Friday, February 17, 2017

New Dawn Session 6: Orcs are Jerks

Precis: The Resistance infiltrates an orc castle and wackiness ensues.

I ran the sixth session of New Dawn, my GURPS Fantasy Mass Combat game, last night. This session was went back to the game's root in Midnight, since the PCs were operating covertly in orc territory. It was a very fun session, and a little silly, as we got to see the full powers of a nymph diplomat in action. We also got to use my rules for finding people covertly, though that only made up a small part of the session.

Cast of Characters

New Dawn is a troupe style game, with each player having two characters. One team primarily does military stuff; the other team has been doing delving and diplomacy. This session focused on the diplomacy team.

Otern county, and the major villages, towns, orc strongholds, and the fortress of Hortskink.

"Aisling gets +5 to reactions from trees."

The session started in early April, game time. Finbar Gullvan, the Old Man of the Resistance, got regular intelligence drops from Resistance cells in Otern, an orc controlled county to the north. His contact Kyell had missed the last two meetings. Finbar wanted the PCs to sneak into Otern and find either Kyell or someone who knew him and figure out what was going on.

The PCs hurried up to the first large village. Correctly figuring that Kyell had probably been captured by orcs, they started searching for him as soon as they got into town, even though it was late in the day. They also sacrificed stealth for an easier time of finding Kyell, which somewhat surprised me because they weren't particularly good at stealth. As such, a lot of Luck was used and Destiny points spent to avoid being exposed to the orcs. They managed to determine that though the local villagers knew of Kyell, they didn't know him well and only knew that he came from someplace to the north and maybe had a Resistance contact named Kara. As most of Otern was north of them, and Kara was a common name, this wasn't much to go on.

The next day they moved to up the road to the village of Lelund and did another conspicuous search. Luck was with them, in a way - a critical success on the search roll found Kara, the leader of the Otern Resistance. They also managed to blow the Stealth roll.

Now at this point I misread my notes - as I usually do when I end running stuff on the fly like this. Kara was supposed to be hiding in Lelund, but I placed her in the open as a bartender. No huge harm done, but Kara in hiding made more sense. At any rate, Kara sent the PCs to the nearby farm village of Aliaberg to talk with Kyell's wife.

On the way to Aliaberg, they ran across a detachment of orcs taking a break during a road march. The PCs were traveling cross country in a hurry. In the towns, Attivi had been using a magic spell to disguise Michael, but it was too fatiguing to keep up while hiking so the orcs got a good look at Michael's unusual height, slender build, and strange orange eyes. The PCs managed to break contact before the orcs could get up and chase them, but now the orcs knew of at least one Squallite moving around Otern - in short, the orcs were alerted to the PCs' presence.

When they arrived in Aliaberg, I started making reaction rolls for the peasants. Aisling is a nymph, and has charisma +5, universal transcendent beauty, and a lovely cultured voice, netting her +12 in reaction bonuses from most intelligent things, and as Kevin pointed out, substantial bonuses even against trees. I rolled a natural 18 for a total of 30, giving her a supernaturally excellent reaction, to the point where people were so eager to be helpful that it was something of a problem.

Kyell's wife confirmed that he'd been captured by orcs, and sent the PCs to a witness of the event, Yonus. Yonus proceeded to lie to Aisling, claiming that he was in the Resistance and had tracked the orcs after they took Kyell. Unfortunately for him, Nesta, Attivi, and Aisling are all good at detecting lies, and all of them realized he was lying. They immediately assumed he was a collaborator, grabbed him, and threatened to start hurting him. He confessed to his lies, and the PCs decided he wasn't a collaborator, just a braggart trying to get in good with the supernaturally pretty woman. They got some more information, and decided that the orcs had taken Kyell to their fortress of Hortskink. The PCs headed north, making plans to climb the walls and rescue Kyell.

"Hortskink is a fortress... we need a new plan."

