Monday, April 29, 2019

The Snow Never Bothered Me Anyway - the 7th Annual Historicon Musical

Nick and I will be putting on the 7th Annual Musical Theatre Wargame at Historicon this July. This year will be a mashup of Frozen and Anastasia, called “Let It Go, Rasputin!” Here’s some pictures of the table.

 The mat is from Cigar Box Battle Mats, called the "Tundra" mat.  The trees are from various post-Christmas sales at craft stores.
 The view from the Elsa's Ice Castle toward Arendelle.  The Russia-to-Paris railroad runs through the middle of the table.  (Anastasia is particularly vague about its travel geography so having the route run through Arendelle seems to fit.)

Elsa's Ice Castle.  Two plastic playsets purchased on Ebay and stacked on top of each other with styrofoam inserts and a glittery paint job added.

 A frozen fjord, some plastic lighting panels, styled "cracked ice" from Home Depot, styrofoam banks.

The view from the ramparts of Arendelle.  I didn't want to permanently winterize these buildings co I made up new cardboard roofs and added white felt to them. 

Now some of our cast:

 Anna, Kristoff, Oaken, and Sven the reindeer.

Evil Hans and the Duke of Weselton.

The rather pointless Trolls.

Olaf and Marshmallow


Rasputin and his talking bat companion Bartok

 Rasputin's fire demons attacking Anastasia's train.  Anastasia and the ineffectual hero Dmitri on the roof.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Creatures of Croatoan: A School of Night Adventure for Historicon 2019

This is the table set up for a fantasy/horror game I'll be running at Historicon in July. The game is called The Creatures of Croatoan and is about the search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke in 1590. 

This is a part of a series of games I've planned using the Frostgrave system in a fantasy Elizabethan world. Last year, I had run A Dead Man in Deptford about the aftermath of the killing of playwright Christopher Marlowe. I call the setting The School of Night.

The mat is from Cigar Box Mats. It's not apparent from the pictures but the ground areas are raised using Styrofoam insulation panels I carved to match the pattern on the mat.

Roanoke was the first attempt to establish an English colony in North America.  After a couple of failed attempts, a colony of over 100 men, women, and children was established on the island in 1587.  The first English child born in the New World, Virginia Dare, was the granddaughter of the colony's governor, John White.  White returned to England to arrange a re-supply effort.  Due mainly to the Spanish Armada, the relief fleet did not sail for three years.  When it arrived in 1590, the colony had disappeared.  The only clue was the word "Croatoan," was carved on a tree.  Croatoan was a nearby island and the home of a tribe of friendly Native Americans.  Historically, storms prevented White and the relief fleet from searching Croatoan.  This game postulates that they, and other rival groups, did have time to visit Croatoan but were driven off by the dark forces that had destroyed the colony.

As with the prior School of Night game, each player will control a small group of investigators trying to find clues. Each party will have its own ultimate goal.

 The English relief force will include a certain Puritan hero

 Could that be Virginia Dare?

 Wahunsonacock, war chief of the Powhatans has come to investigate.

As have the Spanish.

These English explorers may need a cunning plan to escape this mess.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Frostgrave RPG Campaign: The Bursar's Tale - Chapter VII - Conclusion

The Bursar's Tale
Chapter VII - Conclusion
In Which Our Friends Talk Their Way Out of a Host of Troubles and End Up Changing the Course of History

(GM's Note:  This game session which concludes The Bursar's Tale shows how players can completely alter the expected course of a story by taking unpredictable actions.  My group tends to prefer very direct action (and lots of violence) to solve problems.  In this case, they opted for an uncharacteristically subtle approach, completely upsetting the plans I had for the adventure's conclusion but resulting in what I found was a far more interesting ending that is a springboard to further campaigns.)

Upon exiting the Museum, the group finds themselves surrounded by the better part of the Elven army, led by King Beowen the Bard himself.  At his side is Malcor.  It is obvious that Malcor was Beowen's ally and had assisted Beowen in overcoming the Invisible School's defenses. 

The group obeys the command to drop their weapons.  They seek a parley with the King and are quite open about coming from the future and as proof present the two Arch-chancellors (past and present). Malcor argues that the King should not trust Reichfield and his strange companions but is disconcerted by the obvious proof of their time-traveling.  The King agrees to hear the party out and they are taken to the Administratium for a more secure audience.

(GM's Note: Mechanically, the debates with Malcor and the King were handled by contested Will rolls at which the PCs had remarkable success, including rolling several natural 20s.)

