Virtual Grogmeet 19

After only running a single game VG18 I’d decided to step up this year – still running one game, but joining in some others. My initial plan for Virtual Grogmeet was:

Friday evening play in @Sam0Vail’s Pendragon adventure, The Jewish Gene, set in 1963 and using Sam’s homebrew rules.

Saturday morning I was running a Barbarians of Lemuria adventure, A Heart for Madness which is super tropey, but a lot of fun.

Saturday afternoon I had signed up for The Strigoi Taint, a Savage Worlds adventure written by @DailyDwarf set in the 2000AD Rogue Trooper universe where we would play a team of Nort commandos (the original baddies in the early comic strips). However this was postponed, so while gutted not to be playing it Virtual Grogmeet weekend, it is something to look forward to in the future.

I signed up late to @doc_griffiths‘s Something from Down There, a Down Darker Trails adventure for 7th Ed Call of Cthulhu, but unfortunately I had to cancel.

I had great fun with the two games I did get to play.

Sam’s game was set in 1963 where a hidden Arthurian world coexists with our own; fae, magic, sorcerers and of course vile nazi’s are day to day for agents of Excalibur (myself, @kitch66uk and @awdscrawl), charged with defending the realm from magical and occult threats. The game was pacey with twists and turns full of interesting (and some very odd) characters… I don’t know when Sam is running this next but I would advise playing it if you get a chance.

When I ran my BoL homebrew adventure ‘A Heart for Madness’ at Convergence earlier this year I exceeded the 4 hour time slot by half an hour. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fit it into the 3.5 hour slot that Virtual Grogmeet gives; I have a bit of a habit of taking too long at cons and it seemed likely I wasn’t going to fit it into the 3.5 hours this time either….

With 5 great players (@dracowie, @HobbsTheGamer, Ian E, @jaje7406 and @LaticsExile) who really engaged with the adventure it was easy to see that the time would be eaten up, luckily they were all available to extend the session by a further hour and a half. Just like at Convergence I had a cracking time running this game, and it was great to see the heroes prevail in true Swords & Sorcery fashion.

A huge thanks to @theGROGNARDfile for organising Virtual Grogmeet and to all the folks I played with over the weekend. Roll on Grogmeet 2019!

One Weekend to Rule them all

You know you have those weekends, the special ones, the ones you look forward to for weeks or even months in advance. Maybe it’s to celebrate a big life event, a break away with the family, or a gaming weekend (especially gaming weekends!). Whether it’s a one day con or a whole weekend like UK Games Expo or Grogmeet, when it’s first booked and many months away it’s given an occasional thought… maybe you have to write an adventure or do some other preparation. But as the event looms closer it occupies a much bigger slice of your waking thoughts, and then when it arrives it’s just like Christmas.

I’ve just had one of those weekends, and I would suggest it is the best gaming weekend I have had ever, certainly it’s right there at the top.

Wrapped up in a bundle of great company, gaming talk, hearty food, plentiful beer, fine whisky and a roaring fire, the focus of the weekend was Cubicle 7’s Tolkien epic, The One Ring. We all owned the game, but none of us had played it much (as far as I know only me and @OrlanthR at DevaCon last year), and so we wanted to set that straight. Tolkien whizzkid, top GM and all around nice guy @kinnygraham was keen to run the game and so in preparation we created characters in advance online. Our fellowship was formed of two Dwarves, the noble Vidar Stonesong of the Blue Mountains (@OrlanthR), his companion, the wayward Hanar of the Grey Mountains (@Lintillaz), a Dunedain Human Ranger, Iorlas (@oilpainting71), and my character, the optimistic, inappropriately adventurous and naive hobbit, Brogo Burrows. I have met and gamed with @kinnygraham, @OrlanthR and @Lintillaz at events before and we often play online so I knew I’d get along with those chaps, and it was great to have @oilpainting71 along as well – it’s always a pleasure meeting new gamers and we all got on like a house on fire.

