Chris Palmer This past Saturday we got together to play the 9th game of our 2017 Frostgrave Campaign. We moved on to the next scenario in the Thaw of the Lich Lord supplement: “The Dark Cauldron”. The Dark Cauldron involves a group of the Lich Lord’s Death Cultists mixing up a big batch of Zombie soup in a large Cauldron. Each turn a Zombie crawls out of the Cauldron and shambles off to attack whoever is closest. Players can opt to tip over the Cauldron, and then drag it away for later use or destruction. Of course, because we had 6 of our regulars playing, our scenario became: “The Dark Cauldrons”; and we put 3 of the zombie spewing cauldrons evenly spaced down the center of the table, each with their required Death Cultist crew. The Lich Lord was obviously trying to swarm the whole city with his Zombie minions.
|An overview of the table including the Cauldron locations and Quails set-up area.|
We had learned from last month’s running of the Lair of Ghoul King & Queen that we needed to set up the table a little more carefully; and we endeavored to place buildings and terrain so no player could enter and form a firing line with which to decimate the Death Cultists on turn one. I did well on the set-up location chip draw, getting second choice; so I picked a corner by a large black tower, with a covered set up area behind an old warehouse. Bemis, the other Sigilist, ended up across from me, Missy, the Necromancer, was to my left, and the the Summoner, Challara, was diagonally across from me.
Earlier that morning, Quail and Bailey had stood up on the their tower’s parapet looking out over the distant ruins of Felstad, which were currently covered in a foul scarlet-toned mist and fog. It stank of evil, and had been a distant source of gloom and depression for the last three days now. What was worse, was they had been hearing more and more tales of people who had disappeared in the night from the local taverns and villages; more so than was usual this close to the magical ruins. Other, lesser wizards, had already left the city. Quail fidgeted with the magical crystal seeing glass, the one they used to interpret their Magical Atlas of Felstad; turning it over and over again absentmindedly in her hand. Any attempt to decipher the maps had become all but useless with the permeating mist…the vapor definitely had magical qualities she thought to herself. The gloom they all felt was not natural. (Both Quail and Bailey failed their pregame Reveal Secret rolls)
|A view of the Dark Cauldron and it’s Death Cultist crew that Quail and Bemis faced.|
It was a little heartbreaking too, as the Sigilist had recently begun to truly see the old Bailey back with them again after all the emotional turmoil the young woman had gone through. News that the Sigilist Bemis’ Apprentice, Agarn, was all right, and had survived unscathed from the Grenade Attack Bailey had thrown in a fit of rage, had buoyed Bailey’s spirits even further. Then the mist had set in and everyone had become depressed and sullen. Quail found herself thinking more and more of her University. She missed her dear Library and it’s books. The Maga Librarian’s allotted time away from the University would be coming to an end soon; and as much as the Sigilist had wanted to get away a year ago, she now found herself looking forward to returning. It all seemed so hopeless here.
"Maybe we should head back to the University sooner.“ Quail said aloud to no one in particular. "Ma’am?” Bailey turned, snapped out of her own gloomy thoughts.
And as soon as she had said it, the Sigilist realized it was the mist putting these thoughts in her head. She shook her head to clear it. There was still some evil at work here, and she wanted to get to the bottom of it. “Nothing, Bailey. Just a little homesick. That’s all.” and she forced a smile onto her face. "Let us go prepare some potions. I think some activity, like a foray into the ruins, will help everyone shake this malaise.“ And, she thought to herself, "Will give us a chance to see what is causing this unnatural fog.”
A short while later, Quail found herself further brought down when her attempt to brew some helpful potion before the trip failed miserably. Luckily, Bailey had better success, and cooked up a nice Invisibility brew, raising the young Apprentice out of her doldrums a little. (Quail fails to cast Brew Potion, Bailey successfully cast it.)
As they walked deeper into the city, the foul smell become almost unbearable, and some of the warband had tied rags around their noses and mouth to help subdue the fumes. Poor Bailey had had to stop twice along their way to discreetly duck behind a corner to leave behind her breakfast. Then Quail, sensing something, suddenly signaled them to halt. The Sigilist cocked her head and, pulling her hood back, listened carefully. Sure enough, she heard the guttural sounds of coarse men’s voices just a short way off. The Wizard gestured to Dorchesman and Kinny, and, nodding, the two creeped off to their left to see who else was also venturing into the city this morning.
