Blessed Empire

Inaugural session: 27 May 2011

We are on the western frontier of the Empire, in the fortified frontier city of Brsic, site of the only bridge over the River Prut.

It is the summer solstice. As action begins, we are about 10 miles out of town at a solsticial festival. We open in the festival bazaar, mingling in the crowds, engaging in competitions. As a group we do fairly well. Mik wins a laurel crown in a general strong man competition. Kriv wins a combat contest.

There is revelry, and most of the participants go home. We are left with a couple dozen others on the site, along with the died-down central bonfire and an alchemist’s wagon. Most of us are surprised when wolf-riding goblins and orcs enter from the north, but not Cruhorn and Listar, who drop some bursts on them as they try to enter and break up their assault. The raiders kill one of the drunks, but following the initial bombs dropped by Seeker & Sorceror we obliterate the rest of the invaders without much trouble. We now have to herd the civilians out of trouble and into safety. The problem is that it’s ten miles to Brsic, through area that seems likely to hold more attacking raiders. And if we want to somewhere else, it’s more like five days to Peskn, the next nearest fortified town to the east; the coast is a fortnight away to the north.

On one of the raiders was a set of Sylvan Armor, which goes to Mik. A Hunter’s Flint becomes party treasure, carried by Kleft.

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Session 2: 3 June 2011

We have our 24 civilians whom we have to see to safety. Another group of invaders sweeps in from the west as we are getting organized. This force includes a Curse Skewer. They kill one civilian but we have relatively little trouble wiping them out. From the magic-user we get a + 1 1Robe of Contingency (which goes to Listar) and a + 1 Staff of Ruin (which goes to Kleft), and about 220 gp in loot the goblins obviously stole on their way in. The Hunter’s Flint goes into Bonkk’s custody.

It is clear that we are now being pursued by a force of unknown size north of us. We decide to try evading them and driving our civilians — and the ox-drawn alchemist’s wagon — hard for Brsic. We lose one refugee in this process, but pick up two other strays. Cajoling the noncombatants forward, finding an easy trail through the forest, and clearing the rough spots in it when we come upon them, we get within sight, if not hail, of the city walls. But: the enemy is already there, and there is a thin besieging force between us and entry. The enemy is not far behind us, and there are more forces to the west as part of the ring around the city. And there is the minor issue that the city defenses will need to be convinced we are friendlies, not invaders, before we can enter.

Driving our civilians forward, we move ahead to engage. There is a bat-handler whom Listar bombs and halves his quartet of attack bats. There is a double-armed cook with unspeakable filth on his weapons.

We chew through this initial cordon force in a confused, scattered fight, getting several civilians wounded but loaded onto the wagon. We kill the cook before he can put his toxic steel into anyone. The civilians move ahead during this fight, multiplying the confusion, but about the time we finish off the original cordon, the enemy’s reinforcements pile in from the force to the west.

Kleft goes to a creek/ditch dividing the battlefield whihc represents the limits of the walls’ firepower and shouting distance. He hails the defenders on the walls; they recognize him and now we will not have to experience “friendly fire” on the way to the wall.

It is getting late (real-world wall clock time) but we do have a battle line established behind which civilians can run for safety. We can also get our own forces concentrated and meet the new invaders together rather than in scattered packets of violence. Our GM rules that we can handle the situation as midnight comes and we make it into the city without any more dead, and with some loot: 420 gp in coin, a Frostwolf Pelt (my notes don’t indicate who got that), and a Helm of Opportunity (which goes to Bonkk2. We are able to take our first extended rest inside the walls of Brsic.

1 If you use a plus sign at the start of a word in this text body, then the OP formatting underlines everything until the next plus sign and neither gets printed, it seems3. You can get a plus sign to appear only if it is in a word by itself, or embedded within a word. This is irritating because the very common D&D construction of a plus sign followed by a number needs to have an extraneous space between plus and number in order to appear anything like what you want (e.g., that + 1 Staff of Ruin that Kleft got). This seems to be a limit of Textile formatting, and Textile seems to have something of a bizarre history.

2 If he has the benefit of Kriv’s class bonus, then on opportunity attacks Bonkk at level 1 with the Helm, his Fighter Combat Superiority feature, and the Ardent bonus, will be + 13 to hit with the greatspear, and doing 1d10+6 damage. Of course, there haven’t been any such opportunity attacks yet, and that damage is still less than the Sorcerors’ basic ranged attacks.

