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Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Episode 3, Part 1: Return to the Raider Camp

Mark Buetow
United States
Du Quoin
Illinois
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SPOILER ALERT Read on only if you want to catch the plot of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

The Party
Alphonse: Half-elf Bard
Balmat: Tiefling Warlock
Aelfwulf: Human barbarian of the north.
Otaril: Halfling rogue (orphan) of the town of Greenest.

THE STORY

Having returned from the raider camp after following them, the party was asked by the rescued captive Leosin Elanthar (and Alphonse's buddy) to return to the camp to collect more information, particularly where they might strike again or what other plans they might have.

As they neared the camp, the party noticed lots of tracks in all sorts of directions. As they approached cautiously, they saw smoke and then two men riding out on horses, with a third on a line. They hid poorly and the men noticed them, calling them out to see what was going on. The party found out the men were hunters and that the camp had packed up and left in a hurry several days ago after losing an elf prisoner. (Leosin, no doubt). They let the adventurers know that those who had remained behind were holed up in the cave. The party let the hunters pass. Then Balmat called forth a familiar, a hawk, to survey the camp from above. There were no signs of life and the kobold half of the huts were smoldering from being burnt down. Next, they set to work figuring out how to recon the cave.

It was decided that Alphonse would cast Invisibility on Otaril and that Aelfwulf would cast Beast Sense upon Otaril’s mouse. Balmat sent a spider familiar into the cave with them. So Otaril shimmied down a rope from the top of the plateau and went into the cave. There were two dragonclaws guarding near a pillar.

The mouse (and Aelfwulf seeing through it) made its way through the large first chamber, discovering what appear to be a way around an apparent dead end. It sniffed its way into a room that had clearly been the storeroom for the treasure the bandits had stolen. After snacking on some crumbs, it found a barracks around another bend. The last image Aelfwulf saw through the mouse’s eyes was the boot of one of the guards…

Meanwhile, Otaril made his way down some steps and through a room carpeted in fungus. He took the right hand path and made it safely across and into another room that was now only dimly lit. He noticed the dead bats here and there on floor and looked up to see the ceiling covered in the dozing creatures. Ignoring some steps to his right and a large room ahead, he went left. Here it was too dark to see and so he dare to light a candle. Some stairs led down to a locked gate (the stairwell was caged). He proceeded down, picked the lock (despite an obvious key hanging on the wall at the top of the stairs). Inside, he heard snuffling and scraping. Some creatures were drawn to the candle flame. He snuffed the light and crept back through the gate, closing it quietly behind him, the snuffling and grunting of the creatures alarming him. Heading toward the other end of the chamber he found some steps. As he stepped on the first one, there was a small tremor and a shower of rocks crashed down just behind him. (Balmat’s spider familiar witnessed the whole thing, as it was exploring the cave too.) There were shouts and noises from below so Otaril snuffed the candle again. It was apparent that the creatures rushing up the steps past him were kobolds. He decided at that point (as he had been there over thirty minutes and the Invisibility would fade in another thirty) to backtrack and make his way back to the others. He picked up a spear with a pitted point and thinking it perhaps useful or some clue, took it with him.

But some alarm had been raised. From the edge of the plateau, the party could see the two dragonclaw guards come out of the cave along with a pair of kobolds. There was some discussion and then the kobolds returned into the cave. Aha! The party had two dragonclaw outfits and supposed they would stroll in to the camp as if they belonged there. Alphonse and Balmat dressed the parts and Aelfwulf acted the part of a brigand, and toted the hapless halfling in a sack. Again. The guards weren’t fooled however and came at them with their scimitars drawn. It was a short fight but while they tried to strip the bodies of valuables, kobolds inside the cave began slinging at them. That too was a relatively short fight.

The crew decided to make its way through the barracks. They prepared themselves and then crashed through the door to find a pair of guards and eight acolytes. Five rushed toward another door at the end of the room but Aelfwulf cut them off. He and Balmat battle them and cut them down one at at time. On the other side of the room, the guards were shouting, “Mondath! Mondath!” Alphonse conjured some illusory fog (Silent Image) and he and Otaril dispatched the others.

Inside the next room, they found tables full of books and papers and some sleeping quarters off the main room. Balmat found some purple dragon garb in a chest. But Otaril discovered the hole under one of the rugs. A chute led down 30 feet with a rope ladder. Down they went, Aelfwulf in the lead.

At the bottom of the chute, a short narrow passage opened into some sort of dragon shrine. Aelfwulf stepped forward and there was the tall, blue half-dragon he had fought in Greenest. But time and experience would be with the barbarian today. “It’s you!” the creature bellowed. “I’m not sure whether to be surprised or disappointed. Either way.” He pulled out his great sword. Farther back, next to a carving of Tiamat emerging from a volcano, stood the cleric woman they also recognized and two insane looking fellows holding greataxes. Aelfwulf shouted in rage and charged forward. His first blow fell with ferocity and blood gushed from the half dragon. The combat was on. The others came through the passage and went after the other enemies they saw. Alphonse brought his fog and covered the berserkers and the cleric woman. They managed to get free. She cast Hold Person on Balmat and then ran from the room. The berserkers charged and the three of them were engaged in battle. Aelfwulf and the half dragon traded vicious blows, but the in the midst of his boiling rage, the barbarian barely felt them. After one berserker was dispatched, the bard convinced the other by magic to help the half dragon. He stumbled through the fog, however and couldn’t manage it. Becoming weak, and somewhat desperate, Langdredosa flashed forth lighting from his mouth which crackled and singed Aelfwulf. With a final swing of his axe, the barbarian felled the champion! The other berserker was soon finished off.

But there was a chest. Some more investigation of the room revealed tiny holes in the mouths of all the black dragon carvings. The suspicious party wrapped a rope around the chest, backed up the stairwell where the cleric had gone and pulled. Sure enough, a loud click and hiss and the room was suddenly filled with spewing acid and burning cloud. The party fell back (the rope had snapped from acid) and they turned to head up the steps.

With a torch lit, Otaril could discern that this was where the kobolds had come from and the other set of steps those at which he had set off the trap. The kobold barracks was empty so they ran up the steps…and into a group of kobolds and the two guard drakes, up on the top level out of their pit. The fight was on and it was vicious. Alphonse fell but Otaril had a healing potion ready. Aelfwulf was hurting too. (They had rested a bit as they searched the cleric’s quarters). This fight took its toll however, and they decided (after killing the drakes and kobolds) that they had better back track and take a night to rest.

They went back through the shrine (the acid cloud had dissipated) and noticed as they got to the chute that the carpet had been moved and the rope ladder was jostled. Balmat sent the spider up and saw through its eyes that the cleric was gathering a pile of things and heading out. He changed the familiar to a cat, but when she gained the top of the plateau, she called forth fiendish spirit guardians which wiped out the familiar. The group made its way back out of the cave and up onto the plateau, backing away from the edge a bit and setting up a quick camp where they could get some rest.

To be continued…

GAME NOTES
Another great session, though real time caused us to have to pause it here. We had two map combats this time mainly because it made it easier to track where all the creatures were. The non map combats and encounters went smoothly. It's a real strength of D&D that they don't all have to be map encounters.

