ramirez
  • Alvin
  • Frank/Jamal


Round 1

Ramirez sprints [12 hexes] to within a dozen feet of the low ridgeline. From here he can see enemy heads, meaning they can see his head. Alvin sprints [12] not too far behind and to Ramirez’ left. Jamal does likewise, but Frank wusses out a little and runs [9] ending a few feet back.

There are no effective targets, and incoming fire zips harmlessly by.


How ranged fire works: Again in reverse order of init, targets are declared and rolls made. 2d6 are rolled, the aim being to make or exceed a target number composed of personal roll base plus modifiers from range, personal movement, target movement and other factors.

For example a generic rifleman has a roll base of 4, and firing at long range adds 4. A target walking carelessly forward adds 1 to that. So the rifleman needs to roll a 9 or better on 2d6.


Round 2

Ramirez crawls forward to sight his laz-rifle in. Riflemen from White squad are within a dozen feet or so to his right. Warm targets are just outside easy short range. Alvin, a few feet to Black squad’s right, crawls to firing position as well. Jamal glances over at Frank:

Yo! Don’choo run, dog! Check my swag!

Jamal pimp-rolls to position, biceps gleaming and afro waving gently. Off to Ramirez’ left Frank walks forward (not really pimp-rolling) and drops down, and they are ready to fire!

[Crawling moves 2 hexes, walking 4; crawling adds nothing to target and walking adds 1.]


Declaring targets: Again based on reverse order, the enemy riflemen would now declare targets first, then white and black squads and Ramirez, and so on. The higher up range order you are, the better you can react to hits made. Damage is recorded against each figure (though I gather there are quick-play rules that accumulate damage on formations). Those hit remain on the board for the round and effects are concluded at end of round.

Hit points and Damage and Location: Each person has a Body score, which covers a number of abilities. Each can take 10x Body in damage, though any one individual location can be taken out specifically. Therefore, location is important. When applying damage two identifiable dice are rolled, one the y axis and the other the x axis of a location chart. The proportion of damage taken is also important: as damage accumulates, a resistance roll is triggered to see if the combatant  can remain in the fight.


The enemy riflemen are advancing at a walk, firing. Black squad takes some heat without effect, and Alvin is clipped along his shoulder-blade [5 damage because his flak vest absorbs 1/2]. Ramirez returns fire [target is 5, from his base of 2+2 for range +1 for target walking] and scores a hit. His laz-rifle punches through the flak vest [less 2, because laz-rifle] and burns away the enemy’s left arm. The enemy keels over. [Resistance roll for about 1/3 total – failed] White and black squads’ fire is somewhat effective, another enemy falls. Alvin scores a big through and through on an enemy torso, dropping that combatant. Frank and Jamal score hits but without doing enough damage to stop their target.


Adjudication: Damage is noted as the round progresses, and effects are delivered end of round. In this session, enemy are not going to have access to a medic in the field, so those completely immobilized are removed. Three are gone right away.


Round 3

The enemy keep walking forward firing [GM rolls a Learn test for them, fails] without scoring any hits. Ramirez drops another enemy with a head-shot [flak vests don’t protect the head] and Frank takes a leg off his target [ditto the legs].

You messin wit’ the wrong dude suckas!

Jamal opens up with autofire, still not doing much but taking the leg off his target.


Learn tests: Each person has a Learning (Lrn) ability which covers maximum skills and ability to process information.


Round 4

Realizing their mistake the enemy begin dodging forward. It makes them less accurate but much harder targets. White and black squads miss. Ramirez sights in on a wounded man:

You ain’t leavin’ this dance early are ya?

And kills him. Alvin drops another of the wounded. Frank takes another target’s leg out, while Jamal’s next shot removes an arm.


Critical hits: While it’s too time-sucking to factor in crits for the riflemen, the GM applies crits scored by PCs in order to demo them. Frank’s location roll is a double which signifies a critical. He rolls a d6 to determine severity. It is irrelevant – internal bleeding which will make a medic check difficult.


Round 5

One enemy has closed in to short range and manages to score a minor hit on Alvin’s leg. White and black squads put one down and wound another. Seeing a couple of enemy beginning to cluster, Jamal flicks a selector on his rifle:

Eat grenade muthas!

The mini-grenade drops nicely among a pair of riflemen, dropping one and wounding the second.

Round 6

A wave of enemy dodge to short range! But dodging makes their fire inaccurate and only one hit is scored, and the squad member hit is still in action. In response all of white and black squads hit – but do not put any enemy down! Ramirez and Alvin take a leg out from their respective targets; Jamal drops a third one. In the distance about one-fourth the enemy begin retiring. Frank snorts at those:

Came up short against Sally Ridge

Things are getting hot! White and black squads marked by d6 of that color, command lance in middle. Enemy are colored d10s and d20s.


Pulling new weapons, standing from prone: Things are getting to melee range now – which is good from a learning point of view! It costs 1MP to draw a new weapon and standing from prone is 2MP. Neither appears to increase firing target. 

Firing into melee: Adjacent hexes count as melee. Those not adjacent count as firing into melee (randomly damaging those engaged), but there is no penalty for using a handgun at melee range.

How melee works: Again, results are decided in reverse order. The same process of 2d6 against a target, the same location chart. Modifiers are a little different – for example dodging into combat is only +2 to target. Frank, who has neither blade skill nor pistol skill, will roll on the default, raw DEX.


