Friday, 13 May 2016

I.4: The Soldier

Eyre 22, 997 YK

The failure to track the cultist watching them at the house means that the party is waiting for a lead. That means time has passed since the last session. That opens things up for larger changes in the GM moves: the situation can get worse by more in a few days than it could have in a few hours.

We have a new adventure front: rebels in Thaliost. The Grim Portents for this front can be:

  • Rebels loyal to Aundair make a deal with the Blood of Vol to get weapons. [Already happened.]
  • The rebels attack Thrane’s patrols in the city.
  • The garrison becomes overstretched and cannot police the entire city.
  • Unrest spreads and the rebels incite much of citizenry to revolt.
  • The Blood provides weapons and tactical direction to the revolt.
  • The garrison loses control of the city.
  • Silver Flame worshippers and those thought loyal to Thrane are executed or driven out of the city.

I’m setting this up so that the revolt is only sure to succeed if the Blood are helping; the rebels alone are unhappy but not very organized. If the Blood fail to provide support, it could still be a bloody revolt, but the army of Thrane (which, after all, was fighting a real war only two years ago, so they mostly veteran soldiers) has a decent chance against street rabble.

The Two Dragons was starting to get busy, as some market traders closed up for the evening and came in looking for food and an ale. Esthana had been in this tavern a few times before, though like most soldiers here she would normally frequent the taverns close to the Garrison itself.

Anaya sat with her. They were eating at a table by the tavern window, looking onto the street outside. Vaalyun’s assistant had brought a message to them earlier today, arranging a meeting at this tavern this evening. So here they had come, but there was no sign of Vaalyun yet.

The sign of the Two Dragons itself was just outside above the window where she sat, shining now in the twilight: the red dragon Khyber in the center snapping to escape, the golden dragon of Eberron endlessly circling it. Esthana wondered how many years it was since the magewright had crafted that sign. The red dragon on it carried a hint of malevolence that unsettled her.

Esthana had half expected to be dismissed back to her unit as soon as the inspection at the house was completed, but instead Anaya had retained her for three days now. It was a great honour, in Esthana’s mind, to be so selected. Esthana had known many field medics in her service in two armies, and had had broken ribs healed by the touch of a Jorasco healer once, but had never known a cleric personally. But more than that, Esthana was a worshipper of the Silver Flame; as a cleric of the Flame, Anaya’s abilities channelled the light of the Flame itself.

Maybe Anaya has had some luck through the garrison in getting a lead on what to do next?

Followers, Do Their Thing(Anaya): 2D6(2 3) +1 = 6 Failure!
Show signs of an approaching threat Front: Claim territory or resources

Three days have passed, Think offscreen: let’s advance the front that I just made.

Some of that time had been spent by Anaya questioning the leader of every patrol to come back in to the garrison, asking about anything out of the ordinary. Most of what they learned was not news to Esthana; the general population liked the soldiers little and rarely cooperated with them, so there were tales of suspect individuals running from patrols, but nothing that seemed to connect with the cultists that Anaya sought. More worryingly, there had been unrest in the north part of the city last night; patrols were attacked, and the rioters were armed with bows and swords. Such well armed resistance inside the city was a new and troublesome development.

At this point, we have fictionally established that some parts of the city are dangerous to travel around; which means the characters might start triggering the Undertake a Perilous Journey sequence of moves just going to some places. They are in trouble.

Suddenly, Vaalyun sat down with them. He had acquired another cloak, Esthana noted, dark blue with a deep hood. He seemed nervous and worried, in contrast to his state of calm when they had met him the other day.

“Next time, sit at the back of the tavern,” he said.

“We can see the street from here,” said Esthana.

“Which would be useful, if you had something to watch for. But as it was you that was being watched the other day, being seen from the street should be more of a threat than an opportunity.”

“I have seen no-one watching us.”

“Good. I watched you for half an hour, until I was confident that no-one else is.”

Esthana wondered if he was lying. They knew little about what this elf really was, but Anaya seemed happy to trust him.

“Did you manage to follow that watcher?” said Anaya. “Was he watching for us?”

“He was certainly observing that house, and he paid particular attention to your visit,” said Vaalyun. “He left when you did, which makes me think that he was watching for you, Templar, in particular. You stand out.”

“Perhaps his group is doing something that they know will draw the interest of the Templars.”

“Perhaps. I followed him to the Olladra’s Hat; he saw me, however, and managed to lose me there.”

“What else have you found?”

