Tuesday, 4 December 2018

CXCVII. The Third Witch

Last week I hosted the second game in the AoS28 campaign I'm playing with Vladimir. This time we used my adaptation of the Malifaux rules system, and I think we'll stick to that one from now on. You can find my report on the first game, Hag's Hovel Carnage, here: LINK. But for your convenience here's a brief recap of the events that lead to the encounter you're about to witness in this report:

Several moons ago a group of mercenaries trespassed within Folda's borders to seek out an old woman's cottage hidden in a dark wood. The crone's name was Vanga, and she was a witch. The mercenaries were under a horrific curse cast by her estranged younger sister, Tashta, and were hoping Baba Vanga could cure them. Unfortunately for the whole lot of them, Janos the Cannibal, a knight of Folda and witch hunter, was on the Cursed Company's trail. A skirmish ensued in the witch's own front yard, leaving everybody dead but Janos and a single ghoul soldier of his. Janos severed the hag's head and presented it to the Queen. He was granted the authority to form, and take command of, a small force dedicated solely to the task of combating witches and their ilk.  


I. DRAMATIS PERSONAE


Vladimir's warband.
The witches Vanga and Tashta had another sister: Gianna, the youngest. She got on with Vanga well, and when she learnt of her death she was furious. She immediately sent her familiar to retrieve the body, but all he found were gnawed bones. There was no head. Qrth brought home what he found of Vanga, as well as one of the strange fallen warriors whose rotting bodies littered the cottage's yard. The deceased mercenary was then forced back from death to tell Gianna what had occurred and who had killed Vanga. Later, rumours got to Gianna that her sister's head was being paraded around Folda as a trophy... 

  • The Witch Gianna - she is trying hard to keep her appearance youthful, but try as she might age is catching up with her. Her magic is focused on warding off death and decay - she can bring creatures back from the brink of death, but she can never restore them completely, giving them a new and twisted form. Gianna carries a staff adorned with teeth and bones, and if pushed into a corner she can tear out the living hearts of those who threaten her, with bare hands.
  • Howlers - Gianna lives in a forest with a band of so-called howlers - tiny beastly creatures that run through the woods at night and make all sorts of eerie noises. They were all human children once, cut down by illness, injury or mere starvation, and given a new life by their dark mother. 
  • Creature formerly known as Rebecca Von Todmorten - the unnaturally tall figure, clad in armour, wrapped in chains and tattered cloth, still possesses a living soul, but not much of her former self remains. To think she used to be a lady, who foolishly ran away from home, chasing freedom and adventure... But she always has been damned, and only drew in those that tried to save her. She knows not why the witch didn't just leave her to die, and it doesn't really matter. There will be no salvation for either of them. Her only wish is to wreak havoc upon those who have slain the last man she cared for.
  • Qrth - seemingly a normal raven, he's actually Gianna's demonic familiar. When unleashed for combat he assumes a form thatis still raven-like, with black wings and talons and a beak, but huge and terrifying to look upon.

Qrth's demonic form.

My warband.
Janos the Cannnibal and his witch-hunting retinue. On orders from his queen, Janos roams the land on a quest to eliminate any traces of dark magic he can find. Queen Ligia considers potential spreading of this corrupting force into her own kingdom a threat.

  • Janos the Cannibal, knight of Folda -  a ruthless slayer with particular hate for the demons and their servants. He does not need the cultists and abominations alive; in fact he makes sure the ones he catches are thoroughly obliterated - by devouring their bodies.
  • Witch Hunters - hand-picked by Janos himself from the ranks of Folda's standing army, Ghoul Witch Hunters are the basic grunts of the crew. They are trained and armed for combat with hand weapons as well as crossbows.  
  • The Gaoler - Cruel and callous interrogators of witches, Ghoul Gaolers inspire terror. Their mastery of creative ways of inflicting pain is infamous across the isles. 
  • Bloodtracker - Just like their vampire overlords, ghouls can end up giving in to their feral side and gradually metamorphose into monsters with lupine features. This is the legacy of the pact made with the Duke of Wolves in the final days of the Ostrom. Janos utilises these agile predators for tracking his quarry.
  • Grey Wolves - wolves are close allies of Folda. Janos values them for their speed and ferocity.


II. THE ENCOUNTER


Gianna arrived in Folda with her Howlers and reanimated Rebecca in tow, to find her sister's head. She did not have to wait long for Janos to appear. The witch hunters emerged from the woods near her campsite, and put up their display of grisly trophies to get the witch's attention.

Provoked by their vicious mockery, Gianna sent forth her minions. Rebecca did away with one of the ghoul witch hunters easily. The others carefully retreated in the shade of the gnarled trees near the trophy poles, firing their crossbows to try keep them at bay.


The monstrous hooded gaoler was also tasked with guarding the head. His overconfidence in the face of a swarm of angry Howlers proved to be his undoing in the end.



While the others were distracting the witch hunters, Qrth came closer disguised as a common raven, clearly waiting for an opportune moment to snatch Vanga's head. Janos saw through Gianna's plan, though, and ended the bird before it had a chance to show its true, demonic form. 


On the other flank, the wolves and the Bloodtracker crept through the woods to get to the witch from behind.

However, they were spotted by a group of Howlers protecting the witch, and had to engage.

After slaying the familiar, Janos waited for the witch to come closer. And she did, eventually. Janos charged at his quarry, but the witch proved more resilient than he expected. With his witch hunters and wolves too far to assist him, he realised he might have made a mistake. Rebecca heard the commotion behind her and turned back - to see her murderer. It was time for vengeance.

