Sunday 24 March 2024

Turn 54: The Thrappled Lemmings and The Amazing Minotaur (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 It was market day in Fikaby and everyone was in good spirits because the Thrappled Lemmings had reopened the roads to free trade.

"The beer must flow," said each villager to their neighbours as they went about their daily business. It had become a greeting in the village thanks to the Thrappled Lemmings.

"The beer must flow," said Hannah Rustinale, proprietor of the Halfskinned Eel (there was a story behind that name) to the Lemmings as they took their breakfast.

"The beer shall flow," chorused the Lemmings back.

In the spirit of the statement, they knocked back more than usual quantities of beer, but no one minded because the Lemmings had gold to spare these days, and hanging out with the locals was generating a lot of good will at some small cost in that gold. While the others drank, Drogo trained. He was determined not to get wounded so badly again. Meanwhile, Onesipe was busily selling the triptychs they had found.

After the important business of the day was done, Lysanthir convened a party meeting over dinner. The agenda was where next to seek treasure. The debate was hot, but the majority of the group opted to seek out the monster lair to the north of Fikaby. It would be doing their hosts a service, which might lead to free beer, and the monster almost certainly had a decent hoard of treasure for them to plunder. This decided, they went to bed early, ready to rise at dawn and head out after the monster.

The approach to the monster's lair was straightforward, and, as usual, Fulrad was volunteered to scout the area for the entrance to the monster's den while the others hung back and prepared themselves. Lysanthir drank the Fiery Wine which felt like a bad case of acid reflux, but the ability to breathe fire was novel for him. The others did their stretching exercises and waited.

Fulrad sneaks up on a pig

Fulrad sneaked through the low hills and light woods north of Fikaby. His senses were attuned to the noises around him, the sound of Wido whining behind him, the rustling of a pig in the woods ahead. He stepped carefully and approached the first likely location that he needed to scout. There was a pig here.

Wait! That's no pig!

A Minotaur was eating it. He had found the monster and caught it by surprise. He called the others forward and took up a position on the edge of the woods where he could still see the Minotaur as Sir Thiebault, Drogo and Wido formed up to advance on the beast. Onesipe and Lysanthir joined him.

The Thrappled Lemmings gawk at the supposed pig

Sir Thiebault gave the signal. Onesipe, Fulrad and Wido fired in unison. Onesipe missed by a good country mile, while Fulrad's shot was stopped by the beast's armour. Wido's shot stunned the monster. Lysanthir breathed fire in the beast's general direction, missing wildly.

Drogo charged and his axe cleaved a deep wound into the Minotaur's flank. The Minotaur bellowed as Drogo's next swing went wild and it flung him 30 feet through the air to land winded and gasping. Sir Thiebault raced in and found himself also flung back to land beside Drogo, although his armour prevented him from being hurt worse than that.

Lysanthir was the next to fly through the air as the Minotaur charged him. He had got too close and got off lightly as he landed unhurt thanks to his armour. Onesipe and Fulrad retreated to stand beside Lysanthir. Wido charged. Unable to hurt the Minotaur, he was still able to push it back. Sir Thiebault, thinking to aid Wido charged but was thrown through the air. The only thing that saved him from disaster was his armour. Drogo followed up and carved another slice out of the Minotaur's flanks. In a furious melee, Drogo found his speed and suddenly his axe went snicker-snack. He cut more wounds into the creature which was driven back, but charged again, only to face Drogo's axe once more. Drogo swung and cleaved its head in two.

The Thrappled Lemmings conclude that all those recent knocks on the head have taught Drogo how to fight at last!

Breathing hard, the Thrappled Lemmings looked around for loot. It seemed like the Minotaur had mostly been hoarding the weapons of those that tried to slay it. The Lemmings gathered up a selection of weapons that they found and headed back to Fikaby to report the news.

Well, that was a battle of two halves! At first I thought that the Thrappled Lemmings had forgotten to sharpen their weapons, because all they rolled were 1s when trying to get past the Minotaur's armour of 1. Then suddenly Drogo found his Vorpal Axe of Snicker-Snack and slew the monster in the course of two full rounds of melee. That really could have gone a lot worse, and nearly did.

Monday 18 March 2024

Turn 53: The Thrappled Lemmings Help the Beer Flow (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 Wido woke one morning with a sore shoulder. By the end of breakfast, everyone else was sick of his complaining, but still it went on. To get away from the moaning, Drogo and Fulrad headed off to train until the group was ready for today's patrol. Sigrid the Beggar was in Fikaby at this point and she told Lysanthir something useful about the surrounding area. Her travels gave her access to a lot of information, and it was quite likely, Lysanthir surmised, that she was more than just a poor beggar. Nevertheless, he gave her a few gold pieces to tide her over and keep her on side.

With the business of the day sorted, the Thrappled Lemmings headed out on patrol once more.

"The beer must flow," was Lysanthir's explanation.

"The beer must flow," chorused the others.

Their patrol began well, and they encountered Arngrim the Priest who told them that the roads seemed much safer already, but that he had seen some dodgy people on his journey. He directed the Thrappled Lemmings to the place where he had seen them. The party headed off in that direction. It was heartening that Arngrim had not mentioned seeing any Orcs at all, so these must just be the usual run of the mill robbers.

As they patrolled up the road, they heard cries from up ahead.

"Stand and deliver! Your money or your life!"

"Ah, no, please, I don't have anything of value. I am just a poor merchant!"

"Ha! A 'poor' merchant? Yes, I have heard that one before. And, of course, you always pay your taxes on time and in full! Hah! Right! Hand it over! All of it! We are tax collectors, not robbers, and we are here to ensure that Jarl Bodvarr receives his rightful share, so that he can continue to protect people like you from robbers and brigands and bandits."

The Thrappled Lemmings needed to hear no more. They raced forward, splitting up to cover both sides of the road.

"Ware Lemmings!" cried a look-out, who had seen them approaching at the last minute.

The bandit leader ordered his men into position. The merchant, who did not look that poor after all, took the opportunity to race off to safety in the woods.

