Friday, 4 March 2016

Iron Kingdoms Roleplay - Session Twenty Two

For those of you who haven't been keeping up you can find earlier sessions and background material in here. The stats of the player characters can be found here should you be interested and the rest of the 'Brotherhood of the Rail' mercenary companies NPC's backgrounds can be found here.

This weeks attendees would be Lieutenant Rafaldo Scorgiani (Steve's character), Martin's Priestess and 'Spiritual Advisor' Danika Jansen, Andrews Pygmy Troll character Toborg Lugosh. Phil's Rhulic Warcaster named Thorsten Dovur and Tom's Nyss character Lyra Syalyss. My own character 'Bosh' Skullsplitter will be off on other duties for these missions as I've been GMing for the last few sessions.

Note - As I was GMing and obviously had notes and intro bits written down I've just pasted them into this article directly so they'll be in a 'reading to the group' style. This'll save me a lot of time writing out everything again and hopefully wont effect your reading enjoyment too much bouncing between the two styles of writing.

Mission Twenty Two - 'Divide and Conquer...'

Editors Note - A month or so had gone by between our last session and this one due to a bewildering number of personal commitments of the players occurring at once so I thought a summary for the players as a bit of a refresher may be a good idea...

With an evening of information gathering complete you return to your base of operations in order to compare information and decide upon a course of action.

After her encounter with a senior member of a group of Bounty Hunters based in the Wake Isles when making enquiries at one of the Butchers recent 'events' Lyra has managed to ingratiate herself with them enough to be invited to a meeting to discuss certain new and lucrative contracts that she has persuaded them she is expertly qualified to fulfil. Directions have been given to their base near the western end of the Isle with instructions to introduce herself early in the morning as it was implied that several of the contracts may well be fulfilled sooner rather than later. It is of course entirely possible that she is about to except a contract for her own assassination and that of her fellow mercenaries...

Danika has had similar success infiltrating the Crooked Men under the guise of an Arcanist mercenary seeking work and has been invited to a meeting at what the representative claimed is their Headquarters on the Isle. Apparently a contact will be sent to the bar that you have taken over in order to take you to the meeting tomorrow though they were somewhat unspecific about the time.

Despite attempts using a number of ruses and cover stories the rest of the Brotherhood gained only rumours and snippets of information that may or may not prove to be useful as time progresses as some of these seemed contradictory at best.

Editors Note - I handed over a couple of lists of the last sessions discovered rumours as they'd probably forgotten them by now.

Act One - 'Lyra'
Due to your extensive exploration and information gathering over the last few days you easily navigate the sprawling urban mess of squalor and degradation that seem to embody the Wake Isles. After some time you arrive at a solid looking building that matches the description you were given. Several seasoned looking individuals are outside attempting to look casual but are quite obviously on guard. They have the look of pirates rather than mercenaries but pay you no attention as you is immediately evident that it's not you they are waiting for...

Lyra gave them a cursory inspection as she passed and they had the look and tattoos of representatives of the 'Crooked Men' gang. Lyra walked straight inside and as she her purposeful stride marked her as some-one who belonged there they made no attempt to stop them.

Inside the entrance is a spacious room where half a dozen men and women are engaged variously in conversation, weapons maintenance, perusing the wanted posters pinned to one wall and the other usual activities you'd expect from bodyguards and mercenaries while 'off duty'. The gentleman you were talking to at the festivities yesterday notices you and walks over...

"The main man's in today so you'll need to chat with him for the high end contracts. He's in a meeting at the moment but as soon as you see the bitch with the limp leave you can go right in through that door over there..." He indicates a solid looking door in the far corner of the room "Every-one just refers to him as 'the General' idea why...I doubt he ever was one...don't mention I said that though..."

Deciding against any interactions with the other mercenaries that might result in holes appearing in her story she instead took a seat and began to give her weapons some basic care while looking as casual as possible. She did note that the wall of wanted posters contained none relating to piracy whatsoever...apparently there were certain crimes that the sensible bounty hunter did not pursue onto the most violent of the 'Five Fingers' islands.

