Beorhtric: An Exploration and Player Driven Adventure

 

15 years ago, the Beormen migrated to to an unexplored continent. They established a village in this wilderness which they called Beorhtric. It is now a thriving town containing approximately 5,000 people within its walls, and is surrounded by numerous farm lands. The wilderness is still filled with monsters, but more people have been talking about expansion. You are one of the brave adventurers who will seek their fortune in this land.

As a player, you will be the ones deciding and planning the following:

  • What time we will meet for a session
  • Who will be attending the session
  • What means we will be playing through the session (roll20, chat, skype roll20+skype, tabletop simulator, ect)
  • Where you will be exploring or what you will be investigating during the session

You will be given the above map of what is common knowledge of the area. You may leave the bounds of this map (and most likely will at some point) but you will have to keep track of the terrain and create a map for yourself. This information is yours to share, or not share. While I do have maps of the areas outside of this map, I am not sharing them so that the players have to create a map of their own.  A program can be found below which can make maps in the same style as the one above.

http://www.hexographer.com/

I will now be open to DMing any sessions you plan so long as I am available. Get working on your characters, a generator containing some basic rules can be found here:

http://www.orcpub.com/dungeons-and-dragons/5th-edition/character/generator

You will have to do some internet searching to find all the 5e core rules. We will be using point buy, so no one can walk in with all 18s *cough cough barcha*.

We are hoping to have a bi-weekly post series that containing some completely in character session recaps as told by the players, along side with other information.  The first post in that series should be coming out some time next week.

UPDATE: I forgot to add that everyone will be starting withthe above map and 30 gold in adition to whatever their background/class provides.

 

Good luck, have fun.

–Grand Commandant and Game Master Draco Blackstone

 

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History With Snark – On Hiatus

Title says it all, lady/ies (do I even have regular female readers? Comment below, if so. I mean, other than the ones with whom I speak on a daily basis.) and gentlemen.  I will be taking an intensive college course and learning Arabic in the short, sweet space of four weeks, so during those Fridays I will be unable to bring you quality history.

I hope you survive without me. I promise I’ll make it up when I get back, and it won’t be World War-related (I mean it!).

Tchüss!

The West Marches: A Style of D&D Campaign for large groups

Hello, my Fellows.

Recently, I discovered a style of campaign that has been specifically designed for large amounts of players, called the “West Marches” style. It is very much a player driven style of campaign. It is the players’ job to collect the party, schedule the time, and figure out where they would like to go for each session. Not every player plays in every session, which is what allows large amounts of players to all be in the same campaign. This style of campaign would be great as a group activity, due to how it is formatted. Below I have quoted a large section of a post I was reading about this style of campaign that goes into greater detail than I have here:

Continue reading

History With Snark – Vol 1, Issue 6

So, dear readers, I found this amazing story on the way home from a friend’s house…

And it has absolutely nothing to do with the Renaissance, French architecture, or the Taft administration.  I should really just stop pretending I’m going to give you something ahead of time (I mean, I found some Taft scandals, but this is so much better).

Behold, dear reader, and be amazed, for as it is says in Habakkuk 6:1,  “Behold ye among the heathen [the reader not necessarily included], and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.” (King James Version)

This is Project Habakkuk (or Habbakuk, according to some contemporary documents), and it is the story of an aircraft carrier made of water.

Project Habakkuk was conceived from a need for British planes to make anti-U-boat runs in the Atlantic beyond the range of land-based aircraft.  An aircraft carrier at that time was implausible and expensive; the short-supplied aluminum and steel that would have gone into the construction of a new carrier were more desperately needed elsewhere in the war.  Geoffrey Pyke of Combined Operations Headquarters – a British think tank and special operations group dedicated to harassing the Germans – came to the conclusion that ice was an economically-suited material that may be able to cover the convoys and seaborne landings of the North Atlantic.  After all, it took one percent of the energy to produce an equivalent amount of ice than it did steel, and ice floated… right?*  Pyke sent this concept to Lord Mountbatten, the head of the COHQ (who deserves an issue of his own).  Mountbatten, who approved of unorthodox methods and new ideas, sent it straight away to Winston Churchill, who was in turn enthused by the proposal.  Project Habakkuk had begun, its name taken from the verse above, which reads in the New International Version: “Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.

