Sunday, April 28, 2013

Savage Midnight: The Crown of Shadow Actual Play Volume 2

Volume 1

The session resumed right after the last one left off, with Thorin and Merwan escaping Redwinde in a hurry, trying to avoid the undead villagers. As they were traveling along, Orcish voices and footsteps caught their attention and the heroes spotted a small patrol moving up the trail. Merwan and Thorin held off, with Thorin going to his hatchets and asking Merwan if they could take the patrol...and Merwan honestly offering that he doubted it. The orcs began speaking to someone small, that the heroes couldn't see...a gnome that glibly deflected the orcs away from the trail with his silver tongue. When the orcs departed, Merwan and Thorin saw that it was, in fact, their former companion Wendell Gale!

Wendell was happy to see Thorin and Merwan, and asked them if the others were off gathering supplies...which Thorin glumly denied. Wendell shook his head solemnly in response. Merwan said that they were trying to reach Redwinde and from there, Baden's Bluff. Wendell said that it would be clear sailing from Swiftwater, due to his family connections.

The trio found themselves walking near the shores of the Ardune, a black, inland sea that is said to have been the location where Izrador fell from the heavens. Merwan explained to Thorin that legend says that his dark taint has corrupted the creatures in the sea. Wendell Gale mentioned that river eels in the Ardune grow so large that they can bite through the hulls of ships. Thorin was thoroughly creeped out by this.

As the group arrived at Swiftwater, Wendell took them straight to Tuk's Tradehouse, where they were greeted by festive gnome partying. Tuk, the loud and goofy owner of the establishment, greeted them from the bar as they entered. As the trio made their way near Tuk, Merwan said they needed a place to Tuk immediately pulled them to the back room, where his clownish demeanor vanished.

Inside the back room, Tuk asks Wendell how long it's been since he's been back to the river...and glumly has to tell Wendell that orcs have savagely attacked and slaughtered gnomes of the Gale family, killing and enslaving them because of rumors that the Gales had been aiding Elven spies. Wendell was rocked by this and Tuk told the group that he would hide them...but that they were not to say another word to him about their mission. He led them out of the Tradehouse and into a shed...where he revealed a trap door and led them underground. The storage room opened into a grain bin, which opened into a sprawling wine cellar that house three halfling slaves: Podrick, Kimball and Fergus. Though they all looked beaten and malnourished, Fergus looked the worst, missing an eye. He explained that the leader of a goblin work crew took his he took the goblin's. The slaves were in hiding, waiting to slip out to the plains and join up with a nomadic halfling tribe.

The food and drink and revelry above eventually proved too much for Thorin, and he went upstairs and joined in the fun, partying with the gnomes. After hours of lighthearted fun, a gnome burst into the tradehouse and announced that "company" was coming. Thorin tried to run for the back door but was too slow, so Fergus pulled him behind the bar. Thorin and Fergus sat, cramped under the bar, listening to the goblins act like they ran the place. Tuk asked Jaerik, leader of the goblins, what happened to his eye, and Thorin caught the reference to Fergus and his attack. After a few hours of listening to the goblins do whatever they wanted, Thorin nearly got pushed to the breaking point when he heard Jaerik announce that he was calling it an early night he wanted Tuk to get his daughter from the he and his "boys" could have a good night. Once the goblins were gone, Thorin exploded into a rage and asked Tuk where they took his daughter. This led to a tense standoff between the two as Tuk refused to give him any information, informing him that "this is the way things are". Thorin finally took off into the streets of Swiftwater, but failed to find the goblins' trail. (Bad Tracking roll. If he had decided to get Merwan first, there's a really good chance this would have turned into a two on twelve fight.)

Tuk later brought Captain Horace of the High Cloud Trading Family to meet with the group, and Horace said that he would take them to Erenhead and beyond...his sister had married into the Gale family and he felt honorbound to take the group on into the Sea of Pelluria and on to Baden's Bluff. He told the group to meet him in two days, just before dawn, and they would depart. Wendell told Thorin and Merwan that he wanted to stay see this through. His family had been ruined, so he felt that he must. Fergus also said that he wanted to contribute in any way that he could. Thorin asked if he was sure, noting how dangerous the path was, but Fergus said that he had lived a life of captivity, and that wounding his goblin slavemaster had placed a horrible mark on him, so Thorin and Merwan agreed.

