More Adventures of Zora's Legion

Write-ups of the four missions following the initial Zora mission of rescuing the Commander. I’ve included some game notes, back-at-camp stuff, and even a Loremaster journal entry. These are pretty long so I’ve split them into separate posts below by mission. (Possible triggers? We’ve leaned into the brutality and dehumanizing nature of war.)

2nd Mission

With three of the Specialists maxed out on Stress, only one could be sent with a squad on each mission. The Ember Wolves, led by the Sniper, went on the primary mission: blowing up the Hozelbrucke Bridge behind the Legion to delay Render’s forces, giving the Legion some breathing room.

Meanwhile, using information gained from their captive Black Oak Knight, the Ghost Owls and the Legion’s Scout were sent on a mission to infiltrate a Black Oak camp and steal the plans to a new weapon of Render’s being built there, and sabotage the prototype before its completion.

The Wolves, left behind with the Legion’s only canons (siege equipment), started in a desperate position, delayed by having to quietly set up the canons on a nearby ridge for firing by a single individual. This unfortunately allowed far more of Render’s forces to cross the bridge than the squad had planned. The Sniper stayed with the canons so she could clear the way onto the bridge for the squad, and provide covering fire afterwards.

The barrage from the canons decimated the massed gaunt and the squad rushed forward as a shield wall, led by the squad corporal “Brad Pitt’s Achilles”. Confused and scattered, the undead were unable to respond effectively. Thus the squad made it onto the bridge and charged its length to the center, knocking Gaunt down or over the sides of the bridge.

As the Gaunt closed in on them from both sides, two of the Rookies quickly tied a rope to the one carrying the explosives and then simply threw him over the side even while anchoring the ropes. Two of the other Rookies took position to hold back the horde as best as they could, but were almost overwhelmed and dragged down. But Rookie Pitt leapt in the way and took the hits for them!

The Sniper loaded her pistols with blackshot and went toe-to-toe with the Gaunt squads coming at her, taking them down at close range where she could hit the chinks in their armor more accurately. Almost dragged down, she managed barely escape being pulled part, and (now out of ammo) finally threw one of her pistols at an approaching Gaunt, and smashed another in the face with the other. Then disappeared back up the ridge and to the canons.

There, she loaded one of the canons as best she could, aimed it, prayed, and fired at the bridge, trying to clear the way. She succeeded. Gaunt (and pieces of Gaunt) flew everywhere, though the squad took some splash damage from the explosion and the bridge cracked open, taking a number of the Gaunt down with it.

The Rookies used the canon blast as an opening to regroup, leapt over the gap before it became too wide, and charged through the (once again confused and scattered) Gaunt, once again smashing through their lines and making it to the far side side of the bridge. The side of the bridge holding squads of Black Oak Cavalry waiting to cross over. They quickly threw down the last of their explosives, but not before the Black Oak charged at them across the rain-slicked stones.

Underneath the bridge, the tossed Rookie made his way around the pillar, planting charges, and then to a spot beneath the bridge better suited for collapsing the whole structure, hanging on by one hand while he placed that charge. At the last moment his fingers slipped and he was left dangling over the river with a bomb overhead. With the only way out being down, he decided to untie the rope and drop into the Tigeria.

Luckily, the evening before, the squad had crept down to the river and put a raft in place between the pillars – which they planned to use to escape downriver once the explosives went up and the bridge went down. He splashed down, swallowed too much water, but managed to drag himself onto the raft before he was swept away or sank to the bottom.

Above, the charge almost devastated the remaining squad…but once again, Rookie Pitt came to the rescue, giving a mighty roar and taking the worst the Black Oak cavalry had to give, absorbing lance and sword strikes meant for his fellows…and miraculously not falling to the blows. The squad went over the side, dropping to the slope, or shallows of the river below, where the other Rookie was waiting with the raft.

The Sniper, waiting for the squad to get clear, had been taking shots at the Gaunt on her side of the bridge, and with the squad now clear, took aim at the explosives with her rifle and lit up the bridge. Stone work, Gaunt, and Black Oak Knights were caught in the blast, or went down with the Hozelbrucke into the river (their heavy armor sinking them all to the bottom).

But the Gaunt had finally found the Sniper’s blind. She managed to slip away, diving over a cliff into the river, leaving the siege canons and uncertain if the squad had actually survived the explosion and bridge collapse.

Downriver, the squad disembarked from the raft and made their way back to the ruined bridge to judge the situation. Without their Black Oak masters to guide them (who were still on the other side of the Tigeria), the Gaunt were wandering, directionless and disorganized, which made it easy for the squad to sneak back and retrieve the Legion’s canons. Then they made to catch up with the rest of the Legion.

The Ghost Owls, however, didn’t have as much luck…their mission was an utter failure; the squad was decimated, and the Scout barely made it back alive. As a warning to the Black Oak, Zora is considering hanging their captive from a tree along the road north, certain the Ghost Owls were led into an ambush by bad intel he provided.

The Commander decided enough had been done at the Western Front and, with the Legion collected and recomposed after the harrowing flight from Ettenmark and Render’s forward movement blunted for the moment, had them move on to Plainsworth to resupply for the long journey to Skydagger. Most of the soldiers who had been manning (or hiding behind the walls of) the fort were in tow.

Notes

The squad pushed their Position to Desperate for nearly every roll (when it wasn’t there already) (because Ember Wolves: +1d for desperate actions), and Great effect…and consistently rolled 6’s for most of their crazed escapades. That they all survived the Black Oak charge was a miracle of Armor and Resistance rolls – with Rookie Pitt spending his use of Anchor to take on the knights on more equal footing, and reduce the Harm he took.

