Saturday, 2 April 2016

Iron Kingdoms Roleplay - Session Twenty Three

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 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. Lieutenant Rafaldo Scorgiani (Steve's character) got quite messed up last mission so Steve will be taking temporary control of one of the NPC's Captain Elias Hitch while his own character recovers...hopefully...

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 Three - 'Into the Underworld...'
It's possible that this mission will seem like a confusing mess unless you read this, this, this and then this...or you can just read it as is I suppose.

Lyra and Toborg arrived at Vasco's bar with a badly injured Danika in tow via the rear entrance that they had used to dispose of the ganger intruders a few days earlier to find Vasco in a state of some agitation. He revealed to them that reports were filling the Isle of an attack by Warjacks and rampaging hordes in the area surrounding the warehouse that they had been using as a base of operations when they first arrived. After taking a moment to recover and sorting out her own wounds as best as she could manage the priestess Danika retrieved the rest of her armour left there earlier as well as the spare priestly raiment's she took with her.

Lyra was becoming increasingly annoyed by the bar owners seeming unwillingness to part with pertinent information and with her patience already at breaking point drew her weapon, levelled it at Vasco's throat and repeated her request for information and seeing her intent finally relented...

"There's a possibility that they may have made it to one of the entrances to the old Turgon tunnel networks...well..the Helstrom tunnels as they are now, especially if Captain Hitch survived as he's one of the Barons own...well...spies I suppose you'd call them"

Act One - 'A Plot Revealed...'
Danika suggested that they each took one of her spare priestly surcoats as the local proximity of the Hospital Isle might lead people to believe that they were helping with the wounded from the warehouse disaster. With the basics of a plan sketched out they departed to the location mentioned by the owner.

The streets are filled with what passes for the military in the Wake Isles and the beggars who act as the eyes and ears of the gangs are conspicuous by their absence. Vasco's knowledge of the towns back streets, rooftop short-cuts and concealed bolt-holes enables him to guide you with minimal delay to the place he suspects any survivors of the warehouse assault may have headed. Eventually you reach a side street showing signs of recent conflict including a great deal of blood, bullet holes in both the shop front at the end and the walls and some significant structural cracks in the walls though there are no corpses to be seen. Presumably these have been removed by local scavengers or the searching forces. Vasco bangs on the shop door at the end in an odd sequence of knocks before removing a key from his pocket and opening the unusually wide cargo bay next to the frontage.

It was obvious that Rafaldo had been severely injured and was lying motionless on a makeshift bed in one corner. The survivors exchanged information about their respective disasters over the last few hours before Hitch and Vasco filled the gaps with information about the history of the Isles that explained the cause of their and the Baron's current troubles.

"A long time ago these Isles were effectively ruled by a man named Bolis Turgon and what wasn't common knowledge was that his success as a smuggler as well as the frequency with which his enemies mysteriously disappeared was largely due do a network of tunnels he discovered below the Isles. Many of these were natural though some had obviously been manually expanded...possibly by the Orgoth...maybe by others who lurk in the underground worlds..."

The circumstances surrounding Bolis's eventually disappearance created such attention that his family decided to take their vast fortune, pirate fleet and mainland contacts and create themselves a new legitimate identity...and from that the 'Helstrom' family was born. Before they left they used their extensive maps of the tunnels to cave-in certain important routes and set a myriad traps at those too sturdy or conspicuous to destroy to prevent any-one else from using them in their absence as several led to mainland operations that they intended to utilise in their new business identity. Evidentially some-one has discovered these tunnels and judging from what Danika has observed about the crooked men's mining operations are utilising them extensively for some foul purpose no doubt tied into the appearance of those Cryxian 'jacks that assaulted the warehouse.

Danika was aware of a 'Scion' Bolis and if they're the same man then that would explain why the Helstrom family were so keen to distance themselves from the name what with the Scions being the divine servants of the god Thamar and worshipped by the evil clerics and superstitious criminals of many nations across the Iron Kingdoms.

"We need to find out what's really going on beneath the Isles as it could have implications for not just the port of Five Fingers but perhaps Cygnar as a whole. There are some supplies that we placed here recently and there's no doubt equipment from other operations in the side-rooms though I doubt it's in great condition after all this time."

The side rooms contain several piles of climbing equipment and mining tools as well as what once would have been a formidable armoury however these weapons are obsolete compared to modern types. There are a few functioning black powder weapons, several bows and crossbows with some still salvageable arrows and bolts in quivers beside a collapsed shelf. Amongst the more recent additions are several military rations, a few boxes of ammunition of various types and a box of grenades. Several torches and some oil lamps are also amongst the older equipment in the storage areas.

