Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Iron Kingdoms Roleplay - Session Seventeen

For those of you who haven't been keeping up you can find earlier sessions and background material in here. The stats of the player characters can be found here should you be interested and the rest of the 'Brotherhood of the Rail' mercenary companies NPC's backgrounds can be found here.

This weeks attendees would be Lieutenant Rafaldo Scorgiani (Steve's character), Martin's Priestess and 'Spiritual Advisor' Danika Jansen, Andrews Pygmy Troll character Toborg Lugosh and my Ogrun 'Bosh' Skullsplitter. Captain Sebastian LaCroix (Toms character) will be becoming an NPC for a bit as Tom is GMing for this session and the next and Phil's 'Gunmage' Christophe Mayeux will unfortunately be absent this session and is probably going to be being retired in favour of a new character to be introduced soon. Sometimes your concept just doesn't inspire you when you actually use them in game and this has apparently been the case with Phil's character but we'll let him off as he's new to this particular RPG system...as long as he doesn't do it every time, lol.

Note - Tom has sent me his notes so I've copied them out to include in this write up so they'll obviously be in a 'reading to the group' style. This'll save me a lot of time trying to remember everything as he said it during the session and hopefully wont effect your reading enjoyment too much bouncing between the two styles of writing.

Mission Seventeen - 'Searforge'

After your guilt as traitors has been assuaged, you spend a few days enjoying the delights of free Llael with Sebastian acting as a guide to all the pleasures the city has to offer.

While you rest the the other staff of the TCRC are hard at work. The line north to Rhul has been built at quite a rate, taxing the companies limits. A few days into your break you are summoned to a meeting with Marcus. The designated meeting place is far from his usual back rooms and shady bars. Le Cafe du Marche is an open and well lit establishment surrounded by well kept gardens and swarming with diners and revellers.

Little attention is paid to the group in the bustling crowds, although Bosh draws a few second and third glances. Marcus smiles as you take your seats, “I have taken the liberty of ordering some food. I hope you don’t mind.

The meal arrived and is as decadent as the cafe's décor suggests. Once the waiters move away Marcus takes a sip of watered wine and continues, “You have done amazingly well up to this point, the company judges you to be a  fine investment in our security. This time however I must ask you to use another set of skills.” Marcus reaches into his coat and pulls out a roll of fine vellum. Unrolled in the little space available on the table it shows a finely detailed map of Immoren.  Rhul is important to us,” His finger stabs into the map, “ It is our only neutral route into Khador and it is the heart of all commerce in Immoren. I have arranged for you to meet a contact of mine in Gerhil, you are to negotiate our ability to trade in Rhul with the full backing of the company.” Marcus reaches into another inside pocket, and pulls another roll of paper, “This will let you speak to our authority.” He hands the parchment to Sebastian who promptly delegates the scroll to Rafaldo.

Very well, gentlemen, madam. You leave in the morning.” Marcus gets up to leave but turns back at the last moment. “LaCroix leave the gunmage, the locals will need leadership and the last thing you need is a new pet.

Bosh points out that several of the guns and bits of equipment that the gunmage Christophe Mayeux currently possesses were Brotherhood salvage and that if he's not going to be joining them that they still belong to them. Sebastian however decides to let him keep them as having a contact in Llael whose indebted to them may come in useful in the future and besides which the weapons are only useful in the hands of a gifted gunmage and the Brotherhood has no such employees.

The papers indicate that the Transcontinental Rail Company has three primary goals that it wants achieved through this diplomatic mission, Firstly they want the rights to build a rail line into Rhul and secondly they require another connecting to it that will travel through Rhul into Khador bypassing any potential border issues that may arise from their other line that travels through the disputed territories of Llael, thirdly they also want rights to a certain mine in Rhul that has recently been found to contain a wide variety of rare minerals. Sebastian however adds a fourth goal to recruit an Arcane Mechanik for the Brotherhood themselves in order to supplement both their technical capabilities and potential armour and weapons options.

The rest of the group enjoy their last might in Llael though Bosh doesn't join them. In anticipation of the trip to Rhul and having some knowledge of the culture and sensibilities he'll encounter there he begins the task of cleaning and repairing his weapons and armour and removing the many trophies attached to it. He also removes his necklace of teeth and replaces it with a Dhunian symbol as the teeth imply worship of an entirely different deity.

Editors Note - Younger Ogrun do take trophies but older ones are expected to be able to list their various battle honours and victories without trophy related reminders. Also Ogrun culture takes great store over the leader they follow and quality of armour and equipment also is a great indicator of status. So basically Bosh is trying to make as good an impression as possible and additionally avoid looking like he worships The Devourer Wurm...because that's how vicious rumours start...

Interlude - A Brief History of Rhul
If you already know about Rhulic culture then you can skip this bit but it's here so I don't have to do an 'Editors Note' every paragraph to explain what's going on.....
Modern Rhulic history begins in 604 AR with the Khadoran invasion of Llael and Cygnar’s declaration of war on Khador. Rhul’s relationships with the nations of man are becoming difficult. Dwarven enclaves in all three nations make the safety of foreign Rhulic nationals tenuous, particularly considering the strength of the commercial relationships between Cygnar and Rhul as well Cygnaran resentment towards Rhulfolk from the reason that they are “providing a safe haven to a race refusing to assist them”. Travel throughout Immoren has become difficult for Rhulfolk shipping goods and supplies to their foreign enclaves. Khador has clamped down on the Black River, a main highway for Rhulic trade, and Cygnaran patrols and checkpoints police trade routes with extreme prejudice (IKWG p. 346, Superiority p. 196). In 605 AR, these difficulties lead Clan Searforge to create the Searforge Commission, a group that is dedicated to hiring Rhulic mercenaries throughout Western Immoren to protect Rhulic trade and shipping that serves the interests of Clan Searforge, but also accepts contracts from Clans Ghordson, Grundback, Serric, and Stone House Dhurg (Prime Remix p. 63).

Due to the recent liberation of Leryn by the Protectorate's Northern Crusade and a cease in hostilities in Southern Khador, trade routes are more open, but there is no guarantee of safety. The presence of Skorne armies in eastern Cygnar, the occupation of Llael by the less-than-tolerant Protectorate of Menoth, the threat of Cygnaran and Khadoran patrols, and the ever-present threat of Cryx continue to make trade and shipping difficult for the clans. Even now Rhul is threatened from within by an incursion of dragonspawn. These are busy times for mercenary Rhulfolk living abroad. As long as war continues to ravage the nations of man, the Commission will enthusiastically band together forces to maintain their interests.

Act One - 'Deals Within Deals...
The journey North is a long one and tensions build on the cramped train, suddenly claustrophobic after your time in Llael. The mountainous terrain of Rhul causes the train to struggle to climb the steep tracks, the engineers are pushed to their limit just to keep the lumbering engine moving. 

The tension and stress are completely forgotten as you crest a rise and catch a glimpse of a Rhulic hold. The great stone fortress dominates the landscape.

Gerhil is unlike anything else in Immoren. The buildings all bear a uniform style and look as if they were grown from the land, so perfectly do they fit. The wide street bustle with trade and citizens yet they are perfectly clean and maintained.

With the resources of the company at their disposal and in such circumstances impressions being everything the Brotherhood acquired a suite of rooms at what Bosh assured them was one of the more expensive and exclusive levels of the city and frequented by the more influential of foreign dignitaries planning on visiting for the purposes of trade. Being designed with this exact purpose in mind their suite had meeting rooms, a whole host of servants and they had been additionally provided with a concierge to facilitate any requests they might have. As no firm date had been set for any of their meetings they had enough time to adequately prepare and Bosh had been relaying as much of his knowledge of Rhulic culture and etiquette to the rest of the Brotherhood as he could. Deciding that the whole activity would no doubt be tedious in the extreme Sebastian delegated the negotiations to Rafaldo and retired to the nicest quarters he could find leaving instructions that he was only to be disturbed in the direst of circumstances.

Editors Note - When GMing in situations where your own character would realistically also be talking it's wise to remove them from the session in as plausible manner as possible...unless you want to spend half an hour talking to yourself that is...

Though Bosh himself was fluent in both Rhulic and of course the Ogrun's own language it was decided to also employ a translator experienced in business negotiations who could relay the more subtle nuances of any debates to them all. While this and some other basic preparations were being arranged Bosh was summoned by Lieutenant Rafaldo to accompany him on a task covertly delegated to him by Sebastian before he had retired to his rooms as he needed both a guide and possibly protection should there be an issue that required a none magical solution.

This covert meeting was taken at a small and discrete eating place in one of the quieter business districts. While Rafaldo sat down with the contact Bosh scanned the surrounding area for any potential threats but could discern nothing unusual. Their contact revealed himself as an agent of Magnus who had come to discuss their previously negotiated arrangement.

Editors Note - It's a long story...we may have cut a deal with the Skorne at some point...and executed the only person who objected to the plan...in our defence we didn't have many other options at the time...details can be found here.

Apparently the situation within the Skorne empire and their human allies had become complicated. Vinter had seemingly abandoned the Skorne leaving Magnus in charge of the human elements of their forces and the Skorne themselves no longer trusted their allies at all. Unless something significant occurred to change the rapidly destabilising situation the whole thing was going to break down sooner rather than later. As the Brotherhood had to all intents and purposes kept their part of the bargain the contact had been instructed to pay them the balance of their financial retainer before severing their relationship for the foreseeable future. He then handed over a large heavy satchel that quite obviously contained a considerable quantity of coin. With their business complete the two groups parted company and returned to their suite of rooms where the money was distributed. Each member of the Brotherhood was given their share separately with instructions to keep the transaction to themselves making it entirely possible that the distribution may not have been exactly even.

Editors Note - Rafaldo's player Steve was given a note with the quantity of money written on it and he then handed out similar notes with our share on it. I still have no idea if Bosh got cheated or not but the five hundred crowns he did get was enough combined with his existing savings for a certain piece of meckanica he wished made to be completed so he had no reason to complain.

With one of their unofficial tasks completed it was time to get back into the job they were actually meant officially to be doing.

Act Two - 'Knowledge is Power...'
The Brotherhood spent the time before going to meet their Rhulic contact doing as much research as possible on the culture, customs, etiquette and any local events that might have a bearing on the upcoming meeting. Apparently there was some disruption to trade with the wars on all sides causing issues of transportation and greatly increasing the likelihood of unforeseen problems which in turn impacted on profitability which was a concern to the Searforge traders which controlled most of the trade into and out of Rhul. Some of these warzones were also directly impacting upon Rhulic territory including problems with strange stone beasts attacking from the east and even stranger twisted creations causing issues to the South.

This southern conflict had required significant resources to be diverted from the strongholds internal security and large numbers of Ogrun had been sent to help resolve the situation. The Dwarves strong Ogrun forces, plentiful Warjacks and advanced weapons and armour meant that such threats rarely troubled them for long and the general consensus in the cities was that the conflict would be over any day soon.

Editors Note - There's not a massive amount in the background material on Rhulic culture other than a basic overview so some of the customs we mention are by necessity extrapolated along the lines of what makes sense and also no doubt what suited our GM in order to make our lives as difficult as possible...

Rafaldo, Danika, Bosh, their Dwarven translator and (for some reason) Toborg headed to the main area that trade was negotiated in as that was the location that they were told it would be best to locate this elusive contact. Trade was being discussed in groups of various sizes and there were many nooks and crannies, alcoves and side-rooms where business conversations could be made with a little more privacy. After some time they were pointed in the appropriate direction and after the appropriate formal introductions the beginnings of a negotiation were started.

Bosh had gone on at some length about how precise they'd need to be as the Rhulfolk were notorious for holding traders to their word even if they had spoken in error and also of the importance of titles and appropriately important sounding ones at that. Rafaldo introduced themselves as the senior officers of the Brotherhood of the Rail acting on behalf of the Transcontinental Rail Company and after some lengthy introductions on both sides outlined their own requirements. The contact listened intently to these requirements and was seemingly quite impressed that these foreign traders hadn't made any major breaches of etiquette though it's possible that their translator had helped in that regard with an occasional 'tidying-up' of the language used. He informed them that his employer Jerard Stonehold's emissary would be in contact with them as soon as was convenient and that they shouldn't be offended if this took a while as he was no doubt very busy.

While they still had the attention of this representative they made enquiries about the Stonehold family and Jerard himself in order to find out anything that could be used to ingratiate themselves with him when and if he deigned to talk with them. They discovered that much of the families business interests lay in architecture and mining and that they were heavily involved in the northern areas of Rhulic territory. Jerard himself it was said was a fan of Llaelese culture in general and their food and drink in particular and shared one of his venerable ancestors love of anthropology though on a more theoretical level than his great grandfathers more hands-on approach to hunting interesting specimens. One final useful piece of information they picked up was that a common gift to ingratiate ones-self with a potential business partner was something of a mechanikal nature.

After some discussion it was decided to purchase a spyglass with some form of mechanikal aspect to it as this would be both a practical item for his use in his various interests and to decorate it in a manner that would invoke memories of the great grandfather that had shared his interests. They also thought that it might be worth seeing if their Captain had taken any food and wine with him from their recent trip to Llael that they could take as an additional gift. Sebastian was initially reluctant to part with any of his own stock but once the situation was explained to him he generously donated a particular rare Llaelese vintage bottle of wine from his personal stock though he sent Rafaldo to fetch it personally as he was apparently far too busy to go back to the train himself.

Editors Note - When Tom's GMing it pays to be thorough...he has an uncanny knack of throwing a spanner in the works at the first sign of some-one looking smug...

Having the Transcontinental Rail Companies money at it's disposal they located the finest manufacturer of mechanikal curiosities and commissioned the spyglass that they'd discussed with some additional work as suggested by the Dwarven arcane mechanik himself. He also pointed out to them that his workshop did a fine line in mechanikal arms and armour that after a few enquiries about pricing turned out to be somewhat less expensive than they would be if bought in the places they'd travelled through so far. Danika, Rafaldo and Bosh all decided to take advantage of the offer as their recent adventures had left them with a significant quantity of gold that the Dwarf was quite happy to relieve them of. Rafaldo had a staff commissioned...

...Danika placed an order for some armour and an upgrade to her signature weapon and Bosh rather worryingly had some extensive modifications made to a Khadoran Man-O-War shield cannon they had acquired some time ago which would ensure that the best place to be in any conflict involving him would be several feet behind him. Toborg was interested in some more mundane ranged weapons and was directed to an appropriate vendor who supplied him with an excellent quality rifle and a similarly well constructed carbine though he had to ask for an advance on his wages from Rafaldo to afford them.

With gifts acquired, new armament ordered and as much information as possible acquired they now had to wait to be contacted by the Stonehold family. Having little else to do they all spent the evening at various local eateries and drinking establishments though Bosh journeyed a bit further out in order to find an area where he could associate with some Ogrun and perhaps pick up some gossip about the war while he was there.

The information he picked up from the Ogrun with which he was drinking was significantly at odds with what they'd been hearing from the dwarves they'd spoke to previously. The amounts of Ogrun troops being sent to this allegedly minor border skirmish were significant in number and as yet none had returned from the conflict at all only dwarves. He also heard that Ogrun units sent to the front recently were now being pulled back before they had been given any chance to engage the enemy at all and no reason had been given for this unprecedented move though some of the better connected Ogrun had heard rumours that some of the missing Ogrun had been seen again...changed...With no more information forthcoming Bosh finished his meal, had a few more drinks and then returned to the Brotherhoods hotel suite.

Act Three - 'Fashionably Late...'
Word reached the Brotherhood via messenger that Jerard Stonehold and his representatives had agreed to a meeting at Grunbacks hotel which was apparently a popular location for business meetings and one of the best and most expensive places of it's type in the entire city. The meeting had been arranged for one in the afternoon but Bosh pointed out that their contact would probably be late as previous employers of his had the same habit. Apparently being on time subtly implied that you weren't very busy, which in turn created doubts about your business credentials and this fact was confirmed by their translator. It was decided to turn up at a quarter past the appointed hour though their translator pointed out that as an important person in his field they more than likely wouldn't see Jerard until at least half past. Bosh also reminded every-one about the importance of correct etiquette and briefly outlined some of what would be expected of them and this information was supplemented by what they themselves had picked up from various people they had spoken to over the last few days. With all the documentation and information at their disposal it was time to head off.

As expected Jerard was half an hour late for the meeting and had bought with him a considerable entourage of scribes, business associates and assistants who all seated themselves in the supplied meeting room without fuss. As soon as the Brotherhood officers joined them an extended formal set of introductions were made and seemingly every companion of Jerards had a tedious number of titles that they felt were of vital importance to relay. After what seemed like an eternity during which the officers managed to at least give the impression that they were paying attention there was a pause which was seemingly the signal for themselves to begin their own introductions. With only minor exaggerations Rafaldo introduced himself as the senior Lieutenant of the Brotherhood of the Rail and made suitable apology's on behalf of their leader Sebastian claiming military commitments regarding the Transcontinental Rail Companies security as reason for his inability to attend. Danika as a representative of the Morrowan church and also a Knightly order fortunately had several impressive titles to list. Bosh as is expected of an Ogrun gave a list of battle honours both before and during his stint with the Brotherhood though several of these 'battles' were somewhat exaggerated in scope. Toborg was somewhat inaccurately described as their chief scout and after some prompting from his companions managed to string together a vaguely plausible set of seemingly heroic encounters in which he'd been involved as well as his experiences with the Skorne.

