Under the Horned Banner: My Campaign Diary

My group has finally started our Band of Blades campaign, and I plan on keeping a chronicle of it here in this post.

GM SET-UP

CHOSEN

I have decided to use The Horned One’s Chosen (THOC) for this campaign. I like her because she is the most ineffable and “godly” of the three Chosen. I also like how she is an atypical Chosen candidate; her only connection to The Horned One is that they both loved the same goddess; it’s like a widow marrying her husband’s best friend, just because you both loved the same person doesn’t mean that the two of you are compatible and that strikes me as ripe for roleplaying.

The Horned One’s Chosen: Bestial, Sinister. Holy, Mystic, Wild.

Starting Power: Anointed.

  • Look: When not deliberately maintaining a shape, THOC absentmindedly manifests bestial traits such as clawed hands, quilled hair, taloned feet, fanged teeth and any other number of animal features that appear and disappear over the course of a few minutes. THOC radiates an aura that makes most prey animals fall silent and predators submit to her will. Humans cannot help but feel hunted and stalked in her presence despite her gregarious and friendly nature.

  • Goals: (1) Collect intelligence on the Cinder King and the Broken. (2) Pursue THOC’s theory that the Cinder King has an origin in the Godswar or Empire, (3) Set the Broken against each other. The Horned One has remained purposefully ignorant of the dealings of gods and men for centuries and is now trying to make up for lost time. They retreated into their forests during the Imperial era, avoided the Godswar and only entered the war against the Cinder King after their beloved Nyx was Broken. They suspect that the Cinder King has a history with the Chosen, but needs to know more.

  • Personality: THOC is a dualistic entity composed of a (mostly) male hunter-god and a young Panyar priestess of Nyx named Silver Dancing Moonlight. When the Horned One is in control, he is self-assured and professional but also takes unnecessary risks and is easily emotionally manipulated. He is also prone to long periods of semi-catatonic grief over the death of his lover, Nyx. When Silver Dancing Moonlight is in control she is analytical and observant but risk-averse and somewhat paranoid. She is also prone to bouts of incoherent rage at the death of her goddess where she lashes out recklessly at the enemy. Depending on how the campaign goes she may end up more divided or reach a synthesis between her two personalities.

BROKEN

For my Broken I’ve decided to go with Breaker and Render. They’re very different from each other so I’ll have a lot of diversity in the kinds of threats I’ll be able to bring to bare. They’re also technically allied with each other and have lots of dark secrets that could blow them apart.

Breaker

Starting Power/Progression: Coven & Pillar of Skulls

  1. Changing Curse

2a. If the Legion takes the mountain or forest path: Nature’s Fury

b. If the legion takes the urban path: Dark Visions

Grand Strategy: Asymmetric warfare. Use Devourers to insert Shadow Witches deep behind enemy lines. Subvert local populations with Hexed. Isolate communities with attacks by Transformed and Devourers. Turn people against each other while they search for the traitors in their midst. When the community can no longer defend itself, take it over and hang everyone from trees to become Burned. Send covens to the next town to take it over. Leave behind villages of Hexed that make a mockery of human living.

Flaws: Vain, needs/wants to be worshiped. Likes to monologue. Betrays allies immediately when convenient, often without thinking of the long-game.

Render

Starting Power/Progression: The Sworn, Shredders

  1. Heartless

  2. The Forge

Grand Strategy: Fascist military industrial complex. All battles are about the accumulation of resources with no concern for ethics or honor. Refine cinderblood through horrific acts of industrialized violence. Separate civilians into “recruits” and “trade stock”. Recruits are transformed into Gaunt and Hounds, “trade stock” civilians are sent to Render’s allies or used for experimentation. Strip the area for all valuable resources, set fire to everything else, leave Shredder traps behind you. Make promises to civilians you never mean to keep.

Flaws: Unable to think strategically outside of a military context. Micro-manager with a habit of brutally punishing failure even when it makes him weaker. Easy to bait. Intellectually incurious.

STARTING MISSION: Operation Wolfmother

Cast

Specialists
Heavy: Viscount Leon: War Machine. Squad leader. A proper Orrite noble known for his extraordinary strength, luck and bravery. Stupid levels of bravery.
Medic: Blue Running Stream: Attache, First Aid. A young Panyar medic with red hair and prominent working gills. (The player and I came to an agreement that she has no special swimming abilities, she can only breathe freshwater, and when she is in dry locations she must spend 1 Load on extra water, unguents and waterproof bandages to keep from dehydrating or having her gills bleed.)

The Ember Wolves
Emerald Growing Weald-Panyar, Every Inch a Panyar. A plain-faced Panyar who has an inflatable septum bladder like a hooded seal that expands when he’s scared or upset. (Look it up.) Three days ago, he was a journeyman ferryman on the Taigeria river with only two Panyar names. Now he is sworn to the Legion and has earned his full Panyar name in battle. Emerald Growing Weald has been chosen for this mission specifically for his boating skills.
Cavaliere Ignazio Voci: Orrite (Connected, Stern), he/him, Jack of All Trades. Ignazio is a handsome and charming man of small stature who joined the Legion to avoid an army of jealous husbands and wives. He somehow manages to always convince someone else to carry his tents and cooking supplies. A man who prefers talking about work to actually working.
NPC Rookies: Dauphine Viviana Tanasi, Jagdeep Guarav, Landgrave Anton Zardan

The Ember Wolves and a select group of Legion specialists have been fleeing the undead hordes since they were routed at Ettenmark Fields. As they begin setting up camp for the night, they hear a voice behind them. “Oh wow! I actually found you guys!” Behind them is a white raven the size of a dog with reindeer antlers sprouting out of its skull. It begins to shift before your eyes into the form of a small, wild looking young woman. She is waving a letter at Viscount Leon.

The letter is from the Commander. It confirms that the woman before you is the Horned One’s Chosen and that the Legion has sworn to serve her. At this point I ask the Lorekeeper if there are any special rituals, items, etc, associated with the Legion taking on a new client. He tells me that:

When the Legion takes on a new client, they require the client to provide them with a new banner that they will serve under. When the Legion has completed its contract, the banner is retired to the Legion’s command tent. The Legion’s command tent is called the “Tent of Rags” and rumor holds that the tent is actually constructed out of the old imperial banners that the Legion first served under.

