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    John Taylor

    [Rense stroked his chin as he assessed this latest prospect – let’s be honest, the only prospect.  He was certainly exotic enough.  His peculiar dress didn’t phase him as much as his insistence on the meeting place though.  Typically mercenaries like the Longshots were recruited in bars or brothels well after the sun had gone down and grog had worn down one’s sales resistance.  This fellow had insisted on meeting midday in the market square (or what passed for one in this pit of a village.)  Said he couldn’t enter a place of strong drink, something about religious scruples.  So here they were.  Fellow’s name was Kirkulik and he represented some local Beg in the Blighted Lands.  They were apparently having some trouble with the local steppe tribes that went beyond the traditional goat stealing and boastful threatening.  Must be well beyond if the Beg had sent agents as far into the borderlands as this dungpile to find soldiers.  Mind you the trouble back in the Kingdom meant soldiers were in high demand right now.  He’d be leading the Longshots there himself if certain political entanglements in his past hadn’t made the Kingdom lands a little too dangerous for him for the time being (was that damned old Duke ever going to finally die?)

    Anyway, the boys would be happy to move on.  They’d done a little too well for their own purses in these parts.  Not that he had any confidence in the Count’s men to keep things orderly once news of their departure got around.  Back in his regimental days he’d dismissed rankers for incompetence who were better than most of the fools the Count had for sergeants.

    Yep, some service in a nice sunny spot like the Blighted Lands (somebody in the tourist bureau needed to do some serious work on that name) would be a welcome change.  Savage tribes with little loot?  Not ideal, but if it means the boys won’t be facing any more of those hellish Taken they’ll regard it as an improvement.

    So Rense spat in his palm, shook the strangers hand and set off to pack.]


    I’ve finished my first 2nd Edition campaign in the Borderlands, and now I’m starting a new one using the Blighted Lands supplement.  I’ve got a set of houserules to bring a little more flavor to the setting and a baker’s dozen scenarios (and counting?) appropriate to the campaign drafted to make things interesting.  A couple bands of enemies on the painting table or ready for sealing & basing, some terrain on the bench and an arid landscape mat on order.  Just about ready to launch!

    Darkest Star Games

    I like the sound of this.  Looking forward to the reads!

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."


    I’m in.

    John Taylor

    Thanks, and good to see you Darkest Star – I’m still looking forward to those new trucks!

    Those houserules?

    • Any personal items and friends acquired in the Borderlands are of no use in the Blight.
    • Because the terrain, flora and fauna are so different, “Tracking”, “Foraging” and “Pathfinding” skills must be re-acquired by any characters not native to the Blight.  Until they are, tracking and foraging will be more difficult than presented in the MRB.
    • Carousing is more difficult (due to language barriers and general distrust of outsiders.)
    • New trade items include waterskins (common worn item) and lodestones (must roll doubles on the rare item roll to purchase, packed gear)
    • I’m using the enemy leader rules from the MRB rather than the supplement (which was written during 1st ed.)  Only the highest level enemy leader in an encounter (when there are more than one) can become a ‘recurring rival’
    • I’ve tweaked the village events a bit
    • War Spear and pistol may be used from horseback at full effect, other quality weapons count as standard from horseback (again, BL dates to 1st ed. and needed a bit of updating.)
    • Before setting out to look for trouble I have to roll for ‘wasteland conditions’ – if they’re in effect (think ‘heatwave’/Santa Anna winds/etc.) any figure that doesn’t have a waterskin must test to avoid an injury table roll after the encounter.
    • At the very end of a day spent doing anything other than staying in town, I have to roll against getting lost (unless I have a lodestone.) If I get lost each figure risks losing a random item (cast off as they stagger across the endless flats) and I can’t take any town actions the next day.
    telzy amber

    Does MRB mean MainRuleBook (Five Leagues From the Border Lands v2)? Or something else entirely beyond my, extremely, limited comprehension?

    John Taylor

    Sorry, yes – MRB = Main Rule Book (2nd Edition unless otherwise stated.)  Played the 1st campaign day:

    Day 1: As he collapsed on the caravanserai cot, Rense briefly reflected on the events of the last couple days.  They’d started out from the borderlands for their new place of employment with the Beg’s functionary, Kirkulik – who was looking to be their main point of contact with the Beg and the rest of what passed for ‘officialdom’ where they were headed.  They had tagged along with a caravan.  The caravan master was hardly a cheery sort, when he’d talk at all his conversation seemed limited to the many, many, many varieties of venomous bugs and snakes the Blight had on offer.  His favorite was a snake he could swear the Caravan Master called a “Cold Bra” that spread its neck out like a courtesan’s fan when it got angry.  This at least was promising as it suggested some of the people of the steppes had more of a sense of humor than Kirkulik and the Caravan folk.

