Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Frostgrave Campaign '17 Prologue: The Tale of the Wizard Quailelyn

           As readers of this blog will know, we recently finished up an 11-month Frostgrave Campaign that we began earlier this year.  We will be starting a new campaign in January, and  I have decided to run a Sigilist warband this time.  I thought I would write a short tale to introduce my new wizard and her Apprentice.

     The main library of the Percensua University of Wizardly Studies, located in the capitol of Valindhoa, was an old and cavernous stone building near the center of the ancient school's campus.  One of the first built on the land donated by the king some 800 years ago, it had developed it's share of drafts, groaning hinges, and uneven floors. The young students hated the place, calling it "The Tomb" for it's dark, damp and ancient nature.  To Maga Librarian Quailelyn, it was home.

      Short, with greying pale brown hair and sea green eyes, Quailelyn had come to the campus as a young student some 30 years ago.  Unlike her classmates though, she had fallen in love with "The Tomb"; its shelf upon shelf of endless books, manuscripts and scrolls...the small of the parchment and lamp oil...and its' many little nooks and hidden spots.   For Quail loved all things written.  Words to her, no matter printed or scribed by hand, ancient rune or modern text, they held everything she could want or hope for.  The keys to distant lands, the sparks of new ideas, adventure, and knowledge.  But she had also found they contained power.  The use of words, both written and spoken, to produce magical spells, had become her forte and her passion. She excelled in her Sigilisim classes, and her professors saw her for the shining star she was. A shy girl by nature, she threw herself at her studies, and secluded herself into the Tomb.

     The years passed; she graduated with honors, and before she had the opportunity to step out into the world,  Quail was hired by the librarians who had become both her only friends, and her surrogate family. As a Junior Librarian she got to stay at the university to work and live amongst the books she loved.
     Now, 30 years since she fist set foot on the campus, Quailelyn, Maga Librarian, sat at her large cluttered desk, and stared out the grungy window to her left.  It was snowing outside. Winter had come  early to Valindhoa that year and the Tomb was cold throughout, despite the magical fires torches, and lamps that burned here and there throughout the cavernous building.  But Quail had lived there long enough that the cold didn't bother her much.

      What bothered her at that moment was a sadness and a longing which had become more noticeable in recent weeks.  It now had an intensity that she could no longer dismiss.  She felt a loss, a hole within her, and she wasn't sure why.  More and more she found herself staring out the large windows of the Tomb at the world outside.  Then, as the days passed, she realized she was missing the world; she puzzled at the new longing she felt to walk among trees, and see new sights.  To hear birds sing, and to feel the wind on her face. It was if something was calling her from afar.  Quail stood from her desk suddenly, and, as fast as her dignity would take her,  she made her way towards the large oaken doors of the Tomb.   She leaned into one of them, and pushed. As it was late in the Winter now, an icy blast hit her squarely in the face. Quail smiled at the long-forgotten sensation.  She slowly made her way down the steps, taking it all in and walked into the campus yard.  The Maga Librarian turned her face to the sky and felt the sting of the flakes falling.  She began to turn in place where she stood, taking it all in.  Faster she turned, her senses overloading, until the dizziness over took her an she collapsed into the snow, smiling.  Yes, words held great power, but they escaped her now.  Reality had a magnificent power all its own.
      "Um, Ma'am?" a squeaky voice said.
       The Maga Librarian, tilted her head down and propped herself up on her elbows to look toward her feet, wet strands of greying hair sticking to her face; and there she saw the young Apprentice Librarian, Bailisette, standing, shivering, a short distance away, arms folded and clutched close to her body looking through her small round glasses at Quail with concern on her face.
     "Oh, Bailisette," Quailelyn said as she quickly got up and dusted the snow from her clothes. "I am all right."  Quail laughed to herself thinking about what kind of sight she must be presenting to the young girl, and what Bailisette must think.
     "I was just suddenly overcome with the need for some..uh..., fresh air." the Maga Librbarian said haltingly, her cheeks turning a bit red, and not just from the cold.  "Here, let us go back in."
    Later that evening as Quail sat working on book invoices, and Bailisette sat across from her transcribing scrolls, the Maga Librarian looked up at the girl and said, "Bailey, do you ever feel alone and isolated working here in the Tomb?  Do you ever long for a life outside these walls?"
      Bailisette, looked up a bit confused. "No, Ma'am. I love my job here at the Library. It's like a second home to me."

