Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Session 2 Part 2: The Invasion Begins


THE INVASION BEGINS - Mid Afternoon of Day 1 to Early Morning of Day 2

The by now very intimidated fellowship rush back to the town, child in tow, to find almost all preparations for the evacuation are complete. Despite all the best efforts of the Sherrif and the two Morton’s, many of the townsfolk have elected to ignore the advice of their betters and take off into the hills alone or in small groups.

As they enter the town, the first wagons of the column have already begun to pull out of the town square, making for the mountain road and the pass to the south-east. From the barely spotted glimpse of blue-and-white robes at the fore, it seems evident that Father Morton himself is leading the way.

Meanwhile, in the square the Sheriff and a small band of volunteers who have hastily donned the armour and weapons captures by the party wait to form a rear-guard. Ruz and the professional warrior types in the party (Nine, Clifford and Thutson), take one look at this motley shambles and polite suggest that the men take the place of honour at the head of the column while the party protects the rear.

A somewhat relieved looking sheriff hobbles off with the men under his command in tow, limping up the column as fast as his aged bones will carry him. As the party tags onto the tail end of the column, the tone and character of the red light changes noticeably. Its low hum increases in pitch to a near scream as mushroom shaped pulses of light begin to shoot up into the air from the stumps, following the path of the “spear” as would a loop of metal hung on a post.

The character notes this ominous change with trepidation, and begin to hurry the villagers along as far as possible.

Although they wait a solid fifteen minutes themselves before heading out after the last of the villagers, is not long before they come across the first stragglers. Among them are the old, the infirm and children accompanied by lone mothers, widows of the Last War. Already at the side of the path, the players past discarded, useless objects, pots, pans, cutlery and so forth, brought along by the fleeing townsfolk despite the advice of the town leaders.

Its not long before the party find these stragglers beginning to fall behind even them. In some annoyance, Adriana runs further up the column to acquire a cart or some other vehicle for these folk who evidently should not be walking. She comes across the very large wagon -a wide bullock-wagon pulled by four of the foul smelling beasts and driven by an even more odious specimen. The drivers cart is packed with food -but also with useless items such as furniture and bed-stuffs. When the man refuses to slow down and ditch his useless weight in favour of passengers, Adriana decides to use her own particular favourite form of persuasion, knocking the fellow of his cart (and into the land of Nod) with the carefully applied argument embodied by a hefty smack from a black-jack.

The other characters help to distribute the food from the wagon upon the shoulders of the healthiest stragglers (those who simply refused to leave the infirm behind) and place those who cant keep up on the wagon-bed. Begrudgingly, Adriana allows the driver to be chucked on the back of the wagon-bed a well, though clearly she’d rather leave him for the invaders.

After another hours travel, the party tops a rise where they can peer down into the bay below. Beneath and behind them, a distance of perhaps no more than four miles as the townsman stumbles, the first of the black-ship’s has begin to disgorge its unwholesome cargo upon the shore. To their horror, the party realises that each ship -and there are dozens of them creeping into the bay- carries at least a hundred troops. And what’s more, the very first one to land carries an additional surprise: the hunched, four legged forms of what can only be Wargs (spotted by Adriana‘s keen senses).

The more military-minded players exchange looks of consternation at this news. They had been counting on the fact any horses in the Black Fleet would require time to settle on dry land again after however many days at sea. They had not counted on the ferocious intelligence and ruthless determination of Wargs. Such creatures would not be troubled by the mountainous terrain the column hoped to use in covering its retreat.

Several of the more aggressive party members, including Thutson, wanted to make a stand there and then. Cooler heads prevailed however, as the ground on which they stood, (at that point, still open, rolling foothills rather than the mountains themselves) was not suited to a desperate rear-guard defence. They had no hope but to press on. Knowing that combat was inevitable at this point, room was made for Constance, Bagson and Clifford on the wagon. All three of these spell casters had exhausted their complement of magic. It was clear that without the support of the spell casters, the expedition was doomed.

(Dms Note: A sensible decision actually, had they decided to stand their ground there, the wargs would simply have ignored them and ran past them to engage the refugees, hoping to kill and wound them in sufficient numbers to slow them enough for the rest of the army to arrive).
Not long after, it seemed that the column ground to a halt. Ruz and Adriana ran swiftly up the column to investigate. To their incredulity, despite everything Father Morton and the Sheriff could do, the townsfolk had decided to stop for a rest and a coked meal.

After a hurried conference with the Sheriff and the good Father, in which both these worthies were quickly filled in regarding the Warg situation, Ruz learned of a natural choke point on the road a few hours ahead, one that a small force could defend adequately for a time. As Father Morton and the Sherrif pressed the hastily organised militia into forcing the refugees to their feet in the strange eerily red light of dusk, the thee Shard-born returned to the rest of the party with news that this natural defence was close by.

They reached the choke point, a narrow ravine in the mountain trail, shortly before the onset of full night. As the wagons were unloaded one by one to be manhandled through the gap, the remaining (awake) members of the party picked their ground and formatted a plan. They would wait until the pursuit cleared the next rise whereupon the foe would be subjected to a barrage of missiles from atop the steep walls on either side. The bullock cart- which by all accounts was too wide to fit through the narrow gap in any case- would be used as a barricade from atop which Thutson, Nine and Bagson would hold the defensive line.

Shortly before the last of the civilian wagons made it through the gap, a chilling howl echoed through the hills. The party had only the barest of moments to register the proximity of their pursuit however, for a mere moment later a red flash appeared in the western sky, above the village, as the stumps themselves seemed to explode in a wave of reddish energy that shook the top of the ships just barely visible in the harbour.

The locals needed no further reminder of why they must hurry through the night, and the last of the wagons sound disappeared over the next ridge. The character were left alone, with only their howls and the strange red light in the sky to distract them from their fears as the moon began to rise.

The characters failed to spot the arrival of the first scouts a mere two hours after they (those who were awake at least) had finished preparing their positions for the fight to come. The six Warg scouts and their mounted hobgoblin passengers did not fancy their chances in a direct assault and slinked off into the night to find a workable path around the position. They failed.
So it was that they returned a further four hours later, as the night entered what would normally have been its darkest phase, were it not from the red reflections against the cloud, by which time the sleeping party members had recovered their strength and rested sufficiently to regain their spells and infusions.

The attack came swiftly and without warning. Five dark shapes leapt over the rise leading down into the ravine (the sixth scout and rider having been sent back with a message by the remainder and barrelled down upon the wagons defenders. They were met by the anticipated barrage of missile fire, which dropped one rider and injured several wargs. With one of the two bow armed Warg-Riders down, the “mount” itself decided to climb the bank even as its companion held its position at the top of the rise, allowing its rider to provide counter-archery fire, and scrambled up the slope to find the archers that had slain its rider.

All four archers (Clifford and Constance on the right, Ruz and Adriana on the left) refused to pass up such a choice target and launched a volley at the Warg as it scrambled up the slope (a climb action, meaning no dex bonus), wounding it terribly. However, this ommission allowed the three wargs with lance armed passengers to reach and engage the wagons defenders without further mishap. However the Wargs were quickly dismayed to find the defenders elevated position meant that they could not bring their own jaws to bear and were forced to rely on the weapons of their riders to win the battle. The three heroes were not so constrained however, and focused their energies on disabling the wargs themselves. One rider was crushed unconscious beneath his dying mount and another finally managed to leap aboard the wagon, every other attempt having been smacked down by then characters with successful attacks of opportunity.

However, this was only possible because Nine had been forced to abandon the line in order to come to the rescue of his colleagues. Above the ravine, the climbing Warg had finally reached its tormentors. Unsure whether or not it should first savage the elf or the changeling, the decision was made for it when Adrian rushed to place the spell-casting Ruz (who had just failed to affect the beast with a whim spell) between her and the Warg. The Warg chomped down mightily on the poor unfortunate Ruz, who once again took serious injuries and was forced to spend an action point to stabilise for the second time that day and the third time in two sessions!

Ruz would prove to be the only friendly casualty of the battle however. With the second Warg at the wagon down and its rider slain, the last Warg and its near-passenger chose that moment to fail a morale check and run for the hills. Neither would live to see the Black Ships again as a series of attacks of opportunity and missile fire from Constance and Clifford brought them low. Seeing this, the last archer and his Warg turned and legged it, hoping to “report” the presence of powerful defenders with the column. The final Warg snarled its hatred at the elf who had wounded it so mercilessly from afar, but simple intelligence one over brute savagery and the beast opted to retreat before being faced with the mighty war hammer of Nine.

The party, battered and bloodied, stood victorious. Elated but relieved. Ruz was quickly healed back t a useful state by Clifford, but the short battle had taken a hefty toll on the heroes.
Constance had used every one of her infusions before the battle to either heal or augment the combat powers of Nine. Clifford had used more than half his spells in the aftermath of the battle to heal the wounded Ruz and Bagson. Meanwhile, Ruz had burned through another Action Point, as had Adriana, Clifford and Constance. Indeed, worst of all, Nine had spent FOUR of the six action points he`d gained upon reaching second level and Bagson had used all but his least powerful spells in this first battle.

Worse, it was not yet dawn, the column had at least another three days march ahead of it and the party could expect a fresh attack at any moment.

It would prove to be a bleak night for the heroes of Bronce.

And how had the Sword of Xenphon spent the battle? Bagson, the dwarf who felt the wooden sword to be useless, had spent the whole battle with it strapped to his back in a hide cover. The groups single most powerful asset hadn`t even been used once in the whole encounter.

Sunday, 19 August 2007


KYBER RISING Part II Mid-afternoon to early evening. Day One.

The characters had a surprise as they left the mine. To the West, a great red shaft of light pierced the sky, parting the clouds and causing a light rain to fall. They didn’t need a clear view of the island to realise that the light came from the stumps. Somewhat alarmed to say the least and carrying their near-comatose charge with them, the party hustled back to town as swiftly as Constance`s sheltered upbringing would allow.

Arriving back at Bronce, they found the town in an uproar. Father Morton was no-where to be seen as the villagers rapidly packed what belongings they had into packs or loaded them on to wagons and mules. The Sheriff was trying to organise the shambles into some sense of order, persuading the locals to leave what few valuables they owned behind and to take only food and water.

Adriana observed that suddenly the locals didn’t seem to feel so confident about the Sword anymore.

They learned from the boys grateful mother that the “Red Spear” had struck the sky only just over an hour ago, presumably about the same time as the party entered the mines, and that the “Black Ships” had been sighted moving in on the coast.

