[Campaign Journal] Sword, Sorcery and Rayguns #15

by Kalman Farago
Every end is a beginning

Flames and the sounds of battle were coming from the direction where the Anadyomaians built their colony, and we and the five Teloi ran in where patches of the forest had been set to fire. On the way, we’ve been hailed by a small group of Anadyomaians who have been set as a watch against flanking attempts from the mysterious attackers. Moving on, the first bodies we’ve come across were those of Anadyomaians, but soon they were mixed with mail-wearing, blond and red haired warriors — in this area, the only stock of such people hailed from Yaram, the island long at cold war with Khonón. Flying above the scattered groups of fighters — well over a hundred attackers –, our wizards have spotted a group of some 30 people apart from the fight, possibly a group of Yaramite leaders. The Teloi joined the fray, while we drew closer to the group. Sure enough, the fancy armour and weaponry betrayed some of them as the warleaders, but we also spotted a group of five captives in their midst — the effective use of Fireballs or Lightning Bolts was out of the question! All this was on top of a high cliff overlooking the northern beach, and the captives were being jostled towards a narrow path leading down the cliffside onto the sands — and we saw two dragon ships in the distance, off the coast.

As we were deliberating on our next move, the leaders sounded a horn, which we guessed was a sign to the army for an orderly withdrawal. The wizards let loose a carefully aimed pair of Lightning Bolts to decimate and confuse the group, then one of the followed up with a great, sticky web cast onto the prisoners and the leaders, already haflway down the path. The web took hold of them all, but with nothing to anchor the web to it was only great luck that saved the entire tangled mass from going over the edge and tumbling to their deaths. Devadatta jumped onto the path from above to disarm the webbed enemies, Gwyddion challenged the five warrior guarding the top of the path, and Zax… I think he was somewhere in the back, discharging his laser gun from a safe distance. The two wizards in the party helped us with a few more spells then flew off to take the fight to the ships, which were already drawing nearer to the shore.

We made short work of the enemy and captured the leaders. I for one was looking forward to questioning them, but Devadatta had an idea… which didn’t quite work out, whatever it was. Freeing them from the web, he said:
“You have a choice. Return to your homes as beaten men, or do not return at all.”
The Yaramite leaders remained calm and fearless, true Northerners: “Then behold this, and remember us in your nightmares.” They cast a serious glance at each other, then acting as one stepped forward, over the path’s edge and into the darkness below. A sad death, Gwyddion thought. Such warriors would have deserved to live, even to go free.

However, events were moving on. The Yaramite army was drawing nearer in an orderly retreat, and the Anadyomaians, who were surprised by the attack and took serious losses, were only pursuing them half-heartedly. Gwyddion quickly led the rescued captives off into the forest to hide them in some secluded spot, while Zaxtaros and Devadatta looked for a good ambush spot. When the warriors arrived, we let them pass and get onto the narrow, treacherous path… then we triggered our trap. A few laser shots caused a rockslide to cut the retreating army into two: one half down the beach, one up the path, and a dozen or two crushed by the rocks. The second group — still some twenty or thirty strong — had no choice but to turn around and head back up, where the three of us were waiting. Our laser guns and pilums felled a few, but then they pushed their back up onto open land, surrounded us, and we made an epic battle, three against then times as many. Zaxtaros took many wounds, and in his nervous haste he mishandled his laser rapier not once but twice, completely burning out a full and irreplacable battery on each occasion. Even worse, both he and Gwyddion were almost slain by a pair of masterful strikes, only saved by dumb luck. But in the end, heroism prevailed, and we stood victorious, bloodied and surrounded by a mound of our enemies. Meanwhile, the warriors trapped on the shore fared worse as the crushed, bleeding bodies falling in the water attracted something much more pitiless than us. By the time we regained our breath and looked down, the sands were crawling with what seemed to be large, flat rock, giant pincers rending and breaking as the Yaramians screamed for mercy in vain. The Giant Death Crabs of Doom feasted well that night.

