Part I: Hook
The PCs are in a fairly typical inn for their location. They’ve already rented rooms for the night, and they’re relaxing in the common room. As adventurers are wont to do, they overhear conversations and rumors, both of invasion from the Omari Empire in the vast desert to the near south and that the local army is looking for all the recruits they can enlist. This last is confirmed easily thanks to the poster next to the outside entrance stating that the People’s Army is looking for healthy young men to enlist. “Good pay and bonuses” give ample incentive for glory-seeking males of an adventurous bent to join, but speaking with the local patrons makes it clear that almost no-one has signed up thanks to the rumors of war with the “Sandmen”, who are rumored to be lethal fighters of the highest calibre.
Right as the party begins to head toward their rooms, the door bursts open and in walks an officer wearing the colours of the the local army. With him are twenty soldiers, all armed and in almost full armor. “Good evening gentlemen. I am Officer Brenhart of the People’s Army. By order of the Crown, all able-bodied males are hereby conscripted into the Army. With pay of course. Please line up in single-file and wait for your turn.” Having made his announcement, he sits down at a table that has been cleared of it’s former occupants and their drinks in favor of official looking documents piled to one side of the table, quite obviously conscription papers.
As the soldiers begin to organize the patrons into lines, a few resist, but are quickly knocked senseless and dragged to the side of the room to be handled after the others. It should be very obvious by now that war is about to break out, if it hasn’t already.
The PCs have two options at this point:
1) They can be sensible and quietly exit to the rooms upstairs, escaping out the windows and vanishing into the misty night before the soldiers reach their room.
2) They can be typical adventurers and resist forcefully. However, twenty armed soldiers are no laughing matter, and they’ll get no help from the other patrons, who have already been cowed into submission by the soldier’s demonstration of what happens to those who resist. Furthermore, Brenhart himself is no pushover, and definitely knows how to use the longsword at his hip.
If the PCs take this route, chances are they will be reduced to unconsciousness and dragged over to the pile of other resisters until they can be dealt with. The soldiers and Brenhart are here to conscript live recruits, not kill anyone. They will end up conscripted into the People’s Army, will be furnished weapons and armor if they have none, and placed in a newbie platoon with the other patrons of that unlucky inn.
If by some miraculous chance they escape the fight without being conscripted, they will not be pursued. Brenhart and his remaining soldiers are willing to let a small group of adventurers escape conscription now so that they can finish enlisting the other inn patrons.
The following events will happen one way or another, but how they come about will depend on prior events.
The party is traveling in a forest nearby the town they were in the night before when they come upon a clearing. In the clearing is the aftermath of a rather nasty battle; bodies and their parts are scattered everywhere, weapons lay where lifeless hands released them, blood is splattered on various trees where limbs made way for sprays of red. Several smooth stones are embedded in helmets and breastplates, while others have simple dents in the same locations. Bladed weapons weren’t the only ones used in this fight.
Suddenly one of the bodies with a large dent in the stomach area of its breastplate lets out a racking cough and opens its eyes. It’s one of the resisters from last night’s conscription. His sentences and words are broken by wheezing and painful moans. “We were..out on basic movement exercise. The captain…discovered tracks that he thought were…suspicious. So we followed them. We stopped in this clearing to take a..a…break. That’s when..they attacked. No warning..All of a sudden there was a big bang, and Jon over there…fell with a huge dent in his helmet. Then they swarmed…all over us. Took us apart…”
The man’s eyes begin to wander, and he mumbles random, incoherent things. The strain of the fight and his injuries have turned his brain into a jumble of nothingness. It’s the purest luck that the party reached the clearing when they did, otherwise no-one would know what happened. If the party is so inclined, they can take him with them and try to treat his injuries, but he will die in the middle of the night, barring heavy duty magic. Even then, his mind will never recover properly, having been too close to the brink of death.Conscripted!
In this case, the PCs have been conscripted into the People’s Army, and have already been warned that those who attempt to run will be hunted by expert trackers and killed. Escape is not an option, though some might consider that choosing to die now of your own will is better than dying on some lonely field of war, but such is a topic for philosophers, not conscriptees.
They will have been outfitted with standard weaponry if they have none, and basic breastplates. The People’s Army might conscript its members, but they also outfit them for survivability. The party is assigned to a ‘newbie’ platoon, mixed in with both some older veterans and other conscriptees from all over the region. All in all, there are approximately 30 people in the platoon, including the party. The platoon is headed by a rather arrogant junior officer named Shmidt, who will not hesitate to enforce his policy with draconian methods.
Having spent their morning being outfitted and briefed, the platoon (and thus the PCs) will be sent on a basic group movement training in the nearby forest. The secondary purpose of this exercise is to flush out any Omari scouts who might be hiding there, but the platoon will get more than they bargained for. Whilst on their training exercise, scouts discover tracks and signs of recent activity within the forest. Shmidt decides to take the platoon along as extra targets in case anything gets out of hand, but when the group stops in a clearing to rest, they’re ambushed by a force of 12 Omari sandwalkers.
The battle starts with missiles taking out a sixth of the company, which causes mass panic. The veterans gather in a semicircle with Shmidt in the center, leaving the conscripts to shake in their boots. Then the sandwalkers attack, and within a few short minutes almost all of the conscripts have been taken down, and the veterans have been surrounded. Within another ten to fifteen minutes those veterans have been killed, along with Shmidt.
Where are the PCs during these events? That is generally up to you, as to whether you wish to fudge combat rolls or have them sent off on errands and return to see the battle site as per the “Unconscripted” section above.
When camping that night, the party is settling down to enjoy their meal when a lone Omari sandwalker
Part II: Line
Into the Sands
Part III: Sinker