Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Ghost Archipelago '19, Game 1: An Unexpected Excursion

      This past Saturday we played the inaugural game of our 2019 Ghost Archipelago Campaign.  We had 8 of our 9 regular players in attendance.   Instead of doing a scenario we went with just a straight-up fight in order to give everyone a chance to test drive their new Heritors, Wardens, and Crews.   With 8 players, that put 4 Central Treasures into play, evenly spaced down the center of the 9.5'x3' table.
      I decided to go with a Halfling Crew this time, as I've never run a Halfling group in Frostgrave or Ghost Archipelago before, so I thought it would be a nice change, and a chance to use some of my little-used figures.  Also, I was hoping their short height would help me with cover. :) Along with my Halfling Heritor, Barley Gimblehill, there is a huge Human Beast Warden named Tork, two Half-Halfling (half Human) Archer brothers, a Halfling Scout and Crossbow-woman, as well as an assortment of scurvy Halfling Crew.
    I was terribly lucky with my set-up zone for this game, drawing chip #2, and getting second choice of location.  I went against conventional wisdom, and didn't choose a corner spot, but instead went for the spot I thought had the best potential for snatch and grab treasures. 
     I also had gone against conventional wisdom in the stating of my Heritor, adding her free extra stat point to her Movement score, instead of the more usual Fight or Health choice  I hoped this, combined with her Wraithwalk Ability, would allow her to grab stuff quickly, and get back to safety quickly.   (As a note, we rolled for our Heritor abilities randomly at the end of final game of last year.  We rolled for 6 Abilities, and could discard our least favorite and choose which would be our primary.  I ended up with Backswing (primary), Wratihwalk, Spellshield, Leap, and Waterlung.)
A view of the table at the start of the game.
     When all the entry zones were chosen, I found myself situated with the Gnome Heritor, Gnomeo, and his Beast Warden, Juliet, across from me.  On my direct right was the Heritor Cassilda Blackmane, and her Earth Warden, Quartz.  On my left was Heritor, Barl of the Library, and his Storm Warden, Lorria. To my diagonal front right was the Heritor, Safar the Seafarer, and his Storm Warden, Willow of the Water.  To my diagonal front left was the Heritor, Ragnam Eichenherz; and his Beast Warden, Bengel.

Prologue

The young Halfling, Barley Gimblehill, nimbly padded through the thick jungle underbrush intent on the way before her.   As the Heritor's large feet carried her forward, her mind wandered back to only a couple months before, when she had still been working as a serving girl at the Mindful Farmer tavern in Upper Willingunder, somewhat unawares of her true destiny.
     She had first heard the tales from her old Grandda as he sat in the shadow of his burrow, smoking his long pipe.  Tales of a distant Great-Great-Great Granda, who had been a cabin Halfling onboard a vessel that had discovered a magic fountain.  While Barley's Grandda loved to tell of the feats of adventure and daring of his long distant relative, when the mood was right she could get the old man himself to show her a trick or two that he was capable of this many generations later.  She once saw him bend a metal bar clean in half, and another time he threw a large rock clear across his sunflower fields.    But these stunts were few and far between, especially in his later years, when they seemed to tire him out excessively.    For the most part he had been a simple farmer his entire life, any spirit of the distant adventurer long since gone from the simple old Halfling. 
      When Barley had grown up, she was surprised to discover that she also had developed a few special tricks of her own.  She could jump clear up to the roof of the Tavern where she worked from a standing still position,  and she could swim like a fish, unlike most of her friends.  On slow days at the tavern she would earn a few extra silvers by betting the patrons how long she could keep her head in a bucket of water without coming up for air. She always won.  But the tricks always made her arms and aches ache with a deep burn, so she didn't do them often.
      Once, when an overbearing Human tavern patron had made unwanted advances towards her; backing her into a corner up agains the wall, she could have sworn that she actually passed straight through the wall of the great room, clear through into the kitchen.  But no one had seen her, the patron was too drunk to ever remember, and Barley never talked of it because it spooked her, and made her incredibly sore afterwards.  The Halfling barmaid merely thought of her gifts as novelties, like her Gandda's; quirky traits passed on through her family, and never sought any particular power or wealth (other than her small wagers!) from them. 
