Grand Duchy 74

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 74
December 3, 2015

A Precarious Path

Moldain 21 Yarthmont

The Grey Company continues along the ancient road through the mountainous Black Peaks. This leg of their journey would present some difficult challenges for the intrepid adventurers. Instead of evil sorcerers, ravaging beasts or bloodthirsty hordes, the companions would face the mountains themselves. 

The first obstacle encountered is a stretch of broken road. The ancient roadway seems to have just crumbled from the side of the mountain, leaving a rugged and rocky gap to cross. Not wanting to take any chances, the Company unloaded each animal and made numerous trips back and forth, using two people to help each horse across. The process took several hours but in the end it paid off as everyone made it across safely.

A little further along the road, another obstacle rears its ugly head. This time, a rock-slide has covered the road. Careful study of the situation leads the Company to believe that this is not as dire as the missing road from earlier in the day. The members of the company dismount and carefully lead their own mounts across the jumbled rocks and make it with no troubles at all except the extra time taken to step carefully.

The final obstacle to cross came in the form of a very narrow path that hugged against the cliff wall to the right and dropped away to the Foamfire River valley to the left. The ledge itself was no more than a foot or two wide at best and became even more narrow in many places. The horses would not even approach the ledge on their own and had to be coaxed by Griffin and Iris and blindfolded before they would even make the attempt.

It was getting late in the day and it was decided in the interest of time that the horses not be unloaded for this crossing as that would no doubt lead to trying to cross at least half the horses in the dark. The first six horses went over easily but something happened on the last crossing and Firewild, Griffin's mount, took a bad step and went stumbling off the ledge. They young Thyatian tried with all his might to hold the lead rope as his mount slipped away but he could not maintain his grip. Griffin watched as his mount, the second one he had lost recently, died on the rocks below.

After an emotional moment, Griffin readied his long climbing rope and went down to try to salvage any gear he could. Draven, using his magical boots of levitation, joined him. Most everything was salvageable, though some of the food supplies were smashed beyond use. 

With night falling soon, the Company moved forward and found a decent place to camp for the night. They could also see, further up along the trail, past several loops and switch-backs, a large high bridge that would need to be crossed sometime in the next day. While camp was being set up, several large and hungry Fire Beetles ambled into camp and made aggressive moves toward some members. They glowing bugs were squashed quickly and efficiently by the companions.
A quartet of Fire Beetles assaults the Company

Nytdain 22 Yarthmont

The rain starts falling a few hours before sunrise making everything just wet enough to ruin a decent night's sleep. Soggy and groggy, the Company rolls out of camp and continues quietly along the ancient Hutaakan road. Though none says it aloud, some in the Company are beginning to doubt the viability of the current mission. Supplies are low, transportation is low, energy is low and no one even knows if they are close to their destination.

By mid-day the Company arrives at the bridge they had seen the night before. It is a long, wide expanse stretching across a deep gorge between two of the Black Peaks. Carefully, the Company begins to cross and right as they are about halfway across, shrill cries come from above and two large, dark shapes come swooping in. Griffons! The horses immediately panic and several bolt as the eagle headed lions lunge for horse flesh. Half of the Company quickly adopts defensive postures while the others try to wrangle the horses. Crossbow bolts fly and Remar sends bolt after magical bolt into the flying beasts. After just a few moments, the Griffons are driven off and the horses are brought back under control and led to the far side of the bridge. Someone makes an attempt to joke about being attacked by a Griffin, but the rain has nearly washed everyone's sense of humor away.
Griffons attack the Grey Company as they cross a desolate bridge in the Black Peaks.

Cast of Characters: 

Garrett "Griffin" Constantine, a Thyatian rogue of a gambler from Penhaligon rolled by +Arne Jamtgaard 

Marcel Maasa homely but sincere wielder of spears aspiring to cooking greatness commanded by +Christian Blouin 

Draven Rickart, a Thyatian Acolyte of the Church of Karameikos ministered by +Jason Packer 

Iris Vardaa Thyatian explorer and historian searching for answers and adventure guided by +Alex Safatli 

and +Jason Woollard as The DM

Precis - The Grey Company faces challenging terrain along their path through the Black Peaks. One wrong step sends a valued member of the group to death far below. If that wasn't enough, the next day brings dangers from above as well!


