Write up 26th January 2023 – Journey from Babilim – Part 2

The day in the Palace of the Magistrate of Eshtaband opens as it usually does, with servants seeing to the needs of the officials and priests in the Palace. Rooms and food are prepared, passages swept and, in the quarters of the agents, Fetnah makes her peace with the spirit world, to clear her connection and enhance her powers.

The first order of business for the group comes from Shararah, the duty liason between the group and Harvan, once a position occupied by Utana before he became their, in Harvan’s eyes, leader or, to put it bluntly, the one to blame if things go wrong. Shararah takes them to the Palace armoury, there weapons and armour are made available to them, though José prefers to buy his own, which has been fabricated since he ordered it. The archers also had more silvered arrows made,

The group improve their protection, though, of course, wearing armour normally is frowned upon, on penalty of arrest as a possible bandit or rebel, and decide to get recruitment of the army of servants that they will need for the conference, started. Shararah points them at Tingis, the deputy to the Palace major-domo.

As this is very much in Tingis’s normal day to day work, he is more than happy to help though, of course, as he is doing the group’s work,  they should pay him a consultant’s or finder’s fee. Fetnah and Utana persuaded him that instead, his fee would be expenses of the conference. Tingis drafted a requisition on a wax tablet, and got Utana’s mark authorising it.

That being done, they saddled up to ride the hour to the Palace of Nashwa, this ancient Hassaryu palace was once the home of Governors and before that, local monarchs. Within the walled pennisula, roughly six square miles, are a complex of buildings and, to the east some older ruins. In a small wood of trees, a large rock, the entrance to the tombs of the monarchs, south of that, a Temple to the cold ones, old, in need of repair, but sopunder than it looks, and to the east of that, a ruined tower.

The gates through the walls were closed, but opened to some pushing from Utana, after Jalabu’s attempts to open it with his head had failed. Inside the comple, they noticed the lack of upkeep, it was not fallimg down and it was untidy and, finding the head caretaker, Armon, an elderly human whose assistants, he said, were not much younger. The Palace gets maintenance once a year, but that is not, from what can be seen,  enough to do all that is needful, the supplies are only enough for the current staff, and the bedding and accoutrements of a working palace are inadequate.

As they go, they check the wells, being surprised at how deep and sweet the water was, The lines were ling, the wells lined with smooth stone and lay

Confirming what they should have known about the state of the place, they decide to check out the ruins. Summoning a reluctant and surly spirit of the area, Fetnah learns that the area above ground is home to that one, underground in the tombs were the unquiet spirits of the dead monarchs, 5 of them and their servants, who resent their descendants no longer ruling. The local spirit offered two notions, the unquiet monarchs would have to be destroyed or placated with offerings, to show respect. The local guide did ask that, to persuade it to do what it could during the conference, offerings of incense and flowers be, made at the Temple.

Next, to the Temple of the Cold Ones. In better repair than it looked, the local spirit told of crypts underneath. These were after a store of religious regalia and tools. The crypt was in good order, niches of urns surrounded by model grave goods. Smersh’s connection with the Cold Ones let him know that they were still connected to the temple, and he felt that the local spirit’s desire for daily sacrifices would be easy to achieve with the normal worship.

Next to the Tower, a ruin, the upper floors fallen, but the group found that fallen wreckage was, in fact, a door, opening on a sloped passage leading down and east towards the salt lake. Jalabu led the way, his magic shield lighting as they went, until Utana and Smersh almost slipped on wet moss, into water as the passage continued down.

For some reason, Farshad admitted to being able to swim, so they sent him down into the water at the end of the rope. Farshad did not far well but, more worryingly, a serpentine figure with arms and hands came for him and he was yanked bodily out of the water, narriowly avoiding smashing his head on the ceiling.

The serpentine figure with its snaky face did not follow and so they left, intending next time to go to the tombs under the rock. Not sure why, but that is for next time, and there we left it.



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Write up 12th January 2023 – Journey from Babilim – Part 1

The camp of the forces of the province of Eshtaband is split, like the governance of the nation, the larger part is the army,  furiously bustling, reinfoced patrols are coming back leading lines of captured bandits, equipment is being repair and messengers bustle about the military leadership.

In the civilian leadership area of the camp, the group is sitting in the tent of Harvan, being fed, watered and briefed. The new companions, Smersh and Fetnah have been given an advance on their earnings as newly minted agents of the magistrate Niralha.

For his first priority, Farshad took the wooden crow Fetnah had carved and into which he had stuffed the crow spirit that had formerly resided in a man Farshad found. Feeling out with his senses he surprised himself by making contact with the creature, which at least was bright enough to talk, and a short conversation was held.

Fetnah aided Arpaesis in determining the purpose of his jade tablet, which turned out to be a puzzle box containing a ring that, for a sacrifice of life force, aids the wearer in spying out hidden things. After the exertions  helping Arpaesis, Fetnah  made sacrifices or food and drink to placate her ally Ilbakia, and returned to the group. Once they are all settled, Harvan lays out the latest task he has for the group.

“I had intended to send you to the ‘Isle of Limitless Pleasures’ for some well deserved rest after uncovering the plot here as well as, so you tell me, stopping the end of the world, again. However, a delicate situation has come up. It requires tact, state diplomacy and finesse, but yet I am assigning you.

“I can tell from your aghast reaction that this puzzles you, however the situation also needs cunning, adaptability and the ability to deal with sudden violence and, more importantly, it is sort of your fault.

“There are several diplomatic missions arriving in two months to the city of Eshtaband. They are here to discuss the final disposition of the city of Bardij, so recently persuaded to our nation by your efforts, to the dismay of its ruler Idym and some concern to our shared neighbour Ishtir.

The diplomats and their entourage will be housed in the Palace of Nash-wa, a once glorious complex that juts into the Sea of Verkana just outside Eshtaband itself.

“With such distinguished guests, we need the palace brought back to functioning, we need it guarded against thieves, interlopers assassins, we need entertainments, we need the diplomats happy as they negotiate.

“That will deviousness and for that you are well suited. I do not expect you to do the actual getting on your knees, scrubbing the floors, walking the walls, serving the food, for this, you are management. In Eshtaband, find the ones you need.

“The conference will need banquets with dancers and musicians, there should be a waterborne party, hunting trips, the actual conference, and the incessant demands of noble diplomats.

“As to diplomats, for ourselves Bahareh, elder sister of our Shara Khrush of our Rule of Haraxa and a wise councillor.

“For the Rule of Ishtir, they have sent Mirnusz, magistrate of B?bilim, said to be a confident of the Saraniya, and a famous hunter. We have heard that he seeks to hunt a unicorn, the Ekasasi, in the mountains whilst he is here.

“For the theocrats of Idym, Ba-nereru. We do not think they have real hopes of regaining Idym, but they will be looking for allies.

“The Meremites, suspected by the Idymites of fomenting revolution in their nation, have sent Rumekebu, we do not know anything of them.