Meanwhile, the two wizards almost bit off more than they could chew. Approaching the first ship, their initial barrage of spells was returned with the arrows of a highly trained and populous crew, about a hundred men on each ship — luckily, they were too far from each other for both crew to shoot at Tyraxus and Licar. Licar retreated after a taking a bad wound, but Tyraxus had a devious idea. After checking the direction of the wind, he opened a small pouch he was carrying and emptied its contents into the air above the ship. The contents were a few handfuls of the Terrible Dust of Yag Amnun, a lethal, airborne contact poison. And most of the crew fell on the deck writhing, the wizards quickly finished off the rest. The second ship was drawing close by now, however, and they were in no shape to take that crew on — Tyraxus took some bad wounds when he landed on the ship and was attacked by two hiding crewmembers. To cut things short, Licar reached for his most powerful magic, the one contained in the Book of Demons. A huge, disgusting, hoofed, vulture-headed and vulture-winged monster appeared in a golden glow with an earsplitting shriek, and set upon the other ship at the Imperial mage’s command. After a few minutes the only sounds on the ship were the rending and crunching as the demon feasted on its hundred victims.

Long story short, we all regrouped and even managed to retrieve one of the two large warships before it was carried away by the currents. The 700-something Anadyomaians lost some 150 men. A magical interrogation of the corpse of one of the Yaramians leaders revealed that they also had a third ship which disgorged its warrior completement then moved on towards Khonón to spy on the city; and also that they had spies there, which came as no great surprise. In fact, we were starting to think that Khonón may have greeted the Anadyomaian’s appearance and eventually settling of their present home with such loud celebration exactly in order to draw Yaram’s attention to the defenseless people. Finally, we also learned via magic that after this major fiasco Yaram only had about 400 warriors left to guard their island.

The next day the Anadyomaians held a ceremony for the fallen – where Licar made a slight faux pas by butting in with his own ‘consolatory’ speech in which he raised the idea of a future alliance between New Anadyomai and the Mung Empire. There was another mention of politics that afternoon, when shortly after the ceremony Gwyddion called the Teloi together to discuss a matter with them, but in the absence of his companions.
“You, the Teloi have served your people for millenia, without their gratefulness or even knowledge; a selfless service of honour, performed behind the backs of your own leaders for the greater good.”
“Yes, that is true” – the ranking Telos replied.
“I fear it might pass in the near future that you’ll have to do the same again; that you’ll have to guide your people behind, and perhaps even in spite of, the council of your sages.”
In that meeting, Gwyddion told the Teloi about politics, about the questionable intents of both Khonón and Licar’s native Mung Empire, and about the need for an able and covert group — a group of organised and disciplined soldiers — who must make sure that the well-intentioned but short-sighted decisions of the council will not lead the people astray. And his words fell upon listening ears. Without discussing much about specifics, an accord was reached to do what had to be done, and to start with an attempt at building up a spy network in Khonón.

Long story short, we then decided to set sail in our small ship to Khonón to get some supplies and to claim a reward for the Yaramians we have slain. Both went well and we acquired a number of spells and a nice sum of gold. And at that point the session ended.

Notes: As for this post’s title: post-game discussion has turned our campaign in a new direction. Melan decided — and we agreed – that the game has run the course it could with the present style of on-the-move, from-adventure-to-adventure picaresque shenanigans. By now we have grown mighty, a party with three tenth level characters plus two slightly lower; under a DM’s direction in whose games the highest level ever reached was 14, and that ended with an ascension to godhood. We had no immediate, obvious way to pursue our stated goal of finding the mysterious Morreion, and in fact some characters have started making plans to settle down in New Anadyomai. Therefore, we’ll switch over to a more episodic playstyle where months, or even a year, of gametime might pass between sessions with slow, gradual development of our base of operation, intelligence gathering and whatnot, and the game sessions will focus on the occasional bursts of activity when we don our armour, raise our sails, and go out into the world to kick ass.

(Originally posted April 04, 2010.)

Referee’s notes (2010): Altogether, the Yaramites lost 300 men, half of them to the defenders from New Anadyomai and half to the characters (Premier mismembered the ships – they had a capacity of 100 mean each, but only carried 30 and 40, respectively). This session has showed clearly that while there were situations during the battle where the characters came close to death, e.g. Licar suffered a critical hit from a lucky bowman and there were two instances where an insta-kill roll almost came up against Gwyddion and (if I recall) Zaxtaros, they could stand up to a disciplined army and win, meaning that the possibilities of the previous, journey-based campaign style have become exhausted. What remains, therefore, is for the party to leave their mark on the setting over the next few adventures (I envisage two, maybe three or four if they come up with something extra) and then retire in style.

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