Chronicles of the Grim Fist, part II

Session 26
Year 6, Months, 1, 2, and 3 (Winter) continued
Hex #1306: Fungal Forest. The rust-colored mushrooms in the Red Meadow extended there from here, where their larger (or perhaps just older?) cousins have larger overtaken the cave-strewn hills. Viewed from high in the sky, the area resembles a semi-circular grove of giant mushrooms . . . with a fattened tendril snaking into Red Meadow. Based on this horrifying visual alone, the Grim Fist decides to explore.

Thanks to Shadagrunde’s foresight, each party member is equipped with a potion of cure poison, and enough clerics are brought along for additional possible issues, such as any need for cure disease.

Another aerial scouting turns up a few minor details visible from the sky:

  1. A tower-shaped mushroom of sufficient size to act as a fortress. A roc is visibly nesting in an upper crevice.
  2. A patch roughly two square miles in size appears to be a giant bee colony.
  3. The wreckage of a crashed cloud castle is just visible between the trees.
  4. A small temple is visible in the northwest-most corner.

(Vulfelind: “Five gold says we’ll be fighting a fungus before nightfall.” Everyone else: “No bet.”)

They decide to nibble at the edges first rather than tackle any of the visible-from-air horrors. Rumors say that some sort of large, wolf-like pack of creatures has been haunting the borders of Red Meadow, so they start with those rumors, establish a two-square mile zone where the wolves or dire wolves might be, and then grid and march into the bloom of tree-sized mushrooms.

What they don’t do is consult any sages about forests of giant rust-colored mushrooms …

So when a pack of fungus-encrusted dire wolves - their eyes glowing a faint, bioluminescent green - erupt from foam-like cysts in the ground, they have very little in the way of intel or planned responses.

The lead wolves use their surprise to breathe some sort of choking cloud which causes the majority of low- or no-level hirelings to drop to the ground choking, and causes several party members and henches to suffer (but fight through) a hacking fit as well. The remainder simply dive in and start attacking those who are already down.

Galswintha, seeing this (perhaps rightly) as do or die, and noting that almost every low-level NPC is already dead, drops a fireball at ground zero. Perhaps it is an issue of adrenaline or desperation, but the fireball that results is intense, and brings all but Chlodomer near death.

The three remaining monsters then tackle Galswintha to the ground, one of them tearing off her left arm before Chlodomer, Shadagrunde, and Vulfelind manage to kill them and drag them off the sorceress.

While Chlodomer and Shadagrunde guard the pile of ally corpses, Vulfelind sprints home to requisition soldiers to help carry them home, and by nightfall, everyone is holed up in one of Shadagrunde’s newly constructed temples.

Shadagrunde restores Galswintha and key henches, then cures disease on each “just in case.” Galswintha returns … somewhat changed.

The torn off arm has become the arm of a treant, looking exactly like her previous arm, but the color and hardness of stained oak.

The next day … those who were not cured of disease, even the corpses, come to life as fungal monstrosities. Who breathe clouds of choking infection and then attack to kill. The temple is evacuated as Chlodomer holds the door against the rising tide of horror until Galswintha can cast sufficient webs into place.

And then one fireball after another until the wooden temple burns down, taking the fungal creatures with it. Priests from all over the realm are gathered and brought in to cure disease on everything in the temple, the remaining corpses are given cremation rites …

Then they consult sages about forests of giant rust-colored mushrooms.

Fungal Breath (1/day): 10' x 10' cloud adjacent to fungal creature. Victims with less than 4 HD are incapacitated by choking for 1d6 rounds; higher-HD victims save vs. Poison or suffer a -2 on attack throws for the same time period. One day after breathing in the airborne spores, all victims must save vs. Disease or become a fungal creature. Corpses do not get a save - they are automatically transformed.

Fungal creatures have the base HD for the creature plus +2 HD (humans and demihuman fungal creatures have 3 HD as fungal creatures). They are immune to gas, poison, sleep, charm, and hold spells, and are unintelligent (they lose all class and supernatural abilities, but not natural attacks or movement). The lack of internal organs grants +2 AC, and unnatural strength improves weapon damage by +1 or increases natural weapon die size by a small amount. Fungal creatures can use fungal breath once per day.

They back off from the fungal forest … for about another two days, long enough to prepare a fungal forest bonfire. That fails to work, however: live mushroom just isn’t all that flammable.

Wordthief: “Pfffft. Dwarves used to destroy fungal forests all the time. That’s not epic.”
Vulfelind: “How?”
Wordthief: “They had a machine or something.”
Vulfelind: “Wyrmtooth?”
Wyrmtooth: “Afraid not.”
Wordthief: “Yeah, like you’d know anything.”
Wyrmtooth: “I do know the dwarves hated the stuff. It ate iron veins or something.”
Vulfelind: “…”

Which is how Vulfelind ended up talking the others into helping her capture a family of rust monsters. That took the better part of month 2, but once she had them firmly in hand (or rather, once Chlodomer stripped down to cloth armor and grappled them into submission), the party flew in to the center of the fungal forest at the beginning of month 3 … and dropped the rust monsters on a soft-looking bloom.

And when the mushroom began falling apart into blackened organics and oxidized rust powder, the Grim Fist cackled and fled. Behind them, in the rapidly increasing distance, rust monsters feasted as they had never feasted before.

Shadagrunde was briefly morose: “You know those things are going to breed.”

Maaan… one problem with introducing my players to this thread is that now I can’t steal things from it :frowning: Keep up the good work!

Session 27
Spring, Month 4
Hex Management

The population of Galaufabonne tops 8,400 (including the 1,400 in Bone Temple City). The income after the spring festival tops 20,000 (including the -2,700 in Bone Temple City after urban investments).

Shadagrunde’s divine power available for magical research tops 32,000 gp-equivalents. He begins researching Harvest (which will use up 2,000 gp per month) … and assigns the remainder to the temples scattered around Galaufabonne for healing potion manufacture.

Galswintha envies at the ritual magic, then spends much of the month working out a deal with the fairies to produce semi-magical clothing:

Pixie Clothing: x100 cost. Changes color and appearance with the seasons, always fits and flatters, and grants a +1 reaction bonus in haute couture circumstances.

Gnome Clothing: x100 cost. Sturdy and resistant to all kinds of mud, weather, grit, dust, stains, and all manner of other abuse. May grant a +1 on relevant saves and proficiency throws (gnome boots, for example, might grant a bonus on saves against stepped-on foot hazards); usually grants a +1 reaction bonus in survival and some military circumstances.

… does it even need to be said that her wardrobe expands?

Aella Sappheiros sends Chlodomer a gift for his hard work:

Oscar: This bronze, 13.5-inch-tall, humanoid statuette is a HD 1* construct. It can spit fire for 1d3 damage against a target within 5'; this requires an attack throw. It has the usual construct immunities, and Move 30. It's main use, however, is as a watchdog - it never sleeps, it is small and reasonably quiet, and it can clap its hands to produce a bell-like tone if it sees someone who isn't on its approved list.
With 1,400 families in Bone Temple City (class IV), Vulfelind begins construction on a hideout, which will be completed on the following month. The hideout is constructed underground with a tavern on the surface, and tied into the hidden passages secreted throughout the city.

Near the beginning of the month, the party examines the damage the rust monsters are doing … and it isn’t much. It’s not that they aren’t doing heinous amounts of property damage for their mass, but there are only four rust monsters.

Good news, there is now a clear patch to land in near the middle of the fungal forest.

Bad news, the fungal forest has begun growing faster in the area where the wolves were killed and is expanding into Red Meadow. So the party races to the rust monster’s new lair, re-captures them, transports them to Red Meadow, and drops them into the largest encroachment.

Four fat, disgruntled rust monsters wave their antennae lazily, then waddle to a good spot and flop down for a nap.

