Monday, May 2, 2022

Greater Daemon you say? Just throw it some cash! - Soulbound AoS roleplay campaign session 3

At the end of the previous session, all players had been forced to flee. Boris the Kharadron ran through a different tunnel than his companions. Given the loud bleeping of the gas sensor in his helmet, the rest of the party lucked out on that point. On the downside, he was quite lost. Boris walked through the moldy and deserted corridors of Hollowreef's deepest (Nurgle infested) district in search of the group. As he failed at finding his bearings he decided to walk towards the sound of drums in the distance.

Yeah, there's a greater daemon coming up in this game session...

After walking for a while, he arrived at the top of a huge hall. Below him, collapsed buildings and abandoned market stalls stretched out. The corridor Boris walked, once opened onto a footbridge that spanned the entire hall at a height of twenty meters. The bridge itself had long since collapsed. It’s rubble was strewn along the length of the hall.

In the center of the room, Boris saw the group of Nurgle followers (Blight Kings and a Plague Lord) dancing around a cauldron, accompanied by the sound of two huge drums. Next to the cauldron, he saw a few of the captured Freeguilders tied to poles. Behind the cauldron, on a platform, was a huge lever. He had no idea what it was for, but from the lack of mold, it saw regular use.

Kharadron in trouble

On either side in the back of the room were cages containing even more trapped Freeguilders. In the hazy fog of this room, he could see dark figures lurking near the cauldrons. Between the debris in the rest of the cave, a large shape seemed to glide through the rubble and filthy undergrowth.

Boris decided to climb toward the caves through the remnants of windows and trim on the walls. He grabbed a window frame with one hand, placed his other hand, his foot followed and finally he placed his other foot. At that point, the entire stone window frame broke free and slid into the hall with thunderous noise. All Boris could do was hold on and pretend it was a sled. He crashed to the floor. Before he could get up and dust off, a spear was at his throat. The Kharadron was carried away and tied up near the cauldron, next to Aldo the wizard and the Freeguild commander.

Meanwhile, back in the tunnels

Meanwhile, somewhere else in the complex, the rest of the group took stock. Two Freeguilders rescued. The Kharadron missing. The way back cut off by monsters. They decided to move deeper into the complex. Then they heard drums. After a second deliberation (do we go towards the drums and trouble, or do we use the sound to go in the opposite direction so we might get outside), the group decided to go towards the drums because they might encounter the Kharadron there.

As the sound of drums drew near, the rogue and the Witch Aelf snuck forward to explore. They peeked into the hall from the main entrance. A quick glance showed them Boris, tied to a pole near the cauldron. Even before consultation had taken place, they heard a load roar. The Doom Seeker, sensing a chance to die gloriously, stormed into the room.

Plaguebearers are awesome fodder in Soulbound.

Doom Seeker in Tuco-mode 

The followers of Chaos looked up as the roaring dwarf charged. Their commander stepped forward, gave an honorable salute and called out, "I am Eczemyngius Magotflume, who challenges me?" The dwarf - clearly an apt student of Tuco* delivered two divinely inspired blows with his axe in response. The head of the Lord of Plagues fell from his torso with a very surprised (and slightly offended) look on his rotten face.

* “When you have to shoot, shoot; don’t talk”
- Tuco, The Good the Bad and the Ugly.

As the blood spurted, the surrounding Blight Kings were too stunned to react. Suddenly the Lord of Plague's riding animal emerged from the rubble. A giant, demonic maggot (with legs), also known as a Pox-Maggot, stretched its jaws open and vomited a yellow, chunky substance all over the dwarf. Behind the tidal wave of phlegm, a long tongue shot out and bound the dwarf.

The rogue sprinted forward, inspiring the dwarf to attempt a breakout, which unfortunately failed. It is hard to get inspired when you’ve just gotten covered with Nurgle vomit. The Idoneth mage also ran forward, failed a spell and ordered his Fangmora Eel to free the Kharadron from its shackles. The Witch Aelf snuck toward the cages, but was hindered somewhat by the trap she’d accidentally sprung (ouch!).

Using money as a hand grenade

The tongue-tied dwarf made a very costly decision. He pulled his entire supply of Aqua Ghyran (coinage of the land) from his belt and threw it – with great aim - into the maggot's mouth. Aqua Ghyran is (at its core) a very potent healing potion. The flask disintegrated. The maggot lost its tongue (it melted off), this was followed by a gloopy stream of its internal organs. The monster collapsed. The dwarf pulled off the tongue and sprinted towards the giant lever.

Responding to beckons from his companions, the freed Kharadron unhooked the freeguild mage. He pushed the mage towards the Idoneth, away from the cauldron, and then sprinted after suicidal Doom Seeker. The rogue sprinted towards the commander, untied his ropes, and dragged the man away from the center as well.

I really should paint more Blight Kings soon.

The amazing flying Blight Kings go splat

A Fecund Gnawmaw (a huge diseased treeman (sort of)), vomited a group of cackling Nurglings into the fray. The Idoneth summoned a giant flying whirlpool into which the Nurglings, the Blight Kings (and the eel) were sucked. The victims flew around in the air, forming a very sadistic centrifuge as they bumped into each other. Soon the gaggle of Nurglings managed to beat each other to a pulp. The Blight Kings were also pulverized. All this violence caused the huge cauldron to wobble. The contents - a green-gray gloop - splashed over the edge. From time to time, a huge hand seemed to emerge from the cauldron. Ah foreshadowing…

At the back of the hall, the Witch Aelf surprised three Plaguebearers. With a few swift knife stabs, the demons splattered apart. The locks on the cages seemed more of a challenge, until the captives pointed her towards the key on a hook on the wall. The caches sprang open and three of the missing Freeguilders and another prisoner in rags clambered out.