This sounds awesome, so I quickly design the Horned One’s banner for the Legion. It is the skull of a bear with the horns of an antelope bonded to the skull through some kind of magic or alchemy. The skin of the bear hangs below the skull on a pole and is painted in blue runes.

The Horned One tells the Ember Wolves that she has found a convoy of Render’s troops carrying Blackshot south into Cinder King territory for study. She has switched all of the road signs along the route and she expects the convoy to be waylaid. The Ember Wolves will travel south to the village of Harbuck and requisition some fishing boats and then cross the Taigeria. They will make contact with the convoy and through force or guile liberate it of its Black Shot.

The mission begins with Emerald Growing Weald trying to navigate across the Taigeria in time to catch up to Render’s convoy. Viscount Leon tries to set-up Private Weald by being an enthusiastic rower, but rolls poorly and only manages to give himself a Rank 1 Harm, “Rower’s Elbow” that he resists. Emerald Growing Weald rolls a 6 and manages to get across the river in record time.

As the legionnaires move up the riverbank the Horned One’s Chosen reappears. She is smirking. “They fell for it, the Knights took the wrong roads and now their wagons are stuck deep in the mud.” The legionnaries decide to do a group stealth roll that goes poorly, I fill in a 3/4 of ticks on a clock that says Render’s Hounds catch the groups scent.

Private Voci decides to resist on behalf of the Legion, reducing the clock to 2/4. Then he flashbacks to an earlier time where he asks for intelligence on the Hounds. He rolls a 6 on the fortune roll and learns from fellow refugees that Hounds can track the breath of the living. Using his high Discipline skill he orders his fellow squadmates to control their breathing as they move closer to the convoy. He rolls a 4 and gets partial success, his breath trick lets them get closer, but not close enough.

At this point I narrate a scene:

The Legion can hear the convoy guards fighting with each other. One of the Knights thinks that this convoy assignment is beneath him. “I’m a cavalry officer, not a teamster!” The convoy leader, a soft-spoken woman, asks if the Knight would like a new assignment and he says yes, before realizing he’s made a terrible mistake… She orders the complaining knight’s brothers to hold him down. The Knight breaks free and starts to run away before he’s tackled by a massive Hound. The Infamous hound Eater is on the field! The Knight is dragged back to the wagons and the convoy leader unwraps a spear from an oilskin. The spear is dripping with an orange glowing liquid. “Lieutenant Vishni, you are hereby relieved of your Oath as a Black Oak Knight. Your request for transfer to Experimental Weapons Division has been approved. May the gods have mercy on your soul.” She shoves the spear through the Knight’s body, as the blade emerges from the other side, it is no longer glowing, but the Knight’s veins have begun to burn with internal light. He screams for a long time and then dies, smoke coming out all of the holes in his head. “Collect the head. It looks like a real boomer.” Another knight unceremoniously hacks the dead knight’s head off, which is still glowing from the eye sockets.

The squad briefly considers their options. The group is poorly outfitted for stealth and after a moment of indecision, mission leader and Legionnaire Heavy Viscount Leon steps forward. “Screw it. When I give the signal, everyone rush the wagons and grab everything they can carry. I’m going to try and get the whole convoy to chase me.” The Viscount Leon has a heavy load. He has kept to the back of the mission party because of his size and weight. Suddenly he pulls himself off of the riverbank and begins running towards the convoy. He uses War Machine to push and reduce the threat level of all enemies by 1. The Horned One, realizing that the Viscount is making a potentially suicidal distraction decides to back him up. She transforms herself into a 30’ long horned serpent and makes herself conspicuous, hoping to make the Black Oak Knights and their hounds chase two targets. Viscount Leon rolls a 6. Perhaps it is sheer dumb luck, perhaps the Black Oak Knights are just dumbfounded that a single man in heavy plate is running past their campsight, but either way Voci is unharmed and the Black Oak Knights give chase. The Horned One rolls a 4 and takes a barrage of crossbow bolts for her trouble.

With the Viscount’s distraction happening my clocks need to change. I keep the detection clock, because the rest of the squad is still in stealth while Viscount Leon and the Horned One try to get the convoy to chase them. However, the Infamous hound Eater is on the field and decides to let out a horrible psychic scream, targeting Viscount Leon and the Horned One, but bleeding out over the rest of the area as well. I assign rank 3 psychic harms to the Viscount and the Horned One and rank 2 harms to everyone else as the psychic waves of agony cause rookies to bleed out of their eyes and ears. Of course a lot of this is resisted. The player for Viscount Leon successfully argues that he is using his War Machine ability to reduce the threat level of all enemies on the field right now because he pushed on a distraction and that should apply to Eater’s psychic attack. The medic Blue Running Stream does a further resist to protect the squad so that none of the NPC rookies die.

As the Viscount and the Horned One lead the Black Oak Knights and their hounds away from the convoy, the remaining Ember Wolves rush the wagons. The rookies Cavalieri Voci and Emerald Growing Weald both roll 6’s on the single remaining Black Oak Knight while the rest of the squad rushes the wagons and begin dragging Blackshot boxes back to the boats. While the squad is able to do this work quietly, they are unable to do it quickly enough to make a clean getaway before the Black Oak Knights start returning.

Things are not going well for Viscount Leon and the Horned One. Leon pushes himself again, this time for supernatural strength so that he can run fast despite his heavy load and starts making his way back to the riverbank. A 4 lets him make his way back to the river, but he is hit full-on with the flaming head of a recently deceased knight. (Render’s Shredder power making its first appearance.) The Viscount resists level 3 harm and uses all his armor points to reduce it to nothing. The flaming skull slags his armor but leaves him unharmed. The Horned One fairs much worse. She doesn’t roll above a 2. Eater closes the distance with her and unleashes a devastating psychic attack on her, driving the god into depressive catatonia and leaving Silver Dancing Moonlight in full control of her Chosen abilities. She is weakened and close to death.

The squad has successfully collected most of the Blackshot while the convoy guards have been distracted, but the final push must happen while Hounds and Black Oak Knights race back towards the caravan. A group maneuver roll results in partial success; the Legionnaires make it back to their boats, but another Shredder skull grenade is thrown into the squad’s midst and two rookies are cut down by hounds. This of course is resisted: Cavalarie Voci is able to inspire his squadmates to run faster so only one of the rookies is captured and eaten by hounds. The specialists and PC rookies spend armor and make resistance rolls for the grenade and make it to the boat. Dauphine Viviana Tanasi doesn’t make it.