Our adventure started on the Friday afternoon and took us through to midday on the Sunday. I reckon we had somewhere in the region of 16 hours solid gaming; a sufficient amount of time to give The One Ring a great play through and explore the area around Bree. Our company was thrown together on the road heading east and settled down in the comfortable surroundings of the Prancing Pony. All was peaceful until young Thomas Heatherton ran in with tales of a monstrous white skinned creature in the graveyard… the rest was pure Tolkien inspired adventure with some true epic moments.

In the preceding weeks I had read a fair amount of the rules. There are a few fiddly bits, but the one method of resolution (a d12 feat dice and a varied number of d6 skill dice to beat a target number, usually 14) means you always know what to roll. It didn’t take too long before you get into the swing of things. The One Ring has subsystems that capture the feel of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings; travel plays a big part as does the ever present threat of Shadow, overcome through Hope. Each time the dice are rolled all players are keeping an eye on the d12 feat dice for the Gandalf rune (cheer!) or the Eye of Sauron (groan); the former gives an automatic success while the latter is worth zero and makes it much harder to be successful. The Gandalf rune and Eye of Sauron are reversed for evil creatures – their evil overlord powers their actions, while the light of Gandalf deters them. And if a roll is successful, a 6 on any d6 gives a great success and a second 6 gives an extraordinary success; on the funky The One Ring Dice each 6 is marked with a t symbol which is a Tengwar rune. Even dice rolling felt flavourful and thematic.

Highlights of the weekend included some fantastic props such as a hand-drawn map of the area around Bree; the paper had been treated (dunked in tea, burned and marinated over a cigar) to make it look old and dry. The first mystery of the map were the dwarfish runes which we translated (through a combination of @OrlanthR‘s Middle Earth knowledge and the internet) , but then our delight only grew as we discovered the secret of smoke runes! Utter genius. A big fight with a Troll allowed us to test the combat system and explore tactical options; it really felt like an epic combat.

I was just a little sad when the weekend was over, but we had such a fantastic time. Huge thanks to our GM @kinnygraham for running such an amazing game and putting in so much prep, to @OrlanthR for arranging the whole thing, adventuring companions @Lintillaz and @oilpainting71 for being excellent fellows, and of course to @theGROGNARDfile without whom we wouldn’t know each other. Hope we can do it again soon.

Convergence 2019

This small, friendly con is my first in 2019 and holds a special place; it was the first RPG con I ever attended two years ago now, and the first time I met some of the great gamers I enjoy playing with still. As the first con of the year I like to think it sets the standard for cons to come…

After the date was set and the call went out for GM’s, I knew I’d want to run a game. Last year it was The Greater Share of Honour, a homebrew adventure for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. This year I wanted to try something a bit different, indeed something considerably different from the OSR games I love and usually run. Earlier on in the year I started running a Barbarians of Lemuria campaign on Roll20 and have found it to be great fun – it’s a fast and simple system that makes a ton of sense while offering a style of play which is far more heroic than my usual OSR fare. My game choice to run then was BoL. There are few published adventures for the system and a few more in the core rulebook, but I felt that none gave me what I wanted from a con game, so I rolled my own adventure A Heart for Madness and put it forward for the morning session at Convergence.

I had four players for this early session, all but one of which I played with before. Barbarians of Lemuria really delivered; it didn’t take long for the players to get into the swing of things and before long they were mowing down rabble, battling toughs and defeating villains, all the while tempted to spend their hero points which make them totally badass. It also gave me a gauge on timing to work with when I run it at Virtual Grogmeet and UK Games Expo – I ran over by nearly half an hour so I’ll need to trim it a bit to fit the 3.5 hour slot of Virtual Grogmeet. A huge thanks to the players Brendan, both Steve’s and Tom.

