Monday, July 10, 2017

New Dawn Session 22: July is not a Quiet Month

Precis: The PCs plan to spend July retraining their army, but the Orcs have other plans.

The 22nd session of my GURPS Fantasy Mass Combat game New Dawn was all about the difference between the plans you make and the events that occur. The PCs had decided to have a relatively quiet July, during which their troops could retrain and their army could expand. Sure, they intended to knock off a few Orc regiments in a neighboring countries, but their big focus was going to be retraining. Unfortunately, the orcs in a different set of neighboring countries had different plans, and the PCs were forced to respond to potential and actual orc incursions.

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 but is branching out into military raids as the PCs become Mass Combat units in their own right.

The PCs involved in the army were:

The Direct Action consisted of:

+Kevin Smyth's Aisling Mhic Muiris - a Fae conwoman or possible ambassador - had a brief sequence.

All Over the Map

At the end of June and the last session, the direct action team had used their flying boat to zip around the country, annihilating orc garrison companies in their fortresses and creating a local power vacuum. Some orcs in the neighboring country of Zerniless responded by advancing into Hanist and reconquering the fortress of Lubasser. Fleeing peasants arrived at the Liberation controlled fortress of Frederikvud on the 28th and a courier got the word to the PCs on the 30th. On July 1st, the tired and battered direct action team immediately flew to Frederickvud to reinforce the garrison there, and a contingent of light infantry and artillery that had just finished training moved out of the capitol to provide additional firepower. The Pegasii cavalry also moved out of Trahaern's army to provide aerial scouting. 

Liberation armies in dark blue. Liberation air forces in
light blue. Liberation reinforcements in pastel blue.
Orc forces in red. Orc reinforcements in orange.
Nominally allied orc forces are green.

Meanwhile, on the northwest border with Menkgu and Venrike, Trahaern's army was facing off against half a regiment of orcs. Trahaern's old army could have smashed such a force without worry, but most of the field force had returned their depots for retraining and no one was sure how well the reduced force would do.

In the south, Aisling was overseeing the retraining and re-equipping of a large group of surrendered orcs. She was also suffering from the effects of the new variable mana system I had just introduced: mana levels were now changing randomly on a weekly basis across the continent, and local levels of high mana made Fae like Aisling suffer from Euphoria. At any rate, the leader of the orc forces, Colonel Rigar Gloomfang, approached her and pointed out that two of the garrisons that had been destroyed in the previous week were companies from his regiment, as were the last two orc garrisons in Hanist, and it would make more sense for him to order them to join the orc army than have them destroyed. Although this would add a significant number of dubiously loyal orcs to a force that was already dubiously loyal and more powerful than the local militia, Aisling agreed and couriers were sent out to recruit the orcs.

A Contemplative Interlude

In the northeast, the PCs waited at Frederikvud. A pair of soldiers approached Nayla, and basically asked if the rumors that she was a demi-god were true, and if so, how did that happen and most importantly, how could the soldiers become demi-gods too? Nayla mostly demurred to answering the questions, because she didn't know the answers anyway, but the rest of the PCs weighed in with their opinions. At some point, the topic branched to magic items, with the various PCs offering a bunch of confusing and mostly wrong answers as to why they were getting magic items. It was a good little role-playing scene that exposed a bunch of the PCs' various personality quirks.

The Lubasser Front

On the 2nd, an orc company with a preponderance of cavalry - including centaurs! - marched south at a leisurely pace, and eventually assaulted Frederikvud after dark on the 3rd. By that point, the PCs had nearly seven companies in place, commanded by Sven. The orc commander was quite skilled and had a bonus for fighting at night, but he was also heavily overnumbered and lacked air support. He took massive casualties in the first round of combat and retreated in the second round, but even so, only 10% of his force survived.

The PCs managed to capture a centaur sergeant and interrogate him, but he was less than helpful. The centaurs were vicious and cruel; they enjoyed hunting minotaurs and lizardmen and didn't want to be part of a future when they wouldn't be allowed to do that. Nesta eventually killed him out of annoyance but it did mean the PCs were going to have a problem with centaur prisoners in the future.

