Chronicles of the Grim Fist, part II

Again: I am still working on the rest of the session summaries. I will try to get up at least session 19 today.

Session 19
Months 5 and 6
The Grim Fist decides to take a break in Orléans for the latter half of Spring, and persuades the giantesses to accompany them (Galswintha begs in most unseemly fashion).

On arrival in the fair city, the Grim Fist makes an impression. Three giantesses wearing the current fashion, one of them with an elf maid - known among tailors as a benefactress non pareil - perched on her shoulder.

A pack of heavy-jowled mastiffs in cute little jackets; dire wolves in spiked leather armor; tigers in jaunty red scarves; cave bears in vests; and a giant hawk perched regally at the head of the pack.

A caravan of wagons, some piled with merchant goods, others loaded with small, iron chests, another with the corpse of a sphinx, and still another loaded with a small accountant’s desk, wardrobe, privacy screens, and enameled washtub.

And shortly behind, a small team of dung shovelers hired to prevent in-city untidiness.

The Grim Fist does several things in Orléans.

  • Three of the wagons are burdened with coins of copper and brass, barrels of pickled fish, gallons of beer, fire logs, rolls of cloth, lamp oil, potter, and other cheap but practical things. They spend a day giving most of that away to the city's poor.
  • They take another day giving away maps of the dwarven highway to Atanung in the mercantile district.
  • They meet briefly with the Governor of Orléans to assure him that the Grim Fist is merely celebrating a path to Atanung.

Some character-specific events:


Galagunde d'Orléans, visionist (illusionist-6) and the one who introduced the party to tarantula familiars with Healing, leaves Chlodomer's service. She holds no real rancor, but she does not ever wish to be left alone in the wilderness again to defend giantesses she could care less for. Plus, Chlodomer's behavior around the lignemaids, dryads, naiads, Orléans city girls, and others has finally pushed her a bit too far. Nor did she ever care much about appearances - possibly a bad fit for a henchwoman of Chlodomer's! (She does take the bonus Chlodomer offers her, of course.) She takes her apprentice, Agalinda d'Orléans, with her.

Haramer’s fighter squad falls apart - some of the same problems as Galagunde, but there is also the issue that they were hired by Chlodomer, but they were then pawned onto Haramer … and the majority of them were a level below even that, working for a no-name fighter with no real charisma who was working for Haramer. Since most of them are quite wealthy in their own right now, they go off to start their own mercenary companies. They keep their expensive, high-quality spears and armor, of course.

Haramer loses two of the fighters working directly for him, but retains the other two.

Thorismund and Ingunde du Châtel (and their fighter-accountant, Louis d’Orléans) also leave Chlodomer, although on much better terms: Ingunde has been building up the cash to found a solid merchant business (and Chlodomer has known this), and with the pass to Atanung safer than ever, this seems the time to do it. Some members of the party pitch in on the first caravan, in return for a promised portion of the profits at a later date.

Chlodomer revises the line-up of hired mercenaries, and ends up with this:

Haramer D’Orléans hires and leads 50 heavy infantry pikemen (600/month); his two remaining henches act as lieutenants (and remain henches, of course). Chlodomer outfits them all in plate armor and quality (+1 damage) spears (2,700 gold).

Adela d’Orléans hires and leads 8 cataphract cavalry (600/month). Chlodomer outfits them all with quality composite bows and spare medium warhorses (5,200 gold).

Genofeva de Paris hires and leads 10 heavy cavalry (600/month). Chlodomer outfits them with quality (+1 damage) lances and upgrades them to heavy warhorses (3,600 gold).

Then he reassures the Governor, once again, that the Grim Fist has no designs on his city, and that this is purely for the next wilderness trip.


Galswintha and her mage henches hit the books for most of Spring.

She also noted that Gurund was uncomfortable with danger (and had even hired a bodyguard for himself). So she talks to Chlodomer and buys a share in the Grim Fist Orléans HQ, puts in an alchemy workshop (50,000 gold!), and then asks Gurund to hire some journeymen and apprentices and begin working for her in Orléans rather than in the wilderness. His first task? Research oil of dispel magic.

(This turns out to need sphinx feathers, and the dead sphinx is sufficient for seven magical research rolls.)

Galswintha leaves him with additional funds and orders to buy more sphinx feathers if he can; and to do business as an alchemist for those time periods that he can’t continue on her oils.

Galswintha also commissions a sizable carriage drawn by heavy draft horses, freeing up one of the party’s wagons.


Vulfelind meets briefly with Chludwig d'Orléans - head of the Thieves' Guild - whose daughter she had returned to him last time. He wants to make sure that she knows that he knows about their plans for Pegasus Mountain, and that as long as she remembers who's really in charge, he won't tell the Governor what's really going on. She smiles and nods and kisses his ring finger and worries about which of her henches is actually a spy. She also finally pays attention to what he looks like, and realizes that he is probably a wererat.

Vulfelind takes her henches to a tavern with private rooms, and has a meeting.

She tells them what just went on with Chludwig. She tells them that she had assumed the Guild kept an eye on her (“and if the Governor doesn’t already know we’re claiming Pegasus mountain, maybe he needs his eyes checked”), so no worries there …

BUT. Chludwig is a wererat, and he’s definitely Chaotic: he’s making threats like this against the people who saved his daughter! And while Vulfelind lacks the kind of devotion to Law (hah!) the other Grim Fist members possess, she prefers living in a world where the Lawful people are in charge.

Then Veneranda breaks down crying: Chludwig threatened her mother the last time the party was in Orléans - at about the same time his daughter was being returned to him. All is forgiven.

Vulfelind talks to the party, but they’re hesitant to take on a Thieves’ Guild leader in a major city who is cozy with the Governor, especially when the “spy” is now a double agent on the party’s side.

Vulfelind sighs and agrees, but still takes a vacation in Atanung (“anywhere but here”) to put it behind her.


Shadagrunde refines his hench and merc structure, taking Chlodomer's hard-earned lessons on extended hench chains to heart.

Two of Merideth’s clerics end up heading to the local Church chapter to offer their services, now that they have “several months of on-the-job experience with the heroic members of the Grim Fist.”

