Chronicles of the Grim Fist, part II

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Cameron
Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35
Chronicles of the Grim Fist, part II

Starting a new thread for this, because the old one was getting long in the tooth ... and I don't think they'll be going back to the Maze du Châtel anymore. Plus, they got their party affiliation rings, so "Chronicles of the Grim Fist" seemed more fitting.

Lanthechilde's player's wife has been pregnant for a while, so we're losing the player. Exactly how soon is unknown but he's expecting to be unavailable within the week, so we played two sessions this week (Sat and Sun), and he dropped out, effective today. Joyous occasion! But alas, player down.

I'm also changing the format a bit. It's too laborious to transfer my Excel spreadsheet of party + henches to a forum-friendly method, and I've started off-loading some of the tracking to the players anyway, so I won't be posting stats anymore.

With all of that said, let us move on to the chronicle itself ...

Cameron
Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

Session 10

Month 6, Weeks 3 and 4
The party takes two weeks to "do their own things."

Galswintha + henches add to their repertoire. The Grim Fist party rings arrive, and Galswintha's foresight becomes evident - she ordered extras, and the extras are needed.

Vulfelind pays for combat training for Almalinda; commissions exceptional armor for her henches; ; and re-interviews her henches to find out what they want in life (which the Judge kind of, ah, stumbles through).

Lanthechilde hires a sage of history, and gets a map of the old dwarven highways, and cross-references the party's notes. "Pegasus Peak" (Galswintha named it, it stuck) turns out to be a dwarven mountain fastness, long since lost. The sage has a pet theory that a wizard (long after the dwarves left) cross-bred hill giants and apes for slaves ... and that this is what collapsed civilization in that entire area.

Chlodomer pays Amarante as a sage to study the stars for the party; sends Grizzba and Grace to study at their "guild"; pays for Galagunde and Agalinda to register and study at the Illusionist's Guild; and sits down with Haramer to plan out a small mercenary company for long-term employment. After further discussion, Chlodomer and Haramer decide to hire them as henches - four fighter-1 squad leaders as Haramer's henches, each with four heavy infantry mercenaries as their henches. They start by looking for mercenaries and fighters, and then offer them longterm hench employment (with the usual mercenary pay + treasure shares). When they have their small force, Chlodomer Chlodomer upgrades their gear to plate and two quality spears (+1 to hit), and has colored livery and a banner made. At Galswintha's insistence, he also gets them expensive, quality boots.

Month 7
Galswintha points at the ancient dwarven keep, "Pegasus!" Lanthechilde points at the wilderness between, "Ogres!"

The debate is never really in question, but Lanthechilde does manage to hold out for Galswintha filling out her entire available repertoire first.

That takes a month, during which the party adds one more wagon, 20 crossbowmen, 20 light infantry, and 10 medium cavalry; mirrors and military oil for everyone; and maps and other gear. Chlodomer's heavy infantry are de facto in charge.

They set aside funds for six months, just in case.

Month 8, Week 1
Their first encounter is almost immediate: adventurers from Atanung (along with a large retinue of suspicious-looking mercenaries) who suspect the highway is clear, and are following the Grim Fist's trail to Orléans to make sure ... and they're almost there!

Our heroes don't really mind - no harm in some mercantile competition, after all - when Amarante makes her Theology roll and asks the other adventurers why they're all wearing Belial's Blessing (a Chaotic religious symbol).

Wrong question! Four adventurers, six bands of brigands, and their brigand leaders attack.

Chlodomer charges the front rank, ignores a dozen spear thrusts, and slaughters everyone within reach in a single pass. Then Haramer's heavy infantry march through the hole and start laying about them ... and crossbows pepper the back rank. Brigands begin fleeing almost immediately. The two enemy fighters close in on Chlodomer, Thorismund and Ingunde flank and support him, and he slaughters them in short order as well.

The enemy mage manages to sleep some infantry before Grizzba, Vulfelind, and Lanthechilde descend upon him and stab him to pieces. The priest doesn't even get that much - Team Cleric stomps him into the dirt before he can draw breath.

Then everyone switches to ranged weapons for the stragglers. And then it is over.

They find the usual coins and gems upon the enemy, but they also luck out on the NPC party's gear!

With Amarante's help, they suss out two rings of protection +1 (Vulfelind and Lanthechilde), a quarter-moon shield +3 (twin to Chlodomer's, goes to Shadagrunde), bracers of mastadon hide (AC 6, Galswintha), an elven sword +1 (Lanthechilde, who lends her short sword +1 to Harberic), and a war hammer +2 (unknown providence, Shadagrunde).

A ring with a ruby eye sigil, a potion (also tasted by the alchemists, and still unknown), and a set of leather armor remain unknown, and go into the party bag.

The next day, they spot the same giant hawk from their previous trip, and Veneranda casts speak with animals to call to it. They chat for a while, and the hawk decides it really likes Veneranda ... and that's that.

They miraculously avoid a nest of pit vipers, say hi to their grizzly bear friend again, reach the point where they can see what Galswintha is calling Pegasus Peak, and turn off the highway. They make it roughly a mile into the forest when they come across a tall hill. A small stream runs nearby, and there is an easy path around the hill, but ...

Three wyverns are crowded around a pegasus corpse at the top of the hill.

Shadagrunde starts to suggest going around. Galswintha and Vulfelind declare their attack, loud, clear, and in stereo.

The rest of the party starts to argue with them, a bit excessively, and lose their round - the wyverns are surprised, so the first round ends up being Galswintha, Vulfelind, and their henches alone.

A bless precedes a fireball and three concerted magic missiles, and the first wyvern dies before it can blink. Vulfelind and her fighters drop arrows into the second fireball victim, dropping it. And then Baldaswind, her tigers, the war dogs, and a giant hawk descend like the Lady's Fist upon the last.

There is a moment or two of respectful silence.

Chlodomer finally clears his throat, "Right. Don't hurt the pegasus. I think we're clear on that, now."

Close by, they find the wyvern's nest, surrounded by a litter of broken shells, and decorated with a small handful of gems, fur capes, and jewelry, and a bright, eye-catching dagger.

Amarante identifies the dagger, a curved slashing blade from a distant kingdom and marked with a pair of goblinoid faces in gold and silver, as a dagger +2, +3 versus beastmen (Galswintha).

Careful examination reveals the relatively tiny hoard to be easily worth 30,000 gold or more ... of which a third is a single, facet-cut, flawless blue diamond.

Day 8
The party and their small army avoids two bands of roving ogres, and sees signs of more, before getting close enough to Pegasus Peak to just make out the vast, shattered iron doors into the mountain fortress, as the sun is setting, and decide to make camp.

Night falls as the first watch takes over ...

Session End Notes
The wyvern fight was the most focused I've seen Galswintha's player during a combat scene - she usually tolerates the combats so that she can get to talking to Grizzba or buying fantasy footwear. Someone murdered a cute animal, though? She played that fight to win.

It helped that this was the first session she had fireball in, of course!

Current XP total awaiting return to civilization: 37,800 (includes gold, which has already been split). Not as much as it looks like, when the henches are accounted for.

Cameron
Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

Session 11
Day 9
The party deploys scouts to spot and help avoid roving ogres, steering clear by miles where possible, holding still and praying when not. Surprisingly, they make it to the base of the mountain without incident, and Galswintha spots at least one pegasus nest, set into a nook in a sheer rock face near the top of the mountain.

And perhaps owing to a bit of overconfidence, when a path up the mountain is available, take it.

... and walk straight into a lair.

Here, granite has been carved away to form a defensible hollow, and a surprisingly well-crafted càrn marks the center. Seated in a semicircle near the back of the lair, three female giants (14 feet tall) look up from their sculpting, angry at the interruption.

They have skin like polished malachite, eyes of rust-brown, and straight, incredibly long blue-black hair woven into complex braids. They are each dressed differently: one (Gebede) wears a shawl and wrap of ermine cloaks, pinned with a cryselephantine hairpine; another (Dagunde) wears awkwardly stitched-together mail armor over bear skin, and heavy fur shoes of whole bear hide; and the last (Clothilde) wears a silk tapestry depicting a saintess calming a bear by a meadow stream as a grecian robe. Two bears sleep at the feet of the last.

Gebede remains seated; the other two stand up and Dagunde steps in front, drawing a dwarven-looking shortsword which she wields as a knife. Clothilde says something sharp in her own language, and the bears shamble to their feet ... and two more come padding in from another room in the hollow.

Chlodomer is fast to apologize for the intrusion. Unfortunately, they do not appear to understand his crude, Frankish language, although they do pause long enough to listen. The one armed with a human shortsword finally shakes her head impatiently and spits something out ... and Galswintha recognizes a hint of Greek and pounces, repeating Chlodomer's apology in the older tongue.

Galswintha lacks Chlodomer's natural diplomacy, good cheer, quiet confidence, aura of likeability, charm, wit, people-savvy, and absolutely astonishing good looks ... but does manage to persuade the immense beings that neither she nor her friends intend them ill will, and that a fight would go poorly for all parties.

Clothilde finally puts a hand on Dagunde's arm, and then gives Galswintha directions up the mountain that do not require stomping through the giantess' home. The party retreats and make their way around.

Near the end of the day (with one actual fight with a lone ogre, but hardly worth noting), they find themselves at the base of the sheer rock face where Galswintha's pegasi are.

She failed to mention how high it was, or how sheer.

Grumbling, the party sets up camp and beds down at the base of the rock.

Night 9
At midnight, a warband of 13 ogres attack ... and fail to get surprise on those awake (one squad of heavy infantry, 5 crossbowmen, 5 light infantry, Lanthechilde, Harberic, Merideth, Thorismund and Ingunde, Merovia, Galagunde, and Agalinda - you know, a freaking quarter of the party).

Still, a baker's dozen of ogres, all at once, with no traps set and no surprise, and not from a direction chosen by the party, remains a scary thing.

The fight takes four rounds, in all; and only the latter two have the whole party involved. Healing is substantially improved with the party's large cleric contingent, but there are still some scars.

They find, among the ogre's traditional gold, a crude twig figure of a person wrapped in a bit of white cloth and a golden necklace, and spattered with blood. Chlodomer is beside himself - "WHO IS TELLING ALL OF THESE OGRES I'M THEIR DEVIL?"

The Judge just grins.

Day 10
In the pre-dawn, the party tracks the ogres back to confirm a suspicion, and sure enough, the ogres were following the Grim Fist's trail ... the campfires of a few more warbands are visible in the distance.

Galswintha insists on warning the giantesses, who look saddened, and begin packing up their sculptures and gear. Gebede explains, "We fought the ogres off once, and earned sufficient respect for them to leave us alone ... but it cost us the lives of our husbands. We will not survive another fight, so we must leave. Thank you for the warning. If you wish, this hollow is defensible, and you may use it once we leave."

While the giantesses pack, Lanthechilde and her henches head out to scout the ogres; Shadagrunde and his henches pray; and Galswintha, a gleam in her eyes, confers with Chlodomer and Vulfelind. When Lanthechilde returns with numbers and positions, the party tactics session goes into full swing, and finally, Chlodomer writes a message down for Galswintha, which she memorizes ...

And as the giantesses start to walk out of the hollow, Galswintha tugs at the hem of Dagunde's mail skirt, "Please accept my apologies for this delay, but we have fought ogres before, in greater numbers, and seen victory at the other end. If you fought alongside us this once, I believe we could crush the warbands in the wood below with sufficient force to give them a generation of pause before they thought to take this mountain again."

They are persuaded, if just.

There is no time to dig pits, no space or time to divide and conquer, and precious little cover, but the Grim Fist has the high ground, and a hollow of stone that can reduce the number of ogres able to attack simultaneously ... as long as they can hold the entrance. They pour the party's entire supply of military oil in a line 100 feet downhill.

An hour after dawn, four ogre warbands begin charging up the mountain.

At 300 feet distance, the giantesses throw three rocks, all aiming for the sub-chieftain in the lead ... and killing him! At 180 feet, archers and slingers loose, preferentially targeting boars, and most of the ogre leadership falls to the ground. The charge falters, as the ogres wait a beat for the ogres to get to their feet to continue the charge (save for a few gangs whose leader remain mounted and continue charging alone). Another round of arrows and stones fall, and another sub-chieftain dies.

And then they reach the line of naptha and Galswintha's fireball hits them, killing several ogres outright, and igniting the military oil, searing the vast majority of ogres just a little more.

The giantesses retreat behind the party and re-arm. Archers pull behind the front line. And Chlodomer, clad in his best whites, stands guard at the entrance, flanked by Baldaswind and her tigers, and Thorismund and Ingunde, and two spiritual weapons. Behind him, heavy infantry with spears. And behind them, archers and casters and giants.

The ogres, most of them still alive, decide to chance it and find that they have reached a point of no return. Assault ends in death, and retreat back down the mountain takes too long in the open, and ends in death. With no escape and no hope, the last remaining sub-chieftain falls to his knees and shouts a plea for mercy.

It falls on deaf ears (fun fact: the word "mercy" isn't in the ACKS core book), but they do spare one ogre to send back with the story.

There is then a lengthy out-of-character discussion about stone giants, and what the PCs know about them - especially since some of the old-school players in my group were expecting gray-skinned bald men for some reason ;-).

After the diversion, Galswintha talks to the giantesses, with Chlodomer coaching her, and establishes a mutually beneficial arrangement:

  • The Grim Fist can use an unused portion of the hollow as a temporary base.
  • Chlodomer's armorer will link together mail from the giantesses' creates of armor to provide all of them with reasonably attractive tunics.
  • The party will set aside a day or two each week to hunt for the giantesses, and perform a few other chores difficult for fourteen-foot-tall humanoids.
  • Both sides will provide mutual protection against the ogres.

Days 11 through 14
The next three days are fairly humdrum. Hunting goes well (added to the ogre's boar mounts, day 12 involves a feast of epic proportions), but Vulfelind and Lanthechilde's initial explorations for a path up to the pegasus nest meet with failure (Galswintha can fly ... but no one wants her to be up there alone).

On the fourth day, however, a lone ogre is visible down-mountain, waving a cobbled together truce flag just outside of range.

He has an eye patch and is kind of runty-looking.

Chlodomer beckons him up and promises safety for "the duration of parley," and the ogre cautiously makes his way up the mountain. The discussion does not go well - the runt appears convinced that Chlodomer is going to kill him at any second. Chlodomer, when he saw the runt, became convinced that the runt was the one going around inciting ogre wrath against "the monster in white."

(That latter is true, actually, but the runt denies everything and begs for mercy and denies everything again. It's almost convincing.)

And then Vulfelind makes an impassioned speech about what it's like to be the smallest, and how Chlodomer needs to be less of a bully ... which leads to a rather loud argument about ethics and alignment and ogres and thieves and everything under the sun between the whole party.

The Judge lost track of who was on whose side and made what statements, so I will just summarize as: feelings were had.

Shadagrunde managed to calm everyone down. Chlodomer and Vulfelind were sent to separate corners of the hollow, while the other party members interviewed the runt, whose named turned out to be Ughunt.

Galswintha goes to talk to Vulfelind, but instead of chatting, casts ESP out of sight, and then returns.

Ughunt had been inciting the ogres to war. One of the ogres Chlodomer had killed was Ughunt's bigger brother ... and the only real protection Ughunt had had in his old tribe. When one village of ogres failed, he went to another and started the process up again, and had been trailing the PCs for half a year now.

The current village, however, knew a raw deal when they lost a limb to it. Having lost seven of nine warbands to the White Monster, they decided that was plenty sufficient indication, and dragged Ughunt to the edge of the mountain and left him there as a sacrifice to appease Chlodomer's army.

And then Shadagrunde asks Ughunt what he would do if they escorted him out of the ogre territory and let him go. A hopeful look on his face, he replies, "Oh, I would flee and flee and flee. You would never see me again. Oh please please please, yes!"

In his mind, however, Galswintha heard the truth. That he would murder Chlodomer at first opportunity ... and that he would find something other than an ogre village to throw at them, if he couldn't manage that ... and that first fall of night he would be looking for ways to slit throats and poison supplies and on and on and on.

Galswintha leaves, talks to Vulfelind about what she'd overheard in the ogre's mind, and suggests that not all small people were also kind, and that it might be better to let this one die.

And when Vulfelind finally agrees, the party kills the runt and dump him down the mountainside with a little stick figure dressed in white tied around his neck.

The session ends on a somber note, and plans to discuss a new approach to finding a way to talk to the pegasuses.

Session End
Current XP total awaiting return to civilization: 69,000 (includes gold, which has already been split).

Stone Giants: stone giants are Neutral, but lack the fine-fingered finesse required to support industry or most technologies, and are too large to live on agriculture of their own doing, which largely keeps them at the hunter/gatherer level with mostly skins or borrowed gear. They do admire certain aspects of "small" culture, and some stone giants are deeply envious of the beautiful craftsmanship of the smaller races, which has led to altercations. These giantesses dressed themselves according to what they had available - i.e., treasure type N - which included tapestries, mail armor, fine fur cloaks, and the like.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Amazing stuff! I love the epic battles between heroic bands and bands of enemies.

jedavis
Patreon SupporterPlayer's Companion BackerDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2012-03-08 01:21

An inspiring read. I'm curious; how do you handle XP shares for henchmen of henchmen? Quarter share, or half? Some of our party's henchmen have been looking at hiring their own, but we've put it off because we're not sure how to adjudicate the shares.

Cameron
Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

@Alex: Thank you! It's getting a little ridiculous, though. I am really on pins and needles until the DAW rules are released :-).

@Jedavis: Hench: 0.5. Hench of hench: 0.25. Hench of hench of hench: 0.125.

Any other way would make hench of hench level too fast for hench to keep up.

Cameron
Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

Session 12
Lanthechilde continues to stay with the party, but has been put in the "notable NPCs" category, and will mostly be treating with the mercenaries - at next civilized stop, Lanthechilde will be going off to pursue her own thing. Her "party items" are pre-emptively split: her ring of protection going to Gurund, her sword +1 going to Haramer, and her shortsword +1 going into the party pot for later.

