Monday, May 29, 2017

Another Fun War Horse Con Gaming Day

    This past Saturday a group of the HAWKs and I went up to Sam Fuson's War Horse farm in PA for another fun day of games and good food. A couple times a year, Sam and his wife Kathy invite a  the HAWKs and a bunch of their friends over for a fun day of gaming known as War-Horse-Con.
  We took the timing of this year's event as an opportunity to playtest a quartet of games the HAWKs are planning on running at Historicon in July.
   In the morning Buck Surdu ran a 28mm early war WWII game using his innovative Combat Patrol rules. The scenario featured a German force trying to clear a village of it's French defenders.  I was lucky to play in this game and had a blast commanding a Czech 38t tank,  a squad of infantry, and a machine gun team.  In the end we had the French on the ropes, but they were still holding on aided by a sharpshooting 75mm gun.

      While we were busy fighting our WWII battle, on the other side of the basement, Kurt Schlegel was running a 10mm Napoleonic game using his fast play Home Rules.

    After a lunch break for some fabulous local fried chicken, beans, and potato salad; we reconvened for our afternoon session.  This time I played in Zeb Cook's Wild West game using modified Combat Patrol rules.  This was fun every-man-for-himself game, with us all taking the role of bounty hunters bringing various villains to justice.  A fun additional aspect was that we all had prices on our heads as well, so were legitimate targets for the other players as well.  And the price on our heads went up if we committed any crimes while playing such as killing citizens or looting stores.
   I had a blast even though my team was eventually shot full of holes, especially my gang leader who picked a fight with a desperado in the local cantina, unawares that he had two buddies hidden in the back rooms!

      And, while we were fast drawing in our game, on the other side of the basement, Eric Schlegel was running another early war WWII Combat Patrol game featuring Italians vs French in the south of France.

     It was a great day, and we always appreciate the effort Sam and Kathy put in to making these events a success.  We're all already looking forward to the next time!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Some Old Skull Pass Dwarf Miners

  A long while back I purchased a cheap secondhand Games Workshop "Skull Pass" set off of eBay.  I painted up a few of the units, but then other projects were pushed ahead of it, and the remainder of the figures were relegated to a shelf.  A few years passed, then recently I saw some photos of someone who had painted a few of the units, and I was reminded how much I had liked the Dwarves from this set.  It had always seemed to me that there was just a lot of character crammed into these simple imaginative single-piece sculpts.
     So, in a bit of a nostalgic frame of mind, I pulled out a unit of the Miners, and prepped them for painting.   These figures are beautifully designed for block painting, (ideal for beginners), with lots of deep crevices to separate parts and colors, so I tried to do a mix of block painting style and  more detailed washes and highlights around the face and hair and a few other places.
     I also had an extra Miner figure, off whom I had borrowed the axe to make my Yukon Cornelius conversion, to which I added a spare Ogre weapon to make it look like some kind of special hero figure.
    I really enjoyed painting these guys, and I just might pull a few more figures from the box to work on this Summer.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Frostgrave Campaign '17, Game 5: The Storm of Undeath

     This past Saturday we got together to play the fifth game of our 2017 Frostgrave Campaign. As mentioned before, our goal this year is to play a game each month and work our way through the "Thaw of the Lich Lord" supplement book.   Last month we played the book's fifth scenario, (To read the account of last month's game see: Borough of the Beastmen), and this month we did the 4th scenario: The Storm of Undeath.   We had skipped over the fourth scenario last time, as one of the players had designed a scenario that interleaved nicely with the fifth one, and couldn't be here this Saturday; so we flipped the order of scenario 4 and 5.
        The Storm of Undeath involves a terrain-free square in the center of the board that is filled with unanimated Armored Skeletons, and two out of every three treasures.  Then, on turn 3 there is a chance the Skeleton's will animate when lighting from a storm of magical energy, brought about by the Lich Lord, strike the pillars surrounding the square.
A view of the table at the game's start.  Quails entry zone is marked with the yellow rectangle.  You can see the old warehouse by the brown coffee cup just below where the yellow rectangle is, then the ruined hut a little further along up from that, and the Witches' Temple  beneath the yellow word "Start"
 We only had 5 of our 8 regular players available for Saturday's game; so we used an 8' x 3' table set-up.  Given the number of players, we modified the scenario in a few ways.  First, we multiplied the number of open squares by 3, and the skeletons by 3 as well; so there were 3 squares with 6 Armored Skeletons each.  We placed 4 treasures in each of the end squares, and only 2 in the center square.   The other 5 treasures were placed normally.
    We then established our initial set-up positions and first turn order using our usual numbered-poker-chips-in-a-paper-bag method.  My Sigilist, Quailelyn, and her Apprentice, Bailisette, with their party, started in the center of the side with three players.  I hoped the players to my right and left would be occupied by the 2 players across the way, and I would have free reign to pillage the center. To my warband's left was the other Sigilist, Bemis; and to the left front, across the table, was the Summoner, Chaffarn.  To the right front, across the table was the Elementalist called Alfred the Unready and his strange warband of Duckmen warriors;  directly on my right was a Necromancer, called Missy.
The warband's opening positions.
     The Maga Librarian Quailelyn had awoken that morning with a throbbing headache.   She now sat at the big table in the tower's main room, her head bowed over a cup of steaming tea, trying to let the vapor clear her head.
     Nearby, her Apprentice, Bailisette, stood leaning on the wall looking out one of the tower's slit windows, lost in thought.  She too did not feel all that well.   "There is some sort of storm brewing over the city." the young woman said matter of factly.
     "I can feel it," Quail said hoarsely. "There's something not normal about it."
    "Should we not go?" asked Bailey, timidly. "The storm...and Clol still recovering from the Wraith Knight attack...," her voice trialled off.
    "No, it will be fine," Quail looked up at the girl. "I'm sure strange weather like this is not uncommon in Felstad. And, the group has been eager to go back exploring after being cooped up here for so many weeks.  The fresh air might do us good."
    With effort, the Sigilist reached over with stiff muscles to the magical atlas that was open beside where she sat at the table, and tapped a finger on the nearest page.  She continued, "Besides, I located a small temple where an order of Witches once housed a collection of their Grimoires.  I think it might be worth investigating."  (Quail makes Reveal Secret pre-game roll.)