Grand Duchy 73

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 73
November 20 - December 2, 2015

The High Road

Moldain 21st Yarthmont

The First Step

The Grey Company stands at the beginning of what looks to be an ancient road that leads up into the rocky and unwelcoming Black Peaks. The sun shines warmly though an occasional cold breeze sneaks past, reminding everyone that they are not just going for a walk through a peaceful meadow. The horses seem well rested and are in cheerful moods, no doubt due to the fact that the food supplies they have been carrying are diminishing rapidly.

After a few minutes of climbing up the old road, the mountains on the left fall away to reveal the Foamfire River down below. The road keeps climbing up through the mountains, in most cases a sheer rock wall stretching up to the right and a steep, rocky slope down to the river on the left. Even at this height, a fall from the road could prove deadly and ahead, the track continues to rise into the peaks.

Remar, Iris and Ree all stand together, looking at the two items picked up from the debris in the bridge tower. “Well, the scroll is definitely magical, but this crystal wand doesn’t look magical at all. It’s finely crafted and feels nice and sturdy, but not magical.” Remar waves it around over his head, pretending to cast a spell, “See, no magic. It does have some etchings in it, though. Here, around this smooth part. They look like little bells or something.”

Meanwhile, Iris carefully examines the scroll tube. She unstoppers it and slides the rolled parchment out slowly. “It looks like a spell scroll, but I’m not familiar with the language, looks old though. I think I’ve seen something like it before, but I can’t read it. Think it might be Taymoran. Some of these symbols on the tube look like something from that civilization.”
“Keep that ‘wand’ safe - it might well be a key rather than a wand, or otherwise situationally useful. Before we go, let me hold it for a moment, to test the sanctity and orientation of the object, if it has any.”

Taking the wand briefly and opening his mind to it, Draven recognizes that it is in fact a holy object of some type. Seeing it in a new light, he tries to make out the symbols, to see if they jog his memory about any divinity in particular, or otherwise indicate an allegiance associated with the wand.

“I think, perhaps, I should hold onto this one, actually. There’s divine provenance to it, though it will take some research and attuning of the object to know for sure.”

Griffin looks at the mages and shrugs. “Iris, why don’t you hang on to the scroll. Draven, keep the wand until we can get back to civilization. Maybe it’ll be worth something there.”

Griffin looks up the ancient road. “Based on the guardians, I think we are the first people to have made it this far in a long time. All new territory. Hopefully those guardians will deter any followers, either gnoll or Golthar. But it’s still uncharted territory. Food’s low, so let’s forage as we go. Standard operating procedures, folks. I’ll take point.” Griffin readies his crossbow and kicks Firewild into a canter.

“I’ll take up the rear this time. We’ll want to make the best time we can, given our limited resources. It’ll be a balancing act either way.”

Iris beams at Griffin. “Oh, golly. I get to hold the scroll! Wait, I hope that didn't sound sarcastic.” She briefly looks to Griffin in concern, but then turns away in embarrassment realizing that nobody else thought to recognize her response as sarcasm. She can’t help but continue to grin, though -- this was what she left her home for.

Draven grins at Iris’s barely suppressed glee. “When we have the time for it, you’ll have to tell me about this scroll. Perhaps between us, with our disparate training and scholarship, can solve the riddle of the thing.”

The Company makes good time up along the mountain trail. Marcel and Ree seem a bit overly tired, but that is the way of the trail sometimes. Forage along the trail is quite sparse and animals and birds are quite infrequent.

The Stream

After about an hour on the trail, a wide stream cuts through the rock ahead of the Company. The water flows down the mountainside to the right and splashes across the narrow trail to become a waterfall, cascading down to the left, eventually splashing to the Foamfire River far below. The crossing looks quite treacherous. The group makes a quick study of the scene and thinks that the horses will be at a risk of falling if care is not given to their crossing. It is estimated that it will take about 5 minutes per horse to cross. Ideally each horse could be ridden across slowly, but moving slower, or leading the horse might make it easier.
A dangerous crossing.