3 Leading with an asterisk has the same kind of effect but puts the enclosed text into boldface. This is less of an inconvenience than the plus-sign thing.4

4 Yeesh, that’s 45 minutes of futzing with a limited formatting utility flushed down the toilet.

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Session 3: 17 June 2011

We add another party member, Heskan Patrin Longtooth, a Dragonborn Star Pact Warlock. We now have two leaders, one controller, one defender, and seventy million bazillion strikers. That’s probably too many defenders, but gotta let people do what they want.

We have a couple of days in Brsic. It is apparent that this is a truly massive assault. Mostly goblinoids, but there are also some flyers: griffins, manticores, air cavalry sort of things rather than large-scale dragons (at least that we have seen). The news is that it’s bad all over, and the entire frontier is under assault. The Empire hasn’t seen one of these in a long time. There is a rumor that the teleport circle in town has been corrupted. As far as is known, the Feyroads work, but there is an enemy army between the walls and the Feyroad terminus at the moment.

We elect to partition the cash loot we’ve collected so far into individual parcels, so that’s 80 gp in each party member’s pocket. Cruhorn buys another gun or two. In retrospect, the rest of us should have loaded up on other gear, like potions and ranged weapons for those without viable long-range attacks.

The official word is that the town’s food stocks can hold out for a year, but folks with sense can tell that the supplies really can hold out only a few months. The battle is likely to be long over before then. Other non-food supplies like bandages, arrows, spare weapons, etc., are in better shape, this being the major Imperial depot on this frontier. About half a legion is here, with an intact command structure. Our Dragonborn sergeant has his unit fleshed out with Level 2 rabble.

We spend a couple of turns on the walls, and while a few shots are taken, there isn’t any hot action. It is apparent that the encircling forces on this side of the river are not preparing for any major assault; they are just keeping the perimeter closed.

We are summoned to the general and given a secret mission. The oracles have not been good. The enemy seems likely to take the western bastion, which is a major fort on the other side of the river, linked to the city by a multi-arch bridge. The bridge is 300 yards long, and it can be reached with flyers and boats by the enemy. We must set charges in two of the pillars of the bridge so it can be demolished. Three such teams are being sent, of which we are one. We are given the charges and instructions on how to emplace and arm them. It will be a bit of a trick to get them properly placed, but we can do it. We will have to go out in boats, and there is a substantial current here a couple of days after the solstice. Boat crews are available to flesh out our operation.

The enemy clearly are preparing a boat attack, which could go as early as tonight, from the reports from the west bank.

We have a long wrangle and decide to go split the party into two boats and try to place the charges in parallel.

On approach, there are enemy swimmers at the bridge piers, and something else also out between them in the water. Boat 1, commanded by Kriv and taking the eastern of the two pillars assigned to us, hooks onto that pier. The swimmers there opposing us are Bullywugs. Probably more of the same at the western pillar, for which Boat A (under Sasha’s command) is making.

The free-swimming enemy, when we can finally make it out, is a black wyrmling and a couple of water elementals. These attack Sasha’s boat. Under concentrated attack, the wyrmling is killed, but their elementals sweep Cruhorn and Kleft overboard with a wave blast. Lots of minions are lost. Boats with goblins are seen to be pulling for us from the opposite shore.

The Boat 1 crew dispatches their lot of Bullywugs and Mik plants the charge on the eastern pier. They start making for the other pier, in support of Sasha’s boat. Sasha’s artillery spotting has been flawless, as the first goblin boat is sunk and its payload of minions are scrambling around the far side of the west pier to get into action. Cruhorn and Heskan and Listar take care of that first goblin boat’s leadership.

By this time the minions/oarsmen on both of our boats have been decimated. Kleft and Bonkk get to the pier and to the point where they can climb to set the charge after despatching a Bullywug or two, but both PCs have been chewed up. We exhaust our party healing, but Bonkk is in the Bullywug Mud Lord’s face, so that artillery is neutralized. Listar bombs a second goblin boat and wipes out an entire dozen minions. Its two non-minions have yet to be attacked, but their boat has no motile power and they will drift downstream.

There are two off-map distractions. The western bastion is falling. And the command tower in the city bursts in flame.

2350 PDT: we suspend action for the night, with the encounter still running, though its flavor is about to shift.

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Session 4: 24 June 2011
The Fall of Brsic

“… The bastion is toast,” the GM said casually before he sat down, settling some confusion among the players about the state of things at the end of last session. It is now a few days after the summer solstice.

The headquarters tower in town burst into flame all along its height. It is not falling down, but it is on fire.