Unfortunately, the Legion is now down two squads who are capable of going on missions: the Ghost Owls lost three, and the Silver Stags lost one prior. Though the Quartermaster did bring a number of soldiers with from the Front.

The QM started work on a “Cart-Mounted Blackshot Canons” project that can be used to reduce Pressure when moving forward by spending blackshot (similarly to horses), and managed to complete a “Break Out the Good Stuff” project – the Legion now has access to alchemical pain-killers that cause Corruption but can be used to treat wounds and remove Harm. The joke is that it’s basically Jaegermeister (the alchemist’s last name is Jaeger).

Also, the Marshal likes Aldermani, so a good number of our new recruits and a Specialist are Aldermani. (One note about the Roll20 sheets that provided some aggravation in using Aldermari legionaries is that you can’t change or replace the Heritage traits on the sheet.)

Back at Camp – Lorekeeper’s Notes

The Legion, recollected now and having struck a significant blow against Render’s forward momentum, has abandoned the fort on the Western Front to head to Plainsworth – accompanied by the soldiers of the Eastern armies who had been left stationed there, or who had survived Ettenmark and reached it to hide behind its walls. The Legion is in notably high spirits on the road, and the phrase “Boom! Splash!” can be heard throughout the camp, accompanied by much laughter.

This joviality is capped near the two survivors of the Ghost Owls’ tragic mission, or whenever anyone is near the wagon or tent the scout is in, recovering from the nearly fatal wounds delivered to her her by Zenya ‘the Sable Arrow’ – one of Render’s Black Oak lieutenants.

Despite taking a great deal of care in reaching the knights’ camp, the Owls were spotted, followed, and ambushed by Zenya, who put arrow shafts in half of her squad’s eyes before they even knew she was there…and one in Silver’s back as the survivors retreated. Certain the intel our captive had given us was deliberately misleading, Zora has ordered our captive knight hung from a tree on the roadway as a message to the Black Oak and to Render.

We’re not certain if the Commander is going to obey the request.

Our alchemist and medic have been at steady work brewing something the alchemist calls “the Good Stuff” from painkillers, the rot-gut the Legion calls drink, and…other things. The medic says it will help with our wounded, but warns it can be addictive and have other, worse, side-effects, so we shouldn’t use it unless necessary.

We could see the walls of Plainsworth before we arrived. Old Empire walls, half scavenged for other projects over the years, but strong and still manned. The people here are distrustful and suspicious. Guardsmens’ bows were trained on us as we approached, archers staring down at us from the walls, and the people hid in their homes and shops…until they saw Zora astride her horse, a regal goddess, shining with the Fire. She smiled at the children.

3rd Mission

The Legion reaches Plainsworth, the Commander and Quartermaster happy to be able to resupply. The Aldermari are awed by Zora’s presence as she rides into town ahead of the Legion. Children who were hiding in their houses sneak out and begin to gather around her.

But there’s more trouble than just suspicion here: it turns out supplies are running short. Strange wolves are attacking the few farms and herds left in the hills, wantonly destroying the last of the harvest and cattle, and the lumber needed to finish shoring up Plainsworth’s walls has stopped coming from the mill to the north. Adding to the chaos, the command staff is whispering to each other that the Commander is delirious from the inquisition he suffered: he insists a squad be sent to retrieve certain supply crates from the abandoned camp at Ettenmark.

Despite objections by the Quartermaster and the Marshal, who believe the Legion should focus on helping Plainsworth prepare for the coming siege (and ensure reasonable trade and barter for the Legion), he tells them Plainsworth can send their own garrison to check on their mill…but agrees to send a squad to help the farmers deal with the wolves. But only if the Marshal sends a squad to retrieve the crates from Ettenmark. (“Why?” Did they join the Legion to ask questions or fight the Cinder King? The squad is sent, objections noted.)

The Grinning Ravens, led by the Sniper, are their swiftest squad, but the Quartermaster, in a fit of pique at the Commander’s stubbornness, refuses to give them horses to make the journey go faster.

However, it’s amazing what the Ravens can accomplish when inspired by one of the officers! Using the Tigeria to cut time southward, and then using the road west from Karlsburg, dodging undead and Black Oak patrols along the way, they reach the area just outside Ettenmark faster than expected…still their supplies might not hold out the entire way back.

They reach an old Aldermani fort standing at an intersection or road near the last few miles of road before Ettenmark. Black Oak horses are tethered outside, and signs of habitation are apparent inside. It’s a checkpoint for messengers coming and going: from Dar to the front; and from the front to Dar.

The squad decides to waste precious time (and supplies) going around the fort, moving through the hills to the north. When they arrive at the old camp (flattened into the mud and grass by the undead army weeks ago), they discover someone else has recently looted the remaining supplies, including, apparently, the crates they were looking for.

As they search, strange weather blows north from Dar: a “flash heat” that ignites the grasslands around them…and their own clothing! The officer’s ostentatious hat starts on fire, and a bullet tears thorough it from his ammo pouch – a warning as he notes the heat radiating from it. He tosses the pouch away before the rest go off, and everyone else hits the ground. He’s able to salvage a single bullet. And put out his hat. (It’s been through a lot.)

One of the Rookies, who showcases her naivety repeatedly, has discovered footprints and a trail north through the high grasses, leading north into the hills, with a discarded, bloodied Legion uniform. With the nearby grass fires threatening to sweep over the ruins of the old camp, they decide to follow it to… Deserters? Survivors? Scavengers?

