The moon was bright and the mist, heavy. The light of it was barely adequate to negotiate the uneven spaces in the open. A short distance on and the swamp growth was bearded with opaque shadows that hung all the way to the ground. Tacitus slowed the pace and picked a winding path away from the treebeards. The single-file column matched his steps for 6 minutes, before stopping.
Tacitus called a halt, then Tacitus started fiddling with things in his pouches. A few minutes later, a light source dangled near the ground from his hand, but the flame could not be seen from the sides or from above. It only illuminated a little spot on the ground ahead of his feet. Tacitus ordered each man one hand on the shoulder of the one in front. The order was passed down the column. Then he called for recommencement of forward march, setting a slow pace. The warband turned to the left off the road where no one could see anyone's feet, but only feel the crunch of failing frog skeletons. Tacitus figured out the way to go by stooping to look at the tracks his own boots had made during his prior visit. And each of the others could only follow the person in front of him by the grip of the former on the shoulder of the latter.
Not even the sound of the frogs jumping off the path into the water could give up their presence over the collective voices of bullfrog desire. An owl's hungry screech somewhere in the mist was hardly noticeable over the mating calls that did not relent at their passing. Crosby's player suggested, "The warband's attempt at stealth
is very easy, of course."
The GM nodded. "Goes without saying. With mist, frogs, and swamp stench, so goes sight, sound, and smell. Your camouflage is automatic and perfect--against normal humans further than 7 feet away, but you shouldn't get your hopes up, guys. This is just a case of a one-eyed guide leading the blind into a bind," grinned the GM. "My monsters are quite safe. You know that, right?"
After a bit, Warband Tacitus stopped. "This is it. Granger." Tacitus addressed a crossbowman. "You're a scout, aren't you?" Tacitus already knew that he was from a dinner conversation. The GM had been letting Tacitus' player roll lore
(strategy and tactics), capped by insight
, based on eavesdropping over mess hall conversations. "There's a rocky knoll in the mist 15 feet ahead. That's the objective. It bears a gaping portal in its east side masked by bushes. Take care to know whether there is a sentinel and whether he saw you. Then report back."
Granger laid his crossbow down, made what could have been a bolo out of three frogs and swamp grass, picked up some pebbles, and said, "I don't think he'll get away. Give me 20 minutes." Then Granger floated off into nothingness like a ghost.
"Poor frogs," gulped Tacitus, but he made his willpower
(protect life) roll. He crossed himself and said a prayer for them not to feel a thing.
"Who was that guy?" asked Saul.
"You know. He's one of the first set of the 3 new crossbowman recruits."
"It's like he's done this before." noted Harold.
"Yes, but not here," replied Tacitus. The story Tacitus had heard at mess was one of Granger and his childhood friends playing hide and seek in an old Gnomish copper mine. It had waxed dread in its latter days, even before their games. If true, the story was evidence of a commando level of patience and nerve--you know--so that he didn't fear death, but rather Death feared him? Tacitus believed the story only because Tacitus made his skill rolls. No one could make out much of his retelling over the roar of the swamp, though.
"I'd love to be a bat on the ceiling in there right now," commented Crosby curiously.
After 20 minutes of local time, Granger returned. "The passage was clear until it ended at 2 doors. There were no sentinels." Granger picked up his crossbow again. "At the crack under the door to the right, we heard breathing and we smelled humans and horses. Under the door straight ahead, we smelled rodents, a river crustacean, creepy dungeon flora, demi-humans, and dungeon fauna.
"What! Are you serious?" Tacitus requested to roll his insight. Even Tacitus didn't know Granger could do all that.
The GM rolled it. "You missed," replied the GM. "You have no idea whether he made it all up."
"Absolutely, sir," replied Granger.
"What did you mean by 'we?'"
"I asked my little burrowing friends and got shrew'd answers."
"Who? The frogs?"
"They helped too," smiled Granger.
