The Book of Calonya

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


GM Notes:

  • I only had three players for the first session, so we were only playing with the required roles. Player 1 played the Commander and Phaera (the Sniper), Player 2 played the Marshal and Fyodomirovich (the Heavy) and Player 3 played the Quartermaster and Indigo Vexing Wave (the Medic).
  • There was some question of whether everyone plays specialists for the starting mission or not. With only three players, one of whom was playing the Medic (who can always deploy to a mission regardless of specialist limits), in this case it was a moot point. By the letter of the instructions, you can pick anyone including 5 specialists - but Zora’s mission calls out that you can pick up to 4 specialists, and regularly you can only have two so maybe being explicit here to call out the change would be a good idea.
  • Since we didn’t have a Lorekeeper, I didn’t pay much attention to the Lorekeeper sheet. I feel like that was a mistake, since part of the game is scoring at the end and the players need that information to make meaningful decisions. I remedied this later when I realized this, but it’s something to note.

I’m only going to post once so I don’t disrupt the flow, but this was seriously awesome to read :slight_smile:

For your bullet point 2. Everyone plays specialists in the starting mission (we cleared that up a lot in the full text).

Bullet point 3: Noted.

I look forward to more of the Annals :slight_smile:


Returning successfully from the mission and with no lives lost, Marquess Phaera, Fyodomirovich, Indigo Vexing Wave and the Ghost Owls were greeted by the remains of the Legion with a hearty cheer. Happy that we’d made enough ground and were out of the immediate vicinity of the Ettenmark Fields, Commander Blue called a halt to the march ordered us to set up camp in the remains of the fortifications the Eastern army set up before clashing with the Cinder King.

Even in retreat the Commander bade us keep an ordered camp, and trenches were dug and defences constructed in precise military precision in as hasty a manner as possible to protect us from roving undead. We had the Black Shot, but we knew that surely the Cinder King’s army would be hot on our heels. We could only hope that the behemoth of an army could not mobilize as quickly as we, several orders of magnitude smaller than they.

But for the moment, we would rest and lick our wounds. To celebrate the successful liberation of the Black Shot and the captives, the quartermaster ordered one of the good kegs opened and shared among all the members of the Legion, and spirits were lifted immensely.

Even with morale relatively high, however, tension blanketed the proceedings. Our forces had just been decimated, after all. Every woman and man here had rode into battle with someone who was no longer there, perhaps lost, perhaps perished. Perhaps worse.

The Ghost Owls were the rowdiest, drunk on their success against an Infamous. And perhaps a little on the wine as well. They were in the middle of a high-stakes game of tiles, boasting of their prowess as only green recruits can. It is my understanding that the medic, Indigo Vexing Wave was also playing when Fyodomirovich, having acquired a taste for Rage Venom, was caught rifling through the hedge doctor’s supplies. This ignited a huge brawl that pulled in the Star Vipers and the Shattered Lions and only stopped when the Commander himself made an appearance. Let me assure you that you don’t want to be opposite those leonine features darkened by anger. Blue called an immediate end to the drinking, and banned tiles games until further notice. Of course, I have no doubt that the games have just become more circumspect - soldiers something to keep their minds active when they’re off-duty, after all.

A day later we were on the march again. We continued further away from the Fields and back into the Western Front. The land around us was dreary and blasted, ruined by war and disease and blight. We saw small clumps of roving undead in the distance and avoided them when we could, and fought them when we could not. Without the stronger undead, we made short work of them. As terrifying as these “Rotters” are in visage, even our rookies are well armed and trained and can make short work of them when working together. The gods of civilization damn the Cinder King for his lieutenants, otherwise this war would have already been over!

During our march we passed roving soldiers, survivors from the destruction of our army. Quartermaster Barni Beih has decided that we will take along some of these dregs, though not a one of them is currently fit to wield a sword. Though I am not one to talk. Perhaps they may be hardened once more, but it is unlikely that I’ll ever grow an arm back.

Operation Screaming Thorn
(Western Front; Scout; Exfiltration)

We’ve received word of a retreating Orite squad that went missing near Lionsgate. The area is now crawling with Blighter’s forces but as another force that survived Ettenmark, they may have invaluable information about our enemy and its disposition. Get to Lionsgate, locate anyone who’s still alive and bring them back for debrief.

Assigned Legionnaires: Vlais Vikeiovich, Azure Creeping Vine, Ghost Owls

Still flush with victory, the Ghost Owls were sent back into the field, this time with Vlais the Officer and Azure the Scout. The target was the Aldermani town of Lionsgate, a medium-sized city a few days from Karlsburg. Our forward scouts had reported that the place was crawling with undead, but spies had let us know that an Orite squad had also been in the area. The task was to find them and get any intel they had on our enemy.

The legionnaires got close to the city and encountered a dozen rotters. Shooting was too risky, so they had to engage in melee. With the Officer leading them, they made short work of the enemies, but realized that walking the streets would be too risky. Vlais ordered Azure to scout ahead. With his prehensile feet and tail, the Scout never missed an opportunity to go high, so he scrambled up to the roofs to get a better vantage point. No rotters up on this path, and he could see where large gatherings of undead were and could guide the rest around them. They navigated this way for a while, pushing deeper into the town until Vlais recalled the Scout. Unsure where to start looking, they decided they would try to find the Orite sector of the city. After consulting with the two Orite rookies in the Ghost Owls, King Blas and his sister the Princess Cyprian, Azure returned to scouting ahead, now with examples of Orite script that indicated a physician’s office.