Galswintha spends a fair amount of time trying to “persuade” them to eat the yummy, yummy iron mushrooms. One of them takes a tiny, indolent nibble, burps, goes back to sleep.

No one wants to spend the time and energy hunting down more rust monsters, so they decide to finally tackle individual lairs … starting with the giant bee colony.

Fungal bees are a poor match against Galswintha’s fireballs, but even with hit-and-run tactics and lots of poison antidote, it takes the party four days of concentrated effort to finish off the last roving groups of angrily buzzing mushrooms.

… and four days after that, a brief check of the area reveals that fungal bee honey is essentially “stored iron” for the fungal growth as a whole - the whole area has re-bloomed and the giant honey-comb has begun to fill in with aggressive fungal forest.

The Grim Fist retreats once again.

Spring, Month 5
Hex Management

The population of Galaufabonne tops 9,400 (including the 1,800 in Bone Temple City). With no new construction in Bone Temple City, no festivals, and no sudden castle-constructing urges ...

Oh, wait, Aella is requesting a 10,000 gold loan.

And Red Meadow is requesting military aid to chop down and clear back mushroom growth.

And Iamanu sent out a call to vassals to provide military support for a campaign he is waging … and Aella has passed that call down the line to Chlodomer.

And a Royal Messenger for the King of Greuthungi (the kingdom of which Atanung is a part) bears a message informing Chlodomer know that King Chilperic II lost a lot of money when trade shifted from highways controlled by His Majesty to a podunk little barony in the middle of nowhere … and lost more money when several caravans owned by His Majesty discovered that the goods they were bringing to market were already there, thanks to a recently opened shortcut.

His Majesty graciously offers to overlook Chlodomer’s rage-inducing failure to inform His Majesty, in return for becoming a vassal of Greuthungi.

The party huddles. They discuss relative military power (Greuthungi, Tervingi, and Iamanu all have around a hundred times Galaufabonne’s military might); who they can ally with; whether shattering part of the highway’s protection to unleash mushroom doom on Atanung would be worth it; and so on.

And then they craft a message, and Chlodomer gives it to the Royal Messenger:

"Your Majesty, we extend our most sincere sympathies for your under-performing caravan. It is almost inconcievable to us that Atanung's mayor, who has been plying our highway for the past year, would not have informed you of the shifting trade situation. Had we known he was so derelict in his duties, we would of course have sent a messenger to those countries affected. Perhaps we should check to make sure that Orléans is more responsible, and possibly send a missive to King Dagobert III, as well?"

“In the hopes that your Royal Messenger is immune to whatever politics lead Atanung to misinform you, we have included a packet of what we know of the situation there. Given that we are foreigners, however, perhaps it would be better if you simply asked them directly for better information.”

“Regarding your offer of vassalage, we must regretfully decline. King Iamanu would frown upon it, and we would honestly rather not start a war between two such lovely countries.”

The rust mushroom forest beckons. This time, they decide to tackle the former storm giant castle.

It goes poorly. Fungal storm giants lack the spell-like abilities of their breathing brethren, but are substantially harder to kill … and fungal griffons, it turns out, are a force to be reckoned with. Properly chastised, the party flees for their lives, with few hit points and little pride remaining.

Shadagrunde: “We can’t leave it alone and we can’t burn it and we can’t kill it at any reasonable speed. I really hope there’s a central heart we can kill.”
Party: …!

A few days of rest later, Vulfelind drags out her flying canoe and then changes into fox form so three more folks can fit; Galswintha and Chlodomer mount their pegasi (and take one passenger each); and a small crew of henches are selected for optimal killing. Ropes are looped between everyone, Invisibility 10’ Radius is cast, and the crew soars out, looking for anything heart- or center-like.

A vaguely tower-shaped mushroom, tall and conical, surrounded by broad umbrella mushrooms a hundred feet across each, looks promising. After some preliminary discussion, Galswintha casts Invisibility on Vulfelind, and Shadagrunde casts Silence 15’ radius on the fox and himself.

They land, silent and invisible, amid the mushrooms. Vaguely humanoid fungi march in orderly columns in a vigilant watch, and the party is careful to not get too close. They find a good spot to hole up for a while, communicating with rope tugs, shoulder taps, and arrows drawn in the dirt. Once they find the spot and settle in, Vulfelind heads out and searches the area … until she finds the mining entrance. This she explores briefly, then returns. With no way to communicate what she found, however, she simply finds Galswintha’s ankle, tail-swishes for pick-up, is deposited in the canoe, and begins slowly directing it forward, leading the party.

She didn’t find the heart (although she is certain the heart is somewhere in the mine) … she found an old hoard, now largely unguarded.

The Grim Fist crams everything they can into saddlebags and canoe, calls it a day, and flees once again.

Once safely home, Chlodomer grins, “Well, I didn’t get what I wanted, but I wanted what I got.”

They decide to tackle the mine again the following month. For now, they focus on selling the extra magic items they just acquired … and Galswintha levels, and fills out her spell repertoire, scoring wall of fire and transmute rock to mud.

Thanksgiving family stuff means the next three weekends we won’t have any face-to-face. I hate to leave the players hanging with the whole mushroom thing, but everyone’s schedules are too different to put together a single block of time.

Christmas is likely to have a similar effect, but we should be able to get a couple games together in December.

Stupid seasonal joy.

On the plus side, I’ll have time to prep the war that’s coming …

Just popping in to say that I LOVE these chronicles! Very well-written, and your game is probably VERY FUN.

By the way, I’d love to see the maps of your setting as well as some background information on it.

I agree, if you ever think about trying to run a google hangout game sign me up, this games sounds amazing!


Thank you! I’m afraid my maps are not on the artistic side, and consist more of scribbled notes on a hex map, text files with hex numbers and short descriptions, and the occasional (horribly crude) sketch.

For background information … hm. I may see if I can put together something readable.

I don’t think I’m quite ready for an online game, but thank you for the kind words. If I do ever do something like that, I will keep you in mind.

Session 28
OOC: This was from two weeks ago. Last weekend will be up next.

Spring, Months 6, 7, and 8
Hex Management

The population of Galaufabonne tops 12,500 (including 3,600 in Bone Temple City). This was a fast-growing season!

Aella pays back her loan. She also sends Chlodomer two sets of extremely realistic and attractive statues. When he asks about them … some vassal of Aella’s did something that merited punishment, so she took away the vassal’s harem. She also writes that he is free to keep them as statuary or a harem - she doesn’t care.

The Grim Fist realize at this point that they are committed to breaking free of Iamanu’s realm.

Shadagrunde continues his Harvest research until he doesn’t. Merideth begins researching the Lady’s Cane magical weapon Shadagrunde gave her.

Research: Mace +2, cure disease once per day. Base costs are 15,000/15,000 gp, research time 75/75 days, throw 11+/11+ (Merideth has a +3 workshop and sufficient divine power to provide another +3). Final roll 5+/5+. Because she has a sample, the actual cost and time is 7,500/7,500 gp and 38/38 days.

Galswintha begins researching a horrible thing: a choker necklace that grants the wearer the ability to breathe dragon’s fire three times per day.

Research: Base cost 30,000 gold, research time 250 days, throw 12+ (Galswintha has +2 INT and +3 workshop). Galswintha had a platinum torc (twin dragon heads with flawless facet-cut black sapphire eyes) worth 30,000gp, which grants another +3 on the roll, for a final roll of 4+. Half of the research will be required before she can distill the magical essences.

Vulfelind petitions for more funds to keep up with the city’s growth, and continues to lavish design love on “her” city, and initiates some hijinks to spy on other kingdoms.

The rust monsters continue to hold back the mushroom forest in Red Meadow, but the larger problem remains. Lacking a better option, the party loads up the canoe and returns for further invisible scouting.

