Shadow Over Alfheim, Pt 13 – Regrouping

Well, we are only slowly easing back into things after our holiday break and brief interlude playing Pockets.

The players sold some of their non-coin loot, but held onto the Cat’s Eye Ruby, because “priceless” clued them in that either no one would have the money in town to buy it or maybe it was important, and the jeweled walking stick, because the goblin-ranger wanted a pimp cane. See? What’d I tell you about non-coin treasure’s awesome potential?

In a lot of ways, this session was dumping my players back into the sandbox and pointing out where the sand castles were. We were under some time constraints and the absence of one player influenced my decision to make this a bit of a “half-session”, but I think it worked out.

The goblin-ranger received a letter from a fellow goblin from the southeast tribe, informing him of the alliance between the southeast and northern tribes and the upcoming assault on the Old Island Fortress. 30 days, a force would try to dislodge the NW tribe and would welcome assistance from the young goblin noble and his companions. Goblin-ranger shared this with the goblin-thief and they are excited about the prospects of some goblins kicking ass, but decided to keep the note on the DL from the other players. Basically, this was a reminder that there was an unfinished nearby dungeon, but I’m going to be modifying the original module substantially to accommodate the shift up the timeline from when the party initially scoped the place out.

Meanwhile, the swordsman went walking around and happened upon a zombie cow that had strayed into the farm country northwest of the fort. This brief encounter reminded them that there is, indeed, still an elven plantation full of dead horrors somewhere in the wilderness to the west of Sigyfel’s Tomb.

The Cleric did some investigating in town, finding that things were pretty bad morale-wise. A lot of his following that he’d accumulated in the past have lost faith, and he even acquired a few hecklers who doubted the powers of the Saint. He met up with some refugees from Stull who report that the town is not doing well despite the players’ intervention (there just aren’t any jobs), and they plan to continue on to Portsdam to sail back to the empire. Most folks seem sure the colony is going to fail, but the cleric swears by his god that so long as he remains in Alfheim, it shall not fall.

The goblin thief caught me off guard a bit because he wanted to break into the Alfort keep at night. I managed to do a little bit of a castle climb on the fly, but between not having a map prepared and no real specifics given for the keep in the Morgansfort module it was rough going. With some difficulties, the goblin thief managed to scale the north wall of the fort and avoid patrols on the ramparts and climbed in a window. A couple locked doors (where the baron would’ve been, and a guest room), a little hall, and a sitting room were crammed into the 5x5ish keep’s upper floor. The goblin evaded a lazy guard, stole a few silver candle sticks, and no one in my gaming group has played “Thief” apparently (“From beyond the stairs, you hear a gruff voice saying ‘I’m going down to the bear pits tomorrow, you wanna come?’ Anybody? Anybody? Really?”).

Here, I’d like to shill for a moment (though no one is paying me to do so); if you ever need to come up with a mansion-dungeon on the fly, there’s no better tool than “Castles of Mad King Ludwig“; this game is perfect for this sort of thing.  It’s a tile-laying mansion building game that is a lot of fun in its own right, but if you’re as lazy a DM as I am, you can grab a handful of tiles, put them together and have an instant mansion-dungeon map that you only have to guess a few relevant treasures and guards to populate it with.

In the end, the party decided that they would take another run at Law’s End to see if they could figure out why the goblin thief had had a vision of Nuromen or maybe why Taramedes’ house had burned down. I might have the elf who had to leave the game show up as a mini-villain. After our 5th player is back, I can retroactively adjudicate some in-town purchases so we aren’t in one of those situations where players are deciding whether or not they bought scrolls while the first encounter is happening.

I’m stoked about revisiting and hopefully finishing Maze of Nuromen!

Siege of Alfort (Morgansfort): Tower Defense Style – Prep Work Part 4, Factions for Flavor

This is going to be a briefer post than the others, largely because it does not involve number crunching. In fact, the purpose of this portion of the prep work is to reduce the amount of number crunching.