Project Habakkuk hit its first block as a result of its building material: ice.  Pyke had suggested that natural or artificial icebergs be used to carry aircraft, hollowed out and flattened to store, launch and land aircraft.  Because the icebergs would be so large, they could carry conventional aircraft that the standard carrier could not.  The issue with this was that icebergs were seldom large enough for an airstrip, and on top of that they overturned easily; furthermore, ice was not strong enough for conventional aircraft.  Pyke, the ever genius, had a solution.

During his time in America, he had met a chemist by the name of Herman Francis Mark.  Mark himself was Austrian and fled the country after being arrested during the Nazi takeover – yet another example of potential military genius lost to the Nazis as a result of their brutal ideals.  Working at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, an early project of his was the formation of a strong, solid polymer.  While at a meeting in New York regarding the deployment of M29 Weasels in winter operations (the Weasels themselves the results of Pyke’s invention), Pyke met Max Perutz, a former student of Mark’s.  It was Perutz who determined that ice alone was not suitable for the carriers and provided Pyke with Mark’s research on the material. This material was named pykrete in honor of Geoffrey.

block_of_pykrete

Pykrete demonstrates some amazing properties.  Composed of an ideal mixture of 86% water and 14% wood pulp, it can be poured (cast) like a metal, cut and manipulated like wood, and remains solid as concrete.  Being an ice mixture, it can also be maintained with water – even seawater with its higher melting point.  Pykrete is slow to melt compared to regular ice, and the carrier would only begin to experience difficulties at 5 °F/-15 °C.  Past this point, according to Perutz’s research for the Admiralty, pykrete began to slowly sag under its weight (this specific type of deformation is the same as plastic or metal when subject to heat).  Unlike ice, pykrete is also entirely shatterproof.

Mountbatten reportedly went to Churchill’s residence to demonstrate pykrete, only to be told that he was in his bath.  Mountbatten replied, “Good, that’s exactly where I want him to be,” and took the sample to the Prime Minister.  The pykrete was placed in Churchill’s steaming bath (no worries, I presume he exited the bath first) and naturally began to melt… though after the outer layer disappeared, the wood pulp protected the inner layers of ice from melting.

Mountbatten later brought a block of pykrete and equal-sized block of normal ice to the 1943 Quebec Conference – a similar meeting to the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences, this was a meeting between the heads of the Canadian, American, and British governments (Stalin declined for military purposes) and where planning for D-Day began.  In front of the highest military and civilian commanders of three countries, he drew his pistol and fired at the ice block, which shattered. He proceeded to fire at the pykrete block, where the bullet ricocheted, grazed Admiral Ernest King’s leg – Navy Chief of Staff and second-senior admiral of the United States – and embedded itself in a wall.  Pykrete was also demonstrated to absorb rifle fire without cracking.

Durable as it was, pykrete have to remain at a temperature of five degrees Fahrenheit in order to survive.  To achieve this, a refrigeration system, complicated ventilation, and insulation for the ship’s surface were to be provided.  The system was proven in Patricia Lake in Alberta, Canada, where a 1,000-ton scale model was kept afloat and frozen by a one horsepower engine.  Mountbatten informed his scientific advisor that Churchill “invited” the Chiefs of Staff Committee to make an order for a pykrete ship to be their highest priority, and that if the ship succeeded, that more orders be placed.

Alas, by May 1944 it was decided that current insulation methods were not sufficient for the ship and that more steel supports would be required.  Project Habbakuk’s estimated cost jumped from 700,000 pounds to 2.5 million.  It was determined that  no ship could be completed by late 1944, and furthermore Pyke was removed from the project to secure relations with America: his frequent arguments with the American staff behind the Weasels had already forced him out of that project.  Development of the vessel continued without him, but as outside forces demanded more requirements for Habakkuk to meet, the project became more infeasible.  Mountbatten left the project, and noted that improvements in other sectors, such as larger fuel tanks and permission to use airstrips in Portugal, made the Habakkuk ships obsolete.  It was finally decided that the war was already being won on conventional grounds, and projects such as Habakkuk were a drain of resources.