     As they approached the outskirts of the city, the sky had grown much darker, and flakes were beginning to swirl down around them.   As they penetrated deeper into the ruins, the clouds above had darkened to a dark iron grey, and the flakes fell harder, cutting down on their visibility.  A stiff wind whipped through the old ruins as well, making all sorts of strange moans and wails.   They heard a dull boom like thunder and a bit of green light flashed through the clouds.  The hairs on Quail's neck stood up on end, and she saw Bailey give her a worried glance.  A dull throb continued in the Sigilist's head.
     The party had only gone a little ways further when they reached the old Witches Temple.  It looked like the door had been smashed at one time, and soggy decaying manuscripts and books lay about in the snow and ice.  Quail frowned; it was not a good sign, but she hoped they might still find something of value.   The Sigilist didn't dwell on the temple for long though, as her attention was drawn to an even stranger sight.    Before them, about a hundred yards away, there stood a clearing in the city with four badly worn pillars at each corner.  Within the square were the skeletons of long dead warriors, spread haphazardly throughout the ice and snow. Casualties of the Great Cataclysm that destroyed the city, she surmised.  It was not uncommon to find a frozen decayed corpse or skeleton here and there throughout the ruins;  poor townspeople who had fallen victim to the ice and snow that swallowed the city a thousand years ago.  But Quail had not seen so many in one place before.   Then her eyes were caught by movement further off.  She couldn't make out who exactly, but she suspected it was another wizard's party treasure hunting in the ruins.
Quail, in the central foreground, watches helplessly as the Summoner's Barbarian and Monk run through the fog and take on Dorchesman and Sir Cardidil. 
   She quickly looked around at the surrounding ruins for other possibilities for treasure; and saw what looked like a crumbling warehouse on their right, and a small hut directly in front of them between the warehouse and the Witches Temple, which was on their left.  Quail directed Kinny, the Treasure Hunter to go check the warehouse, and she told Luc Demic, the Marksman, to check and see if there was anything salvageable in the Temple on his way to finding a good firing position.  She herself walked forward and peered into the roofless hut, seeing more of the torn and rotting manuscripts and books from the Temple. They had apparently been carried by someone long ago into the hut.  The Maga Librarian made a mental note to check back in there on her way back to the tower, but to be sure she said to Bailey, "Remind me to search in here on our way home."
      Quail's gaze then returned to the fallen soldiers in the square.  There was something about this open patch of the city that drew Quail to it, and she slowly approached one of the tall stone pillars, carved with well worn ancient runes.  As she neared, she saw that there was a pair of chests laying in the square as well, and she called to the rest of her party to come with her.  The Sigilist attempted to draw one of the chests nearer to them with Telekinesis, but the throbbing in her head seemed to muddle her words, and the spell failed to budge anything.  
   She could now see the distant figures growing closer, and she could make out that it was some of Chaffarn's gang along with the Summoner's apprentice.  They too seemed to be heading for the square as well.   Quail turned to Bailey, and said, "Fog", and pointed to the far end of the square.  She hoped that would delay them a bit. However, she watched with disappointment as Bailey tried to cast the spell only to have little more than a fine mist appear around her hands.   The Sigilist looked up at he dark steel clouds above and wondered...the blowing snow stung her face as more greenish light seemed to crackle through the clouds.  Suddenly there was more than just the greenish light, as the words of a Draining Word spell against Telekinesis appeared from over where Bemis was located. Quail said a curse under her breath at her fellow Sigilist.  His timing couldn't have been worse. 
     Quail turned back to the matters at hand; with Bailey's failing to cast Fog, she undertook it herself, almost failing as well. She strained with all her mental energy to make the spell work.  Finally a bank of thick white fog appeared at the far end of the square, as did a searing pain in her head, just as Charffarn's group arrived.  (Pushed spell for -2 HP.) Sir Cardidil, the Knight, and Dorchesman, the Treasure Hunter, rushed past her in an attempt to get to the leftmost treasure first. Barc, the Man-at-Arms, moved to the treasure on the right, as Sallisee followed and took up position by a small outcropping nearby.
A Demon joins the battle by the fog wall as Bailey uses Telekinesis to draw the disputed chest closer to her position.  On the right center Barc can be seen recovering the other chest.
    The fog was little help though, as Chaffarn's Barbarain and Monk burst straight through it and charged at Dorchesman.  Both sides faced off practically on top of the chest.   Bailey saw an opportunity, and on her own initiative cast Telekinesis on the chest, and it sailed past the enemy Barbarian, and landed with a thump about midway though the square.  But, the Summoner's apprentice had not been idle either, and now a Demon burst through the mist and charged at Sir Cardidil.
      Meanwhile, Kinny over at the warehouse, had crawled up the wall and through one of the high windows.  She emerged upon a pile of old moldering crates and was happy to find a promising rusted old chest there among the other debris. However, before she could grab it, one of  the Necromancer Missy's Crossbowmen came through a far window, and seeing the diminutive Treasure Hunter, he sprang at her.  Try as she did to defend the chest, the crossbowman's dagger, caught her on the side of the head.  She cried out in pain, and he brought his crossbow around with his other hand and struck her hard on the arm, sending her tumbling down a pile of ruined boxes.  Her injured head hit the floor hard and darkness overcame her.
     Back in the square,  Quail tried to help the odds a bit, and extending her hand she attempted to Push the Barbarian back through the Fog.  Again the ache in her head caused her a bit of difficulty, and she really had to strain for the spell to work.  She felt a stab like a knife at the base of her neck and for a moment she felt light headed, but she willed herself through it, and watched as the Barbarian shot back through the wall of mist. (Pushed spell for -5 HP.) It wasn't enough though; and Quail let out a gasp of dismay, as not moments later, the big ugly brute came charging right back through the mist.  The power of his charge took him directly into Dorchesman, who was parrying with the Summoner's Monk, and Quail's Treasure Hunter was bowled over with shear force.  Dorchesman tried desperately to regain himself, but before he could, the Barbarian had sliced down with his large sword, putting a large gash across his chest. Dorchesman toppled backwards and lay motionless in the snow.
     Sir Cardidil now faced the Demon, Barbarian, and Monk alone.    Bailey grabbed a quill from her pack and frantically chanted the words of Furious Quill.  The feather shot out through the storm and danced for a few seconds around the Barbarian's head before he reached up with a bear's paw sized hand and swatted the annoyance from the air.  (Barbarian passed Will roll vs the spell's casting number.)
A Rangifer and his Small Construct companion wander into the area.  
     Suddenly, there was a loud echoing series of booms overhead, and Quail swore she heard strange whispers on the wind.  All eyes turned upward as large amounts of green lightning now crackled across the sky.  Suddenly four jagged green electric spikes shot from the clouds and hit each of the four stone pillars that cornered the square where Quail stood.    The Sigilist, standing near the center of the square, felt a strange surge of dark magic flow through her.  It wasn't a pleasant sensation at all, and bile rose up in the back of her throat.  The Maga Librarian watched in horror and astonishment as the six skeletal soldiers lying in the square slowly began to rise up as if coming to life.