The battle and conflict as it’s statted out and scripted in the previous posts does not reflect the battle as a whole. While the 200+ Hit Dice of evil elven undead represents a formidable force more than capable of overwhelming the PCs and the fortress’s defenses, it doesn’t connote that “army” feel. It’s not big enough. Now, admittedly, this is going to be window-dressing, but it will certainly help the battle feel bigger.

Other factions –
Imperial expeditionary force – I’m not sure what all will have happened between the time I am writing this and when the encounter will happen, but one possibility is that Portsdam is destroyed by an earthquake. Whether that happens or things have just been so bad in the colony that word has gotten back to the empire, let’s say that an expeditionary force has landed north of Alfort and is on its way. Maybe 2000 strong, this force, while small will certainly distract a chunk of the Elf King’s undead army, preventing it from bearing its full brunt against the fort. If the PCs haven’t cleared out the Zombraire’s estate module, this force will probably be ambushed from west and arrive significantly weakened and unprepared to stand against Caelden’s army.

Eastern Goblin Coalition – The Southeast and Northeast goblin tribes have formed a military alliance. They understand that a limited human presence in Alfheim is preferable to the land being awash with undead elves. Sometime between now and when the battle is run, the PCs will be presented with a chance to dislodge the Northwest goblin tribe from the Old Island Fortress (if the PCs don’t go along with it, the goblins will later take this on their own). The Old Island Fortress will be used as a staging ground for the eastern goblin tribes to lend their support against Caelden’s army.

Northwest Goblin tribe – I’ve retconned my setting a bit to eliminate Orcs as an indigenous people of Alfheim; while Orcs are there, they’re mostly imperial mercenaries (note to self, the imperial expeditionary force should be comprised largely of Orcs). That said, I’m rewriting Starisel’s dungeon to be inhabited by goblins (with Orc stats) instead of the orc tribe. These will be part of the same tribe who were trying to take over Malek (the Nameless Dungeon) until they were slaughtered by undead. If the PCs can reconcile with these goblins (successfully run Cave of the Unknown), there is a good chance that they might be willing to commit to fight against Caelden.

So we’ve got a Battle of Five Armies, here, a perfect climactic fight for the campaign.

To incentivise the players to gather these allies, I might even take away the last two waves via some sort of plot-flash.

Siege of Alfort (Morgansfort): Tower Defense Style – Prep Work Part 3, Enemy Combatants

So, this part is going to take some tweaking, and maybe even some test runs, so these numbers are far from final.

Let’s have a run-down of the various undead we have to work with:

Skeletons 1 HD 20′
Zombies 2HD 40′
Ghoul 2HD* 30′ (paralysis)
Wight 3HD* 30′ (Level Drain)
Wraith 4HD** 40’/ (Level Drain)
Mummy 5+1HD* 20′ (disease)
Spectre 6HD** 50’/100′ (Level Drain x 2)
Vampire 9HD** 40’/60′

The bulk of the monsters are going to be skeletons & zombies, low hit dice monsters who should probably be ignored, if possible, in favor of the bigger baddies coming through. So, let’s come up with some ground-rules for how each of these monsters operates:

Skeletons – move along the scripted path. Remove 1 HD of defense and ‘go away’.

Zombies – move along the scripted path. Remove 1 HD of defense and ‘go away’.

Ghouls – move along the scripted path. Remove 1 HD of defense and ‘go away’ so long as there are at least 3 HD of defense present; otherwise, remove 1 HD of defense per round until no defense is present and continue along path.

Wights – move along the scripted path. Remove 1 HD of defense per round until no defense is present. When no defenders are present, continues along path.

Wraiths – move by flight through walls & buildings towards currently targeted zone. Remove 1 HD of defense per round until no defense is present. When no defenders are present, continues along path. Once, Nuromen may use “Sleep” to allow the elimination of 2d4 HD of defenders.

Mummies – move along the scripted path. Remove 1 HD of defense per round until no defense is present. When no defenders are present, continues along path.

