Saturday, 16 May 2015

Magic World solo - Part IV - But I'm not a soldier

Though the temple is not far, the rocky beach makes for exceptionally slow travel. She'd hoped at least to have dried off by the time she reached it, but her clothes -- those torn and bloodied rags she wears -- are still entirely damp. "What a fine figure I shall present," she thinks. "But I suppose the priests won't begrudge succour to such a wretch as I!"

The Temple of the Oceanids is a graceful structure of white marble set into the rocky hills looking out over the sea. The main tholos is nestled into the rock face, and a tall colonnaded porch forms the entrance to the inner sanctum.

On most days the serene temple stands a solitary vigil by the crashing waves, but today there is a flurry of activity. The hills are awash with people, and there is a great deal of movement at the temple's front. Now and then a shrill horn blast rings out.

"I seem to have arrived on a festal day," she thinks.

Scene 3

Chaos: up to 5 as last scene netted no answers and was nearly fatal

setup: Modified (was: get healing at temple)
Interrupt: Remote event - Oppress / Military (see below)

Scene 4

Chaos: up to 6 as last scene totally out of PC's hands and makes this one harder

Setup: Modified (was: get healing at temple)

NPC list: bad guy(s), bad guy minions, contact, quest giver, interested 3rd party

Who am I?
What am I doing?
Who did this to me?

As she draws nearer, she realises that it is not a festival at all. An entire army seems encamped around the temple -- no, not exactly an army, but the broken and battered remains of one. The injured and dying are lying about every where, supported and tended by those who can still move. Scribes move amongst them, recording the names of the survivors, and doing their best to identify the dead. Harried priests and priestesses move through the throng as well trying to bring comfort. Their healing magics long since exhausted, they must fall back on mundane methods of tending the wounded. The army chirurgeons are nowhere to be  seen, though they are probably seeing to the officers, sheltered somewhere away from the common troops.

[Q: What sort of battle was lost? 1-2 ground, 3-4 sea 5-6 both; 1d6=1]

She tries to approach one of the priests. "Excuse me," she says, "I know it's busy here, but I don't suppose you can provide aid to a wounded pilgrim?" [difficult Fast Talk (40/2=20%) to get ahead of the queue: 81, fail].

The priest looks up at her, tears brimming in his eyes. He mumbles something she can't make out, possibly it's not even actual words. He holds his hands out for a moment, then just wanders on, over to a young woman lying in the dirt, with a broken arrow still protruding from her chest.

[Q: Can she stay here at all? 50/50: 99, Exceptional no. +Event: PC Negative - Assist / War]

"Fall in, soldier!" comes a gruff voice behind her. She turns to see an angry, sharp faced woman in dented field armour carrying a horn. The woman's gore-stained tabard marks her as obviously an officer -- as indeed does her mien and bearing -- but the precise meaning of the insignia is still a mystery to our amnesiac heroine.

"I'm not a soldier," she offers weakly. "I--"

"Uh huh," growls the officer. "You're just coincidentally here at the temple after a battle limping like a baby. Covered in blood and carrying a sword. Sure seem like a soldier to me."

"I'm not! I wasn't in the battle. I was attacked by bandits."

"Likely story!"

"It's true!"

"You wouldn't want to be branded a deserter, would you? You know what happens to deserters?"

"But I'm not even a soldier!"

"You are now, honey. Fall in!"

Sergeant Eldega (for thus be the angry woman ycleped) has been charged with rounding up everyone well enough to walk to return to the [1-2 fort, 3-4 city garrison, 5-6 field encampment: 5] main camp. She is not interested in their stories nor pains nor complaints. General Angklabas has given her a mission, and by all the Gods of Hell and the Night, she's going to complete it!

The walking wounded are thus force marched [direction? d6=due south; 1d30+5= 9 hexes] down a track through the hills, over meadows and forest, to finally rejoin the main army camp on a grassy plain. The trip takes about three hours, as Sergeant Eldega wants to make camp by mess time; she's hungry from all the fighting! She pushes her soldiers hard, but not as hard as she'd like; they are wounded, after all! Quite a few drop from exhaustion during the march, but as she has made it known that delays will be punished by lashes, most of these are left by the road to die. [PC needs to make a Stamina (CONx5%) roll to manage: 03, special success] Fortunately, our heroine finds the brisk walk almost rejuvenating. Though she doesn't much fancy what's sure to come next.

