Friday, November 22, 2019

Myths of Lemuria, parts 3 & 4 combined

I realize my blog has flagged and fermented, but, Glory be! I had a game last night! Meeting with my fellows, including the fine players of Agroc, Garde, and Brom, we continue from here with the Myths of Lemuria campaign report. No, this is not a solo report, but a Hangouts small group that plays Barbarians of Lemuria. So sue me! Back sometime around May of 2018, we had our third session. I never wrote a play report after that session, so our collective memories are somewhat sketchy. Last night was our fourth session.



Session three involved the heroes arriving in Lysor aboard Pavo Rin’s captured ship, the Sea Drake, along with their “crew” — intended victims rescued from the clutches and machinations of the black druids back in Urceb. Once anchored, it is not long before they meet a friend of Pavo, Orlar, captain of a vessel moored at the harbor. Orlar challenges the heroes, and the harbor master gets involved. It is resolved, but not without grudges.

By night, Orlar and his men raid the Sea Drake. The heroes, expecting some duplicity, repel and kill the captain and his men, disposing of the bodies. The Sea Drake is partially burned in the process. The next day, the heroes cut in the harbor master on the spoils, selling what remained of the ship and stores.

This signaled an advancement. The following downtime events took place:
  • Brom learns of a harlot – owner of the Winking Wench in the Warren (seedy north part separated from the town proper) – who needs the night lotus, a rare flower in the dangerous bogs; the Afyraneum — the temple devoted to Afyra — also houses the flower in their guarded garden under the dome; she will help the characters to flee the city
  • Agroc gets into debt after gambling and must spend two weeks fighting in the pits to win his freedom
  • Garde buys supplies, but also pays an old crone who knows a secret way through an old crypt in the cliffs that leads secretly into the bottom of the Afyraneum
The heroes continue their new adventure. Using their loot, they have bought kroarks to make a later escape from Lysor when they have finished their quest. Rat, the rescued errand boy of the black druids, has vowed to join the three on their journey. He agrees to stay behind at the Winking Wench to guard their kroarks while the heroes plunder the Afyraneum. Before leaving the Wench, the heroes notice a fierce warrioress with blood-red hair and teeth filed to points loitering in the common room. She is both repulsive and at the same time strangely alluring; and she can out-drink any man. Although she never seems to speak, she notes the heroes comings and goings.

Garde’s contact, an old crone, leads them into the cliffs overlooking Lysor to an entrance behind a small cascade. There, a warren of tunnels leads into an old crypt that eventually joins with the new catacombs under the Afyraneum. Through this way, they can gain entrance unnoticed.

Inside the ancient crypt, the pass through wet caverns, slick with algae. Agroc takes a minor spill. They soon join to an ancient looted crypt, likely pre-dating even the establishment of Lysor as it is currently known. Their exploration takes them to an iron door which Brom opens, but they quickly get lost within. Inside one of the tombs, they find a sarcophagus in a cramped little chamber. The lid is off and the occupant writing something in a strange script on the walls. A dead being by the name of Thuzzul-Khan demands they find the wrist bones of someone in the new crypt under the Afyraneum and return to him. In exchange, he instructs them on the way to the under-temple.

Fast forward a year and a half, and we pick up with SESSION FOUR — starting from the new crypts of the temple. Again, memories were foggy and I made several mistakes from overlooking notes, so not all the details were consistent. But fun was had (I believe), nonetheless.



Picking right up, the three heroes explored the new catacombs. The encountered two attendants, men charged with removing detritus from a recent ritual. The companions cornered the two and coerced their help. They were terrified by the sudden and unexpected heroes’ presence. First, they were led to the tomb of he who Thuzzul-Khan directed. Disarming a sarcophagus that was charged with poison gas, they found within only some fine linens and a glass jar containing only the minute wrist bones of someone long deceased.

One of the two crypt keepers escaped. However, the heroes were little concerned. They coerced the remaining captive to lead them to the access point into the temple. Dorn, their captive, did as he was asked.

However, when they came to the lengthy stairway leading to the temple proper, Dorn’s escaped companion was leading two temple guards down into the catacombs to find Dorn and the looters. The three heroes laid a trap for them, injuring Dorn’s companion and quickly incapacitating the two guards.

