28 Aug 2000. Tarnobrzeg.

The party has fought marauders. They’ve encountered slavers. These monsters in Tarnobrzeg were the worst yet.

At their staging point in the abandoned monastery, Wojciech, William, Áron, and Elizka waited out 28 August for nightfall, when they’d take advantage of their night vision to investigate the town.

Behind the screen

I began the session with some skill-ups for the characters. I’ve neglected this for a while.

I awarded each character 10 skill points that they could spend to increase skills that they’ve plausibly used recently. Per the rules, skill-ups increase in cost as the skill goes higher. Going from level 1 to 2 in a skill costs 2 points. Going from level 6 to 7 in a skill costs 7 points.

One aspect of play that I’ve realized is how often Observation gets used. That skill seems to account for maybe 50% of all skill checks. I try to call on other skills to see if characters “notice” something (like the appropriate LNG to detect accents, etc). Maybe it’s a failure on my part as a referee, but Observation comes into play. A lot.

So I awarded a flat increase to the characters’ Observation skills. Less than 5, they got bumped up 2 levels. 6 or higher, a one-level increase.

I also awarded Initiative points, which are accounted separately, but work similarly as skill-ups. They’ve accumulated 5 points thus far, which is only enough for the lower-INIT folks to increase their Initiative. The ref is supposed to be more stingy in this area.

As they hunkered down in the monastery, the morning in Tarnobrzeg (“Tarnojeg” for English speakers) was quiet. The marauders seemed to be mostly in the town center. It was a relief. The night before had been unnerving. Anguished screams echoed through the narrow streets. Drunken laughter. A few gun shots.

As the day passed, the quiet was broken again. When nightfall came, it was a relief to do something.

Maks had ordered the group members in town to avoid contact with the marauders. So Wojciech grabbed William, and they’d prowl around the city center in a wide circle.

d5e0c4f0-3c99-4c92-b125-f201e89aa6be-477x720They soon saw their first bandit from a distance. It was dark, with only a sliver of a moon in the sky. A guy with an AK, shirtless, was propositioning a woman in broken Polish. He was trying to be nice, a real effort for him it appeared, like it took skill rolls to be decent.

When he lit a cigarette, Wojciech and William caught a brief glimpse of him. Lots of jailhouse-looking tattoos.

They were greatly tempted to take him out, but moved on after a whispered discussion.

As they circled around to the south end of the city square, they had their first limited view of the center.

They could see a bonfire burning, another marauder keeping watch, shirtless and tatted-up like the first guy. And near him, somebody was crucified on a wooden cross. The victim was either unconscious or dead, it was hard to say at this distance. They saw another marauder emerging from a building facing the square, accompanied by a citizen. Continuing the theme, that bandit also was shirtless and sporting tattoos.

At least it wouldn’t be hard to distinguish the targets from the friendlies

They continued their circle, skulking in the shadows. Wojciech could hear somebody on a megaphone in horrible Polish, demanding the townsfolk present their Mowca (Sounds like movtsa in English I think; means “Speaker”), or the marauders would pick one themselves. The monk had said the marauder boss – the Krol he called himself – went through these mowcas like toilet paper. Eight of them thus far, all dead now. It was some kind of cruel game.

The pair finished their circle and returned to the monastery after a few hours. They’d seen more bodies lashed to crosses in the outer areas of the town square.

The group discussed the situation, and decided to send Wojciech and William back out to make contact with a citizen.

This they did, finding a teenage boy and questioning him in an abandoned building. They learned:

  • The marauders numbered 15 to 25, all Russian deserters apparently.
  • They had no military vehicles. But they had several horses stabled in the SW portion of the town square.
  • The marauders tended to live with townsfolk, who’d been moved to buildings adjacent to the town square.
  • Every night was a hell of debauchery. Mornings were quiet, as the savages slept late. A few guards were posted, so they had a semblance of discipline.
  • Yesterday, other men had showed up, wearing remnants of Soviet uniforms. They seemed to be in discussion with this crew, and they later departed.
  • All the leading citizens were dead, having been mowcas in sequence, their bodies  now tied to crosses for all to see. Some had tried to assassinate the Krol, with no success. They were despondent.

They set a meeting with the boy at the next nightfall.

Wojciech ordered the group to return to Sandomierz to report their findings to Maks, and determine their course of action. Maks met with a lieutenant of the Sandomierz ORMO, and later with a major, and described the madness next door. Initially, they were cordial, but unmoved, pointing to their lack of manpower to mount an expedition and fight an urban battle. Maks said his group intended to take action themselves, and were only looking for assistance.

When Maks mentioned the other individuals meeting with the crew in town, that minor point changed the tenor of the conversation. The major was called in at that point. They’d heard rumors that the Tarnobrzeg gang had been trying to draw other marauder groups into an assault on the golden goose of Sandomierz. It had been deemed bluster in ORMO command. But now they were concerned.