The night before departure, Thorin had another dream, in which he was running in the open plains. The Witch Queen's voice warned him that "The Hunter Is Coming" and a large wolf tackled him to the ground! As Thorin sat up on his bedroll, he heard the sounds of growling in the shadows. Two of Tuk's dogs were stalking Thorin! They lunged in to attack as he readied his hatchets, biting into him as he yelled out to his allies! Thorin moved quickly, however, hacking the two dogs down. Wendell had just awoken in time to see Thorin hack the dogs down and two ethereal, demonic forms hover over Thorin, sneering, before vanishing.

The group were quite dismayed at this revelation, that something had somehow possessed Tuk's dogs and attacked Thorin. The group decided to head for Horace early. Horace explained to them that whenever they reached checkpoints, the group would have to head to The Hole, a crawlspace inside the ships. They would also have to hide anything enchanted in a "dead zone" created by Horace. The first checkpoint wasn't a problem...but when they reached Erenhead, the group was forced to hide in the Hole for an entire day and a half, with their sweat mixing with their waste. It took impressive willpower to not snap and run from The Hole due to hunger and exhaustion, but the group held. (I gave Fergus a bonus due to his slave upbringing and Thorin had to benny his roll in order to avoid retreating. Merwan did fine.)

Once they hit open sea, Thorin righted himself quickly to avoid motion sickness. Horace spotted "The Mouth of Pelluria" nearby, a vast whirlwind in the Sea of Pelluria that humans call "The Maw", which moves through the sea and drags down ships indiscriminately. The ship cut free from it, and back towards Baden's Bluff. The call came out, once more, and the group departed to The Hole...because the ship was being boarded. The group listened in silence as orcs paraded around on the boat, along with a human inspector. The group heard an argument between a gnome and the inspector...and the gnome was viciously cut down by an orc. The orcs bellowed loudly and threatened to tear the ship apart, but Thorin and his allies held fast and Horace defused the situation. After the group went back above deck, Horace explained that THIS is the reality of the gnomes' war against The Shadow.

When the group arrived at Baden's Bluff, Horace told them to seek aid at Ail's Quayhouse, and to tell Ail that they were members of his crew. As they ventured into the city, rain began pouring down on them. Even Thorin, not the most perceptive of beings, spotted the hulking giant of a man following them, openly brandishing a large, two-handed sword. Though the rain was battering down on his bald head, he seemed unbothered by it. Thorin had noticed that Merwan had affected a sinister air as well and was brandishing his bow openly.

Thorin was so busy watching the giant behind him that he bumped into an orc and nearly dropped his hatchet. The orc snarled at Thorin, who hunched over to avoid his stares, but Merwan stood between them and explained that his "uncle" has "bad eyes" and is "twisted by disease". The orc recoiled and moved on.

Moments later, the group heard the orc arguing with someone behind them, and turned to find that he was ordering the giant man to relinquish his weapon. Multiple orcs had begun to surround him! Thorin told Merwan "You've been itchin' to shoot somebody"...and these poor, heroic travelers who have had to hold their tongues - and their weapons - for several days now refused to hold any longer...with Thorin charging the orcs and Merwan firing an arrow past him. Wendell mostly went for cover as the giant was swarmed by orcs but took their best blows, and Merwan fired a point blank arrow into the face of one orc.

Fergus distracted an orc from the rooftops, leaving an opening for Thorin to take out a pair of orcs. Once the fighting was done, and it was done quickly, and the group immediately scattered before the authorities could get involved.

They regrouped at Ail's Quayhouse, where Merwan introduced Thorin to Wallace of the House Dale, a Dornish warrior whose hatred of the Shadow overrides his common sense. As the group drank their ale and began to plan their next move, Wendell spotted something on the bottom of Thorin's mug and they examined the markings closely...realizing they were looking at a map...of the Baden's Bluff sewers! The group headed into the sewers and followed the tunnels until they emptied out onto the western shores for the Pellurian Sea...and an elf that looked disgusted to be there.

The promised aid from the Witch Queen had arrived.