They got a quick layout from Dorn about the great temple’s features…a main central dome housed the Jungled Atrium, where the night lotus was known to lay. A jungle of wild and tended foliage grew under a beautiful dome with great crystal windows. It helped create one of Lemuria’s most beautiful architectural wonders. Only the high priestess and her entourage were allowed within the atrium, and even then only on special holidays of the new moon. A keeper had a set of keys to the main entry — a great pair of bronze doors.

Four towers marked the corners of the temple, and each had such amenities as the harem (priestly dormitories), the vaulted library, the shrine of crystals, and the baths of new life along with its attached vestment room. The heroes made for this direction. The hour was pre-dawn, and they crept easily undetected there. After choosing their appropriate priestly disguises, they decided the best way to the Jungled Atrium was to climb a tower and gain entry from the outside of the dome, down to a grand balcony, and then to the atrium floor.

They parted ways with Dorn, paying him well for his service, and offering the promise of death if he should double cross them. They attempted a furtive entry into the atrium, but the crystal window through which they were trying to pass shattered. They entered quickly, repelling down a line of rope.

Inside, they noted the wild thick growth, well-tended paths, fountains, and gardens. They made for the center, but Brom, the Valgardian barbarian noted the presence of something bestial. They lit a torch, and immediately a massive two-legged reptilian predator leapt out of the foliage to attack them.



This was a pet bronyx (a small chark, or T-Rex) that served as the guardian of the precious night lotus. Although there was much chaos and awkward fighting space, Brom killed the primordial monster in two very powerful blows. (In truth, a bronyx is a very formidable opponent. Brom’s player rolled boxcars twice…in a row! on each of two rounds. These he augmented to Legendary Successes with two Hero Points, thereby scoring about 20 damage each. This is a very uncommon occurrence.) After its death, they noted a collar and harness about the beast.

The horrendous shriek of the beast alerted the temple guards. In the center pond, the three found the lotus and took it. They made their hasty exit, climbing up to the dome, and repelling off the outside wall of the temple to disappear in the city streets outside the grounds before they could be located.

A heist (nearly) perfectly executed!

The three returned to the Wench where they gave the prize to the very surprised harlot. She planned to produce a powerful intoxicant from the precious flower. Inside the Wench, the strange red-haired warrioress remained, watching the three intently. The group still planned to re-enter the ancient catacombs to deliver the wrist bones to Thazzul-Khan. Agroc decided to find out more about the woman.

In truth, this woman was a lesser demon in human form. They learned from others that she was thought to originate from Zalut, the City of Magicians. In actuality, this was a summoned demon who worked for Tharungozoth the Slaughterer directly. Unable to control it, the demon devoured its summoner and slew Morgatha, an infamous Zaluti assassin, taking her place through disguise.

Agroc was charmed by the demon, and she let it be known that she wanted the little onyx statue he still had from their exploration of the undercity of Urceb. Agroc’s companions managed to pull him away from her in order to complete their delivery to the undead sorcerer.

This they did, traveling back into the cliffs overlooking Lysor. Thuzzul-Khan got what he wanted. But when the heroes climbed back out to safety, they encountered the demon impersonating Morgatha just before leaving. By this time, Garde had possession of Agroc’s statuette for safekeeping.

Brom knocked out Agroc to prevent their ensorcelled companion from doing anything unwise, which drew many laughs among the players. Morgatha drew her blade and charged Garde, now bent only on obtaining the statuette. She was a formidable opponent, and again, Brom managed to land the killing blow. The demon was reduced to a foul sizzling pool of black ichor. Agroc remained unconscious during the fight, and Garde was seriously injured.

However, they had accomplished what they set out to do, and the messier, the better! One note to myself, I feel BoL works well with only 2-3 heroes. Any more than that makes it difficult to balance encounters to provide enough of a challenge. BoL characters are very competent! I’m finding I’m already having enough trouble challenging Brom in particular. He is a tank that can do little other during combat than melee with his trademark Valgardian blade and well-endowed Agility and Strength. Granted, rolling boxcars (and many other high rolls) made it a more extreme example. The other characters are perhaps more balanced with points spread more evenly over their attributes and combat abilities. As a result, they got their share of scrapes and bruises.

