Monday, 25 June 2012

Killer Shrews and the Temple of the Toad

"Let slip the shrews of war!" - Osric unleashing what can only be described as a shrewball (12d6 of pain)
What has Osric unleashed?
The heroes were ushered into the chambers of the great sage. Ugh had paid handsomely for the opportunity to ask the wise one about the location of a potent magical artifact that would increase his strength exponentially.  While somewhat forgetful the sage told them, in a rather long-winded fashion, that a hero called Gargantor had led a band of adventurers into the mountains seeking a long forgotten ruined temple to a toad devil. Gargantor had been born into a noble family. He had been absent so long that he and his companions were presumed dead. His family offered a reward of their son’s equipment for the return of his body. Fortuitously the sage had a map to the temple. Milgos pestered the sage for spells but got short shrift. Before leaving the city Osric picked up his trained attack shrews and Ugh dropped in to the local kennels and was relieved to find an war dog for sale. The hound was of the Molossus breed and paled in comparison to his loyal companion Fang II. However the dog was the best animal on offer and so he was purchased.
The Sage.
The map they had acquired suggested that there were three entrances to the temple in which Gargantor was said to have perished. Of these entrances they selected the one that looked like a rear entrance. They followed a sparse mountain trail till they arrived at a menhir shaped like a squatting toad. Osric and Ugh muscled it aside and descended a ruinous stone ladder. While the warriors set about creating harnesses to allow their animals to descend, Milgos scouted ahead.
Verbeeg are easily fooled.
Milgos, the dark elf trapped in a human’s body, crept ahead and soon discovered a family of ogre like creatures known as Verbeeg huddled around a campfire. He listened to their conversation learning that the injured Verbeeg male had been deposed as leader of his clan and exiled. Milgos decided to use his tried and true method of dealing with the mentally deficient humanoids with which he often dealt. “I am your god!” He used his magic to conjure a voice from the air. “You will be visited by some hero’s who will be led by a half orc with a dog. They will lead you to right the wrongs that have been committed against you. You will once again lead your clan. Help the orc and his friends and you help yourself.” It was then that Milgos’ attention was drawn to a rotting figure hanging from the ceiling. A withered husk, probably a human. He lost concentration, his spell ended, and he experienced the terrifying vision of being suspended above the ground while devil toads leapt, clawed and bit him. As quickly as the painful vision had arrived it left, leaving the elf shaken.

Ugh clanked into the room his mighty Molossus slavering at his side. After some discussion the Verbeeg agreed to assist and guide the group, leading them to a treacherous shaman and the new chief. The youngest Verbeeg led the way through the corridors till they arrived at a tree filled hall who's dome like roof was open to the sky.

Hill giants are no match for our heroes.
Milgos served as a scout and again he stumbled across some slow humanoids, this time hill giants. “This is your god!” He shouted feeling safe thanks to the invisibility granted by his magic ring. The giants seemed bewildered and rambled on about him not being a real god because he wasn’t trapped in a stone like the Verbeeg's deity. Milgos had the god promise them beer and the giants grudgingly agreed to hear what the humans, the god had asked them to trust, had to say. The ex Verbeeg clan chieftain stepped up and tried to convince the hill giants to aid them. The hill giants refused and a fight started. The towering brutes had foolishly overestimated their ability and were swiftly dispatched. The highlight of the skirmish was one of the large folk disappearing beneath a giant shrew swarm. Those blind critters are viscous. 

Sadly earlier in exploring the dungeon the shrews had run riot, ignoring their masters instructions, and had eaten plenty of dubious fungus covered insects. As a result two looked very ill and had to be put down. Osric did the job himself as was only right and proper. Dungeoneering is a dangerous business particularly to pets as Ugh can attest. The Molossus would have to be his 5th or 6th attack dog.

