Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Thaddeus Stirs the Cauldron

"Ah! Teehee! Gerroff!"

Thaddeus looked at his giggling apprentice’s new pet and scowled. The boy had conjured up his familiar with relative ease, whereas his master had nothing to show for his efforts other than a slightly greasy patch on the floor of his chambers.

The boy was certainly learning his craft well, he mused, as the small lizard skittered under Oddleigh’s hood, causing him to laugh. The Summoner sighed, turning to the little imp that peered up at him from inside the summoning circle.

“You’re losing your touch old man,” he muttered to himself. “Just as the Lich Lord grows ever more powerful…”

“My lord, I have news!

Halfinch the thief’s shrill voice pierced through the fug in his head.

“Y-yes?” stammered the wizard, hurriedly marshalling his thoughts.

“We’ve discovered some followers of… that thing…” Halfinch was loathe to mention the Lich Lord in case it brought forth the evil creature. “They’re dragging along some sort of cauldron. Smells like magic my lord.”

Thaddeus sighed wearily – the Hobbit had a knack of sniffing out enchanted items. “Very well then, let us give chase.”

The Hobbit watched as the Summoner climbed stiffly down the stairs with and wearily began to organise the expedition.

“Well, when I say ‘smells’, I mean more like 'stinks'…”

After battling the Ghoul King, Giles and I had enough time to play the next scenario – the Dark Cauldron. Giles set up the table with the cauldron, guarded by five death cultists, in the centre, while I took the lunchtime pizzas out of the oven.

Thaddeus and his warband entered the scene. After summoning a huge major demon last time, all the Summoner could manage now was a lowly imp. Still, it was better than nothing and so the little creature sped forward towards the centre.

Opposite, Toddlebrew the Sigilist and his band of ne’er-do-wells skulked behind the ruins, shielded by the mist (which we managed to remember cut down line of sight a mere two turns in). Wary of Thaddeus’ bone darts, a draining word spell was quickly cast.

First blood went to the Sigilist early on. On my right flank, Halfinch the thief and my warhound moved up the flank in search of treasure, only for the enemy apprentice to blast the Hobbit with an elemental bolt.

Attracted to the concentration of living souls, a frost wraith materialised on the edge of the battlefield, right behind my own lines.

This meant dethatching my barbarian and treasure hunter from the main advance to deal with the creature – it’s icy grip nearly freezing the hunter’s nether regions.

Guarding a nice bit of treasure near the centre of the table, my imp clawed a death cultist to, er, death. Toddlebrew’s men were also edging into the centre and engaging these fanatics.

Two of the cultists attacked Giles’ warhound, sending it to doggy heaven. Meanwhile the dark cauldron began to bubble ominously. An unholy figure began to drag itself out of the receptacle…

At my rear, the frost wraith was dealt with, although the treasure hunter had fared rather badly and was only down to one point of health. He limped towards Thaddeus' position in the ruins for some healing magic.

The cauldron-born zombie joined it’s cultist friends and attacked my centre. Oddleigh raised a zombie to meet this threat as an infantryman moved up in support.

My zombie was destroyed, leaving the infantryman alone to halt the oncoming tide and cover the treasure hunters from doing their job of hunting treasure.

Across the table on my left, enemy forces were approaching. Thaddeus, keeping out of harm’s way in a ruined building, cast an imp spell, causing a toad-shaped creature to appear in front of them.

Atop another ruin overlooking the central square on the right, the marksman took aim at the advancing cultists below and dropped one with a well-aimed shot. The infantryman would now face odds of only two to one.

The imp despatched another cultist as another infantryman hauled away the treasure it was guarding. Meanwhile the cauldron continued to bubble…

On the ruin on my left, the ranger and archer fired at the enemy opposite and managed to hit one of the thugs. Note the treasure next to them; safely hidden away to be collected later.

The enemy knight slew the imp, but with Thaddeus, the ranger and archer facing them, would he or his thug colleague brave an advance out into the open?

In the centre the beleaguered infantryman went down, but the mighty barbarian stepped into the breach to face the unholy foe.