… and manage to ignore at least two signs of an impending horrible monster before blundering face-first into a central domed room with a sponge-like, fungus-festooned brain-thing floating over a large, open pit with a scattering of corpses impaled on spikes below.

Fungal Brain

Fungal Brain: AC 6, Move fly 30', HD 20 (90 hp), attack smash 3d6, cast as mage-10, telepathy as helm of telepathy, SV F10, ML +2, AL C. Immune to gas, poison, sleep, charm, and hold. Has 1d12 stalks growing from it (below).

Fungal Stalk: AC 2, Move 0’, HD 2 (9 hp), attack one spell, SV F1, ML +4, AL C. Immune to gas, poison, sleep, charm, and hold. Can cast a single spell (determine randomly as for a scroll) at the minimum caster level for the spell. The stalk can cast the spell with a frequency determined by spell level: 1 (once per round), 2 (once every 1d6 rounds), 3 (once per hour), 4+ (once per day). A stalk glows when it casts, and can be interrupted just like a mage.

A non-fungal mage who casts a spell within 30’ of the fungal brain must make a save vs. Death or suffer 3d6 damage. If a caster drops below 0 hp from this damage, a new stalk grows on the fungal brain based on the spell that killed the caster. The fungal brain heals an amount equal to the damage dealt (a healthy fungal brain gains no further benefit).

The party’s invisibility is dispelled as they enter the room, and a telepathic voice resonates in their minds: SHALL WE PARLEY?

Galswintha recovers her voice first, “Yes, please?”


Chlodomer: “We do wish to protect them. We would rather you went elsewhere.”


Vulfelind: (sotto) “Friggin’ efreet wish …”

Chlodomer: “Our lands will be a lot costlier for you to acquire than others.”


Shadagrunde: “Then why aren’t you? Why parley?”


And with that, the telepathically-contacted storm giant down the hall reaches the dome and attacks.

Vulfelind, suspicious of the technicolor stalks sprouting off the fungal brain, decides to put a flaming crossbow bolt through one of them. It makes a hissing, screaming noise as it burns and falls off, and the remaining six stalks pulse like a neon rave party.

Vulfelind shakes off three simultaneous charm attempts; the brain splits into three identical images; and a web spell engulfs the party (missing Chlodomer).

Shadagrunde casts true seeing on Chlodomer, who spots the non-illusory brain and charges, leaping across the pit, cleaving through four glowing stalks … and then falls short of the other lip of the pit and tumbles into the pit, barely avoiding impalement on the spikes.

The storm giant puts the hurt on Vulfelind, and Galswintha conjures a wall of stone, shaped to provide a spiral staircase from the bottom of the pit to the top of the dome. … and blood begins running freely from her nose, as the spell opens her life force to draining by the brain.

Vulfelind casually and methodically ignites the web, loads her crossbow, and fires into each visible fungal brain, destroying the illusory duplicates.

Webbing catches Chlodomer in the pit, and the brain hits the main party with Confusion and Vulfelind with another Charm. She resists the charm, but not the confusion, and she stares blankly for a round.

Meanwhile, Shadagrunde tries to get the storm giant’s attention off Vulfelind by wailing away at its knees with his hammer. It works: and the returning axe blow very nearly kills Shadagrunde.

Galswintha, ignoring the pain, casts Dragonbreath and suffers another bout of drain. Still, she smiles, if bloodily - once cast, dragon’s breath lets her deal damage without further casting.

Vulfelind, confused, still manages a coherent realization: the brain’s stalks are casting spells, but so is the brain itself! When a moment of clarity arrives, she shoots the brain’s central mass, ruining whatever spell it was planning … and steps sideways just enough to prevent another area spell from catching most of the party.

She manages coherent thought long enough to interrupt it once more, and then avoids it when it attempts to smash her in person … and Chlodomer finally manages to make his way up the stairs, where he chops the remaining fungal stalks off.

Shadagrunde heals himself in time to barely survive the next axe chop … And Galswintha unleashes flaming draconic death at the storm giant. Then Shadagrunde gives one final chop before the giant takes him down, and Galswintha ends the fungal collosus’ life with a second blast of breath.

And then, while Vulfelind and Chlodomer tag-team the brain, Galswintha removes a diamond from her necklace of resurrection and shatters it next to Shadagrunde’s mangled, chopped corpse. Once he stands up, blinking in confusion, she breathes her last dragon fire at the brain, and the Grim Fist dog-pile and stomp into pieces the enemy brain.

… and the fungal bloom does not shudder, wither, or die. They can hear more monsters responding to its telepathic distress call in the halls outside. They are no longer invisible, and no one has much in the way of hit points.

They flee for their lives, although Chlodomer wists tearfully in the direction of the pit of dead adventurers and their gear and treasure.

Unfortunately, Shadagrunde did not make it out unscathed … his heart beats and blood flows, but something is not quite right (OOC: WIS -4, CON -4, and dropping total hp to 16.).

The impact on his Lady-granted intuition is too much for him, and he decides to retire. After some heartfelt discussion, he asks Chlodomer to take on Merideth le Chocolat as Matriarch of Galaufabonne, and with that agreed to: Galswintha provides Merideth with a full membership Grim Fist ring; Shadagrunde leaves her the gear he no longer needs; and Chlodomer presides over a small, informal initiation.

Shadagrunde leaves for the Thervingi Great Library, where his frail health and reduced wisdom will not impact his duties as severely: the Lady’s Church accepts his presence there as the immense boon that it is. (OOC: Indeed, he eventually becomes the primary ruler of the library sanctum, as its needs are more political than physical or spiritual.)

After the fungal brain was killed, the fungal forest ceased its outward growth, but did not die … and some additional research has yielded a possible answer: it is expending its growth to produce a new fungal brain, to direct its actions.

So they stage a series of raids and searches in the fungal cavern complex. And rather than make one major assault per month (OOC: stringing it out for the population boost of adventuring each month, heh), they murder their way across the entire hex, wiping out all of the fungus-infected animals the fungal bloom is using to defend itself. They also hit upon the idea of wearing masks to protect them from the fungal breath weapon, and it works!

With that in hand, they target and kill the remaining storm giants, wipe out the fungal roc’s hideout, kill off a series of deer herds, wolf packs, horrible zombie-fungus rabbits, a flight of hawks, and a fungus-infected bandit camp. (They also grab the pit adventurer loot, dig through twenty feet of mushroom flesh to find the roc’s treasure, and search high and low until they dig out the storm giant’s treasure room. Let it not be said that they forgot priorities.)

One interesting bit of treasure is a platinum skullcap with a black sapphire “third eye,” which turns out to be a helm of language comprehension. Galswintha begins wearing her hair in a braid.

Without protectors, and facing fat rust monsters along its southern border, the fungal bloom begins to constrict inward somewhat.

And then Vulfelind takes her canoe up into the sky with a surveyor and mapper … to identify the center toward which it is shrinking.

With a decent idea of where the center of the mushroom forest was, the party piled onto pegasuses and canoe … and hovering high above it, Galswintha summons an earth elemental to begin rending the earth looking for entrances to a deeper cavern, and once that is found, has it spend some time shattering tree-sized mushrooms in an orgy of destruction.

And then they retreat and amass their army … for next session.

Session 29
Summer, Month 8, Continued, and Month 9
The problem: the party wants to bring a small army of henches to the center of the fungal forest, which exceeds what an invisible canoe and two pegasi can carry.

The solution: Gear up a significant portion of the Galaufabonne army and march through the fungal forest, chopping it down as they go, to inject the smaller army of party members and henches into the center of the hex. In addition, they buy as much sulfur (a medieval/alchemical purifying agent and, amusingly enough, a real-world fungicide) as they can get their hands on.

