Sunday, 29 November 2015

Gnomophobia Battle Report Part 2: The Fog of War

There are some days we can never talk about. Days that we would prefer not to remember. And most of the time we do not remember, except when the fragments of recollection cut into our dreams. Never as a complete memory. Just shards and slivers that draw blood but can never be properly pieced together. And then we wake up and try to forget all over again.

As you can see in part one of this battle report, this was a scenario where small bands of adventurers each set out to achieve particular objectives. They players explore the board with their warbands, and there are all kinds of subquests and NPCs to interact with.

These kind of games are great fun to run, and (hopefully) great fun to play. However, they're a bugger to write up, because so much is going on at the same time. Not to mention the fact that I don't have a camera of my own, so I never have a complete photographic record and I can only make do with what other people upload! As a result this is a somewhat experimental battle report. It only scratches the surface of what was going on - I hope that Steve Beales will have an opportunity to blog about some of the wonderful subquests which he added as co-GM. Instead, rather than trying to give a complete account of events, I'm going to offer a series of glimpses into the fog of war, which will (hopefully) piece together to offer a glimpse of just some of the mysteries that were laid bare on that fateful day in Thingwall.

Oh yes, and while we still have two more days of it left... HAPPY GNOMEVEMBER!

Chapter 1

The guards of the village of Thingwall peered down into the valley and watched as what appeared to be a band of barbarians from the northern wastes forded the river. "They're not wearing that many clothes, are they?" muttered the sargeant.
"I don't like the look of those lot one little bit."

"Sir, you don't suppose they've come to see the Duchess, do you?"

"I wouldn't have thought they were her type."

"No, sir, I mean to help investigate what's been going on in the mines. The Duchess is offering some kind of reward."

"Oh, I see. Yes, I see what you mean. Well, let's wait and find out what they're after."


Unfortunately, his gutteral tones proved completely incomprensible to the guards. (A double six when rolling against intelligence to see whether they could make themselves understood.) "It sounded like they were threatening us," declared the Sargeant. "We had better fire some warning shots."

This did not end well for the guards.

An inauspicious start. The rest of the villagers decided that that if the Barbarians wanted to come shopping, they were more than welcome to do so.

Chapter 2

The Gnomish Pumpkin Delivery Co. pride themselves on excellent customer service. However, basic mapreading is not their strong suit. As a result, their journey from Titfuttock to Thingwall has unfortunately been a most circuitous one, and Mr Pebbleton is in a foul mood, no doubt caused in large part by his son Fib's constant refrain "Are we nearly there yet? Are we nearly there yet? Are we nearly there yet?"

His mood does not improve as the village come into sight. "What a shithole, eh boys?"

Just at that moment, some kind of scarecrow shambles into the path of the delivery cart.

"LET MY PEOPLE GOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!" sings the pumpkin headed creature.

"Is this some kind of sick joke?" growls Mr Pebbleton

"I am acting chairman of the Thingwall Pumpkin Liberationary Front, and I must insist that you free my brothers and sisters who are at this very moment languishing in captivity in the back of your..."

The sentence is left unfinished as the delivery cart runs the creature down, only for his body to explode into a cloud of blood sucking bats. "What manner of foul magic is this?" shouts Pebbleton as his band of deliverymen hack at the creatures swarming around them.

The bats finally dispatched, and the pumpkins unharmed, the delivery company makes its way towards the town square past. Unfortunately, young Fib Pebbleton cannot resist making a rude remark about the Old Mage of Thingwall, standing guard at that moment at the village's famed circle of mushrooms. "Dad, dad, do you smell that? Do you smell wee? Ewwwwwwwwwwww it's that old gnome there! That old gnome smells of wee!"

"What did you say, you little runt?"

"Don't talk to me like that, you nonce! Dad, dad, that stinky gnome there's a nonce!" Fib's pet pig Benedict squealed and grunted what sounded like an insult of his own.

The old mage of Thingwall, having never felt so insulted in all his life, decided to teach them a lesson they wouldn't forget, turning the boy into a demonic creature and his pet pig into a fish-pig.

"Oi, you!" yelled Mr Pebbleton, "turn them back or there'll be trouble!"

And trouble there was, as the crowd of gnomes put the boot into the head of the venerable old mage, until suddenly he vanished. Assuming him to be dead, the delivery folk thought no more about it and continued on their merry way to the village.

