Session 31 - The Battle at Travelers Lake
Foreword: This was a campaign milestone - Holgard finally broke the interplanar wall and joined the BrOSR multiverse; a mass battle at 1:10 was fought, and I overcame a personal hurdle of running classed NPCs with spells in combat.
Timekeeping:15/10/2022 - 23/10/2022 Downtime from 24/10/2022
Characters: Finesstro the Nimble, Caelestis the Wall, Malcolm Mount-Batten, Daubeny Jamwine, John Smith [H]
Malcolm Mount-Batten (who wasn't at the last session) had a lot of downtime to catch up on. Because of their last huge haul from the ancient ruins below a dwarven lair and immediate sale of a laser robot head to the local high level magic user he was suddenly rich enough in both XP and gold to spend 2 weeks going straight to level 3 Ranger! He rolled 8 and 2hp respectively. On top of this, he paid 1000gp in months of upkeep costs and earned 842gp hunting for 3 months (84 xp at 1:10 ratio) (Note: For downtime activities that earn money I should also include some method of determining if an adverse outcome occurs)
Finesstro [8/10/2022 - 14/10/2022] spent the week selling Comprehend Language casts in the Giant's Shin and made 50gp (5xp)
Caelestis [13/10/2022 - 14/10/2022] lost 6gp wrestling and betting in some old fighting pits - naked in the blood rain and all.
Daubeny [13/10/2022 - 14/10/2022] checks up on his dog that's being trained for him to ride. I rule that this will give him a loyalty bonus later - perhaps a scale of +1% per week spent with the dog, to some cap, is reasonable.
All level 3 party now! The last time this happened it took months because their previous Good PCs were Very Good™ and they did a lot of selfless and non-profitable things. We remarked on the differences - the last PCs had a great reputation and connections to noteworthy people, halved upkeep costs, etc. While these PCs are all exactly where they were in only a few sessions (though a decent amount of real-and-game time has elapsed due to interruptions to regular play).
With the Curse of Lamalla in full swing, the world has become an even harsher and more dangerous place. This session, the game opens up with the players discussing the weather. Some concern is given to the plight of the Underlanders with the recent loss of their Duke and exponential rise to power of a local cult, but, quite surprisingly, Finnestro the Nimble insists that with this insane cosmic event going on, it is their duty to do something about it (and get clout on twitter with the other BrOSR campaigns).
Everyone decides to split and try to find information from their respective information networks - Caelestis goes to the city guard, Daubeny to the Thieves Guild, Malcolm eats a meal at the pub, and Finesstro goes to Barbanikos. Unsurprisingly, asking the City Guard and the Thieves Guild about what to do about the week old cosmic curse didn't yield much - the Guard Captain Charder doesn't think the recent cult activity in the city, with the men who wear a tabard of a half-open eye, was related at all. He even went so far as to say that he believes they fight against this curse. The Thieves Guild are indifferent - the blood rain and diminished sunlight has made general thievery easier to accomplish.
This leaves Barbanikos (Malcolm didn't offer much as usual). Finesstro cruised over to his idol's gates, and the magical mouthpiece opened. Barbanikos' familiar, Brown Jenkin, answered the call and insisted that The Master was busy and couldn't help Finesstro right now. The mischievous familiar got busted answering his master's calls and soon enough Barbanikos was rambling away to the young magic user about a great cosmic battle that started with a prince's cursed sword in another plane of existence, and ended with Blibdoolpoolp cursing all consenting campaigns for 6 months of bad weather and scary sea monsters.
After Barbanikos' fourth wall breaking spiel and lamentation that Finesstro and co. were less than pawns in a side game of checkers while waiting for your turn in a 4D chess match, he decided to loan the young magic user a magical filleting knife, for slaying whatever aquatic horrors they come across. He also told him that there is bad juju coming from a lake north-west of the city, near Broken Hill. This confirmed all the players suspicions and once they regrouped, everyone agreed it was time to raise a small army and wipe out some cultists.
