Iralun – session 6

In which Farshad and Utana offshore their jobs

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbarous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

The group take stock of their situation. They have a dying Kurrim, , recently taken down from a sacrificial frame, and, through a good deed taken advantage of, have left the villainous priestess and priest of the Temple of some unknown deity go, and, in so doing, they deceptive two have absconded with an apparently compliant José.

Dhran, Jushuur and Jalabu attend to the expiring sacrifice, Utana and Farshad quickly find a duty urchin, lurking outside in a doorway, and sent them off to alert her gang members, “Be on the look out for the three that fled this place, an unnaturally beautiful woman, her male companion and Juan José, the big western mercenary who should be known to them.”

This leads to a discussion on whether the whole of their adventures could be run from a decent tavern, and by dispatching a sufficient quantity of urchins, all quests could be undertaken with the minimum of fuss and inconvenience, to the party at least.

The Kurrim, croaking, calls himself ‘Hurrus’, and begs for his body to be taken home, back to the village of Marshtown, across the river from Iralun. The group, having bound his wounds as best as they could, their healer stolen away, they think that there is no way Hurrus can survive the journey, him being so close to death. They make a stretcher from the robes of one of the possessed dead and some wooden staves and, tie Hurrus to it, gently pull him up the ladder and take him out the house and into the street towards the Temple, seeking better medical attention there.

There is a problem in scenario design, I’ve done it, this scenario has it, that unless the party do exactly the one thing expected of them or, worse, make a roll to persuade someone, or spot a vital clue or research some essential fact, then the adventure cannot progress. There are other ways to approach this. Adventures using the Gumshoe system will always give you some basic clues, the group can chose to invest in getting more information, other systems have tasks with discrete chunks, and the characters gain chunks of the task and there should always be room for role-playing to clever ideas to perhaps speed up, or slow down, the process.

On the route they are stopped by four of the citizen watch..

“Evening all, what’s all this ‘ere then? Is that a Kurrim? Don’t you know that iy is han hoffence for a Kurrim to be within the city walls unless on a market day, and honly then in possession of a proper licence? What are you doing with one, and carrying him about too?”

I noticed I’ve been tending to a bit of third party GMing of late “They say X to you” instead of acting out the NPC. I’m trying to get more into acting, I did for this, but I exaggerate in the report above.

Utana shortcircuits the potential for trouble presenting the bona fides given to them by the priestess Teralag, the citizenry look at them in suspicion, and decide that the best thing to do is to escort them to the Temple. If they are accepted then the authorisation is genuine.

There is some kind of hubbub in the streets, groups of muttering folk, side eyed glances at other but, of course, the group are accepted by the Temple and the watch are slightly satisfied, though they await outside. The acolytes  Senyag and Annuran are in the courtyard at weapons practice. Seeing the group they escort them to the infirmary and Hurrus is treated, stabilised and going to live. The group, wanting to find out more about what Hurrus was doing in town, find him reticent, and they discuss drugging him to find out what he knows. That plan founders, not through inability, but because Jalabu, alchemist as well as assassin, as distracted as a six year old in a sweet shop, being given full run of the Temple’s pharmacopeia  to actually go through with the plan.

The decide to do as Hurrus asked, and take him to Marshtown. Grabbing the 4 citizen’s watch outside, they are escorted to the Watergate and beyond, to a bowshot outside the walls. Crossing the ford, they follow the road till they reach the edge of the marsh proper, where they can see, built on artificial islands propped up on log piles, the village, huts forming a perimeter around a central communal area, and they start along the causeway to the village.

As the group get closer, an older, brawny Kurrim sees the procession, recognises Hurrus, his son and, runs screaming at them, taking an axe from his belt. The group stand there, dumbfounded and it isn’t until Jalabu is hit by an axe that they loudly tell the violent newcomer that their charge is alive.

The Kurrim introduces himself as Tassus, apologises, and invites them to a feast while his shaman attends to Hurrus. He explains that he thought the group were Iralunin, bringing his dead son, Hurrus, to dump the corpse in the village, as is the habit of the arrogant city dwellers. He knows Hurrus was visiting a human woman in the city, a prostitute, by the name of “Alhyri” or “Elhari”.

The group enjoy the feast, and see the healing of the Kurrim, involving scrapping skin and snipping hairs into a potion that, when finished, is fed to Hurrus, who drifts off in a healing stupor. The potion is sampled by members of the group but, unsurprisingly, lacking the elements of body to ties the potion to them, just get an unpleasant sensation of having hairs in their mouth.

In the morning, having slept in Tassus’s hut, they learn more from Hurrus. The woman he was seeing works in “The Rebel’s Head”, a low dive named for the tarred heads of failed rebels hung from ropes from beams outside A former mansion fallen on hard times in what is now a rough part of Iralun. Hurrus also supplies the name of the two in charge, the woman, Ulaliritu, the man Dzhughael and, from what he saw, Ulaliritu was in charge, Dzhughael was very deferential to her. He also tells them how he got in and out of the city, using a forgotten and supposedly sealed postern gate that can be moved, exposing to a gap between the walls where the filling has collapsed. It is a tight squeeze for all save Farshad.

This episode is odd. In the original the found sacrifice is a lizardman, and they expire immediately after asking for their body to be returned to their village. Firstly, why couldn’t the characters use magical healing? Certainly more available in AD&D than it is in DragonQuest.

Secondly, would the characters every time cart a corpse back out to its home, rather than just leave it there and avoid awkward questions? It’s a bit of an assumption.

Returning to the Temple, they find a group from rent-an-urchin awaiting them. They sell them the information that they know where the group’s captors and friends went. For some more silver the gang will sell them the actual location. Utana the generous pays the cherubic extortionists, though not without some grumbling. Surprise surprise, it is to The Rebel’s Head. The group, minus Dhran who stays at the temple in case of any more urchin reports, head off, and guided by urchins to the Rebel’s Head.

The Rebel’s Head, having once been a mansion, is beyond a wall, though the gate is long gone, the advertised heads dangle in front of the town house, and four bouncers guard the door. They make the group check in any weapons larger than a knife, issuing clay chits and placing the weapons into a cupboard built against the wall.

Inside the place is a crowded den of drink, underhanded deals and unsavoury conversations. The bar is opposite the door and, at either end of the building are two fighting pits, a smaller one for animals and a larger one for fights between mortals. Drink is bought, a vile spirit, called raki, but unlike the spirit of the same name in the southlands, this is rougher and does not have the same flavour. Farshad is also supplied with some tsipouro (ancestral ouzo) which does seem like the genuine article.

Scoping the place out, and engaging some of their near neighbours in chat, they learn about the diversions and entertainments here. One of those they speak to is a huge human, named Zhigul, the resident champion of the fighting pit. Utana places a bet on him, and wins, though the odds mean that the return is not good. It is the judgement of the group that Zhigul makes the fight look harder than it is, to encourage betting and new challengers, but it does not tempt any of the group to take their chances.

The other topic that the group bring up is to look about for or ask after a preternaturally attractive woman, and had such a one been seen in the Rebel’s Head, but no such beauty has been seen. On the upper level, they do see some young women, and men, apparently prostitutes engaging customers from the bar. There is another door, but most who go through that door seem more desperate, and those that leave seem glassy eyed and unable to engage with others.

Jalabu eventually approached the bar, and enquired after “Alhyri” or “Elhari”.

He was directed upstairs to “Elhiri”, and one of the bouncers gives him further guidance when he got there, introducing him to Elhiri, who seems to be in the mid twenties, and is simply, but sparsely dressed, though with silver jewellery with lewd themes.

Jalabu follows her into a neatly but sparsely featured room. Elhiri, is up front about the transaction, 10 silver pieces for an hour, and Jalabu pays up. He is intrigued by the offer of a bath, and is led into another room for that, the water uis mostly clean and still warm. As she ministers to him with oil and strigil, Jalabu questions her about Hurrus.

Downstairs, drink is consumed, Farshad in particular seems to prefer the tsipouro to the raki, though both get the job done.