Azure’s investigations paid off; he found the Orite quarter and soon thereafter found the office. And with his keen eyesight, he saw that the top window in the three-story structure was propped open and tied with a streaming white flag.

At that moment, a squad of undead rounded the corner. Thinking quickly, Azure dove into the ruins of an adjoining building to hide and let the rotters shamble by. Unfortunately, they were shambling right into the rest of the squad!

As before, Vlais ordered the Ghost Owls to close to skirmish, blades flashing. But even as the legionnaires closed the distance, two blackclad figures leapt from the shadows. They were dressed in the traditional plague doctor masks that mark the physician profession, but their clothing and masks were pitch black. They moved without sound, and an invisible wind seemed to play at their cloaks. The rotters seemed to be quickened by their presence, surging forward with their attack.

The fighting became more earnest. Officer Vlais assures me that the Princess Cyprian and Silver Raging Glade would have both been gutted by these Crows had he not been there to interpose with his shield, pushing back the undead with sheer resolve. He then ordered weapons free, and had the Owls form a line and fire with Black Shot. Staying quiet had become untenable.

Several of the rotters and one of the Crows went down in a hail of bullets and Black Shot, but the remaining forces kept coming, inexorably.

Meanwhile, Azure emerged from the ruins under the chaos of the fighting. He scaled the side of the building and slipped inside, finding the remaining three members of the 2nd Orite Medic Corps - and a gravely wounded Bartan Mercy!

Back down on the streets, the Ghost Owls were pushed to their limit. The preternaturally fast Crow almost landed several swipes of razor tipped claws on the rookies, but Vlais and his shield were there, intercepting attacks, pushing rookies out of the way, and generally protecting his squad from casualties. It was clear to all that even though they were wittling down the forces, they’d eventually be overrun; they could hear reinforcements on their way.

Blas, King of the Northland hills, convinced the officer to send him forth on his own so he could get around the new group, and with the element of surprise, they were able to punch through the newcomers.

At that moment, the call of a screech owl sounded. Azure had made it out with the team, only losing one of the medics to a wicked black crossbow bolt from a pursuing Crow. Instead of staying to engage, the Scout led the battered group away through winding streets and alleyways he had scouted before. This allowed the rest of the squad to escape another way before disaster could strike.

Operation Diamond Wolf
(Western Front; Scout; Area Recon)

Outrider reports show we’re being pincered between the forces of Breaker and Blighter. We need to find a route forward before we’re overrun. Find a safe route past the undead picket OR determine where the least resistance will be if it comes to blows.

Assigned Legionnaires: Marquess Phaera, Indigo Vexing Wave, Star Vipers

Forces were overwhelming. The Legionnaires were caught in a vicious ambush led by the Infamous Chimaera, perhaps in retaliation for the loss of those Black Shot supplies. Three rookies were killed in action, and Phaera and Indigo were both severely wounded. The forces of the dead continue to gather and ways forward are all fraught with danger.

Operation Chosen Hawk
(Western Front; Assault; Undead)

Reports are coming in that the Kleinvalt, a nearby wood, is being stripped by the undead. A lot of Breaker’s forces seem to be gathering here, performing their profane rituals. Disrupt the evil ceremony and put a stop to their schemes.

We didn’t have enough forces to pursue this mission. Our spies report dozens of burned men streaming out of the Kleinvalt, ready to join Breaker’s main force.


GM’s Notes:

  1. This session had the players of the Commander and the Quartermaster, and a new player joined as the Spymaster. They played the Officer, Rookie Blas, and the Scout, respectively. The Marshal’s player was out this week.

  2. This second session set an interesting tone, which in hindsight wasn’t all necessarily good; the players rolled well and managed risk so that they avoided losing anyone which was good, but I also think I dialed down the consequences with a successful roll too much. Being worried about an unfun death spiral and cognizant that I was the only one who had full buy in for a really brutal game, I tended to negate all consequences with a successful resist. It did mean that they mostly finished missions high on stress, but free from harm for the most part.

One thing that happened was that when we advanced from the Western Front, the Commander made a particularly bad time roll, so they had a lot of pressure to move on. I think they stayed in a location maybe once the entire game.

The group was also pretty risk-averse, especially when they realized that secondary missions are where you send your named hitpoints (aka, Rookies) to die. After this session, they sent out only one specialist and sent understaffed teams out on secondaries when they could. Which again is totally understandable - fearing a death spiral is totally reasonable IMO.

  1. I love world-building but I feel like at the beginning of the game I didn’t ask enough questions. There were a few I always tried to ask though; what kind of mask the Orite character had; what a Panyar’s mark is, what does a Zemyati’s oath blade look like? These are really cool things that help flesh out the world and give the other players buy in.

  2. One thing I found cool but challenging was mission generation. Since I didn’t know which one the players would go for, I would generally have to come up with three different seeds and hope that I could make something interesting for all of them. As can be expected, sometimes this works better than not. Also deciding when to add in the higher tier undead is a bit of a balancing act. I usually didn’t add them if I didn’t specifically roll “Powerful Undead” but it made their appearances a little rarer than I ended up wanting.

