TI1.01: A legendary journey begins

To Ikkutas!

Introducing a road trip up the Vale, with Dwarves.

Ikkutas, legendary realm of mountain Dwarves, lives on in tales passed down from one Dwarf generation to the next. Greedy tales, gloating tales. But the exact whereabouts of Ikkutas is lost. Supposedly, it was hewn from the mountains at the far end of the Vale.

This campaign uses deluxe Tunnels & Trolls edition. T&T’s 5th or ‘classic’ edition introduced me to roleplaying and I backed the KS for a deluxe edition.

The deluxe edition includes a plethora of options that a GM can choose to include or not. I am including Talents and Specialists but they are my own mashup of the options on offer. Changing the rules to suit is a proud T&T tradition.

All characters are Dwarf. Dwarf characters hailing from Esgaroth are allowed to have and develop backgrounds as talents, which work somewhat in the manner of H+I or BoL careers, though not anywhere near as core to tests. To prevent unnecessary complication, non-Esgaroth Dwarves do not develop talents.

To assist or speed up, I pre-generated six backgrounds from Character Webs, and two were used in the event. For the other Esgaroth Dwarf we rolled from Character Webs at the table.

Because Esgaroth and the Vale are analogous to fantasy-early-Renaissance, most backgrounds match a WFRPG2e background which allowed trappings to be simply dropped in. This short-cut became a crucial pivot in what the first session’s game would be like.

The cast of characters, following a short rollup where everyone tried a couple of times and opted for the least-bad result:

Fennec, wandering hedge-wizard: Wizards get all 1st-level spells by right. Fennec’s Intelligence (IQ) is only sufficient for Level 1 spells and his Wizardry (WIZ) of 9 permits only a few of those to be cast at one time. His combat adds are 13 and he begins at Level 2 based on highest attribute, Strength (STR).

Jotunn, outcast hunter: Jotunn rolled a specialist talent on CON and had the stats to be a Wizard so it was hard to assign him a Type. By rolling on CON-based backgrounds we came up with a solution. He is an outcast of the city Dwarf community who became a Ranger. At present the exact benefits and limitations of this talent are unfixed. His combat adds are 13 and Jotunn begins at Level 5 based on his CON. Jotunn knows Fennec.

Cauleigh, impoverished Burgher’s son: Warriors are able to add their level in extra dice in melee and get double effect from armour. Cauleigh’s Charisma (CHR), 9, marks him as the party Face. His combat adds are 13 and he begins at Level 3 based on his best attribute, Constitution (CON).

Grom, ne’er-do-well scribe: Rogues have no great ability but can use both weaponry and magic. They also get a bonus talent or background, something I forgot and the player didn’t notice, and will need to cover next session. Grom is ‘challenging’ to play as he is a Level 1. His combat adds are 2. Grom and Cauleigh know one another having been schooled together.

The campaign is designed to be run with an absolute minimum of GM prep. I have a number of aids of one kind or another, especially Village Backdrops, and hope to go into each session with very little noted in advance.

 

Session 1: A broomstick to Tigley

 

Act 1 scene 1

We open our first act in a courtyard below the high walls of Clan Anvilbreast. Cauleigh, impoverished Burgher’s son, sweeps the courtyard. To eke out a living he tutors fair Goneril of Anvilbreast and his feelings, as he glances to her high window, are less than platonic.

Children are playing and throwing things nearby and this interferes with the clean state Cauleigh has just got the place to. He attempts to chivvy them away, and as they are Dwarf children uses threats such as ‘I know your mum’. But nearby, a work gang is toiling over something that smells disgusting, and the children retreat no further than that supply of ammo!

Saving Rolls (SRs) are the engine for experience. Cauleigh is required to make a Level 1 SR, so needs to add the score of 2d6 (doubles add and roll over) to CHR and total at least 20.

Grom, a ragged ne’er-do-well whose parents lost their reputation as military engineers in the late wars, slouches into the courtyard. Grom lends Cauleigh a hand, and between the two of them they convince the kids to run away and not splatter them.  The two exchange commiserations about their lack of funds.

Out by the work gang, two other Dwarves hurry by. Curious that he knows neither, Grom decides to follow and Cauleigh stops to bid a fond farewell to Goneril’s high-vaulting… something – but an Anvilbreast Arbalest-brother begins cranking his arbalest so Cauleigh moves on – to destiny!

 

Act 1 scene 2

We are introduced to the newcomers as they are delayed by a Guild procession. Ragged Jotunn lost his parents young, and after getting his schooling in a poor outlying village became a ranger, a most unusual career for a Dwarf. He carries a bowstock [I need to return to this and assign whichever missile weapon Jotunn can use to him. I imagine it will be a crossbow] and a brace of conies. He’s assured his tatty acquaintance Fennec, a wandering hedge-wizard, that they can get a meal and something besides for the skins.

Impatient at the delay – the conies and skins might just stretch to four hungry Dwarves – Cauleigh suggests they cut through the Cloth and Leather sectors. It works, though there is a near scrape when a priest of some seagoing god runs a frigid eye over them.

This short-cut gets the quartet around the Market which is usually a good thing to avoid. Especially for Dwarves with no gelt. They cut nippily across Coast Way and into the Flesher Yards. And there, things take a nasty turn.

It’s time for our ranger to try to find a curry brother or butcher that actually wants to buy rabbits or rabbit-skin. Not so easy. Being a kindly GM I still ask for a normal Level 1 Luck Saving Roll (L1 LK SR). Jotunn fails.

 

Act 1 scene 3

Time draws out and as the day grows longer some butcher ‘prentices decide to confront our heroes.

Combat in a city lane

Combat in dT&T is very different to most rpgs. Each combat round is a notional two minutes. Missiles and magic can affect individual targets inside the combat and at the same time, each ‘side’ amasses its effect, usually expressed by dice+adds.

For example Cauleigh sums up the situation and as an experienced warrior, leaps into action with a casual word and a punch to the gut. He rolls 2d6 as a Dwarf plus 3d6 for his level as a warrior. 5d6 plus his combat adds of 13.

Jotunn hands Fennec his rabbits and wades in gamely with his bowstock, but Grom holds back, slipping a knife out of his belt and watching for a chance to sneak around and hamstring someone. I ask an SR on Speed (SPD) from Grom, who fails. He will not be out of range of any damage.

Foes in dT&T are often, but not always, expressed as ‘Monster Rating’ (MR). This allows some shortcuts for the GM.

The apprentices each have a MR of 15 and there are five, for a total of MR 75. In total the GM rolls 8d6 (MR/10, plus 1) and adds half the MR as adds, so 37.

Meanwhile Fennec cunningly throws an Oh Go Away at one apprentice – he turns tail and flees! But Fennec only decided on this tactic once the fight began, so all fire prentices are counted in round one.

The warrior and ranger’s effects are totalled and the Dwarves are beaten convincingly. They share 20 damage around. If they had armour, that would be nothing.

The tussle goes to a second round, and a couple of things happen:

  • The fleeing prentice reduces his side’s fighting ability;
  • Nearby stallholders begin to shout at the prentices

The Dwarves survive the second round, achieving a draw as Grom chips in with his own fists. Both sides share ‘spite damage’ which occurs when a 6 is rolled – a single point comes off the other side regardless of armour.

Then the prentices retreat.

Sadly Fennec has taken damage and the conies have been trampled into the muck of the Flesher Yards’ lanes.

“Bring ‘em back to my sister’s – we’ll skin them and get a meal, at least,” Cauleigh urges.

As they slog back tiredly Jotunn briefs Fennec on using magic in the city and confirms he was wise to use non-lethal magic. Fennec’s WIZ, depleted by casting the spell, will recover over the next tens of minutes. Since it was all fisticuffs the damage taken in the fight will also recover fairly quickly.

 

Act 2 scene 1

This scene brings out the four characters’ reason for seeking Ikkutas. It is a requirement of the campaign. I have to say some reasons are weak.

