[Actual Play] The Siege of Skydagger Keep

So, this is the second part of our campaign - the group finished the Road to Skydagger Keep and very much wanted to keep going. (Pandemic makes for regular Zoom play!) It’s a big group - 5 to 7 players each time, so I up the threat level considerably because of the much larger stress pool available.

Highlights of the Road -

*They took the forest route, since their Chosen was the Horned One, and maxed out on Favor missions, so have the Horned One’s Thews, the speak-to-animals ability, and the food bonus.
*We didn’t lose any Specialists, but we came close and several of them are Traumatized in various forms. Because of promotions and three separate special missions that gave Specialists, they’re now at ten Specialists.
*They got a critical on five dice on the final roll, and ended up killing Blighter as she attempted to retreat from Skydagger. (They think.)
*The old Quartermaster died through the stress of the high mountain march to Skydagger (and through being constantly harried) - he’s been replaced with a 13-year-old trainee bookkeeper from among the many refugees with them. The former Commander, an ineffectual fool left in charge by chance, resigned and was replaced with the Viscount, the group’s terrifying one-eyed Sniper, currently sitting on his last Trauma out of four thanks to a fondness for Crimson Shot. (One took out Victoria Karhowl, one blew the Chimera off a cliff after he slaughtered three rookies, one smashed Black Rotting Gale’s gas tanks on the final assault.)
*They have the Lunar Crown (fixed on a Panyar Medic’s head), the Aldermani spear (permanently bound to a Soldier with very poor fighting skills so far), and the Bell of Keening.

Now they’re holding Skydagger for the winter, attempting to maintain the defenses as Render, ordered back from another front by the Cinder King, readies a fresh assault with Breaker’s aid. The fort is stuffed with refugees and, while they brought a ton of food with them, they’re nearly out of Black Shot and have no reliquaries left.

First mission! A special mission (bought with Intel), picking up on a tentative trade deal with the Pale Crawlers, attempting to form a more permanent alliance that will secure a safe route through the caves. (Success = +2 supply, and a boosted Recruit action, failure = +2 Pressure, as the Pale Crawlers join/are turned to the undead)

So, their Pale Crawler ally, Glem, took them through the Maw to a sacred site of his people. (They critted the engagement role, so it was an easy route down.) The specialists were Crimson Silent Claw, a newly blooded scout with a high reputation among the Pale Crawlers (and rumored to be a cannibal) and Ranveer, the Legion’s near-legendary chief medic. The squad was the Star Vipers, an all-soldier elite team - on bad terms with the Commander, but including Nadit, the somewhat ineffectual wielder of the Striking Spear. (A Devil’s Bargain bound her to it permanently when it was acquired in the first place, but while she has Weave to do weird things with it, she has all of one die in fighting.)

The Pale Crawlers’ great pale serpent had been killed, and one of the leaders accused the Legion of being responsible through tainting the sacred place of Skydagger Keep. After an initially botched Sway roll left them in very choppy waters, they managed to pull back by pointing out the Blight affecting the corpse - and promised to track down the undead responsible. (They also crit’d a Research roll and persuaded at least some of the Crawlers that the corpse might be breeding monstrosities.)

Tracking the path left by the mortally wounded serpent, they found an ambush site - and then tracked the ambushers into a remote valley, where they’d holed up behind an improvised barricade. They turned out to be an advance unit of Render’s forces - half-a-dozen Black Oak pikemen, and a Heartless wielding two great corrupting spears. They’d also set up a ballista (carried on the Heartless’ back originally) and had two badly-wounded men with them that they were trying to find a way out of the mountains for.

One of the group, Graf Aurora Rodano, was deeply offended by the Black Oak treachery to the Zemyati people, being Every Inch … himself. (Mostly because he was a part-Orite raised among the Zemyati determined to prove himself. His first name is actually Graf, it’s not a title.) Crimson and a couple of soldiers with decent Scout climbed round to attempt to start a rockslide on the Black Oak soldiers, but were noticed just as they got to the patch of loose ground (I let the Scout use Scrounge to find it, they got a Partial success on the group stealthing.) The Heartless and two of the Black Oak charged them, while the others guarded the wounded - the rest of the Legion charged from the other side.

Nadit attempted to throw the Striking Spear into the Heartless’ shadow to pin it, and while she succeeded, the spear’s magic was so overwhelming that it brought her with it in a great leap instead of a throw. (She pushed for Great effect, Devil’s Bargained that she would go with the spear, and got a partial on the final roll.) That left her in a desperate position - and after a failed Maneuver roll the Heartless’ spear crashed through her, leaving her staggered and barely standing (4 harm, reduced to 1 with armor and Resist.) The scouts started the rockslide, only to have it go astray and take out only a single Black Oak soldier. Crimson peppered the Heartless with Black Shot to give Nadit a chance to escape, only to find himself sliding down into hand-to-hand conflict - not his specialty.

The rest of the group’s charge gave them enough surprise to destroy the ballista, but left them locked in a mean hand-to-hand with the Black Oak. The Spear kept the Heartless pinned, but the group was left battered and bruised before they finished off the Knights, even with the advantage of surprise. They took the wounded and the corrupting spears as evidence, and returned to the Pale Crawlers - where the serpent’s blight had spawned new monsters, finished off by the Pale Crawlers. Handing over the Knights to be carried into the darkness screaming, they secured their alliance with the Pale Crawlers, and added four of them to their ranks. (The last recruit slot was filled by the former Commander, who is now a Rookie …)

So - originally I’d planned two likely battles, one with the knights and one with the creatures spawned from the serpent, but they did an excellent job realizing the possibility of the Blight making monsters early and tipped off the Pale Crawlers, plus it was getting kind of late so we basically skipped the last battle. That meant a no-casualties run, but they’re pretty beaten up and highly stressed.

