Friday, January 10, 2020

Monster Blood Tattoo RPG - The Peltryman's Behest: Prologue

I’ve begun another RPG campaign using Frostgrave/Ghost Archipelago as the base rules. This one is based on the Monster Blood Tattoo series by Australian author, D.M. Cornish. There’s a trilogy, Foundling, Lamplighter, and Factotum.  There's also a forth book of unrelated novellas, Tales from the Half Continent. It’s an incredibly imaginative fantasy world and Cornish has provided a huge amount of details - there are large glossaries in the back of each book of the trilogy.

Here's a summary of the first session:

The Peltryman's Behest

Prologue: At the Limits of the Great Grass Sea

The world is Harthe Alle.  
Upon this world is the great Half-Continent, Sundergird.
It is a world of Men. The greatest power upon Sundegird is the tripartite Empire of the Haackobins, a sprawling collection of quarreling city-states bound to the Empire only by fear of their enemies.

For this also a world of Monsters.
Humanity has been engaged in an struggle against “monsters,” sentient creatures who inhabit the wilderness between the fortified realms of man. It is an eternal struggle; the worst thing for a human is to be a sedorner, someone who demonstrates the least sympathy for the monsters.

In this world, there is no sorcery or magic but Providence has provided humanity with Reason with which they have fashioned themselves into weapons against the monsters.  Many have learned the ways of the skold, the mixing of strange chemicals that have powerful effects with which to fight the monsters.  Others undergo surgical body modification to give them special powers, such as telekinesis or the ability to manipulate electricity or the ability to sense things beyond normal human limits. Humanity's tools are a blend of mechanical and biological machinery. Many machines are driven by "gastrines," living organisms which produce the energy required for the machine functioning. There are also devices called sthenicons, wooden boxes worn on the face containing biological organisms that enhance human senses but have the risk of embedding themselves into the wearer's face. It is sometimes difficult to be sure which is more horrible, the monsters or what men can become in the battle against the monsters.  And against each other.  

For, although the Empire spends vast resources to wrest lands away from the sway of the monsters, it is often far easier to take lands already settled by other human powers.  

Thus, in the Year of the Empire, 1594, the Emperor decreed that a new campaign would be launched against the landgraves of Stanislaus and Wenceslaus. 

"This was an age-old struggle with the 'sedorner kings' that lived just beyond the grasp of the Haacobin Dynasty, accused of traffic with the monsters and worthy of annihilation.  Centuries had gone and still these realms had refused to be subdued." D.M. Cornish, Lamplighter.

This campaign was to be different, the Empire's finest soldier, Marshal Aubergon, had formulated a plan that would pry open the sedorner kingdoms to the West.  The splendid Archduke of Brandenbrass, the splendid ruler of the largest city in the Soutlands, would lead the main army directly west along the traditional invasion route.  The Marshal, with a picked column of elite troops would skirt the southern edges of the Grassmere, the great Grass Sea and surprise the Lausids from what was presumed to be their undefended North.

The Grassmere was a great rolling steppe, controlled by no state, by no man, the deepest lands of the incolid, the monsters thrown up by a harsh Nature.  The whole land was imbued with threwd, the sensation that all the lands about one are sentient and watching, resentful of the intrusion.  In its worst form, threwd can cause madness and the Grassmere is a most threwdish place.

The Marshal was unconcerned, he had the finest troops of the Empire under his command. Troops from 

Boschenburg, and
Etaine. All supported by the best of the Imperial Guard, 
 And the colorful Lesquin mercenaries, bold to the point of rashness. 

The best of the federmen militias had been selected to round out the column's numbers.

Most importantly, having heard rumors that monster sometimes assisted Lausid armies, he enlisted a company of teratologists, monster-hunters, to act as the spearhead of his fearsome thrust.  Captain Vanderlinden's Companions of the Azure Aurang's mere presence would provide stiffening for the march through the threwdish lands.

Among the ranks of the Companions was Prince Avignon Kestrelle, an impoverished member of an Old Blood family of Etaine, whose nobility predated the Empire. Prince Avignon was a fulgar, a manipulator of lightning and electricity as well as an accomplished pistoleer.

