Friday, March 22, 2019

Frostgrave RPG Campaign: The Bursar's Tale, Chapter V

The Bursar's Tale
Chapter V
In Which Our Friends Are Much Disconcerted by 
Their Visit to The Bender
The panicked Arch-chancellor had fled into the former spaces of the Department of Distortionism. Professor Reichfield, having been one of the faculty of this Department before his unplanned trip through time, warned the party of the building's strange attributes.

The former head of the Department had been Kalish Kareen, a highly unorthodox and unstable mage.  Using the distortionist's ability to manipulate reality, she created an every changing maze to test her pupils. The walls of this structure seemed continually in motion.  A simple touch would cause several walls to change places, causing anyone inside to quickly become lost and disoriented.

Only a portion of the party would enter, the remainder staying behind as a reserve and to guard the captive Illusionist Neulien. Those entering the Bender were the two wizards, An'var and Redmane with the apprentices, Urkmaas and Thisby.  For physical support, Braanx the Rangifer went as well.  They were led by Professor Reichfield, whose previous experience with the Bender made him the logical choice.  The hall was dimly lit and showed a great deal of neglect from its nearly 70-year abandonment, it having been closed at the time of the suppression of the Pentangle.  Urkmaas, a former Ranger, was able to find traces of the Arch-chancellor's path despite the disorientation caused by the moving walls.  As they walked the dark corridors, Reichfield continued his never-ending exposition on how much better he was than his peers in all of the schools of magic.  He seemed to have a particular grudge against a Chronomancer named Kar'in, often commenting to himself, "Take that Kar'in! Seventy years time travel without really trying!" 

As Braanx scouted one hall, he suddenly heard loud hoofbeats.  Suddenly, a large unicorn appeared and charged directly at him.  The fantastical creature gored him severely but Braanx brought his two-handed flint sword down upon the creatures head, causing it to disappear in shower of spouting rainbow-hued blood.  The horn of the beast still remained in Braanx' side.  Redmane rushed to the wounded Rangifer and cast a healing spell upon him.  Although Redmane's casting met with great success, the strange nature of the place caused the horn, once removed from the wound to imbed itself permanently on the middle of the Rangifer's forehead.

By now the party had completely lost their bearings as to their location within the building.  Only Urkmaas' tracking ability provided them with a constant course. The party then came to a large room whose contents were only a large birdcage and table upon which a desiccated corpse lay.  Urkmaas, hoping to test his newly-learned Bone Dart spell, fired it at the corpse.  This resulted in the undead creature being destroyed before it could raise itself off the table.  

An'var walked over to the birdcage and peered into its dark interior.  A large tentacle sprang out of the bars and An'var quickly pulled away. "Hello Terry," called Reichfield, "She's one of Kalish's demons, she worked here when I did."  A large dark figure sprang forth from the small cage.  It swarmed with flocks of crows.

The demon lifted a clawed hand and a large flock of crows sprang from its body.  The dark birds flew to the doorway and struck at Braanx who had just walked up.  Braabx dispatched the birds with resignation. "I really miss the tundra," the Rangifer said, "things were so much simpler there."

Urkmaas improbably succeeded with a Control Demon spell and "Terry" began to obey the apprentice's commands with an odd look of affection in its dark eyes.

Meanwhile, Reichfield had wandered off and came to a large burning candlestick in the middle of a hallway.  Next to it was a standing pool of water.  Reichfield recognized it as a beacon to mark an open planar tear. He thrust his face into the pool to see what dimension the pool linked to.  He was shocked by the sight of a demon staring back at him. Reichfield pulled back immediately, but not before the demon's clawed hand scraped several wounds into the distortionist's face.

  Reichfield quickly cast a spell to close the tear between the plans.  As the hall grew quiet, he saw kneeling before him a small imp. "Take that An'ver!  Call yourself a Summoner?  I got an imp familiar now entirely by accident!"

The reunited party proceeded further into the Bender.  They came upon a large hour-glass in the middle of a narrow passageway.  The sand in the glass was streaming upward.  The party members attempted to move past the glass without touching it.  Unfortunately, Thisby brushed against it accidentally.  A loud whooshing sound came from the glass and smoke began to rise from it.

A great jinn appeared.  An'var quickly cast a Control Demon spell and the blue being fell into step beside An'var

Comparing the relative size of their two captive demons, An'var said to Reichfield, "Yeah, you are some Summoner!"

Reichfield turned the corner into a large room and came face to face with the spectre of Kalish Kareen herself.  Without hesitation, he fired his magical blunderbuss at the spirit.  With the scream, the spectre was destroyed.

The party quickly gathered up some books and other treasures from the dead mage's desk.  They then noticed that the Arch-chancellor's tracks led to a large wardrobe in an adjacent alcove.

When the doors to the wardrobe were opened, they could feel a warm breeze emanating from the behind the heavily stacked clothing. 

