GURPS: Casus Belli

2x13, Dousing the Embers

Skirmish in the Woods

  • 31 October, 457 Anno Domini Nostri Iesu. Night is rapidly approaching in Caer Segeint. Before he can bed down for the night, Áedán receives word that the hostler they left the horses with wishes to have words with him at earliest convenience. Curious, the smith checks into this and finds the man extremely eager to please. He claims to have recovered the two horses although at a glance, Áedán can see that one of them definitely isn’t the same one. The hostler begs that Áedán not sic Lord Bradán the Ruthless upon him, which actually makes the smith laugh. He can’t promise anything, not with that cart still missing…
  • Meanwhile, Angus’ attempts to figure out why his little birds are not responding to him uncovers a mystery: it would seem that several of his older agents have mysteriously disappeared, shortly after speaking with a woman that no one recognizes. When offered Aeronwen’s description, he is told that no … that isn’t this woman. She’s dark-haired, yes, but pale and with many freckles. The spymaster makes a note to investigate this further once the current disaster has calmed down.
  • Deciding to seek out Myrddin Emrys’ advice, Heddwyn seeks the World of Dreams but rather than finding the mysterious man, instead finds himself facing one of the Fae he rescued from the cages in the Otherworld. ‘I acknowledge that I owe you a Debt,’ the Fae states before asking of Heddwyn’s need. The druid’s obsession with knowledge immediately rears its head and he inquires of Eolande’s father, whereupon he learns that he is the Erlking, an immensely strong and dangerous lord of goblins who is the master of the Wild Hunt. Heddwyn also learns a few other things from this Fae, such as the importance of Names, particularly with supernatural entities – By knowing something’s true Name, a magical link can be created by associating oneself to it in a magical sense, in a similar way that one could if one had hair, nail clippings, or blood. One has to know exactly how to say the name, just knowing it is not good enough. Names with a capital N, have power. If a wizard has an entity’s or person’s name, they automatically have a conduit, a way to home in on it. A mortal’s Name can change over time due to how their perception of themselves can change, whereas most supernatural beings’ Name is static and unchanging.
  • Meadhbh sleeps extremely poorly this night. She dreams – regular dreams, not Dreams – of looking for something that she has misplaced but cannot find, and each time she wakes, she automatically begins looking for whatever it is that is missing before finally realizing what she is doing. Something is wrong but she knows not what it is…
  • Finally, Lord Bradán spends many, many hours in Chief Cedwyn’s presence with the various warriors, going over battle plans again and again to the point that others begin falling out of exhaustion. Eventually, Cedwyn suggests a break and that they sleep on the matter. When Bradán does doze off, he dreams of the strange-eyed man – the Erlking, though he does not know him by that name – screaming things at him he cannot understand. Whatever is said is clearly important but he is ignorant and wakes early, in a fouler than normal mood.
  • Near dawn, Morgan enters Caer Segeint, exhausted, cut up, bruised and on foot. He advises them of “The Plan” that Marcus has drawn up which consists of the following: the majority of Caerhun noncombatants will be (or, by now, have been) evacuated while the warriors will conceal selves within the village’s confines. It is hoped that the hostiles will see an empty, abandoned village and rush forward to loot. At that point, the hidden warriors attack from concealment while hostiles are disorganized and scattered, and thus unable to bring their full force to bear. Marcus suggests that Bradán attempt to assault the command elements of the Blackshields from behind, which Bradán admits is a good plan. Chief Cedwyn informs him that he has thirty men available right now to march with Bradán and the chief will follow upon the morrow once he has the rest of his warriors. Unwilling to wait any longer, Bradán agrees and the whole band march out (some, like Meadhbh, on horseback) soon after.
  • In Caerhun, dawn comes and nothing has happened. From his place of concealment, Marcus watches and waits, wondering where the Enemy is. Hours pass with no sign of the expected attack until finally, he decides to send Gwion out with a small unit to scout for the Blackshields. Selecting a handful of his best bowman, Gwion and his team vanish into the underbrush, heading north. Eventually, they detect the sound of people rushing through the woods – not a great deal, but some – and Gwion has his band seek concealment. Suddenly, Lord Ieuan appears, hotly pursued by Blackshields who seem intent on killing him! Deciding that the traitor might have valuable intel, they opt to prevent the Blackshields from succeeding and a flight of arrows are launched. This leads to a fierce skirmish in which most of the Blackshields are slain although two manage to escape. Lord Ieuan, who has by this point been badly injured by the Blackshields, gasps out a warning to Gwion: it’s a trap! Lord Bradán is marching into a trap!

A Last Stand

  • By midday, the warband led by Bradán have reached a small bridge that is on the way to Caerhun. It has been a difficult march, made worse by Bradán’s harsh refusal to slow the pace. Just as the band is halfway across the bridge, horns sound! Blackshields scramble from concealment to block the path as answering horns can be heard behind and another group rush from hiding to block off any retreat! They are trapped! Bradán reacts quickly and authoritatively to get his band into a defensive square, but looking at the sheer numbers, he has little hope of them winning free.
  • Two men emerge from the southern group of Blackshields, clearly intending on offering terms. One is wearing old but well maintained Roman armor while the other is Lord Serigi. Bradán orders Heddwyn to accompany him and strides out to meet them where is unsurprised to discover that Serigi is here mostly to gloat. The terms are brutal: if his men throw down their arms, they will be granted swift and merciful deaths. Most of them anyway. Heddwyn engages the Blackshield commander in conversation when he notes that the man seems to disapprove (either of the offer or of Lord Serigi himself); said commander reveals that he knows of Bradán’s reputation and would have struck from ambush with an eye toward decapitating the head of the snake first. Even the revelation that King Diwarnach is dead does little to move the commander – that is a matter he will deal with latter. Bradán opts for a different tactic: he insults and belittles Serigi, loudly enough for his voice to carry, and deftly maneuvers the traitor into angrily admitting that Bradán’s death is the only thing he truly desires out of this. From that admission, it is easy enough to segue into a personal one-on-one challenge in the ‘old way.’ Made in such a public way, this challenge is flatly impossible for Serigi to refuse and the Blackshield commander acknowledges to “the druid” that he and his troops will abide by the results of this duel.
  • Bradán strips off his armor so he wearing only pants so as to prove to all watching that he is a true Celt and further removes his gold torc that denotes his position of leadership. This he gives to Meadhbh for safekeeping since he informs her that he does not trust Serigi in the slightest. Should he fall, he expects her to get away with this. He then retrieves a new shield from Morgan, draws his sword, and marches forward to meet his fate. When Serigi does appear, the traitor is still wearing his armor which Bradán loudly scoffs at, which only further infuriates the older man. They circle, Bradán with his sword and Serigi with a spear. And then, they fight.
  • Back and forth they go, each displaying considerable skill. Bradán is the younger and faster of the two, but Serigi is a canny veteran and catches each of his foe’s strikes upon his shield. Long seconds pass as they batter at one another and soon, sweat is pouring down both of their faces. But then, disaster strikes for Lord Bradán: he missteps slightly, which puts him slightly off-balance, and Serigi pounces with a vicious thrust of his spear that slices into the younger man’s torso and cleaves something vital.

