De Condé's Ride playtest

For my current playtest, I wanted to try something a bit more historical. I gathered four players (Rich, Anthony, Garrow and Carol) and pitched them my idea: In the early summer of 1648, the Spanish unleash Archduke Leopold Wilhelm and an army of 16,000 Spanish, German and Walloon soldiers into the low lands north of Paris. Queen Anne, grappling with the Fronde in Paris, sends for the hero of Rocroi, Prince de Condé to come to Paris’s rescue. The trouble is, the prince is on a mission for the crown in Catalonia and must be summoned home to gather his army and confront the archduke before he capitalizes on the chaos in the capital and moves to capture it!

Our protagonists will be part of de Condé’s retinue, racing to get the young prince home.

The players enjoyed the pitch and decided to roll characters and see where they would fit into this historical moment. I offered allow them to pick, but they were keen to roll.

Fortune gave us:
Lieutenant Vauban, noblesse de epee, French, Huguenot, Frondeur, petty noble (L1), officer (L2). (Anthony)

Picard, peasant, French, Catholic, Frondeur, soldat (L3). (Rich)

Isaac, commoner, American, Catholic (convert), Abolitionist, Americain (L1), soldat (L2). (Garrow)

and Fabrice, peasant, American, Huguenot, Apolitical, barber-surgeon (L3). (Carol)

Their motif was that they all served in the battle of Rocroi and were bonded by the blood and victory of that day.

Since they chose such a noteworthy historical motif, I asked them each to answer questions about the battle and their participation: Did they serve with distinction? Were they wounded? Did they admire the Spanish tercios or despise them?

Lt Vauban, a young gentleman at the time, was trampled during the Spanish cavalry charge on the left flank, leaving him slow of mind and weak in the arm. However, his bravery on that day earned him his charge, first as a subaltern and then, soon after, as a lieutenant in Marquis de Guiscard’s regiment.

Picard served as a young rear-ranking pikeman in the center. He saw the carnage close at hand, but stood his ground and did was was required of him. No more, no less.

Isaac served as a young powder boy with the French artillery. His gun exploded during the battle and he was hit in the hip by a piece of shrapnel. The wound left him with a limp he carries to this day. Isaac was awestruck by the bravery of the surrounding Spanish tercios at the end of the day.

Fabrice was part of the army’s train, but moved forward to see if he could help with the wounded. Though he was nearly overrun by the Spanish push, Fabrice didn’t flinch. He pulled Vauban from the pell mell on the left and treated the young man’s wounds. He later treated Isaac, as well. Pulling the piece of burnt, twist metal from his hip.

===

They all rolled terrible stats, but then used the historical moment to describe their infirmities. All except Rich who said, “No, He wasn’t hit in the head. He’s just naturally dumb.” Picard has an Intelligence of 5. :slight_smile:

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We began the adventure proper in the next session. Sadly, I was woefully underprepared! I had dedicated an afternoon to do research and create NPCs, but I lost that afternoon to pre-holiday scheduling anomalies. So I hope I did a credible job in painting this historical moment (if I missed something, let me know).

I kicked off the evening with some scene setting, describing a languid Barcelona in which de Condé was hosting sumptuous parties in an attempt at diplomacy with the Catalan segadores and the local gentry. But it all seemed vastly unhurried.

During one such party on a beautiful night in June, a group of French riders come tumbling onto the doorstep of de Condé’s manner, asking for immediate audience. They bore a letter from the queen herself.

One of their number was injured by a slash to the thigh. Fabrice was summoned to tend the wound while the gentlemen and women gathered around the prince to hear the news.

Fabrice successfully treated the young rider’s injury, but in the process noticed something odd: This young cavalier was a woman in disguise. Was she riding for romance? Was she a spy? Was she simply a hotspur yearning to cross swords with the Spanish?

She swore Fabrice to secrecy and Fabrice readily agreed. At this, I introduced a new system I want to add to 1648: Traits. Potentates, the rich and the influential people of the world are looking for those whom they can trust to carry out their orders without fail.

There are four traits (as of now) which these people seek: Discretion, Loyalty, Puissance and Cleverness.

A character who exhibits these traits consistently will come to be relied upon and given responsibility and position. A character who fails to carry themselves properly when in the service of the powerful can never be trusted.

A player must earn three checks against a trait to earn the confidence of the NPC in that department. However, one transgression crosses off that avenue with that NPC forever.

In Fabrice’s case, she earned checks for Discretion and Cleverness with the young cavalier, de Moret. As the GM, I’ll track these relationships. When these NPCs need something, they’ll approach player characters they can trust to get the job done.

After the brief rules digression, I described some debate among the gentry as to the best way to get to Paris from Barcelona. Eventually, after some discussion, I told them that de Condé had decided to take all three routes at once: mountains, coastal road and ship. Lt Vauban was to lead the advance party into the mountains, clearing out any obstacles, and checking every post house and roadside inn for Spanish ambuscade and spies. Other advance parties were to be dispatched on the other routes. De Condé would choose which party to follow under his own discretion.

For this task Vauban was given a guide, an old segador named Pau—dressed in a rustic sheepskin vest and carrying a wicked looking curved knife—and a young subaltern, Jean de Beaufort, who spoke with a cracked voice, but came kitted out for war with a warhorse, mail shirt, rapier and two pistols.

M. de Guiscard asked if they needed anything else for their journey and all they asked for was wine and some preserved foods. He granted the request and also gave the young lieutenant a purse with 100 gold pistoles to pay for supplies and tolls on the route.

Lastly, de Guiscard fitted Vauban with a wig to give him the appearance of de Condé, so that he might look like the young prince riding wild on the van, desperate to reach Paris and heedless of danger.

And thus they set out!

Just before dawn, Isaac noticed that they were being trailed by a lone rider. Upon further investigation, Jean’s young eyes spied a group of riders moving down the dusty road some distance behind them. Fearing that they would be overwhelmed, Lt Vauban ordered the company to pull off the road near an abandoned stone-walled farm house. He rapidly set them to preparing an ambush.

Isaac and Picard tossed a line of heavy stones in the road, hoping to trip their enemy’s horses. Pau was sent sneak down the road and lie in wait. Fabrice and Jean set up on a hill overlooking the road to the left. Vauban, Isaac and Picard scrambled up a hill to the right just as the riders came galloping around the bend.

We used the ambush rules! Once all modifiers were set, Anthony needed to pass a 1/6 Military Doctrine test. He was on the brink of failure…until he exerted himself. After spending that year, the young lieutenant pulled off a textbook ambush!

The lead rider tumbled from his horse as it barked its shins on the stones in the road. The lieutenant rose to announce himself and Pau let the Spanish caballeros know they were surrounded, so they immediately suffered a hit to their morale. This was key.

After a brief parley, they discovered they were against one Don Reverte who said he rode out all this way from Barcelona for that wig Vauban was wearing. Vauban told him to come and fetch it and they agreed to cross swords!

…except the caballeros all carried a brace of pistols! The pre-dawn shadows jumped and danced as the Spanish released a fusillade on the charge! Jean took a ball, but his mail shirt saved him! (for the successful ambush, the pistol shots were all counted as tough shots).