      Quailelyn smiled at the girl.  She could see her younger self in the girl's eagerness and devotion to the Library.   Bailey had been an excellent student just like she had, Quail knew.  And she had developed a bit of a rapport with the girl in the year since she had come to work at the Library.  Quailelyn found the girl was easier to talk to than most of the other Apprentice Librarians.  But, she now realized what a solitary trap the Tomb could become for a young life, and wanted to save the girl from it if she could.   "I've been thinking about taking a leave from the Library for a year and doing some traveling." Quailelyn said off handedly with one eye on the girl.
     Bailisette looked up shocked. "Ma'am!"
     The Maga Librarian continued.  "It would do me good to get out and see a bit of the world and the people in it. But..." She now looked squarely at the young Apprentice, "I could use an assistant and traveling companion to help me on my trip. " She paused.  "Would you be interested?"
   The young Apprentice's jaw opened reflexively and hung there.  She was momentarily speechless; capable only of taking the index finger of her left hand and pushing her glasses more snugly up her nose.
     Bailey closed her mouth and thought for a moment.  "I...I would be honored, Ma'am?" she said, more as question than a statement of fact.

--

     Quailelyn came back with a large ancient map, and Bailey carefully pushed aside the work they had been doing, as the Maga Librarian spread the map across the desk's surface.
   "Now, where should we go?" Quail said, a bit giddy already at the prospect of her journey.
    The two women studied the map.
    The Maga Librarian slid her finger across the old parchment as the Apprentice stared wide-eyed.  She was still a bit confused and bewildered at the events that had happened all so suddenly; finding herself in a blink of the eye to be the invited traveling companion of the Maga Librarian.
 "Insurikar?" Quailelyn mused to her self. "No, too hot and dusty, " she said in answer to her own question.
Her finger continued to trace lines across the old map. "Lornne? Perhaps too far. Krakeden?  Too barbaric.  Felstad..." Her finger paused.  A little quiver went up her finger, her hand, her arm.
     Were the stories true, she wondered to herself.  The legends?  The once great magical capital of the world?  Think of the lost libraries that might be there...
     Quail looked up at the young Apprentice, "Have you heard the stories of Felstad?"
     "Why, yes, Ma'am. In our history studies. Those who have travelled there in recent years have come to call it 'Frostgrave' I believe."
      Quailelyn's figure tapped on the map over the large black dot with the carefully scribed, FELSTADnext to it.  At some point in later years, a long forgotten hand had attempted to update the map, after Felstad had been lost in an icy cataclysm, by crossing out the city's name with a thick  black line   Quail's mind began to calculate, tabulate. A trip to the frozen city of legend could not be undertaken on a whim.  They would need to plan.

--

A month later, in a wagon loaded with supplies and equipment, the two women passed through the gate of the university. It was a warm Spring day, and Quail's heart pounded with the thrill to be finally off on their journey.  Bailey sat next to her, quiet, in a confused state of panic and excitement. Alongside the wagon rode a new addition to their party: Sir Cardidil, a knight in the service of the university's guard, who had agreed to go along with the pair and act as an escort on the long trip. There were many miles before them, but they all looked forward to the adventure and opportunities that awaited at their destination.
     
