Saturday, 18 January 2020

The Harrowmark: The Twisted Oak, Part 2

NPCs and campaign mechanics

Not even the Graveroot Sylvaneth could remember when the woods of the Harrowmark were young. For time immemorial, not a single sapling could be seen by those brave or foolish enough to venture deep in the woods.
But then, the Necroquake came and in its wake the raging wild magic of the Arcanum Optimar. Weather- and battle-worn Spellhunters came, hunting for rogue Endless Spells. Few returned from the deepest woods. But those that did claimed that somewhere deep in the woodland of dead trees and tangled undergrowth, a Tree is born and growing, feeding on a knot of sorcerous energy seeping up from the soil below.
Some say it leaks from the hundreds of graves that permeate the Shyishian soil, thousands of souls flowing into the Tree’s heartwood. Others claim it comes from a hidden Stormvault, long forgotten beneath the dead forests. Yet others claim the Tree is twisted and corrupted by Chaos magic. Some even theorise that the energy of the Necroquake itself is trapped forever in the dead wood. The servants of Nurgle whisper the Tree is one of Horticulus Slimux’s dreaded Black Oaks. Then there are those telling that the Tree grows over the burial site of a great Spellhunter, while for others a powerful sorceress was cursed and turned into the Tree, her soul-stuff raging to be free.
As the rumours spread, the mad and the brave once again tread the Harrowmark's gloomy paths.

Down from the Everdark Peaks came Badruk 'eadsplitta with his Ard Boyz. Whether they are actually seeking the Twisted Oak, nobody knows. What is certain is that the Ironjawz have already sacked many of the impoverished farms scattered through the woods.

Hagel Rotshroud, keeper of the Skydock of Wortbad, has left his tower. Surrounded by his zombies, he seeks the Twisted Oak to finally free himself from servitude to Krathar Duskchain the Vampire.

For the first few weeks of the campaing, Saul and I will be tho only players, as the rest of the group is busy. To add a bit of variety to our games, we've decided to use my Badruk's Boyz and Saul's Hagel's Zombies as non-playing characters. They will not progress on their own campaign tracker, but will allow the main characters, the Rotmoons and Kalyustar's Cursed Company, to face different opponents. For the main characters, the campaign will be played following Warcry rules, with a couple of subtle changes.

First of all, we wanted the Quests and Convergences to fit the Harrowmark and the Twisted Oak story. Therefore, we are writing our own Convergences based on the Rotmoons' search for magical wood to repair their ship and Kalyustar's deranged plan to take over the Harrowmark. Saul is writing the Convergences I will play as the Aspirant, and viceversa. We are also letting the other know the Convergences one at a time, so that there is a feeling of discovery and not knowing where the story is going. When the others will join us, we'll do the same for them as well.

Second, Rob suggested a 'Fail Forward' mechanic, so that, even if a Convergence is not won, the story can progress. I really love the idea as I found repeating the Convergences until you win them too much video-gamey. It feels like you have saved your game before a particularly hard point and keep replaying the same stretch. It is also narratively limiting. With this condition, the only possible outcome of a campaign is that the warband completes the quest. There is no option for warbands to be unsuccesfull and therefore disgraced.

If we fail our first or second convergence, we will progress on the campaign tracker. Rather than receiving an artefact or trait, however, we'll have to remove one controlled territory from our roster, or 5 glory points if we do not have any controlled territory. For the Final Convergence, we have not yet settled on a 'failure outcome'.

This can wait until we play the next campign, but we were thinking of a curse being placed on the warband. This could take the form of not generating wild dices in the first turn of the following battles or the value of multiples rolled in following battles being reduced by 1. In either case, the curse will be on the warband until they succesfully complete another Convergence or Challenge Battle.

Our first game is scheduled for next week, so you won't have to wait long to see some action.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

The Harrowmark: The Twisted Oak, Part 1

Kalyustar's Cursed Company

Kalyustar closed the skin bound tome and turned to his liutenants, a faint green glow leaking from his mask eye slits. Rhedgar and Krunti stood to attention next to him.

At the far end of the graveyard, the soil stirred and two warriors pushed themselves up. Behind them, a gor emerged from the dark woods.
"Well done, Soulchemist!" the Shadeglass Skull wispered. "You reach far and wide".

Kalyustar felt pride swell inside him as he watched Keinrich and Tollich inspecting the troops lining up in front of them.

"What an excellent Company!" purred the Skull. "Look at their pristine uniforms, how their feathers dance in the wind!".

