Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)


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Post Sat Mar 30, 2019 8:48 am

Re: Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)

Padre wrote:
Lands Annex wrote:Oh ho! Colossus! Hmmm, something monstrously evil must be lurking behind the walls!


Note the last line: "You and your construct will stay, to protect the other flank.” The Colossus is with the Portomaggioran army, not the enemy!!! (Lord Alessio calls the colossus a 'construct' because that's what it is. Think of Rhodes and you'll get the idea!)



Heh, yes I got that, I just meant the if the "big guns" like the Colossus are coming out then the enemy must have something of similar scariness waiting in the wings!
Better to keep your mouth shut and appear an idiot than to open it and remove all doubt.
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Post Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:16 pm

Re: Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)

Sorry, Lands Annex - I was just worried you might be disappointed in what lay behind the walls!

...

The Battle of the Valley of Death, Part 2: The Battle

There was activity in largest of the valley’s walled graveyards, for a pack of ghouls were busy pulling up the more recently buried bones, sucking out the putrid marrow and chewing on the foul, foetid flesh still clinging to them. There was a plentiful supply, for many of the dead from the recent War of the Princes had been interred in that yard, including several many more who had been executed as undesirables by the Pavonans after their conquest. The ghouls’ feasting was now disturbed, however, for despite their ever-ravenous hunger, they could not fail to notice the gathering armies upon the valley sides.

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(Game Note: There were scenario rules for the necropolis valley – the graveyard had a pack of 4D6 ghouls, which would attack any who drew too close, although the undead could use their necromantic magic to make them part of their army. Also, one of the two mausoleums, to be randomly determined by the GM, contained 2D2 swarms of bats, and they too could attack anyone who disturbed them with their proximity, although again the vampires could attempt to gain mastery over them by using their magic dice.)

As soon as Captain-General Lord Alessio spotted the approach of undead vanguard, he ordered the army entire to advance. Lord Ned led his hunting pack forwards, cautiously at first to allow the spearmen beside him to match his move.

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In the centre of the line the pikemen began their own advance, forming a column to move between the crossbowmen and handgunners flanking them, thus allowing for volleys of bullet and bolt even as they manoeuvred.

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The allied army’s wizards and priests, although barely noticeable as they conjured and prayed, were busy. The priests blessed the Verezzan pikemen with holy Morr’s protection, while Lord Alessio’s court magician, the arabyan Hakim, felled four of the zombie cultists accompanying Biagino with a banishment spell. But it was the Colossus that achieved the most astonishing magic, inflicting Shem’s Burning Gaze on the hexwraiths with such power that all five of the ghostly (yet dangerous) riders were dissipated entirely from the mortal realm. A cheer went up from the nearby Portomaggioran Sea Wolves and the halflings, the only allied regiments close enough to witness the event. Their cheer died away, however, when they saw the terrorgheist and the mortis engine still moving up towards them.

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While every cannon on the hill was turned to target those same monstrous entities, the hand-gunners and crossbowmen let loose such a volley that not one dire wolf remained to continue its probing advance. This elicited a cheer from the other flank of the allied army.

Biagino frowned, as he was now becoming fully aware of just what the enemy might do before his forces even managed to engage them in combat.

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He peered up at the massive artillery battery upon the hill, and from the absence of smoke knew they had yet to be fired. Squinting to make out details despite the painful light behind the guns, he was very dismayed to see where they were aiming.

There was a moment of quiet after the sharp rolling crackle of the handgun volley had dissipated …

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… then suddenly the valley was filled with the roaring blast of the entire battery. Not one gun failed to fire, perhaps due to the attendance of no less than four different city-realm’s master engineers. The Pavonan cannons sent magically flaming round-shots at the terrorgheist, one missing but the other tearing right through. A split second later the Reman gun sent its own iron bullet into the beast, and it slumped to the ground bereft of undeath.

Before the Sea Wolves could begin to cheer a second time, the two Portomaggioran cannons and the furthermost Verezzan piece sent no less than three balls into the Mortis Engine, breaking off several large shards of whatever foulness it was made of. For a moment it seemed that it might continue its advance, but it broke into two, as if unfolding, then collapsed in pieces to the ground.

For a moment, there was a stunned silence, perhaps encouraged by the wave of foul magic that washed out, howsoever weakly, from both monstrosities to caress the living soldiers and unnerve them, but it was brief, and as it passed, they knew full well what had been done. A mighty cheer erupted.

Biagino felt the loss. It was not so much painful, more like being winded, as if a considerable portion of his own strength had been sapped away. The only parts of his army already to advance had been immediately obliterated, and while the remainder had yet to take even one step towards the enemy, two of its mightiest components had been blown apart like nothing more than dry leaves.