As we used the maps, I could see some reversion to Pathfinder play style, calculating, etc. D&D combat is far less rules intensive, though and I feel like as a DM I have a bit more freedom to let them do their crazy stuff. After all, it's really just an ability check in the end. We're enjoying the adventure though I wish we could get the group together a bit more frequently to keep it moving.
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Sun Apr 19, 2015 2:22 am
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Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Session 2, Episode 2, Scouting the Raider Camp

Mark Buetow
United States
Du Quoin
Illinois
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SPOILER ALERT Don't read on if you don't want to hear how the story goes.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE +1
Oratil (Josh)
Oratil is a halfling rogue. His village was destroyed and his family butchered by orcs as a child. The kind people of Greenest took him in and raised him, though he was a mischievous lad with fast hands by which things often disappeared. He sleeps with his back to a tree and his belongings bundled up in his arms. He values community and would do anything for the people of Greenest who have taken care of him his whole life. Given the chance, he would rather kill someone in their sleep than in a fair fight.

THE ADVENTURE
Having agreed with Governor Nighthill to track the raiders and locate their camp, the party set out early in the afternoon the day after the attack on Greenest. After about 6 miles, they came upon a group of humans and kobolds preparing a meal over a fire. They were arguing or otherwise engrossed and didn't notice the characters coming until Aelfwulf strode forward, his axe at the ready. The humans were dispatched as they ran for a rock next to which their weapons were stacked. The kobolds fled a bit and turned to start slinging stones. Aelfwulf fought the cultists (if that's what they were) while Balmat let loose his eldritch blast and Alphonse picked off kobolds with arrows. They took down the humans and six of the eight kobolds, keeping two to interrogate. As they checked the sacks (most of which contained loot from Greenest) they found a bag with a halfling inside! This was Oratil, a rogue by trade and a resident of Greenest. The party introduced themselves and attempted to rest but the halfling, seeing the purveyors of violence upon his hometown slashed the throat of one kobold and would have done for the other if not knocked back by a blast from Balmat! The kobold wasn't helpful and ended up getting his throat cut anyway. Grabbing the sacks of loot, the party continued on the beaten down path of the raiders. The kobold had mentioned something about a patrol...

The road narrowed as it wound through more of a rocky and plateau type country past the rolling grass fields. As the road narrowed with rocky sides, Oratil snuck ahead, alert to the possibility of an ambush. He did notice glints of light on the right and left behind some boulders. He relayed the information to the rest of the party. The bard then sent an illusory woman walking down the path. She was immediately (and harmlessly) pierced by a spear from one of the ambushers. Two guards came running along the road after her. They were quickly taken down quietly pulled behind the covering boulder of the bard and the rogue. Suddenly, two men attack from the right and the left. The bard was left alone and slashed by a swinging scimitar wielded by two other surprise villains on that side. The halfling crossed the road and into the bushes. He double stabbed the guard while the cultist was taken out by the tiefling. Aelfwulf had gone to the other side to help the bard. Soon the enemies were dead. They were going to interrogate the cultists but Oratil had already slashed one throat. The last one refused to talk and was also put to the sword. The party decided to make it past the ambush point before leaving the path to camp for the night as dusk was approaching. Aelfwulf took the lead but he wasn't looking carefully. Boulders came crashing down, toppling the barbarian and leaving him in a bleeding and dying heap. Oratil ran up to assist him while Al cast sleep on the two cultists on the right side. He then began firing his bow at the others. Balmat, sent his blast of force at some rocks behind the ambushers, one of which was crushed while the other dodged. Aelfwulf, restored to action by a healing potions poured down his throat, charge dup the rocky side and slashed the remaining cultist. They slit the throats of the two who had been put asleep without even asking them any questions. They could finally rest and they made camp off the path, though their new halfling companion decided he'd rather sleep by himself a bit apart.

The next day, the came upon the camp, in the hollow of a large plateau. They decided to go around and observe things if they could, even going so far as to stuff Oratil back in a sack. But the barbarian was noisy and the guards notice him and yelled for them to get back over and take their loot into the camp. So they strolled right in. A lower level contained many filthy huts with kobolds all around. A slightly higher level had huts for the humans and a larger domicile for the camp's leaders. They also noticed Al's friend Leosin (whom they were also to find) tied to a stake and in bad shape. They deposited their sacks near a large care entrance which was guarded by four men in fierce dragon masks. Oratil did his best to remain quiet, peering through a small hole in the bag in the hopes of being carried into the cave. The others went to find some chow, attempting to gather some information. They are piecing together that this is the Cult of the Dragon and they have been raiding nearby, trying to gather a treasure hoard. They've heard a few references to the return of the Dragon Queen Tiamat. While eating, they did notice a couple of other cultists or soldiers or whatever they were, glance at the party. Aelfwulf in particular was concerned he might be recognized as the one who had challenged the half-dragon in Greenest. After a brief stint on guard duty (alerting them to the presence of eight commoners chained and breaking rocks and chopping wood) they were instructed to go and get more loot to bring up to the cave entrance.

On the way back toward the kobold section, they managed to spy a cave entrance behind some brush. They took some time there to formulate a plan. Essentially it was to go up to the guards at the cave and try to send them away while they went inside. The halfling, meanwhile, was finally picked up and carried away to a different cave where he was roughly deposited with some other treasure. He managed to sneak out, past some initiates getting a lecture, to a spot behind the main hut where he could hear the black half dragon and the blue half dragon talking. He was alerted to the fact that the two leaders thought the camp may have been infiltrated by the adventurers who had harassed their raiders in Greenest. Langdredosa marches off and takes some dragonclaws (tougher cult members) along with him. Oratil stealthily made his way back to the kobold area and in a brilliant ploy, began whispering as if he were having a human conversation insulting and speaking contemptfully about the kobolds. Several heard him and rushed to tell the others. Mechanically, this was a brilliant play: Marc (Aelfwufl) gave Josh (Oratil) his inspiration that I had awarded him for meeting the champion in Greenest. Josh took advantage on his deception roll and got a 20! The plan worked It wasn't long before the kobolds were getting antsy and starting something of an uproar. The blue half-dragon took his dragonclaws and went to see what was going on. The party tried to get to Leosin. Rezmir, the black half-dragon, left her hut for a bit, leaving it completely accessible to Oratil who managed to snag some letters and a map. The other three tried to make a play for Leosin, to set him free and leave an illusion in his place. Two dragonclaws came over from the cave. Aelfwulf went to break the chain gang prisoners free and Balmat was balancing helping them free Leosin versus somehow getting into that cave. He managed to get up to talk to the cave guards who sent him back to work. By then the prisoners were free and there was a great tumult in the center of the camp. Two other dragonclaws were head their way. Balmat managed to drag Leosin away acting as if he had chased off the bard. The two other dragonclaws were on their way and Oratil managed to run up and convince one of them he was needed with the kobold trouble. Everything was becoming confusion and the bard and roge managed to climb the side of the plateau. They lowered ropes to help the eight commoners--now freed--to get up the cliff as well. Balmat tried to call attention to the escape as a ploy to make it seem like he was a genuine cult members. This scored him a dragonclaw's mask and cloak when he took the one out. The other two were showered with ball bearings from the halfling on the top of the cliff. The tumult in the camp with humans and kobolds harassing each other seemed to give the party and their freed prisoners the time they needed to mount the plateau and slip away. Leosin didn't seem entirely pleased to have been set free, preferring, despite his harsh treatment, to have stayed to gain more intelligence.

The party headed west a ways before running into a cult patrol late in the evening. Balmat persuaded them to let him lead them in search of some prisoners. They followed him and he ditched them to catch up with the party. In the early hours before dawn, the party made it to Greenest with their rescued folks. The governor was happy to see them and they reported what they had learned. Leosin filled them in on the rest of the details he had learned. He declared that he had to head to Elturel but he needs the party to go back to the camp! They groaned until they were able to negotiate 225 gold pieces apiece from Leosin (25 of that anted up by the governor). They prepared to head back to the camp after another day of rest and re-equipping.

