My Pictish Campaign.

tarkhan bey

Hi guys, I have just returned to my keyboard after a lengthy hiatus and would like to share with you the tale of my pictish campaign. It will be lengthy and may take a number of posts but I hope that you will enjoy the adventures of my characters.
First off,thanks to Vincent for writing "Across the Thunder river". It is now the most used supplement for any rpg that I have purchased in over 20yrs of gaming.
Comments will be appreciated.
The campaign follows the lives of three generations of settlers on the Pictish frontier and is titled"How the Westermark was won (and lost )."
I have attempted as far as possible not to deviate from canon in running this campaign. I have however taken the liberty of providing viable backgrounds for a number of the main protagonists of the original tales and shoehorned in a few characters and places from pastiche's where they do not run contrary to the original Westermark tales.
The first part of the campaign which lasted roughly three sessions of four hours is known as"The Salt Lick War".

By the way, sorry that this has to be broken up quite so much but I am having some Pc trouble and I keep losing posts before they get submitted.
Part 1) The Salt Lick War

The campaign begins in the last years of the reign of the tyrant Vilerus. The westermark has been in existence for the best part of a decade and the provinces of Scohira, Conawaga and Oriskonie are all well established. Of the myriad picts who lived in the region between the Bossonian and Thunder river's nothing remains save for deserted villages and broken treaties.
Velitrium, at this point, is merely a fort guarding the settlers of Conawaga from the savages who dwell across the river in the region known as Conajohara.
Only a handful of men have ever ventured across the Thunder river to trap for beaver pelts along a stream which has come to be known as South creek. Whilst scouting the North creek area of Conajohara, a Gunderman by the name of Ottokar claims to have discovered a large area of salt licks.
This has caused great excitement in the Westermark. Salt is considered a highly lucrative commodity in the Hyborian lands and a shanty town has sprung up in the shadow of fort Velitrium.Those who have come to Velitrium are those who have recently arrived in the Westermark.Having missed the best land in the three established provinces they are now keen to exploit the wealth of Conajohara.
The King has dispatched one of his most loyal and trusted commanders, General Valannus, to open up the region for settlement and to ensure that the crown recieves a "fair" share of any profit from the salt there.
The commander at fort Velitrium is Viscount Lucian, the black sheep of his family by all accounts.He is ambitious and seeks to better his reputation with the king and thus his station. He does not want to play second fiddle to this General Valannus.[/list]
His intention is to sieze Conajohara himself using mercenaries and a company of volunteer militia raised from the settlers who surround the fort.He knows that he dare not use the troops of his garrison for this enterprise. Failure would lead not only to the loss of his command but also the loss of his head.
The captain of the free companions is one Valonso Da Carvalho, a Zingaran who claims to be a nobleman and related to the royal family of that land. His troops are elite heavy infantrymen.
The truth is that he is a rogue with no notable blood and his "elite" soldiers are nothing more than well equipped bullies.

****At this point I made my players aware that this was use a one off scenario to give them a feel for the Pictish Wilderness. The characters were pre generated for them and I advised them to use their fate points liberally. I intended to pull no punches in this scenario and was set on a course of action which would instil a future sense of dread in them when facing picts.*****

The pregen characters are Aobhan, a Cimmerian barbarian (lvl2), hired to scout for Viscount Lucians expedition.Aldor and Harkon, a pair of Westermark borderers(lvl2) and Dardo,a Bossonian soldier/borderer(lvl1/1). The last three characters have all come to Velitrium seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

Each of the characters is in their mid to late twenties and all except the Cimmerian bravo leave behind a wife and children when they sign on for Viscount Lucian's army.
The adventure begins with the characters being summoned to the tent of Captain Da carvalho. Viscount Lucian waits inside with a dangerous but well paid mission into the wilderness for them. The characters are widely regarded as the best scouts that the small force has available to them and so they are the natural choice for the task.
Ferried across the river in the dead of night they are to locate the main pictish village of the region which is known as Conajoharie. Rumour has it that a shaman has risen amongst the picts of the Wolf Confederation who has declared Conajohara to be sacred ground. Friendly picts have said that this shaman has united the Wolf picts out of Gwawela alongside the refugee clans who fled the coming of the Hyborians. They also say that the mighty war chief Athawaya has brought his North Hawk clans to the council fires.
Their mission is to find a route through the wilderness to enable a lightning strike at the village by Lucians army. They are also,if possible, to assassinate this shaman who goes by the name of Zogar Sag.
Synopsis of events.

