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Cthulhu Dark campaign play (Eternal Lies)

 

I'm reading Eternal Lies, the globetrotting 1930s campaign for Trail of Cthulhu by Jeff Tidball and Will Hindmarch - credited as "with" Jeremy Keller, which I'm unsure how to interpret. But anyway. 

My circumstances are such that while the number of sessions available isn't a problem, time in setup and mechanical resolution for each session is highly restricted. In other words, we have a shortish amoutn of time to get stuff done. For that reason, I'm inclined to play Eternal Lies using Graham Walmsley's game Cthulhu Dark, which I have run a lot, written scenarios for and generally recommend to all and sundry. But long-term play using the same characters presents a potential challenge. In particular, the issue of Insight and what to do at the end of each adventure (or locale in EL). You could simply reset to 1, but that seems unsatisfying. Similarly, I would like to be able to be tough about Insight rolls - and killing characters off - without introducing any new mechanics or stats. 

Here's what I think I'm going to do. 

[Side note: we may end up using Trail of Cthulhu itself, so this might all be academic. Nevertheless.] 

Characters

I'll use the pre-generated PCs that are included in Eternal Lies. Players can claim the occupation die for their occupation, any investigative ability higher than 0 or general ability that seems high enough. (But not including health/stability etc.) 

 

Pillars of Sanity

When your Insight hits 6, you either "understand the full horror behind the Universe and leave everyday life behind" or one of your Pillars of Sanity crumbles and you roleplay the consequences. When all your Pillars are gone, you and your sanity are playing for keeps. 

 

Sources of Stability

We'll use these as a means of reducing Insight without needing to destroy Mythos knowledge. You can still do that in order to make a suppression roll, even if you have Sources of Stability remaining. 

When you lose a Source of Stability, your minimum Insight increases by 1. 

For example, if you had three Sources of Stability and alienate two of them, you now only have one Source to call on to reduce Insight, and the lowest your Insight can go is 3. 

 

Point Spends

I don't like having point spends in the text anyway (see previous blog posts about GUMSHOE), but this this is an easy conversion. 1-point spends are a 4+ on an investigation roll, 2-point spends are a 5+. 

 

Derring-do

As a rule of thumb, actions where life and death are at stake will follow the Bastionland model of critical injuries for fallout. I will rarely make "you die" the failure state for, say, a gunfight or precarious climb. Instead, because as Chris McDowall says an injured PC is more interesting than a dead one, anything that might kill a PC will first incapacitate them, and then if no one rescues them, things get worse. 

 

 

 

Investigations and Invisiclues in RPGs

First, this: http://fightthepwk.bravesites.com/entries/general/free-paid--information-skills-for-investigative-rpgs

I eschew GM-initiated investigative spends in GUMSHOE games. Instead, I treat all relevant info as available for 0 points if a suitable skill is used. 
Actually spending points is for using the "wrong" skill (e.g. reading an inscription in a tomb my be free for someone who has a skill level of 1 or more in Akkadian, but you can interpret it successfully with a point from your History pool), telling rather than asking, stretching the definition of your skill ("Could I use Art history to....?"), or getting the GM to spell out the significance of some information. 
 
Some examples. 
 
FREE information  PAID information
What is the evidence found on the body?What does it mean? 
This person is lying to you.Why are they lying? What specifically are they lying about? 
Ask the GM if you know how to identify the mysterious chemical.Tell the GM you know a scientist who can identify the mysterious chemical. 

 

In summary, you get the evidence for free, but pay for the meaning. 

You can ask the GM for information about the world for free. You can tell the GM facts about the world for a point spend. 

This is kind of similar to the InvisiClues books published by Infocom for their text adventure games in the Olden Days. Games like Hitchhiker's Guide also had these help hints built in to the game, later. You could ask for help and it would give you a vague clue at first, then something more specific, then eventually (usually) flat out tell you what to do. I can't remember if you lost points in the game for each clue you revealed - if you did, then that's basically the GUMSHOE investigative points system. 

The above is a natural enough fit for GUMSHOE and its banks of investigative skill points. But what if you're not playing GUMSHOE or other point-spendy or diceless system? 

 

The RBQ Method

No points or limits on the amount of help from the GM, just your personal sense of satisfaction. (Named for The Round Britain Quiz, in which teams start with 6 points for each question, and lose points based on how much help they need from the quizmaster to get to the answer. The questions are cryptic.) 

 

The Dice-Rolling Option

For games where you're rolling dice for things, you get the paid info on a successful roll and the free stuff for having "enough" of a skill level in the relevant area. What "enough" means you'll have to decide on a case-by-case basis. I can't help you there, you'll have to figure it own based on your circumstances. I'm not your dad. 

 

 

 

How to do Good Mystery Scenarios

A Google+ post, reposted here because I want to refer to it.... 

 

Setting the right stakes
Consider the Highlander TV series of the 1990s. This was a programme that had a few very good episodes. They were never the episodes where the climactic scene hinged on the question “Will MacLeod beat this other guy in a sword fight?” The show is called Highlander – of course he’s going to win. Despite the fact that immortals duelling with swords was the key draw of the series, the best episodes were not the ones that asked “Who is the best sword-immortal?” but the ones where the question was something else. Will MacLeod kill this person even though he doesn’t want to? Will he be able to rescue the innocent NPC the baddie has taken prisoner? That kind of thing. Strangely the producers never seemed to work this out, and most of the episodes were about the who-is-the-best-at-swords thing, but there you go.

