Castles & Crusades: Barrowmaze Campaign, Session 46.

Using illusionary magic, Nergal’s Necromancers alter intelligent undead to impersonate members of the Army of the Light and wreak havoc throughout the districts of Ironguard Motte to try and destroy their reputation. To stop them the adventurers break into small groups and rush through the streets and alleys of the town to try and stop them!

Game Summary:
It is the final days of December in Ironguard Motte, the air is freezing (0°C) and there is a foot of snow in the streets, the group, like so many others, are now waiting out the winter and rest from their sanity-draining encounters with undead in the Barrowmaze hoping to return in the spring. But the necromancers of Nergal will not wait for The Army of the Light to return to them – they need to stop them now! Since full frontal attacks in the Barrowmaze and one-on-one assassination attempts by surprise have failed, they chose to assault the simple town folk in Ironguard Motte in an attempt to destroy their reputation and hope the town drives them out.

1. The Mongrelman imposter.
Martin, one of the rogues in the party was at the tower where the west road meets the inner castle gates. A guard leaving duty passes through tells him that Balthazar, one of the wizards from the Army of the Light was seen attacking people in the Happy Harpy tavern in the north of the city. Martin new this couldn’t be so, since Balthazar was transformed by the Pit of Chaos months back into a Mongrelman with a lizard head and ape torso and arms, and as a result has stayed inside their HQ so as to not frighten the townfolk. Martin heads back the HQ and lets everyone know. The headquarters of The Army of the Light is located on the south-west road into town where it opens onto the large central market. A group of seven assemble and head out to the Happy Harpy and meet the proprietor, Berosh. Walking through the doors, they find Berosh, a retired and unshaven gruff former adventurer with a glass eye look at them suspiciously. He shares the information he has of his cousin getting bit by the wizard with a lizard head and the group heads out to find the Balthazar imposter. The wizards and illusionists in the party cast detect magic and detect illusion, and along with Gnoosh, the gnome rogue/illusionist with his robe of eyes, they are alerted to illusionary and alteration magical auras around a building wall leading into an alley way. After a brief chase they find a mongrelman from the Barrowmaze that had been brought back as an undead by the necromancers. A charm person worked long enough to acquire some information from it, and he was put out of his undead misery. When Berosh sees the body and learns the group was telling the truth, the group returns to the Happy Harpy for drinks.

The town of Ironguard Motte

2. Lurking Necromancers discovered.
Meanwhile, the remainder of The Army of the Light (19 members – my players have multiple characters which they rotate in and out depending on their interests that game session, or based on what the group needs for a particular adventure) are resting in their HQ. They hear a strange sound at their door and take a look. They see footprints in the snow that approach the door, but then turn back onto grooves in the snow made by passing carts and nearly disappear. Three characters head out to investigate and out of the corner of their eye catch necromancer illusionists lurking under the awning at the doorway of the Apothecary. They dart inside and the chase is on! Entering the building they find Olsa, the chief apothecary in a strange daze, and snowy footprints leading into the back of the shop into the maze of corridors that exist between the buildings leading toward centralized courtyards in the back. The first necromancer illusionist is beheaded in short order, and the other is covered in a web and then put to sleep and shackled. He wakes up in the HQ of the adventurers and is interrogated. Now, wizards are intelligent, with minds resistant to magic and deception, but the Army of the Light is not to be underestimated! Using physical force (breaking his pinky fingers) verbal attempts to deceive and persuade the wizard, and another using his deck of illusions, the wizard finally fails his means of seeing through their practical and magical powers and tells them all – Gimli, the dwarven berserker is being impersonated in the northeast portion of the town, and and an impersonator of Cobalt, the mighty paladin, will be taking place in the eastern part of Ironguard Motte. With this information, six of the adventurers set out in a rush to try and stop whatever may be happening next.

The headquarters of The Army of the Light

3. Battle with the Cobalt imposter.
This group of six makes it through the central market to the east road when they hear from a guard and a frantic town member that someone claiming to be Cobalt was at the Broken Bust tavern and had apparently knocked out a little kid! The group rush east down the road to find two necromancers render two town guards unconscious with magic missiles and the fake Cobalt turns around to face them and they discover it is a former Hobgoblin lieutenant from a previous raid the hobgoblins took in this area that has died and been turned into a swift and powerful undead. Cobalt rushes forward to fight this imposter, and one of the spellcasters pulls out his mirror of opposition, creating duplicates of the necromancers. The hobgoblin hits Cobalt with two mighty blows demonstrating his strength and power, one wizard reaches out and touches the hobgoblin with an overwhelming flow of electricity from his shocking grasp, but it has no effect! However, the six characters get the upper hand when the hobgoblin is rendered immobile through the use of a wizard’s wand of paralyzation, and with him no longer a threat the two necromancers are downed, and moments later Cobalt’s Saint’s mace does its job.

4. Destroy the Gimli imposter.
Mere seconds after this success, the group hears shouts of some mad, scarred, dwarf causing trouble several blocks north of them and a panicked guard leads them to the fake Gimli. Since the real Gimli acquired a flesh-rotting disease in the Barrowmaze (and why he also remains hidden away in the groups HQ so as to not frighten the townfolk), his undead imposter didn’t need nearly the amount of makeup to appear like him! It seems that in spite of the snow-filled streets and chilly air, the group had warmed up in battling these necromancer illusionists and undead and this imposter was swiftly dispatched. At this point the group of six wondered what had happened to the original group that had headed to the north quarter to find Balthazar’s imposter, and made their way there to find them all relaxing with drinks at the Happy Harpy!

5. GM reflections on the game session.
This was quite the chaotic adventure. I set things up so that not only would the players be in disarray, but that even I wouldn’t know what could happen next. For example, I didn’t know who and how many of the group would head north to investigate the Balthazar incident, with 26 characters, the players have a lot of choices available when it comes to deciding who they want to use or think they need for an adventure or encounter. I then surprised them again when new incidents broke out and they realized that multiple groups would be doing things simultaneously in town, and again, I couldn’t be sure which of the remaining characters would grab the bait and go in search of the undead and the illusionist necromancers. It kept them on their toes, and it allowed me to live in the moment and exist in this realm of uncertainty. As a GM it can be easy to try and control the story, but I have moved in a direction where I enjoy the opportunities to engage in some level of improv on the spot. It keeps things fresh and exciting for me. There were a few things I could’ve done better, but overall I think it went well and the players seemed to have enjoyed it, and in the end, that is all that matters – that everyone has fun!