Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Setting: Bright Face

Imagine a rift valley, forty miles wide, over a thousand miles long, running east and west. And threaded down the valley, weaving from side to side, is a smaller rift, a canyon, with branches and various levels as the rock has worn away over the millenia, and the deep places at the bottom over five thousand feet below. There are duchies of hundreds of square miles; there are single farmsteads of a couple of acres, terraced in one tiny notch of a cliff.  The south wall of the rift, thousands of feet high, is always in shadow; and the north wall is the Bright Face. To the west, the Long Lake and the oldest cities; to the east...well, the new tribes who come, come fleeing from the East.
They say the elves were here first. Elves or goblins or dwarves--they're all the same thing. Short and ugly, with pointed ears and sloping brows, but masters of crafts and smithing. And the powerful ones, it's said, shape not just steel but flesh, creating monsters for their soldiers and slaves. Thus the ogres, the wights, the terrible beasts guarding the deep places of the earth. But also the great swords, the vaulting bridges, the mighty works of old.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Actions and Disorders

One of the characteristics of land warfare is that, in a given time period, well trained troops can do more stuff than green troops. You can give an order and trust that the elites know what to do and where to do it; with the new meats, you have to watch them to make sure they do it right, shoving or yelling as needed. Any game that gives each unit, regardless of quality, the same number of actions, isn't going to give a good depiction of what happens.
One way to handle that is to assign, based on quality, a varying number of actions for a unit to take during a turn. An elite might get three, a regular unit two, a green unit one. On the other hand, it's not like the elites are all jogging along at 15mph while the greens are only doing 5mph, so you're still not going to get a realistic depiction of some situations.
I'm thinking that a more realistic way might be to impose a chance of Disorder on units when they take actions; poorly trained units will get a higher chance than elites. This means that an elite unit is likely to be able to operate smoothly--although even they will need to take a break every now and again--while a green unit will need to spend a lot more of their actions to recover from Disorder.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sailing to Innis Byr

Whilst in my fever and betwixt Nightmares, I spake, so Fra Veritan says, a few lines of an old Druidic cant, the meaning of which, in Inae's rendering, is thus:
Seek the isle of cold forgetting,
Seek the isle with cliffs of metal;
Walk the path of old blood-letting,
Walk the path of golden petals.
Lady Inae believes this to be a message or prophesy given of the Earthmother, albeit, why She would speak through me, rather than through Inae her Dedicant, I know not. The Captain was not eager to heed this word, thinking two or three fighting men, viz, those of us wounded by the Ghouls, to be but scant loss in compare to his Mission, and Silver Rose now in sight to our northeast, but Inae persuaded him, and he will give us the Launch and a few men, and wait two Days for us as we go ashore and seek our healing.

Inae and the Captain think that this Isle of Cold Forgetting is Innis Byr, called also Keldisle, a small isle and distant from the mainland. A Monastery of sorts was founded there, five hundred years ago, but the Calishites came and overthrew their walls, and slew all within, and none now knows Why. Privily, methinks that ships and soldiers are not sent hundreds of Leagues on a whim, and thus it may be that the Calishites had good reason. Doubtless the monastics forged hideous Monsters which haunt the island, and are themselves a cloud of vengeful Ghosts.

And to this, we take myself, Inae, and Laithoren, all much worn from Fever, and Kanak, also fevered albeit not much worn, and further, two Chersay warriors lately joined of the ship's company, and Dunders and Radge as oarsmen. I thought the latter Twain, having been our oarsmen to the Torvald, and thus having been scarce a fathom from Ghouls, were going, as 'tis said, too oft to the Well, and wondered that they volunteered, but perhaps they came on orders. The Chersay, who it appears fight naked with cleavers like unto our Falchion, speak no Chondathan nor any common tongue, but Fra Veritan has taught them, he thinks, a few words, viz, Fight, Run, Guard, and such.

