Stand in the Fire
“The newly ascended King Calidan was unusual for his leniency in the otherwise brutal kingdom of Wardovia. This boded well for King Richard and his proposed alliance, but was never one for leaving things to chance. Years earlier Richard had set up a vast intelligence network to keep tabs on his rivals. Along the way he had discovered that the secret society of the Black Hand had long been the power behind the throne of Wardovia, unbenknownst to its nobles and monarchs. An alliance with Wardovia was too lucrative to turn down, but came with significant risk.
To ensure success Richard had to expose the Black Hand, but without significant evidence would never be able to convince Calidan. Richard needed the truth from the horses mouth, and he knew how to get it. Calidan's chief mage and advisor Lady Illiarna, had long been a high standing member of the Hand, if Richard could get a confession out of her it would be indisputable.
The plan Richard formulated was this, to hire some freelance mercenaries and send them, along with a couple of low standing subjects of Anvavia to ensure loyalty, to Wardovia to 'retrieve' Lady Illiarna. Pirates had long stalked the coasts of Wardovia and were getting more and more ambitious. A raid against the capital would be a prefect distraction to allow the agents to infiltrate the city and extract the target. If the plan failed, the agents would have no real connection leading back to Richard, who could dismiss them as bandits.
If sucessful, Illiarna would be taken to Andavia to be 'questioned' and the truth would out.
- Simon Deangelo – Peace During Wartime: The Wardovia Job
Our first session opened with Trust and Azreal traveling to Andavia with Kara and Sakari on the promise of a new job. Arriving amongst festivities in aid of the signing of the alliance, our heroes sign up for the job with Damon and Bigg. Carnack himself appears to have his own mission.
Shortly after, the group is taken to the throne room to be briefed on the mission by King Richard himself, who gives the characters some funds up for equipment. Azreal is given a counter offer in secret by the grand master of his order, to retrieve a holy relic from Wardovia, in return for land and fortune should he succeed, disgrace if he fails. Trust overhears this however, and then goes about her usual business stealing coin and equipment from citizens who had enjoyed the festivities too much. After the alliance is signed, Bigg tries his hand in the fighting circle, brushing off all comers, including a confident Carnack.
“Captain Clodhopper, scourge of the Saw Coast, was by far the most feared Pirate warlord to operate in the realms. His past before piracy is all but unknown. How a mind flayer of the underdark would leave his societies master brain alone is unheard of, let alone to work ones way up the pirate hierarchy as he did. Clodhopper was as ingenious as he was ruthless, he recruited men regardless of race, often employing skilled elf archers during raids, and dwarfs manning his ships weapons. Failure would be punishable by having Clodhopper personally consume the brain of the transgressor. Under Clodhoppers guidance, a large portion of the Saw Coast had been taken almost totally under pirate control”
- Christoper Kalgasi – A history of Piracy in the Realms
This session Azreals player was unavailable. Fortunately I'd designed this campaign to allow players to jump in and out of it at any time. Azreal, it was explained, would meet up in Wardovia later, for now he was to undergo additional training with his order. Bigg, Trust and Damon on the other hand were to set sail.
Within the ship our group questions some of the crew, as well as Kara and Sakari, before taking to their hammocks to wait out the journey.
Rather unsurprisingly, the ship is raided by Clodhoppers pirates, and while Kara and Sakari stay down below to try and plug the leak, the group take to the deck to try and gain control over the ship. Battling pirates, they fight towards the wheel of the ship. Clodhopper flees and Bigg charges to the bridge. I ask his player to roll a strength check when he goes to grab the wheel. He passes, of course. But by passing this shows that Bigg's strength is too significant. He pulls the wheel from the ship, and it cascades into jagged rocks.
With a few possible places on the map where they can wash up, I roll to see where they awake. Coming to, they find the wrecked ship, no survivors to be seen, and quickly deduce they are deep in pirate territory. Making they're way to civilization, they are faced by a band of pirates. Bigg and Damon have a disagreement about how to handle the situation while Trust hides. Damon attempts a diplomatic approach, Bigg favors violence. Trust ambushes one of the pirates and thus makes matters worse, the violent approach being the only option.
After defeating the pirates, the group makes its way to the cover of the Romanov estates.
