Sunday, June 10, 2018

Dragon Rampant- Order of the Stick vs Xykon

My son and I recently played our first full game of Dragon Rampant.  We had played out several turns previously using my Dwarf and Orc armies in order to get a feel for the rules, but we had yet to play a full game.  I felt at the time that the mass of miniatures were a bit daunting for my son, so we looked for alternatives to make the armies more manageable.  I decided to use paper miniatures, mostly 6 figs per unit, on movement trays roughly 3.5" x 2.5".

Hobgoblin Heavy Foot and Goblin Light Foot with Short Ranged missiles from Xykon's army.

City Guard Light Missiles and Heavy Foot from the Order of the Stick's army.

For this game we decided to base our armies on the D&D based web comic Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew.  We both LOVE the comic (though I have to censor the language and content at times), so this idea had instant buy-in from my son.  We found that Burlew also makes paper miniatures, but while looking for images of them online, we also discovered Derek Weller's iheartprintandplay with D&D miniatures done in the same style as the Order of the Stick (Weller lists Burlew as one of his inspirations).  These fit our current budget better for our first game (they are free), but we will probably still pick up some of Burlew's minis in the future because they are so cool.  I found a suitable image to make my own Order of the Stick characters, and then based the figs using bases made by David Okum for his game Darkfast Dungeons.

The Order of the Stick (L to R)  Vaarsuvius the Wizard, Belkar the Ranger, Elan the Bard, Haley the Rogue, Durkon the Cleric and their Leader Roy the Fighter.  Played by my son, of course.

 The Order of the Stick's army consists of City Guard Archers (Light Missiles), War Wolves (Lesser Warbeast), The Order of the Stick (Elite Foot with wizardling), and City Guardsmen (Heavy Foot).

Lord Xykon the Litch (C), his lackey Red Cloak (L) and a random Goblin caster (R).  Played by me.

Xykon's army consists of Goblin Scouts, Goblin Infantry (Light Foot with Short range Missiles), Xykon (Heavy Foot with Spellcaster), a Troll (Heavy Foot), and Hobgoblins (Heavy Foot).

The battlefield, Order of the Stick on the left, Xykon on the right.

Xykon goes first moving his Troll and Goblin Scouts up one flank and the Goblin Infantry up the other.  The Hobgoglins were ordered up the center but they failed to activate.

The Order of the Stick moved their main units forward, while sending the War Wolves up the flank to threaten the Goblin Scouts.

On their next turn the War Wolves made a Wild Charge at the Goblin Scouts.  The Scouts at first evaded and sent their missiles flying at the oncoming wolves, but the beasts were too quick and too tough.  They crashed into the Scouts, killing half of them instantly and sending the other half running off the battle field (They completely failed their Courage test and routed off the table).

The battlefield after a few turns.  The War Wolves threaten Xykon's flank, City Guard Archers are picking off Goblin Infantry and heavier units move up the center.

The Troll, bogged down in rough going, is hit by spells from the Order of the Stick and takes minor damage.  The the War Wolves charge in and cause a few more Strength Points of damage.  The Troll then rolls a spectacularly bad Courage test and flees the battle (they rolled a 3, minus the 3 points of damage for a 0 total).

The City Guardsmen join the archers in decimating the Goblin Infantry.  The Goblins lose heart and flee the battle.

Xykon is left with only his unit and the Hobgoblins to face the entire enemy army.  First he sends a fireball at the War Wolves, which injures them enough to make them flee the battle.

Next he sends his Hobgoblins against the City Guardsmen, but they trade blows then retreat.

The Order of the Stick charges in and decimates the Hobgoblins.

Xykon is left alone facing the bulk of the Enemy army.  He casts another fireball at the City Guardsmen, who become battered and start retreating.  Eventually they retreat off the battlefield.

Xykon and the Order of the Stick trade spells and missiles.  The City Guard Archers also send their arrows into the mix.  Little by little, Xykon is whittled down.

Eventually Xykon fails a courage test and retreats to fight another day.  The Order of the Stick is victorious!!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Blood on the Blade- Episode Three- Free the Prisoners

The party stood to defend the homestead of a healer that took them in and ministered to their injured leader.  The Undead caught their sentries by surprise and soon overwhelmed the exhausted defenders.  All of them fell in battle and were left for dead, while the Temple they fought to protect was defiled, and the healer they sought to protect was brutally killed.  Eventually they picked themselves up and tended their wounds, but soon discovered that one of their own was missing.  Baird was nowhere to be found, but drag marks and a blood drops left a clear trail they could follow to find their missing companion.

