Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Ghost Archipelago Campaign '18, Game 4: The Island of Floating Hulks

     This past weekend we got together for the fourth game in our Ghost Archipelago campaign.  We had 6 of our regulars players, and we used an 8'x3' table.   For this outing, we decided to use a scenario from the November '17 issue of Wargames Illustrated, called "The Floating Hulk".  This was a scenario written by core-rules author, Joseph McCullough, and was designed for solo play.  It featured a derelict ship floating on the ocean, that the player's crew decide to investigate.  It is guarded by Sharks in the water, and "Talonjacks" (think pterodactyls) in a large nest at the top of the mainmast.  Also, the larger ship is difficult to climb up onto, so requires a Move roll with a target of 12.
     In order to make the scenario useable by our group, a few changes need to be made. Fellow campaign player Don Hogge, and myself, worked on reconfiguring the scenario so it would be playable by a group of 6 players, not just one.  We decided to make it a large "island" of derelict ships, kind of like a ship graveyard, that had all gathered together amongst some jagged rocky outcroppings, forming one large intertwined mass.   We then multiplied the mainmasts, with the central treasure and the nests of Talonjacks to a total of three; so there would be one for every two of our players.  We then assigned a Shark to be just outside the starting zone of each player.  We also upped the number of total Sharks and Talonjacks that could be brought into play during the game, and created a specialized Random Encounter Table that contained only Aquatic creatures, and some creatures one might find on derelict ships; like Pirate Skeletons, Swamp Zombies, and Sea Rats.  Also, a special rule of the scenario requires anyone trying to climb from one of the small boats onto one of the ships to make a special Move Roll with a target number of 12.  We decided to include climbing from the boats onto the rocks, climbing from a ship to a ship, or climbing from the sea onto one of the ships or rocks; figuring everything was a rocking, tossing, slippery deathtrap.
A long view of the table, showing my start position, and the locations of the central treasures.
       I was once again terribly unlucky in my choice of starting location, drawing chip #6, and being stuck with the spot no one wanted.   Across from me was Skorri Drakenberg, and his new Beast Warden,  Agger. (His Wave Warden, Anemone, having perished last game)   To my left was the Heritor Molly Malone, and her Storm Warden, Niskaru.  Diagonally to my my front left was Kragmar of the True Blood, and his Storm Warden, Samael Gale.

    To read my account of the previous game, see: The Drichean Cages

My crew's deployment, and the location of the killer Shark.