The odds were not in their favor—10 Spanish cavaliers against their tiny band of six souls—but they fought bravely and, after some close moments, saw the Spanish off as their morale broke. During the skirmish, Picard stalked among his opponents like an executioner with his long sword=: He felled Reverte and two more. Isaac missed his harquebus shot, but finished up the affair with a well-placed grenade, killing a horse and two men (grenade crit!).

Pau took a slash to the chest and survived, but poor Jean was brought down by a thrust from a rider.

Under the rising dawn light, the dying men beneath them moaned and gnashed their teeth.

We ended there. At the start of the session this week we’ll do reputation (there were survivors and they announced themselves!) and Jean and Reverte both get rolls on the Mortal Coil table to see their fates.

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In the aftermath of the skirmish on the road, the group tended to the wounded and looted the dead.

Fabrice went to work and saved two of the dying…at the cost of the leg of one and permanently crippling the other. They decided it would be better to wait to remove the ball and chain mail fragments from Jean’s chest until they reached a more stable environment (they felt the treatment in his weakened condition might kill him).

Fabrice also managed to save one of the horses by removing shrapnel from its head. It lost an eye and an ear, but the poor beast now loves Fabrice and follows him loyally up the trail.

Late the following afternoon, they left Don Reverte—who was permanently crippled as part of the fight—and his wounded survivors in the stone house and continued up the road into the mountains.

Their guide, Pau, told them they were headed to Seu d’Urgell, the bishopric.
“Dioceses.” Picard corrected him.

In their first leg up the mountain, they found themselves traveling with families of drovers, headed to the high pastures for summer. Herds of cattle and flocks of sheep lined the road—and sometimes obscured it. At night the families set camp fires and danced and sang. The whole affair had a festive mood to it. But our company rode silently past, not stopping to share in the gaiety.

They arrived at midnight, nearly drowning in fatigue. Pau went to find them lodging (Catalonian Nationality test) and failed! He came back cursing. All the inns were full and the post-houses were empty. There wasn’t a bed or horse to be had in the whole town.

Jean noted that if there were no post-horses, the stables were empty and they could sleep there. Vauban agreed and they headed for shelter.

The next morning, the Lieutenant and de Beaufort cleaned up and went to see the bishop. He received them readily based on the the lieutenant’s reputation alone (currently 20).

Vauban made pleasantries with the old man and stewed a bit. He wasn’t comfortable being in the presence of this ardent papist. But he realized that this was no ordinary bishop. He was a prince of the Catholic Church but also co-prince of Andorra, with Seu d’Urgell as his capital. Being a Huguenot, Vauban recalled that Henry IV (a former Huguenot himself) ruled Andorra in league with the bishop. The good king instituted that rule as law, essentially creating Andorra as a protectorate of the crown of France (all this from a passed Nationality: France test).

With this realization, Vauban felt he could risk telling the bishop of his mission. The news was well received: He was granted food, lodging, fresh horses and anything else he might need.

He requested a day of rest and a doctor or someone equivalent to help poor, wounded Jean. The bishop sent two nuns. They assisted Fabrice pulling the ball and other metal from the subaltern’s chest. Jean would recover well if he could get some rest.

Meanwhile Isaac and Picard went to a local tavern. There they overheard two young men and a young woman discussing the Spanish. They inserted themselves into the conversation and, based on their stories and gossip, managed to determine that there was likely another party of Spanish above them on the trail to El Pas de Cas—their route through the mountains.

At dinner, the bishop pressed the lieutenant about a small matter. Since he was going through El Pas de Cas regardless, there was something he could help with: a bothersome brigand robbed the drovers along the route. He called himself Junipero. Would the lieutanent help the bishop? Vauban demurred, but ultimately agreed.

The next morning, two fully kitted miquelets (mountain militia) with mules and supplies awaited them in the town plaza. They were the two young men Isaac and Picard had talked to in the tavern the evening before!

Before they could set out, a courier appeared announcing he had a message for Lt Vauban. It was de Moret, whom they had left in Barcelona after Fabrice had treated the slash in his (her!) leg.

De Moret had been dispatched by de Guiscard to get a report from Vauban. He noted that they had found Reverte in the farm house and had seen the other caballeros retreating from the skirmish. “The other party is riding hard behind. You must make haste!” de Moret warned.

After the audience with Vauban, de Moret buttonholed Fabrice to ensure their secret was safe and to get a fuller report. After hearing Vauban’s account confirmed, de Moret asked about their route. Fabrice responded, “I don’t know exactly, but we’re headed to El Pas de Cas.”

“Excellent. Leave word for me in the house, under a flagstone in the fireplace. You’ll know it when you see it.”

Then the group hit the road and headed up to Andorra de Velle and from there up into the more rugged mountain trails. Vauban made inquiries with their miquelets about the whereabouts of the brigand chief.

That night, Pau struck up a conversation with Vauban and implored him not to take up the foolish errand the bishop gave him. He begged Vauban to disguise the group as drovers and move quietly along the trail so as not to attract attention. The bishop would never know.

Isaac jumped in and insisted that instead they should disguise themselves to lure the brigands closer, to trap them.

We had a brief duel of wits (mostly to learn the mechanics). Vauban’s reputation proved too much for Pau and he eventually was forced to relent. But he only agreed to forgive them for calling him a fool (and not forget that Vauban had made this decision that might get him killed).

Early the next morning, they were moving single file up a steep, narrow track when they saw the road blocked ahead by a straggling flock of sheep and a man with a short, ugly musket pacing back and forth.

I called for Intelligence checks (to notice that the trail was lined with travelers and drovers hiding from this man). These people were trying to hiss or whisper warnings to the group but…THEY ALL FAILED THE INT CHECK. IT WAS AMAZING.

So they rolled up to this bandoler and the man waved them off, “Please, senor. Stop. Please wait.” He said casually, distracted, almost annoyed. He was standing in the gap of a small ridge. They could hear shouting echoing off the mountains above them but out of sight.

Vauban refused to stop and rode directly up the brigand. He demanded to know who he was and what he was doing. This truly annoyed the bandoler. He gestured with his mousqueton to move back. Vauban (and the company in general) slowly drew their pistols. Vauban ordered Jean to ready the miquelets (and failed the Leadership test). The miquelets momentarily froze.

“Senor, por favor. Allons-y.”

At this, two heads poked over the ridge on each side of the brigand. They wore ragged barretini. As soon as they saw Vauban’s little company, they heaved matchlocks up onto the stone and pointed them down.

Picard came up to stand at Vauban’s shoulder. They were 10 feet from the mouth of the mousqueton. Jean forcibly readied the miquelets and their muskets. Isaac and Fabrice raced to get behind Jean’s firing line, pistols cocked. They were 30 feet from the ridge.

“Speak French!” shouted Vauban and then he fired.

The mousqueton fired. EVERYONE fired (except Picard who held his powder). A brief, stuttering explosion rolled up and down the ridge. Smoke blanketed the trail, obscuring vision.

When the dust settled, Vauban and Picard each had taken a ball but stood their ground. The bandoler lay bleeding on the trail (shot three times). One of the musketmen was winged and he and his brother both fell back behind the ridge (after losing morale and failing their subsequent SF tests).

