Issue: 30
System: Hellswords & Sorcery
Publisher: Wessex Games

The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel
by Matthew Hartley

"Din of slaughter, whetting of blades, shields with broken bosses after sunset"

The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel


The Destruction Of Da Derga's Hostel, taken from Penguin Classics Early Irish Myths and Sagas, is a tale of the Irish "myth cycle" period. The Destruction Of Da Derga's Hostel is an epic struggle between King Conare and his loyal hero companions, and the hordes of his treacherous foster- brothers and their British allies.

The Story is a colourful if somewhat confused and contradictory narrative, containing many of the key themes in Irish sagas of the period. Regrettably it contains only passing references to other beings of Celtic myth - the Otherworld Sidhe and the unhuman Formori (here represented only by three hostages), which is a pity given the uniqueness of both races and their novelty to most fantasy gamers. Perhaps the Editor will permit me to write some games featuring them at a latter date. The scenario presents a classic "few-against-hordes" blood bath, which highlights both the advantages of heroes and the problems of command and control which are key features of Hellswords & Sorcery, although I think details are sufficient to rewrite this scenario for most systems.

The Story So Far:

King Conare was born of an incestuous relationship between King Cormac and his daughter Mess Buachalla, and is doomed to break all his gessa (taboos). As a comparatively young High King of Eru (Ireland), his reign has been noted as a golden age of peace and plenty.

However Conare's foster- brothers Fer Le, Fer Gar, and Fer Rogain - all sons of the famous warband champion Dond Desa - were treacherously disgruntled at "losing the prerogatives of... theft... robbery, plunder [and] murder" that they raised the sons of the lords of Ireland in revolt. Conare captured them but instead of having them hung as traitors sent them over the seas to plunder northern Britain!

At sea the Sons of Dond Desa met a fleet of British plunders led by lngcel Caech, son of a British king and grandson of Conmac of Britain. The raiders decided to join forces, first raiding Britain - were lngcel Caech killed his father, mother and seven brothers in a single night - and then headed for Ireland.

Meanwhile Conare and his follows were returning to Temuir (Tara) having peaceably settled a dispute between two more foster-brothers. The party stop over night at the "iron house" of Da Derga (literally, The Red God), were Conare breaks a number of his geiss.

The raiders land near the Hostel, and having spied on Conare and his champions and described their martial prowess is considerable detail, they are goaded by Ingcel Caech into an assault.

The Sons of Dond Desa and Ingcel Caech:

The saga gives a very detailed break down of the exact numbers of raiders present in each unit in the rebels army. unfortunately this breakdown does not add up to the total force figure given a couple of pages later! The total given is for five thousand men in one hundred and fifty boats, although the total of all the detailed units is nearer six thousand men. The units described below have been taken from the more detailed figures, using a figure ratio of one base to fifty men.

The Sons of Dond Desa: the Sons actual retinue is quite small. They are in one unit of ten bases of skirmishers are with hand weapons (spears and swords) and carrying shields.

Reaction. 3,2,2,1,2,2,2,2 (16 points)

Sons of Ailill and Medb: the majority of the Irish forces present come from the eight sons of Ailill and Medb. Each son is called Mane, with a nickname (George Forman's progeny naming strategy has an ancient and honourable history...).

Each son's force is in a single unit. Each unit is of skirmishers armed with hand weapons and carrying shields. Each unit has the same reaction sequence as the Sons of Dond Desa.

The Three Named Ruadchoin: described as "a valorous trio of the Ill Brium from Cualu in Lagin.... all three were named Ruadchoin". They have two units, the first is identical to the Sons of Dond Desa but contains only six bases.

The second is described as a "frenzied troop", they too are skirmishers armed with hand weapons and shields. The unit is only five bases strong. However their reaction sequence is:

Reaction: 3,3,3,2,2,2,2,2 (19 points)

The British of Ingcel Caech: they appear to be identical to their Irish fellow raiders, being similarly armed and with the same reaction sequence.

There are twenty-six bases of British, which I would suggest splitting into two units of equal size. The first commanded by Ingeel Caech himself, and the other by his brothers Eccell and Dartaid.

The Leaders: the saga clearly states that there are six leaders, Ingeel Caech and the five sons of Dond Desa - Fer Gar and Fer Rogain already mentioned, plus Fer Gel, Per Rogel and Lomnae Druth.