“The last diplomat that we know anything of is Arramah, a warlord of the Kurim people of Kutin beyond Merem. Much beyond that I cannot tell you, save that we assume that she, like most of her people, are distrustful of those of us of the nations of the fallen nation of Haxamanis, Haraxa, Ishtir and Sardes.

“Other diplomats are due from Sardes, Iramanshan, Qâde, Damat, Bedewah and Saba but they, *should* be minor players in this.”

The group *were* aghast at the task laid upon them, but more importantly, were trying to figure out their finances, between money never really having been in issue in the game and the transfer from DragonQuest, there was a bit of flipping back and forward on the manuscript, but spending in the army camp ensued.

Utana, being tired of not  looking magnificent enough since sacrificing his golden armour to save the world, decides to see what the armourers in the camp could do for him. It cost him 80% of the fortune he had with him, but he is having made a set of scale armour and a full face helmet, so shaped as to replicate his own features, from his strong nose to his carefully curled hair and beard. It will not be as decorated as it would be if the armourers  had more time, but he is paying for speed, not tiny details.

He also assisted Fetnah who was looking for some light armour, and trying to persuade the leather worker to supply some at a low cost, given her  role, but the leather worker seemed disinclined to help her until Utana wandered over and he, seeing Utana’s magnificence, reconsidered Fetnah’s request and hoew they might benefit each other. If Utana would commend the leather worker to the armourer, then the leather worker felt sure that from offcuts he felt sure ge could accomodate Fetnah at no charge.

José also found some extra armour, some light leg armour and a face revealing helm, not as vain, or as rich, as Utana he has to make do with showing off his own face.

Jalabu, also desirous of new armour, wondered about the value of the blue-white with green flecks gem all were given,  but his handling revealed it to be a Tear of Luck, a useful talisman that can change the outcome of an act but not, Jalabu felt, of sufficient value as to be worth good armour.

The journey to Eshtaband would take three weeks, and Smersh and Fetnah suffered as Harvan had assigned tutors to help them learn the more modern version of the Idarit language, much to Fetnah’s scorn.

Reestablished in the magistrate’s palace in Eshtaband, the group ponders their options. Utana knows that to even put on a hunt for the Ekasasi Unicorn is a sign of respect and honour, but to actually find one would be tremendous

The Ekasasi is a massive beast, looking like a thick and massive horse with thick hairy skin, it is nimble and alert and its horn is like a swordblade.

  • should they try and find and capture one and release it for the hunt
  • Could they pass off a Rhino as an Ekasasi? The problem with that even the closest Rhinos are only found a few hundred miles to the East.
  • Could they disguise Farshad’s horse as an Ekasasi? It is already used to being disguised as a camel
  • Or, lunatic idea, they could organise a proper hunt

As far as food goes, Eshtaband is known as the home of the Haraxan cooking competition “Bronze Chef”, and the winner (Shiribu of Eshtaband) and runner-up (Birmin of Gham) in the last competion,  are resident there. The latter is renowned for his hot beverage made from smoked fish, Birmin of Gham’s “kipper tea”

Other divisions of roles were discussed

  • Utana for organising the hunt
  • Smersh to use a practiced eye to check for ways that ne’er do wells could enter the palace
  • Fetnah and Arpaesis can check the abandoned palace for supernatural influences
  • Farshad can find entertainers
  • José could vet guards and look to the security with a soldier’s eye
  • Jalabu could check the food for poisons, aided by his pearl

and there, until next time, we left it

Second place winner = Birmin of Gham
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Write up 15th December 2022 – Aftermath of the Comet – Part 2

Our group found themselves back in Bukrish, a village with mixed emotions, glad that the bandits that had come there hunting the group had been defeated, but concerned that if the group stayed there, more would come. The group, mostly, decided to resupply and figure out what to do, well, mostly.

Farshad moped a bit, despondent that the crow man had been cured, the former crow man was himself talking to the villagers, trying to find out where he was, and could anyone use a scholar who had lost his way, tablets and purpose.

Fetnah decided to cheer Farshad up. She spent time preparing, to clear her own spirit and enhance her powers, and she sent her spirit forth to seek the crow spirit. She found it as it, lost, it was circling around, itself unsure of what had happened to it. She seized the spirit and placed it into a crow that she had carved, not well, recognisably a bird, but uneven of wing and bent of beak. The bird hopped around, settling on Farshad’s shoulders, pecking lightly on his ear.

Whilst this was going on, the Utana, Jose and Smersh looked around the village to see what they could find to help them in such a run down mining village, long past  its best. Utana gave Smersh some funds as a loan, and they obtained some food, some arrows for Utana and Smersh, Smersh also picking up a light bow and a buckler. After her spirit conjurations, Fetnah also traded some ingots for good quality ingredients and spices.

That being done, the group decided to chase down one of the groups of scouts they had seen, and considered that the Eastern group, on the higher hills would be easier to track than the ones through the boggy heathland. Utana led the way, and after w while the smoke of a fire was spotted. Smersh went ahead, muddy and as camouflaged as if he deliberately meant to be, seeing two scouts by a fire, preparing to move off, but he was not as quiet as he might be. One cautiously headed in the direction Smersh was, spear out, as he hunted for the source of the noise. Smersh’s arrow was keen and severely injuring. As Fetnah hid, Utana and José loosed arrows.

Lightly armoured though they were, the scouts were no match for the group, the scout closest to Smersh refused his offer of surrender, and so was downed, the other fled, but was bravely and heroically shot down, in the back.

The scout was patched up enough so that their life was not in any immediate danger, but they were put to the question, though luckily none of Utana’s more exotic techniques were required. Smersh,  Fetnah and José were able to establish that many scouts were hunting for the group, and bands totalling 120  bandits were positioned ready to come to them when the group was found.

The group seemed unconcerned, 120 was not many to cover all the territory, and the bandits were keeping most of their forces in their usual places, cowing peasants and securing the strongholds they had infiltrated and taken over.

The scouts were stripped of gear, José taking vambraces and greaves from the fallen scout, Smersh taking the heavy leather jerkin, vambraces, greaves, shoes and cooking gear from the one he had injured. Other supplies, such as their horses, some food (of poor quality, but better than nothing) , arrows and others were taken, notably some herbs that Fetnha took. The injured scout, now bereft of weapons and supplies, they left to fend for themselves.

José turned his tactical mind to the situation. He felt that the bandits, getting desperate to stop word getting out, would commit more of their forces, and their chances might be less. The way home was south west, but that was where they knew the majority of the bandits forces hunting them were.