Fortunately, they’ve cleared out most of the large predators and monsters, leaving only infected songbirds, rodents, and the like. Which are a pain, but not a serious threat.

I decide to treat it as a construction project, as if clearing a dirt road. They need it to be three miles long, and after some discussion, we settle on 100 feet wide, for a total cost of 1,875 gp.

The entire army is given careful instruction in the use of moist cloths over the mouth, and staying away from cute cloud-breathing bunnies.

Chlodomer has an army of 850 (labor 85 gp per day) for a total of 22 days of labor (shading into month 9). On day 11, the new fungal brain has grown, and it arrives to stomp down the enemy … armed with three fungal purple worms that the forest had in reserve.

A fungal purple worm is a horrible, horrible thing, unless you have a dragon-fire-breathing sorceress on the back of a pegasus. Galswintha finds her three-point position in the first round and begins layering hellfire on giant worm heads. She fails to kill any of them, but she costs them so much mass and life that Chlodomer, Vulfelind, and their henches manage to finish them off quickly.

Which leaves Merideth and her loyal knights fighting the brain by themselves.

Fortunately, this brain has more limited spellcasting abilities. It paralyzes several of Merideth’s knights’ horses and fireballs Merideth … who laughs it off and flame strikes the brain in return. This tit-for-tat goes around twice, and then the mounted knights arrive with their charge.

The brain explodes on the ends of their lances.

Now alert for tremors in the earth, the army continues its slash-and-burn across the three miles of giant mushrooms until they reach the heart unearthed by Galswintha’s earth elemental weeks prior.

Leaving the army at the entrance, the Grim Fist … manages a fairly anticlimactic conclusion. A few token fungal soldiers are all that are left guarding the center, a vast mycelium-encysted cavern. And here they dump sulfur everywhere that looks even vaguely lumpish, wait a few days to let the sulfur do its work, then throw fireballs and flame strikes down the tunnel, and then transport and unleash the rust monsters in the heart of the fungus.

Already, the giant fungal blooms are beginning to wilt and die back.

By the end of month 9, the entire hex resembles a hilly desert of rust-colored grit, and all of the loot they can find has been found.

Month 9’s OOC Administrative Stuff

The population of Galaufabonne tops 14,000 (4,700 in Bone Temple City). Aella adds a 1 gp/family tax (i.e., 14,000 gp) "just for a little while." Despite this, the domain produces just enough money for the party to get a little XP out of it.

No magical research is accomplished: the PCs were in the Fungal Forest for an entire month!

We do a laundry list of characters, henches, and hench-henches, and make sure everything is up to date. Of interest:

Chlodomer and Merideth both level (11th and 10th, respectively). Chlodomer is now the highest-level member of the party.

(Also amusing to me: every member of the core party has died at least once.)

Galswintha’s falcon familiar (“Petite”) exceeds the HD and hit points of a giant hawk … so we go ahead and say she’s been growing. Galswintha commissions some chainmail barding, saddle, specialized saddle bags, and silvered talon tips. Petite: AC 7, Move fly 450’, HD 10 (23 hp), attack 2x talons 1d4+1 (silvered, throw 5+), SV mage-10, AL L. Can carry 40 stone at full speed or 80 stone at half speed.

Galswintha’s and Vulfelind’s growing zoo of arctic foxes, war dogs, tigers, wolves, giant hawks, pegasi, and cave bears … finally get a permanent home other than the nearby forest.

A vague discussion Galswintha and Vulfelind had about a giant hawk military unit is concretized, and part of Bone Temple City’s garrison becomes the Flying Cataphract Cavalry:

Flying Cataphract Cavalry: Morale +2. 125 gold per month. Chain-barded giant hawk; plate armor, composite bow, shield and lance, shield and sword. Training time 20 months, requires a marshal with Manual of Arms x2, Riding (Giant Hawk), and Weapon Focus (Bows and Crossbows).

The marshal costs 500 gp/month. Since the hawks, marshal, available troops, and gold has been available for a long stretch of time, and since the reason it didn’t happen earlier was because I (th Judge) didn’t find time to discuss it, we retcon slightly and say that they’ve been training “all along.”

Given their resources, Galswintha and Vulfelind end up with 24 flying cataphract cavalry, which eats up 3,000 gp of garrison; the remainder of the garrison is 100 longbowmen and 300 heavy infantry. Chlodomer envies (Of course, he has no room to talk: he has a thousand-strong military … and he’s getting the bulk of the pegasi eggs to build another airborne cavalry unit.)

Some magic items are commissioned, and some magic item horse trading occurs between the players, and then some re-organization of which items are being loaned to which henches, and then some outright trades and gifts with the henches. It’s a good thing I took notes, because I no longer have any working memory of who has what.

Merideth’s cavalry unit is flat-out terrifying, and thankfully costs 35,000 gold per month to maintain: 7 cleric-8, 6 cleric-6, 12 fighter-4, plus Merideth herself (cleric-10), and the non-fighting support staff. The main issue - discovered in the second fight against the fungal brain - is that the mounts are fragile, and they’re trying to hink of ways around that.

I really like the highway construction project approach to clearing the fungal forest.

Session 30
OOC: Scheduling difficulties means that this is more of a summary of a few weeks of back-n-forth emails, one-on-one sessions, and spreadsheet tracking, with limited “full session with the whole party” time. It worked out okay, but definitely glad to be back on a regular schedule. I’m also kind of cheating with an overview of the results here, since I failed to take good notes. Sorry - please accept that it was either write this in summary fashion, or be unable to push myself to write it at all.

Year 6, Fall, Months 10, 11, and 12

Year 6 ends. Bone Temple City is Class II (and controls the new Orléans-Atanung Corridor). The total population of Galaufabonne is around 24,000 people.

Aella became Duke Aella, and the Red Duke was deposed … although he is rumored to have escaped Iamanu’s retirement plan (Vulfelind is keeping her ear to the ground).

Galswintha hits level 11. Neither Chlodomer nor Galswintha are able to get XP from domain income any more.

Galaufabonne hits 54 six-mile hexes, thanks to a sustained push to conquer all of the “almost conquered” hexes the Grim Fist keeps losing interest in. They build a LOT of fast, one-hex fortresses and dispense them to various henches.

King Chilperic II (Greuthungi) sends Duke Ageric d’Evreux to talk to Chlodomer about defecting. The upshot is this: okay, I tried to give you a diplomatic way to join us, but seriously, we’re going to war and Iamanu is not going to protect you; or you can defect now, and we will protect you from Iamanu.

Merideth completes one lady’s mace, and gifts it to her squire, and begins another.

Galswintha puts together the formula for her horrible, horrible dragonbreath torc, distills the essences required, and begins actual enchantment.

Year 7, Winter, Month 1

The population continues to grow (about 23,000 + Bone Temple 6,000). The PCs deal some damage to nearby hexes, but fail to clear any entirely.

Chlodomer goes on a military recruiting spree in Bone Temple City, hiring every mercenary in town - about 200 troops in all - and promising to hire more the following month. He also starts nosing around the idea of a peasant military force.

(OOC: We worked out a vague rule of thumb: up to 2% of the non-urban population can be recruited without impacting income - this is a “typical low-military state”. If he recruits more than that, I will start dropping service and land income arbitrarily, and reducing Domain Morale. That works out to about 2,300 untrained peasant soldiers, which he decides to have trained as light and heavy infantry to start with … and hires and scams his way through Bone Temple City and Orléans to get enough hirelings with Manual of Arms to do it.)

1,300 light infantry (52,000 gp to equip)
1,000 heavy infantry (73,000 gp to equip)

Expensive? Oh my yes, but it let him triple his army almost overnight.

… so now Greuthungi’s potential military might is only about 25x his size.

Vulfelind turns up a rumor of the location of the Red Duke, but nothing can be done about it for the moment. She keeps an ear out, however.