The Report

     Lord Fortrywn collapsed the spyglass and handed it back to The Silver Sword's captain. The Elf Heritor turned again to peer out across the waves at the black mass that lay along the blue horizon in the distance.  It surely appeared to be an assortment of derelict ships, all trapped in an area of jagged rocky outcroppings jutting from the waves; their falling rigging and frayed sails causing them to become intertwined and locked together. The Elf Lord's mind calculated the prizes that might await in the holds of those ships; already bought with someone else's blood and effort in the deadly jungles of the Archipelago.  Ready to be reclaimed by anyone who dare investigate the hulks.  It was a risk he was willing to take.  The Silver Sword's Captain advised the Heritor that it would be too dangerous to bring the big ship in close to the rocks, they would need to use the small boats. 
     Lord Fortrywn decided on three of the ship's small landing boats so he would have more options where to land, and be able to cover more area.  He divided up his party so that he would have his trusty Hunter, Gwynwater, with him; along with Salin, the Pearl Diver, and the able Crew-woman, Arbyn, who had proven her worth on more than one occasion.  Lord Fortrywn assigned his niece and Warden, Marnilyne, to a second boat; along with Randilas the Archer, and the Crew-woman, Meriwyn.  In the third craft were the three crew members; Vilkse, Finil, and Bry.
     As they approached the floating mass of seaweed-covered wood and rotting sails,  they could make out large bird-like creatures flying lazy circles above the remaining tall masts of the hulks.  Arbyn identified them as Talonjacks, a kind of pesky lizard-like shore-bird with a nasty bite, and sharp talons.  They also saw the fins of  several sharks swimming lazily near the shipwrecks. Further out, they could discern the sails of other Heritors' ships, and the small dots of their landing boats in the water.  They weren't alone.  Lord Fortrywn steered his boat towards a large vessel that looked promising on the right of the "island".  It had once been a fine ship and it's bright blue and red paint could still be seen on it's hull, though much of it was sun-bleached and peeling.  They reached the side of the ship and found it was rocking up and down and covered in slimy algae, which made climbing up aboard difficult; but they all managed it.  Gwyn immediately turned and shot an arrow at a Shark, who was  prowling the waters by the ship, but missed.  Arbyn spotted a promising chest under a nearby gangway and moved towards it, while Salin and Lord Fortrywn moved off to the left to investigate a large old Dwarven ironclad, whose hull was now about half rusted over and covered in barnacles.   As the Heritor went, he could see the small boats of the other crews nearing the island of shipwrecks. He quietly cursed to the gods and pressed on.
Lord Fortrywn, Salin, Arbyn, and Gwynwater, reach the blue-hulled ship.
     Marnilyne, with her boat, moved off to the right to check an old black-hulled ship, whose masts and rigging lay in a tangled heap upon it's deck. She thought she saw movement, and the bobbing head of another crew approaching the black ship from the far side, so took the precaution of casting Brambles on the front of the black ship's deck.  While she worked her magic, Randilas the Archer , also in her boat, turned and fired at the Shark, missing like Gwyn the Hunter had. 
     The third boat, with the three ship's crew aboard, moved to intercept and deal with the Shark.   Bry and Vilkse had their weapons at the ready as Finil guided the boat at the beast.  The two crew slashed and stabbed at the Shark but  missed. The creature however leapt suddenly at it's attackers and it's mighty jaws clamped down on Bry's sword arm.  She cried out in pain and shock as the Shark suddenly twisted and yanked her clear off the boat.  Vilkse leaned forward to help, but instead caught the full brunt of the beast's tail as the Shark completed it's twisting turn, pulling Bry under the water.  The force of the tail dislocated the crewman's jaw, and unbalanced him.  With a grunt his feet went out from under him and he fell forward, his knees cracking on the side of the boat, and he tipped forward into the murky blue water.
     Finil now found himself alone on the little boat.  Desperately he scanned the choppy waters for some sight of his companions or the Shark itself; but he saw nothing.   As he leaned forward searching, the creature came from directly below the boat and rammed it with his head from underneath.  The lone Crewman pitched forward out of the boat.  As he hit the water, he felt the Shark's jaws clamp around one of his boots, and with a yank he was pulled beneath the surface. Gwyn, watching from the nearby ship, could not believe how quickly the three had disappeared.  Far above the choppy surface of the water, grey clouds began to boil up in the sky, as the Warden, Niskaru, cast Cloud Cover above the shipwreck island.
     A melancholy mood settled on the rest of the party, but knowing there was a job to be done they all returned to their tasks.  Lord Fortrywn called to Gwyn, "Kill that Shark!"
Vilkse, Bry, and Finil begin their fateful first turn fight with their hungry friend. 
        Marny, the Warden, and her group finally reached the black-hulled derelict and despite the slippery old wood, and bobbing of the ship, managed to climb up on board.   The Elf-girl reached the railing of the ship and stood up on it to get a view of her surroundings.  Sure enough, there were crew belonging to the Heritor Skorri Drakenburg scurrying like rats over the hulks on the far side of the floating island.   As she watched, one of Drakenburg's Archers drew an arrow and let it loose at Gwyn.  Marny tried to shout a warning, but it was too late.  The shaft hit the Hunter in her muscular back and sunk deep through her leather coat.  The tall warrior fell forward on her knees and let out a gasp of pain. (Reduced to 3 HP)  Marny began chanting the spell for Warp Weapon at the Archer, and thick vines grew from the seaweeds on the side of the ship, and wrapped themselves around the enemy's bow, trying to bend the wood. Quickly, the Archer drew his dagger and cut his weapon free before the plants could do much damage (Rolled a 20 for the -1 Damage Warp Weapon result)
    Next to the Warden, Randilas, the Archer, fired another arrow at the Shark.  He hit the beast, but the missile merely sliced through the creature's fin (-1 HP).  Meanwhile, the third member of their group, Meriwyn, spied a promising chest near the middle of the deck and clambered across the rigging-strewn planks towards it.
     On he blue-hulled ship, Gwyn had painfully gotten back to her feet. Beyond the sharp stab of the shaft in her back, she could feel an exquisite spike of heat when ever she inhaled deeply.   She knew her lung was punctured.  Gritting her teeth, knowing she had a job to do while she still had breath, the Hunter drew back her bow as fire burned across her back, and she launched another arrow at the Shark, missing.  Below the injured Elf, on the prow of the ship, Arbyn had secured the chest she found there, and dragging it over to the edge,  let it drop into their boat below.
Marny, Randlas, and Meriwyn reach the black-hulled ship.
     Meanwhile, Lord Fortrywn had raced along the gangway over to the rusty old Dwarven ironclad, and quickly climbed down the engine house.  Seeing some of the Heritor Molly Malone's crew rounding the front turret of the vessel, he Surged froward to pick up a chest that lay just behind the metal structure.  Salin, the Pearl Diver, followed on a lower path, crossing over an old Barbarian ship, with it's tall dragon masthead and a few old shields still adorning it's sides.  He jumped for the deck of the Dwarven ship, but miscalculated the roll of the two ships, and ended up short; one foot getting a brief hold on the edge of  the smooth metal deck of the Ironclad before he slipped backwards and tumbled into the sea in a small area between the Barbarian ship, the Ironclad, and a large slime covered rock.   The zing of a crossbow bolt from one of Molly's crew, shot over the Pearl Diver's head and imbedded itself in the Barbarian ship behind him.
     Back on the black-hulled ship, Marny could see that Skorri himself, and his Pearl Diver, were approaching by swimming through the sea around the island. (Skorri had a Piscian Helmet.) Once again, the young Elf cast Warp Weapon, this time at the enemy Heritor, and the seaweed vines wrapped around his sword, bending it only slightly before the powerful Heritor yanked it away.  (Rolled 12 for -1 Fight result.)
     Meriwyn reached the chest on the deck and picked it up.  Behind her Randy fired an arrow at a pesky Needlefish that appeared, leaping high out of the waves off the Starboard side of the ship, killing it instantly.
     Over on the blue-hulled ship, Gwyn fought through the pain and fired at the Shark again, missing it once more. She cursed, at her own weakness.   Arbyn looked at her concerned, and asked, "Can I help you?"  The Hunter merely shook her head, and through gritted teeth said, "Get on the boat, and get that chest safely out of here.  I'll be fine."  By the gods, it hurt just to talk.  Her breath gurgled with moisture.  Gwyn knew her lung was beginning to fill with blood.
Lord Fortrywn reaches the treasure on the Dwarven Ironclad, but is quickly swarmed by the Heritor, Molly Malone, and her crew.
        By now, Molly Malone herself, along with a couple of her crew, had reached Lord Fortrywn.  Clutching the chest in one arm, the Heritor acrobatically Evaded his three assailants by leaping up, twisting, and planting his right foot on the side of the engine house to aid in propelling himself past the third attacker, then jumping down behind the man,  The Heritor thrust his sword into the enemy's back, and the man crumpled to the ground before he realized what had happened. (I rolled a 20 for my attack!) Turning quickly, the Elf Lord attempted to get away.  He reached the edge of the Ironclad, and dove onto the Barbarian ship.  A third member of Molly's crew approached, and gave chase; leaping after Lord Fortrywn, and landing practically on top of him.  The man was too close to even swing his sword, so he struck the Heritor in the back of the head with his fist wrapped around the grip. (Does -2HP damage.)
     Down below the fight, in the water between the grinding, rocking, hulls, Salin tried desperately to climb out to help the Lord Fortrywn, but he was finding it a chore just trying not be smashed against the rock or a hull. (Failed his climbing Move Roll again.)
     Gwyn's health continued to decline, but she didn't give up; focusing all her energy she aimed at the Shark, and this time hit it squarely.  (Shark reduced to 2 HP).  Randilas, over on the black-hulled ship, followed up her shot with another true hit, finally killing the beast.
Lord Fortrywn tries to make his escape, but is caught by one of Molly's crew; as Salin flounders in the small patch of sea, literally caught between a rock and two hard places. 
     After Randy finished off the Shark, he turned back and caught sight of a Large Snake gliding through the waves towards the ship.  (Summoned by Skorri's Warden.) Between the appearance of this new threat, and knowing Skorri and the enemy Pearl Diver were almost upon them, he moved back and up onto a large rocky outcropping at the back of the black-hulled ship.  Marny cast Brambles once again along the centerline of the ship in a desperate attempt to slow Skorri and his Pearl Diver, and then she herself fled too, back onto the ships' fallen mainmast, by way of the top yard. 
     The pair of enemies had now climbed up the side of the black-hulled ship, and were just crossing over the railing as the Warden's thorny vines grew to their full height.  Meriwyn moved away as fast as she could, picking her way through the fallen masts and rigging, carrying the heavy chest.  Frantically looking around, she decided her best route was to chance crossing the fallen mainmast, like Marny had, over to the blue-hulled ship.  As the Crew-woman stepped out on the yard with her heavy load, she felt a sharp stab of pain in her side as an arrow hit her from one of Skorri's Archer's, almost knocking her into the water.  The Elf sailor gritted her teeth and with her free hand she yanked on the shaft, located just a few inches below her ribcage.  Crying out in pain, she removed the projectile, but was suddenly overcome with dizziness, and her whole side began to heat up into extraordinary pain. The skin all around the wound was turning bright red. (The arrow had Envenom cast upon it.)  Realizing she had been poisoned, Meri prayed she would make it across the mast.
