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!”

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