Sven was immediately going to follow up, but I pointed out it was close to 2 am and most of his troops had just spent four days on the road. They were willing to pursue the enemy, but they wanted to wait until morning. Sven relented and marched out the next morning, arriving at Lubasser in mid-afternoon on the 5th. The orcs had reinforced the Lubasser garrison with a second company. This one also had a very non-standard formation, with almost no cavalry but flying demonic imp scouts and a batch of kobold miners. Still, the garrison was outnumbered 3:1 and didn't have the advantage of darkness; Sven quickly breached the walls and conquered the place. A number of centaurs were captured, and there was a discussion about the difficulty of keeping superhumanly strong, smart, man-horse hybrids prisoner with the resources that the Liberation had available.

The Menkgu Front

On the other side of the PC's territory, Trahaern was facing several companies of orcs. He decided to hold up and wait for more reinforcements. The orcs attempted a reconnaissance in force, but since Greex had a magic map that showed all enemy troop movements, Trahaern and Greex had plenty of time to prepare for the orcs' arrival. They ambushed the orcs outside of the Liberation controlled fortress of Gicunoocoo and sent them reeling. Less than 100 of the orcs survived to retreat to their fortress of Catonodo, and Trahaern followed up and overran the castle on July 5th.

On Trahaern's left flank, another regiment of orcs was beginning to assemble. Fortunately, he would have a few days to prepare, and more allied reinforcements were coming.

We had covered a lot at this point, so I ended the game here.

Review of Play

This was a pleasantly simple session to plan for: I simply figured out what the orcs would do with their available information and had them do that, while the PCs made their own plans. Gameplay resulted from the clash of plans. It might not have been as tactically fraught as dealing with huge orc armies during the liberation of Hanist in June, but it was amusing and a bit of a breather.

Map with weather and mana level icons.
I did introduce two new subsystems in this session: changing mana levels and explicitly changing weather. Both worked out pretty well. Mana levels require that I roll on some tables every week or so of game time, which isn't too much of a hassle. Weather required a daily roll on a table and some tedious update work so that there were icons for the PCs to see, but I wrote a macro after the game to automate all that.

The role-playing scene with Nayla and the question of demi-godhood had been something I wanted to do for a while, but it kept getting put off in favor of other things. It had a little less impact than I would have liked, but it was still a good little scene.

What Next?

Next week, Aisling will deal with the consequences of inviting 700 orcs of dubious loyalty into her castle. We'll also introduce Ben's and Chris' second PCs, who are currently another nymph and an ogre priest, respectively. It should be interesting.

I have an idea for a micro-dungeon in Venrike that will take up a session or two and may result in the deaths of a few PCs. We'll see. That's in the future, though.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

New Dawn Session 21: The Grimstut Case

Precis: The PCs investigate the death of an ally.

The 21st session of my GURPS Fantasy Mass Combat game New Dawn mostly focused on a murder investigation. The orcs had counterattack and retaken the liberated city of Grimstut, and Diane Behm, the rebel Countess of Grimstut, had been caught in the city and forced to hide for several days. She was discovered by collaborators, betrayed to the orcs, and executetd. The PCs decided to find the collaborators and punish them.

This plotline arose from a throw away little bit of fluff that I added to the game to help remind the PCs that the orcs are jerks. I asked if anyone was interested in investigating it, and everyone was, so I decided to make an adventure out of it.

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 but is branching out into military raids as the PCs become Mass Combat units in their own right.

Raven dropped out the game suddenly, so Ben got promoted to player and took over Zarathras.

The PCs involved in the investigation were:
Attivi, Trahaern, and Greex continued on to command the war effort in the northwest.

The Direct Action team of Ariana, Sven, and Zarathras were joined by
They spent the last bit of the session beating up orcs.