To be continued...

THOUGHTS ON THE GAME
We had another great time playing this next part of the story. It was a lot of fun to listen as the characters debated their best course of action, quickly realizing there were too many cultists and kobolds to take them all out and learning, as they tried, that there was no way they would be able to get in the cave (which they learned was the dragon nursery). It was a delicate line to walk as the DM to allow them some creativity while blocking them from certain paths. Josh was quite proud of Oratil's success at causing some dissension and confusion in the camp. All in all, they achieved their objectives and did so without being captured or killed, so that was definitely a win for them.
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Sun Mar 8, 2015 4:13 am
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Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Session 1, Episode 1: Greenest is Burning

Mark Buetow
United States
Du Quoin
Illinois
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SPOILER WARNING: This post contains material that will spoil the story if you have not yet played this adventure.

INTRODUCTION
We finally got the chance to start this long adventure. There are four of us playing: Andrew, Risdon and Marc and myself as the DM. I also DM a group of teens and are running the Phandelver Starter adventure. These sessions will be a bit more mature and have less of the large group dynamics that can make play somewhat unruly at times.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Alphonse Benado (Andrew) is a half-elf bard. Hailing from Waterdeep, he once crossed the daughter of a gang lord and has been on the run ever since. A the time, a monk name Leosin Erlanthar had befriended and helped the young bard to escape his self-inflicted circumstances. A huckster and charlatan, Al worked up some bard skills to keep his belly full. He's used to getting what he wants but will quickly back off if he knows he can't succeed. Flattery is his primary tool for manipulating others. He uses a cover story of being a representative of some elven duke in a far off land, complete with signet ring and a deft skill in forging documents. He tends not to stay in one spot more than a week or so. He is on his way to Greenest at the urgent behest of his friend, Leosin, hopefully to repay the debt of gratitude and help his friend with whatever trouble he's encountered.

Aelfwulf (Marc) is an Illuskan. Dragons destroyed his home and family. He harbors a bitter hatred toward them. His life turned to the sea and he spent time as a sailor before winding up in Candlekeep without a ship. Aelfwulf loves to string profanities together and enjoys a good tavern brawl. He deal fairly, believing everyone who acts should receive the spoils. Perhaps this is especially poignant a quality since he himself was cheated once. Despite this desire for things to be generally equal, Aelfwulf has a hard time keeping his hands off anything of value that may have been carelessly left around, often grabbing such items for himself.

Balmat (Risdon) is a tiefling warlock. Raised by wolves in the forest, and suffering some sort of connection and obligation towward some great old one, Balmat lives life believing might to be the most important quality in a person. The strong survive. Survival of the fittest. It is a character trait that guides his motives but perhaps hinders his accomplishments.

THE ADVENTURE
The characters, each with their own reason to head to Greenest, take up work as bodyguards for a wealthy merchant from Greenest, a Melius Menderin. He gives them a 10GP deposit with 25GP to be paid on his safe arrival at home. The trip is uneventful until the top the rise outside of Greenest and see it in flames, people running all over, and a dragon sweeping low over the town's keep. Melius is immediately concerned for his family and asks the players to reach his manor on the far side of the town and get his family to safety. He agrees to double their fee and then consents to triple it in response to their haggling. He stays along the road to see what will happen while the adventurers head into the town.

As they move into the town along the road, a man with three small children comes stumbling out of the shadows and across the street. He is Cuth Swift and he's been wounded. His wife follows after, a small shield and broken spear her only defense against six kobolds who are chasing her. The party leaps into action but not before one advances on the woman and stabs her a vicious blow with its dagger. Alphonse lets lose his bow, the Warlock his eldritch blast and the barbarian's axe is swinging. With minimal resistance, the party of creatures is swiftly dispatched, but not without a few licks against the party. The woman introduces herself as Linan Swift and begs the adventurers to get her and her family to the keep where they will be safe from. They agree and begin moving through town. Around houses and down cross streets they see burning piles of hay and buildings, figures running, guards from the city fighting pitched battles, and loads of humans and kobolds roaming, pillaging, and looting. On their way to the keep, they surprise a group of the enemy looting a house. The fight is short. Another group sneaks up from behind but gives itself away and after a short fight, is wiped out. One last group is encountered and with that, they are inside the keep, the last of the stragglers to make it inside before the main gate is shut fast.

Inside the town's keep, Tarbaw Nighthill, the town's battered governor, is grateful for the fortuitous appearance of some hardy adventurers. They're licking their wounds, however, and he sends for the doctor to apply some bandages and poultices to give them a bit of a rest and some patching up. Nighthill asks the characters for help. He suggests they could perhaps take some prisoners or else rescue some more townsfolk. They agree and Escobert, a gruff red-headed dwarf, the keep's castellan, gives them keys to a basement door which leads to a long-unused tunnel that will get the party to the stream, away from the kobolds and other attackers surrounding the keep. Just then some of the watchmen from the parapet report that they mill is being set to and probably set alight. Since the stores of flour are precious, the governor gives the party a higher priority mission of stopping the mill from being burnt down. That's the new plan.

After clearing the crates and barrels barring the way to the tunnel, they head down and come nearly to its end, which is blocked by a locked gate (for which they have key). But their presence disturbs two large swarms of rats which give them some nasty bites. Al gets the gate open and slips out, in time to notice a band of men and kobolds heading their way along the riverbank. By now the rats have dispersed and the adventurers are hurting from the swarms. They slip back inside the tunnel and the bard casts and illusion which blocks the tunnel entrance from casual observation. Inside, they take time to rest and gather themselves before heading upstream to the mill.

Aelfwulf notices, as they approach the mill, that there are three humans outside setting fires but they're not actually trying to set the building on fire. The bard is able to send two of the guards to sleep. The other, an acolyte raised his club and his hand to cast some sort of spell but is slashed down in an instant by Aelfwulf's greataxe. Balmat tries to kick in the main barn door but to no avail. Aelfwulf just storms int through the main small door. He sees the loft, but too late! Two guards up top launch spears at him. Two cultists come dashing down the stairs as Al and Balmat come in. The cultists engage with their scimitars but are dispatched pretty quickly. The guards come down to fight their way out and are cut down, too. Just then the detachment from the keep arrives to secure and hold the mill. They send the party back to the keep. They lug along the two guards that the bard had put to sleep so that Nighthill can interrogate them.

While the characters get patched up by Doctor Jorvin, Nighthill learns from the guards that they are merely mercenaries, hired by some sort of dragon cult. They give up some information pretty freely, about a camp not too far away and something about dragon eggs. They say the cult has been looting towns in the area to collect treasure for some sort of hoard. Just then, there are shouts from above o the parapet. The dragon has gotten interested in fighting again. As the characters arrive up top, (though Balmat stays near the door to the stairs), the blue dragon swoops low, letting loose a lightning blast from his maw and sweeping four of the defenders from the wall. Aelfwulf and Balmat are frighteneed but steel themselves to fight. Al is firigin arrows and the barbarian keeps hurling javelins. The warlock sends eldritch blasts at the dragon. He is circling about 75 feet from the wall. He makes one half-hearted attempt to zoom low over the parapet but then heads back out. One of the warlock's blasts causes a roar of annoyance and the dragon suddenly heads away from the keep.