By an odd circumstance Fennec the outlander has the strongest motive. His background sets himself as an orphan who was raised by his hermit-wizard grandfather. In the dusty tomes of the retreat Fennec read about ancient Ikkutas and has arrived intent on finding it.

The others basically fall into line behind the idea. They all need money and being broke away from Esgaroth is cheaper than being broke in Esgaroth. So much for ‘inspired by takes of ancient Dwarven glory!’

But in order to mount any non-idiotic attempt, all except Fennec need some equipment.

I push an adventure hook out to Jotunn at this point. There are many options but his background as an orphan makes Raging Swan Press’s Village Backdrop: Tigley a good one.

“Come to think of it, I did hear that my old orphanage is in trouble. And there was something about hunting goblins for money, too. At the time I thought nah, not a one-Dwarf job but with four of us…”

“Where’s your orphanage then?”

“Tigley’s out south-east, in the marsh.”

It is time to gather their belongings – a very easy task since they own very little – and hit the road. Cauleigh wrenches the straws off his broom and is thus equipped with a mighty light staff, 2d6 in combat. Grom begs Cauleigh’s sister for anything heftier than a knife. She warns him it’s a girly weapon and loans him her distaff. 2d6 plus shame for using it.

It is night, a good time for attempting to leave the city without attracting attention or taxes. There are at least two options.

“Let’s try the tunnels under the ghetto first,” they decide. “If we get it right we can slip out beyond the new wall.”

 

Act 2 scene 2

The descent is simple enough. There are two Dwarf ghettoes in Esgaroth, and there’s no reason to think that Cauleigh lives in the oldest, more enclosed one. They head to the tunnel defenders.

And a CHR SR sends them back, unsuccessful.

“That leaves us with the Coast Way, it would be silly to head out the Dwarf Way then have to walk right round.”

“So three options. We can try the debateable land out by New Wall and that’s an unknown. We can try along Old Wall, pass above all the hovels and get straight to Coast Way near where we were earlier today; or we could just walk the same way we went today and keep heading out.”

The quartet is a democracy so far – although Cauleigh’s opinions and gabbiness tend to give his vote a bit more weight – and they vote for Wall Street.

 

Act 2 scene 3

Night on Wall Street (it’s an ancient wall, which is just used as an elevated street now) can be very quiet, but at this stage I draw a couple of Urban cards to see if anything really happens.

Some type of magic ceremony is heard and seen off in a grove south of Wall Street. I’m interested to see if Jotunn will explore his magical heritage. He doesn’t but complains after the game that he has no idea what his magic is.

I also draw a roadblock, literally.

“Hey – where’s the street gone?”

“Oh, I remember now – this is the new aqueduct. They cut it through here.”

“But this is a lucky break! We can just follow it south!”

And so they do. Unremarked by anyone except a work crew, who pay no attention. But the aqueduct ends at a pumping-house and they don’t have the skills to go further.

They clamber down and find themselves at the gate on Coast Way.

How lucky are they? With luck the guards will be a Uruk or a Hobb that just doesn’t care who’s leaving and why. I ask for LK SRs all round. Grom comes through, making L1.

“What kind of guard would you prefer?” I ask. Grom opts for a Hobb. Since he only made L1 there’s one Hobb, and one human.

The Dwarves roleplay successfully, the human suggests they consider a career in the city guard – “we have low standards” – and the Hobb seems to quite like the idea of helping orphans for cash. They head out with a 10 Adventure Point (AP) bonus for navigating past a potential problem.

I remind my players of my AP policy. You get AP for SRs and for avoiding trouble. No AP for combat. This campaign is not combat-oriented.

 

Act 3 scene 1

A marsh. The Dwarves can see Tigley’s landmark rock – it’s built on it, above the wetlands around it – but can’t see a way of getting across the stream to the village.

“Let’s try further south,” someone opines hopefully.

At this stage the ranger takes over. He lived here, and all he has to do is find a likely ford…

Dawn finds four muddy freezing Dwarves (with 5 damage off CON each) still stranded on the wrong side of the stream. But in the light of day the ranger decides on his Talent.

Tracking is one of the tight-focus talents that are possible. It’s an obvious one for a ranger too.

He immediately spots boar tracks…

“And hey, goblin tracks!”

A hard slog back north and the tired, hungry Dwarves are looking over the broad stream, where a couple of lads are fishing in coracles, to the slope leading to the village.

They bargain – leaning heavily on the ‘here to help’ angle – and the lads agree to take them across on tick and be paid later. They owe the debt to Fit Rogar’s son.

 

Act 3 scene 2

It has been many years since Jotunn played around the Stone’s Throw with fellow orphans. He remembers a Father Isaak visiting and Ella being Matron. But being human, both have probably passed on by now.

The four drag themselves up the steep granite slope of the Stack, as it’s known, and – haunted by the smell of bacon frying – try the biggest building. Their luck is in, and it is the village worship hall and community meeting house, and Fr. Isaak is still alive!

And so is Matron Ella, the priest reveals as the Dwarves chow down on sausages. [Their cold/tired damage will recover swiftly from now.] Her proper name is Matron Ella Hinge. Recently her son led an expedition against the goblins and did not return. The stress has caused Matron Hinge and her husband Silas to separate.

So, the two known problems seem to be the same. Now for some bargaining and equipping!

With a party debt of 5 silver pieces the Dwarves are now much better equipped. The 5sp also takes into account any number of crossings between the Stack and Stone’s Throw. The locals charge for using the bridge (well, they are in the greater Esgaroth area)!

Club: this 3d6 weapon is cheap and effective. Cauleigh and (after some prompting) Grom take one each.

Knife: a simple fishing knife will deal 2d6. Fennec and Jotunn have one each.

Staff: a length of timber very similar to Cauleigh’s broomstick will allow Fennec to create a focus. It will burn out after a few spells but is better than nothing.

Flax kits: the local wetland is an ample source of flax and these simple bags will do for storing food.

Chow: Dried fish, roasted beet, and a round of bacon-fat bulk out the kit but guarantee at least a day’s grub.

They also have a lead, since Jotunn spotted those goblin tracks…

[My own version of encumbrance follows the rules pretty closely but I’ll also keep an eye on unwieldy items. Cauleigh will need to drop his traveling-stick-and-kit so as not to get tangled up, if it comes to a fight.]

Act 3 Scene 3

The evening’s highlight – apart from fun roleplaying – arrives as Jotunn is asked to make an open-ended roll on IQ.

Most SRs are to a particular level, and that level is the multiplier for AP. An open-ended roll will net you the multiplier you get to. In T&T SRs, doubles add and roll over (DARO).

Jotunn’s player starts rolling and with a double-one begins a string of doubles that gets to 19, Level 3 on his IQ or 57 AP in one go!

With this I hand him an advantage.

“I remember enough of the lie of the land now – these goblins and boars are bound to be going down to Dudney Chasm.”

“And?”

“We can head around to one flank of the woods and not just walk down their trail.”

 

Act 4 scene 1

I ask for party order since the Dwarves are now filing through woods and are not on an open trail of any kind.

Jotunn is in the lead followed by Cauleigh and then we have Fennec with the sharp-eared Grom as rearguard. A brave move since his abilities are Level 1.

However, Grom does manage to react as a twig cracks under a goblin foot!

Combat in difficult terrain

T&T combat can easily be adapted to different environments. The important question is, do the players react quickly?

Whoom!! There’s a bright purple flash and burst of sound as Fennec sends a Take That You Fiend (TTYF) into a goblin. This will both add to combat and have an effect win or lose. It’s the staple of combat wizards because it gets better with IQ and multiplies up at higher levels.

Meanwhile Grom and Cauleigh fetch their cudgels to the foe and the wounded goblin falls. The other turns to flee.

It’s SPD SR vs DEX SR as Cauleigh hurls his club at the retreating foe. Cauleigh – just – manages L2 which is enough at point blank range with no distractions. The damage is inflicted directly on the goblin, who dies.

dT&T does not use ‘missile adds’ – if you hit with a missile you just roll the weapon dice and add the adds. Much simpler all round.