The group decided to consult the oracular bowl that Utana possessed, Fetnah singing to it, and got this reply

South West is the way you do not want to go
South West is the way you do want to go

The group decided to achieve this apparent paradox by heading south, then cutting west, on the road back to Eshtaband and their employer. Utana took them south by an abandoned road that once served now exhausted mines. Fetnah, riding with Smersh. was looking for the forests of her youth, but here the trees, whilst there, were in groups of no more than a copse, but, as they travelled west, the road went through an actual wood. The group enjoyed the cover, though heedless of potential ambush, they were lucky and reached the edge unmolested.

Peering out, they saw two massive clouds of dust, converging, one from the south, the other from the north that would cut off this road. What to do? Go north or south and try to go around, go forward slowly and quietly and hope that the groups pass and move on, letting them go forward, or race hell for leather and get ahead of them.

They decided to do the latter, swapping riders to give them all the best chance. Fetnah riding with Utana, Farshad with Smersh, and they galloped on, with only minor injuries to Smersh when he fell off that one time. On and on they went, looking over their shoulders as the bandit cavalry approached closer and closer. They crested a rise, and into an armed camp, a line of spearmen facing them, cavalry assembling behind, José spotted the banners of Niralha and raised his agent’s symbol high shouting “Agents of Niralha, Agents of Niralha!”

They were allowed to pass, and intercepted by an officer who took them to the council area of the camp and Harvan. He thanked them for the work they had done, over and above expectation, saving the world again, alerting the magistrate’s officers to the grave situation here. The forces are here to put the region to rights, to restore good order and governance.

Fetnah and Smersh were surprised, when they found Harvan spoke Idarit in a form they understood without gestures and  circumlocutions. Finding out where, or rather, when they had come, HArvan was excited, and invited them into Niralha’s service, as agents like the others. They would be paid, as the others are, well, except Utana, whose servant deals with that.

Meanwhile, he has another task ahead for them, a diplomatic conference is to take place in Eshtaband. A meeting between the powers of Haraxa, Ishtir, Idym and others to discuss the fate of Bardij, so recently stolen by the group away from Idym and the group, the group is to organise it!

And there, for this year, we left it

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Write up 1st December 2022 – Aftermath of the Comet – Part 1

The group took stock of their position, in an area they had seen before but changed, the shining lights gone, the mound and the road gone, the comet tail no longer the sickly green it had been. Fetnah and José patched people up, the rest of their aches and pains easing off as they took their ease as Fetnah performed her rituals to cleanse her spirit.

With that done, they looked through some, but not all of their haul. Fetnah used her ally to help her look at the items with uncanny eyes. First the bowl that Utana had bee carrying around, the one he had used to gather the sacrifices in the tomb earlier. It seemed the normal sort of bowl that families make and decorate, engraving or painting prayers on it to  ward off evil or sickness, or bring good fortune.

In that she sensed the elements, the trace, of a godling, and she felt the urge to sing to it, she touched something in the bowl, and a voice replied.

“You think it is over, but there is things you left behind you, that are still awaiting you”

Utana took it back, and tried the same, with the same result.

Fetnah found herself bemused by Farshad’s companion, whom she saw to be a crow spirit possessing the body of a man. She freed the spirit, releasing the human owner, who was confused and asked questions before fainting. He was strapped to a pack mule For transport to a place where he could get more care.

They took their mules and headed back towards Bukrish, the first stage of their journey home.  Seeing Fetnah’s success with the bowl, as they travelled, the rest presented their finds. Jalabu’s pearl evaded detail, save that it was used in the mouth, Jalabu tested it further, and deduced it had properties against poison. José’s bone dagger proved to be a tool for gathering herbs, those that are spoiled by exposure to metal. Smersh’s copper tube an entertainment device, showing scenes when looked through, Farshad’s tablet was a kind of musical instrument.

Finding that out was only achieved by Fetnah’s ally possessing her body, despite Smersh’s best efforts to free her, her old ally was enjoying having a body to use after so long.

Utana’s silver flask defied Jalabu’s analysis, at least with what he had with him, so that remains a mystery, the blue-white gems and other objects were not examined.

As they crossed the heaths and moorland, back to Bukrish, they noticed that, far away on both sides, they were being shadowed by horsemen, too far for a bow shots but definitely shadowing. It occurred to the group, those who were not millennia old,

They endured it until they came near to Bukrish, where they found armed humans waiting for them. Having the element of surprise, the group attacked, Smersh, José and Utana using bows, Fetnah and Farshad hiding, Jalabu running in, though he soon found himself outnumbered, and experiencing the utility of having a shield.

The fight did not last long. The advantage of surprise stood them in good stead, though it was only during the fight that the quiet question of Farshad “Are we sure these are the bad guys?” Occurred to others, well, too late. Fetnah tried to get a spirit to cast a Necromantic spell, but her earlier endeavours had left her tainted by other spirit contact, so it failed, and she remained hiding,

Enemy incompetence gave Farshad and Smersh the opportunity to hack him in the back, Jalabu held his own and he  noticed that, far from being sill-assorted bandits, they seemed well equipped, and there were three sorts, each uniformly dressed for their group.

When most were down, the remaining two victims felt, but one was hacked down by Jalabu, the other shot by José and Utana, and fell, heavily wounded. Smersh and Jalabu worked on the survivor in a good cop/bad cop act, and confirmed the growing suspicion (or hints from the GM at any rate) . They, as agents of Magistrate Niralha had been given multiple goals in their mission, one of which was a cover story as inspectors, investigating rumours of a break down in law and order in the reguion.

The agents had discovered evidence of that, of bandit gangs taking over, replacing the forces of local civil authorities, and cowing local administrators. The word of their presence had got back to some of the bandit leaders, and they had sent groups out to find and stop them. For once, the savage attack on a random group of people standing around, turned out for the best, this was one of the groups.

The group saw their shadowing horsemen ride off, presumably to spread the word, and they trudged towards Bukrish. There they found the populace hiding, having been scared by the bandits, but they welcomed the group, who they remembered warmly.

And there we left it.

(I had three short bullet points for tonight as my only prep, and it showed, and only used two of them)


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Write up 17th November 2022 – Return of the Comet – Interlude 3 and End

Lapis laziuli handled copper daggerThe ivory figurines come to life turn out to be a tall, muscular male human (Smersh of Urlil) with cheekbones to die for, and a Shevam woman (Fetnah), the human stands protectively in front of the Shevam as they ask who these people arew whilst coming to terms with memories of being overwhelmed by undead cultists. Both snatched up knives from the treasure at their feet, prepared to defend themselves.

Despite the archaic language of Fetnah and Smersh, the lure of treasure proved a universal language. The hoard of copper and tin was ignored, in favour of boxes of ointments (also an inscribed copper sheet) , tablets and gold jewellery and a black scroll case covered in necromantic symbols as well as small possessions of Fetnah and Smersh.

The group reacquaint themselves with their surroundings, and become aware of the statue of Kabbaruk, holding mace and model of the house they were in, and behind that, the looming embrace of Ilot-hahas (as Smersh and Ftenah know her, Lotnyas as Arpaesis and Jalabu know) with her five dragon heads. Moreover, the group realised that, in the ancient Sorceror-King, they had a common foe, though it seemed centuries separated them. Urklil was known to Urtana, a town long since lost to the sands of time.

