The Banner of the Burning Wheel arrives in the Borderlands road-weary but alert. The company’s rations have run low. Morale is better, but fading–fighting is hard on the men, but long bouts of boredom are even harder.
So it’s with great relief that Hannibal Emmitt sees the Keep rising in the distance. A night or two of drinking, sleeping beneath a roof, and letting off steam will do the company good, he knows, and he and Comfort are sure to find profitable work in the dangerous region.
Note: For this session I went back to using a Mythic Variations II style “roll for 11+ on a d20 with modifier” oracle system. I also roll a second d20 against a Chaos number to determine if a random event occurs.
Reminder: You can find links to every one of my solo session game reports on my Campaign Logs page.
Scene. Arrival at the Keep.
Setup: The Banner arrives at the Keep
Chaos: 1 vs 2. Event!
Event: Introduce a New NPC — Betray/Masses
They march for another hour before they get close enough to see the Keep with any clarity. It’s Modesty, one of the Wheel’s two scouts, that sees it first. “What all that about?” she asks. And then, more insistent: “Smoke!”
Is the Keep on fire? +4: Yes.
What had looked like the smoke of dozens of chimneys grows larger, darker. The Keep is, indeed, on fire. “We’re moving!” Comfort Stewart, Hannibal’s second-in-command, shouts. The men and women of the Wheel react immediately to the powerful woman’s bark. Their purposeful march becomes a road-devouring jog as they fall in behind the sergeant.
Do they pass anyone as they approach? +0: No.
They soon reach the point where the road branches, and the company follows Comfort upward toward the burning Keep.
Are there guards at the gate? +0: Yes.
Is it locked? +0: No.
A handful of guards mill about before the gatehouse. The portcullis is up, but they men look ill-inclined to let anyone in at this point. Shouts come from within the Keep.
[(sociable) friendly – delight – enemy]
“By the Gods, it’s good to see a face that doesn’t have fangs or a pig’s snout!” the soldier in charge says when the company approaches. “We’ve watched you lot come up from the wood, and we’re glad to have you, if you’re as mean as you look.”
Hannibal steps forward and introduces himself. “We’re the Banner of the Bleeding Wheel,” he says, gesturing toward the patch on his arm. “Here for work, and to fight against Chaos.”
“You’ve found both already, friend,” the sentry says. “Some piece of walking crow’s-bait let a rope down the wall last night. We’ve had reports of kobolds and goblinkin running wild all day, setting fires. You find ’em and take their heads off, and I’m sure the captain’d be grateful.”
Hannibal nods and gives a sign to his men. They form up and draw their weapons as Mercy Rouse and the scouts fall in toward the middle of the formation. The sentries at the gate step aside as the Bleeding Wheel enters the Keep on the Borderlands.
+NPC: Saboteur in the Keep
Chaos: Increased to 3
Scene. Hunting Down Chaos.
Setup: Slay the forces of chaos until the Keep is calm
Chaos: 16 vs 3-, no chaos
The company passes through the gatehouse and into the yard.
Is the Corporal here? +0: No.
A skinny man in disheveled robes runs up to the party. He is clearly out of his element, but he does his best to keep the strain from his voice. “I am–ahem–I am required to record your names and collect the silver piece toll from visitors to the Keep. But… you’re fighting men?” His eyes sweep the party, eventually stopping on the hulking form of Balthasar Hill.
“Banner of the Bleeding Wheel, and you can be sure as shit we’re fighting men,” Balthasar says, stepping forward.
Hannibal draws the scribe’s attention. “I’m the leader of this company. We’re here from the western kingdoms, looking for work and pay. The guards outside said you had work.” He glances around. “Not that we couldn’t have guessed.”
“Ah, um, yes,” the scribe says. “The Corporal’s the man to put you to task. Or, he would be, if anybody’d seen him.”
Is there anyone else in charge? -4: No.
“Anyone above that?”
The scribe shakes his head. “Everyone who can swing a sword’s been running around since before dawn, putting out fires and putting down kobolds and goblins. Seems like a whole pack of ’em got over the wall this time.”
“This time?” Mercy Rouse asks. The young woman–barely more than a girl–looks up at the walls that surround them.
The scribe looks at the magic-user as if seeing her for the first time. If he’s surprised to see a girl amongst such rough company, he doesn’t let on. She doesn’t know if she’s the least upsetting thing about the day or if girl-wizards in the company of hard men are more common on the frontier.