Viscount Leon pushes one final time to make it back to the boats and rolls a 6. The Horned One flees with partial success. She leaves the battle with 9/10 ticks on her clock. She is badly injured but still able to walk away. It will be a long time before she ever things about accompanying the Legion on a mission again. She also has decided that she hates Viscount Leon, a foolish and stupid man who should never be given leadership ever again. The Viscount has earned the enmity of a god.

Emerald Growing Weald ends the mission by doing a flashback. “Of course, before we left to get the Blackshot, I made sure that all of the boats were ready for a quick cast-off so we could escape quickly.” He rolls a 6 on his Rig roll. I require a final group maneuver check to see how successful the squad is in getting away. The Medic leads the roll and barely avoids trauma with 2 failures and a 6.

BACK AT CAMP

The Lorekeeper has his first Back at Camp scene, an informal funeral for the Dauphin. The Ember Wolves remember her as a genuinely nice person whom the rest of the Ember Wolves respected. Emerald Growing Weald gives a speech where he says that she made a point of making sure he felt welcome in the Legion from day one. Alcohol is consumed in her honor, courtesy of the Lorekeeper and Quartermaster.

3 Likes

Hi Udachnik
Wow. Thanks for this great chronicle and especially for the excellent, detailed set-up.
If I may , I’d like to ask on some choices you have made in applying the rules.

  • Haven’t you been too harsh on the Chosen? After all THOC is Threat 4 and the Harm (or ticks on the clock) should have been reduced accordingly, from the lesser Threats T2 Knights or the T3 Eater. Also, it seems you asked the THOC to roll (“flees with partial success”) , while as an NPC it shouldn’t be always necessary. THOC could have done whatever it wanted to escape, for example transform into a Raven to flee out of range of the Eater. And it doesn’t seem it tried to actively counter Eater.

  • Shouldn’t the Shredder (Threat 2) have caused only an initial 2 Harm on the Heavy?

  • It seems you have allowed a PC to resist consequences (Harm) to the squad, to reduce the number of NPC Rookies death. I’m not sure that’s allowed in the rules like that. If Cavalerie Voci wanted to resist his comrades being caught by the Hounds, he should have done a Protect, then Resisted the Harm/Corruption. The Resist with a Flashback/Set-up action, here, seems to be a bit out of bounds (or at least, Voci should have had to spend Two stress on this Flashback, maybe that’s what happened). But this is my interpretation of it, and I’m curious for your reasoning and the comments of others.,

Great AAR! I particularly love your panyar traits. I think I agree with the horned one about Viscount Leon. So interesting how differently these missions can go.

A_B

  1. No, I feel it’s fair. THOC is going up against 8 Black Oak Knights, 2 Hounds and the Infamous Eater along with Shredders as a narrative weapon. That’s a robust Scale 3, with an average Threat level of 2. She rolled partial successes twice and failed once while trying to keep a foolhardy officer from dying on his first mission.
  2. The Viscount Leon was in the desperate position so I increased its threat level.
  3. It was a protect roll. I simplified.

Here’s the map I used.

2 Likes

First Campaign Phase

The group enters their first campaign phase. Initial Setup goes well, the Legion has high morale and extra materiel. We get to meet our 4 Staff Officers for the first time.

STAFF OFFICERS

The Commander: Zemyati, she/her, Devious, Cold, Calculating, Lithe, Well-Kempt, Athletic
Touchstone: Judi Densch as M in the Craig 007 movies.
image
A professional who does what must be done and makes no apologies for it. Supposedly the command staff knows her name, but no one will admit it. She has been the Commander for as long as anyone can remember, only the Lorekeeper has served with the Legion longer. Somehow always manages to look clean and crisp, even when standing waist-deep in mud. Carries herself with grace despite her advanced age. The Legion takes comfort in how the commander never looks scared and always seems to have a plan.

Marshal Megaduta Punja, "The Burdened": Bartan, he/him, Honorable, Cautious, Grizzled, Scarred.
Touchstone: A smarter version of Baldrick from the last season of Black Adder.


A man who tries his hardest to maintain an emotional distance from his responsibilities and the Legion. He remains matter-of-fact even as he knowingly consigns soldiers to their deaths. He never sugarcoats anything and has the tact of a thrown brick. He is known as the Burdened because he adds tokens of dead rookies to his Bartan charms, especially when they had few friends or were relatively unknown.

The Quartermaster: Panyar, he/him, Prepared, Resourceful, Frugal, Grizzled.
Touchstone: Burn-victim Wolf-Man in a threadbare Napoleonic uniform complete with battered fancy hat.


Copper Gathering Storm was a promising officer’s school cadet when he was badly injured in an ambush on a Legion fortress. After recovering from his injuries, he was given the option of joining the command staff as a junior officer or retiring. He chose the command staff. He has only recently been promoted to Quartermaster after the prior QM was killed at Ettenmark Fields. Lots of Legionnaires know Copper Gathering Storm’s name, but respect his decision to go as just the Quartermaster. The youngest member of the command staff, only 30 years old.

"The Damned Bear", Lorekeeper: Panyar, he/him, Dedicated, Eloquent, Grizzled.
Touchstone: Stellan Skarsgard from Chernobyl, but with a left bear arm.
image
Born in Zemya, cursed in Panya. Rumor holds that the Lorekeeper angered a powerful forest spirit and was Marked for his sins when he was a young man. His left arm is like a bear’s, covered in brown fur with large claws but with an opposable thumb. Camp legend says that every rookie who has ever asked about the Lorekeeper’s Mark has met with bad fortune. Called the Damned Bear but never to his face. The oldest member of the Legion. He speaks with a Zemyati accent. His real name is White Stoic Pillar but only the head cook knows.

The Lorekeeper also provides us with lore from their initial setup.

Battle of Ettenmark Fields
The Legion were hired by the First Panyar Expeditionary Force under the leadership of Shreya, Chosen of Asrika. When the Legion stood with Shreya at Ettenmark Fields, she held the line until her ex-lover, the Broken Blighter entered the battlefield. Shreya froze when she saw her beloved and the Legion was routed as a result. After the battle Shreya took a small force of her personal guard and traveled south, supposedly to Dar. The Legion could not follow and were therefore released from their oath to her. The Legion was saved by The Horned One’s Chosen who used their shapeshifting abilities to harry the enemy long enough to let the Legion get away.