  3. One thing that trips me up about FITD is feeding in the fiction to the mechanics. I have less of a problem with this in regular PBTA for some reason. For example, in this mission I didn’t give the Legion a Mercy because that wasn’t a part of the mission rewards, even though I knew they wanted one (QM chose an Alchemist as his initial pick). So I made it a long term project.

  1. Is interesting here friend. The game by default sets a harsh tone, but remember rule 0. If your table wants a bit more hollywood action and a bit less “war is hell” you’re making decisions based on your gut. I’m not only not judging you, I’m saying: This is your game, you know best, I trust you to know how to make those calls.

By choosing to only reduce or to make things gritty you’re setting a tone. And that’s part of running the game. ^_^

  1. Remember that you can always call for a free play scene, and zoom in and ask some Qs. It’s cool. You haven’t done anything that can’t be easily fixed in play ^_^

  2. Generally I make the little blurbs (like one paragraph) quickly, and email my group, and ask them to pick their primary mission, and then flesh it out. I also find it handy to think later “ok they didn’t do mission X, how do I bring that in next time”. Like if blighter got a giant new horror built around the skeleton of some Great Beast, you betcha it’s going to show up the next time I roll a dangerous mission! You also get better with practice. This is actually good feedback. The book is made, so obviously we won’t be adding anything directly to it, but I’ll ponder if we can make some inspirational tables or lists to help prompt this in the future (like a handout or something). Something to think about. Thanks.

  3. If there’s a story about a Mercy, and it makes sense for a Mercy to join? Just give it to them. Try not to break the economy too often, and look at the rewards and think about if you should swap a line if you need to (like just pick roll 3 instead of 2 if you have a great idea and you want to run with it). I trust your gut (it’s your game)—and as you say fiction is important, and you know how to mechanize stuff. If you want to pull back a little say “QM make a 6-clock ‘Wounded Mercy’. Tick it once when you R&R, twice when you boost, and we can talk about special supplies etc that might speed that up”. That makes them work for the prize so it’s not quite “free extra mercy reward!”.

Sorry to keep interrupting, these are great! ^_^ Can’t wait for next game!

… PS. “Secondary missions are where you send your named hitpoints to die” is my new favorite BoB quote.


No, please interrupt! It makes me feel like there’s an actual conversation rather than it being just “let me tell you about my character” but more so :slight_smile:

Seriously, thanks for the feedback. Part of putting this down is to get feedback on GMing, so I’m quite happy to hear from anyone. Designers of the game included :slight_smile:

Also yeah. I did try to remember to bring the narrative consequences back into the game, I just wish I did a better job of it :slight_smile: For example, since they didn’t stop the ritual, they had to deal with a lot more Burned.

I made recuperating the Mercy an LTP in the end, and things worked out - so I guess your advice is spot on!

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That night, camp was full of nervous energy. On one hand, we had saved some of the Orite soldiers and a Mercy - Quartermaster Beih was particularly happy about that! But on the other hand, we had been dealt quite a blow. At this point, every Legionnaire is precious - and the Chimaera’s ambush had taken three of them from us. With a heavy heart, I noted down the names of the fallen; Rookies Rashi Katu, Nadit Khatri and Princips Marilo Loprio had all paid the ultimate sacrifice. Further, the Marquess Phaera, our sniper and Indigo Vexing Wave, our Medic had suffered grievous wounds at the claws of the Chimaera. And finally, with the failure of that mission, we didn’t have a good route through the throng of undead; we would feel the pressure of that failure in the continual attacks on camp over the rest of the week. Forward momentum was slow as a result.

To make matters worse, some of the supplies had gone missing and Quartermaster Beih was especially irate, throwing blame and suspicion around. In the end cooler heads prevailed, and Commander Blue was able to calm him down. Given the situation, Commander Blue decided to march the Legion out of the Western Front and onto Plainsworth Village, and the rest of us agreed. The senior staff also knew that we needed to keep morale up, and so with great reluctance, Quartermaster Beih released a cask of good Bartan Red with the evening rations. Legionnaires can be creatures of such simple needs; it did work to quiet the loudest grumblings.

We had been so bogged down on our earlier march and with our continued need to evade the undead forces arrayed against us that it took us much longer than we’d anticipated. We broke through the blockade several weeks after Ettenmark, and the constant travel, the damp chill weather and stress of repeated attacks has made it hard to recover from my injuries. I feel that maybe the position of Lorekeeper should go to someone else more worthy.

But eventually blasted ruined wasteland gave way to rolling grasslands, and the sky turned from a hazy grey to a dull soupy blue. We could see the steepled buildings of a large Aldermani settlement: Plainsworth Village. We made camp within sight of its walls and sent out an envoy to the city leadership. Aldermark has never been fond of the Empire and its legacy - and that includes the Legion. However, with the looming threat of the encroaching undead, our presence was tolerated - though it was clear that most of them wished us to be gone. We had access to the village during the day, but had to be out before curfew at dusk.

With our position somewhat secured, the senior staff settled down to plan our next move.