After a quick lunch (because I ran over by a bit) I joined Dirk the Dice‘s Strontium Dog game Bringing Akill-Ease to Heel, a homebrew using the Savage Worlds system. A ragtag gang of the weirdest muties in the galaxy, we were sent from the Dog House to the planet Caytor with a fistful of individual warrants and a group warrant to bring the criminal Akill-Ease in alive. It was easy to imagine our characters appearing in an episode of Strontium Dog; my character GlassJaw Vargas was a huge and hideously strong and deformed mutie, yet he was far from the weirdest, and could be considered a norm next to The Grimby Reaper. From the off it was proper Strontium Dog comic book stuff and the Lego props and huge table were used to good effect. It’s the second Savage Worlds 2000AD homebrew game I’ve played (and I’ve signed up for more at Virtual Grogmeet) – it seems to me that SW really works with 2000AD settings and characters (sorry World of 2000AD folks), with it’s easy to understand system, Edges and Hindrances which help characters stand out, but still keeps it simple. Bennies always give you that epic moment of action or a get out clause provided you use them carefully. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I would say if you get a chance to play it you really should.

The evening session was GM’d by Kris, one of the Convergence hosts; Star Wars, the West End Games 2nd edition. I’ve developed a real liking for the OpenD6 system, and having played in one of Kris’ games before I knew we’d be in for a great adventure. I played a Brash Pilot, a young, enthusiastic, optimistic, willing to do anything for the Rebel Alliance kind of guy. We were sent on a mission to track down Crying Dawn Singer, a Shashay entertainer kidnapped by criminals out to discredit the alliance. Our adventure took us far and wide from an abandoned research centre to the bustling planet Narg. This was a huge amount of fun, Kris really captured the Star Wars vibe; the templates help players quickly understand their character, and the D6 system works incredibly well (although one thing I would change is how rolls of 1 on the wild die effect outcomes, it seems that a series of bad rolls could lead to a chain of unrealistic complexities). Another bonus was playing with a chap I’d worked with 20+ years ago and have only met briefly once since at an earlier Convergence – if I’d known he was a gamer back then…

This was a long day in the best way possible – a very early start, then picking Clarky  up in Liverpool, and not getting home until after midnight – but with so much great gaming in between. Kris and Snowy run a great con, it’s friendly with good facilities and a load of great games on offer. I’m really hoping it will run for a 4th year in 2020, if it does you should try to get there. Next, onto DevaCon, 27th April in Chester.

The Lemurian Seven: Thoughts on BoL

Last Friday I started running Barbarians of Lemuria… it’s a game that has been on my shelves for ages and I thought it would be worth a trying it out. I read the rules a couple of times (for it’s 200+ pages BoL still feels like a light game) and had a plan to run each of the brief adventures from the core book in an episodic format. Each episode the heroes would start somewhere new, with no thought or acknowledgement given to how they would get there. That was the plan at least…

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I decided to run the game on alternating Friday’s just to give me a bit more prep time between sessions and also so I had opportunities to do social stuff without having to cancel. I had in my mind I would be lucky to get three or four players, and that I would be content with that. After putting it out there on Twitter I found there was quite a bit of interest… I can manage 6 players, I’ve done it before, so I went with that. But somewhere along the way I lost count, so we now have 7 players; I really didn’t want to have to drop a player, and as I’d not been too fastidious in tracking who had asked to join last, it would have been unfair to randomly drop someone. Although it would have given me a practical use for my Dungeon Crawl Classics D7 Zocchi dice…

Now I’m not a huge fan of big character backgrounds, but BoL encourages players to establish simple backgrounds to tie in with their careers. In this my players went above and beyond; I have excellent backgrounds, not too detailed, but filled with the right stuff. Adversaries and interesting characters have all been included. Every question I asked I was given an interesting, engaging answer. And as time went on I started to wonder how I would use all of this great background material with the episodic format I had planned. I couldn’t see a way to do it.