Editors Note - Rafaldo's player Steve is notoriously lucky with any dice roll used for negotiation tests so to get around this our GM Tom made us actually verbally go through the introduction process...I personally thought this was a stroke of genius...

It hadn't escaped the officers notice that Jerard was paying quite a lot of attention to the Pygmy Troll Toborg even to the point of asking one of his scribes to sketch a picture of him and his attention had also been grabbed by both Bosh and Toborgs mentioning of their encounters with the Skorne presumably due to his anthropological inclinations. After this lengthy process was complete the Brotherhood presented them with the gifts and both were well received with the wine by a stroke of luck being of a Llaelese vintage no longer available due to the war. Despite their attempts to keep the meeting on track Jarold kept getting distracted by musings on both the troll and tales of the Skorne so Bosh, Toborg and Danika kept this part of the conversation going while Rafaldo continued the actual intended negotiation with the rest of the Stonehold family representatives. It became apparent that they were used to their boss's meanderings and having to do deals on his behalf was a major part of their job and after much back and forth agreements were reached on the issues of mineral rights and the basics of the rail-line agreement.

At this point Jerard rejoined the conversation indicating that the planned rail-line route would need to go through the lands of many different clans and so agreement on such a large-scale building project would need to be put before the entire Searforge council. He did however assure them that he would be giving the project his most enthusiastic support due to his tremendous enjoyment of this initial meeting. Having little to do until a subsequent meeting could be arranged the officers returned to their lodgings after a status report was sent to their Captain. Another pleasant evening was spent enjoying the sites and entertainments of the town before some thought was put into achieving their fourth goal of recruiting an Arcane Mechanik.

Their local contacts pointed them towards an academy for mechaniks to the north that was renowned for the quality of it's recruits. The academy itself was unusually ran by a human Mechanik rather than a Dwarven one who was named Leopold Garren and they were informed he was from a noble Khadoran lineage which raised some eyebrows amongst amongst those Brotherhood officers who weren't fond of Khadorans. Regardless of their personal views they made the journey to this school for mechaniks and spoke to Leopold who gave them a short-list of his most promising recruits though his most enthusiastic recommendation was for a student who was currently assisting in the Rhulic military campaign, Not having the time to make the journey immediately they decided to conclude their business with the Searforge council first and if he was still occupied they'd then make the trip to assess him in the field before possibly offering him employment with the Brotherhood. This turned out to be the correct decision as they arrived back via a carriage provided by the academy to find that they had been granted a meeting in front of the entire Searforge council and there were many rumours that they had an interesting counter proposal to make.

Given the importance of the occasion Captain LaCroix decided to join his officers for this important meeting and also Marcus Darling would need to accompany them. Fortunately every person involved wasn't required to give a list of titles though the most important ones did with the officers being yet again obliged to list their own including their Captain. Once this was out of the way the real point of the meeting was reached. The Rhulic clans were concerned that the many wars raging around Immoran were having a significant effect on trade in a number of area's and had decided that the Transcontinental Rail Companies extensive and continent spanning rail-lines would enable them to more easily send emissaries and trade delegations far and wide in relative safety and comfort. Also as the hard work of obtaining rights to cross the various contested borders had already been done by the company this would be one less concern for themselves to deal with. In return for these rights the Dwarven clans would approve the completion of the railway through Rhulic territory into Khador and deals would be arranged for appropriate and fair percentages of the profits to be shared between them both though it was immediately obvious that these would be in the favour of Rhul. The company itself would of course need to greatly expand the number of trains it had available as well as provide transport more befitting the quality of it's passengers than the armoured and now somewhat battered one currently being utilised.

After the meeting their initial contact Jerard took them all out for an impressive meal as thanks for the considerable increase in status that the arrangement had given his own clan and spoke in length about the improvements that would be needed to the soon to be greatly expanded train service. It began to occur to Sebastian and his officers that their success may well have also put them out of work...

Back to Reality.
Over to Tom for his session round-up...

"My preference as a GM is either a location with loads of in depth background to build round or a complete blank slate. I've been lucky so far with the locations I've GM'd as they have all been the former, Rhul however is a little sparse when it comes to information but not so sparse as to give me free reign. This presented a few problems but I just took the little information there is on Rhul to its natural conclusion."

"The group reacted well to a non combat mission especially so as I forced them out of their comfort zones."

"Next mission will test them once more as we introduce a new concept to the team and also a few new characters."

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.

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