Shadagrunde’s line-up now looks like this:

Merideth le Chocolat has two henches (both cleric-4). She hires and leads 20 light cavalry (600/month). Shadagrunde equips them with quality lances (+1 to hit and +1 damage) and a spare light warhorse each (5,000 gold).

Grimaric d’Orléans hires and leads 100 light infantry (600/month). Shadagrunde equips them with quality leather and two quality spears each (23,000 gold).

Rinogand d’Orléans hires and leads 20 longbowmen (600/month). Shadagrunde equips them with quality chainmail and longbows (9,400 gold).

Aggulita looks for Lawful goblins and finds none - the Grim Fist has all two of them. Nor is Aggulita exactly “leadership” material. This upsets Aggulita quite a bit, and there is some heart-felt, roleplayed feelings before Shadagrunde lets Aggulita go off on a quest to find other Lawful goblins. Shadagrunde gives Aggulita the Goblin a sizable bonus (read: 9,000 gold to fund the expedition), and Aggulita gifts Grizzba with Gore, a fully-trained dire wolf mount.

By the end of it, the party has 208 mercenaries in tow, collated from a variety of small companies of all sorts. Galswintha returns from her spell studies, takes one long, disgusted look, and stomps her feet, “Party fund discussion, NOW.”

Agreements are reached:

  • The party treasurer will be asked before the party treasury is spent, even if it's not frivolous.
  • The armies are a party resource, because the party pot was spent on them.
  • The specific henches in charge of the armies will remain as it is: they would have been the best choice in any case.
  • Since they are a party resource, Galswintha gets to put them in uniforms.

That prompts another shopping spree - this time for brightly colored white-and-red tunics, high-quality marching boots and sleeping blankets, banners, matching helmets, and simple copper rings with the year and “Grim Fist” inscribed (instantly starting a party tradition).

And then Adela d’Orléans (Chlodomer’s) and Almalinda d’Orléans (Vulfelind’s) spend the last week drilling the army in parade marching.

The city’s entire supply of available military oil is bought out, and the Grim Fist marches back to Pegasus Mountain.

And the giantesses? Deeply impressed by how well civilization took to them, and weighed down with books on human architecture and stonework.

Month 7, Week 1: Sheltered Wood (#1308)
As Summer begins …

The party scouts by air with eyes of the eagle and a giant hawk … and discovers that there are, in fact, three entire brigand camps, the most central of which also houses two berserker warbands.

A precise estimate isn’t possible, but somewhere between 500 and 700 criminals appear to have made this hex their home, and are preying on an area a dozen or more miles wide. The Grim Fist are outnumbered 3-to-1 even with their mercenary army, and there is evidence that the three camps are all in cahoots, and will coordinate and assist one another.

Shadagrunde draws up a map; Chlodomer puts pieces on the map; and then Vulfelind moves those pieces around. Somewhere in this, a coherent strategy is formed, albeit one that is likely to have losses.

The giantesses are left out at Galswintha’s request: “They want to be architects.”

And then they receive a letter, delivered by a scared peasant:

My dearest friends, it has been a real pleasure to see you at work clearing the nearby woods. All of those bugbears and goblins! And ogres, if I have heard the correct rumors. This had made things immensely easier on myself, than if you had not come along.

A cousin of mine, however, tells me that you may be looking to clear my area as well - that you might, in point of fact, intend me some harm!

I am delighted to tell you that I laughed at the notion. Not that you aren’t capable, of course! I am certain you are capable enough, though I would make it cost you more than you might have wished to pay. But you, my friends, are heroes! Paragons of virtue!

And I? I am merely a man of means who has carved a niche in the protection of goods through the wilderness of this part of the world. Merchants pay quite a bit for my services, and are happier for having done so!

Why, we should be partners, not enemies!

And indeed, that is just what I would like to suggest: with your burgeoning army at my back, I need not fear the incursions of wilderness monsters, so that I can focus my efforts on the protection of highways for honest merchants; and with me watching the highways, you can focus your efforts at building what will, I am certain, be a glorious kingdom some day.

Albert le Renardière

Vulfelind smiles - and there are entirely too many teeth involved. To Chlodomer, she only says, “Albert is a wererat, care to wager?”

The Grim Fist and their army marches out immediately, with Grizzba and Vulfelind riding swiftly ahead to find and eliminate anyone Albert sent along to report back.

Day 8: A Bad Day for a Rat
In usual habit, Albert rolls from bed predawn and pads silently through the camp in rat form, finding nothing amiss. His day is already planned: his scout to the Grim Fist camp should be reporting in a few hours; a romp with his wives; another round of cash arriving from merchants in the afternoon. In all, pleasantly indolent!

He finds a guard napping, and nips an ankle as a reminder: his people should know better! The disease may kill the guard in a few days - a disease which always seem to catch the lazy in Albert’s camps.

His duty done, Albert pads back to his nest … and pottery falls from the sky, scattered across the center of camp. His nose twitches: naptha!

There is no hesitation: he becomes human and shouts the alarm, a split second before fireballs engulf the naptha soaked center of camp and wipe out a fifth of his force. His wives run from the wreckage, burned but alive, and he and they rush to the treasury.

Albert slams a potion filled with the essence of a hill giant, and directs his wives to the rack of healing potions, which they greedily consume. Then he grabs Mercy of Crows from its wall-sheath, shifts into ratman form, and slinks out to survey the battle …

An entire warband of berserkers lies dead and pinned to the ground by arrows. The other warband is losing a fight with cataphract cavalry. Corpses are burning everywhere.

His light cavalry - those remaining - chase an enemy force of same … until the enemy force charges right through a force of hidden pikemen who set for charge and decimate the brigand force.

He does not wait to see how his light infantry will do: Albert and his wives position to intercept the cataphract cavalry - the soldiers die messily and fast, too focused on the pursuing berserkers to spot the wererats lying in wait. Their leader, a fast archeress, puts an arrow through one of Albert’s wives, sees that it has no effect, and makes an astonishingly skillful direction change away from Albert and berserkers both.

To Albert’s momentary befuddlement, however, she slows down short of escape, and whistles piercingly.

