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[Warhammer Fantasy 2e] The Shadow Of The Sun

Acrozatarim

Safe with us pandas.
Validated User
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The Shadow of the Sun

Talchaar rose ascendant, tracing paths of incandescence.
Eriktho stole his brightness, glowing with opalescence.
Darkness fell, and with it light.

- Carved in classical Tilean script on a tablet recovered from the Morrschatten Border Principality. Dated at approximately three millenia old by Professor Conrad Teuber of the University of Nuln, presumed to be of Remean Empire origin.

Welcome!

This is actually my second Actual Play that I have attempted here on rpg.net. The first, Echoes of the Past, was an initial attempt at a solo Werewolf: the Forsaken game that actually then resulted in a full, 21 month campaign of playing almost every week with a small band of players, and which I utterly failed to properly record. I've learned since then, though, with a successful trial run of audio recording sessions in DaveB's excellent Mage game, and we'll be using the same tools to ensure that no word nor event gets forgotten and lost to the mists of my bad memory and my hazy notes.

So here we are with a new WFRP campaign. It seems like we've been playing almost nothing but nWoD games of late – Werewolf, Mage and Vampire, all at the same time! - and I wanted to take a crack at something fantasy this time. After the claustrophobia of the Werewolf game, all set inside one city, the opportunity to have a bit more of an open setting was also appealing.

All of my players have at least some familiarity with the Warhammer setting and I have the 2nd edition books lurking on my bookshelf, so when I pitched it as one of the choices on offer, they jumped at it and I found that even threatening them with its highly lethal combat system was not enough to dissuade them.

WFRP it is then.

* * *

I've run WFRP once before, a couple of years ago. We went with the full randomised system, careers and all, and there was much fun had – the characters' were generally incompetent, yes, but that wasn't so much due to the oft-cited low ability scores that WFRP characters have but more down to, well, such fantastic decisions as infiltrating the sewers beneath a fortress only to realise they had forgotten to bring any light sources, or that sniffing warpstone powder was a fine idea. It was a good taste of the system and gave me some experience of how the combat part of the game runs – often at the expense of my beautiful, precious villains as they had their brains blown across the scenery or were shanked by determined PC's in close quarters.

This time, I wanted to take the lessons I learned from that trial run and do something a little different. I'm afraid that my take on WFRP this time may anger some of the mud, blood and grime purists out there.

So, my little rant. Skip straight past this if you just want the meat of the AP.

A Grim World of Perilous Adventure: WFRP is dangerous. It's a gritty setting full of darkness and corruption, where diseases can be a truly lethal threat and where the combat system pulls no punches. Society is superstitious, ignorant and tends to call 'adventurers' what they are – mercenaries or criminals.

That said, to quote myself, I do not intend to run a game where the players run a band of crippled rat-catchers wading through shit and getting dumped on by the world. I love that WFRP has that element, that the squalor and base tasks at the bottom of a feudal (yet evolving) society are right there in your face rather than sanitised at the back of a shiny fantasy land. I fully intend for it to be a Grim World, where the setting is one of power-plays between those desperate or ruthless enough; where people suffer through great hardships; where there are a myriad of external and internal threats; and where society is, often, quite ugly.

But fuck it, I love Colour Wizards.

For all the claims that WFRP is about diseased rejects of society waist-deep in fetid slop, Warhammer is an unashamedly fantastical setting. There are colleges of wizards, mankind's great weapon that it also hates and mistrusts, who wield themed forms of magic. I think this is awesome. There are bizarre and crazed beasts of brain-hurting anatomical form, some of which have bizarre and alien societies and others of which are quite happy to just eat people, and these conflict and struggle with humanity. This too is awesome. There is truly ancient sorcery, artefacts and relics of vast power, grand sweeping plots of byzantine form and defiant heroism even in the face of doom. And this, you guessed it, is also awesome.

I have no intention of throwing magic items at my players to result in D&D-style juggernauts clad tip-to-toe in sorcery. Magic and the fantastical is no shiny, clean thing – sorcery is dangerous and unreliable, while the strange things in the forest that look like fairies probably want to pull your teeth out and twine your guts around the trees. It's still dangerous. But WFRP is fantasy, and sometimes in truly grand style.

More than that, WFRP does not have to be about incompetent cretins who get caught in horrible cultist plots by mistake and probably die. It does not have to be about the GM actively punishing players for every risk they take by making them contract diseases, lose limbs or die. These things are all possibilities, accepted risks for the characters, but I often see people pontificating about how the correct way to run WFRP is in an adversarial manner, out to get the PCs.

Screw that.

I want fantasy, and I want bravery and action. Both the fantasy and action are dangerous, and characters may die. That's the risk. But I am not out to 'get' the players, or their characters. I want an awesome game. A game of Perilous Adventure, not slopping out the pig pens and contracting pig-hock rot.

Let's see if I can manage it.

Next Up: The Themes, Setting and Character Creation - Border Princes Ahoy!
 
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Acrozatarim

Safe with us pandas.
Validated User
So there I was, faced with the prospect of putting together the campaign for my eager, nay, Warhammer-thirsty players. Ah, the myriad of choices on offer – Warhammer is such a rich setting. Perhaps I should run a New World epic with the PC's aboard a ship destined for Lustria, with its legendary gold, ruined and ancient civilisations, tropical disease and giant geomantic god-frogs? Maybe a journey into the depths of Imperial decadence and corruption, weaving through the plots of the nobility and the courts in the great cities of the Empire? Perhaps a brave or foolhardy band scouring the northern coast on a swashbuckling saga of angry Northmen, psychotic Dark Elves and arrogant Marienburgers on the high seas?

Well, none of those things, because I pitched the damn campaign to the players as “Border Princes, with you guys coming to power then getting stabbed in the back by some git.”

I have, ahem, refined the concept a little bit since then.

The Border Princes:

I was originally inspired to run a Border Princes campaign by the Renegade Crowns sourcebook. Well, that's not quite true – it wasn't the contents of Renegade Crowns that inspired me, but rather that there was this book about the Border Princes and, hey, that's a good idea for somewhere to run a campaign!

So... it sideswiped me with inspiration, as it were.

Why the Border Princes rather than the core Empire? It's all about freedom.

The Border Principalities are something of a clean slate, not really detailed anywhere and placed just right to have justification for almost anything you want to be in them. It's a melting pot, albeit an oft-brutal one.

Where else can you have all the bits of Imperial culture you want, toss away the bits you don't want, and add in a dose of social fluidity that isn't present in the Empire?

I am not going to be running with the rather free-for-all feel of Renegade Crowns, where every bandit chief and his dog is a 'prince' over a patch of mud and states barely last five minutes before someone gets stabbed in the pub and it turns out you just killed the ruler. I am aiming, instead, for a balkanised patchwork of little 'countries' and principalities that are more stable than the Renegade Crowns version, but still offering opportunities to the cunning, lucky and strong.

What do the characters do when they discover that the leaders are flawed, imperfect people - when the opportunity arises for them to take that power and that responsibility for themselves?

In the Border Princes I can have the player characters rise to power and then have to handle all the problems of running their own little state. Real influence, power, responsibility and a chance of things going to hell.

And, of course, some git stabbing them in the back.

The Storm of Chaos:

A lot of WFRP aficionados have a real gripe with the way that 2e WFRP has brought the RPG and the tabletop battle game closer together. Now, generally, I disagree with them, because did I mention that I love Colour Wizards and the fantasy elements of the game? And then there's the Storm of Chaos, loathed due to its origin as a tabletop campaign and, indeed, one that had a whole load of high fantasy shenanigans, a reversion to status quo afterwards and the switch for the RPG from the theme of the Enemy Within to the Enemy Without.

I don't really have a problem with it, though I can see where they're coming from.

For me, you see, the Storm of Chaos is a fantastic opportunity. I'm not Games Workshop, after all, so I can have fun with the real implications of a war on the scale of the Storm.

Chaos has been driven off, yes, but the ramifications are terrible. The northern part of the Empire has been levelled. Thousands of able-bodied men were drafted to war, and thousands died – now there are so few to go home to their villages, and in the autumn after the Storm, crops rot in the fields as there is no-one to harvest them. Famine ensues. Plagues brought by the hordes of Chaos begin to run riot through the wounded, the starved, the despairing. Warbands still rove the dark forests. Deeper into the wilds, old and dangerous things begin to rouse as the backwash of all the Storm's sorcery disturbs their slumber.

Religion too is hardly the source of solace it once was. There are two rival Theogonists, one back from the dead and perhaps tainted by the enemy. Luthor Huss' own fanatical followers drive home their own agenda and beliefs, bolstered by the Emperor's treatment of the mad prophet. Valten, poor Valten, a simple blacksmith sacrificed on the altar of politics and expediency and now debated over fiercely by priests and madmen. The church is splintering and heretics rising in numbers.

And as for the Enemy Within turned to the Enemy Without? No, I say, the very opposite is true! People saw some of the cults within their number rise up and aid the hordes of the north, yes, and it merely serves to raise their fear and mistrust of their fellow man. More people turn to the cults, despairing at the situation of their country and with the Sigmarites unable to give them answers.

The country is weak, greedy Tilean and Bretonnian eyes looking over its borders – and within those borders it is a prime time for the Enemy Within to flourish.

So bring the spiky hordes of grimdark. Bring the blood and suffering, the massive death tolls, the shattered country and shattered people. After all, I only care about it as a backdrop for the events in the Border Princes.

What is important to me is: What interesting effects will the war in the north have on the neighbouring Principalities?

The Passage of Time:

The Warhammer world has an awesome, deep and absolutely illogical history that regularly changes, clashes with itself or otherwise makes no sense. This is fine by me.

One thing I want to approach in this campaign is the passage of time and how events can reach across the centuries, even the millenia. There are entities that can live for centuries, ancient civilisations whose handiwork still affects the present day.

When is the past a source of knowledge and power, and when is it a threat?

Just how does an elf look at the history of mankind, when they may have been alive for long enough that the forgotten events of past millenia are still vivid in their minds? What lessons have they learned? What seemingly unprovoked actions have their roots in centuries past?

What do you do when ancient history comes knocking on your door, and demands its property back?

And thus, after all this, we come to...

The Scene of the Crime – The Border Principality of Morrschatten:

Much will be revealed about Morrschatten, its mad rulers, dark past and the threats lurking within it during the course of this AP. All you need to know for now is what the characters initially do – Morrschatten was once ruled by a relatively stable noble family, taking the title of 'karl' for the ruler in the same manner as the might Empire. An ill-fated line, it seems that the last karl died childless some 25 years ago, after which his followers carved the principality up amongst themselves and have been bickering over the scraps since then.

And thence on to...

Dramatis Personae – The Motley Ne'er-Do-Wells and the Manner of their Creation:

As mentioned in the first thread, I wanted competent characters for this campaign. On top of that, I have had players also mention to me that, this time, they'd like to choose careers so that they can fit the concepts they have in mind. I'm all fine with this, although we still stuck with random generation for all the stats. For the other elements, like hair colour, place of origin and so forth, players had the option of rolling or choosing as they saw fit. On top of that, I gave everyone an extra skill to help make the characters fit their backgrounds better.

I ended up with quite a varied bunch indeed.

Constanza Kraemer, Amber Wizard Apprentice: Played by MrokGirl.

Constanza was born in a village near the border with Kislev, her father a Kislevite corsair who had retired from his life on the seas to settle down and who entertained his daughter with many a tale of derring-do and criminal enterprise. Originally a hunter, the teenaged Constanza began to manifest her magical talent to the fear of her mother and the other villagers, but the disturbance caught the attention of a travelling Celestial Magister who took the girl into his custody for a trip to the Colleges.