If your only options in a scenario are “the players do/don’t solve the mystery”, and the mystery is the only thing happening, you have a problem.

If the solution is “you’ll solve the mystery no matter what” and the players know it, there’s little sense of accomplishment in getting to the end. Character drama – the journey above the destination – can compensate for the lack of jeopardy, but there are other options.


1) Time running out

Good for a Sherlock Holmes-style game where failure could undermine the central conceit of your PCs. You’ll work it out – but will the villain have escaped by the time you do? Conan Doyle used this a few times.

A variation is what you might call the Usual Suspects template. The secret agent is on the train, and you’ll get a photograph of him or her when you arrive in Istanbul. But if it takes you that long to work out who it is, chances are they’ll escape or pass on the secret plans to their associates before you can catch them.


2) The villain out of reach

The Columbo method. You know who did it, because you watched the pre-credits sequence, or because you’re a great detective, or because the bad guy said something like “So, I killed my wife, did I? Well, I’d like to see you prove it! Good day, detectives. I said good day!”
So in one sense the mystery is solved. But how did they do it, and how can you prove it?

You don’t have to make the culprit known from the start – solving the whodunit part about 2/3rds of the way through works, and then the ending either sees the culprit proven guilty or left as an ongoing nemesis.

Slightly different, and common in film noir and hardboiled fiction, is the scenario where it’s relatively simple to get the person who pulled the trigger, but the detective may or may not get to the bottom of who ordered the hit.



3) Something else going on

Perhaps the easiest way to make both success and failure in solving the mystery “acceptable” is to make sure the PCs have more than just that going on.

For example, police detectives will usually have more than one case active, and some of them might never be solved. Or, in a scenario for OSS agents behind enemy lines in World War II, the mystery may be “who killed Agent Donovan?” At the same time, the agents will have missions to undertake that involve spying, sabotage or training resistance fighters. If things go wrong on absolutely all fronts, their new objective will be to get home safely: whatever happens, you’ve got an adventure.

Looking at Laserburn (part 1)

 

This is LASERBURN, a set of 'sci. fi. combat rules' by Bryan Ansell. 

It was published in 1980 via Tabletop Games. Bryan Ansell was at that time already running Citadel Miniatures (and indeed one of the miniatures made by Citadel gets a mention in the book as a vehicle you might use in this game) in partnership with Games Workshop, but this is before the two companies merged. 

Elements and influences from Laserburn are apparent in Warhammer, which Ansell co-designed in 1983, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (the game's first edition) and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. So while Bryan Ansell has never been exactly the most popular figure in Warhammer/Oldhammer fandom or even production (see the infamous contents page of White Dwarf issue 77), if that's the sort of thing you're interested in, you might find this interesting. 

Power gloves: a more slender design than the massive space-hulk-bulkhead-ripping gauntlets the world will come to know and love. 

 

 

The book sometimes spells the game's name with a Z. 

 

A precursor to WFRP's hit location chart. WFRP presumably inherited its concern with armour being on different parts of the body from here, as it doesn't feature in WFB or Rogue Trader. 

 

 

The sungun blast area: a forerunner to the much-loved 40K flamer template. The sungun gets renamed through back-formation from 'handflamer' to 'flamer'. 

 

Some familiar items found in 40K: conversion beams and the armour types: flak, mesh, power, dreadnought. And distortion fields. 

 

To be continued....

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Enemy Within - Empire in Flames: Altdorf Redux (S5E15)

 

Captain's Log:

That moment of peace had passed. Ah well, you've got to work towards it to make those moments so satisfying! It was time to go see Heinrich and all the Elector Counts. There's so many of them yet I cannot remember the names of more than, say, three! They were all seated around a long wooden table and looked to the largest chair at the top. Ar-Ulric stood beside it and announced Heinrich in. He looked very happy to be holding Ghal Moraz. I understand that feeling. Heinrich, after a brief speech, declared himself Emperor Heinrich Toddbringer! One by one they all stood up and announced their approval. All were willing to serve him as the new Emperor without a second thought! I almost stood up to say something but The One pulled me back down. She was right, I had nothing to say really. I just wanted to be involved... we soon were! The Emperor turned to us and smiled warmly. He commended our bravery and immense heroism in recovering Ghal Moraz. We would need a coronation to properly grant Heinrich the title. A small party would need to be sent ahead to bring a message to Yori, the Grand Theogonist. The Heroes of the Hammer were perfect for it, of course! We were to head off in the morning with a letter of authority in hand. I was given the Knight Eternal's tent to sleep in. Curiously, there was an illustration of him speaking with people during the Middenheim festival. I learned that he used to speak with important and remarkable members of the city in front of an audience, asking questions and playing the role of a humorous host. It all ended when he accidentally shot a guest with a renowned duelist's pistol. Awful. At least he died a brave and inspiring knight!

