The Wild March, Session 0: Something Rotten

There was one more session before The Wild March really started, and this one does more to inform what happens later in the campaign - though the Wyvern Hunt does have a cogent detail or two.

One thing to keep in mind is that we actually rain out of time or energy (both, really) before finishing this session, so the actual resolution will be my presumed summary.

This story begins in Harjevo, the closest thing the sleepy kingdom of Harmark has to a city. Made up of barely ten thousand residents, the city is built on the banks of the River Artur, which burst its banks a decade ago and put some areas under as much as eight feet of water. The river has long since returned to its usual levels, but much of the city remains waterlogged and sick with rot, with some of the poor areas still having streets under perpetually deep puddles. Packs of wild dogs roam the streets - fed and admired by the populace in the strange custom of Harkers. 

Image shamelessly stolen from the talented Pawel Zych, click the picture for his DeviantArt

Image shamelessly stolen from the talented Pawel Zych, click the picture for his DeviantArt

The Harkers take pride in their simplicity and neutrality - they don't involve themselves with foreign affairs, and their land is fertile enough to provide a surplus most years, which they gladly sell to the Iron Principalities on their western borders. The average Harker has never seen the sea, which might explain their contentedness to while away their years in agrarian tranquility rather than seeking the wider world.

In Cooper's Square, three men meet near the entrance to the public gardens. All of them are here for the same job - a mysterious posting circulated through the city underground calling for dangerous and discreet out-of-towners in search of good money. Fairly standard sort of advertisement for adventurers, but any adventurer with a few years under their belt understands that "standard" doesn't mean "simple." 

The two humans cock their heads toward the half elf among them. They were led to believe that they would be working with his brother as well, but Vasily waves them off, assuring them they they would meet up with him at the fairground later.

The humans (a thief named Tibidi and an ex-army archer named Galapas) shrug, and the three of them head into the gardens to meet with their employer. 

"Canon" here gets a little weird. Galapas is back from the Wyvern Hunt, and he'll be in the main campaign. This is also the first appearance of Vasily and Vitaly, but... uh... 

Okay, originally, Vasily was a Warlock and Vitaly was a Paladin. That's what they were in this game, though it never really came up. At the beginning of the next session, some folks still didn't know for sure what characters they'd be playing, and there was a scramble as people re-jiggered their characters for the sake of fun and balance.

It doesn't matter much, and Druid and Rogue work just as well or better for their characterizations. I'll go on writing this as if they had their "canonical" classes.

They follow the instructions they received earlier and enter the brambly, overgrown hedge maze. The flood proved disastrous for the gardens, so a once verdant public space has become a muddy graveyard of dead trees and mossed cobbles. The hedge maze hasn't been tended in months, and they don't meet with any other park-goers as they take two lefts, then a right, then straight past three turns, before turning left again and coming face to face with an armored knight. They come up short, caught off guard as the knight peers down his nose at them, before Tibidi clears his throat and says that they're here about the job. The knight grimaces in derision and gestures for them to pass under an archway and into a small courtyard with a stone bench and a broken fountain filled with stagnant water.

Sitting on the bench is a weedy looking young man in dark but elegant clothing - clearly an official or noble of some stripe. At all three entrances, knights stand guard, and no crest or coat of arms is to be seen anywhere. The man gives a thin lipped smile and gestures for them to sit. 

"Thank you for coming," he says. "I presume there will be no objection to getting straight to business?" The group doesn't speak, and the man continues. "I need an object acquired. Or, to be more accurate, I need an object removed from someone else's possession. As newcomers to the city, I expect none of you are familiar with the Boyar of Salk?"

There's another pause, and Galapas asks "What exactly is a Boyar?"

The man sighs. "Lord Valdas Petra of the Salk province, is a sinister figure in politics around here. For decades, he's wormed his way into power he has no right to, bullying lesser nobles into his policies, using a history with Tsar Jurgis II to shield himself from scorn, and generally acting as a deal-maker and puppet-master who has eroded the authority of the crown."