When we resume, Kriv is unconcious and Sasha has taken command of both boats. She orders Kriv’s boat, the smaller, to be evacuated into hers, leaving only two oarsmen to keep it in place astern of hers. The mayhem continues much as last time. Bonkk’s first opportunity attack of the campaign kills a Curse Skewer. Minion goblins make it around the north end of the pier and start piling into Lann, though the bursts and zones laid down by Cruhorn and Listar keep them under control. More goblin boats come on either side of the bridge; these also are dealt with by our area attacks and Sasha’s calling in of cannon fire from the east shore.

The goblins bring in a giant archerfish and a handful of vicious trained vultures. There are also some light missile troops mounted on hippogriffs in the air above the bridge; we & they cannot target each other while we are under the span. The archerfish is missile troops, and the goblins on the boats launch volleys of javelins at us. We take damage and lose more oarsmen. Of course, the goblins take casualties as well.

There is a rush of friendlies retreating from the fallen bastion. The bastion commander throws down a cloth-wrapped parcel telling us to make sure it doesn’t fall into enemy hands, and to hold off the enemy down here for three turns and then blow the bridge. He is killed cinematically right after he passes this on.

Kleft is minionized, and Mik scales the ladder and places the charge successfully. That is a significant achievement and triggers a recovery: everyone gets the option to spend a surge or regain an encounter power. At least one PC is out of surges after this. We pull the last two oarsmen off the smaller boat, cast it free, and pull for open water on the downstream side of the bridge. We take more damage, but we get clear and set off the charges. There are big things on the bridge — elephants, giants, ogres — when the charge blows and they are cast into the river. We make our escape and get a short rest.

When we get back to the town, there is confusion. People are evacuating the city. We get a berth at the dock and get to a cohort commander at dockside. We are told to flesh out our boat, carry a bunch of magic items … which he implicitly tells us are ours to use … and 20,000 gp if residuum … and the Severed Arm, which is what’s in the parcel thrown to us by the bastion commander … and tells us to get it to the capital. We also get 4 healing potions and mundane equipment as exists near the docks.

The cohort commander tells us, “They came through the teleport circle, and they were too many. Especially the big one, a Balor.” Demons came through the ’port circles. The commander keeps looking back at the tower as if he expects the demons who came in to break holes through the walls at any moment and start sacking the town.

We draw a team of legionnaires and auxiliaries as the backup grunts on the boat. There is discussion about which way to go, but ultimately we decided to head upriver — south. There is a skill challenge to get clear of the falling town. Most of the other boats leaving town are used for only short distances, as people just get past the encircling cordon to flee wherever they will. We stick to the river for rather longer than that. We are not targeted in particular and if there was anyone pursuing us in particular we don’t know it, and there is no sign of pursuit after the challenge. We get an extended rest.

We start discussing division of the magic items. We are now level 3 (!!). We will be on the run now through wild lands, fleeing east and south to the capital.

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Session 5: Riverbank Kruthiks

The GM handed out Misfortune Cards at the top of the session. Whooppee.

We are on the Krut River south (upstream) of Brsic, with a crew of 16 minions, and the Hand of Vecna. We use some foragers to ttry to stretch our rations, with mixed success. Our likely progress upstream on the river this time of year is about 15 miles a day. Our load of Residuum is in the Bag of Holding, carried by the Kleft. Kriv the Ardent is carrying the evil Hand.

Cruhorn spots several of the goblins’ attack buzzards, off at a distance: they seem to be on spotter duty. The birds are based on both banks of the river, it seems, but north of us.

A couple of days pass uneventfully without our being spotted (as far as we can tell), but there is a small campfire ahead very close to the riverbank. We elect to send a scout part of four: Mik, Lann, Cruhorn, and Kleft. They find a Halfling riverboat, whose crew responds with alarm when Kleft goes forward and hails them.

Kleft passes on the news of the fall of Brsic. The Halflings aren’t hostile, but they are very suspicious, and dubious about our story of an invasion. They want us (as part of our general duties as Imperial legionnaires and auxiliaries) to take out some Kruthiks which are nesting close to the river a couple of miles upsteram and preying on things in the river and on both banks. There are about a dozen of them, perhaps. We do well on Nature rolls so we have a good handle on what we are up against.

We decide to try getting past them in our boat on the river then attcking from the southeast, with the idea that the smell of dead kruthiks will drive others to the northwest, into the Chaos Lands from which the invasion is coming. This approach doesn’t work: several are on a bluff on the West Bank, see us, and the hive pile into the water to attack. We try making for the east bank but get hung up on rocks somewhat short of the bank: the boat is not holed but it is damaged, and it is immobilized for the fight.