Our leathercrafter, having worked on my armor whilst I was ill, presented it back to me, and has wrought most Excellently, with fine scribings and tiny runes etched within the curves and lines; it were better in a mathom-house than a melee, and I pray Sune's help in keeping it unmarred. Our weapons are ready, our gear prepared, the Launch provisioned and is now swayed out, and all aboard. The Captain plans some strategem or Ruse, with floating lights and changes of course, to Deceive the Silver Rose, while we in the launch sail to Innis Byr. We shall leave at nightfall, and sail through the dark.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Battle of Cape Henry

Josh and I drove to DC yesterday for a Close Action battle hosted by Albert Parker. We had eleven players total: Richard Kunkel (admiral), Heather, Will, Dave Cross, Josh and I for the French, and Jim Rumizen (British admiral), Al Cook, Albert, Mike Bosworth and Steve Becker for the English. We were using Albert's twelve-direction movement, which takes more effort than the standard six-direction but is well worth it.

The scenario was the Battle of Cape Henry from 1781, Destouches vs Arbuthnot, which is Scenario 15 in the Rebel Seas book. The Royal Navy has eight ships, ranging from the 98 gun London to the Adamant, 50; the French also have eight, ranging from Duc de Bourgogne, a small 80, to a captured British 44 gun two decker, Romulus; both sides were about even in points and crew quality. Both sides start in line ahead, close hauled with the wind on the port bow, the British pursuing the French. This scenario is unusual in that heavy seas, and the way ships heel to leeward, mean that ships need to close their lower deck gunports on the leeward side; this means that all ships are penalized when firing downwind, but not upwind.

The French plan was to wear, engage the head of the British line at medium range, and--according to the admiral--keep reversing course with successive wears to keep the range open. I don't know what the British plan was, but from comments among the British players, it seems no one followed the plan anyway--the military maxim is "No plan survives contact with the enemy", but this may have been "No plan survives contact with my subordinates."

On the first turn, the British continued in line ahead, and the French wore...most of the French wore. Turn One is where the French plan started coming unstuck, a little earlier than is usually the case. The Romulus, which would be the third ship in the French line, didn't complete the wear; she therefore was an obstacle for the rest of our line to detour around, while Provence and Eveille sailed straight toward the enemy. By turn 5, the leading elements of both fleets were in action, but Neptune was still trying to get past Romulus without a collision. This left a gap between the first two French ships and thee rest of the French line; why the Brits didn't keep in line and sail through the gap, I don't know. Busy pursuing our lead ships, I suppose, or the British having bad luck with their signal limitations.

The lead two French ships tried to withdraw from the Brits but had to turn to avoid the French admiral who was sailing by. They got trapped and by turn 8 they had collided and fouled with Robust. Eveille was stuck in a position where she couldn't shoot effectively so Josh, her commander, formed boarders--I believe that's the second time I've seen it done in ten years. Unfortunately Robust managed to get loose just before Josh could launch his attack. Nonetheless, a dogpile was forming, and they always seem to attract other ships, as people try to maneuver to protect their teammates or take close range shots at immobilized enemies. That's what happened here. My notes for Turn 11 read "To the west, London and Adamant collide and foul. Main island still a scrum. Mass drifting and fouling."

On turn 13, southeast of the main glob, Heather's Neptune and my Conquerant nearly got two Brits to collide with us; they escaped only by the favor of the dice. As the game wound down, I boldly sailed right to the edge of the traffic jam to deliver some close range rakes; Neptune prudently kept a little farther away from the mess and engaged one of the few remaining mobile Brits; Duc finally got into the action after a long detour to leeward, and Romulus, 44, suicidally attacked the 98 gun London.

The game was called due to time at turn 16, which was good because I'd tempted fate a little too long; by some good maneuvering and sheer luck I'd managed to get my shots in while keeping out of enemy firing arcs, but on turn 17 I would almost certainly have gotten stuck, with four Brits around me. The damage count was about even for both sides--the French would have been ahead if Romulus hadn't chosen to attack London and Adamant. The battle was undecided when we left, but the consensus was that the French had the advantage; call it a very marginal French win.

A weird battle with a mass melee instead of neat lines of battle, but fun and interesting for all that..well, it was for me--I imagine somewhat less so for those who spent half the game fouled and immobile. I think Jim Rumizen did a commendable job as the British admiral, particularly with the signaling limits imposed by the scenario; new players Heather and Will also did well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Halfling Freaking in a Dim Green Haze

Getting weaker. The bite of the Ghoul is healed, but still I am wracked by Fever. Kanak and Laithoren as well, and now, to my sorrow, Inae. Fra Veritan is tending us as...