Free the Prisoners

The party travels in a heavy silence, afflicted both with the horrible visions of the previous night and the penetrating fear of what may have befallen their missing team mate.  Thorstein proves adept at tracking, though the trail takes no skill to ascertain.  They travel for what seems like days, but in reality is probably only a few hours.  The trail leads them to a mountain valley that boarders on more wild, uncharted lands.  It then starts to become faint as the rocky ground replaces the trees and grasslands.  Osrina spies smoke on the horrizon, and without a word they head towards the source.  It turns out to be the remnants of a farm house that is already burnt, but still sends tufts of smoke and ash skyward on the breeze.  As they approach Richard sees raiders from the hill tribes scavenging the site.

(Blood on the Blade lets you pick what adversary to fight for most battles.  Many enemies have multiple versions, including a tougher version to face a more experienced party.  I wanted to try out a different enemy for the game, so I chose Enemy Warband, which I interpreted as hill man raiders.)

The raiders are scrounging the grounds for any metal or valuables they might find.  As the party approaches the one intact shed, the raiders rush out to intercept them.  The largest of the two swings his axe at Richard, and the battle ensues.

While the raider with the axe attempts to kill Richard, the other raider strings his short bow and tries to shoot Osrina and Letta. 

Osrina and then Letta come to Richard's aid.  Letta swings her mace with incredible force and brings the raider down.

Meanwhile, Thorstein detects movement in the smoldering ruins of the house.  He creeps up to the smoke stained wall and peers inside, spear at the ready.  He sees a young girl, apparently a captive of the raiders, her hands and feet are securely bound.  He quickly frees her and gives her a brief drink from his waterskin.  He learns that her name is Tannis.  She is from this region, but not this homestead.  She tells Thorstein that there were many raiders and that she has seen them with other captives, though none that meet Baird's description.  Thorstein gives the girl his dagger, then tells her to hide in the cover of the deep woods while they search the area for more raiders.

 (In this scenario the Event tokens may be captives, raiders, or raiders with captives.  The victory conditions include getting the captives off the party's board edge.  Also, the A.I. for activating Enemies has them sometimes prioritizing attacking the captives instead of the party.  During the earlier steps of the campaign turn I had already determined that the party will get a reinforcement, so when a token produced a captive I put Tannis on the board.  I had not read all the Captive rules or the scenario close enough, however, and made a mistake that this point.  I should have chosen between finding my missing person, or finding a different captive and rolling their circumstance.  There are multiple Event tokens that reveal finding captives, however, not all the tokens are used for the scenario, so I inadvertently set myself up for possibly not finding Baird.)

Letta sets off running towards the raider archer.  He takes a desperate shot attempting to stop her mad rush.

She uses her momentum to bring her mace crashing down, taking the raider out with a single blow.

(The Enemy Warband characters are more equivalent to a starting character, and so are not as tough as the Undead.)

Thorstein re-joins the group and introduces Tannis.  She tells Richard what she knows of the raiders; 

"They often come down from the mountains and attack any nearby homesteads or caravans." she says.  "They seek anything of value, including any captives they can secure.  They ransom those of means, but the others become slaves, or might be sold for the pit fights."

Tannis is sent off to the woods where she can hide and rest while the others search for Baird and any other captives they can free.  Tannis stoops to pick up the short bow and quiver from the dead raider before she goes off towards the treeline. 

The party combs the valley, looking in any area that might provide cover or concealment for either enemy or captive.  They take turns taking the lead and approach each area with caution, prepared for trouble.  Soon they have covered the entire valley except for a rocky outcrop at the far end opposite the burnt homestead.

(Each of these Event tokens revealed nothing.  Most of the scenarios have several tokens that do not result in anything.  This might be a thing to change a bit once I am more comfortable with the rules.  Some of these Event tokens could have traps, minor hazards, or role playing elements that would not greatly effect the balance of the game.)

As the party approaches the outcropping two raiders step over the crest of and yell challenges and insults.   Thorstein rushes to fight the swordsman on the lower level, even so, the raider gains a height advantage on the Northman.

Letta charges right up the front slope of the rock, a treacherous scramble that brings her in contact with the other raider.  He swings at her, hoping to find her vulnerable from the climb, but she nimbly turns his blade aside with her mace.

Then brings her mace crashing down on his head.  As she stoops to make sure he is down she notes Baird's dagger stuffed into his belt.

Meanwhile, Richard rushes to Thorstein's aid and the two of them together bring the raider down.

"Look, I found Baird's blade," says Letta, "but where could he be?"

They search around the outcropping and in any area that might hide a captive, or the corpse of one.  Richard's face becomes more and more anguished with every passing minute.

After they have combed the entire region Osrina turns to Richard and says, "He is not here.  He was, but is not now.  It will be getting dark soon, and there may be more raiders in the area.  We should seek the cover of the woods, we have done everything we could."  She pauses and swallows hard before continuing, "Baird is gone, we have no way to find him, now.  We must hope he is alive and hope we find him one day."

With reluctance, Richard slowly nods and leads the party back to the deep woods where awaits Tannis, the one captive they managed to free.

