Monday, 27 March 2017

Thaddeus Skates on Thin Ice

The mood at the Cloven Hoof had been sombre for days. Everyone from Thaddeus to Franck, the newly-hired treasure hunter, had been troubled by disturbing dreams and portents. To make matters worse a freezing, cloying fog had closed in on the ruined city and tales abounded of horrible creatures (well, more horrible than usual) roaming the old buildings.

The haggard Summoner looked up as Oddleigh the apprentice and Halfinch the thief burst through the door, rubbing their hands and stamping the frost from their feet.

“By the Lords it’s colder than ever out there!” chattered the Hobbit.

“Never mind that – what have you discovered?”

Oddleigh pulled the scarf from his face. “We’ve been a little further down the river – there are some ships still stuck in the ice.”

“Aye,” his diminutive friend concurred, “and I smell treasure.”

Thaddeus rose stiffly from his seat. “Very well, let’s see what’s to be found in this confounded fog – ready the men!”

And so we’re on to the second game of the day – the Battle on the River! Quite an open battlefield this, with hurriedly painted blocks of polystyrene representing the banks of the river. Step off the banks and watch you don’t slip on the ice…

A mere 4 treasure tokens are placed and we roll to choose a bank to come in on before deploying. Thaddeus and his warband line the river on one side, making for any handy jetties that will take them onto the river.

On the opposite bank, Toddlebrew can immediately see the disadvantages of such an open playing field. Knowing that Thaddeus has a bone dart or two up his sleeve, he seeks to mitigate this by casting draining word on the spell, making it more difficult to cast.

However this doesn’t stop Thaddeus’ crossbowman from shooting at an enemy ranger and striking true! Meanwhile the rest of the summoner’s band are getting into position, while Thaddeus himself clambers onto the ice (thus gaining some experience).

I get to the treasure first, but this triggers a spooky spectre. It floats up the river perilously close to where Oddleigh is directing his fellows (including a rather explosive minor demon summoned pre-game).

Situated on my right flank, the summoner’s apprentice decides to keep his crew out of sight from the spectre by casting a wall spell. Who will the spook head for?

Using a handy potion of teleportation, Sir Pierre the knight transports himself to a treasure-laden lump of masonry embedded in the ice on the opposite side of the river. Unfortunately this brings him in direct view of the spectre, which floats towards him…

In the centre, one of my infantrymen makes for a wreck that has sunk to the waterline and the treasure that lies on it’s shattered decking. An enemy treasure hunter beats him to it, only to see the treasure chest zoom out of his reach thanks to a telekinesis spell. For good measure my infantryman spears the fellow for his impertinence.

On the frozen outcrop, Sir Pierre defeats the spectre with his magic sword as one of Toddlebrew’s archers clambers up the masonry after the treasure.

Sir Pierre is having none of it, and runs his sword through the minion. Watching from below, an enemy thug sizes up his chances. Meanwhile Thaddeus is just climbing back onto the riverbank when thwip! thwip! two arrows thud into his body! Badly wounded he swigs a healing potion and crawls into cover.

Suddenly a figure emerges from the ice-bound wreck! An evil-looking wizard, no doubt laden with valuable goodies. Having slain the treasure hunter, the infantryman is in position to head him off, wounding the disfigured spellcaster. All around him more of Thaddeus’ band moves toward the fray.

Fluffy skids across the ice to reach Toddlebrew with an aim to keeping him busy. Alas the warhound is slain by one of his underlings, but it is enough to encourage the sigilist to make a strategic withdrawal.

This leaves Thaddeus with the field, not to mention all four treasures, and whatever the mysterious wizard is carrying! (Oh, and some sore backsides from slipping on the ice - at times it was like an episode of You've Been Framed!)

A complete victory for me, marred only by the death of Fluffy in the survival rolls. To be honest the terrain was more of a winning factor than any tactical skill on my part (indeed I nearly lost Thaddeus to Giles’ archers). Having the river banks raised so high was bound to favour the ‘shootiest’ warband (i.e. mine) as they could easily target their opposite numbers and cover the treasure tokens, which were all placed out in the open. It wasn't my intention to build the terrain so favourably - it was something of a rush job and I had to use whatever I had to hand.

If we play this scenario again I think I’ll lower the river banks (using something other than lumps of polystyrene) and/or add some rigging to the wrecks to help block line of sight. Still, I was happy with how the scratch-built terrain looked, and six rolls on the treasure table (including two on the Lich Lord table) isn’t too shabby!

