DCC’s Sailors on the Starless Sea

DCC’s Sailors on the Starless Sea went from “This is way too easy for a funnel” to “How the hell’d they expect 0-lvl characters to finish?”*

“Uh… Agatha Agartha, my chaotic alchemist wearing the chaos robe and chaos torc kneels in obeisance and hopes for the best… She uh.. was clearly drawn here to serve the chaos lord–it’s her destiny. Also, she pushes Varra, my elven falconer, into the lava.”

With 30 beastmen, a beastman shaman, a chaos avatar, and no win-state in sight, we settled for a non-standard game-over cutscene. Thing is, if we’d had a standard group of level 1 or 2 PCs, I think we could’ve wiped the floor with them.

 So, I’d say that Sailors may be a good 1st or 2nd level module, but was NOT a very good funnel…

I’d like to take a look at the module myself and see just how bad we screwed up, going from unscathed to unconditional surrender.  Ironically, just as predicted, Stinky Pete the Cheesemaker, my -5 character, was the only PC to survive by virtue surrendering to the tax collectors and not hopping on board the stupid dragon boat. As a local, they assumed he’d been captured by the rest of the party, who they’d believed were chaos cultist due to us wearing chaos robes and, in our cockiness, attacking the search party.

The tax-collectors probably weren’t in the module; I think they were there to keep from whittling away slowly and going back to town. The logic was that a) the Barron doesn’t like people messing around the castle, and b) there was some missing tax money, so we had to leave town or get blamed; the tax collectors would eventually look around the keep for the missing money (which was actually either stolen by beastmen or stolen by villagers/thieves who were turned into beastmen, or the thieves who stole it were captured by beastmen). Otherwise we were all “Well, we’ve solved the mystery of the missing new pairs of boots; your sons are dead, Hiram the Blacksmith. Good job, everyone!”

I think that the problem with a lot of funnels may be the lack of incentive for 0-level characters to risk life and limb. Best Funnel I was ever in, we started as prisoners and conscripts of a sewer militia that was a front for cultists. A quick intro, a tough fight with environmental stuff to take advantage of, and a spooky fungus-filled sewer to avoid the stuff in while escaping. One session and we had our 1st level characters.

Someone has recommended to me that it’s a good idea to intentionally kill subpar characters at the first available opportunity, in part because if they do survive, they’ll wreck your campaign experience, but that’s definitely not something I could subscribe to.

I love my crappy sub-par characters! First game, my crappy thief ended up the longest lived and genuinely scariest party member. By the time we ended that game, she’d made it to level 4, had 9 hit points and a collection of faces she’d cured and turned into masks. Plus, with the way the Thief skill tables work, they can be pretty good at doing their jobs regardless of stats. It’s a great class to dump mediocre characters who survive the Funnel into.

But when it comes to funnels, the downside of killing sub-par characters intentionally is that it reduces your economy of action.

Still, as much as I want to like DCC and still want to play more of it, there’s something about it that leaves me feeling a little let down. I like a lot of DCC’s concepts, but every time we put them into practice, we’re all “Gee, I can’t imagine why we ever stopped playing this system D:<” Clerics suck, the magic system is clunky as hell, the crit tables are dumb and don’t work… Really the concept of the Funnel is the one part that my group actually finds appealing (which is why we ultimately rebuilt WHRPG around the concept of a perpetual Funnel).

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*:Ranged characters. If we’d all picked ranged weapons and not lost a few party members to the tax collectors, we probably could’ve taken the hordes with slings and javelins. Also, given the module’s name, I would’ve expected a more nautical theme, not just the train ride to the boss-fight involving a boat.

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A Case For Perpetual Low-Level Adventuring

I’m a fan of the knife’s edge of low-level adventuring. I even dummied up an OSR system called HALLS (High Adventures for Low Levels System) based on the premise of a B/X-like system that caps out at level 4 but allows for a handful of XP sinks. I don’t think what I was doing scales well, however, and the vast amounts of XP required to level up in HALLS put a bit of a drag on that play-reward feedback loop that makes levelling such a focus of gaming.