For the briefest moment, a burning rage threatened to overcome him – a bestial fury which made him want to throw himself and his whole army at the foe, wild and reckless with anger, regardless of the consequences. He yearned to rend their flesh, snap their bones and drink deep of their misery, to sate his ravenous hatred and punish them for daring to oppose him. But the desire quickly passed, and a clarity born of his cunning now suffused him. He knew that to advance in the face of such a foe would mean certain destruction. If there had been more vampires in his army than merely himself and Arnaldo, more necromancers than solely his new servant Severino, then perhaps sufficient aetheric winds could be woven, enough necromantic magic conjured, to repair and sustain the army in the face of the enemy’s thunderous volleys? But he knew it were not so. He had lost so much already, before the fight had even begun, and to continue this battle would surely mean defeat.

His mistress did not send him here to perish, or at least not to do so while barely scratching the enemy. He himself revelled in his new condition, bringing with it the promise of everlasting undeath. He refused to allow pride and anger make him sacrifice all he had, and so he gestured this way and that, as if he were doing nothing more than moving imaginary chess pieces but in truth subtly signalling his lieutenants, and within a moment his will was done.

The necromancer Severino bowed almost imperceptibly and led his regiment of skeletons forwards into what had already proved to be a killing zone …

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… while the vampire Arnaldo snarled a command to send the mob of zombies shambling towards the foe.

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When the ghouls in the graveyard began pouring out, yearning to feast upon the zombies’ decaying flesh, Arnaldo summoned enough magic to bind them to his service, and thus turn them towards the enemy too.

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For a moment, Severino hesitated, having noticed the massive body of spearmen advancing to his left …

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… but before he could decide whether to wheel his troops to face them or to continue his march directly on, a lashing hail of missiles was loosed from the soldiers and guns on the hill opposite. All around him his bony warriors were breaking into pieces, the clitter-clatter of their shattered bones clunking from one fleshless anatomy to another to rattle off the vacant skulls and between the empty ribcages of their comrades. Severino was himself pierced several times over by the sharp shower of shards and fell to the ground clutching at his face in a vain attempt to protect himself, whilst muttering the words of a spell he thought could keep at least a part of his regiment on their feet.

Upon the far side of the field a storm of arrows, bolts, bullets, round-shots and even the colossus’s enchanted flames, tore bloodily into the ghouls and zombies, but could not find their mark on the vampire Arnaldo, for he was skulking behind the stone ruins to conjure every scrap of magic he could to keep his zombies intact a little longer.

All this was as Biagino intended, for his only purpose was to escape. The walking corpses he had ordered his lieutenants to lead forwards were to be his rear-guard. He had left them upon the field of battle merely to buy himself time, knowing full well they could never reach the enemy lines. The living soldiers were to be distracted by the task of blasting away at the regiments before them, their vision obscured by clouds of black-powder smoke. By the time they had begun picking their way through the ruins of the valley and over the shattered remains of Biagino’s soldiers, he was already running, surrounded by a crazy mob of flagellant zombies, through the ancient, ruinous village to the valley’s east.

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Games notes explaining (in detail) the weird shortness of the game will follow!
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Post Tue Apr 02, 2019 7:05 am

Re: Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)

Spectacular! It's good to see that the vampire is no fool. Wouldn't do to have an enemy too easily defeated. But the outcome seems generally satisfactory. And the glorious art! Well done sir! Well done! Smashing, as it were. (Particularly to skeletons and hideous necromantic war machines.)

I cannot afford to start collecting Warhammer Fantasy, but man . . . You will pauper me, sir. This is utterly fantastic. Even White Dwarf never had it so good.
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Post Tue Apr 02, 2019 7:15 pm

Re: Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)

Thank you for your comment, symphonicpoet. Cheered me up no end in these miserable Brexit times!

I have a dilemma now, however, as the piece I have written to properly explain the events behind the shortness of this last battle is 2400 words and somewhat bitter in tone. I am sorely tempted just to carry on this thread without the post, as the story of Biagino's flight makes perfect sense in game-world terms, and having a battle that was decided so quickly is entirely possible in a fantasy realm like my version of Tilea.

Maybe I should put the post elsewhere on the forum and not interfere with this thread?
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Post Wed Apr 03, 2019 5:17 am

Re: Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)

Padre wrote:the piece I have written to properly explain the events behind the shortness of this last battle is 2400 words and somewhat bitter in tone. I am sorely tempted just to carry on this thread without the post [...]

Maybe I should put the post elsewhere on the forum and not interfere with this thread?