Poor Agroc! Not only would he not his wedding dreams with Morgatha crushed, really unfortunate rolls plagued his evening. We hope that won’t prevent his player from returning in two weeks for session #5. :-)

Next session, the heroes attempt a dangerous overland escape from Lysor over dangerous wilderness atop irritable kroark mounts. What could go wrong?

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

SoloAModule — Dragonblade: Heroes

Continued from here (my #SoloAModule proof of concept) is my second post for 2019 Solo a Module Month, in which I discuss the heroes. In adapting the Dragonlance story to a different setting with wholly different themes and tone, the original characters, as much as I enjoyed them, just won’t do. But they still provide some inspiration. Why not take a look at the original Dragonlance trilogy’s iconic roles to help design Lemurian analogues?
  • Sturm – honor, from a disgraced/unpopular faction
  • Tas – troublemaker, comic relief, confidant of the gods
  • Flint – stubborn, wise veteran, doting fatherly figure
  • Goldmoon – chosen one, true priestess
  • Tanis – outcast, conflicted leader, the responsible one
  • Laurana – coming of age tag along, entitled upstart to noble leader
  • Caramon – physique, heart of gold, torn down by his brother
  • Raistlin – frail, magical power, dark heart, destiny
  • Riverwind – protector, underdog hero
  • Tika – female extension of Caramon, with a bit of Lauranian coming of age
  • Kitiara – ambition, skill, opportunist
I would never contemplate running so many characters (although running Untold in default mode is a breeze, since an action allotment makes it no harder to run a bunch than just one character), so some roles and concepts will get rolled up into one or else discarded entirely. Some are clearly NPCs (namely, Goldmoon, Riverwind, and Kitiara), and so can be exported to such uses when the action necessitates.

For my #SoloAModule PC ideas, how about a dishonored noble on the run with lots of experience who has taken a savage refugee princess under his wing? There’s a little of Sturm, Riverwind, and Flint to go around in that one concept.

We need a troubled Tanis figure, which has enough complication already wrapped up in him not to require another role thrown in. He could have his romantic interest tag along coming-of-age person with a heart of gold (Laurana, Tika, Caramon) always on his coattails.

Could you guess? I’m throwing out Tasslehoff, because I see plenty of trouble without throwing in everything he implies. Not that I hate Kender or anything, really. He’d just be me least favorite to have around when I’m consolidating roles into a reasonable number.
A mysterious, troubling magician type will be there, of course; maybe even someone who is secretly a morgul (vampiric type) from the Lemurian setting. Naturally, that’s our Raistlin counterpart.

That’s four, plus an NPC to represent Goldmoon when the time is right. Still a big number for me to run for a solo game, but that will do fine. Although Untold recommends setting a first scene before introducing the characters, there are different implications at play here. I’ll go ahead with introductions now…



Severan Shildmont

Strength 2, Agility 1 (0), Mind 1, Appeal 0
Melee 2, Ranged 0, Defense 2, Initiative 0 (-1)
Noble 1, Priest (Fyrzon) 1, Knight 1, Vagabond 1 
Origin. Satarla
Languages. Lemurian, Ygddari
Traits. Arrogant, High-born, Marked by the Gods
Lifeblood. 12
Hero Points. 6
Fate Points. 1
Trappings.
  • medium armor (protection:2, -1 agility)
  • small shield (+1 defense against one attack)
  • helm (+1 protection, -1 initiative)
  • sword (d6)
Born of the House of Shildmont in Satarla, Severan was mentored and brought up to be a scion [noble], his father, Avitus, a notable advisor to the king himself. As all high-born boys were bade, Severan became a disciple of Fyrzon the Steadfast, where he learned honor and the word of his god [priest]. When the priests there anointed him at the end of his trials, he entered the Order of the Battered Shield, the King’s most trusted circle of guardians, and highest of all knights in Satarla [knight]. Alas, misfortune and woe fell upon the Order when its leaders were accused of corruption. So deep did the malfeasance run that few escaped its taint. The order was broken and its members were hanged or driven away in dishonor. For years since, Severan has wandered far and wide to try and restore the order’s once great standing by protecting the oppressed accordingly an obsolete code [vagabond].