(So, the one Event token that I did not use, per the scenario set up, would have triggered enemies as well as captives.  So the randomness of the Event token placement really helped to create a bit of a scenario twist.  I think that overall Blood on the Blade rules do a good job of helping to create the narrative of the campaign.)

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Blood on the Blade- Defense Mission- Episode Two

Richard was seriously wounded when he took a cut to the leg while his band was scouting the valley in search of hidden enemies or resources that can help their plague besieged town.  His childhood friend Osrina, the mage of the party, knows of a healer that lives in a secluded grove not far away.  The party helps Richard travel to the healer's stead where his wound can get proper treatment.  The healer cleans and binds his wound with a poultice to stave off infection.  Richard is stable, but still in a weakened state.  Meanwhile, Thorstein and Baird set a vigil watching for another assault by the undead, while Letta guards the healer's humble shack.

(Using the Campaign Flow-Chart I rolled Defense as the next scenario.  Since Richard was wounded the idea of defending the healer's homestead seemed like a good story arc.  In the Defense scenario the characters must protect two buildings.  Event tokens are triggered on the first, third and fifth turns, and may generate enemy groups that enter on the far end of the board or on the character's flanks.  The characters cannot react to the enemies until a character is attacked, or a character passes a spot test.)

Defense of the Healer's Cottage and Temple

The healer lives in a small shack set in a clearing in the surrounding woods, a place ideally suited to tend the needs of the nearby temple.

Though Richard's wound has been dressed by the healer, Osrina prepares to use her healing magic to lend him strength to recover.  Letta guards the healer's shack, while Baird looks to the southern woods, scanning the darkened boughs for lurking dangers.

Thorstein also scans the trees to the south.  The Northman, tired from the day's battles and the arduous trek to bring Richard to the healer, struggles to stay alert.  Unbeknownst to him a pair of ghouls advance toward the temple, it's radiant magic drawing them away from what might have proved to be easy prey.

(Thorstein failed his spot test)

The moon goes under a cloud and the ensuing darkness masks the approach of a Skeleton Champion and two Skeleton Warriors.  Baird continues to scan the forest to the south, unaware of the danger closer to hand.

(The Event token on turn three turned out to be more enemies.  The type of  enemy was determined by charts on the Undead roster that told how many and what specific enemy to use.)

One of the Skeleton warriors rushes Letta and takes her by surprise.  Luckily the unnatural, jerky motions of it's attack give her the time to bring her mace up to block the blow.  Letta grunts with the effort, and is too engaged to even give a warning cry.

Baird hears a creaking sound from near by.  It reminds him of dark nights sailing under the stars.  The Captain worked his crew til they were dead tired, but Baird always laid awake at night in his hammock, swaying with the ship and hearing her every creak and grown.

Distracted by his recollections, Baird does not even notice the Skeleton's approach.  The foul creature brings it's blade down on Baird's head and the sailor directly crumples at it's feet.

Richard is alerted to the sounds of the Ghouls as they break into the Temple.  Despite his wounded leg, he does not even think twice before plunging into battle.  He vows to himself that he will not allow these foul creatures to profane the Temple.  Rushing as fast as his wounded leg will allow, he moves to engage the nearest ghoul.  His sword strikes true as he lands a deep cut on the beast's torso.

Drawn by the sound of battle, Thorstein rushes to Richard's aid.  Upon entering the Temple he notes the massive wound on the far Ghoul and quickly moves in to finish it off.

Letta quickly brings her two-handed mace to bare on the Skeleton, and is satisfied to hear massive cracking as she breaks through bone.  The creature staggers, but remains on it's feet.  The Skeleton draws back it's sword, preparing to take another strike, when Osrina calls, "Look out!"  The mage's hands move in an intricate arcane pattern, all in tune with her chanting of words of power.  The chanting reaches a crescendo and Osrina releases a jolt of magical energy that smashes into the Skeleton and shatters it's skull.

But just as the Skeleton falls to the ground, two more emerge from the darkness to threaten Letta.  She strikes a massive blow to one of her new adversaries, but soon finds herself overwhelmed and struggling to defend herself.  Elsewhere more Skeletons and yet another Skeletal Champion crawl out of night's darkness and shamble towards the frey.

(On turn five more enemies were triggered by an Event marker.)

Osrina shudders in fear and rage as she witnesses the Skeletal Champion deftly cut Letta down.  The healer, awoke by the sounds of combat at his doorstep, makes the fatal error of opening the door.  The two Skeletons immediately push into the hut, and the ensuing screams tell Osrina that it is already too late to deliver any aid to the poor man who selflessly took them in.

(In this scenario the A.I. system for controlling the Enemies has commands for attacking the target buildings that the characters are meant to defend.  This can cause a loss of victory points, reputation points, or some other effect.)

