Lance Haug

The Journal of
Konus of Knosa


Practice The Tactics

Lance haug

Entry 4
Lance Haug

"Victory is no excuse for carelessness"


The clan of giants has left in defeat, their leader killed, and another encased in a sepia nimbus of magic like an insect trapped in a droplet of sap. The giant floats immobile just above the ground at the edge of the firelight. I find the desperate look in his eyes disturbing and avoid his gaze. Wounds are tended to and equipment is inspected. Victory is no excuse for carelessness.

Once the camp is restored to order, my thoughts turn to salvaging some rest before morning. Beldain is still flush with the excitement of battle and reenacts key moments in an animated pantomime. He peppers Valinor with questions about his killing sword strike. What grip did he prefer? What angle is the best choice for decapitation? How many giants did he maim before he perfected it? By Bast’s hairy teats, enough! I insist Beldain accompany me to check the camp’s perimeter before Valinor’s head swells to thrice its normal size. Our mounts are unharmed and the camp secure so, as the others settle in to rest, I gesture for our monk to sit with me by the dying fire.

Beldain is young, agile and brims with enthusiasm. He has not frozen or backed away in battle so I do not question his bravery. His introduction to the group included a sketch of his exile from the desert land of Yarros and subsequent rearing in a monastery. An upbringing that strikes a chord with me. Many dark tales are told of the heartless cabal of mages that rule that scorched and blasted Yarrosian realm. Its ruined landscape is said to be both a consequence of a failed war with the elves and a reflection of the soul of their Archmage. Any who escape that country with their mind and body intact are likely marked by the gods. Blessed or cursed? Only time will tell.

However, the young monk’s narrow scope of training has prepared him primarily for personal combat. This often amounts to a ritualistic battle over honor or dogma with a single opponent while comrades and spectators watch with an appraising eye. I explain that this approach is a near guarantee of an early death outside the rigid guidelines of the cloister. Before he can object, I point out that it is often not a matter of skill but tactics. For our party to thrive, it has required us to meld our strengths and shield our weaknesses. It has forced me to appreciate the forces and flaws of magic and prayer. Strength of arms and determination alone will often fall short, a bitter insight for an Ethan warrior who prides himself on his size and power. Personal glory is fleeting and acclaim arrives late, if at all for most, and is likely to be etched on a grave marker.

I warn him that the success of our last two encounters was well-earned but hardly certain. Edge the stone troll’s bite a finger’s width to one side, and our priest bleeds out. A magical component lost or a word of power garbled, and awesome spells can fizzle. Etha is asleep in His hall and a desperate prayer is unheard. A slippery patch of moss on a boulder, and Valinor’s killing blow slices naught but air. I assure my young comrade that I have seen and survived both sides of this coin. If he expects to live long enough to tell tales of his own he needs to tend to the tasks and details in his control. Don’t sell your life cheaply. The rest is fate and the will of the gods.

It will be necessary for Beldain to adjust to our well-proven approach to battle to become a true asset. Our party does not fight in a classic Ethan Battle Fist, nor should we, but an introduction to the basics of group combat will give him something to digest. In the field there is a marching order. Travel camps require a watch. In melee the armor takes the front and the brunt. Accept healing and enhancements when offered. Party magic and prayers come with warning guidance so pay heed. This advice will no doubt be reinforced in the field, but ignore or forget it at your peril!

I am a little sorry to dampen our monk’s mood but, to his credit, he makes his way to his bedroll quietly with a thoughtful look on his face. The day’s exertions weigh on me as well and I sleep soundly until the smell of a fire and the gray dawn light herald a new day.



DM Insights

Combat in earlier editions of dnd tended to be very long and detailed. Fifth edition dnd combat is streamlined, designed to be unencumbered and speedy. The nuances of combat in 2nd edition included initiative rolled at the start of each round, weapon speed factors and spell casting times being added to initiative rolls, weapon damage that changed with different sized opponents, and spells being lost if a spellcaster took any damage before the start of their turn. Players had to consider many things from the very start of a combat round, requiring  forethought and coordination by all players. Getting your turn early in combat really did matter and a weapon’s speed factor or a spell’s casting time had to be considered as much as its damage. Getting off the first attack really could change the entire outcome of an encounter.

Valinor was an accomplished mage and actively created his own unique spells, often designed to give him an edge in combat. One such spell was Quickspell which could shorten the casting time of some spells, allowing Valinor to cast sooner in the initiative order. The 5e conversion of Quickspell is useful to any wizard player character and it can make a great little surprise when used by an npc.

You can add the flavor of weapon speed factor to your game by putting restrictions or bonuses on some weapons in certain situations. For instance, you might impose disadvantage on attacks made with a longbow, polearm, or two-handed weapon when in confined or restricted areas, and also give advantage to attacks with light weapons in the same areas. Using a light weapon might grant advantage to Stealth or Sleight of Hand checks made to conceal the weapon from view, or grant disadvantage to an opponent's ability check to see the weapon. You might also allow light weapons to be drawn and sheathed as part of a move or attack action or free object interaction. These options reward players for using different weapons and point out the reasons why nearly every player character in 1st and 2nd edition dnd carried a dagger.

The magocracy of Yarros was the primary geo-political antagonist in our campaign. It was a large piraha state with a goal of conquest. It was bordered by two non-human empires, the dwarves of Vestinhiem and the elves of Sussarian. Yarros had always been in a state of war with the elves and the most recent war ended when the elves eroded the land and sent a wave of earth to bury Yarossian cities and armies under a sea of sand. These sand-covered ruins became lost ghost-cities haunted by those entombed within, and the sea of sand formed a buffer against Yarossian aggression. Yarros slowly built its strength and plotted its strategy to conquer the city state of Harbordeep, a wealthy trading city situated on the shores of a great inland lake. Yarrosian mage-kings sent their agents to take control of The Singing Hills, the area that surrounded Harbordeep, in preparation for a siege of the city. As these plans hatched, Konus and his companions became renowned throughout the same area and had  already set their sights on establishing themselves in the Singing Hills and Harbordeep. It would be in this backdrop that the party would first meet the Yarrosians, their soon-to-be sworn enemy.  

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