After some time has passed a tall, striking looking woman walks out of the back room. Two vicious looking daggers hang from sheaves at her waist and a pair of elegant looking pistols are tucked into holsters under each arm. She is lightly armoured though what she has looks to be of excellent quality. She gives you an appraising look as she walks past before exiting though the entrance where the pirates outside drop into bodyguard positions around her. She does indeed exhibit a slight limp seemingly from some injury to her left leg at some point in the past. The door to the rear office remains open.

Seeing no reason to delay the meeting Lyra entered the office to see what she could discover...

A short muscular man in what you presume was once a military uniform but has seen better days is sitting behind a heavy oak desk.

"So your the new merc that got my Lieutenant so excited yesterday" "Ever gone up against any-one worthwhile because these contracts aren't for cut-purses and pickpockets?"

Lyra then gave an elaborate introduction of herself together with a long list of accomplishments with only those recent ones that tied her to the Brotherhood and the dwarf Thorsten left out. her professional manner and impressive qualifications convinced her interviewer that she was indeed capable of fulfilling high end mercenary work and decided to give her the information she desired about the rumoured lucrative contracts on these newcomers to the city.

He reaches into a draw and removes a wad of papers. They have been printed on good quality parchment and each has a well drawn portrait of an individual well known to you on it together with a price and some basic information. He sorts three from the pile of six and drops them in front of you. The likenesses of Raflado, Thorsten and Toborg are clearly drawn on the front with both Thorsten and Raflado being worth three thousand gold crowns each. The picture of Toborg has recently had a value of five hundred crowns on it altered to two thousand...apparently recent events have made him a more valuable target than when the contracts were originally drawn up. The information on them is no doubt useful to a potential assassin relating to areas of expertise, weapon preferences and the like but of course you yourself are well aware of their abilities having fought with them several times and the overview is worryingly accurate. Three others in an identical style remain where he first removed them from the draw and has made no further mention of them.

While making a play of reading the information on the contracts in front of her she tried her best to see what was on those that she hadn't been handed. She noted the likenesses of Bosh, Captain LaCroix and Danika on the remaining three. The one for Captain LaCroix was the only one that had a price for 'Alive' on it and apparently he is worth a further two thousand crowns above the initial three thousand if captured rather than killed. The one for Danika caused her some concern as it had a line through it as if the contract had been cancelled...or fulfilled...yet Danika was fine no more than an hour ago when Lyra had left her at the bar. She decided to risk pushing a little to unravel some of these mysteries but before she could do so her musings were interrupted by 'The General'.

He taps the likeness of Thorsten with his index finger "This one seemingly had a bodyguard of his own but as no-one has seen one since we spotted them on the Isle yesterday we're presuming they died during the failed attempt to eliminate their client Helstrom on his ship a few days ago"

"So are you interested?"

Act Two - 'Danika and Toborg'
Not long after Lyra has departed a scruffy looking beggar arrives at the bar asking for 'The Sorceress'. They inform you they have been sent to bring you to "discuss some work". You are led through a bewildering array of back alleys, side streets and refuse strewn market areas and you get the distinct impression that you've double backed on yourself on more than one occasion.

Toborg had already arranged with Danika to trail her to the meeting in case of any complications. He quickly noticed that Danikas guide seemed to be employing the kind of tactics that one uses when attempting to avoid the possibility of being followed and he recognised several as being similar to those he'd use to shake a pursuer on his own trail in the wilderness. The guide is apparently taking no chances on there being any uninvited guests to this meeting.

You eventually find yourself at a heavily fortified dockyard warehouse in an area surprisingly devoid of any actual dockyard work. Most of those gang members milling about look more like miners than pirates. Several laborjacks are nearby and have been converted with heavy drills, scoops and shovels and other mining paraphernalia in place of their normal limbs and the sounds of heavy industry can be found from inside a building adjacent to the one you've been escorted to.

Both Danika and Toborg noted independently that several of the 'jacks exhibited signs of damage and their experiences of such matters lead them to the conclusion that this had more the look of battle damage than routine 'wear and tear'. The gang member that Danika spoke to at the bloodsporting event the day before is at the entrance to meet her. Seeing no obvious entrance to follow her into the building that wasn't guarded Toborg found himself an elevated position with a good view of the main entrance and it's approaches and dug himself in. Though more comfortable in the wilderness than the city the principles of concealment and ambush were more than familiar to him and he prepared himself for what might be a considerable wait.