“This time,” he repeats. “We strung up a traitor trying to escape the Keep a few weeks ago. Let a half-dozen kobolds over the wall with a rope. This one’s done that bastard one better.”
“How can we help?” Hannibal asks.
Do they have any idea where to look? +2: Yes.
Outer Keep? +6: Yes.
“The far side of the outer keep,” the scribe says. “Get to the tavern, see if everyone’s okay. Ask around for the Corporal. Somebody’s got to know SOMETHING.”
The company sets off at a jog toward the tavern.
Are they attacked on the way? -4: No.
What does the Keep look like? freely/rough
They see no signs of the creatures of chaos, but the Keep is clearly prepared for war. Flames spout from the windows of several houses, and people are frantically engaged in bringing sand and water to the burning homes. Everyone is armed, and many are armored.
Is the tavern intact? +2: No, and… it’s under assault
By duergar, goblin, hobgoblin, kobold, skeleton, gnolls? kobolds
The situation grows worse when the party turns the corner into the public square. Great bouts of flame rise from the tavern while citizens try to keep the fire from spreading to the inn next door.
A warband of [4d4=8] kobolds stand between the citizens and the tavern, however, slinging stones and spears whenever the humans get too close to the inn. Their barking laughter can be heard over the shouts of the men.
2 Kobold Warriors: 1+1 HD, AC 12, Spear (d6, +0), MV 25′, ML 8
2 Kobold Slingers: d4 HD, AC 11, Sling (d4, -1), MV 30′, ML 7
4 Kobolds: d4 HD, AC 11, Dagger (d4, -1), MV 25′, ML 7
Init Rolls: 6 vs 3, the party goes first
The company moves as one, readying blades and bows as they come into view of the mongrels.
Are we too far to reach them in one round? +2: Yes
The heaviest fighters fall in together before the scouts and Mercy, hefting their shields and moving forward at a steady pace. The two scouts take aim behind them, loosing their arrows at the kobold slingers. Modesty’s arrow strikes one of them in the calf [1 dmg leaves it with 3 hp], but the other goes wide.
Are we too far for the kobolds to reach us? -2: No.
And then the kobolds charge into the front line of fighting men. The hulking mongrels of the warrior-caste lead the minions into battle, slamming into the party’s shield wall while the slingers chuck stones over their heads.
The kobold’s little knives go to work on the party as they get tangled beneath the party’s shields [epic attack rolls deal the cleric and two fighters 4 hp damage each, while Balthasar takes 1 hp damage]. Several of the men cry out as the wicked blades slip into the joints around their knees and groin.
Comfort roars back as the kobolds attack her men. She skewers one of the large warriors [3 dmg vs 3 hp, 0 left], then tosses him aside as he dies on her blade. The others fall in beside her, landing blows with abandon while the scouts pepper the slingers with arrows. [the other warrior, two of the regular kobolds, and one slinger fall].
Israel prays to God for healing, and the Holy Spirit invigorates his limbs as he presses one of the remaining kobolds back a step with his shield [cure light wounds restores him to max hp].
The three remaining kobolds shriek as the two largest of them fall. Tossing their knives ineffectively, they turn tail and run [fail their morale check].
Do they flee into the well? +0: Yes.
The remaining kobolds dash backward toward the well, snarling at the commoners trying to draw water for the fire. They leap for the rope and slide down into the darkness.
The company rushes to the well and stares after them.
Is anything visible below? +0: No, and… all is silent.
Did they cut the rope to the bucket? +4: Yes.
Hannibal grabs the handle to raise the bucket, but it comes up too fast–the rope’s been cut. The citizens beside them cry out–first the fire, now this! He commands Comfort and Richard to stand watch beside the well while the rest of them rush toward the inn, hoping to save what they can and keep the fire from spreading.
Are they successful? +4: Yes.
The ancient stone of the Keep serves as an effective fire break, and though the tavern’s interior is utterly consumed, the evening sees the worst of the fires guttering out and the other buildings saved.
Are they approached by the 1-3 corporal, 4-5 captain, or 6 castellan? Corporal
Once the worst of the action is over, the party returns to the yard to stable their donkeys. The Corporal has returned, and the scribe they met before points Hannibal out to him.
Is he grateful? +8: Yes.
