Monday, 29 January 2018

CLVII. Monstrous Births: Act III

In Castle Waywode, the Countess is standing behind a reading desk. She is poring over her tomes and thinking again about the evidence she has found, while rain drums on the glass panes of the Count's library.

So, she is looking for something (or some things), with hoofs like a horse, long and light-coloured hair, that is an omnivore, and can kill a boar, leaving a stab wound... She remembers the first misshapen deer she saw in the woods - how it sought death in the abandoned well. That was unusual, to say the least. She had seen this symptom before... On people riddled with fairy taint. The Countess sinks onto a chair.  

'If I'm right about this, and I'm pretty sure I am, then I have a problem. That thing cannot stay here, terrorising my county. And what it does... absolutely appalling. No female creature would be safe. And someone from the other side could well be here, looking for their lost pet. The vile beast must die. But... why not have some fun first? Yes, we will capture him in Volovska Weald. And then organize a spectacular, bloody hunt for the others! Imagine that... His head will look great on my wall.'

The Countess stands up again, and promptly leaves the library. She must commune with the spirits.

That very afternoon, the Countess sets off into the cold rain, her henchmen in tow. A-hunting the fiend of Volovska Weald.

This ancient ruined arch could be where he came through to the domain of man. The Countess will start from there. Washed by the rain, the spirits and their mistress search the woods for a while. And then they hear a loud, deep, animal roar.

There he is, the fae abomination, with his unfortunate children. The Countess was right. And he won't be easy to capture... The spirits ready themselves for the attack.

The Unicorn wastes no time. He charges straight at the Countess, his bloodshot eyes flashing with violent madness characteristic for his kind. How fast the creature can move... The Countess can't help but retreat a few steps back, even though she knows a sheath of Gheists will shield her from the attack. The monster is stopped in his tracks, confused by the turn of events. Other spirits fly forward to stop the group of abominable deer from interfering.

The Unicorn launches an assault at the Countess once more, but the Gheists won't let him through. Soon, he gets completely surrounded by snapping Bloodfiends. The trap is working!

But the deer are beginning to come through! The Bloodfiends must break their line to stop them. The outnumbered Unicorn realises the Countess' plan is to take his freedom, and decides to make a run for it. One of the Custodians is still tightly latched onto him.

But the beast is strong, and somehow he still breaks free from the spirit's grip and gallops towards the trees!

The Countess thinks fast; tries to summon a spirit to appear in the unicorn's path. But no spirit comes.

The Countess screams in frustration. The monstrous deer are all lying on the ground extinguished by now. But their father has escaped...

The rain is dying down.



After the encounter in Volovska Weald that ended in failure to capture the Unicorn, the Countess tried to find him again. But without success... It has been a week now without new monstrous births reports. It seems the nightmare is gone. Perhaps he somehow found his way home. Perhaps the Fae came for him.

The Countess makes sure all the aggressive deformed woodland animals are hunted out of the Weald by the Wayvodes' men, and their corpses burned. The farm animals are destroyed by fire as well. If they are children of a Unicorn, they will spread fairy taint, and that cannot be allowed. The Countess tells the peasants it was all a disease epidemic spread by forest animals, but by her hand it is now stopped. She is still in a foul mood, though she tries her best to hide that. Eventually everything calms back down and life goes on, the land a little bit more scarred than before.

*   *   *

And that's it. The finale didn't go quite as planned for the Countess, and the Unicorn managed to escape her trap in the very last round. Tomislav had bad luck with cards in this game. Had he managed to summon a Sphynx to catch the monster, it would have been a victory for him. However, no such luck.

The campaign was fun to prepare, play and report on, even as the story is quite dark when you really think about it. I hope I'll do something like that with the Plague Doctor as well some day. But I don't think it will be this year.

I'll be making one more post about Monstrous Births, in which I'll explain some design choices, give commentary and some more information about the Unicorn and his miniature representation (I haven't done that yet to keep the main boss a surprise). If anyone has any particular questions they want me to address in that post, put them in the comments.

Friday, 26 January 2018

CLVI. Mirrogoi Deathrattle: Koschei

Koschei is a Lich from the necropolis of Mirrogoi. It is a cursed land of the dead, standing on the isle Erebos and inhabited by Nagash-devoted wights. 
Since the necromancers of Turm turned their back on their true god, there has been a lot of bad blood between them and the Mirrogoian dead. Their idolatry is an insult to Nagash...

This artwork by Keith Thompson is what inspired me to make the miniature: LICHE. Love the design, especially the oddly shaped, trepanned head. If you're not familiar with Thompson's work, do yourself a favour and browse his website. Make sure you read the little stories attached to each piece of artwork; they are just as awesome. I constantly wish to know more about the worlds in which they belong.

I had a spare Yan Lo from Malifaux. This was an excellent base for Koschei. A few sartorial interventions were necessary, to change the decidedly far eastern flavour of the robes into something more ambiguous. The head was replaced by the one I removed from my Sepulchral Warden. I also added skeletal feet peeking out, like in the Thompson artwork. Got rid of beads that decorated Yan Lo's wrists, and cut off the top of the khakkhara. I was stumped for a while about what to put in place of the latter, but after some rummaging through bits I found one of Hexwraiths' tiny pots of fire. 