    Unknown to the simple Halfling tavern girl though, thousands of miles away in the Southern Seas, a mysterious chain of islands had appeared in the misty ocean waters; the Ghost Archipelago.   And something awoke in Barley's blood, and the sea began to call to her...
Barley Gimblehill and Tork

     The girl began to find any excuse to run errands to the town's docks.  There she would linger, staring wistfully at the sails of the big ships, not quite knowing why.     It wasn't long before Barley had almost absent-mindedly stuffed a pack with her belongings, gathered all her saved silver from under the loose stone in her bedroom wall in the tavern, and found herself on board one of the big ocean-going ships (she never quite remembered going on board), and signing on as a galley helper for their voyage to the South Seas.  The little Halfling's heart thrilled at the thought of going to sea, and she wasn't quite sure why.
     On board the  Siren's Lament, Barley kept to herself; though she kept her eyes and ears open and picked up what she could about life on the open water.  She often spent long hours just sitting at the prow of the ship staring at the horizon.  It was there that she met Tork; a Beast Warden who also traveled south.  A massive outcropping of a man, Tork valued his privacy, but found the little Halfing tolerable company.  For her part Barley delighted at seeing the varied sea-life the Warden would call to the swim alongside the boat.
     Tork also told her all about the Ghost Archipelago and the Crystal Pool.  The big man wanted simply to explore the lonely islands, and see the strange creatures who lived there for himself; but being a Human he was well aware of Heritors and the powers they possessed.  And, as Barley told the quiet Human about her life in Upper Willingunder, it was the Warden to put the pieces together and told the Halfling the truth of her real nature as a Heritor.  Finally, the full extent of the strange things in her life, like her Grandda's tricks and this uncharacteristic journey, all made full sense to the girl.
    Once on land at one of the many South Seas ports that neared the Archipelago, the pair stuck together out of familiarity, and pooling their coins saw about chartering a Captain and ship (They were lucky to find one, The Jolly Scallop, with a good number of Halflings in it's crew.)   They also saw about hiring some worthy Specialists to join them on their search for the Crystal Pool.   Barley was partial to taking on the few Halfings she could find on these distant shores; and most were more than eager to sign up; having been passed over by the taller Heritors who had travelled through this port.  Tork was fine with all this, having no love for his fellow Humans; and having discovered he was much more comfortable in the company of the simple little folk.
The Crew is organized.

The Report
     And so the little Halfling Heritor, Barley Gimblehill, and her Warden, Tork, found themselves on  a strange island on the fringe of the Archipelago, hacking their way though the bush.  Barley keen on  finding some clue to the location of the magic pool that called to her.
     She had divided their little band into three groups. With her she had the Scout, Perkin Littlebump; the Crossbow-woman,  Lily Tomtinkim; and the Crewman, Corel Bink.  In the shadow of the towering Tork were the two archer brothers, Jikam and Billy Wizzit, as well as the crewman, Dink Smitter.  Bringing up the end of the column were the Crewman, Habby Wilkersnit, and Crew-woman Ginsink Damum.
     They reached a relative clearing about a mile from the beach and halted and spread out.  Barley surveyed the area.  Directly in front of them was a giant fallen tree, and beyond that some sort of ruined structure.  To her right was some sort of ancient stone idol, while directly in front was more jungle and the sound of gurgling water; seemingly a large stream of some sort.  Following the sound, the Heritor could tell the stream curved around to her left, where she could see more ruins just beyond it's banks.  From his taller vantage, Tork reported seeing an apparent tar pit directly to their front as well; white bones of strange creatures sticking from it.
     Barley decided that she and her Scout, Perkin, would move forward quickly to scout the river along Lily the Crossbow -woman and Crewman Bink.  She suggested to Tork that he along with the two Archers, and  crewman Smitter,  go check the ruins on their right.