I’m morbidly curious now. Hopefully the answer isn’t that player whose army was promptly devastated got too frustrated to continue...


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Post Wed Apr 03, 2019 5:42 am

Re: Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)

As you say, the game makes perfect sense in game world terms. It doesn't require too much explanation. Especially if the out of game dynamics are too bitter a brew to swallow. I like bitter brews, but I married a wonderful woman from Vietnam, so I've come to terms with the fact that some folks want some sweet with their bitter. (At least part of the time.) Your story, so your decision on how (or even if) to progress. Just know that we like it. :)
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Post Wed Apr 03, 2019 10:25 am

Re: Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)

Thank you for the comments. Because of your curiosity (and especially your prescient prediction) Orjetax, and symphonicpoet's interest in bitter brews I am going to put the essay here. I will not put it on any other forums, but if anyone asks I will direct them here.

Here goes ...

Game Notes for the Battle of the Valley of Death:

Be warned, this post is long. If I am to properly explain things it will take some time! So if you are reading the campaign reports as a game-world story of Tilea, like a strange novel, then please skip this. As some of you are possibly interested in the complicated workings of this campaign, then I have included. It provides a very substantial 'glimpse behind the curtain'.

This was, in my 36 years of Warhammer Fantasy, the shortest game I have ever played. It was conceded after only one side’s round in turn one. We never even finished a full turn! The undead player did nothing but move his two vanguard units. We did, however, out of campaign story necessity - there are 5 other players - subsequently roll a few dice to get an idea concerning what would have happened during the undead round to perform their rear-guard action.

The story behind this is complicated and involved an unexpected real-world player decision, modifying the campaign rules, and (luckily) Biagino’s urge to (un)live to fight another day.

I will start with the real world. The undead player decided, having seen the destruction dealt to his force in round one, that Warhammer was no longer ‘for him’. He had played for 20+ years, having (beautifully) painted several armies over the years and played in a few of my campaigns, but he said that since the ‘official’ death of the Warhammer world his interest had waned. Also, I suppose, as the campaign is such a long, drawn out affair, what with six players’ busy lives getting in the way, and a GM who turns nearly every event into a reason to model, paint, photograph and write, it might seem a tedious experience to some. He thus announced his retirement from the hobby and the campaign, there and then, in the venue (a local shop who had agreed to host the game).

For this battle alone, I had made the two large corner hills - driving to a huge B&Q to get the necessaries, and made other new scenery - the big church, the two leafless woods, painted several large sheets for the table parts that weren’t painted (there were two table pushed together) and made several other scenic bits using what I found in my bits boxes. I had previously visited the shop to sort a date for the game, then visited again the evening before the battle to set all the scenery out so I could check it and do whatever extra work was required that evening (the painted sheets to go on the unpainted table). I had produced pages and pages of information to go out to the players, including character information plus lots of army lists (some being campaign lists so no army builder program to help me, just word-processing), made banners for the NPC forces and worked on prequel stories for the battle. All this on top of all my ‘normal’ GM duties. I also bought food and drink for a picnic lunch for everyone. The game involved more than 124 painted figures that had never been on the table-top before, painted with the next game in mind, whatever and wherever it was going to be!

All this for a game of half a turn that lasted about 30 minutes, but took more than an hour and a half that morning to set up! Here I will happily admit I had to hide some bitterness on the day (which I did). I would have happily done all that and - with warning - could then have arranged for a stand-in player to command the undead forces.

The undead player also said he was annoyed at how the living army’s first turn had gone. He voiced concerns about unfair developments. Specifically, he was annoyed at the large number of cannons being employed against him, and the unprecedently large number of attendant engineers. He was also suspicious of the unexpected appearance of the 'Colossus of Portomaggiore'.

Here I will explain these elements.

The colossus was paid for by the Portomaggioran player many seasons ago, as a monstrous, magical construct to help in the defence of his city. He and I agreed it would be a 'counts as' Tomb King' army list Hierotitan, being a fantasy Mediterranean 'Colossus of Rhodes' type of giant, an animated (part magical, part mechanical) bronze and iron statue of an ancient warrior. Knowing that the ogres and the vampires were using the 8th edition army lists with their several monstrous options, I allowed it. Later the player asked to take the colossus with his marching army, which I also allowed, but warned him that as a consequence his army would march slower than normal. This was part of the reason the Portomaggiorans failed to catch the ogre tyrant Boulderguts.

(NB: The colossus has been hinted at in several previous campaign stories and player reports, but never properly described.)

