Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Battle of Nidus II

Our heroes:

Toral DP
     Tory - hireling
Gail MU
Hugelina F
"G" F
     Le Bouche - hireling
     Janis - hireling
"Z" F
     Mika - hireling
     Fabrino - hireling

The party woke to smoke and screaming.  There was some chaos until they figured out what was going on. A flotilla of strange black ships was disgorging hundreds of small, grey figures.  Most of the ships in the port was on fire.  Several groups of red-sash mercenaries were milling about trying to decide on a course of action.
I said pretend you're having fun.  They look psychotic.

A familiar naked figure rolling his huge pot back and forth in the street told the party about several choke points the invaders might be held off at.  To the north an archway, to the south a stone walking bridge, or a grand stair leading to the port where a ship might be saved from burning.

The party decided to send 20 red sashes north to hold the arch, 25 to west to hold the stairs and take 15 with them to try and hold the bridge.

There was dithering back and forth about what to do once they reached the bridge.  Finally, they decided to set up on the far end of it, allowing themselves the possibility of falling back across it.

The party quickly distributed their back up shield to red sashes and anchored a small shield wall on the doughty Z.  Red sashes without shield stood in front of the wall and while leery, soon had no escape.

Hundreds of grey, vulture-headed pygmies were swarming up the slopes toward them.  They had awl-like weapons: bone handles set with long rusty needles.  A hulking grey figure moved among them.  It was faceless, had several holes trepanned into its skull, and had a vulture pygmy riding its shoulders jamming a reed into the holes.

Behind the mass was a palanquin carried by more pygmies.  An orangutan's head peered out from time to time.

G, with arrows, and Gail, with magic missile, teemed up to take out the Pygmy riding the hulk, which caused the figure to slump and stand still.

Toral began chanting to the Allfather as the pygmies clashed with the first rank of red-sashes.  The party was surprised to find the pygmies, sliced open, spilled silver coins to the ground.  Soon the ground was littered with them.
G and Z in a shield wall with two red-sashes.  The blue and black beads are just a representation of the hundreds of pygmies.

A long battle featured the slow eroding of the allied troops up front.  The party and hirelings attacked from the second rank with spears.  G had several horrible mishaps with arrows before switching to spear himself.  Tory stumbled through the shield wall and found herself surrounded by the creatures, but with plate and shield has managed to survive.

Gail and the one-armed Hugelina made forays into the city bringing back materials to build a barricade at the far end of the bridge.  They could hear fighting and screaming coming from the north and north-west.

After slaughtering waves of the seemingly emotionless squawking creatures, the orangutan figure emerged, perturbed from its litter.  It had forks for legs and pygmies prostrated themselves on the ground before it.  It "walked" by sinking its forks into them and approaches the shield wall.  The party caught a whiff of cinnamon.

Some Thoughts

Seemed to go well.  Had to quit mid-battle because I knew it would take too long to complete and the orangutan emerging seemed to be a good break point.  I actually had 50 pygmy kills set as that point.  The party has several fighters with plate/shield/multiple attacks so I figured they would reach that in not too long.  But the npc buffer slowed things down.  It also helped keep the party unharmed.  The only injury was Mika the hireling getting shot in the butt by G's critical miss.

Two players said they can't come next week, so there was talk of a flashback.  I've never done one before, not sure how to handle it if one of the characters supposed to be in the battle is killed.

I was rolling for the npcs at the other two chokepoints and they held their own.  I rolled off in fives, five orange dice for the men, five green dice for the pygmies.  I compared the dice of similar type (d6 to d6).  Ties kept fighting, higher die meant the opponent was killed.  I flip flopped back and forth (to myself) but decided that one kill for the men was equivalent to two pygmies dying.  Even so, the party might have some pygmies coming up on their rear.

I figure the orangutan is unhurt by non-magic weapons and has some powerful magic (I rolled on the spell-like effect spur) so the party might be in trouble.  But, I figure it will dissipate if it touches the earth.  So, hopefully they'll get creative.

The pygmies are basically spiced up kobolds.  Boy, the party loved to hear that they spilled coins when cut open.

