The Story Behind “Follow Me, And Die!”

First, it is all how you say the phrase. It should be: “Follow Me!” in a dramatic, heroic voice, with a pause, then “And Die!”, also in a dramatic, heroic voice. This is the way my brother mocks my character’s ability to live through the incidents that eliminate 0-level cannon-fodder, er, troops.

There were several grand incidents that we all were aware of, and then one day, as an out of play aside, in reference to my character’s lack of success in finding more troops to hire, blurted this out. From that moment on, he, and other players would interrupt the course of play by blurting this out. Such tangential occurrences are one of the things that make RPGs so fun. There is shared history that informs the hilarious things we say that have us in stitches because we are laughing so hard. Without the shared group experience, the rest of the world just looks at us like we’re crazy. Even over board games, something happens or is said that does not come out right, and we are rolling on the floor, and even years later, we can make reference to it and those in the know still laugh.

My brother’s campaign is low magic. There are wizards, but a first level magic-user is called a wizard by those who can’t do magic. After years of playing, one player’s character is finally nearing 18th level, with the use of an Ioun stone.

My character is Griswald Stewart, Duke of Stewart. He is a half-elf. His father, a human, was the Duke of Stewart when the Buchanan clan kicked the Stewarts off the throne and drove them out of the Kingdom of Carbaen Moor. This kingdome is based upon highland Scotland. His father fled across the plains to the Elvish wood, and was found by an elf-maid, Griswald’s mother. On a stats note, Griswald is mediocre in his stats as some would see it, his high score is a 14. To overcome this mediocrity, Griswald is a Fighter/Cleric/Magic-User. A fighter because that is what his father wanted, a cleric because that is what his mother wanted, and a magic-user because that is what Griswald wanted.

Griswald starts off thinking his father is the next in line to the throne, so he is thinking that if he can become powerful enough, he will one day be king. It turns out that he has 6 royal cousins all preceding him in the succession. Once he joins up with his cousins and their band, The Red Arrow (long bowmen), with judicious use of cunning and well-rolled dice at critical times, Tameus (the true king) is convinced that they are ready to take back the throne. The problem is that Griswald knows that he is far from a wizard, but no one will listen to him. So he gets the Elvish Army that is part of his home temple to help out in exchange for exclusive rights to build temples for our Elvish diety in the Kingdom of Carbaen Moor. Griswald then goes to one of the small clans that stayed loyal to the Stewarts and have suffered under the Buchanans the last 50 years. Through a judicious use of a command spell, that the DM ruled can not be used that way again, the clan lord declared for the Stewarts. Griswald then found some mercenaries who would fight for us in return for land for the payment for the officers, there were about 1000 troops. The 200 or so Red Arrow, 500 or so Elves, and 2000 or 2500 Cavendish troops were all Griswald could scrape together. He did manage to hire 63 troops, plus his father a 7th-level fighter. The Stewarts had about 4500 troops to the Buchanan’s 7000. Griswald also went to the most powerful wizard he knew of, Moran Redbeard, and got some scrolls with potent spells to help them in the battle. This cost him a personal favor to the wizard to be paid back later. The scrolls contained a spell my brother came up with, “Battlemagic Fireball”. It is a third level spell, but the area of effect is tripled, so instead of a 30 foot/yard sphere, it is 90 feet. Those, plus the archers of the Red Arrow, and the Elvish Cavalry broke the morale of the Buchanan troops, and the Buchanan pretender, his sons and other high ranking nobles were captured. Tameus personally beheaded the Buchanan pretender and pulled the bloody crown from his severed head. Tameus kept the skull and had it made into a drinking cup.

We then marched to the capital city, Horn of Stone. When we showed up, the guards at the gate failed their morale when Tameus showed them the severed head of the former king.

The incidents that lead up to this are: The Battle of the Plain, where 63 troops and Griswald’s father were killed in our brutal house rules large battle rules. We only used those rules one other time, if I recall correctly. They were harsh, but the results were known quickly. My character’s side of the battle had magic, so we did  a lot of damage. Griswald and his father both got a saving throw as “leveled” individuals vs. death. My brother the DM ruled that since Griswald made his save and that his father did not, that his father threw him to safety and killed ten men before he himself was slain.We won the battle and Griswald’s cousin, Tameus, was returned to the throne as the rightful king.