Jafar

Strength 0, Agility 2, Mind 1, Appeal 1
Melee 1, Ranged 2, Defense 1, Initiative 0
Hunter 1, Beastmaster 1, Minstrel 1, Trader 1 
Origin. Qush Tribesman
Languages. Axian, Lemurian, Malakutian, Shamite, Ygddari
Traits. Beast-Friend, Distrust of Sorcery, Jungle-Born
Lifeblood. 10
Hero Points. 5

Trappings.
  • light armor (protection:1)
  • bow (d6)
  • daggers, 2 (d6L) 
Born among a tribe of reclusive men of uncertain origin, Jafar excelled in jungle-craft and hunting like many of his kind [hunter]. Even among his kin, Jafar had something feral within him more akin to the beasts he frequently hunted, even attracting unto himself a shaggy wolf named Graul [beastmaster]. He traveled often deep into the jungle where his brave kin dared not go, delving secrets, and picking up bits of ancient poetry and knowledge some say he either found amongst forgotten ruins, or was given him by strange spirits [minstrel]. Nonetheless, he oft passes on such esoteric knowledge and wisdom which has proven useful countless times among his closest friends. Not wholly wild, and actual possessed of an out of place trustworthiness and likability, he is friendly to city folk, picking up gossip and swapping tales and learning new languages [trader]. He has a hatred of sorcery, the bloodless, and other unnatural summoning. As such, his tolerance of Raz-Thuzzul wears thin.

Graul (shaggy wolf companion)


Runa

Strength 0, Agility 2, Mind 1, Appeal 1
Melee 1, Ranged 1, Defense 2, Initiative 0
Barbarian 0, Slave 0, Serving Wench 2, Mercenary 2
Origin. Axos
Languages. Axian, Lemurian, Shamite
Traits. Born Athlete
Lifeblood. 10
Hero Points. 5
Trappings.
  • light armor (protection:1)
  • small shield (+1 defense against one attack)
  • duel swords (d6)
  • daggers, 4 (d6L)
  • sling (d6L) 
Runa, a fair-skinned Axian, was a shaman’s daughter among the tribe of the black bear in the foothills of the Axos [barbarian]. She wasn’t old before her village was raided, and she was taken as a slave [slave]. Sold, she worked for an owner of a tavern in Shamballah [serving wench]. Her master was very abusive toward her. It so happened that the first time Jafar saw her was in this tavern taking her lumps. Jafar intervened, slew the owner, and helped Runa escape. She immediately fell in love with him, but he rebuked her as an empty-headed girl. Since, she learned the art of warfare and worked several hard years  among mercenary companies, including the infamous Legion of the Eldaphon [mercenary]. Reuniting again with her friends, they begin to see how she has changed into every bit their match in arms and equally fearless.

Raz-Thuzzul

Strength 0, Agility 1, Mind 4, Appeal -1
Melee 1, Ranged 0, Defense 3, Initiative 0
Slave 0, Vagabond 0, Sorcerer 3, Alchemist 1
Origin. Zalut
Languages. Beshaari, Giantish, Lemurian, Malakutian, Sea Tongue, Sorceric (read/write), Valgardish, Ygddari
Traits. Arrogant, Cravings, Delicate, Distinctive Appearance, Magic of the Sorcerer-Kings, Obsession (Power), Power of the Void, Unsettling
Lifeblood. 8
Hero Points. 5
Arcane Points. 15
Craft Points. 1
Trappings.
  • sword (d6)
  • dagger (d6L)
  • scrolls and tomes
  • one bloodthirst abatement potion (3 doses)
Raz-Thuzzul (formerly Rastil) is a pale and black-garbed figure of frightening aspect when un-cowled. He has few memories of his youth before he was a slave upon Zalut [slave]. And how his masters had tormented him! He escaped the Sorcerer’s Isle by luck and wits to wander the ports of Lemuria [vagabond]. He chanced to meet a few friends during his travels and even lent them what aid he could. A turn of fate graced him. He chanced into his old slave-master again at the Port of the Sea Lords and there slew him. He returned under his master’s guise to Zalut and learned sorcery and dark secrets through the many works his master owned, as well as through mentorship under a powerful servant. By agreement with this fell being, he became one of the morgul, exchanging his soul for the power he sought [sorcerer]. Still in the early changes of this transformation, he can still pass as a man. However the urges of blood have began to creep over him. He mastered a concoction that grants a momentary relief from his urges. Animals and children sharing his company exhibit fear or anxiousness.

