This is a small travel adventure I ran for my players as they journeyed from Yndaros to Mergile.
It features Mound the Ogre, a bandit leader mentioned in the Core Rulebook but never expanded on. Here I have provided stats for a version of the ogre bandit.
The small adventure can easily fit into both Ambria’s plains and the rivers of Davokar with minor alterations. It can be transplanted somewhere else, and would make an excellent extension of Curse of the River Princess. In fact, when I ran this for my players I took it as an opportunity to feature Captain Ogval and his ship again and the text below represents that. Ogval is easily replaced with some other river captain the players are hiring for passage.
The encounter can even be used for a party travelling overland who reach the crossing from the road and find the bridge held hostage. In that case they may arrive just in time to witness another ship be captured in Mound’s trap.
The Scalebridge Toll
Halfway between Mergile and Yndaros lies a bridge that spans the river Noora, connecting the duchy of Mevidun and Yndaria. On the southern side lies the lands of Baron Mergai of Dekanor – a man who is currently in rebellion against Queen Korinthia. A small town called Bannfield lies around the river crossing, but most of its inhabitants have been displaced by the queen’s siege of Dekanor. The town is unremarkable, but its wooden bridge presents a strategic point.
The bridge is low enough to prevent passage of ships up and down the river, but it is designed with a scale “leaf” and counterweight to allow it to be hinged open like a drawbridge, letting ships move through.
Up until very recently, the bridge was occupied by a detachment of the Queen’s Army. The troops had been ordered to hold the bridge and to prevent any of Baron Mergai’s allies to use it. In a minor expansion of their duty, the soldiers decided to extract a toll from anyone travelling the river who wasn’t authorized by writ of House Kohinoor or Duke Sesario in Mergile. Most established merchants managed to negotiate letters of passage or just paid the troops, and life carried on.
One day after the party departs Yndaros, the bridge garrison is crushed by the roaming bandit band led by Mound the Ogre and his entourage of tamed rage trolls. This brutal troupe is now gouging all they can from the desperate merchants who are stuck on the river. Traffic has piled up all along the riverbank and anyone who disrespects Mound has their ship hauled out of the water and disassembled by groups of trolls.
When the party arrives at the Bannfield scalebridge, they can see three ships at anchor in the river ahead of them. Beyond those ships is the closed bridge, barring any passage. Captain Ogval will say that he has heard that there is some sort of toll on this river, but as the approach is made someone can be seen waving desperately from the back of the deck of the nearest ship. At that time, a gibbering laugh can be heard on the riverbank behind the River Princess. A troll emerges, carrying a goblin holding a rope. The troll winds up for a throw, and hurls the goblin across the river – the small creature screaming with excitement. On the other side, the goblin is caught by a second troll, who quickly pulls the rope up on its side. The rope eventually ends in a heavy iron chain, which the two trolls string up across the river. There is no way forward, and no way back.
Hulking silhouetted shapes move around on the bridge and on the shore around it. On the south bank, a small ship has been pulled out of the water and lies partially dismantled on its side.
The Trapped Ships
Captain Loban of the Rusty Minx – Red-haired young man. Has a crew of six ambrians, running food and goods. Does not intend to stay and pay toll to some inhuman bandits. Is determined to turn back and escape the trap and report this infraction to the army. Hard (-5) to convince to stay.
- The Rusty Minx is an ambrian river boat like the River Princess.
Captain Wolla and Maggie of the Volgoma’s Kiss – Odai women (short, round, ruddy, furs) trading barbarian crafts and furs. Have a crew of five goblins who they govern like strict but kind teachers. Somewhat concerned that Mound might turn their crew against them.
- The Volgoma’s Kiss is a small ship of barbarian design – a slightly scaled up lake fishing boat.
Captain Lockglass of the Alberine – Old man with a white beard. Crew of six experienced but ill-equipped men. Employed by Duke Sesario of Mergile. He has had regular dealings with the old bridge toll. Carries a valuable but secret cargo for the sick Queen Mother Abesina (Twilight-Thistle) and cannot allow the ogre bandit to lay his hands on it.
- The Alberine is an ore and lumber barge, but it is running mostly empty. It’s towards the end of the size of vessel that the river Noora can handle.
- Lockglass is an experienced military commander, but his crew are not equipped for battle. If it becomes necessary, he will order his men to make a stand to protect the ship’s cargo.
Mound the Ogre – Close to ten feet tall and half a ton heavy. He can easily crush a man’s head in one fist. He stands taller and larger than some of the trolls that follow him around. He’s more intelligent than he lets on, but rules by intimidation and mystical control.
Buxut (“Buttucks”) the Troll – Mound’s “second in command”, this is the most composed and level-headed of the trolls under Mound’s control. He is usually the one sent to confront people who wish to parlay with Mound.
Croaky Andrake – A shaggy mess of ash-grey feathers packed into a frayed cloak. Croaky is an incredibly annoying andrik who seems to be immune to most of Mound’s approaches to discipline and control, but he insists on following the ogre around as the band’s comic relief.
In addition to Buxut, Mound is accompanied by some half-dozen trolls (use Famished or Group-living Rage Trolls depending on desired challenge level) and a dozen goblins (use Fortune-Hunters).
Mound is fairly patient, but does not intend to stay at the bridge for much longer. He will deliver his demands to the snared ships (“Hand over your goods and I won’t smash your ships to bits.”) and if they refuse to comply he will have a ship pulled out of the water and order his trolls to tear it apart.
Travelling with the party, or on one of the other ships, is the knight Catrona. She is on a mission for Duke Junio Berakka, but along the way she will ply her trade as an itinerant knight. Mound’s extortion does not sit well with her and she will try to mount an armed resistance against him and his gang of trolls. As she sees it, if Mound can be neutralized and forced to submit, the rest of his band should follow.
