Mage: the Awakening session 8 – Restraining Order Blues

Starting position:

We started with a brief XP expenditure and bookkeeping exercise, with the most notable event being Matt buying Death 4 for his character, Jon-Anthony, and cemented his position as party liability.

“I’ve had a look at what I can do with Death magic, and I’m buying the 4th dot!”

Other players:

Events

It’s been, um, 4 weeks, so this is going to be very woolly…

Donnal’s trial begins. His charges are basically ‘getting involved in shit that endangers other Mages’. The book is being thrown at him, apparently for political leverage reasons rather than a pursuit of justice.

The Council members hearing his case are weighted against him. Three are members of The Golden Trinity, who have already asserted his guilt prior to the trial. The other two members are effectively neutral. It would take direct intervention by the Consilium Hierarch, the oldest Mage in the area, to override any verdict reached by the Trinity.

The Hierarch is Granny. She trained Tall Les, who trained Donnal. Tall Les offered up a part of his Soul and magical potential, a Soul Stone, as bail for Donnal. Tall Les is effectively on trial here as well, being responsible for Donnal’s conduct.

It would be a great breach of protocol for Granny to get involved in this instance, and would expose her to political challenge and censure.

As the trial begins, and the charges are read, it is revealed that Tall Les is now missing, as is his Soul Stone. It is asserted and accepted that Tall Les has broken the conditions of Donnal’s bail, and is now a fugitive.

The trial format is not one of opposing arguments, rather an agreed narrative. Events and arguments are presented, and then agreed upon, leading to version of the truth that both sides accept.

Donnal does not do well. The cabal present their evidence, which clears Donnal of the actual crime. The Trinity find that Donnal is at fault, as he placed himself in peril. They find that Tall Les is at fault, as he did not teach Donnal how to recognise and counter such magical effects.

Sentencing is that Donnal will be removed from Tall Les’s direction and assigned to a new master. Tall Les will be hunted down and brought to trial, or killed.

At this point, Granny intercedes, and asserts her veto as Hierarch. As this is debated, Donar notes that the silhouette of Miranda Peacock, the Mastigos Mage from The Golden Trinity, matches the silhouette of the Goetic Demon they observed possessing Lucy, which got Donnal into trouble in the first place.

Donar asserts this, loudly.

This escalates the argument somewhat, and results in Miranda challenging Donnal to a magical duel, which is apparently still considered a fair and legal way to settle a dispute.

End Position

Donnal has been challenged to a Duel Arcane, which will ultimately settle his guilt or innocence.

Donar instantly put his hand up to be Donnal’s second, because it probably involves hitting.

Eels reference: Restraining Order Blues

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Life is hard

You guys… Blogging regularly is hard.

I’ve two Mage sessions and a D&D session to write up. So hard.

Session one postmortem

I ran Dungeons and Dragons yesterday. It was very exciting.
I had three players for the first session:

  • Gemma, playing Regina of Fairfield (Reggie), a Human Fighter Noble
  • Ken, playing Jovashed Jatiral (Jov),  a Human Rogue Charlatan
  • Matt, playing Vash Langdon, a Human Bard Noble

Here’s a picture of Jov that Ken drew

Jovashed Jatiral (Jov), by Ken Worsley

I gave him an Inspiration point for that. It’s pretty awesome.

We should be having a fourth player join us next session: Simon, playing a Cleric, Reverend Elijah Crane.

Which is good. The the only access to healing they currently have is Vash the Bard, who hasn’t really gone in for healing spells…

Pre-game Prep

It’s been awhile since I’ve run D&D, and a long time since I’ve run a game face to face for anyone that isn’t my 9yo son – I normally play over Google Hangouts and Roll20. I’ve been running games regularly, but the skillset for online games is a little different.

To account for this, and to give me the additional confidence that preparedness lends, I prepped up:

  • NPCs, as discussed in the last post
  • Setting and back story, again featured in my last post
  • Dry erase pens and grid map. I finally settled on a Pathfinder basic fold out grid with wilderness, town, dungeon and sea backgrounds. It was more expensive than I liked for what it is – two laminated light card sheets with folds – but it was the most versatile and available. If I find something better, I’ll invest in that.
  • Proto-miniatures. Actual D&D mini’s, or Pathfinder pawns, or other dedicated RPG mini’s are prohibitively expensive now. I used to have a utility collection of 3rd edition era mini’s and grids, which I stupidly left at a friend’s house with the words ‘yeah, I’m not using them, so do what you like with them’, which he took literally and passed onto a random passing nerd. Dammit. So, I can’t afford ‘real’ miniatures. Instead I’ve invested in a pack of 25 coloured pawns – 5 red, blue, white, black and green pawns, and in some spare chess pieces. I remain convinced that chess pieces are excellent mini substitutes, as they can be used to clearly show hostile and friendly intent (black and white) and have distinct roles. They’re also roughly the right size as well. 
  • Maps. I found a detailed map of the Dalelands, from DR 1472, that could be hung on the wall of manor’s great hall. I like inaccurate maps. You don’t need to put ‘here be dragons’, you just have to say “it’s out of date, that bridge may not be there anymore and who knows what’s there now…” and you create the same level of trepidation.
  • Books, rules and starter sets. The fact that Wizards of the Coast have decided to support 5e with the free Basic Rules and the Systems Reference Document is a boon. Depending on which character class and race you want to play, these two resources provide between ~70-90% of the rules needed. They’re missing some of the options and detail, but they’re a fantastic aid. Another surprising aid was the Starter Set. I didn’t use any of the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure, and no one used one of the pregenerated characters, but the Starter Set rules booklet is a really handy reference resource. I find myself referring to that as much as the Players Handbook for combat rules and skill uses.
  • Playlist. In a moment of excitement, I used my Google Play Music subscription to create a DnD playlist to provide background music during the session. I used Game of Thrones, Vikings, Dragon Age, Minecraft and Skyrim OSTs. They were ok. We didn’t have the sound up high, so the music didn’t intrude, but it was audible. 


    Actual Play

    So, what happened in the session?

    I started off by re-introducing Lord Devon Harding. The players had read the description of him, his family history, and were aware of the high level political situation of Featherdale and the Harding family. Having read a summary and seeing the character interact with their environment are two very different things, though.

    We opened in the great hall at Harding Manor, where Lord Devon was hearing disputes and complaints from the local populace.

    First up was a dispute between a diary farmer and innkeeper. The innkeeper had bought milk from the farmer and used it to start a lucrative cheese business (Featherdale Blue). The diary farmer felt he was entitled to a cut of the profits due to exclusivity of their milk supply. Lord Devon ruled in favour of the innkeeper, finding that the price paid for milk was fair, and the purchaser​ could do what he damn well pleased with the milk afterwards.

