Back from the deadIt was the biggest orc any of them had ever seen. Fully eight foot tall if an inch, and almost as broad across. It’s piggy red eyes were almost lost in the scar tissue that was it’s face, and it’s lower teeth were so long they had cut grooves the length of it’s cheeks. It’s body was covered in heavy iron plates at least an inch thick, held in place by chains, and, what seemed in some places to be rivets sunk directly into it’s flesh. One arm held a massive battle axe so sharp it hurt the eye to see, the other held a huge club wrenched from a tree, blackened with age and encrusted blood. The monster lifted it’s head and sniffed the air as if scenting them. It turned to face them, stretching it’s impossibly long arms sideways, faint green after-images of power trailing from its weapons, then grinned.
Petra Nunce, Reiklander – gambler
Grimmer Grimmson, Dwarf – mercenary
Wesley Smitt, Reiklander – scout
(Note: this episode is very combat heavy, and as well as the WFRP rules I used a modified set of WFB rules for the Ironbreakers and quite a lot of winging it. I suspect I may have made a few errors with the combats, but it all worked out so extra-ordinarily well that I can live with that).Around dawn the next day, Wesley woke the others. “I think it’s time,” he said pointing to where Goldtooth could be seen waving to them. When Wes waved back, the dwarf crept back into the bushes. The goblin-riot was still going strong, and the scout led his two companions along the tree line to a point almost opposite where the Ironbreakers were. He slid his head carefully out of the bushes and pointed towards the rear of the mass of greenskins. “There,” he said, pointing to a figure hanging from a wooden cross. “I think the bodies chained on or something.” He looked carefully at the corpses surroundings. “Only a couple of goblins; there might be more behind that boulder.” He indicated a large grey shape at the base of the cross. “That’s strange … “ he began, but was cut off by a loud explosion. A black projectile flew from the dwarves position, trailing smoke, landing amongst the rioting goblins. A moments stillness, everyone holding their breath, then an eruption of flame and bodies flew everywhere. “Oh yes!” muttered Grimmer, punching the sky. A horn sounded and a volley of crossbow bolts hit the goblins standing stunned by the explosion. A second horn note, and, with a great roar, forty or so heavily armoured dwarves charged down the hillside, plunging into the disorganized greenskins and cutting them down where they stood. After the initial shock of the attack, the goblins began to move towards the dwarves. More shells hit them, throwing bodies everywhere, but the horde kept moving, closing on the Ironbreakers in a screaming mass. A faint nimbus of power began to appear around one or two members of the mob. “Come on!” screamed Grimmer, bursting out of the bushes towards a couple of goblins who were standing around Grim’s corpse. Wesley, taking his time, fires his longbow, striking one of them in the back (accurate shot – Wes throws in two stress points and scores a massive nine wounds). Petra, having only a short ranged pistol, realizes that Grimmer’s suggestion that she stay back in the bushes and shoot whilst he attacks is not going to work. Screaming “Feeeeeck,” she charges out after the dwarf, stopping at close range to the wounded goblin, easily despatching him with a shot to the head (one extra fortune dice as he’s injured). Grimmer, bypassing the dead goblin, slams into his companion, but misses with a mighty strike, driving his axe deep into the ground, and slipping to one knee. Oh yes, this is what we want, disasters on round one! Grimmer and Petra are burning up fatigue to get close, and I give all three players initiative due to surprise. They use it well, Petra and Wes putting one of their foes down immediately. Grimmer, the melee specialist, throws a chaos star, and is down, hopefully not for the count. Two goblins attack Grimmer, and one hits him in the side. The dwarves high toughness and his heavy armour dulls the strike (only two wounds) which he shrugs off, climbing to his feet. An arrow flies over his shoulder, wounding one of his foes, and a pistol ball whips past, missing everyone. Grimmer strikes the wounded greenskin a deadly blow (10 wounds and he’s gone!), but takes another blow from his second foe (another two wounds), who seems remarkably staunch for a goblin (the effect of the Waagh!). Meanwhile the Ironbreakers are not having it all their own way. Though the goblins are dying in droves, they keep throwing themselves forward, dragging their heavily armoured foes down. Arrows and spears are starting to fly from the goblins ranks, targeting the mortar, and a couple of the goblin magic users seem to be ‘charging up’ for an attack. Both Wesley and Petra hit with their shots, and the final goblin flies back, green fluid leaking from its pierced body. Grimmer steps over the corpse and starts to move towards the body of his brother, waving at Petra to watch out for more goblins. Then the boulder next to Grim’s body moves. It unbends and throws back a grey cloak, before stretching upwards, six, seven, eight feet. It’s an orc. A very big orc. A very very big orc. “Holy mother of God,” breathes Petra, “I’m not fighting that until I hear it talk!” (An old Spike Milligan joke, but we all got it). Grimmer swallows. “The bigger they are … “
“The quicker they bloody kill you,” mutters Wes.