Upstairs Elhiri denies all knowledge of Hurrus or Ulaliritu, though seems distracted and one of her nails scratches Jalabu. She starts back as Jalabu starts to become aware that she had attempted some magic upon him. He does not have time to react to this as Elhiri jumps back, pulls a rope and shouts all sorts of vile accusations as loudly as she can.

As Jalabu struggles out of the bath, bouncers arrive, grab him by the arms and throw him, and his gear, out of the window, though luckily he is bruised rather than injured. He garbs himself, goes around the front, presents his clay chit and gets his weapons from the bouncers, who eyeing up this damp and dishevelled stranger.

In a rage, Jalabu pulls out his sword and attempts to go in, stabbing at a bouncer who gets in his way, he is clubbed to the ground, stunned and unable to do more as the rest of the group hurry out to see what is going on. Seeing the situation, they retrieve their own gear, and carry Jalabu back to the Temple. They spot at the time, but it doesn’t really register, a half sunken side entrance to the Rebel’s Head.When Jalabu recovers, he is still angered, and the group watch him like a hawk lest he go back in a violent rage but, by morning, a more calculating, cold desire for revenge takes him.

And there we left it, José is still unfound, but they know something is up 

As far as the vile accusations go, I wish I had used comedic accusations rather than the one I had used. We were all adults but still and all, if I had my time again I would have used “barratry, impersonating a clergyman of the Church of England, possessing a dog without a licence“. That sort of thing.

In a playtest of the latest edition of RuneQuest, I found new players, in their late 20s and early 30s, felt uncomfortable with some themes that we took in our stride in the 80s. This was not them being delicate, but a changing realisation that being flippant about some things is perhaps not the way to approach them.

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Iralun – session 5

That’s not a knife, that’s a LUCKY knife!

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbourous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

So, for the first time in running the White Dwarf scenario “Irilian” by Daniel Collerton, this game sees a material plot divergence from the rather linear original, a consequence of me adapting it to my game world, my, what I laughingly call my GM style and reducing the almost constant combat. Other changes in the order of things happening or details have not been significant, maybe this one will be.

Having found Tamiz the sage as suggested, and extricated him from a potential bar fight so that he can research and explain the verse told to them by the priestess Teralag. He is using alchemical means to sober up and, whilst looking pale and unsteady, seems resolute to the task, to try and get some meaning from the phrase

Out of the West, 
The Dark comes crawling, 
Higher and higher. 
Till it touches the sky.
Whlle in the East. 
The Light, still burning. 
Sends the Hero, 
Gifting the sacrifice pyre.

Reasearch will take time,givingrthe group have a day to their own devices, to get gear, for the mechanics of the XP Spend to take effect and to rest, whilst Tamiz consults his books.

Dhran buys a helmet to go. with his armour, Utana has his armour repaired and Jushuur is measured up so that his plate armour can be made to actually fit him. Silvered arrows are replaced, as they have found them so useful in combatting various creatures and Dhran looks to have a scabbard made for his weird hooked dagger, taken as war booty from a cultist. The rest of the group look askance at him keeping this, it bearing all sorts of unholy symbols and which Teralag seemed to sense. He, however, insists that is is his lucky dagger, and he will return to this theme throughout the session. The armourer was reluctant to actually touch it but enough silver changed hands to change his mind.

That evening, guided by their on retainer urchin, returning to Tamiz, they find that he has tidied up a little, and tried to be more presentable, and a responsible host, before giving what explanation he could on such a short verse. There is disagreement about what the Dark is, is it merely a philosophical concept, a drawing together of many evils, or one evil gaining power from gathering lesser evil to itself?

The group enjoins on a philosophical discussion on the nature of evil, and in particular the lesser evil in the group, namely Farshad, being lesser both in scope and stature. Whatever “The Dark” is, it is known to draw those lesser evils to it, and can bring out the evil in those that might otherwise be thought of as good and, whatever the Dark is, as it gains power it will certainly act as a coherent entity. It cannot be wholly defeated unless all that is evil in the world is destroyed, but without that, it can be delayed.

Tamiz suggests that the next person to consult is a Sakah astrologer, Tothagoz, who might be able to provide further insight, for surely the evil will mark itself in the stars.

At the astrologers, they are brought in by a tall, cadaverous man, her servant and shown upstairs to a chamber where Tothagoz comes to meet them. Tothagoz is a Sakah, a nomadic peoples from the East who form some of the nobility of Quulbaqr, the state surrounding the free City of Iralun, but she has overdone the costume and jewellery, possibly to appeal to her customers as a more exotic figure. She listens to the group’s tale, finds out their birth dates and places and makes notes and calculations. She declares that there are links between the groups as shown in their Birth Aspects (DragonQuest’s equivalent of character horoscopes).

This takes some time, and it is now dark enough to observe the stars. The group are lead to the roof, an open area, screened at the sides with a tent like arrangement at the centre and some stools set around. Tothagoz uncovers the “tent” and collapses the frame to reveal an arrangement of lenses in a frame, each lense linked by wires of truesilver. She takes some preliminary sightings before turning it west and to make her proper observations. Whatever she saw, proved too much for her, and she collapses, blood coming from mouth, nose and ears.

At this problem, one of the issues of running such a well known, in fact legendary, scenario rears its head. One of the players remembers this portion, and intimates that that has triggered memories of the ending, and what the ending requires of the group. My response is that is now, because of my changes, that requirement is not the only only way that it can be interpreted, and that there is another way.

Jalabu decides to have a look through the lenses also, and he swoons, though is not injured. José does what healing he can, whilst Jushuur gets their guide to run back to the Temple of Ghalmerha, to get healers from there. Between them all, Tothagoz is stabilised and Jalabu brought round.

Whilst Jalabu is less affected, between them, the group get the impression that a formless intelligence to the west, one that mocked and dismissed Jalabu and, while mocking of Tothagoz, it drew her in, examined her and spat her out contemptuously. She did, however get an address, 3 Khalkedon Way. The group leave Tothagoz in the hands of the Temple Healers and plan what to do next.

The group, apart from being pleased that they now have, they think, ultimate evil’s home address, go back to the Temple to rest. Suspicious about what they are getting themselves into, the ensure that they all armed and armoured as best as they can be, before setting out to tackle evil in daylight. This fully armed and armoured mercenary approach worries the local citizen watch who shadow the group, archers ready.

What the group would do if ultimate evil was not in, they never planned for. I assume that they’d scribe on a bit of clay “We tried to deliver your doom but you were out, you can collect your doom at the Temple of Ghalmerha during the following hours.”

The building they ended up at was in disrepair and closed up, the lower floor blocked by mortared stone, the upper by nailed boards. Farshad’s inspection revealed, at the rear, a hidden, and well maintained, lock in the blocked rear door that, when  he picked it, revealed that the blocking stone was a thin layer on a working door. What neither he nor Jalabu found was the release that tripped an alarm elsewhere. Inside the place was bare apart from rubble, lathe was exposed, chunks of plaster were fallen, rocks, broken furniture and the corpses of dead rats.

In the scenario as written, the next fight involves giant rats, I changed that, as they had recently tackled giant rats, but left the corpses of the rats in to commemorate them. Not finding the alarm changed what happened later, allowing those inside to prepare

Proceeding upstairs to the first floor, the way is blocked by a floating, flaming skull with skeletal arms descending from it, a creation of necromancy (as opposed to healing magic). It casts a spell of agony, affecting all but in particular Jalabu and José, who are locked in pain and blocking the stairway.

In DragonQuest magic resistance is based on Willpower with modifiers, like casting counterspells or what college of magic you are in and its relationship to the college of the caster. If you are NOT in a College of Magic, that in itself provides a bonus and, with an active group entirely of non-magical characters, they al got it, but it did not help for the agony spell.