“Griffin, you still have your ropes? I think I, of any of us honestly, can pave the way for the horses, and give us something extra to keep everyone on the straight and narrow,” says Draven.

Griffin looks quizzically at the young priest, but quickly pulls out his climbing gear. “Here you go, brother. What do you have in mind?”

Iris looks over to Draven and Griffin, and then back to the stream. None of her spells seem to be useful here - water is the crux of the matter, not fire, and direction or distance do not seem to be a concern. She ponders the situation, surveying the area around for any ideas.

Griffin eyes the crossing. It seemed that Brother Draven had a handle on this, so he turns his thoughts to other things. He realizes that the crossing would be the perfect time for an ambush, and tried to assess their options to deal with that.

Iris studies the water hazard in front of the Company, trying to get an idea of the lay of the land beneath the rushing water. As Draven makes his way across with one end of the rope, she gets a better idea of what they are dealing with and calls out some advice to the others, pointing out some tricky spots and suggesting that the horses be led in a specific, zig-zag path across when the time comes.

Meanwhile, Griffin surveys the surrounding area, picking out quite a few potential areas that could provide ample ambush spots both above on the cliffs to the right and a few places down below on the left that could possibly be hiding places as well. The young Thyatian realizes that their biggest problem here will be time. The packed horses should be able to be ridden over in about 5 minutes each, but that still will take over a half an hour. Dismounting and leading the horses one by one will add a little bit to this time but unloading the horses and leading them over will at least double the time needed. He tries to calculate the odds of danger from rushing across verses taking their time and being careful but he just cannot decide which is worth it.

Draven makes it to the other side of the water and tries securing his end of the rope to a small, stunted tree growing out of a crack in the cliff wall to the right. He leans against his rope, hoping to give it some additional support and signals to the others that this side is as secure as he can make it.

Iris will aid the crossing of the horses by carefully using some of her magic to soothe the animals, limiting herself so she does not push herself into exhaustion. She desperately hopes that this will make things easier.

As the plans for the horse crossing gets completed, Stephan steps up and says, “I’ll lead Ruby over first. I think I’ll walk her, were not in that much of a hurry are we?” He carefully steps into the flowing water, pulling the lead of his mount close behind him. The two take their time and easily make it to the far side in about 8 minutes. He turns and waves back, signaling for the next to come.

Remar hops up and says, “Well, hell, that didn’t look to hard. I’ll go next.” He urges his mount, Alpha, forward, speaking to her quietly as he attempts to ride her across. He keeps Draven’s safety line tucked under his arm as he directs his horse across the watery stretch of road.

Remar seems to be pushing his horse a little too quickly and he tries forcing her to take steps she does not want to, but in the end, they make it safely to the other side and join Stephan and Draven.

Marcel volunteers to go next. After seeing Remar’s struggle with his mount while riding, he decides to take it on foot and lead Roxanne. He grabs the safety line and leads his horse to the water. She dips her head and takes a long gulp of water before following him across. They pick their way carefully and shortly they are across, waving to the others to follow.

Ree looks around and shrugs as she decides she will go next. “What are we going to do about Draven’s horse? Try to take two at once, let him cross on his own or send someone back for it? I can do that once I get Chai safely over.” Without waiting for a reply, she urges her mount forward, attempting to ride her horse across the dangerous passage. Within five minutes, they are on the far side. Only Griffin and Iris remain on this side with their horses and Mr. Softie, Draven’s mount.

The safety line is also tied around a rock outcropping on this side of the water hazard. It seems to have been working ok, though no one has really had to use it yet and it does require a person leaning and pulling on it from both sides to provide the right angle and tension for it to be helpful. Unless someone else comes back over for the last mount, it will have to be untied and not utilized for the final trip.

Iris is happy to see that the horses have not been upset or worried at all about making the crossing, no doubt because they do not really understand the consequences of falling. To them, it just appears to be any normal stream that they are used to crossing any given day.

Griffin clears his throat to say something to Iris when sound and movement from above catches his attention. He turns and looks, raising his loaded crossbow in time to see a large dark shape plummeting down toward him. The motion and sound of the object suggests something flying at him and he fires his crossbow at it before stepping aside. A loud squawk can be heard and feathers fly as a large, fat bird crashes down upon the trail near where he had been standing. The bird, a turkey by the looks of it, skitters across the trail then tries again to lift off before plummeting over the edge of the trail. Everyone watches as the bird bounces, feathers flying, from rock to rock until it disappears in the distance below.

