Cheap tickets

Scientific discovery

Cheap tickets (6)

Scientific discovery
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_ This has taken quite a while to get written up – my group has expanded, left, and rejoined in the meanwhile. We’ve played through the gathering storm and are now somewhere deep in the slums of Altdorf. More to follow._
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Characters
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Petra Nunce, Reiklander – gambler
Grimmer Grimmson, Dwarf – mercenary
Wesley Smitt, Reiklander – scout
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The underway
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_ So here they are, our three heroes. Cold, wet, wounded and with no idea what they’re doing. Their lamp oil is half gone, they’ve no food, no water and they’re chasing an undetermined number of goblins in an attempt to recover a by now half-rotted corpse. What to do?_
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_ “Onwards!” cries Grimmer, leading the group to the left._
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_ “Why not that way?” asks Petra, determined not to follow the psychotic dwarf blindly into more trouble without at least token resistance._
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_ “That way is east.” Says the dwarf patiently. A pause. “Karak Azgaraz.” More silence. “They’ve been fighting goblins for a thousand years; anyone going that way will have to get past pit-traps, rockfalls, explosive mines and poison gas, before finally being slaughtered by angry dwarven warriors. Anyway,” says Grimmer pointing. “The tracks go that way.”_
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_ Sniggers from Wes and they set off west, following a pretty obvious mass of muddy footprints. Discarded scraps of food, bits of clothing, a broken knife and at one point a broken goblin are scattered along the route of march._
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_ “They’re moving pretty fast,” says the scout, Wes, examining the tracks and the body more closely. “Looks like they had a bit of a falling out, too. Heads almost off this one.”_
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_ The other two gather around. “Typical greenskin blow,” sneers Grimmer, “Struck from behind. Nice slice, though, cut right through his iron collar. Then someone seems to have slit his gizzard and rummaged about a bit. Probably a bit hungry.”_
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_ An hour later Petra’s lamp starts to sputter. They refill them, emptying the oil bottle, and realize that they’ve not got enough fuel to get back to the horses. A bit of an argument here, Petra voting for trying to get as far back as possible before the lanterns fail, while the other two vote to press on. (Oh, the blind optimism of those who’ve already died once – two to the party tension meter). They rest for a short while in the dark, but due to lack of food, only recover one fatigue point. Miserable, they press onwards, only using one lamp to save fuel, the two humans huddled close and tripping frequently, picking themselves up with varied curses._
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_ “Make more noise, why don’t you,” sneers the dwarf. “It’s not as though were trying to sneak up on anyone!” (Another point to the tension meter)._
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_ “Listen here, Shorty,” (another tension point), growls Petra, “we’re stumbling along a dead straight tunnel holding up a light that can be seen a mile off. (Another point as Wes looks around worriedly). We’re probably outnumbered ten-to-one, we’re cold, we’re hungry and we’re looking for a half rotted corpse that was probably dumped back in the mine. It doesn’t matter wether we’re totally, unbelievably, exceptionally frigging inaudible, WE ARE GOING TO DIE!”_
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_ (And trigger the tension meter – fatigue and stress all round as the party squares up to each other.)_
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_ There is a short, sharp argument, both in- and out- of character, when an unknown voice butts in. “She’s quite right, you know. You will all die.”_
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_ The party whips swords out of sheaths and stands back to back. A short, square figure steps forward, heavily armoured, carrying a huge axe. Behind the squat shape half a dozen more figures can be seen, pointing crossbows at the heroes._
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_ “A bloody Dwarf!” hisses Petra._
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_ The figure grins, showing gold-plated teeth in the lamplight. “Mr Bloody Dwarf to you, Slim.” He steps forward and quizzes Grimmer in the dwarf tongue, full of sharp vowels and glottal stops. More conversation, some heated, lots of waving hands then the dwarf spits out a word, and the crossbows are lowered. Grimmer takes Petra and Wes aside._
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_ (Originally the players weren’t meant to meet the Ironbreakers for some time, but the arguments against continuing were getting pretty powerful, so I bumped up the appearance of some possible allies a bit, and sped up the storyline. Grimmer, using the vengeance for fallen kin gambit, and being a fellow dwarf, easily charms the Leader of the Ironbreakers)._
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_ “These dwarfs have been tracking the goblins for some time now, seems they’re up to no good. And there’s good news, there’s better news and there’s brilliant news.” Grimmer smiles, waiting for encouragement. Nothing._
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_ “The good news is that there’s only about thirty of the goblins. The better news is that Goldtooth over there,” he gestures over his shoulder with a thumb, “says we can join him in killing them all. And the best news is that he thinks Grim is with them!” He nods with excitement._
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_ “Yay,” mutters Petra, clearly underjoyed._
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_ “When you say with them,” asks Wesley, “do you mean with them. Like, not dead but willing? Or do you mean a shambling undead horror type of with?” He looks at his companion questioningly._
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_ “I mean as in my-dead-brother-who’s-cut-up-and-strapped-to-a-banner-like-a-piece-of-offal-type-with!” bellows Grimmer._
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_ “Ah,” says Wesley. “That type of with. Dead with.”_
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_ The discussion is interrupted by the squad of dwarves settling down to eat. Seeing the hungry looks on the companions faces, Goldtooth digs out a packet of food and slings it to Petra. “Try this. It’ll put hairs on yer chest.” Goldtooth’s companions snigger and nudge each other, before pulling out blankets and settling down for the night._
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_ After wolfing down the vaguely sausage like travel food (recover all fatigue and 1 wound each), the heroes decide to sleep too. Grimmer, being an old campaigner, lies down, farts thunderously and passes out almost at once. Wesley, knowing the dwarf from old, positions himself some distance from Grimmer’s rear, and is soon asleep too. Petra, finding herself too close to the noxious dwarf, gets up and wanders around. In the dim light of the dwarves night lamp, only Goldtooth, crouched over some small instrument, and a lookout seem to be awake. She approaches the leader._
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_ “What’cha doin’?” she asks nonchalantly, trying to see what he’s looking at._
