Saturday, July 27, 2019

Ruin's End, a Warhammer Fantasy 4th Campaign, session 5 - Bum Rush

Having just infiltrated the Skaven hive, the group looked proudly at the corpses of its guards. With three doors to choose from, only one question remained: which one would they open?

I should most definitively include a plague priest riding a giant rat somewhere in the campaign.

Meanwhile, deeper in the hive, a Skaven Warlock in purple robes was angrily questioning the kidnapped lawyer Drett. In spite of the creature's brilliant interrogation the human had not given the location of the Plaque of Quats. "I'll ask my questions of one of your fellow man-things!", the Skaven screeched as it cast a spell on Drett.

Blocked doors
Gorgor's face took on a surprised look as she was enveloped in green mist. Suddenly the dwarf was gone and a surprised Drett was in her place. Quickly updating the lawyer on the group's status it was decided to turn the rescue of Drett into the rescue of Gorgor. With the added disadvantage that the only person capable in a fight was now gone it was decided to go for stealth. The group carefully listened at the doors, hearing groups of Skaven talk and scuttle behind two. These where blocked off.

Steaming kettle 
The third door was opened with great care. On the other side was a large room containing a sturdy table that held a map of Ubersreik. The gorgeous map had 'property of the Temple of Sigmar' written on its legend. In a corner away from the door four Skaven plague monks where busy stirring a steaming kettle.

Bum rush
After a few frantic whispers the group decided to use their favorite weapon from the previous campaign: the bum rush! Barnard and Drett stormed forward and managed to surprise two monks completely. Both fell into the fire under the cauldron where their robes caught fire.

After the surprise Ronja threw a spell and a third monk was suddenly grasped by roots from the ceiling. Meanwhile Tillman hid under the table. The scuffle was quick and bloody. The group killed all Skaven without suffering any damage. In the meantime, one of the blocked doors began to rattle. Reinforcements were en route.

Ronja looked at a second door and calculated that it might end up in the room that held Skaven reinforcements. She prepared a powerful spell. A few seconds later the door flew open and a fresh group of plague monks tried to enter the room. Ronja cast her spell. Roots shot out of the ceiling and floor and tried to grab the Skaven. They took one look at the danger, pulled the door shut and bolted it. Sounds of Skaven scuttling away where heard.

Here's a photo of some random Skaven models.
Lightning arch
The group followed Gorgor's trail. They opened the next door and saw a huge laboratory. The space was dominated by a huge copper arch. Green lightning shot back and forth inside it. Occasionally flashes of Ubersreik and its surroundings formed inside the arch. Three important looking Skaven: the assassin with the metal hand, a very rancid and large priestly type and the warlock in purple were involved in a fierce discussion.

Bum rush part two
Other Skaven walked between the tables with equipment. One of them was suddenly hit by a random lightning bolt from the portal. Despite the danger, Drett didn't think twice. Why change a winning strategy? He snuck out as far forward as possible and then bum rushed towards the warlock. Drett pushed the Skaven into its own lightning portal.

Reduced to ashes
The screeching warlock was reduced to a pile of ashes. As a result of its death, the portal seemed to stabilize. The view rested for a moment on Ubersreik, then rose high in the sky and flew over Reikland to a large city that was built on islands in a swamp. The view passed by a huge harbor, along rows of houses and finally came to a standstill at a deserted-looking theater.

Ground warpstone and Sigmar's fire
The plague priest sniffed ground warpstone and started casting a spell. He miscast and hurt himself badly. Barnard ran after Drett and threw a prayer to Sigmar. An aura of holy fire spread around him,, filling the laboratory. All Skaven in the room where reduced to ashes. Only the Skaven assassin managed to flee by keeping an accomplice in front of himself. He ran away through a secret tunnel. Of the plague priest only a cape remained? Was he dead? Tillman the witch was hurt as well, managing to cling to life by the skin of his teeth.

When a problem comes along, you must zap it.
Fleeing Skaven
The group took in the laboratory. It was build on a platform overlooking a cave with several tunnels leading out of it. A jumble of fleeing Skaven ran towards those tunnels, collapsing them as they ran away. After a short burst of activity it suddenly became very quiet in the Skaven hive.

Interrogation room
The group opened another door and found the interrogation room where Drett had been questioned. In cells along the wall they found Gorgor and the high elf Delsoton. Glad that he was freed, the elf told the group he had purchased the Plaque of Quats to bring it back to Lustria. The plaque is used to sustain the Geomantic Web. At this point the elf assumed everyone knew what that was, and why it had to be sustained. The group looked a bit blank at the elf and Ronja made a mental note to ask some questions about the Geomantic Web later. To start with: what is it?

The Von Bruner library
Questions had to wait. First the now empty lair was examined. One of the rooms revealed a man-sized tunnel leading of into darkness. The group followed it and discovered it ended up under the Von Bruner library. Barnard considered returning the stolen book. That might just make the bounty on his head disappear. As he was contemplating this, Tillman entered the library. The witch used his magic to open the locks on Von Bruner's desk. Bags of gold, bearer shares, the seal of the high magistrate, wax and blank legal documents quickly disappeared into pouches.

Chaos magic
Ronja also climbed into the library. She saw clear traces of chaos in the bookcase. Closer inspection revealed a secret panel hiding two books with a rune of Tzeentch and a bag of warpstone. Ronja decided to give in to the voices in her head and take all the items for quiet study later.

To Mariënburg
The group went back to the hive and left through the sewer. They went for Rosalinde's apartment. There Desloton told them that the city in the swamp sounded like Mariënburg. Most likely the Plaque of Quots was there, so that's where they should go.

The next day Tillman took Desloton clothes shopping. Walking the streets he spotted fresh 'wanted' posters featuring Barnard and Drett. The price on their heads was now up. No longer 50 silver, but 50 gold each! In the street there were rumors of a burglary in the house of the high magistrate, supposedly masterminded by a man pretending to be a priest and another claiming to be a lawyer. The gates to the city were locked. No one could go in or out. Would it be possible for the group to travel to Mariënburg with the gates locked? Are bearer shares sufficient to do this in style? We'll see in the next episode...

GM's perspective 

He went that way!
Every proper rpg (I think) needs some convoluted city plots with multiple story arcs. That said, these should frequently be interrupted with a good old fashioned dungeon. Nothing focuses the player's as well as a proper dungeon, preferably drawn on grid paper (but that may just be me). I believe in giving my group time to plot their course and have long discussions about tactics to follow to clear out rooms. Some of the best story moments are the result of well laid plans going very wrong. 

The trick to a fun dungeon crawl is to let the group improvise. When they start doing this, you'll quickly run out of rules. Here one of the condition system in Warhammer Fantasy 4th really comes out to shine. What happens when players try to push plague monks into their own fire? Just have a contested Melee (brawl) roll and give the monsters a burning condition for each level by which they fail. I'm quite sure its not entirely realistic, but it is a lot of fun. It keeps things interesting to. For instance, I never anticipated my warlock getting pushed into its own lighting arc.

The story so far
Driving the Skaven out of Ubersreik, rescuing Delsoton and finishing all tasks for Rosalinde marks the end of the first chapter of this campaign. I named this chapter 'Betrayal and brouhaha in Ubersreik'. The next entry will mark a very short second chapter 'Wasteland Express' that deals with the group getting to Marienburg where the large third chapter of the campaign will play out. After that they'll have another short travel chapter followed by the fifth and final chapter of the campaign. Preparation wise I've plotted the entire story but I still need to finish the full preparation for chapter 4 and 5. Considering there will be another 4 or 5 game sessions before the group gets that far, I figure I still have time.

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