    Quailelyn knew she would need all her wits about her now, and through a throbbing head, and nausea, she attempted to cast Awareness.  She couldn't muster the concentration to complete the spell, but her attempt did suddenly bring an image to her of Kinny's limp body in the warehouse, and the Necromancer's crossbowman carrying away the chest.    She turned to Bailey, and shouted through the storm, "Come with me!" and the pair fell back towards the ruined hut and the warehouse.    Before following her mistress, Bailey quickly cast another wall of Fog behind her and Quail to block them from the skeletons' view.  Quail hated leaving Sir C to his own devises, but knew he was a capable fighter.  She was happy though to see Barc pass them near the hut,  hauling the second chest from the square under his arm.
    What Quail wasn't happy to see was a Rangifer and a Small Construct, in the form of a child's doll, approach from around the rear of the warehouse. The Rangifer held a crude sword, the doll had a large butcher's knife.  She called to Innis Flin, the Treasure Hunter, and Cirvid, the Warhound.  Where have those two been, she thought to herself.  The pair appeared from the far side of the hut, and Quail noticed Innis limping and his left pants leg stained with blood. There was no time for questions though, as the Sigilist pointed out to the Treasure Hunter and dog the new threat that approached.
Having dispatched the Demon, Sir Cardidil  slices through a couple skeletons before dealing with Chaffarn's Zombie.    The Summoner's troops have some of their own undead to deal with as well. 
     Meanwhile, back in the square,  Chaffarn's Monk, seeing Quail and Bailey leave the square, and having the Demon to occupy Sir Cardidil,  bounded forwarded and grabbed the unattended treasure chest.  Sir C thrust at the Demon and the blade bit deep into the creature's side.  It reeled backwards, growling in pain; and before it could recover Luc Demic placed a well aimed crossbow bolt a few inches below it neck.  The Demon fell to the ground dead.  Sir C barely had time to take a breath before he spun around to see two of the of the now-animated Armored Skeletons closing with him.  With his magic Ring of Life (+1 Fight, +1 Armor vs undead) pulsing with energy on his finger, he made short work of these undead soldiers. Distracted by the skeletons, the Knight didn't see the Summoner's Zombie approach him until the last minute; nevertheless, he was able to turn and dispatch this new undead foe as well.
     From her position on the raised landing that ran around the ruined hut, Quail could see movement in the warehouse, and drawing a quill from a pocket of her robe, hurriedly chanted the Furious Quill spell before the enemy crossbow man could move out of view.  She rushed too much though, and the quill fell lifeless to the ground, as once again, Quail felt a small spike of pain in the back of her head. She let out a gasp of pain, and leaned up against the wall of the hut for support.  Bailey was close enough that she could see, even in the storm's darkness, that the Sigilist looked ashen grey.  She reached out a hand, and tracing the proper symbols on Quails shoulder spoke the words of a Heal spell.
  "Thank you", Quail said gratefully.  She hated to show weakness, but was glad of the girl's help.  Her head still ached, though she felt a bit more energy return to her sore muscles.
    Nearby they could see Innis and Cirvid charge at the Rangifer and his little Construct companion. An arrow from Sallisee's bow sliced the air and went clean through the doll's little age-stained and rotting tunic, going in one side of it's torso, and out the other.  Even with a hole through it, the little toy didn't stop though, and onward it trotted towards Innis.  The Treasure Hunter reached down with his sword and sliced hard at the Construct, cutting its cloth head half off.  It staggered backwards on its little stumpy feet.   The Rangifer meanwhile launched at Cirvid, and gouged the poor dog wth its mighty horns.  The hound fell to the snow motionless with a large gash in its hind quarters.
Cirvid falls to the Rangifers antlers, as the Warhound and Innis battle the Rangifer and Small Construct; while in the background Sallisee provides supporting fire from her position by one of the square's corner pillars. Nearby, Bailey tries to discourage Quail from making a desperate move. 
     With only one treasure in their possession, and several of their group either down or wounded, Quail began to worry.  She tried to think clearly, but the pain made it hard.  The image of Kinny laying in the warehouse, that she had seen with the failed Awareness spell attempt, stuck with her for some reason, and she turned to Bailey, and said, "Wait here.  There's a treasure I need to go get."
     Bailey looked shocked. "You're in no condition..." the Apprentice began, but Quail silenced her with a look, and began to recite the Teleport spell.  She felt it failing and she gritted her teeth and willed it to succeed; her mind lost all focus, but the spell took, and she landed right outside the backdoor of the warehouse with a blinding pain in her head (Pushed for -3 more HP) , staggering to stay standing.
    Bailey was deeply concerned for Quail.  She could tell she was not herself and was feeling unwell, but the Apprentice wasn't sure what she should do.  And Quail had told her to wait.  As she pondered her next move, Innis called to her for help.  She looked up to see the man now facing both the Small Construct and the Rangifer alone. The young Apprentice pulled a quill from her pouch, and saying the chant of Furious Quill, she launched it at the Rangifer.  The long feather bobbed and pecked at the beast's head.  Sally took the opportunity to fire an arrow at the Rangifer, deeply piecing its side.  The antlered beast and it's little companion now charged at Innis, the toy's head flopping loosely to one side.  The Treasure Hunter kicked the doll back with his bad leg, wincing with pain, and then regained his balance in time to thrust his sword deeply into the Rangifer's chest.  The large beast collapsed to the snow.  Sally launched another arrow that tore the head the rest of the way off the little Construct and it flew a short way through the air and landed pinned to a mound of icy snow on the street.  The little limp body crumpled to the ground.
Quail confronts the Necromancer's crossbowman as he tries to depart with Kinny's treasure.
  Over at the warehouse, Quail braced herself at the foot of the steps outside the back door of the old stone building as best she could, and pulled her yet-to-be-used sword from its scabbard.  Seconds later the old rotted rear door splintered open and the Necromancer's man burst out, clutching a chest under one arm, and drawing his weapon with the other.  Seeing the Sigilist standing there, he yelled in anger and jumped down the steps at her, dagger raised. The weight of the man pushed Quail backwards, and her sword went flying from her hand as she lost her footing.  The Sigilist felt the dagger plunge into her left shoulder as she fell backwards. All the breath went out of her, and she almost blacked out with the pain as the pair landed, one atop the other, and her head and body hit the rubble strewn cobblestones of the street.   The Maga Librarian could feel the weight of the man crushing down on top of her as she lost focus and tried to stay conscious.   The man moved off her and stood up, grabbing his dropped treasure chest.  The sole of an iron-studded boot came down hard on the Sigilist's wounded shoulder, and her world went black.
The end result of a hard-fought day. Those who had not fallen during the battle with their treasure.
     Back in the square, Chaffarn's Apprentice, Barbarian, and Monk were now withdrawing with their prize,  and Sir Cardidil had dispatched two more skeleton warriors before heading back towards the hut.   Bailey wasn't sure what to do, and Quail was no where to be seen.  The young Apprentice was happy to see the Knight approach, and remembering Quail's reminder to her earlier in the day, asked Sir C. if he would check the ruined hut for anything of value.
   "And please tell Luc to check the Temple as well." she added as the Knight jogged away. "I'm going to go see if I can find Quailelyn.
    Bailey hadn't gone far around the dilapidated warehouse, when she reached the back exit, and saw the Sigilist laying motionless on the icy cobblestones.  The young woman gasped, and tears welled up in her eyes.  Quickly she ran to Quail, and dropping to the snow, gabbed one of the Sigilist's hands tightly in both of hers.  With a wave of relief she could feel the hand still had warmth.   Bailey's eyes widened when she saw the blood soaked shoulder of her mistress' robes.
  She spoke Quail's name hesitantly, and the Maga Librarian's eyes fluttered half open.   She carefully helped get the Wizard to her feet, and half carrying her, half supporting her, slowly they headed back to the Tower.

