United They Stood; Depraved They Fell

Prologue

Every so often, a session might begin with a flash-forward encounter in which the player characters are at the peak of their power and evil nature, at level 20. These level 20 encounters are simply for fun as the more consistent players wait for other players to show up. Though set in the future (about 1812), these encounters may or may not reflect the exact future of the rest of the campaign. In future posts, these encounters may simply be included in italics at the beginning of a chapter.

It is the year 1812, and our "heroes" have long succumbed to their depraved, evil natures. Though they were each instrumental in the War of Independence and the foundation of the United States of America, they have now become enemies of freedom and preverters of justice. As another war with the Old World seemed imminent, and fearing that his former constitutional colleagues would soon turn against America once again, President James Maedison cordially invited these four anti-heroes (Jack McDonough, Hanzo, Clement, and Oliver) to his residence in Wodgington D.C., to settle their differences like gentlemen.

The time and place was set, and honored, by our four players, and they met President Maedison, as well as former president Thomas Geofferson, at the front lawn of the White House. Maedison and Geofferson accused the four gentlemen of their murderous and traitorous actions against America, and the meeting soon came to blows, as was expected.

However, Maedison and Geofferson had a few tricks up their sleeves. First, they summoned the spirit of America, which was embodied in a slim, older man with surprising strength: Uncle Sam. The apparition of freedom spoke:

"Now, before we become engaged in our little debate, I have one question to pose to you gentlemen: Who's your Uncle? I'll receive your answers after we finish defeating you all in the name of liberty and justice."

The battle commenced, and it was hard fought. Early on, Geofferson was killed, and Uncle Sam was becoming very weak. Then, a barrage of cannon balls fell on the four adversaries. Maedison explained that "since [they] dare fight against the U.S. Constitution, the USS Constitution ["Old Ironsides"] is fighting back." The cannon balls were annoying, but not devastating, to the players.

Then came the finishing blow.

Behind the shadows of the White House, a gargantuan monstrosity emerged. Maedison explained that "before he died, Haemilton gave our nation a blessing and a curse. For us, a blessing; for you, a curse." The monstrosity was the United States National Debt (inspired by America Rock, using the stats for a tarrasque, the most powerful monster in official 5e D&D)!

At this point, the players realized they had bitten off more than they could chew, and each of them fled the field to regroup in a local pub, to fight against freedom another day…

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Chapter 1: The Battle of Lexington

It was the year 1775 in the new colonies known collectively as America. Tensions between America and her mother Britain have been running high for years, and at long last, they are coming to a head in battle. The Americans have amassed an impressively diverse army, though the British army is much more impressive in numbers. On one spring evening, a group of soldiers gathered around a campfire, awaiting news of British movement. They were as follows:

Oliver Akando, a half-Native, half-European bardic rogue (College of Blades and Time Thief archetypes) whose loyalty remains strong with his Native ancestry and very strongly against the British assassins who murdered his father. Strangely enough, the assassins called themselves the King's Watchmen, a group to which Oliver's father once belonged. Some secrets of the Watchmen have been passed down to Oliver.

Jack McDonough, a timid, well-traveled, well-learned Scottish man who specializes in all kinds of alchemical science and magic. He became an American ally as he has become more and more acquainted with the ways of the Natives. We will soon see, however, the hulking savagery that now lies dormant in Mr. McDonough's psyche.

Clement, a French rogue who—like most French men—has come to hate the British and sees the American conflicts as a way to fight the evil power that he believes has plagued his homeland for so long. But, will he later become part of the very problem he's sworn to fight against?

Hanzo, a native of the Asian countries and thus a natural dragonborn. But, he is of a special and secret draconic bloodline, so he looks more European than Asian. For his own reasons, he has traveled from Asia, across the wild western lands of America, and was led by the Natives to the eastern civilization of the New World. A trained assassin, and perhaps something much more powerful, he keeps his words and his secrets to himself for a reason.

Drake, a Native rogue who has tremendous animosity for civilized man. But, he sees freedom as a result of an American victory.

Tiger Lily, a Native shaman (wizard) and one of several women who wished to actively participate in the upcoming war, but came disguised as a man to keep from danger and suspicion.

