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A beastly Adventure (11)

A Beastly business (11)

The clearing was wide and green, raised slightly above the level of the surrounding swamp. At itʼs centre stood a great stone obelisk, decorated with fetishes and feathers and the skulls of men and animals. All around its base were scattered bones and half-eaten carcasses, gnawed long-bones and spoiled flesh, all crawling with flies.
Sprawled around the stone were many foul looking creatures, hoofed like a beast, but standing upright like a man, bellowing and braying at the sky. There were horns and teeth a-plenty, claws and fur and a few tentacles and less obvious appendages. Some fought, some slept and some chewed on bones, whilst in the middle of the clearing, directly before the herdstone stood the great beastman, muscled and armoured, towering over the lesser beasts. Lightning flashed and crashed continuously above, like drums or a great battery of cannons, outlining the mighty beast in blue fire.
A sudden blast, louder than any other, brought the creature to itʼs knees. When it arose, itʼs eyes glowed with the same blue light as the lightning, glowing eerily. It raised a hand, pointing towards the swamp. “Intruders!” it brayed. Kill them all!”

The characters

Petra Nunce, Reiklander – gambler
Wesley Smitt, Reiklander – scout
Grim Grimmson, Dwarf – trollslayer
Jeremy Dewbender – apprentice grey wizard
Cat – a cat

The next day, Jeremy and Petra go to see Herr Kessler about a possible reward. Wes sets off to recover Grim, to try to add some details to the lightning foci map the wizard had sketched out, and to buy himself a spare bowstring.

Petra and Jeremy are quickly ushered into the Captains office. He congratulates them on apprehending an evil murderer, and offers them the thanks of the whole town (ʻbut what about the money?ʼ whispers Petra_) – unfortunately he cannot give them more than twenty-one shillings; even this has to be entered into the account books as ʻpayment for temporary employment as watchmenʼ! Petra accepts the money with good grace, and asks for a full receipt for her books. When asked what they will be doing next, Jeremy explains (_again) about the abnormal storms; they will be returning to the area of the Holst farm to investigate further. Herr Kessler happily tells them that he is sending a squad of guards out to arrest the entire family this very morning, and suggests the party may wish to accompany them.

Cue the devious Ms Nunce. Firstly she apologizes that they have no horses to keep up with the guards (standard test – the captain will happily provide horses for a short period_). Secondly, she suggests that it might be easier if they remained as supernumeraries of the watch ʻin case of any unpleasantnessʼ (a hard test, but Petra uses one of her social action cards, and Arno Kessler is putty in her hands. He writes out a warrant of office there and then, and stamps it with his seal_). Thirdly, Petra brings up the delicate question of pay (very hard, but – Petra aces it – they will be paid as sergeants in light of their special skills! Ten shillings each a week!). Finally she asks for pay in advance (another very hard test – at last a fail!), but this is laughed off by the Captain.

(The rest of the group are open-mouthed as Petra cons the head of the watch out of horses, money and even a writ of office. I must admit that Craig, who plays Petra, really gets into the whole gambler persona. Comes from being an accountant (hah!))

Meanwhile, Wes is chatting with the owner of the local general store, buying a spare bowstring. He fills in details of the local surroundings from descriptions by the shopkeeper (see map), before leaving to fetch Grim.

Grim is recovered from Eduardo Rodriguezʼs hovel, sporting a rolled up pair of red pantaloons and a terrific hangover. He is accompanied by the drunk, who is wearing a pretty impressive-looking sword, and who vows to follow Grim to the very depths of hell; as this is a place Grim already seems to be inhabiting, he merely smiles bravely and tries not to shake his head too much.

They meet back at the Inn, and eat quickly, before heading out to the local general store to buy supplies (theyʼve actually learnt something from their experiences!). Petra, in charge of the money (which fool decided on that?), also buys herself a wire cheese cutter, and conceals it in a pocket.

A trudge through the rain to the Reikland gate, where they meet up with the squad detailed to arrest the Holstʼs. Petra, on absolutely top form, manages to squeeze out a horse for Eduardo (as long as he rides at the back of the column). She also manages to get waterproof capes for them all after paying a ʻdepositʼ of 5 shillings to the squad sergeant, Detlev Kranst.

-

Itʼs a short ride of an hour or so for the group to reach the Holstʼs farm. Long before that, they realize something is amiss. There is the smell of burning, and a low bank of smoke can be seen ahead. Everyone spreads out and loosens their weapons. They top the final rise, and ahead lies devastation. All the buildings are burnt out, and dead animals lie in the fields, hacked apart in an orgy of wanton destruction. Closer in, they find one of the family, hanging upside down from a tree over a guttering fire. One of the brothers, they think, from the size of the crisped corpse.
Further on they come across a body pinned to the remains of the barn by arrows and left to scorch and to bleed out. A little further and they come across the final horror. A scatter of butchered and chewed limbs surround a cook fire, their gutted torsos piled carelessly nearby. A pyramid of heads overlooks the grisly scene.
(The group was actually a little uncomfortable with this whole scene – the descriptions were very explicit. I was hoping to give them an idea of the consequences of their previous actions).
Wesley promptly lose his lunch, together with a couple of the soldiers. Even Grim looks a little green around the gills, and spits. “Beastmen,” he growls. No-one needs to look for tracks for proof, but Wes wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and examines the ground anyway.
He nods in agreement. “Beastmen. They came from the swamp.” He points south. “Yesterday, I reckon. Probably in the morning, and spent all day doing … this. They didnʼt leave more than a couple of hours ago.”
Grim considers this. “They are beasts,” he growls. “I say we chase after them and kill them as they sleep with their bellies full of man-flesh.”
The rest of the adventurers agree, if not altogether heartily in Petraʼs case. The soldiers, however, are a different matter. They refuse to enter the swamp (ʻNot in our ordersʼ they chorus), but the sergeant, noting that they will be unable to ride their horses in the bog, offers to look after the mounts and wait for them at the farm. “But only until dusk,” he warns.
So, off they set. The party splits into two parts, with Wes, Petra and Jeremy slipping ahead quietly. Wes leads, carefully following the beastmenʼs tracks, and the thief and the wizard follow quietly, Jeremy blending unnaturally into the shadows, whilst Petra simply sneaks along. The dwarf and the drunk let the others get well ahead; neither is particularly stealthy, and hope the vanguard will warn them of any enemies.
For once, the plan goes perfectly, and Wes leads the party through the swamp without mishap, following a rough track and avoiding undue noise and disturbance; the continual roll of thunder from above help to conceal any sounds. Only the drunk, Eduardo Rodriguez, manages to fall in the mud, and is dragged out by Grim. He fishes a small flask out of his pocket and drinks the contents in a huge swallow. “Now the day is-a better. Time for-a the killing, yes?”
At one point they come across an old cart discarded just off the path. Itʼs coated with coal dust – “Herr Weschlerʼs, the coal merchantʼs” mutters Wes. Petra quickly examines it for valuables, but finds nothing and they press on.
Finally the party find themselves at the edge of a clearing. In the centre is a tall stone, with another rock lashed on top of it. Lightning strikes it every few minutes, leaving white after images in everyones eyes. A huge beastman stands before it whilst others lie all around the clearing, many of them appearing asleep.
Jeremy closes his eyes and channels the winds. A bright, bright blue nimbus surrounds the topmost rock. He also gets the faintest impression of a furry body curled up tight, asleep out of the rain some distance behind. He shrugs; it is after all only a cat. He nudges Grim. “Thatʼs it. The rock on top is what we want.”
Petra severely doubts the ʻweʼ part of the statement, but figures what the heck. “Letʼs see if we can even the odds a little,” she whispers. She points at one of the beastmen crouched near them at the edge of the clearing. ”That one.” Carefully she slips away from the rest and approaches it from behind, with Wes behind her.
Two steps out from the edge of the clearing, and she whips her cheese cutter over the creatures head, and drags it into cover. Wes leaps in, stabbing the creature repeatedly in the stomach, spraying blood everywhere. The creature writhes and kicks, choking soundlessly, bodily fluids splashing on the ground. Petra manages to hold onto her wire, cutting the life out of the creature and stopping it from crying out, while Wes finishes the beast off.
(This is actually a good plan! We discussed the use of a garrote after Grimʼs reappearance – the weapon would inflict a small amount of damage every turn, but would prevent the creature from crying out. Petra silences a beast whilst someone else takes it out. The creature suffers 1 misfortune dice, but can make a basic attack against anyone in the engagement; alternatively he may try an opposed strength test to break free).
As the two heroes lower the body to the ground, one of the nearby beasts starts to sniff the air. Realization washes over Wes. “Shit! The blood! It can smell it!” He feels a breeze on his neck. “The winds behind us.” The creature growls something at his companion, and starts to move towards Wes and Petra, questing with his snout.
(As the two killers crouch over the corpse, I ask the question, ʻwhich way is the wind blowing?ʼ No-one thought about being scented, and these are beastmen. I decide the wind has a reasonable chance of being against them and spin a pencil. Guess what – it comes up almost behind them. The creatures can smell something).
The approaching beastman is much bigger than the one theyʻd already slain, and it snarls and slavers as it approaches. Suddenly Wes pops up and quickly fires his bow twice at the surprised creature (rapid fire action; 2 clear hits), piercing itʼs neck and chest. Petra flings one of her daggers, and is pleasantly surprised when it strikes home deep in the creatures eye. It staggers back a pace screaming with pain, until Jeremy, surrounded by a shadowy aura of power, flicks a clot of darkness into its face. It falls heavily and does not move.
Grim and Eduardo surge out of cover, charging the only nearby beastman. Heʼs caught flat-footed, and scarcely has a chance to raise his sword before the dwarf barrels into him, cleaving him with a mighty blow from his axe. The Tilean follows up, piercing the creature with a lightning fast thrust of his rapier into itʼs throat. It falls dead at his feet.
(So far its all been good, with the players taking three of their enemies by surprise, and slaying them without injury. However, there are another eight Ungors, plus another Gor and Izka Madtooth himself yet to face [I hate the henchmen rules and refuse to use them], so I think itʼs going to get rocky soon!)
Almost instantly there is a bellowing roar from the leader of the beastmen, Izka Madtooth, and he charges Grim. Three of the smaller Ungors are also within charge range and follow. The rest of the beasts bellow and mill about, preparing to join the fray.
Grim is thrown back by the impact, one of the fearsome creatures horns slicing deep into his side, spilling blood onto the grass. Eduardo is then struck by one of the lesser beasts, but manages to deflect itʼs attack with his sword.
Wes takes a careful shot at one of the charging lesser beasts and pierces his heart, killing him instantly. (ʻSniper Shotʼ – 4 successes, 1 boon and a delay – 9 wounds, two of them criticals – heʼs dogfood!). Jeremy, still concealed in in the bushes, breathes deeply of the winds of magic and casts it at another of the attackers. This time the clot of darkness seems to twist and curl as it strikes, digging deep into the creatures side. It roars terribly, but continues to charge, striking Eduardo with its horns. The Tilean cannot dodge this attack, and takes a terrible wound to his arm.
Even as Eduardo takes his bitter wound, Grim delivers a mortal blow with his great axe to Izka Madtooth, shattering his ribs and spraying blood everywhere. The beast-king staggers back, stunned by the lethal blow. But the creature will not die! It lowers its head and, with a death roar, charges, striking the stunned Eduardo Rodriguez, driving his horns right through the Tilean swordsman. Man and beast fall to the floor, fatally entwined.
(A hint to all GMʼs out there; kill off any npcʼs with a funny accent as quickly as possible. What starts up as fun ends up as a bit of a strain. Hence Eduardo taking one for the team; also I couldnʼt let Grim die again so soon)
Meanwhile Petra, not willing to throw her last dagger, darts forward, keeping low to the ground. She slides behind the wounded Ungor, and stabs her blade deep into its back, slicing itʼs spinal cord. The creature falls dead at her feet.
Any thought that the beasts would be demoralized by the death of their leader are dispelled when another of the monstrous Gors charges in,
accompanied two of its lesser brethren. He strikes Grim with his sword, adding another wound to the dwarfʼs scarred torso, whilst one of the Ungors strikes Petra, slashing at her back with his blade. Lacking the innate toughness of the dwarf, the Gambler takes a deep cut to her flank, but ignores the wound, throwing herself headlong into a forward roll, to pluck the sword from Eduardoʼs twitching hands, reverse her direction and strike back at her attacker. Effortlessly she pierces the creatures arm, who flinches, then is struck dead by a grey fletched arrow shot by Wes.
This is too much for the rest of the beastmen, and they turn and flee, braying loudly for help. Ominously, replies can be heard from nearby.
“Quick, Grim, fetch the stone,” shouts Petra. She crouches down next to the dying Eduardo Rodriguez and raises his head. “My-a sword,” he whispers, “return it to my-a father.” He clasps Petraʼs hand tightly, whispers “Gratzia,” then falls back unconscious.
Grim dashes to the great herdstone and clambers up, starting to undo the magically imbued rock strapped to it, whilst Wesley advances into the clearing, arrow knocked, covering him.
“Get the cart!” shouts Petra, and Jeremy dashes off to get it. The gambler crouches over Eduardo, desperately trying to staunch the bleeding with a rag torn from her shirt, but it is to no avail. The Tilean gasps, then expires in her arms.
Meanwhile, movement can be heard in the swamp as more beastmen approach. Grim is blasted off the herdstone by a bolt of lightning, but the strike also severs the last of the ropes holding it in place. It falls to the floor next to the gently smoking dwarf, who gathers it into his arms and staggers dazedly back to the rest of the party, arriving just in time to drop the stone into Herr Weschlers cart next to Eduardoʼs body.
There is a shout, and Wesley fires his bow at a beastman appearing at the far side of the clearing, while the rest of the group drag the laden cart back towards the farm. More shouts, and further beasts appear, some roaring and milling around the great herdstone, the rest starting after the adventurers.
An exhausting chase ensues, with Wesley and Jeremy trying to discourage pursuit, whilst the others pant and gasp, pulling the cart as fast as they can. The pursuers never seem to get close enough to strike at the party, perhaps discouraged by the arrows and shadowy darts launched at them. The
creatures stop pursuing when the heroes leave the swamp, and the party staggers back to the safety of the farm and sergeant Kranst and his men.
-
That evening, the four companions sit around a table at the Thunderwater Inn, toasting their lost companion. Eduardoʼs sword, Vilaro, lies in the middle of the table, a last reminder of the dead man. Grim lays a hand on it for a moment, communing with the steel, then looks up at Petra. “Tell me, gambling woman, what did my friend ask of you.”
Petra leans forward and lifts the blade, before strapping it around her waist, then sweeping her cloak forward to conceal it. “Why, to look after it for him, of course.” She nods at her companions, then gets up and heads towards a card game in the corner.
(Well, that was quite interesting, the players are getting frighteningly competent. Grim is racking up the wounds again, but really is deadly in combat; I never realized quite how lethal ʻtroll-feller strikeʼ was. Wesʼs bow skills are equally deadly, and Jeremy is coming along nicely as an all rounder. As for Petra, what can I say. Clever, sneaky and able to cut your throat and steal your purse before you notice the draught. Scary).