Day 15
The party has come to an agreement: Galswintha wants a pegasus. Chlodomer wants the dwarven fortress. Shadagrunde wants to cleanse the land of Chaotic ogres.

And Vulfelind wants to kick as much ass as possible.

Achieving most of these things will require bringing in laborers and crafters and animal trainers of unusual specialties ... which isn't going to happen so long as the region is as dangerous as it is. So step one to getting a pegasus, is to clean house.

After some discussion, it is decided that the dwarven fortress should be checked and cleared first, since it would make a good base of operations and will fund the next step: driving out the ogre villages.

The fact that this will coincide nicely with the party's entrance to higher levels is also good ;-).

The Grim Fist spends most of the remainder of the day carefully examining the entrance and external walls of the dwarven fortress. They don't find much, and don't expect to, but it does let them set some boundaries along parts of the map.
Day 16
Haramer, Gurund, Thorismund and Ingunde, and Lanthechilde (and their respective henches) remain with the giantesses, along with the mercenaries, to establish protection while the Grim Fist dungeon delves.

The remainder cautiously make their way into the upper levels of the fortress ... and wipe out, in short order, two kobold warbands, three kobold gangs, and several giant fire beetles before finding an entrance down. None of those fights take long, but they decide to back off for the day.
Day 17
The party does a quick confirmation that the top level is cleared, and makes sure that they haven't missed any secret doors ... or at least some reasonable probability thereof.

Since the entrance level of the dwarven keep is fairly simple, this is similarly easy.

Then they go down the stairs to the keep proper, and run into the kobold's den, where several warbands are in the middle of losing control over a giant boar they were intending to feast on. In the chaos, the party fireballs and then mops up kobolds and boar alike.

Among the treasures is a suit of leather armor +2 ... which isn't as good-looking as Vulfelind's black widow armor, so she passes it to Grizzba; a shield +1, which goes to Haramer; a dagger +1, which goes to Gurund; and two potions (heroism and invulnerability), which go with Haramer (who gives it to one of his heavy infantry squad-leaders).
Days 18-21
The GM keys up some "test" encounters representative of the difficulty of the dungeon's level 2 and 3, and adjudicates "how well" the Grim Fist clears out those dungeon layers based on those tests - it's a bit of a cheat and a shortcut, but aside from bad luck, it simply isn't likely that anything below the fourth level is going to be an interesting challenge.

... and that's pretty much how it plays out. Six giant scorpions represent the worst threat the party faces ... and even then, no one dies, thanks to two very good saves.

The Grim Fist's map is updated, and they briefly - very briefly! - think they've emptied the keep. And then Galswintha notices that the architecture is different along the back of the keep.

Hastily bricked and plastered, there remain signs of a series of entrances. Toothy grins all around, the party tries to decide whether to go the noisy route or the slow route ...

Galswintha pulls out one of the scrolls the party found, "Would a summoned earth elemental do?"

Galswintha first casts clairvoyance to check out the other side ... and receives a very odd viewpoint, staring alongside the other side of the wall through a fisheye lens. She waits, and eventually catches sight of a hand - and figures out that there is a person on the other side of the wall, listening carefully! The room seems small and weird through the fisheye lens, but she finally decides to stop worrying about it.

She summons the earth elemental and it breaks open the wall.

A cyclops(!), against all odds, manages to get surprise, ducks under the entrance ceiling and steps around the earth elemental, curses Chlodomer (the one standing guard), then gets initiative and clobbers Chlodomer with a club.

The priests bless those not yet in melee and curse the cyclops; Galagunde manages to blind the cyclops; Vulfelind dives past the cyclops into the next room; Galswintha focuses on directing the earth elemental to attack; and everyone tries to beat on the cyclops.

Cyclops are pretty damned tough, however. Chlodomer stands and gapes, and the cyclops hits him again despite being blind.

Vulfelind hides in the next room, and another round of beating ... this time, the earth elemental connects, dealing a grievous injury to the monster. Grizzba tries following suit, hiding on the far side of the cyclops.

And then the cyclops connects with Chlodomer a final time, dropping the white-clad hero with an eye-splattering blow to the face. Vulfelind backstabs the cyclops, the earth elemental hits again, and everyone piles on ... and the cyclops continues to stand.

Picking his next target, the cyclops targets the concentrating mage ... Galswintha. Who loses concentration and goes down with gruesome scarring, releasing the earth elemental from her control.

And then Grizzba ends the cyclopian tour of life with a high-damage backstab.

Unfortunately, the earth elemental is still loose. Shadagrunde discovers why Galswintha always carried certain scrolls in hand, even though that prevented carrying a weapon easily, and goes diving into his pack for the party's only scroll of dispel magic.

While he does that, the earth elemental proceeds to clean the party's collective clocks, an immense, berserk avalanche of destruction. Vulfelind and Grizzba are both killed!

It almost looks on the ropes, staggering past the bodies of the fallen, when Shadagrunde dispels it from this plane, and silence settles into the dimly lit keep storehouse.

What healing can be done, is done; Shadagrunde's most valuable scroll (two restore life and limb spells) is expended on the thieves; and the party staggers back to the surface.
Month 8, Weeks 3-4, and Month 9
Chlodomer requires a month of rest ... and is blind. Galswintha is disfigured. Various henches have also suffered, and civilization is quite a long ways away.

On the plus side, the cyclop's treasure hoard is useful. A bowl of water elemental commanding and a bag of holding provide the means to thoroughly clean and ransack the top three levels of the keep.

With that done, the party decides to return to civilization long enough for restores, and then back out to the dwarven keep.

It takes two weeks to get back; blindness and disabilities slow the party down substantially. But no serious threats manage to show up.

We end in Orléans.

Session End
The party actually had two restore scroll spells, and would have done okay with just the cyclops ... but the earth elemental resulted in two actual corpses, which received higher restore priority.

Not Galswintha's finest hour.

They almost refused to use the bowl, until I pointed out that a bowl-commanded water elemental would be much, much weaker than a spell-summoned earth elemental. I never thought that would be a feature!

There was a fair amount of leveling, though, and everyone eventually achieved normal status again ...

Vulfelind now glows like a candle to undead. Grizzba suffered no side effects.

Cameron
Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

Month 10
The party spends a month in Orléans, getting everyone restored who needs it. They also restock the wagons, continue to pay the mercenaries (who have, at this point, decided that the Grim Fist is a cash cow), and make the mages fill their repertoires again.

Chlodomer and Vulfelind swap henches with some difficulty ... Thorismund and Ingunde have been working almost exclusively with Chlodomer, but get their paycheck from Vulfelind; and Grizzba works almost exclusively with Vulfelind, but has been getting her paycheck from Chlodomer. And in all three cases, the henches are fanatically loyal to their current employer.

Still, they work it out.

Chlodomer finds and recruits two level-4 fighters, Adela and Genofeva. Adela is a cataphract archer of uncommon wit and charm (and a sergeant); Genofeva is a swordswoman with an aristocratic background and amazing conversational skills.

Galswintha acquires a falcon familiar named Petite, and then ... shops for the giantesses. And discovers that the shopkeepers remember her, which pleases her no end, and she ends up spending more than she had intended.

Vulfelind, Grizzba, and Grace test out the hijinks rules, focusing on Spying ... and only Vulfelind finds anything worthwhile (but that's worth 10,200 gold and decent XP). However, after a more careful reading of the horrible things that could happen to her henches if they get caught ... she decides that the once is enough until she can get her hooks into a local economy for bribery and special pleading bonuses.

Shadagrunde spends the month at the Lady's temple in Orléans, successfully producing a potion of neutralize poison. He also supervises his henches, Merideth, Grimaric, and Aggulita on the same formula, but only Merideth manages one. Still, two potions make their way into the party larder.

Month 11, Weeks 1 and 2
The party refills their expedition fund to six months, and heads out. No wilderness encounters really stand out - although a wing of manticores survived and fled (flight helps a lot with that), and the party added the manticores to the list of "cleaning projects" for the area.

When they reach the stone giant càrn and hollow, Galswintha presents the giantesses with eastern silk brocades, tapestries, rugs, silver bangles, earrings, massive yet stylish sandals, ceramic dishes, and 20-gallon vases decorated with scenes of mountains, streams, and bears. The giantesses are appropriately bewildered.

On to the keep!

A new sweep of the upper levels to ensure they are clear, and then back to the cyclop's home. Here they tread very, very cautiously.

And when six muscular, obese men with sparse facial hair and creepy smiles greet them casually and invite the men into a poker game, the party refuses to play along, staying well out of reach.

The poker invitations get strident. Some of the men leer at the the women. Chlodomer finally outright refuses and draws his sword.

... and six wereboars angrily transform and attack.

Chlodomer attacks the smallest one first, decapitates it, and carries the stroke through into a brutal strike on the next one. Sadly, this does not engender any apparent terror in his opponents.

A second wereboar also goes down to a collective stabbing, and Galswintha wizard locks the only entrance to the room to prevent boar reinforcements from arriving.

Moments later the heavy oaken door bears up under a sudden battering, and her foresight is rewarded.

Another two wereboars go down. Chlodomer takes a substantial hit and is almost instantly healed. The door shatters inward, and a giant boar, two normal boars, and an immense boar with glowing red eyes bursts into the room.

Shadagrunde immediately drops sustained protection from evil on the central knot of the Grim Fist, and Veneranda, Merideth, Grimaric, and Aggulita begin concentrating on protection from evil to cover the remainder of the party.

The demon boar's attempt at charm fails, and then everyone who can reach the monster takes a swing, but it remains standing, and more boars and giant boars pour into the room.

A prayer later, however, and the demon boar dies ... and shortly thereafter, so do the wereboars, the boars, and the giant boars.

Wounds are patched. Disease is cured for those who were severely wounded. Poker cards are checked, and sure enough, all six were cheating.

During the retreat back to the top levels of the fortress, the party is attacked twice more: once by another wereboar and two giant boars; and once by a squad of rhagodessa.

They prevail, if just, and end up relying on the cárn-guarding henches to cover watch for the night.

Day 15
In the morning, they perform a fast and furious raid of the wereboar lair, making off with some impressive-looking gear that Amarante is unable to identify: elven-looking mail, a dwarven quarter-moon shield, and two greatswords.

The party seriously considers bricking up the wall again. Finally, they decide to troop almost everyone down for a dedicated clearing effort. The giantesses decline, and Haramer and the mercenaries remain with the giantesses.

They push on ... and encounter undead. The first waves are easy enough with the party's cleric contingent. Skeletons, zombies, wights, and wraiths are all dispatched. Between five clerics of level 4-6, a preponderance of magical weaponry, and basic good sense, the undead prove to be scary, but not SCARY.

That's okay, though. Because the next door has a vast, evil-shadowed hall beyond, with a central altar to dark gods, a spectre who was obviously a mad king in life, three mummy advisors, wraiths, wights, zombies, and skeletons by the bucketful.

The party gets surprise ... but mummy permanent-paralysis-on-sight times three is nasty. Agalinda, apprentice to Galagunde, illusionist servant of Chlodomer, is one of the few who isn't paralyzed. She bravely runs as close to the undead army as she can ... and casts Darkness Globe over the mummies, breaking line of sight and letting the party act.

Hastes, blesses, curses, turning, and an illusory wall of fire to hem in the undead, but everyone knows that as soon as the mummies move, paralysis is going to return.

So Chlodomer and Vulfelind, hasted, charge into the globe of darkness to keep the mummies tied up while the party cleans out the rest of the undead.

They kill two mummies in the first round. I'm glad haste ages people.

The remaining mummy and some wights attacks the one thing they can see clearly: Vulfelind. The spectre attacks Chlodomer, on the premise that he's actually the more dangerous of the two.

Outside the globe of darkness, wights, wraiths, and a few last zombies die, and the party shouts for Chlodomer and Vulfelind to retreat.

They retreat, but the spectre finally hits Chlodomer's absurd AC, aging him 20 years, and the mummy finally steps out, paralyzing a number of henches and Vulfelind.

And then all of the non-paralyzed people mop up.

Vulfelind has one hit point and mummy rot, and the clerics are tapped out, so the party loots what they can see quickly and retreats.

jedavis
Patreon SupporterPlayer's Companion BackerDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2012-03-08 01:21

Excellent use of Darkness Globe!

jedavis
Patreon SupporterPlayer's Companion BackerDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2012-03-08 01:21

Also I've been meaning to ask - where do you get your character names? They're rather evocative.

Cameron
Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

The names are almost all Frankish roots. I have a list of a few hundred male and female Frankish names from which the players choose, and from which I draw NPCs; and I also allow remixing root and suffix to get a particular mix (Vulfelind was modified from Vulfegrunde and -lind/-linde, for example).

Of course, in play things sometimes get shortened to "clod," "vulf," "gal," and "shad." I try to not stomp too hard on their necks regarding theme and feel of the setting.

Some example male: Abbo, Abelard, Adalbert, Adaldag, Adalhard, Adelard, Adhémar, Aega, Ageric, Agilbert, Agiulf, Agobard, Aigulf, Alaric, Alberic, Aldgisl, Aleaume, Allowin, Amalaric, Amalricus, Amand, Amator, Amiel, Amils, etc.

Some example female: Aaliz, Adaliz, Adallinda, Adaltrude, Adelheid, Adeline, Aelis, Aicelina, Aiglante, Alais, Alazaïs, Albofleda, Alesta, Algaia, Alissende, Aliz, Allemande, Alpaida, Alpais, Amalasuntha, Amalone, Ameline, Andreva, etc.

Cameron
Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

Session 14
Day 16 and 17
Most of day 16, Vulfelind spends in recovery, and then heals all around.

The following day, the party heads back down, armed for bear, and discover that a few undead have already moved back in. The party re-clears the room, loots, destroys, blesses, burns ... and then checks for secret doors, destroys, blesses, burns, and then piles everything in the middle of the room and blesses and burns it all one more time to be sure.

Among other things, they find scrolls of ward vs. undead, potions of undead control, Chaotic holy symbols, the altar itself, and other gear implying a necromancer ... but all of it looks old and covered in dust.

The three mummies turn out to have been wielding matching, silver-edged scimitars +1 (two-handed swords) and chain mail +2; and two magical shortswords of unknown providence are found. After some squicky mummy-stripping, these are piled into the party hoard and split up.

They also find a pair of magical lenses which are unidentified (stored carefully and not tried), a ring of fire resistance, a covered mirror (they leave it covered), and a treasure map that seems to imply a secondary dungeon near the dwarven keep.

Day 18
After resting up, they tackle the secondary dungeon with full crew. Following the instructions on the map, they find a secret door in the side of the mountain which leads down a straight, diagonal path to the heart of the mountain (pyramid-style), full of traps.

The thieves earn their share of the XP, for certain.

After carefully disabling an unmentionable number of traps, they come into a large, hemispherical chamber with a lake of magma. Pillars of stone rise 10-30' out of the magma, and in the center of the lake, a small round tower squats on a wider-than-normal pillar of stone.

This is all they have time to take in before the trap they missed goes off: an immense slab of rock falls into place, sealing the exit, and four tiger-shaped golems of petrified sap begin jumping from pillar to pillar toward the party.

Galswintha and one of her henches possess web, and they - with careful timing, manage to catch three of the amber golems mid-leap. The webs catch fire immediately ... exactly as Galswintha intended. Those golems will be stuck for two rounds, then be free to fall straight down into the magma.

The remaining golem arrives alone, and promptly takes a severe thrashing from the party. It tears into Chlodomer for a round, and is then shoved backward into the lake of fire.

At about that time, the other three fall into magma themselves. Amazingly, they begin swimming out ... so Galswintha and Gurund web them all in place for another two rounds in the magma. Meanwhile, closer to home, the polearm wielders all have a go at shoving the amber golem back in.

In all, what was intended as a terrifying encounter turns into a game of pushing the golem back into the fire. With the webs gone, the final three golems finally make it to the party as the first one expires, and are summarily beaten down from what few hit points they had left.

They begin slowly making their way across the lake of fire. Vulfelind gets curious about the "splashing" sounds as they land on a pillar, and dares to climb down for a lower point of view ... and spots a lignemaid, staring curiously at the humans from behind the pillar. The lignemaid spots Vulfelind spotting her, looks surprised, and dives under the magma. With the same splashing sound.

Lignemaid are designed as mermaids/mermen, but with the ability to spit a glob of magma and immunity to fire damage. They are also said to be enchanting singers and avid wrestlers, and their kiss is said to bestow temporary fire resistance. Of course, that assumes they don't just grapple you and drag you under.

They start jumping very cautiously.

At the small roundtower, there is no door, but there is a massive, bronze golem set into the wall. As they near, it looks down at them, but takes no action. They creep closer. It looks down again, but takes no action.

They creep closer. A magic mouth appears, and gives a message in dwarf which no one gets. And then the golem steps out of the wall and lifts a tree-trunk-sized bronze mace to attack.

Shadagrunde whips out a scroll and casts dispel evil, and the golem's center shatters, spraying molten metal outward, and burning the slower members of the party.

The hole left by the golem is effectively a door, and the party troops into the tower.

... which (aside from a substantial library written in dwarf, long-since-rotting spell components and laboratory liquids, and what looks like a partially-carved sculpture of white marble) is mostly empty. The party whips out the treasure map again and glares at it, but it provides no further information.

Vulfelind, clever girl, looks at all of the magma around the place ... and puts her torch under the map. As it browns, more words show through!

"Among the maids, beneath the flame, ask the way, hope they're tame."
"When bronze steps forth, speak 'galanato mor amas' and pass."
"To gold and flame, an offering of same, ends the hunt and stills the game."
"A golden ring, a demon bound, 'pax amas' does sting, beneath the ground."

Chlodomer stomps out of the room and leans over the edge of the vast stone pillar, catching a lignemaid by surprise ... and smiling gently at her, "I hope you speak Frankish?"