It wasn’t long before the pair returned, and reported what they had seen: a group of four men, dressed like the Cultists they had seen before, pulling a sledge piled high with dead bodies through the streets just a block away. Quail decided to investigate further, and they began to follow the morbid group.
|Quail sets up behind a large warehouse. Just on the far side you can see the Cauldron and Cultists.|
They saw them pass around a large warehouse, and Quail’s party gathered along the large building’s wall. They could hear the men talking and they could hear the crackle of a fire. It sounded like they had stopped, as they no longer heard the telltale sound of the sledge’s runners on the icy paving stones. A pallid red smoke rose into the air from the far side of the stone building. The air was thick, and they could hardly see any distance at all. (Visibility set at 16" as per the scenario.)
Quail moved off to her right, and stood behind a crumbling pillar. Seeing a large old tower made of black stone on a rocky outcropping, she paused and recalling the words of the Wizard’s Eye spell the Sigilsit had just learned after finding the Grimoire on their last outing, she spoke the spell methodically and was pleased to see a large unblinking eye suddenly appear on the tower’s wall. Quail then shut her left eye, and concentrated, and sure enough an image formed, as if a moving magic lantern slide was being projected onto the inside of her eyelid. The Sigilist could make out a group of 5 men, all gathered around a boiling large cauldron, and as she watched they grabbed one of the dead bodies off off the sledge and tossed it into the pot. Quail fought back a wave of nausea, and quickly opened her eye. As she opened it she noticed a green glow above, and saw that Bemis was here too, and had cast a Draining Word spell of Bone Dart in the sky. The Sigilist motioned to Sir Cardidil the Knight, and Luc Demic the Marksman, to move forward in preparation to deal with the Cultists; and she directed Dorchesman the Treasure Hunter to head towards the large black tower on the cliff to see if it held anything promising.
Meanwhile, Bailey was down the far end of the warehouse’s wall, and seeing members of the Necromancer Missy’s warband moving nearby through the ruins, she quickly cast a wall of Fog to block their view. Bailey also spied a large chest on the top floor of a low ruined tower to her front, and she signaled to Kinny the Treasure Hunter to move towards it, and she sent Clol the Barbarian along to for protection. Quail’s Apprentice then directed Sally to move through the warehouse, and keep an eye on the Cultists. The Ranger smiled a sly smile, and without a word began climbing the wall of the warehouse and slid through the nearest narrow window.
The Treasure Hunter Innis Flynn, and Barc the Man-at-Arms followed up the wall after Sally, while the Warhound Cirvid went trotting off after Dorchesman towards the tower.
|Quail places her Wizard’s Eye up on the Black Tower.|
Quail had ducked back to the safety of the warehouse’s corner, and watched the progress of Dorchesman and Cirvid towards the tower. As she surveyed the area, she spotted a chest half buried in a rubbled building a little further to the left of the tower. She also noticed some of Bemis’ soldiers approaching it. Quickly the Siglist spoke the words of Telekinesis, but the chest was wedged tightly, and she had to strain with all her strength to dislodge it. (Pushes spell for -6 HP) Suddenly, with a sharp stab of pain in the her head, the chest broke free and moved towards where Dorchesman approached the tower, but it was still within reach of Bemis’ soldiers. Quail put a hand up on the warehouse wall to steady herself, and took a deep breath. She felt drained, and tried to shake the remains of a splitting headache, as she prepared to move the chest again..
Likewise, on the other end of the warehouse wall, Bailey was also using Telekinesis to move the chest from the ruined tower on that side of the warehouse, so it would be closer to Kinny. Like her teacher, the Apprentice also had a little trouble freeing the chest from it’s icy resting place, and had to force her spell as well. (Pushes for -1 HP)
As Luc approached the corner of the warehouse, a wall of Fog appeared, cast by Bemis, and it angled away from the far side of the large stone building so it totally blocked his view of the Cultists. He heard a sudden commotion on the other side, shouted commands and the sound of clanging metal. Carefully he crept to the corner of the fog wall, and peered around. He saw a small walled-in courtyard, in the middle of which there was a bubbling kettle on a large sledge. Nearby a small fire burned. There were also five Death Cultists, some drawing their weapons, and some already engaged with a group of soldiers along the far wall of the square. Looking closer, the Marksman could see they were Bemis’ men that the Cultists were fighting.