 

The Dwarves catch their breath and realize these were only two random goblins. But they must be close to the Chasm. More importantly, there is an upgrade on offer.

Loot:

No money and the goblin rags are no better than Jotunn’s rags.

Two short sabres of inferior goblin make. Cauleigh and Grom upgrade anyway, because steel is cooler than wood. They will be worth 3d6 – until they break.

Two goblin knives, slightly more suited to fighting than fishing knives and utility knives. They will be worth 2d6+1.

 

“Hark!”

The cry comes from Grom, who has keen ears for danger. He has heard the grumphing of a boar and the complaining of goblins. Trouble is nigh!

 

And we left the session there. Normally I’d hope to complete an adventure of this nature in a session but chargen took about half the session. Everyone had fun although Jotunn’s player complained about his lack of magical ability. To be sorted out by email over the next few days hopefully!

Props:

Creighton Broadhurst and Steve Hood, Raging Swan Press’ Village Backdrops

Ste Coffey and Loz Hensel: Concept Cards’ Urban Locations

Esgaroth is mostly my creation and is archived here.

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DH3.13: Drusus for Daemons

We return to the tableau as we left it last session. In the Bloodied Cathedral, our heroes Grimm, Jahr, Mola and Zarkov have just heard a dying Astartes’ last words. They are grouped at the base of the altar steps and now make to climb them.

The Acolytes begin as they mean to go on

BANG!

The altar flares white, slumped bodies and equipment seem to shake in an otherworldly blast, and black feathers drift down.

Toughness test!

All Acolytes fail and take damage from the psychic blast.

Willpower test!

Grimm fails and takes 5 insanity and 2 corruption.

Below and further back, the troops under Scipio and Zolokov shake with terror and their commanders themselves seem shaken, particularly Zolokov.

++++++++++From the data slate of Quintilla Mola++++++++++

A careful search reveals the f***ing obvious

At the ambulatory of the altar, Zarkov tends Jahr and Grimm who appear to have borne the brunt of the psychic damage inflicted by the false Drusus’ trap. I begin searching and as they re-don armour, Grimm and Jahr join me until we are quite sure we have missed nothing.

The most obvious interest is the still-glowing Warp Gate behind the altar. Of next note is the iron-bound Astartes catalogue of daemonic rite, still chained to the Astartes that fell clutching it.

Once Jahr cuts it free, I scan its pages keenly. But there is no mention of the Dei Phage’s true name.

[A rare chance to use Adept type skills, as opposed to the usual random assortment of social and war skills. But there did not seem to be any point to the book, at any stage.]

The admiring masses are gently scourged onwards through the Gate

We make ready to enter the Warp Gate. Looking back, I notice that the Canopus Imperials and the Scraper Falcons are in some disarray. The prospect seems to have unnerved some of them.

I attempt to point out the undying love our divine master has for those dying in his service [Mola fails on Charm-30] and though the Evankelis sisters seem steady enough, it takes threats of decimation for Scipio and Zokolov to restore order.

I clutch the Astartes tome with one hand though I cannot see much use for it, and pass swiftly through behind Jahr and Grimm. The Warp stings like a thousand tiny flails. To my relief I have not been separated from the two in front and Zarkov clanks down behind me.

Willpower test!

Test at -10. The weirdness of Warp travel and the daemonic environment are not easy to deal with. Grimm is OK on reroll and Mola and Zarkov OK, but Jahr takes corruption and insanity. He will stay at -10 for everything.

We fan out into a weirdly-lit yard surrounded by a high and obviously-daemonic hedge, as the troopers and sisters crowd in behind us. A horde of small pinkish daemons spews forth from the hedge and battle is joined.

 

Combat begins

Battle layout: This is a scripted battle and the large numbers of NPCs are there merely for the cut-scene flavour text. The actual battle, as played, is between the characters and twice their number of daemons. The purpose is the traditional dungeon-crawl one of weakening the characters prior to the boss fight.

There is no cover and range is short. The daemons have two abilities for range but can be tempted by blood-lust to engage in melee, which would be a drawback for them.

Initiatives:

  • Jahr
  • Daemons
  • Mola
  • Grimm
  • Zarkov

Round 1: Jahr waits, probably not the ideal tactic as the daemons pause and fire daemon-bolts into the Acolytes. Grimm takes minor damage but Mola is seriously wounded. She swings her first autopistol up and it jams. Grimm takes half-round aim and scores RF, wounding one. Zarkov decides to target another one and sets it on fire and wounds it with his Angelus.

Round 2: Jahr charges to close quarters and his tactic is a good one: several daemons fail WP checks and turn on him, bunching up and leaving only three facing the other three Acolytes. They hurl more fire-bolts but score no damage this time. Jahr’s armour and dodging ability avoid any damage. Using full auto fire Mola scores one solid hit. Grimm targets the same one and again gets RF; Zarkov targets the same and takes its leg off.

Round 3: Jahr cleaves the burning daemon with his huge chain-sword. He takes a minor wound in return. The remaining pair of daemons in the clear advance and unleash fire-bolts again. They miss. Mola turns her autopistol onto the next target and gets a solid hit; Grimm draws his Inferna pistol and scores a minor hit on the same one. Zarkov breaches team discipline to try a different one and misses.

Round 4: Jahr slices a daemon in half with a terrible blow. He dodges any damage. The two daemons in clear advance to unleash a different attack but fail to manifest it. Mola’s autopistol jams. Grimm wounds the previously-wounded daemon again and Zarkov, still trying for another target, misses again to acidulous comments from Mola.

Round 5: Jahr misses his swings and the daemons cackle with glee and miss him as well. The two daemons in clear unleash a kind of screaming nerve-blast akin to Zarkov’s noise-shock, but much more dangerous. Grimm fails a WP check and falls unconscious! Mola hurls a frag grenade now they are in range but it bounces back close to Grimm. It does no damage to him. Zarkov reluctantly targets the wounded daemon and damages its arm [Rk3 crit].

Round 6: Jahr slays two daemons. He is running out of opponents and is virtually unhurt. The two daemons in clear drop Zarkov [fails on reroll]. Mola flips another grenade and the already-wounded daemon dies.

Round 7: Jahr takes the head off his second-to-last opponent and the survivor misses in return. The daemon facing Mola fails to drop her and she draws her plasma pistol and wounds it in return.

Round 8: Jahr slaughters the last daemon and steps back, scrubbing ichor off his visor. The daemon facing Mola hits her with the screaming blast but she stays conscious [WP OK] and flips a third grenade back, wounding it further.

Round 9: Jahr charges but his swing is wide. The daemon tries to manifest something that would deal with the enormous armoured foe and fails. Mola draws her next pistol, the Carnodon, and shoots into combat, hitting twice and stunning the daemon. It can be finished off next round.

Combat pauses

As Mola picks up the collection of dropped pistols and injects herself with Stimm the general combat continues loudly and horribly. Guardsmen, Sororitas and Troopers use hellgun and bolter and in reply daemon firebolts and nerve blasts pile bodies up.

Scipio checks in:

“Are you able to push on? We’ll blast a gap in the hedge and hold them as long as we can!” – Captain Scipio

“Huh – I gotta do all the heavy lifting…” – Jahr, dragging Zarkov and Grimm

A detachment of assault engineers blasts the hedge and Mola and Jahr head there with their unconscious charges.

As they make for the gap a squadron of flying creatures swoop – then an Evankelis battle order is shouted and bolter fire rakes the creatures out of the sky. The cut-scene closes with Acolytes through the hedge.

Combat ends

A grasping daemonic maze: does he who must not be named wait beyond?

The daemon hedge, which clutches at my robes, cuts the battle noise completely. The lanes, irregular stones, form a maze. To confirm this I clamber up from the fallen comrades onto Jahr and have a look out over it. I can see that the lanes are shifting, so there will be no point mapping it.

