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Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 6, Part 1

As a result of the recent mass combat victories, the Grand Magus Order (an army of human magus 3’s) and the Emperor’s Guard (an army of human fighter 5’s) had two chances of promotion, and succeeded on both of them. As a result, they each received +2 to their morale and were able to select two new tactics!

Over the next week, the rulers of Caerelia kept in touch with the leaders of House Orlovsky, House Medyved, and Restov through liberal use of the sending prayer. It was observed that sending was not unlike like a magical SMS service, which is to say it’s rather limited when you’re trying to have a discussion with several parties at once. That led to a discussion of the need for a video conferencing spell, which could then be called Scrype. 😀

The Orlovskies reported skirmishes with House Lodovka forces, which they say were prevented from joining the main loyalist army near the Brevoy capital of New Stetven. Medyved was gathering its men, and Restov was already on the defensive! Since declaring themselves free from the Dragonscale Throne, they had had to deal with incursions from the former House Rogarvia lands, which were now mostly in the hands of Surtova loyalists.

Other news reached the ears of the council: small bands of Tiger Lords were pillaging in the northwest, and a group of Swordlords had gone into the Nomen Heights with the intention of slaughtering the remaining Nomen centaurs! The Swordlords had tried several times to get the PCs to do the deed for them over the years, with little success. Now they were apparently taking advantage of the war to handle matters themselves, while Caerelia’s attention was focused elsewhere.

Magic Carpet Ride

Satampra the swashbuckler saw stopping the Swordlords as the higher priority; no doubt he felt some responsibility for what was left of the Nomen tribe after getting the last of their warriors killed. Furthermore, Caerelia and the centaurs had agreed to come to each others’ defense, which is why the centaur warriors were at that battle to begin with. There was some question if the party could track down the Swordlords in time – without knowledge of who exactly was involved, they could not scry and teleport – but Mestinous the elven wizard had a ready solution for that problem! For months, he had been working on enchanting a flying carpet, a long-held dream of the players’, which was also a handy excuse for why the wizard was no longer adventuring with the group (his player, Joe, had been consumed by work and personal matters). But the carpet was now complete! First, the PCs took the carpet – embroidered with a group portrait of the adventurers – out on a joyride. Because you always have to take a moment to enjoy the good things in life, right? After buzzing the castle towers for a bit, they pointed the carpet east to chase down the Swordlord murder party.

After some days of searching from the sky, they found their quarry and landed the carpet in front of a group of two dozen riders. The Swordlords pulled up on their reins, and after horses and carpet were dismounted, introductions were made. The leader of the riders named herself as the Swordlord Stana Aldori, a handsome woman who moved with the grace of a feline.

Once everyone’s identities were well established, Emperor Satampra informed the travelers that the Nomen tribe were under his – which is to say, Caerelia’s – protection. He went on to note that with the war against the throne underway, that this was not really the time for such shenanigans!

Stana replied, “Oh, it wouldn’t take us long. Were it not for unnecessary delays.” She then sought to convince the Emperor that he was wrong to trust the horse folk, and launched into an impassioned accounting of the Nomen’s perfidious crimes and betrayals.

“You do realize that they have a similar accounting of Restov’s actions, yes?” countered Satampra. That led to a debate as to who was more trustworthy – fellow humans, bound by common culture, or savage, monstrous half-horse creatures? Throughout the discussion, the swashbuckler found himself rather attracted to his counterpart, though he found her attitudes towards to the Nomen to be quite unreasonable.

Taking a different tack, the Emperor tried to convince Stana that the centaurs were no longer a threat, and that the generations-old vendetta could be abandoned. Or at least laid down for a time. But the Swordlords had been there before, they claimed, and would not take the chance to allow the Nomen to regain their numbers. Besides, would not Caerelia rather hold and cultivate the Heights than leaving its fertile farmland to a ragged band of nomadic monsters? Satampra would not budge, however.

In the end, the Swordlords agreed to ride back for Restov. They had not changed their minds, but it was clear how important the centaurs were to Caerelia’s ruler, and they did not wish to open a rift in the fledgling alliance. After all, Restov was going to need Caerelia’s aid to regain its independence…

Next: the caves of the kobolds!

