The Broken Land Chapter Four: Dolem’s Spire

Chapter Four of The Broken Land begins…

A DCC/Mythic solo play (with other emulators as required)

When we last saw our three reluctant heroes – Binye the resilent wielder of Blood Spear, Borer the wryly witty Dwarf and sometime tank, and Elyn who relies as much on her diplomacy as her backstabbing skills – they had looted enough, and been wounded enough, to decide on a retreat from the Elder Temple ruin out by Scarlet Heroes village.

Chaos is 5.

Characters: The rogues, the main goblin faction, the plotting goblin faction, the teamsters, Pantro, Ralph.

Threads: Heroically plunder the temple some more (and maybe kill a demon), caravan guards to the Broken land, scout Briar Keep, scout the Uruk lord, send word back to the Templars.

Episode 1: Wagons roll!

The village of Scarlet Heroes is abustle. As planned, the big goods wagon of the goblin traders is joined by the humbler mule-cart of Pantro the general merchant. Ralph Redfoot, Pantro’s guard and secretly a were-tiger, strides out at a good rate and Pantro’s mules follow down the ramp. Behind, Cy the flame-haired ogress leans on the brake-lever as the heavy wagon descends. Hobgoblin Gus is riding behind, using the spare pair to help slow it. And the goblins are tucked uncomfortably under the big canopy tarp, sheltering from direct sun as best they can.

The three rogues are free to walk around or alongside. They take as many chances as they can to discuss the road ahead – for their employers have chosen, against all odds, to stick to the main trail right into Dolem’s Spire!

Mythic: Are the goblins and Pantro still planning to leave at dawn? (Likely) Yes.

Scene: departure. Chaos check OK. Depart at the planned time.

Which way?

Mythic: Trail into wilds on the Briar Keep side of the river? (VLikely) No.

Mythic: Main trail to Dolem’s Spire? (No way!) Yes!

The griffon

The weather promises to be mild and excellent for day-travel. Ahead and stretching far off left into the haze, a line of low peaks is a reminder that Dolem’s Spire is not far north and east of the Broken Land. The trail skirts between peak and river.

Binye and Elyn stride along comfortably enough in their armour (chainmail and special wood scale respectively), and Borer stomps grimly along in his heavy banded mail. They are still feeling some of the after-effects of poison and an easy pace and mild weather suit them.

The rogues as DCC characters:

Binye: STR14 STA14(12) AGI12 INT17 LCK16 PRS9; +1Attck/Dmge with club.

Borer: STR13 STA14(12) AGI11 INT8 LCK14 PRS9; +1 vs corruption. With heavy armour, treat as Dwarf class.

Elyn: STR10 STA9(7) AGI10 INT12 LCK13 PRS11.

Encounters: I’m using the same Wizardawn-generated encounter list I set up for Scarlet Heroes, and I’ll keep using it as long as it doesn’t seem out of whack. It’s fairly generic I guess?

Suddenly something huge plunges out of the sky and slams into Gus! The hobgoblin’s left arm is torn off and his head leaps from his shoulders: the dray-horse he’s riding screams in terror as a mighty griffon lands ready for a tasty horseflesh snack!

Encounter: Griffon. 7HD, 36hp, Init+2, Attck+9 bite (2d6) and +5 claw (d6), Act 2d20.

LCK check: Elyn fails. Range 60′, ie less than its swoop range.

Mythic: I cycle through a number of target likelihoods to find that it attacks the dray Gus is riding on, so Gus is the first target.

Initiatives: Pantro, Cy, Ralph/griffon, griffon, goblins, rogues.

Mythic: Will Ralph urge the cart on? (50-50) No and cascades to assist goals.

Round 1: “Yeeaahh!!” Pantro yells, getting the mules trotting away in front! Ralph swings his crossbow up and lets fly: the griffon evades easily and snaps down on its real prey: the dray horse Gus was riding. Its mass protects the horse to some extent but the snapping griffon beak tears a deep cut in the horse’s flank. Then the griffon grabs the horse…

Mythic: Is this griffon strong enough to lift a dray horse? (Unlikely) No.

…but though its claw sinks in, it’s clear the horse is far too heavy for the predator.

Cy, outraged at Gus’ death, snaps her whip back at the griffon, without effect. The wagon is caught fast by the trace-horse which in turn is pinned by the griffon.

Mythic: will the goblins cower under the tarp? (VLikely) Yes.

Mythic: Will the rogues try to cut the trace so the wagon can get clear? (Unlikely) No.