And then ten heavy cavalry bursts from - seemingly - empty space, charge the full distance, and focus on knockdowns and slams, rather than going for kills. The wererat has to admit: against foes who cannot be hurt, slamming them through buildings is a good second choice. Unfortunately, however, Albert himself has the strength of a giant.

He trips the second horse to pass him, then plucks the rider of the third from his horse and thrusts his sword through the man’s heart. And then a man in white armor steps out of the same nothingness from which the cavalry arrived, and Albert stares death in the eyes.

Knowing his own skill and abilities, Albert briefly attempts to spar with Chlodomer. Few can match Albert’s skill - let’s be honest, few could harm him even if they could put a touch on the swashbuckling rat lord - but Chlodomer is almost as strong as the wererat, better equipped, and under the influence of beneficial spells. The fight begins to go poorly.

Albert calls to his wives to get out of the rubble and help him, and discovers that, at some point during his spar with Chlodomer, they’ve all been killed. Chlodomer pricks him again with that damnable dwarven sword …

Albert flees. Across the village center, around a corner, fade to shadows, clear a gap, uncover the trap door, quietly, quietly, re-seal the entrance, through the rat warren, and home free …

A pack of grinning thieves, whose portraits Chludwig sent him months ago, are waiting for him at his exit. His hidden exit. His oh-so-secret exit. One of them, Vulfelind, puts a flaming, magical crossbow bolt into his leg as he slows to a stop.

Albert puts on his most charming smile, “Lovelies, I have allies who will be unhappy if you don’t let me by.”

Vulfelind smiles. The pack swarms the rat lord with magic blades and malice.

OOC: There were some interesting priorities in this battle. Galswintha had her familiar Petite circle high in the sky and watch for injured horses - didn't matter whose side, she wanted the familiar to heal the horses.

And Vulfelind, once she found the secret exit, sent Veneranda, Almalinda, and Baldaswind to do their best to cover the field of battle with the staff of healing, and save as many soldiers as possible.

Neither of those things really affected the tide of battle, of course.

The cataphract cavalry were wiped out; the heavy cavalry took heavy losses; everyone else did reasonably well, although there was still mortality. Morale checks on the brigands helped everyone out, though - half the battle was fought not with weapons, but fear.

Vulfelind was very insistent, so I rolled for Mortal Wounds for every soldier; and Veneranda did actually manage to save most of them from true death with timely staff usage.

The berserkers, once the cataphracts were taken care of, did quite a lot of damage to the light and heavy infantry. The party finally lost the last of their invisibility over that, because they had to wade in and finish the berserkers off.

Day 8, Retreat
The Grim Fist and army retreat to a safe spot, recovering the wounded and dead. The mages are bedded down as quickly as possible, guards are set, and everyone prepares.

They know it will be at least a day before camp 2 can reach them. Camp 3 may arrive sooner, but doesn’t.

Vulfelind and gang show up shortly thereafter, and Mercy of Crows is identified: a two-handed sword +2, whose each hit has a 1 in 6 chance of aging a target by 5 years and healing the wielder of 1 hp. The sword is silently, but feels

Month 7, Weeks 2, 3, and 4
At dawn, mages prepared, the party decamps and … faces the combined might of two brigand camps.

Which, fortunately, is actually a smaller force (and lacking berserkers and a dozen wererats) than the primary camp.

They are remarkably close together, a mistake against the Grim Fist.

Shadagrunde drops a plague of insects on them. A quarter fall instantly, and those who flee the carpet of bugs face longbows and pikes, or if they make it past that, are run down by cavalry. Those still among the bugs scream surrender, and Shadagrunde separates the carpet and spares them.

The staff of healing is administered indiscriminately, and as a result, a much larger force of brigands is captured than might have been expected - almost two hundred are captured and tied up.

Shadagrunde presides over a respectful burial pyre for the dead brigands; and then the party marches the living (and Albert’s corpse) to Atanung.

Along the way to Atanung, Shadagrunde restores to life as many soldiers as he can, and in Atanung, they pay for as many additional restorations as the market will bear. They manage to save almost all of the army. Galswintha approves care packages for the families of the dead and crippled.

… then they discover that Albert le Renardière is the Bandit King, with a 12,500 gold bounty; and that he is the source of the wererat infection in the Thieves’ Guild, for whom with another 12,500 gold bounty. Vulfelind gleefully collects both and deposits them with Galswintha.

And after another brief discussion with the Party Treasurer, they hire more mercenaries, march back, clean the dregs of brigands from the forest, and loot the three brigand camps.

Month 8, Days 1, 2, and 3: Azure Hot Springs (#1708)
The party gets serious about the hydra. The party’s collection of water-breathing potions is put in a pile: 3. Galswintha and Deuteria can cast create air twice each, bringing the number of entrants up to 7.

Ropes are tied. Chlodomer, Haramer (wearing Chlodomer’s gauntlets of ogre strength), Genofeva, Shadagrunde, Merideth, Grimaric, Rinogand, and Vulfelind are prepared for underwater travel. Vulfelind goes first, stealthily, and with a fire beetle organ tucked in cloth to alert the others if she needs them quickly. The others rope themselves together with chains, and dive in.

The hydra, hiding in a side cave, spots them first … and skips Vulfelind and goes straight for Chlodomer, grappling and pinning him and then fleeing back down the side tunnel.

Fortunately for Chlodomer, the chains hold, and the others (except for Vulfelind) come along for the ride. The hydra’s ambush quickly becomes a one-on-many fight, and it has to stop fleeing in order to defend itself. Each round, the hydra nearly kills Chlodomer, and then Chlodomer removes one or two heads, and then the clerics heal Chlodomer, and the rest try to beat on the hydra.

This continues for three rounds … and then two heads grow back.

In aquatic-enforced silence, the warriors try to beat the tide of heads. As the last head falls onto the growing pile at the bottom of the cave, Vulfelind finally arrives and, seeing the situation, silently hands her flaming crossbow to Haramer.

And then, as the others valiantly keep the heads trimmed, Haramer begins cauterizing the wounds.

The hydra finally ceases fighting and sinks to the cave floor. Haramer re-cauterizes every neck, just to be sure, and then Vulfelind tracks damaged stalactites and heavy growth to find the monster’s lair.