Writing a Murder Mystery

I have a copy of GURPS Mysteries, so I read through it for advice. The most useful bit was to make sure that the PCs always had an obvious clue to follow and to not include too many red herrings. I wrote up some notes for the mystery, which I can summarize here:
  1. Diane Behm had been found by accident when Lium, a collaborator, recognized her daughter Yulia as Yulia left a safehouse.
  2. Yulia had an inkling that she had been spotted by one of four people: Lium, a man in a distinctive hat; Renee, a blonde in a red dress; Ulvik, a known collaborator with an orc symbol on his cloak brooch; and Rath, a lamed kobold. That gave the PCs five obvious suspects to find and interrogate (it would be easy to clear Yulia, as Diane's assistant and other child would vouch that she loved her mother too much to betray her).
  3. The PCs would use their skills and the aid of their troops to find the other four suspects and interrogate them. Ulvik would claim to be a secret ally of Diane who had put a water canteen at the safehouse exit, a fact that could be verified by talking to Yulia or Diane's assistant. Rath would have left town and not to know anything about Yulia. Renee and Lium would lie with stories that contradicted Ulvik's; assuming that the PCs believed Ulvik, they would know that Renee and Lium were lying.
  4. I would also introduce Karl Luffare as a crime boss who was at the scene during the orc raid on the safehouse. Karl would be hard to find. He'd been the one who Lium told and who in turn told the orcs, and when the PCs started investigating, Karl would kidnap Diane Behm's grandchildren and hold them hostage.
  5. The investigation would end with the PCs confronting Luffare.
When I wrote it, it looked reasonably solid, though the bridge from finding out that Luffare was the villain to finding out that he had taken the children hostage was a little weak. As usual, things didn't work out exactly as I'd planned.

I knew that while this looked like a fairly straightforward plot to me, it had a bunch of moving parts and new characters in it. I created a map in MapTools that had tokens and descriptions for all the NPCs and hid most of them. That way, I could reveal them as the PCs found out about them, and hopefully having the tokens as a reference would mostly keep the PCs from getting too confused.

NPC reference image, showing all the NPCs encountered in the investigation

Fixating on the Villain Too Early

The opening sequence of the mystery went well: I introduced Yulia and Diane's assistant Brianna and established that Yulia was an entitled brat who blamed Trahaern for her mother's death, while Brianna was mildly helpful. Uhuk immediately put Yulia on the potential suspect list, and everyone else agreed to investigate the other potential subjects. But first, they wanted to do some hands-on investigating of their own.

They scoured the neighborhood of the safehouse for an informant. I pointed out that they were probably not the best investigators for a bad part of town, but they tried anyway. Greex found a kobold to talk to and Attivi and Sven found someone else. After a little friendly questioning, I was improvising answers. They got a little more information on the suspects, including the detail that Rath was routinely beaten by orcs and probably wouldn't talk to them willingly, but they also got the detail that Luffare had been at the scene of the raid. Which was a good detail, as it established him as another potential suspect, but then I added the detail that the orcs had paid him off. Which was certainly too much information too early, and the PCs immediately fixated on him and I had to do some work to get them to investigate the other suspects.

PCs Cheat, but Don't Use Their Resources

I eventually pointed out the PCs could search for multiple people at a time, but they only had a few people with Streetwise or other skills useful for finding people so that wasn't true. They were also kind of reluctant or forgetful and didn't really take advantage of the literal army of people they had access to, which would have improved the odds of finding people. And when they heard that Rath left town, they didn't make any effort to track him down, which I thought was a little weird because Sven had a flying horse that could have overtaken a limping kobold on foot in less than an hour.

With a little prompting, the PCs found Lium and Ulvik and brought them in for questioning.

One thing that Sven did have was a helmet of mind reading. Mind-reading is one of those abilities that destroys suspense in mysteries, and the usual solution in role-playing games is to cripple mind-reading. I decided not to do that, and it meant that it was easy to verify that Ulvik was truthful when they finally questioned him: Sven read his mind and his surface thoughts matched what he was saying. Over time, I managed to find ways of expressing NPC's surface thoughts so that Sven's mind-reading was useful but not overwhelming, but at first, it did a good job of destroying the suspense of the mystery. A little annoying, but I think it would be more annoying to say to a player "your character spent resources on a powerful ability that I won't let you use because it ruins my planned plot."

With Ulvik's reliability unquestioned, it was pretty obvious that Lium was lying. Lium was detained. He tried to send a message to Luffare, but the PCs did a pretty good job of cutting that off - and of course, a clumsily worded message was pretty suspicious, too. Lium eventually got boxed in enough that the PCs got an confession from him: he had spotted Yulia by luck, told Luffare, and Luffare passed the information onto the orcs.

The PCs had solved the important parts of the mystery. Unfortunately, at this point I realized I hadn't really established a way to get from "Luffare and Lium are clearly guilty" to "And we know where Luffare is." I improvised by having Brianna want to go back and check on Diane Behm's sick grandkids, who Luffare was holding hostage at this point.

