This site is an online accumulation of the Post Reports for my current ongoing D&D Campaign - for anyone who might be interested in reading them.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Meet 4, Adv 1, 12/10/16

The party was exploring the cave, trying to find any sign of Fingelt and his miners while the rest of the party was picking their way to freedom. The K'Morat will eventually get in, but it's at a certain time and until then, the group has carte blanche to explore. Except for the bats there is precisely ONE monster in the cave (and I don't consider the bats "monsters" - and encounter that only wants to get away and be left alone) but that monster is also a clue as to what happened and who made it happen. Which will lead the party (if they get out) to the next adventure.

Write up follows:

The party explored the first side shaft on the main level, noting that Fingelt’s people followed the natural vein of iron for some distance. There was a place where the vein widened to a node and we discovered a dented bucket and a small shovel with a broken handle but little else. There were some stains on the floor, enough to lead us to believe they might have been blood, covering a drippy line probably 3’ or so in length – but nothing else.

From here we went to the 2nd side shaft and meandered about as the vein split in two directions. Giving the time to exploring both we found no one again however there was one mining pick discovered that had part of the head stained dark with dried blood and the handle itself was twisted off; the wood splintered and warped. There were some dark thick hairs twisted in the head that Einar suspected were animalistic sort of in nature. Maybe.

It was about 9:30 now and we were getting exhausted. A second listen near the entrance told us the K’Morat kobolds were still celebrating and had not begun to search the collapsed mine. We opted to head back to the bottom floor and rest, heading out in the morning to search the 2nd and 3rd levels after a good night’s rest and the chance to restudy spells.

We slept as well as could be in the gloom of the cave, the party members mining were closer to the outside and making good headway. Suspicion was we’d be through late this afternoon or maybe early evening. So after breaking out fast we headed back to the elevator and spent 15 or so minutes pulling the lift back up to level 2.

There was a metal walkway attached to a pivot that we snagged with the lift hook and swung over to prevent us from the need to jump the 2-3’ gap. A simple rack was here with a couple of leather cloaks and a water gourd that looks like it was smashed at some point. We crossed over and followed the tracks and cave further along; noting that Fingelt’s map showed there was a deposit of Phosphor somewhere on this level. According to the more learned members of the group, Phosphor although used in fire and fiery displays is not going to combust if the lantern was nearby, neither does it give of a flammable gas so we should be ok.

The main shaft led along to two smaller side mined shafts. Before heading to the northern one, we did hear squeaks and trills from further down the corridor which the druid assured us were bats; not an uncommon occurrence. Bolstered by this, we explored the northern shaft cautiously. The ground had a smattering of gravel upon it, making footing dangerous but not unpassable. The passage though ended eventually with no sign of Fingelt’s people so we returned to the main corridor to explore the next shaft.

The south shaft had a 2” drop about four feet into the corridor and it sloped down at almost 10^. Why would they leave a curb like that there? To make matters more confusing, there was a wheelbarrow dumped on its side just past the curb, facing the main shaft. Spilled stones and little more were there. After making absolutely sure there was no issue, we moved down the shaft and followed the corridor and vein of stone until it eventually split in two directions.

The first corridor ended normal at a grey veiny deposit of iron ore so we went back and followed the 2nd corridor but as we were progressing the two dwarves started to get confused and slowed down. Also, the lantern seemed to be shining brighter. It became more labored to breathe and we all backpedaled, turning to race away from the area. As we crawled up the slope both Dizzy and Merica slumped over and started hacking and coughing, choking up gobs of phlegm and vomit for a few minutes until our lungs cleared and we were able to move without problem again.

Deciding that there was a pocket of slow gas in that shaft we opted to stay out of it for now and head further to the end of the 2nd level where the bat noises were. There was a natural pocket at the end of the tracks, almost 12” tall in the center with a few small stalactites hanging down. Gypsum and crusty yellow quartz were collecting on the walls and the floor had a scattering of brown raisin-like deposits littering it. The sounds of bats were louder and we could see there was a natural fissure in the rock along the south-east wall of the chamber where a wavering yellow-blue light glowing from it.

Dizzy opted to go an explore, the dwarven cleric/thief sneaking his way along the main chamber until he arrived at the wide fissure, peering in he was able to see well over 100 bats in the area, each of them about the size of a small squirrel. One was much larger, almost 20” in height but was the same species as the others. His presence did disturb them, but not enough to cause them to take flight. So he backed out and told the group of his findings.

This led to Avulstein and Einar to discuss the merits of bats as druidic companions as well as necromantic minions. While the discussed the possibility of actually catching a bat or two, the necromancer was gathering up a vial full of bat guano before conceding that the druid can get the larger bat if he could charm it, while he would settle for a number of the smaller ones. Throughout it all, Dizzy let us know that he had a way to bottle up the bats from crossing a barrier blessed by Sif that he could create to repel  vermin (which includes bats!).

With a plan in place Dizzy cast his spell which caught a few of the bats in its range, making them squeal loudly as they tried to escape. This excited the rest of the bats who also then started to take flight but were bottled up in the narrow fissure thanks to the spell. The ones that did make it out though were hit by Connal’s quarterstaff and one of them was also snagged by an open cloak used as a net by the necromancer who smothered the shrilling mammal by hugging it tight to his chest under the cloak.

And then the big one took flight, passed through the barrier and was winging towards the party when Einar called out to Frey to charm this flying animal…and it worked! The giant bat alighted near the druid and the two of them proceeded to communicate their mutual assurance to one another.

Meanwhile the rest of the bats were worrying themselves sick and some of them had fallen to the floor of the cave where Avulstein swept them up (after making sure they were dead) and placed them in his backpack (18-20 of them!). He them prepared his own spells and recited the arcanic words until…two of the smaller once dead bats fluttered and came back to unlife! Animated a dead small animal. His minions in place we assumed we were done here and left the area, heading back to the elevator and making our way down to the 3rd level, arriving a bit after 9 AM.

There was another pivot metal walkway that we snagged over and crossed. A pile of dross stone with some yellowy slivers mixed in were here in a pile. We started to look it over and stopped…the sliver and chunks of yellowy material were bone. And they had splintered and gnaw marks all over them.

We took out our 2nd hurricane lantern and lit it, then drew weapons and started walking down the corridor looking carefully. About 20 paces in we came upon a section of the cart tracks that was fairly messed up; the ties were askew and the rails were out or square. There was a side corridor going north to a larger area but we were uncomfortable. The group stopped and Larry hid the lantern so that the dwarves could use their infravision for a peak.

The corridor was fine, no hear sources – but the south wall across from the opening on the north wall and just past the messed up tracks had the telltale glow of body heat coming from it in fits and cracks, broken up from the stone. What was it? The stone? Too hot? No, body heat temperature and it was close. Something on the other side of the wall? Most likely.

The lantern was brought forward and we shone it on the wall, and both dwarves let us know that the wall was a concealed opening covered with stacked stones and given a thin coat of water and grit/gravel/sand to disguise it.

And then we heard something on the other side of the wall move away with a heavy slow ponderous dragging gait.

We all backed up and discussed what we saw. Further checks with our infravision showed the heat source had faded and then left. So we broke out picks and assaulted the wall while a number of us had weapons out and ready. It came down in small chunks until we had an opening a few square feet large that we could look through.

There was a natural cave through here, with more piled stones at the far side, beyond that the corridor “Y”ed but we couldn’t see beyond that or what the figure might be. The smell though, was earthy, foul, and made us gag.

Assured the figure was elsewhere we all made sure weapons and shields were out and pressed on, heading towards the end of the corridor. The mine cart was here but it was the space beyond that caused the party’s heart to grow cold. The area was festooned with torn body parts and bits of viscera from at least 10 different beings. Shredded guts and clothing, tossed tools and boots, it looked like a mad dog shook its food all over the place. But this was most likely Fingelt’s people.

A 5’x5’x8’ crate with air holes was here, the side of it burst open as if something inside broke free. The reek of a charnel house was terrible and after getting ourselves under control we went to the bottle of licorice tonic water we had found from the camp and smeared it under all our noses to mute and mask the terrible smell.

A few notes that we did catch before entering to examine the area – the number of bodies might have been ten, but the amount left if swept together would barely cover one to say nothing of two people. There was also a torn bit from a green tabard that was too ornamental and clean to have part of the mining camp’s clothing. We were going to go check it out but always be aware there was something big down here. Something with us. And it killed all these miners.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Meet 3, Adv 1, 12/3/16

Sometimes there is a big fight planned and xp is doled aside for it. However, if the party comes up with a reason or way to avoid the fight and get past to their objective - should the DM deny them their xp? I don't agree with that, if the group is smart or savvy enough, they deserve the xp for their efforts.

A long time ago I dispensed with xp for gold at the 1 x 1 ratio and introduced:
Xp for kills
Xp for exploring
Xp for deeds
Xp for treasure
and Discretionary Xp.

Kills are straight out of the 1st or 2nd edition MM/DMG. Exploring, 25 xp per area. Deeds are typically 15, 25, 40, or 75 and are tally marked during the game, given out to a particular player/character when they do something notable. Treasure is roughly 1:10 xp:gold, meaning there is a bene for getting the treasure but it's not so unbalancing. And finally Discretionary Xp I typically give out at the end of an adventure and is based on my own gut - ranging as low as 150 to as much as 1,000 - but only for higher level adventures.

What I do though, and as came up this meeting, the party avoided a fight with a horde of kobolds by laying out the field of battle, planning for it, arranging enough situations to slow them down and hobble them, and delaying the fight long enough for the party to escape the area. So they got the Xp and didn't have to murderhobo anyone.

Write up follows:

With the fires running wild on the outside of the palisade, we discussed an end game strategy since there was no way for us to put them all out on our side. The K’Morat had destroyed the aqueduct so the water in the cistern (over 1800 gallons) was fine for now but was only going to go down especially since we were tossing buckets on the walls at the tune of 5-8 gallons every minute through the small cracks in the palisade fence.