"Hmm, a portal to another plane at the back of a wardrobe.  Seems a bit cliche to me," observed An'var.  All save Braanx climbed into the wardrobe and disappeared.  The Rangifer stood by furniture, woozily contemplating how his life had gone so horribly wrong, when one of his antlers accidentally slipped pass the door of the wardrobe and the might beast found himself begin sucked toward the back of the wardrobe.

He soon found himself with the rest of the party standing in the sun outside of the Bender.  They noticed that the trees were no longer autumnal but in full summer bloom.  A number of the buildings on the campus were different.

Just below them, they saw the members of the Grand Council but all were much younger in appearance.

"Take that, Kar'in!" cried Reichfield, "Whose the Chronomancer?  I did two 70-year time jumps in as many days!"

The distortionist looked around and said, "I'd say it's the year 1307 after the Cataclysm, and the 5th day of Highsun to be precise."
"How can you be so sure?" asked An'var.
"Because that is the day the High King Beowenn led his Elven army into the Invisible School.  Look!"

The party looked on in awe as the great legions of the Elves marched through the streets of the Invisible School.

Near what they knew as the Bursar's Office, a group had gathered to welcome the invaders.  It was led by the still-living Malcor.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Cold Wars 2019

I attended Cold Wars this past weekend, another good time.  On Friday night, I ran The Dying of the Light, a Late Roman game using the Lion Rampant rules, that I had run previously at Fall In.  I think it went well again.  The Roman riparensis troops were not able to replicate the incredible stand that they had at Fall In - although they put up a tough fight, they were ultimately wiped out.

The various Goths and Gepids were able to wreak some havoc.  Interestingly, there was far more inter-barbarian conflict and diplomacy this time around.  As with the game at Fall In, there were a number of "NPC encounters," all played by Zeb Cook, including an officious bishop, an irate cow, and a traveling philosophy symposium, that contributed to the players travails.  The Slavs, after attacking a church and facing the determined opposition of irate monks decided to convert to Christianity and worked out a land-for-peace deal with the Roman Imperial Pretender.  The Huns were also bought off by the Loyalist Roman commander who remained behind walls of the city. 

The intra-Roman conflict was settled at the end of the game, when the Pretender used the remnants of the monks to trick their way into the city, bringing a plague cart along.  This gave the Pretender's troops access  and after a few turns of shoving, the issue was decided by a personal duel between the Pretender, played by Howard Whitehouse, and the Loyalist. It came down to a single hit margin but the Loyalist was killed.  Hail Domusalba Caesar!   It turned out to be a close score among most of the factions but the Hun King, played by Dale Zartman triumphed through a combination of ruthless pillage and even more ruthless tribute extraction.  We won an award in our time slot.

Saturday morning, I assisted Howard in a presentation to the new Game Design School.  The title of the presentation was "Mass Mayhem in Miniature: Running a gloriously entertaining convention game for vast numbers of complete strangers" in which we waxed poetical on the topic of how to run very large but very silly games at conventions.  The small but enthusiastic audience got to participate in brief sample game based on the conclusion of "Die Hard" called "It isn't Christmas until Hans Gruber Falls from Nakatomi Tower.  We didn't have the chance to take pictures at the presentation but here's some prep shots I took of the "table" for our sample game:

I also got the chance to play in the WWI aerial game that has been just about every HMGS convention that I can remember.  A simple yet very evocative rule system that captures the spirit of dogfights in the Great War.  

Saturday night, I played in a game Howard put on, using his newly-published, old-school-inspired rules, A Gentleman's War.  It utilized armies of ancient plastic flats that every boy who grew up in the '60s remembers from colorful ads in the back of comic books, such as these:
I remember as a 10-year old, being terribly disappointed when my set of 200 Romans arrived but played with them nonetheless.  With a good paint job, they are actually highly attractive figures:

It was a fun game with a determinedly "toy soldier" feel to it.

Aside from the games, there seemed to be a renewed energy in the whole convention.  The HMGS staff did an incredible job and have added to the experience.  This included a generous swag bag for Game Masters, pictured below, as well the free-beer-and-snacks reception at the Dealers' Hall Saturday afternoon.

The hotel formerly known as the Host, now the Wyndham Lancaster, has shown enormous improvements since Fall In.  The guest rooms as well as the gaming rooms appear to be completed and are light years ahead of where they were at Fall In.  The exteriors are still very much in construction mode.  As someone suggested, perhaps they are to give us the really immersive experience of walking through a battlefield.  Here's the scenic view of the pool area I had from my balcony.  However, the hotel really is coming along.

Finally, there were a number of great games being put on.  Here's some that caught my eye:

Some beautiful Sky Galleons of Mars ships in 28mm.

A very nice WWI trench board

An incredible Isandlwana game.

A VSF race in the NW Frontier

WWII Crete

Miles Ready's beautiful American Civil War board for his game on the sinking of the gunboat Tennessee.  This looked very fun and I'm sorry I missed it.