Griffin continues to be anxious. As soon as the turkey business is over, he looks at Iris and nods his head to the far side. “Let’s send Mr. Softie across, then you follow. I’ll be right on your tail. I don’t like being separated from the others for so long. We’re sitting ducks, or turkeys maybe, here on this ledge of a road!”

Iris nods and decides to use her magic to help out Mr. Softie on his solo trek across the top of the waterfall. She pulls his lead close and speaks some magical words, waving her hands above the horse’s head then pats his mane and urges him forward. She watches anxiously as the horse cautiously picks its path across. After several minutes, he reaches the other side. Draven takes his lead and presses his face into the horse’s neck.

Iris lets out a sigh of relief then leans down and speaks into the ear of her mount, Duke. “Alright, boy, let’s do this. We don’t need any magic, do we? We can make it across, right? Just you and me. Let’s go!” She leans forward and Duke takes a few steps into the water.

Almost immediately, Iris starts to panic. Duke is not following her commands and getting upset. He steps onto a loose rock and it gives under his weight. The horse starts to panic and hops forward. Iris holds on for dear life and tries to calm her mount but it does not work. Duke slides a bit then rears back and tries to take a few steps back.

Not willing to risk her mount, nor herself, Iris drops the reins and quickly begins chanting the words she knows that will calm the scared horse carrying her. Almost even before she finishes the words, she feels Duke relax beneath her. He slows and then stops, bending his head down to take a loud slurp of water. Iris stifles a chuckle as she looks off to her left. Just a few feet further the water rushes over the rocky edge of the ancient Hutaakan road and crashes down a steep, rocky wall to join the Foamfire River far below.

She picks up the reins again but does not direct her mount forward. Instead, she speaks quietly to him, “Whenever you’re ready, Duke. Take your time.” The horse throws its head back and lets out a playful snort then begins to move again. Soon, Duke and Iris are safely on the far side of the wide stream. She wipes the sweat from her brow and kisses Duke on the back of the head. She turns to wave to Griffin and sees that he has already untied the safety rope and is making his way across. Draven and Stephan are slowly taking in the slack as their companion and his horse make their way across.

Griffin and Firewild are nearly to the other side when a slick rock causes a misstep. Griffin’s stomach drops as his horse lunges forward, braying loudly. Fearing for a fall, Griffin leaps off the horse’s saddle and yanks the reins away from the precipice a few yards away. The mountain water is cold, nearly freezing as it rushes past his legs, soaking him all the way to his seat. Fortunately, the horse does not fall over, it just sits there, leaning forward, on one knee in the water. It bleats and looks at Griffin with pain in its eyes. As he approaches, Griffin can see blood in the water. It looks as if Firewild has cut himself on a jagged rock. He helps the horse forward and the beast limps weakly to the far side. The company is finally past this obstacle, though not all made it unscathed.

Cast of Characters: 

Garrett "Griffin" Constantine, a Thyatian rogue of a gambler from Penhaligon rolled by +Arne Jamtgaard 

Marcel Maasa homely but sincere wielder of spears aspiring to cooking greatness commanded by +Christian Blouin 

Draven Rickart, a Thyatian Acolyte of the Church of Karameikos ministered by +Jason Packer 

Iris Vardaa Thyatian explorer and historian searching for answers and adventure guided by +Alex Safatli 

and +Jason Woollard as The DM

Precis - The Grey Company enters the Black Peaks, following an ancient Hutaakan roadway in search of some long lost treasure. What they find is a difficult hike along a dangerous mountain river valley. 


Simple Tricks 0

Simple Tricks and Nonsense
Episode 0
October 17, 2015

A Long Time Ago ...