I really think that the system my friend has cobbled together, loosely based on Warhammer Fantasy RPG, really manages to capture what I was unable to with the D&D based HALLS – a system that allows for constant and continual character development/improvement while maintaining that rain-slicked precipice feeling of the first few levels. Almost every session, we’ve been able to gain enough XP to put a point in something, but every adventure has a substantial amount of risk that doesn’t require massive scaling of monsters, NPCs and treasure hoards. Even my character, with whom I’d only missed a couple sessions over the course of maybe 20 now, while incredibly good at doing what they did (throw knives, steal things, do massive damage, and plan really great parties) I always had to stay cautious, because two solid hits would kill me; when I stopped being cautious, two hits killed me. It’s a system where you can’t afford to get cocky.

The new character I rolled up, though substantially weaker in many regards, was not so much weaker than the rest of the party that I was a load; on the contrary, my new character held his own and killed a cultist or two before fleeing to the back ranks after taking a crossbow bolt to the shoulder.

The way the system calculate character HP (grit), 1d4+3 + CON mod (max 3) + Profession mod (max 2), you’re never going to get a character who take a lot of solid hits. Weapon damage is all d6 based with modifiers (usually -1, occasionally -2, sometimes +1, very rarely +2). Armor reduces damage rather than detracts from to-hit rolls (allowing for a minimum of 1 ‘ping’ damage). You end up with combats where most characters can take at least 2 hits, 3 or 4 if a few are glancing, but you don’t have those long, drawn out mid-to-high level combats where everyone is slowly whittling away at dozens of HP in 1d8 increments.

The relatively low HP means you can throw weak-to-average monsters or opponents at the players, and it will ALWAYS feel like a challenge. Foe creation is incredibly quick. A monster statblock would consist simply of Grit, Movement, Melee, Ranged, Init, and a base save.

A human mook would be something like this:

Grit: 6, Move: 5, Melee: 10, Ranged: 6, Init: 0, Save 10

Let’s keep him simple by giving him a sword that does a flat 1d6 damage.

  • The mook could take 6 damage; any damage putting him below 0 would force a roll on the dismemberment table (for mooks, it’s easier to go with ‘not killed by the wound’/’killed by the wound’).
  • The movement of 5 translates to whatever scale you’re using. 5′, 10′ squares, 5 yard, 10 yard hexes, whatever – he moves five of them.
  • To hit in melee, he’d have to roll equal to or under 10. To hit with ranged, he has to roll equal to or under 6.
  • No mods to initiative, and if a situation forces a saving throw, he has a 50/50 chance to save.

Now, let’s try something more interesting; a spitting spider dog:

Grit: 6, Move: 5, Melee: 12, Ranged: 10, Init: 1, Save: 10

On the surface, it’s not much different. And that’s good! Because it means it’s easy to create new, weird things. But players will be terrified of it, because it’s a spitting spider dog. Instead of biting, the spitting spider dog might use a ranged attack that will incapacitate a victim with saliva. The target would get to make strength check at disadvantage when their initiative came up to break free. I just came up with that monster completely on the fly; took me 2 minutes thinking of something weird and gross that we’d probably run into in the setting. We’d probably fight half a dozen of them; if we got lucky, we’d get away with some scrapes, bruises and one or two broken limbs.

To give you a bit of comparison for what a PC looks like, my character who died looked something like this:

STR: 7, Con: 11, Dex: 18, Int:11, Cha:11, Luc:11

Grit: 7, Move: 4, Melee: 6, Ranged: 17, Init: 5

That 17 in range meant that I was good enough at throwing knives that I could attack at disadvantage every time to ‘buy’ an additional d6 damage (for 1d6-2 + 1d6), and the Init 5 meant I could make that attack twice per round whenever I rolled a 3 or higher on a d6 for initiative (0-7, where 8 or higher gets a second attack on the modified initiative roll -8; so, if I’d rolled a 4, I’d attack on 9, then again on 1). Now, I was a bit of a fluke, because I a)had a 17 natural dex that I bought to 18, and poured all of my XP into maxing out my ranged skill profession mod (combat skills can’t be modded higher than +8, and you have to have the advanced profession that allows you to reach those caps). But that’s what a character with nearly 1200 XP looks like (session XP was usually in the neighborhood of 70). Yes, I’d point-by-point built a killer who could put a knife through someone’s throat and skip off into the crowd before the guards showed up, but certainly wasn’t going to be able to take more than a couple blows. In a previous fight, she took a crossbow bolt to the arm; like most folks who take a crossbow bolt to the arm, she was done – time to hide behind the wall and hope her friends could finish the fight without her. The most I could’ve ever got my grit up to was 10, which would’ve taken a classes that would let me raise my Con by 2 and my Grit by 2 (possibly requiring anywhere between 400 and 800 XP depending on how I ultimately went about it). But that could’ve been the difference between suffering broken ribs and the disemboweling she ultimately succumbed to.