We wait patiently and Grimm and Jahr recover enough to make a plan.

[It takes d10-Toughness bonus in minutes to recover unconsciousness]

Zarkov querulously cons the odds of remaining conscious in any encounter but we must on, the Throne acknowledges no shirkers. He finally turns to planning and we set about escaping.

[Zarkov uses Logic to give Mola a straight Intelligence test for moving through. There are five tests and Mola makes four of them, in total the results are 12 raises less 2 drops. The drops decide the foe that is encountered.]

After some hours (if my Kronos is to be believed) we are challenged as we meet a dead-end. Behind us a creature floats to block our way back. It appears to burn, emitting foul gases. Fortunately before it can sear us Jahr cuts it down and I finish it with a well-placed shot with my Carnodon.

[Mola so routinely shoots into melee… the shot she scores is RF for 30 which might well have killed Jahr]

This seems a good point for Zarkov, now well-rested, to treat Jahr and my hurts but he is unable to make any difference. [But he is so proficient he can’t make it worse!]

And within a short walk, less than an hour probably, we exit the maze.

[Intentional or no, the time needed has allowed both Grimm and Zarkov to recover from their five levels of fatigue]

Beyond the maze, the Acolytes face the Dei Phage

We have emerged into a cobbled plaza dominated by four tall sconces in which smoke torches, sited around a daemonic ritual circle where “Drusus” is completing his preparations. Piled inside the circle lie offering from his heretical and deluded followers. Before we can shoot him in the back with our ready weapons “Drusus” rises and lofts a two-hand mace. He grows as he turns and wings sprout from his back. It seems that I can see two figures, one at the circle and one turning to meet us. Then the figure at the circle fades away. Leaving just the immense form of the Dei Phage emerging from the false saint.

Momentarily we glimpse the human face of someone who regrets dabbling with the Warp and then the blank daemonic visage descends.

 

Combat begins

Battle layout: Once again there is no cover. The Dei Phage is an enormous (+20 for BS) target. It is between the Acolytes and the ritual circle and advancing.

Initiatives:

  • Jahr
  • Dei Phage
  • Mola
  • Grimm
  • Zarkov

Round 1: Jahr counter-charges and targets DP’s right arm, but his chain-sword is parried. This allowes DP to counter-strike, and it misses. Then it attacks twice and misses.

Mola sprints around the fight to the ritual circle.

Grimm steps forward, aims the Inferno pistol and hits, but the DP has immense Toughness and ignores the shot. Zarkov scores with two from the Angelus and while the DP catches fire it is not bothered by the flames and the shots themselves do no damage.

Round 2: Jahr’s blistering attacks are parried and in turn he dodges the counter-strokes. Jahr also dodges the first swing from the DP’s full attack but he cannot avoid the next stroke. It nearly kills him [he elects to take physical not Corruption damage] but he keeps his feet, his True Grit talent reducing the left-arm crit to Rk4. He also avoids being set afire [05 on Agi!]

As DP triggers more psychic damage that cascades from that attack he also triggers a Warp Peril, and his immense body locks rigid and he topples!

Mola flips a Krak grenade to the edge of the circle where the ‘other’ false saint was last seen. It digs a chunk out of the ritual circle but appears to do nothing else.

Grimm’s two shots to the head of the prone DP do little but not nothing. Zarkov’s Angelus scores with Accuracy and damage to the DP’s leg is visible.

Round 3: Jahr shakes off his stunned condition [Iron Jaw] but misses his attack. The DP is doing something, but is still prone. Mola walks to throw range and hurls a Krak grenade, which has no effect on the DP’s tough hide. Grimm shoots it in the head with his Inferno pistol, scoring visible damage. Zarkov gets RF with his Angelus and the DP is heavily wounded.

Round 4: Jahr attacks with his chain-sword and the DP expires.

Combat ends

Campaign ends

So there we have it! Here are some fun facts:

  • All Acolytes that began the campaign finished it
  • Very little bonus xp was handed out and got exceptionally rare as the campaign progressed
  • The final xp, 1000, put each Acolyte at the second-to-last career tier
  • Season 1’s campaign notes occupy 37 pages
  • Season 2’s campaign notes occupy 52 pages
  • Season 3’s campaign notes occupy 58 pages
  • Jahr ended up a killing machine specifically built for melee, who just happened to have a heavy stubber, a grenade launcher, and a Spectre autogun along for the ride
  • Mola ended the campaign with 6 pistols and a combat shotgun

 

 

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DH3.12: Incarnadine

 

Aboard the Debitar Lost, our heroes the Acolytes Grimm Jahr Mola and Zarkov speed to rendezvous with the Ark of St. Uri, a renowned but ancient troopship out of the Calixis Navy’s drydocks. And a powerful assault force!

Aboard the Ark of St. Uri the Acolytes are strapped and ready

We know that our destination is Grangold, a dead world boasting but one thing: a Cathedral sacred to St. Drusus. Thanks to the stone it was crafted from it is named the Bloodied Cathedral. The false Drusus has gathered a cadre of renegade guards, arbiters and militia. He has, so the shade of Cambyses warned us, communed with daemons and drawn forth many of their number.

It us up to us, and the assault force assembled to breach our way forward.

In preparation for this desperate assault, Explicator Voss has ensured we are as well-prepared as time allows.

[Gear up time! The lads have fun buying cut-price goodies, including weapons not usually allowed in DH campaigns. Grimm and Zarkov get Angelus bolt-carbines. Grimm also gets spare Sororitas bolt-clips. Jahr gets Voss’ old 2-hand chainsword, it’s all fun and games until someone loses a leg. Mola buys cut-price Frenzon and Krak grenades. Voss’ gift to her is to hypno-train her in Plasma pistol use, 400xp worth of free advance.]

[In a burst of generosity the GM also back-tracks on the Thrones earned by selling augmeticks a couple of weeks back and the Acolytes have plenty to spare. There may be some retrospective purchases next session.]

Voss has assembled a strike force aboard the Ark of St. Uri from the best to hand around nearby Calixis systems. As we descend to the lander stages we gaze down on the familiar dusk of Canopus Imperial Guard uniforms, offset by jet and gold of Scintilla’s elite, the Scraper Falcons; then across to the stark shard-white turnbacks of Evankelis Battle Sisters. And finally the looming carapaces of the full 3rd Company, Iron Hand Astartes.

[Notionally the PCs are ‘in charge’ but not even trusting to a Tactica Imperialis roll let alone their own ideas, the plot actually places the assault plan in Voss’ hands. The Iron Hand are to lead a frontal assault (it’s the last thing they’ll expect!! – General Haig) bust us in and then the next squadrons will take over and roll us forward.]

Wading through the flavour text carnage

Rocky, barren canyons scoured by caustic rain give way to the precipice atop which looms the Bloodied Cathedral. There is no chance that troops could assault from below. My data slate’s abridged notes on the Imperialis suggest that a HALO through the roof’s plasteel would result in more positive gains than a frontal assault, but I am not qualified in the arts of war. So we land, and stride over and around the devastation of the assault. Skirting the various defensive posts, we confirm the defenders: a variety of human renegades, and daemons.

The copper-clad stairs leading to the Cathedral’s narthex prove heavy going, owing to the pooled blood. Our loyalist foot – I am heartened to see Captain Scipio with them – lag behind us a little. Grimm unlatches his Angelus carbine and looks for targets. Jahr adjusts the belt feeds on his heavy stubber. Thoughtfully, I check my new combat shotgun.

[There’s a lot of flavour text. Talk about wading through thigh deep! 

The Acolytes all have the ‘into the breach’ talent so resist fear. Mola uses a new skill, Scrutiny, to notice that the renegades are mostly off the last Hive world.]

The Acolytes brace their first of many WP checks

As we circumnavigate an immense creature partly blocking the narthex, the first wave of visions assaults us.  No doubt a daemonic emanation from the false St. Drusus, we struggle through.