As Meriwyn tries to escape with the treasure, the Heritor Skorri Drakenburg, with his Pearl Diver, reach the deck, while Marnilyn the Warden prepares to cast another Bramble down the centerline of the vessel.
     Arbyn had obeyed Gwyn's command, and dropping down into the boat, untied it, and shoved off.  As she turned and picked up one of the oars, she noticed a sight that filled her with dread; less than 50 yards away, the Crew-woman saw the tell-tail tentacles and large fin of an Octopike.  Gwyn saw the beast too, and straining, fired an arrow.  Her shot went far wide as her ability to hold her arm steady was diminishing.
      Frantically, the Crew-woman began to paddle, but the creature had seen the small craft and sped towards it.    Arbyn set the oar down and, standing, brandished her sword.  She had been sailing most of her life, and was not afraid to face any monster of the sea with a good Elven blade in her hand. She smiled, and braced her feet in the rocking craft.   The Octopike disappeared a few yards from the boat; then with a shower of spray 8 powerful tentacles burst from the waves right next to the tiny vessel, and shot forward to wrap themselves around it's next meal.  But Arbyn, daughter of the sea, was not prepared to die that day; and before the tentacles could tighten their death grip around her, the Elven sailor pulled back her arm, and leaning forward plunged the long blade down the very gullet of the beast, her hand nearly being sliced on the rows of sharp teeth in its yawing mouth.  (Rolled 20 + 2F!) The Octopike writhed, and released it's tentacles as it pulled back, an off the blade; disappearing again beneath the waves.  Arbyn stood still for a moment scanning the surface of the water,  then turning she set the sword down beside her and picked up the oar once again.
Arbyn prepares to make her escape, as the Octopike approaches.
     Back on the Barbarian ship, Lord Fortrywn turned to face his assailant as Molly, and her other Crewman, arrived to support the first attacker.   Once again, the Elf Heritor skillfully Evaded all three assailants, and dodging, leapt onto the side of the ship so he now only face one.  The Heritor swung at the enemy Crewman, but his opponent blocked him.  Lord Fortrywn was now in a vulnerable position, poised forward on the edge of the ship's side, and his enemy took advantage and quickly moving from his block to an upward thrust, struck the Elf in his gut. Between the downward momentum of the Elf Lord's blocked attack, and the power of the enemy's  thrust, the blade pierced right through the chainmail at the bottom of the Heritor's chest plate. Lord Fortrywn gasped, as  his face formed a look of shock and surprise.  Losing his balance, the Elf Lord fell backwards, landing hard on the deck, and a blackness overtook him.  (I rolled a 1 for the combat... the enemy didn't.)
     Back on the fallen mast of the black-hulled ship, Marny knew instinctively that something had happened to her Uncle.  As Skorri and his Pearl Diver easily climbed her Bramble obstacle in the center of the ship, the young Warden tried to ignore the feeling she was having about her Uncle,  and once more attempt to cast Brambles in the path of their pursuers; but her mind was too clouded and the spell failed.  She called to Meriwyn, "Hurry!", then turned and climbed up the stern of the blue-hulled ship.   But it was no use; in a blink Skorri was upon the Crew-woman and sliced her callously with his sword while nimbly grabbing the treasure from her.  She toppled from the mast, her body falling to the waves below.
    Over on the rock, Randilas the Archer fired at the Large Snake, but missed.  He then turned and attempted to follow Marny by jumping from the rock to the back of the blue-hulled ship, but he miss-judged, and dropped into the sea below.
The chase across the fallen mainmast, as Drackenburg reaches the wounded Meriwyn.
          Back on the Barbarian ship, Molly Malone laughed at the sight of Lord Fortrywn sprawled on the deck. "Arrogant Elf," she spat.  "He got what he deserved."   Turning, she made to jump back onto the Ironclad, but misjudged the pitch of the two ships, and splashed into the water next to Salin; who still was trying to free himself from his watery prison. (Failed Move Roll again!) She swung her sword wildly, and it hit Salin in the shoulder.  It was not a direct hit, but there was enough power in her Crushing Blow, to give him a deep cut. (-4 HP).
      From the back of the blue-hulled ship, Marny immediately saw Gwyn and noticed the arrow sticking from her back.  There was small pool of blood on the deck by her left boot, and the Warden could see the Hunter's face was almost pure white.   Running towards the tall Elf she began chanted the spell for Waters of Life.  Running and casting was a mistake though, as quickly she lost the cadence and began to lose the spell.   The young Elf, stopped and concentrated; the Warden could feel the spell continue  to slip and focused her brain with all her might.  A fire began to burn behind her eyes, and her knees gave out.  Marny fell to deck hard.  (Pushed spell for -5 HP) But slowly, the waters rose up the side of the ship, and began to pool around the Hunter, washing away the pool of blood and climbing up her boot.  Gwyn could feel a slight relief from the pain.  It would have to be enough.
     Out at sea, Arbyn was paddling to get away as best she could. Suddenly, the there was a thud against the side of her boat, and the tentacles appeared again! She hadn't killed it after all.  From the deck of the ship Gwyn hastily fired at the beast but missed.  On the little boat, there was no time  for Arbyn to reach her sword, so as the tentacles probed the boat ,she reached out her booted foot and stamped on the nearest. (I win but do 0 damage.) It was enough. Once again the beast withdrew for good.
     Over by the Barbarian ship, Molly Malone soon realized what a dangerous place the small space between the ships was, and leaving the Pearl Diver to be ground to pulp on his own, used her blood gift strength to pull herself up and on to the ironclad.   Miraculously, Salin, too, was able to finally get the leverage he needed and hoisted himself up and onto the rock. (Finally made my Move Roll!)   At last he was free!
Gwynwater, on the far side of the blue-hulled ship's deck, fires her final arrow at the enemy Archer in the crow's nest.
     Back at the black-hulled ship, the Heritor Skorri Drakenburd and his Pearl Diver  jumped down from the fallen mast onto a seaweed covered raft a short distance away.  Upon landing, the Heritor turned to see if anyone was following.   Noticing Randilas in the water below the rock, he fired his bow, striking the Archer in the chest below his right shoulder.   (Reduced to 1 HP left.) Randy fell backwards, trying to stay conscious.  Desperately, he began to climb back up the rock, but saw the Large Snake come around it and move towards him.  As best he could the Archer gingerly un-shouldered his bow and fired an arrow at the Snake, hitting the creature near the tail.  (-4 HP).  Then, using his good left arm, he hoisted himself up onto the rock.
     Marny reached Gwyn and asked how she was doing.  "Better Now. Thank you" the Hunter replied, thought the Warden could see the pain and weakness in the Elf woman's eyes.
    "Are you sure you'll be alright?" the young elf asked.  Gwynwater nodded.  "I need to go find my Uncle, and see if there's anymore treasure to be found,"  Marny explained.  And with that the Warden turned and ran off in the direction Lord Fortrywn had gone.
       The Hunter watched the girl go, and took a deep gurgling breath.  A shout behind her caught her attention, and turning she crossed the deck.  Looking up, she saw one of Skorri's Archers up in the crows nest of a small derelict sloop right behind the blue-hulled ship.  He seemed to have found something, and was calling to his friends on the larger vessel behind.  Slowly, the Hunter raised her bow and notched an arrow.  Determinedly, she drew back the bow, despite the fiendish pain it caused her.  Gwynwater could feel a trickle of blood going down her back,  but she did not waiver.  A brightness shown in her weary eyes for a brief flicker as she sighted down the shaft at her target.  "Let it fly true." she whispered to herself, and released the arrow.  Her trained eye followed the shaft all the way, and a slight smile formed at the corners of her mouth as she saw the shaft hit home.  The man tumbled backwards out of the crows nest to the deck below. (I rolled a 20!) "Perfect." she said softly to herself, and she closed her eyes for second.
"Are you sure you'll be alright?" the young Elf asked.  Gwynwater nodded.
          Across the way, Skorri Drakenburg, form his position on the raft, saw his Archer fall from the crows nest.  Turning, the Heritor looked for where the shot came from. He could just see the top half of Gwyn over the rail of the ship, her tall frame silhouetted against the bright blue sky.  Drakenburg quickly readied his bow, and drew the arrow back with all the strength of his blood gift.
      Up on the blue-hulled ship, Gwyn began to look for another target when her delicate Elven ears heard the distinctive twang of a bowstring over the sound of the waves and the creaking and groaning of the ships. Instinctively, she turned her head in that direction, and caught site of the shaft in the second before it hit. Being a trained Archer with decades of experience, she knew; and gently she closed her eyes. The Heritor's black shaft struck true high on her chest with enough force it threw her back as it pierced her breast bone.  For a second Gwynwater Lighteye had the sensation she was floating before landing hard on the deck. She thought of the Warriors Hall on the Golden Shore.  There would be a seat for her she knew. Puzzled, she thought she heard the crystal sound of a silver horn sounding in the distance, as the darkness grew around her and then all became quiet.
         As Salin stood on the rock by the Barbarian ship, he noticed a lone Crewman, one of Molly Malone's, sitting in a small boat guarding a treasure.  It seemed ideal, and the Pearl Diver dove in the sea and swam towards the unsuspecting man.  With his strong swimmer's muscles he covered the distance in no time.  Like a shot he sprung from the water and began to climb aboard the little boat, much to the man's astonishment.  But the Pearl Diver did not notice one of Molly's archers on a dilapidated barge at the front of the ironclad.  The man drew his bow with skill and fired at the newly appeared threat to his group's treasure, hitting Salin's sword arm, almost pinning it to his side. The Pearl Diver fell back, blacked out, and sank beneath the waves.
     Over on the rock by the black-hulled ship, Randilas weakly climbed higher to escape the Snake, but it was no use.  It eventually caught up to him, and try as he did to defend himself, the Snake was able to get ahold of his leg; and as it clamped down, with a snap of his head, the creature yanked the Archer from the rocks, and he fell into the sea below, passing out as he fell.
Marny crosses over the gangway to the Ironclad, spotting her Uncle along the way.
          While all this was going on, Marny was hurriedly moving across the gangway above the Barbarian ship.   She spotted her Uncle lying on it's deck, and could see him move a little, so knew he was not dead, though he seemed to be unconscious.   She would need to find a way down to him.  But before she could do that, she heard shouts from the far side of the Ironclad about an unclaimed treasure.  A spark lit behind her eyes; if she could recover another treasure, her Uncle would be so proud!  She dashed across the rest of the gangway, and climbed down onto the top of the engine house.  From there The Warden could see the treasure lying in a large mastless boat.  As she climbed down the engine house, one of Skorri's Crewmen reached the treasure first. Even though Marny was already weak and tired from the magic she had been doing all day,  she worked up her courage and launched herself at the sailor,  sword drawn.  The man easily deflected the Elf girl's attack, and with his backswing prepared to finish her off.  But the young Warden had good reflexes, and she was just able to bring her sword around and deflect his blow, knocking it downward.  The Crewman's sword sliced down the front of Marny's boot, neatly pealing the leather away from her leg, and the steel landed with a thunk in the top of the boot, sinking through her foot and into the deck below.  The pain shot up the young Elf's leg, causing her stomach to flip and her head to spin.  She tossed backwards as the boat rocked, her foot still pinned to the deck, and the girl's ankle twisted as her head hit the side of the boat with a crack.   The Warden's world went black as fire and sparks danced behind her eyes...