Every fight was life-or-death. It was exhilarating!

My DM is working on codifying his core rules into a consultable player’s guide. I’m hoping to convince him that this will be a worthwhile marketable system and offered to help him put together something if he were ever interested in commercially publishing it. I’ll admit, I had a few issues getting used to it at first, but I have a hard time imagining enjoying another system as much.

Free RPG Day Follow Up

Despite the relatively slim pickings for Free RPG Day, I had a hell of a time on Saturday.

I only picked up a couple of the Free RPG products, as there was very little that caught my eye.  The one offering I could muster any real excitement for was the new DCC Lankhmar product, which I hope I can convince my DM to run for our DCC characters.  I grabbed “The Dark Eye” because the art was pretty, but I haven’t had a chance to really read it.  I also grabbed a copy of “Faith”: a comic is a bad way to try to present quick-start rules, especially if you’re going to leave out character creation – somehow Burning Games released a rules-lite RPG in a format that took up around 20 pages and didn’t have enough rules or present them well enough to pick up and play; great job, there.  The art was neat, though.  Notably, there were no copies of Slugs out, so either everyone snatched them all up before I got there (which seems unlikely, considering how many copies of everything else they had) or my FLGS doesn’t put out any Lamentations of the Flame Princess material.  One of the other disappointments regarding Free RPG Day and its offerings was that there were no groups devoted to actually running any of it or even the products they were promoting; I would’ve loved to show up and get to actually play the Lankhmar game, but this year the FLGS had not even organized any games with signup sheets as they had last year, much less actively tried to promote the FRPGD games.  Luckily, there was a gargantuan game (18 players and 3 DMs) being run and I managed to make the sign-up and get in on it.

Saturday was my second time playing 5e, and I still remain unimpressed and thoroughly convinced that everyone who proclaims that it recaptures an oldschool feel and style of play is either lying or doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about.  Because we live in bizarro universe, someone actually thought that my issue with the system might have been that it didn’t have enough crunch and complexity!

-I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – 5e feels like a Supers game. Everyone does ridiculously high damage (by most D&D standards), but everything has obscenely high HP; 5e is for people who like rolling lots of dice and seeing big numbers come up; it feels inflationary.  Like, Superman crits an alien monster and throws him through 3 sky scrapers; the alien brushes off the rubble and renews the attack because he’s only down 20%.
-It’s not the Thief’s (the player’s) fault, and I know he was just playing how you’re supposed to play Thieves, but I kind of wanted to punch him; it was all, ‘I try to sneak, I try to hide in shadows, I run up, I attack, I use (some thing that lets him not take an attack of opportunity), I run away’ every freaking round.  It’s like “Dude, we’re in a well lit 15’ x 45’ room with nothing in it; what the hell are you trying to hide behind!?”  Even the DM was eventually like “Look, there are no shadows for you to hide behind.”  This was exactly like the Thief played in the other 5e game I was in; it was like bringing all the unfun tedium of cover-based shooters to your game table. This is also why B/X’s melee rules are important and good; if a monster is engaged with a fighter, the thief doesn’t have to go through the motions of half a dozen idiotic mechanics to attack without worrying about being hit.
-Rounds took a really long time for those of us playing non-fighty man characters, as everyone had to describe a lengthy sequence of movements spells, abilities, and actions every time their initiative came up.  I’m glad that there was still a Barbarian pre-gen left for me to use at the table I was seated at; my turn was usually “I am still raging; here are my 3 attacks ::rolls::; 15 damage, miss, 12 damage.”
-The bard class is frustratingly stupid.  How a musical taunt can damage undead is beyond me.  I’m glad that our bard was just some guy who got stuck with it because it was the last pre-gen and not someone who really likes bards; I don’t think I could’ve dealt with that.