She dives under the lava, then peeks shyly out a few rounds later ... along with five others.

Shadagrunde decides it's time for tongues and has a conversation with the lignemaids. Then he sighs and turns to Chlodomer, "They'll take you to the door beneath the magma. They say they're scared of taking too many people who might attack them."

The party argues: everyone except Chlodomer is pretty sure it's a trap. They argue long enough that Shadagrunde's time almost runs out, and he finally has Chlodomer decide, then communicates to the lignemaids that Chlodomer is willing.

Chlodomer hands his prized shield and sword to Haramer to keep safe for the party, and climbs down, then he and one of the lignemaids disappears beneath the magma.

After an hour, lignemaids begin lifting up mithril chests sealed with dwarven runes to the party. Twenty six chests in all ... and then Chlodomer's head bobs up, and he explains that he's been challenged to a duel by one of the lignemen fighters, and they won't let him out until it's done, but that should be by morning.

"And by then, maybe Shadagrunde can communicate with them again and get the details?"

Then he disappears back beneath the lava.

The party shrugs and starts pawing through the chests ... and find a golden ring with a single dwarven rune.

Cameron
Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

Session 15
Day 19
The party camps in the tower.

At midnight, a ghostly dwarf briefly appears, says something in dwarvish (which Galswintha writes down phonetically), then disappears.

At dawn, no lignemaids appear. Vulfelind asks "Are we waiting to see if he lived, or if human goes best with red or white wine?"

A lignemaid finally shows up, and explains to Shadagrunde that Chlodomer decided to stay with them "for obvious reasons," then tries to invite another party member to come down to talk to Chlodomer.

Upon translation, Vulfelind snorts, "He's so dead. She wants another free meal; Shad, translate?"

The lignemaid knows what the two figs gesture means, though, and spits a globule of magma, just missing. More lignemaids and lignemen pop up from the depths of the lava to fight ... and Galswintha drops the whole batch with a sleep spell.

Polearms are engaged to haul lignemen out of the magma. Shadagrunde questions the lignemaid, then demands she bring Chlodomer to the surface, "And if he's dead, bring the corpse and his clothes. He would want a proper funeral, and we can use his body ... or the bodies of your sleeping friends there."

She returns with his skeleton and clothing, and Shadagrunde honors the implied bargain, but gives the lignemen a meaningful glare as they leave.

With no amber golems breathing down their necks, Vulfelind and Grizzba manage to find the mechanism for operating the trap stone and trigger it. It opens, they breathe fresh air for the first time in a day, and march to the surface. Calculations are done regarding restoration ... and then the party heads out for Orléans.

Days 20 and 21, Week 4
There are no notable encounters on the way back.

Chlodomer is restored ... but the body warps slightly in the casting, and Chlodomer discovers that his shins and feet are the white-maned, silvery hooves of a unicorn (-4 on human reactions, but grant a 1d8 kick attack with no STR bonus). That doesn't matter too much at the moment, however, because he needs an entire month of bed rest.

(OOC: He refuses to explain how he died, and gets a lot of ribbing for letting his libido lead him into the lava.)

Shadagrunde gets all of the unidentified items identified. The eyes of petrification are given to the higher members of the Church to dispose of; the mirror of life trapping and ring of efreeti calling he retains for the party ... which the head priest isn't too happy about, for some reason.

After a long discussion (a long discussion), the party decides on a course of action regarding the efreeti.

Galswintha puts on the ring and says "pax amas" ... and at first, nothing happens. Then the air and ground vibrate faintly and a wall of fire springs up around Galswintha, searing her slightly and roaring with heat. She holds the ring up again, "PAX AMAS! PAX AMAS! PAX AMAS!"

The fires die down, and a ten-foot, demonic-looking humanoid appears where the flames were, kneeling, "As you wish, mistress."

The barely concealed malice in his eyes says otherwise, however.

What followed was a conversation between Galswintha and the Efreet. The GM tried to maintain a kind of mystical, arabian aura. Chlodomer took dialogue notes (his character's convalescence gave him little else to do). Below is a slight rewrite with the highlights of the conversation:

Galswintha holds the ring in front of the efreet, "What do I call you?"
"Pax, if you call me anything."
"I am told you don't like wishes."
"I do not."
"I am told that you don't like to serve."
"Not humans, no."
"But the ring compels you?"
"A deal was struck."
"For 101 days?"
"It is so."
"Will you serve me with loyalty?"
"You are a human."
"Does that mean no?"
"It is so."
"Then your service is worthless."
"You insult me!"
"What is your service worth then? Tell me."
"Kings would kill for my service!"
"Smart kings don't like to be stabbed in the back."
"I could tear out that tongue and use it as a dagger!"
"I could hire an imp, and get the same service with less noise!"
"... ARE YOU MAD? I AM THE MAJESTIC EFREET!"
"YOU ARE AN UNFAITHFUL WHINER WHO CAN'T BE TRUSTED TO STEP AND FETCH!"
"..."

As the efreet gathered his thoughts, Galswintha presses on, "If I could be safely rid of you, I would in an instant. Whoever struck a deal with you was a fool."

The efreet bowed low, and this time it seemed almost authentic, "Forgive me. I cannot break my word, or I would leave. And I cannot give my word lightly, for I will answer for it when I return home."

"I do not give my word lightly either." (GM note: this is not really true; Galswintha pinky swears at the drop of a hat - it would have been more true to say that she keeps her word religiously.)

"Humans ... humans break their word. They are unworthy masters. A wish ... is an act of giving the word of my brethren by proxy, and they are even less worthy of that."

"What if ... I used the first wish to cast quest on the two of us: to not break our word until your service to me was completed?"

"... I would want to see the wording of that wish."

A bit later, the wording hammered out to the satisfaction of all parties, the efreet and the enchantress trade oaths of temporary fealty.

Her second wish is to heal all calamities suffered by the Grim Fist, including henchmen and hirelings.

In two specific cases, the GM makes a special ruling: the effects of tampering with mortality cannot be annulled with a wish, but they can be altered (call it the "fairy godmother rule").

Vulfelind still glows like a beacon to the undead, but gains the ability to turn undead as a cleric of her level.

Chlodomer retains his white-furred hooves, but they gain an aura of respectability, eliminating the reaction penalty.

She keeps the third wish in reserve, and then, "Well, since we're in Orléans, we should take a day or two to shop, right?" and promptly sets out to dress the efreet in clothing fit to be seen near her.

Month 12, Week 1
Galswintha shopped, and has her henchwoman Deuteria study dispel magic.

Vulfelind partied.

Chlodomer gets his armor and clothing adjusted ... and buys fitted silvered horseshoes.

Shadagrunde consults with the mirror of life trapping to determine who is trapped in it:

  • A greek-speaking nymph.
  • Two dwarves who babble incomprehensibly in dwarven and look like brothers.
  • One dwarf who tries several languages, of which dwarven and greek are recognizable.
  • A stunningly good-looking man who claims to be a prince in Frankish ... but whose grasp of political geography is at best sketchy.

Shadagrunde dutifully takes notes on all of them, including appearance and mannerisms, and finds and hires a sage to research their true identities ... and pays the sage for a year of research up front ("If you find the information sooner, think of it as a patronage for the remainder of the year").

Week 2
The party treks back to Pegasus Mountain, and largely avoids encounters, with the exception of an organized force of unknown providence:

A brown-eyed woman (dressed in an Assyrian-style burqa of black silk, gold lace and thread, and jet cuffs and buttons; armed with obviously magical khopesh and shield; and riding a jet black heavy warhorse) with two lieutenants (a slender elf-blooded gentleman of dryadic mien and somber black robes; and a substantially larger woman dressed in a similar burqa, and armed with a great, two-handed khopesh) and a small army as a retinue.

Shadagrunde takes notes on the woman's standard for later research:

ovalis: Sable, a serpent voided nowed sinister Argent wearing a crown Or, within a double tressure Or. Chief: Falcon sinister Or, perched on the double tressure with wings addorsed and elevated. Base: Motto, "IO KATHAROS".

In english: A solid black, oval-shaped shield, with two thin, golden lines forming an inset border around the edge. Perched on top of the outer golden line is a gold-colored falcon facing right with its wings spread up as if to take flight. Inside the border is a white outline of a knotted serpent with its head facing right and wearing a crown. At the bottom of the shield is a motto scroll with the phrase "IO KATHAROS" written on it.

The two armies regard one another briefly, the woman touching the hilt of her sword and staring at Chlodomer ... then the woman speaks with a voice like honeyed cream, "Aella Sappheiros. You are franks?"

The party introduces themselves, then Chlodomer asks Aella what kingdom she is from ... and it turns out to be Iamanu (although she pronounces it "Ionia, known as Iamanu in the new world") - a mythical country of a distant past age, said to have fought against the dwarves (and lost!), and to be ruled by a dragon.

Shadagrunde consults his copied maps of the dwarven territories, determines that she was coming from the south ... and the claim suddenly seems more plausible.

However, she will not say why she is heading north, any more than the Grim Fist will say why they are heading west, although she does say "I would tell you, but even among the Lawful, evil seeds can take root, and I would avoid endangering you with information you do not need."

In all, no one hates each other, and the two armies eventually go their separate ways, after Shadagrunde updates his maps with a description of where Iamanu is currently located.

Day 15
The party confirms that the crypt is still quiescent, and pushes on, only to discover more undead, although not as bad as those near the Chaotic altar.

They begin to suspect that the Chaotic altar was built on a natural sinkhole of evil, and regroup at the giant's lair to discuss.

As evening falls, however, something else acquires their attention: the black-clad lady and her retinue have arrived at the base of the mountain and are working their way up.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Amazing stuff! What's the average level of the group now, after 15 sessions?

Cameron
Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

6.25. Leveling slowed to a crawl, because:

1. Party priorities have not focused on the XP-laden stuff recently. Hiring henchmen, shopping, and mapping do not, in and of themselves, given anything.

2. They have 16.75 XP shares to divide all credit between. That means I can throw bigger threats at them, but it also means fights take longer, so the XP per session has slowed significantly. Chlodomer is to blame for that, I think ;-).

3. They've been getting really good at dodging wilderness encounters. So the XP per month has also slowed down. This is also partly because I didn't make the encounters-per-hex dense enough, and they've figured out a good route for minimal encounters. I'm working on fixing that in a "natural-seeming" way, though :-).

4. I haven't been crediting them with parley XP. That one is my fault: I've been combing through the campaign journal to get a list of monsters they "defeated" by non-combat means, so I can give them a bonus in the next session. My rough estimate is that this will bring the average up to 7.

Cameron
Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

Session 16
This summary was written by Vulfelind's player and (lightly) edited by the Judge.

My name is Vulfelind de Saubruic, and I am a practical woman. I am keeping this journal because when I am famous, there will be those who will desire to know: how can I be like her?

Answer: Be practical. Kick a LOT of butt. And buy this journal (only 100 gold! a steal!).

(OOC: C. asked us if one of us would write a session summary. He didn't EXACTLY stare at me when he asked, but P. keeps the field cyclopedia, Q. keeps the accounting details and E. keeps the NPC details and I usually just sit like a bump on a log, so I said I'd do it. I'm not the best writer, I kind of write like I talk, but hopefully it gets the story across. Reading back through it, I re-arranged it a bit to be in chronological order, and C. said he'd edit it for accuracy, so there you go. Hope you enjoy.)

Vulfelind's Journal: Day 15 of Month 12
WOMAN IN BLACK arrived this evening, and we offered to help set up camp.

She found this suspicious (smart!), but Gal has been insisting on nothing but the best rations for our army for months, so as soon as the bacon, pickles, waybread, cheeses, and wines got broken out, everything was smiles.

Damn right, Grim Fist brings the party.

Chlod plays nice-nice for a while and finally asks WOMAN IN BLACK what she's doing here. REALLY LONG BORING STORY.

Shad likes to keep copious notes, this whole long, detailed story made him super-happy, and if you need the details, I'm sure you can get a copy of his journal from a nearby library as well.

Here are my more practical notes: The chaos altar we destroyed had a spell that hid a mirror. Mirror is ANCIENT EVIL, Iamanu sensed it, sent WOMAN IN BLACK to look for it.

(Note: ANCIENT EVIL is dark-haired male model in the mirror, actually a Chaos Dragon.)

Hahaha, oops.

Anyway, WOMAN IN BLACK's been straight with us, didn't sneak us, blah blah blah, so Shad spills the beans.

Small Problem: There are other people in the mirror, and it's not possible to free them without breaking the mirror. Breaking the mirror will release ANCIENT EVIL.

(Gal says, "We'll see about that," under her breath, because she's a god among mages, and mages get real competitive when you tell them it can't be done.)

Second Problem: We're still not entirely certain we can trust WOMAN IN BLACK with mirror.

But. We trust WOMAN IN BLACK, sort of, she trusts us, sort of. So everyone camps, but extra watches in case sneaking occurs.

Griz and I occur some sneaking and eavesdropping :-).

Bottom line: We can probably trust her. She has a discussion with her lieutenants. She's worried about us, but relieved that the mirror isn't in the hands of someone worse. Yeah, thanks, lady - I was gonna talk the others into giving you the mirror, now I'm gonna make Chlod sweet-talk some cash out of you first.

Vulfelind's Journal: Morning of Day 16 of Months 12
Pre-dawn watch. Got antsy (NOTE: this was not the most practical thing, but sometimes you have to listen to your inner impulse gnome to get things done), snuck back into WOMAN IN BLACK's camp, just to poke around, and got caught.

I really need to find one of those invisibility rings.

Anyway, that's not important: I talked my way out of it, pointed out that I had already been through half the camp and hadn't stolen anything and wasn't going to, and we had good reason to be suspicious. WOMAN IN BLACK just sighed and agreed that we did, but that she couldn't let the mirror go, blah blah blah.

Anyway, like I said: not important.

What was important: WOMAN IN BLACK has xxx SNAKES for her xxx HAIR.

I didn't let on that I'd seen, but I high-tailed it back to camp and discussed it with Gal. She nodded like she'd known all along (hint: she didn't). Then we broke it to Shad and Chlod.

They lost it.

Okay: yes, she's a medusa. She hasn't stoned anyone - she probably wears that getup so she doesn't accidentally do someone in. She seems nice enough. And we did the whole detect evil intentions thing and it didn't even squeak. And c'mon, we have a Lawful goblin working for us. Can we have a LITTLE less prejudice, maybe?

Look, I'll be the first to say that some types of creature or humanoid, you gotta assume they'll gank you on sight. You gotta be cautious. But if they're willing to talk, talk. You might find a Grizzba or Baldaswind or an ogre with a heart of gold who just wants to be a pastry chef.

Anyway, lots of drama. No practical purpose. And what do we do in the end? Exactly what I was suggesting at the beginning: We talk to WOMAN IN BLACK about it. Well, Chlod does. I'm the practical one; he's the pretty one.

He lets her know the gig is up. She just looks sad, and nods and looks away, "Yes, I am one of the cursed."

Dawwwwwww.

After that, everything is smiles. Well, except that I had to work hard to get Chlod to get cash out of her for the mirror - her sad little cursed girl in the wilderness thing, he forgot she's a highly capable warrior sent out on quest by Iamanu with a small army at her back.

I mean, her kingdom's paying HER for the quest WE just basically finished for her. And if it wasn't for us, they wouldn't have even known the quest needed doing.

Say what you want about my motivations, but first pass the cash.

Actually, we get two things:

1. Cash (50K, yum).

2. An offer of vassalage if we finish clearing the mountain, since Iamanu technically owns this region, but isn't doing anything with it.

Technically, that translates to "won't kick us out." But it's STILL better than the half-baked ideas we were floating to keep Orléans or Atanung from taking the mountain from us once we do all the hard work of clearing it out.

So I count it as a win.

Vulfelind's Journal: Afternoon of Day 16 of Months 12
After WOMAN IN BLACK left with the mirror, with renewed vigor: we attacked the ancient dwarven citadel of ancient dwarven doom.

We found two interesting things:

1. We found a second Altar of Chaos. It has mummies, too (imagine dance of joy here).

2. We found a mass grave - a cave-in with dwarf corpses all through.

Shad's map and notes imply, short version, that there are THREE altars forming a ring around the mass grave. Near the center? Pit of hell. Corbus only wishes he could build a dungeon like this.

Geometrycally speaking, though, the map also gave us a new plan. An awesome plan. A kind of evil plan.

What I would call.. a practical plan.

We cut a deal with the magma mermaids who thought Chlod was so tasty:

1. We won't use our efreet to redirect a river into their home.

2. They provide us with the ability to work in the magma for the next little while, so we can dig a twelve-foot tunnel down to right on top of the third altar.

Hahahaha, oops. Was that YOUR altar?

Vulfelind's Journal: Weeks 3-4 of Month 12
The hole ended up being 15 feet, and 10-foot-square. Shad's map was pretty good, but not perfect.

Most of us had to stand guard, which wasn't efficient, but, you know, MAGMA MERMAIDS WHO LIKE TO EAT PEOPLE.

The mummies probably heard the noise through the rock all week and wondered what it was before thousands of gallson of steaming magma suddenly started pouring down on their heads. And then we come swimming through it, cutting them into bits.

It was, and I say this most humbly, our most glorious battle to date.

Of course, we missed some things:

1. The lava didn't stop just because the fight was done.

2. We didn't actually work out how much of the complex was going to get magma-filled.

3. The undead horde at the SECOND altar heard the noise and came running, AFTER the lava had slowed to trickle speed, at which point we were at a significant disadvantage. There were a lot of Heal throws after that.

Still: Winner writes history, so I am writing this down: Huge success.

Then we're all about the grab grab grab, break the altars, grab grab grab, retreat.

Then we mourned the loss of the keep - most of the interior will be under lava or rock by the end of the day.

We do have one last chat with the magma people: basically, we promised to not drop a river on them, and we'll keep that promise. But we're GOING to rule this mountain in the near future, which will only be a problem if the magma people MAKE it a problem.