   
 Game 1 of this campaign can now be found here: The Eclipse

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Frostgrave Campaign: Game 11

         This past Saturday we got together for our 11th and final game of our current Frostgrave campaign.  We only had 6 of our regular 8 players, so decided to use just an 8' table.   For the past month we all had been busily building bookshelves for this game as we were doing the Library scenario from the core rulebook.   Also, because it was December, each player brought 3 wrapped Christmas gifts ($1-$5 each) to correspond with their treasure tokens.  For each treasure token a player got at game's end, they got to select a gift from the pile.
   For the library itself, we used almost all Dwarven Forge sets, with the addition of David's beautiful Temple as the central piece. We also had the first three random beasts to show up selected as classic geek Library creatures: a Wraith Librarian (Ghostbusters), and two swarms of Vashta Nerada (Dr Who).
For the report on the previous game, see: Game 10
A view of the table before the game starts, with 8' of Library!  Note the enticing pile of presents at the far end. :)
     We chose our starting spots by drawing numbered chips this time, and then in that order we selecting the doors from which we would mark our start positions. Kodak ended up in a central spot, with the Elementalist Elsa on his left, the Chronomancer called the Doctor across from him, and the Sigilist to his right.
     The old Elf Illusionist and his band made their way down a twisted tunnel that he had heard led to a long forgotten library.  He could tell they were descending deep into the ground.  They came up before a rotted old door, and before they broke through it, Kodak took the opportunity to divide up his group as best he could in the cramped tunnel.  With him he would take Linesse and Hanwell, the Treasure Hunter's; and Danlin, the Marksman.  He assigned to his Apprentice, Leighlyndana: Cadwalleter, the Thief;  Connisyn, the Treasure Hunter; and  Bash, the Man-at-Arms.  The Rangers, Edel and Weiss; the Templar Sister Zandkara, and the War-Hound, Odullorf were left to their own initiative.  Kodak was hoping to move in quickly, grab any treasure to be found, and get out.  He just didn't feel up to an extended fight this day with any other wizard groups that might also be exploring this library.  Both he and Leigh tried to cast an Illusionary Soldier, but neither had success.
Kodak and his crew prepare to enter the Library.
     The old door was rotted enough that a couple blow from Kodak's staff reduced it to firewood, and the warband began to press through the narrow opening. They were immediately faced with a "T" intersection, and Kodak and is group moved off to the left; while Leigh and her command moved off to the right.
   There was an opening at the end of the hall Kodak had turned into,  and the old Illusionist moved through it, followed by his three companions.   They emerged into a large cavernous room. There was a curved stairway to Kodak's left, which lead nowhere but up to the ceiling; Kodak thought he could see something of interest at the top of the stairs, so he motioned to Linesse to head up there to check it out.  Before him was an expansive book case stretching almost the entire length of the room.  The wizard motioned to Hanwell to move off to the right and check another bookcase on the right wall.  Kodak's Elven senses could detect a slight draft coming from that wall on the right, which made him think there may be a secret passage behind the bookcase that was there.
The Doctor and his party emerge from a strange blue box!
     As he was contemplating his next move, his ears picked up the sounds of voices from across the cavernous room, and he thought he could make out the high-pitched voice of the Elementalist, Elsa, and, from the sound of it, a large number of her party.  Quickly, he motioned to Danlin to move up and take a position of cover at the left corner of the large book case before them. Kodak was certain there was more of value in the room, but he didn't feel confident he could take on another wizard and practically their whole party with just three of his warband.  Hopefully Linesse could extract her treasure and Hanwell could sneak into the hidden passage before the opposing party got too far into the room.  To help with this, Kodak cast Invisibility on Hanwell before the Treasure Hunter set off on his mission.
Kodak enters a large room with Linesse and Hanwell.  In the distance Elsa and her group can be seen heading their way.
