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In praise of Meatshields: Corwood’s tale

March 31, 2012

In this week’s session of Stonehell on the Borderlands (which was session 19), the party repaired to the Cup & Cudgel tavern at the Keep, in search of rumours and retainers. The dwarf Thundertramp Tingleberry, a recent arrival in the party, hired a fighter called Corwood. For no particular reason, I imagine Corwood looking like Ed Tudor-Pole:

Now, Corwood – like almost all of the NPCs encountered in the tavern so far – was randomly generated using Meatshields. All I knew about him was his name, his hit points (2), his alignment (Neutral), that he was a former scullion now armed with a sword and dagger and wearing (thanks to JB’s random headgear tables) a conical helmet with a plume. Oh, and under the heading Notable Features were two words: “Never satisfied”. I used this fact (and the reaction dice rolls) to roleplay the process of his hiring, wherein he successfully argued for a rate of pay 2 silver pieces higher than every other retainer, and still grumbled about it afterwards. The players, I think, could sense that this fellow was going to be a handful.

Later, in Stonehell Dungeon, Thundertramp found a battleaxe he sensed was magical, and a gold armband. Donning the latter, he asked the universe at large, “Do I feel any different when I put the armband on?” The magic-user Foreion Thacqspule commented wryly, “You feel like a prick.”

Shortly afterwards, the party found themselves in a passageway that passed between two statues with pointing fingers outstretched towards each other. Thundertramp, up front, offered Corwood 10 gp to walk between the statues. Corwood refused. Thundertramp upped the bribe: 20 gp. Corwood said no, not good enough, but he’d do it for the shiny armband that the dwarf seemed so fond of. Muttering darkly, Thundertramp agreed and gave him the armband. Corwood strode forward and was jolted by a sudden arc of electrical energy. He took 1 hp damage. “Now come back!” ordered Thundertramp, to general mirth. “No,” said Corwood. Further investigation revealed that there was just enough room between the statues and the wall for everyone to squeeze past without passing between the outstretched arms. The party proceeded.

Later, one of Frack the thief’s retainers, the gladiatrix Beroo, was killed by a weird ooze, and Thundertramp was badly wounded by a blow from a flailing pseudopod. Corwood managed to damage the thing, which was finished off by another of Frack’s shieldmaidens, Briga. In the aftermath of this battle, Thundertramp drank what he thought was a potion of healing but turned out to be a potion of giant strength. As soon as he realised what had happened, he jumped up and, followed by Corwood and (at a cautious distance) the rest of the party, ran down a nearby staircase to confront the hobgoblin soldiery who have frustrated the party in the past. There were four sentries waiting. One of them managed to land a glancing blow on Corwood, knocking him unconscious. Roaring, Thundertramp turned a sentry into a wet red mess with one mighty giant-strength blow of his axe (16 hp damage!) and the others turned and ran towards the turnstile that protects their subterranean fortress. Thundertramp managed to hit two of them from behind, killing both, while the last got through the stile. The dwarf simply ripped the stile asunder, hewed down the remaining hobgoblin as it screamed for its comrades to open the portcullis beyond (a critical hit causing 19 hp damage clove the wretch asunder), then broke the portcullis apart, charged through a corridor with missiles clanking off his armour, and broke down the door at the end … only to be fatally transfixed by the polearm of a hobgoblin in the guardroom beyond.

Back at the sentry post, the rest of the party (who wisely chose not to follow their diminutive comrade into the breach) heard roaring, screaming, rending of metal and splintering of wood, then – abruptly – silence. After a moment, they heard running footfalls and shouts in a language they didn’t understand. They retreated at speed up the stairs, leaving Corwood for dead – but not before taking the gold armband from his body, obviously.

Most likely Corwood will be captured, tortured and killed by the vengeful hobgoblins. But who knows? Maybe he’ll survive and, if so, one thing is certain: he will not be satisfied.

What matters most is that, in a session that was memorable for many things, a humble, randomly generated NPC retainer became the centre of attention on numerous occasions and contributed enormously to everyone’s enjoyment of the game. Frack’s player commented afterwards, “Corwood was a hoot!” Just those two words – “never satisfied” – gave me a peg on which to hang a personality I could roleplay in reaction to his treatment by Thundertramp and the others. And you know what else? I really liked Corwood. He was a grouchy bugger with a chip on his shoulder, yes, but I think his heart was probably in the right place. Having risen from scullion to man-at-arms, he just wanted to be treated with fairness and decency. If he hadn’t come to grief, he would probably have tried to unionise the rest of the party’s retainers and campaign for better pay and conditions. Which would have been fun.

So here’s to Meatshields! And here’s to all the poor men-and-women-at-arms whose bones now litter the halls and chambers of Stonehell: Werwin, Thurgar, Rhona, Gildar, Dardo, Dersus, Durtag, Argard, Ramak, Beroo, and the rest. May their shades receive a full share of whatever treasure awaits them.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. davidbrawley permalink
    March 31, 2012 4:06 pm

    Sounds like everyone had a blast!

  2. John permalink
    April 1, 2012 3:19 am

    The hobgoblins should try ransoming him back!

    • April 1, 2012 9:12 am

      It’s a thought. They might be rather disappointed, though. I think the players would probably pay the hobgoblins to keep him.

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