Round 7

Three surviving enemy rush Sally Ridge and pile on, bayonets thrusting! They are targeting the command lance. Ramirez is not directly engaged and stands, drawing his autopistol, and moves one hex [1MP] to close. All other in the command lance simply stand and draw sidearms. One each of white and black squads is also in melee range and draw bayonet.

All three enemy miss their thrusts, while white and black members manage a minor wound each. Ramirez shoots his man in the head, Alvin fires his heavy revolver to score a torso wound and Frank misses. Jamal has nothing to do since he was in melee next to Ramirez, so poses off.

Round 8

The two enemy still in the fight are engage against Alvin and Frank. Jamal and Ramirez pimp-roll over to help. In the melee exchange Alvin is nicked but drops his opponent and Frank shoots his opponent’s foot off.

Jamal surveys the field: two-thirds enemy are dead outright, a few are still crawling away. No friendlies lost.

Nice to get a warm welcome wherev’ we go!

End positions. Red dots mark the fallen enemy.

Frank stoops over his groaning opponent ready to give the coup-de-grace:

Hey Jamal whaddaya reckon on these neck tats?

Ain’t familiya wit’ dat dee-sign sucka, but warlords do patch pledges that way

That explains their can-run cain’t run method

And the others high-tailin’ it thru the horizon!

Figure they be back wit’ more friends an’ better gear

Jamal circles his arm in a rally-up movement:

Let’s git back, send skimmers ta recon their back-trail, an’ git heavy gear outta th’ dropship!


That concludes the one-shot. Comments that may or may not be of use for the future:

When there are more NPCs than PCs, quick-and-dirty beats individual rolls.

Our GM rolled a couple of ‘summary’ rolls for general firing, which sped things up, but too often, players were sitting watching dice being rolled. 

Role playing needs characters to roleplay

We provided our own fun, mainly by characterising Jamal as an Afro Samurai type of over the top blaxploitation warrior, but in essence this was a skirmish game. Of which there are numerous examples out there, of which a high proportion are far future, and I venture to claim that most are better at activation and action than these 80s-based rules. The key arguments to progressing this as a season of gaming are:

  1. The rules are already around
  2. There is a roleplay component where limited information is provided and characters interact with that limited information and action changes based on that interaction.
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TI3.08: South of Atharva


The characters for this session

Fennec, L2 Wizard (Combat magic)

Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (Townsman)

Jotunn, L5 Warrior (Hunter, Tracking talent)

Crompton, L2 Rogue (Runebearer, Roguery talent)

Order restored the Dwarves take stock

Crompton decides to make sure the five hyena-headed corpses won’t be coming back as zombies – a good habit he picked up under Fingold – so he and Jotunn lug the corpses away and take the heads off. Treasure is minimal – of the polished rock variety. Jotunn notices each has collar marks on its ruff. But they were healthy warrior types, not mistreated prisoners, that’s for sure.

Meanwhile Cauleigh and Fennec assist in a minor way restoring order and organising bucket gangs. [Fennec tucks the silver metal collar from the boss-Gnoll away] They realise a good part of the village is built over the inflow from the side-stream. After quite a delay, a spokesman boats over from the spur, the villagers note the arrival by saying ‘oh, Polecat’s coming.’ In a resigned tone.

This is Pelagius Ostarin, swart, well-dressed, probably half-redcap. And he smells like he rolled in skunk oil. He’s some type of overseer, acknowledges the Dwarf efforts, allows the villagers a half-day to mourn.

The Dwarves rest up that night and next day and next night, replenish food water and rope and attend the funeral rites. [Jotunn doesn’t feel it’s his thing, he does some early scouting] A little downriver, a little boggier lower ground. Then it’s off up the side-river, which they eventually learn is the Perrol, at crack of dawn.

[Some minor AP spend here]

Set off up the trail up to Perrol

They are bound for a town named Perrol. By chance, the day of rest brought the first replenished ore-barge and a bargee Jotunn and Cauleigh both met. He has a vague story about a cousin of a friend, who went to Perrol and timber country beyond. Trouble was had. It’s slim but Perrol is marked on Cauleigh’s map and might get them closer to the Gnoll lair.

Just beyond the normal bounds of forage, giant magical spiders have spread their webs. A glint of sun on dew warns the Dwarves, two powerful TTYFs from Fennec [one at extreme close range] and a shot from Crompton’s magical arquebus deal with the attacks. Cauleigh is saved from spider venom by the thinnest of margins – that sturdy canvas aqueton makes the difference.

Keeping a very respectful distance from the river seems wise, and this choice is confirmed by a primitive sort of ex-pit-fighter at the bridge over a steep-sided creek. He mimes out lizardmen as he warns them of the path ahead.

Sheering back away from the river takes them by a ruined homestead. A pony or small horse takes fright and gallops away out of wild-grown grain. It’s harvestable grain and this seems a good early camp. They make crude camp bread, and Jotunn lures the young horse in and gentles it until he can throw a halter on it. Later, Crompton names it T-bone. They camp safely, refill water flasks from the still-intact water trough, and push on to find Perrol.

They are welcomed to Perrol!

Perrol’s wooden walls stand proud of a harshly barren brown crag, the first foothill of the broken lands. The fields about the town have been allowed to go fallow and no homesteads remain on the bare plain about. The walls have been made as strong as they can be – there’s a wooden bastion that does the proper things, with a high overset vantage, and a wrong-turning inroad, and plenty of concealed cover fire-points. If it was stone it would be impressive.

Inside, there’s a troubles-are-upon-us feel but optimism too. The womenfolk wear sturdy clothes, some with trews. There are plenty of children, but wearing the same workaday wear as their parents. People are lean, but not gaunt.

