Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Desolation of Turos Tem


How many times have you read tepid osr blogs ramble on about how the titular Keep from "B2 Keep on the Borderlands" was the actual prize in the module? Many. How many actually had a mass combat happen there between the monstrous denizens of the Caves of Chaos and the Castellan's army? Never.

Brosr, as usual, is providing proof of concept to the osr's endless theorycrafting. Play the games, fellas. Stop talking about them and PLAY. 

you ever just?

The Desolation of Turos Tem is where the local monstrous denizens did indeed attack the "Keep" in the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (ACKS) introductory module "The Sinister Stone of Sakkara". The Caves attacked the Keep.

The events depicted below are the culmination of most of the entire campaign; including actions taken by PCs during session play and downtime. And actions taken by Patrons. The events took months to stew but culminated at the keep of Turos Tem on 08/25/21. 

What happens when a throng of monsters descends on the Lawful lands of the Auran Empire to claim a Lawful Keep? Read on and find out.

Campaign Report

Dairin the Mage (Player controlled Patron Mage Level ???) and Ferigno the Green Dragon (Player controlled Patron Green Dragon Level ???) joined forces to attack Turos Tem on 08/25/21. It took them a long time to gather and organize their forces and agree to a division for the spoils, but they eventually marched into the Legature of Legate Valerian (Player controlled Patron Fighter Level ???) on this day.

Legate Valerian surprised me by deciding to exit his keep and meet the monsters in the field. Valerian was fielding about 30 Horse Archers, 30 Cataphracts, 60 Light Infantry, 30 Heavy Infantry, 4 Catapults, and 3 Light Repeating Ballistae.

The monster host contained 30 Hobgoblins, 125 Lizardmen, 20 gnolls, 36 Skeletons, 36 Zombies, 8 Ghouls, 14 Akira Monsters, and 1 Green Dragon Named Ferigno.

PCs were informed of this event as many of them were "parked" in Turos Tem as a "safe spot" and they were given the chance to have their PCs participate in the Mass Battle or Run Away or Something Else. Laru (PC Thief Level 3) and his henchmen, Ashitaka (PC Elven Spellsword Level 1), and Lord Zyklon (PC Spellsword Level 1) combined as a single mixed unit of adventures and vagabonds. 

Battle Turn 1 (Missile)

Crassus (PC Venturer Level 1) acted as Lieutenant for his 50 or so mercenaries. These are the ones the PCs used for various adventuring and wilderness exploration during the preceding half dozen sessions or so.

I informed all participating PCs that they could in fact be killed during the Mass Combat in what amounted to Downtime, for them. With the Legate promising 50% of his spoils should they win (amounting to 25% of whatever the monsters were carrying) the PCs decided to brave the danger.

Legate Valerian took the field attached to his veteran Cataphract unit. He gleamed in his armor at the front of his men, trotting off across the fields and hedgerows to engage the gnashing monster host before they could close on his Keep. The picture of heroism. 

As you can see from the above picture and unit count the monsters had superiority in numbers. But the Legate realized that most of the monsters were only effective at close range. As such he used his large amount of missile capable units to try and soften up the monster host prior to them being able to engage in close range combat.

If you look above the picture isn't an exact replica of the field but is used to track what type of phase the unit to attack on. Units in the Missile Phase attack first. Then, if the armies get closer together, Skirmish Units attack like a cloud taking opportunistic strikes. Then, if the armies get even CLOSER together, all Melee Phase Units clash and can overrun the other types of units as well. A good general can pull his army away even after a Melee engagement and return to Skirmish or Missile phase(s). 

Generals can move units out of their current phase into Reserve at the end of a Phase. Or can move any unit out of Reserve into any other position at the end of a Phase. Essentially it takes two Turns to get a unit moved and positioned, then.

This approach to mass combat is in the AXIOMS Compendium if you'd like to bring it to your ACKS game. If you're running 1e (the only option besides ACKS) then get a copy of Chainmail.