Not far away, from her perch in the raised warehouse window, Sally was also watching the developing fight. She fired a shot into the melee, not too concerned with who she hit. As she reloaded, she noticed a small golden colored kettle filled with what looked like gold coins sitting right along the wall of the warehouse. She turned to Innis and Barc who stood in the rubbled filled main storeroom behind her. "Quick!“ she called, "There’s treasure right beneath that window, and it’s currently unguarded.” The two ran forward and started to climb up and out of the window. Then there was a sudden loud groan, and sound of splashing, and a Zombie rose up from the kettle, moaned loudly again, and started to slowly climb out and head towards the nearby skirmish. Innis, Clol, and Sally froze, eyes wide and mouths agape. The Ranger was first to regain herself, and she looked at Innis and shouted, “Now! Before we find out if there are any more in there!”
But, before the Treasure Hunter could drop down from the window and retrieve the prize, the gold pot suddenly lifted of it’s own accord and floated back directly away from him and dropped down within the courtyard wall. Looking up, Innis could see the other Sigilist’s Apprentice, Agarn, grinning from behind a column in the distance. The soldier grumbled a curse at the boy, and it was for the best the lad was too far away to hear the language used.
Innis cursed again, as there was suddenly another loud groan from within the cauldron, and the liquid on top began to froth as a ragged arm rose up out of the muck and, reaching over, grabbed the rim of the vessel. The rest of the Zombie emerged, and turning it’s head, it’s yellowed eyes fell upon the Treasure Hunter.
|A view of the action as the Cultists rush Bemis’ soldiers at the wall, and Barc and Innis use the opportunity to sneak into the courtyard. Agarn has used Telekinesis to move the gold pot treasure away from the warehouse and over the wall.|
Quail, back in the shadow of the warehouse, suddenly heard a yelping and barking behind her, and turned to see two wild dogs suddenly run around a corner of a building tussling over some scrap. They almost immediately noticed the Wizard, stopped their squabbling, and turning, raced at her. The Sigilist quickly called out, “Sir C! I need your assistance!”
Not far away, the Knight turned, and assessing the situation, ran to intercept the onrushing dogs. The first dog leapt at him, and catching the Knight off balance knocked him backwards. He hit the ground hard and his helmet was knocked off. The dog sank its strong jaws into the base of his neck at his shoulder. (Hit for -20 Damage out of the Knights 13 Armor and 12 HP.) The other beast was suddenly there as well, and, desperate, the Knight lifted his sword and thrust it directly sideways, skewering the second animal in it’s side, killing it instantly.
Quail fretted for Sir C’s survival, but he wasn’t the only soldier who was depending on her now. So with a deep breath, she turned her eyes away from the battle between the Knight and the Wild Dog, and back to the Treasure she was moving away from Bemis’ soldiers. Once, more she tried to cast Telekinesis upon the chest, and attempted to move it closer again. But her mind was still back with Sir C and his desperate fight, so that her casting was weakened, and the chest moved nowhere. The Sigilist had a quick reminder to concentrate in the form of sharp pain that stabbed at her brain from the failed attempt. (Rolled a 1 on her casting roll, and took -1 HP)
Back on the other end of the building, Bailey watched in horror as the fog wall she had just cast a short while ago, had already begun to dissipate. Kinny was suddenly terribly exposed in the middle of a clear area, and one of Missy’s Marksmen noticed the small Halfling standing there. He turned towards this new target, and called to his fellow shooter to join him. Frantically, the Apprentice began casting Fog again, but in rushing her spell she lost focus and the gathering vapor started to fade. Using all her powers to concentrate, the young woman practically willed the fog to form, sapping her of energy and causing her mind to burn. (Pushed for -5 HP.) But, before the enemy could get a bead on the small Treasure Hunter a new wall of fog formed where the old one had stood.