NOTES: Midnight is a "low profile" kind of setting and I was seriously pushing Tommy's buttons tonight. If he had made that Tracking roll after the Tradehouse incident, things probably would have gotten very ugly, very quickly. We probably have one more session left of the Crown of Shadows (and it won't be next week, as I have a comic book convention to attend), and then we'll be taking a Savage Midnight hiatus, but we're both sure we wanna come back to it. We're just having too much fun.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

R.I.P. Marvel Heroic, I Hardly Knew Ye

Margaret Weis Productions announced today that they are not continuing the Marvel Heroic RPG, apparently after sales of the Civil War line proved to be unsatisfactory. I, for one, am very sad to hear that.

Was I a hardcore Marvel Heroic player? Well, no. The only significant supers gaming I have done in years has been Marvel SAGA and Necessary Evil. That said, there was a lot I liked about Marvel Heroic. I mean, I did name it one of my Top Six last year. In fact, I was planning on trying to run either the introductory adventure or the Annihilation campaign for some friends, but I'm not entirely sure that'll happen now.

Apparently a lot of finger pointing is being leveled at Marvel and Disney. I'm not going to join in on that. I'm still a Marvel Zombie, I'll still go to the comic book store and load up on Marvel comics and I'll still dream of a world where, someday, I'm working for Marvel.

I said I was dreaming, didn't I?

One thing I doubt I'll ever do again, though? Get excited about a Marvel RPG. The first RPG I bought was the Marvel Superheroes Advanced Set, and we played it quite a bit. Many months were spent alternating between that and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition. I really liked the FASERIP system...and I seriously doubt I could ever go back to it, despite the availability of resources for it, the sheer amount of material released, and the continued popularity of it. Why?

Marvel SAGA, AKA The Greatest Gaming Tragedy Of All.

Marvel SAGA is a deeply flawed RPG. It is also the source of some of the most fun I've ever had gaming. To this day, it is still my favorite supers RPG, flaws and all. I own all of the books for it and have a ton of resources on my computer made by myself and other people...but over time, the flaws of the system have weighed it down a bit in my eyes, my most enthusiastic player moved away, I can't help but feel haunted by the promise of books we never received (like the Marvel Team-Up Roster Book), and the fanbase is dead, due largely to the fact that it required the use of a custom deck of cards, making the acquisition of a complete, playable set even more difficulty.

Then Marvel decided to release their own RPG, known as the Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game. It was a resource management game that had completely jettisoned the random element. It started off strong, with a corebook, and X-Men guide and a guide to Hulk and The Avengers (the Hulk movie had just been released)...but one, it wasn't very fun (IMO) and two, Marvel themselves killed it in three books. The next rumored release? A Spider-Man book.

Marvel Heroic actually got me pretty fired up, even if I wasn't sold on the Events set-up. I have reviewed the game and supplements extensively on this site, and MWP spoke highly of their ambitious plans (including gaming adaptations of one of my favorite periods in comics, the Marvel Cosmic run from Annihilation through Thanos Imperative)...but now that has been struck down shortly after the release of Annihilation and long before we ever saw a glimpse of Age of Apocalypse.

Frankly, it sucks. I was getting fired up for the cosmic stuff. I never even got to see Adam Warlock, damnit!

So, once more, fans are left looking at "What Might Have Been". I hold neither MWP nor Marvel any ill will on this. I hope both companies continue to flourish and prosper, in part for my continued enjoyment.

But damn it all, I'm tired of being disappointed by the premature deaths of Marvel RPGs.

For anyone looking to snatch up the PDFs before they disappear into the ether, you have until the end of the month to snag them from RPGNow.

For those who are clinging on and never looking back, bookmark, an amazing collection of Marvel Heroic resources.

Necessary Evil: A Retrospective

Necessary Evil was the first Savage Worlds Plot Point Campaign I started...and, eventually, it became the first Plot Point Campaign that I've finished.

Shortly after we decided we liked Savage Worlds enough to make it a regular game, I ordered the Necessary Evil setting book and we got to work. When we started, it was myself and two players: My friends Tommy (no relation) and Kenny. Getting Kenny to play new games is hard. Getting Kenny to play new supers games is harder. His favorite RPG is Marvel SAGA (and with good cause), but we got him to give it a go.

I'm used to groups that are smaller than the assumed party size, and luckily we would discover that Savage Worlds handles NPCs *very* well. Playing the Plot Point straight (in the beginning), our team took shape:

Mindstorm: The alternate reality supervillain version of the first supers character Kenny ever created, for Marvel Classic many years ago, who underwent multiple changes through that campaign's life, and into Marvel SAGA. He did a fairly faithful reconstruction of Mindstorm, even if we found the Savage Worlds supers powers to be a tad more restrictive than what we were used to.

