Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Battle for Red Keep

Ambush on the road

We finally kicked off our 4e campaign this week! I was playing my Ranger, Ray had a Human monk (using PHB3 stats from the WotC character builder) and Chri3 played a Dragonborn fighter. Our DM, also named Chris, is having us roll up two characters each, both for a little variety,a nd for mortality's sake. Since there were only three of us, I also used my secondary character, a Drow rogue. This would be the only game for him however, I didn't really want to play two strikers anyway, and a Wizard sounds interesting.

I know there's been a lot of complaining about 4e, but I say 'meh' to all of it. Yes, it does play mechanically like a tabletop miniatures battle game, and to this I say, so? Ray had a great point, DnD was originally a tabletop miniatures game called Chainmail back in the 1971! I'm glad for it, our battle was both quick and efficient, which meant it was done sooner so we could get back to...roleplaying (and character development).

There's been a lot of prep work leading up to the kickoff of the campaign, and we've got an Obsidian Portal page to boot. I've never used a site like that before, but it seems like a neat idea in concept. So, to help populate the site, as well as just chart our campaign's progress, I'll try to do a series of 'game report' narratives. Here's the first one:
From the Journal of Grimlock

I was almost asleep, I had a belly full of Archer’s stew and a few mugs of ale in me, and listening to the constant rain on the roof of the Ogre about did me in. I barely looked up when Captain Fergal walked in and put the sign on the wall, which Hawk quickly snatched up before the good captain was barely out the door. He’s always been a quick one, that Hawk, surprising for a human.

Next thing I know, Hawk, Theidifoe, and myself are at the keep with Fergal’s sign in our hands. The bandits who had slaughtered the Estwin farm last week had been tracked down to an abandoned keep half a day outside of town. Theidifoe has a better tongue than I when it comes to talking with others, so my Dragonborn friend laid out terms with Fergal. We make for the keep, dispatch the bandits, and not only get a bounty on their heads…but we get to claim the keep itself as our own. Sure, it’s falling apart, in the middle of nowhere, and probably haunted, but that’s one hell of a bargain. Besides, these bandits have got it coming to them after what they’ve been doing. I didn’t need any more convincing.

We set off immediately, though my sense of the weather was telling me we’d be traveling in the heavy rain all day and night. We made camp later that night under what shelter the copse of trees could give and I was able to snare a brace of rabbits for dinner, certainly better than stale rations anyway. They cooked up nicely too. The next day, in the drizzle, about midmorning we came upon the keep, its stone walls a deep red, I guess that’s where it got its name, I always though it was something else. It was in a remote area, with a lot of unspoiled and overgrown forest all around to my delight. Although parts of the keep were in ruins, it looked both beautiful and foreboding at the same time. Somewhere in there was our quarry.

Scouting the area for signs of the bandits I also came across lone Elf tracks, stealthy ones at that, it seemed we weren’t alone. He made himself known soon enough, but he was no ordinary Elf, he was a Drow, a black-skinned, black-clad skinny Elf, he was quite sincere in his desire to cut the hearts from every last bandit. It seemed the Estwins weren’t the only victims to fall at the bandits’ hands. I didn’t trust him entirely, this Mourngrym, but he didn’t want a share of whatever loot was recovered, just a chance to hunt down the bandits. Theidifoe said it best, “revenge is just as good a motivator as any…”.

The Elf had noted the bandits’ movements in and out of the keep, and they used an old road out of it back and forth with a wagon to haul their ill-gotten goods. We decided this would be where we would ambush them, try to kill them piecemeal rather than take them on all at once.

Our ambush went well, the Elf and I picked a spot far enough away from the keep, on a bend in the road with plenty of trees and bushes to hide in. Theidifoe is big, and his Dragonborn heritage is more than a little intimidating, so he stood in the middle of the road, bellowing to the wagon as they came in to view to halt. While they were distracted, the rest of us struck. The bastards never knew what hit them.

My bow found its aim true as I took a bandit cleanly from the wagon with a single shot buried in his chest. I’ve never seen Hawk in a fight, but he threw his little metal star he’s always playing with from the bushes and caught another bandit right between the eyes, dropping him with one shot as well. From the rear of the wagon, Mourngrym emerged and fired his tiny hand crossbow at the bandit at the back of the wagon, he didn’t kill the guy (and how could you with such a small bolt?), but he hurt him at least. Then the fight was on.

