Friday, March 3, 2017

New Dawn Session 7: (Some) Orcs Are Stupid

Precis: The PCs, having infiltrated a castle, take it over and use it as base to liberate the countryside from the orcs.

I ran the seventh session of New Dawn last week. It was a good session and a lot of fun at the time, but for some reason I didn't do all my follow-up immediately and that included not writing up a blog post. So now I am going back and fixing that.

This session finished up the infiltration of Otern county. It was another cascade of errors by the orcs, and the PCs quickly triumphed.

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.

The Conquest of Hortskink 

Play picked up where session 6 ended: the PCs were widely separated as they ran around Hortskink castle. I pretty much went in initiative order and gave each PC a little bit of action, and then went onto the next person.

Nayla moved through the inner courtyard toward the only barracks that was lit. She peeked through the arrowslits and saw a bunch of orcs putting on armor. She fired a scattershot arrow through the arrow slits and did a little damage, but not much. Since she was running out of fatigue, she climbed up the barracks wall to hide on the roof and rest a bit.

Attivi, Aisling, and Michael moved to the southeast tower with plans to get to the wall and make sure there weren't any orcs left. Aisling got into the tower first and encountered an orc: he fell for her nymph charm and let himself get fast-talked into believing that she was a collaborator taking shelter from the rebels. The orc turned to the stairwell and readied his crossbow to shoot Attivi, but Aisling brained him from behind, The orc had forgotten to put on his helmet and went down immediately. Attivi and Michael caught up with Aisling and they all went onto the walls and starting moving clockwise, looking for orcs.

Nesta was in the gatehouse when she heard another orc enter. They fumbled around in the dark and I think Nesta ended up behind the orc at close range. She backstabbed the orc and then moved north to clear the walls. I think this was another orc too stupid to put on his helmet.

After a couple more minutes, most of the PCs were in the northeastern tower and the orcs in the barracks were armed, armored, formed up, and ready to squelch the rebellion. Sadly for them, Lieutenant Hok blew an easy Tactics roll and took them out through the main courtyard instead of going up onto the walls. Most of the PCs hid in the tower and worried about what to do: two lightly armored fighters, an archer, and a semi-competent sorcerer versus eight heavily armored and armored orc infantrymen backed by five orcs with crossbows and a pair of goblin archers was not exactly a recipe for success.

The orcs advance to the south in formation, but Nayla perches on the corner
of the barracks with intent to do harm.
Fortunately, Nayla was behind and above the orcs, and she landed an overstrength Scattershot arrow in the middle of their formation. Orc infantry plate armor doesn't cover the back of the legs, and the crossbow orc's armor doesn't cover their arms, and most of the orcs ended with crippled legs or arms. We could have played it out from there, but had gone from massed orcs to crippled orcs caught in a crossfire and didn't bother.

The Liberation of Otern 

The PCs decided that they would just hold onto Hortskink, and maybe even liberate all of Otern while they waited for Trahaern. They went out recruiting the next day, and kept on recruiting for days after that. Otern wasn't exactly prime militia recruiting country, and so they were going for large number of poorly equipped and badly trained troops. I think they ended with 800 or so.

As part of my prep for this game, I'd randomly rolled for Captain Grunak's abilities: Strategy-9, Intelligence Analysis-9, Leadership-13, Overconfidence, and Megalomania. I also rolled for the captains of the other nearby orc companies, and while some were more competent, Overconfidence and Megalomania were a common theme. I'd also tracked out Grunak's movement: he'd spent three days heading down to the Engenstut border and waiting for reinforcements from some other orcs, then had advanced on Swartun, besieged the PC's training forces, and gotten his tail thoroughly kicked over the course of two days before finally realizing he was losing and retreating back to Hortskink. The point was, when the orcs returned to challenge the PCs, the orc army was at 40% of its nominal strength and being led by an idiot with delusions of grandeur.
From Hortskink, they went to Mayla and south to deal with the orcs at Crickfeeg.

Nesta's scouts gave the PC's plenty of warning of the orc advance, and Aisling prepared a raid. Meanwhile, Captain Grunak tried to launch a probe against the castle gates and then have his cavalry race around to the "undefended" back wall of the castle. This worked very poorly for him and his force was wiped out, leaving him to flee south to the orc stronghold of Crickfeeg. The next day, the PCs took half their army and pursued.

Captain Grunak was theoretically superior to Captain Hulg at Crickfeeg, but since it was Hulg's company that had reinforced Grunak for the disaster at Swartun, Hulg refused to turn commander over to the idiot. Hulg made a good defense at Crickfeeg, but Aisling was a superior leader and ground him down.

We ended the session there.

Off Screen: the Liberation of Stineyer and Cape Har

At this point, there were two orc companies on Cape Har: another at the orc stronghold of Niswunstine to the east and one at the fortress of Travgrave in Stineyer. I had some vague ideas that session 8 would deal with those battles, but since the PCs had already demonstrated that Trahaern's army could defeat an orc company holding a fortress, and the combined forces would smash an orc company holding a stronghold, I didn't think that would be a very good session. Instead, we all agreed to handwave those two fights and move onto something more interesting.

Review of Play 

Part of the backstory of New Dawn is that there was a coup at the Imperial capitol, and most of the orc garrisons went there to fight in the resulting civil war. The remaining forces are generally not very good, and were left behind because the generals needed someone to garrison the lands but didn't want to leave behind their best warfighters. Thus, the initial forces arrayed against the PCs are not very good, and the PCs are easily defeating them.

There's something of a Sorting Algorithm of Evil effect going on here, somewhat intentionally on my part. The first forces the PCs are fighting are scattered companies, led by incompetents, and undersupplied. Over time, those companies are going to get fully supplied, merge into regiments and eventually legions, and start getting some more competent leadership. Ideally, the PCs' forces will have improved by then and will continue to overmatch them. But for now, it explains why the orcs are so bad and make so many suboptimal choices like forgetting to put on their helmets when their castle is under attack: these are the dumbest and laziest of the orcs, left behind because their leadership knew they were dumb and lazy.

Aside from criminal stupidity on the part of the orcs, this was a good session: a little bit of PC scale combat at the start, some role-playing and decision making in the middle, and two small battles at the end to good purpose. I'm getting a little better at pacing the plots for this style of game, which makes me happy. On the downside, preparing for these sessions is a lot of work, and unlike a large dungeon like Castle of Horrors, I can't do prep in advance when I have time and let it carry me for a couple of weeks when I'm busy. Every session ends up getting prepped in the week before it, and if I'm busy or uninspired then the prep is rushed or unsatisfactory. That's frustrating, but I don't see an easy way around that.

What's Next?

Like I said at the start, for some reason, I wasn't up to writing this blog post or figuring out CP awards immediately after the game. I let doing that slide, which cascaded to me not really doing prep work until Tuesday or Wednesday for a game I run on Thursday, and then having to work late on both those days. All of which did not help that I was a little uninspired about the idea of doing two rote battles.

Fortunately, I whined to the players, and they all agreed to handwave the liberation of Stineyer and focus instead on the assault on the Black Library. The Black Library is a semi-legendary magical library owned by Arcane, one of the sorcerer-generals of the Empire of Night, that just happened to be across the river from Otern. As it turned out, the orc garrison at the Black Library was not a bunch of worthless idiots, but instead a hand-picked force, so it served as something of a Wake-Up Call Boss. But that's a tale for another post.

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