Operation Screaming Light
(Plainsworth Village; Religious [Holy, Mystic, Mercy] Special)

Voyis Kariyevich, the Kingfisher Knight, is renowned for his skill in battle. He’s said to be cursed, and rather than inflict this on others, he retired nearby to the southern mountain range to spend his days in contemplation, tending a local holy site. If he could be swayed to join and be cleansed, his expertise and combat might would surely be a huge benefit to the Legion.

Assigned Legionnaires: Vlais Vikeiovich, Azure Creeping Vine, Ghost Owls

Success breeds success, so the saying goes; that was Marshal Sanicci’s thinking behind sending the same group that had been successful at Lionsgate. The Kingfisher Knight was a storied warrior from the Zemyati knightly tradition - we certainly felt recruiting him into our fight could help us tip the scales.

The rumours told us that the knight was several days’ ride south, at a Panyar holy site. The legionnaires had traveled overland for several days before arriving at a remote and out of the way valley. In the clearing at the valley mouth were several obelisks arranged in a circular pattern, carved with Panyar script and pictographs. Several yards away to the side was a tiny hut - barely big enough to hold a single man. Behind the stone circle was a dense wooded copse.

Rookie Blas started a fire and began cooking sausages, as the Ghost Owls had long been on the road. That said, it was hardly the time for eating before completely securing the perimeter, and Officer Vlais chewed the young Orite out.

At this point a man, dressed in simple robes and carrying a rake exited the hut. A momentarily raised eyebrow was the only sign of acknowledging their presence as he proceeded to silently walk forward and begin raking the grounds in quiet contemplation.

Vlais stepped up at this moment and addressed the hermit, asking where he could find the Kingfisher Knight. The hermit sighed and told him that that man was no longer here. Vlais gave the hermit a long look, noted the way he carried himself and his Zemyati accent, and formed his own conclusions. He then tried another tack, telling the holy man about the Cinder King, the defeat of the Eastern Coalition, and forward march of the Broken and their forces. He obliquely implied that a skilled warrior could help turn the tide.

The hermit shook his head, and turned away and walked back to his tiny abode. The officer checked with Azure the scout, but he had no ideas either. Rookie Liavelovna pointed out that Zemyati are stubborn and proud, and surely this was only a minor setback for a storied mercenary captain like Vlais. Shrugging, the Officer set his shoulders and followed the hermit into his tiny hut. Inside was just room enough for a bed, a pantry - and a suit of exquisite heavy armour, embossed with a kingfisher with upswept wings on the breastplate and helm, in Zemyati chivalric style. Beneath the bed he drew out a beautiful longsword and an oath dagger of the finest make. “You can have these, if they’ll help,” he told Vlais. “I have no need of them.”

From his pack, Vlais took out a flask of fine vodka and two small tin cups. He poured out a little into each, and then raised one of them in offer. Luckily, the hermit’s was still a Zemyati and accepted the toast. They drank in silence for a whilte, before Vlais tried again. Where had the Kingfisher Knight gone?

In response, the hermit told the story of Voyis Kariyevich, a brash young man who had more talent than sense, who became praised for his martial prowess and combat ability more than his knightly vows, and who took the accolades into his heart, becoming an arrogant and conceited warlord, gathering a warband of thugs and sycophants. It took him far and wide, until he decided that they would take what they wanted from a village of Panyar here in the Aldermark. Now, Zemyati are well known as raiders, and their rules around the practice are baroque and unclear to us outsiders. It is clear that Sir Voyis expected the people to put up a token fight but then surrender their belongings. The Panyar decided to fight. And fight. And fight. They were not skilled fighters, they were poor farmers. Their insolence enraged the young knight and he slaughtered every man and woman in that village, sparing only the newfound orphans he had made.

They sat in somber silence for a moment. And then? Vlais prompted.

And then the knight took the treasure he had desired from this village, a silver statue of Nyx, the Panyar moon goddess. And the moment he touched it he knew he was a cursed man. The scales fell from his eyes, and he saw the monster he was. He became that monster and turned on his own men in a rage. When the rage was gone, all that was left was him, the hermit. Now he makes amends for his evil ways by keeping this old temple of Nyx and tending to her grove in the wood.

Outside, Azure Creeping Vine heard howls from the forest. Worried that it might be Breaker’s Transformed, he took Rookies Silver Raging Glade and Liavelovna with him and scouted ahead, ordering the rest to remain by the campfire. The scout was sure they could move more quickly through the forest on their own, and scrambling into the trees using his prehensile feet and tail, he disappeared into the woods ahead of the rookies to struggled to keep up.

He didn’t get far before he spotted indeed spotted the undead. But these were not the warped and twisted bodies of the Transformed. Azure could tell that the animalistic features were marks of Panya and not the foul sorceries of Breaker. But each of these bodies was decomposed and black with soil, and their eyes glowed with a silver light.

Azure drew his pistol, loaded some black shot and fired, felling one of the corpses, alerting the rest to his position. To his surprise, they moved with a speed and agility he was unused to. Indeed, one scrambled up into the tree while he was shooting at the group of them and tore at his belly with their black claws.

Back at the camp, the rest of the Owls were poking fun at King Blas for the rookies overcooked sausages when they heard the gunfire. Vlais emerged from the hut with the hermit and after exchanging glances they all headed into the wood.

“There’s a sacred burial mound ahead,” the hermit told them. “I will not allow it to be desecrated.”

