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Midgard Monday: Getting the warband together, part 4

Midgard Monday: Getting the warband together, part 4

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, and the PCs’ initial strikes against the draconic strongholds of the Mharoti Empire, it’s time to press the advantage against the scalyfolk.

Tell Them What They’ve Won

Leadership now recognizes the PCs as reliable operators, capable of serious work. Using the optional “Time Flies” rules in the Midgard Worldbook, you can place several skirmishes and a battle in the preceding two months.

These might include a clash at sea that affects supply lines, a pincer movement against a mountain pass that allows limited mundane reinforcements, and a minor loss outside Droisha or Parszan as the Mharoti respond. The intention is to build the tension and add a sense of urgency as the PCs are given their next assignment. For you see, the reward for good work is more work.

Hope in Spires Eternal

The group is dispatched into the Lonely Spire, discover what happened to the wizard, Kolos the Lame, and his students. Serafeddin, the bored white dragon watching over the tower, regularly sends captured or willing bands of adventurers inside the Spire, and none have returned.

Goal: Where’s the Wizard. The Worldbook is silent as to the fate of Kolos. That permits you to create your own outcome, as the archmage could be trapped in a magical experiment gone awry, in a wild magic surging time stop which needs dispelling, or inside a rare, malfunctioning artifact.

Without Kolos handy, the Spire’s defensive enchantments have activated, leaving a difficult path to the high sanctums where he worked and lived. Armed with the secrets of an escapee, or a diviner, or sourced from someone like Baba Yaga, the PCs are charged with deceiving the Lonely Spire’s guard-dragon, entering the structure, breaking whatever enchantment holds Kolos, and bringing him and his fellow arcanists of the Spire to the opposition.

Goal: Items of Opportunity. Hidden within the Lonely Spire are numerous magical devices certain to turn the tides of several battles, whether that’s arrows of slaying, glyphs of spell storing loaded with bestow curse, javelins of lightning, a staff of the magi, or a rod of lordly might. Any of these items might have transformative effects on a battlefield. The question then becomes whether the PCs give such an item to their company captain to redistribute as needed, or hoard it for themselves.

If the protective enchantments of the Lonely Spire reseal the structure until the archmage reopens it, this would be their only chance to “borrow” this kind of power.

Goal: Knowing is Half the Battle. While the Archmage might be gone or inaccessible, it might still be feasible to extract other wizards of the Lonely Spire, perhaps a circle of diviners from the Bibliotori of Friula who had the unfortunate timing to be visiting when the tower sealed. With their potent foresight added to the commanders’ council, the Septime campaign could have an advantage when selecting battlefields and finding spies.

Outcome: Magic Surge. With Kolos returned and the wizards of the Lonely Spire active once more, Septime forces receive a powerful boost. The Empire then must decide if it will commit more graduates of the Parthian Collegium Elemental or blood wizards of Kaa’nesh to the conflict.

This would draw forces away from Ishadia and the recent battles against the Khandirians. Further defeats at the hands of the Khandirian Banners could be unacceptable for the new Sultan, and Glauvistus the Scourge could be ordered to make do with what she has, tipping the advantage to the Septime companies.

Island Hopping

To help Kyprion break the naval siege, the characters are sent to Chamiras, with means to poison the great fire dragon, Aarush Vedula.

Goal: Remove the Backfield Threat. With the Empire’s greatest weapon on the island neutralized, several free companies arrive via the Pontoretto ley line’s shadow road and begin to liberate it. This puts the PCs at the forefront of a different battlefield, one intent on closing the central Middle Sea to the Mharoti and allowing the Septime and Kyprion forces to squeeze Rumela.

However, such an action might require a level of sacrifice on the part of the island’s inhabitants. A likely way to poison Aarush Vedula would be to goad the flame dragon into consuming the former governor, Yikashata, with his body bearing a massive, wyrm-killing dose of the poison. However, the governor might not be willing to do so to escape his pain. In this case, a suitably enchanted corpse left in his place, or a secretly dosed meal of livestock might serve as an unreliable alternative.

Goal: Lost and Found. A minotaur escapee from Kyprion brings word that the Ivory Comb of Hecate, an artifact sacred to the minotaur people of Kyprion, lies either within an ash-covered vault in Gramvar or hidden beneath the catacombs of buried Falspecca.

If the PCs can navigate the great labyrinth of Vespras, they could potentially recover it and barter the artifact’s return to Hecate’s oracle in Kammae Straboli in exchange for increased aid from the sea titans. The Living Colossus of Raguza has defended that harbor against multiple incursions. Even just a handful more of the immense giants could make securing the waters surrounding Kyprion an easier task.

Goal: To Quench a Blade. The Parthian-trained elementalists give a potent advantage to the Imperial forces at Chamiras. Escapees from Gramvar’s destruction managed to flee the city with several sets of charged bracers, once used to give the city’s now-dead demon-binders temporary immunity to demonic fire.

As the cyclops Othenio leads the shock troops of Ragkar’s Ire on a surprise attack against the Mharoti foothold legion’s docks and supply warehouses, the party is tasked with ambushing the five earth and fire elementalists supporting Aarush Vedula’s efforts. Wearing the bracers and using the last of the items’ charges, the group should be able to ignore the elementalists’ fiery servants and spells long enough to eliminate the threat while the Imperial escape is cut off.

Outcome: And Stay Out. With Kyprion rescued from the dragons, and the Middle Sea dominated by Triolo and Kyprion, the vise of the Allied assault grows tighter. The Free Companies of the Septime Alliance become a knife ready to plunge into the heart of Rumela, held in place and potentially even landed on the southwestern coast of occupied territory, rather than forced throught the tight quarters of the White Mountain passes. This makes their task far more likely to succeed without the meatgrinder of a mountain siege. These victories might come at a cost—the possible death of Yikashata or Othenio or both, and further damage to Chamiras, as well as several of the companies arriving via the Pontoretto.

Everything in the campaign seems to be going well! Perhaps a little too well. The next article presents the Mharoti response to the free companies.

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.

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