"I really don't need this," moaned Wido, "My shoulder hurts."

Onesipe started the fight by firing at the armoured bandit who had given the warning.

"Tis but a flesh wound," cried the bandit.

One of the bandit crossbowmen fired at Onesipe and wounded him. Onesipe returned fire and wounded the bandit, who fired back again and laid Onesipe out.

The bandit leader and his sidekick attacked Fulrad and Wido, but were pushed back and Wido wounded the sidekick before killing him. The wounded crossbowman took to his heels at this point. He had done his bit and someone needed to survive to tell Jarl Bodvarr what had happened to his taxes.

Wido and Fulrad attacked the bandit leader and it was not long before the leader had fallen. Drogo and Sir Thiebault did the same on their side of the battlefield and slew a bandit. As the bandits fell one by one, it became too much, and the last two bandits fled for home, both wounded. The Thrappled Lemmings held the field once more and were now certain that the beer would flow, as it must. The crossbow bolt that had felled Onesipe had merely knocked him out, and he was soon up and complaining about his headache just as much, and just as irritatingly, as Wido was complaining about his bad shoulder.

The merchant had fled leaving a bag of elegant triptyches that the Thrappled Lemmings would sell well and another sack of fine cheeses and bottles of wine, so the Lemmings could count the day a proper victory. They returned to Fikaby for a celebratory ale.

"Well, that's the roads open again. What say we head back to the Temple and plunder it for all it's worth?" Lysanthir asked the group. A hefty debate ensued as they considered their options.

Sunday 17 March 2024

Turn 52: The Thrappled Lemmings and the Bad Wolves (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 Once more the Thrappled Lemmings were feted by a tavern keeper. This time it was the owner of The Brimming Stein who paid their bills and benefited from their presence. Even with the cost of the various breakages, the owner came out ahead on this deal. Wido spent a Mark on getting the dent removed from his helmet, while the others spent time meeting and drinking with the locals. Based on the tales told in the tavern that day, it was a wonder the Lemmings were not each 10 feet tall, so great was their prowess in battle. Then it was time for a trip to the market, where more Tonic was purchased and they sold as much loot as they could. Lysanthir also spent some time researching the tales of monsters in the fog. He identified this monster lair as being near Haitabu.

With the business of the day seen to, the Thrappled Lemmings chose to go on patrol in a bid to make the area safe for beer deliveries everywhere. As they patrolled the area around Fikaby, they chanced upon some unsavoury types making life hard for a humble pie maker.

"Wolves," announced Fulrad, "and they have an Orc champion with them. Can't allow that, can we?"

The Thrappled Lemmings split into two groups to cover more ground. They needed to scout the area to make sure they had cleared out all the wolves before they were done. Lysanthir, Onesipe and Wido took the left flank and the others the right.

Fulrad, Drogo and Sir Thiebault advanced quickly through a wooded grove and made sure it was clear. They could hear the wolves ahead of them, but could not see them yet. The area was covered in small copses and low hills, so it was not possible to see far at all.

Onesipe and Wido were the first to see wolves, as they crested a low rise. They paused and took aim. Onesipe's crossbow shot wounded a wolf, and Wido finished it off with a bow shot. The remaining wolves charged forwards and were soon snapping at our heroes. As a wolf came rushing forward, Fulrad wounded it with an arrow, then Sir Thiebault stepped in and cut it down. Onesipe wounded the champion with a crossbow shot, and Wido finished him off with an arrow.

Suddenly four more wolves burst out from the top of a wooded hill nearby. They charged the Thrappled Lemmings and soon Wido and Drogo were in a desperate fight for their lives. Wido drove back his attackers and wounded one of them. Drogo was wounded himself. Lysanthir cast a quick healing spell on him. Fulrad shot one of the wolves and this loss was too much for another of them which fled with its tail between its legs. With the wolves' numbers much reduced, the Thrappled Lemmings were quickly able to defeat the rest of them. Barring minor cuts, none of them were hurt, so they looted the corpses and headed back to the Elf's Rest for a hearty dinner and a post-prandial drink or three.

From scouting the corpses and from a crude map in the pouch of the Orc champion, the party leared of two areas that could bear exploration and might be sources of loot. They also found a bottle that Lysanthir identified as Fiery Wine, a magical potion that allowed a person to breathe fire for a short while.

Saturday 16 March 2024

Turn 51: The Thrappled Lemmings and the Bandits' Trap of Inescapable Doom (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 It was harvest time and Fikaby was a hive of activity, as the Thrappled Lemmings could clearly see. They were fascinated by this and were offered pay if they would help out, but they decided that watching other people work was hard enough without actually exerting themselves to do it too. This created a bit of bad feeling, and they found themselves being charged a supplement for their dinner. Drogo spent part of his time at the healer, being ministered to and declared himself fit to fight shortly after. Meanwhile, Lysanthir spent time practising his spells and doing research. He soon discovered that one of the monsters in the fog had its lair to the west of Elsfjord Kloster (-6 Adventure Points). While this was going on, Onesipe was at the market buying more Tonic. It was pretty much a certainty that it would be needed again soon.

Later, the Thrappled Lemmings prepared to march out of Fikaby. Their plan was to patrol the area for the last remnants of the Orcs, who were hindering trade and robbing people. Their secondary goal was to find a small chest that one of the village elders had been robbed of. It did not take long for them to chance upon a likely  group of unsavoury Orcish robbers who were up to no good. The robbers challenged the Thrappled Lemmings to hand over their worldly wealth, but the Thrappled Lemmings were reluctant to do so. And that is how the fight started.

Red arrows show Orcish movements. Blue show the Thrappled Lemmings

Wido raced over to the nearest bandit and was promptly wounded. Driven back, he gave the bandit time to fire a shot at him and he was taken out of the fight. The bandit sergeant raced up the hill towards Fulrad. Sir Thiebault charged. The bandit sergeant died. A new group of bandits appeared as Lysanthir recovered the box. Fulrad and Onesipe fired as fast as they could but their shots did not count for anything. Drogo raced to the fray in the field and slew two bandits in quick succession. Soon there was nothing to see but dead bandits near the road and the dust from the two who chose discretion over valour. Wido was unwounded, but his helmet had taken a solid hit and was damaged.