“The importance of the Romanov estates to the kingdom of Wardovia can in no way be overstated. In its hayday the estates controlled five hundred acres of fertile farmland. Fuel for a growing empire, and all under the control of one family. For decades many noble families plotted to usurp the Romanovs, and take the land for themselves. Ironic, then, that ultimately the estates would be run into the ground by Treveli Romanov, last of the line, who squandered the land, spending his fortunes on every vice imaginable.
Still, the estates were highly sought after. In the right hands they could be the fortune maker they were so many years ago. Unfortunately, Wardovian law prevented the lands to be simply commandeered by the state, and should Treveli die without kin, the land would be auctioned away to the highest bidder. No surprise then that Treveli died an old drunk, murdered in his home, and the land opened up to every ruthless noble and ambitious lord who needed decent collateral to fund more nefarious plots”
- Doncostoni Hanlet – Murdernomics: How a dagger in the heart changes everything
Our next session, things start to come to ahead. Arriving at the manor house of the Romanov estates, its previous occupant lying dead in a chair next to Carnack, tucking into the contents of the larder. Despite this, Carnack insists he had nothing to do with it, and an investigation shows the Black Hand to be the more likely culprits. Exploring the house, the group discover a secret cellar, housing some valuables (which trust takes naturally) as well as some seemingly magic seeds. After spending the night, Carnack has disappeared rather unsurprisingly, and we continue on to the city itself.
This session marked a new set of models for Trust, Azreal and Damon, putting away the Necromunda Ganger, Creed and Sailor models, respectively, for proper full blown character representations. The group hooks up with Azreal in the city, along with Kara and Sakari, explaining their survival of the shipwreck. Asking around, Trust hatches a plan to fake an attack by the city guard on the pirates, and hears that there have been suspicious goings on in the town of Evergreen.
After exiting the tavern, our heroes recognize a character from the previous campaign. The conspiring bartender behind the scorpion egg murders. Attempting to confront him only forces him into battle, and while trying to subdue him, Damon does a bit of overkill with cascade of light.
“Searing while light shot out of the lads hand, its beautiful rays cradled Damons almost tear filled eyes. The beauty, however was soon to be replaced, by the gut wrenching image of the human circulatory system being flotted towards our young hero and his pals.”
- 'Tripshot' Murphy - A Rush of Blood to the Head: The Adventures of Damon Volume 1
After gibbing the conspirator all over our heroes new outfits, they come across an unusual note, which Damon manages to decipher, arranging a meeting of villainous intent, in the Ragnar mountains. Curiously, it seems to be connected to neither the Black Hand, nor the pirates.
Shortly after Trust and co question a trader about the Black Hand, giving themselves away too much, and indicating the Lord Treasurer of the city might be allied to the Hand. That night, the merchants try to silence trust, but fortunately are stopped by Bigg, much to the frustration of Damon, trying for the Diplomatic solution yet again.
“Lythander Kryptmn's scheme during the wandering war, was only the first part of a grander plan. Kryptmn had no intenetion of assisting the Yuan-ti enclaves, instead using their resources in order to get away with an army of scorpions to add backbone to the forces of the Ragnar conspiritors.
The rest of the conspirators were ready to move, the Skull Lord, Skelliath had an army of the undead awaiting east. War criminal lord Khan was 'imprisoned' in the palace tower, being able to eavesdrop on the plans of the Kings inner circle and the workings of Lady Illarana of the Black Hand. Other notable members were Lord Shiabow, King Richards minister of foreign affairs and a key member organizing the Wardovia job, and Chapter Master Wallace of the knights of Helm."
- Silvio de Blum - The Ragnar Conspiritors: The Wardovia Coup
Our team get up to a lot this session. Bigg had disappeared, and as it was to turn out, never to return. Our heroes instead travel to the Ragnar mountains, to seek aid from the dwarfs and investigate the mysterious message. Arriving there, they eavesdrop on a meeting of conspirators, planning to stage a coup funded by the Romanov estates, to claim the kingdom and then go to war on Andavia. The undead army in the east, being stopped by a strange presence in the shipwreck of the Iron Maiden. The dwarfs prove to be unforthcoming, refusing to let the group enter their city without official papers. The group heads back to the city, stopping off at the village of noone for some rest and to rob a magic meat plant and special soil.
In the city they meet a morally scrupulous contact who agrees to get entrance papers for the dwarvern city in return for information on the pirates movements. The group then travels to the town of evergreen to investigate claims that there may be a Black Hand influence there. This turns out to be dead on the mark, and Damon takes numerous magic missiles to the face while fighting towards the towns mysterious caves...