Frostgrave Campaign ’17, Game 5: The Storm of Undeath

Chris Palmer      This past Saturday we got together to play the fifth game of our 2017 Frostgrave Campaign. As mentioned before, our goal this year 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 fifth scenario, (To read the account of last month’s game see: Borough of the Beastmen), and this month we did the 4th scenario: The Storm of Undeath.   We had skipped over the fourth scenario last time, as one of the players had designed a scenario that interleaved nicely with the fifth one, and couldn’t be here this Saturday; so we flipped the order of scenario 4 and 5.
        The Storm of Undeath involves a terrain-free square in the center of the board that is filled with unanimated Armored Skeletons, and two out of every three treasures.  Then, on turn 3 there is a chance the Skeleton’s will animate when lighting from a storm of magical energy, brought about by the Lich Lord, strike the pillars surrounding the square.

A view of the table at the game’s start.  Quails entry zone is marked with the yellow rectangle.  You can see the old warehouse by the brown coffee cup just below where the yellow rectangle is, then the ruined hut a little further along up from that, and the Witches’ Temple  beneath the yellow word “Start”

 We only had 5 of our 8 regular players available for Saturday’s game; so we used an 8’ x 3’ table set-up.  Given the number of players, we modified the scenario in a few ways.  First, we multiplied the number of open squares by 3, and the skeletons by 3 as well; so there were 3 squares with 6 Armored Skeletons each.  We placed 4 treasures in each of the end squares, and only 2 in the center square.   The other 5 treasures were placed normally.
    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 other Sigilist, Bemis; and to the left front, across the table, was the Summoner, Chaffarn.  To the right front, across the table was the Elementalist called Alfred the Unready and his strange warband of Duckmen warriors;  directly on my right was a Necromancer, called Missy.

The warband’s opening positions.

     The Maga Librarian Quailelyn had awoken that morning with a throbbing headache.   She now sat at the big table in the tower’s main room, her head bowed over a cup of steaming tea, trying to let the vapor clear her head.
     Nearby, her Apprentice, Bailisette, stood leaning on the wall looking out one of the tower’s slit windows, lost in thought.  She too did not feel all that well.   “There is some sort of storm brewing over the city.” the young woman said matter of factly.
     "I can feel it,“ Quail said hoarsely. "There’s something not normal about it.”
    “Should we not go?” asked Bailey, timidly. “The storm…and Clol still recovering from the Wraith Knight attack…,” her voice trialled off.
    “No, it will be fine,” Quail looked up at the girl. “I’m sure strange weather like this is not uncommon in Felstad. And, the group has been eager to go back exploring after being cooped up here for so many weeks.  The fresh air might do us good.”
    With effort, the Sigilist reached over with stiff muscles to the magical atlas that was open beside where she sat at the table, and tapped a finger on the nearest page.  She continued, “Besides, I located a small temple where an order of Witches once housed a collection of their Grimoires.  I think it might be worth investigating.”  (Quail makes Reveal Secret pre-game roll.)

     As they approached the outskirts of the city, the sky had grown much darker, and flakes were beginning to swirl down around them.   As they penetrated deeper into the ruins, the clouds above had darkened to a dark iron grey, and the flakes fell harder, cutting down on their visibility.  A stiff wind whipped through the old ruins as well, making all sorts of strange moans and wails.   They heard a dull boom like thunder and a bit of green light flashed through the clouds.  The hairs on Quail’s neck stood up on end, and she saw Bailey give her a worried glance.  A dull throb continued in the Sigilist’s head.
     The party had only gone a little ways further when they reached the old Witches Temple.  It looked like the door had been smashed at one time, and soggy decaying manuscripts and books lay about in the snow and ice.  Quail frowned; it was not a good sign, but she hoped they might still find something of value.   The Sigilist didn’t dwell on the temple for long though, as her attention was drawn to an even stranger sight.    Before them, about a hundred yards away, there stood a clearing in the city with four badly worn pillars at each corner.  Within the square were the skeletons of long dead warriors, spread haphazardly throughout the ice and snow. Casualties of the Great Cataclysm that destroyed the city, she surmised.  It was not uncommon to find a frozen decayed corpse or skeleton here and there throughout the ruins;  poor townspeople who had fallen victim to the ice and snow that swallowed the city a thousand years ago.  But Quail had not seen so many in one place before.   Then her eyes were caught by movement further off.  She couldn’t make out who exactly, but she suspected it was another wizard’s party treasure hunting in the ruins.