The five sons of Dond Desa seem a pretty unimpressive lot, so are each classified as normal Irish raider bases, except that they are also Leader bases and can move independently.

Ingeel Caech is described as "a terrifying, ungentle man ... with a single eye ... with three pupils". His base is classed as a Hero Leader skirmisher base armed with specialist hand weapons and shields. His reaction profile is:

Reaction: 3,2,3,3,3,2,2,3 (21 points)

Before the game begins each Leader must be assigned units to command. lngcel Caech can only command the British, and they will only be commanded by him.

King Conare and his Retainers:

Conare and his followers are described in lavish detail in the Saga. For game purposes, a number of these followers have been placed together to make up Hero bases. This bundling is somewhat arbitrary, but I have tried to reflect the known fate of the characters.

Da Derga and his Warriors: the warriors were described thus "each man had long hair to the nape of the neck and a short green mantle to his buttocks; each man wore short speckled trousers (!) and carried a great thorn club with a band of iron round it".

Da Derga and his warriors are classed as one unit of three bases of skirmishers, armed with specialist hand weapons. One base is classed as a leader base.

Reaction: 3,3,2,3,2,2,2,2 (19 points)

Conare's Chariots: Conare had seven units of chariot. One posted at each entrance to the Hostel. They are seven units of three bases each. They are classified as mounted close order troops armed with hand weapons.

Reaction: 2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2 (16 points)

Note: any Hero base which joins with a chariot unit Counts for movement and combat purposes as mounted close order.

Le Fer Flaith and his Lads: Le Fer Flaith - "a red freckled lad in a crimson cloak" - is Conares young son. With him are one hundred and fifty lads of his own household, armed with thorn spiked reeds.

They are one unit of three bases of skirmishers armed with missile weapons

Reaction: 2,2,1,2,1,1,1 (12 points)

Conare's Base: is classed as a Hero Leader skirmisher base are with specialist close combat weapons and shields. It's reaction is:

Reaction: 3,3,3,3,3,3,2,3 (23 points)

The Base comprises of:

Macc Cecht's Base: is classed as a Hero skirmisher base are with specialist close combat weapons and shields. It's reaction is:

Reaction: 3,3,3,3,2,3,2,3 (22 points)

The Base comprises:

Conall Cernach's Base: is classed as a Hero skirmisher base are with specialist close combat weapons and shields, It's reaction is.

Reaction: 3,2,3,3,3,3,2,2 (21 points)

The Base comprises:

The Three Chief's Base: this base is classed as a Hero skirmisher base are with specialist close combat weapons and shields. It's reaction is:

Reaction: 3,2,3,3,3,3,2,2 (21 points)

The Base comprises:

Game Area and Deployment:

All of Conare's forces start the game in and around the Hostel. The Rebels forces may enter from any table edge.

The Saga does not detail the battlefield very well - in fact most of the fighting appears to have taken place in the immediate vicinity of the Hostel.

The Hostel is an "iron house" with seven entrances. Exactly what an "iron house" is any bodies guess. In true Roswell fashion, I favour a crashed ET UFO, but it is not important fur game purposes. The Hostel counts as one built-up area with restrictive access for close combat purposes.

The Battle and its Aftermath:

In the actual battle, the rebels attacked the Hostel three times but were beaten back each time. All the liquid in the Hostel having being used to put out attempted fires, Conare begs Macc Cecht to break Out and bring him a drink. Macc Cecht does so, taking Le Fer Flaith with him. He returns however to see Conare being beheaded by the raiders during the forth assault. Macc Cacht attacks to rebels seeking revenge and is mortally wounded on the battlefield. Many of Conare's other supporters seem to survive, many seriously' wounded, having fought their way out. Of the rebels only Ingcel Caech survives along with a thousand men.

Macc Cacht finally dies on the battlefield three days after the fight. The victim of a scavenging wolf.

Ed Note: Hellswords & Sorcery is a high fantasy supplement for Hellfire, a highly flexible generic set of 6mm SF rules produced by Wessex Games. For further details on price and availability send an SSAE to Wessex Games. 4 Old Acre Road, Whitchurch, Bristol, B514 OHN