Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Zeitgeist : Police Academy

My new Dungeons & Dragons campaign is going to start end August, when my players are all back from their holidays. But as we already rolled the characters and still had time to meet once before the holidays, I created a special pre-campaign adventure for the players to get to know the characters they created.

It is Summer in the year 499 A.O.V. (after our victory, the victory being of the humans against the eladrin empire, which got destroyed in the process). On Pine Island, a quarter of the city of Flint in the kingdom of Risur, the Battalion Academy is training recruits for the army, the police, and the Royal Homeland Constabulary. Recruits first go through basic training before they are assigned to one of those forces, the RHC being the most prestigious, in charge of the security of king and country. So it is with some excitement that an inspection by the Viscount Inspector Nigel Price-Hill, the boss of the RHC, is being prepared. Price-Hill, who is normally in the headquarters in Slate, the capital of Risur, is being accompanied by Lady Inspectress Margaret Saxby, the head of the Flint branch, and Assistant Chief Inspector Stover Delft. They are being shown around by the head of RHC training in the Battalion Academy, Colonel Sebastian Harlock.

The player characters are all recruits in basic training. After the parade and inspection, they observe Price-Hill, Saxby, Delft and Harlock in a heated discussion of a newspaper article. On approaching they can hear Price-Hill saying that "We need to do something about this! And especially we need to show the king that we are doing something about this!". On noticing that they are being overheard Lady Saxby says "I think I have an idea, but let's discuss that in private.". So the leaders of the RHC are walking off, leaving the newspaper behind. In the newspaper the characters see that apparently the article under discussion was about people disagreeing with the king's politics on progress: The king wants Risur to industrialize, especially in the military sector. He wants modern weapons like muskets and steamships, like Risur's enemy Danor has developed. But in the 4th Yerasol war, 7 years ago, the Risuri forces, more used to druidic and shamanic magic than modern weapons, failed to use those weapons to good effect and lost the war. So a faction in Risur, the primalists, want the country to return to the old ways, against the wishes of the king.

The next day the characters are being told that they have been selected for the RHC, forming a new type of squadron, the musketeers. They aren't allowed other ranged weapons than muskets, and it quickly becomes clear that this new squadron is in part a political statement, trying to demonstrate the superiority of the modern weapons over the old ways. That is why the group does not contain any druids or shamans, but only characters using arcana, divine, and psionic powers. In detail the group consists of:

  • Eldion, a deva invoker. Devas are humans who were present when during the great victory 500 years ago the human army slew the avatar of the eladrin goddess Srasama. The death of Srasama led to a huge magical catastrophe, turning Danor into a magic-dead zone, killing nearly all eladrin women in the whole world (which led to the downfall of the eladrin empire), and causing a huge explosion. The humans who were close enough to witness the death but didn't get killed in the explosion received a sliver of the goddess' immortality, and have since then constantly be reborn every time they died, retaining a part of their previous live's memories. Eldion got selected for the RHC due to his political connections. He is a pragmatic politician who wanted to get into the RHC to promote his political career, and got a recommendation by one of Flint's mayors, for whom he worked previously.
  • Merian, an elven avenger. Merian is the only one in the group with a connection to the old ways, having been born and raised as a savage in the Risuri jungle. But a secret sect of the Clergy converted him and educated him as avenger for the church. It was this conversion from the old ways to a more modern religion which got Merian selected for the RHC.
  • Aria, a human sorceress with dragon blood running in her veins. She is a spirit medium, able to talk with dead, and can sometimes be found in conversation with her dead father. Her power to speak with the dead is of obvious use for the RHC.
  • James, a human battlemind. When the current king founded the RHC 30 years ago, James' father was one of the first constables. This family connection got James selected for the RHC.
  • Artus, a half-elf ardent. Artus fought as a young man in the fourth Yerasol war, distinguished himself as a war hero, but witnessed the death of many a comrade. Drifting after the war he was selected to the RHC following a recent political effort to employ war veterans.
  • Malicia, a human paladin. She is of noble birth, related to one of the previous kings of Risur. While the kingship is handed from one king to the next based on merit, the family of current and previous kings is the nobility of Risur. The RHC being considered a distinguished career, Malicia got the job due to her family connections.
After being selected the group spends the next 6 months in special training for the RHC, especially training with the musket (all players get the musket weapon skill). Any other ranged weapons are prohibited. At the end of that training, in Winter of the year 500 A.O.V., Colonel Sebastian Harlock has planned a special demonstration event as a sort of final exam for the musketeers: They are to face two squadrons of police and military recruits in a mock battle using non-lethal damage. They are facing a squadron consisting of Sergeant Gravash, a dragonborn soldier, with 4 policemen plus another squadron of Sergeant Alduin, an elven archer, with 4 militia archers. There being a political dimension to the battle, the group is set up with their muskets at one end, and the two squadrons fighting them are placed 25 squares away. The archers having short bows with a range of 15 squares, they need to spend the first round running, while the musketeers with their range of 20 have the advantage of being the defenders.