The Lorekeeper sets up the Legion’s values by removing the following three options from Back to Camp scenes.

  1. Your Chosen has fallen silent and refuses to speak to anyone. The Horned One’s Chosen never stops talking. Never. Even if you beg them to stop. Both personalities love talking.
  2. A fight breaks out over one Legionnaire stealing from another. Legionnaires have a culture of sharing everything while on active duty and a logistical system for keeping track of personal property.
  3. A bunch of Legion medical supplies are missing. The wounded cry. The Legion does not ‘misplace’ supplies and constantly replenishes its medicinal stocks with the help of Panyar and Bartan herbalism. At the very least, no one is ever in pain.

The Quartermaster takes two Liberty actions to minimize stress and the Commander advances us to the Western Front. The Commander decides to favor Recon missions and spends Intel to guarantee a Special Mission and I roll up the following three assignments.

Titanium Python: Special Mission: Watershed Cathedral (p.377)

Zinc Cobra-Recon: Route Recon, Reward: +1 Intel, -1 Time, Penalty: None
The route out of the Western Front is already under attack by the undead,but the fighting is sporadic and disorganized. Your mission is to investigate the path out of the Western Front to Plainsworth. The roads are well maintained in Aldermark, although scout reports say that the way is clogged with abandoned luggage and discarded wagons. Refugees still travel east along the roads in significant numbers and there are reports of bandits, disorganized undead and strange monsters that prey on travelers at night.

Platinum Viper-Recon: Exfiltration, Reward: +1 Intel, -1 Time, Penalty: +1 Pressure, Favor: Mystic
An Aldermani scholar, Alba Voi, was recently abducted from a refugee caravan by a force of well coordinated Black Oak Knights who left the rest of the refugees unmolested. Rumor says that the scholar was being taken to the town of Bleddygg for purposes unknown. Alba Voi is the leading expert on the Chosen of Mattiar the Smith, half of the twin gods of Aldermark. Bledd was a reclusive Chosen who is credited with saving the Aldermark armies 200 years ago with a timely delivery of 5000 exquisite winter coats which allowed the Aldermark armies to drive the invaders out during a winter campaign. The town looks abandoned, but smoke was seen coming from Bledd Hill where the town’s old graveyard is located. Find Alba Voi, learn what she knows or exfiltrate her.

Our Commander chooses to fail Zinc Cobra, takes Platinum Viper as our primary mission and Titanium Python as the secondary. We end the session.

1 Like

Very well and thanks for the explanation!

Zinc Cobra is Failed: Powerful undead stalk the roads between the Western Front and Plainsworth. When the Legion Advances they will find destroyed caravans and corpses strewn along the roads.

Platinum Viper: Recon: Exfiltration: Reward: +1 Intel, -1 Time, Penalty: +1 Pressure, Favor: Mystic
The Marshal appoints the scout Silver Shining Blade to lead the mission, with the feared gunslinger sniper Kazimir Shvalev and the Ghost Owls under her command.

Specialists
Scout: Silver Shining Blade: Panyar, she/her, Panther-Like Grace, deer ears, red hair, carries her grandmother’s heartwood bow. Highly religious and extremely proud that the Horned One travels with them.
Sniper: Kazimir Shvalev: Zemyati, he/him, Sharpshooter, carries two pistols named after women, both of which can extend a spike from the handle to be used in hand-to-hand combat. Always smoking disgusting cigars.

The Ghost Owls
"Arch-Dutchess" Geraldina Alphonsina Bethany Anastasia Rutherford-Smythe: Orrite, she/her, Home Cooking, a woman from humble origins but with a proud lineage. Carries a massive butcher’s knife as one of her weapons. Dreams of owning a restaurant some day.
Lilac Flying Tree: Panyar, he/him, Devil’s Own Luck, a Panyar intellectual who joined the Legion to get out of debt, has donkey ears.
NPC Rookies: Dania Klarinayevna, Rose Realizing Rainbow, and “Z” who never gets named.

Information gathering rolls reveal that the academic Alba Voi was captured by Render’s forces and taken south to a small town called Bledd. The scout is able to track them south of the town to a graveyard supposedly built by a Chosen of Mattiar at the end of the Godswar. One of the Rookies determines that the graveyard is probably sanctified and trapped.

The Marshal rolls a 4 on the Engagement Roll, but things go badly very quickly. The group decides to use Stealth to approach the graveyard with team rolls. The first roll is successful, but generates 1 Stress for the Scout. The second roll is a partial success, that generates 3 stress and nearly fills the clock that Alerts the Hounds. One of the rookies chooses to Resist the Alertness clock, making the noises of a large bird native to the area.

The Scout makes a tough choice. The plan isn’t working and there’s a good chance she or the sniper will stress out or fail their rolls if they keep trying to bring the Ghost Owls into the graveyard by stealth. First she scouts ahead alone, rolls a 6, and is able to determine the enemy forces on this mission: there are 12 Gaunt, 2 Hounds and 2 Black Oak Knights on this mission. The Knights are using the Gaunt to dig up the graves while the Hounds patrol the forest. One of the Knights is using his supply of cinderblood to transform the corpses into Shredder explosives and has placed antipersonnel explosives around the gates.

Returning to the group, she decides to try and stealthily ambush the Hounds instead. That will deprive the Black Oak Knights of their early warning system and hopefully make it easier to approach the graveyard. Using Scrounge, the climbing kit and wrecking kits that were brought on the mission, the Scout creates traps for the Ghost Owls to use. On Operation Wolf Mother the Legion learned that Hounds track people by their breathing. Silver Shining Blade decides to use this against them: she orders Arch-Dutchess and the gunslinger Shvalev to serve as bait and has them both hyperventilate to attract attention from the Hounds. The rest of the Ghost Owls and Silver Shining Blade will be responsible for activating the traps and (hopefully) killing the Hounds quietly.