 

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Dark Sun: Sands of Blood, Part 3

Continuing the story of an old 3E Dark Sun game. Our heroes (?):

  • Krik, a thri-kreen fighter-in-training, alone and hunting for a new clutch
  • Basal, a female half-elven earth priestess, wastelander healer
  • Karick Reshaw, a male human psion (kineticist), wanderer and guide
  • Aral Karef, a male human psion (kineticist), scion of the merchant houses
  • Kanyth, a male human bard, free-spirited story teller

Read more…

Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 5, Part 3

Baron Jaroslav Kruskel’s army had retreated to the border fort, while the rulers of Caerelia and their forces repaired to the nearby town of Oleg’s Gate. In the evening, the PCs discussed what to do next. Their soldiers were in better shape than the opposition’s, overall, and could probably take the fort without too much trouble. But that would be boring! Instead, Satampra the swashbuckler wanted to teleport into the command center of the fort and defeat the Baron personally while the armies battled outside. It sounded so cinematic, that the other players were all for it! They hammered out the details and waited until morning.

With the sunrise, the Caerelians marched north to the fort. Iofur the druid used wildshape to sneak into the gatehouse, where he summoned several large beasties to eat the guards while he lowered the drawbridge. That was the signal! The Emperor’s Guard and the light cavalry rushed into the breach, while Remesio the cleric used teleport to move himself, Satampra, and Orseen the warpriest into the fort commander’s chambers. There they assumed they would find Baron Kruskel, and they were correct!

Now, I had created the Baron as a middle-aged aristocrat 4/cavalier 4. He wasn’t much of a physical threat, unless mounted. Having thought that the players might try for an assassination and given his high station, I had already created some support to accompany him, a fighter 7 and a cleric of Abadar 7. When the PCs teleported in, they found Baron Jaroslav and his entourage directly outside the chamber, standing on the parapet and preparing to join the battle below.

Satampra immediately rushed forward to get in a sneak attack/vital strike combo on the Baron, but in true Satampra fashion, he flubbed his roll and missed. Then the cleric of Abadar dropped an order’s wrath on the Emperor’s head, and he flubbed his save as well, taking some moderate damage and getting dazed in the process! Remesio had been planning to flame strike the group of enemies, but hesitated because of the swashbuckler’s presence. “Do it,” urged Drew, “When do I ever fail a Reflex save?” When avoiding a spell cast by a party member, that’s when! 😀

After eating the full might of Remesio’s flame strike, Satampra was in trouble, hit point-wise. He was also blocking the doorway, preventing Orseen from getting into melee, so the warpriest created a spiritual weapon to stab in his stead. Then it was Kruskel’s bodyguard’s turn, and he scored a nice juicy critical hit against the swashbuckler! Man, my dice were smoking that evening! The only reason why Satampra was still upright at that point was that he had been blessed with a stoneskin before the battle.

Some healing magic was distributed by both parties, and then the Baron and his champion moved away from the door, with the bodyguard blocking the path to his boss and readying a vital strike against anyone that approached. When Satampra was finally able to act again, he advanced right into that readied attack and ate another serious wound. Then the priest of Abadar summoned a spiritual weapon of his own, which also smacked the Emperor. It was a pretty crummy day for the swashbuckler, all in all, and his vision of storming in and overwhelming the Baron was now in tatters.

After considering the state of affairs and how little progress they had made towards killing Jaroslav, Remesio made a command decision to bug out and dimension hopped all three PCs down to the mass combat in the courtyard below.

Charge of the Light Brigade

After Iofur lowered the drawbridge, the light cavalry was the first through the gate, where they crashed into the much more elite Rostland heavy horse. But the cavaliers were operating without the Baron’s leadership (as he was tied up in the personal-scale battle), and already down on numbers from the previous day’s battle. With the demoralization factor of losing the gatehouse added to that, they could not withstand the charge, and were routed!

The Emperor’s Guard weathered a good deal of arrows and stones in the meantime as they rushed the fort’s entrance. But once they were inside the walls, the peasants broke, and the House Kruskel army was cut down as Remesio and the others entered the fray. Caerelia was victorious! And without suffering any major losses, for once.

Baron Kruskel was taken hostage, along with the surviving knights, so that they could be ransomed back to their families at a later date. The Baron’s priest and bodyguard, on the other hand, were swiftly executed by the Emperor for giving him such a hard time. The Emperor’s Guard stayed at the fort to keep watch, while the Grand Magus Order returned to fortify Oleg’s Gate. The rulers took their prisoners and some soldiers to guard them, and headed back to their capital. They were weary but genuinely hopeful for the first time in weeks, for they had struck an unequivocal and serious blow against their much bigger neighbor!

Next: magic carpet ride!