Legate Valerian's strategy then became keeping the combat in the Missile Phase as long as possible. He kept backing away as the monsters would try and get closer. This is done by making a Strategic Ability roll which is a d6 + modifiers like INT, WIS and proficiencies.

To start the battle in phase 1 the Legate Declared "fire at will!" Ferigno, despite being the only monster unit that could act on Missile, decided to be cagey and hide among the lizardmen and protect his own hide. Legate Valerian was able to keep the monsters at a distance for 4 Turns of Mass Combat battle despite Dairin the Mage continually orders his monster to CHARGE!

By the end of 4 turns Dairin was quite angry indeed. Being a Florida Man of some repute, the Mage preferred to lead lizardmen and other monsters of the swamp. Yet Valerian kept the whole host at missile distance and took down FOUR lizardman units. Cold green lizard blood was spilled all across the Turos Tem Legature hedgerows. Ferigno never did brave taking to the skies to try and divebomb the Lawful army by his lonesome. 

I was running all these major combat decisions by the real men playing Legate Valerian and Dairin the mage. Valerian was much less responsive and gave me only a general idea of his battle plan. Dairin on the other hand was chomping at the bit to making turn by turn pronouncements as to his strategy and mogging on the Lawful army. Either approach is fine.

Just like I and the brosr have discussed before you are free to adjudicate as well as you can with regards to Patrons if they can't get back to you with decisions in a timely manner. Patron players understand this and this sort of DMing extends to something like the Battle at Turos Tem.

Phase 5 is when things started to turn against the Turos Tem regulars. Dairin was able to close some distance and get the battle into the Skirmish phase to start Turn 5. As you can see from the above that made two units of Lizardmen and Ferigno available to make attacks. Ferigno, for reference, attacked with a ferocity of about FIFTEEN heavy infantry units. Or THIRTY light infantry units. Insane! 

At this point I informed the PCs that they could engage in a Heroic Foray if they so wished. Heroic Forays are when we zoom in on the battle field at a normal DND combat scale. The sort of scale you'd be used to for fights in a dungeon or something. This is the way ACKS allows things like trying to go after a specific leader in the opposing army, or open the gate to the keep their army is attacking, and other things like that. PCs ALWAYS ask about things like that. So this is how you deliver it in ACKS.

The PCs, however, decided to not engage in a Heroic Foray. "LORD ZYKLON REFRAINS", said Lord Zyklon.

Dairin, however, decide to lead 14 lizardmen into a heroic foray against 30 Light Infantry, 2 Horse Archers, 1 Cataphract, and Centurion Animal Mother (NPC Fighter Level ???). Animal Mother was the Centurion of Turos Spen. In a bold act of altruism Legate Drakon (Patron Fighter Level ???) of Turos Spen sent Animal Mother and ALL his horse units to help some two weeks prior when Turos Tem's army was weakened drastically from some dark trolls that attacked across the river.

Dairin's forces didn't realize that Turos Tem had actually been recently weakened by a bad luck random encounter roll on Turos Tem. And Valerian's luck just kept getting worse.

During the Heroic Foray, however, Dairin wildly cast a fireball into the throng of units clashing and killed as many of his lizardmen as his killed human infantrymen. Then he cast Summon Beserkers to try and keep the infantry and Animal Mother from getting him in Melee. Dairin just barely escaped a melee strike from Animal Mother which would have surely killed or incapacitated him. After his fled, Animal Mother and the Horse Archers remained and killed the rest of the 14 lizardmen that were involved in the foray. A solid overall loss for Dairin and he nearly died in the attempt.

Dairin chose to do no further Heroic Forays during the rest of the Mass Combat.

In Turn 5 of the Mass Combat the Lizardmen claimed the open skirmish field with javelins and arts as Ferigno circled overhead. They attacked and destroyed the humans ballista team but are left winded as the unit of Adventurers , led by Laru the Thief, used clever positioning tactics and bear traps to finish the lizardmen off. All lizardmen were injured enough to be removed from the mass combat!

