The Broken Land: into strange waters

Chapter seven of The Broken Lands continues…

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

Chaos is 5

Episode 3: Shipment

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

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

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

 

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

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

Initiatives: rogues, kobolds, goblin guards, Zudi

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

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

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

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

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

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

How all this happens

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

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

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

LOC: So what happens? Punish attention

LOC: More please: Joyfully fresh.

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

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

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

New NPC faction: Ignorick’s guards

Black Gorgun joins ‘party’ list

Chaos rises to 6

 

The unexpected ambitions of the goblins

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

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

Gorgun shrugs. “Donkeys?”

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

“Mmmh… no. I’ll stay on.”

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

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

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

Gorgun seems set on moving on.

“So, when do the boats leave?”

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

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

How this all happens

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

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

New NPC: boat crew

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

 

Episode 4: The undiplomat

What treasure is this?

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

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

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

“Who ya lookin’ at, shithead?”

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

“Show them our power! Reveal your wizardry!”

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

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

“Last chance, fools!”

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

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

“Weak! You deserve death.”

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

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

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

How this happens

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

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

Goblin guards: Yes (Surge+2)*

Zudi: Yes (Surge+4)

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

LOC: Propose magic.

Borer shows off Harken, but fails a PRS check.

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

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

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

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

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

Chaos rises to 6

 

The stone bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, I wonder what they were guarding?”

 

Gorgun makes his point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Start walking back up – or jump!”

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

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

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

How all this happens

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

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

Chaos rises to 7

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

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