Monday, 21 December 2015

The Vampire Field – A Scenario



FOREWORD

Another early Christmas present for you – ideally played between wizards with a sizeable difference in levels.

INTRODUCTION

It is said that the two greatest attributes in a wizard are an insatiable thirst for knowledge and the infinite patience needed to acquire it.

Now once upon a time there was a wizard who possessed the former in spades, but was sadly lacking in the latter…

Insanely jealous of the magical discoveries of his peers, it is said that this wizard delved too deeply into the darker recesses of the craft, taking counsel from creatures not even the greatest practitioners of the day dared seek out.

Strange noises and unholy lights emanated from the wizard’s abode, until one day passers-by espied a weird device squatting in the square that fronted his house. This device began to throb and emanate a magical field, and soon all the magic users in the vicinity began to grow forgetful…

The authorities grew worried as news spread of the wizard and his ‘Vampire Field’, and how anyone caught in it’s embrace began to forget their spells. Meanwhile the wizard would walk cockily through the streets, boasting of each new spell that he had suddenly learned.

Soon sorcerers of every persuasion were discovered wandering the alleyways, lost and confused. As time went on they began to forget their very names and had to be led, dribbling and incoherent, into the local asylum. And all the while the wizard grew ever more powerful.

But one night a young enchanter, barely out of her apprenticeship, set forth to investigate the wizard’s machine. She felt her brain being probed, but the device sought more powerful fare than the handful of tricks at her disposal and withdrew it’s feelers. Gripping her magical spanner, she opened up the device and began to tinker…

The explosion that followed was impossible to describe, but one thing was for certain – out strode the enchantress, now so powerful that she immediately ascended to a higher plane. And of the wizard there was nothing but a mindless old fool, who could only gibber as he was dragged to the very asylum that housed his poor victims.

Now this is a very old tale – an ancient legend even before the great calamity. But some say that, like the story, the magical field created by the device still survives, and although weak, still roams the ruins looking for minds to transfer to it’s long-dead master…

SET-UP

Set up the table as per a standard game, but with the remains of a ruined magical device in the centre. Place treasure as per the normal rules.
Take a circular disk, 3” in diameter and place it d20 halved inches (rounding up) in a random direction from the centre.

SPECIAL RULES

THE VAMPIRE FIELD

This 3” disk is the remnants of the Vampire Field. It cannot be fought, damaged, dispelled etc.
At the beginning of each turn, roll a d20. On a 1, the field will centre on the lowest level wizard; on a 20 it will centre on the highest level wizard. Any other result will see the field move half that number (rounding up) in inches in a random direction.
If it reaches the edge of the board, re-randomise the direction and move the remainder of the distance.

Any wizard either partially of fully in the Vampire Field must roll a d20 and subtract their will. On a 10 or more he/she will immediately be drained of all knowledge, which will be swapped with another wizard on the table (roll to decide if there is more than one).
The wizards so affected must swap stats and spells (but not magical items, weapons etc.) – it might be useful to have an extra copy of each wizard sheet to swap with your opponent.
Apprentices are not affected and keep their stats as normal.

If more than one wizard is in the field, it latches onto the one with the highest level.

ENDING THE GAME

Game ends as normal, but what of our wizards and their swapped minds?
Luckily, the effects of the field are only temporary(ish). Roll a d20 for each pair of ‘swapped’ wizards and consult the table below:-

D20 roll
Result
1 - 12
Lowest level wizard chooses a stat (except experience level) and changes it to that of the wizard he/she swapped with (apprentice stat changes in-line if applicable). Otherwise all stats return to normal (plus in-game experience etc.)
13 - 17
Lowest level wizard chooses a spell known by the wizard he/she swapped with and retains knowledge of it at the base casting number.
Otherwise all stats return to normal (plus in-game experience etc.)
18 – 19
Highest level wizard chooses a spell known by the wizard he/she swapped with and retains knowledge of it at the base casting number.
Otherwise all stats return to normal (plus in-game experience etc.)
20
Highest level wizard forgets a spell (chosen by the wizard he/she swapped with) and may no longer cast it until it is re-learned.
Otherwise all stats return to normal (plus in-game experience etc.)

If a wizard has swapped with more than one other wizard during the game, then more than one roll will be made –effects are cumulative.