You are led past several guards armed with heavy rifles and shotguns at the entrance through a reasonably sized lobby area containing more gang members and from there into an area filled with mattresses, straw bedding and makeshift sleeping bags with doors off to several side-rooms. Evident-ally this was or is a staging area of some kind that has been recently empted of personnel though of their destination there is no clue. Your latest escort directs you to a crude staircase along the far wall that leads to another room on a raised platform in one corner. More of the heavily armed guards are at the base of the staircase and either side of the doorway at the top. You can only presume that this is an area of some importance.

Though Danika's usual instinct was to explore and 'acquire' anything that might be useful she decided that on this one occasion that discretion might be a preferable strategy and rather than mooch through the side rooms she instead headed straight to the indicated meeting place.

Editors Note - This random bout of being sensible was a bit of an inconvenience as there were some relevant clues through those side doors. Fortunately I had already taken into account players not doing what I expected by making sure that all required information was available in more than one place and that there were several NPC's around to fill in the gaps should it become necessary...

The guards part to allow you entry into what is seemingly the Crooked Men's meeting room. A ganger who introduces himself as 'Griffon' is sitting behind a desk made of two barrels with planks across and some fifteen other gangers are also in the substantial meeting room.

Danika was somewhat surprised by the name of her contact as during her interrogation of the survivors of the assault on Helstroms ship she was given this name as the hirer of the 'Butchers' gang member not the 'Crooked Men's one. It seemed that the two gangs were a lot more intertwined than they had been led to believe.

"So 'missy' what can you offer the Crooked Men that we can't do for ourselves?"

The priestess reiterated her story from the day previously with a few extra explanations added as this meeting was far more formal and vital than what was effectively a brief chat the day before, She once again demonstrated her arcane talents on a small scale and began to try to turn the conversation to topics more relevant to the information that the Brotherhood was trying to extract from the reluctant local populace. The meeting seemed to be going well so it's was an almost complete surprise when at some unseen signal all the gang members draw weapons and aim them at you and you feel at least two blades at your back and throat.

"Actually we're all well aware of who you are and why your (both) here and if I see as much as a rune appear anywhere my people have orders to kill you instantly" "Of course we're going to kill you eventually...but not until you've acted as bait for the rest of your lot"

Act Three - 'Thorsten and Rafaldo'
With Both Danika and Lyra otherwise engaged and the bar being fairly quiet Thorsten decided to go utilise the time and check upon the warehouse and his Warjacks and Rafaldo having little else to do decided to accompany him. Their journey across the Isle was uneventful and after some time they reached their arrival point where Thorsten started on some routine equipment maintenance while Rafaldo made some enquiries with the soldiers about any potential danger but other than the periodic removal of beggars and vagrants the situation was apparently under control.

The doorway to the roof access opens suddenly and one of the soldiers that accompanied you on the mission jumps down to the walkway and tries to get Captain Hitch's attention.

"There's a lot of activity going on out there for some reason. It looks like twenty or thirty local gangers are waiting for something and there's also a barge in front of our dock that hasn't moved for a while's almost like it's blocking off the dock on purpose"

Rafaldo decides to take an inconspicuous as possible look at the barge with his spyglass but can glean no useful insights from observing it other than the fact that it's stationary and that several of it's crew are on deck but are making no obviously suspicious moves. Thorsten with his usual dwarfish practicality decided that activating his Rhulic Warjacks might be a sensible precaution while Rafaldo had another look. Seemingly paying more attention this time Rafaldo noted that the barge was quite low in the water and at second glance the crew appeared to be making almost too much of an effort to look casual with more than the expected looks in the direction of the warehouse.

Raflado's attention is then drawn away from his observations as he hears the unmistakable sound of gunfire from both the roof and from outside the warehouse and several shots can be heard ricocheting from the outer walls as the attackers presumably are returning fire at their own people on the roof. The situation was then made infinitely more dangerous as Thorsten felt the presence of another warcaster though he was unable to get a clear idea of direction as the power they were wielding seemed to be coming from multiple locations as if they were somehow focussing power through locations other than their own.