The traps are created and deployed by Silver Shining Blade on a 6. She also succesfully activates her trap and with the help of the rookies dispatches her Hound without noise. Shvalev and the Arch-Dutchess aren’t as lucky. The Arch-Dutchess fails her Rig roll, alerting the Hound and leaving Shvalev in a Desperate position as a Hound sees him and rushes at full speed. The Arch-Dutchess resists some of the consequences of the roll to keep the final “Alert” clock for the undead horde from activating. Shvalev makes the tough decision to fight the Hound with a hand weapon instead of his guns to keep things quiet. Luck is on his side, a critical! The hound crumples silently.

With the Black Oak Knight’s early-warning system compromised, Silver Shining Blade orders the squad to split into two groups. The Ghost Owls will sneak up on the front by the gates, where they will prepare a distraction. They will attack as if they are assaulting the compound, while Shvalev and Silver Shining Blade sneak over the fence on the opposite side of the graveyard. Shvalev and Silver Shining Blade succesfully make their stealth rolls while the Ghost Owls move up.

The Ghost Owls are put under the temporary command of the Arch-Dutchess with Lilac Flying Tree as her second. Lilac decides to set another trap for the undead: using the Oil he took along, he carefully traps the gates to the graveyard, almost setting off a Shredder mine! The Arch-Dutchess prepares to lead the attack, rather than use Marshal, she will use Discipline to keep the Ghost Owls from panicking as they calmly and continuously reload and shoot at the dig-site. I agree to this, but specify that while they will create a big distraction, they will be ineffective at actually hurting the enemy. The Arch Dutchess rolls a 5 and for her complication I say that the squad has gone through 3/5 of their ammo already. She accepts the penalty and doesn’t resist. The Gaunt take the bait and begin advancing on the Ghost Owls, but the Black Oak Knight who is outside the mausoleum is suspicious and is watching to see what happens.

In the meantime the Scout and Sniper are scaling the back fence. While the Scout makes it over easily, Shvalev gets tangled up in his climbing kit and loses valuable time. He chooses not resist and try again. Silver Shining Blade gets over the wall and sneaks to the mausoleum. Inside is their target, Alba Voi being guarded by a Black Oak Knight who carries a wicked looking double-barrelled blunderbuss. Silver asks if she can take a shot where she makes it hard for the Knight to pursue her, like an arrow in the leg. I agree in exchange for reducing the number of ticks on the Knight’s clock. She rolls a 6. The Knight is hit in the thigh and screams out to her partner outside. It’s an ambush! In the meantime Shvalev is finally over the fence, but has managed to lose the climbing kit in the process. If they want to escape, they’ll have to either go through the front door or climb the fence without any gear.

The Gaunt have advanced to the cemetery gate, where the Arch Dutchess leads a group Shoot roll with the Ghost Owls. A 4: good damage, but they are out of bullets and must now fix bayonets. Lilac Flying Tree is up! On a desperate roll, he rushes the Gaunt with a flaming brand and throws it into his oil-trap. A 4: the trap lights, but he accidentally activates a Shredder mine, inflicting rank 3 injuries AND he is lit on fire in his OWN trap. He resists the Shredder damage but not being lit on fire. I tell him he will die if either he or someone else doesn’t douse the flames by the end of the next round of actions. We move into the next round of actions. There are a dozen gaunt lit on fire, dropping one by one as the flames ruin their bodies. Lilac Flying Tree makes a Desperate Maneuver roll to “stop drop and roll”. He rolls a 2. I inflict rank 3 harm again and tell him he’ll die at the end of the round if someone else doesn’t act. Fortunately the Arch-Dutchess is there. Leaving the other Ghost Owls to continue firing on the Gaunt, she rushes to Lilac’s side and throws a tent over his body, smothering the flames. The Ghost Owls are in a desperate position: they are being charged by flaming Gaunt. They roll their one die, a 6! The Gaunt are defeated.

Two Black Oak Knights are facing off separately against Silver Shining Blade and Shvalev. (I have both of them on the same 8-point clock, because technically a Scale 0 enemy can be 2 individuals). The Knight outside “ignites” one of his Shredder grenades and begins moving towards the mausoleum while Shvalev hugs the building and tries to line up a good shot on the grenadier. I tell he he’ll need a roll to get the fictional position and a separate roll for the shot. He agrees. He rolls a 5 on his stealth. I let him line up the shot but put him in the Desperate position. The Knight knows he’s there and will fling his grenade. Shvalev rolls his shot with Aim, push and Sharpshooter and gets…a critical. The Knight goes down with a bullet through the eye, the grenade explodes in his hand. With the first Knight down, Silver Shining Blade pops around the corner and fires another arrow, filling up the Knight clock and ending the battle.

In the aftermath the group takes advantage of the Arch-Dutchess’ Home Cooking while they debrief Alba Voi. They learn that the Cinder King is searching for the Unbroken Twin, who has fled north. They learn that the Cinder King is worried that the supernatural connection between the two Twins could be used to “cleanse” the Broken of Gerholtz, Stalker. We fade out.

The Secondary Mission is a Western Front Special mission for Watershed Cathedral. The Marshal sends the Star Vipers, the heavy Viscount Leon and the officer Marquis de Cochon Solaire.

The Marquis’ Heraldry.
The mission is succesful on a 4: the Marshal is sacrifice 2 rookies for 2 full religious supplies. Reina Ionela Florencio is so shocked to see the nuns and monks of the Cathedral transformed into Burned that she loses her nerve and is overcome by them during the initial rush towards the Cathedral. Inside, Phthalo Fighting Bamboo is reduced to a puddle of acid and mush when the Infamous Devourer Silver swoops down from the rafters but is forced off with musket-fire. The Star Vipers escape with the Cornerstone of Asrika’s Watershed Cathedral.

I had really hoped to actually run this mission as Primary, so I’d created the maps ahead of time.

The Quartermaster heals the wounded and the Commander chooses to advance to Plainsworth.

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I do enjoy chronicling my campaign, but I’m going to do it in a much smaller format from now on. I’m very behind on that, in the actual campaign we just reached Talgon Forest.

Session 3: Plainsworth 1

Primary Mission: Daffodil Crab-Kingfisher Knight Special Mission

Our officer, the Marquis du Cochon Solaire, Blue Running Stream and Viscount Leon lead the Ember Wolves to the Shrine of the Horned One’s Gift. The Horned One’s Chosen tells the Marquis that the Kingfisher Knight is suffering from a curse that she placed on him for killing a Thunderbird so he could addorn his helmet in feathers, a sin in the eyes of the Panyar. The Kingfisher Knight has lived at the Gift ever since, living a life of pacifism and praying that one day the Horned One will lift his curse.