     Meanwhile, Leighlyndana and her group had entered a strange room with a pentagram in the center. Upon the strange star carved into the floor stood a cauldron, still bubbling and emitting steam after all these centuries, and atop the plum of steam was a fully formed head, which glared at the Apprentice as she entered the room, it's gaze following her everywhere she went.  There was a treasure off to her left which she directed Cadwalleter to retrieve. To her right was a large staircase leading up to a large raised section of the library, with mighty arches and ornate carvings. she directed Connisyn and Bash to check out what may be up in that raised section.
  Almost immediately, Leigh saw the Doctor's Treasure Hunter enter the next room over.  She attempted to cast Mind Control on him, but the link she generated was too weak, and the enemy soldier easily ignored the commands he heard being whispered inside his head.  Then, before Leigh could react, the Doctor's Apprentice, River Song, entered the room as well; and pulling a strange metallic device from a holster on her hip, River fired a blast of light (Elemental Bolt),at Kodak's Apprentice, hitting her in the side as she tried to duck out of sight.  Leigh winced in pain as a searing burn radiated up and down her left torso (-11 HP).
        Through gritted teeth, Leigh called for Edel and Weiss to come forward and back her up.  The duo fired their arrows into the far room, but  they were unable to hit anything.
Leighlyndana, on the right, faces off against the Doctor's Apprentice, River Song (in the far room); as Cadwalleter, on the left, recovers a treasure. Meanwhile, the floating head on the pentagram keeps it's eyes fixed on Leigh.
          Meanwhile, back in the other room, Danlin was able to get a good shot off at the Elementalist's Crossbowman, badly wounding him. Kodak moved up beside him.  Seeing Elsa's Treasure Hunter pulling something of value from a crevice in the floor, the Elf Illusionist, attempted Mind Control as well; but like his Apprentice, Kodak's attempt was too weak to influence the actions of the target.
    As he was concentrating on the spell, the Illusionist was oblivious to the groans that began to emanated from behind a bookcase off to his left, and it wasn't until Danlin turned and noticed the beast in time to shout out a warning, that Kodak was aware of a Ghoul which had appeared from out of the shadows and shambled towards him.  The foul creature was upon the wizard before he had time to fully prepare, but his instincts kicked in; and one mighty blow from his staff crushed the skull of the undead horror.
An overview of the action in Kodak's sector.
     As Kodak was busy on one side of the large room, over on the far side Hanwell, invisible, had made his way into the secret passage, only to come face to face with another of the Doctor's Treasure Hunters who was picking up a treasure which lay in the hall.  The contact with enemy broke the Invisibility spell as the two opponents swung their swords at each other.  Sister Zandkara had entered the room and she raced to help her compatriot, but Hanwell was at a disadvantage with his back up against the half-open secret door, and he quickly fell to his enemy's blade.   The Templar arrived moments too late,  and was set upon by Elsa, who was also heading for the secret passage.  Despite her diminutive size and young years, the Elementalist was able to better the Templar, and a single blow sent her sprawling on the floor.
Kodak is set upon by a ghoul!
     Back in the raised portion of the library,  Connisyn and Bash had been joined by Odullorf the Warhound.  They were experiencing a good deal of frustration as the Sigilist's Apprentice was using Telekinesis to remove the two treasures that had been located there.  One of those had flown out the far end of the large room, but they could see the second one being picked up by one of the Sigilist's strange duck-man minions, who then made it's way down a staircase off to the right.  Connisyn whistled to Odullorf, and the pair went racing after the enemy soldier.
A view of the game in progress.
     The Sigilist Apprentice wasn't going to let the treasure be taken without a fight, and she tossed a sphere of energy (Elemental Ball) at Connysin and Odullorf as they made their way down the steps. Luckily the sphere burst harmlessly above their heads, and they continued to pursue their quarry.
The Sigilist's Apprentice's Elemental Ball explodes harmlessly above the heads of Connisyn and Odullorf.
     Meanwhile, back in the pentagram room, Leigh had cautiously moved back out from her hiding spot, to find that the room across the way had cleared out.  She wasn't sure where all the Doctor's soldiers had gone, but she was happy to see she wasn't going to be shot again any time soon by the infernal weapon of the Doctor's Apprentice.  She was also happy to see far across the room the Doctor's Treasure Hunter dragging away a heavy load.   Once again, she tried her Mind Control spell, and this time it took; She could feel her thoughts penetrate into the mind of the enemy, and slowly she turned his purpose to hers.