It turns out to be a group of young Rookies who deserted during the slaughter at Ettenmark and have been hiding since then in a protected, hidden grotto, with access to fresh water. Their de facto leader recognizes the Officer, having served under him in the Legion. Naive Rookie discovers another of the deserters is her twin brother! Each having thought the other was slain at Ettenmark!

The Officer decides he’s not going to use the word ‘deserters’ with the group, so that they don’t have to deal with them as such, and instead talks up the group’s heroic, weeks-long survival behind enemy lines, how the Legion will rejoice to see comrades thought lost, and tries to convince them to come with the squad. (He breaks out some bottles of fine distillations he had brought with to keep squad morale up, and Naive Rookie uses the last of the fresh food and spices she brought along.)

The Sniper overhears a whispered conversation between two of the deserters regarding what to do about the plan they had made to turn the crates over to the Black Oak in return for a writ of safe passage, and that the Black Oak representative is coming in the morning to make the trade. Informing the Officer of this, he pulls the de facto leader of the deserters aside and convinces him (with the help of cold stares from the Sniper, cleaning her rifle) their plan is a terrible idea, and that the Black Oak can’t be trusted…no matter what one of the other deserters naively says about Zemyati honor.

It’s all enough to convince Lead Deserter, who manages to talk the rest into breaking their deal and leaving with the legionnaires. Hoping to leave just before sunrise, and just ahead of the Black Oak’s arrival, the now hung-over deserters and Rookies manage to get all the supplies loaded onto…stolen horses!

(0-Stress Flashback here, owing to the group having discussed doing the following at the time, but deciding they would just flash back to the moment if they decided on it later: stealing the Black Oak’s horses for themselves! And that’s just what they decided, at this moment, they had indeed done.)

The officer, wearing the Black Oak armor taken from the captive the Legion had been hauling around, boldly walked into the fort around twilight, pretending at being a messenger from the front. There, he entered the stables, bridled the horses, opened the doors, and set fire to the hay…causing the horses to panic and flee into the courtyard. He was kicked in the chest during the panic, but saved by the armor, and then escaped the growing inferno.

The surprised Black Oak formed a water brigade put out the fire, and others rushed around trying to corral the panicking horses. Chaos the officer used to his advantage. He diverted everyone else to the bucket brigade, or to saving supply crates, while he helpfully grabbed reins of the loose horses, threw open the front gate (ostensibly so the panicked horses didn’t trample everyone)…and simply walked out into the night where the rest of the squad was waiting, and grabbed control of the horses as they left the fort.

Off they disappeared into the dark before the Black Oak realized all their horses were gone…fled in panic as far as they knew.

Back in the present, there are suspicions the deserters’ leader may not have convinced everyone to stick with the Legion. One of the deserters apparently snuck away during the night, slipping past the Rookie on watch. It was only discovered in the morning as everyone was roused to load the horses with the supply crates.

There is an argument with not only the deserters, but some of the legion Rookies, about whether or not to wait for the probable traitor missing deserter (naive hope!). The officer sends the Sniper to look for the missing deserter, giving her five minutes. The Sniper spots the missing girl coming back to camp, who nervously claims she was just “looking for berries to have for breakfast.”

There’s no arguments. The Officer just tells her to help get the horses loaded. With stolen horses finally loaded down with crates, and the squad and deserters riding double on the rest, they all just barely break camp before the representative from the fort is supposed to arrive.

The Sniper, with Naive Rookie as point, watch for the Black Oak. They manage to avoid notice and escape into the hills. But with barely have any food or water left now, and their group having doubled in size, it is a desperate, hungry charge along the roads across Western Aldermark back to the Front. To the point everyone is chewing leather by the end. They finally reach the Tigeria, follow it north, and cross just north Plainsworth before real starvation sets in.

There, they discover the Legion has been showered with crates of fresh food and meats, thanks to the successful, if costly, efforts of the Star Vipers against the predatory wolves – which turned out to be blighted beasts tainted with cinder-blood and hexed by Breaker. (One of the Vipers was lost to the blight wolves, and the other to a hex causing suicide-by-waking-nightmare.)

The Ravens in to the best (and well-deserved) meal they’ve had since the first time the Legion rode away from Ettenmark.

Back at Camp

In fact, the Aldermari have been so infatuated by the Legion’s success, and the Marshal sending Legion squads to help man their walls and guard the surrounding countryside, they’ve forgotten their distrust of the Legion’s origins in the Old Empire, and brought them extra horses plus a small herd of Firemane. Raised, it turns out, by one of the Quartermaster’s old friends from his days as an canon-artillery specialist.

The Officer makes certain the deserters are recorded in the Annals as a loyal unit who survived for weeks behind enemy lines, rescuing and protecting important Legion supplies. The Loremaster goes along with it. Most of the deserters, including their leader and Naive Rookie’s twin brother, are placed with the decimated Owls. Deserter Leader as the new squad corporal given his clear skill. Breakfast Berries girl is placed with the Stags (told to keep an eye on her).

The Legion is at full strength once again.

Notes

I ran three clocks for the mission: Betrayal, Black Oak Arrive, and Supplies Run Out. I made them all very public and put them on the table at the beginning of the game. Talk about pressure! Talk about fun ways to offer consequences! Especially since they never really knew what the Betrayal clock represented: One of their own? One of the deserters? But which one!? Something else? It never filled so…

They had one tick left on Supplies Run Out when they made it back to Plainsworth: Desperate Limited Group Maneuver Action that the officer Pushed to Standard. Harm was being caught by Render’s forces and taking casualties in a fight. The clock filling would have resulted in everyone involved starting their next mission with a Level 1 Harm “Starvation”.