The K’Morat were going to eventually get in, and we needed to prepare for this eventuality on the off chance Korsdottr and the rest of the guards and teamsters didn’t have the hole wide enough for us to get into the mine.

With about 30 minutes or so until twilight and about that same amount of time remaining according to the voices calling out in the mine, we took a hard look at Fingelt’s camp and came up with a number of plans to help slow down the K’Morat as well as channel them throughout the camp so we could limit where they approach us and when.

We had the teamsters along with whatever ropes we had, leather traces, and sledgehammers start their efforts on the mess hall. With Darius’ insight the two men had the donkey’s pull at the building while they systematically assaulted the support beams with sledges in order to have it collapse into and towards the stables. Most of the northern wall fell as expected, taking the roof with it, making the entire building lean dangerously over but block off one pathway towards the cave itself.

Getting some of the sheathing from the collapsed lavatory and one of the buckets of nails and hammer, Larry (situated on the guard tower) kept the odd eye out on the K’Morat but drove over 40 of those nails through the sheathing scrap in a random pattern making a 3’x5’ single heavy caltrop. It was then tossed down to the floor where it was dragged to the space between the stables and the ore house and liberally sprinkled and disguised with cast of gravel and dirt from the slag pile.

Using some 2”x6” we nailed the main stable’s doors closed on the west side by the track spur, meaning if any K’Morat entered the stables from the obvious east side looking to cut through, they would be stymied by the held door. To add more injury to insult, we then liberally covered the space just inside the shadowy interior of the east door with twisted nails we had hammered into crude caltrops.

The teamsters then worked on pulling down the smithy away from the short palisade no the north side of the cave entrance to make any attempt to clamber over the fence that much harder.

The area in front of the main entrance to the caves was covered in rubble, broken wood scraps, and the 4 off hay bales that had still been inside the stables. The hay was scattered about and the area was hit with oil in preparation of being lit later.

Driving spikes into the ground, Negan set up as many obstacles as he could in front of the 3’x5’ nail studded plank of wood by the stables with lengths of rails stacked and leaning in order to slow the K’Morat up.

Once the smithy was down the same was done with the supply house. Then the one wagon was crudely hitched to the donkeys and dragged into the space between the leaning mess hall and the foreman’s house. The wheels were then smashed and the space on the west side was covered with more caltrops.

While this was going on Einar, Avulstein, and the two teamsters had not let up on the soaking and water throwing, managing to put out some of the fires but the distant ones on the north side of the gate and the bigger one by the lumber yard were out of control. The palisade was burning here, the ropes long gone; the lengths of wood leaning all about, and the flames were spreading.

According to Larry the K’Morat were now over 80 and were wheeling two battering rams around the side of the road and building up steam as they charged the encampment. One was the Conestoga wagon we were unable to save, loaded down with lengths of wood lashed to the front and being pushed by 15 or so of the running kobolds. The other was smaller but more nimble, driven by a half dozen of the K’Morat as they ran towards the walls as well.

It was time. We all ran back to the cave where the stones were shifting as Korsdottr was just about ready to help us in. The one teamster who was terrified almost pushed his way in first but was chastised that we get the food and supplies in first and then we get in. The K’Morat were running but were not here yet. It was tense, but he agreed and the first of the food stuffs were brought in and passed back one at a time to the waiting party members inside the cave. Larry stayed near the corner by the stables and waited.

And then the smaller battering ram hit first. It plowed into the fire weakened wall north of the gate and the K’Morat pulled their ram out of the hole while others were kicking and shoving the broken burning timbers out of the way. Knowing they were coming in. Larry ran back to us and we tossed a torch on the prepared hay – setting it ablaze and blocking the entrance to the cave palisade.

Meanwhile one by one, bags were pushed back into the cave and we heard more crashes in the front as the K’Morat hit the main gate (it didn’t open) and other places on the wall, making the holes larger. A few started to straggle in where they hit the closest buildings (dry goods, lavatory) in search of whatever. A few tore into the donkeys here (sparing the ponies) and then we heard yells from the stables as they stumbled on the caltrops placed there.

Meanwhile the last of the bags was passed in and the teamsters started crawling through the opening while Korsdottr was now on our side kicking the stones aside to make it large enough for Einar and Negar to get through eventually. Something hit the stables western door from the inside but it held nailed closed. And still more K’Morat were running around.

The first bunch had charged and picked their way through the mess Negan had set up by the stables when they hit the concealed board and nails and the first batch fell over in agony. The party was still crawling into the cave one at a time, with only about half of us still outside. We stayed low and tried to keep ourselves hidden. A few stones were sling but no one noticed where it came from and then while they were dragging the board of nails away and some 20 or so K’Morat were in the area, Negan called to Odin and summoned a Giant Rat in the midst of the kobolds.

It was pandemonium as they were bit and attacked the rodent, and others were coming over the broken wagon by the Foreman’s house and they too fell on caltrops and were cursing in their tongue. Down to just Negan and Larry, the half-elf motioned the fighter-cleric to go in next while he stayed low and watched the milling kobolds with slitted eyes. Negan crawled in, the area tight and more rocks fell around him but he made it through and just about the time the K’Morat had arrived at the burning mess and smaller palisade fence Larry dove into the hole and to the safety of the interior.

Meanwhile, Korsdottr, aided by the crew she had with her, moved three tight wooden boxes back into the tunnel they had cleared out. Then she had them give her a bucket of water which she tossed into the first box, was dumping another bucket in the next box when the first one near the front of the mine went off with an explosion and started another cave in, and then the third box was filled and we all backed away as the next two boxes exploded and sealed off the tunnel again from the K’Morat warriors.

All joined up again, there were the 12 guardsmen, and 5 teamsters, one of them Korsdottr. We moved away from the entrance area to where some tools and a mine cart had been established, some barrels of water and a couple hurricane lanterns lit and caught everyone up on what had been going on.

It was after 7ish and we talked with Korsdottr (who was a miner before she became a teamster) about how to get out. Right now, the K’Morat were most likely tearing the mine camp apart and enjoying a feast of donkey while sorting through the goods they had. Eventually they were going to figure out we weren’t there and they would turn their attention to the pile of rock in front of and choking the cave. We were ok now, but not in the long term. We were going to need another way out.

According to the map we took from Fingelt, they 4th shaft down returned back to the east and was abandoned as it was too close to the stream bed down there and eventually floods. If there were tools and time, we could try digging out that way and making it to the outside and away from the K’Morat before they notice.

So we pocketed the 10#+ of Fizzstone still here (normally used to make air but if submerged in water, has a tendency to explode wildly) and the lanterns, left the mine cart and followed the tracks west to the end – where there was a 14’ diameter lift here that went down a vertical shaft.  Once all aboard we released the locking brakes and allowed the tension beams to guide the lift down into the gloom. It took almost 6 minutes to drop the 150+ feet to the bottom and once there we carefully stepped off into the foot plus of water festooned with floating blobs of fungi.

From the stains on the wall, it looks like the water had been deeper (3+ feet) but was now receded. We followed the main shaft till we arrived at an open node. A flat forge was here with some coal and wood bins. A number of mining hot spikes, sledges, picks, and more lanterns were here. We then followed the shaft to the east until we arrived where Fingelt had marked he was no longer digging east.

The stone here was shot through with numerous cracks and nature fissures. The best judgement was it was 18’ to the outside. Our first impression was this was not an option but Korsdottr disagreed. It would require work, maybe 40 hours’ worth unless we could get the flat forge lit. Then what would be best is the mining stakes (metal pointed poles we saw in the other area) would be heated up and driven into the wall. Then cold water is tossed into the space and the rock is easier to pick and crumble away. If done right we could cut the mining time in half or so.

So, what we decided was that Korsdotter and the teamsters would work down here and perhaps half the guards could help – this would free up 6 of the guards to go and explore the mines and try to find any sign of Fingelt and his people, or what happened to them, as well as be aware if and when the K’Morat get through the rubble earlier than expected. This left 11 people working down here: 2 to dig, 2 to work the forge, 1-2 on rubble and area policing – the other 5 or 6 would then swap on every 2 hours or so.

After a quick meal (we managed to snag over 40 days of potential food – giving the group of 17 of us 2 and a half days of food) we split up 6 of us to go explore – pretty much the entire group that had been outside with a few notable exceptions especially since we were going to be exploring the mines: Negan the half-ogre volunteered to stay back and lend his strength to the digging freeing up Merica the dwarven fighter/wizard to come with us; and Darius the fighter after being pummeled twice by falling crap was feeling unwell for spelunking but was willing to help with the forge work which allowed Dizzy the dwarven priest to join the exploring group.

So Avulstein, Conall, Dizzy, Einar, Larry and Merica (2 humans, 2 dwarves, 1 half-elf, and 1 half-orc) set off – starting with the two open shafts we hadn’t looked down on the 4th level.

The south one was fairly wide and open and eventually came to a 3 way split, but the two dwarves were unhappy with the lack of support beams above and suggested that unless we were very careful, we shouldn’t waste our time with such a dangerous area. Or as Merica voiced, “Fucking built like shit. Let’s go.” Can’t argue with dwarven knowhow. ;)

We then went to the northern shaft where it sloped upward slightly until the water was no longer on the floor. The stains on the wall showed it had one point been higher, but now was not. The walls had signs of bauxite interspersed with the iron ore, but outside of some signs of mining, the shafts and its side shafts had nothing for us.

So we then went to the lift and discussed what to do next. After talking about it, it was decided we would start back on the 1st level and check out the subsequent ones until we were too exhausted to keep looking and/or we found something. The trip up was longer than the trip down, taking us almost 25 minutes to pull the lift back to the top level but once there we locked it in place and stepped off, heading back to the mine cart and the entrance.