Vauban had the momentary advantage but he held Picard back from charging forward over the ridge (and probably saved his soldat’s life in doing so). Instead, he calmly ordered his company to reload.

+++

We ended there! Next session, they’ll meet the Cap de Bandoleres, Junipero!

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Super interesting report, that feels as if it is taken straight out of a novel. You must have much fun at the table.

Your players seem to choose not to burn years of their lifes in order to force rerolls on their enemies’s to-hit dice. Any particular reason for this? Combat encounters seem to be the situations where I would expect my players to frequently force rerolls in order to not get hit.

Thanks for the detailed report of your games so far!

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Years are precious and hit points replenish. Neither hit was critical and both felt like they could withstand the shot.

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De Moret warned me not to get too close with Jean…but I can’t remember why?

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Jean’s family branch was in conflict with Mazarin.

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Session the next! We picked up precisely where we had left off. Rich couldn’t make it, so Picard nursed his wound, riding the pack horse, while Vauban, Fabrice and Isaac (and Pau and Jean and the miquelets) pushed on.

After the smoke cleared from the exchange of musketry, Lt Vauban saw a red barretina poking over the ridge, “Señor, por favor, my friend.”

An old bandoler slid through the gap in the ridge and approached Vauban and Picard, who were standing over the fallen bandoler. He seemed to be still breathing, blood bubbling from his mouth (from the Hors de Combat roll). Thus his grizzled compatriot politely asked Vauban if he could remove the wounded.

Two matchlocks once again poked over the ridge to remind Vauban’s band that there was some force behind the question.

The lieutenant nodded his assent and the old brigand took his fallen comrade over his shoulder and fetched up his gun for good measure. He curtsied politely and headed up the path. His friend moaned and bled profusely, soaking red the shoulder of the elder brigand’s sheepskin vest.

The matchlock’s disappeared behind the ridge.

After a moment, checking to make sure all were reloaded and ready, Vauban ordered Pau to investigate. The segador scrambled up the ridge and peered out, then scrambled back down.

He described a bowl or shallow valley—a cirque—dotted with scrub and snow. A group of brigands moved away to the northeast with a flock of sheep while a group of drovers and pilgrims stood in the center of the landscape, lamenting their fate. A cliff towered over the eastern wall of the bowl and a beautiful white waterfall plunged from its heights down onto the floor of the cirque.

Vauban ordered the group up the path into the cirque. They approached the drovers and pilgrims. As suspected these unfortunates had been robbed of their sheep and other valuables.

The path up to Pas de la Casa continued north ahead of them, but the bandoleres had taken another, steeper round to the northeast. Would they follow the bandoleres or convoy the drovers to the Pas de la Casa? Their guide, Pau, very much grumbled about pursuing brigands into their lair. Isaac continued to advocate for laying an ambush for the brigands by disguising themselves as drovers, but Fabrice agreed with Pau that they shouldn’t tangle with the bandits on their own terms. However, Vauban would in no way agree to subterfuge or disguise. Thus they agreed to convoy the robbed drovers and pilgrims to the pass.

It was nearly 10 PM when they arrived at the pass. Their collective breath caught when they took in the sight. Beneath them, out at the horizon, they could still see the pink halo of sunset. Yet above them it was pure night. The curve of the sky with its glittering coat of stars seemed within reach. None of them had ever seen anything like this, so I called for a Save vs Chance and let them know “You want to fail this one.”

Vauban and Fabrice failed. Isaac passed. For Vauban and Fabrice, I described to them a new sensation—an inner awakening. For the first time, those two felt they were part of some larger cosmic, divine scheme. They each gained 1d2 gnosis!

Isaac shrugged at the stars and pointed across the peneplain of the pass, “Look there, that must be the house!”

In the distance, against the tapestry of stars, they could see the outline of a large stone hunting lodge. Warm light glowed from its windows. Between them and the house, campfires dotted the broad bowl of the pass. Drovers who had arrived before them were camped out under the stars.

Saying farewell to their drover and pilgrim companions, they decided to approach the house.

Our weary travelers soon discovered that the house was full to the brim with fellow wanderers, all raucously drinking, eating and gambling.

Suspecting that their friends from the road were within somewhere, they cautiously pushed their way inside to take a look around. The place was packed, shoulder-to-shoulder and wall-to-wall with rough-looking customers. Muskets and harquebuses leaned against tables and walls. At least four languages mingled in the din: French, Spanish, Catalan and German.

Vauban tried to offer some appropriate greetings to a group of Spaniards gambling on a trestle table, but they did not like his French manners, gave him the Evil Eye and shuffled off. They didn’t want to be seen associating with his ilk!

They also noticed that in the back corner of the place there was an informal high table. A local potentate sat among his coterie, receiving gifts and greetings from the other travelers.

Isaac decided to investigate. He sliced off some meat from the mutton roasting over the firepit and tried to gain a better vantage on the table and its occupants without drawing attention to himself (failed Search test).

An old bandoler saw Isaac before he saw him. He emerged from the crowd and greeted the boy civilly, briefing doffing his barretina. Isaac recognized him from earlier on the road. He was the brigand who came to fetch his friend. His shirt and vest were still stained with blood.
“My friend died today,” he said archly. “He did not make it home.”

Before Isaac could do more than offer half-hearted condolences, the old brigand pinched him above the elbow and escorted him to the high table to meet his friends. Once there, he wedged Isaac onto a bench and sat against him so the boy could not escape without making a scene. He plied Isaac with meat and drink while they both watched the proceedings at the table.

Of course, the party at the table was none other than the cap de bandoleres, Junipero, his partner, a ravenish woman, and their entourage. They sat against the back wall of the lodge holding court. While his people gambled, sang and drank, the brigand chief doted on his partner, holding her hand, whispering jokes into her ear and pecking her on the cheek now and again. She in turn smiled at his attentions, caressed his face and kept his cup filled. She also fended off any unwanted attention from unsavory well wishers.

Junipero turned to the old brigand and said, “Claris, who is your young friend?”

The old brigand eagerly responded, “Ah, he is a brave one. He was shot at on the road today, but he stood tall.”

Junipero turned to Isaac and asked, “Do you enjoy being shot at?” And as the dashing bandit turned his head, Isaac saw that the right side of jaw was swollen with some abscess or infection. He took note, but answered the question, “I have been shot at more than once, I must admit, but I can’t say that I care for it. Though it doesn’t bother me much.”

At this point, I paused the conversation and turned to the group to inform them that the brigand Claris would, with his next exchange, reveal that Isaac was the one who shot the brigand on the road today. And that such a revelation to Junipero would likely be the end of Isaac.

Carol jumped in. She noted that Fabrice had been watching this scene unfold from across the room. As Junipero began questioning Isaac, Fabrice fetched the bottle of Spanish wine he had been given in Barcelona from his snapsack and nonchalantly approached the high table. Fabrice placed the bottle on the table as a token of homage and then pretended to notice Junipero’s infirmity. The barber politely intoned, “Oh my, you should have that looked at it.” while gesturing to Junipero’s jaw.

