Chris Palmer Two Saturdays ago we played the fourth game of our 2019 Ghost Archipelago Campaign. We had 6 of our 9 regular players in attendance and used a 8’x3’ table.
We did a modified version of the “Battle on the Rooftops” scenario from the Gods of Fire supplement book. In this scenario, the crews are attempting to recover treasure on the rooftops of a long-abandoned mountainside city. The treasure has been hoarded by, and is guarded by, strange savage birdmen-like creatures called Cathaka. The table is set up to represent the rooftops of the city, with gaps between them that can lead to possibly fatal falls. Moving between rooftops requires jumping, a few walkways and bridges, or various Heritor and Warden abilities. Being pushed from a rooftop can be disastrous.
There were no central treasures, and treasure tokens were placed with equal number of real and dummy tokens. So players never know if they are heading for a chest of gold or somebody’s old laundry. Between each pair of players there was a large Central Platform rooftop that had the bulk of the tokens, which starts the game being guarded by 4 of the Cathaka birdmen.
I luckily got an early set-up chip, and took one of the corner spots. I ended up with the Heritor Gnomeo, and his shooter-heavy crew across from me, and the Heritor Arkham to my right. Diagonally across from me to my front right was the Heritor Barl.
|A view of the table showing starting areas.|
The Halfling Heritor Barley Gimblehill squinted against the sunlight, trying to see what her Warden, the big human named Tork, was pointing at. “See, city! Built into cliffs. There!" he said exasperatedly.
Finally the ship had sailed close enough, that the little Heritor began to see the shape of the buildings against the rocky sides of the mountain. Many of the structures were carved from the very rock of the island, so blended in perfectly. The haphazard architecture was build topsy turvy almost down to where the mountain reached to touch the sandy strip along the coast. The highest buildings though seemed to tower up near the clouds. As Barley peered upwards, she could see tiny black specks circling lazily around the rooftops…some sort of large birds she pondered.
She looked at Tork, "What birds are those?” she asked pointing.
Now it was her Warden’s time to squint into the sun. “Big ones.” was his only reply.
The Heritor could tell the city was long abandoned; no smoke rose from the chimneys, and many of the structures had toppled over, or stood half crumbled. And an abandoned city meant the possibility of worthwhile clues or treasure being left behind.
Barley hopped down from the crate she stood upon, and said over her shoulder to Tork, “Let us go check it out.”
Tork replied simply, “Big birds…”
It was two hour later that Barley, Tork and a group of specialists and crew from the Jolly Scallop found themselves climbing staircase after staircase, and a few rckety ladders, to reach the higher rooftops of the city. As they had neared the city they could clearly see gold glinting from the topmost rooftops in what appeared to be big piles of assorted belongings and detritus; small pieces of furniture, armor, weapons, cloth… And the “big birds” turned out to be some sort of strange bird and man combination. Vulture like in their appearance, but with arms and legs and torso like a man. They wore scraps of clothes and some carried primitive weapons. For the most part they left the Halflings alone. One or two curious ones approached within a few dozen yards to check the little folk out, but for the most part the birdmen kept their distance. Barley and Tork noted that it appeared the strange creatures were responsible for the piles on the rooftops, as they could see one every now and then fly some load to one of the roofs where it dumped it upon one of the piles. Others would flutter over and inspect the new addition.
|Barley’s initial deployment.|
The band of diminutive adventurers eventually reached the top of a building near the highest structures of the city. They could see the birdmen and their piles much more clearly now. Directly in front of them, on the next building over, was a large expansive rooftop containing a pyramid structure in the center and decorative columns on each corner. It contained a number of large piles of belongings. There were also 4 of the bird creatures who lingered there. They cast wary eyes upon the Halflings, and Barley clearly recognized them as guards of some sort.
As the Halfling Heritor sized up the situation, Tork removed one of his Divining Rods and worked its magic. Pointing over to the right he said, “Gold close. Over by pool,”, and pointed to a low rectangular structure to their right on a nearby rooftop. (I move token from within pool, 3" towards my start zone, bringing it out of the pool.)
Barley organized her crew; giving Tork command over the two Archer brothers, Jikam and Billy Wizzit, as well as Crew-woman Ginsink. The Heritor took along with her, her Scout Perkin, and the two Crewmen, Corel and Habby. Crewmen Fernando and Link positioned themselves between the two groups to help out where needed. The little Heritor had Tork position himself and his command to move towards the central platform; while she oriented herself and her group to move off to the right and check the gold the Warden had detected by the pool.
It was an easy leap for Barley and her group to jump the span between the building they had entered on and the building with the pool next door. They could see a worn wooden chest laying by the pool atop a pile of what appeared to be old clothes, and the Heritor ordered Corel over to check it out. As he went, Barley pointed out a nearby outbuilding on the same rooftop, and suggested to Perkin they go check it out. She told Habby to stay and assist Corel.
|Barley, Perkin, Corel and Habby, make the jump to the building to the right of their start zone with the pool and the nearby treasure token.|
Meanwhile, Ginsink, never one to follow orders well, spotted a promising leather pouch laying on a rooftop to their left, and she ran off, easily making the leap to the other roof, before Tork realized she was gone and could call her back. The Warden was too busy trying his Summon Animal ability, but alas they were too far from any animal he guessed for any to respond. (I fail my roll.) As he worked his spell, Jikam and Billy took aim at the closest bird-man; Billy hit wounding the creature, but Jikam’s arrow went wide.
