"We’ve got no place in this outfit for good losers. We want tough hombres who will go in there and win!" – Admiral Jonas H. Ingram.
Excitement reigns this morning, as my first face to face session in a while shortly begins, kicking off the new Beasts & Barbarians campaign, using the old Irongrave characters; there are 10 potential players, but I expect a typical session will have only 3-5 showing up. Here’s the briefing I sent out to the players beforehand.
It is early morning, and you have all been summoned to the Temple by the high priest. He has yet to arrive, so you size each other up, some more surreptitiously than others.
Nessime and Peter Perfect are both paladins of the Temple. Nessime is a woman radiating do-goodery, dressed in a chain hauberk and carrying a short sword. Peter is a brawny fellow in chain armour, with a large shield and a number of weapons festooned about his person.
“I say,” he says to one of the acolytes, “Is there any chance of a cup of tea? I usually take tea at this time. Tea?” But the acolyte ignores him.
Gutz is a wiry, quick-fingered human, dressed in tough leathers, with long and short swords, and a bow. Several acolytes have already repossessed small but valuable trinkets which have somehow unaccountably fallen into his pouch or backpack.
The Warforged is – well, some sort of animated statue. (“Keronian workmanship, of a certainty,” says Nessime.) Seven feet tall, with a long sword, a chain shirt, and an enormous shield. There is a hole in its chest, just visible through the shirt, which looks as if something is supposed to plug into it.
Alihulk Junior is a strapping fellow with a chain hauberk and two short swords. “Look, how long is this priest fellow going to keep us waiting?” he calls. “Do you know who I am?”
Borg is almost as big as The Warforged, but much, much uglier. (He holds the current record for the lowest Charisma in any of my games.) He is six feet six of chain-armoured, sword-bedecked attitude, and in your considered opinions not entirely human. Half-Nandal, perhaps?
Abishag is a waist-high, but perfectly formed, humanoid. Some sort of midget perhaps? Maybe one of the fabled Pygmies from the south? He spends a lot of time being shooed back from shady corners by patient acolytes, whom he insults with the most vile profanities imaginable. Even by Alihulk, who has an unusually broad understanding of those, thanks to his equally unusual childhood.
Garstrewt is no taller than Abishag, and makes no attempt to hide his fascination with one of Alihulk’s swords. “Is that steel?” he says. “It is! How do you make it? Tell me! Can I see it?” His backpack bulges with unseen items, but what can be seen strapped to the outside includes a ceramic flask, a waterskin, a grappling hook, a set of manacles, a coil of rope, a dagger which hasn’t seen much use, a crowbar that has, and a whistle on a string.
Alihulk is clearly wondering how best to end him, when Athienne puts aside a complex cat’s cradle she is weaving from twine long enough to reach out with a rare turn of speed, grab him and pull him back out of reach. Athienne has a bow, a short sword, and leather armour. Possibly one of the Ascaian Amazons?
Finally, an anaemic-looking black fellow lounges against a pillar at the back, clad in chain, with a sword at his waist. He is idly tossing a half-brick from hand to hand, studiously ignoring the rest of you. Surely one of the Ivory Savannah tribesmen.
At length, the High Priest emerges.
“Welcome,” he says, as Peter and Nessime make obeisance. “Time is pressing, so excuse my bluntness.” He gestures, and an acolyte steps forward holding a cushion, on which reclines a very sorry-looking relic indeed.
“This is the Holy Handkerchief of Veronica, peace be upon her,” he says.
“Nessime, Gutz, Warforged – we are indeed grateful that you returned this holy relic to us. It is, however, as you can see… Somewhat the worse for wear.”
“It’s not our fault!” Nessime blurts out. “The Nandals stole it. And, errm, used it as a handkerchief.”
“And then I slaughtered them to a man,” rumbles the Warforged, with evident satisfaction. Alihulk nods judiciously.
“And, well, while he was doing that,” Nessime continues, “He got blood on it. Quite a bit of blood.”
“It’s probably still worth a bit, though,” points out Gutz.
“Enough,” says the Master, quite gently, considering. “I have a new mission for you. Nessime, Peter – I charge you to take the Holy Handkerchief to the fabled City of Gis, and there deliver it into the care of the master alchemist known as the Ninth of Twelve. Give him also this letter, which explains the situation and asks him to purify it by his arts. You will then return it here, where we shall return it to the shrine in the hope that Veronica will once more favour us.”
“Superstititous claptrap,” mutters Garstrewt. Athienne slaps him on the back of the head, and he subsides briefly, before once more trying to ease Alihulk’s steel sword from its sheath.
“Nessime, Peter: Do you accept your task, and swear to carry it out, and fight any evil you encounter?”
“Until the last fire goes out,” both respond together.
“Good. And the rest of you: Tales are already told of you; how you stood firm when others turned and ran, how you survived wounds which would surely have killed a normal man – clearly, you are Chosen, and the largest group of Chosen gathered together in a millennium. Assist and support our paladins, and you will find the Temple grateful. Our reach is longer than you might suppose, and there is evidently some purpose behind your gathering. Go, and may Hulian smile upon you.”
He turns to leave, signalling that the audience is over.
Peter and Nessime go to Gis because the High Priest told them to, and they are sworn to obey him. The Warforged thinks Gis is as likely a place as any to find the piece missing from his chest. Gutz thinks that firstly, this will put many leagues between him and his erstwhile colleagues, and secondly, that a city full of alchemists and wizards can probably help him find the object of his quest. Alihulk and Borg reason that there will be skulls to split and loot to be seized along the way. Abishag decides that if there’s any loot or gratitude from the Temple going, he’s going to make sure he gets his fair share. And possibly someone else’s as well. Garstrewt has heard of Gis, and if the missing ingredients for his “recipe” are known to anyone, it will be the master alchemists. Athienne follows, as per her orders from her superiors. Who knows what the mysterious black figure thinks? But he turns and follows the rest of them to the Square of Merchants, where a caravan heading the right way is likely to be found.