We listened carefully, not hearing any of the K’Morat digging in the rubble but maybe some filtered sounds of celebration. Good so far. As for the mine cart, it was about 1/3rd full with slag and ore. We pulled the two tilting pins and pushed the cart over where some of the contents spilled out. We dug around and found an iron cap on the top. There was a single large dent in the forehead section, followed by a 2” sharp scratch running straight down to the brow ridge. Not an obvious weapon but something really hit the helm hard. It was too filthy to tell if there were any blood stains on the interior, but we were on our guard anyway.

Larry was looking longingly at the mine cart and mentioned in passing that he’s really to see it go over the edge of the main shaft and drop to the base of the mine at some point.

It was almost 9 PM and we were going to check out the two side shafts here on the first level at least before deciding to rest for a bit or go down to the 2nd level to explore.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Meet 2, Adv 1, 11/19/16

The party was once again in a "bottle episode" being inside the mining camp. Something had happened here as the miners were no where to be seen and parts of it looked like it had been broken into and looted. But not by the K'Morat, that was obvious.

What there was though were lots of raw supplies to be gathered, but maybe too many. Not everything was going to be salvageable and time was ticking. The K'Morat were going to keep trying the defenses of the camp, looking for new ways to get in and get the group. Every 15-20 minutes was another mad attempt at the wall.

The third wagon with all the hay, lumber, and simple wheeled carts gives the kobolds a big advantage. It allows them to set multiple fires to the walls and not force them to use the main gate as their one point of entry. They are working on a battering ram and when the attack comes it will be with 80-100 of the K'Morat, with a dozen plus supporting atlatl fire to keep the party's head down.

Write up follows:

Negan and the helpful teamster were continuing their work at the main gate, Larry and Conall were heading back to the Foreman’s house to give the place a second look over, and Avilstein and Einar were heading to the back of the camp to find out how Korsdottr was doing as well as find out what happened to the 3rd teamster who was supposed to head off to the back to gather rocks to drop from the guard tower later.

Upon arrival the half-orc and the wizard noted that some of the rocks had been displaced but the teamster wasn’t loading the rocks, instead he was cowered in the corner and complaining that he heard noises from under the rubble. Terrified he’s hidden in the corner and waited for either some help to arrive (the group) or this all to go away (a bad dream). He was chastised by the two party members who went to investigate the rubble…and sure enough, there WAS the sounds of someone groaning underneath.

We shifted stones and dug around until we managed to unbury one of the guards, a human fighter and master slinger named Darius. We let us know that when the explosion happened he shoved the rest of the group ahead of him while he tried to dance backwards and out of the way. He had managed to make most of the distance but a few of the larger stones hemmed in and then he passed out from the rock dust and smaller rocks pummeling him to unconsciousness.

Once he was upright we castigated the teamster who was cowering here, reminding him that the K’Morat kobolds were not going to just let us go and we all had to help out and do our part. He was inspired by our words and anger to gather some rocks again and bring them to the front to help Negan out. On his way, Larry and Conall has emerged from the Foreman’s house and further yelled at the Teamster to move on as well as call out to Darius and the others.

It was here that Einar heard something from the North wall and taking a good look, was able to see a 4 count of K’Morat warriors had snuck up to the Slag Gate and were trying to force it open while perched on top the wall. The call to repel them was shouted out and the group sprung into action. Conall charged towards the other side of the compound while Darius took a few steps closer and let fly two sling bullets, striking one of the K’Morat in the head and hurling it off the wall while a second one broke a 2nd K’Morat’s arm and he too slipped off and fell to his death. Einar went running and Larry loaded his crossbow, shooting a third one off the wall.

The last one refused to leave and was trying real hard to lift the locking bar but was unable to get it open in time. Conall hit the wall of the Ore House and clambered up top, rolling to his feet and tried to run and intercept the last K’Morat. But Darius was even closer now and let more sling stones fly, knocking the K’Morat off and he fell – but NOT off the cliff! Instead he was on the other side of the wall. The distant K’Morat were yelling and cheering him to get up but he was stunned and hurting. Einar ran up to the top of the slag pile and started hurling rocks over the wall trying to knock the K’Morat free. Then Conall leapt to the slag pile and helped the Half-orc on knocking the K’Morat free.

Once it was over we regrouped, reminded the teamster to keep on gathering rocks, and went through the wagons. We made a list of bags and supplies on what we wanted to bring with us and between loading our packs we also made sure there was enough food and supplies (and oil!) ready for us to bring into the cave once they way was clear.

Larry stayed up top the guard tower watching the distant K’Morat (we were now over 50) many of which were around the bend in the path and were doing something with the cart that had the hay and lumber.

Then the K’Morat started atlatl-ing stones and spears at the top of the south wall, knocking the aqueduct apart, breaking the water trough and preventing any new water from running into the camp. The Cistern was full but the K’Morat wanted to prevent us from getting any new water. Why? What was the purpose?

We found out shortly when a 15 count of K’Morat with simple wheelbarrows, a hay bale loaded on top, and a shield of hammered wood protecting the running K’Morat from hot burning hay and flying arrows. And they were running the wall. Lots of them. And cheered on by the other K’Morat in the area. When we dared to stick our heads up we were shot at. It was here that the flasks of oil and crossbow shots were plied. The areas in front of the K’Morat was hit, sending a few of them careening over and dropping their barrows. But at least a dozen made the wall and dropped their burning hay at the base where they then turned and fled. We pot shotted them but our concern was now the burning fires on the other sides of the wall.

The palisade was 14’ tall, with 2’ of the logs set into a trough in the earth. They were roped together towards the bottom, towards the middle, and towards the top. The strength was in their combined unity. And if the ropes burned through, we would have to face the K’Morat sooner – and not through the main gate as Negan had prepared.

So we gathered water from the cistern and ran to the fires, tossing them through the slats and gaps, soaking the ropes and hopefully keeping the fires low. Avilstein, and the two teamsters were pivotal in the keeping the fires low at first. But there was something wrong; this seemed to be effective…but also a distraction. Larry remained at his perch and watched carefully.

That’s when we looked around and noted a 12 count of K’Morat warriors scaling around the southern cliffs and attempting to make the walls and over them. Negan, Einar, Darius, and Conall made their way to the Foreman’s house, clambered on top, and then Negan dared to stand up (shield blocked by his friends) and hurled one of the 2 gallon barrels of oil at the cliff wall in an attempt to knock the K’Morat free.

He failed. The barrel slipped and did not hit nearly where he expected, coming up short. 2 of them did fall to their deaths but the other 10 had no issues and continued to climb. Wearing tightly woven quilted armor and sporting a number of sharpened knives we knew these were going to be more difficult to fight. So we clambered off the building and ran to intercept them when they jumped down and tried to tackle Negan to the ground. The Half-ogre twisted and blocked and stomped and most of them were unable to get a grip, only two of them on his shield arm.

As the rest of them clambered over the wall, Darius was slinging like mad and Einar grew angry, the Half-orc swelling up with barbaric rage. Negan, Conall, Einar, and Darius fought the K’Morat hard for 4 solid minutes until they finally broke their morale. Three of them mad a mad dash towards the slag gate but two were torn apart with Einar giving terrible chase to the last one, his sword whistling wildly. He caught the kobold and finally ripped him apart.

From here Einar grew tired as his rage faded and we were being called by Avilstein that the fires were growing up and out of control. They needed help. The party scavenged around, getting two more cauldrons from the mess hall and adding their efforts in bringing the fires down and under some control. Negan stood in the lumber yard and through the wall called to Odin to create water, smothering one fire at a time.

Some of the fires were guttering low, others were growing huge. And a few were behind the walls of other buildings. Running into the latrine, Darius used a sledge hammer to bash at the back wall in order to get to the fire behind it. However it was a load bearing section of the wall and the roof of the latrine fell in on him, burying the slinging fighter once again.

It was now ten after six and the walls were slowly getting more burned. We needed to put it out as best we could, and time was ticking. It was at least another half hour before Korsdottr has the opening clear enough for us to crawl in. We needed to decide what to do now and soon while we still had the opportunity to make these sorts of decisions.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Meet 1, Adv 1, 11/12/16

There was the obligatory box text effect in the beginning because I didn't want to waste time with individual histories and wanted to get to rolling d20's asap. It worked. The action ramps up next week.

Write up follows:

You come from someplace else. Some of you were born to open hills and cool breezes, the stars were your stories and your history proud. Others were born with comforting stone and rock as your cradle and walls, warding you as you grew in the warmth of its halls. And still others were born within the walls of towns where the rich tapestry of many cultures were your canvas to draw upon. Wherever it is you came from, wherever it is you started your journey, it has led you throughout the years to the realization of one simple thing…Life is hard, opportunities are fleeting, and the world doesn’t care.

You started out trying to do things the way that was expected of you. You may have been apprenticed to a local craftsman and tried to toe the line. Maybe you had a minor stake in the family business but were not slated to run it one day. Perhaps you were too gangly or large to blend in properly; your questionable lineage might have held you back. Or maybe you just didn’t fit in.

As the stars above called to you, you always felt you were destined for something else, something more. When the Reetersbeard Caravans would come to town you would listen to the strange dialects of people who had travelled for two months and never saw the same souls twice. Clad in velvets and furs, festooned with jewelry, never worrying where their next meal would come from or what it would cost; they imprinted on you a desire to not only see more than the home and town you’ve lived in, but to reach further and higher than anyone in your family or circle of acquaintances ever did before.

So you repurposed yourself. You hung around the guild halls and did odd jobs for bits and commons. You made yourself available to the journeymen who were on the lookout for raw talent and kept your pride private and small. You sweated with each blow, strained with each study, ached after hours of meditation. The days passed and then weeks and months. When the going got tough, you were enticed by well-meaning family and friends to “give it all up” and “come home and live the normal life”. That only spurred you on to not give in.