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_ To her surprise, the dwarf waves her over. They chat for a while, and Petra discovers that the dwarf, as well as being a warrior, is also some kind of a scientist, a practical anthropologist he calls himself. (Petra pulls out all the stops to charm Goldtooth, throwing in fate points, luck and smiling incessantly. I don’t tell her that, as part of his anthropologic background, the dwarf has a rather unhealthy interest in females of other species. Also, as Grimmer might have told her if he hadn’t been in such a snit, in dwarf society, the acceptance of a cooked ram’s pizzle (the rather chewy sausage they’d eaten earlier) by a woman from a man is often seen as the first step on the path to courtship)._
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_ “Is it useful, this practical anthropology?” she asks, unaware of all the undercurrents._
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_ Goldtooth considers her for a moment. My God, a female human under the age of fifty, seemingly in possession of her wits who seems interested not only in him but his work! How to keep her talking? He points at a box-like contraption in front of him. It contains a dial and some kind of a plumb bob, a sphere suspended on copper wire. “What do you make of it?” he asks._
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_ Petra examines the instrument; she’s seen something like this before. “A compass?” she hazards._
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_ Goldtooth nods in near ecstasy. Knowledgeable too! “Partly,” he agrees. “What about this bit?” He points at the plumb bob. The sphere appears to be offset a little, swinging towards the corridor. Seeing Petra’s blank look, he starts to explain._
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_ “You know how goblins and the like seem to go crazy every now and then, they swarm together, getting angry and really vicious?” Petra nods. She’s heard of the great orc Waaghs! “Well, when this happens, the greenskins get kind of attracted to each other. Not, of course in that kind of a way.” He laughs and pats Petra on the knee, then continues in a lecturing kind of tone. “This attraction is present in every bit of the creature, and can be measured as a pull towards the source of the disturbance.” He waits until Petra nods understanding._
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_ “But how to use this snippet of knowledge?” he shakes his head in mock bewilderment and shuffles closer to the gambler. “This is where practical anthropology comes into its own. Say you take a bit of the goblin – a piece of the heart for example – and suspend it on a line.” He opens the weight on the plumb bob, revealing a hollow space containing a blob of green flesh, then closes it up again. “The irresistible attraction between the greenskin and its fellows stimulates the instrument,“ A squeeze of Petra’s knee and a raised eyebrow. “It wishes to get closer to its attractor. Much, much, closer.” He’s practically sitting in the gamblers lap now. “Voila, you have a waagh! detector. A Bawaaghometer* I call it.” He leaves his hand on Petra’s knee and moves his face closer to hers._
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_ The gambler is in a quandry. On the one hand, Goldtooth and his men are the only thing standing between the companions and possible death. On the other hand the dwarf is short, repulsive, halitotic and, well, a dwarf. (Cries of ‘take one for the team!’ by Phil (Grimmers alter ego) are not helpful and are punished with a couple of tension points). Petra takes Goldtooth’s hand and smiles at him, before twisting it up his back and, whipping out a dagger, presses it against his neck. She whispers something obscene and bloodthirsty in his ear, then glances around at the rest of the company of dwarves. Now she’s done this she’s not sure what to do next. If Goldtooth gets really angry, how the hell is she going to get out of this?_
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_ One of the sleeping dwarves moves a little, then another makes a sound, then another, almost a guffaw. Suddenly all the dwarves are sitting up laughing uproariously and pointing at Goldtooth and Petra. “Put the wee pervert down, girlie. He’s harmless. Just a bit of an itch he’s got from all that study.”_
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_ Eventually everyone calms down, and they settle for the night. Goldtooth is furious, but is calmed down by the other dwarves, and Wes and Grimmer find the whole thing hilarious. Petra positions herself well away from both the amorous Goldtooth and the noxious Grimmer and, slipping her pistol under her carry sack, falls into a fitful sleep._
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*I made a special item card for this. Not very useful, but really, really fun.
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The waaagh!
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_ After a poor sleep the companions are woken by the Ironbreakers. They share some rock-like travel bread (no more ram’s pizzle!), then set out along the underway. The dwarves wont let the humans use a torch, and they endure several hours of staggering along holding onto one of the dwarves belts before there is a break and a little lamplight._
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_ The party find themselves in a widening of the underway, with two side passages leading away on either side. Goldtooth digs out the bawaaghometer and fiddles with it, trying to locate the goblins._
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_ “Just look at the bloody tracks,” mutters Wes, pointing towards the left hand passage. Goldtooth fiddles some more, and the plumb bob twitches, then whips around in circles, wrapping itself around the scientists finger and tightening suddenly. Goldtooth manages to free himself with much effort, and curses, dripping blood from a heavily sliced finger, before kicking the box across the floor. “Bloody stupid idea,” he mutters. Predictably the rest of the party find this hilarious. “Close then?” asks Grimmer, with a straight face._
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_ Suddenly one of the dwarves shushes the party, and points towards the doorway Wes had indicated. There’s the sound of an argument, and two goblins stagger through the opening, biting and kicking each other. They look up briefly in surprise at the company, then are hit by six crossbow bolts and expire messily. “That way, then,” notes one of the dwarves._
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_ A ten minute climb up some crumbling steps and they emerge from a narrow cave overlooking a clearing. The place is full of goblins; screaming, shouting, fighting greenskins, eating, puking, singing in total abandon, several hundred all told. Wesley gasps in alarm as one of the goblins slowly rises off the floor, feet kicking, to hang unsupported above the screaming crowd. His head explodes suddenly, spraying blood and brains everywhere, to much hilarity._
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_ Goldtooth starts to look serious. “Oh yeah, a Waagh!’s building here.” He nods towards one of the warriors, who quickly sheds all his armour, turns and starts running down the steps. “We’re going to need reinforcements to crush this before any of the big boys join.” He gestures the heroes over, and points towards the goblin maelstrom below. The danger seems to have made him forget his anger with Petra. “A rare sight; hopefully not our last. Someone down there is the focus for all this. If we can kill them, we can stop it dead.” He points at a group of three figures, unusual for goblins in that they carry no weapons. They begin dancing around, surrounded by a green nimbus of power. “Them, you think?”_
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(We’re building party tension points again. No-one, not even Grimmer wants to be around this madness when it breaks. A hurried consultation between the players).