At these words, Junipero’s partner’s eyes flashed. She told Fabrice to mind his own business. We got into a brief Duel of Wits. Fabrice apologized (shouting) across the table, and she shouted insults! wounding Fabrice’s reputation. Rather than press the issue, Carol had Fabrice retreat apologetically into the crowd. Junipero’s bandits laughed and jeered, and drank to the health of Dona Ganivet!

Meanwhile, Isaac used the distraction to slug a third glass of wine, stand and tell Claris that he had to piss. Claris begrudgingly let him off the bench, but his eyes never left Isaac as he staggered out.

At this point we tested the new wine rules! Garrow and I determined that Isaac had had enough wine to make him drunk. So, he had to pass a Poison & Plague save — which he did. This meant that he got a boost to his S-F and HP, but reduced will and accuracy. Had he failed, he would have fallen into a bad drunken state.

Once Vauban saw that Fabrice and Isaac were free of their entanglements, he ordered Jean and Pau out of the house (while trying to look as inconspicuous as possible). Outside, he ordered Jean to fetch Picard and the miquelets.

Fabrice came out next and joined Vauban. Isaac tottered out and around the side of the house to take care of his business. But as soon as he was out of sight, Claris crept through the door, a knife in hand. He kicked at some of the drunk bandoleres under the eaves and recruited a couple of them for his mission of revenge.

Vauban, seeing this, quietly ordered Jean to have the miquelets ready their muskets. Then he and Fabrice paced after Claris.

The old brigand had his hand on Isaac’s shoulder and his other held a poignard, when Vauban cleared his throat and announced: “Isaac, we should be going.”

Isaac offered a drunken “Um, pissing…” over his shoulder, but Claris read the situation. He and his drunken friends were outnumbered. Even though a melee would go badly for Vauban in the end, the old brigand wasn’t ready to trade his life for Isaac’s just yet.

So he palmed his knife, dropped his drawers and took a leak, nearly on Vauban’s feet. “Yes,” he said, “pissing.” as he leered at the lieutenant.

Vauban collected Isaac and the group retreated away from the house. They briefly debated making use of Isaac’s explosives to cause mayhem, but Claris stood under the eaves, watching them go, tracking their movements. They would have to come up with a better plan for an ambush.

Pau begged Vauban, “We must go. Rest a few hours and then before dawn, through the pass.”

“Our mission is to clear the way for the Prince,” stated Vauban haughtily. “This brigand clearly stands in his way, so something must be done.”

We ended there!

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Are you as a group familiar enough with the rules by now that those scenes play as fluently as it seems? Even though the game ist quite demanding on a social interactive level, the rules seem easy enough to drive the narrative part forward without much confusion about how to apply a certain rule.
I have not enough experience with the game to varify this theory, yet, but it clearly feels like a smooth round of rpg.

Well, on one hand, it’s not fair because they have me to process all of the rules for them. Though sometimes I get demanding and make sure we find the reference in the text (and I found that I had played two rules wrong!).

But while this session did go smoothly, it was too smooth for me. There wasn’t enough conflict or risk of failure for me. I like the crunchy bits.

That said, I’m not eliding much. We even had a player dialing in remote through Zoom. I was surprised at how well that went.

We took up our tale in the predawn darkness of the Pas de la Casa.

I introduced two new rules:

  1. Missed session rules—recovering HP, Will or spending years for XP. Rich chose to recover 1d3 HP.
  2. Session Recap rules—recap the previous session and remove a point of exertion. No credit possible. If you have no exertion you can’t benefit.

I also let Picard save against the majesty of the sky at the pass. He failed and gained gnosis!

There’s something about the Mortal Coil rules in Miseries & Misfortunes that makes me a very bold game master. I know players have a stock of luck, so I don’t hesitate to thrust them directly into danger.

Tonight I sent the old bandoler, Claris, and six of his mates armed with muskets to find our protagonists’ camp and assassinate them.

I rolled the bandit’s search roll in front of the group…and failed. Hilariously, the group posted a lookout (Isaac, iirc) who failed his search roll. So I described Claris’ group walking right up to their camp, at the edge of their fire light, and whispering, “Where are they?” The drunken bandits argued about the location of their quarry’s camp.

The group could have ambushed them right then and there, but decided against it. It would have been a mad, desperate affair. They let the bandits wander off to the other camps.

Instead, at dawn, Picard—feeling much recovered—asked to see the house. He, Isaac and Fabrice returned to the site of the previous evening’s festivities. They had murder on their minds, but were destined for disappointment.

The guards were asleep, propped against the door. They had to kick them awake to get inside. Within, they found many snoring men and women, but no cap de bandoleres. Junipero and Ganivet had stolen off in the night.

Searching around, they found the loose flagstone that de Moret had warned Fabrice about. Inside they found a gilt gold Bible—translated into Spanish. Picard cursed, “Hersey!” Then Isaac asked if it was valuable. It was. Very valuable. Picard changed his tune and snatched it from Isaac’s hands and stuffed into his pants and buckled his belt around it.

Meanwhile, Fabrice scrawled a note to de Moret and dropped it into the hidden space: “Here. All is Well. Fabrice.”

As they exited, Isaac kicked the somnific guard at the door. “Where is Claris?”

The bandit sleepily told Isaac to fuck off.

“Tell him we’re camped up on the ridge.”

The bandit opened one red-rimmed eye…and suddenly recognized Isaac from the night before. Claris had grabbed the door guard to assist his failed assassination attempt and this was the boy they were after. Suddenly alert, the bandit sprang to his feet and ran off to find the old bandit.

Meanwhile, our crew had formed a plan. They quickly returned to their camp, packed up and moved up the ridge to a better vantage point. Isaac found suitable ground in which to lay an ambush. Specifically, a path threading through boulders in which he set a grenade trap.

Taking position on the low ridge, they checked their weapons and waited. All except for brave Picard, who volunteered to be the bait. He sat on the boulder above the trap, hoping to draw in the bandits.

I asked Isaac and Fabrice to make Sneak tests to pull off the ambush. They failed. The bandits would see the ambush before they sprung it. Given that information, I decided to use the bandoler’s best ability—sneak—to try to counterambush the party to take them in the rear. Of course I failed the roll.

Claris, dressed in a rusty cuirass, walked up the trail to within 10’ or so from Picard and greeted him cordially. He expected to play the diversion while his men shot them in the back, but alas, his bandits stumbled from behind a cluster of boulders on the left about 30’ from the ridge and another trio emerged from some dense brush 40’ from the ridge on the right.

Seeing that Claris once again intended to do him harm, Isaac’s blood rose and he fired his harquebus.

This triggered a sharp firefight at close range with muskets and pistols. A miquelet was shot through. Jean took a ball and fell. And Picard and Claris danced around the grenade trigger until, at last, Claris stepped into it, and got shredded by shrapnel.

The morale rules also played nicely in the fight as both sides fell back from the hail of shot, but held firm. After a second volley, the bandits broke and ran.

Isaac took a dangerous shot at the fleeing Claris with his pistol. Picard was in the line of fire. It was a tough shot. I told him if he rolled in the margin between shot and tough shot, he’d hit Picard. Instead, he rolled a 20 and critted poor Claris. Picard was more upset that he stole his glory than that he nearly shot him in the back.