He explained the basics of her talent and of magic on the journey to Altdorf and, in many ways, his own Celestial approach has helped shape her attitude to her own magic, even despite her differing aptitude. Though she took well to training under the shamanic lords of the Amber path, out in the wilds and caves where her training as a hunter served her well, Constanza remains relatively happy to socialise and interact with humanity and avoids the stereotypical appearance of the fur-clad barbarian that the Amber wizards are often seen as.

The Storm of Chaos cost the Amber path many of their finest magisters. Strongly called to try and repair the corruption and damage done to the landscape of the Empire, the shamanic wizards of Ghur are spread too thin, too few – hunting beastmen and marauders, attempting to purify the tainted wild places, they lack the numbers for all the tasks at hand and are having to draw on even those of the order who are simply not ready yet. Constanza is one of these, an apprentice near the end of her training who has been dispatched on a mission for the Amber Order. A reliable and respected magister who roves the Border Princes, a man named Allor, disappeared from contact during the Storm of Chaos – his regular messages via bird, beast and spirit simply halted. Right now, every fully trained Amber magister is precious, besides the worrying fact of his sudden disappearance, and so Constanza has been dispatched to find out what befell him.

Freebie: Outdoor Survival skill

Yes, that's right, Allor :D For those who don't get the reference, Allor was the Amber Wizard in the computer game Shadow of the Horned Rat.

One thing I want to play up with this is the shamanic nature of the Amber wizards, so there will likely be a few custom rituals available to MrokGirl for contacting nature spirits. Also, Hunting Spear isn't on the Amber wizard spell list in WFRP. I protest most strongly at this!

Playing the wizard, MrokGirl is going to have the fun double-act of spells misfiring and superstitious fear of her abilities. Voted as character most likely to explode.


Narrin Magnarsson, Dwarven Mercenary: Played by mysyndrome.

Narrin Magnarsson of Clan Grung is what you might consider a socially progressive dwarf. He respects his culture, but feels it needs to move forwards and adapt. Well travelled, he has been to Tilea in the service of his clan's trading interests, though never really north into the Empire. Right now, he is enjoying a fresh burst of travelling, as he is trying to escape his wife.

The marriage was an arranged one, not to his true love but instead to a woman he considers rather a harpy and who he cannot stand. There seemed little choice in the face of clan honour and duty to his family, but Narrin found an escape clause, at least for now. After the ceremony, Narrin declared to the surprised gathering that in special honour of his clan and his wife, he would prove himself by expunging a stain on his family's book of grudges – the necromancer Matthias Ulrich, of whom rumours had arisen that he had reappeared in the Border Principalities. Time is ever wasting, of course, so he needed to depart straight away.

He reckons he can get at least a good decade of chasing rumours before he has to go back home and face his wife again.

Freebie: Literacy

Angran Meithalas, Elven Kithband Warrior: Played by psledger.

Angran is a very young elf at a mere youthful 50 years old, and one who has just had his horizons forcibly and unpleasantly widened. Dwelling for his entire life so far in an elven colony within Ostland, Angran was the son of the community leader and was being groomed as the inheritor of that position, firstly training with the other kithband warriors to master the arts of combat.

He decided to roll a d10 to work out what his status in the settlement was, and rolled a 10. Son of the noble leader, and a lovely plot hook for me.

It was a quiet and uneventful life, until the Storm of Chaos came. The rampaging hordes made no exceptions for elves, but most of the settlement expected their well-hidden homes to be passed over by the invaders. For whatever reason – sold out by human traitors, perhaps – a warband found them and tore the taciturn elf's life apart. He remembers the destruction, remembers seeing his own father slain by a plague daemon, remembers escaping. He thinks his brother made it out too, but he's not sure. Virtually no-one else escaped.

Angran had only rarely left the limits of the forest before. Now he was cut adrift and lost.

Some age-old grudge or feud between families ensured he would be denied sanctuary if he fled to his wood elven cousins in Loren, and he drifted to Altdorf without clear idea of where to go next. He found no warm welcome from the humans, although during this time he met the young mage Constanza Kraemer and was pleased to discover that her curiosity and her own status as a feared figure in human society put them on common ground. They became friends, of a sort, and when the directionless elf heard she was to head south into the Border Princes, he decided to accompany her. It would be good to have a purpose, after all, and who knew what opportunities there might be to the south? There were surely none left in the Empire, so fraught with fear and misery as it was.

Freebie: Perform (Singing) skill. Surprisingly, Angran has an excellent singing voice, although it is a talent he rarely uses.

Pawel Hals, Outlaw: Played by Kiero.

Life was never easy for Pawel, one brother amidst a large family in Wissenland. At the bottom of the Imperial social pyramid, he turned to poaching to feed himself and his kin and, one day, got caught. He was condemned to be hanged for this breach of the law. A short story, but a common one amongst the poor of the Empire.

Life had something different in store for Pawel, though. The recruiters came, drafting men for the Great War in the North. The jails were emptied, their sentences commuted to service. For Pawel, Denkmann's Irregulars was to become his new family.

The irregulars served as skirmishers and scouts during the Storm, kept in line by the truly savage 'discipline' of Captain Denkmann and his psychotic lieutenant. Desertion meant death, Denkmann made that very clear. There were silent games of cat-and-mouse with beastmen in the forests, chaotic night-time raids on Chaos forward camps, and risky reconnaissance runs where the Imperial officers wouldn't mind losing a detachment of such worthless criminals.

It was a private kind of war, very personal and close and savagely brutal, and Pawel survived. He survived, and he had earned his right to be a free man again despite it all. Now all that was left was to return home.

Except it wasn't there anymore.

His family had gone.

He suspects they were caught up in the flood of refugees seeking an escape from the poverty, the plagues, the famine and the misery. The rumours point to the Border Principalities, and so Pawel has followed the trail of his kin. He fought in the war out of fear of his commander, yes, but he also fought to defend his loved ones, and he's damn well going to find them again.

Freebie: Outdoor Survival.

Kiero was a late addition to the player group, so Pawel only joins after the first mini-session. His concept is the hatchet-and-knife kind of outdoorsman, sneaking through the forests and engaging foes in close-up battle.

We were both a bit confused as to why Outlaw doesn't have the Outdoor Survival skill!


I hope I've done their character concepts justice, and any of the players are free to pitch in and correct me, chastise me or otherwise contradict what I've written above :)

If there's any interest, I will post up the actual starting stats and abilities of the various characters, although they will be rapidly changing as they gain XP and buy advances.

Next Up: Session 0.1 – Ambush in Last Frost Pass
 

Elbast

Original Factory Setting
Validated User
Very cool; your stated reasoning for the Border Princes being almost thought for thought what mine was (when I started this game), so I'm intrigued as to what you will do with it.
 

Kiero

Retiring User
Validated User
Yep, I'd say you've done Pawel justice there. He's the ordinary guy representing the commoner in this group. I did quite enjoy getting to play the Big Damned Hero in the first session, even if I sometimes felt like I was playing WFRP "wrong".
 

Acrozatarim

Safe with us pandas.
Validated User
Session 0.1 - Ambush at Last Frost Pass

Session 0.1 – Ambush in Last Frost Pass

The Amber Order suffered the same great tragedy that beset the other arcane organisations of the Empire – many of their magisters lay dead amidst the northern fields of the land, nothing more than a banquet for the ravens now. They were faced now with the daunting task of attempting to cleanse the ravaged land of the taint that had seeped into its wounds. Alongside their brethren of the Jade Order, the few remaining Amber mages of any significant power went into the wilderness to hunt out this festering corruption. It fell to the lesser wizards of the Order to shoulder the burden of less-important tasks, even those mere senior apprentices who were judged to have mastered the very basics of the Amber path.

Thus it was that, with the need for experienced magisters so great, one apprentice was sent in the closing months of 2522 to cross into the Border Principality of Morrschatten, taking the only pass still traversable with the bitter cold of winter closing in. Her task was to find a missing Amber master, discover his fate and, hopefully, bring him back alive to help the reconstruction effort.


- Extract from 'The Hubris of the Witch: Flaws and Mistakes of the Colleges of Magic', written by Erik Hasseldorf of Nuln


So, after character creation, I was faced with a problem – how to get all the characters together in one group and thence to Morrschatten. Working with the three players that I initially had, we hammered together something for Constanza, Angran and Narrin. Constanza had been dispatched to find out what had befallen the Amber magister Allor, Angran had tagged along with her, and Narrin met the pair of them as they crossed the mountains. He helped them battle off some goblins that had made an opportunistic attack on the pair, and afterwards decided to tie his fortunes to theirs for now – they were heading the same way as he, after all, as the rumours of the necromancer had pointed to Morrschatten.

As we still had plenty of time that evening, I decided to run a mini-session for the characters as they crossed the pass through the Black Mountains. This was really just to have a quick test of the combat system to help re familiarise ourselves with it, to give us a taste of just how lethal it might be. It was a couple of years since I last ran this, after all, and I wanted a chance to have a trial run before we got into the campaign proper.

Nonetheless, we were aware that if things went wrong, we could end up with our first character death before the game even officially began!

And so, after rooting around the Old World Bestiary for a bit, trying to work out what to hit the players with...


The Last Frost Pass is aptly named. When the enveloping embrace of winter renders most of the passages across the Black Mountains impassible, Last Frost remains a clear route for entire weeks more. It is not a wide route, nor well-suited to heavy traffic, but these things do not matter to the mismatched trio walking its rocky road. What is important is that it is traversable, and it leads directly from Wissenland to the northern reaches of the Principality of Morrschatten, although it passes through a swamp on the way and this probably accounts for its lack of popularity amongst travellers.

Lying in that swamp is apparently a waystation, their first destination, serving as a stopping post for Imperial messengers who need a change of horse and as a place of rest for weary merchants. It is the first sign of civilisation on the path to the Border Princes – and it sits in a swamp.

The pass gouges its way through the great peaks rising around the band, leading them on a winding path through heavily forested valleys and rugged gulleys, the trees clad in the red and gold raiment of autumn's end. A chill breeze washes over them. The surroundings have a grand, raw, harsh beauty, wrought of nature's great scale, something that neither the taciturn elf Angran nor the young human Constanza have ever seen before. They watch as an eagle swoops down from high above into the valley, its cry echoing between the stony ridges.

Rain in the night has left the trees that edge this part of the pass covered in glistening moisture, but above them the sky is blue and the watery sun shines down. Cold, yes, but the air is crisp and almost refreshing. They keep their warm travelling garb tightly wrapped around them as they head south.

Narrin is pointing out the names of peaks as they pass them.

“See that mountain there? That's Karak Krin... the famous Blood Peak. There, Karak Graz. That spiralling cloud there, around that mountain, that's Cloudpeak. Eh, you're cold?” - Narrin, booming laughter at his chilly companions.

Constanza doesn't answer, too rapt in contemplating the Winds of Magic as they flow across the landscape here and down into the rugged valley ahead. The sky is shimmering, as strands of azure and light magic stream overhead. Down below, a waterfall that crashes down a cliff-face flickers with ambient jade energy. For the apprentice wizard, the witchsight is as natural and as part of her as any of her other senses, and it is a pleasure to behold the healthy, natural balance of magic in this area of the mountains.

“Cold... ah, it's a warm summer's day, this. When you start seeing icicles in me beard, that's when you know it's cold!” - Narrin

“Angran needs to eat more. Get a warm layer of fat under your skin.” - Constanza, to Angran

Angran is 5'11” and a mere 100lbs. Even for an elf, he's gaunt and thin – but stronger than he looks.

“An old mountaineer once told me, best way to keep warm is rub bear fat into your skin and then don't wash for weeks. Trust me, it works. That's how mountaineers survive in this climate.” - Narrin, sagely

The other two accuse him of lying but he sticks to his guns, and bets that if they meet a mountaineer, he'll be smelling of bear. Rotting, decaying bear.