Every available coin went either to feed you or pay for your training. There was nothing left over for frivolities. But the day came where you were either accepted, ordained, or given your own journeyman card and set off to make a fortune and name for yourself.

What a fucking farce.

Being a member of the League of Odin’s Warriors did not make you rich. Stepping free from your master after years of study with the ability to warp the fabric of reality did not open doors of opportunity. After your ordination ceremony you found yourself performing miracles for the faithful like a dancing bear but no closer to having a fulfilled life. You had changed for the better, but it was not enough.

Through back alley bars and mead halls, across open tents at the bazaars and trading posts, spoken on line at the impressers near the labor queues for mining work – you had heard, like others before, of Bork Keep and the Terror Dungeon. Never did you speak to anyone who was ever there but always someone who knew someone who had gone in and come out again richer than Midas. The talk of daring Mylfys and her struggles against the Grue, the Ballad of Torridson and the Silver Four, the dark tale of Ulfric the lone survivor of Brightblade and Company. If ever anyone was to make a name for himself and lift themselves out of the doldrums of mediocrity, it would be to plumb the silvery depths of the Terror Dungeon.

But the amulets weren’t cheap, and too many knockoffs were sold on the docks of Ashak for a “great price” only to find they were worthless rock when the wearer tried to pass through the great stone archway.  The talk was an amulet would cost upwards of 400 nobles, the amount of money a fair craftsman earns in a given year; assuming he didn’t eat. And that was the rub of it, in order for the opportunity to make money; you needed a kingly sum to begin with.

So maybe your morals grew shadowy, your need and your future took central stage to your desires. You could muck stalls as unskilled labor for 2 commons a day or join a K’Morat hunting troupe for three squares and a full share of the bounty. Private guard for wealthy dwarven businessmen and their wives paid better than planning lumber at the mills. The purse for fighting murderers and rapists in the pits were better salary than shepherding flock along the trails of the Passian Hills.

This allowed you to outfit yourself in better gear and weaponry, to make a local name for yourself, give you an opportunity to do something more than what you’ve been capable so far. The name for you and others like you who sell their services sometimes no questions asked was once derided in your na├»ve youth, but now it’s who you are. Mercenary. Sword and Spell for Hire. Adventurer. Daredevil. Opportunist.

You have travelled from where you came from; joining up with others like yourself, hoping that their good luck and fortune, their opportunities will enrich you and your chances. In ones and twos, the tentative tendrils of grudging respect have tightened to something akin to camaraderie. And as the circle of trust has expanded, pulling in other like-minded folk from all walks of life, so too have to job opportunities.

West of Thak, in the low mountains of the Sorton Peaks, is some of the most active mining operations outside of Ironcamp. Scores of small operations plumb the stony hearts of the mountains for iron ore to send back to hungry forges. But so far from safety and civilization, they are more like armed camps with wooden palisades and keen eyes with flatbows and spears. Profit margins are tight and they only get paid if they are mining. So they have goods come in every two weeks supplied by wagon by whatever mercantile operation wants their product.

It is here that mercenaries are in demand. The pay is rich: 8 nobles total for two days work, with the promise of a warm bunk and a hot meal upon arrival at the mining camp. Guarding three wagons with 5 or 6 teamsters and merchant representatives was good work and the companies were happier to hire larger groups that already had a history of working together.

It’s been a good 5 weeks. 11 trips out and 11 trips back have allowed you to finish equipping yourself. Glittering swords, fine clothes, doughty shields. It’s enough to not only kit out your gear, but to also make you more attractive for hire down the road. The hope is to do this here for the rest of the spring and summer and then find similar employment in Sorton where a letter of recommendation from the Darbeard Company (who you are currently working for) for your two seasons work will go a long way towards getting you hooked up with one of the major operations of the Jarlborinn Thanedom.

This latest trip, this time to Fingelt’s mine, was put together like any other, no issue no foul. But when it came time to leave Nuggle Darbeard, the company’s rep and cousin of the Darbeard Company boss, was in a foul mood. His second, Sigurd Eindaud, had lost a sizeable stake in betting at the fighting pits and his marker was putting pressure on him to pay up. Nuggle had to promise the bookmaker that Sigurd would repay his losses and gave Darbeard scrip to cover the shortfall for now.

Since this morning’s fiasco, the caravan did not leave until after 9, almost 2 hours later, and the entire group had had the opportunity to listen to Nuggle tear Sigurd a new ass in alternating Common and Dwarven as the three wagons wound their way through the mountain roads. For his part Sigurd has been uncharacteristically argumentative with Nuggle, getting close to screaming at the dwarven merchant about how he’s tired of getting robbed by the Darbeard’s for stealing every merchant deal he sets up.

It’s been embarrassing to say the least.

The guards and teamsters have done their best to ignore the long winded screaming matching between their employers, but it’s obvious from listening that Sigurd’s been in this situation before and recently. Nuggle has flat out called Sigurd a “dangerous liability” for paying off one debt collector by borrowing from some other shady practice. Which Sigurd denied and now the conversation has degenerated to claims of theft and smuggling.

At just after 4, the caravan has come within sight of Fingelt’s Mine. Situated near the top of a rise along one of the many stony outcroppings of the Sorton Peaks, it is a wide plateau of stone that is partially fenced in by a 14’ wooden palisade. Two squat guard towers are near the ponderous gate that is currently closed. The palisade goes around the buildings within and end up butted against the rock wall that rises another 140’ or so at a steep angle. A natural runoff of water is collected above the Mine where it is run through a number of aqueducts and troughs to disappear within the minecamp.

The call is given but no one answers. Nuggle is grumbling and Sigurd is furiously quiet while looking about the desolate landscape. The teamsters dismount and our guards all emerge stretching while the call to open is given again, and again with no answer. The main teamster motions two of the party to join her as she goes to the gate, peers through the wooden slats, and then motions the teams to back the donkeys and carts up. Once room is cleared it takes 4 to open the gates and the call to “hello” is given again. You can see there are a number of simple buildings inside: stables, mess hall, lumber yard, dry goods, latrines, miner’s barracks, foreman’s house, and towards the back the ore house and smithy.

There are some echoing noises from the back of the camp where a second palisade has been set up to protect the entrance of the mine itself. It looks like that gate is open. Korsdottr, the head teamster informs Nuggle that Fingelt and his crew are most likely in the mine itself. The dwarven rep agrees and motions for half the guards to go with Korsdottr to call Fingelt out while he arranges to get the wagons inside. She picks out 6 or 7 of the group, leaving Larry the crossbow wielding Half-elven Sorceror Thief, Conall the Human Monastic from the Order of Sif, The Half-orc Einer druidic follower of Frey and barbaric Warrior of the Firvinr, Negan the indomitable Half-ogre champion Fighter and Templar to Odin, Avulstein the Human Wizard follower of Hel and practitioner of the Necromantic arts, Nuggle, Sigurd, and the last three teamsters at the entrance.

For all the talk, there is something still wrong that is prickling at the party’s spine. If Fingelt and his miners are in the mine, why did they leave no one at either tower? And if so, why did they not bar the main gate. Also, it’s about 4 or so, someone should be preparing a meal at the mess hall but there is no smoke from the chimney and no sound coming from within except for some deep echoes from the mine and the gurgling slosh of the water as it runs across the wall troughs and into the mining camp’s cistern.

A brief exchange with the other has the party on the same wavelength and weapons are drawn, flatbows cocked, and shields taken off the wagons and handed out. Nuggle asks what the problem is and your group gives the dwarf your concern. He thinks swiftly and agrees. The party is then asked to help guide some of the wagons in, keeping their eye out for any threat which may be inside the wall. He asks Negan and Einar to stay close by out here.

As the first wagon is guided in by Avilstein and the second is making its way through the great gates with one of the teamsters and Larry and Conall guiding it, there is a massive explosion coming from the back of the camp and the sound of falling rock. Everyone turns to look, seeing a small section of the rockface above the mine slide away and crash down, covering the mine entrance and possibly killing or wounding the other half of the caravan guard.

And while this has everyone’s attention, Nuggle pitches forward with a scream, two short spears in his back. The dwarf rep is looking behind him at Sigurd who is standing near a FUCKING warband of 18 K’Morat kobolds decked out in fetishes and wearing blue paint smeared on their scaly skin. He chokes out, “Why?” to which Sigurd, taking a bulging leather purse from the K’Morat leader with a nod of thanks, calls back, “Because you and your family were cheap fucks, Nuggle.” He points to the stunned party and open gate, “As promised,” he says to the K’Morat leader, “they’re all yours. Good eating.” He hoists himself onto the back of a mountain pony the K’Morat have brought for him and pats his bulging leather bag.

And in one voice the K’Morat shout their war cry to the heavens and charge the group with shaking spears and sharpened teeth. Three of them are mounted on war ponies and the others are running, spear shaking and some of them prepared with atlatls. Larry took a “Hail Frigga” shot at Sigurd but his bolt went wide and high. The two teamsters ran, leaving the wagons where they were without concern, only hoping to make it inside and find some shelter. We tried to convince them to stay but realized it was a waste of time.

In the face of so many K’Morat, Negan and Einer turn and run for the entrance, shouting for everyone to get inside. The donkeys were unwilling to move, stubbornly holding their ground regardless of the effort Conall or Larry were putting into getting them to enter. So Negan and Einar shouted “MOVE” and charged the back of the 2nd wagon – the combined mass of the Half-ogre and Half-orc slamming into the back to the wagon shoved the two donkeys forward and they ran into the courtyard of the camp.

Hurled spears began flying, striking everywhere and hitting Einar and Negan, one of them passing through a weak place in his scalemail armor and knocking the mighty half-ogre down with a critical blow! The charging K’Morat on horseback were much closer and Einar saw the bobbing point of the spear levelled at him along with the flashing hooves…and tumbled barely out of the way in time! The K’Morat warrior raced past, and Conall did the same, also rolling out of the way! This allowed the trio to funnel into the courtyard with horses and spears. Two of the teamsters were running across the ground looking for cover while a third stood with Avilstein, a truncheon in his hand and murder in his eyes.