Ril recalls that there is an old Elven prophecy that "The Great King will face his doom when first he meets the Slayer of Wraiths."  He tells Atlantia to feign being a simple apprentice which she does.  Secretly, Ril realizes that he is at a turning point of Elven history and becomes determined to save his people. 

Malcor attempts to convince the King that the party is hostile to him.  However, they say they know the future and that the King will be victorious and want to support him. 

In reality, they know that King Beowen will soon be defeated by an alliance of the Goblin Kingdom and the Empire of Muetar at the Battle of Muscater.  Although his army is defeated, Beowen will survive and in bitterness turn to scorched earth tactics that will cause enormous amounts of destruction and suffering to Minaria.  This will go on for several years in which Beowen will unleash a genocidal fury against all non-Elves within the reach of his forces.  It will end only when the allied kingdoms conquer the forests of Neuth and destroy the ancient Elven city of Ider Bolis, killing Beowen and his sons at last. 

Hoping to avoid this, the party tries to lure Beowen into a rapid march to Muscater where he will face a greater defeat that may then avoid the terrible consequences of war that the party knows.
Intimidating the Arch-chancellor (present) into confirming their story, Beowen is convinced and orders his army to make an immediate march against what he thinks will be the divided forces of his enemies. Over Malcor's vehement but ineffectual objections, the King appoints the party as the acting Grand Council to the School in his absence.
Left alone with the party, Malcor faces the group.  An'varr quietly says that there is one thing he wants Malcor to know - that Beowen will be doomed now that he has met the Wraith Slayer.  Reichfield then shoots Malcor dead.

This is not enough for An'varr who uses his Speak with the Dead spell to summon the spirit of the just-killed Malcor.  An'varr launches into a tirade that he knows Malcor's spirit will try to come back and seek revenge.  An'varr tells that the party will come back and destroy him and obliterate his spirit.  He dismiss the bitter spectre of Malcor's soul.

Ril says that he will use the King's apparent trust to continue their deception, he will go with the Elven army.  Given the long lives of Elves, he will meet the party again in seventy years.  An'varr, being a member of Muetaran nobility, gives Ril advice on how best to ensure the destruction of Beowen's army, giving him a detail description of Muetaran tactics, especially as used in the Battle of Muscater. Ril departs to join King Beowen.

The group is suddenly aware of a new presence in their midst. It is the head scribe that they had briefly met when first they arrived at the Invisible School.  He looked exactly the same now as he had then, seventy years in the future, completely non-descript and ordinary.  

The scribe says, "You have accomplished all as I intended.  Defeated Malcor's rebellion, caused the Elven army to evacuate the Invisible School, and retrieve the artifacts that will help destroy Malcor's spirit when it returns some seventy years from now."

"Who are you?" asked An'varr.

"I am the Bursar" was the reply.  More than that, he explains, he is the last of the mages of the Lloroi, the highly advanced civilization that existed over 1300 1500 years ago.  They had faced the fearsome Crimson Witch King and to defeat him, used too-powerful magics that resulted in the Cataclysm, of which the freezing of Frostgrave had been only a small part. The Pentangle was the last remnant of that field of dangerous magic. Malcor had wanted to take control of the School in order to fully open the secrets of the Pentangle, a prospect that could destroy the world.  The party had helped the Bursar stop that and given an excuse to suppress the study of that magic.

In answer to their questions, the Bursar explains that the Lloroi are unable to travel in time but can sometimes "remember" parts of the future as well as the far past.  However, the lesser races such as humans can use time magic and so they will be sent back to their own time to complete the defeat of Malcor's spirit. Reichfield decides that the future seems more interesting and will accompany the party.

They board the great Airboat of Armera which then flies into a magical storm cloud.  In its midst is a tear in the planar fabric and they find themselves at the dawning of a day that they conclude is 70 years in the future.

Flying over the School, they begin to notice that, while the major features are the same and the aftermath of the "kegophant" riot is evident, there are subtle changes to the campus.

Suspicious, they land the Airboat nearby and walk onto the campus.  They notice that much of the iconography on the buildings are different and that the Sigil of Beowen is included in a place of honor on some of the buildings.

They rush to the library to seek a history book that will tell them if there has been any significant change as the result of their actions. Upon reading a book about Beowen's War, they discover to their shock that the Battle of Muscater was not a great defeat they had known.  Instead, Beowen had surprised the waiting Goblin and Muetaran armies with an almost preternatural knowledge of their tactics.  Although outnumbered more than 2 to 1, the Elven army fought the allies to a standstill.  At the height of the battle, Beowen was slain in the fighting.  In the aftermath, Beowen's son, Prince Castian was able to negotiate an end to the war.  All of the suffering of the next five years of war was avoided and the hatred between the races that resulted from that bloodshed never arose.  Beowen was not remembered as the vicious madman but as a tragic hero who died in a misguided quest for glory.  The shining spires of Ider Bolis still stood.