SeatedJareth.gif* Abruptly, time seems to slow to a crawl and Bradán realizes abruptly that the strange-eyed man that he saw in the Otherworld is seated atop the edge of the bridge watching. The strange man declares: ’I would offer you my aid, Bradán, son of Caddell, but … ‘ His voice changes to one that is only vaguely familiar to Bradán (although the Player easily understands the stranger is now using Bradán’s own voice, ‘that is not why I am here and you … you do not matter.’ It is a clear callback to Bradán’s words to Heddwyn in the Otherworld and he can feel the injury begin to burn. Bradán knows then that his enemy’s blade was poisoned and that this stranger has done … something to accelerate the speed of the poison. His body has already begun to shut down and he knows that this blow was a mortal one. Death is only moments away but Bradán responds with a snarl: _‘If you’re not going to help, well then, to hell with you.’ The strange-eyed man is suddenly looming over Bradán and peering at him. He speaks again: ’Still you fight, no matter that your body betrays you. I shall grant you a single boon, mortal, but in doing so, you pledge yourself to my service. Do you wish to kill this man?’ Bradán replies with one word: YES. ’Then do so,’ the strange-eyed man says.

  • Despite blood gushing from his clearly mortal wounds, Bradán scrambles to his feet, shocking Serigi who logically presumed his foe was incapable of even standing. When Bradán screams a battle cry and thrusts his sword forward, Serigi is still too shocked to counter properly and his shield too far out of position to block it. Bradán’s sword punches through the traitor’s armor, piercing something vital, and Serigi is utterly incapable of handling the pain. He topples, unconscious and with an expression still displaying disbelief and surprise, but Bradán tears his sword free and then decapitates the traitor with a single, mighty blow. The warriors who had accompanied him cheer their approval as Bradán throws the head down onto the bridge. He turns toward the strange-eyed man and thus misses seeing twin spiders crawl from Serigi’s mouth and disappear over the side of the bridge.
  • To the strange-eyed man, Bradán asks for a few minutes more and the Fae nods slightly. Bradán then limps toward his sister, tears in his eyes, and it is this more than the brutal wounds to his torso that tells her the story. He reminds her that family and the people matter, not the land, which were the words of their father. He then turns to the strange-eyed man (who no one else can see) nods and drops to his knees and topples forward.
  • And thus, Bradán Ddidostur dies.

GM Notes:

  • And thus ends season 2 (rather dramatically, if I may add.) The season as a whole had some high points and some low points, but was for the most part fairly tolerable from my admittedly “own harshest critic” viewpoint.
  • Overall, was fairly satisfied with this session, although I really do wish I could have figured out more for the other Players to do during Bradán’s “final fight.” As shown in the above recap, this really turned into the Bradán Show which, I suppose, is fitting for it being his swan song.
  • One of the things I wanted to do with the encounter in the beginning was to ensure that we all played archers. I’m planning on continuing these sorts of encounters in the future, especially using the Allies of the various PCs.
  • Interesting note: I did not fudge any of the rolls for Serigi. This was a weird moment (unique, I think, in my experience) where Fantasy Grounds did exactly what I wanted it to for the dramatic story effect exactly when I needed it to. First, there was the critical hit (rolled a 4) that not only deployed the poison (more on that below), but also put Bradan very close to an initial death before the poison’s toxic checks, then once the poison effects kicked in Bradán failed his Death Check by 2 (mortally wounded), then I critically failed the defense roll against his attack (rolled an 18). To make matters worse for Serigi, he failed the major wound check from the vitals strike by 6 so it was all over after that!
  • The poison was a mixture of belladonna and curare (see Low Tech). Since it was a mixture, I halved the number of cycles but that ultimately did not matter.
  • Interestingly (at least to me) is that both of the major threat elements in this fight (Serigi, the Erlking) were major threat elements because of Bradán’s own actions. Originally, Serigi was going to be a throwaway character who didn’t like Heddwyn because Heddwyn had taken his job (Diplomat), but instead, during the ramp up for the initial big Irish fight, Bradán publicly humiliated and intimidated the man, resulting in Serigi gaining a negative reputation as a coward. This transferred his enmity to Bradán and he went full-on Evil! (complete with twirling mustache.) The Erlking’s irritation stems from some of the things Bradan said while they were in the Otherworld.
  • This also marks the first time I can think of in our Fantasy Grounds gaming experience where an actual PC died. We’ve had at least two recurring NPCs that I can think of kick the bucket, but not PCs.
  • Season 3 will begin with a 5 year time skip. Beyond that, I haven’t actually begun planning anything just yet.
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Mis-Fairied
Prose by Daboidie

Time stood frozen for the humans who had ventured into the realm of the Fae.

The angry one said we do not matter! Kill him…kill him!

Harsh whispers filled the dimly lit cavern, and writhing forms circled around Bradan and the rest of the warriors who stood still as statues. However, introductions had been made, bargains had been set, debts had been spoken and deals had been met. The humans would be returned to their time and place and in good health. But before the druid and the rest could take their wounded and depart…

“Father…”

“I know, my daughter.”

Lord Herne, the lord of the goblins, and his daughter Eolande stood before Meadhbh, both focused on the swollen roundness of her torso. Her belly was split open, a gruesome gift from the blade of King Diwarnach, and she was pale from the loss of blood.