The colossus was thus a GM-ruled allowance. Several players have bartered for such things, and this has always been a feature of our campaigns. If a thing fits the feel of the game world, and the player has built and painted the model, and pays the campaign-rules' costs, and sorted the rules with the GM, then they can have it. The colossus was paid for with season-end supply points, at an army list points-cost slightly greater than the Tomb Kings’ equivalent, and it took time to build. Its rules were agreed between GM and player. Biagino’s undead army itself also had some unique units, including three vampire thralls (non-magic using vampire fighter using modified rules!) and the Cult of Nagash’s flagellant zombies (50 zombies with a weaker version of the flagellant ‘The End is Nigh’ rule). These also were GM devised modifications of the normal rules, and so non-GW-official inclusions in the undead army.

I have, in the past, even allowed NPC armies to have such oddities and rarities – like the massive dwarf siege cannon, ‘Granite Breaker’, from Karak Borgo. Although in truth that actually had stats exactly as detailed in the tried and tested campaign Tilean army list we borrowed from several internet forum campaigns (Warhammer Empire forum campaigns).

Regarding the large battery of artillery, it was indeed odd to have six artillery pieces with five (yes 5) engineers. I think the vampire player thought we were being silly buggers. There is a campaign Tilean army list rule regarding the 'artillerist' mercenary skill stating that it costs twice as much as normal for a second one (which the Portomaggioran player, who did have two engineers, had paid for), but still 5 engineers is a lot.

But there was no conspiracy or cheating behind so profusion of guns and engineers, just a sequence of events which started long before anyone knew they were going to fight the undead, or even that they would ever be allied together. In a way it almost happened by accident!

Five armies were allied together on the living side: two player factions, being Lord Alessio's Portomaggiorans and Duke Guidobaldo’s Pavonans, and three non-player factions being the Morrite arch-lector's Remans, Lord Lucca's Verezzans and the army of Luccini. The best way to explain the force as it was on the day and its odd composition, is to work through events chronologically ....

- The undead were apparently winning the war. They had lost some battles, but each time they recovered, re-formed and returned, and they had now pushed further south than ever before, reaching the realm of Trantio.

- The ogres had won victory after victory during their 'grand raid', razing many settlements to steal a vast amount of loot, and thus badly damaging the central Tilean city realms.

- The living armies of central Tilea were most likely to lose against the vampires, even if they allied together, as they had been severely battered first by in-fighting, and then by Razger Boulderguts grand raid.

- The southern rulers (PCs and NPCs) were worried that the ogres and the undead would grow very strong if they robbed and/or ruled both the north and the central areas of Tilea, and that if allowed to continue then when they came south they would be truly mighty in strength. They were also worried that the two were in alliance, or at least had some sort of non-aggression pact.

- And so, several rulers, including Lord Alessio (PC), King Ferronso (NPC) and even the VMC (PC), in response to the pleading of both Lord Lucca of Verezzo and the Arch-Lector of Morr in Remas, decided to march north as a joint force and take the enemy on as soon as possible.

- Lord Alessio of Portomaggiore's player had built a large army (painting in RL and spending ‘supply points’ in the game world). He knew he would eventually have to face ogres and undead, probably in that order, so he decided to have two cannons and two engineers to ensure they worked well. (The player had commanded NPC forces in several games against both these foes.)

- Remas had what was left of its battered army, including one surviving gun and the city's engineer. Pavona (PC) had two guns remaining to its force, including the army's engineer.

- Meanwhile the smaller NPC states (Verezzo and Luccini) were fielding the small armies that they had kept even during peacetime (approx 1000 pts). As GM I had decided (long before, when first detailing the NPC forces of the campaign) that they would both employed the same thinking to create the best and most versatile little standing army - as if they were both following the same military manuals! Therefore both their armies consisted of some horse, some foot, including melee and missile, being pike and crossbow, and one or two cannons with a ‘household’ engineer to maintain them during peacetime and command them in war. The logic they employed was that if a war began their little standing armies would form the nucleus of bigger armies – with bulk militia and expensive, specialised mercenaries being added to make a larger, battlefield viable army. All this was done very early in the campaign. Now the war had come, however, they didn't have the time or the funds to add the extra forces. Some of their money was going to the larger factions they were begging to help them as part of the deals they had struck.

- While he was visiting Luccini for the young king's crowning, Lord Alessio (PC) agreed to march with the Luccinan army to Verezzo to fight the ogres.

- Duke Guidobaldo of Pavona (PC) had been attempting to get the Reman army to help him catch the ogres and regain the loot stolen from his realm.