“We’ll scout about a bit, ok?” suggests Petra. When Goldtooth says nothing, the three quickly gather their belongings and start to move along the edge of the clearing. “I did not sign on for this,” hisses Petra as they move off.

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_ “Me neither,” agrees Wesley, surprisingly, “There’s bloody hundreds of the buggers.”_
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_ Grimmer looks a little put out by this betrayal from his closest companion. He considers. “Alright,” he says. “Let’s find out if Grim’s body really is down there. If it’s not we’ll head back to the mine and leave Goldtooth to it. If it is, we can wait till the rest of the dwarves arrive, then slip in under cover of the fighting, cut down the body and be off back down the tunnel in seconds.” The other two still look dubious. This has to be one of the worst plans they have ever heard. Grimmer realizes there is near mutiny in the ranks. “You two can stay in cover whilst I do the fighting – just shoot anything that comes near me. If I get killed you can leg it.” Petra snorts; as if they’d do anything else._
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_ A rough plan decided, Wesley slips away to scout out the rest of the goblin scrum. Luckily they are so engrossed by the building Waagh! they don’t think to set guards. He soon returns with the news that there is the half naked body of a dwarf hanging on a crude cross at the back of the gathering – a banner of some sort, he reckons. There are a few goblins lying around nearby, but that’s all._
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_ Grimmer slips away to tell the rest of the dwarves their plans – a ferocious attack in the goblins rear whilst they’re engaged at the front is how he puts it, and surprisingly Goldtooth agrees (he wishes to keep his ‘humie hellcat’ safe for further wooing). The mercenary returns with the news that the rest of the dwarves should be arriving in a four or five hours, and they’ll be attacking at once before the Waagh! grows any more. The players spend the intervening time binding their wounds and resting (successful first aid tests by Wesley to recover a wound point each, remove all fatigue and stress and reset party tension counter to zero). Next stop goblin city._
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_ (Well, that went better than expected. The crew finally seem to have realized that they can’t fight their way through an endless array of foes, and all three seem to have really enjoyed the more more social side of the game – a love sick dwarven scientist with a penchant for inter-species relationships and a passion for dissecting goblins made an interesting character. The stuff about Waaghs! just kind of developed as we went along as the players talked about it – a couple of them have scientific backgrounds so really enjoyed nutting it out. As it’s all speculation, I’ll have no compunction about changing it completely at some later date. Oh yes, I forgot to mention, after the Bawaaghometer was kicked across the corridor, Wesley (he of the klepto tendencies) ‘recovered’ it)._
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