We return to the Winchester Family’s adventures in Northumbria!
Editor’s note: According to a map that has come into our hands recently, it seems that Miles the Minstrel, who originally related this tale to us, mangled the story a bit, calling the hill where these events occurred ‘Bandits Rock.’ The correct name of the hill is ‘Brigands Rock.’ We have amended the tale appropriately, but it remains filed under its original title so as not to break the links.
Sir Garrett of House Winchester and his retinue are in the small village of Lakesend at the southern tip of Blackwater Lake. Having recently explored Wycliffe Island twice, they fought a number of desperate battles against creatures that they called goblyns, but these looked little like the creatures of myth that they were expecting. The nearby keep, under the command of Lord Balin Blackwater, is preparing for a massive goblyn assault, though the enemy army keeps vanishing in the rugged hills. For the moment, the Winchester retinue has decided to rest and refit for a number of days, and some members are also training. Ninth Moon is ending, with autumn hard on its heels. At the end of our last session, the companions were outside the Welcome Wench Inn at night, talking cheerfully when someone spotted what seemed like a human silhouette, peering at them from behind a copse of trees.
From the DM:
This was the session that almost wasn’t. Everyone has probably had a time when half the group is missing and you have to decide whether or not to play. We eventually decided to play, and it was a good time. The three players are strong role-players, which helped. Yet, I knew we needed some action (the last two sessions had been pretty cerebral). The players threw me a curve ball by deciding to investigate an area that I had not yet fleshed out. I had to come up with something quickly. We were glad to have played for another reason too. Two of our players were moving out west for college so this would be our last session with them until they return. I had to come up with a satisfying way for their characters to leave. Read more
This piece follows ‘Ants in the Darkness,’ a Beckett adventure of the Northumbria Campaign.
The session began with the PCs in an underground tunnel on Wycliffe Island, located on Blackwater Lake. After stumbling into a nest of giant ants, the party desperately fought its way out. A few caverns away, as they recovered, they had a stroke of luck and found a calcified chest containing many gems. Exhausted and wounded, they returned to the surface and sailed back to the small village of Lakesend. There they planned to rest, heal, and divide their loot.
FROM THE DM:
I found this session, which lacked any real combat, memorable because of the role-playing and the dialogue between players. You know that you have a good group when they can find great amusement and engagement without rolling dice. I just sat back and watched the how, taking notes. In addition, I had recently asked each player to cast his character with some famous person or Hollywood actor. I think this helped each player really visualize his character, and the dialogue seemed to come easy. This session also served one additional purpose for me as DM. The party had been unwittingly abusing the identify spell, forgetting that it requires a pearl each time. The write up helped to make this clear. Read more
Early in the campaign, the PCs traveled north on behalf of their employer, Master Krueger, to settle a dispute with a somewhat wild group called the Grimvalings. Kinsmen of Master Grimvalt and his bride Bricta, they lived in a large dacha just beyond the northern borders of Strakannian land. Grimvalt despises foreigners and intruders, and the meeting turned bloody. Diego himself struck the head from Grimvalt’s hulking shoulders. Many weeks passed without word from the Grimvalings. Unbeknownst to the PCs, Bricta used her pagan druidic magic on Samhain to revive the body of her dead husband, whose head she had sewn back on. She then ordered her henchmen to start leaving diseased animals near the walls of Arianport, threatening contagion unless the murderer, Master Krueger, was slain or turned over. The threats caused a near riot in the panicked town so the PCs volunteered to visit the dacha again to somehow resolve the dispute. Using her magic, Bricta saw them coming and led the Grimvalings south to ambush the party on the road. With her is her pet brown bear.
FROM THE DM
I designed this encounter to be a simple warm-up, but a series of critical hits and critical misses made the battle memorable. The Grimvalings proved to be dangerous in the wilderness, but Bricta broke off the ambush early, for she planned to kill the PCs at the dacha. Read more
The PCs just learned that their archenemies, the Black Hammers, had been in Arianport for weeks or more and had been behind a local smuggling ring to earn a steady income in this northern land. Though the PCs broke up that smuggling ring, the Hammers’ leader escaped, while other Hammers almost killed some PCs by immolation, first in a rowboat and later by setting the smuggling HQ aflame while the PCs were in the basement. Later, the PCs returned to find that the Hammers had also poisoned most of their hirelings and set their hunting lodge and stables on fire, resulting in six deaths and many casualties. One PC, Sir Tomo, rode to the Old Parish Church to get the aid of their friend and ally, Father Johann.
FROM THE DM:
This encounter was the culmination of some building tension between a PC knight and a local duelist, whom the Black Hammers hired to harass the PCs. He finally managed to get Sir Tomo alone. I did not arrange this battle in the snow to be a duel to the death, but the player surprised me in demanding that it be so. He was overconfident until a few rounds into the combat. By then it was too late. Yet, we played with house rules in which armor counts provides damage reduction so this fight was a classic of speed versus power. At the end, each combatant had about three hit points. Everyone at the table was holding their breath during the duel. Any textboxes contain text that I read during the game.
CAST OF CHARACTERS:
Diego de Vargas: Fighter and party leader
Simi Longblade: Fighter, Diego’s right-hand man
Sir Tomo Daegun: Fighter, Diego’s noble friend
Gabriel Lucien: Thief, Diego’s spymaster
Darocles Soterion: Magic User, Diego’s salvage master
Ogedai: Ranger, Diego’s Illuk (think Mongol) ally
Master Holgrim: Duelist Read more
Another tale from the Exploration of Isenwald campaign!