They agree that they really don't want to make it a problem for us.

Everything is smiles, just in time for the New Year!

Vulfelind's Journal: Month 1 of Year 2
We make one quick sweep of the few portions of the keep that remain above lava. Gal breaks out the REALLY nice food and we have a small party.

And then we talk to the giantesses, and specifically to Clothilde - the one who trains the bears and seems to make the major decisions for them. We want them to stay. They're worried they won't have a way to fit in (and they don't want to be warriors).

Gal points out what we missed: they are fantastic architects and stone workers. So non-combat work will SO not be a problem. She went on a bit of a rant about it, actually.

We also got some intel on the rest of the mountain:

Probable lairs: Clothilde and friends, family of cave bears (NOT friendly to the giants), band of white apes (NOT friendly to anyone at all), a whole mess of giant rattlesnakes, and the pegasus nest way up the cliffside Gal's been obsessing over.

That settled: we set out for Orléans to re-equip and level.

Session End - Vulfelind's section ends here
Party notes for the curious: Almost everyone leveled, especially after the "parley XP."

  • Chlodomer d'Antioch - fighter 7
    • Galagunde d'Orléans - illusionist 5
      • Eldremer the Bold - familiar
      • Agalinda d'Orléans - illusionist 3
        • Boromer the Brown - familiar
    • Amarante le Certaine - mage 5
      • Leoncito - familiar
    • Haramer d'Orléans - fighter 5
      • four squads, each with four fighter-2 soldiers and a fighter-4 leader.
  • Adela d'Orléans - fighter 5
  • Genofeva de Paris - fighter 5
  • Thorismund du Châtel - fighter 6
  • Ingunde du Châtel - fighter 6
    • Louis d'Orléans - fighter 4
  • Galswintha d'Antioch - mage 6
    • Petite - familiar
    • Gurund d'Orléans - mage 5
      • Geofferic d'Orléans - fighter 4
    • Deuteria du Châtel - mage 5
    • Merovia d'Orléans - mage 5
  • Vulfelind de Saubruic - thief 7
    • Grizzba the Goblin - thief 6
      • Grace d'Antioch - thief 5
    • Veneranda le Vulin - cleric 6
      • Shadow - war dog 4
      • Silver - war dog 4
      • Sable - war dog 4
      • Fierce on the Wind - giant hawk 4
    • Baldaswind de Calais - weretiger 6
      • Garal - tiger 6
      • Salha - tiger 6
    • Almalinda d'Orléans - fighter 5
  • Shadagrunde d'Atanung - cleric 7
    • Merideth le Chocolat - cleric 5
    • Grimaric d'Orléans - cleric 5
    • Aggulita the Goblin - cleric 5
      • Gore - dire wolf 4
  • Maticore
    Dwimmermount BackerDomains At War Contributor
    Joined: 2012-04-16 15:29

    I've enjoyed these recountings so immensely. Thank your player for writing that last one, as well. A few questions and an observation:

    1) How do you find combats working out for you with so many? They getting clunky at all?
    2) Do you use a battlemat? Miniatures? If you run these huge combats theater of the mind, any tips on not getting the fictional positioning of the tens of combatants confused?

    Observation: My players are so greedy compared to yours. They don't like to hire henchmen at all, because they feel like Henchmen are stealing all their precious XP. Hilarious, truly, when compared to what your players have established. I should direct them to this thread (and the previous!) for an example on How To Get Things Done. Your players + party are starting to look like Achilles & His Myrmidons or Jason + Argonauts. They're truly a party of heroes. There are quite a few armies that could attack the peak your heroes defend and die trying. Your swarm of Ftr4+ alone can decimate front lines via cleaving.

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    1) The combats are getting a bit clunky. Sometimes we just assume average results, or throw a fistful of d20s for the lower-level henches to see who hit. However, ACKS overall doesn't require much - unless a special maneuver is involved, 1d20+1d6 is most of a character's round of combat. The main bugaboo is making sure everyone keeps track of their stats: Chlodomer has trouble keeping his hench attack modifiers straight, and Galswintha, her hench spell lists.

    Still, we manage, and we're getting better at it. Last week, I remembered a trick I used to do back when I was playing regularly, and had everyone put the most commonly-used stats for each hench on an index card. If they need a stat that they didn't have, they write it in on the back. At the end of the game session, we re-do the index cards to match an XP upgrades.

    2) Theater of the mind, with the occasional sketched diagram. For fictional positioning, the best advice I can give is "have defaults." All of Chlodomer's henches default to as close to him as they can be, without being in front; with Haramer and his sub-hench army flanking; and the spellcasters tucked behind Haramer. When one of them does something different, then, I can write a short note on that character's Initiative list entry (Thorismund is sometimes "front of Chlodomer to shield" until Chlodomer gets a heal).

    It gets whackier when the party splits. I'm still figuring that out, so no advice, sorry.

    I would actually prefer to do it with minis (I have a ton of minis!), but it was really hard to get Galswintha's player interested in combat, and bringing out the minis made it even worse. She's been getting drawn in slowly, though, as she figures out just how many opportunities there are in combat to "look awesome," so maybe someday before I get a brain meltdown, we can start using minis again.

    Greedy. Chlodomer is a large part of that. He's a veteran grognard with some strong opinions about the utility of Charisma and henches, and he's taught the rest of the group quite a bit in that regard. Me, too, for that matter.

    And at this point ... I think if the party was less cautious and more willing to throw away some lives, they could beat an entire ogre village in one go. Not that I recommend that - I think their guerrilla tactics, use of military oil, and careful use of one-time resources for maximum effect is a much better way to take on an ogre village. But they could.

    It's also worth noting that all of the players except Galswintha have, at this point, decided to emulate Chlodomer's swarm of fighters, at least in spirit (Vulfelind is planning more of an animal menagerie, it seems).

    Galswintha is planning ... I don't actually know what she's planning. She spent a lot of last week asking me about mage demographics - whether the number of leveled characters in Orléans was set in stone, or if "enough" money would sweeten some otherwise unavailable mages out of hiding, for example.

    Heh.

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Session 17
    (OOC: Re-reading the "diary" entry from last week, the last time period should have been Day 1 of Month 1 of Year 2; and apparently the fresh snow of the new year didn't make an impression on my players, ah well.)

    Month 1
    For the first time, the party splits - there's still some distrust for Aella (WOMAN IN BLACK) and her army, so someone has to stay.

    Chlodomer leaves all of his henchmen, the draft horses, crossbowmen, light infantry, medium cavalry, and wagons under the command of Haramer, with a few exceptions:

    Agalinda, apprentice to Galagunde (hench to Chlodomer) now has 2nd level spells, so she is sent back to study. Amarante, hench and personal astrologer for Chlodomer, just acquired 3rd level spells, so she is sent back as well.

    And each other party member leaves a loyal hench to keep an eye on things: Galswintha leaves Gurund (and his hench, Geofferic the hero); Vulfelind leaves Veneranda and her leveled war dogs and war hawk; and Shadagrunde trusts Aggulita and his now-fully-trained dire wolf mount.

    The party, stripped to minimum load and rations, force-marches back to Orléans, utterly murdering a warband of orcs who happened to be traveling through.

    Once in Orléans:

    Those mages with new spell levels work on their repertoire. Everyone gives to the local temple of the Lady for luck (and gets to see their names and the Grim Fist ring symbol carved into the marble foundation listing Important Personages Who Gave A Lot Of Money To Our Most Holy Mission).

    Chlodomer manages to find a mage of 9th level willing to put aside some time to enchant a suit of plate armor. Chlodomer puts Amarante in charge of managing the funds for the mage, and buys a small building in town as the Grim Fist's base of operations in Orléans, where she (and they) can work from.

    That done, Chlodomer looks at his suddenly shrunk cash supply and holds off on any further rash purchases (beyond the usual 2,000 gold for a champion living high on the hog in a city for a month).

    Galswintha makes arrangements to have the extensive wardrobe she left in Châtel transported to Orléans - her henchwoman Merovia leaves with a squad of heavy cavalry and wagons to take care of that, and manages to return with the clothing by the end of the month. She also discusses the last efreet wish with the party.

    ... and then she discusses it with the efreet, because she wants to make sure that it will not cause him distress. He laughs. "Your first wish was to ensure that I would be treated well. That story alone will earn me respect. Make your wish."

    She wishes that, should the party successfully clear and claim the Pegasus Mountain domain, the land and domain will be blessed.

    (OOC: Vague wording? Well, yes. On the other hand, we had already established that the efreet wasn't going to screw them on the wishes, so long as they treated the efreet correctly ... and they very much did treat the efreet correctly. So I decided to treat this as a 9th-level variant on Harvest, especially since they will still have to EARN the domain - but if they do, the assessed Land Value will be +2 higher and Domain Morale will be +1; and whichever six-mile hex Galswintha builds her sanctum in, the animals will be friendly to Galswintha as if it were an elven fastness. This will be essentially a permanent blessing; it can be countered with a reversed wish, and will end when no member of the Grim Fist rules.)

    Then Galswintha spends the remainder of the month researching a new spell, swapping out wizard lock for speak equis.

    Vulfelind buys two tigers for Baldaswind to train and work with, and has her hench Almalinda make a study in pegasus rearing and training. And then she goes recruiting, adding to the menagerie: two new thieves. Chadalinda d'Orléans is technically a lawyer, skilled in both the licit and illicit aspects of getting clients off the hook; Ustitia l'Hivernal is a belly dancer and fencer. This maxes Vulfelind's henches out.

    Shadagrunde does what Chlodomer did: starts with one exceptional leader type and then works down the levels to build out a small army of henches. His hench Merideth le Chocolat forms the central figure. He also hires Rinogand d'Orléans, a stout priest and sage of draconic history, and 19 light infantry henches for Merideth to whip into shape.

    They then look at the heavy snow that has fallen and ... decide to march back to Pegasus Mountain anyway. More wagons are purchased, and back they trudge.

    On the way back, they encounter a lost merchant caravan trying to make it to Atanung. Shadagrunde fixes their maps and explains the ancient dwarven highway markers, then, when their guide still seems a bit lost, takes an extra day to accompany them to the closest marker.

    The merchants are thankful, but puzzled at the lack of a toll: Chlodomer jumps on that, saying "We're still clearing things out - we're not going to charge a toll on our highway until we can be certain it's safe."

    The party agrees after the fact that this was the correct thing to say ... even if the highway isn't technically theirs yet. It certainly satisfied the merchants and made them feel special, like they were getting a deal for being early adopters.

    Month 1, alternate
    Meanwhile, at Pegasus Mountain, winter has come, and the ogres have not been idle. Gathering unto themselves a small army of other Chaotic humanoids and beasts, and noting that a large force left the mountain, they plan a careful, stealthy approach up the mountain and then attack as night falls.

    Ogres. Trolls. Hill giants. Goblins. Dire wolves.

    And one powerful necromancer (plus his undead minions), who is pleased as punch that someone poured lava down his sanctum.

    (OOC: I allowed the players to play their henches for this battle.)

    Veneranda's war dogs scent the trolls early on the chill breeze, and the war hawk flies out and spots them against the snow before being forced to retreat by a hail of goblin arrows. With little or no preparation to hold off the lower pass, the army and giantesses retreats. Gurund's dispel magic reveals an invisible wizard, and Haramer's spearmen expend one spear each to hit him - he falls, and chaos erupts among the ogre's ranks as undead cease to be controlled!

    A web is then thrown to cut off part of the force, and the hench army descends like the Lady's Fist on an unbeliever, with Haramer taking a moment to light the web on fire.

    The fight very rapidly simplifies down to one troll and two hill giants ... against a phalanx of spearmen and clerics. Casualties are rough, but once the hill giants are down, everyone piles onto the troll, grapples it, and then drags it up the mountain, down the tunnel, and tosses it bodily into the magma, where Gurund webs it into place.

    No one dies, but there are some harsh Mortal Wounds results, and some henches mutter and grumble about being left to fend for themselves in dangerous countryside. (Although Haramer points out: "When has the Grim Fist ever let one of us remain injured?", which squelches the last of the serious protest.)

    The giantesses also confer with Gurund about Galswintha and, as a thank-you gift for the clothing, vases, and numerous "giant-sized nice things" she brought them from human civilization, they spend the remainder of the month carving the rough outline of an embedded staircase up the side of the cliff toward the pegasi, although being careful to not get too close to the nest.

    Month 2, Day 1
    The Grim Fist returns and receives ragged cheers ... and discovers the serious bodily trauma some of their henches suffered from the ogres.

    Shadagrunde restores the worst case (broken spine at the neck!) and promises to restore another person each day until everyone is whole again.

    Galswintha loses her mind over the staircase.

    Chlodomer sits down with Haramer to plan a full-bore assault on what remains of the ogres, "They've proven we can't leave them for later."

    Vulfelind uses tracking and manages to find the spot where the necromancer met with the ogres ... and then tracks backward to find the portion of the lair where he holed up.

    Ah, loot never gets old.

    Especially when they discover that one of the necromancer's items is a sentient shortsword of luck ... that doesn't like anyone and refuses to grant wishes, because "once I'm out of wishes, who would want an old, washed up shortsword? No, I gotta make these wishes count. Saving the world kinda stuff. Don't even ask me for bigger muscles, it's gotta be awesome or nothing."

    After some discussion of who has failed saves the most often, Vulfelind ends up with the sword, giving her more ordinary magical sword to Chlodomer, who passes it to Haramer, who gives it to the leader of Squad B for heroism in the line of duty.

    There is also a powerful lady's cane (mace +2, can cure disease once per day) which goes to Shadagrunde, who passes it on to Merideth.

    The ring of fire resistance goes to Chlodomer, half as a joke.

    Week 1
    There is some discussion about longterm plans, and the potential Domain represented by Pegasus Mountain. It is revealed that Pegasus Mountain itself takes up almost exactly one six-mile hex; and that almost everything for two hexes in all directions is Hills and Woods, with areas of River scattered throughout, all heading away from the mountain.

    A few very quick fights clear out the remaining known "bad" lairs on the mountain itself. One additional fight finally wipes the ogre village out.

    Veneranda's giant hawk is sent on some high-flying scouting missions, and establishes a list of probable monsters in a 12-mile radius. (OOC: We also talk about the numbers involved: an expected average of 90 encounters across 500 square miles.)

    And the party makes their way up the stairs to guard Galswintha while she talks to the pegasi. That goes surprisingly well, although the pegasi are unnerved by the stairway (Galswintha does tell them that the Grim Fist now guards it).

    Months 2, 3, and 4, partial
    Using these guidelines, I ended up with 85 encounters. I used a LibreOffice Calc random function to get a bunch of d8,d12 rolls done. And then I started laying out lairs, rolling warband numbers, etc. Yowch.

    The Grim Fist better like this spot, because I don't want to do this again anytime soon.

    I also decided that, basically, the Grim Fist can scout from the air, has detection spells up the wazoo, thieves packed in like a clown car, Tracking and other wilderness proficiencies all accounted for ... given time, they will find every lair in a hex. So rather than spend the next two to three months of face-time plotting out where they travel each day, I'm letting the Grim Fist spend one season (approx. 1 day per six square miles) to guarantee all lairs are found.

    We then did some simplified dicing (no real strategy, just reaction, then hits-and-damage rolls) for all of the easy ones, and then take the harder ones in order. The easy ones, I just did the rolling for and we handled what little party decisions were needed via email:

    Around 50 antelope are spotted and noted, but left alone.

    Bat swarms: A hollow tree; an ancient, shattered bridge across a dry riverbed; an abandoned, moss-covered tower; and a small cave. The party left the bats alone ("bat guano mining was a valuable industry, why would we destroy that?").

    The cave of bats also had five giant black widow spiders - those, they killed. Vulfelind intends to deck out her troupe with black widow armor like her own.

    The Beast Friendship Lairs: two cave bear dens, a mountain lion, a boar, nine giant hawks, ten giant bats, and a giant owl. No one kills rabbits for XP in this party. There has been some talk of bringing the cave bears to Clothilde for training.

    The party also encountered three dire wolves, whom Aggulita turned into henches. Aggulita now has four dire wolves: Gore, Fang, Guts, and Liver. Gore is Aggulita's mount; the others are being trained as mounts, and Liver is likely to be assigned/loaned to Grizzba once training is completed.

    Dead: 7 pit vipers, 3 giant pythons, 6 wyverns, 2 griffons (who would have lived if they hadn't tried to eat the horses), 2 herds of hippogriffs (who would have lived if they weren't the sworn enemies of pegasi and therefore target practice for Galswintha), 10 cockatrices (nets, 10-foot poles, and polearms were handy), 3 nests of stirges, a rhagodessa, 2 giant scorpions, 5 lesser hellhounds, 5 greater hellhounds, and 2 phase tigers.

    My monster graveyard is starting to get ridiculous ;-).

    jedavis
    Patreon SupporterPlayer's Companion BackerDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
    Joined: 2012-03-08 01:21

    That's an awesome wish from the efreet. My players just wished for great heaping piles of platinum pieces... which turned out to be stolen from various royal treasuries across the continent.

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Great heaping piles of platinum ... is actually exactly what Chlodomer campaigned for (he's been feeling the pinch of his expenses).

    But they gave the efreet to Galswintha, so she had the top veto power. (And to be fair, her wish will result in more gold in the long run, but at the cost of Chlodomer's current shortfall.)

    Alex
    The Autarch
    Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

    Hot damn, great update! And THIS may be the best magic sword in D&D history:

    Especially when they discover that one of the necromancer's items is a sentientshortsword of luck ... that doesn't like anyone and refuses to grant wishes, because "once I'm out of wishes, who would want an old, washed up shortsword? No, I gotta make these wishes count. Saving the world kinda stuff. Don't even ask me for bigger muscles, it's gotta be awesome or nothing."

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Thank you. The best part was when they figured out it has five wishes and is more than a century old - it hasn't granted a wish yet.