Spectres – Considering their special ability of creating new spectres, I’m highly considering omitting these guys. We’ll see. moves by flight to towers, eliminating tower & rampart defenders. Remove 1 HD of defense per round until no defense is present. After reaching zone 6, will enter the chapel.

Vampire – moves along the scripted path. Remove 1 HD of defense per round, though continues along path without stopping.

Here’s a sample elven army.

60 skeletons
30 zombies
15 ghouls (accursed elves)
5 wights (undead elf knights)
4 Wraiths + Nuromen (undead elf mages)
4 Mummies (undead elf clerics)
2 Spectres (undead elven princes)
1 Vampire (Caelden, lord of elves)

Wave 1
10 skeletons
10 zombies

This wave might even be completely turned.

Wave 2
10 skeletons
5 zombies
5 ghouls

Some of this wave might be turned; I expect this to be the first wave to do some damage in zone 1.

Wave 3
10 zombies
5 ghouls
1 wight

This is something of a wakeup call with the wight. If the heroes are fighting from the walls, it should be apparent that someone is going to have to go down and deal with it.

wave 4
5 zombies
5 ghouls
2 wights

Things being in earnest now. Clerics within the castle will likely have run out of turning, and the wight’s level drain could be a serious problem.

wave 5
10 skeletons
2 wights
Nuromen

Boss wave. While the skeletons just march onto reduce various zone HD, Nuromen will be casting spells and with the two wights who accompany him, he’ll be pretty tough, even with his limited HP.

Wave 6
10 skeletons
2 wraiths

Consider this a sequel to wave 5, but at least these wraiths aren’t casters.

Wave 6
5 skeletons
1 wraith
1 mummy

The mummy is going to slowly tank his way through the defenses.

Wave 7
1 wraith
2 mummies

Ditto.

Wave 8
10 skeletons
1 Mummy

Consider this wave a reprieve?

wave 9
5 skeletons
2 Spectres

If things aren’t already really bad, this may be the end of things. The heroes might seriously consider running at this point.

Wave 10
Vampire

The vampire more or less makes a Beeline to the bank, the apartments, the chapel, then the keep. He’s got important things he wants in those places.
Goals:
Ultimately, the castle is meant to fall. The main goal the heroes should have is staying alive or maybe stopping Nuromen (wave 5). Anything after that point ought to be gravy, though they should probably try to either escape through the Chapel Tunnels, the Keep Tunnels or any other possible means.

On the off chance that 8 waves are defeated before the chapel falls, I would consider this a decisive “win” for fort, if it weren’t for those pesky spectres. While Caelden might ‘retreat’, there would be a ton of dead that would need quick sanctification or things could easily be worse than before, in which case, the fort falls anyway. If the heroes manage to somehow defeat all 10 waves, Caelden likely retreats to lick his wounds. In this final case, he’ll probably be treated like any other vampire and sent to his lair (I might stick him in the Gibbering Tower) to be hunted down.
Up next, I’ll detail the tactical scenario leading up to the siege.

Siege of Alfort (Morgansfort): Tower Defense Style – Prep Work Part 2, Scripting the Scenario

To make this Tower Defense style scenario work, I need to come up with a basic script for the battle, including the strategies of the NPCs invovled, to faciliate the overall flow of the encounter.

For ease of play, all monsters share initiative and take their turn first, followed by defenders ranged attacks, then the PCs’ actions.

“Zones”
1 Main Gate
2 Behind Main Gate
3 Below Tower 2
4 In Front of the Stables
5 In Front of the Bank
6 In front of the Chapel
7 Beyond the Chapel
8 Between the walls
9 The Green
10 The Keep

I’m renaming the towers to make it easier to follow.
“Towers”
1 – Tower 18
2 – Wall between Tower 18 and Main Gate Main Gate Tower
3 – Main Gate Tower
4 – Wall behind Main Gate Tower
5 – Wall between Main Gate and Tower 2
6 – Tower 2
7 – Wall between Towers 16 and 2
8 – Tower 16
9 – Wall between Tower 22 and 19
10 – Tower 19

Important note: “Towers” may or may not hold their fire against skeletal or aetherial undead; regardless, their attacks have no effect. Special rules will be described later for ‘special’ undead (including leaders), who MUST be fought by the PCs.
Phase 0:
The enemy army approaches; this gives PCs and the south towers opportunities to fire on enemy mobs.
Phase 1:
Someone has answered the Call of Caelden, and, betraying the garrison, lowers the gate.