Angel's Bane: Tommy played around with concepts and powers in the book to make a man mutated into a demonic form, believing himself to actually BE a demon. This character only lasted two sessions, which may have saved the campaign...

Belladonna: An NPC with Poison powers, taken from an outline of mine for a superhero comic that'll never see the light of day. The second shortest lived of the founding members of the team. (Though she is presently believed to be alive, just didn't stick around long).

Bully, the Bull That Walks Like A Man: Another NPC taken from the aforementioned outline, a mutated man-bull in the mold of a minotaur.

Kale: A third NPC, taken directly from the Archetypes in the Necessary Evil book. The name came from a Sorcerer villain NPC I created and used one time in a Marvel SAGA adventure.

Angel's Bane died quickly, and I've long suspected it was a bit of player-directed suicide, but Tommy really wasn't happy with his character and how some of the powers work...but his second character proved quite suitable...

Socks: A bloodthirty melee fighter who was part man, part badger. Mutated into that form by V'Sori experiments, Socks was not a good guy, but he had ample reason to hate the aliens. Personality-wise, he was fairly friendly when not in combat mode, as opposed to the diabolical and manipulative Angel's Bane.

With his arrival, the core of the team was set: Mindstorm was the leader, Kale was the Swiss Army Knife, Socks and Bully were the sadistic, happy-go-lucky tag team that inflicted a LOT of damage over the campaign. The fifth slot rotated out throughout the campaign, but for the bulk of it, those four were always there.

Some Big Moments

Some of my favorite campaign highlights are included below:

  • Bully being killed by the Black Ops Squad and paraded around in the streets of Star City, sparking one of the saddest and most emotional responses I have ever seen from a group after an NPC's death.
  • Mindstorm recruiting Vesper instead of killing her as ordered, taking that first, tangible step from villain to hero.
  • Socks standing toe-to-toe with the K'Tharen rebel Sugrot (thanks to an Adventure Card), leading to Sugrot forming an alliance with the team that was paid off again at least twice more in the campaign.
  • The team rallying a Russian village to go to war against an approaching Drone army, ending in Socks stalking down and killing the V'Sori warlord that had crippled Asia.
  • Mindstorm's player spending all of his bennies, at the beginning of combat, to help Kale Soak. He failed. At the end of combat, he uses an Adventure Deck card to utilize his Electrical powers to heal Kale.
  • Socks refusing to let Bully remain a Super Drone, talking him back to his senses.
  • Mindstorm confronting, and killing, his step brother as one of his last acts of war...all without powers.
  • Socks defeating an Atlantean God in hand to hand combat.
  • Mindstorm electrocuting himself to fry the same Atlantean God...and Kale using his newfound powers to resurrect his fallen friend.
  • The custom HeroClix figures that Kenny made of the team.
Again, just some of the big moments I loved.

On Plot Point Campaigns

I loved the basic plot of Necessary Evil, but the campaign began to bog down early on when we were jumping from mission to mission. That's when Plot Point Campaigns really began to "click" to me: It's not a whole campaign that you run straight out of the book, it's a strong skeleton to hang your characters' subplots and hopes and dreams and allies and enemies on. The moment that the campaign really began to sing, I thought, was when I ran the first adventure that was entirely off of my notes: When Belladonna betrayed the team, turning Mindstorm over to his brother. From there, we took all kinds of crazy twists and turns, weaving in and out of the written campaign, including the major trek to Russia, where they learned more of the backstory about the setting (including the ultimate source of superpowers in the NE universe), as well as the above mentioned Mass Combat in which they led Russian villagers against a Drone army.

I transplanted one Savage Tale from Star City and dropped it into London, England, and a tied a major canon NPC death into the same recklessness from Socks that led to Bully dying.

I also learned that, as we reached the end of the campaign, that I could have kept running games in the NE world for years. I would have gladly expanded the war with Leviathan out well past the one session wrap-up we did, but time was not permitting with Mindstorm's player moving to Boston.

Interestingly, a common complaint I've heard about Necessary Evil has to do with its mission based structure...but most supers games tend to wind up with the PCs reacting instead of acting, due to genre conventions.