A matron directs them to the town rules, and they walk up a crisscross ramp to about midway up the town where three boards stand high and bright. Most scripts are written up, but not Elven. They learn that they have to check weapons with the town marshal.

The town law runs out of a half-barn, and its front right corner is the marshal’s office. Inside, a young woman has her feet up on the desk and a steel hat down over her eyes. This is Molly, blonde, energetic, pretty.

“Howdy folks! Welcome to Perrol on the Mount!”

Molly hustles away to find the marshal and when he saunters in Cauleigh is surprised to see he has a strong resemblance to the pimp, or shill, working out of Easy Hostess in Ironbridge.

Marshal Palweiss, tall, darkly elegant, a cigar smoker, is all courtesy. He rejoins them at the Barley Sheaf (the permitted drinking hall for travellers) and runs through the basics of the town’s plight. Then, he facilitates dinner with Judge Reiner who seems to be able to decide on authority to go to other places. Fennec, lacking decent clothes, treats Molly to a much plainer meal and gets her local knowledge.

The bare facts gathered

About a year ago raids by beast-men began to be reported and outlying homesteads were targeted. These steadily occurred closer to the town. Among the earlier raids, a survivor reported night-eyed Dwarfs who killed everyone. Beast-headed raiders typically seize young women alive.

Also over the past few months, illkin raiders have grown in numbers and boldness to the point where the townsfolk stay inside the walls. They are not just of one breed or another, but include goblins and uruks at the least.

About three to four months ago Samuel of the Loam, accompanied by an older female adventurer and perhaps a guard or two came seeking bold adventurers or guards to accompany him. He only managed to recruit the town’s best guide. Later he is said to have called in on Dolem’s Spire. Dolem’s Spire has a Prince of some kind who notionally holds title to these lands.

As far as can be worked out Samuel’s target was the ape colony below the plateau, where ape heads mark a gate or delve entry, according to what they understood him to say. A beeline across the plain, cutting the headwater of Whitespur Creek, will lead the Dwarves to that colony.

[Recounting their exploits is the second chance to spend AP. Crompton and Fennec are both now on CHR 15. Jotunn lifts IQ to 15.]


And across the burning plain

T-bone is pack-beast for them [tack and horseshoes equipped now] and they slog through a morning made grey by ash-cloud from a distant prairie fire, enlivened only by sighting near two dozen illkin riders on the skyline. Fennec has a feeling one of them, seen up closer, might be a white-armoured Urukin riding a war-pig.

As they cut the Whitespur headwater in the early afternoon, Lizardmen ambush them! But our wary heroes are alert [Crompton and Cauleigh make L4 LK SR, Jotunn L3] and the Lizardmen are shot or cut down well before they can ‘set’. Except for one, which does get around the fighting ranks. Fennec announces his presence to the surrounding square miles with a L4 TTYF. In the fight, Jotunn loses his shield, but picks up the chain-blade that broke it. It has a minor enchantment on it. [+5 to DEX when stunting the blade at a specific target, +5 total adds for quality] And as the Dwarves ponder whether to search the area or press on, the session ends.



Now we are safely past Grey Dagon Hill I can reveal I used Beneath the Lich’s Tower from Dodecahedron 2014 for it. Jacob’s Spur and Perrol on the Mount are localities marked in the Atharva Plateau maps from the same, but I just used my own imagination to describe and populate them. My feeling is that Jacob’s Spur is populated by folk descended from families that got disheartened and decided not to press on upriver. Perrol is full of hardy frontier families. I switched to full western drawl for Molly and Palweiss.


Next week we take a break owing to player commitments elsewhere and those available will take part in a shakeout session of another game. Ya’ll be sure to come back now!

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TI3.07: Grey Dagon Hill

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L2 Wizard (Combat magic)

Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (Townsman)

Jotunn, L5 Warrior (Hunter, Tracking talent)

Crompton, L2 Rogue (Runebearer, Roguery talent)

For those who came in late:

A treasure map has taken our heroes up the Golden River, but tales of young women being seized by hyena-headed raiders sees them purchase another map of the area and set up the Atharva Plateau to clear Grey Dagon Hill of its ghouls (and/or ghasts).

Bats clear, a ledge up leads to a door

By the time they shuck packs and maneuver long gear through the tunnel left, all stray bats seem to have fled out into the broiling heat. Jotunn pushes his torch forward into a larger space and spots a ledge above on his left.

A few easy boosts and lifts sees Crompton carefully checking around a stone door, set flush in the ledge wall, and the other three heroically cowering as far to one side as the ledge allows. Crompton decides to activate the lever he finds and the door unlatches.

A hefty push, it swings up and away. Clearly some clever counter-balancing mechanism at work here.

And that up to a ghoul-haunted tomb complex

Soon, Crompton studies a desiccated wooden door, sturdy in its time but no real barrier to sturdy dwarves. He decides to uses a throw-knife to shave some wood away from the hinges. Ooops! That’s not designed for wood-work, Crompton! [a fail Dex SR sees Crompton take a painful 12 CON damage] Blood drops freely from his hand and an eager snuffling and scrabbling comes from the other side of the door.

[Crompton is bandaged for now, and will have trouble with his right hand, limited to two-hand or left-hand use.]

Jotunn cracks the door with a hefty kick and he and Cauleigh defend the breach against four hungry undead, which tear at them with tooth and claw.

[Setting the tone for the whole session I’m using physical dimensions as part of the challenge, favouring mass attack here.]