Failed Perception checks by everyone at this point. It's a dangerous passage, so Narrin has his crossbow loaded, but no-one notices anything untoward as they descend into another valley.

Discussion about mountain-dwellers and their ways of life continues.

“I'm not saying it wouldn't work, but-” - Constanza

“I'm not saying they walk around with nothing else on. They have clothes and all that, but also the bear fat.” - Narrin

“Problem is that they'd have to kill a bear first.” - Constanza, unconvinced

“That's why you normally have a mate with you in this kind of climate.” - Narrin

This in turn leads to ponderings on how to hunt and kill a bear.

“A fearsome foe, but not invincible.” - Angran

“A crossbow bolt to the eye, a good old axe blow to the head, take down most things in my reckoning.” - Narrin

“You don't know about respect in your hunt or anything. You don't kill a bear with a crossbow.” - Constanza, disapproving as both hunter and Amber mage

The others are impressed as she states that, if she had the skill to hunt a bear, she would give it at least as much respect as to let it see her eyes as she came for it.

“Hmm, pretty brave. Pretty brave.” - Narrin

Angran indicates that he wouldn't want to go up against a bear, certainly not without using stealth. Constanza's opinion is that stealth is useful – but an animal is not treacherous, so she sees no reason to be treacherous to them in turn.

“Interesting. Hadn't thought about it like that before. Me, I'm used to this, y'know, good old stone. You can rely on this. You know what to expect in these mountains.” - Narrin

Tempting fate – at this point I asked for more Perception checks. Another round of fails. Angran failed by 50, obviously too busy being superior to his companions.

All this chatter was nice for helping people get more of a feel for their characters and to start of with a good bit of casual roleplay, but they all knew that it was just a set-up for whatever the test fight was going to be. It just made them more nervous when I said 'Ok, carry on guys!' after they bodged this set of skill checks as well :)


They continue on with a conversation about the dangers of this kind of landscape – rockslides, avalanches, and so forth. Narrin opines that the main passes are usually just threatened by difficulties like heavy snow and so forth, rather than treacherous collapses and gullies, and starts talking about all the different words that dwarves have for types of stone.

“Interestin'ly enough, it is said that the Tileans have a dozen words for 'a lie', and none of 'em are true!” - Narrin, who has been to the Tilean Republic of Remas

After Angran shows a moment of interest in where Tilea is, Narrin pitches in to describing Tilean government and society with gusto. He baffles the elf with the idea of 'voting', while Constanza finds the idea that there are wizards who are not trained by the Colleges in Tilea to be faintly horrifying. This diversion onto the topic of magic leads Narrin to rant about the superiority of rune magic over other sorcery.

They're on to discussing Gold wizards when they hear the distinctive zip of an arrow hurtling through the air. It buries itself in the earth in front of them, rough-fletched, having come from atop the rising bank to their left, while sudden angry roars burst forth from the nearby treeline to the right.

An ambush.

At this point, there was much rolling for Initiative, and we realised that the default method of Initiative rolling would mean that the order for the party would almost always be Elf->Human->Dwarf, as you roll 1d10 and add your entire Agility stat. For later battles we adjusted this to just add the first digit of your Agility, adding a bit more uncertainty to the Initiative order.


The eagle-eyed Angran spots the shooter, an orc, up on the rise and two more erupting from the trees. Covered in patchwork armour, the hulking figures are bellowing eagerly for the forthcoming fight, so the trio meet them with missile fire in return; Constanza frantically restrings her bow to get a shot off, while the other two are more ready for trouble.

The orc atop the rise hits Narrin with a solid arrow strike to his body, punching through the links of chain into the dwarf's chest. The other orcs come pounding forwards.

“So it's a fight you want, is it? Which one of you snotling-fondlers wants to die first?” - Narrin, bellowing his defiance

Angrily, Narrin shoots the archer right back with his crossbow, rewarded with a hit and a string of orcish curses.

One of the oncoming orcs has a shield, rusted scraps of metal hammered together to make the image of a scowling orc face, and it protects him from Angran's arrows, but Constanza's aim is true and she lands a hit. Then the orcs are upon them, and it erupts into a bloody melee. The archer up on the ridge gets frustrated at missing out on the brawl and starts to slip and slide his way down to join in.

It doesn't go well for the travellers at first. The orcs are hungry to kill a hated dwarf or elf, and rip into Narrin in melee, wounding him gravely and leaving him spitting broken fragments of teeth when one wild swing with a choppa hits him across the head. The dwarf replies with his own vicious axe-hacks, while Angran resports to a more graceful series of elegant strikes. Constanza alternates sword-strikes with her magic, her hands blazing with golden light as she lashes out; she unleashes darts of clawing thorn and burning Amber power, and she reaches with more subtle magics to send one of the brutes tumbling into sudden sleep. His eyes barely even close as he keels over with a thump, startling his kin who growl their consternation. The fight continues to rage around his fallen form as the orcs come close to gutting Narrin and Constanza with their crude but effective weapons.

Ultimately, however, the tide turns in the travellers favour with the apprentice's magic supporting them, even as the slumbering brute drags himself back to his feet once again. The orcs are either too stupid or too stubborn to flee, and fall one after the other – one has its leg torn to pieces by Constanza's thorny darts of sorcery, another loses an arm to a savage swing of Narrin's ancestral axe and bleeds out over the dwarf, and the last falls to the same blade as it is buried in the orc's chest.

All three survivors are spattered with blood, a mixture of red and green gore trickling down over their garb. Narrin is worst-off, having taken grievous wounds from the greenskins, and Constanza is left clutching at her arm where it was torn badly from a choppa swing. Angran is the least wounded of them all, his elven speed serving him well to avoid the clumsy strikes of the brutes, but even he has suffered some light injuries from the sheer ferocity of his attacker.

I know, I know. It's supposed to be a combat-test mini session, and what do I post up but reels of idle in-character chatter followed by a condensed summary of the fight?

I'm not a big fan of putting up round-by-round details of combat unless actual relevant decisions or significant events are occurring on that timescale. This was a relatively simple and straight-forwards battle of beating each other in the face, with the main action of interest being Constanza managing to Sleep one of the orcs with her petty magic, even if only for 1 round. It got very touch-and-go towards the end, though, as both sides were very low on Wounds and character death, or even a TPK, was on the table as a possibility.

End result: Constanza suffers heavy wounds, down to just 2 remaining. Narrin is taken down to 0 and starts to suffer light critical hits, but nothing long-term or crippling. Angran manages to avoid anything other than a light wound to his arm. All orcs dead.

Narrin came very, very close to death. He went to -5 wounds to the head from a choppa hit, getting stunned for 2 rounds as a result.

We also discovered that a mage can both cast a spell and make a regular weapon attack in the same round, making Constanza quite dangerous when she has the option to cut loose with her magic. She also managed to avoid rolling any 1's on casting checks, so no Insanity points just yet. On the other hand, as soon as the orcs saw her hurling darts of Amber magic around, they all piled on to try and kill her – casting spells is like painting a target on oneself.

Finally, during this fight I remembered Fortune Points, which really helped the player characters pull through.


Angran hurries to help his grievously wounded comrades with the healing lore he learned in the kithband, hastily binding Narrin's wounds first with what makeshift bandages he can make from shreds of cloth. Then he turns to Constanza and sees to her arm.

“Get some of this moss on it. It will stop the blood flow. We will remove the bandages again later and see what the wound looks like then.” - Angran, muttering more words than his comrades have heard him say in one go before

Heal checks manage to patch up Narrin for 1 Wound's recovery, while Angran fails on Constanza – but at least gets the wounds covered and bandaged.

Angran's speech is still stilted, clipped, as if considering every word, but the crisis seems to have brought out his ability to communicate as he hurries around. Finally, he pauses in treating the others, and hisses in pain as he remembers the wound to his own arm. He rolls the torn sleeve up to start bandaging himself.

Narrin is slumped against the side of the rocky rise, breathing heavily, and lays a kiss of thanks on his father's axe that has seen him through another battle.

Constanza is sitting quietly too, coming down from the shock and adrenaline of the fight, and wondering what the others will make of her use of magic.

“Now ye see why I left my wife, eh? Excitement like this.” - Narrin

“Exciting. Not the good exciting. Agh- my wound is superficial, I think.” - Angran, quietly

The stench of blood floats past on the breeze.

“We should get out of here before more arrive.” - Constanza, quietly

“Yeah... right. Oaahh... Give me a hand up, mate.” - Narrin, groaning in pain as he stands.

The dwarf pauses to kick one of the corpses in the face, shattering its tusks and smearing green ichor on his ironshod boot.

“Take their heads off and put them on the side of the road, then roll the corpses away down the hill.” - Angran

“With pleasure!” - Narrin, reaching for his axe once more.

It takes a little while to complete the grisly task, hacking through the dense muscle and bone of the orcs' necks, before Angran places them on some rocks by the road to presumably leave a message to any other would-be raiders in the area.

“Only good orc is a dead orc, or a dying orc who says where the rest of his lads are.” - Narrin

“We will never be free of orcs. We will fight them when we must and avoid being slaughtered wholesale by them.” - Angran

“Eh, sounds about right. I think you're right - best get to moving. Shouldn't be too far down the road now.”

And they set off once again, leaving the blood-spattered patch of trail and the grotesque row of emptily-staring orc heads behind them. The pain from their wounds reminds them of the brutal, savage fight they have survived; and, ahead, they see the gorge open out into a deep valley rolling away, where the pass winds its way down into a steady shroud of mist.

Down there should be the waystation, and the last leg of their journey before they reach Morrschatten.

And that was the end of the introductory mini-session. Neither complex nor plot-heavy – just a bit of character development and a nasty brawl.

I re-learned plenty about fights from this test run. Even orcs (especially orcs!) are really vicious opponents if the dice are in their favour, and numbers and ganging-up count for more than individuals with strong hits.

Everyone gained 100xp for surviving the fight – definitely well-earned, given how close they came to dying. Angran picked up the Rapid Reload option from the Kithband Warrior class to help improve his already-good skill at ranged combat. Narrin picks up an advancement on Weapon Skill, making him even more dangerous in melee. Constanza acquires more Willpower, always a good idea for a mage.

Neither of Constanza's companions mentions anything about her use of magic yet, leaving her unsure about their opinions of her now that she has displayed her talent.


Next: Session 1.1 – The Mists of Sumpfmund

In which Pawel Hals and a host of NPC's are added to the roster, and in which the players utterly scupper my plan for a 2-session adventure arc.
 
Last edited:

Acrozatarim

Safe with us pandas.
Validated User
Session 1.1 – The Mists of Sumpfmund

Marsh-Dweller ruins can be found across the continent – in the swamps around Marienburg, in the marshes of what is now called the Border Principalities, and other waterlogged locations that we would consider to be truly forsaken landscapes. Rumours even stand of Marsh-Dweller structures crumbling into the peat bogs of mist-shrouded Albion. In his seminal work 'On Our Forebears', the late scholar Epidirius of Tobaro postulates that the pre-Imperial culture behind the construction of these ruins cannot have actually lived in such unwelcoming marsh environments, as surely possessed of only basic knowledge of agriculture and cultivation as they must have been. Instead, he suggests that the Marsh-Dwellers treated the marshes as ritual sites of importance, building temples there to appease and adulate the watery gods or swamp-spirits that they worshipped.

