Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Episode 18 - The Enemy Within - Enemy at the Gates

The mission: seize Castle Wittgenstein and end the Wittgenstein's mad reign.
This is an actual play recording of Death on the Reik, a chapter in Games Workshop's classic campaign The Enemy Within.

Download Episode from Google Drive (27.7MB)

Heroes present were Esmerelda the Shallayan initiate, Herdan van Helsing the vampire hunter, Jotunn the dwarf veteran, Walter the halfling agitator, Solomon the halfling smuggler and Magnus the dwarven prospector.

We left the heroes having successfully navigated the tunnels beneath Castle Wittgenstein. They had been on a reconnaissance mission for the camp of outlaws they were allied to. Now they stood beneath a trapdoor they knew would lead them into the castle's courtyard and the heart of the enemy camp.

Key points from Episode 18

A shanty town of mutants could be found within the outer bailey
(1:00) With great effort the group hefted a block in the ceiling of the tunnel aside. It granted them entry to the Castle Wittgenstein's squalid courtyard. The block was difficult to move as atop it sat a scraggly mutant cradling a rancid potato. The unfortunate was dismissively spoken to while the party got their bearings. They had emerged in a ruined building in the castle's courtyard and were surrounded by a shanty town of crippled and disease struck mutants. Magnus took pity on the wretches telling them that if they wished to take their chances they could escape by following the tunnel from which the heroes had emerged.
Castle Wittgenstein's Gatehouse did little to stop the adventurers
(8:05) Huddled amongst the rubble, surrounded by inquisitive mutants the group planned their attack on the keep. They talked at length on how best to employ their poison wind globe before recalling that they had left it hidden beneath the hull of their boat. 
Castle Wittgenstein's outer bailey was the scene of this session
(12:30) They donned rancid garments to appear like any other outer bailey beggar. Suitably disguised the heroes made their way to the gatehouse, using the shanty town in the courtyard as cover. The inner door to the gatehouse was unlocked and they burst in to confront a single guard reclining at a desk, fetid lips puffing away on a pipe. He had his helm by his side which revealed his horrid rotting visage. The sight shocked the group with Esmerelda shrieking and Magnus throwing up in his mouth. Jotunn and Herdan were made of sterner stuff and charged. It was over quickly with the hapless guard impaled on Herdan's spear mid pipe puff. 
The Wittgenstein guards spent their down time playing Yahtzee
(19:15) The group raced up the stairs catching the gatehouse guards on the level above unprepared and in the midst of a game of Yahtzee. In response to the groups sudden arrival the guards flipped the table and readied their weapons. A dangerously wounded Magnus hurled himself into the fray and, thanks to a lucky charm, survived. Esmerelda locked down the room baring all exits. It was to be a fight to the death.

(22:30) There's a magic sword called Barakul in Wittgendorf that takes some thinking to convert from 1e to 2e. The change to the way armour works makes the 2e version more powerful than originally intended. After some discussion we settled on the way Barrakul interacts with shields and parries. A foes first parry would be ineffective as the warp blade phases through the parrying blade and slices into the enemies arm. Assuming they survive the opponent can parry normally as they change their approach to swatting away the hand holding Barakul.

(29:15) As the final guard fell Esmerelda seized the hunting horn, raced to an arrow slit and sounded a single blast signalling their outlaw allies to rush the gatehouse. 

(31:50) Herdan took the gatehouse key from a corpse and locked the exterior door just as a squad of guards arrived from the barracks to investigate the commotion. The group contemplated how best to use the cauldrons of lead and water they had seized.

(37:57) The guards in the courtyard called to the locked down gatehouse demanding to know what the ruckus had been about. Herdan did his best guard impersonation explaining that he had been excited and had started shouting having won the pot in Yahtzee. In fact he had been so excited that he had sounded a horn to celebrate. When the guards demanded his name Herdan quickly responded with "Hans". I ruled there was a 60% chance that there would be a garrison guard called Hans. Alas the dice were cruel and there was no Hans. The lieutenant leading the guards called Herdan's bluff and his men rushed the gatehouse. They were met by a volley of crossbow fire.