     Quail awoke the next morning with her body aching and her head pounding.  She quickly became aware of her bandaged shoulder and, moving it, felt a searing pain run up the side of her neck and down her arm.  The Sigilist tried to remember.  Only fractured images came to her.
     It wasn't long before there was a knock on her door, and she heard a faint, "It's Me." from Bailey.
    She croaked out a, "Come in." through a dry throat. And, as Bailey entered, she said weakly, "What...happened?"

    For the next hour or so, Bailey recounted the previous day's events, and Quail, asking a question here or there,  began to assemble the disjointed puzzle pieces of memory in her head.   Once again, through a miracle, no one, including herself this time, had died.  Dorchesman and Cirvid  were both Badly Wounded; but it was Bailey's opinion that the right healing salves could be bought for a little less than 100 GC in the nearby village. (Purchase "replacement" Treasure Hunter -80 GC & Warhound -10 GC).
     They had managed to recover three treasures.  The Temple and nearby hut had each produced a salvageable Witch-school Grimoire; one of Fog (which Quail already knew, and so could be sold), and one of Brew Potion (which Quail was eager to learn.) Along with the Grimoires, each locale had also had 40 GC  (Rolled 14 twice on the standard treasure table, and then by coincidence got two Witch spells.)  Barc had recovered a chest containing a pair of Boots of Leaping from the square. (Roll of 7 on the Lich Lord Treasure Table).
     Quail tried to make sense of the day.  But at the back of her mind something troublesome began to gnaw at her.  The Maga Librarian now realized that the storm had been no chance magical weather event. And, in the following recuperative days, tales came to her of undead having risen all over the city during the storm. She recalled the supply train they had raided a couple months ago, and now this large force of undead being raised.  There was some evil growing in power in Frostgrave, and she was determined to figure out what or who it was.