With the battling warbands long departed, night drew in on the frozen river. The once mighty hulks that lay shattered and rotting in the ice creaked as an eerie miasma descended between the cold stone banks.

There, among the splintered vessels, lay the body of the recently slain wizard; his wind-tattered robes shifting amid the stillness.

Then movement! The silent jetties and quays suddenly swarmed with thin, broken figures. Shambling zombies, skittering skeletons and howling ghouls lined the river as an eldritch green light played over the corpse.

“Pathetic mortal…”

An aeons-dry voice hissed over the frozen river.

“Your work isss not yet done. Arisssse!”

The wizard stood up stiffly and unblinking he faced his master.

“I obey…”

Darkness Falls on Thaddeus

“Come on boy! We cannot hide like frightened rabbits!”

Thaddeus Daemoncall strode onwards with, Oddleigh thought, an exaggerated air of bravado. They had both experienced strange dreams the night before – half remembered but somehow all the more terrifying for that. It was as if some malicious entity was lurking just out of sight…

Still, the Summoner insisted that they carry on with their explorations, his thirst for knowledge overriding his misgivings. That was, of course, before the sky started to go dark…

“Um, perhaps master we’d better pause for a moment? Maybe try another day?”

Thaddeus looked up at the blackened sky, shielding his eyes to watch the sun slowly being eaten away.

“An eclipse? That’s strange… There’s nothing in the almanac…”

A shout from across the ruins interrupted his musings as Halfinch the Hobbit thief returned from his scouting and scampered towards them.

“I’ve just taken a look ahead my lord. It’s Toddlebrew and his men!”

The Summoner grunted.

“Well, whatever’s happening, I’m not letting that old fool get the better of me – onwards I say!”

It’s gaming time with Giles again as we kick off the Thaw of the Lich Lord campaign! At present everyone is blissfully unaware of the horror that’s awakening, but the eclipse forebodes something unpleasant.

Pre-game Thaddeus managed to brew a couple of potions and raise a zombie. He also raised a minor demon with the power of invisibility, but failed to bind it. Filled with unease he approaches the ruins with his heavy hitters in the centre. As the sun begins to be blotted out it’s difficult to see ahead.

Oddleigh takes the left flank with the infantrymen and a crossbowman. The crossbowman takes a default position up in the higher levels, but cannot see very far.

The quicker members of the band are on the right flank, covered by the marksman, who is also finding it difficult to spot any targets in the gathering gloom.

Toddlebrew and his minions appear opposite. Do they share the same sense of unease as Thaddeus and his brave explorers? Only time will tell.

Toddlebrew takes an early lead as his men race forward to claim the nearest treasure tokens. One such action attracts a skeleton, which clatters onto the board behind the sigilist.

The skeleton is joined by a hungry ghoul. Thaddeus is having difficulty casting his spells and his crossbowmen are unable to see anyone to shoot, so perhaps this is the break he needs.

The undead pair advances toward Toddlebrew’s band. A quick couple of dice rolls to see who they attack has the skeleton targeting an archer, whilst the ghoul attacks Toddlebrew himself!

With the sky darkening and my crossbowmen unable to see anyone, they climb down from their respective vantage points to get in closer. Meanwhile Toddlebrew dispatches the ghoul in hand-to-hand combat.

Thaddeus’ men continue forward as the summoner manages to successfully cast a spell and summon a minor demon. Opposite, Toddlebrew’s archer sees off the skeleton. Giles is rolling well and me… not so well.

On the left flank I finally snag some treasure. The pilfering infantryman is screened off from the opposition by way of a trusty wall spell. In the centre, Red Sandra the captain, having done very little in previous games, is determined to take down at least one enemy soldier and leads the charge.

Grabbing another treasure attracts the attention of a strange animal/human hybrid known as a Rangifer (using a Gnoll as a stand-in). It wanders on, sniffing out the nearest prey, which happens to be Thaddeus and Oddleigh!

As the enemy grabs treasure in the centre, Red Sandra tries to reach them. Close by, Toddlebrew’s knight engages my demon and zombie. The zombie is slain and the demon wounded whilst I’m frantically going through my dice in an attempt to find one that rolls high.

After my marksman fails to put it down, Sir Pierre the knight is leapt back to head off the Rangifer. I must admit I don’t like the look of the official Rangifer figures (sorry Northstar!) so I’ll be using my Gnolls as proxies during this campaign.

