Last friday was our third (my second) session in my friend’s rebooted Strigastadt campaign; as I’d mentioned before, we’d been running my B/X game to give him time to switch from wilderness back to urban adventure and flesh out the homebrewed system he came up with.
Whereas our first go at his dungeon city was, well, dungeony, we’ve got a lot more political intrigue this go round.
There’s political turmoil in the city as rabble-rousing radicals of differing flavors would like to see real change to the present mageocracy. One faction is more Republican (in the Orleanist sense) and would like to see more of a representative oligarchy while the other faction is more Jacobin and would really like to do away with the city’s nobility all together. Now, the reason for this political upheaval is a combination of your usual underclass struggle and the fact that when horrid monsters come up from the sewers or from the abandoned quarters, the City and Private guards keep the wealthy magi safe while bipedal digestive tracks gorge themselves on street people and working class.
Intraparty tensions are at a high considering that there are two magic users while the rest of us are lower class.
Investigating the situation, we find two nearby factions into some organized crime rackets; one is a relatively weak faction of smugglers, the Black Hawks, who hope to make some money either way the wind blows with the political struggle. Their rival is a group called the Vipers who outnumber them two to one-the Vipers are rumored to be behind some hits on the political leaders of the populist groups and may be working for the nobles. There’s going to be a rumble soon, as the Vipers have called out the Black Hawks and are ready to push the tiny gang out of their territory once and for all.
The random profession of the character I was running that night wassmuggler, so he was inclined to support the Black Hawks. He’d also been incarcerated briefly with the sewer militia (the funnel) for slapping a noble, so I figured he’d be more sympathetic to the faction that wasn’t supposedly murdering for the nobility. There was a lot of back and forth on which side to back-initially for the Black Hawks, because they’d asked for help and we knew people with them, then to the Vipers because they seemed like a safer bet, then back to the Black Hawks because why would we help the people we didn’t know against the people we did?
In the end, only two of the five of us pledged our swords to the Black Hawks. While we talked strategy with the smugglers, the always-chaotic-evil player tried to frame the Black Hawks for an attempted murder on one of the revolutionaries. The other three party members (including always-chaotic-evil guy) initially planned to sneak into the Vipers’ tower and rob them while the fight was going on, but decided they’d be outnumbered, even with most of them leaving their tower for the rumble, so began planning to rob the Black Hawks instead! The DM reminded them that the Black Hawks’ tower could only be reached by pulleys and they weren’t going to just let anyone up while most of their number were in the middle of a big gang-fight. So, while two characters went out shoulder to shoulder with the Black Hawks and one positioned himself in an overlooking part of the building, the other two players sat out and watched the fight from a bar with various other patrons.
The Black Hawks and Vipers met on a 15′ wide skyway bridge between two buildings in the middle of the disputed turf. Though the Black Hawks were outnumbered two to one, we could only fight 3 abreast on the bridge, so they couldn’t use their numbers to their advantage. Right as the fight starts to break out, though, a couple of bolts of magic are fired from the Vipers’ side of the bridge. Always-chaotic-evil player’s magic user is shooting corrosive bolts at the lieutenant of the Black Hawks! I break away from the fight to drag her to safety, but by the time I get back to the fray, she’s died of the spell’s recurring damage effect.
Despite our own party members either not helping or working against us, the battle is not going badly for the Black Hawks. We’d kill three of them for every one of us they’d killed, including one of their lieutenants. When my smuggler got knocked down to 0 Grit (the way the game models HP in a way that is not reflective of actual wounds), I decided to try to milk the combat system. In my friend’s system you can try to accomplish certain things with an attack but make the attack with disadvantage; you can take certain penalties to make an attack with advantage or cancel out the disadvantage. So, I started combining “throw opponent” with “deal no damage” and began throwing people off the bridge. It worked pretty great, too. I managed to throw three guys off the bridge before I myself was chucked to my death.
So the battle ended with with the Vipers beaten back, retreating with less than half their numbers from a fight that should’ve been a sure thing, but the woman who’d been holding the Black Hawks’ together despite their nominal leader’s slothfulness was dead, all of them were hurt and, unless something changed for the better quickly, they were still on their way out.
It’ll be interesting to see how long the party can operate at such cross purposes. While my character who died was politically more middle of the road, my back-up character is probably much more of a Jacobin. I don’t blame the magic user characters for acting in the interests of their class (or at least their masters’ class), but the other guy on the bridge who lived wants to work with the less extreme revolutionaries and may be handed some sort of leadership role for his part in killing the heads of the Vipers. Plus, since my other character is an arsonist, I figure her deal was trying to burn down a noble’s house.
So, I’ve gone from having a street-wise tough-guy back to little-girl thief, though this one’s stats are a hell of a lot better than my DCC character (natural 17 on dex, 18 with profession mod!). With the XP the DM let me apply to this character instead of my dead one, I’ve switched her from Rat Catcher to Acrobat, maybe making her something like Ty Lee from Avatar. I won’t be surprised if she doesn’t last long either, but that’s fine; I’m wanting to try something a bit different in this system, and I’ll be playing my third Thief/Rogue in a row.