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Midgard Monday: Getting the warband together, part 3

Midgard Monday: Getting the warband together, part 3

It’s Midgard Monday! Each week, we visit a corner of the wide world of Midgard. Look for standalone content you can drop into your campaign—whether it’s in Midgard or your own homebrew. Find new inspiration each Midgard Monday!

Conflict between the Seven Cities and the occupied territory of Rumela isn’t just a war story—it’s an opportunity to partake in the ceremony of the Season of War.

Before delving in, GMs and players should familiarize themselves with the chapters on the Dragon Empire (Chapter 5) and the Seven Cities (Chapter 7) in the Midgard Worldbook. A refresher can help you represent the wider battlefield and the key factions. The first Warlock Grimoire and the Kobold Press blog has additional content about the Seven Cities and the Mharoti that are linked in these articles.

Safety Tools
A war campaign has a good chance of involving potentially troubling elements, or even elements players didn’t realize could trouble them until they appear during play.

The beginning of a war campaign is a good time to discuss how eventful and descriptively intense the players want it, what safety tools may be necessary, and what level of detail everyone is comfortable describing. Some have no needs and charge headlong into the atrocities of war, while others might prefer to often fade to black. Consider having this conversation a couple of times depending on the session results.

This campaign draws together PCs as members of a free company, similar to the dark fantasy of Glen Cook’s Black Company series. Using this article series, GMs and players can create a war campaign.

After using character backgrounds as motivations, mustering the free company, and dealing with leaks and spies in the immediate aftermath, the next step forward for the PCs are initial strategic strikes against the draconic strongholds of the Mharoti Empire.

The March to Freedom

Those calling for the reclamation of Illyria include many generals experienced in the Seasons of War, who know that a frontal assault into the White Mountain Marches will fail. Furthermore, the generals know that while the free companies will do much for coin, they won’t accept certain death from a direct frontal assault.

Having proven their worth by capturing spies and preventing Mharoti’s awareness of the counteroffensive, the generals assign the PCs and their company with the following tasks, which can provide the Seven Cities with a strategic advantage and even shift the momentum of war. Here are two options.

The White Road to Rumela

What was good for the dragons can be good for the allies, as the generals seek to use the White Road ley line’s shadow road to deliver a large force behind enemy defenses.

Goal: Shadow Road Access. Securing the shadow road to transport a small strike force is relatively simple. Ferrying whole companies deep within Mharoti territory is more complicated. The generals task the PCs with negotiating the services of a shadowfey navigator, who can open massive portals using a key of Veles.

However, umbral vampires from Oshragora, the City Fallen into Shadow, track the navigator’s every entry into the Shadow Realm. To ensure success, the PCs must eliminate the immediate threat of the vampires, by sword or by bribery.

Goal: Win over the Ghost Folk. In a hazardous gambit, the PCs are asked to liaise with the elusive Ghost Folk of the White Marches. The generals hope that their promise to grant them the mountains from the Zlato mine to the White Forest will convince the Ghost Folk to join their cause. But the White Marches are filled with patrolling dragonfolk and dangerous monsters. Most worryingly, the Ghost Folk rarely suffer visitors.

Goal: Operation Gatestone Garden. Having secured passage via the shadow road, the generals ready their main forces. As reward for their success, the PCs’ company is sent further east to rendezvous with Ghost Folk allies near the stronghold of Parszan. Here, the PCs harry the city’s reserves, sabotage the route to the east, and otherwise hinder Mharoti reinforcements and supplies.

Outcome: Beachhead. If the PCs are successful, the Septime armies take Parszan, secure the Northern Front, and create a new beachhead from which to strike into Rumela.

The Duchess Freed

After Glauvistus conquered Illyria, the dragon publicly chained its former ruler, the Silver Duchess Veristi Terramaine. Because the Duchess is currently held as a warning to those who would dare impede draconic conquest, the generals task the PCs with rescuing her from the gates of the Palasi Ardenu in Droisha, the capital of occupied Illyria.

Goal: Grandmother’s Secret. The Silver Duchess is bound by shackles first enchanted by Baba Yaga and modified by Harkeshi dragon mages. Only by learning the secrets of the shackles can the Terramaine be freed. But this involves bartering with the Old Crone of the Margreve . . . or does it?