Not far from the giants hall the band found the Verbeeg's shrine, complete with head constructed form intricately carved stones. Beyond the shrine were the shaman’s chambers in which they found the new chief a human with fancy gauntlets; gauntlets that Ugh desired. Milgos positioned himself for a back stab. A brief conversation revealed the human was Gargantor. He did not wish to return to his family and was perfectly happy ruling the Verbeeg and raiding the local trade routes. He offered them wine for refreshment while they discussed things in a civil fashion. When offering a toast it became apparent that no party trusted the other. When raising their cups in toast Osric and Ugh smashed them together spilling the contents. Osric looked a little disappointed, reached for the bottle and chugged the dark liquid down. He promptly fell unconscious. Gargantor ceased with the pleasantries. He drew his mace and began smashing things. That didn’t last long however as the priestess Jana spoiled the party with a hold person spell. The shaman was no match for the group and was soundly pummeled till she surrendered.

Enraged, the ex Verbeeg champion stormed into the chamber and raised his spear ready to impale Gargantor’s face and reclaim his clan. Betty crossed the Verbeeg’s path and in a swift motion eviscerated the burly fool. “No one touches the prisoner,” she declared. The remaining Verbeeg fled. Sensing that they had little time the group grabbed what they could, including the shaman and the spell held Gargantor, and beat a hasty retreat.

They found their line of retreat blocked by two more giants. The result was much the same with this pair no more of a challenge than the last couple. Ugh was particularly impressed by the devastating blows he was landing thanks to his shiny new gauntlets. With the hill giants dispatched the remaining Verbeeg clan kept a low profile allowing the hero’s to escape unscathed. They had explored perhaps a fifth of the dungeon but left with what they had come for. Overall it was a most successful adventure.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep and an English Gentleman

A likeness of the esteemed author of this letter.

Well old chap I suppose you must be wondering what this is all about? Why has Monty left me these letters? The truth is that someone will need to know what has transpired in the unfortunate case of my incapacitation, incarceration or untimely death. It is my steadfast conviction that the nefarious organisation who perpetrated a monstrous murder is brought to account, if not by myself then by someone following in my footsteps.

I shall begin at the beginning as is prudent. I had received a telegram from a confidant, the accomplished author and expert on the occult Elijah Jackson. He had information concerning the Carlisle expedition and informed me of his immanent arrival. Not knowing the importance nor the significance of the Carlisle expedition, and not being in a position to ask given that I was reading from a telegram, I immediately used my telephone to call Dr Raymond Howser MD who is the world’s leading light in the field of Phrenology and who also finds time to indulge his penchant for archaeology. The Dr was dismissive of my enquiries fobbing me off with an Egyptian anecdote. In truth I doubt the Dr knew much of the Carlisle expedition in the first place though his mention of it being a ‘doomed expedition’ held the ring of truth.

A few days later I received a most unsettling call from Elijah Jackson himself. He had arrived in New York and wished to meet at his hotel room at 8 pm. He then abruptly disconnected the line before I could ask the most elementary of questions. Sensing something was desperately wrong I immediately called Dr Howser to persuade the amateur archaeologist to meet with me immediately whence forth we would endeavour to reach Elijah expeditiously. Getting Dr Howser to attend to the matter urgently proved fruitless as he had prior engagements and so I used the local metropolitan train to pay an urgent and unannounced visit to Mr Jackson’s Hotel room.

I must confess to using some subterfuge in attempting to gain access to Mr Jackson’s room.  This should come as no surprise given my current profession. The concierge revealed that Elijah was out but that did not allay my fears for my friends safety. I gained access to the level on which Elijah was staying and tried the door to his room. Much to my consternation it was locked and no amount of ‘tampering’ with the blasted lock would aid in it’s opening. Cursing my ill fortune I scouted the outside of the hotel but could not discern an appropriate fire escape that would grant me access to Elijah’s hotel room.

At this juncture Dr Raymond Howser MD deemed it necessary to grace us with his presence. It seemed the urgency of my call had alarmed him after all and he had cancelled his meetings for the day. We returned to the hotel lobby where in the Dr caused a scene by trying to bribe the concierge and then, upon being rebuffed, threatened to call the police. I swiftly ushered him from the foyer and across the road where we partook of some light refreshments while we awaited Elijah’s return. I could not shake the ‘bad feeling’ I had.