Ranged attacks from south wall concentrate on gate & road.

Phase ends when 8 HP of monsters enter area 1.
Phase 2:
Undead focus efforts on entering area 1 and moving beyond to zone 2.

Towers:
1 – moves 4 to 2; after 3 rounds, targets road.
2 – moves 2 to 4; after 3 rounds, targets monsters entering zone 2.
3 – pours oil down murder holes 2 rounds, fires through on enemies below or on road.
4 – targets zone 2
5 – targets road

Phase ends when zone 2 is overrun.

Phase 3:
Undead move along course toward Zone 3 under Tower 6.

Towers:
2 – targets road
3 – Priorety: murder holes, zone 2, then road.
4 – targets zone 2
5 – targets zone 2
6 – moves all to 7, holds until phase 4

Phase ends when zone 3 is overrun.

Phase 4:
Undead move toward zone 4. Garrison has built blockades in front of where Taramedes house stood.

Towers:
2 – targets road
3 – Priorety: murder holes, zone 2, then road.
4 – targets zone 2
5 – targets zone 3
7 – targets monsters moving from zone 3 to zone 4

Phase ends when zone 4 is overrun.

Phase 5:
Undead have overrun zone 4.

1 out of every 2 HD of monsters will enter the stable (area 3). After 8 HD have entered the stable, from east door, they will emerge from west door. All animals & npcs in the stable will have been eliminated, and the stable will begin to burn.

Other monsters will continue moving toward Zone 5

Towers:
2 – Targets road
3 – Priorety: murder holes, zone 2, then road.
4 – targets zone 2
5 – targets zone 3
7 – targets zone 4

Phase ends when zone 5 is overrun.

Phase 6:
Monsters have access to the east plaza area. Garrison has attempted to blockade the chapel street, zone 6.

Monsters will move towards any accessible buildings. 4HD worth of monsters will destroy buildings they enter; unlike encountering “garrison”, this does not eliminate the monsters.

Destroying these buildings will be a priorety (except in my campaign, the building designated as the residence of the villain).

After these buildings are destroyed, monsters will focus on zone 6, the alley in front of the chapel.

Towers:
2 – Targets road
3 – Priorety: murder holes, zone 2, then road.
4 – targets zone 2
5 – targets zone 3
7 – targets zone 4
8 – targets zone 5

Phase ends when three buildings are destroyed.

Phase 7:
Monsters attack zone 6. Towers begin to route.

Towers:
2 – Targets road
3 – Begin moving toward Tower 9, arrives in 12 rounds.
4 – Are killed
5 – Are killed
7 – Begins moving towards Tower 9, arrives in 12 rounds.
8 – Begins moving towards Tower 9, arrives in 11 rounds.

Phase ends once Zone 7 is overrun.

Phase 8:
Once zone 6 is overrun, monsters with more than 2 HD will enter the chapel. Other monsters will attack Zone 7

Towers: tower units that are able will shoot at targets of opportunity while moving towards Tower 10.

Phase 8 ends when 10 HD of monsters enter chapel and Zone 7 is overrun.

Phase 9:
Monsters attack Zone 8.

Towers:
Towers 9 & 10 will attack monsters in zone 7.

Phase 9 ends when monsters overrun zone 8.

Phase 10:
Monsters attack zone 9.

Tower 10 attacks targets of opportunity.

Phase ends when monsters overrun zone 9.

Survivors may escape via tunnels to somewhere Northwest of the fort along the coast.

Next time:
Figuring the monster hordes and possible Win conditions for the heroes.  (Important to note, that if things get past phase 5, the battle should be, for most intents and purposes, lost, and hopefully the heroes will realize this.  Then again, heroes love fighting to the bitter end.)

