Thursday, August 12, 2021

ACKS Session 27: A Dragon Named Ferigno [Fog of War in 1=1 Time]

This Session was played on 08/04/21 wherein the PCs adventured for 12 days. They need 1 days of rest per ACKS rules and thusly may make downtime requests and play in Sessions on and after 08/18/21.

Foreword

Because of my use of Jeffrogaxian Time I debated when I should write and release this session report.

The PC's adventured into the future beyond next session's scheduled date of 08/11/21, meaning any info I put here could become known to Patron players or competing PC parties who shouldn't know about it until sometime into the future. Jeffro's Tw1tter Trollopulous Freakout Thing (JTTFT) ran on nigh 1 to 1 time hour by hour. I have near as many Patron players at this point but I tend to run my Patrons' actions week to week. So if the PCs take major world shaking actions 13 days into the future, what do? 

I've decided to release this blog when competing PC party (parties) and Patron NPCs would generally become aware of what happened.

But this brings up a bigger issue about Real Time Gameplay. Fog of War! In this foreword and the session report I will help teach you, the reader, how to implement and run Fog of War for 1=1 Timekeeping. Knowing how thick you want your Fog of War is an important decision for a DM. He must consider what kind of world he's running and what sort of access he wants his players to have to info. Is your world one of mystery and madness or one of order? This has a major impact on the feel of the game world and how the players interface with gameplay.

JTTFT had very thick Fog of War and I endeavor to make the Fog of War in my own campaign a bit less opaque due to the nature of the world I'm running; it's more orderly. I'm not running a (fake) news feed because my setting is one of antiquity. Also, I'm assuming a campaign world that doesn't have news reports at all, but slow moving rumors. The rumors are a bit more reliable on the whole since they are moving through trustworthy parties, not primarily through those attempting to trick one another. My game region has a line of legionnaire forts with nigh perfect roads between them. It's an orderly place.

I enter the rumors into the campaign chat room channel for #story or #hooks depending on whether or not there's reason to believe the PCs (or Patrons) can GET PAID by the info. #story is for my Storygamers and #hooks is for my elite Gameists. Real DND can accommodate all Player types!

Because the Auran empire's roads are quite fantastic between the civilized locations, I've decided that BIG EVENTS (such as a Patron Wizard who attacked a major temple in a major town) become well known around the Borderlands within a week or less. Smaller info things like a gang of trolls raiding a Legature take a bit longer to get around to other towns since that sort of thing is pretty frequent. If a Patron (or NPC) has a situation where he's putting out the call for adventurers that also takes about a week for news of the opportunity to get to the other towns. ACKS rules for finding henchmen and hirelings takes about a week so I figure Patron's looking for adventurers would hear the call in about the same amount of time.

Too much reliable information can be a drag, as well. This isn't a video game with a quest log. As with all real dnd there are false rumors (Breeyark!). Certain patrons or even PCs may certainly (and have?) pay bards etc to put out false rumors. Players may plan for a long time (like this session) based on what they think is happening. Invest a great deal of money and preparation into a plan that doesn't fit the threat. But if the plan fails, it fails much bigger. The emotional investment of a failed or successful plan, then, becomes greater. As such, the game matters more to the players since the time planning had a real impact; for good or ill.

A while back PCs were certain there should be some sort of Pony Express running messages around the Borderlands so they could send messages to their far flung PCs and backup PCs. It seemed fair and, thanks to ACKS' outstanding economic rules, I whipped up something pretty easily. PCs and Patrons can hire a man with access to a fast riding horse to carry a message, and the wherewithal to brave random wilderness encounters across the roads. The rate of availability is the same as a basic Navigator. So small towns may only have 1 guy a week willing to carry a letter, bigger cities have many more. Standard ACKS stuff. 

OFC none of this means the letter(s) will actually reach their destination. One random encounter roll per 6 miles crossed is quite a bit. Alot can go wrong. If The Postman fails to Evade a particularly nasty encounter, no message arrives. And the sender will likely never know.

There's more to say on all this but I'll get on with the session report and use it to give some more examples of best practices I've found for Fog of War. Read on and you'll better understand the Dubs Method of Elite DM play.

