DM Notes 1.13 (Blackmoor Supplement)
From D&D Wiki
This scenario sees Hairlip try to take his revenge at the head of an army only to discover that he has been played by the Infernal Court of Maglubiyet - their goal is to use the small force at Hairlip’s command to capture the returning herds of cattle as they descend from summer pasture in the three valleys and infect them with cackle fever. Then they wait for Blackmoor to mobilise its armies and whilst they are engaged use the Pirate King Hardarse to sack Bowcaster.
First the army needs to assemble - at Steerford and capture the cattle station. From there they can entrench and wait for the herds to descend into the branding pens behind them. From here they will get to work infecting the cattle and holding the base. Finally they will wait for an army to come.
Hairlip has been promised that the Mollies will come to them and Sylvanus has been working to that end, however their departure to Whitestair means that they have missed this. Now, as they explore the area about Steerford they might hear tales of the Mollies and their heroics in putting down the goblins in the past. As word starts to spread of the goblin army, people will start to question how much of this is at their door.
Astrud spoke of the Copperdrift Hills which are just north of Eastwoodshire which is one of the Earldoms. The seven Inner Shires are in fact Duchies and each of those is held by one of the Dukes of Blackmoor (one of whom is Bowcaster) the Outer Shires are held by the Earls of Blackmoor, there are other dominions beyond the shires - I'll leave them undefined for the moment. The King holds several estates however and all of the Shires pay taxes to the crown and this is principally where he raises income.
King Rositan holds no army himself (although the Shadow Guard is fiercely loyal to the crown and no doubt secretly supported by the royal estates) instead the crown relies on each of the shires to maintain a force. Politics plays a critical role in the stability of the nation - the King cannot hold his position by force and so he tries to maintain a scrupulously even handed position with all in court - the Inner Shires however are always first amongst equals and this creates a considerable friction between Dukes and Earls.
The Copperdrift Hills fall outside of any domain and so are answerable to the Crown - this means in theory that the King must command a subject to defend the borders, naturally this would be the Duke of Eastwood as the closest domain but he is unlikely to respond rapidly unless there is some other imperative.
If the party do nothing then this happens: Eastwood will eventually respond with a group of about fifty horsemen under a couple of knights from his household. They are ill suited to the task and will be defeated out of hand. This will be followed by a second force of two hundred men at arms, they will attempt to besiege the fort but, without experience they will be defeated by a night time counter attack. With two victories Hairlip will draw another eight hundred goblins to his banner and range out to raid the countryside forcing the King to commit a force of five thousand to face them. After the battle Admiral Crook will take Bowcaster, and with time to act he will strip it over several days taking over eighty vessels filled with booty and slaves.
Steerford is a seasonal cattle ranch in the foothills of the Copperdrift Hills. In the early summer months it has a small population of cowherds smiths and early season cattle merchants, but as the evenings get shorter more arrive in anticipation of the herds descending at the beginning of autumn. The nearest permanent settlement is Bootcombe Wick which is a day’s travel to the south where land is a little more settled. At the moment there is disquiet about missing messengers and a late shipment but no knowledge of what is happening there.
Resting for a night in The Barleymow the party will overhear speculation about a missing messenger and a late delivery of steel from Steerford - if they reveal anything of who they are then they might be recognised as the Molly’s from a tale retold by a passing tinker last month - Sylvanus stories seem to have real legs and the party will be asked to recount what happened.
At Steerford, the party will need to take precautions - the road is watched by a small group of Hagfart’s Orc scout mercenaries. They will almost certainly not attack unless they are spotted and unable to flee or there is a genuine chance to strike down someone left alone.
The Orc’s are professionals, if they can see there is no chance then they will ask for quarter and will tell what they know:
- Hagfart was paid for three months work and travel over a month ago.
- They have headed for this station and dug in and have had no further orders.
- The goblins have put up lots of defensive earthworks.
- There are three other groups - all goblins - the Lightfoots, the Dark Disciples and the Barbarians.
- A group of foreigners came to the camp last night, there were six of them and a war council was called.
That is all that these orcs know.