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Of cats and colds (10)

Of cats and colds (10)

Jeremy felt a faint prickle on the back of his neck, and a familiar swelling of power in his belly. He looked around searchingly. There, at an opened, shadowed window above, he saw a pair of green eyes staring at him. They blinked once, there was a moment of dizziness, and a second viewpoint was overlain on his sight. He staggered, before the scene settled and he realized he was looking down into a nearby courtyard. The darkened yard was incredibly bright, and sudden movements of dust and shadow pulled at him. A pause, and there was the faintest of creaks, impossibly loud. He saw a short figure sneaking out of the hostelry, pack on back.
__
“Who could that be?,” he whispered. The halfling, Keila Cobblepot, he realized. “Now follow her.” The strange overlain vision wheeled suddenly, and he found himself staring at … something light, something pink against a dark background, viewed through half closed eyes. The vision resolved itself and he found himself looking at a wall of fur inches from his eyes.
__
With an effort, Jeremy raised his eyes. The cat in the window looked up briefly and half closed her eyes mockingly. Another moment of dizziness, and she went back to licking her arse.
__

The characters

Petra Nunce, Reiklander – gambler
Wesley Smitt, Reiklander – scout
Grim Grimmson, Dwarf – trollslayer
Jeremy Dewbender – apprentice grey wizard

After a cold and sleepless night outside Stromdorfʼs locked gates, (not helped by Wes hawking up huge gobbets of phlegm), the four heroes enter the town. The duty sentry directs them towards the barracks, and they split up outside the building, with Jeremy and Petra taking their prisoner to the local watch house, whilst Wes and Grim decide to check out the town.

(Quite sensible, really, with Petra using her new talent (master of disguise) no-one suspects her, and Jeremy has that letter from the head of the Grey College. The two less disguised [and more stupid] characters decide to avoid the authorities, at least until Jeremy has established their alibiʼs).

After viewing Jeremyʼs magisterʼs letter and hearing his explanation of the Holstʼs crimes, the sergeant sends them to the watch captainʼs house with an escort. The escort serves to clear the way through a gaggle of petitioners, and the wizard and his scribe are quickly ushered into the commanders presence.

Jeremy shows the Captain his letter of introduction from the Grey College, and explains what happened at the farm. Tristan is questioned briefly by the Commander, and, on Petraʼs advice from the previous night, accuses the Holstʼs of human sacrifice; the Eigelʼs, he claims, merely put out food and strong drink, and only discovered what their neighbours were doing recently. When they objected, his family was attacked and killed.

Meanwhile, Grim finds a wanted poster for the group on a wall inside a local pub (ʻchecking out the town,ʼ eh?). A drunk, sporting a wide hat, a waxed moustache and an outrageous accent staggers over.

“Short person, what-a does a this-a mean? Short, like ʻim over there?” he gestures towards a tiny, gnarled up man sipping beer in the corner, “Or short like him?ʼ he points at a man with no legs, a war veteran sat at a nearby table. “Or do they-a mean short like a …. a stuntie?” The drunk looks up and focuses on Grim, taking in his stature. He seems surprised. “Like-a you.”

There is a stunned silence as most of the bar take in Grimʼs appearance, the barbaric piercings, the scarred torso, the wild mohican, the staring, bloodshot eyes, the huge axe over his shoulder. There is a general movement away from him at the bar.

Grim turns his gaze upon the drunk. “What,” he spits out between clenched teeth, “did,” he juts his head forward aggressively and widens his eyes, “you,” his hands tighten on the axe, “say?”

The drunk straightens, and sweeps his hat off with a bow “Eh, no offence, compadre. You Northerners, you all-a look-a da same to me.”

There is a moments stunned silence from the dwarf, while the entire bar holds itʼs breath, then with a roar of laughter Grim embraces the other man. “Drink, crazy man. Drink with me!”

(Grim was unable to attend this session, so weʼd worked out that he would go off and find a bar, and drink himself into oblivion, thus missing the entire episode. He wakes up two days later in Eduardo Rodriguesʼ (the drunk) shack on the edge of town with no trousers (WES!), his eyebrows shaved off, and having sworn brotherhood with the Estalian. The two have formed a temporary party and share the ʻDrunken Bumsʼ trait).

Meanwhile, Wes asks around and is directed to the local weapons shop, looking for a sword. He looks at several blades, well outside his price range, and enquires about bow strings (last session I raised the possibility of a chaos star result snapping his bowstring – he has no spares). Later he strikes up a friendly conversation with the proprietor, who apologizes for the lack of a fire – the coal merchant Florian Wescheler disappeared mysteriously a few weeks ago, and hasnʼt been seen since. Wesʼs interest is piqued.

Back at the Commanderʼs office, Jeremy has his official documents stamped and signed by Kapitan Kessler. He notices the ʻTrouser Banditsʼ poster, and asks about it (Petra cringing inwardly).

“Pathetic, isnʼt it? Bunch of loser low-lives escape from Lachenbad courtroom, and they rushed out these posters,” moans the captain. “Unfortunately, it seems the bloody prosecutor was too clever by half, some kind of a legal mix up about dwarves and short people – course, the posters are taken from the prosecutions submission, so now we donʼt know wether were dealing with short people, very short people or dwarves. Iʼve asked the roadwardens to get clarification, perhaps get a picture, but thatʼll take a week or so.”

Petra makes an unctuous bow to Herr Kessler and hurries Jeremy out of the room. “Was that you?” asks the wizard. “The trouser bandits?” he snorts derisively, then stops suddenly, and staggers, leaning against the wall. He feels uncomfortably … full.

Petra puts her hand out to steady him, and a blue spark flashes to her arm. “Ouch!” She steps back, fear showing in her eyes. The magician is about to do something scary.

Confused, Jeremy casts around for the source of the magical influx, sensing a greyness in the winds, and spots a pair of green eyes in an alley. They blink and disappear suddenly, and the feeling of fullness is gone.

“What was that?” asks Petra, keeping her distance. The wizards eyes have lost their shadowed look, but she keeps her hand on a dagger. A quick glance shows no-one has noticed the wizardʼs strange behaviour.

Jeremy shakes his head, clearing it. “I think that that, my dear, was my cat.”

(At the end of last session, Phil [Jeremy] had asked about the possibility of obtaining a familiar – Iʼd told him Iʼd think about it, and heʼd had his normal advance. I introduced the cat-familiar as a side story, boosting/over-loading the wizardʼs power at opportune moments. Jeremy would have to locate the cat to bond with it. I also loaded the cat with a bunch of action cards that would not be under the wizards control, and fail effects such as “lick arse”, “mad half-hour”, “who, me?” and “gone hunting”. The cat acts as a npc until bonded).

The two wait under the eaves of the captainʼs office until Wes appears – the rain is truly sleeting down. Grim, it seems, has disappeared with the town drunk, so the remaining party members discuss their findings – all three suspect a link between the missing coal merchant and the Holstʼs sacrifices; they regret not enquiring more deeply into exactly how the farmers got their victims (thatʼs my crew; stupid). They decide to investigate further, after a nights rest at the Thunderwater Inn.

-

After a meal, food and a good nights sleep, the three begin their investigation. Jeremy pays, and his purse is considerably lightened. Overnight, Wes has managed to give his cold to Petra (“too much snogging” chortles Jeremy, and pushes up the party stress counter), and neither is at their best, socially speaking. They question the innkeeper about Herr Weschler, the coal-merchant, coughing and spluttering everywhere, and are quickly directed towards the ʻStewpot hostelryʼ, a local halfling establishment. The barkeep quickly wipes away the snot and spittle on the counter, muttering about ʻfilthy wizardʼs and their getʼ.

The ʻStewpot hostelryʼ is a rather empty establishment, cosy but a little dull. The adventurers question the proprietor, one Keila Cobblepot, and she describes the coal-merchant as ʻnice if a bit simpleʼ. He left about a week ago, she says, hitching up his wagon himself and departing in the early hours before she was awake. She seems a little scared of the wizard (not unusual!), and bustles around giving them (free) tea and biscuits.

Suddenly Jeremy reels, and sits down heavily. A ghostly scene overlays his sight, a building, familiar. The Inn! The vision focuses upon an upstairs window – their room! Gently the curtains move, as if someone is brushing against them. Jeremy sits up suddenly, to find the hostelry gone quiet, the room seeming more shadowed than before. Everyone is staring at him with trepidation. “Quick!ʼ he shouts, “Someones in our room!”

The three heroes dash out of the building, much to everyoneʼs relief, and run through the wet, muddy streets back to their Inn. Jeremy, still a little dazed from the vision, manages to fall into the deep mud at the centre of the street, much to the localʼs delight (another tension point!). They burst into the Inn and charge up the stairs, past the astonished Innkeeper. A few seconds spent fumbling with their locked door and in they storm.

The room is in disarray, and a window is open, drapes flapping in the breeze. Their few belongings (well, Jeremyʼs really) are scattered around the floor. There is a note pinned to the wall with a knife, which Petra manages to hide before the innkeep comes puffing up the stairs.

“A robbery, your honours, itʼs terrible. Itʼs never happened before. Just you let me at them bludgers, Iʼll show them a thing or two!” The innkeeper scowls ferociously.

Jeremy, convinced by the manʼs passion, begins to apologize. (Gotta love that old gullibility trait!) “Think nothing of it. Could happen to anyone.”

Petra steps in. Sheʼs stayed at many of these places, and knows access to their belongings is available for a few silvers, or with a bent piece of metal. “All our money! Twenty crowns stolen, I should call the watch!”

A considered look crosses the Innkeeperʼs face, and he counters by suggesting that they should have carried that much money with them, or he would have locked it away if they asked. The dickering continues, neither side really wanting to call the watch. Eventually they settle on the heroes having a weeks free board and lodging and nothing said to the watch, whilst Jeremy looks on dumb-founded.

“You, you lied!” he stutters after the hostelier leaves. “I didnʼt leave any money here.”
Petra considers explaining that the Innkeeper probably opened their door himself, but decides against it. “Yes, but I did.”

Even Jeremy finds this hard to believe. “You left twenty gold crowns in our room. I thought you had no money?”

Thinking fast, Petra continues. “It was payment. The robber was our contact. He left a message.” She pulls out the note sheʼd hidden and reads aloud ʻthe seal is ours. We’ll be in touchʼ (S#*@t! – Jeremy looks even more suspicious_). More quick thinking. “Itʼs a code.” She touches her nose. “A secret code.” (_Oh yes, now the local thieves guild is interested, following a message from
the assassin Petal in Lachenbad. Good times to come).

After another huge meal, an early lunch (well, it was free!) the three begin their investigation. A chat in the bar reveals that Herr Wescheler, the coal merchant, had bodyguards whom he left behind when he departed early. They hadnʼt been paid, and set off the next day towards Ubersreik to remonstrate with him. A long, wet, walk around the walls talking to watchmen, revealed that one of them at the North gate remembers the cart leaving in the early hours some days ago. He didnʼt see who was driving, though, as he was here to check what came in; nothing left Stromdorf (except water, he jokes – ha ha).

By this point itʼs getting dark, and all three adventurers are tired and soaked to the skin. Jeremy has caught Wesʼs cold, and is out of sorts; they decide that tomorrow, the first order of business is getting good wet weather gear, and a drink and a (free) meal sounds attractive.

As they trudge back towards the Thunderwater Inn, Wes, looking at the near perennial storm, notices that there seems to be a focal point of lightning actually in the town. He points it out to the rest of the group (remember, Jeremy, your mission?) and they try to locate it. After more slogging around the sodden streets, they find themselves outside the local temple to Sigmar, which is topped with a large, hammer shaped lightning conductor. Jeremy tries to see the local winds of magic – bright, bright blue, as you would expect when looking at a lightning strike.

Whilst standing outside the temple wondering what to do next, Jeremy feels a faint pull from the east. “This way,” he says abruptly, and leads the others across the market square towards the west gate.

They approach the Stewpot hostelry, when Jeremy gets the strange overfull feeling again. Wes and Petra step back as his eyes start to darken, and his face becomes shrouded in shadow. He stops.
“Whatʼs going on?” asks Wes, concerned.

“Jeremyʼs going a bit mad,” answers Petra. “He keeps getting these fits, something about a cat. Comes from being a magic user, they all lose it in the end.” She makes circling signs with her finger at her temple.

Before Petra can expand on her friends incipient madness he interrupts. “That halfling woman, sheʼs leaving the hostelry. Sheʼs got a pack on her back.” Wes and Petra look around. Theyʼre some distance from the Stewpot, and canʼt see anything.

Jeremy continues to stare blankly and mutter to himself. “Thatʼs right, now follow her.” A pause, then he curses suddenly. “Oh arse, sheʼs getting away.” He looks at the others suddenly. “Didnʼt you hear, sheʼs getting away? Come on!”

A sprint, and the three come upon Keila Cobblepot sneaking down the street. She briefly attempts to bluff her way out of the situation by claiming to be off to see her ill auntie, but not even Jeremy falls for that. The adventurers are far too strong to resist, and sheʼs dragged off to the captains office, where she quickly confesses to her part in the kidnapping of various solitary visitors to the town, incidentally implicating Tristan Eigel in the crimes. Kapitan Kessler is overjoyed to find the culprit for a number of recent disappearances, and mentions the possibility of a reward and further work – both Wes and Petra become extremely interested, and agree to return in the morning for an update.

And to finish off. Jeremy borrows Wesʼs compass, and sets out to try to map lightning hot spots in the dark. Petra returns to the Thunderwater Inn where a group of tipsy card players decide to teach the poor lonely scribe how to play cards; amazingly she wins ten shillings off the table in an outrageous run of luck. Wes heads across town to check on Grim, and when he finds him passed out in Eduardo Rodriguesʼ hovel, carefully removes his trousers.

This was the episode when I finally decided that if you canʼt beat ʻem, join ʻem, and let all their pigeons come home to roost. The thieves guild is on their case, pictures of them from Lachenbad may turn up at any time, and Petra, Grim and Wes are attempting to keep Jeremy in the dark about their criminal natures. Oh yes, and the Emperorʼs agent has yet to appear, hard on the trail of a stolen secret Imperial message. I also gave Wes a cold (highly infectious, causes Fellowship -1, recovery difficulty improves by 1 each night). A kind of normal disease that is just very annoying. Bit like the Trouser Bandits.