    Next up was a complaint from a local merchant, Bjornaer, who was accusing his wife of infidelity. She had confessed, he said, to a dalliance with a Sembian cloth merchant. The wife, Brianna, had a black eye and her arm was in a sling. When questioned by Lord Devon, she stated that she’d only confessed after her husband beat her, that a merchant had given her a good deal on some cloth, but that was it. Devon found in favour of Brianna, and ruled that Bjornaer was to sign over the house and farm to his wife, and live elsewhere for at least a year. After that year, Brianna was free to decide if she would take him back. He then charged his bannermen (the PCs) with enforcing this rule. 

    Finally, a group of shepherds requested the Lord’s aid in hunting and slaying a pack of wolves that had been taking sheep the last few weeks. One wolf, they claimed, had the power to breath cold fire (or ‘the opposite of fire’, as they put it). Devon agreed​ to hunt down these wolves, and was excited by the thought of a cold fire breathing wolf. He ordered Vash to capture the wolf alive, for study.

    The following day, the party and Lord Devon set out to find, kill and/or tame these wolves.

    After a few hours travel, at a bend in the road by a some ancient ruins, the party were ambushed by five enraged commoners: the diary farmer, Bjornaer the merchant, and three unnamed flunkies. Being skilled and experienced military tacticians, the commoners announced their presence by throwing a half brick at Lord Devon and shouting “that was a warning shot” when it missed.

    The commoners charged the party, first attacking Lord Devon, and failing due to his Plate Armour. 

    Vash the Bard cast Dissonant Whispers on the diary farmer, expecting him to run in terror. Instead, the diary farmer failed his will save, took 12 points of psychic damage and died instantly.

    Jov the Rogue shot at a commoner with his hand crossbow, rolled a 1, and did Lord Devon a respectable 5 points of piercing damage to the buttocks.

    Reggie killed one with her Glaive, before embedding the Glaive in a think branch above her head. She successfully intimidated the commoner, making him flee, before the branch fell on her head, doing 4 points of damage.

    Jov looted the bodies, and thanks to a good roll on the random treasure table, improbably found 3 platinum pieces on the diary farmer. 

    I didn’t take any pictures of the first combat, which I regret.

    Once the commoners were dealt with, the party took a short rest to regain hit points – Jov had also taken a crude club to the back – before forging ahead.
    They journeyed North again, and found an abandoned semi-henge in the foothills. Matt studied pre-history for his Archeology degree, and was adamant that the layout I’d built was not a true henge. 

    Thanks Matt, for that valuable contribution.

    Lord Devon decided that this was the perfect spot to wait for the wolves, and laid a slaughtered sheep carcass on the central stone.

    Devon and Reggie waited by the rock, Vash climbed onto entrance structure, and Jov hid (incredibly successfully) behind a tree.

    Then they waited.
    After some hours, a pack of wolves – three wolves and a dire wolf – started circling the henge (yes Matt, I said ‘henge’). They didn’t perform well enough on their stealth rolls, so were picked up by the party’s passive perception.

    Importantly, the Winter Wolf rolled well, and kept to the shadows.

    The first wave of wolves attacks​. Jov hides behind the tree, Vash is atop the gateway and Reggie and Devon are by the central rock. The white pawn is a sheep carcass, the black pawns are wolves, and the black knight is the dire wolf. Lord Devon is the white king

    The three wolves were taken down quickly. Vash cast Faerie Fire on them and the dire wolf, and threw lamp oil on the ground between them and the sheep carcass. Reggie and Devon hacked the wolves down easily, and Jov buried crossbow bolts in them.

    Vash overlooks the battle

    The dire wolf put up slightly more of a fight, but didn’t last much longer.

    Reggie and Lord Devon wait for the dire wolf to make its move

    Then the Winter Wolf entered the fray.

    It used its cold breath attack on Jov, and knocked him down to 0 hit points and moved to attack Devon and Reggie.

    Vash used Dissonant Whispers on it, forcing it to flee for a turn. Unwisely, Reggie ran in pursuit. Once the fear effect wore off, the Winter Wolf used its breath weapon on Reggie, and knocked her down to 0 hp as well.

    As this was a CR3 creature facing off against a party of 3 level 1 characters, I was lenient with the death and 0hp rules.

    Vash cast his last Dissonant Whispers on the Winter Wolf again and helped Jov onto the relative safety of the henge.

    The Winter Wolf then returned and killed Devon before running off with the sheep carcass

    Vash and a wounded Jov hide on top of the henge as the Winter Wolf (black king) makes off with the sheep carcass

    By this time, Gemma remembered that Reggie could use her Second Wind ability to regain hit points, and regained a massive 3hp. She crawled over to the dying Lord Devon and cradled his head in her arms as he gasped

    “Honour the Harding name. I hate Gnomes. Bury me in Cormyr!”

    Regina of Fairfield comforts the dying Lord Devon Harding

    I can’t quite remember why he said “I hate Gnomes”, but there was a reason.
    Once everyone had regrouped, and taken a long rest, they returned to Harding Manor with four wolf hides and the body of Lord Devon.

    Lady Matrice went into mourning, as the family Cleric administered the final rites and prepared the body for burial (this should be Simon’s character, Reverend Elijah Crane).

    Devon’s daughter, Greynora, took a more pragmatic approach. 

    She was the heir of Harding Manor, and at 11 years old, without a title or support, she had little choice other than be married off to a local noble. 

    This, she decided, would not do.

    She also had a duty to honour her father’s dying wish, racist remarks about Gnomes aside. He had served Cormyr as a Purple Dragon Knight, and had earned the right to a state burial within Suzail’s grand cenotaph. 

    Travel to Cormyr also removed her from the choice she was faced with in Featherdale. Greynora would lose her father’s manor and lands, but retain control of her own destiny.

    It was no choice, really.
    Greynora instructed her bannermen to accompany her and her mother to Suzail, and assist with the fulfillment of Devon’s dying wishes.

    She also asked Reggie to write to her family, the Fairfields​, and request that her brother in law, Daivyth Harding, oversee the lands in Greynora’s absence.
    Plans then turned to travel. 

    The party felt that they should avoid sea travel, the city of Ordulin in Sembia (and Sembia as a whole) and that they should avoid lengthy travel by road where possible.

    Which means that they opted to travel by riverboat to Highmoon, and from there over the Thunderpeak Mountains into Cormyr.
    I have advised the players that any attempt to travel by riverboat will result in an Apocalypse Now segment.