Leigh Mind Controls the Doctor's Treasure Hunter, right before he turns the corner and passes out of view.
       Connisyn and Odullorf were having success of their own as well.   They set upon the Sigilist's soldier, and easily bested him. Bash, moved to block any pursuit by other members of the Sigilist's party. Then before he realized what was happening, the Siglisit's Apprentice picked up a small piece of broken masonry, and after waving her other hand over it a few times, she tossed it over the side, down into the lower stairwell (Grenade).  Bash called out a warning, as the piece of stone hit the side wall right above Odullorf and exploded.  A large chunk of the stonework fell off the side of the staircase, hitting the dog and knocking him out.  Connisyn luckily, once again, was unscathed.  She picked up the Treasure and made her way towards a nearby door.
Connisyn and Odullorf battle the Sigilist's Duck-man, as Bash stands guard.
        Leighlyndana thought she had a treasure near her grasp as well, as the Doctor's Treasure Hunter under her control slowly made his way towards her.   Then suddenly the Doctor's Knight raced into the room and interposed himself between Leigh and the Treasure Hunter.  Leigh knew the only way to insure getting the treasure was to occupy the Knight; and momentarily forgetting the wound in her side, she raced forward to fight the Knight, allowing the Treasure Hunter to safely make his way across the room.  However, she was in no condition to take on a full-strength Knight, and one good armored fist to her jaw sent her spinning across the room where she collapsed upon a musty old rug. The Knight was then able to fall upon the Mind Controlled member of his own party.
Leigh is taken down by the Doctor's Knight, in an ill-considered charge to try and keep the soldier occupied.  (Ghostbusters fans will note the inhumanly stacked pile of books in the center of the room.)  
     Shortly after Leigh fell, Kodak could see there was little to be gained by pressing forward, so he sounded the recall.  One by one, his party members made their way out of the underground labyrinth and headed back to the Inn.
Elsewhere in the library;  the Wraith Librarian checks the book indexing (Near the center foreground), while the Vashta Nerada chase some of Knabe's men (The shadow on the floor near the center of the photo)
     Back at the Inn, Kodak sat at his usual table and looked at the three treasures they had recovered.  He knew he should be elated; they had recovered three treasures, no one had died, and having leafed through a few of the books he had found had given him all sort of new insights. (Absorb Knowledge successfully cast post-game) However, he couldn't help but feel a loss of something.  While those around him were in high spirits; laughing, drinking, and relating tales from the days adventures, Kodak sat and reflected.
A contemplative Kodak studies some of the book titles during a lull in the action.
    Leigh noticed him sitting there apart from the rest, and went over to his table and sat next to him, setting her mug of ale on the table before her. "You're very quite tonight, Master Kodak", she ventured.
   The old Elf looked up at her, and gave a half smile. "Seeing all those books today brought back some memories." He said. "I have quite an extensive library myself back in my home in Cercenia, and today I was reminded of that." He said the word again, "Home."
  He placed both hands on the table and looked at them, contemplatively.  "I've been here for almost a year now. I've learned much......seen much", he paused, "......and lost much." He looked up at Leigh and gazed into her pale blue eyes.  So full of youth and life.  "I think it is time for this old man to return to his home.
   "Oh, no, master!" Leigh protested. Kodak smiled at her, a sad tired smile. He knew she would react this way.
   "No, Leigh, my mind is made up".  He leaned forward and reached out a hand to take one of hers.  He held it firmly.  "You have a bright future, Leighlyndana.  You are intelligent, and skilled. More so than I think you realize yet. " He released her hand and sat back.  "I will help you any way I can, once you decide where you will head from here."
   Tears now shown in the young half-elf's eyes. She knew there was no turning Master Kodak's mind once it was made up. She would miss him truly.
     He stood now. "I will tell the others tomorrow." He gazed around the room. "They're a good group of companions, you know..." His eyes turned back to Leigh, "...If you should want to continue here on your own. They trust and respect you."
     Leigh contemplated this.  Kodak gave her a slight bow of the head, then turned and headed towards his room.  The young woman watched as he slowly faded into the darkness of the hall. She could hear him open the latch of his door, and then he was gone.


