Frostgrave Campaign ’17, Game 2: Battle on the River

Chris Palmer       This past Saturday we got together to play the second game of our new 2017 Frostgrave Campaign.  This year our goal is to play a game each month and work our way through the “Thaw of the Lich Lord” (TotLL) supplement book.   Last month we played the book’s first scenario, (To read the account of last month’s game see: The Eclipse), and this month we moved on to the second scenario, “Battle on the River.”
     We had 7 of our 8 regular players available for Saturday’s game, so we used the full 12’ x 3’ table set-up.  As already mentioned, we ran the second scenario from the TotLL book, “Battle on the River,” which features, as the title implies, a river running the length of the entire table, with only 6 inches of riverbank on each side.  On the river is a treasure ship from which, on turn 3, a Mage servant of the Lich Lord, will emerge carrying a special treasure.  The goal is to kill the Mage and recover the treasure they are carrying.  Also, the river is considered to be ice, so if any figure attempts to make a second move it must pass a die roll first or fall and take damage.
   Since there were 7 of us, we increased the number of treasure ships to 3, and the number of Mages to 4.  We also determined that after the game we would randomly determine one of the Mages to be carrying a “fake” treasure that was worth nothing.  The treasure ship in the center would be the one from which the two Mages came from, while the ships on each end would just generate a single Mage.

A look at the table before the game began.  Quail’s start zone was about two feet down from the upper right corner of the table.

     We placed the regular treasure, as well as determined set-up positions and turn order, normally using our numbered-poker-chips-in-a-paper-bag method.  My Sigilist, Quailelyn, and her Apprentice, Bailisette, with their party, started on one corner of one table. To their left was the warband of  a Soothsayer named Gru, while across from them was both a Summoner to the left front, and  a Soothsayer called the Doctor, to the right front.

    Earlier that day Quail and her Apprentice had stood on the parapet atop their new tower home, the cold morning wind stinging their faces.  The Maga Librarian, Quailelyn, however, seemed unaffected by the cold as she intently studied a large Atlas laid open on the low wall before her; while her Apprentice, Bailey, hopped from foot to foot with her hands tucked under her shoulders, in an attempt to stay warm.
     Without turning her head, Quail said, “Not much longer, child.”  She pulled a disk-shaped crystal from a pocket in her robes, and held it over the map before her peering through it. She looked up at the distant city just visible in the light of the rising sun, then back at the book.  With her other hand she traced some letters on the page before her and spoke an incantation softly to herself. As she spoke and her fingers spelled the proper words, she continued to scan the page through the crystal.  Slowly, as she peered through the polished disk of clear rock, the squiggly lines on the map began to organize themselves into distinct features, landmarks, and words.“
     "It’s a river!” she called out.  "It’s near a river. “  She looked up quickly at the city in the distance and back at the map.  I think I know where we need to go.  (Successfully cast Reveal Secret pregame.)

Starting deployment.  Quail (Wizard), Sir Cardidil (Knight), Luc Demic (Crossbow), and Dorchesman (Treas. Hunt.) on the left.  Bailey (Apprentice),  Sallisee (Archer),  Kinny (Thief), and Innis Flin (Thief) on the right.  Barc (Man-at-Arms) and Clol (Thug) in the center rear.

  Later that morning, as the the Sigilist, her Apprentice, and the rest of their party approached the city,  Quail related the story that she had read a few days before in "Lough’s History of Felstad”; of the famed wizard Zenopil and the monument that had been erected in his memory. Legend held that many of his belongings were sealed up in the base of his monument; and thanks to the magical Atlas of Felstad, the Maga Librarian had been able to find just where that monument was located.
     Sure enough, as they approached the riverbank, there stood the monument to Zenophil, showing the wizard seated in a large chair.  But what stuck the party even more than the crumbling old monument was the spectacle of the frozen river beyond it, crammed as it was with ships and boats of every size and description; all in various stages of decay.  Masts and rigging toppled here and there; and half-sunk boats sticking out of the ice at all angles.  None had seen such a sight, both mesmerizing and horrifying.  Quail pondered the magnitude of the destruction that had caused such chaos.
     The Sigilist regained herself quickly though, and seeing a rotting old crate half buried in the ice a few yards away, her mind turned to the ships’ cargo.  What wondrous things might be hidden in those old hulks? She didn’t have long to consider that thought, for as she gazed across the frozen expanse of the once great Meregile River, her eye was caught by movement on the far bank.  Sure enough, she saw soldiers from two other wizards’ warbands moving on the far side, while to their left Quail thought she he heard the strange jabbering of the odd yellow creatures that the Soothsayer Gru counted as his followers.