TREASURE AND EXPERIENCE

Treasure is treated as normal.

Experience treated as normal, however all magic users will also gain by experiencing the power of the field, so the following additions apply:-
100 experience points if a wizard enters the Vampire Field (may only be applied once).
50 experience points if an apprentice enters the Vampire Field (may only be applied once).

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Keep-sakes


Well I can't round off the year with a load of blood and guts, so here's a little present for you...


Something I knocked up for the 'The Keep' scenario, which calls for four 2" disks, that will teleport whoever steps on them to another disk. You can download these, cut them out and print/glue onto card or whatnot.


I actually made six, by borrowing some magic circle designs off the internet, superimposing them onto a stone background and photoshopping on some snow before tweaking the light levels.


Hopefully each circle should print out at roughly 2" across, but if not I'm sure they can be resized. Please let me know if you use them, and if they come out ok!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Blood, Bones and Body Bits


Hakim the ranger weaved effortlessly between the heaps of icy rubble with Halfinch the Hobbit thief close behind.

“Keep up!” hissed the ranger, “if our master wants this area scouted then so be it, but there’s something in the air that makes me loathe to linger…”

“The only thing in the air will be my curses in a minute! Slow down will you?” muttered the breathless Halfling.

“Can’t you smell it? It’s… yes, it’s blood…”

“Not surprising in this accursed pl- Oh my Lords…”

They had emerged from the twisting alleyways into a wide concourse. What had once no doubt been a bustling thoroughfare of stalls, carts and carriages was now a charnel house, scattered with the still steaming remains of a dozen torn and shattered bodies.

“Still fresh…” the ranger muttered, his voice clagging.

“Must’ve been some battle…” Halfinch mused, unable to tear his wide eyes from the scene of horror before him.

“Not a battle… this was murder… rage… terror…” Hakim knelt down to inspect a twisted limb. “Torn right off…”

His companion backed into the safety of the shadows, gripping the crumbling brickwork. “But what-? Who-?" His hand slipped off stone slick with blood. “By the Lords I think I’m going to be sick…”

Hakim also stepped back into the dark passageway. “If the master hears about this he’ll want to investigate… We will speak no word of what we have seen.”

“But if he finds out we’ve been lying he’ll dismiss us for sure! We could starve!”

“Many a man has faced penury and survived – not like these poor fellows. If my guts are to be empty then so be it – at least I will still have guts…”


Apologies for a rather gruesome post dear readers…

I have knocked up some corpse markers for the Hunt for the Golem mini campaign, using the corpse field bases that I won from the excellent Canister & Grape blog (one of the things that pushed me into Frostgrave in the first place).

I added a few extra body parts and broken weapons from my bits box and, regressing to my childhood attempts at painting figures, gleefully plastered the results with red paint!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Skeleton Crew


Legend has it that, many years before the great blizzard, a mighty sorcerer decreed from his death bed that all the treasures he had amassed during his long lifetime would be buried with him in the family mausoleum.

Now he knew that many of his fellows were jealous of his wealth, and would seek to plunder his tomb before he even grew cold. So, as his very last act, he cast a spell to call forth the brave warriors he remembered from his childhood so long ago. These warriors had faithfully guarded the noble wizarding family for generations and for their efforts were laid to rest in an honoured corner of the family plot.

Many scoffed at this, for no other aristocrat would even entertain the notion of burying their lowly retainers alongside them, but it is said that this particular family had foreseen the great freeze and knew that, come the thaw, treasure hunters anew would seek to desecrate their tombs at a rate far exceeding the jealous tattlers of their own time.

And so the day came that the great wizard was interred, and as the final bolt of the mausoleum door was being slid home, the faithful warriors of old burst forth from the grave-soil, all picked clean bones, mouldering rainments and tattered armour. With rusted weapons they saluted the few mourners that had cared to observe the ceremony and, standing to, took their positions around the tomb.

Legend has it that they stood on guard until that fateful day when the ice came, inevitably bowing under the glacial pressure. It is also said that, now the ice has thawed, they stand on guard once more, singing a song of warning and defiance as the cold air whips and whistles through their empty skulls.