Smersh removes the mace from the statue and lays about it with great force, in doing so smashing the model of the house, with a fading gloom the group find themselves outside the house, which has disappeared.

As they familiarise themselves with the road, and the road with an archway of trees, the two children they saw before wave over to them, the ghost child, who was with them, drifts over back to attend Arpaesis. The children again beg for help against the monster, and for aid for their mother.

Confused, the group speculate about time, and  circular events, but José, Arpaesis and Fetnah get hints that it is more, and less than it seems, that the children are illusory bait somehow connected to the house, after all, the children made theur farewells shortly before when their bones were laid to rest, and so they enter the tunnel of trees.

Map of a chamber with couches and idolsHowever, in doing so, they found themselves back at the door to the audience chamber of Kabbaruk. The bodies of the deadadvisors remain on their couches, surrounding a metal map of Kabbaruk’s former empire, lit by green lanterns that remind one of the light of the comet and a scent Jalabu recognises as a spice used by addicts to flavour a certain drug.

Their King rises up to face the group. Smersh, armed with his dagger, proves fast, moving up as Jalabu, Utana and José bravely loose solvered arrows from the doorway. Utana’s first strike is particularly well aimed, but the undead thing seems remarkably resistant to damage, despite taking blows that would have instantly killed a mortal.

Whilst the warriors loosed arrows from a distance, Smersh and Farshad  got in close, though the damage they did was at a cost, cold numbed them and the undead seemed to grow no weaker. It was realised that his unmoving advisors were restoring his fabric. The attention of the group waa switched to destroying those unmoving accomplices.

Since her revival, Fetnah had been feeling an emptiness, a loss, her friend and Ally, the spirit Ibalkia, was not there, not in the house beyond the world and not, at first, here, and yet, now, a glimmer of recognition, a voice in her head “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick, you never write, you never call..

Kabbaruk was responding with spells of choking, claws of ice and even a vlast of artic air that Smersh nimbly dodged, in addition to having survived enough damage to tenderise an elephant into elephant tartare.

Arpaesis reached out with his arcane sight, but whilst he realised that an item of great power was hidden under the metal map, the sight if it blinded him temporarily. He sought to get closer to the table, stumbling forward, but, just as Smersh realised that the ghost child was a form of Lotnyas known as “The Deceiver”, it was too late to warn Arpaesism the child hurled him across the room, slamming him against the wall, fufilling a prophecy of the witch near Bukrish “Beware! There is a sword blade with your name graven on it.”

Reunited with her ally, Fetnah loosed an attempt to drive the spirit of Kabbaruk from his corpse. She partially succedede, stripping away a familiar he had bound to himself. Not only was he no longer getting reconsituted by his advisors, the cold that damaged those that struck him, and the attacks chpped away at his being until, struck down, Smersh made sure of the job with the mace, beating the corpse to a pulp, and The Deceiver faded away.

Under the map was found a bronze tablet, covered in characters, one that had brought Smersh and Fetnah here to end a blight in their own time. An exhausted and bleeding Smersh removed it, wrapping it in cloth as Fetnah and José attended to the wounds of the group. Farshad looked on with disgust and possibly resentment when after receiving a cursory bandage on his injuries, saw Fetnah summon spirits to refresh all of Smersh’s lost energy whilst José showed an incredible deafness of skill and experience in sewing up Smersh’s wounds that Farshad was nearly speechless with indignation. But only nearly.

After the healing, Smersh led a spluttering Farshad, and the rest of the group, outside to the courtyard and fountain in the middle of the palace complex, as they went, they gathered a group of the mobile dead, staying at a distance, but surrounding the group on three sides.

The fountain still contained objects that were marked by bright light, so that their form could not be distinguished, but they were Isobel, This time they decided to chance reaching in and withdrawing

  • Fetnah – a bone spoon
  • Farshad – A lozenge shaped block of lapis lazuli, decorated
  • Jalabu – A Black pearl (no, not a ship)
  • Smersh – a copper tube with engravings around it
  • Utana – A silver flask with some unknown liquid in it
  • Juan José – a bone dagger
  • Arpaesis – a jade tablets written in Hao character

with more points of light, Jalabu reached in again, only to find his arm severely numbed with a painful cold.

Utana wondered aloud “I wonder what happens if I reach in again?”

“well, I got my arm numbed by a painful cold” answered Jalabu!

Utana, whether heedless of Jalabu’s pain, or with scientific curiosity, or a belief that somehow any cold that didn’t cause Jalabu’s arm to shatter and drop off wasn’t really that cold, reached in again, yet he too was bitten by the frigid temperature.

They decided to leave the fountain alone, save that Smersh used it to brace the tablet against as he beat the bronze tablet and characters into a shapeless mess, the surrounding undead sublimated into a green dust that swirled around the group in a cyclone and sooner than they could click their heels together three times and say “There’s no place like home” they found themselves at the stone circle near the path under the mound, only the path was gone and the stones no longer had a shining gems in it.

And there we left it

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Write up 3rd November 2022 – Return of the Comet – Interlude 2

The group looked at the ladder going up to the floor above and Utana, sticking his spear through his harness, laid his hand ready to go up, the air shimmered and Utana was replaced by a surprised Jalabu. Another shimmer and Arpaesis appeared. Juan José and Farshad quickly filled them in with what had been going on and it was noticed that the ghost child who had been following Arpaesis was not to be seen.

Triggering the light spell on his shield, Utana ascended, finding himself in a disty, cobwebbed empty space with four doors leading out. From how far they had risen up, it was believed that they were near the top. Looking around, Jalabu secided to take the doors clockwise from the south.

The room to the south proved to be some kind of lounge that could be opened to the elements, possibly for sleeping when the nights were hot and humid. The room to the west, a storage room full of rotting boxes and, to the north, a screen. Behind that, Jabu found a frame upon which a body had once been hung, now bones were scattered around and enough cloth fragments to identify the remains as those of the woman found in the bedroom with the adult and two child-sized beds. Farshad, examining the area more closely, found an openable panel, behind which opened up a shaft, with ladders leading down.

The group decided to check out the other rooms first, the first seemingly a servant’s room, but the second and last was locked from the outsid. Opening the pinned bolt revealed a room made into a makeshift bedroom. The were piles of used utensils, a comfort corner and a third corner with two small beds of rags and a chest. Investigating this chest of sad and simple toys, and a bed concealing small, human bones.

The group were aware of two, small, child ghosts, the exact duplicates of the children that they had met outside but these knew that they were dead. They were friebdly enough, but also did not want to be abandoned and seemed upset at the notion, so Farshad suggested bundling the bones, and looking for family grave or crypt.