The Thrappled Lemmings returned to town, where they learned that monsters had taken up residence in some old ruins near Haitabu. They toasted this potential new source of income and drank the night away together, happy that Wido was unharmed.

That went a lot quicker than expected. The only problem was Wido getting carried away and charging on ahead of the others. He will know better next time, we hope. As it happened, Drogo just carved his way through the bandits who arrived as a result of the Unknown Enemy marker. My missile troops were rubbish though. There is now a new delve on the map, and we have identified a previously unexplored area as a monster lair. It would be really quite easy to continue this campaign until the map is completely full of adventure sites with the way the random events go. So many side quests, so little time!

Sunday 10 March 2024

Turns 49-50: The Thrappled Lemmings and the Mist-Clad Warband (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 The day dawned bright and full of promise, in part because Drogo was still alive. Fulrad had found a nearby cave that seemed dry and they had all camped there for the night. Sir Thiebault had spotted a large stag and had gone off in pursuit, and Lysanthir was out looking for herbs and medicinal plants. Onesipe's first job was to feed Drogo some Tonic to help his healing. He would still not be able to fight on this raid, but he would live and they could collect him from the cave on their way back from the raid.

Sir Thiebault retured a short while later. Jarnhauss the Mule was laden with animal pelts that could be sold for a goodly sum at market. Lysanthir returned with two portions of Springwind Berries. He and Sir Thiebault ate them as the party headed out to the Orc camp.

Fulrad reported back to the party, "Doesn't look like there are many of them, but there is some kind of Hellbeast with them. I don't like it!"

The party made good use of cover and it was only when Fulrad crested a rise on a low wooded hill and had a view to the camp that they were spotted and the alarm was called. Fulrad's first shot only annoyed the Infernal Spawn and it responded by charging up the hill at him. As this action unfolded, Lysanthir called out a warning.

"There's more of them coming!"

He had spotted a new group of Orcs returning to the camp. As he called out this warning, Wido raced to join the melee. The Trollslayer engaged the Infernal Spawn and cut it down with two strikes of his trusty war spear. He quickly drew his bow and loosed a shot at an Orc archer, wounding it. A rapid melee followed. Two Orcs died and one discovered that it wanted to be somewhere else instead and took rapid steps in that direction. Of the remaining Orcs, two were wounded, including their commander who bellowed at them to attack the Lemmings. The last of the Orcs attacked and were quickly cut down. Even the Orc lieutenant proved no match for Sir Thiebault, who dispatched him easily.

With none of their number hurt this time, the Lemmings had plenty of time to loot the Orcs' camp. The loot was good too. A pair of magical boots, some camp gear and a decent hoard of gold Marks were added to documents indicating the summoning site for the Infernal Spawn, a place that might be worth investigating further.

"Well, I reckon those Orcs are not going to be bothering us again any time soon," commented Sir Thiebault.

"There will be songs sung in the taverns about us now, right enough," said Lysanthir.

"Yup, I'm looking forward to hearing The Ballad of Wido the Hellspawnslayer," Wido agreed.

Lysanthir gave Wido a sour look and then The Thrappled Lemmings gathered everything up and headed back to where they had left Drogo. They would leave for Fikaby in the morning.

As it turned out, the following day was miserable. Still, they fed Drogo more Tonic and prepared to set out. As they did so, a humble priest begged leave of them to shelter in their cave. He introduced himself as Godi Jon, a godi without Hof or home but who roamed Utavoll to wherever his services were needed. The Thrappled Lemmings shared their breakfast with him, told him their tale and then each parted in different directions as friends.

On the way to Fikaby, Sir Thiebault hunted and returned with two large wild boar that would feed the Lemmings for ages if they preserved the meat. Lysanthir foraged for herbs and found a single dose of Springwind Berries.

Upon their arrival in Fikaby, all the talk was about a monster that had been spotted in the fog. It appeared that spotting monsters in the fog was fashionable now.

That's a lot of Five Leagues from the Borderlands this weekend! The Orc threat has been destroyed and I can see an end point in sight for the campaign. There are a few levels of The Temple delve to complete, and I feel like the Lemmings would ride patrol so that new trade can come in to the settlements. Beyond that, it is tempting to clear out all these monster lairs. There is likely to be a lot of treasure in these places, so the Lemmings would gravitate towards them. That could mean a dozen more turns, depending how badly Drogo gets injured each time, but I do not see the current arc continuing beyond that. I have made mistakes with the rules along the way, and still find myself missing things occasionally in the heat of battle, but I am happy with how it has all gone so far, and do not feel like the mistakes have advantaged or disadvantaged me in the long run. I wonder if all of the Lemmings will survive to the end of the arc though. Drogo seems to be getting hurt more and more. On the other hand, Wido is really turning into a monster killing machine, so maybe he can keep Drogo alive if I run out of Story Points for that purpose.

I do not have The Ancient Land of Dust supplement, so it is tempting to get that, but I prefer physical books to pdfs, which leaves me on the fence, even if it would provide a new direction for the next arc. Ah well, there is still time, and I do plan to focus on something else for a while after this campaign reaches a natural stopping point.

Turn 48: The Thrappled Lemmings and the Ravening Man-Beast (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 With their recent victories over the Orcs, the Thrappled Lemmings found themselves being feted in the Drunken Kobold and did not have to put their hands in their purses for a while. They made the most of this, but the tavern keeper still came out ahead as the locals flocked to the tavern to meet the heroes of the hour. Despite the free beer, Sir Thiebault and Drogo spent time training, while Lysanthir talk their most recent haul of loot to the market to sell it. He also took the opportunity to buy more Tonic. He had a feeling they would need it again, so best to stockpile. With the business done, the Lemmings reluctantly left the tavern and hit the road. They had heard of an Orc camp to the north in Orkheim and were going to burn it to the ground. The Orcs were causing a lot of trouble for the locals and hindering both trade and beer deliveries.