The adventure went pretty much as I envisaged it. Despite the need for haste and stealth the players simply could not wait to come to grips with any picts they came into contact with.
Despite the earnest warnings of the Cimmerian they felt it necessary to kill any pict they stumbled across whether painted for war or not.
Two days later,with a handful of scalps between them and a deficit of just as many fate points the characters found themselves on a bluff overlooking the village on the banks of the Black river.
From this vantage point they were able to view the goings on in the village,notably the return of a band of raiders with what appeared to be a Hyborian woman as captive.
Our heroes decided that they could not leave a Hyborian woman to the tender mercies of the picts and hatched a plan to rescue her.
The Bossonian,meantime, had spotted that something was afoot in the village. A pict in a feathered headdress was performing some kind of ritual as he cavorted and capered wildly in front of the warriors of the village. The ceremony complete, the shaman retired into a hut near the central bonfire as the picts began a night of raucous drinking and orgiastic dancing.
This was the time,the characters would climb down the back of the bluff, sneak along the river bank and enter the village from its unprotected riverside. They would rescue the woman, kill the shaman in his sleep and escape into the night without the drunken picts noticing a thing.
Unfortunately, they failed to notice that the figure in the dress was actually a pictish warrior wearing his loot from a raid on a frontier farm.
They also failed to realise that there were far more warriors in the village than it could house and they assumed in error that the picts would not worry about sentries this deep in their own territory.
Waist deep in the freezing water of the Black river their plan went awry as howling savages erupted from the trees on the riverbank to drag the characters under the water. Many more burst out from among the huts and a furious melee ensued before our heroes were cut down or overwhelmed. They had managed to account for near a dozen of their foes.
Several hours and several fate points later they awoke in a smoke filled hut along with a Westermarker named Garleth who had been taken in a raid two days earlier. Through him and the few words of pictish they had picked up they learned that they were destined to be tortured and burned to death as a sacrifice to their dark god, Jhebbal Sag.
They also learned that this Zogar sag was treated with near messianic reverence by the people of the Black river tribes.
Six days later there was much excitement in the village. It seemed that the invaders had crossed the river and were hacking their way through the wilderness. They were, however, off course and moving toward the meadowlands near the council stones at South creek.
Garleth was dragged from the hut,tortured hideously and burned to death in the council fires. All the while his piteous screams could be heard above tha drums and chanting of the savages.
The characters decided to make good their escape. They overcame the two picts who had been on guard duty and escaped down the Black river in a stolen canoe. Within the hour their escape was discovered ansd several war canoes gave chase.
Armed only with a primitive club, a copper bladed axe and a pair of flint knives the characters knew they could not hope to defeat a score or more of pursuers.
They finally gave them the slip by hiding in the beaver lodge near the council stones on south creek.
Striking out to the north east they finally found Lucian's army at nightfall as they began to make camp in a wide meadow.
Lucian himself had remained at Velitrium and had given full command to Da Carvalho. Having heard the characters report he ordered the men to stand to arms and kept them like that for most of the night. Just before dawn, after a night of jumping at shadows the forest itself seemed to rise up against the invaders. Venomous serpents,dire wolves,cave bears and great sabre toothed cats assaulted them in the company of a horde of howling picts. Massacre meadow gained its name that night. A mere handful of the Hyborians survived, those who had fled early. The rest including the characters fought and died where they stood.

next-The fall of Conajohara.
Thanks for the posts. Sounds really cool.

I love the whole Pictish wilderness concept, I need to put some adventures there soon.
Good plot. I always liked Pictish adventures myself.
Were the PCs just left for dead so that they can continue their adventures, or are they DEAD dead? :shock:
They are most definately dead. It was my intention to pregenerate one off characters in order to showcase the abilities of the picts and dangers of the westermark before the players got to roll up their own characters. It worked as foreshadowing as well. Several major names were mentioned or introduced and the characters were given motivation by the fact that each of their families had suffered a loss at massacre meadow.
The fall of Conajohara