My sincere thanks to ‘Mason’; member of the Lead-Adventure Forum and proprietor of Blind Beggar Miniatures; for very kindly sending me a sprue of Mantic Revenants, from which these skeletons have creaked, clawed and crawled their way back to life.

Friday, 4 December 2015

The Cell - A Scenario



A few days ago I was enjoying a small dessert, when I realised that the container it came in could be used as a very easy piece of scenery. This in turn inspired me to write the following scenario…

THE CELL

“It was like a huge glass jar, or an upturned crystal goblet – y’know, the ones rich people drink out of. Inside it was… well, I don’t know – a wizard I suppose. I wonder what he had done to be stuck in there all these years?”

Set-Up

Dress the table as normal, but leave a clearing in the centre.
Inside this clearing, a wizard has been imprisoned in a magical cell since before the Great Freeze. Place a wizard figure in the centre of the clearing and place a treasure token next to it.
Place a transparent container (small upturned glass – be careful, plastic pot etc.) over the wizard and token.
Place 2 treasure tokens per player onto the table as per normal rules.

Special Rules

The cell – the cell must be broken into to get access to the wizard and treasure. It is immune to non-magical weapons and counts as a stationary creature with the following stats:

M
F
S
A
W
H
Notes
0
0
0
12
0
15
The cell does not move/attack during the creature phase.
Immune to non-magical weapons.
Once it’s health has been reduced to zero, it has been broken into and may be removed from the table.

The wizard – once the cell has been smashed, the wizard is released. But what kind of wizard..? Roll a d20.

d20
Result
1 -2
The wizard died long ago and is now nothing more than a husk.
Spending an action searching the corpse (once per game) will give you an extra roll on the treasure table after the game.
3 - 7
The wizard is also a vampire (with vampire stats as per rulebook) with a thirst for blood!
Activate the vampire during the creature phase as per normal rules.
If slain, spending an action searching the corpse (once per game) will give you an extra roll on the treasure table after the game.
8 – 13
“Imprisoned for a crime I didn’t commit and now free at last!”
The wizard is grateful to be freed, and gives you a gift before vanishing in a puff of smoke.
Make an extra roll on the treasure table after the game.
14 - 18
The wizard is possessed by a powerful demon! (with Greater Demon stats as per rulebook)
Activate the demon during the creature phase as per normal rules.
If slain, spending an action searching the corpse (once per game) will give you an extra roll on the treasure table after the game.
19 - 20
“Ahahahahaha!”
The wizard, driven insane by centuries of imprisonment, launches a Destructive Sphere spell!
All figures within 3” of the wizard must immediately suffer a +5 attack as per the spell.
After this the wizard vanishes in a puff of smoke.

Treasure and Experience

Treat the treasure token next to the imprisoned wizard as a normal treasure token.

The treasure given by the imprisoned wizard or looted from the corpse is temporarily shrunk (all the better to hide it from whoever imprisoned the wizard) and does not count as an encumbrance. It does however count as an item.

A wizard will gain 50 points if his warband breaks into the cell.
If a wizard kills the imprisoned vampire/demon by magic, experience is earned as if he/she had killed an opposing wizard by magic, as per the rulebook.

Any wizard who is hit by the Destructive Sphere spell and survives gains 20 points.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

First Frost – Thoughts

My good online chum Edwin suggested that I blog about my first impressions of Frostgrave – so here we are! (Warning: I might ramble on a bit.)

Luckily I knew what to expect – I’d been mulling over the idea of buying the game for a while, and so had done my research. This involved mooching through the Lead-Adventure Forum, various blogs, and several gameplay videos on YouTube. If you haven’t played Frostgrave yet, but are thinking of diving in, I suggest you do the same – if nothing else the videos will give you a good handle on the rules by seeing them in action.

Steer clear of blogs/forum threads that over-analyse the creation of warbands though. As is the nature of things, I’ve seen some posts detailing how to get the maximum potential out of your warband/magic school/spell selection etc. To me, this sucks all the joy out of a game. Go for your gut instinct – give your wizard character, write a background, follow a theme, roleplay – and then build your warband, select spells and such, based on that.