As the dragon disappears, there is another shout. A band of raiders has broken through the sally port and come into the main keep. Several kobolds, a large drake, and a human begin attacking. Aelfwulf sprints down the stairs to fight. Al and Balmat fire down into the courtyard. They little band is wiped out (a nice duel between Al with his bow and the kobold sling snipers). The door is pretty damaged and Aelfwulf tries to hold it shut, realizing there are more raiders outside. He takes some stabs and is getting weak on his feet, nearing his limit of pain and exhaustiaon. The bard arrives in time to craft an illusion of boards upon the door. A healing potion finds its way to the barbarian and the door is soon repaired by a team from the keep with tools and lumber.

It is late in the early morning and the men on the walls give a shout for the governor to come up. They raiders that had taken position around the keep are beginning to withdraw. As they do, a half dragon strides forth, demanding a champion come out to fight him in exchange for a woman and three children. One of the defenders, Sergeant Markguth, is enraged and tries to go down the stairs but is held back by some of the other men. "That's my family!" he cries. Governor Nighthill realizes that none of his men stand a chance against the seven foot tall, blue-scaled challenger. He pleads with the party, with an eyer particularly cast upon Aelfwulf. The barbarian does not hesitate to take up the challenge and upon quaffing another healing potion, descends to leave the keep the confront the bully.

They square off, Aelfwulf wieghing his greateaxe, the half-dragon idly sliding his greatsword point along the dirt. In a flash, the barbarian launches forward, his axe coming up. In a crash of scaly hide and blood, Aelfwulf draws the first wound. But the champion is rather mighty. He replies with a vicious swing of the greatsword that tears through the barbarian followed immediately by a swing in the opposite direction that lays the party's hero in the dust. The prisoners are let go and the creature ambles off, gloating and laughing.

Aelfwulf is near death but they stabilize him and bring him inside the keep. The governor asks if they would be willing to chase the raiders down and try to find out where they are camped, and how many, and why they raided the town. The party agrees to do it, for a reward of 250 gold each Just before they crash in sleep and rest for several hours, though, a young, battered monk named Nesim Waladra introduces himself and pleads with them to hunt down the group and rescue his friend, another monk named Leosin Erlanthar. This, it happens, is a long time friend of the bard. They agree to to seek him out or at least find out what happened to him. He has either infiltrated the cult or become its prisoner. They give a list of equipment to the governor who is happy to have the town supply their needs. The party then rests, with two buxom women sponging the barbarian's brow as he drifts into slumber for a time.

To be continued...

You may read the Bard's version of the events HERE.

THOUGHTS ON THE GAME
We gave up on 4th Edition, not so much because of the mechanics but because of the story. The modules that had been produced (Keep on the Shadowfell, which we played, and Thunderspire Labyrinth, which we partially explored) didn't seem to have much unity and it didn't seem like there was much fortcoming. So we got into Pathfinder and played that quite a bit.

Still, D&D is...D&D! And since the Basic Rules were available, I had to take a look. I was impressed and particularly happy to see some emphasis on the story and roleplaying aspects. Somewhat worn by the mass of Pathfinder splat, I figured we'd give the new edition a go. So far it's been a blast. Today's session was a lot of fun. Combat played quickly and smoothly (we only used a grid once). The players all enjoyed the adventure and are looking forward to our next session.

As for Hoard of the Dragon Queen, I thought it was pretty easy to run. There is good guidance in the adventure text for running it, adapting it, and adjusting it. I like the episodic leveling mechanism (so much less math!) and I appreciate that at least the first eight levels are all together in one book. It's much more than a simple "one off" module but a campaign story. I'm looking forward to seeing how it continues!
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Sun Feb 22, 2015 2:06 am
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Combat Commander: Sea Lion Part 2

Mark Buetow
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We finished the remaining 4 Combat Commander: Battle Pack #6 – Sea Lion scenarios today. The Allies prevailed over all by a score of 6-4. Germany and its fascist allies were ultimately no match fort the British whose slogan was "Keep Calm and Throw the Germans Out!"

Here are my in-game notes for each of the scenarios, along with pictures.

Again, all locations are England and all dates are in 1940.

Scenario 92 - Let England Shake - Highclere Castle, November 19

Scenario 92

(Started without my three Weapon Teams, then noticed and put them on, no effect.) We unload on the HMG nest, breaking them. They have to advance back. Cpt. Nettles on the right begins inching forward. The Germans on the hill are giving them the what for. Our card draws are just abysmal today. It's a lone squad on the right, trying to make its way up the hill. Just lots of fire traded between the buildings and the Germans up on the hills. Blazes break out and spread, cutting off that squad from getting past objective 1. Our fire is getting less effective as dusk arrives. We need to get moving to take objectives. Time is at 6 and we've still accomplished nothing significant. We finally come out of the building but it's too late. Night falls. TT 7 and we hit SD. Germans win at SD 7 with 26 VP. 3-4



Scenario 93 - Foxtrot Uniform - R.A.F. Upper Heyford, Bicester, November 24

We get up next to the AA gun on the left. The one on the right tears up our MG nest on the hill. We recover and try to keep up the fire. It's a close run thing near that lefthand hangar. We try to move some guys, get hit, recover but White dies due to a KIA on the recover roll! He comes back in with a walking wounded but gets killed in melee. It's wild. Germans have 24 VP halfway in. Lucas makes a mad dash into the hex where White was killed, advances in with the squad and team to the broken German units. All that's left is a zero leader, who pulls a twelve, then we pull a twelve! Then another TT right after! Germans are one away from surrender and we are one away from SD 12. Germans vacate objective 4 for a 12 V swing toward us. Germans have a hidden squad in objective 4 that grabs the AA gun and fires at us. We hold out and manage to destroy the squad in the right hand gun. Americans win by German surrender on TT 11. 4-4



Scenario 94 - The Tonbridge Two - Hawkshead Woods, Tonbridge Wells, December 11

Starts off with a firefight. We take out two squads at the head of his line toward our right. He needs to exit off our edge, along the wide side. The Germans break left and head toward the least defended corner. We shift our bottom and left to try to close the gap before get to that corner and exit. We are holding them. Heavy fire and some good melees that kill off their units. We take out Sgt. Pfeiffer. We would have gotten them to surrender except they've had two Élan events. We continue to pound the last few Germans and we have closed the gap entirely. TT goes past SD 7 and 8. A German squad and team breach our line in melee. But we're pretty far ahead on VPs. They break through and are out. Dietel is the only German left and we go chasing after him and can't seem to get him. But we hit TT 9 and game ends. British win at SD 9 with 14 VP. 5-4



Scenario 95 - Lined in Chalk - South Foreland Battery, Dover, December 25

A slow start as our line makes it's way forward. We try to stay out of the LOS of the HMG as best we can. It's tough going and we're taking hits. We manage to breach their line up on the left. We take Objective 2. Sgt. Foyle takes a squad right, links up with a team and takes Objective 4. This gives us units on both ends of the ridge and their line. Germans fire with HMG and two LMGs, all of which break with a 2. The IG only gets a 3 on its attack! They have a hidden unit in Objective 2 and take it back. We get some engineers down into the arty bunker for four VP swing back, Objective 3. Leader with FT, veteran Engineer squad and a team with LMG move along the trench line tearing up the Germans. A 21 FP flamethrower is followed by a full on blast of 26. British win by German surrender on TT 6. 6-4



Game Notes
This battle pack was a blast. The scenarios are well written (even the summaries make it sound like these were real events!) and all of the battles are tense efforts on both sides.

Clearly, however, with the British winning 6-4 including the last battle of gaining the artillery batteries overlooking the coast, it was a foolish move of Hitler ever to try invading Albion.

The Vulcans have a saying: "Only William can conquer England."