The orc opens its arms wide and lets out a terrifying roar. An arrow strikes it in the middle of the chest, rapidly followed by another. (“Not very sporting, I know,” says Wes with a shrug, then looks on in disbelief as the orcs massive armour and toughness reduces it to two single wounds!). A gunshot, and a pistol ball strikes the giant creature, again with negligible effect (again only one wound). “Aaaargh!” screams Grimmer, ever the one for a pithy rejoinder, and slams his axe into the creature, splitting one of the iron scales (a wound and a critical! Go the team!).
In response the orc lashes out with both weapons. Grimmer attempts to parry, but fails and is flung back wounded and bleeding (double strike, Grimmer is now on zero wounds and has another critical! I have a bad feeling; perhaps the two brothers will meet sooner than expected. Note the orc is adding two fortune die due to the effects of the Waagh!).
Wesley hits again with his longbow, his arrow piercing the orc deeply (another crit!). Petra, realizing that Grimmer needs help, moves in behind the orc and attempts to backstab him, but fails to properly penetrate the beasts thick armour (only 1 wound – Petra was cleverly trying to use the backstab cards ‘ignore armour’ effect but failed). Grimmer, shaking his head to clear it, charges the creature with his shield, attempting to knock it over but fails, rebounding from the creatures great bulk (scores only one wound).Faster than anyone would have thought possible, the beast turns and strikes out at Petra with a huge, death-dealing blow. By some fluke she manages to half parry the blow but is badly hurt (7 wounds!) – the gamblers light armour is no match for the orcs great strength (initially the orc scored a massive three crits as well as the wounds, and it looked like curtains for Petra. A hasty examination of her cards came up with her gamblers re-roll skill, and reduced it to a normal hit and one critical.) Over at the Ironbreakers, things are going from bad to worse. A brief burst of laughter when one of the goblin shaman’s heads explodes is cut off when the other conjures a huge green foot that stomps the mortar flat. Orcs start to appear amongst the goblins and, as more dwarves fall, both ends of the line of warriors start to curve inwards as the greenskins begin to envelop them. There is a brief moment whilst the three heroes pant, swear and bleed. Strangely, the creature seems unwilling to step away from the corpse-standard to attack, waving his weapons threateningly. Again Wesley fires, but misses for the first time this combat. Grimmer, realizing the end may be near, attacks again, striking the creature hard, but again most of the force of the blow is absorbed by the massive armour (throwing in fortune points, the ‘mercenary’ attribute and describing a particularly devious reverse attack for an extra fortune dice – still only 1 wound). Simultaneously, Petra attacks from the side, slipping in to slice her sword under the orcs helm, clearly hurting him. (Nimble strike, plus the Reiklander’s ‘favoured by fate’ fortune throw, plus fortune points – 1 wound, plus a critical plus the orc gains the staggered condition. Go girl!). Time stands still as the great orc raises his weapons to attack (I force a break for a drink. How the players hated it!). Suddenly there is a splintering sound and a length of chain appears around the creatures throat, wrapping tight. A crazed face appeared over the orcs shoulder, screaming “DIE! DIE! DIE!” “Holy s#@t!” says Wes. “It’s Grim!”