Joining him was Lord Danube Figge of the Fayelillian Figges, a family not as old as the Kestrelles but with far more wealth and power.  Unfortunately Lord Danube had been born as the 12th child and so made his way as a Leer, having had his eyes modified by fearsome chemical treatments to aid in seeing what others could not.  Coupled with a preternatural stealth, he was the perfect scout.
Rounding out the Gentleman Adventurers of the Companions, was Ser Firenze Ottimo, a knight from the sunny northern province of Beneventium.  Like many of the nobles of those lands, he was sabrine adept, using his swords in a graceful dance of destruction.
There were commoners among the Companions, of course. The most valuable of these were skolds, those who used strong potives against the monsters. There was the retiring dispenserist, Lorent, who rarely spoke of his origins but was adept with the arts of healing but also reluctantly capable of bringing death to any that threatened his charges.  There was also Fransalir Thorson, from the Skyldic lands beyond the eastern seas of the Empire, raised in the folk traditions of the rhubezhal, from which all the abilities of the skold derived.  Having studied long in the Gott Empire's great university at Worms, he was also a habilist, expert in the modern techniques of creating machines.  Fransalir also claimed descent from the great Jarls of the Skylds, although no one in the Companions put much store in the claim, even if it were true. 

The majority of the companions were peltrymen, woodsmen of the most excellent calibre and skill, lead by Ambuscadier Sergeant Valentine Portent, a redoubtable and phlegmatic specimen of his vocation.

Marshal Aubergon had estimated that his column would take only two weeks to cross the small portion of the Grassmere he intended.  The Archduke would  launch his distracting attack at that time and it was thought that the Marshal's column would slip into the Lausid lands with barely a shot fired.

When the column entered the Grassmere, they were immediately assailed by the threwd.  After the third day, the men stopped singing.  

At the end of the first week, the horse of the equiteers and the wagon train were kept moving with the greatest of difficulty.  

At the end of the second week, the column was no where near the Lausid lands and it was realized that they were having difficulty in calculating the distance they traveled. Some of the men began to desert and those sent to capture them did not return. Few deserted after that.

At the end of the third week, the horses began to die. After this, most of the heavy wagons had to be abandoned.  Soon thereafter, the cannons had to be spiked and left behind. Several men had to be restrained due to madness.  Only wayfood was left to eat and even that began to spoil.

Finally, at the end of the fourth week, when all hope had gone, they came upon the River Vab, which was believed to mark the boundary of the Lausid kingdom.  Reaching its grass bound banks at sunset, the Marshal ordered the column into camp.  The next morning the banks of the Vab were lined with a thick forest which had not been there the night before.  Beneath the overcast skies, with mist rising among the trees, the sight of an ancient forest that had suddenly appeared chilled the hearts of the entire army.  The Marshal ordered the Azure Aurangs to scout the woods and find a crossing of the river.

Upon entering the woods, a loud hooting began, as if coming from some great owl. It soon quieted and they heard a horse whinny.  It appeared to be  normal horse, in the caparisons of Lausid rider.  They heard the sound of a running stream and discovered a fat Lausid knight relieving himself against a rock.

Lord Danube was able to sneak up upon him.  A hurled knife into the fat man's belly eliminated any desire to resist.  The rider, one Abdank Skarbek, surrendered.  He seemed almost sorrowful that the Companions would be destroyed soon, a Lausid army was nearby.  He mentioned that the Duke of Owls had agreed to aid his nation in its defense. Skarbek was sent back to the camp under along together with a warning of the approach of the enemy.  The Companions advanced further into the woods.

They encounter a huge monster in the shape of a walking owl, the creature's mitt open and outreached. Danube stabbed the hand. Although blood dripped from the creature, it seemed unaffected and simple shook its head before fading back into the woods.

Soon a vast host of monster, seeming to be animated trees or bark covered creatures began approaching from among the trees. The companions used their unique skills to strike down the first wave.

Ser Firenze managed to clear a ford of the river single-handedly, his blades flashing as he danced about the lumbering tree-men.

To their left, another horde of the monsters advanced against the peltryman.  Most broke and fled, leaving only the Captain and Portent to face them.  