I made a point of not expressing dissatisfaction with the system beyond my initial moment of deflation when I learned that 5e was the only thing that would be at the table on Saturday, and even though I still hate the system and would rather be playing dang near anything else (even 3e is less fiddly in the parts where you’re not twinking your character), I had a great time and was glad I played.

As much as I’m prepared to slag on 5e as a system, I would not dare insult what these guys pulled off.

The setup was a pretty basic one-off situation; evil necromancer has created a plague, turning people into corrupted undead, each of the three races (humans, elves, dwarves), and we were the champions of each race who’d been sent to his trans-dimensional magic fortress to kill him, find the macguffins and stop the plague.

Each table was running simultaneously in one dimensional layer of the dungeon.  Certain checkpoints would result in a dimensional shift of one of the characters (a player would be dumped into another party and switch tables).  This first part had some hack and slash and was mostly to find clues as to what the end-game would entail; the human party didn’t spend any time doing thorough searching and just made a bee-line for the heart of the dungeon.  Luckily, our players who had been in the elf and dwarf parties told us all of the stuff we missed.

The session ended in a HUGE battle – each of the three parties was squared up against an undead squadron, with two reserve undead squadrons raining arrows on us, and as the battle progressed, three more squadrons, an undead war mammoth and a 150 HP necromancer showed up.  For the first few rounds, each table would run through the round, fighting the squadron they were facing; dead were marked off the giant white-board, troop positions were updated, and the master DM called out who was being hit by ranged fire.  After a few rounds and a few undead squadrons routed, things were getting too mixed up to do it by table (and by this time, the first two waves of undead reinforcements had shown up), so we ended up all gathering around the big table and did stuff war-game style, running through all 18 players and all hostile NPCs.

It’s the sort of tabletop experience that one doesn’t get a chance to have very often, in no small part because it takes a lot of people to pull it off and make the execution work.  I can’t imagine running a battle this size with this many people without multiple DMs, so the organization and time-commitment required to do something like this is tremendous.  Even using a clunker of a system like 5e, I’d leap at the chance to participate in anything like this again.

Later, I will maybe try to muster the courage to talk about Black God’s Kiss.  I need to write up my impressions of Panzer Leader, post pictures of issue 2 with Jabari Weathers’ cover, rattle the coins in my change jar to remind folks that the Kickstarter is half over, and if I am not completely drained write an article for an SFF magazine from scratch because my initial premise was rejected. Geez, I almost forgot that I need to talk about how prophetic The Zanti Misfits was (alien criminals dumped into the US with a complicit Federal government acquiescing to threats of “do what we ask or suffer the consequences”)!

Good work is being done by Misha Burnett and the other writers in his Eldritch Earth Society group.  If you think you can write a good Burroughsian adventure story in a pre-historic Lovecraftian setting without resorting to Cthululz, you should ask to join and maybe you’ll end up in issue 5 of Cirsova.

 

Thiefy Stuff

Playing DCC, thieves have become one of my favorite classes, particularly since DCC’s weird, wild and woolly system of magic kind of puts me off of playing any caster classes.  Though DCC works on the d8 Hit Die rather than the d6 Hit Die, meaning Thieves are d6, my character – with all of my really lousy HD rolls and negative modifier to Stamina/Constitution – feels like a d4 Thief!

Naturally, the thing that makes Thieves fun to play is the opportunity to do Thiefy stuff.  The problem is, for both players of Thieves, DMs and the rest of the group, that Thiefy stuff is typically best done without half a dozen guys with swords, chainmail and magic wands derping around and making noise.  Sometimes dungeons provide opportunities to flex those Thief muscles, disarming traps, opening locks and chest, but what you really want to do sometimes as the Thief is some truly daring late-night breaking and entering back in town.  Who hasn’t wanted to relive the thrill of Bafford Manor heist in their D&D game?