They went back to the ladder down, uncaring of how the child ghosts might view the remains of the person the group suspected was their mother. As Jalabu hit the bottom of the various ladders to the space at the bottom of the shaft, he became aware of a low, unintelligible, guttural chanting. He became obsessessed with finding the origin of this, leading on, ignoring side passages, having almost to be restrained as they passed the slab covering the tomb where the children, and their mother were meant to be interred.

Jalabu grumbled as José get it uncovered and Arpaesis and Farshad laid the bones in their coffins. The children gave the two one last hug before vanishing from sight. In the hands of each there was suddenly a gem, a bluish white gemstone that Farshad identified as a very rare form of emerald (in that you don’t get blue-white emeralds, which is why it is rare and Farshad knows it). José had a slightly different reaction, his empathic sense gave him feelings of tears and regret, Arpaesis has a niggling feeling that it has an Arcane purpose, but whilst he cannot call it to mind, he knows which works to consult to find out, when he can get to a Library.

Impatient, now that is over, Jalabu leads the group on, again ignoring side passages, coming to some kind of changing room in front of double doors, covered in brass plates depicting, in relief, worshippers bowing before a figure, behind whom was a large version of the five dragon headed woman they have seen in statues and paintings often of late.

Jalabu, confident and eager to prove his skills in the stealthy arts, looked to the door for traps or tricks, he stumbled hard against them, and the doors swung open to reveal a shrine of some kind, four robed people bowing to the shrine with statue version of the relief on the door, Kabbaruk in front of Ilot-nahas in dragon-woman form, treasure scattered in front of them.

Shrine to Kabbaruk and Ilot-Nahas

Must be a combat, the GM has spent time on a map

Jalabu picked himself up, José stuck with his bow and silvered arrows as the figures turned and intoned

“He is the gate, his knowledge is the path, the key is death, one must die, one must die,

He is the gate, his knowledge is the path, the key is death, one must die, one must die”

The figures, mortal but looking as if they have long been decaying, looked at the newcomers, possibly expectantly?

They repeated their chant and, not being answered, they moved to attack, hissing and claws out. The rearmost figure started creating a spell.

Just as well that Arpaesis cast a spell of protection, as a spell failed on José, arrows flew from jom back at the oncoming horrors. Farshad found his attempts to sneak around the edge of the room failed and, already seriously injured (like a smaller version of José in a way). Jalabu twirled his moustache, realised he usually let Utana take point and thought “By Jove, I think I am the tank!“. He acquitted himself well, fending off two attackers at the cost of fatigue as he moved like a blur, fending off attacks.

Although silvered weapons cut away at the rotting cultists, claws ripped at Farshad and cold infused him, slowing him down. Despite his protection, Arpaesis found the very air solidify and throttle him but, at the cost of an even more battered Farshad, the foes were vanquished.

Then attention was grabbed by the idols, in amongst the treasure were two exquisitely and realistically carved ivories, two mortals exact in every detail. They started to shimmer, and grow, becoming two fully sized mortals. There was a sense of “Dearie me, what now?!” from the battered group then, one of the figures opened their mouth and said “Hello, where am I?” in a very archaic form of Idarit.

And there we left it.

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Write up 20th October 2022 – Return of the Comet – Interlude 1

This interlude takes place after the end of Episode 10, directly, and came about because, as happens in real life, a few players had other commitments and I think the next part will be the end of the adventure and this stage of the campaign. This is adapted from a pre-written adventure. I’ll link to it at the end.

José, Utana and Farshad crowd the door, looking into this room in the palace where corpses on couches lie around an eerie lit mapboard, when one of the corpses, in a position of honour, turns to stare at them, the eyes flashing a shade of green that they have seen all too often of late. The green expands to fill all of their vision. When it fades they are no longer in a palace under an earthen mound, but standing on a dusty road at a crossroads, the weather is gloomy and dull, they cannot tell where the sun or what the time is.

The roads in each direction are free of traffic, the terrain is rocky, with only the only plant life José can find scrubby, not of use in medicine but some use in cooking or for water. Utana examines the terrain and the soil is reminiscent of a plateau at the northern Haraxan border, but that area is not as desolate as this, as wells, reservoirs and irrigation have aided farming and supported a reasonable population.

Here the only sign of habitation is a walled villa, the house large, at least three stories high, looking like a trincated pyramid made of mud brick. Looking around, Utana spots that once there were other houses, but they are ruined, the bricks mostly dust, those left looking like rocks jutting out of the ground.

The group speculates not only where they might be, but when. Depictions of the night sky in the tomb complex showed, to Utana’s Navigator’s eye, that some guiding stars were not where they should be. As they speculated, two young children appeared from the gate to the villa, a girl and a younger boy, the boy held a wooden doll but neither that nor his sister could comfort him as he sobbed.

They stopped, hesitantly, half way between gate and group, the boy hiding behind his sister as she pleaded for help, that there was a creature of some sort living under the villa. They heard the whispers of formless words, and the screams of this creature terrifies them. Please will the group help them.

The group did not ask the children’s names (Parigul and Taimur btw) but later asked about their parents. Their father had died when young, their mother, Ramineh has been sleeping, for a long time. The villa is owned by their uncle and aunt, and they forbid the children for going under the villa, where the creature is, not that they would want to. There is no basement, or cellar, yet underground is where it is.

The group were perturbed, and suspicious of the children, but they seemed as real as they themselves were, though José, perhaps through some premonition, did not use his empathic abilities on the children

And so to the compound, which was as far as the children would go, the crumbling brick surrounded by fading and cracking plaster, indifferently decorated in an alien style perhaps related to decorations seen in the tomb.

The door into the house was similsarly decorated, and opened into a reception area, with stools and tables. However the striking thing about the room was the wall decoration. Above the door opposite was the black and silver figure of a woman sitting crosslegged, arms outstretched, her face obscured by shadow. Along the walls at either side were figures, those in the left facing right towards her, those on the right facing left, all in supplication. The figures closest to the woman were older and there were gaps between the furthest away and the door they entered by.

The next room seemed more of a family area, lit by oil lamps, the room had couches and tables arranged around a fireplace over which were a bronze headed spear and a large single edged slashing sword. The fireplace, set for a fire, was primitive, but a proper fireplace, with a narrow chimney. The utensils on the tables were a mixture of wood, bone, some copper and one silver, but there was no sign of food or drink laid out. Apart from the silver spoon and a couple of oil lamps, the group took nothing, not even the spear and sword.

To the rear was a set of stairs up, and a short corridor with a door left, another ahead and an open doorway right leading to a kitchen. Carefully opening the door to the left first revealed a combination taxidermist workshop and study, divided by an obviously bespoke dresser which, on the workshop side had drawers of tools, on the study side with its table with three thin bone cups and flask of fluid, fur covered seating, stuffed bear and animal heads, Farshad unlocked the dresser to find bronze headed javelins, bronze hunting knives and a shortbow with bronze arrows and spare strings. There were belts, scabbards and quivers for these, as well as a bone gameboard, obviously a form of “Balatu”, and spare thin bone cups matching those on the table. The group took the weapons and left the furs, tools and drinking materials behind.