We were given a boat. Fantastic! It was for sailing to a barge that would allow us to reach Altdorf quickly. The only thing of note on that part of the journey was a group of Talabecland soldiers looting the dead! Ordering them to stop only made them willing to draw their weaponry. Werner dissuaded them by introducing The Devastator. Blessed Jim, Werner and I all exchanged warrior handshakes to celebrate a job well done. Met a superior officer soon after. Werner sent him and his fighting-men off after the looters. Our confidence had been soaring after returning the hammer and stopping the looters. We casually gave the large approaching group of Ostland knights a friendly greeting and our letter of authority. After a brief glance they returned the letter and let us pass. There is no greater pleasure as an adventuring hero than having people actually believe you! Finally got to the barge and met its crew. The captain was a large fellow who gruffly complained that we were commandeering his boat. I do apologize for using your vessel to help bestow our next Emperor his title so that he can save the whole bloody Empire! Ah, sorry. His son was a pleasant man named Diel. That barge also gave me a strange feeling. Something about a vessel named "The Hindenburg" really unnerved me...

The first day of travel was uneventful. The night grew darker so we employed lamps at the prow before dropping the anchor at midnight. We got up at dawn and carried on with the journey quickly. I'm very sure that their sudden leap in knots was inspired by the idea that they'd get rid of us quicker. Well I'm not too fond of them or their Hindenburg, so I was fine with this speed! The next day or two was grueling after we became low on food. We met a strange fellow who insisted that we buy some of his specialty stew. He claimed to have gotten the ingredients from a farm isolated from the rest of the community. I was so hungry I couldn't think straight and, by the hammer, it was delicious! The One refused to eat any. Werner and I discussed the possible ingredients that gave it such a distinct flavour until Blessed Jim fell unconscious. Poisoned! The One brought him below deck while Werner and I kept a patient watch. We knew that we were set up by that merchant and expected the worst. Six bandits climbed on board, drew their short swords, and paused. One asked aloud why we were both still standing. Werner answered him by kicking the thug straight in the ribs, forcing him overboard! I cut off the nearest bastard's arm off and he too fell into the river. Seeing the river run with blood made the rest of those scoundrels flee in terror! Our captain emerged and started yelling that all of these misfortunes were somehow caused by our appearance.

"Yeah it's a real disaster on The Hindenburg" I replied.

A horror was before us about a day later. Corpses on branches, skin flowing like leaves on those trees, all tattered livery and a ghastly light in those waters! I was enchanted to follow it, as were Diel, Werner and The One. Blessed Jim, however, would not stand for such magical trickery! He convinced, with great wit and conviction, nearly everyone to stop pursuing their certain doom. Diel was still charmed! Shite! We crouched, to avoid that horrid light, and pulled him down by the legs. Everyone lay still in fear until we were completely sure that the eerie sight was behind us. Reached the River Talabec tributary joining the River Delb. Met a very charming young lady along the way. She asked to come aboard as her uncle in Altdorf suffered from a terrible brain pox. Heidi Reich was her name. She was very interested in me for some reason. I assumed at the time that she was highly impressed by my stories and knowledge of the rivers.

Altdorf was not the glittering jewel it once was. The entire eastern section had been burned to the ground, including vital bridges and houses! The crew and I soon heard that it was the work of a fearsome dragon. Was it the very same dragon who killed Yodri, or another wyrm summoned by these dark events? I hope, for all of us, that it is the former. One dragon is enough to raze a city, let alone two! Bringing The Hindenburg to the dockside made me realize how chillingly empty the whole city was. You would easily assume that it was the home of restless ghosts! Heidi was quick with her goodbyes. I thought it was odd that someone so fascinated by my tales would... my coin purse felt lighter. I came to the realization that in my private conversations with her that I can't really remember what was exactly said... she used hypnotism on me! Damn. Ah well, I've still got the crew and Fiendcutter. That's all I need. Gave the bridge guard the letter. He gave the letter to his superior as he couldn't read it. I know what that's like. We heard that the landlord of The Crossed Lancets had passed away in his sleep. He was a good man, very friendly with Harbull. I wonder where that doctor is now?

We headed towards the temple to speak with the Grand Theogonist. The junior clerics treated the letter and situation with some disdain, which confused me greatly, but they gave us an audience with Yori regardless. He was very glum after he read the letter. Didn't seem to recognize us either. Strange, I'd recognize anybody that saved my life! He was very insistent that we stay at the nearby inn for the night. As soon as we stepped outside of the temple, Werner suggested that we should stay at The Crossed Lancets instead. Nobody disagreed. Met the captain of the watch there briefly. Werner insisted that we try not to talk to anyone and head up to our rooms immediately.

The coronation is tomorrow. I can't wait to see it!

  • Johann Dasbuut.

The Enemy Within - Empire in Flames: The Battle of Wolfenburg (S5E14)

 

Captain's Log:

Speaking to Dr. Faustmann Faustmann and his companions gave us nearly the same details of the Imperial civil war. Heinrich Toddbringer was up ahead in Wolfenburg, just past what seemed like a legion on both sides of the conflict. It was decided that we would have to be quick and adopt a peaceful stance towards any possible threats. After all, Sigmar and Ulric would never have wanted their loyal followers to strike each other down. Chaos should be the common foe! Several Ulrician cannoneers demanded that we halt and state our business. They gave us a nasty glare and even if I wanted to duel them, I know I wouldn't make it. My bones were still a bit stiff after sitting on a flying horse for nine days. We were clearly in no shape to dodge or bear the brunt of a cannonball! I introduced us all to the head cannoneer and proudly held aloft that mighty destroyer of daemons, Ghal Moraz. He nodded and laughed at what he considered a "fine joke". I think that the White Wolf medallion meant more to him than the hammer. We were truly in dark times when the very hammer of the Empire's founder is laughed off as a joke! What would Magnus think of such a terrible lack of faith? Actually, the very next thing we saw was a shrine of Sigmar. It was... unclean. Let's leave it at that. We certainly did. It was best not to dwell on these things when salvation was nearly in our grasp.