- The Portomaggiorans, Luccinans and Verezzans rendezvoused and marched north, while Lord Alessio of Portomaggiore (PC) requested the VMC send an army north to assist in the defence of Living Tilea. General Valckenbugh (PC) of the VMC agreed, but it would be a long time before they reached the conflict zone.

- The massive 'triple' army failed to catch the ogres, but their scouts reported a substantial undead army occupying ruinous Trantio, raising legions of dead from the ancient realm. Messengers sent from Remas confirmed this.

- Meanwhile Lord Lucca was growing concerned about the army of the VMC marching north via his realm. He wasn't sure he could trust such foreign mercenaries in the employ of a Marienburg trading company. He was also worried about the mysterious force of goblins who had ransomed a Pavonan town, and suspected the ogres might be looping around to attack to the south. He requested to return home.

- King Ferronso also wanted to go home because it was reported that Sartosan pirates, rumoured to be gathering in strength, were eyeing his undefended city greedily.

- The Reman and Pavonan armies now rendezvoused with the Triple Army (you can see the story of their army council discussing plans in a large tent above!) They believed they were about to besiege a walled city containing a large army of undead.

- Duke Guidobaldo had already gone home, leaving his son Lord Silvano with a small force in the allied army. Lord Alessio (PC) had requested Guidobaldo leave what would be useful for a siege. Why would the Pavonans take their engineer but leave their guns?

- Lord Alessio told the Luccinans and Verezzans that for honour's sake they should leave a portion of their force to aid his assault on Trantio. They left their guns and some foot troops (which would have slowed them down on their way home). Of course, they also left their engineers, as if they had taken them the engineers would have had nothing to look after anyway!

- As the GM I thought "Bugger, this game is going to be so unfair - 4000 pts versus 8500" so ...

- I wracked my brains for a valid game world reason why the army might be smaller and came up with the idea that the Reman arch-lector (NPC) did not want - as he had done twice before at Pontremola and the Via Diocleta - to win a battle to no subsequent gain. On both those previous occasions the enemy got away to do more harm elsewhere. So he suggested his Remans and the Pavonans should form an interceptor force and head north of Trantio, to catch and destroy whatever undead forces attempted to retreat from the city.

- Lord Alessio (PC) said that was fine, but that it was a better plan to send an amalgamated force of all five armies’ horse soldiers, as well as light troops and scouts, with a galloper gun and the dwarves (who can't move fast, but who can run for a much longer time and thus could catch up each evening). Such a force would be much more likely to catch anyone trying to skip away, and would be almost useless in a siege/assault.

- This was agreed. Now the army marching on Trantio had approx. 6000 pts of foot soldiers, artillery, and the five engineers from four different armies.

Thus there had been no cheating or rigging, apart from the GM trying to even things in a little for the Undead player, to make the game worthwhile, but doing so through an NPC's logical response to game-world events. Instead there was just the long history of the campaign, involving PCs and NPCs, going back to decisions and listing made several seasons ago when myself and the players had no idea who was going to fight who, when they would fight, or who would join who, followed by events, politics, wrangling, debates, suggestions and plans.

This undead army, commanded by Biagino (an NPC lieutenant) was not the player's only army. His actual PC (the vampire Duchess Maria) was not even on the field of battle but leagues and leagues north with another army. As a GM I had no idea the player would feel so annoyed by the turn of events. If I was the player I would have been fascinated to see what damage (if any) I could inflict on the enemy before my army was wiped out. In truth, I would have really enjoyed the game, not least because the pressure to win would have been off and I could just enjoy trying anything to hurt the foe. It would have been an exciting challenge. For me.

Our campaign rules allow for a ‘rear-guard’ action for a force to successfully (if partially) withdraw from the field before turn 6. At least one unit has to fight at least one round of combat without losing, and then any other units can attempt to leave the field of battle by moving to touch their own game edge. The circumstance on the day didn’t allow this to happen, as the player did not want to play and was packing stuff up, so as GM I allowed a fudge and ruled that as the two sides were still quite far apart, and the undead were still close to their table edge, then as long as they sent a substantial force forwards to receive shot and magic and keep the enemy busy for a little while, then the rest of the force could attempt to flee. This is shown in the battle's final photos, quickly set up before the player left.

The outgoing player said that he reckoned Biagino would withdraw rather than face certain defeat, and so the rear guard was agreed on as his last command in the campaign.

So, that’s the real world and the gaming side of the matter covered. Now for the game world.

To explain the withdrawal in game-world terms is much easier. As it says in the story, Biagino really did not want to die. So he did whatever it took, sacrificing whatever was necessary, to escape! Whether or not he succeeds, avoiding the interceptor force to the north, remains to be seen! This turn of events seemed a very satisfying story development to me, and at least allowed me to feel some excitement again!