We used standees for this fight. I had mocked some up a couple of weeks ago. They’re perfect for use on the grid (I’ll release the file soon).

Lastly, in the interest of playtest documentation, some spoilers (don’t read this Carol, Anthony, Garrow!):

Summary

I rolled Hors de Combat for Claris and he lived. The group assumed he was dead, of course, and left him.

They did manage to capture a bandit who surrendered due to low morale. They interrogated him using the Duel of Wits and he told them that Junipero’s hide-out was an old Roman fortress on the other side of the pass. Picard looked at the sky and said with some excitement, “I bet he has falconets.”

We ended there!

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Session the next

Housekeeping note: Rich and Garrow mentioned that I omitted a couple of tests in my session report from last session. Sorry about that. I clearly waited too long to post that one.

===

Garrow gave the recap of the last session and removed a point of exertion. Carol was absent, sick with a bad cough. We noted that Fabrice would care for Jean during the session, so while we missed her, her absence made a certain kind of sense.

After the ambush, the group collected Vauban and their thoughts. Anthony used the missed session rules to recover lost hit points. He told us that he fell into a torpor of exhaustion and was nursed back to health by some of the drovers.

I told them they fed him escudella, a Catalan soup, and a new dish, pa amb tomàquet, tomato bread. Anthony was delighted to check off his regional delicacy requirement for Nationality advancement.*

They then further interrogated their captive bandit about Junipero, his cohort and his fortifications.Rather than having him spill or even lie, I rolled the die of fate to see if the brigand could accurately divulge troop numbers and other defensive details. He could not. He babbled about how strong a leader Junipero was, but the young man cooperated and even offered to lead them to the fortress.

There was a short debate about their next move. They all agreed they needed to dislodge Junipero and his gang from the prince’s path. but they did not feel they could tackle him in his fortress in their present condition—Jean laid out, one miquelet dead and Picard short on hit points (and armor).

They needed allies. Pau asked Vauban, “Are you feeling diplomatic?” He reminded the group that the Comarca de Llivia sat nearby—not far beyond the pass. They might find common cause with their Spanish enemy against this pernicious bandit. The young brigand chimed in that he knew the way and could even lead them there, desperate to make himself useful, as Picard sat slowly coiling rope in his hands. The young bandalero informed them that there was a famous pharmacy in Llivia. “You could find help for your friend there!” he squeaked, nervously rubbing his hand along the collar of his shirt.

Vauban decided they would set out for the comarca. Isaac set to work building Jean a travois for the journey (Improvise test). Rather than hanging the bandit, Vauban decided to turn him over to the locals. I rolled a die of fate for him. On a 1 they would hang him themselves. He got lucky. Instead, an old àvia emerged from the crowd and took the boy by the ear, “I know your mother! She’s my sister’s niece! How dare you stain our family’s honor like this.” She clouted him on the head with a bunch of scallions and dragged him away, with little protest from him.

The group then marched out of the pass but, rather than heading north down the mountain, they turned east along the ridge road to Llivia.

They arrived at the gate of the small town after midnight and knocked on the gate to summon the nightwatchman. Rather than roll a Parley test to gain entry, I told them it was their Spanish that would gain them entry at night. If they spoke perfect Spanish, then there was no issue. If they could not, the watchman would grow suspicious.

Pau and Isaac stepped up to speak (I had Pau help Garrow with the roll, high skill to low skill.) He passed (but only with Pau’s contribution).

The gatekeeper ask them: Church, doctor or house? It was a subtle test. Asking for the church likely meant they were criminals. Asking for the doctor meant they had an emergency with Jean. Asking for the house would imply they were weary travelers.

Garrow went to consult with his friends, but I said that if he spoke French now, it would catch the nightwatchman’s attentions. Rich noted that they did not want to be taken as spies.

Isaac paused a moment and then said, “Casa.” to the old man (who reeked of wine and piss).

Fetching a lantern and mounting it to a pole, the gatekeeper took them into the village and knocked on the door of a stately old house. Despite it being well after midnight, they could hear the sounds of laughter and clatter of a group at a table within. A proprietress in her 30s appeared, greeted them warmly and paid the old man with a few coins. He shambled off but threw a backward glance at the group of travelers.

The hostess—Isabela—seemed pleased to have them. Inviting them in, she kicked some sleeping boys and instructed them to stable their horses. Inside, in the big front room of the house, a small group sat at a table and played at cards. They watched with feigned disinterest as Isabela situated these somnambulant strangers.

The hostess lead them to a fine old room with a bed, rug, table, wash basin, night jug and candles. A window looked down onto a canal, silently sliding past the foundation below. She told them breakfast would be an hour after sun up and bid them goodnight.

Isaac was tempted to go and play at cards with the party downstairs, but decided he had enough trouble for one day. Fabrice situated Jean in the bed and the rest rolled out their blankets on the wooden floor and fell fast asleep.

The next morning, Rich decided Picard needed more rest. Anthony and Garrow felt they needed to go out and explore. However, just after breakfast (a massive omelette prepared by Isabela’s husband), Llivia’s doctor came calling to see after Jean. Doctor Ventura was dressed in the grim courtly fashion of the Spanish, black with a starched white ruff color (though his suit had seen better days). He examined Jean in a professional manner and made small talk with the band. Finding some of their answers a bit odd, he arched an eyebrow and took note, but didn’t seem alarmed.

Before he departed, the doctor, deftly wrote out a bill and then invited them to visit him at his pharmacy should they require anything further. He also instructed them to take Jean regularly to the hot baths here in the village until his health was restored.

Going out to explore, Isaac and Vauban soon found themselves at an ancient hot springs bath. They decided to give it a go, as Ventura noted there would be restorative effects (heal 1 HP and grants +1 to save vs any ongoing P&P).

While at the baths, a middle-aged caballero with a fine salt-and-pepper mustache entered and hung his bandolier on the wall pegs. Sitting at the edge of the warm pool, he chuntered and sighed about his stiff limbs. Vauban and Isaac recognized him as one of the card players from the night previous.

It was up to Isaac to strike up a conversation with him as Vauban spoke no Spanish.

“Late night, eh?” said Issac (or something similar).

“Sometimes I wish my mother never taught me to drink,” he responded with a laugh.

The man introduced himself as Captain Strozzi, in service of the Condé de Llivia (with Rich correcting my Spanish, iirc).

After much friendly conversation—and passing around some wine in the hot bath—they hit up Strozzi for an introduction to the count. I called for a Parley check in this case. Isaac was on his own here, as they were speaking Spanish, and I believe he had to spend a year to pass.

Strozzi said he would put in a word with the young count.

The next day, a servant appeared at the hostel and informed the proprietress that Don Vauban and the recently arrived travelers were invited to dine with the count that evening.

While waiting, they paid Ventura a visit at his pharmacy and settled their bill. This was an ancient, magical place, full of minerals, dried herbs and medicines. They took the opportunity to fill another prescription for Jean’s medication and made some small talk with the doctor.

I was pleased that the players were sensitive enough about their upcoming meeting that they refrained from causing trouble in town.

At sunset, they were conducted by two small page-jesters (little girls disguised as little boys) through the streets and up the hill to the old chateau.