The kruthiks approach in two waves, with the Hive Lord (who is an L6 Elite Controller) in the second wave. Fighting them is annoying because they have auras, and there are a couple of swarms which take half damage from regular weapon attacks. We do dispatch them eventually (which Kleft rolling a critical hit on his L1 Daily power, and getting the most beneficial random secondary effect from it as well) and plunder their nest, finding 800 gp, a Belt of Sacrifice (which goes to Kriv), and a + 2 Amulet of Resolution, which goes to Bonkk. We also win the friendship of the Halflings, and Captain Jaromir and his crew repair our boat. We take an extended rest.

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Session 6: Boat Fight with Turathoi

22 July 2011

After an extended rest (and we didn’t lose any of our minions, either!) we part company with the Halflings and continue upriver. The goblins’ trained vultures — their aerial scouts — are being left behind, but we are making only about 15 miles a day along the river … less than that, obviously, as the vulture flies. We figure we have about 50 more miles of upstream travel before we will be obliged to change our mode of travel.

Two days later, with a spectacular perception roll our lookouts spot a lone figure on a bluff overlooking with river: he is in hiding, and probably a lookout himself. He is on the east bank (that’s the Empire side), a cloaked humanoid sitting in a tree. We decide to land, send the stealth team up, with the boat going back to midriver and making upriver progress. With normal rates and the winding of the river, the boat will not quite keep up with them. As before, the stealth team is Cruhorn, Mik, Lann, and Kleft (the last tagging behind at a distance).

Our sneaks get within 200 feet of the figure, when the latter obviously spots the boat on the river and scopes it out. The figure is a Half-Orc, who vocalizes and two other guys — a human and a Tiefling — come out of the brush and they converse. The discussion is in Common but is hard to hear, but it is clear that this trio is not the whole of their group. It is apparent that the point the three occupy is the best lookout vantage point for keeping watch on the river to the north. During their conversation the boat does see the extra two figures, and after a minute, the Tiefling trots off over the far side of the bluff.

At that point the boat maintains position in the river, and Cruhorn and Mik set out after the Tielfing. Cruhorn is spotted and challenged by the Half-Orc, who eventually sends the Human down after him as the “negotiation” dissolves rapidly and weapons come out. The boat witnesses some of that exchange, and everyone hears Cruhorn’s gunshots. The Human is subdued, but the Half-Orc bunnies, bellowing, “The Imperial Legion is here!” Mik traps and hogties the Half-Orc, but hears a couple dozen people further south, where smoke from a campfire is visible.

The whole stealth team converges on Mik and the Half-Orc, and learns from him that “We’re Turathoi,” (more fully, Pitoturathoi, a loose alliance of people dedicated to the restoration of Bael Turath … the people are, of course, outlaws in our Empire). There is a patrol coming, so our folks try to stealth their way back to the boat (which has moved toward the east bank), leaving the prisoner behind with his gob stopped with a wad of leaves. They hear bickering once the patrol gets to the Half-Orc after they head off.

There is a pursuit, but it breaks off when it’s clear they cannot stop our guys from reaching the boat. After collecting the landing party, the boat rows for the west bank and heads upriver. Taking a short rest, we decide to just try running past them in midstream. This plan dissolves almost immediately, because we see they have a boat that is larger than ours, with an upper deck (sort of) and substantial screens around the sides so they can shoot from cover. They also have an animated arbalester, some heavy firepower.

We stand in and have a firefight, with our boat manuvering past them and then pulling alongside and grappling. Listar and Cruhorn are targeted in particular (since they lay down zones that do a lot of damage to the enemy) and get put down as the two boats lock together. The melee is short but sharp, and Listar is all but knocked out again by the mage’s dying shot (Mik croaked the mage), and Sasha gets into the below-decks space, makes some mayhem, but pays for it. Some of their oar slaves come over the side onto our boat to escape, but with our melee types breaking in and cutting up their leadership, the remnant surrenders with just six left. Among those six is the Half-Orc lookout.

The arbalester was destroyed in the firefight but could be rebuilt. We will be receiving a packet of information and our actions will be determined after we get that. We lose one of our minions, and there is some loot collected, but as it is 0015 PDT we break with a promise of information to come.

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Session 7: First Nip at a Siege Train

After we accepted the surrender of the Turathoi, we took stock of the survivors (which included the annoying Eladrin and the Half-Orc archer) and the slaves we freed, and tried to get information out of them. Kleft & Sasha started first, with Heskan coming in after in the “bad cop” role, while Kriv attended to people who’d been hurt. Our interrogation doesn’t do very well. The Turathoi will give their parole, a year’s worth of not taking up arms against the Empire.

The lookouts can see two significant rising dust clouds, about 10 miles away the south and heading east.