I have seen the careful layout of the Marsh-Dweller structures near Marienburg, the sinking rubble of walls now little more than scattered debris but still showing the rough outline of a very careful arrangement of chambers in line with the celestial compass. I have seen, too, the hulking and cyclopean stonework that rises out of the boggy landscape of the Sumpfmund site, and can imagine the sheer effort needed to raise such a tower and shore it up in such treacherous and hungry surroundings. I am inclined to agree with Epidirius – these are the remains of pre-Imperial human cultures and their fervent, even desperate attempts to reach out to their gods for succour.


– Extract from 'Clawing at the Skies: Pre-Imperial Architecture and the Implications Thereof', written by Gotric Loeuvenheim, Professor of Antiquities at the University of Nuln, in the year 2037 IC

Welcome!

This was the first proper session of the campaign. Since I ran the intro, Kiero had joined the player roster, so he needed to be added to the band, so finishing off his character was the first point of order of the evening. Then we leapt straight in where we left off in 0.1

I had originally intended this to be a two-session adventure. I wanted to start the campaign with something that was both very old-school Warhammer and something a little different to the usual style of starting adventure. I wanted a dangerous, scary threat that was extremely hard to pin down, would require thinking to defeat and hinted at a few campaign themes.

There would be potential plot hooks and foreshadowing, introduction of the first few NPCs and a generally 'survival horror' feel, leading into a frantic second session as the band desperately try to stay alive.

However, the players (and their dice!) had other ideas – as you will see...

The Monster: I might give a few old-school WFRP purists more to gripe about here, as the monster is a classic WFRP one – but I have taken the idea behind it and made it my own, twisting the source material and adding some extra inspiration from real-world weirdness to better fit what I want.

Even with these changes, I expected some of my Warhammer-veteran players to pick up on what it was fairly fast, but it seems I chose something too obscure for even them :)



Narrin, Angran and Constanza limp their way down the rough track of the Last Frost Pass. Ahead lies the Sumpfmund basin, the entryway into northern Morrschatten. Fed by numerous springs, the basin is boggy and marshy, with the waters eventually flowing out and forming into a river that runs south into the principality. Somewhere in Sumpfmund's misty embrace is the Old Dragon waystation, a resting place for messengers and merchants that is funded by the Imperial authority of the Elector Countess of Wissenland – despite being outside the Empire's borders.

The Sumpfmund is rough terrain. Streams wind their way through the marshy woodland and rocky outcrops, and winter's chill has decorated the stones with icicles and the bark with frost. Over it all hangs an icy mist, not so thick as to be impenetrable but seemingly blanketed across the entire basin.

As they descend into it, Constanza sees the faint tendrils of ambient magic writhing in the fog. Just traces – not like the magic of a true Jade spell or sorcery, but something more than what should be there.

A successful Magical Sense test on MrokGirl's part. It tells her that the fog is being magically influenced – not as a spell, the fog fabricated entirely from Jade magic, but as if something is affecting the natural moisture in the air.

They hobble stoically on down the path. Ahead, figures appear out of the mist, hunched things in ragged cloth and accompanied by the smell of something animal... that turn out to be nothing more than pathetic-looking refugees with a donkey that looks like it has seen better days.

They've seen plenty of the sort as they headed south. There are many amongst the common folk of the Empire who seek an escape from the famine, the diseases and the marauders of the north. Yet most of the refugees they have seen were heading south or west – so why are these ones heading north, and why do they have such a haunted look?

Kiero: They've seen the adventurers coming. Hide!

Both parties give each other a wide berth. The older man of the peasant band stares will undisguised suspicion and fear at the trio, especially at the gaunt elf, but says nothing, skirting to the edge of the path to keep as far away as possible as they pass.

Narrin gives them a nod and an 'afternoon' in passing, but gets no response. Given how late it is, it seems a bit of a strange time for the refugees to be heading off. They'll spend the night in the worst part of the pass, after all.

* * *

The Old Dragon Inn sits well into the Sumpfmund swamp, a bastion of warmth and light in the cold environs. Surrounded by a wooden palisade, the little compound of buildings includes a sizeable main building in the classic Imperial style of timbers and white-washed walls, albeit one that is suffering in the swamp a little – creaking and leaning despite being on a promontory above the marsh. Ruts in the road lead up to it, while the path continues on round the promontory in the direction of the river.

The windows flicker with light in the growing gloom, and smoke rises from the chimneys and from unseen spots within the palisade.. There's a surprising amount of low hubbub from the compound as well.

A burly guard at the door with a magnificent moustache, clad in armour and the colours of Wissenland, hails them and holds up his lantern to better see the oncoming figures. As they approach, he calls over his shoulder into the compound for a 'Herr Schroding!', then turns back to watch the band cautiously.

“Identify yourselves! Come into the light!” - Guard, alert

His hand is ready on his sword hilt, and he stares at the bloodstained motley in front of him – he shudders outright when he sees the elf.

“Forwards, into the light!” - Guard, demanding

Behind him, a tall, gangly fellow with a thin moustache comes out of the palisade, clad in well-tailored clothes. Somewhere in his late thirties, this must be Schroding, who stares for a moment.

“Er... where are my manners? This is the Old Dragon Waystation, and you are travellers – you want to stay here?” - Schroding, nervously

“That'd be nice.” - Narrin, blunt

“We'd like to stay here a little longer than overnight.” - Constanza, reaching for the Imperial papers she has been given by the Amber order to guarantee her safe passage

The Amber Order provided Constanza with some papers to request safe passage in the name of the Empire - but the authority of such a seal will only go so far outside the Empire's borders.

Fortunately, Schroding is an Imperial subject.


Schroding sees the seal on the papers, looks over his shoulder, and asks them to stay there for a moment. He says they have rather a lot of people at the waystation right now, and he'll try and find a space for them, but first...

“Herr Doktor!” - Schroding, shouting into the compound.

Another figure emerges, a younger and rather gaunt man in a heavy overcoat and with close-cropped hair. He gestures at Constanza.

“Step forwards. Open your mouth. Tongue out. Show me your hands. Hmm, good. Now, good dwarf, sir, please come forwards.” - Doctor

He repeats the same process on Narrin, despite the dwarf's protestations that he doesn't carry any human diseases.

“My name is Doktor Jodric Gauss – a member of the Physician's Guild of Nuln. If you could please... breath out.” - Jodric, respectful to the dwarf

He recoils as the dwarf breathes out. He looks at Angran next and shrugs to Schroding – the innkeeper will need a mage to check an elf over, not a doctor, as they are quite inhuman.

Angran takes issue with this, and demands to be checked as well like the other two as he is the same. Jodric, who has obviously never looked at an elf up close before, nervously asks Angran to open his mouth, breath out and show the doctor his hands.

As Angran opens his mouth, he hears Schroding mutter quietly to his guard that Angran's teeth dont seem to be sharpened to points, and he asks the doctor if the elf's breath smells of meat, to be quickly hushed by the nervous Jodric.

Humans have odd ideas about elves, but this seems really strange to Angran.

“My apologies about this, given your injuries. There are many refugees coming from the north, you see, and often carrying diseases. We are stuck here for the time being. Now... what happened to you?” - Schroding.

“Grobi in the mountains.” - Narrin, sourly

Grobi is the Dwarven word for greenskins.


Doktor Jodric takes command of the situation, since the band clearly need medical attention, and ushers them into the compound. The guard watches them suspiciously – which is his job, after all.

Inside isn't quite what they expected, because it is packed.

A couple of dozen travellers and refugees have set up camp inside the palisade walls. Tatty tents and the meagre belongings of the poor travellers are carefully gathered up in the spaces between the stables and coach house. Over the other side is a big, ironshod heavy coach, the kind tax-collectors use, with an emblem of some unrecognised noble house emblazoned on the side.

The refugees whisper fearfully amongst themselves as they see the new arrivals.

* * *

Pawel Hals is stuck at the Old Dragon Inn. He was heading south, following the trail of his family, until he arrived at the waystation. Problem is that the Sumpfmund drains into a river, and to cross the river the path goes over a bridge.

And the Sumpfmund bridge has collapsed.

This happened a few days ago. Now, the crowd at the waystation are waiting for a repair team of masons and carpenters to arrive from the nearest settlement on the other side, a place called Karl's Leap. Until that happens, no-one is getting into Morrschatten.

Going back isn't much of an option – soon the pass will freeze over, and there are orcs in the mountains.

There are also rumours of bandits in the swamp, rumours that Herr Schroding denies and belittles when he hears them. And so, most people are unwilling to move from the waystation until the bridge is repaired.

Pawel has been observing his fellow captives over the last day, absorbing what information he can. Apparently the ruler of northern Morrschatten, on the other side of the bridge, is a greedy man called Prince Ludwig Schwertrager. It seems that after the old karl of Morrschatten died 25 years ago, his followers carved up his realm amongst them, and the trade route through the Last Frost Pass was disrupted. This wouldn't do as far as the Elector Count of Wissenland at the time was concerned, and he sent one of his knights to take the north-most part of the principality.

That man was Ludwig's father. The young Ludwig came from the Imperial court of Nuln and now, in his adulthood, sees himself as a true Imperial noble. He strives to be just like them. Hence he has paid for the services of Doktor Jodric Gauss, an accredited physician of Nuln – Ludwig wants all the trappings of Imperial nobility, including the very best retainers that his wealth can buy. The man's genuinely strong links with Nuln just feed his delusions of grandeur and importance, and Jodric is apparently just happy to go where the money is.

Then there's Gosric, a religious fanatic with bad burn injuries, who is a self-proclaimed 'Luthorite' apparently on his way to meet with the head of his splinter sect in Karl's Leap. The zealot keeps a small box on him at all times, ever clutching at it, and claims it is a relic of holy Valten though no-one else believes him.

The Luthorites believe in Luthor Huss' divine role as the prophet of Sigmar, and that Valten really was Sigmar's reincarnation. In the aftermath of the Storm, they advocate that the Empire should become a theocracy under the direction of Luthor.

Note that Luthor is not, himself, a member of this sect.


There's Wulf, the guard. Then there's an Imperial messenger, Ortolf, who arrived shortly after the bridge went down and seems to be going slowly mad in a corner of the tavern. He is constantly fidgeting, asking if the bridge has been repaired yet and generally seems desperate to get on his way and deliver his messages.

Wulf's full name is Wulf Blass, named for the Australian wine company, after seeing their advert too many times on tv :D

Next is Alric Gerthammer, servant of Prince Ludwig and the man in charge of the big armoured coach. He has a small band of Ludwig's guards with him, always keeping two stationed at the coach. He is unfriendly and tight-lipped about his business, avoiding socialisation and chafing at their delay.

Over in the other corner are the scholars. These well-garbed travellers apparently turned up not to cross into Morrschatten but to investigate some sorts of ruins out in the swamp, journeying from the University of Nuln on some expedition. Despite Herr Schroding's best efforts to dissuade them from entering the swamp, they seem set on the idea.

There's another bunch of surly bastards too, thuggish-looking and unfriendly sorts who keep to themselves.

Mostly, though, Pawel socialises with Kedric, an alcoholic and apparent veteran of the Storm, though 'socialise' is a grand way to describe Kedric's random mumblings through his drunken haze. Perhaps sobriety brings the memories of what he saw in the war too easily to the surface of his mind.

Woo, info dump! This was a quick run-through of the main NPC groups Pawel has noticed so far. Took a while but I think was worth it in the long-run, as it gave the players a good idea of just who made up the crowd in the waystation.

The thing is, the swamp has a strange air to it, something that slowly works on peoples' nerves. There are apparently no monsters, and no threat has made itself clear. Nonetheless, earlier in the day, one of the refugees snapped and declared he was taking his family back into the Empire with him despite the dangers of returning through the pass – damn the bandits, damn the orcs, damn the swamp.

Herr Schroding has obviously been here a while, and the swamp has gotten to him a bit – the innkeeper's gaunt look and twitchy disposition are signs of that. Even Wulf, the guard, has been here long enough to become suspicious and on edge.