Ril, being loyal to his people, had told King Beowen the truth of the coming disaster and how it might be avoided.

As final proof of Ril's action, the party came across a painting of the Death of King Beowen.  Ril is shown at his side.
"Well, that didn't quite turn out as I planned," the Bursar was suddenly before them. "I've been watching things go awry for the past 70 years.  But perhaps the result wasn't entirely bad.   Certainly a great deal less muss."

"If you are not a time travel, how do you know we changed history?"

"As I said all those years ago, I could remember the future. Now I simply have two memories.  Of course, now and then I wasn't entirely sure which happened and which didn't.  Hardly matters now, things are completely mucked up but there you have it."

"What of Malcor's spirit.  We can fight him now that we have the three artifacts. " An'varr said.  "But wait, why did you need us to go back to the past to get them?  Why couldn't you just get them your self?"

"They had vanished during Beowen's occupation. At least I think they had.  At least at one point. O, this is getting a bit confusing.  In any event, you have them now when we need them most.  Malcor's spirit took some sort of fright from your presence and appears to have fled to his master.  That is who we really need the artifacts for."

"Who is his master?"

"Malcor is one of many dead mages coming back into this world.  The Lich Lord that you dispatched in Frostgrave is another.  I've traced the power that is raising them to the Shards of Lor, that is the area where, after its defeat, the Crimson Witch King was imprisoned.  It appears that an aspect of that being has manifested itself.  One small part but still horribly powerful."

"What aspect is that?"

"The Hand of Midnight.  Even now, the Deep Shadow is spreading across the wasterlands of the North.  It must be stopped.  Good thing you have the weapons we need."

It was then that the party realized that Ril had one of the artifacts. They told the Bursar.

"That's not good.  You'll just have to find him. Come see me when you do.  And be quick about it!"  With that the Last of the Lloroi was gone.

Bozidar and the rest of the party suddenly burst into the library.  "Where have you been?  We've been waiting outside the Bender for hours."

An'varr responded, "We traveled in time...It's a long story.  Unfortunately, Ril didn't come back with us and we must find him!"

"Who's Ril?" Bozydar asked.

An'varr felt a nuzzling at his hand.  At least the undead Greg the Bear was glad to be reunited with his master.  Before Braanx could react, An'varr pulled the resurrection spell from his robes, the one he had tried to have Atlantia use to create a grimoire of the spell, and used it to return Greg to life.

The End

Friday, April 5, 2019

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

The Bursar's Tale
Chapter VI
In Which Our Friends Enjoy a Night in the Museum

The party had discovered that by exiting the Bender through the wardrobe, they had traveled back in time some 70 years, to the day when the Elven High King Beowen occupied the Invisible School.  They remembered their history that the occupation lasted only a few days before the Elves withdrew and were soon defeated by an alliance between the Goblin Kingdom and the Empire of Meutar.  
They saw that the Grand Council, or at least far younger versions of the Grand Council was drawn up on the steps of the Acropolis as part of some sort of surrender ceremony for the approaching Elven legions.

They realized that the trail of the Arch-Chancellor was no longer apparent.  Professor Reichfield, who had jumped from this time a few days prior to the occupation, could shed no light on what was about to happen.  He joined the Grand Council, hoping to remain inconspicuous.  The rest of the party decided to escape to the tunnels that ran under the entire School. Reichfield, who somehow retained an expert knowledge of these tunnels, gave them a hasty but detailed description.

None too soon!  The Elves formed a phalanx of heavily armed musketeers at the base of the Acropolis and sent a huge Forest Minotaur menacingly towards them.  The captain of the guards approached the Minotaur and presented his sword in a token of surrender.  He was beheaded for his troubles.  The Grand Council and their guards fled in panic.  As the Minotaur approached Reichfield, the distortionist cast a Leap spell upon the creature, hurling it back down the ramp tot he Acropolis and bowling over a group of Dark Elf mages.  Reichfield managed to avoid being shot by resulting fusillade from the Elven troops.

 Seeing the younger version of the Arch-Chancellor fleeing into the School Museum, Reichfield reasoned that the older version would not be too far away, the Arch-Chancellor being a creature of habit. Reichfield entered the Museum.