Well done, Andrew, on a fantastic design that is loads of fun!
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Sun Mar 16, 2014 2:25 am
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Combat Commander: Sea Lion Part 1

Mark Buetow
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I'm exhausted after playing six straight battles today, the first six from Operation Sea Lion. (Part of the Combat Commander: Europe and Combat Commander: Mediterranean games in the Combat Commander Series.)

We played for just about 10 hours so if you do the math (for those who wonder about such things) that averages out to just over 1.5 hours per game, typical for seasoned players, I should think.

I played the Allies, my regular opponent Marc, the Axis.

What follows is my raw game notes. I don't feel up to putting them into a more narrative form. These are the notes as I took them during play, with start and end pictures. Excuse any typos or other errors and enjoy!

All locations are in England and all dates are in 1940. We played them in chronological order.

Scenario 86 - Keep Calm and Carry On - Brede - September 22

The paratroopers sporting the satchel charge get up close to the squad in the church, Peaseley's fire being ineffectual. The British are completely surprised and can't find a Fire card! The Germans make it into the church. Peaseley gets killed and taken out of the tower! Down to one squad, who moves out to get cover from the church tower. The Germans get up next to the squad and blast away with 22 FP and in the process getting a sniper that hit my squad! We never made it to turn 2 and so I lost because that was my last unit eliminated from the map! Germans win by elimination. 0-1



Scenario 87 - Bloody Bognor - Bognor Regis - September 23

The Germans move along my left I managed to extricate my leader and engineers out of the building and into a trench, leaving behind mines and wire. We now have a decent fire group with the HMG to hold the Germans on the left. The ones on the right start creeping along the road. They manage to make our trench line and we keep scooting away from them. We're all bunched by the pier. The Germans squeeze into objective 4 and take that from the lone engineer squad. Our forces are shrinking. Gotta keep the clock moving. I advance leader, vet squad and team into the German leader, squad and team. I'm one ahead. He rolls 19 and passes the IC, and gets one more for 20. I am one up because of the the vet and roll a six, 20. I ponder briefly but take the tie. That puts us both one away from surrendering! I've lost my HMG but his forces are wrecked and his next group is far away and will have to get close to the pier. Just then the Germans infiltrate a Weapons team with HMG onto the pier! I rush a squad of guards onto the pier toward the HMG. He fires and jams the gun! I advance in. He's got one Ambush and we're tied at 2. He rolls a 4. I have the IC. An 8! British win by German surrender! 1-1



Scenario 89 - Beneath a Steel Sky - Portsmouth Docks - September 30

We set up back in the objectives and and wait for the Germans to come forward. First shot our LMG jams and gets eliminated by a sniper hex. We try a melee but lose our 2 leader and a squad! Now there is a standoff between our forces along the wall by objective 3. We are leaderless and falling apart in objective 3 while the Germans are beginning to position themselves to exit a bunch of guys. We exit a unit with double points. We manage to keep a few squads around on our right, hassling the enemy while the clock runs down. Battlefield Integrity gives the Germans a big boost and cuts my VPs in half, because we are only one away from surrender. But the time track is almost to SD. I had Élan earlier which is the only reason I'm still in the game. We are holding tight on our own edge. SD 7, game continues. At SD 8, I roll 8, pass the card and roll 8. I bring on my reinforcement unit into melee. He gets a 10 total, I roll for a 12, he passes the card, a 9, I pass it back, an 8! That's my last unit that can die. Germans win by British surrender! 1-2



Scenario 88 - All Ahead, Full Stop - River Medway - October 5

Since I am playing Allies, we let Marc setup the fortifications. (SSRs, random side selection ignored). Also, we went ahead and used British control markers, well, because this is England. Starts off with lots of heavy fire from the French to pick off some Germans little by little. But the time markers are coming quite quickly. I need to get my men moving. TT is one away from SD 8, we have gotten just next to objective 4, which would send the VPs almost to us. Our radio is working but not too effectively. A German team with an IG 18 pops up on the edge of the map. We grab the objective and it's at 0 VP! Germans try to rout a. Rosen guy next to us and it's a TT! Game ends! French win at SD 8 with IC at 0VP! 2-2



Scenario 90 - The Man Who Would Be King - Holloway Prison, London - October 28

A slow start for the fascists, a couple of whom are already cowering. The fascists advance slowly but our guys aren't too keen in their shooting. We pick off a few units and fall back to the main prison. The fascists gradually gaining ground. For awhile I was playing with only four cards (though not using DO action). Glad I caught that. The fascists are getting a bit closer. A fire breaks out in one of the cells. The fascists make it over the wall on the left. My reinforcements arrive and begin moving toward my left. TT at 6, game continues. The fascist make it into the main building but a r*cover attempt bring us to TT 7 and I roll a 5. British win at SD 7 with 20 VP. 3-2



Scenario 91 - The Battle of Trafalgar - Trafalgar Square, London - October 30

Slow start with a firefight on the right as the Germans approach the outside perimeter of the Square. They sweep inside and eventually plant a squad next to the statue on objective 5. Forbes and his squad were able to take out a satchel squad. Then they were ambushed. Light wounds kept the FP up. Rolled an 11, he passes the IC, rolled an 11! German leader and squad are dead! I manage to run Forbes out of reach even though the HMG is shooting at him. I send a squad up toward objective 5 but he breaks and I have to use Light Wounds. I have a plan though. I got the squad into objective 5 with a plan to use my Pillbox, but Dietel came and finished him with an Ambush. The Germans scored a 12 FP radio. Their HMG tore up my team and squad down in the building and an arty strike called in by Dietel drifted onto them and finished them off. Germans win by British surrender, TT 6. 3-3



GAME NOTES
Outstanding scenarios. Every one of these was a nail biter and my stomach hurt from that usual tight, visceral CC experience. Well done, Andrew et al!
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Sun Mar 9, 2014 3:55 am
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Combat Commander: The Fall of the West, Part 3

Mark Buetow
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The final five games from the Combat Commander: Battle Pack #5 – The Fall of the West battle pack. These are great scenarios which are pretty well balanced and a challenge to play either side.

Scenario 78, By These Deeds They Shall Be Known

The Germans advanced steadily and tore us up pretty well. We ended up on the receiving end of an IG33 which just made things worse. I was close to pulling it off by VPs but we couldn't last. Germans win by British surrender.



Scenario 84, Seize the Canal

I had a few squads behind the German lines which survived to pick at some of the objectives. The Germans finally made a push down and into Objective 4. That was when I started unloaded with individual units and low odds shot to move the clock along. It worked! I actually did a little bit of damage, but more importantly, ran the clock out as we drew Time Triggers in quick succession with all the firing. French win at SD 8 with 5 VP.



Scenario 85, The Striking Hammer

True to the historical outcome, our Char tanks drove away the HMG positions and kept the pressure on. We were able to advance our forces along and even exit a bunch of units in the right and left corners. We brought them close to a surrender but got it on time. French win at SD 10 with 6 VP.



Scenario 82, Hidden Guns Lash Out

A classic case of being steamrolled, this time by the Panzers. The German infantry took out our left forces and the tanks hammered away in the middle on our edge. Germans win on Turn 5 by French surrender.



Scenario 83, Thrust in the Dust

This was pretty much a blowout. The Germans advanced steadily, hammered us with their off map tanks, and continued to press us backward. Germans win at SD 8 with 24 VP and only one casualty!



Game Notes

These scenarios are quite fun and worthy of a lot of replay. It's going to take some time to get used to countering the tanks. With the exception of the first tank Scenario (the FCM 36s) in which I forgot the platoon rule, all the sides with tanks won. The trick seems to be to keep them away from melee opportunities and just blast away. There are some good challenges in setting up well, too. I'm looking forward to playing these again from the other side.

