Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Legate Valerian's Campaign Against Inthorn the Brigand Warlord


If you've been reading this D&D ACKS blog for some time (only the best people do) you know the players have been causing trouble in the Auran Borderlands near Turos Tem. So much trouble, in fact, that their actions have led to major mass battle movements for the NPC rulers and generals. 

On their way to the introductory dungeon in an early session the players came across a Brigand Lair. By some freak dice roll, the brigands found the PCs charming and invited them to sup with them. After this session, the PCs would often stop at the encampment on their way to the dungeon to rest and avoid random encounters at night. 

In doing so they learned it was led by a retired Auran General named Inthorn. He was highly decorated and the two Legionnaire PCs were shocked that a man of such high prestige would turn to brigandage. The party became convinced Inthorn was enchanted in some way by his mage retainer or evil cultist paramour. Inthorn was wearing a fancy plumed helmet he never removed; surely it must be a Helm of Alignment change!

A few sessions later the party had a random encounter with an adult green dragon named Ferigno. Its reaction was Neutral so it circled the party demanding tribute. Jack Filcher (RIP), the party's level one Thief, instead promised the dragon he would find riches undreamed of if he raided Inthorn's brigand camp. Ferigno was intrigued and Jack gave him directions to the camp.

Unfortunately my between session reaction checks etc for the dragon engaging the camp didn't lead to a full on assault from the serpent. Instead, the brigands teamed up with the dragon for a short term alliance to attack the Lawful Human Town of Siadanos. The raid was highly successful and Inthorn sat on his laurels for weeks. The dragon took his spoils to a Lair somewhere in the forest the party has yet to discover. 

The Palatine of Siadanos was enraged. He was all too happy to allow Inthorn to take a merchant wagon on its way to Turos Tem now and again. But a a full on assault on HIS town? It would not stand. Worse yet, he demanded the Legate of Turos Tem, the Keep on the Borderlands the PCs called their home base, take care of the problem himself. It's in his region, after all!

It took the Legate about six weeks to call his bannermen. The Palatine, additionally, sent a few units led by his retainer Veritas the Prophet; a strange cleric whom the Legate found off-putting and likely a bit mad. It was obvious the mad cleric was there to assure the Legate carried out the orders exactly.

The party made a mad dash to try and rid Inthorn of his Curse but were unable to accomplish it before Legate Valerian had gathered his armed forces. In another session, the party engaged in a mad assassination plot against Inthorn's retainer(s)... and succeeded! The Legate moved up is timeline to engaged with Inthorn immediately, since the PCs had eliminated one major retainer of the brigands and apparently burned much of their food supply and some of their walls. Amazing.

The Turos Tem regulars gathered at the Parade Ground on March 6th, 2021. From there they marched off into the Viaspen Forest and the PCs had no idea what happened. Two PCs are Legionnaires (Veteran Infantry) and players were worried they could die off-stage. Maybe. 

I ran all of this using the ACKS Domains at War: Campaigns book.  I allowed my dad to roleplay Legate Valerian, giving him his general orders from the Palatine and his Order of Battle. He does NOT have a PC in the proper D&D game, so his motivations had nothing to do with helping or hindering the Players. All was roleplayed as if by the Legate himself; uncaring of PC's needs or wants. Pops brought a more curmudgeonly aspect to the Legate than I would have envisioned myself. His interpretation was the Legate was put out from not being offered a place in the major foreign campaign the Empire was engaging in against Skysos. His career likely going nowhere fast. My below correspondence from the Legate attempt to emulate the voice he gave him during RP.

At this point the Military Campaign was run as a wargame of sorts whose results would echo into the TTRPG campaign. If you've seen the documentary Secrets of Blackmoor, you are aware that D&D began with wargaming; with the referee then zooming in on the individual captains, generals and such. Proper D&D, then, is actually a region based wargame wherein we zoom in from time to time on various major regional players; oftentimes the D&D Players.

As such, I believe I am upholding the spirit of True D&D by allowing a side mission wargame like this. Additionally, by using Jeffrogaxian Timekeeping, I didn't need to figure it all out at once. ACKS Domains at War rules move a week at a time for overland campaigns. Essentially a turn each week. 