It is five years since Massacre meadow and the characters are the teenage sons of those poor fools who joined up to Lucians doomed expedition. Life on the frontier has been harsh and even as sixteen/seventeen year olds they are better woodsmen than their fathers ever were.Their last memories are of their fathers boarding the flat bottomed boats which ferried them across the Thunder river to their deaths.
Each of our heroes is the de facto head of their family despite their tender years and all live in Conajohara on the Tuscelan road several miles to the east of scalp creek.
They survive by collecting salt from the licks, trapping beaver on south creek or by hunting fresh game for the officers table at fort Tuscelan. They are familiarwith all the characters of Howard's westermark tales(at least by name). They have never, however, encountered a pict in the wild. The only ones they have seen are the handful of tame ones and half breeds at Velitrium or the heads brought back by Conan the cimmerian from his patrols into the Black river country.
The characters are Lett and Lennart,the sons of Harkon,Drada Aldor's son and Rufio the son of Dardo. All are standard hyborian borderers(lvl3) except for Rufio who is a Bossonian borderer(lvl3).
In the aftermath of Massacre meadow, General Valannus marched into Velitrium at the head of three thousand Aquilonian regulars. His ranks were further swollen by nearly a thousand militiamen keen to avenge their friends and relatives. Several sharp skirmishes were fought before the picts were finally forced to withdraw and leave the sacred ground of Conajohara in the hands of the invaders. The entire affair has come to be known as the "Salt Lick war".
The salt licks proved to be nowhere near as lucrative as had been expected and the new king, Numedides, would only fund the building of a single fort on the Black river despite the protests of Valannus that two were needed.
A favourite of Vilerus, Valannus found himself in disfavour with the new king and Conajohara became a rural backwater,forgotten by all save the ever present picts and the villainous Viscount Lucian.
Following the earlier events, Lucian had been summoned to Tarantia to give account of himself to the king. He was fortunate in that Vilerus passed away whilst he was on route and an altogether more gullible monarch ascended the throne. Thus it was that instead of losing his head he found himself packed back off to the westermark as adjutant to General Valannus.
His family had been almost beggared by the debacle at Conajohara and he resolved that by hook or by crook he would redeem their wealth.
General Valannus was primarily a military man and welcomed the arrival of this beaurocrat who could deal with the provincial administration leaving him free to deal with the defence of the frontier from fort Tuscelan.
With a free reign in Velitrium, Lucian began his get rich quick scheme by raising taxes on the people and skimming the army paychests as they arrived. He made some contacts among the borderers of Velitrium, notably a group of men of ill repute out of Oriskonie(These particular rogues were suspected of having dealings with the picts).
Conajohara's fate was sealed when the province of Poitain rose in open and armed revolt against the king. Fully two thirds of the army of the Westermark was withdrawn to defend the capital against the southen knights and their retainers.
The governor pays in silver coin for fresh meat. It is this fact that has brought our heroes west of Scalp creek.During the night as they stand watch they observed a wierd green glow in the distance moving through the forest. The strange wailing sound that accompanied the glow led to a sleepless night.
The following morning they managed to bring down a buck and set off along the Tuscelan road to the fort. About half a mile from the fort they found the headless corpse of a man dangling in the branches of a tree.From his clothing and armour they deduced that he was a soldier from the garrison of the fort but could not work out why the picts had not stolen his mail shirt or his weapons. The only tracks they could find apart from the trooper's were strange and birdlike, though of unusually large size.
Returning the body to the fort they discover that this is one of several men to have died the same way.Each time only the birdlike tracks were found and each time the weird cry was also heard from the forest.
The soldiers are in a superstitious panic. They believe that the picts have conjured up a devil to plague them and that the cry of the loon heralds its coming.
At the sutlers store they encountered their old friend Soractus, a woodsman who became a surrogate father to each of them following the events at Massacre meadow. The grizzled old frontiersman told them of the situation with Zogar sag as described in Beyond the Black river.
The following morning after prolonged discussions with an Aquilonian sergeant about the advantages and disadvantages of joining the regular army the characters decided to set off for South creek to check their beaver traps.
There they discovered a pair of hidden pictish war canoes near its confluence with Scalp creek. Using the skills and knowledges imparted to them at an early age they were able to determine that there were around a score of picts and that from the stitching on their moccassins they were north Hawks. The tracks were heading north toward the settler cabins on the Tuscelan road.
(The foreshadowing of the previous sessions had worked as I hoped. The characters fearing that the raiders would attack their farms set off hurriedly,straight into an ambush.)
Two picts had been left to guard the canoes and to deal with any interlopers. Pandemonium ensued as the two Lvl1 picts sprung their ambush by firing arrows from the cover of the trees and keeping moving.
The best part was when a wounded pict"played possum" and nearly gutted Lennart in a surprise round as the borderer proudly proclaimed that he was about to lift his first scalp. As it turned out the wound was a pretty feeble one but the characters had learned another lesson about life and death in the Westermark.
By late afternoon the characters had tracked the raiders to their destination, but contrary to what they believed, it was not the settlers cabins.
The picts were ambushing a squad of soldiers on a wagon escort duty.
Unknown to Governor Valannus, his favourite neice was on her way Fort Tuscelan. Lucarla had been threatened with holy orders at home in a bid to curb her headstrong and unladylike behaviour. She had run away to the frontier in search of the uncle who had doted on her as a child. With his support she might be able to avoid joining the temple.