Quail, in the central foreground, watches helplessly as the Summoner’s Barbarian and Monk run through the fog and take on Dorchesman and Sir Cardidil. 
   She quickly looked around at the surrounding ruins for other possibilities for treasure; and saw what looked like a crumbling warehouse on their right, and a small hut directly in front of them between the warehouse and the Witches Temple, which was on their left.  Quail directed Kinny, the Treasure Hunter to go check the warehouse, and she told Luc Demic, the Marksman, to check and see if there was anything salvageable in the Temple on his way to finding a good firing position.  She herself walked forward and peered into the roofless hut, seeing more of the torn and rotting manuscripts and books from the Temple. They had apparently been carried by someone long ago into the hut.  The Maga Librarian made a mental note to check back in there on her way back to the tower, but to be sure she said to Bailey, “Remind me to search in here on our way home.”
      Quail’s gaze then returned to the fallen soldiers in the square.  There was something about this open patch of the city that drew Quail to it, and she slowly approached one of the tall stone pillars, carved with well worn ancient runes.  As she neared, she saw that there was a pair of chests laying in the square as well, and she called to the rest of her party to come with her.  The Sigilist attempted to draw one of the chests nearer to them with Telekinesis, but the throbbing in her head seemed to muddle her words, and the spell failed to budge anything.  
   She could now see the distant figures growing closer, and she could make out that it was some of Chaffarn’s gang along with the Summoner’s apprentice.  They too seemed to be heading for the square as well.   Quail turned to Bailey, and said, “Fog”, and pointed to the far end of the square.  She hoped that would delay them a bit. However, she watched with disappointment as Bailey tried to cast the spell only to have little more than a fine mist appear around her hands.   The Sigilist looked up at he dark steel clouds above and wondered…the blowing snow stung her face as more greenish light seemed to crackle through the clouds.  Suddenly there was more than just the greenish light, as the words of a Draining Word spell against Telekinesis appeared from over where Bemis was located. Quail said a curse under her breath at her fellow Sigilist.  His timing couldn’t have been worse. 
     Quail turned back to the matters at hand; with Bailey’s failing to cast Fog, she undertook it herself, almost failing as well. She strained with all her mental energy to make the spell work.  Finally a bank of thick white fog appeared at the far end of the square, as did a searing pain in her head, just as Charffarn’s group arrived.  (Pushed spell for -2 HP.) Sir Cardidil, the Knight, and Dorchesman, the Treasure Hunter, rushed past her in an attempt to get to the leftmost treasure first. Barc, the Man-at-Arms, moved to the treasure on the right, as Sallisee followed and took up position by a small outcropping nearby.
A Demon joins the battle by the fog wall as Bailey uses Telekinesis to draw the disputed chest closer to her position.  On the right center Barc can be seen recovering the other chest.

    The fog was little help though, as Chaffarn’s Barbarain and Monk burst straight through it and charged at Dorchesman.  Both sides faced off practically on top of the chest.   Bailey saw an opportunity, and on her own initiative cast Telekinesis on the chest, and it sailed past the enemy Barbarian, and landed with a thump about midway though the square.  But, the Summoner’s apprentice had not been idle either, and now a Demon burst through the mist and charged at Sir Cardidil.
      Meanwhile, Kinny over at the warehouse, had crawled up the wall and through one of the high windows.  She emerged upon a pile of old moldering crates and was happy to find a promising rusted old chest there among the other debris. However, before she could grab it, one of  the Necromancer Missy’s Crossbowmen came through a far window, and seeing the diminutive Treasure Hunter, he sprang at her.  Try as she did to defend the chest, the crossbowman’s dagger, caught her on the side of the head.  She cried out in pain, and he brought his crossbow around with his other hand and struck her hard on the arm, sending her tumbling down a pile of ruined boxes.  Her injured head hit the floor hard and darkness overcame her.
     Back in the square,  Quail tried to help the odds a bit, and extending her hand she attempted to Push the Barbarian back through the Fog.  Again the ache in her head caused her a bit of difficulty, and she really had to strain for the spell to work.  She felt a stab like a knife at the base of her neck and for a moment she felt light headed, but she willed herself through it, and watched as the Barbarian shot back through the wall of mist. (Pushed spell for -5 HP.) It wasn’t enough though; and Quail let out a gasp of dismay, as not moments later, the big ugly brute came charging right back through the mist.  The power of his charge took him directly into Dorchesman, who was parrying with the Summoner’s Monk, and Quail’s Treasure Hunter was bowled over with shear force.  Dorchesman tried desperately to regain himself, but before he could, the Barbarian had sliced down with his large sword, putting a large gash across his chest. Dorchesman toppled backwards and lay motionless in the snow.
     Sir Cardidil now faced the Demon, Barbarian, and Monk alone.    Bailey grabbed a quill from her pack and frantically chanted the words of Furious Quill.  The feather shot out through the storm and danced for a few seconds around the Barbarian’s head before he reached up with a bear’s paw sized hand and swatted the annoyance from the air.  (Barbarian passed Will roll vs the spell’s casting number.)