Okay, Vaalyun is going to try his hireling group. Come on, something has to work here.

Followers, Do Their Thing(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 4) +1 = 8 Partial success.

Okay, so they get it, but there needs to be an unforseen consequence or a limitation. A few thoughts occur to me:

  • One of Vaalyun’s hirelings could be spotted and captured.
  • They could find a cultist base but not the main base.
  • They are on the move right now, so there’s no time to gather help from the Garrison.

I rolled for it between those options, and rolled a 1: one of the hirelings is a prisoner.

“I believe I have found another meeting place, or perhaps even their base of operations. Two individuals meeting the descriptions that you gave were seen entering an alley alongside a building in the area north of that house, earlier today. However, I am worried that my observer may have been spotted and captured—that was his last report, at midday today, and Ryfon was unable to find him this afternoon. Ievos is generally reliable, so I am very concerned about him. These cultists of yours are unusually efficient.” Vaalyun rubbed his hands together nervously; no wonder his mood is so changed, Esthana thought.

Anaya became more serious. “We must go at once and secure as many of the cultists as we can, and free your agent if he is held there.”

Spout Lore(Esthana): 2D6(4 5) +0 = 9 Partial success.
Vague indication

“The west district was calm last night,” said Esthana, “but it is not so far from where the trouble was last night on the north side of town. The Commander may even be reluctant to spare us the soldiers.”

Investigate(Anaya): 2D6(5 3) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Unclear idea

“Do you think it likely that they have the Garrison under observation?”

“There is no way to be sure,” said Vaalyun. “There are probably a dozen agents watching the Garrison; there will be agents of the Five Nations, and some from other groups. Whether our cultists have the means to keep a watch on it, we do not know, but they are certainly suspicious and alert.”

Recruit(Anaya): 2D6(6 6) +1 = 13 Success!

The GM has discretion to give a +1 bonus here and I did so, since we fictionally established that she is respected by the garrison commander and the army here generally.

They had no trouble getting support from the Garrison. Commander Stamos had the army on alert already. Anaya was eager to set out quickly, so two companies of soldiers were sent out with her immediately, with two more to follow within half an hour.

The companies were under the command of Lieutenant Athanas, a tall human man with a soldier’s upright bearing. He and Anaya led at front; behind them came the soldiers. Although the soldiers were all armed and wearing chainmail, sharply contrasting with the few civilians that they passed in the street, the soldiers were still nervous: they had not been told tonight’s objective, and all knew about the violence last night.

Esthana fell in with the second rank of soldiers as they departed the Garrison. It was dark now, though the streets here were well illuminated by everbright lanterns. The air was still, and the cloudless sky overhead gave a clear view of the glittering blue ring of Siberys encircling Eberron, as well as several of Eberron’s moons.

I’m rolling d100 against the racial composition of the city, from the Eberron wikia, for NPCs that do not have a clear affiliation (I did not for Vaalyun’s hirelings, as a counterexample, since it makes more sense for him to have elves). Give everyone personhood.

As they walked north, the soldier to her side—a halfling, only four feet tall, armed with a shortbow—was trying to get her attention, with a questioning look on his face that needed no explanation. Esthana felt she could not say much, but after a few more paces she just gripped her sword hilt and looked back at the halfling. He nodded after a moment, looking serious, and began to restring his bow.

I am trying the Perilous Wilds rules for journeys. Anaya spent the previous day talking to patrols, and she is leading up front, so she is navigating. Vaalyun I think is distancing himself a little from the soldiers, and can act as scout.

Navigate(Anaya): 2D6(3 4) +2 = 9 Partial success.
You encounter a Danger
Scout(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 1) +0 = 4 Failure!
Location move(Use a threat from an existing faction): Rioters

Unrest is spreading: that’s a hard GM move that I could only make because of the failure there. If they had a success on either roll, or two partial successes, they could have had no trouble or something minor and avoidable. But the party just isn’t having much go in their favour.

Turning into another street, they saw a building ablaze about a fifty yards away. The fire looked newly started, with flames at the ground floor windows but none from the upper storeys. And, by the light of the streetlamps, they could see a group of five or six people gathered outside the building; one glance at the soldiers, and the group began to retreat, some breaking into a run.

“Forward at the double!” shouted Athanas. He dispatched groups of soldiers into side streets to see if they could catch any of the arsonists.

GM move(soft): Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask

They can ignore this burning building, but whoever is inside might die.

