Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fragments of the Last War 1.22 - A Game for Knights, part 3

A Game of Knights is an arc within the Fragments of the Last War Campaign.

Earlier sections can be found here:
Fragments of the Last War 20 - A Game for Knights, part 1  
Fragments of the Last War 21 - A Game for Knights, part 2 

"I looked down at the chessboard.  The move with the knight was wrong.  I put it back where I had moved it from.  Knights had no meaning in this game.  It wasn't a game for knights."
                                                                                       Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

Cymru, Tirane, Eifer
Evening, Ogronn 19, 21 OC (After the Opening of the Caer)

This session began exactly where the previous one left off.

Grind, Malpais, and Nota'Cor began questioning their prisoners.  Grind sent Dinty for a bucket of pig's blood.  And brought the five human Dock Rats to a basement room.  Louis returned to headquarters.
Dinty

When Dinty returned, Malpais, Nota'Cor and Grind entered the interrogation room.  Mal asked the five men for information about the Dock Rats:  who were they, who was their leader.

One of the Dock Rats told them that they wouldn't give them anything.  At that, Grind grabbed the human and drug him out of the room.  He had Dinty make pained screaming noises while he lead the prisoner to a room by himself, and returning he smeared pigs blood on his body before rejoining Mal and Nota'Cor, both of whom just smoked and waited.

Seeing the ogre covered in blood - after hearing the screaming - the other four were quick to tell Mal and Nota'Cor everything.  The Dock Rats had been a local, small time gang until about a month ago when their leader brokered a deal with another group.  No one know much about who the group was, except they had some mercenaries, mages, and were led by the well-dressed human.

It quickly became apparent to the Dock Rats, their new allies outclassed them and were using the Rats' warehouse as cover.  One of their number tried to leave, and a mage burned her alive.  Their leader soon protested and the Dock Rats haven't seen him since.

Grind left the room to clean the blood from his clothing and sent a runner to find Sgt. Duncan.
Nota'Cor and Malpais left soon after.  They discussed and decided to give the humans to Duncan.

The next prisoner they questioned was the halfing. When Malpais let the halfling out of the magic sack, they readied themselves to fight.  But assessing the situation, the halfling, who when asked said his name was Rolli, sat on his haunches and waited.  Grind questioned Rolli and learned the halfling had recently been contracted to lead the Dock Rats and friends through the underground.

Grind asked why Rolli fled, and the halfling responded that he wasn't contracted to fight.  The Katar then asked the halfling if he could contract him as a scout to the Dock Rats warehouse.  Rolli confirmed his contract was at a end and he could accept another.  He asked for paper.  Grind wrote out a contract that Rolli would guide them.

After some thought, he offered Rolli a share of the loot if he agreed to fight with the Irregulars.  Rolli agreed, and Grind added that to the contract.   The ogre, grippli, and half-orc signed the contract, then Rolli poked the pen in his hand and signed in blood.  The contract glowed blue, and the halfling announced. "It is written."

Mother Jaheena approached the Irregulars and told them that Captain Daniau of the East Cymru City Guard station had arrived.  The Irregulars met with him, he proceeded to berate them for their episode at the Temple of Abadar earlier as well as the giant snow statue left by Nota'Cor (of himself.)  Malpais succeeded in making him angrier.

After leaving, Daniau marched his guards to the giant statue and hit it with a maul - knocking the entire thing down on top of him.  He emerged from the snow shaking his fist and yelling, "Nota'Cor!"

Their final hostage, the half-elf mage, sat by herself a warded room to prevent her from casting.  Rolli told them she was one of three mages now running the Dock Rats. When questioned, the mage only replied.  "You are dead.  All of you.  Food for the One who Watches.  It's children will soon be born and they will destroy you.  One we are summoning now, the other soon."

She jibbered on for a while.  By this point Duncan arrived bringing with him a pair of mage shackles. Grind asked Duncan if he could provide support for the assault on the Dock Rat's warehouse.  Duncan agreed, though he told them that his jurisdiction was North Cymru noy South Cymru.  When they mentioned Captain Daniau, Duncan confirmed that he could make trouble.

Grind sent a runner through the snowy streets to the Temple of Manoc to ask the priest there for support.

Malpais, Nota'Cor, and Grind decided to sleep for a while.

***

They woke from the sound of rain.  Nota'Cor at up and realized he was sitting under a lean-to in a cedar forest. Nearby he saw a larger lean-to covering Grind and a much smaller one over Malpais.  The three debated what happened.  Grind assumed they were dreaming and hit himself but did not wake.  Nota'Cor searched for magic and detected an emanation from the distance.

They decided to investigate and head off in the rain, noting the temperature is much warmer than the snow in Cymru.  After some time they find a thatch hut with smoke coming out a hole in the top.

Malpais knocked, and an old human man finally opened the door.  He grinned toothless at them.  "Yes, of course," he cackled.  "You have come for answers.  But to get them will you drink?"

Invited them all inside, even Grind, he took a wooden bowl, mixed in some boiling water (maybe) and a pouch of herbs.  He asked who was first, and Malpais volunteered.  "You must drop your blood into the mixture and then drink it."

The Irregulars frowned.  Grind did not want any part of it, but Malpais agreed.  The grippli dripped his blood in the bowl and drank half.  The old man drank the other half.

Staring blankly, the old man smiled.  "The Beast Who Watches.  It is one of the Fae who seeks a way into the world.  It's children will be born soon.  One through a mirror and one from a tree.  Perhaps you will be able to defeat it.  Perhaps not."

Next, Nota'Cor participated in the ritual.  Drinking the mixture after the half-orc, the old man stated.  "Beware of the wizard Rista.  He is not what he seems.  He wants your power, half-orc."  Nota'Cor nodded.  "Of course, he does."

Finally Grind agreed. When the blood and broth had been drunk the old man smiled.  "You seek a way to break the Ogre's curse brought on you by the Fae.  You must kill the three exiled Fae who bound your race.  The first is still in Ogrin.  The second in his mountain retreat here in Tirane.  The final one steps between worlds, preferring cold places."

Once they had all drunk, the old human took them outside in the rain.  He blessed each one and then stepped back inside his house which winked away.  The Irregulars woke in their bedding in the Temple of Desna, completely drenched as if they had been submerged.

***

They dried their clothing and prepared for the assault.  Sgt. Duncan and the Priests of Manoc had sent notes while they were sleeping that both were preparing near the warehouse and would rush the front door once the Irregulars gave a signal.

Nota'Cor suggested they tell them "Fire."  The others agreed, and Grind returned a pair of letters by runner.

When the trio was ready, they were joined by Gar the bugbear, Rolli the halfling, and Dinty the goblin.  Entering the Undercaverns of Cymru again, this time they brought rags to wear across their faces and shield themselves from the feces smell.

After over an hour making their way through passages, Rolli finally brought them to a newly constructed wooden bridge over a chasm.  "This was added recently," he noted.  "So the Rats could get direct access to this part of town."

Moving carefully and quietly onto the bridge, he spotted two archers waiting, then signaled to Grind.  Grind grabbed the goblin Dinty and tossed him the length of the bridge toward the humans.  One archer fired at Dinty, missing, and the other spied and planted an arrow into Rolli.

Grind bounded down the bridge, the structure creaking and wood cracking, while Dinty hopped up from his position and charged one of the archers.  Arrows bounced off Grind's breastplate.  One of the human Dock Rats, seeing the ogre appear from the gloom turned and ran directly into Dinty.

Grind battled the Dock Rat, who ducked under the ogre's naginata and managed to stab him in close range.  Dinty fought with the human archer who sought to escape.  Gar and Malpais rushed to help Rolli - Mal forced one of their five healing potions in his mouth.

A deep rumbling came from the chasm beneath them and thousands of rats began climb the walls and the bridge.  Malpais leapt past Grind and landed near Dinty, where the two of them subdued the Dock Rat.  Frustrated, Grind grabbed the 2nd archer byt the head and threw him over the side of the bridge into the rats below.  Gar rushed Rolli forward as one of the rats transformed into the well-dressed man they now recognized as being the new leader of the Dock Rats.

Malpais jumped at the man, bayoneting his arm.  The well dressed man stabbed Malpais with a rapier.

Grind rushed toward the pair fighting rats while the others retreated from the bridge.  Finally, Malpais fired his shotgun into the man throwing the human into the chasm.  He and Grind fled the bridge as rats devoured it.

***

The captured human, Al, quickly surrendered and cried.  He claimed the Dock Rats were no longer in charge of their own actions or hideout.  That they were merely a front for the mages and the shapeshifter that Mal killed.

Grind asked Al for details about the headquarters - about twenty mercenaries, six more Dock Rats, three mages, and five dogs.  He noted the Dock Rats resided in the basement with the dogs and they mostly guarded the underground entrance.

Nota'Cor cast a small illusion spell with an image of the giant spider Horror he saw a decade or so earlier, terrifying Al.  "If your bosses get their way, this is what is coming."

Al agreed to help convince the other Dock Rats to join them.  Waiting, they became worried that Al had betrayed them, but soon he returned and said the other Dock Rats had agreed to talk.

He lead the assault team into the basement of the warehouse (new construction) past some dog kennels (the dogs quieted with food) and to a  common room where the remaining Dock Rats waited.  After seeing Nota'Cor's illusion of the Horror (Jazrim broke down crying), they all agreed to abandon the mercenaries and wizards upstairs.  Only Al and a female human, Edwina, decided to join the Irregulars.  The rest (other than Jazrim) fled by way of the underground caverns.  Jazrim lay in a bunk and covered his head.

The assault began in earnest.  Edwina crept upstairs to start a fire and Al went to unlock the front doors to the warehouse.  Soon the Irregulars heard screaming from upstairs.

Grind burst through the door first, shaking off arrows fired at him, and quickly surveyed the room.  About twenty feet up, catwalks connected two raised platforms and enclosed rooms.  In the center of the warehouse sat stacks of boxes.  Mercenaries stood on the catwalks, and he could see several in the raised rooms.  Grind then decided to rush one catwalk pillar, snapping it with his body.

The conflict, which followed, proceeded quickly.  Grind and Dinty rushed to meet mercenaries pouring down to the bottom level.  Edwina's fire brought in Sgt. Duncan, the North Cymru Guards, and the Priests of Manoc who battled mercenaries at the doors.

Gar and Nota'Cor attacked archers and mages at range.  The enemy mages cast fear and attack spells, while Malpais jumped to the catwalks and proceeded to shoot down guards.

The fight went very quickly and very violently. All the Irregulars and their side ended up injured, but none of the PCs dropped below 0.  

Nota'Cor pushed one of the mages off a catwalk and crushed him to the floor with telekinesis.  They discoverd the mage they had captured earlier at the ambush under the Temple of Abadar had somehow been released and was back at the warehouse.

Once the opposition was dead or surrendered, the Irregulars proceeded to go through the paperwork and boxes of the warehouse. Sgt.  Duncan told them that he had been required to turn the Dock Rat mage over to the East Cymru guards and was surprised to see her free.  The North Cymru Guard captain, a drow named Bendorin, arrived to hurry along the operation before the South Cymru Guards arrived.

The Irregulars returned to their headquarters with their limited spoils, but no amber or driftwood.

***

As the game ended, we had a cut scene where the well-dressed, shapeshifting human crawled out of the underground ravine, his arm regrown.  He looked toward the warehouse and ran the other direction.

The chronicle continues on Fragments of the Last War 23 - A Game for Knights, part 4



Friday, January 8, 2016

Fragments of the Last War 1.21 - A Game for Knights, part 2

Our third GURPS game.  Some was in session and some wars play-by-post.
A Game of Knights is an arc within the Fragments of the Last War Campaign.