A Rangifer and his Small Construct companion wander into the area.  

     Suddenly, there was a loud echoing series of booms overhead, and Quail swore she heard strange whispers on the wind.  All eyes turned upward as large amounts of green lightning now crackled across the sky.  Suddenly four jagged green electric spikes shot from the clouds and hit each of the four stone pillars that cornered the square where Quail stood.    The Sigilist, standing near the center of the square, felt a strange surge of dark magic flow through her.  It wasn’t a pleasant sensation at all, and bile rose up in the back of her throat.  The Maga Librarian watched in horror and astonishment as the six skeletal soldiers lying in the square slowly began to rise up as if coming to life.
    Quailelyn knew she would need all her wits about her now, and through a throbbing head, and nausea, she attempted to cast Awareness.  She couldn’t muster the concentration to complete the spell, but her attempt did suddenly bring an image to her of Kinny’s limp body in the warehouse, and the Necromancer’s crossbowman carrying away the chest.    She turned to Bailey, and shouted through the storm, “Come with me!” and the pair fell back towards the ruined hut and the warehouse.    Before following her mistress, Bailey quickly cast another wall of Fog behind her and Quail to block them from the skeletons’ view.  Quail hated leaving Sir C to his own devises, but knew he was a capable fighter.  She was happy though to see Barc pass them near the hut,  hauling the second chest from the square under his arm.
    What Quail wasn’t happy to see was a Rangifer and a Small Construct, in the form of a child’s doll, approach from around the rear of the warehouse. The Rangifer held a crude sword, the doll had a large butcher’s knife.  She called to Innis Flin, the Treasure Hunter, and Cirvid, the Warhound.  Where have those two been, she thought to herself.  The pair appeared from the far side of the hut, and Quail noticed Innis limping and his left pants leg stained with blood. There was no time for questions though, as the Sigilist pointed out to the Treasure Hunter and dog the new threat that approached.

Having dispatched the Demon, Sir Cardidil  slices through a couple skeletons before dealing with Chaffarn’s Zombie.    The Summoner’s troops have some of their own undead to deal with as well. 

     Meanwhile, back in the square,  Chaffarn’s Monk, seeing Quail and Bailey leave the square, and having the Demon to occupy Sir Cardidil,  bounded forwarded and grabbed the unattended treasure chest.  Sir C thrust at the Demon and the blade bit deep into the creature’s side.  It reeled backwards, growling in pain; and before it could recover Luc Demic placed a well aimed crossbow bolt a few inches below it neck.  The Demon feel to the ground dead.  Sir C barely had time to take a breath before he spun around to see two of the of the now-animated Armored Skeletons closing with him.  With his magic Ring of Life (+1 Fight, +1 Armor vs undead) pulsing with energy on his finger, he made short work of these undead soldiers. Distracted by the skeletons, the Knight didn’t see the Summoner’s Zombie approach him until the last minute; nevertheless, he was able to turn and dispatch this new undead foe as well.
     From her position on the raised landing that ran around the ruined hut, Quail could see movement in the warehouse, and drawing a quill from a pocket of her robe, hurriedly chanted the Furious Quill spell before the enemy crossbow man could move out of view.  She rushed too much though, and the quill fell lifeless to the ground, as once again, Quail felt a small spike of pain in the back of her head. She let out a gasp of pain, and leaned up against the wall of the hut for support.  Bailey was close enough that she could see, even in the storm’s darkness, that the Sigilist looked ashen grey.  She reached out a hand, and tracing the proper symbols on Quails shoulder spoke the words of a Heal spell.
  “Thank you”, Quail said gratefully.  She hated to show weakness, but was glad of the girl’s help.  Her head still ached, though she felt a bit more energy return to her sore muscles.
    Nearby they could see Innis and Cirvid charge at the Rangifer and his little Construct companion. An arrow from Sallisee’s bow sliced the air and went clean through the doll’s little age-stained and rotting tunic, going in one side of it’s torso, and out the other.  Even with a hole through it, the little toy didn’t stop though, and onward it trotted towards Innis.  The Treasure Hunter reached down with his sword and sliced hard at the Construct, cutting its cloth head half off.  It staggered backwards on its little stumpy feet.   The Rangifer meanwhile launched at Cirvid, and gouged the poor dog wth its mighty horns.  The hound fell to the snow motionless with a large gash in its hind quarters.

