Monday 20 May 2024

Trollopulous Adjusted Session 66 (Machodor #32); Battle Braunstein!


The Bandit Mountains

Braunstein: A Diplomacy-like game where players take on individual roles either cooperating or else working against each other’s interests under a fog of war. The referee meets with them in succession and while the referee adjudicates interactions between players as they come up, the other players are free to engage in negotiations and diplomacy in the next room. 

Battle Braunstein: An application of the Braunstein concept to a single session of an ongoing campaign, usually involving one of more battles using the rules of AD&D. Thankyou Jeffro


Introduction

In the days after the PCs jousted with the Black Knight in session #31, our special little dog, Snowball, died from cancer. Although we knew it was coming, that foreknowledge did not help with the grief of loosing a member of the family who had grown up with my daughter, was a constant companion for my wife when I was at work, and was my reading buddy and so on. Though I had a lot of support from the Bros, I did not have it in me to play or DM for some time. However, right before this, quite a few Patron actions and some PC downtime requests had been put in train and were now due to happen during this period. So, when I began to pull myself together, I had to consider how to process all these things and allow the campaign to continue on in 1:1 Time. Thanks to Jeffro's example, and BDubs' bullying of Dundermoose, I was already looking for a way to set up a Battle Braunstein, and this seemed like the ideal solution.


Players

MM p69
Of the regulars only one declined to play a patron, instead imbedding one of his PCs with another patron in the hope of getting an easy ride to Minas Mandalf.

The patrons consisted of:
Four Merchant Companies generated from the Monster Manual entry under "Men". This classic case of BROSR low DM prep was taken up by the players to produce:

  • Magnus, Jerry & Reed, starting from the Valley of Fear
  • East Machodor Trading Conglomerate, starting from St. Raul
  • Commeatus Rusticorum, Starting from Schloss Ragnar
  • Ancestor's Spirit, starting from Guarda

Helping (or hindering) the merchants were three other players:

  • Oreb the Oracular (Secretly the KENKURIAN, leader of a large Kenku faction)
  • Connor MrGregor (leader of the the Irish at Castle Irish)
  • Sir Colias (Paladin Commander of the Machodorian Pegasus Corps 6th Company)

And, lastly, a special guess patron, Harold Wolfshead, played a faction generated from the bandit entry in the MM (p66). 

Patrons not present, but who had submitted various orders for the day were:
  • Master of Winter
  • Others still hidden in the fog of war




Preparation

As Fluid has mentioned, Braunstein scenarios need to be bounded in some way so as to encourage interactions between factions and to furnish meaningful outcomes. The below aspects were shaped by this necessity.

Map

If any one reading this is dedicated enough at reading my session reports (hi mum) they may have spotted a few changes in the Bandit Mountains map above. After bringing it up to date, the main difference is the encroachment of the desert from the west. This reflects the ongoing and, so far, barely explored phenomenon some PCs investigated one time and have since left alone. Acknowledging that it would be reaching the mountains by now also meant that the route from Schloss Ragnar to Minas Mandalf in that direction is now cut off to normal traffic, and this put paid to the many players who took one look at the map and wanted to go around the mountains completely to get to their destination.

Faction preparation

Starting about a week out from the session the Merchant players generated their forces and developed their individual takes and specialties. The Irish, Pegasus, and Kenku factions were told what forces were available to them and from all this, along with the Master of Winter and *others*, I produced a Faction summary sheet for each. (note to self, print each faction on its own separate sheet, or at least number the pages!)

Calendar

Printing one of these to mark off as the days passed was very useful. However, each day on the calendar didn't have enough space, I would make it bigger next time. I should also label days with appropriate holidays so I don't miss them when they crop up; St Patrick's Day actually fell at an opportune time but I didn't realise until after the session.

Rumors

To shake up any plans that might already have been negotiated by the players, in the lead up to game night I threw out a few rumours:

  • The town of Eigermatt exports necklaces with healing properties; such would sell for a fortune in Saint Raul.
  • The occupants of Castle Von Necro have allowed small parties to pass through their valley without attacking, but no large force has dared to cross it in many months.
  • It is said that there is an isolated town, marked on the map, that no one has contacted for years and that has not been reached by any known merchant companies. 

Some of these were followed up in the session.

