War Gaming and Role Playing

War gaming and role playing games share a common history.  The development from games used for military training to a popular past time has been surprisingly quick. In a few decades historical reenactments took on fantastical settings. Cannons and tactics became swords and sorcery. War gaming history arguable begins with H.G. Wells. Best known for laying the foundations of science fiction literature, Wells is also the originator of modern recreational war gaming. He published Floor Games in 1911 and Little Wars in 1913 creating a new genre. Players would take on the role of commanders over armies. Wells codified playing with toy soldiers. Diplomacy, self-published in 1959 by a mail carrier named Allan B. Calhamer, introduced social interaction as the central mechanic of a war game. About a decade later, Dave Wesley led a game where players took on the personality of individual Napoleonic soldiers. Five years later, David Arneson and Gary Gygax would publish Dungeons and Dragons. While games like chess have existed for centuries, it only took a bit more than sixty years to move from tin soldiers to beholders. Those games have become a multi-million dollar hobby industry.

Over the last fifteen years I have played, led, and written adventures in many different Role Playing Games. Currently my favorite RPG is the Iron Kingdoms RPG by Privateer Press. Set in a world of steam power and sorcery, the Iron Kingdoms occupy a continent of war-torn nations full of history and danger.  Every Saturday through the rest of September I will be sharing an adventure I wrote for this system. Below is an excerpt with an introduction to the adventure and the backstory.  Saturday, September 8th Consequences Part 01: The Blood of My Enemies will be available right here.


An Unofficial Iron Kingdoms Adventure for 3-5 Hero Level Characters with 0-10 XP

Adventure Summary

Consequences is a four part story which reinforces that every decision, every action, no matter how mundane or magnificent has an effect on the world. Consequences seeks to push against linear storytelling rails by keeping players’ decisions at the forefront of the story. Part 01: The Blood of My Enemies presses the party for time. A poor decision or too much planning, results in lost lives. Part Two: The Tears of the Widow gives the players choices which can ease or complicate future efforts. Every decision has an effect. In Part 03: The Memories of the Forgotten, the goal of protecting the people of Fenrick’s March has come to a head. How the party addressed previous challenges determines their role when then final piece is in place. Part 04: The Rewards of Your Efforts teaches the Players that some lessons are truly unforgettable. 

Adventure Background

Fenrick’s March

During the Quiet Century research and exploration were at their peak. One group of archaeologists led by Fenrick Storigg sought out Orgoth ruins in order to better understand the former oppressors who were quickly falling into legend. Fenrick and his allies travelled far and wide until they settled in one especially quiet corner of the Iron Kingdoms. Content to study rather than become embroiled in the mounting political chaos, Fenrick and his team enlisted the aid of Rhulic friends and built a small tower to serve as a research base for the various ruins scattered across the region. Rhulstone Tower grew and around it a town took root. Never particularly large, its people named the town Fenrick’s March. Overlooked in the battles and wars which raged in the scores of years after its founding, Fenrick’s March proved a refuge for study and research. Though Fenrick is long dead, his legacy persists.

While many in the Iron Kingdoms sought protection in urban centers, the people of Fenrick’s March trusted in their own prowess. Founded so far from civilization, these villagers learned to protect themselves. Fenrick’s March is the quintessential middle of nowhere podunk village, mostly oblivious to the outside world and dependent on little more than their own abilities and resources. In recent years their need for protection has grown. Thirty years ago a new Magistrate enacted brutal measures to maintain safety and independence. After three decades, brutality is now second nature.

The young men and women of Fenrick’s March train long and hard to protect their village from bandits, beasts, and other evils which are liable to wipe an easily forgettable copse of houses from the surface of Caen. This militia has grown more than capable of accomplishing their protective purpose. Fenrick’s March harshly stamps out any nearby banditry and thievery. Occasionally a gang thinks themselves capable of a quick smash and grab operation and are beaten like dogs. Rumors say the people of Fenrick’s March are unforgiving in the justice they dole out. Rarely do invaders live to tell tales of the warriors who wear the mist like a cloak. It’s this brutality which protects Fenrick’s March as much as the strength of her militia. Prisoner’s heads are stacked at the borders. Eyes and teeth removed. Jaws locked open. Tongues weighed down with an ocher stone.

Many years have passed since the Marchers last knew fear. Then in the dark hours of one terrible morning, it was not a force of bandits, but of organized Cryx attackers who descended upon the town. Although the alarm sounded and militia formed up, they failed. Surprisingly few died. Disarmed and captured alive, their fate is unknown. This defeat has shocked the tiny hamlet. Survivors have barricaded themselves in Rhulstone Tower, the modest temple of Menoth, and the more extravagant Morrowan church. Villagers hide fearing for their lives. While only ten or so were killed, forty militia members were taken. The handful who remain are too old or too sick to defend the village. For the first time in a generation Fenrick’s March is defenseless.

Karyx Bloodstar and Etienne

Orgoth ruins and tombs are far from commonplace in the Iron Kingdoms, so the discovery of any tend to draw attention. Powerful beings intent on collecting dark artifacts and magics scour these stones for any gleanable scrap of old might. Karyx Bloodstar and her Bile Thrall Quartermaster Etienne have come across one such place of power. Although it has so far proven impossible to breach, careful translation of the writing surrounding a massive Orgoth door has revealed a recipe of sorts.

Living blood taken not given
Living water twice the weight
Drank by the faces of Fear and Loathing
Spit out is the Ichor of Fate

Uncertain of what the Ichor of Fate may be capable of, Karyx felt the only reasonable response was to attempt the ritual and see what developed. Gathering her forces she garrisoned a nearby abandoned outpost and began scouting for potential donors. Coming across a simple band of travelers, Karyx and company easily overwhelmed and captured the hapless group. Using pumps designed by Etienne and his bile thralls water from a nearby stream and blood from the captives were routed into the faces on the door. The resulting fluid proved a powerful component for necromantic incantations.

The Bloodwitch bolstered her ranks with a small squad of pistol wraiths raised using the potent liquid. Although meant to raise a single mundane wraith, use of the Ichor of Fate magnified the ritual’s power. A Pistol Wraith Spell Slinger and two normal Pistol Wraiths rose up from the long dead remains used as components. Additionally, the wraiths proved especially obedient compared to others Karyx had commanded. Their lust for destruction was just as deep, but they acted as well-trained hounds rather than bloodthirsty beasts. Initial research suggests that nearly any required element in a spell or ritual may be replaced or amplified with application of this viscous phlegm-like liquid. Etienne is particularly excited about the potential for use in the creation of his bile and bloat thralls as the corrosives used now breakdown the cadavers of his creations and even himself too quickly for his liking. With proof of concept established, the band eyed the convenient proximity of a hamlet full of hapless victims in waiting.

Karyx’s Lich Lord observes her progress through a necklace gifted her before this journey. It is aware of the Ichor of Fate and the party who will soon interfere with its creation.

Mere hours before the PC’s arrived at Fenrick’s March, Karyx and her crew descended without mercy upon the village. Many are still hiding scared and a few thralls remain behind seeking defenseless victims. While the PCs deal with the remnants of the Cryx and speak with the town magistrate, the captive militia members are hooked up to Etienne’s pump and additional hose is run from the outpost to the cavern. Time wasted will result in wasted lives.

I hope you enjoyed this brief excerpt.
Come back next week for Part 1: The Blood of My Enemies.

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