... In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

Being a HUGE Star Wars fan, all I could think about for about the past year and a half was the upcoming release of Episode VII: The Force Awakens and playing GURPS: Star Wars! We started talking about it around the gaming table and everyone was interested in giving it a try. My idea for a Star Wars campaign would be New Republic Era, about 5 years after the Battle of Endor and focus on non-aligned free-traders and adventurers. This worked for everyone as well. The hope was, that we would be able to come to a conclusion on the current Wandered Roads of Varisia campaign and then switch over to Star Wars, but the timing wasn't working with us so we just got to a stopping point and put that campaign on pause. After playing half a session of WR:Varisia, we got down to some "Simple Tricks and Nonsense" of creating Star Wars characters.

My players were in for a bit of a surprise, as I had told them to NOT make any characters in advance but that we would generate them at the table together. What they also did not know was that I had spent hours putting together a whole galaxy-full of templates that would be randomly selected by each player to build their characters. Everyone started with the same Crew Member template and then we started drawing randomly. I told each player that they could have ONE trade in at the end of the session on ONE template and that I would be selecting an NPC/ GM character to round out the crew from what was left over.

Some of the left-over templates
There were some wide-eyed looks of surprise and chuckles. I told them that the idea was that I wanted to get people out of their comfort zones and try something different. After a minute, everyone was excited about what everyone was going to draw. I had templates for core occupations (like pilot, tech, scoundrel, etc), species (3 versions of Humans, Wookies, Jawas, Bith, Twi'lek, Mon Cal, etc), a handful of "Personality" Templates (like Greedy, Altruistic, Cocky and Washed-Up), and what I called "Attribute" Templates (which had names like Burly, Tough, Charismatic and Brainy.)

We started by drawing Species Templates. Here I gave them few choices. They could be Human, Alien or either. If they wanted to be Human, they drew from the three possible templates (Core, Mid or Outer Regions). If they wanted to be Alien they got to choose from the various other species and if they didn't care, they let chance decide and drew from the whole pile. We ended up with three Humans (one from the Core, one from the Mid Regions and one from the Outer Rim), one Mon Calamari, one Twi'lek and one Wookie. JeCorey had drawn a Bith but in the end, traded that in to be an Outer Regions Human. The Human characters then drew from a large pile of Background Templates. These were divided into one Childhood and two Early Adult Templates and depended on the region of the galaxy one came from. Dan, hailing from the Mid Rim region, ended up with an Under Privileged Childhood and Athletic and Bar Staff experience. Carol, whose character would be from the Core Worlds, pulled Under Privileged Childhood, Lab Assistant and Mule (as in smuggling) while JeCorey, from the Outer Rim came up with a Sheltered Childhood, Normal Adolescence and Survivalist background. These early life templates helped balance out the point costs that were associated with the Alien Species templates.

Next we drew from the Core Occupation Templates. These were the big point value templates, worth [100] points. Dan ended up being the Pilot, Carol got Smuggler (which fit with her Background Templates), Ben was the Scoundrel, Jodi drew Engineer, JeCorey got Scout (which also fit with his Background Templates), and Don drew the Diplomat. Totally getting out of some comfort zones here for sure!

The Attribute and Personality Templates rounded out the draws and this was really fun. Some of these template combinations fit together seamlessly together (like Dan's Cocky, Eagle-Eyed Pilot, Carol's Brainy and Greedy Smuggler (Mule) with a Lab background, or Don's Charismatic Wookie Diplomat (whoa!) and Ben's Dexterous, Altruistic Scoundrel. Some of these would take some work figuring out and some just fell into place. Jodi ended up with a Healthy Grizzled-Vet Engineer and JeCorey's Willful Scout Survivalist seemed to write its own background!

Adin Vill, Washed-Up, ex-Imperial Medic
I drew from the remaining cards and put together a Washed-Up ex-Imperial medic from Alderaan who is lazy and likes to cuss a lot (I got Privileged Childhood, Core World,  Burly, Soldier, Crewman, Medic, Washed-Up!) and Adin Vill was born.
Also Adin Vill

Fun times! Everyone had a blast picking characters. They all wrote down notes and ideas about equipment and such. I told them we would not be leaning heavily on Disadvantages in the game besides those that were already present on the templates, but did allow them to choose 1 or 2 to fill out their sheets and get a few more free points to customize. Each template package had a handful of free points to spend and I also told them they could earn more bonus points to spend for writing up a character background before the next session.

A list of all the templates I used can be found on this Google Doc as well as some (WIP) campaign notes.