         Lord Fortrywn awoke with a start, and found himself in his bed on the Silver Sword.  The first thing he noticed was the noise, and the bright light streaming in through his cabin window.  It was loud...his mind was foggy but he tried to put the pieces together. The indiscernible shouting, chains jangling, somewhere a horse whinnied...then the smells hit him; fish, tar, spices...it was a port. He quickly looked around, and he saw his Niece sitting by his bed, and at the foot stood the ship's healer.  The old Elf looked at him with concern, "How do you feel, my Lord?"  Lord Fortrywn's thoughts turned to himself.  He seemed to be in one piece. What had happened?  He shifted in the bed, and that's when the pain hit him; a hot spike in his chest. "Try not to move too much, my Lord", the healer added. "It was a very bad wound." 
    The Heritor stopped moving, and asked hoarsly,"Where are we?"
    Marny spoke up at that point, "Uncle, we are docked in Corlair, on the mainland." Her face reddened, and she talked in short bursts.. "I didn't know what to do... And the healer said you might die...if we didn't get a special healing potion...  And there was no one left I could get advice from...  So I gave the order to leave the Archipelago... and head for the closest port."
    All the Heritor said was, "Where is Gwyn?"
    Marny's face went from reddened to white, and she swallowed deeply and then fought back tears, "She's...she's dead, Uncle."  And a tear began to run down her face.
    Lord Fortrywn closed his eyes, and the room felt like it was spinning. Gwynwater gone? He couldn't believe it.  But somehow he could feel it was true.  She had passed on to the Golden Shore.  He wished he had been there for her in the end.
     With his eyes still closed, he said, "Leave me.  I need to rest, and think." and then he turned his head, and opening his eyes, looked piercingly at his niece,  "Later, I want to hear everything that happened."
   The healer exited the cabin as the girl stood awkwardly, "Yes, Uncle."  And she reached over and grabbed a delicately carved crutch from where it leaned against the wall.  It was covered in small green leaves and white flowers, and Lord Fortrywn realized it was a living plant as well as a crutch. Tucking the crutch under her arm, the girl turned to leave, and the Heritor noticed then the bandage around her foot and lower leg.
    "You're foot, girl?" he snapped.
     And Marnilyne stopped at the cabin door, and turned.  Looking down at the foot, not meeting her Uncle's gaze, she said simply, "I lost two toes, Uncle.  Fighting for a treasure."  Sadness welled up inside again. Her uncle had no reply, as he absorbed this information.  She shrugged resignedly to herself, and backing out of the cabin door, closed it softly behind her.
The final post-game roll call.
 Epilogue:

     I feel like I say this every week, but: Wow, what a game!  And a long game, too!  Losing three of my party in the first turn was a big letdown to start off with. And then the carnage continued for 8 more turns!  (The game was a total of 9 turns!)  One by one my crew fell, with only Arbyn with her treasure being able to escape unscathed.
     And the bad luck continued in the after-game stage too, with me rolling Badly Wounded for Lord Fortrywn, and then Permanent Injury for Marnilyne; with her result roll for that being "lost toes"?!  Not even something heroic or dramatic.   Hoping the bad luck was behind me, I started rolling for crew, and then first off rolled a 2 for Gwynwater the Hunter.  Dead. :(  I was so sorry to see her go; she was a favorite.  I really liked the figure I used for her, and she was fun to write.  The rest of the rolls were better, with everyone being okay; except for Bry, who ended up being Wounded in her fight with the Shark.
     I ended up with only one treasure, but that was Magic Light Armor +1 F, which is pretty nice.  But no gold though.
     With my Hunter dead, and the loss of an Archer a couple games ago, I decided it was time to head back to port; as my firepower was now too under-strength to be competitive.  I sold the Magic 2-Handed Sword (350 GC), and the Superior Dagger (80 GC) I found in the last game to fund the trip back to the mainland (-200 GC), and pay for a new Hunter (-100 GC), new Archer (-50 GC), and the Healing Potion (-75 GC) to let me use my Heritor at full strength next time.  Ah, well; easy come, easy go.
        The scenario was treacherous.  Luckily I did do better than many of the others with the climbing from ship to ship; with Salin the Pearl Diver being the lone extreme exception; ending up stuck in the water for 3 turns!  Unfortunately, where he fell in the sea was closed off on all sides and allowed no way for him to swim away.  Also, thankfully, the Talonjacks all but ignored me.  When they appeared, Skorri did a good job of either shooting them out of the sky, or using his Beast Warden to control them.  Others weren't so lucky.
     Final analysis, I shouldn't have gone fool-heartedly chasing after treasures with lone figures.  I need to be more conservative, and stop risking my key crew on wild chases.  I think I also need to stick together better.  It won't allow me to cover as much ground, but it will allow me to have the strength I need wherever I do go.
   

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Ghost Archipelago Campaign '18, Game 3: The Drichean Cages

     This past weekend we got together for the third game in our Ghost Archipelago campaign.  We had 5 of our regulars players and one guest player.  We continued to work on the scenarios in the rulebook moving on to the second one: The Drichean Cages.    We used an 8'x3' table and had three cages with their prisoners spaced evenly down the centerline of the table.  Our job was to free the prisoners, and exit with them, or at least have possession of them at game's end.
An overview of the table with the prisoners and my starting area marked.
      I was lucky with my chip draw for starting location, getting second choice.  I picked one of the corners, down by the waterfall, as there seemed to be a good chance at getting at least a couple treasures there; including one that was easily within a single move away.    The Heritor Gregorious and his Storm Warden, Missy, were directly across from me...it seemed the rematch that my Heritor and Gregorious knew would come one day after our first game, had arrived this day.  To my right was a new Heritor,  Kragmar of the True Blood, and his Storm Warden, Samael Gale.  Diagonally across to my front right was the Heritor Herndon and his Storm Warden, Arwhine. 

   To see my report from our previous game, see: The Xs Mark the Spots.

   To read Skorri Drackenburg's account of Game 3, see:  The Drichean Cages

One of the prisoners awaits his gruesome fate.