At that point they became aware of a chattering of voices on the far side of the large rooftop, and they could see Gnomish members of the Heritor Gnomeo’s crew come into view. Fernando and Link realized time was against them now that another crew had appeared, and rushed over an old wooden gangway towards the large roof; hoping that the two archers would take care of the guards by the time they reached their destination.
By now Ginsink had reached the pouch, but before she could bend over to inspect it, an arrow from Gnomeo’s crew hit her in the shoulder, and she cried out in pain. Before she could react in any way, a second shaft struck her, this time in the leg, and she toppled over cracking her head upon the hard roof beneath her and was knocked out.
Tork attempted his Summon Animal spell again was was shocked when he made a mental link to a Snapping Turtle! How did it get up there he wondered. The creature sensed his question, and he got the mental image of the turtle being carried to the roofs by one of the bird-men, who mistook it for some sort of treasure chest while it was sleeping. It had since wandered the roofs living off rats and mice. Seeing Ginny go down, the Warden instructed the Snapping Turtle to move towards the pouch that the Crew-woman had been heading towards and guard it.
The two Archers had now notched their second arrows, and once again Billy’s hit, dropping the first guard; while Jikam’s went wide again. Billy could not stay silent over that, and commenced to relentlessly tease and comment on his brothers poor marksmanship.
|In the foreground, Tork tries to Summon Animal, as Billy and Jikam shoot at the Guards. Fernando and Link dash across the gangway towards the central rooftop.|
By now, Barley and Perkin had made their way to the outbuilding, and began to climb a ladder leading to its roof. Two arrows whizzed by the Scout from the Gnome crew, but neither hit its mark. The pair began to climb, and another arrow came towards the Scout, but this one hit, sinking deep into the Halfling’s thigh. “I can’t continue up!” he said through gritted teeth.
"Alright.“ Barley acknowledged, "head back down and take care of your wound. The Scout slid as best he could back down the ladder, and crouching behind a nearby pillar, worked at removing the shaft.
As Barley continued up the ladder, Corel reached the chest and giving the old lock a good whack with the hilt of his sword, pried the lid up and was pleased to find it filled with gold coins! (I flip token and reveal a "T” treasure marker.)
Having reached the top of the outbuilding roof, the little Halfling Heritor moved over to a large cloth sack on the rooftop and quickly unlaced the cord tying it, only to find it stuffed with old rusty serving pieces and flatware. (I flip token to reveal an “X”.)
|As Corel recovered his chest of gold coins, the wounded Perkin takes cover behind a column. Near the top center of the photo, Barley checks the token on the outbuilding rooftop.|
Over on the rooftop they had started from, Tork could see Perkin was badly hurt, so he quickly cast Water of Life on the Halfling, and the Scout could feel his wound magically begin to heal.
Meanwhile, Fernando and Link had crossed to the large roof, and both moved towards the nearest piles of debris. Link pulled at a small chest, and hearing clinking inside, opened it to reveal some pieces of fine gold jewelry. (I reveal another “T” token!) Likewise, Fernando found an ornate wood box, and prying it open, saw it contained gold coins and some heavy potato sized object wrapped in smooth cloth. (And yet another “T” token!) He had no time to investigate further as a loud flapping behind him warned him that the surviving guard had taken issue with his prying. Quickly the Halfling Crewman turned and brandished his sword, wounding the bird-man with a well placed thrust. The Birdman fluttered backwards in pain, giving the Archers a clear shot; and this time Jikam found his mark, killing the creature.
|The birdman attacks Fernando as he and Link try to steal the creature’s treasure. Near the top center of the photo, the Gnomes can be seen working on recovering a treasure of their own.|
With the guards dead, the Archer, Billy Wizzit, decided it was time to go try and investigate the pouch that Ginsink had tried to retrieve earlier. The Snapping Turtle stood nearby at the base of a bridge leading to a further rooftop, upon which one of Gnomeo’s crewman stood dithering as to cross and tangle with the hard-shelled creature or not. The Gnome Heritor could see the situation, and using his Trick Shot ability, put a well placed arrow right into an opening in the Turtle’s shell. striking it right at the base of the neck. Almost dead, (1 HP remaining!) the Turtle still faithfully stood guard at the base of the bridge.
Meanwhile, Link and Fernando had secured their treasures and were making their way back down the old gangway back to the rooftop from which they had started.
|Link and Fernando return cross the gangway with their treasure, as over on the left Billy (figure with yellow shield) can be seen hiding behind a pillar.|
Over on the building to the right, Corel moved with his chest back towards safety. The Halfling was then shocked to see two animated Skeleton soldiers ascend a nearby staircase and come marching towards him. (Brought on by the Gnome Warden, Julliette’s, successful Beast Cry!) Quickly, the wounded Perkin moved with his bow towards the new threat. He fired an arrow which struck one of the Skeletons, sending it crashing to the ground where it shattered into dozens of loose bones.