After a hurried explanation of the Hobgoblins ransom demands (watched by a tearful mother demanding to know why it had been her child that was left behind) Ruz brought up the matter of the murdered tax collector. He did not fail to notice the sudden flash of guilt that crossed his face. After some prodding the sheriff admitted that he knew. Indeed, half the town seemed to share this dirty little secret. An outraged Bagson demanded to know why the Sheriff hadn’t done anything about it, only to receive an incredulous look.

“I`m sixty-two years old, I have more old wounds and aching bones than you`ll experience in a dwarves lifetime and my only deputy is a fifteen year old boy whose never had to shave let alone had a woman. Why in the Gods name do you think I haven`t done anything? You do something if you like. Me? I`m busy here!”

Bagson didn`t have much to say to that and a burial party was quickly organised for the corpse of the tax-collector, which Nine had carried down the mountain.. Satisfied that they now had at least the grudging permission of the law on their side, the party left Young Morton behind to help the sheriff and set off at a fairly rigid pace to rescue the tax-money from Big Jim`s mill.
The party did not approach recklessly however, after all, their only healer had exhausted his spells and they faced four men whom, or so the Sheriff had it, were seasoned adventurers. Constance refused to be left behind. Saying they needed every crossbow they could find, and placed several magical infusions on Nine to strengthen his weapons and another on Thutson to enchant his weapon.

With that, the party approached the mill not from the front gate, but from a gap in the hedge to one side. Constance, Adirana, Bagson and Clifford formed the missile group which circled round to the right, ready to cover the door to the mil building, while Nine and Thutson moved through the gap in the hedge up the centre, looking to head down the small path between the storage shed and what appeared to be a small cottage. Raz meanwhile circled round to the left, crossbow in hand, to guard that flank.

The battle started badly. Jim’s dogs, three savage brutes, burst from the cottage at the characters approach and made straight for Nine. Fortunately, although not one of the groups archers actually managed to hit a dog, the hounds found that Nine`s rough adamantine and wood skin hurt their teeth. Unfortunately, that simply meant they turned on the less well protected Thutson, who was savaged badly by the dogs before he and Nine finally put the last one down. Meanwhile Adriana set about lighting the shed and cottage roofs with fire-arrows.
No sooner had they done so that Thom, the first and largest of Jim`s band, burst from the mill itself. Glistening all over with a strange grey-ish oil and wielding a massive great-axe, the huge warrior let out a howl of rage and made straight for the missile group, leaping across the hedge and into melee with Clifford, ignoring the wounds he had taken from three crossbows in the process.

This was too much for Constance, who seemed to turn and flee at this point.

Jim himself followed, throwing himself into combat with nine and the wounded Thutson, shaking off a Whim spell cast by Raz in the process, and immediately setting about the raging barbarian and the war forged warrior. Thutson fell almost immediately, taking a hefty blow first from Jims axe, them a vicious uppercut with the Rim of his shield. He fell to the ground unmoving and near-death (on -9 hit points and spending the First Action Point of the Battle to auto-stabilise - if he hadn’t he would have died at the beginning of his next initiative).

The next to emerge was Halton, the Scout sprinted half-way from the mill to the cottage wall, stopping half-way to launch a wickedly accurate crossbow bolt that struck Ruz full on the chest, dropping the Changling behind the hedge. Fortunately however, the Changling had strength enough to crawl out of harms way, behind a small fold in the ground. Things were looking bleak however, in their first round of entering the combat, Big Jim`s boys had dropped two of the fellowship. The battle had barely begun and yet the odds looked bleak.

It would grow darker still, not long after Jacko revealed that he was indeed a powerful wizard, launching a pair of shining purple orbs that struck Nine with a deep, resounding thud, leaving behind the noise of tortured metal and burning wood. For the first time in his life, Nine knew real pain, greater by far than the mere scratch inflicted upon him by the hobgoblin at the Stumps.

And then the third party member fell.

Though pierced and battered by crossbow bolts, bludgeoned by Clifford, slashed by Bagson and sneak-attacked by Adriana, the howling Thom refused to fall. His oily bloody and ragged hide cloak were both matted with deep red, arterial blood, yet still he fought on, cleaving Clifford with a blow that near tore the Favoured Soul in Two (Second Action Point, spent to stabilise).
Realising how dire their chances looked, Nine called upon every ounce of strength and courage he had to land telling blows on Jim, (spending four action points in the process) yet the determined thug simply would not go down. Even his infusion enhanced Adamantine body could not protect him form the fury of Jims axe, and as the partys last true melee specialist began to fail, it seemed like it was all over for the characters.

But Constance had not fled, she had worked her way steadily into a position where she could fire on Hal from behind and above. Though so far she had missed twice, her bolts landing so far from the mark that Halton had simply ignored her, her third shot flew true, striking the scout through the back of the chest and piercing his heart. (Typically, she had rolled a critical threat on her first ever successful attack roll, scoring 12 damage on a character with only 10 hit points).
The players (and presumably the characters too) let out a cheer at the sigh, and Constance seemed unphased when Jim, seeing the whole thing, roared angrily “You`ll pay for that b&!%@!”.

But the tide had turned, and the party new it. Only moments later, a sneak attack from Adriana (which hit thanks to the Seventh Action Point of the Session) finally dropped the rampaging, monstrous Thom.

Jim was not concerned though. Three of his foes were down, the last skilled warrior was near de-activation and of the reaming three, two had suffered at the hands of Thom and the last was a scared slip of a girl who`d near dropped her crossbow when he’d threatened her. He only swore vengeance and continued to fight.

Jacko was not so confident, he’d used his last decent spell trying to drop Bagson and failed, though he left the dwarves warrior nearly spent. Always the coward of the group, he shouted “Run Jim”, and fled with the benefit of his last spell - Expeditious Retreat.
Big Jim howled in rage, and took one last swing at Nine before turning to run. Even spending his last action point, Nine couldn’t land a blow on the retreating warrior. It seemed Jim would escape.

But they had reckoned without Raz. Dismayed and angered by the sigh of Thutson lying seemingly dead (and having a player who knows a recurring villains when he see’s one) Raz rose from his crouch and used the last of his strength to fire his still-loaded crossbow at Jims back. He missed, but decalred that an action point would be spent, despite being told he needed to roll a six. We watched in mingled horror (from me) and fascination as, without preamble, Raz’s player rolled a six and dropped the fiend to negative hit points.

After the ensuing celebration (which Raz himself did not remain conscious to see), the standing party members gathered their wits and spotted Jacko heading for the causeway and the stumps as fast as his skinny legs and flapping robes would carry him. But the elation was short lived. Three of their friends were down and most of the remainder near death. As the lightest and fastest of the four victors, Adriana was dispatched back to town without ceremony to fetch Father Morton.

In the meantime, with the shed and cottage burning merrily about them, the others decided to search the mill.

“I just hope the money wasn’t in one of those.” Constance was heard to comment quietly. Luckily (although I WAS tempted) the treasure -and a small armoury- proved to be in the mill house itself. While Nine loaded the captured weapons onto the mills mule, Constance and Bagson found a small chest under the floorboards.

Not long after Adriana returned with a very cross Father Morton (who was not pleased about having been left out of the fight) and the parties injured were quickly healed. Adriana and Raz then proceeded to open the chest, after first disarming the trap that guarded it, and examine the contents. They found the tax money did not quite add up to a mere 1000gp, but were confident that the other items and art objects contained therein would increase the haul to the required 2000gp. There was some talk of keeping some of the money or else using some of the weapons they had found as barter but Father Morton soon put a stop to that.

He also claimed the weapons and armour (minus those the party had chosen for themselves - Constance, Clifford and Thutson got a breastplate each, while Adriana was happy to acquire Constance`s cast off Masterwork chain shirt and Raz claimed Haltons masterwork but damaged studded leather) for the towns militia, pointing out that the townsfolk needed them more the characters needed cash.

Bagson complained about this as well, but the good father simply replied, “Consider it a gratuity for all that free healing”.

Once again, Bagson did not have much more to say about that.

Beneath the chest, Bagons detect magic spells sensed something in the recently disturbed earth. Reaching his hand into the soil, he felt it clasps around the haft of something thick and wooden. Lifting it from the soil, the party were near-blinded by a blue-csytalline flash. As Bagons held the sword aloft, all could see that he held in his hand a strnagely crafted wooden sword, still ozzing living sap upon the blade and veined with what appeared to be blue crystal.
All the shardborn present felt a strange affinity for the sword, as if the had just seen a friend long missed hale and in good health. All except Bagson, who paused only to complain:

"What the hell are we going to do with a wooden sword!"

It was at this moment that Raz pointed out. "Well, Father Morton was right about one thing, thats no human design. Xenophon was a hob-goblin."

As the party rushed back down the hill and into town, the first of the Black Sailed Ships moved into sight around the hills. Still a few hours from landfall, the company nevertheless took note, and redoubled their efforts to return to the Mine.

Another surprise awaited them there.

Gone were the scrappy, dishevelled hobgoblin brigands from before. Instead, they found themselves marched down mine shafts packed tight with fierce, chanting, yelling hobgoblin warriors in full, matching armour and uniforms of Red and Dark Blue. The hobgoblins chanted in some strange foreign tongue (not goblin) none of the party could understand. Fearful of their lives, and wondering where these hobgoblins came from, and whether the hobgoblin who`d made the deal was still in charge, they were lead swiftly to the lift shaft.

The hobgoblin leader awaited him there. Gone were the wounds from before, seemingly magical healed. His cloak was of the deepest midnight blue, his sword and armour of the finest quality . The guards beside him carried banners adorned with some strange runes. His very bearing was altogether different, this hobgoblin carried himself like a King, not a tribal chief. Yet it was undoubtedly the same one. They recognised the scar across his cheek.

This time the hobgoblin spoke eloquently, welcoming them in dulcet tones and perfect common and confiding they had not eaten the boy after all. “Not enough to go round,” one of the banner men joked as the nearby hobgoblin parade laughed. The party were in no doubt this display was not just for their benefit - they were to serve as the bearers of grave tidings to the people of Chillhame. This was no simple pirate raid or barbarian incursion. It was to be a full blown invasion.

“The truce lasts until you reach the village and my general reaches land. . Once the Terror arrives, all truces expire. And this island shall drown in blood.”

At this, the hobgoblins take up the chant “Blood, Blood, Blood!” Banging sword against shield and spear butts against the ground as the party - and the last boy- are escorted back through the heaving throng of orange flesh. To their surprise, they once again reach safety -but not before being accosted by a band of grey-skinned, red-haired dwarves!
As they exit the caves, Bagson is unusually quiet. He believes now that he knows what happened Eberron's lost clan of Dwarves.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Kyber Rising Part One


Dawn to early-afternoon. Second Sul of the month of Rhann (early autumn) 1008 KY, on the Island of Chillhame, near the Town of Bronce.