From the unspoken manner (i.e., an Insight check) of the Eladrin … he thinks we are clueless, hopeless rubes. The inference is that these Turathoi know about and are allied with the invasion at the very least, and it could be these Turathoi think that the Turathoi are the ones who are behind the whole thing, and they believe we have no idea what is coming down. The Turathoi have massed an army and made alliances with demonic forces … “Power is power” … and the army is making straight for Evik. “For numbers, get goblins. For strength, Orcs. For power, go beyond this world.”

Comparing notes on what we can get from the prisoners and the lookouts, it seems that the leading group of the two dust clouds is larger and on foot, while the second group is smaller and wheeled. They are on the Feyroad that is nearest to us, but we can’t tell at this point whether they are making use of the enhancement of the road.

“The column you see has engines of such power that you have never seen the like.” It is probably a couple of weeks out before the enginess’ assault can start, though the goblins will probably assault first, and take losses, which clearly is just fine with the Eladrin.

(Personal opinion: Whether the Turathoi really are the major motivators behind the invasion is not something I expect we could get for certain from a motley group like this one, but it seems clear that the guys we captured from this group thinks they are.)

We send the freed slaves downriver to the Halfling boat; these slaves are not combatants but enslaved local civilians, and want no part of the fight we’re going to. The paroled Turathoi we deposit boatless on the west bank.

We decide quite quickly on a major path: we will see if we can attack the siege train.

There is some nuts & bolts to be dealt with, repacking for an overland march now, and distributing the loot we got from the vanquished. The loot includes

  • + 2 Elven Cloak, a neck slot item (which goes to Cruhorn)
  • + 2 Amulet of Health, a neck slot item (which goes to Heskan, whose old + 1 Amulet of Health is “on the table”)
  • + 2 Orc’s Eye Amulet, a neck slot item (which goes to Listar, whose old + 1 Brooch of No Regrets goes back “on the table”)
  • + 2 Psiweave Cloak, a neck slot item (which goes to Kriv, whose old + 1 Frostwolf Pelt goes back “on the table”)
  • Coif of Mindiron, a head slot item (which goes to Sasha)
  • + 2 Luckblade Fullblade, which goes to Lann (and his old + 1 Fullblade goes into Sasha’s custody for now, though she has not got proficiency with it yet)

There are also three potions: Health, Life Shield, and Firebeetle, the distribution of which we did not specify. (Oddly, I have no notation in my notes of what we did with either our boat or the one we captured from the Turathoi.)

The march to the southeast goes quickly and we get to a copse ahead of the siege column. Our arcane types can tell that yes, the invaders are using the Feyroad’s magical acceleration power. We see about twenty wagons in all, and two great bombards, and four other cannon. The artillery all are inscribed with magical symbols, and they lack touch-holes; we cannot examine them well enough at distance to tell exactly what they do or how they are fired. The gunners are Duergar, of whom there are about twenty; there is a company of about 50 Orcs, and a couple of dozen Tieflings, who seem to be in charge. The bombards are each drawn by a quartet of Trolls, while oxen draw the other vehicles. There are also four trebuchets and ten supply wagons.

(Clearly there will be more in the way of supplies following behind this group if the siege is to last more than a day or two.)

We decide on tactics: we will try harassing at range, trying to pick off anyone who comes out after us; fire-arrows at extreme longbow range is an obvious start. The archers will withdraw ahead of anything closing with us, and we’ll see if we can wipe out that force on ground of our choosing.

We try setting up a cold camp to get an extended rest just out of striking distance, and while we get the rest, the invaders are not harassed by us and send out a recon party after us before we can try an ambush against their column. Their recon party is not up for the task, however. The ten or so Orcs and half-dozen Tieflings (and their allies; there also was at least an Imp of some sort) are overwhelmed by us: Cruhorn turns one of them on our left flank into a sparkling light (whom we leave alive while we beat up those around him) and most of the action is there with Lann in the thick of it, but Kriv and Bonkk nail down the other flank. Only two of them escape.

We take a short rest (we lost some of our minions, I think, but I don’t have a number recorded). The session ends at 2345 local time, and we have at least three weeks before the next session is to occur.

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Session 8: Siege Train's Mounted Party

Session date: 2 September 2011

In the wee hours … we have had a short rest, after nearly wiping out the siege train’s initial recon party … we have a discussion about whether to follow up immediately on that success or to try to get an extended rest in to restore daily powers and healing surges. (Action points are not an issue, since the fight with the initial recon patrol made for a milestone.)

We decide to try for the extended rest, partly because while the enemy may not get a good handle on our numbers from the survivors, they will know our whereabouts precisely. So we move down the road (toward Evik) and camp again, about a quarter mile away, in another defensible spot with a good view on the enemy’s likely lines of approach.