I’ve since decided to abandon that idea and go for a much more player directed campaign, one where their backgrounds, and most importantly the NPC’s they have identified are a big part of the adventures. After mapping everything out using a Kanban board, I feel I’ve got a good grip on all of the moving parts – certain threads will come into focus for different sessions. In fact, I have so many threads and possibilities that I will have to leave some out for now, otherwise the players will each be going off in different directions to complete their own quests. BoL provides some great mechanisms to bring out backgrounds as well, such as the Hunted flaw which means each time a hunted character enters a city, on a 1 on 1d6, the hunter or an agent of the hunter will turn up and cause problems.

“How’s it been managing seven players online?” I hear you ask. It’s been amazing fun! Some players are more vocal than others, but I try to ensure everyone remains engaged with the game – it was great to see the players chatting amongst themselves using Roll20 chat, making plans while I was dealing with another encounter in Hangouts. We’re still finding our way with the game etiquette and balance, and I think we’ll get to where we need to be before too long. Plus with seven we have the added bonus that if up to 4 players couldn’t make it, we could still have a game!

I need to give more thought to how I prep for sessions as well; too much means I’m pushing the players where I want them to be all the time, not enough means the game can feel a little slow. I felt part of last night’s session was like this and hoped that writing this up might help identify the improvements I can make. We finished on a climax, so I’m hoping to start the next sessions with some pace and continue it from there…

Any thoughts or advice on how to proceed would be appreciated!

 

Better Than Any Man: The End and Closing Thoughts

Warning: BTAM serious game ruining spoilers ahead!

Caught in a desperate and bloody combat inside the main entrance to Goblin Hill, the Black Dogs are scrapping with half a dozen masked and unarmed cultist Burgerfriedensmiliz who stand between them and the huge iron doors that lead outside and to freedom. The alarm has been raised deeper inside the cultists lair and distant running feet and shouting can be heard behind them… not sure how much time they have before a horde of cultists capture (and maybe eat) them, they throw everything into the fight.

Hemming closed in on one of the cultists while the others kept their distance and tried to pick others off with missile weapons, Balock with a hastily picked up shortbow and Miklos with his crossbow. Once cultists started to fall Esmeralda threw herself into the fray, brutally cutting more down while Miklos relieved one of his head. As more cultists come tearing down the corridor the Black Dogs overpower the door guards just as Genevieve and Esmeralda push open the huge front doors and the cold night air floods in. Two guards await outside and are stunned to see the intruders pour out past the corpses of their dead companions.

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With more heavily armed and no doubt competent cultists just behind, the adventurers take the sensible option and flee into the forest…

An effective escape was on the cards but Esmeralda lingered too long, attacking a cultist that was trying to kill Genevieve. Initiative can shaft you sometimes. As the rest of the Black Dogs ran into the darkness, the plucky rogue was grappled by one of the guards who was trying to pin her down until his fellow cultists arrived. Other cultists come streaming past chasing Miklos, Balock and Hemming and all looks lost for Esmeralda, a fate of torture, tenderisation and ending up on a cannibal’s dining plate await her. As a last minute thought (as he was focussed very much on his own survival) Hemming fires his final Magic Missile at the cultist wrestling her, and as his flesh is devoured by chomping skulls, Esmeralda is able to flee into the darkness as well.

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Knowing the dangers of following the party into the woods, the cultists withdraw. It is a little while later that the Black Dogs meet up, take stock of their situation and head back to Thungen with a plan to head to Wurzburg, hand over the heads of T

he Defiler, The Joy, The Mother, The Provider and The Watcher in a bid to save Wurzburg (knowing Karlstadt is already lost).

Outside Thungen they encounter a Swedish patrol and discover they are already too late. Wurzburg has been raised to the ground, the garrison of the Marienburg Fortress wiped out and the citizens of the town slaughtered. It seems they were too late by only a day or two to save the thousands of innocents who perished… Maybe they can still claim a reward for the heads, but who would pay it?