     On their way, Tork tossed a small packet to the Archer Billy Wizzit that contained a small amount of green goo wrapped in some waxed parchment.  The Warden said simply, "Put it on one of your arrows, it's a poison.  (Casts Envenom.)  The pair paused behind the large fallen tree, and Billy drew an arrow, dipped the point carefully, and tossed the parchment that had contained it onto the ground.  He didn't need to wait long to use it, as in the distance they herd a distinct chattering, and were surprised to see several Crewman Gnomes come into view  (Belonging to the Heritor Gnomeo's Crew).   Quickly Billy drew his arrow and let it fly at the nearest Crewman.  It hit true, and the target dropped to he ground.  But the Gnome apparently wasn't dead, as he stood up groggily and proceeded vomit the content of his stomach upon the jungle floor...the poison had done its work.    For his trouble, Billy tried to duck back as two arrows sliced towards him; one hit his shoulder and a second hit his head.  Luckily it struck at an angle, knocking him out, but just cutting a deep crease in his temple and not actually penetrating.  The Archer dropped to the ground, unmoving.   Meanwhile Jikam the Archer continued on along with Crewman Smitter to the ruin; which proved to be an old well house.
     Across the clearing, Barley and her group had advanced, and as they neared the patch of jungle near the stream, the Heritor had become aware of the approaching Gnome crew as well, and she hissed at the Scout behind her, "Quickly"!  As she spoke, dark clouds roiled up in the previously clear sky above and a grey shadow limited her vision.  (The Warden, Willow of the Water, cast Cloud Cover, sighting reduced to 16".) Crewman Bink huffed and puffed along behind them trying to keep up, and Lily Tomtinkim trailed even further behind, having paused at the stump of the giant fallen tree to ready her weapon.
Opening moves, as Barley and her command move towards the jungle in the upper left of the photo, and OTrk and his group move toward the ruined building on the mid-right of the photo.
     As Barley reached the edge of the jungle, she willed herself to pass through the dense growth more quickly; and with a familiar ache in her blood, the Heritor suddenly found herself passing through the very plants themselves as if she was a ghost.  (Uses Wraithwalk ability.)  The ever increasing magical gloom (14" Line of Sight now.) combined with the shade of the tall palms, made seeing her path an ever increasing challenge; and a few yards into the heavy brush and trees, she almost stumbled over an old half-rotted shield in the grass.  The Halfling then saw the shield was leaning partially against a long sword which had been thrust vertically into the ground.  Around its hilt was tied a small pouch. (The Central Treasure.)  Barley could see the weapon was of good quality since even though the shield was mostly lost to time, the sword still gleamed as if freshly polished.  Quickly she grabbed the weapon and the pouch.  It was hard to get a grip as the blade was almost as long as the Heritor was tall.  Perkin the Scout came up next to her, and she waved him forward to guard against the approaching Gnomes.  He didn't get far before he called back desperately,"They're here!"; and two arrows and a crossbow bolt sailed by within inches of Barley, somehow miraculously missing her.
   Then with a crashing and hacking of plants, 4 Gnomes burst upon them; two against Perkin, and two at Barley.  The brave little Halfling Heritor drew her sword, and readied herself.  As she did so, Crewman Bink finally caught up, coming up on her left.  Then out of nowhere, Lily the Crossbow Halfling came up on her right.
     Over by the well, Jikam now found himself the target of the Gnome Heritor, and the shaft went deeply into his thigh (-6 HP).  Tork, over by the log, cast Water of Life on the Archer, helping heal  the wound.   As the Warden worked his spell, Crewman Smitter scrabbled up over the side of the old well, and peered inside.  Seeing a glint of metal at the bottom, he scurried down the old rope, and found the remains of a small ancient chest, its contents of Gold Coins spilled out onto the well floor.  Quickly he scooped them up.
   Likewise, over on their left, Crew-woman Damum searched through the brush by the shell of a long-dead Soldier Crab, and happened upon a rather fine looking pair of boots, and a pouch of coins.  Remnants of the crabs last meal, she pondered? 
Clash in the jungle as the Gnomes attack.
     Back in the patch of jungle by the stream, as the cover of black clouds above completely filled the sky (Line of Sight now 12"),  Crewman Bink came up just as the first Gnome reached Barley.  With a quick thrust, he skewered the enemy Sailor with his sword, and sent him tumbling back out of the jungle. (Rolled 19 + 2 F +2 assist from Barley.)  Likewise, on the Halfling Heritor's right, Lily, brandishing her dagger, gave the enemy a nasty gash, sending him staggering away clutching his wound. (15 + 2 F +2 assist from Barley.)   Quickly, the Halfling Heritor took up her treasure over he shoulder and dashed towards the far edge of the jungle,  While a short way away Perkin the Scout, dodged and feinted against his two opponents (denied to Fight) and tried to buy Barley some time.