The first part can be found here: Fragments of the Last War 20 - A Game for Knights, part 1 

"I looked down at the chessboard.  The move with the knight was wrong.  I put it back where I had moved it from.  Knights had no meaning in this game.  It wasn't a game for knights."
                                                                                       Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

Cymru, Tirane, Eifer
Midday, Ogronn 19, 21 OC (After the Opening of the Caers)

Sergeant Duncan Bordeaux sat at his desk holding a cup of black coffi and staring at the falling snow on the streets of Cymru.  It didn't often snow in the city - not even every year - but when it did he hated it.  By night the muddy streets would be icy and the snow would make it nearly impossible to move.

He sighed again. "Tell me, Oric.  Why don't people stop robbing and killing each other when it snows like this?"  His ur-akesh (half-orc) corporal, sitting in a chair across the desk, shrugged.  "Beats me."

Duncan frowned.  "Tonight somebody's going to be standing in frozen mud looking at a body."  He took another sip of coffee.  "I hope it isn't me."

The door to his office opened.  Stooping to enter without knocking came an eight foot tall, brown-furred minotaur.  "Sarge, the new recruits are here."  Duncan signed and looked over at Oric.  "How many are criminals this time?"

His corporal unrolled a piece of parchment.  "Two of the five.  A hobgoblin arrested for fighting and a majara for theft."

"Majara's are those cat-fellow?" asked Duncan.

Oric nodded. "They are.  The other three asked to join.  One's a gnome, says he needs work.  The second is a, er, samsaran?  Dunno.  Blue fellow.  A priest of Morrit doing medic duty.  And the last one's a vanara.  Monkey-lady.  No clue about her."

Duncan stood and walked to the window.  Leaning against the frame against the frame, he looked out through the glass.  "You know Oric.  When I was a child in this town, not long after the founding, we didn't have glass windows.  Now the glass factory exports."

The half-orc shrugged.  "Breaks easy."

Duncan laughed.  "Alright, let's go see them."

***

Malpais looked up from his mortar at the sound of screaming.  "Nota'Cor is crying again," he mused.  While the laboratory possessed a set of equipment for alchemy, Malpais kept a smaller set in his room.  To keep the recipe away from prying eyes, here he made his fireash for his and Louis' firearms.

Outside the Irregular headquarters, was a flat terrace where they'd built stables and the smithy.  The heat of the smithy steamed the chilly air.  Malpais nodded to Grind as he entered.  The ogre was repairing a dent in his bronze armor.  When he saw the grippli, he nodded back.

"I saw Louis inside, writing more flyers," Malpais began.

"He claims to have a permit now," Grind stated.

"I missed you three this morning.  When I returned, Yunque told me you went out."

"We have a job," Grind told him.  "Once I finish here, we can meet inside and discuss it."

Mal nodded.  The grippli blacksmith, Yunque Herrero, busied himself in the machinist shop next to the smithy with parts for blunderbusses.

Malpais watched the smith work silently for a moment, pulling out a shred of stickleaf from his pouch then sprinkling some of he tobacco that Louis had traded him over it.  His tongue darted out, lightening fast.  The leaf and tobacco disappeared form his hand, and a cigarillo appeared, rolled at Mal's lips.  He pressed the blunt end to a lantern flame until it smoldered and lit, then inhaled deeply.

"The metal," Mal said in his native Grippli as the smith reached a lull in his work.  "It is the grade they promised?"

The smith eyed the half of the blunderbuss barrel he had been polishing and spat.  "No, amigo.  This is mierda."  He grinned, "But it is good enough for dwarves."

Mal stepped forward and eyed the barrel.  Even without the many years of smithing experience, the Gun Knight knew enough to recognize bad iron from good.  The iron the dwarves had sent was a dark mottled grey.  Mal took one of the unused ingots crusted with rust from the elements. Spitting, he rubbed away some of the corrosion, exposing pits.  He nodded.  "We have no smelter to heal this metal.  But yes, for the dwarves this will do."  Replacing the ingot, he added.  "Something tells me their pride wouldn't allow us to upstage them with better iron anyway."

