Saturday, 28 January 2012

A Dwarfen Eye View from the Siege of Ailech

Written by Dave 'Kronin' McClumpha and used without any permission at all :-)

Gurhin, King of the Grey Peak dwarf realm, waved his visitor to a chair. “Greetings Kronin, you have news for me, Eh” Although Kronin and his band were frequent visitors it was rare for Kronin to seek out the King. Usually he collected his Troll bounty from the steward, did some minor business and went on his way.

“Aye Gurhin, news and none of it good”. Few called the King by his given name without any honourific. For Kronin this was a meeting of equals, he was chieftain of his band and Gurhin was chieftain of Grey Peak. The matter of size was not relevant. “We were hunting down South, they were having problems with hill trolls. We went to Ailech to collect the bounties and the city came under attack from an Undead army. This was 23 nights ago that we left, I expect the place has fallen by now.”

“My steward tells me you were in a raid there, what happened?”

“Boys work! The prince there asked us to join some men & elves in a night raid on the siege engines. We did the job with hardly a scratch on us. Once Throrin got into their earthworks it was all over”

“What about your allies?” asked the King.

“Ach, the manlings were brave enough, some even got into the trench with us after our healer patched them up. The rest tried to stand against cavalry, they died well.”

“And the elves?” prompted the King.

“Huh, elves are fine enough with a bow and some can use a sword neatly but they dance about in the open and go nowhere. Their lord was far too noble to duck when a catapult shot came his way, last we saw of him he was flying into the river.”

Other listeners may have felt that Kronin was bragging but Gurhin knew better. The Wild Kin were aggressive & proud but their word was Iron-true. If they told the steward they had killed 17 trolls then they were paid for 17 trolls. It had been generations since any dwarf had asked for proof.

“So you saved the city?”

“We did what we were bid to do, but the city was doomed anyway. As we returned to the ropes we used to come out some foul magic blasted their greatest tower apart. The few elves left returned to their kin inside. The manlings came with us for a while then turned away for their homes.”

“What do you plan to do Gurhin?” asked the Wild Kin chief. “If you stay here to wait they will come to you one night.”

“My mind is clear, we must send aid to the South while we prepare here. What about your folk, will you go South again with us,or join us here?”

“No offence Gurhin,but manning a rampart or standing in a line waiting for an attack isn't our style. Besides, the seasons roll on and it's time to hunt Ice Trolls. Just because the Undead are rising doesn't mean the trolls can wait.”

“True, well do you have all you need and has the steward paid the bounties?”

“All done and sworn, I just need to root out our healer, no doubt he's trading herbs and potions with the Lady Gudrun, she seems to like him.” Kronin stood up, “Farewell till our paths cross again Gurhin.”

With that Kronin left the chamber leaving the King to plan for war while he tried to rid his mind of the idea of Gudrun liking anyone.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Prelude: Into the siege lines

