The following is a collection of three session reports using the upcoming Companions and Catacombs supplement for Richard Launius’ kick-arse game Defenders of the Realm...
GAME 1: WIZARD + DWARF
Upon hearing that they were not alone in the Realm, and that there were other eager young adventurers around willing to help them take on the malicious Generals, the Wizard headed to the Inn early, realising how valuable that help would be. At the Gryphon Inn, his tales of the approaching generals and the inexorable spread of their armies enthralled all those present, and from a shadowy corner next to the fireplace a hooded figure stepped forward.
Throwing back their cloak, that very person was revealed to be a beautiful young maiden, who was very famous, and popular with the kids. “My name is Princess Karollyn and I will join you. But in doing so I must warn you that even now the Dark Lord has summoned his Warlords and Darkness is spreading across the land as we speak. We must not tarry.”
From the opposite corner of the Inn a mighty knight clad in gleaming armour kicked back his stool and stood to his feet, towering over the rabble of drinkers. His face looked flushed and there was a whiff of whisky.
“Sir Robert Crowsdell!”, gasped a local, “Surely he will hell aid us in our hour of need? Have you come to lead us from darkness, Sir Robert?”
There was a pause as the courageous knight swayed a little.
“Pzz off, shn’b lizl. ‘Hisky dammit!” Sir Robert bravely belched and staggered out of the tavern door, never to be seen again. (FYI - I blame DrCrow entirely for this personal dissing, it was clearly nothing to do with me not having the right hand of cards...)
Unfazed, the Wizard and Princess set off together and fell upon the Generals’ minions with a vengeance, first hunting down the terrible Warlords plaguing the lands. The Wizard became an Undead and Orc Hunter and later would face off against Varkolak and prove victorious, also becoming the Undead Slayer.
Meanwhile, the Dwarf took a similar tactic and decided to get some help of his own. He quickly enlisted Dakk Wulfe, who was happy to come along. For a turn. Whereupon he was discarded to clear out minions from a particularly nasty location. “Fare the well, Dakk, thanks for coming,” the Dwarf snarled.
The formidable Dwarf fought on alone to become the Demon slayer and the Dragon slayer. Then he entered the deadly Dungeon. Boulders came crashing down around his head as he darted through the dark caverns. Orc archers emerged from the shadows to defend their home but were quickly cut down by the seething Dwarf. Racing through the dank caves the tireless Dwarf stumbled upon a Demonic spawning pit. As hellspawn began to emerge from the rank pit the hardy Dwarf stood at the edge and swung his axe repeatedly, guiding the hapless devils back to their ethereal homes, albeit headless and bleeding. When no more emerged, the (insert choice adjective) Dwarf lit a cigar and rested against a cracked Boulder - which had been following him through the dungeon - surveying the entrance leading deeper into the depths.
Just then an orc patrol emerged from the passageway. They glanced at the giant axe concealing a disgruntled Dwarf, then they looked at the pile of demon heads littering the floor. The Dwarf sighed deeply and dug his cigar butt into the boulder. “Come on then, ye blighters,” he snarled.
Seconds later he was stepping over the bits of orc and entrail and running for his life. The ceiling was collapsing again, and more vicious Boulders dropped and rolled, trying in vain to crush the unfortunate Dwarf.
He had been running for so long, it seemed as though the Corridors were Endless. Thankfully they weren’t, and he came upon an underground lake, a magical pool where he bathed and rested for a while to regain his strength. He slowly finished his last cigar and stared at the huge, ancient doorway leading to the Treasure Chamber. Getting to his feet and towelling off the magic waters, he pushed the door open and stepped through, “Right then, you bastar-” he started.
From within a legion of invincible Gargoyles teemed out and battered the beleaguered Dwarf. Ripping at his flesh with their stone claws and teeth the Dwarf fought bravely as they chased him all the way back out of the dungeon. The mean Gargoyles beat the crap out of the poor Dwarf and kicked him out of their dungeon, whereupon he stumbled into the arms of awaiting minions, who promptly chopped his face off and stole his beard. Which now serves as a knitted blanket for orc babies.
The Dwarf was replaced on his quest by the ever eager Eagle Rider who was around for just long enough to follow the Wizard and watch him kill Gorgutt for the win!
GAME 2: CLERIC + ROGUE
The Cleric had been travelling for days and finally had found the Helm of Power. Resting it carefully on her head, she stepped over the bodies of the dead minions scattered around her and gingerly entered the Dungeon of Bones. Crossing the long, quaking Stone Bridge she screamed as it suddenly fell apart beneath her. Nearly plummeting to her doom into a Demon Pit, she caught a handhold and clambered back onto the bridge, narrowly avoiding the arrows of the Orc Archers waiting for her on the other side of the Bridge. A brief battle ensued but was ended quickly when Boulders - deadly, crashing, evil, almost sentient Boulders - fell from the ceiling crushing nearly everything and filling the caverns with choking dust.
Running from the dust cloud and deeper into the dungeons the Cleric shrieked again and was swarmed by thousands of biting, nipping Rats pouring from the walls and ceiling. Brushing herself off as they disappeared back into the cracks and crannies around her she discovered a Magical Fountain, where she bathed in slo-mo, restoring her energy and pausing briefly to pose for an impromptu Sports Illustrated Swimwear shoot. The Troll photographers turned on her when she refused to trampoline for them and things got nasty, gory and bloody real fast.