Rules

  • Movement to be adjudicated daily. Within the Bandit Mountains:
    • Wagons: 3 hexes per day
    • Foot troops: 3 hexes per day (force marching possible according to the DMG)
    • Mounted troops: 5-6-8 hexes per day (for heavy, medium, and light horse)
    • Pegasus: 5 hexes per HOUR
    • Kenku:2 hexes per HOUR
  • General Battle Braunstein Scoring:
    • income (selling goods, hiring out guys, etc) 
    • minus a penalty for loosing troops 
    • plus bonus for defeating enemies 
    • plus possible one off bonuses.
  • Some patrons had special conditions that were not public knowledge.
  • Battles to be adjudicated in a similar fashion to that used here
  • Winner(s) to get a training voucher to apply to any one of their characters.


Now, I think it needs to be said that a BB does not at all require the detailed level of constraints and rules that I applied in this instance. However, once some of the decisions were made, some driven by patron orders and others driven by the choice to include merchant factions as players, the rule applications that followed were easy to derive from the PHB, DMG, & MM; and doing so saved time and confusion on the day. 

On the other hand, it would have been possible to just have the merchants as hapless NPCs that the Master of Winter and other hazards were attacking, and to just report the results of these events to the other players without binding them to daily turns in response; but I think in this case it was worth it and made for a better game.


Session Report

Day 1 Friday March 15

It was a clear day and all players were able to make moves unopposed, except for Magnus. Coming down from the Fortress of Fear, he found himself faced by the forces of Harold Wolfshead; would there be a fight straight away? 

No, instead a negotiation started, or at least that was the idea; but, when I jumped into the separate voice chat it wasn't Magnus but Oreb the Oracular who was in there with Harold. I'm not sure quite what was going on there, but this was a meeting the KENKURIAN player could have arranged so it was not really a problem. It was a good example of the DM loosing control almost instantly in a BB! 

Next, Magnus joined the chat and Oreb the Oracular went on his way. The humans negotiated a deal rather than fight it out, a win win situation for them; but disappointing for the Pegasus 6th Company player, who had brought some forces into the area with an expectation of attacking someone. I had thought that this might be the only interaction Harold would get with other players, given that there were no more Merchants in his immediate area; but he proved that to be very wrong. Rather than just waving Magnus through, his forces accompanied him to the vicinity of Castle Irish and from there hatched plans to elevate his standing in the region.

Meanwhile:

  • Commeatus Rusticorum forced marched from Schloss Ragnar and made it to Castle Irish. 
  • The Ancestor's Spirit moved east from Guarda without issues. This player had the most possible choices of routes, so it was interesting to see what he chose.
  • EMTC moved west from St Raul towards the mountains without issues.


Day 2 Saturday March 16th

Mel Gibson's head not visible from this side

The next day was also clear, and the Sky City launched! That one quadrant of the city had enough power to fly was something that the players already new, but they did not know when it would happen (I had decided that it would do so after two days of no rain). However, once launched, the subsequent shift in the terrain caused the quadrant on the opposite side, which had been hanging out in open space over the edge of the extinct volcano for a year, to loosen and then detach, crashing down into the valley below. This proved so enticing to players that we have subsequent had two sessions exploring the place.

  • Sheamus (PC Fighter Level 6) arrived from the Sky City with information for Connor McGregor.
  • The Ancestor's Spirit moved to the outskirts of the 'rumoured village' and made camp.
  • Pegasus 6th company scoped out a trap at said village and warned the Ancestor's Spirit to steer clear. The stymied a well laid trap.
  • EMTC moved west again, again without an issue.
  • Commeatus Rusticorum rested at Castle Irish from the forced march of the previous day.
  • Magnus arrived at Castle Irish.


Day #3 Sunday March 17 (Cloudy)

  • Market Day at Castle Irish. There was lots of interplay and selling done here while I adjudicated other things. The main result was that the two merchants there, Magnus and Commeatus Rusticorum, joined caravans and the latter also hired most of the the available Irish troops to go with them. The combined force numbered over 1000 men. 
  • In the evening Godleve (PC Cleric Level 5) arrived in a battered war wagon, one of the ones the PCs had captured in session #6 and were using in downtime to supply relief efforts at Gimmelwald. He had a horrible tale to tell. Earlier in the day some powerful force of cold enveloped the caravan, which was passing through the crossroads valley at the time, and only he managed to escape with his life.
  • The Ancestor's Spirit made camp in another ambush zone, below a huge snow covered peak on the opposite side of the crossroads valley. This time it cost them dearly. In the dead of night, the enemy: Ice Toads, Ice Trolls, and Yeti, surprised the merchants and their mercenaries in their camp. The entire force was routed almost immediately, providing the Yeti with a good supply of their favourite food. Only a few high level characters survived to be picked up by Pegasus riders the next morning and spread news of what happened.




