Monday 17 April 2023

Trollopulous Adjusted Session 14 (Machodor #4); Raiders of the Orc Baggage Train



In a way this session was about tying up a loose end, one that could have been ignored; but, really, it is a story about elite players spotting a potentially big pay off and choosing to pursue it in downtime so that, come session time, the necessary pieces were in place. Yet, adventuring in the Bandit Mountains of Machodor seems to generate new loose ends for every one that is tied up. This session was no different. 

Timekeeping (Aus)

This session took place on 14/April/2023, incorporated 3 days of downtime movement, and the PCs adventured for 5 days.

Player Characters Present

Giuseppe (Level 4 Paladin from Rome, Brovenloft, E)
Sever (Level 3 Ranger of Machodor, E)
Sheamus (Level 2 Irish Fighter from Brovenloft, E)
Leopold (Level 2 Fighter, formerly a slave in Castle Von Necro, E)
Slippery Pete (Level 2 Thief of unknown provenance, E)
Bumblebore (Level 1 Magic User, E)
Dusty Angus (Level 1 Dwarf Thief, E)

Downtime Summary

After winning their battles last session, on the way back to Schloss Ragnar it occurred to some PCs that the loot recovered from the Orc band was only pocket change; and, as these orcs had been raiding and pillaging in the area, they must have more treasure stashed somewhere. It seemed likely that, in the same way the players had been forced to leave their Irish support units below when they climbed the stairs leading up into the volcano, so must have the orcs. Sever and Treefingers (Ranger level 4 Pegasus Scout (N)PC) hatched a plan to fly back to the volcano and search for the orc baggage train.

Meanwhile, Shaemus and Leopold were recruiting a combined force of Irish and Dwarf units in Schloss Ragnar, and Giuseppe had travelled south to Guarda to try and raise a force from there. Though they could make an educated guess, none knew how many orcs might be left, and they did not want to take any chances.

Forces at the party's disposal at 1 to 10 scale

Session Report

The weather was good, and the players decided to bring their Irish and Dwarven troops, along with the orcish armour and weapons they had previously captured, and rendezvous with Giuseppe in Guarda. The troops there were very happy to receive the armour (the orc smell was hardly noticeable any more). As they readied to move out, Countess Echellet, who had been so helpful in persuading her people to join up with Giuseppe, rode up in armour and with 20 heavy cavalry from the merchant company presently staying in the town. She had made some promise to the head merchant to get him to make them available.

a pretty handy addition to the party's forces

The combined army, now numbering over 300, set off east from Guarda in the direction they suspected the orcs would be going; the Tunnels of Despair. Pegasus Corps Scouts had discovered that, in the middle of the area covered by the southern section of the map, there was an entry to a system of natural cavities carved out over aeons by the waters of retreating glaciers. Consisting of overlapping stone tunnels partially open to the sky, this area was difficult to effectively patrol from the air, and the Scouts had found indications that a number of the Orc bands, splinters from the original force which had threatened Minas Mandalf, had passed this way in recent weeks. The party did not want the Leprous Moon (the remnants of the Leprous Hand and Blood Moon clans) to likewise escape via this route.

Passing through a passage under the nearby mountains, the entrance to which had been unearthed after recent heavy rains, they passed into a valley that then went directly east for some 6 or 7 miles. The march was uneventful, and, late in the afternoon, they reached the spot where this valley was crossed with another, heading North/South, only 2 miles from the Tunnels of Despair.

Riding point out in front of the Irish light cavalry, Sever (Ranger Level 3), spotted some creatures noisily feeding on an unrecognisable animal carcass. He won surprise, and, after assessing them, backed away before they could spot him. The monsters were some kind of 4' tall mini red dragon. By the way they played with their food, he judged them to be stupid but aggressive.

He rode back to warn the army, and together they formed a plan of attack and moved up.