At the time, I didn't have a name for the campaign and I mulled over it for a long time until I decided upon "Simple Tricks and Nonsense." This seemed to fit quite well to me because our game will center around the fringes, there will not be any Force-using PCs, and because I love to improvise and make stuff up on the fly. It is also one of my favorite Han Solo quotes from A New Hope. Anyway, that's that on the new GURPS Star Wars campaign. We will eventually go back to our Wandered Roads of Varisia campaign (I assume) but for the time being, we will be playing among the stars!

May the Force Be With You!

Players Present:

+Daniel Ernst 
+Carol Coburn
+Ben Lipe
+Jodi H
+JeCorey Holder
Don K
and +Jason Woollard as the GM


Precis - Kicking off our new GURPS Star Wars campaign by putting some characters together. I provided the group with a handful of templates that were pieced together to create their characters. Nothing like getting outside the box! Go GURPS!


Grand Duchy 72

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 72
November 19, 2015

The Top of the Tower and Beyond

Tserdain 20 Yarthmont

A Much Needed Rest

The Company sleeps well on the landing they found 100 feet up into the tower after having spent the better part of 12 hours running and battling frantically across the Death's Head Valley but something happens late in the night that disturbs their sleep. Everyone is woken up by Iris who noticed something strange during her watch. A single shaft of light is shining in through one of the windows on the far side of the tower and hitting right on the edge of the balcony the Company is camped on. Normally it wouldn't have alerted her but clearly the light was not coming from the moon, as it was the wrong angle and covered by clouds nearly the entire night. The company spends some time trying to figure out the mystery but never seem to figure it out. In the morning, some time is given to the situation again, but nothing further can be discerned.

Moldain 21 Yarthmont

The Bridge at the Top of the Tower

The Company finally emerges from the doorway at the top of the tower and expects to find its long sought after prize but are in fact greeted by the beginning of what looks to be another long and arduous road. Some crumbling stone ruins dot the area around the top of the tower and the remains of a cobbled stone road leads toward the Foamfire River where it rushes past and over the edge of the cliff before falling 300 feet to the valley below. Where the road approaches the river, a stone bridge stretches out to the other side. In the middle of the bridge sits a wide, round building blocking passage. While the bridge looks quite sturdy, the building seems quite a bit more dilapidated, with several large holes in its roof and sides.
Bridge and guardroom over Foamfire waterfall

The Company approaches carefully with Griffin and Ree out front, checking for traps. They make it to the structure on the bridge and are able to carefully look in side. A round room with an ornate opening in the center of the floor can be see. Two large, steel, jackal-headed Hutaakan statues can be seen flanking the room. When the doors were opened, the two statues animated and began to move toward it, as everyone expected. The doors were closed quickly before they could make an effective attack.
Dealing with the statues.

Some quick planning was done and the party decided to tie a trip wire across the bridge and try to let the statues out just one at a time. As all good plans go, this one falls apart quickly and the Company finds itself battling both statues at once. Luckily, one of them tumbles into the water and the other one is dispatched without too much trouble. It is noted that metal weapons seem to want to stick to the statues when stuck, though no-one's weapons are lost. 

Inside the round bridge room, the Company discovers a magical crystal wand and a bone scroll case containing a magical scroll. They close and secure the doors to the tower, hoping that they provide some measure of obstacle to anyone attempting to pursue them on their journey. Once past the bridge, the road curves around a rocky outcropping and then climbs even higher up into the Black Peaks.

Weapons were no match for the statues.

Cast of Characters: 

Garrett "Griffin" Constantine, a Thyatian rogue of a gambler from Penhaligon rolled by +Arne Jamtgaard 

Marcel Maasa homely but sincere wielder of spears aspiring to cooking greatness commanded by +Christian Blouin 

Draven Rickart, a Thyatian Acolyte of the Church of Karameikos ministered by +Jason Packer 

Iris Vardaa Thyatian explorer and historian searching for answers and adventure guided by +Alex Safatli 

and +Jason Woollard as The DM

Precis - The Grey Company rests inside the tower at the end of the Death's Head Valley and see a strange light. Next they face off with metal guardians above a raging waterfall!