    Epic or nothing. I expect that at some point, they'll find a way to meet that challenge.

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Got caught up in replying to other posts, forgot to share my news:

    Looks like we're going to have a long weekend of gaming. I'm going to be hosting my niece (and as a bonus to overworked parents, her friend) over the weekend, and while I have to make sure they do their homework first, I got confirmation from the other two players that this does, in fact, mean that I get to run roughly 12-16 hours of Grim Fist this weekend.

    Though I may offer some bonus XP for household chores and journal entries to save me writing them up myself ;-).

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    No luck on getting anyone else to write the summaries, so I may be a little slow getting caught up.

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Session 18
    Sessions 18-20 are an extended re-mix session, because we basically played ALL WEEKEND. You may send your tokens of utter envy to my niece. She collects them on a string, along with the broken hearts of young men.

    By unanimous vote, Saturday's eight-hour game is dubbed "Session 18" while Sunday's pre-lunch game is dubbed "Session 19" and post-lunch game is "Session 20."

    Months 2, 3, and 4, continued
    The party spends winter thoroughly gridding and exploring the region. Soldiers and henches both receive significant bonus pay.

    The efreet is finally released from service. Galswintha sends him on his way with gifts of wine, silks, and a simple brass ring inscribed with the word "VERITAS", because that's just how she rolls.

    The significant encounters:

    Hex #1308: Sheltered Wood
    A thick-wooded valley with several brigand encounters. Position and research indicate that this hex may hide the lair of "the Bandit King" and his berserker personal guard. He is said to be the deadliest swordsman in the world. Or at least this part of the world.

    Hex #1309: Heart of Stone
    A granite hill with a stone giant den carved from its heart. These giants are dressed in ragged bear hides and armed with stone clubs - they look poor.

    Initial talks go poorly - then the party persuades Dagunde (one of the giantesses) to come talk to them, and talks go even more poorly. Stone giants appear to be very sexist, and Dagunde has had enough of that crap.

    When Dagunde refuses to give up her stuff and settle down, the giants pick up weapons and stand threateningly ... and Chlodomer tries to talk everyone down. The giants attack!

    Vulfelind, Haramer, and Chlodomer work together to knock down and pin the most aggressive male, and Chlodomer clambers up and stabs him in the eyes, one after the other. This takes several tries, but he manages it, and then calls for a temporary truce.

    The giants surrender, and will head west, never to return. Shadagrunde restores the blind giant's eyesight, but says, "If you return, and Chlodomer does not remove your eyes again, the Lady will."

    The party checks the giants' hoard, but it's so pathetic they just leave it to the giants.

    Hex #1407: Red Meadow
    A six-mile patch of meadow with rust-colored mushrooms growing in the snow. A troop of centaurs regard the area as theirs, and do not take kindly to Chlodomer's desire to discuss land rights - specifically, the idea that he might rule the area soon.

    On the other hand: ten centaurs, army of mid-level heroes. The Grim Fist leaves, unwilling to kill the centaurs, but also unwilling to entirely cede the hex to them.

    No one gives in and tries eating the mushrooms.

    Hexes #1408, #1409, and #1509: Crevice Wood, Slithering River, and Darkwater Wood
    South and west of Pegasus Mountain, the party finds three ogre villages. Each village has a warband of allied hill giants and giant boar mounts, and one has a charmed cyclops.

    (OOC: Since I determined the villages would not aid one another, ogres being the socially stunted monsters that they are, we decided to run just the cyclops village fight, and assert that the other two had similar results.)

    Team Thief sneaks in during an ogre siesta and frees the boars, careful to make the cuts look like the results of rubbing and wear, then fades away. After the ogres send out teams to re-catch the boars, the Grim Fist throws military oil into the main mass of remaining ogres and ignite it with fireballs, then charges in and mops up ... and then retreats to heal and prepare. The following day, they discover that the ogre gangs, rather than clump up for a nice area-effect mop-up, have spread out as much as possible. So the Grim Fist foregoes area effects, tucks their armor away for speed, and engages in hit-and-run tactics, taking advantage of ogre slowness to pick off those at the edges.

    When the ogres finally converge for protection, fireball.

    The cyclops never managed to be much of a threat, although he did manage to beat Chlodomer down to about half hit points.

    Among the many treasures acquired, the party acquires:

    Gauntlets of ogre power, which the party discusses and discusses and discusses, because Chlodomer is strong enough that he won't gain much benefit; and no one else is as much of a front-line fighter. They finally give the gauntlets to Genofeva de Paris, Chlodomer's mercenary ex-aristocrat, which puts her on par with the rest of the party damage-output wise.

    Eyes of the eagle which also go to one of Chlodomer's henches, Adela d'Orléans, the smooth-talking cataphract sergeant.

    Staff of the serpent which is given to Grimaric, of Shadagrunde's Team Priest.

    There are also a bunch of basic magical swords, which get divided up among Chlodomer's hench army, and another 20 magical weapons which get split out various ways, and a tub of potions, and a few scrolls.

    It's a beautiful haul.

    Hex #1410: Shadowed Lake
    A tiny goblin village nestled into a riverbank in a hilly wood. The goblin archers look too deadly, so they set it aside for later.

    (OOC: Vulfelind's player groaned at this, "When I said no more ogre villages...".)

    After clearing a few other hexes, however, Vulfelind has an idea and they return.

    Team Thief invisibly sneaks through the village, find and sabotage as many bows as they can in the spell's duration, and then retreat.

    Sacks of fragile pottery filled with military oil come dropping out of the sky, followed by the dull wump of fireball and flame strike. Then, and only then, arrows rain down on the goblins and Haramer's spearmen close in for the kill.

    Goblin bows snap and twang and break, and you can just about hear tiny little goblin hearts breaking right along with them.

    One of Haramer's soldiers gets an unexpected arrow to the throat, but he gets better.

    Hex #1507: Bone Temple Hill
    A semi-barren hilltop with the ruins of an ancient temple crumbling atop it, and the gnawed-on bones of those who have tried to take the hill by force scattered at the base. The party investigates from a distance for a while, until they finally spot the sphinx as he lands on the temple roof, an antelope dangling from his forepaws.

    There is some discussion about this, some Adventuring throws about sphinxes are made, and they decide to send their armies back into the woods; then spells of protection and augmentation are cast, and Chlodomer (with Thorismund and Ingunde) and Shadagrunde (with Merideth) march up the hill in plain sight to parley and/or fight.

    Vulfelind (with Grizzba) simultaneously sneak in, trying to get close to the sphinx.

    Chlodomer starts with diplomacy. Sadly: the sphinx hasn't finished his meal; is Chaotic; and was a friend of the necromancer, and here saunters the murderer. It is on.

    The sphinx opens with a roar, stunning Merideth and Thorismund, and terrifying Ingunde; Shadagrunde removes fear on Ingunde, and Chlodomer steps in and subtracts a quarter of the sphinx's hit points in one shot. Vulfelind and Grizzba carefully close the last of the distance.

    The sphinx roars again (all of the henches flee) and claws at Chlodomer, but Chlodomer is unmoved. Shadagrunde drops a flame strike, Chlodomer stabs, ... and then Vulfelind and Grizzba both do something horrible to the sphinx's back end. The monster whips around and bites and claws Vulfelind within an inch of her life (she's an easier target than Chlodomer, too). And then Chlodomer and Shadagrunde both dish out grievous blows.

    The sphinx gives a last roar, Shadagrunde removes fear on Chlodomer, and Chlodomer (sensing that the sphinx is preparing to retreat) grabs onto its mane. Vulfelind retreats to lick her wounds and Grizzba stabs it in the foot.

    The sphinx retreats, taking to the air ... and Chlodomer comes with. Between magic missiles and Chlodomer's continued stabbing, the sphinx dies midair. Chlodomer is lamed from the fall, and Shadagrunde is out of fifth level spells, so the Grim Fist takes the rest of the day off to search the rubble for loot and roast smores.

    Among the sphinx's scattered goods:

    A staff of healing, which the Grim Fist immediately employs; once used, it goes to Veneranda le Vulin (Vulfelind's clerical hench).

    Another pair of gauntlets of ogre power, which this time Chlodomer keeps.

    Hex #1510: The Oak Circle
    A massive, open grotto with hot springs (not scalding - just right) feeding into a warm stream; inside the grotto it feels like Spring. Six massive oak trees form a circle around the largest pool, and a heavy wood of oaks and yews surround those.

    The party almost march in with their army, before Shadagrunde points out that it looks like it might be a dryad grove.

    In fact, it is a dryad grove, and so much more:

    • Six dryads in the circle of trees, one of whose trees hosts an entire pixie village in its branches.
    • Another six dryads scattered about the nearby woods who visit regularly.
    • A few dozen naiads who lair in the hot springs.
    • Several treants.
    • Another pixie village in a quartz-rich cavern offshoot of the grotto.
    • Another pixie village laid out in the stone foundation of a long-gone watchtower.
    • A pack of blink dogs who hunt the area.
    • A guardian owl nesting in one of the treants.

    The party is very, very, very respectful. And for once, the high Charisma quotient of the party is a serious problem - the dryads and naiads, collectively, are interested in keeping most of the party with them as friends, entertainment, and objects of admiration.

    Through heroic parley, and the assistance of the guardian owl, the Grim Fist assures the citizens of the grove that they will visit at least once a year and manages to leave without losing anyone forever.

    The Oak Circle is marked on Shadagrunde's map as "our eventual wilderness preserve."

    Hex #1607: Utena's Shadow
    As the party has been moving regularly, and checking the weather, they eventually notice that the DM always says "and heavy altocumulus clouds to the northeast."

    They start observing more carefully ... and the altocumulus clouds never move. Wind reshapes them occasionally, but that's about it.

    And then they have the bright idea of borrowing Adela's eyes of the eagle and outfitting Veneranda's giant hawk Fierce on the Wind with them, to take a good look at the clouds. One speak with animals later confirms that cloud giants live there, some eight thousand feet off the ground.

    They leave that one for later - eight thousand feet is a long way to climb - but do check the shadowed ground beneath for alternatives.

    Hex #1608, #1609, and #1709: Bugbear Forest Lake, Ugly Hill, and Valley Lake
    OOC: After some discussion, I just yielded on these. Hopefully Domains at War will let us handle stuff like this better in the future, but I didn't really want to spend the whole weekend rolling and accounting for dozens of d20s.

    Hex #1610: Galaufchulis
    Atop the largest hill in the region (but not quite a mountain), lies an immense oak tree over a thousand feet tall, whose roots entwine the entire hill. The stream that flows past it runs all the way from the Oak Circle grotto, and indeed, there is another village of pixies here, and a family of treants.

    There are also a dozen small rocs nesting in the branches, and almost two dozen pegasi nesting here. Galswintha notes with some bitterness that these pegasi are far more accessible.

    The party decides to leave this one for later - the rocs are Lawful and so Chlodomer and Galswintha don't want to hurt them, but they are also aggressive and refusing to parley.

    Hex #1708: Azure Hot Springs
    The westmost hex had four hot spring locations, feeding a series of war streams surrounded by snow. The result is gorgeous and creates a perpetual fog amidst the trees visible from Pegasus Mountain.

    Up close, each hot spring turned out to be incredibly deep ... and housing an aquatic hydra. Three are comparatively small (6, 7, and 9 heads) and one is a 12-headed monster. All can breathe steam blasts and are resistant to heat, and have an easy retreat into water too hot for most of the party to fight in.

    Unfortunately for the six- and seven-headed hydras, Galswintha knows water-breathing and Chlodomer has a ring of fire resistance. Support spells are cast, ropes are tied off, additional magic items from other party members are layered on, and Chlodomer dives in for a little mano-a-monster. Between Chlodomer's current AC 11 (the hydra manages about one hit per round) and his attack ability (1d6+8), he outlasts a single hydra by a mile. One of the two small ones does try biting through the rope, but that just wastes an attack.

    The nine-headed hydra, they bait near the edge where those tough enough to survive the steam breath can fight it, and Chlodomer goes around behind it to keep it from retreating. That works so well (aside from the shore party suffering from gouts of steam), that they try it again on the 12-HD monster.

    They also find a crossbow with grecian markings - some experimentation identifies it as a crossbow +3 which ignites arrows fired from it (dealing 1 point of fire damage). Vulfelind claims it.

    ... but the baiting fails. And the canny beast disappears into the deep blue depths of the spring. They decide to leave this one alone for the moment.

    Session End
    Azure Hot Springs (#1309) still has a HD 12* hydra extant, and it has proven to be too smart to be baited out. Some additional, careful research has also revealed to the party that all four springs are connected by deeper tunnels.

    Red Meadow (#1407) still has shroom-sniffing centaurs running free.

    The Oak Circle (#1510) is still a lair, but that may be okay: a wilderness preserve of mostly Lawful creatures isn't a bad thing, as long as no one expects peasant families to settle in that hex. And given the history of the Grim Fist, they may manage to get some use out of it anyway. I counted this one as a "win," because the party didn't lose anyone forever to the dryad or naiad parties ;-).

    Utena's Shadow (#1607) still has cloud giants, which is worrisome. And I'll just issue a spoiler here: the giants ain't friendly sorts.

    Galaufchulis (#1610) still has rocs and pegasi, and there is no plan in place for dealing with the rocs in a manner that satisfies everyone in the party.

    And there is a Bandit King somewhere in the Sheltered Wood (#1308) ...

    Overall, however, not a bad winter-worth of work.

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Again: I am still working on the rest of the session summaries. I will try to get up at least session 19 today.

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Session 19
    Months 5 and 6
    The Grim Fist decides to take a break in Orléans for the latter half of Spring, and persuades the giantesses to accompany them (Galswintha begs in most unseemly fashion).

    On arrival in the fair city, the Grim Fist makes an impression. Three giantesses wearing the current fashion, one of them with an elf maid - known among tailors as a benefactress non pareil - perched on her shoulder.

    A pack of heavy-jowled mastiffs in cute little jackets; dire wolves in spiked leather armor; tigers in jaunty red scarves; cave bears in vests; and a giant hawk perched regally at the head of the pack.

    A caravan of wagons, some piled with merchant goods, others loaded with small, iron chests, another with the corpse of a sphinx, and still another loaded with a small accountant's desk, wardrobe, privacy screens, and enameled washtub.

    And shortly behind, a small team of dung shovelers hired to prevent in-city untidiness.

    The Grim Fist does several things in Orléans.

    • Three of the wagons are burdened with coins of copper and brass, barrels of pickled fish, gallons of beer, fire logs, rolls of cloth, lamp oil, potter, and other cheap but practical things. They spend a day giving most of that away to the city's poor.
    • They take another day giving away maps of the dwarven highway to Atanung in the mercantile district.
    • They meet briefly with the Governor of Orléans to assure him that the Grim Fist is merely celebrating a path to Atanung.

    Some character-specific events:

    Chlodomer

    Galagunde d'Orléans, visionist (illusionist-6) and the one who introduced the party to tarantula familiars with Healing, leaves Chlodomer's service. She holds no real rancor, but she does not ever wish to be left alone in the wilderness again to defend giantesses she could care less for. Plus, Chlodomer's behavior around the lignemaids, dryads, naiads, Orléans city girls, and others has finally pushed her a bit too far. Nor did she ever care much about appearances - possibly a bad fit for a henchwoman of Chlodomer's! (She does take the bonus Chlodomer offers her, of course.) She takes her apprentice, Agalinda d'Orléans, with her.

    Haramer's fighter squad falls apart - some of the same problems as Galagunde, but there is also the issue that they were hired by Chlodomer, but they were then pawned onto Haramer ... and the majority of them were a level below even that, working for a no-name fighter with no real charisma who was working for Haramer. Since most of them are quite wealthy in their own right now, they go off to start their own mercenary companies. They keep their expensive, high-quality spears and armor, of course.

    Haramer loses two of the fighters working directly for him, but retains the other two.

    Thorismund and Ingunde du Châtel (and their fighter-accountant, Louis d'Orléans) also leave Chlodomer, although on much better terms: Ingunde has been building up the cash to found a solid merchant business (and Chlodomer has known this), and with the pass to Atanung safer than ever, this seems the time to do it. Some members of the party pitch in on the first caravan, in return for a promised portion of the profits at a later date.

    Chlodomer revises the line-up of hired mercenaries, and ends up with this:

    Haramer D'Orléans hires and leads 50 heavy infantry pikemen (600/month); his two remaining henches act as lieutenants (and remain henches, of course). Chlodomer outfits them all in plate armor and quality (+1 damage) spears (2,700 gold).

    Adela d'Orléans hires and leads 8 cataphract cavalry (600/month). Chlodomer outfits them all with quality composite bows and spare medium warhorses (5,200 gold).

    Genofeva de Paris hires and leads 10 heavy cavalry (600/month). Chlodomer outfits them with quality (+1 damage) lances and upgrades them to heavy warhorses (3,600 gold).

    Then he reassures the Governor, once again, that the Grim Fist has no designs on his city, and that this is purely for the next wilderness trip.

    Galswintha

    Galswintha and her mage henches hit the books for most of Spring.

    She also noted that Gurund was uncomfortable with danger (and had even hired a bodyguard for himself). So she talks to Chlodomer and buys a share in the Grim Fist Orléans HQ, puts in an alchemy workshop (50,000 gold!), and then asks Gurund to hire some journeymen and apprentices and begin working for her in Orléans rather than in the wilderness. His first task? Research oil of dispel magic.

    (This turns out to need sphinx feathers, and the dead sphinx is sufficient for seven magical research rolls.)

    Galswintha leaves him with additional funds and orders to buy more sphinx feathers if he can; and to do business as an alchemist for those time periods that he can't continue on her oils.

    Galswintha also commissions a sizable carriage drawn by heavy draft horses, freeing up one of the party's wagons.