Thankfully I roll decently for a change and Sir Pierre runs his magic sword through the creature. As it gets darker, Red Sandra is determined to prove her worth and, with demon and barbarian in support, launches a furious charge at the enemy knight.

Who rolls a 20! Once again my captain is defeated spectacularly. To be honest, I had to laugh at this point. You know when you have a figure that you’re sure is unlucky? Well poor Sandra is that figure for me, so it makes sense that she’d go down to a critical hit.

Giles’ terminator knight continues to cut a swathe through my warband, sending my wounded demon back to whence it came.

By way of an encore he then defeats my barbarian, cheered on by his comrades. Meanwhile my treasure hunter and thief are making their way along the right flank towards some treasure. Toddlebrew sends some minions to head them off.

Acting as vanguard, Fluffy the warhound bounds forward and slows them down, but pays for this delaying tactic with her life.

My warband is rapidly depleting as the sun continues to disappear. Thaddeus orders an infantryman and crossbowman to outflank Toddlebrew’s band on the sigilist's right. Meanwhile Sir Pierre races forward to get back into the fray. On my right, thief and treasure hunter are trying to reach the treasure before the enemy.

As Toddlebrew’s ranger and warhound approach, they are stopped in their tracks with a wall spell. This buys Halfinch and Goldtooth enough time to make a run for it with their treasures.

On the left, my crossbowman finally sees a target and knocks out a thug. The sun is now completely covered and the eclipse is total. What strange sorcery is this? The spellcaster’s hands suddenly crackle with raw magic as arcane power surges through them!

Using his new-found power, Thaddeus summons a major demon. The creature lumbers forward – will it reach the opposing warband? No. Judicious use of the push spell keeps the fell beast away.

In the centre, my infantryman is confronted by the invincible knight and an equally tough captain. Oddleigh can just about see the knight through a hole in the ruins. Surging with energy he casts a mind control spell, causing the warrior to suddenly turn on his comrade.

However, even with this surprising turn of events, the captain still manages to down the infantryman. The caprices of the Dice Gods are bewildering and numerous.

Toddlebrew dispels the mind control, allowing the knight to re-join his comrades as Sir Pierre and a newly-summoned demon enters the fray. Sir Pierre follows his colleagues’ example and is defeated.

As is the minor demon. Luckily for me, Toddlebrew is content with the three treasure tokens he had collected and decides that the time is ripe for him to withdraw. As the sky begins to brighten, Thaddeus gathers the remainder of his band, and carries his three treasures back to base. So honours even treasure-wise, but I have lost far more men than Giles, so a win for him.

Despite me bitching about my dice rolls in this report, it was actually a really fun game. It was amazing to watch Giles’ knight slash his way through his opponents, despite being outnumbered 3:1 at one stage (of course the minute I had control of him he fumbled every strike!)

I really had to laugh when my captain went down, if only out of relief – she had cost a lot of gold, despite stubbornly remaining at level 0, but I had invested too much in her just to sack her from the band. It should come as no surprise that I rolled a 1 for her survival roll – bye bye Sandra.

Thaddeus Daemoncall was surprisingly upbeat after they returned wearily to the Cloven Hoof Inn. Despite the bloodshed suffered, the treasure haul was rather meagre, but there were one or two useful trinkets to sell. Even the death of one of the infantrymen cast little gloom – while his fellows mourned him as warriors do for their comrades, there were plenty of tribesmen willing to fill his boots.

Oddleigh watched as one of the soldiers cast a torch onto the funeral pyre of the captain Red Sandra. Uluk the marksman clapped him on the shoulder. “She promised much eh boy? Then cost us even more before leaving us with nothing.”

He gurgled a rough tribal laugh. “Such is the way of women!”

"Hmm…” Oddleigh watched as the flames reflected off her shining gold armour. “Y’know I rather liked her…”

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Felstatienne Walkways

Just a quick post to show you the Parisienne Felstatienne walkways I've knocked up with off cuts of MDF and some balsa wood I scavenged from some soft cheese packaging.

You'll also notice some large lumps of drybrushed polystyrene. I quickly did these in anticipation of a game session tomorrow. While they're pretty rough and ready, they'll do for the banks of the Meregile river in the, you've guessed it, Battle on the River scenario.

Yes, all being well we'll be starting the Thaw of the Lich Lord campaign...

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

No Contest

Merelyth took a deep breath as her rival stepped into the clearing. Uncomfortably aware of the increasing redness of her cheeks, she nodded as the would-be apprentice threw her a feckless grin.