Vulfelind is very amused to find gauntlets of ogre power, which she dons to help carry treasure out.

Day 4: Red Meadow (#1407)
The centaurs are very apologetic.

Very, very, very sincerely apologetic. Had they only realized that the Grim Fist were such mighty and magnificent heroes, they would have had no qualms about entering truce and becoming a part of the kingdom to be.

An alternative theory: they came across one or more of the ogre villages.

Day 5: Galaufchulis (#1610#1510) becomes Torn Tree Hill
At the giant oak tree, the party talks to the treants.

This is a slow process.

However, the party does manage to get across to them that they are building a nature reserve in the Oak Circle - one where they can be protected from human predation for as long as the kingdom stands.

The treants then talk to the rocs.

And then: eight treants form a circle around the thousand-foot oak tree, and with a great shuddering, the tree uproots from the hill and walks toward the Oak Circle. The rocs glare from their rocking perches, but otherwise seem content with the move.

The hill dominating the area is largely rent open by this, so the party renames it Torn Tree Hill.

Days 6 and 7: Utena’s Shadow (#1607)
That leaves the cloud giants. It’s not that the Grim Fist couldn’t wipe the cloud giants off the map in a straight up fight: it’s that the cloud giants are out of reach.

Or … mostly out of reach. With one giant hawk, three party members could make it up there. And Galswintha’s fly spell has just enough juice to get up, just not back down (however, she can cast two per day). They leave everyone else back at Pegasus Mountain.

Chlodomer, Shadagrunde, and Vulfelind take the Hawk Express Elevator … and Galswintha flies under her own power, promising herself to save her second fly spell and not waste it on a fireball.

When they arrive, rocks come sailing out in greeting, and a flock of giant hawks attack, screeching. The party drops and rolls onto the cloud stuff, and … wipe out ten giant hawks in record time, apologizing the whole way. More rocks, and the party storms the mostly empty castle, and finds themselves face-to-face with two amazingly angry cloud giants.

Shadagrunde goes down, hard, with a shattered leg, but not before landing a flame strike; and Chlodomer finds that holding off two storm giants makes for short work of hit points without a cleric. Galswintha says something unladylike and webs the giants for a short respite, then curses the giant in better shape with weakness, then fireballs them both, igniting the web … then runs and hides as they break out. Chlodomer kills off the weaker of the two just as he breaks free of the burning web.

The curse, thankfully, does its job on the other: with less likelihood of being hit, Chlodomer focuses on putting the hurt on the larger giant … and almost dies anyway (seriously, 6d6? ouch!) until Vulfelind drops down from above and manages a backstab, ending the cloud giant’s career as a singer, and his life.

They patch up Shadagrunde very poorly … but at least well enough for him to heal himself. And then the building begins to shake. They look at each other. They look at Galswintha … the fireball that guaranteed that Chlodomer would outlast the giant also cut off her path out.

Galswintha laughs, “You go on without me. If the castle lasts long enough, you can send Fierce on the Wind back up to pick me up. So, you know, hurry or something?”

They leave, and Galswintha sits at the edge of the disintegrating cloud to watch it all end … and spots the giant hawks she helped beat down.

A careful discussion with Petite (her Beast Friendship and Husbandry-focused familiar) later, they manage to recover a giant hawk willing to carry her down. They leave as the cloud finishes losing solidity, and the castle falls through.

Shadagrunde is in poor shape for travel, so they make camp, and in the morning, Shadagrunde casts restore on himself. They return triumphant heroes.

Okay, last bit will have to wait until tomorrow.

Spoiler, though: the party encounters their first dragon :-).

This actual play recount is like liquid happy-gold for adventure gaming.

Are the hex-map coordinates for the “1.5 mile” hexes you described in another thread for mapping this region?

I really want to say that I’ve seen those numbers before, but I scanned the two Grim Fist threads and couldn’t find anything.

The numbers refer to the Blank Hex Maps in the download section.

Pegasus Mountain is in hex #1508 (p. 2 map, 6-mile scale) of sector E5 (p. 4 map, 24-mile scale). The whole campaign has thus far occurred entirely in sectors E5 and E6.

The 1.5-mile hexes I referred to elsewhere were all inside hex #1508, and are the method I use for the lowest-level mapping.

For example, Chlodomer spent some time mapping hex #1708, and the new map was at the 1.5-mile scale. To do a 1.5-mile scale, I use the upper-left-most hex on the p. 2 map for my numbering, ignoring any hexes whose number is not inside the hex lines.

So the sub-hex-regions in #1708 look like this:

Azure Hot Springs (#1708)
All regions are thickly forested (except where noted).

#0102: High hill, can see village smoke further west.
#0103: Low hill.
#0201: Small pond surrounded by low cliffs; fed from #0202.
#0202: Narrow ravine (N-S); stream runs through to #0201.
#0203: Ravine spreads out into low area; stream runs through to #0202.
#0204: Spring #1, streams lead downhill into #0203.

Aquatic Hydra: AC 4; Move swim 120; HD 6* (48 hp); #AT 6x bite 1d10 (on a result of 1, the hydra breathes steam with that head instead for 2d6+1 damage); SV F6; ML +2; AL N.
#0301: Low, extremely rocky hill; no real forest. #0302: High hill; spring #2, streams run to #0303.
Aquatic Hydra: AC 4; Move swim 120; HD 12** (96 hp); #AT 12x bite 1d10 (on a result of 1, the hydra breathes steam with that head instead for 2d6+1 damage); SV F12; ML +2; AL N. Regrows 2 heads per lost head after 1d4 rounds.
#0303: Low hill; spring #3, streams run to #0304.
Aquatic Hydra: AC 4; Move swim 120; HD 9* (72 hp); #AT 9x bite 1d10 (on a result of 1, the hydra breathes steam with that head instead for 2d6+1 damage); SV F9; ML +2; AL N.
#0304: Valley; Streams from #0303 continue due south #0401: Low hill. #0402: Highest hill; spring #4, streams run to #0302 and #0403.
Aquatic Hydra: AC 4; Move swim 120; HD 7* (56 hp); #AT 7x bite 1d10 (on a result of 1, the hydra breathes steam with that head instead for 2d6+1 damage); SV F7; ML +2; AL N.
#0403: Steep hill; stream runs through to #0404; waterfalls. #0404: Low point; tiny pond; fed from #0403. #0502: Hill. #0503: Hill.