About fourteen soldiers were travelling beside us, in the opposite direction. Werner was quick to ask what their business was. The leader of the group hastily spun a tale about chasing down stragglers. We all knew in that instant that we were dealing with deserters. Clearly this was not lost on them as they drew their weapons and demanded that we give up our horses. The One drew bolts of lightning from the grim clouds above and released this power once above them. The sergeant, who I would learn later was named Udo, started weeping uncontrollably. They all told a bitter tale of the endless bloodshed and grotesque deeds that the war demanded of them. I let them go after that. There's no fight in a broken man. What were just distant sounds were now accompanied by visions of battle. Steel drew blood from a mass of armour and horses. Blasts of flame and lead were exchanged from the fringes of each side, like distant shooting stars leaving smoke in their wake. The south side was lined with the tents and camps of various troops and orders, including the Order of the Fiery Heart and the Gryphon Legion. Werner personally made sure to send some soldiers after the deserters. I disagreed with the decision but felt that if we ended the war soon, their punishment wouldn't be as drastic. Our breach of the battlefield proper had begun.

I heard a rider trot behind us and turned around to see a knight with the Middenheim standard. He lifted his visor and let out an enthusiastic "AHA!". It was THE Siegfried Prunkvoll, Cavalier Forev... Knight Eternal and Protector of Middenheim! He was going to lead a glorious charge into the ranks of the Sigmarites and wanted us to ride alongside him. It was a tremendous honour but the clouds of musket and blunderbuss smoke made the hairs on the back of my neck rise. Werner was much more enthusiastic about the charge and readied his sword. We all galloped into the fray, weapons raised. I could hear a thundering sound of a hundred rifles being fired. I closed my eyes and accepted my fate. At least someone will find the hammer and bring it to Heinrich... I opened my eyes. Lead balls lay broken and useless upon the field. Werner was groaning and clutched his shoulder, giving me a weary look as blood trickled down his face. The Knight Eternal and his steed had been laid low by the volley. I leapt from my horse to listen to his dying words. He gasped something but I couldn't hear him properly over the din of battle. Something about knowing him and then knowing me? I told him of his bravery as his spirit left him. Werner spat blood and told me to keep moving. I still don't fully understand how he survived all that. Sigmarite cavalrymen approached us with weapons at the ready.

In my fervour I declared aloud that I, Johann Dasbuut, had brought Ghal Moraz to Wolfenburg to end this madness! Only one soldier started to believe me. He was quickly dismissed by the others. It was a start. The One's lightning injured a few but it was not enough. Werner unleashed The Devastator and Blessed Jim his rune blade but they too were not enough to end the chaos of combat. I held the hammer in front of me and sat upright on my steed, staring directly into the hammer. Blade strikes, spear points and hammer blows curved and bounced away from my body, as I was shielded in a holy, shimmering light. I would not move until all around me believed in the miracle that would save the Empire. I'm sure it was for hours that I stayed afloat in the middle of that sea of steel and confusion. Eventually the storm was weathered and all stood back and stared. Maximilian von Genscher and Heinrich Toddbringer approached us. I was too astonished to speak and just gave him the hammer. He held it high above his head, as still as a statue, and became a being of great holy might. His whole body was full of the light that would finally banish that insidious Chaos. The light of the twin tailed comet was joined by a howling from the forest. Thousands of wolves, glowing spirits of Ulric, surrounded Heinrich and howled in unison! Then there was a united chanting, a glorious herald of the return of our founder: "SIGMAR!" A great war veteran, Countess von Carmille or something like that, cried before his majesty. She declared that this battle was senseless after this sign of unity between Sigmar and Ulric. I nearly collapsed off of my horse. I think I had almost forgotten the feeling of being without the hammer's awesome power!

Von Genscher told us to speak with Ar-Ulric. He was completely stupefied by what had occurred. All around us were people helping each other after that terrible siege. Foes turned to friends once again. We could finally rest easy for a while. Our quest was a success, against all odds and all that Chaos could muster.

There are other matters and obligations to mention, true. However, I just want to enjoy the sight of this harmony.

Been a long time since I've seen it.

  • Johann Dasbuut.

The Enemy Within - Empire in Flames: On the Wings of a Horse (S5E13)

 

Captain's Log:

I managed to fasten one of our spare backplates onto my plate armour as a breastplate. It certainly looks odd but it gets the job done! Walking down a mountain was a nice change to the routine. A very pleasant feeling of serenity washed over me like a cooling splash of water. Ghal Moraz is truly a blessing to carry. The spirits of the crew were generally lifted, although The One keeps insisting that something is wrong with Werner's feet. I can assure you that this is not the case! He's just... he... hurt his feet. That's right, he hurt his feet after all of this mountain walking. The land itself seemed to react to the hammer being rescued from the underworld. We were gifted clear skies for our efforts and even clearer trails. I am happy to say that the nearby forces of Chaos have felt the presence of Skull Splitter and have fled with their tails between their legs! The nights became frosty and quiet. Better than deathly and loud, I can easily say! The elven valley would take about a good fortnight of travel to make it there. We estimated that we had about a week's worth of food. Shite. Well, I wasn't up for eating Enzo or Dumpling so those tough mountain goats were our best bet. I let Werner loose on one and we got about seventeen good portions of goat meat for the journey. Not the best eating but I'm not going to bloody starve because of acting like a snobby noble gourmend... gourmander... gourmand? Thanks. Yes, one of those!