* * *

Pawel's questions to Herr Schroding on whether the innkeeper had seen his family pass through this way get only vague answers – Schroding sees so many refugees of late that it's hard for him to pick any out that fit Pawel's descriptions. No help there.

Failed Perception check here that takes on a rather more... ominous nature given what they find out later in the adventure.

And then the strange trio of wounded travellers enter the main room of the waystation, shepherded in by a worried Doktor Gauss.

A golden-haired woman with dark, almost black eyes in her early twenties, almost hidden under her damp, wide-brimmed hat and with a feather entwined in her hair. A very, very skinny elf, inhumanly so, armed and armoured; ash-blond hair and strange, almost alien copper eyes. A scowling, bulky dwarf with well-kept black beard, broken nose and a fresh new scar across his head.

So an elf, a dwarf and a human walk into a bar... :)

* * *

Inside the main room of the waystation is not a pretty sight. This is no welcoming tavern but a cramped little place with far too many people cluttering its interior, huddled around makeshift tables and wreathed in a pungent atmosphere of smoke and sweat.

As the trio make their way across the inn, the harried Doktor trying to get them to sit down while he fetches his physician's bag, Pawel rises to his feet.

“Travellers! Any word from the south?” - Pawel, hopeful that they found a way across the river.

The man who stands is athletic, skin weathered from being outside, with dark hair and well-worn clothes.

Narrin complains about a welcoming committee that brings choppas while Jodric tries to explain hastily that these travellers were ambushed in the pass. Eventually Constanza shoos the dwarf away to be treated and turns to talk to Pawel.

“We came from the north.” - Constanza

Pawel, disappointed, turns away but Constanza asks him why everyone is stuck here. He tells her the bridge is down and the river too wide and fast and cold to cross.

* * *

Herr Doktor Gauss gives them what medical aid he can, applying fresh bandages and remedies to their wounds. It gives them a little comfort and relief from the pain.

Kiero: What, a decent doctor in Warhammer? Is he a real doctor?

Yep, Jodric is a half-decent doctor! One of the very few they will come across, probably.


* * *

Pawel and the drunken Kedric watch the newcomers and the reactions of the other groups stuck at the waystation to the trio. Nearby, the scholars are pointing at the elf in excitement, intrigued at this new arrival. Alric stares at the newcomers suspiciously as if, like everyone else he sees, he thinks they want to steal the contents of his coach.

Kedric confides in Pawel that he reckons sabotage brought the bridge down – there were a few boats for crossing the river too, difficult at this time of year anyway, but they were holed by someone. Despite Herr Schroding's protestations otherwise, he reckons there are bandits out there.

And the ex-soldier reckons the four surly louts over at the table there are part of the same mob, in here to serve as scouts and to help rob them all. He thinks they're deserters from the war.

* * *

Frau Schroding offers the band some food and drink for a relatively reasonable price once the Doktor has done with his bandaging. Eventually Herr Schroding comes over and apologises again for earlier, asking for any news of the north after the war, and makes small talk with the band for a little while. Discussion turns to Angran and the reaction he has received.

“I am afraid people are very suspicious of elves around here because... um... they... eat people. You don't eat people?” - Herr Schroding, cringing

Angran can barely believe what he's hearing, but Schroding appears to genuinely believe this. He grovellingly asks Angran to keep a low profile and avoid being seen by the refugees, to avoid causing any panic or disturbances.

“The last thing we need now is panic and worry.” - Herr Schroding, pleading

“I can assure you that cannibalism is not a practice of my people.” - Angran, curtly

“Oh, they don't practice cannibalism. They eat humans.” - Herr Schroding

“I'm afraid I personally cannot see the distinction.” - Angran

“Many things I'd accuse an elf of, and cannibalism isn't one of them. Treachery, yes, but not cannibalism.” - Narrin

“Watch it, or I'll shave that beard off while you sleep.” - Angran, smiling faintly

Narrin's favourite phrase is 'As sure as elven treachery.' Angran seems to take it in good nature, or at least good nature given his usual disposition.

Schroding makes his excuses and leaves.

Pawel and Kedric approach at this point, sitting down and giving themselves a better introduction – or at least Kedric tries to do slow, slurring through his private cloak of alcoholic haze.

“Sorry to surprise you earlier – I was just hoping someone had news from the south.” - Pawel

Discussion turns to the situation with the bridge. Kedric stumblingly explains that crossing the river at this time of year is difficult due to its width and speed, and trying to cross it further up means going right into the marsh – with all the danger that involves. Word is that help will arrive from Karl's Leap to rebuild the bridge within a few days.

“What's the rush? We are not in so much of a hurry that we cannot wait.” - Angran

Constanza opines that, with Narrin's injuries, they're going no-where for a few days anyway – Kedric gives the dwarf a respectful nod, recognising the work of an orcish axe carved into his flesh.

“You're in a hurry?” - Constanza

“I just want to find my family. The longer I spend sitting here, the further away they get.” - Pawel

“Wife and children?” - Constanza

“No – brothers, sisters, parents...” - Pawel

“I'm actually looking for a brother myself.” - Constanza, lying

“So you understand what it's like to lose your family as well, then. I was drafted to war and when I came back, there was no-one there.” - Pawel

Kedric repeats his belief to the band that there are bandits or army deserters out in the woods, and that they're probably responsible for the state of the bridge, and warns the trio to keep their guard about them, just in case. He doesn't know where the bandits might be camped out in the swamp, of course, other than somewhere high and dry.

Frau Schroding arrives with the food and brings Pawel another drink as well, false cheer on her face as she tries to keep spirits up amongst the travellers stuck at the Waystation. She refuses the drunken Kedric another drink, though.

* * *

Eventually, one of the scholars plucks up the courage to come over and talk to the motley band. He stands by the table and stutters for a few moments before finding his composure.

“May I?” - Scholar, gesturing at a table.

He introduces himself, hesitantly, as Conrad Teuber; he and his comrades are of the University of Nuln, on an expedition. Soon, his timorousness turns to a flood of eager chatter, intrigued at the presence of Angran, but he receives little other than curt and uninformative answers as to why the elf is in the Sumpfmund.

“May I ask where you hail from?” - Conrad

“The Empire.” - Angran, surly

“Ah.” - Conrad

“You're going to hear a lot of this,” - Narrin, quietly, to Angran

“So, er, why are you here, sir?” - Conrad, looking for solid ground in the conversation

“Why are you here?” - Angran

“Ah, well...” - Conrad. Eyes lighting up

Angran – not a people person.

It is like the floodgates have opened, as Conrad happily begins to tell them anything and everything about why he is here. Apparently, 200 years ago, a man called Gotric Loeuvenheim wrote a seminal work called 'Clawing at the Skies' about proto-Imperial civilisations around the Old World. The scholars are investigating the 'Marsh-Dweller' structures in the Sumpfmund and the Remean Empire ruins in Morrschatten that Loeuvenheim wrote about in his book.

“They say it's dangerous out in the marshes.” - Pawel

“Oh, nonsense and pish-tosh! Of course not. It's a marsh – watery, yes, but Gotric was able to make his way to the ruins just fine. Schroding has been most reassuring that the swamp is safe.” - Conrad

He seems extremely eager to go out there and take a look at the ruins, despite the potential dangers involved, and dismisses Pawel's talk of bandits – they've seen no sign of any, after all. Schroding has lived in the swamp for ten years or so – if he says it's safe, surely it is so.

They've been out already, in fact, and found one of the trails noted on Loeuvenheim's maps, leading to an old standing stone that is on a small hillock rising out of the marsh.

The mention of maps gets everyone's attention, and Conrad is happy enough to show them the annotated diagrams in the back of the copy of Clawing at the Skies that the expedition has brought with them, eagerly explaining the signs of ritual activity and the series of small walls that indicate a major compound. The map covers a few separate ruin locations, several springs and the location of a 'bog mummy' that was recovered.

“That's where they found a well-preserved bog mummy in the ground. It's now in the University of Nuln – you should go and see it some time!” - Conrad, blithely oblivious to the fact that the University wouldn't even let a peasant like Pawel through the front door

Conrad rambles about the cyclopean style of stonework and characteristic bog mummies associated with Marsh-Dweller ruins across the Old World – the structures are often crumbling and sinking, but have already survived a couple of thousand years at least as they are definitely pre-Imperial. The standing stone is still present so they're hoping the tower and other ruins Loeuvenheim noted haven't completely disappeared into the swamp.

The other two scholars, who Conrad introduces as Leopold, his peer, and the junior student Uto, approach nervously as well and join the discussion.

The three seem unseasonably cheerful and excited. They are unperturbed by the rough company at the waystation and convinced that this expedition will make their names in the halls of Imperial scholarship.

“It's very interesting, you see. The Remean Empire crumbled eventually, as we all know, but shortly before that, the Marsh-Dweller civilisation seems to have disappeared over a very short time period.” - Conrad

He shows them a picture of a very early 'Rosetta Stone' of sorts, between Classical Tilean and the language of the Marsh-Dwellers.

* * *

As the conversation winds on, Conrad mentions the oddity of the mist here in the Sumpfmund. Schroding says that the mist has been growing much thicker in recent days, for no apparent reason.

Narrin is talking to the younger man of the scholars, Uto, and mentions he is looking for a necromancer called Matthias Ulrich.

This gets a reaction from the student, who looks around to make sure Leopold and Conrad are distracted by their own conversations.

The Matthias Ulrich? He's... a historical figure. He's been dead for years.” - Uto, quietly

Narrin also lowers his voice, and assures the student that his clan records indicate Ulrich has resurfaced somewhere in the Border Princes.

Uto mulls over the dwarf's words, then switches the subject quickly.

* * *

Finally, the scholars leave them alone, although they finish with an invitation to join them in looking at the ruins the next day – it looks like they're angling for more people to add to their numbers to help them feel safer in the swamp, despite their earlier bravado about the dangers.

Because of Constanza's Imperial papers that she waved under Schroding's nose, she and her companions get given a proper room in the waystation. Well, proper room is an exaggeration – there is simply no space left, so they are allotted a cleared-out little store-room with some bedrolls.

It all seems very strange to Pawel. This young woman claims to be another traveler looking for her brother, but she has some sort of clout that is getting her, and her comrades, good treatment from the cringing waystation-keeper. Odd.

He goes his separate way out to his tent amongst the other refugees

* * *

“May Morr's gentle shadow watch over you.” - Schroding, bidding the trio good night

“Eh... got any wine left in your stores?” - Narrin

“Um... No. Good night.” - Schroding, lying through his teeth

They block the door after he has left them. The chill air and strange mist of this swamp is beginning to get to them.

Lots of roleplay, information and conversating in this first part of the session. While the adventure is fairly slow-paced up to this point, all of the above was covered in under an hour and a half and things are about to become rather more exciting. Not the good kind of exciting, as Angran would say.
 

Acrozatarim

Safe with us pandas.
Validated User
Once they are alone, Constanza has a quick discussion with her companions about her magic. Her fear is that her display of power during the fight with the orcs will have changed their opinion of her for the worse, but to her relief this is not so. Narrin seems relatively unfazed, though he things mages are mad, while Angran simply accepts that she has only begun to master one facet of the full spectrum that his own people's magi harness. He is no wizard himself, but sorcery does not mark an elf out as a pariah in his society.

Eventually, sleep claims them.

* * *

The night does not pass uneventfully.

A series of very hard-to-pass Perception checks are failed here. The reason for the difficulty was because they were made while asleep – but there was always the off-chance the characters might be woken by the first set of events and manage to intervene very early on.

Pawel is awoken by a commotion within the compound.