Game Epilogue
      I wanted to subtitle this post, "In which a gamer and his alter-ego both have a really bad day."  I started out with high hopes as I once again got the central starting position on the 3-player side of the table; meaning that there was no player directly opposite me.  I hoped that the players on either side of me would be directly occupied by the players across from them; leaving me to freely raid the center of the table.  (And my plan would have worked too, if it weren't for those meddling other wizards! :)
    When I started, Quail had 5 treasures within easy grasp (the 2 in the square, the Reveal Secret one by the Temple, the one in the hut, and the one just inside the warehouse window).  Two more were within a little effort's reach: Bemis's Reveal Secret one which he left unattended in a graveyard near the table edge (Where Innis, trying for a quick snatch and run with Cirvid, was hit by a Grenade spell from Agarn. Curse that boy!), and another in a hut a little further away on the right, near Alfred the Unready's area.   But all that quickly fell apart as I started to loose combat roll after combat roll, and failed spell roll after spell roll.  In the seven turns we played, I only managed 5 successful spells without needing to push them; 3 more were successful only after Quail pushed them, for a total of -10 HP (out of a game-starting total of 18).  Also, 5 spells were total failures, including a couple that were so bad they did damage to both Bailey and Quail.   When Bailey healed her, Quail had dropped to only 9 HP remaining.
   One by one, Quail and I saw the chances at treasure slip away, until it became a serious risk that we might loose the three that were "sure things".  All our warband ended up either KO'ed or wounded during the game except three:  Luc, Sallisee,  Barc.  The reality soon became that I might not even have the figures to carry off the 3 "sure" treasures if some new threat should appear and disable one or two of my remaining soldiers.   And, as I became more desperate to save a failing situation, so did Quail, which led us to take bigger risks.
    It was a very interesting scenario too, as setting out those big open squares with treasure in them, was like setting deadly traps filled with honey.  All along the table the carnage was high as the warbands fought it out in the open.  Luckily for me my fight was Chaffarn's forces was all but over by the time the skeletons awoke.  They proved to be an annoying problem in the other two squares on the table.
    The scenario also showed me how hard it is for a non offensive spell based wizard, i.e. Sigilist,  to deal with a scenario that is clearly geared towards combat.  With little more than a Furious Quill to strike back with, my Wizard and Apprentice found themselves lacking on more than one occasion.
    In the end, I think Quail and I both learned valuable lessons about her indestructibleness, or lack thereof.   Hopefully the stars will align better for the next game.

For Bemis' report of the battle see: Rise of the Undead

To continue following the campaign with Game 6, see: The Library

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Mantic "Terrain Crate" Kickstarter

   I recently went in on this nifty Kickstarter, and I thought I'd let folks know about it, as it seems a great deal for scenery items.    And, Mantic is a know company with a good track record.  Check it out, or better yet, become a backer!


     Here's an example of one of the sets. The sets cost between $75 and $60, depending on how many you order, so the individual pieces cost less than $1 each!  There are two others; "Battlefield", and "Town".

Monday, May 1, 2017

Frostgrave Campaign '17, Game 4: Borough of the Beastmen

     This past Saturday we got together to play the fourth game of our 2017 Frostgrave Campaign. As mentioned before, our goal is to play a game each month and work our way through the "Thaw of the Lich Lord" supplement book.   Last month we played the book's third scenario, (To read the account of last month's game see: Loot the Caravan); but instead of playing the fourth scenario this month we skipped over it to play the fifth scenario, "Run of the Rangifer", or as we modified it, "Borough of the Beastmen".
    We will be returning to the fourth scenario in May; but for today's game we wanted to combine "The Run of the Rangifer" scenario with one designed by one of our players, Eric, who isn't going to be available next month.  So we switched the forth and the fifth in sequence, as we didn't think it would make a big difference.
    Eric's scenario involved runestones represented by scrabble tiles.  The tiles would be handed out facedown to the players,  and placed on the table, like treasure, still facedown.  The players would then try to collect the tiles, and at the end of the game would get Experience Points and Gold Coins for the number of tiles they collected.  If your wizard could "decipher" the runes and make a word from the Scrabble tiles they retrieved, they would get extra EP and GC.  Each tile was worth 5 EP and 10 GC, but if you could make a word from them you would then square the number of tiles you used in the word, and multiply that times the 5 EP or 10 GC.   Each figure could carry 2 "runestones" unencumbered, but carrying 3 or 4  would count like a treasure.  Four was the maximum a figure could carry, and for combining load purposes, all regular treasure was said to equal 3 runestones.    Each player started the game with 5 tiles and one regular treasure to place on the table.
An actual Rangifer guards a treasure in a second story ruin at the beginning of the game.

     We only had 5 of our 8 regular players available for Saturday's game; so we only used an 8' x 3' table set-up.  Given the number of players, we modified the Rangifer scenario in a few ways.  First, we changed it from just Rangifer to be the more generic "Beastmen"; since none of us owned enough Rangifer models to use those entirely.   We supplemented the 4 Rangifer figures we did have with Beastmen figures.  Since there were 5 of us, we multiplied the number of Beastmen/Rangifer by 3 for each player, giving us a total of 15.  We also multiplied the number of Wraith Knights by 3.
        We began the game by each placing our single normal treasure using the regular rules for treasure placement; and then we went around taking turns placing single tile "runestones" using normal treasure placement procedure, until we had placed all 25 of them (5 players times 5 tiles).  Next, we placed one Beastmen by each of the normal treasures, as per the original scenario description; and then took turns placing the other 10 Beastmen by any of the rune stone tiles.  We decided when the Wraith Knights entered, they would materialize from the etherial plane between the players at equidistant points along the center line of the table.
A view of the table at the start of the game.
     We then established our initial set-up positions and first turn order using our usual numbered-poker-chips-in-a-paper-bag method.  My Sigilist, Quailelyn, and her Apprentice, Bailisette, with their party, started in the center of the side with three players.  I hoped the players to my right and left would be occupied by the 2 players across the way, and I would have free reign to pillage the center. To my warband's left was the Elementalist called Alfred the Unready and his strange warband of Duckmen warriors; and to the left front was the Sigilist, Bemis.  To the right front was Gru the Soothsayer, and  directly on my right was another Soothsayer called The Doctor.  