Virginia, a half-Native, half-European warlock with similar desires as Tiger Lily to join in the American/British war.

Lagatha, a female cleric from the Nordic countries (a dwarf). Her ties with the British have brought her to America, and she has been persuaded to join in the American cause.

These characters surrounded a campfire as their captain approached. He told them that the army would be alerted to the British troops' advance by lights shining from the Old North Church in Boston (one if by land, two if by sea, three if by air). The well-known blacksmith and activist, Paul Reviere, was performing reconnaissance and would alert the soldiers in the church of any movement. Soon, two lights appeared from the chapel steeple, and the colonial army immediately mobilized.

The next morning, the colonists were stationed at Lexington, forming a wall between Boston and the military arsenal stashed in Concord. The captain ordered all soldiers to form two long straight ranks to make their line. Our heroes, originally assigned to the very front line, protested the strategy, suggesting that they break from the line and retreat into the woods behind their own army to shoot from a distance and from cover. The captain was intrigued by this idea and allowed them to do so.

The British troops arrived, with greater numbers than the American colonists. As soon as the British ranks were formed, all was quiet. No one knew who would talk—or shoot—first.

The first shot was fired. The shot heard round the world. In actuality, it would be more accurate to call it the twang heard round the world, because it was Tiger Lily's anxious hand that let an arrow fly prematurely, killing a redcoat on the spot. The Battle of Lexington, indeed, the Revolutionary War, had begun.

As the colonists and the redcoats exchanged musket fire, our heroes continued to fire from the trees, mostly with muskets. The women were especially effective. Virginia threw a grease spell at the redcoats, followed closely by Tiger Lily's fireball. The fire spread in seconds, cutting through the British lines. Lagatha was also very effective with her musket, killing with almost every shot, while healing and stabilizing the wounded in her party when she could. The party desperately needed this healing when the British captain ordered his men to fire into the woods. The musket blows were to strong for some of our heroes. But, little by little, the British were getting weaker.

Eventually, the party had helped the rest of the colonial army to wipe out the British regiment. But, this was no time for celebration, for in the distance, more redcoat lines could be seen. The colonists retreated to Concord and there diminished what was left British morale, taking out more soldiers as the redcoats retreated.

The party's captain, quite impressed with each of our heroes, decided to recommend each of them as higher officers. It is clear that the beginning of the Revolutionary War was also the beginning of greatness for each of these warriors.

And yet, it was also the beginning of animosity. Most notable is a small skirmish between Jack McDonough and Drake. Jack, who kept a diary, wrote a few disparaging words against Drake, which upset the Native. A scuffle ensued, and later Jack convinced their captain that it was Drake's fault. Though the scenario could compare to the bickerings of schoolboys, Drake was one to hold a grudge. He started to hate Europeans, such as Jack.

Yes, the American colonists won the battle, but the war was just beginning.

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Chapter 2: A National Conspiracy and a Headless Horseman

In 1812, after the initial match against Maedison, Geofferson, Uncle Sam, and the National Debt, our four anti-heroes decided their next move before going back to the White House would be to capture the USS Constitution, which was docked nearby under the command of Andrew Jaekson.

They infiltrate the ship, and Hanzo goes straight for the level below deck where thirty cannons and about a dozen sailors were resting. He attacked, slaughtering all of the sailors (the youngest of which was 20). This massacre was just another easy task for Hanzo. Meanwhile, on the main deck, the rest of the party found Jaekson, and Jack McDonough created a force cage around him and Jaekson. By now, Jack had become more barbaric than intelligent, and he easily grappled his foe. Jaekson put up a good fight, however, until Jack and the rest of the party decided to negotiate with him. They invited him to join them in their fight against President Maedison and the National Debt. The promise of power was very convincing, and Andrew Jaekson decided to join them and give control over the USS Constitution. 

The remainder of this chapter finds our heroes at the Brandywine Creek between Baltimore and Philadelphia, in the fall of 1777. Under normal circumstances, the party would be asked to fight as infantry or as bombardiers in a battle that would eventually become a tactical victory for the British. But our heroes had distinguished themselves from the very start of the war, so their senior officers had a few special assignments for them.