Anaya, Esthana and several soldiers were the first to reach the blazing building itself. It was a tailor’s shop, and through the window they could see that much of the ground floor was ablaze. Someone inside was shouting for help. As Esthana was about to enter, Anaya delayed her a moment and touched her shoulder. Esthana felt a fresh, pure energy flow through her.

“The Flame guides you,” said Anaya.

Cast a Spell(Bless)(Anaya): 2D6(3 3) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Lose the spell

Due to Anaya’s advanced move Serenity, which she took on levelling up, she ignores the -1 penalty for having Bless ongoing. Losing the spell is a nuisance though; we’re not even at the destination yet.

Defy Danger(CON)(Esthana): 2D6(4 1) +1+1 = 7 Partial success.
Hesitation, worse outcome

I think she gets through the smoke, but it takes longer, and the fire will be barring the way when she wants to get back.

The front door was shut, but the lock was already smashed; Esthana went inside. The shopfront here was all ablaze; the heat and smoke would have deterred most people, but Esthana calmly and quickly strode to the stairs on the far side, holding a corner of her tabard over her mouth to try to avoid choking on the smoke. The fire was spreading quickly though, and the thought crossed her mind that she might not be able to get back out this way. Another shout came from above.

Upstairs, it was fiercely hot and thick with smoke, but the fire had not reached here yet. She found a man in the back room, attired in the fine clothes of a merchant, coughing and frantically searching through a bureau.

“I can’t find my key,” he said. “Can we get out downstairs?”

“Not without a lot of burns,” said Esthana. “The windows are warded?”


I like it—Blur the lines between magic and technology.

“I keep a wand for fighting fires downstairs,” he added, “behind the counter, but I could not reach it.”

Esthana has probably already lost the chance to save the shop itself. But she might get this guy out.

Discern Realities(Esthana): 2D6(1 4) +0+1 = 6 Failure!
Reveal an unwelcome truth Put someone in a spot

Esthana looked around, but it was getting hard to see with the smoke: she could not see any key. A shop like this would have warded windows—breaking them, even from the inside, would trigger a magical explosion. Useful for deterring thieves, but now the security measure would make it hard for them to escape.

Esthana grabbed the shopkeeper’s arm. “Behind the counter, you said?”

“Yes, under the cash register.”

Defy Danger(CON)(Esthana): 2D6(1 2) +1+1 = 5 Failure!
Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: You can go get the wand, but you’ll be badly burned. Or smash windows to get out, and get hit by whatever trap is on them. Or stay here and die.

Ouch. Esthana needs to stop rolling 1s. Be a fan of the characters: in a game with a lot of character death, Esthana would probably just pass out from smoke inhalation and burn to death here. But that’s not Dungeon World’s style, or Eberron’s, so instead we’re just giving the character a chance to have a really bad time being heroic.

Esthana went back out of the room, coughing in the smoke, to the top of the stairs. The fire had spread onto the stairs themselves now. Esthana’s chainmail was already uncomfortably hot, even through the padding; down there, it would quickly become unbearable. Esthana turned back, grabbed the shopkeeper, and dragged him through into the front room on the upper floor.

“Follow after the window is broken,” she said, pushing him under a table. Sweating in the heat, coughing in the smoke, she unshouldered her shield; smoke rose in wisps between the planks in the floor as the fire roared below. She let out a cry and charged at the window, holding her shield in front of her.

As a fighter, Esthana has just the move for this moment. The description is “When you use pure strength to destroy an inanimate obstable...”

Bend Bars, Lift Gates(Esthana): 2D6(5 5) +1+1 = 12 Success!
It doesn’t take a very long time. You can fix the thing again without a lot of effort. Nothing of value is damaged.

Any character could have tried to do the same thing fictionally, of course, but for them it would be a Defy Danger(STR) which lets the GM control how long it takes and set penalties on a partial success. With Bend Bars, Lift Gates, Esthana has more control. As it happens, she succeeded, so it’s all good.

This is what DungeonWorld considers a Golden Opportunity though, so I still get to make a GM move: the player has ignored an established threat in the fiction.

Deal damage: 2d6 (equivalent to the fireball spell, for the magical seal) + d6 (for falling) = 12 damage.

As Esthana hit the casement, there was a flash of arcane runes, and then an explosion of lightning as the ward triggered. Esthana felt the shock pass through her as it discharged. Her strength and weight easily smashed the casement though, and she fell to the street below, hitting the ground hard. She lay there, dazed and in pain, amid the broken glass and charred wood.

