‘Henchmen’ Campaign – System: Fate Accelerated by Evil Hat Productions
In a fantasy world with strange races, magical powers and a hierarchy of heroes and villains, we are Henchmen – soldiers for hire and underlings to an evil Lord.
The players meet their master, munch on mushrooms and are forced to make a run for it.
At the end of Part 2, our characters were returning triumphantly to the base of their evil Lord with their carriages of shiny new weapons. The base itself was a well-defended compound attached to a complex of caves. Having only worked for Elon for a week or so, the players had never been allowed to enter those caves and instead spent their time training with the other recruits in the compound behind the tall wooden palisade. The players were greeted with cheers from the henchmen guarding the main gate, and they proceeded to distribute the fine dwarven weapons they had captured. Elon entered the caves to report on the raid, and returned with good news.
Having been impressed by the skills of the characters during the raid, Elon had taken it upon himself to recommend that they be allowed to join the Lord’s personal guard. By this point, the characters had never even seen their new Master, but Elon finally shared his name: The Toadlord. He led them through the winding cave system to a large, moist room that was abundant with fungus, and showed them several chests containing their new armour – the ceremonial Mushroom Helmet and Shield of the Toadlord’s personal guard. Leaving them to dress, he summoned their new master.
After some deliberation, the characters (and players) donned the armour. The Knife, noticing that the shields were crafted from mushrooms hardened to an oak-like strength, nibbled on his mushroom shield which led to a brief psychadelic interlude before the Toadlord finally entered.
In case you hadn’t guessed, the ‘Toad’ in Toadlord comes from toadstools, not the amphibian creature. He was a diminutive, hunched old wizard wearing a long, mossy robe covered in small fungi, and he spoke with a high-pitched, wavering voice. He briefly interviewed the characters, asking what they could bring to his henchmen army, but a sudden blare of trumpets cut the conversation short. It sounded like there was trouble outside of the compound, and the characters followed Elon outside to investigate.
Reports came down from henchmen on the wall – a great host of soldiers was forming up nearby, upwards of a thousand men. They were soldiers of the Order of the Golden Shield – the forces of good in this Fantasy world, and the army of the Royal Family in the Capital. Elon estimated that there were 80 henchmen inside the compound, but despite the difference in number he was confident they could hold out… until a heavy rumbling sounded from outside the walls, sending the gatehouse guards jumping for their lives. With a great splintering crash, a large boulder smashed its way through the stout gates, and began rolling around the compound, apparently picking out targets.
With the gate breached and some kind of sentient boulder crushing henchmen everywhere, the players decided to escape into the caves to find a back door down which to take the Toadlord. Elon’s only suggestion was to use the subterranean river tunnels, hoping they emerged somewhere before the characters drowned. Faced with a tough decision, the players grabbed the Toadlord, used their mushroom shields for floatation and jumped into the river as mailed boots could be heard entering the fungal throneroom.
It was a rough ride through the darkness, and Polly-Anne the Troll, who was the strongest of the group, did her best to keep hold of the Toadlord, but a failed roll caused her to lose her grip on the old Wizard, and the characters emerged downstream without him. They were clear of the mountains, far away from the soldiers, but without their Master.
This part of Session 1 was definitely more focussed on storytelling than dice rolling. The story I was trying to tell hinged on this sudden, unexplained attack by the Golden Shield, and the session was already running quite late. I may have been railroading the players to get the story moving, but I justify it because of my decision to use the 4-session campaign model.
That being said, the players did have a great moment where I made them all wear the paper replica shield and helmet of the Toadlord’s personal guard in public. I’m not sure what the other patrons of the pub thought we were doing, but I personally got a good laugh out of it. Even in-game, the characters questioned whether they would put up with this indignity, which they ultimately decided they would. I didn’t detail the conversation of that scene but it was a fun character moment that made the time I spent crafting the paper armour worthwhile.
The only part of this session I felt bad about was stripping the Toadlord from Polly-Anne’s grasp in the underwater tunnels. The story I had planned was based on the Toadlord not making it out of the tunnels, and I felt bad when the loss became Polly-Anne’s fault. I did play fair – the dice fell in my favour, no fudging required, but I didn’t really explain that a Fate point could have given Polly-Anne a chance to roll again. Looking back, it could have made the story much more interesting if the characters had a weird mushroom wizard to take care of for the rest of the adventure, but we live and learn. And you never know if the Toadlord might reappear in future…
That wraps up Session 1. Why was the Toadlord attacked so suddenly, and in such great force? How will our characters survive now that they are once again unemployed? How will Quinn care for her hungry family? Discover these answers, and more, in Session 2 – Part 1.