“I don't know!” - Wulf the guard, agitated

Two refugees – one man, one woman – are shouting at the gate guard. The woman seems in tears as she demands to know how Wulf could have let her daughter leave without noticing. The guard is groggy from being woken, having fallen asleep himself.

“Yes, I was asleep! The gates were closed, and she would have made noise if she went past me. Why would your daughter have left the compound? She must be still inside the palisade.” - Wulf

“But she's not. She's not in her bed!” - Refugee mother, distraught

As the refugees rouse and word quickly passes around of the disappearance, Wulf organises a quick search of the compound, but they are unable to turn up the missing girl.

Herr Schroding is missing too.

* * *

People are awake now, if upset and confused. As the elf, dwarf and mage emerge from their quarters, Alric is aggressively arguing with Wulf about why Herr Schroding is gone too, and how they could have left without Wulf noticing.

Outside, it is cold and the swamp is quiet, despite the tumult within the palisade walls. The mist hangs thickly in the air, stirred by slow currents.

Pawel talks to the distraught mother, trying to calm her down and find out more about what has happened. It seems the girl, Gertruda, did stir in the night, but her parents assumed she was going to the privy pit, and when they next woke she was still gone. She weeps about how that fortune-teller in Pfeilerdorf had told them they needed to keep watch over the girl because a bad fate was hanging over her...

Pawel's high Fellowship proves valuable at this point, as it does later too – he is able to calm the woman and restore a semblance of calm to the situation.

Pawel suggests a search party, and they petition Wulf to organise one.

“It's the swamp, and it's night time. Are you mad? If you go into the swamp now... oh, alright...” - Wulf, grudgingly

He rounds up volunteers and tries to find some torches to help pierce the darkness of the gloomy swamp.

The father of Gertruda pleads for anyone who can help, and is taken aback when Angran volunteers.

“I will help. I do not eat people – but I can see in the dark.” - Angran

Phil: The thing I am trying to prove is that if I show I can help, maybe people will stop being afraid of me.


Constanza stares out into the fog, watching the tendrils of Jade magic – the fog and magic is stronger at night, it seems. Dark magic is often associated with the night, which is worrying for the young mage.

* * *

Several search parties are gathered and sent in different directions. Pawel, Constanza, Narrin and Angran are in one party – and they manage to conscript the confused young student Uto into joining them while he stumbles around sleepily and stares in confusion at the disturbance amongst the refugees. Constanza feels Narrin is too injured to risk coming with them, but the stubborn dwarf is having none of it.

With Pawel's and Constanza's skills at navigating wild terrain aiding Angran's training in finding and following paths, they quickly find the faint marks of someone's passage into the swamp.

I had Pawel and Constanza making Outdoor Survival checks during this period, with successes adding +10% to Angran's Find Path skill.

The trail looks like the footprints of a girl, probably Gertruda, and the footprints of a man, presumably Schroding. Sometimes, though, there are large smears of mud as if something – or someone – was being dragged. It's hard to tell whether Schroding was walking beside Gertruda or came after her, as the path is narrow. At least they have a trail.

Fortune points are used to reroll a pair of 99's on Outdoor Survival checks, to make sure the band managed to keep and follow the trail deeper into the swamp.

Uto references his copied map from Louvenheim's book, and mentions that they are following one of the trails that passes near the standing stone and the surrounding series of pools in the marsh.

They pass through gullies and around the edge of still, quiet swamp pools. The mist shifts around them, cold and damp, drifting amongst the scrawny leaf-bare trees. Everything is wet and dark; the lantern is muffled by the fog's all-encompassing haze.

* * *

As they walk, there's a sudden change in the mist for a moment. It billows and shifts, as if some distant, vast beast is breathing in the airs of the swamp.

Constanza sees the magic of the mist strengthen massively for a moment, a shockwave of dark and Jade magic pulsing through it, before it dies back down again. She staggers, blinking, from the jolt of it.

Everyone else feels the hairs on the back of their necks rise and a deep chill wash over them, even over the cold of the swamp.

Pawel makes the sign of Sigmar's protection as the fog settles back to normal.

Constanza puts her hand on Angran's shoulder, and he jumps in surprise. She gives him a meaningful look and they press on into the swamp.

Everyone's nerves are strung a little more taught by the odd event.

* * *

To one side of the trail, Pawel sees a disturbance amongst the rotting matter of the swamp floor. A length of rope, coiled and mostly hidden, that has probably been cut recently from the fraying at one end.

“Pretty strange place to leave a rope.” - Pawel

They ponder this mystery for a few moments, then Pawel takes the rope. If the terrain gets very treacherous, at least the rope can be used to tie them together.

* * *

They proceed further, Angran leading the way – but even his elven eyes have difficulty piercing the cloying mist. To Constanza's eyes, the magic is only in this fog – not in the pools and mud of the swamp floor, at least beyond mere ambient levels. Narrin and Pawel are both armed and ready in case of any trouble, holding the rearguard. Uto saunters along in the middle of the band, feeling mostly useless and miserable, and occasionally referencing his map.

There's a little confusion from Angran here over the phrase 'keep your eyes peeled' – Phil rolls his Reikspiel skill when the character encounters idioms to see if he understands them. It's very nifty.

They're quite close to the standing stone's hillock here, according to the student. The trail is still leading them on.

Then, up ahead, Angran hears movement. He creeps ahead of the rest, using a tree as cover, and trains his bow on the shape staggering and slipping out of the fog.

Good Silent Move, Concealment and Perception checks for Angran here.

The shape resolves into a man, and then the man resolves into Schroding.

He's smeared with mud and his clothes are damp from slipping and falling. His eyes are a little wild and his skin pale from shock and cold. Otherwise, he seems unharmed.

And he nearly has a heart attack when he looks up from stumbling back along the path, and sees Angran's copper eyes gleaming in the darkness.

“Aaagh! Morr's gentle shadow! Uh... elf...” - Schroding

As the others reveal themselves, he seems to relax slightly, glad to not be alone with the elf.

“Explain yourself.” - Angran

“Uh... the girl. I heard some tumult, something was taking her from the compound. I went out and followed the trail, but lost it ahead. I was coming back, since there seemed no hope.” - Schroding

He maintains that he heard some noise, got up, went out and saw the trail and followed the commotion.

At the urging of the search party, he shows them where the trail ahead leads.

* * *

They pass along the muddy trail between strange, round pools whose far edges are lost in the mist. Great blocks of dark, wet stone have tumbled at odd angles in the centres of the pools, ruins of some ancient structures now fallen into the swamp. A few trees and scrubby pieces of dead undergrowth pockmark the shore.

The trail abruptly ends by one of the pools.

“Nothing. Nothing from here. It just stops. There's nothing more here.” - Schroding, miserable and shivering

“Unless she went in there.” - Pawel, indicating the pool

“Maybe. That's all I could think of. She must have fallen in.” - Schroding

There is a smear in the mud at the edge of the pool, as if someone or something went in – or came out.

The mud around here has been disturbed, too, by older tracks – but they are beyond recognition before.

“Uto – how did the civilisation that was here before deal with this marsh? Did they drain it?” - Pawel

“Well, that's very interesting, because the Remeans built a big lock-gate below these basins in the mountains, which is how they drained the Eriktho basin in Morrschatten; so there's a chain of locks there, which was rebuilt by the Arabyans as well during their, er, counter-crusade. Here, though, we think was marsh at the time, maybe a bit less marshy... Umm... The Marsh-Dwellers structures were very interesting, such large and solid stonework... Er... We think that they didn't actually live here. These may have been holy centers, you know, not true settlements. Certainly everything points at ritual activity.” - Uto

I couldn't resist a Time Team reference.

“Maybe very early Rhya worship, or Manaan in a different aspect to the sea. There's a few symbols on the ruins, not really associated with any current religions.” - Uto

A slight derail at this point into the similarity of Elven god names to some human ones, and whether they are in fact the same gods.

Constanza sees something very wrong with the pool – unlike the other marshy waters, this one is suffused with faint Jade magic.

She pokes the pool cautiously, with a stick torn from one of the shrubs.

The magic doesn't change, but a few arms-lengths out, some bubbles rise up and burst on the surface.

Everyone stares at the bubbles and reach for their weapons, suddenly afraid.

“There are, er, no large animals in the swamp...” - Schroding, trembling

“So what could have done that?” - Pawel, unconvinced

Angran pulls a branch off one of the sickly trees nearby, while Pawel keeps his bow trained on the bubbles.

It doesn't look like something breathing under the water, though, as the bubbles only seep up irregularly, following no pattern.

The elf returns and pokes the branch into the water, feeling thick, sucking mud. Eventually he hits... something, releasing a burst of new bubbles. It's heavy, and moves slightly. Constanza sees the Jade magic of the pool flicker a little.

The only person who can swim is Pawel, who finds himself in the unenviable position of being the one to retrieve whatever's down there.

“I can offer you alcohol and a warm fire at the other end. I wouldn't demand it of you – I wouldn't want to go in there, I can admit that.” - Schroding

Pawel strips down, revealing the few scars he picked up during his time in the army and the soldier's tattoo he carries. One end of the rope is tied round his waist, while Narrin serves as an anchor on the shore.

The skirmisher wades in, gasping from the biting chill of the water, and slogs through the mud as the water reaches his waist.

He fails his Toughness check and suffers a -10% penalty until he can dry out and warm up.

Reaching the bubbles, he sees drifting tangles of hair reaching up to the surface. Bracing himself, he plunges up to his shoulders and seizes the shape beneath.

It's the girl, caked in mud, neck slashed and bled out. No blood on the shore, and not much down her clothes, so it looks like her throat was cut once she was in the water. She's tied and weighed with a rock too, and wrestling her out of the mud is difficult.

Same rope as the coil found earlier.

Constanza sees the magic of the pool subside and then die completely as the corpse is finally wrenched onto the shore. She pesters Uto to show her on the map where they are.

It's one of the series of pools arranged around the standing stone, too regular and round to have been natural formations.

She looks at the other pools nearby, but they do not hold the same Jade magic as this one did.

A series of easy Perception checks here.


As they stare at the corpse and shiver in the cold fog, Pawel pulling his clothes back on, they hear something approaching.

There is the cracking of branches and shrugs, and a regular squelch. Something large.

Schroding grabs the corpse and haul it up, even as the fog around them seems to become far denser. It is as if something is pushing a thick wall of mist that washes over them, halving their visibility.

Visibility is now about fifteen feet, and that's all.

And then the stench hits them too, the noisome smell of rotted fish and marsh and fungus that makes them want to vomit.

Everyone suffers a -10% Weapon Skill penalty while fighting in the stench.

And finally the noise. Alien and bizarre, it changes between a growl and a shrill ululation, setting everyone's ears on edge. A weird, ribbiting, croaking, shrieking call that echoes across the swamp.

They beat a hasty retreat, aiming their weapons in the direction of the sound.

They can hear it getting closer, and a splash as it enters the pool. Shortly afterwards, the hoot goes up again, angry, and something erupts from the water outside of their sight.

It moves after them, fast.

The retreat turns into flight, as best as can be managed across the treacherous ground.

* * *

“We need to get to higher ground!” - Pawel

“There's the standing stone!” - Uto, out of breath

“That'll do!” - Pawel and Narrin simultaneously

They rush along the muddy path, trees and fog flowing past them in a hazy and surreal landscape. Breaking cover, they run for the hillock and the menacing stone atop it.

Agility checks all round at this point as they run for the hopeful safety of the rise. Oddly, Schroding does best of all, since he has the Burgher/Innkeeper career and Innkeeper has a very high Agility advancement for some odd reason. Presumably for dodging ale mugs being thrown at him.

Schroding possesses a surprising agility for a man of his age, while Uto seems to have discovered an athleticism he perhaps never knew he had, loping ahead and scrabbling up the rocky incline of the hillock.