Session Report

The main party, "Team A", was adventuring out of Turos Spen this session. They spent the last two weeks of downtime hiring a bunch of mercs in Cyfaraun and traveling with them to Turos Spen to get in position for this session. It set up an interesting downtime situation with the Patron that runs the Legate of Turos Spen: Drakon. He initially told me he'd force all private armies (like those PCs tend to schlep around with) to camp a half day away from his Keep. PCs were pretty annoyed when Drakon's Centurion came out to intercept them in the field with some cavalry and insulted their intelligence, hygiene, and general appearance and informing them of Drakon's will on this. Crassus (PC Venturer Level 1) went straight past me to his private chatroom with Legate Drakon to ask for an exception to this rule. And got it!


Crassus gets along with Legate Drakon whereas the party's actual Caller and Leader, Daria (PC Bladedancer Level 5) doesn't get along with the man AT ALL. Real interaction with real humans roleplaying has had a major impact on my campaign in many ways, and this is just one example. We're better storygamers than the storygamers. 

So the party was ready to move out of Turos Spen into the Viaspen forest. Problem is they couldn't decide on what goal they wanted to attack. They debated for about 40 minutes over whether they should go straight at a Gnoll Lair they discovered like 6 weeks back with all their troops. Daria's player pointed out that, with her as the General of the PC's militia, the army had a terrible leader. Daria is dumb as a post. As such, the player was convinced the PCs needed very good recon before attacking the Gnolls with Mass Combat. 

They debated calling it off and instead heading back to the initial introductory dungeon the campaign began with. That got some traction with the more cautious players in the group but the idea was eventually scrapped. The least cautious player was Gaius (PC Fighter Level 4) who wanted to take ALL THE TROOPS and attack the Gnoll Lair head on immediately. This was eventually agreed upon and about 70ish mercs led by the PCs departed Turos Spen headed for Viaspen to look for the Gnolls.

I forgot to mention, Briarwhisper (PC Elven Ranger Level 3) scouted the Gnoll encampment during downtime and discovered the beasts had departed. He had no real luck on tracking them so the Players weren't certain where the warband went. In session the party decided to troop out to the palisade the gnolls formerly lived in and try again to track or maybe get lucky by seeing a patrol or something.

It took a few days to get out there. I ran alot of random encounter checks which took too long, especially since none of the random creatures I rolled up had the gall to approach or attack the massive patrol the PCs were leading into the forest.

"Hey Gaius how many of
the troops should we take?"

However, I rolled up a random encounter of a small gang of gnolls around the time the PCs came upon the abandoned gnoll lair. In my mind I used abductive reasoning to decide these guys came back to grab some supplies or a trinket they had left upon their departure sometime back. They got Surprise on the PCs so I ruled they saw the PCs ridiculous formidable army coming and got the hell out of dodge a while before the PCs arrived. "Hard to hide an army," one player said later.

This meant, however, that the Elven Ranger had a better chance of tracking something when he tried again. And he picked up the tracks. The chase was afoot. (The Oracular Power of the dice wins again.)

The party decided to leave their infantrymen at the gnoll palisade and take off on horseback with their cavalry units to hopefully catch up to their hunted and perhaps be able to scout around the large forest more quickly. About a day later the tracks led up to a new gnoll palisade with what appeared to be the same warband populating it.

In the center, however, was a strange teepee some 60 feet into the sky built out of local trees felled or ripped from the ground. Leaned up against something or upon eachother they looked like a skyhigh collection stacked for a massive bonfire. BriarWhisper and Blackmoon (PC Assassin Level 1) snuck up for a look and noticed briars and brambles some 20 feet high were surrounding the massive teepee of logs in about 30 yards in either direction. A lair of some beast or another tribe of beastmen? More gnolls inside? 


BriarWhisper, Blackmoon and their two respective henchmen posted up inside a couple of trees near the structure with plans to watch it for about two days. The cavalry were attempting to hide about a quarter mile away with a line of signalers to speak down the line to the main force upon what the scouts saw. The players had set up an elaborate series of whistles or bird calls they were using to send secret word down the line from scouts to main host. They went on and on about how many whistles meant what and I zoned out and pondered "Twin Peaks: The Return" for a while.

Eventually they were done chattering and I had to decide what all this meant. Well obviously this big teepee thing was home to Ferigno the Green Dragon. Would he notice the army moving upon his lair? Would his toadies the gnolls? Well, dear reader, I already rolled a Recon check and yes the Lair did see the cavalry coming. What would they do? Well that would depend on if a very smart dragon was awake to make the strategic decisions. I checked the ACKS monster entries for Ferigno and there was a 60% chance he was asleep at this time. Rolled. He's awake. Uh oh.