After some searching two of the group found some more interesting items that were of personal interest to them and would certainly prove helpful with their upcoming journey below ground. There is a surprisingly elaborate bow case amongst the standard bows and crossbows discovered by Lyra. Inside is a exquisitely made mechanical bow presumably made at a time when the bow was a far more common weapon than a gun. It is roughly the size and weight of a Nyss Bow so would be considered heavy for a normal person but is perfectly suited for herself. Toborg's recent activities had made him keenly interested in the climbing equipment and amongst it he found an elebaorate harness known as a 'spider harness' to climbers, some mounting climbing gear which was under a large piece of Camouflage Netting that he also took possession of. He was also pleasantly surprised to discover that one of the older weapons had a Bipod that should fit on his own rifle. The rest gathered torches and lamps and split the contents of a box of grenades between them before declaring themselves ready for action. Vasco was left to look after the injured Rafaldo and make sure they had an escape route should it become necessary and with this decided they prepared to enter the depths with Thorstens pair of Warjacks following behind.

The large double doors in the floor are unlocked and lead to a wide ramp that travels at a fairly steep angle before it disappears out of sight dozens of yards below.

Based on their respective maps both Vasco and Hitch had concluded that if there's any significant gathering going on below then there's a large open area indicated on the map at the end of almost two miles of tunnel that seems like a likely target. Most of the side passages were marked with an 'X' that indicated they were blocked or booby trapped though there were a few minor ones without any map indicators. Thorsten noted that the tunnel shows signs of having been widened from a natural one at some point long in the past and also that there are no signs of recent travel along this route.

Act Two - 'The Broken Bridge'
After about a mile you come to a wide crevasse some sixty feet across that extends across the tunnel and disappears into the distance on both sides. Mechanical apparatus can be seen extending from the wall and the end of what looks like a reinforced drawbridge of some kind can be seen protruding a couple of feet from below the passage on which your standing. Several crudely severed cables can be discerned dangling from high above you. A similar arrangement of damaged machinery and cabling are on the opposite side of the crevasse.

Thorsten quickly analysed the (in his opinion) unnecessarily convoluted nature of the machinery as a needlessly complicated method of extending a two part drawbridge that spanned the fissure. He reasoned that he could probably splice the remaining cable from those dangling downwards if some-one climbed up and manually wound down what's left  to him and the machineries generator (once repaired) could be powered with a small quantity of the fuel and water from his own warjacks and this should repair the half on their side. The machinery across the gap would no doubt need a similar repair job performing upon it but it's difficult to tell without him getting his hands on it.

Thorsten shared his analysis of the situation with the rest of the party and while he set to work on the generator Toborg began the difficult climb up the virtually sheer surface to retrieve the dangling cables. After some difficulties due to his relatively small size making using his own body weight to drag down the cables problematic he eventually struggled down so that Thorsten could reattach them as necessary before repeating the process with the opposite side. Upon activating the generator the mechanism whirred and rumbled into life and gradually extended a sturdy reinforced drawbridge half way across the gaping chasm. While the rest were debating how best to deal with the issue of getting to the opposite side to finish the repair process Lyra took a run-up and made a perfectly planted landing on the opposite side before relaying information back to the dwarf engineer. After ascertaining that the first half would stay in place even with the parts removed Thorsten removed the recently repaired pieces and threw them over to Lyra who followed the given instructions in order to restore the second set of machinery to working order. Rather than attempt the climb that had been Toborg's method of cable retrieval, Lyra used her recently improvised creation of a grappling arrow to hook onto the cable and with surprising strength for her build pulled the severed cable down to where it could be reattached. Lacking Thorstens extensive engineering and mechanical knowledge this process took significantly longer but eventually the second drawbridge was raised into position.

Once Thorsten was confident that the drawbridge would support the weight of his warmachines the party continued their journey.

Act Three - 'A Factory of Death'
After another few hundred yards you come to a side passage from which a foul stench is drifting.

Thorsten noted that there's definitely activity in this area, foot traffic mainly and commented upon are some unusual circular indentions in the floor. Those benefiting from training in the art of stealth investigated this side passage for a short period before deciding to leave some of Toborgs traps concealed across the area in case any threats approached from this direction and then continued on down the main passageway.

At this point the lay-out of the corridor began to differ from that shown on the map as some-one or something had created a new tunnel curving around the cavern to which they were heading. This curving passage was also briefly investigated before being trapped like the first and the journey was continued. A smell that made the previous one encountered seem mild in comparison was emanating from the widening passage ahead and Toborg was sent ahead to investigate. What he observed was like something from a nightmare...