The stone atop it seems wrong somehow. Irregularly-edged, it stands almost like a jagged stone knife ripping up towards the sky, rather than any rectangular monolith of ancient worship. Disturbing whorls and etchings writhe across its surface. It seems to hold no magic nor emblems of Chaos yet still manages to be hostile and alien to the viewer.

Right now, though, it's better than the alternative.

As they climb the hill, the thing strikes. Uto, first to the top, turns and looks back, shrieking as he sees it emerge. Pawel just feels its claws sink into his back, some great talon tearing through leather and into flesh.

Kiero rolls worst in the attempt to escape the beast and takes a light hit, failing a Dodge Blow check even with a fortune point and reroll.


The skirmisher just pulls himself free and desperately hurls himself up the hill. Ahead of him, the others turn to see the thing has already pulled back to the protection of the dense fog, but they can see a smouldering orb of dim red light against its shadow that forms for a moment. An eye, glittering with malice.

Constanza sees dark magic begin to gather around the orb, focusing it towards Pawel. He turns and fires a shot from his bow at it, adrenaline fuelling his reflexes, and the arrow makes the shape flinch back. The eye snaps shut, and the magic dissipates.

And a good thing he stopped it focusing the magic, too.

The shadow fades into the mist completely, even as Constanza is telling the others to shoot its eye if they see it again.

* * *

Whatever it is, it's circling them slowly. At least it doesn't seem willing to climb the hill, above the protective veil of mist.

Uto is shivering in shock at whatever he saw. He is the only one to have gotten a good look at what the horror really looks like, but just gibbers about it. Slowly, Pawel calms him down with measured words.

Uto is suffering from a badly failed Fear check.

They hold their position, miserable and shivering in the cold. Angran looks at the wound on Pawel's back and sets about cleaning and covering it with makeshift bandages.

Eventually, the thing seems to depart, squelching away into the deep gloom, and they wait a little while to give it time to leave. Problem is, it's headed towards the waystation, so they'll need a different route back to avoid encountering it again.

The night is beginning to fade now, the very faintest touch of light on the horizon over the mountains, as they gather themselves and prepare to leave, glancing at the standing stone and its disturbing carvings as they do so.

And then the sun rises.

* * *

Just for a moment, the air seems to freeze.

Just for a moment, the light twists and strengthens, forming lines and intensifying colour.

Just for a moment, the world changes.

In that moment of sunrise, as the dawn touches the landscape, it is as if a veil is ripped from the world. Ahead, rising up from the trees and mist of the swamp, a great tower erupts – a scintillating, shimmering structure of silver and prismatic light that reaches up towards the sky.

Despite its beauty, it is wrong. The way the light dances around it hurts the eye.

And around them, in that moment, the flattened earth of the hillock's top seems to be imprinted, as if great tracks suddenly press into the ground.

And then the tower and the tracks are gone, leaving not a trace behind.

Willpower tests all round, resulting in a few party members gaining an Insanity point at this sudden and vivid 'hallucination'.


* * *

They hastily depart, deciding not to tell the others of this strange hallucination they have experienced. The trip back through the swamp is uneventful and neither horror nor tower reappear. The fog, though, is still thick and the light of the day seems to be doing little to burn through it.

They are received back with surprise and an eagerness for their news at the waystation. The other search parties found nothing and have long since returned, wet and tired and miserable.

No-one's spirits are lifted by the discovery of the corpse, but at least the body can be given a proper Morrian burial. Wulf demands an explanation from Schroding, and Angran suggests a meeting for discussion of events thus far.

* * *

Firstly, there is a gathering of those who the band and Wulf consider to be important, inside the waystation.

Narrin and Pawel tell the gathered travellers what occurred, omitting the strange vision of the tower at the standing stone, and Pawel plays down the thing that attacked them and leaves out the glowing eye they sighted. Even so, the consternation is plain on the faces of those present.

No-one is quite sure what the creature might be – neither Wulf nor Schroding know of any swamp creatures of that size or strength. As for the murdered girl – there are no tales of such murders in the swamp, but Conrad points out that Loeuvenheim's team found a bog mummy that had apparently been killed in the same fashion, and very well preserved.

But the mummy is over two millenia old.

Uh-oh. Why are there people being killed in this manner now?

Wulf, grudgingly, tells them that sometimes travellers have gone missing. It rarely happens, and it's a swamp so... As for the beast, surely he would have seen it or its tracks before if it dwelt in the swamp.

“Have you ever seen an elven village?” - Angran, as if talking to children

There is much shaking of heads.

“Precisely. My people are very good at hiding whole villages from outside eyes.” - Angran

“You think elves did this?” - Wulf

No. My point is, if we can hide whole settlements, there must be creatures out there that can hide themselves easily.” - Angran, exasperated

“But this thing was knocking down trees and crushing undergrowth, so it must leave some trail of its passage.” - Narrin

They can't bury the girl yet, since they do not have a priest to administer the proper rights.

The Morrschatten tradition is regular burial with a blessing from a priest of Morr.

Wulf also points out that they can't go anywhere anyway, with the bridge out.

“Damn it. I want this thing killed, then. I want its head on a pike.” - Wulf, angrily

Pawel points out that it retreated during daylight – perhaps they can find its lair and kill it while it sleeps. This meets with approval from Wulf.

Pitchforks and torches time!

They decide to tell the rest of the refugees as little as possible to avoid panic, other than that there is a dangerous beast like a rabid bear that must be hunted.

At this point, Angran touches again on something that has been skirted around. Someone must have killed the girl, which means human activity is involved. Wulf hesitantly backs up Schroding's story as he seems to remember the man's voice partly waking him from slumber.

The innkeeper points out that sometimes people come to the swamp from Morrschatten to harvest swamp plants and herbs. Now, though, it is the wrong season – not to mention that the bridge is down.

They seem no closer to understanding just why Gertruda was killed as the meeting disbands.

A tea break at this point, and I quizzed the players as to whether they had worked out what the monster is yet. Phil and Arran both had their suspicions, especially due to the one-eyed aspect of the creature, but were having trouble remembering exactly what the creatures they knew of were called.

With the players still uncertain as to its nature, we plunged back into the game with reinforcements of tea and coffee...
 
Last edited:

Kiero

Retiring User
Validated User
Did I talk as much as it appears from the report?

I should note that bringing Uto along wasn't simply in the magnanimous spirit of involving the NPCs, though he was kind of useful. It was more about having extra bodies to surround the beastie, should we encounter it and be unable to run.

I'm definitely going Vagabond for my next career. All those juicy skills, an advance on Fellowship and even on Gossip and other social skills. Since I seem to have gravitated to "face man".
 

Frecus

The Old Stone Thrower
Validated User
Ahhh... Nice and gritty, how I like GWs fluff!

And I really like how you introduce the
Spoiler: Show
Fimir

sadly an almost forgotten race...

Frecus
The glade wanderer
Madwarrior
 

Acrozatarim

Safe with us pandas.
Validated User
A few hours pass, letting the day grow a little brighter, but the veil of fog does not lift.

During this time, Pawel spends some time napping and some time stitching up the rent in the back of his jerkin. Narrin seeks out Jodric, who changes his dressings and bandages for fresh ones and who then checks over the other two as well.

Jodric had used the Healing skill on them all the previous day, recovering wounds on Narrin, and did so successfully again at this point – the mercenary is now on three Wounds. He failed both times on Constanza though, so she's still just on two Wounds.

When they're alone in a corner in the waystation's main room, Constanza explains to the dwarf and elf what she saw with her witchsight out in the swamp.

“This mist has a distinct Jade influence in it. It makes sense, because Jade is water and earth magic, but you don't normally see this much ambient magic in natural mist. The creature... seems to be the source of the mist. There was magic in the pool with the girl, but when you took her out, it dispersed. It was a ritual death.” - Constanza

She would like to look at the other pools to see if there are other corpses, but is afraid of the creature as it tried to channel dark magic at Pawel – and urges the others to not let the eye look at them. Shooting it appears to be a good idea.

* * *

The would-be hunters include a ragtag mix. Some of the refugees, clutching torches and whatever implements they could grab, stand alongside a couple of the suspected deserters, a couple of Alric's men, Kedric and the band of four.

Uto doesn't seem to fancy a return trip to see the creature again, and his companions are also staying behind.

* * *

They move off along the trail. Kedric mutters about how the unnatural mist is like the work of Chaos sorcerers he saw unleashed in the war, mumbling incoherently through his hangover.

Wulf gestures the party to the front, to help locate the tracks of the creature that they saw the previous day. They find great smears of vegetation and mud where the thing has hauled itself along, through heavy marsh and undergrowth with equal ease. Its path goes in a roughly straight line towards the main cluster of buildings that they saw marked on the scholars' map, and they discuss the possibility that this is its destination – perhaps even where it lairs.

* * *

It takes an hour of slogging through the cold swamp to find the ruins.

In the middle of the compound is the tumbled wreck of what was once a tower, though its walls still rise to thrice the height of a man. Somehow, it seems to fit naturally on the swell of the land around it, even though it is disturbing to the eye. Around it are low, sunken shapes of other buildings, all wrought from the same large, rough blocks of dark stone – maybe barrows of some kind.

The whole place is waterlogged and damp, like the rest of the swamp. The smeared trail leads to the vicinity of the tower where a patch of bulbous, yellow-spotted mushrooms grow, then leads out and off into the swamp again. Some of the mushrooms have been torn up and taken.

“If it eats, it can die.” - Pawel, hopeful

“We can only hope.” - Narrin

The hunting party scatters to search over the place for any other clues as to what is going on in the swamp.

At this point, very poor Search checks prevent anyone finding anything interesting here.

They look around but find nothing, and gather again to follow the trail on. There's nothing on the scholar's map in this direction, and eventually the track enters one of the myriad of streams criss-crossing the Sumpfmund. It doesn't come out on the other side, so the creature presumably followed it up or down the flow, its tracks lost amongst the gloomy trees and clinging mist.

At this point, they realise that someone's missing. The two suspected-deserters who were with them have, well, deserted.

No-one remembers seeing them after the tower ruin, so they must have slipped away when everyone fanned out to search the area over. There were no cries of panic or pain so presumably they weren't forcibly dragged away by the swamp beast. Still, losing two men has left everyone uneasy.

A short, hushed discussion leads to a decision – go back and see where they've gone, and whether they are involved with this monster.

Returning to the ruins, a quick search finds the deserters' tracks. They tried to cover their trail, but the disturbed undergrowth marks it clearly to Narrin's sharp eyes.

A very good Perception roll of 01 from Narrin

They plunge on down the muddy trail, following as fast as they can. The deserters cant be far ahead.

Somewhere in front of them, faint voices filter through the mist. And then the stench, the same as last night, washes over them and sends the fog roiling. Some of the hunting party retch or panic as they realise the horror must be close.

Pawel goes wide, melting away into the mist and undergrowth, while Narrin leads the front of the group cautiously forwards and Angran moves out to flank in the other direction. Within moments, there is a flurry of activity ahead – gasps, muffled yells, and the crash of something heavy moving through the trees.

The mist makes shooting at any kind of range difficult, as well as imposing Perception check penalties. On the other hand, the surroundings and the haze also grant a large bonus to Silent Move and Concealment checks, usually +30%. This makes it easy for the sneakier PC's to get into position.


“By Sigmar's-” – A man's voice, terrified, cut off suddenly

There are a few moments of silence and then the top half of a man's head flies out of the mist, landing wetly in front of the hunting party. It has been severed at the jaw, the flesh sheared through by something savagely sharp, and spills brain matter across the path as it impacts in the mud.

Yells of panic erupt out in the mist.