Aftermath

A montage of scenes would show the Swedish army rampaging across the area; remains of the walls and buildings of Karlstadt, shattered and blackened by flame and cannon fire, ruined bodies lining the streets, hanging from gallows and impaled on sharpened stakes, amongst them The Defender and The Reminder. Their creatures are nowhere to be seen. A large contingent of the Swedish army are still camped outside, ensuring none escape Gustavus Adolphus’ vengeance.

Wurzburg has fared no better. The Prince-Bishop Franz Von Hatzfeld has long since fled with his entourage leaving the people to their terrible fate.

Swedish patrols scour the area cleaning up stragglers while witch hunters sentencing many poor women to the hangman’s noose (after all, if there were seven female sorcerers in Karlstadt, there could well be more). One patrol reaches Goblin Hill and before too long it is torn apart and all the cultists within, men, women and children are executed.

Did the Black Dogs prevent the Insect God from awakening and enslaving humankind? A foul and alien deity, the Insect God will slumber deep beneath the ground for now, probing, broadcasting it’s dreams until some other desperate and damaged soul can be manipulated to raise another cult to serve it…

Then there’s the characters themselves – they’ll be level 4 at least after this. What is next for them? Retirement, further adventures?

Balock, Specialist (top left) – the only character to maintain a shred of human decency, even at the end considerate and looking for the best in people; only dealing death to those who deserved it.

Hemming, Magic-User (bottom left) – like most who dabble in the arcane arts, he was aligned to chaos from the start and this only continued as the game progressed.

Miklos, Cleric (top centre) – a true man of God. Perhaps we saw the biggest change in him, in Wurzburg he was a big softie, by the time the hunt for The Seven was truly on, a demented Scimitar wielding death dealer, all too ready to remove a head or two.

Ingrid, Fighter (RIP) (right, standing with peg leg)- an experienced Black Dog who had one job in mind. Kill The Mother and stop the Insect God cult. She lost her life to see the job through.

Genevieve, Magic-User  (right, sitting) – a newer addition to the Ingrid’s Black Dog gang, nevertheless she was happy to throw around magic and wield a sword in battle.

Esmeralda, Specialist (right, standing with arquebus) – tricksy, sneaky and handy with a bow, Esmeralda is an accomplished all around monster slayer.

Maldron, Fighter (RIP) (bottom centre) – a fearsome warrior from the beginning, happy to wade in with his terrifying greatsword. None would have thought he would be the first to go, yet he was undone by The Defiler’s creature and it’s infinite stomach dimensions…

Shylock, Specialist (RIP) (not shown) – a guide from the Karlstadt Conspiracy to overthrow The Seven, he showed great potential until he was ripped in half by The Defender’s creature.

If nothing else, those who survived deserve a well earned rest.

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The player with the most dead characters award goes to Tony for his outstanding contribution to making me feel like a proper OSR GM.

Closing Thoughts

I’m happy and sad.

Happy because we completed Better Than Any Man – it’s the first adventure of this scale, effectively a mini-campaign, that I have ran and completed in a long time. And while it had some troughs, I thought it had many more peaks. The players (regulars , , ,  and an early appearance by were excellent, throwing themselves into their characters and every grim and outrageous situation I threw at them (well not me really, James Raggi the author), and really engaging with the setting and adventure. It was a demanding game as well, a time sink, particularly in the earlier parts… it’s a sandbox adventure that presents some unique challenges to the GM. It’s a bundle of stuff with a glorious historical backdrop, a load of locations, some ideas, crazy NPC’s, encounters and a few dungeons and the GM has to pull it all together to make it sing.

116452Sad because it’s all over. I really enjoyed learning about the 30 years war (I must confess to some ignorance before I started planning this; RPG’s are educational, yay!), planning how to start the adventure (I used A Stranger Storm as a lead in), throwing in some adhoc stuff and watching the players squirm was all great fun. Their morale compases were put to the test and changed direction many times. And using LotFP – damn, I love that system. It’s pure, refined OSR gold to me, as masterful B/X D&D variant – it just works perfectly (well saying that I added a few house rules).