All four springs are driven by deeper cracks and caves running through the limestone and granite to the subsurface magma in this region, and are connected at the deeper levels. The deepest waters are extremely hot! The springs themselves resemble this rainbow geyser (although they don’t spew up very often).

I’ve deleted the treasure entry because the players haven’t managed to track it all down yet.

Session 20
We took a break for pizza and OOC discussion.

I had originally planned a sort of Quest Award if they managed to clear Pegasus Mountain - whatever was sufficient to bring the lowest to 9th level - and that ends up being about 3.3 million XP (for party + henches as a whole; each PC ends up with about 220K). Since that’s about 1/5th the value of the land they just conquered, it seems reasonable, so I have everyone update their characters.

I don’t enforce the “max gain of one level” rule for this purpose: it’s an intentional rule-breaking to avoid grinding.

Also worth noting: we generated a lot of numbers over the course of these six hours. I’ve tried to cut them down a bit for a readable summary :-).

End of Summer (Month 9)
The end of Summer is relatively peaceful.

Galswintha takes a small party and evaluates the lands they have acquired … and is pleasantly surprised, even accounting for her final efreet wish.

OOC Per the efreet's wish, I rolled 3d3+2 for each six-mile hex, and got an average of 8.5 (about +0.5 over the average). I re-arranged the numbers a bit to make better sense - I swapped Sheltered Wood's high roll for Pegasus Mountain's low roll, for example, to better fit the history of the region - but mostly left them as is.

#1308 (Val.  5): Sheltered Wood
#1309 (Val. 10): Heart of Stone
#1407 (Val.  7): Red Meadow
#1408 (Val.  7): Crevice Wood
#1409 (Val. 11): Slithering River
#1410 (Val.  9): Shadowed Lake
#1507 (Val.  6): Bone Temple Hill
#1508 (Val. 11): Pegasus Mountain
#1509 (Val.  8): Darkwater Wood
#1510 (Val.  10): Oak Circle and Galaufchulis
#1607 (Val.  7): Utena’s Shadow
#1608 (Val.  8): Bugbear Forest Lake
#1609 (Val.  7): Ugly Hill
#1610 (Val. 11): Torn Tree Hill
#1708 (Val. 10): Azure Hot Springs
#1709 (Val.  9): Valley Lake

I am pretty happy with the result.

Chlodomer sends Haramer and Adela to Orléans and Atanung to announce the elimination of the Bandit King.

The Grim Fist as a whole discusses the division of land and duties. Several issues crop up (in particular, Shadagrunde was torn between ruling a domain of his own … and greedily siphoning divine power from Chlodomer’s likely-exceptional domain population), and it starts to look like the obvious choice is to give everything to Chlodomer, but no one wants to actually say that.

In the end, however:

  1. The region as a whole is christened “Galaufabonne” (Galswintha fought for a pegasus themed name, but was outvoted on the basis that the thousand-foot oak was a lot more impressive than the pegasus nest in its branches).

  2. Baron Chlodomer is given the party treasury to build and develop the region. He wisely appoints Galswintha as Treasurer and gives her control of the purse strings.

  3. Baron Chlodomer also declares the Oak Circle a nature preserve: the fortress and garrison will extend over its lands, but no peasant families will be permitted to dwell there. He gives Galswintha the title Guardian of the Wood, and grants her the right to fund a sanctum and garrison with the treasury; and charges her with defending and managing the Oak Circle.

  4. Baron Chlodomer declares the state religion to be the Church of the Lady, and Shadagrunde the Patriarch of Galaufabonne.

  5. Baron Chlodomer nominally appoints Vulfelind as Spy Master, but in practice she spends more time providing military advice and designing the fortresses for Chlodomer and Galswintha.

  6. Guardian Galswintha leaves to acquire engineers and laborers.

  7. Patriarch Shadagrunde takes the army and camps the Dwarven Highway, where he encounters and provides customer service to traveling merchants … and spreads the word.

  8. Spy Master Vulfelind sends henches to check on the state of Orléans and Atanung.

Chlodomer receives his enchanted armor!

News comes in that Atanung is recruiting and training a military force - best estimate is that they will be done by the end of Winter.

Mages fill out spell repertoires.

Laborers and engineers begin work. Galswintha uses an earth elemental to help with the excavation phase.

The castle is priced at 500,000 gold; Galswintha’s tower at 30,000 … and then she discovers some of the “easter egg” benefits of the efreet wish, and she and Vulfelind sit down and redesign the tower … to the tune of 100,000 gold.

Will it be awesome? With the assistance of the guardian owl and treants, the tower will be part of the Galaufchulis tree itself.

Year 3, Winter
Shadagrunde continues to camp the highway, and amuses himself by examining the length of the dwarven highway, and slowly determines that - within a few miles of the ancient dwarven markers - the highway is mysteriously free of permanent lairs. Monsters always find a reason to move on! He begins to amass a library on the topic.

He also sets up a series of cheap runner outposts and small garrisons in case Atanung makes a military move.

Chlodomer makes a few passes around the borders and puts together a more complete map of the realm; and borrows Deuteria’s services from Galswintha to more thoroughly explore the caves in Azure Hot Springs.

Vulfelind has Veneranda and Almalinda work with the pegasus nests, working to establish a long-term agreement of protection and service. The agreement comes together, and Vulfelind arranges extra food and fodder for the pegasuses through the winter. The end of the cloud giant’s hunting parties also helps seal the deal.

And as winter comes to an end and the year’s first foals hatch, concerned and hopeful pegasus parents watch Almalinda demonstrate her gentle touch in equine training.

Galswintha spends the winter overseeing the construction of her tower.

Spring, Month 4
On the first day of Spring, normally a time of celebration, Atanung soldiers are spotted marching on the dwarven highway. Shadagrunde retreats slowly, keeping an eye on them, and sends runners to Orléans and Galaufabonne.

The army is huge: 2,000 soldiers, mostly light infantry and slingers.