End of Turn 5, start of 6

Ferigno then swoop[ed with tail and claw, grabbing and lifting up horse archers and throwing their horses into eachother to bowl over the rest. Both Horse Archer units were lost. Ferigno then dropped down on the last full Light Infantry unit and eats them all before taking flight again to move into the Reserve for late repositioning.

After this turn Legate Valerian attempted to disengage his units and flee back into the Missile Phase but his Strategic Ability failed against the brilliant mage's mad schizo mind. Dairin yelled charge and the monster and human host clashed all together finally for the start of Turn 6.

One turn 6 the host of monsters finally closed the distance with the Lawful Forces. The hobgoblins and one of the units of skeletons was dispatched by Turos Tem's Elite Legionnaires as they stood alone against the initial onslaught. Sadly they were eventually overrrun and left decimated on the field as the monsters ran over them to get into Valerian's reserve. The monsters surrounded and destroyed Centurion Animal Mother's elite Cataphract.

At this point there was finally enough carnage for Morale to become a factor for both sides. The unit of adventurers Rallied (+50% strength) as did one catapult, light infantry and bow unit. Legate Valerian was a general who inspired his men!

Ferigno actually wavered! (-50% strenght) which was a major boon for the Lawful forces. Some of the undead and a unit of akira monsters also lost focus and wavered as well.

On Turn 7 Ferigno, despite wavering, landed and attached with the melee forces. The throng of monsters clashed with the light infantry, cataphract and adventuring party unit. The cataphracts were surrounded making yelping sounds as they ate the cataphracts well bred horses and left the cataphract warriors unable to continue. Legate Valerian re-attached himself to the Adventuring Party unit. A unit of ghouls was destroyed by the Lawful Forces.

As you might image this is when the Lawful army began to fall apart. One catapult unit abandoned their machines and went screaming across  the hedgerows toward Turos Tem, fleeing. All the remaining Light Infantry followed suit. Only the adventures and one catapult unit were left in the field for the Lawful army. 

On the other side of the field one unit of akira monsters, led by a Lady Ruinguard named Zakiti (NPC Big Bad from "Sinister Stone of Sakkara" module) lost control of them and they fled the field. She angrily cursed them and "the peasants they were bred from!"

End of Turn 7

At this point I informed the PCs they could likely flee the mass combat and get back to the Keep and survive. Every single PC decided to stay until the bitter end. 

Laru and his henchmen held fast by the Legate and started a chant "FOR CALEFA AND EMPIRE!"


Phase 8, despite the heroics, didn't go well for the Empire. The Legate attempted to Withdraw again and moved many units to Reserve for later positioning. The gods were not on the Legate's side and he was unable to withdraw. The forces of the monsters easily roiled their way into the reserve and bowled over the last catapult unit and the unit of Adventurers. They then had free reign of the field and Dairin laughed maniacally to the sky in triumph. 


Crassus' mixed unit of bowmen attempted to flee but Ferigno chased them down and ate them. 

The PCs Ashitaka and Crassus were not dead but very fatigued and captured. LORD ZYKLON DISEMBOWLED LORD ZYKLON.

Legate Valerian, his officers, and Centurion Animal Mother of Turos Spen were alive by fatigued. Dairin put Zakiti the Ruingard, her akira monsters, and Ferigno in charge of guarding the injured prisoners while Dairin led his remaining lizardmen to the Keep proper to take it despite his decimated numbers.

Zakiti began to pace around the notable prisoners with the grin of the cat that ate the canaray. "So, Legate, you thought you could simply send idiotic delvers to my home to kill my beautiful monsters. And my tree of blood! Oh how it screamed as they burned it. I can wait to do the same to you!"