A good 20 minutes prior to our meeting time we returned to the hotel, ascended in the lift and knocked briskly upon Elijah’s door. With no response I had little choice but to break down the door. What I saw beyond was a scene of horror but certainly no worse than the aftermath of a good old fashioned trench shelling as I experienced first hand on many an occasion during my stint with the British army. Raymond was stunned yet I had the presence of mind to notice a fleeing figure heading towards the fire escape. I drew my .45 and fired a single round that hit the scoundrel square between the shoulders. Incredulously the villain survived and continued fleeing at such rapid pace that before I could fire another shot he had vanished into a waiting black automobile and fled the scene.

I now have the unfortunate task to describe the scene that had so unmanned the good Dr. My acquaintance Elijah Jackson had had his intestines removed, his chest sawn open and an occult rune carved into his forehead. The rune looked not unlike a sun. He had on his person a ticket to a lecture along with several items that suggested Elijah Jackson had been making inquiries into a great number of occult activities from around the globe. The sound of a siren led us to the point of no return. Could we trust the police to solve this crime? I could not with good conscious answer in the affirmative and so the Dr and I took it upon ourselves to solve this murder. To do this we would need to retain the evidence we had collected and so we hastily vacated the scene before the immanent arrival of the constabulary.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Death of a Dragon.

‘That makes two dragons I’ve killed.’ – Osric as he marks another notch on his longbow.
Why do adventurers always try and stab you in your sleep? 
The great Red Dragon Abraxus stretched his mighty reptilian form. The coins of his treasure horde clinked and clattered beneath his bulk. He yawned loudly. The noise echoed about his cavernous chamber. He was bored and being bored made him tired. The residents of the dungeon never passed through his cavern, no one interesting had visited since that last band of hill dwarfs, and they had provided little more than a few fleeting moments of entertainment. He craned his head down to examine the charred corpse of the dwarf who had declared himself the bands leader. 'We are searching for a tomb' the hairy creature had said. Abraxus had shown the dwarfs a tomb of sorts; Abraxus’ chamber would serve as a tomb for the hirsute interlopers. 

The upstart wizard Enlandrin had invited Abraxus here, shown him the vaulted chamber with the natural gas flame pit and then left the dragon to his own devices. It seemed that Enlandrin merely wanted the status of having a dragon in residence. Abraxus amused himself looting and pillaging the countryside  amassing a sizeable horde. He scooped up a taloned fist of coins and shook his head at the disappointing amount of silver and copper amongst the gleaming gold. The great drake considered terrorizing some local farmers but then sighed at the futility of it for they would only have more copper and he had enough of that already. Instead he would rest.

Abraxus was startled awake by a shrieking banshee. But not the undead elven variety; instead a mad armoured woman with a sword was busy trying to carve slices from his flank. Other armoured figures appeared all desperately trying to pierce his scaly hide. He would have been amused if an arrow hadn’t lodged itself in his neck.

Abraxus exhaled a great plume of flame and the banshee was silenced, falling in a smouldering heap. A smaller creature, partially concealed by a rocky outcrop began screaming as flames licked her hiding spot. The other armoured figures started to scramble dragging the still burning banshee to shelter. Now Abraxus became the hunter. Another arrow thunked into his armoured chest. That pesky archer needed to die. The dragon heaved its lumbering form in the direction of the pointy-eared bow wielder when suddenly he found his way blocked by a wall of spider web. The petty magic of humans only served to anger him further. He exhaled again and the strands of web melted away. Abraxus looked again towards the archer but was distracted by a bellowing, chest thumping knight who stepped out from between two pillars of rock to challenge the drake. “I’M HERE! KILL ME! DO IT. DO IT NOW!” Abraxus was nothing if not obliging and so lunged at the warrior, his fangs glancing off the brutes armour. A little embarrassed the drake pretended he was toying with the mortal, as a cat does with a mouse. This did little to assuage his feelings of ineptitude.

