Session starts where the previous one ended - the group is attacked by a patrol from the mercenary fortress. A fight that was meant as a warmer took surprisingly long, due to standard start-of-session circumstances as our little girl is still up, constantly climbing to my lap and keeping my wife (who's playing Doris) occupied. Also, damage rolls were very low. You'll find the photos related to each chapter after the text.
The patrol consisted of a veteran mercenary (Right hand), 4 rookie troopers, 2 archers and 2 dogs. Falchor's beast master gave the hostiles a mean surprise as their dogs refused to attack him. Many more soldiers were closing when the heroes had defeated the patrol, and the heroes decided to flee. Kylis was knocked unconscious in the fight (player not present) and the heroes had to drag him when fleeing. Würful had beaten a surrendering rookie soldier who didn't look very eager to fight with the mercenaries, but had to leave him behind as they had to carry Kylis and didn't want to be slowed down.
However, the group was a bit hesitant about what to do and weren't too fast nor silent and did nothing special to shake the chasers. They found an empty spot where they had left the horses and the girl they had rescued on the desert, tracks leading to the road going towards the fort. They heard repeatedly signs of pursuers, apparently having formed a line to find the hostiles, and once Würful very noisily charged a shape that he had thought to be an enemy, the group decided to ambush the attackers. Unfortunately, they had been already spotted, and the heroes engaged a strong enemy force, which was reinforced further by the enemy general and a cavalry group. The group was ordered to surrender, but before they had a chance to drop their weapons, they started to hear screams from the direction of the fort (Out of the frying pan -Adventure card).
After a few seconds, the general ordered his forces to the fort, but the heroes decided to attack the withdrawing troops (foiling the adventure card), and the vengeful general ordered his troops to kill the intruders first. The heroes started to collect hits, and for some unusual idea the general gave them another chance to surrender, which the heroes took.
Jungle fortress, temple and death
The heroes were tied with ropes and taken to the fortress. But the gate was left open, and inside there was no-one alive (except 8 girls that were protected by the cages they were in). There were bodies everywhere, killed with blades or perhaps dull claws, someone bitten or neck snapped. A dead mercenary officer lied in the front of the ancient jungle temple inside the fort area, bloody dagger in his hand. There was a lot of blood on the ground, that filled circular engravings on the floor. Everyone was silent.
The infuriated general ordered his scared troops to find out what happened, but after a minute a woman with eyes turned inwards and throat cut open walked from the back of the temple, telling that the newcomers had defiled a holy place and will be killed. Then every dead body in the area rose up and started attacking soldiers near them. (A small detail I had forgotten to describe was that barely visible shades appeared from somewhere and entered the bodies that rose up. Likewise, similar shadow left a body when one was killed - the characters thought they just imagined this until someone mentioned about it later and they started to talk about it.)
The heroes didn't engage in combat but after getting their hands free (by two of them persuading the guards) rushed to bash open the wooden cages, while the others held of the risen dead (one appeared to attack a character on Clubs). Doris freed most of the captives, while everyone was learning about details of the system. Würful felt an enlightment after learning that he can do wild rapid attacks while berserk, dealing 2d10+4 damage and no penalty to hit, 9 toughness with Loincloth hero and parry of 0!
The creature that had originally spoken was slaying soldiers here and there, and seemed to be looking something - or someone. The general was nowhere to be seen. At the time when the heroes had freed all the captives, all the soldiers were dead, and the rest of the soulless creatures turned their attention to them.
The mercenary general went through an escape tunnel and the heroes followed him, but somehow the general had found his way down the cliff the group arrived to much faster. Below there was several horses running around wild, having fled the massacre. The group made it down the cliff and were able to catch mounts, but they also saw the leading creature to rise on the palisade, holding a large red gem and a swarm of once-killed bodies swarmed over the palisade. A chase ensued.
While the dead were slower than horses, there was a few in the group that could actually ride. The freed ladies made group riding checks, carrying the non-present players' characters. The dead were slowed than mounts even in this terrain, but many of them were able to gain up on the runaways and even got through a few hits. Falchor who had had a really bad luck when rolling chase checks for the lady she was riding with dropped to 3 wounds and jumped off his horse, allowing the girl to flee (and she immediately rolled a raise on the chase check). He run to forest, but at the same time Tereis fell back, trying to pull back the rest of the chasers and succeeded, allowing Falchor as well as the others to flee to safety.
On the border of the jungle oasis and desert, they saw fleeing general run beyond a dune, and soon reappear with the army he had been waiting for. Würful was lead to Falchor by Falchor's hawk and Tereis found her way to the group, and they left the trees. A large group of once dead appeared to the border of the desert, but didn't follow the heroes to the light of the dawning sun. But their leader appeared soon, held her red gem in her arms, and soon a sandstorm started to form in the front of the sun. The heroes run away, watching the mercenary cavalry charging toward the damned creatures.
The end of the session
The heroes found their way to a town, with a group of very grateful ladies but had no many to have a good time. But something strange happened; A dates seller sold them fresh water and very special dates - ones that had red crystals inside them! It caused a lot of wondering, but putting together what the seller had said they figured they'd get a much more if they made to city of Quollaba in two weeks. That left them one week to have some good time with the ladies.
Carousing results: Würful's tired for some time, Tereis angered (or believes she did) a god by defiling a virgin with a religious purpose, Doris and Falchor learnd a few new tricks (a temporary edge for the next adventure).
These notes are for other Savage Worlds gamemasters - they contain no actual spoilers about future story, although they may reveal some background thoughts that may take away from the game immersion.
Well, there were challenges during this session. I'm trying to move towards more free-form GM'ing, allowing players/player characters to have a big impact on the planned story, perhaps I'd even drop whole prepared solid story structure later - and this needs some fast decision making.
This time, players not coming up with anything to shake the chasers and instead attacking them changed my plans, as well as playing 'Out of the frying pan', which made me think really hard, and the only thing I could think of at the moment was triggering the events at the temple I had planned for later. And these events were triggered only by a large amount of blood flowing to fill the engravings in the temple, so I decided this would happen by a bloodlusty veteran mercenary deciding to make the recaptured girl an example for the others so no-one else would try to escape. Well, at least the mercenary got what he deserved when the spirit of the temple was risen.
Giving the players freedom to do what they want almost lead to several character deaths - when a strong enemy is going to leave you alone, you really, REALLY should let them leave in peace! This isn't a game where you get XP for kills, and even if you'd win a very difficult fight early in the game, it might get one or more characters killed and leave others wounded and drained of bennies. I'm sure most characters would really appreciate their lives too. Not surrendering in the first place when surrounded by a superior force costed the group free bennies as well as a lot of used bennies, adventure card and wounds.
Changing big plots also seems to make me forget trappings, which happened during the rise of the zombies. I had planned to present the effect when the spirits originally rose from the bloodied circle, but that had already happened when the players got there. Trappings is clearly something I need to pay more attention to.
I was testing my new chase rules and they worked very well. I didn't use all features and the special event tables aren't ready, but the chase was quite swift. I didn't use groups for extras, but rolling a group of d6's was really fast. The chase kind of break apart in the end (only Würful actually fled the enemies) but it still felt very natural. The chasers were so slow that they had penalties and needed to roll 6's to advance, which they did very rarely, but they also rolled very few 1's until the last rounds. More about these rules later.