A few months ago, Joe McCullough launched a competition to come up with magical items for auction, for the latest edition of Spellcaster magazine. My entry didn't make the grade, but for the sake of posterity, here it is...
This battered top hat, adorned with small skulls and feathers, once belonged to the famed witch-doctor Baron Mercredi. From his lair in the Voodoo Swamps, this arch-necromancer would venture forth, ensnaring unwilling victims and turning them into zombie-like slaves. Baron Mercredi has long since perished, but some residual power still lurks in his hat. Bidding starts at 300gc.
Once per game, any spellcaster wearing this hat, who can draw a line of sight to his target, can attempt to turn his victim into a zombie-like slave. The target must make a will roll with a target number of 15. If he fails he will 'zombified' and will join the hat-wearer's warband. The target must be treated as a zombie, with the same stats (restarting at full zombie health). Targets must be 'human' - i.e. not listed in any bestiary. Effects last one game, after which the target returns to normal and rejoins his original warband.
Wednesday, 13 June 2018
Aeon Flixx’s robes danced crazily around her, alternately clinging tight to her limbs and whipping out in the wind in some crazy rhythm of their own.
The Chronomancer braced herself against the rushing air, pushing herself onwards and forcing herself to focus past the visions that swirled around her.
Her parents, lost and arguing over a holo-map during a not-so-enjoyable vacation; that heady night at the university fresher’s ball; her desperate flight to the time capsule as the lab complex collapsed around her; playing with her favourite dolls in the nursery; that echoing laughter as the demon broke through into her reality…
Gritting her teeth, she turned to her struggling companions and urged them onwards.
“Nearly there!” she yelled, her voice at once the confident shout of a young woman, the rheumatic croak of an old lady and the burbling giggle of a child.
The rushing air funnelled them further into the ruined temple complex, before suddenly abating – almost dropping them at the edge of a courtyard. A crude altar squatted in the middle of the space, seemingly soaking up the chaos and emanating a brooding, oppressive calm.
“Here,” Aeon forced herself to speak. “It happens here… and now…”
With the warbands reunited it was time to play the third and final act in this saga. The table was laid and treasures placed. We had two turns to claim what we could and perhaps even discover the demon’s true name (and thus forge a pact with it) before Ambronnax manifested itself to feed…
Shazzam!’s warband took to one side of the table. They had access to both Amulets of Constancy, which made the wearers immune to the effects that the demon produced.
Aeon’s warband split into three on the edge opposite. The middle section, led by the Chronomancer herself, headed for the ruin in front of them, up which the demon hunter and an archer would climb to cover the courtyard below them. The other two sections began advancing along the flanks.
The illusionist’s warriors marched forwards to defeat one of the two Failing Wretches that guarded the central altar, also grabbing the nearest treasure.
To make sure they didn’t get too comfortable, Aeon cast a wizard’s eye behind them. She would need all the help she could get, as Giles would win the majority of the initiative rolls during the game.
The demon hunter lived up to her calling by blasting away the second Failing Wretch (her pistol counted as a crossbow). Nearby one of Aeon’s thieves fished out a treasure token atop the ruins.
However in this scenario, any Failing Wretch that was destroyed would spawn a fresh one at a random board edge. One such creature duly appeared behind Shazzam’s warband.
It was the end of the second turn. Aeon’s band had arranged their firing line in the centre, while advancing carefully along both flanks. Suddenly the air, and indeed reality itself was sundered open and the great demon Ambronnax crawled into the universe!
The Illusionist’s warriors grabbed the central treasure, containing the demon’s true name, and quickly got out of the way. If Shazzam survived the game he would be able to call upon the thing for favours if he were so minded.
However first he had to contend with the Failing Wretch lurking behind him. Thankfully, with the aid of his archer, he was able to do just that.
Aeon ordered her soldiers forwards to attack the great demon. All thoughts of treasure were lost as she sought to destroy the beast and thus prevent the apocalypse it would unleash in her timeline. However fighting Ambronnax without the protection of the amulets is no easy thing, as the warhound soon discovered.