Every two days, the Atanung army splits off a century of infantry and dozen slingers to camp and watch the supply line, while the remainder marches on.

At the midway point, the Grim Fist marches out and demands parley. A discussion is had, and goes poorly: Atanung intends to take Orléans, and tries to capture the Grim Fist to prevent a warning (sadly, they are a week late for that, but the Grim Fist does not enlighten them).

The party flees, goes invisible, and flees again. Rather than stop and spend fruitless days trying to find them, the Atanung army sends word back to the supply camps to fortify, and marches on at speed.

The Grim Fist members have a powow.

  1. Atanung’s army is a problem. A big problem. On lots of levels. 2. Each camp looks about as tough as a bandit camp (which caused losses last time). 3. The main force that arrives at Orléans will be about seven times as big.

Galswintha borrows Veneranda and Fierce on the Wind … and goes to talk to the fairies.

And a few days later, Chlodomer walks into the camp closest to Atanung to parley. He offers the mercenary captain a safe exit back to Atanung, if he leaves immediately. The captain refuses. Chlodomer nods and leaves.

Meanwhile, pixies flit invisible through the camp, cutting saddle straps, unscrewing arrow heads, peace-bonding swords with spider silk, and more. And as soon as Chlodomer is out of the camp, trees attack, followed by cataphracts and heavy infantry. No spells or military oil (they would have used the oil, but had none left) are used, but the initial assault is still brutal, and enemy morale dissolves almost immediately. Chlodomer sends the bulk of soldiers home, but keeps the leaders as well-treated prisoners for ransom.

… and the Atanung runners who tried to run a warning to the next camp discover that light cavalry were waiting for them.

They then repeat this, camp by camp, as fast as they can, over the next several days. Some camps agree to disband and head home; others fight and die. Some losses are inevitable, and Shadagrunde and Team Priest focus on ensuring that it’s more “wounded” than “dead.” When they finally catch up to the main force, Atanung’s military has reached Orléans and is in pitched battle.

Shadagrunde’s initial runners to Orléans were not wasted: instead of a sleeping city, Atanung found a prepared (if small) military force.

For the main force, Chlodomer does not bother with a second attempt at parley, and the pixies refuse to enter an ongoing battle … so the party opens with webs and fireballs and an insect swarm, followed by a sweeping water elemental who puts the fires out.

Then trees. Then archers and cataphracts. Then cavalry and heavy infantry.

One thing is certain: Vulfelind has figured out how to combine soldier types.

When Atanung figures out that killing trees is a waste of time and goes hunting actual treants, they find Chlodomer and his personal guard waiting. Chlodomer finally has an opportunity to enjoy the cleaving rules, as he hews his way through their ranks (fun fact: Chlodomer pretty much can’t miss, and his damage bonus is higher than any standard soldier’s hit points).

Spells of confusion, illusions, and the occasional sniper magic missile help; Galswintha’s water elemental, immune to normal weapons, turns out to be terrifying against light infantry (and Baldaswind in tiger form is possibly more devastating).

Shadagrunde and Team Priest, again, focus on making sure that as many losses as possible are merely wounded, but do take a few moments here and there to bash heads.

Vulfelind and crew make their way through the enemy ranks to find the Atanung General and engage an absolutely epic backstab. He dies with a vaguely puzzled look, before Vulfelind goes down with a massive head wound inflicted by the General’s aide. (The aide lives just long enough to enjoy a moment of glory before Grizzba, screaming incoherent goblin curses, is on him like stink on an ape.)

Trapped between Orléans and the Grim Fist, and suddenly leaderless, the Atanung mercenaries surrender.

First aid fails to recover Vulfelind, and the first restoration of life also
fails: she appears to be well dead. Chlodomer pleads her case to the Governor of Orléans (“We fought well, but she died ending the fight”). Her body is sent to the chief priest of Orléans (who notices that her name is on the roster of “top hundred donations”) and gives his own best attempt.

She remains dead, and he promises to try again each day until it is hopeless, but warns “She died instantly, with a grievous head wound … and she has been distant from us in each attempt. There is a grave and solid chance that she cannot be returned to us.”

As a side note, the party stumbles across a rumor: that the leader of the Orléans Thieves’ Guild died, and there has been an upheaval resulting in a lot of street fighting, assassinations, and counter-assassinations.

Chlodomer helps hammer out a treaty between Orléans and Atanung. Shadagrunde and crew heal members of their army. Galswintha frets.

On the fourth day of attempts, the Orléans Patriarch declares Vulfelind truly dead. Galswintha declares the Patriarch truly a quack, and sets off to hire the 11th level mage in Orleans to reincarnate Vulfelind … but he doesn’t have that spell.

Then she argues with Vulfelind’s shortsword of luck to no avail:

“Oh no, I don’t think so. You call that epic? How many thieves are in the world? Too many, that’s how many. And wishes? You can’t find them for love or money. And you want to trade a wish for a thief?”

So finally: the corpse is preserved, and Galswintha goes back to the wizard, pays a lot of money for his research, and then more money for the casting

… and Vulfelind is reincarnated into a new body.

She is no longer tall, but short and compact. Her dark olive skin is darker, almost black. Her close-cropped black hair has exploded into a massive mess of shock-white curls. And her dark eyes … are now bright, amber, and slightly feral looking. For a brief moment, it looks more like a predatory spirit has moved into a human body …

Then one lip quirks up in a smirk, and it’s Vulfelind after all.

(OOC: Arctic werefox. Here is Vulfelind in fox form, looking smug.)

With the treaty signed on all sides, the Grim Fist escorts the military force home; gathering up Atanung’s reinforcements along the way, acquires the ransoms, and then returns themselves home, except for Shadagrunde, who keeps watch on the Atanung border.

OOC Break
We took another break here, and looked at the in-game timeline. With a little
fudging, we manage to line up all of the construction (including Galswintha’s sanctum and research facilities, two waystations along the highway, and the central castle) to complete at the beginning of year 5.

My inner DM said to make every year hard, but the truth of the matter is: it is extremely unlikely that any truly threatening encounters will occur, there is a dragon to the south extending some protection, Atanung and Orléans both are nursing wounds, and I wanted to get to the domain game :-).