The journey to the camp was uneventful. It rained a bit and Wido complained a bit, but this was normal. The mountains of Orkheim were hard going, The advantage to them was that there was plenty of cover, so sneaking up to scout the camp was easier than usual. The main body of the Orc force was gathered around a camp fire in the ruins of an old mountain person's hut. Other Orcs were on heights around the place as sentries.

"Bad news," announced Fulrad, who was the Thrappled Lemmings' designated scout, "They are Orc main force warriors and they have a Ravening Beast Form with them."

"A what?" asked Onesipe.

"A werewolf, dumbass!" replied Fulrad, "Don't get bit!"

Onesipe muttered at that but held his peace. He knew better than to squabble when they were preparing to attack someone.

"Right, follow me. I think I have found a way to get close to them without being seen too soon," declared Fulrad.

He led the way. The party wormed their way around the hills and across the rocky ground. They had got as far as a rocky hill before Fulrad was spotted.

"CHARGE!" yelled Sir Thiebault, because it was now tradition that he do so.

Suddenly, there was a horde of Orcs charging towards the rocky knoll that Fulrad was standing on.

"Orcs, lads! Fahsands of 'em!"

As the Orcs raced towards them, the bulk of the party took up a position on the rocky knoll that made it hard for the Orcs to reach them easily. The archers of the party loosed arrow after arrow, but only Onesipe wounded an Orc. Sir Thiebault charged the flank of the Orcish advance and slew the first hostile. The Orcs were not made of stern stuff, and this caused one of their number to flee. Lysanthir took this opportunity to race for the Orcish camp.

"I'll check and see if there are more of them there!"

As the Orcs swarmed the hill, Fulrad was wounded, but his Harness of Vengeance inflicted a wound on his opponent and he pushed it back. The werewolf assaulted Drogo and cut him down as if he wasn't there. It's bloodlust up, it immediately leapt at Wido who fended it off for a moment and then thrust his spear through it. This was more than its regenerative powers could handle and it died impaled by Wido's spear. With their leader dead, the Orcs were demoralised. That did not stop three of them charging Sir Thiebault, who cut each down in turn, although he was wounded in the process. Wido slew another Orc and Lysanthir looted the Orc camp. The remaining Orc looked at the corpses of its comrades and fled.

"That's another Orc camp pacified," announced Sir Thiebault as he and the others bandaged their wounds and checked on Drogo who was very badly hurt and would clearly take a while to heal.

As they did this, Fulrad was checking around. He returned to the group a short while later.

"Hey, I found tracks leading away. I followed them and there is another camp with more Orcs nearby. I know we have weakened the Orcs considerably, but we should probably do something about that now."

So, the final random event of the turn turned up another Orc camp in the same area. I guess this is the dice's way of telling me to finish off the Orcs!

Saturday 9 March 2024

Turns 46-47: The Thrappled Lemmings Recover (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 It took a couple of weeks for the rest of the party to start talking to Lysanthir again. It helped that Lysanthir found a wandering healer to help Fulrad. Between the Tonic they fed him, trips to the healer and plenty of rest, Fulrad was soon ready to get his revenge on the Orcs. While it cost them half their savings, they reckoned it was for the best, and they would recoup the money soon enough.

As soon as Fulrad was better, the Lemmings sat down to plan their next raid. There was an Orc hideout to the north of Fikaby and within a half day's travel. This would be their target. They set out. Many a black look was directed at Lysanthir, who knew to take the hint. He would not run this time.

The Orc hideout was well defended and well fortified. Large Orcs massed on the battlements with archers and there were sentries all over. The rocky hills here provided some cover, but the last part of the approach would be over open ground. This could get messy.

The Thrappled Lemmings took up position on a hill overlooking the Orc's hideout. Lysanthir, determined to prove himself, raced off from their position towards one of the sentries. He was spotted immediately.

"CHARGE!" yelled Sir Thiebault unnecessarily; the Thrappled Lemmings knew the drill.

Arrows flew. An Orc was wounded. And suddenly Orcs were swarming from all over towards the Thrappled Lemmings. Sir Thiebault was the first to engage an Orc with his sword and soon found that these Orcs were tougher than average. Fortunately, his armour held. Drogo raced to aid Lysanthir, whose desire to right the previous wrong had got him into real trouble.

Drogo ploughed into the side of an Orc. Several blows later, it lay dead. Sir Thiebault was wounded by the Orc he faced. Onesipe and Wido quickly ran out of ammunition without hurting any Orcs. Lysanthir fought furiously against the Orc but the only thing that kept him alive was his Ring of Protection which warded off the blows. Eventually, he managed to sneak a blow in below the Orc's guard and it fell, but it had been close. Meanwhile, the remaining Orcs were storming towards the Thrapple Lemmings and their archers were firing from the battlements, wounding Drogo.

Wido charged in to aid Sir Thiebault. The Orc died, caught unawares by the flank attack. In a lull in the fight, Sir Thiebault and Drogo both bandaged their wounds, only for Drogo to be wounded again as one of the Orc captains assaulted him. The other captain attacked Wido and was driven back. An Orc soldier then died at Wido's hands.

The Orc archers concentrated their fire on Lysanthir, who was nearest them. Luckily, his pocket diary took the hit for him as one of the arrows struck his chest. However, it was too much for one of the archers, who ran upon seeing his comrades falling.

Then Fulrad put an arrow straight through the ears of one of the Orc captains. He pumped his fist and turned to find a new target. Sir Thiebault and Wido worked together and soon Wido was able to slay the captain. With their captains dead, the remaining Orcs were quickly slain or fled as fast as they could. The Thrappled Lemmings held the field and the supplies that the Orcs had been stockpiling. They took the valuables, destroyed the rest and returned to Fikaby for dinner. While eating their dinner, they learned that a monster had been spotted in the fog. No one knew where its lair was though.