With several members of the group having the political skills to understand that a demonstration of muskets is called for, most of them use the musket once in the first or second round. Due to luck (most of the group has low dexterity and isn't actually any good with the musket), they kill the 4 archer minions with musket balls, to the applause of Colonel Harlock. The two sergeants and the policemen aren't minions, and are such much harder to kill. But with healing from both the paladin and the ardent, the group withstands the assault and wins the battle. (Technically this was a hard encounter, level 4 encounter for level 1 characters, but the advantage of the set-up made it easier than I had thought. Still it ended up being an interesting test battle giving everybody the chance to get to know the powers of their characters.)

After finishing their training with distinction that way, the group joins the RHC branch of Flint, and they each receive a magical RHC badge (amulet giving +1 to defenses, and allowing them to use their second wind as a movement action instead of a standard action. That is basically a disguised house rule, as the experience of the previous campaign showed that the second wind self-healing wasn't used much if it meant not attacking that round. As a movement action it isn't quite as good as the dwarven racial power that allows second wind as a minor action, so it still isn't a complete no-brainer but demands a tactical decision.). They are being told that in 6 weeks, in Spring 500 A.O.V. (the Risuri calendar has no months, just 4 seasons), the king will come to visit Flint for the launch of the first Risuri-built steamship. They are assigned as security for that event, and will spend the next weeks canvassing the area of the royal shipyard, performing background checks on the guest list, etc. The next session (the actual start of the campaign story) will be that event.


Ok. Just to play devil's advocate here... in a world where everyone has magical abilities, muskets would be useless as fidgeting with it prevents you from using your magic. And muskets require a lot of fidgeting to get them to work.

However, in a world where there are few effective magical users, muskets are a devastating force multiplier in that they allow any peasant to counter magic users.

Putting muskets in the hands of effective magic users makes no sense.

Also: "But in the 4th Yerasol war, 7 years ago, the Risuri forces, more used to druidic and shamanic magic than modern weapons, failed to use those weapons to good effect and lost the war."

Which weapons did they fail to use? The modern ones that were just being introduced 7 years later, or the druid/shaman ones? If the druid/shaman abilities were so great, wouldn't they just switch to them when the 'modern' weapons sucked? This would imply that druid/shaman abilities are even less effective than poorly trained musket users.

It looks like defecting to Danor is the winning move here.
To me the way he wrote it sounds like they tried to use some modern weapons 7 years ago but didn't not use them effectively hence why it took them 7 years to try again.

Anyways I love your D&D writing. Makes me want to play although I don't know anyone interested nor have I ever played myself. Great read.
I think they used conventional troops armed with swords etc., supported by druidic and shamanic magic. It is doubtful anybody has an army full of magic users. As far as I understood the passages in the campaign setting the soldier were told to use muskets without being properly trained in their use, so they ended up using them as clubs. :) The other possible interpretation is that a fight with muskets would be at range, while people trained in sword-fighting would rush forwards and try to close the gap to the enemy. Which might be why mixing strategies didn't work.
"I think they used conventional troops armed with swords etc., supported by druidic and shamanic magic. It is doubtful anybody has an army full of magic users."

Now that makes sense. However, with the addition of muskets, the druids and shamans would still be doing support roles. Blaming the druids and shamans for the tactical failures of the people running the army seems to be the problem.

Danor of course, doesn't have that problem... their ability to use magic seems to have been essentially obliterated by the death of Srasama. Freeing them to focus on mechanical weapons like muskets.

It will be interesting to see what your players do when confronted with that. Risur seems to be on track to basically defeat themselves in a war with Danor. Unless, of course... your players can convince the leaders to form an integrated strategy.
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