She is likely to form up with Captain Lockglass and anyone else willing to fight the inhuman bandits, and anyone who is not prepared to help will be shamed with a litany of curses. Indeed, Cadovar will recount the tale of the events at the Bannfield scalebridge and the choices that people made there.
Mound is a ruthless raider, and has few qualms about killing Ambrians to take their things – in retribution for the things they have done. He was a servant of Clan Jezora, and witnessed the annihilation of his parent tribe, and although he never had any real love for Haloban’s clan he does find the Ambrians distasteful. he has bound his trolls to him by magic, might, and domination.
“Do as I say!”
Resistance 210 XP
Boons/Burdens Hideouts, Wanted
Traits Long-lived, Pariah, Robust III
Accurate 5 (+5), Cunning 10 (0), Discreet 10 (0), Persuasive 14 (-4), Quick 10 (0), Resolute 10 (0), Strong 15 (-5), Vigilant 6 (+4)
Abilities Iron Fist III, Dominate III, Leader I, Bend Will I, Man-at-Arms I
Weapons Giant sword 13
Armor Wood, rope, and rags 7
Attack vs 14 (-4)
Defense vs 6 (+4)
Toughness 15 Pain Threshold 8
Shadow Swirling blood with black iron flakes (1 corruption)
Corruption 1/10 Corruption Threshold 5
Description: Close to ten feet tall and half a ton heavy. He can easily crush a man in one fist, and blows bounce off his ironbark-like skin.
Catrona Cadovar is an itinerant knight, originally from the renowned Free Riders Company of Junio Berakka. Despite her esteemed name, it is questionable whether she is actually a noble. She definitely doesn’t try to act the part. She is foul-mouthed but fair, and honor-bound to uphold the ideals of her duke and the Free Riders Company. She will stand up to anyone she perceives as a tyrant and protect the weak and unfortunate. In a fight, she will occasionally pause to offer an opponent a chance to surrender – and they usually take it.
“Stay the fuck down, or I start taking limbs.”
Race Human (Ambrian)
Resistance 110 XP
Traits Contacts (Berakkan Company)
Accurate 5, Cunning 10, Discreet 7, Persuasive 15, Quick 13, Resolute 10, Strong 11, Vigilant 9
Abilities Dominate III, Man at Arms I, Shield Fighter I, Leader II
Weapons Bastard Sword 5/6+2, Fencing Sword 5+2 (-6 atk), Crow’s Beak 6+2
Armor Full Plate 5
Attack vs 15 (-5)
Defense vs 13 (-3)
Toughness 11 Pain Threshold 6
Shadow Polished blueish iron
Corruption 0/10 Corruption Threshold 5
Description: A woman with short-cropped blond hair, equipped in tailored plate and bristling with weapons bespoke for various types of encounters. Carries herself with boundless silent confidence. Unabashedly sets the tone of every scene she is in. Provokes and taunts opponents into mistakes.
GM’s Note: Both Catrona and Mound are built around Dominate III. This ability can be particularly unfun for players to run up against, because it is for all intents and purposes a -4 or -5 roll to resist a permanent stun or flee effect. This can be mitigated by taking care to present the terms of the ability to the players and also framing the combat in a way where it’s not necessarily a fight to the death. In Mound’s case, his aptitude for domination is also helped by a certain level of mystical might – so his use of Dominate can be regarded as a semi-mystical ability like Sixth Sense or Channeling. Demonstrating the ability on other NPCs can also help with showing the players that surrender or fleeing are options that these two characters can force you to take.
You can of course also rule that Dominate III is not necessarily a permanent effect and require resistance rolls to the effect as if it was an ongoing mystical power.
Pay the toll
Mound will ask to take anything he wants from the hold of the ship. He will allow the robbed ship to continue on its way. They will be gone by the time the ship makes its return journey.
Whatever Mound acquires, he will use to continue his campaign of robbery and death.
Mound will have no interest in listening to ambrians trying to convince him. However, barbarians (not of Odaiova or Kadizar) could have a shot. Characters with pariah will be Favored on attempts to persuade him – if they lean heavily on hatred of ambria.
If done well, Mound might even feature as a future ally of the player characters. If the other ships are left behind, the other captains will be none too happy and may seek retribution.
Buxut and the trolls will throw goblins at any offending crews and attempt to terminate any resistance quickly, but Mound will stay on the bridge away from the fighting. If most of the goblins fall, the goblins will flee. If two or more of the trolls die, Mound will sound the retreat.
If the players are defeated, Mound will take them captive and attempt to hold them for ransom or troll food. If Mound and his gang take heavy losses they will retreat and be greatly diminished as a regional threat. The other captains will be grateful, and official rewards may be waiting in the nearest city.
The blocking chain can be severed or ridden over if it is slacked. A ship could flee but Buxut and the other trolls will throw grappling hooks to try to prevent a ship from escaping.
The party does not reach its destination. They return to where they came from with no small mark of dishonor. They may be able to report the bandit problem to some official troops but by the time a patrol re-takes the bridge the bandits will be long gone.
Open the bridge
With an adequate distraction, attention could be lured away from the bridge and a Discreet character could manage to open it. Ships will be pursued by the trolls for a bit, maybe suffering a few goblin boarders.
Getting all the ships through will be quite the effort, but if carefully coordinated and excellently executed all the ships and crews may be able to safely escape.
Leave the ship
Leaving the ship and going around the obstruction is a perfectly valid solution, but it might require leaving a large amount of goods and even friends behind.
Ogval and his crew, as well as Catrona and the crews of the other ships will remember that the players abandoned them to be robbed by a pack of trolls and goblins.