Wiping the Troll brains from her mace, the fraught Cleric stepped into the Treasure Chamber and finally faced the evil, always laughing, but never joke-sharing, Black Knight. In a somewhat protracted, epic battle, they actually ended up killing each other simultaneously, the Cleric dashing the Black Knight’s brains in with her mace at the exact same moment that his black sword took her head from her shoulders. The Cleric’s Helm of Power clattered to the floor as her head rolled out of it.
Whilst at the same time...
The Cleric’s BFF, ‘Rogue’ the Rogue, quested like a lunatic, becoming a Demon Hunter and discovering the Crystal of Light. Going up against the Generals she wasted no time in becoming the Orc Slayer and the Undead Slayer. And whilst getting absolutely wasted during a victory piss-up at the Inn, her tall stories attracted the attentions of Balikk the Wayward Fireballing Wizard who decided to join her and pledge to her his Balls of Fire.
Together they entered the Dungeon of Bones to avenge the poor Cleric. Instantly they were trapped inside by a slamming Portcullis, accosted by Harpies and harangued by Orcs. Being the Orc Slayer, Rogue instantly slew the miserable Orc squad. Only to see a vile Beholder flying down the corridor at them. Running away into Endless Corridors and avoiding the ubiquitous falling Boulders, Rogue and Balikk eventually came face to face with... An Army of Minions. Slaying the crap out of them - and with Balikk Fireballing their heads off - Rogue staggered into the Treasure Room, victorious. With a cry of joy she held aloft the totally awesome Flaming Sword!
Glancing at the Cleric’s dismembered body the Rogue casually picked up the Cleric’s Helm of Power, and, whistling nonchalantly, she headed out of the dungeon and back into the daylight.
Our tragic heroine the Cleric had been quickly replaced in a last minute script rewrite by (my personal favourite) the Ranger, who overcame his uncanny predilection for rolling ‘1’s to be called a Dragon Hunter and the Dragon Slayer. He even successfully petitioned the King of the Gryphons for assistance in the war, and, finally, he killed Balazarg becoming the Demon Slayer and defending the Realm for the good of all and FOREVER*!
* not actually forever.
GAME 3: SORCERESS + PALADIN
The Sorceress was an addicted quester. This ‘Questing’ business was catching. She’d been to classes and groups to try and overcome her addiction but to no avail. “I Quest all the time,” she complained, “I can never get anything done. I haven’t even washed these clothes in weeks, I’ve been so busy bloody Questing.”
She also gossiped like nobody’s business and overcame Rumours, Hunted Dragons, Envoyed the Duke, enlisted the Gryphon King, and found the Crystal of Light (which presumably the Rogue had dropped somewhere a long time ago whilst pissed up on booze). The Sorceress had also heard from the Wizard that Princess Karollyn was game for pretty much anything, so she headed to the Inn to enlist her. After a few days’ drinking she also decided to take the curios, slightly withdrawn Night Feather along for a laugh, who she ended up using and abusing so much that he eventually just shouted “Screw this, I hate you”, and left.
The Sorceress’ brother, who was a graduate from Paladin College, had long ago decided that he would take all the glory in the world for himself and he feverishly hunted down the Generals one by one, assassinating the Orc, Dragon and Undead Generals to become Chief Slayer of Almost Everything. Picking up his only friend Cyriss Glenn along the way, he found the Banner of Valour, the Amulet of the Gods, the Tree of Magic, and became Envoy to the Elves. Songs were written of his legend.
But those same songs were quickly erased with giant mind-rubbers just a few days later...
It transpired that there could be such a thing as “altogether far too much Questing”.
The Camel-Straw-Back interface came when the Sorceress flashed her Questing right in Balazarg’s face. “Haha,” she giggled to the bemused Demon Lord as he looked at her with annoyance, “I’m even Questing YOU,” she taunted, as she danced around Scouting his location and casually breaking his minions’ necks.
Her Paladin Bro stormed into the clearing, “Enough of this tomquestery! Avast, yon Demon, thou hast breathed thine last! I, who slew the Orc King, who slew the vile Undead Lord, and who – lest thou forgetst - also didst slayed - slew – slay Sapphire, the Dragon Lady, have cometh to kill you!” He drew his sword and held it to the Demon Lord’s throat. Balazarg sniffed impatiently and snapped the Paladin’s sword in two.
You could hear the Paladin gulp.
Flicking his tail, the Demon Lord launched both Paladin and Sorceress into the air. As they flew through the air they discussed plan for retribution (FYI the plan was, to quote the Paladin, “The same again”). A couple of miles later, their plan complete, they landed in two fortunately placed bales of hay.
The second time around Balazarg was even less impressed. Before the Paladin could begin his sermon, the Demon Lord plucked one of his arms off and began gnawing on it.
“I’m alright, I’m alright,” the Paladin mumbled to his sister as they staggered away, defeated, and repeatedly slipping in the poor Paladin’s blood as it spurted all over the place from his gaping wound.
Realising his time was short, the Sorceress wiped away her tears and asked her dying brother, “Do you have any regrets?”
“Frankly?” he gasped, as Balazarg marched his unstoppable army into Monarch City, “I probably didn’t do enough... Dungeoneering... Bleurrrurrrrgh....”
Just. Epic. Stuff.
We literally will not be playing without the C&C rules anymore and I look forward to the official release with baited breath. Richard’s support for this game is legendary, and his plans for its future are inspiring. It’s fair to say that there is no game designer around that works as hard to keep his product alive and truly kicking arse. And I’ve not even got started on the Summer League stuff yet!
Big thanks to Richard for all his work on this, and shouts out to DrCrow for his awesome support as the real life “Chief Slayer of Almost Everything” - even if you did diss me back at Gryphon Inn. ;)