The characters are recalled to wakefulness by a blood-curdling scream. As they look about themselves they find they lie upon a stone plinth, with a glowing megalith towering above it, in a cluster of twelve other stone tables of a similar sort, all occupied. They have only a moment to take in these strange surroundings however, as their eyes are drawn to a terrible sight.

Above one of the plinths stands a woman both exotic and terrible. Twelve small twisted horns like those a goat grow finger-like from her forehead, crowning her in the shape of a Tiara. Her purple skin glistens with sweat and she licks her dark lips as though squirming with primal ecstasy, her organic seeming purple armour leaving her midriff and much of her chest bare and seeming to quiver with an excitement of its own. In one up-raised, perfect hand she clings to a still-dripping heart, beating erratically in her grasp. The other holds a bloody dagger. She laughs as the figure beneath her reaches feebly upwards, as if striving to reclaim the sacred treasure stolen from it’s chest.

At the sight of this someone gasps, and the woman’s attention is returned to the present. She howls in hatred and points to the plinths.

“Kill them! Kill the Shard-born!” she screams. In but a moment, she is gone, faded into the mists that surround the clearing. But other figures have not, as over a dozen frenzied, humanoid figures unleash their rage in a ulullalating, bestial war-cry and charge wildly out of the mists.
Immediately, some of the figures on the plinths are cut down, slaughtered before they can even fully regain their feat, but a small band, seven in number, rise at the far side of the clearing and begin to give battle.

Two of them, the War forged, Nine and his erstwhile companion, Ruz, hold their ground, electing to permit the enemy to come to them. But another, dressed in hide armour and bearing Longsword and shield charges forward to meet the uncommon creatures.

As he nears them, he recognises them for what they are. Mere hobgoblins, but hobgoblins of athe strangest sort. For these carry rusty, crude weapons and wear patchwork armour, as poorly kept and maintained as their discipline. Thutson nearly cleaves his first foe in two, but this first combatant is swiftly joined by two others. This rash act however, perhaps saves the life of a young girl.

To the eyes of the other heroes , peering through the mists, this young girl is in fact an elven archer of the Valenar horse-lords. Yet she acts as strangely as their attackers. Rather than stand and fight, she throws her bow in the air and screams, cowering behind her plinth as the other orange skinned warriors bear down upon her.

Yet the town guardsman, Clifford, does not let her fall undefended. He lunges forward, placing himself between the girl and the foe, and is quickly joined by Ruz, whose enchantment magic causes one hobgoblin facing Clifford to become distracted by a terrible wracking agony inside his head. The two are swiftly joined thereafter by the Warrforged, Nine.

Meanwhile, a second melee develops around Thutson, aided by the axe of Bagson and the bow of the groups true elf, Adria.

Against so formidable a group, the hobgoblins fall easily, the last one retreating into the mists. Alas, the group has not been quick enough to save the others, who fade from sight even now, seemingly taken by the mists, never to return.

The seriously wounded Ruz, almost becomes one of them. Luckily, it transpires that one of his new companions is not only a soul favoured by the gods, but posessed of a kind heart. Though it takes almost half of Cliffords spells, the changling is saved from an early, and likely very permanent, demise.

With the help of Adria, Constance, the girl cowering behind the stone, is quickly calmed. By her upper-class Sharn accent and the sheer expense of her make-up and costume - the bow alone being wrapped with platinum wire and inlaid with peal- it is clear the lass is out of her depth. However, upon seeing Nine she runs to him, clinging to his leg as though he were some sort of talisman against the dark. While Clifford heals the wounds of the party’s organic members - using his entire allotment of spells for the day- Constance turns her hand to magically repairing the wounds suffered by Nine. As she does so, the Warforged has a flashback, in which he recognises her as having been present at his creation.

The girl seems genuinely confused by this news, claiming not to remember any such thing. At that moment, most of then other characters realise that they cannot recall many important events in their lives, such as where they born or the names of their parents. While they seem to remember how to swing a sword or cast a spell, the secrets of their past seems lost to them.

While this conversation takes place, Ruz and Bagson examine the stone monliths. The plinths themselves each bear a niche, right beneath where the occupants heart would be were they once again lying on the slab in question. Each cnihe is filled by a now spent Siberys crystal, perhaps the length of a human forearm. The monoliths themselves appear to be carved from stone and to have fragments of glowing crystal embedded within. But as a dwarf, Bagson is able to proclaim that the stone was added later, like a sheath to protect the inner cystal. Each of the thirteen plinths bears a strange engraving, glowing with a faint purple radiance. Bagson has never seen anything like them, but the changeling recognises them as Dargonmarks -much as they would look when seen on the skin of a living being. None of the actual marks look familar to him, and neither of them think to bring the marks to the attention of Constance, who has already revealed herself to be a scion of House d'Cannith.

It is at that point the apparition appears.

She takes form slowly, over the central mound, and appears as a beautiful yet translucent women of golden skin and silvery hair. She speaks to the heroes as if very far away, calling them the “Shard-born” and warning them of a great evil which threatens the world. A great evil they must face alone. She seems saddened by what she calls their premature emergence, and by the quality of their vessels, which she says are as yet unprepared. It seems then, that whatever ritual has been performed, it was performed too soon, and by an enemy seeking to prevent “their” emergence at their true power. Whoever “their” might be.

After only a few moments, and leaving more questions behind than answers, including instructions to seek the Sword of Xenophon, “so that you might begin to remember”, she fades away into nothingness.

The characters begin to feel as if a soothing presence has been lifted, and though the mist has retreated in the last few moments, they find their surroundings as bleak and ominous as ever. They are on an island, perhaps a quarter of a mile across, linked to the mainland by a long, narrow causeway. The sun has risen. And on the southern horizon, a fleet of black sails appear on the horizon.

With no sign of the mysterious purple woman, or her hobgoblin servants, the party flee quickly to the mainland.

As they run, Constance, clearly unable to keep up and unused to such things, casts aside her bow and arrows, seeming not to care about the cost as Adria recovers them for her own use. For the sake of speed, Nine lifts her in his adamantine arms and runs with her cradled like a small child. By the time they are half-way across, the water is lapping around their ankles and around the thighs of the dwarf. However, at this point it becomes clear that what appeared to be the two peaks of a saddle bisecting a single hill is, in fact, two hills flanking the entrance to a small bay. Only moments later, as they skirt the hills which block their view of the Bay, they spot a large village complete with a single nearby windmill.

Fearing for the safety of the townsfolk, they run into the town, but are perplexed to see it near deserted so early in the day, at a time when all should be up and about and conducting their business, especially given the number of fishing boats drawn up on the beech. However, Bagson notes the poor quality of the boats and the terrible state of the nets and the party rightly conclude that fishing is not this towns usual means of support. Constance is so shocked at the state of the town that she exclaims “People actually live here?” not in snooty tones but in genuine shock. She seems quite moved when she learns that this is the case and that people could live quite comfortably in such squalor. She confesses she had never realised what a sad thing it was to be poor, as she has never before left the D`Cannith house enclave in Sharn. At least, not that she can remember. Her simple concern seems to improve her worth considerably in the eyes of her companions, some of whom finally realise that, far from being spoiled, she has merely been overly-sheltered by her parents. And that her sweet nature is truly no ruse.

This becomes even more clear as they reach the town to find it in as dilapidated a state as the boats themselves. Half the homes are falling apart, with rotten wood showing through the adobe facings and peeling paint. Clearly the town has fallen upon hard times. Even the many mine entrances now visible in the hills have no activity around them. Indeed, the only sign of life is an old woman who flees into her shop as soon as they party comes into sight of it. Although Thutson runs up one of the hills flanking the bay entrance, looking to measure the progress of the pirates, the others hurry up to the old woman`s shop.

The bang upon her barred door but are given no entrance. Instead, the old woman threatens to call the sheriff if they do not leave her be. Eventually they persuade her to provide directions to the inn. They head for the town square, still in some haste and somewhat dismayed by the old woman’s refusal to believe an invasion fleet is on the way. The find the inn at the far side of the marketplace, with an old fountain fronting a ruined shrine to the Sovereign Host before it. Although Clifford seems dismayed by the poor condition of this hallowed location, he does not allow himself to be distracted from his task.

The fellowship bursts into the inn, yelling about pirates and an invasion fleet and are met with ridicule and laughter. Even at this early hour, the inn is packed with folk who should be working. One group in particular catch the eye of the party, four fierce looking men who slouch in the corner and eye them suspiciously. It swiftly becomes apparent that not only do the characters not know what town they are in, they do not even know they are on an island! This only causes the four men to become even more suspicious, narrowly avoiding a fight when Nine engages what he refers to as “threat mode”. Luckily, the presence of a member of house D`Cannith and a sharply worded order from the young Constance calms him. However, the suspicion of the four men only grows when the party reveal they don’t even know what YEAR it is.

Indeed, at learning the news that the last war ended not seven but TEN years ago, Constance is so shocked that she near collapses and bursts in to tears screaming “I`m twenty! How can I be twenty! I haven`t even had a chance to be seventeen!”

Adria quickly moves to comfort her, though she herself is stunned to learn the date is FIVE years later than she remembered. She is not quite so affected however, nor is Bagson who learns seven years have passed since his last memeory. Both are from long-lived races and, though disconcerted, do not feel the loss as much as poor Constance, who, given what she can recall of their advanced age and poor-health, has every reason to suspect her parents may be dead by now!

Of all the party, Nine takes news of these lost years the best. He cannot even recall what year it was when he met Ruz anyway, and since he was only a few weeks old at the time (as far as he believes) he has yet to come to appreciate the value of those wasted years.

At this point, evidently either deciding the party is crazy, cursed, or both, most of the villagers save the barman and the group in the corner, leave the inn with some haste. The four thugs simply look angrier, and more suspicious, than ever.

At that moment, a terrified local comes bursting into the inn, complaining about “some grey-skinned monster tearing up the town and yelling for his friends. Adria and Ruz quickly move outside and wave to Thutson, who quickly runs up and reports that he cannot see the sails at all from the hills, which are somewhat lower than the hill upon which they appeared.

Before Thutson can finish gathering his breath, three men, all armoured and clearly expecting trouble, burst into the inn. One, the oldest man, is of advancing years and is clearly the sheriff. Clad in chain mail and carrying a seemingly ancient spear older even than he is and with a bronzed helmet perched upon his head, he quickly tells the other two to stand down. The youngest of the three is a boy of perhaps sixteen, clad in poorly fitting leather armour and armed only with a brace of javelins. The third, who bears a clear family resemblance to the young man, is between the other two in years and carries a simple farmers flail balanced on one shoulder. His blue and white vestments, worn over his well-fitted breastplate, mark him as the local Priest.