The group of foreigners were Slaad messengers, they are pirates making sure that the plan is understood. They will leave extremely early the next morning and if the party can get to them then they might discover that there is more to this than first appearances. The Green slaad look like a human, though his mode of dress along with his hirelings is out of place - all of them look a little piratical.
If caught the pirates will tell what they know (though not until the slaad is dead):
- They are crew of a pirate ship named The Comet and the slaad was their first mate.
- The were volunteered for this mission which was to deliver a message to the goblin.
- There are rumours that the message came not from their captain but from Admiral Crook
- Admiral Crook leads the fleet of about a dozen ships to which The Comet is loosely affiliated.
- The Comet is anchored in a hidden mooring on The King’s Road - waiting for their return in a week.
If the party choose to hunt for The Comet, the pirates can be bargained with to either betray their kind or to introduce them to their captain. They will be turning their back on Hairlip but discovering a deeper secret. However they might choose to dig deeper first.
Hairlip has traded away the slippers to hire the services of Hagfart, a corpulent Ogre who commands a significant force of mercenary orcs - the Ogre has promised three months for the slippers which it wears all of the time. There are forty orcs under his command along with three eye of Gruumsh. With the mercenaries to back up his claim of support from Maglubiyet Hairlip has summoned three other goblin warrior tribes:
The Lightfoot tribe was first to answer the summons bringing with them a dozen giant badgers with which they have been able to make short work of the earthwork defenses. There are sixty of them, and they are specialist archers - they have the additional ability Volley fire which gives them advantage to hit within 30’ provided that there is another lightfoot using the same action on the target.
The Dark Disciples are a group of insane goblins carrying their god around on a covered palanquin - their gos is a roper that has managed to convince the goblins to carry him everywhere and bring him food. The goblins have learnt a new action to take advantage of their god’s ability - Butcher: if they hit a restrained creature their attack becomes a critical.
Finally the Barbarian’s are a loose knit group of forty tribeless goblins that have fallen under Hairlip’s leadership. Hairlip has taken several levels as a cleric since the last time the player’s met him and is consequently much more dangerous. He also has a boon that permits him to summon a Barbed devil to do his bidding once per day.
The daily routine is for the goblins to send stone collecting parties out to collect reinforcing stone for the earthworks, ditch digging groups out to continue working on the defences and for the Orc’s to mount a very professional watch. It is clear watching them work that they are going to make the position considerably more defensible given time.
On the hills behind them there is already a significant herd of stray cows building up behind the many fences and stone walls that are in place to manage the normal business of dealing with the huge seasonal herds as they return to the lowland pastures.
If the party choose to go to the Comet then any pirates they take with them will make at least one attempt to escape and get word to their Captain. They also have a set of signal lanterns which provide a code to indicate that there is a problem - two red lanterns set some distance apart in the darkness signal to send a longboat but if the lanterns are not left on and brought together then the message is that there is betrayal afoot.
The crew of The Comet number thirty pirates along with a Gray Slaad captain and bandit captain marine leader. If they can be defeated then in the captain’s cabin, along with a significant amount of booty (Level 5) there are plans which detail how a fleet of forty ships under Admiral Crook will go about attacking Bowcaster in two months time.
Ling has headed south with a letter and instructions to raise the alarm but his journey has been frustrated by good deeds and ill fortune. Then last night he was visited by a kami, in the form of a great grey wolf
"Spirit walker, Heaven and Hell are locked in struggle, the efforts of one deny the other but there is no clear winner. Here on their battlefield life goes on and before tomorrow's sun sets, your friends will place themselves into the lion's mouth."
Ling runs with the wolf who is named Draug Ithil Minyon which means first born of the moon and he is a powerful being. His motives for helping are hidden but by midday the cleric arrives on the far side of the lake from the battle.
Between two great scree slopes a terraced and fenced hill has been built to guide the great herds of cattle down from the summer grazing in the higher valleys to the lakeside. Here the town of Steerford exists as a seasonal settlement engaged in branding, castrating, culling and all of the usual business of cattle management.