    They’re cool with this

    I’m not sure if that d20 is big, or very close

    Dungeon Prep

    Game night T-6 Days, and I’ve settled on NPC names. I originally gave them Forgotten Realms canon last names, but have now reverted to less ornate, more common ones. Using established names adds unnecessary weight, and only means something to people who are familiar with the metaplot, and once you’re familiar with the metaplot, it’s too heavy on the foreshadowing.

    I’ve said too much.
    Meet the Harding’s of Culain Manor, Featherdale.

    Lord Devon Harding, former Purple Dragon Knight, last hereditary Lord of Culain Manor, titled Lord of Featherdale.

    Lady Matrice Harding, Third Daughter of Duke Brannock of House Cormaeril, Lady of Culain Manor.

    Greynora Harding, daughter and only child of Lord and Lady Harding

    The Harding family hold ancestral land in Featherdale, the site of Culain Manor (which is more of a farm estate than a castle or keep). They’re nobility, but at the tapered end of their titles. Greynora will have to marry well to retain a title. She will not inherit one from her parents.
    Lord Devon was a Purple Dragon Knight in Cormyr, and retired to lands bequeathed to him by his uncle. The lands were not considered a great boon, being unkempt, disorderly and wild; Villagers paid no taxes or tithes; theft, assaults and banditry were common; Culain Manor was close to collapse.

    Devon rose to the task, bringing consistent and fair law, protection and, less popularly, taxes to his corner of Featherdale.
    Devon is a hands on Lord. He farms the land, hunts game and patrols the area himself, partly because his coffers can’t pay for others to do the work, but mostly because he sees it as his duty. 

    Whilst Lord Devon is not loved by his vassals, he is respected. He is one of the few established authority figures in Featherdale, and draws awe and ire in equal measure from the inhabitants of Featherdale. That he is not originally from the Dalelands has done him no favours.

    Aware of the challenges he faces, and his own advancing years, Lord Devon has expanded his household, inviting a small number of capable individuals into Culain Manor in return for an oath of fealty to his name and a vow assist him with his duties.


    My intention is use the Player Characters fealty to Lord Harding as the springboard for the first few adventures: law and order, dispute mediation, safeguarding villagers etc. Basically killing bandits, chasing of wolves and goblins, getting rid of oversized beetles that have gotten into the grain store, shit like that.

    We’ll be finalising the Player Characters at the start of the first session, and as far as I’m aware, they’ll include:

    • A Human Bard (noble)
    • A Human Fighter (noble)
    • A Human Rogue
    • Possibly a Cleric

    So, basically a Star Wars party. I need to work out what the D&D equivalent of a Droid and Wookie are. Possibly a paired Halfling and Elf, and a Half-Orc…

    Kalte Krieger – Night’s Black Agents session summaries

    Summer 2013, I started running Night’s Black Agents for a group of friends using Google Hangouts. The game is technically still going, although on hiatus. 
    Night’s Black Agents is the kind of game where you can drop a building on an antagonist, and they remain a viable threat. I like that.
    Night’s Black Agents is published by the excellent Pelgrane Press, and written by Kenneth Hite. It uses the Gumshoe System by Robin D. Laws. It’s an amazing game. You should play it. 

    The players and I produced infrequent session summaries, both In Character and out, which are reproduced below. 

    Kalte Krieger Session Summaries

    Session Two summary (Nook)

    After the first operation, in which you successfully extracted Asen, retrieved his SD card and confiscated the smartphone of a hired killer, you learnt the following:

    Iliev planned on meeting his employers tomorrow night, at a meatpacking plant in Izgrev District.

    Iliev has a diplomatic case containing unknown classified documents that he intends to hand over to his employers.

    Iliev is unhappy with the arrangement and wants to ‘cash out’.

    Yana has instructed you to disrupt the exchange and prevent the documents falling into foreign hands.

    She also wishes to learn who Iliev has been dealing with and what they want.

    She has enough evidence to put Iliev away for 5-10 years, but nothing on the conspiracy he’s involved in.

    During the course of the session you scoped out the meeting site, a meat processing and packing plant situated in Izgrev, a district that houses 17 foreign embassies and some medium to large manufacturing plants, a Neurology/psychology hospital and the Headquarters for the National Investigating Department.

    Surveillance cameras were planted in various locations across the building and the team positioned themselves in tactical within the building.

    Iliev arrived first, with a removal van.

    Soon afterwards some German mercenaries with a special forces level of training arrived, set up a perimeter and backed up a refrigerated truck.

    Between 20 and 30 people were then transferred from the removal van to the refrigerated truck and locked in.

    Iliev passed the case to the mercenaries leader, who was identified as ‘Conrad’ and attempted to negotiate an end to his involvement in the arrangement.

    Conrad objected, shot Iliev in the head, threw his final payment of cash and bearers bonds on his corpse and turned to leave.

    At which point three cars pulled up with Bulgarian Mafia inside, and a gunfight ensued.

    At which point the team made a play for the brief case.

    Philip peppered Conrad with automatic gunfire, the power to the street was cut, flash bangs were set off and Edward charged at Conrad, nearly severed his head entirely with a savage knife blow, and grabbed the case.

    And that’s where we left it…

    ____________________________

    Session 2 and 3 summary (Phil IC as Geoffrey)

    Well this is all kind of fucked up.

    I’m not going to say “this was supposed to be a simple job”, because digging into governmental bureaucracy is never simple, but it was SUPPOSED to be about gathering evidence and collecting a cheque. It wasn’t supposed to be whatever the hell this is turning into.

    Retrieving Asen and the SD card was easy enough (although I would have preferred to keep it quiet rather than blowing up half a street), but this thing with the meat packing plant… Look, I just want to write this all down to see if it looks as ridiculous and messed up on paper as it does in my head.

    So we found out about this meeting between Iliev and whoever he’d been getting paid by. After dark at a meatpacking plant in a sketchy part of town. We did our homework – Philip went and reconnoitered the place, left half a billion cameras around the place for William to stop us from getting any nasty surprises. I hooked a mobile phone into the junction box up the road that would let us cut the lights, and spent some time getting flashbangs, weapons, night vision goggles, a remote mic and a bunch of tracker darts. Oh, and some radio transceiver ear pieces – I’m ashamed of myself for that screw up in El Hotel De Throatsmash, and that’s not happening again.

    After dark we waited for the security guard to finish for the night and went in through the loading dock, which had been conveniently left open. We should have probably been more suspicious of that. Hiding around the edge of the loading area, we sat and waited for the main event. Iliev arrived first, with a couple of goons – then the representatives of the conspiracy showed up. Ten or so guys, German, well dressed, moving like they had a purpose and knew what they were doing, all clearly being led by a big scary bastard that looked like something out of an SS recruitment poster.