Eolande turned to her father. “The druid did not introduce them. They will die?”

The whispers began again. Pity. The mother will live. The children will die. Pity…pity…

Lord Herne raised a hand for silence. “These two children…they are fae-touched. The spirit of the wolf runs through their veins. I am inclined to intervene.”

Eolande frowned, “It’s not fair. She has special wolf-children, and I do not.”

Her father gave her an amused look as Eolande’s frown turned into a pout.

“I want one.”

Lord Herne touched his forefinger to the bottom of Eolande’s chin and lifted it slightly. “I never could refuse you when you pout thus, my daughter. Which one shall it be?”

Eolande narrowed her eyes at the prone red-haired woman. “The boy.”

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2x12, Ashes of Eden

The Otherside

  • King Diwarnach has transformed into a hideous monster! He roars as he completes his change into this … thing. At the same time, Heddwyn continues racing around the amphitheater thing, slicing his knife through the bars of the cages containing the imprisoned fae. Bradán, upon seeing a chance while the creature changes, calls out for an immediate withdrawal; they have what they came for. He is at least a little irritated that Heddwyn seems so intent on freeing the captured people who, in Bradán’s opinion, are not the priority!
  • Suddenly, a newcomer appears, accompanied by Eolande. This man strides toward the demon, calling out to him, and all of the PCs see the beast visibly recoil. As this newcomer strides onto the super-heated floor, it freezes underneath him! He speaks, in a voice that could freeze the sun, and states, ’Your host dared touch my daughter! I would have … words with him.’ Abruptly, it begins to rain, which kicks up a geyser of steam, blocking whatever happens from site. The beast begins screaming … but it soon becomes that of a man screaming in horrible agony. The newcomer speaks again: ‘You wished immortality, King of Nothing, and I shall grant it to you. Live forever, trapped in a nightmare of your making. Eternity is yours.’ When the steam finally abates, King Diwarnach has been transformed into a statue showing the extent of his pain.
  • By this point, the PCs have retreated to where Gwion fell and are attending to their injured. Angus was overcome by his wounds during the short trip and has lapsed into unconsciousness, which means they now have three insensate people and all three are critically injured; Chief Owain is worse, having lost an eye and a hand (the latter by Bradán) but most importantly, he has been castrated. All of the wounded need better medical treatment than the PCs are capable of doing.
  • The strange man and his now rescued subjects have approached and are watching the PCs carefully which causes Bradán and Marcus to scramble to their feet and draw their weapons, fully expecting that they’re about to die. Heddwyn advances however and urges them to stay where they are and for God’s sake, don’t say anything! Once again, Bradán is angry at his cousin’s refusal to heed his orders to fall in line, but Heddwyn ignores this as he approaches the strange man and introduces himself. He identifies the other PCs by name and pronounces Bradán as their leader but accidentally forgets to identify Owain, due no doubt to his recognition of the very real danger they are still in with these Fae. The man acknowledges their identities – he knows of them – then tells Heddwyn that the ollave rescued the man’s daughter and thus, he owes a Debt. Thinking quickly, Heddwyn asks that he and his companions be returned to their lands in good health; too late, he realizes the open-ended nature of this request and that he failed to include Chief Owain in this request. The stranger gestures and suddenly, a door is present! All eyes briefly turn to it and when they look back, the stranger and his small court are gone!
  • Stepping through the doorway takes the PCs back to Ynys Môn and that strange cave which they entered earlier and ended up in the desert. Both Angus and Meadhbh are in much greater condition than before – their injuries are now simply old scars – but Chief Owain is still as critically injured as before. The decision is quickly made to head back to the boat they’d discovered and use it to reach Caer Segeint in the hopes that a healer might be found. They rig up a stretch using available materials, and during this time, Angus and Meadhbh regain consciousness. Both are confused as to what just happened and where their wounds went but do not question their good fortune. Meadhbh, however, feels like she is missing something … she just can’t put her finger on exactly what it is she’s missing.

The Real World

  • Upon retracing their steps to the currach, the PCs pile into it. Angus, Gwion and Heddwyn all note that there appears to be a great deal more detritus present than should be and a terrible theory begins to worm its way through Heddwyn’s brain, though he keeps it to himself for the time being. Marcus displays surprising capability as a sailor and is able to handle the boat well enough for them to reach Caer Segeint.
  • At Heddwyn’s recommendation, they seek out a church and find it easily enough, although the head priest is in the process of closing the doors for the night as they arrive, what with the sun beginning to go down. Seeing the dire condition of Chief Owain, he hurries them in and then calls out for his assistants. Heddwyn talks him into allowing the ollave to remain and observe the surgery, but also learns from the priest that today is the day before Samhain. They have lost an entire month! The priest hurries the others out so he can begin the long surgery which will take many hours (five, in fact.)
  • Áedán goes to retrieve the horses and cart but learns that the shopowner has already sold them! They arranged for him to keep them for a week, but more than a month has passed! Áedán manages to contain his temper but promises that he will be back to address this later. Meanwhile, Angus attempts to seek out his little birds, but finds none of them available here in Caer Segeint. Meadhbh is too emotional to do more than find a place to sit outside the church and relax; she is so confused because something is missing and she can’t figure out what! Finally, Marcus suggests that he and Gwion head out now and scout Bryn Euryn; Bradán agrees with this plan and they arrange a rendezvous point at the bridge where they slew so many Irishmen earlier in the year. The two head out in their newly captured boat.
  • Bradán seeks out Chief Cedwyn, the lord of this cantref, and is made to cool his heels for a time while the guards confirm his identity and seek out the chief. He is irritated and prickly when Cedwyn arrives, but manages to keep himself under control as he seeks information. Chief Cedwyn is surprised and pleased to see him since Rhos has evidently collapsed into pure chaos since Chief Owain was believed killed and the PCs vanished. After some discussion, Cedwyn agrees to aid Bradán for future assistance in Cedwyn’s endeavors. It will take some time to raise his full force, but Cedwyn promises military aid.
  • Marcus and Gwion reach Bryn Euryn late in the day, ground the boat in a concealing cove, then advance on foot. They arrive to find the town still and silent, with many signs of new fortifications and many crucifixions. Gwion’s sharper eyes note a distant military force disappearing over a small hill and the two decide to pursue to investigate. It turns out to be quite easy to follow the force as it pauses briefly to set a farmstead aflame, so the two PCs are able to quickly overtake the force and identify it as Blackshields on the march south, no doubt intent on hitting Caerhun itself! After some consideration, the two decide to take an alternate route that Marcus discovered some time back and warn the town.
  • By midnight, they arrive where they are quickly met by Lord Idnerth (now looking much better) and Morgan who embraces Marcus before immediately demanding to know where Meadhbh is. Upon learning that the majority of the citizens of Caerhun are preparing to evacuate while a defending force will remain to hold the attackers off long enough for the non-combatants to escape, Marcus assumes command and comes up with a plan to draw the Blackshields into a trap by using a seemingly abandoned Caerhun as bait. He also decides that Bradán needs to be informed, perhaps with a suggestion that the other PCs hit the enemy from behind and target their commanders while the Blackshields are disorganized. Morgan promptly volunteers to take the message and borrows Idnerth’s sole remaining horse. Out he rides, and Marcus turns to Idnerth and Gwion: they need to get to work.