Another zombie climbed out of the cauldron and joined the cultist on the opposite side of the square, where Toddlebrew’s captain and archer were moving in. To make their life more difficult, Oddleigh cast an imp spell in their general direction.

The imp under Thaddeus’ control reached the evil-smelling cauldron and tipped it over, ensuring that no more zombies would be spawned. (I must confess to a mistake here. The scenario states that a figure must ‘fight’ the cauldron in order to tip it over. I missed this, assuming that you only needed to spend an action – oops!)

In the centre, the barbarian is killed by one of the zombies, but another raised zombie steps into the breach. Meanwhile yet another imp is summoned on the right flank in a brazen attempt to get around the enemy and snatch some of it’s treasure.

Alas this imp cannot defeat the ranger who claimed said treasure as his own. Meanwhile, zombie and cultist are still fighting with captain and archer as the rogue imp looked on.

The cultist hacked at Toddlebrew’s captain, causing a critical hit! Luckily the captain was a tough, experienced fighter who is armoured enough to survive the attack. Round two ensued and… well no-one can possibly survive two crits in a row…

While the fighting in the centre square continued, Fluffy the warhound had worked her way around the right flank and clambered up the ruins to face the enemy apprentice. Would she gain revenge for poor Halfinch? No – a treasure hunter came to the rescue.

In the centre, Toddlebrew’s advance has been whittled down to a lowly archer. He managed to slay the imp but was still in combat with a cultist.

His cauldron-tipping work done *cough*, the loyal imp waddles over to join the fight in the centre, slaying a cultist.

As the remaining cultist battled the lone archer, Thaddeus’ marksman took aim and fires into the brawl. The cultist dropped to the ground, leaving the last zombie for the warband to mop up.

Which they did… eventually! However the question remained: who would be left with the field and thus possession of the cauldron? At the beginning of the game, Giles had stated his determination to deny me the prize, assuming that I'd use it as an aid to raising zombies. 

The remainder of Toddlebrew’s warband decided to withdraw with whatever treasure they had found – a state of affairs Thaddeus was all too willing to encourage by sending another imp to hurry them along.

A minor demon was also summoned for good measure. The Sigilist attempted to block it’s path with a wall spell, but the demon simply climbed up it and dropped down the other side.

Still, his apprentice killed the imp, but that mattered little. Thaddeus had seen off both the cultists and the Sigilist, and claimed the cauldron for himself. Would it be used as a zombie factory? In truth I was more interested in gaining XP for destroying it, for I had new spells to learn...

Yet another really good game (read Giles' account here)! The Dice Gods were kinder this time, at one point deigning to allow two 20s in a row. Both wizards took three treasures apiece, but with Thaddeus’ men killing all five cultists and gaining the cauldron, I took the win – so honours even at the end of the day!

“Now that’s more like it!”

Thaddeus Daemoncall cackled as the filthy cauldron exploded in a mess of twisted metal and other, less savoury things.

Oddleigh peered out from behind a barrel as noxious ingredients dripped off the wall behind him.

“Um, should we have perhaps kept that master? It would’ve come in very handy for raising zombies.”

“Pah! For too long we’ve been relying on necromancy,” the wizard spat. “We’re not going to beat the Lich Lord at his own game my boy – we’re Summoners are we not?

“Well, yes…” Oddleigh watched as Thaddeus pulled a pair of battered books from his sack – the results of their post-battle spending spree.

“Well with these two grimoires we now have the complete collection of summoning spells. Soon the time will come to do some proper magic, and then my boy, the world had better watch out!”

Monday, 27 November 2017

Thaddeus Grabs Some Ghoulies


Oddleigh shuddered as guttural laughter echoed through the blackness. The door behind them clanged shut, causing Halfinch the Hobbit thief to cling on to his robe.

“I knew we shouldn’t have listened to that weird old man!” he squealed. “Great treasures my hairy foot!”

The apprentice sighed. “Indeed, but I suspect the master knew all along, which is why he brought our new friend...”

He nodded towards the hulking shape that loomed behind Thaddeus the Summoner. It’s eyes blazing with fire as it scanned the shadows ahead, the major demon muttered something.