"Indeed, my old friend, indeed! Faithful and loyal, too" replied Kalyustar, bitternes in his voice.
Even after so many years, his men's betrayal pained him. He had kept them safe through their voyages in the Harrowmark and still they listened to the wretched Witch Hunter and abandoned him in the woods.
What was wrong, when the Winds of Shyish blew strong, in using them? He knew it then, and he was even more certain about it now. The Necroquake had marked the beginning of his new life and through the Arcanum Optimar he had seen Spellhunters rushing through the Harrowmark in search of easy gains.
Not for him their greedy adventuring. He bided his time instead, channeling the raging magical energies to raise a Company that would serve him and never question him, no matter what.
"But do you know how they call them?" the Skull's voice intruded into his thoughts. "The men of the Harrowmark call them the Cursed Company, and you the Exile."
Bitternes turned into rage.
"Yes! They show me no respect. But those pig-headed peasants' mockery is about to end. You've heard of the Twsited Oak, haven't you?"
"Oh, I did. And what do you plan to do, Soulchemist?"
"I'll find it. I'll unlock its secrets and powers. And with them, I'll make the Harrowmark mine. And then, I'll laid my vengeance upon the Gilded Hand and their pityful armies of untrustworthy mercenaries!"
"Good, Soulchemist! Good! The Master is pleased..."

Kalyustar, the Exile

As we prepare to play another campaign in the Harrowmark, I've decided to continue exploring Kalyustar's fall and made a new version of him as a Necromancer.

His trademark mask (a stripped down Liberator head) is still there as is the Skull he clutches in his left hand (from the Necromancer model). I've reintroduced the bottle (from the Battlemage kit) he carried in his first, mounted incarnation, but this time kept the smoky skull emerging from it. What I have changed is the top of his staff (from the Necromancer kit) to further show his allegiance to Death. The red of his cloack is now further faded and I've also added some weathering on it.

He will lead a Warcry Legions of Nagash warband, which allowed me to model another tribute to yet another Regiment of Renown: Richter Kreugar the Damned and his Cursed Company, on which I have based the yellow and black colour scheme.

Thronir, Krunti and Rhedgar, Skeleton Champions

I have replicated the Dwarf and Elf skeletons using a 4th edition High Elf Spearman and a Battle for Skull Pass Dwarf Clansman. The human skeleton is a metal Armoured Skeleton with a shield from the Freeguild range.

The Swordmen, Skeleton Warriors

The Halberdiers, Skeleton Warriors

The Skeleton Warriors are made using the Khemri Skeletons kit with bits from the Freeguild range and greenstuff for the scraps of uniform. I made the raising skeletons as I chopped the legs from two models to convert a pair of Grave Guards.

Keinrich and Tollich, Grave Guards

In their case, the majority of bits is from the Freeguild range, with heads and legs from the Khemri Skeletons.

The Gor

Since the original Cursed Company included many non-human skeletons, I've made a Gor one. Except for the Chaos Marauder shield, it is entirely made with bits from the Khemri skeletons. And I've plans to add a skaven and an orruk!

Deployment markers

Finally, using the tombstones from the Khemri Skeletons and accessory from the Freeguild range, I've also made tokens to mark the deployment points of my Dagger, Shield and Hammer.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Free Companies of the Gilded Hand - 11

The Road to Armies on Parade, Part 2

Horribly late, but not because I failed to finish my board for Armies on Parade. Rather, the hype for Shadows of Commorragh made me forget to post about the trip of the Free Companies of the Guilded Hand to the Manchester Warhammer store.

As planned, I updated the colour scheme on Gudrun's Grudgebreakers (tribute to Long Drong's Slayers) and Steve 'Seagul' Boffin's Kitchen Crew to match the rest of the Free Companies.

I've also rebased a few objective markers I had done for Mordheim as they'd been perfect to represent the chest and scattered loot from the cover of the Dogs of War Army Book. Obviously, since then they've seen some action in Warcry games.

What was left to do, was to set them on the board. I decided to use my Ruins of Phos, the first set of scenery I did at the dawn of the Age of Sigmar.

I'm really proud that the board captured the spirit of the Dogs of War Army Book cover by only using models developed with gaming, rather than a painting competition, in mind. Alas that was a reference only hoary hobbist could get. So, while with a couple of guys we spent the morning reminishing about the Dogs of War army, the popular vote went to more current, and definitely better painted, Age of Sigmar boards. But who cares, I had fun!

And in case anyone was wondering, Kalyustar was on the board as well, just lurking in the back. That wizard always had a certain attraction for forboding locations.

In fact, you'll soon see him walking again through the twisted woods of the Harrowmark. Stay tuned!

Shadows of Commorragh, Part 8

The Fall of the Phoenix

The Whisper still echoed with the pain of Excrucia's resurrection when Yrule's call reached Lann.
"I've failed, Lann!" the Thanarch's voice was heavy with pain and frustration. "Daisan's skin is not in my hands. We only have one chance..."
"Hurrikhaine. I see, Thanarch" Lann replied. "Rumours are that the Hex are doublecrossing Lady Anielyn. They are smuggling it through Venomport, hidden inside one of their slaves."
"Take all the brothers and sisters you can. That slave must be ours!"
"Will you be joining us?"
"I'm wounded and far away. It all rests on you, Lann of the Unyielding Fire. Go and may Ynnead's blessing be with you".

Lann's party emerged from the webway portal on the edge of Venomport. Torc Cegodari and Jair fanned around the portico of the landing pad, Bhanlhar floating behind them.