The skull then conjures mortal shaped constructs made of the rubble, who seek to attack the group with sharp claw like endings to their arms, though seemingly vulnerable to silver. A short fight was hampered, on the group’s side, by the pain of the agony, and Jushuur was hurt by some clutching spell that seemed to grip his heart, but after the realisation that the attackers, save for the skull, was illusory, then the swift application of silvered arrows and a smashing blow the skull was felled. The skull was decorated with engravings, semi-precious stones and metal wire, which Jalabu pocketed.

The two rooms of the upper floor were also bare, save for two boxes of assorted discarded and stained clothing, as was the attic space, but a pile of broken furniture in the corner of the main room proved to be a secret trapdoor over a ladder which went down a chimney breast like space to the cellar, or possibly below the cellar.

The group descended, assembling in an ante-chamber in front of a simple door. Prepared, they proceeded into a large room, and it seems apparent that this space extends under neighbouring buildings. In front of them are six posts, each with someone tied to them, facing that door. From the left a woman then a man, both seemingly in their late twenties and attractive, the other four are occupied by robed and hooded figures.

Above, on a T shaped cross is hung a heavily tatooed Kurrim, hanging by his arms and not moving. As Jalabu is about to untie a robed figure, José uncovers its head, the figure is obviously dead, but that hasn’t stopped it moving. The robed figures prove that their restraints are fake, looped ropes, and they attack. Jalabu is grappled, the others manage to handle the remaining dead with light wounds.

Durign the struggle, they ignore the desperate pleas from the woman to be set free, and the listless groans of the man, probably asking the same thing if anyone could understand him. Eventually Jalabu shoves the dead figure back, allowing the others more freedom of action to cut it down. Despite Dhran’s most powerful exercise of will, he cannot see anything untoward in the pair that are left, no illusions or disguises, and the two other prisoners on the posts are released.

José, helping the woman up, guides her to the ladder and out. Jalabu, not unfamiliar with torture, notices that the wrists of the man seem barely damaged, rather than the rope burned and abraded ones he might expect, however as the man thanks all, he explains that he was recently enticed into an alley by the sound of a child in distress and set upon by the four dead folk in the robes and dragged here. Still thanking people on his way out, he claps Dhran on his back, and a weird touch of kinship sparked between them, perhaps delighting or perhaps upsetting Dhran, who can say. Maybe both.

The Kurrim is gently lowered. Their tattoos are of a sort the group has not seen before, certainly not those of the worshippers that they have followed. He seems close to death, but the first aid he is getting, allows him enough strength to reveal that he too has a story of kidnap, only in his story, the woman and man that the group freed were priestess and priest of this underground temple.

However those two, and José, are gone

And there we left it 

So I was less prepared for this than usual, real life stuff taking over meant that no prepared maps and being tired the patter was less “show” than “tell”, must work on that.

There are a couple of things going on, including the disappearance of the two from this temple and with them a party member, that are not as the scenario as written intends, so we’ll see what we all make of that in future. There are a couple of other player/character things going on, which is great for me, not knowing everything that is going on. These being so, I have not written about some of the things that have been going on, I will reveal all later maybe.

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Iralun – Session four

If we drink we will die, if we don’t drink we will die!

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbourous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

First again to reiterate, I am running the White Dwarf scenario “Irilian” by Daniel Collerton, but I am adapting it to my style and reducing the almost constant combat, at least in the approach to the city. I have also adapted details to my campaign world. This means that some things don’t occur, or occur in the wrong order compared to the original scenario.

We wound back time and revisited the approach to the city, as it has been a rush at the end of the previous session. Utana and Jushuur ride ahead in case the armed forces that they have seen evidence off on their journey west are camped in siege of the city of Iralun.

The pair ride ahead and both push on when they hear the horns of the city call the dusk shutting of the gates. No entreaties to the guards could induce them to cease the closure of the gates, “more than my job’s worth mate”. While this is going on, the rest of the caravan drew close, and the group contemplated setting up camp for the night, or seeing what the walls and buildings that they see to the south of the road, outside the city, are, and if they will provide shelter, when they noticed that the heavy clouds that had been gathering, amidst thunder and occasional lightning were now rolling south, close to the ground and, at the fringes could be seen corpses, moving, staggering, jerkily but moving, being lead by three demonic seeming figures, indistinct, but less than human, and a monstrous aspect to them.

José shoots at a demon with a silver arrow, but misses, Utana looses another, and scores a glancing blow, which causes the material of the demon to smoke and raises a howl the gates to the south opens and a figure, claws in a blood red cowled robe,  a death’s head visible from under the hood, a bronze skull pectoral over the robe, beckons from the gates.

Figure painted by Phil Hendry, that fortuitously fit this non-player character, Tamordiu, Priest of Sikavilmerha, the Goddess who guides the dead on their way.

Given this vision, the group contemplated the options, face the shambling dead and demons to the north, or accept the invitation of this skull headed apparition to the south, they went to the south.As they drew close, the figure stepped to the side to allow the caravan to enter the revealed graveyard, as he held up a hand, and light poured forth, slowing the advance of the dead and their demonic leaders.

As the last wagon entered, the figure croaked for the gates to be closed, and he held the light, retreating into the precincts of the graveyard, the light fading as the gates closed and were barred, the figure staggered and leaned against a fence post as they recovered their breath. The group placed two wagons close to the gates to provide an extra barricade, others placed behind the wall to use as a firing step behind the wall.

The unclean foe came to the wall and gates, but could not  penetrate it, some force kept them at bay. It was not the wall, which was not high enough for a fortification. More arrows were loosed, and some minor damage caused, in return a demon picked up a moving corpse and hurled it at Dhran, a piercing and dreadful howl escaped the corpse as it crossed the barrier of the wall, and it was dead meat when it hit Dhran, knocking him back and winding him.

One of the demonic figures threw a dagger, also at Dhran, again mildly wounding him, and yet more damage was done when he withdrew the blade.

DragonQuest rules have it that any pointed missile that causes damage, has lodged in the body and potentially causes a wound when pulled up. After consideration I am changing this to weapons that cause Endurance damage only.

Another demon hurled a corpse, this time at Utana, the corpse clutching a broken hafted spear ahead of itself life a spike, luckily for Utana, it missed.

By that point the figure, introducing himself as Tamordiu, priest of Sikavilmerha, the Goddess of Death, she who guides the dead on their way, had recovered enough to offer hospitality and shelter. He points out that this is a holy placem, and that the unclean connot enter its precinctsa. He can offer food and rest in his quarters to the rear of the Temple of Sikavilmerha and it was decided that, as the unclean could not penetrate the barrier of the wall, it would be best to move the wagons out of harm’s way, and rest for the night.

Dhran takes the dagger that wounded him, a strange hooked knife with sigils upon it looking familiar from recent encounters, wraps it in cloth and secretes it next to his breast.

Rested, they set off the next morning with the blessing of Tamordiu, heading to the main gate, and the queue of early arrivals for the opening. Some negotiation with the guards and they paid the toll into the city, but resisted the blandishments of some urchins who offered to guide them for pay.

The city, like the trading post, is built on old Hassaryu imperial foundations, this was a provincial capital at one time, and it still shows. The group split, Jalabu accompanies Farshad to the Merchant Factors, where Farshad will collect the payment for escorting the caravan to safety.

The rest go to the Temple of Ghalmerha, their original destination as sent by Harvan, all those many weeks ago, though that may have slipped their minds given recent hardships, with the leader of the Kotharim, Irikdin, who bears a small chest from their cargo, and the tablet and messahe given to them by the Perim who rescued them all some days ago. They and are eventually brought to the Archpriestess, Teralag, who reveals the message of the tablet, just two words, “Dark Rises”

This recalls to her mind, this old rhyme of prophecy,

Out of the West, 
The Dark comes crawling, 
Higher and higher. 
Till it touches the sky.
Whlle in the East. 
The Light, still burning. 
Sends the Hero, 
Gifting the sacrifice pyre.  