Entering the main square, they find themselves conronted by a giant snake. "Don't worry, I'll deal with this!" screamed Micky 'Madsack' titch, waving his sack (containing a cannonball) about his head in a deranged "fanatical" style. It didn't end well for the snake, the innocent bystanders, or indeed Micky himself.

After all this, they reached the Duchess.

Want do you want us to do with these pumpkins?

Noting the somewhat diminished number of gnomes left to consume the pumpkins at the halloween feast, and further noting that this was in large part the fault of those delivering aforementioned pumpkins she suggested (strongly hinting that she might leave negative feedback at the trading post) that the Gnomish Pumpkin Delivery Co. leave the pumpkins and get the hell out of her village by the quickest route.

Which they did. "Not like they need help with that monster coming out of the hill or those skeletons heading towards the village or anything like that, is it? Idiots" muttered Mr Pebbleton darkly, before pondering how he was going to explain to his wife their son's strange metamorphosis.

Chapter 3

"¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! ¡Epa!" cried Gonzales as the party of mercenaries made their way towards the mine entrance.

"Shut the fuck up", responded Sylvester.

Smashing their way through the barred door, they climb into the mine tunnels, having to duck down low within the gnome-hewed tunnels.

They fight off giant scorpions

swarms of bats

and umber hulks.

Rewarded by the discovery of treasure which they take as "advance payment", they are nevertheless unnerved by the grinding sound which grows louder and louder as they move deeper into the dark claustrophobic tunnels.

Until they come face to face with... what is this creature? Arms hanging down, cutting jaws, some kind of demonic insect?

A long way from home, tired and enranged, the creature hisses as the blows of the adventurers rain down on his body... and then suddenly and without warning cuts his way through the rock and out to the surface...

Descending on the village, the creature begins to make short work of the henchmen of Jeremiah O. Lygg, who were already caught up in slow moving conflict with a giant snail.

Climbing out through the tunnel cut by the creature, Gonzales, Sylvester, and Pepe look on in horror, unable to comprehend what they have just encountered...

Chapter 4 (kindly provdided by Ashley Rogers!)
To your Highness,
I'm writing to report on your recent request to ask the Dogs of Law to intervene in the trouble in your village. I have heard reports of the insect-like beast that arose monstrously in your village possessed of the spirit of an evil magic caster.

Although we did not intervene in that battle I wanted to assure you of another attack by an evil warlock we delayed who was looking to invade with his undead minions. A group of loathsome followers of a bestial god were identified at a distance by the tats on their butt cheeks.

We fought and killed two of their number but my bodyguard was pushed into the river and although rescued was then slain later when we engaged them in battle again with their warlock accomplice and his undead.

We fought until sundown and exhaustion but have not heard of him again since so we think he must be now too weak to return his attack soon.

Should you need our help again I have left you a magic lantern in which to cast our sign in the sky.

Solkan be with you,

Thorik Takeda Shingen

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Gnomophobia Battle Report Part 1: Dramatis Personae

Go to sleep, little one.
Do not worry about the whispers and suspicious glares around the village. The gnomish folk are always a bit funny at this time of the year.
Do not worry about the strange noises from the mines. I'm sure they will pass soon enough.
Do not worry about the strange wicker man by the hill. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about.
Do not worry about those who have disappeared into the depths of the earth. I'm sure they will be back soon.
Go to sleep... go to sleep...

I love having this blog as a record of my adventures in oldhammer, but the problem is that it's so easy to end up with a backlog of things to report! But I thought I should get on with putting up a report of the halloween "Night of the Living Lead" game I GMed at The Foundry a few weeks ago. Not least because this we are still, of course, in the month of Gnomevember, and I owe it to the little people to report on these gnome-centred adventures. Orlygg has already very ably reported on what a fun time we had here, but I want to describe the field of battle a bit more.

You can read about the background to the game here. I'm going to do this Battle Report in 2 parts; in this post I want to introduce the different warbands (providing the background which each of the players gave) and then the objectives I gave them. Then tomorrow I'll describe the action in more detail.

The protagonists:

1) Gonzales, Pepe, and Sylvester(Warlord Paul)

Despite a severe outbreak of plague in the northern provinces my warband are finally on their way to Thingwall. Meet Gonzales de Magritta, Estalian hedge knight (centre), and his followers Pepe (left) and Sylvester (right).