Mythic: Will they use missiles? (Likely) Yes.

Borer’s bolt merely scrapes a wing as again the griffon sways away. The dwarf curses: that’s the second very expensive magical bolt he’s used in two days. Binye and Elyn flat-out miss.

Round 2:

Mythic: Will the griffon keep attacking the dray? (Likely) Yes.

Pantro’s mule cart is well away now.

Mythic: Will Ralph reveal his power? (No way!) No.

Mythic: Will Ralph decide to head after Pantro? (Likely) Yes.

“Cut the hoss loose fellas! Git outta thar!” Ralph bellows, putting distance between he and the terrifying beast! He fumbles another bolt into his weapon.

“Damn ya ta hell ya damn ornery critter! Choke on this!” Cy stands, and brings her whip down expertly, the tip wrapping and locking around the griffon’s neck. [crit: tangle and +3 subdual dmge] “Yeehaw! Git along dogies!” Cy urges the lead four on, and they stamp into the ground and pull! She leans down, seeking to thread the rear wheel with her whipstock.

The griffon finishes the wretched dray, and claws at the whip, but is unable to gain purchase without garroting itself.

“There’s a chance!” Binye yells, and the three loop in to closer range, hurling – and missing!

Round 3: Pantro is moving those mules on as though he’s in a derby race, but Ralph stops and finishes loading. Cy stabs the stock through the milling rear wheel and suddenly the griffon is in trouble! It’s being dragged by the neck, by four sturdy drays! [This is effectively subdual damage from dray horses at +3 per horse. I rule only 3 can apply since the drag of one dead trace horse has not been removed, so 9 dmge.] The griffon twists and squawks but can’t get its claws back up and around! Binye runs in and slices the trace – the wagon lurches forward at a great pace, dragging the griffon in a cloud of dust and feathers!

Mythic: Will the rogues try to subdue it? (VUnlikely) No.

Elyn and Borer see their chance to get in without getting killed, and rush it, stabbing the griffon deeply! [19 dmge]

Round 4: Cy falls off but [great SV] rolls clear of the wheels! Ralph gets line of sight on the dust-cloud and shoots into the melee – by random chance he hits the griffon! [3 dmge]

“Don’t shoot! It’s out!” Binye yells, spotting that the griffon’s head is lolling and its eyes are dust-covered. For indeed the dragging has choked it to unconsciousness. [12 more subdual this round, plus uncertain dragging damage from 2 rounds] Then the three rogues hurry after the fast-retreating wagon!

Mythic: Do the goblins get the team under control? (Unlikely) No.

Does Pantro? (Somewhat Likely) Yes.

As the two teams are gentled and brought to walk then halt, the rogues unlimber axes and untangle Cy’s whip. Cy hurries up – seemingly none the worse but upset about Gus – and unwinds her whip from the rear wheel. It will probably need replacing – but it’s saved the day! The goblins are happy, though Runban is heard carping about hiring a new teamster…

Axes chop out the more probably-saleable bits of griffon anatomy; those are tucked away, then tools are collected and Gus buried.

The march resumes.

4AP, Level 3 less 2. [A griffon is very tough but hardly any risk was borne by the rogues]

Chaos rises to 6. 

New thread: hire another teamster and buy another dray.

New thread: sell griffon trophies.

Chaos check: scene shift. Focus: move away from a thread. Thread random pick: ‘Scout Briar Keep.’

 

Episode 2: Dolem’s Spire

Briar Keep? Ain’t likely!

In the following hour, the caravans roll past a straggle of outlying settler shacks, then more substantial isolated dwellings, then are in the outskirts of Dolem’s Spire itself. Massive-walled, well-defended, built into the living rock, the Spire itself looms over the trail at this end, stamping a sense of permanence on the place. None of them knows enough local history to recall if it was overthrown in the dark years, or at least, none mention it.

Event ‘judge weather’. Weather check: sunny, hot, gusty.

Dolem’s spire has both royal guard and city watch, both alert to travellers. Before too long their way is barred by the watch.

Introduce new NPC: city watch.

Chaos check: alteration, NPC action. Random pick: Runban!

Mythic: Is Runban slipping word to the patrol? (50-50) No.

Mythic: Does Runban want to be taken right into the spire? (50-50) No!

Event check: Befriend news, cascades to gratify pain.

Mythic: is Runban using the need for medical aid to hold up here? (Unlikely) Yes!

UNE for city watch: cautious, mysterious, obscurity [of] relics. 