(40:15) Esmerelda realised that while loading crossbows may put her on shaky spiritual grounds with Shallya the act itself didn't violate any specific oath. She justified it to herself by saying that all she did was load the crossbows and if the halflings happened to kill someone with them she was hardly responsible. A couple of guards fell peppered with bolts as they attempted to break down the gatehouse door. As they fell the remaining guards breached the entrance and rushed the heroes position. 
Lieutenant Doppler was a coward who learned that flails aren't all that great
(44:40) Herdan threatened his foes from the top of the internal gatehouse stairs with a cauldron of tepid water and a cauldron of solid lead. He hoped to bluff them into believing each contained boiling liquid. The guards paused allowing Jotunn to pelt them with heavy spears. As they nervously advanced Herdan pushed the heavy cauldron of lead at them. The cumbersome cauldron bounced down the stairs like a giant bowling ball crushing an unlucky soldier. In the ensuing melee the disorganised guards failed to bring the might of the full garrison to bear. In frustration at the way things were transpiring the garrisons commander, Lieutenant Doppler, emerged from the throng to battle the hero's. He quickly found that he was outclassed and was forced into a humiliating retreat. Herdan hacked at the lieutenant's back and the halflings peppered him with crossbow bolts as he fled to the safety of the barracks. Somehow Doppler survived and he and his men hunkered down for a siege.

(54:00) With the guards contained the heroes flung the castle gates open allowing their thirty outlaw allies, who they had summoned with a blast of their hunting horn, access to the keep. The heroes had taken the gatehouse. The assault on the castle proper could begin.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Episode 17 - The Enemy Within - Beneath Castle Wittgenstein

Beastmen haunt the Wittgendorf woods. One served as a tracker for the castle guards.
This is an actual play recording of Death on the Reik, a chapter in Games Workshop's classic campaign The Enemy Within.

Download Episode from Google Drive (39.1MB)

Heroes present were Esmerelda Potter the Shallayan initiate, Herdan van Helsing the vampire hunter, Jotunn the dwarf veteran, Walter the halfling agitator, Solomon the halfling smuggler and Magnus the dwarven prospector.

We left the heroes out the front of the Wittgendorf physician's house. It was merrily ablaze and the physician dead, technically by his own hand. The group were somewhat the wiser from the encounter and sought to return to their outlaw allies to plan the assault on the source of the regions troubles, Castle Wittgenstein.

Key points from Episode 17

(2:50) The group were troubled by the news of a Norscan taking up residence in Castle Wittgenstein. They tried to work out what their characters would know, without blatant meta-gaming, and leaped to the conclusion that they would soon face a chaos warrior.
Sergeant Kratz will punch you in the face
(5:00) Returning to the outlaw camp the heroes spied a group of castle guards moving through the woods. These guards followed a dog headed beastman who sniffed the ground and howled excitedly. Fortunately the heroes were downwind of their foe. They hid amongst the forest's rotting foliage and prepared an ambush. The attack opened with a blunderbuss blast catching the guards mounted leader. His horse reared in terror throwing its rider. Crossbow bolts struck the confused guards while Jotunn and Herdan rushed into combat.

(20:52) The surprise wore off and soon the guards had Jotunn, Magnus and Herdan surrounded and outnumbered. Things looked grim till the pacifist Shallyan priestess Esmerelda joined the fray. While she struck no blows she did even the odds.

(27:50) The battle wore on. Both sides were well protected in heavy armour. A telling blow from Jotunn's armour ignoring blade Barakul would turn the tide but the dwarf could not hit. Esmerelda took a chance and for the first time ever channelled the winds of magic to shock her foe. For months she had bemoaned magics terrible risk to her sanity, but due to the stalemate she threw caution to the wind.

