This week we played Clash at Ikara by Randy Lubin as a team of heroes in a land of honor and noble houses, determined to protect the mountain-top village of Ikara from raids by bandits with jump-jets that allow aerial assaults. Our group consists of the Sage, a retired elder long-sought out for his wisdom; the Charmer, a court diplomat here to secure the interests of his noble house; the Virtuoso, a taciturn gigantic warrior in a theater mask who clubs his way through life; the Veteran, a war-weary general who’s seen too many die on the field; the Untested Youth, the awe-struck child of a local farmer who we can’t dissuade from joining us; and the Returned, a dissolute ne’er-do-well native run out of Ikara hoping to earn the right to return by helping defend it from the bandits.
Knowing the bandits attacks are certain, we must prepare the village to fight them off. The Sage has said that if Ikara can withstand this assault, despite the bandit’s superior technology, it will show that order can overcome chaos. Knowing that the mists that roll across the mountain face make visibility poor, the Sage instructs the villagers in constructing decoy defenses to draw the bandits fire. He also discovers in the village records, a history of a unique missile weapon once used to clear the mountain of a particularly dangerous beast and where to find the long-lost store of these weapons, so the village can use them in the battle. The Veteran tries to fortify their perimeter and drill the locals in basic fighting techniques, and when a village elder starts to lose his nerve, he scares him straight with tales of the horrors he’s witnessed. He also encounters bandit scouts alongside the Youth, who is knocked to the ground and killed before the Veteran strikes down his foe. Never having encountered battle before, the Youth is frightened but hides his fear when the Veteran asks what he has learned.
The Charmer is here more to protect his family’s interest in the ancient meteorite embedded at the top of the cliff face. When someone suggests that it be prepared to create a landslide to use against the bandits, he convinces the villagers that it must be a last resort, though he cannot stop them from prepping it for use. He does convince them to prepare traps to negate or take advantage of the bandit’s flight abilities: covered pits that will collapse when they try to land and covered alleyways that they cannot fly out of. Meanwhile, the Returned returns to his old haunts, the gambling dens and bars, to drink away his fear, but in one of them he finds an old compatriot. This former rake has gone legit, married and settled down. He tells the Returned that he too could be more than he was before, could make something of himself, make himself a life here. The Virtuoso prepares for the battle, as all life is a battle to him, readying fires to light when the bandits arrive that will deprive them of sight and precious oxygen for their lungs and their jump-jets. For he has learned the most important information of all—how the bandits refuel their jump-jets between flights, and how to prevent them from refueling in the midst of battle.
At last, the day of the battle arrives and alarms sound throughout the village. We’re ready as the bandits come out of the sky. The Virtuoso lights his fires and crashes through swaths of bandits, taking out three at a time with each swing of his club. The Charmer uses his pit traps and blind alleys to ambush and take out many bandits. The Veteran general sees the moment when the releases the meteorite will create the greatest advantage for the village, and doesn’t hesitate to start the landslide. The Sage is the first of us to fall, cut down while freeing a group of young taken prisoner by the bandits, willing to sacrifice his few remaining years for their many. The Youth chases a group of bandits into the village temple to find them preparing to destroy it with the fuel cells for their jump-jets. Without thinking, he engages with them, striking one or two down before the others run out. Seeing the bomb they’ve left behind, he grabs it and follows them, but dies when the bomb explodes in his hands after escaping the temple. Finally, the Returned enters the fray when he sees his friend endangered, but he’s cut down while saving him. He dies thanking his friend for this chance to be good for once and to do something noble.
Through our combined efforts, the village of Ikara is saved, and the bandits decimated, their power and organization dispersed. The Veteran must mourn once more for those who’ve died while he lived, in particular the idealistic Sage and naive Youth. He spends the remainder of his years putting the honor he’s accumulated on the battlefield to promote the Sage’s ideas about resilience and peace. The Charmer must return to his court and explain why the meteorite of Ikara is no more. He tells the story of the battle as a signal of his family’s strength, when even the smallest of their villages can repel such powerful invaders. This lets him keep his life and to remain at court, but he loses prestige and the esteem of his family. The Virtuoso disappears back to wherever he came from, oft-remembered by the people of Ikara but spoken of only in hushed tones.