GM Notes:

  • I actually ended the session on a slightly different note but I’m going to do a minor rewind to reach that point next week.
  • From a GM perspective, this session was terrible. I wanted to get back to the real world immediately and try to band-aid the previous screwed up session, but felt like I only exacerbated a bad situation with my (frustrating) “story teller” tendencies. Bradán’s decision to just bug the hell out at the beginning caught me by surprise for some reason and I never quite recovered. I also did a terrible job of relating the exact timing of what was going on with Heddwyn during the session – he was more than halfway done with freeing the imprisoned Fae before Bradán ordered the withdrawal, but Bradán’s player thought Heddwyn was simply ignoring him and the character (not the player) got really angry at the druid. We’ve since hashed this out out of game, but the fact it was even necessary irritates me. Another GM fail.
  • We also had a boatload of technical issues, mostly revolving around TeamSpeak being just generally stupid. Gwion’s player was surprisingly quiet for much of the session … and then, we realized that none of us could hear him so a lot of time was spent trying to fix that.
  • I let someone – Heddwyn’s player, I think? – make the roll for the Surgery for Owain and it was success by 0, so the chief was stabilized … but just barely.
  • I’m already a session beyond where I was originally planning on stopping this run and had two sort of half-planned sessions to go, but I’ve revised that plan slightly and am expecting next session will be the end of season 2.
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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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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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Long Way to Go
Prose by Daboidie

“You want my help? Alright, here’s some advice. You’re too skinny. You should eat more. And you should stay away from my brother.”

Meadhbh sheathed the blade she had been sharpening, turning her gaze upon the thin, blonde girl in front of her. The girl had guts coming to her at least, and Meadhbh couldn’t say that she disliked Addiena verch Cadern, but Bradan was difficult to deal with, and she wasn’t sure the girl knew what she was getting herself into. Still, Bradan had sent Addiena with specific orders to learn how to fight from his sister, and Meadhbh knew she would have to relent and take the hopeful one under her wing. Hopefully she could scare Addiena away before the girl got herself killed.

“Why should I stay away?”

“He’s an arse on a good day.”

“So is Owain, and I handle him fine.”

Meadhbh snorted, then stopped herself. She noted the determined set of Addiena’s jaw. The same determined look she often gave those who got in her way. There is no way she is going to back down. Meadhbh stepped swiftly within arm’s reach and gave Addiena a long, intimidating look. She felt somewhat satisfied as Addiena instinctively backed away, her resolve seeming to falter ever so slightly. “Are you certain you want to do this?”

But, after a moment, Addiena pulled herself together and she replied, “…Yes. Yes, I am.” Her eyes flickered away from Meadhbh’s intense, golden stare and over to a rack of practice swords. “Which one should I use?”

One second later, Addiena was hunched over on the floor, holding her gut. “Wh-what…” she wheezed between wracking coughs.

Meadhbh flexed her fingers and snorted. “You’re dead. When you’re in battle, you have no time to react and wonder to yourself, ‘Hmm, I wonder which weapon I should use today.’ It’s not like picking a dress for a feast. It has to be fast. It has to be instinct. And I’m not going to waste my time teaching you how to use one of those if you’re just going to be dead because you didn’t know how to get out of the way. Now get up!” Meadhbh leaned over and hauled the girl to her feet. “First, you learn how to move. When you can do that, then I will teach you to fight back. Now, when I punch from this direction, you step this way to get out of the way. Got it?”

Two seconds later, Addiena was on the ground again, reeling from a brutal kick to her right leg.

Meadhbh sighed. “Well, you dodged the punch. That’s something at least.” This is going to take a while.

Two hours later, Addiena was covered in new bruises from repeated failures to dodge the onslaught of punches and kicks. But Meadhbh noted with approval that the girl was getting faster, even as she landed a jab that bloodied Addiena’s nose. Meadhbh called an end to the practice, and began mopping her hand of Addiena’s blood. “Go clean yourself up and be back here tomorrow at the same time.” As Addiena tottered away gingerly, Meadhbh shook her head, thinking to herself, She won’t be back.

Meadhbh was surprised as the next day, Addiena was waiting for her in the training area. And the day after that. Never late, never complaining. What the girl lacked in ability, she made up with tenacity, and as the days went by, she became faster and more confident. Meadhbh grudgingly admitted to herself that perhaps she had misjudged Addiena. Maybe she would be able to handle Bradan after all. Meadhbh chuckled as she realized the foolishness that had just crossed her mind. Addiena still had a long way to go.