Our overall record was 5-7 in favor of Marc and the Germans.
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Sun Jul 28, 2013 1:49 am
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Combat Commander: The Fall of the West, Part 2

Mark Buetow
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Some quick notes about our ongoing play of the scenarios from Combat Commander: Battle Pack #5 – The Fall of the West

Scenario 76, A Most Gallant Dirty Little Imp

Our HMG was well placed to slow the Germans on the left. The pionier's did their work on restoring the bridge but Smythe was taken out by the other leader on the right who came across the river with a squad. I wasted too many units in bad melees and was left trying to hold out as long as possible. Fortunately, the clock ran out. British win at Sudden Death 8 with 6 VP.





Scenario 77, The Crucible of Fire

This was a scenario where there was little movement. I managed to snag objective 2 while the Germans scooted out to 5 (their secret objective). We managed to kill off some German units and I sent the Bren carrier toward objective 4. The Germans got a pillbox in 4 and so it was going to be a tough nut to crack. I hesitated too long in trying to get my main body of troops moving as they would have been in the open with some nasty crossfire. The clock advanced too rapidly to accomplish anything. Germans win at SD 7 with 8 VP.



Game Notes

Again, to fairly balanced scenarios. Armor definitely is not overpowered. I like the description of the AFVs as "extended" scenario special rules. The tanks are nice to have and can be used for attempting particular objectives. Yet the bulk of the fight still relies on the infantry units in the battle. Good stuff.

Our standings are 3-4 in Marc's (the Germans') favor.
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Sun Jul 14, 2013 1:06 am
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Combat Commander: The Fall of the West, Part 1

Mark Buetow
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Here are some write ups of our playing of the Combat Commander: Battle Pack #5 – The Fall of the West scenarios. This new battle pack from GMT uses the forces represented in Combat Commander: Mediterranean, part of the Combat Commander Series. While I won't be writing them up perhaps as creatively as the Chronological Playthrough (that is a finished project) it is sort of an add on effort so that we can continue to say we've played all the GMT and C3i published scenarios.

We are playing them in chronological order, which is not the numerical order of the battle pack.

Scenario 79, Battering Ram at Kvam



The Germans made a steady advance up the middle. We probably stayed a little too long before abandoning Objective 5. That cost us as we were cut down. We had given the Germans a good couple bouts in melee but couldn't avoid their fire once we scooted down the hill. Over in Objective 3, on the British right we were getting hammered by fire from the German IG. I managed to recover them and keep them alive by the Initiative Card going back and forth Finally, with both units broken and suppressed, and with the British only two away from Surrender we made a Fire Attack at the Germans. I pulled a Time Trigger and the game ends! British win at SD 8 with 11 VP. Record: 1-0


Scenario 74, Sturmgruppe Granit



The Belgians put up a pretty good fight but there were some key mistakes. The left two bunkers along the hill were taken out. Cupola 120 fell early. There were some bitterly close melees in which we ended up on the wrong side. The final melee was three units against our two and it was a tie, but that meant surrender for us and one away for the Germans. I had made the mistake of bringing my reinforcements on right near the former bunker where the Germans sitting there could slaughter them before they could duke it out hand to hand. Oops. Germans win by Belgian surrender. Record: 1-1


Scenario 75, Sturmgruppe Beton



Objective 4 is everything in this game. I sent units way around to the right to get behind the German forces. I kept my HMG and medium mortar back to lay smoke and lots of harassing fire. On the left, we moved up to grab the trench but got whittled away, especially when the German reinforcements arrive. We were within a Move or Advance of getting a squad into the trench when the Germans managed a Hidden Unit and plopped another squad right back in the trench. The game came down to a German advance in which three units attacked my Belgian leader and squad. It's 8-9 FP in favor of the Germans. I roll a 12! But that's a Time Trigger that will be the first Sudden Death. My rationale for keeping the card was because I would most likely win the melee if we avoided Sudden Death. But the first SD roll was a 5! Pass the card. A 4! The Germans WOULD have surrendered by losing the melee. But instead, Germans win at SD 7 with 11 VP! Record: 1-2

Scenario 80, Bitter Isthmus



Alas, first mistake! We forgot the starting pic. It happens. This was Marc's game to make a fatal mistake. He rolled us up completely on the right. Instead of taking his leader, team and squad (with HMG) off the map, he came right, trying to get behind me. But our own HMG managed to scoot left and utterly tear them to shreds over a couple turns. We were able to move up the road and pick off a bunch of other unit. It finally came down to a big melee where I had two ambushes. There wasn't really any way for him to win that. French win by German surrender. Record: 2-2

Scenario 81, The Bottleneck




Finally! Tanks! In Combat Commander! Four French FCM 36s make up a portion of the French forces. The object in this battle is to get French units across the entire map and off, getting double VPs. The tanks rolled forward and despite the crews taking some hits, none perished. The fire from the tanks broke a lot of German units. Unfortunately, I seemed to pull a Time Trigger on just about every other roll. The clock moved too fast and while I was within a couple of Move orders of exiting one of the tanks, we couldn't do it in time. Germans win at SD 8 with 6 VP. Record: 2-3

Close up of a Combat Commander modeled Armored Fighting Vehicle (with the addition of the C3i optional counter).



Thoughts on the Game Play

Every one of these first five scenarios went right down to the wire. After just these initial plays, the scenarios seemed very well balanced and quite tough but winnable as either side. Some better rolls, avoiding big mistakes, and rolling with the punches give you a good chance of victory. I like to think we both played well overall and pretty evenly, and weren't put out by any imbalances in the fights. Well done, designers and play testers!

A few thoughts on the tanks. You can see from my pictures that the best way, in my view, to represent them is to put the pieces on the map AND use the tank counters. This gives the "flavor" of seeing the tank on the map but still makes it easy to keep track of the individual pieces that are a part of the simulated armored vehicle. It definitely adds a new challenge to the battles and it will be fun to figure out the tactics of both using and countering these armored vehicles. I think the rules are well implemented in the scope of the CC rules and make the game elements interact in interesting but not silly ways. It's clear the design was done with the intention of including them without causing a mess.

We're definitely looking forward to the next round of battles from this pack.
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Sun Jul 7, 2013 1:41 am
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This Great Crusade: Archival Postscript

Mark Buetow
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The story continues to be told...

With so many battles, it was inevitable that stories of fighting during the war would continue to surface even after the fighting was over. Here is one such tale...



French Canadians Take on the SS, St. Martin de Fontenay, Normandy, August 1, 1944

Canadian units attempted to dislodge a group of German SS Panzer troops which had holed up in the town's church. They advanced steadily, their little mortars laying smoke near the church to hamper the HMG inside. Forbes swept left and the Germans vacated the closest building on the left and made for the center building, one of the two main objectives. On the right, the Canadians advanced to safety behind the houses, where the HMG could not see them. But no matter how many squads they sent against the house, the Germans were ready to creep out and eliminate them. They were then surprised as another German HMG appeared. Heavy fire mowed down the attackers until they could do nothing but give up.

Pre- and Post-Battle photographs:




Read more »
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Tue May 28, 2013 2:16 am
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The Chronicles of Graymoor, Part 1 (Dungeon World)

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The Chronicles of Graymoor, Part 1

A Dungeon World Roleplaying Game adventure.

NOTE: Italicized, lighter text is used for game and mechanical notes and non-story comments

Arrival at Stonefort

The Lands of Graymoor. They are neither particularly gray nor a moor. But upon those lands sits the town of Stonefort. Today this sleepy town sees the arrival of three strangers...