On the left flank, the illusionist’s apprentice had climbed up to claim more treasure, which one of Aeon’s thieves had had his eye on. He wasn’t going to give it up without a fight, but in the end the apprentice and his bodyguard prevailed.
After being led astray by some fool’s gold, another thug joined in with the attack against Ambronnax. It was tough going, for the demon emanated time decay, thus reducing everyone not wearing an amulet and within 12” to a single action.
Supported by his comrades, Grey Leopard the captain summoned up all his reserves, swung his spectral blade and launched a furious attack, giving him a significant fight bonus. However the Dice Gods frowned upon the action and he failed, falling under the demon’s lashing tentacles.
The demon hunter was wounded, failing despite his skills (ignore the wording on the marker). Next to fall was one of the thugs, leaving his colleague to face the demon unsupported. Would Shazzam’s men join in to help defeat this great evil? No, they were too busy counting their loot.
The demon hunter fell, leaving the thug alone with the beast. Aeon and Brunhilde risked firing off an elemental bolt each. Luckily both shots missed the thugs and struck home, weakening, but not killing the creature. The thug muttered one last prayer and swung his axe. I rolled the die…
…and got a 20! I kid you not: the lowly thug critted Ambronnax! The monster had formidable stats, but thanks to the elemental bolts, this strike was enough to defeat it. The thug climbed onto the altar and howled in triumph.
Well, what a game! Playing the narrative, rather than for points, I was determined to destroy the demon at the expense of getting treasure and it played out beautifully, rounding the game off with a heroic critical hit. By gaining the demon’s true name, technically this was a win for Giles – let’s hope that he’s read Frostgrave: Second Thoughts - but the moral victory was mine and tasted much sweeter.
Read Giles' version of events at https://thelostcityofcarcosa.com/2018/06/13/fg-the-coming-of-ambronnax/
The victorious thug was hoisted upon the survivors shoulders as the warband tumbled back into base. Backs were slapped and wounds were tended to as the warriors vocally composed new sagas for themselves.
Away from the celebrations, Aeon sat in her armchair, drumming her fingers impatiently on the arm rests.
Why hadn’t she returned to her own time? The demon’s defeat would echo far up the timeline – surely it wouldn’t be strong enough to break through anymore? Had she won or not?
The Chronomancer startled as a robed figure appeared before her.
“Mother Synchronous!? This is an honour!”
The figure chuckled. “There is little honour left in your time I think – things that I have no knowledge of: ‘autocars’ and ‘datanets’ have seen to that I’m led to believe.”
“So you’ve seen the future. Have I done it? Are they safe?”
“Always straight to the point – ever since the Sisterhood took you in…” Mother Synchronous sighed. “That is why I have projected myself here. The skryers are… uncertain…”
“Uncertain? Either I’ve stopped the incursion or not!”
“Ah. This ‘incursion’ has may have been halted or your actions may have facilitated it. Or perhaps in it’s place, another one will come…”
“So I’ve changed one outcome, only to create another?”
“Indeed.” The figure began to fade. “Alas such is the time traveller’s lot. The skryers believe the best outcome is to face another demon. It goes by the name of Tiszirain…”
Tuesday, 12 June 2018
“…and be careful!”
Aeon Flixx, Chronomancer, watched her apprentice and her companions depart until the swirling mists hid her lumbering frame.
“I hope you’re up to the task,” she sighed, before turning to the remainder of the warband. “Righto – let’s get a move on shall we?”
She led the band in the opposite direction, pausing occasionally to open her senses to changes in the time stream.
“Yes, this waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII thiiiiiiiiiiiiiink.”
“Well, that was odd…”
Time for the second in this three-part scenario: Time Rot. Once again the temple ruins are set up (well, rearranged from the last game) and treasures placed. This included the central token representing another Amulet of Constancy.
