18 March 2007

Splitting Heirs: Session One

The game proper began this week, and with it a title: Splitting Heirs. Actually, the title came with the actual play thread, but that's just splitting hairs.


It is early spring, the winter snows having recently melted and the Barony is waking into warmer life: the farmers in the less mountainous regions have started to think about working the land in earnest again and the quieter months are drawing to a close - Greenskins don't venture down in the snows.

Yesterday was the first full council meeting of the season, Lady FitzCarstein having been holed up in Drachenmalstein over the winter. This morning, a rude awakening. The quiet morning air of Himmelfeuer castle was disturbed by the arrival of a horse-borne messenger bearing ill news. Lady F and Captain Reinhardt Scharf were well placed to observe the arrival - both being up, about and with views over the courtyard. The boy was grubby, limping and almost hysterical and they watched as Gottfrid brought the boy from his horse and into the castle proper. Messengers were immediately sent around for, it appeared, the boy had important news that warranted an emergency council meet. Pou de Burns and Herbert Reichessbergmann had been at the latter's inn and were sent for, whilst Werner Bohnekosten was somewhere within the castle and Felix Brunnenhing was nowhere to be found.

Lady F made haste to reach the chamber first in the hopes of some time alone with the messenger before the rest assembled. She managed thus, but her attempts to calm the boy only seemed to make him more edgy. His nervousness turned to blurting exclamations when Captain Scharf turned up, happy to see a military figure and forgetful of his place. Pou, Herbert and Werner all soon arrived and in Brunnenhing's absence they listened as the boy spun his frightened tale: his village, Kleine Wolfenburg, away to the West of the Barony had - he claimed - been razed by armoured figures. Of course the boy himself - Roderick - had not actually seen the razing, just the smoke rising from the village as he sped away; being the stable-boy at the inn with knowledge of and access to the horses he had been sent away with word before the slaughter began. Kleine Wolfenburg was on Brunnenhing's lands, making his absence all the stranger, but there was doubt - or rather, caution - in Lady F's tones as she played devil's advocate against sending a retribution force. The rest of the council - even miserly Werner - were of one mind: it must be investigated at least. Pou, particularly, defended the boy when Lady F suggested he might have been sent as a ruse to divert forces away from a real forthcoming attack. His certainty seemed based on the boy's production of a copper ring and he and Herbert retreated briefly from the chamber before returning to partake of the decision making. Werner dealt with the boy, calling for Gottfrid to find him somewhere to stay, and then a decision was made: Scharf, Pou, and a few of the former's men would head out west to investigate the happenings whilst Herbert, Lady F and Werner would remain in Himmelfeuer to deal with anything else that came up.

The reconnaissance party were to be fast moving and primarily scouting, whilst the majority of available forces were held back in case of trouble from the south (Mörder's lands). They covered the ground fast and with minimal rest, Pou briefly stopping in each village to speak to the locals then catching up (he being the only one with a horse). They reached Kleine Wolfenburg after a quick march and a short night's rest. They hadn't seen it the night before but from the morning onwards they could see the smoke still billowing into the air from the razed buildings - smouldering on despite the rain. As they approached they stopped about a mile or so from the ruin, and Scharf sent his best scout in to see what was what. A short while later the scout came back with a report: no signs of life, and remarkably few signs of death. There had been fighting - a few broken weapons and severed limbs were testament to that - but no (complete) bodies to be found. Pou circled the village looking for signs of "his men", finding a frightened group of 10 or so musket-armed peasants hiding some way off from the village who had assembled, on instruction, from other nearby villages. Scharf and his men examined the scene at the village more closely, finding more copper rings and tracks leading in from the north west. A mixture of booted and bare feet of roughly human size had made the journey into the village, but going out there was nothing but a rutted scrape leading away. Closer inspection suggested orcs made the barefoot impressions, and the suggestion was that a laden cart had been dragged away, explaining the scrape-like track leading off.

Amongst the meagre leavings - cleft weapons and limbs - was a musket stock, emblazoned with the mark of Sigmar: Pou's chosen maker's mark. A decision was made to follow the prospective cart-track as the lack of bodies was potentially a sign of survivors and, in planning to protect against further attacks, knowing the enemy would be valuable. Through driving rain and muddy fields the two councillors, 4 army men and the handful of makeshift musketeers followed the track until they crested a rise and saw an unladen cart at the base of the hill - axle broken, and sodden piles of ripped cloth sunk in the mud around it. Now footprints were visible in the mud, heading up towards rockier ground. They followed up, and as the winds died and the rain abated they came across signs of their quarry - first a corpse, beaten and scraped as if dragged over the rocks and with a frayed (and cut) rope around its waist, naked but for smallclothes, then as they pressed on, guttural language. Scharf and his men caught up first, spying orcs arguing amongst each other, and a bedraggled line of roped captives, stripped to the bare minimum of clothing; amongst the chain, several corpses and injured, but a few who looked in good condition (given their trials). Of their captors, two were larger than the rest: Black Orcs, armoured enough to explain the messenger boy's rantings. Using guerrilla tactics the soldiers managed to skirt the point where the raiders argued, getting ahead, whilst Pou and his militia got into position behind the orcs. One ambush later and the greenskins were either routed or dead, and the living villagers freed from bonds to be carried back to relative safety; of note was the strange signet mark on the largest orc's armour - it was vaguely familiar (though not recalled in the moment).