Ajax, a human. Fighter. Battered helm. Body scarred by the battles he's seen. Eyes dead to feeling. In his hand the mighty Volenderuung, a toothed war hammer, stained with the blood of vanquished enemies.

Bjorn the dwarf. A cleric of the goddess Dahlalea. Light. Healing. And the sanctity of suffering. His bustling robes enveloped his flabby dwarven stature.

Shank. A human. A thief. A shifty character, hooded, his knobby body belying his quick reflexes and deadly aim with a thrown dagger.

Landed at the worn piers at along the coast, along the base of the Stonefort cliffs, the three adventurers make their way up the cliff along the carved out switchback path. Down the street through the town to Madam Sonja's the towns inn and tavern...



I recently discovered the Dungeon World system as I was perusing the Geek. (I'm a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game GM and player. I played lots of D&D thirty years ago and recently got back into playing RPGs seriously with 4E and then Pathfinder). But I really enjoy games that push for a more narrative approach, a bit more freeform. Games like Wushu and Universalis are some of the fare I've sampled. Also, I run a teen gaming group at a local library and we've played a few different games including Tunnels & Trolls and Call of Cthulhu (run by one of the teens).

The gist of Dungeon World is a nod to old school D&D type basics such as classic fantasy classes, six stats with attached roll modifiers, etc. But the rules encourage the telling of the story first and foremost and use the descriptions, storytelling and dialogue (the "fiction") to indicate "moves" which are the mechanical elements when dice are rolled.

The game seems to present a bit of mechanical framework but is designed to feature the story as the center of the game and fun. The game encourages the GM to do little prep work and "play to see what happens." Having fun with some apps on my iPad, I did some doodling and a little area and town emerged. A forest. A logging camp. Some ideas for what things had happened. and we were ready. I've done lots of prep as a GM in the past. In fact, prepping an Adventure Path for Pathfinder takes a lot of work. Lots to look up, set up and get organized. This was a bit of a risk. Hopefully the kids would be engaged and would help keep things going...


The inn was nearly deserted except for a lone older man drinking some ale by the cold fireplace. Madam Sonja appeared, greeting the travelers and taking their coin for some food and ale. A man burst in the door, traipsed across the room and sat down next to the other patron. They began talking heatedly in loud whispers. The adventurers overheard.

Both men were older. Tanned, weather worn skin and hands adorned with missing fingers. The travelers attempted to ask what was going on, being told by Madam Sonja and the angry man (whose name turned out to be "Harsk") they should probably mind their own business. But the drinker could not help taling. Delvyn. A logger.

It seems that the area around Stonefort was heavily logged over time. Not much remains but a large patch of what used to be nearly the center of the forest. This patch of woods is called "Grayson's Woods." In the woods is a logging camp which sends the cut timbers down the aptly named "Raft River" to the point where it empties into the ocean. This is just shy of a day south of Stonefort where the cliffs fade into the rocky shore. Ships can stand in to the river and there, at the little worker village of "Logjam," the timbers can be loaded for shipment. Stonefort watches over the logging community and the timber industry is its last gasp for sustenance aside from the meager fishing that can be had off the coast.

The old loggers were upset because, though both retired, they had family at the logging camp. A son. A nephew. But the logs stopped from upriver at Logjam. The governor residing at Stonefort had sent out a couple of patrols but they never returned. Ah! The idea that some adventure could be in store was not lost on the travelers. Surely the governor would have some use for their talents.

Guests of the Governor

Two of the city watch stood guard at the gate to the governor's mansion across the street from the inn. They asked for an audience and a bell was rung. Soon a prim man approached from the mansion. Master Philip. The Governor's Chief of Staff. Why no, the governor doesn't have time to be bothered especially by strangers. Logging problems? Those are being handled by the governor. But if not? If this worthy chief of staff could be responsible for alerting the governor to the party that could help and solve the problem? Why, that would bring glory to Master Philip! It wasn't long before Shank, selling his snake oil, has convinced the governor's man to let them in.

Soon they sat, weapons placed aside on the table downstairs, with Governor Jance Toros in his library. Old but not looking the part. Gray and white hair. A trim goatee. The old loggers at Madam Sonja's had mentioned how the governor never seemed to age. He certainly looked well for a man who had been in that mansion for fifty or more years.

Governor Toros explained that every once in awhile the logs would stop floating down the river. Usually within a day or two the matter was cleared up. This time it was going on two weeks and two search parties had been sent and not returned. The governor told them the history of the old fort, which sits behind his mansion. He told the adventurers that he would pay them 10 coins each to ride up to Grayson's Woods and check out the logging camp, then return and report to him. He then dismissed them, inviting them to dinner later that evening.

At the repast, the adventurers were surprised when a beautiful young woman joined them at the table. "Ariel, my niece," said the governor. She was polite, seemed interested in Ajax's stories and the tales from Shank's childhood. But it was the boisterous dwarf who made obvious efforts to flirt with her. But not without the governor's notice. He sent his niece from the room and coldly informed the party that they had been hired to do a service and he would appreciate them carrying it out without interfering with his niece or anyone else...

As the GM, the basic preplanned idea I brought to the table is that the logging camp has gone silent. Of course the governor would be involved and it seems a simple thing that the party would hear about it and want to go find out what has happened.

In Dungeon World (DW), the fiction drives the mechanics. So, for example, when the dwarf began flirting with the young woman, right in front of her uncle, I determined that such a thing was "Defy Danger," using Charisma. In DW, these "moves" are handled with the roll of 2d6+modifier, this case, CHA. A 10+ is a success and the GM and players will narrate what happens. A 7-9 is a success with some other consequences. A 6 or less is "failure" and the GM tells the players what happened. In this case, Bjorn failed his Defy Danger roll and so the consequence was to have the governor see what was happening, dismiss his niece, and now have the party on his bad side.

In truth, Ariel just sort of appeared. Again, still a rather well-used theme, the noble with his innocent and pretty relative. What role will she play? The characters certainly didn't see her again. But now there is something for next time perhaps. At this point in the story, I was feeling pretty good about how things were moving along. The characters were busy and involved and helping move the story along...


In the morning, after he finished communing with Dahlalea, Bjorn heard some loud talking down in the stable yard. Without thinking to look out the window, he grabbed his gear, collect his friends and went down stairs. The stable boy had prepared three horses. The governor greeted them somewhat coldly and went inside. Bjorn, speaking for Ajax's gold, persuaded the stable boy to whisper what had gone on earlier. The governor and someone on a horse, sent out ahead of them. Shank noticed a curtain move in an upper window...

Here is an example of a 7-9 success with a Parley roll. The characters have some leverage (flashing coin for a poor stable boy) but someone, presumably the governor, saw him talking about what he had seen. The consequence might not be immediate but could be. Who knows?...

Ambushed!

The party set out along the road. A little after noon, they saw a bundle of something in the road. Ajax road quickly ahead and hopped off his horse. Bjorn followed. Ajax rolled the body--for that is what it was--over and as he did the man's eyes opened and he struck with his dagger. Ajaz knoced his arm aside with his warhammer and suddenly the fight was on.

Before Bjorn had reached the two men fighting, and while Shank was still on his horse, six men appeared out of the tall grass, three on each side of the road. Each had a double shot crossbow and the gang on the left unleashed a volley at Bjorn and the bandits on the right at Shank.

Shank reacted quickly. Perhaps too quickly. He avoided the bolts and flung his dagger true. It took one man down, sticking right in his eye. But Shank lost his balance, fell from the horse and was dragged with one leg stuck in the stirrup.

Mace out and ready, Bjorn charged the three on the left. The bandits fired their second round and all three arrows hit true. They dropped their crossbows and charged him, daggers drawn.