There were a load of locations the party didn’t get anywhere near; the Farmhouse, the Mound, the Infinite Tower and the Realm of the Insect God. Part of that was my fault, I threw in a few distracting side quests, and then when the time pressure was on (with the Swedish Army heading into the area) they because really focussed on getting the heads of the Seven, ignoring the teasers to these other locations I put in their way (a child kidnapped from the refugee camp and a glass tiger prowling the hills nearby; I wasn’t keen on the Infinite Tower and had already decided to skip that). Having a sandbox adventure and a tight timeline is not an ideal mix (in my opinion) and it’s unlikely they could be separated in this case as the Swedish Army’s presence is crucial to the whole adventure.

What would I do differently if I was running it again? Early on I made the choice that this would be entirely human centric, no dwarves, elves or halflings; I still feel that was a good decision. I’d start with A Stranger Storm again for sure, that is a cracking paranoia inducing adventure, setting the tone and player expectations of what was to come. I would have them approach from a different direction – coming to Wurzburg first tied them up quite a bit. If they had come from the northwest they could have encountered the Farmhouse and the Mound before hitting Karlstadt or Wurzburg. Travel was quite slow, so I’d make sure they had easy access to horses, and most likely try to start the adventure a couple of days earlier, so if they are sidetracked they still have a chance of getting to Wurzburg to pick up the ‘Heads of the Seven’ quest and perhaps succeeding in it. Plus there would be a greater opportunity to have more of the excellent and disturbing random encounters.

Would I recommend running it? Hell yeah! It’s fantastic and well worth the time investment – there are dozens of hours of great gaming in this, and considering it is PWYW on DrivethruRPG there is no reason not to take a look.

Better Than Any Man: Imminent Doom

Warning: BTAM spoilers ahead!

Perhaps the aspect of BTAM I’ve enjoyed the most is how open it is – a true sandbox, but with a pressing time constraint (that Swedish Army isn’t hanging around). Like all good sandboxes, it’s never worth looking much more than a session ahead as the players can choose where to go and what to do. Sometimes that means they get themselves into situations that seem… irredeemable. The circumstance they now find themselves in is one such; I was fully expecting to end BTAM with a TPK, after all they were in the heart of Goblin Hill fighting The Mother (a vile sorcerer and fortunately silenced), her monstrous Creature and her cultists, with hundreds of other cultists banging on the door behind them, baying for their blood. Right, a TPK… it has to be. Although I should never have expected anything less, the players surprised me with their creativity and may yet survive…

UntitledWe started the session mid-combat in a room with 2 exits (one magically held), the adversaries mentioned above and a huge stinking cloud. Ingrid was armless, having both appendages ripped off by the creature and attached to its own gruesome body. But the battle was far from over; a carefully placed Magic Missile from Hemming saw The Mother devoured by gnashing skulls, only her head remaining afterwards, a look of agony and disbelief cast on her leathery face. The remaining cultists flew into a frenzy, but were no match for the Black Dogs who destroyed them and the creature, Miklos stepping through and striking off it’s head. Sadly during the combat Ingrid could no longer stand the pain of her terrible wounds and fell to the floor. Throughout all this the much larger mob of cultists were trying to bash down the magically sealed door and it looked like they could succeed at any moment.

Knowing they had not a minute to waste the adventurers push through the other door into the corridor beyond to find a further corridor with a door at its end straight ahead and another door to the right. How could they bar the door into this corridor behind them to slow down the cultists and buy them some time? Of course the obvious solution was to block it with the stack of bodies that they had ‘acquired’… these were propped against the door and Ingrid, suffering from blood loss and her end imminent volunteered to push her weight against the door to further hinder the cultists. As she leant against the door and the stack of corpses wedging it shut a cry was heard beyond and a crack of wood as the outer door was breached by the cultists. It only took a moment before they were banging on this door!