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A bit of chop

A bit of chop (9)

Well, after his second successive character death, Phil decides to go for something a little less combat orientated, and picks a Grey wizard apprentice. After he works out his characters backstory, I grant him three extra advances because he looks so glum (and to bribe him into agreeing to the story-line segue I’d worked out). Swim is his first extra skill pick, then ride. Ha!

__

Characters

Petra Nunce, Reiklander – gambler
Wesley Smitt, Reiklander – scout
Grim Grimmson, Dwarf – trollslayer
Jeremy Dewbender – apprentice grey wizard

Jeremy was enjoying his first assignment from the Grey College. True, he was standing on a muddy river bank, with no idea where the nearest town was.True, he was caught in the mother of all storms, and the rain was – literally – bucketing down. True, the local inhabitants had the intellectual prowess of a blunt spade stuck in a rancid cowpat, and seemed a little unsure where (or what) civilization was. But Gods! the pleasure of being away from the lies and deceptions of the big city, the ridiculous deceits and stories of little men. He was free here, the ruler of his own destiny, and would never again be deluded my his fellows. No longer would he be known as Dewbender the dupe, Dewbender the dumb, he would be Dewbender the Devious! Dewbender the decisive! Dewbender the discerning!

Jeremy’s day-dreams are interrupted when he falls over a young woman lying soaked on the river bank. She rolls onto her side and waves a soggy piece of paper with an impressive looking seal on it at the young wizard. “Imperial agent,” she croaks. “We were ambushed. Help us!”

Jeremy looked at the young woman. She was wet and exhausted, but otherwise hale. He took the paper from her hand and examined it carefully. The ink on the document she was waving had run, making the writing illegible, but, good grief! the seal looked Imperial. He made a snap judgement about her honesty and saluted. “I am always ready to assist servants of the Emperor, madam. What can I do?”

(One of the reasons Phil’s new character had extra advances was that he agreed to him suffering from the condition ‘gullible’. When people try to convince Jeremy of something that is pretty obviously nonsense, they roll an extra fortune dice. Add Petra’s winning smile, guile skill and a whole heap of fortune points, and he was putty in their hands).

Once Jeremy had helped the three heroes to his camp-site, got them out of their wet clothes, warmed them by the fire and fed them, the young woman told her tale. They had been hunting a band of chaos cultist for weeks in the nearby town of Lachenbad, and had been on the point of arresting them, when they’d been ambushed by their men. They’d been attacked, and had been forced to flee the town in a leaky rowboat. The ambushers had chased them, but had been lost some distance upstream, not before killing one of their number (the strange looking dwarf had growled something at this, but had been calmed by his companions). However, the leaders of the cult were powerful men, and had convinced the local authorities that they were common criminals, and had even issued arrest warrants for them! It was vital that they conceal their identities from everyone, and lay low until they were ready to tackle the cultists again. She looked deep into his eyes and let her blanket fall a little, exposing bare flesh. Could he help them? (Of course he could!).

The heroes spend a day recovering at Jeremy’s camp site, and the wizard tells them about his mission. It seems that the town of Stromdorf, known as the wettest place in the Empire, has become even wetter. Apparently there has been a storm raging here continuously for over three weeks, and he has been despatched by his masters in the Grey College to investigate. He shows a letter from his college asking for every assistance to be given to Magister Dewbender and his associates in investigating this mystery.

There is a pause, before Petra inquires, “Your associates?”

Jeremy looks a little concerned. “Yes. I had hired two guides in Altdorf to assist me, but they set out for the town to buy supplies three days ago. I hope they are alright.”

“Erm, these guides, how much money did you give them to buy supplies?” inquired Petra.

“Two crowns. They took my horse in to get it shod as well, so I’m a bit stuck at the moment.They were very good with horses – spotted the loose shoe before I had a clue.”

The three imperial agents exchange glances. “I fear for the worst,” says Petra.

“Not … dead?”

“Possibly,” speculates the gambler. “Or at least geographically distant. But not to worry, we will assist you. We will replace your unfortunate associates!”

Jeremy thanks them profusely, and the three criminals decide to change their appearance. Petra the gambler ties her hair up in a tight bun, splashes some of the wizards ink on his hands and becomes Frau Friedman, a scribe working for Jeremy. Wesley the Scout shaves off his beard, steals a perky hat from the wizard and becomes – Wesley the scout, another employee of the wizard, (our Wes in not the sharpest tool in the shed). Grim stoutly refuses to change his appearance, (‘It’s not honourable!’) but eventually agrees to be known by a very different name – Grom. Ah well, it’s a start. With luck he may well die soon.

The next morning our intrepid band sets out to find their way to civilization. Jeremy confidently leads them over a small stream, now in full spate following a rough path which he soon loses. They stand around in a glum huddle, the three ‘agents’ carrying various cases and packs, whilst Jeremy carries nothing; ‘acting the part’ he remarks.

Suddenly Wes the scout notes a column of smoke to the east. “That’ll be the farm we passed,” says Jeremy. “The Eagles. Terribly smokey chimney.” There is a brief discussion during which the party start to wonder at the amount of smoke, as well as the wizards naivete, before deciding to investigate with caution. They distribute their few weapons – Wes has his bow, Petra has Wes’s dagger and another that Jeremy produces, whilst the Slayer, having lost the scout’s sword in his swimming lesson last episode (‘you’ll have to pay for that’ pipes up Wes), drags a massive branch off a sodden tree. Jeremy seems content with his staff.

The adventurers advance on the smoke, Wes and Petra slipping away to scout ahead, whilst Grim and Jeremy advance up a faint track. “Look at ‘em sneaking around like thieves”, he begins, but then checks himself when he can’t see the wizard. “Or bloody mages!” he finishes. (Both Wes and Petra make successful sneak tests, whilst Jeremy casts Cloak of Shadows upon himself. The three move quietly up to the Eigel’s farmhouse). Grim stomps on muttering bad temperedly, before rounding a corner into what remains of the farm. “Shite, he whispers, tightening his grip on his club. All that’s left are the burnt out shells of a house and a couple of out-buildings. On one section of wall still standing a chaos star is daubed in what might be blood. “Double shite.” A whistle and Wes appears from behind a wall.

“There’s no-one left,” the scout says in a normal voice. He points to tracks on the ground, large and cloven-hooved. “Beastmen. Couple of big ones. The rest smaller. About ten all told, I reckon. He gives the ruins a cursory glance, breaking of a fragment of burnt wood.”Still warm. Happened last night.” (My God, ten out of ten for Wes. He’s getting good!) The heroes gather around, and give the buildings a cursory search for valuables. “Looking for survivors,” Petra assures the wizard when asked.

Another farm overlooks the ruin, and the group decide to head that way, slogging through mud and low shrub up a low hill. “Funny how they didn’t attack this one,” muses Petra.

Grim laughs. “P’raps they didn’t have enough time, they knew we were coming.”

When they reach the farm, there is a huge argument going on. Two in-bred looking country types are screaming insults, whilst a gaggle of similarly ‘unusual’ types look on. There are squints, twitches and crossed-eyes galore, as well as a little drool. One particularly big and stupid looking country cousin looks on with his mouth open, loosely gripping a massive woodcutters axe in his hands.

(“Jeez, where’s the cajan music?” wonders Phil/Jeremy, and on cue I put on ‘dueling banjos’ – the players get it immediately).

They notice a skinny youth sitting on the porch playing the mandolin very, very well, seemingly oblivious to the fuss around him. Jeremy approaches him for information but is ignored. The other three move nearer to the argument, picking up scraps of argument – ‘your fault’, ‘shouldn’t have stopped’, ‘dead because of you’, ‘sacrifice’. The argument hots up, and Grim rubs his hands together. “Looks like a scrap. Go for it, I bet a shilling on the one with his eyes too close together!”

Wes looks askance at the dwarf. “Both of them have eyes too close together.”

“So I win, what’s the problem? Whiney humans, always complaining.”

Suddenly one of the protagonists pulls a knife. Before anyone else can react, Grim clubs him over the head. “No cheating,” he bellows as the figure crumples. He relieves him of his dagger, which he pockets smartly, then flips him onto his side with a foot. He grins brightly. “Anyone care to tell me what’s this’s all about?”

There are a few mutters about Holtz family business and a general shuffling of feet. The dwarf shrugs. “Ah well, fair enough, these things happen in the best of families.” He points at the huge imbecilic figure opposite him. “Changing the subject a little, care to sell the axe?”

Whilst the unconscious figure is dragged away and tied up by a couple of the farmhands, Grim settles to dickering with the idiotic near-giant. He really doesn’t want to sell his axe, and Grim has no money, but he perseveres. “How about a bet?” The giant looks vaguely interested. Grim points at Petra. “How about her? I’ll bet her against your axe. You win and you get a fine bit of girly-flesh to play with. I win, I get your axe. How about it?”

The massive man is practically wetting himself with excitement as Grim calls his companions over. Rather than beating him over the head with his liver as everyone expects, Petra says sadly. “It’s not right to use people as bets. Not right at all. Not unless, well, it’s at cards. That’s ok.”

The oaf lumbers off into the farmhouse, and returns with a creased pack of deck. He holds them out to Grim. “No, no,” says the dwarf, “you might think I’m cheating you. Let the young girl deal.”

(Suffice it to say that the party swiftly gained a two handed axe, half a wheel of cheese and several large, suggestively shaped root vegetables before the Holtz’s realize that the ‘young girl’ is freakishly lucky. Petra also pockets the cards).

Whilst Petra and Grim are off fleecing the yokels, Wes and Jeremy talk to the leaders of the Holtz clan, Otto and Maria. They ask some hard questions about the burnt out farm below and the Holtz’s apparent safety, and eventually the two admit to leaving ‘gifts’ for the beastmen to prevent them attacking them – the Eigels had stopped their offerings a few weeks ago, hence the reason for the attack. When pressed on the nature of these ‘gifts’, Otto and Maria are a little vague, mentioning beer, livestock and animal skins. Concerned, Wes slips away to question the prisoner about the bribes, but finds him tied up in a barn in a drunken stupor.

While Wesley is away, the Holtz matriarch settles down to question Jeremy about the group. Remembering the deception they are running, he explains that the group are his hired men, fiercely loyal and obedient to his orders (hah!). After much consideration, Maria suggests that there is someone he ought to meet that evening.

Foaldeath

After resting in one of the barns until dusk, Otto and Maria Holtz fetch the party for their mysterious meeting. Both carry lanterns, and lead the adventurers away from the farm and into a nearby wood; no birds or animals can be heard, and much of the vegetation appears strangely stunted. As night falls, the guides light their lanterns and steer the party along a faint track between twisted trees. A light rain falls, and the landscape is lit every few minutes by flashes of lightning, throwing the trees into stark highlights. Gradually the party become aware of their destination, a huge tree ahead, festooned with charms, fetishes and animal corpses, brooding and evil. The Holtz’s stop before it, and Maria gestures for a tall cloaked figure to come out.

“A mage,” says Jeremy, sensing magical potential.

“My son,” says Maria fondly.

“Big,” says Petra, noticing the figures size and breadth. She slips a dagger from her sleeve as a precaution.

“A beastman!” shouts Wes, seeing the creatures cloven feet.

And, “Aarrghh!” from Grim, swinging his axe in a mighty arc into the creatures head, splashing brains and gore everywhere, killing it instantly.

(And thats it. Troll Feller Strike, Great weapon and a fortune dice for a sudden attack and it’s all over for Foaldeath. Scenario is comprehensively derailed).

With a scream, Maria throws herself at the murderous dwarf, lunging at him with her dagger. Petra darts forward, backstabbing the distraught woman, driving her away from Grim to collapse bleeding on the ground (seven wounds and two crits! She’s history). Wes, seeing Otto going for his sword, steps back and fires an arrow point-blank into the farmer’s chest. With no armour and no chance of dodging, the Holtz patriarch is severely wounded, but manages to get his sword out, just in time for Jeremy to pierce him with a flurry of shadowy darts that spring from his fingertips. He slumps dead, next to his dying wife.

The wizard looks around at the corpses in confusion. “What was all that about?”

(I think the players were quite shocked at just how lethal they have become. Before now they’ve always fought soldiers or monsters or been ambushed themselves – a couple of ill-prepared civillians were grist to the mill. Foaldeath should have been more of a challenge, but Grim’s murderous attack put him down in one. Ouch!)

The four heroes stare at the carnage surrounding them. Maria choses that moment to expire noisily from blood loss, and they look at each other guiltily.

“Now what?” asks Jeremy plaintively. “We’ve just slaughtered an innocent family?”

“Innocent?” says Grim, “innocent? What do you think their ‘gifts’ were? Beer, yes, livestock, perhaps, but I’m guessing at least some of their offerings walked on two legs, at least until they were eaten!”

“Really?” asks Jeremy, “they seemed so wholesome and, well, rural.” (That gullibilty trait has a lot to answer for!).

“If by rural you mean cretinously inbred, then yes, they were the most rural folks I’ve ever met. They were so inbred one of their sons was a beastman.”

Eventually they drag the bodies under the great tree (after Grim and Wes check their pockets, of course), then settle down to decide their next move. No-one wants to go back to the Holtz house (what, a conscience?) but unfortunately they are completely lost. They argue for quite some time, drawing sketch maps, and desperately trying to work out how to get to Stromdorf without passing the farm, but as they have no idea where i) they are, ii) they’ve been and iii) they are going, they are a bit stumped. Eventually Petra takes control.

“Follow me,” she says, heading towards the Holtz’s farm.

“What are we going to do?” asks Jeremy plaintively.

“What we always do in these situations,” replies Petra. “Lie a lot and be prepared to run.”

Half an hour later two desperadoes stagger into the Holtz’s farmyard, clothing ripped, shouting for help.

“Beastmen, they attacked us!” shouts Petra, panting heavily. “You’re father and mother tried to hold them off, but there were too many!”

“They killed hundreds trying to save us, the brave fools, but the beasts overpowered them,” adds Wes, hiding his face in his hands. “Why oh why Gods? Why take them? Why take the best of us?”. Petra staggers over to him, and stumbles, placing an arm around his neck for support, coincidently squeezing tight enough to prevent him talking (and breathing).

“Don’t listen to him, he’s delirious with shock, look at his colour.” (Wes is turning blue)

“We’ll go and fetch help at once. Quickly, which way is the town?”

A sleep befuddled farmhands points out the direction, and the two survivors stagger out of the farmyard, the scout choking with grief.

Meanwhile Grim and Jeremy sneak into the barn and free the prisoner. He can barely walk, he’s so inebriated, and the two have great difficulty getting him away quietly. They meet the rest of their party a little way down the track to town, and press on through the night, questioning the freed captive as they walk; Tristan Eigel is so drunk they easily get the whole sorry story of the Hotzes and Eigels buying their safety through sacrifices.