Day #4 Monday March 18 (Windy)

  • EMTC moved west. I think we had established that they were warned by the Pegasus riders of the danger; but I'm not certain, anyway, they decided to push through the crossroads valley and were ambushed. They had a well thought out travelling formation and held their own at the start of the battle. The player chose some good spells and tactics, and actually could have won against the Master of Winters's ground forces; but, that was what his white dragon was there for. The thing dived down towards them and let the dragon fear do its work. The final result for EMTC was a loss of two units of heavy cavalry; with most of the remnant including cattle fleeing back to the east, and with their vanguard fleeing west to later warn the combined force just a few miles away.
  • When word reached them, I was thinking the combined force would hunker down and make a move in the morning, but the day had more in store. The Pegasus 6th company had gathered their full strength and moved to the reported location of the white dragon. The dragon's reaction to seeing 125 Pegasi bearing down on it was to head south; but, as it began its maneuverer, a black storm of feathers approached from behind the 6th company. Kenku! Two hundred of them. The dragon liked these odds better and was now prepared to engage. Was this going to be an aerial mass battle? No, instead of committing to serious losses, the 6th made use of their advantage in speed and tried to lead both enemies into a more favourable position. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensued until they lost sight of the enemy and landed at Wengen. They could bide their time and find them again tomorrow, or so they thought.


Day #5 Tuesday March 19 (Magic Storm)

a bizarre and freaky random weather occurrence

The storm trapped the 6th Company in Wengen and left the combined force with the choice of moving forward without air cover or staying put. However, when they chose to push on into the area they found no sign of any resistance (though they did eventually find the looted EMTC camp). The large combined group force marched all the way into Gimmelwald, and took up positions inside the walls of the town. Here they took great comfort in the knowledge that a great big beautiful wall now stood between them and the southern entrance to valley, from which direction the Master of Winter had invaded back in December.


Day #6 Wednesday March 20 (Rain)

The previous day's forced march required a rest, and the rain just emphasised the point. The session was nearing completion; but in a call back to Jeffro, there was still some icing on the cake.

Magnus was restless at the delay, and, when he went out to inspect the defences, the KENKURIAN struck via the 5HD Kenku with the Call Lightning ability he had embedded in the caravan. This fellow patiently mumbled to himself for 10 minutes and then waited for his chance. It didn't take long and Magnus, a level 0 human, was hit by a Lightning bolt for 29 Hit Points. The perpetrator was immediately given swift justice, but the KENKURIAN himself was able to figuratively twirl his moustache (lol, that has layers), turn invisible, and fly away. With this action he was practically the King maker.


Day 7-10 (Cloudy, Cloudy, Windy, Clear)

With a few days of passable weather, the combined forces travelled from Gimmelwald the rest of the way to St Raul without further incident and began to sell their wares. The Braunstein was over. I then adjudicated the scores, including the many shenanigans sent to me in chat that didn't get resolved in the session, and the clear winner was Commeatus Rusticorum aka Fluid the Druid. Congratulations! 


Conclusions

The AD&D rules, plus knowledge of the campaign you can create with them, are all you need to play a Braunstein. As is often the case, I don't think the session report does justice to how much fun we had playing. As a DM I thought it was great, and I'm pretty sure the players did too. 

What was achieved for the campaign?

One thing that can become a problem with 1:1 time as a DM is when Patron orders can't be implemented for whatever reason and then adjudication of everything else backs up from there. In this case, by having a Battle Braunstein, a bunch of pending Patron orders were adjudicated in an entertaining and fair way, taking life in the campaign beyond just the DM/Patron interaction; and those that had effect are now well known by the players.

The Master of Winter keeps on winning in his own domain, what can be done about him? By the way, I don't think it is giving anything away to point out that of all the forces he deployed in this session, most of them were not his to command when the player started running his domain, but were built up over time via shrewd play and negotiations. He had provided orders for when, where, and how long his forces would be in the field, such that it was quite easy to adjudicate this in the session.

Harold Wolfshead has staked a claim for his domain, filling a vacuum left by another Patron who has gone off the radar.

What could be improved for next time? Two things stand out; one, using co-DMs could certainly help when adjudicating a battle that takes a single DM's entire focus, however this would have to be organised so that the time taken for the DMs to get on the same page did not mean a similar amount of waiting around for the other players; and two, I implicitly treated the merchants as the main players to the detriment of the other patrons, and this was hard on the Pegasus player whose forces were capable of many more actions a day that I could easily cover.

Was the effort worth the pay off? Absolutely. Only slightly more prep than normal was required, but most of this I delegated to the players anyway, and the payoff has settled some things in the campaign that otherwise would be been non-engaging DM exposition, and no one wants that.

#ThankyouJeffro


In memory of Snowball


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