Relieved to finally find the sheriff, the group relate their tale, explaining that they happened to sight a fleet of black sails after appearing in the strange magical circle across the causeway. On an island they are informed the locals call the Stumps. The local men seem sceptical and the three newcomers even laugh.

One, the youngest, blurts out. “Hah, Pirates have never troubled us before. We’ve got the Sword of Xen..” he shuts up after being cuffed round the ear and told to shut up the sheriff. The youth throws an apologetic, almost fearful glance across the room to the four thugs, and mutters a terrified apology to the man seated in the centre. Someone he calls “Big Jim”, evidently the leader of the four thugs.

Despite the sudden silence in the room, the party asks what the lad means. Seemingly unafraid of the four thugs the priest, who introduces himself as Father Morton, explains that the locals believe that the village is protected from harm by the sword of some hero - they say a human but he reckons a hobgoblin- named Xenophon. This Xenpohon supposedly fought a great battle against an evil army and slew its demonic leader not far from the town. Though the locals clearly look angry that the Priest has told these adventurous looking foreigners about the sword, the father seems unconcerned. It`s fairly clear that while even the sheriff and his deputy - father Mortons son- fear Big Jim and his cohorts, they in turn have a healthy respect for the prowess of the priest.

Still concerned and not entirely sure this Sword will save the village, the party set to discussing whether or not they should try to reclaim the sword. What if it is the only thing keeping this village safe from raiders? While the others agree that the ships seem to be staying out of sight for the moment and agree to rent a few rooms for the night, Ruz slips out the back and catches up with father Morton.

The priest explains a little more about the Swords history, stating that it was supposedly stored someplace secret nearby, but that the only records he knew of its location went up in flames when the local library - the private collection of the towns previous mayor- went up in smoke with all the town records six years ago. He explains that the townsfolk cling to a “superstitious” belief that the Sword has kept them safe while all the surrounding villages were long ago plundered and slavered into extinction. Privately, he believes it has more to do with the fact the bay entrance is invisible from the sea. After all, if this Sword was so powerful, why have all the mines dried up and the town reduced to such a penurious state?

Ruz makes some comment about asking just out of interest in a good tale, but the Father sees right through him and merely smiles. “The tombs up there in the hills somewhere,” he says, “and good riddance to the Sword if you find it. As long as it`s here these fools will cling to this half-life they lead, trusting in the sword to protect them rather taking fate into their own hands. Half these fools still believe things will get better again if only the keep faith with the sword.” He nods sadly towards the ruins of the old shrine, a testimony to the townsfolks faith in the sword rather than the Gods.

He goes on to explain that many of the villagers would likely fight to keep the sword safe. He goes on to mention that the islanders are a stubborn lot. They fought off no less than four invasions by Breland during the War, and even now, twelve years after the Day of Mourning, they still consider themselves subjects of the Kingdom of Cyre. Even though the surviving Prince of Cyre barely recognises that the island exists. Some of these folk even believe the Sword was the only thing that saved the island from the same fate as the rest of Cyre. Maybe they are right after all, for things started going bad right about then. Perhaps saving the island from the fate of their mother Kingdom simply exhausted the Swords Power. the father speculates. But it is readily apparent that the Father doesn’t believe it. “Swords that powerful”, he says, “simply don’t exist.”

“Host knows the locals don’t have faith in the Gods anymore. Speaking of which, services are held nightly here, at my house. Your friends are all welcome. I expect you’ll need me for some free healing soon too -but only if no villagers need it first. Good day.”

Happy to have learned so much information, Ruz returns to the rest of the group. They have wiled away the time making plans in quietly hushed voices, relating what they can remember of their origins and chatting amicably among themselves. Bagson makes a few unwholesome jokes that leave Constance near sickened, and the two girls head of the far end of the table to indulge in a little girl talk. Young Constance still seems out of her depth, but thanks to the efforts of Adria she has begun to admit that things are indeed, "quite exciting".

Before long, Thutson indicates he’s going to take another look from the hill, and is followed by the majority of the party save Clifford, who intends to keep an eye on their gear -such as it is- and Adria, who declares her intention to do a little sneaking.

Shortly after the party leave the inn, Adria also rises and goes to poke about town. Two of the thugs follow her out. Clifford, torn between following and letting the parties gear -and the other two thugs- out of his sight decides to trust in the abilities of his elven companion and remains right where he is.

Adria quickly spots her tail, and tries to loose them by ducking behind a building. She’s spotted however, and the two thugs mockingly lounge against the opposite wall for a while, waving and leering, until one them decides to approach.

He reveals that Jim and his boys are on to them, don’t believe the idiotic story that they simply appeared on the Stumps, and know what they’re really pokeing about for. They offer a hundred gold, fifty now and fifty to be collected from the mile marker outside town, if they leave before nightfall and tell their masters they found nothing.

Perplexed, but smelling an opportunity for profit, Adria agrees and accepts a hefty bag of gold. As she heads back to the inn, feeling smug, she wonders how the hell someone could be willing to part with so much gold -much less own so much gold- in a town where the inn-keep told her not to flash her wealth around when she bought drinks with a silver piece.

Not long after, she bumps into the sheriffs deputy, Young Morton, who adds he also knows why the characters are really here and that, if they cut him into the treasure, he can lead the party to the old tomb, where Xenophon is said to lie in state. Adria once again agrees readily and arranges to meet the youngster at dusk, at the milestone outside the village.

She gets back to the inn shortly before the others return. Hearing that the group spotted a single black-sailed mast skirting the horizon before fading from view, the groups concludes that the fleet is waiting for something -or someone. Ruz is determined to find out more about the Swords location and picks through the ruins of the library, drawing a few curious looks from the locals. He finds nothing but charred flagstones and a few starved rats. However, not long after he heads out the back of the inn to the privy, the only place he has not been followed by one of the thugs since Adria made the deal, and takes on the form of Father Morton.

In this form he walks casually past the two thugs standing by the inn door (keeping a wary eye on Bagson, who is having a fly pipe-smoke outside the inn) with a cheery wave which the two thugs do not return.

He makes a show of cleaning up the shrine a little, while in fact he is actually searching it. He comes across a small piece of paper -evidently a confession to murder written by one of Jims boys, placed here as a request for forgiveness for this sin- and pockets it. He also finds a small flagstone marked with a hobgoblin “X” rune, but thinks nothing of it at the time and returns to the group, deciding to keep his discovery to himself for the time being and considering whether he should take up the matter himself or leave it to the sheriff.

As he reaches the inn door, a young lad, breathless as a blown horse, runs through the town square bawling “They took ‘em, the gobbers took me friends.” Immediately a crowd, including the characters, gathers round the boy. After some coaxing he reveals that he and his friends were up playing by the old tomb when some gobbers appeared and started dancing and preying “an stuff.” Rather stupidly, his younger friends, Cal and Hob, stayed to watch and were caught soon after another bunch of hobgoblins showed up and fought a battle with the first arrivals. The lad watched saw the whole thing from a distance, but ran away shortly after the boys were dragged off. Alas, he is in such a state he cannot remember in which direction the hobgoblins were headed.

A near riot breaks out as the village sceptics shout “Where was the sword when we needed it eh?” and others cry out that it was the boys on fault for committing sacrilege by playing round the tomb. Father Morton and the Sheriff make a start at calming the mob down, and send young Morton off to lead the characters to the Tomb.

They get there about twenty minutes later and after some careful scouting determine that the second group of hobgoblins did indeed win the fight. The bodies have been stripped bare, all save that of two priests who kneel before a ragged alter at the tomb. Young Morton is able to determine which of the tracks belonged to the winners by the two sets of drag marks that suggest the boys were led off to the east.

Although the tracks disappear over broken ground, he reckons they are headed for the old gold mine, and can lead the way. There is some talk of sending Constance back to town, for her safety, but she disagrees. It seems she is not only rather embarrassed but also somewhat ashamed by her conduct back on the Stumps. She has always dreamed of doing “field work” and is determined to do better. Reluctantly, the party agrees, but only after Clifford hands over his crossbow to the otherwise weapon-less sprig of a girl.

Young Morton smiles nervously at her, and the two youths (both are barely seventeen) seem to draw confidence from each others presence. The party follows the tracks and Ruz, disguised as a goblin, scouts the buildings at the mine head. Three are little more than shacks housing old and useless mine equipment. One is some sort of office. Although it reeks of stale beer, urine and faeces, Ruz holds his breath and does some exploring. He comes across a tattered uniform with a single blood-stained rent above the heart. Further inspection finds an official warrant declaring the bearer as a Tax-Collector for the Crown City of Saraghost. He also finds the mans official tax collection pouch. Unsurprisingly, it is empty.

However, the party do not yet make the connection between the corpse and the strange behaviour exhibited by Big Jim and the rest of the town.

The party explore further into the dungeon, with a very nervous Constance and Young Morten bringing up the rear, Morten with a torch and Constance with a loaded crossbow. At least, its loaded until Bagson reaches back and removes the bolt. “Never cock the weapon with abolt loaded until you need to shoot it”, he whispers in grandfatherly tones, “you might slip and shoot yourself.” Contrite, the young lady never the less nods her understanding, and while she leaves the string pulled back, the quarrel stays tightly held in her quivering spare hand. Both the youths are clearly terrified, and its only the presence and coaxing of the other heroes that keeps them from bolting.

As the party moves deeper into the mines, Ruz, carrying a torch and wearing the shape of a hobgoblin, leads the group with Bagson and Thutson (both of whom have dark vision) about thirty feet behind. Each with one eye closed against the light to protect their dark-sight. The remaining group travel about thirty feet behind the "odd-couple".

Bagson’s bat familiar scouts ahead, screeching once after returning from a side passage. Knowing foes to be present, the parties sneakier members stalk down the short passageway into the old tackroom, where two drunken guards sleep off the victory celebrations. Both are quickly slain and the party members cannot help but comment once again on the strange lack of discipline displayed by these famously militant creatures.

After continuing down a corridor, ignoring several flooded side passages showing no trace of use, they reach a fork in the mine and choose to follow the steeper path. The party are startled by the screeching and moaning of a ghost, which, though terrifying in aspect, appears either unable or unwilling to actually harm them. The ghost is thatof a naked young man, with a great stab wound in his chest and a gaping slash in his throat. When the wailing and moaning attracts the attention of two hobgoblins, who seem rather blaise with regards to the ghost in their midst, Ruz heads down the corridor to intercept them while wearing the face of a dead drunk. Disgusted, the two hobgoblins warn the drunken hobgoblin to return to his post and sober up before the boss sees him. At least if he wants to live until tomorrow. The two guards chuckle nastily and head back the way the came.