       Over by the ruined well house, the Gnome Heritor fired at Jikam again, using his Trick Shot ability, this time dropping the Archer.    A little further out towards the river, Crewman Wickersnit ran into the sights of one of the Gnome Archers as the Halfling attempted to race out to retrieve a chest near the river.  A shaft in his leg brought him tumbling hard to the ground, where his head hit a fallen branch knocking him out cold.
       Tork the Warden, back by the giant fallen tree missed seeing these two crew members being brought down, as his attention was drawn back towards the direction from which they had come.  He had heard movement in the brush to their rear and, turning,  was amazed to see a pair of Erithereans appear.  The two large elephant-like creatures snuffed around a small area under a tall tree gathering up fallen fruits that lay under it, oblivious to the carnage all around them.  In all his days, Tork never thought he would see such a rare sight!
    But the Warden's amazement was not to end, as on the trail of the Erithereans there appeared a large Soldier Crab.   Tork worried for the big gentle creatures searching for fruit, and quickly cast Control Animal on the Crab.  The spell worked, and the big Warden had the beast's mind under his command.
One of the wandering Erithereans in the foreground as Tork, by the ruined well-house, waits for Crewman Smitter to gather the coins in the well.  And near the center left of the photo towards the top Crewman Wickersnit can be seen making a mad dash for the treasure chest by the river.
     Tork controlled the crustacean just in time, as nearby Crew-woman Damum called for help as a pair of Ghouls emerged from the brush near where she trotted with her treasure back towards the rendezvous point.  Deftly she drew her sword, and leaping up sliced the head clear off the first Ghoul. She then landed and quickly braced for the second one.  She only managed an awkward thrust at the second assailant, but it was enough to set it off balance and send it stumbling a few paces away.    That bought her the time she needed, and  as she dashed off into the tall grasses again, Tork's Soldier Crab came up behind the second Ghoul, its large pincers snapping fiercely.   The Ghoul turned towards this new distraction and launched itself at the crab.  A quick snick-snack and the Controlled beast had almost severed the Ghouls in two (1 HP remaining).  It fell to the ground and continued as best it could to scrabble at the Crab.  In an instant the Soldier Crab had finished it off.
     Back in the jungle by the stream, the two Gnomes facing Perkin the Scout had had enough of his delaying tactics, and launched at him like tiny whirlwinds of fists and steel.  The lone Halfling didn't stand a chance and was left pummeled on the jungle floor.  A short distance away, Lily the Crossbow-woman, free of her assailants now found herself the target of the Gnome Archers, and two shafts struck her bringing her down.  (1 HP left)  Weak and bleeding she tried to stand; and leaning from tree to tree made her way painfully from the jungle.  Only Crewman Bink was left unscathed and he bravely stood as a Gnome Crewman came at him.  He tried to use the delaying tactics the Scout had used (Denying to fight in his turn), but his opponent didn't have time for games; and with a quick roundhouse across the chin with his free hand, put Corel Bink's lights out like a candle in a gale.
    The two Specialists and Crewman had not sacrificed in vain however, as they had bought Barley the time she needed to break free of the jungle brush, and high-tail it back towards the meeting point with her treasure.
      Lily Tomtinkim staggered out of the jungle a few long lengths behind the Heritor.  From his vantage by the well, Tork saw her and cast Water of Life upon her Instantly she felt a bit stronger, but nowhere near fully healed.  Barley now paused, and turning back, called to the Crossbow-woman behind her, "Lily!  I'm sorry; but I need you to hold here, and buy me some more time!"  The heavy-set Crossbow-woman came to a stop, and hearing the order, signed resignedly, and bravely turned to face the jungle she had just left.  The Halfling Heritor turned away, and continued on with her awkward load.
   
Crew-woman Ginsink Damum is assaulted by two Ghouls; oh, so close to getting off the table!