Meanwhile back in Himmelfeuer Lady FitzCarstein was not idle, mixing as she was with the castle denizens. Interactions with Herbert Reichessbergmann indicated that the mayor is very wary and suspicious of Werner's motives, and thought that Lady F's suspicious and questioning manner with the messenger had been unhelpful. But that was small fry; who isn't wary of a treasurer's motives, and Herbert had had to agree that the Lady's motives had been correct. It was with Werner that most interaction was had. First Lady F happened over Werner giving Gottfrid a locked wooden box for safe keeping. Her arrival seemed to have prematurely terminated a conversation between the old treasurer and older steward, but after politely requesting Gottfrid to leave them Lady F struck up conversation with the money-man. During their conversation she hinted at matters of lineage, even putting the bold idea that Werner should court Josephine in the man's mind, but managed to take him aback by asking about a planned trip to Tilea - the question leaving him flapping for words and snappish, retreating from her as Gottfrid returned.

The next day was not without incident either; whilst Pou and Reinhardt were off chasing orcs Lady F was again working the powers that be. Revelations that the Baron had not been seen outside the family chapel for two days and dealings with the Ravenmeister took the morning up, and resolved Lady F to arrange for the castle inhabitants to have a communal meal in the evening. To this end she managed to track down Brunnenhing, personally visiting his chambers in order to do so. Standing outside the door she heard the lord screaming and ranting at someone and politely knocked before the argument went any further. Brunnenhing answered and was suddenly all sweetness with her, welcoming her in. It turned out that the target of the Lord's vitriol was none other than the messenger boy. Brunnenhing did not recognise the boy, having not visited his lands in some time and not having been at the council meeting, and thought him a thief, despite the messenger's protestations that he had been sent to these chambers to rest. Sending the boy out, Brunnenhing quickly reverted to slimy type, making cackhanded attempts at flirting and reacting with delight at the dinner invitation, yet distaste when he found out others would be there too. Nevertheless he acceded and the dinner date was set. In addition to Brunnenhing and Lady F, Gottfrid, Magda, Josephine and Werner were all present at the meal which was quickly turned by the younger women into a bawdy joke at Brunnenhing's expense, whilst Magda shrank with every line. More than just mocking the rather foppish lord, the examination extended to why he hadn't been at the council meeting and did not know anything about his lands being attacked - or show any real interest in the situation. The grilling got so bad - even Werner joined in - that the target of the inquisition jumped up, made his excuses and left, showing off a wide variety of artistically engraved rings as he bowed and made his escape. Conversation briefly continued, with Werner revealing he had had the messenger placed in Brunnenhing's quarters and that he was far from convinced of Felix's loyalties, competence and suitability as heir. The treasurer made no obvious statements of intent regarding Josephine, and shortly thereafter the courses wound up and those present went their own ways.


What was learnt?

Pou and Reinhardt got to know each other better still, garnering insight into each others practical skills as well as their planning and decision making skills. Reinhardt now sports a copper ring, a symbol worn by the peasants making up "Pou's Men" - normal folk whom Pou has been training in musketry to help them defend their homes. They also found the marked armour, and have the words of the villagers to inform them, too.

Lady FitzCarstein garnered yet more insight into internal politics in Himmelfeuer, of specific note the way Werner was winding up Brunnenhing, the box he handed to Gottfrid and the Baron's non-emergence from the private family chapel.

We ended with Pou and Reinhardt sending word back that they wouldn't make the planned council meeting (four days after the messenger had arrived) as they would be setting about getting some rudimentary defenses built in the provinces, and with Lady F sending for her priest in an acknowledgment that she would be in Himmelfeuer for longer than anticipated. Hopefully a fair bit of this can be tidied up over email before the next session, along with what the rescued peasants have to say about the attack.

The game went alright, but I wasn't overly happy with it. Rustiness was showing, I feel, and hopefully things will improve as I get back into the swing of GMing and people get used to my approach - and to the game itself. Not so much system-wise (dice rolls were minimal), but in situation, aims and style it differs from what we have been doing previously. I'm still optimistic for the run as a whole, although the next few weeks will be disjointed as people are away here or there.

No comments: