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 the 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.