Turn 45: The Thrappled Lemmings and the Massing Orcish Horde

 The day dawned, as it always did for the Thrappled Lemmings, with a slight hangover and an emptier purse. This time, though, the Lemmings' funds were lighter than usual. Someone had robbed them in the night, or perhaps while they were drinking and not paying attention. Either way, 2 Marks were missing. A further 2 Marks bought them food for a while and a visit to the healer for Drogo cost 1 Mark more. The Lemmings were feeling flush, so they did not worry too much about the missing money. They could find the culprits and give them a good thrashing later. Lysanthir took time out to pray to the gods of the Fey. He felt that lately the Thrappled Lemmings needed a bit more help than usual. Afterwards, he felt blessed, as though the communion had had a positive effect.

While Drogo was at the healer and Lysanthir was praying, the others headed to the market. Pickings were slim, but they managed to sell all their loot and buy some Tonic for the next time that Drogo got injured.

With everything that was going on and Orcs massing close to Fikaby, the choice of what to do next was easy for the Lemmings. They packed up their gear and headed off to the Orc camp that had sprung up near Fikaby. With any luck, they could scatter the Orcs and be back in time for last orders at the Tankard and Turtle.

They found the camp in the sparsely wooded, rocky hills to the north-west of the village. The Orcs had set up camp on a hill with good views across the landscape. It would be hard to get close to the main camp where the Orc leader was haranguing his minions with a voice like a drill sergeant.

The Thrappled Lemmings split into two groups. They would try a pincer movement to roll up the enemy force. All went well until Fulrad reached the edge of a wooded grove. Suddenly a previously unseen Orc sentry shouted the alarm.

"CHARGE!" yelled Sir Thiebault. He liked yelling "CHARGE!" It made him feel in charge.

Fulrad opened the engagement by shooting an Orc in the back. Well, he tried anyway, and realised that he had forgotten to restock his quiver. He only had two arrows left. Onesipe shot an Orc sentry, and the others advanced. The Orcs round the camp fire spotted Lysanthir and all charged him. Overwhelmed, he staggered back, bleeding. Drogo charged the Orc leader after Fulrad's second last arrow bounced off his armour. The leader drove Drogo back. Lysanthir retreated and bandaged his wounds.

Meanwhile, Wido shot one of the Orc archers by the fire and wounded it. The Orc leader stepped forward and cut Fulrad down without even breaking a sweat, only to fall himself as the curse on Fulrad's Harness of Vengeance took its toll. Lysanthir now stood along against three Orc hunters.

Wido shot and killed an archer. Sir Thiebault charged the camp but the Orc was made of tough stuff and all his blows did little more than stun it. The wounded Orc shot Sir Thiebault and wounded him. Beset by three Orcs, Lysanthir was slowly driven back. In a brief pause in the fight, he took the opportunity to flee.

"I knew these Thief's Boots would come in handy one day," he muttered as his legs carried him back to Fikaby and a restorative ale.

The Orcs that had been chasing him turned their attention to Sir Thiebault, whom Wido was racing to support. With that, the fight was soon over. Sir Thiebault and Wido slew the remaining Orcs in short order and the remaining Lemmings set about plundering the camp and checking their comrades in that order of importance. Drogo had just been knocked out, but Fulrad was seriously injured and would be out of the fight for a while.

As they searched, they realised that the Orc leader was a key member of the horde and that his death would hinder the Orcs efforts against the village.

The Lemmings returned to Fikaby in time for a hearty meal and some good ale. They did not speak to Lysanthir, but did learn from the innkeeper that a plague had broken out at Elstein Kloster.

Thursday 7 March 2024

Deadly Woman Yie: Pilot Episode (Warfighter: Shadow War)

 I've been playing a bit of Warfighter: Shadow War lately to try to get my head around the night rules. They are not that difficult, but they require you to track more things and it feels like my brain is ossifying lately. I mentioned the game to my poor, long-suffering friend Steve, because I thought it was quite cool tooling around in an SAS Land Rover with the Desert Storm: Operation Granby mission pack, as I have done for the last few games. His reluctance to play a Gulf War themed game is understandable, and I share it to some extent, but I got carried away with Land Rovers. So, I have decided to start a new military-themed K-drama to try to persuade him that Warfighter has merit and could be something we play at some point. I know he likes K-dramas.

Shadow War does not include a lot of player nations. Fortunately, it is 100% compatible with the main Warfighter game and the hostiles in the base game are North Korean. So, I grabbed the South Korea pack and set up a quick mission. Very quick, as it turned out. I picked the mission GO GO GO! because it is short but I did not expect it to be as short as it was. The mission card told me how many points I had. I then chose the objective which was to stop an escaping VIP by destroying his helicopter. After that, I picked the insertion and extraction method, in this case entrance and exit by Zodiac, with a view to what skills I would need for my soldier. I knew it would only be one soldier because 27 points does not buy you a lot, especially when you have to pay for night skills and gear.

Sergeant Yie is ready for action

The soldiers in the base game do not have Shadows skill or night vision goggles, which is the main difference between the two sets. Given that the game is about sneaking, I chose Shadows 8+ skill (the best you can get in the game) and a set of 3rd Gen Night Goggles for my soldier. I also picked out a suppressed K7 SMG and equipped it with 3 mags of heavy, subsonic ammo (Black Ammo: it makes less noise so you know it makes sense). Then I chose my soldier when I knew how many points I had left. Yie fit the bill nicely and there were a few points left over to buy a couple of grenades  in case things went south and some covert gear to improve her chances of things not going south.

Game setup. Dice tower to the right. My team at the bottom. Cards to draw at the top and the mission, objective, insertion and extraction cards on the game mat.

After that, it was time to see how the mission went. The chosen insertion method reduced the game length by two turns, so I would have to keep moving to succeed.

Deadly Woman Yie (Pilot episode)

Scene: A briefing room. An angry Major in army uniform is yelling at a young woman wearing the stripes of a sergeant.

"You're all we have, Sergeant Yie! If there were anyone else, I would use them! You're a maverick and a danger to all those around you! I don't even know how you have avoided being dismissed from the army so far! Well, don't mess this up! Your mission is to head to [REDACTED] Airfield and intercept General Vega M. Elk. We know he has been meeting with his North Korean counterpart to coordinate the activities of his Shadow Corps with their own actions to destabilise the Republic of Korea and our allies. GO THERE! GET HIM! AND DON'T MESS THIS UP!"

