Song of Blades & Heroes Campaign, Session 6 – Exploring the Iron Fortress
Last week we gathered in my basement for what will probably be the penultimate session of our Song of Blades & Heroes campaign. Having scouted a deserted village near the Iron Fortress in a previous session, Karl and Mike sent their warbands into the grim, lightless depths below the ruined castle.
In game terms, co-gamemaster Tim and I set up an intricate maze of tunnels, passageways and caverns, then populated them with fierce monsters -- and then covered the whole thing with paper to hide it from the players. Here's how it looked when Karl and Mike arrived for the game. They'll enter the dungeon in the foreground.
Karl's warband was composed of animals led by a beastmaster. It's a fun group that he's used to great effect over the course of the campaign. In combat, you don't want to mess with them. Here they are cautiously entering the dungeon.
They immediately encountered a hallway strewn with spiderwebs and guarded by a some giant spiders. The animals made short work of these nuisances.
Treasure hoards were scattered around this dungeon layout. Much to his chagrin, Karl found that his animals were unable to pick up the treasure -- owing, perhaps, to their overall lack of opposable thumbs. We pretty much used the dungeon & treasure rules as written in Song of Gold & Darkness. After he discovered a few choice bits of loot, he decided to retreat with his animal warband and re-enter the dungeon with his elven warband. Here they are:
Here's a shot about a third of the way through the game, as we had uncovered most of the under-castle area and were just about to venture into the caverns beyond.
The caves, of course, were packed with more dangerous critters, including these pink mi-goes! It's hard to tell in this photo, but Tim had painted his mi-goes with shimmery pink paint on their wings. They literally looked like iridescent brain-hungry insects!
Shortly afterward, the players advanced further into the caverns, which allowed us to pull back all of the paper covering the layout. Here's the whole setup. It measures about 6 feet by 3 feet on two folding tables. Half the table is dungeon, the other half is caverns.
Karl made the cavern pieces in like 30 minutes by plucking apart an old foam mattress, then spraying it with a variety of earth-toned spray paints. They're cheap, flexible and totally modular! Tim cast the dungeon walls out of Hirst molds, and they are just fantastic. We've used them many times in the past and they are just awesome beyond words.
But back to the carnage at hand! All sorts of dragons and demons were lurking in the dim caverns. After their initial successes in the dungeon, Karl and Mike ran into some pretty potent adversaries.
Ultimately they decided to turn back before "clearing" the caverns. Karl had lost several figures (including his elven leader!) and we were nearing the end of the evening. Tim's red dragon had taken several hits but was basically just more pissed off.
Also, the players had uncovered several neat bits of treasure, including some magic items. So an orderly retreat was in order.
Good thing, too, because see this blue guy back there? He was Tim's ghostly giant necromancy, and he was SO READY to create zombies out of the fallen heroes. He's teamed up with the red dragon and the carrion crawler and they are just so excited to make life miserable for these upstart adventurers.
But we called the game before things could go sideways for the heroes. In retrospect, Tim and I agreed that we didn't put nearly enough monsters in the dungeon. Though the pictures may suggest a hard slog, the players actually had a bit of a cakewalk up until they met the giant necromancer & co. I'm sure we'll run a game like this in the future, and I predict it'll be a bit more deadly for the players.
Our next game will probably be our last. Summer is winding down, and for all the fun we've had playing Song of Blades & Heroes, we're itching to move on to something new. Sci-fi, maybe. Post-apocalyptic humans versus terminator robots? Or zombies? Or maybe a Tomorrow's War campaign? What do you think we should play next?
-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member