What would Ferigno do? I made a Reaction Check to see if he'd be Hostile (aggressive attack) or Neutral (stay put in the palisade). Rolled: Hostile. 

Ferigno the Green Dragon climbed out the top of the felled tree teepee and perched to peer around. I made some checks to see if he noticed the Party's scouts in the trees. He didn't. So, since I decided he was being aggressive, he took to the skies to find the main host the party was running with. 

The scouts sent their elaborate whistles down the line to warn the cavalry to RUN. They did, fleeing east back towards where their main force of infantry was about a day away by horseback. Ferigno saw them and caught up with them and Mass Combat was ON.

ACKS Mass Combat from Domains at War is pretty simple when running something like this. Each army gets a simultaneous amount of attacks based on their participating units and try to roll a 16 or better on a d20. The number of rolls they get is called Battle Rating (BR). The party's cavalry added up to about 6 BR but I ruled, due to the cavalry fleeing and Ferigno merely doing a passing flyby for the first phase of combat, the party could have BR based only on their units with ranged weapons. This left out the party's medium cavalry. The players rolled their BR's and got a couple of HITS.

I rolled 20 BR worth of d20s for Ferigno. I got so many successful hits (7 I think?) that ALL of the party's cavalry units were wrecked and injured to the point of no longer being able to fight.

more like Ferig-swole amirite

One interesting thing about ACKS mass combat, however, is that if one army only has one unit you only have to make one successful hit to remove them from combat. This helps gameify why a big powerful beast like Ferigno would keep a host of toadies around for warfare. It also explains BARD THE BOWMAN. Real DND is Tolkienesque. If his gnolls were with him Ferigno could have tossed them in front of the party's attacks and removed the gnolls from mass combat instead.. Then got another round of TWENTY attacks on the good guy army. 

In this case, however, the party made a couple hits so Ferigno made his swooping pass on the party's army, killed nearly everything in sight, and decided to head back home. The Party's army hadn't drawn dragon blood but Ferigno was a bit tuckered out I guess. Time for a nap. Catch you nerds later.

The Players were pissed. Things got heated on the mics among them of which I'll say nothing further. Was I happy about it? No (yes). 

Eventually the party decided to gather up the scouts, their injured cavalrymen, and stumble back to the abandoned gnoll palisade to collect up their infantrymen. The session was getting long but the players didn't want to end on an L. They decided to leave their injured cavalry there and march back to Ferigno's lair and attack the place head on. BriarWhisper sent his pet owl flying off north to hopefully bring a message to an elven fastness some day or two away, asking for their help in the assault.

Oh my.

It took about two days to travel through the forest with 20 heavy infantrymen (and many other sorts) in tow. They posted their forces outside the gnolls' palisade with the shadow of Ferigno's briar covered lair upon them. The commander of the PCs' archers commanded them to fire on the gnolls as a distraction so a infiltration party of PCs and henchmen could sneak over the walls on the other side and drop in on the beastmen. This group succeeded on all their sneaking checks and my roll if the distraction was distracting enough. And climbing checks. 

Blackmoon then set a section of the wall on fire on the opposite side of where most of the gnolls were in battle stations to defend their home. The players wanted to use this as a distraction to get close enough to open the gate for their army to breach the palisade and attack more successfully. I rolled: success! 

The gate was open and Daria charged the party's infantry and bowmen at the gate before the jackalmen could close it again. Breached! Charge!

The PCs led the charge and initiated something ACKS calls Heroic Forays. These are when a mass combat zooms in on Player Characters or Major NPCs with normal DND combat. The results of the combat are then applied to the BR of either side of a Mass Combat before the BR attacks are made vs eachother.

it was precisely like this

The PCs wanted to hit the Gnolls chief and shaman but the gnoll leadership went gungho as well and went hard at the PCs heavy infantry. The front lines slammed into eachother with the PCs maneuvering the battlefield trying to find targets of opportunity as they could. Most importantly in the first round BriarWhisper took a successful bow shot at the shaman before he could cast a spell, fizzling it to much player celebration. Daria charged her warhorse through the front ranks of the gnolls to try and get to the leadership hiding behind them. She overran a few gnolls but was hemmed up in the scrum of gnolls who began to slice at her with sickle bladed halberds and scratch and maul at her horse.