(Well, another classic cock-up by the rock-steady crew. They really do try to be, well, if not good, at least not completely murderous, but things just don’t seem to work out that way, and the body count is rising. I wonder if they’ve about thought what’s going to happen to the Holtz’s when the beastmen find their shaman dead, with Maria and Otto next to him?)

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Here come the judge
cheap tickets (8)

Here comes the judge (8)

In the next episode, the heroes are brought to trial. The court scene was played without the benefit of the Slaneesh expansion, so I used cards such as ‘Intimidate’ and ‘Charm’ as lawyer specific action cards (renamed as ‘Browbeat’ and ‘Bellow’ etc). The lawyer also counted as trained in these actions when used in court. I also gave bonuses/penalties for questioning individuals of a different social class (the lawyer and judge were silver tier). As you might guess, the cards were heavily stacked against the defendants. So what’s new?

Characters

Petra Nunce, Reiklander – gambler
Grimmer Grimmson, Dwarf – mercenary
Wesley Smitt, Reiklander – scout
Grim Grimmson, Dwarf – trollslayer

“So you saw these three … desperado’s … enter Frieda Karlsberg’s room and stab her to death?”
“No sir,” whispered the maid, in a lower class accent.
“What? Why not? Are you blind?”
The young woman muttered something. “What?” bellowed the prosecutor, towering over her. “Speak up. Are you stupid as well as ignorant?”
The young woman was trying hard not to weep. When she spoke her accent was even stronger. “Well sur, there was only one dwarf that entered the house, sur. There be two dwarves there.”
“Hmmm,” murmured the lawyer. He raised a piece of paper and read from it in a fake accent. “I saw a tottie, a short bloke and a crazy looking stuntie burst out of ‘er ladyships rooms …” He paused briefly and peered at the terrified young woman over his half moon glasses. “You are aware, of course, of the penalty for voicing gratuitous insults to the Khazalid allies of our glorious Empire?” His voice lowered and became more threatening, “said penalty not to exceed five shillings, ten lashes of the whip, and possible branding of the face?” He simpered, and produced a sickening smile. “Such a pity to mar those pretty features.”
The maid was hiding her face in her skirts and sobbing with fear. “No sur, no! I didn’t …”
The prosecutor interrupted her weeping. “Now, if by stuntie you meant ‘a short person of whatever race’ then of course you would no longer be indulging in a racial slur, merely pointing out a salient physiological detail.”
The maid was nodding enthusiastically now, though it was uncertain she had understood the lawyers interjection.
Herr Snodgren pointed dramatically at the heroes in the dock and his voice boomed out. “So you saw this woman and these two short people burst out of Frieda Karlsberg’s room after stabbing her to death …”
“Yes sur, yes! That’s it! It was them. They did ‘er in! They kilt ‘er ladyship!” shouted the maid enthusiastically. There were gasps from the jury.
“No further questions.”

After their glorious battle with the greenskins, the four heroes are escorted back to the entrance of the mine by the dwarves. There’s a brief moment of worry when Wes hears the splatting sound of a heavy round body approaching, but one of the Ironbreakers whips out a horn and blows it loudly, and the creature hops away quickly.
Once out of the tunnels, our band of heroes stand around blinking in the early morning sunlight. All four are tired and, despite the doctoring and travel food provided by the dwarves, far from their best. Grim in particular is dead on his feet, carrying wounds from the fight and scars from being chained, half-dead, to the goblins standard for several weeks. One eye appears permanently closed, and it’s doubtful he would ever regain the sight in that eye. Fearing for the dwarf, Petra and Grimmer assist him to walk to where they’d hidden the horses, while Wes takes his bow and sets off to hunt for game.
When Grim, Petra and Grimmer arrive at their camp, they’re instantly surrounded by crossbow armed Roadwardens. There is a moment when they consider making a fight of it, but are stopped by Grimmer. “I told you we should have gone WESt!”
“I forgot me WESkit,” responds Grim.
“You’re all just WEStling in the dark,” adds Petra with a groan.
The leader of the Roadwardens looks hard at our three conquerors. “Alright, they’re obviously up to something. Take their weapons, tie ‘em up tight and you three, go and search for anyone else who might be about.”
There’s a moments dismay from the heroes (what, are the Roadwardens complete idiots?), but it’s quickly stemmed by one of their captors pulling out a wanted poster and holding it up to the three captives. His lips move as he reads slowly, “The trouser bandits,” (Yes! shouts Janey [Wes] fame at last!), he holds up the paper. “It shows one woman,” he nods at Petra, “ a stuntie,” (Grimmer), “ and a man.” He looks critically at the Trollslayer. “He’s a bit short.”
“I was standing on a box,” responds Grim with a smile.
“Forget that, it says three and we’ve got three. Double time out of here then,” orders the leader. “Just in case there’s any goblins about.”

By the time Wesley reached the campsite it was all over. The horses were gone, as well as his companions. A quick glance at the tracks revealed the whole story – capture by six or seven presumably armed, enemies, then a quick departure on horseback. Wes was left with a difficult decision – follow immediately or rest and then follow later in the day. Not too difficult a decision; he knew where they were going, and was unsure he could follow the horses at any speed. He lay down for a blessed rest and was soon unconscious. Meanwhile Grim and co. were being escorted back to Lachenbad. On the ride Petra attempted to bribe her captors to no avail, whilst Grimmer’s attempt at Intimidating his captors led to him being gagged for a period. Grim, swaying badly in the saddle, settled for staying on his mount (he’s the only one without the ‘ride’ skill now). A full days ride and they’re back in Lachenbad – a session with the town doctor, and then they are locked up in the cells awaiting trial for murder, banditry and stealing men’s trousers.
Imprisoned

Whilst in prison, the three unfortunates meet a variety of interesting characters. Josef Karlsberg drops by for the customary gloat and psychopathic chuckle. Bingle, the town drunk, is in the cell opposite, and the players spend an inordinate amount of time questioning him, thinking he must be some clever plot device to enable them to escape. (No, he’s just a sad drunk). The court approved defender visits them, complete with receding chin, askew eyes and protruding teeth. He confides in them that ‘Unc will take it easy on them as it’s my first trial’; ‘Unc’ being the hired-gun prosecutor brought in from Ubersreik. There is a little brutality when their jailors try to search them for contraband (i.e. anything worth stealing). A brief scuffle in which the chief guard loses some teeth and they’re left on their own, on reduced rations. On the plus side the four days they spend in prison allows them to recover somewhat from the rigors of their adventures.
I must admit I hate it when my players split up. Trying to keep everyone interested whilst only half of them are doing anything is a pain, and trying to keep them from passing information they shouldn’t is almost impossible. To overcome this, I had Wes tell me roughly what he was going to do when he got into Lachenbad, and I prepared a written summary of what he found out during the trial (see below).

Wes’s plan

1. Speak to Petal (the assassin) about help with a jail break.
whilst willing to help the heroes to evade the law, Petal and his underworld cronies are unwilling to arrange anything as obvious as an escape. He arranges for a boat to be moored at the ‘Bad boy bridge’, just in case. The price for this assistance is the coded Imperial message complete with Imperial seal. (Remember this, from the very first session?)
Talk to Herr Karlsberg, preferably in a violent and terminal manner.
Not a chance. Josef Karlsberg has hired three huge bodyguards who accompany him at all times.
Try to find evidence of Josef’s involvement in the goblin attacks.
A break in at the Karlsberg shipping warehouse reveals a secret panel in one of the walls, just big enough for a set of ledger books. Unfortunately there are no books, but you do find a bill of lading for delivery of several crates of weapons to a holding warehouse in Lachenbad – no end user is specified. Not conclusive proof, but suggestive. A drunken chat with a clerk from the local counting house reveals that far from being bankrupt, Josef Karlsberg was depositing coin regularly, often in older or rarer types of coin and in poor condition.
Try to sneak in to see the others, dressed as a woman (why?) and give them the evidence you’ve uncovered.
-No, no, no. The owner of the dress shop calls the town watch, and you are cautioned for possible lewd and unnatural behaviour. You give a false name (Herr Hipplestippen – where did that come from?) and have to spend the rest of your time in town in hiding, lisping and pretending to have a limp; the town guard have you down as a bit of an out-of-town pervert.
After reading this, Wes decides to try to enter the court as an onlooker. He stashes his bow and backpack in an alley in the early hours of the trial day, and, somehow, manages to enter the court in his Herr Hippelstippen persona (many, many misfortune die, but pluses from lurching around lisping in my front room scrapes him by). He’s in, but the guard has orders to ‘keep an eye on the old perv.’

The trial
Before the trial began, the players decided to dismiss their defendant and let Petra do the job. A benefit of this is that it means she will be unchained whilst in the courtroom. The other two will have wrist irons. I then let the players chose four salient points for their defence, these are:-

There are two dwarves in the party, whilst the witnesses only saw one.
No-one saw them kill Frieda Karlsberg.
The motive for the crime was that Herr Karlsberg was having his own wagons robbed to supply the goblins with weapons to attack the town.
They stopped the coach because they were looking for the real murderer, Josef Karlsberg.
I made a 12 step tracker for the jury, starting it at step eight(1 for the higher social class of Josef Karlsberg and +1 for there being non-humans in the dock – no assumption of innocence in the Empire);movement of the tracker depends upon results of the social conflict rolls for the above points. If the trial ends with the jury at step 2 or below then the defendants are innocent; step eleven indicates guilt. Any other result indicates a hung jury and it’s down to a simple roll off between the lawyers, with fortune/misfortune modifiers based upon wether the jury is pro- or anti- them (6 or less pro,7 or more anti).
The trial began quite badly for the players, with their point that the maid only saw one dwarf in the party, not two, being completely dismissed on the grounds that the witness was using the term dwarf and short person interchangeably. (See dialogue at beginning – the prosecutor used both ‘Browbeat’ and ‘Bellow’ to persuade the maid to change her story, moving the tracker a massive three steps).
On the point that no-one actually saw them kill Frieda, the prosecutor points out that the maid actually accused them of the murder here in this court under oath! As this is the big one, Petra pulls out all the stops, ranting and raving about justice for all and how the poor witness had been bullied by an upper class brute (Petra throwing in all the fate points available and one of her two social action cards). Unexpectedly, the lawyer asks for the whole question of wether they were seen to be thrown out on an obscure point of law (custom made card – ‘Technicality’). He succeeds and gets the point ruled sub-judice. (No movement of the tracker, and all those fortune points wasted!).
Moving on to the motive for the murders, Petra wonders what would cause three poor, misunderstood war heroes (Pitiful expressions from the two dwarves add a fortune dice) to slay an unknown woman? However, if the murderer was someone else … she points at Josef Karlsberg, and raises the question of his weapons shipments, and who they were meant for. Lots of gasps from the crowd when the gambler raises the spectre of crazed greenskins pillaging the town, raping, burning and killing their children, (Petra is really getting the hang of things here!). The prosecutor counters with the question of evidence. (A snort from Petra). Have they got any? Anything at all? (custom card – ‘Ridicule’). The indignant crowd starts to waver, and the jury looks less and less convinced.
Suddenly Wes has a brilliant idea. He can’t leap to his feet and present the bill of lading, but he might be able to … (uh oh). He slips out of the courtroom after giving Petra a thumbs up, runs across the street to where he’s stashed his bow (easy test – no-one has nicked it). Tying the bill of lading to an arrow, he pulls back the bowstring and aims at the dirty window of the courtroom.
(At this point I stop the session for a brief word with Wes out of the room. For an archer of his skill, hitting the window is not difficult. However, he can’t see through the glass, so what with ricochets, where it goes after hitting the window is anybodies guess. We discuss it briefly, and decide to allow an easy test for success, but add four skill die and four difficulty die – chaos and comet will cancel each other out, but any outstanding results will decide where the arrow goes).
Back to the courtroom, and the prosecutor is pouring scorn on Petra’s fantastical ideas, to much sniggering from the crowd. There is the sound of breaking glass and a scream, and a member of the jury stands up, an arrow piercing their arm. Pandemonium ensues as everyone dives for cover under benches and desks.
“Come on!” screams Grim, clubbing down one of the guards and recovering their sword. Grimmer follows suit, unleashing a mighty head butt that lays his guard out cold.
“Oh feck!” mutters Petra. The entire prosecution team is hiding under the benches, so it’s a simple matter to run across the courtroom, gather up the judges ceremonial hammer and attack the guard at the door. Unfortunately this is not the hoped-for success, and the guard parries her attack, before counter-attacking and scoring a wicked hit on her side (six wounds, but no critical).
With a yell, Grim and his brother appear behind Petra. The guard, seeing his doom approaching, drops his sword and runs away from the courthouse door, screaming. Laughing madly, the two dwarves pick up Petra between them and burst through the doorway into the street. Surprisingly, the gambler retains her cool, and screams, “Goblins! A goblin attack in the court!” Two nearby watchmen instantly rush past the desperadoes into the court, and Grimmer slams the door after them, wedging it shut with his stolen sword.
Wes appears in the alley opposite, grinning sheepishly. “Where next?” shouts Petra.
He gestures vaguely. “Bad boy bridge. We’ve got a boat waiting.”
The four deperadoes head rapidly west towards the bridge, screaming “Goblin attack!” at everyone in the street. As Wes distributes his weapons on the run, there is the sound of breaking wood behind them and the courthouse door bursts open. Scarcely breaking stride, Wes spins and plants an arrow next to the door, and everyone pulls their heads in.
In a few short minutes the bridge is in sight. By this time Petra is needing to be supported by Grim, clutching her wounded side. Behind them, a motley collection of guards and incensed citizens follow just out of bowshot.
“How do we get down to the boat?” asks Grim, as they reach the bridge. The deck of the bridge is some thirty feet above the surging river Lach, and there’s no obvious way down.
“More to the point, where is the fecking boat?” asks Petra. A crossbow bolt fired from behind skitters along the ground at their feet. Wes plants an arrow in a nearby house to discourage their attackers.
No boat can be seen. “It must be under the bridge,” says Wes. “Has anyone got a rope?” Everyone looks at him with amazement. “OK, can anyone swim?”
“Don’t look at me,” mutters Grimmer. “I’m a dwarf. Son of stone and all that. Sink like a brick.” Grim nods in agreement. “How about you?” He asks Petra.
“Er yes, but in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve got a big hole …”
This is as far as she gets before the two brothers pick her up and throw her over the side of the bridge.
“Arrrrgghhh!” followed by a big splash.
Grim looks over the side of the bridge. “Well, is it there?” No reply.
By this time the heroes are getting desperate. The angry crowd behind is getting ready to charge, and another bolt sparks off the bridges stonework.
There is the sound of cursing from below. “Come on,” yells Petra, “Jump!”
“Let the boat out a bit so I can jump into it!” shouts Grimmer.
“Don’t be bloody stupid, you’ll go through it! Remember, you’re a dwarven brick!” (only it dosn’t sound like brick).
Wes slings his bow over his shoulder and jumps. A splash, a pause, then the sound of someone thrashing about in the water. Cursing, then Wes’s voice floats up. “Come on in, the waters nice!”
With a roar, the crowd charges.
“You hold ‘em off and I’ll circle behind!” shouts Grim, vaulting over the wall of the bridge.
“Keep me covered, I’ll cut them off at the pass!” replies Grimmer, leaping into the river.
And then, another one of those darkly iconic moments in WFRP. Grim passes his hard athletics test for the jump, and is dragged cursing into the boat by Petra and Wes. Grimmer fails badly (a chaos star and a skull) and clips his head against the bridge. Being the proverbial dwarven brick, he goes straight underwater without a sound, no flailing of arms, no shouting. When the other three look up, he’s gone, without a trace to mark his passing. There follows a frantic period when Grim, Petra and Wes flail around under the water with their hands and anything else they can get their hands on, but to no avail. After three rounds I pronounce Grimmer well and truly dead. The face eating psychopath is no more.