“I don’t think the dead care about that,” Rookie Makit said, and then quieted with a look from the Officer. They headed into the wood to find the three forward scouts in a pitched battle, running from undead that seemed were more powerful than the regular sort. It took quick thinking and Vlais’ tactical acumen to save more than one rookie that day, and get Azure behind the firing line to give the scout a moment to breathe.

Even though these undead were clearly strange, with every hit, the hermit seemed to lose a bit of his composure. Once they killed the last of the corpses, he ran forward deeper into the copse. Vlais ordered the rest of the squad forward.

In the center of the wood was a great tree, and before that tree, an almost perfectly circular pool. Currently, its water was brackish and foul, and more of the Panyar undead surrounded it. At the sight of the pool, the hermit dropped to his knees in sorrow.

Vlais had a plan. The squad had brought reliquaries with them. It would simply be a matter of performing a cleansing ritual over the pool. Maybe these undead were even tied to the pool and would be banished. As they moved to engage though, the hermit stood up, his muscles bulging. His nose elongating into a snout, and his fingers growing claws. Before them stood a werewolf - the true curse of Nyx was revealed.

The forces split, with Vlais and Blas fighting the enraged lycanthrope while Azure led the rest of the Owls forward, forming a wedge formation and drawing their blades to skirmish with the coming undead!

Even as they pushed forward, Vlais and Blas fought a desperate battle against a creature that was faster and stronger than both of them combined. In moments, the werewolf rent the Officer’s armour to shreds and knocked aside his shield. The Officer was forced to rely on superior tactics, dodging behind trees and diving through bushes to keep away from the creature’s deadly jaws!

Azure and the Ghost Owls were able to get a foothold near the pool, where Azure could unwrap the reliquary - a box that contained the finger bones of a long dead Chosen of Nyx, conveniently enough. Kneeling down, he clumsily rushed through a Panyar blessing he’d heard. The effect was not immediate. One of the undead almost disemboweled Rookie Cyprian, had she not been pulled back by an alert Azure at the last possible moment. But after that, the undead turned and went back to their mounds under the trees, laying down and crossing their arms over their chests.

Meanwhile, Blas had jumped on the werewolf’s back to keep away from his deadly teeth and claws, but knew his strength would fail him soon. In a moment of desperation, he called out to the goddess Nyx(!) for help. Nothing seemed to happen, but luckily the trashing werewolf began to tire, and so Blas could shift his weight to ride it into the pool. He and Vlais held it down in the water for a few moments. When they came back up, the werewolf was once again the hermit.

The three waterlogged men climbed ashore and laid there, sputtering and coughing.

“I suppose,” the hermit - Voyis - noted quietly, “that I am joining your Legion after all, da?”

Operation Chosen Peak
(Plainsworth Village; Supply)

Plainsworth has avoided the worst ravages of the western front and is still well stocked despite the war and rising troubles with banditry. Our food stores are starting to run low. We are prepared to trade in good faith, but we need those supplies. Secure food stores from here, in any way you can.

Assigned Legionnaires: Fyodimirovich, Shattered Lions

The squad was unable to secure food. Enemy forces were spotted and squad chose to withdraw rather than engage.

Operation Broken Peak
(Plainsworth Village; Religious; Destruction)

A temple to the Bartan storm goddess Kara-anima is located a few days north of Plainsworth. Perhaps a survey of the holy texts, relics and seals will contain intelligence that will give us an edge against Breaker here. Travel overland to the temple and search it for useful materiel.

The senior staff decided that food was more important than gaining any intelligence on Breaker. We can only pray that the decision was the right one.


GM’s Notes:

  1. This week the Spymaster’s player was out and the Marshal’s was back in. Commander ran the Officer, Marshal ran the Scout, and the Quartermaster ran Rookie Blas.
  2. This was our first Special mission, which came up through random roles rather than as a specific action on part of the Commander. The players eschewed going after Special Missions in general, maybe because I didn’t emphasize them as a choice enough, maybe because they were focused on moving as quickly as possible.
  3. A lesson in “always say yes if you can”: at the end when Blas’ player called out to the god, my immediate thought was to think “The world doesn’t work that way, gods are distant and usually don’t respond.” But when I thought about it more, I realized that this mission belied that, with Nyx directly cursing people and the encroaching of the Nyx-empowered undead. Besides, having respond Nyx was really interesting. The fortune roll went well, so I started a 4-clock :slight_smile:
  4. It was clear the Ghost Owls were becoming the secondary stars of the game. If this was a TV show, they were the series regulars. This is where we learned that Silver’s mark was heterochromic cat’s eyes, and that Makit was the grumpy, sarcastic one who was always getting on Silver’s case. We continued the thread of everyone dumping on Blas, even his little sister Cyprian - regardless of the fact that completing this mission leveled him to Soldier.
    Me: “I guess the Officer put in a commendation for Blas’ quick thinking.”
    Officer: “Do I have to?”
    Also, I’m pretty sure this was the first time we came up with the Owl’s unofficial motto: “Hoot hoot, motherf***er!”
  5. I was a little surprised that the players decided not to do the mission with the Mercy as a reward after the QM expressed his wish to get a Mercy. But I guess they decided that food supplies were more important. Ironically they failed the secondary so maybe it was a moot point. But that’s another lesson - players have different reasons for choosing missions and their priorities will shift from situation to situation.

