Finally, I'm back writing about some actual gaming stuff. This month has been insanely busy with visits from Japan (twice!), trips to the absolute north of Sweden, lots of birthdays and me being bedridden for a week. Anyway now it's time to catch up with our boys in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. This time with some added out of character comments!
After some investigations in and around Stromdorf our band of merry men are getting ready to enter the marshland called the Oberslecht in search of the so called Lightning Stone. According to a mysterious individual named Foaldeath it is what gives the current beastman chieftan, Izka Madtooth, his power and if he's allowed to keep it Izka will soon wage war upon the settlements nearby and eventually Stromdorf itself!
According to Foaldeath the Lightning Stone is fairly big and although one man can lift it they might be better off bringing a cart. Fortunately the Holtz family has just aquired one and are willing to help the heroes by lending it to them. Foaldeath tells them that he has some preparing to do, but that they should try and enter the marshlands at first light next morning, then he disappears back into the mists.
It is already late so they decide to simply try to rest a few hours and then head out. Heinrich asked about Tristan but only got some mumblings as answers so he let it go. No use antagonizing their hosts at this delicate time...
It was hard to tell when dawn actually came. The heavy rains contiues so the difference was minimal. Upon entering the Oberslecht it was even worse. Old gnarled trees and a thick mist obscured the miniscule sunlight even more, it might as well have been night time! The group quickly fell into a routine with Dieter scouting ahead making sure they weren't ambushed, Heinrich acting as a guide since he had a fair (although academic) knowledge about swamps, and Mannfred and Snorri worked the actual wagon, being the two with any actual muscle. [Basically Dieter made Stealth checks, Heinrich made Nature Lore checks while Mannfred and Snorri made strength checks. Racing a marker representing the beastmen they had to accumulate enough successes not to get discovered and/or reach the encampment.] This worked rather well and they found themselves nearing a large open area in what they deemed was the middle of the swamp without too much trouble.
Sneaking closer they could see groups of beastmen scattered around a large area with a large monolith in the middle. It was decorated with all kinds of unholy symbols as well as bones and pieces of armor - a beastman Herdstone! Suddenly a giant thunderbolt struck the stone and the heroes realized that the lightning stone was actually tied ontop of the herdstone. Beneath it a giant of a beastman clad in heavy armour and carrying an axe seemed to pray to it. He raised his arms to the monolith and another lightning bolt struck from the heavens! This was obviously Izka Madtooth, leader of the Oberslecht beastmen tribe.
Izka Madtooth! Not happy about being disturbed. Art by freejimmy at Deviant Art.
There were groups of other beastmen here and there around the stone, but it seemed like they were sleeping. And after Heinrich noticed a few barrels of Thunderwater Ale lying empty around the encampment the explanation was clear. After some quick (and hushed!) discussion the group decided to simply make a break for the stone while the tribe was mostly sleeping and try to hold of Izka while one of them cut down the lightning stone.
Dieter, tried to sneak ahead while Snorri and Mannfred approached behind him, and then Heinrich behind them. When Snorri and Mannfred were about halfway to the stone Izka raised his massive head, sniffed and turned around slowly. Although it didn't seem like he'd noticed Dieter the wizard and the two warriors were caught in the open. Izka raised his axe and bellowed a challenge and the Trollslayer was not late to respond, charging ahead and screaming at the top of his lungs. Mannfred, momentarily stunned by the size of the chieftan, was slightly behind and the three crashed together just below the great monolith!
At the same time Dieter ran around to the stone and started cutting the ropes with his knife. Heinrich summoned a bolt of shadow energy that he flung at Izka but when it merely scorched his armour a little he decided it might be a better idea to help out Dieter with the rope cutting. Although being two against one (or three counting Rex!) Snorri and Mannfred found themselves hard pressed by the bestigor. His giant axe fell again and again and Mannfred soon found his armour bucked and his shield in splinters! Snorri had blood running into his eyes from a cut in his forehead and no matter how many times they hit Izka he simply refused to go down. [With a soak of 9 and plenty of ACE dice to throw at defence Izka is a tough nut to crack. And he can dish out a lot of damage too!]