As soon as they got in range I rolled based on the creatures' 50% likelihood to attack on sight, and got a 49.  It was on! Given their power and numbers vs the army, I decided to run this a mini-mass-combat; the upside for the players was that the archers got a passthrough shot when the monsters won initiative, but the big down side was 3 rolls for the archers vs 30. All three missed during the pass through fire phase as the Firedrakes closed in. 

This was threatening to get completely out of hand for the PCs and their army, these little Firedrakes were no joke; they each had a breath weapon that covered a 60' cone with a 10' base and did 2-16 damage (half for save). I decided that they would breath according to same rule as proper dragons; which is a 50% chance. The dice favoured the party and only two Firedrakes spewed their blood at them (yuck).

I ruled that the monsters would attack the nearest units, and the players helpfully pointed out that the light cavalry was in the front, and the archers were shooting for a distance. This meant there were fewer figures within the breath weapon's area of effect (since the cavalry were more spread out). Those that were effected, and their mounts, made their saves and battled on against the biting creatures. PCs and the light cavalry then returned attacks and in the end seven were killed while the remaining one succumbed to a Sleep spell, cast by Bumblbore (Level 1 Magic User), and was then captured. Noting the inflammatory nature of the creature's blood, Shaemus ordered the Irish to collect some in their whiskey bottles, and I'm sure more shenanigans will occur later thanks to this random encounter. A few players were convinced these creatures were somehow associated with Lord Inferno, and you know they might be on to something there.

Having successfully brought their forces to the crossroads, they began to explore and look for a place to ambush their quarry should they pass this way as hoped.  Finding such a place one mile to the south, they made camp there and began setting up fortifications. The next morning Sever scouted around and found tracks leading away from the camp; giant wolves. Were they associated with the Orcs? Did this mean their enemy knew where they were? The party decided to explore the region while they tried to discover the answers.

Master of Winter

Treefingers (NPC Ranger) was dispatched to search from the air, while others more or less set out randomly to explore the various valleys that lead away from their position. Under the watchful eye of Slippery Pete who had climbed to a nearby peak, Shaemus discovered that there was a large open valley to the north east, and in it was a substantial fortification on a central pillar of rock (a common feature in this area), and a city built into the shear eastern wall. 

The players returned to camp to report their findings and pass the night. Morning broke with no further progress, and no sign of the orcs. Having lost patience with waiting, the party decided to leave a squad of light cavalry behind and move out after their prey; hoping, I guess, that they would blunder into them. They chose to go back through the mountains to the valley Shaemus had discovered. Leaving the bulk of their force hidden in the adjoining canyon, Sever, Leopold, & Bumblebore rode out to explore as night was approaching. They saw a sudden light from the base of the plateau in the centre of the valley, as though a large door had been opened and then closed beneath the heavy fortifications. Soon a patrol could be seen crossing towards them, and they chose to parley.

The patrol captain was polite, but strange; he made references that made little sense to them, regarding the valley being "The World" and wishing for no interference from parties "Beyond the World". He referred to his lord as the "Master of Winter", and claimed that he would welcome peaceful visitors for dinner, if the PCs were such. Whether born of frustration at their so far fruitless search, or shear perversity, all three opted to visit the Master of Winter (despite clear foreshadowing, I might add). To add to the comedy, before riding out into the valley, Leopold has used the Cap of Disguise to appear as Macho Mandalf.

The rest of the party saw their three companions ride off with the patrol and disappear into the door at the base of the castle, just as the sun set behind the suddenly ominous mountains.


When the sudden dead air on the chat had gone on long enough, I added that though this was a real possibility; it was one that had not occurred at this time. Instead, the next morning, the three PCs rode back to the party with absolutely no memory of what had gone on the night before. At the same time there was a commotion at the rear of their army formation; the light cavalry, who had been left at their previous camp to keep watch, had just arrived and announced that the orcs had come and moved on into the...

Tunnels of Despair!

Forewarned about the difficult nature of these tunnels, the party, and their army, still opted to pursue their enemy; knowing that they were limited in both speed and direction by the heavy wheeled wagons they had with them. Night was close when they reached the tunnels, but they pushed on.

