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Midgard Monday: Getting the warband together, part 6

Midgard Monday: Getting the warband together, part 6

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, dealing with leaks and spies in the immediate aftermath, and initial strikes against the draconic strongholds of the Mharoti Empire, the PCs pressed their advantage against the scalyfolk. Then the GM got a moment to consider who might turn on the PCs at an inopportune moment.

Now, the war effort draws to a close.

The Goldilocks Zone

With a reasonable campaign arc laid out in previous articles, the question remains: “How much war is enough war?”

You might want a longer campaign. The events of the first three books of The Black Company take place over 14 years, with two 6-year gaps between books. The average medieval conflicts from the 11th to the 13th century lasted a little over 14 years, but when you ignore the wars which lasted approximately 100 years, the average drops down to 4.8, with a very large number lasting only a year.

Most of those armies didn’t engage in extended conflicts. There were crops to plant, matters to attend to back home, and logistical challenges which made long-term war unattractive. According to the Midgard Worldbook, the initial conquest of Illyria took only a month.

With that in mind, the main arc of this conflict will last a single season of war. This means the heroes and battles are racing toward an endgame in the rolling hills of Rumela. And if you’ve only got a year, then the end of this season demands the party deal with the Glauvistus the Scourge.

Dragon-Sized Problems

How the Glauvistus is addressed frames the kind of bloodshed the campaign presents. There are two ways to deal with the Morza of the Fire Prophet. The party can employ a “Smaug” strategy, seeking out Glauvistus and facing the Breaker of Legions individually, or they can plan to strike down the great adult female flame dragon (see Tome of Beasts 1) on the battlefield. However, both present challenges.

Burning Brightly

Glauvistus on the battlefield is an engine of destruction. As a huge dragon, she projects Frightful Presence to all chosen creatures within 120 feet. Her breath weapon not only deals terrible damage in a 60-foot cone, it can cause survivors to mindlessly attack the nearest creatures for a minute. Her flight speed, fire immunity, and heated body mean anyone attempting to shoot her down or engage her directly must work hard at it.

Meanwhile, each passing swoop over Septime enemies scatters many, turns more into cinders, and leaves survivors to turn on anyone left. Facing her in a clash of armies outside of Droisha means preparing a great number of weapons, and finding a way to limit her mobility.

If the PCs freed Kolos, and he did not betray the alliance, this might be an awesome spectacle as the heroes mount griffons and take to the skies. They fling javelins of lightning, call down spells, and possibly use the last remaining charges of the bracers used in the attack on Chamiras. This is a fight with a high number of potential casualties, as Glauvistus, Zrandres, and probably five to ten fire dragons and a dozen wyvern knights fill the air alongside the southern half of the Morza’s Western Legion. The Battle of Droisha will be a bloody tale for taverns and history books alike, with no lack of widows and orphans.

The Heart of the Palasi Ardenu

Should the PCs instead decide to remove Glauvistus from the war before the final battle, they must strike at her within the palace fortress of the deposed Terramaine. If the Silver Duchess was rescued in earlier adventures, she can provide details of a secret passage leading to the inner chambers where The Scourge holds court. There, the PCs could find allies of the moment within the spiteful hearts of the subjugated nobles of House Callensoe.

The PCs might strike at a war council to cut off the head of the snake by killing Zrandres the Copper Dragon, the fire giant general of Glauvistus’ northern forces, General al-Grodoccor, and Glauvistus herself, shapeshifted into a fire salamander or humanoid elemental form as she rules from within the City of Eagles. This would allow for an epic dungeon crawl through the palace chambers, stalking past sentries and servants, possibly using a surprise attack or uprising in the city to create the distraction necessary to isolate each leader and attack them before they mount a proper response.

This kind of attack requires either a willing, sacrificial charge of the PCs into the palace halls, or an extended escape plan. It’s the kind of situation which calls for another moment of treachery from a turncoat ally who places personal gain before the liberation of Illyria.

Aftermath: the Death of a Morza

With Glauvistus dead, along with other key figures in the occupying force, the Septime allies could push forward in the confusion and make great gains. The PCs might be incinerated martyrs, unsung heroes of their covert operation, or battlefield legends who faced the conqueror of Illyria in the clouds. However, the free companies supporting the Septime alliance must ultimately return to their homes, at least until the start of the next season of war.

The death of the Glauvistus is not the end but another beginning. Brave heroes may need to root out dragon commanders who have holed up in Illyria’s griffon towers. Edjet loyalists and their legions of jambuka may agitate at the new borders, prodding at any perceived weakness. The Dread Sultan of the Mharoti, Ozmir Al-Stragul, may demand swift retribution lest the dragonborn seem weak before the Dragon Lords, who are the true power behind the empire.

Furthermore, there is the restoration of noble houses, the truth and reconciliation of the collaborators with the conquered Illyrian people, and a likely reckoning with the Ghostfolk for any betrayal. Reclaiming Illyria is only the first step in winning a longer, possibly equally contested peace, a tenuous peace overshadowed by the Empire that still looms to the east.

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.

7 thoughts on “Midgard Monday: Getting the warband together, part 6”

  1. As always, Midgard Monday lore is a great way to start the week. Great article, definitely inspiring a few campaign ideas and player Hooks. Can’t wait for more Midgard Lore!

  2. Always happy to see more Midgard!

    This seems like exactly the right campaign for a character I’ve had for a while, an Illyrian soldier who survived the initial invasion, a Minotaur Barbarian.

  3. Keep the Midgard content coming! I’m running a Tales of the Old Margreve using the adventures and some homebrew, and one of my players is running Streets of Zobeck. Getting great ideas from the Midgard Monday blog posts.
    My next campaign may be a war campaign, I’ve always wanted to do one, but alas I have always had too many ideas, not enough players or time to do all of them.

  4. Looking forward to the next Midgard series. As always this was a great series! Bring us more Midgard! Hail Hail Hail and Kill! ManOwaR

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