How much fun can one person have with a ship full of orcs?

Just giving someone a ship ful of orcs may not make the best adventure, an interesting fight maybe but not an adventure. So what can you do with them to make it an interesting challenge for the players.

I would suggest just making the characters aware of their existance at first. If the characters are already on one adventure and in a tavern just have some locals arguing about whether there really was an orcish armada that invaded the southern lands. If they are pressed then they say that is what they had heard from a merchant that passed though. Others in the tavern will confirm that is what they have all heard. Now just leave that at that. The locals don’t know any more and cannot confirm or deny anything else.

Some of the things the orcs like to do is sail into harbour, launch fire arrows at every boat they can reach and sail out again. It doesn’t do them much good but they do enjoy the power trip and the thought of the destruction. It isn’t all senseless violence though. If a ship puts to sea in pursuit then the orcs will lead it out until it is isolated and then turn on it. When it comes to hand to hand fighting then the orcs are a savage and effective crew. If they capture a ship in this way but it is too big for them to crew then they will either scuttle it in the mouth of the harbour it came from (towing it along) to serve as a grim trophy or if the wind is blowing right they will set it on a ramming course back into its home harbour to try and wreck another ship. They will hang some of the crew from the spars as a grisly bit of theatre. When the ship collides with another vessel or the harbour wall the bodies will dance and swing on the ends of their rope.

It is after a ‘wrecking’ like this that the orcs have tried to demand a ‘tribute’ from the port to be left alone. Failure to pay will often mean that the orcs will moor their boat in a cove or bay near by and then raid from the landward side burning farms and out lying homesteads. The orcs like this as it provides them with fresh provisions, coin, odds and sods of equipment and a good fight on solid ground. They will often kill and raid in an arc from their hidden ship in land but not burn. They will attack and press on all though the night. At the first sign of pre-dawn they start to torch their victims properties and retrace their path burning each site as they go. This tactic means that men sent out to investigate the first plume of smoke are heading in the wrong direction to find the orcs. The orcs can also stash the booty from each raid rather than carry it with them as they know they are coming back the same way.

If the characters need to take ship at any point in their adventures it is a great time to introduce the orcs by having them come upon a town that has been treated to the orcs attention. From the landward side the characters discover the remains of burned farms and when they do reach the port they discover the wrackage made of the harbour. Everyone will be able to tell the characters that all this happened because the town council refused to pay the orcs their tribute. There will probably be people who blame the authorities and those that support that decision.

The orcs are not above a bit for piracy and in particular they like to take captives for ransom. thse plans often don’t work out too well as they have been known to eat the captives regardless of whether the ransom has been paid or not. They once managed to ransom an entire ship and its cargo back to the owner as it was to big for the orcs to sail and the cargo (grain)  was no use to them at all.

A kidnapping is a great way to have the orcs and characters cross paths. It is simply the heroic thing to do to rescue the victim. You should bear in mind that the orcs have not survived this long because they are stupid. If the characters rock up and are obviously more powerful than the orcs then they will do whatever they can to distract the players long enough to make their get away. Things like dropping the victim over the side with heavy iron manacles in their feet so they disappear under the waves like a stone. Launchig fire arrows at the characters vessel to cause a distraction and positioning their boat so that they have the wind to make their escape whilst at the same time robbing the characters boat of the wind. If the orcs end up in a chase as they flee the characters the sorcerer will attempt a ritual to control the weather (a boat chase can last for many hours) and make good their escape that way.

What the orc will not do is make it obvious that they have a spell caster with them. Nor will thye all fight to the death in the first opportunity for battle. They are all greater orcs and they got that way by surviving many battles and schemes in the past and they want to again. Do not make the mistake of killing them off too soon as there is a lot of potential here either to be an enduring pain in the side of the characters but also as a part of the local culture and as use as a plot device for your characters.

avavk Dovkov avuvk Kukiav – An Adventure

The title of this translates to The Black Pig and is the name of a sloop raiding the northern coastline of the Melos peninsular. It could of course be any coastline in any world. The language is Aioskoru Orcish courtesy of Ken Wickam (check out his blog for all things Aioskorunian).

