Orctober: D&D One Shot

Before we get going, there’s a few items to address. Firstly, if you’re active on reddit, come over and join me in my AMA today on r/Fantasy! I will definitely be screaming about Stranger Things and you could come join me with that. Secondly, The Demons Within Kickstarter campaign is still chugging along. This is the last week. It’ll be running through November 5th.

So, now that we’re here, I have some bad news: after recording for five hours (talking for around two while we waited for Leigh and playing for around three), I went to save the capture…and the program ate it. Those five hours are gone. We were going to see about recording the second half but schedules just weren’t really going to let that happen. I’ve since figured out how to properly record for a potential next time, thankfully, so that shouldn’t happen again. But now what?

Well, I’m going to at least try to give you a summary of the game. I realize this isn’t quite as good as listening but it is, unfortunately, the best I can do. I’ll try to make it worth your while though!

The basic premise of the campaign centered on a horde under a warlord attacking a castle with a hoard. Basically, our horde was being excluded from being able to live a little more comfortably, just toiling outside the castle while the humans live in excess. The party consisted of Radha (pronounced “Rahla” because Celtic), a half-orc druid played by Leigh, Jack Bloodfist, a half-orc bardbarian as played by his author, James Jakins, Grimnir, a full-blood orc rogue/barbarian as played by his author, Scott Oden, and me as Gruflek, a full-blood orc fighter. We used my orc variants as a basis for our characters. Our DM is my friend Garrett, who runs my personal D&D game (which I mentioned previously as well). We also started at level 5 and used point buy for our stats.

So the game starts off in the middle of the siege. We’re a side unit under Radha’s command, with pikemen up front, and a goddamn ogre/goblin-manned cannon behind us. The goal is to break the walls and storm in. While we’re getting the cannon ready, a group of humans and some of our number are fighting down the hill. We take a hail of arrows, which Gruflek is unable to dodge from. Radha casts call lightning and proceeds to wreck the humans. Our forces pull away from the lightning, prompting the humans to head after us, unsuccessfully. The cannon fires, taking out a group and Grimnir suggests we move forward enough to aim the cannon at the walls to aid the frontline.

The shot misses but it’s close. Then a regiment of griffin riders flies out and straight for us. Some of them get taken out by the lightning but the rest make it our way. Jack casts faerie fire on some of them. Their leader manages to escape it. Some of the pikemen manage to keep some of the riders at bay but two of them land near us and the fight begins in earnest. Grimnir goes for a sneak attack on the rider nearest him, but ends up just doing normal damage. Gruflek steps up to the rider nearest him and takes a swing with his greatsword. I rolled a critical, so Gruflek just wrecks the griffin, slicing off one of its wings.

Jack and Radha are mostly running support. When Grimnir’s turn rolls back around, he manages to rip the rider off his mount and turn it into a duel. Gruflek finishes off the griffin and takes on the rider, eventually dispatching him as well and moving to aid Grimnir. Radha rolls up on Gruflek and says, “You see what ya did to that one? Do it again!” and casts haste, meaning he now has an extra attack per turn (for 3 total) and double movement speed, and still has advantage from the faerie fire. So the next rider falls. The leader of the riders finally gets to our cannon and begins taking out the goblin operators.

Grimnir also decides to take the head of the rider he killed. Gruflek challenges the leader, who accepts after using some sort of magical strike to shatter the cannon. Turns out, this guy is a prince. Grimnir crits on a stealth roll and somehow manages to ninja vanish and get behind the guy for a sneak attack, trash talking as he does. Gruflek runs up and drops the prince to the ground with a sideways shoulder thrust to keep him from landing on Grimnir. So now the prince is prone but he manages to avoid Gruflek’s next attacks.

He rises and casts some sort of wind blast spell, which Grimnir and Gruflek both shrug off, Gruflek remarking, “What a lovely breeze.” Jack and Radha have their hands full with the last rider, whose griffin manages to catch Jack’s bracer and shake him around like a rag doll, mostly inconveniencing him. Radha turns into a bear and deals some damage to the griffin. Meanwhile, Grimnir gets in a hard shot against the prince allowing Gruflek to come in and finish him off, cleaving down at his neck and shoulder with enough force that it manages to bite through the platemail and finish him off.