Mal paused for a second.  Nota'Cor had resumed his morning fight with Gretel.  The child sounded, for all purposes, twice the adult of the half-orc.  Nota'Cor refused to give any reason for his demands or to explain himself.  He simply stated he knew best.  Gretel reacted as Mal knew he would.  A slow ire smoldering into fury.

Confident his other companions were nowhere nearby, Mal turned back to Yunque.  Though he expected the human, Louis, knew little of the grippli tongue, he lowered his voice all the same.  "Have you been able to get a look at the soldier's pistols?"  Mal flicked the cigarillo into the open hearth and blew a thick plume of smoke out one side of his mouth.  Ash, lifted by the heat of the fire, carried up the chimney.

Yunque paused.  "Once, when he had too much wine." He glanced about him again.  "Each shot is enclosed in its own package."  He wiped his hands on his trousers, then spun his hands in a circle.  "There is a spinning wheel that houses each bullet.  Once the gun fires, the wheel moves.  That way it is ready to fire.  Six shots like this.  Can you imagine?"  With this he shrugged, "I am able to help him with the new bullets after he showed me, but they are not nearly as good as his original."  Yunque turned to Malpais.  "If you are able to bring back the lost Gun-Knights, perhaps we will try to make some of these new weapons."

Mal nodded.  "Yes.  Yes, perhaps. We would need better metal, I think, to make a proper knight's weapon.  He looked again at the blunderbuss barrel.  "This will rust after the first rain it sees.  The dwarves will spend more time cleaning that fighting."

Taking the barrel from Mal, Yunque pointed to the door with his tongue.  Malpais turned to see Grind approaching.

***

Louis sat at the end of the table drinking a cup of coffi, a beverage not unlike coffee on Earth.  In the market, he had heard tales of coffi grown in mountains in the northern tropics.  Around the table sat, Grind, Nota'Cor, and Malpais, each also drinking coffi.  The human child Gretel had left earlier in a fury.

"Then," he continued his story again, this time for Malpais' benefit, "I opened the door to the flat down the hall.  And when I entered, I heard the yelling again.  This time clearly." He took a drag from his cigarette and continued.  "The tiny voice cried out, 'No, Smee, that hurts!' but the sound of whipping continued.  'Shut up, Fritz.' boomed a deep voice.  'Is everything alright in there?' I called out.  Moments later, the dwarf I had passed earlier that day on the street comes from the other room.  He is shirtless and looks angry.  'Get out he yells.'  I shrug, of course, and leave."

Malpais sipped his coffi.  "And the mother said," changing the subject, "that the robbery would occur tonight?"

"That's right," Grind noted.

Nota'Cor, not to be outdone, lit and smoked two cigarettes. "That's right, I must tell the Church of Abadar of the attack.  Once I have, they will assist me in stopping it."

Grind disagreed.  "We should send Malpais in to speak with them.  The three of us will watch the Temple to see if anyone follows us or is observing it."

Nota'Cor felt he should go in, but Malpais told him that he was too well known.  Then he agreed with the plan.  They dress warmly in furs and head out to the temple of Abadar.

***

By mid-afternoon, the snow had settled into a steady accumulation.  Children from the houses and apartments of North Cymru were making snowpeoples on the street.  As Grind approached, children ran inside.

Nota'Cor noted the snowpeople seemed to watch them as they walked, so Grind began knocking the children's creations over as they went.  This led to numerous yells from the windows of adjacent builds and thrown objects - old foot, shoes, etc.

I was highly amused during this section.  The group announced they would approach the Temple stealthily in case any of the Dock Rats had a lookout, then proceed to draw massive attention to themselves.  I didn't point this out.    None even thought about it until after Nota'Cor used his telekinesis magic to make a large statue of himself out of the remaining snowpeople.  

The temple of Abadar was a new construction in the past decade.  Smaller and less imposing than their old building in West Cymru - now the home of the Temple of Grumbar the Stone - the new temple was a wooden structure being refitted with brick and stone.  The temples of Abadar serve as banks throughout Tirane, a role the dwarvish Aurem family covets.