Larry was clambering the ladder by the guard tower quickly while Conall threw himself at one of the doors, slamming it closed. Avilstein shouted out some arcanic words and centered it on the galloping kobolds…putting all three to sleep as well as two of the ponies!

Conall was struggling with the other door, Einar had the bracing bar to lock it closed and Larry was on the tower’s top calling out his own spell to distract about half the charging the K’Morat from entering the camp. Three were close. Flying spears flew about, hitting Larry who staggered back hit and hurt. Einar and Conall shoved hard together and shut the door, trapping the K’Morat on the other side for now. They scrambled to put the bracing bar in place while a few more spears were hurled before Larry came back down. We killed the three kobolds in cold blood, cut the tracings from the donkeys on the two carts we had, and Einar called on Frey to heal Negan from his mortal wound, helping the Half-ogre to his feet.

From outside the walls we could hear and glimpse the K’Morat have fallen to eating the two donkeys out there as well as Nuggle Darbeard. They have also torn the tarp off the last wagon and were looking over the lumber and hay that was there.

We regrouped and decided to brace the door with both wagons we had, making a “T” with the two wagons, than we proceeded to tear our own tarps off and see what we had. A few of us went back to the rear of Fingelt’s Camp and the mine to see the damage and find out if our companions were still alive and ok. According to Korsdottr, the Teamster leader inside, everyone was accounted for and seemed to be ok. There was a lot of rock and it was going to take some hours to dig free. They had lanterns, tools, and some water. She suggested the rest of the party watch out for K’Morat attacks, find the foreman’s house and see if there was a map of the mine in it, and raid the damned wagons for any supplies we were going to need as well as food and if the Darbeard’s ever find out or get pissed, “they can fucking damned well bill Sigurd for it!”

A few of us wandered to the buildings inside the camp finding little since the place was waiting for this caravan to resupply it. The Drygoods had some dregs of dry food, a few pieces of worn clothing, material for sacks, and a partial jar of rendered bear fat used as a lotion. The lumberyard was down to a couple 10’ 4x4’s and some other scrap sticks, and the stables had no donkeys in it but did have one of the frightened Teamsters. He was convinced to man up, get the hell out of the corner, and go fucking help. He was sent to the back of the mine camp to gather rocks and bring them up front to load the tower.

Negan and Larry and the one other teamster who had stood with us (now sporting a hurt leg) were going through the wagons filled with tons of foodstuff, supplies, tools, clothes, mining equipment, and mine track. We cannibalized the piles for some equipment to flesh out our stores and Negan began using rods, spikes, and rail sections to make even the most determined attempts at opening the gate prohibitively difficult. Under the main wagon was the caravan safe, an iron box built into the floor, locked. The key was most likely on Nuggle’s belt but there might be something in the mine we could use of possibly be forced to beat the safe open with a hammer. Maybe.

We had also found the Mess Hall had pots and pans, dishes, mugs, bowls, and ironware. The Ore House was mostly empty, some 400# of raw iron ore needed to be processed. Inside the Ore House was a closed off area called Shippable, but the door had been forced open and it looked like whatever had once been inside was gone. Taken. Finally a Einar and Avilstein had gone into the foreman’s house (which looked a little picked over) where they did find a map which they took off the wall, and a few personal belongings. The Half-orc had a hard time not ripping doors and drawers off, but he managed to find some paper, a vial of ink, and a ring with three keys.

It was here that the K’Morat tried to assault the main gate. Five of them ran forward with coils of rope, spurred on by others who were keeping the party down with hurled spears. The kobolds climbed the door where Larry and Negan were waiting with Crossbow, spell, and a 40# length of mine cart track. Bludgeoning and beating the kobolds who managed to climb up top, two of them got a chance to attach ropes but were badly crippled. Even the one that tried to grapple the half-ogre was overmatched and the kobold attack was easily rebuffed. We took their ropes and watched as the K’Morat continued to do something with the caravan wagon that they had moved away from the walls. And through it all, the K’Morat warleader, feathered and covered in woad, continued to watch us with critical eyes.

The combat drew everyone back to the front where we tried one of the keys in the wagon lock box…and eureka. The mine’s payroll (couple of hundred crowns and nobles), as well as 4 bottles of dwarven brandy, a 5# bag of candied meats, and a 20+ count of healing draughts, potions, and similar items. We drank them down now for those of us who needed it, and then parted out what was remaining.

Once everyone had we talked about our next plans. Conall and Larry went to the main barracks to check for the last teamster, while the rest of us were going to centralize the items we wanted to bring from the wagon and bring it towards the back of the mining camp.

The main barracks were dirty and looked like someone had rummaged through here. The last frightened teamster was hiding in here and was not very helpful or consolable. He was given a “make work” mission to go on when Larry caught him in the throat with his knife, dragged it across his neck, and helped the dying…dead man to the ground. The Monk said nothing and Larry wiped his knife clean. The two of them nodded to one another and left the barracks.

The question was now where was the other Teamster? He had been sent back to the rear of the camp and no one had seen him for over 45 minutes.

It was 10 after 5 and we had some hour and half or so of daylight left. The number of K’Morat we estimate to be now over 40 with more coming in dribs and drabs.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Background - 11/5/16

For this next campaign, I've moved the focus further north on my map. We are inland, sort of a combination barbaric area with dwarven kingdoms along with a host of marauding orcs just outside the fringe.

I've also told the group that this was not a very civilized area, so the charter and sponsored adventuring groups were not going to be case. Think mercenaries and you have it. So I made everyone roll up TWO characters.

First I did 4d6, drop the lowest, but rolled in order. Then the 2nd character was straight 3d6 but they could apply the scores where ever they wanted. As usual, there was a 2 points dropped for 1 point add if they wanted (nothing could be dropped below 9).

We have (everyone is either 1st level or if dual classed 1st/1st):

Grey Elven Fighter/Wizard, Distance spells, shortbow and leather armor, 5 hps, AC 13
Human Monk, Quarter staff and padded, 14 hps, AC 14
Half-orc Druid to Frey/Barbarian, Broadsword and padded, 8 hps, AC 13
Half-ogre Fighter/Cleric to Odin, Greatsword and scalemail, 21 hps, AC 15
Half-ogre Barbarian, Spears and padded, 18 hps, AC 13
Human Wizard, Necromancy and daggers, 3 hps, AC 11
Hill Dwarf Thief/Cleric to Sif, Crossbow and leather, 6 hps, AC 14
Hill Dwarf Fighter/Wizard, fire based, broadsword and ringmail, 7 hps, AC 16
Gnome Sorceror, Support and Wild magic, stick fighting, 4 hps, AC 11
Half-elf Thief/Sorceror, Personal augment spells, crossbow and studded leather, 4 hps, AC 14
Human Fighter, Slinger and ringmail, 4 hps, AC 19
Half-ogre Ranger to Tyr, Greatsword and scalemail, 20 hps, AC 15

During the campaign, they will each pick 1 character (bringing the party to 6), the other characters will be nearby but can't get into the action at this time. At some point they will have an opportunity to all group up and "swap out" to the other one if they want. Eventually we'll get to where we're going and they can then during the adventures, either concentrate on a main or go to their alternate. They CANNOT play them both at the same time.

We are back to the table this saturday. Fleshing out 12 characters, the maps, world, 1st adventure, and getting it all done in 2 weeks is a labor of love.

The background for the new campaign follows (and even a map of the area!):

The year is 190 of the 30th age as the races of dwarves, men, and elves measure time; and you are in the land known as Rand. Southern Rand specifically. The land is situated on the northern coast of the Borbuta Sea, and for the longest time was the home of four civilizations: the Ancient Mountain Dwarven Gorokian Empire to the north, the Hill Dwarven Jarlborinn Thanedom to the west, the Gnomish Nightwood Kingdom to the east, and lastly the Himaya of the Randari Orcs.

The Randari Orcs had made the mistake of going to war with the Jarlborinn and were soundly trounced, their Kaizar slain and all of his line killed with him. Without anyone of the First Orcs alive to lead the Randari, their empire collapsed and the height of orcish culture was cast into barbarism. This resulted in many of their cities being left fallow and their one time holdings and property were set free.

Their property being the human and Halfling slaves they once owned and had kept in bondage for generations. The Gorokian dwarves had no interest in supporting the now freed slaves and even less interest in “surface dweller” problems so allowed the freedmen and women to wander wherever, pitying them when their paths crossed.

The Jarlborinn and the Nightwood gnomes felt otherwise and made it their business to help the barbaric tribes to survive; bringing them some knowledge of hunting and tracking, the use of fire and smithing, music, art and oral history. The barbaric people grew proud, not only in their freedom but in their friends in the dwarves and gnomes and called themselves the Firvinr or “Friends of the People” as they referred to the dwarf and gnomes.

Time passed and as it was known to do, things changed and stayed the same. The land was filled slowly with more people. Trade made its way throughout the very open land, and the Randari orcs raided where they could but not too much where they would arouse the ire of the two dwarven kingdoms.

Almost 170 years ago, there was a migration of dwarves from far to the south. Making a long journey northward across hundreds of miles of open and unforgiving territory, the entire dwarven thane-clan of Reetersbeard had lifted themselves up from their ancestral home to escape what was portended to be the largest hatching and migration of dragons ever to be seen. They came north to the places their ancestors had left ages earlier to once more settle down and mine the deep earth they loved so much.

The Gorokian Dwarves did not want the 8,000 Reetersbeard dwarves to settle here, and they sure didn’t want the almost 10,000 followers of humans, elves, halflings, and other demi-humans that came along with them. The barbarian tribes of the Firvinr also saw these immigrants with their soft ways, odd magics, and written word as an unneeded burden that was better off somewhere else.