With a LF each the pair first defend, then turn the tables and drive the ghouls back into a noxious room, slaying the last in the fourth combat round.

Sparing little time they move on to a fire-trapped vault

The ghouls quarters are too disgusting to search. The four move on within minutes, out to a large, clear-smelling, vaulted L-shaped chamber where packs can be piled clear of guano and ghoul-remains. The only real feature seems to be a chipped stone table just visible round the L. On it, a brown tankard and above it, writing on the vault arches. As Fennec decides it is Elven, he sets off a fire-trap and is badly burned!

And quite unexpectedly, a demon boss

As the wizard pats out flames [11 damage] and Jotunn knocks a few stray embers off himself [2 damage] Cauleigh notices a pair of eyes just visible over the tankard: without pausing to study the situation he hurls himself over the table – to skid to a sudden halt as he realizes that perspective has tricked him – he’s looking at a 9′ tall being much further back!

“I didn’t really expect to get into this so soon… but, oh well…” so says the demon, as flames begin racing over his form, shaking out his immense flaming whip!

[Fennec makes a difficult IQ SR and works out this is a minor demon, speaking all-tongues – he passes this on]

In the combat that follows Cauleigh focuses on dodging [L7 SPD] and Jotunn and Crompton crank up the volume on their contributions, while Fennec goes for an awesome display of wizard power. His Dispel gets the demon’s attention and he is hastily defended by the others; his L4 TTYF does not work, but the demon is tripped and Cauleigh whicks his whip-hand off!

As the demon dissolves back to hell (taking his whip with him) a costly amulet-necklace remains, and so does a silver comb of Elven design.

Ghouls! and a hasty retreat, and a gunne

The Dwarves are at first accosted by a number of ghouls, but block the arch with the stone table. [Good use of provided scenery, a bit slow on the uptake I thought] At first the ghouls are easily picked off with firearms as Fennec rests, then they get some direction from some boss-ghoul (ghast, presumably) and come through a different door. A hasty retreat!

They scramble headlong into an Octagonal chamber and Fennec yells DUCK as a large-mouthed gunne-like device goes off.

[Good reaction from Fennec, the pursuing ghouls wear 168 damage]

Up a tower – this keep is defended by gnome-ghouls!

Scrambling after the small gunner, Crompton expertly [L4 DEX] slides his throw-knife into the door-jamb in time to prevent a bar dropping.

The defenders are all small, not much larger than brownies. But definitely undeadish. But cunning!

[This is a tough nickel-and-dime style advance with plenty of damage being shared round]

Jotunn advances up to receive lead dropped on him, wriggles and is pushed through a narrow port, and he and Cauleigh begin doing real damage in a cross-corridor in what is clearly the main keep tower. Two ghoul-gnomes are slain and the others flee out a sally-port – which Crompton slams and bars. Safe – for now!

It’s been fun, time to go

The ghoul-gnomes mount a hopeless ascent, then shelter in a lesser tower. Given the lack of potable water here the Dwarves decide, once Fennec and Crompton have restored their mana, that it’s worth capturing. They’ve holed up overnight, they’ve made more bullets out of a bullet-mould and siege lead, time to make a move. A daring foray across the curtain wall and an assault down through the lesser tower puts paid to the last ghouls… maybe.

Watered up, they perceive the path away from the keep and since they have all their gear and really need a full rest-up away from ghouls, they take it.

The path to Jacob’s Spur and an onrushing horde – time to be heroes!

There’s still five hours of the new day left as they set out past the small woods below the gulch, for Jacob’s Spur. It’s closer than Ironbridge and doesn’t feature the danger of a haunted keep.

Part way along, Crompton, who happens to be walking on the right flank, catches a sound on the hot plateau wind: he calls the warning.

They drop flat (Fennec in a HH and Cauleigh in one of the very few real hollows here) and their dusty cloaks and canvas are enough to fool Gnoll eyes as a raiding band runs past, flat-out, headed straight for Jacob’s Spur!

[Cauleigh tries a ‘read’ on where the Gnols have run from but gets nowhere beyond ‘somewhere around the plateau or thereabouts’]

It’s decision time! Fennec offers the though that they can easily set up an ambush by back-trailing. But partly based on chivalry and partly on the simple fact they all need rest, the majority vote for running after the Gnolls to mess up their raid.


The marathon and battle at Jacob’s Spur

[I decide that since this is really a CON feat I’ll let Jotunn set the bar. Admittedly Cauleigh has a SPD bonus and Fennec is lightly clad, but I’ll adjust for that as we go. Jotunn hits L9 CON, so that’s what I ask from Crompton and Fennec. Then based on the difference I ask if they want to keep up (negative at the end) or run at their own pace (arrive late). Based on the SPD difference I ask Cauleigh for a L5 CON. I should add, packs with heavy gear are shed as this goes down.]

Jotunn is nowhere near as fast as a Gnoll but he arrives as the fighting is still going on. Two women have been dragged out, men and youngsters are being killed out of hand. Cauleigh is on his shoulder, Fennec – gasping and unable to speak at all – nearby. The pair of warriors put fire to match and let fly at reasonable range. Two hits!

[The Gnolls are unwary, I make it L3 to hit at this stage]

Jotunn’s Gnoll clambers to its feet as the others rally. A boss, wielding a rod or such like, grabs the captives and sends three Gnolls flanking wide around. The remaining six begin running for the Dwarves as they reload. The wounded Gnoll falls and does not rise. Five, and three.

Cauleigh’s caliver fires true but his Gnoll runs on. Jotunn wounds one of the three angling out around.