Solving Problems with Magic

When the PCs escorted Brianna to the hovel where the grandkids were still in hiding, they spotted that the door had been forced and sloppily replaced on its hinges. They sent Brianna back (and Greex retreated to a space a couple of blocks over to watch everyone's back because he is a serious coward) and Ariana pushed the door open.

Attivi puts almost everyone to sleep, and Trahaern dispatches two
goons by slamming them into walls with the shockwave of his
magic halberd.
Luffare and his brother had knives to the grandkids' throats, and other goons were holding Behm's daughter-in-law and her maid hostage. Ariana immediately offered herself up as  a hostage, while Uhuk started looking things up in Sorcery and Powers to determine if Attivi could modify his existing single-target sleep spell to take out a room. I pointed out that even the most quietly cast spell would trigger the villains' Waits, but Ariana and Sven worked to try to distract the villains.

Ariana took off most of her armor and went into the room. As she was swapping places with the granddaughter and Sven was trying to be distracting with Fast-Talk, Attivi cast his spell. Two of the hostage takers were too distracted to stab their victims immediately and both succumbed to the spell. Ariana and the maid took glancing blows to their necks (which Ariana could trivially heal with her healing prayers). Sven and Trahaern charged into the room, using their powerful magic weapons to slam the remaining goons into the walls. In literally seconds, the situation was resolved. It was a very impressive show of force by Attivi, who generally doesn't do much and in this situation took out 5 goons by himself.

Appointing a New Count

Kevin had asked if I had meant to set up a succession crisis: Diane Behm was survived by an adult daughter, a minor adopted son, and minor grandchildren of both sexes through her now deceased elder son. I hadn't, but I didn't want to lock the PCs into any particular pattern of inheritance either. All of Diane's family had issues, but if the PCs wanted to go with primogeniture or agnatic inheritance or whatever then they had that option. None of the options were particularly great options, but they had options.

As Yulia was an entitled brat who had already expressed her intent to work against them in Council, they rejected her. There was a brief discussion of appointing one of the children, but they decided that would mean a regency and it made more sense to just appoint any potential regent as Count. As Brianna was the only trustworthy and mildly competent person they'd dealt with in Grimstut, so she got the job.

Mopping Up

Trahaern took the army north at this point, heading for the Menkgu border. The plan was to work counterclockwise through the remaining orc forces with parts of the main army. The rest of the main army would be left behind to retrain in July so that a huge, professional, and skilled army could move into the forests and mountains of Zerniless in August (and face the 10,000 strong Orc legion they suspected was between them and their potential allies in the Fae Court). Meanwhile, the direct team took the Flying Boat and beat up a bunch of orcs in isolated garrisons, increasing Resistance control of Hanist.

Trahaern advances the main army in blue;
the direct action team moves in light blue;
Orcs advance in red.
This worked ideally, but there were some minor complications. A group of orcs, survivors of the Battle of Ravenrock Bridge, made a night attack on some Resistance militia west of Ravenrock. The orcs were planning on linking up with other survivors that had retreated to Berger. Unfortunately, they had launched their break-out at the worst time, just as the main army was marching up the road to Berger. A quick forced march and the army caught the orcs napping after their battle. Resistance scouts then reported that the Berger orcs had marched south, so Trahaern took the army north, dispersed those orcs, and went ahead and crossed the bridge to Berger and assaulted the citadel there. Trahaern's diminished army still had over 1000 troops in it, including pegasii and miners, and they trounced the remaining 100 orcs of the garrison pretty heavily.

The other minor complication was that while the direct action team could successfully smash a bunch of orcs in a castle, they couldn't hold the castle or even arrange for the local Resistance to take it. Instead, they threw out the orcs and left the castles abandoned. In the areas where there were no other orcs to do anything about it, this strategy worked fine, but the orcs of the Zerniless eventually moved down to investigate and reoccupied a castle in the northeast.

We ended the session there, with the PCs receiving word that Lubasser had been retaken and Trahaern's army taking a break in preparation for dealing with 600 orcs that were massing in Menkgu.

Review of Play

This was a very different session from most of them, obviously. I had never really run a murder mystery with the online group before, so it was great that I got to justify my purchase of GURPS Mysteries. There was also an excellent balance of role-playing, individual PC action, and Mass Combat: the PCs got to talk and complain about the villains, use their skills to find them, and then fight several small battles to clear out the orcs.