Siege of Alfort (Morgansfort): Tower Defense Style – Prep Work Part 1, Statting Defenses

(Download Morgansfort to follow along.)

First of all, I need to figure out roughly what Alfort’s (Morgansfort’s) defenses are and translate that into numbers that can be used in a Tower Defense style scenario.

So, what I’ve done is figured out the total Hit Dice of the fort’s defenses. All told, there are 129 Hit Dice worth of garrison, 134 if we include the Baron/Castellan/Lord. This doesn’t mean there are 134 defenders (it’s actually closer to just over 100) who are in the garrison nor does it mean that there aren’t various level 1 and level 0 persons in the town who might be caught up in the fighting; this is just the number we’re going to use to determine the Keep’s “HP”, for lack of a better term.

One interesting difference between Morgansfort and the Keep on the Borderlands is that most of the guard are not specified to be carrying ranged weapons, though the notes indicate the presence of such weapons in 1, 2, 16, 17, and 22 (all various towers). Though there are none mentioned present in 19, the central tower, one should assume that anyone heading there will have passed someplace that they can grab a bow or something.

Rather than have a fixed HP for the Alfort/Morgansfort, various key points in the fort will have strength represented by the number of HD of garrison present; the fort will fall to the attacker in successive waves as the defenders lose ground. Each HD of monster (regardless of the damage they will have taken) will remove 1 point from a location’s defense.

Now, how to figure out where the defenders are? Well, the notes for Morgansfort explain that the main garrison force is comprised of 8 squads of 11 of the 88 footmen (these do not include the “Knights”, and all told account for 93 of the defense’s 134 hit dice). Now, the Knights will be around doing their own thing with other defenders OR it will be assumed that they’re among the defenders adding to the numbers of whatever location they are represented by; since none of these individuals have been characters in my campaign, it will be unnecessary to adjudicate their deaths, but if you’ve been running Morgansfort by the book, you might consider being more particular about who is where.

Since Morgansfort can really only be attacked from the south and the west, We can assume that 22 (North central tower), 17 (Northeast tower) and 16 (East central tower) will be relatively undefended unless the situation changes. Men in towers will get ranged attacks at attackers but not count towards the “HP” of a zone unless they get down.

So, let’s talk defense zones:

1-main gate
1a- behind main gate
2a- below tower 2
3a- in front of the stables
6-the Square is big enough I think it worth breaking down
6a- in front of the bank
6b- in front of the chapel
6c- in front of the inns
6d- in front of the warehouse
15a- the plaza south of the chapel
19a- the avenue between the central wall and south wall
20- the Green
25- the keep

That’s a lot of areas, but there are a lot of HD to be spread across it. Truth be told about 6, however, the spot in front of the bank, trader and herbalist’s is pretty do or die, so anyone defending the square would make this spot a priority; I’ll assume that if this area falls, there’s nothing but archers in the 16(East Tower) to keep baddies out of those buildings. 6 can be condensed, therefore, to some key strongpoints set up by the bank and in front of the street the Chapel is on.

So that leaves us with (no longer using the module key)
1 Main Gate
2 Behind the main Gate
3 Below tower 2
4 In front of the stables
5 In Front of the bank
6 In front of the Chapel
7 Beyond the Chapel
8 Between the Walls
9 The Green
10 The Keep

That’s still going to be a lot to defend. Let’s see if we can plug some numbers in.

“Zones”
1 Main Gate – 8
2 Behind Main Gate – 10
3 Below Tower 2 – 8
4 In Front of the Stables – 15
5 In Front of the Bank – 20
6 In front of the Chapel – 8
7 Beyond the Chapel – 10
8 Between the walls – 8
9 The Green – 10
10 The Keep – * We’ll come back to this.

That’s 97 HD worth of defenders. Part of this number assumes that defenders from the northern towers have descended the walls to join the fighting.