 The large roughly rectangular cavern ahead of you is a hive of activity. Several bloated and necrotic looking creatures on unusual spiky legs are manufacturing strange bipedal half man, half machine constructs from piles of bone and salvaged machinery. Across from them a trio of multiple limbed vaguely female figures are stitching together body parts from a vast foul smelling pile of rotting corpses. As you watch one of the half machine constructs rises from the table upon which it has been constructed and walks slowly across to the end of a row of already constructed thralls before becoming dormant once more. You estimate that some fifty of these mechanical thralls have already been created and some thirty of the smaller stitched together versions are in rows of ten across from them. The mystery of the vast increase in the corpse trade locally is a mystery no longer and the piles of machinery and corpses in the room seem capable of supporting thirtyfold the quantity that have already been built.

Toborg reported back all he had observed and it was decided that the two stealthiest of the group (Toborg and Lyra) would move ahead and position themselves to take out as many of the enemies as they could and the others would charge in as soon as they heard the commotion start. It was only as they took aim that they realised that they had failed to coordinate their attack in regard to targets.

Editors Note - I made Toborg and Lyra's players write down their targets in order and hand them to me before taking their turns as they hadn't made any plan before they were in position. They've been playing this campaign for over twenty missions so I was disinclined to be forgiving on this occasion...

The three necrotic surgeons each fell to a precise shot from a flaming arrow through the eye socket courtesy of Lyra and slumped to the ground like puppets with their strings cut though one of these was also somewhat redundantly also shot through the chest by a rifle round. Toborgs second and third shots each accounted for one of the other strange necrotechs leaving only two remaining. The first of these survivors moved towards the snipers while the second moved towards the rows of Mechanical Thralls presumably in order to activate them for their defence and it was at this point that the remainder of the group charged into the vast chamber. Several shots from this new wave of attackers had crippled one of the charging Necrotechs spindly legs with the rest tearing apart the one attempting to activate it's creations. Unfortunately it had managed to awaken several before it's demise.

Danika's magically enhanced weapon completed the crippling of the closest Necrotech before she finished it off with a crushing blow to it's skull with her shield. Elias Hitch had loaded his slug-gun on the way in and fired a shell more properly designed for destroying warjacks into the newly arisen creations tearing several to pieces before a rapidly reloaded shot from the same weapon finished the remainder who had shown signs of life. Taking no chances Thorsten ordered his 'Jacks to stampede through the rest and several tons of rampaging metal was enough to ensure that nothing created in this chamber would ever move again.

Act Four - 'Invasion'
On the far side of this necrotic chamber was a large double-door that if the maps were to be believed shouldn't lead anywhere other than into solid rock. Lyra located a key in the robes of one of the deceased monstrosities but it unfortunately failed to match the lock on the door and instead Thorsten used his skills to open the mechanism. On the opposite side was a small antechamber with a door on the left that they quickly ascertained met up with the earlier newly created side corridor not marked on the map as the key found by Lyra fitted it perfectly. Seemingly not every traveller in this direction wished to wade through body parts in order to advance to whatever lay ahead.

This new corridor soon widened considerably and Thorsten could detect from the flow of air that an open are of considerable size must be ahead. The stealthy elements of the group were once again called upon to scout ahead while the less subtle elements waited behind. As they moved forward Thorsten began to feel uneasy as he felt something emitting more power than he had ever encountered before nearby. The fact that he could detect this enemies energies at far beyond the normal range of his ability to detect other Warcasters filled him with a feeling of intense dread. Meanwhile the scouts had made a horrific discovery...

You emerge on a ledge above a cavern of gigantic proportions far dwarfing that indicated on your map. Below you some-one or something has diverted water from the sea outside to create a large artificial lake. Rows of Warjacks are being worked upon by hundreds of figures and they are filling the atmosphere with choking fumes, larger jacks are in orderly rows off to one side and several of the heavily armoured versions you have encountered previously are amongst the edges of the vast artificial lake. These pale into insignificance however compared to a pair of 'jacks of colossal proportions with gigantic cannon in the centre of their carapace sections half submerged in the nearby water.

Leaving Toborg to keep watch the remainder of the scouts returned to report this terrifying subterranean army to their colleagues. As they left Toborg detected more movement from some distance below him from a previously unobserved passage.

