Sunday, 24 September 2017

GURPS Free Cities Session 63: The Final Battle Part I

Damien - Human Infernal Sorcerer (300 points)
Morgan Merkle - Human Mentalist (326 points)
  Boras Stormtouched - Human Initiate of Kord, the god of battle and storms (136 points)
Sindri Blackshield - Tiefling Knight (325 points)
Virgil the Grim - Human Barbarian-Swashbuckler (333 points)

Day 194 (Cont.):
Amothius 34th, 2526
Weather: Stormy
The party debated how to approach the orc camp until Damien realized that he could dig down to the tunnel (assuming they could figure out where it was) with magic.  They snuck around the orc camp, Virgil crit the Navigation-8 roll to figure where the tunnel was, and Damien cast Shape Earth to dig down until he encountered the stone shell of the tunnel.  He peeled that away as well, and the party alternately fell or had Hawk Flight cast on them.  Once everyone was inside, Damien made sure to fill in the hole he had made so that they couldn't be tracked (which also resulted in a pillar of dirt filling the middle of the tunnel).

It was only once the tunnel was sealed and it was pitch black that they realized nobody had a light source ready.  Luckily, Sindri had Dark Vision, and rustled through Boras' pack to find and light a torch.  The party headed down the tunnel to Carda and climbed out of the fake well to meet Hestius, who wanted to take them to meet with the Duke.  Before he could, the party asked if they had ever tried negotiating with the orcs.  Hestius said that, no, they hadn't, because orcs are savages (to which Virgil took offense) and probably want to sack the town, and that the orcs had never made any attempt at diplomacy either.

With that done, they went to the Duke in a smaller chamber, where Dugald Ironheard and Oryn Thain, the noble who had wanted to sally forth with the cavalry during the first orcish assault.  The Duke dismissed the others, and lamented that the party could not be paid while the city was starving.  Instead, as a show of good faith, Sindri was made Baron of the Westlands.  The land had once been properly settled, but had fallen to the wilderness centuries ago; still, it could yield great wealth if shepherded properly.

They were then brought up to speed: the orcs from the swamps had returned several days ago, and another large group had arrived from the west with what appeared to be enslaved hill giants in tow.  The orcs seemed to be manoeuvring their forces for another assault on the walls, with the largest force near the western gate, which had been most heavily bombarded.  The duke then explained that, on the advice of Hestius and Dugald, Sindri was to be given strategic command of the western front, which he accepted with some reluctance.

Morgan then asked the Duke what he thought of meeting with the orcs.  He wasn't interested, but said that the party were welcome to try if they felt it could help; it wasn't like relations could be soured much further.  They walked down from the ducal palace and into the Merchant's District to Bruno the Crimson's Splendiferous Magical Goods, where they found the orcish wizard relaxing and smoking a pipe.  When asked if he knew a spell that could help them get in contact with the orcs, Bruno responded that his apprentice, Daen, did indeed know such a spell, and could help them.

Daen in tow, the party headed to the western wall, and, careful to avoid the incoming catapult fire, made their way to the top.  After a handful of failed attempts, Daen cast Great Voice on Morgan, who called out for parley.  The orcs responded shortly after in a similar manner, and it was arranged that they would meet halfway between Carda and the orc camp.  On the way, discussions of why the orcs might be attacking led to Virgil insulting Boras and his god, Kord.  Boras warned him to be careful insulting the Lord of Storms when you're the tallest man in a group, wearing metal armour, on a flat plain during a thunderstorm.

They met with the orcs, who came on horseback, at a distance, but didn't learn much.  They recognized Agdug the Invincible in his distinctive heavy armour, and another orc stood out by being 7' tall, but couldn't identify the others  One orc (they couldn't tell which was speaking so far away) claimed to speak for "Khagan Thrag", and said he would accept Carda's surrender in exchange for the inhabitants getting to flee the city.  Virgil tried to find out why the orcs were attacking, but got nowhere, as they weren't much interested in talking (and his terrible social skills didn't help).

With that done, Morgan Telesended Hestius to tell him that the orcs would accept surrender, and received a Message saying that he doubted the orcs would hold to their word, and that the Duke wouldn't give up his ancestral seat at any rate.  Virgil made a quick stop by a local smith to get one of his pauldrons painted black to show his allegiance to Sindri's house (whose sigil is literally a black shield), and then the party returned through the refugee-lined streets to the crowded Jovial Unicorn tavern to rest.