And that’s how fighters deal with traps in D&D.

Followers, Do Their Thing(Anaya): 2D6(1 3) +1 = 5 Failure!
Location move(Use a threat from an existing faction or type of creature)

Good grief, the party is failing so many rolls. That was a roll for the soldiers to see if they caught any of the arsonists.

Esthana lay there stunned for several seconds, then shook herself. As she put out an arm to raise herself up, she felt someone else lying on the ground next to her; turning her head, she saw that it was the halfling soldier: on his back with an arrow in his side.

Okay, so what’s been going on while Esthana was in the building? A tactic in urban unrest, even today, is to start some incident like a fire in order to ambush the first responders. And, as GM, I know that the rebels in the city have weapons.

Let’s start by seeing how the soldiers reacted to the ambush.

Order Follower(Anaya): 2D6(5 1) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Decrease the follower’s Loyalty by 1

Okay, they stick around, but they are less likely to put themselves into any new danger. I’ll use the Rebel enemy from the monster list; let’s say there are eight of them.

Volley (assisted)(Anaya): 2D6(6 3) +1 = 10 Success!
Best of d6, d6+1 damage = 3

That kills one.

Esthana could hear the clashing of swords nearby now. As she looked up, she saw Anaya running towards her now; beyond, Esthana could see several soldiers fighting against cloaked figures. She heard someone hit the pavement behind her, and turned to see that the shopkeeper had jumped down, and was picking himself up from the pavement.

Cure Light Wounds(Anaya): 2D6(6 3) +2 = 11 Success!
3 points healed

Esthana is at 16/25 hitpoints.

Anaya laid a hand on her shoulder, and Esthana felt the purifying energy of the Flame flow through her again. She had sometimes thought that she could sense the Flame’s presence when praying, but nothing like this: the power that Anaya could channel was awe-inspiring. The fatigue and pain seemed to recede; she took Anaya’s hand and got to her feet, shakily.

Discern Realities(Anaya): 2D6(3 6) +2 = 11 Success!
What happened here recently? What here is useful or valuable to me? Hold 1.

“The fire was a setup,” said Anaya, “distracting us ready for an ambush. But there do not seem to be many of them; they expected to lure a regular patrol, not two companies of soldiers.”

Rebels, thought Esthana. What has emboldened them so?

Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities

Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 5) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Put someone in a spot

As they moved towards the melee, Esthana saw Vaalyun step out of the shadows on the other side of the fight, grabbing one of the cloaked attackers from behind and putting a dagger to his throat. But while he was busy disarming that rebel, another began to circle behind him, readying his sword for a strike. As one, Anaya and Esthana drew their bows, and as the attacker raised his sword he was hit by their arrows. He staggered, and Esthana quickly drew her bow again and put another arrow into his chest; he collapsed behind Vaalyun without landing a blow.

Aid(Anaya): 2D6(1 4) +2 = 7 Partial success.
Expose yourself to danger
Volley(Esthana): 2D6(3 1) +2+1+1 = 8 Partial success.
Take several shots; 5 damage.

Good grief, so many 1s; it’s hard not to get a full success with a +4 bonus (that’s +2 for her Dex, +1 for the Bless, +1 for Aid), but we managed it here.

Defend(Esthana): 2D6(4 4) +1+1 = 10 Success!
3 hold

Esthana picked out another rebel at the edge of the melee, catching them in the side with an arrow and injuring them badly. Two more rebels broke away from the melee and charged towards her and Anaya; Esthana drew her sword and moved to meet them.

Spend hold(Esthana): Redirect an attack to self Spend hold(Esthana): Deal damage equal to your level (1)

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(5 1) +2+1 = 9 Partial success.
5 damage taken; 10 damage dealt

Spend hold(Esthana): Halve the attack’s damage (to 2, which is then absorbed by her armour)

10 damage to the enemies (that’s max damage for Esthana) takes the total damage to the enemies to 16, enough to kill 5 of them—well, they don’t have to be dead, of course—and Vaalyun disarmed one more. That’s most of them dealt with. The remaining two will surrender I think. Finally something goes the party’s way.

Esthana has the fighter/elf class move that makes her precise with short swords (which is why she takes +2, her dex bonus, on Hack and Slash), so she can do any fancy stuff she likes to disable these rebels.