The problem is multipart: the Thief usually wants to run this sort of job solo – no sense in having half a dozen guys banging clanking and wisecracking while you’re trying to sneak through a temple or a mansion – which means that most players will have nothing to do while the Thief does his thing.  At most, some members of the party may be wrangled into being look-outs.  The best time to do Thiefy stuff is when only a small group has shown up, if you can’t wrangle your DM into some solo time.  The other issue is that the DM is now obliged to actually map whatever temple or manor you’re hoping to rob.

Where am I going with this?  You’ll find out tomorrow when I post my review of Castles of Mad King Ludwig!

Index Card D&D

I feel as though I’ve been somewhat remiss lately in keeping up with the gaming portion of content on what is nominally a gaming blog.  Hopefully that will change soon, and if it does, let this be the turning point!

I can’t take any credit for this, but I wanted to share.  A couple weeks ago, my DCC DM had asked a couple of us over to try out something he’d been working on.  His own write-up of it can be found here.

The basic conceit is a player-generated DMless Dungeons & Dragons game that can be created from scratch in a few minutes and played for several hours.  Or days, if you want to build up giant decks over the course of several meetups.

We each were given a handful of index cards and were told to write up a basic class, a piece of starting equipment, a monster, a trap, a spell, a piece of treasure and a dungeon geomorph with numbers indicating how many things were in each room.  After about 5 minutes, we each had characters, a microdungeon and a handful of things that filled it.

Monsters/traps/treasures/spells go into the junk deck and geomorphs go into the dungeon deck.  As you go from room to room, flip the top dungeon card and put the indicated number junk deck items face down.  We put “X” on the back of monsters, since you’re going to have to deal with those first in any room.  Or not.  We talked about other options, such as ONLY wandering monsters.

In our first foray, we apparently ended up in a temple of crap (how very DCC!); the entrance (first dungeon card played) had no obvious exits but did have a privy pit that we decided connected to the next card, which happened to be the storage annex of a temple.  I think only one of us escaped our first run, because we’d made pretty mean monsters because no one wanted to be the guy who made a weaksauce monster.

After a few more plays, adding new cards to the decks each time, we had a more balanced experience; if things were too tough, we’d add in some weaker monsters, or if they’d gotten too easy, we’d add in harder ones.  The self-correcting element worked out really well and, by the end of the night, we decided to do one last run after adding “boss monsters”.

We didn’t get around to testing the magic mechanics, as after the first fatal run we came up with more fighter driven classes (an Edgeman, a Lizardman Looter, and some sort of Saw-Blade wielding Ripper), but it was a lot of fun!

It’s very rules-lite in a sense that you basically ‘do this thing and play D&D with it’, with D&D being stripped down to its most abstract ‘things have HD’ and ‘roll d20 to attack AC’, so you adapt it to whichever version you prefer.  In practice, the play experience is a lot like I would imagine something like this to be.  Which is to say awesome.  Your dungeons will end up being as weird and woolly as whatever you could imagine.  We had everything from a hall of mirrors that you could get lost in or smash your way out of to a doctor’s office with a snakes & ladders waiting room.

At some point, I’d like to come up with a slightly more codified explanation of play, but I think this and my DM’s post should be more than enough to get you started.

Busy busy busy!

I will be sticking ads in the magazine next week as I get them.

I have a review up for The Red Witch of Mercury, and just got finished working on a super exciting project that I’ll probably tell you about next week when I get a minute.

Started playing SPI’s Musket & Pike with Dad last night.  Man, now there is a great game!  Look for some analysis on that at Castalia House sometime next month.

Also, on Tuesday, some friends and I took another look at The Challenge, this time with a serious look at ways to tweak and improve the game for a potential updated 2nd edition.  Dunno if I’ll be blathering our design ideas here, but it’s a project we’re toying with.  Our conclusion: it’s actually a pretty good, fun game that simply needs clarification on existing rules more than anything else to make it potentially a go-to party game.