The Bleaksouls prowled the darkeness on the far side of Venomport, their numbers bolstered by heavily armed Kabalites.

Inghfar the Wanderer emerged from his concealed position and trained his long rifle on the Bleaksouls.

Torc and Jair took cover inside the portico, their weapons ready. Uless advanced to block the approach to Inghfar's firing nest.

Lann and his disciples made it for the landing pad, where the Bleaksouls' kabalites were priming their weapons.

Bahreneq and Izurad stepped into a webway portal and found themselves far away, lost at the Sorrowshards still thrumming with the soul energies of the recent conflict.

Lakbyrn slinked to the left flank of the Void Phoenixes, while Yariaq and Jaenis boldly advanced to the ruins where Inghfar and Uless were waiting.

Morghdrax emerged from the portal on the landing pad and Jair welcomed him with a salvo of heavy shurikens. The Hekatrix revelled in the pain, but in his ecstasis he let Lann charge him.

Lakbyrn sprang out of cover, but Torc was ready for him. Her shurikens halted his charge and the vile Parched dived behind a broken pillar.

Inghfar and the kabalites traded fire, but the sheer volume of shots aimed at the ranger proved too much.

Glaive and Hekatarii blade clashed on the landing pad and Lann finally claimed his revenge on Morghdrax.

Uless let out a piercing scream and charged Yariaq and Jaenis. Though stunned by Uless' wail, the Wytches hold their ground and managed to fell her.

Mocking screams filled the air as the Shards of the Broken Heart advanced on the flank of the embattled gangs. Dark light beams, shurikens and poisoned splinters crisscrossed the cold streets.

Ravneth was suddenly confronted by one of the Hex's Medusae, but he relished the pain brought by the creature's psychic blast.

The Shards moved through the webway portals. Derashi materialised on the landing pad and leapt into the combat between Lann and the kabalites.

Kaerathir, instead, found herself far from the action at the feet of a statue of Khaine.

Barahir and Dis'ar stepped into the ruins to protect the fallen forms of Uless and Inghfar from the attentions of Yariaq and Jaenis.

With her outstanding grace, Torc moved back to rejoin Jair, all the while firing and finally halting Lakbyrn's advance.

The Shards' dark lancer found his mark on Jair, leaving Bhanlhar to hover uselessly next to her.

As Ravneth approached, Lann dealt swiftly with Derashi. The kabalites basked in her pain and withstood the Exarch thrusts.

Yariaq smashed through Barahir's defense and leapt for the portico where Torc was firing from.

Ozunhar, the Hex's slave, emerged from the portal on the landing pad. His senses heightened by the Hurrikhaine brewing inside him, he sprinted away, but one of the Bleaksouls' kabalites jumped after him.

The portal on the landing pad flashed again and Kerathir lashed at Lann. The Exarch's shimmershield deflected the agoniser, but then Ravneth slid his blade on Lann's back.

The kebalite halted Ozunhar's flight and braced himself to protect the Hurrikhaine.

Torc was close, but as she trained her avenger catapult on the kabalite, a second Medusa emerged from the darkness in front of her. Engulfed in a psychic blast, the veteran Avenger was soon surrounded by the Shards' Sslyth and Yariaq.

Kerathir jumped back through the portal, taking away the bounty of soul energy she had collected on the landing pad.

Though wounded, Torc managed to fall back. Ever disciplined, the veteran laid a supressing fire as she retreated, halting Ravneth and the kabalite on the edges of the landing pad.

No longer able to sense the slave they had been sent to protect, the Medusae wandered aimlessly, their one eyes flashing and scarring the ruins around them.

Hidden on the comms tower, the Shards kept firing with glee. Blindly pouring fire onto the port, they hit Yaenis, giving Dis'ar a chance to withdrew.

Spiritripper's Market was busy as usual, lowly Drukhari and Parched going about their dark businesses as if the feud over Hurrikhaine had never happened. Yrule turned away from the oval window. Lann and Excrucia stood behind him. All three wore the scars of the recent conflict.
"What news?" He asked to neither in particular.
"Lady Anielyn is hitting back at Verkhosian. The Drachon is on the back foot, too busy to come after us. It is the right time lo leave this accursed place." Lann's reply was plain and matter-of-fact.
"And how do you plan to do that?" Excrucia's voice was cold, her hanger barely contained. "The Bleaksouls are rising up to High Commorragh. The Shards are muscling into their former turf. They're cutting us out of any webway access! And they're paying for this with the souls they've stolen from me!"
"There was nothing in your hands, Excrucia." Yrule cut her short. "All the power you had came from Ynnead. And to Ynnead it must return."
"Thanarch, you mean..." Lann didn't dare to finish the sentence.
"Yes, Lann of the Unyielding Fire. We'll stay here, we'll lay like the ashes of the Phoenix. When the time is right, we'll rise again and we'll bring those scheming wretches into Ynnead's embrace."
'And vengeance will be mine', thought Excrucia, careful to keep her mind locked away from the Whisper.