While Quail tries to Telekinetically move the treasure, and Bailey and Luc Demic provide covering support,  Dorchesman and Clol move out to retrieve the treasure.  the Summoner’s men can be seen advancing from the far side of the river, and Sir Cardidil can be seen climbing the fallen mast on the upper right. 

           The treasure of Zenophil could wait Quailelyn decided, as she quickly divided her warband into three groups.  With herself she took Sir Cardidil the Knight, Luc Demic the Crossbowman, and Dorchesman the Treasure Hunter. She assigned Sallisee the Archer, and the two thieves Kinny and Innis Flin to go with her Apprentice, Bailistte.  She told Barc the Man-at-Arms, and Clol the Thug to stand by and fill in where needed.  The Sigilist then stepped over a low wall lining the riverbank and stepped tentatively out onto the ice.  She spotted a promising looking chest lying on the ice a couple dozen yards away and spoke the words of a Telekinesis spell.  Immediately the chest began to slowly drag along the ice towards her.  Dorchesman crossed over the low wall along the bank and headed towards the chest, but he didn’t go far before he slipped and fell on the river ice, injuring himself.
   Bailisette with her group were on the other side of a small stone hut from the rest of their party, and seeing several of the Doctor’s archers moving out across the ice, she chanted the words of a Fog spell, and a billowy mist rose from the river 30 or so yards away to her forward right.  Kinny, and Innis Flin crossed over the low riverbank wall, and they too didn’t get far before slipping on the ice and falling. (Every fall on the ice does 1 HP of damage.)  Sallisee spotted a strange lizard creature the size of a War Hound crossing the ice from the direction of the Doctor’s party.  It moved just clear of  Bailey’s Fog bank that the archer was able to get off a true shot that hit the beast.  The small dinosaur faltered but didn’t stop.  Quickly Sally notched another arrow.
     Then, suddenly above them in the skies they saw two Draining Word spells appear, one after the other: first Telekinesis, then Bone Dart.   Quail knew immediately that the other Sigilist, Bemis, must be somewhere along the river.

The Lich Lord’s Mage emerges from belowdecks and bolts (seen standing on the ship’s rail) as Sir Cardidil prepares to give chase. Barc has already moved up on to the deck, and Kinny is preparing to climb up the side.  

     Despite the Draining Word spell against Telekinesis burning in the sky, Quail tried to continue her Telekinesis spell on the chest in the river; but her counter measures failed miserably and she felt a searing pain corkscrew in her head (Rolled 2 and took 2 HP damage).  Seeing the Sigilist reel in pain, her Apprentice came running over to her to see if she was okay.  As Quail blinked through watery eyes, and not yet collected enough to speak, the Sigilist pointed out onto the river; and looking up, Bailey her Apprentice could see the Summoner’s Zombie shambling toward the now unmoving chest.   Quickly, Bailisette raised her right hand, palm facing outwards towards the river and spoke the spell of Push.  The Zombie slid backwards several yards, and looked around baffled, as Luc Demic got a bead on him with his crossbow, and shot a bolt through his left eye.  The Zombie didn’t fall however, and continued to shamble forward again towards the chest.  As they watched the walking corpse, the sky clouded over with unnatural speed, and a light flurry of snow began to fall. (Summoner cast Call Storm) Through the swirling flakes, they saw the undead terror only went a few steps further before he lost his footing and slipped on the ice.  Falling like a sack of potatoes,  the Zombie landed at such an angle the it pushed the arrow sticking out of his eye socket up into his brain, killing him instantly.(He only had 1 HP left, and the fall damage killed him.)  Down on the other side of the hut, Sallisee the Archer launched another arrow and killed the Doctor’s small dinosaur.
     Quailelyn recovered herself, and tried to overcome the Draining Word spell again to cast Telekinesis.   She could feel the spell’s power slipping away from her again so she gritted her teeth and concentrated all her energy on making it work.  A painful hot flash flickered behind her eyes, but she pushed through it and successfully cast the spell. (Pushed spell for 3 HP damage) The chest began to once again slowly slide across the ice towards Quail’s side of the river.  Dorchesman ran out to grab it, but could see two of the Summoner’s soldiers fast approaching.  "A little help here!“ he called out as he lifted the heavy load and turned to move back to the rest of his party.  Quail, seeing the chest safe in Dorchesman’s hands and knowing Bailey, Luc Demic, and Clol were there to assist him, felt it was time to retrieve the Zenophil’s treasure that she had discovered that morning with her Reveal Secret spell.  She wasn’t sure where Gru’s yellow minions were, and she didn’t want to risk one of them happening upon it by accident.  So she turned from the river bank and moved back toward the monument to Zenophil.  Meanwhile, as Clol the Thug moved to help Dorchesman, Bailey pulled one of her writing quills from her pouch, and rolling the point between her hands spoke the words of the Furious Quill spell.  She tossed the quill up into the air, and it went shooting off like an arrow towards the Summoner’s Treasure Hunter.  It must have gotten damp from the falling snow though, as the enemy soldier was easily able to snatch it from the air and snap it in two.