Cirvid falls to the Rangifers antlers, as the Warhound and Innis battle the Rangifer and Small Construct; while in the background Sallisee provides supporting fire from her position by one of the square’s corner pillars. Nearby, Bailey tries to discourage Quail from making a desperate move. 

     With only one treasure in their possession, and several of their group either down or wounded, Quail began to worry.  She tried to think clearly, but the pain made it hard.  The image of Kinny laying in the warehouse, that she had seen with the failed Awareness spell attempt, stuck with her for some reason, and she turned to Bailey, and said, “Wait here.  There’s a treasure I need to go get.”
     Bailey looked shocked. “You’re in no condition…” the Apprentice began, but Quail silenced her with a look, and began to recite the Teleport spell.  She felt it failing and she gritted her teeth and willed it to succeed; her mind lost all focus, but the spell took, and she landed right outside the backdoor of the warehouse with a blinding pain in her head (Pushed for -3 more HP) , staggering to stay standing.
    Bailey was deeply concerned for Quail.  She could tell she was not herself and was feeling unwell, but the Apprentice wasn’t sure what she should do.  And Quail had told her to wait.  As she pondered her next move, Innis called to her for help.  She looked up to see the man now facing both the Small Construct and the Rangifer alone. The young Apprentice pulled a quill from her pouch, and saying the chant of Furious Quill, she launched it at the Rangifer.  The long feather bobbed and pecked at the beast’s head.  Sally took the opportunity to fire an arrow at the Rangifer, deeply piecing its side.  The antlered beast and it’s little companion now charged at Innis, the toy’s head flopping loosely to one side.  The Treasure Hunter kicked the doll back with his bad leg, wincing with pain, and then regained his balance in time to thrust his sword deeply into the Rangifer’s chest.  The large beast collapsed to the snow.  Sally launched another arrow that tore the head the rest of the way off the little Construct and it flew a short way through the air and landed pinned to a mound of icy snow on the street.  The little limp body crumpled to the ground.

Quail confronts the Necromancer’s crossbowman as he tries to depart with Kinny’s treasure.

  Over at the warehouse, Quail braced herself at the foot of the steps outside the back door of the old stone building as best she could, and pulled her yet-to-be-used sword from its scabbard.  Seconds later the old rotted rear door splintered open and the Necromancer’s man burst out, clutching a chest under one arm, and drawing his weapon with the other.  Seeing the Sigilist standing there, he yelled in anger and jumped down the steps at her, dagger raised. The weight of the man pushed Quail backwards, and her sword went flying from her hand as she lost her footing.  The Sigilist felt the dagger plunge into her left shoulder as she fell backwards. All the breath went out of her, and she almost blacked out with the pain as the pair landed, one atop the other, and her head and body hit the rubble strewn cobblestones of the street.   The Maga Librarian could feel the weight of the man crushing down on top of her as she lost focus and tried to stay conscious.   The man moved off her and stood up, grabbing his dropped treasure chest.  The sole of an iron-studded boot came down hard on the Sigilist’s wounded shoulder, and her world went black.

The end result of a hard-fought day. Those who had not fallen during the battle with their treasure.

     Back in the square, Chaffarn’s Apprentice, Barbarian, and Monk were now withdrawing with their prize,  and Sir Cardidil had dispatched two more skeleton warriors before heading back towards the hut.   Bailey wasn’t sure what to do, and Quail was no where to be seen.  The young Apprentice was happy to see the Knight approach, and remembering Quail’s reminder to her earlier in the day, asked Sir C. if he would check the ruined hut for anything of value.
   "And please tell Luc to check the Temple as well.“ she added as the Knight jogged away. "I’m going to go see if I can find Quailelyn.
    Bailey hadn’t gone far around the dilapidated warehouse, when she reached the back exit, and saw the Sigilist laying motionless on the icy cobblestones.  The young woman gasped, and tears welled up in her eyes.  Quickly she ran to Quail, and dropping to the snow, gabbed one of the Sigilist’s hands tightly in both of hers.  With a wave of relief she could feel the hand still had warmth.   Bailey’s eyes widened when she saw the blood soaked shoulder of her mistress’ robes.
  She spoke Quail’s name hesitantly, and the Maga Librarian’s eyes, fluttered half open.   She carefully helped get the Wizard to her feet, and half carrying her, half supporting her, slowly they headed back to the Tower.

