Dark Days of Qaarra, Session 5: Catastrophe at the Scrying Stones
This week we met for the fifth session of our Song of Blades & Heroes fantasy campaign, which is shaping up into quite a slugfest. Click here for an overview of the campaign and to see a map of the continent of Qaarra. In both games, we used a special campaign rule to represent the cloud of ash and dust that is slowly creeping across the continent, blanketing Qaarra in a grim smog. The rule makes ranged attacks more difficult and allows melee attackers to gain an ambush bonus in certain situations.
In the first game, I set up a narrative scenario to help push my dwarven warband toward the conclusion of its storyline. Faced with the doom that is sweeping across Qaarra, my dwarves are seeking Hearthspire, a fabled locale imbued with powerful magic that the dwarves seek to harness. In this game, their journeyman wizard set up a ritual high atop the Scrying Stones, a territory on our map, to divine the route to Hearthspire.
Here he is, preparing to conduct the ritual. The chest is filled with traditional the dwarven sacrifice -- not humans or animals, but gold, silver and precious gems!
Of course, Tim's kobolds were determined to stop me, and they swarmed across the table to engage the defenders scattered around the base of one tall stone pillar.
The battle was joined at the base of the pillar upon which stood my stout dwarven wizard, his brow furrowed in concentration as magical energy coursed and rippled around his perch.
Tragedy struck early on, as a botched dice roll from me meant Tim scored a "gruesome kill" on one of my dwarven fighters. Though none of my stunty fellows fled, several non-dwarf figures retreated, including a human knight and Rolf, the wise bear who had fought alongside the dwarves for the entire campaign.
Tim continued his onslaught and brought down several more dwarven defenders.
High atop the standing stone, my dwarven wizard struggled to control the powers he had tapped into. A lone kobold warrior scaled the stone bluff and prepared to confront him -- just as the wizard finally lost control of the mystical energy swirling around him! A huge, gnarled hand burst from the raw stone, crushing the wizard and casting his broken body down to the ground.
Quaking in fear, the lone kobold crept forward and seized the chest of gems -- but then the dark magic atop the stone pillar intensified, becoming a roiling maelstrom. The kobold's body was wracked by magic, its flesh peeling away as ... something ... emerged from within. It was a fearsome demon from another plane, and it stood alone atop the high bluff as the maelstrom raged around it!
In game terms, we were playing a scenario that featured a chaos portal that would open as my wizard conducted his ritual, with various unpredictable results. The huge hand and the demonic incursion were both results of a random table, and they injected a lot of unpredictable fun into the game! (Though my dead wizard might argue the point.)
Down on the ground, Tim's kobold necromancer proved his worth by reanimating a dead dwarf into a zombie -- albeit a slightly taller zombie, since I don't have any dwarven zombie models.
At this point, I knew defeat was at hand. I was technically unable to win the scenario, and I didn't want to risk any additional casualties in my warband. I quit the field and Tim claimed victory! Story-wise, my dwarves were unable to complete their ritual, thus imperiling their quest to find the fabled Hearthspire.
Across the room, Karl and Josh were having another go at Karl's caravan raid scenario. He created this repeatable scenario to offer a quick and easy game that we could put together on the fly. One warband gets a chance to raid the caravan crossing the Agamin Desert, possibly making off with some sweet loot, while the other player takes the role of the caravan defenders and tries to escort his team across the board to Dustcrag Oasis, the castle that guards the entrance to the desert.
Josh played the caravan defenders, and Karl fielded his chaos warband as the (very flavorful) raiders. As Karl's warband is fairly advanced at this point, he had been able to buy mounts for many of his warriors, which dramatically increased the speed and combat prowess of his warband.
Consequently, he ripped through Josh's caravan like wet tissue paper, making off with the loot and scoring a resounding victory. Here he is destroying the caravan guards while the mounted escorts flee into the wastes...
It was a one-sided victory for Karl that showed how potent a warband can become after many sessions of earning experience points and warband advances.
Afterward, Karl and Josh played another game, just a skirmish this time, representing Karl's chaos warband trying to escape through the dangerous Hollowbone Mountains (another territory on our campaign map) with his newly liberated caravan loot. Because the doom-cloud rule made Josh's shooting fairly ineffective, he wisely decided to play it safe and wait for Karl to come to him.
Karl obliged him in true chaos fashion, though his warriors were cut to pieces in the ensuing melee.
-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member