I pulled up the map of Hortskink castle that I'd prepared for this eventuality. With a 15-20' wide moat, 40' tall walls, multiple towers, and a single gate, Hortskink was a serious castle. It was meant to hold over a thousand orcs at a time, though the current garrison was only a hundred or so. The PCs immediately decided that a raid wasn't going to work at all, and they'd have to get sneaky.
Hortskink castle

They knew from Kara that the messengers from the south had arrived at Hortskink, and the orcs knew about the rebellion in Engenstut county and were bringing in supplies and starting to train more extensively to bring their force up to full strength and ability. That also meant that peasants were bringing in supply wagons into at least the lower bailey.

The PCs crafted a plan: Aisling would convince some peasants to loan her their wagon, and then Attivi and Nesta would hide everyone's weapons in it. Attivi would use magic to disguise Michael as donkey, and Nesta would drive the wagon into the castle while Nayla led Michael. Once inside, Nayla, Nesta, Michael, and Attivi would hide, while Aisling pretended to be a collaborator. She'd gain access to the orc leadership and then magic would happen. I was dubious about some of the details, but it was a plan, and they'd come up with it on their own with minimal prompting from me, so I didn't try to damp down their enthusiasms.

Aisling easily charmed the peasants, everyone else hid their gear, and they moved into the castle. Inside the gate, Aisling flashed some coin to establish her status as a collaborator and said she had some information. The orc knight supervising the unloading of supplies was impressed by her story and took her to Captain Grunak, flirting with her on the way. Meanwhile, everyone else noticed that the doors to the south barracks were padlocked and a baby was crying intermittently from inside.

I split up the action at this point. Everyone but Nesta went into the storehouse, waited until the kobold workers weren't around, and then hid. Except for Michael, who was disguised as a donkey and couldn't wander off as easily. This actually caused some confusion, because now the kobolds were looking for the humans who owned the donkey, but those same humans had gone into hiding. Things didn't get any better when Attivi disguised himself as an orc and scared the kobolds.

Meanwhile, Aisling went and talked to Captain Grunak. He was inclined to be suspicious, but a little luck and a large dose of supernatural charm and beauty got past his defenses. He acknowledged that the orcs were looking for a Squallite among a party of a half dozen humans, but Aisling reported that Trahaern and Hloomawl were leading a substantial army up the road from Dons. This didn't work as well as she'd hoped, mainly because the orc military intelligence was terrible and the only resistance leader they'd identified at this point was Skyler. Regardless, Aisling managed to con him into believing that a weak human army was approaching, so he sent out orders to put most of Hortskink's garrison on a march to deal with them.

Aisling used more charm to convince the orcs to let her stay while they prepared, but they firmly put her and her donkey outside the castle when they left. Meanwhile, the other PCs stayed hidden in the storehouse until dark. Attivi desperately held onto Michael's disguise spell for several hours before passing out.

As an aside, the orcs were constantly making Perception and IQ rolls to see through the PCs' thin disguises and improbable plans. Sadly, the orcs aren't very smart, and luck was consistently against them, so they failed every time and never quite realized the PCs had disappeared or found their weapons when they searched the weapons or whatever else might have helped.

"I think it's time for the 'Chewie, put these cuffs on' stage of the plan."

After dusk, Aisling grabbed Michael, now back in his natural Squallite form, and took him back to the castle. After a bit of shouting, she woke up one of the orcs that was supposed to be on watch, charmed him with her supernatural charisma and beauty, and convinced him to open up the gates and take Michael prisoner. The orcs did that, and then Aisling convinced them that since the roads were dangerous - after all, there were Squallites out there - she should be allowed to sleep in the mostly empty stables. Michael was thrown into the barracks with the other prisoners.

Michael doesn't have Aisling's supernatural charisma, so his fellow prisoners weren't particularly impressed by him. He told them that he was with the Resistance and that his friends would rescue them soon, but they didn't really believe him. On the plus side, Michael finally did make contact with Kyell, but the Resistance messenger had been tortured by the orcs and wasn't really able to contribute.

