Frostgrave Campaign ’17, Game 4: Borough of the Beastmen

Chris Palmer      This past Saturday we got together to play the fourth game of our 2017 Frostgrave Campaign. As mentioned before, our goal is to play a game each month and work our way through the “Thaw of the Lich Lord” supplement book.   Last month we played the book’s third scenario, (To read the account of last month’s game see: Loot the Caravan); but instead of playing the fourth scenario this month we skipped over it to play the fifth scenario, “Run of the Rangifer”, or as we modified it, “Borough of the Beastmen”.
    We will be returning to the fourth scenario in May; but for today’s game we wanted to combine “The Run of the Rangifer” scenario with one designed by one of our players, Eric, who isn’t going to be available next month.  So we switched the forth and the fifth in sequence, as we didn’t think it would make a big difference.
    Eric’s scenario involved runestones represented by scrabble tiles.  The tiles would be handed out facedown to the players,  and placed on the table, like treasure, still facedown.  The players would then try to collect the tiles, and at the end of the game would get Experience Points and Gold Coins for the number of tiles they collected.  If your wizard could “decipher” the runes and make a word from the Scrabble tiles they retrieved, they would get extra EP and GC.  Each tile was worth 5 EP and 10 GC, but if you could make a word from them you would then square the number of tiles you used in the word, and multiply that times the 5 EP or 10 GC.   Each figure could carry 2 “runestones” unencumbered, but carrying 3 or 4  would count like a treasure.  Four was the maximum a figure could carry, and for combining load purposes, all regular treasure was said to equal 3 runestones.    Each player started the game with 5 tiles and one regular treasure to place on the table.

An actual Rangifer guards a treasure in a second story ruin at the beginning of the game.

     We only had 5 of our 8 regular players available for Saturday’s game; so we only used an 8’ x 3’ table set-up.  Given the number of players, we modified the Rangifer scenario in a few ways.  First, we changed it from just Rangifer to be the more generic “Beastmen”; since none of us owned enough Rangifer models to use those entirely.   We supplemented the 4 Rangifer figures we did have with Beastmen figures.  Since there were 5 of us, we multiplied the number of Beastmen/Rangifer by 3 for each player, giving us a total of 15.  We also multiplied the number of Wraith Knights by 3.
        We began the game by each placing our single normal treasure using the regular rules for treasure placement; and then we went around taking turns placing single tile “runestones” using normal treasure placement procedure, until we had placed all 25 of them (5 players times 5 tiles).  Next, we placed one Beastmen by each of the normal treasures, as per the original scenario description; and then took turns placing the other 10 Beastmen by any of the rune stone tiles.  We decided when the Wraith Knights entered, they would materialize from the etherial plane between the players at equidistant points along the center line of the table.

A view of the table at the start of the game.

     We then established our initial set-up positions and first turn order using our usual numbered-poker-chips-in-a-paper-bag method.  My Sigilist, Quailelyn, and her Apprentice, Bailisette, with their party, started in the center of the side with three players.  I hoped the players to my right and left would be occupied by the 2 players across the way, and I would have free reign to pillage the center. To my warband’s left was the Elementalist called Alfred the Unready and his strange warband of Duckmen warriors; and to the left front was the Sigilist, Bemis.  To the right front was Gru the Soothsayer, and  directly on my right was another Soothsayer called The Doctor.  
   

     As had become the norm,  Quailelyn and Bailisette began their morning up on the topmost parapet of their tower base.   Quail sipped gently at a cup of steaming tea and stared out at the distant ruins of Frostgrave, just visible in the morning mist.   Bailey stood a few feet away, expectantly, clutching the large Magical Atlas of Felstad.
     Without turning, Quail said to her Apprentice, “Do you remember learning about Ivory Scrolls in your studies at the university?” Quail turned to see the young woman nodding, and continued, “I’ve only ever seen one deep in the school’s antiquities collection.   It was ancient and already showing hairline cracks.  Such a rarity.”  the Maga Librarian said reverently.  "I was thinking of it recently, and wondering if there might be more somewhere here in the old city.“  She turned and looked out into the mist once more.  "I was up most of the night pouring through that atlas trying to find some clue to locating another one.  My head is aching now, and my eyes are blurry with exhaustion. ” (Quail failed her pre-game Reveal Secret roll.) Quail took a long sip of the cup of tea again, then turned once more to face her Apprentice.  She reached into a pocket of her robes and pulled out the magical crystal disk used to read the Atlas, and held it out to Bailey, “I think it’s time you tried your hand at deciphering the Atlas”.
   