WP tests!

All Acolytes are haunted by visions of hell opening up and all the people they have killed, even by inaction.

Mola and Jahr miss narrowly and receive 1d10 insanity and 1d5 corruption. Mola has Armour of Contempt which reduces the corruption a little. Jahr crosses the 20-point mark in Insanity.

The nave is pierced by a central aisle, stretching out some 200 metres before us. We cannot see much further than a few metres at ground level, owing to the destruction. Columns, or pillars, are badly chipped or fractured, and what frescoes were there are ruined. Stone dust layers everything above the fire-blackened structures. The arches emphasize the vertical, giving the illusion of enclosure: but I know from our descent that the plan is aquillar in outline, the transepts extended and asymmetrically variegate.

Followed by more WP checks and some showing off with new guns

Heavier fighting seems to have descended upon the crossing – or perhaps clerestory would be the more accurate term – light from above illumines the stark and vast shells of the 3rd Company’s master-at-arms and banner.

WP tests!

Apart from Zarkov, who is very resilient to psyker type attacks now, the Acolytes fail. They have a vision of all the bad choices they have made to date – such as my career list picks interjects Mola – and Grimm and Mola pick up another d10 insanity, d5 corruption. Jahr who fails by 6 drops falls to his knees sobbing – about the liquor he could have stolen from Drashkon interjects Mola – and receives a severe mental disorder which is a lot like 1 level of fatigue.

In their heresy the renegades have dragged the pitiful mortal remains from the two hulks! As I stop to incant the creed, I catch a crepitulous motion!

[Thanks perhaps to her new Paranoia talent or Perception of 50 Mola spots some movement amongst the ironclad hulks. Renegades have prepared an ambush in them!]

Combat begins

Initiatives:

  • Mola
  • Jahr
  • Zarkov
  • Grimm
  • Renegades
  • Loyalists

“I’ll just be ready in case any survive the first shots” – Grimm

Round 1: Mola tries her first trained shot in anger with combat shotgun – firing solid shot – and rolls Righteous Fury. Her target’s right arm is torn off and he proceeds to die from shock and blood loss. She is duly impressed and wonders how she survived being shot at so many times by Drashkon security.

Jahr’s full burst catches an exposed left arm, and similarly tears that off.

Zarkov decides to test his Angelus+Inferno round, and makes a called shot to head. The renegade catches fire and is out of the fight, screaming and burning.

Grimm follows suit with the same shot but without Inferno shell, and the weapon’s Accuracy adds some extra damage. It is a mere minor wound with fatigue.

The surviving renegades open up, wounding Zarkov lightly. He is confident his own recovery powers will deal with it.

Loyalists now open up with their las-weapons and we draw a veil over the remains of the fight.

Combat ends

An obscure clue is handed down

I conclude the Creed, and we progress up to the apse and its surrounding ambulatory. The metre-thick adamantium altar is crumpled like a rag. Here the hulks of the Iron Hands still smoulder. A lone living Astartes claws and rolls down from the apse towards us. Half his helm and face are gone. Grimm reaches him as though to help, though he is clearly past all but the Rites.

“All done – all have fallen. Take the book… through the gate… ‘ware traitors…” – the 100th percentile of Iron Hand casualties

 

 

I gave a couple of stirring speeches as we rolled along the tracks, but can’t recall them, and they didn’t make any difference to the outcome.

And so having been proudly railroaded to their traditional 100% casualties among minion forces, the Acolytes pause. Next week we get serious about hunting some daemon.

 

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DH3.11.5: Airless

 

We return to our heroes, the Acolytes Grimm Jahr Mola and Zarkov aboard the fast packet ship Debitar Lost. Zarkov is working with the sole surviving engine seer, to restore life support: the others stand guard, balancing hope and fear. The expectation of a rescue ship out of Scintilla is on one end of the balance; on the other is the fact that a highly lethal lurker-daemon is loose.

++++++++++Data slate resumes++++++++++

I commune with the Auspex, hoping to detect the creature’s approach. Behind me Zarkov and the engine-seer work busily. Beside me, Grimm and Jahr stand blocking the single hatchway letting into the enginarium.

On the third hour of out watch, Sr. Leona voxes an emergency call – and much to my surprise appears to be slightly panicked. The creature has made an attack on the medicae bay where she and her three sisters stand guard over Inquisitor Vaarak and Explicator Voss. And now there is one fewer sister.

“We barely scratched the Throne-damned thing!” – Sr. Leona

“Ah? Oh well…” – Mola, not particularly sympathetic

“We could form a guard and help bring the Inquisitor to the bridge… unite the area needing guard…” – Grimm

“Once we finish restoring things here, yes we could consider that” – Mola

[Mola here switches her vox unit off and signals the other two to do the same. She steps clear of the engine-seer’s hearing.]

“In fact dragging Voss screaming through the passages to the bridge would be an excellent lure… but let’s just be patient” – Mola, switching her vox unit back on

On the fourth hour, we receive another vox, this time from the few survivors on the bridge. Again the creature has attacked like lightning and made away before any could react. Idly I wonder if my original plan, to wait for rescue in void suits, would have resulted in fewer casualties. Still Vaarak needs must be protected in the medicae bay, and the sisters are not being distracted by non-essentials.

On the fifth hour, Zarkov reports some real progress but another sister falls victim.

On the sixth hour, about the time when life support would be failing, it is still functioning. We congratulate Zarkov. Shortly after that it gives out after all.

[Sounding a bit… pre-programmed? To be fair Zarkov’s rolls have been modest, only making a couple of successes so far. Toughness tests all round: Grimm easily makes his; the others are at one level of fatigue.]

On the seventh hour the bridge-Auspex watch signals the approach of a rescue ship, and the creature attacks us.

Combat begins

Mola makes a Perception test (the Auspex does not seem to help) by two raises, avoiding the surprise attack, as the creature races along the ceiling and leaps into melee.

Initiatives

  • Creature
  • Jahr
  • Mola
  • Grimm
  • Zarkov

Fear tests! Grimm fails badly and gets a punishing failure roll as well: he must flee and gains 2 insanity points.

Round 1: Creature leaps and attacks Grimm, who dodges [reroll]. Although the creature is tricked out with blade-master and ghost blades that punch through armour with full pen, this foils it.

Jahr drops his grenade launcher, quick-draws his power blade, and makes three attacks. His first attack registers righteous fury. The GM rolls the dodge [80% chance] and comes up with double-ought. 25 points damage with 6 pen, thanks very much. Jahr’s next attack is dodged [step-aside] but his third attack connects for 13 and 6 pen.

Mola flips a Krak grenade [reroll] into the creature’s chest where with a good roll it scores 20 and 6 pen.

Bits of creature pinwheel away as it disintegrates messily. [Rk 9 explosive crit]

Grimm retires to the head to clean himself up and thence to quarters to find fresh underwear.

Zarkov continues working.

Combat ends.

We don our void suits, since despite Zarkov’s brave attempt the Debitar Lost has lost the breathable sprites, and await rescue. Naturally there is some joshing among the lads about our success and I grant them the privilege of not recording it.

Bit of good-natured triumph, discussion about how to rub the Sororitas’ noses in it. Mola suggests Jahr wander round with an appropriate piece of the creature, wave it at Sr. Leona and ask ‘was this what all the fuss was about?’ Grimm acknowledges he does now have enough corruption to notice that the Sororitas jiggle temptingly under their armour. With his Fellowship bonus of 2 he is limited to thinking about it.

The Acolytes pick up 600xp, and players take some minutes’ downtime spending it. Everyone is now very near 8000xp, which is a fairly senior level.

With the rescue ship docked we are soon restored to life support and can pay due honours to the fallen. We ensure the corpse of Cambyses joins them in the void’s embrace. As we prepare to void it, Cambyses voice is heard once more.

Cambyses thanks us and reveals the location of the false Drusus.