Meanwhile, the characters determine that the ghost simply wants them to retrieve his corpse for burial. After some wading in a deep murky pool, the bloated body is removed. It`s clearly been in the water for around a week, and the skin seems to slough off as the characters touch it. Constance bravely manages to avoid throwing up, but only because Morton and the others seem to be watching. Bagson finds a peice of a blade broken off in the neck wound, and pockets the evidence for later. He is swiftly becoming suspicious about just where Jim and his boys got their money from. And why they are so worried about having strangers poke about the place.

The party promise the ghost they will bury the body on the way back , as they have to “tend to the living first, then the dead,” . This seems to remind the ghost of something, and after further pantomime they determine that the two boys are indeed down this corridor along with lots and lots of hobgoblins. Indeed as the party heads further down the corridor, they begin to hear the noise of revelry and celebration, though its hard to determine from where, as the noise seems subdued as it echoes its way through the mineshafts.

Wearing the uniforms of the dead guards, Thutson and Ruz amble up to the two guards from earlier, who appear to be guarding some form of lift mechanism. The two guards seem more annoyed than alarmed at their “drunken” approach and seem more concerned with discussing whether or not one of them should exchange posts with the drunks than what the two newcomers are doing with their hands. Ruz`s rapier strikes the first guard in the throat, nicking the windpipe and narrowly missing the jugular. Its not enough to kill him however, and he tries to rasp out an alarm. Thutson on the other hand beheads his foe with a might blow. Alas, the element of surprise is lost however, as the still-helmeted head makes its noisy, clanging way down the mineshaft, followed an instant later by the armoured body of the second, fanatical hobgoblin, who screams that his death is dedicated to the “Dark Worm” as he throws himself down the shaft.

Below, the sounds of revelry cease.

At the lift, the party makes plans for when the platform rises to meet them, not quite realising that the mechanism only operates from above. At least, not until the mechanically savvy Constance points this out. When they begin to hear sounds of a barricade being assembled below, the party finally decides to act. Constance activates the lift mechanism, bringing the platform up from the level below. Though the characters are ready for battle, the platform is empty. It seems the characters must take the battle to the enemy themselves. Constance and Morton are delegated to remain above and guard the lift mechanism, ready to recall the lift platform at a shout from the others. Both youths realise they are deliberately being left out of the most dangerous fighting, but neither protest. They both know how important their role will be, especially with some unexplored passages still behind them.

The lift descends slowly, with the party’s shield-users in the foe. Though the drop is only a mere sixty feet, it seems to take forever for the aging mechanism to reach the next level.

There, what the character see in the mighty cavern, is enough to make their hearts stop.

Six hobgoblin warriors, all bearing light wounds and drawn longbows, stand not fifty feet away behind a makeshift barricade of tables and mining equipment. Behind them stands a mighty warrior, scarred near from head to foot, with a dagger held to the throat of one of the boys. To his left stands a decrepit old crone in ceremonial clothing, decorated with rats skulls and bird claws, holding a knife at the throat of a second boy. At the other end of the torch lit cavern, a gaggle of hobgoblin children are clustered behind a large assembly of cooking pots and pans, clutching improvised kitchen tools and protected by a mob of hobgoblin women carrying small but deadly looking meat-knives and kitchen-cleavers.

Its clear that the characters cannot win this battle without taking losses. Not least amoung them to two boys. Tense negotiations follow, in which the hobgoblins agree to relinquish one of the two boys as down payment in exchange for 2000gp. The other boy will be released only delivery of the money, unless, the chief hobgoblin agrees, “we get too hungry first. So be quick!”.

The characters return up the lift, with the screams of the second boy screaming in their ears, “Don’t leave me. Don’t leeeeaaaavvvvvve meeeeeeee!”

The question remains? Where will the party find 2000 gold in a one-horse town like Bronce? Bagson and Adria think they know the answer

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Khyber Fall: D&D 3.5 in Eberron

Just played the first session of my new Ebrron Campaign: KhyberFall, on Wednesday. Here's the blurb the players were given before the game. It`s followed by character descriptions and a summary of the first session.

"It is dark, you have no memory of this place. All that you can feel beneath you is a harsh stone slab. You cannot speak, you cannot move, you cannot sleep. You have no idea of how long you have been trapped here. You hear the sounds of movement all around you, others, trapped, strapped down like yourself. Forest noises reach you faintly as if from far away. You have no clue as to who has brought you here, or why. Your last memory is of a face - a friend, a lover, a foe. It matters not, it is only by great force of will that you can focus on that memory and the ones which have come before. Memories of great battles, great loves, of friends won and lost. You were a hero, an adventurer. Slowly, the past return to you. You still cannot remember how you came to be here, but at last you have remembered who you are.Footsteps ring on stone.The sound of someone singing draws near.A blade is drawn.Your mind opens........"

Adria: Female Elf Rogue 1

Fast-talking and ever-looking to make a quick copper at some-ones expense, Adria speaks so swiftly and says so much in a single breath -without punctuation- that it is hard to follow her part of the conversation. The normally slow-witted Clifford has already joked that he wishes he had a horse so fast as Adria’s tongue. At least, the party thinks he was joking.

Bubbly and friendly, like Nine, Adria has taken young Constance under her wing and already introduced her to the art of “slumming it”. It is largely due to her efforts that the party has been able to enlist the aid of Young Morton and calmed Constance enough for her to become a useful member of the party rather than a screaming impediment. Her enthusiasm for a caper is infectious, and her sassy attitude keeps everyone in high spirits.

Bagson son of Bagmore: Dwarf Male Battle-Sorcerer 1

An unusual member of his species, Bagson seems at first glance to be a very orderly individual. However, this Bastard-sword wielding spell-caster is as foul-mouthed as it is possible for a dwarf to be. Though valiant and brave, he has already managed to disgust Constance and Adria to the extent that Constance at least has begun to despise and distrust him. His lewd and suggestive comments have yet to obviously trouble the rest of the party over-much, yet Clifford in particular seems to frown upon the dwarves obscenity. Thutson however, seems to find him quite amusing.

Clifford of Hard-dale. Human Male Favoured Soul (Sovereign Host) 1

Although not the brightest member of his species, for some reason Clifford seems blessed by the Gods. A member of the city watch in his home town of Hard-Dale and a veteran of the Last War, Clifford remembers being “elected” the town priest not long after he returned from the Wars. Clifford (never Cliff) vaguely remembers having been far brighter before taking the head wound that saw him discharged from Aundair’s army, and seems somewhat saddened by the slowing of his wit and speech. Clifford rarelyy speaks as a result of his embaressment. But when he does speak,the others have learned to listen, for good sense invariably follows.

Constance Amber D’Cannith, Female Human Artificer 1:

A first year student and disciple of Baron Merrix D’Cannith, her inexplicable fear of the man is overshadowed only by her idolising devotion. Amber (or Constance, she goes by either name) is a delightful and charming young woman. She is intelligent and vivacious, but has a lot to learn about how the world works. The lass will likely shed a few more tears- and illusions- along the way. Though bookish, she is charming and seems to be thoroughly impossible to dislike. A seventeen year old only child of elderly parents - parents she tearfully can barely remember- she has quickly become the darling of the entire party.

The last thing she remembers before joining the rest of the party is attending a costume ball in honour of her seventeenth birthday.

“Nine”. 9-60160. Male personality Warforged Fighter 1:

Nine is an unusual specimen. Despite the "fact" no-war forged had been created since the end of the Last War (six full years before Ruz and Nine encountered each other on the road outside Sharn) he is in seemingly pristine condition. His adamantine plating lacks even the smallest scratch or etching to mar it’s perfect surface. A s a result, Nine is very clearly a newly created Warforged. He has trouble understanding any situation from anything other than a tactical strongpoint and has yet to develop a strong personality of his own. He has become very protective of young Constance, whom he vaguely remembers as having been present at the moment of his "birth". Constance does not share his memory of this event.

Ruz: Male Changeling, Beguiler level 1:

Ruz is a soft-spoken changeling who seems to take a very moral attitude to the use of his racial abilities to deceive others, wearing his own form as much as possible. He appears to be a voice for reason and planning within the group and the others have very quickly learned to listen to his sound advice and judgement. The clever changing favours subtlety and intelligence over brute force and rash action. He is already growing into a leadership role within the party.

Thutson. Half-Orc Barbarian 1

Thutson is a mountainous piece of muscle. Though a member of the the Tribes of the Demon-Wastes, he can recall little of his past life - or how he came to be where he is. The outside world in which he finds himself seems strange to Thutson, and so rather than display his ignorance he has elected to keep his mouth shut for the time being. In this, he has shown himself to be far more canny than the others realise. Something of an oddity, he generally works well with the group despite his incommunicative nature. However, he is nothing if not reckless, and has already charged into combat once while the rest of the party clearly intended to stand their ground.

Next Post: Session One

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Victory at Last

At last, a victory on the WAB battlefield, albiet a small won, and one acquired not more than a few hours ago at my regualr gaming group.

Colin and I had arranged a game using the Raid Secnario for a change of pace. This scenario, published in the Sheildwall rules, is meant to represent the conflict surrounding a raid on a small, poorly defended village. Its a race against time as 500pts of attackers race to defeat 250 of defenders before a relief column arrives.

As Colin plays Vikings (Norse from the Western Isles, to be precise) it naturally fell to him to be the agressor, while a small band of my Norman Milites, dismounted and lead by the local Comte, lead a hastily assembled milita in the defence of the village.

I neglected to take Colins army list home with me, so I will graciously ask him to publish it in the comments section after this post. However, oit consisted of four units, each of about 10-15 vikings, including one unit of Hirdsmen. Three of these units were armed with javelins, shields and light armour, the leftmost one deployed in skimrish formation. Behind the middle foot section (I hesitate to call such small bands units) came a section of archers.

In defence of the village, from left to right, were 12 dismounted Milites, with no leader, standard bearer or musician, crouched behind the patchy village walls. The gap where a gate would have been in a more affluent village was held by 2o farmworkers (stats taken from the Raid scenario) armed with handweapons (representing a mix of billhooks, sickles, hoes etc) arrayed in three ranks and led by the Comte himself. To the right of these qyuaking peasants, were five of the Cmotes servants, armed with improvised weapons and stones. Hiding in the village, were five women and children, well back from the action.