A view from the other end of the table. Quail’s forces are around the center and center-left of the photo.

     Nearby, Sir Cardidil had made his way onto a large hulk of a ship that lay towards the middle of the river.  As he made his way up the fallen mast on one side though, soldiers of the Doctor’s were climbing up the other side.  He could see he was outnumbered, so called to Innis Flin, Kinny, and Barc to help.  They all ran to help, but the  Thief, Innis Flin,  was felled by one of the Doctors’ archers before he reached the boat.  Then out of nowhere, an evil looking Mage came bolting up from below deck and burst through the cargo hatch; clutching a bundle under her arm, she ran for the edge of the deck.    Sir Cardidil ran after her but an arrow from one of the Doctor’s archers caught him in the shoulder. He winced in pain, his shield arm all but useless, but continued his pursuit.  He met up with the Mage, who turned and with a force fueled by pure evil, slashed at the knight with her sword.  Taken off guard, and with his shield hanging limply at his side, the Mage’s blade struck him in  his already wounded shoulder and sent him reeling backward.  He stumbled on a loose plank, and fell hard upon the deck where he lay motionless.
    While this was going on, Quail had climbed back over the wall and handed the treasure off to Luc Demic, the Crossbowman, for safe keeping.   They watched in horror as the Summoner’s war hound came bounding over a half submerged  boat and lunged at Clol, the Thug.  Clol was knocked back by the dog’s force and landed heavily on the ice where his head hit with sharp whack,  so loud that Quail could hear from over on the river bank, and the Thug lay there motionless.
   At the same time, Bailey was speaking the words of a Push spell, and sent the Summoner’s Treasure Hunter sliding 20 yards back across the ice.  It was of little help though, as the enemy Treasure Hunter and another one of the Summoner’s soldiers were quickly able to overtake Dorchesman anyway, slowed as he was by his heavy load.  Outnumbered and with help now out of reach,  Dorchesman fell quickly to the enemies’ blades. dropping the treasure on the ice.
     As this was happening, over on the other side of the stone hut, Sally put an arrow cleanly through one of the Doctor’s archers, dropping the soldier like a stone.

Quail teleports to the top of the crows nest. Good thing she’s not afraid of heights! 

     Quail was now beginning to worry.  One treasure had just fallen from within her reach; and with Sir Cardidil down, and the Doctor having four archers, well three now thanks to Sally,  as well as the rest of his warband trained in on Kinny, and Barc, she didn’t see much hope for retrieving any treasure off of the ships on that part of the river.  As she studied the river frantically and considered her options, her eye was caught by a large crows nest high above the ice up on a once mighty dragon ship a ways down the river.  "I might be able to get a better view of the situation from up there”, the Sigilist thought to herself.  Without hesitation, she turned to Bailey and, pointing,  said, “I’m going up there to get a better look at the river”, and then began to speak the words of a Teleport spell. She had restudied this spell since her dismal attempt at it durning her last foray into the city, and she was able to cast it without mistake.  In a blink she was up on the rail of the crows nest. She wobbled a bit, but was able to reach out and extend an arm to grab the mast.  The Apprentice looking up at her superior realized  how terribly exposed Quailelyn was up there, and quickly started  to chant the words of a Fog spell.  The Apprentice watched with satisfaction as the mist began to billow around Quail hiding her perfectly in it’s white tendrils.
     Back on the hulk in the river, Kinny, and Barc moved against the Doctor’s troops as they tried to remove a large chest from the ship.  As Kinny moved to contact though, she felt her mind suddenly cloud as the Doctor’s Apprentice cast Mind Control on her.  Barc was caught off guard as the Halfling thief turned and sliced at hum with her dagger, cutting a large gash in his arm.  He didn’t have long to consider this turn of events, for he was soon after struck in the back by an arrow from one of the Doctor’s archers, and fell with a thud to the deck.  Seeing Barc fall snapped Kinny out of her spell (rolled 20 for Will roll), but she didn’t last long on a ship full of the Doctor’s solders surrounded by his archers…
   Up in the crow’s nest,  Quail hopped down inside, and felt something like a log under her foot.  She reached down and was shocked to find a large club laying on the floor.  As she touched it, she felt a tingle of energy in her fingers…it was enchanted!.  The Sigilist hefted the large weapon up as best she could over her shoulder, and looked for safe spot to teleport down. She saw a graveyard along the river bank far down from where she had entered the city, but it seemed quiet and no one else seemed to be near it.  Speaking the words of Teleport again, in a blink she was down standing next to a large Mausoleum.  She repositioned the club on her shoulder and headed back for the tower. As the storm on the river was picking up (at this point the Summoner cast Call Storm for the third time), she prayed that Bailey would have the sense to gather the rest of the party… whoever still survived, Quail thought with regret and discouragement… and head back to their base.