Next was a battle vs. the Temple of Arok and the House of Buchan in the streets of Horn of Stone, the capital city. We discovered that Lord Buchan and others were trying to get Mr. Buchanan, who was next in line of the pretenders to the throne, help them regain the throne. The Elvish Army took the Temple and a well-placed Stinking Cloud and a failed saving throw lead to the capture of the High Priest. Griswald lead the troops against Lord Buchan’s house. Lord Buchan was a 9th level fighter, who was laying low the low level humans who were in front of Griswald, when Lord Buchan and his henchman were trapped in a tower. Lord Buchan had a healing potion, so he was able to step back and come back to the fight almost as good as new. He also had a steel sword. (In my brother’s campaign, iron and steel and the knowledge to work them are rare, so Bronze is what is most common.) Griswald’s sword broke, so he had to pull back and rely on his magic.

Next was dungeon wars. In the dungeon to the King’s castle in Horn of Stone, Griswald detected evil, so the King ordered it sealed. That worked until two scullery maids disappeared. Then we proceeded to a long protracted dungeon war with orcs, ogres, ghouls, annis, and a temple of Gruumsh. Griswald got good at using fireballs underground, and only hurt one of his own troops, and never since. Unlike some of the other spellcasters in the campaign. Griswald and the forces he could scrape together were not enough, so he had to call in other PCs for help. Even that was not enough to clear out the dungeons. The DM got tired of it, I think, as a convenient Earthquake put an end to the dungeon.

Next was Battle of The Gap. This was the second large-scale battle in the campaign. Griswald and the King’s troops verses Lord Gordon, who took over a section of the kingdom in the chaos following the defeat of the Buchanans. The Gordon Clan is the largest clan after the Buchanans. Our forces met and due to well placed spells and the archery of the Red Arrow, the Stewarts were about to wipe out Gordon, when an insect plague from a cleric henchman of Gordon went off, hitting many of Gordon’s own troops. That ended the battle, and allowed Gordon to get away with the remains of his force.

Next was fighting orcs in the Stewart lands. Following the Battle of the Gap, the previously mentioned earthquake hit, with the epicenter at the site of the Battle of the Gap. This was a huge earthquake that damaged most of the Kingdom, and Horn of Stone collapsed. This also affected Gordon and minimized the threat from him. Also affected were the orcs in the ancestral Stewart lands. Griswald helped his ducal cousins reclaim some of their ancestral lands, and then he went to reclaim his own patrimony. Through various battles and mini-campaigns of a few battles, Griswald managed to reclaim his patrimony, and kill or chase off the orcs  in it, and fight the orcs in the surrounding territory. He was quite successful, and destroyed or nearly destroyed several orc tribes. These tended to be the smaller tribes, and were far from peak strength due to the earthquake.

Finally is the situation that is like the movie “Zulu”, where we have yet to see if Griswald and his patrimony survive. The two largest orc tribes in the western Stewart lands, were unaffected by the earthquake. These are the Blue Fang and Vile Hand. They teamed up to come down on him hard, as they know they have to strike before Griswald and the Stewarts go after them. This scenario was on hold for about 15 years, and we finally started playing it over Memorial Day weekend. This is when I found out just how bad it is. None of the other high level PCs/wizards are immediately available, and the closest one is a three day march away. The orcs set the small forrest on Griswald’s land aflame, so the smoke will be seen for many miles. It is possible that Griswald’s amazing luck and reputation could pull his bacon out of the fire, but that remains to be seen. After 15 years, both the DM and I had a lot of notes and plans to consolidate and agree on, and we only played 12 hours or so of game time. Now we have to wait until I can travel back to Missouri from Michigan, and find out if he lives.

What is funny is that two mid-levels PCs that are known to have survived this battle do not yet know how they survived. They were “set-back” to their levels from that time frame, so it is an interesting situation to watch. There are things going on in the game that Griswald is ten years behind on the time line, that it will make a difference if Griswald and any of his henchmen and troops survived.

Robert, my brother, the DM mentioned that he was going to have his son, Steven help him play out the scenario. While the plan was to retire Griswald and he become an NPC, Robert never acted on it. I think because he likes the creative ways I have managed to play Griswald getting out of  so many tight spots. Will Griswald’s creativity and amazing luck hold out? Will the orcs overrun the walls and eat his head?

Stay tuned for the next exciting adventure update….

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