Aeon took the lead with the half the warband, including a mystic warrior. There was only one Failing Wretch this time, but a greater danger lay in the shifting time field, which altered according to the initiative rolls, speeding up or slowing down the warbands accordingly.
Our heroes reached the battlefield as time bent and stretched around them. In addition to the treasure tokens called for by the scenario, each band could grab one more thanks to the reveal secret spell.
Opposite Aeon, the Illusionist apprentice Marvo brought his reprobates into view. At least this time I would get to go first regardless of the initiative (assuming the time rot didn’t stop me).
The first initiative roll saw my thief suddenly swept up in a racing current of time, giving him an extra activation. He sped towards the nearest treasure and grabbed it, before nipping safely out of harm’s way.
However his actions were not completely without consequence, as a barbarian thief, attracted to all the kerfuffle, decided to sneak onto the board, no doubt after his share of the loot. Thankfully he appeared out of sight of both bands and contented himself with wandering about aimlessly.
More treasure was claimed, attracting a ferocious ghoul. Again it arrived out of sight of the warring sides and spent the entire game milling around, no doubt disorientated by the shifting reality.
By now the enemy tunnel fighter had been zapped and wounded by an elemental bolt through a wizards eye, but that didn’t stop him joining his captain in pouncing on the central treasure. My mystic warrior moved to intercept, and, being mystic, mystifyingly fluffed the dice roll and ended up on the ground.
Meanwhile the Failing Wretch shambled in to attack my thug. He duly dispatched the unpleasant beast with his axe, thus avoiding it’s decaying touch.
At one table edge, Marvo’s thug and thief were making their way back with a treasure token but were spotted by the barbarian thief. The miscreant made his way up an alley towards them.
The enemy tunnel fighter was quickly transposed out of harm’s way, taking the second amulet with him. This left his captain, slowed down to one action due to the time distortion, to face my thugs. Thankfully the sellsword was no match for them and got clobbered into the snow!
Robbed of the amulet, I was determined to claim as much treasure as possible. Despite the lurking barbarian, my archer moved up to stop the thug and archer. The thug was duly shot, popping out of existance due to his illusionary nature, before he closed in on the thief.
The barbarian eagerly joined in the fray. The archer was now outnumbered and wounded, but still managed to wound and then dispatch the enemy thief, causing him to drop his treasure.
Alas though it was the barbarian that got the last stab in, felling the gallant archer. However reinforcements were on their way in the shape of the two thugs, while Aeon made things even more uncomfortable for the rascal by casting the decay spell, leaving him unarmed.
The thugs soon dispatched the weaponless barbarian, allowing Aeon to claim the lion’s share of the treasure. However she had not been able to obtain either Amulet of Constancy. She would have to face the oncoming storm unaided…
Another fast, furious and fun game!
The icy air swirled in strange patterns as the two halves of the warband gathered together. Battered and bruised, they quickly shared stories of how they fared while Aeon and Brunhilde hurried ahead, deep in conversation.
“So you couldn’t get it either? Damn!”
“No, don’t blame yourself – that conjurer has a knack of stealing the prize from under our noses. I just hope he know what he’s doing…”
“So all is lost mistress?”
“Oh no, but defeating the demon will be a lot more difficult… Unless…”
“Hmm, yes, given the temporal differentiation there’s just enough time… Take this gold, go to the market on the edge of the city and find the one they call the Demon Hunter. Go now – run!”
Monday, 11 June 2018
+++ALERT! ALERT! REALITY BREACH IMMINENT!+++
Staring at the hideous mural brought it all back for Aeon Flixx, Chronomancer…
“Let go of me! I need to get to the capsule!”
She struggled to free herself from the archaeologist’s grip, but the old man was surprisingly strong.
“Not until you listen!” he hissed. “If this all goes wrong, head for these co-ordinates.” He thrust a battered data pod into her hand. “It’s for those old breeding pits we excavated a few years ago. We found fragments of a mural – something about containing a demon. If it’s the same one that’s breaking through, you’ll need to see it!”