    We sat and listened in to the conversation – Iliev clearly wanted out, and what he wanted out of became pretty clear when a van backed up into one of the loading docks that turned out to be full of people. The German guy (who Iliev called Conrad) had his guys transfer them over to a refrigerated truck. People. In a truck for transporting meat. That’s not human trafficking, that’s something else entirely.

    Iliev handed over a briefcase to Conrad, and practically begged to be done with whatever horrible shit he’d managed to get himself mixed up in. Conrad obliged by putting a bullet in his brain – at which point, because this wasn’t already enough of a clusterfuck, cars full of mafia goons rolled up and started a gunfight.

    This seemed like our cue to exit, so we fired tracker darts into the refrigerated truck and the briefcase and then Philip dumped half a magazine into Conrad. Who didn’t go down. Now, I’ve not seen a lot of combat. I’m the guy who gets the stuff and waits in the vehicle to get everyone out safely, but I’ve seen enough to know that if you put a dozen rounds into the chest of someone who isn’t wearing body armour, they usually have the common decency to fall down and die. I cut the lights, we waited a moment and hurled flashbangs at Conrad and the three men he’d brought into the plant with him – they landed right at their feet and exploded, stopping them from doing much of anything for a few seconds. With the aid of night vision goggles, Edward, the crazy bastard, ran across from his hiding place to where Conrad was stood, pulled a knife and near enough took his head off. Like, the guy had basically no neck left and his head was hanging on by a thread of skin. I’m fairly proud of myself for not throwing up at the sight of that.

    Case in hand, Edward beat a retreat back the way he came, so William and I provided covering fire. Conrad’s goons dropped their guns, pulled out knives and dived for cover. William was pretty pleased by this, working under the assumptions that being twenty feet under us and not having ranged weapons gave us the edge. I, on the other hand, am an eternal pessimist and reasoned that if they were opting for knives over guns that they knew something we didn’t.

    It seemed best at this point to make what I believe some term a tactical withdrawal, but which I prefer to call “running the fuck away”. Unfortunately the goons from the packing plant floor had other plans for us and one somehow jumped from the floor up the walls and landed himself directly in my path. I emptied a magazine into him as he came at me, but the bastard kept coming – I managed to cycle another one in (I’m still not sure how, I was jacked up on adrenaline and my hands were shaking like mad) and dumped THAT one into him as well and he finally dropped. William got jumped as well – I wasn’t looking but I could hear him yelling that one of them had shanked him. By the time I’d dealt with the one that came at me, I turned just in time to see William’s toppling over the catwalk we were on, helped by bursts of gunfire from both William and someone on the ground floor that I assumed was Edward. Barriers removed, we double timed it to the van. The bulgarian mafia mooks that had shown up outside seemed to be fighting a running battle with the Germans outside and were falling back inexpertly into the loading dock. There wasn’t much time to look, but they seemed terrified.

    As we got in, Edward was excitedly telling us how he just hit a guy in the face with the case and then filled him with bullets. I don’t know why he hit him with the case first, but whatever, I wasn’t in the mood for trying to work out how Edward’s mind works. We peeled out, got a safe distance away and then took the time to take stock. William pulled up the live feed from the cameras we’d left to see what was happening and went pale – he called us all around to see, and we saw Conrad. Up on his feet, head barely hanging on to his neck, pistol whipping one of the mafiosi. He showed us some earlier footage too – just as we were getting out, Conrad was getting up off the floor and firing at Philip’s back as he barrelled through the fire exit. Edward cut his fucking HEAD off, and he was up and about like it was a minor inconvenience. And now we’re sat in the van, trying to work out what we do next.

    And just to bullet point all of that to make it even more stark:

    • Iliev is dead

    • Iliev’s goons are dead

    • “Conrad” is an eighth of an inch from decapitation, full of lead, and is beating on the bulgarian mafia

    • We have the briefcase

    • We have a tracker on the truck full of people

    • A guy just jumped twenty feet in the air, came at me with a knife and took two magazines to put down

    I should have stayed at Six.

    ____________________________

    Session 2 and 3 summary (Steve IC as William)

    This ain’t the BBC.   Not sorry.

    Anyone who’s been following this should remember that we’ve been tooling around Sofia (that’s in Bulgaria, not a woman), doing odd jobs for discerning employers.  We’d been getting a bit of a reputation for discrete but violent, so it was no surprise when we gained a new Principal.

    This Principal wanted us to help them bring down a fresh Target, one who was heavily suspected of being heavily involved in some heavy governmental corruption, and possibly involving the odd bit of light treason.

    First part was lifting a compromised whistle-blower from out of the clutches of the Bulgarian national wrestling team.  Yeah, I kid you not; who’d have guessed they went all mafia after their funding for the Olympics went south.  Well, that was easy enough, if a little messy in the knee-breaking/pistol-whipping/claymore-based-escape way we did it.

    From the whistle-blower we got information about the Target having arranged a meet-and-greet with a new Player, one who he was selling information to.  That bit of light treason we mentioned earlier?  Yeah, that sort of information.

    So here we are, pretty much up to date.  Meet-and-greet is at a abattoir in the Izgrev district, and to be honest Survival 101 states that if you’re meeting someone in an abattoir, be the slaughterman, not the cow.

    Well, Principal has found out that the Target is handing over something nice to the new Player, so we’re hired to get The Bag.  Sort of like a Stepney Mugging.

    We infiltrate the abattoir and lay low, waiting.  We’ve camera’d up the place, and we’ve got a few nasty presents set up just in case it all goes South.  We’re cool.

    Target turns up with some bulky goons, and then Player turns up looking like some Nordic Uberman with a brute squad of handy-looking lads who are all moving like German Special Forces on a day out.  Not cool.  The compass needle’s heading towards South, especially when the Target tells Nordic Uberman (he used to be the New Player, but now we’ve seen him) that he’s out, here’s the last bag.

    Anyone else see the needle hit South with a ding?  Yeah, Nordic pulls a gun, blows away Target, and then gets all evil sarcastic at his corpse.  South.

    A short but vicious fire-fight between both sets of goons starts, but the handy-looking lads were never going to lose.  We use the distraction to kill the lights, lob flashbangs and then go to low-light vision.  Boom-Bear goes for The Bag, whilst Boss puts a few rounds into Nordic.  Somehow Nordic is still standing when Boom-Bear gets to him, so Boom-Bear pulls a knife and mostly removes Nordic’s head.  Stepney Mugging, all the way.

    We’re all set to girly-giggle our way to payday, when it all just stops going South and goes plain squirrelly.