A word of warning for those of you coming in from Mordheim and such – Frostgrave is all about the wizard; and, to paraphrase the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks of yore, YOU are the wizard! The rest of the warband are simply henchmen and do not progress or level up (although if you choose to have an apprentice, he will improve in line with your wizard). I gather that a future expansion will cater for a limited improvement of soldiers, but the wizard is your main focus.

The sole aim of your wizard is his/her quest for magical knowledge. During each game you must find treasure, cast spells, zap the enemy and survive encounters. All this gives you experience and knowledge. Your warband is simply a tool – be prepared to loose henchmen – it doesn’t really matter so long as you get that grimoire!

Warband Creation

Like many skirmish rules, a big part of the game is the initial creation of the warband.

The Wizard – AKA you!

First you must choose your school of magic and choose the spells you want to start off with. I won’t list them all, or go through the merits of the various spells within each school (go buy the rules!) but there are lots to choose from.

Some spells turn your wizard into a killing machine, some buff up your soldiers, some speed things up, others slow things down. Most spells are cast in-game, while others are cast beforehand. There are big shooty fireball spells and more subtle, tactical spells. They vary in difficulty, and casting spells from a school different to your own are even harder to cast.

Take your time over this and maybe work to a theme or storyline. The wizard is the most important character in the game, and spells are his/her raison d'être.

Wizards can carry lots of extra gear, and you can buy and extra weapons for them.

It is the wizard who benefits from any advances you may accrue during your games.

The Apprentice

You start off with 500 Gold Crowns with which to hire your minions.

It’s highly recommended that you start off by hiring an apprentice. He costs a whopping 200gc, and is basically a less able version of your wizard. His/her stats (more of which later) are not as good and he/she finds casting spells more difficult.

However having an apprentice as an extra spellcaster in the game is extremely useful. Failed to brew that important potion before the game? Let your apprentice have a go! In fact apprentices get their own phase in the game (see below).

Apprentices can carry a reasonable amount of extra gear, and you can buy and extra weapons for them.

Your apprentice improves as your wizard improves - their stats are linked.

Soldiers

The rest of your ward band consists of soldiers – grunts, minions, followers, fireball fodder.

Again, I won’t go into the merits of each and every troop type (see the author’s blog for a brief rundown) but your initial choice is important.

Do you go for lots of cheap, somewhat crappy troops, or decide that quality beats quantity? Do you want troops that can easily hold their own in a scrap? Do you want lots of ranged attackers? Do you want sneaky ones who move fast and can get that all-important treasure off the board sharpish? Do you want a healthy mix of all of them?

If you (wisely) decided to hire an apprentice, then you only have 300gc left to spend, so choose wisely!

Word of advice: don’t get too attached to your minions – they will die, or you will probably end up firing them in preference of some better soldiers. No progression for these guys.

Stats

The stats are simple. Not Song of Blades and Heroes simple, but simple enough for my cobwebby brain. Movement, fighting, shooting, willpower, armour, health – the basics.

Each soldier type has different stat values. I used this website for calculating my warband (others are available), which also usefully gives their stats. Soldiers can only carry one extra item of gear and are limited to whatever weapons/armour they have listed. 

A quick note about races: all the stats are generic - a Human thief is the same as a Goblin thief, an Elf archer is the same as a Halfling archer. There are no racial profiles or modifiers. In fact, soldier type stats aside, the only thing that differentiates is figure size. All shooting is line of sight, so an Ogre thug would in theory be easier to hit than a Dwarf thug, although conversely an Ogre crossbowman would have a better line of sight than his Dwarf counterpart.

The Wizard Sheet

Included at the back of the book is a wizard sheet. This is where you write down all the details of your warband.

Make sure you do this, as you’ll need to keep track of stuff during the game (a good A4 version can be found here).

Spending money

Let’s be honest, our main concern is (or should be) how much is this going to cost me? Apart from the initial spend on the rulebook, how much will I have to fork out for figures, terrain etc.?

Figure Selection

Although there is an official line of Frostgrave miniatures, the game is clearly designed to allow you to draw on whatever fantasy figures you have in your collection. There are no GW-only tournament-style restrictions here and no standard base size/shape either. 

I recommend a ‘what you see is what you get-ish’ approach to figures. For example a barbarian is listed as carrying a two-handed weapon, but if your only barbarian figure carries a sword and shield… well, so long as he is easily identifiable as a barbarian, or is clearly marked as such, and/ or both players agree that the figure counts as a barbarian, then all’s good.