The Legion discovers that the Kingfisher’s curse transforms him into a fearsome Thunderbird every night (basically a prehistoric diatryma). Blue Running Stream successfully researches a ritual called the Act of Renewal and Rebirth that can break the curse but it takes the full strength of the Legion to hold the Kingfisher down for the ritual. At the end of the ritual the Kingfisher Knight gives birth to an egg that hatches into a baby thunderbird. Everyone agrees to never speak of this ever again. A stressful mission but a few well-placed critical rolls keep everyone hale and healthy.
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Secondary Mission: Operation Mimosa Crawdad: Supply Mission

Silver Shining Blade and Kazimir Schvalev take the Ghost Owls south to an Orrite logging camp where an Orrite Mechanicum convoy is preparing to travel west to safety. The Quartermaster has ordered the Owls to secure another set of wagons for their convoy. As they approach the camp they find a group of scared children and adolescents in the woods who say that a “bad lady” and a monster took over the camp and changed their parents with magic. Silver Shining Blade orders the Ghost Owls to spring the trap and counter ambush. Rookies Landgrave Anton Zardani and Sajala Jobanputra are killed by arrowfire during the subsequent battle. The Quartermaster elects to let the adolescent and child refugees stay with the Legion in exchange for the oldest youths working as laborers, the Orrite youth take the wagons as homes instead.

Failed Mission: Violet Lobster: Bandit trouble increases throughout Plainsworth and honest folk fear leaving their homes.

Campaign Phase

The Lorekeeper Tells a Tale of the Legion’s Founding: The Legion was founded by the Seventh Emperor Tantarus under the guidance of the First Commander. The First Commander never identified herself even in death and wore an armored mask at all times.The Legion was founded to kill a powerful Chosen who was said to have multiple hearts and the power to turn people into slaves with a mere whisper. The first Honored Lions pierced their eardrums to escape the Many Hearted God’s Chosen’s hypnotic words and killed him with powerful relic weapons, stabbing each weapon through one of the Chosen’s multiple hearts.

The Quartermaster begins work on their first long-term project, “Sign Language”.
Long ago the Legion fought a terrifying Chosen who could turn people into his thralls with the power of his voice. The Crimson Lions purposely pierced their eardrums so that they could fight him. Afterwards, the Lions developed their own dialect of sign language which spread to the entire Legion. The practice died out after the Godswar but has been recently re-adopted.

  • Legionnaires may communicate with each other using hand gestures.
  • Subtle commands that won’t be seen by outsiders can be done with a Sway action.
  • If a Group Scout Action is lead by a Legionnaire with at least 1 rank in Scout, all Legionnaires participating in the action are treated as having at least 1 rank of Scout.

The Commander decides to keep the Legion in Plainsworth to acquire materiel.

An angry rookie demands to know why the Marshal changed up the squads to play favorites to the rookie Cavalieri. The Marshal reveals that he is corrupt and he was bribed. (The rookie is the Marshal’s rookie, and he was in fact playing favorites, as is his prerogative.)

Session 4: Plainsworth 2

Primary Mission: Begonia Barnacle-Special Mission: Tantari Banner, p.381, +2 Morale, earn Relic: Tantari Banner.
Officer Marquis Cochon du Solaire, scout Silver Shining Blade and the Grinning Ravens are sent south to a small community in the hills where centuries ago the Imperial Legion fought a great battle against the Many Hearted God. We learn from the Lorekeeper that the Legion who died fighting the Many Hearted were all buried in a mass tomb along with the first banner of the Legion, the Tantari Banner. The hills are vast and dotted with dozens of ancient tombs, to speed up the process of searching for the correct tomb, the Officer makes contact with a local village and convinces them to help with the excavation in exchange for protection and vital supplies.
During the excavation a corpse is found at a homestead that none of the villagers recognize, but the scout does: it is King Querrin, the Orrite caravan-master that had been transformed into a Hexed during Operation Mimosa Crawdad. Elia the Passing Curse is loose amongst the villagers! I had originally planned a mission of cat-and-mouse, where Elia would kill villagers and Legionnaires, change bodies constantly and create a feeling of paranoia. Instead, the Officer used Channels to gain books and reports discussing hexes and magic, which allowed him to make a gather information roll with limited effect, which he pushed on for greater effect and then rolled a critical. So instead, Elia was almost instantly exposed as the old widow who made the soup. Elia uses her hexes to transform herself into a powerful combat god and almost succeeds in killing a number of Grinning Ravens and the Marquis before she is ultimately put down. As Elia is struck down, a bolt of lightning from the sky strikes her, and a second later, far in the distance another bolt of lightning strikes something. The Officer successfully determines that the bolt of lightning represents Elia’s spirit leaving her body and probably entering a pre-prepared “host”. He orders the Grinning Ravens to return to excavation, but makes a note of the location in the hopes that they can catch and kill her at a later date.
The Grinning Ravens and their Aldermani laborers successfully find the tomb and open it up before the main part of Breaker’s horde catches up with them. They find the banner within, which the Lorekeeper says is still a bright yellow green. Also known as the Poison Banner, the Tantari Banner must be handled with gloves because the dyes used to make it neon are toxic. The Banner is placed on a mass grave with the inscription: “Here lie the cursed dead, blameless though they be.”

Secondary Mission: Orchid Prawn-Recon, Dangerous Undead, Exfiltration, Earn Troops, Fail: -1 Morale
The Ember Wolves, lead by sniper Kazimir Schvalev and heavy Kingfisher attack a “processing center” where Black Oak Knights work with Shadow Witches to turn captured civilians into Gaunt and Hounds. The facility is also engaging in horrifying grisly experiments involving vivisection and cinderblood. The Emberwolves successfully lead the captured refugees to safety but rookies Datlov Onorov and Ziemowit Kuzichnya are killed by the Infamous Devourer, Silver. It is the second time that Silver has killed Legionnaires on an otherwise successful mission.