The kitchen was clean and set out as if ready to be starting to be used. The fire was set, utensils out, plates laid out, cooking pots well used but clean. There were alcoves, some with food, they didn’t taste any but the honey they found in a jar looked fresh rather than aged and a final alcove had a hole in the ceiling above, a tray and a pulley system.

The door at the end of the corridor was stuck fast, seemingly blocked from the other side, but Utana noticed something strange. The wall at the rear of the workshop did not extend to the same level as the door, though the kitchen wall did. Some gentle tapping then later heavy thumping revealed a hollow space, though one behind solid walls.

The primitive but functional kitchen did not hold interest for long, and so they went upstairs to a dim landing, with three doors off it. In the gloom the oil lamps and torches taken from downstairs were of use to reveal that nature of shapes against the walls. On one side of  the hall stood three wooden mannequins dressed in heavy bronze armour of a very, to the group, antique style of overvapping plates, greaves and arm guards, holding a bronze spear and with a short, single edged cutting bronze sword hanging on a baldric.

On the wall side where they came up was a relief in painted plaster showing two groups of humans. A richly dressed and accessorised couple, a man and a woman, looking disdainfully at the other, plainly dressed, group, a woman with her hands resting on the heads of a boy and girl that, to no one’s surprise, resembled the two met outside.

Of the doors, there was a plain door and an intricately carved door to the north, and another carved door to the south. The plain door revealed cubicles, servants quarters most likely, with plain cots, a small table and a chest that also served as a chair, but no sign of occupancy or personalisation, the hole in the kitchen ceiling matched up with one in the floor that went up through the ceiling here also. The carved door to the north opened up to some kind of scriptorium and library. There was a work desk with blank papyrii and writing materials, and along one wall the bronze age equivalent of a Kallax containing papyrii and clay tablets. The writings were mostly oin an older script, now only used by sacholars, but enough symbols and illustrations were held in common that they got the feeling that some were religious texts, others mythological tales, others works on alchemy and herblore, still more on farming and household matters and even accounts.

One set of shelves proved to be movable, by holding handles built into a sturdy shelf, the whole thing could be dragged forward to reveal a space behind. There were more shelves to tablets, which were ignored, as the attention was focused on a chest in the back over which were the bones of some long dead mortal, clothes rotted to rags, most of the bones fallen to the floor. In what might have been the chest cavity once, were hollow bronze quills, sharp and discoloured at one end that they suspected  were part of a poison trap. Farshad determined that the chest was now safe and the primitive lock held no challenge to him. Inside were a wooden and a bone box, the wooden contained small ingots of copper and some silver, the bone sewing utensils and spools of silver and copper wire. The silver they took.

There was also a tablet, written in the ancient Ebbarrisi script but though they were barely familiar with it, the meaning impressed itself to them, as well as the name “Kabbaruk”, the name of the long dead king in whose tomb they had been before being transported here.

“His sublime and noble lord, Kabbaruk, King of Kings, first servant of Ilot-Nahas, upon whom her power on earth is granted, admits to your existence.

“You have sent him accounts of your deeds, hoping to gain favour with the dread mistress of the untameable chaos, the true state of the universe, may her name bring awe and fear to all who deny her, he has read them and found them pitiful. 

“Your claim to power, estate and rank in her name, the mighty lord Kabbaruk rejects, and bids you consider yourself fortunate, had he not been amused by your tawdry acts, lacking in wit and imagination, he would have you expirated for your presumption.

“Crawl in the dust and prays he takes no further notice of you, as this may yet occur.

“Sealed by his hand Okkuristes, in the 129th year of the lordship of Kabbaruk”

With this combination of treasure and threat, the group turned to the last door, also decorated, which seemed to open onto a performance area. A slightly raised section with various musical instruments, including a pair for flutes Farshad took, and an audience section. There were paintings on the walls of dancers and musicians, though the group paid then no more attention than they did to the other decorated surfaces.

There is much conversation at various points to here about the abscence of people in the building so far and were the children real? They seemed as real as the group themselves, but the circumstances just scream “these kids are ghosts” but so far, whilst the place is obviously antique and there is a feeling of being lost in time, there is no proof.

Ancient Greek LinothoraxFrom there they went up a floor, finding again a gloomy landing with four doors off it, one to the north, two to the west, between which stand three wicker mannequins dressed in light linen armour and a door to the south.

The armour is made of layers of cloth bonded with resin (the notion of glued layers has no real evidence behind it for the historical types but in this world it is) and the mannequins also hold short bronze headed spears and shields.

I didn’t mention it at the time, but should have, the armour is decorated with script sewn into it in silver and copper wire.

They try the door to the north first, finding a well appointed but dusty and cobwebbed. The group take just a cursory glance, though they note that they have seen webs, but no spiders, and decide to look through the other rooms first.

As they move to the nearest western door, the mannequins start to move, one slams at Utana with a spearbutt as an opening move, and a fight ensues. There is some concern from José as to whether they have the right weapons with which to fight spirit driven constructs, until he remembers that the three have silvered or magical weapons. Farshad also makes use of his torch, thrusting it into a mannequin like a club and sticking it in, unfortunately it is knocked free by a later blow. However, after suffering some bruising themselves, the mannequins are brutalised to a point of destruction, including one being knocked downstairs.

After all that, the western rooms prove to be an anti-climax, a guest room, also dusty and cobwebbed, and a store for bedding and cleaning materials, though after being so fatigued that using the full powers of his sword would have cost him his true lifeforce, Farshad  does  crash on some bedding. at least momentarily.

The room to the south has three beds. One is an adult sized, the other two smaller as if for children. There are chests and tables here, and the impression is of  making it look like a family suite, but it is dusty and uncared for. The whole impression is of plainer and simpler decoration and work than the bedroom to the north.

The group looks around, Utana going to the adult bed, there is no body there, but the figure of a woman, resembling the women with the children in the plaster relief downstairs, rises up. Before the others can react, she shrieks at Utana and José, freezing them where they stand. Farshad trades blows with her, his shortsword vs her raking claws, and the damage she suffers breaks the concentration that holds José and Utana in place.

With them unfrozen, the spirit does not last long , a figure of sadness and pity now rather than terror as weapons of silver or infused with magic rip the fabric of her being apart.

The room has one  other suprise, a secret cubby with a ladder upstairs, but after finding that, the group go back to explore the first bedroom, searching it, and the rooms off it, including a small observatory platform. A thorough search of the main bedroom reveals, secreted in a hole in the floor under one side of the bed,  a small chest, chased with silver and semi-precious gems, containing two golden rings, one of which has a pearl mounted in it, the other has a seal, and a necklace of semi precious beads strung on copper wire.

