Sunday, September 21, 2014

K37 - Stress testing Thordar the fearless fencing dwarf.

The 31st session of Reclaiming Khazad-dum took a turn for the interesting when it became a single combat pitching one dwarf PC against temporarily PC'd orcs. Thordar has an interesting concept, embodied by his daredevil advantage and a selection of cinematic combat technique, machismo, reverse grip antics and overconfidence. Thordar shredded through two large panthers using single strikes to the vitals in the past, greatly simplifying an otherwise difficult encounter.  I wanted to stress test the PC while he ended up isolated and hurt. NPC orcs were given to other players to ensure that the brittle orcs got their very best shot in this fight. 

The background

Thordar was a bit too enthusiastic as a rear guard on the day that the dwarves collapsed the two approaches used by the orcs to assault Erebor's positions. Consequently, he got cut off from the main body, alone in the dark. His only known option was to follow a breakneck footpath on the wall of the unending well up to a small footbridge across. Scouts reported it, but never investigated the location. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

K36 - Cave-ins and squeezes

We are back to our main campaign after an eventful side quest where the Kraken died. The PCs are now free to move forward in any direction that they choose. This session was short as we played a metagame just before to set the stage. 

The initial situation ( a recap )

The viceroy's retinue returned from a venture in the 4th level with the Bride in tow. Deema, the bride, is prophetically bound to marry Durin's heir and produce the next and last incarnation of the mythical King. All dwarves seeing the bride are falling inexorably in love with the woman. The romantic tension is a bit much for everyone. She was farmed out of sight in the "Hatchet Dwelling", a small compound near the East Gate which was inhabited by farmers in the glory days of the old city. 

It was discovered during the delve that a great curse, probably the soul of the Balrog, had invested the bodies of the dwarven ancestors. The lot was now standing in the Hall of Trees, blocking the way forward along Durin's way with more than a thousand aggressive animated corpses. More worrisome is the fact that upon their second death, a shard of the curse is release and makes its way back to the bowels of Khazad-dum. 

Lastly, the curse is driving the dwarves mad. Their Will degrade over time until they turn into a rabble of incoherent, mad warriors that are virtually impossible to command. This is not helping that one orc nation called the "Hunters" is pushing them back from forward positions on the 2nd and 4th level. 

Getting caught on the wrong side of a cave-in (Bain, Thordar)

As first order of business, Bain sends scouts to identify the most effective chokepoint to block the hunters from attacking. They begin caving-in operations along the main road, the aqueduct underneath and a side passage from the Hatchet dwelling. The rear guard action is done by a small group of volunteers from the Silver-Attack. Thordar is also part of the rear guard as he can't pass on an occasion to be reckless. 

In the last moment before the final which is to seal the access to the hunters, Thordar gets carried aways on a pursuit and gets separated from the rear guard. By the time that he realizes that he is alone on the other side, he can hear the last warning of the imminent cave-in. Then comes a huge grinding noise and the underground road fills with dust. He is caught, alone, on the wrong side of the collapsed tunnel. Thordar quickly thinks and remembers a known footbridge discovered by scouts last week. That would be his only chance to escape before the hunters fill the base of Marzabul's stairs.  

Without looking back, Thordar slips west into the darkness in search of a way back to the East Gate. 

Bain had a great idea here and it worked quite well. To their knowledge, there are no alternate ways to reach their position from the stair from where the Hunters lauch raids. Thordar was involved in an abstracted MASS combat. He selected +2 for risks and lucked out. This is why he ended up separated from the main body and onto an adventure of his own.

Down they go: looking for a way to the underdeep (Khazek, Lathmelen)

Khazek was reunited with his rangers when they came back from across the Misty Mountains. The news from there were good and the danger of the watcher had not materialized. Khazek was looking for a way to get to the underdeep, get rid of the curse somehow and marry the bride. A logical first step was to descend through the known passage's to Halin's mine and try to break west from there. He considered taking a Lot (47 battle-guards, Axedwarves and crossbowmen), but decided to travel light with only his rockwalkers. 

The descent took about an hour until they got to a crossroad where all access had been caved-in by Halin some 15 years ago. The only way out was a gold mine to the south. The rangers started to look for alternatives. They found an aqueduct underneath the westward road that didn't get properly caved in. Or at least, Lathmelen's elf magic detected the weakness in the mess. They managed to get a squeeze opened that was large enough for broad-chested dwarves. They all crawled through and headed west. 

Just how big is Khazad-dum?

They spent about 6 hours traveling a well kept east-west road. They encountered multiple crossroads but kept on moving forward until they arrived to a major highway. There, they detected recent orc tracks, as well as cart tracks and fragment of the strangest of gold ore. Lathmelen positively identified it as gold ore, but there was something odd about the metal. She pocketed a few rocks and the ranger returned to the East gate to report on the finding. 

Upon their return, it was decided that a sizeable force would have to support the operation on the 4th deep. Elements of the Mithril and Bronze were ready to go while the Silver-Attack was paralyzed by an epidemic of dysentery. 

Meanwhile, in a folder full of parchemins nearby (Bain)

Bain decided to do a little HR work to place the best leader in the best positions. Particularly, in logistic posts where the long-term success of the venture resides.  While the rangers were deep underground and Thordar was lost and no one knew about it, Bain poured over rosters to identify candidates. Using his cunning, he met with sub-commanders to weed out the least competent and promote the best suited for a long underground offense in a terrifying environment (Leadership support check passed).  He identified the key roles, particularly in logistical positions, and matches the two lists (Admin check, supported by leadership).

As a consequence, a bunch of points will be awarded to decrease the dependence of sub-units to more convenient levels. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

K35 - A character sheet for a campaign

In this post, I present some ideas on sandboxing that I tried in my Reclaiming Khazad-dum campaign and report on how it went. 

The Gist

I made a character sheet for the campaign and I gave campaign points for the players to shape the campaign to their liking. 

The motivations

There are a few:
  1. It feels like personal awards are not always appropriate as most PCs are well into the 300 points range, yet I want to give awards for good play.
  2. I want the players to approach the Reclaiming part as a complex problem with lots of fire to put out, and complete freedom to decide how to go about it.
  3. I enjoy having dice tell me which way things are going to go.