    The handy-lads drop guns, start grinning, and pull knives.  Big nasty knives.  To a gunfight.   Then they start jumping 40’ distances and not caring about 9mm to the chest.  Put one down with enough lead for a sucking chest wound, and then just watch them get up again.  

    Yes, I believe NASA put a man on the moon.  No, I don’t believe in Sasquatch.  No, the Royal Family are not all giant carnivorous space-lizards.

    Yes, I have it all recorded.  But nothing and no-one cares about visuals in a digital age; digital files are too easy to modify, and they’re only marginally more trustworthy than an eye witness (by which I mean; not to be trusted at all).  

    It wasn’t pretty after that.  I get spiked twice, almost losing a kidney and an entire spine (I could survive the kidney, but I like that spine), Comms gets a nasty spiking, and Boom-Bear takes a beating but gets out with The Bag.

    And like that, we’re in Lucille (no, not another city in Bulgaria, and not a girl.  The van) and we’re off.  I check the footage, because I have an itch that just needs scratching, and there I see Nordic getting up, with a distinctly non-floppy head and a neck with no smile added.  

    No, I don’t know what happened.  I’d have gone for some cool new combat drug twinned with PCP, but none of them tend to make you better after a neck-slicey-ouchy like Boom-Bear gave out.  Those boys weren’t wearing Kevlar, so if it’s some fancy new German body-armour then it’s got really effective blood-effects built in.  I keep wondering about little nano-tech medic robots, but this ain’t Heinlein.  Thankfully.

    I don’t know.  There’s a part of me that wants to know, but there’s a bigger part of me that wants to run and hide in a hole.  There won’t be a choice though; we saw a truck with some battered Human cargo in it, seemed like part of the deal.  We got a tag on it, so we can track it, and I don’t want to think of what some drugged-up military-RnD-testing nano-cyborgs would do to them.  

    I’m no Tin Man.  Having a heart can hurt.

    More when I got it.  Mother signing out.

    ____________________________

    Session 4 and 5 Summary (Phil IC as Geoffrey)

    I’m increasingly sure no one is going to ever read this, but on the offchance that I come out of this alive and sane, I want this written down so I know it happened. Because I would write this off as the rantings of a paranoid maniac, and I *AM* a paranoid maniac.

    So, we had a tracker on the truck full of people. None of us liked the idea of leaving those people out in the cold – whatever Conrad and his bunch of freaks had in mind for them wasn’t going to be good. I mean, I’ve heard a few things about things like him. The sort of thing that keeps you awake in the armpit of a bad night. Up until now, I kept my mouth shut about those black budget supersoldier/longevity programs, because while I’m a paranoid maniac, I’m a self aware one and people tend to stop wanting to work with you if you’re doing a good impression of a crazy person. That and I’ve always considered it safer to shut up about these things – the last thing you want is them knowing that you know, right?

    We tracked the van to a warehouse near Sofia’s main railway station, and bolted on to a veterinary clinic. Pretty low security, nothing really of note. William co-opted some aerial surveillance (I didn’t ask what, because if he’d co opted a Predator drone or a spy satellite, I’d prefer to not know), we drove up to the place. Grey and Philip got the gate open and dealt with the perimeter security (by shooting it while it tried to bite them), and then we abandoned any pretense at subtlety by ramming Lucille through the shutter doors.

    Inside we found little in the way of either trafficked people or organised resistance. Two tattoed thugs were all that seemed to be guarding the place – Grey dropped one by knocking a crate from a gantry up above onto him, and the other got to help me test out the latest addition to Lucille – a tripod mounted M60E4 that can spit five hundred rounds of 7.62mm downrange per minute. After meeting Conrad’s friend Jumpy Von Bastardstein at the meat packing plant and dumping two magazines into him, I thought it would be sensible to bring something with a little more stopping power. Then I thought bollocks to sensible and brought something with a lot more stopping power. Anyway, suppressing fire was the order of the day here, and goon number two threw out his gun and stuck his hands in the air (as high as he dared without getting his fingers taken off). Then things started getting weird. Again.

    Edward moved up to secure him and said he heard a clink, then saw a pin on the floor. He dived out of the way as goon two blew himself up with a grenade. The more I think about this after the fact, it isn’t that the guy was more scared of his bosses than us. If that was all it was, he’d have just returned fire until we managed to cut him down. This was more like fanatical loyalty – he surrendered to get one of us close so he could take us out. I’m rambling. So, we searched the place. The people we were looking for weren’t here, but we found a trail leading to a door to the vet’s clinic next door. The door was sealed, but there was a forklift nearby, so Philip used it to get the door open.

    And that’s when those fuckers dropped out of the rafters on to us.

    Three of them, I think. I didn’t have a lot of time to see to be honest, because one dropped nearly on my head. I just about scrambled out of the way, but the asshole stuck me with his big stupid knife while I was trying to bring my gun up. (The backstreet doctor William found tells me I’m now light an appendix and a gall bladder and that I’m lucky to have an intact intestine.) He stepped back looking smug – and I took the opportunity to empty my magazine into his sternum in exchange. And then there was a flash, a roar, and everything went black.

    I am reliably informed that the flash and roar was the propane tank on the forklift going up as William peppered it with rounds from the M60. That certainly tallies up with the second degree burns I have all over me. From what I’ve heard William’s responsible both for the burns and the fact that I’m not stone dead, as he grabbed the medical kit out of the van and got me stabilised, and then got a doctor that owed him a favour to get me sorted out. He deserves a kicking and a medal, I suppose – so I’ll just staple a thank you card to his forehead and call it even. The good news is that the propane stopped the german bastards long enough for us to evacuate – by rights of course, they should be fucking DEAD (especially the one that got a lung full of 5.56mm and THEN exploded), but I’ve got very little faith in the laws of physics or nature applying to these shits.

    I was laid up for a couple of weeks, so everyone else spent that time digging in to what the hell this was all about. Edward had an old contact, some low level fixer who owed him, that told him the local mafia were running scared. If they didn’t know you, they weren’t doing business with you, and if you kept trying meet with them to do business after they told you to fuck off the first time, you wound up leaving the meeting feet first. There were also reports of people being moved into the EU using Bulgaria as a staging post – and something other than the usual migrant workers. And finally, some really weird smuggling – chemicals that have no place in the drug trade and that aren’t illegal are being moved across borders by mules as though they’re illegal and desirable. When the mafia’s intercepted some of these mules they’ve found nothing that they can do anything with – it’s not drugs, it’s not stuff you’d cut drugs with, it’s just chemicals. There’s no reason for it to be moved like this. At all.