Scene 5

Chaos: up to 7

Setup: Modified (was: settle in to camp)
Q: Problem in the camp? 50/50: 17, Yes: Abuse / Lies (general is going to march his troops into an unwinnable battle; the barbarian army holds the coastal village south of the camp)
Q: Anyone in camp dissenting? Likely: 43, Yes

NPC list: bad guy(s), bad guy minions, contact, quest giver, interested 3rd party, Sergeant Eldega, army, other army

Who am I?
What am I doing?
Who did this to me?

Perhaps the Oceanids are punishing her for her little lie and callous behaviour before their temple, for the Sergeant seems to have taken great notice of our erstwhile heroine. When the march is ended, she feels the woman's rough hand on her shoulder. "We'd better go see the quartermaster to get you a new uniform. I won't have anyone dressed in rags in my unit."

For the Sergeant's own sins, she is stuck with a platoon of irregulars: individual mercenaries and militia troops, and anyone else that doesn't fit into standard formations. Their equipment is similarly varied, often whatever they could scrounge. Our heroine is allowed (nay, encouraged) to keep her sword, but is issued with a round shield and old bronze helmet. She is given a new uniform -- just a tunic really, and a suit of soft leather armour, and told to put them on forthwith.

"Uh, Sergeant," she says, "how come there's a hole in the back? And bloodstains... wouldn't it be better if I had armour that someone hadn't already died in?"

"Quit your grousing, soldier," replies the sergeant with a malicious smile. "This'll still protect you perfectly well in front. You weren't planning on running away from the fight were you? It didn't do the last owner of your armour much good. Think of it as practical military advice!"

She says nothing, but shoulders her pack. Sergeant Eldega hears the clink of coins inside. "What's this?" she says, grabbing the pack and rifling through it. "We're fighting to take back territory from the enemy. The general has decreed there is to be no looting from the emperor's subjects. Quartermaster, add this to the war chest!"

Our heroine knows better than to protest. As the sergeant marches back across the camp to her unit, they pass a scaffold with the decomposing bodies of several hanged soldiers suspended from it.
"Looters?" she asks.

"No," replies the sergeant, "dissenters. They questioned the general's wisdom in planning another attack against the barbarians again in light of the rout. They said he should wait for reinforcements."

"Isn't that a better idea?"

"Quiet, soldier. There's still room left on the end of that scaffold."

She is put in a unit of [2d6=] 5 other irregulars by the sergeant, and left with them to get acquainted. There's Hylg, a young, handsome fisherman from a nearby barbarian village -- one subject (and still loyal) to the empire. Nerstin is a city girl, sent into the army as punishment for petty crimes. Oibor and Kaddal-Frum are taciturn steppe nomads from the other side of the great empire. Tjól is a swordsman from somewhere far away.

[Tjól is one of the PCs I rolled up. The rest are NPCs Their skill levels were based on the Average (40% or 20%) NPCs in the Chronicler's Resources chapter, with a bit of randomness thrown in. I tried to guess which skills might be important, but ended up not needing most of them (as you shall see). I am working on finding easier ways to do this with spreadsheets, but I've ended up spending more time playing with Excel than I have with the actual game...

Each one also gets two personality traits, and I used Star Trader to give them intra-unit relationships. The unit commander is randomly determined to be Kaddal-Frum.]