And there, with some new found wealth, we left it.

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A three day RPG project – Tales from an Ancient Empire

On Twitter, the subject of cheesy 80s movies comes up now and again in UK RPG Twitter, usually Hawk the Slayer or The Sword and the Sorceror. You might see Excalibur mentioned, but it is stars above the other two.

This time I mentioned that the title of the proposed sequel to “The Sword and the Sorceror” was to be “Tales of an Ancient Empire” would make a great title for an RPG. In fact it would make a great title for an RPG I am working on. There is a sort of suspect sequel done 28 years later, so I won’t pinch it, but someone else (Alister Davison @awdscrawl on Twitter) made the mistake of showing mild enthusiasm for the idea, so I spent the weekend writing a simple, un-playtested RPG for handling one shots or small campaigns of 80s Fantasy films.

And here is the PDF of it

Tales from an Ancient Empire – Cover

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Write up 7th October 2022 – Return of the Comet Episode 10

The group considered the steep, dark, descent under the statue, situated as it was in the room of screaming faces and considered what might be below.

And so they turned around, and had another look at the corridor of deadly pits/ Farshad, a rope tied to him, maneuvered the ledges and, with only a minor slip, prevented by Utana, he flipped to the end. With the rope tied taut to the doors at the other side the others were able to negotiate the way.

The room revealed was strange. A hemispherical room with a mosaic floor. Lit by a golden disc in the centre, over which hovered a golden key, a partner to the silver key recently found in the city model room. Around the golden disk is a series of concentric circles, each of which had a disk of its own.

The domed roof shows a night sky, though Utana’s nights of navigating by the stars showed that their positions were slightly off, as if from a long time ago.

Arpaesis saw this as a kind of map of the wanderers around the Sun, and thought to cross to the place corresponding to the world. In fact, as he examined the design, the wanderers seemed to slightly move, with no visible mechanism or moving parts. As soon as he crossed the outmost ring a strange creature appeared over the outermost disk, a flying serpentine creature, claws at the end of the bat like wings, the end of the tail like a knife, screaming at Arpaesis, the force of the focussed shout numbing him.

Utana loosed an arrow, wounding it. Farshad rushed to the rescue, crossing the line, and causing another flying monstrosity to appear. Arpaesis cast “Bar the Way”, keeping the beasts away from him, though Utana, Farshad and Jalabu entered the fray. Jalabu and Farshad soon found the creatures launching themselves at thems, claws rending at them, causing wounds and clamping to them.

Utana blithely stabbed at the creature wrapped around Farshad, luckily managing not to skewer his friend and ally, useful as Farshad was having some difficulty wrestling with a creature larger than he is, but, as Jalabu easily slew his odd creature, Farshad rallied and dispatched his foe, only to have it wrenched off his body by his best friend in the world, Jalabu.

Jalabu mulled over events, and started to walk, nor across the concentric rings, but from disk to disk. This seemed to be safe, as no other flying monstrosities, or anything else appeared. He crossed to the centre and took the golden key. The room dimmed, a little, and outside there was a noise, as the pits sealed with lids, making the way back safer.

There was nothing to do now but go down the dark, narrow, steep stairs under the statue. They emerge on a broad avenue in a city, lit from above by a pale, diffuse green light. To all intents and purposes, although with an unfamiliar architecture, they are in a recognisable city, except that the inhabitants going through their daily routine are not living, but ambulatory dedicated corpses. The look around, the city is walled, the soldiers there are not dedicated corpses but constructs as built by the grandfather of Rasghan Ilyhan Gharsemi.

Arpaesis, concerned that they could retreat, saw that where they had come was both simultaneously the gates to the city, and also the narrow passage back upstairs.

The group looked around and saw that the layout of the city seemed to fit the model they had looted upstairs. Being cautious, they went to the side streets and alleys, the better to hide from the soldiers on the walls though none of the inhabitant seemed to react to the group or even notice them.

In time they were forced by the wall of the Palace/Temple complex to come again to the main avenue to the palace, a colonnaded way that led to a raised pool surrounded on three sides by buildings,temple on the left, palace ahead and treasury and store room ahead.

(Being short of time, I created the floor plans for this with very simple sketching on a graphics package. Crude as anything, but better than nothing)

The square had better preserved and more richly dressed animate corpses, many bearing staves topped with five headed dragons, symbols presumably of rank.

The pool was decorated with reliefs of a five headed dragon and other, somehow disquieting, symbols. Looking in the pool revealed dark water through which glinted objects that exuded a pale, painful bright light, similar to that seen before at the stone circle and surrounding the impossibly huge gate to the mound. Utana listlessly prodded it with an arrow, the water didn’t dissolve the arrow, it touched the bottom, but still no one felt like reaching for any of them.

From there the group looked around for there to go next, and decided to go through the portico of the building that corresponded to the palace part of the model upstairs.

The portico opens into a large chamber, focused on a throne under a domed roof. The empty throne, which appears to be carved from a meteorite, has a back that rises up in the form of the five necks and head of a five headed dragon is surrounded by more living dead, richly dressed, but waiting and focussed on the throne. Elsewhere there are knots of scribes working together, and other courtiers mingling.

The group looked around and saw that the walls were a mural telling a story. From the left of the portico it showed a warrior who rose to become a king, codifier of laws, conqueror and student of the stars and observer of a comet.

A being depicted as a woman with the five dragon heads that have become familiar as a decorative theme came down from the comet, and the king kneeled to her, receiving a tablet from her hands.

With this tablet, the armies of the king defeated his enemies, his soldiers succumbing to the symptoms of the Freen Death, but his enemies stricken with the disease. Later the soldiers seem dead but yet still animated, until they were replaced with the familiar constructs. In the last sequence, the king succumbs to the Green Death whilst under the light of the returned comet. With the tablet, and led by the women with five dragon heads, he and his undead servants, descended under the mound to the new tomb-city.

Unlike in the main part of the city, the courtiers here seem vaguely aware of the group, but they did not seem interested in actively interacting with them.

Arpaesis walked forward to examine the throne and dome. He felt that the throne was made from a meteor, with glints of pure iron here and there. The dome is gold and the base is bordered with intricate designs, but the main decoration is a depiction of the night sky, with a comet streaming across it

The group considered the room, and decided not to engage here further, and to explore the Temple, heading through a side door. It turns out not to be a direct entrance to the Temple, but instead a passageway with two doors before reading the end.

Considering the options, the group opened the topmost door, finding a room with six couches arrayed around a relief map of these lands. The map itself was lit by six lamps, fitted with reflectors that guide a green light over it.

Five of the couches are plain, one is more ornate, but all have corpses lying on the them. The corpse on the ornate couch turned its head and staring at the group

And there we left it.

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Battle report and comments on Midgard Heroic Battles

Midgard Heroic Battles logo

For the past few months, I have been playtesting the, under-development, Midgard Heroic Battles by James Morris (https://mogsymakes.net/). These will eventually be released by Reisswitz Press (aka Too Fat Lardies) but there is no release date yet.