My players NEVER pick the missions I expect. ^_~

It’s interesting reading this because of a couple things.

  1. Your version of the world is a bit more magical than I usually run. So it’s interesting to see how stuff shakes out at different tables. I’m personally a fan of werewolves ^_~ that’s a cool take.

  2. I JUST ran the Voyis Kariyevich mission on Actual Play. And we also had a reference to Nyx. So interesting, interesting stuff.


You know, I felt werewolves were just a bit too formulaic, but I couldn’t think of a more appropriate curse from a Panyar moon goddess so that’s where I ended up.

Nice, I will have to see your take on it!

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The news of the recruitment of the Kingfisher knight spread quickly through the ranks as you can imagine, as well as rumours that grew in the telling of his now broken curse.

Sir Voyis was checked over thoroughly by our medic - Commander Blue is not quite so trusting. Indigo Vexing Wave, still somewhat recovering from the Chimaera ambush, gave the famous Zemyati swordsman a full physical and declared him fit for duty.

Meanwhile, Blas, King of the Northland Hills, celebrated his recent commendation and promotion to by shooting alchemical explosives for some unfathomable reason. He was confronted by Marquess Phaera, who was also still in recuperation. In some convoluted way that only the gods of Civilization themselves might be able to intuit, it eventually became a match of marksmanship between the two of them. The sniper won, of course, but I am told Blas acquitted himself quite nicely.

Operation Shattered Light
(Plainsworth Village; Supply; Mercenary Work)

The Plainsworth council wants us to deal with an alliance of Aldermani bandits and Eastern deserters who are holed up in Sable Pass Fortress, pillaging the countryside. A straight up battle with their forces would be too costly, but if we can infiltrate and sabotage their supplies, we will be handsomely rewarded by the council for weakening a thorn in their side.

Assigned Legionnaires: Fyodimirovich, Voyis Kariyevich, Shattered Lions

A scant few days later, we sent Voyis and Fyodimirovich with the Shattered Lions to the Sable Pass. We had learned of a loose collection of Aldermani bandits and warlords picking up fleeing Eastern warriors. This so-called Brotherhood of the Plains was rapidly growing in numbers, and the elders of Plainsworth Village were becoming very nervous. Three months ago, the Legion could have marched to the fortress and put down the rebellion as a matter of course. Now, every swordhand is precious. An assault would not be possible. The team would have to get in, posing as rebels and sabotage the Brotherhood’s supplies.

I’ll be honest; I had my doubts about Marshall Sanicci sending in both our Heavies on such a mission of finesse. And my gut proved correct when they were accosted by Brotherhood outriders before they had even made it to the fort.

They were surrounded by rough men and women on horseback. Their leader was described by Rookie Tatinikichna as a sour-faced man, with a perpetual scowl and an ugly scar. He roughly asked where they were from.

They were wearing old cloaks and mismatched uniforms, except for the two Heavies in their heavy armour. They explained that they had left the Legion after Ettenmark, and were looking for a group to join with.

“Legion, you say,” said the man, spitting as he said the name. Aldermani are none too fond of the Old Empire, nor its symbols; and neither do they love its legacy, in the Legion. “I’ve never seen deserters from the bleedin’ Legion before.”

Voyis continued to show his worth, but the sour faced man stopped him. “You two, in the armour can come. But do you think we need so many mouths to feed?” He pointed straight at Rookies and Dames Valeria and Livia Sanicci (no relation) and said, “Kill these two and you may join our Brotherhood.”

Not wanting to upset the leader nor (understandably) kill his new comrades, Sir Voyis continued trying to calm the man down, to no avail. Finally, the bandit said “Alright, I’ll just do it for you,” and stove Dame Valeria’s head in. Or that’s what he would have done, if Voyis hadn’t interjected himself between them. He caught the saber against his shield, and with a smooth, practiced motion drew his sword and decapitated the man before any of the others could move. Unperturbed, he looked at the second in command.

“Do we pass your test?” The remaining bandits looked at Voyis, and at Fyodimirovich flexing his giant hammer and they decided that yes, they had indeed passed the test.

And so they were taken to the fortress. They waited patiently for the portcullis to be winched up and were lead into a chaotic mess. There had to be over a hundred bandits milling about the place, engaged in fisticuffs, games of tiles and dice, or eating at firepits. Most were olive-skinned Aldermani, but there was a surprising number of Bartan, Panyar, Zemyati faces - and even a group of Orites in clockwork battle armour.

The second in command ordered them to follow him. They pressed deeper into the fort. Tents had been erected all over the place haphazardly, with wide lanes for the horses to travel through. The Aldermani love their horses, after all and the stables spanned one entire wall of the base.

The group wound their way to a command tent, to where a group of ten Aldermani, in the finest mix of armour and clothing sat playing tiles - these were the Brothers, the leaders of this group.

Voyis once again had to make his case: explain that he was a deserter from the Legion (spit) and that he and his men would like to join with a more powerful group. The Brothers were clearly impressed with the two specialists, but were not particularly keen on the rest.