Quickly, Kinny ran to where the chest lay in the snow, and grabbing it, turned and started heading back towards home. Nearby, Clol, seeing the Treasure Hunter secure her prize, the big Barbarian turned and ran towards the courtyard where the Cultists were.
|A pair of Wild Dogs appears, threatening Quail; and Sir Cardidil moves to intercept them.|
With Quail’s failure to move the chest any further over by the ruined building near the black tower, Dorchesman had to think quick. The prize set temptingly just a short distance away on the other side of the rusty iron fence around the low ruin, but four of Bemis’ soldiers were now in view, crawling through the rubble. He whistled at Cirvid, and pointing towards the treasure, said, “Guard!” and the dog bounded over the fence just as Bemis’ hound arrived. The two dogs met in a snarling whirl of fur and fangs. The Treasure Hunter couldn’t watch, and he turned and peering up at the tall tower on the rocky outcropping, began to climb. He hoped help would come from somewhere for the poor Warhound he had just sent on a suicide mission.
Quail watched as Dorchesman began to climb, and saw the dog fighting over the treasure, then suddenly a wall of fog appeared at the corner of the old iron fence around the low ruin by the tower, blocking her view. Remembering, she turned back towards where Sir Cardidl fought the dogs, just in time to see him kill the second wild beast. The Sigilist breathed a sigh of relief, as the Knight bent down and wiped his blade on the fur of one of the dead dogs. Sir C. turned to where she stood, and Quail gasped as she saw the blood all over the side of his head and neck. He bent down to retrieve his helmet and the Wizard could see he was weak and in pain. But Quail needed him now, and so she called out his name and pointed towards the fog wall. He nodded, then closing his eyes, with his teeth gritted, he pushed his helmet back onto his head and weakly jogged to help. Quail also called to Luc as well, and he too came to help the situation.
|Dorchesman and Cirvid find themselves outnumbered in their attempt for the treasure by the low ruin.|
Back in the square, Innis prepared himself as the Zombie approached, and jumping up on the low wall around the yard, he leapt down on the creature plunging his sword squarely into its face. It crumpled to the snow, and the Treasure Hunter withdrew his sword and then turned and retrieved the golden pot. Barc was not idle while this short fight was going on, and the Man at Arms crossed the low fence and then headed over to the sledge, where he hopped up upon it and with a mighty kick tipped the stinking cauldron over on it’s side before anything else could climb out f it. A couple more bodies along with gallons of foul steaming liquid poured out of it, and splashed in a wave up on to one of the nearby Cultists, who cried out in pain and surprise at this sudden attack from behind. Horrible red vapor billowed up into the air, causing everyone’s eyes to water, as they tried to breathe the murky air.
Quail, was beginning to feel the effects of her several failed spells, and she took the time to cast Heal on herself, before making her next move. Bailey, seeing Kinny move to safety and Clol run around to the other side of the warehouse, realized that she was suddenly all alone. Turning she decided to follow the others into the large stone building, and she climbed up and through the window Sally had gone through earlier.
Back on the sledge, Barc turned to jump down, and follow Innis through the wall of fog that Bemis had cast earlier at the corner of the warehouse, when suddenly a hunk of stone hit the sledge right on the edge by his foot. The Man-at-Arms could see the glow of magical energy as the stone bounced off the corner of the wooden slat and landed on the ground. He had a sudden sinking feeling, and he quickly raised his arms to cover his head and turned his back as the Grenade burst; but the edge of the sledge caught most of the blast and he was only showered with a few splinters from where the plank along the edge was blown in two. But, before Barc could recover from the shock, Bemis’s Captain, and another one of Bemis’s soldiers, having killed the last of the Cultists, rushed towards the sledge, with Bemis himself following up right behind. Before Quail’s Treasure Hunter could prepare to defend himself, the enemy Captain and Soldier had leapt onto the back of the sledge, and in one blow, the Captain sent Innis sprawling onto the ground, where he lay unmoving.
|Innis grabs the treasure as Barc tips the Cauldron. (Doing 4 HP damage on the nearby Cultist.)|
Back by the low ruin, Cirvid found himself surrounded by both Bemis’s hound and one of the other Sigilist’s Treasure Hunters. Quail’s Warhound fought bravely, and injured both adversaries, but the numbers were against him, and the dog was cut down himself.