    Vulfelind

    Vulfelind meets briefly with Chludwig d'Orléans - head of the Thieves' Guild - whose daughter she had returned to him last time. He wants to make sure that she knows that he knows about their plans for Pegasus Mountain, and that as long as she remembers who's really in charge, he won't tell the Governor what's really going on. She smiles and nods and kisses his ring finger and worries about which of her henches is actually a spy. She also finally pays attention to what he looks like, and realizes that he is probably a wererat.

    Vulfelind takes her henches to a tavern with private rooms, and has a meeting.

    She tells them what just went on with Chludwig. She tells them that she had assumed the Guild kept an eye on her ("and if the Governor doesn't already know we're claiming Pegasus mountain, maybe he needs his eyes checked"), so no worries there ...

    BUT. Chludwig is a wererat, and he's definitely Chaotic: he's making threats like this against the people who saved his daughter! And while Vulfelind lacks the kind of devotion to Law (hah!) the other Grim Fist members possess, she prefers living in a world where the Lawful people are in charge.

    Then Veneranda breaks down crying: Chludwig threatened her mother the last time the party was in Orléans - at about the same time his daughter was being returned to him. All is forgiven.

    Vulfelind talks to the party, but they're hesitant to take on a Thieves' Guild leader in a major city who is cozy with the Governor, especially when the "spy" is now a double agent on the party's side.

    Vulfelind sighs and agrees, but still takes a vacation in Atanung ("anywhere but here") to put it behind her.

    Shadagrunde

    Shadagrunde refines his hench and merc structure, taking Chlodomer's hard-earned lessons on extended hench chains to heart.

    Two of Merideth's clerics end up heading to the local Church chapter to offer their services, now that they have "several months of on-the-job experience with the heroic members of the Grim Fist."

    Shadagrunde's line-up now looks like this:

    Merideth le Chocolat has two henches (both cleric-4). She hires and leads 20 light cavalry (600/month). Shadagrunde equips them with quality lances (+1 to hit and +1 damage) and a spare light warhorse each (5,000 gold).

    Grimaric d'Orléans hires and leads 100 light infantry (600/month). Shadagrunde equips them with quality leather and two quality spears each (23,000 gold).

    Rinogand d'Orléans hires and leads 20 longbowmen (600/month). Shadagrunde equips them with quality chainmail and longbows (9,400 gold).

    Aggulita looks for Lawful goblins and finds none - the Grim Fist has all two of them. Nor is Aggulita exactly "leadership" material. This upsets Aggulita quite a bit, and there is some heart-felt, roleplayed feelings before Shadagrunde lets Aggulita go off on a quest to find other Lawful goblins. Shadagrunde gives Aggulita the Goblin a sizable bonus (read: 9,000 gold to fund the expedition), and Aggulita gifts Grizzba with Gore, a fully-trained dire wolf mount.

    By the end of it, the party has 208 mercenaries in tow, collated from a variety of small companies of all sorts. Galswintha returns from her spell studies, takes one long, disgusted look, and stomps her feet, "Party fund discussion, NOW."

    Agreements are reached:

    • The party treasurer will be asked before the party treasury is spent, even if it's not frivolous.
    • The armies are a party resource, because the party pot was spent on them.
    • The specific henches in charge of the armies will remain as it is: they would have been the best choice in any case.
    • Since they are a party resource, Galswintha gets to put them in uniforms.

    That prompts another shopping spree - this time for brightly colored white-and-red tunics, high-quality marching boots and sleeping blankets, banners, matching helmets, and simple copper rings with the year and "Grim Fist" inscribed (instantly starting a party tradition).

    And then Adela d'Orléans (Chlodomer's) and Almalinda d'Orléans (Vulfelind's) spend the last week drilling the army in parade marching.

    The city's entire supply of available military oil is bought out, and the Grim Fist marches back to Pegasus Mountain.

    And the giantesses? Deeply impressed by how well civilization took to them, and weighed down with books on human architecture and stonework.

    Month 7, Week 1: Sheltered Wood (#1308)
    As Summer begins ...

    The party scouts by air with eyes of the eagle and a giant hawk ... and discovers that there are, in fact, three entire brigand camps, the most central of which also houses two berserker warbands.

    A precise estimate isn't possible, but somewhere between 500 and 700 criminals appear to have made this hex their home, and are preying on an area a dozen or more miles wide. The Grim Fist are outnumbered 3-to-1 even with their mercenary army, and there is evidence that the three camps are all in cahoots, and will coordinate and assist one another.

    Shadagrunde draws up a map; Chlodomer puts pieces on the map; and then Vulfelind moves those pieces around. Somewhere in this, a coherent strategy is formed, albeit one that is likely to have losses.

    The giantesses are left out at Galswintha's request: "They want to be architects."

    And then they receive a letter, delivered by a scared peasant:

    My dearest friends, it has been a real pleasure to see you at work clearing the nearby woods. All of those bugbears and goblins! And ogres, if I have heard the correct rumors. This had made things immensely easier on myself, than if you had not come along.

    A cousin of mine, however, tells me that you may be looking to clear my area as well - that you might, in point of fact, intend me some harm!

    I am delighted to tell you that I laughed at the notion. Not that you aren't capable, of course! I am certain you are capable enough, though I would make it cost you more than you might have wished to pay. But you, my friends, are heroes! Paragons of virtue!

    And I? I am merely a man of means who has carved a niche in the protection of goods through the wilderness of this part of the world. Merchants pay quite a bit for my services, and are happier for having done so!

    Why, we should be partners, not enemies!

    And indeed, that is just what I would like to suggest: with your burgeoning army at my back, I need not fear the incursions of wilderness monsters, so that I can focus my efforts on the protection of highways for honest merchants; and with me watching the highways, you can focus your efforts at building what will, I am certain, be a glorious kingdom some day.

    Albert le Renardière

    Vulfelind smiles - and there are entirely too many teeth involved. To Chlodomer, she only says, "Albert is a wererat, care to wager?"

    The Grim Fist and their army marches out immediately, with Grizzba and Vulfelind riding swiftly ahead to find and eliminate anyone Albert sent along to report back.

    Day 8: A Bad Day for a Rat
    In usual habit, Albert rolls from bed predawn and pads silently through the camp in rat form, finding nothing amiss. His day is already planned: his scout to the Grim Fist camp should be reporting in a few hours; a romp with his wives; another round of cash arriving from merchants in the afternoon. In all, pleasantly indolent!

    He finds a guard napping, and nips an ankle as a reminder: his people should know better! The disease may kill the guard in a few days - a disease which always seem to catch the lazy in Albert's camps.

    His duty done, Albert pads back to his nest ... and pottery falls from the sky, scattered across the center of camp. His nose twitches: naptha!

    There is no hesitation: he becomes human and shouts the alarm, a split second before fireballs engulf the naptha soaked center of camp and wipe out a fifth of his force. His wives run from the wreckage, burned but alive, and he and they rush to the treasury.

    Albert slams a potion filled with the essence of a hill giant, and directs his wives to the rack of healing potions, which they greedily consume. Then he grabs Mercy of Crows from its wall-sheath, shifts into ratman form, and slinks out to survey the battle ...

    An entire warband of berserkers lies dead and pinned to the ground by arrows. The other warband is losing a fight with cataphract cavalry. Corpses are burning everywhere.

    His light cavalry - those remaining - chase an enemy force of same ... until the enemy force charges right through a force of hidden pikemen who set for charge and decimate the brigand force.

    He does not wait to see how his light infantry will do: Albert and his wives position to intercept the cataphract cavalry - the soldiers die messily and fast, too focused on the pursuing berserkers to spot the wererats lying in wait. Their leader, a fast archeress, puts an arrow through one of Albert's wives, sees that it has no effect, and makes an astonishingly skillful direction change away from Albert and berserkers both.

    To Albert's momentary befuddlement, however, she slows down short of escape, and whistles piercingly.

    And then ten heavy cavalry bursts from - seemingly - empty space, charge the full distance, and focus on knockdowns and slams, rather than going for kills. The wererat has to admit: against foes who cannot be hurt, slamming them through buildings is a good second choice. Unfortunately, however, Albert himself has the strength of a giant.

    He trips the second horse to pass him, then plucks the rider of the third from his horse and thrusts his sword through the man's heart. And then a man in white armor steps out of the same nothingness from which the cavalry arrived, and Albert stares death in the eyes.

    Knowing his own skill and abilities, Albert briefly attempts to spar with Chlodomer. Few can match Albert's skill - let's be honest, few could harm him even if they could put a touch on the swashbuckling rat lord - but Chlodomer is almost as strong as the wererat, better equipped, and under the influence of beneficial spells. The fight begins to go poorly.

    Albert calls to his wives to get out of the rubble and help him, and discovers that, at some point during his spar with Chlodomer, they've all been killed. Chlodomer pricks him again with that damnable dwarven sword ...

    Albert flees. Across the village center, around a corner, fade to shadows, clear a gap, uncover the trap door, quietly, quietly, re-seal the entrance, through the rat warren, and home free ...

    A pack of grinning thieves, whose portraits Chludwig sent him months ago, are waiting for him at his exit. His hidden exit. His oh-so-secret exit. One of them, Vulfelind, puts a flaming, magical crossbow bolt into his leg as he slows to a stop.

    Albert puts on his most charming smile, "Lovelies, I have allies who will be unhappy if you don't let me by."

    Vulfelind smiles. The pack swarms the rat lord with magic blades and malice.

    OOC: There were some interesting priorities in this battle. Galswintha had her familiar Petite circle high in the sky and watch for injured horses - didn't matter whose side, she wanted the familiar to heal the horses.

    And Vulfelind, once she found the secret exit, sent Veneranda, Almalinda, and Baldaswind to do their best to cover the field of battle with the staff of healing, and save as many soldiers as possible.

    Neither of those things really affected the tide of battle, of course.

    The cataphract cavalry were wiped out; the heavy cavalry took heavy losses; everyone else did reasonably well, although there was still mortality. Morale checks on the brigands helped everyone out, though - half the battle was fought not with weapons, but fear.

    Vulfelind was very insistent, so I rolled for Mortal Wounds for every soldier; and Veneranda did actually manage to save most of them from true death with timely staff usage.

    The berserkers, once the cataphracts were taken care of, did quite a lot of damage to the light and heavy infantry. The party finally lost the last of their invisibility over that, because they had to wade in and finish the berserkers off.

    Day 8, Retreat
    The Grim Fist and army retreat to a safe spot, recovering the wounded and dead. The mages are bedded down as quickly as possible, guards are set, and everyone prepares.

    They know it will be at least a day before camp 2 can reach them. Camp 3 may arrive sooner, but doesn't.

    Vulfelind and gang show up shortly thereafter, and Mercy of Crows is identified: a two-handed sword +2, whose each hit has a 1 in 6 chance of aging a target by 5 years and healing the wielder of 1 hp. The sword is silently, but feels
    malevolent.

    Month 7, Weeks 2, 3, and 4
    At dawn, mages prepared, the party decamps and ... faces the combined might of two brigand camps.

    Which, fortunately, is actually a smaller force (and lacking berserkers and a dozen wererats) than the primary camp.

    They are remarkably close together, a mistake against the Grim Fist.

    Shadagrunde drops a plague of insects on them. A quarter fall instantly, and those who flee the carpet of bugs face longbows and pikes, or if they make it past that, are run down by cavalry. Those still among the bugs scream surrender, and Shadagrunde separates the carpet and spares them.

    The staff of healing is administered indiscriminately, and as a result, a much larger force of brigands is captured than might have been expected - almost two hundred are captured and tied up.

    Shadagrunde presides over a respectful burial pyre for the dead brigands; and then the party marches the living (and Albert's corpse) to Atanung.

    Along the way to Atanung, Shadagrunde restores to life as many soldiers as he can, and in Atanung, they pay for as many additional restorations as the market will bear. They manage to save almost all of the army. Galswintha approves care packages for the families of the dead and crippled.

    ... then they discover that Albert le Renardière is the Bandit King, with a 12,500 gold bounty; and that he is the source of the wererat infection in the Thieves' Guild, for whom with another 12,500 gold bounty. Vulfelind gleefully collects both and deposits them with Galswintha.

    And after another brief discussion with the Party Treasurer, they hire more mercenaries, march back, clean the dregs of brigands from the forest, and loot the three brigand camps.

    Month 8, Days 1, 2, and 3: Azure Hot Springs (#1708)
    The party gets serious about the hydra. The party's collection of water-breathing potions is put in a pile: 3. Galswintha and Deuteria can cast create air twice each, bringing the number of entrants up to 7.

    Ropes are tied. Chlodomer, Haramer (wearing Chlodomer's gauntlets of ogre strength), Genofeva, Shadagrunde, Merideth, Grimaric, Rinogand, and Vulfelind are prepared for underwater travel. Vulfelind goes first, stealthily, and with a fire beetle organ tucked in cloth to alert the others if she needs them quickly. The others rope themselves together with chains, and dive in.

    The hydra, hiding in a side cave, spots them first ... and skips Vulfelind and goes straight for Chlodomer, grappling and pinning him and then fleeing back down the side tunnel.

    Fortunately for Chlodomer, the chains hold, and the others (except for Vulfelind) come along for the ride. The hydra's ambush quickly becomes a one-on-many fight, and it has to stop fleeing in order to defend itself. Each round, the hydra nearly kills Chlodomer, and then Chlodomer removes one or two heads, and then the clerics heal Chlodomer, and the rest try to beat on the hydra.

    This continues for three rounds ... and then two heads grow back.

    In aquatic-enforced silence, the warriors try to beat the tide of heads. As the last head falls onto the growing pile at the bottom of the cave, Vulfelind finally arrives and, seeing the situation, silently hands her flaming crossbow to Haramer.

    And then, as the others valiantly keep the heads trimmed, Haramer begins cauterizing the wounds.

    The hydra finally ceases fighting and sinks to the cave floor. Haramer re-cauterizes every neck, just to be sure, and then Vulfelind tracks damaged stalactites and heavy growth to find the monster's lair.

    Vulfelind is very amused to find gauntlets of ogre power, which she dons to help carry treasure out.

    Day 4: Red Meadow (#1407)
    The centaurs are very apologetic.

    Very, very, very sincerely apologetic. Had they only realized that the Grim Fist were such mighty and magnificent heroes, they would have had no qualms about entering truce and becoming a part of the kingdom to be.

    An alternative theory: they came across one or more of the ogre villages.

    Day 5: Galaufchulis (#1610 -> #1510) becomes Torn Tree Hill
    At the giant oak tree, the party talks to the treants.

    This is a slow process.

    However, the party does manage to get across to them that they are building a nature reserve in the Oak Circle - one where they can be protected from human predation for as long as the kingdom stands.

    The treants then talk to the rocs.

    And then: eight treants form a circle around the thousand-foot oak tree, and with a great shuddering, the tree uproots from the hill and walks toward the Oak Circle. The rocs glare from their rocking perches, but otherwise seem content with the move.

    The hill dominating the area is largely rent open by this, so the party renames it Torn Tree Hill.

    Days 6 and 7: Utena's Shadow (#1607)
    That leaves the cloud giants. It's not that the Grim Fist couldn't wipe the cloud giants off the map in a straight up fight: it's that the cloud giants are out of reach.

    Or ... mostly out of reach. With one giant hawk, three party members could make it up there. And Galswintha's fly spell has just enough juice to get up, just not back down (however, she can cast two per day). They leave everyone else back at Pegasus Mountain.

    Chlodomer, Shadagrunde, and Vulfelind take the Hawk Express Elevator ... and Galswintha flies under her own power, promising herself to save her second fly spell and not waste it on a fireball.

    When they arrive, rocks come sailing out in greeting, and a flock of giant hawks attack, screeching. The party drops and rolls onto the cloud stuff, and ... wipe out ten giant hawks in record time, apologizing the whole way. More rocks, and the party storms the mostly empty castle, and finds themselves face-to-face with two amazingly angry cloud giants.

    Shadagrunde goes down, hard, with a shattered leg, but not before landing a flame strike; and Chlodomer finds that holding off two storm giants makes for short work of hit points without a cleric. Galswintha says something unladylike and webs the giants for a short respite, then curses the giant in better shape with weakness, then fireballs them both, igniting the web ... then runs and hides as they break out. Chlodomer kills off the weaker of the two just as he breaks free of the burning web.

    The curse, thankfully, does its job on the other: with less likelihood of being hit, Chlodomer focuses on putting the hurt on the larger giant ... and almost dies anyway (seriously, 6d6? ouch!) until Vulfelind drops down from above and manages a backstab, ending the cloud giant's career as a singer, and his life.

    They patch up Shadagrunde very poorly ... but at least well enough for him to heal himself. And then the building begins to shake. They look at each other. They look at Galswintha ... the fireball that guaranteed that Chlodomer would outlast the giant also cut off her path out.

    Galswintha laughs, "You go on without me. If the castle lasts long enough, you can send Fierce on the Wind back up to pick me up. So, you know, hurry or something?"

    They leave, and Galswintha sits at the edge of the disintegrating cloud to watch it all end ... and spots the giant hawks she helped beat down.

    A careful discussion with Petite (her Beast Friendship and Husbandry-focused familiar) later, they manage to recover a giant hawk willing to carry her down. They leave as the cloud finishes losing solidity, and the castle falls through.

    Shadagrunde is in poor shape for travel, so they make camp, and in the morning, Shadagrunde casts restore on himself. They return triumphant heroes.

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Okay, last bit will have to wait until tomorrow.

    Spoiler, though: the party encounters their first dragon :-).

    Maticore
    Dwimmermount BackerDomains At War Contributor
    Joined: 2012-04-16 15:29

    This actual play recount is like liquid happy-gold for adventure gaming.

    Are the hex-map coordinates for the "1.5 mile" hexes you described in another thread for mapping this region?

    Thomas Weigel
    Thomas Weigel's picture
    Joined: 2012-06-20 11:57

    I really want to say that I've seen those numbers before, but I scanned the two Grim Fist threads and couldn't find anything.

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    The numbers refer to the Blank Hex Maps in the download section.