Together

The four heroes have crossed paths many times. Their trials and tribulations have oft centered around the twenty gods of Lemuria. The debates continue on whether or not only the dark ones truly exist, for the twenty have not directly intervened in the betterment of man for more than an age. Were the names and natures of the gods merely myth only to give man a sense of hope that not all was dark or lost? The legends of the  orb-blade wielded by the previous age’s heroes are the true evidence of what connects the gods to Lemuria. But did such heroes and such a blade truly ever exist?

For the last five years, these old companions ventured on their individual quests to answer these questions. And now the time of their reunion drew nigh…

In my next post, I begin episode 1, The Road Travels East.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

SoloAModule — Dragonblade: Abstract



March is Solo a Module Month (SAMM). For my 2019 #SoloAModule month entry, my thoughts dwell upon Dragonlance. How does one solo a module? Last year, although I hadn’t gotten far, I used Mythic to determine whether established setups as presented in the book were true or not. That way, some parts might be recognizable, but the new life it took on maintained the element of surprise.

This year, I want to find a way to use Untold: Adventures Await. This product guides a structure to create an episodic story game. The Dragonlance modules are very railroaded, by design. I’ve approached this setting (especially with regard to the original trilogy) multiple times with very limited success. I always muse over where I go wrong, and chalk it up to the nonmalleable nature of the setting’s established canon. Other than my readership of the first trilogy, I’m also not very savvy on the intimate details of Krynn.




The idea then hit me… what happens if I use Untold with Dragonlance, using each module chapter to present a context of interpretation for each episode? Furthermore, to free myself from setting paralysis, what happens if I adapt the story and its themes to a wholly different world? Now that’s an idea I can easily work with.

Dragonlance is about heroic action and ebbing a new tide of evil. It’s also about the gods, once regarded as dead, returning in an active way, and holy relics being bestowed upon unlikely heroes in their fight against evil. My current go-to is Barbarians of Lemuria. What if I adapt the story to Lemuria? Of course, just by its strong sword and sorcery roots, it’s going to be quite a different beast. Other than both being fantasy worlds, there aren’t too many similarities between them. Nonetheless, Lemuria’s first age of man has the orb blade made of ore cast down from the heavens. Could this be the analogue of the blue crystal staff or the legendary namesake weapons? Dragonlance has the return of mythical dragons and the rise of a strange new race of evil draconic progeny. There are plenty of critters that can take these roles in Lemuria, including some lesser form of demons.

I’d dub this game for now, Dragonblade.

Using each module chapter’s themes, ideas, and generally character roles, these elements will form a very powerful context for interpreting Untold scene events and help direct questions. If some of Dragonlance gets retold whole-cloth in the new setting, so be it. At least its new cladding will breathe in new life. However, I know that won’t happen. Invariably, it’ll be its own thing. Nonetheless, I’ll be drawing heavily from the module’s events, chapter for episode, thus helping to drive the project.

Will I make through a module? Likely not, but we’ll see if I can sustain a few episodes and enjoy the twists and turns enough to see how recognizable the original will be.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

North of Lemuria, Episode 5 (Untold/BoL)

This one took longer than expected, but was more satisfying. An epic feel developing here. This was also my first chance to try out the mass combat rules for BoL. I enjoyed the heroic actions which mesh nicely with Untold. Lots of ways the story can go from here, and I’m excited to find out what. With holidays coming up, things will likely slow.

Episode 5: the BATTLE of LOR’S FIELD


ASARA the BLUE

Attributes. Strength 2, Agility 1, Mind 1, Appeal 1
Abilities. Melee 2, Ranged 1, Defense 1, Initiative 0
Careers. Barbarian 2, Blacksmith 0, Healer 1, Thief 2, Champion 1

Origin. Valgard
Languages. Axian, Lemurian, Valgardish
Hero Points. 3
Lifeblood. 12
Traits. Battle Harness, Can’t Lie, Cursed, Feels the Heat, Quick Recovery, Trademark Weapon (Valgardian Long Sword), Tundra-Born
Trappings.
  • Chain Mail Bikini (2)
  • Sword (d6)
  • daggers, 2 (d6L)
  • 10 loyal rabble
  • Manda (tough) — Minstrel 1, Thief 1, Appeal & Mind 1, Ranged & Defense 1, 5 LB, and a dagger
this time with Mythic and Original cubes

With the loyalty of King Hevik of Volgar bought with the goblet, the combined forces appraise their might against the forces of Tolech. However, little is known about the northern villain’s arsenal. King Kalvar and King Hevik begin to summon the petty lords of the outlying lands.