Well back behind them Crompton gathers that the fun has begun, unlimbers his long arquebus and sets the monopod stand under it. He sights and shoots at the wounded Gnoll. A good hit! [This is Crompton’s first use of his arquebus at farther than short range. I have previously said that it’s better than Jotunns at longer ranges and he gets a +3, enough to bring the shot to L4.]

Then there’s a tremendous crimson blast, red fire reflects off the nearby houses and the attacking Gnolls stop, shocked, as their boss disintegrates under Fennec’s L5 TTYF. Then they run!

Cauleigh and Jotunn race back and help Crompton with the remaining pair of Gnolls. Victory! And as the villagers struggle with the fire and to comprehend their rescue the session ends.



I’m well aware the Dodecahedron 2014 map marks this as Grey Dragon Hill. But Dagon seems so much cooler I went with my first instinct. I used Wizardawn’s Area Builder for the dungeon furnishings, adapted as I felt fit. The Ghoul-Gnomes are pure personal whimsy because I wanted something smart enough to actually rig the traps my generator threw up. They are fun.

My main module, a certain classic OSR module, is successfully embedded, the lads will most likely back-trail the Gnolls next session. Look forward to it!

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TI3.06: Plans made – to the plateau!


The characters for this session:

Fennec, L2 Wizard (Combat magic)

Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (Townsman)

Jotunn, L5 Warrior (Hunter, Tracking talent)

Crompton, L2 Rogue (Runebearer, Roguery talent)


In the Rusty Rapier the Dwarf heroes gather

For some it has been a long night. Crompton (despite the massage) is a little subdued. He assures the others he’ll catch them up then puts his head down on the pillow again. The other three walk down the alley, into the market and to the Rusty Rapier where decent grub is served.

Jotunn regales the others with his efforts to find hunters (they were all out hunting, I tried to find them, I found their traps, it took me hours to cut myself down) and they catch him up with events, broad brush of course, and then they all three lean over the two maps they now have.

They draw some tentative conclusions then pies arrive and maps are rolled away. Jotunn is still working on restoring his pre-Fingold waistline.

Cauleigh decides to talk to barge-men to see if they can add anything to his guesses about landmarks. He and three men sit to a hand of cards. They know about downriver, but a few wild ideas are offered about upriver.

Crompton arrives and joins the breakfast, still a little tired. Vern walks over and leans in and whispers in a gust of pungent breath that he has a job for the new guy.

Jotunn excuses himself, heads over to a buckskin-clad man slowly working on a jack of something that’s not house ale. On closer inspection this is an older man, affable, time-careless, and Jotunn sits down for a chat about the surrounding area.

Fennec is content to wait – lady Ezra is expecting him to make another visit and there must be some relevant books in that vast library.


The Uruk maiden’s father introduces himself

Then a heavy booted foot falls on the tavern threshold and a massively built Uruk squeezes in. This is Adrok, senior in Lord Fabius’ mercenary guards, well-armored, silver-haired, proud father. He picks out Crompton, sits down with them, and lays a heavy hand on the Dwarf rogue’s shoulder:

“So, you are the Dwarf who robbed my sweet daughter Jorgagu of her maidenhead!”

“I think the snake got there first, to be honest” retorts Crompton.

There’s an uneasy pause. [CHR SR, Crompton uses his BLTG charm to roll on LK] Then Adrok bellows with laughter, slaps Crompton on the back with a blow that would level a human, and roars:

“You have balls, at least! Perhaps you will make a good son in law after all! But the skulls of my ancestors would all pucker up and make pussy lips if that happened! I must think on this!”

He kisses Crompton on both cheeks, levers himself up and heads out.

At this time Fennec concocts a righteous scheme, to make Crompton go through with the match. He will push this agenda to the point of no return, over the next couple of days. But in the meantime he and Cauleigh head to Olfoot manor afoot, Crompton heads to the Grey Cowl, and Jotunn and his new acquaintance Redtooth head to Wrongside, a dingy part of town where the last of the Redtooth fortune secured a sturdy house.


Crompton and Jotunn

To deal with Crompton in brief: he wants to get out from under, especially once he hears the matrona are looking for him as well. Vern has scut-work for him so he turns that down, but Calla gives him good advice, packs his provisions and passes a note on to the other Dwarves. The rest of the day and night following, Crompton hides across the river and downstream a little, uncomfortable but in no danger of being married.

Jotunn has mixed fortune: Redtooth shows him various maps of the region Fort Redtooth once stood in, advises Jotunn to register at the warrior guild, and asks him to look out for any sign of Ralph, his grandson, who went upriver with visions of revving the Redtooth fortunes. [Jotunn learns enough to cancel out any disadvantage he would have from not being familiar with badlands]

As he heads away up Rust Lane Jotunn is warned by a scornful loiterer that Redtooth is gaming him.

The Forgotten Circle gives Jotunn an eye to eye view of Adrok who wants to speak to Crompton again; and a weird experience involving a sleepy pessimist Dwarf and a minor drawback. [-1 on the next LK SR] He gets a reference to the best armourer in town.


Scholarly investigations are complete

Fennec and Cauleigh head up Quay street in time to see the Herbals depart: Trefoil wields a businesslike broad-bladed spear; Heartsease is making a little show twirling her Demilune around as the four cross Ironbridge. Off to the mine! She turns back, scratches a scrawny Wulfan on his shaggy nape, encourages him to keep up and swings out after Trefoil. They can’t see Sage, presumably he’s out of sight below the bridge parapet.