A human had leapt onto his back, sharp blades clutched in his hands.
‘Why do these pesky humans keep shouting and … By Tiamat my spine!' The pain was excruciating, unlike anything Abraxus had experienced. Another arrow thunked into his neck. This was getting ridiculous. “Parley, Mortals!” he roared. “You have bested and humbled Abraxus, a feat no other has managed. Spare me and I shall owe you a favor. There are denizens in this dungeon who I harbor no love and would aide you against. I have information, useful information on their strengths and weaknesses and what it is exactly that you shall face. Did I mention that you will have the favour of a dragon whose single breath incinerates dozens of mortals? My treasures are yours. All I ask is that you spare me.’ The two closest mortals stopped and looked confused. They lowered their blades and for a moment the cavern was still. Then the rain of arrows started up again seeking the weak points in Abraxus’ scaled hide.
NO YOU FOOL, WE COULD HAVE HAD A DRAGON!” the spine stabbing human yelled. The knight before him raised his blade and lunged. It was  clear the truce had been broken before it had even had a chance to begin. Desperately Abraxus exhaled again and the knight defiantly fell to his knees consumed by flame.
What would you do if a dragon owed you a favour? 
The great dragon muscled his way toward the cavern entrance and began scrambling up in such haste that loose stones clattered to the cavern floor in a mini landslide. Abraxus’ desperation made his escape all the more difficult. The loose stones originally intended to serve as an alarm instead served as a trap. The sky, he would seek the sky and flee these adventurers and their horrors. Abraxus would spread his wings and soar. If he was to die let it be as dragon on the wing and not as a rat trapped in a hole. Alas for the great red wyrm it was not to be. An arrow lodged in the back of the drake’s neck where the skull meets spine. It sank so deep that it severed the spinal column and the mighty dragon collapsed like a marionette whose strings are cut. While he could no longer control his limbs the dragon remained cruelly conscious. The last thing Abraxus saw was the charred knight approaching with a bloodied sword held high. The warrior drove the blade down with a sickening crunch of bone, and Abraxus the dragon was no more.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Chaos Warbands – Khorne strikes back.

Our warbands are not this cool yet.

A chaos warband game had been on the cards for some time. Weeks in the planning a friend from High School, who remains obsessed with little men, had volunteered to game with us. He’d rolled up two warbands both of which seemed far too randomly powerful. I think he had a giant in one warband and a vampire in the other. Warbands is nothing if not random and the furthest thing from fair possible. That’s a feature though and not a bug.

Warbands, like early versions of Warhammer, works best with a GM adjudicating and throwing curves balls at the players to spice the game up. Early Warhammer scenarios felt a lot like role-playing games, which was no doubt intentional. With three of us someone could serve as a GM. This would be awesome. Sadly our friend was a no show. No idea why but what can you do? We could still get a game in we but would have to come up with the story ourselves. Optimus Prime made the point that the more random you put into the scenario the more you ‘simulate’ a GM. He’s right. Ogres arrive, demons are summoned and the scenario spiced up all at the whim of the dice.

