GURPS: Casus Belli

2x11, Kissed By Flame

  • Being of an impulsive nature, Gwion reacts without hesitation, going for an arrow and clearly signalling that the battle is joined. Seeing this, the other PCs react accordingly, with Áedán, Bradán and Marcus darting forward to join the fray while Angus goes for his bow and Heddwyn evaluates the best place for him to be. Meadhbh, however, is overwhelmed by the hormones accompanying her pregnancy and spends a considerable amount of time simply sitting there, uninterested in doing much of anything; Bradán relies on his leadership abilities to get her moving.
  • The fight with the Blackshields is a short but brutal one: the attackers split into two pairs and rush forward where they meet their dooms. Gwion looses an arrow at one who attempts to block, but fails. The remaining three Blackshields charge forward, targeting Áedán and Gwion respectively, but in their haste to reach their foes, their attacks are wild misses. Echo lunges forward and hamstrings one of the men, crippling him and sending him to the dirt where he is unable to adequately defend against the dog’s follow-up attack to the throat. Áedán smites a foe mightily with his large hammer, smashing ribs and staggering the man, while Bradán, who has been waiting for an opportunity, strikes a glancing blow at an enemy that results in his foe slipping and falling. This allows Bradán to follow-up with a sword thrust to the man’s vitals (and then, a second one to the neck when the first one does not kill him.) Meadhbh lunges forward and finishes Áedán’s foe who is already staggered from his wounds; once again, her emotions overwhelm her as she sees her victim drop what looks to be a rough drawing by a child. She begins to sob uncontrollably which draws Echo’s attention; with the big dog’s affection, she is able to get herself under control once more. Meanwhile, Heddwyn lunges forward and thrusts his spear into the sole man still standing. Gwion, seeing this skirmish appears mostly over, begins to aim at Diwarnach. As Bradán drops Heddwyn’s foe with a decapitating strike, the archer looses his arrow.
  • As the well-aimed arrow flashes forward, Diwarnach stamps his foot and is immediately enveloped with fire which incinerates the shaft entirely. When the fire vanishes, Diwarnach is untouched but the flames which causes all of the PCs to hesitate briefly in surprise; Áedán and Gwion are especially startled by this and stare in shock, while Marcus recoils in fear as he is partially overwhelmed by flashbacks. Heddwyn calls out his instructions – free the prisoners! – as everyone else rushes forward.
  • The approach reveals new information: the area underneath King Diwarnach is glowing with heat, so much so that the PCs realize they will not be able to simply stand upon it for any length of time. Bradán lifts up a broadsword from the ground and continues forward; after a few steps, he hurls the weapon – which is now a spear but he doesn’t think much of that – at Diwarnach. As before, the Bloody King stamps his feet and is covered in fire but is ultimately untouched. Owain they discover to be suspended above the heated area; he is secured by chains to each arm that are connected to the cages containing the screaming (but somehow still silent) prisoners.
  • Bradán, sensing that King Diwarnach is on the verge of killing Owain, opts to take an unexpected maneuver: as he rushes forward, as if to attack the blood king, he swings … at Owain! His blow is perfectly placed and timed, severing one of the chief’s arms at the wrist. Meadhbh rushes into to assist as Heddwyn reaches for the nearest chain still contacted to the thoroughly unconscious Chief Owain. There is a flood of power that courses into the druid, prompting him to suspect that Diwarnach is attempting to syphon off the life energy of Fae.
  • Enraged at the interruption of his ritual, King Diwarnach steps forward to attack Bradán; although Bradán manages to block the strike with his shield, he is visibly staggered at the power behind the blow and realizes this man is immensely strong. In the course of this, Bradán finds his boots have caught fire, but he ignores this as he attempts a brutal neck strike that the king fails to block; the blow strikes home but Bradán can feel his sword glance off the man’s extremely tough skin. To his frustration, Marcus realizes that Diwarnach is actively ignoring him, as if he understands the danger that Fragarach poses. Bradán retreats from the heated circle in order to put out the fire on his boots while Meadhbh continues to move and attack. While Angus circles, looking for an opening, Heddwyn concentrates and attempts to bend the unreality of this place to his will, thinking that this place is in the World of Dreams; he is partially successful, cooling a tiny portion of the heated circle under the unconscious Owain but he can feel something … or someone struggling against him. He continues to make this effort as Eolande starts banging on her cell in an attempt to get his attention. Áedán finally snaps out of his stupor and rushes forward to scramble up alongside Heddwyn.
  • Suddenly, the battle shifts against the PCs. Diwarnach concentrates his next attacks against Meadhbh and she is unable to adequately defend against his mighty blow which slices deep into her body, dangerously close to her abdomen and her twins. She staggers back, grievously wounded and barely clinging to consciousness. Marcus springs forward to shield rush Diwarnach in an attempt to defend his wounded sister; their shields clash together but there is no other result. Bradán maneuvers closer to Heddwyn, which Diwarnach sees as an opportunity; the king stomps on the ground and a gopher trail races toward Bradán before exploding at his feet. Seeing this coming, Bradán catches the blow on the shield and is almost staggered back. Again, Marcus attempts to shove his foe around but is unsuccessful. Bradán, seeing his sister’s injuries, rushes forward to aid her; Angus opts to advance there and assist. After Diwarnach makes a failed attack at Bradán, Marcus, frustrated with Fragarach, engages the sentient weapon in a contest of wills, critically succeeding, and then lunges forward to thrust the blade into his foe’s torso. This visibly stuns King Diwarnach – and wounds him pretty badly (even though the GM screwed that up during play); Fragarach suddenly becomes extremely heavy just as Meadhbh’s wounds finally drive her into unconsciousness. Diwarnach shakes off his stun, notes that Marcus is struggling to lift his weapon, and lunges forward to strike the first target in his range … Angus. His sword causes major damage but the spymaster narrowly manages to cling to consciousness.
  • With Owain pulled out of the fire, Heddwyn turns his attention to Eolande and the two begin a quick game of charades as she gestures toward something on his person – it takes him a moment to realize she’s referring to his knife and suddenly, he gets it: this cage is probably Faerie-make and his knife is iron. Áedán, seeing that Owain is reasonably safe, opts to spring forward and attack with his large hammer; the blow is a brutal one, crushing ribs despite the king’s damage resistance. With a roar of fury and pain, Diwarnach counterattacks against the blacksmith who just did so much damage to him but Áedán narrowly dodges. The two exchange strikes, blocking or dodging as appropriate, but are not effective. Bradán, satisfied that his sister will not burn alive, springs back into the fray, still targeting Diwarnach’s face though his attack misses. At the same time, Heddwyn applies his knife against Eolande’s cage … and the blade cuts through the metal like it was not even there! The instant the cage is cut open, Eolande vanishes!

