The D&D game picked up with the characters in Heilbrunna — a new Alemanni settlement along the old Limes Germanicus, only a day or so away from Lenta, the seat of the Celts that have been stirring trouble in southern Germania Magna and Raetia; and Castrum Stativa, the last Roman garrison on this side of the Danube. Run by Marco the Hammer, a seven-foot tall barbarian, the people of Heilbrunna were open and gregarious. Marco knows their Celtic traveling companions, led by Cairc, and has heard of Carrus the Goblin Killer (whom Calvinus is trying to rebrand as Carrus the Troll Killer, even though they didn’t kill said troll…)

They spend two days in the town, telling stories of their exploits, but mostly trying to impress upon Marco the danger the Quadi tribe (hobgoblins) present to the people in the area. They are besieging Locoritum, one of the larger cities in the region, and have been ranging south tracking the party. (They left that last bit out…) With some help by Calvinus the Bard’s charisma, Legate Quintus Marcellus was able to negotiate a treaty with these Marcomanni, making them foederati of the Roman Empire. He’s started to realize exactly what his rank entails: as a legatus imperium — charged by the emperor with diplomatic powers — he is second only to a proconsul!

Their Celtic companions push south during the negotiations with Marco, to warn their king, and Marcellus dispatches their spy, Benarix, to tail them to Lenta and get the lay of the land. The party then turned southeast to Castum Stativa to see if they could find some assistance in their mission. Arriving at the fortress, they find it is light on personnel. Instead of a legion’s strength, there are 350 men — a century of archers, two of foot soldiers, half of whom are local volunteers — a troop of 30 or so cavalry, and a smattering of engineers and artillerymen for the ballistas and catapults. Led by 30-something Pannonian centurion with the rank of prefect castratus named Sextus Hadrianus, they are doing their best to keep the peace with the Marcomanni in Heilbrunna and the Lentienses — despite the latter’s hostility to Rome. With Marcellus turning up to pull rank and request troops for him mission, Hadrianus is a bit worried. This grows worse at the stories of the Quadi. They dispatch a rider to Augustus Vindelicorum, on the other side of the Danube, to request help from the army there.

That evening while out for his constitutional on the wall, Icio the monk catches sight of movement in the trees…lots of movement! On the road coming from the north, he can make out dark figures moving against the snow on the ground. Rousing the garrison, they use a light spell on a ballista bolt and shoot it at the road, where they can now see hundreds of Quadi and Vandals on dire wolves, moving siege equipment! There are more in the woods around them, encircling the fortress and the small Alemmani town to the south. There’s at least a legion’s worth of these creatures. While they are preparing for an assault, the Quadi send a pair of Vandals to call for parlay at dawn.

Marcellus and the party go out to meet the leader of Quadi here — a giant bugbear named Brutharius. He is advised by a tiefling named Raphael Tinirian who is taking a great interest in Icio… Instead of being actively intimidating, Brutharius is calm, haughty, and diplomatic. He is hear to collect the people that killed his soldiers near Wolfangel — them. He pretends he doesn’t realize he’s talking to them, but give the garrison the day to “find and turn over” the criminals he seeks. Marcellus takes a risk and challenges the Quadi leader to one-on-one combat, which is accepted. They will meet at twilight.

The bard continues to try and press Marcellus to launch a preemptive strike on the Quadi, but he realizes they are outnumbered three-to-one, the Quadi training is probably better, and they are better shutting up the castrum and waiting for reinforcements from the nearby Legion III Raetia.

That’s where we left it for the night.

The characters have reached 4th level already, and the characters seem much more powerful than their similarly ranked analogues would have been when I last played Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the mid-80s. Each episode has required me to bump up the stakes and the challenges. They plowed through a platoon-strength of bad guys in the last big encounter…if they ‘re going to have a light legion’s strength, they needed to be met with proper opposition.

We’ll see how I balanced it next week.

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