The Campaign

On March 6th the Turos Tem forces were gathered: four units of elite catapharacts,  three units of horse archers, three units of bowmen, and five units of heavy infantry. At platoon scale this meant each normal unit was 30 men and each unit of horse was 15. At such a small scale the enemy wizard was thought to be a great threat indeed; calculating at a value in mass battle about 6 times that of a normal heavy infantry. For one man! Legate Valerian was unconcerned and marched off into the Viaspen before lunch time.

On March 10th the Players received their first word about what was happening in the Viaspen Forest and the Legate's campaign. The Praeco took to a small stage outside the Turos Tem Villa and made the following announcement:

"Auran Citizens! It is my pleasure to announce the traitor Inthorn, disgraced General of the Legion, is on the run. Our glorious Legate Valerian and our stalwart Legion have harried the traitor from his den of trollops, sending Inthorn to flee into the wretched Viaspen forest. Great spoils were found in the traitor's camp, as well as the much abused corpses of Temple faithful; one Damianus (PC Cleric Level 1), an Acolyte of the Ammonar sect and Swoleous Maxiumus (PC Paladin Level1, a new paladin of same. Both men have be posthumously named 'Petty Heroes of Turos Tem' for their work in infiltrating Inthorn's camp. They will be provided a Turos Tem funerary pyre and shelf space for their urn in the Hospital at a place of honor intended for Petty Heroes. Any citizens heard referring to these Petty Heroes with the contemptible title of 'Adventurer' will be subject to summary judgement. Auran Citizen Jack Filcher (PC Thief Level 1), also found dead at the scene, may be referred to as 'Adventurer'. "

"Upon gathering the spoils of the camp for his Men, our Legate has taken chase of the disgraced general, his remaining forces, and his warlock puppeteer Dairin. Citizens are advised to make extra tithes to the various temples, as per their patronage, in divine defense against nightmares and cacodemons said warlock may send to our Legature, as reprisal. Our Legate has no timeline for his campaign and the Legions return and encourages our patience!"

"As per our majestic Palatine, this campaign cannot be abandoned until Inthorn is brought to Auran Justice. Dead. Or alive. Further news of our Legate's Viaspen Campaign will be sponsored by the Miller's Guild. True Auran bread for true Aurans."

Players bought drinks for some of the Legion who returned to Turos Tem with this news. It seemed the Legate had lost two units of infantry in a rear guard action against Inthorn who was fleeing the ruins of his burned up camp. The 30 or so injured legionnaires from this action were sent back to Turos Tem to pass the news along and be treated in the Hospital. They reported to the players that Legate Valerian took no prisoners, executing all captured brigands and burned unceremoniously, so that the Turos Tem forces might take chase of Inthorn who had fled off into the forest. 

What follows is new info for mine players documenting what happened with the campaign after March 10th. Correspondence from the Legate to various parties.

"Juselen 19th, 382 IY (March 12th, 2021 in our world)

From the mouth of Legate Ulrand Valerian, dictated to his humble servant Cyr the scribae.

My Palatine: The campaign goes well. The traitor Inthorn fled his burned up parapet some two days ago. My men are taking chase with great alacrity and discipline. I believed Inthorn was heading for the swamp on the western edge of the Viaspen but now his movements seem random. Perhaps trying to lose me or, we fear, attempting to taking a roundabout path to the lair of Ferigno the dragon. Its difficult to tell what Inthorn or his warlock may be planning. I personally witnessed Dairin the warlock riding a flying nightmare during our initial engagement. He appears trained in elementalism and his fireballs greatly injured some of my infantry who were sent back to my keep. I regret that Veritas the Prophet, your retainer and cleric, has been unable to divine anything of tactical value to the above. Our supply line and morale remains strong. May the Emperyan gods guide my path and steady my blade."

"Juselen 20th, 382 IY (March 13th, 2021 in our world)

From the mouth of Legate Ulrand Valerian, dictated to his humble servant Cyr the scribae.

My Palatine: I beg you keep your mage close and, if you deem it wise, request the company of a templar for some days. My life was endangered this night by an invisible assassin, conjured by chthonic magic  from the warlock Dairin. I consider my life indebted to you for sending Veritas the Prophet for this campaign. His kinship with the gods gave him sight to see and eliminate what was otherwise a silent and invisible assassin. I have my problems with the man (he is a drunkard and lacking in stoicism) but he eliminated the invisible stalker in my tent with mace hand before returning to our chess match. He became too drunk and I subsequently won. We have yet to engage Inthorn's forces in direct battle but know he is close. The fact he would employ such a cowardly attack on my person speaks ill of the man. A legionnaire in my service who met with the traitor recently claims him a good man, but I become unconvinced. May the Emperyan gods guide my path and steady my blade."