Spittle flew from Major E. Vent's mouth as he yelled this last. Yie was unmoved. She had heard it all before.

"Yes, Sir!" She affirmed and turned to go off and pack her gear, assuming that she was dismissed. Major Vent watched her back balefully.

Scene: A river bank. Text on the screen tells us this is [REDACTED], North Korea. A black rubber raiding craft approaches silently across the water. Understated music builds tension.

Sergeant Yie piloted her Zodiac into the reeds beside the river bank. She slipped stealthily over the side of the small boat into the shallow water and moved confidently but quietly forward. Ahead she could see the lights of a small airfield. She scanned the area carefully with her nightvision goggles, and spent a moment to consider the open field ahead of her. It was quiet. Too quiet. As she paused, hostiles approached.

 She had been right not to head out immediately. She sank back into the river bank and waited. The hostiles approached and she flipped on her goggles. It was a patrol of soldiers. They were sharing a cigarette and seemed oblivious to her presence. As she watched, they approached her position. She was ready to shoot if she had to, but she hoped they would pass her by ... for their sake.

Luckily for the hapless and careless soldiers, they just walked right past her. She moved out into the field, keeping low. Ahead she could see a black helicopter with the maroon Elk horns logo of General Elk on it. The pilot was doing pre-flight checks. Nearby she could make out more hostiles. She moved in and prepared to engage.

As she approached the hostiles, she got a better look at them. A trace of annoyance at herself flashed across her face.

"You're getting too jumpy, Yie," she muttered to herself, "Don't let what happened at [REDACTED] get to you. Focus! That was a bad time but you need to be here and now, not distracted by then."

What she had thought were hostiles turned out to be fuel drums stacked near the helipad. Just shadows. Not real.

She inched forward to just a few metres from the helicopter. From the cover of a tarpaulin-covered supply stack, she could see the hulking figure of General Elk in the back of the helicopter. She swung her K9 round and fired off a burst of rounds. The glass of the helicopter's windows shattered. General Elk twitched in the back. She was certain she had hit him. The pilot lifted the helicopter off and managed to get 20 metres up before she shifted aim from the General to him. A single snap shot killed him instantly and the helicopter plunged back to the helipad out of control spraying fuel all over.

A moment later the helicopter exploded.

"Mission complete," Yie told herself and moved swiftly but silently back to her Zodiac, the way lit by the glare of burning aviation fuel. She climbed into the raft and paddled quietly away.

Credits roll

Post credits scene: The camera focuses on the burning helicopter. A hulking, burning figure crawls from the wreckage, obviously hurt. A scarred face turns to camera as the figure lies on the ground and snarls at us.


That went a lot more smoothly than the games I played over the past few nights. The biggest hiccup was not drawing any location cards at the start, so my first turn involved using all my actions to draw cards. A single hostile who just walked right past my soldier was little threat. Having the helicopter only guarded by shadows was a serious bonus. The objective card only gave me 2 turns to destroy the helicopter, and you have to eliminate the hostiles first, because they screen it. Drawing cards that meant I automatically defeated the helicopter's defence rating was very handy. No reinforcements turned up, and being able to illuminate my exit point made it easier to get out. All in all, that went about as smoothly as a mission can, and the noise level never even got close to waking all the bad guys.

Let's hope the studios enjoyed this pilot episode and buy the series, so that Deadly Woman Yie can return in a new feature: Army of One.

Sunday 3 March 2024

The Faceless Kingdom: An invading regular military force for Five Leagues from the Borderlands

No one knows where the Faceless Kingdom originated. All they know is that it is not from round here. The Faceless Kingdom represents the military forces of a neighbouring kingdom that has decided it wants to take possession of Utavoll and make its inhabitants subjects of The King on the High Throne.

I have chosen to use my Normans for The Faceless Kingdom. They have sat unpainted for decades now, and this was just the push I needed to get more of them painted. All the figures here are 15mm Two Dragons Productions figures. Some of them I bought back when Two Dragons was still a company in its own right.

The weakest of the Legions are the Unmarked. With only basic weapons and no armour, they have yet to prove themselves on the battlefield.

Unarmoured Soldiers

If the members of the Unmarked Legion survive, they may be recruited into the Legions of the Weasel, Owl, Raven or Swine. These are soldiers who have survived a battle or two and are equipped with padded hauberks, decent shields and better weapons.

Soldiers in padded hauberks

The Legions of the Ox, Lion, Viper, Wolverine, Mole, Eagle and Iron are all proven soldiers. They have mail coats and the best weapons.

Armoured soldiers

Missile support is provided by slingers for the Unmarked Legion and the Legion of the Weasel. They are the least of the legions and there is little point in giving them the best weapons.

Slingers of the Legions

Missile support for all the other legions is provided by crossbowmen.

Crossbowmen of the Legions

Turns 43-44: The Thrappled Lemmings and the Temple of Elemental Evil, Level 2 (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 The trip into the midden had been bad for Onesipe. His armour was damaged, so he took some armour that the Lemmings had found after the fight with the Orcs. It turned out to be better, so he was very happy. He and Fulrad then spent a little time sparring (+1 XP each) and learned a bit from the exercise. Meanwhile, Lysanthir pored over his scrolls and books.

"Hey, guys," he announced suddenly, "This map I found seems to indicate that the Orcish hideout is actually near Fikaby. We should probably do something about that now that we have invested so heavily in the settlement."

The Orc Hideout has been located at hex 1806 (-6 Adventure Points).

"Right, let's get moving. We can deal with the Orcs when we need to travel back to Fikaby to sell all the loot."

The Lemmings moved off through the entrance to the mound that stood in the centre of the stone circle. There were two routes down, so they split into two groups and were soon moving slowly through stone halls that reeked of patchouli oil and incense. Fulrad scouted ahead and reported to Lysanthir that the place was much bigger than seemed reasonable, which suggested good chances for finding loot.