Two female figures emerge from a side passage below you and the frenetic activity amongst the workforce increases as if competing for their attentions. The larger of the figures stands upon multiple metal legs that emerge from beneath a skirt-like cloak and has additional metal manipulator arms emerging from the back of her elaborate Warcaster armour. She is engaged in conversation with a figure of far more human proportions who from Lyra's description you recognise as being the Crooked Mens leader. Surprisingly the conversation appears to be more that of one between equals rather than a mistress and servant though they are far to distant to discern the exact nature of their debate. The larger figure comes abruptly to a halt, twists unnaturally far at the waist and turns upwards towards the entrance to your hiding place and as she does so several of the Warjacks suddenly activate including one of the larger ones in the water...a dozen weapons of various types are now pointed in the direction of the cave entrance from which you entered and a small army of people below are now running towards various ladders and access corridors that presumably lead in your direction...

Editors Note - Player characters aren't the only ones with 'I can detect other warcasters' abilities...

Keeping as low as is possible the Pygmy Troll ran as fast as he could to his compatriots interrupting their deliberations. Immediately voicing what they were all thinking Thorsten expressed their inadequate abilities to deal with such an army, their need to get away and get help and without waiting for their agreement began to retreat back the way they came with the others moments behind and not longer after significantly ahead. Shouts could be heard from various side passage ways and many of these turned to screams as the various traps left by Toborg on the journey were activated with deadly effect. Stopping only to destroy the bridge with his warjacks few remaining heavy shells the party emerged from the tunnel entrance and between them retrieved Rafaldo and made their escape...

Realising that it's vital that you inform the authorities of this hidden threat you leave the port immediately via a vessel arranged for you by Vasco and journey as swiftly as possible to the mainland where Hitch despatches a myriad of messengers to any-one who he thinks might help before arranging for you to travel to an estate of the Barons just outside Cygnar.

When you arrive at the estate there is a small army camped there awaiting your arrival flying the flag of the Cygnaran Reconnaissance Service. Helstrom approaches you accompanied by a Warcaster armed with a pair of elaborate and ornate pistols and quickly begins to talk before you get a chance to say anything.

"Greetings" "I was just informing the Captain here that as soon as it became apparent that the maps I'd recently acquired (he makes a point of emphasising the word 'recently') were of significance I despatched the best operatives I had access to in order to investigate and no doubt the assassination attempts on my life were orchestrated to prevent me from doing so" "These brave Cygnaran troops are going to use these recently located tunnels to travel to Five Fingers to deal with the threat you've discovered" "No doubt heroes such as yourself are keen to join this mission but I'm assured that these forces work best alone and so instead I offer you the hospitality of my humble abode while you recover from your recent ordeals"

With this he ushers you inside as the large force camped outside readies itself to face the foe beneath the Isles. It is obvious that he has no desire for you to tell the full extant of his involvement in the affair to any-one with immediate access to a small army who might hold him responsible. As they are passing the forces leaders Hitch signalled to them using their own secret codes to be careful as the threat was significant though it was unlikely that the warning would change their course of action in any way.

In a blatant attempt at bribery that Rafaldo is happy to accept on the Brotherhoods behalf the Baron gives the company exclusive contracts for a number of exceptionally profitable trade routes as well as gifting you a large number of older but still serviceable vessels from his own fleet numbering some fifteen ships and a couple of military style escort vessels.

While these arrangements are being finalised word comes to you that the Cygnaran service engaged a large Cryxian force beneath the port though the numbers are far less than were expected based on your own account though there was more than enough evidence to back up your claims. It seems that your intervention has prevented a potentially disastrous attack on Cygnar itself. Normally such a service would be rewarded with medals and honours but you are informed that this sadly cannot be done on this occasion as the Cygnaran leadership is anxious to prevent the panic that such a revelation would bring about to an already fragile political and military situation at home. Instead a large quantity of military equipment has been donated to the Brotherhood as a less public thank-you.

Back to Reality.
All in all I was happy with how everything went though I did have a real concern that some-one might have had bright ideas about disrupting the invading army themselves, lol. My other worry was after the action packed previous session that 'you all run away and some-one else deals with the problem' might leave the players unsatisfied but evidentially 'not dying' was more important to them than heroics.

That's the end of my stint as GM for a while as Tom will be tagging in for the next batch of sessions and as I've effectively tied up all the loose ends from my other sessions I might call it a day as far as GMing for this particular campaign is concerned.

Lets see what Tom has in store for us...