By adopting a WYSIWYG-ish approach, fantasy gamers should be able to find a representative of most magic schools, troop types etc.

Wandering monsters are optional, although some scenarios in the book call for certain beasties. The creatures listed are pretty generic (rats, skeletons, trolls etc.) and again, fantasy players should be able to draw upon their existing stash. You can also use ‘counts as’ figures – no ice spiders in your collection? Use that old Tomb Kings beetle swarm instead.

However if, like me, you haven’t played a fantasy game for approx. 30 years (with the exception of a couple of entry-level SOBH games with my kids) and gave all your figures away years ago when you supposedly grew up, then you won’t have an extensive collection of figures to pillage. Luckily the Frostgrave community is full of players who have sourced cheap fantasy figures, such as the Reaper Bones line, or have used plastic historical figures to kitbash some minions.

Followers of this blog will know that I started off with a box set of Fireforge Games Mongol steppe warriors, and then augmented these with some individual plastic sprues from other historical ranges off eBay. Just for variation I also turned to eBay to nab some plastic miniatures to represent some troop types and as a source of cheap monsters. Also, don’t underestimate the power of cadging – some gaming chums, real and online, have very kindly given me some minis and sprues, refusing all offers of payment (thanks guys!) Oh, and I also spent a few bob on some of the many and varied miniature manufacturers out there.

So, even if you don’t own any fantasy figures, you can get hold of them cheap enough. Your warband is only going to consist of about 10 figures anyway (notwithstanding monsters etc.)

Terrain

The Frostgrave rulebook makes one thing clear – you’ll need lots of terrain. Ruins, weird statues, ruins, tombs, ruins, walls and more ruins.

Again, if you already have a collection of fantasy terrain then you’re quids in. Otherwise you’ll have to make or buy some (or, like me, play against a mate who’s a seasoned Mordheim player and has lots of Mordheim terrain).

Or you can use books, boxes, bits of polystyrene packing etc. So long as everyone involved is happy – who cares?

Let it Snow?

One concern you might have – snow. This is FROSTgrave – adventures in the FROZEN city. Do you really want to rebase all of your minis and terrain to make them look all snowy?

Well, you don’t actually have to. For a start, Frostgrave is a frozen city that is thawing – greenery is allowed! I’ve also seen (on the Lead-Adventure Frostgrave forum) Frostgrave games set in the desert, on water and of course on standard green-ish wargames tables.

If you don’t want to frostify stuff, then don’t. If anyone has a problem with that – sod ‘em!

Gameplay

So you’ve conjured up a wizard, hired an apprentice, forked out for some hirelings and got your table ready - time to play Frostgrave!

The Rules

I’m not going to go too deeply into the rules here– again, buy the book!

What I will tell you is that they are very simple and easy to pick up. As mentioned above, a look at the many gameplay videos on the myriad wargaming YouTube channels (my personal favourite being The Battlehammer guys) will tell you all you need to know.

All rolls are on a D20 dice. I’ve read complaints that this is too random, but I like it. Using D20s adds a thrill of danger to the situation – it really gives your cheapo thug a fighting chance against Mr. Scary Knight, or makes the chance of your level gazillion wizard successfully casting a spell by no means certain.

First off you plonk down the treasure tokens (rule of thumb – put them in the places that will give you the most fun in trying to reach) and then decide who goes on which side of the table.

During the game you basically have four phases – wizard, apprentice, soldier and creature.

The wizard phase sees your wizard (and up to 3 henchmen) performing 2 actions each. These actions could be move, fire, cast a spell, swig a potion etc. but one action must be movement (usually).
Then your apprentice (and up to 3 henchmen) also do 2 actions.
Then, whoever is left in your warband also does 2 actions.
Finally, any wandering monsters and creatures not under the control of the players do their 2 actions.
What happens is this:
Role for initiative – highest roll goes first and does the wizard phase
The other guy (or, of course, gal) does his (or, of course her) wizard phase
The first player’s apprentice phase,
Second player’s apprentice phase,
First’s soldier phase,
Second’s soldier phase,
Creature phase,
Roll for initiative again for the next turn.

That’s it.