The pair finish their journey in lady Ezra’s household wagon: it has provisioned and brings the lady of the house a fresh book delivery. Once she gets over her initial full-sensory book-lovin’ fangirling lady Ezra shares tea and advice as to which shelves to try for gazetteers. They stay some hours, skipping the noon meal in the excitement.

Towards the end of their stay lady Ezra opens a dusty tome and adds something to what she’s already recollected about a ‘destruction seed’ mentioned on one of the maps.

Then it’s time to head back in time to meet Jotunn, who brings Cauleigh with him to the smithy to buy a new shield. While they wait Cauleigh adds some useful expedition tools.


A few final details and a quick-fire sale

An evening meal at the Rusty Rapier brings Fay, crone of the matrona, who casts a chill on the evening buzz, then not long later (to the accompaniment of ‘I knew it – the mine is doomed! from grieving widow Tuburo) the halting steps of much-battered Herbals. They are all alive but Wolfbane is carrying Sage and Trefoil and Heartsease are supporting one another.

“I thought I was safe in the middle of the party” – Sage, shaking and limp

“Here, have a shandy” – Cauleigh, sympathetically

It seems most of the iron mine is reasonable head-height for a Gnome or Hobb, and the Herbals’ planned tactics are useless. Fennec and Cauleigh counsel Sage how to use OGA and Fennec sends a slap-up meal out to Wolfie.

As dusk brings the wind from the north, Fennec makes his way towards the Grey Cowl. Tadiko, tiny female rogue, dark-dressed, meticulously formal, stops him. She has an opal to trade for a good rogue type spell. Taking a chance Fennec accepts the opal and imprints Hidey-Hole on her.


They are off!

Early on the morrow Jotunn Fennec and Cauleigh are ready at the Trader Hall entry. It’s time to get heavy gear out of storage. They rent an extra week for some remaining gear (such as the Uruk Falchion). Fennec takes the chance to get a price estimate on the opal. It’s lower than Tadiko’s value but above the minimum the spell would sell for. He’s satisfied.

Heavily laden with packs and extra tools, armour protected from the fierce heat by grey canvas surcoats, the trio exchange a quip and farewell with the bridge guards and head downriver. They collect Crompton who stretches, equips himself with the gear they brought, and swings into line, long arquebus over one shoulder.


A danger well avoided

They push hard and though their legs are short my lord they’re sturdy. They give just enough, just enough and by nightfall are well past the ruined fort and wooded islet where a haunting was.

Fennec on first watch hears two men heading upriver, seeking mining work. One worries about the haunt, the other scoffs. Crompton on dawn watch observes their headless bodies floating downstream as he draws water.


Sad remnant of young homesteaders

By mid-morning they have a decision to make, walk all the way in to Jacob’s Spur for more news of hyena-headed raiders, or go with their map and explore up to the plateau. They opt for the latter and keep the plateau hard on their right shoulder, and near noon explore the fringe of a woodland below the plateau. The locals – possibly as far away as Jacob’s spur – have felled and cut lathes here. But Jotunn finds a now-disused path that leads to a wrecked homestead. The skeletal remains of a young man are all that remains of the occupants: a woman’s touch about the ruin and an empty once-hopeful crib speak of shattered dreams.

“So they’ve been taking young women for at least a year,” Cauleigh comments.

A tiny rill of fresh water springs not far from the ruined walls and they top up water and make a noon meal of iron rations.


The gulch and a chance way in

Pushing forward against the wind off the plateau the four Dwarves find they still have most of the afternoon before them with a gulch, invisible behind the woods, forming a natural road up.

Midday heat bakes up off stone as they ascend. Some stone is reddish, some grey, both types are hot. The gulch walls seem here and there to be man-made, and shimmer in the heat.

Cauleigh at length spots a rounded tower rising on an eminence set back a little from the left wall of the gulch. They are all good climbers, and scaling directly upward will probably cut four hours off the journey.

[Crompton rolls a fail but I remind him he can claim a boon from pillow-talk with his Troll girlfriend. It’s a +2 which I rule converts the 3 to a 5. The climb is made.]

Muttering “fists and wedges! I thought that was just dirty talk” Crompton saves himself from a nasty fall and he and Fennec are drawn up to the lead pair, joining them on a ledge.

“There’s a cave, maybe a tunnel in under” Jotunn explains and they use a piton and rope to descend off the ledge down to a small natural cave-mouth. The footing is not good.



The glare of the outside – the silty rock here is whitish-grey – means a WoW will be no use so Jotunn takes the lead with a torch held in his Sopok-shield hand. Just as he is reminded of one of his earliest exploits, the goblin caverns where bats and spiders lurked, a gigantic bat launches out at him. Its mad red eyes and foul odour mean only one thing: bat-ghoul!

Jotunn uses STR to block (meaning only his shield will be used) and Cauleigh uses himself as a living spear, ramming his kukri through the gaping maw and out the back of its skull.

[Between the two the combat total is 200+. I declare the kill without rolling]

The foul thing is an obstacle but Crompton has a nifty idea that turns it into a convenience. They shift it out past them – wincing away from the foul dead fur – and spread its wings out on the silty scarp. Now they can launch themselves back up the rope easily!

And as Jotunn flares his torch into a choice of two passages the session ends.

The “city-game” part of the session felt a bit like herding cats but then, that is part of the fun of city gaming! I think twice I said quite straight-forwardly, “I want to bring the team together now” because information was being pulled out of this or that source and there needed to be time to share it round.