The Doom Seeker briefly wondering if it was wise, shrugged, and then pulled the huge lever. From the main entrance, the group heard a bellowing sound of chains and scraping of stone over stone. Suddenly everyone started wondering if the lever wasn’t meant to open a floodgate. Was  this the beginning of a huge flood?

Doom Seeker on a rampage

The Kharadron freed the rest of the captured freeguilders on the other side of the hall. The Doom-Seeker, near death but not yet satisfied with the carnage, leaped at the Fecund Gnaw-Maw with a roar. The maddened Dwarf toppled this behemoth with a few very well aimed axe-blows.

The cauldron rolled over and slid into a dense yellow fog at the side of the hallway. The Kharadron used his wind manipulator to suck the yellow fog away. Shards of the cauldron became visible. Standing between them was a grinning monstrosity. A huge Great Unclean moved, faster than the group had hoped, and managed to place itself between them and the exit.

By now more afraid of the demon than of the supposed tidal wave, the group started sprinting to get past it. Only the Doom-Seeker had a different plan. He leapt forward and claimed the daemon’s full attention. Both the Idoneth mage and the Witch Aelf used this distraction to run past the daemon, throwing their flasks of Aqua Ghyran at it. Pieces of flesh melting from its bones the monster still only had eyes for the maddened Doom Seeker. Even a vague attempt by the rogue to backstab the daemon did not distract it.

My Doom is here

The Fyreslayer announced that his doom was here. The daemon responded by lashing out with all its might. The onslaught made the Dwarf topple to the ground bleeding. Just as the monstrous daemon wanted to turn its attention on the rest of the party, the mangled body of the Doom Seeker got up. Bleeding, the Dwarf charged the monster. This gave the rest of the group a chance to flee. Gurgling blood, the Doom Seeker lifted his axe and delivered two extremely powerful blows to the - very surprised - daemon. As the Dwarf joined his ancestors, the daemonic overlord was sucked back into the great gardens of Nurgle.

The rest of the group rushed through the corridors, back the way they came. They skidded to a halt as a very localized lightning strike struck. A Stormcast in clad in the silver armor of the Hallowed Knights looked at the group. "Hello I am Kwistooit, do you know why I am here?". Bewildered, the weary group paused to ponder the answer.

Who is this new knight? What will the group do in the depths of Hollowreef? We'll learn in the next episode of Hollowreef's Riddle....

Lacking a proper picture of a Fyreslayer Doom Seeker, I'll just 'make do' with the inspiration for those guys. 

GM's perspective

What a joy it was to run this session. It started off with one of the more difficult things for any GM: a split party. After the obligatory reading of the previous games' notes (i.e. the story above), I took the Kharadron player off to the side to run a small private story for him. On the plus side this was at the start of the session, giving the other players the time to get all the 'how was your month' out of the way. On the downside, splitting the game still distracts the players and it is a lot of work for the GM. It all ended quite quick and on a funny note. I asked the Kharadron to take a test for his climbing manouvre, expecting him to have some skill invested there. It turned out he could only roll one dice (and he managed to roll a 1 with that one too). 

As for the rest of the session. The player running the Doom Seeker wanted to try a different character. She's been playing brutes (mostly Dwarves) for the past few years and she really felt like something new. We made a Stormcast called Kwistooit together. The name is a play on words in Dutch loosely translating to 'I once knew' scrunched together. All that was needed was a suitable end to the previous character. As this was a Doom Seeker I thought it would not be that hard. 

I was wrong and learned how severely I underestimated the strength of the characters in Soulbound. The berserk Doom Seeker cut through a Lord of Chaos, a Pox Maggot and a Fecund Treemaw as if the poor monsters weren't there. For the more Warhammer Fantasy style gamemasters those three monsters would each represent the climax of a scenario or even campaign (well, the fighty part of the climax anyway). In the end I pulled a Great Unclean One out of the cauldron because I knew from testing that this monster would (probably) be able to kill the entire group. I have to admit that I was fortunate the others were intimidated because I suspect my six players working together would most likely make short work of a single Greater Daemon working alone. (having already run session 4 I can confirm this for a fact). 

As the rest of the group ran the encounter played out as a rather suitable doom. A Greater Daemon murders a Soulbound character one on one. No ifs, no buts. Fortunately there is a rather spectacular final stand rule in the game that allows a dead character a miraculous recovery, followed by a bunch of bonuses for one round before actually dying. It made for a spectacular climax to both the gaming session and the Doom Seekers life. 

On a side-note the money grenades where/are an incredibly fun bit of improvisation of the group. It went something like: 

Group: 'The money in this game is a healing potion, isn't it?'
Me (going for the 'it will be expensive' option): 'Only if you drink a full 100 drops.'
Group: 'Yeah, yeah, how does Nurgle respond to healing potions?'
Me (getting nervous): 'You'd have to throw a - very - costly grenade to find out.'

At that point the group grinned and I knew I'd better improvise some damage rules for money grenades. I  bases them on rule number one for any GM in any system: if the group comes up with something interesting, translate it into a cool bit of story for the game. It worked quite nicely and emphasized what makes the over the top world of Soulbound work. I'll be translating and posting session 4 later this week (I hope).

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