My ongoing Greyhawk D&D campaign continued last night with the characters scouting the borderlands of Iuz. Iuz, for those of you unaware with the World of Greyhawk is a land ruled by an evil demi-god (Iuz!) that borders on one of the major good kingdoms of the world, the Kingdom of Furyondy. The new King of Furyondy is somewhat foolish, and, upon receiving a lost heirloom of his house from the heroes, declared his intention to invade the cursed lands. The adventurers have been sent in as advanced scouts.
This is not something they’re used to. Or particularly good at.
The session went like this: they were ferried across the river that divides the land of Iuz from Furyondy. They were aware of the location of the border forts that Iuz had built, and they made their way towards the nearest. They ran into a giant boar being hunted by a party of orcs – they killed the orcs, realised it was being hunted, then slew most of the orcs, though some escaped. They then took a detour from the most direct route and ended up overlooking the road that led from the border fort into the interior of the land of Iuz. Where did it lead? They don’t know, and didn’t find out.
While hiding and watching the traffic on the road – a party of human slaves pushing wagons to the fort, then a relief column of orcs led by humans – they were attacked twice by orcs led by priestesses of Iuz, who were able to find the characters, despite their precautions. After the second fight, which consisted of 30 orcs, an orc leader and the orc priestess, they slipped back to the boat and returned to Furyondy. That ended the session.
The leaders of the armies of Furyondy are likely to be less than impressed than this information. What’s the land like? Where are the towns? How many forces do the keeps hold?
That’s fine. They didn’t expect much anyway from the party, who they thought were fortunate incompetents who had been favoured by their foolish king.
The foolish King, Tobias III? He’s likely to be less happy.
I didn’t do a lot of preparaton for this session, but I did work out the general layout of the land and what the players would discover if they went inland or explored the forts in more detail. What I certainly didn’t do was define goals for the players. Their mission was “scout the land of Iuz” with no details as to what that entailed. It’s not surprising that they did such a poor job of it. If you want a group to do things, it helps greatly to have a list of specific goals for them to discover. Compare this expedition to the scouting expedition in Chapter 2 of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. In that case, the mayor tells the characters several things he wants to know:
- Where is the raider camp located?
- How many raiders are there?
- Who are their leaders?
- What’s motivating the attacks?
- Where will the raiders strike next?
With those goals, the characters have a very clear idea of what they need to find. Much better than “Scout the lands of Iuz”, which gives no real expectations of what constitutes success. That said, it absolutely fits the lack of planning of King Tobias III.
The one interesting aspect the players discovered is that they were found so quickly by the forces of Iuz. Upon returning, they’ll discover that the regular army scouts all disappear without trace when they attempt to cross the river to scout the lands of Iuz. So, just getting back alive has been an accomplishment! This aspect will likely be developed in further adventures.