++++++++++Data slate paused++++++++++

It’s one of those things. The scenario gives you a lethal Boss, and the players with a bit of sound tactics and flukey rolls take it out in one round, and suffer no damage!

Since the scenario forces the party to set the strategy I’ll take full credit for just guarding the engine-seer and letting the monster stalk the NPCs. It was forced into a frontal attack, instead of the hit-and-run tactics it favoured. And Mola’s Perception/Awareness is very good.

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DH3.11: (Not)Alien

This adventure is – possibly – designed to link us to the final arc of the Drusus heresy. Or not. We finished the Drashkon/False Prophet scenario in the first hour, and even after shopping still had half the session left. So the unpleasant Extricator Voss got to strut his stuff as a kind of provocateur (but what was the point?) and we got to start the DH version of Alien.

 

The Cudgel of Drusus makes rendezvous with Vaarak aboard the Debitar Lost. Vaarak introduces Explicator Voss, a trusted lieutenant, sound man, and all-round exemplar of the Inquisition. Voss puts us through a full debrief, very much like an interrogation.

[Grimm has his suspicions but is distracted by the expected cost of melta ammunition.]

At its hiatus I plead for a chance to re-equip and Vaarak allows us planet-side.

[Time to re-equip! The Acolytes have only another month’s back-pay but are able to sell Augmeticks (just the eyes they were given, the GM disallows the ones they looted) for 425 each. It pretty much all goes on ammo and grenades. For example Jahr’s monthly stipend is 80 Thrones and one Krak grenade costs 100 Thrones.]

 

Aboard the Debitar Lost, the second law reigns

The small, automated Debitar Lost keeps us in comfort: but it is the blank comfort of the uninformed. Vaarak and Voss sequester themselves, guarded at all times by a pair of Sororitas guards, in the medicae area. We can only imagine that the remains of the ‘Prophet’ are being closely examined. All we really know is that we are headed through the deep void.

Alarms sound! As an Acolyte that at all times meditates on the Throne’s service, I am first out of quarters. Zarkov follows me. We arrive at the source of the alarm – the medicae chamber 1A – to find our path blocked by the pair of sisters. Behind them, the door to 1A has been impelled out into the crew-way somehow.

 

Something large and strong hints its presence

Grimm and Jahr, armour-clad, join us a few minutes later, and I ask for admittance. They give ground and we hurry in.

“Something has pulled the hatch right off, and thrown it down” – Zarkov

“Not good” – Grimm

Inside, blood runs across the deck and smears the bulkheads. Vaarak seems mortally-wounded, but Zarkov stoops quickly to his aid. Voss’ body seems to have ended up flung into a corner. The centre-piece of the examination-room is ‘Prophet’ Cambyses’ corpse: the head has completely disintegrated and large, naked and bloody prints suggest that a thing has been summoned out of Cambyses’ flesh. A small medicae servitor hovers nearby.

Fear test!

Mola – now with Fear resistance – makes it easily, the others are OK as well.

“Life still flickers! Servitor – assist me! And someone check Explicator Voss!” – Zarkov

Without undue haste I check Voss’ corpse – to find that he is beginning to come round! He struggles to his feet, despite an obviously broken leg.

“You fools – why… Wha…” – Voss

I admire his staunch courage. Then I admire his unassisted nose-dive into the floor as he loses consciousness again. We pick his unconscious form up and stow it on a medicae bench. Shock has set in and Voss will need some attention soon.

Grimm and Jahr set out on the trail of bloody prints, while I return to Zarkov’s side. It seems that most of the blood comes from Vaarak, who has had his gizzard slit open. Zarkov and the servitor work to restore plasma to the esteemed Inquisitor.

Alarms continue to sound around the Debitar, and I head back to our quarters. As I assemble gear and don armour, Zarkov voxes me.

[Zarkov believes there will be something to find, and turns up a cracked data slate. But Mola can inform him that the examination must have been recorded by a pict-stealer and vox-recorder. Zarkov’s fresh search finds it easily.]

 

The Acolytes confirm the danger and Grimm’s sanity reels

The four of us rendezvous at our quarters. I have confirmed they are clear with the Auspex, and Zarkov plays the contents of what he has found back to us.

Vaarak and Voss indulge in an autoseance on the corpse, trigger a ward spell placed there by Drashkon or the Magos, and suffer the consequences as a Daemon bursts out, cuts Vaarak horribly and hurls Voss to one side: then the recording goes blank.

Willpower test!

Mola Zarkov and Jahr are OK but Grimm [even on reroll] fails and picks up 5 insanity and a few corruption.

 

For reasons best known to the railroad gang, Voss reasserts himself

One of the few ship’s petty officers taps on our hatch and summons us to Voss’ presence immediately.

Explicator Voss is cross. He now condescends to brief us on the facts we have already ascertained. As he delays us reiterating these facts, klaxons sound once more and an emergency message voxes, calling aid to the Enginarium.

 

The enginarium suffers severe damage and vital crew are lost

We race there, but too late of course. By the time we trace the source of explosions the reactor is powering down and three of the ships’ four engine seers are dead, horribly.

Amid leaking plasma conduits, Zarkov communes with the spirits of the Debitar and assures us we are in no danger.

[Apparently there is a ‘ship’s wright’ skill for knowing what’s wrong with a ship. None of us have ever seen it listed in skills. I’m not making this up. This is DH and par for the course.]

 

Voss demands that minions become monitors

A fresh hail across the ship’s vox frequencies has myself alone running back to the medicae quarters. The other three are slower and need to protect the Debitar’s vital essences.

Voss has assembled two sisters, including the senior, Sr. Leona; Bosch the captain; the chief chirurgeon; and the last engine seer.

Voss demands a survival plan. It is not my place to wonder why he has not simply summoned this up from his own resources, but my data slate is ever to hand.

[Mola ad-libs without asking for a roll. It seems safer because the alternative is probably being asked to roll on some unheard-of skill.]

Initially my plan is to evacuate and simply wait in void-suits, forcing the daemon to become visible as he clambers out over the hull in search of prey. Voss and Bosch deny this request.

I ask that all four sisters stand guard, and Sr. Leona is willing to agree that all four will guard this medicae chamber, which at least preserves the chirurgeon and Vaarak… and Voss. The remaining officers and crew, other than the engine seer, are to retreat to the bridge and guard themselves. I and the engine seer will advance to the enginarium where repairs can be begun and all four of us can defend the seer. Everyone is to remain on vox.

 

Cambyses makes a last and human farewell

The pair of us make it back to the other Acolytes without being ambushed by the daemon. The seer – we still don’t know his name – sets about his mystical affairs, and we stand watch.

A short while later, the air shimmers and the shade of Cambyses, though more human in appearance than when we saw him alive, appears to us.

“It is called Aranea, herald of the final change. Magi of House Drashkon implanted the spell in my body. Aranea is a master of guessing its prey’s plans. It is fast, agile, smart and favours ambush over stalking. Though it has strong Psyker weapons, it prefers the Warpfire blades. It is merciless: it will stop at nothing. When it strikes it will strike hard, then flee to regenerate any damage.

“All I ask is that once Aranea is defeated you commit my mortal flesh to the void” – Cambyses

That’s where the session ended. The ship is not as large as the Nostromo but on the other hand the daemon is probably going to be able to disappear at will. Stay tuned as we Acolytes blow our newly-acquired armaments in a fight for survival!

This was a very un-fun intro to an Alien-ripoff scenario. I have a nasty feeling Voss is just there to allow the GM to play an asshat. He is well protected by the Inquisition’s rep and the very real power of the Sororitas. Way to get player engagement, scenario writer!

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DH3.10.5: Prophetic

 

Welcome back! We paused last session in mid-combat. While attempting to crack House Drashkon’s cogitator, Acolytes Grimm, Jahr, Mola and Zarkov have been set upon by a wandering security patrol. Low on ammo and with Jahr badly wounded, they have only two factors in their favour: there is plenty of cover in the cogitator room; and, Mola placed herself behind the patrol so as to attack from two fronts.