The first assailant, a woman with long dark hair flowing out from under the hood of her cloak, tried to run at Anaya, but Esthana put herself and her shield in the way. The assailant swung energetically, but Esthana easily pushed the sword away with her shield, and stabbed the attacker in the shoulder; the attacker fell bleeding, dropping her sword. The second assailant had circled around, and slashed with her sword at Esthana’s exposed side, but the blow slid off of Esthana’s mail. Esthana turned, and with a flick of the wrist knocked the sword from the rebel’s hand, and quickly put her sword to the rebel’s neck. “Down,” said Esthana, and the attacker—a teenage girl whose anger quickly turned to fright—complied.

Esthana advanced into the melee. She had fought in many battles during the Last War, so fighting alongside others to take down an opponent came easily to her. The rebels had lost their initial enthusiasm now, and were neither trained in close combat nor armoured. This was not a war though, and the enemies were not soldiers, so she tried to disable rather than kill; she tripped one and kicked his sword away, and she dealt a cut to the sword hand of the next.

More of Lieutenant Athanas’ men had come in from the adjacent street now. Most of the rebels surrendered now, and those that tried to flee were seized.

Spend hold(Anaya): Who’s really in control here?

“This one, I think, is the ringleader,” Anaya said as Athanas approached, pointing to the first woman that Esthana had stabbed. Although holding her shoulder to staunch the bleeding, the woman was staring up at them defiantly.

Blur the lines between magic and technology: magewrights crafting wands with specific spell effects bound to them are an everyday thing in Eberron. So I guess the fire brigade here would just be some guy with a cone of cold wand.

The shopkeeper, limping a little and his clothes stained with smoke, had returned. With him was another civilian, a well dressed man with an array of tools hanging from his belt—a magewright of some sort, Esthana thought, maybe a tinker. The tinker drew a wand from his belt and, pointing it through the open door of the building, projected a cone of freezing mist into the ground floor, extinguishing the fire there.

Anaya was checking the wounded. She turned to the halfling soldier who had taken the arrow to the side, still lying on the ground. “Esthana, can you draw this arrow? I should be able to close the wound.”

GM move(soft): Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities

Cast a Spell(Cure Light Wounds)(Anaya): 2D6(4 5) +2 = 11 Success!
Heals 3
Spout Lore(Esthana): 2D6(5 3) +0+1 = 9 Partial success.
Information, up to players to make it useful

Esthana knelt on the other side of the soldier, ignoring the blood pooled on the pavement. The arrow had driven through the links of his chainmail—a narrow arrow-head, Esthana thought to herself. She had pulled a few of these on the field before; with one sharp pull, the arrow came out. Anaya laid her hand on the wound, and the silver light of the Flame glowed around her hand. When she took her hand away, Esthana saw that the wound was gone.

He was the most serious of the wounded; no soldiers had been killed, and while several other soldiers had injuries, none were serious. There were two dead rebels, and six prisoners with minor injuries. Anaya did not need to use her healing magic again; one of the soldiers joined her and applied bandages for those that needed them.

They finished with the wounded. The smell of smoke still lingered in the air, but the fire was out now, and the shop was still standing—albeit much damaged, blacked with smoke and with ice covering the window panes. The shopkeeper was outside again now, and angry.

“Aundarian sympathisers!” shouted the shopkeeper. “They always spit at us loyalists, but to attack my shop! I hope they all hang for this outrage!”

“The Archbishop will see that they are punished for this crime,” said Anaya. “You may petition him tomorrow if you wish.”

Vaalyun had joined them. “We must go, Templar,” he said anxiously. “This distraction has delayed us for too long already.”

Use up their resources GM move(soft): Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: If they let at least one company of soldiers go back, the Lieutenant will go along with it. Otherwise, it’s a roll.

Given how bad this party rolls, and the Loyalty of this hireling group is now 0, they should probably take the deal.

“We have wounded,” said Athanas. “And these prisoners must be escorted back to the Garrison. To drag them around the city risks them escaping, or might trigger a riot to try to free them.”

Anaya said “Send one company, including all the wounded, back to the garrison, escorting the prisoners. We will proceed with the other company to deal with the cultists.”

“As you say, Templar.”

Well, that was messy. Net effect of all that mess is that we advanced the adventure front, and have seen clearly now that the situation in Thaliost is deteriorating. We also used up quite a bit of party resources prior to their reaching the cultist base.

End of Session(party): Esthana fulfilled her alignment goal, Defend those weaker than yourself. +1 XP

Anaya: 2 failures, now at 2 XP.
Vaalyun: 1 failure; now 5XP.
Esthana: 2 failures, alignment goal met; now 5XP.

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