Visiting the Old Crone is a dangerous task—evident by the skulls lining her iron fence. Outside the hut, the third skull to the left of the gate claims to be Lesharrkk, a former griffon rider who tried stealing from Grandmother.

However, the skull’s beloved black griffon mount escaped, and Baba Yaga just taunted Lesharrkk with the knowledge brought on the dawn’s east wind, that his dedicated companion’s eggs have been stolen. Lesharrkk promises a favor if the PCs can recover the eggs. Lesharrkk overheard the delivery of the shackles years before, and knows their command words. After completing “The Griffon Hatchling Heist” from Tales of the Old Margreve, the skull provides the PCs with the secret to unlocking the shackles.

Goal: Walking on the Wind. While the winds around Droisha are mild, Glauvistus enchanted gales so strong around the Palasi Ardenu that only an adult dragon could fly within them. Mere magic like fly or even wind walk is insufficient to reach the Silver Duchess. The generals must seek specialists to reach such lofty heights.

The generals may direct the PCs to aeromancers in Aerdvall, or the jinn and nature spirits of Dominion of the Wind Lords, such as the snarling, howling wind spirit, Habūb, often manifesting as a pack of dusty, snarling hyenas near the ruins of Cindass.

If the PCs are unable to convince the canine-like wind into ferrying them through the dragon’s spell in an act of defiance—for who would deny a wind entry?—they may be forced to seek the priesthood of Boreas, the North Wind, to dispel such an affront to their god’s domain. Each potential ally either knows the great power that the Seven Cities seek, or cares little for the conflicts of mortals. But they all seek to extract maximum value for their asset.

Goal: Polymorph Potion. If the PCs can rescue the Silver Duchess, they must leave a substitute shackled in her stead. If they can locate a rare potion of polymorph, the PCs buy themselves an hour to flee the city, and leave an embarrassed, possibly incapacitated dragon in Her Grace’s place.

None of the Seven Cities claim to have a potion available for use. They might find a willing partner in Zobeck’s Arcane Collegium, possibly their Brotherhood of Alchemists or Dornig’s Movable Feast. Given that war makes for strange bedfellows, they could consider an offer from Ruby Despotate or an emissary from Demon Mountain that seems too good to be true. Regardless, the generals must weigh the cost—and perhaps counteroffer with the PCs’ service.

Goal: From Under their Nose. In a heist-style romp, the PCs infiltrate Droisha and mislead the Muhta secret police. Flying to the gates of the Palasi Ardenu, they break the shackles binding the Silver Duchess and perhaps even waylay Zrandres, the copper dragon head of the secret police. Having poured the potion down Zrandes’ throat, the PCs escape with the Silver Duchess.

Outcome: Embarrassment. With the Duchess rescued, the generals gain a huge victory by both embarrassing the Mharoti horde and inflating the morale of the attackers. Gratefully, Her Grace brings the secrets whispered to her by Zrandres during his years of mental torture on the gates of Palasi Ardenu. One such secret was Glauvistus’s plan to counterattack near Raguza, which affords the generals the time to reinforce the city’s fortifications.

Get into Midgard with the Midgard Worldbook! This acclaimed campaign setting is rich and deep, with a decade of support from Kobold Press.

Want a more focused start? Try the Zobeck Clockwork City Collector’s Edition! This detailed sourcebook
gives players plenty of room to run, and includes adventures within the Clockwork City itself!

about Ben McFarland

Ben lived on a desert island for two years while serving as an officer in the US Air Force. He likes sushi, worldbuilding, and magic systems, and spends way too much time at a pool. He’s been freelancing, playtesting, and editing RPGs since 2005. While D&D’s a first love, Ars Magica is his greatest love and Cthulhutech his secret mistress.

9 thoughts on “Midgard Monday: Getting the warband together, part 3”

  1. For those curious, the Ghost Folk are meant to be a reclusive, combative, pre-metal or scavenged metal hunter-gatherer/nomadic mountain society which is often/regularly hostile to outsiders. They should have an entry in the ToB1, IIRC, which models them on orcs, but you could use trollkin, humans, goliaths, whatever you really prefer there.

    I think of them a lot like the antagonist tribe in 13th Warrior but there’s room for customization there. Your Midgard May Vary.

  2. Midgard Mondays are Awesome! Very interested in these military campaign plotlines, can’t wait for more!

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