I apologise for inflicting this long and sorry tale on those of you who read it! If you did do so, however, I would love to hear your opinions, as then I might be better able to avoid such a situation arising in future.
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Post Wed Apr 03, 2019 7:47 pm

Re: Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)

I liked this peek behind the curtain, Padre.

Although I feel bad for you and your pals.

It sounds like your departing player had very different expectations of what makes this exercise a fun one.

If competing to win a balanced game is important, a person should play chess.

The storytelling and creative aspect is what makes this hobby worthwhile, in my view. And if that’s the view, a win or loss shouldn’t be what matters.

It sounds like you dealt patiently with the situation.


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Post Thu Apr 04, 2019 5:13 am

Re: Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)

It seems to me you handled all of it quite well. We, as players, are sadly human and sometimes make mistakes that give injury to the fun that other players have. Campaigns are made of unbalanced scenarios, so that's pretty much par for the course, if you've ever played in one. Alliances shift. Armies move in unexpected directions. Reinforcements arrive unexpected or end up stymied by the weather or other random circumstance. That's kind of what makes them fun. But not everyone is accustomed to that sort of game. (I love playing them when I get the rare and special chance, but they're not for everyone.) And of course, Oldhammer is less about points and balance and more about story generally, so maybe this particular community is untroubled by six (or eight) thousand against four. But hopefully you have salvaged the campaign so that others may continue to enjoy the wonders you have in store even if the Vampire Countess might require a new player. (And possibly a new face.)

As Orjetax said, the peek behind the curtain is wonderful. It helps me learn how to handle things like this. And it reminds me to be a better player and not get huffy when things don't go my way. There will always be other games if everyone plays nicely. And maybe tomorrow those folks across the table will be on your side. (It is fun, every once in a while, to have a wholopping winner after several difficult defeats.)

Anyway, well handled. I hope that Britain will ultimately decide to stay in the EU, in your campaign as in life, and that everyone will learn and grow as a result. But even if they really do walk off . . . well . . . there's still a lot of countries in Eu . . . I mean, the Old World. And there are many turns yet to be realized. Things can be more fun tomorrow. If only we can all learn to play nice most of the time. ;-)
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Post Sun Apr 14, 2019 12:44 pm

Re: Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)

Thanks Orjetax, and Poet of Symphonies. I'm no Brexiteer, and I do try to keep my players happy (ish) as well as ensure the campaign stays entertaining in terms of the stories it births.

With stories in mind ...

-----------------------------------

The Hunter Hunted
North of Viadaza, Autumn 2403

Two weeks out from the city of Viadaza, the army of the Disciplinati di Morr ground to a halt. The Praepositus Generalis, Father Carradalio, had decided enough was enough. Every night more men had died, despite the army’s precautions: the guards and watches set, the prayers spoken, hymns sung and devotions chanted. Every day they would march on, tired from their sparse and fitful sleep, exhausting themselves further, only to suffer once more at the hands of the deadly, nocturnal hunter the next night. If this was allowed to continue, their holy war would be lost before they even reached the vampire duchess and what remained of her army.

So, when morning came, the army did not recommence its march, but instead slept through the daylight hours. Their camp was to the east of the ridge of rocky hills running north from Rapallo to the bridge at Pontremola, separating the ancient road from the sea. On the road’s other side was a wide stretch of flat, open land, all the way to the River Tarano. While almost everyone slept, a handful of dedicants, chosen by lot, guarded, using every trick they could think of to keep themselves awake. What with their penchant for self-flagellation and whipping themselves into a religious frenzy, many employed methods both painful and bloody!

When darkness fell, however, and the bruised and battered guards crawled into their tents and huts, the rest of the army awoke and organised for the night ahead. Father Carradalio had ordered a hunt to be mounted for the slippery fiend, involving every part of the army (bar those few who were dead on their legs from their daylight watch). Carradalio himself, his Admonitor Vincenzo and his bodyguard of blessed torch-bearing dedicants, would stand ready near the camp’s centre, while the larger bodies of dedicants formed a surrounding ring of companies at a distance of about a hundred yards. The lighter troops, including the dedicant crossbowmen, the Urbiman horse and mercenary crossbowmen, would circumnavigate the entire camp even further out. All were to keep their eyes peeled for signs of the fiend, and if they spotted him, were to raise a loud alarm (by various means) to call everyone else to their proximity. Having the general and his elite bodyguard centrally placed ensured they would be among the first to reinforce whichever company had discovered the enemy.