Most of the party was asked to travel to Fort Ticonderoga to assist Henry Knox in delivering dozens of reclaimed cannons to Cambridge, Massachusetts (the distance from the fort to Cambridge is about 300 miles, which is about a four hour drive for those of us in modern times). The journey was treacherous, as it was filled with monsters, some of which were the stuff of legend. In this session, they encountered and fought the Headless Horseman just 50 feet before crossing a covered bridge. It was a tough fight, but eventually the party fought their way through the vorpal sword swings and the flaming pumpkin attacks and destroyed the fiend. It is worth mentioning that the journey would have also had the characters encounter wampus cats, the Thunderbird, and even Sasquatch.

While most of the party was traveling to Henry Knox's position, three heroes skilled in espionage and stealth, Hanzo, Oliver, and Drake, were taken aside and given a special mission from General Wodgington himself. They were instructed to deliver a box of papers to the convict transport ship Charlotte in the New York Harbor. Oliver remembered from his father's stories that the King's Watchman have been looking for what they called the Templar treasure, which was hidden by their opposing faction, the Masons. Some time ago, the Watchmen got hold of a single, brief clue: The secret lies with Charlotte.

Naturally, the Watchmen spent many hours seeking this "secret" by searching through cemeteries and family records, but to no avail. Oliver, who had also informed Hanzo of what he knew about the Watchmen, the Masons, and the treasure, was naturally intrigued by the supposed coincidence that they were delivering a box of papers (so they were told) to a ship with that same, enigmatic name.

As the three rogues were traveling, they opened the box and found, beneath the papers, a small, ornate pipe made in ivory and wood. The trio, while still planning to carry out their mission, wanted to find someone who could make a replica of this piece so they could deliver the replica but keep the original. 

In a small town just outside of New York, they found a craftsman who could perform the job. It turned out the craftsman was James Maunrow, who happened to be a Mason and thus was aware of the significance of the pipe. He had a little chat with the trio of rogues and discovered that they were each ultimately against the British, as well as the King's Watchmen (with Oliver having a personal vendetta against the Watchmen). Maunrow agreed to create the replica, and informed our heroes that he would discuss with other high masons (such as George Wodgington, Bengamin Fraenklin, and Paul Reviere) about the possibility of including them into the intellectual ranks of the Free Masons.

It should be noted too that on the stem of this mysterious pipe was carved a riddle. It was written as follows:

The legend writ,
Distain effected,
The Key in silence undetected.

Fifty-five in iron pen,
Mr. Maetalack can't offend.

In the cover of night, Hanzo, Oliver, and Drake eventually made their way to the New York Harbor to deliver the box (containing the replica of the pipe instead of the real one). They encountered a couple of military men, but the color of their coats were obscured in the darkness. It eventually became clear that they were British, particularly by their accent. Our heroes tried to obscure their true intentions, but the Watchmen saw through their deceptions and realized what Charlotte in the cryptic clue referred to. Before the three rogues killed them, one of the Watchmen managed to shout, "THE CHARLOTTE IS A SHIP!!!" Those were his last words in service to Britain, to the Watchmen, and to his king.

Our heroes ran from other Watchmen, and Drake decided to execute his own daring escape (and make it look as awesome as possible). He managed to climb to the top of a modest mansion, but then he fell through the roof, causing a few servants to search the top floor with lanterns. Hanzo and Oliver were able to hide in a nondescript tavern and inn, and waited for their comrade. Drake quickly escaped the mansion and found Hanzo and Oliver in the tavern, but not before noticing the flags that hung outside the mansion, which bore the Union Jack, but with the addition of a simple watchtower crest in the middle. Drake had managed to crash into an office building of the King's Watchmen.

After hiding in the inn for the night, the trio made the delivery and then snuck into the Watchmen mansion. They didn't find much, except several documents that detailed the efforts made by the King's Watchmen to find the Templar treasure. Although they had discovered the Charlotte, as well as the contents of the recently-delivered box, there was no indication that they had come any closer to finding the treasure or any additional intelligence on the Masons. They had found the clue on the pipe, but could not understand its meaning.