Tibidi clears his throat and suggest they get back to the thieving. The man smirks.

"Of course. He gains a certain amount of legitimacy from a sword he carries - a masterful piece of craftsmanship spun from silver and gold, linked to the esteemed Tsar Jurgis I. I want his legitimacy undermined. He's been weakened thanks to the combined efforts of Boyars loyal to the crown, and he's brought the sword to court in a show of bravado."

Vasily cocks his head. "What is he doing in court, anyway?"

"Many Boyars have come to the capital. We - they -" He scowls at his mistake, "we have been summoned for a Lordsmeet to discuss certain issues of foreign policy which are to be voted on in three days time. The sword must be out of his hands before the vote, otherwise I cannot guarantee payment. Any other questions?"

Tibidi speaks up; "Where is he likely to be keeping the sword?"

"Uncertain. It's seen as a symbol of martial significance - he was quite an able fighter in his youth - but as a valuable relic, my guess is that he would keep it under guard in his apartment in Ausro Palace. Security is likely to be tight, so I hope you're up to the task."

Galapas asks "Any vulnerabilities in his movements?"

"His schedule is known in broad strokes. Tomorrow night, a ball will be held in Ausro Palace, and he will certainly be out of his rooms to rub elbows with the majot players in Harjevo. The day after, all of the Boyars will be attending a meeting at Castle Barbas." Seeing their blank expressions, he elaborates. "Military headquarters. Used to be the palace, back when invasion was a problem. The next day, of course, he will be in the House of Lords for many hours. You must steal the sword during one of these times. Otherwise, I cannot be certain of an ironclad alibi for myself or my men."

The group looks at each other. This is quickly getting complicated.

"If you need information on operating in Harjevo, I understand that a local player named Inga Darius operates operates out of a tavern in Kajus Court who should be happy to help you lay dear Valdas low. Four days from now, if you have succeeded, I will be here to take possession of the sword and pass along your payment."

Tibidi asks if he's worried that they'd take the sword and sell it themselves.

"Hardly. It's a significant relic likely to be recognized anywhere in the country. I'd rank your chances of selling it cleanly somewhere between "slim" and "none," and you need to get rid of it cleanly if you don't want Boyar Valdas sending men after you." He looks them up and down. "Come to think of it, you'd do well to vanish for a while anyway."

The group briefly confers, then agrees to the terms. Their employer bids them farewell and good luck, any they head back out to Cooper's square, discussing their plans as they go. Tibidi wants to head straight to Kajus Court and get more information, but Vasily reminds them that his brother is waiting for them. 

Vitaly's player wasn't quite done building his character, so we had him waiting elsewhere. This made a certain amount of sense, because Vitaly was lawful and would likely need some pitching to go along with the heist.

The fairgrounds are a mess. It's been a rainy spring, and no tourney or festival has been held here in some time. Deep puddles are everywhere, and scraps of pennants and rotting stakes litter the fairgrounds, which has become little more than a no-man's land in the middle of the capital, picked over by beggars and dogs. They find Vitaly sitting on a stump-like chunk of wood near the middle, feeling the remains of a red flag between his fingers. He doesn't react to the others as they approach, but when Vasily greets him, he begins reminiscing about their childhood, when their mother would bring them to the Highsummer fair here. Vitaly seems to have been hit harder by the return to their native land than his brother.

It takes a little work, but Vasily manages to sell the heist to Vitaly, mostly as a "balancing of the scales," which appeals to his lawful nature. Galapas and Tibidi suspect that Vitaly tends to defer to his brother anyway. The party thus gathered, They set off to meet with Inga Darius.

The Wild March, Session -1: Slayers

We continue following our small group of adventurers as they track down rumors of a wyvern terrorizing the countryside in lovely, scenic Harmark.

Fun fact; there are four Werwolves in this picture alone!

Fun fact; there are four Werwolves in this picture alone!