The Quartermaster asks for a special project: Find Elia the Passing Curse and kill her. I agree because the group mortally wounded her, forced her to switch to another body and cut her off from her support. The special project goes slowly, and he uses both campaign actions to complete it and kill her.

The Commander requests the input of the Command Staff, where should she advance? The Lorekeeper suggests advancing to Sunspear and then to Duresh Forest, the Horned One’s Chosen should be more powerful there. The Quartermaster and Marshal both argue that they should take the path to Westlake. The Commander disagrees. The Legion will advance to the Long Road.

The Quartermaster spends all Supply in Plainsworth, buying Food and Horses. The Legion will advance with no money in their coffers.

Failed Mission: Rose Isopod: Supply, Secure Supplies from the Enemy, +3 Supply, Fail: -1 Morale
Render leads a convoy bearing useful war materiel back west to his armies. The Black Oak Knights are well rested and provisioned now and can launch longer ranged expeditions while they wait for the rest of their army to ford the Taigeria.

Session Five: The Long Road

At the beginning of the session, Cavalieri Ignacio is awarded the Sword of Valor for his heroism on Operation Begonia Barnacle. We learn from the Lorekeeper that the Sword of Valor is an ancient ceremonial sword carved from heartwood that is presented to rookies and soldiers who have distinguished themselves against great enemies in battle. The Sword of Valor is gifted along with a special brass belt-loop that holds it. When a new soldier receives the Sword of Valor, the prior owner keeps the belt loop and a new loop is gifted with the sword. “Earning your loop” is Legionnaire slang for being stupidly brave.

Primary Mission: Black Beagle: Assault: Powerful Undead, +2 Morale, +1 Intel, Favor: Holy, Fail: +1 Pressure
Render’s lieutenant, the Sable Arrow has been dispatched across the Taigeria with an elite unit of Black Oak Knight cavalry to harry the Legion. Alerted by their scouts, the Legion decides to ambush the harriers. The Marshal sends the Ember Wolves lead by the Viscount Leon and the scout Silver Dancing Blade.
The Sable Arrow was one of Zemya’s greatest archers before her fall, and the corruption that now runs through her veins only makes her stronger. She travels separately from her cavalry detachment so that she can use them as a distraction.
Silver Shining Blade uses her Scrounge ability to create a decoy campsite complete with “scarecrow” soldiers. Two Ember Wolves will stay with the camp so that they can tend a fire and make the camp obvious to anyone following them. The Black Oak Knights fall for the trap, but the Sable Arrow does not and also discovers the ambush position. Fortunately, Silver Shining Blade notices the Black Sable creeping up on the Ember Wolves ambushers.
The Sable Arrow tries to warn off the Black Oak Knights by launching a flare in the air, but the Viscount Leon counters by doing a complicated flashback: first, he researches Black Oak Knight signal flares, and then launches his own flares to confuse the signals. The Black Oak Knights, not knowing what to do, decide to charge the camp at speed. When they reach the camp, the two Rookies spring the trap by overturning their campfire, spreading burning pitch on the ground that causes dozens of gallons of oil to light on fire in a circle around the Black Oak Knights and their horses. The rookies barely escape before the fires have encircled the Knights, and both are singed.
At the same time, Silver Shining Blade alerts the ambushers to the position of the Sable Arrow and the Legion charges her position. I created a 4-tick clock called “The Killing Fields” to represent the charge across open ground against one of the world’s best archers. The group manuever roll is a critical success and the Ember Wolves close the distance. The Sable Arrow is surrounded, and despite her great martial skill begins to lose the fight. When it becomes clear to her that she cannot win, she opens a vial of cinderblood, drinks it and transforms herself into a walking bomb. Two Ember Wolves, Yoldash Mamudov and Prince Milo Bolestari are killed in the explosion. The remaining Black Oak Knights seeing their leader struck down retreat.

Secondary Mission: Gray Greyhound: Recon: Infiltration, +3 Intel, Fail: +2 deaths
The Shattered Lions, led by Kazimir Shvalev infiltrate one of Breaker’s fortresses and escape with a large cache of documents, including documents that suggest that Breaker is planning on betraying Render and that Breaker is in a great deal of trouble because of her research on Dar Shades. A successful mission with casualties: soldiers Einhart Meckler and Parmesh Tikwalla blow themselves up while allowing the rest of the Legion to escape. RIP to the Legion’s one explosives expert.

Failed Mission: Blue Basenji: Assault: Undead, +2 Morale, +1 Intel, Fail: +1 Pressure: The small village of Kohnsbitte is wiped off the map by Breaker’s forces, converted into Hexed and Burned that flood the road behind the Legion. It will be hard for refugees to follow in the Legion’s footsteps.

The Sword of Valor is awarded to Ember Wolves Rookie, Emerald Growing Weald, who was instrumental in taking down the Sable Arrow. The prior recipient, Cavalliere Ignacio keeps the Valor belt loop and participates in the hand-off ceremony.

A Tale of the Legion’s Independence: The Legion split during the reign of the Last Emperor into loyalists and rebels and participated in the civil war that led up to the Last Emperor’s assassination by Zora and Osyngria. The rebels won the war by feinting to pull the loyalists away from their Emperor, giving Zora enough time to assassinate him. The rebels founded the Third Legion after the war and marked their new status as mercenaries by tattooing new oaths into their skins. To this day, all Soldiers and above in the Legion receive tattoos establishing their rank and history. The rebel Legion is also called the Second Legion. Officers have magical tattoos derived from the same chemicals used to make Crimson Shot. The traitor legion used scarification and “blood oaths”.

Nice!
You sure need critical successes when you take the fight to an enemy Lieutenant!
Was there some good tactical ideas during the fight or was it just group Skirmish after group Skirmish?

All the good tactical ideas got them to the scene where they got their big group skirmish rolls, but there were a lot of Protect rolls used to safeguard the rookies. On at least 2 occasions I tried to murder 3-4 rookies as a consequence of a partial success and each time the specialists and PC rookies stepped up to take the damage instead. It was an ugly fight.

Session Six: Barrak Mines 1

The Commander chooses to advance to Barrak Mines triggering the following scenes:

Render gains the services of the Heartless: We get a scene where the Black Oak Knights who fled the battle at the Long Roads are captured by Render and his elite. They are given “one last chance” to prove their loyalty to Render. He forces each of the Black Oak Knights to drink his cinderblood, and then throws them knives at their feet. “Rip out your hearts if you are still loyal to me.”