    Pegasus Mountain is in hex #1508 (p. 2 map, 6-mile scale) of sector E5 (p. 4 map, 24-mile scale). The whole campaign has thus far occurred entirely in sectors E5 and E6.

    The 1.5-mile hexes I referred to elsewhere were all inside hex #1508, and are the method I use for the lowest-level mapping.

    For example, Chlodomer spent some time mapping hex #1708, and the new map was at the 1.5-mile scale. To do a 1.5-mile scale, I use the upper-left-most hex on the p. 2 map for my numbering, ignoring any hexes whose number is not inside the hex lines.

    So the sub-hex-regions in #1708 look like this:

    Azure Hot Springs (#1708)
    All regions are thickly forested (except where noted).

    #0102: High hill, can see village smoke further west.
    #0103: Low hill.
    #0201: Small pond surrounded by low cliffs; fed from #0202.
    #0202: Narrow ravine (N-S); stream runs through to #0201.
    #0203: Ravine spreads out into low area; stream runs through to #0202.
    #0204: Spring #1, streams lead downhill into #0203.

    Aquatic Hydra: AC 4; Move swim 120; HD 6* (48 hp); #AT 6x bite 1d10 (on a result of 1, the hydra breathes steam with that head instead for 2d6+1 damage); SV F6; ML +2; AL N.

    #0301: Low, extremely rocky hill; no real forest.
    #0302: High hill; spring #2, streams run to #0303.

    Aquatic Hydra: AC 4; Move swim 120; HD 12** (96 hp); #AT 12x bite 1d10 (on a result of 1, the hydra breathes steam with that head instead for 2d6+1 damage); SV F12; ML +2; AL N. Regrows 2 heads per lost head after 1d4 rounds.

    #0303: Low hill; spring #3, streams run to #0304.

    Aquatic Hydra: AC 4; Move swim 120; HD 9* (72 hp); #AT 9x bite 1d10 (on a result of 1, the hydra breathes steam with that head instead for 2d6+1 damage); SV F9; ML +2; AL N.

    #0304: Valley; Streams from #0303 continue due south
    #0401: Low hill.
    #0402: Highest hill; spring #4, streams run to #0302 and #0403.

    Aquatic Hydra: AC 4; Move swim 120; HD 7* (56 hp); #AT 7x bite 1d10 (on a result of 1, the hydra breathes steam with that head instead for 2d6+1 damage); SV F7; ML +2; AL N.

    #0403: Steep hill; stream runs through to #0404; waterfalls.
    #0404: Low point; tiny pond; fed from #0403.
    #0502: Hill.
    #0503: Hill.

    All four springs are driven by deeper cracks and caves running through the limestone and granite to the subsurface magma in this region, and are connected at the deeper levels. The deepest waters are extremely hot! The springs themselves resemble this rainbow geyser (although they don't spew up very often).

    I've deleted the treasure entry because the players haven't managed to track it all down yet.

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Session 20
    We took a break for pizza and OOC discussion.

    I had originally planned a sort of Quest Award if they managed to clear Pegasus Mountain - whatever was sufficient to bring the lowest to 9th level - and that ends up being about 3.3 million XP (for party + henches as a whole; each PC ends up with about 220K). Since that's about 1/5th the value of the land they just conquered, it seems reasonable, so I have everyone update their characters.

    I don't enforce the "max gain of one level" rule for this purpose: it's an intentional rule-breaking to avoid grinding.

    Also worth noting: we generated a lot of numbers over the course of these six hours. I've tried to cut them down a bit for a readable summary :-).

    End of Summer (Month 9)
    The end of Summer is relatively peaceful.

    Galswintha takes a small party and evaluates the lands they have acquired ... and is pleasantly surprised, even accounting for her final efreet wish.

    OOC
    Per the efreet's wish, I rolled 3d3+2 for each six-mile hex, and got an average of 8.5 (about +0.5 over the average). I re-arranged the numbers a bit to make better sense - I swapped Sheltered Wood's high roll for Pegasus Mountain's low roll, for example, to better fit the history of the region - but mostly left them as is.

    #1308 (Val.  5): Sheltered Wood
    #1309 (Val. 10): Heart of Stone
    #1407 (Val.  7): Red Meadow
    #1408 (Val.  7): Crevice Wood
    #1409 (Val. 11): Slithering River
    #1410 (Val.  9): Shadowed Lake
    #1507 (Val.  6): Bone Temple Hill
    #1508 (Val. 11): Pegasus Mountain
    #1509 (Val.  8): Darkwater Wood
    #1510 (Val.  10): Oak Circle and Galaufchulis
    #1607 (Val.  7): Utena's Shadow
    #1608 (Val.  8): Bugbear Forest Lake
    #1609 (Val.  7): Ugly Hill
    #1610 (Val. 11): Torn Tree Hill
    #1708 (Val. 10): Azure Hot Springs
    #1709 (Val.  9): Valley Lake

    I am pretty happy with the result.

    Chlodomer sends Haramer and Adela to Orléans and Atanung to announce the elimination of the Bandit King.

    The Grim Fist as a whole discusses the division of land and duties. Several issues crop up (in particular, Shadagrunde was torn between ruling a domain of his own ... and greedily siphoning divine power from Chlodomer's likely-exceptional domain population), and it starts to look like the obvious choice is to give everything to Chlodomer, but no one wants to actually say that.

    In the end, however:

    1. The region as a whole is christened "Galaufabonne" (Galswintha fought for a pegasus themed name, but was outvoted on the basis that the thousand-foot oak was a lot more impressive than the pegasus nest in its branches).

    2. Baron Chlodomer is given the party treasury to build and develop the region. He wisely appoints Galswintha as Treasurer and gives her control of the purse strings.

    3. Baron Chlodomer also declares the Oak Circle a nature preserve: the fortress and garrison will extend over its lands, but no peasant families will be permitted to dwell there. He gives Galswintha the title Guardian of the Wood, and grants her the right to fund a sanctum and garrison with the treasury; and charges her with defending and managing the Oak Circle.

    4. Baron Chlodomer declares the state religion to be the Church of the Lady, and Shadagrunde the Patriarch of Galaufabonne.

    5. Baron Chlodomer nominally appoints Vulfelind as Spy Master, but in practice she spends more time providing military advice and designing the fortresses for Chlodomer and Galswintha.

    6. Guardian Galswintha leaves to acquire engineers and laborers.

    7. Patriarch Shadagrunde takes the army and camps the Dwarven Highway, where he encounters and provides customer service to traveling merchants ... and spreads the word.

    8. Spy Master Vulfelind sends henches to check on the state of Orléans and Atanung.

    Fall
    Chlodomer receives his enchanted armor!

    News comes in that Atanung is recruiting and training a military force - best estimate is that they will be done by the end of Winter.

    Mages fill out spell repertoires.

    Laborers and engineers begin work. Galswintha uses an earth elemental to help with the excavation phase.

    The castle is priced at 500,000 gold; Galswintha's tower at 30,000 ... and then she discovers some of the "easter egg" benefits of the efreet wish, and she and Vulfelind sit down and redesign the tower ... to the tune of 100,000 gold.

    Will it be awesome? With the assistance of the guardian owl and treants, the tower will be part of the Galaufchulis tree itself.

    Year 3, Winter
    Shadagrunde continues to camp the highway, and amuses himself by examining the length of the dwarven highway, and slowly determines that - within a few miles of the ancient dwarven markers - the highway is mysteriously free of permanent lairs. Monsters always find a reason to move on! He begins to amass a library on the topic.

    He also sets up a series of cheap runner outposts and small garrisons in case Atanung makes a military move.

    Chlodomer makes a few passes around the borders and puts together a more complete map of the realm; and borrows Deuteria's services from Galswintha to more thoroughly explore the caves in Azure Hot Springs.

    Vulfelind has Veneranda and Almalinda work with the pegasus nests, working to establish a long-term agreement of protection and service. The agreement comes together, and Vulfelind arranges extra food and fodder for the pegasuses through the winter. The end of the cloud giant's hunting parties also helps seal the deal.

    And as winter comes to an end and the year's first foals hatch, concerned and hopeful pegasus parents watch Almalinda demonstrate her gentle touch in equine training.

    Galswintha spends the winter overseeing the construction of her tower.

    Spring, Month 4
    On the first day of Spring, normally a time of celebration, Atanung soldiers are spotted marching on the dwarven highway. Shadagrunde retreats slowly, keeping an eye on them, and sends runners to Orléans and Galaufabonne.

    The army is huge: 2,000 soldiers, mostly light infantry and slingers.

    Every two days, the Atanung army splits off a century of infantry and dozen slingers to camp and watch the supply line, while the remainder marches on.

    At the midway point, the Grim Fist marches out and demands parley. A discussion is had, and goes poorly: Atanung intends to take Orléans, and tries to capture the Grim Fist to prevent a warning (sadly, they are a week late for that, but the Grim Fist does not enlighten them).

    The party flees, goes invisible, and flees again. Rather than stop and spend fruitless days trying to find them, the Atanung army sends word back to the supply camps to fortify, and marches on at speed.

    The Grim Fist members have a powow.

    1. Atanung's army is a problem. A big problem. On lots of levels. 2. Each camp looks about as tough as a bandit camp (which caused losses last time). 3. The main force that arrives at Orléans will be about seven times as big.

    Galswintha borrows Veneranda and Fierce on the Wind ... and goes to talk to the fairies.

    And a few days later, Chlodomer walks into the camp closest to Atanung to parley. He offers the mercenary captain a safe exit back to Atanung, if he leaves immediately. The captain refuses. Chlodomer nods and leaves.

    Meanwhile, pixies flit invisible through the camp, cutting saddle straps, unscrewing arrow heads, peace-bonding swords with spider silk, and more. And as soon as Chlodomer is out of the camp, trees attack, followed by cataphracts and heavy infantry. No spells or military oil (they would have used the oil, but had none left) are used, but the initial assault is still brutal, and enemy morale dissolves almost immediately. Chlodomer sends the bulk of soldiers home, but keeps the leaders as well-treated prisoners for ransom.

    ... and the Atanung runners who tried to run a warning to the next camp discover that light cavalry were waiting for them.

    They then repeat this, camp by camp, as fast as they can, over the next several days. Some camps agree to disband and head home; others fight and die. Some losses are inevitable, and Shadagrunde and Team Priest focus on ensuring that it's more "wounded" than "dead." When they finally catch up to the main force, Atanung's military has reached Orléans and is in pitched battle.

    Shadagrunde's initial runners to Orléans were not wasted: instead of a sleeping city, Atanung found a prepared (if small) military force.

    For the main force, Chlodomer does not bother with a second attempt at parley, and the pixies refuse to enter an ongoing battle ... so the party opens with webs and fireballs and an insect swarm, followed by a sweeping water elemental who puts the fires out.

    Then trees. Then archers and cataphracts. Then cavalry and heavy infantry.

    One thing is certain: Vulfelind has figured out how to combine soldier types.

    When Atanung figures out that killing trees is a waste of time and goes hunting actual treants, they find Chlodomer and his personal guard waiting. Chlodomer finally has an opportunity to enjoy the cleaving rules, as he hews his way through their ranks (fun fact: Chlodomer pretty much can't miss, and his damage bonus is higher than any standard soldier's hit points).

    Spells of confusion, illusions, and the occasional sniper magic missile help; Galswintha's water elemental, immune to normal weapons, turns out to be terrifying against light infantry (and Baldaswind in tiger form is possibly more devastating).

    Shadagrunde and Team Priest, again, focus on making sure that as many losses as possible are merely wounded, but do take a few moments here and there to bash heads.

    Vulfelind and crew make their way through the enemy ranks to find the Atanung General and engage an absolutely epic backstab. He dies with a vaguely puzzled look, before Vulfelind goes down with a massive head wound inflicted by the General's aide. (The aide lives just long enough to enjoy a moment of glory before Grizzba, screaming incoherent goblin curses, is on him like stink on an ape.)

    Trapped between Orléans and the Grim Fist, and suddenly leaderless, the Atanung mercenaries surrender.

    First aid fails to recover Vulfelind, and the first restoration of life also
    fails: she appears to be well dead. Chlodomer pleads her case to the Governor of Orléans ("We fought well, but she died ending the fight"). Her body is sent to the chief priest of Orléans (who notices that her name is on the roster of "top hundred donations") and gives his own best attempt.

    She remains dead, and he promises to try again each day until it is hopeless, but warns "She died instantly, with a grievous head wound ... and she has been distant from us in each attempt. There is a grave and solid chance that she cannot be returned to us."

    As a side note, the party stumbles across a rumor: that the leader of the Orléans Thieves' Guild died, and there has been an upheaval resulting in a lot of street fighting, assassinations, and counter-assassinations.

    Spring
    Chlodomer helps hammer out a treaty between Orléans and Atanung. Shadagrunde and crew heal members of their army. Galswintha frets.

    On the fourth day of attempts, the Orléans Patriarch declares Vulfelind truly dead. Galswintha declares the Patriarch truly a quack, and sets off to hire the 11th level mage in Orleans to reincarnate Vulfelind ... but he doesn't have that spell.

    Then she argues with Vulfelind's shortsword of luck to no avail:

    "Oh no, I don't think so. You call that epic? How many thieves are in the world? Too many, that's how many. And wishes? You can't find them for love or money. And you want to trade a wish for a thief?"

    So finally: the corpse is preserved, and Galswintha goes back to the wizard, pays a lot of money for his research, and then more money for the casting

    ... and Vulfelind is reincarnated into a new body.

    She is no longer tall, but short and compact. Her dark olive skin is darker, almost black. Her close-cropped black hair has exploded into a massive mess of shock-white curls. And her dark eyes ... are now bright, amber, and slightly feral looking. For a brief moment, it looks more like a predatory spirit has moved into a human body ...

    Then one lip quirks up in a smirk, and it's Vulfelind after all.

    (OOC: Arctic werefox. Here is Vulfelind in fox form, looking smug.)

    With the treaty signed on all sides, the Grim Fist escorts the military force home; gathering up Atanung's reinforcements along the way, acquires the ransoms, and then returns themselves home, except for Shadagrunde, who keeps watch on the Atanung border.

    OOC Break
    We took another break here, and looked at the in-game timeline. With a little
    fudging, we manage to line up all of the construction (including Galswintha's sanctum and research facilities, two waystations along the highway, and the central castle) to complete at the beginning of year 5.

    My inner DM said to make every year hard, but the truth of the matter is: it is extremely unlikely that any truly threatening encounters will occur, there is a dragon to the south extending some protection, Atanung and Orléans both are nursing wounds, and I wanted to get to the domain game :-).

    Vulfelind re-rolled her physical stats on 3d6 in order, rather than King's method, and ... right there in front of everyone, she rolled 13, 18, 16, and calmly wrote it down. These punks these days have no idea.

    Arctic Werefox: Based on the Rules Cyclopedia entry; added thief abilities (and an extra * on the HD), which put her at exactly twice a fighter's XP per level - she won't see 11th level for a very long time. Allowed a foxman form, similar to the wererat, but restricted it to one-handed human-sized weapons due to small size. Vulfelind finally stops wearing the black widow armor.

    Werefox-10: HD 9d8+2**, attack throw 2+, save F10, natural AC 3; Move 180, swim 60; cold-adapted (ignore weather and cold water, but no effect on cold damage). Usual lycanthropy stuff.

    Then we skipped to Year 5 and began domain management.

    Year 5, Winter
    Followers arrive ... and they are expensive, but Chlodomer is still uncertain of Atanung, and decides that running some debt now is worth the peace of mind; Galswintha is hesitant, but approves the costs for now. Morale pegs at maximum for the entire Winter.

    Followers (including pre-existing mercenaries and those camping with Shadagrund):

    • Fighter-1. DEX +1, CON -2, INT +1. (25/month).
    • Fighter-2. STR -1, INT -1, WIS +1, CHA +2. (25/month).
    • Fighter-3. CON -2, INT +1, WIS +2. (50/month).
    • Fighter-3. STR +2, CHA +2. (100/month).
    • 200 light infantry (1,200/month).
    • 100 heavy infantry (1,200/month).
    • 30 longbowmen (900/month).
    • 50 light cavalry (1,500/month).
    • 20 heavy cavalry (1,200/month).
    • 60 cataphract cavalry (4,500/month).
    • Total: A staggering 10,700 per month.

    The first two months are rough as a result, even with funds brought in by the party slowly working their way around the border and clearing a few dangerous lairs within a hex of Galaufabonne - and even the third month's sudden bounty (as the number of peasant families tips over the military costs and moves the domain into profit) does not quite make up the debt.

    And that's when Iamanu shows up.

    Iamanu turns out to be a dragon, with roughened scales of blackest charcoal, glowing green eyes, and vast, leather wings. No member of the Grim Fist has ever seen a dragon in person before (indeed, few living have), but where most manuscripts describe them as 10-24 feet long, Iamanu is 50 feet long, with a wingspan that rivals some arenas.

    The dragon-sized and -fitted crown, rings, and other regalia; steel-tipped claws; and hovering shield with his emblem upon it ... are also a bit discomfiting. And it takes a moment before they notice Aella and her archers riding a howdah on his back.

    "It has been," the giant beast rasps in passable Frankish, "a long, long time since I have accepted a vassal."

    Session End
    And then I end the session because it's late and the moment is too perfect, and I have to admit, the "NOOOOOOO" chorus really warmed the darkest corners of my heart.

    Next week, dragons and taxes!

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    GM is sick, so no game this weekend :-(.

    Alex
    The Autarch
    Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

    Hot damn, what a great update! I'm very excited that your group is moving into the Domain Game.

    Looks like I'm getting Domains at War finished just in time...

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    It was pretty much an epic weekend.

    I'm still writing up this weekend's domain management stuff, but wanted to say: serious kudos on it. We actually had fun crunching numbers! Who would believe ... ?

    DAW: Actually, I really could have used it earlier (the Battle of Orléans, in particular, was brutal), but we did okay without. It helped to have a spreadsheet with the RANDOM() function!