A Dangerous Dilemma

In Bernd Keep outside the fringes of Volgar, a mysterious and reclusive lord Jark, a duplicitous, lazy, and repugnant man refuses to join Kalvar’s host on account of his lands being razed and invaded by a breed of giants. He claims to need his fighting men for the protection of those subjects under his protection. Kalvar is furious, remembering personally how Jark maligned him many times in the past.

Manda steps forward at the gate of Bernd Keep. “Would it help if we resolved your dispute with these giants?” she asks, trying to find some accord with the lord. However, Jark tells them to be off. Without Jark’s men, the army cannot hope to win against the forces of Tolech.

Asara languishes as the lords bicker and cast churlish names at one another. It is a standstill and valuable time is eaten away. The lords seem to devolve to infantile name-calling, having taken leave of their faculties. Finally, she approaches King Kalvar, trying to dissuade them from their course through strong words. “We cannot tarry here! This man is a waste of all our time. Let us summon more men elsewhere…”

Her words are convincing. Although Kalvar will not let past deeds lie, he agrees to be off.

The Plot Thickens

Little do they know that the giants in question are being directed by a man with an agenda. Marro watches the standoff at Bernd Keep from his hiding place with glee. His giant-sized minions — beastly men with huge gait and warlike demeanor feast on the dead from their most recent conquest.

“What do we do next, boss?” one of the larger ones says while smacking his lips.

“Get your brothers. The seeds have been planted. We act soon!”
They seem pleased by this pronouncement.

An Heroic Undertaking

The host moves onward not in a direction whereupon their hopes had rested — but further south toward Stalheim to beg of King Karik’s army. Amid the vastness of Lor’s Field, an empty cup of tundra where often the shaggy parvaluses graze, the host is being followed by Marro’s beastmen.

Asara and Manda follow the host, taking their turn to watch the stern of the train. They spy the host of giants following them. Asara alerts Kalvar. “It seems Jark was not wrong about giants,” she remarks. She notes the long strides their hunters make. “We can’t outrun them,” she says. “Their plan is most likely to decimate our numbers before we can muster a sizable force.”

She looks about for a place that might serve as a good place to make a strategic stand, however, the landscape is well chosen for a conflict. There is no feature near which to leverage in battle. Is the curse still at work? Asara wonders.

Army Details
  • Kalvar’s Army — Infantry Rating +1
  • Beastman Army — Infantry Size -2 (due to being physically superior giants)
  • Battlefield/Supplies/Sorcerer — no rating
  • Commander — Kalvar grants +2 while enemy grants -1
  • That nets a 0 on all rolls
The allied army sets in, using the time to ready their lines and weapons. Some take to digging a rudimentary rampart in the cold earth with their tools, setting a few stakes. Asara sneers, knowing it will amount to little. She wanders up and down the line, taking note, and delivers fierce words to rally their hearts. “You are noble Valgardians! You fear nothing! Nothing can kill our spirits. We have lived in the frigid north of Lemuria for thousands of years!” They respond with cheers.

The host waits as a line of massive bestial looking men approach. Most likely, these giants were bred in secret, perhaps even with some mixture of sorcery or alchemy.

Finally, the enemy is upon them. Asara takes the fore, wielding her blade and hoping that her curse will not turn things awry for her or the group. Some of the men have taken to Asara, agreeing to follow where she goes. These make up her flanks. 

Giant (Tough)

Attributes
Abilities
Strength 3
Attack +0
Agility 0
Damage d6H+3
Mind -1
Defense 0
Lifeblood 8
Protection 1

Three ugly brutes charge Asara. She stands her ground. One nearly guts her. Futilely, she puts her sword up to block. The sword breaks from her grasp and is flung from her hands. Immediately, a bright light flashes out. The giants, in their surprise, shriek in horror.