After another two hours the scouts spotted something up ahead. That something looked like this:

a dozen of these strung out in a line

Could the orcs have abandoned their wagons in order to evade the pursuing army? The party chose to ride up to investigate, leaving the army in position to back them up. As they got within medium range for a heavy crossbow; the orcs hidden in the wagons failed a discipline check and could no longer resist the hapless targets. Twenty bolts shot out and caused havoc, but the damage was restricted to the party's horses, who then fled away in a barely controlled flight. Having bravely established that the wagons were indeed defended, the party wasted no time in deploying their army. Somewhere I think it was realised that heavy crossbows would take a round to reload and there was no time to waste.

Even so, approach maneuverers had to be considered in a swift council of war. Crucially, the heavy cavalry under Echellet would be held in reserve, while the archers advanced in the wake of the infantry.

The foot marched forward with two units of human light infantry flanking the dwarf heavy infantry. The Irish light cavalry, singing their battle songs, trotted forward on the left flank; the heavy cavalry held the right flank, that left the longbowmen in the centre, behind the infantry, and most of the PCs embedded various units.

Once again (a similar problem faced the orcs last session), closing the distance was a choice of least worst options; beginning at a range of 300 yards, it is too far to charge in one round, so a round of approaching and eating the enemy's missile fire had to be endured. Thanks to their earlier efforts, two-thirds of the heavy crossbows were being reloaded at this point, their infantry ranks took minor damage from the remaining mix of light and heavy crossbows.

The Irish archers marched into medium range (180 yards) and let fly, but the enemy's cover prevented any damage from reaching them; would the wagon tactic blunt the super effectiveness the longbowmen were known for?

Advancing along a wide front, the infantry charged up to the wagons; but, suddenly, out from their sides came long pikes thrust by jeering orcs. The 14' long pikes were well beyond the length the humans and dwarfs carried. This meant that, even though they had lost initiative and were facing a charge, the orc attacks would go first! Humans and dwarf infantry went down to the pikes, but, in an advantage for the PCs, using 1 to 10 scale (as compared with 1 to 20 from last session) meant there were many more infantry figures than PCs, and as they were removed it turned out that none contained PCs.

The round ended with the orcs taking their licks from the infantry and PCs; a charge from Giuseppe on his holy warhorse, Bonecrusher, leading the way and bringing the total party damage to almost a complete enemy unit (45 hit points).

Slippery Pete rode his horse around the flank of the enemy line, and, now that I think of it, tried to backstab the army! Full points for effort, but his sling was not up to the task. As his bullet ricocheted off a wagon, another, much larger rock, exploded into the stony floor just far enough away to be accounted a miss. Pete turned in his saddle and saw, to his horror, a jeering face atop a huge body staring back at him. There was a Fire Giant up in an adjoining passage in the ceiling, about 30' above the tunnel floor. Pete sank his spurs into his horse's flesh and took off towards a side passage and (presumed) safety.

At the same time, a new force emerged from a side tunnel on the right flank of the player's army; 20 Worgs with goblin riders!

Rather than panic, the players coolly passed orders to their reserve forces; the heavy cavalry would turn to engage the newcomers, Giuseppe would rally the light cavalry from the left flank and bring them around to join in. There was discussion of whether the archers could use fire arrows, which they could not; however, I did mess up here, the fact that they would be useless against the Fire Giant should not have prevented me from realising, and pointing out, that, actually, their collection of whiskey bottles with Firedrake blood was made for such a thing as fire arrows (consider this a tip to any any PCs reading).

Sever signalled for Treefingers to pick him up with his Pegasus (planning to fly up to engage the Fire Giant). However, this latter maneuverer proved unnecessary as - winning initiative - the Irish Longbowmen opened up on the Fire Giant from the edge of long range. This was the mirror image of the 3 shots against the Firedrakes; when, even with a cover bonus to AC, two out of the three longbow figures hit, meaning the giant was pin cushioned with 20 arrows, and ceased to be a threat almost as fast as he had arrived. 