    Now, a few hours later, Quail and her party picked their way through the rubble of Felstad towards the ruins of an old Necromantic temple; where, apparently, an Ivory Scroll of Elemental Ball was once housed, among other more dark relics.   The Sigilist was part proud, part perplexed, and a little part indignant, that her Apprentice managed to do in an half an hour what she herself had been unable to do in eight hours. (Bailey successfully cast Reveal Secret).  Quail wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes.  There might be more to the awkward young woman than even the Maga Librarian thought; and she had always thought there was talent hidden behind her Apprentice’s shy exterior.
      Not much further, as expected,  they saw the skull adorned pillars come into view of what must surely be the temple they sought.  What they didn’t expect, was seeing a Beastman not much further away, carefully aligning what looked like a squarish stone on top of a low ruined wall.  Quail then realized she heard the guttural speak used by the Beastman coming from a ruined hut to their right, and other calls and bellows echoing throughout the ruins around them.   The Sigilist stood in disbelief, as it appeared they had stubbled into an entire herd of Beastmen.  Would the wonders this city held never end?
   As the rest of the party stood perfectly still, waiting for some command from the Maga Librarain, Quail’s mind raced:  What was that square stone the beast was so carefully placing? She had seen similar, but where? Of course. It came to her: runestones!  But that was old primitive magic.  They weren’t particularly rare to find, as many like these Beastmen still practiced the old magics, but still; Quail thought it would be fascinating if they could gather a few for her to study.   And why were the Beastmen placing them here.   It was as if they were trying to set up a barrier to ward something off. But what?

Quail and Company starting positions.  The Necromancy Temple with the Reveal Secret treasure is the skull adorned ruin at the immediate left corner of the set up zone.

     In hushed words, Quail divided up her party and gave them their orders.   Bailey, with Barc the Man-at_arms, and Kinny and Dorchesman the Treasure Hunters, moved off to the left to locate and secure the chest containing the Ivory Scroll; while Quail, Sir Cardidil the Knight, Clol, the Barbarian, and Luc Demic the Crossbowman moved up the right.  While everyone was instructed to gather as many runestones as possible,  Quailelyn noticed some ruined towers not that far away that might hold promising treasure. It would be no problem for her to Teleport up to them to search, or simply use her Telekinesis to move any visible treasure off them.
     None of them had gone far when a sudden strange occurrence swept over the area.  From the direction of Bemis’ party a Darkness spread like murky ink out through the ruins until visibility was greatly reduced. (Bemis’ Thief drops Bottle of Darkness, visibility reduced to 12).   She squinted into the distance; suddenly the towers, just a hundred or so yards away, were no longer visible.   The Sigilist stopped and cast Awareness on herself.  In this darkness she would need to be on her toes.

Bailey captures a glimpse of the chest holding the Ivory Scroll at the game’s start, and decides to leave it for retrieving later.
   The rest of the group moved into action as well.  Though they had no quarrel with the Beastmen, they all knew the Beastmen were not the friendliest sort, and being taken by surprise by the sudden appearance of a bunch of humans would put them in a foul mood.    So Luc Demic and Sallisee both trotted forward, and fired; Luc at the Beastman by the low wall to their front,  and Sally at a Beastman over on the left, placing a runestone by a large well.  They both hit, wounding their respective targets.  Bailey came forward as well, and tried to cast Furious Quill on the Beastman by the wall, but fouled up the spell; the quill merely sailing upward into the darkness..   Barc ran over to the Beastman by the well, and finished him off.  
      Meanwhile, Kinny and Dorchesman had cornered the Beastman in the ruined hut, and quickly overpower him and took his runestone.  Sir Cardidil moved up and engaged the Beastman by the wall, killing him. 
Opening maneuvers.  