Thaddeus strode forward, his expression grim. “It smells ghouls; lots of ‘em” he said, gripping his staff. “But there is a way out if we can find the mechanism. We’ve a fight on our hands gentlemen, make no mistake.”

Far out in the dark, something large stirred…

Yes dear reader, it’s time for the latest instalment in our Thaw of the Lich Lord campaign, where our hero Thaddeus Daemoncall is lured into the Lair of the evil Ghoul King. The pre-game spells were a hit and miss affair, rolling high enough to summon a major demon with the vampirism attribute (a la Forgotten Pacts) and brew a couple of potions, but failing to raise a zombie or gain a familiar for Thaddeus (Oddleigh having managed to get one a few games ago).

The table was duly set up to represent a ruined underground complex with the Ghoul King lurking by his throne on a dais in the centre, wearing a rare amulet that gave him mastery over his fellows. Four trapdoors were placed randomly, from which his ghoulish minions would spring. Two ghouls were set aside to drop down from the ceiling on their unsuspecting prey.

On my right flank I deployed Thaddeus with an infantryman bodyguard. Covering him was an archer and marksman, alongside Halfinch the thief, who had orders to grab the nearest treasure and then down his invisibility potion, so that he could escape with ease when the exits were revealed.

On my left flank, Oddleigh nervously took charge of the major demon, protected by another infantryman, barbarian and treasure hunter. In the centre, screened off by a large wall, another treasure hunter and a warhound made ready to respond as the situation dictated.

Opposite Thaddeus, and equally as trapped by the Ghoul King, Toddlebrew the Sigilist deployed with his warband. With my major demon I had the numerical advantage, but Toddlebrew had employed the services of a tough and experienced captain.

Halfinch duly raced forward and grabbed the nearest treasure. Alas this brought forth a terrifying Frost Wraith on the table edge to my right. Thankfully my warband was out of sight, so it spent most of the game wandering around aimlessly.

Both bands duly advanced into the darkness. The gloom was such that neither band could see to shoot very far, but enough to catch the glint of treasure. Suddenly a trapdoor near the Sigilist creaked open and a hungry ghoul crawled out!

With a treasure hunter in support, my major demon roared forward, catching the eye of the Ghoul King. This foul fiend leaped off it’s dais and engaged the demon in combat. Behind them, the barbarian jumped onto a trapdoor, preventing any ghouls from using it.

A giant, and rather out of focus, rat wandered into the complex, looking for something tasty to gnaw on – ghoul droppings losing their appeal after a while. Like the frost wraith, this critter spent most of the game wandering randomly along the board edge to my right.

The ghoul crawled snarling towards Giles’ apprentice, but he managed to slay the beast with the aid of a thug. I must add that by this point it was my own apprentice that was having the most success at spellcasting, with Thaddeus fluffing most of his spells.

The opposing warband formed a firing line of rangers and archers, who fired into the titanic combat between Ghould King and demon. Although the targets were randomised, each shot thudded into the Ghoul King, which crashed to the floor, dead.

This allowed one of my treasure hunters to purloin the fabled amulet from the king’s lifeless hulk. Behind my lines, a ghoul (one of the pair kept aside by Giles) dropped from above. In response, Thaddeus hastily raised a zombie which was sent to deal with the creature.

In the centre, another ghoul crawled up from a trapdoor and launched itself at Toddlebrew’s firing line. The major demon also attacked the rangers before they could aim their bows once again.

Meanwhile the Sigilist’s captain, accompanied by a warhound, reached the dais and pulled a lever. Somewhere nearby there a grinding of gears could be heard and a doorway was revealed… right behind my warband! The way out was secure – or was it?

More ghouls poured forth as Thaddeus’ men, reinforced by a summoned imp, advanced. A ghoul slavered at my marksman as the warhound raced to assist, while the imp pressed onward to keep the enemy at bay.