So robbed of a GM, Optimus Prime and I sat down with the Realm of Chaos books, turned to the narrative generator chapter and rolled a d100. The result was a fight in a chaos shrine set in a cavern, which simply wouldn’t do. Optimus had headed to the shed and pulled out his old cardboard buildings, it was clear we would need a scenario involving a village. The next scenario was a fight in a fort that one of the warbands had infiltrated disguised as nuns. This sounded fun but was too silly for Optimus so we gave up rolling and just read through the entries looking for interesting missions. It wouldn’t be long before we found a suitable plot and formed a game around it.
Lum the mad, summoner of demons and caster of random spells.
Lum the mad was a powerful sorcerer whose mind had long since fled. Banished from the Empire he now roamed the wastes wreaking havoc. Warblegut and Doomgrab Ripflesh had been charged by their respective demonic patrons with ending Lum’s life. The rogue sorcerer had erected a series of magical barriers at twenty, ten and five inch radii. He then stood in the middle of an abandoned village and began a ritual to summon demons. It is always good to have ‘ticking clock’ in a scenario whether it’s a regiment of Knights Panther, a tribe of ogres or an imminent demonic incursion. Lum’s defences could only be lowered by the spilling of blood. Each death would lower a barrier meaning it would take three deaths before one of the champions could strike at the sorcerer.
Both warbands on the outskirts of town.
Warblegut surrounds himself with beastmen.
We randomly determined where our warbands would start the battle. Fortunately we started close to each other. Warblegut now sought safety amongst the herd of beastmen. His solo career ended thanks to too many brushes with death. His hobgoblins and beastmen limped across the battlefield due to various leg injuries. They rounded the houses and edged around the board towards their rivals, eager to spill blood.
Doomgrab Ripflesh prepares an ambush for his slow moving rivals.
Doomgrab had the advantage of maneuverability and used it to charge the beastmen herd. Perhaps he feared Warblegut’s crossbow or the historically inaccurate archery of the hobgoblins? Either way he issued a challenge to his rival, gambling on landing a hit with his sucker tentacles and finishing his foe nice and early. The dice gods were cruel to Doomgrab and he missed. With his retaliatory stroke Warblegut sliced the tentacled freak in two. Blood for the blood god! Toad-spike the orc had also charged into the fray along side his master and thanks to the momentum of his charge held his ground.
Doomgrab gambles and loses while his sorcerer buddy Slashbite watches on.
Toad-spike the orc is surrounded and dragged down.
Slashbite Venomfist unleashed a torrent of stones at the herd but did little damage as beastmen in 3e have a mighty two wounds. The hobgoblins charged for the first time and promptly failed their cool test. This is a good thing! They flew into a frenzy and started hacking at the orc who was pushed back and then torn down as the units he was holding off swarmed him thanks to the wrap around rule.
Did someone call for some Bloodletters?
With two creatures slain Lum’s magic defences were looking shaky. Unfortunately the two warbands had given him enough time to complete his summoning. Bloodletters appeared at the far end of the village and while they were demons of Khorne Warblegut knew they would show him no mercer. Backing up to the edge of the board, ready for a quick exit, Warblegut’s band drew their missile weapons and prepared to pepper their foes with bolts and arrows. Warblegut lined up Lum with his crossbow and planted a bolt in the fool’s belly. The hobgoblins let fly with an ineffective volley of arrows at the Bloodletter that stalked them.
Slashbite tries to blast Lum with magic.
Slashbite began to cast assault of stone at Lum but failed to summon enough magic power to do so. We had decided that Lum the mad would cast a random spell each turn from all available spell lists. Often this produced a pointless spell but sometimes it would produce something cool. First up was leg breaking, we figured that given that Warblegut had hurt him he would be the target. It seemed poetic really given that the champion of Khorne had already suffered a crippling leg injury. The chaos dwarf resisted the magic with a successful will save sparing his other leg from snapping.
Wind of death takes its toll.
Slashbite hides in a cottage.
Slashbite needed a place to hold up and meditate as he had run out of magic points. He chose a building and ducked inside just as the Bloodletters were closing in. There was a chance the Bloodletters would go after easier targets (my hobgoblins) so we diced for it. The dice decided that the demons would continue to hound the mage now hold up in the cottage. Lum let loose a wind of death spell that causes a strength 3 hit on every living thing on the board including the caster. I died a little inside as I thought ‘here we go Warblegut is going to die again!’ Luck was with the champion but not with the rest of his band who suffered terribly. The hobgoblins panicked from the spell inflicted casualties and Warblegut’s band of beastmen joined them and fled from the board.

Slashbite flees to the tower but is trapped and hacked down.
Slashbite hung in there for a while escaping the cottage and fleeing to the villages tower. He had meditated enough to cast one more assault of stone spell at Lum but failed to hurt him. Lum had managed to roll up vanish which allowed him to teleport into the tower on the back of a demonic steed. Once there he threw the barred door open and the demons swarmed in. Slashbite was slain soon after.

Warblegut had killed a wizard, which netted him 5 victory points. He had accumulated enough victory points to be rewarded by Khorne and received the gift of regeneration. One of his beastmen followers received the gift of a giant head, which does nothing except make you look stupid. He had also earned a bit of extra loot that I used to grab a horse for my crippled leader. This may turn out to be a terrible idea as it’s safer for him to hide amongst the herd rather than stand out on the back of a horse. We’ll see next game. Doomgrab, Slashbite and Toad-spike the orc all survived their casualty rolls unscathed. I lost a hobgoblin and a beastman ended up with crappy toughness going forward. The gradual crippling of Warblegut’s warband continues.