The nature of these orcs is very much raid and move on. They are not interested in pitch battles but they pick on weak and defenceless coastal vilages where they can run amok. Occaisionally they will hide their sloop in a cove or natural harbour and raid in land. This is where the characters are to first encouter them.

How big an adventure you want to make this is rather up to you. If you want one pitched battle and done then allow the orcs to be caught easily and quickly, if you want to taunt your characters then they can be much more elusive.

The Rolemaster Creatures and Treasures book gives standard stats for a lesser and greater orc but also the rules to easily shift the creatures up and down in level and this is what I have done to create the crew. The orcs of the Kukiav are all greater orcs and one of them is also a spell caster (a 7th level sorcerer).

So first of all lets look at the crew of the Kukiav.

I am not going to name them because they are orcs and orcs exist to be killed not for their conversation.

First up is the sorcerer. There is one major consideration for the GM here. I use the optioal rules for Ritual Magic. If you allow this then This orc can call upon much more powerful weather magic, scrying and illusions at not much risk given enough time and preparation. The ship will have ritualistic markings on the deck where these rituals take place and the sorcerers quarters will be protected using waiting phantasms. the scale and magnatude of these are very much up to the GM. I now use the RMU ritual rules but the original ones were from Companion III. If you allow the use of rituals then this orc will have made his foci (a harpoon) and should be considered to have a +60 skill in ritual magic taking into account he skill, level and stats.

This orc is 7th level and has the following spell lists Fluid Destruction (1-10), Soul Destruction (1-10), Weather Ways (1-10), Essence Perceptions (1-10) and Lesser Illusions (1-10).  He has 40hits, is AT1 and has 21 powerpoints.

The orcish captain is also 7th level is AT18 and has 92hits and an OB of 120 also with a broadsword and an OB of 80 with a Harpoon (thrown). He carries a +5 non magical large shield to give a DB of +45

Subordinates. There are two greater orcs with the standard RM stats (4th level, 70hits, AT17, 40DB) What makes these two stand out is their armour and shields. They killed a pair of soldiers once and both have matching bronze breastplates and large black shields embossed to look like screaming faces.

The crew. This is another five greater orcs armed with broadswords and bucklers and harpoons as back up weapons.

The entre crew are competent sailors now, having raided successfully for a coupleof years. This has often been added by the use of illusions such as a barn fire away from town that draws all the men folk away before the orcs pull in to the harbour. The ship looks well cared for and in good condition, work carried out by captives before tey are eaten. The orcs are also partial to a bit of piracy if the opportunity presents itself and will use any advantage they can get. They will given the choice fight on land as they are all wearing metal armour and are fully aware that they sink!

The Kukiav

Sloop Deck Plan

  1. The Wheel Deck. The Orcish leader is here when active otherwise one of his subordinates will take the wheel.
  2. The main deck. The ritual circle is bewteen the masts in fron of the hold hatch. These are normally performed looking back down teh length of the ship.
  3. The Sorcerers quarters. These are pretected by a pair of waiting phantasms that will attack once before their ‘touches’ are expended. One phantasm is of a wicked axe swinging down from teh ceiling into the doorway and the other is of a trap door opening in the floor to reveal a trapped crocodile rushing up to attack. Both will attack with a 60OB on the MA Strikes Rank 1 table for x4 concussion hits. These take the sorcerer days prepare so to protect his privacy he has create a neurosis in all the other orcs making them too scared to enter his quarters.
  4. The subordinates quarters. These two orcs share these quarters in an uneasy truce. They are never on duty at the same time and if they are forced be in here and off duty then they normally duel for the right to use the bed with some kind of feat of strength such as all out wrestling or by gambling for it wth dice. The rest of the furniture in here is completely wrecked due to their vioolent life style.
  5. Captains quarters. This cabin is in surprisingly good shape considering the ocupant is an orc. Our orcish leader considers himself a bit of a master and commander or pirate king and consequently likes to live like one. All of the furniture is miss matched as it has been stolen piecemeal from coastal towns or other ships up and down the coast.
  6. Below decks. The rest of the raiding party have their hammocks hung here. The floor is strewn with leavings from meals past and the general detrius of a orc raiding party.
  7. The hold. This is where the raiding parties spoils are kept as well as spare weapons and armour. The hold holds 5000tp, 350bp and 60sp. In addition their are coils of rope, barrels of pitch and bundles of sail cloth.