Quail watched as Dorchesman neared the top of the tower, and was surprised to see one of Bemis’s soldiers pop into view on the far ledge, and hop down onto the towers top level. Likewise, Dorchesman reached the top as well and jumped down to immediately engage the enemy. Quail knew what she had to do, and quickly cast Teleport in an effort to help. The foul mist was heavy at this height, and she gagged and her eyes watered. Likewise, as Dorchesman sparred with the enemy soldier, he too was overcome by the fumes. Worried for both their safety Quail choked out, “Lets’ get out of here!”, and the two turned to leave the noxious tower top. Then, rallying the rest of her warband, the group headed for home.
|The battle atop the Black Tower.|
Back at their tower later that evening, Quail sat arms folded, staring disappointedly at the two treasures the group had recovered. On the plus side both Cirivd and Barc survived, and their wounds would be healed by the time the group had their next foray into the city. When they opened the chest it reveled two Scrolls; Animate Construct and Create Grimoire as well as 50 GC.
The pot was another matter altogether. While it looked like a golden pot filled with gold coins, it was all an illusion; The pot was merely coated with a fake gold paint, the gold coins were actually a cleverly molded fake top, that when pried away, reveled a hollow pot and a red velvet box lying at the bottom. Carefully, Quail lifted the box from the pot. As her hand touched the soft fabric (as new looking as the day it was made), her fingers tingled with magical energy. Gently she set the box down, and slowly lifted the lid. There on a bed of satin lay a beautifully carved Crystal Rose. The Siglist and her Apprentice gasped in unison, as they gazed at the blood red crystal flower laying on it’s bed of white satin. Among magical relics, a Crystal Rose was the rarest of rare. Originally made by the ancient magical artisans of Felstad, they were said to be able to cure a person of horrific wounds, even bring back someone who had died. The use of this magic caused the rose to disintegrate into a fine crystal powder as it absorbed the damage into itself, so few survived to this day; and the skill and knowledge to make them was lost with the fall of the City. Quail had seen a picture in a book once, but had never seen a real one. Bailey, too, had heard the tales. No one knew of anyone who owned one except monarchs and the most powerful of magical and spiritual leaders. Quail did not dare touch it, feeling its power through the velvet case was enough. Slowly, she closed the lid, and carefully slid the box towards where Bailey sat. "Here,“ she paused a second, "I want you to have this.”
Bailey gazed back at her wide-eyed and stunned. Quail looked her squarely in the eyes, and said lovingly, “I almost lost you once. And I won’t let that happen again.” Your welfare is my responsibility. I dragged you out to this wilderness, and if anything happened…“ Her voice cracked and trailed off. She concluded simply, "I care for you, Bailey.”
Slowly Bailey reached out her hand, and took the box. She was tearful now, and could no longer look at her teacher. She clutched the gift to her chest and standing, turned and headed for her room.
|After game shot.|
Another fun game! As we have come to expect, this scenario offered it’s own unique challenges like the others have. Luckily, with Bemis rushing the courtyard on the first turn, the Cultists weren’t one of mine. 🙂
Even though it was a fun game to play, in the end it was something of a disappointment. Quail and Company were only able to retrieve two Treasures. And failing all but one of my pregame Spell rolls, was a bad note to start on. Another factor was the game ended suddenly and early, when one of the players decided to cut his losses and run after grabbing three treasures. It left me on the verge of acquiring, but falling short on, two more Treasures; the one on the roof of the Black Tower, where Bemis’ man was wounded and had no where to escape. (That’s why I had to use the foul mist as a narrative excuse to end the fight up there.) And the other was with Clol the Barbarian who had actually maneuvered into the rear of Bemis’ area and was a turn away from catching the wounded Agarn who was carrying Bemis’ Reveal Secret Treasure. (This is the reason Clol kind of disappears from the narrative halfway though. There was no reason to include his side trip when it had no conclusion.)
We now need to gear up for just two more scenarios from the book. The next is the Bone Wheel which should offer it’s own set of unusual problems!
via One More Gaming Project http://onemoregamingproject.blogspot.com/2017/09/frostgrave-campaign-17-game-9-dark.html
from Tumblr http://tumblr.hawks-club.org/post/165332369903