An overall shot of the game so far. Thaddeus’ men now had an exit point and thus began to drag the treasure away. In the centre the major demon led the attack on the opposition while on my right the zombie was still battling a menacing ghoul. On my left, a newly-hired ranger (a replacement for the wounded knight Sir Pierre) was advancing along the flank.

To protect the line of retreat, Oddleigh cast a wall spell to screen off the treasure hunters as the rest of the warband pressed onwards, keeping a wary eye out for any more ghouls.

Toddlebrew’s captain pulled another lever to activate another door, this time behind his lines! Both warbands now had a clear escape route.

The melee swirled around the now vacant throne as rival warriors fought with each other and ghoul alike. My imp went down under the snarling jaws of a warhound as the marksman struggled to fight off a grey-skinned fiend.

As the major demon slashed at the rangers, another ghoul dropped from the ceiling (one of my pair) and chewed up an enemy archer, causing the captain to pull back to keep the beast from attacking his master. Meanwhile the opposing warhound was speared by one of Thaddeus’ infantrymen.

Behind the Summoner’s lines, the zombie was still fighting the ghoul, but was eventually defeated, causing Fluffy the warhound to lope into the fray.

When one ghoul was slain, another quickly took it’s place, preventing the marksman and archer from doing any worthwhile shooting. Thaddeus was still messing up his spells, although his apprentice had more success.

Poor fluffy was also chewed by the ghoul behind the lines and to make matters worse another one dropped from the ceiling directly in front of the exit! Thankfully the treasure hunter was en-route to make off with the amulet, and so was on hand to dispatch it.

I repaid the compliment by dropping a ghoul in front of Gile’s exit. The creature ran screaming towards a loot-laden thug.

Oddleigh continued to successfully cast spells, summoning a minor demon to replace the slain imp. The demon roared forward to cover the retreat of the treasure carriers.

A wall spell cut off the advance of my ranger, who was gearing up to attack the enemy apprentice and maybe steal the treasure off his friend. With no other targets presenting themselves, he contented himself with standing on a trapdoor to keep out the ghouls.

With Toddlebrew’s rangers being torn to ribbons by the major demon, his captain was left to face the ghoulish tide alone. His discomfort increased when the frost wraith eventually made it’s way into the battle.

Toddlebrew and his remaining band decided to make their escape, with the green knight leading the way by slaying the ghoul that was blocking their retreat.

Meanwhile the fighting in the centre continued unabated. The mighty captain fell under the undead onslaught but managed to take the frost wraith with him. Around the dais, Thaddeus’ demon-reinforced warriors battled against more ghouls.

Eventually the major demon slew the final ranger and was able to turn it’s attentions to the ghouls, which were beginning to gain the upper hand against my warband, defeating my archer, minor demon and infantryman in quick succession.

But enough was enough. The remaining members of Thaddeus’ warband made their escape by allowing the demon to hold off the onslaught. Both sides had gained three treasures but, whilst Thaddeus had got hold of the famed amulet, it was Toddlebrew’s band who had cast the most spells and actually been responsible for killing the Ghoul King, and thus could claim the win.

A great, and very bloody, game which was great fun (checkout Giles’ report here)! With Thaddeus seemingly unable to cast spells, I had to rely on demon spamming to keep myself in the game, but hey, what’s the use of being a Summoner if you can’t summon?

Back at the Cloven Hoof inn, Thaddeus and Oddleigh both gasped as they unwrapped the shining amulet from it’s filthy covering.

“Do you know what this is boy?” whispered the Summoner. “This is the key to controlling the ghouls that infest this city. With it we could raise an army of such creatures and turn them against the Lich Lord!”

Oddleigh grimaced. “Er, is that wise my lord? I mean, it’s bad enough having zombies around the place, but at least they’re slow and pliant to our will. But ghouls? Fast, slavering ghouls? Do we really want to be sharing the inn with one?”

Thaddeus glared. He was unused to his apprentice challenging him in such a manner, but he had to grudgingly admit that the boy had earned the right to question him, following his recent performance on the battlefield.

“Hmm… perhaps, in this instance, you are correct,” he conceded. “This thing is extremely rare and very valuable you know… and we do have one or two gaps in our bookshelves…”