For years it had been assumed that she would be Ajalok the wizard’s chosen one, so she should have felt nothing but hatred for the newcomer, but the young man electrified her in a way the moon-faced boys of the tribe never could. And yet the blonde, easy-going traveller made the dark trainee shaman feel cloddish and ugly. She loved, hated and feared the boy in equal measure.

And now they stood side by side as Ajalok strode forward and placed an aged tome onto a tree stump with exaggerated reverence. Her whole body tingled as her rival chuckled to himself while the old wizard turned to them.

“This is an ancient spellbook known as the Book of Bones, said to have once belonged to the dreaded Lich Lord himself,” he intoned. “It contains a spell that allows one to bring forth an armoured skeleton. Your first test is this: I wish to see such an armoured skeleton before me!”

Merelyth gulped; book reading was never her strong point – such things were few and far between this far north – but she could not, would not, fail. Tearing herself away from her rival’s magnetic presence, she grabbed the grimoire and attempted to make sense of the symbols that swirled around the scratchy pages. There was something there, a pattern she’d seen before when raising zombies from the earth, but other things her mind could not pin down. With the boy taking off his coat uncomfortably nearby and setting to work she just could not concentrate. She gritted her teeth, eyes watering as she forced herself to focus. The ground before her began to shake, a long-departed soul began to wail and then…. nothing. She collapsed to the ground, useless and ashamed.

The boy smirked and waved his hands. Leaves and twigs swirled up from the clearing and coalesced into an ancient skeletal warrior. It turned it’s helmeted skull to it’s creator and bowed. The crowd of onlookers, unsophisticated tribes-folk, gasped, as did Merelyth.

“Wh-? How? How did you do that?” she wheezed, picking herself up from the damp ground.

“Heh, the Book of Bones is notoriously difficult to master,” he tilted his head in that peculiar way that always sent her heart fluttering. “The master wanted to see an armoured skeleton, so I cast an illusory soldier spell to show him one.” He grinned as he waved his arm through the now shimmering warrior.

Merelyth opened her mouth to protest, but Ajalok clapped his hands. “Excellent work boy!” As he turned to the girl his smile faded. “And you… your father would be very disappointed… Now, your second test is to bring me the head of this…”

He nodded to a group of warriors, who between them dragged a heavy crate into the clearing. Nervously they pushed open the lid and hurriedly stepped back, weapons raised. For a few seconds nothing happened, but slowly a hairy, clawed hand reached up to grab the lip of the box…

With a howl the werewolf suddenly leapt out of it’s prison, causing the onlookers to scatter backwards in panic. The beast sniffed the air and, snarling, turned towards the two rivals.

“It’s head, remember?” Ajalok called.

Once again Merelyth decided to seize the initiative and, trying to be brave, stepped forward as she began to prepare an elemental bolt. But before she could finish the incantation the werewolf roared and lunged forward. She squealed and, by way of reflex rather than design, cast a leap spell on herself.

She was still climbing down from the tree as her rival’s mind-controlled warrior plunged his greatsword into the wailing beast’s chest and then hacked the head from it’s massive corpse. By the time she trudged back into the clearing, the boy was presenting the grisly trophy to the wizard with an ironic bow.

Her face reddened as the crowd tittered at her approach. Ajalok scowled at her – the same scowl her father wore whenever she was due another beating. That same expression she saw every time his belt bit into her flesh as he admonished her for not standing up for herself. That same look she wiped off his face when she finally gained the strength to fight back…

Ignoring the crowd, the wizard and the shame, her thoughts went back to the time she yanked the belt from his hands. She remembered the look of surprise, fear and pride as the brute staggered back; broken arm hanging uselessly by his side. “See? I knew you had it in you girl…”

“No more games!” she yelled. “I am a member of this tribe and will not let anyone deny me of my rightful place! Contest,” she spat the word, “or no contest!”

The boy smiled another of his dazzling smiles. “But can’t you see I’ve won fair and square? C’mon, let’s b- urk!” He sunk to his knees as Merelyth pulled her long dagger from his stomach. Scornfully she kicked over his gurgling corpse before defiantly facing the wizard.

“Enough foolishness old man! Now let us make haste, for there is much I want to learn…”

After what seems like ages I’ve finally finished some more figures. The skeleton is a mix of undead and Viking plastics, the young man I acquired second hand, while the barbarian wizard, apprentice and werewolf were from the Forgotten Pacts ‘Nickstarter’.