Vulfelind re-rolled her physical stats on 3d6 in order, rather than King’s method, and … right there in front of everyone, she rolled 13, 18, 16, and calmly wrote it down. These punks these days have no idea.

Arctic Werefox: Based on the Rules Cyclopedia entry; added thief abilities (and an extra * on the HD), which put her at exactly twice a fighter’s XP per level - she won’t see 11th level for a very long time. Allowed a foxman form, similar to the wererat, but restricted it to one-handed human-sized weapons due to small size. Vulfelind finally stops wearing the black widow armor.

Werefox-10: HD 9d8+2**, attack throw 2+, save F10, natural AC 3; Move 180, swim 60; cold-adapted (ignore weather and cold water, but no effect on cold damage). Usual lycanthropy stuff.

Then we skipped to Year 5 and began domain management.

Year 5, Winter
Followers arrive … and they are expensive, but Chlodomer is still uncertain of Atanung, and decides that running some debt now is worth the peace of mind; Galswintha is hesitant, but approves the costs for now. Morale pegs at maximum for the entire Winter.

Followers (including pre-existing mercenaries and those camping with Shadagrund):

  • Fighter-1. DEX +1, CON -2, INT +1. (25/month).
  • Fighter-2. STR -1, INT -1, WIS +1, CHA +2. (25/month).
  • Fighter-3. CON -2, INT +1, WIS +2. (50/month).
  • Fighter-3. STR +2, CHA +2. (100/month).
  • 200 light infantry (1,200/month).
  • 100 heavy infantry (1,200/month).
  • 30 longbowmen (900/month).
  • 50 light cavalry (1,500/month).
  • 20 heavy cavalry (1,200/month).
  • 60 cataphract cavalry (4,500/month).
  • Total: A staggering 10,700 per month.

The first two months are rough as a result, even with funds brought in by the party slowly working their way around the border and clearing a few dangerous lairs within a hex of Galaufabonne - and even the third month’s sudden bounty (as the number of peasant families tips over the military costs and moves the domain into profit) does not quite make up the debt.

And that’s when Iamanu shows up.

Iamanu turns out to be a dragon, with roughened scales of blackest charcoal, glowing green eyes, and vast, leather wings. No member of the Grim Fist has ever seen a dragon in person before (indeed, few living have), but where most manuscripts describe them as 10-24 feet long, Iamanu is 50 feet long, with a wingspan that rivals some arenas.

The dragon-sized and -fitted crown, rings, and other regalia; steel-tipped claws; and hovering shield with his emblem upon it … are also a bit discomfiting. And it takes a moment before they notice Aella and her archers riding a howdah on his back.

“It has been,” the giant beast rasps in passable Frankish, “a long, long time since I have accepted a vassal.”

Session End
And then I end the session because it’s late and the moment is too perfect, and I have to admit, the “NOOOOOOO” chorus really warmed the darkest corners of my heart.

Next week, dragons and taxes!

GM is sick, so no game this weekend :-(.

Hot damn, what a great update! I'm very excited that your group is moving into the Domain Game.

Looks like I'm getting Domains at War finished just in time...

It was pretty much an epic weekend.

I’m still writing up this weekend’s domain management stuff, but wanted to say: serious kudos on it. We actually had fun crunching numbers! Who would believe … ?

DAW: Actually, I really could have used it earlier (the Battle of Orléans, in particular, was brutal), but we did okay without. It helped to have a spreadsheet with the RANDOM() function!

I will be buying it when it’s finished, for sure.

I'm really pleased to hear that you enjoyed the domain management. Can't wait to read your write-up about it.

The rules for DAW are actually playtested, proof-read and done. I ran DAW sessions at Escapist Expo.

As soon as PC's layout is finished, we're going to lay out DAW into an art-free PDF for our ACKS backers and launch a DAW kickstarter.

If the DAW rules are essentially done, what’s the need for the Kickstarter?

Among other things, art, layout, and printing can all get pretty expensive. Even a PDF product needs the first two.

DAW: Yeah, I’m excited!

Spring, Month 4

Introduction Iamanu is a vast dragon, 14 tons and 50 feet long, with rough, charcoal-black scales and glowing green eyes. He wears a crown, rings, torcs, steel tips on his claws, an enormous ruby amulet, and similar regalia. A howdah is strapped between his wings, 10 feet by 20, within which a dozen archers, a woman in a black burqa, and two mages ride. And a shield hovers nearby, slowly circling the monster.

“It has been,” the giant beast rasps in passable Frankish, “a long, long time since I have accepted a vassal.”

Chlodomer gives a small, sickly smile, “Welcome to Galaufabonne, milord. I fear I have never hosted a dragon before …”

“Save it,” intones the dragon, “I am not here for pleasure.”

Discussion occurs:

  • Iamanu did not own Galaufabonne prior to now. Things change.
  • Iamanu granted Galaufabonne to the Red Duke, who gave the project to Count Abiron, who passed it to a trusted knight, who was recently eaten by Iamanu for incompetence. The Red Duke and retinue are currently in bad graces.
  • Aella is a former member of the Red Duke retinue; he promoted her to this project, answering directly to him. The details are up to her - he is here only to ensure good behavior on all parts.
  • Chlodomer can accept Aella's rulership or not. Hint: One of these is not a real option.

Chlodomer swears fealty. Aella decides to build the road backward (starting from Galaufabonne and heading home) so that she can observe Chlodomer’s rulership style firsthand. She graciously allows Chlodomer to host her in the lavish lifestyle to which she is accustomed.

Chlodomer’s smile gets a little more sickly.

Several things happen this month!

Adventuring An expedition into the Azure Hot Springs clears out two skittering maws - who almost give the entire party a watery grave - and finds the last of the hydra treasures. Galswintha acquires an elven ring of exceptional power (protection +3).
Aella Spends Money Aella requests an interest-free loan from Chlodomer to pay her people. Then she parties like a 12th level character while they slooowly build a road southward.
Hex Management Bugbear Forest Lake - the second ugliest hex and in the bottom half in value - hits a population of 100. Ugly Hill - the ugliest hex and in the bottom third in value - hits a population of 99. They are, in fact, the runaway leaders in population.