Epilogue

The survivors cut the mooring rope on the boat and are transported rapidly downstream towards Stromdorf (and TGS). There are a few crossbow bolts, but no-one is hit; they also avoid turning the boat over on rocks. Grim is overcome with grief and strengthens his Slayer vow. Wes is at a loss without his closest friend and brain. Petra, whilst sorry at the dwarf’s death, can’t help thinking the world (and the party) might be a safer place without Grimmer’s psychotic approach to the world.

Well, that was a bit of a surprise. After escaping the long arm of the law in an episode full of fun, Grimmer dies after jumping off a bridge. To say we were devastated is an understatement – Grim and co. just couldn’t believe it, fro farce to tragedy in a second. Just goes to show, the warhammer world is an arbitrary and unkind place. Tot up another player death to the GM.

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Back from the dead
Cheap tickets (7)

Back from the dead

It 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.

“KILL!”

Characters

Petra Nunce, Reiklander – gambler
Grimmer Grimmson, Dwarf – mercenary
Wesley Smitt, Reiklander – scout

At last! I have my party exactly where I want them. I know what they’re going to do next, and can (for once), plan on surprising them. We’ve got a fourth player joining the group, very confusingly he’s the brother of Phil, who plays Grimmer; he’s played before, and wants to play a more advanced character, so I’m aiming on introducing him about halfway through the session – until then he’s commanding the Ironbreakers.

(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!

Postscript

The 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.

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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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Workin' in a coal mine
Cheap tickets (5)

Workin’ in a coal mine

Characters

Petra Nunce, Reiklander – gambler
Grimmer Grimmson, Dwarf – mercenary
Wesley Smitt, Reiklander – scout

Getting to the mine

Following their attack on the stage, the players will be pursued by a posse of roadwardens from Lachenbad – I set up a ten space tracker for the pursuit and place a marker for the players at space 6. Fortunately, the players will be some hours ahead of their pursuers – the hunters will be unable to gain any ground on the adventurers whilst they maintain a moderate pace, unless they have an idea where the players are going. Various ruses may be used to increase or decrease the heroes lead

(Thanks to Gitzman for the use of parts of his great map – note Lachenbad is an add-on here – it’s present in Andy Law’s map, but not in others. Tax dodge, I say. )

(Well, the characters are so far off beam in terms of the scenario that I’ve just prepared key characters and places; I really have no idea where they are going. Moving between the key points is going to be down to dice rolls and old fashioned winging it. Wes and Grimmer have two advances [house rule, catching up with the gambler], whilst Petra has one. Wes and Petra chose riding – Grimmer teaching them as they go along. As its out of career, Petra only gets to half learn it, completing it on her next advance).

The three start the session with a bit of a summary of what’s going on. I allow them a look at the map above, and they realize that they’ve got to cross the river to get to the mine, so they instantly turn their string of horses southwards, and navigating by the stars (an easy test for the scout), heading towards the river. They get there around dawn, and discover the river is, if not wide, pretty fast flowing. A debate ensues about how to get across; no-one can swim, and the dwarf, being a dwarf, can’t even float. They decide to swim the horses across – Wes strips off his leather armour and straps it to his horse, whilst Grimmer decides to wear his. “Five gold crowns this cost me, and anyway, if I go under, I’ll be going straight down no matter what I’m wearing.” (Not only psychotic, but a skinflint).

Before attempting the crossing, Wesley removes a few choice items from the stage’s horses – two oil lamps he’d hacked off the coach’s exterior and a bottle of lamp-oil, and straps them to his mount. The spare horses are loosely tied one to each players pommel, two for Grimmer, the best rider, and, choosing a suitable spot, the three brave the waters. (All three throw in all their fate points – I think they realize that failure would be catastrophic).

Grimmer goes first, and easily makes it across with both the spare horses. Wesley, who goes next, also makes it, but loses a horse to the current. Petra, the least skilled of the riders, comes off her horse, losing her backpack, but in a freakish stroke of luck, manages to grab her spare horse and it pulls her to safety (initially a failure, but gambler skill re-rolls to get success with both a star and a comet). Soaking wet and shivering, Wesley quickly makes a fire, and the three settle down to warm up (fatigue all round).

After a bit of a doze, Wesley buries the fire and they set off. They figure there’s another few hours before the coachman and Josef’s bodyguard reach Lachenbad and organizes a posse, and anyway, they’ll be on the wrong side of the river, so aim to travel as discreetly as possible. (Unfortunately the bodies of the lost horses will be washed up against the piers of the ‘Bad bridge, prompting inquiry. Oops.)

The three riders head towards the mine, skirting the foothills around Karak Argaraz. They keep a sharp eye out for goblin sign, but see nothing except for some several weeks old wolf tracks, and some more recent sign of horses. They follow these tracks to the mine, and spend an hour or so watching, but see nothing. “Deserted,” claims Wesley, but still sneaks down to the entrance for a scout around. Deserted it is.

The adventurers set up camp a short distance from the mouth of the mine, tying up their horses in a small copse for secrecy (do they really think they’ll be there when they get back?). They decide to breakfast before setting off, but realize with horror that they have no rations, beyond a squashed packet of sandwiches Wesley stole from the coachman (oh yes, fatigue is going to be a real problem). The meal is scant and too salty (Grimmer), and all too soon they set off for the mine, the dwarf leading, whilst Wes and Petra follow, carrying the oil lamps from the coach.

The mine

I used a series of mine location cards I’d made using Strange Eons to run the session underground; a mine entrance card, a glory hole card, a flooded tunnels card a mine face card and an unknown tunnel card. There are some goblins here, left behind by the fleeing yellow water tribe, as well as a couple of cave squigs. Further in there is a cave-in, where a set of deeper tunnels have been revealed; part of the old dwarven underway that connects to Karak Azgaraz. This was the route that the goblins took to enter the mine, and the way they fled after being discovered. Oh yes, also unallocated chaos stars cause a variety of mishaps, including minor cave-ins and pockets of explosive gas!

Grimmer, Petra and Wesley enter the narrow mine entrance, and Petra points out where Grim made his last stand. After a moments silence, the dwarf presses on with weapon drawn and shield raised. The two Reiklanders follow, both with their lamps lit, and continue down the gentle slope, noting broken weapons and the occasional blood stain. Ahead, the tunnel opens out into a glory hole, a man made cavern filled with the detritus of goblin occupation – animal bones, discarded clothing and a pit filled with goblin dung. “Don’t go near it,” Grimmer warns, “strange things grow in goblin shit.”

Giving the cess-pit a wide berth, they investigate the rest of the cavern, searching for Grim’s corpse, but fail to find it. “They must have taken it with them,” concludes Wesley, and the three press on into the mine.

As they descend, the tunnel becomes wetter, and side passages appear, narrow cuts that go who knows where. After ten minutes, the three are wading through water that is up to their knees (thighs for Grimmer), impeding their movement. “I hope you remember the way out,” says Petra

Grimmer sneers. “We dwarves never get lost underground.”

(“We hope,” mutters Wesley)

There is the sound of a buzzing insect, and Grimmer throws his shield up, deflecting an arrow. “Goblins!” he cries.

“Where?” shouts Petra, raising her lamp. (The two humans are completely blind due to their poor night vision and their lights. Petra draws her pistol and Wesley his sword, both adopting a ready position).

“I don’t know!” screams the dwarf, as another arrow whips past him, narrowly missing Wesley. “Put out the bloody lights,” he bellows, “you’re making me a target!”

The two Reiklanders are reluctant to lose their only sources of illumination, leaving them helpless. An arrow whistles out of the dark and pierces Wesley’s leather hauberk.”Shit!” he yells, and blows out his light. Petra, instead, places her lamp on a rocky outcrop and moves away from it, crouching down in the water to conceal herself. With the lights doused, a faint phosphorescent light can be seen from various fungi on the walls.

(I love this. Wes, Petra and Grimmer have no idea where the arrows are coming from, and are becoming increasingly hysterical. I’m allowing them hard tests to notice movement now they’ve doused their lights).

Grimmer moves forward down the tunnel, shield raised, hoping to draw the goblins fire – the water impedes him, so he can only manage a walk. Wesley follows, bow drawn, and Petra brings up the rear, watching behind frequently. Three arrows flick out of the dark from ahead, one striking Grimmer’s shield, the others clattering of the tunnel walls. “Can you see them?” whispers the dwarf, and his companions both whisper a no.

Suddenly the light behind dims, and Petra turns to see a goblin reaching for the lamp she’d left behind. She fires, a difficult shot made easier by the light, and strikes the goblin, but knocks him over, dousing the lamp. In the aftermath of the gunshot, three more arrows whip out, and Grimmer takes a minor wound in his leg. “There!” shouts Wesley, firing his bow and missing. “Straight ahead!”

Grimmer can see nothing but charges nevertheless, tiring quickly in the water. (Fatigue is doubled due to the flooded conditions). Two shapes spring at him, and a muddled melee ensues, the dwarf slamming one goblin with his shield, but the other manages to slip around him and stabs him in the back.

Another goblin appears from a hidden side tunnel and attacks Wesley, but misses. The scout drops his bow and pulls out his sword and dagger and counterattacks, but he too misses his target. Petra, hearing the goblin behind splashing through the water, hurriedly reloads her pistol, and as the greenskin charges her, shoots him between the eyes. There is a long drawn out cry and he falls back, dead.

With the death of one of the goblins, the rest flee. Grimmer decides not to pursue, and the other two heroes move up to join him, gathering up dropped weapons. Wesley gives Petra the lamp to relight and digging some bandages out of his pack, begins to see to everyones wounds.

There is a faint splashing sound. “What’s that?” asks Petra. It comes again, from behind, louder this time, rather like a ball being dropped into water. They turn as one, and a massive red spherical creature, smelling strongly of dung, bounces into them. Petra and Wesley are sent sprawling into the dirty water, whilst the creature bites savagely at Grimmer, wounding him badly (one critical wound inflicted).

He strikes back, but the creature is too hard to hit due to its constant bouncing movement. Suddenly it throws itself backwards, hitting Petra and knocking her over again, losing both the lamp and her pistol, but fortunately missing with its bite. Wesley, emerging spluttering from the water into darkness, pulls out his dagger and attempts to stab at where he thinks the creature is, but the darkness and its weird movements defeat him. With a bellow, Grimmer throws himself at the creature, slicing its side open, and pinning it down with his sword, whilst Wesley, more through luck than judgement manages to eviscerate the immobilized creature.

As Petra drags herself from the muddy water in total darkness, she hears the now familiar splashing of a large body on water. She barely has time to shout a warning before something massive smashes into her again, knocking her newly recovered sword from her hand and inflicting a deep bite on her shoulder. She thrashes wildly as the creature stands on her, holding her underwater, desperately trying not to breathe in the filthy water, trying not to die.

And suddenly the pressure is off, and strong hands haul her out of the mud. With a strange mournful cry the creature can be heard bounding away down the tunnel, loud splashes marking every leap. Grimmer yells a few obscenities after it, but seems too exhausted to do any more.

The three heroes lean against the dripping tunnel walls, exhausted, before making another attempt to set themselves right. Wesley’s bandages are ruined, so he binds up everyone’s wounds as best he can with strips torn from Grimmer’s shirt, the only one who’s clothes are half dry. Petra empties her pistol of wet powder and re-packs it, unsure how well it will work. She then gropes around in the dark to recover the lamp, which is miraculously unbroken. A few tense moments looking for her tinderbox before she finds it and relights the lamp, before recovering the other lamp dropped further back.

As they push on, the tunnels rise a little and the water recedes. The tracks of the fleeing goblins are easily seen, and three advance cautiously. More piles of spoil are dotted around the tunnels, and a few broken tools can be seen. “Must be nearing the work face,” remarks Grimmer, and indeed, ahead can be seen a darker band of minerals across the rock face. “Coal,” says the dwarf, gathering some of the black mineral up and putting it a pile. “Make a nice fire.”

With Wesley and Petra shivering, there’s nothing to do but make a blaze to dry off in front of. Still no food, and their stomachs make their protests heard – grumbling by the two humans is quickly quashed by Grimmer. “Two more days you promised me. Do you go back on your word?” Petra and Wes grudgingly agree. (All three are now burdened with two fatigue points from cold, exertion and lack of food).

An hour or so later, they all feel warm enough to explore a little, and they spread out, looking for goblin sign. In a few moments their is a shout from Wesley and they gather around a small cave-in. “The tracks lead down here – there’s another tunnel,” he shouts, and clambers over the cave in. “The collapse must have revealed it.”

All three slip into the new tunnels, and Grimmer draws in a breath. They stand in a great echoing corridor, with an arched ceiling and small carvings set regularly at the apex. The walls are flat and mirror smooth, and the passage runs straight as an arrow, wide enough to take ten walking abreast. “This is dwarf work!” he says. “The Underway.”

Aftermath

Well, that was a lot of fun. I love the way the players lack of preparation comes back to bite them on the bum – no food, bad lights [how much lamp oil have they got left?], no clue about what they’re doing. And fighting in darkness with bad lights is really effective; even a weak enemy is a challenge in those circumstances. The players were getting quite worried, what with arrows flicking out at them, and no idea where the enemy were. And when the first squig appeared they were panic stricken. Great fun.

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Grim ... and Grimmer
Cheap tickets (4)

Grim … and Grimmer

You wake feeling something cold pressed against your neck. A deep voice whispers “Try not too move too much, this is a very sharp knife.” Freeze and open your eyes slowly. A bearded face is staring down at you, pressing a blade against your jugular. There’s something vaguely familiar about the psychotic glare from under thunderous brows, the jaw clenched in constant anger, the barely controlled rage. As if reading your thoughts, the voice continues. “That was Grim, my brother. My dead brother” The face moves closer, almost touching you. “I’m Grimmer. Tell me how he died.”