The QM rolled criticals on their Acquire Asset rolls, and finished up a clock to turn the soldiers from the front into “laborers” who could work on gunnery-related projects (with an additional clock for additional training, if they want them available to work on other types of projects later).

Also, we had forgotten to resolve this last time, so we did so now: under the Commander’s orders, the Spymaster slyly manages to convince Zora the Black Oak captive could still be of use, and forewarned of of the treacherous nature of their intel, the Legion would still be able to glean important information from him.

Before the next mission, the QM had to use a Boosted Campaign Action and their Good Stuff to get the Specialists they needed into fighting shape, causing some Corruption among the troops.

Back at Camp

Zora declares she needs her bravest to escort her to the Great Hall in Karlsburg, to protect her while she snuffs out the source of the undying inferno consuming the Aldermari capital, the power behind Render’s greatest forges – the site of his own Breaking. She suggests they might also be able to locate and retrieve the circlet of the former Elder Karl, lost during the destruction of the city, which may provide the Aldermari with a symbol hope.

The Commander and Quartermaster argued against her plan, saying the Legion was too badly injured and lacking in supply to undertake such a mission now, begging her to wait a little while instead of merely riding out herself. It was the smooth-tongue of the Spymaster that convinced her, though she remained unhappy, and made it known to the legionnaires she was disappointed in their over-abundance of caution.

This counted as a failed mission, impacting Legion morale, but would remain available to attempt until the Legion leaves Plainsworth or Zora takes the attempt upon herself, solo. The Legion command staff plans to prepare their people properly for the mission, however, and send them with her.

Meanwhile, the new corporal of the Ghost Owls – the leader of the deserters – has demanded he be allowed to find and retrieve the two missing members of his squad, who went AWOL to exact their revenge on Zenya. He wants to prove himself and his people as loyal to the Legion and its members, and quench the rumors about his squad’s cowardice and potential for betrayal.

The command staff eventually agrees, but needing a full squad, the Marshal calls for volunteers (rather than simply reassign Rookies and sow hard feelings). Two of the Ember Wolves volunteer, creating a full squad (they also keep an eye on the new Owls).

The command staff considers the intel the squad can gather on the massing forces of the Black Oak worthwhile, and give instructions that doing so is of top priority.

4th Mission

The Ghost Owls manage to reach the Old Empire fortress the Black Oak have decided to set up their base in, and spend a day watching as messengers and supply wagons carrying everything from food to slaves enter and exit the fortress. It is clear one of Render’s Lieutenants is in command here – probably Zenya.

Luckily, this is a fort the Legion themselves occupied during the recent offensive against the Cinder King, before their move to Ettenmark, and they had left a secret way in: a concealed, loose grate on one of the waste-water channels from the courtyard.

But they aren’t certain their missing Owls ever made it this far, or if they’re inside or still outside the fortress. They search of the surrounding countryside for signs, which yields a hidden, recently deserted campsite – including the Owls’ clothing and uniforms. So either they’re running around the hills naked…or they’ve secured disguises to enter the fortress.

But these two are Ghost Owls! The squad isn’t worried they’ve been captured. They’re certain the two have found an opportunity to gain entry, steal intel, and quickly exfiltrate with it. And that they need to help these two with that task. To do so, they figure, they need to get into the fortress and cause some havoc to cover an escape.

But there is friction among the squaddies: one of the Wolves is the corporal of his own squad (the Wolves), and his ideas and directness, and refusal to let go of command to the Owls’ own new corporal is starting to cause problems and bad blood among everyone. How, exactly, to go about their mission is under serious dispute…though it is settled (for now) by the Sniper, who is simply sick of the Rookies’ in-fighting.

Near twilight, to provide distractions, the legionnaires let their loose horses nearby – the ones stolen from the Black Oak in Western Aldermark, and which still bear Black Oak markings – as well as start a wildfire in the surrounding hills. It works. The Black Oak open the gates and send squads to catch the horses, and report on the fire spreading across the dry, brushy hillside.

Leaving the Sniper positioned nearby to provide any needed cover from a series of blinds, the squad makes it across the intervening rocky hillsides without being spotted by the eagle-eyed sentries. Though not all of the legionaries prove adept at being sneaky and one is dragged into the bushes by an Owl just before being spotted.

The grate is still loose, and the squad belly crawls into the fortress, emerging among stacked supply crates and…prisoner cages! Excellent cover.

They don’t see their missing Ghost Owl companions, but there are hundreds of Black Oak here, including ones they can’t see inside the fortress’ central tower. There are also horrifying Hounds chained up in the courtyard…clearly the fate meant for many of the prisoners. The Hounds sniff the air and become agitated, but the squad hasn’t been noticed yet.

The two corporals have broken down into yet-another argument, the three Owls versus the two Wolves. But the Medic manages to provide them with a stirring speech about camaraderie, the family that is the Legion, and shared purpose that turns the situation around and even forges positive bonds between the two groups.

The Medic, of course, is more concerned with the safety and freedom of the prisoners than with gathering intel. With her prompting, the squad decides the best way to create chaos and distraction is a “prison break”. With the prisoners’ help, they identify the Black Oak carrying the keys to the cages. The squad swiftly, brutally take him down with a grab and knife-thrust, and drag him back among the supply crates. It happens quietly, despite the two Ember Wolves’ direct and violent methods.

The supply crates turn out to have spare weapons and armor inside. The wood is also easily broken down into crude “weapons”. The Owls get to work opening cages, unlocking shackles, and carefully leading the groups out of the drainage ditch. The Wolves arm them and send them running in carefully considered, wide-spread directions. This, thanks to the light being cast by the wildfire, the Black Oak also notice.

An alarm is raised.

The squad manages to push supply crates into a barricade, which they set on fire, keeping the Black Oak away from the prison cages while the last of prisoners are rushed through the drainage ditch. The Medic tries to lead as many as she can to safety…but unable to save them all, breaks down weeping in the dark hills as she watches them being slaughtered or recaptured.

The Sniper (alerted by the chaos), starts firing at the silhouettes of the wall sentries, increasing the chaos inside the fort, and protecting the squad as they make their own way out of the fortress. It’s enough for the Black Oak to throw open the gates and send out their armored cavalry and infantry to re-capture the prisoners and hunt down the Sniper.

Despite knowing that not all the prisoners are going to make it, nearby, there’s one group they can save. The Owls disappear into the shadows to fire at the Black Oak from cover while the two Wolves and the Medic rush the armored enemy knights, creating a distraction to hold them off long enough for the prisoners to escape.

The Wolves manage to use the knights’ own Zemyati honor against them, with Rookie Pitt demanding trial-by-single-combat, while the Medic (wildly hanging onto the back of another) uses a syringe and her tonics to put another down. The combat lasts barely a moment, with Rookie Pitt using his shield to brutally beat and crush his opponent…which earns him a permanent place of hatred among the Black Oak. (Anyone knight who brings in his head will be given the honorific title ‘Shield-render.’)

The group of prisoners have managed to escape now, and with continuing covering fire by the Owls, the Wolves and Medic, too, make their escape from the Black Oak who remain and the area around the fortress. Hoping the two AWOL Owls were able to use the chaos in the fortress to escape, the squad and a group of the former prisoners make their way into the hills and then back to the road north to Plainsworth.

Along the road, they meet the two Owls (half dressed in Black Oak uniforms), who excitedly wave them down. While the two never managed to get their hands on Zenya, they reveal they did snag a sheaf of messages and intelligence which they are very excited to deliver to the Commander. “Wait until he sees what we found out!”

The dressing down they receive from the Ghost Owls’ corporal (formerly Lead Deserter) – for taking leave without orders, and their general stupidity in the pursuit of unlikely vengeance – dampens their enthusiasm somewhat. They fully expected this, however, and worse. The punishment is mitigated somewhat by the quality and amount of intel they managed to make off with.

Back in Plainsworth, the Commander has finally decided to take care of the problem at the mill. The Star Vipers, led by the Officer, discover a coven of Breaker’s witches in the catacombs beneath an old crypt sacred to the Aldermani, in the hills just beyond the mill.

The Vipers first manage to save the Hexed millers (by cutting off the hex marks carved into their skin, a gruesome affair). Then they descend into the crypts and open fire with black shot upon the witches, who are deep in a ritual to corrupt the land and a strange Aldermari artifact.

A half-dozen rifles loaded with black shot is apparently more than enough to put an end to three witches.

Celebrating their success, the Vipers snag the mysterious artifact and make their way back to Plainsworth.

Notes

The Secondary mission was a crit, and thanks to good rolls and XP on the primary, the Legion gained four new Soldiers (two from the Vipers’ mission and two from the Owls’ – in that case, both the Wolves). They also have a mysterious artifact they can either trade to the Aldermari, or research the history and potential power of (8-clock LTP)…even I have no idea what it does yet. Something cool. Something Breaker would want to have and to corrupt.

I had a bunch of stuff for the Primary that ended up never being used. A “Zenya Cometh” clock never fully filled (probably lucky for the squad), and I had a surprise in store which I was just never able to fit in. Maybe another time. Their rolls were exceptional; they took a few Bargains, and didn’t suffer many complications, so some of the other notes I had for such things lay fallow.

Next up was the last session for our Lorekeeper, with a big send-off…we wrote up the Lorekeeper together as an experienced Specialist Heavy, with some Weave thanks to a ritual infusion by Zora.

Back at Camp

The command staff clears out their temporary Officer’s Mess and HQ on the second story of a local tavern in order to discuss the upcoming missions and the lack of the Commander’s presence. The Marshal is irked at his absence and the fact he simply sent a note stating what the Legion would be doing, no discussion allowed, and has refused to speak with anyone since the Lorekeeper visited him a few days ago. Only the Marshal, Quartermaster, and Spymaster are present. After some discussion and argument, with the Quartermaster shrugging off the sleight, the Marshal complaining, and the Spymaster quietly reporting her observations about recent events in camp, the Lorekeeper shows up, dressed in the full, heavy armor of his youth and a spring in his step decades younger.

Zora has blessed him – her power is burning in his veins, literally, consuming him – and he knows he isn’t coming back from this mission. The Marshal is annoyed that he’s simply attaching himself to the mission, and can’t be disuaded or stopped from simply going with on the special mission Zora has requested: into the heart of Karlsburg to strike a blow against Render.

5th Mission

The Lorekeeper and Zora, accompanied by the Medic, Scout (as an NPC, for the XP), and Ember Wolves (led by their glory-hound corporal – Rookie Pitt, now Soldier Pitt) travel downriver. They reach the eternally burning Karlsburg. With Zora in the lead, they assault a weak point at the walls and carve a path through the Black Oak smiths and guard patrols…and into the inferno.

But beyond the inferno, Karlsburg has become a horror – streets lined with burning corpses, and its stones replaced with skulls – with fire-proof patrols of Gaunt wandering the city.

Using most of her power, Zora is able (for a time) to quench the fires around them to a survivable level – though she can do nothing about the smoke and ash in the air. The medic and Lorekeeper decide to avoid the maze of streets and siege-collapsed buildings. They consult old maps and determine the best way through the conflagration are the sewers leading to the Great Hall…

…but they find the sewers are filled with a choking smoke. The Lorekeeper clears it with a golden light he summons to blaze from his eye, which causes him to weep golden tears of fire. Able to see and breathe, the squad reaches a sewer exit just outside the courtyard of the Great Hall, where the Elder Karl once held court, and where Vlaisim was Broken before Aldermark’s High Seat.

The squad boldly rushes the front door to the hall, but find it empty…except for the Elder Karl, chained to the High Seat, still screaming and burning. The Medic approaches and examines him to see if there’s anything she can do for him. And she spies the Circlet of the High Karl still on his head – something Zora has stated they must retrieve if they can.

She is told that is a task for after she finishes her ritual cleansing of the fetal shadow burned into a crater before the High Seat, as if Vlaisim was struck to the floor by a gigantic fist before he was burned.

When asked how long the squad will need to hold the hall, Zora tells them “it will take as long as it takes” and “do not allow me to be disturbed.”

While Zora prepares herself, the squad sets up a defensive position at the shattered windows and great door. Soon enough, Gaunt patrols appear. They start taking down the gathering undead with musket fire, and with the Lorekeeper and Soldier Pitt skirmishing the rest…and succeed in clearing the courtyard.

While this happens, the Medic ignores orders to wait on retrieving the Circlet. She fishes the corporal’s fire-proof gear out of his pack (left inside while he fights in the courtyard), smears herself with aloe (from her tonics), locates a heavy chunk of rebar, and is able to approach close enough to pry the Circlet from the Elder Karl’s head without being burned herself.

It’s a gruesome affair, but she succeeds…and then, deciding she can’t save him, gives him peace with a bullet. The end of the screaming is a relief to everyone.

The squad moves out of the hall, with time to block a secondary entry to the courtyard using carts and debris scattered around the area. Even more Gaunt arrive and begin clearing the courtyard, pushing them back to the large, arched entry. The Wolves are easily able to hold them back, decimating them with the field gun and musket fire, followed by the Lorekeeper and corporal smashing any remainder down, until the Wolves are simply betting on the number of kills among themselves.

Amidst the action, Solider Pitt manages to get himself separated from the squad, and is surrounded by Gaunt. The Lorekeeper charges to the rescue, opening a hole in their line that the corporal is able to escape through, and back to the courtyard.

But the Lorekeeper recklessly continues to rush out into the inferno, bellowing challenges to the Black Oak and Render “if this is the best they can do?!”

Given a moment to breathe, the corporal decides the Ember Wolves are going to “plant their flag” here in Karlsburg by Zemyati tradition: using ritual blood-letting. The Wolves smear the circle-with-one-point that symbolizes Zora on the wall of the Great Hall, consecrating it with oils from the reliquaries. Not merely a taunt or a signal of their victory here, but a symbol of moral victory against the Cinder King’s forces.

Back inside, Zora is far-too-slowly conducting her ritual to cleanse the now writhing shadow from the stone with white fire pouring from her hands and the old relics the Legion retrieved from Ettenmark. She draws strength from the squad’s reliquaries, and uses words that sound like either those of Dar or ancient Zemyati, calling out Vlaisim’s name.

With the Wolves still handily keeping the Great Hall protected, the corporal re-enters the hall and tries to help Zora with her ritual, building bonfires around her to increase her pure fire (it’s not very helpful…we’ve determined Soldier Pitt is not the smartest or most well-versed in ritual lore).

The Medic flashes back to Plainsworth, where she spent a great deal of time researching the legends around the Circlet, its history, and any powers it bore. She discovers the legends say it was granted to the Elder Karls by the Chosen of the Twin gods during the Godswar, but what exactly those powers are could be anything or nothing (the myths are different and contradictory).

However, it turns out there must have been a traitor in Plainsworth and someone had alerted Render’s forces to their plans…this is why the Gaunt are massing, and why something worse than the Gaunt is coming.

The Lorekeeper has, meanwhile, found his challenge. He returns to the Great Hall…by being hurled through one of its wooden walls!

Instead of being gravely injured by this blow, he rises from lying prone to one knee, glowing with Zora’s power. Then the thing responsible comes tearing through the remains of the wall. It is one of the Cinder Guard from the Legion’s rescue of the Commander!

It recognizes the Medic, points at her, and hurls a huge spear which she isn’t able to avoid. But she’s (barely) able to jam the Circlet on her head before the spear pierces her – her hope at least one of its mythical powers exists and will protect her from the strike.

Surprisingly, it does indeed blunt the majority of the terrible force: she is not skewered and pinned to the wall as she should have been. Corruption from the (unknown) Broken Twin floods her, but the Cinder Guard’s power is blunted and they act as if on an even level.

Badly wounded, she pulls out the long spear and, with the Lorekeeper and Soldier Pitt, rush their opponent. They fight him, going round the room, keeping him back from Zora, and drive him through the doors and into the courtyard…where the waiting Wolves blast him with the field gun even as he threatens the Cinder King’s wrath will be brought down upon the Legion.

The smoking hole through its armor is the end of the Cinder Guard.

The Lorekeeper picks up the cherry-red, super-heated sword it had wielded, re-enters the Great Hall, burns the corruption from the sword with Zora’s power that was infused within him. It glows with a white fire, and he shoves it into the writhing shadow…which wails and dissipates.

In response to the end of the ritual, the Elder Karl’s body crumbles to ash upon the High Seat, followed by the streets and buildings of the city as the eternal fires begin to quench, their fuel suddenly and finally exhausted.

Zora announces it is time for them to make their way out of the city: Render is on his way. She looks at the Lorekeeper and tells him he knows what he must do… He nods. He knows. He remains to cover their retreat.

The rest take the same sewer exit to the edge of the city, and Zora (still exhausted and covered in a sheen of sweat) carves a path to the river. The flashes of light from the center of the city behind them tell the tale of the Lorekeeper’s valiant, doomed battle.

The squad follows the shore northwards to a ford near Plainsworth to rejoin the rest of the Legion, who days prior saw the plume of smoke from Karlsburg finally cease and knew they had succeeded…but not if they also survived and escaped.

Their survival and return is celebrated when the march back into the town, bearing the Circlet of the Elder Karl. The loss of the Legion’s Lorekeeper, however, is a great blow.

Meanwhile, the Legion had continued to defend Plainsworth – with the Commander having rejected the defense of a local shrine of Asrika in favor of saving the trapped watchmen and civilians at Deikart’s Wall (the first watch tower used by Plainsworth to alert the town of hostile forces). His reasoning being they can’t defend every shrine and holy in Aldermark, and Breaker is going to do what she’s going to do. He declares they must leave its defense in the hands of the gods.

The Marshal sends out the Shattered Lions with the Officer and Sniper to defend the wall and seize the supplies in the Black Oak’s nascent forward camp. The offensive against the Black Oak is hard won. They face corruptive ballistae that rot even the stone of the tower. Their success, despite being out-numbered 3-to-1, is due to using guerilla tactics in the defensive trenches dug by the guard some time ago.

The fighting unfortunately kicks up a horrid miasma from the poisoned earth that burns the lungs. But the Black Oak are eventually pushed back beyond their camp, until they break and retreat, and the squad takes their forward camp and supply line. Unfortunately, the Black Oak sabotage the ballistae before the Legion can claim them.

The Commander has decided the Legion must move forward now, if they are to successfully reach Skydagger, leaving Plainsworth to its own defense. They will take the Long Road to the mountains, hoping both that the undead will choose to turn east instead. They will seek out the temples and shrines in the mountains that might empower Zora and lay divine blessings upon the Legion.

Notes

Once again, the Ember Wolves managed a brilliant victory against Render’s forces, rolling a crap-ton of 6’s and multiple criticals in Group Skirmish actions they pushed to Extreme effect, and used special abilities and planning to even the odds despite the Gaunt’s superior Scale. They controlled the massing Gaunt so effectively that they became not-a-serious-problem, and with an Anchored Specialist and Solider, absolutely wrecked the Cinder Guard.

The only issue was the Medic, who was nearly slain, but used an Aldermari relic tied to both of the Twin Gods, leaving her significantly corrupted.

We decided the Circlet is a relic that makes the wearer an “everyman” and jack-of-all-trades (fitting for the Twin Gods), and was created during the Godswar to protect the Aldermari people against enemy Chosen.

The Circlet provides protection against the power of any Chosen, or those empowered by the Chosen: the wearer is treated as if the same Threat level when a Chosen acts against them, at the cost of corruption equal to the other’s Threat level…and it creates a ghostly “dark twin” that whispers to and haunts whomever has worn the Circlet (whether they wear it ever again or not).

Cleansing Render’s Breaking site has permanently put two ticks on his clock (if they ever decide to confront him directly), and has destroyed his mystical forges. The Gaunt will bear less armor and might be easier to defeat with musket fire.

These are the thumbmail write-ups for the above missions.

Notes of interest(?): On Amber Thorn from Cycle 2-3: I hadn’t intended this to be a linked mission, but when I rolled the same type, benefits, and penalties for the Cycle 3 mission as I had for the Cycle 2 mission the Legion ignored, it was clear the scenario preceded from the former.

The penalty for “we’re ignoring this mission (until next phase)” on Chosen Light during the 4th Phase was applied even though they planned to go ahead with it the following phase: their delay disappointed their Chosen, whom they view with awe and near-worship, so the penalty for “ignoring” the mission was more than appropriate and applicable. (Extending mission availability to another phase was only allowed because there was no particular time component involved in that one.)

Phase 1 Missions (Western Front)

Unfortunately, my notes for this cycle are sketchy at best. We hadn’t gotten our timing right yet as a group, so I only had a few moments to come up with the missions before we started playing. For Crimson Tiger, in order to have a well-fleshed out scenario, I simply borrowed the attack on Hozelbrucke Bridge.

Assault, Undead
Crimson Tiger
Benefit: +2 Morale, -1 Time
Penalty: +1 Time

Attack the Front! Delay the advance of Render’s Gaunts.

Recon, Infiltration
Amber Citadel
Benefit: +3 Intel
Penalty: +1 Pressure

Sneak into the Black Oak Knights’ Encampment! Steal the plans to Render’s new weapon before he can complete it.

Recon, Infiltration
Diamond Fire
Benefit: +2 Intel
Penalty: +1 Pressure

Discover the whereabouts of Breaker! She’s in the wind. Perhaps literally.

Phase 2 Missions (Plainsworth)

Assault, Wild
Operation Azure Storm
Benefit: +2 Morale; +1 Intel
Penalty: -1 Supply

Wolves abound in the hills outside Plainsworth. Muskets and dogs are usually enough to chase them away, but of late they have been unafraid of either. They stalk the pastures and fields at night, slaughtering whatever they find. The few stubborn farmers and herdsmen trying to finish the harvest before Render’s armies arrive are the town’s best hope for surviving a protracted siege, and of ensuring affordable local barter for the Quartermaster.

Supply, Rescue
Operation Grasping Peak
Benefit: +2 Supply
Penalty: None

The Commander, still not entirely recovered from him harrowing experience at the hands of the Inquisitor, is concerned about the numerous supplies the Legion left behind in their need to stay ahead of the Cinder King’s armies. Those supplies are now, unfortunately, far behind enemy lines. He wants you to retrieve particular, marked crates from your former encampment. It’s going to take a few days. Bring food and water. Hope the Rookie packed your tents. Don’t get caught.

Supply, Mercenary Work
Operation Amber Thorn
Benefit: Asset; +1 Supply
Penalty: None

The Legion noticed the problem on arrival in Plainsworth: no one was working on shoring up the walls before Render’s armies arrived. Turns out their main lumbermill stopped sending materiel and neither messenger sent north returned. The alderman needs a well-armed escort to retrieve whatever might be left – they will share it with the Legion, plus whatever else the Quartermaster wants.

Phase 3 Missions (Plainsworth)

Assault, Wild
Operation Azure Storm
Benefit: +2 Morale; +1 Intel
Penalty: -1 Supply

Wolves abound in the hills outside Plainsworth. Muskets and dogs are usually enough to chase them away, but of late they have been unafraid of either. They stalk the pastures and fields at night, slaughtering whatever they find. The few stubborn farmers and herdsmen trying to finish the harvest before Render’s armies arrive are the city’s best hope for surviving a protracted siege, and of ensuring affordable local barter.

Supply, Rescue
Operation Grasping Peak
Benefit: +2 Supply
Penalty: None

The Commander, still not entirely recovered from him harrowing experience at the hands of the Inquisitor, is concerned about the numerous supplies the Legion left behind in their need to stay ahead of the Cinder King’s armies. Those supplies are now, unfortunately, far behind enemy lines. Retrieve certain crates. It’s going to take a few days. Bring food and water. Hope the Rookie packed your tents.

Supply, Mercenary Work
Operation Amber Thorn
Benefit: Asset; +1 Supply
Penalty: None

The Legion noticed the problem on arrival in Plainsworth: no one was working on shoring up the walls before Render’s armies arrived. Turns out their main lumbermill stopped sending materiel and neither messenger sent north returned. The alderman needs a well-armed escort to retrieve whatever might be left – they will share it with the Legion, plus whatever else the Quartermaster wants.

Phase 4 Missions (Plainsworth)

Recon, Troop
Operation Azure Citadel
Benefit: +3 Intel
Penalty: 2 Deaths

The two Ghost Owl survivors of Zenya’s ambush have vowed revenge for their slain comrades, and have left to enact it against orders. If caught, they’ll be interrogated and tortured to un-death. Refugees say an Old Empire fortress in the mountains now flies the Black Oak banner: the Owls’ most likely destination. Scout the fortress and find the missing legionnaires; be on the look out for Zenya.

Supply, Rescue
Operation Emerald Elephant
Benefit: Asset; +1 Supply
Penalty: None

The Plainsworth garrison sent to the mill returns terrified and bloodied, talking about bewitched millers defiling an ancient crypt in the foothills, sacred to the Aldermani people, and a screaming woman who rose from the graves to cut flesh-rotting hexes into their skin with her fingernails. Stop the defilement and save the millers, if at all possible, so that the mill can start producing desperately needed lumber again.

SPECIAL - Religious, Cleansing
Operation Chosen Light
Benefit: -1 Time; +2 XP; Glory Favor; Mystic Favor
Penalty: -1 Morale

Zora says she needs her bravest to escort her to the Great Hall in Karlsburg, and protect her while she snuffs out the source of the undying inferno consuming the Aldermari capital which powers Render’s greatest forges – the site of his own Breaking. If you can find and retrieve the circlet of the former Elder Karl, so much the better. Prepare for carnage, and casualties. Protect Zora at all costs.

Phase 5 Missions (Plainsworth)

Supply, Mercenary Work
Operation Crimson Wing
Reward: +2 Supply
Penalty: -1 Morale and -1 Supply

The advance guard of Render’s armies are attacking Deikart’s Wall: the first of the watch towers just outside Plainsworth, built on an Old Empire wall. The last of the civilians evacuating the countryside have been trapped there along with the tower guard. Killing or driving off these forces would allow the Legion to loot the enemy supply train being established, and provide time for the last Aldermari stragglers to bring their crops and herds into Plainsworth.

Religious, Unearth
Operation Forthright Hawk
Reward: Fine Asset
Penalty: -1 Morale and +1 Pressure

There’s an ancient shrine to Asrika on a cliff-side overlooking the river. The locals say it is the resting place of one of her ancient Chosen. Until recently, pilgrims seeking healing and solace made regular trips to the area…but the shrine has been over-taken by a hostile force that includes undead who burn with a terrible fire inside. These forces are attempting to dig up the Chosen’s remains.

SPECIAL - Religious, Cleansing
Operation Chosen Light
Benefit: -1 Time; +2 XP; Glory Favor; Mystic Favor
Penalty: -1 Morale

Zora is insistent now. She will make her attempt to enter Karlsburg and snuff its eternal flames with or without the Legion. But you’ve made your promises and she will not go alone.

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These are amazing! Thank you so much for posting these!

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– so there was no chance for downtime after the first mission?

I like this!

Thanks! Glad you liked them!

There was indeed a campaign phase after the first mission, but the QM decided to do other things with their actions (providing Liberty for the troops was not one of them).

How much Time are they on Phase 5???
Looks like they’ll have to hustle soon.

Yep. The Summer Ends clock is one tick away from filling! They’re moving out to the Long Road next…an interesting choice given it is the longer path, but the Commander declared they would seek out the relics and temples in the mountains to help gird Zora for battle against the Broken.

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Gonna be a nailbiter for sure!

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