Nota'Cor, Grind, and Louis remained outside to watch the temple, while Malpais went inside.  After  finishing his snow statue, Nota'Cor decided he would hide by sitting in a cafe, drinking coffi, and telling everyone about how wonderful he was.  Grind stood in an alley, while Louis climbed onto a roof.  Louis cursed the cold and his luck.

Inside the temple, Malpais approached a dwarf priest of Abadar, made an offering to the god, and asked to speak with someone in charge.  He was lead to a back room and met by one of the functionaries of the temple - not the high priest - he then told this priest (also a dwarf) that the temple would be robbed that night.  He then presented the symbol of Desna provided to the Irregulars by Jaheen.  The functionary recognized Malpais from the time a decade earlier when he, Grind, and Nota'Cor met with the High Priest.

Malpais' player was given a modified Diplomacy roll to convince the functionary to let the Irregulars setup an ambush, which he failed.

The priest told Malpais they would see to their own security, but the Temple of Abadar did not want the Irregulars on premises after the tragedy that had befallen them a decade earlier.  He placed partial blame for the fallen fortunes of his Temple on the Irregular's

***

Back at the temple of Desna, Grind, Nota'Cor, and Malpais discussed their options.  They had still been hired by the Temple of Desna to recover the stolen amber and later by the Temple of Manoc to recover the driftwood.

Grind noted they could travel underground from the Temple of Desna and search for the entrance to the Temple of Abadar, then setup an ambush.  For this venture, they recruited the bugbear Gar and his goblin friend, Dinty.

While Gar was a very mellow goblinoid, Dinty displayed more classically violent tendencies, which grew more pronounced once he left the temple of Desna.

Malpais and Gar found tracks and scent under the Temple of Desna through tunnels and caves filled with mud and feces.  After some time tracking, they found recent evidence of human-sized movement and a side tunnel marked with the symbol of the Cult of Abadar.

Grind discussed the layout of the tunnel/cavern with Malpais and formulated an ambush plan. Mal directed them to build camouflaged rock area.  Nota'Cor practiced making an himself appear the same as the stone.

They then waited in the rock hideout until a group of 7 human-sized people and one very small person approached and then moved into the side tunnel toward the Temple of Abadar.

Two guards were left behind to watch the cavern.  Grind and Dinty rushed the guards, subduing them. Then Malpais and Gar set traps in the entrance to the tunnel.  Nota'Cor cast an illusion and hid in the hall.

When the remaining guards returned, they were lead by a halfling while a human in fine clothes and a half-elf in a robe followed.

Dinty popped his head into the tunnel, taunted the group rudely, and then pulled a snare trap grabbing the halfling.  The five humans rushed forward only to be captured by Malpais' net traps.  Grind rushed into the tunnel to challenge the man in fine clothes while Gar and Malpais subdued the trapped men.

Nota'Cor appeared from the wall to attack the mage.  The man in fine clothes summoned a countless rats into the hall and then pulled his rapier.  The woman cast a frightening illusion to scare Nota'Cor and Grind.

The halfling broke free of Dinty and sprinted off down the tunnel.  The goblin tried to follow, but slipped.  The spell-vision affected Grind but not Nota'Cor, however, the ogre ignored the frightening aspects of it.  As the finely dressed man moved in close range, Grind grabbed him by the throat and pushed the man into the wall where he transformed into a rat and scurried away.

Nota'Cor gashed the mage with his flaming sword dropping her, then burned the rats out of the hallway with magic fire.

Malpais leapt down the hall to capture the halfling, though he was struck in the back by Dinty's flail.  He pointed his magic sack and yelled.  "Whickey! Whack!  Get in my sack!"  The halfling flew backward into the sack and a shelf and dishes - captured in 1916 France - was expelled and returned to a standing position on the cave wall.  Mal decided to leave the dishes and shelf where they were.

The Irregulars then returned with their prisoners to the Temple of Desna.  Mother Jaheen agreed to allow them to question the prisoners, but forbade torture.  Grind sent a runner to find Sgt.  Duncan.

The story is continued in Fragments of the Last War 1.22 - A Game for Knights, part 3