Gaius waded into the battle on his horse wielding his magic sword and taking many of the beasts down. It wasn't until he got to the gnoll champions where he was hemmed up and unable to cleave them down easily. 

Blackmoon and his henchman took pot shots with their bows where they could find an opportunity. 

The Heroic Foray took a long amount of game time and about 6 rounds of combat. About two rounds in the gnolls were able to stab and scratch at Daria getting her to exactly zero hit points. Daria's player ruled that Gwen (Hench to Daria L1 Fighter) waded into the scrum to grab the reins of Daria's horse and pull her out. I made some checks and Gwen succeeded. Xanthus (PC Cleric Level 2) healed Daria once she was extricated from combat, raising her chance to survive a Mortal Wound after combat. 

In hindsight I should have made morale rolls for ALL the units in the PCs' army since their commander, Daria, had fallen. I didn't. Live and learn!

Near the end of the combat Gaius was taking quite a few halberd slices from the gnoll champions, bleeding everywhere. He got down to 1 hitpoint and decided to retreat from the battle. BriarWhisper, hiding up on a wall away from the scrum, took shots on the chief and champions to discourage them from taking chase on Gaius.

Gwen, after helping Daria, waded into the combat to help the party's light infantrymen deal with the gnoll champions that were cleaving through them like wheat in a field. Eventually, however, Gwen caught a gnoll halberd to the leg and it was chopped off completely. Her screams couldn't be heard of the mass battle surrounding her. But her body was pulled out by Xanthus I think,. before the gnolls could eat her.

At this point the PCs decided to depart the Heroic Foray and allow the mass combat BR rolls to commence. I made morale checks for the gnolls to see if they gave up or fled or something. No. 

One round of Mass Combat had the PCs getting enough successful hits for the gnolls to be overran and they fled into Ferigno's lair behind them. The PCs army took one hit in this round and the heavy infantry were whittled down as they pressed the advantage. Bodies laid everywhere among the leather gnoll tents and cooking pots of vile meats. 

Once the gnolls fled into Ferigno's lair it looked like some strange looking goblins covered with vines and moaning like zombies were exiting the lair to continue the battle. PCs decided the night was late and this might turn against them. They had their army extricate itself from the palisade and depart the field. The vine goblin things didn't take chase. 

During the 10 minute mass combat rounds I ruled the PCs men (or PCs) could grab up all the gnoll heads they killed to turn into Legate Drakon for pay. Sorry reader I forgot to clarify this mission was attempted due to a Patron putting the PCs up to it. Cash for gnoll heads: simple mission. Easy money.

The session night had run longer than this blog and we were all tired. The players decided to head back to Turos Spen with all their injured forces so their men might recover and Daria and Gwen could begin resting from their Mortal Wounds. Daria would need a week with her minor leg injury and Gwen would need two with her leg amputation (not minor).

I made random encounter rolls for their trek back home and nothing hit. Lucky for the PCs since a few of them were pretty hurt and about half of their army was beat up beyond use.

The treasure and XP payout wasn't major but it wasn't zero. The players deemed the night a success because they learned more about Ferigno and his lair and the sorts of things he had been up to in the Viaspen Forest since they last encountered him. So this brings me back to my Fog of War discussion.

Afterword

Look, I know this blog has gone on too long. If you want to tap out and close your browser window, I won't blame you. I'll bully you but I won't blame you.

The players pierced the Fog of War on the gnolls by scouting during downtime. They had no idea the gnolls had moved but they knew where they weren't. It was a pretty big downtime investment and cost BriarWhisper his previous session wherein his player had to run a backup PC. 

Our primary Caller had this to say about the session and op: "[this operation] was the result of 6-8 weeks of planning for a mission [we] thought would take 3-5 weeks, accomplished in a single night, but questionable calls were made because I overestimated the strength of the gnolls". Another player said "there were a lot less gnolls than we thought". The caller retorted "I knew the rewards were going to be low [...] but we took the gig mostly in the basis of establishing a good rapport with the player patron (he means Drakon) [...] who basically negged us into taking the gig". 