The paychest for Tucelan was due to leave Velitrium with a small escort of soldiers under the command of a newly arrived young nobleman, Marius Alecto. The villainous Viscount Lucien conspired to prevent its departure for a few days and then insisted that the young officer would also have responsibility for escorting Lady Lucarla to her uncle.
This had given his Oriskonie renegades time to make contact with the picts. As predicted, Zogar Sag had leapt at the opportunity. This Lucian could have the gold. He wanted to capture the relative of the hated Valannus, the man who had sorely shamed him.
The characters arrived to find three picts threatening a young Aquilonian officer who was attempting to defend a young richly attired woman. He was clearly wounded and was attempting to fend off the raiders with a poniard and the hilt of a broken arming sword. Two picts lay dead at the young officers feet.
A dozen other picts were swarming over the men of the escort cutting throats and scalping the stricken soldiers.
In rushed our heroes, surprising the picts and making short work of the first four in a flurry of blows from hatchet and poniard. The picts panicked at this unexpected intrusion and promptly fled into the woods leaving another four of their number dropped as they disengaged. Of the entire band of nineteen warriors a mere seven returned to report their failure to their master.
Any thoughts that our heroes had of a tryst with the pretty damsel in distress were soon dispelled as night fell on Conajohara and it became clear just exactly how pampered and annoying that she was. It was with great relief that they handed her over to her uncle at the fort the next afternoon,along with the garrison payroll. The unfortunate young officer of the escort had succumbed to his wounds and died in the night.
The heroes were made very welcome by Governor Valannus,unlike his neice. He made it very clear to her that he regarded her presence at the fort as a liability and that he would be sending her back to Velitrium the following morning. He could spare only a handful of soldiers and so he requested that the characters also would act as escort.He would give them a letter ordering Viscount Lucian to pay them the sum of 60 silver coins. This monetary note would be redeemable upon the safe deliverance of Lucarla to Velitrium.
That night the characters bedded down in one of the bunkhouse barracks where they found out that their friend Soractus had disappeared the previous evening. He had left the fort intending to hunt down and slay the demon that the picts had sent to plague them.
The following morning the party set off on the day long journey that it would take them to reach Velitrium. The journey passed without incident save for a meeting on the road with the fat merchant Dionus, an unpleasant man who made a living from poor wine at expensive prices and a passing nod to a tawny haired Taurani youth.
Having successfully delivered their charge into the hands of Viscount Lucian the characters were paid the requisite amount of coins for their service. Drada,however, noticed that the Viscount seemed quite shocked to see the girl again and that he seemed to experience actual physical pain as he handed over the coins. An ill concieved and rather unwise comment about miserly noblemen led to his recieving a flogging and being unceremoniously dumped into the street.
Another valuable lesson had just been learned the hard way. More lessons were to follow as our heroes found themselves at the inn of Ottokar the Gunderman for their first real experience of drinking and wenching. Unfortunately they managed to start a brawl with some off duty soldiers,wrecked the bar,lost all their money and wound up spending the next few nights in the cells.
Having now had their fill of Velitrium the characters decided to return home. Approaching the river it soon became clear that all was not well. The opposite shore was thronged with women and children and there appeared to be no men amongst them.The ferry was crammed to capacity and a small fleet of boats and canoes were paddling toward the opposite bank to pick up those who were still there. A dozen plumes of smoke above the treeline betrayed the fact that the picts were across the border.
Amongst the refugees were the female relatives of the characters,one of whom revealed that Conan had gone to the salt licks to warn the menfolk. If anyone could save the men then it would be the Cimmerian.
A Taurani youth named Balthus with an ugly old hounddog had remained behind to fight off the picts who had come ahead of the horde that were besieging the fort.The picts were thousands strong,at least sixteen clans, according to the youth anyway.
Despite the willingness of many of the frontiersmen to cross over into Conajohara it was clear to Viscount Lucian that a few hundred assorted soldiers and settlers could not hope to prevail against even a tenth of that number of picts in the open wilderness. Instead he determined to draft all available men into a militia and to guard the river crossing against the painted devils. Tuscelan would stand or fall without him.
Within a couple of days, Conan and a party of several score men arrived on the opposite riverbank. The settlers menfolk had been saved. They claimed to have skirmished with small bands of picts up and down the west bank but in nowhere near the numbers that assaulted the fort. The Cimmerian also claimed to have slain a demon somewhere near the salt licks. Something had stopped the main horde of the savages in their tracks. Speculation was rife that the fort might still be holding out.
Reinforcements had been arriving daily from the provinces of Scohira and Conawaga and an expedition was finally mounted to relieve the fort.
Two days later and it was obvious that the picts, save for a handful, had abandoned Conajohara and retreated back beyond the Black river.
A single survivor was found at the fort who told a strange tale of the demise of the pictish sorceror,Zogar Sag. The Taurani youth and his old hound wre found on the Velitrium road surrounded by a mound of dead picts but of the forts paychest there was no sign.
Upon returning to Velitrium the characters found that a mob had siezed and murdered all the towns tame picts. Half breeds and anyone suspected of harbouring pictish sympathies were hanging from a scaffold in the towns market square. Among these were the little pictish wife of Ottokar the Gunderman, though he himself had escaped after killing two townsfolk.
In five short years the province of Conajohara had been carved from the wilderness and then lost again.
Pt)3 Thandara