Asara gets a sudden vision from when she is very young — too young to have understood the meaning at the time. However, now the memories come flooding back. She remembers her father handing her his sword and a commotion outside — raiders. “They must not take this sword, little one!” he had said to her. “Run and hide in the woods. Take the blade. It is old — much older than Valgard herself.”

Back in the here and now, Asara wastes no time. She goes for her daggers and lunges, taking advantage of the momentary surprise caused by the flash of light. She strikes, using both. It puts her much larger foes on the defensive, long enough to score two nasty hits on one. Another strikes savagely, numbing her off-hand and knocking away one of her daggers. She is left with only one and still three extremely savage foes.

She swivels suddenly and hamstrings the one that hit her. The savage falls and flails, trying to staunch the flow of blood. The others vie with her as she tangles too close for effective use of their large axes and clubs. None hit, but one clubs the foot of his companion. Asara uses the distraction to finish off one bloodied giant, leaving only the lame one remaining. He hops on one foot. She swings around the back of the vile thing, wrapping her legs around his thick neck. She digs her dagger into its artery, dropping it dead to the ground. She rolls off.

The closest allies witness to it cheer out, bolstered by her bravery. She recovers her sword. It appears miraculously undamaged. The first several minutes of the battle prove deadly. Several men lay in ruin or dying. Over the course of the hour, the tide turns somewhat, but not enough.

Fetching her blade and dagger, Asara, bloodied and bruised as she is, seeks out the toughest brute she can find, which is not hard. Towering above the others is the captain of the giant skirmishers. A foul hunter that stalks King Kalvar.

Leader (Villain)

Attributes
Abilities
Strength 4
Attack +3
Agility 1
Damage d6H+4
Mind 0
Defense 1
Lifeblood 14
Protection 2

Asara pushes through the throng and faces off with the giant. “You’re fools for tangling with us!” she swears.

“Bah!” He lunges, but Asara is quicker. “I’ll feast on your dainty bones, wench!”

She sticks him, but it is barely a scratch to the behemoth. The giant takes a backhand swing which knocks Asara to the ground and nearly blasts the life from her. She shakes off the stupor and rights herself. She lunges again, missing. She ducks another deadly blow. She scores a hit, but it seems she will need to strike a hundred such blows to bring down the giant.

Getting her feet under her again, she tries to fight smartly with small seemingly inconsequential blows to wear down her enemy. After many exchanges, the plan seems to work. Then the giant makes a fundamental mistake and brings down its guard, revealing its flank. The killing stroke comes through the beast’s ribs. The leader staggers and falls.

From there, the footing between Kalvar’s men and the giants is more even. The men gain momentum against the savages. The battle rages, with losses on both sides. Then the giants begin gaining on their enemies.

Finally, Kalvar routes the remaining giants who give up and turn. It is not a decisive victory, and the dead and dying lay over blood-covered tundra.
  • Asara ends with 8 Lifeblood and 1 Hero Point remaining (she can heal to full again)
The Truth Revealed

Asara, once a healer among her people, works where she can to staunch the flow of blood. Among the dead, Kalvar examines the giants. Each bears the mark of Tolech.

“You were right,” he remarks to Asara. “They were working for the enemy — their attack was not in vain. We have lost many!” Heavy is the King’s heart, and grave his voice.

“The battle may be indecisive, my lord,” says Manda. “But the war is not lost. Take heart and do not give up!”

The Final Showdown

King Kalvar and King Hevik collect the dead and wounded and begin the slow trek toward Stalheim to bury the fallen and beg for King Karik’s aid. However, the host will yet again be attacked. Behind them and allied together come the combined forces of the remaining giants and King Jark’s army.

“So!” remarks Kalvar to his counterpart. “Jark has truly betrayed us.”

There is no hope to reach safety before the faster moving armies approach. Manda and Asara survey the grim situation. They cannot now hope to win against an overwhelming force with their spent and weary.

“There is no dishonor in surrendering now to win another day,” Manda urges.

“These men will not so easily give up,” Asara says. Too well she knows the eagerness of the Valgardians to sacrifice their lives when a cause kindles their sense of duty and loyalty. Grimly, she notes to herself that the curse has followed her to the very end.