The entry continues in another hand:
The halfling Kestrel Langstaff asked me, while I tended him, to be his amanuensis. I have written as much as I can, although I must tend the others also, and in his fever his attention strays and his voice fades. Nevertheless, he spake thus:

Who slew Lord...the neck and the knife. Why both? Moffrey. Was there another?

Tell Grayson. The thought of Death troubles me not, but were I turned to a foul and loathsome undead, would I not be rejected when I come to the gates of Sune's House? Tell Grayson. Make him swear the oath of blades. Vow by the salt and the stone, by the edge and hilt of a blooded knife. Let me not be turned. Put the dagger tip behind the collar bone, and a straight thrust down. Make him swear!

Dada, is Mama ever going to come home?

Remember the smoked cheddar, Fra? The hickory was over strong, a little, although still very fine it was. Next time, smoke it maybe over apple boughs.

No, take care of Inae. Lady Inae. Guard thou well the healer. I can wait.

Send my possessions to my brother Rook, in Baldur's Gate. Most particularly Mother's sword and dagger, and her Mandolin, and my armor. Tell Da that I am sorry, and he was right. And send I pray you something for Peony and Violet of ...that town. Harbor where we were. That last lovely sunny afternoon. Sune grant them each a red headed Son to hold, and a song for their pretty lips. Sunny, Sune, son, song.

This fever is like unto a fire shut up in my bones. Would that they were mithral. The silver-steel forged anew, it shines...

The sword is beautiful of itself. Holly never understood that. Grace, elegance, speed, and skill, enough to stake your life on, quick and brilliant.

Two thousand years, and more ago,
The elves came fleeing, bearing woe.
They sought to hide, from reaver bands,
Elereisolon, he watched the strands.

Look at the butterflies, swirling up, and now they burst like fireworks. Remember when the wizard came? He did likewise, but with magic. These butterflies are songs, and their magic is deep. Deep as the sky. And now they are stars, shining in the dark...whilst I kiss the Sky....


 Written in the same new hand:

    It is late and I can barely see to write, but this must be written.

    The halfling is near unto his final hours, may Ilmater grant him respite from his sufferings.  He spake sense and not-sense as his mind wandered, tho' he was earnest in his desire to be destroyed ere he succumb to unlife. 

    Then he spake no more, and for some hours in the deep of night lay motionless and staring, such that I thought he had already been taken.

    Then it meseemed he was listening, mayhap to some distant music, though I heard nothing but the steady creak of this vessel's timbers.  He seemed to smile slightly, and then he spake thus:

    A phennaeth ehalaeth a ffraeth vnbyn,
    A phennaeth meib o veli dyrchafyssyn;
    A gwedy dyhed anhed alludd mehyn,
    A gwedy hoelyon ym deithic eu hafwyn.

    It is no language I have ever heard, though it meseems like to the lost speech of the Guoleyn in some respects, though I cannot fathom its meaning.  It is well that I had some of the Lady's chalk at hand; I have written it on her worktable, and I will ask of her whether she knows it, should she wake again.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Letter home

Unto Rook Langstaff, Langstaff Smial, Halfling Hill, Baldur's Gate,

Salutations, Runt! And greetings to Mistress Mayflower, and to Olive, Orchid, and Osprey.

As I said in my missive dated 8th Ruthven, I have taken service of the West-Sea Trading Companie, and am now aboard their ship Prosperity, in the capacity of Senior Midshipman. As you doubtless expect, the promotion came not of Navigation and Seamanship so much as quickness of Wit and Blade; for since leaving Waterdeep I have been engaged in three Actions and two other occasions at arms, and in defense of the Ship and its people have slain nine Men, three Ghouls, one swamplight Lynx, one Crab the which was somewhat greater in Size and Girth than Fern Underhill's father's white bull, and one Ghost. It would be best not to tell any of that to Father.

I have in these Adventures gotten a bruise or two, and mayhap a scrape, but we have a good Healer who looks after me so you, and more to the point Father, need have no Fear. Midshipman's pay is not o'ergenerous but I may be Promoted to lieutenancy ere long, and meanwhile have picked up a few petty stones and trinkets to amuse myself and make the Voyage worthwhile. One of these stones is a slate from the dwarves of Llewellyn, bearing in runes the word Uzzik, viz, Dwarf-friend; and the getting thereof is its own tale. And another thing I have gotten, worthy of its own tale, is Mother's gift, although it were best not to tell Father that either. While on the Moonshaes coast, I drank of a Moonwell, and since then can work Magick, albeit minor weavings only, as yet.