I have a nice, intellectually stimulating scenario waiting to be explored by my players. Obscure facts to be winnowed from fiction, alibi’s to be inspected and destroyed, support from the major citizens in the town to be gained, hunches to be followed, perhaps even a scene in a court room. My re-incarnated players appear on the scene, and, well, I’ll leave you to discover what happened. Suffice it to say they were still really pissed about the previous session, and have been … planning.

Petra is bedfast for a week, recovering from her wounds and a nasty infection (I just got Signs of Faith – love the diseases!). At one point Conrad the Roadwarden makes a very tense visit, explaining that his horse fell on the way to the town and he was knocked unconscious, lying in the woods for half a day before coming to. By the time he reached Lachenbad, Petra had staggered into the arms of a farmer and been carried into the Green Bottle Inn. He’d roused the rest of the wardens, and they’d scouted out to the Old Mine, but though there were lots of signs, the goblins were gone.

Of course this was a lot of tosh, but Petra, realizing how precarious her position was (wounded, a stranger in town, possibly accusing a well-respected member of the community), decides to play along with Conrad. A fellowship test, and Conrad appears satisfied (a concealed test), leaving much relieved.

Meanwhile the other two have made up two new characters in the downtime between games. Phil, who was the dwarven Troll Slayer, Grim, is now a mercenary soldier with links to the underworld. He gets an extra advance for a heroic death (house rule), and makes his fighter wealthy, spending his extra wealth on front and back plate armour – no more bare chests for him! Our Ratcatcher morphs into a scout, with good bow skills (at last, some rural expertise!). I asked them to give me some motivation for their new personas, and Phil, still smarting over his death, becomes Grim’s older brother, and the reason for him becoming a Troll Slayer (refused to take over the family holdings, so the younger brother became a Slayer; something to do about familial contracts – dwarf stuff, go figure). The intention is bloody revenge, of course, and the recovery of his brothers body, so Phil becomes Grim’s angry older brother … Grimmer! Motivation for the scout, Wesley, is much less personal, he being an old friend of the dwarf, serving in the same mercenary company.

After polite introductions have been made (see handout for Petra, above), the three heroes swear vengeance against Grim’s slayers. and the recovery of Grim’s body. Conrad Balck is their first target, and the three visit the bar downstairs, quickly discovering that Conrad is on a sweep, and will be returning from the area of the old mine tomorrow afternoon. They retire to their rooms, sleep the sleep of the, not exactly just, more the just pissed off, then get up before dawn and sneak out of the Inn. A quick jump from the wall once the guard has gone by (opposed test plus various bonus’s for it being dark) and they’re away, sneaking westwards through the half light.

Grimmer and co. set up past the deserted Mill, hunkering down in the bushes, Wesley positioned near the road, the other two a little further back, and wait for the Roadwarden to appear. He duly does, riding up completely unsuspecting, and Wesley uses his longbow to shoot the horse from under him. Grimmer and Petra charge out, punching and kicking the dazed Conrad into submission, before dragging him from the roadway and gagging him. Wesley delays to removes his arrow from the horses neck (‘leave no evidence,’ he says), then joins the others.

The terrified man is dragged some distance from the road, and dumped next to the mill stream before the gag is removed. Now, I expected some kind of menacing behaviour here, perhaps a beating, some vague torture, but Grimmer has Petra and Wes secure the roadwarden by binding his wrists to stakes, then he builds a fire on his chest. He sits whilst the man is half burnt, screaming in agony before dragging the fire off him and questioning him harshly (I am a little uncomfortable with this whole thing. Grimmer is, well, nasty. I rule the roadwarden has little chance of resisting questioning, but has taken so much damage he can only answer a limited number of questions before passing out – toughness test each round, adding an extra misfortune dice each time). The dwarf questions the man, gaining a confession of collusion with the goblins (‘not admissible in court’ quips Wes), and claiming Josef Karlsberg had asked him to arrange the stage attack (some surprise here from the PC’s) as well as the news that Josef’s wife was having an affair – the reason for the attack. Conrad then passes out from the pain, and Grimmer cuts his throat before kicking the body into the river.

(Oh My God! Savage but humorous Grim has morphed into a cold blooded psychotic killer. I think I’m going to have to change the party card from ‘Defiant Scoundrels’ to ‘Rampaging Face-Eating Lunatics’. I have a horrible suspicion that they are planning to simply murder whoever they suspect was the cause of Grim’s death. There goes two weeks worth of scenario planning).

Back to town, and the three loiter just out of view near the gates, before slipping in with a farmer and his boy, assisting with a small flock of sheep. Heads down, they aim to be inconspicuous(!), and make their way back to the Inn for lunch. (Concealed stealth checks each – Grimmer, being a dwarf and heavily armoured is noticed, of course. Nice to realize the party still retains a modicum of incompetence).

Fresh from murder and torture, the three not-so-heroic characters settle down to discuss their next step. Grimmer is all for finding Josef’s house, slaughtering all the inhabitants and torching the place. Wes seems to think thats ok too, but Petra points out that just because Josef ordered the attack on the stagecoach, doesn’t mean that he caused Grim’s later death. It would have been nice to talk to the roadwarden a bit more, she says with a glare at Grimmer.She’s also of the opinion that there’s more to this whole thing than meets the eye. The others are unconvinced until Petra points out that as Josef is up to no good, if they find evidence, they could blackmail him for lots of money. “And then we can slaughter everyone and torch the place!” says Grimmer. Ho hum.

So the three separate, searching for evidence of malfeasance, arranging to meet later at the merchants house to try and extort some money. Petra goes back to the high class eatery, the Golden Scales, and meets Jan Vermeer, the merchant factotum for Altmark Traders again. He is properly sympathetic, and lets slip that Josef Karlsberg seems to be doing quite well, despite his losses. He also tries to implicate his friend, Totlev Gutz in nebulous illegal activities. Business rivals, concludes Petra.

Grimmer visits the Bad Boy Bridge, a hangout for crims he’s heard about at the edge of town. After some not-so-subtle threats and a bit of posturing with the local rich bad-boys (he chops someones finger off!) everyone’s psychopath alarms go off, and they deny all knowledge of anything to do with Josef Karlsberg, and remember dinner dates elsewhere. Interestingly, he also gets to meet a much less impressed, leather-clad shady type (‘call me Petal’) whom the locals treat with even more respect/fear than Grimmer. After a bit of alpha dog type posturing, they get on like a house on fire, and Petal confirms that Josef is not known to the wider ‘alternative trading community’, but if he might wish to become so, something could be arranged.

Wes, in keeping with his rural background, strolls into the local watch/roadwarden house. He quickly picks up that the roadwardens and the local watchmen don’t get on, and in fact despise each other. He strikes up a conversation with one of the off-duty wardens, and gets confirmation that the goblins are no longer at the old mine. When he asks about Conrad, the wardens get tight-lipped, and make excuses to leave. As they exit, one of the watchmen, listening in, mutters something about Balck being a traitor, and almost causes a fight. Wesley slips out in the confusion.

The three rendezvous outside Josef Karlsberg’s house, where Petra knocks and asks for Josef. She and her friends are taken to Josef’s study, accompanied by a burly footman/guard. Josef is properly solicitous of her health; he even offers her five shillings and his deepest condolences with regards to her companions (I force Grimmer to make a will power check to prevent him striking the merchant). When Petra suggests that he may wish to give her a little more than that, say twenty crowns, on account of his darling wife’s, um, habits (‘she’s been on the stage, hasn’t she?’), he falls silent. After a little bluster, he explains that he is almost bankrupt, but asks them to return in the morning, when something can be arranged.

Feeling a little smug, the three return to the Green Bottle to listen to gossip and plan over a beer or four. The goblins are still the main topic for conversation, though Josef Karlsberg’s wife, Frieda is also on everyone’s lips. It seems that, as well as throwing herself on top of Benny Bengston’s coffin at the funeral last week (whilst Petra was still in bed, recovering), she has taken to leaving flowers and poems that are well … rude, on his grave. There is a lot of nose tapping about this. Also Conrad Balck is missing, though some think he may have run off, after the happenings at the mine (a nod towards Petra here), not that he’ll be missed.

Petra finally talks to the barman, Fat Olaf, about Josef, and piling on the charm (and money and fate points) uncovers a goldmine of information. Benny’s affair with Josef’s wife is confirmed, as well as the weapons shipments. What’s more, Olaf claims that the weapons were going to a holding warehouse in Ubersreik, but with no named customer, nudge, nudge. (Seeing their blank faces, Olaf explains that this is often the way that less respectable customers who wish to maintain their anonymity buy goods). There’s a pause as the three translate what’s been said. “But Josef has no links with the underworld!” claims Grimmer.

“Then who,” muses Olaf, “were they meant for?”

There is a little pause before the penny finally drops. Not only did Josef arrange for the stagecoach to be attacked, he’d been selling out his own wagons (duh!). What’s more, they’d just told him that they were on to him!

Wasting no time, the three almost-heroes dash out of the Inn, sprinting towards the Karlsberg house. All is in darkness. “Feck it!” shouts Grimmer, and smashes in a window with his sword before throwing himself through it. The other two follow quickly. Coming across a maid, he grabs her and threatens her with his sword. “Where’s the master bedroom!” he screams, and dragging her up the stairs to the room she’s pointed out, kicks the door in and flings her in (‘Possible ambushes’ is Phil’s cold-blooded explanation. Who is this man I’m playing with?). More, even louder screams, and the maid emerges with her hands covered in blood. A quick glance, and they see Frieda Karlsberg lying on the bed with her throat cut.

“Guess who’s going to get the blame for this?” mutters Petra, thinking how much easier life was when all she had to do was cheat people at cards and run away.

Wesley, quicker on the uptake than the rest, grabs a second screaming maid, and demands to know the masters whereabouts. “The warehouse. He said to leave the mistress to sleep, but he had to take a coach to Ubersreik urgently!”

Another hasty exit, this time dodging a patrol of the watch, and the heroes dash across town to the Karlsberg shipping warehouse, only getting lost once. There they find the doors of the stable wide open, and, investigating with drawn swords, find no-one inside, except a ransacked safe box, several horses and a half eaten meat pie. Grimmer stuffs what’s left of the pie in his mouth, then tells the others to grab a horse each.

Er, only problem is that he’s the only one with the ride skill, in fact he’s the only one who’s been within spitting distance of a horse in his life, other than in dodgy meat pies. Cursing, he saddles three horses and assists Petra and Wesley into the saddle, whereupon Petra promptly falls off. (I call for a standard test the first time Wes and Petra get on a horse, then no tests for a gentle walk). The rapid chase scene is turning into a debacle.

More cursing, and Grim manages to get his incompetent fellows heading towards the Bad Boy gate – how they miss being noticed by the watch is a miracle (they pass a hard test to sneak through the streets. Also the watchmen are stunningly inept).

Not that inept, though. When they reach the gates they are barred, and two watchmen stand guard, armed with halberds. “No-one h’is h’allowed to pass without h’orders from a higher h’authority!” declares the corporal on guard, rather pompously.

A brief stand-off while Grimmer fingers his sword, and Wes surreptitiously frees his bow, when suddenly Petra pulls a letter from her pocket and waves it under the watchman’s nose. “Do you recognize this seal?” she asks in a bored voice. (It’s the coded Imperial message from the first episode. Love it!).

The man looks hard. “H’er, h’its h’Imperial, ma’am.”

Petra sneers. “Look closer. What sort of Imperial seal?”

The man peers closer and gulps. “H’it looks to be his majesties personal seal, h’my lady.”

“It is in fact an Imperial carte blanche.” She opens the letter and waves it under the watchman’s nose, praying he can’t read (he can’t). “In it, his Imperial Majesty demands that all assistance from all servants of the crown be offered to the bearer.” (A standard test using fellowship, but modified by the guards stupidity, the seal and Petra’s bare-faced cheek. Easy success).

The man salutes and stands at attention. “H’and what can h’I do for his h’Imperial Majesty?”

Grimmer leans over and, spraying spittle, screams into the man’s face “Open the bloody gate!”

The three trot out of the gate (a standard test for Wes and Petra), and the gambler only just stays in the saddle (using her professional gambler re-roll skill – urgent note from Petra; learn riding soonest). They then head over the Bad Boy Bridge towards Ubersreik, in hot (-ish) pursuit of the stage.

After an hours gentle trotting under a bright moon, the stagecoach comes into view. Unwilling to push the horses (or take more ride tests!), the three grim cabelleros continue on at their unhurried pace, slowly closing on the fleeing stage. Suddenly there is a shout, and the stage speeds up – they have been sighted!

Nothing for it now but to gallop (initially a hard test, then a standard test for Wes and Petra), and, after a few wobbles, all three start to close the gap rapidly. Remarkably, the two riding novices stay on their mounts (three successive standard ride tests), and are soon level with the coach. Grimmer throws himself at the back of the coach (visions of his brother similar leap in everyones minds eye) and … succeeds!

The dwarf pulls himself up onto the roof of the stage and, after threats and some yelling, persuades the the coach driver to stop. Wesley and Petra draw their weapons and Grimmer waits on the roof of the carriage, ready to throw himself on whoever exits the coach. A cloaked male figure emerges, clutching a small case in his arms. Petra orders him to remove his hood, and sees … Josef’s bodyguard. “Where is he!” screams Grimmer, and throws himself into the stage. There is the sound of incoherent yelling and the smashing of fixtures. There is no-one in the cabin, and Grimmer is a little angry.

The bodyguard pales and speaks quickly. “If you mean the master, he’s heading for Nuln on a horse. He sent me to take these valuable documents on to Ubersreik for him.” He thrusts the box at Wesley. “He said he’d meet me there!”

Wes opens the box, but, containing no valuables and unable to read, he passes the contents to Petra. She reads quickly; a few shipping dockets, an order for a new wheel and several sheets of blank paper. “I think we (she glares at Grimmer again) have been set up. Again.”

Wes grabs the blank pages. “Invisible ink? Magical scripts? We need to get them tested.” He stuffs them into his pocket. (No Wes, just blank paper).

Petra disarms the bodyguard, then orders him and the driver to sit on the floor with their hands on their heads. She gestures the others over. “You do realize that we’ve just robbed a stagecoach? And we may well be accused of the murder of Frau Karlsberg? All hanging offenses.”

“And you claimed to be an Imperial Agent. That’s treason. Drawing and quartering, as well as hanging,” adds Wesley, helpfully.

“Let’s just kill ‘em!” suggests Grimmer “and they’ll blame the goblins.” Wesley is undecided, but Petra, realizing they are on a downward spiral of violence as the solution to everything, demurs. There is a heated argument, during which the bodyguard reaches for his dropped sword, but is dissuaded by Wesley’s drawn bow. Eventually they decide to steal everything worth having, on the grounds that they are going to be accused of robbery anyway, and then head off.