José recalled the words of the Perim, that a great evil had been in the East, then extinguished, and wonders, how does this relate to the rhyme? If the evil was in the East, then why is it coming from the West. A mystic voice in his head supplied a thought that the Eivil had been in the East, past tense, and they had followed signs of it from there, but that those elements they had followed were heading West, with all signs being that they were part of a larger muster.

Teralag arranged for quarters for the group, and advised Irikdin to take their Kotharim home and prepare for war.

Over at the Merchant Factors, the Kotharim make their deliveries, and receive their interim payment. Farshad takes the group’s fee in coin and gems, constantly aware of Jalabu, and the wickedly pointed knife he toys with, lurking close behind him.

The pair arrive at the temple in time to have their companions fill in what they have missed, and for Teralag to return from contemplation

'There is some great evil rising although what form it takes or from whence it comes I cannot say. I have prayed to Ghalmerha, but Her wisdom is hidden. I only know that the means to lay this abomination lies somewhere in lrilun. The Darkness has touched you already, so I ask you to aid me in this search, for it is seeking you still. I cannot leave the Temple so you must be my agents in the town. 

You are not known in lrilun and so shall be able to move about without being associated with me. If it were known that l were interested in what you will have to seek., it would cause a panic. As it is, you will merely be another band of shiftless mercenaries. 

Above all, you must tell no-one more of this then you have absolute need to - the Dark feeds on fear. l suggest that you begin with Tamiz the Sage: he should be able to provide some information. Should any of you be killed or injured. I will tend you. Our rewards in the next life will be great.' 

Dhran asked what aid needed authority Teralag could offer. Teralag looked closely at Dhran, seeming to stare intently at his heart, before answering. Aid she said accommodation and healing she already had spoken of, authority she offered a seal, bearing the similar of her goddess and a request for aid. She emphasised that this was only to be used at direst necessity, and she passed it to Utana as looking the most responsible of the group.

With the first task settled, finding the sage Tamiz, an expert on ancient secrets of the city and who is reputed, for a secular academic, to have some in depth knowledge of forgotten cosmology. was the next order of business This time they were glad of the offer of a young guide, though negotiation was tough, and they found Tamiz’s house, though it was locked.

Rousing a neighbour, they learned Tamiz was usually to be found in the caravanserai known as The Gryphon. A combination of storehouse, pub, shop and trading house, they soon found out that Tamiz was there, unconscious under a table.

Dragging him to his feet and intending to get him home, José was obliged to pay Tamiz’s rather extensive tab. By this point Tamiz awoke and proved to be an emotional drunk, insecure and seeking protection, no matter what happened. He almost needed that protection, as when José, having to let Tamiz go to pay the tab, allowed the sage to stumble and stagger into a Kurrim mercenary, spilling her drink.

The mercenary, Selahak, rose up, as did her eight comrades, and it seemed as if they would vent their frustration on Tamiz. Farshad urged calm, but it was José who quickly headed conflict off by giving the owner of the Caravanserai enough money to let them drink mead for a night and more.

After a drink with their new friends, they took Tamiz home, trying to make themselves comfortable in the unkempt and untidy home whilst Tamiz secreted himself away in his library. The group worry at the sounds of clinking and gurgling and of physical discomfort, and wonder if their sage is continuing to drink themselves to death.

However, Tamiz comes through briefly, pale, sickly looking, holding themselves more upright and confidently, and explains that he is employing an alchemetical method of sobering up, and that he will be fit to speak to them shortly.

And there we left it.

As written, fetching Tamiz from the Gryphon is definitely a bar room brawl, but the way the party handled it should have had a fair chance of working. DragonQuest does not really have social skills or intellect skills like deduction. The player is expected to supply that in role-playing. I am trying to resist the generic roll for luck, but in the case of the offer of mead, there was always a chance that the mercenaries preferred a fight to a drink.

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Iralun – session three

Bear with me!

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbourous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

First again to reiterate, I am running the White Dwarf scenario “Irilian” by Daniel Collerton, but I am adapting it to my style and reducing the almost constant combat, at least in the approach to the city. I have also adapted details to my campaign world. This means that some things don’t occur, or occur in the wrong order compared to the original scenario.

The battle over, and having looted many spare arrows, the group try to see if there is any more useful information that they can garner from their rescuer. When that is exhausted, they finish striking camp and the wagon caravan proceeds on. Jushuur and Utana, acting as scouts, spot a tree fallen across the path almost, but not quite out of sight along the path. Jushuur, Farshaad, Juan José and Utana, it being Dhran and Jalabu’s turn to lend their mules to haul carts, ride round through the woods to try and take potential ambushers in the rear. Utana and José pick their way through the woods expertly, while Farshad gets left a little behind, less skilled at this, but he escapes lightly compared to Jushuur’s, whose horse stumbles and throws him. His armour protects him for serious damage, but he is still winded.

Thankfully there was no ambush. Jushuur does his “Aragorn the Detective act“. As he reconstructed events, this felled tree was cut down to cut off an avenue of escape, should they flee this morning’s attack, this tree would slow down people fleeing. Hitching up their mules to the free, they drag it clear and the caravan continues on its way.

The rest of the day is thankfully free of incident, and they are able to make it to the trading post by dusk. To all it is recognisable as an ancient Haxamanis fort, more familiar to them from their homeland as built using mud bricks, here the design is recreated in stone and wood, patched and repaired over the years. Its tower, overlooking the gate, is more wood than stone these days, but it still stands sentinel over the gate, covered in hides to give some protection against fire. The inside of the wall is divided into corrals on the south side, makeshift shops and quarters on the west and north, some empty ground on the east and, near the tower, tables and a kitchen.

The caravan wound their way in and sought someone to point them to the people in charge. A casual labourer took them over to the owners at the bar, and pointedly hinted at a drink as a reward, nudging an empty cup as a hint. Just as pointedly, the group, initially, ignore their benefactor. Eventually drinks were bought, including for casual hangers on and the group explained to the owners the troubles that they had encountered and the risks of attack that seem to be rife in the area.

Horrified, the owners told the group that, if it was earlier, they would have refused the caravan entry. As it was, they must be gone at first light. The party are given a warning, the bridge over the River Iral had been broken, and the caravan would have to cross via the southern route, using ferry, assuming the ferry was still there.The group suggested extra guards might be of value, and watched with some trepidation as a group of rather disreputable muleteers volunteered, hardy, ragged, whetting their long knives and speaking in double entendres and veiled threats, they turned out to be conscientious watchers, and the fear of the group that they would be murdered in their beds proved groundless.

The caravan left, and some Kotharim travellers were given messages to take home, and details of where the bodies of the fallen were to arrange for reburial. As they left the trading post, the land started opening up, the forest thinning out and giving way to plains. The road turned to the south before heading east again, leading to some buildings and the ferry, a large raft pulled by ropes. Haggling was short, the caravan had not much of a choice, and the ferrywoman. a strong and sturdy young woman called Salaxhwana, introduced her pet brown bear Dahlvha. The group decided to have Utana, Jushuur, Farshad and José cross together with Salaxwhana on the first ferry to established a beachhead and to help pull ropes at that side., Dhran and Jalabu kept watch with the Kotharim and prepared the next load to cross.

As the group hauled on the ropes, they didn’t notice the eight, weirdly serpentine, beings that surfaced from the river, and hauled themselves onto the ferry, armed with tulwars and bucklers, while two others emerged further along the hawsers, sawing away with knives.

Caught unawares, outnumbered nearly two for one and too close for the archery they had prepared for, In the intial attacks, all was as the group could do was endure the attacks of tulwars in the hands of immensly strong serpent-men while they drew their melee weapons, however the following attacks were different, tails whipped out, knocking Farshad, José and Utana into the river. Utana, weighed down by heavy armour, was lucky, he caught on the hawsers of the ferry and was able to hold himself up. but it took him a long time to get back onto the ferry. Farshad and José were able to clamber back on much sooner.