Crassus, being a Venturer, tried to bribe Ferigno with 1,000 gold pieces to let him and the other PCs and Valerian go. "Let us go. We are worth more to you if you don't have to split the ransom with Dairin. You've won, you've taken Turos Tem. Consider your own best interests here." At this point I dropped the bombshell on the PCs that Ferigno was a Patron. And Crassus could message the Patron player privately to try and make a deal for release. Neither party ever got back to me and I have no idea how it went.

On the other hand Ferigno's player told me he tried to intimate Animal Mother into giving him information about who ordered the attack on Ferigno's home. Animal Mother was not intimidated. "Send me to the gods you overgrown lizard. I'm sure Turas will judge me well. My rank is Centurion and my name is Animal Mother. That's all you need to know." He then looked upon his calvarymen who survived he battle; whom he commanded. He said loudly "and if any of you men tell this dragon a damned thing I'll personally find you in the underworld and kick your pansy ass!"

Dairin eventually overran the Turos Tem Keep itself but not without some trouble. The Mages of the Chapterhouse and the Clerics of the Hospital formed mixed units and did their best to hold the walls with very few proper soldiers. Dairin took some losses.

All reports and rumors in the weeks since is that Zakiti sacrificed dozens of peasants to the strange magic item, the Sinister Stone of Sakkara, whom some hobgoblins were hoofing around the battlefield on a platform and place of pride. The major prisoners such as the PCs and Valerian are rumored to have been tied and taken with the monster army who returned to the swamp or Viaspen forest. Darin's forces only stayed for about 24 hours to pillage as best they could and the Keep itself stands empty except for bodies

Dairin did, however, make a special point to destroy and desecrate the Hospital in its entirety; continuing his pattern of ruining holy places. 

Word is the Palatine of Siadanos will soon send forces to see what can be salvaged at Turos Tem and who might be installed as a new interim or permanent Legate.


Before the battle was over, Ratface (PC Thief Level 1) burgled the Legate's Villa, stealing two heavy chests full of gold and silver. Kortes (PC Explorer Level 1) helped him escape the keep with it before Dairin's forces clashed with the keep proper. It was a nice prize and a W for the players who were indeed quite down by the Desolation of Turos Tem.

So what do we make of all this? For one this never would have happened without Patron play and Jeffograxian Time Keeping. If you want interesting events like the above in YOUR dnd ttrpgs you must institute both approaches immediately. 

I had no idea that Dairin and Ferigno would have a common goal of taking down Turos Tem. I had an inkling that the NPC Zakiti might try but my random rolls of that happening weren't coming up against Turos Tem. 

This sort of gaming might seem overwhelming but it's actually quite simple. You let the Patrons do what they wish and what they can. If they want to have a wargame of sorts going on in the background while the PCs do normal session play, much the better. It's documented in the fabulous "Secrets of Blackmoor" documentary that this is exactly how real old school dnd was played bitd.

The Desolation of Turos Tem has changed the map and the nature of the campaign quite a bit. The PCs goals and passion immediately shifted. One PC said the following in the chat: "Dairin is a f###ing bastard. Can't wait for that guy to die."

They absolutely want to kill the bad guy patrons involved in the Desolation of Turos Tem. Legate Drakon may also want to save his Centurion or, if it's too late or not possible, at least get revenge for Animal Mother's capture/murder. 

These sort of REAL feelings and goals are much better than the railroad junk that nuskool dnd feeds to you. It's a pink slime of junk trying to convince its players they are playing dnd while never letting go of their leash and allowing something groundbreaking like brosr campaigns; like THE DESOLATION OF TUROS TEM.


  1. Spotify, please play "We Watched It Fall" by Fitzgerald

  2. Inspiration for my ACKS game! Two patrons so far, one was killed by players who've taken over his tower and trying to make a domain out of it. Your posts are great inspiration/motivation. Downtime = Realtime does make a huge difference.

    1. I'm glad my blog is inspiring other people to try out Real Time timekeeping and Patrons. It's a whole different game than without. A funner and better game imo.
      Do some session reports and inspire others!


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