Met two trappers along the way. Two similar looking fellows that were about five feet and a bit... Conrad and Adolph. The left one was Conrad, no, Adolph. Regardless, they asked us a fair few questions about where we were going and if we would go with them. I didn't know what to say to these odd men but The One set them straight. They didn't bother us at all after that. She also linked her god given insight with the hammer. Discovered that it would instantly slay any goblins and similar creatures. I expected nothing less! You kept talking about your human feet very loudly but the very next morning, Werner had regular feet. Seems I'm not a complete fool after all! No, no, his feet couldn't possibly be new human feet. They looked too fresh and like someone else's feet? Nonsense. Finally we reached the elven valley. I had a plan in mind and had to ask the elves about it. Firstly, I asked if they had any of the old mad man spare. They just gave odd looks.

They did have those flying creatures though. Pegasi is what they call them. Pegasi only accepted the pure of heart. I was filled with dread... that they would be overwhelmed by our purity, of course. It was about Festag, the 19th of Vorhexen, when we approached those winged steeds. The elves kept giggling about our saddles. Something about the harness being only used by elf children. By the hammer, I'd rather be safe than stylish! Long gone are the days of fancy pants. The horses weren't too pleased about having to carry us but they were eventually persuaded. We decided to let Enzo retire in the valley. It was a sad farewell but he bloody earned it. The journey to the north was horrible. The amazing spectacle passes after the first day. The next eight are just painful. I tried looking below the horse. Sights of burning villages and grotesque battles were the only things I saw. I looked back up glumly. Even Pegasi grow weary of travel. I learned that the moment they landed in a strange clearing. I got the feeling that they were delighted to finally be rid of such a heavy load. I didn't enjoy their company much either! Aloof elf horse blighters! The war against Chaos can sometimes make painful necessities, I suppose. Ghal Moraz hummed and shook with an ancient power, pointing us forward! That's the sort of definite guidance I can appreciate.

Our boots caked themselves in the mud of a rainy Imperial road. A family were struggling with a cart stuck in the mud. We stepped forward to help but the driver pulled out a rusty blunderbuss. He was in an awful state of panic but Blessed Jim talked him out of it quickly and cleanly. We easily lifted his cart out of the dirt. We also noticed two bodies under the bundles on that cart. Two Talabecland soldiers. Nearly dropped the damn thing in shock. We got Bruno to tell us everything without much effort. He probably told us too much, to be honest. He was nearly conscripted by force, accidentally killed two men with the blast of the weapon and hid the bodies. Told us of the Sigmarites and the Ulricians at war and everyone who was involved. Graf Heinrich Toddbringer was nearly assassinated and wounded, while the Tsar of Kislev has declared war on the Empire as his son was killed! We must hurry! We let Bruno be and continued to carry out the hammer's will.

Got approached by eight horses, seven without riders and one rider slumped and struck with three arrows. We grabbed four of them and began to gallop. Our ride was short lived as we were met with seven Sigmarites with weapons. They were suspicious of us but we told them of our titles and blathered our way past them. Barely got by. I heard some cries from a nearby undergrowth and dismounted. The last thing that hidden beastman saw was the sun blocked out by a gigantic hammer. I felt stronger, more accurate, like I could will the hammer itself to hurl itself at my foes! We reached a camp with several halflings and other fellows playing cards. A man named Dr. Faustmann Faustmann was willing to discuss the recent tidings with us. The Sigmarites in Wolfenburg were up ahead.

I hope we aren't too late.

No, not if the hammer still wills it!

  • Johann Dasbuut.

The Enemy Within - Empire in Flames: The Hammer (S5E12)

 

Captain's Log, by a mind clear as day!

I stepped off that horrific vessel with my crew and was faced with a large cavern. The moaning and cries of pain from the stalactites shocked me to my very soul! Dwarf prisoners of a foul Chaos magic were imprisoned within those hateful hanging spires, stone faces twisted by agony and horror. Werner was the first to suggest walking around these cave horrors as much as possible. I was the first to audibly gulp in fear. Creeping around and avoiding walking under the stalactites proved to be the best course of action until we found that the exit was blocked by the damned things! The One and Werner ran forward and were met with hideous blasts of flame. These things could breathe fire like a dragon! Luckily they both successfully leapt out of the way of that peril. I could not see Dumpling making the same kind of maneuver so I pondered for a moment how to deal with this. As soon as she was ready, I picked the halfling up with one arm and lifted my shield with the other. The singeing was painful but it was better than a cooked cook!

A long stone corridor to the north, with a constant feeling that you were being watched by dwarves. Very peculiar. It must have been the spirits of the slain that still reside within these halls. Suddenly, we were besieged not by ingenious dwarf traps but rather gigantic, hideous worms that burst through the walls! Our marine was thankfully in front and thus ensured that we would quickly have a bountiful supply of fish bait. After that flurry of sword strikes we would be faced with a trial that harries many a strong swordsman: a riddle! There were black iron twin doors with a lock but The One's magic immediately undid it. The two giant dwarf statues would not allow our passage so easily. They asked us who we were and I spoke frankly to them. They would not budge.