Working together Richard and Thorstein defeat the second Ghoul and get a much needed break.  Thorstein notes the sweat beading Richard's forehead, and the patch of blood now seeping through his bandaged leg.  Richard notes the concerned look of his friend and opens his mouth to respond, but is interrupted when the Skeletons start to climb through the far window.

At first the new adversaries do not put forth much of a challenge.  Tired as they are, Richard and Thorstein hold their own against the new invaders. 

But more of the foul spawn climb in though the window and the press of enemies begins to slow the defenders.

Osrina rushes into the temple to help where she may.  Her presence relieves the press upon them and she manages to bring down a Skeleton with a blow from her staff.  She then uses the last of her mana to cast yet another healing spell on Richard, who by now is pale and panting heavily whenever he swings his blade.

(Spell casters have a fixed number of prepared spells and mana points used to cast them.  Once out of mana, however, a caster can rest for a turn to regain 1 mana point.)

With Osrina's support, the party gets a brief respite.  Thorstein continues to exchange blows with one of the Skeletons, but both Skeletal Champions have yet to enter the fray.  Soon the party will find itself pressed from both sides.

A Skeletal Champion, it's red shield looking blood drenched in what little moonlight escapes the clouds, enters the fray and unhurriedly brings it's notched blade down upon Richard.

Richard falls.  Both Thorstein and Osrina scream in defiance.  Their weapons flail out with all of their rage and frustration.  Both Skeletons fall to their furry.

Yet the last remaining Skeletal Champion bursts through the Temple door.  Before he can even turn to face the beast, Thorstein is sliced down his back. He bravely turns to face his new adversary, but the spear shakes in his hands as he aims a failed thrust at the creature.

Osrina turns to face the Skeletal Champion just in time to see it reign another blow down on Thorstein.  The Northman sways, utters a curse, then falls, leaving Osrina alone to face the rest of the Skeletal horde.  She lashes out with her staff and lands a slight blow to the Skeleton Champion.  The creature seems to laugh and grin at her predicament.  Satiated with it's slaughter of the healer, the other remaining Skeleton shambles towards battle.  Osrina believes she yet has a chance, if only she can finish off the Skeletal Champion before the other one arrives.

Fate is not in her favor, however, as the Champion cuts her down with a series of mighty blows.  And as darkness takes her she realizes that she has fallen just between her companions, Richard and Thorstein.

Richard wakes with his head foggy and in pain, a numbing cold surrounding him.  Both his right arm and leg throb painfully as he tries to sit up.  Osrina hears Richard stir, and limps in his direction.  Richard watches her approach, and notes the cut on her leg and the way in which she uses her staff for support. 

"We're alive!" he states.

"So it would seem," says Osrina.  "Skeletons are magical creatures that thrive on carnage.  The rending of the healer, as well as the ferocity of the battle in the Temple must have satiated those who remained.  That or the Temple's aura drove them off before they ripped us asunder.  Either way we are lucky to be alive."

"The healer..." says Richard, his low voice training off as the smile leaves his face.  He manages to stand and his face hardens as he says, "There must be a shovel in the shed, I'll tend to the poor man, after all it was I who brought this upon him."

"Look for a torch rather than a shovel," says Letta.  As she walks into the room she finishes sewing up a gash in her leather armor, the white shirt worn underneath soaked in blood.  "There is not much left to bury.  The Temple too may be defiled, but that is not for us to decide."

After a brief pause Richard simply nods to Letta, the sense of failure he feels weighs heavily between them.  Osrina lets it be and turns to minister to Letta's wound, cutting way the blood soaked cloth and rinsing the wound.  She works quickly and methodically as she applies the bandage.  When she finishes with Letta she inspects the fresh wound on Richard's arm and helps him re-bandage his wounded leg.

Thorstein enters quietly, grabs the last of the skeletons and drags the body out of the Temple.  Though the wound on his back has been tended, he has a long cut across his cheek that has been crudely sewn shut. Osrina says that he would not allow her to do more to aid him, but insisted that she help the others.  "It will leave a nasty scar," she warned him.  "All the better to scare children," he said with a laugh.

The relative peace of their recovery is interrupted by Thornstein's yell, "Baird!  Baird!  I can't find him."  He rushes back into the Temple to address the party.  "It's Baird.  There are drag marks.  It looks like he has been taken!"

(In Blood on the Blade you only loose characters if you choose to, instead, characters may receive permanent injuries that impact their stats.  Any unit that goes out during the battle rolls on a post battle recovery chart that tells what has happened to them.  Richard's leg wound from the previous battle lowers his Target Number so he is easier to hit.  His new arm wound lowers his Dexterity for checks that use that stat.  Thorstein simply rolled Impressive Scars, which has no ill effects.  Baird, however, rolled Captured.  That means the party can now choose the Free the Prisoner's scenario instead of rolling for their next encounter.)