Crompton was a bit cheesed off that Fennec took advantage of the Teacher spell that he has just learned off Crompton, to earn good money. But then if Crompton had spent as much time cultivating rogues in the Grey Cowl as he did following his knob round town, he would have made money as well. 

I can sympathise with both Fennec and Crompton about the philandering and the prospective marriage. On the one hand, what goes on tour stays on tour, and on the other hand, a Dwarf settles his debts. They are both worthy. The difference does have the potential to be a team-killer beef and I hope both bear this in mind.

Props: op cit for Ironbridge. Once again Wizardawn’s generators are a marvel, this session they gave me a quick-fire armourer along with goods for sale. As I noted a few session agao I’ve extensively used Dyson Logos’ Dysons Compendia 2014 and 2015, running maps together and mashing up to suit my own idea of the Golden River. The Atharva Plateau and surrounds are to be found in the 2014 edition. 

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TI3.05: Ironbridge


The characters for this session:

Fennec, L2 Wizard (Combat magic)

Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (Townsman)

Crompton, L2 Rogue (Runebearer, Roguery talent)

Ironbridge on arrival

The four Edoras Restorers walk their tired ponies along the well-founded road east of the river upstream towards the iron bridge itself, and get a good look at the town sprawled along the west bank opposite. Although it’s not long after dawn a hot breeze is rolling across from their left where the Atharva plateau rises. The main activity they can see is along the docks where river barges are moored. The rhythmic thumping of a big water-driven stamp-mill comes clear to them against the breeze.

Here and there among the clusters of two-storey houses charred gaps can be glimpsed – big ones that suggest numbers of houses burned down at once.

Jotunn stays out in the lead, Cauleigh draws rein and checks off with the other two what the main goals are. Crompton will trust to luck, Fennec would like to at least contact the lady necromancer at Olfoot Manor and Cauleigh himself wants to follow up the tales of hyena-headed raiders.


Fennec and Cauleigh and Jotunn and Crompton

Swinging west to the bridge approach they size up the guards and are quite happy with their predisposition to pay up. The guards look like veterans, perhaps mercenaries, and tucked just over the arch is a deck-sweeper swivel-gun. The older and more senior of the two the Dwarves talk to seems amiable and gives them general directions, the younger takes a cursory look at their saddlebags. No-one asks them to behave or observe any rule in particular.

They take lodgings – the quality is alright – and finding there’s no secure lockup there, take their bulky and/or expensive gear to the Merchants Guild Trade and Exchange, facing square on to the docks. Except Crompton who has noticed, crossing the little market en route, the way to the Rogue’s Guild.


Fennec and Cauleigh and Jotunn

There’s a queue of one: an important-looking Gnome. A polite clerk ushers them to a comfortable seat. Where there sits another Gnome. This is Sage, a member of the Herbals (or Herbal Teas), and most likely some sort of wizard. He’s here to negotiate on behalf of the Herbals about the bounty, 5gp/head, on kobolds plaguing the mine. He explains – apologetically – his group is staying at the Rusty Rapier Tavern and he invites them over, evening mealtime. He also shows them a broadsheet page from the Sarnas Tribune that is one part of ongoing serialisation of daring exploits around Fingold, starring the re-founders.

At this stage or shortly after, Jotunn excuses himself and heads further on along the docks, saying he’s heading to the hunters’ camp.


Fennec and Cauleigh

Master Erklen, Gnome and owner of the smelter and smithy, concludes his business and the Dwarves get their turn. They rent a strongbox, 12gp the week, and as it is 11ses and they have not eaten for many hours, pursue this idea as far as the Rusty Rapier.

The pair get a feel for the midday crowd – mine workers, barge hands and idlers – and chat to a barge bosun lodging here and get more of a feel for the issue around the mine and kobold-induced delays. He explains that barges are being held up as master Erklen does not have enough ore to process.

The food and drink are a shade on the expensive side but fair quality and sustaining. Equipped with fair directions to the wizards guild and the warriors guild the pair now split up.



Somewhat conscious of his dusty gear Fennec heads to the Aether Thaumaturge Wizard’s Guild and is allowed in without any ‘prove yourself a wizard’ nonsense. Stowing cloak and boots Fennec spends a short comfortable time meeting fellow wizards Solar and Puon. He hears about the Easy Hostess Parlor (laundry extra). Then back to the inn to break out the good robe for his next call.

Back up Quay street, left onto Ironbridge – there’s no toll heading east – and right onto Boot Hill Lane brings Fennec through midday heat level with the graveyard on the slope above – no unearthed corpses or raving loonies – and a view of a pleasant stand of local-variety larches and a low-lying walled manor.

Dextrously tagging the bell-pull with his staff, Fennec alerts the gatekeeper – massive, polite – to his presence and is allowed in. A near-derelict and shaded sweep leads to the house, not much more than one storey and built in a dark-stained timber. Reflected sunlight throws shards of colour back down onto the weed-grown path.

A maid – pale, petite, perhaps once young – ushers Fennec to a waiting room then almost immediately to the library where lady Ezra Olfoot awaits.

And what a library! Shelves 15’ high fill the walls and all are crammed with books. Here the busts of long-forgotten Olfoots goggle blankly at what the young mistress spends the family money on. Fennec swims through the dense rich odour to the middle of the room where stands lady Ezra, white of skin and black of dress, and a book-lovin’ scholar.

They get on very well though the young mistress’ ways are not Fennec’s ways. She fan-girls over the demon fang but can’t afford it, estimates it could be worth 10,000 to the right collector. Promising to visit again Fennec takes his leave, and so off to the Rusty Rapier.