Midgard uses armies built up of units comprised of figures mounted on set bases 120mm wide and tables at least 6′ by 4′. As I started during social distancing, and we don’t have the space for the usual sized table, so I used 40mm wide bases (from Games Workshop’s 2005Battle of Five Armies”) and a smaller battlefield, either 2′ by 18″ or 3’x 2′.

120mm unit width vs 40mm

In Midgard, whilst units have the usual attributes of attack, how easily they suffer casualties and how many casualties they can endure, the real thing that causes armies to fall apart, even while they still have a coherent force on the field, is their morale.  If the army’s morale fails, the army falls apart.

The things that can cause an army to falter are heroes not living up to their name, or units being destroyed, what bolsters an army are those heroes leading from the front and doing deeds of reknown.

Midgard uses a mixed phase turn, in the main each phase belongs to one side, attacker then defender, rather than standard IGOUGO, and I found it a very fast game, with straightforward rules that gave me a feel of a decent core set of rules that give a good feel of handling “straight” wargaming, as well as fantasy with a better feel for fantasy than I have seen in decades.

And so to a battle report

The Threat to Laketown

It is the Third Age of Middle Earth, rumours abound that Sauron, though still bereft of the Ring, has grown in strength. Word has come from the Elves of Mirkwood that two of the Úlairi, the dark shadows bound to Sauron, are leading Goblins. including warg-riders, trolls and bats north through Mirkwood to assault Lake-town.

A blocking force of Iron Hills Dwarves and Men, aided by Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey and some of the Great Eagles seeks to drive the invaders back.

Specific rules for this battle

The terrain is a forest, the units can pass ‘through’ the trunks, but they are rough terrain, slowing progress. If the Free People units are forced off the field of the battle then they are gone.

Seeing as I used a Loke Battlemats book for the battlefield, with a comb in the centre, I just have to live with it, if units need to cross it then they measure to the edge then from the other edge, units can be either side of the comb and in contact. This also means the distances are 1/3 of the “rules as written” distance.

There is a ruined fort astride a road defended by the Free Peoples. If the Evil armies clear that ruin, then they have opened the easiest route to Laketown, Dale and Erebor, and gain a boost to morale.

The Evil Forces are the Attackers in this battle and start first.

The armies

Evil army as deployedSauron’s evil forces are led by a Nazgûl on fell beast. The lesser commanders are a Nazgûl on horse, a chieftain of goblins, lesser goblin champions including one on warg and a troll chief. They lead 12 units of goblins, three of trolls, three of bat swarms and two units of warg riders.

Good is commanded by Dain Ironfoot, who has two lesser dwarf commanders under him. They lead six units of dwarf warriors and three of dwarf archers. The Men are led by King Brand of Dale, who has three units of Men with spears, and three of Men with bows. Aiding them are Saruman the White, with Dain at the ruins, Gandalf the Grey, with Brand, and three groups of the Great Eagles of the Mountains.

The morale for the Free Peoples starts slightly higher than the forces of Sauron

The Battle

The line of evil advances, most of the goblins in columns under their leaders, though having to maneuver through the trees, as well as units failing to respond to the urging of their leaders, means some fall behind, slowing the advance. Clouds of bats fly through the forest under the watchful eye of a Nazgûl on Fell-beast, positioning themselves to strike ahead of their advance.

Movement begins

The Free Peoples, aim to hold the fort ruins and the road, but, outnumbered, find it hard to counter all the lines of advance, and themselves spreading their main strength to the wings, leaving the centre held lightly by Dain’s archers.

Bat attack

On their right, the Warg riders try to outflank the Men, but the Men move to intercept, weakening the centre further, the Dwarves holding the ruin are struck by swooping bats, though to little effect, despite the bats being frenzied by Nazgûl sorcery. The bats are pursued by the Eagles who drive them off, starting a chase and dogfight across the battlefield. (I used the rules as they were at this draft, I believe they have been updated with more specific aerial combat rules).

Eagles pursue

The first attack by the warg riders was repulsed, the unit destroyed, the goblins and trolls suffered light damage from archery, but the advance continued, the lead goblins under command of a champion. He was called out by Dain to single combat and, overmatched by Dain, the goblin leader was slain, and that attack faltered.

the counter attack by the dwarves was so savage that it not only slew the unit facing it, but managed to inflict casualties on the unit behind it, which must have perturbed the goblins somewhat.

The Nazgûl on horse joined in the next attack, the Nazgûl’s dread aura causing fear in the ranks supporting Dain’s front line, and it was only due to the words of Saruman that the line held. The remaining warg riders held back and loosed arrows at Brand’s warriors but they suffered losses in return, but that pinned Brand’s forces in place as the delayed trolls and goblins got closer.

On Evil’s left, the superior numbers of the goblins was grinding down the dwarves, despite the bolstering from Saruman, at the cost of heavy casualties themselves, the superior armour and determination giving the dwarves a slight edge over their foes.  High over the middle of the  battlefield the units of bats split up and tried to get the eagles into a position of disadvantage. The Free Peoples can ill afford the losses but overall the morale of Sauron’s slaves is suffering more.

To raise morale, both sides use leaders to charge in with the warriors, however that backfires for the goblins as one of their champions is killed, but the Free Peoples also suffer as the Trolls hammer Brand’s Men. Brand shows courage, challenging the Troll’s leader to single combat, which he wins, slaying his foe.

The Nazgûl general on Fell Beast flies over to take command of that side of the battle, the other Nazgûl routing the light dwarf screen of archers in the centre, this allows the goblins there to try and flank both dwarves and Men. In response, the Men move to their left to shorten their line, and join with the dwarves.

Gandalf, having joined a unit of men, engages  the mounted Nazgûl and wins, though he is wounded and rendered less effective, but the unit of Men he attaches himself to destroys some goblins.

Flyers dogfightThe bats did manage to wound one unit of Eagles but at the cost of two units of bats, and the Eagles started to swoop down and injure a couple of units of Goblins, one of which breaks and flees.

Both sides are broken into two separate battles but, overall, the losses on Sauron’s side have been great, and with the repulse of the Trolls, their nerve breaks and despite the screeches of their shadowy commanders, they flee the field. Laketown, Dale and Erebor are safe, for today at least.


Although points costed, Evil was costed at a little over 10% higher than the Free Peoples, giving them one advantage, and the Free Peoples had a strong incentive to defend the ruins, or lose morale, making their life more difficult but, despite that, this was a fairly fluid battle with some maneuver, mostly from Evil as they had the advantage in numbers and cavalry.

I know from previous play test games that when both sides have cavalry then they can cause infantry problems if the battlefield is not just an edge to edge line of troops, but not even they are as mobile as wheeling and dodging flyers. I look forward to see the completed rules with their updated aerial combat rules.

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