The Report

     Lord Fortrywn was a retired general, and the Elf Heritor was used to seeing dead bodies, and had already seen a fair share here in the Archipelago; but the one lying in the grass before him held special interest, for he recognized the man.  It was the Heritor known as Tavic.  The Elf would not shed a tear today for one who shared the blood gift, for the man was a known brute and lacked any civility.  But Fortrywn did know one good thing about the man; he had amassed quite an enormous amount of treasure very quickly here in the Archipelago, something the deceased Heritor had never been shy to brag about. And everyone knew the crafty Human Heritor had hid it somewhere to keep it safe.
    Just then, Lord Fortrywn's Hunter, Gwynwater Lighteye, came up and stood at attention before her old commander waiting to report.  The Heritor lifted his head from looking at body at his feet and simply raised an eyebrow at the tall Elf-woman.  Gwyn held open her palm, revealing a pair of bronze arrowheads on the ends of broken shafts, and stated, "It's Dricheans, sir.  There's the bodies of three of his crew15 yards over there," she tilted her head,  "and more of these," she indicated the hand with the arrowheads.  "And a shattered bronze blade." 
     Lord Fortrywn picked up one of the metal points and considered it, his mind working on an idea.  He set the arrowhead back in Gwyn's hand, and thought out loud, "If there are only three dead, then some of his crew may have survived; and these survivors may know where old Tavic's treasure is hidden."  He stared out into the jungle.  "You've heard of Tavic's Treasure, or course."  he directed his attention at Gwyn.  "If you can pick up a trail, and we could locate the remaining crew, they might be very grateful to whoever rescued them from the hands of these islanders."  The Hunter smiled, and dropped the arrowheads into the tall grass. Turning, she strode away on her long legs to find the way.
Lord Fortrywn's disposition upon entering the battle area.
     Two hours later,  Gwynwater  put up her hand to indicate the group should stop.  Lord Fortrywn came up to her, and silently the Hunter pointed to her own ear, and then pointed ahead.   The Heritor tilted his head, listening, but all he heard was the sound of rushing water; as if a large churning river was ahead.   He strained with his Elven ears to hear past the sound of the water. And then suddenly he picked it up faintly...voices in the distance.  Gwyn held up 4 fingers.  They advanced slowly, through the vegetation, until they both could see movement, and the glint of the sun on bronze armor.  The voices and the roar of water were much louder now.  Also, a large cliff face rising on their left had come into view, and from it a  huge waterfall plummeted from the top into a wide pool below.
    Lord Fortrwyn divided his party into three groups.  With him he took Gwyn, and the two seasoned crew-women, Arbyn and Bry.  He ordered Randilas the Archer, Salin the Pearl Diver, and the crew-woman, Meriwyn (who was making her first trip with the ashore party) to go with his Warden, and niece, Marnilyne.  Lastly, he had the two crewman Dirkand, and Lurlin wait in reserve to help where needed. 
     Only a few yards further, and they came to a large frog-like idol.  The Elf Heritor sneered at it's repulsiveness, and shook his head in derision at the pathetic gods of these islanders.   Turning back to the matters at hand, he could now make out a small cage in the distance, which seemed to be resting in a small stream. Inside the cage they could see was a man, and around it stood four Drichean Guards.   Lord Fortrywn then surveyed his more immediate surroundings; he saw a large wooden totem a short distance away on their front right, and beside it set a chest and some jugs. Offerings, perhaps?  He pointed to Gwyn and Bry, and then to the totem. They quietly and quickly jogged over, and when they got to the totem, the Hunter launched an arrow at one of the Drichean guards in the distance, missing, while Bry, the crew-woman, investigated the chest.  Meanwhile, the Heritor had strode towards the cage and its guards, while Arbyn headed off towards their left.
Gwyn and Bry move up the wooden totem to get the chest, as Lord Fortrywn charges towards the cage.