In the middle watch there is a patrol moving toward us, mounted this time. It is moving approximately toward us, at a fast walk, obviously searching. We make some attempts to divert them from our camp (we have a nice invisible fire, thanks to our Hunter’s Flint) so that we can get our rest in and step up the psychological pressure on the enemy by disappearing. However, we do not succeed in a minor skill challenge to shift their line of motion away from us, and they blunder unawares into our camp and into an ambush.

The enemy is all mounted on horses, Tieflings and Orcs, and some unmounted but flying imps. Some of them are minions: most of the Orcs seem to be, and so are the imps, but the imps pack an immense punch. Kriv is knocked out by a cluster of hits from a Tiefling and an imp, and it takes Cruhorn slamming a healing potion into him for Kriv to avoid the real death from two sets of ongoing damage inflicted during that cluster on top of the considerable direct damage inflicted. Also, the damned warhorses are combatants too, and do as much damage as anything else. We get most of the enemy, but one of the four imps — all of whom went invisible at the outset of the battle — does not reappear and we must assume it went back to report. An Orc archer-scout also survived the ambush and escaped. There is no loot.

So we must assume they know we with our minons are two or three dozen in number, while in this fight they lost about ten humanoids, three imps, and some horses. This is on top of the losses they had earlier from the first recon patrol. From what we think we knew about their force before, they have suffered the loss of a big chunk of the siege train’s covering escort.

When we get a scout near enough to report, there is a ruckus going on in the enemy’s base camp, that must have begun immediately on return of the survivors. We set up an ambush on the road for them, and we capture a mounted Orc, a courier with a message pouch. The message is in Common, with a comment, “They are stronger than my previous message indicates.” The message indicates the siege train is mobilizing to move up in a hurry to the rear guard of the besieging force outside Evik, and the siege train commander reverses his earlier message and now requests reinforcements.

For a variety of reasons we decide to attack now. The psychological factors are about as favorable as we could hope to get: their commander is clearly rattled, and they cannot yet have all their draft animals harnessed and ready to move so at least some of their personnel must be performing that task. On the other hand, their force is one we cannot hope to wipe out in a stand-up battle. They have four large trolls, a couple of dozen duergar (whom we guess to be the gunners), the command structure of about a dozen tieflings, some 30 orcs, an unknown number of imps, plus draft animals and wagons. As we approach we can see they are hitching animals.

We are minus a bunch of surges and some daily powers, but we hope we can disrupt the train — perhaps to the point where it cannot move without receiving substantial reinforcements either from ahead (i.e., the army at Evik has to send a force back) or from behind (another invading army element catches up from the rear along the Feyroad). In a dream result it’d be nice to capture and destroy the guns, but that almost certainly is impossible.

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Session 9: Shattering Victory

9 September 2011

It is the wee hours, probably about 2 AM. We have had a short, but not extended, rest after overwheming the mounted patrol.

We have a debate about our course of action. Points made or asserted:

  • We should attack oxen, not trolls. The trolls are beyond our ability to fight (well, we could take one or two if that’s all there was, but not with anything else), and our achieveable strategic purpose is to delay the arrival of the siege artillery at Evik.
  • Recollection: Our arcanists would need about an hour unmolested in order to blow stuff up in the siege train’s ordnance. Capturing a Duergar might accelerate that process.
  • Opinion: If our minions become engaged in melee, we will likely lose them all.
  • Suggestion: Stand off at extreme range, launch clouds of fire arrows into the enemy, and run away when they come out after us.
  • Point of information: Evik is about a fortnight’s march by ordinary foot, 3 or 4 days by Feyroad.

We approach the wagons along/near a ravine. We are successful with a group stealth check and get into position without being detected.

We see a couple of “Duergar War Wagons”: armored wagons with a single-person castle-type turret on top. There are also Rage Drakes (which are Level 5 Brutes and can be used as mounts) and other wagons. All the wagons are closed up with solid roofs. There are oxen in the process of being hitched up. There are a number of Duergar, all with chainmail, warhammers, and crossbows.

We deploy anchoring our flank on the ravine and open up with a longbow fire arrow volley from the range limit. Only folks with longbows (our minion archers, Cruhorn, and Bonkk) can shoot; everyone else watches, guards, and ignites fire arrows. We do surprise the enemy, and bring down a few oxen (who are two hit minions) and a Duergar. The enemy reponds by piling into their wagons, even the Rage Drakes. Our shots on their wagons have no apparent effect, but we do drop more oxen. They start returning fire with a gun in one of the war wagon turrets, and it has sufficient range to reach us: Listar is hit.