This proved more difficult than Father Carradalio had hoped, for the foe was either slippery, cautious, or both. A trail was discovered, along with two corpses and three dead mules (apparently from fright!). The dedicants moved promptly, exactly as planned, but the fiend escaped. There was great frustration and disappointment, but Carradalio felt in his gut that the fiend could not elude him much longer, and both Admonitor Vincenzo and his dreams the next day confirmed his belief. As it grew dark on the evening of the army’s second day of camping, he knew the enemy would be found that night. He did not know whether the monster could be defeated, for his dreams had been cut short by his awakening just as the fiend came close, only that it would certainly be discovered.

In the second hour after midnight, with both white and green moons high in the sky, Carradalio’s prophecy proved true. He himself spotted the vampire, Lord Adolfo, lurking by a hut only two dozen yards away.

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Adolfo’s once-living body had been bent and bloated into a horribly bestial form, and a ridge of horny protuberances had burst through the flesh of his back. His skin seemed blue in the moons’ light; his eyes, made small by the bony excesses of his face, were wholly bloodshot; his teeth and nails had become fangs and talons. He had long since given up wearing clothes, for there were none made that would fit such a frame as his, and he had given no thought to having any made. Such niceties were forgotten, to be replaced by a passionate rage, a vicious hunger and a loyalty to his mistress that had long since strayed far from the wrong side of madness.

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Carradalio sensed the vampire had not yet noticed him, and so before raising the ‘all-arm’, before even signalling to his bodyguards, he whispered a prayer to channel Morr’s will and send harm upon the foe. He could feel his words made real. For a moment his own eyes became those of holy Morr himself and power flowed through them to lash out. But the vampire merely flinched, as if the curse were nothing more than a nip to gain his attention. He turned to look upon the priest, slowly lifting a huge scimitar aloft as if about to hurl it.

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“He is here!” cried Carradalio, his voice revealing only angry determination.

The vampire took no more than three leaping strides before his way to Carradalio was blocked by the priest-general’s dedicant bodyguards, with many more arriving behind. Each was robed in the grey and red favoured by Morrite clergy, their flowing garments concealing the scabs and scars of many months of flagellation. They wielded either axes or blades, with most carrying a burning torch in their other hand.

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These were not ordinary torches - the flames not merely fire. Each one had been blessed by holy ritual, making them both mundane and magical, to burn with a heat both real and ethereal. The flickering tongues were otherworldly, as if holes had been torn in the air itself to allow the light and heat of another realm to curl through. Were they to singe Adolfo’s flesh, his enchantments would not have healed him, for these torches burnt away the stuff of magic as well as that of the material world.

But so swift was his stab and slash that not one flame did touch him, and the dedicants began to fall, lifeless, all around him. Leaping over their corpses came Vincenzo, bearing his staff with its amulet of holy water, shouting his own prayers to join with Carradalio’s chanting. Yet nothing that Morr had to offer could pierce the evil magics shielding the vampire, and before Vincenzo had even swung his own blade, Adolfo cut him in two at the belly, spattering gobbets of blood to fizzle in the flames born by the few dedicants still on their feet.

In barely a blink there was only one bodyguard remaining …

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… and in half a breath he too was dispatched with ease. Father Carradalio had time to say only Morr’s name, before the vampire’s huge blade plunged through his chest. Adolfo grunted with glee, then hefted the blade upwards, so hurling the lifeless priest-general nearly a dozen yards to smash into a wagon.

The vampire froze, his giant blade clutched in both hands and dripping with blood. For the briefest moment he allowed himself to revel in his slaughterous butchery, to inhale the delicious, sanguine stench surrounding him. Then he caught sight of the mob. Swinging his head quickly about he discovered they were all around, and in some deep recess of what was left of his mind he knew that his end had come. It was a mere fragment of consciousness, buried in a mire of brutal cunning, bestial anger and ravenous hunger, and was quickly forgotten.

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Even as his blade recommenced its bloody work, the mob closed in on him, relentless. They were driven by a shared frenzy, cultivated through cruel exercises, perfected by hard practice, which despite being a temporary phenomenon, was in that moment not one jot less furious than Adolfo’s own.

From all sides came spear, axe, flail and blade.

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Each and every one was thrust or swung with no care for the wielders’ own safety, nor that of their comrades, so that umpteen of their own succumbed to the torrent of blows. And at the epicentre of the swirling rage, his foul blood gushing from umpteen wounds, Adolfo was hewn to pieces.

When the crazed combat finally subsided, the dedicants reeled away. Some sobbed into their hands, others cried out with faces raised to the sky, and yet more stumbled silently in shock, weapons held slack in their hands.