Ailech had been under siege for only four days but already the situation was becoming dire. The unnatural forces of the Undead had appeared as if from nowhere in enormous numbers and had been pounding the walls of the city with infernal catapults incessantly since the siege opened. Refugees were being taken out of the city by elven ships and those merchantmen able to sail but a strange,  pall had fallen over the river which had destroyed the boom within hour, burnt through the River gate and spreading along the shores and into the harbours damaging ships, docks and wharves and soon he remaining ships would have to leave or be left sitting in the silt of Ailech's harbours.
In an effort to buy time before the walls were breached Lord Erkenfried and the Silver Elf Admiral Tirieth Starbow hatched a desperate scheme. Small bands of warriors drawn from all the defenders would go out into siege lines under cover of nightfall and destroy the screaming skull catapults.
On the west wall, between the towers of the Watergeat and the Westgeat, three brave souls volunteered with their personal retinues; the self-styled Dwarf mercenary Kronin the Barbarian; Silver Elf woodsmaster Siriel Greencloak and the militant bishop Aisans Guire of the Border Kingdoms. Lowered from the walls the heroes headed towards the river  hoping to outflank the Undead artillery in the darkness. They had been warned of undead "patrols" but had no way to know how many or where these patrols would be.
Misfortune befell the heroic warriors quickly though. As they moved cautiously over some difficult ground by the river bank they met a large patrol of undead infantry and archers. The elves at the forefront of the group were taken by surprise and with uncharacteristic emotion let loose a swift hail of arrows and made an impetuous charge into the middle of the patrol. Some of the elves fell to a return volley from the skeletons but when melee was met the sorcerous power of undeath was little match for elven steel. The clash and clamour though drew more skeletons to the fray but as they moved towards the elves in an effort to overwhelm them with numbers they were distracted by movement on the hill above. Suddenly the clash had turned into a melee. Noticing the bishop's retinue a number of the skeleton infantry turned up the hill toward the shield line, but Kronin's dwarf band in their turn were not about to let tall-folk have all the fun and led by his cousins, the berserks Throrin and Thali, the dwarfs tore into the approaching undead tide. The fighting was swift and deadly with all the skeletons falling to axe, spear and sword with little injury in return. The bishop's wizard to cast a shielding spell but failed causing himself to be dazzled with his own enchantment.
After some healing and regathering of their forces the heroes resumed their flanking manoeuvre, this time being more lucky than before as a number of suspected patrols and ambushes turned out to be false alarms. on the final approaches to the catapult emplacements, the dwarfs, the lightly armed but effective borderers and a few of the elves were surprised as a large force of undead cavalry  came crashing across the empty fields of the abandoned village to the east of the undead lines. On the hill, scene of carnage only minutes ago, the retinue of the bishop himself and the remaining elven archers formed a line and prepared to sell their lives dearly to provide the main strike force by the catapults time to finish their task. In the confusion, as the catapults fired blind into the oncoming warbands, a stray screaming skull fell amongst the gatehering forces and felled three of the borderers while Greencloak was seemingly killed outright. Afterwards in the retreat back to the city though, no trace of his fallen form could be found...
Throrin the berserk leapt into the trenches of the undead lines, as the undead horsemen crashed up the hill towards the stalwart defenders and the fighting now became truly desperate. On the hill, the melee circled and wheeled back and forth. Sometimes the defenders were on top, other times their straits seemed dire indeed. Several of the retinue fell and the elven healer Moontouch was killed but ultimately the line held and several of the defenders aided by the remaining elven archers and infantry dispatched the last of the vile horsemen. Throrin meanwhile had been fighting a similarly back and forth fight against the wight leading the undead forces until eventually, as his dwarven comrades and the remaining borderers broke into the trenches, he struck the wight down with a truly mighty axe blow. The trench fighting was quickly over after the wight fell as dwarfs and humans frenziedly hacked, slashed and smashed skeletal bodies and infernal constructs to pieces.
The triumphant, though battered forces made their way back to the rendezvous but before the signal could be given and ropes dropped from the walls an almighty inward rush of air blasted over the walls into the city and an enormous crash heralded an explosion in Valjevo Castle, the inner keep and the head-quarters of the city defence. Rubble and ash fell to the ground all across the city and it was obvious from the growing, fey, green glow in the eastern quarter of the city that something truly evil had occurred.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

WHAA Skills

In line with the Skills house rule, this post will contain the list of skills and will be updated when new skills occur to me or are suggested.

Warrior - character is Elite Trained
Caster - character can use magic
Healer - character can use the healing rules
Thief - character can carry out thieving type skills (e.g. picking locks, checking for traps, hiding in shadows)

Alchemist - character can create potions as per the rules
Marksman - character can take two shots per activation as though he had fast moved (-2d6).
Blademaster - only elite trained characters can choose this skill. The character never suffers the outnumbered penalty.
Assassin - as long as the character approches from behind the target he may backstab the target with +1d6 and the opponent's armour cannot count as protected.
Sniper - Missile fire from beyond twice the target's movement rate will always count as Armour Pierced if it hits.
Cleric - Clerics are warrior priests of the Red Sun (and occasionally, but more rarely of the Black Moon). They have limited casting powers and can Turn Undead. Clerics can cast the following spells as though they were a caster of the same Rep: Air of Strength; Stench of Weakness; Resist Magic; Entrap Demon; Banish Demon.
Turn Undead - only cleric characters can Turn Undead.