There follows another brief argument, while they debate their destination; Petra’s vote is for ‘far, far way’, whilst Grimmer’s is for the old mine, to search for his brothers body. Wesley, as usual is no too bothered, though somewhere with ale is preferred. Grimmer, fingering his axe, reminds Petra of the oath she swore to recover Grim’s body – an oath to a dwarf is no small thing he points out. “But I didn’t say when I’d look for the body,” remarks the gambler. Wesley agrees (again), nodding repeatedly.

Eventually Grimmer compromises. The authorities will be looking for them he agrees, so spend the next three days looking for his brother’s body, then he would consider Petra’s oath discharged. They shake upon the deal, then steal all the fittings from the wagons and load them on the stage’s horses; Wesley insists upon taking the prisoners boots and trousers (just because, he says – there is something definitely odd about this scout), and the three strike off westwards towards the hills and the old mine.

Aftermath

Well, again that was interesting. It seems the three players had been chatting before the game, and decided to prosecute their vendetta against the killers of Grim and Detlev with extreme prejudice. It was actually a bit difficult to GM when the players were so certain of what they wanted to do – luckily it all fell apart later and they returned to their normal bumbling ineptitude! Highlights were falling off horses and their faces when they realized that Josef was not on the coach – how I laughed.

So, to recap, the players are (or soon will be) outlaws. They have possession of a secret message from the Emperor, whose agents may well be on the way to recover it. They are on their way to a mine that may well be infested with a tribe of goblins to recover a dead body. Lastly (I’ll spring this on them next game) they have no food. Ah, such a grim and perilous world, you’ve got to laugh.

View
A good day to die
cheap tickets (3)

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Cheap tickets part three – A good day to die
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Cast
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Detlev Kanst – Ratcatcher (and Fred-the-dog)
Grim Grimnirsson – Dwarf Troll Slayer
Petra Nunce – Gambler
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_ The session starts with Conrad meeting the three heroes over breakfast in the Green Bottle Inn. Something has been spotted lurking around the Old Mill, an hour or so to the west of the town, and as its in his patrol area, the Roadwarden is going to investigate. The three heroes finish their meal, and accompany Conrad out of the Inn._
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_ An hour on a horse, but more like two on foot. Grim, Detlev and Petra trudge after the warden on his mount, saying little, whilst Fred-the-dog scampers about sniffing and peeing in delight. No-one in the party has any outdoor skills, so rely on Conrad to guide them (the fools!), and after a good walk, the warden halts them in some bushes a few hundred yards from the Mill. “I’m going to ride on past, like I’m going somewhere. That should keep whatever is in there in place and focused on me. Give me five minutes, then you try and sneak up.”_
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_ The adventurers nod, and watch as the Roadwarden rides slowly past the Mill and out of sight. They wait a while, then begin to move out as stealthily as they can (I make them all take opposed checks, even though the goblin is not watching). Grim and Detlev both fail their tests, Detlev with a bane (he falls down a hole!) and I crank the party tension up a couple of notches. They continue to creep closer, waiting for an arrow to spit one of them, when they hear the sound of clashing blades. “Buggerit!” shouts Grim and charges towards the sound of fighting, with the other two trailing behind._
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_ They burst through some bushes and see Conrad in combat with a goblin. The greenskin, wounded, looks up and shouts a hoarse profanity. The effect on Grim is spectacular to say the least (I push him two steps into the reckless stance immediately), his eyes bug, he froths and screams a war cry before charging the goblin, striking wildly and killing his enemy almost at once before pounding the corpse into the ground. The other two are in awe of the dwarf, as well as being a little frightened. Petra eventually gathers the courage to ask her companion just what he’d been called, and Grim, through gritted teeth, haltingly tells her, “he called me … one who … one who … reneges on a negotiated contract!”_
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_ (The goblin in fact shouted a goblin curse, based on the Khazad word, oathbreaker – yet another example of goblins light-fingered tendencies. This word is a terrible insult to a dwarf, and even more so to a Troll Slayer, who may well be … one who has reneged on a negotiated contract. The Goblin was actually cursing Conrad)._
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_ After fetching his horse, Conrad suggests they remove the goblins head – Josef Karlsberg, the merchant, will want it if they want paying. An argument breaks out over who should carry it, and in the end Grim gets the unpleasant task (on the grounds that, he split it open and made it leak stuff everywhere, so he should carry it). They also find a wolf tied up in the Mill, obviously the goblins mount, which they leave._
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_ After checking the goblins pockets (10 coppers and a bit of lint), the four are left in a quandry about how to find the rest of the goblins. “We could let the wolf go and follow it,” suggests Detlev. He is roundly shouted down, as a) how would they keep up with it? b) it might attack them and c) it would warn the rest of the goblins that something was amiss._
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_ Conrad suggests that he might be willing to try to track them for a full share of the reward – after all, he says, I could just go and fetch the rest of my troop now and no-one would be payed. The companions agree hastily and they set off on the goblins back track – Conrad appears to be an excellent tracker (he knows where he’s going!), but after a while, even the three companions start to notice signs of the band – a pile of droppings here, discarded food (no-one wonders why the tracks have never been picked up before by a halfway competent troop of Roadwardens)._
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_ Another few hours travel through lightly wooded terrain, then Conrad stops. “They’re going to the old Mine,” he says, pointing ahead. “We can trap them there!” He gestures to a low, tree covered hill a few miles ahead. “The mine is just beyond that hill. If you continue on to it, then climb the hill silently (he looks hard at Grim here), you’ll come out on a low slope overlooking the mine workings. Position yourselves to watch them and wait for me to return with help.” He turns his horse and starts back towards town, shouting a last comment “We’ve got them! Don’t let them get away!” before galloping off._
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_ Now what to do. The three adventurers look at one another, then decide that they might as well do what Conrad suggested. After all, two hours back to town, an hour or so to gather the troops and then a couple of hours back here – Conrad should be back with help before dusk, and they could wrap up the whole thing today! Back to the Green Bottle, for a feed, a drink and the reward by nightfall. (This was pretty much what passed for a planning session amongst the players. You’ve got to laugh)._
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_ The three push on, more alert than before, and starting to feel a bit less secure. They make there way up the hill, looking out for guards, and making stealth tests (again not necessary, but it adds to the tension!). As they carefully peer down at the mine, they can see a rough enclosure containing a pack of wolves, and a goblin watchman just inside the entrance to the mine workings, looking bored and half asleep. Petra counts the wolves carefully. “There’s only seven of them. We must have killed quite a few at the ambush!” (Er, no, none actually, though a number were injured when they were knocked off their mounts. The Roadwardens would have confirmed it if anyone had thought to ask, there were no goblin bodies left on the road. A number of wolves ran away, though)._
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_ Detlev gets out his sling, carefully unwinding the straps and checking his lead stones; Fred licks his hand then sneaks off to pee in excitement. Petra checks over her pistol and powder, before drawing her dueling sword and checking it’s edge. Grim, ignoring the two humans, draws his two axes and whispers to them in a loving voice, caressing the blades, whilst making shallow cuts in his forearms._
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_ “Put it away, Grim,” mutters Detlev in a horrified voice. “We’re not going to fight them alone. Conrad can’t be too far away, and when he arrives, we’ll make short work of the goblins.” Petra agrees, and Grim settles to watch the mine, muttering that he could probably take seven by himself._
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_ As dusk approaches, the three companions become more and more concerned about Conrad’s non appearance. Something must have gone wrong, they conclude, perhaps his horse fell or went lame; perhaps a wild animal got him; ‘perhaps he’s just chicken’ adds Grim. The party finally realize that they are on there own; there is a hurried consultation, and they decide to deal with the goblins themselves._
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_ The plan Grim hatches is simple. Kill the guard, drive off the wolves then storm the mine and kill everyone inside. When Detlev objects, Grim points out that he’ll be doing most of the fighting, so suck it up. He agrees with poor grace. (To be honest, the players actually worked out some good tactics – knowing the wolves may well be their worst enemies, Petra’s spare powder horn is strapped onto a flask of brandy as a makeshift firebomb to drive them off. Detlev will smash the fence, Petra will bomb the wolves and Grim will take down the goblin on watch, before taking position at the narrow mouth of the mine, and wait for the other two to join him. Hopefully they’ll be able to kill most of the goblins at the entrance – no one really fancies hunting the greenskins in the dark of the mine)._
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The battle
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_ Background – there is actually a whole tribe of goblins here, waiting to gather enough arms from Josef’s wagons before attacking the town. They have entered the old mine from deeper tunnels, unknown to the original miners, and have set up camp deeper in the complex; they have only got a few wolves, hence the relatively low number of attackers at the stagecoach ambush. Most of the goblins are standard, mixed hand weapons and short-bows with a few bucklers, but there is a core group of about twenty equipped from Josef’s stock with chain mail, spears and shields._
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_ I set up a tracker with five spaces on it, figuring that the entrance guards would rush out, but would run after a few losses. The leader of the goblins is not stupid, and would prefer to kill his enemies from a distance, so will gather his archers in the main area of the mine before moving off to deal with any troublesome enemies. Oh, I also got so racked off with the henchmen rules that I made all the goblins NPC’s. Ouch!_
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_ The plan goes really well initially – Detlev even thinks to approach the wolves from upwind, and the three companions, sneaking through the low bushes, get quite close before the wolves become restless. Bursting from cover, Grim screams a khazalid warcry, and charges the guard, killing him instantly (double strike plus extra dice for surprise and fighting goblins = 11 wounds, also one fatigue to Grim.) Detlev rushes over to the wolf enclosure and, using his sword, slices through the rope holding the gate closed. He backs away as the wolves start to leave their den, growling and trying to outflank him. Petra lights the bomb and moves up next to him, throwing the explosives directly at the leading wolf. It explodes and splashes onto two other wolves, who run howling in fear. The leader of the pack, however, whilst shaken, is not ready to run yet. It attacks Detlev, wounding him, but Fred prevents the wolf from going for his masters throat (4 wounds + a critical, converted to 5 wounds using ‘mans best friend’)._
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_ Grim, not willing to leave the narrow entrance to the mine (only 4 normal sized creatures per engagement), howls a warcry and waits for the rest of the goblins to show up (guarded position). Two goblins come charging up the tunnel and attack Grim, one scoring a minor cut on the dwarf’s arm (1 wound). Meanwhile Detlev attacks the wolf leader using his nimble strike action, scoring a solid hit to the creatures front leg (3 wounds + critical). Petra, steadying her pistol, then places a bullet through the creatures chest, flinging it back with the impact (another 7 wounds + critical). This is too much for the wolf, and he flees, taking the rest of the pack with him._
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_ Grim lashes out with his Troll-Feller Strike, slaying one of his opponents instantly, (11 wounds + critical, but a second fatigue point). The second goblin attempts to hit Grim but fails, injuring itself in the process (no successes, one chaos star). Detlev, charging up from the wolf enclosure (+1 fatigue), moves next to Grim and sets Fred on the second goblin. He darts under the goblins sword and savages it’s leg (3 wounds). Petra, loading her pistol as she approaches the mine entrance, fires her pistol over the shoulder of her companions and strikes the wounded goblin above his left eye, killing him (success, but +2 fatigue)._
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_ Again the players are unwilling to leave the entrance to the mine, and both Detlev and Grim ready themselves (guarded position for Grim, assess the situation for Detlev and Petra), whilst Petra reloads her pistol. With a shout, another group of goblins advance up the tunnel, more slowly this time, sheltering behind shields. Detlev steps back and pulls out his sling, but misses with his shot. Petra, showing her skills, puts a lead ball through the leading goblins shield and into the greenskin belly, leaving him gut-shot on the floor (6 successes! 1 critical plus 2 extra wounds. He’s gone). The two remaining goblins charge, and engage Grim, attempting to swarm him, but only succeed in inflicting another minor cut (1 wound)._
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_ (Phil, who’s playing Grim, is beside himself now. He’s shaking four reckless dice, and seems to be killing anything that moves. He is unbeatable!). He lets loose a mighty blow with his fist that stuns his opponent (seven successes plus a boon! nine wounds plus a critical!), and Petra slips stealthily behind the tottering greenskin to plant her blade firmly between his shoulder blades. The other goblin, terrified of this maniacal dwarf, turns and runs, but is brought down by Fred nipping at his heels (I allow Detlev to ‘attempt a stunt’ as a reaction, and he succeeds in tripping the fleeing goblin)._
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_ And now it all starts to go wrong. Grim starts down the corridor at a trot, bellowing a warsong and Detlev and Petra look at each other, then begin to follow, when Fred starts to bark. The dwarf, cursing the dog, suddenly stops (I allow Grim an easy observation test to notice the goblins gathering in the main body of the cave due to his night vision. At least fifty goblins!). “Back!” he cries, and a volley of arrows fly at them. Most miss, but Grim takes two arrows, (4 wounds), whilst Detlev and Petra take a hit each (6 wounds for Petra, but, more worryingly, 5 wounds plus another critical for Detlev – converted into 6 wounds using man’s best friend again). Fred the dog takes an arrow trying to protect his master, and his nerve finally breaks. He runs off up the tunnel whimpering, and the three heroes follow, all the while expecting an arrow in the back._
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_ The three shelter behind the corner at the entrance to the mine, as more arrows whip past. (I suspect that they are finally realizing that they are in DEEP trouble, with no deux ex machina escapes on the cards. We halt the game briefly as the players try and decide what to do). There is a roar, and the sound of many goblins charging up the tunnel. Trapped! (And then it happens. One of the reasons I like this game so much, people get so involved)._
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_ “Run!” shouts Grim, “I’ll hold them back!” Detlev and Petra look at each other in amazement. “Escape!” He shouts, and catching the others eye, he smiles. “Today is a good day to die.”_
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_ Detlev and Petra take off, running hard (We’re totting up fatigue points here), and Grim, waiting until the running greenskins are almost at the entrance, charges into the mass, slashing out with his double strike. (Extra dice for surprise, fate points and well, just because he’s being so heroic – he is going to die, after all). Four successes and a comet, and another one bites the dust, skull split, brains leaking out._
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_ The goblins quickly surround Grim at the entrance, and attempt to swarm him. (Three opponents, two extra expertise die). They claw at him, wounding him with many small cuts (2 more wounds), pressing him back against the wall of the tunnel. The first of the well armed goblins appears, and Grim, sensing a challenge, unleashes his troll feller strike, severely wounding him, but the chain mail prevents death. All three goblins attack, and using as many A/C/E die as possible, score two more wounds on the dwarf._
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_ More well armed goblins appear, pushing their lightly armed kin aside, and again Grim attacks, slaying his wounded foe, but another greenskin steps into his place. The goblins attempt to crush Grim against the wall, and one of the spears slip through Grim’s guard, spitting his shoulder (4 wounds plus a critical – dislocated shoulder). The dwarf is now at the limit of his wounds, (all strikes are now criticals), and he begins to sing his death song._
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_ There is a lull in the fighting, and the leader of the goblins appears, looking over the shoulder of his spearmen. He spits on the floor, “Oathbreaker,” he snarls. “Kill him”_
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_ Grim, realizing his end is here, slings one of his axes at the warlords head and charges him. The axe actually strikes! and the chieftain is flung back, wounded. Grim, charging into the wider tunnel, is spitted on the goblins spears, and, hanging from the spears, is stabbed from behind. The end is quick._
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_ (This whole final stand was run with Grim alone – I was concerned that the others would become bored, but they turned into a support chorus for the dwarf strengthened when I told them the longer Grim held off the goblins, the better their chances of survival)._
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The chase
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_ I’d sketched out a few rules in my head for a chase/hunt; moving the players every turn, but forcing the pursuers to test their tracking skill every turn – an easy test, with failure meaning they lose the trail and are removed, degrees of success moving them closer to the players. Once they occupy the same square there is a fight. Each turn the players would pick a location card, and I’d allow the players to do one thing a turn related to the card to try and throw off pursuit etc – adding dice to the tracking tests depending on how imaginative the idea. Initially I was going to allow the characters a small head-start – three paces or so, saying this was how long it took to organize the pursuit. Grim’s sacrifice made it all much more realistic._
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_ There are five groups of five goblins tracking, armed with hand weapons and short bows (the well armed goblins won’t take part). All groups have a trained tracker with them. There is a progress marker ten steps long)._
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_ The goblins pour out of the tunnels, kicking and slashing Grim’s corpse as they pass. The chieftain, shouting orders, quickly marshals his forces and sets them off after the heroes, the mass of goblins shouting and bellowing with blood lust._
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Start – step five on the tracker
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_ The two survivors start five steps ahead of the trackers – four steps due to Grim’s heroic death, and an extra step from their running (both are at the limits of their fatigue). Petra and Detlev, realizing that they are being tracked, decide to split up, (I never even thought of that), and their pursuers divide, three groups after Detlev and two after Petra._
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Step six
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_ Both groups chasing Petra succeed easily (one extra step each), whilst one of Det’s followers gets an extra space. I let it slip that their wounds may well be helping their enemies, so both players attempt a first aid test. Failure! Petra forces a re-roll with her gamblers class talent and, bumping it up with fate points, succeeds._
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Step seven
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_ Next tracking step, all of Detlev’s pursuers succeed, the closest getting two extra advances (this group seems to have a master tracker with them) – only two spaces behind. Both of Petra’s pursuing groups pass, one getting an extra step. Three spaces clear._
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Step eight
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_ To throw off the pursuers, Petra flings her blood stained jacket into the bushes, and Detlev follows suit (telepathy? They are several miles apart). One of Petra’s following groups fails their test, as does one of Detlev’s, though all the others gain an extra space (one step behind Detlev, two behind Petra)_
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Step nine
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_ Petra decides to walk on stony ground, whilst Detlev wades into a shallow stream that crosses his path. All the remaining groups of goblins use their expertise to try and bump up their scores, and … all succeed comfortably. The Ratcatcher has been caught._
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_ Detlev dies hard. The goblins come across him whilst he is wading in the stream, and pepper him with arrows, pushing him to his wound ceiling and inflicting a critical. At the limits of his endurance, he drags himself up the stream bank and attempts to use his sling, but misses wildly. Three arrows strike him in the chest and he falls back into the stream, bleeding out into the cold water. Exit the small man from Nuln, not with a bang but a whimper._
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Step ten
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_ Whilst stopping briefly, Petra pours gunpowder from her horn onto a pile of leaves and lights it, in an attempt to throw the goblins off the track, attract a rescue or even cause a forest fire. Thick smoke billows out, confusing the tracking greenskins, and … succeeds!_
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_ Well, that’s it. No time to finish properly as we’ve run waaaay over time, so I rule that Petra staggers on towards the town, and, at the limits of her endurance, is discovered by a farmer with his cart and is taken back to the Inn._
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Aftermath.
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Well, that was grueling. Phil, (Grim’s alter ego) was really quite upset by the dwarf’s big death scene; I was too, the slayer character he played was a lot of fun, and he and the ratcatcher had a fabulous hate/hate relationship. I did wonder wether I’d made the tracking rule a bit too easy for the goblins; I’d envisioned the players perhaps turning on the goblins and ambushing small groups one at a time. Ah well
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View
Missing links
cheap tickets (2)