When next you send an agent to Waterdeep, twould be better for him not to call at Sanremi House, for the name Langstaff may be received not well there. Send, I pray you, my Affection and the enclosed letter to the half elves Ravihana and Alihana, of Threeoak Way or the fane of Sune. My warmest affections also to Tamarie Brightleaf at Sune's House in Baldur's Gate, and our aunt Phoebe; and send also to Meadowsweet and her family.

The ghost we fought was an elvish Spirit, hight Elereisolon the Seawarder. I have made, although not completed, a Lay which tells his tale, and enclose a copy here; the Music I have sung it to is Misty Mornings. I enclose also one claw of the Lynx I slew, for Olive.

I have much more to tell, but must close, for the vessel which will carry this to Athkatla must soon depart.

I remain,

Written aboard Prosperity, on the Sword Sea south of Flamsterd,  xx days out of  Waterdeep

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ghost ship

The next morning, set to Study certain books commended to me by the Captain, one concerning the currents of the Sword Sea, and another on the lines of a Hull, some forms being Swifter while others more capacious or steady, and yet another on the subtle arts of Mathematics and navigation. Although there was no Occasion to exercise these Arts, the sky being hard overcast from dawn to dusk, and no sight of Sun or star possible. Yet by means of casting the log, and some Thought on the currents, it was possible to reckon our position, that being off Dragon Head, and when the mist cleared, and we could see the loom of the point to starboard, it proved to be so.

In the afternoon, my watch being done, the water orc sought me out, to teach him the language of the ship, for though he speaks four tongues, he has no Chondathan, and so I set out for him those Words of which I thought him most in Need, viz, for working the ship. Fra Veritan, joining us after a time, proved to be adept in Illuskin, and the twain of them thus able readily to converse, I left them to, thinking, that the crew seeing Fra Veritan, who is but a rabbit at heart, yet so readily at Ease with the warrior, they might also be less timid of him.

The following day, that being the second day after the raiders, I, being the watch officer at Dawn, charged Laithoren to keep a sharp watch for strange sail. And lo, at two points off the starboard bow, he perceived a Vessel, which, seen through the glass, proved to be a galleon of Luskan work, but adrift, with her mizzen and maintop carried away, and sails torn, and neither boats on her decks, nor movement nor sign of Life to be seen. The Captain gave orders to approach her, which we did until, at half a league away, we noted a Stench as of death and corruption, and still no sign of Movement upon her decks. Whereupon I, from curiosity and hope of Loot, volunteered to lead a party aboard, which notion the Captain endorsed, and gave me Kanak and Laithoren and Inae, and the yawl with two men for the oars.

And so we came upon her, through water that was foul and murky around her hull, and we boarded her. First searching the great cabin, Kanak and I found an envelope of shipping manifests, a gold Disk, and some pouches of coins, which we hid privily away. Belowdecks there were sea chests, with some few coins and trinkets, and a seal hide, and a ivory figurine of some northern goddess, scarce Sune Firehair, yet  Kanak kept it. In the hold, a rotted cargo of cloth and furs, but forward, behold!, a small chest with gold and silver. Yet as I sought to put lines around it, so that Kanak might hoist it, two pairs of cold dead Hands came up through the hull planking, and struck at me, whereupon Kanak, hearing my call, heaved away, and brought me up out of the hold. We made our way with Haste to the top deck, yet it profited us not, for crawling over the sides came foul Wights who stank of rot, and struck at us with tooth and claw. Shortly we had all taken Wounds, yet Kanak slew them with every stroke, and Laithoren shot, and I plied my blades to some effect. Kanak, being weighty, and the deck weak and treacherous, fell through, and down again, into the Hold, but took no great harm, and indeed he sprang up again, and slew the chieftain of the dead. I saw it not, for the Poison from my wounds overcame me, and I sank down, unable to move, but Inae's ministrations soon mended that, at least in part, though in truth I yet feel weak. With the undead, who had numbered twelve or fourteen, thus slain, and water rising in the hold, we made swift to haul up the Chest of treasure, and further Laithoren and Kanak searched the quarter cabins, and found therein a wand, and certain other items. Whereupon we descended into the yawl, and cast off to return to Prosperity.