Seeing the Captain being held by two of the tree-men, Fransalir hurled some Bitterbright against them.  The two fled in different directions.  Unfortunately, they did not release the Captain, whose screams echoed through the woods as he was pulled apart.  The sound of Sergeant Portent's mighty punt gun told Fransalir that at least the peltryman was putting up a fearsome resistance.
Loud trumpets were sounding in the fields beyond the woods and the Lausid army emerged from the mist in all directions.

The army stood firm even though it's only heavy weapons were two tormentums and the casts of the regimental skolds.
The ground rumbled under the hoofbeats of the Lausid horsemen and the booming trod of the ettins, great giant monsters.  The shock of seeing humans in so close an alliance with the monster caused the Marshal's heart to quaver.
The two small equiteer squadrons, for whom that last of the horses had been reserved, showed incredible courage and drove off the elite winged riders of the Lausids.
The Imperials proved less successful against the ettins.
Seeing the army surrounded, the wavering Marshal order the entire army to push toward the river in hope of crossing into the assumed safety of the woods.

A confused, swirling melee commenced as the plunging cavalry rode about the flanks of the foremost regiments only to be struck by fire from those Imperial pediteers who were following.

The Companions emerged from the woods, hoping to single the location of ford to the splintering army.  Prince Avi was confronted by a large ettin.  The fulgar called down a bolt of lightening from the cloud-bedecked skies that blasted the huge giant.
Suddenly, a large owl appeared overheard.  As it spread its wings, it appeared to transform into the shape of a great bird of prey.  Lightening cracked around it outspread wings.  The Companions saw more of the tree-men rushing forward through the woods.

The threwd exuded from the creature reached every corner of the battlefield.  The federmen militia that had been surprisingly successful in holding off attacks on the camp finally broke and were destroyed. The Lausids and their ettin allies charged into the rear of the Imperial army.

Out on the grass, the Marshal and the remnants of his army desperately struggled to make it to the woods, only to see the Companions warning them of the horde of tree-men blocking their way.

The will of the army broke. The Marshal rallied a small group of lesquin troubardiers who made a heroic but brief last stand.

The Companions realized that the only hope they had was to make it down the river to less threwdish lands.  They gathered the broken bodies of the tree-men into a raft and began floating slowly down the river.  

Several tree-men blocked their way.  Portent blasted them with well-aimed shots from his punt gun and doglock pistols.

As they drifted slowly away from the battlefield, a large dark figure appeared on the river bank, the Duke of Owls.  Portent drew a small wooden disk from his tunic and let down into the water, pushing it to the Owl Duke, making soft hooting sounds all the while. The Owl Duke's head twisted slightly in confusion but then it returned the call and waived its hand, indicating that they were given free passage down the river.

As they passed beyond the strange woods, Lord Danny asked the peltryman how he was able to win their freedom.

"I've lived for many years in the deep woods, and things there are not as you suppose as you sit in manor house, my lord." 

Although Danny wished to inquire further, it was clear the peltryman would say no more.


Unknown said...

Brilliant game and report. We discovered the MBT series of books, about 10 years ago, from Nic Robson of Eureka Miniatures in Australia. Nic wanted to produce a set of MBT minis and contacted D.M. Cornish about granting rights for the project. Unfortunately, Mr. Cornish sold the rights to The Henson Company and they are a bit too big of a player to try and compete with. My friend, Brian Vizek, and I have run several MBT games at Little Wars in Chicago in 2017 and 2018.

Brian and I were using Pikeman's Lament rules for the games, but we have decided that we want to have a set of rules that allows more personality to be added to the games and are searching for that now. As you already know, a great deal of enjoyment is found just trying to find or convert the minis for the game.

You may already know this, but there is a fourth MBT book by D.M. Cornish called "Tales from the Half-Continent". It can be difficult to find and we had to send off to Australia for it.

It's fun to find that Brian and I are not the only people in the hobby taken by the writing and artwork of Mr. Cornish.


Tony said...

Thank you for the post and images. I was not aware of this series of books and although I have 'other' projects on the go. I will look out for this author.