(32:41) Jotunn finally landed a blow. Barakul phased through armour, slicing through a guard's torso. The two halves remained neatly encapsulated in the armour. The torrent of blood which doused his foe left none in doubt of Barakul's potency. Jotunn had a unique way of killing heavily armoured foes.

(35:48) Combat wound down with the party having the upper hand. There was a sense of inevitability until a desperate guard lashed out and Ulric furied Magnus. The guard's sword embedded itself in the unlucky dwarf who collapsed unconscious with internal bleeding. He fortunately fell in front of the Shallyan priestess who, in the midst of combat, set about frantically bandaging him before he bled out. The Old World is fickle and thus far had reserved all its critical hits for Magnus. The guard's lucky blow was a tragic footnote rather than a turning point as he and his fellows were cut down.

(42:50) Herdan and Jotunn carried their crippled companion back to the outlaw camp. In my house rules healing poultices must be fresh so as not to have them freely available. By the book poultices are a mixture of manure, cow urine and other foul things. Esmerelda, being the healer, played this angle up crying "Quick, poo in my hands!" Her healing skills failed to help the crippled Magnus but perversely fully healed the slightly injured Jotunn. Fortunately for the mangled Magnus, Sigrid the outlaw chief called on the power of Taal and the dwarf's wounds closed slightly.

(49:00) After lengthy discussion and despite Magnus' horrific injuries the group decided to attack the castle before the missing patrol was noticed. The outlaws were told to gather rope for scaling the castle walls and to prepare fire arrows. Thunder rumbled overhead. The group cursed the GM's foreshadowing of a storm. They wanted to burn Castle Wittgenstein to the ground.

(49:38) Magnus proposed a plan to feign retreat and lure the guards into a trap. Jotunn made the point that he never retreats. Later episodes will prove the dwarf's bravado false.

(53:20) Before entering the tunnels beneath Castle Wittgenstein the group organised hunting horn signals with the outlaws. Herdan's parting words were "If we are not back in an hour wait longer."
The entrance to the tunnels beneath Castle Wittgenstein
(56:22) The group were not long in the tunnels before their senses were assailed by screams and grunts echoing about the confined space and seemingly coming from every direction at once. At several stages members of the group glimpsed a disembodied head leering at them from the dark. The halflings at the back of the party were alarmed by a blood curdling shriek perhaps a meter behind them. Walter ran to the front ranks ducking beneath Esmerelda's skirts. Solomon bravely turned to face his foe and glimpsed a horrid visage receding into the gloom. Doubling back the group determined that they were being stalked by a creature that left a trail of slimy sucker marks.
A glimpse of the natural caves beneath the castle
(64:30) The group followed the tunnels in the direction they believed Castle Wittgenstein lay. The dwarves felt comfortable underground and kept the group on track. At one point the band were assailed by barnacle like creatures with razor sharp lash like tongues, lashworms! Such creatures might have posed a threat to a skulking halfling but the group's front rank wore armour too thick for a lashworm to penetrate. Magnus' armour piercing sword was brutally efficient at slicing the odd creatures from the walls.
Former woodsman turned crazed mutant Brutagh
(68:16) In time the group came across an icy underground stream. Employing a pole they determined it was 4ft deep making it a concern for short party members. Herdan got sick of the blood curdling screams hounding them and called their stalker out. "That's it. You and me. Lets fight. Come on!" He was surprised when the creature responded cogently from the darkness. They learned their pursuer had once been Brutugh the woodsman. Brutagh told them how to find both underground entrances to the castle before his moment of lucidity ended and he returned to animalistic grunts and howls. Magnus argued that they put him out of his misery but the group left him and pressed on to the castle.

(72:50) The warriors leaped across the stream while the halflings shimmied across it via a rope. Following Brutagh's directions they discovered a trapdoor which led into Castle Wittgenstein. Despite Magnus' grievous wounds they took a chance and mounted their attack. Hefting the trapdoor aside they emerged into Castle Wittgenstein's chaotic courtyard.