The end results.  Quail and Luc Demic retrieve treasures, and 6 of the warband are struck down during the game.

     Quail reached the tower first and spent a frantic hour up on the parapet waiting for anyone else to return.  Bailey, who had got in to a short, and ultimately futile, Telekinesis battle with the Soothsayer Gru over one of the other Lich Lord’s Mage’s treasures shortly after Quail left, was first to return along with Luc Demic and Sallisee; all of who were unharmed. Quail then paced nervously in the parapet for the rest of the afternoon waiting for any more of her party to return. When it got too dark to see she moved down into the main entrance to wait.  One by one they started to shuffle in, battered, bloody and bruised.  Sir Cardidil was the last to return, and Quail was overjoyed and stunned at her good fortune that every member of her group returned; and despite some deep gashes and broken bones, none were seriously wounded.  The Maga Librarian, Bailey, Sallisee and Luc all set about tending to, and bandaging, the wounded.   Quail was utterly exhausted when she finally crawled into bed early the next morning.
     It wasn’t until she awoke later that day that she had the strength to look at the treasure they had recovered.  It wasn’t much; the contents of the chest they had recovered from the monument to Zenopil had mostly succumbed to the elements and they had to dig through a lot of moldy damp books and rotting clothes to find a salvageable Grimorie of Slow, and in a moldy crumbling leather pouch in the very bottom there was 150 Gold Coins.
     And then there was the large magic club.  It was in rough shape, but after studying its markings and construction, and a little research in one of the books she had brought from the University library, Quail was able to determine it was a magic Club of Battering.  She would let Clol use it, since he preferred to use a club anyway, but it would cost about 50 gold coins to have it restored (Cost 50 GC to promote Clol to Infantryman so he can use the magic 2-handed weapon.)
   Quailelyn was shaken by the experience of this latest expedition.  If it wasn’t for the luck of the gods she could have lost almost her entire party.   Was she too inexperienced in the ways of the world she wondered?  What was she doing out on this folly anyway?  Should she seek more experienced help?  Hire a Captain perhaps?  She would need more gold for that, and the only way to get the gold was to venture once again into the city.  She was discouraged and full of doubt and had much to think about in the weeks ahead.

Epilogue:  What a desperate fight!   Through the flukes of starting position, terrain, treasure placement, and the flow of the battle, Quail and her party ended up facing the Doctor’s entire warband, and most of the Summoner’s.  It was only the good fortune that Gru had his own fish to fry in his sector that for the most part he kept away from where Quail’s group was maneuvering.    It didn’t help that I lived up to my reputation for poor dice rolling.  By a miracle though, after the game my luck changed and the gods of dice rolling smiled on me as I successfully rolled 9 or more for every soldier that had fallen!
   I was also struck by the similarity to last game,  in that it was only a Hail-Mary Teleport to an out of the way location as the game was winding down, that got me that much needed extra treasure!  I hope this doesn’t become SOP for Quail and Bailey, as it is very nerve-wracking for me as a player. 🙂  Finally tally: 8 turns played, 13 spells cast, 2 treasures retrieved,  and 25 Experience Points for Quail stepping out onto the river.

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