The mystery could have been stronger. I shouldn't have made Luffare such a focus so early, and I should have plotted a better transition from "Luffare is the villain!" to "Luffare has taken hostages!" It worked out, but it would have been a lot more enjoyable had I plotted it just a little better.

What Next?

The next session is going to consist of people reacting to events. The PCs have reached some orcs that are a little less lazy than some of the others they've dealt with, and those orcs are going things like retaking abandoned castles. The PCs are going to react to that, and the orcs are going to respond to what the PCs do. There may be some surprises here and there, but I that's mostly what's going to happen.

I'm working on some notes for a microdungeon in Venrike, but I don't think that's going to show up next session. I also have some notes for a long-awaited role-playing scene where a couple of common soldiers react to the rumors that Nayla is a demi-goddess, but that keeps getting pushed off in favor of other things.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

New Dawn Session 9: Enter the Villain

Precis: The PCs fight a powerful sorcerer.

I ran the ninth session of New Dawn a few months ago. It was a pretty short session, nust dealing with the fight between the PCs And the evil sorcerer general Arcane, which didn't last as long as I expected. I had nothing else prepared, so I ended the session early.

I wrote about half this report immediately after the session and then sat on it. Now it's a bit more of a retrospective.

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.

The Delvers

Sacrifice Denied

At the end of the previous session, the PCs were in the process of burglarizing the home of the evil sorcerer general Arcane. To their misfortune, Arcane had magical wards set up, which they had tripped. Arcane was also capable of teleportation, and has returned and hit them with a powerful spell that made them incapable of action while she read their minds.

The key elements of my portrayal of Arcane was that she was extremely arrogant and a sadist. She wasn't going to take the PCs seriously until they did some damage to her, and until then, she was going to toy with them. Having decided the PCs weren't a threat, she offered to let them live if they were willing to flee like cowards.

Of course, PCs being PCs, they wanted to fight. I pointed out that Nayla was badly wounded and Attivi was nearly dead, and that a tactical retreat, even if feigned, might be in order. But they were insistent that the time to fight was now, and Ariana charged forward, intending to slam Arcane back into the library and have Skyler shut the door, so that Arcane and Ariana could duel while the wounded healed with potions.

Arcane mostly dodged Ariana's charge, but it left her out of position and Skyler managed to close the door on her. Arcane was facing north with Ariana behind to the south. Arcane mocked Ariana for a bit, effortlessly parried her attacks without turning around, and then teleported back to where everyone else was. Ariana's attempted sacrifice came to naught.

Six armed Cpellcasting Cuisinart

The next several rounds went poorly for the PCs. Arcane was a Weapon Master with two dancing swords who also had 360 degree vision and a compartmentalized mind. She could launch four sword attacks while casting a spell and defending herself against whatever the PCs tried with a pair of magical, invisible arms holding invisible shields. She was also in extremely heavy armor, so even their infrequent lucky shots or meteoric iron weapons pretty much bounced off her armor.

Even so, Arcane's attacks were mostly ineffectual. It takes a lot of firepower to overwhelm a PC's defenses, especially if all the attacks are coming from a single source and the PC can apply a retreat bonus against all of them. She did manage to get another hit in against Nayla, but mostly Ariana, Nesta, and Skyler blocked her attacks.

I played up Arcane's arrogance and overconfidence throughout this. She didn't believe the Resistance was a threat, she thought she could take on all five PCs at once, and she figured after that she would spend a couple of days organizing the orcs and putting down the rebellion. She told the PCs of her plans and mocked them for their ineffectiveness against her.

Things Don't Go as Planned

Eventually the melee PCs managed to force Arcane away from Nayla, and she started firing meteoric arrows into Arcane's eyeslits. Arcane did have some armor for her eyes, but an unlucky dodge roll meant she still took a hit. Badly wounded and impaired, she launched her signature spell: a rolling cloud of white mist that was a persistent life leach effect, intended to kill all of them while healing her. Unfortunately, she couldn't set up the attack and teleport far enough away to prevent Nayla from shooting her in the other eye with a lucky shot.
Arcane duels the PCs as Nayla and Attivi bombard her with ranged attacks.