Jushuur, more agile than he looks, avoided getting immersed in the river, hust as well with his heavy armour.Those on the shore did what they could to help by firing arrow and throwing rocks to attack the Keteaorum, one of whom, by clumsiness, managed to throw itself into the river, which was nice. The Keteaorum were winning, threatening Salaxwhana, which drove Dahlvha the bear into the fight. She swam across, ripping through the Ketaorum with her claws.

On the ferry, Utana’s problems increased as one of the hawser cutting Keteaorm tried to stab him, but he got on that ferry. Farshad spent much of the fight stunned and disarmed, but got a cut or two in and a good throw of a spare dagger. José’s track record as a wound magnet did not seem under threat, and an exquisite parry from a Keteaorum left him disarmed again. Utana’s parry left him unbalanced and in danger, and Jushuur found his skill not quite able to overmatch his opponents.

It took Phil, playing Utana, far too many times to get back on board, it was kind of both funny and frustrating at the same time. At one point I couldn’t look at the screen , being partially embarrassed, partially paralysed with laughter.

The bear made it onto the ferry, but, once it had safeguarded Salaxwhana it seemed content to stop. Eventually though it went into action again, becoming a menace to Farshad, who needed an expert leap not to end up in the water again, still nervous as his weapons had been under the bear. Another tail whip sent Utana flying back again, the bear’s bulk saving him from plunging back into the water.  José was not so lucky, again he hit the drink and his bowstring stretched in the wet.

Alastair, playing Farshad, had an excellent Agility roll to dodge the bear charging through him. He thought about leaping onto the bear. I wish he had, that would have been fun.

With the only opponents left the Keteaorum desperately trying to cut the hawser, and one injured on left on the raft, an ursine leap into the water to tackle it combined with some skilful archery took care of one, and some hacking from Jushuur made an end of the last of the Keteaorum, though none of the party escaped without bruises and bleeding.

The ferry eventually grounded on the other side. Wounds were treated, the bear having suffered most of all, and the Kotharim with Dhran and Jalabu handled the rest of the transport and replaced the damaged hawsers. They rested for the night, saw Salaxwhana and Dahlvha back on their side of the river, with the best healing José could manage. The caravan headed of, just hearing the call for the gates to shut when almost withing touching point of the city

And there we left it

Some thoughts post this game. I am going to have to check on defences, because unless you take ranks in shield or increase your Agility, your defence does not keep pace with your attack. In fact, success as an adventurer can penalise you, as better armour hurts your Agility. There is Evade but that is sacrificing attack on the hope of a riposte.

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Iralun – session two

Fire, I’ll take you to burn!

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbourous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

As they break camp, looking to three or four days more travel, the weight of the wagon loads is evened up and the mules of the party now riding on the wagons look reproachfully on their riders as they are now pressed into service as wagon mules.

With Utana scouting to the fore and Jushuur keeping an eye to the rear, they use all their skills and talents to look for signs of movement or tracks crossing theirs. As José practices his herblore and healing on his hamster, Jushuur sees signs of something large in the woods to the east, but puts it down to a trick of light and shadow, but Utana spots a number of figures stalking the group, trying to not be seen, but definitely keeping tabs with the group.

Utana rides over to make contact, perhaps these are locals wary of strangers

meanwhile reaction roll :- /gmroll d100

The newcomers, unfortunately, react in violence, hurling javelins. Two hit Utana, one bouncing off his armour, the other lightly wounding him. Another flies past him and almost skewers another attacker on the sides. The usual lethal archery from the group kills two, fells one and sends another running. The wounded one is despatched, the fleeing one is chased, but the attempt to capture him is thwarted by Jalabu’s long range archery thus robbing the group of a prisoner to interrogate.

The bodies were piled aside, they were Kurrim, the tattoos and beads of a different sort to the tribe of Kurrim that they met and helped, and were helped by, on the deserted plateau to the north-east of the Haraxan Kingdom. In the tattoos, not on open show, but there, were those marks that they were becoming familiar with, symbols of cultists of Ahyrmya. Loading the javelins from the Kurrim into a makeshift quiver on a wagon, the train continues, the rest of the day being quiet, and finds a clearing just off the road to rest, the next day should see them come to a trading post and then a clear road to Iralun.

Watch that night is uneventful, save for Juan José falling asleep, his hamster gorging itself on medicinal herbs,Jushuur hitting the “stay awake tea” too heavily and not getting as much rest as he should, and starting the next day slightly fatigued, and Dhran(?) blinding himself with too much light on the watch. Utana bears his watch with quiet forebearance, easy as he has had a longer sleep.

As he neared the end of the watch, he sees that the way ahead to the north east is being blocked by a few armed me with large, military shields and spears, of better quality than the attackers before. Above them hover giant, vile looking bats. To the west the attackers are less disciplined, though still better armoured  and armed than the ones  who attacked the wagon train.

The Kotharim arm themselves, for the rest of the encounter assume that, although not pictured on the map, they are engaging with other foes also not on the map, that way it leaves the field uncluttered.Utana, Jalabu, José and Jushuur let fly with their customary archery, but it is less effective, the armour and shields provide reasonable defence for the attackers. A less well armoured figure in the rearmost attackers, that they believed to be a spell caster and foolishly too far to the fore, is slain. Dhran leaps up onto a wagon.

The bats surged ahead, their cries focussed shrieks that stabbed out at the defenders. José is dazed, Jalabu manages to dodge the full part of the blast and the bat that targetted Dhran is so intent on him, that it fails to spot the war prize javelins sticking up out of their quiver, it pricks itself and reels back in pain. From behind the north-eastern line of shields launches a bolt of fire, burning the air and reality in a kind of black horror, it envelops Jushuur and Utana and the pain, agony and damage of it causes them to be stunned and drop their bows.

Dhran attempts to haul the wagon round to ride down the western enemies (strictly speaking, the carts were not hooked up to the mules at this point, but I was too lazy to do cart only tokens, so what the hell) but only gets the mules to pull it part of the way round.The ensuing battle is chaos around the wagon laager. The forces to the north-east advance slowly and methodically, relying on the distraction of the foes to the west and the bats above to get closer.

Highlights of the melee include Dhran trying to ride down foes with a slowly moving cart coming from a standing start and the foes, with baffled expressions, sidestepping carefully, only for Dhran to end up wearing a bat, after it failed to haul Dhran off the cart, as a cape. Dhran’s attempts to poke it off with his Falchion came to nothing.

Image

Farshad, using another wagon as cover, lashes out, killing another Shevam and managing to catch the Shevam’s hat as a souvenir.

Utana and Jushuuer recover from their stunned state, and take stock of their surroundings (also here we found another difference between SPI’s DragonQuest 2nd edition and the Bantam edition of 2nd, the newer Bantam one gives a larger chance to recover)

The party is aware of movement in the surrounding woods, but of what, only time will tell. A bat grabs Utana in its claws and, flapping furiously, manages to lift the armoured warrior a few feet into the air. He stabs it with a dagger, wounding it slightly and being dropped. With his catlike reflexes he lands on his feet. Jalabu finishes off the bat with an arrow and Utana’s cat like reflexes are tested again as he has to dodge out of the way of a falling bat corpse.Jushuur, meanwhile, laughs at the concept that terrible circumstances can prevent him bypassing any defence (character’s sword skill is seriously OP :wink: )

The wood  to the north disgorge more well armoured and armed troops, more bats and more of these lighter but still skilled opponents. Dhran’s brave scheme has opened up the west of the wagon laager to easy attack, the bats now outnumber the group. Despair seizes the group, there is talk of surrender, when light arcs from out the woods to the south, arrows fly up, axes are hurled and. eventually more magical light and fire lashes out.

The group, mystified, hold their ground but their opponents instead of pressing the attack, break and flee (I could have stopped the game here and picked it up next time in the middle of things, but I did not want to – it would be having a long fight for the sake of having the fight).