          Over on the left of Lord Fortrwyn and his group, Marnilyne, the Warden, advanced with her party as well.  She and the Archer, Randilas, moved to a small patch of trees and undergrowth that provided good cover, and from there she surveyed the situation.  The Warden's keen young eyes, saw movement further away behind the guards.  It was another crew, coming around the cliff face.  They must have the same idea that her Uncle, Lord Fortrywn, did.  Quickly, she cast Brambles on the far bank of the waterfall's pool to slow them down.
     As she did this, Salin advanced towards the pool, and caught site of a large bronze urn on a pedestal in the center.  He was sure he saw gold glint inside. The Pearl Diver knew it would be deep in the pool, but that did not bother him at all.  He plunged into the water, as enemy crewmen appeared around the end of Marny's Brambles and they jumped into the water as well.  The first one reached Salin ,and slashed clumsily at him with his sword while trying to stay afloat in the swirling pool.  Somehow, the enemy's sword made contact, and sliced a long gash into the Pearl Diver's chest (-7 HP).
    Aryn and Dirkand could see what was happening and rushed to Salin's aid.  Arbyn plunged into the pool, though the crewman, Dirkland, tried his best to stay in the shallower mouth where the pool overflowed forming the stream.  Suddenly a crossbow bolt hit the crewman in the back and he pitched forward into the water. (-7 HP) As he scrambled for the bank, another bolt caught him a few inches below the first and he fell unmoving,  half his body still submerged in the gurgling stream.
     Marny chanted hurriedly seeing the desperate situation; casting  Warp Weapon on the crewman facing the wounded Salin.  Watery vines shot from the pool's depths and wrapped tightly around the enemy's sword, as he struggled to hold on to his weapon. The blade bent and then was ripped from his hand entirely, and pulled into the depths.
The battle in the waterfall pool for the urn treasure.
     Several yards back down the stream, Lord Fortrywn had reached one of the Drichean Guards, and swinging his sword high, he brought it down upon the man with the full force of his powerful arm.  The soldier received a long cut down his chest, splitting his armor, and opening his flesh .  (Lord Fortrywn rolls 20) Trying to stand his ground and block, the Drichean wavered, his life leaving him. The Heritor felt his Blood Gift burn in his arms as he Surged for a second strike, bringing his sword back around and slicing the man hard again.  The guard crumpled like a doll before the cleaving blade and fell to the ground.  Movement caught the Elf's eye, and he now also saw the enemy crew approaching.  He spotted the black and gold armor of the Heritor Gregorious.  Lord Fortrywn was not pleased at this development, and knew this interloper would have to be dealt with before the day was done.   The Elf Lord also knew he must act quickly, and with his blood now like fire coursing through his body, he practically leapt the few yards over to the cage, landing with a splash into the stream.  The Heritor  called the crewman, Lurlin, who was nearby, to come assist him.
   Some distance away, Marny heard the sound of battle ringing out over on her right and turned to see what was happening with her Uncle.  She could see the enemy crewmen approaching the cage as well, so quickly chanted her Bramble spell to block them from interfering with Lord Fortrywn.  Thick ropy vines covered in thorns sprang from the stream bank, and rapidly coiled into a full sized hedge with dagger like spikes all over it.
     Back by the wood totem, Gwyn the Hunter had taken two more shots at the Guards and missed.  The tall Elf was puzzled at this and was becoming a bit frustrated.  She was not used to missing.  Were the air currents being effected by the waterfall and throwing her shots off?  Next to her, Bry had recovered the chest and had started dragging it back towards the rendezvous point.  Overhead, the sky begin to darken with thick grey clouds.  Gwyn looked up, frowning; someone had cast Cloud Cover (Missy, Gregorious' Warden), and that certainly wasn't going to help her archery a bit.
Lord Fortrywn and Lurlin free the prisoner, as Marny "brambles" the far bank.
     Back at the cage, Lord Fortrywn took a second to try and let the prisoner know he was there to help the man, but the poor fellow just cowered in one of the far corners staring wide eyed at the big Elf Heritor.  With his blood still burning hot in his veins, Lord Fortrywn grabbed the big padlock that sealed the cage and attempted to wrench it from around the bars that held the door shut.  He took a gasp of air as he pushed himself to the levels of his endurance, and with all his Heritor's might he twisted the lock in his vice-like hands and pulled.  The shank began to bend as tiny cracks developed, then with a final effort it cracked clean in two.  the Elf Heritor let the remaining body of the lock drop into the stream and, swinging the barred door open, reached in to grab the prison.  But the fire within him overcame him, and he faltered, leaning for a minute up against the side of the cage. (Failed roll to use Surge)  "Lurlin!" he called out.
    The lean Elf crewman was there in a flash, but cried out as a crossbow bolt pricked at his shoulder. Lurlin's hand instinctively went to the injury,  but it was just a flesh wound, doing little more then tearing his tunic, and giving him a shallow scratch. (-1 HP)  The crewman reached in and grabbed the cowering man by the arm and pulled him from the cage.  Then the pair turned and Lurlin practically dragged the frightened man up onto the bank of the stream.
Lurlin with the prisoner pauses to catch his breath by the wooden totem.  His last breath, as it were.
     Meanwhile, back at the pool, Arbyn glided through the water with her sword raised, and sliced at the now-unarmed enemy crewman facing Salin.  She cut a deep wound across the man's chest.  The enemy fell backwards into the water, and sank beneath the surface.  The Pearl Diver, mustering what remaining strength he had, took the opportunity to swim over and grab the urn.  As he did, a second of Gregorious' crewman swam up behind Arby, and raising his sword, swung with all his might at the back of Arbyn's head.  The blade slid a bit on her wet hat, but had enough force to cut through the soggy fabric slicing a long bloody gash. She cried out and pitched forward into the water. The crew-woman's head was on fire, and she fought to stay conscious and afloat. (Hit for 9 HP; 1 HP remaining)  If it hadn't been for her wet hat causing the sword to slide from a true hit, her head would surely have been split in two.
    Marnilyne, the Warden, from her vantage point in the group of trees, could see Salin in the pool with the urn, his chest was red with the wound and blood.  She knew Pearl Diver couldn't last much longer, and if the urn was lost to Gregorious' crew it would be very bad.  She reached out her hand and chanted the spell for Waters of Life at Salin, but the distance was so far, and from her vantage point she could barely see the water.  The young Elf girl felt the spell failing as she was chanting it, and tried to focus her mind around the words.    The Warden pushed with all her inner energy, and felt a sapping pain grow within her.  (Pushes spell for -5 HP)  With a gasp of pain, the Marny finished; and said a small prayer that her words had done their job.  They had. The Pearl Diver felt a tingling as he stood there in the pool with the urn, and his pain and wound magically improved. 
    However, two more of Gregorious' crew were still in the pool, flailing about in the deep churning water.  (Failed swim rolls)  As Arbyn splashed about trying to find the edge of the pool one of them moved up along side of her, and awkwardly swung his weapon.  It was a bad swing as the man tried to stay afloat; but the flat of the blade landed on her head near her wound, and that was enough to take her out of action.  Lights flashed in the Elf's eyes, and her head seared with pain in the few moments before blackness overtook her.
       The other crewman advanced on Salin.  The Pearl Diver had had enough, and with his pain and having seen Arbyn and Drikand fall already, an uncharacteristic anger swelled with him.   With a loud rage-filled cry he swung his sword in a wide circle, slicing into the pool, and caught the enemy crewman clean across his gut. (Rolled 18+2 F)   The human clutched at his wound and sank beneath the surface.    Quickly, Salin climbed from the pool with his prize, and tried to make for safety.  As he went, Marny cast a wall of Brambles behind him to discourage any pursuers.
As Salin makes of with the urn, Marny grows a wall of brambles behind him to discourage pursuit.
       As the Warden worked her magic, Randilas the Archer, standing next to her, saw Gregorious' Crossbowmen reloading his weapon on the far bank of the pool behind Salin. The Archer  drew an arrow and let it fly, striking the man, who toppled backwards.  (Hit with 18 + 2 S)     Randilas was then shocked  to see the man, pull the arrow from his side, and slowly get back up, clutching at his wound.    Gingerly the enemy shooter crossed over the stream, and with some effort lifted his weapon and began to aim at the Pearl Diver, but then his eye was caught by something over on his left, and his aim changed.
      Back at the cage, Lord Fortrywn had recovered himself enough to continue on.   As he turned from the cage, he saw another one of Gregorious' Crossbowmen move up to the nearby stream bank.  The Heritor knew that would spell trouble for Lurlin and the prisoner, so he climbed up the bank and engaged the enemy.  As he swung his sword the man dodged and the strike caught the enemy on the arm, cutting a deep gash. (-7 HP)
    Lurlin continued dragging the half-petrified prisoner back away from the fighting, trying to explain to the man that they were there to help.  The Elf crewman didn't know what had been said or done to the man when he was in captivity, but he was surely frightened beyond all rationality.    They reached the wooden totem where Bry had recovered the treasure earlier, and Lurlin paused a moment to catch his breath, and get a better grip on the prisoner.   In that second of pausing, the Crossbowman over by the pool, that has been badly wounded by Randilas, fired.  The bolt hit Lurlin hard in the back (Rolls an 18 +2 S), and the Elf let out a cry and pitched forward.
   Fortrywn's keen ears heard his crewman's cry, and the Heritor looked over to see  Lurlin fall, and the prisoner, now unattended, cower in fright by the totem.  His eyes were then caught by movement in the distance, behind where Lurlin lay; and through the jungle undergrowth, another Drichean Guard emerged, and stopping in shock at seeing their prisoner standing there free. The Guard ran to recapture the man.    The Elf Lord knew he had to act quickly.
   The Heritor, took a hasty swing at the crossbowman, who ducked and the big Elf  leaned forward and simply shoved the man away.  (Lord Fortrywn hits, but does no damage & pushes the Crossbowman our of combat.) The Heritor  turned to run for the prisoner, but suddenly, from around a clump of tall bushes, Gregorious himself appeared.  Catching sight of his old nemesis, the Human Heritor lunged at the Elf.  Lord Fortrywn could see it had been a hard morning already for his new opponent, as Gregorious' armor showed rents and splattered blood from encounters already fought.  The Elf could also see the man was wounded; there was a slight limp, and blood was dripping from his left hand.  A narrowing of Gregorious' eyes, showed pain concealed behind them.  "Do you really want to do this now?" Lord Fortrywn asked with exasperation, but the Human Heritor's pride was now at stake, and like a panther he sprang at the Elf Lord.  Fortrywn blocked his blow, and bringing his sword down, drew his enemy's blade lower; then, he  quickly sliced his blade back up catching his enemy below his right arm and slicing the damage armor, cutting into his chest and then upwards across his chin.  (Lord Fortrywn rolls a 20!) Gregorious stumbled backwards and his large frame hit the ground with a thud, where he lay unmoving.    The Elf Heritor wasted no time with any thought for the fallen foe and, turning, prepared to reclaim his prize.     
        There was little that could have halted Lord Fortrywn in that moment of determination, but something did.  In fact everyone in the area froze momentarily as a loud deep roar carried out over the jungle from the far side of the waterfall cliff, behind where Gregorious and his crew had entered.  The old Elf had never heard one in person, but had listened to enough tales to know exactly what it was that approached; a Monarch.  Kings of the Archipelago, these giant lizards walked on two legs and stood 15'-20' feet tall, and had large mouths filled with razor sharp teeth. Suddenly the puzzle pieces fell together in the Heritor's mind.  These prisoners were being held as sacrifices.  Intended to feed and appease the Jungle King.   A crossbow bolt, whizzed past Lord Fortrywn's ear, bringing him back to the increased urgency of the moment
     Over in the clump of trees, Randilas had quickly notched another arrow, and fired again hitting the Crossbowman a second time; dropping him for good this time. But the man had already done serious damage by killing Lurlin.  Marny could no longer see her uncle in the Cloud Clover induced gloom, so bounded from  the trees, and towards where she last saw him.  As the Heritor came into her view, she halted and cast Water of Life on him.    The waters from the stream flowed towards him as he climbed the near bank, and ran up his boots and legs.  He could feel the blood in his veins cool a bit.  and was thankful for his Niece's help.
    The Heritor didn't get far however, before another of Gregorious' crewmen charged at him.  Taking the Elf Lord by surprise, the man got a lucky hit, and sliced the Heriot across the arm (-7 HP).  But the man lost his nerve, and moved back away from Lord Fortrywn, where he came face to face with a remaining Guard for the cage. The Drichean made short work of the cowardly crewman. 
     Lord Fortrywn had already turned from the encounter and headed again towards the prisoner.    Another enemy crewman approached the area, and Randilas shot at him, but missed.  Desperate, the Elf Archer shouldered his bow, and drawing his dagger ran at the target.
    Back at the wood totem, the newly arrived Drichean Guard had reached the prisoner, and roughly snatched him up as the man wailed.  The soldier didn't notice Gwyn, as the Hunter had silently moved up behind him, her bow stored, and her magic two-handed sword drawn.  The sword was raised above her head, and the Elf brought it down with her full strength, cutting through the man's Bronze armor, and separating his shoulder bone from his body.  (Gwyn rolls a 20 + 3 F)
   A chill went through everyone's spines as the Monarch roared again.  They could all tell it was closer now, but the fighting continued.    The crewman facing Randilas, swung with his sword as the Archer approached, and the dagger proved  a poor defense as the man stabbed with all his might. He caught the Elf  right below the ribs on his right, and the blade went deep.  Randilas pitched forward with his own momentum, and lay there in the grass at the man's feet.     The enemy crewman jumped over the body, and ran towards the prisoner.  Another enemy crewman, from the pool,  followed close behind.
Te Monarch advances towards the cage.
                  The Elves could now feel the vibrations of the ground from the Monarch's large feet as the huge lizard strode ever closer.  In a moment there was a crashing on the far side of the river and the monster came into view through the trees no more than 20 yards from the bank of the stream, looking for it's expected meal.
     Gwyn could see the enemy crewman approaching and sliced once more at the new Guard, hitting him, but his armor held and protected him this time.    The Hunter was relieved to see Lord Fortrywn run up to the scene, as one of the enemy crewman arrived and stabbed the Guard, finishing him off.  As he did this,  Gwyn quickly sheathed her sword and notched an arrow, firing at the  crewman as he drew his sword from the Guard's body, hitting the crewman and sending him spinning fully around, before he fell to the ground.   Quickly she notched another arrow, as the lone remaining Guard from the cage was now moving up behind Lord Fortrywn, as the Heritor prepared to strike the remaining enemy crewman.  The Elf Lord struck a mighty blow at the man, stabbing deep into the man's gut. (Rolled 15 + 5 F).  The crewman crumpled over.  The Hunter fired at the approachingGuard as he was just a couple feet behind Lord Fortrywn, his spear poised to strike, and the arrow sunk deep into the man's neck, right above his armor.  But he somehow kept coming (1 HP remaining) , and prepared to stab the Heritor in the back.  Gwyn shouted a warning, and Lord Fortrywn turned quickly, striking first, and the weakened man could barely offer any defense. With an easy stroke of his sword the Heritor laid the last Drichean low. 
   All through the fight, the poor prisoner had huddled up against the totem, sobbing and trying not to be hit by all the flashing blades.  Every time the ever-nearing Monarch roared, he let out a long wail, punctuated by the unceasing sobbing.
The battle at the wooden totem. Gregorious' men have the black bases, the Guards have the red shields.
      As the fight was ending, Marny ran up to help.   While the others hurriedly cleaned and sheathed their weapons, she went over to the prisoner , and taking him by the arm, tried gently but urgently, with soothing words, to get the quivering, sobbing, man to stand and go with them.
    They all knew the Monarch was very close now. In fact they could see him on the far bank of the stream less than 100 yards away.   "Quickly!" Lord Fortrywn said to his Niece.    The Heritor looked around at the carnage.  It seemed like there was no one left from Gregorious' crew. He surmised that they were probably all out of action, or ran at the sight of the Monarch.  But he was wrong.
      On the far bank of the stream, in the shadow of the Monarch, stood a lone Crossbowman; the one Lord Fortrywn had wounded after opening the cage.  Somehow the man knew he was the last one of his party still standing.  He could see his once proud Heritor laying a short way away in the grass, bloodied and groaning. The man knew the rest of his party were laying somewhere dead or wounded as well.  As the Crossbowman finished cranking his crossbow, he raised the weapon and inserted a bolt .  He splashed over to the near side the stream to get a better view of his targets in the gloomy Cloud Cover.  The man could sense the Monarch moving up just a few feet behind him on the far bank.  He could hear it's large nostrils sniffing it's prey, and smell its fetid breath descending on him.   He no longer cared about his life; but he did care about those who had inflicted this fate on his group.  Closing one eye, he sighted down his weapon at he cluster of Elves less than 100 yards away.  He saw movement as one of them stood up, and his eye focused on the motion. He pulled the trigger, as the horrid breath of the beast was right above him, and a drop of sticky saliva dropped onto his head.
     Marny's words of comfort had reached the prisoner, and slowly she stood as the man came with her.  Without thinking, she gave a tired smile at her uncle, proud of her success.  Then, suddenly, the smile turned to a look of shock and pain, and the young Elf let out a gurgling sound and pitched forward with the spike of a crossbow bolt sticking squarely from the back of her jacket.   The prisoner shrieked as the body hit hit the ground at his feet, and he cowered down again against the totem.  Lord Fortrywn instinctively drew his sword, and turned towards the source of the shot.   He saw the enemy Crossbowman just as the Monarch's jaws closed around him and lifted the man off the ground as if he hardly weighed anything.  The Heritor knew there was nothing he could do about the shooter now, and hastily he turned back and knelt by his Niece.  In the distance the beast roared, and they could hear it's large feet splash into the creek.   The Elf Lord scooped up the girl in his strong arms, her breaths coming slow and wheezing.  To Gwyn the Hunter he said through gritted teeth, "The Prisoner."  The tall Elf woman pulled at the man with all her might, but he was lost; he sobbed and wailed and clawed at the totem as if trying to burrow inside.  She knew they had seconds before the monster would be there, and even with her skill she knew she was no match for something so large.    And the Hunter realized she was virtually alone, as Lord Fortrywn was already far ahead, practically bounding through the jungle with the wounded Warden.  With a grunt of disgust the Hunter let go of the man, and turned to follow her Heritor back to the ship.
The Monarch prepares to dine on the Crossbowman as the man lines up his last shot.
          Back on the ship, The Silver Sword, later that night,  Lord Fortrywn stood over his Niece as she lay there in her cot.  She was as white as the bandages which wrapped around her chest, and her breathing was shallow and raspy.   The ship's healer had done all she could, but in her words it had been "a very close call".    If it had taken the Elf Lord just a few minutes more to get her back to the ship all would have been lost.  The Heritor stayed in the girl's room into the evening, and it was there that Gwyn found him late in the night.  The Hunter ashamedly reported her failure in bringing the prisoner with her, and was surprised when Lord Fortrywn seemed not to care.  He was strangely distant and lost in thought.  Gwyn also reported that other than Marnilyne's close call;  Lurlin the crewman had not returned and was presumed dead, and crewman Dirkand was badly wounded.  The others who had fallen during the day,  Randilas, and Arbyn, would be fine with a bit of rest and medical attention.  The two treasures they recovered had contained 40 Gold Coins,  a magic two-handed sword (+1F), and a superior quality dagger (+1 damage).
     Lord Fortrywn nodded and thanked the Hunter, but his mind was with his Niece.  He thought back and tried to find what he could have done to protect her better.  She was so cavalier, and head strong, it was hard to keep the girl in check sometimes.  He couldn't help but smile inwardly as he realized she was much like he was in his foolish youth. The Elf's mind traced back over those sunny days as a young officer as his eyes slowly closed and the Heritor drifted to sleep as he sat there in a small chair at the foot of his Niece's cot.
The day's results.