These gentlemen have worked together since the last Tilean succession wars petered out and paid mercenary work dried up in the south. They did a stint as 'vampiri' hunters in Miragliano but eventually the lure of riches drew them north to the lands of the empire.

Pepe is a Bretonnian and an executioner by trade, though work became scarce for the axeman after a popular local noblewomen insisted on being beheaded with a sword thus making his choice of weapon seem old-fashioned. Sylvester is a Tilean marksmen from the backwoods of Luccini. Both ended up working as mercenaries to make ends meet.

Gonzales himself is trying to escape the legacy of an insane ancestor who ruined the family name with his antics. He still cannot look a windmill in the eye. They all have their quirks and idiosyncracies (Gonzales is prone to taking siestas at inopportune moments, Pepe has legendarily awful garlic-breath and Sylvester has a debilitating speech impediment) but together they have made a pretty good team so far.

Primary objective: You have come to Thingwall to investigate the strange goings on in the mine and to find out who lies behind the disappearances.

Secondary objective: You have been informed that the three brigands who are behind the circulation of fake coin bearing the likeness of King McDeath - the brigands go by the name of Chico, Paulus, and Stefan - have been seen in this area. McDeath's chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Broon, has informed you that he will pay a handsome reward if you can bring them into custody where he can introduce them to some "quantitative easing" of his own. Find an opportune moment to bring them under arrest.


2) Jeremiah O. Lygg and his hired goons (James Taylor)

"Oi, that's my bacon!" Chico blustered, grabbing Paulus' wrist and squeezing his flesh until the greasy meat was released back onto the filthy table. Paulus gave his fellow footpad a hearty shove and leaned back against the slime-ridden wall that held up the abandoned farmhouse, the smirk never shifting from his lips.

"Calm down you two," Stefan mumbled, "I have nearly got the lead up to temperature and need you rapscallions in your places. These coins won't forge themselves."

Chico picked up the stamp Stefan had left on the workbench. Next to it were the cooling piles of the previous hours work - piles of ersatz coins any fence would be proud to shift. He peered at the tiny writing that curled across the face of the coinage.

"What king is that supposed to be?" He asked for the hundredth time.

Stefan sighed, and told him.


Three ne'er-do-wells, Chico, Stefan and Paulus, are busy doing what they do best - forging coins and running up debts. They are just about to complete work on a huge order of 'McDeath' groats when there is a sharp knock at their door. Sure that their whereabouts were secret, the three footpads are startled and reach for their blades in panic. Before any of them can react, the battered door creaks open to reveal the thin, wiry frame of Jeremiah O. Lygg - the dubious druid of Dunststadz.

"Good evening, there is no need to be alarmed!" The druid said, his deep voice filling the room twice over. "Do settle down Gerald!"

Chico looked at Paulus. Paulus looked at Chico.

"Who's Gerald?" They asked in unison.

"I need your help once again," Jeremiah went on, ignoring (or perhaps, not hearing) the question. Adventurers are needed to clear a mine to the South and there are, well, reasons why I need to be there. Reasons that are not open for discussion... Do sit still Gerald!!"

Baffled, Chico peered around the room to check that there were indeed only four of them. Who the blazes was this Gerald?

"I can pay," the druid went on, "and in Imperial silver too!" The old man's eyes looked over the fraudulent coins on table with indifference. "Do you still have that old hound, what was he called? Fatter?"

"Ratter." Paulus corrected.

"That's right!" The druid exclaimed, adjusting the pouch at his side. "I have need of his nose - stop that Gerald! We shall meet beneath the sign of the crow at dawn. Don't be late."

With the words spoken, the druid turned to leave. "Come on Gerald, let's go home," he said to the large, green toad that curled up on his palm, it's yellow eyes glinting evilly in the gloom.

Primary objective: Jeremiah O. Lygg presents himself as someone keen to investigate the cause of the disappearances in the mine. In fact, Jeremiah (or rather, the sinister Gerald, whose influence over Jeremiah cannot be overstated) strongly suspects that the machinations of the gnomish Warlock Gnarg lie behind the strange goings on. Gerald (and therefore Jeremiah) neither trusts nor likes Gnarg, but he does respect his power. And if Gnarg is planning something then they know that they need to negotiate a deal with him to ensure that what is about to occur is to their benefit and not to their detriment.

