The characters for this session:
Fennec, L2 Wizard, (STR24 CON26 DEX13 SPD7 IQ16 LK13 CHR7 WIZ11)
Cauleigh, townsman and L3 Warrior (STR24 CON34 DEX17 SPD11 IQ11 LK17 CHR13)
Jotunn, hunter and L5 Warrior (STR25 CON50 DEX18 SPD12 IQ13 LK15 CHR5)
Crompton, rune-bearer/thief and L2 Rogue (STR26 CON16 DEX15 SPD10 IQ10 LK11 CHR8 WIZ10)
Fingold, city at war
Fingold is a puzzle box that you enter and then, can’t leave whenever you please. It has several pieces to it and the characters do their best to assess these pieces and fit them together.
The townsfolk are hungry. A lot of refugees arrived and others moved out, so they live in an unsettled state and more crowded than is comfortable. Child Ken, earnest, inquisitive, proud of his dad, can lead characters to a stable where the four-legged beast might become dinner.
The guards are townsfolk. Sergeant Aldus, pessimistic grizzled veteran, is one of a few survivors who now train the young men to guard the walls. The young guards are loyal and do not take bribes, but one will play a prank if he gets the chance. They police lightly since their real job is guarding the walls.
The walls are guarded against magic, using anti-flight ballistas. The citadel’s ballista operates freezing magic to counter the besiegers’ fire magic. A Dwarf arch-mage lives in the citadel, and can teach adventurers spells, if they earn it. The citadel has other secrets, including a library.
The siege is ritualistic, loose enough to let people in (but maybe not out) and crops be tended. One of two factions (roughly, east) does the siege work, and they have a fire mage. The second faction (roughly, west) would attack the first faction if it looked like succeeding.
The fire mage has an ally below ground. She is a vampiress who raises undead from the men that fall in battle, then sends them up to assault. These assaults all happen below the new wall. Adventurers defend against these sorties. And the old shrines along temple street stopped the undead: now they are part of the wall.
The adventurers are organized into a Guild, and work by a system of missions and privilege ranks. There are four groups: a heavy-hitter group, two less-strong groups, and a take-it-easy group that stays in the background brewing ale and guarding doors. The heavy hitters are helmed by “the demon in glasses” or the cartographer as Cauleigh names him, who is all brain. His group includes two normal tank types, an amazon princess type with unrequited love for him, and a sexy rogue type.
Missions can extend outside the walls, for things like supply-gathering. Missions are assigned importance and reward by Quartermaster-General Lady Countess Saundra. A nasty rumor of bastardy follows her and she insists on at least those titles being used. Rubies gleam in her hair and her dress is costly. Despite her vanity and plump appearance her logistical brains are excellent.
The ruler of the city is Saundra’s half-sister Duchess Melissa: or “her ladyship” since while she is training with the townsfolk she dislikes titles. Some two years ago her husband’s disastrous campaign left the city in her hands and without any effective army. Hawk nosed, black haired, blue eyed, with a face that was probably pudgy before hard physical training and hunger thinned it. Adoring prostitutes work for her, smuggling meat in from enemy lines.
There is a small rump military in the north barracks, mounting supply missions. Nesbitt, humorous but close-mouthed, possibly just a driver, seems to organise that side. There’s an armourer who will fix gear, if Quartermaster-General Lady Countess says so.
How the players reacted
I probably should have expected this, because three of the players have just, over a full season, been playing amoral rogues on the make. So the “reasons to help” hooks, like: it could add to their rep, or lead to spell-teaching, or be a good thing to help townsfolk beset by undead horror, were low-rated. The “reasons to leave” levers, like everything being rationed, or there being no obvious way to make money, loomed very large.
What the characters do with all this:
Two tables, different cliques
They register at the Adventurers Guild. The door is guarded by a friendly half-elf who leads them in, tells them they have a good-ale-wife here, and introduces them to the ale and company. He explains the system: registering is free, you begin with a copper disk and work your way up through missions to better ranks. There’s plenty of room – there’s only 18 adventurers and room enough for 60. Food is better than outside. Oh, and that’s the usual zombie attack coming up…
The alewife is a motherly Hobb. She speaks encouragingly, as though to mere striplings. There are four groups in the Guild, we all work together and get along. She – and a friendly but pale and thin half-elf – explain more about missions. The land outside the wall here used to be city, but fell away in an assault, burying parts of the city, and there were tunnels below as well. The shattered zone on top is the easiest area to explore. Missions can be as easy as mapping, or as hard as killing one of the known dangerous monsters. She posts the missions up on a mission board. The one for the shattered zone is marked out on a rough map, with a dog-like shape in one corner with one word scrawled under it:
Cauleigh meets the cartographer and gathers information in exchange for a future unnamed favour. He also plays cupid, with who knows what consequences.
Two sisters and two missions
They all meet Melissa. She explains that there’s a town of Dwarves not too far away to the west who might be convinced to relieve the siege. The city has just enough wealth for one big chance, so it can’t be a force to just man the walls. Neither faction would permit the Dwarves to just march in.
In the meantime, there’s a small mission north to fetch some supplies. There’s a report of a minotaur in the woods so adventurers are needed – but it might turn out to be just a cow, with horns.
They all meet Saundra, as she vets Melissa’s offer and insists on surety; but Fennec and Crompton begin making cock jokes, and trample all over any rapport building, and Cauleigh gets no further.
Fennec meets the arch-mage but fails to make much impression. But he doesn’t disgrace himself, unlike he and Crompton in front of Melissa and Saundra. He also browses the citadel library and finds another Ikkutas clue.
The supply mission
Jotunn’s player steps away at this point. Jotunn scouts off-road and is not included in the action.
Nisbett tells them cheerfully that trouble will start at a pair of busted-up towers. That’s where the last lot were ambushed. Aside from themselves there’s a pair of guards, equipped adequately but lacking experience in action; Nisbett driving a large wagon; and an enormous dog pulling a dog-cart (and ridden by a very small girl).
Fennec realizes that his normal battle tactic won’t work. He explains he’ll use the range of his TTYF in support, and Cauleigh (arquebus) and Crompton (sword and shield) will do the forward fighting.
The ambush kicks off with arrows arcing down. The two guards are suppressed. The three Dwarves work well together to turn the tables and get to one-on-one combat. And with the ruined towers captured and yet to be looted, the session ends.
Fingold has existed on my old Vale maps for a long time, and I did once choose a general lozenge-shape layout for it. This is the first time I needed detail, and I based the layout on Dreamworlds’ Medieval Market Town map 3 (Cornelius Clifford, Fantasy Floorplans). The shatter zone is partly from my own thought process of what would happen to Fingold during a serious sorcerous war, and partly from &Magazine’s Area Builder. Some elements, including the way adventurers interact with it and the dangers below, come from Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, an anime series I highly recommend. The “samurai beauty besotted with oblivious nerd” is an anime trope, but the “demon in glasses” comes from another anime series, Log Horizon. The supply mission setting is out of Forge Studios’ Evening Session Map 3.
If this session write-up format seems a bit odd, apologies. I was well into writing it all up in my usual Ikkutas style then felt it wasn’t working well. This session is written more in a GM summary format.
I rate the players a “could do better” for the city gaming. They mentally flushed away most of the ‘why we are here’ points I ran over with them at commencement. I found that I had to remind individuals of some objectives. I haven’t described details of the “pickled elf” thread which began earlier and may extend beyond Fingold. Fennec didn’t forget it and it did get discussed with Melissa. Stay tuned!