Epilogue

   So close... I almost had it!    What a great game!  I came so close to getting the Central Treasure (the prisoner).  The final minutes were so exciting as Gregorious and I fought tooth and nail for control of the prize.  At last it seemed victory was mine, as I disabled all his troops in the vicinity.  But both Gwyn and Lord Fortrywn had activated, and I knew the game was almost over.  Who could I get there in time to actually grab the prisoner?  And then I saw the Warden.  I measured; yes, she was within a 6" move of the prisoner.  the Warden Phase came and I moved her over to the prisoner, her second action was picking the "treasure" up.  Then came the Soldier phase.  Surely, Gregorious would attempt to move his crossbowman to safety.  Nope.  He announces he wass going to take a Hail Mary shot at the maximum sight range for the Cloud Cover, and sacrifice his last figure to deny the treasure to me.  I was confident he'd miss. I was wrong. And I had sacrificed a lot of he Warden's  HP to "push" spells, thinking she would never be involved in any real combat.  Down she went.  I had one last hope; if the Monarch actually lost the combat with the Crossbowman, the game wouldn't end in the Creature Phase, and I'd get another chance to grab the prize.  But, no,  I rolled the attack against the Crossbow for the beast, and rolled a 16, plus the Monarch's Fight +8. It was more than enough to kill the wounded man, and with that being Gregorious' last figure on the table gone, the game ended. 
    I couldn't have asked for a more exciting finish. I just wish had gone in my favor. Ah, cruel fortune! :)
    All in all though, it was a pretty good game for me.  My dice rolling was actually on the good side, with a lot of nice 18s or 20s when I needed them. And I got two treasures, which is a step in the right direction for me.  Also, the Experience Points for killing a couple Drichean Guards, and freeing the prisoner helped.
   The game was interesting in that it devolved into three distinct player vs player battles.  There didn't seem to be any of the sniping on the flanks, at least down by our end, that we usually see.  I'm not sure if that was a function of terrain, or the immediate need to deal with the four Guards in the center of the table.  It was also interesting that I was the only one to actually free one of the prisoners.  At the other cages, the Guards put up more of a fight, and the opposing crews' missile troops kept each other at bay from getting too close to the prisoners.
   The next game is in just two weeks, and Lord Fortrywn is looking forward to testing his mettle once again.  We feel the tide has turned in his favor!   Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Lily Pad Too Far: Frog vs Frog game using GASLIGHT, at Cold Wars

    This past weekend at Cold Wars, Buck Surdu and I ran a GASLIGHT game using our collections of warrior frog miniatures, mainly from Eureka's "Pond Wars" range.  Back when these were first released a number of years ago, Buck and I each acquired sizable collections; he painting his as standard North American frogs, and me painting mine as various South American Poison Dart Frogs.  Thus was born he great Frog Civil War between the Northern Frogs vs the Southern Frogs. 
The South American "Flying Column" advances on the North American right, screened by a series of steep hills.
     Over the years we have run a handful of games at conventions, and since it had been a while, we decided to dust them off and get them on the table for Cold Wars this year.   The scenario we decided on was one from the GASLIGHT Compendium rulebook, and featured one side trying to intercept and cut the line of retreat of the other side.  We called the game, "A Lily Pad Too Far", and decided that instead of retreating, Buck's forces would be advancing through Southern Frog territory, and my army was trying to cut off their line of advance.    In order to achieve this, my side had to have a unit on the far side of the road the Northern Frogs were advancing down by games end. 
A view of the NFA players and their forces as the NFA units try to shake out into a line.
     While the Northern Frog Army (NFA) starts in line of advance on a road running from the long side of the table to one of the short sides; the Southern Frog Army (SFA) begins the game split into the main body, which starts in one corner opposite the NFA, and a "Flying Column" consisting mainly of SFA cavalry, which starts in the other corner opposite the NFA. 
The SFA Dragonflies take on the NFA Light Cavalry.
     As the game started the NFA tried to extend their line and protect the entire length of road.  They were hit on both flanks by the respective SFA forces.  The NFA Light Cavalry did a good job on the NFA right, but eventually a unit of SFA Dragonflies was able to work around them and cross the road.  On the NFA left, the full might of the majority of the SFA force slowly began to erode that flank.
The SFA Light Cavalry charges into a unit of NFA Hammer Troops.
     In the end, the NFA left flank had all but collapsed, and the NFA were unable to shoot the SFA dragonflies out of the air.   So, the SFA was declared the victors.
The NFA Heavy Cavalry moves up as it tries to halt the rapidly advancing SFA right.
     The game was a ton of fun both for the players and us as the GMs, and it was great to get our Frog collections out on the table again.    I look forward to the next time!
A unit of SFA "Frogzerkers" overtakes and eliminates the NFA War-Cart.

A unit of the SFA Guard close assaults a NFA Swamp-Gas Tank.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Duke Morrison and the Great Zeppelin Raid at Cold Wars

   At Cold Wars last weekend, Buck Surdu and I ran a Pulp game in the morning entitled, "Duke Morrison and the Great Zeppelin Raid".   We had decided to do this scenario, because Buck had received, and build, a huge 6' long Zeppelin kit from Kickstarter last year, and after a successful game with it on New Years Eve, we decided it would be fun to do a game with it at a convention.
   
A long view of the zeppelin.
   We used the always fun GASLIGHT rules for the game.  The scenario involved Buck's perennial game hero, Duke Morrison, and his Army buddy "Wrench" Webb, and  Navy pal "Boats" Morgan, along with some of their Army and Navy troops, defending the zeppelin of the great scientist, Professor Serafini Nannini.  Along with the professor were his lovely daughter, Gianna, and a couple of his lab assistants.   Also helping guard the zeppelin were Crash Corrigan and his Rocketeers, and a unit of the city's finest policemen. 
She-Wolves advance as the Gangster leader "Slasher" (orange shirt), cuts his way through some sailors at the back of the airship
      The reason the zeppelin needed such a strong security presence, was that the professor was transporting a new invention that the forces of evil coveted.  For security reasons the invention had been broken down into 6 components, and hidden around the airship.  The fears of our heroes were not misguided for attacking the zeppelin was a combined force of Nazis and Gangsters. 
"Wrench" with one of his Soldiers, and Giana, with a couple components, begin to converge on the Rocket-sled
        The game was set up as a race against the clock.  It started at 9:00 AM, and after a quick rules brief we got under way at 9:30.  At that time the victory conditions were announced: the God Guys had to get all 6 components of the invention into Nanni's rocket-sled, which was in the cargo bay of the airship; then at exactly 11:30 by real-time, the rocket-sled would auto-launch out the cargo bay doors. (there was no way to launch before that time, or delay it.)  The more pieces of the invention aboard the rocket sled, the better the Good Guys' victory.  The Bad Guys had to prevent this, and steal the pieces of the invention for themselves.  To make things even more difficult for the Good Guys, only a few designated Heroes were capable of piloting the rocket-sled: Duke, "Wrench", Boats", Nanni, and his Daughter.   So at least one of them had to be kept alive.
Crash Corrigan helps stem the tide of the Gangster horde that stormed the front of the ship.
      The game was a ton of fun, with daring deeds on both sides.  The Gangsters on the zeppelin dock quickly overpowered the policemen defending the entryway to the ship, while Nazi Rocketeers and She-Wolves snuck in through one of the engine nacelles.    More Gangsters were disguised as passengers and hidden in crates in the cargo hold.  The Heroes certainly had their work cut out for them!
An aerial shot of the game.
     One by one, the Heroes were able to gather up the invention components; except for one, which a pair of gangsters dragged to the back of the ship for safe keeping, staying near it to make sure no wandering hero might snatch it from them.    The sides were slowly wearing each other down, but the Heroes made steady progress.
"Boats" makes to the sled with another component and the desperate final battle begins as the She-wolves storm the Rocket-sled.
        In the end, it came down to "Boats" Morgan in the rocket-sled being the sole survivor.  Opposed to him were the two gangster mooks who had hidden out in the back of the ship with their prized component.  They had decided to advance just in time, and they approached the sled from a a gangway over the cargo hold.  "Boats" fired his trusty pistol at the pair, but missed; then one of the gangsters returned fire, and hit "Boats"!   The player rolled the Save dice and....failed!  "Boats" was dead!  The clock read 11:28.   Evil had prevailed. Wow what a finish!
The She-wolves are cut down, but "Wrench" is killed, as a couple of the Gangsters attempt to board the craft.  
      All the players had a great time, as did we as the GMs.  You couldn't ask for a better edge of your seat last-minute ending.  We had such a good time that we are considering bringing the game back to Fall-In in November. 
The end.  All that left is pair of gangsters in a zeppelin full of carnage.