"I AM SIGMAR AND I SEEK THE HAMMER!"

No response.

"IN THE NAME OF FARGAZER, I SEEK THE INNER SANCTUM!"

No response.

It went on like this for some time. Possibly hours. We thought about just striking down the statues at one point but, erm... I just really wanted to solve the riddle. It was annoying me to no end and I refused to give up! Many, many names were used. Eventually Werner pointed out that I should be using the other god, not Sigmar. It took me a good minute but then it struck me: "WE ARE THE SERVANTS OF GRUNGNI AND WOLFRAM!" The dwarf statues finally stood aside. They took a second to make me doubt my answer. Bastards. Beyond that door was what was once probably the finest smithy in all of the Empire, now abandoned and left to rot. Dwarf symbols and reliefs on the walls depicted pickaxes, dwarf beards and other celebrated parts of their long-lived culture. There were three doors, one to the north, east and west. To the east was a workroom that was utterly ruined. A pile of wood, stones and dust. The western room was locked but... you know how we solved that problem! A library of scrolls and books, most were too old and decayed to read. Or to look at the nice pictures, for that matter. The One found a note and read it aloud. By the hammer it got my attention! Sigmar himself was down here and brutally fought some kind of fearsome abomination, casting himself into the home of all daemons to do battle with them forever! I think.

We were suddenly aghast by the appearance of the ghost of a dwarf scholar. In my head I could hear him, ranting endlessly about how the place is cursed, he is cursed, I am cursed, she is cursed... it would drive any man mad! We drew our weapons and cut into that groaning spirit several times but he would not die properly. Hammers, tongs, and an anvil were compelled by the ghost's magic to attack us. I was lucky to narrowly avoid a dropped anvil as it seemed an ill fitting, absurd end to this tale! Werner and I barged into the north chamber to chase down that loathsome dwarf and there it was. Stuck in the wall in a giant crater was the very thing that had driven us for miles and miles, through pain and terror, through despair and sorrow... Ghal Moraz, Skull Splitter, the hammer of Sigmar! Werner revealed something to me about his... emotional state from the journey and I wept as he gifted me his knife. Jim ran ahead and grabbed the hammer while I fought that damned ghost for the last time. Tears of... joy were in my eyes as I backed away from its chilling touch. Obtaining the hammer sent a wave of power through the chambers and both the tools and ghost were banished. Hideous laughter and the stench of death surrounded us. We bolted with the hammer as fast as humanly, and halflingly, possible.

One of the stalactites fell upon The One and nearly killed her, piercing through her leg. I suffered a stalactite's acid vomit that would have killed me if I had not ripped off my breastplate. I carried her to the boat and looked back at the caverns. The dwarf chambers were unraveling before me, as if they were but an illusion. Blessed Jim handed me the hammer and I finally felt peace. A clarity of mind and purpose that I had sought for so long. I felt less reliant on the Mad Man's Cap after that. It was the greatest honour I have ever received, even if we all end up dead before we can save the Empire. No, that seems impossible now. A blessed light brought us into Yodri's cave. He was mangled on the ground but still barely alive. He whispered something about being betrayed by the dragon, requested to be brought to his cairn up above, and quietly passed away. The immense sadness of his death lasted until the night, where we became amazed at the last gift he had left for us. The twin tailed comet passed through the sky and the whole mountaintop glowed as brightly as pure moonlight. Stood beside that cairn was a man surrounded by holy light. The avatar of Sigmar himself. I nearly fainted. He told us to seek Wolfenburg and to "Look to the head of the Empire, a burnt land of desolation, the final battlefield where there are beastmen and figures of Chaos, a dragon swoops down and flies over the city of Altdorf, now look to your own actions, the
Skull Splitter freed the way but the Daemon stalks the land, what has been done cannot be undone. Bring it to the Empire to the North."

We shall do just that, mighty foe of Chaos!

Now that I think about it, he looked a lot like... what's his name, the Toddbringer... Heinrich!

  • Johann Dasbuut.

The Enemy Within - Empire in Flames: The Lair of the Dead (S5E11)

 

Dumpling and I took lanterns and descended those cold steps, after the brief respite we were given by the captain's predilection for spontaneous storytelling. These interruptions in our holy mission can be irritating at times but I believe that he needs them to persevere. To reaffirm his sense of reality after all that we have witnessed. Johann's understanding of the world cannot be described as insightful, so to have everything he grasps twisted and torn from him must be harrowing. We traversed three flights of stairs from the lair of the wyrm, occasionally stopping to confirm the stability of those old steps. Definitely dwarf made. Very uncomfortable and hardly befitting a chosen champion of Sigmar. At the bottom was a set of doors made of black iron. They would have been indistinguishable from the surrounding darkness if it were not for one being slightly ajar. Unfortunately Enzo was too large for the gap, thus eliminating any chance of using subterfuge to purloin the key and escape to the lower floors. The warriors put their three heads together and came to the tremendous conclusion that pushing the door was quieter than kicking it open. I would have sighed in disgust if I were not used to this by now.