Going forward, Necessary Evil will be my benchmark for measuring Plot Point Campaigns.

There IS Life After Legendary

By the book, the campaign is supposed to wrap up somewhere in Heroic rank or so. Our campaign reached Legendary, and will continue sporadically as Mindstorm's player is able to visit Oklahoma.

What I learned is that Legendary PCs are tough...but they are still beatable. Not actually knowing if we would continue the campaign sporadically, I gave each PC and NPC a unique Legendary Edge that helped them accentuate their primary schtick in the game...but I made sure that each Edge was something I could live with in an ongoing game.

I hope I get to run another game into Legendary...and beyond. The PCs are more capable and have more options, but are also not indestructible juggernauts, nor does the book keeping change dramatically.

Savage Worlds Is Super...But How Does It Do Supers?

As much fun as I had here, I can't imagine ever doing another supers campaign with Savage Worlds. While Savage Worlds doesn't have the same steep "zero to hero" climb as, say, D&D does...the fact is that it does build from a weaker base into a much stronger one that doesn't really emulate most supers characters. Comic book characters grow and change, but rarely do they do stair step progressions over time, ala Savage Worlds advancements.

Additionally, we found the powers system to ultimately be too rigid for our liking for a full blown supers game. That being said, I would gladly adapt that same powers system to, say, a Savage Buffy the Vampire Slayer game. No Power Stunt option, and a few of the Powers are either too low powered or limited to really work in a supers setting for us, even for a lower powered one.

"Droned: To mistakenly strike your ally..."

While playing Savage Midnight, I was amused when Socks' player referencing being "Droned", in which one character takes out an ally with a mis aimed ranged attack, so named because of my horrible ranged attack rolls with Drones in this game.

Pick A Card

The Adventure Deck can be a tad polarizing at times, but we are all pretty big fans of it, as the Adventure Deck directly led to great moments like Socks shrugging off Sugrot's blows, Mindstorm being able to lead the Russian villagers in combat, Mindstorm being able to heal Kale, Flux gaining an Atlantean Artifact while being caught in a burning building and more. Not saying you should always leave every card in the deck every time, but even in our Midnight game the Adventure Deck is sticking around, given what a staple it became in this campaign.

Final Thoughts

Deadlands hooked us on Savage Worlds, but Necessary Evil made us fall in love with it. This was the most memorable campaign I have ever ran, and I'm both looking forward to, and intimidated by, continuing it sporadically when Mindstorm's player comes and visits.

I've heard that you can't have "meaningful roleplay" in neither Savage Worlds nor supers in general, but I am very glad to say that our experience was the complete opposite. We told an epic tale of redemption as low level criminals and henchmen rose up to become the saviors of the world, with a lot of comedy, drama and tragedy along the way...and, with the exception of the very first mission, the PCs told the story. I may have provided signposts, but they decided where they went and what they did, often sparking the story in unexpected directions (Mindstorm's player became the king of setting up a seemingly innocent action that played into his bigger plans), and I just tried to make sure I had as many of my bases covered as possible.

I've never had a campaign reach any kind of definitive conclusion before, and it's kind of a great feeling. I'm especially glad to share that time with Tommy and Kenny, but also the other players that sat in at points, like Brian, Jack and Ellie. I'm also glad that Clint Black and crew wrote this helped create some of my favorite gaming memories.

Anyway, keep watching the blog. I'm currently hip deep in World of the Dead editing, but we have more Savage Midnight coming, and I promise to try to get back on track with reviews very, very soon.

Keep the dice dizzy!

To read any of the previous Necessary Evil Session Reports, see below:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Savage Midnight: The Crown of Shadow Actual Play Volume 1

This was a new experience for us…Savage Midnight, using the Midnight Conversion Document by Jeffrey L. Scifert. Years ago, we had started, but not finished, the Crown of Shadow adventure using D&D 3rd Edition…nowadays, neither me nor my one remaining player are fans of said system…but we are both Savages.

The D&D version of the group consisted of three PCs and an NPC, but two of those players are no longer available…so we NPCed them. The group:

Thorin Stoneskull – A Clan Dwarf from Durgis Rock, stubborn and loyal. Carries a pair of enchanted Urutuk Hatchets called The Wrath of the Moon and the Fury of the Sun. His Heroic Path is that of the Null, making him resistant to magic.