     Quail and her group had another shock then, as suddenly off to their right the Darkness got even darker and out of the black mist they saw a Wraith Knight materialize.   The already cold air of the city turned even more frigid.    Quail knew now why the Beastmen had been trying to create a magical barrier in that area.  She suspected her group’s interference had disrupted that barrier allowing the undead creature to materialize.  The Sigilist had confidence her group could handle this new threat though, or were wise enough to avoid it; and she ran forward until the far towers were visible again then Teleported to the top of the closest one to search for treasure.
     Clol picked up the runestone of the Beastman Sir Cardidil had killed, and the pair paused and looked at each other grimly, knowing what they now had to do.   The Knight nodded towards the Wraith Knight, knowing with his Ring of Life, and the Barbarian’s Club of Battering, they had the best chance of taking out this new danger; and the pair ran off in it’s direction.  The Wraith Knight meanwhile, had been charged by a Beastman and the two fought fiercely.

A view of the table mid-game

    Bailey caught movement over to her left and turned to see another Beastman approaching.  She raised her arm, her hand vertical and palm outward, and blasted the creature with a Push spell; sending the beast several yards back before it smacked into a wall.  That seemed to take the fight out of it, as it stood up, shook its head as if dizzy, and then turned and headed away into the ruins.  (The only Beastman to survive the game.)
     The rest of the group now headed towards a large gap between two towers to their front, to look for more runestones.  Quail, up atop the rightmost tower, spotted an ancient chest a few yards away; covered in rust and ice, but still looking solid enough.  She spoke the words of Telekensis, and attempted to move the chest up towards and past her, and over the edge of the tower to her group below.  However, it was firmly stuck in the ice and snow, and the Sigilist had to give the spell extra effort to dislodge it, which caused a searing pain to run down the center of her head. (Pushed spell for -3 HP).  Finally the chest broke free with such force it came shooting at her, and flew past the Librarian’s head with only inches to spare as it sailed out into the air and then dropped with a thud to the snowy ground below.  Quail turned and began to climb down after it.

The Wraith Knight appears! (In upper right quadrant of the photo.) Sir Cardidil and Clol have just killed the Beastman behind the low wall, and prepare to move to face the new threat. The rest of the party, having dispatched the Beastman by the well,  move off to the top left of the photo in hope of crossing through the gap in the two towers to the runes on the other side. Also note the wooden catwalk, near the top left of the photo, where the second Wraith Knight fought the Beastman, and got Pushed by Bailey.

     As Sally, Barc, and Dorchesman moved forward towards the two towers, Sally spotted Bemis’s mangy dog sniffing around a runestone in the distance and fired an arrow at it to discourage it.  This angered the dog who charged her, and the Archer was forced to strike the dog down.   Creeping forward a little more Sally peered around the corner of the leftmost tower and could see Agarn, Bemis’ Apprentice, standing just at the limit of her sight in the Darkness.  She chuckled to herself with the thought of putting an arrow through his tall pointy hat, as she drew a shaft back and took aim.  Unfortunately the boy moved at the last moment and the missile shot by a few inches from his ear.   He looked up startled, and Sallisee laughed at the panicked expression on his face.
     Over on the right,  Clol, reached the Wraith Knight just as it killed the Beastmen it had been fighting.  Unfortunately, Sir C , in his heavy armor, lagged behind.  They had hoped to both get there while the undead horror was still distracted by the Beastman, but that was not the case now.  The Barbarian found himself facing the armored Wraith alone.  With one mighty swing of his mace, the Wraith Knight  connected with Clol’s helmet, spinning the soldier around and he dropped motionless to the snow.  While the Wraith Knight gloated over his two fallen foes, Sir Cardidil called out in anger and frustration and charged the undead creature.  The Knight raised his sword, and before the Wraith could defend himself, Sir Cardidil sliced down with his weapon; and with the power of his magic ring, and his own fury, he killed the Wraith in one blow. (Sir C. rolled 19 + Fight 4 + 1 Fight for Ring of Life vs Undead = 24)

Clol falls to the Wraith Knight and drops the runestone he was carrying.  Sir C now faces the creature alone; and after slaying it, picks up the dropped runestone, and another that lay by a nearby pillar, before heading back to the group.