“Towers” (These WILL use the module key)
1 Main Gate – 4
Between 18 and 1 – 2
Between 1 and 2 – 2
2 – 4
16 – 4
18 – 4
Wall between 22 & 19 – 4
19 – 4

So, there’s 28 HD worth of firepower coming from the various towers. We’ll say that the remaining 9 HD consists of the Castellan and 4 personal guards remaining with everyone in the Keep, perhaps ushering them out of tunnels somewhere to safety.

Up next, I’ll write up a short script of how the scenario will play out, after which point I’ll try to figure out how many undead and in how many waves should they come.

RPG Blog Carnival: A Map of Alfheim

Enderra’s running this month’s Blog Carnival with the theme of New Worlds, exploration and discovery.

Shadow Over Alfheim takes place in an Imperial colony situated in the old homeland of a race of wicked elves.  The colony has only been around for less than a century, but is showing signs of failure.  While most of the goblins live harmoniously with the human settlers, some tribes have recognized that should the humans flee from the shadow of a returning Elf-king, a vacuum and opportunity will be left for those who can make their hay quickly.

The party in my game is in the service of a wealthy imperial aristocrat in Portsdam with a fixation on collecting elven artifacts.  Some of these he is selling to the scholars of the Imperial University of Arcane and Human Studies back in the Imperial City to raise funds to undertake massive public works projects in the failing colony.  The others may be put to more insidious ends.

While my game doesn’t have the freedom of a hexcrawl, I’ve tried to keep it as sandbox as possible while maintaining enough rails that I can be prepared for wherever the party ends up choosing to go.

Map of Alfheim

New Year’s News: Alfheim Hiatus, Revolutionary Reading and MYFAROG

Today may be the last day for the next few months to snag a free ebook of City at the Top of the World.

I spent too much of a busy weekend finishing up collecting Riddler trophies in Arkham City. Considering that he feels like the big bad of the game, I really wish there was more that happens once you get all his stupid trophies and kick his ass. I feel like you almost deserve a second special credits roll or something. I screwed around a bit with some of the challenges, but, like with Asylum, I think I’m not going to bother with doing them with any level of thoroughness. Probably after I finish Harley’s Revenge, I’ll be taking a break for a bit. I need to get more reading done and (maybe) work on Alfheim, which will be on hold until after a few sessions of Pockets (unless people revolt and demand we finish my game, which I hope doesn’t happen, as it could split up our group).

I’m a little over halfway through the bio of Talleyrand I’ve been reading; it’s interesting given how little attention was paid to Talleyrand’s role in the Revolution in the history by Abbott (presumably because of his Napoleonophilic tendencies) to now read a very detailed account of his involvement with both the Revolution and the Empire, in which he is portrayed, while incredibly corrupt and inscrupulous, as the only sane man in Napoleon’s otherwise useless political machine. All in all, it’s made me really want to revisit my childhood and play L’Empereur. Maybe I can find an emulated dosbox version somewhere.

Reading about the Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary period shoots some holes in the meme of women’s role in history or their absence from it. While the role they played was certainly different, it was incredibly significant nonetheless. It was through the various influential society ladies that the key players networked and it was in their parlors that they planned and schemed, and when caught by the opposition, women joined their husbands and lovers on the gallows of the Revolution. Much of what we know about the Revolutionary period and the political intrigue at home during the Napoleonic Wars comes from the writings and correspondence of these great ladies who put pen to paper their thoughts on the events of the day and the men who played their parts as the ladies played theirs. It’s made me consider coming up with some sort of variant on Coup or Resistance in which all of the players represent aristocratic women in Paris in whose salons the the acts of treason for and against the Bourbons are planned and betrayed.

While I’ve been slower than I’d like in reading MYFAROG, I’ve been coming up with a few ideas which will hopefully be useful to players. When I get around to it, I plan on making print & play Role cards for the various roles in MYFAROG for use with MYFAROG as quick reference or for adapting MYFAROG roles into a role-based pocket system such as Altars & Archetypes. I’ve run this idea by one of the players in my group and they sound interested.