     As had become the norm,  Quailelyn and Bailisette began their morning up on the topmost parapet of their tower base.   Quail sipped gently at a cup of steaming tea and stared out at the distant ruins of Frostgrave, just visible in the morning mist.   Bailey stood a few feet away, expectantly, clutching the large Magical Atlas of Felstad.
     Without turning, Quail said to her Apprentice, "Do you remember learning about Ivory Scrolls in your studies at the university?" Quail turned to see the young woman nodding, and continued, "I've only ever seen one deep in the school's antiquities collection.   It was ancient and already showing hairline cracks.  Such a rarity."  the Maga Librarian said reverently.  "I was thinking of it recently, and wondering if there might be more somewhere here in the old city."  She turned and looked out into the mist once more.  "I was up most of the night pouring through that atlas trying to find some clue to locating another one.  My head is aching now, and my eyes are blurry with exhaustion. " (Quail failed her pre-game Reveal Secret roll.) Quail took a long sip of the cup of tea again, then turned once more to face her Apprentice.  She reached into a pocket of her robes and pulled out the magical crystal disk used to read the Atlas, and held it out to Bailey, "I think it's time you tried your hand at deciphering the Atlas".

    Now, a few hours later, Quail and her party picked their way through the rubble of Felstad towards the ruins of an old Necromantic temple; where, apparently, an Ivory Scroll of Elemental Ball was once housed, among other more dark relics.   The Sigilist was part proud, part perplexed, and a little part indignant, that her Apprentice managed to do in an half an hour what she herself had been unable to do in eight hours. (Bailey successfully cast Reveal Secret).  Quail wouldn't have believed it if she hadn't seen it with her own eyes.  There might be more to the awkward young woman than even the Maga Librarian thought; and she had always thought there was talent hidden behind her Apprentice's shy exterior.
      Not much further, as expected,  they saw the skull adorned pillars come into view of what must surely be the temple they sought.  What they didn't expect, was seeing a Beastman not much further away, carefully aligning what looked like a squarish stone on top of a low ruined wall.  Quail then realized she heard the guttural speak used by the Beastman coming from a ruined hut to their right, and other calls and bellows echoing throughout the ruins around them.   The Sigilist stood in disbelief, as it appeared they had stubbled into an entire herd of Beastmen.  Would the wonders this city held never end?
   As the rest of the party stood perfectly still, waiting for some command from the Maga Librarain, Quail's mind raced:  What was that square stone the beast was so carefully placing? She had seen similar, but where? Of course. It came to her: runestones!  But that was old primitive magic.  They weren't particularly rare to find, as many like these Beastmen still practiced the old magics, but still; Quail thought it would be fascinating if they could gather a few for her to study.   And why were the Beastmen placing them here.   It was as if they were trying to set up a barrier to ward something off. But what?
Quail and Company starting positions.  The Necromancy Temple with the Reveal Secret treasure is the skull adorned ruin at the immediate left corner of the set up zone.
     In hushed words, Quail divided up her party and gave them their orders.   Bailey, with Barc the Man-at_arms, and Kinny and Dorchesman the Treasure Hunters, moved off to the left to locate and secure the chest containing the Ivory Scroll; while Quail, Sir Cardidil the Knight, Clol, the Barbarian, and Luc Demic the Crossbowman moved up the right.  While everyone was instructed to gather as many runestones as possible,  Quailelyn noticed some ruined towers not that far away that might hold promising treasure. It would be no problem for her to Teleport up to them to search, or simply use her Telekinesis to move any visible treasure off them.
     None of them had gone far when a sudden strange occurrence swept over the area.  From the direction of Bemis' party a Darkness spread like murky ink out through the ruins until visibility was greatly reduced. (Bemis' Thief drops Bottle of Darkness, visibility reduced to 12").   She squinted into the distance; suddenly the towers, just a hundred or so yards away, were no longer visible.   The Sigilist stopped and cast Awareness on herself.  In this darkness she would need to be on her toes.
Bailey captures a glimpse of the chest holding the Ivory Scroll at the game's start, and decides to leave it for retrieving later.
   The rest of the group moved into action as well.  Though they had no quarrel with the Beastmen, they all knew the Beastmen were not the friendliest sort, and being taken by surprise by the sudden appearance of a bunch of humans would put them in a foul mood.    So Luc Demic and Sallisee both trotted forward, and fired; Luc at the Beastman by the low wall to their front,  and Sally at a Beastman over on the left, placing a runestone by a large well.  They both hit, wounding their respective targets.  Bailey came forward as well, and tried to cast Furious Quill on the Beastman by the wall, but fouled up the spell; the quill merely sailing upward into the darkness..   Barc ran over to the Beastman by the well, and finished him off.  
      Meanwhile, Kinny and Dorchesman had cornered the Beastman in the ruined hut, and quickly overpower him and took his runestone.  Sir Cardidil moved up and engaged the Beastman by the wall, killing him. 
Opening maneuvers.  
     Quail and her group had another shock then, as suddenly off to their right the Darkness got even darker and out of the black mist they saw a Wraith Knight materialize.   The already cold air of the city turned even more frigid.    Quail knew now why the Beastmen had been trying to create a magical barrier in that area.  She suspected her group's interference had disrupted that barrier allowing the undead creature to materialize.  The Sigilist had confidence her group could handle this new threat though, or were wise enough to avoid it; and she ran forward until the far towers were visible again then Teleported to the top of the closest one to search for treasure.