Instead, they were approached by the barmaid, who offered free food and drink if they could get Griffin the smith to stop hammering all night, as it was keeping her from sleeping, as if the orcish catapults hitting the walls weren't bad enough.  The party went back to Griffin, the same smith who had just painted Virgil's pauldron, and found that he wasn't doing anything, and told them that the barmaid was just hearing things.  They returned to the barmaid who said that Griffin was lying, and to come listen in her room, where it was quieter, and they would be able to hear it.

With the door to the common room closed, they could indeed faintly hear an intermittent banging noise, like metal on metal or stone, and snooped around the rest of the inn, finding that the noise was loudest in the store room.  Damien improvised Detect Life and, after disregarding those around and above him, discovered that there was an orc 2m below.  After Morgan Telesended for Daen to cast Continual Light on Virgil, Damien cast Hawk Flight on Sindri, then Shape Earth on the ground to open a narrow hole, revealing a pair of orcs with whips.

Virgil tried to land on one, barely missing but unharmed by the fall, while Sindri waited for the barbarian to get out of the way.  Thanks to some Serendipity, the tunnel was wide enough not to impede Virgil's greatsword, and he cut down one orc before advancing towards the second, who ran away.  Sindri came down, noticed a pair of dwarves with pickaxes behind Virgil, and flew after the other slave driver to cave in his skull.

The dwarves were brought up to the inn and questioned; it turned out that they and about 20 other dwarves had been kidnapped years ago and were being kept as slaves to smith weapons and armour, as well as complete works like constructing these tunnels, which went straight to the orc encampment to the west.  Virgil scouted down the tunnels at high speed with Hawk Flight, and discovered that, other than some forks which seemed to end at hard stone, and that way further back, some of the stone seemed to be carved by magic (a story corroborated by the dwarves), it was a single tunnel.

Morgan Telesended Hestius to ask for a group of guards to stand watch over the hole while they could meet to discuss what to do about it.  A group of 10 guards arrived, the party ordered them to raise an alarm if orcs showed up, and then headed back to the ducal palace to meet Hestius, who agreed that it sounded like part of the tunnel had been created through magic and wondered why they stopped.

The party weren't sure of what to do; they could probably collapse the tunnels, as Virgil had seen wooden supports, but it would be dangerous.  Morgan advocated using it to launch a sneak attack on the orc camp; if they could take out the orc leadership (and the mind flayers secretly controlling them!), then the tribes would fall to petty infighting, as per usual.  Hestius swayed them to collapse the tunnels, so that the orcs couldn't attack in the (likely) upcoming battle, and sent for Bruno the Crimson to bring them all the alchemist's fire he had.

20 minutes later, the party arrived back at the hole where the guards informed them that a group of orcs had come down the tunnel, and then retreated after taking fire from their crossbows several minutes ago.  With Hawk Flight, Virgil soared through the tunnels and easily caught and slew the fleeing orcs, moving at roughly ten times their speed.  He returned just as Daen arrived with a padded box containing 10 flasks of well-packed Alchemist's Fire, and, after having Hawk Flight recast, headed down the tunnels to burn the wooden supports.  It went fairly well, his superior speed allowing him to evade any collapses, but he fumbled one of the bottles and ended up with serious burns on his hands.

With the tunnel collapsed, the party returned to the barmaid for their promised free food and drink, making sure to get some for the guards as well.  Sindri made sure to get the dwarves fed and clothed, and then offered them employment in his barony, to which they agreed, not knowing that the land consisted almost entirely of dangerous, unsettled wilderness.

Day 195:
Weather: Clear
Early in the morning, a somewhat hungover Sindri was summoned to a meeting with the Duke and the other commanders to discuss the party's role in the upcoming battle, and what men he would be in command of.  After being refused entrance, Virgil tried to sneak in by climbing up to a window, but failed to climb the palace walls and gave up after the fifth attempt.  Morgan tried to buy some enchanted armour but failed to find any, while Damien likewise failed to find a Sorcerer to train him in advanced techniques.

Day 196:
Amoth 37th, 2526
Weather: Clear
The day was quiet, but come nighttime horns and church bells sounded, signalling that the orcs were attacking.  Sindri went out to the western gate and appraised himself of his forces; mostly peasant levies, though he also had a good chunk of the town guard (given crossbows) and a unit of dismounted heavy knights.  The orcish horde vastly outnumbered them, but their strengths were in cavalry, which would afford them little advantage against an emplaced defender.