Lastly, here’s some belated gaming cheese, an in-game ballad in tribute to the fighter who thought it would be good to split the party and got torn apart by half a dozen ghouls while everyone else scrambled:

In a fort hid by the trees

‘long the coast of the seas

Ended the life of Blax Jax

 

There were bandits and paynim

But the warrior had slain them

The brave and cunning Blax Jax

 

The pirates died by his hand

and ‘pon his command

the warriors took to their post

No more trouble were they

For Jax’d won the day

Leading the victorious host

 

But down below in the stones

Was a murmuring groan

That called the attention of Blax Jax

 

With his friends by his side

He the darkness defied,

The strong and puissant Blax Jax

 

“You to the right,

and I to the left,”

He said to his friends at his back

“If trouble there be

‘neath this fort by the sea,

I will hold off their attack”

 

The dead rose from the tomb

meant surely the doom

of all of the friends of Blax Jax

 

An hundred he’d slain

Yet an hundred remained

To end the life of Blax Jax

 

“Get out while you can,

Am I not a man

‘pon whom you can count your life?”

Said he the brave knight

and his allies took flight,

Leaving him like a faithless young wife.

 

Oh, Hero – your name,

All others mere shame,

Blax Jax we must never forget

Your deeds with your fists

For Zyg in his pits

And the friends you’d not live to regret.

Random Encounters for a Dynamic World and Emergent Sandbox Narrative

One thing about sandbox games, you never know what your players will latch onto.  You may have created a ton of content around the fringes of your civilization, even plan for players to go off in totally different directions than they end up going. All of that preparation only to have players latch onto a single nugget and invest all of their time and effort concentrating on a single region!

That’s what we’ve done in our DCC game; after finding that abandoned sugarcane plantation, all plans for exploration went out the window, and the focus of our game has shifted to restoring and securing the farm.

This game has really brought to the forefront the importance of book-keeping, time-keeping and random encounters to maintaining an immersive experience.  It also allows for a truly dynamic game world that includes the four adventure plot classifications.

Our last session was filled with a number of skirmishes around our farm that led us to declaring all-out war against a neighboring smuggler-fort.  Chance and an unpredictable enemy strategic AI (determined by random encounter rolls, natch) meant that a lot of our previous plans for establishing peaceful mercantile relations went out the window.  I’ve attached the in-world session report below for those who are interested, but I’d like to share the nuts and bolts of what happened.

Not only has our DM been rolling for encounters for the travelling party, he has been rolling for the farm as well; this would force us to keep investing our time and resources in the project because leaving it to its own devices could mean disaster should it come under attack.  We’d posted guards, but casualties can mount if the farm suffered a particularly bad week or two.

Times when we were en route to the farm, the farm suffered a couple random encounters of its own; the golden bear we’d been hunting struck, but that was a predictable annoyance.  What really messed up of our player-scheming was an encounter that the DM rolled for in which a couple of the Pirate hunters stumbled on the farm at night.  Our mercs earned their pay by shooting at intruders; the Pirates didn’t know what hit them, but it meant that diplomatic relations would be rocky at best if we could establish them.  We decided that we needed to bring up reinforcements, so we went back to town to hire more mercs.  Right as we arrived with reinforcements, the town was in the midst of another random encounter of its own.  The Pirates were reconning in force, but did not expect a small army of 20+ soldiers and a pack of hunting dogs to show up in the middle of their foray.

A combination of random encounters and fortuitous timing led to our decimating the local organized threat to our little outpost.  Now we just need to get the palisade and guard towers up so the farm can better defend itself from white apes.

The plantation may thrive someday, but it shall be born in blood.    Pashi met a disgraced treasurer from west over the seas named Cirra who volunteered his blade to our cause.  Helene bought a coon dog named Shiloh, and Elyse bought a pony named pony.  Our motley crew set forth to the northern guard tower where we left the guards a map of where they could find our plantation and make their weekly patrols.

On the way to farm, we saw a deer in the tree that had been eaten on by something.  We found disaster had struck when we’d arrived at the workers’ camp.  The golden bear had attacked the night before, and though it was driven off, three workers had been killed.  The following night was equally filled with danger; on the first watch, pirate scouts stumbled on the camp and one was shot dead by our mercenaries.  Second watch, a panther showed up and was not driven off before it had torn Shiloh in two.