We rejoin the battle. Initiatives are Mola, Grimm, Zarkov, three Guards, one cannon- and flamer-armed Servitor, and Jahr.

Combat continues 

Round 5: Outside in the circumnavigatory passage, Mola drops back, keeping her huge riot shield up. Two unwounded guards swap order of march with the servitor, leaving them close to the room and the servitor clanking towards Mola. The badly wounded guard waits to take shelter behind the servitor.

Inside the cogitator room, Grimm and Zarkov move to firing positions at the doorway, and Jahr shifts to where he can cover the doorway with his heavy stubber.

Round 6: Mola falls back still further – the servitor’s flamer has a range of 30m and a shield won’t help! Grimm and Zarkov shoot: [both score RF! Zarkov uses up a reroll] the badly wounded guard falls and the servitor (still a target owing to its hulking size) is stunned. The two remaining guards return fire with combat shotguns, scoring hits but not injuring either Acolyte. Jahr has now set up ready with his stubber, in cover.

Round 7: Mola fires her plasma pistol, [RF, 25 damage and 6 pen] destroying the servitor. Grimm drops right back into the room and good cover; Zarkov retreats back out of line of sight. Their plan is coming together!

Round 8: Mola ruins the plan by sprinting forward, to within 10m of the guards.

“I’m closing in” – Mola

“That crazy one is back!” – Guard, swinging round and shooting

“Mola you’re drokking what???” – Grimm, aghast

“She got balls!” – Jahr, approving

The shot slams into Mola’s shield and through, but is stopped by her elite carapace armour. The other guard races across the doorway, takes a hit in his right arm, and drops his shotgun. Jahr moves forward, closer to the doorway.

Round 9: Mola’s next shot misses and she moves back a few metres. Grimm and Zarkov return to the doorway. Zarkov [reroll] hits the guard facing Mola. The guards both draw chainswords, and leap to attack Zarkov – but miss. Jahr charges into combat with his power blade and fells the most wounded guard.

Round 10: Mola calls on the remaining guard to surrender, [GM tests WP, fails by 3 drops] and the chainsword is reluctantly dropped.

Combat ends

Information is obtained

“The Imperium welcomes all turncoats…” – Mola

“Who recant sincerely” – Grimm

“Now, to assist us in keeping you alive [getting two raises on Deceive] you can assist us in turn. We need information” – Mola

Although this security guard has nothing much to add to Zarkov’s attempt on the cogitator, he does provide us with vital information on the Prophet.

We learn that the huge, Warp-infected creature we slew in the operating chamber was the Prophet! Moreover, the guard will help carry the enormous (and messy) remains to the elevator, which in turn has a slide-control so that we can lug the guts to the neighbour alley behind the mansion.

As Zarkov works into the cogitator [4 raises] the guard also explains that below us are a series of cells, where lie the wretches doomed to serve as test subjects for the Magos’ mad heresies. Grimm is sore tempted to shut power off and release them, but I point out a few drawbacks to the plan.

“I’m in! I’m recording the heresies of Drashkon now. Plenty to damn the house for good” – Zarkov.

“Oh, and there’s a full history of Molokor Cambyses, the Prophet. I’ll transcribe it later, but essentially he is fully to blame for the heresy here – not the false St. Drusus” – Zarkov

 

The Acolytes extricate and the mission winds up

Some time later [GM asks for Agi tests to judge the actual ‘get massive messy corpse into Rhino’ and the results are positive] I navigate the Rhino to the now-familiar cantina and ‘arrest’ Thebe again. By that time Zolokov is expecting us.

From there, we exit the usual city gate where once again Grimm’s Arbiter procedure works [Grimm makes another great roll].

We hand the guard over to Zolokov for further debriefing and probable re-indoctrination, but in return, are handed an urgent message from Vaarak. It seems there is to be no down-time!

As the sloop Cudgel of Drusus wefts swiftly back to Scintilla, Zarkov puts together more of the captured guard armour. Now all four of us may have the best armour.

And in the sloop’s cool-store, the corpse of the Prophet awaits the attentions of the Inquisition.

 

Apparently we hit all our marks on this leg of the adventure and received 700xp. It was what it was. We congratulated the GM on improvising a way of exiting the house with a massive payload – not something the writer gave any thought to.

Personally I enjoyed driving the Rhino around: Mola hasn’t used her ground vehicle driver ability since our first adventure around the Gilded Cathedral. Picking up the plasma pistol finally decided me on which career path Mola should take, as well.

 

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DH3.10: Cogitator

 

Welcome back! We begin with the combat that had just begun as last session closed. Deep inside House Drashkon’s underground sanctum, a Warp-infected hunchback giant (‘hunchback’) has rushed to within 8 metres of Jahr and Mola in his initial challenge. The three Acolytes not on Frenzon have just survived a Fear test.

Combat begins

Battle layout: This is a broad oval with only one exit: the ante-room the Acolytes just came in from. There is no cover other than the large heavy-duty operating table that the wretched warp-infected hunchback giant erupted from, which is well behind the giant in relation to the Acolytes.

Initiatives:

  • Hunchback
  • Mola
  • Grimm
  • Zarkov
  • Jahr

 

Round 1: The hunchback’s Psyker curse causes a ring of fire to erupt, encircling the Acolytes!

Mola Grimm and Jahr deliver grenades – Grimm landing his last Krak grenade in the hunchback’s gaping mouth! Zarkov also delivers a good shot with his Mauler bolt-pistol. The frag grenades appear to do no damage. Mola steps back to give Zarkov better line of sight and stay within reach of him.

Round 2: The hunchback’s wounds begin repairing. Ghostly apparitions appear, racing around the chamber and howling, enforcing:

Willpower checks! To the GM’s disappointment everyone is fine.

Meanwhile the hunchback appears to blur a little [-20 to BS, though +10 for size].

Mola jabs a Stim dose into herself and draws a regular Stub-Auto with Manstoppers chambered. Grimm quick-draws and fires his bolt-pistol, landing a shot that seems to score. Zarkov switches to semi-auto with the Mauler and lands two solid hits. Jahr draws his heavy Stubber and steadies his aim.

Round 3: Healing a little more, the hunchback hurls four orbs, each like a screaming green-black face. [Rolls WP to hit, misses all but Grimm, Grimm dodges on reroll] They miss!

Mola fires on semi-auto and lands one telling shot, Grimm likewise and again two of Zarkov’s do some damage. Jahr’s Stubber roars but all shots go wide.

Round 4: Healing a fraction more the hunchback fades from view as its appearance blends in with the surroundings. [-30 additional BS penalty] Howling winds lift it partly off its feet and knock Zarkov flat.

Mola lands another telling shot and draws her Carnodon. Jahr’s next burst results in another round landing.

Round 5: Screaming in fury:

                “The Prophet will destroy you all!!!” – hunchback

…The hunchback hurls a fireball into the centre of the burning circle: it cannot be dodged without hurling oneself through the wall of fire: but the extreme armour of the Acolytes results in mere minor damage to Zarkov and Mola. At the same time though, all guns jam.

Mola realizes her Carnodon has just jammed as she brings it up – she moves closer to Zarkov and asks for his Machine Blessing. Grimm struggles to free his bolter’s action. Zarkov unjams his piece and fires, again doing some damage. Jahr juggles with then drops his Stubber.

Round 6: The hunchback has become opaque once more, but stays on the offensive – he tries another fireball and fails!

Waiting for Zarkov, Mola draws her final grenade. Zarkov feels lucky and scores Righteous Fury on a massive scale: the hunchback explodes messily! The flames fade away.

Combat ends.

 In the operating chamber, the Acolytes plan their next combat

We take care of our wounds and our guns and soon have both in order. A search is instituted as Jahr tends the belt-feed of his Stubber. I find nothing, and Zarkov declares that even the Medicae gear is spoilt beyond use.

It is time for some strategy to find any secrets this level holds.