That said, pykrete remains an incredible phenomena.  The prototype constructed in Canada only fully melted after three summers, and projects such as pykrete ice domes have been constructed.  Pykrete was considered as a building material for a quay in Oslo, but there were concerns regarding reliability and safety.  It was also found by the MythBusters that newspaper-made pykrete was significantly more durable than traditional pykrete.  The show also attempted to create a boat of pykrete, but neglected to add a refrigeration system and was designed with a proportionally thinner hull to the Habakkuk version; for this I consider their “busting” of Habakkuk to be incomplete.  Even despite those omissions, the boat survived for thirty minutes at speeds of twenty-three miles per hour.

Now you know what to take to the science fair.

(And yes, I have extra reading.)
*Pyke’s postwar exploits were similarly reasoned, dealing with logic and forgetting about the people reading them).  He reasoned that as coal and oil were in shortages, but sugar and postwar unemployment were common, that muscle-powered trains were a possibility.  According to his research, a pound of sugar cost the same as the equivalent calories in coal.  This idea was clearly rejected; after a lifetime of rejected inventions and proposals to make the world a brighter place, Geoffrey Pyke fell deeper into depression and took his own life on February 21, 1948.  The world was deprived of an unfortunate genius whose mind was always on the greater good, if not the reactions of the people whom he strove to help.

History With Snark – Vol 1, Issue 5

Hey, Keps. You’ve slacked for like two weeks.

What?! Only one week.

For the love of all that is historic, don’t count that beach episode as a real issue. Everyone knows the beach episode is to appeal to the fanboys.

For real? Low blow. I had trenches. (Okay, so that was for my strange version of fanboy.)

Sure. Whatever. What’s today’s issue? The Italian Renaissance? The Warring States period in China? French architecture? Heck, maybe something obscure like a scandal during the Taft administration?

Well, the Renaissance is nice, and I’ll definitely look into that Taft thing (or some other obscure presidency)… no guarantee there even is a scandal, though. I was thinking something different.

Like the Panzers?

No. However, you know how Europe has a rich history…

Yeah…

Well, hearkening to that which is obscure, I was thinking Poland…

Well, that’s a pretty unheard history. When?

Oh, you know. World War II.

I hate you.

 

And now we return to our scheduled programming.  Welcome back to History With Snark, now with 75% more history and 10% more snark (or horrid one-liners)!

I mentioned, way back in the first issue or so, that Poland had things bad.  I had said in that issue:  “Poland had expected such an invasion and withdrew (most of) its troops from the border, choosing instead to concentrate their forces on defending inner Poland.”  This is about those small people who did not withdraw.

The Battle of Wizna is known, at least to the Poles, as the “Polish Thermopylae,” referring to the legendary Battle of Thermopylae where a force of Spartans fought the greater army of Persians and all died.  Just like the movie 300 except historically accurate, because it was history.  Much like Thermopylae, a lot of them died.  In fact, only 70 out of the 720 defenders (the low estimate is 350) initially survived against the 42,000+ German onslaught.  The remainder either escaped to friendly lines or were captured — which still spelled death for some of them.  So what happened?  They were not slaughtered like cattle, or I would not be telling you this today.

The area around the city of Wizna was highly fortified, meant to prevent the crossings of the strategic rivers of Narew and Bierbza and buffer southern Polish positions.  Though sixty bunkers were planned, only sixteen managed to be completed before the invasion, though these sixteen were no small affairs.  1.5-meter-thick concrete reinforced with 20-centimeter steel was the standard for the bunkers (with heavier bunkers under construction when the invasion began), leaving them immune to even the heaviest German firepower.  Each bunker was armed with anti-tank guns and machine guns, with the exception of two bunkers armed solely with machine guns.  The bunkers were built into hills beside the swamp that was the Narew river valley.  The only paths to attack the bunkers were from a causeway from Wizna or straight into the swamp, being pelted by artillery and machine gun fire the whole way.  Trenches, barbed wire, land mines, and anti-tank obstructions made the situation even harder for the Axis forces.

