GURPS: Casus Belli

2x10, Heat of Battle

Act I: The Long March.

  • The pursuit of the Blackshields who abducted Chief Owain has led to Ynys Môn, once the most sacred and holy island to the druidic order in Prydain but now, home to sea-rovers and brigands. As Heddwyn is the only PC who has even set foot on this island, it is to him that the others defer and he points them north, hoping that they will reach a place that he actually recognizes.
  • Two hours elapse as the band hikes along the beach – Bradán is ever aware of the ocean’s looming presence – but they finally note a large boat grounded upon a secluded cove. The size of this craft is considerable – ten men or more could pack into this currach without difficulty, and it uses both sails and oars – but more importantly are the tracks leading away from the boat and into the island proper. Bradán briefly considers sabotaging the currach, but both Heddwyn and Marcus convince him to hold off as they might need this craft upon their return.
  • Four more hours pass as they follow the trail deeper into Ynys Môn. The trail ends at an extraordinarily dark cave and, while the others rest, Bradán instructs Gwion to scout this cave. Almost immediately, Heddwyn strongly contests this as ‘things do not work the same here on this island.’ The urgency behind the druid’s argument sways Bradán (although he really seems to think the young ollave is overreacting or exaggerating.

DeepDesert.jpg * After an hour of rest, the band proceed into the cave where they are almost immediately blinded by light. An incredible, unrelenting heat hammers them and when they’re eyes adjust, they find themselves standing in the middle of a vast desert that stretches on for as far as the eye can see. There is no sign of the cave from which they emerged! All of them are appropriately discombobulated, although Marcus and Gwion are especially affected. Eyes turn to Heddwyn and there are multiple demands to explain this madness, but he can shed little wisdom apart from theorizing that they have traversed into the Otherworld.

  • Fortunately, there are clear tracks leading away so they set out, with Marcus being the most knowledgeable about deserts although all he knows is second-hand wisdom from old Roman legionnaires who had visited the Holy Land. It takes very little time for the band to consume what little water they have on hand and soon, the sun has thoroughly baked several of them, especially the redheads (Áedán, Gwion and Meadhbh).
  • On and on they walk, stopping to rest an hour for every two they hike. Overhead, the sun never moves, not even a little, and soon, all of them have noticed this anomaly, especially as they near the eight hour mark. In the far distance, the keen-eyed members of the band are able to make out what looks to be a structure of some sort and it is decided that they will press on, hoping to reach that before trying to get some sleep. Thanks to heat mirages, they soon realize that their destination is actually much farther away than it appears, but still, they press on, exhausted, dehydrated and sunburnt.

Act II: Blood and Sand.

  • By the time the band reaches visual distance of their target, they have been hiking for well over sixteen hours (including the time spent on Ynys Môn seeking the boat and then following the trail.) The structure turns out to be a massive ziggurat, which is a form of construction completely foreign to all of the band. Gwion and Marcus are able to make out slight movement within what appears to be the entrance of the pyramid and Bradán instructs Gwion to scout forward and investigate.
  • The archer quickly discovers that his experience with moving quietly in the woods is very different than trying to do so in the desert, but he wisely opts to stay low and move slowly. He makes it to about twenty yards from the entrance of the ziggurat where he makes out a pair of Blackshields lounging in the shade, although they are without their armor. Gwion contemplates engaging the pair but then decides to sneak back to the others and inform them. Bradán decides all of them will sneak forward.
  • Unfortunately, Heddwyn is quite terrible at stealth and, when Marcus attempts to assist, he too is promptly silhouetted against the skyline … which just happens to be when one of the Blackshields glances up. The man calls out a warning and starts to scramble to his feet which the band takes to mean that the battle is on! Gwion rises out of concealment and takes aim with his bow while Bradán and Marcus both sprint forward, with the former bellowing a battle cry. The others follow but are too exhausted and dehydrated to sprint (or, in Meadhbh’s case, too grumpy and too pregnant – she is definitely wishing she’d listened to Morgan and stayed at home.
  • The battle is over in mere seconds: Marcus darts forward and hurls a spear that is not dodged just as Gwion looses an arrow that slams home. A second pair of Blackshields emerge from the ziggurat as they respond to the armcry. Áedán, Angus and Meadhbh join the fray shortly after the first of the Blackshields is felled, and within seconds, all four are on the ground, bleeding out their last. Meanwhile, Heddwyn almost leisurely strolls forward, satisfied that the situation is well in hand.
  • There is a barrel of water present which the band fall on eagerly. They also find bedrolls enough for eight men, meaning four of the Blackshields are unaccounted for, and stairs leading up. Bradán allows everyone ten minutes of rest maximum before they begin ascending; there are complaints, of course – Meadhbh is especially whiny, though she has an excellent defense.
  • Up the stairs they go with Heddwyn already dreading the inevitable leg pains they will be facing soon. Strangely, though, there is none, even though the stairs climb much higher than they should based on their observations of the ziggurat from the outside. As they ascend, they find themselves feeling … lighter, less substantial. This is not the World of Dreams as Heddwyn or Meadhbh know it, but it feels strikingly similar in many ways. More worrisome, though, is the tangible sensation of despair growing more powerful the higher they go.
  • The stairs, which by now are simply rough hewn steps cut from the rock, emerge upon a rocky ledge where the air tastes strange and the sky itself is a bizarre tint of blue. To the west, they can hear chanting in an unfamiliar language that almost seems to pain the listener, and Bradán again orders Gwion to scout forward. With fallen pillars and other locations of concealment, the archer does where he quickly finds the remaining four Blackshields though his attention is drawn to the chanter, who is a grim-looking man standing within a semi-circle glowing with heat. Directly before him is a stone bier atop which is Chief Owain. Arrayed around this almost circle are cages which have people within.

And one of those people is Eolande.


GM Notes

  • Only partially satisfied though I definitely see room for improvement and note where I could have done things differently, specifically with regards to the desert bit. We spent way too much time trying to figure out the rules and determining the status of the PCs and I didn’t do a good enough job getting across how much time was passing. What I should have done is split that period up by hour so it was “Hour 1, what are you doing?” and figure out the stuffs linked to it like FP cost and all that. Then move to Hour 2 and figure that out. And so on.
  • Am irritated that I did not think of the DF: Wilderness Adventures book as I would have liked to have spiced up the desert wandering a bit. Perhaps a sandstorm or some kind of actual wilderness encounter. As it was, the entire bit was simply too static for my tastes.
  • The fight went on a bit longer than expected due to the characters not being able to burn FP on charges … as a result, it was actually slightly more interesting to me and something I took note of.
  • My original plan was to get to this fight by break 1, then handle the Boss fight in the second half, but having an extra week to spice up that encounter should hopefully make it more interesting.
  • Right now, it’s really looking like I’m going to hit the 14 session mark, which will double what I did for season 1.

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RigilKent

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