male human - barbarian fisherman
STR: 11  CON: 10  SIZ: 12  INT: 14
POW: 12  DEX: 10  APP: 14
HP: 11  DM: +0  Move: 8
Armour: Soft Leather (1D4-1)
Combat: Poleaxe 29%, Medium Crossbow 44%
Skills: Fast Talk 28%, Hide 21%, Listen 23%, Move Quietly 24%, Nature 27%, Ride 39%, Search 24%, Track 26%, World Lore 41%
Personality: conformist, unseemly
Connection: Blames Oibor for a past event (death of a comrade)

female human - townie petty criminal
STR: 11  CON:  8  SIZ: 14  INT: 10
POW: 12  DEX:  9  APP: 9
HP: 11  DM: +1D4  Move: 8
Armour: Soft Leather (1D4-1)
Combat: shortspear 26%, shield 22%
Skills: Fast Talk 26%, Hide 36%, Listen 36%, Move Quietly 45%, Nature 21%, Ride 25%, Search 20%, Track 24%, World Lore 22%
Personality: unconcerned, generous
Connection: old ex-friend of Tjól

male human - steppe nomad
STR: 14  CON: 10 SIZ: 11  INT: 13
POW:  7  DEX: 10 APP: 12
HP: 11  DM: +1D4  Move: 8
Armour: Soft Leather (1D4-1)
Combat: Battle Axe 42%, Javelin 36%
Skills: Fast Talk 24%, Hide 23%, Listen 25%, Move Quietly 22%, Nature 25%, Ride 28%, Search 30%, Track 39%, World Lore 28%
Personality: serene, corrupt
Connection: life-long friend of Kaddal-Frum

male human - steppe nomad
STR: 12  CON:  9  SIZ:  9  INT: 9
POW: 10  DEX: 15  APP: 10
HP: 9  DM: +0  Move: 8
Armour: Soft Leather (1D4-1)
Combat: Longbow 41%, Shortsword 22%
Skills: Fast Talk 24%, Hide 45%, Listen 22%, Move Quietly 22%, Nature 38%, Ride 26%, Search 21%, Track 24%, World Lore 26%
Personality: unsupportive, tactless
Connection: sexual partner of Hylg

[Tjól's stats would go here, but I'm in a coffee shop and they're at home on a piece of paper. Mea maxima culpa.]

Tjól & Hylg
Scene 6

Chaos: up to 8

setup: Mission

NPC list: bad guy(s), bad guy minions, contact, quest giver, interested 3rd party, Sergeant Eldega, army, other army

Who am I?
What am I doing?
Who did this to me?

Her unit is, as far as she can tell, a collection of miscellaneous riff-raff that no other commander wants. And she is beginning to feel insulted that she must be seen as just another one of them. Desertion is ever-so-tempting, but the camp is well guarded from withing; she's probably not the only one who wishes to be elsewhere!

The evening is short. Her fellow soldiers don't seem much impressed, nor overly friendly. She soon crawls into her tent and drops from exhaustion.

The next morning Sergeant Eldega rouses her troops at dawn.

"All right, you lot," she barks, "time to earn your keep. An important mission into enemy territory has come up. The remaining scouts are all off doing scouty things, so someone else has had to step in. And you've been volunteered!

"There's a sorcerer what lives in a tower in the hills south of the lake somewheres.  All you need to do is go to his tower, hand over this potion, and bring whatever he gives you in exchange back to camp. Them barbarians is a superstitious lot and so probably ain't got too close to the tower.

"Shouldn't be more than a day there and back. If you're not back in two days, I'll put word out that you've deserted, so don't get any funny ideas.

"What are you waiting for?"

[The mission was generated with the d30 Sandbox Companion--
goal: deliver message/object
obstacle: pass series of tests
location: tower
artifact: potion
theme: power

I also used UNE to get some motivations for the sorcerer:
- undermine the elite
- secure purity
- associate dissonance

I was planning on treating these as rumours should the ever come up, but they didn't really...]

The walk through the hills is largely uneventful [Kaddal-Frum, as the leader, made a successful Navigate check, so they didn't get lost. They have 1d4-1=2 encounters]. At one point they spot a patrol of enemy [1-3 horse, 4-6 foot: 1] foot soldiers, but they manage to evade them with ease [their Search (20%) vs. the worst Hide in the group (Hylg (21%)); 93 vs. 06 : the party wins]. At one point they spot a griffon soaring overhead, but the majestic beast either does not see them or does not care to [Q: Does it stop? Unlikely: 82, no].

The sorcerer's tower is a tall and strangely conical affair. As the little band approach, they see the outside is carved with all manner of decorative images: men and beasts, gods and demons.