 Meanwhile, the rest of the party, that now inexplicably included Atlantia the Wraith-Slayer and Ril the Elven Assassin, took to the tunnels, hoping to loot the various schools of the Pentangle of their grimoires.

The first place they went was to the Echodrome, home to the school of Sonomancy.  As they searched through the offices of the recently dead Florissa Undine, a spectral image of the sonomancer appeared in a mirror.

 After convincing her that their ultimate goal was to stop Malcor, she revealed that she had suffered her fate due to an attack by demons he had launched.  Having destroyed her ability to make music, she had committee suicide in despair.  But even now, Malcor, as a spiritualist was attempting to entrap her spirit to serve his desire for power.  She said that he drew his power from several artifacts hidden in the Museum and he could only be stopped by using those artifacts.

Further discussion was cut short when a troop of Elven soldiers began battering at the doors to the Echodrome.  This was discouraged by Redmane who placed an effective explosive rune spell on the door as the party slipped back into the tunnels.

Their next destination was the surprisingly mundane appearing school of Spiritualism.  Ril was the first to exit the tunnel where he was confronted by a patrolling Elven soldier.  Ril responded to the call to identify himself by striking the soldier down with double dagger throws.  

Ril hastily donned the soldier's uniform and observed what was occurring in the courtyard of the Spiritualist school.

A handful of mages and apprentices were being trussed up and gagged by the Elven troops.  Ril overheard the soldiers mention that these were some of those that Malcor identified as opponents.

The rest of the party scrambled up to the roof to have a look.

Unfortunately, Braanx' antlers and unihorn, were a bit too large to remain unnoticed.  Before the Elves could shoot at the party. Redmane cast a grenade spell near the Elven officer.

It succeeded far more than Redmane anticipated.  The courtyard was consumed by molten stone thrown up by the spell.  All in the courtyard were killed except two mages who were severely wounded. Scattered magma set the rest of the building on fire.

The party rescued the wounded mages while Elven reinforcements were delayed by an imp summoned by An'varr.  The party fled to the relative safety of the tunnels.  However, they were seen and pursuit soon dogged their heals.  They decided to head to the Museum.

As they did so, Redmane said to An'var, "I think I know who suppressed the Pentangle.'
 Reichfield had entered the Museum in search of the Arch-chancellor, either in his past or present forms.  The main display hall was quiet.
Reichfield entered the storage rooms, crammed with relics of the Lloroi, the advanced civilization that ruled Minaria prior to the Cataclysm.

He soon found the Arch-chancellor (present) hiding behind some crates.  He began hearing strange noises coming from the display hall.

Heading into an adjoining office, they found the Arch-chancellor (past).  At gunpoint, Reichfield ordered them not to touch each other or even look at each other.  "I'm a distortionist, not a chronomancer so I have no idea what will happen with you two together but it can't be good."

 Pounding at the doors interrupted this thought.

 Several of the Lloroi mummies had become animated and were stalking the intruders.

Hoping to open an escape from the building, Reichfield cast a Collapse spell on the office wall.  Although the collapsing wall crushed two of the mummies, there were far more between Reichfield and the exit.

Fortunately, by this time, the rest of the party made their appearance through the tunnel entrance in the display hall.  They set about fighting off the mummies.  Braanx was particularly enraged as he tore into the clothe-wrapped undead.

Atlantia fired an Elemental Ball at a large mummies, destroying it but the force also struck the Arch-chancellor (present) directly in the chest, killing him.  The Arch-chancellor (past) seeing his future self's death cried out in panic and anguish.

An'var called out to the panic-stricken Arch-chancellor (past), "If you live past today, dedicate all your time to finding a resurrection spell, then write it into a scroll that you keep with you at all times!"  The Arch-chancellor (past) weakly nodded his head in agreement.

An'varr then rifled through the pockets of the Arch-chancellor (present) and pulled out a scroll.  The resurrection spell on it worked to perfection. 

The mummies were soon dispatched.  Redmane used a Reveal Secret spell to determine the locations of the three artifacts that would help stop Malcor.  He rushed to one of the cabinets that the spell showed as a location.  As he touched it, two small rifts opened and two large demons appeared.

 The combined spells and arrows of the party dispatched the two handily.  Urkmaas found the second artifact.  Redmane sent his apprentice Thisby to find the third which appeared to be in the storage room. She found it but noticed a large blue box in the corner.

"No I better not mess with this."

Withe the three artifacts secured, they heard the sound of the Elven pursuers coming through the tunnels.  The party rushed out the main entrance.  They found themselves surrounded by the entire Elven army, High King Beowenn himself at its head.