It is a mystery with, apparently, no answer.

Total income is -2,000 gold prior to festivals. Chlodomer throws a proper, full festival anyway, and gets perilously close to the red line Galswintha drew on the wall of her accounting office.

Not much of interest happens, otherwise.

A Dream of a Highway Shadagrunde and Vulfelind lay plans for a 150-mile highway following the original dwarven markers. Galswintha nixes it until the money is in better shape.
Diplomacy There are visitors from Orléans and Atanung. Chlodomer handles it with reasonable aplomb keeping the conversation riveted on just how much money everyone stands to make by continued peaceful trade, and just how badly it will go for everyone else if Galaufabonne has to go to war again.

Since tales of what happened to the armies Atanung left strung along the trail last year have grown (and muddied) over time, this seems to satisfy everyone.

Chlodomer does have to backtrack on a statement - he talks up the highway, and, err, accidentally claims credit in front of Shadagrunde. He does backtrack on it, though, and makes sure credit is given appropriately.

Also, Vulfelind’s little secret comes out:

In Spring of last year, the party asked Vulfelind to drop the issue of the Orléans Guild Boss being a wererat, and she left Orléans for a couple weeks of vacation to get over it.

Later, after the Battle of Orléans, they learned that the Orléans Guild Boss had died. It seemed a bit odd, but the timing was wrong for Vulfelind to have been involved.

This Spring, a representative of the new Orléans Guild Boss gave Vulfelind an expensive thank-you gift for “her investment and faith in him”: a small canoe (15 ft x 3 ft) with the same properties as a carpet of flying.

The other members of the Grim Fist put two and two together, and the truth outs: Vulfelind went to Atanung for “vacation,” worked with the Atanung Guild Boss to ensure a reasonably smooth succession in Orléans, hired a small group of assassins, and loaded them up for wererat hunting. Some spying was done to make certain of the targets, and then while Vulfelind and her crew were stabbing the Bandit King to death in a tunnel, the assassins were exterminating the nest in Orléans.

This may have also helped give the Atanung Boss the idea that Orléans was ripe for the plucking, which may have trickled up to the Atanung Governor, which may have resulted in some of that recent military action, but nothing can ever truly be certain in this world, eh?

Shorter version: She didn’t so much drop the issue, as drop it on someone’s head.

OOC: And at some point, I hope to get Vulfelind to write that up from her character’s perspective :-).

Our Lady of Light Shadagrunde takes Chlodomer's monthly tithe and puts it toward a temple adjunct to the central castle ... and begins putting attention toward a congregation.

Within the month, Team Priest has just about sealed up the 20% of the population not following the religious edict. Shadagrunde doesn’t have a workshop or library yet, however, so he continues working on the temple and just maintains the congregation.

Galswintha's Research The sorceress begins her first full magical research project. She refuses to divulge details to anyone.

(OOC: Okay, okay, I know what it is.)

Note: That doesn’t look like much of an update, does it?

This was the first time they really went whole-hog on making the domain profitable (during the epic weekend, they had lots of gold coming out of their ears, so they just focused on the military situation), and everyone had to discuss everything in detail.

And I’m not complaining, it was fun! But “first time slowness” was definitely a factor.

Having to pause the game for a few minutes here and there while I worked out a rule (i.e., the cost of highways) also played into it a bit. That will definitely reduce in the future.

Next week, I am hopeful that we can get 2-3 months done in the same time.

Ironically, in another thread on another site, grumbling grognards have pronounced that ONLY games which are already finished should be Kickstarted.

Here's w hy we'd Kickstart: 

Art: Cover art; interior art; and gameplay art. As a board wargame, DAW is fairly hard to grasp just from text. In additon, we expect the "digital boxed set" to include counters, mapsheets, terrain pieces, and tokens, all of which will require art, too.

Layout: Converting my text into nice, two-column PDFs that can be viewed on screen takes time. It takes additional time to add hyperlinks, indexes, and glossaries. And still further time to make it print compatible.

Printing: We want DAW to be available as softbound books, ideally in a shrinkwrap portfolio or boxed set.

Orders: Kickstarter has generated more orders for our books than any other sales channel, period. Even if the whole thing was finished, it'd just be a great sales channel.


Just wanted to say in response to this little sequence of quotes tucked into the last few sessions:

Cameron wrote: Vulfelind meets briefly with Chludwig d'Orléans - head of the Thieves' Guild - whose daughter she had returned to him last time. He wants to make sure that she knows that he knows about their plans for Pegasus Mountain, and that as long as she remembers who's really in charge, he won't tell the Governor what's really going on. She smiles and nods and kisses his ring finger and worries about which of her henches is actually a spy. She also finally pays attention to what he looks like, and realizes that he is probably a wererat.
Cameron wrote: Vulfelind talks to the party, but they're hesitant to take on a Thieves' Guild leader in a major city who is cozy with the Governor, especially when the "spy" is now a double agent on the party's side.

Vulfelind sighs and agrees, but still takes a vacation in Atanung (“anywhere but here”) to put it behind her.

Cameron wrote: A pack of grinning thieves, whose portraits Chludwig sent him months ago, are waiting for him at his exit. His hidden exit. His oh-so-secret exit. One of them, Vulfelind, puts a flaming, magical crossbow bolt into his leg as he slows to a stop.

Albert puts on his most charming smile, “Lovelies, I have allies who will be unhappy if you don’t let me by.”

Vulfelind smiles. The pack swarms the rat lord with magic blades and malice.

Cameron wrote: Some spying was done to make certain of the targets, and then while Vulfelind and her crew were stabbing the Bandit King to death in a tunnel, the assassins were exterminating the nest in Orléans.
I will never, ever play poker with Vulfelind.

Basically, yeah. She has the Old School D&D Player thing nailed, doesn’t she?

Thanks for the insight on your reasoning behind the DAW Kickstarter.

I have to agree with you that Kickstarter is a great sales channel. I know it’s just one data point but, outside of the ACKS rulebook, every single fantasy games purchase I’ve made in the last year has been a Kickstarter project (if you exclude me trolling for old Dragon mags at my local shop).