I ran straight in, knowing my quarry well in advance, and struck with my broadsword and battleaxe with the ferocity of a dire wolverine. I had dropped the bandit, a woman surprisingly, to one knee, on death’s door. At the back of the wagon, the Elf moved in with his glowing blue sword, but then a cloud of thick black smoke swallowed him and his foe up. I guess the Elf must know some magic. One of the bandits from the wagon took off, running for escape, but Hawk flew into pursuit leaping over the wagon in one vault and hit the ground running, he wasn’t slowed one bit by the thickets either. That’s when Theidifoe showed his lineage and unleashed a gout of green acid from his mouth. It killed my quarry out right, and injured another.

I was going to leave Theidifoe to his kill, but I noticed he was having a bit of trouble, this last bandit was deft. I ran in to help, feinting with my axe, and scoring a solid hit with my broadsword, yet the bandit defiantly remained on his feet. I heard the last bandit scream from the back of the wagon, then silence as the Elf emerged from the black cloud, vaulted up to the rear of the wagon, skipped across the rails, then flipped off the front landing behind mine and Theidifoe’s target. Mourngrym sank his blade so deep into the bandit’s back that a frost-tipped point emerged from the leather breastplate in the bandit’s front, dropping him quite dead. Hawk returned about this time, his quarry couldn’t out distance him in a foot race, and had fallen by Hawk’s hands. It’d have to be Hawk’s hands, because he didn’t carry a weapon that I could see. He held his own a lot better than I had originally given him credit for. Overall, our tactics were strong, and it showed. We were far from done though.

Under the cover of darkness, we rode the wagon back into the keep, they didn’t realize we weren’t their friends until it was too late. Bolstered by our ambush’s earlier success, we charged straight into the fight. The Elf had snuck in through a ruined section of wall and I didn’t see him during the fight, afterwards he showed us the bodies of three he had killed. None of them even had their weapons drawn. Theidifoe had redeemed himself from earlier in the day and hacked his way through many bandits, staying in the center of the fight at all times. I caught eye of Hawk a few times too, he was a blur, kicking and punching at the bandits with precision and ease. I darted in and out of the fight, marking my quarry as I went, and putting my Dwarven axe and Orc broadsword to bloody use. The Red Keep’s temporary visitors were soon evicted by its new tenants…us.


  1. Nice post. I also like 4e, though there are a few modifications I make along the way (like any good game). Will you share your obsidian portal site? Ours is, though I haven't updated in a while. Later!

  2. I have skimmed the new rules but did not buy them since I have not played a game in about 4 years now and do not expect to play one any time soon.

    They looked very different which is probably the problem. I have no problem with mini style games since back in the day we ran most of our stuff on a gridded dry erase board.

    I liked the newest version of chainmail from about 6-7 years ago. The mini's were pretty good. It was a decent little skirmish game. I have a whole lot of those gathering dust in the basement.

  3. I meant to put the ObPortal link in there, here it is:

    (Have Sword, Will Travel)

    It's a very new page, and we've never used it before, so it's a lot more n00bie looking than yours Shelexie. Which character belongs to you?

    @Eriochrome: (What the heck is your real name anyway?), anyway, we've been playing 3/3.5 on a regular basis since it came out, and these new rules are a refreshing change...very refreshing. I heard good things about Chainmail too, it seems you have a *lot* of goodies collecting dust in your basement!

  4. My real name is Brad.

    You should see my brother's place. When we were kids we pretty much pooled our gaming stuff together especially the rpg stuff. We both moved out at about the same time but left most of the stuff at our mom's. I took some Dark Sun stuff with me and I think he took some DnD but we left tons of DnD, Shadowrun, Battletech, Star Frontiers, etc. at our moms. He was the first to get a real house so my mom pretty much unloaded all that stuff at his house.

    My GW stuff was stored separately since it was not being played at the time we both moved out so it was still there when I started playing GW stuff again. The Chainmail stuff was a post move out purchase. For that I pretty much have the first two whole waves. Did not follow into the DnD Minis since I do not like "collectable" games after some bad experiences with trading and trying to find Magic cards.

  5. @Mik
    I am DM'ing the game so I don't get a character. Then again, I pretty much get all the other characters =) Our site was the first thing I ever did with html code and I learned most of it while I should have been paying attention in a week long January class. Passed the class and ended up with a site I am pretty proud of. Our playing has slowed down during the summer but we play the next 2 Fridays. Fun times!