The party discovered a smugglers’ ring a few miles outside of Arianport. After clearing out the “haunted” house overlooking the sea, which the smugglers used as a base, the PCs learned more of the smuggling operation. Their archenemies from the south, members of an elite company called the Black Hammers, had followed them to the northlands and had settled in Arianport, where they planned to undermine all of the PCs’ work. Indeed, the Black Hammers were behind this smuggling operation. Unaware of this, the PCs accepted the request of the town council to destroy the smugglers. Therefore, the PCs lay in wait in the haunted house, along with detachment of town guardsmen, waiting to spot the smuggler ship, the Seegeist. Simi and some town guardsmen plan to ambush the smugglers that come ashore to the cave beneath the haunted house in a rowboat. Meanwhile the other PCs plan to row out the smuggler ship and take it.
FROM THE DM:
This session posed an interesting challenge. The PCs would try to board a crowded enemy ship in the blackness of night and then seize it. Considering the freeboard of the ship (the height of the side above the waterline), it seemed almost impossible. The PC magic user really proved the difference in this encounter with his floating disk and levitation spells. Simultaneously, a smaller battle would ensue on shore (this battle is not recorded below). Also, this was the party’s first run in with the Black Hammers so I wanted to make an impression. Almost all of the smugglers were hired swords, not Black Hammers, so the PCs would cut through them, but the Hammers had to somehow prove to be difficult. The PCs were victorious, which led to the big reveal—the Black Hammers are in town! Yet, this encounter started a pattern of the Hammers being one step ahead or at least always able to hit back.
The inserts contain text blurbs that I read during the game. Also, we used critical hit and critical fumble tables, which explain some of the narrative, like Ogedai falling repeatedly. It was amusing!
Another tale from the Exploration of Isenwald campaign!
Not long after arriving in the northern land of Isenwald, the party had made an enemy of the selfish knight Banneret. They had defeated his band of knights and custrels in a barrier combat during a spring festival in Arianport. Unhappy with the loss, Sir Andreas Fuchs and his men later ambushed the party to steal the winnings. The party defeated them, and Diego was merciful. However, Andreas Fuchs took this for weakness. After attracting a few more swords to his band, he followed the party northwards to the Cloister Mine and witnessed the Battle of the Muddy Fields. His men then laid a careful ambush for the weary party.
FROM THE DM:
This session was the closest we came to a TPK (editor’s note: that’s “Total Party Kill” for those unfamiliar with roleplaying parlance), at least to this point. The PCs were already at half-strength when I hit them with a fresh band of armored knights. I pushed them to their limits, but the players responded well. Ironically, the PCs won the battle when all the main fighters were down or dying. The peace-loving thief (he would say spymaster) of the party turned the tide with a magical whip! This encounter gave the PCs tremendous satisfaction because they killed a worthy foe that they hated. Read more
Michael Garcia returns with another tale from his Exploration of Isenwald campaign.
Having defeated the Eaters-of-the-Dead after an extended campaign, the party then won control of the Cloister Mine by legal means, namely by out-producing their rival Varyag claimants (envision Russians) in the span of one month. During that time, a third party of claimants attacked, but the party defeated them too. Finally, now in control of the mine, the party learned that the leader of the Varyag claimants was none other than the corrupt Orthodox Bishop of the nearby town of Arianport. Unwilling to yield the mine, but always eager to keep his hands clean, this bishop, or Yepiskop, dispatched a group of mounted thugs, the Oprichniki, to take the mine by force.
FROM THE DM:
This was our largest battle to date in this campaign (roughly 60 to 30). It was also the first time that the party saw specific spells that they often used cast against them. The PCs had to develop larger-scale battle tactics while contending with rain and challenging terrain (a muddy field surrounded by hills, plus the mine entrance). I also learned that a carefully crafted NPC might perish with a single roll of the dice. Creating that NPC was an hour of my life that I’ll never get back, but it made the player feel like a demigod. Lastly, the fate of the party’s spell caster at the end gave us a good laugh (the player role-played it perfectly too). The following write-up also gave one character (Sir Tomo) his nickname for the rest of the campaign. Don’t underestimate the effect of a decent write-up.
This is the debut article in a series of memorable and entertaining roleplaying sessions from the CGG membership. Michael Garcia kicks things off with a session from his Exploration of Isenwald campaign.
The party members are southerners that have traveled north for many weeks to foster a business relationship with their employer’s good friend. As a favor to the local baron, they went by horseback to inspect a silver mine. On the road, they stumbled upon a battle in the fog. Mysterious beast-men, whom locals called Eaters-of-the-Dead, were attacking dozens of pilgrims. The party rode to their rescue, and in the process made allies of the soldier-monks of Moragiel, who patrol the roads to protect pilgrims. After the battle, the party and the knights were escorting the pilgrims north to the royal fortress of Grenzenburg.
FROM THE DM:
This turned out to be an interesting session because it was different. The PCs were racing against time to rescue a wounded kidnapping victim. With daylight dying, they had to track the Eaters-of-the-Dead, catch up to them, and somehow save the victim. I designed the trail to end up high up in the hills, on a narrow rocky road that winds along a cliff face. After many dangerous skill checks, the Eaters-of-the-Dead had a small ambush for the would-be heroes. The rescue party was small because speed was important for the PCs. Thus, the dangers seemed greater than normal. Read more