Meanwhile, Barley had come down from the outbuilding rooftop by this time, and she too moved to help, as did Crewman Habby. But new danger appeared nearby.
|Two skeleton soldiers appear as Corel drags his chest towards safety.|
One of the distant circling birdmen had spotted Fernando and Link carrying off their treasure, and swooped down to stop them, heading directly at Link, claws outstretched. In a flash Barley was there, using her Leap ability to easily cross the gap between the two buildings and moving directly into contact with the creature to help Link. Link had drawn his sword, and slashed at the flying creature. striking its wing. He did no real damage, but feathers fluttered all around him, and the bridman circled up into the air before making another attempt. (I win fight but do no damage, push birdman out.)
The creature now tried its luck with Fernando, swooping down powerfully at him. With a might thrust the Halfling stabbed the birdman in the gut and, though badly wounded, it still continued to flap and claw at its opponent. (I roll 20, leaving the Cathaka with only 3 HP) . Barley saw her chance, and moving up behind the creature stabbed it from behind. It took a few weak flaps hit the roof and fluttered off the nearby edge where it plummeted to the ground far below.
|A lone birdman swoops in to attack Link and Fernando.|
Back on the nearby roof to their left, Billy crouched behind a pillar, as an arrow from the Gnomes whispered past him. The Gnome Crewman on the far side of the little bridge finally found his courage, and charged at the Turtle. Billy knew it was now or never and dived for the pouch. He heard the clink of bottles inside and threw the pouch’s strap over his arm. (I reveal another “T”!) The Turtle and Gnome engaged, but neither managed to damage the other.
Back on the other roof, Perkin shot again, disabling the second Skeleton. Coral now had a clear path to escape with his treasure. Likewise Link and Fernando began to descend the nearest staircase, making their way back to the ship. Tork once again cast Water of Life on the injured Scout.
|Billy finally recovers the pouch as the Snapping Turtle still guards the bridge against the Gnome’s advance.|
Billy fled with his pouch, and the nearby Gnome knew that even if he killed the Turtle, the Halfling Archer was well out of his reach, so he too began to make his way back to join his crew.
Later that evening, back onboard the Jolly Scallop, Barley looked over the day’s haul. The chest Corel had retrieved from near the pool contained 100 GC! The Little Heritor estimated the jewelry in the chest Link had recovered was worth around 40 GC; and the pouch Billy Wizzit had retrieved contained a few broken and empty potion bottles, but there was one still intact that the Warden, Tork, had determined contained a Potion of Regeneration. Lastly, there was Fernando’s Chest; it held 50 Gold Coins, and wrapped in the cloth was a flat stone the size of Tork’s big fist, with runes on one side and what looked like a primitive sea chart on the other showing three islands.
After puzzling over it for a few minutes, Barley handed it over to Tork, saying, “Any ideas?”
The big Warden studied it closely and ran his fingers over the worn carvings. “It’s Map Stone” he said matter-of-factly, and continued, “Clue to location of Crystal Pool.”
Barley jumped from her chair; “It shows where the pool is?” she exclaimed!
"Yes… and no, “ the Human magic-user said shaking his large head. "It shows part of a route to the Pool. It is just piece of larger puzzle. We must find more to know complete path.” He set the stone gently back down on Barley’s desk.
There was a map. In pieces, yes, but a map nonetheless. Barley pondered the implications. If they could find more of these stones… The little Heritor felt invigorated. Her ship’s hold was filling up with more and more gold, and they now had a specific objective to search for. Barley gazed out the window of her cabin at the moon lit water; her mind already plotting their next destination.
This was an enjoyable game, and played more like a bank heist than a regular battle. The nature of the buildings kept everyone for the most part separated, and it really came down to defeating the guards, grabbing the loot, and running.
I must say I did have an inordinate amount of good luck though. The majority of tokens I flipped proved to be actual Treasure; a fate not shared with all the players. Also, once I had the treasure and was lugging it away, I would have been easy pray for the Gnomes and their preponderance of missile troops; but I lucked out that two of the Cathakas arrived in their rear area at just the right time, keeping them quite busy guarding their own recovered Treasure.
I only had one figure fall, the Crew-woman Ginsink, which is very unusual. And, luckily, she fully recovered.
I couldn’t believe my good fortune at getting 4 treasures; but my luck let me down on the treasure rolls. Three of them were under ten: 4, 8, and 9. Which are not particular valuable results. My one big number was a 20, a map stone. But quite honestly for what is basically a 12 month/game campaign it’s hard to ever find more than one or two of these stones so they have no real effect. I would have preferred a nice magic weapon or armor.
Luckily, I don’t have to wait long for our next game as it is this coming weekend. Stay tuned for a another report soon!
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