Going olde skoole with this scenario and the other levels in the delve. I bought the pdf for The Temple of Elemental Evil from DriveThruRPG ages ago and have printed off the map to use as a battlemat. I shall do the same for the other levels in this dungeon. Each square on this map is 15mm across. This is about half scale which will make fighting in the passages cramped, but that works for me. I shall print off the other levels from this dungeon too and use them for the rest of it, if this level works out ok. I was tempted to redraw the maps in Campaign Cartographer but just couldn't be arsed. I wanted to play instead.

As they made their way through the tunnels, the Lemmings could hear the chanting getting louder. Suddenly, a small group of cultists appeared round the corner and started throwing stones at Onesipe.

The woman following this small group of cultists saw Onesipe and her eyes grew wide.

"Ha! I have found you. You Thrappled Lemmings will not leave this delve alive, I promise you that!"

"I guess she is here for us," muttered Onesipe to Sir Thiebault, who was just behind him.

He stepped back a pace and Sir Thiebault took up station in front of him. The oncoming cultist fought viciously and it was only his armour that saved Sir Thiebault from harm as he was driven back by the frothing madman's assault. Wido stepped into the breech and wounded the gibbering lunatic but was driven back in turn.

The cultist's next onslaught was even more frenzied, but Wido had got his measure. The cultist died and the slinger with him bolted. The female warrior stepped up and drove Wido back further. There was little that Onesipe and Sir Thiebault could do in the narrow confines of these passages, but they aided as best they could. Wido had soon wounded the warrior, but her armour was strong and many of his blows failed to pierce it. The exchange of blows went on for an age. Both warriors were sweating and heaving for breath, their armour being the only thing that saved them time and time again. Eventually, the warrior paused at the wrong moment and Wido sank his spear into her throat. She collapsed to the floor dead.

Elsewhere, Fulrad was drawing a blank in his search for treasure, while Drogo had found some armour and a shield they could sell. He and Lysanthir were just leaving that chamber when a column of cultists appeared round the corner. Flustered, Drogo's first attack was driven back. It was fortunate that he had invested in heavy armour else he could have been dead on the floor now. Wounded and bleeding, Drogo was driven back as each cultist pushed past and attacked in succession. Lysanthir stepped up and quickly bandaged Drogo's wounds as the combatants paused a second to catch their breath. In the end, though, it was too much. A cultist got through Drogo's defences and laid him flat on the floor.

As the cultists advanced on Lysanthir and Fulrad, they retreated into the chamber behind them to give themselves more space. Fulrad had time to fire a shot that hit one cultist right in the heart. The others howled vengeance. A second shot bounced off a cultist's armour. Lysanthir leapt into the fray, only to be driven straight back by the cultists. Fortunately, his ring of protection held and he was not hurt.

Fulrad then cut down a howling cultist, but harsh chanting could be heard as another cultist approached from the Temple entrance, and the remaining cultist wounded Fulrad. Lysanthir used his magic to heal Fulrad, and the pair prepared for a renewed onslaught. As Fulrad and Lysanthir slowly whittled down the cultists, finally one broke and ran. In the ensuring quiet, they had time to pause for a breath but not for long. They could hear more chanting and footsteps approaching.

Meanwhile, Wido was excited because he had found a stash of loot. He was about to plunder it when he heard more cultists coming up behind him. Sir Thiebault's shout of surprise as he rounded a corner and almost bumped into them in his hurry to catch up with Wido was the alarm Wido needed. He took the opportunity to plunder the stash of weapons he had found before turning to face the cultists.

The clash of arms filled the delve. Two cultists fell and another fled for his life. Onesipe sniped a cultist from a side passage. Sir Thiebault was wounded but wounded his attacker in turn. More cultists fell and another fled. The fight was hard and none of the Lemmings was unhurt by the end. They caught their breath before searching the Temple thoroughly. As they did so, Wido opened a door and stepped into a haze of greenish gas. With a sigh, he collapsed.

The Thrappled Lemmings gatherered their loot and their fallen comrades and returned to the fresh air above. The Cultists were definitely storing weapons here, judging by the wide array that the party had found.

Once up in the fresh air, they found that Drogo's wounds were moderately serious (2 turns). He would require bed rest for a while to recover. Wido was lightly wounded but would not be able to fight for a short while either (1 turn).

As they rested up before returning to Fikaby with their wounded, Sigrid the Beggar dropped by. She told them about the new Orc camp near Fikaby and increased Orcish activities in the area.

"This is getting serious. The Orcs are massing for an attack and it looks like Fikaby will be the target," she informed them.

The Thrappled Lemmings nodded as one. They could take a hint. They would have to take a break from looting the Temple to sort the Orcs out. Well, they were good at that sort of thing and the Orc camps might be full of loot, so it would not be a pointless exercise.

That night, the Lemmings told their story to Sigrid and it got bigger with every telling. Suddenly the cultists had tentacles and eldritch powers and were allied with unspeakable evil. It was a great tale and Sigrid was sure to spread it. After a hearty breakfast of salt pork and beans, the group prepared to travel back to Fikaby. They fed Drogo and Wido a dose of Tonic each to help the healing process. As they travelled, Onesipe and Fulrad practiced shooting at anything that moved and a few things that did not. It was a quick journey because they had mapped out a safe route and they were soon drinking ale in the Mucky Duck and planning how best to proceed with dealing with the Orc threat.

Phew, that dungeon delve was a bit rough. It cost me several Story Points to keep Lysanthir on his feet and things could have gone a lot worse with Drogo and Wido. The map worked quite well, although it felt a bit large for the game. The narrow passages made it feel very claustrophobic, especially when a character got wounded and I had decided that being in combat prevented figures from squeezing past each other. I'll make up the next map for the next level soon, but the Lemmings now have a reason to deal with the Orcish threat, so they need to do that first. With all the characters levelling up at a point that generated Enemy Threat rolls to see what plans were afoot, it made for interesting times. I was particularly interested to see the dice focusing on Fikaby, which is also the Lemmings' focus. It's almost as if the dice were cooperating in the storytelling!