     No sooner had Lily turned back to the jungle, then the bushes at the edge split with a shower of leaves, and a pursuing Gnome burst forth.  Heaving her weapon to her shoulder, the Crossbow-woman fired, but her aim was off.  So, she shouldered her weapon, and drawing her dagger, charged at her pursuer.  Tork could see the valiant little Halfling's desperate move, and once again attempted to cast Water of Life, be in his hast he got the spell wrong, and he felt the magic begin to slip.  Pushing with his mind  to make the spell work, he willed the magic to work, and it did. (Pushed for -7 HP!)  The Crossbow-woman felt a slight surge of energy as she met her opponent.  Slashing at him, she cut a short gash in his arm, and he staggered back.  The Gnome paused, as behind Lily he could see Barley appear to simply disappear into a large area of brush in the distance (She Wraithwalks through the  patch of bushes and plants with the Crab Shell.)   The Gnomes could tell the pursuit of the Halfling Heritor was futile now.   
      Over by the Well, as Crewman Smitter made his way towards the rendezvous point with his Gold Coins recovered from the well, Tork rested  against a ledge of the ruined building for a moment to catch his breath.  He felt weak and exhausted after his magical exertion.    Nearby, one of the Gnome Archers noticed the hulking human standing still for a moment and saw his chance.  Letting an arrow fly, he hit the Warden square between his muscular shoulders sending him toppling forward into the ruin and then onto the ground.  A small cascade of stone and rotted wood fell down upon the Warden's head and back.
Lily the Crossbow-woman (in red) bravely turns to hold off the Gnomes, as Barley runs with the Central Treasure.
     It was all but over now, the Gnomes could see in the cloud-induced gloom that pursuit would be useless, so they went in search of other possibilities.  The four Halflings who remained standing; Barley, the Crossbow-woman Lily, and from the Crew, Ginsink Damum and  Link Smitter, made their way to the boats, where they waited for the survivors to follow.  One by one the fallen hobbled back.
     Later that night, aboard the Jolly Scallop,  Barley and Tork sat at one of the tables in the galley and studied the day's haul.  The Heritor had only a few scrapes and cuts from some of the sharper jungle plants, but the Warden's torso, was wrapped in bandages which held a compress with a poultice  against the arrow wound in his back.  He had had a Close Call for sure, but luckily he was not carrying anything of importance.    The rest of the crew was mostly unscathed except for the Archer, Jikam, who had been Badly Injured by the Gnome's second arrow and would need to spend a while resting aboard ship before he would be able to venture to an island again.
     Barley's 2-handed sword proved to be of Superior Quality, and the purse with it held 30 Gold Coins (Rolled 14 +2 for Central Treasure =16) .  The Boots that Crew-woman Ginsink Damum had brought back proved to be Boots of Swimming, and the purse also contained 30 Gold Coins (Rolled 19); and lastly the coins Crewman Link Smitter had gathered from the well totaled 20. (Rolled a 1!)  Not a bad inventory for a first outing, the Halfling Heritor thought; but they were not one step closer to finding the Crystal Pool.  Yet, it still called to her  and she knew her search would continue.
A view of the other end of the table.
     Epilogue

     Well, it was nice to have a really successful game after the dismal luck I had with my Heritor, Lord Fortrywn, last year!   Though it's too early to tell how things will go the rest of the campaign, it was a refreshing start; getting the Central Treasure and two other treasures in my sectors, and to top it off no one died.
    The gamble with adding my Heritor's bonus stat point to her Movement really seemed to pay off when combined with my Wratihwalk ability.  It's what allowed me to get my hands on the Central Treasure first, and then escape successfully.  It's often overlooked, but speed certainly plays a roll in this game.
    It was an interesting game from a casualty aspect, as we all forgot just how fragile beginning Heritors can be. Surprisingly, 4 of the other players' Heritors fell during the game.  Luckily, none of them died; though some of the other players did lose Specialists.
     Just out of curiosity I thought I'd record my initiative chip draws each turn of the game, as it always seems like I did poorly when it comes to initiative.  In the end, at least for this game, they seemed pretty balanced; T1- 7, T2- 6, T3- 2, T4- 6, T5- 1, T6- 8.  That is an average of 5 initiative out of 8 initiative chips, or just on the bad side of midway.  However I have to  say I got the two early initiatives when I really needed them most, which really helped; and the two really bad draws, the 7 and the 8, happened on the first turn (I- 7) when it actually benefited me as I could react to others' movements, and on the last turn (I- 8)when the game was mostly concluded.
    I'm looking forward to the next game already!
Final rollcall. 
To read about the game from the perspective of one of the other Heritors, Cassilda Blackmane; who was located directly on my Heritor, Barley Gimblehill's, right, see:  January Ghost Archipelago

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