Aeon shook her head, bringing her back to the present (or the past, depending on how you look at it); face to face with that same mural – more intact these centuries past and depicting scenes and secrets made frighteningly real by some talented, and no doubt crazy, artist.
“Mistress? What does it say?” Brunhilde, her apprentice, peered over her shoulder – an easy task for someone of her height – and grimaced.
“It says that the demon I have come here to destroy will arise soon. It speaks of ancient amulets that can protect us from it’s powers.” She clenched her fists, mind racing. “It also says we must split up, for time is of the essence!”
After completing the Breeding Pits expansion, Giles and I decided to start the Forgotten Pacts book – kicking off with the part one of the first three-part scenario: Secrets Uncovered. The first two parts have the warbands split in two, with both halves simultaneously searching for the fabled Amulet of Constancy. In this first game, apprentice Brunhilde led the team.
The ancient temple complex was set up on the table. In addition to the central treasure (representing the amulet), each player placed another treasure. Guarding the three tokens were the demonic Failing Wretches.
Opposite Brunhilde, the Illusionist Shazzam! led his minions in search of loot. Apprentice vs. wizard – this would be interesting. It would also put me at a disadvantage, as the Illusionist would get to go first even if I won the initiative rolls.
Brunhilde’s team appeared on the scene (with an extra thief out of shot, who was heading straight for a revealed secret). The Failing Wretches stood guard over the treasure, but soon spotted our gallant heroes.
Directed by the apprentice, Grey Leopard the captain leaped into action and slew a Failing Wretch. It paid to see these creatures off quickly, for they possessed a decaying touch, which sapped 1 HP from anyone starting their activation in base contact with them.
Moving forward, Brunhilde mustered up an elemental bolt and sent it flying at the opposition. Seconds later the smell of crispy fried warhound filled the air.
Clambering on top of a ruin, the archer drew a bead on the remaining Failing Wretch and took it out. Hang on – shouldn’t there have been three of the loathsome creatures?
Shazzam’s team headed towards the central treasure / amulet. It should have been guarded by a Failing Wretch, but we forgot to place one! We only realised this at the end of the game.
Standing next to the Illusionist was a mighty looking warrior – prime elemental bolt fodder if ever there was one. The spell was cast, but the target disappeared! Not content with foxing me with fool’s gold, I now had to contend with the illusionary soldier spell.
The wizard sidled up to the amulet, defeated the non-existent Failing Wretch and seized the prize. Should he choose to wear it, he would have been immune to the effects of the creatures and their monstrous master.
With most of Brunhilde’s team still hanging back, her warhound loped up to try to savage the Illusionist. Sadly he was quickly joined by a ranger and the pair killed the hound.
Shazzam and his chum then decided to make a sharp exit with the amulet, along with two treasures, leaving Brunhilde to claim the remaining two.
However, making one last gasp, she sent the captain and archer to race after them. While the Illusionist escaped with the loot, they did at least manage to cut down his friend.
That wrapped up the game. It was very fast and furious – not surprising considering we only had half a warband each and also forgot to place the third Failing Wretch, which would have made it more difficult for Shazzam to grab the amulet. Hey ho – that’s how it goes sometimes! It was a fun game nonetheless. Read Giles' version of events at https://thelostcityofcarcosa.com/2018/06/11/fg-secrets-uncovered/
So Brunhilde had failed to claim one of the amulets. But what of her mistress? Stay tuned…
Monday, 4 June 2018
You probably know that Escape the Dark Castle is one of my go-to games at the moment, especially as my daughter enjoys playing it with me.
The good news is that crowdfunding for the next bunch of expansions for the game is on Kickstarter! Included are new mechanisms for NPC companions, plagues and a host of new challenges. Also there's a collector's box which is designed to house all of the cards, dice and such from the core game and the expansions.
All in all it looks pretty cool! Check out the Kickstarter at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1998318065/escape-the-dark-castle-the-legend-grows