Part 2 missing links
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Cast
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Detlev Kanst – Ratcatcher (and Fred-the-dog)
Grim Grimnirsson – Dwarf Troll Slayer
Petra Nunce – Gambler
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_ The session starts with all three heroes in the Green Bottle Inn. Well, in the stables actually, as they have no money. Conrad Balck, one of the Roadwardens, kindly arranged for them to be fed and housed by the Innkeeper – no expense spared, eh? The three start the morning arguing about what they remembered about their drunken night (the clues from the previous session – see below)._
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Sammy the guard didn’t buy a drink all night, the cheapskate!
the wine tasted funny
Benny disappeared with a tall blonde woman halfway through the night
didn’t the guard say we could ride for free?
how come the dog didn’t bark when we were robbed?.
Benny bought lots of the drinks last night
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_ After much discussion they decide that it was a bit unusual that Benny bought lots of drinks (maybe he’s generous?), and that perhaps the funny taste was a drug; Grim claims no man-sop piss-ale could put him under the table. Petra points out it was unlikely that they’d all three climbed onto the stage to sleep, so someone, or somebodies, must have hoisted them up. They decide that they must speak to Sammy as soon as possible. Finally, Grim wonders why the dog didn’t bark when they were robbed; perhaps it knew the thief – a bit of shouting here, before Detlev points out that Fred also drinks beer – “I knew it!” cries the dwarf, “a bloody lush dog,” then mutters something about rabies. (Note, no-one mentions the woman Benny disappeared with, quite an important adventure link. Ah well)._
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_ Petra, having failed her ‘I need a drink’ test the previous session, is still suffering from the effects of the Drunken Bums overlay, and gains a stress counter from the shouting. She leaves the two men arguing, and goes to find Sammy in the Inn – she uses all her charms on Maria, the Shallyan sister, to wangle fifteen minutes with the guard, on the proviso she is very quiet (“Yes please!”). She sits peacefully with Sammy, gently questioning him about the previous night, and discovers that he had helped Benny load them onto the stagecoach. He seems a bit guilty about something, giving a sob story about saving for a wedding, and what will he do now he can’t work. Petra guesses he was the one who robbed them; when pressed, he ‘remembers’ that the driver had offered a free ride and gives Petra a refund of three silvers from his pouch. Being a bit of a softy, Petra decides not to tell the rest of the group about the theft; also she’d only had five pennies left in her pouch. (One stress counter removed for the quiet time)._
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_ The other two party members, in high dudgeon, split up. Grim goes to the blacksmiths, looking for the Roadwardens, whilst Detlev wanders into a few shops, just soaking up the atmosphere. Everyone seems happy to see him, a hero of the stagecoach ambush, and he gets a free pastie, as well as being pointed towards Josef Karlberg, a merchant who is looking for adventurers to deal with the goblin crisis. Grim, standing around in the blacksmiths, is far too bad tempered to be offered anything to eat, (gains a stress point due to hunger), but does meet with Conrad, the Roadwarden, who tells him about the goblin raids, and how they seem to have hit one merchant, Josef Karlberg, particularly hard. After mooching around the smithy complaining about poor craftsmanship, (extra fate point for roleplaying) he wanders back to the Green Bottle Inn._
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_ There he finds Petra tucking into a huge breakfast – “Dig in, it’s on me”, she says, to avoid embarrassing questions and Grim tucks in. They are soon joined by Detlev and, whilst eating, they discuss their findings, and decide to meet with Josef the merchant (stress counter gone from Grim, fate point added for Petra’s quick thinking)._
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_ Before they’ve finished, the merchant comes in, looking for them. He greets them effusively, and, pleasantries over, tells them of his troubles. His wagons are being robbed, his employees are being killed and he’s in danger of becoming bankrupt. He wants the goblins dealt with decisively and painfully and he’s prepared to pay them handsomely (“How handsomely?” asks Grim rather rudely, adding one misfortune dice to the haggling). Petra sends Grim off to get drinks, and dickers with the merchant, eventually being promised a whole gold crown, with an advance of five shillings providing she brings him the heads of the goblin leaders. They have killed his employees, he says, and wants revenge. Bloody revenge._
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_ At this point the players could do a number of things. Firstly they could go out and try to hunt down the goblins alone – three of them with no mounts against a band of goblins armed with bows and riding wolves. Hopefully not. Secondly they could try and get some assistance to help hunt down and kill the bandits – not a bad idea, and the Roadwardens would be more than happy to help if the players can locate the goblins. Thirdly, (the preferred option) they could look a little more deeply into the attacks, before dealing with the guilty parties._
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_ After some discussion, the group decides to speak to the Roadwardens and enlist their help. Petra, (being an old time wfrp player), suspects that there is something more to this than meets the eye, and volunteers to speak to some of the other merchants as well, to see if there may be a pattern to the attacks, to help them locate the goblins lair._
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_ Detlev and Grim visit the smithy again, but are disappointed to find that the wardens are out on patrol. Grim decides to help the blacksmith with his work, pumping the bellows, and they chat about the robberies. “Funny thing is,” remarks the smith, “the wardens were never around when the attacks occurred.” Detlev, meanwhile, wanders back to the nearby shops, asking about the attacks, and collecting rumours. The lack of money and a scrawny dog don’t help him in the higher class shops (1 misfortune dice), but in the streets he talks to a couple of costermongers who Fred does tricks for, and they suggest the ambushes are, variously, i) the work of demons (of course!) – how else could they be lying in wait for the caravans? or ii) the work of the Roadwardens themselves! A third pedlar overhears, and disputes this, saying that Old John, one of the survivors of the last-but-one attack says they were definitely goblins. “In disguise!” retorts the other, much to everyones amusement. Detlev, amazed to hear of survivors, persists in the conversation, and discovers Old John will be in the Green Bottle that night._
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_ Free of her two lower class companions, Petra tidies herself up and makes her way to the Golden Scales, a semi-exclusive lunching house where she had learned the local merchants ate. Bluffing her way into the establishment using the Karlsberg name, she soon ingratiates herself with two other merchants dining there, and on being informed that she and her fellows are investigating the robberies, is plied with drink and information. Josef Karlsberg is not the only trader to be losing goods, she hears, though he is thought to be one of the biggest losers. After some prying (a hard fellowship test) she learns that all of the wagons were carrying at least some arms – the merchants worry that the goblins are arming themselves ready for an attack on the town! When Petra wonders aloud how the goblins could have known about this, the two clam up and, finishing their lunch quickly, excuse themselves._
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_ The three companions meet back at the Green Bottle Inn to discuss their findings. Grim is a little concerned about the Roadwardens – why exactly had they never been on hand to chase off the goblins? Petra suggests that if the goblins could somehow discover the contents of the wagons, finding out about the wardens patrols would be child’s play – an informer is her belief. When Detlev tells his companions about there being survivors of the attacks, Grim is disbelieving; goblins would never leave survivors, unless they were driven off. They all three decide to meet Old John that very evening, and, after hiring a room, go for a rest before the evenings carousing (“No!’ groans Petra). Lingering effects of ‘Drunken Bums’ leave her._
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_ That evening the Inn is full, with many extra patrons present to see the heroes of the stagecoach, the goblins bane. They are bought drinks by a number of customers, anxious to bask in the adventures reflected glory, all willing to share their theories with hunters. These range from no-nonsense baseless accusations (“Mother Gert is involved. Her eyes are too close together!”) to rather interesting pondering (like “why was the stagecoach attacked?” and “if there is an informer, how do they communicate with the goblins?”). When Old John appears, he is quickly introduced to the heroes, and after Detlev buys a round of drinks, tells how his wagon was ambushed by the goblins. The first he knew about it was a flight of arrows from the woods that wounded two of the three guards, then a charge by wolf riding goblins. He and three others had turned and ran in terror at this point, making their way back to town on foot. (“Shouldn’t have happened,” muttered Grim. “They should have been hunted down and slaughtered.”). The goblins apparently ignored the survivors who fled, and just stole the wagons complete with goods, before riding off into the woods._
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_ After so much free ale, the three companions must test for intoxication (a hard test for Detlev and Grim as they’d not eaten too well at lunch and there is so much free stuff about. A standard test for Petra as she’d been more careful. All three fail; perhaps we’re on the way to another Drunken Bums episode?). Whilst sitting in a booze-y haze, Conrad Balck appears, fresh from patrolling. After being bought a drink (! ), he quickly volunteers the Roadwardens assistance in dealing with the goblins. He then listens to the adventurers findings with interest, and adds a few theories the wardens have discussed – the goblins have some magical means of observing the wagons and themselves (has no-one heard of Occam’s razor?); one of the watchmen at the town gates is supplying details of the wagons as they leave (this still dosn’t explain how the goblins manage to arrange ambushes – no-one thinks of this). When being told of the weapons in each load, Conrad becomes genuinely concerned, and sits quiet for a time. (Conrad is desperately trying to work out how to throw the adventurers off the track). Once pressed, (various tests by each player – make sure they pass as Conrad wants to tell) Conrad pulls in his chair for secrecy, and asks how much the possible location of the goblins is worth. Consternation amongst the players, then they bargain him to three shillings. “The old mill outside town,” he whispers, “something has been seen lurking around there.” (Conrad knows the goblin leader will be there the next day, waiting for him, and intends to kill him to tidy up)._
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_ The session ends here, (actually a lunch break) with the three heroes deciding to go to the old mill with Conrad the next day. I force a standard test on the players for a possible Drunken Bums effect (the amount of booze they drank – sheesh), which Detlev fails, but passes on a re-roll – fate point used. They retire to bed, Petra carefully hiding her money in her boot._
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_ Well, that was interesting. There were lots of clues left about for the players to tease out about the informer, the Roadwardens, the weapons, and also the news about Benny being an Imperial agent (they seem to be ignoring it, just hoping it will go away!), but no-one really followed up. Perhaps the players will pick something up next session, (the drivers funeral, a tall good-looking woman throwing herself on the grave [the merchants wife] but I have my doubts – they seem to be moving post-haste to a possibly fatal showdown with the goblins. They haven’t even asked how many there are!). They all seem to be accepting Conrad and Josef’s story; no-one seems to have considered the whole concept of lying – a well earned reminder about just how brutal life in the Empire is on the cards, I feel._

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