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2x09, Burning It Down

Act I: Scouting Party

  • 28 September, 457 Anno Domini Nostri Iesu. Only moments have elapsed since Bradán finished decapitating his foe. The other PCs have, by now, rejoined him whereupon they discover that none of their foes are capable of being interrogated – they are all dead or mortally wounded and bleeding out. By the sounds of things, it appears that the fires are now under control.
  • Four figures approach – it is Morgan, one of Marcus’ men, and Isibel who is prodding a bound man forward with a spear. They are all dirty, sooty and smell of fire, but Morgan focuses entirely upon Meadhbh – he is furious that she has been fighting! In her condition?! What is she thinking? This is the first time most of the other characters (except Heddwyn, who is quite observant) have realized she is with child and Marcus promptly starts to agree with Morgan. This prompts Meadhbh to react angrily at the two – she is stubborn, after all…
  • Bradán, also, loses his temper though this is due to his anger over the bickering over what he perceives as irrelevant when they have just been attacked. Recognizing his foul mood, Morgan nods toward their prisoner and reveals that this is sole survivor of the three arsonists – the other two were killed during apprehension. Bradán grabs one of the dead (or dying, he doesn’t really care) would-be ambushers and decapitates the man in front of the captured arsonist before ordering, “Now, talk!”
  • The prisoner talks. He will reveal that he and the others were hired to kill Lord Bradán. This ambush was their leader’s plan … and he was the archer. Who hired them? Lord Serigi who wants revenge upon the slight against his honor. By now, everyone has heard of how Bradán intimidated the crap out of him and how Serigi publicly backed down, although by now the story has evolved so Bradán physically assaulted the man and dragged him across his manor by his ear.
  • Suddenly, the armcry is raised: there are people in the woods! The PCs rush to assemble their warriors to defend, but this turns out to be unnecessary as the people are revealed to be refugees from Bryn Euryn, among which are Addiena (with a spear) and a very badly wounded Argante (who is barely conscious and is mostly being carried by Addiena and one other woman.) Heddwyn goes into medical mode and checks Argante’s injuries which are dire: she appears to have taken a spear thrust to the belly and is likely hovering at or around Death Check threshold, although he is confused because the cut is too perfect to be that of a spear.
  • During this, Addiena (who is thoroughly exhausted after having walking all day and night), reveals what has happened. She saw Lord Berthgwyn fall and her brother, Owain, trying to fight the murderers off. Then the Traitors – Lords Ieuan, Rhodri, and Serigi – attacked with a great force. Addiena is angry at herself that she ran like a scared rabbit then, though she finally regained control of herself and returned where she observed the Traitors and a dark-haired woman she did not recognize standing over Owain. The woman did something to Addiena’s brother who screamed and the Traitors had him bound. Addiena then retreated as the Traitors’ forces were running around being warrior types where she discovered a badly wounded Argante. Rallying the fleeing citizens of Bryn Euryn, they set out for safety and to get help from the only people she believes she can help.
  • Enraged, Bradán declares his intention to march against Lord Serigi’s manor and seize the man’s family to use as hostages. This promptly results in a passionate and fierce argument between him and Marcus who insists that they can not go that route because that will make them monsters as well. Heddwyn does what he can to ameliorate the dispute, knowing that they simply need to keep Bradán from doing something rash long enough for him to calm down. In the end, Bradán decides that they need more intel so he orders Angus and Gwion to head to Bryn Euryn immediately for intel.
  • It takes several hours for the two men to reach the woods outside of the village, thanks entirely to the pair of horses they borrowed. They secure the steeds and stealth forward where they discover that Bryn Euryn is now an armed camp with a lot of men present. There are more than a hundred warriors, all of whom appear to be highly discplined as they setup defenses. All seem to be carrying black shields. Interestingly, they are actively kill any and all animals within the area of effect.
  • Even more horrifying, though, is that these Blackshields are crucifying people! And then, to the surprise of both Angus and Gwion, one of those being tortured thus is none other than Lord Rhodri! Just as the two are coming to grip with this, Gwion recognizes the black-haired woman standing with Lords Ieuan and Serigi: it is none other than Aeronwen!

Act II: Rescue Rangers

  • The sounds of someone sneaking through the woods draws the attention of the two and Angus is able to find Siobhain who is far more capable of stealth than Gwion would have thought considering her reputation (from Vertis) as a woman of loose morals. She gestures for them to follow her and sneaks toward a small cave where they discover her sleeping children, Lord Idnerth (who is wounded), and a critically injured Druid Adaryn.
  • From Siobhain and Idnerth, they learn that these warriors appear to be mercenaries who hold allegiance to Diwrnach the Bloody, king of Lleyn. Based on their actions, they appear to be expecting an attack by Bradán and Siobhain adds she has overheard several of the scouts referencing a secret weapon of some sort. There is a brief argument regarding the next step – Idnerth instructs them to leave him and get Druid Adaryn to safety, but Siobhain is adamantly opposed to that since Idnerth rescued her and her children. Upon learning that Angus and Gwion have horses located nearby, though, Idnerth allows himself to be convinced to evacuate with them.
  • En route to the horses, they hear a brief skirmish nearby and Angus, unable to contain his curiosity, moves to investigate where he discovers a single living man and three dead ones; of the dead, one of them is dressed as a Blackshield. The survivor has pure white hair despite being a young man and his expression is that of a man deeply in shock. Angus finally recognizes this man as one of Rhodri’s warriors so he decides to get the man to follow them back to Caerhun in order to interrogate them.
  • It is mid-morning by the time they reach Caerhun once more where they discover that the others have been readying a defense. Druid Adaryn is hussled off to the sickhouse after Heddwyn confirms that there is little he can do at the moment, and the rest of the PCs debate their next move. Marcus is passionate about locating Princess Brigid, which certainly attracts Addiena’s notice, but no one know where she (or Bruinn) have vanished to. All of the PCs are surprised to learn that Aeronwen is still alive and evidently running things, not Ieuan or Serigi. They wonder aloud how this is possible.
  • The white-haired man interjects in a shocked-sounding voice that she (Aeronwen) is a monster. With Heddwyn prodding him, he reveals that Aeronwen told the Traitors that she has a spy within Bradán’s ranks and then one of the mercenary leaders pointed out that his master needed Owain for his ritual in Ynys Mon. He and several of his men depart, taking the unconscious (but still alive) chief of Rhos to a waiting boat. Lord Rhodri mouthed off to Aeronwen in his usual way and she responded by tossing something at his feet that burst and blinded everyone. There were horrifying noises of … something crawling and then Lord Rhodri screamed and screamed and screamed … the warrior was among those blinded and when his sight returned, he saw Aeronwen standing over the fallen (and still screaming) Rhodri. She announced that she needed the blood of a highborn man to defend against the druids … and the white-haired man fled.
  • After some discreet discussion, the PCs decide to head to Ynys Mon in an attempt to rescue Chief Owain. The reference to a potential spy is troublesome so they decide to announce that they are heading to Caer Legion to seek King Cunedda’s aid, then sweep around and head west. Morgan, who is not enthusiastic about Meadhbh adventuring in her condition but knows better than to argue the point, is left in command and given instructions to advise Addiena discreetly of their destination. Because so many of the PCs are still exhausted, they opt to use Áedán’s cart so they can sleep in shifts. During this
  • It takes a full day for them to reach Caer Segeint where they hire a fisherman to ferry them across the Menai Strait to Ynys Mon. Bradán has trouble getting into the boat – his phobia of open water springs up here – and Meadhbh is violently sick (although that might be due to her pregnancy and not the water) but ultimately, they cross the strait and set foot on Ynys Mon. Now, they must find Chief Owain before it is too later…