We followed a long hallway that eventually brought us to a t-junction. Johann decided to take a lantern of his own to assist Werner in their exploration of the nearby living quarters. They contained truly unremarkable furnishings, save for the occasional message or sign left on the walls by a bored dwarf with a knife. The end of the hallway brought us to a set of large, wooden double doors. Very carefully sanded and varnished, no visible grain on them. Good dwarf work that clearly denoted this room to be of huge significance, most likely a throne room. I was proven correct by the giant room inside. Huge columns, high ceilings and pillars with a raised podium at the end of the room. Intricate details on the walls of dwarven deeds and the work they hold very dearly. Three stone thrones stood as monuments to their dwarven craft, the largest for a king and two others for advisors. I could not help but notice that there were two doors behind the thrones. Dwarf design would not leave a place like this without a way to foil greedy intruders, so a subtle and careful approach would be necessary. Johann strolled right up to the throne to get a closer look. I didn't even have the chance to warn him. Three huge creatures of stone, human shaped but as wide and tall as three men, emerged on the throne room. Thankfully, this time, the exact same plan was all on our minds.

We fled and slammed that door shut. Those creatures of the earth did not pursue. I believe that those elemental guardians were bound to the throne and thus not able to follow us any further. Johann smiled and claimed that we could deal with such a threat later, if it proved necessary. At times like this he would continually remind us all of Werner's strength: "I've got the light, he's got the might". He believed that with our combined skill and bravery that we could overcome nearly any threat. It was that combination of genuine faith and stupidity that proved to be one of the most potent weapons against the plots of Chaos. The throne room was hastily circumnavigated. We were taking a right turn when something made the warriors suddenly stop in their tracks. Johann got the worst fright, clutching that ankh around his neck and muttering to himself. It was a hideous, shambling unliving creature that soon ran away.

We followed it. Slowly, expecting to find their decayed lair. Two of these things were espied just standing in a corridor. Soon a voice from the darkness spoke. It was definitely a dwarf but had a cold, detached quality to it that was chilling. It was Fargazer, the dwarf loremaster that Yodri had previously mentioned. He was not pleased by our appearance and told us to leave. Fargazer stepped into the light and we could see his rotted form, which I shall leave to the imagination of whoever reads this. Everyone but Werner was horrified by this and we quietly agreed to never approach Fargazer's haunt again. Eventually, we found the temple past two double doors to the south. Inside were two smashed statues, one of a craftsman and the other of an axe wielding warrior. All around us were pictures of the dwarf god Grungni guiding the dwarves to build their underground empire. A wailing spirit flew from beneath the smith's statue. Thankfully it was not even a sliver as horrifying as that loremaster. The dwarf ghost called himself Cana Frosthand and implored us to inter his bones and restore the temple. He said quite a lot but most of it was rambling and near incoherent. Frosthand definitely needed the eternal rest. He warned us of a being of the earth that would attempt to stop this. Indeed there was another one of those elemental things! Only one, of course, so the fighters fell upon it with blades and a flail. Their prowess proved true but would not prevail without holy bolts thrown from my hands! During the battle the elemental split into two creatures to evade Werner's flail, surprising him greatly. Eventually, Johann beheaded one and cut the other in twain.

We soon adjusted the pews, tried to fix the statues, and generally cleaned the place as best we could. It satisfied Frosthand, who bade us to give a prayer to Grungni. Everyone who participated in that prayer felt the furious strength of ancient dwarf warriors empower their very being, a power begging to be released in combat. Except for Werner, he just spoke to his "invisible friend" again. I have become very suspicious of his actions and mood as of late but I shall not say anything yet. The dwarf spirit told us to turn right, turn left and say "Open in the name of Grungni!" at the large doors on the right. I feel that I could have deduced that password in very little time. It's easier this way, I suppose. Frosthand gave a quiet thanks as he faded into the afterlife. We did indeed heed his words and perform the opening ritual. Pretty impressive magic. Beyond it were dwarven statues, all their faces had been hacked off in a bout of fury. It was strangely organic on the way down to the level below, with natural stonework and a cavern. Soon we were confronted with a giant gate covered with four intricate locks. Johann prayed for the locks to break but it did not avail him. I grew tired of his pondering and simply opened the four locks with petty magic incantations. The captain was astounded by the ease with which we bypassed the gate but I reminded him of the powerful magic barrier we had just faced.

We soon saw a river of icy cold water that lead to the north. On it was a boat made of dark marble stone and veins that was somehow still afloat! Our captain's confidence swelled up at the chance to sail this magical vessel. He stepped on board, as did nearly all of us except for Enzo. Johann looked incredibly crestfallen after he realized he would have to leave the mule behind. He paused. There were no oars or anything else that would allow him to set sail. He stamped his foot on the boat, slapped it once or twice, and tried to give it an encouraging speech. It only truly moved after he invoked the name of Grungni and declared his quest to it. He stared into the water as it moved and saw his own face. Our captain is now crying and curled up on the floor of the boat, driven to deep sorrow by the unnatural magic of the boat. I have tried to help him but he refuses to stand up. He has developed an addiction to that drug that certain sailors use to calm themselves. Mad Man's Cap, I believe. Horrendous. His unfortunate condition is why I have been writing this entry in his stead.

We have reached the end of another cavern. He seems to be recovering from his sorrow and standing up.

I hope that the hammer brings him the peace he needs.

  • Wanda "The One" Weltzschmerz.