Dark Sun: Sands of Blood, Part 2

Continuing the story of an old 3E Dark Sun game. Our heroes (?):

  • Krik, a thri-kreen fighter-in-training, alone and hunting for a new clutch
  • Basal, a female half-elven earth priestess, wastelander healer
  • Karick Reshaw, a male human psion (kineticist), wanderer and guide
  • Aral Karef, a male human psion (kineticist), scion of the merchant houses
  • Kanyth, a male human bard, free-spirited story teller

Read more…

Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 5, Part 2

Caerelia invaded once again! An army from Brevoy had smashed the fort at Caerelia’s northern border and bypassed the well-defended town of Oleg’s Gate for squishier targets. The Brevoy vanguard consisted of:

  • The Crown Knights of Rostland, a Medium army of human cavalier 5’s with mounts, masterwork arms and armor, and good morale; led by Baron Jaroslav Kruskel; ACR 4
  • House Kruskel’s private army, a Large army of human fighter 5’s with ranged weapons and 2 siege engines; ACR 6
  • A peasant levy, a Colossal army of human commoner 1’s with ranged weapons and poor morale; ACR 7

Emperor Satampra decided to pull his army from behind the walls and confront Baron Kruskel’s forces in the open before they could cause more damage! At his command he had:

  • The Emperor’s Guard, a Huge army of human fighter 5’s with ranged weapons; led by Emperor Satampra himself; ACR 8
  • The Caerelian Immortals, a Colossal army of human fighter 1’s with 2 siege engines; ACR 8
  • The allied Nomen Centaurs, a Large army of centaurs with ranged weapons; ACR 5
  • The Nomen Heights cavalry, a Medium army of human warrior 1’s with mounts; ACR 1
  • High Priest Remesio; ACR 3
  • Keeper of the Grove Iofur; ACR 3
  • Orseen; ACR 3

So, obvious mismatch, right? The players’ army had been recruited for the purpose of sacking Fort Drelev – hence the siege engines – and the players really went for broke. I had prepared the initial Brevoy force ahead of time, and only realized once the invasion started that they would probably get curb-stomped by the PCs’ units. Baron Kruskel had absolutely no chance of taking Oleg’s Gate (Defense +16) when it was guarded by real soldiers, and so I had him avoid the town in the hopes that he could draw the Caerelians out into the open. The strategy worked, but even so the… Brevoy-an? Brevic? Brevoyian? troops were badly outclassed.

But! There’s a reason we play the game and roll the dice! 😀 Baron Kruskel was an accomplished veteran, and he had not only expected the Caerelians to come after him, he had anticipated many of their tactics. Or that was the story that the dice told, anyway, because as the two armies clashed, the players couldn’t manage any double-digit rolls on the d20, and I was rolling in the high teens for the bulk of the battle!

Back to the Front

The Immortals took heavy losses right away from arrow volleys on their approach, while the Rostland cavaliers smashed into the Nomen centaurs and completely eliminated them as a fighting force! That was the last of the Nomen’s strength, as it had been mere months since their numbers were devastated from a battle with the cyclopean lich Vordekai. The centaurs had responded faithfully to Caerelia’s request for aid in the war, and they had now paid dearly for it. Soon after, the Immortals’ name proved to be ironic, as House Kruskel’s soldiers killed them by the dozens until they fled the field.

But despite the early successes, the numbers were not on the Baron’s side. He called for the peasants to retreat, as they were close to routing themselves. They escaped 1 hp away from having to save vs. rout, a roll that they probably would not have passed. Then his knights finally started to fall to the might of the enemy spellcasters, and he ordered them and his remaining foot soldiers to fall back as well. The battle was over, and the bodies of men and horses and centaurs littered the plain. The Caerelians had won, though it was a Pyrrhic victory; the centaurs were shattered, the Immortals – the bulk of their army – had routed, and the invaders, while bloodied, still had their units intact.

Next: regroup and revenge!

Dark Sun: Sands of Blood, Part 1

When 3rd edition D&D was published, I had been out of RPGs for a few years and out of playing D&D for even longer. The changes sounded great and I was excited to play, but I was on the other side of the country from my old gaming buddies. So I posted some online ads and found my way into a new group that was looking for players.

I’ve almost always wanted to DM, even when I was a little kid playing with my older brother and his friends. I just had no idea how to do it! Through grade school, middle school, high school, and college, I tried and failed again and again, aside from one campaign in high school. That one successful game (in that it lasted more than a session or two) happened to be set on Athas, the world of Dark Sun.