    We looked into Conrad and chums as well – while we’d been at the warehouse, William had left some facial recognition software running and it came up with a couple of names. Both ex-German military, both discharged, both worked as mercenaries doing jobs that required little intelligence and a lot of… moral flexibility. and both dropped completely off the grid following their arrival back in Germany after various jobs. We dug around a bit more – about thirty or so people fit this pattern. And then I looked down the list of names and eight or so sprang out at me. All names of Nordic origin. Actually, let’s get more specific – all names with origins that a certain deranged Austrian painter would have described as “Aryan”. For fuck’s sake, fucking nazi vampires? Even *I* think I’m crazy.

    Then messages started coming in on the phone we took off Todorov:

    FOUND YOU

    I AM COMING

    DONT RUN

    Edward and Philip assured me that they had no idea where we were, and that they were just fucking with us. I mean, there’s no way they could know where we were, and anyway, they were emailing Todorov. Then this arrived:

    http://blogs.funeralwise.com/dying/files/2011/06/csi.jpg

    Asen. We’d put him in a safehouse after we extracted him. The dumb bastard must have taken Iliev’s death as a sign he was safe and gone back home. Stupid. But why would they be sending pictures of Asen’s corpse to Todorov? Maybe it was Todorov and HE was trying to spook us out of our hidey hole. Then this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_N9Lkpt6SrY

    You’re trying to make your mark in society

    Your using all the tricks that you used on me.

    And really, this was the last fucking straw. None of us were prepared to sit and hide while some bulgarian hitman sent us fucking Monkees songs. Philip came up with a plan – we didn’t have Todorov’s address, but we did have his mother’s – Philip reckoned if he wanted to play intimidation, we could do it better, so the plan was to sneak in, take a picture of her asleep, mail it to him and see what happened from there. I got hold of the most bland looking car I could find, and we drove out there. We didn’t find what we were expecting to find. I waited in the car, and from what Edward and Philip said, I’m glad I did. Todorov’s mother and sister were dead in the living room – the latter seemed to have been tortured to death in front of the former. And in the bedroom they found Todorov. They described what had been done to him, and I recognised it as scaphism – I’m not writing the details down, but it’s grim. The poor fucker was still alive too, so Philip put a bullet in him to get him out of his misery, then headed back to the car. This was getting worse by the second.

    We moved off and within a few minutes it was clear we were being followed. A few cars, switching out with each other every so often, all being done very professionally, but definitely a tail. If it was Conrad’s lot, we weren’t going to be able to deal with them if we let them dictate the engagement, and we sure as hell weren’t going back to the safehouse with them in tow. We headed instead to the airport – nice and public, plenty of local security, lots of good spots for people watching. I stopped to chat with one of the security guards on the way in – he hadn’t seen any Germans, they were focused on making sure that the anti government rallies that had been springing up across the city didn’t cause any trouble here. A quick flash of a government ID card (actually my british driver’s license) and a bit of ego stroking and he was on the lookout for our Teutonic pursuers. It’s nice to have an early warning system wherever you are.

    Edward raised the issue of Yana – so far everyone that had any knowledge of any of this had wound up dead, and she was next on the list. We argued back and forth for a while – what if Asen hadn’t actually left his safehouse? She was the only one who knew where it was, she knew about Todorov, she knew we had his phone… in my mind she was as likely to be the culprit as the next victim here. Edward convinced me I was being (more) paranoid, bought a burner phone from a nearby stand and we tried all the numbers we had for her. Nothing. Answerphones all. At least one should have got through to her, no matter what time of day it was. Shit.

    We all knew that we should just get on a plane and get the hell out, but we also knew we had a duty of care here. Yana had hired us, she’d trusted us, and now she was almost certainly in the crap because of what we’d seen and done. We needed to try and make her safe. We headed out for the taxi rank – it would be a lot easier to get lost in the crowd than if we went back and picked up the car. As we queued, one of the other travellers caught my eye. A man covered in Russan gang tattoos was just ahead of us in the queue. His ink marked him out as having served five years and change in prison, probably for pickpocketing offenses, but they were remarkably similar to the tattoos we’d seen on the two goons at the warehouse. On a whim, I feigned a trip over his wheeled luggage and bumped into him, and, apologising profusely in my best “bewildered posh english tourist” voice, lifted his passport out of his jacket pocket. Call it a hunch, but I think it’s going to come in handy later.

    Following my Artful Dodger interlude, we jumped into a taxi and headed to Yana’s house. After paying off the taxi driver, we made our way up the driveway – her car was parked up and seemingly undamaged. There was something wrong with the house alarm system though. The cameras and sensors had all been adjusted so they wouldn’t trigger until you were practically inside the house, and someone had been monkeying with the cables that connected the system to the local police station. It was a good job they’d made of it too – most people wouldn’t have noticed either modification. I spent a few minutes making sure that if we DID trip the alarm it wasn’t going to be informing the local constabulary, and we headed inside. The door was already open, so I had a really good feeling about how this was going to go. We moved quietly from room to room – no signs of life as we swept the living room and the kitchen. And then, in the dining room we found Yana. Strapped to a chair, with her back flayed open, her rib cage broken out and her lungs pulled through.

    And then we heard the sirens.

    ____________________________

    Session 6 – 8 summaries by Nook Harper

    Subjects observed exiting residence of Yana Hristova (deceased) at XX:XX hours in Hristova’s vehicle.

    National Police Service responded to the residences silent alarm at XX:XX hours and gave pursuit.

    Subject Boothroyd utilised advanced defensive driving procedures whilst Subject Behr launched IEDs at the pursuing officers.

    Two officers, Iskender Çelik and Iosif Popov were killed at the scene, another, Jacek Chmielewski, died at St. Ekaterina during surgery.

    Reports indicate that subjects Blake, Boothroyd and Behr rendezvoused with subjects Beake and Maddox at 121 булевард „Цар Борис III“

    http://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=ijQ7WT72hJY-pUs-G8gzQA&cbp=1%2C221.26114%2C%2C3.0%2C7.4541354&cbll=42.678615%2C23.284917999999998

    An additional subject – Unknown – was dismounted from their motorcycle by a collision caused by subject Maddox and taken captive. Subject is presumed dead and matches ‘John Doe’ found at SOF/LBSF at XX:XX hours.

    Subjects Behr and Boothroyd joined subjects Maddox and Beake in a black 1998 Transit van. Subject Blake left the scene in Hristova’s gold 2010 Mercedes. Vehicle has yet to be located.

    Contact lost. Report ends

    Contact Reestablished. Subjects Behr, Beake, Boothroyd and Maddox observed entering desanctified church grounds in XXXXXXXXX at XX:XX hours. Gunshots heard at XX:XX and XX:XX hours followed  by a contained explosion within XXXXXXXXXXXX church at XX:XX hours.