The Enemy Within - Empire in Flames: The Goblin Nest (S5E10)

The daylight outside trespassed through the portcullis behind us and lay there upon that murky den. We gave one last look to the outside world before readying our armaments and marching forth into the darkness. It's always a scary thing, losing that light, but it has to be done. Sentry rooms were all around us, as far as I could tell, surrounding a central room to the north of where we entered. The most distinctive part of this goblin pit were the snores. The sentries weren't exactly attentive to invaders! Probably didn't get many. Shrieks of a large bird could be heard to the west, which forced us to take a moment and reckon what the hell it could be. I remember mumbling something about a mutant canary with two screaming heads. Seemed about right for Chaos, that seemingly eternal foe! Worryingly these goblins paid no heed to this ungodly sound. They must have terrifying war beasts, I thought! Darkness of the underground does things to your mind, unlike the quiet beauty of a fishing trip. Hours of doing nothing and catching fish with only two eyes. Ah, those days are like a lost dream now...

Two goblins, bony and weak fellows with meagre swords and tattered armour. Charge, and may the bastards rue the day they took this dwarf home! I swept the leg of one with Fiendcutter, no, cut off the whole bloody foot! It flew like a finely kicked snotball and the goblin's bloodcurdling scream of pain was like the followers of a losing team. Werner kicked open the door to the western chamber and found a goblin with the warty head of an eagle! It gave a last, feeble squawk as the door slammed shut. Mutant blood oozed out under the door soon after. The One slew a sleeping sentry and Blessed Jim struck off the nose of the other scrawny guard! To the north east, goblins began barking orders at each other and sounded like they were going berserk. It sounded like a small warband was hastily grabbing their war gear! I cleaned Fiendcutter's blade and stood ready to face the horde. Gritting my teeth, I looked over at Jim who was walking towards that door and wielding a... bed? Oh, yeah, good idea. We blocked that room to the west with whatever we could find and the goblins were furious. Took a passage east, then northward. On the way we saw giant pigs, no doubt bred and trained for war, with saddles. They snorted. We let them be.

Monkey lizard noises were the last thing we expected as went around a corner to a western passage. Mr. Crumbles popped out of my coat pocket and tried to join the shrill conversation. Nearly left me deaf, it was far worse than any daemonic roar or howl! I had to get him to shut up or else the whole quest would be in peril! My attempts at diplomacy went as follows:

"OOOOOOKKKKK AH AH AHHHHH!" He began

"MR. CRUMBLES PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF SIGMAR YOU CAN'T..." I implored him.

"Ow ow ow ow ow ow OWAUHHH AHHHHHHH!" He retorted.

"SHUT UP OR I'LL PAINT YOU GREEN AND THROW YOU TO A DWARF SLAYER!"

Not a single peep after that. What, The One? Oh, yes, I shouldn't make monkey noises that loudly. You're right, I'm sorry.

To the northernmost point of the goblin lair was a large iron gate. Werner got very angry at Enzio for being so cowardly. I told our marine to give him a break, as he was only a mule. Mainly because I was also very scared at the time. The goblins had left us a warning on the gate, actually many, but one stood out from the rest: "DETH". We had no choice but to continue past this omen. It was locked. Damn. I announced my intention to pick the lock and with a slick gesture unsheathed my knife. I pointed it towards the lock and, ah, I managed to scratch the insides of the lock a lot... despite my efforts the thing wouldn't open! The chambers to the east were our best bet to find the keys. We burst through the west door of the nearest chamber and were face to face with the chief of the goblins! He was almost as fierce as a hobgoblin, sitting on his fur rugs with his concubine and bodyguard. They sprung to action but we were faster! I struck a mighty blow on the bodyguard and Jim deftly disarmed him. Our marine loomed over the chieftain and broke his spine with one fell strike! His lover was struck down before she could even attempt to slay one of our warriors.

We took the goblin bodyguard prisoner and asked him questions about the floor below us. He said only "Ratscrote" the wise goblin would know anything about that. We forced him at sword point to convince Ratscrote to leave his foul abode. After a few mutterings in goblin, our prisoner returned to us and told us that Ratscrote would not leave. Werner was not very pleased. He ran into the room with Death Dealer drawn and suddenly we heard... nothing? I stepped inside and found him lying against the wall. Wait a minute, I thought, Werner doesn't take naps on the job... he's been cursed by sorcery! I picked up his wizard-killing blade and sent the bloody wizard's head flying. Purple gashes streaked across his skull before a blast of that same colour erupted from them. His head burst at these magical seams and splattered all over his chamber. I searched his robe and there were no keys! Shite! I picked up Werner and told my crew that we needed to quickly leave. Hastily we reached the iron gate and pondered what to do. The One had another spell that would just do the trick... a sudden rush of force loudly smashed the bolts on the gate!

The goblins were all alert by now but they would probably not have the bravery to dare tread into the depths below. Probably. A hallway of great dwarven statues and architecture was before us, its former majesty diminished by the fallen rocks that smothered the place. We crept through the hallway into a large chamber that contained a sleeping dragon! Well, I've already mentioned it but even a sleeping wyrm can be truly terrifying! Yodri appeared and warned us not to wake him up, as he had only been asleep for about eighteen years...

So now I am truly ready to enter the second floor. It feels cold and untouched for centuries, a ghastly ruin containing twisted shreds of a former wonder. The Empire will be the same if we do not retrieve the hammer swiftly!

FOR THE EMPIRE!

Johann Dasbuut.

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