The sound of splintering wood can be heard from the dock area followed by fearful shouts of warning. The warehouse entrance explodes inwards as a large mishap-pen warjack forces it's way inside. It is similar in appearance to those that attacked the Barons ship though this one has had additional layers of armour segmented across it's front section, head and legs. Captain Hitch has kicked open one of the supply crates and is (with surprising calm given the circumstances) loading a large heavy duty projectile into a slug-gun...

As the enemy helljack paused briefly to gain it's bearings Raflado unleashed his most powerful spells in it's direction and was unpleasantly surprised to find that the additional layers of armour seemed to blunt the powers of his arcane attacks quite considerably. The shells fired from the cannons mounted on Thorstens Warjacks were similarly blunted in damage. A strange weapon mounted on the attacking constructed opened fire upon the group and a shell visible only as a sickly blur impacted squarely upon Rafaldo before exploding in a sickening necromantic conflagration. Thorsten had managed to leap aside at the last minute avoiding the blast effects of the unusual projectile weapon and Captain Hitch was fortunate in being only fractionally inside the area of effect and so was spared the brunt of the damage. Rafaldo on the other hand was in quite bad shape but managed to drag himself back to his feet in order to mount a last ditch attempt at bringing down the enemy.

Editors Note - 'Thorsten' has an ability that enables him to avoid blast damage gained from one of his engineering careers (apparently engineers in the Iron Kingdoms are used to stuff exploding) and Rafaldo was forced to use one of his 'Feat Points' to reduce the damage.

The armoured enemy readied itself for another shot before closing on the valiant defenders and Rafaldo realised that bringing it to the ground might buy them some time as well as preventing the second wave of similar constructs he could see emerging from the water from gaining entry and with a heroic effort succeeded in knocking it off it's feet. With the 'jack prone a combination of their remaining spells, cannon fire and the Captains Slug gun shells finally destroyed this terrible opponent and blocked the doorway though this was a brief respite at best. A new plan was needed...

Several more of the 'jacks of the top you were just facing can be seen emerging from the water and there is no longer the sound of gunfire from the outside of the warehouse. Hitch has pulled a piece of parchment from inside his jacket that seems to be a map of some kind.

"I know a secure place we can retreat to but unfortunately the best route to it is through that wall " He points behind you at the warehouse wall...

Needing no further prompting Thorsten ordered his own 'jacks to open fire at the wall blasting a significant hole in the outer shell of the building. Hitch immediately ran for the gap with Rafaldo and the considerably slower dwarf behind. The first jack had little choice but to widen the gap with it's own armoured mass with the second following through the newly widened hole.

The area outside the warehouse is littered with the corpses of beggars and gang members interspersed with the occasional body of one of Hitch's men who have made the attackers pay dearly. The Captain pauses only briefly to grab a bandoleer of grenades from the corpse of one of his men before leading across the killing ground towards a wide side street. The remaining enemy 'jacks had paused briefly as if waiting for instructions but are now once again advancing on your position and another wave of enemies can be seen emerging from both sides of your former warehouse facility. The Captain hasn't bothered to stop to see if you're following...

Act Four - 'Rescues and Retreats...'
Having effectively fooled the bounty hunter into believing her background story and having been offered the contracts on three of the Brotherhood members Lyra decided to push her luck a little and make some enquiries about the remaining three contracts on her leader Sebastian back at the Brotherhoods fortress, the absent Bosh and the rather worrying one on Danika that seemed to indicate that they believed her death was a foregone conclusion, Fortunately the general seemed in the mood to talk and Lyra was able to gradually extract some more sensitive and specific information from him.

Firstly the Crooked Men's leader apparently has a personal grudge against Captain LaCroix and is willing to pay extra for him alive as she wishes to deal with him personally and is 'extremely disappointed' that he hasn't accompanied the mission to the Isles. Secondly their leader has seemingly arranged for extra 'muscle' in anticipation of the Ogrun 'Bosh' being part of the party him being responsible in some way for disrupting a plan of her's on the mainland months ago. This muscle has been provided by what the general will only refer to as 'the underground slavers' and he will not elaborate further as he is clearly in fear of whatever these people are. Finally and most importantly the contract on Danika was no longer available as the Crooked Men's leader had just informed him that they had discovered her on the island and had lured her to a meeting at their main dock nearby where they will be 'removing her from the picture' imminently. Under the premise of wishing to avoid the area Lyra manages to extract from him a detailed description of the Crooked Men's Headquarters location and quickly makes her excuses and leaves.