Stepping out of the tavern Cauleigh accepts a visiting pasteboard card from a very pretty and very short little maid: “Easy Hostess (laundry extra).” He tucks it away, sets off for the Forgotten Circle, as the warriors guild is named.

By the time he reaches Bow Street Cauleigh is fairly sure he’s being followed. He swings left into a lane and abruptly stops, asking for directions. The tail swings in: she’s a lean-faced short-haired type, dressed for unobtrusiveness. She checks, then walks on by. Later Cauleigh learns she is one of the Rogue’s Guild, name of Adini.

The Forgotten Circle Mercenaries Guild is a ring of sparring-posts surrounding perhaps six gates set in a circle. As he heads west to the nearest Cauleigh beholds three women: a cunning crone, a strapping young uruk and a hollow-cheeked burning-eyed woman draped on the uruk. This is the matrona. They creep him out but he remains polite, and moves on without incident to the gate.

Passing through into shadow Cauleigh smells the ocean and feels braced as though a strong sea breeze has wakened him.

He sees standing before him in the strong sunlight a three-storey hall of traditional Vale design, a greybeard dozing over an axe on the steps. On waking, he proves something of an oracle:

“You have received the sea-god’s blessing. My name is Cormorant, for I spit up pearls of wisdom and I am bound to share this wisdom with you.”

Apparently he’ll learn something this evening at the Rusty Rapier. He heads on in and spends an hour or less chatting with much more normal mercenaries. They can be divided into two: those currently in the pay of Lord Fabius Orctooth and those expecting to be. They’re all similar to the bridge guards in terms of range of experience and standard of gear.

Naturally getting trail dust washed off, or something, is high on Cauleigh’s agenda and he soon finds himself at the other end of town stepping up onto the verandah of a substantial stone and wood house and presenting his card to the cigar-smoking cad or pimp there. Inside two pretty little maids introduce him to the pleasures of the port room and the reading room, and he meets Viriniana the house madam. Enquiring after her, he is reintroduced to Speck, she helps him remove his dusty gear, and she takes care of his other needs.

And so off back to the Rusty Rapier.



Crompton has one romp after another! Calla, red-haired, pertly cute, quick with dice, is the Grey Cowl Rogues Guild greeter and gatekeeper. The guild can sell him spells but there’s no immediate rush to buy any from him. Vern, old, unkempt, sleazy, tempts him to an initiation rite that evening. Calla Vern and Binye win a lot of gold off him, then Calla tempts him upstairs for some other fun.

After a meal at the Rusty Rapier – at which Crompton does little more than wave across to the Herbals and recuperate – he rejoins Vern and half a dozen younger rogues and after a pub crawl at which something is slipped into Crompton’s drink he is ready for mischief.

Vern explains (muffled hilarity from the others) that the initiation is a panty-raid on the matrona. Crompton’s challenge is to return to the Rusty Rapier wearing Jorgagu’s panties on his head.

Boosted up to a possible entry window Crompton is promptly seized and pinioned expertly. His ribs creak as Jorgagu, the young Uruk, sits athwart him. Creepy crone Fay and snaky matron Jody menace him but as he wriggles Crompton gets a different reaction from Jorgagu…

“You like big snake?”

“Me got big snake!”

Crompton is hauled off to share Jorgagu’s mattress with a large green snake.

As he reels back from the matrona he bears one extra piece of equipment: Jorgagu’s panties worn proudly on his head!

He meets Fennec and Cauleigh who have just become worried enough to get Vern to explain what the joke was.


Fennec and Cauleigh and Crompton

Vern is there in the tavern with Adini (tailed Cauleigh) and yet another titch of a woman, Takido. Crompton, panties shamelessly worn, walks straight over:

“Mission accomplished Vern! What’s next?”

The Rusty Rapier is not a major inn but has a few beds, three of which are taken by the Herbal Teas: Trefoil a straight-talking, charismatic warrior, Heartsease a giggly short-haired Elf warrior, and Sage the Gnome wizard. Their fourth member Wolfbane (a Wulfan) is left outside. Cauleigh listens to their kobold-hunting thoughts and gives them veteran advice.

Later in the busy tavern Gat the older bridge guard has a map to sell, of Atharva Plateau and a way up past ghoul-haunted Grey Dagon Hill. Cauleigh pays an even hundred for it. Will it match up with Fennec’s map? But that’s in lockup so will have to wait for the morrow.

After Sir Titus Lytera – tall, watchful, bears an Eastern sword – does the rounds the Restorers are ready for a little more restoration courtesy of Easy Hostess Parlor (laundry extra). Cauleigh expands on the facilities and Fennec scoffs at a mere two dozen books in the reading room. But getting laundry done does sound good…

Fennec literally gets his laundry done. As for Crompton, he gets laundry done, a massage and a happy ending as the session ends.


This session of all talk no fight is a good one for Crompton who rolls up on CON and CHR at crucial times. If only he can meet a rogue with plenty of money and not enough spells!

Props: Ironbridge is based on Summerbridge, one of Raging Swan Press’ Village Backdrop series. I’ve ‘grown’ it to more adequately represent a real frontier mining town. Features such as the three adventurer-related guilds are added from Wizardawn’s Fantasy Settlements generator. I’m proud to say the Easy Hostess comes from me: a compote of the brothel in Firefly, Miss Nesselrode’s coffee and reading parlor in Louis Lamour’s Lonesome Gods, and any generic anime Maid Cafe.

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