A Bad Hand

(Another long post. Skip to the bottom for this week's battlegames, if you hate stories. Stay tuned to this list(and other sources) for clues for games in weeks to come. If you like talking in-character and all that good stuff, feel free to do your thing as the story reveals itself. Story and games written and produced by The Expedition)

As the cold winter draws to its end, our noble Duchy saw a significant boon for its local economy. As pockets are lined with coins, once again people have begun to charter adventuring parties for the purposes of going out into the countryside and returning with valuables looted from forgotten dungeons, a tradition long-enduring in Pegasus Valley. Often these adventures are filled with magic, and mystery, sometimes monsters, perhaps maidens even.

It was on such an expedition as this that last week, one young mage by the name of Talifer stumbled across a sword during a scuffle over minor loot. This was no ordinary sword, for it was forged of magic, powered by some unknown force. It possesses the power to heal one's allies- an ability of which Talifer, and many others who had the sword temporarily in the conflict, made great use of after its discovery.

That night, whilst the adventurers enjoyed themselves in the tavern, discussing the day's trophies, if you had looked out into the streets, you would have perhaps noticed a troupe of men in cloaks of dark wine. The men silently paced down the street, to the abandoned chapel, where they stepped over the boundaries flagged off by tape signaling the condemnation of the building, and ventured inside, for a dark and mysterious meeting.

For you see, several weeks ago, in the southern lands of Dragonspine Proper, King Randall the Mad and his forces had brought forward an astounding victory against the vile Queen of Hearts and her army of animated card soldiers, scattering these warriors to the four winds. Many of these fighters came to settle in the North, where they struck a dark and powerful bargain with a force forgotten for many years.

Back in the chapel in the trading village of Pegasus Valley Proper, a robed figure bearing a missing left hand steps forward to a table at which are seated mysterious shadowy persons. These things, which walk like men, but are flat like paper, each wear heart symbols on their chests- a sign of allegiance to some faction misplaced. The figure steps forward, and from beneath his hood speaks aloud. "Making use of the resources you have provided us, we have begun our rituals once more. Now, to honor our part of the bargain, we will help you defend that which you have stolen from the mighty crown of Dragonspine. We will hold the creature in our facilities, and defend it with our magic. Fear not, for none have wandered toward our fortress to the North in years, and I think it unlikely that any will guess at our activities even if a scout were to casually discover us."

The papery mongrels said nothing, but if you listened carefully, there could be heard from a distance a faint sound, like the shuffling of cards before a game of Three Dragon Ante. The night continued on, with naught a disturbance further until the morning.

The next day, a veteran scout by the name of Marcil, was out on his morning patrol. After many weeks scouting out the same trails, however, he had become bored, and today he sought to rectify that with some mischief. Thinking himself a clever trickster, he snuck up behind a stallion drinking from the river, and gave it a smack so that it would ride away and its master would not find it there when he returned for it. Unfortunately, when the horse was startled, Marcil's clothes were caught upon the saddle, and he was dragged away along the forested path.

After what felt like an hour of being pulled up the riverside by that horse, he was shaken free and fell to the ground. In considerable pain, he looked at his surroundings, only to see a dark building through a clearing in the trees. Marcil brought himself upon a nearby hilltop to gain a better view of the structure. It had tall, impressive walls, with an inner keep within the exterior walls. Gazing upon the compound, he was shocked to see a billow of smoke pouring consistently out of one of the buildings in the inner chamber. He thought to himself, "How does a stone castle catch fire? I must alert the townspeople at once!" and ran back into the village to the South.

---If you were skipping to the battlegame part, here are the rules you were looking for---

Game One: The Dragon
Setup: Among the trees is some kind of fortress, marked out on the ground with imaginary lines(as is our standard) that extend infinitely up, because that's the best way to do it. The fortress has a series of open doorways, but also doors which open and close and may be locked. To open a locked door(or chest!), you need the key of the same color as the lock. Anybody who tries to open the lock without the key fails, as only a true thief could have the skill necessary to pick locks. Anyway, if you have the key, you rip apart the flagging tape holding the lock in place, the throw the lock to the side and the door is open. Simple, right? The keys will be in a combination of places, and may be inside chests, out in the open, or held by guards. Non-humanoid monsters can hold the keys, but don't know how to use them on locks.

Inside the outer walls is a keep, which has multiple rooms. Inside the most-secure room is caged a mighty black dragon, kidnapped from the crown lands. The interior rooms are guarded by animated cards bearing two red hearts on their torsos. The card guards are mighty, magically-imbued warriors, and are very difficult to defeat in combat(natural armor). Additionally, if you slay a card, they will replace it quickly from their ranks, so any gap in the patrol line will close itself quickly. Fortunately, the cards are a bit dim-witted, and a careful adventurer can simply sneak around behind them, if they are quiet. If you are obviously "sneaking", there is a good chance that the cards will not notice you, meaning they won't turn around and slaughter you while on their patrol. The cards move along a pre-determined path unless they notice a disturbance. Also, if you are really super careful, you can probably pick-pocket the cards, meaning you can snatch anything hanging loosely from their belts.

There will be at least one magical sword in this game, and the Sword of Life from last week will be usable again. Depending on how many players we have, there may also be cultists running around on the defending team.

Anyway, the objective is to infiltrate the building, break the dragon free, and escape with it. I will send the infiltrating team in in waves, so as not to overwhelm the defenses. I will need at least one reeve volunteer(mostly for minor things like counting out time and possibly arbitrating some game effect) if possible, and at least five volunteers to play monsters.

Game Two: The Throne
Setup: You follow some cards to an encampment of theirs, which is a separate but similar building(because I am lazy). Inside their structure is a throne, where their leader is to sit. There are two(at least) player teams, in addition to an NPC team of cards. Inside the structure is a large cache of loot, which both teams want to capture for themselves and return to town with. The cards will defend their base and loot. However, any person who sits on the throne within the building can issue simple(five words or fewer) commands to the cards, which they will follow. While somebody is on the throne, the cards will be within 50' of the throne. The throne can be moved around, but if it leaves the fort then it stops functioning and the cards will try to kill the person who has it.

Whenever any team brings all of the loot to their base(including the throne), the game ends, and they win. A given person can only hold one piece of loot at a time.

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Any questions?

-Lurker

^^^
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