Welcome to the campaign log for my current active Band of Blades campaign. I haven’t done one of these before, and I’m just starting to write it up now though we’ve been playing for months, so it’ll be an experiment in how well I remember what’s going on, and how to relay that! I plan to give a recap and share any thoughts.
Band of Blades is the reason I originally backed the Kickstarter. At the time, I hadn’t acquainted myself with the brilliant designs of John Harper (besides hearing glowing reviews of the wonderful Lady Blackbird), but I was pretty much hooked from the sample fiction, with desperate soldiers trying to fight their way free from an undead horde, Chosen bleeding on weapons to bless them, and priests dying to create a tiny advantage against the forces of the enemy. The details may have changed a bit, but the core of this desperate fight against an unstoppable horde remains.
I got a chance to run it at as a one-shot at a local gaming event, and people enjoyed it so much I ran a couple of followups for them. (Unfortunately, we never did finish, but maybe some day). This tale is not theirs. This is the tale of my regular group, who I run for every other Thursday. I hope you enjoy.
The Book of Calonya
The Legion went to Ettenmark a thousand strong, and now we escape with but a scattered handful of soldiers. Alanna, Chosen of Ostarra had convinced the leadership in the Eastern Kingdoms that with a bold new plan and the divine might of the four remaining Chosen that the Cinder King’s forces would be reduced to ruin. And indeed, Alanna’s prowess as a general may have been the only thing that kept our forces from being completely annihilated. But we were not ready. Maker, Builder and Crafter, we were not ready. We were still becoming accustomed to the idea of the walking dead. We did not anticipate the horrors we would see that day. Monstrosities stitched together from multiple bodies; witches who hurled deadly hexes that melted soldier’s faces off; creatures of serrated metal; dripping with burning black ichor; rabid beasts that spread corruption with a bite.
Scores of soldiers died on that field, and it was all we could do to get away from that nightmare. Commander Blue Echoing Gale commanded the Legion’s remaining forces to flee, and our rearguard sold their lives dearly to forestall pursuit. In that rearguard was the old Lorekeeper, my master, and now the title and those duties fall to me.
Even those duties are too much for me - with the grave injuries I took, I am not fit even to put pen to paper. I am reduced to giving dictation to a fresh-faced recruit. Don’t look at me like that. Of course I want you to write that. But not that last.
In any case, we are lost. The Legion is but a shell of its former self, with only six squads of five, five specialists, and five senior staff (of which I am one). At this point the camp followers almost outnumber us. It is a dire situation. It’s possible there is a contingent of legionnaires out there that numbers more than we and thus would have a better claim to the title of the Legion. Except that we are carrying the Annals. And where the Annals are, so to is the Legion. The only other saving grace is that we travel with the Chosen of the Horned One. She is generally quiet and unnerving in intensity, but I do not doubt that we owe her our lives.
Once free of the Fields, the senior staff took note of our stocks. The situation was grim. The Quartermaster, a Bartan with exquisite fashion sense named Barni Beih, pointed out our low supply of Black Shot. If we were to have a chance against the undead horde, we needed the stuff. Commander Blue recalled that we had abandoned supply crates behind enemy lines, and we were fairly certain that the undead had no use for them. Our Spymistress, a scarred but beautiful Zemyati by the name of Valentina Malekseiyevna confirmed that the bulk of the Cinder King’s forces were moving East, and that a raid to collect the Black shot might not be completely suicidal. Marshal Elric Sanicci pored over the maps with Blue, and made note of Skydagger Keep, an old fortress that covered the only pass through the northern mountains. If we wanted to stay out of the way of the Cinder King’s main forces while beating a hasty retreat back to the Eastern Kingdoms, that was our best bet. As long as we could make it before winter, we’d at least have fortifications to defend against the undead.
At that meeting, we decided two things: We would risk the undead to retrieve the Black Shot, and that we would make for Skydagger Keep.