Then a horn sounds. A retreat horn from our forces. For the moment, we finish off the other griffin rider while one last rider hurls spells at us from above while we cover escape. Once we’re clear, we find out the warlord died screaming from some unknown force in his tent, scattering our forces. We manage to gather up about 300 or so remaining soldiers and make camp, trying to figure out what happened and where to go from there.

Grimnir, incensed at how close we were getting to breaking the wall, goes on a spiel that, while a bit on the, uh, racial superiority side, also has a core of wanting more for our people. Jack helps inspire the forces with a massive song, and Grimnir takes over as the new warlord. The next morning, we make it official. Gruflek, being the only one of them that has any concept of regimentation as a mercenary, gets the other orcs, goblins, bugbears, hobgoblins, ogres, and an ettin (Grum and Chuck) who wandered into our circle the night before, to pack up under the new warlord’s orders, puts them in a tactical marching formation (ogres up front, in the middle, and in back with everyone else in between, with GrumChuck serving as flank coverage), and they head into the swamp.

Once they’re deep in the swamp, camp is made. The ogres proceed to make rafts to sleep on, with Gruflek making sure to show the ogres how to anchor the rafts so they don’t float away. The smaller races climb into the trees as well. Gruflek opts to sleep on a raft with the ogres as greatswords aren’t really good for trees. Later on, Grimnir awakes and spots a strange light. The party ends up following him, meeting a wizard. The wizard in question actually helped form the horde, basically instigating the whole thing. We update him on the situation we make a new plan to infiltrate the castle and break down the doors to let our forces inside. The wizard agrees and directs us on how we might accomplish the goal.

The next day, Grimnir, Radha, and a bugbear make a recon trip to recover the black powder for the cannon. There, they find a woman interrogating a hobgoblin (or maybe it was a bugbear, I can’t remember). They’re trying to find who killed the prince. Radha casts invisibility on the group and then get enough of the powder barrels for our job to work, and then blow the rest, taking out the humans and the nearly dead bugbear. Jack and Gruflek, meanwhile, end up in a camp song, though Gruflek had been attempting to make sure weapons and armor weren’t in need of repair.

When the others return with the powder, several goblins came running up, having scouted the area, and inform us of lizard people attacking them. The party goes to investigate, finding a tribe of elves whose territory we’ve essentially invaded. They agree to a parlay, demanding weapons be left. Gruflek does NOT leave his weapons out of arm’s reach and so manages to pass with a bit of magic and an oath of conduct. The party meets the tribe’s leader and through the parlay, Grimnir works out an alliance of sorts with the elves. If they’ll allow us refuge and help us build fortifications, we’ll help them keep the swamp free of humans and share the spoils of the invasion once it’s done. Given that the rumor of the resources contained behind the walls is more than we’d ever need, a 70/30 split feels more than fair. The deal made, the party returns to begin fortifications and then planning their infiltration.

And that is where the session ended. Hopefully I did a decent job recounting things but some of the details are fuzzy nearly a month later and session summaries are never as good as actually playing them. We would’ve had to have gotten a second day to finish it up but, as I said, our schedules just weren’t having it. Eventually, we hope to play again and finish this little campaign but I have no idea when that will happen. You’ll find our character sheets below. I’m really sorry there isn’t anything to listen to. I was going to include a second file of bits of our pregame conversation as well but technical difficulties happen.

Do you have any orc-heavy D&D games you’d like to share? Leave it in a comment!

Character Sheets

Gruflek Radha Jack Grimnir

Orctober: Ashe Plays D&D

Over on Tumblr, I’ve been documenting the D&D game my friends and I started in February. I thought maybe I’d take the time to talk about my Battlemaster Fighter, Gorthos.

Gorthos started on based on an old idea I’d had before I started writing Grimluk. I had this awesome vision of a swashbuckling orc who, unlike his peers, dueled with a greatsword. After watching and loving BBC’s The Musketeers (WHY THE FUCK DID YOU END IT WITH THE THIRD SEASON? WHYYYYYY?!?!), I decided to tweak that idea in the form of a Battlemaster modeled after Porthos. Due to growing up watching Disney’s Three Musketeers, Gorthos started to form as a fusion of Howard Charles modern portrayal and Oliver Platt’s more comedic take. In practice, though, I didn’t hit the beats I wanted. I was still learning the system and made some choices that I’ll be correcting soon.