Breaker gains Nature’s Fury: On the first night of travel to Barrak, the Horned One wakes in the middle of the night screaming in agony. Her forests are being corrupted and stolen from her.

The Horned One earns the Shapeshifter power. Intelligence rewards will be a regular part of play from now on.

The Quartermaster finishes his first Long Term Project with mechanical benefits. The Legion has relearned its old sign language protocols.

Sign Language
Long ago the Legion fought a terrifying Chosen who could turn people into his thralls with the power of his voice. The Crimson Lions purposely pierced their eardrums so that they could fight him. Afterwards, the Lions developed their own dialect of sign language which spread to the entire Legion. The practice died out after the Godswar but has been recently re-adopted.

  • Legionnaires may communicate with each other using hand gestures.
  • Subtle commands that won’t be seen by outsiders can be done with a Sway action.
  • If a Group Scout Action is lead by a Legionnaire with at least 1 rank in Scout, all Legionnaires participating in the action are treated as having at least 1 rank of Scout.

Primary Mission: Operation Megadeath Beatle: Special Mission. The Star Vipers lead by Viscount Leon and the Kingfisher Knight successfully enter the depths of Barrak Mines and kill a corrupted Deep Mole Queen that has set herself up in a pit of corrupted alchemicals. Both Heavies receive a decent amount of Corruption, but there are no deaths or serious injuries. Near the end of the mission, the Viscount Leon’s Trauma gets the better of him and he assaults a Rookie without cause.

Secondary Mission: Operation Lumen Mosquito: The Silver Stags, lead by the Marquis du Cochon du Solaire raid a captured food convoy successfully but White Riding Lightning and Green Crashing Tree are picked off by the Shadow Witch’s Devourers, lifted hundreds of feet into the air and sent screaming to their deaths on the rocks below. The Elite Devourer Silver is at the battle, the second time he has inflicted great casualties on the Legion.

Failed Mission: Operation Hertz Mosquito: Raids around Barrak Mines by Shadow Witches mounted on Devourers go unchallenged. Hundreds of residents in outlying communities are captured by Breaker’s forces and transformed into Hexed and Burned.

Following the mission, the Lorekeeper tells a Tale of the Legion’s Hardening in Battle. We learn about how the Legion fought during the Godswar and was almost killed to a man. We also learn that this is the “Era of the Fifth Legion”. The First Legion existed from the time of its founding until the civil war. The Second Legion refers to the period from the Civil War until the death of the Last Emperor. The Third Legion lasts from the death of the Last Emperor until the Godswar. The Fourth Legion exists from the Godswar until the Battle at Ettenmark Fields. Each Legion was destroyed at the end of its era and rebuilt itself from almost nothing. “Take heart! We are the Fifth Legion, and we will rise from the ashes of the Fourth!”

Session 7: Barrak Mines 2
The Commander at the Quartermaster’s insistence agrees to stay another round in Barrak.

The Kingfisher Knight demands that the Marshal punish the Viscount Leon for assaulting a rookie. During Operation Megadeath Beetle, Viscount Leon’s Viscious Trauma got the better of him and he assaulted a rookie who he felt wasn’t “working hard enough”. The Marshal, who would rather have nothing to do with this, realizes that the Kingfisher Knight could create a morale problem and agrees to discipline the Viscount. The Viscount is censured and at roll-call the Marshal reminds the Legion that Legionnaires are forbidden from attacking each other outside of training. The Viscount will not be allowed to lead missions in the future, although the Horned One sticks up for the Viscount. “He is a brave warrior and great ally. But what makes him great makes him dangerous. Accept him for who he is.”

Due to a misunderstanding about how Special Mission rolls work, the Legion ended up with two Special Missions this turn. The Commander and I both thought that FIRST you roll for missions, and then you ask the Commander if they want to spend Intelligence for a Special Mission, potentially leading to 2 Special Missions on the same turn. Stras clarified that you ask the Commander if they want to spend Intelligence first, and only use the number-of-missions table if they don’t spend Intelligence.

Primary Mission: Operation Bushel Spider: Special Mission.
Almost 300 years ago, two Chosen of the Living God, Zora and Oysingra killed the Last Emperor in battle. Oysingra was badly wounded in the fighting and according to legends either committed suicide or was sealed alive inside her tomb along with her honor guard near Barrak. The Horned One’s Chosen believes that Oysingra may still be “alive” and that putting her to rest could bring great power to the Legion.

The Kingfisher Knight leads the Star Vipers into an ancient temple deep within a mountain cave. The legion narrowly escapes death in the face of traps and Osyngra’s vampire retainers. The traps are deactivated, and Onyx Sleeping Fog uses a flashback and a series of documents to suddenly learn how to speak Old Zemya, allowing him to talk to the vampire retainers. When the retainers realize that the Star Vipers are representatives of the “rebel legion” from their era, they allow them to pass without incident.
They travel deeper into the crypts. Oysingra is inside the inner crypt, quite mad, but still alive not undead. Onyx Sleeping Fog, the Star Vipers primary academic is able to speak to her in Old Zemya and gains valuable intelligence about the Last Emperor and the nature of corruption. When her madness shows again, the Star Vipers are forced into battle. She is defeated after a prolonged battle and Kingfisher Knight, Onyx Sleeping Fog and Madhab Parshad are blessed with the Living God’s blessing.

Secondary Mission: Operation Kilo Scorpion: Special Mission
Blighter’s forces have mostly stayed in the south but Breaker has invited a small force of Blighter’s elite undead to help her reinforce their positions near Gallows Pass. Defeating these undead would put a large hole in the Cinder King’s net around Barrak and significantly improve the Legion’s chance for survival into Gallow’s Pass.

Kazimir Shvalev leads an assault force of Ghost Owls against Blighter and discover early on in the battle that the caustic chemicals being transported to the mountain fortress are explosive. A plan is hatched and Blighter’s mountain fort is destroyed with its own chemicals sabotaged by the Ghost Owls. No casualties.

Failed Mission: Dol Tick: There are no longer any communities surrounding Barrak Mines that have not been fully converted into Burned and Hexed.

The Quartermaster starts a new Long Term Project: Black Oil: Specially prepared blackshot chemicals can be applied to melee weapons.