With the advent 3rd edition D&D and the publishing of the (first and not so great) 3e psionics book, I thought Dark Sun could be much better realized than it had been in AD&D, and whipped up my own “keep it simple” conversion. When the new group’s first campaign ended, I offered to run a Dark Sun game using my rules. It was not a success – we started at 3rd level and didn’t make it past 5th – but it did spawn my first attempt at a “story hour” of our sessions, which I posted over at EN World. That wasn’t a success, either! It took me 6 weeks to transcribe the events of just the first session, and that level of effort was simply not sustainable. As such, there is no end to this story, but having re-read it, I think it’s pretty good regardless.

So read on, if you dare, for an incomplete tale from the world of Athas (circa 3rd edition D&D): Read more…

Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 5, Part 1

Three companies of warrior mages had separately moved into the cities of Stagfell, Salar’s Rest, and Shrike’s Crossing, led by Orseen the warpriest, Warden Kesten Garess, and Marshall Pelagia Medyved. Publicly, they were there to guard the urban centers against possible attack from Fort Drelev. In reality, their targets were some of Caerelia’s wealthiest citizens: the cabal that commanded the Thieves’ Guild. In Stagfell, Remesio the cleric had prepared three prayers of sending, ready to give the orders in the dead of night so that the companies could strike near-simultaneously.

Given that the Thieves’ Guild had been welcomed into the kingdom since its founding, what were the chances that the leaders of the guild were not forewarned of what was about to happen? I had the players make a Loyalty check (the kingdom’s lowest bonus, and one that could potentially fail) with a -10 penalty to see if they could maintain operational secrecy. And they made the check! Miraculously, no one outside the council (and even one particular person within the council) had no idea what was about to happen.

The prayers were made, the go-aheads were received. The Grand Magus Order (an army of magus 3’s) stormed several estates that night and rounded up all of the guild heads. Those that survived capture were thrown in the deepest dungeons available. In the weeks to come, guild assets would be seized by the kingdom as the network of thieves, fences, and forgers would be undone. Caerelia was no longer open for business for organized crime.

Royal Enforcer Ianomara, who had been the guild’s representative on the council, was less than pleased by her bosses being arrested and killed in the night. But the deed was already done, and she was offered a rather sweet severance package of 3 BP from the treasury… as long as she agreed to leave the kingdom and not return. She reluctantly took the bribe – what other choice did she have, at that point – and fulfilled her part of the agreement… for the time being. She was replaced in her role by Athammaeus, a large and imposing executioner from a long line of esteemed Brevoy executioners, who had been Ianomara’s deputy for many years.*

* Back in the early days of the kingdom, I bid the players to come up with characters to populate the government, that could serve as replacement PCs should their current character die. Athammaeus was one of Drew’s creations from that time.

Of course, Ianomara was not the only one to object to the arrests of some of Caerelia’s most powerful “merchants.” Family, friends, and business associates showed up at the capital to complain of the unfair slanders, wrongful deaths, and loss of business, and begged for the prisoners’ release, recompense for those slain, and/or made threats. Emperor Satampra pawned these meetings off on Athammeus, who would address each group with his executioner’s axe in view. The new Enforcer explained to the concerned parties that there was a new sheriff in town and that previous lawbreaking, or overlooking of lawbreaking, would not be tolerated. He was going to restore law and order, drain the swamp, make Caerelia great again, etc., and if they didn’t like it, they could join the condemned. The aggrieved parties left empty-handed, although I raised Unrest by 2 to represent the, um, unrest caused by the arrests.

Confounded Expectations

House Medyved was officially informed that Caerelia had severed its ties with the Thieves’ Guild, and with that, the rebellion against House Surtova was officially born. Caerlia, Restov, House Orlovsky, and House Medyved would together face the remaining might of Brevoy in the hopes of taking the Dragonscale Throne!

But there was still the impending attack from Brevoy to contend with! Satampra the swashbuckler, Remesio, Orseen, and Iofur the druid, along with the Grand Magus Order, all rode hard for Oleg’s Gate after it appeared that the guild had been successfully decapitated. Shortly after they arrived, word reached them that the fort on the border, located just one hex northwest of town, had fallen, and the army guarding it (Oleg’s Troubadours, a medium army of human warrior 1’s) had been destroyed.

The mood was tense in the heavily fortified city all through the night and into the morning, as everyone waited for the enemy to arrive at the walls. But the invaders instead bypassed Oleg’s Gate and were headed south! It appeared they had no intention of trying to fight their way past both the city’s formidable defenses (+16), and were headed for softer targets. Reluctantly, Satampra gave the order to move out. The armies of Caerelia would meet the Brevoy forces on the Rostland fields, and gods willing, would send them packing!

Next: the battle of Rostlandor fields!