We break off, seeing a trio of mounted figures and some imps riding hard up their left/our right side from the enemy’s rear. These move only to cover against a melee charge and do not advance on us. We withdraw into the night.

We have short rest, heal Listar, and our sneak-scouts come out of the ravine to scope out what the enemy is doing. They seem to have called in their patrols and are circling their wagons into a laager, with everyone in or under wagons in full cover; the animals are within the circle.

We hae another debate what to do. Eventually we decide to continue our attacks, and circle their position and make another extreme-range volley attack from a different direction, and then (assuming they do not come out after us en masse) we will withdraw, circle to being upwind of them, and start a grass fire that will move in through their position. And, we are out of here by the next nightfall at latest.

The subsequent encounters are handled abstractly, as both sides repeat their tactical choices. We take no losses, hit a few more oxen. They shoot back at us and miss. Kriv makes a couple of dragon-roar intimidation attacks from the darkness. When the grass fire burns into their position, the trolls open the downwind side of the laager and the remaining draft animals (oxen and horses) are chased out of the circle; for the most part they stampede off toward the north, spooked by the fire. Everyone else is in wagons, even the drakes and the trolls(!).

They are thoroughly demoralized and in full turtle survival mode now. The fire is ineffective against their wagons, but the wagons cannot move now, unless they have trolls pull them, which means only four of the 30 or so could be drawn. We estimate there are about 20 Duergar and 50 others holed up in there. As the fire washes past them, we do another intimidation, demanding that they explode their powder in order for us to let them live.

We do another withdrawal and circle in the dark, and send in their dead courier, with his message pouch, tied to his horse, toward the laager along the road from the Evik side. The horse is shot down as it approaches. We repeat an intimidation and include a taunt (which includes a demand for tribute of half a dozen rifles), to which they do respond. Watching them, it seems the Orcs are outside doing things with powder kegs. Kleft does the talking, naming himself “Kleft Farwalk of the 18th Imperial Legion”. A troll pushes a small cart out toward us, and withdraws back to the laager on command.

General Abdesh Mun (a Tiefling) of the Turath Artillery surrenders, and their party walks out along the road away from Evik. We are told the General is a Level 9 Elite Controller. The withdrawing people go some ways off, and we can tell they make some arcane chant, and then the wagons explode: they have destroyed their siege guns rather than let us capture them. We do collect the cart and have half a dozen Duergar-made rifles, each with 25 ball cartridge.

Kriv shows himself, announces himself as “Kriv, of the Imperial Militia”, at which the enemy general pauses and nods to himself, as if the appearance of a Dragonborn confirms things he suspected all along, and they turn and depart.

We distribute the rifles among people who can use them: two each to Cruhorn, Sasha, and Bonkk. We head off to the south, almost perpendicular to the Feyroad, making for the Imperial Capital. The battle for Evik will now be a siege of a fortified city rather than a direct assault once the walls were destroyed.

We are now Level 4, and much toward Level 5 to boot.

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Session 10: Meet the Emperor

6 January 2012

(This begins Chapter III)

(We are missing Kriv’s player tonight)

We arrive in Vostir, the Imperial capital, in a coaster merchant boat, having hitched a ride for us and our troops once we reached the southern sea. The city and surroundings is crawling with activity. We have it from the boatmen that the Emperor is putting together a huge army that he intends to lead.

Kleft, Bonkk, Kriv, and Listar go to the Port Admiral’s office to report the party’s arrival and the urgent need to pass on news, our report, and certain artifacts to the high command. The rest find a space big enough to hold them, keep mouths controlled enough to suppress what we saw at the Fall of Brsic and certain other demoralizing bits of information.

Admiral Straton sees us almost at once, once we get to his office and encounter his guards. We hand over the first copy of our report, and show the Hand to the admiral and his arcane experts; the latter blanch visibly. We report reversing the enemy siege train, and running into the talkative Turathoi. The admiral is visibly discomfited at being told the enemy are summoning demons. He directs us to find lodgings and that we will go to the Palace the next day, ordering us to appear at the admiral’s office at dawn.

The troops near the docks are plied hard for news, and while we suppress some uncomfortable bits, there is some boasting about the victories we did win: Mik spins a great yarn. There is some open revulsion at the nonhumans (Lann the githzerai, Cruhorn the razorclaw shifter, and Mik the half-orc). We get news ourselves: the invasion is massive, and from many directions: south, southwest, north, and over the south sea.

The next morning we get everyone up, march to the Port Admiral’s, and report our presence to the admiral. En route and while waiting outside there is again clear displays of racial bigotry from the locals, though dragonborn are notably omitted from the sneers. Cruhorn and Lann return the contempt with their own impressive demonstration.