Pantro does most of the talking. With goblins muffled under the canpy and Cy obviously just a burly teamster, the watch assume Pantro leads the caravan and that’s fine. The rogues listen, explain where needed, and steer the talk round to selling bits of griffon.

“Only place I c’n recall is way yonder, past th’ temple, on th’ near bank. The’ name’s th’ Cursed Scorpion, an’ ya’ll c’n sell them pee-culiar bits thyar. Mebbe.”

“Yo, where-at’s we gotta go ta git ourselves some poultices an’ suchlike?” Cy interjects – perhaps prompted by a murmur from within.

“Aw that ain’t so far from where ya bound. Thar’s a couple ‘pothecaries around them streets. Jest ask around locally.”

The talk turns to trails and ways south.

“Briar Keep? Why stranger, ain’t no good goin’ thataway! Fer one thang, ain’t no road past Joetown! No way ya gonna git a hoss-team an’ wagon over thyar! Fer another, ain’t bin no word from th’ Keep for an age!”

Chaos has risen drops to 5 with this fairly positive result.

Scene shift: move away from a thread. Random pick: hire another teamster.

Event: review tactics.

Mythic: is it the rogues? (50-50) Yes!

 

Night and a tactic review

The caravan settles into a spacious common. The nearby inn and shops offer all that a southward-bound traveller might need. Including an armorer!

The goblins seem very happy to trade here. And they won’t need to hire a teamster, for now at least. So the rogues find themselves standing easy guard duty and able to make some plans around not being able to get to Briar Keep and also, how their current tactics are doing.

“Let’s review tactics,” Binye suggests over a good rough red.

“How come?”

“Reason I brung it up, is, only ’bout one of us ever hits any one thing at any one time. Ain’t good odds.”

“OK, none of us gonna win th’ marksman trophy at th’ summer fair. So what? Gotta hit them at range. Stands t’ reason.”

“No hear him out Borer, I can tell he’s got an idea.”

“How about we concentrate on protecting the wagon with spears, so the goblins shoot past us? They are pretty good shots.”

“Is that it? Well… let’s see what selling the crossbows and bolts will fetch and what we can buy.”

 

An unexpected ally

Mythic: just about at this point I roll through 5 questions, and probably should have used CRGE since it was all 50-50. The end result:

The following day the rogues are in much better fettle, and make their way to

[This is a Wizardawn-generated store I have in store for the main campaign – it wasn’t random at the time they met the watch]

the Cursed Scorpion warehouse of marvels and meet its proprietor, Merrick.

Here, Elyn takes his measure, strikes a basic rapport, [excellent PRS check] and hands over to Binye for the technicalities. Merrick: aloof altruist with an interest in legends.

UNE: helpful/friendly support, cascades…

Further PRS check to pick up some general legends of the region: Binye misses this one.

The rogues sell the griffon bits and their remaining 11 bolts at a very good price and trade the crossbows for pikes. Then they dump out the silver they’ve made here and there and order silver-intaglio heads for the pikes. And silver headed short-bow arrows. And decent quality short bows.

“Not somethin’ we’d weep over losin’ if we hadta keep runnin’ an’ dropped ’em, ya get me?”

“Lycanthropes been a problem?” hazards Merrick.

Further PRS check to pick up lycanthrope weaknesses. This one, Binye makes and learns about wolfsbane working against more than just werewolves.

This specific talk leads to a more open feeling. The rogues find themselves taking some calming and healing tea, chatting about the very unusual circumstances they are in.

This is the cascade sequence:

“So, you’d need to make sure this Runban is not about to have you killed? But you can’t split the goblins… I’d say it’s a stalemate so long as you have a friend on the inside, stopping Runban from plotting. And of course on the outside your job prevents secret message being passed off – just act as intermediaries.

“I’ll send word downriver to Ironbridge, though from rumours out of the temple there is no rogues guild left. But I’ll do what I can.”

There is a long cascade from the UNE rolls, adding various useful or obscure actions. This helpful advice is the outcome.

Chaos drops to 4.

And as the rogues and their new ally Merrick drink healthy tea (restoring hp and STA) let us leap away [because, scene shift from a chaos check] to the temple not too far from this happy scene.

 

Urge them on their way!

“What is it, master Wonnram?”

“Sorry to intrude, O Eldan. I have word on the scout force.”

“It seems they have been long on the quest. So tell me, do they near Briar Keep?”

“Uh, hardly your grace. In fact they are here in Dolem’s Spire. My information is, they have joined a caravan that is bound south, but it’s taking on new hires and stock, and trading in the south market.”