These defenses were put to the test on 7 September 1939, a week after the initial invasion of Poland.  By this point, Poland really preferred that these meager forces pull back and form a stronger defense in inner Poland, and pulled out the cavalry brigade in the area.  Captain Władysław Raginis did not get that message.  He therefore remained faithful to his original orders: defend Poland at any cost.  On the seventh, the Germans dropped propaganda leaflets claiming that they had captured most of Poland, suggesting the Poles surrender while they still could.  To raise morale, Captain Raginis swore that he would not leave his post alive until the Germans had been repelled.  The Germans proceeded to easily capture Wizna (the light reconnaissance force stationed there put up a small fight), though the retreating Poles destroyed the bridge to the bunkers.

Though attacked from three sides, the northern-most bunkers held against the German advance with heavy Axis casualties.  These fortifications eventually folded under heavy artillery barrage and given orders from above to retreat.  The southern-most bunkers, meanwhile, found themselves at a stalemate.  The Germans could not advance over the marshy terrain without being cut down by machine guns, but the Polish guns were unable to penetrate the German Panzers.  This forced the infantry in the trenches to hide in the bunkers later on the evening of the seventh, still holding back the insurmountable German Blitzkrieg.  (Please applaud me; I’ve managed to fit the content of the three prior issues into one paragraph.)

As the war across Poland continued on September 8th, their remaining forces were all recalled to Warsaw, stranding the bunkers at Wizna.  Now without even the smallest hope for reinforcements, Raginis and his men continued to stave off the Germans.  Even at night, German assault was repelled.  Finally on September 10th, the combined forces of the German engineering corps, tanks, and artillery did away with all but two bunkers.  Both continued fighting despite having suffered almost total casualties from injury/death (even Captain Raginis was heavily wounded) and having lost most of their machine guns.

General Heinz Guderian (head of the Panzer divisions and one of the authors of the Blitzkrieg) finally grew sick of losing to a couple of inexperienced soldiers hiding in concrete rooms, and threatened to execute his Polish POWs if they did not stop resistance.  Raginis found the threat useless and continued fighting for another hour, at which point the Germans, under white flag, proposed a truce.  It lasted until 1:30 PM, at which point Raginis came upon a realization:

  1. His troops were practically dead and in normal circumstances would have surrendered multiple times by now.
  2. He was completely out of ammunition.

Captain Raginis ordered his men to surrender themselves, then kept to his word and refused to surrender the bunker, committing suicide by throwing himself over a grenade.

Guderian estimated 900 Germans were killed in assaulting Raginis’ bunkers, though this is considered an underestimate by historians.  It is known as fact that his bunkers were responsible for the destruction of ten tanks (remember how I said earlier their anti-tank guns couldn’t penetrate Panzers? That is still true).

Raginis is known to Poland as their modern Leonidas.  His original grave was a simple war grave next to his command bunker, where the Germans planted a tree.  When the Red Army came upon Raginis and learned of this, they exhumed the body and moved it to a crossroads in Wizna, where an obelisk now stands.  The bunker remains a memorial site with a symbolic grave for Raginis, with an inscription that reads: “Passerby, tell the Homeland that we fought to the end, fulfilling our duty,” echoing the Spartan memorial at Thermopylae.  A list exists of translations for the Thermopylae epitaph, and the one that I feel echoes that of Wizna is this:

Go tell the Spartans, you who read:
We took their orders, and lie here dead.

I love your fighting spirit in the face of everything, Poland.

 

(But hey, extra reading! This is a theme, guys.)

  • It should be noted that almost every single soldier defending Wizna was a conscript. That’s right, drafted. Despite being forced to fight an army that was fifty-eight times larger than them… they had the highest of morale and fought until their commanding officer commanded them to lay down arms.  When said officer committed suicide to save them.
  • Also, here is the final line-up of the battle, in terms of men and materiel:

Poland: 720 men, 12 bunkers, 6 pieces of artillery (76mm), 24 heavy machine guns, 18 machine guns [I assume a medium MG that is portable as opposed to a massive affair], and two Kb ppanc wz.35 anti-tank rifles.

Germany: 42,000 men, 350 tanks, 108 howitzers, 58 pieces of artillery, 195 anti-tank guns, 108 mortars, 188 grenade launchers, 288 heavy machine guns and 689 machine guns.

Poland had no business lasting three days straight.