Secondary objective: Chico, Paulus, and Stefan see no harm in supplementing their income with a little pilfering on the side. They will try and steal anything that's not nailed down.


3) The Gnomish Pumpkin Delivery Co. (Matthew Dunn)

Nothing to see here, except for The Gnomish Pumpkin Delivery Co. on their way out from the village of Titfuttock.

Led by the proprietor Mr Pebbleton, they're off to Thingwall to deliver Pumpkins for the Duchess of Thingwall's Halloween Ball.

Mrs Eleanor Pebbleton waves them off in the distance, and Benedict follows behind.

What could possibly go wrong?

Primary objective: Deliver your cargo of pumpkins to the Duchess of Thingwall for the halloween ball.

Secondary objective: The gnomes of Titfuttock are a proud (if diminutive) people. They are quite convinced that theirs is the greatest village in the world and all other gnomish villages are shitholes by comparison. Each time you encounter a gnome from the village of Thingwall you have to roll against your willpower; if you fail, you cannot resist issuing a sly insult implying Thingwall's inferiority to Titfuttock.


4) The Dogs of Law (Ashley Rodgers)

(Ashley was the lucky winner of the Oldhammer Legacy Warband, and used a selection of the more diminutive characters from that warband in the game).
The dwarf treasure hunter Grimbil Thumbeard renowned for hunting down corrupted artefacts of chaos in the dark places of the earth and consigning them to Solkan's Unending Pyre of Purification; the Halfling Warrior Pudgey Roundbelly 'the Thin' ostracised from his hometown of Scrungepuddle for his strange religious beliefs and not liking pies enough; also the Dwarf Samurai Thorik 'Takeda Shingen' who turned from his dwarven gods after a lengthy trade expedition to Nippon and his bodyguard Borin Gramdel who follows his master with an intense devotion.

These four were mustered in action after the enchantress visionary of the warband Floreau de Buerre was wracked by intense nightmarish images of twisted crawling things with their corrupted tendrils sunk deep into the poor village. And with that Dogs of Law came.

Primary objective: You have come to Thingwall to investigate the strange goings on in the mine and to find out who lies behind the disappearances.

Secondary objective: "Who watches the watchmen?" The Dutchess of Thingwall has confided in you that she does not trust some of the so-called "investigators" who have responded to her call. As she has faith in your devotion to law, she has tasked you with ensuring that the other parties don't get up to any funny business, nicking stuff, doing anything chaotic, or otherwise polluting the peace and law of the village.


5) The Wandering Barbarians(Steve Casey)

This warband is basically a small bunch of wandering barbarian swords for hire, who were forced to leave their ancestral homeland some years back due to reasons undisclosed. They are actually a small family unit of father and sons, who travel with a wretched old hag whose relationship - or influence - over the party is also undisclosed.

Primary objective: The hag wants to make a big pot of soup. She has two ingredients on her shopping list: giant hallucinogenic mushroom, and pumpkin (as the mushrooms on their own taste foul). Using the disturbance caused by the 'investigators' around the village as a smokescreen, you must try and get what she needs.

Secondary objective: While you are in Thingwall, you may as well investigate the strange goings on in the mine and to find out who lies behind the disappearances. There is, after all, a handsome reward.


6) Wortzit Gumitch (Stuart Klatcheff)

The 26 year old son of the village healer, Frederick ever more wanted to explore the wider world and the wonders in it, however his mother always rebuked him when he mentioned his desires and reminded him of his duty to the people of his village. Of his father he had no memory and beyond being named after him, had never met him. His mother said he was a bard and after a moonlight tryst in mrs miggings stables when they... It was at this point Frederick let his mind drift, so he never heard the details beyond the fact that his father had left the following day and never returned. His mother had become ever more erratic over the years venturing into the nearby woods to beseech whatever god would listen, to return her one time lover.

How Frederick would rankle at his mother’s wishes for him to become the next village healer and he would like in bed seething at the years passing, wishing he was anywhere else but this backwater village.

Eventually his wish was heard, though not by any human ear.