The admiral comes out promptly and we march to the Imperial Palace. We go to the Purple Gate. We are admitted to a lobby space, and given food & drink while we wait.

Listar is asked for a personal interview by a richly dressed dragonborn. This is Lord Zatik, the Chief Emissary from Arkhosia, the de facto ambassador! Listar is offered the rank of Huntsman under the Master of the Hunt (who is in effect both the head of spies and the minister of state in the dragonborn state), and is offered a retainer fee; he would in effect be an agent for Arkhosia, is given a badge, and 800 gp worth of gems. He is given a sealed scroll and asked to present it personally to the Emperor. The Emissary is clearly very pleased that his offer was accepted.

The whole party then are subjected to a cleaning-up and protocol-coaching frenzy. The functionaries try to persuade the four racial undesireables to skip the audience, which is adamantly refused, and then urged to stay silent and presumably unobtrusive. In the end, it is made clear that they will be presented in the same way as the rest.

The beginning of the audience is a fatiguing quasi-religious ritual, which we survive with boredom. But there is a lot of magical energy around, and to our surprise, some of it is malign. Cruhorn the Seeker crits on sniffing it and recognizing it: there are minions of Dagon, from the Abyss in the Underdark, somewhere on the Palace grounds! We gesture over an aide, who admits that yes, this is known, and is apologetic about it.

The ritual part concludes and we move on to the actual audience. We are asked for a display of prowess, and we put together an interactive demonstration of a battle against the siege train. We just totally rock, and all our rolls for social interactions end up totalling no less than 30. We have seriously impressed lots of important folk.

THe formal part of the audience is over. We are allowed to sit, and refreshments are brought. Emperor Ignatius is quite pleased; he is young, in his mid-20s, and has been Emperor for a couple of years. He is eager to ride to war at the head of an army, but his advisors are holding him back. He is impressed by deeds in battle, and has chosen as his own surname “the Bold”, though no one outside of Court uses it. He presents us with jewelry, 1200 gp worth each of loot. We are to be given magical items also, and in the next day or so we will be escorted to the Vault for selection.

The Emperor singles out the half-Orcs for inclusive praise, recalling how the half-orcs of the Peterotychos Brigade about 250 years ago stood against the usurpers until slain to the last main. Listar takes the opporunity to present the Emissary’s scroll to the Emperor, who
reads it and comments on the unusual nature of its contents (Zatik wants to be installed in the Ambassadors Palace, though technically he is not an ambassador), but he accepts the petition and will deal with it later.

The Emperor shares news and views on the war. “The war in general is going badly.” Evik and Gard Proset are being attacked. The Hand of Vecna is taken out of our care and it goes off to being guarded and studied at the Temple of Ioun. There is an anomaly in the Emperor’s description: he omits any mention of goblins in the forces attacking Evik, yet we saw (and avoided) an army of those en route. We report that, and it causes a stir.

We brief the Emperor and his court on what we saw through our experience. We make the point of mentioning the 18th Legion commander by name, who was the person who tossed us the Hand of Vecna before he was trampled by war mammoths on the Bridge at Brsic. This triggers a comment: the 18th Legion is destroyed, and its eagle lost in the capture of the city. Legally it is not a legion any more, which means our own affiliation is up in the air as far as tradition is concerned. Kleft suggests making us a “special ops” unit, and that seems to be quite acceptable to the Emperor, and we are given the designation the Emperor’s Hand.

Our first mission will be to participate in winning back the teleportation circle here in the Palace Grounds. All the ’port circles in the Empire have been diabolically corrupted. We mention our detection of the influence of Dagon — there is a collective gasp in the chamber — and those two things are one and the same here: minions of Dagon are in place, occupying the circle and its building. They seem content so far simply to occupy the building and not attack out of it.

The Emperor says he has champions who will attack the entity corrupting the circle directly, but our part is to open the way, and then ensure that the champions are not interfered with by other forces. This is to happen in three days.

Cruhorn subsequently visits with other shifters in the town and in that community it is clear that there is something disquieting going on in the marshes outside of Evik. There is a significant population of Fey creatures there, who have long had good relations with the Empire; that is taken as perhaps the single most important reason why Evik has never in its history been taken by an enemy army. The unsettling news out of Evik and surroundings is ominous.

That wrapped up action. We each have 1200gp from this session plus 170gp each of combined loot accumulated during our earlier adventures, plus a few have other chunks of treasure on individual bases. We have a couple of days to shop, and we have the free item from the Vault to come also.

And then we fight demons.

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