Tired from the long journey, and unwilling to force march past any more orcs, ogres, kobolds, hills, chasms, caves, or dangers, the Reetersbeard dwarves and their supporters arranged settling rites and trade deals with the Jarlborinn Dwarves who agreed to let the newcomers stay. Indenturing themselves to the Jarlborinn for 75 years, the newcomers to the land of Rand settled down and soon began filling in the empty spaces the Randari Orcish empire had left behind.

When the indenturing was over the Reetersbeard dwarves settled along the northern stretch of the Passian Hills and helped to promote trade between the many dissimilar people, tribes, and fiefs that were growing around Rand. Income grew, ideas were spread, and the people moved about, further enhancing the land and those that lived in it. The Reetersbeard trade caravan makes a trip around the entirety of Rand three times per year after the mud season and frost has ended. Its arrival is heralded as a boom time for any town, fort or city that it stops in. Getting your wares on the caravan is almost guaranteed to bring prosperity to your family or mercantile when it comes back around.

But it is difficult to get a space on the caravan and there is sometimes ugly talk that the decision process is not open and is often biased. There is never any proof to this but the stories do continue. So there are oftentimes lesser caravans that follow the trade routes, often coming just after the Reetersbeard Caravan has just come through; or merchants that visit the towns that are off the main trade route. It is those caravans, those merchants and traders who have the harder time.

Three times in the past the Reetersbeard Caravan was assaulted. Once by the Gorokian Dwarves who not only refused the Caravan entrance to trade but then tried to tax and take 10% of the tradegoods as payment. This caused a massive conflict that encompassed five days of escalating fighting as Hill and Mountain dwarves assaulted one another before 2,000 Reetersbeard dwarves arrived after a forced march from Ironcamp to support their merchant brethren but also lay waste and siege the entire surface city of Gorok. It took the High Thane himself to come out and publically apologize to the Reetersbeard dwarves and pay reparations to the merchant families to some unnamed total before the conflict was ended.

Since then, the Gorokian dwarves have become even more xenophobic and filled with dislike and hatred of the “newcomer dwarves” and their ungodly ways. To combat this, the Reetersbeard Caravan often spends the least amount of time in Gorok and some merchants will either raise their prices when trading here or short their availability on requested tradegoods.

The other two times the Caravan was assaulted by Randari Orcs whose raiding parties were beaten so badly for their efforts that the Randari have a saying amongst themselves (which has spread to others who tend to agree) that goes, “It’s safer to kiss a snake and fuck a wolf than to take a dwarf’s gold.”

The cities that make up Rand are not connected by any king or overreaching authority, there isn’t a duke or central figure that rules. The Gorokian Dwarves don’t care, the Jarlborinn Dwarves have no interest in ruling the humans, The Nightwood Gnomes don’t care beyond their forest edge. It is a bit of a free for all. Erylond is ruled by a self-appointed King while the leader of Tilani refers to their land and surrounding people as Empire. The Nightwood Gnomes have grown more insular and have dropped from the Reetersbeard Caravan. Visitors have been gently turned away and those who have gone in and come out talk about a Charismatic Theocrat who has taken sway of the gnomes and others who live there.

For the average person though, there is a lot of drudgery. Without a unified system of laws and land-wise network of vassals and baronies, most everyone finds themselves a laborer or serf, bound to whatever lord, warlord, or ruler governs their lives. Randari Orcs will assault small groups if found anywhere off the main roads. Even K’Morat kobolds have become more numerous in the recent decades, stealing sheep, goats, and anything else they could cart off and devour.

About 15 years ago, north of a stretch of the Erylond River, dwarven delvers looking to expand the foundation stones of Bork Keep unexpectedly broke through a capstone of rune glyphed rock and opened the area to some subterranean dungeon. Most attempts to enter the dungeon failed as those who tried were filled with the most all-consuming terror. It took some of Lord Bork’s runesmiths to craft a handful of pendants that allowed brave souls to dare and enter the dungeon.

Most of them never returned. The few who did came back with untold wealth and magic that had not been seen in ages. Which then spurred on others to try. Again, it required more amulets to be made which Lord Bork began selling, since most of them had been lost in the first delving and he was out of their value, effort, and time to have them made. And again, others have tried to enter to dungeon and only some emerged. Some with riches, others barely alive. All reported fantastic beasts below and rooms without end. As for the horrors within escaping and attacking the surface dwellers? That hasn’t happened and according to the best runesmiths, the magic of the Terror Dungeon prevents anyone born within its depth from exiting.

It’s became a veritable goldmine for the young and foolhardy to try their luck and hand at entering the Terror Dungeon. Many a disenfranchised young adult of all races pooltheir coins together for an opportunity to purchase a runecrafted pendant, strap on a sword or armor, and try their luck. Some only go a short distance in and consider themselves lucky to escape with a few baubles, other dare further and come out with enough to purchase hundreds of acres. And some don’t come out at all. It is known though that if you want to make your riches, you make your way to New Erylond and take a 2 day trip down river to Bork Keep and plumb the uncharted depths of the Terror Dungeon.

But for too many, this is a pipe dream. Right now the best option for employment is to guard one of the many caravans of traders or transporters who work the surface lands. The pay is decent but the dangers are real. K’Morat kobolds will attack you for food, Randari Orcs will raid for misplaced glory and plunder, Firvinr barbarians will attack for weapons and gold. And brigands will take advantage of anyone foolish enough to lower their guard or dare to travel off the roads.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Passing in the Dark

As the DM, one of the thankless jobs one has to to juggle the myriad of people who are at your table. Some like the minutia, some like hack and slash, others are quiet, others are loud, some revel in the chaos, others get frustrated when the rules are flaunted, and others just come for the stories.

But any keen DM will get a read from his table, and will know regardless of how much effort he puts into his world, that the players at the table just aren't...feeling it.

That's what's been happening at my table. I've noted it has been growing but it's uneven, the same players who I can tell didn't feel a particular day were very engaged the next, but a different player seemed bothered for his efforts instead. It was maddening since I didn't know who I had to watch out for on my side of the screen on a week by week basis.

Plus, I have two new people at the table - not new players, just people who haven't played in years and are now back to sit and roll d20's. So they aren't invested in the campaign although they do fit in the group.

And finally of the original party, I only have 2 members of the original group (Flimflam and Marcus) who have their own roots and long story arcs in the campaign to day (one is the leader of the adventuring group, knighted and soon to be member of the Baron's council; the other has his own tower and achieved the title of Wizard-Lord and truthfully, has other things he needs to devote his time to besides running around the countryside punching goblins in the face). So the new characters by the other people at the table just feel superfluous and maybe marginalized.

So, I am NOT a fan of abandoning a horse in midstream (I am an unabashed completist and loyalist and make no secret about it) but I sat with the group and flat out asked them...with all that I've seen, is there any chance that we might want to shelve this campaign and reroll at 1st?

It's been going on for 4 1/2 years (with a 22 week break for the house repair and a 13 week break for the birth of my son) with this campaign (9 years with this group or at least the core of it) and asking the group to restart was going to generate some lively discussion - how about 2 weeks worth and 3 hours in person? We talked and discussed with the end result being 4 to 2 (my vote doesn't count) to shelving this campaign and starting over...with the two being the players of Flimflam and Marcus.

But everyone was willing to defer to those two and they had the grace to talk about it and we all mutually decided to shelf the game for now and start over.

So that's what we've been doing, rolling up characters. I am making everyone roll up TWO characters: 1 of them 4d6 drop the lowest but the stats are rolled in order, the 2nd one 3d6 but assign the stats where you like. Then it's fleshing both of them out and the idea is that we are mercenaries, not an adventuring group (at least to start) and there will be many opportunities during the meetings to swap characters out and try out the "B" team guy and see which one you like.

So there you go, 2nd campaign has been shelved and we are rolling and finishing up the next party. I will post the background for that party in a few days and our first meeting is this Saturday.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Meet 124, Adv 7, 10/15/16

Not much to say for this week's meeting. Something's been going on with the undercurrent I've been picking up on that violates Rule # 1: Always Have Fun.

So on the next posting, we'll discuss what went down and how it all played out.

Write up follows:

The group stayed low in the tree line and waited, eventually feeling calmer and more at ease. Weapons were dropped and swapped, healing kits broken out, and Marcus took out his spell book to refresh the spells we spent earlier. While Steiner and Flimflam were attending to the group, Caidius wanted to have eyes on the goblins so started working his way up the hill to observe.

About halfway up the slope, he noted that some of the grasses were moving strangely. His senses alive he suspected we were being watched and made his way back down the hill to the group. Closer he warned the party we were being watched, most likely goblins, up there.

Tranis and Avidius went to go climb the slope but a shot rang out and we were hit! Everyone ran for cover, the ranger and thief circled around the side of the hill and were shot at, shield splintered! We needed to gather ourselves together and make a fast call on what to do.

Back in the valley side, Tranis and Waldo (Lynx) made a bee-line towards where the sniper was shooting at us, Avidius slowed down, Caidius left his hiding and began climbing the hill, Flimflam mounted Whosea and taking Princess left the camp to Steiner with orders for everyone to stay behind trees.

Tranis took a few shots, one of them blasting through one of the shields he was tossing away and scoring a deep gash in his chest. He was getting closer when the Sniper turned and began making his way down the hill. The lynx put on a burst of speed, not following Tranis who detoured to the west a dozen running paces, passed over a tripwire and was hit by some grenade traps the sniper had left.

At the top of the hill Tranis stopped and took aim as the sniper and 4 other goblins were heading away down the hill, bows at their back. He called his shot…and hit the sniper in the head. The goblin sharpshooter pitched forward, arrow in his skull, vomiting and in pain. Return fire shot at Tranis and the Lynx ran fast…hitting one of the goblin bowmen. Meanwhile the distant sniper was helped to his feet, made a ragged shot back…missed, and was then shot in the chest, killed.