Wulf gasps in shock, stunned into inaction. No soldier or officer, he is just a regular guard in the service of Wissenland and untrained for dealing with situations like this. Behind him, the others in the mob also reel in stupefied indecision.

The player characters, on the other hand...

Constanza, Angran and Pawel all creep forwards through the underbrush, while Narrin tromps forwards with his crossbow ready.

Ahead, they see the faint shapes of some sort of encampment and a handful of men. What precisely they are up to out here isn't clear, but the half-dozen survivors are retreating to cover amongst the spindly brush. One is apparently in charge, yelling at the others to keep their eyes peeled. The decapitated corpse sprawled on the blood-splashed ground is, well, what is left of one of the two deserters who had slunk away.

“What the hell was that thin- There! There, it's coming again!” - Bandit leader

And there, looming out of the mist, comes the monster in all its fog-wreathed horror, its stench washing ahead of it.

It is a pallid gray hulk of a thing, perhaps the size of an ogre, with a long spindly neck slung in front of its drooping bulk. The head bears that single, glowing eye of malice atop some sort of fleshy beak. There is the suggestion of a tail draped behind it in the mist, and a cascade of tangled stringy hair from atop its skull. The claws are taloned and gripping a weapon haft, tipped by a huge stone axe-head with a murderously sharp edge to it, spattered with human blood.

(Rolf Harris)Can you tell what it is yet?(/Rolf Harris)

A tangle of twine and leather hangs off the thing, danging little charms and trinkets, and the faint noise of a little bell alerts the man behind whom it has appeared. It is surprising in its speed and silence.

He turns, shrieking in fear, and then the flesh of his face and chest simply melts off, sloughing away from his bones. He drops, gurgling wetly into the filth of the marsh, as Constanza sees the tendrils of dark magic crackle between the baleful eye and his corpse.

Its gaze can kill.

For the Initiative roll in this fight, we switched over to the Dark Heresy system – d10 plus the first digit of your Agility, rather than adding your entire Agility score. Gives a bit more variation in action order.

Most of the bandits flee screaming into the swamp as their leader attempts a fighting retreat. The band try and take the thing down with concentrated arrow and bolt fire, and land a few missiles into its gray, rubbery flesh – only to see them forced out again as the skin and muscle ties itself back together.

Its gaze can kill, and it's regenerating.

“Oh, that's not fair!” - Narrin

As it does so, though, Constanza's witchsight sees ghostly tendrils of magic snake out of it through the mist, reaching away through the gloom. A quick mental calculation tells her that it must be drawing on magic in the direction of the pools around the standing stone, and is using that to repair itself.

So far, so much to plan. The idea behind the monster was that they would discover the ways to weaken it, whittle down its defences and finally defeat it in the second session. This, then, is the clue behind its hyper-regeneration.

The horror spends a little time hooting, shrieking and chasing down bandits, while Constanza weaves a little magic of her own – conjuring noises of more people closing in, to give an impression of greater numbers than there actually are. Soon, the thing slips away into the swamp again, taking to the murky pools.

The bandits just keep running and are not seen again.

* * *

The flickering light of the torches cast strange, dancing lights through the mist as the hunting party huddles together. People are very scared now – everyone heard the monster, some caught glimpses of it, and there are bandits out there. Occasionally a distant, muted shout echoes across the marsh.

They're also misinterpreting the magical noises that Constanza conjured up as possibly indicating there are even more bandits out there. She doesn't want to reveal her nature here and so cannot correct them to give any reassurance.

Discovering they have a mage in their midst would likely just make everyone more scared, and they even have the pitchforks and torches already to hand...

“Obviously touched by the darkness.” - Narrin, about the monster

Constanza nods, happy to not be the one to say it.

“Well, at least it'll prove a challenge, then!” - Narrin

“Where's it gone?” - Wulf

“It doesn't matter where it's gone, it is regenerating. It's using the bodies in the pools.” - Constanza

Bodies in the pools?” - Angran, starting to catch on

How Constanza might know that there are more bodies in the pools immediately comes under question by a suddenly very suspicious Wulf, who is transparent in his disbelief that she just used her brain to come to that conclusion.

Despite the sudden rift of mistrust in the band, Constanza's explanation holds just enough water to convince the others to go along with her, and they move off towards the ritual pools around the standing stone.

Constanza makes a very good Fellowship check at this point and manages to sway the general opinion of the band in her favour, but Wulf remains overtly suspicious. He's not willing to just let the matter drop, but acquiesces for now.

Had we hit a second session, Wulf's suspicions about Constanza would have grown to become more important in how events unfolded.


They scout around the semi-circle of dark pools. Previously, the band had only seen the nearest pools to the one that Gertruda was dumped in, and the rest were hidden by mist and distance.

Under Constanza's witchsight, three others shimmer with the same noxious, tainted Jade magic. Two are very faint, almost gone, while another is stronger and fresher like Gertruda's watery tomb.

Three more sacrifices.

“Well, I guess it's time we begin dredging, then. Unless you happen to know where to start. By chance.” - Wulf

Constanza points at the strongest of the pools, to provide the 'chance' discovery of a body. It might look suspicious but it will prove her right.

The refugees, cold and miserable by this stage, set to grabbing branches and warming themselves up by raking the pool with them. Shortly, they catch something and manage to pull it out with some effort.

Another body, sheathed in the mud. Whatever is in the swamp here is good for preserving the corpses, as it is clearly another woman, throat slit. Not as recent as Gertruda's death.

“So, do we just keep dredging these things? Happen to know any others we might find corpses in?” - Wulf

Now, though, with her point proven, Constanza doesn't need to convict herself by showing them the other pools she suspects of harbouring bodies.

“I would presume that if there are bodies in two pools, there are probably bodies in the rest of them.” - Constanza, shrugging

“Best thing to do is probably burn the bodies.” - Narrin

“We're not going to burn the bodies! They need to be given a good Morrian burial.” - Wulf

And so the dredging moves onto the next pool, and then the next, and so on.

It takes a long time.

* * *

Predictably, only the two other pools that gleam under Constanza's witchsight give up any more bodies. Each holds an old corpse in the upper layers of its mud, both well preserved but doubtless from past years. Every single corpse is a woman, killed the same way.

The meagre daylight is beginning to fade by this point, and Wulf orders a retreat back to the waystation. At least the monster hasn't been sighted again.

Much to Herr Schroding's horror, there is no chance of preventing stories of the monster or the events in the swamp from spreading this time. The four bodies now stored in one of the outhouses, awaiting a proper burial, are also impossible to hide from notice.

The two deserters who stayed behind in the compound are agitated and nervous – but, for now at least, Wulf makes no action against them, and doesn't even say anything to them.

Somewhere along the line, Wulf has become defacto leader at the waystation. He may have no official rank but Schroding seems ineffectual and in denial. He's not technically the law, but he's the closest thing there is for now.

The four travellers decide to try and get some rest and recuperation, although they cannot avoid being pestered by the scholars. Conrad is both appalled and intrigued by the unfolding events, and wants to know what is going on, but there's little explanation to give.

Constanza tries to recall any mention she has ever heard of creatures that use ambient magic and fog in the way that this thing does, and vaguely recalls a line in one of the rare few books that the Amber Order ever bothered to keep copies of – something to do with 'swamp daemons'.

Presumably the Amber wizards do engage in some book-learning, given that they have the appropriate knowledge skills, so I guess they have some sort of library... somewhere.

She's convinced this thing is not a true daemon, but it is certainly something monstrous and magical.

Once the scholars have left them alone to their table and their meal, someone else unexpected sits with them. She's just another of the refugees at first glance... but second glance tells a slightly different story. Clad in rough travellers clothes, the blonde-haired young woman looks too healthy, too confident and too calm by half.

She makes some small talk about events out in the swamp and how all the bodies so far are women, then gets to the point. She smiles all the time.

“If this creature gets dealt with, you'll be heading into Morrschatten next. As I hear, the prince of the land is a very rich man. You can expect to get taxed heavily on your way in, especially you two.” - Woman, gesturing at Angran and Narrin

Joeta introduces herself properly, and tells them that whether they want to or not, they will be paying Prince Ludwig a great deal of money for the luxury of crossing his territory. She appears to have asked around about the four, and knows that two of them are looking for family members – and will surely need all the money they can get.

It just so happens that the coach parked in the compound is Ludwig's, and is returning from a long journey in the Empire. She presumes it must be laden with wealth from gifts, trading and other favours he has called in.

She believes she can break into it without any trouble, and just needs a distraction. The travellers will have no reason to love Prince Ludwig after they have to pay him his fee, she says, so why not take a little in return now? She offers a split of the coach's contents if they will help with the distraction.

The reaction is mixed, but generally negative. Pawel seems the most open to the idea, but the rest are less willing to touch the deal – and so she withdraws gracefully, noting that the offer is still available.

“Just... keep your opportunities open. I will.” - Joeta, departing

She smiles far too much and seems far too cocky, given the horror marauding the swamps still.

Players, do not read the blacked-out text!

This character is
Spoiler: Show
Janna from Sigmar's Heirs. That book suggests that she tries to get the PC's to help her rob the Silberhaus – here, she has already failed at that and is on the run. She gives a fake name, of course.


Narrin heads out to check on the general mood of the ad-hoc encampment and to see if he can find any more information on the other travellers stuck here, to be faced with a raging argument between Kedric, who is half-drunk again, and the fanatical Gosric the Charred.

“A good Morrian burial,that's what they need!” - Kedric, angry

“They need to be blessed by a Sigmarite priest under holy symbols, because these people have been killed by an unholy power and we should make sure they are cleansed and pure!” - Gosric, fervent

“No, no, bloody heretic. Luthorite rubbish!” - Kedric, slurring badly

Narrin leaves them to their shouting match.

In a rare feat, Narrin then manages to pass a Gossip check!

Everyone in the camp is suspicious of the deserters now, though nothing is openly said. Gosric is happy to talk about Sigmar once his argument is finished, and is apparently going to meet the 'blessed Adalbard' at Karl's Leap. A quick chat with the scholars reveals another interesting piece of information – apparently someone tried to rob the Silberhaus in Nuln recently, and though their attempt failed they were not captured. Nuln is also where Joeta travelled from.

Breaking into the Silberhaus is incredibly, almost insanely audacious. This certainly fits with what they have seen of Joeta's personality so far.

Constanza spends her time just trying to stay out of Wulf's sight, so she lurks in a corner with the sullen elf.

* * *

Once again, the night brings more trouble. The mists have settled down, even more heavily.

Narrin gets an early nap then rouses himself to go and stand guard with Wulf, thinking that his better vision in such darkness might prove useful. Perched on the earth rampart inside the palisade, the two sit in the quiet gloom. The silence and occasional swirl of fog lend a haunting quality to the view, but the inaction and solitude lets them both relax a little.

Wulf shares a story with the dwarf, puffing on a small pipe as he does so.

“Never seen anything like this. This swamp... has an effect on people. Jakobs, the man who owned this waystation before, eventually sold it and headed south into Morrschatten. When Ludwig's father conquered northern Morrschatten, twenty five years ago, that was when this waystation was built. It was about ten years ago that Schroding bought the place from Jakobs, and I remember him telling me – because I wasn't stationed here yet at the time, you see – that Jakobs left while raving about an eye watching him. Which makes a horrible kind of sense now.” - Wulf

Narrin grunts in affirmation.

“But... this thing. Never seen anything like it.” - Wulf

“Eh, maybe someone found some way to awaken it, by the looks of it.” - Narrin

Then, out in the darkness, there comes a low, warbling thrum of a growl. It is joined by the mechanical noise of Narrin quickly ratcheting his crossbow to readiness and, after a few moments of silence as they wait and see whether it will attack, both men start calling the alarm at the top of their voices.
 
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