     Clol picked up the runestone of the Beastman Sir Cardidil had killed, and the pair paused and looked at each other grimly, knowing what they now had to do.   The Knight nodded towards the Wraith Knight, knowing with his Ring of Life, and the Barbarian's Club of Battering, they had the best chance of taking out this new danger; and the pair ran off in it's direction.  The Wraith Knight meanwhile, had been charged by a Beastman and the two fought fiercely.
A view of the table mid-game
    Bailey caught movement over to her left and turned to see another Beastman approaching.  She raised her arm, her hand vertical and palm outward, and blasted the creature with a Push spell; sending the beast several yards back before it smacked into a wall.  That seemed to take the fight out of it, as it stood up, shook its head as if dizzy, and then turned and headed away into the ruins.  (The only Beastman to survive the game.)
     The rest of the group now headed towards a large gap between two towers to their front, to look for more runestones.  Quail, up atop the rightmost tower, spotted an ancient chest a few yards away; covered in rust and ice, but still looking solid enough.  She spoke the words of Telekensis, and attempted to move the chest up towards and past her, and over the edge of the tower to her group below.  However, it was firmly stuck in the ice and snow, and the Sigilist had to give the spell extra effort to dislodge it, which caused a searing pain to run down the center of her head. (Pushed spell for -3 HP).  Finally the chest broke free with such force it came shooting at her, and flew past the Librarian's head with only inches to spare as it sailed out into the air and then dropped with a thud to the snowy ground below.  Quail turned and began to climb down after it.
The Wraith Knight appears! (In upper right quadrant of the photo.) Sir Cardidil and Clol have just killed the Beastman behind the low wall, and prepare to move to face the new threat. The rest of the party, having dispatched the Beastman by the well,  move off to the top left of the photo in hope of crossing through the gap in the two towers to the runes on the other side. Also note the wooden catwalk, near the top left of the photo, where the second Wraith Knight fought the Beastman, and got Pushed by Bailey.
     As Sally, Barc, and Dorchesman moved forward towards the two towers, Sally spotted Bemis's mangy dog sniffing around a runestone in the distance and fired an arrow at it to discourage it.  This angered the dog who charged her, and the Archer was forced to strike the dog down.   Creeping forward a little more Sally peered around the corner of the leftmost tower and could see Agarn, Bemis' Apprentice, standing just at the limit of her sight in the Darkness.  She chuckled to herself with the thought of putting an arrow through his tall pointy hat, as she drew a shaft back and took aim.  Unfortunately the boy moved at the last moment and the missile shot by a few inches from his ear.   He looked up startled, and Sallisee laughed at the panicked expression on his face.
     Over on the right,  Clol, reached the Wraith Knight just as it killed the Beastmen it had been fighting.  Unfortunately, Sir C , in his heavy armor, lagged behind.  They had hoped to both get there while the undead horror was still distracted by the Beastman, but that was not the case now.  The Barbarian found himself facing the armored Wraith alone.  With one mighty swing of his mace, the Wraith Knight  connected with Clol's helmet, spinning the soldier around and he dropped motionless to the snow.  While the Wraith Knight gloated over his two fallen foes, Sir Cardidil called out in anger and frustration and charged the undead creature.  The Knight raised his sword, and before the Wraith could defend himself, Sir Cardidil sliced down with his weapon; and with the power of his magic ring, and his own fury, he killed the Wraith in one blow. (Sir C. rolled 19 + Fight 4 + 1 Fight for Ring of Life vs Undead = 24)
Clol falls to the Wraith Knight and drops the runestone he was carrying.  Sir C now faces the creature alone; and after slaying it, picks up the dropped runestone, and another that lay by a nearby pillar, before heading back to the group.
          Between the two towers,  Sally, Dorchesman and Barc had been joined by Bailey.  They could see they were too late, as one of Bemis' crew had already gathered up the two runestones that lay on the far side.  Bailey quickly whipped up some Fog to block Bemis or his Apprentice from getting any ideas about casting spells in their direction.   The Fog however did not stop Bemis' Treasure Hunter from running though it, and charging directly at Sally.  "This is for shooting at the lad" he yelled as he thunked the startled archer in the head with the flat of his weapon, sending her sprawling, unconscious, at the base of the nearby ruined tower.
   As Bailey watched the drama of Sally and Bemis' Treasure Hunter unfold, she was shocked to suddenly hear the sound of combat overhead; and looked above her to see a flimsy wooden catwalk between the two towers where another Wraith Knight was in a fierce fight to the death with a Beastman.  As she watched, she called out a warning to those around her.   All heads looked up to see the Wraith Knight slay the poor Beastman. Bailey let out a loud gasp as the Beastman's body hit the catwalk, rolled off and fell with a crunch to the snowy stones below.  Her utterance, however, caught the attention of the Wraith Knight who turned to look down at the Apprentice with empty soulless eyes.  Bailey felt her heart grow cold with fear. Almost instinctually, she held her hand up, palm out, and practically shouted the words of a Push spell. Up the Wraith flew, in utter surprise, and shot back through the air.  Bailisette couldn't see where he landed, as it was far away in the ruins and Darkness. She shivered at the lingering unnatural cold she still felt, but was glad to know the Wraith Knight was far away now.
   A couple dozen yards away, Quail was deciding that it might be time to give the order to fall back, when she suddenly spotted some of Alfred the Unready's Duckmen sneaking through a graveyard to their rear.  "Did you get the Ivory Scroll?" she called out to Bailey.
    Bailey turned from dealing with the Wraith Knight, and frantically called back, "No!  I thought I'd pick it up on the way back to the tower!"   Quail hurriedly cast a Fog spell to block the view of the Duckmen, as everyone began to rush back to where the chest containing the Ivory Scroll still sat, unguarded, in the ruined temple.