The NPC's 'Captain Elias Hitch' and 'Vasco Scali' were created using the normal character generation method for PC's as there was a very real possibility that a player's character may well die during this series of linked missions and they'd need a temporary replacement and as it turned out I was correct. Steve has now decided to retire Rafaldo as with the Brotherhoods expanded fleet of ships giving his character effectively what he was looking for as motivation anyway but rather than continue to use Elias he'll be introducing a new character next session. I'll be using the other one (Vasco) for a session or two as Tom has other plans for my own character to appear a bit later...for those of you who are interested here are their stats....

Captain Elias Hitch
Race - Human
Level - Veteran, XP - 55
Height - 75 inches, Weight - 195 pounds
Careers - Military Officer, Ranger, Spy
Archetype - Skilled
Languages - Cygnaran, Khadoran, Ordic
Connections - Cygnaran Reconnaissance Service, Helstrom Family, Intelligence Network.

Quote - "I already have a plan..."

PHY - 7, SPD - 7, STR - 5, AGL - 4, PRW - 5, POI - 5, INT - 5, ARC - 0, PER - 5

Willpower - 10, Initiative - 17
Defence - 16, Armour - 13
Command Range - 7

Abilities and Benefits
Battle Plan (Call to Action, Shadow), Cover Identity (Pirate), Feat (Untouchable), Good Breeding, Iron Will, Load Bearing, Natural Leader, Preternatural Awareness, Prowl, Virtuoso (Hand Weapon, Pistol)
Military Skills
Great Weapon (1), Hand Weapon (2), Pistol (3), Rifle (1)
Occupational Skills
Command (2), Cryptography (2), Deception (2), Detection (2), Disguise (1), Etiquette (2), Interrogation (1), Law (1), Lock-Picking (1), Medicine (2), Navigation (2), Sailing (1), Sneak (2), Streetwise (1), Survival (1), Tracking (2)

Custom Battle Armour - SPD (0), DEF (-1), ARM (6)
Melee Weapons
Caspian Battleblade  (AM -1) - MAT (5), P + S (11)
Cutlass (AM -1) - MAT (7), P + S (9)
Springblade - MAT (7), P + S (5)
Ranged Weapons
Pistol, Repeating - RNG (8), RAT (8), POW (10)
Slug Gun - RNG (4), RAT (8), POW (14)
Forged Identity Papers, Garotte, Keys (Various 'Network' entrances), Maps (Helstroms 'Five Fingers' tunnel network), Officers Uniform
Ammo Wheel x4,(Loaded), Light Round x20, Slug Round x10, Grenade x5 (2x Explosive, 3x Smoke)

Vasco Scali
Race - Human
Level - Veteran, XP - 55
Height - 70 inches, Weight - 165 pounds
Careers - Pirate, Thief
Archetype - Skilled
Languages - Cygnaran, Ordic, Smatterings of others.
Connections - Criminals (multiple), Helstrom Family, Pirate Crews (Multiple)

Quote - "He seems to have accidentally stabbed himself in the back seventeen times..."

PHY - 5, SPD - 7, STR - 5, AGL - 5, PRW - 6, POI - 6, INT - 4, ARC - 0, PER - 6

Willpower - 9, Initiative - 19
Defence - 18 , Armour - 10
Command Range - 6

Abilities and Benefits
Ambidextrous, Backstab, Conniver, Dodger, Feat (Swashbuckler), Fleet Foot, Gang, Gunfighter, Parry, Port of Call (Five Fingers), Preternatural Awareness, Specialisation (Cutlass), Steady, Virtuoso (Hand Weapon, Pistol)
Military Skills
Hand Weapon (3), Pistol (3), Thrown Weapon (2)
Occupational Skills
Bribery (1), Climbing (2), Command (2), Deception (2), Escape Artist (1), Etiquette (1), Intimidation (1), Lock-Picking (2), Lore (Five Fingers 2), Navigation (1), Pickpocket (2), Rope Use (1), Sailing (1), Sneak (3), Streetwise (3), Swimming (1)

Armoured Great Coat - SPD (0), DEF (-1), ARM (5)
Melee Weapons
Cutlass (AM 0) - MAT (9), P + S (9)
Dagger x3 (AM +1) - MAT (10), P + S (6)
Springblade x2 (AM 0) - MAT (9), P + S (6)
Ranged Weapons
Knife, Throwing x6 - RNG (6), RAT (8), POW (7)
Pistol, Holdout x2 - RNG (4), RAT (10), POW (8)
Compass, Deck of Cards, Garotte, Keys (Bar, Cellar, Tunnel Entrance), Nights Black (5 Applications), Pocket Watch, Rope and Grappling Hook, Set of Knuckledusters, Thief's Tools, Spyglass, Wrist Spring Holster x2 (Hold-Out Pistol).

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.

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