Posted by : David Guyll February 12, 2011

I ran the first session of March of the Phantom Brigade last Tuesday, something that I've never done because the local game stores in my area usually have virtually no participants, or unpleasant stereotypes that like to use houserules such as, "spend a standard and move action to pick something up". No, to find a genuine oasis in my gaming community, Liz and I made a 45-minute trek downtown to Guardian Games. I go there mostly for the early releases, but they've also got a large store with a friendly atmosphere.

Only one person brought a legit character, so the other three at my table had to use pregens, resulting in a party of an elf scout, human mage, eladrin warpriest, and human cavalier (played by Liz, since she decided to venture out of her comfort zone of rogues). We didn't bring Fortune Cards, instead using someone else's community deck, which was met with almost a universally positive response--even though there wasn't a noticeable increase in power.

The adventure hook was pretty straightforward: protect a bunch of NPCs as they made their way to the ruins of Castle Inverness so that they could setup kip. Seeing as I recall Castle Inverness originating from a particularly nasty adventure from an older edition, I think they were thinking of the wrong castle. At any rate, they had the chance to interact with a couple of key NPCs--Brother Splintershield and Malgram (sp?)--before heading out on a journey that prompted various Oregon Trail jokes, such as "save versus dysentery".

The first day everything went accordingly, and people were in high spirits. At the start of the second day they turned off the road, and that's where things went south in more ways that one. The wagons kept getting damaged, animals had to be tended to, and the constant arguing between Splintershield and Malgram wasn't helping. At one point they hit a fork, and the characters intervened to help determine their next course: taking a shortcut through mountains, or going the long route through a somewhat more level forest. The scout suggested that the forest would be a lot easier on the wagons and horses. The choice didn't have an immediate effect, but would help determine a future encounter.

On the third day, calamity struck in the form of four stirges while their wagons were stuck crossing a 10-foot wide, stream, I guess. The setup is that the players are on the other side when the stirges attack. If they attack a commoner, they instantly die. If they hit a horse, well, those have 25 hit points (giving them about 3 rounds). Characters can use a skill check to free a horse, causing it and an adjacent commoner to flee off of the map and granting everyone bonus XP for their trouble.

Thankfully, the stirges went almost last. This gave the cavalier and scout a chance to cross the stream to get into melee, and the mage a chance to zap one with a spell. When it came time for the stirges to act, the one that got shot went after the mage, while the rest went after the closest targets, which happened to be the scout and a horse. Stirges are pretty easy to hit until they get attached to someone, after which they get a +5 to AC and Reflex. Luckily for the scout, both stirges missed him, but not so much for the mage, who would be bloodied by the time her turn started.

While the warpriest and mage tried to get the stirge off, the cavalier and scout spent a few rounds cutting down the pair in front of them. One managed to get ahold of the cavalier, but was chopped off by the scout before it could inflict too much damage. Since stirges cannot make melee basic attacks while attached, the mage was able to blast one off the horse before it died. Combat wrapped up once the warpriest clubbed one off the mage, after which everyone ganged up on the last one.

Everyone had to burn 2-3 healing surges, but since all the NPCs survived they got quite a bit of XP for just one hour-long session (over 200). I assured them that the next session that they'd find something, though it would be random since this season uses a table at the front of the book. Next week, they'll get to meet a new NPC and tackle a random encounter.

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