Thursday, October 11, 2018

Trouble in Teufeltal session four, Closed River

At the end of our previous gaming session the group was sailing barge De Vreugde downstream on the Teufel carrying wine, coffee and refugees. Unfortunately another barge tied with chains and ropes was blockading the river. Trolls where seen in the reeds on the left and right bank and the tied up barge was in the process of being looted by goblins. What could the party do?

This part of the adventure was going to feature a lot of river trolls. Luckily for the players most of them are going to be standing in the background, looking intimidating.

Panic on deck
Barnard the initiate tried to calm the people on deck. His utter lack of result suggested a priest of Manaan (or Morr) would have been better for this job. Meanwhile Drett was talking to captain Alida. She was working hard to keep her barge steady as she assessed the situation. Keeping the boat steady suddenly turned out te be more complicated when fulltime entertainer, wannabee thief and most definitely amateur sailor Micky the halfling decided to try throwing out an anchor.

Time is of the essence
In the end Alida convinced the group to take a small rowing boat towards the blockading ship. If the ropes and chains could be cut, De Vreugde might just escape downriver unscathed. Time was of the essence as the group spotted teams of goblins and trolls further back attaching more ropes and chains to the rocks on both sides of the river.

Row, row, row your boat
Kylael tried to jump elegantly into the rowing boat (failed, was unlucky and ended up selling a piece of his soul to avert wet clothing). The rest of the group took more care. To everyone's surprise the arrogant high elf Cenoc jumped on board in the last minute. Together they pushed off. As the small rowing boat was gripped by the fast flowing river, the group started wondering which one of them could actually operate a rowing boat...

Lack of sailors
...the answer was 'no one'. With more luck than they deserved the group ended up crashing against the side of the blockading barge. They nervously checked the banks of the rivers. Luckily the river trolls there seemed content to just lounge about in the water.

Kylael (with a lot of luck) jumped elegantly onto the deck of the barge, followed by Cenoc. The rest of the group took a more careful approach and climbed aboard. Everyone? No! Gorgor the dwarf stayed behind and took her axe to the hull of the barge. After a few choice hits she nodded in satisfaction having made a hole in the hull and boarded the (now leaking) barge.

This guy makes no appearance in the campaign, but man it is a pretty miniature to stick on the tabletop.
Goblins and cables 
The deck of the barge was a scene of utter chaos. Dead crew members everywhere and goblins running from the hold clutching loot. The group spotted three points that held the barge in place. The forecastle and quarterdeck sported chains and the main mast was tied with rope. All locations where obviously guarded by three goblins each and a larger boss type goblin was standing by the main mast.

Murder and carnage
Cenoc and Kylael charged. Kylael fought as if possessed by the gods and managed to slay the boss goblin with a few choice cuts of his rapier. Cenoc was at least as enthusiastic, but less fortunate. A lucky critical took off his right arm and he dropped bleeding and screaming to the deck. Barnard was hit hard enough to fall prone and Drett was also knocked off his feet by goblins.

Up and down the deck we go
Kylael had no time for his unfortunate comrades. He kept killing goblins, only taking a small bit of time off to cut the ropes holding the barge's mast. He proceeded to storm the quarterdeck. Kylael killed one of the goblins there, convincing the other two to run at top speed towards the forecastle. Gorgor joined Kylael and used her knowledge of metallurgy to find a weak spot in the chain to break it.

Micky was hard at work with on the job training for his new career as a thief. He bent over the stricken Cenoc and decided the high elf was dying anyway. The elf kept pointing at a pretty flask on his belt so Micky pocketed it (and most of Cenoc's other easily transferable possessions). The elf bled out during the process. Much later the halfling discovered that the flask contained a powerful coagulant. Ah well, he was training to be a thief, not a pharmacist (and the high elf was arrogant and rude in life, so there is a lesson contained in here somewhere).

Murder sprint 
By now Kylael was sprinting towards the forecastle with murder on his mind. Unfortunately a rather huge pair of green hands appeared on the gunwale. 'No trolls on my boat,' the duelist thought and he quickly stabbed the hands, causing the attached troll to drop down the side of the barge.

Ships passing...
With the center and the back of the barge freed, the ship was taken by the current. As it was still attached by the forecastle it started to drift towards the river bank. This gave the other barge, De Vreugde, room to pass. Gorgor had first class seats a she watched the barge pass from the quarterdeck. Captain Alida called out that she would send help as she used the current to make top speed towards Ubersreik. Barnard, Micky and Drett decided this was an opportune time to abandon ship. They moved towards their rowboat and quickly discovered no one had had the forethought to actually tie the thing down. They watched it float away on the current.

Berserk duellist
The goblins around Kylael where faced with a deadly dilemma. If they stayed in weapon range of the duellist he would kill them, disengaging would have identical results. Fortunately another troll climbed onto the gunwale. To Kylael's relief it immediately fell off again as the ship hit the bank. The resulting crash jarred everyone off their feet (and gave the goblins a chance to escape).

Back to Schluesselschloss
The group regained its footing and decided that 'in the reeds between the trolls' was not the best place to be. They disembarked the beached vessel and swiftly took the road to Ubersreik. After about two steps they realized a bigger blockade was being built down the road. They made a 180 move and started the journey back to Schluesselschloss to forge new plans.

This orc warboss made no appearance today, but he has a nice shield and I wanted to add another picture I actually own to this part of the post.
Back at the castle they where received by Pansy and Martin. Reinhart was not willing to greet the returning group and the various nobles where lost in their own thoughts, worlds, dimensions. Sergeant Martin took the players to the war room to take stock of the situation. With an invasion of spiders and forest goblins in the north, goblins and trolls in the east and orcs boar riders seemingly everywhere else, it was starting to look like a Waaagh was forming. Bad luck that it was forming in Teufeltal.