As the orc lines closed, Sindri noticed two key threats: a group of five enslaved hill giants were being herded north, to a less defended area of the wall, and the orcs riding flying drakes circled overhead, taking potshots at the defenders with relative impunity.  The party decided to deal with the hill giants and the orcs herding them themselves, and Sindri opted to relocate their forces at that section of the wall to strengthen the defenders elsewhere.

Damien cast Armour spells on both Virgil and Sindri; Virgil jumped from the 8m walls and took no damage, while Sindri fell and broke his foot.  Boras was able to cast Major Healing to bring him back up to full HP, but the wound proved to be a lasting one.  With the hill giants charging in, it became noticeable that they had had iron plates welded to their skin, and hammers chained into one hand.  Damien quickly cast Hawk Flight on Sindri to get him mobile again, while Morgan took aim at one that was alone on the right flank.

Virgil dodged two charging giants, and then landed two solid blows to the back of their heads, stunning both, while Sindri used his new 3' step to get behind another pair, but only downed one.  Morgan fired off a shot at the lone giant and bent its kneecap backwards, forcing it down, but it continued to crawl towards the wall.  The unharmed giant charged to the wall and smashed one of the damaged areas with its giant hammer, but the wooden reinforcements held.

The orcs moved in on the sides, and a pair with a glaive and a greataxe managed to get behind Virgil, but only inflicted a single HP of damage through his armour, skin, and Damien's spells.  The orc shaman fired off a powerful gust of wind at Virgil, but only managed to knock him back 1m, and the surprisingly-agile barbarian kept his footing.

All ranged innate attacks (PK Lash/Pyro Bolt, sorcery spells, artificer inventions, etc) that are not area effects are now Blockable, to bring them in line with missile spells.  They get the -5% point refund, but that will work out to 0 after the 1/5th discount for Alternate Effects most of the time.

Control (Earth) is vastly overcosted.  60 points can move all of 90lbs, when a cubic metre/yard of (dry) dirt is closer to 2100lbs.  I'm probably just going to make it affect either a volume in cubic metres equal to level or 1/2 level.

On another note, I should probably not allow casters to learn new spells in between sessions if it immediately solves a problem they were trying to deal with the session before (Shape Earth for this time, Walk on Air when they were stuck in the forest, etc).  It's fair to improvise it (or use Wild Talent), but this is kind of cheap.

Morgan is curious why the orcs built a camp on top of the tunnel; clearly they know it's there, why not dig down and attack the city?

Sindri, upon realizing that the orcs came from further to the west of his new holding, wants to "build a wall and make the orcs pay for it".

Damien and Morgan aren't happy that they aren't being paid directly, and have both suggested leaving Carda.  Sindri won't abandon the common people, nor his liege lord, and Virgil just wants to fight, so he's content.  They decided to stick around, and it's probably too late to flee now.

When asked how much damage catapults do, I just said "Lots!", but apparently that wasn't satisfactory.  They do between 13d+2 and 6dx3; more than enough to put most people well into the danger zone with one shot (though Virgil would probably be relatively fine).

Hawk Flight is real good: 6x move speed.  This results in Virgil going at Move 42 for 3 minutes.

Apparently Sindri's player also has Unluckiness, as the odds of his crippling injurty were incredibly low.  I had to roll double 6s on fall damage, and then he had to fail a roll against HT (14 with Fit).  A 1-in-360 shot, and he did it during the final battle.

After the session, I realized that nobody got any Blessings.  They probably would want to, had they remembered.

The orcs attacked at night, because they have either Night Vision or Dark Vision, and it gives them a big edge over the defenders.

For the battle, I'm using a very simplified form of the Mass Combat rules.  I have all the troop numbers worked out, and have calculated things accordingly, but because it's a siege, both sides only have one strategy worth using: Deliberate Attack for the orcs and Deliberate Defense for Sindri.

Also, because I'd prefer to have the heroes actually fight as a party to contribute to the battle, I'm running full combats instead of using the normal risk system.  They pick a Risk between 0 and 3, 0 being the easiest, 3 the hardest, and add that to the commander's Strategy for the contest.  The Risk represents how many enemies they, personally, will deal with.  For the hill giant battle, they chose 3, resulting in a bunch of orcs and another giant.

On another note, I'm just equating each hero with a full unit and 125-point henchmen (like Boras) as a half-unit.  I tried using Heroes on the Mass Scale from Pyramid 3-84, but the results seemed to be VERY inflated.  As an example, Sindri had TS70, equivalent to over 170 Heavy Infantry.

This battle is going to probably take 3-4 sessions, as it will involve many (possibly-large) individual combats.

2 for general success
MVP went to Damien for bypassing a large orc camp with Shape Earth

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