At first sight of the dragonships off the Normandy Coast, the Comte - handily visiting one of his bastards with a small escort of his Milites, sent his squire riding back to his castle to summon reinforcements. The scenario called for these reinforcements to begin arriving on a random dice roll at some point after turn 3.

The reinforcements would arrive in the form in 10 mounted milites (again, with no leader, musicians or standard bearer) who were hadily out hunting in the nearby woods. Accompanying them were twenty-one freemen armed with spears, who had been acting as beaters.

Alltogether, including reinforcements, this force amounted to some 750 points, most of them leadership 4 and leadership 5 peasants. Significantly, my "general" was only a Comte and therefore my army did not benefit from the Army General rule allowing all nearby troops to use the generals leadership.

The battle opened immediately badly for Colin. A volley of javelins and arrows aimed at the milites on the left brought down only one of the beaily armoured spearmen, In the centre, the Viking Mate and his captains most faithful retainers charged home against the farmworkers. As Vikings cause fear in units with a leadership of less than 7, a panic roll was required. This was failed, but the sheer numbers of men in the unit. along with the Comtes imposing presence, prevented the hastily assembled mob from fleeing. However, so terrified were they by the awesome reputation of the northman (and perhaps forgetting that their lords were themselves once vikings, that they would need a 6 to score a hit.

Unramarkably, all nine of the mighty Vikings who could reach a target managed to land a blow on their opponent (WS4 vilkings need a 3 or more on on a D6 to hit a WS2 foe) but incredibly only two suffered a wound and, without armour, fell to the ground in a heap. Egged on by the ferocious young Comte, the terrified peasant s struck back but only the Comte was able to land a blow (twice in fact) both of which were turned by the stout shields of the raiders. However, Colins glee turned to annoyance and then dismay as he first realised that my three ranks meant that I had won the combat despite his not loosing a single man and then watched his elite unit fail a panic test and flee.

The Comte, not yet wanting his men to leave the safety of the barricades and leaving their flanks open to attack, held the all-too-willing peasants under his command at the gate, allowing the viking elite to flee. Seeing this, the left most group which had thrown their javelins at the milites (actually lead by the Viking Captain) also broke and ran, as did the archers behinf the first group.

So it was that when the rightmost group of Vikings looked up in glee from the sight of two dead servants pilling their life blood behind the walls and three more turn and run, they saw the rest of their ships crew fleeing the field like women.

The Comtes timid peasant escrt were all too happy to remain within the village boundaries while the only other efective unit on the field, the milites, were old and canny veterens to wise to leave th e safety of the walls at this early stage in the battle. The only Norman movement was the three fleeing servants, whose flight took them near the five terrified mothers sheltering their children in the shadows of the rear wall. However, the five terrified women did not flee at the sight of the three pampered "castle boys" running towards them. They had faith in the stamina and bravery of their men.

So it was that, realising they were not pursued save for the jeers of their comrades on the right, the entire Viking army rallied. The archers took revenge by firing a volley into the peasants, killing several, while the centre group advanced once more towards the peasants and let fly with javelins, killing one more. Meanwhile, the left group of Vikings advanced tanatalisingly close to the Milite position on the left of the field, theri javelins felling another brave young knight in his prime. On the right, the bravest group of vikings on the field moved around to the right flank of the village, seeking entry through a gap in the poorly maintained village wall.

At this point, sensing his flank about to be turned and knowing that he was about to be assaulted on three quarters, lead his men, peasant and Milite alike, into a wild sally. Taken completly by surprise (no peasants had ever been foolish enough to actually attack THEM before) the viking veterns in the centre stood their ground and slew several peasants, but actually took more casualties than they inflicted and lost the combat AGAIN, although this time their desire for vengeance and plunder (as well as their shame) overcame their desire to live.

On the left, the surviving Milites charged over the wall and into the fray against the VIking Captain and his crew. A fierce melee ensued, in which the ferocity, toughness and numbers of the Vikings was negated by the skill and armour of the Norman warriors. Though many fell on both sides, Viking and Knight alike remained firm.

On the right, the three servants, shamed by the courage of the women, turned to gather stones and return to the fight (under the RAID special rules, units less than five strong o not automatically break and may rally). Bravely, three unarmed men moved towards the breech in the right flanking wall and three stones at a dozen armoured, rampaging vikings.

On the Viking turn, the archers moved towards the breech in support of their colleagues, whose javelins brought down only a single servant, while the other two remained steadfast in their defence of the cowering women and children behind them.

On the left, Viking and Milite struck simultaneously. heaby armour alone could not save the brave, but young, knights from the heavy blows of the norse captain and his men, but they reused to break and reduced the party facing them to just eight men against five battered and bloody survivors

In the centre, the Comte slew two vikings, and his men slew one more. Although by now reduced to a bare two ranks rank, there were now only 9 elite vikings facing the Comte and his ten surviving farmhands. The peasants refused to break and neither did the Vikings but the end was now in sight.

At this point it was now my turn 3 and the reinforcements could now enter the board. Colin's hopes had rested on getting his men entrneched in the village before these reinforcements arrvied (hence my charge on turn two to delay this and decrease the chance that his vkings could pursue beaten units into the villgae itself). Inside the village, they would be safe from a massed cavalry charge (the tightly packed huts meant I would only be able to charge my Mounted milites two knights breast, reducing the chance of an automatic break due to their ferocious charge ability). Additionally, two of his three melee units were reduced to a half dozen figures or so, the only one with more than ten was sitting with its flank exposed to any reinforcements within easy charge distance of my table edge and without the villages protective walls around it.

In addition to the knights, the unit fo libres I has purhased as reinforcement held nearly as manyu melee troops (21) as Colins entire army at this point, and while they carried only spears and had no armour protection, their rank bonus meant they would overrun anyone who would stand against them.

At this point, Colin conceeded, even without waiting for the reinforcement roll to be made. We both agreed that this time he had been the one killed by the dice (those farmhands should have been broken on turn one) but that the game had been fun overall. I suggested that next time we should both agree on a unit size cap and that I would leave out the Milites to keep things interesting past turn 3. In truth, mu inlcusion of mounted troops in my reinforcements really stacjed the deck in my favour.

COlin had gambled that he could have outflanked me due to his greater number of units, but he had lost sight of his objective by not sending his skirmishers on the left (led by his general) around the back of my line to torch buildings (25 vp per building) and kill the women and children (another 25 vp each ) while pinning my two main combat units (the farmhands and milites) in place with his other units.

I on thether hand, felt justified in sticking as many farmhands (at 2 points each)as I coudld afford into one big unit as I had to spend at least 50 points on villagers and needed to take at least 5 of each type (farmhand, servants and women/children). As the farmhands were the most melee competant I picked a large number of them to offset their hideous combat deficiency and give them my single permitted charavter as a leader. The gamble paid off (but just barely) and I should by rights have been loosing four of five or them a turn.

I do believe however, that taking the horsemen (while realistic- after all, who else would be able to get to the village in time to save it if not horseman) was not sportsmanlike. At the very least, I could have made them flemish, taking away the lances and fercoious charge so that colins troops would have some chance against them. But to competely fair, next time I will leave mounted troops out altogether.

Next week, 2000 pts vs Julians Moors and then a Lord of the Rings scenario the week after.

Monday, 26 February 2007

Moorish Battle Report

This is a report of a battle that took place slightly after Xmas at Glasgow Gaming Group (G3 to it's friends). Ive been meaning to put it up for some time as it has been sitting on my hard drive at home. However, with no home internet access and no disk drives in the PCs at work, it has taken me this long to publich it. Thankfully, the happy day when my broadband was installed has come and gone. Regular blog service will resume immediately. Arn't you pleased?


Prince Eduardo d’Rolas, Counte de Toledo set his stallion prancing merrily back and forth amidst the rank of his grinning men, knowing that in all the mounted host around them, not one man could be happier than he. He rode at the head of the finest band of mounted warriors his city could produce, Cabbelero Hidalgoes, with their bright lance points and pennants jutting into the breeze, mounted Jinites, farmers too poor for armour but rich enough to own a fine horse waved javelins in the air. Lance armed serjeants, the Cabelleros Villainous, rich merchants son and poorer knights, thumped leather-gloved hands against chests and thrust lances skyward. While more conservative knights, still favouring the hit and run tactics of javelin and throwing spear, clanged the hafts of their weapons against their shields.

Finally, after one bloody defeat and an even bloodier stalemate against the armies of the dreaded Berber El-Julian, Eduardo could taste the victory in the air. He, the young prince, had out-manouvred the wily old general. The African had concentrated his heavy forces of Berber spear-men and mercenary Christian Knights ("Traitors!" spat Eduardo) in the centre, leaving only a thin line of skirmishing archers and cross-bowmen to defend his left. A left against which Eduardo had carefully moved his entire wing of massed cavalry. Soon, his Cabelleros Villainous and Cabelleros would crash through the skirmish line, threaten the enemy rear and eventually join in the slaughter as the shock cavalry charged home.
Victory was inevitable. Only a fool could lose this battle.


This was indeed, the third battle between Julians Almohad Army and my own. In the first two, I had used my Norman list. The first battle was a total rout for the Christian forces due to some bad positioning on my part. The second battle was a bloody stalemate (with two equal strength, quality units battling it out on each side at the end of the game) that could have gone either way but in the end tipped in Julians favour. This one would be different. For one thing, I was using an "in-book" army, Spanish Christians, to fight Julians Berbers. For another, I now had a larger selection of troops types. In the first two games, I had been forced to pit the same army I used against Colin’s vikings against an Army crawling with spearmen and archers. That’s right, my army, a third of whose points were tied up in a single shock cavalry unit, with only twelve archers in the whole host, went up against an army which historically tore cavalry based forces apart with missile fire until they had no choice but to charge the spearmen head on and be torn up some more.

* Sigh * I was so hoping he’d be fielding Andalusians.

Now though, I had invested in ten Cabelleros Villainous (handily usable as Serjents in my Norman army), Seven Jinites (also usable as Javilin and Throwing spear armed Serjents) and Seven Cabelleros (Knights on horseback with Javelins and usable as Breton knights in my Norman army). This gave me more options, as well as the ability to draw his spearmen units of out position with my two units of fire and flee skirmishing cavalry. I was much more confident about this battle. And after set-up was over, I knew from a glance I would win. Whats more, from the expression on Julians face when he remembered light cavalry could skirmish through rough terrain, my opponent knew it too. Bwahahahahah! Sweet revenge was to be mine!

Photo’s: Alas, my camera packed in on the way to the club. No big loss really, since most of our stuff was still naked and I wont be able to upload the images anyway on account of my broadband still not having been installed. Next time though, I promise.