 "Juselen 22nd, 382 IY (March 15, 2021 in our world)

From the mouth of Legate Ulrand Valerian, dictated to his humble servant Cyr the scribae.

My Palatine: Victory is ours. This afternoon, after nigh a week of chase in circles around the elf touched briars of the Viaspen Forest, we closed with Inthorn's forces and engaged in a pitched battle. One imagines what Auran honor was left in the warlord finally appealed to the better angels of his nature, temporarily eliminating the cowardice which sent him fleeing here and there on this pointless ramble. After our rear guard action on Inthorn some days ago, he had the following at his command:

-Seven units of medium cavalry

-Five units of bowmen

The Auran forces much superior in numbers, my only fear was what sort of mischief the warlock may get into during the engagement. As before he was circling the field on a flying steed of flame, singeing the treetops with hoofbeat. Our bowmen exchanged volley with Inthorn's and both side took losses. Fireballs fell from the sky removing the last of our bow from the field. I ordered a melee engagement as quickly as possible. I held no delusion Dairin would care if his magic fire landed upon his supposed allies but I intended for both sides to take losses from such cruelty. 

It happened just as this. Fire continued to fall from the sky as our horse and infantry clashed with Inthorn's. Despite Inthorn's men being much better trained than any brigands I have yet engaged with his many remaining bowmen were scattered with fear upon sight of our veteran catapharact and the warlock's wild flames from the sky. Veritas appeared to have brought the strength of the gods to his unit of cavalry and their strikes were true indeed. He and my own Centurion proved their worth.

I personally brained Inthorn with my lance in a full charge, knocking him from his horse. He surrendered as best an nigh unconscious man might. His helmet did indeed appear magical as it did not take flight from his head as is the norm. Dairin the cowardly warlock never touched down to face justice and flew off away from the battle leaving his brothers-in-arms to their fate. One is thankful the mages at the Tower of Knowledge know the empyrean gods, understanding justice and order. Not vile slaves to the chthonic supposed gods of chaos and decay, as is Dairin. Veritas divined Dairin's location later and believes the evil mage has gone to beg the service and protection of Ferigno. Such are concerns for vagabonds and adventurers, but I repeat myself.

The rest of the day was a simple cleanup action. Most of the brigands attempted to flee but were easily ran down and destroyed by our horse. I have claimed one hundred and one prisoners which I will send back to Siadanos with your retainer Veritas to be adminstered Justice as you see fit.

This number of prisoners includes Inthorn the warlord himself. I can report my legionnaire who moonlights as an adventurer was correct. The General was under a curse. Veritas removed the curse and Inthorn is very contrite for his actions. He has asked the I behead him personally for his transgressions.

But I send him back to you for your Justice. I advise leniency as many a man has fallen to the wiles of a black widow. Much less one who whispers schemes with Nasga herself.

The losses I faced were more than I would have preferred. Though none of my units were destroyed, many were crippled. Including:

-three unit of cataphract

-two units of heavy infantry [DM Note: The Unit with Mandonio (PC Fighter Level 1) and Gauis (PC Fighter Level 2) were not among these.]

-three unit of bowmen (all of them)

-one unit of horse archers

I regret that your forces were among these losses. These men will need to be given bed rest and time to combine the forces to reconstitute new units. 

Many spoils were taken; 32,000 gold piece in value in all. I send 5,000 of this back to you as apology for your loss of men. I also will send you Inthorn's spear and sword which Veritas claims are of great magic indeed. [DM Note: as per ACKS Domains at War rules on "Spoils of War" on page 75, the General of an army takes 50% of the spoils. The other 50% is disbursed to the men on a pro rata basi in relation to their wages. This gained the PCs Mandonio and Gaius each about 15 gold pieces in spoils and 15 XP.]

I expect my return to Turos Tem on Juselen 28 (March 21) as a funeral pyre will need to be provided for our lost men and travel through this forest is quite taxing to us; especially with casualties. May the Emperyan gods guide my path and steady my blade."

"Juselen 23nd, 382 IY (March 16, 2021 in our world)

 Wife: I have won. I will return by the end of the month.

Your husband, Legate Valerian"

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