    Surveillance ongoing

    _________________________________

    Sessions 9 – 11 summaries by Nook Harper

    So they blew it up, the damn fools. They blew it all up.

    Unsure if they could take Conrad Schneider down in a straight fight, the team dropped a 13th century church on his head instead.

    Even that didn’t kill him. They found him, partially crushed, broken back and severed arm, in a priests bolt hole in the catacombs, dragged him out and took him to a small church on the slopes of Vitosha for interrogation.

    Hallowed ground, holy water, sunlight, garlic, none of these fazed him. Breaking every bone in his hand only annoyed him.

    “I feel no pain,” he told them “and I fear worse things than you.”

    So negotiations began. What, they asked, would buy his cooperation?

    Safe passage to Africa, he said, along with the two doctors who administer to his unusual needs, some specific pharmaceutical components and a ready supply of biological components.

    The team took this to mean ‘live humans’, and balked slightly.

    Who were these doctors, these esoteric scientists?

    Claus Hahn, surgeon, never leaves the lab.

    Werner Fischer, makes the serum, lives in a luxury apartment.

    Schneider makes good with the talk, and tells the team where to find his attendants.

    With this Intel in hand, Geoffrey lets his frustration with Schneider’s demeanour get the better of him, and opens fire with with his pistol. Schneider dodges Geoffrey’s bullets with superhuman speed, despite being bound in chains and in spite of his missing limb and grievous injuries.

    Realising that Schneider is still a threat, Philip opens fire as well, along with James, and all three empty their guns into Schneider’s body.

    He still breaks free of his chains, closes the distance between them and lands a blow on Geoffrey before falling to the ground.

    The team look on in horror as he gasps for breath and tries to rise to his feet again. A bullet to the back of his skull, courtesy of James, soon stops that, but not the twitching of his limbs.

    Fearful of Conrad recovering from even these wounds, the team cut him into more manageable pieces and sealed him in separate reinforced ammunitions cases.

    They then turned their attention to Werner Fischer…

    SEASON TWO

    You got out of Bulgaria three months ago, escaping with only your bug out kits and a bag with a severed head inside it.

    You’ve been lying low, working your way North East through Romania and Moldova into Ukraine, following the directions of the severed head that will not shut up.

    Back in Bulgaria you were holed up in a warehouse in Sofia, Claus Hahn rigged to blow if he looked at you funny, interrogating him for intel on the Kalte Krieger conspiracy that framed you for the murder of your handler in the Bulgarian National Intelligence Service, when the shit hit the fan.

    Todor Zlatanov, the Gendarmerie investigator from the Ministry of Internal Affairs that ambushed Mother as he collected a large bag of horse tranquiliser and subsequently saw Hahn in his mutated glory, tracked you down to your warehouse, god knows how, and engaged you with a unit of special military forces.

    Which is when it turned again.

    The Bulgarian Special Ops unit were good, but they weren’t good enough to directly assault a prepared and paranoid team of black ops specialists.

    They were also not expecting one of their number to be a Kalte Krieger assassin, trained by the SS in 1939 and artificially enhanced by the conspiracy’s procedures.

    The assassin, who you can only presume to be Muller, began killing everything that moved, adding to the chaos and confusion.

    Somehow, Hahn was detonated, which should have been the end of him. His body was transformed into a fine red mist and his head popped clean off like a champagne cork.

    Yet his head is in a back pack, and whispers secrets and promises to you.

    After crossing the Romanian border on foot, Hahn told you about Jost Schmitz, about the serum store in Ukraine and how you need to find Roman Panchenkov in Kyiv to find Schmitz.

    Then there’s Muller, who has been doggedly pursuing you since the warehouse raid. At least,  you presume that it’s Muller who’s been editing and circulating your Interpol files, killing your contacts and hacking your accounts.

    He knows that you’re in Ukraine. He knows that you know that he knows.

    No doubt to hilarious consequences.

    In all of this, you lost James Hoxton somewhere in Moldova and gained a new ally in Kyiv.

    __________________________________

    __________________________________

    Season Three

    Update by Andy (Edward)

    LAST TIME ON KALTE KREIGER

    Following the Conspiracy’s money trail to London, “Cans” brought in some local talent of his acquaintance – one Agent “Snow,” formerly of MI6. After a brief and cheerful introduction to the Talking Head-In-A-Box, the team began building a profile on Jennifer Moore, investment banker of evil.

    After establishing the subject’s daily commute and habits, it became apparent that another group was already surveilling her. The unwanted tail was picked up (in an operation which we shall call The Cabbie, The Boatman, The Sniper And The Cop, And Also A Taser For Good Measure) and delivered to Edward Behr, who took him promptly unto a restroom for “involuntary debrief.”

    After introducing the thug to Mr Porcelain, he became quite talkative, divulging the nature of his contract (to observe Ms Moore without engaging) as well as his own name (Carl) and that of his current employer – Powlov.

    At this point Snow became agitated and elected to join the debrief, laying vigorously about the man’s head and face – a technique which to the untrained eye appeared very much in keeping with procedure, but to which Edward took exception. He explained to the new boy in no uncertain terms that he should Back The Fuck Off and Let The Grown-Ups Work, and Snow found himself on the other side of a wall in short order.

    Under the calming influence of plasterboard dust, Snow shared his own tale with the group: how, during the normal course of his work, he had eliminated this “Powlov”, only to later see him walking around with nary a mark on him. It’s why he burned his old cover. It scared him. It was wrong. People should stay dead when you kill them.

    The group bonded over a shared intent to making people exactly as dead as they should be, and planned their next move…

    ______________________________

    Season 3, Episode 5

    Update by Edward Behr (Andy Mason)

    “Kalte Kreiger” book 3, chapter 5, extract:

    “Living in the future is neat,” Edward Behr reflected silently, watching Reyes incapacitate his hirelings through the medium of his phone’s front-facing camera. The sharp-suited gentleman postured some more, bemoaned the loss of a cufflink, issued some ultimatum or other and sauntered out of the alley. He sauntered all the way to the kerb where he hailed a convenient passing cab – convenient, because the driver was Geoffrey “Cans” Boothroyd. As Reyes gave his destination (and, half a city away, William “Mother” Beake relayed the GPS co-ordinates to the man known only as “Snow”), Edward and his colleague Bartolomeu “Ron” Rondon advanced on the sole remaining conscious minion with the intent of extracting information. Edward gave the man a cheery wave, introduced him to the nearest sturdy wall, and then began the extraction process.