    One stroke of luck, they’d met a rangy fellow who was also tagging along with the caravan named Vargas.  Turned out he was a bit of a fighter and looking to work at that.  A bit of skepticism about the fellow (he was one of those mysterious types that thought wearing a big hood and not talking much was the same as ‘character’,) was partially dispelled when everyone saw him shoot that ridiculously long bow of his.  What really sealed the deal was his cooking.  He was just about the finest camp cook any of them had had the pleasure of dining with.  The lads would probably have cut him down themselves if he hadn’t taken him on after tasting his ‘varmint stew with wild onion’.

    The town the Beg wanted them to protect had the unpleasant name of “Rotwater”.  At least that’s what the caravan master, whose skill in speaking Kingdomese was a little shaky, told them it translated to.  Reese was trying to pick up the local jabber, but it was slow going – luckily it turned out many of the locals had a fair bit of understanding of Kingdom speech.  Writing was not going to happen; Reese had taken one look at the loops, squiggles and dots that the local types wrote and knew he was destined for illiteracy in this new setting.  They’d have to hire a scribe if they needed anything read or written.

    Things didn’t go altogether well from the start.  Two of the boys decided to get on the right side of the local gods post haste and marched straight down to the local temple (no telling which of these strange gods it belonged to and he didn’t think Whistle and Vargas were that particular anyway.)  The priest let them in but didn’t look too happy about it.  He’d waved his hands around, muttered a prayer or two and sent them on their way.  Based on what happened on the way back the gods were on break at the time.  [Visited the village priest as a town action but failed to roll a blessing.]

    They soon set out on their first adventure and found…nothing! [Failed to roll any encounter at all]  Usually the Longshots didn’t have to look very far to find trouble, but on this day it just wouldn’t be found – or at least not the kind of trouble they were hoping for.  When the question was finally asked “It’s getting hot, which way back to town?” Everybody just sort of looked at each other.  Reese was sure they’d travelled west, but when they backtracked they could find neither path nor sign.  Things got pretty hard and thisty, some of the lads dropped things they’re sure to need later but damn that sun was hard on the plains. [My house rule about getting lost bit me right away – lost a shield and a light weapon plus all day 2’s town actions.  Could have been much worse.]

    John Taylor

    Day 3: The 2nd day here was a repeat of the day before, lots of sweating in the desert finding nothing. Kirkulik had come to check on them and looked even more disappointed than usual. No small feat since he pretty much left every meeting with the Longshots looking like he wanted to go home and take a bath. Come to think of it, with Horsemouth on the team that probably was a good instinct, (if any enlightened and benevolent ruler ever put a bounty on lice, that man could retire to a palace.)
    Things were about to change in a big way. They set out again but this was the hottest day so far. So of course this would be the day they’d finally have to fight. They heard the screams first, that gave them a direction to go in. When they got to the scene it was not Nomads they found though.
    A sole surviving figure was about to be charged by two horrors with five more trailing not far behind. Multi-legged spider beasts the size of wolves. He would later learn the natives called these “Dust Crawlers”. The whole team instantly charged forward in a vain attempt to save the man. Just before they could reach him he was slain by the closest beast. They engaged the rest and had a furious fight on their hands. Nobody went down in the fight but both he and Jugs saw their swords snap in half against the armored hides of the creatures. Hot as it was to wear in these conditions they owed their armor to their lives being saved.
    Tragedy struck on the way back to town. The insane heat of the day on top of the strain of the fight was too much for Poolboy, who was overcome with the heat and collapsed. It’s anyone’s guess at this point if he’ll make it.
    They hauled back the body of the unfortunate victim of the things in case he was kin to anyone in town. They also brought back the carcasses of the creatures to prove to Kirkulik they weren’t just wasting the Beg’s time and goodwill. It turned out to be a lucky thing since the locals immediately approached them to buy the dead things – turns out the gallbladders are used to cure almost everything. [Another houserule I failed to mention before – per the rules animal encounters like this yield no loot, but I deemed ‘dust crawlers’ and ‘sand runners’ to provide 1gc for each one slain (provided I held the field) as the pelts or organs had value to the locals. They’re the two toughest animal encounters and it seemed a shame to get nothing for beating them.]

    John Taylor

    Day 7:  It had been a full week since they’d entered the middle-of-nowhere town and if things had started slowly they’d more than made up for it by now.  They had had several successful fights against mostly nomads but also a dust up with some wild desert wolves along the way.  Whenever they got back to town Kirkulik was there eager for a body count – whatever they told him Rence was sure he reported threefold to the Beg when he got to the nobleman’s tent.  Rence wasn’t fond of Kirkulik but since the man had recruited them his prestige was tied up with their own, which made him an ally.

    The conditions of the blight were proving at least as big a threat as the nomads they fought.  Not only the deadly heat that struck some days and the ever present navigational hazards in the almost trackless steppes, but in this latest fight the ground itself tried to swallow up poor Horsemouth (Rense had teased him it was a good thing he never bathed or he might have been too tasty for the sinking sands to give up.)