demon-4.jpg* Áedán strikes again, smashing past King Diwarnach’s shield to crush more ribs. The king goes to a knee and begins screaming in agony as fire erupts around him. His screams become more guttural, more horrifying, and when the flame recedes, Diwarnach has changed into a hideous monster.


GM Notes

  • This was basically one long fight the entire session which I expected to be the case.
  • Overall, I was quite disappointed with this session. Not because of anything the players did, but because I, as the GM, failed. My decision to go this particular route was a late addition that I now regret: Originally, when I started laying out the initial framework for s2, my intent was for Owain to be in the clutches of one of the Traitors and since they would already be established personalities (nominally anyway) by this point, the characters would already be ready for most tricks. The decision to inject additional bits of the Weird without build-up was a late decision and, regardless of what anyone else things, I am now quite convinced that I should have done things differently. Needed more build-up and foreshadowing about Diwarnach, less “give him super-powers and surprise everyone!” Regardless of whether the characters had heard about his capabilities, they would not have believed it was actually real until they saw it with their own eyes. And even then, they might have had some trouble buying into what they were seeing.
  • Here’s where I really think I failed: the characters did not truly know what was at stake beyond “let’s save Chief Owain”. Clearly, King Diwarnach was up to no good but beyond that, they were ignorant of his capabilities and his objectives. What I should have done is first, have the PCs learn somehow (in an earlier ep, like 2×08 or so) that Diwarnach has a reputation for murdering highborn lords for unknowable reasons (hence, this is why Gwynedd focused on kicking his ass and retaking Arfon (Caer Segeint)), and then the PCs could later hear whispers or rumors about his super-powers, so they would not be going into this completely blind. Having at least rumor to give them an idea about his capabilities would have gone a long way toward making this entire encounter more palatable. On top of that, his capabilities should have started to fade once the PCs foiled the attempted sacrifice of Chief Owain (since, said super-powers have the Pact limitation to them and require certain conditions to be met.) Thus, I see this as pretty much entirely a GM fail on my part since I did a pretty poor (read: crappy) job at setting up and establishment of the stakes which I’m only really seeing how badly I messed it up retroactively. I was aware that frustration level was rising – I’ve been there more than a few times myself so I should have done a better job of handling it.

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RigilKent

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