Father Carradalio was dead. Brother Vincenzo too. They were leaderless, the best of them butchered, with their work still yet to be done. They had not even crossed the bridge into the Vampire Duchess’s realm, and already they suffered a potentially fatal wound.

Was Morr testing them? Or did he already consider them unworthy of his blessing? Either way, the self-scourging was soon to begin, more bloody than ever.

………………………………….

‘Game’ Notes:

In order to resolve this encounter, as part of an ongoing wargames campaign, I had to play it out. Considering how short-lived a conflict it could prove to be, with one side having only one model, I did not think it worthy of inviting players to a table-top battle, so I played it out myself. No fudging or ignoring rolls which appeared to lessen the story – instead I accepted whatever results came up.

It may interest the wargamers amongst you to read the gaming notes of the fight described in the above story, and so here they are:

Having created charts to roll on concerning whether Adolpho or the cultists had surprise, who exactly saw who first, and whether or not the cultists involved in the initial encounter were alone, it was Caradallio who first spotted Lord Adolfo the vampire. Attempting to capitalise on the surprise, he conjured the prayer ‘Morr's Glare’ to curse the vampire. This was cast successfully, but Carradalio only rolled 1 wound, which the vampire then regenerated!

Adolfo now charged Carradalio but the general’s bodyguard (10 strong, with blessed torches that do away with regeneration saves and can harm ethereal creatures) got in the way. Adolfo could not challenge Carradalio as the bodyguard’s sole goal was to protect their ‘praepositus generalis’, and so I decided they were firmly in the way.

The 415 pts vampire was a killing machine - he had ‘beguile’ to ensure the enemy struggled to hit him; a ‘Sword of Bloodshed’ giving +3 attacks (8 in total); he was very strong, very tough, and regenerated his wounds. On top of all of this he had ‘red fury’ which meant all his successful wounds become an extra attack - e.g. 8 attacks, 6 kills, 6 wounds, then he gets 6 more attacks (but no more after that!) So I knew this was going to get messy.

Adolfo killed 7 of the 10 bodyguard. The surviving three failed to scratch him, even with 2 re-rollable attacks each.

Vincenzo now appeared and charged into combat. He attempted the prayer ‘Morr's touch’ to reduce Adolfo's Ld stat (aiding later spells). Dispelled. Carradalio tried to cast Morr's Curse to wound the vampire. Dispelled. Carradalio successfully cast Morr's Glare, but the vampire and him equalled their Ld +D6 scores, and so there was no effect. Carradalio attempted the prayer ‘Holiest Protection’ to give the dedicants a ward save. Dispelled.

The dice rolling for the Disciplinati di Morr has so far been truly AWFUL. I was so tempted to cheat, but I stuck to my guns and went with whatever, according to the rules and the dice, was actually unfolding. I have always done this with the campaign, that way even I don’t know what the future holds. I am thus a participant and a recorder of events, rather than the author of them.

Adolfo slaughtered Vincenzo, overkilling him. (Vincenzo had 'challenged' the vampire, now that there weren’t too many dedicant bodyguards to get in the way and they weren’t frenzied anymore, to buy Carradalio and the surviving bodyguard some time.)

In Adolfo's round, I didn't allow Adolfo to issue vs Carradalio as the 3 crazed bodyguards were still fighting to keep him from their commander. (Although they had lost their frenzy now.) Adolfo killed all three of them, then killed Carradalio, his ‘red fury’ allowing him to ‘overkill’ several times. (I know it wasn’t technically a challenge, but extra successful attacks informed the story I was to write – thus Carradalio’s dramatic demise).

The Disciplinati had lost their Praepositus Generalis, holy Fr. Carradalio, and their Admonitor brave Vincenzo, and their most blessed cultists, the general's bodyguard.

Now one of the two big surviving flagellant units showed up, being the smaller of the two, with 32 cultists, armed with nasty flails, (+2 str in the first round) and frenzied.

Adolfo issues a challenge, but I reckoned that they all just piled in furious – how would such crazed loons stop to watch a challenge fought? Two cultists died whipping themselves into a fury ([i]The End is Nigh!
), so that they were now frenzied (extra attacks), and re-rolled failed to hits and to wounds! The vampire effectively had a horde against him, fighting three deep - that's an extra 3 attacks for a total of 13 attacks at 5 Str in the 1st round.

Adolfo beguiled the unit leader (making it harder for him to attack) then killed 6 cultists. (His rolls were on the wrong side of average this time) The cultists then laid into him, flailing him so bloodily that he became a (dead) lump of battered flesh. (With re-rolls to hit and wound, 5 got through, of which not one was regenerated.) [/i]
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