Nayla and Nesta sneaked out of the storehouse, grabbed their weapons from the cart, and started making plans for violence. Nayla waited for orcs to shoot, while Nesta climbed up the walls and eventually sneaked
up onto the southeast tower and rushed the orc on watch there. Violence ensued, drawing the attention of the orcs, and then Nayla began sniping at them. Between Heroic Archer, a balanced composite bow, Night Vision 5, and the Guided Weapon imbuement, she didn't have any particular problem making headshots at 70+ yards against moving orcs partially hidden by the castle ramparts, even in the dark. She dropped two out right, and wounded a third before the remainder managed to flee into the towers.

"Man, orcs are jerks!"

Aisling had improvised a set of lock picks out of the files and whatnot in the saddlery room at the stables, and confidently set off to free Michael and the other prisoners. She's smart, and has the Cat Burglar talent, so what could go wrong? Apparently Kevin forgot to buy the actual lockpick skill, so she was working off a poor default. Still, a lucky critical success got the doors open, and Aisling slipped inside.

These prisoners were scheduled to be executed in a few days, as a grand show of orc might and determination, but Aisling was going to rally them, lead them to the nearby smithy and arm them, and then have them defeat the orcs. Except these supposed "Resistance leaders" were a collection of elderly men and women, three children, and a baby. The only people of fighting age were Kyell, who'd been worked over extensively, and the baby's mother. The PCs were dismayed and disgusted at the laziness and cruelty of the orcs - there were several shouts of "man, orcs are jerks," which is one of the game's themes. Nayla showed up with Michael's bow and then headed north to hold the gate between the two courtyards.

Michael stepped into the courtyard and spotted the orc lieutenant in charge of the fortress heading for the east tower. He went for a headshot, but the orc had his helmet on and the steel plate protected him.

At this point, it was really late and I ended the game.

Evaluation of Play

This was a fun session. I messed up a couple of things, but I mostly managed to keep things moving. The group voluntarily split up, and that made things a little confusing, but I think I handled it pretty well. One thing I tried to do, and mostly succeeded, was handle the least risky parts of the plan first. So the PCs in the storehouse had to decide what they were going to do without knowing how Aisling's part of the plan was going to work. I don't know if really upped the dramatic tension, but I think it helped a bit.

The players were mostly focused this time. There was some confusion and hesitation at first when they were trying to find Kyell, but they were pretty decisive as soon as they meant Kara and had obvious leads to pursue. The plan for dealing with the fortress kept changing as they got new information, but reasonably so: first they wanted to do a combat raid, then they decided to sneak in, then they wanted to rally the prisoners but that clearly isn't going to work, so now they're talking about killing the remaining dozen or so orcs in the garrison and burning the place. I pointed out that I'd specifically described the fortress of being made of stone, with brick buildings with clay tile roofs to make it hard to burn, but they're sticking with that for now.

Aisling's charisma and beauty really came into play in this session. It's actually been fairly important in other sessions when they've been recruiting their army, but it was much more obvious this time through. I'm pretty happy about that, as Kevin has played a nymph in one of my Dungeon Fantasy games before, and all those points in charisma and beauty didn't do much to affect the game. This time, they really mattered and mostly for the better.

What Next?

At this time, I'm not really sure what the PC's plan is for the next session. I think they're going to have a brief combat with the orcs in Hortskink, which could go either way: a half dozen orcs in full plate backed by a half dozen orcs with crossbows is no joke, especially since the PCs don't have much in the way of similarly high quality armor. Then I think they're going to evacuate the prisoners and disable as much of Hortskink as they can.

One possibility that Kevin mentioned is recruiting an army and trying to defend Hortskink. Otern, unlike the PC's home county of Engenstut, doesn't have much of a Resistance tradition and any hurriedly raised militia troops would be pretty low quality. They would also only have a day or two to recruit before the orcs came back. They know there was a company of orcs stationed at Hortskink, and two or three more companies at other strongholds in the area. A massive fortress gives a big edge in Mass Combat terms, but quality infantry and bowmen backed by magic can counter a lot of that. It's a possibility, especially since Aisling is a pretty good commander, but it's a pretty risky play. Hopefully, the PCs will decide what to do early in the week and I'll be able to make plans.


1 comment:

  1. At this point it looks like we will be trying to raise a force and hold the castle. If we can take it from the orcs that are left. That is a big IF!

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