“I’ll tell you what,” a Brother suggested. “You fight the Beast and win, and you’re in. For the meantime, your smallfries will be accompanied by my men.” He whistled for a Panyar, who would lead the Lions off to be held “for good behaviour”.

Confident in his martial abilities, Voyis agreed. The Brothers agreed that the Kingfisher Knight would have an hour to prepare himself, then the fight would take place.

Before the Lions left, Voyis told them to look for the supplies (the target of their mission) and then left them to their devices. Being a large man in a full suit of fully articulated armour, he wasn’t going to be much help in the sneaking department, and neither was Fyodimirovich (for much the same reasons).

So the Zemyati specialists promptly found a group of men around a cask of alcohol and started what is known in some circles as “Zemyati diplomacy”, that is, drinking and carousing.

Meanwhile, the Shattered Lions were being led to the eastern stables by a dark furred Panyar called Shadow. He spoke easily to Rookie Russet Raging Storm, a young Panyar with overly large owl’s eyes. “Sorry about this all, but you know how things go, folk. When you’re at the bottom of the food chain and all. You stick around long enough and work your way up, I’m sure you’ll get a good horse in no time.”

When they entered the stables, Russet’s eyes were the first to adjust. He could see half a dozen armed bandit guards standing at attention. A moment later he registered the thick bars that had been retrofitted into the barn. And finally, he took in the press of bodies within. Mostly women.

Russet looked to Shadow, who looked apologetic. “And who knows, folk,” he said with a shrug. “Maybe you’ll get to have yourself one of these fine servants if you play your cards right. Sorry.”
The guards advanced on them, taking hold of Tatinikichna, and the Dames Sanicci.

Back at the drinking hole, Voyis was plying a man with alcohol to find out more about this ‘Beast’ that he needed to fight. Was he a great fighter? Apparently yes. Undefeated. Only brought out for the toughest of cases. Voyis assures me he wasn’t worried, but he wished he could back up the rookies - the weight of the mission was on their shoulders, after all. There wasn’t much he could do, unfortunately. Perhaps if he split off from Fyodimirovich they’d be harder to track? He doubted it, but he had to try something.

So he left, wandering the space he was allowed. He confirmed that assaulting the place would be no easy task; men were every where, armed, and they were alert and suspicious. He’d have to come up with some kind of distraction.

Fyodomirovich, left to his own devices wandered about as well. He came in contact with a young Orite alchemist who was sitting on some crates, tinkering with something. She immediately recognized him as Legion. He tried to deny it but she just smirked. “Of course, my mistake. You are clearly a simple deserter. But if I may. Your pallid complexion, dark rings around the eyes, and the purpling around your ears tells me you might be interested in making a deal.”

Fyodimirovich was intrigued. “What do you mean?”

“I just need you to kill one of the Brothers.” She described the man in precise, exacting detail. “And in return, I’ll give you the rage venom you so desperately crave. Do we have a deal?”

The Heavy’s breath caught in his throat, and his mouth became a thin, hard line. Then he nodded once.

The Orite held out her hand. “I am Dame Aurelia Sanicci. I am confident that this will be a mutually beneficial arrangement for both of us.”

In the stables, Russet nodded toward fellow Rookies Karoj Dewa and Tatinikichna. On a three count, they burst into action. Before the bandits could capture them, they had drawn their weapons and had downed their foes, leaving only a cowed Shadow.

“What now?” Karoj asked, looking outside. "We can’t just walk around out there.

“And what do we do with the prisoners,” Valeria asked, moving to the locked cages.

“Free them, of course,” Tati said, drawing her handaxes, but Karoj stopped her.

“We should wait until we know where the supplies are. It would make an awful good distraction.”

“I’ll go out and scout,” Russet volunteered. “You’re right, we can’t all go. But I should be able to do it.”

Karoj put a hand on Russet’s shoulder. “Just give the signal and we’ll come for you.” Russet nodded, then slipped out of the stable.

Finally, an hour had passed and Voyis was brought into a cleared fighting pit in the center of the encampment. The air was abuzz as bandits learned that the Beast would have a new challenger. Voyis prepared himself and stepped into the ring.

The bandits wheeled in a giant cage, and attached to a chain that was secured to a ring in the center of the fighting pit, was a massive black baerskarn, taller than a man, with dagger like claws.

At this point, Voyis remembered his initiation into the Legion. And the ceremony afterward, where he was brought to the Horned One, and sat in communion with her, and was infused with her nature.

To the baerskarn he said, “Hello, friend.”

The creature roared at him, and stood on its hind legs, dwarfing him even in full heavy plate. “What do you want from me?”

“I think we can help each other. Listen closely.”

Bandits crowded in to see the fight, as Voyis raised his sword and charged at the Beast, who roared at him. With a yell, he swung his sword down hard - shattering a link on the chain.

Everyone started to quiet as they slowly started to register what was happening, until a hush fell over the crowd. And in that moment, the giant ursine creature charged into crowd, and the screams began.

Up at the command tent, the Brothers watched in dismay, reaching for their weapons and standing. One turned for the stares and came face to face with the armoured form of Fyodimirovich who caved in his head with his hammer. The others all turned toward him, and inside his mask, eyes flashing rage, the Zemyati bellowed and rushed forward.