Galapas, Bruzlea, and Kobach slog their way up along the overgrown roads as best they can, making for the Rasdan household. They see that they've arrived when they round a bend in the road to see a barn with its top two thirds smashed to matchsticks, and a modest farmhouse a few dozen feet away. There are signs that repair attempts have started, but not gotten very far. The group looks at each other, then wordlessly climbs the hill to the farmhouse.

Galapas knocks first, to no answer. A second knock brings a shout from inside. "Mama!" bellows a deep voice "Somefolk's knockin' at the door!"

"I hear it, I hear it!" comes a woman's voice. "Summat the matter with your arms, Burgan? Let 'em in!"

With a creak, the door opens to reveal a man in his mid twenties with shoulders as broad as the lintel and a mouth that gapes in seemingly perpetual dumbfoundedness. He shouts back up that they've got weapons and they look mean, at which point Bruzlea interjects that they don't mean any harm, and they just want to talk about the wyvern. An older woman, thin as a rail, saunters into view and invites them in with a gap-toothed smile.

Her name is Olivette. She lives up here with her two hulking boys, Burgan and Murgan. She offers them a thin porridge, which only Bruzlea takes her up on, and they sit down to discuss the monster. 

Apparently, the wyvern got especially bold after a couple of timid but prosperous farmers in the area decided to start leaving tribute out for the creature, since legends say dragons won't bother those who pay homage. Instead, it seemed to clue the creature in to the fact there there was juicy prey around, ripe for the picking. It was worst in the winter, but the attacks have only barely let up now that spring is coming in.

About a week ago, the creature came sweeping in from the north and tried making off with one of the cows. Murgan, apparently, gave it a wallop with a fence post, and it flailed for a minute or two trying to get its bearings, mostly smashing the top of the barn in the process. Burgan and Murgan both gave it a couple of lumps, before it finally managed to take to the air and scramble back the way it had come. After that, Olivette asked around among their neighbors, and she thinks that it's probably nested up a the Teeth, a cluster of tall spires of rock jutting up from the crags a bit to the northwest of the farmstead. 

They thank Olivette and her boys, and gather up their things to set out. They hope that they can find the nest, then lay in ambush nearby, hopefully to catch it when it comes back from a hunt. Overland, it's a couple of hours to the Teeth, and the sun is starting to cast deep shadows across the land by the time they catch sight of the rocks, looming out of the mists. The ground is rocky and uneven, but eventually they discover a cave that was once occupied by a bear, now abandoned. They set up watch, and begin resting for the climb they have in the morning. In the night, Kobach hears shrieks and cries echoing through the canyons, but doesn't manage to catch a glimpse of the monster.

The next morning, Kobach unwinds his rope and passes it off to Bruzlea along with a sack of pitons. The elf leads the way up one of the teeth, clambering up the rock in a pretty astonishing feat of athleticism. As he goes, he loops the rope around outcroppings and pitons wedged into crevices, providing a path for the other two to follow on their way up.

After a solid two hours of inching their way up the rock formation, they find themselves on a flat-ish outcropping near the top of one of the "teeth." gazing around, they think that they see another outcropping with what looks like an oversized nest on it. They briefly confer, and decide that Kobach will hurl a grappling hook across the chasm between them and the nest, and they'll shimmy carefully across. 

You know. Basic adventurous stuff.

You know. Basic adventurous stuff.

It's a gap of about sixty feet - hair raising, but manageable, and the nest provides plenty of grip for the rope, assuming it remains stable. Bruzlea is able to scurry across with little difficulty.

Kobach elects to go last, since he's not exactly the most spry member of the group. However, when Galapas is about twenty feet out on the rope, swaying uncertainly in a sea of fog, they hear about the last sound they were hoping for. An uinhuman shriek tears through the fog, and Galapas swivels his head left just in time to see the batlike silhouette emerging from the fog.

A rough battle ensues. Galapas manages to make a couple of miraculous dodges to avoid the claws and poisonous stinger of the creature before scrambling across to the other side, where he begins peppering the wyvern with arrows. It makes a number of flybys, and somehow the monk ends up clinging to its back, suddenly conscious of the three hundred foot plunge to certain death. 