Asara turns to the kings. “Those willing can stand and fight, and give you both a chance to escape. We can not afford to lose you. If we hold out, you can bring reinforcements from Stalheim.”
Kalvar refuses, but Asara presses him further, impressing the need for unity and a cause. “Otherwise, we all die here today in vain.”

Reluctantly, the two Kings relent. They quickly lure a shaggy parvalus and a second to ride and quickly depart. Asara summons the captains of the remaining forces — fierce and loyal men. They look with admiration upon Asara.

“Here is the plan…” she professes her desperate plan to surrender, engage King Jark to delay the inevitable. Only when they had the element of surprise would they strike.

“Stay your swords until my command!” she says.

Manda and Asara again wait at the fore. The minstrel waives a white flag in the air, holding hands up to placate their enemies as the host approaches. “Hold! Peace! We have an offer to propose!” she cries.

The ploy works! King Jark mounted upon his parvalus puts a hand up to halt his combined army — sized more than enough to easily crush the remaining men. Each of Kalvar’s loyal followers place their swords on the ground in submission.

“Well done,” Asara whispers to Manda.

“State your terms!” Jark shouts smuggly.

“We must speak!” Asara. “These brave men have chosen me as their leader now that King Kalvar and King Karik have abandoned them.”

“My purpose is clear,” Jark responds. “Why should I not let my minions slake their lust for blood and sweep this paltry lot aside so not to be a thorn in my side?”

“Because we can join you,” Asara says bluntly. The ploy works. Jark, being an ambitious, if lazy and an underhanded despot, sees the potential for greater power.

“Why should I trust you?” he asks cynically.

“I know Kalvar’s lands, where he is hiding, and can give you all that was his.”

The bait is taken. Jark dismounts. A pavilion is erected and the two begin talks. Asara is not afraid to let real intelligence from her lips because the plan — the only plan — is to crush Jark and his giants utterly once Kalvar returns with reinforcements from Stalheim. She just needs to draw it out as long as possible.

Asara begins explaining slowly to keep Jark occupied. In the meantime, Jark’s forces have surrounded the surrendering men under their watchful guard. However, Jark is not a patient man.
“You bore me,” he says languidly. “You have given me nothing I could not have easily taken on my own.” To his commander, he orders, “Kill them all…”

“Now!” Asara yells. She draws her blade and bears down on Jark himself.

King Jark (Tough)

Attributes
Abilities
Strength 0
Attack + 1
Agility 1 (0)
Damage d6 (sword)
Mind 2
Defense 1
Lifeblood 5
Protection 2

Careers. Noble 2
  • Jark has 5 minions (rabble) surrounding him.
In a panic, Jark falls back, but Asara is faster than his five attendants. She slays him where he stands in a single stroke. The others fall upon her. She evades their blows and drops one. Several more press about her, but she perseveres through their assault taking several nicks and cuts. Several exchanges moves the skirmish into the open, where she finally defeats them.

Battle rages around her. Asara leaps to protect Manda. The host takes severe losses before the horns of Stalheim blast the air. A line of mounted cavalry thunders across the tundra toward the doomed men. The enemy line breaks. The cavalry rides past, hunting down the escaping beastmen and Volgardians. Many of these latter they spare as they cast away their weapons.

However, the giants perish to the very last.

To Be Continued

The losses to Kalvar’s original force are heavy, but many survive to fight another day. In total, Kalvar’s ranks swell with the addition of Karik’s forces. Although half of Valgard now stands under one banner, it is not enough to decisively end Tolech’s threat. Clearly, more will need to be done.

Asara is heralded as a hero. Kalvar also thanks her for uniting the men of the north, something that hasn’t happened for many years. Also King Jark’s treachery is something that had been a lingering problem for many years. That is one less obstacle to eventually overcome.

“You will be a fine Queen one day,” he says.

Still, there is much to do, and time is no longer on their side. Can they hope to muster forces before Tolech’s army spreads south? What horrors and surprises await them at the warlord’s disposal? Was Asara’s curse the cause of the many deaths? Asara finds little solace in her success knowing she could be both the north’s hope and folly at the same time.
  • Asara ends with 6 Lifeblood and no Hero Points
  • She is still cursed and begins play next time with only 3 Hero Points