The ruffian on the road moved quickly, swinging his legs to sweep Ajax who fumbled a jump to avoid them and ended up on the ground, wrestling with the man. A fist hardened by years of training, practice, and use, was enough to punch the bandits face in, but the tussel had sent the warhammer skittering away. Ajax grabbed Volenderuung just as two of the bandits made it past Bjorn, slicing him as they went by. The heavy swing from his hammer sent one, bones crunching, into the other. But he overswung and had to deal with this one again.

Meanwhile, Shank was flinging daggers as the other two bandits charged him. He hit one and stabbed the other so hard the dagger snapped in the man's jaw. He quickly retrieved the bloody dirks.

But there was another threat. A well-dressed man on a horse had appeared and was firing a bow. Ajax grabbed two daggers and his hammer, mounted a horse and charge. The first dagger flipped through the air, end over end, and hit Bjorn int eh back of the head. He dove into the grass to avoid the bow but the man was put down with a dagger in his chest. It was easy work to ride down the last bandit. He was running away, having first tried to scramble away from Bjorn who had cast fear upon him, but seeing that he could not win, kept running. Until Ajax brained him.

Combat. With no initiative. No rounds. No tactical map with minis. How was it? My fear with such a nearly freeform system is that it would get repetitive. How many times can you describe stabbing the enemy bandits? What I found, however, is that since the GM is reacting to the rolls, setting up consequences for 7-9s and <6s, the descriptions of what happened were driven by what the players were doing. I suppose a great deal of it depends on the players, but three teens who are immersed in fantasy movies and video games certainly have no lack of imagination in coming up with ways to fight and carry the battle scene forward.

It's fun to watch the kids try this for the first time. Initially, they are looking for some "move" to do. Instead, I tell them to tell me what they're doing. If it needs a "move" I'll have them roll and we narrate the fight back and forth. I cut back and forth between them in no particular order. Now, we all have a vivid scene and memory of what went down when ambushed by these bandits.

In terms of the storytelling, why did those bandits show up? Apparently they were engaged by the governor. Because he's evil? Because they crossed the line by hitting on his niece? I'm not really sure. The story will tell us as it unfolds...


A quick search of the bodies yielded a pouch of gold on the man as well as one of the governor's seals in his pocket. The party wasn't terribly surprised. The threw the errand boy's body on his horse and tied it up with the others. Exhausted from repeated prayers and invocations for healing, Bjorn suggested they make camp, which they did.

That night, there was a noise. Something scritching or scratching or pitter-pattering just over the sound of the rustling grass. In the pale moonlight and the light of the fire, there was...something. Bjorn cast light upon his mace and the brightness flooded the area. On an old stump a stone's throw away, there was a little crature, maybe a foot or two high, made of bark and sticks. Fangs glinted in its mouth and it had acorn-like eyes. In an instant, when the light hit, it was gone. The party went after it but there was no sign of the little thing anymore.

Grayson's Woods

Midmorning the next day, under a sky dark with clouds threatening rain, the adventurers were slowly surrounded by the patch of forest known as Grayson's Woods.



They found the logging camp road easily enough. As they approached the camp, the road and the woods alongside showed increasing signs of activity: drag marks, broken branches and fallen trees. They came into the logging camp to find an eery silence. Around the camp were bodies. Laying in pools of dried blood, the corpses were terribly mutilated. Nearly skeletons; shredded but not by claws or teeth? Burnt but not by fire? Dried entrails. Carnage.



They checked the foreman's office. A safe with naught but a broken door and a single coin. A pay logbook. A jar of sour alcohol. Ajax examined the equipment shed. Headless bodies with flesh that had been started upon but not finished. Then a rustling and a horrible squeal. A boar with razor-like tusks comes charging out of the woods at Bjorn. Shank stepped in front of the mad beast and let loose two bolts from one of his crossbows newly acquired. The enraged beast turned and charged the thief.

Thinking to save his childhood friend, Bjorn attacked. Ajax heard their yell and came out, his hammer ready. The board, in a frenzy, was slashing the lot of them. Distracted by Ajax, the boar suddenly felt two daggers in its haunches and Shank doing all he could to hold the beast down. In an instant, Bjorn saw something flit by: the little bark creature they had seen in the night! As Ajax was about to deliver a death blow to the boar, he felt sharp teeth in his ankle and turned only to see the little tree creature disappear into the woods. They finished off the boar but could find no sign of the little critter.

Thunder began rumbling late in the afternoon and they three decided to make camp. The horses had shelter under a lean to. After a search of the ox pen and the camp hall (food left filled with maggots; bloody playing cards, tables shifted around) they decided to make camp in the bunk cabin. For the fifty or so loggers who had worked at the camp, there were very few bodies.

Having made camp, the party was getting settled in, having come no closer to figuring out the cause of the horrific death of these laborers. Overhead, the skies grew darker and thunder rolled over the camp...TO BE CONTINUED

What a fun game! The kids had a great time. I enjoyed seeing where the story went. DW has some helpful suggestion for what "moves" a GM can make to keep the action going. If you listen carefully to the characters, you will hear their speculations and ponderings and that will help fueld the creative fires to keep things happening.

After the first session, the DW rules instruct the GM to begin working on "Fronts" which are sort of set pieces of background information to help flesh out dangers, casts of NPCs and dangers and challenges.

One of the things I like in the rules for DW is the emphsais on the motivations of the bad guys in your campaign. For example: a dungeon doesn't just exist to have monsters to fight PCs. Those evil denizens are up to something and the notion of "Grim Portents" in DW suggest that bad things would happen if the PCs weren't there to stop them. So why are they doing what they're doing? What are they up to? Now I get to figure out what the governor is up to, what happened at the logging camp, and whatever else might be going on around the Lands of Graymoor.

The kids really liked the game. As I, they liked the D&D style elements of the characters but the more freeform narrative nature of the story unfolding. And, here's something funny: I never rolled a single die! The "move" rolls are made by the players and any damage done by monsters or NPCs is rolled by them too. My job? Telling them what happens when they succeed or fail. But unlike a traditional D&D or Pathfinder game, the die rolls aren't "pass/fail" so much as they direct whether the next bit of narrative is good for the PC or bad for them. It might be something immediate or something later on. It might directly affect them or be a problem for someone else. The possibilities really are pretty endless.

In preparation for the game, I found the following quite helpful: Guide to Understanding Dungeon World (This is a .RAR compressed file; there is link farther down the page for the PDF directly via Mediafire). Of course, the forum discussions were quite helpful here on the 'Geek. I can see that traditional RPG GMs can struggle with the novelty and "play to find out" nature of Dungeon World.

I used two really great apps for the art and record keeping on my iPad. (I really try to play as paperless as possible, no matter the game.) The first is Paper which is a great drawing app. I then exported the maps as pics to the Camera Roll on the iPad and then import them into Zoom Notes, a sort of limitless zoom and scroll handwriting/notes/sketch app. This is where I jotted down notes from the adventure.

So, verdict? Fun! Can't wait to play again. Will I abandon Pathfinder or stop grabbing little indie rulebooks to try? I doubt it. But this really is a lot of fun. In fact, I'd like to take the guidelines in the rules to try converting a published Pathfinder or old AD&D module. Although, as cool as that sounds, the "play to find out what happens" just seemed to work really well. Maybe that's all I need to do. And, let's face it, the higher the ratio of fun to prep is sweet!

For just $10 for the PDF, there's no reason not to take a look at Dungeon World and see if it's the game you've been wanting to play!
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Sun May 12, 2013 2:39 am
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