          Between the two towers,  Sally, Dorchesman and Barc had been joined by Bailey.  They could see they were too late, as one of Bemis’ crew had already gathered up the two runestones that lay on the far side.  Bailey quickly whipped up some Fog to block Bemis or his Apprentice from getting any ideas about casting spells in their direction.   The Fog however did not stop Bemis’ Treasure Hunter from running though it, and charging directly at Sally.  "This is for shooting at the lad” he yelled as he thunked the startled archer in the head with the flat of his weapon, sending her sprawling, unconscious, at the base of the nearby ruined tower.
   As Bailey watched the drama of Sally and Bemis’ Treasure Hunter unfold, she was shocked to suddenly hear the sound of combat overhead; and looked above her to see a flimsy wooden catwalk between the two towers where another Wraith Knight was in a fierce fight to the death with a Beastman.  As she watched, she called out a warning to those around her.   All heads looked up to see the Wraith Knight slay the poor Beastman. Bailey let out a loud gasp as the Beastman’s body hit the catwalk, rolled off and fell with crunch to the snowy stones below.  Her utterance, however, caught the attention of the Wraith Knight who turned to look down at the Apprentice with empty soulless eyes.  Bailey felt her heart grow cold with fear. Almost instinctually, she held her hand up, palm out, and practically shouted the words of a Push spell. Up the Wraith flew, in utter surprise, and shot back through the air.  Bailisette couldn’t see where he landed, as it was far away in the ruins and Darkness. She shivered at the lingering unnatural cold she still felt, but was glad to know the Wraith Knight was far away now.
   A couple dozen yards away, Quail was deciding that it might be time to give the order to fall back, when she suddenly spotted some of Alfred the Unready’s Duckmen sneaking through a graveyard to their rear.  "Did you get the Ivory Scroll?“ she called out to Bailey.
    Bailey turned from dealing with the Wraith Knight, and frantically called back, "No!  I thought I’d pick it up on the way back to the tower!”   Quail hurriedly cast a Fog spell to block the view of the Duckmen, as everyone began to rush back to where the chest containing the Ivory Scroll still sat, unguarded, in the ruined temple.
       Dorchesman ran over and grabbed the chest Quail had tossed off the tower, and Kinny was first to the chest in the Temple and grabbed it.  The Duckmen seeing all of Quail’s party rushing towards them, thought better of it, and moved away.

Quail makes her way back to the tower, with Barc and the faithful Sir C  watching her back for possible threats.

     Quail did a mental head count of those around her.  She gave a look at Sir C.  "Clol?“ she asked.  The Knight looked at the ground and shook his head. Quail took a deep breath as sadness overcame her, then she realized that Sally was also missing.  "Sally?” she asked worriedly.
     Dorchesman was first to speak up, “Um, Ma’am, …she…um, acted rather rashly I’m afraid, and is currently… sleeping off the consequences of her actions.”  The Treasure Hunter looked back into the Darkness and added,  "Um, should I go back and fetch her?“
   Quail puzzled a bit at the Treasure Hunter’s words, said, "No, she’s resourceful and should be able to find her way.  I don’t want to risk anyone else falling behind at this point.”
   
