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.)