GM Notes

  • Only nominally satisfied with this. Angus and Gwion’s misadventure dominated much of the session and I screwed up by not figuring out something for the other PCs to do during this. Marcus’ player recommended (initially) that all of the PCs do the recon while the Allies ready for defense or offense, but Bradán’s player argued that it did not make sense in game.
  • Following the scouting mission, my adventure notes were really minimal because I didn’t know which way the PCs were going to go.
  • Was not expecting Heddwyn to reach out to contact Myrddin via Dreaming so I’m going to handle that first thing next session.
  • Still irritated that I haven’t been able to really incorporate Áedán more.
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2x08, World on Fire

Act I: A Series of Unfortunate Events

  • 27 September, 457 Anno Domini Nostri Iesu. It is evening.
  • The PCs are currently on the road, marching back from the war that ended so inconclusively.
  • Thanks to Angus, though, the characters are aware of many things. Dumnonia itself has collapsed into civil war as the high king fled into Saecsen lands and one of the most powerful nobles – Erbin ap Constantine – appears poised to seize control of the kingdom with the assistance of his cousin, King Cadell of Powys, though he (Lord Erbin) will not claim the high kingship.
  • Rumor has it that Vortigern was refused hospitality by his father-in-law, Hengist, and has since vanished, though there are many stories indicating he is seeking alternate alliances among the other nobles of Prydain. Of his ‘wife,’ Rowena, nothing is said, prompting many to suspect she returned to her father … or has been slain.
  • Irish raids have increased along the southern borders of Wales, particularly focused on and around Demetia (which is comprised of Irish conquerors turned Welshmen.) Rumors state that their is a great upheaval of some sort taking place in Eire as rival factions war to become the next high king of Tara.
  • But we are not going to focus on this, not yet. Instead, we’re jumping straight to Bryn Euryn where Chief Owain of Rhos is walking with his spymaster, Lord Berthgwyn. They are both only recently returned from the campaign against the high king and are discussing Owain’s wife, Princess Brigid, who has inexplicably vanished, when suddenly, a small force of armed warriors erupt from the undergrowth! Berthgwyn is felled almost at once – a hurled spear catches him high in the chest and the shock of the injury is too much for him. Owain lasts a few moments longer but his unluckiness once more rears its head and he too falls.
  • As his foes close in upon him and he starts to slide into agonized unconsciousness, he hears a voice call out, “Hold!” and the last thing he sees before darkness claims him is Lord Ieuan, Lord Rhodri, and Lord Serigi, all approaching calmly. It is a coup!

Act II: Another Series of Unfortunate Events

  • 28 September, 457 Anno Domini Nostri Iesu. It is evening and the PCs have only just arrived in Caerhun after twenty days or so on the road. Word has not yet reached them of the events in Bryn Euryn, and all of them are looking forward to rest and relaxation. Having stripped off their armor, most are readying themselves for bed.
  • Suddenly, the armcry is raised as several buildings on the far side of the village have caught fire! Without hesitation, the PCs seize their weapons and shields before rushing to investigate…
  • As they reach the halfway point, Lady Meadhbh smells dried sweat and unfamiliar bodies. She calls out a warning an instant before an arrow flashes through the darkness toward Bradán. Without her warning, he would have been struck in the chest but as he was half-turning toward his sister, the arrow instead slams into his shield. It is an ambush!
  • Screaming their battle-cries, a small force of men leap from concealment and charge, but Meadhbh’s warning (and the general paranoia of the PCs) prevents this from being a complete surprise and, in seconds, the battle has seen its first casualties. Gwion draws and looses an arrow at an attacker, killing him instantly, as Marcus rushes a pair of men with Fragarach – neither of those men manage to strike him, but his retaliative blow encompasses both, severing an arm of one and a leg of another! Aedán, Angus and Heddwyn all show their quality on the field of battle as they conspire to fell others while Bradán attempts to rally his forces and Meadhbh presses her attack.
  • Upon seeing so many of their number felled so quickly, the few survivors attempt to retreat but Bradán’s orders – hold unless they break, then kill them all – result in them being chased down. Meadhbh kicks a man to death as Marcus charges the archer who makes one last attempt to drop one of the band with an arrow that the former Roman catches upon his shield; as the man flees, Marcus spies Echo who has finally deigned to investigate the noise and urges the hound to bring the archer down. Without a sound, the dog springs forward and attacks in the traditional method: hamstring to fell the man, then throat to finish him.
  • Meanwhile, Bradán has found himself engaged in a wrestling match with one of the last survivors (who is desperately trying to get away from the man known as “The Ruthless”) and the lord of Caerhun eventually gains the upper hand (especially when his sister approaches and kicks the man in the groin.) Bradán promptly loses his temper and beats his foe bloody with his bare hands before seizing a shield and decapitating him with the edge.
  • The would-be ambush has failed rather spectacularly as none of the PCs are even wounded (despite being without armor) and all of the enemy are dead.
  • And then…

GM Notes:

  • Game actually ended slightly after this but I’m going to make minor retcons at the beginning of next session to better elaborate what happens next. Nothing major changes, just some minor tweaks for flow.
  • My plan was always for there to be a coup against Owain but I was planning on doing it later. The dice disagreed: for the Summer Kingdom Check, I roll a Dangerous Kingdom Event that turned out to be … Assassination Attempt. So I decided the coup was a go!
  • The first ambush was an experiment of sorts. We use Fantasy Grounds to play so I generated 50 point characters for all players, then had them run those characters instead of their normal PCs. Two players – Andricus and Gigermann – were running Berthgwyn and Owain respectively, but Andricus failed a Dodge roll at the beginning so he took a spear to the gut, then missed the resulting Major Wound check by 6. So in the very first round, he was TKO’ed (until the spear-thrower, played by Ronnke, went over and coup de graced him.) Then Gigerman had no luck during the fight. He would connect and the target (didn’t matter who) would actually make the Dodge check (usually against a Dodge of 8!)
  • The second ambush was also fortuitous thanks to the dice. When planning this session, I wasn’t sure how to proceed but then, as I rolled against the PCs’ Enemies and Secrets, both Bradán and Marcus Enemies came up. So I decided “ambush!” The opening arrow shot literally missed by 1 (effective skill was down to 12 and the attack roll was a 13) so I decided Meadhbh’s warning caused Bradán to half turn toward her and catch the arrow on his shield.
  • Meadhbh killed a man by kicking him in the groin until he died. Ouch.
  • Afterward, it occurred to me that, since Meadhbh is about 3 months pregnant at this point, she’s very probably aware of this fact so I’m going to have to address that in the game in the next session.
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2x07, Up In Smoke

Act I: The Siege of Fort Nowhere

  • 7 September, 457 Anno Domini Nostru Iesu. It has been an interesting four months since Gwynedd opted to join the war to unseat High King Vortigern for his perceived treachery in wedding Rowena, the daughter of the Saecsen usurper, Hengist. There were many early victories, with the unified forces of the four kings – Gwent, Gwynedd, Powys and Rheged – easily defeating Dumnonia troops in several engagements, which has prompted many to suspect that the hearts of those warriors are not wholly engaged, as if they too are greatly displeased at this turn of events and are doing the bare minimum necessary their duty requires before retreating. The many Dumnonia soldiers captured seem to lend credence to this theory as more than a few swap allegiance once they learn the purpose of this war.
  • Three solid months of campaigning has paid dividends for the many. The warbands of Gwion, Marcus and Meadhbh have all drastically improved in terms of quality, having upgraded their equipment from salvaged spoils and learned many new tricks that make them far more formidible on the battlefield. Angus’ “little hawks” have improved drastically as well, turning into an extremely lethal force, and even Aedán has drawn some capable engineers and miners, though they are available less frequently than the others. Bradán doubles the size of his warband as his reputation draws more warriors who wish to march under his banner.
  • As the king bringing the largest number of troops onto the field (as well as the likely next high king once they depose his grandfather, Vortigern, Cadell of Powys has emerged as the public face of the four kings, despite his relative youth in comparison (he is only ~26). He is brash and overconfident, as well as a fairweather Christian (in that he pays lip service but is not truly devout or anything. Unlike Owain, he has an eye for the ladies and immediately hit on Meadhbh but has stopped upon learning she’s betrothed.
  • The king of Rheged – Meirchion the Lean – is clearly more accustomed to dealing with Picts than Saecsens. He is gruff and tolerates no fools. His nickname comes from his youth when he was thin and lean. In regards to religion, he is a apathetic to all religions as anyone can be and still be alive.
  • Muerig of Gwent is the new king of the region that the PCs grew up in and for some reason, he does not like them, especially Bradán for whatever reason. Like his father, Tewdrig, who had abdicated the throne many years ago to become a monk (thus precipitating so much of the trouble in Gwent), Meurig is a devout Christian … a fanatic, in fact, and even Marcus has trouble being in his presence for too long.
  • This leaves Cunedda as the most experienced of the kings in terms of war. He is deferred to in most things combat-related, which might be why the campaign has gone as well as it has.
  • In mid-August, just as the war seemed about to conclude, King Vortigern fled with his new wife to the east and his Saecsen allies. Much debate occurred between the kings as to whether this should be considered a victory, with the high king essentially abdicating, but Muerig of Gwent’s arguments won the day and the allied army pursued him. This, as it would turn out, was a mistake.
  • The Saecsens did not roll over like the Dumnonia troops did and casualties among the allied army grew. King Cunedda was badly wounded during a battle and forced to be evacuated; this would not be learned by much of the Gwynedd forces until later, by which time it was already too late.
  • During this entire campaign, Owain has been wounded numerous times – the man is just unlucky – and was recently rotated back from the front, along with many of the Rhos warriors & nobles. The general effectiveness in combat of Lord Bradán and his retinue is likely the reasons they have been kept in the field…
  • Six days ago, just as August rolled into September, the allied army met the Saecsens at a place called Crecganford (Crayford) … and it was a slaughter. Your army was caught out of place and flanked, and the baggage train with its supplies were captured and looted, and the Saecsens fell upon the panicking men with great fervour. Hundreds and hundreds of your countrymen fell as your battle lines fell apart. The Welsh routed in all directions, though most fled to Londinium. During the battle, Marcus was startled when an unfamiliar Welshman abruptly attacked him; he killed the man quickly enough, but he was unable to learn more due to collapse of the shield wall.
  • Bradán and his retinue did not. Instead, they retreated back toward Powys, alone save for their warriors. In the chaos, they were lucky they managed to rally their own troops and, for the entire six days, they were actively pursued by a large force of Saecsens. With no idea where Angus or Meadhbh are, they have set a grueling pace, intent on finding a more defensible location.
  • And finally, they find it: a long abandoned hillfort nestled atop a rocky hill. Here, they can hold … and hold they must as soon after they have reached the fort, the Saecsen host arrives and charges up the hill. There they meet a fierce resistance and are eventually repulsed, leaving behind dozens of their number dead or dying. Now that the more exuberant of the Saecsen warriors are downed, their commander settles in for an actual siege.