With time running out and the breath of the Grim Reaper’s scythe felt on their necks Miklos and Hemming investigate the room ahead, desperate for a further exit, perhaps a hidden door, while Balock investigates the room to the right (but having no torch is only greeted by a wall of darkness).

the makerThe Cleric and Magic-User have found The Mother’s quarters and find a large bed and a table on which rests a slightly rotting severed head, two spellbooks and the remains of meal, with some uneated human body parts. Briefly the PC’s consider who the head once belong too, perhaps Gabriele Bauer, the 8th sorcerer from Karlstadt? A large chest is pushed against a far well – perhaps it holds significant wealth – but in light of the current circumstance, it is ignored. Taking the spellbooks, as they leave the room Miklos hears a faint ghostly voice “help us”, “we’re trapped”, which seems to come from below the ground. With a very real sense of preservation he ignores the potential distraction and focuses on the problem at hand – how to escape the cultists who are banging ever harder on the door.

dragonborn1Leaving The Mother’s chambers the party gathers in the room to the right and finds a huge mirror which they search and inspect along with the rest of the room… all the while, cultists banging on the door to the corridor outside. Balock pulls the large chest through from The Mother’s room, and after searching for traps picks the lock. Lo! The lockpick is successful, but he didn’t spot the trap and feels a small prick in his thumb. A numbness starts to spread over his hand and he can feel an icy cold crawl through his veins… but this is Balock, and he hasn’t come this far to be killed by some crappy poison needle trap! He grits his teeth and resists, and before too long feeling returns to his hand and the chill fades (he made his saving throw!). Inside the chest are a stack of copper coins, a valuable gold ingot and a treasure map, showing the location of a horde of gold not far from Goblin Hill!

Frustration growing, and beginning to realise there is no other way out of Goblin Hill, Hemming decides to try to hit the mirror with the Leg Bone of St Burchard – perhaps this will activate some obscure magic in the mirror, a portal or some such, allowing them to escape. If only. The bone shatters the mirror and it’s fragments fall to the floor, making a tinkling chorus that sounds like it is mocking them…

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And so a further plan is formulated. Perhaps by using the head of The Mother and some clever disguise techniques one of the Black Dogs could convince the cultists that the ‘intruders’ are dead, killed in the battle outside. With that somewhat crazy and ambitious plan agreed as the way forward, they rush back into The Mother’s chamber. Balock wraps himself in a cloak from The Mother’s wardrobe, hunches and places her head on his shoulders, hood up to hide the detachedness of the head… perhaps the dim light in here will help them. Esmeralda, Genevieve, Miklos and Hemming lay on the floor as though slain in the combat outside.

Eventually Ingrid’s strength fails and she is no longer able to keep the door closed; taking her final breath she smiles, hoping she has given her companions enough time to find a way out. The cultists push through the door and before too long one of them tentatively opens the door to The Mother’s chamber. Balock puts on an amazing performance as The Mother, convincing the cultists that the intruders are dead… and even when one of them points out her creature is dead, he handles it like a pro, telling them “I can summon another one”… and the cultists take their leave to clean up the mess.

enchanted2Hardly believing that scheme would work, they come up with the boldest part of their plan yet. Assuming many of the cultists haven’t actually seen them, they believe they could just walk out of Goblin Hill, only attacking when forced to. Waiting a while for things to settle down they do just that, passing cultists who nod at them and others who have a slightly puzzled look. They engage in conversation with a couple of women they pass, and eventually find their way to the main entrance which is guarded by at least half a dozen unarmed and hooded cultists.