With screeching Howlers biting at his ankles, and dead Rebecca soon to join the fight, Janos tried his best to cut down the witch. The wolves managed to slaughter the Howlers that had blocked their path, but by the time they charged to their master's aid he was on the ground, the witch Gianna standing triumphantly above his massive collapsed body. She reached down, plunged her hand into the knight's chest, and ripped out his heart! The wolves threw themselves at her, but once more found her minions blocking their path. The Bloodtracker somehow got through and caught up with the fleeing witch, but he too met a grisly end - his hear torn out while still beating.


A dark day for Folda.
Seeing that all was lost, the remaining two witch hunters began to retreat. One of them still had enough resolve to deny the witch her prise: he grabbed Vanga's shrivelled head and ran for his life. Rebecca tried to chase him down, but she lost him in the forest...

III. THE AFTERMATH


When the surviving witch hunters returned at the scene with the cavalry hours later, the witch was nowhere to be seen. 
The bodies of fallen witch hunters and Janos were carefully carried away to be handed to their families. The gruesome detail of Janos' missing heart caused much alarm and outrage in the kingdom. The two slain wolves were found flayed, which was also perceived as an insult to Folda. They too were buried with honours.


*   *   *

Well, that's the end of Janos. Witches and cultists everywhere will be happy to hear of his demise.  :D And this means Folda needs a new Witch Hunter General. Who will claim the spot? Will they go after Gianna? What will become of Baba Vanga's head and Janos' heart? Perhaps our next game will be some kind of body part prisoner exchange? We'll find out sometime next year. If you want to see clearer photos of Vladimir's witch warband, keep an eye on his Instagram - they'll appear there eventually. [Edit: here they are: LINK]

22 comments:

  1. Wonderful. This post contains much that I love about the hobby all in one go.

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  2. A wonderful tale with spectacularly evocative warbands. I do love a good yarn that leaves one with more questions then answers.
    Thank you for sharing :D

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  3. Cool game! Can I ask about your modified rule set, how does it work, some "design thoughts" etc? Thanks in advance.

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    1. Thanks!

      I don't know how familliar you are with Malifaux, but I kept the core mechanics - card flipping for RNG, alternating activations with action points, the way models can interact.

      I got rid of the hiring system and model point costs because all models' rules are custom made. Corpse/scrap markers and scheme markers are gone because they are detrimental for immersion. For instance, if an artificer can use the remains of an ice golem to turn it into metal mechanical spiders, all within under a minute and while standing 10 feet from it IN MELEE COMBAT (true story, btw), that kinda kills the suspension of disbelief... There are a few more changes to rules, such as the way disengagement and interactions while in combat work. And a whole lot of cosmetic changes, because names of many things are closely bound to the Malifaux setting. For instance, 'soul stones' are now 'fate points'. The suits of the deck are not rams, crows, masks and tomes (symbols of first four factions in Malifaux) but those from my own deck: flesh, blood, bone and spirit...

      It's definitely not an out-of-the-box playable game. It demands preparation and collaboration from the players. Best if there's a GM familliar with the rules who helps the players construct rules for their warbands, and guide the narrative.

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  4. Great work, Ana, really atmospheric. I liked the differing filter on two of the pics as well, so one showed more red.

    Good advancing narrative too - I like to link my games together and often build a scenario based around the events of what happened in the last game.

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  5. Absolutely fantastic at so many levels.

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  6. Hobby content just doesn't get better than this.

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  7. I can't be the only one spellbound by the tale of this grisly little kingdom.

    I really appreciate the fact that you've introduced us to its foul inhabitants, but have left us to speculate about the nature of their wider existences. Intriguing questions lie unanswered.

    As an example - what kind of funeral will be held for Janos? What sort of rites would be performed? Who are the fiends who will come to mark his passing? And what sort of afterlife could be expected by such a creature? The mind boggles.

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    1. Thank you very much! I am most glad you are compelled to ask these questions. 'Monsters' are more interesting when they possess a culture and emotions of their own. Everything has more weight.

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  8. Excellent! Glad Gianna managed to get some vengeance for poor Vanga. Hopefully she'll be able to complete her again soon.

    And yeah, that splash of red when Rebecca sees Janos was just perfect.

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  9. Hello, been following the blog for a few years now, and shamefully never commented, but something you said tickled my curiosity to the point I can’t hold up. The ghoul kingdom of folda being inspired by the AOS approach of ghouls. You said the bodies of the fallen will be taken back to their families, it makes me question, how is this kingdom organised? I imagined a court of malformed and inbreed roughly imitating a kingdom, but this “society” being just a layer covering wildness and depravity. But how is it really made ? Do the ghouls have clearly defined social structures ? With family, children, homes ? It tickles me, hopefully we might learn it latter, at least I hope ;) keep it up, this blog is a gold mine of talent and inspiration !

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    1. Thank you! Indeed, when I started Folda it was much closer to Flesh Eater Courts. However, as I worked on it and thought about it, more and more interesting ideas came to me that pushed it pretty far from that starting point. Now they have very little to do with AoS FEC any more, as I've come up with a different origin story, history, culture, religion and even biology of ghouls and vamps of Folda. Rather than delivering it as a usual info dump, this time I'm trying to convey their backstory through hints and references, to see how that goes.

      To briefly answer your direct question: Yes, Folda ghouls have a clearly defined and complex social organisation. With family, children, homes. They are born and they perish. Whether they live in between - that's a more complicated philosophical question.

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  10. Excellent. The story, miniatures, and photography are all great.

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