The count, his infirm mother and his younger brother greeted them all cordially at the small castle’s humble cour d’honneur. Dinner was an awkward affair. Vauban sat at one end of the table with their hosts, while Picard and Isaac sat largely alone at the far end of the table. No business was discussed at dinner.

The count was a young man of about Vauban’s age. He displayed little ostentatious wealth and wore the austere Spanish courtly black. A lattice of faint dueling scars traced a story across his cheeks. During dinner he displayed intelligence, curiosity and good manners. When Vauban spoke in French he lead the table in switching effortlessly from Spanish to French and made no remark or indicated any inconvenience.

His younger brother, two years his junior, seemed to have a high-born, haughty manner, but remained mostly silent during dinner.

Mother made stiff, cordial small talk throughout, inquiring especially after their sick, injured friend Jean. He was a gentleman after all. Such injustice this world visited on young gentlemen!

Strozzi did not join them at dinner. but instead observed thoughtfully in the shadow of the servant’s entrance, absent-mindedly plucking olives from the servants’ trays at they passed.

After dinner, the conversation moved to a drawing room. The prince served his best wine by a warm fire and, after a time, they got down to business. They wanted to beg the count’s aid in seeing off Junipero. The count demurred: Junipero’s fortress was in France. To attack him would be an act of war.

And thus we kicked off an excellent Duel of Wits. Initiative order was: the count, Vauban, Strozzi, Isaac and Picard. There was an interesting dynamic as Strozzi held his tongue in the first round, not wanting his patron to find that he sided with the petitioners. Vauban and the count traded flattery and apologies. IIRC, Isaac and Picard were also smart enough not to speak directly to the count.

During the second round, Rich had a flash of inspiration. He realized who Strozzi was—an old Italian Spaniard…—he must have served at Rocroi. Thus Rich had Picard begin flattering Strozzi. The strategy paid off brilliantly. Flattery was paid all around with graceful humility and in the end, the count and the captain were convinced of the righteousness of Vauban’s cause (largely due to a stellar Implore crit from Anthony).

Yearning to go on this adventure but dictated by rank and politics to remain aloof, the young count instead permitted Strozzi to undertake the expedition with these new, worthy friends.

Business settled, the new friends talked on into the night about past battles and future glories.

We ended there!

===

It’s worth noting that 1) I had Llivia and the young count planned as an encounter since the beginning. However, as they entered Llivia, I realized I had overlooked an obvious detail. The count would have some trusted agent who did his bidding in town. He would be proud enough that he would not conduct his own affairs directly. Thus I invented Strozzi on the spot. I generated will for him (4d3) for the DoW, but I didn’t burn him up until after the session (as an L7 soldier/officer).

*I bungled this dish in play, Conflating the soup and bread, I served him tomato soup. I’m correcting the historical record here!

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We had a full compliment this session. Anthony gave the recap and Carol, who had missed the previous session, recovered 3 HP for Fabrice.

We began with a look at Virtues and Flaws. I explained the rules and we discussed.

  • Vauban came away with the Flexible virtue and the Arrogant flaw. I quite like that assessment of his character.
  • Isaac came away with the Cunning virtue.
  • Fabrice with the Compassionate virtue.
  • and Picard with the Brave virtue.

You’ll note that we only assigned one flaw this session. It is not mandatory to assign both V & F at once. And in this case, the virtues came easily, but we were struggling to pin down flaws. So it felt good to be able to table them until a future session. We didn’t have to force anything.

It also gave the players notice of something to work towards. Having a Flaw is a benefit: It grants narrative control and provides a slight cushion against the mortal coil when combined with your Virtue. There’s real incentive to lean into your character and collect a flaw that suits you as soon as possible.

Once we concluded that discussion, I informed them of their first challenge…to attend mass the next morning with the count! They were to attend services at the Church of the Mother of God of the Angels.

Allow me to remind you that both Fabrice and Vauban are both Huguenots. Such an arrangement was quite inimical to them. Of course, Picard and Isaac, being good Catholics, were delighted to be invited to receive the Grace of God before battle.

Sensing a potential crisis, the group requested Strozzi meet with them before mass. He arrived freshly bathed and finely dressed. Vauban hoped the old soldier would be sympathetic to his syncretic plight, since we all pray to the same merciful God on the battlefield.

Strozzi brightened and said it was no matter. The solution was simple: He would ask the priest to baptize Vauban this very morning. Vauban would take the conversion and could attend mass and participate in the transubstantiation of Christ. And, furthermore, in doing so, Vauban would gain the greatest ally on earth: Saint Peter himself, in the form of the Pope in Rome.

Vauban choked. This he had not expected…but on reflection, he realized that he had been naive to assume an old Italian soldier would be anything but reverent to the Catholic hierarchy.

Strozzi continued enthusiastically: After they dealt with Junipero, he and Vauban would travel to Parma to see Strozzi’s wife and then they all would go on a pilgrimage to Rome. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Picard chimed in, “I want to go to Rome.”

Strozzi beamed. It was settled then.

Poor Vauban looked faint. He sputtered that he would attend the mass, but would not be taking the sacraments.

Strozzi frowned and twisted his mustache, but did not say anything further on the matter. The old soldier was experienced enough to know that one’s choice in God did not a good (or bad) soldier make.

Fabrice begged the Captain to remain behind and tend to Jean. Strozzi demurred and suggested instead that Jean should attend Mass and be healed by the light of Christ. The captain would send servants to fetch him and bear him on a litter. Fabrice protested that Jean was in no condition to travel.

I called for a Parley check, and I believe Carol had to spend a year to pass it. Thus Strozzi accepted the proposition, but only if he could send a priest to give to Jean the Holy Unctions. Fabrice nodded mutely, knowing there was no way out of it.

As they proceeded to the dawn mass, Vauban was anxious. He had no intention of violating his beliefs or giving in to these Catholic devils, but to reveal his sentiments would jeopardize his entire mission.

Confession went smoothly, but once it came time for communion, Vauban grew visibly uncomfortable. He resolved to do his best to hide his displeasure…and to hide the fact that he would not consume the wafer!

I called for a Sub Rosa test, a skill with which our haughty lieutenant has no experience. He failed and before I could say anything, Anthony described Vauban accidentally choking on and spitting out the Eucharist. Magical. I ran with it.

I described that the Duena and the count’s younger brother each raised an eyebrow at the outburst, but the Count and Strozzi seemed deep in prayer and did not notice. I made a note that the Duena values piety and X-ed out that trait for Vauban. He can never earn her trust that way. And the younger brother values discretion, and that path is also lost for the lieutenant.

Once mass concluded, Strozzi offered to outfit them for the excursion as best he could. He offered everyone a morion. Everyone but Isaac took one (because it would interfere with his aim on his harquebus).

However, Isaac requested a bandolier for his pistols. Strozzi provided one of his own without question.

Picard asked for his breastplate to be repaired. Strozzi introduced him to the Count’s armorer who said he could patch it for 10 pistoles in just a couple of days. Picard frowned and grumbled. It it was too much gold and too much time.

For his part, Strozzi had gather four freshly scrubbed miquelets armed with matchlocks for the expedition.

With that, they set out!