The cultists to the north-east retire in good order, leaving only a few of their dead, the spellcaster priest is definitely still alive. those to the west are brutally despatchedThe leader of the newcomers introduces herself and her two chief companions

Orpoin.  = leader
Katiari = Chief Guard
Enari = Seer

Orpoin and Jushuur recognise each other as fellow Perim, half immortals and definitely not elves.Orpoin’s seer has been tracking a great evil, once far to the east, now here (everyone looks at Farshad). Things long dead are attempting to rise up again, forgotten horrors from the shadows are stealing into the light and generally it is not good. The centre seemed to be a barren and deserted plateau far to the east, sounding similar to the place Harvan sent you to explore a tomb, and now seems to be centred on the city and temple that he sent you to in order to aid translation of the books you found in the tomb.Orpoin hands you a message, and requests you to take to Teralag, priestess of one of the temples. She and her folk, having tracked a group here where it attacked you, she and hers have to return to her own town to the south.

Bodies are looted. Jalabu gains a shirt of scale armour, Jushuur a set of Partial Plate armour and enough of the rest of it to have a set of full plate made. Dhran gains coins to share, 33 silver each.

And there we left it

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Iralun (Irillian) session one

Are we there yet?


Preamble
The SPI DragonQuest campaign is reaching Irillian. I have not posted much about the previous adventures, as they are all based on commercially available scenarios, and I don’t want to spoil them, but Irillian is technically OOP and 38 years old, so more detail on this. The campaign is based on the world I am building for the replacement for C&S Essence, so the world can change as I develop ideas, but also scenarios I change to fit.

Irillian is a case in point. A Classic White Dwarf adventure and city over six parts in 1983, firstly it is meant for an Dark Ages Anglo-Saxon based gameworld, not mine, and some elements I don’t like, eg the start is a combat heavy hex crawl, so this is not immune to my adaptions, probably for the worse.

A version of the Irillian adventure, redone, is available http://kellri.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-rising-dark.html

A version of the city info from the series, redone, is available http://kellri.blogspot.com/2018/09/irilian-remastered.html

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbourous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

Introduction
Our heroes had, some weeks ago, at the behest of Harvan, a court official and aide to the magistrate of the northern Haraxan kingdom, Niralha, investigated a long forgotten tomb in a deserted city and, while disposing of a sorceror who had not quite resurrected, found the tablets and books engraved on metal plates that Harvan was seeking.

However, there are books that cannot be read, the knowledge is not at Harvan’s disposal. Therefore he has given the group rubbings of them and asked them to go to the city of Irulan, far away, across Haraxan, across the vast Rule of Ishtir, into Quulbar, a lost outpost of the former Rule of Haxamanis to which all once belonged. There should be a Temple in which works that will aid in the translation, and scholars that can read it should be found.

The journey has taken weeks, accompanying a trade caravan in which Farshad invested party funds for part of the way, then striking north, having adventures along the way, including depriving a charalatan of their earnings, putting to peace a nature spirit corrupted by dark forces and clearing an inn of some rats.

Now, they are ready for the the last leg of their journey to Irulan.

Session One
We start in the “Dancing Lamprey”, an inn on the river port city of Majinv. With foes defeated the pall was lifted from the inn, and a good night sleep was had by all, restoring fatigue and bringing the start of happiness again to the lives of owner Vuntosghan and the remnants of his family, his daughter Annranesta.

They had had that inn arranged by Katyavan, a factor working for a previous contact and employer Baltajniz. His forest sawmill was the subject of a curse put in place by a nature spirit that had somehow been raised to anger by agents of a god intent on working evil. The group had seen signs scrawled on the walls of the mill where they had made their camp after the curse had lead to the deaths of all who worked there. They had found traces of that band after they left the mill, being joined by others, but that large group left the road before they reached Majinv and they decided to inform Katyavan rather than chase a large band.

That Katyavan now comes in, full of apologies, having heard your troubles, and brings supplies and news. She knows of a barge going downriver to pick up a cargo, it will have space for the group and beasts, and will take the group to a village that is close to the main road to Irulan. From there it should just be a few days to get to the city.

The three days of river travel is quicker than the overland route, and takes them to a village, the first purely Quulbari place that they have been. These are peasants, the long term inhabitants, subjugated by the new ruling class of Qomeri invaders. Seeing armed and armoured strangers, the locals hid away in their homes, peering out the shutters at them as they rode through the village.

The group have directions and ride through the fields and head along the track that will take them to the main road, Utana scouting ahead, Jushuur guarding the rear. At noon, they came across a trail made by about 10 people the day before, cutting across the path. Using their ranger skills, they determined that the prints were made by feet wearing shoes of different cultures, finding a discarded, ruined pair that originated in Ishtir, so at least two hundred miles away to the south, across the mountains. Jushuur also found a green brooch made in the form of a leaf, discarded by the trail, but it was just a cheap knock off.

They debated following this trail, which Utana estimated would join the road to Irulan, but decided that with their riding mules, they would be better pushing on at speed and intercepting this group further on. However, maybe it would not be so long as all that, for an hour ahead Utana spotted as a varied and ragged number of attackers were ambushing a train of wagons defended by Kotharim, children and grandchildren to the nth degree of the god Hayyan wa Kothar.

The group ran in to the rescue, surprise aided them, the archery of Dhran and José did much to clear the attackers, but Utana skewering one foe with one charge with his spear, then another was frightening. Jushuur’s trademark stabbing people while their back was turned was effective, but his mighty sweep with his oversized sword in both hands, slicing through two foes, was the thing that broke the foe, or maybe it was Farshad’s sliding under a wagon to slice through an attacker’s femoral artery, instantly felling his foe.

The surviving attackers fled, most were cut down by the Kotharim defenders as they ran, but Dhran and Josê fired at the two attackers who managed to get away. Dhran killed his, but José wounded the other, dragging him back for questioning. As Jalabu is still away away with Utana’s servant, holding the riding mules, if falls to Utana to put him to the question, but the captive bites his tongue off and drowns in his own blood. He would give no answers.

The field is awash with corpses, twenty or more Kotharim and over thirty attackers are dead. The atttackers are heaped onto a mount, their gear is not worth salvaging. The Kotharim are laid in shallow graves with cairns, the Kotharim will arrange for more permanent rest later.

The wagons were rearranged, space made for wounded on one of them, with José tending to them. Fhran comforted the live beasts and dead mules were hauled from the harness and the lightest wagon would now be pulled by Kotharim. The group never offered their mules to the task.

The corpses are examined, and there tattoos are found on the corpses matching symbols scrawled on the walls of the mill they investigated three weeks ago, on the other side of the mountains. Perhaps the group remember that they followed the trail of that band for a while on the way to Majinv, wrangling over whether to follow the band or continue to the city.

The Kotharim thanked them for their help. After burying their dead and stacking the fallen attackers bodies by the side of the road, they spoke to the group, explaining that they were taking raw materials and crafted goods to Irulan, and could they hire the group to escort them there. The group agreed, it would be a few days, and there was safety in numbers. Who the attackers were, or why, the Kotharim did not know.

The first night drums started sending messages back and forward across the hills, mystifying everyone, and these kept up for the next two days.

The second day was uneventful, but at night, when Farshad was on watch, he heard weeping and howling across the sky. The Kotharim explained that it might be the Lady of Woods and Beasts with the warhound of her son. Why they should be in distress they do not know. Both are generally favourable to mortals, and why the hound should be with the Lady, rather than her son Hamman, mystified them.

During the third day, the drums stopped, causing some worry, “Too damn quiet!”. In the fading light at the end of the day, as the group were setting up camp, Utana and Jushuur heard heavy footsteps coming in front of and behind the caravan, and to one side. A large figure, a two headed giant who introduces himself as Bakbak.

This shocking appearance reminds Farshad of a little lore about mountain dwellers called Kevu, that they kidnap and eat people. They often have two or three heads, but it is rare for any to have more than one personality in their bodies. Worringly, some know magic.

Bakbak explains that he has been ordered to kill and eat the group. This he could do, but it seems like hard work. Give him food, either beasts or people, he doesn’t care which, and he will go away. Refuse, he will go away, but he will pick a time to come back, and do that hard work.

He ignores questions about who ordered him. The group refuse, and Bakbak, true to his word, orders his family away. Utana and Jushuur notice that his tracks away are visible, then vanish, obviously Bakbak knows some spells.

Dhran recalls an old story he heard about the Kevu, in which the Kevu refused meat because it was too fresh, they like to hang it a while. Quickly the group call out, hoping that the Kevu are still within earshot.

The woods came alive and chatted to them. They explain that while they are not going to give up any of their people or beasts, about 25 to 30 miles back is a mound of corpses, killed just two and a half days ago, would that be suitable?

Bakbak thinks about it and agrees, though if the group are lying, they can be back before they can go far with those carts. They Kevu head off along the road to find the promised food, and Bakbak calls out as he goes “Mazd. Their name was Mazd. A priest of the god who seeks the destruction of all.

And there we left it 

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A look at Tanks: Modern Age

After 2020’s 10mm painting plan didn’t come together, I decided to do some Cold War Era tank combat, as I would not need many models and, as it was solo, there was no rush to paint. I also got some WW2 figs and tanks at the same time. As I don’t like playing German, I decided to go with an alternate history, an offshoot of Solway Miniatures’s “A Very British Civil War” which splits with Edward VIII not abdicating, and the UK splitting into various factions, but I would concentrate on Australia, as I had a desert terrain mat. So I have Soviet backed Republican factions for WW2 and 3, and Royalist Factions buying surplus German kit and later getting US support.

I plan to try out different rules for this, but first, “Tanks: Modern Age” a now out of print low model count game from Gale Force 9/Battlefront. I didn’t know it was out of print when I got it, but they do not make it at all obvious.

Satellite image, Royalist M1 Abrams vs Republican T-72 and T-62M

So, my first battle, a Royalist IPM1 Abrams meets up with a T-72 and a T62M near the abandoned village of Duncan’s Wells.

In the Tanks: Modern Age system, the faster tank moves last and shoots first so, barring damage, the M1 will always have that advantage.

End of turn one

Tanks can move one or two lengths of a arrow marker, which can touch the tank anywhere at the start of the move. At the end of the move the tank must be side, front or rear touching the arrow full on.

The Republicans move forward, the T-72 guarding its flank against the building whilst the T-62M starts to work its way through the oasis.

The Monarchist tank cautiously moves closer. No targets acquired yet.

The Republicans try to prepare for the Abrams, the T-72 staying still and the T-62M advancing slowly to keep itself in cover. The Abrams, however, backs off and seeks the shelter of the buildings, but manages to line up the front of the T-62M

The Tanks system uses attack dice, hit on 4/5/6 and Defence dice, cancel a hit on 4/5/6. More defence for moving and cover, less for a side/rear shot. The T-62M gets hit, the crew rattled and they have to go first next turn.

There is more manoeuvring, the Republicans attempt to catch the Monarchist in a pincer but the Monarchist uses its superior initiative to put the hill between the T-62M and itself and get a close shot onto the T-72. Both T-72 and M1 take light damage.

A 6 on an attack dice is a Critical Hit with Tanks, and you draw a Critical card for each Critical that gets through. The T-62M’s rattled crew card was repairable, so they no longer suffer its effects.

The T-62M, still seeking to close the pincer, moves up, but the Abrams takes a risk, hits the T-62M in the rear, gets a good critical hit and blows it up.

Normally the damage on the tank is equal to the number of the hit dice that get through, but some of the critical hit cards add extra damage, and that was enough to push this tank from damaged to destroyed.

This last turn, the Monarchist tank turns, but the Republicans stay still to maximise their chance of causing damage, but the M1 gets a strong hit on the T-72 and the critical hits, two of them, does for it. The village of Duncan’s Wells is claimed by the Monarchists.

This was a fast game, simple to play. Once in to it I rarely had to consult the rules. However, as Marco Arnaudo of the Marcomnigamer YouTube channel observed when trying the “World of Tanks” game, which is almost the same as this, this suffers in comparison, say, to X-Wing in that because you have the high initiative move last/fire first rule, with no programmed moves of the sort in X-Wing, then the faster initiative tank always holds a strong advantage.

The Tanks system allows for crew and equipment upgrades. Some of them may affect Initiative and I think my next game will be with some of those additions because otherwise this game might be too one sided for long term play.

The mat was a GaleForce 9 mat. The card builds bottom right, hill on the left and oasis on the top middle were 2D card printed images with is PWIW from Griffon Publishing Studio who also publish a WW2 Tanks game called “Panzerkids”. The terrain images were well worth the 1 guinea they cost (£1.05) and I think they look really effective on the mat.

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1066 by Peter Denis and Andy Callan

Using the simple, one page version of the included war game of 1066.

With apologies to Dave Elrick

1066 Wargame book

A few birthdays ago, my friend Dave got me the book 1066 by famed illustrator Peter Dennis. This is a book of gorgeous “copy and print” paper wargames miniatures and terrain, with an included set of rules by Andy Callan. Dave asked me to let him know how the rules worked as they did other periods including some that interested him. However, because of work, I never felt up to the task of scanning, printing and assembling two armies.

The figures for the game are grouped into stands and there are a respectable selection of groups of each type, so your armies shouldn’t look like a copy and paste set of sprites. Other copy and print stuff includes printable buildings, fortifications, ships, trees, streams, tokens and even a fancy turn counter in the form of a burning candle.

Sample non figure things

Wind forward a couple of years, and a Romanian company called WoFun started producing acrylic flat war games miniatures, now available in 28mm and 18mm. I can’t remember if they were Peter Dennis illustrations, but by now many of their ranges do use his and they sell a deal that comes with a PDF of the book inc rules. I got the 18mm “1066 Full Pack” with MDF bases. This has Saxons, Vikings, Normans and some Civilians, and this Good Friday I set up for the simple, one page version of the rules, which uses a “battle board” of 10 squares by 7 squares, stands of figures moving from square to square.

The full version uses a proper wargames table with measuring, and unit types not in this demo, particularly archers and cavalry. I should point out that the “Full Pack” doesn’t have enough Leidang to do the Starter scenario, so I used Bondi to make up the numbers.

With the book you can print as many as you want. The WoFun pack talks about including “48 figures of Select Fyrd”, for example, but that is 12 stands each of which has two groups of 4 figures, so those 48 figures are equivalent to 12 stands.

The simple game is a Saxon commander, 5 stands of huscarls and 6 of Select Fyrd against a Viking Commander and their 11 stands of Leidang warriors, kind of the Norse equivalent of the Fyrd. The Viking Liedang hit harder in their attack turn, the Select Fyrd are consistant, the Hurscarls hit as hard as the Liedang in both attack and defence.

Each commander has a random number of command points used just to move the troops in a IGOUGO turn. Troops can be moved as a whole body, singly or as part of an army reform. tracks happen automatically. Each stand attacks individually, the attacker calls the attack and both sides roll their attack dice. Hits are always on a 5 or 6, the better the unit, the more dice to roll. If one side has more hits on it, then it has to roll a save for each one that got through, fail that and it is off the table. If a stand is flanked, then it gets to roll fewer dice to attack, so it is worth trying to open up gaps to get flank attacks later in that turn, as a stand that has defeated its enemy is able to flank others later in the same turn.

Top down view of the battle

Onto my test battle. The vikings, at the bottom of the board, have their commander on the right, the leidang ready to patch any holes in the line. The Saxons have the huscarls on their left, the Select Fyrd on the right, The vikings won initiative, and rolled a six for command points, which allowed the whole army to advance right up to the Saxons.

The battle goes badly for the Saxons

The next few turns saws back and forth between Norse and Saxon, with the Norse getting the better of it, the commander opening the flank as the Saxon reserves were exhausted. The battle seems certain for the Norse, now they have the numbers.

However, some luck, especially when it comes to picking fights to allow for the advantage of outflanking, turns it around for the Saxons, until only the Norse commander is left.

This is only the light, teaching, version of a light rule set, so it isn’t full of subtlety. The mail rules however, are not fantastically laid out, so i had some questions from just reading them, and this teaching aid was useful for some of the principles. This version, with counters, would be fun on a train ride or the like as it would be say to take out, play, and put away, so i am looking forward to printing out some terrain and trying the full rules.

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“Viking Fury” by Gary Graber – Minden Games

It has been a Viking heavy Christmas. We have a Julbok Christmas straw goat, I’ve been catching up with the series “Vikings”, playing “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla” and in a couple of gifts from one of my oldest friends, Dave, I got a copy of the solitaire game “Viking Fury” from Minden Games , I believe they sell it in a number of formats, but mine is the ‘zip” version.

This is a game of naughty Norse nipping across the North Sea to nick stuff. You start from your home base with at least one ship, one other advantage, a ship, a raider or better Navigation or Leadership, and you undertake three Expeditions, setting a goal of the place you want to raid, though you can raid other places if you want.

Picture of components, rulebook, map, counters and with added cards and die

The rule book comes with a separate map, on a thicker paper than the rule book and thin, not perforated, card stock counter sheet that you need to cut out. The rule book has a copy of the map and the counters that I think you are intended to copy onto card if you have a version without the separate map and counter sheet. In any case it is a way to have spares. As well as book, map and counters you need a standard deck of cards and a normal six sided die. The small ziplock counter bags shown above were not included.

The goal you set gives you how many turns you get to mount your Expedition and each turn is divided into MOVE, CONFLICT and EVENTS. The cards are used to draw for movement and events, comparing the card drawn to a chart, the die is used when attacking locations. At the end of the three Expeditions you total up the Victory points you get for looting treasure, building settlements and if you achieve advancements in both Navigation and Leadership.

In MOVEMENT you divide up the movement points between your ships, pick up and drop off raiding parties and those raiders can also move.

If you end up on a location, you must attack it, the CONFLICT phase. That is resolved by rolling a die for the attacker and add any modifications, roll a die twice for the defender, it’s official die roll and a variable modifier, and the highest one wins. If the attacker wins then they will most likely, but not always gain treasure. The more important the settlement, the more likely it is to have a valuable, but also the better it resists attack.

The final phase is the EVENTS. A black card drawn will give a result that might be good, e.g. making a Settlement less likely to fail, or bad, e.g. cutting the number of movement cards drawn or the number of turns in an expedition or be neutral either because it does not apply or some advance you have made nullifies it.

During the Expedition, Raiding Parties can settle down and thus build Settlements, though these are vulnerable to failure. Once the Ships return to base, the Expedition is over and any treasure is banked for Victory Points. If the Expedition was successful then the player can spend that on another ship, or a raiding party or for one advance, either Leadership or Navigation.

Gamemap at end of second turn

The blue counters with white stars are strongholds. The White counter with the red N signifies the Navigation upgrade at my home port. The red lines at certain ports mean that I can only enter or exit ports though the connected hexes.

I have taken a risk, choosing the Navigation upgrade instead of an extra ship or raiding party, but this lets my ship get to Lindisfarne quickly for a traditional start to the Viking age.If my ship is destroyed though, it’s the end of the game for famed Viking ship captain and crossbowman, Bjarni the Bolt.

End of the second expedition map

At the end of the first expedition, a raider was bought. This is the end of the second expedition, Iona was sacked and looted, the raiding party was dropped off in Scotland where they founded a settlement (the red counter). Flames note where Lindisfarne and Iona were. The white die on the left is how I’m recording the victory points. I made a mistake, counting the Settlement, you only do that at the end of the game in case it is destroyed.

A second ship is bought, aiming to raid two minor locations on the eastern coast of the kingdoms of the Angles and Saxons. The counters by the right hand die are the raider and treasure counters.

End of the third expedition, more fires where places used to be. The settlement survived, aided by Event cards that strengthened it. With the last two treasures retrieved, the total victory points is seven, enough to win, huzzah! It could so easily have been failure

The ship counters are in the port for the normal difficulty starting point, Kaupang. Aggersborg on the west side of Denmark is the easy starting point, Hedeby the difficult. There are other tweaks you can make to change the game, more expeditions required needing more victory points including multiple settlements, “unknown” counters so that what kind of location it is is a mystery till you get there.

This is a light game that lets you try out different strategies. Do you drop of raiding parties for settlements, go for the two ships alone and advance your techniques, risking failing to get treasure. As it is so fast and fum, you can get a few expeditions in a night, trying your ideas out.

Whilst this is a fun game, it is not a game to play night after night after night, but instead for when you have a spare hour or so and want to burn unsuspecting towns and redistribute their wealth, mostly to you. You are really going to be playing against yourself, trying ideas out and see what does well for you, maybe making things more difficult for you when you get used to it. A small footprint bit of fun that, if we ever travel again, would even be playable on a train.

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Review – Books of Battlemats Volume II, Giant and Big from Loke Battlemats

Reviewed by Colin D. Speirs

Giant Book of Battlemats Volume II – £32.99
Big Book of Battlemats Volume II – £19.99
Available direct From Loke Battlemats or from hobby and river nameD retailers

Yes, it is Giant. and the other is big

The concept of these is quite simple, A book terrain maps for the role-playing table that lie flat whatever map you choose. There are a range of maps from the company, for fantasy, including dungeons, and science fiction locations. A disclaimer though, I got these free in a prize draw from Loke, though they didn’t ask for a review or any acknowledgement in return.

These two books contain, with some differences, the same maps, or subjects of maps, with an overlaid 1 inch (2.54cm) by 1 inch grid. Although the grids are the same, these are not geomorphic, at least not with each other, books of the same size might let you connect roads on one mat with roads on another.

Big book on left, Giant on the right

There are 62 pages in the “Giant”, 60 in the “Big”, folding out to a terrain mat comprising of both facing pages. Most are the same, but those in the “Big” book are either cropped or slightly redesigned to fit. In the shipboard mat, for example, the “Big” mat has a smaller, different ship than that of the ”Giant”, the tower mat has different facing pages from the tower in each book.

Most of the mats in this book are outdoor encounter scenes, from a plain grass field, unadorned by features, to a ruined temple by a sea-shore, a road crossing, a fallen tower, a tree village and more. There are plenty of features for cover and Loke do produce a pack of reusable terrain pieces to change things, though so far that looks just to be mainly Dungeon furniture. That I have ordered for myself. The one mat in the Giant Book that isn’t in the Big is a kind of arid desert, complete with a sun-bleached cattle skull.

You could, of course put model terrain pieces on them, but I suspect cardboard houses might not sit too well on them compared to felt or normal hard terrain mats.

Big mat in skirmish action, very short range for SMLEs., even an SMG

As well as RPGs, you could do some skirmish wargaming like with a small number of figures a side. With some of the mats on the Giant Book you could use for wargaming larger battles with smaller scale figures. The proportions of the Giant book mat the traditional 6 by 4 near enough, but the field will be smaller even in proportion for the usual base sizes for 10mm or 6mm figures. However the central comb would be a problem for traditional measure and wheel type games, you can’t have a stand straddle the comb without looking silly.

10mm Battle of Five armies figures, one day I will finish them

As you can see from the photos, they are reflective, but unless taking photos that shouldn’t be an issue and that is because they are coated so they can be wiped clean, either to clean off marks you have made on the map, or just for hygiene in these pandemic times.

If you are using hex based systems then yes, the squares aren’t useful, some you could adapt, but I do not believe they offer any in a hex system at present.

These are a good idea for simple and easy encounters and you could also fold the map over in half if you are short of space, like train journeys when they are a thing again. . They are not as specialist as, say, the Dungeon books Loke produce, but they are not supposed to be.

I’ve been hinting to relatives about getting me the first volume of the Giant book for some time, and I think others in the range will be the next thing I will be hinting about. For these two books, at about £1 a map for the Giant book and £0.67 for the Big book, I can see situations for most maps and I am glad I have them

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