Caidius and Avidius slowed at the top of the hill while Flimflam (in fox form) and his two animals ran to help the lynx in the fight. Waldo was shot, and then stabbed, the lynx falling over dead as the three canines hit the group just after another withering fall of arrows hit them from the ranger’s uncanny bow shots.

The last goblin grabbed the sniper’s Windchaser and ran for the woods…but was felled by a 200’+ shot by Avidius and then the entire area was entangled by Flimflam to prevent anyone from taking the weapon. The battle ended and the dogs tore apart the last goblins. We waited for the entangle to end and then took the Windchaser, returning to the group.

It was noted that whoever took it felt ill, like something was wrong. Also, any magic they had or carried seemed to flicker and fade, and only after 10 minutes did the dampening effect from the Luciferian weapons reverse and people and items felt and behaved normally again.

We spent 40 minutes messing with the Windchaser until we felt comfortable on how it worked, if not comfortable with owning it. Then the thought went to do a speak with dead on the goblins to learn if they knew anything about the Windchaser but when we went back up the slope…the bodies were now gone. Shit.

We spent some time healing the party again and Marcus was encouraged to continue studying since we were still here. The interest to reenter the goblin cave and gather Sisspak was being pushed off to do the next day. Instead the decision came to destroy the Windchaser and bury the pieces and its ammunition in the dirt here.

Eventually we ended it with waiting for Marcus to finish and then finding someplace else to camp...returning to the cave tomorrow and them barreling in and through to Sisspak.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Meet 123, Adv 7, 10/8/16

The group is deep in the goblin warrens and I have some goblin priest's scrying on the group, watching their movements and capabilities. So when the group spends 10 minutes in one place, I hit them again. Admittedly it's with diminishing returns and lesser troops, but it's another hit and they are running out of spells, shields, and healing.

I had to send two of the priests to the 2nd level to snag one of the wizards down there and a handful of bugbears to bolster this attack, but it was enough to shock the group and sent them on the retreat.

Write-up follows:

Avidius slammed his sword out at the “sniper” goblin with the Windchaser, catching the veteran greenskin deep in the back, nicking his lung. He slumped forward, hitting the wall, but didn’t fall! Meanwhile the rest of the party was gathering around Steiner, supporting the priest from the ground and switching positions to bring the battle to the few axe and spear goblins remaining.

Meanwhile from the 2nd closed door the portal opened and a some of the goblin priests within dispelled the spike growth while the other one raised the two dead goblins, animating them as zombies. And two more dead goblins came from the room and headed for the party.

The two priests then left the room, shut the door, and headed down the corridor and into the gloom of the room with the steps going further down.

Avidius then heard other goblins down the hall screaming and some greenskins charged him while another crossbow twanged. So the thief used his “darkblade” for the 3rd and final time, portaling away FURTHER into the cave, behind the crossbow guy, and into the goblin rec room. Once here he moved as quietly and quickly as he could until he was able to hide behind one of the gaming tables, arranging the table skirt just in front of his form.

With the Sniper badly hurt and the tide of battle changing, the goblins in the barracks withdrew while the undead zombie-goblins approached the party. We made way, shield bearers to the front, and made sure that Steiner was close enough to turn the two closest ones. Sent back away, we only had to worry about the two new ones and we took them undead monsters down with little difficulty but with more precious hp being whittled away.

Meanwhile Avidius saw the retreating goblins, with the wounded Sniper, who met up with MORE goblins coming in along with Sisspak! A conversation ensued and the all turned to leave, with one of the goblins making his way to a secret door which he opened and was seen faintly through the portal with a spear. Meanwhile after everyone else left Sisspak remained in one spot, looking around as if he could sense Avidius for some reason, but didn’t see or find the thief so left.

The rest of the group was dispensing some healing and cleaning up while Avidius waited a minute to verify he was lone (except for the goblin in the secret room), then snuck out, over to the door, and with the sword of quickness – STAB – one dead goblin. He took the spear and shut the door, noting where it was and how to open it and headed back to the group.

We all rejoined one another and touched base, shared what we learned, and then discussed what to do next. The priest rooms were high on our list so we listened to the doors again – hearing faint noises but little else. We suspected they might be barred from within and were discussing how to open them when from down the hall there was a cry of “In Vas Electricus Arwe!” followed by a blast of sparks – and then an 80’ stroke of lightning coursed down the hall and struck the party. Half the party was hurt, shields were splintered, the group was stunned. And then we heard voices roaring and pounding feet.

Time to go.

We ran BACK into the barracks, crossed the room and filled the hall while Flimflam sent forth another spike growth spell which filled the room and the far hall – stopping a handful of bugbears (7’ tall, 300# shaggy furred goblinoids) who were them leaping about and backing up. The decision was made – don’t stay – run for the exit.

And when we formed up and ran on, hoping they couldn’t dispel the magic again, we turned the corner to the rec room and stopped – 9 goblins and Sisspak. Slingstones shot out and slammed into Caidius, Tranis, and Steiner who filled the front ranks while spearmen stepped up to hold us at bay. And Sisspak was hissing gleefully as he slithered forward.

Tranis had been holding a magic arrow which Marcus had treated with Gorgon poison long ago, and circled the wall, firing! And missed! The damned magic arrow missed!!! We were caught between two forces that were going to bottle us up, and Marcus managed to get close enough to fire off a sleep spell.

And all 9 goblins dropped to the ground. Sisspak was all alone. We charged at him and he managed to get a bite on Caidius, poisoning our fighter who tried to get an anti-venom going. Then the damned yuan-ti filled the area with a darkness spell and we were fucked.

Using his own magic sword, Steiner concentrated on it, sending a ball of light to flow out, banishing part of the darkness, and getting the group to harry the yuan-ti some more until he turned and fled again. The bugbears and other goblins (priests? Mages?) were clamoring back behind us and we pushed forward. Running for the exit – there were 5 goblin menials – with mops and brooms, cleaning the main entrance!

As we were running and the menials were yelling, Tranis shot two of them in a fit of pique, felling the goblins with a single arrow each before following the rest of the party up the stairs, the slope, into the woods, into the valley, and up the southern hill, jogging to the safety of the trees in that valley to check behind us for any chase (there wasn’t any) and a chance to catch our breath and assess our hit points, direction, and plan.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Meet 122, Adv 7, 10/1/16

The fight through the goblin ambush was touch and go the first 2 rounds as the group had what was described as a fumble train running across the board. We couldn't hit anything, and when we did swing or try to save or do anything, it was to the clattering tunes of "1's" rolling across the table. Plus the failure to get Initiative more than 1 time the entire battle didn't help the party.

We did prevail and about halfway through - the Flaming Sphere across the battle front and getting AWAY from Sisspak were key to consolidating the fight.

They are now facing the remains of those who escaped the first fight, plus the cadre of goblin priests who have been waiting for their opportunity to shine. A shovel in the door though has slowed them down for 1 round of combat and the spike growth on the dungeon floor stopped them from being "pincered" between the goblin ranks which might be enough for the group to snatch another victory.

Write up follows:

As the group was gathering together on the SW section of the room, a plug on the floor lifted and a spindly goblin wielding a Kris bladed sickle leaned out and tried to hamstring Marcus, slicing the wizard-lord’s boots but not actually cutting the skin. Before we could react though he grabbed the plug and yanked it back down, sealing himself once more into his spider hole.

The barrier full of goblins drew closer and sling bullets started flashing into the party. From the opposite side we heard the ape roaring and the thumping of stones into flesh then the mighty summoned animal died. Marcus was aimed at and Geld took as many of the blows as possible. The goblins behind the barrier were able to stab their spears without concern, driving the party further and further south.

We tried to gather everyone down the hall while Caidius and Ben fought with the goblin axe-men, making no headway and in many instances, our struggle with the goblins on now three fronts was fraught with shifting position, poor support, and a deadly amount of fumbles. Sisspak and his crazed goblin managed to charge at the group, the manacle wearing goblin scoring a blow on Flimflam and then a second that wrapped around the gnome’s throat. Meanwhile the yuan-ti closed to striking distance and swords were slashed, the druid taking a number of shots and cuts.

Crossbow bolts flashed and we found ourselves staggering, while Brutus and Princess charged into the fight to help Flimflam and Steiner who were holding the south corridor. Geld took another round of stabs, throwing herself in front of Marcus’ body at one point as shields started to splinter and the battle was growing untamable. The wizard-lord was calling out arcanic words as he was hit again and again, keeping his concentration in place long enough to summon a 6’ ball of rolling fire.

Flimflam managed to yank enough of the chains off his neck to finish his own spell and a dire bat and a dire badger appeared, worrying the crazed goblin just as Sisspak went to bite Whosea. The druid lurched the animal down and took the bite instead, suffering from the poisonous bite that would have wounded or maybe killed his animal. He hastily drew out an anti-venom while Steiner called to Apollo and healed the gnome…seriously.

There were more twangs and Steiner was hit, knocked on his ass at the same time the Brutus and Princess were peppered…and then there was a sound like Zeus himself spat thunder, and Brutus fell over dead, killed from the darkness of the southern corridor.

The goblins pressed hard at the party while others emerged from the NE corridor, slinging bullets at the group and hitting the animals AGAIN! While 4 more goblin spear wielders tried to hit the group. Marcus snarled while pulling Geld back and with a single gesture, flipped the flaming sphere down the entire front of the goblin barrier just after oil had been rained down on them from Tranis who shattered some flasks on the ceiling – setting all 4 of the goblins on fire and killing three of them in the process. The goblin front line suddenly seemed to have disappeared.