Now it is a scene of carnage, the small army has converted the settlement into a fortification sealing of the route for the cattle, however it seems that the herd has been stampeded down the hill and into the fort where a great many of them lie dead and dying. Some of them have crashed through the fortifications and on through gates, now spilling out onto the lakeside. Others have broken out in the other direction around the lake away from the settlement and now flounder in a treacherous marsh.
Within the settlement itself three heroes have struck into the heart of the army aiming for a coup de main but even their awesome abilities have been unable to overcome the sheer numbers of enemies. They have scrambled for cover from the volleys of goblin arrows in a blacksmiths workshop - but outside the goblins take careful aim whilst reinforcement orders are shouted to the orcs. It is clear that the enemy now realise that there is no threat outside the walls, only within.
The situation is dire - flying away from the goblin archers would require a lot of good fortune, they look well organised and well ordered - they will probably concentrate fire on the unarmoured targets and that means Clarys may well fail her concentration. If you fall amongst the cows then you are very likely to take a large amount of damage (it will be a DEX save DC12 at disadvantage each round to take half of 4d6 damage). Also movement across the ground is halved.
Heart of the Storm
With Hairlip defeated and a great many of the Barbarians either killed by the stampeding cattle or engaged in trying to contain them, Hagfart starts to issue orders. The Mollies are trapped in a disused smithy and he starts by getting out of sight of it and recovering from some of his wounds. The Lightfoot archers array themselves in volley formation instructed to take any clear shot whilst their sappers are sent around the rear of the building with their dire badgers.
When the badgers come through the back wall they will be followed by two dozen of his orcs and the goblin archers will begin a withering volley fire.
Hagfart will entertain a surrender and a ransom if there is evidence that there is money to be made. He will first make sure that the enemy is bound and gagged before he even comes before them, speaking through a half orc negotiator named Brunish if there are deals to be made. Surrendered captives will be stripped of everything they carry and are unlikely to see it again.
News of the army has reached the lord nominally responsible for these lands and he has been smart enough to realise that there will be severe economic consequences spilling out from this action. He has also been fortunate that he had four other local knights close and hand they and forty mounted men at arms will arrive into this scene brimming with confidence.
It is likely that their inexperience and confidence would have lead them to a fatal underestimation of the strength of the defences however the overspill of cattle gives a very clear picture of how treacherous the ground would be for cavalry and the player’s presence has forced the army to tip it’s hand. Now Sir Clarion is easily persuaded to assess the danger a little more carefully and make a better judgement.
The player’s direct intervention has stopped a massacre and will lead to a more measured and prompt response from the Duke of Eastwoodshire which will be enough to defeat the goblins before they can be sufficiently reinforced. As a consequence, rather than drawing the armies of Caister into the heartland the victory will render the other Lords of the land jealous of the prestige and eager to prove themselves. Consequently when Admiral Crook lands his pirate fleet in Bowcaster there will be a very rapid and forceful response.
The Sack of Bowcaster
Possibly the players will have received some credit for their actions in Steerford, or maybe they met their graves there. Regardless as part of Molly’s plans to establish Princess Danae she needs to send a gift to Bowcaster which if he accepts will be the first step - his recognition that she is Danae Seven Roads. This means a trip into the Lion’s Den which will be the first opportunity to meet Shevlin again.
If she is spoken with Shevlin will tell them that she is loyal to the House of Bowcaster - stressing the word House. A small amount of research will reveal that she owed her loyalty to the current Duke’s father not to the duke himself.
Whilst at Bowcaster the Festival of the Dead, traditionally a autumn festival similar to Halloween. Amidst the celebration and horseplay the pirate fleet arrive along with a marine force and take the Northernmost of the outer chain towers. With the tower taken the fleet can enter with the tide. Next they head to the gate bridge and destroy the centermost part of it, isolating the northern docks from the castle and garrison in the south. Finally, the receding tide will capsize the bigger ships however merchant vessels are taken from their cradles on the north shore allowing eight of the bigger ships to remain in harbour whilst the prizes are scuttled on the south side of the river.
The players may take a hand in slowing or stymying any of these plans or none. The pirate had hoped to hold the northern docks for several days whilst they looted everything that there was to have. However, with the appetite for glory awakened in the lords of the country they will be repelled within a few days.