Galapas perches on the wyvern's nest and peppers the beast with arrows as Kobach frantically attempts to weaken it with magic. It takes a couple of bad hits, but refuses to retreat. Galapas discovers that the nest has several eggs in it, and uses them to goad the monster into a charge. The wyvern comes screaming out of the fog with Bruzlea clutching at the end of its tail, poises to strike...

And Galapas nails it with an arrow in the jugular. It tumbles from the sky, and Bruzlea just barely manages to grab a rope thrown by the archer before being dashed on the rocks far below.

I absolutely should have killed "Bruz" here. Having he and Galapas pull off this acrobatic shenanigans undermines the tone and stakes of the setting, especially this early in the campaign. Even from a logical perspective, how does Galapas first loose an arrow, then grab a rope from his pack and throw it down in time for the monk to catch it? I strongly feel that I should have been stricter here. Bruzlea decided to act recklessly, his companions then did something that should have gotten him killed anyway, and he got off with some rope-burns and a gold payout.

I'm not super broken up about it, since it was a one-shot and folks had fun, but I still regret that.

Galapas strains as he manages to pull the rope up, until the two of them fall back gasping into the nest. In the stillness after the fight, the three of them share an exhausted and painful laugh that echoes between the Teeth.

Its a relatively simple matter for them to pick their way back down the Teeth and find the shattered remains of the monster in the ravine below. Kobach saws its head off, and they set off together back towards Norkall's Drift, soaked, tired, bloodstained, and happy with a job well done.

The Wild March, Session -1: Sellswords

There were a couple of weeks between the end of the last campaign and the beginning of the Wild March. I decided to run a one-off or two in the same setting with only a few of the players to set some of the stage for the campaign to come. 


Word has gone out through the area - Monster! Riders and messengers have carried notices up and down the western border, announcing a reward to be paid to whoever can bring the Alderman of Norkall's Drift the head of the dragon that has been savaging the countryside. The "D" word has scared off many from the area, but a few more savvy or foolish adventurers have come seeking the reward. They suspect that the murder of cows and villagers in beneath a dragon, and that a more manageable beast might be the culprit.

For a given amount of "Managing"

For a given amount of "Managing"

One by one, a human, and elf, and a dwarf tromp into the local tavern in the hamlet of Norkall's Drift, stomping the mud from their boots and shaking off their sodden cloaks. It's either late winter or early spring in Harmark, which means rain. 

As they come in, they quickly mark each other out from the rabble of shivering and beady eyed farmers. Almost wordlessly, they take up a table together in the center of the room. Pouring afternoon turns to pounding evening, and bit by bit, introductions are made.

The human is a Kolechian archer named Galapas, the Dwarf is an Cleric in exile named Kobach, and the Elf is a smirking, northern monk named Bruzlea.

Kobach and Bruzlea were mostly throwaway characters, and Galapas was sort of meant to be, but Galapas' player liked the archer enough to stick with him into the campaign itself. Bruzlea's presence is an interesting quirk of the setting. In D&D, monks are of the super-martial-artist Bruce Lee varie-

- oh, crap, Bruce Lee, Bruz-Lea, that is awful, screw you, man -

variety, in a way that doesn't really gel with most medieval settings. I decided that Monks only come from elven religion, which values the elven body as the ultimate creation of the gods. I'm not totally satisfied with this, but it's a fine compromise between my desire for a historical-type setting and player's desire to punch dudes through walls.


A brief discussion cements the terms of their relationship - they'll work together to take down the beast, and split the profits evenly. Afterward, they'll go their separate ways, happy to have some gold in their purses and food in their bellies for a change.

The next morning, they head to the Alderman's house to discuss the terms of their contract. The Alderman's wife gives this group of mercenaries some worried looks, then offers them some warm beer and scurries off to fetch her husband. They're left waiting for an hour and a half in the provincial-chic foyer before she returns to usher them into the Alderman's office.