This is why you need to start using Patrons in your DND campaigns, people. I'm still laughing that the PCs felt tricked into doing the mission to appease a Patron lol

My take on this is the Fog of War still had them (the Caller, at least) a bit confused until the players could put eyes on the target. They did that in session. After this session they know a great deal more about Ferigno's set up and could possibly use that information in the future. Session play is still the best way to pierce the Fog of War, imo. 

I will let the player of the wise cleric Xanthus sum up the session and Fog of War:

"Nothing ventured nothing gained. It was a fun risk despite the lack of reward". Amen, Cleric.

Surviving PCs Present

Blackmoon (0% XP bonus) Level 1 Assassin: 191 xp gained. Total: 512

BriarWhisper (5% XP bonus) Level 3 Elven Ranger: 147 xp gained. Total: 7,266

Crassus (10% XP bonus) Level 1 Venturer: 268 XP gained. Total: 1,308 [LEVELS TO 2]

Daria (0% XP bonus) Level 5 BladeDancer: 291 XP gained. Total: 13,666

Gaius (10% XP bonus) Level 4 Fighter. 154 XP gained. Total: 10,308

Xanthus (10% XP bonus) Level 2 Cleric: 154 xp gained. Total: 2,218

Hench:

Allbright (hench to BriarWhisper): 70 xp gained. Total: ???
Gwen (Daria Hench, Fighter L1): 70 xp gained. Total: ???

Surero (Blackmoon hench): 70 xp gained. Total: ???

Deceased:

Dama (L1 Venturer) played by RR.  Current total xp: 75. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Darius LeVay (L1 Assassin) played by JB. Current Total XP:451. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Donald the Guardsman (L1 Fighter) played by MP. Current Total XP:570. DECEASED. Intra-party justice in Session 3.

Felix (L1 Thief) played by Nicholas. Current Total XP:431. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Hektor (L1 Paladin) played by Moai. DECEASED. Cause of Death: goblin warg rider throat removal surgery in Session 2

Leonidas the Inquisitor (L1 Cleric) played by RR.Current Total XP:498  DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Mard the Mage (L1 Mage) played by Nicholas. DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Yolo Baggins "My friends call me Swaggins" (L1 Gnomish Trickster) played by J. DECEASED. Paralyzed and eaten by ghouls in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Jack Filcher (L1 Thief) played by C. DECEASED. Shot full of arrows by Inthorn's brigands in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Swoleous Maximus (L1 Paladin). DECEASED. Captured then drawn and quartered by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Damianus (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Captured and beheaded by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Bucky (L1 Barbarian). DECEASED. Became a illegal pit fighter during his downtime. Had two bouts to the death, winning the first and losing the second. Was killed by Young Jack Sparrow who sashayed into the ring, drank rum, and mogged on Bucky before putting a dagger into his ribs, killing him. This happened during downtime between Session 17 and 18.

Broll Wolf-Eater (L1 Barbarian). Current total XP: 1079. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Brother Franklin (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Decapitated by a mad cultist of a Lovecraftian slime thing in Session 19.

Felix the Elder (L1 Bard). Total XP 825. DECEASED. Captured by mad cultists and fed to a Lovecraftian slime monster in Session 19.

Templar Flavius Africanus (L1 Cleric). Total XP 7. Killed by the claws and beak of mad harpies in Session 19.

Xendi (L1 Explorer). Total XP 6. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Yllmeeton (L3 Shaman). Total XP 4,563. Bludgeoned by the corpse of a bowmen by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Longinus (L2 Assassin). Total XP 2,036. Had his face ripped off by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Mandonio (L3 Fighter). Total XP 4,779. Charred to a leprous crisp by diseased Dragon breath in Session 22.

Corydon (L1 Joker). Total XP: 0. Burnt to a crisp by chimera breath so thoroughly his corpse wasn't even fit for the crows. Died with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. that's life and as funny as it seems... some people get their kicks, stomping on a dream... In Session 25.

Donny Keebler (L1 Elven Spellsword). Total XP 2,238. Had his legs burned completely off by chimera fire breath in Session 25.

Marina (L2 Fighter). Total XP: 2,204. Burnt into ash by a chimera fire breath in Session 25.

Gundro (L2 Gnomish Trickster). Total XP: 2,575. Had his mouth and tongue bitten off by a lizardman ambusher in the dank sewers below Cyfaraun in Session 26.

Alexa this is so sad play "Helm's Deep" from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers soundtrack

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