    They were definitely having an effect, based on what Rense was hearing from the local herders and arriving caravan masters, who all reported reduced tribesmen harassment.  He hoped Whistle would be recovered enough from his injury against the Scorpion Hands to join them in their next patrol.  He had a feeling they’d need him.

    The boys square off against some tribesmen (Sand Goblins!)

    The boys square off against some tribesmen (Sand Goblins!) in their latest contest.  The white rings are ‘will’ markers.

    Ivan Sorensen

    Thanks for sharing. Your table setup does look rather dreary and choking! (in a good way!)

    Nordic Weasel Games

    Darkest Star Games

    Great progress.  Those Dust Crawlers sound dreadful.  Maybe make some armor out of them and sell that at a mark-up!  Sounds like your troop is doing pretty darn well so far.

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    John Taylor

    Thanks guys!  I’m still building up my terrain collection for this setting – the ‘cactus plants’ in the foreground I made by spraying up some soft plastic ‘aquarium plant’ style bits I bought in a super cheap baggie at a convention flea market.  As an experiment I hit them with some beige Krylon paint+primer spray when I was prepping some other terrain and they worked out surprisingly well – now I have to make some more.  The wargames table isn’t exactly the expected destination for ‘plants’ you buy in a baggie from an anonymous guy for recreational use…

    “Dust Crawlers” are like the Blighted Lands version of the “Taken”.  You see ’em come up on the encounter result and start crossing ‘protective herbs’ off your packed gear list.

    I’m doing well because my party started very strong after finishing my original 5L campaign.  This one rolled up to be a short one (single village with somewhat low threat levels – I’ve already got the Nomad TL down to ‘0’) so I just rolled with it.  I think before my next campaign I’ll strip out everyone but my Avatar and Retainer and add a d6 worth of followers for the rest to make things more interesting.  It’ll be Blighted Lands again since I haven’t wrung anywhere near all the juice from this setting yet and I’m also having a great time with it.

    John Taylor

    Campaign End: It seemed only fitting somehow that their last fight together would be one of their toughest. The locals are always talking about the ascetic holy men that go off to live alone in the wilderness to find enlightenment. Trouble is, sometimes something other than enlightenment finds them first. Wild nature spirits that transform these men into something else entirely. Despite the strange things Rense had already seen ‘Blightside’, he’d nonetheless assumed these were mere stories. Then, just when it seemed they’d cleared the area of all foes man and beast, they’d run into one themselves. “Skinwalkers’ the nomads called them and it had come within a hair of slicing open Karch’s jugular. That man had a wall of luck surrounding him, that was for sure. Even so, Rense would have taken it for just another beast, albeit an unearthly powerful one, if it hadn’t transformed back into a man when they’d slain it.

    With a fight against something like that closing out their contract, on top of the war news from back in the kingdom, Rense couldn’t blame the team for shipping off back to civilization. He had a hard time explaining it to Kirkulik, loyalty was everything to these Blightsiders. The way Kirkulik took it, Rense decided he’d have to be very canny about exactly how he moved on himself when the time came. But that wouldn’t be just yet. The others (apart from Karch, he was pretty sure that man would never leave his side unless it was in a shroud,) might be keen to seek their fortune back in the mercenary bands of the Kingdom, but that was a road still closed to Rense while the old Duke still breathed.

    Rense would be forming a new company of Longshots. He’d been in the Blight long enough to sort out the ways and means of how recruiting worked here. And he even had some contacts – in high places thanks to Kirkulik, and in not-so-high places thanks to his own dealings. Rense was just beginning to get the hang of things Blightside, and he was curious to see what new surprises (and treasures) might still be hiding in the tall grasses and deep sands. Now if he could just figure out what the writing on that old scroll the monster-man had hanging around his neck said…

    The Longshots Confront the MonsterThe Longshots Confront the Monster!

    Finished the campaign – it was always going to be a short one, only a single village with mid to low level threats for both animal and nomad.  The final fight was a custom scenario I wrote just for the Blighted Lands “Howl of the  Skinwalker.”  My first go with the “Creatures Most Vile” rules from the 2nd edition rulebook.  The campaign was great fun and because it was so short I’ll be running a second one with a mostly reconstituted warband – this one had just become too powerful for game balance.  I tried out a lot of new ideas and will be implementing a couple more for the next campaign.  The “Blighted Lands” setting has a lot of promise and the flavor is nicely distinct from Ivan’s other offerings, while still being open enough for either an ‘Arabian Nights’ interpretation, a Central Asia interpretation, or as I’ve chosen, a bit of both.  Can’t wait to see how it goes!

    <p style=”text-align: center;”>The Monster At Bay.</p>

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