     Quail awoke the next morning with her body aching and her head pounding.  She quickly became aware of her bandaged shoulder and, moving it, felt a searing pain run up the side of her neck and down her arm.  The Sigilist tried to remember.  Only fractured images came to her.
     It wasn’t long before there was a knock on her door, and she heard a faint, "It’s Me.” from Bailey.
    She croaked out a, “Come in.” through a dry throat. And, as Bailey entered, she said weakly, “What happened?”
   

    For the next hour or so, Bailey recounted the previous day’s events, and Quail, asking a question here or there,  began to assemble the disjointed puzzle pieces of memory in her head.   Once again, through a miracle, no one, including herself this time, had died.  Dorchesman and Cirvid  were both Badly Wounded; but it was Bailey’s opinion that the right healing salves could be bought for a little less than 100 GC in the nearby village. (Purchase “replacement” Treasure Hunter -80 GC & Warhound -10 GC).
     They had managed to recover three treasures.  The Temple and nearby hut had each produced a salvageable Witch-school Grimoire; one of Fog (which Quail already knew, and so could be sold), and one of Brew Potion (which Quail was eager to learn.) Along with the Grimoires, each locale had also had 40 GC  (Rolled 14 twice on the standard treasure table, and then by coincidence got two Witch spells.)  Barc had recovered a chest containing a pair of Boots of Leaping from the square. (Roll of 7 on the Lich Lord Treasure Table).
     Quail tried to make sense of the day.  But at the back of her mind something troublesome began to gnaw at her.  The Maga Librarian now realized that the storm had been no chance magical weather event. And, in the following recuperative days, tales came to her of undead having risen all over the city during the storm. She recalled the supply train they had raided a couple months ago, and now this large force of undead being raised.  There was some evil growing in power in Frostgrave, and she was determined to figure out what or who it was.

Game Epilogue
      I wanted to subtitle this post, “In which a gamer and his alter-ego both have a really bad day.”  I started out with high hopes as I once again got the central starting position on the 3-player side of the table; meaning that there was no player directly opposite me.  I hoped that the players on either side of me would be directly occupied by the players across from them; leaving me to freely raid the center of the table.  (And my plan would have worked too, if it weren’t for those meddling other wizards! 🙂
    When I started, Quail had 5 treasures within easy grasp (the 2 in the square, the Reveal Secret one by the Temple, the one in the hut, and the one just inside the warehouse window).  Two more were within a little effort’s reach: Bemis’s Reveal Secret one which he left unattended in a graveyard near the table edge (Where Innis, trying for a quick snatch and run with Cirvid, was hit by a Grenade spell from Agarn. Curse that boy!), and another in a hut a little further away on the right, near Alfred the Unready’s area.   But all that quickly fell apart as I started to loose combat roll after combat roll, and failed spell roll after spell roll.  In the seven turns we played, I only managed 5 successful spells without needing to push them; 3 more were successful only after Quail pushed them, for a total of -10 HP (out of a game-starting total of 18).  Also, 5 spells were total failures, including a couple that were so bad they did damage to both Bailey and Quail.   When Bailey healed her, Quail had dropped to only 9 HP remaining.
   One by one, Quail and I saw the chances at treasure slip away, until it became a serious risk that we might loose the three that were “sure things”.  All our warband ended up either KO’ed or wounded during the game except three:  Luc, Sallisee,  Barc.  The reality soon became that I might not even have the figures to carry off the 3 “sure” treasures if some new threat should appear and disable one or two of my remaining soldiers.   And, as I became more desperate to save a failing situation, so did Quail, which led us to take bigger risks.
    It was a very interesting scenario too, as setting out those big open squares with treasure in them, was like setting deadly traps filled with honey.  All along the table the carnage was high as the warbands fought it out in the open.  Luckily for me my fight was Chaffarn’s forces was all but over by the time the skeletons awoke.  They proved to be an annoying problem in the other two squares on the table.
    The scenario also showed me how hard it is for a non offensive spell based wizard, i.e. Sigilist,  to deal with a scenario that is clearly geared towards combat.  With little more than a Furious Quill to strike back with, my Wizard and Apprentice found themselves lacking on more than one occasion.
    In the end, I think Quail and I both learned valuable lessons about her indestructibleness, or lack thereof.   Hopefully the stars will align better for the next game.

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