Hammer – A Dworg berserker who is smarter than he appears…he is Ironborn, and a Channeler of the Loremaster tradition as well as a warrior. He was raised among the surface dwelling Kurgan Dwarves.

Eldon Ralda-Zir – An elfling thief who is Quickened. Raised among the Danisil Elves in the jungles of Eredane. His word is his bond.

Merwan the Steel Eye – A Pureblood Erenlander. The only human in the group, he is hunted by the minions of Izrador just the same as the Fey. Eldon is honor bound to him after he saved Eldon from a demon.

To recap: The dwarven contingent met up with the outlander contingent and Elven emissaries at Kurgan Falls, where they defeated goblins and avoided a stone golem. Upon returning to Durgis Rock, they found that it had been sacked by orc raiders and that an intimidating human had been asking about them. While the elves battled stone golems, the party found Woden, Dothin of Durgis Rock, mortally wounded. The party took the Dragon Case from him and swore an oath to deliver it to the Queen of Elves. Thorin also found Woden’s hatchets.

The elves gave their lives to stop the Stone Golems…and the party set out into the mountains, much weaker. They camped with Dorn refugees, but had to escape into the tunnels to avoid a very large orc force. Unfortunately, they were separated from Gnomish guide Wendell Gale in the process.

In the passages under the Kaladrun Mountains, they managed to bring down a wounded Umber Hulk and saved Golan, Scion of Pardrum, which allowed them time to rest in the Pardrum Holdfast.

As the respite ended, the four remaining heroes headed out into the underground tunnels with Calia, a dwarven Wildlander guide. (A very broad recap of the events played out under the d20 rules.

The group ventured into the tunnels and the one party member without Low Light vision, Merwan, spotted Orc Scouts moving through the tunnels. Eldon snuck up on them and tried to slash one scout’s throat, harming him but not killing him, while Merwan drove an arrow into the head of the other. As the wounded orc turned on Eldon, Thorin moved in and hurled one of his hatchets, taking it out.

The party emerged from the tunnels at night time, and Hammer and Thorin were both taken aback by the openness. Growing up with the Kurgan, Hammer has a knack for mountaineering, and he helped the group navigate down to solid ground. After a couple of days of travel, Thorin was visited in a dream by black-eyed Elven woman who warned that they were being hunted, but that they could find allies in the “City by the Sea”, a reference to Baden’s Bluff, home of the resistance. Eldon was skeptical of this dream, but in lieu of anything better to go off of, the group decided it must have been a useful message. While staying up late on watch, Merwan and Thorin decided that that the Queen must be guiding them.

A few days later, the group spotted vultures in the skies and moved in to investigate to find a wrecked Halfling camp. Nearly two dozen slaughtered Halflings were strewn about, along with three dead orcs and four wogrens, though one of them was still alive. Merwan and Thorin were able to identify that a dozen slavers seemed to still be alive, with about forty Halfling slaves. As the group prepared to head out into pursuit, Hammer drew their attention to an orc tied to tentpoles. At first glance he appeared to be dead, so Thorin dropped a drop of water on him to get a reaction.

The orc called himself Sardric, and after parlaying with Thorin for a bit – and explaining that he is a follower of the White Mother, who believes that Izrador is using the orcs as slaves, and who cut down one of his own brothers for torturing a Halfling instead of just enslaving him, Thorin asked for a spare blade…so Eldon moved in with a fighting knife, preparing to cut Sardric’s throat. Thorin cut him off and the two argued, with Eldon pointing out that Sardric is an ORC. Thorin wants to get this resolved so they can rescue the Halflings, which Eldon also scoffs at, noting that there are a dozen orcs with the Halflings. When Thorin questions Eldon’s devotion to the Halflings, Eldon counters that he was raised in the jungles by Danisil, not in the plains by Halflings. Thorin set Eldon off again when Merwan nursed the wounded wogren back but said he was too hurt to take with them…so Thorin left him rations, which Eldon strongly disagreed with, though Thorin did also tell the Wogren that life is hard, and he’ll have to find his own way to survive. Ultimately, Thorin left a hand ax at Sardric’s feet and told him that if the White Mother is looking over him, he will find his way free…but if their paths cross again, Thorin would kill Sardric.

The group set out on a forced march after the slavers, and a few days in, Thorin noticed the wogren – affectionately dubbed “Spot” – was following them. Merwan told Thorin that Spot had been following them since they left camp…and that his strength was returning. The group was hastened along as they began to find butchered Halflings in their path.