       Dorchesman ran over and grabbed the chest Quail had tossed off the tower, and Kinny was first to the chest in the Temple and grabbed it.  The Duckmen seeing all of Quail's party rushing towards them, thought better of it, and moved away.
Quail makes her way back to the tower, with Barc and the faithful Sir C  watching her back for possible threats.
     Quail did a mental head count of those around her.  She gave a look at Sir C.  "Clol?" she asked.  The Knight looked at the ground and shook his head. Quail took a deep breath as sadness overcame her, then she realized that Sally was also missing.  "Sally?" she asked worriedly.
     Dorchesman was first to speak up, "Um, Ma'am,, acted rather rashly I'm afraid, and is currently... sleeping off the consequences of her actions."  The Treasure Hunter looked back into the Darkness and added,  "Um, should I go back and fetch her?"
   Quail puzzled a bit at the Treasure Hunter's words, said, "No, she's resourceful and should be able to find her way.  I don't want to risk anyone else falling behind at this point."
     Sure enough, it wasn't an hour or so after they got back to the tower that Sallisee returned,  looking very humbled and with a large bump noticeable on her head.  She kept quiet and to herself for the rest of the evening.  Everyone else was quiet too though, as the thought of losing Clol had affected the whole group.
    It was with little joy that they looked over the day's haul.  There was the Ivory Scroll of Elemental Ball of course, and the other chest held 150 GC and a Grimoire of Blinding Light.  They had also recovered 4 runestones.  Quail ran her fingers over the stones half heartedly.  She already could see a pattern in their designs, but the Sigilist didn't have it in her to study them fully right then.
End results:  Sally and Clol fallen. Two treasures, and four runestones; spelling "TEST".  Quail wonders if the deciphered stones might be an omen of things to come...
            The following morning Quail was up on her tower top, sipping her morning tea, and reflecting on the previous days events.  Bailey was not too far away, leaning on the parapet watching the early morning mist move between the trees around the tower. It was thick this morning, it's tendrils wrapping around the trunks and the branches.  She leaned further over and thought to herself that it was so thick she could barely see the ground beneath them.
   The mist parted momentarily as the Apprentice continued to gaze downward, and she said casually, "What's that?"
Quail was shaken from her thoughts by the young woman's voice. "What's what, dear?"
Bailey pointed downward, "There seems to be a large pile of furs and rags near the base of the tower."
     The commotion spread like a fire down the tower, as Quail and Bailey raced downward, calling out to the rest of the party.   Bailey, having the advantage of age was out the door first, and reached the pile in seconds.
  "It's him!!" she cried out.
  Quail came up, and could see that it was in fact Clol laying there; bloody, and a horrid pale shade of green.  She knelt down next to Bailey and put a hand on the Barbarian's neck.  She noticed in one hand he still had a vice like grip on his magic club.  He was icy cold, but still alive.  "Quick get him inside," she commanded.
     Barely alive, was more the fact.  Having survived being hit with a Wraith's weapon, and a night in the ruins, was a testament to his will to live,  and it took all Quail's healing power to bring him back from the brink.
   Later that afternoon she stepped out of the Barbarian's room, exhausted, to find Bailey waiting there for her.  "He'll live," the Sigilist said as she rubbed her tired eyes, "but he will be in no condition to venture again into the city for a long time."   Bailey reached out and put a hand on Quail's shoulder.  "Come, it's been a long day. You look like you could use some fresh air."
  Quail looked at her Apprentice and nodded.   The pair turned and started down the steps. Quail said a silent prayer, and thought to herself, "Still no one lost."
Game Epilogue: 
   Another fun and challenging game!    The Beastmen/Rangifer were an interesting problem as we got points for trying to keep them alive, but they on the other hand treated us as intruders.  And there was so many of them they were always close enough to be a problem, that, in the end, had to be eliminated.   It didn't help that they started the game next to our objectives.  So, despite all the players' best intents, they were slaughtered.  All except for the one that Bailey used the Push spell on, who wound up far enough from all other figures and close enough to the edge of the board that his random move took him off the table edge.
   Also interesting were the Wraith Knights.  Terribly dangerous as they deal double damage.  By games end, Quail's group was the only one to kill one.  The second spent most of the game cutting a swath through Gru's and the Doctor's warbands.  And the third Wraith Knight by chance, ended up chasing down, and killing two of the last remaining Beastmen, only to be Pushed by Bailey off a catwalk far out of range of causing any trouble.
    I really enjoyed the runestone scenario as well.  It was fun to see everyone trying to make words with their letters, and added a fun puzzle-solving aspect to the game as well.  I really lucked out with my letters.
   I thought for sure Clol would die in this game when he fell to the Wraith.  But once again, the luck of the die rolls kept everybody alive (even if barely).
   One final note.  It was with sadness that we bid farewell to one of our longtime Campaign players this week, David Brawley.  David has played since the start of the first campaign, but recently took a new job in New York so will be moving north this month.  I had only met David, through the Reaper Forum, a short while before starting last year's campaign; but he came to be a good friend, and fit right in with the rest of the gang.  He was a good and strategic player, and a kind and generous person.  Our hopes are that he will be able to make it down again to play again with us at some point in the future.

For Bemis' report on the game, see: Herding Rangifer.

To continue reading the campaign with Game 5, see: The Storm of Undeath