Year 7, Winter, Month 2, Day 1

One the first day of the second month of Winter, Iamanu flies in and arrives at the mountain fortress, the usual howdah of archers perched between his massive wings.

King Chilperic II of Greuthungi apparently spread some rumors that Chlodomer had already agreed to defect, and the dragon wished to determine the truth for himself. (And Chlodomer’s CHA 18 once again paid off, because it bought him the few seconds necessary to declare the rumors lies of the worst sort.)

Chlodomer explains the situation to the dragon and asks for military aid, to which the dragon replies, “Speak to Aella. I will aid her if she aids you, but I do not wish to step on her administration of this region.”

Satisfied that the rumors were baseless, the dragon leaves.

Epic! Positively epic! I love reading about this campaign.


Prelude to Session 31
OOC: Since my players are now all reading the session reports, this is a small teaser for them, regarding this weekend’s game


Duke Ageric d’Evreux was a well-built man with impeccable fingernails and a voice like honeyed gold who - by dint of skill and treachery, ruled a realm of roughly 52,000 families spread across multiple regions, the largest of which he retained for himself.


A man of ambition and taste, and obsessed with his personal myth, he once commissioned a thousand brushes of finest copper wire, to give his army’s drums a distinctive sound - a sound that said, unambiguously, “Duke d’Evreux marches.”


That sound, that statement, was now just audible from the westmost corners of the Galaufabonne Highway. Genofeva heard it and understood what it meant. Her liege had long known she was the third daughter of a duke who left for Paris to forge her own fortune. She’d never mentioned which duke, but it was probably time to clear that up.


She sent two light cavalry east to alert Galaufabonne Court, and two more to alert Orléans. And then she just listened for a while, to the vain, pompous drumming.

A faint, feral smile passed her lips … or perhaps her servants just imagined it.

Session 31
OOC: Three battles. I fudged one as “obvious winner,” and we did a lot of backs-of-the-envelope and “sample rolls” for the other two. DAW needs to be published now, please?

Year 7, Winter, Month 2, Week 1

Aella Sappheiros arrives within days of the request for aid, in her signature silk burqa, ebon bow, unusual khopesh and shield, and jet-colored warhorse, her personal companions and three hundred cataphract archers in retinue (and a pack of 20 surrounding Aella ride steeds black as coal and bear themselves with the arrogance of the proven elite).

(OOC: Galswintha pointed out that the monthly wages of Aella’s “military aid” was worth approximately half of what the party was paying her in taxes each month.)

Orléans arrives as well, with a thousand light infantry.

Galswintha … arrives with six treants, each with a platform pavilion carefully anchored at the shoulder. Each bears one of Galswintha’s spellcasting companions and their apprentices and bodyguards, save the one that bears Galswintha herself. The Bone Temple Flying Cataphract Cavalry find prepared nesting spots in the branches.

And of course, two thousand Galaufabonne peasants trained as infantry, another thousand troops of mixed sort, and another two hundred elite units led by Chlodomer’s closest.

Merideth’s small group of cavalry almost looks pathetic in comparison, until you remember that each and every member of her cavalry is a seasoned Knight of the Church, and easily worth a hundred infantry each.

Aerial passes fail to reveal the Duke’s true location, but the size of the army at Atanung Gate … feels wrong. Vulfelind glares at her maps for several minutes, nose twitching, before sending foxes and fliers racing northeast and southwest. Her hunch proves correct: the Duke has split his considerable forces and marched through wilderness to attack Bone Temple and Rust Hills while the Atanung Gate units tie up Chlodomer’s forces.

She’s more annoyed that her Atanung spies didn’t know.

It appears that the smallest force is marching toward Rust Hills: Chlodomer sends Merideth’s knights and the Orléans infantry there. Galswintha sends two caster-laden treants along with.

The largest force is actually marching on Bone Temple. Chlodomer sends … where is Vulfelind, again? Oh, already on her way. Right then.

Chlodomer sends Aella, two of Galswintha’s treant units, the entire Galaufabonne peasant militia, and Genofeva’s elite cavalry to Bone Temple, “to support Vulfelind as she makes her wishes known.”

He takes the remaining elite units, led by Haramer and Adela, his personal guard, and the last two treants … and marches around the enemy and straight toward Atanung itself.

Battle at Atanung

The Duke's army, absent the Duke, finds themselves at a disadvantage. The much smaller force led by Chlodomer is faster than they are ... and marched a circle to cut off supply lines and attack the city several miles behind them.

The vulnerable city whose soldiers they only just requisitioned. Soldiers whose homes are now behind enemy lines.

They race back, on the defensive, directly into a fog bank. Some units face randomly attacking trees. Others, a hail of blindly-fired arrows. Still others, suddenly treacherous and muddy earth. And yet another, the dull whump whump whump of fireballs. Sound and light, muffled by the fog, tells of the battles the others face.

The Duke’s archmage, left to run this offensive, angrily breaks the seal on an enchanted cylinder and causes the fog to break as suddenly as it had arrived.

… and finds himself directly in the path of a cavalry charge, aimed by the lowly detect magic and led by the tip of Adela’s magical lance. One of the shining lights of the Greuthungi kingdom, an archmage and chancellor and count of many lands … meets death on the tip of a lance and is then buried beneath churning hooves.

Haramer’s heavy infantry does not charge: they march. They grind inexorably into the flank of the amassed army and crush the green soldiers between themselves and the cavalry.

And Chlodomer … charges into the fray like an invincible, golden god. Spears and arrows fail to touch him. Swords and polearms fail to dent his spirit or his charge. Blooded veterans die by the dozen at his feet, as he spins through their ranks.

His grim, determined face speaks of no joy in this, only duty, but in that duty, he is the scythe before the wheat.

The wheat’s morale breaks. Leaderless and losing badly, two thousand soldiers still standing retreat and surrender as they can to the might of a few hundred.

Chlodomer then grants mercy: He restrains his troops from harrying the retreaters, and gives permission of the field to those who surrendered, to recover their wounded and dead. He does not allow them into Atanung, however, and he does take loot and prisoners.

He then he sends Adela to Bone Temple to assist there.

Merideth’s Charge and the Subsequent Battle of Rust Hills

A quarter of the way to Rust Hills, and already feeling the slowness of the Orléans infantry, Merideth changes the plan. She plots out a map, tells the Orléans general where to go (Genofeva's stronhold along the highway, currently mostly empty) and sends a letter along with to authorize him to install his soldiers there, and then takes her knights and the treants into the wilderness to catch the Duke's forces and drive them to the stronghold.

Duke Ageric d’Evreux sent a small-but-elite force to Rust Hills. The intent was to take the path of least resistance to the core of Galaufabonne, punching a hole straight to the mountain while the main force took the city.

It was a pretty good plan.

The problem is that Merideth’s cavalry of twenty-five can utterly destroy a unit of a hundred soldiers in a single charge … even elite units (fighter-2 and fighter-3). And they precede this charge with heavenly fire storms and prayers.

The Duke’s men, consisting of five hundred archers and a thousand light infantry, many of them levels 1-2, find themselves retreating toward the dwarven highway, no remaining archers to speak of and exhausted by the constant running and harrying.

They believe that they are being chased by a small, desperate contingent of Chlodomer’s forces who discovered the Duke’s flanking strategy. The idea that they were being herded only occurs to them when they see the fully staffed fortress ahead, infantry positioned to cut off escape.

With Merideth riding up behind, they surrender almost immediately.

Disarmed and garrisoned, to be ransomed later, Merideth arranges with Genofeva’s steward to make sure they get appropriate rest, food, and healing … and then splits her two forces in half, taking half her knights and Orléans infantry toward Bone Temple, and leaving half to watch the prisoners.

The extra troops each sent to Bone Temple turn out to be a good thing.

Battle at Bone Temple

Taking the highway rather than the wilderness, there is never any doubt that Vulfelind's forces will arrive first, and while there is no time for fancy defenses, there is time to evacuate the most vulnerable portions of the city and set up some minimal positioning for siege.

And then Merideth arrives with half her knights and half the Orléans infantry.

And then Adela arrives with her cataphracts/cavalry.

… and then Iamanu arrives.

When Duke Ageric shows up, he takes one look at the level of preparation that has preceded his arrival, and runs up a flag for parley. Galswintha and Merideth both offer to go, and then Vulfelind points out, “That’s a Duke. Aella is our Duchess.”

And so Aella rides her charcoal beast and the Duke his white charger, to meet in the middle of the field. They talk, quietly. Vulfelind fidgets. Galswintha serenely admires her nails. Merideth paces her horse, back and forth.

And then a pack of blink dogs appears around Aella, pulling her from her horse, and the Duke brings his sword to her neck.

And that’s the last of the Duke’s planning that occurs as intended.

Aella’s snakes tear her veil open and all but one blink dog turns to stone instantly. The horse … breathes fire, washing the remaining blink dog, Aella, and the Duke with purifying fire.

The Duke manages to avoid the worst of it, but on closing his eyes to save himself from the medusa’s gaze, fails to keep a solid grip on her - she remains held by statues of dogs, but manages to save herself from decapitation.

Iamanu launches into the sky.

Galswintha … teleports next to the Duke and Aella, and then, before the Duke can respond, teleports Aella back to her side of the battlefield. The Duke slashes her across the face with his sword, moments before shrieking giant falcons dive bomb him in sequence, driving him back and giving Galswintha time to stumble away.

And then a vast, charcoal dragon drops on top of the Duke, crushing his horse and swallowing him whole.

The battle begins in earnest.

No one-sided battle, this: fireballs fly from both sides, and arrows darken the skies. Infantry mash together and collapse back, exhausted. Blink dogs trained as war dogs, heavily armored and with massive jaws, are balanced by giant falcons, archers, and animated trees. Galaufabonne lycanthropes find themselves fighting wolfsbane and golems and magical weapons.

Clerics try to save their leaders first, and anyone they can help, second.

In the end, Galaufabonne wins the day … but no one could have been spared, and there are still far too many dead. Merideth’s Knights of the Church are the only ones who seem untouched.

Iamanu, his wings tattered and his scales battered, provides a sudden and sodden explanation for why he never used his breath weapon during the battle: he spits out the Duke, pinned in his mouth for the melee, onto the field and rests one mighty paw on the human’s chest.

Iamanu: "You betrayed the flag of parley, human, and attacked my favored Duchess for minor advantage in the field of battle. How would you plead for your traitor's life?"

Ageric: “Favored duchess? She is a monster!”

Iamanu: “Which you only discovered after you betrayed parley. And I would note, for those blind to such things,” and here the dragon leans in close to the Duke’s head, before roaring loud enough to shake trees, “I. AM. A. FAR. WORSE. MONSTER.” The dragon shakes its head as if to rid foul water, “Now. How would you plead for your traitor’s life?”

Ageric: “I apologize, Lord Dragon. So great a being as yourself seemed beyond mere definitions of human or monster, and I spoke hastily. I plead only …”

… and so the Duke’s silver tongue earns its keep in his head.

Vulfelind positions herself next to Aella while the talking occurs, and suggests, quietly, that Aella let Galswintha divide the spoils … largely on account of the fact that people actually like Galswintha, so Aella can receive a substantial bit of spoils without anyone nailing her snakes to a doorway.

Aella agrees, and with that, the battle is essentially over. Galswintha adjudicates the distribution of loot, widow and family fees for the dead, and ledgers and arranges for the prisoners to be ransomed. Aella is reasonably happy with her share; Chlodomer is ecstatic about his; and the dragon … doesn’t seem to care about his.

Not that he doesn’t take it.

The remainder of time is spent in clean-up.

OOC: In the midst of Vulfelind and Aella’s conversation, I was told that I had to provide Wordthief’s contribution in the write-up for this week, so we reconstructed it and I am including it here as a sort of postscript:

Appendix: Wordthief Likes To Talk

Vulfelind: "Look. People like her. They don't like you." Aella: "And if you were in my boots?" Wordthief: "If she were in YOUR boots, she wouldn't have needed rescuing." Vulfelind: "Shush, you!" Wordthief: "I'm just saying, blink dogs? Really? You petrified the blink dogs after they pinned you?" Vulfelind: "A certain sword shushes his mouth now if he wants silk scabbard privileges!" Wordthief: "Yeah, yeah, shoot the messenger." Aella: "How would you have handled the blink dogs?" Vulfelind: "Er.. aheh. I, uhm, ..." Wordthief: "She figured.." Vulfelind: "HE SHUSHES IT NOW!" Wordthief: "..." Aella: "You figured?" Vulfelind: "I figured ... if it was a trap, you were tougher than Galswintha." Aella: "Ah. 'If'?" Vulfelind: "Er, sure." Wordthief: "I am so shushed."

OOC: Next week

Session 32
Year 7, Month 2, remainder

General Notes: No research or projects move this month. The population grows slowly, but with no new influxes of territory or urban investment, less dramatically.

The war losses are rough. Chlodomer lost enough troops to dip below the garrison requirements of Galaufabonne, even after recruiting peasant militia; and a number of units have to be re-structured to be usable.

Ransoms (particularly Duke Ageric’s) and pillaging bring in a lot of cash for new troops … but there’s no one to hire, and the market replenish rate for mercenaries is not really fast enough. Still, a lot of cash means excellent bonuses for everyone, best-of-breed gifts to widows and orphans, and investments in gear.

Chlodomer decides to counter the Morale penalty by dropping taxes again … to zero. The peasants nod sagely amongst themselves: this, they say quietly, is what it is like to live under a man of such obviously proper aristocratic lineage.

The reduced troops also mean he can’t hold Atanung. He makes a show of “returning it to King Chilperic II as a measure of respect,” and then gets his armies across the border before anyone gets wise … and sends the surviving Orléans troops home (and off his land) as quickly as he can.

Aella … spends a week sucking up money for her living expenses before finally marching her people home.

Iamanu … hangs around for that same week, gnoshing on sheep and healing himself. And it is just possible that his continued presence encouraged Aella to move on, so no one complains.

And after she leaves, the dragon calls on each member of the Grim Fist for an individual audience. He seems to be paying a lot more attention to them this time around, than when they were merely a convenient way to “reclaim” the region through Aella.

For Chlodomer, Iamanu wished to know whether “fat peasant” was a new demihuman race (he’d never seen one before); about the details of the realm (including the receipts for Chlodomer’s tribute to Aella, which he hmmmed at a bit); how Chlodomer felt about Aella; whether the alliance with Orléans would last; and so on.

For Galswintha, the questions were about the treant alliance, Chlodomer, the Galaufchulis Tree, and the purity of her elf lineage … and then whether or not Aella had repaid her for saving the medusa’s life (“Er, not that any repayment was needed, but no”). Galswintha grilled the dragon in return on his archer-howdah and style preferences.

For Merideth, religious questions: how the Lady felt about dragons and dragon lieges, how the Church of the Lady felt; and how Merideth felt about all of these things. And then some details about the temples in Galaufabonne, who they answered to, and similar. Merideth took this opportunity to extoll the virties of the Lady to the dragon … and missed the mark a bit, but put a bug in the dragon’s ear regarding state religions.

And for Vulfelind, questions on the management and operation of Bone Temple, how she felt about Chlodomer’s rulership, whether she truly knew that Duke Ageric’s parley was a trap … and how much of a role she plays in Galaufabonne’s military strategies. The dragon was briefly distracted on this last one by Wordthief, and spent some time examining both sentient swords.

Seemingly satisfied with all of these answers, the dragon finally takes his leave.

Year 7, Month 3, end of Winter

The population continues its slow maturation ... and the garrison continues to be too small, so the No Taxation rule remains in effect. Chlodomer continues looking under rocks for more mercenary troops.

Vulfelind starts chunking her Bone Temple city income in with Chlodomer’s Galaufabonne income: “If we’re all sharing Galaufabonne’s income, we should all share the city’s, too - I wouldn’t even have the city now without you guys.” This is still insufficient to provide Chlodomer and Galswintha with XP.

Projects move forward! Research! Construction! Investments of various sorts!

And near the end of the month, a note comes from Iamanu, telling them to expect company on the first day of Spring: the dukes Aella, Agathon, Demosthenes, Galene, and Hesiod, plus retinue, to be escorted to and entertained in Bone Temple City for at least one week.

Galswintha puts on her accounting hat and has a sad. Vulfelind puts on her city governor hat and has a sad, too. Chlodomer has a sad, period.

Merideth gleefully prepares her temple for visitors and marketing.

Year 7, Month 4, Week 1

The five dukes arrive:

Lady Aella, Red Duke of Three Isles. A medusa with her usual retinue.

Lady Galene, Ebon Duke of Rain’s End. A nymph with charcoal skin and ruby eyes, and a large harem of stunningly beautiful people.

Lord Hesiod, Yellow Duke of Mt. Hesiod. An ogre dressed in silks, with a goblin servant.

Lord Demosthenes, White Duke of Thin River. An elf-blood like Galswintha, and a scholar.

Lord Agathon, Green Duke of the Idle Coast. An angry oceanic storm giant.

Vulfelind spies on all of them, of course, and gets some juicy information.

They stay for a week, exploring the domain. Agathon and Aella each put in only the most cursory of efforts, and Galene even less, before Iamanu hosts the gathering at his favorite rock. From a distance, they can be seen to argue vehemently. The White Duke alone appears perfectly serene - the others obviously feel passionately.

And at the end of it, Iamanu offers Chlodomer a new title: the Blue Duke of Galaufabonne, and direct fealty to the dragon.

Chlodomer requests some time alone with his friends, which the dragon allows, and the Grim Fist discuss almost as furiously as the dukes.

On the one hand: the dragon looks like a better liege than Aella. On the other hand, some of the dukes will obviously be enemies, and an oath to a dragon is not to be taken lightly. Back on that first hand, though, they flat-out lack the resources to fight and stay free, and better the dragon than Aella or Atanung, and the jury’s out on whether Orléans would provide any useful support.

Chlodomer, finally, returns and swears fealty. Iamanu grants him his new coronet and a other minor regalia, but rather than annoint with a sword, the dragon envelopes him in dragonbreath … which leave him unsinged. And as he looks around, he notices a halo of color around each of the other dukes - the halo matching their named colors.

Demosthenes meets with Chlodomer later to explain the Aura of Fealty:

Iamanu is a venerable dragon; one of his (uncounted) special abilities is a slight bump in spellcasting abilities - he can cast (and research) as an 11th level mage. And he has a lot of time and gold for research.

The Aura of Fealty is a ninth level ritual spell. It grants a halo visible to various magical detections, and to others with a halo of matching fealty. It is always paired with an oath: should the oath be broken, the halo will disappear and the liege will know. (Chlodomer has another sad.)

Its secondary effect, however, is that it allows the halo-bearer to take oaths himself (up to the maximum number of henchmen), and each oath-taker gains a weaker halo of their own, with the same fealty effects.

The top liege of the Aura of Fealty can see all resulting halos, both primary and secondary; the primary halo-bearers can see the halos they themselves create, and the other primary halo-bearers. The secondary halo bearers can only see each other (and only those with the same fealty).

Demosthenes mentions that most of the Dukes make sure to keep at least one free oath - it allows the halo-bearer to take a temporary oath from a messenger, to ensure (a) the message arrives, and (b) Iamanu knows for absolute certain who sent the message.

And … that was all we had time for last weekend. Hopefully more this weekend.

Awesome. This campaign just keeps getting cooler.

Prelude to Session 33
OOC: I meant to post this Friday for the players, but ended up giving the story at the beginning of the session. Still, you guys still need to hear it, so I’m posting it a bit late. I’m still writing up the session, will hopefully have that up tomorrow.

Lord Chlodomer de Galaufabonne, Blue Duke of Iamanu, needed some time to think, and his chief spymaster, Governess Vulfelind, had been whispering troubling thoughts in his ear. He grabbed a bottle of wine and a chalice, locked the entrance to the gardens for privacy, and went for a walk to think.

Orléans had helped in the last battle. A little. Just enough to sway the tide, but not enough that Galaufabonne wasn’t horribly weakened. They had been peaceful so far, and the arrival of Iamanu at the battle surely helped the image of Galaufabonne as powerful, but …

But, but, but. Doubts troubled his brow, shadowed his eyes.

The Greuthungi Kingdom was hardly done. Galaufabonne had fought off … one Duke. One. Out of six. Real war on that front was a possibility.

The royal chalice was empty. He refilled it.

Iamanu was better than Aella, but Aella was a medusa with a penchant for turning people’s harems to stone when they annoyed her, and the administrative talents of a drunken weasel. Iamanu was better, but was he good?

Another refill.

There was also the issue of troops. He needed more troops, NOW, but the war, brief as it was, had bled the land dry. It might be worth a trip further afield to hire foreign mercenaries, but that was still a too-long delay.

One more refill, perhaps …

A sharp pain pierced his side, which he mistook briefly for a developing ulcer, before the warmth spreading from the wound alerted him. Assassin!

The seasoned warrior spun, pulling his dwarven kukri in a smooth arc, and … saw Vulfelind, two daggers in hand, one stained with his blood, the other with poison. He faltered, gaping at her, and she stabbed him with the second blade.

Roaring, Chlodomer brought the ancient dwarven kukri down across her shoulder, but the thief rolled with it and danced back. In a practiced motion, she dropped the spent daggers and drew another brace, dancing out of the Duke’s reach.

A thousand worries went through his head. He was pretty sure it wasn’t Vulfelind. She used shortswords, not daggers. On the other hand, Vulfelind … wouldn’t use her signature weapons if she didn’t want anyone to know.

A third poisoned dagger sunk into his thigh. He ignored it, stepped forward, and kicked the thief in the diaphragm, knocking her flat and prone, then switched to two-handed grip with his sword.

She scratched him with the fourth dagger as he was raising the ancient sword over his head. He brought it down as everything went dark.

OOC: As a side note, I thought I’d share how it happened:

I give Vulfelind short lists of rumors she's picked up. In month 3, one was that Duke Ageric used assassins when he couldn't attack directly. Vulfelind noted it, but was distracted by preparing her city for the arrival of Iamanu's dukes.

The assassin arrived at the beginning of month 4 and hid out for several days until the dragon left. There were opposed rolls here, of his hiding abilities and Vulfelind’s secrets-strewn city and spies. The results were close, so I mentioned that a few of Vulfelind’s spies were pretty sure there was “an extra” spy somewhere in the city. She put it aside to deal with later, when the dragon’s Dukes were gone.

The assassin showed up in disguise at a meal when Vulfelind was busy running her city.

Between last session and this session, I told Vulfelind what was going on, and asked her to put on her poker face and play the assassin-as-Vulfelind, and gave her the cover story as the assassin understood it. Then I arranged a small pre-game game with Chlodomer and Vulfelind.

There were massive holes in the cover story, because the assassin wasn’t sure why Vulfelind was off on an errand (the party knew), and I gave her permission to flub other minor details (she did). And then I gave Chlodomer a throw to see through the disguise.