It's funny whenever we go to a battlemat the tendency is to get exact, precise.  The players asked me early on: "how many squares can I move?  Can I move and attack each round?"  I didn't want to go there.  I said "tell me what you want to do and I'll let you know if you can."  And you know what, it worked fine.  The only time it came up was obvious stuff, like: "No, you can't throw a dart 100 feet."

I made the change to XP for treasure safely out of the dungeon- no spending required- and three players happily levelled up.

I think I may implement the scroll-making rule Chgowiz mentioned in a recent post.  It would allow my mages to get more involved without getting too out of hand-- they have to know the spell already and it costs time and gold to do.

For the first time I felt a real tug towards simplifying the damage dice to all d6.  The confusion in the players of which die type to roll was a constant stumbling block and didn't seem to add anything to play.

Because there were so many melee attacks to describe I followed Tavis Allison's wonderful example and started pitching some of them at the players: "What does your magic missle look like?" "What does your critical do to the pygmy?" It worked pretty well.  If a player faltered I jumped in and helped.  On one critical miss description I vetoed it (it sounded more like a boon to the misser!) and that is what got Tory surrounded by pygmies (heh, if you don't supply a good miss, I'll make it worse).


  1. I like the cut of your game's jib sir! Vulture-headed pygmies (presumably) led by an orangutan in a palanquin: Nice.

    Btw, if those are jalapeño poppers next to a 40zer of Mickey's, props to the guy in stripes. Mmm, malt beverage...

  2. Heheh, we're classy here in the Central Valley!

    P.s. don't try this at home kids; he was rolling critical misses all night. ;)

  3. That sounds pretty righteous! Nice stuff!

    Where in the Central Valley (of California, I presume?) are you at, if you don't mind me asking?

  4. City of a Thousand Smokes, No Town, aka Fresno :) You nearby?

  5. I currently live in Eugene Oregon, but I am a native of the Cold-Blooded City They Call The 'NO. Damn, I was down there over the holidays (, if I had known I would have tracked you down!

    I dig your blog, and I'm glad to know there's at least ONE cool person left down there. Rock on!

  6. If you're down again let me know, we'll meet up.

  7. I'll be in Sack-town for a conference in late March, and I may swing down. I'll let you know!

  8. Pygmies stuffed with coins? Is that some kind of metaphor?

  9. @richardthinks: no. It seemed weird to me and sort of rode the border between monster and treasure.

    My players feel terrified and greedy at the same time. When I can get them feeling two simultaneous and contradictory emotions like that I'm stoked.

  10. Was the hulk-riding pygmy perhaps inspired by a certain Gene Wolfe novel?

  11. @ Blair: Which? I don't think I've read that. I was thinking of trepannation because of a previous post and the idea of sticking something into the brain as a crude method of control.

    But my players called it "MasterBlaster" so that was probably an influence too.

  12. I'm thinking of the Ascian military unit of blind-man-riding pygmies from Citadel of the Autarch.

  13. Isn't the "which die size to roll" a one-time choice when your character picks his weapon? What's so confusing?

  14. Thanks for the comment Noumenon. The players have hirelings which use different weapons. Also, switching from missile to melee is another thing to keep track of. So, that can easily be 4 different dice for one newer player to have to remember. Which they don't, which means they are constantly asking me and slowing the flow of things.

    It's been a while since that battle. I'm resistant to simplifying to all d6 damage, but probably should make damage dice notation much more prominent on character and hireling sheets.

  15. I've always wanted to try mass battles. Mostly because a lot of my old group seems convinced that it can't be done (so of course I have to prove them wrong).

    Did this work well? Do you have other experience or advice for such things?

  16. Hey, Syrus, it did work well. I think I learned this technique from one of Zak's ( battles a long while back. Rolling bunches of colored dice is a fast and easy to read method to simulate skirmishes raging just outside of player sight. Will the orcs take the gate house? Will the king's guard hold the rear? It allows for more drama without getting bogged down in details (since it's off screen anyway).

    I did decide ahead of time how many troops were available. Then as I tossed the dice it was just a matter of crossing off graph paper boxes to keep track of how many of each side fell. Give it a try, have the goblins attack town :)