Editors Note - Much of the information I was giving out was in note form so much of the problems each player was experiencing were unknown to the other party members. This was generating some quite satisfying role-playing moments from several of the PC's which is always a pleasing result when you're GMing.

From her exploratory patrol of the Isle a few days previously Lyra estimated that she could reach the meeting point via safe and reliable rooftop routes in just under half an hour but could halve that time if she was willing to take a direct route and take more risks while travelling. Deciding that the potential danger that Danika was in was worth the risk she set off at what was hopefully only figuratively speaking a 'break-neck pace'. The speed at which she was travelling gave little opportunity for checking ahead and so her agility, jumping and climbing skills and abilities were being tested to their limits as she attempted to reach Danika both before it was too late and before their leader arrived which would no doubt escalate matters significantly.

On arrival at the enemy base Lyra used one of her precious grappling arrows to make her way over to the warehouse roof as she as stealthily as possible looked for a rooftop entrance. Toborg meanwhile was having increasing difficulty in keeping hidden in light of the inexplicable (as far as he knew at least) increasing build-up of guard patrols and therefore didn't notice the stealthy figure of Lyra as she moved virtually over his head to the roof of the warehouse that he was observing the main entrance of.

Editors Note - Two consecutive failed 'Notice' tests didn't help either...

Upon reaching the location of a skylight above the corner room of the warehouse facility Lyra was able to see the form of Danika completely surrounded by armed guards in the room below of which several had bladed weapons at her back. Lyra quickly came up with a plan.....

Editors Note - The plan apparently was to hand me a note with 'SMOKE BOMB' written on it in large letters. On a completely unrelated matter I've now decided that Smoke Bombs are incredibly rare and difficult to make as well as being prohibitively expensive...

As the skylight exploded and the room filled with smoke Lyra fired one of her rapidly dwindling supply of grappling arrows down into the room in order to give Danika a means of escape. Danika had meanwhile used the opportunity to grab 'Griffon' and now held a flaming hand to the side of his head but unfortunately rather than acting as a deterrent the gang members saw a convenient way of opening a new management position and opened fire anyway turning her human shield into a bullet ridden corpse though this did protect her from a no doubt fatal onslaught of lead. Lyra put several barbed arrows into vital organs of the gangers closest to the provided escape route and Danika knowing that another hail of gunfire would finish her started to clamber up the rope as several more poorly aimed but no less deadly rounds of gunfire slammed into her body. Realising their victim was escaping their grasp several of the would be ambushers made a grab for her and this was to prove a fatal mistake as she activated the arcane mechanika of her armours breastplate and was promptly bathed in magical flame which incinerated those closest to her and promptly set many of the others aflame also. The fact that she was only wearing parts of her armour had resulted in both her disguise being incinerated and making her effectively naked apart from a breastplate and some greaves was only of minor concern in the circumstances. Lyra helped the now semi-naked priestess out onto the roof before firing an explosive arrow down into the room to deter any pursuit.

Toborgs attention was drawn to the roof as the sound of screams was joined by smoke billowing from that location and he immediately leapt to the obvious conclusion. He could now clearly see Lyra and what he presumed was Danika despite the somewhat unusual silhouette she was making. As Lyra fired her last grappling arrow towards the ground to create an escape route Toborg began to pick off any guards that were an immediate threat to them and currently had free rein as all the attention was in the opposite direction to his position. Quickly reloading his weapon as he emptied it the Pygmy Troll began to rack up an impressive body count partly due to the fact that these enemies had their backs to him and were currently far more focussed on the escaping prisoners.

Lyra was momentarily caught by surprise as several guards running towards her escape route were thrown forward by an unseen force and lay dead on the ground before Danika who had up to this point being wholly focussed on her own survival remembered that Toborg had been tracking her. Clearing the remaining few guards with precisely placed arrows Lyra helped the grievously wounded priestess to the ground and quickly scanned the area for a clear escape route. The remaining Crooked Men had seemingly been briefed on the dangers of charging towards the Brotherhoods priestess and were taking cover before readying their weapons and several shots were already coming dangerously close to their position.