[(guarded) prejudiced – difference – character]
The man approaches slowly, then reaches out a hand to shake with Hannibal. “You’re Aflorenes, right?” he asks, but he doesn’t wait for an answer. “I fought your people, once. Nearly a decade ago, now. It… I guess it doesn’t matter. Thank you for what you’ve done here. The Keep’s in your debt.”
“We were glad to be of help. It’s why we came.” Hannibal doesn’t address their shared past. He’s long since learned that King’s Men care more about old grudges than Coin’s Men do, and Hannibal was never a patriot.
“I was hoping you would say that. There’s more work for you here, if you want it. We heard what happened with the mongrels earlier–that they escaped into the well. We were wondering how they got in. We need someone to find out where it goes, how extensive their tunnels are.”
“You’ll pay?” Comfort asks, interrupting.
“A hundred gold pieces, plus another coin for every kobold you slay.” He tosses over a pouch filled with silver. “There’s 50 silver for the ones in the square. Find out how they’re getting in. The Castellan–the whole Keep–will be in your debt.”
“We’ll do it,” Hannibal says, hanging the purse on his belt.
+Thread: Explore the tunnels beneath the Keep
+NPC: Corporal, Castellan
All right! The Bleeding Wheel’s first battle and first official quest. I think they’ll set a watch around the well and take the night to heal and recover spells, then head downward in the morning, ready to map their first dungeon.
Experience and Loot
6 d4 kobolds: 30 xp
2 1+1 kobold warriors: 30 xp
NPC: Saboteur in the Keep, Corporal, Castellan
Threads: Explore the tunnels beneath the Keep
Hannibal Emmitt: F1 (6 xp), 9/9 hp, 12-8-13-11-8-16. Atk: Sword (d8, +0). AC 14 (chain, shield, -dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8), 50′ rope, flint. 6 gp 55 sp. Leader, crippled sailor.
Comfort Stewart: F1 (6 xp), 7/7 hp, 13-10-8-7-12-16. Atk: Sword (d8+1, +1), Spear (d6+1, +1). AC 15 (chain, shield). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8). 4 gp 8 sp. Sergeant, butcher.
Mercy Rouse: MU1 (6 xp), 4/4 hp, 8-16-11-15-8-10. Atk: Dagger (d4-1, -1). AC 12 (dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8), spell book, flint, lantern (10). 5 gp 2 sp. Spells: Sleep*, Read Magic, Invisibility. Wise woman.
Israel Clemont: C1 (6 xp), 6/6 hp, 15-8-11-11-15-10. Atk: Mace (d6+1, +1). AC 14 (chain, shield, -dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8). Spells: Cure Light Wounds*, Detect Evil*. 9 gp 8 sp. Brewer.
Balthasar Hill: F1 (6 xp), 6/7 hp, 15-10-7-5-12-11. Atk: Sword (d8+1, +1), Spear (d6+1, +1). AC 15 (chain, shield). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8). 4 gp 8 sp. Bridlemaker.
Zephaniah Poole: F1 (6 xp), 3/7 hp, 13-14-8-9-11-9. Atk: Sword (d8+1, +1), Spear (d6+1, +1). AC 16 (chain, shield, dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8). 8 gp 6 sp. Armorer.
Zaccheus McCanless: F1 (6 xp), 4/8 hp, 13-15-12-14-13-11. Atk: Sword (d8+1, +1). AC 16 (chain, shield, dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8). 4 gp 10 sp. Cooper.
Richard Lanius: F1 (6 xp), 7/7 hp, 13-12-7-8-13-6. Atk: Sword (d8+1, +1), Spear (d6+1, +1). AC 15 (chain, shield). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8). 4 gp 1 sp. Farmer.
Miles Sinkler: T1 (6 xp), 6/6 hp, 7-14-9-14-13-14. Atk: Axe (d6-1, -1), Shortbow (d6-1, +1, 19 arrows). AC 12 (leather, dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8), 10′ pole, 50′ rope. 6 gp 10 sp. Roofer.
Modesty Boyd: T1 (6 xp), 4/4 hp, 5-15-5-12-9-10. Atk: Axe (d6-2, -2), Shortbow (d6-2, +1, 19 arrows). AC 12 (leather, dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8), 10′ pole, flint. 3 sp 10 cp. Bookbinder.
Donkey 1: Feed (15), 40 gp
Donkey 2: Feed (15), 32 gp 4 sp