Now the combined cavalry charged into the worgs, just as a sleep spell from Bumblebore brought down 8 of their goblin riders. The result was carnage, heavy and light lances destroyed the enemy unit before they could do any damage.

Two more rounds of bloody hand to hand combat in the packed wagons brought casualties on both sides; then the morale of these orcs, which was never high, broke; but, fleeing the wagons only made it easier for the cavalry to swing around and mow them down like dry grass. It was total victory!

Slippery Pete found that the tunnel he had fled into contained the bound and gagged slaves of the orcs; numbering 60. Having not seen the battle, they credited him as their saviour when he freed their bonds.

From another tunnel the party recovered the huge surely mounts the orcs used to drag their wagons around, within the day they had got them out of the tunnels and back into the mountains, another day and they were back in Guarda being feted as heroes, then back to Schloss Ragnar to cash in their loot.

Treasure and XP

This is a bit experimental; for sessions with mass battles, I'm using the HD calculation comparison from Pgs 84 & 85 in the DMG, then applying the unit ratio to get a total; then separately add in magical items. 



Gems (29): 10 gp Malachite, 10 gp Obsidian, 100 gp Bloodstone, 100 gp Bloodstone, 100 gp Carnelian, 100 gp Rhodochrosite, 100 gp Sardonyx, 100 gp Star Rose Quartz, 100 gp Turquoise, 100 gp Turquoise, 1000 gp Amethyst, 1000 gp Jacinth, 200 gp Carnelian, 300 gp Peridot, 5 gp Lapis Lazuli, 50 gp Turquoise, 500 gp Chrysoberyl, 500 gp Chrysoprase, 500 gp Jade, 500 gp Jet, 500 gp Spinel, 5000 gp Chrysoberyl, 6 gp Eye Agate, 6 gp Lapis Lazuli, 6000 gp Jacinth, 70 gp Tiger Eye Agate, 700 gp Garnet, 8 gp Malachite, 80 gp Moonstone. Total Value: 17745 gp.

Of these gems the 5000gp Chrysoberyl, 6000gp Jacinth, and 1000gp Amethyst were in a container plainly marked with the seal of the House of Echellet. However, the countess wished the party to keep these gems in recognition of their efforts in freeing her from Castle Von Necro, rescuing the prisoners from the orcs, and ably leading the men of Guarda to victory. She presented them at a festival held in their honour at the Guarda Garrison. The PCs had the curtesy to wait until they reached Schloss Ragnar before selling them.

Monetary XP total = 23,645


Firedrakes: 1379
Orcs: 4,350
Worgs: 4,000
Goblins: 270
Fire Giant: 3,628

Monsters XP Total: 13,627 + Monetary XP of 23,645 = 37,272

Modifying the above by the Hit Die Ratio of 340HD PCs vs 420HD Monsters (which rounds off to 100%) and the army unit scale of 1/10 makes the total: 3,727 XP


Potion of Treasure Finding 600XP, 
Philtre of Love 200XP,  
Oil of Slipperiness 400XP,
Potion of Gaseous Form 300XP, 
Potion of Levitation 250XP,
Potion of Clairvoyance 300XP, 
Potion of Invisibility 250XP, 
Potion of Healing 200XP, 
Potion of Super-Heroism 450XP

Potion XP Total 2,950

PHB Pg. 122

Total of 6,677 XP Weighted by Level & Bonus (plus gold shares after expenses)

Giuseppe (Level 4 + 1 bonus for downtime activity) 1965 XP & 6600GP
Sever (Level 3 + 1 bonus for downtime activity)  1572 XP & 5328GP
Sheamus (Level 2) 786XP & 2664GP
Leopold (Level 2 ) 786XP & 2664GP
Slippery Pete (Level 2 ) 786XP & 2664GP
Bumblebore (Level 1) 393XP & 1332 GP
Dusty Angus (Level 1) 393XP & 1332 GP

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