After a short discussion as to ways and means, we split into two uneven sides. Jahr will attack the two guard servitors in the circle passage from one side using the berserk power the drug Frenzon grants, and we will shoot the other from the other side. Our signal will be a flash grenade. We synchronise chronos.

The Throne smiles on us and my plan works as well as might be supposed. One servitor is truly blinded, and it is that one that Jahr charges.

 

Combat begins

Battle layout: we are back in last session’s circular passage which runs right around the inner core of rooms, which in turn surround the dread operating chamber of last combat. Two servitors – very heavily armoured, and armed with flamer and shot cannon – guard one of the inner doors. The passage is about 5m across, so plenty of manoeuvring room.

Round 0: Mola succeeds in her Int [for timing] and BS [to pitch a flash-bomb just right] and the servitors make Tough tests against blinding. One fails. Jahr, who is advancing from that flank, charges it and rams his power blade into its left arm, severely damaging it.

Initiatives:

  • Mola/Zarkov
  • Jahr
  • Grimm/Servitors

Round 1: Jahr further damages his opponent’s left arm – oil is really leaking out.

Mola steps to point-blank range and targets the non-blinded servitor on the other flank, shooting it in the head with her Carnodon. Further back, Zarkov misses but Grimm hits twice to good effect.

The non-blinded servitor turns its flamer on Mola, the obvious target – but she dodges [on reroll] what would have been horrific damage. [The GM neglects to mention the flame reaches further than standard: it has a 30m range!]

Round 2: Jahr continues to berserkly stab his opponent, and his Crippling Strike talent wreaks minor damage [a Rk1 is advanced to a Rk 4].

Mola snap-shoots and falls back, drawing another flash grenade. Zarkov’s Mauler round chews through the servitor’s head, exploding it so effectively [RF – 32 damage plus 4 pen – Rk10 crit] the thing drops immediately. Grimm swings around, checking in case a security patrol has emerged from further away.

Round 3: Mola’s throw is off, landing behind the servitor and not affecting the ongoing one-sided melee. Jahr misses, but does not blame Mola.

Round 4: The servitor can finally see! But with wear and tear from the damage, can hardly swing its clumsy flamer as club. Jahr now severely damages its other arm [Rk5 crit with crippling strike].

Round 5: Jahr causes the servitor to short-circuit in some way [stunned] and the fight is effectively over since everyone else can now safely shoot it.

Combat ends

Spotting a Cogitator, Zarkov and Mola feel their goal is near

To our complete surprise, Zarkov opens the door the pair were guarding. [First multi-raise success on security!]

“Oh – it wasn’t locked then? That was lucky!” – Grimm

This is the beating heart of House Drashkon, I realise as we cautiously peer beyond the door. Dumb servitors are slaved to tasks tending generatorium-style banks of machinae, while further to the left, we can glimpse at least two sentinel servitors guarding a glowing green force-field around a glittering gold-and-ebon cogitator. There are four guardians in all, I see.

We pull back and Zarkov and I discuss ways and means. At length he proposes [makes an Int check which means a specific idea appears in the book] that he shut down the servitors one by one.

I agree, though with the proviso that Jahr and I retrieve our full security regalia and accompany him.

[This may not have been the best plan even though it appears in the book. Zarkov makes his first attempt by the necessary margin, and one sentinel is shut down. But he fails the next by 3 drops or worse, and all the three attack berserkly!]

 

Their cunning ruse leads to combat, inevitably

After a nasty scramble to get clear, I look back – to find that Jahr has charged into combat! I roll a smoke grenade in, as does Grimm, and Jahr stumbles out, clearly burned badly. I shoot my last Stimm into him.

“It won’t cure the wound, but you won’t notice you’re wounded” – Mola

[I think it is a matter of initiative timing that pushes Jahr into charging. Or he wildly overestimates his melee ability. He is definitely not still berserk.

The barbecue, which I’m skipping over, involves an interesting discussion about these heavy guard shields and area effects. That becomes very relevant later.]

After than it becomes a simple time and motion exercise. The servitors are all coded to attack frontally, and we are all faster afoot. We retain a respectful 30 or so metres distance and keep a continuous volume of fire. Grimm uses a combat shotgun to good effect, and Jahr still has his heavy Stubber. At length, all three break down enough that we finish them.

[The GM agrees that there is no need to play it all out. He also agrees, somewhat generously, that we still have reserves of ammo at the end.]

Jahr is helped to some extent by Zarkov’s medicae skills [restores a rank of crit back] and we return to the cogitator chamber.

 

In the nick of time wandering monsters prevent the plot moving forward

After several attempts – and an enraged but ineffectual dumb servitor – Zarkov extracts information from them that leads to the force field’s power box. He has his usual luck opening the cover.

“Jahr, time for your lock pick” – Mola

Jahr’s power blade, wielded delicately, persuades the plate off. But at that moment Zarkov catches the sound of the elevator in operation.

 

After a frantic few seconds’ planning I rush around to the circumference security station, before the elevator can arrive. [Mola is very fast.] Laying down amidst the bodies I pull the shield over myself and ready my Carnodon. I report.

“The elevator is ascending… coming up from below” – Mola, sotto voce

Three security guards and a servitor emerge and curses fill the chamber. We wreaked great slaughter here. In the chaos they do not count bodies and therefore miss the fact that there are too many guards. They move out, urging the servitor to its best speed.

“They are moving out. Away from the cogitator” – Mola, sotto voce

Once they are well clear I get quietly to my feet and follow them, whispering a coordinated plan from well behind the patrol.

 

Combat begins

Battle layout: although Mola’s original plan is to attack them well away from the room where Jahr is resting – such as the opposite side where the entrance to the operating chamber is located – by the normal accidents of GM narration and miscommunication, the battle ends up at the cogitator chamber. There is plenty of cover, the only downside is that quite a lot of it is sensitive machinery and there is no exit.

Jahr is well back among power stacks with Stubber ready, Grimm and Zarkov in easy distance of the repowered force field, also ready to fire.

Initiatives:

  • Mola (when she arrives)
  • Grimm
  • Zarkov
  • Guards
  • Servitor
  • Jahr

Round 1: The servitor reaches the doorway. Grimm and Zarkov’s shots fail to make any impression and they retire. The guards, who are well in cover behind their metallic friend, urge it on. The servitor stops and scans for targets.

Round 2:

“I vill choin you” – Mola in a fake Drashkon accent, closing rapidly

[The security guards make their intelligence test – ‘aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?’ – but instead of immediately resigning to take up the life of a bouncer, react suspiciously.]

Mola raises the plasma pistol but fumbles a little and the shot burns one in the leg, instead of taking his head off as she intended.

Grimm manages a hit on the servitor [reroll] but his and Zarkov’s shots make no impression on it. The servitor fills the doorway while the three guards are deeply confused, since a plasma pistol is the sidearm of a sergeant.

Round 3: Mola pulls back and hunkers down! The unwounded pair fire, but as she predicted the shots simply bounce off the shield.

Grimm and Zarkov flee outright to cover behind the forcefield. The servitor attempts to acquire a target, and Jahr obliges by opening up with the Stubber. No damage.

Round 4: Mola resumes firing and shoots the wounded guard again. Her pistol arm is now a target, but the guards hit the shield anyway. 

Grimm’s gun jams, but Zarkov unjams it.

Much to Jahr’s relief the servitor wheels back out, towards Mola.

+++++++++++++++++++++Paused until next session!+++++++++++++++++++++

The session’s book is written by someone who really, really thinks that Acolytes need to be in combat at all times. You think that’s combat? But wait, we’ve got more combat! 

In a dungeon crawl like this, supplies inevitably run low and the odds tip in favour of the defence. Next session we see if Mola’s ‘wheelbarrow’ tactic pays off at all.

[‘Wheelbarrow’ is a term I’ve borrowed from wargaming: originally describing an army you need to be so ballsy to play you need a wheelbarrow to cart your balls around in.]

 

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