Enough work to do
Martin took the map of the valley and asked the group for help preparing the castle for a siege. He suggested a number of things they could do.

  • De Blanc's School for Ladies had to be warned and evacuated.
  • A mill close to the school houses Dieter von Heinz, a wizard that has made himself quite unpopular in the valley with his useless inventions. Any wizard is a big help during a siege even one with 'ideas about farming'.
  • Thanks to the Pansy Diet the food stores were almost depleted. Sheepherder Lowe might bring his flock to the castle to remedy this. The group knows Lowe, and they know he will not be eager to move, even for orcs.
  • The border to Bretonnia is guarded by a small contingent of Knights of the White Wolf. They could reinforce the castle, but will they be willing to abandon their temple?
  • Otilla J├Ąger, another wizard, has secretly been living near the Baron's vineyard, she might also be able to help.
  • The group could ask the dwarves in Karak Azgaraz for help. An army would be nice, but even a few engineers would be very welcome as Schluesselschloss is in a bad state of disrepair.

After a bit of discussion the group decided to contact Otilla first and immediately proceed to Karak Azgaraz after. A second expedition should then take them past the De Blanc, Dieter, Lowe and the White Wolf Lodge. The only question is how much time they have, so they'll just try to do as much as possible and see where they end up.

To the vineyard!
With a clear mission the group readied itself to travel to the Baron's vineyard. Will there be enough liquid courage there to survive a siege? We'll find out in the next installment....

GM's perspective 

Also not featured, trees, skaven and that particular wizard. 
This was one of those very combat oriented sessions. One of the main many differences between a computer and a tabletop roleplaying game is the amount of time fighting costs (I think playing every combat in Baldur's Gate on a tabletop would take about two lifetimes (assuming its not your fulltime job)). Warhammer Fantasy 4th does actually go rather smoothly (assuming you as GM have properly prepared your monsters). As wounds are low and attacks hit harder as you have success, monsters (and players) can be cut down at a frighteningly quick pace. For instance I had planned a noble and brave death for Cenoc to redeem his elf-like arrogance, but a single roll of the dice took that away from him. Very grim and dark, especially with a vengeful thieving halfling robbing the high elf of his one chance of survival...

Advantage in Warhammer fourth
The advantage mechanic is fourth edition has taken a lot flak by 'internet experts' (note to self: don't make too many jokes here, you're filling a blog on the internet remember). But it mostly speeds up fighting. It gives players a real sense of accomplishment (or danger), makes it all rather more cinematic and inspires you as a GM to have monsters and npcs run away (sooner). That said, even with a +120% advantage a single character stands very little chance against a troll (it can take grievous punishment, follow-up by vomiting all over said character to take away his advantage and then hit like a freight train.) A group of goblins without advantage surrounding a +120% character is another story. They need advantage to disengage otherwise the palyer'll get a free hack and kill them. I'll need to carefully re-read the rules to see if I did that properly before the next session (I never figure out complex rules during a gaming night, it takes time away from the story and the fun so I just make things up as we all go along). 

The final scene on this gaming night was the actual start of chapter II (of III) in the campaign. I've always wanted to offer my gaming group sort of the equivalent of the gaming map in my favorite computer rpg's like Baldur's Gate (II), Planescape Torment, Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age, Pillars of Eternity, (Fallout 1&2). These rather nicely tie in global quests/objectives to locations to be visited on a map, giving you as the player a feel for location in the story. It also offers a direct choice how to experience the tale. In this case I've prepared separate scenes (sometimes multiple scenes) for each of the locations mentioned and added some hidden scenes in between to keep things interesting. Just like in the computer equivalent new scenes/objectives/quests will appear after finishing some of these (or a number of these). Unlike the computer game I can adapt scenes to each other on the fly. 

Chapter II is by far the biggest chapter in the entire campaign. It can keep the players going for quite some time, but I can also cap this by 'burning' locations. If the campaign runs the risk of feeling stale I can tell the group big clouds of smoke have appeared at x or y, marking the Waaagh has arrived there. As an added bonus I can also 'burn' non-existent locations just to give the feel of passage of time and pretend the story is much bigger then it really is. The only downside right now is that I haven't fully fleshed out the details for most of the scenes in chapter II, so I had best find some time to start writing that bit out before the next session hits.

As a last added thought as I semi-proofread the bla bla above I think some people may have noticed my group having a rather easy time going from a to b between scenes (getting back to the castle from the river bank or from the spider forest for instance). This has two reasons. (1) I want to make most of the hours of play time we have to tell a story. (2) Travel with nothing happening or (heavens forbid) random encounters that serve no purpose (other then rolling dice) distract from the story. So I have a tendency to fast forward travel. In most cases I use excuses on the table to explain the effortless transitions. "The remaining trolls and goblins stare at your retreating backs as they try to decide between swimming after the fleeing barge, saving their floating barricade or taking vengeance on you. They gives you the time to slip away."

By the same token I've also borrowed another smart move from the computer games (Dragon Age was especially good at this). I add 'extra's' to the background of fights. In this case dozens of goblins running around looting the barge and multiple trolls swimming around in the reeds. These are there to give a sense of scale (and look pretty (intimidating) in the background), they ignore the players. A player attempting to stab one of these will get an automatic kill that does nothing for the game (this happened during the session). I told the player you don't get advantage by knifing an unsuspecting, overloaded goblin in the back. He agreed with the assessment. Overall I think describing extra's works rather nicely, and will prove invaluable during the upcoming siege.

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