[Q: Is the enemy at the tower? 50/50: 18, Yes.
PC needs a Search (66%) roll to notice: 64=success]

And as they draw nearer, she sees movement. She calls to Kaddal-Frum in a sharp whisper, "We need to stop! Look there, on the porch: soldiers!"

They all stop short, and lay low upon the ground. Creeping to the top of a grassy hill, they peer over the top to see [2d6=] four spearmen lounging about on the porch, apparently enjoying the fine afternoon sun [Q: What are they doing? Befriend / Weather]. [1d4=] Two of them have stripped down to their breeches to laze about in the warm sunlight, the other two still wear their coats of mail, and stand under the cool shade of the stone porch.

Kaddal-Frum wishes to take the enemy by surprise. He leads his troops quietly over the hills towards the tower and the lackadaisical enemy spearmen. The three of them with missiles take up position in a stand of scraggly trees and shrubbery, whilst the other three creep up beside the tall stone steps.

[Move Quietly rolls: the PC (67%) and Nerstin (45%) succeed, Tjól (46%) fails. The soldiers' Listen (20% to account for insouciance) rolls are all failures.]


On Kaddal-Frum's signal, Oibor hurls his javelin [36%; x2 for ambush=72%], whilst Hylg fires his crossbow [x2=88%]. Kaddal-Frum himself looses an arrow from his longbow [x2=82%].

The javelin sails right past its target [#2] and clatters over the far side of the steps. Hylg's crossbow bolt punches through the chain armour as if it were fine silk, and buries itself deep in the man's chest. He [#1] falls dead at once, and tumbles down the steps [Hylg rolled a special success, for double damage (4d4+4); 18 points -2 for the armour kill the soldier outright]. Kaddal-Frum's shaft speeds into the flank of one of the two unarmoured men [#3]; he does not get up to join the fray [10 damage produced a major wound to the stomach; the -1d6 CON penalty dropped his HP score, and at 2hp from a major wound he cannot fight, falling immediately unconscious for one hour].

      #1   #2   #3   #4
STR   11   11   15   10
CON   14   11   10    9
SIZ   16   12   15   16
INT   11   12   13   13
POW   10   10    5    5
DEX   12   11    6    5
CHA    8   14    6    8
HP    15   12   13   13
Dmg +1D4   +0 +1D4 +1D4
skill 47%  49%  44%  48%

heavy infantry: shortspear, round shield, Mail (1D8 without helmet - #1 & #2 only)

[Q: Do they fight? Unlikely: 24, Yes.]

The two remaining soldiers grab their spears and shields in haste, and rush down the steps. They are surprised to find three more enemies waiting for them, brandishing their arms with great menace.

[round 1]
Our heroine comes at the armoured foe with her sword, but it merely clatters off his shield [parried]. He stabs back with his spear, but cannot bring it near enough his agile opponent [missed with a 96!]. Tjól lays into the unarmoured man with his broadsword. His spear turns aside the blade before it can bite into his face, sending it into his shoulder instead, where it leaves a deep wound [Special success on the attack was commuted to a normal hit by the successful parry; 6 damage drops him to 7hp]. The man is too stunned by the sudden pain to strike back [missed with a 98]. Nerstin hangs back, not feeling brave enough to face enemy spears [missed].

[round 3]
Pressing her advantage, the heroine of this tale rains blow after blow down upon her opponent, who raises his shield each time to counter them. At last he raises it too high, blocking his sight, and she takes the opportunity to stab beneath it. The blade finds a weak spot in his armour, and pierces his insides. He collapses on the ground before her, bleeding profusely [11 damage, -2 for armour, delivers a major wound: -3 CON, unable to fight]. Tjól smashes his shield into the shield of his opponent, and then cuts him down before he can regain his balance.

[Q: Does Kaddal-Frum makes sure the enemy are dead? 50/50: 01, Exceptional yes.]

The wounded and slain are dragged off into the bushes, lest they be discovered. Kaddal-Frum plunges his short sword through the heart and neck of each of them in turn, whilst his shocked subordinates look on in horror. He merely sneers and orders them to head inside.

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