    I will be buying it when it's finished, for sure.

    Alex
    The Autarch
    Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

    I'm really pleased to hear that you enjoyed the domain management. Can't wait to read your write-up about it.

    The rules for DAW are actually playtested, proof-read and done. I ran DAW sessions at Escapist Expo.

    As soon as PC's layout is finished, we're going to lay out DAW into an art-free PDF for our ACKS backers and launch a DAW kickstarter.

    sulldawga
    Patreon SupporterPlayer's Companion BackerDwimmermount BackerDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
    Joined: 2012-05-17 22:22

    If the DAW rules are essentially done, what's the need for the Kickstarter?

    Thomas Weigel
    Thomas Weigel's picture
    Joined: 2012-06-20 11:57

    Among other things, art, layout, and printing can all get pretty expensive. Even a PDF product needs the first two.

    Alex
    The Autarch
    Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

    Ironically, in another thread on another site, grumbling grognards have pronounced that ONLY games which are already finished should be Kickstarted.

    Here's w hy we'd Kickstart: 

    Art: Cover art; interior art; and gameplay art. As a board wargame, DAW is fairly hard to grasp just from text. In additon, we expect the "digital boxed set" to include counters, mapsheets, terrain pieces, and tokens, all of which will require art, too.

    Layout: Converting my text into nice, two-column PDFs that can be viewed on screen takes time. It takes additional time to add hyperlinks, indexes, and glossaries. And still further time to make it print compatible.

    Printing: We want DAW to be available as softbound books, ideally in a shrinkwrap portfolio or boxed set.

    Orders: Kickstarter has generated more orders for our books than any other sales channel, period. Even if the whole thing was finished, it'd just be a great sales channel.

     

    sulldawga
    Patreon SupporterPlayer's Companion BackerDwimmermount BackerDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
    Joined: 2012-05-17 22:22

    Thanks for the insight on your reasoning behind the DAW Kickstarter.

    I have to agree with you that Kickstarter is a great sales channel. I know it's just one data point but, outside of the ACKS rulebook, every single fantasy games purchase I've made in the last year has been a Kickstarter project (if you exclude me trolling for old Dragon mags at my local shop).

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    DAW: Yeah, I'm excited!

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Spring, Month 4

    Introduction
    Iamanu is a vast dragon, 14 tons and 50 feet long, with rough, charcoal-black scales and glowing green eyes. He wears a crown, rings, torcs, steel tips on his claws, an enormous ruby amulet, and similar regalia. A howdah is strapped between his wings, 10 feet by 20, within which a dozen archers, a woman in a black burqa, and two mages ride. And a shield hovers nearby, slowly circling the monster.

    "It has been," the giant beast rasps in passable Frankish, "a long, long time since I have accepted a vassal."

    Chlodomer gives a small, sickly smile, "Welcome to Galaufabonne, milord. I fear I have never hosted a dragon before ..."

    "Save it," intones the dragon, "I am not here for pleasure."

    Discussion occurs:

    • Iamanu did not own Galaufabonne prior to now. Things change.
    • Iamanu granted Galaufabonne to the Red Duke, who gave the project to Count Abiron, who passed it to a trusted knight, who was recently eaten by Iamanu for incompetence. The Red Duke and retinue are currently in bad graces.
    • Aella is a former member of the Red Duke retinue; he promoted her to this project, answering directly to him. The details are up to her - he is here only to ensure good behavior on all parts.
    • Chlodomer can accept Aella's rulership or not. Hint: One of these is not a real option.

    Chlodomer swears fealty. Aella decides to build the road backward (starting from Galaufabonne and heading home) so that she can observe Chlodomer's rulership style firsthand. She graciously allows Chlodomer to host her in the lavish lifestyle to which she is accustomed.

    Chlodomer's smile gets a little more sickly.

    Several things happen this month!

    Adventuring
    An expedition into the Azure Hot Springs clears out two skittering maws - who almost give the entire party a watery grave - and finds the last of the hydra treasures. Galswintha acquires an elven ring of exceptional power (protection +3).

    Aella Spends Money
    Aella requests an interest-free loan from Chlodomer to pay her people. Then she parties like a 12th level character while they slooowly build a road southward.

    Hex Management
    Bugbear Forest Lake - the second ugliest hex and in the bottom half in value - hits a population of 100. Ugly Hill - the ugliest hex and in the bottom third in value - hits a population of 99. They are, in fact, the runaway leaders in population.

    It is a mystery with, apparently, no answer.

    Total income is -2,000 gold prior to festivals. Chlodomer throws a proper, full festival anyway, and gets perilously close to the red line Galswintha drew on the wall of her accounting office.

    Not much of interest happens, otherwise.

    A Dream of a Highway
    Shadagrunde and Vulfelind lay plans for a 150-mile highway following the original dwarven markers. Galswintha nixes it until the money is in better shape.

    Diplomacy
    There are visitors from Orléans and Atanung. Chlodomer handles it with reasonable aplomb keeping the conversation riveted on just how much money everyone stands to make by continued peaceful trade, and just how badly it will go for everyone else if Galaufabonne has to go to war again.

    Since tales of what happened to the armies Atanung left strung along the trail last year have grown (and muddied) over time, this seems to satisfy everyone.

    Chlodomer does have to backtrack on a statement - he talks up the highway, and, err, accidentally claims credit in front of Shadagrunde. He does backtrack on it, though, and makes sure credit is given appropriately.

    Also, Vulfelind's little secret comes out:

    In Spring of last year, the party asked Vulfelind to drop the issue of the Orléans Guild Boss being a wererat, and she left Orléans for a couple weeks of vacation to get over it.

    Later, after the Battle of Orléans, they learned that the Orléans Guild Boss had died. It seemed a bit odd, but the timing was wrong for Vulfelind to have been involved.

    This Spring, a representative of the new Orléans Guild Boss gave Vulfelind an expensive thank-you gift for "her investment and faith in him": a small canoe (15 ft x 3 ft) with the same properties as a carpet of flying.

    The other members of the Grim Fist put two and two together, and the truth outs: Vulfelind went to Atanung for "vacation," worked with the Atanung Guild Boss to ensure a reasonably smooth succession in Orléans, hired a small group of assassins, and loaded them up for wererat hunting. Some spying was done to make certain of the targets, and then while Vulfelind and her crew were stabbing the Bandit King to death in a tunnel, the assassins were exterminating the nest in Orléans.

    This may have also helped give the Atanung Boss the idea that Orléans was ripe for the plucking, which may have trickled up to the Atanung Governor, which may have resulted in some of that recent military action, but nothing can ever truly be certain in this world, eh?

    Shorter version: She didn't so much drop the issue, as drop it on someone's head.

    OOC: And at some point, I hope to get Vulfelind to write that up from her character's perspective :-).

    Our Lady of Light
    Shadagrunde takes Chlodomer's monthly tithe and puts it toward a temple adjunct to the central castle ... and begins putting attention toward a congregation.

    Within the month, Team Priest has just about sealed up the 20% of the population not following the religious edict. Shadagrunde doesn't have a workshop or library yet, however, so he continues working on the temple and just maintains the congregation.

    Galswintha's Research
    The sorceress begins her first full magical research project. She refuses to divulge details to anyone.

    (OOC: Okay, okay, I know what it is.)

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Note: That doesn't look like much of an update, does it?

    This was the first time they really went whole-hog on making the domain profitable (during the epic weekend, they had lots of gold coming out of their ears, so they just focused on the military situation), and everyone had to discuss everything in detail.

    And I'm not complaining, it was fun! But "first time slowness" was definitely a factor.

    Having to pause the game for a few minutes here and there while I worked out a rule (i.e., the cost of highways) also played into it a bit. That will definitely reduce in the future.

    Next week, I am hopeful that we can get 2-3 months done in the same time.

    Thomas Weigel
    Thomas Weigel's picture
    Joined: 2012-06-20 11:57

    Just wanted to say in response to this little sequence of quotes tucked into the last few sessions:

    Cameron wrote:
    Vulfelind meets briefly with Chludwig d'Orléans - head of the Thieves' Guild - whose daughter she had returned to him last time. He wants to make sure that she knows that he knows about their plans for Pegasus Mountain, and that as long as she remembers who's really in charge, he won't tell the Governor what's really going on. She smiles and nods and kisses his ring finger and worries about which of her henches is actually a spy. She also finally pays attention to what he looks like, and realizes that he is probably a wererat.

    Cameron wrote:
    Vulfelind talks to the party, but they're hesitant to take on a Thieves' Guild leader in a major city who is cozy with the Governor, especially when the "spy" is now a double agent on the party's side.

    Vulfelind sighs and agrees, but still takes a vacation in Atanung ("anywhere but here") to put it behind her.

    Cameron wrote:
    A pack of grinning thieves, whose portraits Chludwig sent him months ago, are waiting for him at his exit. His hidden exit. His oh-so-secret exit. One of them, Vulfelind, puts a flaming, magical crossbow bolt into his leg as he slows to a stop.

    Albert puts on his most charming smile, "Lovelies, I have allies who will be unhappy if you don't let me by."

    Vulfelind smiles. The pack swarms the rat lord with magic blades and malice.

    Cameron wrote:
    Some spying was done to make certain of the targets, and then while Vulfelind and her crew were stabbing the Bandit King to death in a tunnel, the assassins were exterminating the nest in Orléans.

    I will never, ever play poker with Vulfelind.

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Basically, yeah. She has the Old School D&D Player thing nailed, doesn't she?

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Session 22
    Spring, Month 5
    Hex Management

    Galaufabonne's monthly income exceeds its expenses for the first time.

    This would have happened earlier, but the Grim Fist continues to maintain a grossly oversized militia.

    Torn Tree Hill, from which the Galaufchulis tree is visible in the distance, and whose exposed mineral veins make it one of the three most valuable territories in Galaufabonne, reaches a population of 100 peasant families, mostly miners.

    Azure Hot Springs also reaches 100 peasant families ... and while not as valuable a territory, its stunning beauty makes it a favored spot for the adventurers to visit.

    Adventuring

    Or maybe it's the monsters still lurking in the deepest caves below the springs.

    Grilled giant piranha, it turns out, is good eating.

    The Shadowed Lake territory reports an invasion of giant insects who turn out to be burrowing, 10-foot-long monsters. Watching from a safe distance, the peasants cheer as Chlodomer and Haramer, chained to the surface, stalk down each tube in turn and drag the insect's beaten corpse to the surface. This ends up taking a few days, as healing is not unlimited, but by the end of it, the ankhegs are scoured.

    Aella

    Aella borrows Chlodomer's light and heavy infantry to help clear the path home - he sends Haramer to actually lead the soldiers, as he is still uncertain of Aella's tactical sense ... or willingness to let his people die. She continues to live luxuriously on his funds, and Galswintha points out that if Chlodomer wasn't paying for it out of his own pocket, Galaufabonne would be in the red.

    The Grim Fist hold a meeting, and come to a purely financial conclusion: Aella has to go home. Soon.

    Everyone chips in, mid-month, to put together enough money to build her road for her ... in half the time. Vulfelind groans, "Are we always going to end up doing her job for her?" And then they take the portion of the army she hasn't commandeered, and blaze a trail south to ...

    A surprisingly beautiful coast of craggy cliffs and white sand, with three small island mountains visible a few miles out. All of the Frankish territories are north of this area, so Shadagrunde's extensive (and growing) map collection mostly just assumes "more land" in this direction.

    Aella points out her island, as well as one of Iamanu's favored cliffside caverns. A short boat ride later, her personal army begin setting up waypoints along the highway the Grim Fist built, and Chlodomer returns home with his once-again-complete army.

    Magical Research

    Shadagrunde's library and workshop continue to be built.

    Galswintha's first research project continues to be the most secret of secrets.

    OOC Notes

    This was another slow session, although at least we knew what we were doing this time. There was a great deal of discussion about the Aella financial situation: mainly, that theoretically, building her highway for her would pay for itself, but in practical terms, would take the Grim Fist right down to the thick red line, so if there was another financial crisis ...

    So they sat down and crunched the numbers in detail, and blew most of an hour deciding that it was worth kicking the medusa south so they could start making a profit on the lands.

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Small extended family emergency yesterday, which is when I usually have time to write my notes up into usable format. I will either do a short-ish update tomorrow, or a substantial update next weekend.

    Cameron
    Joined: 2012-05-18 16:35

    Session 23
    OOC: My life continues to be ARGH due to some extended family members who don't know how to handle their own lives without excesses of drama, so there is no game this weekend. I am taking a few minutes here to type up LAST week's game, sorry for the shortness.

    Spring, Month 6; and Summer, Months 7, 8, and 9
    Aella asks Chlodomer to come out to her island. During her absence, judgement requests built up and she needs some help digging her way out of the backlog. Haramer runs things in his absence.

    During his months there, Chlodomer is less than impressed with her managerial skills.

    He wisely keeps this counsel to himself, however, and does his best to help her mete out justice in good and Lawful fashion. During his time there, Chlodomer gives Aella another zero-interest loan, which she spends on hosting him. At the end of Summer, she pays off the first loan and sends him home.

    Galswintha's research fails, continues, and then is finally revealed to be a spell recreating dragon's breath.

    Vulfelind: "What? That's the big secret?"
    Galswintha: "I never said it was a big secret, just that I didn't want to discuss it."
    Vulfelind: "You trapped the entrance to your lab."
    Galswintha: "Oh, did you find that even after I asked for some privacy?"
    Vulfelind: "..."

    Shadagrunde's library and workshop are completed, and he successfully researches a potion of cure serious wounds (2,000 gold, 1 month, throw 12+); then fails to research a potion of neutralize poison.

    The party drives off a cyclops; clears out a few nearby threats; and fight off a wave of undead when Haramer pronounces judgement on a wizard in Ugly Hill ... and the graveyard comes to rescue him.

    Throughout Summer, Vulfelind acts as steward for Haramer, and a messenger to Atanung and Orléans. Vulfelind and Shadagrunde forge ahead with the highway, spending their own money "until Galaufabonne can pay us back."

    Almost every hex reaches Borderland status; and Bugbear Forest actually counts as Civilized.

    The first pegasus war steeds complete their training! The first-hatched goes to Chlodomer, the second to Galswintha (in return for being Guardian of the Wood and primary agitator for pretty much the whole Pegasus Mountain thing).

    Galswintha names her pegasus Archer. Archer is an unmarked amber champagne mare - her wings and fetlock featherings match her chocolate points - with a calm personality.

    Hench Spotlight: Genofeva

    As part of this session, we explored the current affairs of one of Chlodomer's henchmen: Genofeva de Paris - third daughter of a duke (estranged), high CHA, master horse rider, and skilled commander. Probably Chlodomer's brightest asset, and a bit bitter that Chlodomer declared Haramer as Seneschal.

    Chlodomer asked Genofeva to clear hex #1809 (Red Cliff Hill), and provided her with funds (and permission to take her cavalry along). Genofeva hired Amarante le Certaine (Chlodomer had released Amarante from service for issues of religious compatibility, but Genofeva is not as committed to the Lady, so a Night-worshipping hench is less of an issue), Galande d'Orléans (cleric of Night), and her cavalry, and went to work.

    Red Cliff Hill is a high, dry land with a central, steep and rocky hill and a series of smaller hills surrounding. The rocks and cliffs are ferrous red, with sparse wood.

    They destroy a nest of stirges (although everyone is battered), and make camp to rest; the following morning, they spot a gargoyle lair - one gargoyle on watch, vague shadows moving deeper inside. The gargoyles seem aware of them, but unconcerned until they draw close ... and then Amarante puts a fireball down the mouth of the cave, and the gargoyle on watch boggles and then flees into the sky.

    Nothing else comes out of the cave, and so the party slowly works their way up the cliffside and loot the cave.

    Here, they find something really nice: a dwarven shield that matches Genofeva's (and Chlodomer's and Shadagrunde's) and a green-bladed spear identical to Haramer's. "This," she says to no one in particular, "ought to get some attention."

    Genofeva lends her sword to one cavalry sergeant and the extra shield to another; and wields the spear and her shield. She makes sure they know this is a loan, not a gift.

    They do a sweep of the hex as a whole (they never see the gargoyle that fled again), and finally make it to the top of the central hill.

    And set into solid rock at the top of the hill, a spiral staircase descends into shadow. Leaving the cavalry (soldiers not hired to delve dungeons) to guard the entrance, they descend ... into the lair of a vampire.

    With a few hours of daylight available, they do a quick search, but cannot find the coffin, so they loot what they can and flee to perform better preparations.

    That night, however, the vampire discovers the missing treasures and brings the fight to them.

    Galande, attempting and failing to turn undead and then attempting to cast a spell, dies of old age on the second attack by the vampire, and Genofeva is herself aged somewhat before the vampire is forced to retreat in gaseous form.

    As morning arrives, the party makes a more thorough assault on the lair, and tear the place apart looking for the coffin. At noon, Amarante's familiar finds a crack in the wall designed for gaseous form, leading to a hidden room.

    They begin tearing through the wall with pick and hammer, and as sundown approaches, break through to the other side. The vampire awakens ...

    ... and Genofeva manages to get surprise and stake him in one fluid-but-panicked series of die rolls. Then they behead the paralyzed corpse, pour holy water down the throat and on the head, burn everything to ashes, gather the ashes into an urn to submerge in a river, smash the coffin, burn that, and then flee when the smoke from the coffin threatens to choke them. The ashes are mixed thoroughly with river water, and Galande's body - still two days from becoming a vampire - is treated in much the same way.

    Then they spend two days carefully looting everything, and return to Galaufabonne to recover.

    Alex
    The Autarch
    Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

    This campaign sounds more and more legendary every time I read about it!

    Maticore
    Dwimmermount BackerDomains At War Contributor
    Joined: 2012-04-16 15:29

    If you ever stop this campaign, or stop updating us on it, I am going to has a huge sad.

    Just putting you on notice.

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