On the dawn of the third day, we debated what to do: Namia said the golden bear only showed up to drink at the stream about once a month; the more pressing situation was what to do about the pirates.  We’d speculated for some time that they had been bandits or smugglers, though the possibility had remained open that they were simply woodsmen or libertarian survivalists.  The previous night’s incident threw a bit of a wrench in our plans to approach them peacefully as business partners.  We ultimately decided that we should return the body of slain pirate under a flag of truce to the pirate fort.  No talk, no negotiation, just a simple message that we were returning something that belonged to them.  We left the body outside the fort and returned to the plantation.

With multiple apex predators in the forest about the farm and possibly a hostile pirate enclave nearby, we determined that we would need more soldiers and more workers.  We left with the promise to return with more men and supplies and asked Leah Hawkeye to hold on as best she could until we returned.

Back in town, we spent day 5 buying 6 dogs (one to replace Shiloh and five to leave with the mercenaries and workers to help in a pinch and raise an alarum when danger was near.  With the plan to sell rum to the pirates out the window, we made inquiries in town and found that there was no domestic producer of rum in the region; this gave us leverage to seek investment capital from a local tavern keeper.  We secured an investment of 250 gold which we used to hire more workers and levy additional troops: 6 archers, 6 heavy footmen and a Sergeant, Heinrich the Vast.

Before leaving we made inquiries about the new dungeon that had sprung up in the middle of the bay a week or so before.  Though we had pressing issues, we thought to at least make inquiries about it.  Elyse suggested finding a cleric who could perform an auger for us.  The best we could find was Balia Valra, a priestess of the Serpent, who looked at the entrails and told us it wouldn’t sink and drown us all for at least three days.  While Pashi flirted with Balia, Elyse cased the small temple.

Keeping the farm from being destroyed by bandits and wild animals sounded more important than drowning in the bay, so we marched off toward the guard tower.  From the tower, we set out for the farm, offering to show the seven guardsmen the way on their new patrol route.  Our small army of 3 party members, a henchmen, 6 dogs, 20 soldiers, 4 workers, two mules and a pony arrived to find the pirates were attempting to recon in force; Leah Hawkeye had holed up with her troops and the workers in the old house and the pirates had not expected to meet so much resistance.  The pirates were massacred; save for the two we captured, those who tried to flee were torn apart by dogs or ridden down.

Elyse interrogated the survivors; while we got mixed intel on the pirates, we learned that they had a poorly guarded ship that they sometimes used to harass merchants and get supplies with.

We determined that the we had to deal with the pirates before any further work could be done safely on restoring the plantation.  We spent the night with heavy watches, as we had over 30 souls gathered about the temporary housing.  The watch that Helene was on heard the horrid cries of the fearsome white apes of the north.  A couple of the monstrous beasts appeared at the edge of the clearing, but quickly ran when they were showered with a volley of arrows.

In light of the diverse range of apex predators roaming tthe woods, we decided that the best bet was to send the workers back to the guard tower until we returned.  The seven guard patrolmen escorted the workers and the two prisoners back to the tower while the 22 mercenaries and hunting dogs accompanied us off toward the cove where the Pirates kept their ship.

At night, we stole their long-boat, and while the mercenaries provided a noisy distraction on the bluffs above, we rowed up to the pirate ship.  The pirates got a few arrows off at us, and killed one of the archers who had joined us on the boat, but we quickly overwhelmed the few defenders.  We took the prize ship and its cargo back to town to sell off.  The plan now will be to hire more guards and more workers; hopefully when Valora has the time, she’ll be able to nuke to pirate fort so we don’t have to set in for a long siege.  On the plus side, the pirates now will have no access to food or supplies in their fort; we can wage a war of attrition if need be, but we’re now a major force in the region.

Attached is a map of our plantation; most of the structures present besides the Old House, a shed, and one long-house are just part of the foreman’s plans for future construction.  As you can see, given enough time, we’ll have quite the stronghold and, once the rum starts flowing, revenue stream.

Helene hit level 2 and, with a sizable loan from Helene, Elyse reached level 4 by having commissioned an impressive silver wasp statue dedicated to Vespia; she hasn’t been attacked by wasps since she became a worshiper, so as far as she knows, something’s working.