Russet had gotten a little luck on his scouting trip - the pathways through the fort were not as busy as they had been, so he was able to locate the one place that still had guards placed on it - these ones weren’t going off to see the Voyis fight. A storage room that was clearly retrofitted with bars, off the beaten path. The rookie went around the back and found a tiny window that he would have to contort himself through. But also, he’d have to break the glass and definitely give himself away. Deciding he was running out of time, he took the gamble, breaking in the window, and then hustling through as quickly as he could, but he caught some glass and sliced his hand open for his trouble.

Additionally, as expected, the guards were alerted and burst in, and would likely have ended him if the rest of the Lions hadn’t arrived to save him. With the rest of the guards distracted by some commotion happening elsewhere in the compound, Russet was able to set fire to the stores and escape with his comrades.

In the chaos, with the escaping captives, the slaughter of the majority of the Brothers, and a rampaging animal, our men were able to escape. The mission was more of a success than could be believed.

Perhaps Marshal Sanicci knows what he’s doing, after all.

Operation Flying Mountain
(Plainsworth Village; Supply; Rescue Supplies)

We’ve been in contact with a local business magnate who is willing to help us set up supply lines, but he has some stipulations of his own. Meet with him in Plainsworth and ensure that we can negotiate a deal that leaves us ahead.

Assigned Legionnaires: Vlais Vikeiovich, Star Vipers

The request of the magnate was to safely smuggle his children out of Plainsworth to avoid the approaching undead horde. They were successfully extracted and rescued but the two remaining members of Star Viper squad were caught in an ambush against Hexed humans and sold their lives dearly to ensure the civilians got to safety.

I salute Rookies Princips Marilo Loprio and Baronet Alben Martiko, and write their names into the rolls of the fallen. May the Maker greet them in the Overcity with titles and wonder aplenty.

Operation Western Wing
(Plainsworth Village; Assault; Undead)

Breaker’s forces are on the move. There is a steady stream of Burned coming from the direction of the Kleinvalt, enough to eventually overwhelm our forces if we don’t stem the tide sooner rather than later. To pursue us they’re coming through the Giant’s Teeth pass. Take some alchemical charges and collapse the pass.

Commander Blue decided the other missions had priority. There is nothing to be done but now but to keep ahead of the large ‘herd’ that is moving towards us.


GM’s Notes:

  • As I’ve mentioned before, my updates are far behind my actual game. Tomorrow we may finish Skydagger and complete the campaign. The last couple of sessions were amazingly good and I want to thank @Stras and @worldnamer for creating this awesome game. My group has had its ups and downs with it but I truly love this game and can’t wait to get my physical copy :slight_smile:

  • With the promotion to Soldier, Blas’ player noticed that his ability spread qualified him to eventually specialize in Sniper. This and the back at camp prompt spawned the scene between him and the Marquess Phaera, which was a fun bit of “foreshadowing”.

  • Another example of players throwing you curveballs: I really wanted to shake things up and ensure that all missions didn’t end up as straight slug fests, so I really planned on both supply missions being much more heavily RP focused, and social or intrigue based. Of course the players decide to bring both Heavies instead. Figures.

  • Part of the reason for doing a mission that wasn’t just a straight brawl, besides having done a few of those already, was that I wanted to showcase the Hexed as sleeper agents that weren’t undead but were just as dangerous because they were a hidden threat. Because of the way the mission played out and the way the dice landed I didn’t end up using that and I feel this is my biggest misstep. I wanted to have a reveal where the squad discovers that there are some Hexed among the prisoners, and how they deal with that. I’ve changed my approach since then and would have handled it differently now, but so it goes.

In the end, I did reveal it as part of the narration of what happened in the secondary missions, but I also would have changed the way I handled this too.

  • That said, I tried to take pains this time to paint the rookies as competent but just outmatched. I was worried that because mechanically they are so fragile it makes them look like chumps that are just there to be babysat. I tried to give the impression in this one that most members of the Legion are more than a match for a regular soldier in a one on one fight. I think it worked? I noticed less jokes at the expense of the rookies, at any rate.

  • Two more things that made their way into our game: the fact that Panyar often address each other with “Folk”, and that Sanicci is the most common Orite name, but none of the characters are related. It started off as mostly coincidence, but now it’s just a weird (slightly humourous) detail.

  • Hide of the White Hind is the coolest, ain’t it?


I’m super excited to hear how Skydagger goes (and what the final score is).

Sometimes players throw you curveballs, but there’s an art in rpg’s where games encourage and teach you how to be come a better player and GM. For all that some of this had hiccups in your book, I think it’s valuable to think “ok I learned a thing, now if I do it I know how to do this better”. :slight_smile: It helps a bit with replayability and also encourages people to grow and improve and push themselves (or at least I hope it does) which is something I value in designs.

Hide of the White Hind is pretty damn cool ^_^


This is definitely how I look at it. I wish I knew what I knew at the beginning, but I value my hard-won experience too!

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These posts are amazing. Thanks for posting them.

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Thanks, @Judd! I’m happy to give back to an awesome community!

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Thank you for using your time to share your stories with us.
Can’t wait for the next one!


One of my favourite things about this thread, and there are so many things I love, is how it is bittersweet before it even starts: “This tale is not theirs.” Leaving that story untold somehow makes the story you do tell richer. Thank you for the posts. I’m burning even more to play Band of Blades.