By mid-afternoon they were within sight of Junipero’s fortress. It was an ancient affair, not a modern star-shaped bastion, nor a medieval castle. It was oblong perhaps, 50 paces on its longest side with two large stone buildings standing in the center. A derelict-looking tower loomed in the corner facing the pass, peeking over the ridge and down to the road below. The wall, perhaps as tall as two men and made of set stone, was pierced by a gate on each facing.

Vauban pulled the cohort back below a ridge and discussed a plan of attack: Pau would take the miquelets around the bowl of the valley to flank the tower, while the rest of the group would assault the gate head on.

We looked at the ambush table—because this was essentially a surprise attack—and saw that the good lieutenant had set up a test for Military Doctrine for which his rating would be -1. Virtues fresh on the mind, Garrow jumped in and had Isaac suggest a different plan—a full frontal assault all as one. He proposed that Vauban’s flexible nature would allow him to hear this suggestion from his soldiers and thus pass the Military Doctrine test.

It was a stretch, but I quite liked the interaction between the two and decided to allow it. And the new plan wasn’t without cost. Isaac was suggesting a full frontal assault rather than something more tactically delicate!

Vauban agreed, and just like that he passed the required Military Doctrine test.*

I sketched a map of the compound on our table-sized grid map and I set out their standees.

They waited until after sundown to attack, so the group marched up in the dark. They could hear laughter and the sleepy sounds of a guitar coming from within the camp. Vauban announced himself and that he had come to commit justice upon Junipero and his band. But should they surrender and submit to his will, he would be merciful.

The camp fell silent. The shutters of one of the windows on the tower flew open and a head poked out. Eh? Isaac took an opportunistic shot at this hapless bandalero with his harquebus and we were off!

Isaac missed. Garrow rerolled and…missed by one. It was a painful decision to leave thaton the table. But Isaac has already logged 6 exertion.

The brigand ducked back inside the tower. It was then that the group noticed the muzzles of small cannons poking through the loops. The metal mouth facing them withdrew into the tower as the bandits there loaded it.

Their five miquelets formed up in two ranks on Isaac. Four would fire and one would act as a loader. The rest of the crew gave a cry and charged the gate. They were 25 paces away.

The mouth of the falconet rolled back into view. Isaac saw this and, rather than reloading, broke into a hasty trot to get clear of the impending rain of death.

Seeing their chance, two miquelets fired at the gun crew (tough shots both). One shot hit the shutters on the loop, sending wood fragments scattering. The other shot went wide. The falconet answered, sending a bag of shot showering onto the tiny regiment of miltiamen.

God must have indeed been smiling upon them. One fell dead on the spot. One was badly injured and the scythe of the Grim Reaper passed over the heads of the other three. A bag of shot from a falconet at close range is not to be taken lightly.

Meanwhile, the storm crew hit the gate. Picard and Strozzi easily took the thing off its hinges (11/12 Break!). They discovered that it wasn’t a true fortress gate, but rather something makeshift. Even so, their quick work bought them valuable time.

Beyond the gate, they saw a beautiful old Roman mansius with a patio and columned portico. Three bandaleros emerged from within, frantically blowing on the coals of their slow matches. They each took a knee to fire on the gatecrashers.

With a cry, the group rushed in to carry the assault home. Pistols and muskets fired at close range! All balls went wide except one. A clever bandit in the tower slid his piece through the loop facing the courtyard and fired down on the unsuspecting Vauban. I rolled a 20! A crit! This could have been the end of Vauban, but Anthony decided to spend a point of exertion to force me to reroll. The second roll was a miss.

Meanwhile, Vauban, Strozzi, Fabrice and Picard converged on one poor bandit and ran him through. They had gained the interior of Junipero’s fortress! but they were stuck in against a pair of bandits in front of them and the gun crew in the tower on their right. The mouth of a cannon leered down on them. Was it loaded? Would this be the end for all of them? And where were Junipero and Ganivet?

Due to the Virtues & Flaws vote, we had run long, so we ended there! We’ll pick up in media belli this Wednesday.

====

*Upon reflection, I realize that there is a major flaw with the rules here. With all the negative modifiers for the ambush, Vauban had no chance to pass that test short of spending a year. So there are a couple of things wrong here: 1) If he had rolled, he would have used the 1/10 rule and we don’t allow years to be spent on 1/10 rolls. I need to adjust that language. 2) Automatically passing tests which you could not hope to achieve normally is ripe for abuse, especially in the gnosis rules. I think there has to be a limit here that you need at least a 1/6 chance of passing in order to be able to invoke a Virtue in your favor. Otherwise, I suspect we’ll see some very sketchy demons running about in the near future.

Also, this was my first use of artillery in game. I quickly saw that I need to write up a separate rules section for some of the considerations there, especially when using artillery on a grid map. Expect that soon!

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Oh wow that was really fun. We just wrapped the assault on Junipero’s fortress. Crazy fun: Artillery, explosions, close-range volleys, chases, and cold-blooded murder.

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Did your new artillery rules make an appearance in this session?

Indeed! I murdered some poor miquelets with them. I think they’ll suffice. :slight_smile: I’ll post them after I do the write up for this session.

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We picked up the battle where we left off. Vauban, Picard, Fabrice, Strozzi and Pau in the courtyard of the old Roman castellum. Isaac lagged behind outside the walls, having just fired his harquebus at the sniper in the tower. Their band of miquelets stood huddled together further back, firing at the tower in a measured pace.

Two bandaleros stood under the portico, muskets discharged against the storm party. Their companion lay dead at their feet.

Leaping to the front, Vauban pressed against these defenders. Strozzi and Picard were with him step for step. Pau and Fabrice broke off and circled to their right, looking for a way into the tower. Isaac contemplated death as he watched the brigands in the tower roll out the falconet for another barrage. He scampered forward, closer to the tower, but safe in the shadow of the wall.

The falconet spat forth a second bag of shot at the miquelets. We used the revised artillery rules for this one. They call for an Artillery save before rolling for damage. Those militiamen didn’t fare so well this time. Two more fell and another ran off, leaving only one grimly clutching his musket in the field of death!

Garrow asked about the procedure for lighting the fuse of a grenade. It required a flame or match to light the fuse, right? He admitted that he had no slow match lit, as his primary weapon was his harquebus. However, he was carrying slow match (previously acquired from the fallen miquelets). I thought it was plausible that he had lit a match in preparation for the battle, so I called for a Soldiering test. He did not pass, so he spent this turn frantically sparking his flint to get his match going.

Picard, Vauban and Strozzi found themselves entangled with these tough mountain brigands. They couldn’t quite force them back. While Fabrice and Pau reached the door at the back of the base of the tower. They prepared to break it down and storm the defenders within.

The bandits in the tower shifted their attention to the battle in the courtyard and prepared to fire the cannon facing in that direction. The muzzle swiveled to face the assaulting party.

Folks were beginning to sweat.

Meanwhile, Picard, Vauban and Strozzi knocked down another bandit and sent the other running (of his own volition).

And then little Isaac, hiding the darkness below the wall, lit the fuse on his grenade and threw it in a gentle arc so that it passed through the gun loop on the front face of the tower. Garrow had to spend a year to get it in there, but that year resulted in (yet another) grenade crit for the young soldier. A muffled thump from within the small gun room told the fate of the crew.