After she’d persuaded Chlodomer to take a walk and clear his head, and then followed him in, I made move silently and hide in shadows checks, hear noise checks, and finally a surprise check. Chlodomer managed the hear noise (so he was somewhat alert) but failed the subsequent surprise check, and then, after the backstab, he failed to win initiative.

In all, I felt that I was “fair” in the assassination attempt, and since a PC was involved, I didn’t boil it down to a single assassination hijink throw.

Session 33
Year 7, Month 4

A worried Haramer unlocked the garden the next morning, and found two corpses: a bluish and pale Duke, still and silent; and what looked like a beheaded Vulfelind.

Except … on closer inspection, the eyes were the wrong color. The torn throat had an adam’s apple. And the putty nose was beginning to fall off.

Within hours, Chlodomer was revived in Merideth’s nearest temple … as a woman, bedridden for the remainder of the month while her body recovered.

Vulfelind, horrified at her lapse of security, began investigating immediately, and by the end of the month, had found a few good leads: the most likely suspect was Duke Ageric, of course, and despite the refusal of her contacts in the Atanung thieves’ guild to provide information, she managed to get her grubby paws on the contract - no names were mentioned, but she got a hand-writing sample, and sent spies to acquire samples of Ageric’s and his scribes’ hand-writing.

Population 34,500 (6,300 of which lives in Bone Temple). Total profit (including vassal taxes and city income) is 122,500 gp. Split four ways … Merideth hits level 11. Vulfelind weeps over her werefox XP chart.

Other than Galswintha’s research, little gets done. Galswintha’s research however! She finishes the dragonbreath torc and immediately begins wearing the horrible, horrible thing. She begins another research project, this one “more secret than the most secret secret. I mean it, Vulfelind.”

Lady Chlodomer weeps and gnashes her teeth from her hospital bed: her most pressing concern? She had been thinking about finding a wife and establishing an heir. And now? NONONONONO… (imagine this, repeated loudly and for far too long).

Month 5

Population 36,500. Profit 126,500.

Vulfelind finds a hand-writing sample match: one of Duke Ageric’s scribes. A bit of further research indicates that the scribe may actually be the Duke’s personal spymaster. Was that a small, feral smirk we just saw?

A review of the tampering with life and death the Grim Fist has indulged in:

Chlodomer: gender-bent, unicorn hooves.
Galswintha: efreeti whispers, treant-like arm.
Vulfelind: werefox, undead beacon with turning ability.
Merideth: pristine and beautiful as ever.

With Chlodomer back on her hooves, the party reviews potential tasks, and decides that opening new lands needs to be the priority - Galaufabonne needs to grow.

Hex 1511, Oak River, is shifted to Galswintha. She begins organizing the peasants there, and founds a small settlement (Fey Dale) to aid in the manufacture of fairy goods. She continues her secret research.

The party works on clearing hexes:

#1107: North Ridge: two ogre villages, one bandit camp #1108: South Ridge: an orc village, two cloud giant families and their giant hawks, a hill giant warband, a wolf pack #1207: Darkwood Hills: a dungeon party and a bunch of animals

We pretty much assumed that the ogres, orcs, bandits, and animals were cleared with minimal fuss, and I charged the party a nominal 2,000 gp fee for the military oil and other resources they probably used up.

Eight hill giants was tougher, so we played that out. As it turns out, 30-42 hit points does not typically survive contact with 11d6 dragon breath. And Galswintha’s fighter-like hit points worked out in her favor again: after the first two giants went down to dragon breath, they threw rocks at her, and she survived.

The cloud giants … for once, the Grim Fist managed to talk to them instead of immediately getting into a fight. Chlodomer explained that she was going to be ruling the area, and asked for oaths. And then they fought, because the cloud giants weren’t in the mood to be ruled by anything smaller than their breadbox.

The dungeon party … was fun. I’d put a shallow, cataclysm-buried temple dungeon in this hex, and a mostly-fourth-level NPC party was trying to clear it out. They deeply resented the arrival of a Duke and her retinue.

So Merideth offered them a deal: she would set up a Knight of the Church and retinue in their camp for the month. The Knight would heal them in return for a 10% tithe of the treasure, and would help defend the camp. At the end of the month, the Grim Fist would return and clear the dungeon out, and they could accompany for a share of the remaining spoils.

At the end of the month, the Grim Fist returned with their full retinue for a one-day dungeon crawl and found the dungeon mostly empty and the NPC party long gone. They finished clearing it out anyway, and then Galswintha buried the whole complex in mud to store the raw materials for a better fortress and prevent new residents from moving in.

Small strongholds are rapidly erected, and vassals put in place.

Merideth asks some pointed questions about the larger structure of the Church of the Lady, and then together we come up with some decent answers. The short version:

Merideth has been paying a 20% vassal tax to "higher ups," but we hadn't really cemented the details. The Church of the Lady is a very centralized political Power based out of Thervingi. Thervingi has 500,000 families (roughly), the biggest city is Orléans (10,000 families), and two level-12 characters (the King and the Grand Patriarch of the Church of the Lady), five level-11 characters (Governor of Orléans, and four Princeps), and a bunch of level-10 characters (mostly Dukes).

The Church of the Lady as a kingdom-wide organization + Galaufabonne’s arm, has a 12th level Grand Patriarch, one 11th level Matriarch (Merideth), two 10th level Patriarchs (for two respective principalities), three 9th level Patriarchs (for the other two principalities, and Orléans), and a handful of 9th level Grand Knights of the Lady (among whom Merideth’s highest-level henchmen are counted).

Everything has been happiness so far, regarding Merideth (and Shadagrunde before her), because the vassal tax has been on time, the unbelievers are almost non-existent, and the Galaufabonne Church has generally been obedient.

… but with that said, the Church has no specific, universal opinion regarding Galaufabonne’s independence. The Grand Patriarch is strong enough that the King can’t really force him to do anything, popular enough that the King can’t depose him easily, and Thervingi’s domain morale mediocre enough that they maintain a careful detente.

At this point, I decided that the Grand Patriarch’s name was Richilieu, because.

Month 6

Population 39,000. Profit 127,000 gp. Tithes push Merideth closer to 12th level..

They clear hex #1807 (Red River). Galaufabonne is getting unwieldy.

An Orléans representative arrives … the King of Thervingi is worried that Galaufabonne might be too weak to hold off the King of Greuthungi, and would like to move troops in “to help.” Chlodomer says no.

Actually, Chlodomer says quite a bit more than no: she explains that they are part of the Dragon Iamanu’s realm, that anyone trying to conquer them is going to find themselves dragged across the rocks like an ill-treated plow, and that she has nothing but respect for the King of Thervingi, but stay off her damned land.

The representative leaves, message in hand.

An Atanung representative arrives … and invites Chlodomer to a feast with King Chilperic II, “by way of apology.” Not a single member of the Grim Fist buys the story. Chlodomer sends back, “We accept your apology and our hearts are filled as a result, but regretfully we lack the trust to step unarmed into your court, and we would not wish to insult you by bringing weapons. Please accept our decline, and know that we harbor no ill feelings toward your kingdom.”

And then Lord Demosthenes sends word of his impending arrival, and desire to be housed in the same rooms he was given the previous time.

When he does arrive, he has brought his two stunning-looking daughters, and seems somewhat shocked by Chlodomer’s new gender … for a few seconds, then shakes his head, “Well, perhaps Clio would be the better choice, then. I will bring her next time.”

He visits for a polite length of time, mentions to Chlodomer that he’s looking to add an in-law but gives no further details, and then leaves.

Chlodomer begins to repeat his NONONONO, and Galswintha falls out of her chair laughing.

Honestly, I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t one of the all-time greatest campaigns in role-playing history… Poor Chlodomer.