Toborg was no longer an unknown quantity and had now drawn the attention of many of the now increasingly organised gang members. From his position he saw Lyra take a rifle round clearly intended for Danika and promptly killed the would be sniper dead before he could make another attempt while she wrapped her own cloak around her wounded superior and they made their escape down a side alley. Realising that he was about to be the sole focus of a small army of angry and vengeful gang members Toborg used the still in place grapple lines of Lyra's to follow her escape route as a hail of gunfire destroyed the position he'd occupied only moments ago before following them along the same escape route...

While this drama was playing out Raflado and Thorsten were having their own problems. Rafaldo had devastated an approaching group of ambushers blocking the path that Hitch had indicated they needed to head for and this delay had enabled a separate group to outflank them and attack Thorsten.

Thorsten had had enough. He had been forced to retreat from an arcane foe with superior abilities to his who also had resources that similarly eclipsed his own and now a group of scum were trying to waylay him. This frustration became a violent rage which his attackers were to bear the brunt of and as their blades tried to find weaknesses in his armour he responded by crushing bodies and caving in skulls with vicious abandon before commanding his jacks to use their bulk to crush any survivors. While this orgy of violence was occurring Hitch had finished off the survivors of Rafaldo's attack and their route to safety was seemingly clear.

The surrounding area is now completely devoid of people as they have no doubt learned that trouble is best avoided and have retreated to what passes for their homes. Eventually you are led to a wide delivery entrance beside an abandoned shop front which your guide unlocks with a broad and intricate key...It's a tight fit but your relatively compact Warjacks should just be able to fit inside. Before you can enter the doorway a small group of gang members rounds the corner and spots you. The hiding place will be little use if they manage to report back on your location.

Several of these newly emerged enemies manage to get off shots at the retreating heroes before they can respond and they are unfortunately armed with heavy calibre weaponry that Rafaldo's own armour is ill equipped to defend against and even Thorsten's heavier plate might be vulnerable to a lucky shot from. Rafaldo would have liked to utilise his more powerful spells to remove this threat but their proximity could easily result in he himself becoming victim to his own power so he was forced to use less potent magical powers. A quick and brutal exchange of attacks from both sides bought down three of the attackers but not before Rafaldo was himself laid low in return with a potentially fatal wound. With an impressive force of will he manage to muster enough strength to knock his opponents to the ground with a spell but failed to take into account that this would also effect his allies and Hitch, Thorsten and his jacks were all taken off their feet. Clambering back to his feet Thorsten charged into the remaining foes and though taking several small wounds killed them all. With his last remaining strength Rafaldo managed to cast a spell that stabilised his condition but could do little else as the beleaguered heroes entered the shop front and locked the door behind them hoping that their location wouldn't be discovered.

The captain has lit several lamps inside and the shop you have entered is nothing of the sort with the inside being a wide open area containing a wide twin-doored trap door entrance. several shelves of equipment and you can see several side rooms that in no way give the impression of a shop interior.

"I suppose.." says Captain Hitch "You'll be wanting some sort of explanation...."

Across town at Vasco's bar Lyra helped the battered and bruised Danika through the secret rear cellar entrance into the main seating area where they were soon joined by the Pygmy Troll Toborg who had similarly evaded capture. Vasco was waiting for them as they entered and was obviously in a state of some agitation as he had leapt to his feet with a dagger in each hand the moment they entered before relaxing slightly when he recognised them.

"We need to talk..." Is his only response....

Back to Reality.
This session was always going to be a tricky one due to the group splitting up during the last session and each seeking information from separate sources.

Rather than 'rail-roading' the group back together I instead let each party have a period of time to role-play their particular avenue of investigation and at an appropriate juncture jumped to another section of the group. As they were unaware of the ambush I had planned and in order to prevent them from acting on information that they (rather than their character) was aware of I had to give out significantly more detailed notes than normal.

Every-one was on excellent form this session and were patient while the others had their time in the spotlight as well as role-playing their characters perfectly and I was quite generous with XP rewards in light of this.

The next session should be the last one I'm GMing for a while and hopefully the end of the campaign wont be an anti-climax when compared to this one...

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.

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