His mother was yet again in the forest trying out a new ritual to bring back her lost lover and one of the villagers had come to the house for an ointment to soothe the sores for her bedridden mother. Frederick said that his mother would be back soon and will bring the ointment round. Time passed, Frederick had prepared the ointment but his mother was still absent. Enough was enough; he stormed out to the forest and after a fair trek spotted a light not far away. He stormed into a clearing to find his mother stark naked writhing around in some strange looking circle she had created of twigs, leaves and other ritual twaddle she so desperately wanted to believe in. She jumped up startled when he called out and moved towards him still naked! This was too much and he just slapped her. She reeled from the blow, stumbled and fell. Frederick instinctively reached out to grab her, but was too slow. There was a dull wet thudding noise as she hit her head hard on a large stone next to a tree root. There was no scream of pain, no movement, nothing. Frederick shaking reached down to her and turned her over. Her dead eyes would see nothing again. Frederick ran from the clearing, scared but also strangely elated, he felt as though a weight had lifted from him. He was lucky as his home was at the edge of the village and no one saw him return late that night.

The following morning he dropped the ointment off, apologizing for the delay and explaining that his mother had yet to appear from her ritual, but would probably be back midday. In the afternoon Frederick approached the village burgomeister to ask permission for a couple of the villagers to go into the forest to search for her. His mother was an important member of the village, so a couple of burly farmhands were quickly sent out with a dog. Hours passed, eventually during the night they returned and there were whispers of an unfortunate accident. No one even considered that Frederick was to blame, for it was well know that his mother had her problems and after all, her well balanced and skilled son would take over her role of lancing boils and preparing poultices and all without the crazy cat lady nonsense.

Little did Frederick know that he had taken his first step on a darker path.

Though still tied to the village, Frederick had the freedom to start experimenting with new types of potions. He was up early as a visiting peddler had sold him a ragged piece of parchment, detailing a potion that would keep villagers free from the dreaded winter flu and he eagerly ventured further into the forest to try and find a small plant that was drawn on the parchment which he hadn’t seen before. After much searching he came upon a clearing and there it was, a small withered looking plant with course black leaves growing next to a rock. He reached down to dig it out, as he got closer he noticed a stain on the rock, realization dawned, this was the spot where his mother had fallen! He looked about wondering at this strange twist of fate and then returned to digging out the plant before quickly returning home.

Winter was coming. Frederick now had all the ingredients to make enough of the flu potion for the entire village. During one midday break, he prepared the ingredients in a small cauldron then made sure that everyone took a spoonful. The villagers were very grateful and heaped praise upon Frederick. Something was wrong! Frederick awoke to an odd sensation on his skin. He looked down at his arms and legs and saw the weeping pustules. He shrieked as he jumped up and was surprised to feel no pain, just an odd wetness.

He ventured out of his home. All was quiet as he started opening doors of his neighbours homes, but already knew what would greet him inside. All were dead. He worked his way towards the village centre checking homes as he went. When he reached the village centre, there awaiting him was a nightmarish creature holding a cloth sack in its three arms. The creature then spoke, talking in a tone that was jovial almost like a grandparent would to a child

“You have done well; I am most pleased with your offerings. I knew from the first moment you called me that you would not disappoint and today you have taken the first step on a greater path. Today you will no longer be Frederick the dull village herbalist and you will soon forget your old uninteresting life, among my followers you will now be known as Wortzit Gumitch. This creature who will aid you, carries a gift from me. Accept it and continue your work blessing all with your potions. One day you may even become elevated to a position by my side”

The creature then focuses it single yellow eye at Wortzit and opens the sack, letting the contents spill to the floor. At first glance it appeared no more than a pile of bones. Wortzit walked over to the creature, no longer afraid and instead of a pile of bones, realized that it was in fact armor made of bone. It felt right when he touched it and fitted perfectly as he put the armor on, as though it had been made especially for him.

The creature just stood there burbling and muttering and Wortzit knew that with his newfound patron, he had the strength and freedom to explore the world doing as he wanted. He would make sure all humanity received the blessings of his potions as desired by his new master.

Primary objective: You have been tasked by your patron to seek out and destroy the warlock Gnarg, whose rituals greatly displease him.

Secondary objective: Creatures are rising from the mud of the swamps and ponds around Thingwall. These creatures please your patron. You are to refrain from killing any of these creatures of the mud.


7) The unexpected guests ...and last but not least Chris Webb brought a band of chaos thugs to assist the Warlock Gnarg with his vile schemes.

To be continued...