Alderman Dalavit lets out an impressive honk into a handkerchief as the group enters. He introduces himself between sniffles, and apologizes for the cold, using ceremony and office as a shield against these distasteful individuals. 

The facts are these - about six months ago, a winged creature was first sighted circling the high hills near the border. near midwinter, the first attacks began. Five people have gone missing, two of which have been found partially eaten and dropped on crags, to say nothing of innumerable sheep and goats plucked from farms in the area. 

The Alderman can offer five hundred denari (gold pieces) for the delivery of the beast's head. Kobach pushes for an increase in price, at which Dalavit bristles. He rather stuffily insists that this money was gathered from the good folks of the village, and that it was already a nearly crippling amount for them to pay. Kobach conversely suggests that they might take less, which Dalavit considers, before puffing up even further and insists that Norkall's Drift has no need for their charity. 

They ask for a physical description of the creature, but he says that he's never seen it himself. Somewhat indignantly, he suggests "Isn't it the job of the monster slayers to know what the monster is?" He suggests that the local Tavernkeeper, Vulk, might have heard more rumors, and that the Gamekeeper Neraea might have some unique insight into the beast.

Exiting, they decide to split up and gather resources from around town. Kobach goes to the smithy to see if he can purchase some chain, and Bruzlea seeks out the local apothecary. Galapas, already losing interest in the petty politics of this town, begins to trudge back to the tavern to gather his things when he notices a cluster of travellers huddled under the eave of a building across the street. Something about their body language pricks at him, and he slogs over as inconspicuously as he's able. Pausing as if to readjust his armor, he overhears some of their conversation.

"I think we've seen enough. We should report back."

"The captain said ten days."

"What the hell kind of information is another couple of days in this piss-pot village going to tell us?"

"Agreed. Not to mention that monster. The longer we stick around, the more likely it is one of us gets scooped up in the night."

"It's been four towns, each one more mud-soaked and iron-less than the last. I think we've established the fucking pattern."

"Fine, fine, damn it, no need to bite my head off, I just don't want to catch hell for not following directions is all..."

The knot of men drifts off, and Galapas takes a moment to ponder it. Being as it doesn't seem to relate to their job, he shrugs it off and goes to meet Kobach and Bruzlea.

Bruzlea has managed to lay hands on a couple of healing potions, but Kobach balked at the price of chain and settled on a couple hundred feet of rope instead. They pack up their supplies and set off for the gamekeeper's hut, not wanting to stick around the musty tavern any longer.

The Gamekeeper lives about a half mile outside of town, in a rustic stone cottage with a lean-to shed, and as the group approaches they hear the sound of chopping wood and a low, mumbling song in a husky female voice. They circle the cabin, and Neraea lets out a startled yelp as she catches sight of them, wielding the axe as if to ward them off before they assure her that they just want to talk. She rather sheepishly sets it aside, and invites them in for tea.

The inside of the cottage is adorned with bones, skulls, and antlers, to say nothing of numerous strange implements the use of which the party can only speculate on. She pours out a couple of mugs of a tea sweetened with honey, and they begin to ask her questions.

She is at once flighty and sanguine, answering in monosyllables and short, cryptic statements. She tells them that the creature is probably a wyvern rather than a dragon - a much smaller, less intelligent creature with no fiery breath, but a poisonous sting like that of a scorpion. They press for more information in its ecology, but she mostly shrugs and says it's not her field. She mentions that wyverns tend to live in the high mountains, and she's heard tell of many further to the west, but she can only loosely guess what might push one this far towards the open country of Harmark. Bruzlea asks if she's gone after it at all, but Neraea only laughs nervously and insists that she's not paid nearly enough for that. 

The party suspects that Neraea might know more than she's letting on, but they don't press her, instead asking for advice on where to start looking. She suggests that they check in with the Rasdan farmstead, a couple of hours up into the hills. Apparently they got attacked by the wyvern a week or two ago and managed to fend it off. The group finishes the tea, thanks the gamekeeper, and sets off in the direction of the Rasdan home.