Saturday 2 March 2024

Turn 42: The Thrappled Lemmings Make A Decision (Five Leagues from the Borderlands)

 As the Thrappled Lemmings were sitting around in the Dirty Robber, Volstad the Smith approached their table.

"Thank you for all you have done for our community. This is a gift that I have been working on for you. I hope you will find it useful."

He presented them with a good quality short sword and helped cover their bar tab so their food bill came to only 1 Mark. After breakfast, Lysanthir and Drogo trained, while Onesipe headed off to the market to sell Volstad's gift. A merchant was there selling diverse rare goods and Onesipe picked up a map-making kit. He figured it would come in handy if they needed to travel regularly between two places.

Later, as they drank their dinner, the group conferred about their plans. Lysanthir led the discussion.

"So, we have found the Temple and all the wealth that should entail will be ours, but I there is a monster lair north of here that might also contain treasure. On top of that, I have heard rumours of a Macguffin of Indescribable Usefulness that could help us take the treasure out of the Temple. We could seek that out to make our lives easier in the long run. I've heard of other delves in the area too, so we rescue the treasure from those. The Cartographer's Guild is keen for people to map unexplored areas of the wilderness, but I really don't fancy that. Sounds like too much camping in the rain for my liking. What do you reckon we should do?"

"So, this Macguffin," queried Sir Thiebault, "Why do you think it will be useful?"

"Umm, did you not hear the bit where its usefulness is indescribable?"

"Oh ..."

The discussion circled around as it usually did with the Lemmings. Drogo was all for clearing out the monster lair to the north of Fikaby and recovering all the treasure he was sure would be there. Lysanthir and Fulrad felt that the Macguffin of Indescribable Usefulness was a quest worth following, but the other three were unconvinced by its indescribable nature and preferred the very much more describable feel of gold in their hands. With a small majority of the party favouring this last course of action, the Lemmings chose to head into the mountains to raid the Temple. No doubt the Macguffin and the monster would still be there to be plundered later.

The journey north was utterly uneventful thanks to the patrols led by local warlords and it was not long before the Lemmings stood before the gates of an ancient temple. The map-making kit had come in handy on the way. They had used it to chart a safe passage between the Fikaby and the Temple. This could come in handy if they needed to return to Fikaby for supplies. Meanwhile, wealth beyond the dreams of avarice awaited them. All they had to do was defeat its current possessors and get back to civilisation in one piece.

The current possessors turned out to be Orcs, robed cultists and robed cultist Orcs. The Orcs and cultists were clearly up to something. It was a given that they were aiming to summon unspeakable horrors. But what more might they be up to? The Thrappled Lemmings were all agreed that they needed to look into this. Their first task would be to storm the small village over the entrance to the delve. It was built up around an ancient stone circle that glowed with eerie, eldritch light. The area had clearly been warped by the cultists' activities because weird fungi had sprouted all over and strange crystal formations had erupted through the roads. Reality was being twisted into an insane elder god's dreams.

As I have built this delve up in my head as a Temple, I am going to use the Whispers from Beyond lists for the bad dudes in here instead of using the Lurking Foes table which is the usual list for generating dungeon monsters in Five Leagues from the Borderlands, but the cultists are working with the Orcs, so the first part of the delve will feature Orcs instead. I'm stepping away from the rules as written for this because it suits the story better.

As usual, Fulrad was tasked to scout ahead. He moved out a short distance ahead of the rest of the party. After surveying the scene for a moment, he waved the others forward.

"Ok, looks like we found a quiet route in. There's Orcs and some nasty-looking Cultist with a massive, great sword. They seem quite pally. Reckon the Orcs are working with that big dude."

The big dude was a be-robed cultist with a massive sword who was standing on a mound in the centre of the stone circle. As the Lemmings sneaked slowly through the narrow streets of the village, the Orcs pursued their everyday tasks, unaware of the approaching fight. Fulrad was the first to be spotted and let fly an arrow that wounded an Orc. A cry went up as the Orcs spotted Fulrad, Lysanthir and Drogo. Meanwhile, Onesipe, Sir Thiebault and Wido were sneaking around behind the Orcs.

"Hey, I think I found something," hissed Onesipe to his two companions. He leapt over the low fence beside the largest structure in the village and promptly fell into a huge midden. There was a loud crunch and he lay still.

Fulrad cursed as he realised that he had forgotten to fill his quiver. He had only one arrow left. Drog leapt past him and crushed the skull of the wounded Orc. Fulrad took careful aim at an Orcish archer and wounded it. Lysanthir cast a Fog spell to obscure the Orc's line of sight.

The Orcs howled! There was magic afoot and they hated it. Several Orcs charged towards Lysanthir. Fortunately, Drogo was in the way and blocking a narrow alley. As the Orcs charged he cut one down and drove another back.

Sir Thiebault then raced up and attacked that Orc from behind. It fell lifeless to the ground as Wido shot another Orc, wounding it. Fulrad and Drogo tag teamed the Orc archer and another Orc, both of whom were cut down. Meanwhile Lysanthir cast Meekness on the Ruthless Killer leading the Orcs. The carnage was too much for the Orcs, one of which fled.

Weakened by the spell, the Killer was no match for Drogo whose axe cleaved the person in two. He did not even break a sweat doing so. As the others fought, Lysanthir wandered off to investigate something of interest that he had spotted. He triggered a trap and loud bells started ringing. This distracted the remaining Orcs and Wido and Sir Thiebault were able to defeat them quickly. Wido shut off the alarm trap and the Lemmings began their exploration of the village after pulling Onesipe out of the midden and checking him over. He had only been knocked out, which was just as well because he stank and none of the others was going to go near him until he had taken a bath.

The haul of loot was satisfying and the Lemmings settled in for the night while Onesipe bathed and scrubbed himself until he no longer stank worse than usual. Meanwhile, unknown to the Lemmings, the Orcs had moved their hideout and had set up a new camp near Fikaby, where they were gathering weapons in readiness for assaulting the village.

The dice are cooperating in the story for a change. The Orcs are the remnants of a warband and they are led by a unique foe, the Ruthless Killer, whose goals apparently align with those of the Orcs.