The war continues, and there are battles on many fronts, both public and discreet.

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Chapter 3: The Yorktown Massacre

It was the fall of 1781. Many battles were fought since the "twang" heard round the world seven years before. Military campaigns were fought long and hard in New York, in Boston, and in the south. At this time, the British seemed to be gaining great strides on all fronts. But, the Americans had since gained a powerful ally. Thanks to the connections and influence provided by Clemont and Marc de la Fayette, the French navy joined in the colonial cause, if nothing else but to infuriate and frustrate the British even further.

In this crucial season, General Wodgington invited his finest officers and advisors to a war meeting (with dinner provided by Martha Wodgington) in his temporary home at Valley Forge. Dinner guests included Jack McDonough, Clement, Hanzo, Drake, Oliver, and two other characters. One had an Asian appearance (a red dragonborn ranger) and called himself Arjan "Arnold" Benedict, and the other looked like a mix between a Native and an Afro, but had a more wild, greenish appearance than most members of either race, and introduced himself as "Spork—er—xander Haemilton" (he was a half-orc bard).

These Wodgington had gathered to plan a siege on the port city of Yorktown in Virginia. Three of them (Hanzo, Jack, and "Arnold") would infiltrate the city walls and communicate British strengths and weaknesses by a sending spell to the rest of the army. The remaining gentlemen would each take control of a regiment.

[Note: for this session, I took advantage of the large-scale battle rules provided as an Unearthed Arcana installment from the official writers D&D.]

The colonial regiments made a steady, strategic advance on the city, focusing on the north and western fronts, while the spies approached from the southern front. Despite the advantage of the fortress, the British soldiers couldn't make much headway in getting rid of the Americans.

As soon as the three spies were able to sneak past the walls, Jack tried to lead the British general, General Cornwalsh, astray through telepathic messages, pretending to be one of the British officers under Cornwalsh. The general was convinced, through Jack's messages, that the colonial army would focus their attack on the southern walls, so he ordered most of his troops to fortify that front. As this was happening, Jack informed the other colonial leaders (again, through magic, telepathic messages) of the British movement. The colonials continued their heavy assault on the north and western walls, now the weakest points of the fortress.

Hanzo slaughtered any British soldier he could reach. Not much was seen of Arnold. Some suspected that he would turn traitor against the colonists, but he remained loyal and fought against the British.

Eventually, the British lines were broken by the bluecoat armies, and colonists stormed into Yorktown. The British attempted to surround the commanders (the PCs) within the city, but to no avail. Hanzo himself could handle a whole regiment of soldiers and hardly break a sweat.

Finally, it was clear to General Cornwalsh that the battle was over for his army. He saw that he had lost Britain one of their last truly strategic positions. That coupled with the might of the French navy bearing down, he felt that the best thing for Great Britain would be to surrender control to the colonists. He raised the white flag of surrender, ready to discuss with the American military leaders, even with Wodgington himself, the conditions of surrender.

But the players wanted more than a meager surrender. They wanted a slaughter of the redcoats. This is a pivotal point for our heroes (who will soon be unworthy of the title). This was the true point of transition from good to evil; unity with the cause of freedom succumbing to their depraved desires for blood and power.

It was Jack McDonough who dealt the killing blow to Cornwalsh, and he even took the general's red coat military. Inside one of the pockets, he found a slip of paper with these words: Look to Fraenklin's bill.

Needless to say, General Wodgington, though thrilled with the defeat and surrender of the British, was not pleased with the actions of our "heroes." Nevertheless, he chose not to concern himself with the event, instead focusing on the details of the surrender (with another British general) and the first steps of true American freedom. Since that day, some remembered that final battle of the revolution as the Battle of Yorktown. But those who know better often give it the bitter name of the Yorktown Massacre.

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Chapter 4: Defeating the Debt & Scarecrows in the Corn

[This post does not record the events of one session, but two. In both weeks, some players were out of town, so we decided to conclude the Level 20 encounter the first week, and played a side quest within the original story the second week. Below are the accounts of both sessions.]

 

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