Caelestis pulls some strings in the Underland Guard, where he has done some downtime as a mercenary Lieutenant, as well as his class training, and gets 20 heavy foot with 2 serjeants, in exchange for a future favour and 1 month enlistment.
Everyone else heads to Castle Ardenward to the south-east while Caelestis gets to know the troops he is in charge of. The group is on horseback and, besides coming across a heavily armoured merchant caravan on the way, nothing else happens. Finesstro gives a genuinely compelling and heartfelt speech to the Baron about the importance of this mission, and the Baron grants him 60 heavy foot with 6 serjeants, 20 light crossbow with 2 serjeants, and 2 lieutenants. All with 1 week of rations. Finesstro donates 100gp to the village still struggling over a year later to fully get back on its feet after Session 16.
17/10/2022 - 19/10/2022
The players and the unmounted soldiers return to Underland without any encounters.
20/10/2022 - 22/10/2022
The citizens of Underland gather at the northern exit as the company, raising the banners of Ardenward and Underland, depart in the early morning to help save the world. Blood rain pelts down upon the backs of the soldiers as they march into the perilous beyond. For three days they trek, with constant blood rain soaking their equipment and breaking their spirits. The players try to rally the troops, but it is to not much avail. The journey wears down on everyone - but it passes without event. The nights are cold, wet, and stressful. Sickly red light from the moon fills everyone with unease. Strange noises carry over the plains.
Eventually they make it to their destination. Looking down from the top of a hill they can just make out Traveler's Lake... And at it is a horrific sight. Strange cyclopean obelisks stand around the lake now, and various robed and naked figures alike perform gruesome rituals in the pouring blood rain. Strange gurgling and splashes erupt in the lake. The party debates sending the thief and ranger down to get a closer look, but this gets scrapped, and they backtrack the whole company 2 miles. Tomorrow they will attack at dawn, as is the age old tradition, and just before this the ranger and thief will try to do a quick scouting mission.
Their night passes without event.
We switch to 1:10 for this fight, since Good has about 110 men while Evil has about 60 men, with NPCs as well. They are going to approach in a slight U shaped formation - 2 ranks of heavy foot 4 across, with the two figures of light crossbowmen in the rear. Their plan is to try and get close enough to surprise the enemy that their crossbowmen will get triple rate of fire and be within firing range.
The Battle at Travelers Lake [23/10/2022]
Note that this was played Theater of the Mind
Good advances down upon Evil. I rule that normal wilderness encounter distance applies (6d4") with a chance for surprise by the party which will dictate when the cultists notice the incoming force. Although the terrain is open, I adjudicate that this is reasonable due to the combination of the cultists being preoccupied, exhausted from a long night of rituals, and having heavy blood rain + mist obscuring the area.
The players make it 14" (140 yards) with 1 segment of surprise (reducing distance to 13") before they are noticed. The crossbowmen and players loose missiles at triple rate of fire with -5 penalty due to long range. Two figures of cultists get annihilated straight away. The next round the army starts to close, covering 6", while the remaining cultists band together after passing morale (their fanaticism and insanity are important here). The party notices about 5 armoured people, including the character from earlier, about 6" behind the group, and they are all wielding grotesque symbols. They begin to chant in some unholy tongue.
The army charges and collides with the cultists while crossbowmen loose. Finesstro casts a Magic Missile at the head cleric (supposedly anyway) and it interrupts his focus! The cultists are almost all annihilated immediately by the armoured and trained troops. There is only 1 figure left after the charge and they receive some sort of unholy blessing as the armoured figures finish their prayer, but it is to no avail - they break morale and flee, getting cut down by free +4 hits from the heavy foot. The party tries to loose some missiles at the priests, who are already fleeing to an altar further around the lake, and a couple shots land but they are generally unscathed. Finesstro has landed his 2 Magic Missiles for the day on the head dude.
The army approaches at their normal speed, cautiously observing the Evil clerics who have begun to chant and are all focused on the tallest among them. He, too, is chanting - but it gets interrupted by a final Magic Missile from Finesstro, who used up a spell scroll for the task! The others complete their chanting by the time the army closes and surrounds the altar, and the party groans as the wounds upon the head cleric are closed.
