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
The altar flares white, slumped bodies and equipment seem to shake in an otherworldly blast, and black feathers drift down.
All Acolytes fail and take damage from the psychic blast.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Dei Phage
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.
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