Act II: Arrows in the Night

  • As the Saecsens setup camp, the defenders turn to preparing the fort to hold against them. Marcus sets his warriors to assembling an internal wall that is only intended to slow any breachers, while Aedán turns toward rigging up as many traps as he can manage. Gwion, unsure of what to accomplish, opts to help Marcus with his construction. During this, Bradán studies the battlefield for any insight into the Saecsen commander; though the man is too distant to make out, it is clear that the commander is doing the same.
  • Heddwyn, however, opts to take another route. Relying on his eidetic memory, he constructs a [nithing pole], ensuring that it looks like there is a horse head atop it (even though there isn’t.) Climbing to the rickety walls of the old fort, he bellows out a generic curse in the Saecsen tongue before casting a quick spell that causes the pole to erupt in flames. The attackers are visibly perturbed by this action which Heddwyn considers satisfactory.
  • Night falls as the Saecsen continue to range around the fort and with so little food available to the defenders, Bradán decides they will conduct a commando raid instead of just starving. He spends a bit of time studying the various campsites before selecting their target; knowing that Aedán is noisy, he leaves the smith behind and instead takes one of Gwion’s archers in his place. The team stealth forward until they have visual of the camp and the reason this one was selected: the Saecsens here have not unhooked their horse from the wago.
  • Heddwyn softly announces that he will handle the horse before closing his eyes; a moment later, the horse jerks awake and begins dragging the wagon out of the camp. This causes some confusion from the Saecsens who are awake, including a pair who are currently roasting a squirrel over their fire. Echo, smelling the meat and being quite hungry himself, bolts forward, abandoning any attempts at stealth. His sudden appearance startles the warriors even more and mostly distracts them from the approach of the warriors, but the Saecsen file leader hears something and half-turns where he sees Bradán.
  • The fight is over almost before it begins. Marcus darts forward, Fragarach out, as Gwion feathers one of the warriors who is then felled by a charging Bradán. When the file leader swings wildly at Marcus, the former Roman retaliates with a swing that takes the man’s arm off completely. The third man, upon seeing two of his allies felled in but a matter of seconds, turns to flee but is even more discouraged when he sees an archer lurking there (who promptly feathers him.)
  • Meanwhile, two of the Saecsens are confused and startled by Echo’s charge to snatch the squirrel away before he darts into the bushes to consume his tasty meal. One of these men darts for a spear, his attention wholly focused on Echo, while the other turns to investigate the noise from the file leader; what he finds are three corpses … and as he opens his mouth to shout, Gwion feathers him. He collapses, just as the horse controlled by Heddwyn stumbles through a tent, rolling over a Saecsen who is just now rousing. The man screams in agony as his legs are broken, which most definitely rouses the rest of the camp and draws the attention of the last man fully awake who turns … and discovers his friend dead of an arrow to the heart.
  • The chaos this attack causes confuses the Saecsens long enough for the team to get the wagon back to the fort where they discover it does have food (although not as much as they would like.) Knowing that their enemy will attack in the morning, they ready themselves … and are waiting when the now discouraged Saecsens launch their hesitant attack. It is met by stiff resistance and is thrown back in disarray.
  • Having taken significant casualties, the Saecsen opt to retreat but Bradán is unable to contain the defenders from surging forward and conducting an all-out attack. The Saecsens are clearly caught by surprise, obviously not expecting the Welsh to abandon the hillfort, and are utterly destroyed as a military force in the course of the battle. Victory is once again Lord Bradán’s.
  • After spending a day to loot the battlefield and attend their wounded, the warriors continue toward the planned rally point near the border of Powys. There, the discover Angus and Meadhbh arguing with Prince Einion about conducting a potential rescue mission for the missing lord of Caerhun. Here, they also learn that the alliance between the four kings has thoroughly fractured – all four are furious and blame one another for the catastrophe at Crecganford.
  • King Cunedda has officially released his lords to return home, particularly since Autumn is coming and with it, Winter. By this point, Bradán and his retinue are the only Rhos force still in the field, with the rest having started back days earlier. From their current location, they are looking at twenty days on foot to reach Rhos.

GM Notes:

  • Was down two players for the session. No Angus or Meadhbh. Interestingly enough, by this point, Meadhbh is about 2 months pregnant…
  • Was pretty satisfied with this session although I had not intended on the entire session dealing with the siege. The commando raid threw more for a loop briefly, but it turned out very nicely. Since the PCs basically neutralized a Mass Combat “Unit,” I assigned an additional casualty percentage to the Saecsens. I also gave them a -1 penalty (initially) for the really cool nithing pole thing that Heddwyn mocked up and then, after the commando raid, increased this penalty to -2.
  • I am a little concerned at how utterly the PCs have destroyed their enemies during Mass Combat. This is the second session involving them being outnumbered 2:1 and taking 5% casualties while inflicting 100%. At this point, these enemies almost look like a paper tiger … although to be fair, the Impetuous trait the enemies have are lethal because it pretty much requires them to Attack in the first round, even when they shouldn’t. The PCs have retrained their own troops to remove this trait because of this.
  • The Battle of Crecganford is a historical event where the Welsh got their butts handed to them. As noted above, with the PCs winning their battles by inflicting 100% casualties, I have to figure out a way to actually make the Saecsens a real challenging threat.
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Realm Check, Spring 457

Upkeep

  • Kingdom Stability: 1d20+15 with DC 24. 2016-08-04 05:39:26 1d20 + 15 29 – this means successful check, so Unrest is reduced by 1 to 3.
  • Pay Consumption – it is 1, so Treasury is reduced to 5.
  • No magic item slots … I really need to figure out what to replace this with.
  • Modify Unrest – no attributes are negative (huzzah) so no Unrest increase. Don’t want the Loyalty score to decrease, so Idnerth does not attempt to reduce Unrest further.

Edict

  • Probably should have had Marcus given the job here, but oh, well.
  • No hexes claimed or abandoned just yet.
  • No terrain improvements
  • Built City Walls (2 BP) at Bryn Euryn. This reduces Unrest by 1 and increases Stability.
  • No Edicts issued.

Income

  • Nothing Withdrawn
  • Nothing deposited
  • Nothing sold
  • Collect Taxes: 1d20+6 with DC24, so this is going to be difficult – 2016-08-04 05:51:40 1d20 + 6 8. So nothing collected. However, due to the Quarry, 1 BP is gained regardless, leaving you with 4.

Event

  • 25% chance since there was an Event last season – 2016-08-04 05:53:42 1d100 13 Event (25%, Summer 457). Holy crap. EVENT!
  • Type of Event: 33. So, that is a Kingdom Event.
  • Danger Level of Event: 78. Dangerous Event.
  • I am not going to reveal WHAT the event was, because it s a SECRET!
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