There was a cheer. There was a pause. There were questions.
Was there powder in the gun room of the tower?
Yes. A barrel or more.

Would the powder in the gun room cook off?
Why yes it might.

How would we determine if it would cook off?
It seemed like a perfect use of the Die of Fate.

Acknowledging that the situation was more volatile than a typical DoF roll, I granted the cook off would happen on 1-2, not just a 1.

I picked up a white d6 with green pips that uses cartoonish frog as a 1. I cast it out in front of the group and it landed on Picard’s character sheet. Two green pips showed. A pause. A look of disbelief. A huge cheer.

Then Rich asked what the tower was made of. I told him the base was set stone but the upper portion was wood. He grimaced. He read my mind.

The tower went up in a column of fire, smoke and splinters. “All those wooden splinters,” groaned Rich.

“Pau and Fabrice are at the door!” shouted Garrow and Anthony.

I ruled that characters within a certain range of the tower would take damage from the blast. 1 square = 1d8, 2 squares = 1d6, 3 squares = 1d4 and 4 squares would be 1d2. Each would be allowed an artillery save which would step down the die type by one level (or to zero for 1d2).

Picard and Vauban each took four points of damage. The fleeing bandit saved and got away unscathed. Strozzi was out of range—the explosion only blew off his hat.

Picard checked to see if it was a fancy hat. It was.

Pau and Fabrice both failed their artillery saves and took 1d8 points of damage. Fortunately, I rolled 2 points for each of them. In a way, it made sense that they were under the blast and protected by the stone wall. They were only hit by the door bursting open. I did require S-F tests from them, though, to account for the very surprising turn of events.

In the field behind them, illuminated by the explosion, the lone miquelet cheered and shouted, “Hah, bastards! I got you!”

Losing no time, Vauban and company pressed under the portico to the entrance of the mansio. Within, they saw a wide frontroom used for storage and to stable a few horses. Beyond them, a line of slow matches smoldered in the darkness. The bandits within had set up a defensive line.

At the explosion, the horses reared and bolted. Once they cleared, Vauban and Strozzi stepped out, drew pistols and sighted them at the bandits. Picard rushed forward with his rapier. From the shadows within a familiar voice gave the order to fire! The stuttering lightning of the muzzle flashes illuminated the battered face of their enemy, Claris! He had survived his wounds and crawled back to the fortress in the days before the raid.

In the exchange, Vauban received a ball from a musket that likely would have killed him, but Anthony resolutely decided to spend a year to force a reroll, causing me to miss.

Picard and Strozzi knocked down their opponents each.

And in an extremely unlikely convergence of events, Isaac rounded the corner into the courtyard at a trot. After tossing that grenade, he’d drawn one of his pistols and chased after his lieutenant. No rest for the wicked. He heard Claris’s voice from within the mansio. In the flickering flare light of the burning tower, he could make out his enemy’s darkened form.

It was a trick of the map—of line-of-sight and range rules. Garrow wanted to take the shot. It was medium range for the pistol. I told him it would be a tough shot. Vauban and Picard were partially shielding Claris. He would need a 19. If he missed but rolled in the shot window, he’d hit one of them. Rich grew agitated at the thought. He warned Garrow, “My ghost will haunt you!”

Garrow was not to be dissuaded. He gleefully rolled for the shot.

  1. +2 for Accuracy. A fucking crit. We shook our heads in disbelief at his luck.

Poor Claris, alas we hardly knew thee. The old bandit went down in heap, struck firmly by the ball of lead.

Meanwhile, outside the house, Pau and Fabrice stalked down the alley between the house and wall, looking for a way to flank the defenders. Two bandaleros hiding by the well saw them silhouetted by the burning tower. One of them shot Pau, but only winged him. Seeing his prey, Pau hunched and jogged forward.

Inside, chaos broke out as the remaining bandits fled pell mell through the kitchen. Picard and Vauban pursued while Strozzi investigated another hallway. There was a flash and a shot from a rifle! Laying in ambush at the far end of the hallway, Junipero tried to end the old Italian, but only winged him.

Unphased, the tough Captain gave a cry, “Here he is!”

Outside at the well, Pau showed what nearly a decade of experience as an insurrectionist had earned him. He dashed forward and murdered the bandalero who shot him—a quadruple crit. 20 points of damage from his sickle.

In the house, Strozzi charged after Junipero’s fleeing form, but the wily bandit and his lady both slipped out of windows in the back of the house and made a dash for the compound’s wall.

Isaac had paused to reload his harquebus when he heard Strozzi’s shout. Dashing around the corner, he saw two shadowy forms moving toward the wall. He pulled up and shouldered his gun, taking aim. It was a tough shot. Pulling the trigger, the flint fell, pan ignited and ball flew…but it went wide of the mark.

In an uncharacteristic moment, Garrow decided not to spend a year and to let the failure stand (he’s carrying 6 exertion already!). The figures scampered up and over the wall. Isaac tried to follow, but failed his Traverse check. The battle was over.

Vauban’s little band had won. They had accomplished their mission to clear this path for the prince.

In the aftermath, they found a locked strongbox in Junipero’s room. Picard remarked, “It doesn’t feel worth it. There’s no one left to protest.”

Vauban offered to protest, but it just wasn’t the same as having the owners plead and shout.

Breaking open the box they found sacks of gold and silver coins, as well as a sheaf of papers written in a language none could recognize. The haul was 3d6 Wealth and Anthony rolled a 10 for it. He and Strozzi each took three points and Picard, Isaac and Fabrice took 2 (iirc).

Then Vauban ordered the surviving bandits to serve them all dinner which he hosted and toasted his companions.

After dinner, as Fabrice and the bandaleros were counting the dead and wounded, Strozzi went to the soldiers and pressed a few coins into each of their hands, thanking them warmly for their work on this lovely evening excursion.

The captain gave them each a point of wealth, but more important, his gratitude locked in their reputation boosts for this engagement. Garrow and Rich were delighted.

Picard repeatedly informed anyone near him, “Strozzi’s a good guy. He’s a good guy. Captain’s a good guy.”

Lt Vauban was a bit shamed. As a gentleman mired in unfortunate circumstances, he had no real wealth. But not to be outdone by the Italian, he also thanked his comrades with silver coins and praise. Picard appreciated it, but Isaac (who had made a small fortune during his transatlantic journey) thought the lieutenant a bit cheap.

We wrapped there. Super fun session and a great place to put the story on pause while we reassess the playtest. Rich noted that if they eat their Mortal Coil here at this juncture, they might recover in time for Lens. Whereas if they tally it up in Paris, they’re sure to miss the battle. So that is to be decided.

Also left unfinished: Hors de Combat for the three miquelets and 10 wounded bandaleros.

And Fabrice, Isaac and Picard all have flaws coming to them. My vote for Isaac would be Reckless and for Picard Dull. Carol, sadly, had to miss last session with the flu, so I’d hold off on Fabrice.

Hope this extended write up is helpful to y’all when thinking about the game. Let me know if you have any questions.

-Luke

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As promised, my ridiculous digression into early modern artillery (plus a bonus alternate armor system)..

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