Operation Deadly Magpie
(Retreating from the Ettenmark Fields)
Assigned Legionnaires: Marquess Phaera, Indigo Vexing Wave, Fyodimirovich, Ghost Owls
The legionnaires traveled back into enemy territory. The weather was gloomy and overcast, the land blasted and ruined by war. The Horned One accompanied them, a slip of a girl girded only in a loose robe stalking beside armed and armoured legionnaires. They soon came upon the enemy. It appeared that there were perhaps a dozen undead milling around carts that carried the supplies, and several humans that were pushing the carts. They seemed to be prisoners of the tall, cloaked figure who watched from the back.
Mere hours after performing a ritual to symbolically bind themselves to the Chosen, the specialists were eager to try out the boon they had received: the ability to speak to and understand beasts. Indigo Vexing Wave, the Panyar medic accosted a carrion bird, which told him that there were good eatings all around. Why, there were bodies hung in trees! Some of the eatings didn’t want to get want to get eaten, but the birds were particularly wary of the cloaked figure. It smelled like predator to them.
A plan was hatched. Indigo would blow Rage Venom into Fyodimirovich the Heavy’s face, sending the Zemyati into a berserker rage. Meanwhile, Marquess Phaera would perch herself in a tree and use it as a sniper’s nest to act as overwatch. She easily climbed into a tree, hung with corpses as the birds had said. However, her alchemical eye told her they were not animated, so she swallowed her discomfort and got into position. Finally, Indigo would lead the Ghost Owls to sneak in and try to free the humans, hopefully under the distraction of the other two.
Things started out well. Filled with Rage Venom, Fyodimirovich charged into battle, beelining toward the cloaked figure, who threw off its cloak and revealed the twisted animalistic forms and multiple heads of the Infamous known as Chimera! Simultaneously, the Horned One sprang into action!
First, She was just standing there, and then suddenly Her skin started to ripple, as if there were things crawling beneath it. Then She just exploded into a bloody mess! I was scared for a moment, I thought our Chosen had fallen - but then out of the cloud flew two dozen ravens, glossy feathers glistening black except for the silver antler pattern on each of their heads. The cloud of ravens quickly surrounded Chimera, cawing and pecking at him, keeping him off his guard. It was truly glorious. - Rookie Silver Raging Glade, Ghost Owls
With both Fyodimirovich and the Horned One attacking, Chimera was too distracted. Phaera, with her long rifle and holy eye, discerned the perfect shot. Her aim was true, one of Chimera’s heads exploded in a shower of blood and gore.
Meanwhile, Indigo and the Ghost Owls attempted to reach the humans and free them. They immediately turned on them, their glassy expressions quickly turning to enraged. One of the humans turned and had what looked like a finger protruding from her forehead. Her terrified eyes began to cry blood as she begged forgiveness, even as her hands started to weave deadly hexes, lightning dancing across her fingers. The Ghost Owls were quickly surrounded by enemies!
Up in her tree, Phaera was preparing to take another shot when lightning struck her tree, setting it ablaze. Somehow, she threw herself out of the tree just before disaster struck. Thanking the gods of Civilization that she was unharmed, she stood up and dusted herself off a moment before the smell of charred flesh reached her nostrils. She looked up as the formerly lifelesss corpses, skin blackened and cracked, jumped to life and started climbing down towards her. She scrambled back, rifle roaring.
With the help of the Chosen, Fyodimirovich smashed into the Infamous, his great warhammer ringing out in the air as he struck several telling blows. This and the constant onslaught of the unkindness of ravens tearing at the transformed with razor-sharp beaks sent it running from the battle, the Chosen in hot pursuit.
Indigo marshaled the Ghost Owls, and led a firing line, ordering them to use their dwindling supply of Black Shot against the swarming undead. Even though he needed to direct Rookies Blas and Liavelovna out of the line of the encroaching undead, they were able to thin out their numbers.
The shadow witch waved her hands, calling down another stroke of lightning. It seemed like Rookies Cyprian and Makit were about to die when the Heavy charged up, and stove in the witch’s head!
With the defeat of Chimera and the shadow witch, the rest of the undead were easy to mop up. With their defeat, the humans seemed to snap out of a trance and immediately surrendered, helping to transport the supplies back to the camp and arming us with Black Shot. Now, the Legion has a chance.
– I remain, Chevalier Calonya