As Dieter frantically worked on the ropes he could see some of the beastmen in the clearing start to stir and look around. Obviously the commotion had woken them from their drunken slumber. One of the groups were even standing up and pointing towards the fight. Time was starting to run out! Suddenly a giant blow from Izka smashed Mannfred off his feet and Dieter decided to join the fray, leaving the last couple of ropes for Heinrich to cut. Although Mannfred made it to his feet again things were starting to go pear-shaped. The quick raid to get the stone was turning into a major melee!
[As the adventure is written there should actually be a group of two regular gors and three ungor henchmen per player more or less ready to join the fight. Naturally not all at the same time, but still. Had I even had one group like that attack the party there'd been a total party kill! So be careful to gauge this part of the adventure when you run it so you don't simply steamroll your players.]
The Grey Wizard finally managed to cut the last strands of rope and heaved the lightning stone down. It was heavy, but not too heavy for him to carry it alone. A short distance in any case. Seeing as Izka was focused on the fight he decided to try and sneak back to the cart with the stone. A fatal mistake.
Izka quickly noticed that his source of power had been removed and looked around. Seeing the wizard moving away ponderously he let out another roar. Bowling over Snorri and pushing Mannfred away with his axe the giant beastman levelled his head charged! Heinrich barely had time to turn his head to see what was bearing down on him before Izka slammed into him full force. Heinrich found himself cradling two horns that was coming out of his ribcage. "This feels... strange" he thought, and died.
For a moment everyone just stared in disbelief but then Snorri let out a ferocious roar and buried his two axes deep in the neck of Izka. After two more quick chops the chieftan's head came completely off. By this time several gors and ungors were closing in on the party but the death of Izka had an interesting effect on them. Two of the closest gors seemed to suddenly loose all interest in the humans and started fighting each other! It seemed like the fight for leadership of the tribe had already started.
Realizing that this was their only chance the group quickly moved towards the cart, carrying both the lightning stone and the body of Heinrich. The confusion among the beastmen was not total and they saw a group coming their way quickly. Their only chance was to try and loose the beastmen in the swamp. The cart hampered their progress but they decided it was better than trying to carry the stone and the body. Another lightning bolt struck, but this time not the stone itself but rather behind them, for a moment scattering the pursuing beastmen.
Although pushing hard through the marshes the group could still see the beastmen not far behind them! Suddenly arrows flew through the air, cutting down two ungors and forcing the others to take cover. A voice that they'd heard somewhere before called out, "This way! Continue past me and to the north and you'll get out!". It turned out to be Franz Bieber, the hunter and woodsman whose guidance the group had decided was too costly. Franz continued to pelt the beastmen with arrows from his longbow as Snorri, Mannfred and Dieter pushed the cart ahead.
Soon after they reached the borders and left the Oberslecht behind. After a couple of minutes Franz came up to them, quiver gaping empty, and said the beastmen won't follow them further, not with the tribe leaderless in this way. They should be safe for the moment. Now... what to do with that stone...
So... our first character death! And I've got to say it was quite spectacular, and... fitting in a way. It also demonstrates how this edition of WFRP differs from the others in the way damage works. In first and second edition you could go into a fight with full health and still know that a good critical hit would still kill you. In third edition a critical hit is usually not that debilitating. It's definitely something you want to avoid, but it's not the almost-death sentence that it used to be. However! Critical hits stay with you and even with plenty of rest and medical assistance you can't be sure when you'll actually get rid of it.
And this is what happened to Heinrich. He had one critical hit since the fight at Grünewald Lodge (wich was a fairly long time ago!) and another one from the fight with the cultists. Then he got two more from Izka's charge and well... that was that. Basically, there are a lof of things in third edition that sticks with you; critical hits, insanities, corruption, disease... and if you're not careful it slowly grinds you down until you're only a single critical wound from a too early death. I like it!
Our next session is scheaduled for January 8th. So expect another update somewhere around that time.