The Lich with an unconverted Yan Lo.

My plans for expanding the warband include a Wight King, and possibly another, similar Lich. There is this really cool kit that's come out for Malifaux: the Bone Piles; and I can see them fitting in here. I'm getting ideas to get another set of Sepulchral Guard, to see how well I can convert them to look nothing like the ones I already have. But I don't know when all this will get on the agenda again. After the final instalment of Monstrous Births reports, it will be time to shift focus on Legen again. A lot of work ahead.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

CLV. Monstrous Births: Act II

In the days after the encounter at the cave, the Countess learns of more cases of monstrous wildlife. Not just that;  a rumour gets to her that in villages and farms neighbouring Volovska Weald, there has been an alarming amount of monstrous births among livestock in the past month. The horror does not end there, either. She visits some peasants with her men, and talks to the pastor and local woodsmen. The Countess learns that not only have the farm animals and wild game been birthing monstrous young, but several women, too. And people say their pregnancies are unbelievably short, lasting no more than a few weeks. Many were stillborn, but even those that survived were quietly disposed of by the family out of fear or shame or mercy. 

With great difficulty the Countess manages to find a girl who gave birth to a deformed child and is willing to talk to her. She tells her that she went to the woods one day to gather herbs and she believes she was assaulted there by some kind monster. She has no memory of the event itself, but she knows where it occurred and gives that information to the Countess. The peasants are growing increasingly scared and irritable, and wild theories abound of the cause of all this. Eager to solve this unnatural problem in her domain, the Countess decides to investigate further. 

The village Volovo.
The very morning after she has learnt of the attack, she sends a small contingent of spirits to search the crime scene for possible clues on what fiend violated the girl. Perhaps something can be found. From the safety of Castle Waywode, the Countess will lead the spirits seeing through the eyes of the Beast.

The Beast and her henchmen arrive to the spot in Volovska Weald where the heinous assault had occurred. Fortune is on their side, they have the cover of thick autumn fog to conceal them. On the other hand, it makes it more difficult to search the area. The spirits begin spreading out to cover more ground.

There is movement in the distance. A large shape bolts across a fairy ring and disappears into the trees and the mist. Might just be a common deer, but that recent experience puts the crew on alert.

A Crimson Sphynx first spots something on the ground a distance away, and stalks towards it...

... but it is surprised by a monstrous deer. As grotesque and sad as the one we saw lunge down a well the other day. Unfortunately for the Sphynx, this one is much more aggressive in nature.

The deer rams into the Sphynx and then immediately charges at the nearest Custodian, who was examining a set of tracks on the forest floor. Before the Sphynx can react, another misshapen deer appears from the fog behind it.

A bloody battle starts. Not much of those tracks will remain if the ground gets trampled by the fighters...

A bit further off, a Bloodfiend sniffed out something interesting, but it too is jumped by a monstrosity.

The Countess is getting more and more irate. She summons some backup for her spirit host, and the Beast gets full on into the fray. But just as one deer is killed or driven away, another appears from the woods...

Eventually they stop coming. The ground is littered with bodies of deer. Mounds of tortured flesh, tangles of crooked legs and overgrown antlers...

Four potential clues are discovered by the crew. There are tracks on the forest ground. On several bushes there are clumps of hair. A decaying corpse of a boar lies by a tree. Several piles of animal droppings can be seen on the leaf-covered ground. The Countess examines them one by one through the Beast's eyes. 

The prints do not look like deer tracks, but more like unshod horse hoofs. The hair is pale and fine, and feels like it came from a tail or a mane. The boar is a male, and was lanced a few days ago with some kind of piercing weapon, judging by the mortal wound. Some of the droppings indicate a larger herbivore, but, interestingly, contain bone fragments.

The spirits' mission is complete, and they are dismissed. The Countess now has a pretty good idea of what this attacker can be. And an even better idea for what to do with it...

*   *   *

Just like Act I, this game used Malifaux rules with a few tweaks and with custom stats for my characters. Tomislav Rac again played the Countess, and I directed the Misshapen Deer. In the second act the goal was to secure the four clue markers that weer placed on the table. A Misshapen Deer spawned whenever one of the spirits approached a clue. Tomislav managed to control all four markers at the end of the game, which means he will get some useful information on what he is up against in the third and final game. 

This encounter was played without the Countess on the table. But she was able to use her activations, in which she could cast spells using the Beast for measuring range and line of sight.

The fog that was present on the battlefield had its own rules. The line of sight was limited to 10'' on the first turn, and each subsequent turn I randomly determined whether the fog becomes denser or starts clearing up. The fog's thickness varied throughout the game. It did not have much impact, mostly because there are very few ranged attacks in these two crews, plus the fog decided to go heavily in the direction of dispersing. But had it gone the other way it could have caused visibility problems for both our crews. The fog in the photos was my first attempt to photoshop it. I worked from this tutorial I found after a quick search.  

This is the atmospheric soundtrack we used for game two: most tracks from Aokigahara (2015) by Flowers for Bodysnatchers, Primordial (2015) by Paleowolf, and The Witch (2015) OST again.