Viridia was doing the same as Tranis, sending flasks of oil over the heads of Ben and Caidius to rain on the back of the axe-men there, dropping splash damage and burning oil on the greenskins. Marcus’ flaming sphere grew too close to the chandelier and there was an explosion of flame spreading out almost 15’ in diameter before burning oil formed a pyre in the center of the room that began to spread as the oil flowed across the floor. We had to move. Another blast shot from the dark and another shield was splintered as Steiner, Flimflam, Whosea, and Princess broke free from Sisspak and the crazed goblin and arrived at the south corridor.

Sling bullets were sent careening around the chamber but the spreading oil actually stopped some of the goblins from joining the fight, which meant we were able to force our attention to the SW corridor and goblin axe men there. The Flaming sphere roared across the room again, hitting a number of the slingers and killing some more goblins.

Caidius and Ben redoubled their efforts but took the back rank as Tranis dispatched Ringer and Waldo to the front to worry the axe men there. The guard dog and lynx hit and bit and scratched and tore but were having some difficulty opening the line. So the newest member of the party drew “Havoc” the battle hammer which attracted the attention of all the local axe men goblins who proceeded to sling axes and scream insults at the fighter/thief. He was hit and battered, but stayed upright and when the situation opened up, they managed to poke a hole in the goblin line and the party lurched further down the hall wading into the goblin line.

The slinking spider-hole dwelling goblin meanwhile popped up out of another section of the floor, this time trying to cut the tendons of Steiner, our cleric. He scraped his knife on the man’s boots but did not cut through. Acting quickly, Steiner kicked his foot out and jammed it under the lid as the goblin tried to jam the spider hole cover back down.

Avidius cut the air in front of him and portaled to the back of the battle, sliding down the corridor quietly and away from the fight; looking for some clues, or another way to join the battle on the other side of the axe man front. Meanwhile, taking advantage of the open portal, Marcus rolled the flaming sphere back across the room and dropped it down the spider hole just as Steiner dragged his foot away, setting the goblin below ablaze and ending that issue. A few of the goblins were now looking to make some escape or at least regrouping, ending the fight as they made it down other side corridors.

The front with the axe men collapsed and the last 3 tried to run, one getting torn apart and the other 2 escaping into the gloom and then seemingly turning to the right. We gathered as one and made our way away from the burning room, heading into the same hall the fleeing goblins had run to. The corridor split here, to the left it opened to a chamber with some cruddy buckets, the scent of shit, and a set of stairs going down; the right went into the gloom and there were two indistinct doors on opposite sides of the corridor.

We stationed a few guards while some fast healing was dispensed. A number of us were pretty hurt and we had lost Brutus during the fight, and almost Princess, Flimflam, Geld, and Caidius. Meanwhile, Avidius had followed the corridor quietly, discovered a lounge (empty), and a barracks (also empty) before coming back around to another corridor that headed east once more. He did hear two goblins that had knocked incessantly at a door and spoke with another inside that proceeded to let them in. Some chanting followed. He also was coming upon the party, seeing their light ahead, when he heard faint moving under the ground, and suspected another spider goblin in the area. He marked the wall and then rejoined the group.

We did not want to go down the steps yet and hearing Avidius’ discovery, wanted to go after the spider goblin first and then the door where the others had gone to. We had a quick plan where Avidius hid around the back side of the “lid” and Steiner stepped in front of the lid making lots of noise. The spider hole goblin popped up and Avidius’ sword of quickness plunged out and back, killing the goblin in a single backstabbing blow.

We looked down the hole – 7’ down, handholds to climb, a 2’ tall crawl space that went to the east and west, and enough baffles and holes to hear anyone above. We turned the lid sideways and dropped it down.

As for the chanting room we heard calls to Hades and those who can speak goblin were able to tell we were being scryed on. And then we heard goblins coming down BOTH corridors and we were trapped…again.

Flimflam called out a quick spike growth spell, covering the entire floor behind us back the way we came with invisible caltrops, and Marcus called forth another Flaming Sphere as we circled to corner heading back towards the barracks.

We could see through the flames almost a dozen goblins: spearmen, axe men, slingers, 1 crossbow, and a confident figure with a 4’ metal club-like tube. And they were situated in one place and waiting for us. We gave the battle hammer to Steiner and pushed the ball into the room a bit. Then it was sling bullets, flasks of oil, a crossbow bolt to Steiner which knocked him on his ass and some axe and spearmen came up to kill the prone priest. Bullets were flying and a the goblin with the “Windchaser” fired. Fucking frightening! Splintering shields and the “priests” in the closed room scrying on us tried to come out and flank us – but we had jammed a shovel in the handle of the door and it barred them from getting it open!

Then the other goblins hit the spike growth area and slowed to a stop as two of them were shredded from the magical spikes dying with pitiful screams and the other two stopped but were terrified on which way to go next.

The combat was still going on as we tried to support Steiner from the ground and just as it was about the end, Avidius used his portaling broadsword again – this time appearing on the back of the battle right next to the “Windchaser” sniping goblin!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Behind the Screen - Initiative


Lots of games over the last 35 years or so and none of them have a perfect initiative system. However, it’s the most important role when it comes time for turn based combat – unless you take the stance of all damage is done simultaneous.

I was introduced to the game a long time ago and we played it as best we could, reading the books and adhering to the written word specifically until one day I was lucky enough to have my older cousin come by and during one moment when my buddies were bickering over a rule he took the DMG, flipped it to a particular page, feigned reading it, and then flipped it behind him on the floor and said, “It’s a guide. The DM makes the rules.” It was such a profound thing for our 13 year old minds that it began my love of tinkering, crunch, and fiddley bits in my games.

Fast forward some time my game is a Frankenstein of 3.5, B/X, and 1st edition but we’ve also trimmed off the parts that don’t work and streamlined it down. One of the things that never goes fast enough for me is combat. I love the idea of weapon speed – but it drags down combat. I love tactics, but it slows the game. I want some semblance of reality, but I also want the game to flow.

I have used and tweaked and discarded and adopted so many initiative options during the years. Primarily, I want the damned game to flow fast. Combat – fast. No waiting 20 damned minutes for your turn to come back around again. After many ins and outs and tweaks, our current initiative ruling is as follows:

Each side roles d6 – ties get rerolled – highest number gets FIRST resolution in each step. Then loser gets LAST resolution in each step. You CAN hold your action from step 2 or 3 if need be in order to wait for the enemy to get into a better layout or your own group to spread out and get out of the way.
Step 0: We have the party leader map out over 1-2 minutes (we use a stopwatch to mark time so there isn’t any lolli-gagging) what the party wants to do and whiteboards it.
Step 1: Declare a flee. Whichever side won initiative who has someone declaring a flee can flee off the battlefield. You cannot “flee” into another enemy occupied area unless/except if you are surrounded and trying to force your way out.
Step 2: Missile weapons. Bow and Xbow can move 5’ and shoot, hurled weapons (spears, axes, etc) can move and hurl. Again, the side that won shoots first, then the other side can shoot.
Step 3: Long range/2nd rank melee weapons. Speaks, pikes, quarter staves. Typically they would get into position and then strike. Anything that can be poked or prodded from back rank strikes first next. Again, winning initiative hits first, then losing initiative.
Finally Step 4: All other melee weapons and spells (limited to 5’ step) would move into position and then strike. Winners first then losers.

It gives some tactics, works well, simple, and everyone is on board and can track how combat goes.

However, after the last meeting, we had some strange situations and people wanting to move, can you flee towards an enemy, gaming the system by throwing a spear just to move early. I wanted to land on it early so we actually stopped the game and I spelled out what was going on in more detail than I normally would so the group wouldn’t get worked up and upset.

Rule # 1: Always Have Fun.

We settled on what was going on, discarded the “gaming” and “min-maxing” and then rolled on to the end of the round and ended the game.

After that we then talked about where we were and what was going on. I reminded the group that a combat round is not an actual representation of what occurs. Obviously the archers aren’t shooting and everyone is just standing around. The guy with the spear isn’t running across the room while everyone is watching him. It’s supposed to provide a simulation of the combat. We could always change it to be more realistic and have done so in the past, but the combat then slows to a crawl and that’s pretty much all that happens that night. Not a solution.

We also said making it super easy: d6, winner goes first and does everything then loser goes. Very Warhammer-esque but hinges the entire battle on a single d6 roll. Not acceptable.

So we discussed (4 of us) a small adjustment to the Initiative system as we have it:

Step 0: Map out what’s going on.
Step 1: Declare a flee. Winners then losers.
Step 2: FIXED missile weapons (bows, xbows, ballistae, etc.). 5’ steps allowed. Winners then losers.
Step 3: Movement. Everyone moves their allotted space AND hurled missile weapons (spears, axes, darts, atlatls, daggers) go. Winners first, then losers.
Step 4: 2nd rank weapons. Winners/losers.
Step 5: All other melee/spells. Winners/losers.

It made some sense, everyone felt comfortable with it, and we’ve all had a week to digest it. Now, we are NOT going to implement it this Saturday since we are in media res at start of evening and you cannot make a change to the game while combat is going on. However, at some point in the next few weeks we’ll try it out and see how it plays.

Some small notes/caveats.

Improved initiative allows you to act 1 step higher. Broad sword? Attack with the 2nd rank weapons. Hurled spear? Attack when bows do. Firing a bow? Hell, you attack when people are trying to flee!

Spring attack still works, if you have movement left over after your attack, you CAN move again. This means if you have won initiative, you can conceivable attack and then get far enough away the enemy can’t hit you again.

I also killed most “attacks of opportunity” – the system is too weighty and collapses in real world. Instead, regardless of how many people are around you, you try to move into/through an area – you get effectively 1 attack against you for every 3 people you “pass through”. Exception is of course if you are flanked on 2 sides – then the 1 in 3 doesn’t apply. This limits the number of people beating at you to a max of 3 under optimal circumstances. However, if you ARE hit, your move stops as you are engaged in combat and the other person is keeping you from moving on.

Is it perfect? No, no combat system is. That’s why all the books are guides and tinkering is not only acceptable but should be encouraged.