From left to right: On my side of the table sat a patch of rocky ground we would treat as rough terrain. Almost directly opposite (but slightly to my right) on Julians side of the board sat a high hill. To the left of this, in the centre of the table, sat a field of standing crops (central to my plan, and placed by me:, something that drew some very curious looks from Julian). Just to the left of this on my side was a small ruin (also placed by me, restricting charge lanes in the centre and confusing Julian even more) and finally, also on my side of the table, a small wood.

Armies & Deployment:

The Christians.

Despite knowing full well that Juliens army would be chock full of spearmen and archers I had deliberately gone for 2000 points dominated by mounted troops, strange as that may seem. The plan was to concentrate these mounted troops on one flank opposite Juliens archers, concentrate against that point of the line and break through, then roll up the sides. Consequently, I deliberately deployed my foot archers (aquelleros) and two units of spearmen towards the centre, drawing in Julians own heavy forces.

My Army (2000pts) (from left to right):

Left Flank

7 Cabelleros (Skirmishing Knights) Light Armour, Shield, Horse, Javelins and Throwing Spears. Leader, SB, Musician
Positioned just behind the rough patch of rocks on my left. Skirmish formation.

7 Jinites (Light Cavalry), Shield, Horse, Javelin, Throwing Spears, Leader. These were positioned just to the right of the Cabelleros and were also in skirmish formation with the crop-field on their right.

10 Cabelleros Villainous (Light Shock Cavalry), Shield,Horse, Lance, Leader, SB and Musician. PLUS the unit was led by a Cantador who came up with nothing on the Song Effects table. These were positioned directly behind the Jinetes.

10 Cabelleros Hidalgos (Heavy Shock Cavalry) Shield, Warhorse, Lance, Heavy Armour, Leader etc plus two characters: Unit Commander Prince Eduardo (actually using the Rey statline) and the Army Standard Bearer.

These were positioned just to the right of the Villainos. Yes, that’s right, directly behind the crop-field. Strange eh?


21 Peones (Light Spearmen) Shield, Spear, Javelins. Leader etc. These were positioned into the narrow gap between the crop-field on their left and the ruins on their right.

21 Mercenary Spearmen (heavy Spearmen). Large Shield, Spear, Javelins, Leader etc. These troops were stubborn and deployed directly behind the Peones.


The ruins were held by 11 Skirmishing Artelleros, or archers, armed with bows.

10 Skirmishing Artelleros, armed with bows, positioned in the woods.


This isn’t very exact in terms of troop numbers and equipment as I’m operating from memory once again. Check the comments at the bottom of the post. Maybe Julian will give a fuller breakdown later. Julian really played into my hands with his deployment, something he realised himself very early on the game.

From my Left to my Right:

12 Skirmishing Archers: Positioned directly opposite the rough ground and to the left of Juliens hill. Facing my Cabelleros.

12 Skirmishing Archers: Placed directly in front of the hill, facing my Jinites.

12 Skirmishing Crossbowmen: Directly behind the Archers and on the crest of the hill.

20 Berber Spearmen and five archers led by Army General and Standard Bearer. Just to the right of the hill.

20 Berber Spearmen and five archers. To the right of the previous unit.

24 Black Guard Spearmen with large shields, light armour and javelins (NOT, as I incorrectly assumed, armed with spears- I would suffer for this assumption later).

All three o the units stood opposite the crop field, though the Black Guard stood opposite my Spear units.

12 Christian Knights. Traitors (Yahboo!) Complete with lances and ferocious Charge. Exactly to the right of the Black Guard.


12 Javelin and Shield armed skirmishers.


Julian had played right into my hands. Broadly, I had deliberately denied my right (as had Julian) and lured Julien into my lightly held centre by offering a nice juicy target. I must admit to being surprised that he stood by and watched as I placed as those Horsemen on my left, but by then he couldn’t place his Spearmen on the left even if he wanted to, as that flank was already pretty much crawling with skirmishers by this point. The plan was to hold the right flank with my archers and to cautiously move my spears alongside the crop-field. I was hoping Julien would forget in the heat of the moment that the leading Peones were light infantry. This would enable me to spring a nasty surprise on him if it worked.

Meanwhile, on the left, the Jinites would make towards the Archers at the base of the hill as if to charge them, only to veer off suddenly and distract the spearmen to the right of the hill with javelins fire. I must admit that I was a bit worried about this tactic when I saw all those archers at the back of those units, but as I was willing to write of my Jinetes as an expendable unit anyway this was no great concern. Meanwhile, the Villainos, having sneaked into charge range of the corssbowmen BEHIND the archers, would charge. If I was lucky, they would hit the crossbowmen after wiping out the archers and if the archers fell back voluntarily, I’d have the crossbowman as a starter.

The Cabelleros meanwhile, were to destroy the archer unit operating before them. With the left flank gone, I would then have skirmishing cavalry behind Juliens spearmen, Shock Cavalry in front, and Spearmen threatening his centre.

It all seemed so nice and simple, I could practically see it as if it had already happened.


The game opened with the traditional missile barrage after all the skirmishers on my side of the table (save those in the ruins) took their free skirmish move. I lost a pair of Jinites to this fire, but the more heavily armed Cabelleros were able to shrug off the few arrows that hit. Julien made a mistake here (in my opinion) by firing his crossbows as the Jinites instead of the Cabelleros. After all, he already had a good chance of killing the Jinites with the bows but the crossbows would have reduced the Cabelleros saving throws by from 4 to 5. And as the Cabelleros posed the greater threat I would have gone for them. Still, Julien WAS trying to break those Jinites in the first turn (he knew fine well what my plan was) and in the end it may well have paid off.

The only other movement was from the right, where the javelin men ran towards my archers in the woods. Meanwhile, the mercenary knights began a long wheel that would take them across the front of the spear unit and towards my left flank. The Black Guard marched forward towards my Peones.

On my side, my Left Flank thundered forward, the Jinites and Cabelleros moving into Javelin range with the Villains behind them. Meanwhile, the Hidalgo’s executed a lovely little manouvre that slotted them in directly behind the Villanos. My javelin throwing was pretty poor, killing only a single archer despite a total of nine hit’s. My Peones also managed a particularly fine set of throws against the Mercenary knights now riding parrallel to the crop field towards the left of the battlefield. The knights were hit in the back by 6 of the seven missiles but only two managed to wound the heavily armoured warriors . Both these tough knights shrugged their injuries off.


Julians forces opened fire again. The combined fire of 21 archers proved too much for the Jinites. Reduced to just two warriors, they turned tail and fled. Earlier than I had hoped true, but this was a minor setback which did not alter my plans at all.

The crossbowmen had an unusually lucky day, bringing down FOUR of the dangerous Cabelleros Villanous. The two units of Berber spearmen rotated to face my left at an oblique angle while the Black Guard guard continued to advance. The mercenary knights positioned themselves so they would be able to charge my own knights in the flank if they advanced any further, this took some manouvreing to set up the correct angle and in the end they did not travel a great distance.

Meanwhile, the javelin men closed to missile range but failed to injure any of the skirmishers in the woods.

With a great and rousing yell, the cavalry charge on the left began. The left most unit of Berber Archers unwisely chose to stand and shoot (not that they had anywhere to run too) and faced the terrifying sighte of 5 of Toledoo’s finest knights thundering towards them. However, despite scoring several hits, only one of the knights wounded their opponent and the stubborn archers refused to run before the bewildered mounted warriors.

On the right, the Villainos and their musical leader were equally bewildered. The archers had broken and run before them as expected, but the thunderous charge of the six remaining lance armed Villanous into the scattered ranks of Crossbows had an extremely un-nerving effect – on the Villainos. Despite hitting four of the crossbowmen with their lances, no less than three of them had the affront to pick themselves up and carry on! What was going on, were their weapons made of wood (well, yes, the lance shafts were but...). Had some villain replaced their steel points with candlewax fakes? Whats more, the seemingly immortal crossbowmen managed to slay yet another of the mounted Spaniards as he stared in tearful bewilderment at the shaft of his ineffective lance. The combat was a draw!!!

Not only that, the crossbowmen also had a musician, forcing a roll off and ensuring that it was the ViILLAINOS who lost the combat!!!!! What on earth was going on? Luckily, the Cantador managed to steady the nerves of his men with a rousing song and the remaining five warriors fought on.

(Yup, I failed to wound a str 3, nearly armorless target three times with a STR 5 attack!!!! Needing just threes to wound!)

Meanwhile, as every other Christian unit on the battlefield looked on with feelings ranging from confusion (for the Spaniards) to amused laughter (from the Christian mercenaries who’d swapped out the Spanish war-lances for tourney lances the knight before), the Peones crept steadily through the crops to creep within charge range of the Mercenary rear. Grinning at the thought of again loosening their missiles upon the traitors, they became confused in the mire and could not quite reach as close as they had hoped.

(I gleefully spotted an opportunity to take advantage of my light infantry. Julian had moved the Mercenary knights seemingly out of javelin range leaving their backs exposed to the Peoni. I tried to march move my javelins within eight inches of them, preventing the knights from marching away or charging (or counter-charging for that matter!). This would leave own knights (the Hidalgos) in a perfect position to charge the Mercenaries across the corner of the field the next turn without having to worry about a counter-charge from their opposite numbers on the Berber side of the battlefield. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! I laughed the most bestest, most maniacal "I`m an evil genius and your screwed" laugh I ever laughed only to choke on it when Julien pointed out that my peoni were only 7 and ¾ inches away from his knights to begin with. Meaning that I couldn’t march my Peoni up to Juliens rear because Juliens knights were a formed unit within 8" of ME!!!!! GAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!

And what was worse, with my failure to march, my poor old Peoni were now right slap bang in the charge range of Julians elite Black Guard infantry. DOUBLE GAAAAHHHHHH! I mean, what’s an evil genius to do? I’d ended up trapping myself! The Peoni manouvre was supposed to clear the way for my own elite mercenary spearmen to move forward and engage the enemy elite. Now all they could do was shuggle off slightly to one side and watch the impending slaughter.

Thats what I get for forgetting the first rule of warfare (real and tabletop) KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID!!!


As might be expected, the Black Guard charge hit home. Half-in-the-field, half-out, most of the troops barely able to see the enemy through the crops or even catch a glimpse of their own banner, a full third went of the unit went down to Black Guard (led by their hate inspiring Imam) before the remainder turned and ran. They had put up a brave struggle, with three of the black guard being struck by spears or javelins which failed to wound (again!). But, alas, Julian was not sharing my dice troubles this day. Soon not only had the remainder of the unit been chased down, but they ran smack into my merc infantry as well before they could even fire off a single javelin. Ah well. Ah hell!