(Oh yes, the man (sic) with no fear and very little brain is back – Not Dead, Merely Sleeping. Grim makes a difficult ‘perform a stunt action’ to whip the chain around the orcs neck whilst hanging from the cross; he too is adding two fortune die for the effects of the Waaagh!, plus fortune points, kitchen sink etc. I rule the throttling effect of the chain is dealing three wounds per turn to the orc – much better than the others have been doing!)
Seemingly oblivious of the Slayer hanging from his neck, the orc strikes out at Grimmer, attempting to finish him. The mercenary, realizing his perilous state, attempts to block the blow with both his axe and shield, and manages to avoid any damage as the greenskin is pulled to a stop by Grim, who’s legs are still attached to the standard by heavy chains! (Grimmer throws in parry and improved block, whilst the orc gains two black die from Grim still being attached to the cross. Grim gains two wounds on account of his legs almost being pulled out of their sockets – when he complains I suggest he can just let go. He declines).Grimmer unleashes a crushing counterblow, hurting the creature (one wound and one crit), whilst both Petra and Wesley fire their ranged weapons, Wes managing to find a gap in the orcs armour. Grim hangs on, slowly choking the life out of the great beast, but still it will not die!
Meanwhile, Goldtooth’s brave band are surrounded by greenskins. The mortar is destroyed, their crossbowmen are scattered and the surviving shaman has whipped the Waaagh into a berserk frenzy. The dwarves prepare to sell their lives dearly.Finally realizing that it is the slayer that is killing it, the orc throws itself backwards against the standard, the wooden upright breaking, and landing on Grim. This frees Grim’s feet but forces him to release his foe. Before the orc can move, Grimmer leaps forward, unleashing a thunderous blow that shatters the beasts skull, and it expires messily. Silence, as the heroes look at each other, then a voice comes from under the monster. “Excuse me, but do you know there’s an orc on my chest?” Petra coughs. “You hum it son, I’ll play it.” With the death of their leader, the goblins panicked and fled. The shaman, cut off from the power of his fellows also turned tail and ran away. A few orcs continued to fight, but were butchered where they stood. Victory!
PostscriptThe four heroes were sitting in the tunnels of the underway, wounds dressed and full of wine and good food (Goldtooth had offered Petra more sausage but she’d declined). The dwarves had sworn eternal brotherhood with them all, and they were all lying around small braziers they’d set up to cook on, singing very bad songs. Grim and Grimmer were pointedly ignoring each other; some peculiarly dwarvish family sulking thing the two humans guessed. Bored with the brooding dwarves, Wesley delved into his bag, and dug something out. He pulled a face. “What’cha got there?” asked Petra. “Oh, just something old Goldie didn’t want,” said Wes with a half smile. He carefully kept the object out of the fire light. “Hell, that’s his bawaaghometer! He wouldn’t give that up! You’re a bloody tea-leaf, Wes, I’m making sure I keep my purse well hidden from now on!” She stopped when she noticed Wes’s perplexed face. “Well, will you look at that!” he said. She moved over a little, and saw the small leather case, the familiar compass dial, then started when she saw the plumb bob. “Oh s@#t!” she said softly, looking at the wire, which was stretched horizontal. She followed the line of the copper cable with her eye, across the tunnel directly towards the sulking Troll slayer. “Er Grim,” she called, drawing his attention. “I think we have a problem.” (Well that went extra-ordinarily well. I gave the orc leader a few advantages – extra wounds, strength and toughness points, super thick armour, two fortune die for the Waaagh! energy and a full compliment of action cards, and he nearly did for my players single-handedly! I’d decided that the Waaagh! energy was centred in Grim, and the orc would be unwilling to move away from him – hopefully the players would realize this and pepper him from a distance before forcing him to attack and lose his advantage. Didn’t happen. Admittedly they had some really bad dice rolls, but sheesh! he was tough. The players being on the receiving end of someone who could take them down in one strike for once, was unnerving for them. I also arranged for the reappearance of Grim to be at a suitably dramatic point. As to the postscript and the Waagh! charged Slayer, I just don’t know, just seemed a good idea when I knew Wes had nicked the bawaaghometer. Perhaps it’ll wear off, who knows.