Storywise, however, is a different beast. Gorthos’ backstory is that he was a mercenary who finally left his band behind…after killing a lot of them. See, Gorthos, despite being a mercenary, just always wanted a good fight. Non-combatants meant nothing to him. They weren’t worth paying attention to during battles. He gained, of all things, an elf mentor who taught him how to really handle a sword, and was happy to get paid to fight. One particular job ended this when they were commanded to murder a town and burn it to the ground.

He didn’t take that well, and he and his mentor and a few others turned on their fellow mercs and effectively disbanded. After helping his mentor find some place to retire, he makes his way to Rizenheist (a homebrew setting from our DM, which includes a homebrew race, the Balkeshi).

Our first game saw us going after something called trouble fruit, the main ingredient in Balkeshi alcohol, despite the city walls being locked down for some reason or another for the day. Shenanigans saw us get into the forest, where we narrowly killed a baby remorhaz, which prompted Gorthos to add some fire protection to his studded leather jacket.

Once returned, we found the Silver Blades, basically the thieves’ guild, waiting on us for using THEIR tunnel. Fast forward, we end up helping them, nearly get ourselves killed, rescued by a fellow player’s friend in the Blades, who gets bit by a wereboar, but we survive and move on.

Fast forward again, our Balkeshi PC, Zakah, has had a crush on Gorthos. This comes to a head after a chase by goblins. We go back to save Sylal (my partner Nici’s half-elf rogue), and fight the goblins. Their bugbear bashes Gorthos’s skull in with a crit but that most beautiful of half-orc abilities, Relentless Endurance, saved him. Zakah, frenzied and raging (barbarian), chokes the bugbear and basically sets Gorthos up for reprisal. Gorthos crits (which means, with Savage Attacks for half-orcs, that I got to roll my damage dice three times instead of two), and REKS the bugbear. Zakah, still frenzied, kisses Gorthos over the body. It was awesome.

Then they kidnapped our pig. We saved her. That was awesome too cause we did it without murdering a whole tribe of goblins.

As we’ve gone on, Gorthos and Zakah have kind of become the core of our group, especially since the fourth player’s character is a full-on edgelord tiefling warlock, played beautifully by our friend, who occasionally apologizes for what his character is about to do. Gorthos and Zakah have a whole bunch of cute moments.


Gorthos and Zakah having a tender moment out shopping. Commissioned from Emmett Shearer.

Lucius, the warlock, ends up getting himself killed when we take on a young dragon. Gorthos takes this hard as we had done character bonds pregame. Gorthos had “Lucius will get himself killed if I don’t step in.” He took it hard, and was confused just as hard when Lucius showed back up in someone else’s body. In an effort to deal with his feelings, he ends up doing level 5 training in an illegal fight pit against an ogre named Strong Steven that broke Gorthos’s jaw (double crit!). Gorthos won though thanks to a well-timed nut shot.

Gorthos after the fight. A birthday present from Zakah’s player, also by Emmett Shearer.

As I’ve gotten more comfortable with the game, Gorthos has gotten more concrete as a character. I’ve come up with more background for him. Figured out he’s bisexual and polyamorous. Is fairly sure his uncle killed his mother after she basically sold him to his merc group in an attempt to give him a better life. His uncle, who’d been one of the most prominent raiders in the tribe, hated the new direction towards peace and hated Gorthos for being a physical manifestation of that peace. He never knew his father, and his mother never told him much. He got basic schooling but never really cared to learn much more than that.

It’s been a total blast playing him, especially the relationship with Zakah, which has been both rocky and sweet and funny all at once. After Zakah took him to get his jaw fixed, Gorthos casually said he loved Zakah, unaware of what he’d said. When asked, he said, “Sure, I love you. I love Sylal. I…tolerate Lucius. Why not?” Love comes easy to him. I could easily turn this campaign into a book and it would be fantastically compelling. I have left a LOT of details out. If you’re curious, head over to my tumblr and look through the “ashe plays dnd” tag.

I would enthusiastically encourage folks to pick up the game. Fifth Edition is pretty slick and newbie friendly and the sheer fun of a collaborative story with friends is fucking brilliant. If you need more proof, come back on Friday for Leigh Peterson’s story!