“Tush, this will not do! Wonnram, you have the, uh, severity this sore-tested city needs to preserve itself against the filth. Slacken not! Urge them on their way, so to speak. See they press south, with all expedition.”

“As you utter, so shall it be, O Eldan.”

Mythic: this is a remote event, triggered by the scene shift. Checking the indicated event does involve templars, I generate ‘take stalemate’ and check with Somewhat Likelihood that the templars will move the caravan along.

Chaos drops to 3 since this, even though a scene shift, advances the mission.

 

Episode 3: Sidewinder Creek

On the trail to Sidewinder Creek

The proud princely rulers of Dolem’s Spire may write ‘Sylvan river’ on their maps but most travellers know this river on the caravan’s left as the Sourwater. It has an alkali taste, though it is potable.

The weather is mild, cloudy, breezy. Borer is much more comfortable. And the goblins are in good spirits – except for Runban. The wagon is newly-arranged for new goods traded, and the dreams of both goblin and merchant seem within reach.

No-one seems too worried about not getting round to hiring a teamster or buying a new dray. They can always hire from hamlets, and the road is reputed to be fairly flat.

The rogues have seen little of Pantro but he has retained Ralph Redfoot. The guard has invested some of his pay in good walking boots. He waves, but stays at his post near the caravan head.

Just as was the case at Scarlet Heroes, trees have grown in close to the trail. They keep a careful watch and at one point sense something four-footed moving off through the glades, but the caravan’s noise and size prevents them learning more.

Encounter: Elk. Elyn misses her LCK check again, the elk moves off.

 

The comfort of feeling like your plans mean something

Midday, a meal of beans n’ something-fish-related is shared around. Overworked Cy is grouchy but the rogues relax. Elyn has cultivated the younger, meeker goblin women and feels she’ll at least get warning about Runban.

“Let’s all get rich! – then we can hire people to see to the templars!”

“Yeah!”

“Here’s to riches!”

After the encounter I get ‘develop goals’. It’s time for the rogues to react to being goosed along by the templars. Since what comes next are just 50-50 ideas I switch:

CRGE: Stick with caravan? (High is yes) Yes. Surge+2.

CRGE: Hire a teamster? (High is yes) No. Surge +4.

LOC: harm military.

CRGE: By military does that mean templars? Yes but…

LOC: develop opulence.

Thread is restored: possible vengeance.

Chaos rises to 4.

 

Beyond Sidewinder Creek there’s a ruin with your name on it

As they approach the ford the woods draw closer. The rogues slide their pikes out from under the wagon and walk with care! But the fording is routine: the four harnessed horses pull the wagon through in the mule-cart’s wake with little urging.

Ralph waves a danger signal from up ahead, and Pantro and Cy pull their teams up. The rogues, not without a wary glance behind, filter up to see what’s to do.

Ralph points and clears back away from them, presumably so they can see tracks on their own:

Near the still-adequate trail lies a sad collection of bones. Some massacre has happened here by the look of it. A grindstone has remained unbroken but without its cart or trolley. Some fragments of wheels and frames suggest that perhaps a military, or even a settler, convoy met its end.

Visible on a slight rise close enough to guard the ford, an abandoned fort stands.

“Ruin – dead now?”

The rogues turn, startled. They didn’t realise Runban has descended and approached. He keeps to the shade, watching them, his expression sardonic.

“Aw, just a small fort,” Binye retorts. “Ain’t no business checkin’ ‘er out!”

“Heh. Thought so.”

“Say buddy…”

“He doesn’t speak much common, Binye, don’t get into it.”

“That dang scroll-trader speaks our lingo jest fine! Tell ya what – we gonna check out that there fort an’ do our dang job.”

 

The event for this scene reads ‘antagonise the intellectual’. 

Mythic: Is it Kamsz? (VUnlikely) No.

Mythic: Is it Runban? (Likely) Yes.

Complex description: dangerously horrible.

Mythic: Does Runban reveal his big plan? (Likely) No.

Mythic: Does Ralph reveal his true self? (50-50) No.

Mythic: Is it an NPC? (50-50) No.

More description needed: Trick joy.

Mythic: Is it a doppleganger? (50-50) No.

Encounter roll: Bones. Description of other items: Whetstone, sparse remains.

I do have a randomly generated outpost…

Mythic: Is the old outpost here? (Likely) Yes.

Hurrah! I have a scene.

Chaos rises to 5.

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