    Cans took his sweet time. He drove like a cabbie who knew how far a fare could stretch without breaking. By the time they pulled up to the building site that had been the Temple of Mithras, Snow was already on site. Disguised as a construction worker, one among many, he had scouted out the location for vantage points – which was handy, as Reyes immediately dismissed the workforce. The workers were slow to disperse, grumbling about how they’d be sure and get paid for the whole day.

     “Union rules,” they repeated to one another as a mantra.

     Snow took advantage of the chaos to take position in one of his secure spots, primed with a long-range tranquilizer rifle and telescopic mic.

     By this stage Edward and Ron had finished their interrogation. Their new friends hadn’t been hard nuts to crack. They were professionals only in the loosest sense; in the face of a trained operative willing to crack their nuts, secrets rapidly died of exposure. Thus the pair were able to arrive not long after Cans and Reyes.

     They were of course too late to infiltrate like Snow. Anticipating this, they had taken a brief diversion to pick up a pair of backpacks from Mother’s van, Lucille, and made their way up the inside of the tall office building next to the former Temple. They arrived on the roof just as a vehicle pulled up on the street.

     Edward did not pay a great deal of attention to the people who stepped out or the conversation that followed. They were clearly Reyes’ superiors – or spoke for those who were – and debriefed their flunky with little ceremony. They could be easily located. For now, Reyes was the target. Edward did note Reyes’ mention of undergoing “preliminary procedures;” presumably a reference to the Kalte Kreiger process of transforming a human into an immortal super-soldier. He would have to be taken down hard.

     Reyes’ taskmasters departed, leaving Reyes alone on the building site. Alone and vulnerable.

     With gleeful abandon Edward pulled the high-wind goggles over his eyes and launched himself from the roof of the skyscraper.

     As the ground approached he threw his arms wide. The fabric between the limbs of his wingsuit snapped taut and he levelled off, converting his downwards momentum and firing him like a cannonball towards Reyes. Moments later, he collided like same.

     They turned over in the dirt for a moment and separated, each rolling to their feet and skidding to a halt in a cloud of sand and brick dust. Reyes took a moment to weigh up his assailant, judged his stance, acknowledged a worthy opponent. Behr gave no such pause. As soon as he had purchase he charged directly back into the fray.

     Of course, Snow chose this moment to fire his tranquiliser dart.

     In Snow’s defence he was not yet familiar with Edward’s disregard for self-preservation. Had Reyes faced a more disciplined fighter like Grey Maddox, Snow’s timing would have been perfect. As it was, the dart was already in the air when Edward charged forward. The dart’s trajectory neatly intersected with Edward’s left buttock.

     Edward stumbled, staggered, stood and stared. Reyes stared back, raised an eyebrow. Edward raised a finger, tried to form words into some kind of coherent sentence. Probably it would have been the most witty of commentaries. We shall never know, however, as he was distracted by Ron, in his matching wingsuit, taking Reyes from behind.

     Ron was not as skilled a combatant as Edward but his style was also less brazen. He and Reyes exchanged some blows, each testing the other’s strengths and defences, as Edward pulled the dart from his behind and stared at it blankly.

     Ron feinted left and ducked right and plucked the dart neatly from Edward’s fingers. Twisting, Ron concealed the dart in a fist and jabbed at his adversary. Reyes deflected with his forearm but, too late, felt the pinprick as the dart delivered the remainder of the sedative load into his bloodstream.

     Reyes stepped back and adopted a more defensive stance, pressing against the wound in confusion. He realised what had happened as the tranquiliser reached his brain. Now in a panic, he turned to flee.

     This was something Snow could work with. Free of the chaos of combat, given a single target moving at constant speed, his marksman training took over. He judged distance, velocity and wind speed in an instant and let fly – one, two, three, four – most of his remaining magazine, conscious of his mark’s potential chemically-enhanced metabolism. All four found their target. Reyes took three steps more and planted face first into the dirt.

     Edward pulled himself to his feet and strode determinedly over to Reyes’ prose form, unhooking one of the eskrima sticks strapped to his thigh. He used this to give Reyes a sharp smack to the head. “And stay down,” he added, before collapsing in an adjacent heap.

    ____________________________

    

    A Return to Full Geek

    Before we start, a little light reading. Some context.

    I used to regularly blog about gaming on Total Party Kill, and then infrequently on The Illuminerdy.

    I’ve let my love of RPGs and my love of writing rubbish about them fade somewhat of late. So let’s rectify that, shall we.


    The plan is, on 11th March i’ll be running the 1st session of a new, monthly Dungeons & Dragons game. I’ve got 5 players, I’ll be running 5e. This is slightly problematic, for the following reasons:

    • Only one of the players has played 5e
    • One of the players hasn’t played D&D before
    • One of the players hasn’t played in over 25 years
    • The other two players have only played earlier editions
    • I’m trying to use the current canon Forgotten Realms setting, but obviously have not bought any of the ‘plot’ supplements, so don’t really know what’s going on…

    I can surmise that it’s 1491 (Dale Reckoning), and that the maps from 4e have been mostly retconned back to the 3.xe state. This is fine. I guess. I’ve not got a problem with the characters having access to out of date/unreliable maps, lore and legends. I was planning on planting a NPC Bard with the party to provide just this type of sketchy detail, until one of the players decided to stat a Bard, and he’ll be even more unreliable (sorry Matt).

    I do kind of feel as though I should have an official view of “what’s actually happening/how things really are” that I can disregard at my leisure. Or, at the very least, give the players the impression that I know what’s going on.

    That’s half the battle, right there.

    Location: I’ve settled on The Dalelands, because a) they’re kind of iconic, b) they border on some of the more interesting lands, seas and organisations, c) I panicked when one of the players asked for a quote on how many gp they would need to travel from their current position to their ancestral home, stated as ‘maybe Tethyr’.

    dalelands

    I want to tell my own story, with the Forgotten Realms as the backdrop, so I’ve opted for Featherdale as a starting point – It’s a decentralised area with no capital, no named ruler, a clean canvas. I can add the player characters and my NPCs in without having to weave any established characters or events around them, and subsequently move towards or away from canon plot as required.

    I’ve still an amount of world building to do: I know that the player characters are oathsworn to the local Lord and his family – I need to come up with names and characteristics. I know their daughter is called Greynora, that she’s 11, and that she has a bag that she puts interesting things she finds into. I know that the family are a distant branch of a noble lineage. That’s kind of important. I also know that I want to focus on themes of honour and duty (mostly to stop the PCs from becoming murder hobos).

    I’ve got the first couple of encounters fleshed out in my head, but given the XP budget guidelines, I’m 700xp over budget for a level 1 Deadly combat for 5 PCs. 

    Which is fine. A TPK in the first combat of the first session will set expectations.