Playing the Kukiav and its crew.

This could easily be a single one off encounter or a device for giving the characters a boat if the greater plot calls for it. i think it works better if the orcs are allowed to out fox the players. Let the sorcerer use rituals to spy on the characters once they know they exist and maybe over hear plans and then take advantage of that knowledge. If the characters have no way of following the ship out to sea then allow the orcs to escape on their ship and taunt the characters. If the characters try and use magic to attack then the sorcerer will try and use spells like neurosis to create an irrational fear of orcs or of water. If he is able to possess a character and start an in fight that way then that will serve. He will resort to throwing waterbolts as an absolute last resort as he knows he does not have enough power to last in that sort of fight.

If the characters become a major threat to the orcs then they will do their best to be where the characters are not but at the same time will try and taunt the characters by leaving a victim alive and then saying the raid is retaliation for the characters actions. remember the sorcerous orc loves fear and deception and with soul destruction and illusions both are very very real!

All of my Aioskoru content is made available under the Open Gaming License.

Where Next in 2016?

The problem I have is this. I want to write about Rolemaster in general, the games I am running (Rolemaster Classic), the new Rolemaster (Rolemaster Unified), the Forgotten Realms, the new world of Aioskoru and I want to produce more actually playable adventures. I try and publish two posts a week and right now I am even failing to write that much. There is such a thing as being stead too thin and that is me right now.

I have recently bought both HARP Fantasy and HARP SF and I would like to get into those as well. I also have a face to face game weekend come up.

I think I am going to slow down a little and commit to producing one post a week but try and make it more substantial. The RMU side of things should go quiet for the time being as they are producing the final draft. That alone make all the current discussions in the Beta forums irrelevant as they are now discussing rules that will not exist.

The game I am running (Rolemaster Classic) and the Forgotten Realms side of things are pretty much one and the same for me and Aioskoru is game independent as it is purely a setting.

The single most useful thing I can do is produce the playable content. All memebers of the Rolemaster community can use that and there is very little of it out their on the web. If I make it fit in nicely with the Aoiskoru region I am working on I can tick more than one box at once with that.

I think you can also expect a bit more of a nautical theme going on as I am quite interested in seabourne adventures. So that is it. 2016 is going to bring more adventures. Next time (I am already working on this) I will share a ship with deck plans that will become the basis for a series of adventures. So until then have fun!

All of my Aioskoru content is made available under the Open Gaming License.

An exciting New Year for Rolemaster

I just read Nicholas Caldwell’s directors briefing January 2016. Is really exciting to see that RMU won’t be going to a third beta but rather straight to a draft edition of the final rules. The draft edition should be there just for us to catch any missing tables spelling mistakes typos that sort of thing. It will be cool to see how the final rules I’m sure they will not have satisfied all of the people who are not happy with how the rules frankly I don’t think that was possible anyway, we have all modified our own versions rolemaster and no new edition that ever satisfy everybody.

I am interested to see how RNU stacks up against HARP. I’ve been really impressed with HARP so far as the criticism of the entire system is that the critical tables a little thin, the same critical, again and again. But it is not difficult just to create your own alternative criticals..

I normally try to play with rules as written but with a completely new set of what none of my players have played this would be really good time to try a customised game. I have always been tempted to play again based on a mix of rolemaster hero system and runequest to create a level-less experience-less classless system. I think the way that RMU does the character skills is perfect for what I have in mind.

I think I need to buy a couple more HARP rulebooks and build some of the key NPC’s first and then try and recreate the using the RMU rules when they are available. Hopefully the comparison will tell me if my hybrid idea will work. If it turns out I wanted to it should look and feel exactly like rolemaster but with a damn sight less hunting through pages of books to find 1,000,001 obscure tables.
This is one of those things that HARP does so well with the entire core system coming in at well under 250 pages. I’ll be amazed if RMU comes in under 2 1/2 thousand pages just for the core books. Admittedly they are different beasts but at the end of the day they are both only frameworks but all GM’s can use to create their own worlds, adventures and tell the story.

What I do need to do first of all is buy HARP SF.