Here they have a choice; head back into Goblin Hill and try to find a further way out, or charge into the cultists at the gates, trying to clear the way. Of course they chose the later, so getting as close as they can to these guards, they charge in and the slaughter begins once more…

Can the Black Dogs survive and escaped Goblin Hill? Will they be able to kill these guards and open the big external doors before reinforcements arrive… and even then will they be able to get clear of the cultists once and for all…

Better Than Any Man: The Battle for Goblin Hill

Warning: BTAM spoilers ahead!

Deep inside the Burgerfriedensmiliz headquarters, home to the Insect God cult, our heroes flee from a mob of enraged cultists. At the end of the last session they had arrived at a junction… to their right the corridor opened into a room with what appeared to be two stone benches, at least as much as their lanterns illuminated. Straight ahead the corridor continued to open into a further room and Esmeralda reported she could hear distant shouting from that direction.cultists

A decision had to be made and quickly. Digging deep, the Black Dogs discovered the grit that makes them monster hunters and turned to fight the cultists, using the junction to good effect and setting up an effective defensive formation that would allow them to get multiple attacks in on the cultists at the front.

Desperate combat ensued as the cultists came flying in even though unarmed. Men and women tried to grapple and pull the PC’s down, trying to overwhelm them with numbers and showing little regard for their own lives (crazy cultist bastards). But with typical efficiency swords were swinging and cultists fell. It seemed like this tactic would work until more cultists charged in from behind. Balock was grabbed by one cultist while another latched onto Miklos, but he was able to shake them off. Pushing the assailants back Miklos struck the head off one cultist, a look of surprise still on his face as his head span through the air, and Ingrid buried her sword deep in the torso of another, kicking the limp body off her bloody blade and freeing Balock.

soldiers-plunderingHearing the bawled instructions of an armed cultist asking to be let through and realising they could be quickly overwhelmed the party retreated into the stone bench room. Hemming, Esmeralda and Genevieve began to explore, discovering the room to be a temple with rows of stone benches and a large throne with a giant ant statue rearing above it. Besides the throne, statue and benches, blood stained tapestries and carpets adorned the walls and floor of the room, both with a pattern of a giant ant head embroidered in them. Meanwhile Ingrid, Miklos and Balock face the cultists at the entrance to the temple, holding their own ground until three armed and more capable cultists join the fray. In an attempt to break the morale of the cultists, Miklos casts a Command spell at the leader of the group – ‘Kneel’ – but it is framed in such a way that it looks to the cultists that this commander has been overpowered by the power of god, and falls to the floor on his knees. This causes many of the cultists to flee for a while at least and gives the three Black Dogs holding the doorway the chance to finish these stronger cultists off.

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Meanwhile Hemming and the others check out the temple. The Magic-user strikes the throne with the Leg Bone of St Burchard to see if it has any effect (it doesn’t), and they perhaps wisely decide not to interfere with the throne any further. Turning their attention to a door leading out of the room, Hemming opens it and a further door beyond along a short corridor. A larger, unadorned room waits beyond and the party moves into it, their plan to secure the door behind them with a Hold Portal spell cast by Genevieve.

the mother's creatureFrom out of the shadows shuffles a horrendous monster which can only be The Mother’s creature. A human torso with a head twisted sideways, and arms for limbs, all in different stages of decay. Following ineffective blows on both sides of the combat a further door flies open and more armed cultists burst in, these armed with shortbows. They are accompanied by The Mother who casts Stinking Cloud in the room, taking Hemming, Ingrid and Esmeralda out of the combat for a few seconds. On recovering Hemming fires a Magic Missile at The Mother which hurts her, but she’s still in the fight. Having locked the door into the room with Hold Portal, Genevieve casts Unseen Servant and the summoned force pushes the other door shut, allowing the Black Dogs to deal with the two cultists who pushed there way into the room. It looks like the adventurers may be about to overcome both the creature and The Mother, when the fiend tears both of Ingrid’s arms off, leading her standing there bleeding….

This fight isn’t over yet, and even when it is, how are the Black Dogs going to get out of here?