Roll cleric's Rep d6 v. Rep d6 of Undead
-1d6 from the cleric if moved in same turn.

Number of SuccessesResult
Cleric scores more successesUndead in target group all take a hit on the Firing Damage Table as though Armour Pierced
Cleric scores same successesTurning attempt fails
Cleric scores fewer successesTurning attempt fails and all Undead in target group take a Control Test

Paladin - a Paladin is immune to the effects of terror and dread both for reaction tests and for melee.
Athlete - an Athlete rolls an additional 1d6 for Fast Move tests.
Agile - no shooting penalties for fast moving
Tactician - character can choose when to activate rather than activating in strict REP order.
Persuasive - Add a 1d6 bonus to the Talk the Talk test
Disciplined - Add a 1d6 bonus to the Crisis test
Scout - Add a 1d6 bonus to the Terrain Scouting table???
Inspire - once per game Pass 2d6 all characters in the group are fanatic for the rest of the game; pass 1d6 all characters in the group are fanatic for the turn; pass 0d6 No effect
Battle Cry - pass 2d6 all characters in the group are frenzy for the turn; pass 1d6 all characters in the group are frenzy for the player's activation; pass 0d6 all characters in the group must take a crisis test.

Thief type skills to follow

Underlined skills have been playtested or have limited implications on game-play and so are very unlikely to be changed. The effect of other skills hasn't been determined and so may be subject to change or removal.

House Rules

This post is growing out of the ongoing commentaries and reflections, alongside the way some things work in other THW rules or just other rulesets/milieus. I'll update this post with new rules and point to it from other posts if necessary.

Casting - first of all because of the unmitigated power of the Big Battle magic for a cabal with 20-odd REP it's going to have to be NPC spellcasters use spells normally. Big Battle magic only happens in Big Battles.

Stars don't count as part of a Group. This grows out of the nature of the game we play and a little bit of vagueness in the way the relationship between Stars and Grunts is explained. So, a star lives or dies by his own dice rolls just as the Grunts do. It makes the outcomes of reaction tests easier to interpret and it overcomes the issues where the Star chooses his reaction successes. To help mitigate the disaster for my PC's groups(!!!) I'm going to allow Stars to activate on any valid REP they want (i.e. instead of activating at 5 REP, they could go in any order on their side, thus allowing them to wait and see which groups or fellow stars need their help before having to weigh in).
On reflection this won't work, so I'll just have to find other ways to split stars from their followers. Admittedly with my lot of players that won't be easy 'cos basically the stars are frightened of being separated from their groups. I think only the Black Moon Elves have ever tried to be more tactically flexible.

Skills - I'm going to start a separate post with a list but the way we discussed it skills can be gained by giving up progression rolls. The tariff we thought might work would be to give up as many rolls as you have skills. Stars all have a skill already (Elite Trained, Healer, Caster, Thief) so to gain the first additional skill would cost two rolls, to gain a third skill would cost three rolls and so on.

Melee - not so much a house rule as a clarification. Melee should be broken down into as many individual one-to-one fights as possible, but where outnumbering exists everybody rolls the dice they are entitled to and compares the results with each opponents rolls in turn. So an elf outnumbered by two goblins would roll his dice (with the outnumbered modifier) and each of the goblins would roll their dice. The ONE set of dice rolled by the elf would be compared in turn to each of the goblins' rolls and results applied. This is how Bob says it works on the Yahoo Group and is the implication in Swordplay.
This differs considerably from Big Battle where both sides roll all their dice entitlement and the results are applied to the body.
Armour - AC 3 and 4 is practically worthless, so in order to make it worthwhile I am intending to impose additional penalties on characters wearing AC 5 and above. Foot movement for these characters will be reduced to 4" and Mounted movement reduced to 9" (effectively an additional quarter move penalty).