"I'm giving you a raise," promised Tacitus.
"Thank you, sir, but I can't accept a raise unless you give all three of us the raise. We're friends. 10% of the treasure."
Warband Tacitus marched in column between the bushes and into the underground escape tunnel, where "You all detect a sloping passage and most of you are facing toward its downward direction," came an unseen voice, perhaps from behind the judge's shield at yonder end of table.
"'This is it, men. We're here to do this thing,' I tell them, and I roll my oratory
to boost their morale through stirring speech
," claimed Tacitus' player hopefully.
"That's all of your premise to stir up your men's morale? Weak, but go ahead and roll."
"They can't hear much over the frogs anyway. (rolls) I made it. My warband's morale will be 1 grade easier for 5 battle rounds
." Stirring speech
and battle rounds
are rules from Mythic Britain or Ships and Shield Walls. Tacitus' player was making a presumptuous bid to the GM to allow his warband to meet any enemy appearing along the way under the mass battle rules. He was hoping that if he had met the enemy within 1 minute and 15 seconds of his stirring speech
, then his warband would have made the morale check roll at one grade easier during the encounter.
The warband's base morale would have been the average of their willpowers
--42--but with an easier grade target under which to roll of 63. The GM supposed Tacitus' player was trying to give the warband a cohesive group morale in case their larger numbers triggered a fear
trap that the lone scout hadn't. Any morale check would have been an all or nothing affair, but with an easier grade than individual willpower
"Granger, scout ahead as we go." Off he went.
"Sh-sh. Hold in your hands anything that would jostle as you walk. We are trying to be wary quiet. If your leather trews squeak, walk stiff legged like teetering bowling pins, unless you know what penguins are. Help each other move quietly. Pass it down."
"What did Tacitus just say? Bowling pins? Penguins? Elmer Fudd? Oh please. Medieval Europe didn't know what those are, so you don't either."
He ordered Jake to call a march and pace it slow. Tacitus stood by listening as the column passed him. He helped anyone that was having trouble being wary quiet. The worst stealth
at very easy
by the commander's own and applied to the entire unit. They failed the roll anyway. Even so, Tacitus refrained from ordering a scuttling shield wall. Instead he relied on the scout.
I know sometimes the players fell short, but we tried to think of ourselves as playing a politically correct game here, meaning we tried to pretend to be somewhat blind to race and stuff. Maybe even nearsighted about gender as well. Or maybe we failed completely. We're not sure. Anyway, the gentle reader may need to know one teeny tiny point about race at this stage. I'll try to be as tactful as I can. You see. How do I say this? Uhm. Well, you see. Granger is a--a Gnome. You know? With infravision and stuff? I don't mean anything negative by that. I think Gnomes are great. So, I hope you understand. Whew. Moving right along!
"Are we dungeon delving yet?" asked Marvin's player.
"I do believe we are," answered Jake's player.
"Are we there yet," asked a short guy rubbing sleepy eyes. "I have to go again." So, the GM pulled over and let everyone out on a soft margin of Route 666 for a recess. But, isn't that the Devil's Highway? Oops. Let's try to take the recess in a shield wall formation, shall we? (sic http://weirdus.com/states/utah/stories/ ... /index.php
Less than two bags of Cheetos were harmed in the making of this session. Now I know the technically minded reader is fond of technical specifications, so for him I've prepared the same information as a statistic: RuneQuest 6 running on Classic Fantasy with a dose of Ships and Shield Walls per tank gave us an entertainment economy of 0.87 bags of Cheetos per hour. And that's not bad for an RPG. Your mileage may vary, but our next couple of sessions have already been played out and the GM can attest that the economy of play stayed under 0.91 during those too. Therefore, let the inquisitive reader have my unreserved recommendation for this setup available exclusively from The Design Mechanism.
Shall I post another session? Surely someone wanted to get to the first major battle.
Who to be or not to be. That is the question. --Jeffspeare