     Epilogue:  Wow, what a fun campaign!  For the record books Kodak came in second behind his nemisis, Knabe, with 3200 Experience Points after this last game.  Of the crew that started with Kodak those distant 11 months ago, Bash, Edel, Weiss, Linesse, and Cadwalleter remain. And I would be remiss without a last mention of those memorable souls who were lost in the frozen city: Cherowyn, Kodak's first Apprentice;  Sister Elessa, his old and dear friend; and her twin sister Riessa, who Kodak came to depend on and befriend.
I am very sad at having to leave this brave band of adventurers behind; consoled only by the prospect of getting to know a whole new group of interesting explorers in the months to come.

Elsa the Elementalist's report can be found here: Silence in the Library
Knabe's report can be found here: The Finale


After the game, the real "treasures" are claimed!
     I want to thank all my readers who followed along and enjoyed reading about Kodak and his forays into the frozen ruins of Frostgrave.  Your comments and support were greatly appreciated!  Be sure to tune in next month to meet a new wizard and warband. :)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Scroll Rack for Frostgrave's Library

   After making a bunch of bookshelves for our upcoming Frostgrave Library scenario game, I thought I'd also try my hand at a scroll rack.
   I used a style similar to the bookshelves I've been making; but instead of using two large flat pieces glued to each side of a foursome of wood cubes, I used just one central large flat piece, and glued the siding around the edges of it.  I then glued all the crosshatched slanted pieces on to each side.
    The scrolls were made from some off-white paper I had, cut into short 2 inch by .75 inch sections and rolled around a toothpick and glued along the loose edge.  I then cut them into little scroll sized segments and glued them into place.

The Vashta Nerada of Frostgrave

     As many of my readers will know, I have been busy these past few weeks building bookcases for our upcoming Frostgrave Campaign game where we will be playing the Library scenario from the core rulebook.  With discussion of what we wanted to do for our game, the conversation naturally turned to two other famous libraries in geek fandom: the spirit infested library from Ghostbusters, and the Vashta Nerada infested one from the Dr Who double episodes, "Silence in the Library" and "Forest of the Dead".
     So after talking about someone making a pile of symmetrically stacked books, and having an angry wraith librarian going around telling the combatants, "Shhh!", the idea was put forth to include the famous "piranhas of the air": the Vashta Nerada.
      These microscopic organisms, in high concentrations, appear as shadows; and use this appearance as a way to hide and sneak up on their prey.   So I pondered how to make "shadows" as a game figure, and I hit upon the idea of lightly spraying thin plastic cut from a blister pack with black spray paint.
      So I cut out a couple of rough rhombus shapes to look something like the shadow cast by a bookshelf.  I then sprayed one side lightly with flat black spray paint just enough so that you could still see through them.
This Man-at-Arms has heard the stories of the lost libraries of Frostgrave, and is a bit worried about stepping into the shadow of this bookcase (as he should be!).
      The plan is to use them as some of the randomly appearing beasts in the game; and  in talking about it, we may use the Wraith stats from the rulebook for their move and combat abilities.
While the Man-at-Arms suspects the shadow on the right is being cast by the bookcase, he's a bit concerned as to what exactly is casting the shadow on the left.