     Sure enough, it wasn’t an hour or so after they got back to the tower that Sallisee returned,  looking very humbled and with a large bump noticeable on her head.  She kept quiet and to herself for the rest of the evening.  Everyone else was quiet too though, as the thought of losing Clol had affected the whole group.
    It was with little joy that they looked over the day’s haul.  There was the Ivory Scroll of Elemental Ball of course, and the other chest held 150 GC and a Grimoire of Blinding Light.  They had also recovered 4 runestones.  Quail ran her fingers over the stones half heartedly.  She already could see a pattern in their designs, but the Sigilist didn’t have it in her to study them fully right then.

End results:  Sally and Clol fallen. Two treasures, and four runestones; spelling “TEST”.  Quail wonders if the deciphered stones might be an omen of things to come…

            The following morning Quail was up on her tower top, sipping her morning tea, and reflecting on the previous days events.  Bailey was not too far away, leaning on the parapet watching the early morning mist move between the trees around the tower. It was thick this morning, it’s tendrils wrapping around the trunks and the branches.  She leaned further over and thought to herself that it was so thick she could barely see the ground beneath them.
   The mist parted momentarily as the Apprentice continued to gaze downward, and she said casually, “What’s that?”
Quail was shaken from her thoughts by the young woman’s voice. “What’s what, dear?”
Bailey pointed downward, “There seems to be a large pile of furs and rags near the base of the tower.”
     The commotion spread like a fire down the tower, as Quail and Bailey raced downward, calling out to the rest of the party.   Bailey, having the advantage of age was out the door first, and reached the pile in seconds.
  “It’s him!!” she cried out.
  Quail came up, and could see that it was in fact Clol laying there; bloody, and a horrid pale shade of green.  She knelt down next to Bailey and put a hand on the Barbarian’s neck.  She noticed in one hand he still had a vice like grip on his magic club.  He was icy cold, but still alive.  "Quick get him inside,“ she commanded.
     Barely alive, was more the fact.  Having survived being hit with a Wraith’s weapon, and a night in the ruins, was a testament to his will to live,  and it took all Quail’s healing power to bring him back from the brink.
   Later that afternoon she stepped out of the Barbarian’s room, exhausted, to find Bailey waiting there for her.  "He’ll live,” the Sigilist said as she rubbed her tired eyes, “but he will be in no condition to venture again into the city for a long time.”   Bailey reached out and put a hand on Quail’s shoulder.  "Come, it’s been a long day. You like you could use some fresh air.“
  Quail looked at her Apprentice and nodded.   The pair turned and started down steps. Quail said a silent prayer, and thought to herself, "Still no one lost.”
 
Game Epilogue: 
   Another fun and challenging game!    The Beastmen/Rangifer were an interesting problem as we got points for trying to keep them alive, but they on the other hand treated us as intruders.  And there was so many of them they were always close enough to be a problem, that, in the end, had to be eliminated.   It didn’t help that they started the game next to our objectives.  So, despite all the players’ best intents, they were slaughtered.  All except for the one that Bailey used the Push spell on, who wound up far enough from all other figures and close enough to the edge of the board that his random move took him off the table edge.
   Also interesting were the Wraith Knights.  Terribly dangerous as they deal double damage.  By games end, Quail’s group was the only one to kill one.  The second spent most of the game cutting a swath through Gru’s and the Doctor’s warbands.  And the third Wraith Knight by chance, ended up chasing down, and killing two of the last remaining Beastmen, only to be Pushed by Bailey off a catwalk far out of range of causing any trouble.
    I really enjoyed the runestone scenario as well.  It was fun to see everyone trying to make words with their letters, and added a fun puzzle-solving aspect to the game as well.  I really lucked out with my letters.
   I thought for sure Clol would die in this game when he fell to the Wraith.  But once again, the luck of the die rolls kept everybody alive (even if barely).
   One final note.  It was with sadness that we bid farewell to one of our longtime Campaign players this week, David Brawley.  David has played since the start of the first campaign, but recently took a new job in New York so will be moving north this month.  I had only met David, through the Reaper Forum, a short while before starting last year’s campaign; but he came to be a good friend, and fit right in with the rest of the gang.  He was a good and strategic player, and a kind and generous person.  Our hopes are that he will be able to make it down again to play again with us at some point in the future.

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