When the group happened on the slavers, the orcs had four sentries and the rest of their number were sleeping, with the Halflings huddled together, chained by the neck. Thorin sent Eldon ahead to release the pack animals and send them running, while he and Hammer charged the orcs remaining at the camp and Merwan opened fire from a distance. The group wasn’t terribly surprised when Spot charged the camp…but when Sardric joined in as well, that did stun them a bit. Sardric, Spot and the party, using the element of surprise, fended off the orc slavers and put them down. Sardric asked Thorin if his life were still forfeit, but the Halflings jumped to his defense. Thorin saw no reason to end his life and the Halflings offered to adopt him to the tribe! Sardric and Spot left with the Halflings, while the party tried to get back on track with their mission.

As the group headed across the plains, they were ambushed a day or so later by Sarcosan riders who were very unhappy to see the orc-like Hammer with the group. Merwan, taking a noticeably different demeanor, interjected and talked the Sarcosans down…eventually convincing them to give the group a ride on horseback closer to their destination. Along the way, the group learned about how unhappy the Sarcosans are, as many of their leaders just folded, betraying the Sarcosan people.

After parting ways with the Sarcosans, Merwan noticed that there seemed to be an odd change in the environment, though none of the rest of the group noticed it. They were in a kind of a swamp forest, when Merwan pointed out that it used to be farm land. This set the group on edge a bit.

The group came up on a town, Redwinde, and spotted a girl playing by the river…until she fell in! Merwan and Eldon were the only swimmers, so Merwan dove in as the group ran to the river bank. Merwan was pulling her out…when she bit him! And then the group found themselves surrounded by stalking, undead villagers!

Merwan fought himself free and scrambled onto the river bank as the villagers swarmed on Thorin, Hammer and Eldon! A man began yelling from a temple in the town that he could shelter them from the villagers if they could get free! Hammer was kept on the defensive (repeatedly Shaken), while Eldon was badly injured (two Wounds). Merwan and Thorin did most of the damage, with Merwan shooting undead down with his bow while Thorin hacked away with his hatchets. Hammer made a grim observation that “magic was gone”, but Thorin paid him no heed and still threw one of his hatchets, only to be surprised when it didn’t return to him. Eldon, badly hurt, ran to the temple but Hammer soon followed. Merwan and Thorin finally broke for the temple as well, finding a priest and three followers inside. They also found themselves staring at a menacing black mirror.

Everything was going alright in the temple…until Thorin asked which God the temple belonged to and the priest answered with “Izrador.” The group prepared to fight as the priest, Astegar the Damned, ordered his acolytes to attack! Astegar made particular note of Merwan, indicating that Legates throughout the land were looking for him. Merwan kept trying to keep enough room to fire his bow in the temple, and the group took down an acolyte, but were disturbed – but not shocked – to discover that the acolytes were undead as well. Astegar summoned the power of Izrador and blasted Hammer with a CRUSHING burst of energy…and one of the acolytes drove his blade into the defenseless Dworg’s chest to end his life. Eldon fought Astegar desperately, even spitting blood in his eyes at one point (Agility Trick to shake him). Astegar surrounded his mace in black flame and drove it into Eldon’s sternum, making a sick, wet sound. Merwan and Thorin were taking down acolytes and inflicting wounds on Astegar, but not enough. Merwan rattled Astegar when he shrugged off a blow from the flaming mace, but it still took several more arrows to finally bring the undead Legate down! Merwan rushed to the side of Eldon…but he had already passed away in the fight.

Merwan and Thorin reluctantly beheaded their partners…before stealing the robes of the Legate and one of acolytes to escape the tower and slip past the villagers.

NOTES: Our first time playing Midnight under the Savage Worlds rules, and I wasn’t TRYING to trim down the group…but I had also let my player know that if we were doing Savage Midnight, there would be no kid gloves. Thorin was saved by being the best fighter and actually having armor, while Merwan is living at range in fights. In fact, the only fights that gave the group any trouble were again an undead Legate and an undead attack with Merwan out of position to use his bow.

We didn’t play this weekend, but we’ll likely continue this next weekend as we aim to at least finish the Crown of Shadows…but hopefully also play much more Savage Midnight in the future.