This is the continuing saga/advice/mindpeek of my current campaign. I hope you find some use for it if you are looking into trying a low-prep/improv DM style. This is just MY WAY and its not the One True Way.
Life is funny, you know. One minute you are doing pretty well, things are smooth, and the next you are lying face down in the gutter, covered in blood and the world is laughing its ass off.
I’ve not had the best month, to date.
All of that has really led to my game-brain suffering a fair bit. Between managing the subreddit and my broken personal life, I’ve not had the energy or wherewithal to really focus on the campaign. I mentioned this in my last post, too – about how low-prep is fine, but no-prep is inexcusable.
I did it again.
I rocked up to the session with nothing. Again.
While the guys were making dinner I scribbled 5 encounters on a sheet of paper. Pathetic encounters, by my standards.
Sorry if this sounds like I’m whining. I promise it will get better.
This is what I wrote:
- Orcs vs Hobgoblins
- Displacer Beast (Blink Dog shows up)
- Goblin ambush
- Orcs leading slave caravan of caged Hill Dwarves
- Quantum tower
That last one will need some explaining, I know. But we’ll get to that, most likely next session, but the 2nd-to-last encounter mentioned it.
Oh, also, we didn’t get to play for very long. So this will be fairly short.
INTO THE PIGLANDS
We left the party just inside the borders of the Gutripper Orc clan’s territory. They had camped at a cave and just hit level 3.
The party fighter, Lindale, who had missed the past session, finally showed again. Thank Jeebus. They were going to need him this session. How much would reveal itself shortly.
We had some meta talk about what Lindale had missed, story-wise, and they asked to be excused while they went off and talked about whatever players talk about when they don’t want the DM to overhear their plans. I was fine with that. Sometimes its nice to be surprised, and I’ve had plenty of groups do that over the years.
When they came back, I did a recap of where we left off, and the terrain features – they were atop a hill nearly a kilometer high, and they could see a large orc encampment a few days to the north, and another large hill capped by trees with smoke threading up from it a few days to the north-east.
They were intent on finding a Temple of the god of War (Nathrak) that the war cleric, Barhador, insisted he knew was there.
I mentioned in a previous post that there was no temple, but in the heat of the moment, I changed my mind, and decided I’d put one somewhere in the general direction of where they were headed, which was Northwest. I decided it was 2 weeks away or so. A long time through hostile territory. I didn’t know how they were going to make it without a lot of combat, so I was pretty damn thankful that the fighter showed up.
They were heading down the hill when I diced an encounter. The “Orcs vs. Hobgoblins” entry came up, so I described the two sides being engaged in battle in a lightly wooded valley below them.
WHO DAT ORC
I should stop and explain that the Orcs in my world are highly militarisitic – not the usual tribal assgrabbers of D&D lore. They had a rigid heirarchical structure, they fought in formation, and they were very disciplined. Kind of like a Klingon society mixed with Roman military strategy.
While the Orcs and Moon Elves had clashed periodically over resources, there was a low-level respect for each other’s military prowess, and seeing one another didn’t automatically mean all-out war.
I CHALLENGE YOU
The party went back and forth about whether or not they should intervene on the side of the Orcs. In the end, however, they decided to wait and see the outcome of the melee first. The hobgoblins fought like tribal armies often do – and they got their asses kicked. A few peeled off and headed for the safety of their own lands, but the Orc commander ordered a squad to follow and mop up. This still left about 20 Orcs in the area.
Lindale, our fighter, grew giant brass balls and the party went up to hailing distance. Lindale called out in crude Orcish that he was challenging the Orc Commander to a 1-on-1 honor duel. If Lindale won, the Orcs would agree to escort the party through their territory.
This could have gone either way. I was expecting a TPK, to be honest. Which would have been fine. I’ve grown immune to the emotional impact of that over the years. We would have just had another conversation about a new story and started over.
Lindale kicked the Commader’s bacon-flavored ass. Handily, too. I was rolling crap, and Lindale, well…wasn’t.
The Commander honored his promise, begrudingly, and the entire troop with the party in tow, set off across Gutripper territory – a journey of three days or so.
WHY CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS?
Barhador got it into his head that he wanted to “befriend” one of the Orc clerics in the troop. He and the Orc were starting to get into a heated discussion about theology when he said that he wasn’t going to force his views, but just wanted to listen and be a sympathetic ear. He determined that the Orc racial god, Karg Elfstomper, was probably just another name for his own God – Nathrak, the War Lord.
There were some exchanges of intel about the movement of the Sun Elves. The Orcs reported that they had had some incursions of Sun Elves into their territory.
Overall, it was a rather dull journey, however. No creatures were going to attack a force that large, so it was just a bit of back-and-forth roleplaying. Which I love, mind you, but I was feeling a bit of the energy draining out of the room, so thankfully the 3 day journey ended and the party found themselves on the edge of the Bone-Eater clan territory and the Gutripper Orcs fucked off for home.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
There hadn’t been much combat up to this point, 1 or 2 encounters I think, aside from the honor duel between Lindale and the Orc Commander, and my dice were clearly thirsty, because I started rolling one encounter after another at this point.
First up was the party creeping through Bone-Eater territory, when they came across a band of Orcs leading a cage of enslaved Hill Dwarves.
There were half-a-dozen Orcs and 5 Hill Dwarves in an iron cage on a flat-bed wagon. The Orcs were not clad as military, they were wearing leather, not half-assed half-plate, and none of them had military weapons.
The party asked where Hill Dwarf territory was in relation to where they were at the moment and I said about 3-4 days East. So they figured that freeing them might gain some allies.
The party got fairly torn up with arrows, all of them ended up below half-health, but they prevailed, and freed the Dwarves.
The Dwarves were Copperthrone clan, and were damn grateful for their assistance. They exchanged information about the Orcs and what was going on with the Sun Elves, as the Dwarves had no idea. The party asked about the Cloister of the Mad (where Tellurian had had a vision of an artefact of the God of Madness), and the Dwarves told them a tower had appeared there, where one never used to be. The other Dwarves started arguing with each other – one said it was a tower, one said it was a keep, one said it was a minaret, one said it was a citadel. They couldn’t agree on what it was made of either – stone, iron, wood, adamantine and mithral were all said to be the composition.
This will make more sense once they reach the tower (they are planning on going there) – so I’ll save the full explanation for that post.
The Dwarves returned to their territory and the party pushed on.
WHO DAT CAT?
Near dusk the party was looking for a safe cavern to rest in, as the Emerald Hills are dotted with thousands of cave openings. They found one just as the sun was beginning to set when they were suddenly ambushed by a Displacer Beast. I only described it, never saying its name, and the party pretended not to know what it was.
The sorcerer, Tellurian, had his spirit dog, Raphael, manifested next to him and took on its War Dog form. The party was getting torn up, and were still injured from the Orc fight, and Lindale was close to death. Raphael was also getting ripped apart, when a Blink Dog showed up and took the fight to the Beast. The two species (according to old 2e lore) are consumate enemies, with both species almost constantly at war. Between the 2 dogs, they managed to bring the Beast down.
The Blink Dog fucked off after Lindale tried to talk to it (they can talk), and the party retired deep in an abandoned chamber in the cavern.
We wrapped and I ran for a train.
Might be a little while before the next session. Sorry this post was so short, but we only played for about 3 hours.