On the secondary missions, the group abandoned the chance to rescue an Aldermani commander’s corpse from Ache and instead successfully escorted a Bartan priest to a sacred spot (for an unneeded Morale bump and a favor from the Bartan people that may pay off later.) They managed to acquire some Reliquaries from fleeing refugees through trade, and did another needed heal - some are still recovering from the wounds of the first assault on Skydagger. A dispute arose between Graf and the squad of horse nomads recruited on the plains (the Wyld Stallions) over how to drink vodka properly at the festival of First Snow (one of the new Back at Camp scenes I’ve given the Lorekeeper) - ending in an inevitable drinking contest, lots of vomiting, and general hurt feelings.

Next session! One squad escorts the oldest and weakest refugees to relative safety in Barta (another Special mission through intel, though they’re now out - and hoping for Recon missions.)


Oh, here’s the list of Back at Camp events I made (among other tweaks)

Back At Camp
High Morale
A dispute erupts over how to celebrate a festival properly.
A baby is born to a refugee, but the parentage is uncertain.
Soldiers accidentally uncover a hidden room in the fortress.
The undead are mysteriously inactive, and no-one knows why.
The sight of a rare bird prompts talk of omens.
Medium Morale
A wing of the fortress is said to be haunted.
The Chosen has mysteriously disappeared.
News arrives of a tragic loss back on the home front.
A group of refugees have somehow made it through the caves by themselves.
A squad refuses to leave the safety of Skydagger without coercion or bribery.
Refugees insist on trying to make it to Barta by themselves.
Low Morale
The heating system stops working, and the fortress freezes.
A well-liked refugee leader is found dead, and the culprit is unclear.
Confusion among the defenses results in friendly fire.
A supply caravan is wiped out, and only a lone survivor makes it to the fortress.
A squad attempts to make a break for Barta and safety.
Mysterious screams erupt from the caverns.
Soldiers recognize the faces of friends and comrades among the besieging undead.
A Broken makes an offer of peaceful surrender or total annihilation; some are tempted.


And the new Lorekeeper’s Tales (along with the first set of answers, incurred by roll-over deaths from last season.)

Tell A Tale of Skydagger’s Building
The great fortress was constructed for a purpose, back in the imperial age - or perhaps the Godwar.
What foe was Skydagger built to stand against?
Initially, the Old Empire. The first keep was built by the Bartans further down the mountainside to guard the pass between the Westwall mountains against invaders on the High Road. The current fortress was built on higher ground later after the Eastern Kingdoms fell to Imperial forces. It served as the capital of the Petty Regent during the First Interregnum, was the summer palace of Emperor Tantarus, and was later used as a command post during the quelling of the SIlver Spur Rebellion in the Aldermani west.
What memorial does it contain of its first commander?
The skull of the first Bartan commander is mounted on the wall in the Map Room. A shard of the commander’s brooch, which is embedded in between the skulls eyes and was the means of their death, gives their family name as either Khatri or Pakshi, depending on what the missing letters were.
What strange forces were used in its building?
The Empire employed powerful orogenic alchemy to erect Skydagger Keep, shaping its distinctive spire from the mountain rock itself. In addition to plumbing, legend has it the keep had other Orite magic such as floors warm to the touch in winter and a series of tubes that carried scroll messages on the wind to various chambers of the Keep. Unfortunately both are in disrepair and also required a significant slave labor pool to provide power.
Choose one effect on the Legion
The Legion finds long-hidden supplies in Skydagger’s vaults. Take an Acquire Assets roll with 3 dice
The Legion is bolstered by a sense of purpose. Gain +3 Morale.
The Legion learns of Skydagger’s secrets. The next set of missions will automatically include a Special mission.
Tell A Tale of Skydagger’s Resilience
This is not the first time Skydagger has stood against overwhelming odds.
Why did the siege take place?
What forces were brought to bear against Skydagger?
How was the siege broken?
Choose one effect on the Legion
Soldiers stand tall. Gain +1d to all resist rolls next mission.
The Legion sweeps the surrounding area. Remove 1 pressure.
Soldiers shrug off wounds. All Specialists may mark one free healing tick.
Tell A Tale of Skydagger’s Magic
Strange things happen, here in the deepest mountains.
What wondrous event took place at Skydagger?
How did it change the Legion forever?
How did it mark the landscape?
Choose one effect on the Legion.
The Chosen seeks wisdom. Mark 1 favor on the Chosen.
The Legion finds knowledge. All soldiers gain 2 Insight XP.
A remnant of the magic remains. Design a relic with a limited use.
Tell A Tale of Skydagger at Peace
Even a fortress is not always used for war. Skydagger has seen summits, trade deals, even weddings.
What famous event took place in peacetime at Skydagger?
What consequences did it have in the wider world?
How does the Legion remember it?
Choose one effect on the Legion
The Legion learns the value of patience. Tick off two Time slots.
The Legion masters social graces. Next mission, all Specialists roll Sway and Consort at +1 dice.
The Legion remembers that war is forever. Next mission, all Specialists roll Wreck and Skirmish at +1 dice.
Tell A Tale of Skydagger’s Fall
All walls must crumble someday.
Did time, complacency, or a foe overwhelm Skydagger?
Why did the Legion never retake it?
What memento of Skydagger will the Legion carry with it?
Choose one effect on the Legion
We Will Not Fall. Gain +1 Defence.
Weakness is the enemy. Two Specialists may remove a level of Blight.
We will strike first. The next session will include an assault mission against a target of the Lorekeeper’s choosing.