Just as obviously, the skirmishers on my right charged the archers in the wood. A hilarious combat ensued, in which not one of my archers was even hit. On the other hand not one of the four African hit by arrows suffered a wound although THANKFULLY one at least succumbed to an archers dagger across the throat. If anything, this wretched incident probably increased my woeful "wounds to hit" average for the night. Even Julien couldn’t believe it.

He could believe it even less when not one of my Cabelleros failed to hit a Berber archer and yet I still only managed to kill one of the little buggers! Then the cheeky little bowmen turned round and killed two of my knights!!! I couldn’t believe it. What was going wrong? The plan, the plan.

Eduardo’s bowels turned to jelly. How could those measly little archers have held out against those knights for so long, with their swords, javelins and throwing spears.

"Hold on", thought Eduardo. "Throwing Spears"? The young prince slapped his hand against his face and shouted across the battlefield at his cavalry caommanders. "You idiots, you forgot to launch your throwing spears when you charged!". Across the battlefield (and across the table) El-Julian (and his real-life counterpart) began giggling girlishly.

As if that were not bad enough, the Villainos again failed to wound a single crossbow-man. To add misery to the situation, the crossbow-men hit back, dropping all but the standard bearer, the musician and the warrior-minstrel, the Cantador. These three worthies all promptly turned their "tales" (pun intended, sorry) and fled (as was the Python reference), right past the general and army banner bearer. Indeed, Eduardos cries were not enough to steel the blood of his finest warriors, the Cabelleros Hidalgo’s, and only the presence of Toledo’s great banner kept these proud men from running off themselves.

What a disaster! Could things get any worse?

They did, in the very first turn of the combat, the charging Black Guard managed to win the combat by a large margin, killing three of my spearmen for no losses. After such a horrendous start, only their stubborn ability saved them. And now, in the first round of combat, it was gone already. I didn’t even have anyone left who could strike back. (Does that mean I had my first 100% hit to wound ratio of the game? You know, given that I didn’t actually fail any wound rolls?)

The farce on the right continued, with not a single combatant killed, or even wounded, despite the fact I had charged my second archer unit (the one in the ruins) into the fray at the beginning of the turn. Again, it was a drawn combat, with the javelin men and archers chasing each other with daggers through the woods like elves and goblins playing a game of hide and seek.

Only on the left was there eventually some success, as the Cabelleros FINALLY drove of the last of their opponents, catching them just before the edge of the table. The cheering knights suddenly felt the party atmosphere drain away when the leader tapped one of them on the shoulder and pointed at the 22 very nasty looking crossbowmen and archers on hill to their left. All of whom appeared to be leering in their general direction.

And worst of all, the most embaressing incident of all befell poor Eduardo and his knights. Seeing that all was lost and knowing decisive action was needed to save the day, the brave youth led his knights charging across the corner-field towards their treacherous brethren (say, wasn’t that the fellow in front the chap who so kindly donated those extra lances the other night?) only to fall a short by a HUGE distance.

Yeah, like a whole ¼ inch. At this point Eduardo began to realise that this was not going to be his day. However, it was only seven thirty and we had a whole evening to kill so we kept on playing.

TURN 4 and Juliens turn FIVE

On turn four, Julien, not wanting to risk a counter-charge from my knights, marched them back the way they had came and proceeded to pelt the Hidalgos with crossbow bolts (as it happened, it only took the archers to finish off the last three Cabelleros. This they did by charging them. Despite hitting with every single attack and actually wounding twice (Hurrah!) only one archer was killed (the other saved by his light armour). Since one of my own knights perished, this would ordinarily have been a drawn combat. Alas, both units had musicians this time, and the Cabelleros lost the roll. So, in total, a loss of 22 mounted figures (including one character) in return for the loss of just over a dozen skirmishers. Not a bad return on his investment for Julian.

An investment that grew after the crossbowmen slew one of the Hidalgos. "Sod this for a lark" said Eduardo, and the Hidalgos duplicated the manouvre of their Mercenary companions, heading back to their own edge of the field and towards the centre.

Meanwhile, on the far right, the archers finally managed to make their wounds rolls and slew three of the Berber Javelin-men. The remainder broke. Typically, both archer units failed their leadership tests and set off in pursuit. Only five inches though, placing both in a rather useful position to charge the flank of the Black Guards in the next few turns – hopefully breaking them before those mercenary knights arrived!

The fight on the centre was quickly developing into a stalemate. Unable to wound a bloody thing I was at least proving to be successful with my armour saves for a change. Thankfully, I had decided to buy mercenary spearmen who could be equipped with a large shield rather than the Guard Spearmen who had an extra point of BS because without this extra point the whole unit would have broken long before.

However, despite the next 3 rounds of combat (Juliens turn 4 and 5 and my turn 4) being technical draw’s, I had to make break tests each time because of Juliens African Drums.
I lost my round of combat on turn 4 despite the fact I had charged the black guard in the flank with one unit of skirmishers, who actually succeeded in killing more black guard than the spearmen had in the last two turns. Alas, these chaps did NOT pass the break test and ran away.

In the meantime, the crossbows continued to play merry havoc on my Hidalgos, despite a march-move, killing two more.


"AT LAST" screamed Eduardo as he led his surviving mounted troops into a charge against the Black Guard. Clearly eager to make up for his previous arrogance, Eduardo fought like the demon he (as a good Christian) certainly was not. All three of his lance attacks hit, all three wounded (needing only twos) and all three actually killed! Hurrah! Eduardo screamed to the heavens as his blood boiled. Victory was not lost! Around him, his knights accounted for two more of the Black Guard and another pair fell beneath the hooves of their horses.

The Mercenaries, cheered by the presence of the man who was paying their pay-checks (and wishing to ensure he lived to deliver their wages) found new life in their exhausted limbs and brought down two more. The slaughter would have been far greater had the second unit of archers been able to partake of it, but their path to the slaughter was blocked by their fleeing comrades, who had suddenly stopped to watch was going on with great interest. (Raising the question: why can’t skirmishers charge through skrimishers? That rule makes no sense).

Only a single Spanish warrior (a spearman) was killed in return. This would truly have been a great victory, but despite the ferocious charge the Black Guard had thus far been victorious and so while they wavered, they stubbornly held their ground.


The last two units of spearmen (who up to know had done nothing except for the archers in their back ranks) moved to take up killing positions running north to south in a line perpendicular to line of the Black Guards anticipated retreat. This line consisted of the remaining archer skirmishers to the north, spearmen led by the general just to the south and the last unit of spearmen practically in the crop field. Meanwhile, the mercenary knights charged the unit of archers which had just rallied and drove them off again .

My luck had truly turned by this point. All the knights managed to do was kill one archer. My own archers managed to kill a knight but as they had a standard and ferocious charge the archers broke regardless of their feat. Alas, the pursuing knights crashed straight into the second Spanish archer unit, who had already watched in terror as their companions and neighbours fell beneath the hooves of these heathens!

With the arrival of the Spanish Knights, the Black Guard were clearly in danger of routing. Miraculously however, they held on for a another round thanks to the presence of their hatred inspiring Imam and the African drums, though by the end of Turn 6 less than a dozen were still in the fight. However, on my turn 6 the Mercenary Knights again won their combat (again, with one casualty on either side – go archers!) and ran the fleeing Spaniards down.

Turn 7

With a mighty shout, Eduardo strikes down the Imam and the remaining Black Guard break into a panic and flee. Despite the bellowing of their Prince and Army Standard Bearer, the 5 Hidalgoes and the remaining Spearmen pursue the four fleeing Berbers into the gauntlet of death and slay them all. Their glory is short lived however, for the Spearmen, charged in the flank, panic with the loss of yet one more comrade and flee despite the fall of a traitor knight to another spearman’s sword. The hero is the first to fall, as his comrades flee around him and the mercenary leader closes in for the kill....

Eduardo and his knights have no time to mourn this latest loss however. In that same instant they are charged by the skirmishing archers, the Berber general and his spearmen. Though no knights fall and a single archer does, with the flank attack bonus, their many ranks and their standard, the Berbers win the combat (one last humiliation for Eduardo). Despite their horses, blown from a long day of charging about the battlefield, the Knights are caught and killed to a man. Eduardo himself is the last to fall, unable to pry himself loose from the stirrup of his panicking horse he is dragged a god twenty feet before coming to rest. The last thing he see’s is the grinning face of El-Julian before an African Spear pierces his broken heart.

Meanwhile, atop a ridge, the last three survivors of Eduardo’s army, three cowardly Villianos, watch their masters death... and remember.

What was that saying about eggs and chickens? I really believed I had the game in the bag. What’s more, so did Julien. Who (very gleefully, I might add) assured me more than once that "my dice are killing you." That’s what I get for using my opponents dice. The battle was incredibly bloody. In fact, from my entire army, only three models survived the battle – and that’s only because they ran of the battlefield after the crossbowmen didn’t pursue them in turn X!!!! For all that, Julian lost an Imam, his best spear unit and two units of skirmishers. Not a bad days work for a war-gamer. Certainly a game to remember, filled with moments of gore, bloodshed and riddled with moments of gratuitous laughter (universally at my expense). But how could I have lost?

Well, mostly it was luck. That, and my own supreme arrogance and smugness. I have to learn to keep my plans and my ploys simple. Too complicated just means too much that can go wrong. Secondly I need to stop forming up columns. Sure their good for deception purposes and for screening more valuable troops, but they often just get in the way –even when you have (or especially even when you have) a nifty manouvre planned. Remember Brian, these arn’t trained soldiers your working with, they’re little lead figures with no minds of their own. Oh, and distance, Distance, DISTANCE! When I am ever going to learn to judge distances. Twice I was let down by my ability to estimate an inch at a glance, and it hurt me both times.

Other things to remember:

7 Mounted Skirmishers in a unit is not enough. They reach the automatic break point far too quickly. Ten is better.

I need crossbows. (On order since before Xmas)

Sticking archers into a spear unit works very wel defensively. It will up my rank bonuses while keeping that seven long frontage I like so much for aesthetic reasons (lets you have the leader in the middle and 3 on each side. Five miniatures across just doesn’t look right) and will discourage folk from charging or sending in skirmishers.

REMEMBER the rules! You didn’t spend all those points on throwing spears for nothing.

Buy a Crusader Bishop for next game. Hidalgos rock! Hidalgos with HATRED (and who therefore re-roll failed attacks) are rock harder!

Bring a rulebook next time!
And oh yeah,