Being this close, they notice now that the man is queer in appearance - his face is elongated, his eyes bulbous and have a dead sheen, like that of a fish. The mail beneath his plate breastplate and shoulder-pads seems as if it is his skin. He stares blankly at the adventurers in a brief moment of quiet, the only sound being the droplets of blood rain casting the already ghastly scene in a truly horrific light.
In a dead-pan voice the army and party are warned to leave with their lives now and spare the Evil clerics.
Nobody even considers this and the surrounded and outnumbered clerics are cut down without pause.
Their blood spills upon the altar they were standing on.
Caelestis grabs the head clerics Horseman's Flail which he surmised must surely be magical.
The lake begins to gurgle and churn. Strange groans and croaks echo from within.
Suddenly the screams of men fill the air! The party looks and sees a figure of their army being stabbed and eaten by grotesque fish men who charged from the water, their angler like mouths opening and closing in the air. The army and party turn to run for their lives while more fish men emerge from the lake and cut down more fleeing men. Cooler heads recollect the force into a defensive retreat - Caelestis is at the front line of a figure of heavy foot, brandishing the wizard Barbanikos' enchanted filleting knife (given to him by Finesstro since he's much better suited to use it) and begins slashing at the fish men. Malcolm, the crossbowmen, and the heavy foot join in, but their attacks seem to have no effect as the horrific beasts set upon them with a primordial savagery. Finesstro and Daubeny are fleeing the scene. Caelestis, however, cuts a few of the creatures down - but it is not enough! A few rounds of slaughter occur, with insane morale rolls from the forces of Good fighting though they know it is for naught - for what else are they to do? Flee home while these horrors beset their lands, their homes, and their families? It is this same bravery that causes one figure and its serjeant to intercept the 20 fish men and give the rest of the company a chance to escape.
Out of 100 men plus their leaders, only 30 survived. The adventurers were unscathed. They recollected at their campsite, sending the remaining soldiers home while the party vowed to stay and complete their business here - to see if the fish men linger, and to pick at the possible treasures left behind on the bodies of their enemies. One would hope some plans to thwart Evil are in there but who can say?
The session ended at the date of our next session (a day after really). It was 12:30AM at this point, so we pulled a pin on it and will round off this during the week or at next session.
Post battle calculations of total HD of troops lost reveals that, despite the horrific ending, the forces of Evil incurred a greater loss... Barely. So it was a minor victory for the forces of Good!
Character Performance Ratings:
Finesstro - (E) - Finesstro behaved well as a Magic User here - preparing appropriate spells, staying in the back ranks, and acting as the ranged artillery/sniper he is meant to be in mass battle, trying to whittle down leaders with his spells. Didn't falter in using his magical scroll to get another opportunity at this. Of special note was his adherence to his alignment, as far as Good is concerned.
Caelestis - (E) - Played heroically and in true leader fashion, fighting among the front ranks and leading his troops. Behaved rationally. Some questionable interactions related to his greed, but ultimately his actions reflected Good.
Daubeny - (E) - Acted as a scout, avoided fighting on the front line. Demonstrated Good in his compassion for the soldiers and the immensity of their task.
Malcolm - (E) - Flowed appropriately between front and back rank; utilised his abilities as a ranger to scout ahead with silence and improve odds of surprise for the company. Was compassionate towards the soldiers.
Downtime Requests: This party is in stasis until 23/10/2022 (the day of the battle).
Comments: It didn't end up meaning much, but finally pushing over the hump of using classed NPCs in combats and managing spells felt like a personal victory. 1:10 finally clicked. When the PCs figures were getting killed by the fish men I should have checked to see if any PCs got killed/damaged. Otherwise it played really smoothly. There was some friction with distances but I believe that, if you are playing Theater of the Mind, good enough with regards to distances is acceptable. This is not to say you can just make it all up - but that aiming to do it right will mean it's right. 1" here or there, is neither here nor there.
We also finally forced our way into the BrOSR multiverse. Very epic.