The campaign shifts forward almost a decade and the remaining characters are all now in theirv mid twenties.
The villainous Viscount Lucian had made little attempt to provide food and shelter for the displaced folk of Conajohara and soon hundreds were forced to move onwards in search of a new home.
The long march south to the lands around Fort Thandara came to be known as the trail of tears as dozens died on the journey from cold and hunger as well as at the hands of the savage picts who still dwelt in the wilderness south of Scohira.
Rufio had elected to remain behind in Velitrium. Conan had been commisioned to raise and command a company of Bossonian bowmen. He felt that he could not pass up the oportunity to serve in the command of this near legendary figure.
The other character's had travelled south on the trail of tears and over the years they were joined by hundreds of other settlers who came to Thandara to seek a new life.
These days each of them was a well known and respected soldier in the ranger company of Captain Leofas Hardin's son.
Life was, as ever, hard on the frontier and finding a suitable woman was ever on the young mens minds. All were looking forward greatly to the festival of planting in the early spring. although a Mitraic religious festival it was also the time when folk would gather from all over Thandara to find wives or husbands.
It was also the time when the merchants from beyond the Bossonian march would cross the little wilderness in an armed caravan to bring much needed goods to the isolated province.
Our three remaining heroes are at this time all Borderer/Soldier Lvl5/2.
There was great excitement and expectationabout the festival this year. Baron Attalus from the Bossonian marches was to be in attendance personally. It was rumoured that he was providing the escort to the merchants and bringing nearly two dozen women destined for bonded servitude on the frontier.
It has been explained to the menfolk that these women are criminals. Any man may offer to purchase their services for a period of time by paying money to the magistrate who accompanies them.This means cooking,cleaning and other duties of a similar nature.
It does not include rights to duties of a more "physical" nature. Brant Drago's son is adamant that many of these women are in this situation through no fault of their own except for poor choices and opportunities.
Any of these other "services" must be negotiated individually with the woman in question.
"Here in Thandara they are to be afforded the same rights as free folk as far as rape, violence or threat of such is concerned."
The fair which accompanies the festival is a fine opportunity for the young men to test their skills against their peers and to show off in front of the young women.
There are competitions of strength,speed and endurance as well as those of skill and agility. Canny folk are appreciated on the frontier and so there are also tests of wit and wisdom.
By now it has become clear that Lennart is the bowman of the group without equal among his peers. His skill with the Bossonian longbow is unsurpassed,even by the Bossonian archers in the retinue of Baron Attalus.
Lett, his brother, is the best tracker of the group though his skill is pale by comparison to that of Jon Galter's son. Lett appears none too worried as he has caught the eye of Jon's sister Mari.
The most anticipated event of the afternoon is the hand to hand combat.
Drada, the axeman of the group has an easy time of it until it comes to the final where he is to face Diomedes of Koth, the Baron's personal bodyguard.
Both Lennart and Lett have been watching him all day and thay realize that without substantial amounts of luck that the Kothian will carry the day.
Both face off against each other surrounded by a ring of cheering onlookers. Each has three targes with which to defend themselves. The object is that all three targes must be sundered before an attempt may be made to strike your opponent. The winner will be the first man to draw blood from his opponent.
The Kothian smiles at Drada, a knowing smile,the sort of smile that will goad our hero into doing someting rash(Which from Drada's track record is very likely).
The bout never takes place though as a dusty rider thunders into the settlement. He dismounts and asks to speak with Brant Drago's son. as the characters close around him they realize that it is their old comrade Rufio. As he pats the dust from his surcoat it becomes obvious that it bears the golden lion charge of General Conan's border regiment.