This was slightly frustrating for me. As the PCs would later discover, Nayla was a demi-god of some sort, and certain people in the know, such as Arcane, would recognize that fact when Nayla used her imbuement powers. But in this fight, for some reason, Nayla didn't use any imbued attacks. There was supposed to be a dramatic reveal that Nayla was something special and that it was related to some kind of ward that hadn't been breached, but that didn't happen. So a useful clue for setting up my ongoing story was lost because the PCs didn't cooperate.

Arcane's white mist of leeching death spell wasn't healing her as fast as it needed, and with her eyes shot out, she was mostly dead meat. Skyler used his signature weapon with enhanced knockback to hit her three times, sending her flying to the edge of the tor that they were fighting on. I figured that since Arcane wasn't going to accomplish anything in the fight, and it was dramatic and amusing this way, that I might as well redraw the map slightly and have her get sent over the end of the tor, so she could bounce her way down to her death in the castle courtyard. This wasn't a case of Never Found the Body: Arcane was very, very dead and her corpse was lying in the courtyard, surrounded by friendly soldiers. I just wanted a more dramatic send-off.

Answers Lead to More Questions

The PCs went back down to the courtyard and examined Arcane's corpse. It was pretty battered, but they removed the helmet. Arcane had been an extremely beautiful blonde with delicate features and pointed ears: almost certainly an elf. This immediately raised the question if she was a renegade elf in Imperial service, or if all the Luminals and masked nobility were actually elfs?

They poked around her villa some more, finding some books on magic written in an unknown script that resembled the Squallite and Fae scripts but was clearly different (much like the Hebrew and Arabic scripts are related to each other). They couldn't do much with that, but it was another bit of evidence for the "Luminals are elfs" theory.

They also found some nameplates in the common tongue, and discovered that Arcane was actually named Whitemist, and that "Arcane" was the title for an archmage. This didn't have a lot of bearing on the plot, but it reinforced my theme that the Resistance knew so little about the Luminals that they didn't even know their names or titles. Skyler pointed out that "Whitemist" was not a very scary name, and Attivi intuited that white was the Luminal color for death, so the name might have been more accurately translated as "Deathmist."

I hadn't prepared anything after this fight, so we ended the game at this point after about 3 hours of play time.

Edging Toward GM Burn-Out

I was getting really frustrated with the campaign at this point. I was putting a lot of effort into the game, and aside from Kevin, the players were not really engaging with it. It had the potential to be a really amazing, epic campaign, and there were some cool things that I wanted to do in the future that would engage me even if the players were less interested, but I was afraid I was going to just give up before we got to any of those stories.

Fortunately, we powered through to Stinecrice, which was the first of the really interesting setpieces I had planned. The game has been consistently good since then, despite some shuffling off the players. I'm no longer worried about burning out for a while, but it was touch and go for a bit there.

Review of Play

It's always hard, introducing a big solo villain. There's a fine line between push-over and unstoppable death machine. On paper, Arcane looked more like an unstoppable death machine, but in play, she was very stoppable. A huge part of the problem there was that I really misread the rules for switching Sorcery powers, so several of her nastier abilities should have persisted longer than they did and I should have been freer with switching out her spells as the situation demanded.

Another difficulty was that I didn't have a good sense of how powerful a high level sorcerer should be, and just kind of winged her spell effects. I've since done some math, and Arcane should have been much more powerful than she was. That just means the next Luminal will be much more powerful.

It wasn't really a bad thing to have a stoppable monster for the first big villain to show up. She was dangerous enough that the PCs were scared without being utterly destroyed. It would have been nice to kill a PC, to really put the fear into the players, but I don't have a group that would necessarily react to that with anything but despair and complaints about unfun! Which is sad sometimes, but you game with the group you have and not the group that John Wick claims he has.

I was bummed that Arcane didn't get to shout "What!? No! The Wards hold! You cannot be here!" before turning the full force of her destructive power on Nayla. At the time, it would have been as confusing as heck, and it would have set up the theme for when the demons at Stinecrice did the same thing. Also, it was a great line that I spent some time polishing. But as I've said here and there, this is a collaborative story-telling experience, not a novel that I'm reading to the players. A lot of the time, the PCs don't do what I want. I adapt and respond to what they do, not what I thought they would do or what I wanted them to do. That's important to me, because it means the game isn't a railroad.

What Next?

Focus shifted over the next couple of sessions to the army group that was tangling with orcs in central Hanist. I hope to write up what I remember of those sessions in the next few weeks.