As mentioned above, all rolls are on a D20 – so both players roll a D20 and add modifiers to fight or shoot, while spellcasting is done by the player rolling a D20 and trying to reach the required casting number for that particular spell (plus or minus modifiers).

Movement is in inches, and can be halved if on rough ground, climbing (all walls/obstacles are deemed climbable), taking a second move action or carrying treasure.

Note there are no morale/nerve rules. While certain spells or situations might require you to make a roll against a figure’s will, there are no skedaddles, routs or animosity type things. However I have heard of some players who house-rule that if both a warband’s wizard and apprentice are taken out of a game, the remainder must perform some sort of morale test, lest they bugger off too.

Thoughts on Gameplay

All in all I found that both of the games I have played ran pretty smoothly, and there wasn’t a lot of rulebook flicking.

The only slight annoyance I found was having to keep track of everything on your wizard sheet – docking your Templar 2 health after losing a round of battle, crossing off that potion your apprentice just drank etc. An annoyance yes, but a necessary evil in any skirmish game and testament to my own impatience and disorganised of bookkeeping rather than any fault of the rules.

Make sure you write everything down in pencil, and use a rubber (eraser for my American readers – I’m not suggesting you go wargaming ‘fully protected and ribbed for her pleasure’).

One thing you will consistently have to do is refer to the spell sheet included in the book (there is also a separate copy available todownload). This will tell you everything you need to know about the spell you are about to cast. A handy deck of spell cards is also available.

I’d also like to see a printable list of all soldier types and creatures that I can refer to throughout the game without flicking through the rulebook, although I acknowledge that giving away too much information might preclude some people from buying the rulebook first.

All that aside, the most important question is: did I have fun?

YES!

I thoroughly enjoyed the games: playing was easy, and that little bit of background you give to your wizard really helps add colour to the proceedings.
There were no horribly unrealistic situations arising from the rules and we both went away happy.

Post-Game

If you’re playing a campaign (and there are a bunch of scenarios in the book, plus a separate mini-campaign, notwithstanding expansion books) there’s even more fun to be had post-game.

First you roll for each member of your warband who bit the dust (or snow) during the game. Yes, for those of you who have grown emotionally attached to your figures, death is not a certainty – your minions might actually survive or miss a game (or they might die – sorry).

For your wizard and apprentice it’s not so straightforward, and a whole host of wounds and injuries await a battered spellcaster (or again, they might actually die).

Then you can choose a base (inn, library, laboratory etc.) – each type confers different benefits.
You then tot up all the experience you have gained during the game – 100 experience points = 1 level. For each level your wizard can improve a stat, make casting a certain spell easier, or learn a new spell.

Of course, in order to learn a new spell, you must first have a grimoire for it. This is where rolling for treasure comes in. For each treasure token your warband has grabbed, you roll on various tables. You might get gold (to buy new, better soldiers or replace dead ones), magical weapons and items (why not give your archer some added oomph with a magic bow?), scrolls and potions (one-off spells that you can carry into battle) or grimoires (a Reveal Death spell – just what I always wanted!)

If you have enough gold you can also buy these items, or indeed fit out your base with extra goodies (need an extra warhound? Buy a kennel!)

Levelling up

A quick word about levelling up your wizard. Due to the vagaries of luck, circumstance (or in my case, tactical ineptitude) you might find the difference between your wizard’s level and that of your regular opponent to be too great after a few games.

Some players have written of their concerns about this, suggesting that the rules allow wizards to progress too quickly. However others have expressed their satisfaction with the rate of progression, saying that it's actually okay, and that a few points of difference don’t really matter.

I haven’t played enough games to form my own opinion, but we’re all pretty reasonable people aren’t we? I’m we can concoct various house rules to cope with any such eventuality.

Conclusion

(Finally!)

That’s the thing with Frostgrave – the rules are basic enough to pick up and play quickly, whilst allowing you to introduce any house rules you see fit. Yet the sheer number of spells, troop types, magic schools, creatures, treasures etc. gives the player an infinite number of playing styles, tactics, scenarios and the like.

When Frostgrave came it out generated quite a buzz, and I think that buzz is richly deserved. Wizards, magic, monsters and treasure – what’s not to like?

Bottom line – it’s a great game, go and play it!